15 Ways I Paid Off $80,000 of Debt in 18 months

15 Ways I Paid Off $80,000 of Debt in 18 months

Last week I told you how paying off debt added freedom in my life and career in this post.  I told you how paying off debt really does influence your career choices.  I know this isn’t a finance blog and I am not a financial expert. But, I do know that zero debt has allowed me to be able to have work that I am passionate about rather than just working at a job I hate to pay my bills and student loans.

This is a quote that I found in a book called No More Mondays by Dan Miller.

“It’s the person who, each day, goes to a job he or she hates, just for the money, there’s the person who has made money his or her God.  There’s the person who focuses on and loves money.” – Dan Miller

Today I am going to tell you how my husband and I paid off our $80,000 of debt.  Hopefully, this will give you some ideas of how you can also pay off your debt so you don’t have to go to a job you hate just for the money.

  1. Read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. After my post last week I already heard from someone that they purchased the book and is taking action!  Awesome!
  2. Make a commitment to yourself. Write down your goal and how much you want to pay off by a certain deadline. Make sure you make it a reasonable goal and tell your friends and family about your goal. When you can’t go out to dinner with them, you don’t want them pressuring you!  You need their support to make this happen.
  3. Create a budget for each month.  Recording all of our income and expenses is how we got ourselves out of debt and in control my expenses.  Each month, make a goal and then try your best to meet it!
  4. If your expenses are everywhere, use mint.com to keep track of everything.  This way you only need to go to one account to find the information you need, rather than opening a ton of different accounts to update your budgeting.
  5. Be creative.  Is any of your money tied about in accounts that you don’t really need.  For instance, I had some money sitting aside in an investment account that I never touched.  Meanwhile I had all this debt that I was working my butt off to get rid of. I decided to take the money from the investment account and apply it to my debt.  Now we have started investing again but without the headache of debt clouding our decisions.
  6. Sell, sell, sell.  Yes, that’s right.  I didn’t need that butter dish like I thought I did when I got married.  So on ebay it went.  This allowed us to unclutter our lives and really think about the items that we wanted to keep. It was hard to sell wedding presents but some of them we hadn’t used in the 5 years since we were married. So we knew it was time for them to go.  We also both had all of our textbooks from college and grad school that we never looked at.  Those were sold on half.com as well.  You might not think you can make much money from selling small dollar items but trust me, it adds up quickly!  I even sold clothes on ebay that I never wore anymore.  Not only will this help you pay off debt faster, but you will also feel so much better living in an uncluttered house.
  7. Evaluate the car your drive.  We had two major loans on both of our new cars that we had recently purchased. We thought long and hard about selling our cars and getting used cars instead when we decided to get out of debt.  At that point in time though, we realized it would be better in the long run if we just paid more on the loans each month and knocked the loans down faster. But, if you don’t see an end in sight for your car loans, buy a used car instead and use the difference from your sold car to pay off your debt.
  8. Focus.  One of the reasons that I think it took so long for us to make this plan to get out of debt is that every financial expert tells you to do something different.  I had always heard that you should pay off your largest debt or largest interest rate first and that just seemed totally overwhelming so I never did it.  It wasn’t until I heard Dave Ramsey’s plan of paying off the SMALLEST debt first did the light bulb click for me.  I do love my checklists and the faster I can check stuff off, the better I feel.  So this allowed us to pay off our first debt in a matter of weeks because it was so tiny.  So, even though it might not make as much “sense” to pay off the smallest debt first if it doesn’t have a high interest rate, what really matters is that you stick with it and that is the more important than worrying about interest rates.
  9. Review your wardrobe.  Yes, I do love new clothes too. But for almost a year, I rarely bought anything new.  I learned to try new combinations in my wardrobe and found a bunch of stuff that was hiding when I actually sorted my closet.  I know all your friends are always buying new stuff and you may not fit all the latest trends.  What I noticed is at some point something triggers where even though you might have worn the same thing last month, you feel happier about who you are and the goals that you are meeting that you just don’t care anymore about trying to fit in anymore.  I am all for looking great and stylish, but you don’t need new clothes all the time in order to do that.  As long as you have the classics and you feel comfortable in them.  (But,  if going on an interview, please get yourself a nice suit.  This you can fit into the budget because Classy Career Girl says so)!
  10. Be creative with your living situation.  When my husband and I were getting closer to paying off our debt, we really wanted to decrease our living costs but it was just something that we could not figure out how to move. (Normally, I would say get a cheaper rent but at the time we had a mortgage and we were stuck).  So we decided to offer our spare bedroom to one of my best friends for a very affordable rent.  This did two things. 1) It helped us get out of debt faster. 2) It helped her get out of debt. Win and win!  Plus, who doesn’t want to hang out with their best friend everyday!
  11. Track your expenses at the grocery store.  I was notorious for using a grocery list app on my phone when I went grocery shopping so I knew exactly how much I was going to spend when I left the store.  I planned what I needed beforehand and what I thought each item was going to cost and then I adjusted at the store. So if I saved a couple dollars on one item, it allowed me to splurge and get something that wasn’t on the list.  We also used coupons that were available online and in the grocery store handouts.  Don’t overlook the free offers!
  12. Carpool.  My husband and started driving together to and from work. Even though it was a major hassle because we would get done at certain times, we saw our gas bill go down so it was worth the hassle!
  13. Cut the TV channels.  Do you really need the million channels you have right now?  You know all you do is flip the channels over and over anyways so why not just have 5-10 channels to choose from.  It makes decisions a LOT easier.  We went down to basic cable and didn’t miss trying to find a great show in a million channels.
  14. We ate in, a LOT.  It’s much cheaper to cook at home and eat leftovers.  (Plus, it helps that my husband will eat anything I put in front of him including the same thing for a few days:)
  15. Stay positive.  You will do it.  Just imagine yourself at the end and how great it will feel. It will be SO WORTH your hard work now so that you can have freedom to do want you want in your career and life.

It doesn’t take an accounting masters to be able to pay off debt in a smart and efficient way.  Through budgets, determination, and a little creativity, you can put your life in a better spot financially.

Can’t wait to hear your stories soon about how you got out of debt and that you aren’t trapped in your career anymore!  If I can do it, you can do it!  Good luck!

P.S. I know this isn’t a marriage blog either but I do have to share one other thing about getting out of debt.  Over and over again I hear couples arguing about money and my husband and I used to argue about money as well. But, we don’t anymore.  Why? Because we don’t have to argue about bills, loans and each other’s expenses anymore.  We are now on the same team.

(photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

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About Anna Runyan

Anna Runyan has been helping women get their careers unstuck since 2008. She is known for “The Love Your Career Formula” which helps women find new careers they LOVE in 90 days or less and “The Corporate Rescue Plan” which helps women ditch their day jobs and start profitable, freedom-based online businesses in 90 days. Make sure you sign up for her Free ‘CHEAT SHEET’– 7 proven steps to get out of a job you hate and into a career you love.

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