Note: We LOVE sharing the stories of people in the Man Vs. Debt who are living the dream of a debt-free life! Today, meet Claudine and her family!
Would you start by telling us a little about you and your family?
We’re John and Claudine, ages 43 and 40. Our children are Gianna, 14; Louis, 12; Salvatore, 6; and Rose, 4. We live in northeastern Pennsylvania and travel as vendors at Celtic and Scottish festivals all over through our company, The Celtic Bag Co.
Tell us about your story. Where did you come from, and how did you get that rock-bottom point before things turned around?
We were always a little different. We started homeschooling when nobody we knew was and were sorta crunchy.
As far as the external trappings, we were totally mainstream. My husband had a lot to do with that! He worked in an area of McMansions and bright green lawns! We had a nice house, with a green lawn, and most of what we purchased was for entertaining others. We thought we were happy, and thought we could afford it, even though my husband had to work and commute 70 hours a week and had to spend the rest of his time taking care of the house and lawn. We didn’t get to do much entertaining!
Fast forward… my husband loses his job after 15 years; a month or two later I find out I’m pregnant… with #4!! (I guess my husband was home a little too much!) My business was failing and we were struggling to pay our bills. We sold off what we could of the business and my husband took an over-the-road truck-driving job. He was only home about 7 days a month.
We were all miserable! I felt like a single mother with 4 kids and my husband was feeling like he was failing us. My mother was living with us at time went to the doctor to have her gallbladder checked and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer which had spread to her bones. She was with us since before my oldest was born and a big part of our family.
We were devastated.
We drove 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for radiation and chemo with the kids in tow. This went on for 4 long months. The one bright spot was the the other patients in the office loved seeing the kids on those long chemo days. Her cancer was very aggressive. About 2 months later we brought her home with hospice. My husband took unpaid leave from his job to be with us.
Throughout all this, our house went into foreclosure.
OK, so from that low point – where did you go from there?
Believe it or not, so many blessings came out of our situation. My daughter Rose was born, and we wouldn’t change that for anything. I got to be with my mother in her last moment of life. Not many people can be there for that, what a blessing! We lost our house and all the burdens that came along with it!
With the help of our friends, we started a new business that allows us to travel together (we homeschool) and make money, and my husband never went back to truck driving. It was sooo scary, and still is at times. I mean, who does this, right!?
Now we rely on ourselves to make money and need to make a lot less because we cut out almost all of our debt.
We don’t have cable or new cars, but it is worth it to us not to have those bills every month. We have a house that’s half the size with half the expenses, half the cleaning, and half the stuff! We still have a lawn but it is full of dandelions and we love it! It is so freeing. You can’t buy that feeling of peace. That is how I want to feel on my last day.
We would not have done any of this if we didn’t experience the hardships we have. I do know it all happened for a reason.
Tell us a little about the steps you took, to kind of get from Point A to Point B. How did you transition to a mobile business, and how did you get rid of the debt?
We had friends in the business and they gave lots of advice and encouragement. We did research as far as product and booth setup, etc., and did a couple of shows while my husband was working.
When he had taken time off to be with us during my mom’s hospice, we just jumped at that point and went full time.
The debt we tackled one thing at a time. We sold my husband’s truck and bought a used van with cash. That eliminated our one car payment, and we cut back on all other spending. We got rid of cable and only have Netflix and internet. We also use the lowest cell phone plan.
What’s the single biggest specific change you made?
We stopped trying to hold on to money, if that makes sense.
Money comes and goes. We are always going to have to make it and spend it. By reducing our living expenses we don’t feel the pressure to have to make so much just to get by.
We control how much we make now because we choose how much we want to work for it.
When we make more now we can give more, and that is a great feeling.
What’s the single biggest struggle you face now?
Slipping back into our “old ways.” We have to recommit to each other, our family, and the plan we have for our family every once in a while so we don’t lose sight of why we are doing this.
Where do you see yourself and your family going from here?
Growing our business in a way that will allow us to give someone else a chance, and hopefully inspiring our children to be true to themselves and teach them not to be afraid of trying something different and maybe a little scary.
What one challenge would you give to Man Vs. Debt readers – something they should do today or this week to get closer to living their dreams? And what advice do you have for our community?
Put your dreams out there. I truly believe that’s what starts the change. Let people know your plan. When you connect with people it’s amazing what other people can offer and how it starts a domino effect.
It’s crazy how when you start sharing your plan with people, someone just happens to have a cousin who is selling the exact van you need for your new business, or needs a housesitter, or whatever it is.
I want others to know you don’t have to wait for something like a foreclosure or a loved one’s death to happen to change. You can make the changes.
Don’t worry about what your family or friends will think. (Our family thinks we’ve become crazy gypsies… My mom would think different, she was a closet Irish Gypsy herself!)
You need to do what’s right for you and your family and sometimes that isn’t what everyone else is doing. Just do it and you will inspire others just by being your true self.
We are so thrilled to have gotten a chance to share Claudine’s story – and her challenge.
So what’s your dream?
If it’s to be debt-free – we encourage you to check out You Vs. Debt, our six-week intensive course designed to help you change your money mindset and take action.
Are you ready to CHANGE your mindset about debt forever? We hope so!