My Debt Free Story: How Charis Paid Off $46,000 in 24 Months
My debt free story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview people who have successfully paid off any major debt i.e. student loans, car loans, credit cards.
Please note: If you’re currently unemployed and facing so much uncertainty with your finances, it’s best to save as much as you can right now. If you’re still employed and carrying on with your financial plans and debt-free journey then read on…..
The aim is to inspire, encourage, and motivate you to take hold of your personal finance because “financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It is a reality if you’re willing to pursue it and embrace it.” – Will Robinson
Can you tell us a bit about you?
Hi, my name is Charis. I’ve grown up in America for most of my life, though I’ve moved around different states. Right now, my husband and I live in Los Angeles with our 7-year-old cat!
I graduated from college in 2015 with a nursing degree, which is also the same year I got married.
Growing up, I had no concept of money. My parents’ income was considered poverty level and I knew we had money troubles, but my parents shielded me from it. It wasn’t until after college when I decided to actually get a handle on my finances.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
It wasn’t necessarily that I was sick of having debt, it was more that I operated on an “out of sight, out of mind” lifestyle; I just lived my life not knowing the state of my finances.
About 6 months after graduating from college, that was when I decided to get serious about my debt.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
Most of my debt came from student loans for college. The rest came from car repayments and credit cards.
I don’t regret acquiring the debt! The process of paying it off is how I acquired better spending habits and learned to be content with a frugal lifestyle. If I never got into debt, I’d probably have significantly worse money management skills.
How much debt did you pay off in total? How much money in interest and time did you save in total?
I paid off around $46,500 of debt over 2 years. The breakdown is as follows; $30,000 student loans, $12,000 car, $4,500 cc debt (spread over 3 cards). Considering student loans are normally paid off over 10 years, I saved about 8 years of payments!
How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?
My husband and I had a combined income of roughly $90,000.
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to become debt free?
There were three choices we had to make to get out of debt.
First, we had to be very clear about wants vs needs. Besides basics such as rent, utilities, and groceries, I considered almost everything else a “want”. This meant I got no new clothes, didn’t replace furniture, and rarely went out to eat.
I didn’t do this constantly – it’s hard to be this strict for too long! But it was definitely the most effective method in paying off debt quickly.
Secondly, adopting minimalism. Not for the aesthetic look but in order to shift my mindset from a place of feeling like I don’t have “enough” to feeling content with what I own.
Thirdly, I had practically no savings. This was a risk I chose to take based on my life circumstances. I felt I could pay off debt quicker by giving everything extra into debt as opposed to putting some aside for savings.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
Nope. I didn’t tell anyone except my mom that we were paying off debt. She was very encouraging about it!
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track? Or where did you find your inspiration to stay on track through your debt free journey?
I read a ton of random blog posts on finding unique ways to save money but otherwise, I didn’t really read many books on the topic. My inspiration was just seeing the numbers on the loan payment website decrease every time I made a payment!
How did you feel when you made that final payment?
It was amazing! I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It felt good to be free to pursue other goals since I wasn’t tied down to debt.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt free now?
I try to really evaluate if the potential debt is worth it based on what I want out of life. Minor debt from credit cards is worth it since I pay it off in full every month and I get rewards from it.
Debt from a mortgage or higher education doesn’t fit in the lifestyle I value right now. Will that change in the future? Maybe. But I’m confident that if that time comes, I’ll be able to manage and pay off the debt wisely.
If you could go back in time and advise your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her?
I would advise my 18-year-old self to invest in Facebook, Apple, and Disney stock!
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and seeking encouragement?
I have two pieces of advice for anyone who is going through their own debt-free journey; First, don’t overcomplicate finances. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed – just track your spending and try to reduce how much you spend.
Secondly, the process of paying down debt can feel long but it’s not forever. There IS an endpoint. Plus, motivation doesn’t create progress, it’s progress that creates the motivation to be able to keep going.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
Readers can keep in touch with me via my website.
Congratulations, Charis! Here’s wishing you much success on your financial journey.