My Debt Payoff Story: How Ryan Conrad Paid off $32,000 in 13 months
My Debt Payoff Story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview people who have successfully paid off any major debt i.e student loans, credit cards, personal loans.
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?
I’m Ryan Conrad, I’m from Sacramento, CA. I’ve grown up around various motor sports but the most common being motorcycles/dirt bikes. I’m 33 years old and first got introduced to smarter financial choices aka Dave Ramsey in 2014.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
My sick and tired moment is pretty defined. I was at work and grabbed a lollipop and bit it, my tooth fell off.
Yes, I literally lost my crown leaving my exposed tooth open. I freaked out and called a dentist friend of mine. Got down there and had it fixed.
The bill was due and I realized rent was due. I had the intent of using my credit card for both rent and for this tooth.
I realized that my $8,000 balance was too high to do both. However, I could pay half the tooth repair and pay rent and in 2 weeks cover the other portion of the tooth.
Luckily, the dentist was fine with this as it’s fairly common in the dentist business to be flexible. This was my moment. NOT AGAIN!.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
I managed my debt pretty well growing up but I seemed to always have a reasonable car payment and a motorcycle payment paralleling one another. I was never late on my bills and had a 714 credit score most of the time.
This illusion of a high score is probably what caused me to get in trouble. The almost maxed out credit card came in a blink of an eye. I mean one moment I had $3,000 and the next it was maxed. It’s crazy how that can happen.
The main reason for this is that I would swipe the card as I wished and then put my entire check on the balance and however that turned out was how it turned out.
I didn’t review it, didn’t look for fraud or even have any idea how much I spent on anything.
How much debt did you pay off in total over what period of time?
Alma and my wife (then girlfriend) paid off $32,000 in 13 months. About 70-80% of that debt was mine. She had very little debt. Maybe $7,000 was hers.
How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?
We were making about $29,000 each when we tackled our debt and also living in California which most people understand isn’t cheap.
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to pay off your debt?
Living in a small space. We lived in a 417 sq ft studio apartment. We had no bedrooms; just one big room.
We ended up selling 1 of 2 cars and riding only a Scooter for a few months and then I switched to a motorcycle and road only that to and from work, rain or shine.
We ate frugally; I gave up coffees, didn’t eat out nearly as much. We simply watched the budget daily because we knew why we were doing what we were doing and honestly none of this was that “hard”.
The hardest part was learning how helpful a budget can be and trimming the fat. Food was a huge area I was wasting money for sure.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
Friends and family judged from time to time. They didn’t understand and thought living in a studio apartment must make us unhappy.
It was the opposite. Having a small space, cheap rent, and less to clean is a lot more enjoyable than people would imagine.
Even if we had kids, I’d recommend going smaller than you think you can to save money and tackle debt. There is more freedom in that then having a bigger box to live in. I promise you that.
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track?
Debt Free Community on Instagram is where I focused most of my energy during the debt pay down.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt free now?
We just continue to live far below our means. Our savings rate is roughly 55% of our take home pay. When you save that much, even big unexpected expenses start to feel smaller.
If you could go back in time and advice your 18 year old self, what advice would you give him?
I wouldn’t change any thing because it all led up to me meeting my wife and I wouldn’t want to mess that up. “Make all those mistakes Conrad! You’ll be just fine!”
I’m just glad we learned what we learned at 28 years old instead of 62 years old.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and looking to be motivated?
Less is more. Income isn’t always easy to rise. Lower your expenses and sacrifice now. Even if you literally have to eat beans and rice, you need to stay focused. The freedom on the other end of debt is so inspiring! I just love it.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
Right now the best way to find me is on Instagram at @conrad_inspire. Hopefully over time I will expand that to other social media platforms but that’s the main place to find me.
Congratulations Conrad We wish you much success in your financial journey!
Do you have a debt payoff story? Would you like to share your story to motivate, encourage and inspire others? Send an email to here with the subject line “My Debt Payoff Story” and we will be in touch.