At one point, David Auten and John Schneider had $51,000 in credit card debt, despite the fact that they both worked in financial services. Paying off that debt in three years and then briefly relapsing into old habits inspired the couple to launch a blog, The Debt Free Guys, that encourages LGBTQ individuals to live below their means and spend responsibly while still enjoying their lives. They also launched a weekly podcast called Queer Money. U.S. News recently spoke to Auten and Schneider about what they did to extinguish debt, why they feel the LGBTQ community needs personalized money advice and more. The following excerpts have been edited for clarity and brevity:[See: 10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt.]You accumulated $51,000 in debt. Tell us about that. Auten: When I was 19, my mother co-signed on a credit card for me to take a vacation to Ireland to use only in case of an emergency. I never went to jail, and I never went to the hospital, but I somehow I came back with an almost maxed-out credit card. That was the beginning of my story, and I finally had zero debt 17 years later. Schneider: I moved to Colorado in 1999 with a $5,000 surplus from graduation gifts, and within six months I had about $30,000 worth of credit card debt. That was all spent on buying furniture for the new apartment, buying boarding equipment, new clothing and going out. I had graduated from college, and I thought I had to look and feel like an adult. What prompted you to finally pay off your debt? Auten: John and I had been together for about a year and a half. Like most people, we felt that money is oftentimes the last thing you want to talk about. We went to the mountains of Colorado to visit a friend of John's. We fell in love with this resort area and had this fantasy of buying land and building a house. As we drove down the mountain, the lower we got, the more we realized we actually were living in a financial hole. We were financial messes. We knew that if we didn't make some major changes, things would just continue to get worse. We put together a plan that said within three years we would have our debt paid off, and we did that. What did that plan look like? Auten: One, we got those credit cards down to the lowest interest we could get. In most cases, that was zero. That allowed us to put that extra money toward paying off our debt. We realized that we were spending about $400 a week on dining out and $400 a week on grocery shopping, which was was not sustainable, so we really cut that back. We were determined to still have a good time and enjoy our lives in a not too expensive way, so we would invite our friends to do things with that were a lot cheaper. We were using the Entertainment Book before Groupon took off so we could cut the cost of dining in half. Luckily, we also have a good collection of friends who like to cook.We looked for ways to increase our income during that time period. I worked in a financial service firm that needed extra staff, so I was working overtime, which allowed me to increase my income. [See: Your Month-to-Month Guide to Savings.]When did you become debt free? Auten: It was mid-2008. We became debt-free, but then we lapsed into some bad spending habits, and at one point we as a couple had thousand dollars of credit card debt that we paid off again. Schneider: Our problem was we set a goal to pay off debt, but once we achieved that goal we were left with nothing else to work for. Unfortunately, we hadn't addressed the problem of why we acquired the debt in the first place, so we lapsed back into those old behaviors of spending. What do you think was the underlying cause? Schneider: I think there were two primary drivers. The first was that our generation came from a time and place when it wasn't OK to be gay, so we lived in the closet. It wasn't until we were out on our own that we could come out of the closet and be ourselves. We reveled in that maybe a little too hard and spent accordingly. And then when we found our queer community, we still had this inferiority complex where we felt if we didn't meet their expectations, they may not love us. We kept making sure we had the right clothes, had the nice cars, traveled the same way [and] didn't say no to happy hour invitations. Those two dynamics [feeling marginalized and then overcompensating to feel accepted] created a perfect storm for us. It wasn't until we addressed those and realized we had more to offer than how we looked and dressed that we were able to keep away debt for good. What are your financial goals moving forward? Auten: John and I want to spend more time together. We want to spend more time traveling, so it's more about getting our lifestyle to the point that we want. In 2018, when John turns 45, we would like to spend that month in Sitges, Spain, a great little seaside town that we love. Our other vision is giving back to the LGBTQ community because John and I recognize that there's still such a need. Although we are blessed with the rights and privileges that we have had over the last couple of years, there are still things that our community needs. We don't want our community to be distracted with things like personal debt, credit card debt and mortgage debt. [See: 8 Financial Steps to Take After Paying Off a Debt.]Schneider: We're happy that same-sex marriage passed in June 2013. But we have noticed that a lot of the fight for equality has migrated from the federal level to the state level. And then there's a lot of laws that have not yet updated to provide the LGBT community with the same equal rights that our straight peers have. Part of our message is to try to make the case that a critical pillar of a strong queer community is that we have financially strong queer individuals, so that we've got the money and the time to be able to fight for equality. 25 Ways to Fix Your Finances Fast.