The Absolute Best Tool For Getting Out of Debt

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Getting out of debt sucks.

Seriously.

I’m a math nerd, I like depriving myself of stuff, and I really like to live simply…and getting out of debt still sucked.

BUT – it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

In case you don’t really know my story, here’s the sequence of events:

  • Graduated from college, had $18,000 of student loan debt
  • Got married (yay!)
  • Together, we paid off the $18,000 and built up an actual net worth
  • Got divorced (booo…), kept the house, and therefore was thrown back into debt because I owed my ex $22,000 of our equity
  • Paid off the $22,000 in 6 months (whew!)
  • Paid off the remaining $54,500 on the home mortgage in just 12 months!

In other words, I’ve been in debt, got out of debt, was thrown back into it, and then came out of it faster and stronger than ever. I quickly became a get-out-of-debt machine.

How did this happen? It certainly wasn’t by accident. Through the unfortunate life events listed above, I discovered the absolute best tool for getting out of debt.

Getting Out of Debt – Discovering the Tool

No, I’m not trying to sell you something. The purpose of this post is not to jack up your spirits and then tell you that it’ll cost you $49.99 to experience euphoric bliss. First of all, I’m not that cruel. Second of all, this tool for getting out of debt shouldn’t really cost you anything. Just a few moments of your own time and thoughts.

So what the heck am I talking about? What is this tool for getting out of debt?

getting out of debtDiscovering My Tool: The 1st Time

When my ex and I were first married, I distinctly remember the day that my general nervousness turned to panic.

Our student loans came due, and that fateful bill came into the mail. The bill that we couldn’t afford.

It was in that moment that I put my foot down and shouted, “NO MORE!!”

No longer was I going to lie back and relax while my bank account was obviously plummeting toward the negative! It was either we fight this evil giant called “Debt” or we were going to let it rule us for the rest of our lives.

From that date when we said, “No more!”, we paid off $18,000 and cash flowed a $6,000 car in just 14 months.

Discovering My Tool: The 2nd Time

“I don’t love you anymore,” She said matter of factly. “I want a divorce.”

I crumpled to the floor and looked up in disbelief. I didn’t understood non-physical pain until that moment. But once I felt it, all I wanted in life was for it to go away. The only chance I had was to cut all the strings – to pay off my debt to my ex.

From that moment, it only took me just 6 months to pay her the $22,000 she “deserved”.

All ties were cut and I could breathe again. Finally, I could get on with my life.

getting out of debtDiscovering My Tool: The 3rd Time

My ex was paid off, but something still didn’t feel quite right. I still felt owned. Something was still holding me back in life. This time, it was the bank.

I owned a house, sure. But was it really mine? If I lost my job tomorrow and could no longer afford the mortgage payments, what would happen? The bank would send me a letter, let me know that they were taking possession of “my” house, and then strong arm me out. As long as there was a mortgage on that house, it most certainly was not mine.

I was single, I had a decent income and had no other debt – it was time for me to truly own my house…completely.

After that decision day, it took me less than one year to pay off my entire mortgage.

Getting Out of Debt: With Motivation

In all of my situations above, there was one common theme that propelled me out of debt. No, I didn’t find the secret to have my student loans forgiven, I didn’t invest in some magical stock that took care of all my debts, and I also didn’t get rich by blindly allowing a piece of software to save money for me (Achhhmmmm, Digit…I’m still not a fan).

getting out of debtMy debt vanished because of one simple tool: motivation.

On every occasion, when I was pissed off about my debt, I simply figured out a way to get rid of it.

When people today say that they just can’t seem to get out of debt, it just frustrates the heck out of me.

  • Don’t you have a wife that works her butt off at corporate, but really wants to be at home raising your children?
  • Don’t you love your kids and want to provide them with the best education possible? Isn’t that more important than that shiny Land Rover you’re driving?
  • Have you ever thought about your retirement years? If you have nothing saved, don’t you realize that you’ll be trying to live on cheap pasta and tuna every day? Does that sound like fun to you?

For heaven’s sake, put a charge into yourself! Doesn’t anything motivate you? If you go through life in a “ho-hum” manner and never pull yourself out of debt, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Do you want to know the secret to getting out of debt? Get mad! Tell your debt that you’ve had enough! Look in your mirror TODAY and tell yourself that your spouse deserves to be at home loving on the children, your kids deserve to get a proper education, and your future self can absolutely retire with dignity! But you must start getting out of debt today!

What’s your motivation? What’s your reason for getting out of debt?

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8 comments to The Absolute Best Tool For Getting Out of Debt

  • Jay

    Derek, what would you do if you lived in a more expensive part of the country and really didn’t want to leave because your family and friends were there? I’m in Northern California and don’t want to leave, but it makes things very difficult. I have a plan to get rid of credit card, car and student loan debt, but our mortgage is just daunting. It’s not like we could just rent, either, as houses rent for similar amounts to mortgage payments. I could add some extra to my monthly payment, but anything just feels like a drop in the bucket.

    I don’t want to sound like a victim, as we live in a great area and we could choose to move, but I’m just curious how you’d look at things if it would take so much more to pay off debt. Thanks!

    • Hi Jay. First of all, there are always options. They might not be the most convenient, but there are always better options financially.

      Nerdwallet produced this great article about places to live in Northern California – take a look – https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/home-search/cities-young-families-northern-california/

      I always hear the phrase, “It costs about the same amount to rent as it does to buy.” Quite frankly, you’re not looking at the right rentals. Renting is a short term plan. It won’t be comfortable, and it may not be in the dream location. What you want is cheap, cheap, cheap, which likely means small, old, and ugly. But that’s okay because it’s only temporary. Rent for as cheap as possible, get out of debt quickly, and stock pile cash for that house down-payment. That’s how it’s done.

      You can do it, Jay!!

  • Theresa Todd

    Great article. My college loans will be completely paid off in a few days. I can agree that being pissed off helped to accelerate my payments, especially over the last year (when I coincidentally made the most progress). I was pissed at myself for owing the money in the first place, but I channeled that energy into checking my progress on a *daily* basis and “keeping the end in mind.” I discovered opportunities to make dents in my debt by looking at my budget every day. It helped also to have clearly stated post-debt goals to keep the fire burning.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Yup, being pissed off definitely helps! And you’re exactly right – getting motivated helps you FIND money. THANK YOU!

      Congrats on paying off the loans!! Great job!

  • Income was your tool to get out of debt. You can’t pay off a mortgage, ex-wife, or student loans without significant income, no matter how badly you want those debts eradicated.

    Motivation tells you where to implement the tools you’ve got.

    Great work on debt reduction, by the way, Derek. Most people would say “woe is me” and be saddled with debt much, much longer.

    Best,
    -PoF
    Physician on FIRE recently posted..The Earth Awaits: Where in the World is Our Family Going to Go?

    • I think you missed the point POF. Regardless of the income, without motivation I would have never tackled the debt in the first place! Some people earn $25,000 a year and they’re okay with $100,000 of debts. Others may earn $200k a year and be okay with $750k of debts. Both are broke, both are unmotivated, both will stay in debt for a long time. The real tool is motivation.

  • Michael Welter

    When you are neck-deep in debt, you may feel that getting out of it would be next thing to impossible! But when you have the will to level up and pay your debts, you would always find a way.

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