Anyone in debt knows the feeling all too well. The feeling of hopelessness. The feeling that no matter what you do, it’s not enough. No matter how fast you move, it’s not fast enough.
There are plenty of inspirational stories all around us, everyday. I never thought I would partake in this amazing experience of sharing my story in hopes of inspiring others. Without further ado, here is my story of how I paid off $37,000 CAD ($27,633 USD) in student loans and credit card debt and saved over $25,000 CAD ($18,671 USD) in just 2 ½ years. Mind you, I did nothing special or extra in terms of income. I had a full time job with a salary of about $47,000 ($35,102 USD).
TIP - No matter how big your debt is, or how dire your situation, keep your goal in front of you and the finish line will be closer than it appears in the beginning.
The moment was all too memorable. It was the first time I felt truly afraid of the future and had that deep pit in my stomach which signaled trouble. Making a salad for dinner, it hit me like a train. Realizing I had about $20 left in my bank account and my next paycheck was still days away, I started to cry. I was 24 years old.
At that time, I was renting a condo with my boyfriend. When I was moving out, I had about $40,000 in debt, consisting of both student loans and credit cards. Oh, and absolutely no savings of any kind. This didn’t scare me. I was young and invincible, or so I thought. We lived paycheck to paycheck, spending money left and right. I was hanging to a promise from him, “Don’t worry, buy whatever you want, my business ideas are almost a reality and then we’ll make a lot of money”. Of course looking back now, I wish I could smack myself!
A year later, after a 6-year relationship, he decided to leave the country and pursue his business dreams elsewhere. I was left alone, with our dog in a condo which I couldn’t afford. With no other options, I moved back to my parents’ house, having given the dog away to my now ex-boyfriend's family. Completely heartbroken with no plan on how to keep living, I slumped into depression.
There are huge differences from my past to my current life.
For example, taking the bus. This was so hard to get used to as I used a car in the past. Can you imagine, with all my debt, I actually considered buying a car? I even considered moving out again! When I hear people are in debt and are doing silly things like this, I remember back to thinking the same way – and I wish I could hold them back and ask them to slow down and think. Really think! Of course, it’s easier said than done.
TIP - The expression "Sleep on It" has huge meaning and benefit behind it. Don't ever make decisions out of haste or from being emotional. Always give it a few days to reflect and think on the decision. Come to a sensible decision which will not hurt you in the future.
After this wave of emotions passed, I realized I couldn’t afford my old lifestyle. I started to think about how to get back on my feet. I knew I wanted to move out again, but paying debt AND renting was just unreasonable.
At this time, my debt was:
- $29,000 Student Loan
- $8,000 Credit Card
I can’t really say what inspired me to pay off all my debt as I just decided to do it one day. But it was a good solid plan, a goal, and it felt amazingly refreshing. So I went full steam ahead.
The first 6 months I tested the waters. I was thinking about how to do it the best way.
The first thing I did was write down my priorities.
Priority 1 - Pay off all credit card debt.
Credit cards have the highest interest rate and I was throwing money into the wind. Any money I had left all went to credit card debt.
Priority 2 - Pay off tuition loans.
This number was massive. $29,000 just seemed so unreal. So I decided to put this number to the side for a minute.
Priority 3 - Start saving money.
I didn’t want to just pay off debt and have no money saved. I wanted to pay off debt AND have money at the same time. This was largely due to saving for a down payment. Having no savings whatsoever, I had to start. I knew I wouldn't be able to purchase anything anytime soon, so I had a lot of time to invest my money and wait for it to grow. I decided to participate in my company’s stock share program. In other words, invest. Every paycheck, I allocated 20% to this program, and in 6 months, my company bought shares worth the amount of money my 20% saved.
Priority 4 - Stop spending money unless it's absolutely necessary.
I stopped completely. No more coffee, no more movies, no more anything. I stopped going out to lunch with my co-workers and friends. It was a shock to be honest. But it was such a dramatic action plan, that I loved it. I wasn’t going to tip-toe around my debt anymore, I was going to crush it head on, at top speed, and not give it a minute’s rest.
By this time, I had amazing friends at work including two ladies who were deeply knowledgeable about money and savings. I talked to them every single day about debt and my progress. Through them, I became much better about my money. I realized that I cannot rent again as renting was such a waste of money and I should save to buy my own property.
Now that I had my priorities, it was time to set goals and timelines. Using a simple Excel spreadsheet, I figuredout how long it would take me to pay off my debt completely. This is what I used to pay, bare minimum:
Starting to work my plan
After applying my new plan for 6 months, I ended up with the snapshot below. You can see debt is a bit lower, but seeing that $4,557 from stock investment just blew it out of the water for me. I can say now, that was the light in the darkness.
It may sound a little obsessive, but every single morning, I would log into my online bank accounts and look at my numbers. Watching them decrease bit by bit and dreaming of the day when I would be debt free put a huge smile on my face. It set the tone for the rest of the day and motivated me to work hard at everything and be grateful for small wins.
Six months later, I paid off my credit card debt and now have a good amount in investments. Never in my life have I had money saved for retirement, but there it was, My first retirement contribution! Retirement, however, was very carefully planned. I contributed $3,000 and the Government sent me a tax refund of almost $2,000; which I immediately used to pay towards my tuition debt. You have to be smart like that, always thinking about what you can do to get little wins.
Again, I felt amazing. I never had any savings my entire life, and now I was sitting on over $15,000!
At this time, I was still discouraged by my tuition debt I had left. The number was just so big and felt like it was decreasing so slowly. Of course, it was due to all of my savings attempts and paying off my credit card debt. Still, there it was, weighing in at over twenty thousand dollars.
A Book That Inpired
What I did next was read Magic by Rhonda Byrne. This step helped me battle two things: my depression and my debt. This book truly helped me with both. It has daily exercises that I did. In the end, they helped me appreciate everything I had in my life. Instead of being upset about spending $70 on a phone bill, I have learned to be grateful for the service being provided. My negative attitude has turned positive and I am happy every single day.
TIP - Do whatever you have to do in order to be happy again and tackle your problems with a positive attitude instead of resentment or anger. You will see a huge difference in how you approach your goals.
July 2013 would be the last time I contributed to purchasing stock. With $20,500 saved, I felt that I had a good amount saved and would hopefully grow by the time I was ready to buy a property. And I was now getting restless to pay off my tuition debt that remained.
In January 2014, I contributed just $650 to my retirement savings account in order to break even. At this time I decided to go fully back at paying off my tuition debt. I knew that come summer, I would be done!
TIP - Make sure to reward yourself for your huge efforts in life. That goes for everything you do. Not only is this good for you, but it also gives a chance to reflect back and see what lessons have been learned to ensure you do even better next time.
Enjoying my reward
In June of 2014, I bought an all-inclusive vacation package to Cuba in celebration of my successful efforts. My plane was leaving on a Friday morning. I remember sitting at the airport, looking at my last little bit of debt and clicking the “transfer money” button for the last time and watching that number become $0.
I was now debt free.
It was surreal.
I was sitting in my chair, and I was debt free. I had debt since my first year of University, and here I was, an adult, with over $20,000 invested in the stock market along with money in my retirement savings account and debt free. Going on a well deserved vacation that I paid for by myself. I had advice and support from my two co-workers, but no one gave me money to help out. I had paid for my own education and owed absolutely nothing to my parents.
Once again I felt invincible! This time, however, it was reality and not make belief.
To sum up everything that helped with my success:
- Action Plan – has to include date of when you’ll be debt free. Do the math now. It also has to include a budget where you show how much you will allocate to debt payment, fun, food, transportation, etc.
- You have to WANT it! This was huge for me. I am very good at achieving my goals. I proved this to myself through paying off my debt.
- Be ready to change your lifestyle. Stop spending money! Period! Only the bare minimum!
- Support – you need to tell someone what is going on so they can support you everyday. Also, make it someone who knows about debt and can give you financial advice along the way.
- Positive Attitude – you have to stay hopeful and be grateful for every day that you get closer to your goal. For this, I recommend you read Magic by Rhonda Byrne.
- Financial Adviser – I didn’t do this, but you can visit your bank and speak to a Financial Adviser. It’s free, confidential and you’ll learn a lot of interesting things.
Lastly, I wish that parents would prepare their children better for their financial burdens. Maybe suggest postponing university until some money is saved instead of going into debt. More tips here. Schools could also do a better job at it. I remember taking Accounting and Finance courses in university, but those were of course for Business. There needs to be more LIFE courses. This is the main reason my co-worker and I launched Luana Co. To help educate.
Are you ready to finally take control of your finances? Let my budgeting spreadsheets help!
Just fill out the form below and I'll send you the link to get the same exact budgeting spreadsheets that I use each month!
Included in the workbook:
- Monthly budget form
- Breakdown of savings form (for your sinking funds)
- Overview of your financial plan
I've been using these same forms since August 2011 and have grown my family's net worth 500% tracking our money using these forms!
That is absolutely amazing and completely inspiring. I would love to give this a shot.
Thanks so much Robin Rue! Give it a shot and you’ll see how great of a feeling it will be in the end!
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Wow!! Congratulations!! I am going to share this with my husband and see if we can make our own plan to help buy our first house.
Thanks so much Jay Simms! Planning is everything but also make sure not to give into the urge to purchase a home early. My fiance wanted to, and I’m so glad I held us back from jumping in before we were ready. Good luck with your first home purchase!
This is very cool! My last thing to pay off is my mortgage, then I am debt free
I’m so glad you enjoyed the article Tara Pittman! For mortgage, try and see if you can do extra payments when you have the extra money. That’s how one of my friends paid off her mortgage – she kept on making lump sums when-ever she could and it really helped her! Good luck, you CAN DO IT!
Oh gosh. I know what you mean. I finally paid a full amount on my student loan and didn’t have to make payments for 2 years now I’m back on it again but luckily only owe about a grand more, but credit cards are #1 and I told myself I would never get one, but got a Kohls Charge which was a bad idea now thinking about it, but yeah make small payments as you can nothing is never to big.
You can do it Tara L! I’m glad you’re back on paying your student loan again – keep at it and it will disappear, and you’ll get rid of that $1,000 in no time. For the Kohls Charge, see if you can find another Credit Card which has free balance transfers and an offer with 0% interest for the first year. That way you can transfer the balance for free and not pay any interest on it for a while, which will save you money and you can pay off more! Best of luck!
This is very helpful. I am so interesting about this. Truly awesome. I would love to share this with my friends.
I’m so glad this was helpful Karlyn Cruz! I hope it helps you and inspires you to be debt free!
This is such an amazing story. I try my best not to buy anything unnecessary. If I really want to, then I choose the cheap ones like clothing.
Thanks so much Sarah Bailey! I actually started to do this new plan where if i want to buy something unnecessary, I hold back for 30 days and if I still want it, then i consider getting it. Shopping is fun and I get carried away, so holding back and thinking about it puts things into perspective. And most of the time I don’t go back to buy it. And i ONLY shop sale items. Thanks for your kind comment!
I never thought to use the Law of Attraction towards my income/debt situation. I just always tried to keep a positive mindset and focus on what I needed in the moment. I will definitely have to put more intentions and actions towards using it to manifest money and clearing my debt. Thanks for sharing your story on how you utilize it to clear your debt and build a assets.
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Thanks so much Victoria Sconion! Yes, Law of Attraction is still such a new concept to me but now I cannot do a day without it. And it truly did help with debt and savings. It’s hard to be positive when you’re in debt but this approach really helped me. I hope you try it out and that it helps you as much as it helped me!
Thank you for your post. It contains a lot of good advice.
I’m so glad you found it useful Colleen Wool! Best of luck with everything!
Wow, amazing! I love this advice. We’re just paying off the mortgage and I hope to do that quickly.
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Thank you Amber, I’m so glad you found it useful!
This some wonderful advice. I hope to make this happen one day in the near future.
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I’m glad you enjoyed it Crystal! Keep at it and you’ll for sure make it happen in the VERY near future! Best of Luck!
Wow good for you! I love coming across such inspirational posts. There is always a way out of debt, and you provide really great tips.
Aw thanks so much Natalie! I love love love inspirational posts and honestly never thought I would every write one, so I’m very glad you enjoyed it! I’m glad you found some good tips in there!
I’m currently working on paying off my credit card debt. It feels amazing to make that final payment, or even just paying more than the minimum each month. Once that’s done I’ll start putting money into savings and then tackle my school loans. They’re pretty extreme and at this point I’ve only earned a credential, that really has no use to me. If you can’t tell, school loans are a sensitive topic, haha.
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Hi Danielle! Oh yes, student loans absolutely suck – there is no other way to say it. You graduate and you’re super excited for your future career and bam, there is a big fat red number in your bank account which spoils everything. I’m so glad you’re on your way to getting out of debt. One step at a time is the way to go, staying positive and having a plan. You’ll get there soon, and it will be the best day ever. I wish you all the best, you can do it!
That is awesome to be out of debt! I have gotten myself out of debt except for paying off the house. These are great tips and something to put into practice!
Hi Wendy! That’s great that you got rid of some of your debt! Making progress is so important. House debt is such a huge undertaking, but you’ll get there soon! I’m glad you found some of these tips useful. Best of luck!
Student loans are my big debt right now. Making a plan to pay them off is a valuable thing to be reading about.
You can do it Rosey!! Having a plan is the first thing to make, and you’ll feel amazing after you do this – so please create one as soon as you can. Then sticking to it at first may be hard, but after a month, you’ll see it will get super easy. You will see progress on your debt and it will motivate you to put even more money towards it. And you’ll get rid of it in no time! Good luck Rosey!
What a good post I really love this and I love the good information, Glad that you share this
Thanks so much Misty! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I agree that the key to getting out of debt is stop spending money. You end up in debt just by doing that, and taking advantage of money that are not yours (credit cards). I try to be responsable and pay every bill I have on time and same with the credit cards. In the UK we need to have debt in order to be able to be given a mortgage but the key is to know how to keep that debt under control and not the other way around.
Yes, I completely agree with you Joanna. Debt is necessary to show banks that you can pay it off when the time comes to buy a house or get a big loan from them. Debt also teaches you to be stronger, discipline and the true value of money. I have a lot of friends who had their parents pay for their Tuition, so they have no Tuition debt – but now, because they had it easy, they are blowing their money left and right and cannot afford to buy a house. Thank you for your comment!
Glad you shared this… i reallly loved reading this post
Thank you so much eazynazy! I’m happy you enjoyed it!
Congrats! This is such an amazing story. Impressed with the stock numbers increased significantly.
Thank you Hey Sharonoox! Yes! The stock numbers increased very well, and i was truly fortunate to buy into the stock at the time that i did. This is a good thing to do if the company you’re investing in is a successful one – especially if you plan to hold your investment for a few years.
This is totally amazing!!! Good for you!!! The great thing is that you’re now able to help others not make the same mistakes! What a gift that is!
Thank you very much Kristen! Your words mean a lot! I really do hope that this post will help others with their debt. Everyone can do what I did!
This is amazing! I am working on becoming debt free and this is the type of motivation that I need!
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Echo! Wow! Thank you so much! I’m beyond happy that this provided you motivation to help you with your plan to getting debt free! You CAN DO IT! Stay positive, believe it in, keep picturing that beautiful day when you’ll owe $0 and you’ll get there in no time. Best of luck to you!
Congratulations this is an amazing accomplishment. I will pin this. A true inspiration for others.
Oh thank you so much Nichole! Everyone can do this! And I sincerely hope this will help everyone who reads it!
Amazing and so helpful! I will definatly follow these tips and i will be sharing it with others to so it can help them get debt free! Well done!
Thanks so much Emma! So glad you found it helpful! Good luck with everything!
Absolutely amazing and very inspirational post. It really tells me how hard work, good planning and great discipline can solve even the biggest of problems. Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you – i’m so glad you enjoyed it! Discipline is everything – that’s what i found in the past few years. 🙂
I totally agree that many parents do not prepare their kids to be financially savvy. It is so important, yet many have no clue
Yes Mardene, you’re completely right. Including my own parents. I plan on having kids in few years and I am already prepared to teach them about savings, and debt. They will be so prepared to have successful lives. It’s so important to do this and I wish more parents would do it too.
And a frugal trip to reward. Nice. Thank you for sharing your story. And I love how you just got down and serious with getting the debt paid off.
Thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, I just couldn’t bring myself to buying an expensive vacation. I actually had that problem for about a year, being afraid to spend money. And yep, that’s for sure the best way to tackle debt, getting serious about it and not tip toeing.