INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Three dollar shirts were too hard to pass up. Angela Coffman used to stock up on them when she saw them on the clearance rack. She thought she was being a smart shopper. Now she says decisions like that---to buy something just because it's on sale---caused her run up her credit card bill, making life stressful when it came due.
These days she goes to what some might consider extremes when it comes to avoiding spending money. Instead of going to the store with a long shopping list, she now makes leather shoes out of old skirts and reusable toilet paper out of old T-shirts.
It started about seven years ago. That's when radio talk show host Dave Ramsey offered a free Bahamas vacation to listeners who could slash the most debt. Angela and her husband Darren slashed $89,000 of debt in six months to become one of 10 winners.
The Coffmans slashed a big chunk when Darren's work situation forced them to relocate to Stewartsville, Mo., where they rented a house, allowing them to sell their house in Independence and get rid of their mortgage. But to win the contest, the Coffmans also had to curtail their spending.
In Stewartsville, they reduced their grocery bill by growing their own produce and eating wild edible flowers. They reduced their gas bill by turning off the heat, using their fireplace, and tolerating a colder house. Darren sometimes did farm labor in exchange for food, lowering their grocery bill even more.
It was enough to push Angela and Darren into the winners' circle and have their picture taken with Ramsey and his wife in the Bahamas.
The Coffmans are now back in Independence where they recently bought a house. They haven't had time to plant a garden, and their heat comes mostly from the furnace. But they carry on with many of the money-saving techniques they started when they were trying to win the trip.