How We Crushed 60K in Student Loan Debt As Newlyweds! The Raw Honest Truth & How We Did it...

There is a cliff note version of this Blog at the very end, but If you really want to hear our story in detail … Read on!! 


Like most couples when we got married we both had student loans.
I had a very small amount left to pay off and Michael had an ugly mountain of left over loans just sitting there, starring at us. It was daunting, depressing, intimidating and scary. The raw, honest reality of debt is that without a plan it can cause very real tension in a new marriage.
We knew that for us to build together, to start our finances on a clean slate and to keep our relationship at it’s healthiest we had to obliterate this left over student loan debt as FAST as we possibly could. Getting it out of the picture would help us better manage our money together as newlyweds and eliminate the financial tension we were having over the debt.

How We Did It:

We should preface this by explaining that we knew what we were in for. During our own premarital counseling we were asked all of the hardest questions. We knew that money was a common area of tension for most couples and that combining two lives, finances and habits doesn’t happen without some challenges. From the counsel we were blessed to have in our lives we knew the general direction of what we needed to do. The only way to describe what we did next is PURE INSANITY & that’s what it was going to take.
We put all of the numbers on the table, with highlighters, a calendar, our calculators and mapped out a plan. We decided when we realistically could pay off our debt in full and then we worked to do it in half of the time.
We never took Financial Peace University although we were on Dave Ramsey’s website and podcasts daily. I think I personally cried a few times hearing all about people with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans and consumer debt, destroying their financial future, living above their means, drowning in credit cards, car loans, with mortgages they can’t afford and living from pay check to pay check! It was a wake up call! On the bright side, so many of these people were finding Financial Freedom and getting out of debt fast. If they could do it with their huge mountain of debt, we knew we could do it too!
So there we were: Newly married, passionately in love, but debt was sure trying to kill the vibe & IT HAD TO GO!!!!  Our whole lives were literally changing. We were transitioning in work, school, location… career.
At the time, I didn’t have a car because I had been living & working overseas in India using Rickshaws and the metro. Unfortunately, I had to buy a car which was one expense we knew we would have to make. Together we went on the hunt for the nicest car we could find (USED with Reselling it in mind). That is probably not something Dave Ramsey would recommend. We bought it with cash to avoid having a monthly payment or interest. It would have been beneficial to us to have avoided buying another car altogether but to commute for our business and to my side hustle we both needed wheels and that meant buying a car was unavoidable! We were fortunate to have already had a substantial amount of Savings which allowed us to act with pure insanity towards this Stupid debt when we decided to pull the trigger and get rid of it.
The first step: We paid off my small remainder of debt all at once. As soon as that was out of the picture we began tackling Michael’s. Our combined debt (almost entirely student loans) was $65K. We decided that the amount of debt was already traumatizing so we didn’t care about tackling the lowest interest rate first!! We Debt Snowballed it in reverse! We went for the larger student loans with the highest interest and worked our way down to the smallest loans with the lowest interest. Honestly, we think it’s better to do whatever works for you. As long as you’re attacking them.

Sacrifice & A New Normal: 

There were major decisions we knew we were making for the foreseeable future: 
  • There would be no money moves toward buying the beautiful old fixer upper.

Before we resolved to be financially free we saw an old house with land that we fell in love with. Looking back on it, moving in that direction would have been thee worst decision for us. We can honestly say that even though it hurt at the time, we now thank God for preventing us from making that decision.  

  • There would be no International Travel (that was particularly traumatizing for me because I was traveling all over the world before we got married!) 
  • There would be no crazy Date nights.
  • Extraordinary purchases
  • Unnecessary Shopping
  • or New Furniture
In Our Quest to be 100% Financially Free there would be:
  • Team work
  • Frugal shopping (which we were already used to)
  • A strict budget  (it was and still is kinda cut throat)
  • Laser focus
  • a whole lot of Prayer!!!  ( we needed it! )
Debt is hard.  Debt is even more challenging when the majority of it isn’t yours! We dealt with all the same frustrations and the resentment that sneaks in there as most people do.
But when you get married and say “I DO” everything changes. Everything I had also became Michael’s and everything he had also became mine. We knew that we were now a team for life and the best way we would ever crush it was by working hard together and trusting God to guide us along the way.
Every Two weeks we made Huge payments. Sometimes weekly. Crossing off one loan at a time and doing a little victory dance.
Beans and rice by candlelight!! haha.. We had date nights without spending hardly anything. We hung out by our little fire pit, frequented museums, had movie nights in, international cooking at home, went on hikes, explored our city, window shopped til we dropped and just enjoyed being together without the need to SPEND!! & It was awesome!!

What We Learned:

It taught us both that we were content living with less and doing more together. We grew in our understanding of financial health and freedom with a clearer vision of the kind of lifestyle we wanted to live. We learned even more to delay gratification. We learned how to enjoy life and each other without spending money!! Most importantly we learned to dominate our finances together as One! We’re so grateful for what we have and can see with a much clearer perspective the ways that God has blessed and provided for us. In so many ways, this process was a Blessing to us and to our new marriage.
Sending in our final large payment was one of the most exhilarating and traumatizing feelings combined that we’ve ever experienced.
 Receiving the email and phone call Congratulating Michael that his loans were paid off was honestly both thrilling and annoying. We received another email shortly after informing us that we had over paid by $150!.. All we could do at that point was just laugh… (me, laughing through some tears)!
We paid off our debt extremely fast (3 months) from the time we decided we would rather be  free than have it over our head. We decided the best thing for us would be to deplete and rebuild than pay more interest.! We are fully aware that this is a very unique journey, and it isn’t a decision for everybody. It’s a decision we made for the health of our new marriage, our brand new business and for our financial freedom.

So How do you Rebuild after Paying off Debt??

It’s simple. By Pretending to keep paying it!
We continued to live our plan of paying the same amount we would pay on the debt for almost a year. We continued to pay ourselves in payments above what we would normally save while continuing to live with the same budget and with the same frugal spending.
That meant we went out to dinner from time to time, but we hardly spent any money that wasn’t a direct investment in our business or a necessary living expense. We cut costs wherever we can.
Paying Off Debt First has Delayed some of our initial goals.. & yes, that kinda sucks! What it has done however is allowed us to Develop Goals we didn’t even know we had!!
For one, we were able to make the leap into Going Full time with our Businesses faster.
We decided to explore more closely where we wanted to put down long term roots and the kind of lifestyle we wanted to build as entrepreneurs. The lifestyle that we’ve adopted has allowed us to not be weighed down by Stuff!! It has given us a grace to be more generous and less attached to money and the security that numbers in a bank account used to give… however little or much is in it.
What we value most is: being able to live freely, to work for ourselves, to stay unattached to possessions and have the resources to be a blessing. God’s will for us is abundant life. It all belongs to Him anyway and viewing what we have through the eyes of stewardship versus ownership takes so much of the pressure off!!

6 Financial Rules We Live By: 

Living below our means.
Quality purchases & investments.
Emphasis on Savings.
Emphasis on avoiding all kinds of debt.
Eliminate unnecessary spending Always.
Tell your Money where to Go: (Budget & stick to it!)

Our Advice to Newlyweds Preparing to Tackle Debt: 

You’re settling into life after your Honeymoon..   & Yes, You should take a Honeymoon!!! even if it’s small, GO!… 
1. Lay out your Finances
2. Make a Plan & decide to tackle it Together!! (Team work!!)
3. Set Aside your Emergency Savings
4. Cut back on unnecessary expenses & find things to get rid of!
5. Start Crushing it.
6. Celebrate the small victories & keep going!!

The Cliff Note Version:

We got married with debt.
It felt icky & was a major buzz kill!
We decided we were going to tackle it.
We decided it needed to happen fast.
We made a plan.
We got CRAZY.
We paid it off Insanely fast.
We continued to live way under our means.
We learned a lot about money, each other and how we want to live!
If you’re on a similar journey…. know that you’re going to make it!! We’re cheering for you!!
Thanks for reading… You can find us on Instagram @blushwoodstudios & @themanions
xxo, Courtney & Michael
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Why This Year Will be Our Best.. & 3 things We've Learned!! Happy New Year from Courtney & Michael!!

We had an amazing year! It was a full one… Non-stop with all 30 Weddings and a whole bunch of Engagement sessions! It was thrilling to welcome our 20th bride into our 2019 season before 2018’s end!! We are grateful and excited for where God has taken Blush Wood and where it’s going in this New year!

So what did 2018 look like for us….

It was a year of growth, learning, blogging, social media networking and countless hours strengthening Blush Wood. Our Weddings were published more than 5 times this year by local and national publications!

We have traveled miles and miles… spending time on the road, dreaming out loud and praying for our future!! We have mastered road trips and have explored from Boston to South Carolina.  We saw so much natural beauty, tasted all kinds of culinary goodness, laughed a lot and did some crying too! 2018 was the year of “New Beginnings” for us! It was our 3rd year of marriage! The 3rd year and final year in our cozy little place in Norfolk (that we moved out of at the end of the summer!) & Our first full year experiencing and enjoying complete Financial Freedom (100% debt free since the fall of 2017!)  There are so many highlights of this past year, from going Full Time, securing our Trademark, shooting our first Wedding in New York and taking on Wedding films it seemed like for every month there was another surprise, new challenges and more blessings. God has been faithful to us over and over again!!

3 Major Things we’ve learned (or Relearned) this past year: 

  • You Gotta Take Care of Yourself!!!
The temptation and the opportunity to pull insane hours and work ourselves raggity in pursuit of our long term goals is ALIVE and Real!!! Owning a growing business is both the hardest and one of the most rewarding things either one of us has ever done.
We have had to remind ourselves over and over again that while managing it all well is important,  maintaining a healthy balance in our personal life and taking time to REST is even MORE important!  This year we want to do that better.
Hustling hard is gratifying but after all is said and done working from a place of rest yields the best versions of ourselves and our work!
  •  Show Love even when you don’t get it back and Focus and Serve the People who Show Up!
This is a Relearn! 🙂 …  and it has helped to make Social Media a little bit more fun for both of us!  Focusing on the people who show up and continue to encourage and support has done a lot and as we’ve shared and especially as we’ve supported others …. we’ve grown!! Michael primarily does all of the networking on our Social Media accounts and I check in from time to time!!  I’m our Blog girl and Michael is our social media guy!  I personally have a slight love hate relationship with social media but love it or hate it, it’s here to stay and we’re tag-teaming it hard in 2019!
  • Live life without fear & Create with JOY!!!!
This is one we come back to often! On our desk for months has sat two notes. One says “Create with Joy“! and the other reads, “Anxiety bows in the presence of Jesus the Keeper of Peace!” They’ll probably continue to be in our work space forever!
It seems like it would go without saying right?! But as we remind ourselves of simple truths and have focused on the things in front of us for each day we have seen the difference. Eliminating the “What if’s?” and replacing them with faith has made us more confident and more determined. Joy and faith is where this start of the New Year lies for us!!
We are believing 2019 will be adventurous, successful, full of amazing couples and pretty Weddings!! It will be fruitful and fun. It will be peaceful and prosperous and it will be the Best Year we’ve ever had!!

Thanks so much to our clients, friends and family for the continued support! Happy New Year!!!

Love, Courtney & Michael







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Norfolk Hilton The Main Wedding Norfolk, Virginia Wedding Photographers


Julia and Erich celebrated their Wedding in downtown Norfolk on the evening of the Grand Illumination Parade just outside the front door of the Main!! Their family and friends from their Church celebrated the night away from the start of Julia and Erich’s evening Wedding ceremony to their live band Reception in the Main’s ballroom!

Julia and Erich met through their church singles group!! As they began working closely together helping to plan events they became greater friends and eventually fell in love! We are so blessed to have had this beautiful couple as a part of our 2018 season!!  Congratulations Erich & Julia!!  God’s continued blessing on your Marriage and as you build your life together!!

Thank You Vendors:

Cake: Incredible Edibles // Florals: Palette of Petals // HMUA: Markia Nicole Artistry // DJ: 10 Spot


Friends, Thank you for stopping by the Blog for a peek into their Wedding day! Leave them some love!

25 comments on this Blog post, gifts Julia & Erich with an 8×10 of their favorite Portrait!!! Like, Comment & Share!!! 

Find us on Instagram @blushwoodstudios  & @themanions

Merry Christmas,  Courtney & Michael


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Virginia Beach Oceanfront Wedding Virginia Beach, Virginia Wedding Photographers

Seriously… what a beautiful, perfect Wedding!! We loved this day so much!

Lauren and Jason met on a Saturday night in June of 2017 when they were both out in Norfolk at a favorite restaurant, Luce. Lauren described her being there as a bit random and also as one of the luckiest (and perhaps most divine) days of her life! Jason was already at the bar, intending only to stop in for a nightcap and Lauren rarely went out in Norfolk but had friends in town, so out they went! Their first stop was Grain, but it was too crowed so Lauren and her friends decided to head over to Luce for what she says was a a quieter scene.

Lauren and Jason noticed each other across the bar almost immediately. A bit of timed passed and she finally told her girlfriend that she just had to know who that guy across the bar was who kept looking her way!  So she mustered up the courage and introduced herself to Jason. She thought he was shy at first and wasn’t interested but they ended up talking for the rest of the night!!

Lauren told us, that “while each of us being at Luce was a bit atypical, it was absolute serendipity. Jason came into my life at the exact moment he was supposed to, as if he was delivered right to me when I needed him most. We both look back on that night often and think, how lucky are we that we were in the right place at the right time? It was love at first sight….we both felt like we just “knew.””!! 

They went on their first date less than a week later and quickly became inseparable! After a year of growing in love, Jason recreated their first date (exactly a year to the day) and asked Lauren to be his bride!

AND What a gorgeous Wedding! We had such a wonderful time working with Lauren & Jason … from meeting them for the first time for drinks in Virginia Beach to their beach Engagement session, it was evident to us how great of  friends they are and the chemistry they have together!

Their Wedding, at their family home on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach was intimate and lovely with neutrals of Navy & Mauve. The perfect setting for a sophisticated yet at home evening, strewn with Edison bulbs, corn hole and oysters!

Congratulations Lauren & Jason!!! & HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREN!!!!

Thank you vendors:  Catering: Catering Cuisine & Company // Venue: Private Home – Virginia Beach // Day of Coordinator: Michelle Kint // DJ: Astro Entertainment // Cake: Incredible Edibles // Rentals: Distinctive Event Rentals // Flowers: Wandering Petal  // Officiant: Pastor Robbie Hall of Trinity Church // Valet: Valet Express //

Friends, Thank you for stopping by the Blog fora peek into their Wedding day! Leave them some love!

25 comments on this Blog post, gifts Lauren & Jason with an 8×10 of their favorite Portrait!!! Like, Comment & Share!!! 

Find us on Instagram @blushwoodstudios  & @themanions

Merry Christmas,  Courtney & Michael

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