How We Got Out of $100,000 of Debt (and You Can, Too)
by Brittany and Tony Ingram



October 7, 2018


22 Minute Read


How We Got Out of $100,000 of Debt (and You Can, Too)


With hard work and dedication, they got out of $100,000 worth of debt.  Then, it happened again. But this time, they learned that abundance is a mind game.


We deserve this. That was our mantra.  It was the summer of 2015, and we had just returned from a long deployment in Japan.  We’d been through a lot of changes – from being single people in the world to meeting, marrying, having a child, and moving to Japan all within one year.  Now we were back in the states and ready to celebrate. We wanted to enjoy ourselves and our families. It was the first time I was meeting Tony’s whole family and the first time he was meeting mine.  We wanted to wine and dine them. We wanted to wine and dine everybody — including ourselves! And that is exactly what we did.

We ate out, got bottle service at clubs, paid for everyone’s food.  I went on a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive and got the full mommy makeover.  The entire time, we kept thinking, we deserve this.  We deserve this.

And, $100,000 worth of debt later, we realized that putting what “we deserve” on our credit card was a problem — it was a $100,000 problem that we were desperate to solve.

Economically, we had relatively similar family upbringings, so we were exposed to very similar behaviors and views in terms of money, financial education, and wealth building.  We both entered our marriage with the same mindset when it came to money. We knew we wanted to build wealth together and change our family tree financially for the better.


For me growing up, money was never discussed. The main phrase that I heard was, “Boy, don’t be trying to count my money!” Therefore, I kept my mouth closed and never asked questions.  All I knew was that you spend everything that you get because “money doesn’t grow on trees,” as the saying goes.  The school curriculum definitely didn’t teach about finances, investments, debt, etc.  I didn’t start to learn about the importance of money until after I graduated from college and started my first job at a car dealership.  It was my boss who started teaching me about credit and investing into a 401k. My credit was terrible; it was in the 400’s to be exact. I learned that I could not purchase a cup of coffee on credit with that kind of credit score.  I worked extremely hard to fix my credit, and now it’s consistently in the mid 700’s to low 800’s.

I took a class on financial peace when I was about 24 years old with my church in Dallas, and I learned some very basic and effective principles. But, at the time, the only debt I had was my car, which I ended up keeping and then trading in for a new car, so I didn’t believe I had any bad spending habits.  The things that I wanted, I paid cash for. I had a credit card that I would use sometimes, but I would typically pay it off within the same month or the next. I entered the marriage with relatively low debt, and all Brittany had was her student loan, so we figured we were in a manageable position.

In 2013 we moved to Japan.  In Japan, we were disciplined.  

“We accumulated a great savings and had virtually no debt.  Financially, we were in a great place. When we returned to the states, we wanted to celebrate, enjoy our families, and reward ourselves.” And, along with the shopping, eating out, and treating everyone — once we finally got back to California, I decided to surprise Brittany with a brand new Mercedes-Benz for her birthday and our anniversary.  

This was such an amazing feeling for both of us!  I’m talking showroom floor surprise with balloons and flowers.  Brittany had no clue this was going to happen. I felt so proud of myself!

The rude awakening came when one day we had to decide whether to put gas in the car or to eat. This was not okay!  At the time Brittany was not working, and we were living solely off my salary. I was making six figures, but somehow it didn’t feel like it. Where were we going wrong?  I started to reflect on some of the mistakes I had made when it came to spending money. The one thing that punched me in the gut was when I calculated how much money I had spent on cars in my lifetime. The total amount was around $65,000 not to include the Mercedes I had just purchased for Brittany. The crazy part about the reflection was that I had no car to show for the $65,000. At that point, Brittany and I came to a consensus that we wanted to live a debt-free life.


Although this moment of “gas or food” was a very acute moment in time, it scared the crap out of us because we feared the feeling of poverty. We knew we had worked too hard in our lives only to be in a place where we had to have that conversation of “how do we eat.” We vowed that we didn’t want money to ever be a burden on our marriage, so we knew we had to do something quick. That’s when Tony suggested that we go through the program on financial peace together.  

We started the course in October 2015.  A couple weeks into the course, we came to the step where it was suggested to sell everything that’s sellable and to live off less than what you make to get out of debt as quick as possible. These were extreme methods, but we were desperate not to be broke or to feel broke, so we did what was suggested.

That’s when I recommended selling my new car.

Originally, Tony didn’t want to because it was a gift to me.  He didn’t want to feel like he had given me something and taken it away. I assured him of my decision, telling him: “They make new Mercedes all the time” and “we will get a new car again when the time is right.”  So, we sold the car with tears in both of our eyes. But building wealth and becoming financially free was far more important to us than looking wealthy and being in bondage. So, we slapped hands and headed to our next financial peace meeting in our one, paid-for, car.

Throughout the course, I struggled with the feeling of abundance. I felt like I was in a constant place of lack and deprivation. I was stuck in a mentality of deficiency, and I hated it. I found myself always thinking about how I could make extra money to pay off the debt. Debt…Debt…Debt – it was all I could think about. We rarely went on date nights, we cut off all of our extracurricular activities and social outings with friends, cut back on phone plans, and even cut off the cable!! AND, I got a part-time job to pay off the debt more quickly.

Finally, we completed the 7-week course, spent a year and a half paying off over $100K in debt, and became debt-free February 2017.  We felt so proud of ourselves.

Then, only two months after becoming debt-free, we had a debt relapse.


We moved from Northern California to Southern California in 2017.   Brittany started working fulltime, and this forced us to buy a second car.  We slowly started to use our credit cards again.   

It started small with $100 here and there that we would pay off quickly.  Then it turned into $1000 here and there. Before you knew it, we were back to being in a lot more debt than we had planned on ever being in again. Honestly, this feeling was worse than the feelings before. This time we felt guilt, shame, and even embarrassment.

How did we get here after so much hard work and sacrifice?  It wasn’t like we didn’t have the tools we needed. Plus, we were in a much better place financially, so what was the real issue?

We decided to take full accountability for our behavior and actions. We decided to start paying off our debt again, but we vowed that this time around would be DIFFERENT! This time we would stay in a mindset of abundance, gratitude, balance, happiness, love, real peace, and most importantly God’s approval. No more mindset of lack, fear, deprivation, and scarcity.  Although we understood that some sacrifices would be required, we refused to be hermits.  The lack of abundance would not be welcomed.


The last time, we took extreme measures to get out of debt and, yes, it worked just like any other plan that you do while taking an intense approach to it.  But will it last?

Tony and I are both professional bodybuilders.  We take extreme approaches and sacrifice greatly to lose weight for our fitness competitions. We exercise six days a week (sometimes seven) for two hours a day, meal prep daily, eat every two to three hours, take our food with us to restaurants if we attend an outing, weigh ALL of our food, drink a gallon of water a day, take pictures weekly to send to our coach, and much more. It completely sucks during the process. Yes, we lose the weight, we look great, and we feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. That’s all well and good, but the big question is can we maintain this routine and body for a lifetime and still feel healthy and whole? The answer is NO.

Not because we physically can’t but because we simply do not want to live a robotic life. We understand that prep life is a temporary action for a temporary outcome. In our normal life, we try to find balance in terms of our diet and exercise to stay healthy and to maintain a healthy family dynamic and marriage.

“Comparing our fitness journey to our financial journey, we realized that it’s not about trying to get out of debt overnight, just like it’s not about losing 20 lbs overnight. It’s not about the immediate gain, but the sustainable gain – losing the weight and keeping it off. What we found we were missing during our process of financial freedom was the same discipline and balance we had found in our fitness journey.”

Yeah, we are disciplined enough to do what is required of us during the expected time frame, because we are naturally intense people. We know how to crush our goals and get the job done, but what about when it’sover? How do we maintain it? What happens once we have accomplished our goals? These were some of the questions I sat with. After doing an intense amount of praying, soul searching, talking to financial gurus, listening to podcasts, looking at YouTube videos and, of course, talking to Tony, I finally got my answer.

God spoke to me so clearly. I realized you are what you attract. If all you talk about in your marriage is how to get out of debt, you will just attract more debt. A good friend of mine, “America’s Money Maven” Patrice Washington, reminded me that, 

“what you verbalize, you magnetize.”

She was so right. Last time we were getting out of debt, all I could think about was the debt and the lack. And that’s exactly what we attracted.

To our surprise, we would receive small bills out of nowhere, and all I was getting was very low-paying jobs. In fact, the majority of the time I was spending money to get to a job. Now, we MAGNETIZE wealth, success, purpose, prosperity, and God’s will over our finances.  We receive unexpected checks out of nowhere and high paying jobs. Thanks be to God, I am currently making in a week what I made in a month in 2015, and it was greatly about my perspective. We are sure a lot of our financial blessings have come from our obedience to God. The most important thing to us is to continue to honor God with our finances no matter what our circumstances are. We tithed and gave our way into debt and will tithe and give our way out of debt this time, just as we did before. Giving and tithing has taught us a lot about how we view money, receiving money and blessings, and so much more.

This time around, not only do we give more and tithe every penny that we earn. We also do abundance exercises like: going to test drive expensive vehicles, shopping for our dream home, going into expensive stores to look at the brands we want to have in our closet, trying on Rolex watches – all while saving, investing, planning for a wedding (since we got married at the courthouse the first time around), and adding more things to our vision board.  

“We have also decided that we will date one another no matter what our financial state is. Our mindset now is, if we have $50 leftover to go on a date, we would rather take that $50 to a five-star restaurant that has a beautiful ambiance which validates our future and split an appetizer versus going to some cheap dinner we’re not excited about, just to walk away feeling poverty-stricken and like we took 20 steps backward in our lives.”

We have removed phrases from our vocabulary like “we can’t afford,” “we can’t do this or that,” and any other word that repels the attraction of money. Instead we say:   “I CAN afford it. It’s just not the season for this purchase,” “Abundance flows around us and through us,” “Money comes easy to me,” “We are living in the overflow,” and “I can have what the bible says I can have.”

Now, we don’t abuse abundant thinking by recklessly making purchases that don’t fit into our budget. We utilize financial affirmations to help us stay in an “overflow” mindset and in a healthy, positive place with money.

Because our views on money have shifted, the way we spend money has shifted and so has our income.  We intentionally shift our energy toward attracting more money versus repelling it. For example, instead of hating what we currently can’t purchase, we embrace the cost of the purchase and mentally prepare to buy it in a later season, with the expectation that that season will arrive soon.

Although we are in a good spot, one day while discussing our current debt, I could tell by the look on Tony’s face that he was still wearing that scar. I could tell that he was still solely blaming himself and that he still felt so much guilt and shame. I knew, in order for us to fully heal ourselves and to help other couples, he couldn’t be feeling this way.

“Finally, I looked at him and told him to forgive himself.  I assured him that I was fully aware that every decision that he has ever made in this marriage was for the betterment of our family. We are not perfect, and we are learning as we go. We were in this together, as a team, we will get through this together stronger, and we will come out on top like the champs we are. That’s when I saw the breakthrough in his face, and I knew he was healed.  Forgiveness is key in changing behavior. You have to let go of the past to truly move forward.”

Overcoming the weight of debt has been hard.  It has been frustrating. But, ultimately this journey has left us clear in our purpose, strong in our spirit, and more connected as a couple.  In addition, it has given us the keys to true financial freedom.

Today we feel free: free from the bondage, free from deprivation, free from lack, and free from a cycle.  

And, if we can overcome it, so can you.

Want more of the story?  Watch Brittany and Tony on Black Love, Saturdays at 10/9c on OWN.