The Barrientos sisters were a close-knit family confronting a major problem nearly five years ago.
The four sisters - Noemi, 34, Damaris, 33, Ana, 32, and Rufina, 30 - from Dallas, Texas, had a combined income of $106,00. The sisters' combined debt had ballooned to $182,000, thanks to student loans, car payments and credit cards.
“It was a bit embarrassing to admit that, oh, I have so much debt and I can’t really make a dent in it,” Damaris Barrientos, a stadium usher, said of her personal debt. “In my case, I had stopped making payments because I couldn’t keep up.”
Instead of cowering to the debt, the four sisters came up with a novel way to pay it off, by banding together and attacking it as a team.
“Their loan became our loan,” Noemi Barrientos, who works in technical support, told ABC News. “And it was no longer your debt, it was our debt.”
The first step the sisters made was to move into together and become roommates again, saving $400 per month.
Next, the sisters deposited their individual paychecks to a joint account and held weekly “sister meetings” where they gave each other an allowance of $75 each every two weeks for spending money.
The sisters spread that $75 out by sharing entrees when they went out to eat and shopping for clothes at thrift stores.
They also got rid of cable TV -- a savings of $174 per month, or $2,088 per year -– and combined their car insurance policies to save $191 per month, or $2,292 per year.
The Barrientos' plan for attacking their debt was to pay off their credit card debt first and their student loans last.
Within one month, every one of the sisters’ credit cards were paid in full and, within six months, the sisters had also paid off their car loans.
The four sisters’ student loans were paid off 18 months after they started, in January 2011, making them debt-free.
The sisters say it was their joint approach that allowed them to move so quickly.
“In no way we would've gotten done with our payments in the next 10 to 15 years and definitely no way we would have done it in 18 months,” said Ana Barrientos-McBride, an insurance implementation analyst.