My Money Story: How Nicole Hatcher Paid Off $130,000 Debt in 6 years
My Money Story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview people 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?
My name is Nicole and I’m a money coach, wife, mother of three, and lover of all things personal finance.
I believe that there’s more to life than working 40-50 hours per week, paying bills, buying a bunch of stuff that we don’t need, and retiring at age 65 that’s why I created the FrugalChicLife, where I document my journey to financial freedom and, ideally, financial independence.
What and when was your “sick and tired of debt” moment?
My sick and tired moment happened in early 2015. At the time my husband and I were going through the process of purchasing a single family home. The financing process was an absolute nightmare.
The requests for more information never seemed to end. Copies of tax returns, bank statements, letters from employers…it was overwhelming.
I found myself in tears on more than one occasion from the stress of it all. I REALLY wanted the house so I put up with the inquiries (ie. harassment) so that we could qualify.
Then one day I decided that I never wanted to have that helpless feeling again….the feeling that someone else was in control of my future.
So I made the decision to never finance another thing and I ramped up my efforts to pay off my existing debts which included car loans and student loans.
How much debt did you pay off in total? How much money in interest did you save in total?
In total my husband and I paid off over $130,000 in debt within a 6-year time frame. Nearly $100,000 of that was student loan debt (90% of which was mine). The remainder of the debt was the balances on both our cars.
I have no idea how much money we saved in interest. I’ve never done the math. We paid it off and haven’t looked back and now the focus is on building wealth.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
The majority of the debt was student loans that I accumulated between 2001 and 2010.
I finished undergrad with about $30,000 in debt in 2003 and then subsequently earned a masters degree and a doctoral degree which resulted in another $57,000 in debt.
I do not regret my decision to borrow to further my education.
I did, however, have a very casual approach to borrowing the money because I initially viewed student loans as “good debt”. Now I am of the mind that debt is debt.
[bctt tweet=”I would have been much more intentional about keeping track of what I was borrowing and crafting a plan to pay it back” username=””]
If I had it to do over, I would have still borrowed the money to further my education, but I would have been much more intentional about keeping track of what I was borrowing and crafting a plan to pay it back after finishing school.
How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?
Just prior to finishing my last degree in 2010 I was earning about $80,000 and as a result of furthering my education and developing multiple streams of income I doubled my income within the next two years.
Describe the specific choices you had to make to pay off your debt?
The first thing that I did was create a monthly budget. I also took a retroactive look at our household spending to see where all of our money was going.
I discovered that we were spending way too much money dining out and eating food on the go. I also had a serious clothes and shoe habit.
Although I never accumulated credit card debt I often shopped for things that I didn’t need. Once I got serious about paying off debt I stopped shopping cold turkey and started a No Spend Challenge for clothes and shoes.
I went roughly a year and a half without buying any clothes or shoes. For anyone who knows me knows that this was a major accomplishment.
Because I wasn’t shopping I was able to use the surplus of cash to accelerate payments on the student loan debt and remaining balances on the car loans.
I also was strategically working to increase my income by working multiple side hustles. As I brought in additional money I was careful not to elevate my lifestyle, but instead use the money to accelerate debt pay off.
How did you keep yourself motivated through your journey?
I stayed motivated by focusing on my ‘why’ and the reasons why I wanted to be debt free. I wanted to have more control over my time and be less dependent on my salary.
Whenever I felt discouraged or frustrated I thought back to that nightmare home financing process.
I also tracked my debt balance and net worth every month. I enjoyed watching the debt balance go down and my net worth go up.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
No one ever specifically challenged me. I’ve almost always walked to the beat of my own drum and have always been called cheap by my family. I don’t think it surprised anyone when I got super serious about pursuing financial freedom.
While I was paying off debt I adopted a more minimalist lifestyle and which probably raised a few eyebrows among those who are closest to me.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt free?
I continue to create a budget every month, save strategically for large purchases, and maintain a solid emergency fund. My focus these days is on developing multiple streams of income, building wealth and investing.
If you could go back in time to advice your 18-year old self, what advice would you give her?
Start saving for retirement right away, as soon as you get your first ‘real job’! Also define success by your own standards, not by what other people define as success.
I would also encourage my younger self to live below my means and to focus on trying to live on one income after getting married.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and looking for the motivation?
Surround yourself with like-minded who are trying to accomplish positive things in their financial lives. Accountability is a big part of staying motivated and encouraged on the journey to become debt free.
Also, don’t make yourself miserable on the journey. Financial freedom is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to make sustainable changes it has to become a way of life.
What resources (books, blogs, podcast) inspired you stay on track? Or where did you find your inspiration to stay on track.
I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover and Elizabeth Warren’s book All Your Worth. I watched a ton of Youtube channels (too many to name!) an embedded myself in the debt free community on there.
I also started a YouTube channel of my own to document my progress and remain accountable. I now use my channel as a way to encourage other people working their way out of debt.
My favorite podcast currently is the ChooseFI podcast because my next big goal is to achieve financial independence and have the option to retire early.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
I can be found across all social media platforms frugalchiclife
Congratulations Nicole. We wish you much success in your financial journey!
Do you have a money story? Would you like to share your money story to motivate, encourage and inspire others? Send an email to here with the subject line “My Money Story” and we will be in touch.
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