The Barrientos Sisters: Taking a Familial Approach to Debt

In Plainview, Texas, four sisters were buried under more than $150,000 in combined debt. Taking a radical approach to their debt, Noemi, Damaris, Ana, and Rufina Barrientos paid it all off by collectively taking on the debt as a group. These sisters went from an “I” philosophy to a “we” philosophy. Suddenly it was not “I have debt,” but instead became “we have debt.” With a combined income of about $100,000 they believed it was a realistic goal to be debt free in just three years. The sisters blew that goal out of the water and were free of all debt in just two years.

The plan was simple: they were all going to make sacrifices and rely on teamwork. The first thing they did was rent a three-bedroom apartment in Dallas and moved in together. Then they opened a joint bank account that linked all four sisters. They then had their paychecks all directly deposited into the joint account. Out of this account, they would pay for food, monthly bills, and any other necessary or miscellaneous costs. Any amount of money that remained got put toward their collective debt. They tackled their debt from the smallest amounts to largest. This meant paying off credit card debt first and student loan debt last.

The four sisters also became self-described minimalists to rapidly get rid of their debt. Each sister got $75 in spending money and used their strengths to their advantage. For instance, Ana, who considered herself borderline OCD, channeled those tendencies into making spreadsheets to detail and track debt, income, bills, and groceries.

The girls also became proud penny pinchers:

  • They took the time to review store sales and then went to Wal-Mart to conveniently take advantage of Wal-Mart’s price-match promotions.
  • They cut out their cable and used group deal websites for going to the movies. They also used Redbox to rent movies, effectively saving money and cutting out the bombardment of advertisements on TV. This way they never knew what products and deals they were missing.
  • They became regulars at thrift stores.
  • They made a habit of negotiating everything they possibly could, including debts that had already gone to collections.
  • The girls looked for the best deal on insurance and saved $1,130 by having payments automatically withdrawn from one of the sisters’ work paychecks.
  • They split entrees when dining out and had water with their meals instead of soft drinks or expensive alcoholic beverages.
  • When they needed to give gifts, they got creative. For a baby shower, they donated time organizing and decorating for the expectant mother-to be as a gift, versus buying something.

You might not be a Barrientos sister, but there is a lot you can learn from how they succeeded with their minimalistic money-saving methods. Whatever you do, take control, empower yourself, and get motivated to get rid of debt. Perhaps you can work with your family members to cut debt down together. The trick is to have a plan of attack and do what will work best for you.

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