How I paid off $104,616 in debt and you can too!

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You read that right, I am debt free after paying off $104,616. Everything in Texas is bigger, including the amount of debt I had the day I graduated from college.  My debt included:

  • Credit Cards – $20,289
  • Car Loan – $30,161
  • Student Loans – $54,166

If you are a debt similar to, greater than or less than mine you might be curious how you can join the debt free club.

The journey to become debt free lasted five and a half years. It wasn’t all bad, but it was as exciting and sexy as winning the lottery. During the journey, my income increased about $4,000 after tax, but not enough to REALLY move the needle.  In order to get ahead of debt, I had to learn about money and start making small moves that make big differences.

Tips to get you to get debt free before you know it!

Read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

This book literally changed my life. Dave Ramsey does more than give you a plan to get out of debt, he teaches you to see the big financial picture and make a plan to beat debt and build wealth. It is so easy to read an 8th grader can understand it and you will get through it quickly. I highly recommend it to everyone I know.

Know your debt and own it!

Time to unveil the truth that you’ve been avoiding. Gather all your statements and make a list of all the money owed to creditors and people you knew. Use the debt snowball method to attack the debt. The small amount of control this task gave me was my first taste of financial empowerment. I was no longer ashamed of the debt, because I was proud to be taking control and commuted to moving forward. You too will experience a small weight lifted when you have everything in one place.

Stopped retirement (401k/Roth IRA) contributions

Not contributing to my retirement was a hard pill to swallow but it made a huge difference in my success. At my lowest salary it added $3,500 per year to my debt payoff plan. The important thing to remember is that this change is very temporary. In the future you will be able to max out contributions.

Create a zero based budget.

If you are not using the zero based budgeting method you are leaving money on the table. This method makes it so that you give every dollar you earn a job to do. The job may be bills, debt, savings, food, gas, fun money or groceries. Once everything is taken care of there is normally some money left over. The “left over” money needs a job and that job will be to pay off debt faster.

Zero based budgeting has a way of making me feel like I got a raise and I hope it does the same for you. I still use this method several years later.

Set up recurring payments for debt using bill pay

To help you stick to the debt reduction plan I recommend using bill pay.  The minimum payments for debt can be fixed, which makes it easy to set up bill payments that align with your paydays. This will help you reach your debt free goal without you having to think about it every payday.

Instead of paying the debt payments monthly I paid half of them bi-monthly on the 1st & 15th of each month (paydays). Since I set this up via bill pay, I know the money would come out of my account on my payday and I couldn’t make any last minute changes that would keep me from the goal.

Cut Expenses

Cutting expenses is easier said than done. This is about finding ways to say and still live your life. Look for cheaper options or eliminate expenses. Here are a few things to get you started.

  • Cut the cable or find a cheaper alternative like
  • Lower internet cost by a asking current provider for a cheaper package, check out the competitor or use the library computers for free.
  • Cell phone plans are constantly changing, check with your provider to make sure you have the best plan for you and your family .
  • Use apps like Ibotta and Ebates to save on your everyday purchases.
  • Got a roommate if you have spare bedrooms. I found mine on Craigslist.
  • Find cheaper housing. While this may not always make sense it is worth looking into the costs & savings. My roommates and I move 1 mile down the street and saved a combined $375 per month.
  • After you have work with your internet, cable and cell phone companies you might want to check out Bill Shark to see if they can negotiate additional savings.

Earn more money

There are so many ways to earn extra money and you should take advantage of them to help you become debt free sooner. Not every opportunity is a good fit for everyone so you have to find what works for you. Remember every little bit counts and the extra work is temporary until the debt is gone.

Use the money from your chosen side hustle(s) to aggressively to pay the debt.

Here are some things I did to make extra money:

  • Part-time job at Macy’s
  • Donated plasma at Biolife. Biolife was a very clean facility with professional staff and paid per donation regardless of weight.
  • Bought cheap name brand clothes form a local store in Tulsa, OK and resold them on eBay. You can do this in your town. As long as your purchase price is 25% or less of the original price you have a good chance of making extra cash.
  • Started a rum cake company
  • Cleaned house for a woman I knew through work.
  • Babysat for kiddos in the community.

Other options you may consider

  • Delivering pizzas
  • Drive for Uber or Lyft
  • Take surveys on Swagbucks and/or inboxdollars
  • Rent out a room in your home or apartment
  • Rake leaves or cut grass
  • Wash cars

Following these steps and you will soon see the debt melt.

Are you ready to get out of debt? Do you have ideas for what you will do that other might want to try?

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