August 2, 2007 -- Credit card debt in the U.S. is soaring -- almost tripling since 1989, according to the Federal Reserve Board. Today, American consumer debt is over a trillion dollars.
More than half of all cardholders don't pay their bill off each month and carry an average balance of around $2,000. But despite the fact that many Americans seem mired in debt, there is one family who has managed to live debt-free and credit card free.
The aptly named Economides family pays for a nice house, two cars, furniture, clothes, and food for a family of seven and everything else they need on an average income of less than $35,000. They are America's Cheapest Family.
In their book "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money," a New York Times bestseller, they explain their system for staying debt free. It takes meticulous planning and a willingness to truly accept the one rule of debt free living: if you don't have the money, don't buy it. They stick to a budget, buy clothes at thrift and consignment stores and shop for used furniture and other household items on the Internet.
But it is in the supermarket where America's Cheapest Family has really made a name for themselves. Annette Economides calls herself "the Warren Buffet of Groceries." Annette preplans 30 days worth of meals before they launch their monthly trip to the grocery store. Annette says that over time those few pennies saved can add up. "Hundreds of dollars on a monthly basis add up to thousands of dollars in a year."
The Economides have been called all sorts of names: cheapskates, the first family of frugal, and tightwads. But they wear those names with a badge of honor. Following their plan is certainly not easy, but the Economides say they are happy living a debt free life.
"What do you need to be happy? I think more people need to sit back and think about that. Do you need every gizmo and gadget and name brand? I don't think so."