Andres Rueda via Flickr

Dana Burgess’ husband wasn’t happy to find that she had accumulated $63,000 in debt over three years by using credit cards to pay for food, utilities and car payments, according to But, the family managed to pay off $25,000 of it in two years.

The mother of three children — who are 17, 14 and 9 years old — made $2,900 a month as a teacher at a local elementary school. She set up automatic payments of $1,500 going to the card with the highest interest rate. The remainder of her money goes towards utilities, groceries and gas.

“I told my kids that things were tight, and that they would need to start saving up for the little things they wanted,” Burgess told Leanvest. “I try not to make them stressed about money, so I won’t go grocery shopping if they’re with me because they’ll want things that aren’t on the list, and that doesn’t fit with the budget I need to follow.”

Burgess also took on extra work by selling Mary Kay cosmetics and baking cakes for weddings.

Her husband, who runs two businesses, pays for mortgage payments, car insurance and extras for their kids, like summer camps and sports expenses.

Despite the cutbacks, the family still manages to have fun.

“I’m obviously really committed to paying off this debt, and working these part-time jobs does take a lot of time,” Burgess told Leanvest. “But if something good happens, like I sell an expensive cake and can pay off an extra $200 on a credit card, I’ll treat myself a little.”

These treats are often small, like stopping by Dairy Queen or ordering a $6 lunch.

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