Burdened by $18,000 worth of student loan debt, David Cahill and his wife Meg buckled down on their finances in February 2016.
"The weight of the monthly payments was causing enormous stress and unhappiness," Cahill tells CNBC, "so we decided to really push things into high gear and turn that emotion into action."
The Chicago-based couple did just that. David and Meg, both educators, reduced their spending, started saving more than half of their combined income and saved $7,800 in 54 days. Their extreme saving, coupled with a decision to dip into their robust emergency fund, left them debt free by April 2016.
Their journey out of the red all started with a mindset shift, Cahill tells CNBC: "Our mantra became: Sacrifice now in order to be able to win later. We made it a priority to cut out any kind of overly inflated lifestyle habits that had crept into our lives."
The Cahills stopped going out to eat, declined social activities that came with a price tag, ditched their expensive Starbucks habit and canceled all of their unused subscriptions.
Essentially, the couple pressed pause on all spending that wasn't for necessities. As Cahill writes on his blog, FinanceSuperhero: "During those months, we paid our mortgage, utilities, required minimum payments. And we bought basic groceries. That's it."
The final payment happened to align with Cahill's 30th birthday and he calls it "the best birthday gift that I've ever received. What better gift could there be than to have freedom and peace of mind?"
Since paying off the students loans, "we have definitely loosened up a little bit," Cahill tells CNBC. After all, "it wasn't a comfortable process. But the payoff was so worth it."