Pay Off Your Debt Fast: A Personal Story

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For those of you that have been tracking my website recently, you are aware that my wife and I just became debt free! We are still super excited and would like to share our story so that the rest of you can benefit from our experience. Hopefully, after reading this personal story, you’ll have a better idea of how to pay off your debt fast.

It is pretty common for students to amass debt these days, which is unfortunate (but at least they’re able to write off a tax deduction for up to $2500 of the interest on those student loans). Did you know that the average student loan by graduates in 2008 was $23,186!!   That is one huge number! Luckily, my wife and I only had a total of about $18,000 in debt, but that’s nothing to sneeze at either.

The Decision

On Christmas day, 2009, I received the book, “Financial Peace”, by Dave Ramsey. This book strongly encouraged living a debt-free life, and I really wanted to buckle down and get rid of our $18,000 in student loans too. Starting in January, 2010, my wife and I decided to agressively pay down our debt.

Budgeting

Luckily, both my wife and I were working (extra income), plus her job was only 1 block away from mine, which allowed us get by with only one car! That meant we didn’t have to pay that extra gas, car insurance, or car repairs.

Also, since we were focused on cancelling out our debts, we decided that we would spend a very little amount in clothes and fun (I wouldn’t recommend this method for most, since it often prompts splurging on something later). With a tight budget on food as well, we were able to live on about half of our income, and put the other half toward our debts every month.

This worked great for the first few months (we paid down our debts by $6,000 by April), but then we had an issue…. the car. It was dying.

Auto Expense

We knew that our car was going to die (and remember, we only had one), and we needed to save up money for the next one instead of paying down our debt further (taking out a loan for a car would only put us back into the position of debt that we started with, so we decided to save and pay with cash).

Sure enough, our car died at the end of July, and would have cost $3,500 to repair. It was not worth it to fix it, so off to the junk yard it went. It was a good thing we were saving for this moment, because we needed a car desperately!

We had about $6,000 saved up, and it was just enough to purchase our Jeep (that we still have today). Once we were confident in our trasportation, it was time to pay down that debt again.

Paying off the Remainder of the Debt

We still had about $12,000 of debt to pay off at this point, but we were ready to get going on it again. We decided to cut even more out of the budget this time. We no longer spent money on clothes or fun (unless we came up with the money though an unconventional avenue on our own – ie. baby sitting, dog sitting, etc), and we planned on paying about 60% of our income toward our debts.

In the next 7 months, we paid off that $12,000 and we’re now debt free!

Since we have become debt free, I realize how much weight was actually on my shoulders these past few years. Every decision I made was dependant on those loans, and it was keeping me from living life and enjoying my time here on this earth!

We are now moving onto the next goal — we have dreams of buying our first house together. Since we do not owe any money to anyone, we are able to save up money at an alarming rate! If things go as planned, we’ll have quite a large downpayment by the end of this year and will be ready to move into a place of our very own. I can’t even describe to you how excited I am about putting a nail in the wall and not feeling guilty about it! 🙂

Paying off $18,000 (plus buying a $6,000 vehicle in there as well) within 14 months seems fast, now that I think about the numbers. But, while we were making the effort, it felt like that debt would never go away! Time was moving more slowly than I ever thought was possible. If you feel the same way, just keep plugging away. It will never feel like you are paying off the debt at lightening speed. But, if you keep putting your money toward those loans on a consistent basis, your debt will soon be zero, guaranteed!

It really is a great feeling.

Have you paid off debt? Or are you in the process of paying down some debt? Do you ever feel like you’re going nowhere with the balance? What keeps you going?

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85 comments to Pay Off Your Debt Fast: A Personal Story

  • Congratulations on having kicked debt in the teeth, and then foot-stomped it when it was down.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Travel Journal- India- Part One

  • Johannah B

    Taking this first step really mattered in your debt free quest. Student loans as you know stick with you even after bankrupcy and to free yourselves from that is one giant step in the right direction. You’re on your way!! Hooray!

  • Sharon

    Congrats!
    You are right, debt really is a weight that you carry and don’t even realize until it’s gone. Having an emergency fund also takes the weight off.

    • Yes, once the debt is gone and there is money for emergencies, I feel incredibly secure in my day to day life. I realize that there are things that could happen that are beyond my financial reserve, but there is still a sense of security none-the-less.

  • Alex

    I made some bad financial decisions a few years back. At one point, I think my credit card debt was over $10,000. I was barely able to pay minimums, but for some reason it just didn’t register.

    I eventually woke up. I have worked hard the last two years to pay off my car, most of the credit cards, and all of a few unsecured consumer loans as well.

    I did it by stopping my deleterious habits and finding a side job as a soccer referee.

    I can not wait for the day that I release this burden of debt. It truly is an exhausting thing.

    • $10,000 doesn’t really sound like a ton of money, but when you’re trying to pay it off, it all of the sudden feels like a gargantuan sum! I’m glad that you decided to turn your financial life around. It is exhausting, but you can do it!

  • It must feel great to know that you have no debt to speak of! I’m still plugging away at my credit cards, which amount to about a $4,500 revolving balance. It should all be gone by the end of this year though!
    Mercedes recently posted..Back to School!

  • MotivatedTruth.com

    Great story, very inspiring. My wife and I are looking to walk the same path and get rid of large sum of debt also. Did you and your wife have any different opinions in regards to which expenses to cut back on?

    • We definitely did have differences, especially since I was the one that made the budget. Once my wife fell in love with buying a house, it was all of the sudden very important to stick to the budget. Plus, she made a new one which was even more aggressive than mine! If you wife makes the budget, then she’ll be more likely to stick to it.

  • Congratulations! It certainly is a nice feeling on two levels, accomplishing the goal and having more discretionary income.
    krantcents recently posted..If Not Now- Then When

  • Jenny_Dee

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve gotten my debt down from $15K to $5500, but the past two or three years, I seem to be stuck at the $5500 mark. With my tax refund, I’ll cut that in half and gear up to start on my student loans (due in April). So close and yet so far. It’s very frustrating.

  • Congrats. It must feel so good to be free from the ball and chain. Thanks for inspiring the rest of us.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..What is Green Energy

  • Congrats – I remember when I cleaned up my CC debt it felt FANTASTIC! I am still working on auto and student loans I hope to join you one day.
    Evan recently posted..My Favorite Thing About Paying off Debt

  • Toni

    You and your wife are so lucky to learn the simple message….the borrower is slave to the lender…My partner and I went to Financial Peace University in Jan 2008. By January 2010 we had paid off over 150,000 in debt (including the house). There is absolutely not a better feeling in the world. Financial Peace!!! Congrats to you both!!

    • Wow! Now THAT is a great story! $150,000 in 2 years? You must have sold a bunch of stuff to pay off that much so fast!

      I definitely agree with your statement, “the borrower is slave to the lender”. One can learn alot from the Proverbs huh? 🙂

  • Jason

    Fortunately, my father has been kind enough to pay for my tuition thus far. Although he pays for that, I pay for every other aspect of my life. Again, fortunately, I only have a small car loan and a small amount on my credit card, but even that is enough for me to realize any consumer debt can be nauseating and feel never-ending. I’m paying extra every month on both the car and credit card, and plan to put 30% of my tax refund (it’s pretty big this year, woohoo!) toward the car, and 15% (which will pay it off completely!) to my credit card. I have a pretty small income, so if I can do it, everyone can do it.

  • Haha–I remember that Target trip splurge:). So great to hear you all are out of debt! We had $25,000 combined non-mortgage debt once we had combined our finances (summer of 2009), and paid it off, plus paid cash for our wedding, honeymoon, put a down payment on a home and paid cash for a used car (whew–still can’t believe we did that all) by September 1, 2010. Hurrah!
    Amanda L Grossman recently posted..5 Ways You Could Spend Your Tax Return

  • […] Life and My Finances relates how they gave their debt a good ass-whuppin’, in Pay Off Your Debt Fast: A Personal Story. […]

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    […] Life and My Finances relates how they gave their debt a good ass-whuppin’, in Pay Off Your Debt Fast: A Personal Story. […]

  • Solve Your Own Problem

    […] 6. Life and my finances wrote about his personal story journey to pay off debt. […]

  • Betty N

    It is so good to read your story. So many people have tremendous credit card debt that needs to be gotten rid of but they don’t take the necessary steps in their spending/saving pattern to get that done. You do have to deny yourself temporarily to get it done but it is worth it in getting rid of the stress that comes with debt. Keep encouraging people to aim toward being debt free.

  • […] wife and I both got caught in this trap. Between the two of us, we owed more than $18,000 in student loans. We weren’t irresponsible with our money; we simply didn’t make enough money to cover […]

  • Congratulations on having your debt paid off. That is a great accomplishment. Hopefully you can keep it up throughout the years. I don’t even want to begin to list my debt here since it would probably make you want to throw up. It does me from time to time. I would like to at least say that my net worth has improved over the past decade and I am working hard to pay off what I can and improve my monthly cash flow.
    optionsdude recently posted..I Locked in Profits on SLW Using Put Options

    • Sounds like you’re on the right track optionsdude! Love the name by the way 🙂

      Since we most likely won’t pay 100% cash for our first house, I will most likely head back into the hole again, but you can count on me fighting my way out as soon as possible! My wife and I are already developing a plan to pay off a house within 3 years! 🙂

  • […] up hope. If you’d like some help getting started, take a look at my personal story and learn how to get out of debt fast! Also, take a look at How to Get Out of Debt in […]

  • My wife and I are currently working on paying off the remainder our student loans… about $8300 which we’re attacking at $1000 per month. What advice do you have for people who may have the average student loan debt, but not the income to feasibly knock out the debt in a year’s (or two’s) time? Love the blog!

    Austin

    • Hi Austin! First of all, thanks for visiting, and congrats on taking that debt down $1,000 at a time. Great job!

      If someone cannot knock their moderate debts within 2 years, either they are mismanaging their money, or they simply don’t make enough. Since it sounds like income is the issue, the only solution would be to make more! Dave Ramsey would most likely advise getting a pizza delivery job, but I think there are tons of ways to make money online. Hold on tight, because I’ll be releasing my e-book soon (May 1 is the target), which will give a detailed list of all the different ways that one can make that extra money.

  • […] recently, my wife and I were able to pay off $18,000 worth of debt (and buy another car for $6,000 cash) within 14 months. It has been a full-force mission to be […]

  • Out of Debt – Now What? | Passive Family Income

    […] s1.parentNode.insertBefore(s, s1); })(); TweetShareMy wife and I recently paid off $18,000 worth of debt in 14 months, plus we also paid for a $6,000 car with cash during that time! It was a difficult but fun journey. […]

  • S.C.

    Very inspiring to me…how can I pay off $4,800.00 in cc debt in one year? I have accomplished paying off numerous debt in the past but I got caught up again and I need to make it disappear quick!

    • You can always contact me via my “Contact” tab on the top of the page here, but my first suggestion would be, What do you have that you can sell? After that, perhaps you could cut out a bad habit from your spending. Maybe you’d like to drink less soda – put that money straight toward your debt!

  • Scott

    Great story!

    My wife and I were also piled in debt, my business was $10,000 in debt and my personal side had about $25,000 in debt around May 2009.

    As of April 1st, I got to say APRIL FOOLS, NO MORE INTEREST PAYMENTS! Well, except for my home mortgage.

    It was tough telling the kids “no” all of the time for a year straight but we did it. This weekend was awesome, we just splurged about $200 for bowling, eating out, and the town carnival. Wait a great, debt-free memory.

    Now we get to save for a new car (ours is about to break down too) and save for a nice vacation next summer. We’ve also put a lot towards college funds and retirement funds too.

    So happy!

  • […] enacting all sorts of new fees, taxes, surcharges, cutting services and more. They need to pay off debt fast, but instead they just keep taxing and spending.  Some of these seemingly outrageous measures […]

  • […] growing, and it seems like you have no way out, take a financial inventory. When you want to know how to pay off debt fast, you need to look at all avenues!Check to see if there are any accounts which you can liquidate […]

  • The Best “How I Got Out of Debt” Stories on the Web

    […] Dave Ramsey has inspired a lot of people to get out of debt, including Derek at Life and My Finances. After receiving Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, as a Christmas gift, Derek and his wife paid off $18,000 in debt and they did it fast. They also paid cash for a used car along the way. Here is their story. […]

  • Great job on paying off the debt! I have about 3 years to go but I am planning on generating as much side income as I can to pay it down faster.
    Financial Success for Young Adults recently posted..How to Benchmark a Portfolio Performance

  • […] assets that would be worth next to nothing in a few years. Instead, I stayed my course, paid down my debts, and am now in a financial position to buy a house, a second car, and have enough left over for […]

  • Congratulations on reaching debt freedom! I’m also working toward eliminating my student loan debt. I hope to join you by April 2014! Thanks for the inspiration and the great post!
    Sheelah recently posted..Private Loan Consolidation

  • Don't know where to start!

    We bought a house 2 years ago with almost no credit card debt. I only worked 6mo. My husbands job moved us here and then he got deployed overseas. I think our credit card debit is the hightest it has ever been. Close to 20k. Where do I start? I send more then the minimum to all of them but I seem to get nowhere. Help!

    • It’s hard to tell you where to start without specific details, so send me an email through my “Contact” tab. If you have multiple credit cards, start by having a garage sale and selling stuff, then pay off your smallest balance card. Use the money that you would have used to pay that old card off, and put it toward the next one, and keep rolling that debt snowball! I’d love to talk with you through email. Make sure you send me one! 🙂 Best of luck to you.

  • abbey1990

    wow your lucky. i am learning from all your experiences. i am now motivated to do the same as what you did. and thanks for posting!
    abbey1990 recently posted..You Got To Have A Zebra Rug!

  • […] coming in (mainly, the student loans), we knew that we had to make a change.In just over a year we paid off all of our debts. And, just so we’d never find ourselves in that situation again, we decided to cut our expenses […]

  • Lucy

    way to go sir! me and my boyfriend is still trying to figure out on how to pay off his college/student loan. i better show him your post. thanks!
    Lucy recently posted..Criminal Assault and Injury Compensation Claims

  • Katie

    Awesome job!! My husband and I graduated in 2009 with $87,000 in debt and recently paid it off, in just 2 years! We are thankful for the helpful tips and practices from Dave Ramsey and sites like yours.

    • That’s awesome! Great job! I bet you feel like you’re on top of the world! I’d love to hear your story – would you ever consider sending me a guest post about the experience? I might even compensate you for it. 🙂

      • Katie

        It is awesome! We are so thankful for the entire experience actually. I would love to share more details about our story with you – how would you prefer me to send it? Our story, in short – we graduated in 2009 from a state school in Ohio and desired to go into full-time missionary work. However, since our salary as missionaries would be funded through fund-raising and donations – there was no way we could do this with our debt. So, dragging our feet a bit (a lot actually), we found jobs and started clawing our way out of debt by laying out a debt payment plan and going after it with every penny possible:)

        • Katie, I received your email with your detailed story! I am most definitely posting it for my readers. It is quite inspiring because it’s all completely true! Many finance authors provide their theories about what you should do, but my readers want to hear about a success story that actually happened. Thanks!

  • Forex Trader

    Very useful article for those needing a plan for debt reduction. I approached my debt by paying the highest interest rate cards first to save money over time. One additional strategy is to pay the highly utilized credit cards to improve your credit score and, perhaps, increasing the chance that you will obtain a lower interest rate transfer offer. One additional argument for the snowball approach is achieving a zero balance then the credit card company offering a zero or low interest rate transfer offer. When I did this 3 years ago I was able to reduce the average interest rate from 16% to 7% over a three month period. Now my highest interest rate loan is 5%.

  • DESMOND

    CONGRATULATIONS!You have done very well indeed.At the end of 2013 i will also be debt free.Stories like yours give me so much inspiration.Thankyou and God Bless!

    • Awesome! This blogging this has been incredibly fun, especially since it’s helped us get rid of all our debts! Keep working on yours – it’s a great feeling when you don’t owe anything to anyone!!! 🙂

  • On a debt management plan we renegotiate your monthly unsecured debt payments down to a level you can afford

  • I need advise , I have an emerceny fund of $10,000.00. But I have a loan with a balance of 1,967.00. I have $7,244.00 in savings. I want to know if I should payoff my loan out of my savings. or just leave it until the end of the loan next year for the final payment. Please help.
    Thank you

    • Hi Samantha! Based on the details you gave me, I would certainly pay off that loan balance! You have $17,244 in the bank right now, a mere $2,000 is not going to hurt you right now, but it will definitely save you some interest payments! Good luck to you Samantha!

  • Good job paying off that debt! It’s a matter of cutting spending every month and maximizing how much you put towards the debt. Do whatever it takes – 2 jobs, crazy hours, selling your possessions, etc.

  • If I’m so smart… where did all my money go? Book Review & Giveaway

    […] individual situation, so they are stuck. The seminar starts with covering simple topics such as how to pay off debt and building a budget. then moves on to saving for a home and a car, understanding investments […]

  • Helle M. | Life and Business Mentor

    Congratulations! It would be great feeling to be debt free. Your efforts to get out of debt is commendable. A job well done! Your story is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!
    Helle M. | Life and Business Mentor recently posted..Top Myths About Hiring a Life / Business Coach

  • Althea Le

    Well, except for my home mortgage. It should all be gone by the end of this year though!

  • debbie lockwood

    fabulous story congrats . i have 20000 in unsecured debt and 4000 secured debt . hadnt worked or paid in3 yrs due to an addiction problem . ive finally gotten my life straightened out and because of that got a great paying job caring for a 93 yr old man .i have saved 10000 so far .and am struggling with what to do . car has died .dont feel i need one right now as im live in at work and use his unless im off a day or 2 but would like one . imadraid to pay off debt and buy a car as he s 93 and no tellin how long ill have this 1000 a week job .he is currently healthy but… what do u suggest i do

    • Hi Debbie. Yes, that certainly is a tough scenario! So if I hear you right, you still have the $24k of debt, but you also have a savings of $10k, wondering if you should pay down some of your debts? No matter if an individual has debts or not, they should always have an emergency fund. Since you job could be gone tomorrow, you should have a more sufficient emergency fund. I think you have done well so far with your reasoning, but you should at least begin making payments on that debt. I assume that the interest dollars (and possibly penalties) are killing you and could easily be avoided if you just make some consistent low payments on the debt.

  • […] Dave Ramsey has inspired a lot of people to get out of debt, including Derek at Life and My Finances. After receiving Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, as a Christmas gift, Derek and his wife paid off $18,000 in debt and they did it fast. They also paid cash for a used car along the way. Here is their story. […]

  • D

    What can you do about $45,000 in debt (not including house or car) on 1 fixed income? lol Open to pretty much any idea 🙂

    • First of all D, you have to be serious about getting out of debt. If you truly want to rid yourself of your $45,000 consumer debt, then I believe it is 100% possible. Sell all you can, decrease your expenses, and increase your income with side jobs. You could most likely get rid of that $45k in a couple of years. So, are you serious about getting out?

  • […] you have a debt, the best way to save money is to pay it off quickly. If you’re plan is to pay off your car finance debt as soon as possible, which it should be, you […]

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