My Debt Payoff Story: How Kristin Paid Off $54,500 Debt in 20 Months

My Debt Pay off 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: This story was recorded pre-COVID-19. 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 Kristin. I am a wife, an entrepreneur, and a mother of two human kids and three fur kids. I’m also a homebody who enjoys spending time with my family and pets, reading and working!

What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?

Our sick and tired moment was shortly after we adopted our first pup and realized we needed to put a fence in right away (we had initially planned to wait a year), which we charged on our credit card.

Weeks later, our pup had an overnight stay at the emergency which ended up costing us more than our monthly mortgage payment and also had to be put on our credit card.

Our financial stress was at an all-time high and we felt broken.

How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?

When we began our debt-free journey we had a total debt amount of $35,000, which consisted of two car loans, an orthodontic loan, and the remainder was credit card debt.

A few years prior we had begun to realize we would never get ahead while leasing two cars so I bought my lease out after it was finished and my husband purchased a used car at the end of his lease. we had substantial balances on both loans.

We don’t necessarily regret this debt because at the time we needed vehicles when our leases were over so it was either purchase two vehicles or get into two new leases.

The orthodontic loan was for my Invisalign, which was 0% interest and I do not regret it.   While I wish the timing was different, this was something I had wanted to do for many years and I’m glad I did.

We did regret the credit card debt.

It was a vicious cycle we couldn’t seem to dig our way out of.  We would pay it all off but never actually addressed the habits that caused the debt in the first place so slowly but surely they would eventually begin accruing a balance again and grow over time!

How much debt did you pay off in total? How much money in interest and time did you save in total?

We ended up paying off our debt in two waves.  The first wave – paying off the $35,000 mentioned above – took us exactly seven months.  Afterward, we decided to close a side-business we had, which was also in debt.

When we originally calculated our debt amount we did not include the debt of this business, which was all credit card debt and totaled $19,500.

We did not include this debt because the revenue from the business was covering the debt payments each month (but unfortunately not much more).  Initially, we had no plans to close this business as it was online and had no physical location, rent, loans, etc.

After we paid off all of our personal debt we quickly realized how much our priorities and values surrounding money had shifted.  We could no longer bear the weight of the business debt and ultimately had no interest or passion in the business any longer.

We made the difficult decision to dissolve the business and since there were no assets to cover the debt, we had to absorb it as our personal debt and begin working the debt snowball again.

It took us around 9 months to pay off the additional $19,500 of debt.  So our total journey from the beginning until we could call ourselves debt-free (except for our mortgage) took us 20 months and we paid off a total of $54,500!

How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?

My husband’s income fluctuates and I was working part-time so we were bringing in anywhere from about $3800 – $4700 a month until around June of 2018 when I left my part-time job.

Then during the last four months of our debt-free journey, we were bringing in closer to $3400 – $4200.

Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to pay off your debt?

It was really about deciding which habits we needed to change to reach our financial goals and then making sure our choices supported those habits.

We knew we had to drastically change our spending habits and work on impulse control.

I think it was a blow to our ego to admit that we needed to learn patience and self-control when it came to making purchases – big or small.

We had really come to crave that instant gratification and our finances reflected as much.

The major choice we made was to learn how to be successful at budgeting once and for all since we had tried (and failed) many times in the past.  Make the choice to prioritize our purchases and be more intentional with our spending.

Getting serious about meal planning, reducing food waste, and cutting our grocery budget, which freed up hundreds of dollars each month.  We began using cash instead of credit cards and used the cash envelope system to stick to our budget.

Most of all, learning to say “no”.  Saying no to nights out, extra snacks at the store, grabbing an energy drink in the morning, and all those extra household items we “needed” on our Target runs!

It was all those small decisions day in and day out compounded over time that had the biggest impact on our journey!

Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?

I’m not sure anyone challenged us, per se, but most of our friends and family do not share our new perspective on managing money…and we are 100% okay with that!

We knew what we needed to do to fix our finances, our marriage, and change the trajectory of our lives.

We did our best to put on our blinders and stay the course regardless of anyone else’s influence or opinion.  After all, they weren’t the ones paying our bills!

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 journey?

The catalyst to begin our debt-free journey was taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at a nearby church.  It helped get my husband and I on the same page, gain the same knowledge and work towards the same goals, which is crucial for success!

In addition, I immersed myself in Dave’s podcast, read/listened to every personal finance book I could get my hands on.

In that time, I discovered the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram and ultimately began my business in an effort to inspire and empower others to take back control of their finances – which became a huge source of accountability for me!

How did you feel after making the final payment?

Honestly, it didn’t feel quite as exciting as I thought!

Don’t get me wrong, we clapped and cheered and felt great but it really took a while for the realization to sink in that we were actually out of debt and we could stop giving our money away each month.

Sometimes it still feels surreal!

What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt-free now?

Some days it can almost feel harder to remain debt-free then it did to become debt-free in the first place.  We work hard to maintain the new habits we’ve formed and are often reminded that old habits die hard.  It’s a matter of being consistent and practicing self-control.

It’s also important to set new “financial guidelines” for your household. We have:

1 Have committed to not incurring debt in the future for any reason other than real estate.  We closed all credit cards except for one, which is paid in full every two weeks, no exception.

2. Do not charge anything we don’t actually have the money for – we now only use our credit card for convenience, not necessity.

3. Have an agreement that if we do not have the money for something we will not use the credit card and plan to pay it off “when we have the money”.

Our lack of money boundaries got us in over our heads before and while I am confident in our new ways of managing our finances, I am very aware of how easily we could find ourselves back in debt if we get too relaxed with our guidelines.

If you could go back in time and advise your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her?

I’d tell her that clothes and things won’t make her happy. Having the financial means to live free from constant money stress would save her from many sleepless nights and make her a much happier mother and wife.

I would teach her to begin investing immediately and be sure to pay herself first every month. Also give to others even when she felt she didn’t have enough to give.

What advice would you give anyone who has debt and seeking encouragement?

I would say to find a system that resonates with you and stick with it.

Set aggressive financial goals.  Write them down and place them places you’ll see them often.

Have regular money meetings with your spouse or partner (or an accountability partner, if you’re single) to discuss your progress, review your budget, and revise your goals, when necessary.

Give yourself grace when you make mistakes and understand that stumbling is part of the process.

Lastly, remember, getting out of debt is a marathon, not a sprint.

It will take time, dedication, and sacrifice and I promise it will all be worth it in the end!

How can our readers keep in touch with you?

I’m most active on Instagram @centsandpurpose where I share practical financial daily tips.

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Congratulations, Kristin! Here’s wishing you much success on your financial journey.

Have you paid off your student loan debt or any major debt? Would you like to be featured? The quickest way to contact us is via Instagram DM. We will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.

About Ogechi

Hello, I'm Ogechi. I'm a financial educator, real estate investor, and founder of OneSavvyDollar. I write to empower you into saving more, paying off debt, increasing your net worth, and building real wealth so you can achieve financial freedom

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