A woman who paid off over $40,000 of debt in less than 3 years shares the most important habit that helped her do it

Greutman-family-picture-2Mark and Lauren GreutmanThe Greutman family.

Eight years ago, Mark and Lauren Greutman were over $US40,000 in debt with an underwater mortgage, and running a deficit of $US1,000 each month.

Less than three years later, they paid it all off.

Today, they’re in the green, building a life for themselves and their four children in Oswego, New York.

How did they do it? Lauren credits their success to one habit in particular: learning to coupon and meal plan.

“I saw cutting back our food budget as the first place that I could make an immediate impact in our finances,” she tells Business Insider. “I fed my family on $US50 per week for three years. We used the money that we were saving on groceries to help pay down debt.”

“I saw couponing and meal planning as a part time job,” she continues. “I take an hourly wage approach to saving money on groceries, which means if I spend two hours and save $US75 at the store, I just made $US37.50 per hour — not too bad!”

The first thing she did was to start using only cash at the grocery store, which she says made her more mindful of what went in her cart. She also found that investing the time in planning her grocery spending made her less likely to spend the money she saved. “If I had just spent an hour planning our meals and clipping coupons to save $US50, I was not going to go blow that $US50 on something I didn’t need, because I had just worked hard to save that amount,” she explains.

On the lookout for places that could help her save more, she joined a local food co-op and bought half a cow from a local farm at $US3.50 per pound, then planned many meals around those foods. She started paying close attention to sales, and was able to pay down over $US5,000 of debt in a single year with money she saved.

When she couldn’t save any more, she made an effort to earn some extra cash, like earning gift cards from online rewards site Swagbucks and taking paid online surveys. As her couponing website, I Am That Lady, reached six figures in revenue, she was able to funnel the profits to help pay down the debt. Mark left his job as an actuary last year to help Lauren run their second money management website, Mark and Lauren G, full-time.

Today, the only debt they have left is their mortgage, which they plan to pay off in 11 years.

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