How I Paid Off Over $26,000 in Debt!

  As a recent college grad, I was trying everything I could to make sure life was in order.  It seemed important to me to get my crap together because, you know, I am an adult now.  I was a whopping 23 years old, graduated, and had received a wonderful gift of no health insurance as a 23rd birthday present.

Although I lived with my parents, I didn’t want to be a financial burden to them if at all possible.  I finally found a job opportunity making a grand total of $8.50 an hour with affordable insurance benefits.  It was the most amazing blessing and I may have cried acted like it was no big deal and never danced a crazy happy dance (because that is how adults react to life…duh!)  Side note: Nobody warned me that finding a job after college would be a challenge.  I am sure it isn’t a problem for many, but welcome to a world where there are 10 jobs and 100’s of qualified applicants.  It can be hard stuff!

As an average caucasian American female living with my parents, I didn’t really qualify for grants or government help. So despite the fact that I had worked a full-time job through most of my degree, I had incurred some school loans along the way.

At the time, I had also purchased my car and was working to pay it off.  So of course I made my minimum payments and stashed as much of the remaining cash in savings.

BUT WAIT.

I was only getting a few pennies each month from interest, and my emergency fund was stacking up.  For someone with a pretty low risk lifestyle, why was I sitting on this pile of money with school loan interest rates so high??

With a sad, but determined decision, I sent most of the savings to pay down my loan.  It was hard.  Seeing all that money saved up makes you feel like you are rich (even when it is only $4,000)!  But watching that loan amount drop gave me a new hope.  At that point, I started talking with my dad, researching debt pay-off plans, and worked as many hours as possible.

So while this may not be the best technique for everyone, it worked for me.

Step 1: write down all the debt totals you have on a single piece of paper

Step 2: Pick the lowest one – I used the snowball method here!!  Get rid of the smaller amounts first.  It is huge motivation because you see a change.  Pay those babies off as soon as you can, while still making minimum payments on everything else. Once you get rid of the loans, credit cards, etc. in the $100 dollar range, move on. (Oh but don’t forget to cut up those cards!)

Step 3: after careful planning with my financial advisor (dad), I had decided to refinance my car loan and consolidate my payments.  It was only a couple thousand dollars away from being paid off.  So I used the value in that and got enough to pay off my student loans…goodbye 8% interest rates!

Step 4: THE HARD PART.  Now that you only have one loan, it is time to make some changes.  At this point, I looked at my daily habits.  Yes, I went out to grab lunch a few times a week.  Yes, I went shopping or stopped by the store to pick up random items because I wanted them.  Curse you, Peach-O’s!!!

Step 5: Put as much money as you can towards your payment.  No more paying the minimum.  If I made $600 dollars per paycheck, I would make sure to A: take my tithing (church donation) out first.  B: Put $200 in checking for gas money and necessities.  C:  Send the rest to your loan.  My loan payment was only at $110 per month.  But when you are sending $300 per check/$600 a month (or HOWEVER MUCH YOU CAN AFFORD), it goes down a lot quicker than normal.

So there you have it!  It sounds terribly simple written out in words.  But here is the thing….IT IS SIMPLE!  Anyone can do this, and it doesn’t take a degree in accounting!!

  Sure, it is challenging to put restrictions on your life and force yourself to pack lunches and consciously avoid looking at all the stuff you want to buy.  But being drowned by debt seems a little harder.  I had the biggest rush of freedom when I paid my final payment on March 27, 2015.

Now I am working on savings to make a nice down-payment on a house.  Since becoming debt-free, I have relaxed my rules a little bit and go grab a Chick-fil-A sandwich on payday.  Also I totally go shopping sometimes….okay, way more than necessary.

Since this lifestyle worked so well in gaining financial freedom last time, I am starting up again right now to save as much as possible for that dream home!

Try it out!  I dare you! 

Comment below and let me know what you think, if this method has worked for you, if you want to try it, or to express your love of Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches in general. :)

XOXO – Heath

P.S.  Just an after-thought:  I feel like we are constantly bombarded these days. I receive credit card offers in the mail – ON THE DAILY.  “This single piece of plastic will make all of your woes disappear!”  “Why wait? Go buy that new pair of shoes…you deserve them!  Just charge it!” For real though, it is out of control.

Although I personally hate junk mail and shred it upon arrival, I know this is a huge trap for tons of people.  Who doesn’t need a little extra cash to make ends meet?Things are expensive, times can get hard, and the appeal of it all just keeps getting rubbed in your face. Just sign your name on the line and everything gets better…RIGHT??!!  There are situations that require some assistance (medical problems, etc.) but if your main goal is to charge as many hamburgers as you can, just say no.

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7 thoughts on “How I Paid Off Over $26,000 in Debt!

  1. Wow, Heather!! I love that you already “get it”. You are so much wiser than I was at your age. Congratulations!! (PS – if you don’t know Heather, she always looks like a million bucks!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Minimalism Challenge | Eyes Wide Open

  3. Thanks for writing this down to show that some people are actually responsible! It’s great to see a success story from someone using that snowball method. Very well-written blog, Heather!

    Like

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