How We Paid Off $60K of Debt in 3 Years by Moving Abroad

Our story about how we paid off $60K in debt by leaving the USA was featured in Newsweek!

Here’s an alarming statistic: nearly half of all Americans are getting sucked further and further into the whirlpool of debt.

Not too long ago, that was our story too. But today, we’re writing a very different chapter of our lives, one that’s debt free and set on another continent, far from the United States.

Wondering how we got here? Here’s our story…

The American Dream, But at What Cost?

Like so many others, we lived what many would call the “typical American lifestyle.”

We had a nice house with a looming mortgage, two cars (one with monthly payments), and an ever-growing pile of credit card bills and a giant student loan.

But life, unpredictable as ever, threw us a curveball when health problems led to two major spine surgeries. I faced the daunting task of relearning how to walk (twice) and couldn’t drive for several months.

Being self-employed, this medical setback (and pain meds) meant I couldn’t generate any income during the recovery phase. Amelia, doing her best to keep us afloat, took on a local job, even though it meant a 40% reduction in pay.

Every month we were dreading the bills, watching our expenses rise while our income took a nosedive.

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Rethinking Our Choices

View of Denver, Colorado skyline at night from our apartment in Uptown.

View from Our Uptown Denver Apartment

We considered cashing in on the appreciated value of our house by opting for a second mortgage. But the thought of sinking further into debt, especially when our monthly expenses were outweighing our earnings, felt like a trap.

So, we made the tough decision to sell our home, using the proceeds to clear off our high-interest credit card debts.

In an attempt to scale down, we moved to a cozy one-bedroom apartment in Uptown Denver. But even with the downsizing and selling a car, our expenses still exceeded our income.

It was becoming crystal clear: If we stayed in the United States, we’d be headed straight for an insurmountable mountain of debt.

Moreover, the looming threat of another medical emergency without adequate insurance could push us into bankruptcy.

Seeking a New Horizon

It was during this crisis that we began to toy with a radical idea: What if we moved to a country with a lower cost of living?

Our research was eye-opening.

If we relocated abroad, our US-based income would not only cover our living expenses but also leave us with enough to gradually pay off our debt.

And so, with two adorable dogs in tow and two suitcases each, we embarked on our journey to Ecuador, landing in the beautiful city of Cuenca.

Our first rental house in Cuenca Ecuador.There, we rented a fully furnished, 3 bedroom/3.5 bathroom house with a courtyard for just $800/month.

Our monthly expenses plummeted from more than $5K to a mere $1500 that first year in Cuenca.

And the best part? We didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything.

Cuenca welcomed us with open arms. We embraced the local culture, dined out, picked up Spanish, and made friends from across the globe.

Living in Ecuador also meant we didn’t need a car. That saved us so much money! No more spending on gas, taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc.

Plus, we loved the fresh, locally-sourced food available for a fraction of the cost compared to the overpriced Frankenfood sold in the U.S.

Though certain goods like electronics, cars, and appliances are pricier in Ecuador, the reduced costs in healthcare, utilities, housing, and public transportation more than made up for it.

In just three years, we went from using our savings and credit cards to cover monthly expenses to being completely debt-free and actually saving money for retirement.

See Also: Introducing FlexFIRE: A More Flexible Approach to FIRE

Embracing a New Lifestyle

Our time in Ecuador also debunked many misconceptions we had. The world isn’t as perilous as we once believed and Ecuador isn’t as bad now as the international news media makes it seem.

Back in the United States, we felt like hamsters on a relentless wheel, exhausted but never really moving forward. Moving to Ecuador gave us a chance to pause, breathe, and reclaim our lives.

That’s why we love Ecuador and have such a deep appreciation for it and its people. It gave us our lives back!

However, we realize Ecuador isn’t right for everyone and the rise in crime has scared many people away. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t another low cost of living country out there with your name on it!

See Also: Expat Country Comparisons

You Can Do It Too!

While our story might seem unique, it’s a path anyone can choose and millions of other people from the U.S. already have.

Relocating abroad doesn’t mean bidding a permanent farewell to your home country. You can easily move, get your finances in order, and if you ever feel the call, return home.

A good life is about choices, and sometimes, all you need is a change in scenery to turn things around.

See Also:

Watch Our Video About How We Paid Off $60K in Debt

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JP Stonestreet
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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

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