So I’ve spent a little time deciding whether or not to actually write this post and wondering to myself if it would help any of you out there.
This post might contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here!
But since I was encouraged to start my own debt payoff journey after reading this book – I reminded myself how inspired I was after hearing his story.
If I can inspire one person to live a debt free life, then I’ll be happy.
I link to several different resources in this article, so I would suggest that you save this post and come back to reference it when you need it! Let’s get started!
How I Paid off $76,453.49 in 19 months
For a long time, I had anxiety when it came to facing my debt.
It was like the 10,000-pound elephant in the room.
When I finally got up enough willpower to face it, I sat down and tallied up every single piece of debt I owed.
I had $76,453.49 worth of debt from student loans, credit cards, my car, and medical bills.
I looked at it all – let it sting for a minute and took a couple of deep breaths.
This was a really hard first step, but I knew if I could get past this part, then I’d have an extremely high rate of becoming debt free.
Step 2 | I Refinanced My Student Loans
When I first graduated from college, I had no idea what student loan refinancing meant.
But since my student loans accounted for most of my debt, I started doing my research on student loan debt right away.
This is when I first discovered SoFi.
SoFi refinanced my student loans for me and lowered my interest rate from 6.03% to 4.96%.
They also gave me an extra 0.25% interest rate deduction because I used auto-pay.
Just by doing this step alone, I saved myself $18,430.92 in interest.
Interest rates are tricky. And they’re what costs us so much more in the long-run.
So because I couldn’t pay off the entire balance completely, I didn’t just want to settle for a high-interest rate.
Especially since I knew I could lower it.
This was JUST the little (or technically big) morale boost I needed to kick-start my debt payoff journey.
After feeling so down in the dumps about all the debt I had racked up – I’m happy I did this first.
(If you need more info on SoFi, click here to read my review)
Note: The SoFi link above gives you a $100 welcome bonus.
Step 3 | I Fired My Bank
At this point, I was basically living paycheck to paycheck.
This meant I was getting hit with $35 overdraft charges on a pretty (embarrassingly) regular basis.
I was also being charged $10 every month for “maintenance” fees.
It was frustrating, and I knew I needed to cut costs in every way that I could, so I switched to a Capital One 360 account.
There were no monthly fees and they use an overdraft line of credit rather than overdraft fees.
Switching to Capital One 360 really helped take some added stress off.
I no longer had to worry about the overdraft charges (like when my direct deposit was late and I had no idea) or the maintenance fees that added up.
Step 4 | I Started The Debt Snowball Method
After refinancing with SoFi and changing over to Capital One 360 – I was getting pretty serious about getting all this sh-t under control.
I started diving into personal finance resources (books, podcasts, other success stories) and I found Dave Ramsey.
Dave is a big proponent of the Debt Snowball Method.
Basically, what I did was line up all my debts from smallest to largest and started paying off my smallest debt FIRST.
For me, this was the $75 I owed to Target.
I think that part of the reason this method worked so well is because as I was making progress on the smaller debts – it gave me more motivation to keep going.
Step 5 | I Made Biweekly Payments
This was probably the easiest thing I did while paying everything off: I split my payments into two each month.
By simply changing to this payment method, it meant I would have an EXTRA payment go towards my debt every year.
Here’s What I Did:
- I split my monthly bills in half and paid every other week. For example, if I was paying $600/month, I split it into $300 every 2 weeks.
- I made sure my payments made it before the due date.
- I double checked that my lender implemented my payments correctly. For example, I needed those second payments to go towards my balance and not forwarded towards my next bill. (I did this by logging in and checking my account or by calling the lender directly.)
I want to show you guys how the biweekly method works, so I used the Calcxml Calculator to demonstrate it.
The Calcxml graph below shows the traditional payment method in green and the biweekly method in orange:
See how my loan balance went down more drastically with the bi-weekly (orange) method?
Step 6 | I Started Saving While I Spent
My sister is the queen of saving money. She’s the one who got me reading this book (I never thought I’d be that girl).
And I remember having a conversation with her one night about how I needed to lower my grocery bill. That convo went something like this:
Her: Why aren’t you saving while you spend?
Me: What do you mean, like use coupons?
Her: Well, coupons are an option, but I mean more like saving money on the stuff you’d normally buy anyway.
Me: How do I do that?
Her: There’s a lot of stuff you can find cheaper online. You should try it. Ebates helps a lot, too.
She knew that couponing wasn’t my thing (I just never manage to stick with it) but the online shopping + Ebates was something I could do.
So I started using Ebates to get cash back on items that I found cheaper online.
Ebates is free and really easy to use.
All I do is use the search bar to find the store I need to shop at and as I make purchases, then I get cash back.
These days, there are certain things I only buy online because that’s how I save the most money.
Like printer ink, for example…because who made it so expensive in the first place?
Note: The Ebates link above gives you $10 for signing up and shopping.
Step 7 | I Sold My Car
My car loan was $18,565.
The rule of thumb is that the total value of all your vehicles should not be more than 1/2 of your yearly income.
My car was not more than 1/2 of my annual income, so this didn’t apply to me.
But, considering I had so much debt – I knew that if I could cut my car loan in half, then I’d be one step closer to becoming debt free.
Once I found a buyer for my car, I went to my local credit union and got a loan for $9,000 and bought a used Nissan Versa.
My dad and I took the car to a mechanic for an inspection before I agreed to buy it (always do this!) and this little car has been with me ever since.
I want to upgrade in the future but for right now I’m still happy with it.
Step 8 | I Got a Personal Loan for my Credit Cards
For anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of credit card debt – personal loans can be a BIG help.
My credit score was at least above the average (average is around 650), so the bank offered me a lower interest rate than my credit card company did.
I locked in a lower interest rate on the loan, then lowered my monthly payments, and saved thousands of dollars on interest.
If you remember from step 2, this is similar to how I saved so much money on my student loans with SoFi.
Step 9 | I Started My Cash Only System
So by this point, I had heard the research about how people who use cash spend 12%-18% less than people who use cards.
I wasn’t completely hooked at first, but I thought I’d give it a shot.
I bought the SavvyCents wallet to help me organize and keep track of my cash. I told myself that I was going to try it for at least 3 months.
3 months went by and I really found myself enjoying my new system.
I knew exactly how much money I was spending. I wasn’t tempted with impulse buys because I only carried enough money to buy what I needed.
If I would have thought about it in the past, I would have switched to a cash system earlier to avoid overdraft fees but better late than never, right?
I’ve used both and loved them equally.
Step 10 | I Threw My Tax Refund At My Debt
My refund was money I wasn’t expecting to have anyway, so I wasn’t going to let myself waste it.
As soon as my refund deposit hit – I threw it all towards paying down my debt.
Step 11 | I Moved
Nowadays, I’m a homeowner (yay me! I never thought I’d be able to say that) but back then I was a renting a nice 3-bedroom, 2 bath apartment.
My apartment was in a great area, had a nice view – and did I mention it had an amazing swimming pool?
Yeah, well…while all that stuff was fine and dandy, the truth is – I couldn’t afford that apartment.
Why did I need 3 bedrooms just for me?
This is the kind of stuff I look back on and shake my head at, but hey, we were all young and dumb once, right?
As you can tell, by this point I was full speed ahead in my debt-free journey so I was doing whatever it took to finally get the massive $76,000 burden off my back.
I downsized to a 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment in a good area, without the view, no pool, and no gym.
This alone saved me hundreds of dollars each month. And no, I didn’t even miss that pool.
Step 12 | I Got a Side Hustle
By this point, I realized there were two main ways to get out of debt: spend less or earn more.
Since I had so much debt, all of my money from my main job was going towards trying to stay afloat.
I started cleaning houses on the side and babysitting for some friends here and there.
Those were great little income boosts, but I wanted something a little more stable.
I started teaching English online with VIPKid to young Chinese kids every morning before work.
This put an extra $1,000 to $2,000 in my pocket each month and I was able to do it from home.
I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with teaching (except maybe some tutoring I had done in my early college days) but I did have experience with babysitting and I’m very close with my nieces and nephews.
If you want to submit your application for VIPKid, click here.
Step 13 | I Said ‘No’ A Lot
It wasn’t always easy, but I learned I had to start saying ‘no’.
I passed up vacations, dinners, going to the movies, shopping trips and so on.
I scaled back my lifestyle in every area and really focused on the BIG picture.
Yeah sure, I was missing out on getting my nails done or a nice dinner, but I knew that I’d be happier in the long run if I was able to get this debt behind me once and for all.
Lastly, I stopped going to get my nails done with my friends and started doing them myself.
I use this nail set. They don’t last as long, but they’re only a few bucks so you can’t beat it!
There you have it! Those are the 13 Things I did to pay off my debt in 19 months!
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