My Debt Free Story: She is Tasha and She Paid Off $80,000 Before Age 30
My debt free story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview millennials who have successfully paid off any major debt (i.e student loans), saved, or overcome any financial hurdles.
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 yourself?
I am Tasha Danielle, I paid off $80,000 debt before the age of 30 and found my life’s purpose during the journey!
I’ve always enjoyed personal finance, which is how I ended up becoming a CPA, but I also had a passion for tutoring youth who fell behind on their studies.
After venting to a friend about my frustrations of youth, not understanding the basics of financial literacy, she said, “why don’t you do something to change it?”.
After prayer and fasting, Financial Garden was born. Financial Garden teaches students in grades K-12 holistic financial literacy.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
I actually didn’t have a “sick and tired” moment it was more of an “aha” moment. The “Aha” moment came when Michelle Singletary came to speak at my church.
At that point in my life, I felt slightly overwhelmed with my debt, but I had a great salary and was using the avalanche method to pay off my debt.
I wasn’t making much headway using that method but I found comfort in my salary and that I always had a budget aka plan for my money.
I never thought about living a debt free life until I heard Michelle speak. I always knew that my salary could cover my bills with room for investing.
I had an emergency fund, so I thought I was okay. She completely changed my perspective and I was able to see that I didn’t own my paycheck…my debt did.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
I acquired approximately $53,000 ($5,000 was credit cards to cover loan shortages for tuition) in student loan debt, $16,500 for a car loan, and an additional $7,500 in student loans to be able to take the courses to make me eligible to sit for the CPA exam.
I also took a roughly $2,000 credit card advance when I ended my engagement to avoid being homeless.
How much debt did you pay off in total over what period of time?
I paid off $80,000 in three and a half years.
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to become debt free?
I did the snowball method to pay off my debt! I never consolidated any of my various private and federal student loans.
I chose to live on less, by living in an area FAR away from the young professionals. I also went to a cash method of spending my income to ensure that I lived on the least amount of my income as possible.
I cooked every day, planned my meals according to what was on sale, and worked overtime whenever it was offered.
I also stayed in a lot and found free things to do in my area. I rewarded myself with a low-cost trip to visit friends out of state for each bill that was completely paid in full!
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
Yes, two friends in particular thought what I was doing was stupid.
Instead, they said I should have taken all of my extra income, after paying the minimum on my debt and invest it at a higher rate of return than my interest rate on my loans.
They thought was I could use the return to pay off my debt faster. Guess what?! They both are still drowning in debt.
I didn’t really share my goals with any of the family aside from my mom, who was really supportive.
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track?
I paid my debt off in early 2016, so during my journey, podcasts were not what they are today. I listened to Dave Ramsey’s guests do their debt-free screams daily, as well as his podcast.
I did not however follow his baby step methodology.
Where did you find your inspiration to stay on track through your journey?
I found frugal friends at my church to stay on track. I also was heavily involved in my church’s financial empowerment ministry, so constantly talking about and planning financial literacy events kept me focused.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt-free now?
I still leverage credit cards for free travel and strategically plan out large purchases to put on credit cards.
I pay it all in full at the due date and try not to spend just for rewards! I also recently purchased a home, as such I now have debt.
But I bought a duplex, so I actually live at my home for free. My tenant covers my entire monthly home cost! (Way to go!)
If you could go back in time and advice your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her?
I would have advised her to purchase a duplex when the market crashed and slowed down on the debt payoff method.
I would have made a killer monthly return! I love my duplex, I just wish I had the guts to purchase it sooner.
Growing up low income and on welfare, I had a scarcity mindset. I feared that I would lose my salary, my home (if I purchased it) or wouldn’t be able to maintain the upkeep despite having an amazing steady profession.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and looking to be motivated?
Start listening to podcasts to shift your money mindset. Podcasts will eventually lead you to buy a personal finance book and becoming more intentional.
I would also say don’t look for validation for your debt payoff journey from friends and family. If they don’t get that you’re trying to improve your financial situation, discontinue sharing your goals with them.
In fact, you should expect your circle of friends to shift during the journey because you will start to attract like-minded people that will begin to take up more of your time than your previous circle.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
You can find me on Instagram where there I teach financial literacy and have a ton of resources.
Congratulations Tasha! We wish you much success in your financial journey!