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5 Things I Did to Ditch $21,000 in Just 6 Months

Getting into debt – that’s easy. Getting out of debt…now that’s another story!

But that doesn’t mean that getting out of debt has to be arduous or incredibly slow. If you set your mind to it, and if you gather all the right information, you could get out of debt pretty fast! Heck, I was able to ditch $21,000 in just 6 months earning a $57,000 yearly gross salary. Even if you’re not a math whiz, you know that those numbers just don’t add up. How in the heck could I pay off $21k in such a short amount of time?

Like I said before, I:

  • had my mind dead-set on getting out of debt, and
  • I had all the information I needed to do it.

Related: How the Debt Snowball Really Works (Free Tool Included For YOUR Debt Snowball!)

5 Things I Did to Get Out of Debt in Just 6 Months

“I….want a divorce.”

Those were the four words I thought I’d never hear, and they left me slinking down along the wall to my knees. My wife of just 3 years decided she wanted out, and there was no changing her mind. And, not only that – she also wanted half of our estate…which came to a $21,000 payment. Oh, and one more thing…she wanted the money like, yesterday, but was willing to give me 6 months to scrape it together.

I. was. furious.

If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have had any money in the first place! And now she wanted her cut in just six months??

Fine, whatever, I’ll figure it out.

And…I did.

Here’s what I did to get out of debt in just 6 months.

get out of debt in just 6 months1) Article Writing

Unfortunately, my website wasn’t making much money at the time (like, mayyybe $300 a month), but there were plenty of other personal finance sites that were humming along and in need of fresh articles. So, I reached out to everyone I knew and offered to write articles…for CHEAP – just $10 a post.

Tons of bloggers jumped on the bandwagon and I was in business! Over the span of just a few months, I wrote nearly 250 articles, which of course netted me $2,500. It didn’t solve my entire $21,000 problem, but it definitely helped!

Get out of debt in just 6 months? It was starting to feel a little bit more possible!

Related: Free Tutorial – How to Start a WordPress Blog with iPage

2) Mowed Lawns

This wasn’t just any lawn mowing service idea. At the time, I owned a reel mower (think 1950’s, self propelled rotary blades) and had the harebrained idea for an eco-friendly lawn service. It would be quiet, fairly inexpensive, and you’d be doing your part to keep the earth clean.

Sounds great, right?

Well…I only attracted two customers:

  • my nephew, and
  • my sister

This was fairly humbling to say the least… BUT, it netted me $30 extra dollars every single week. By the end of the summer, I had $500 more dollars in my pocket than I would have if I did nothing.

(I’m still contemplating this eco-friendly lawn-mowing idea today…somebody please, throw some cold water on me…)

3) Flipped Cars

If I wanted to get out of debt in just 6 months and completely pay off my ex, I knew that I’d have to do something radical. Well, this was it.

Every single day, I scoured the Craigslist ads in my area, looking for a steal of a deal on a local car. I figured I could fix up a few minor blemishes, simply clean the car inside and out, and then sell it for about $1,000 more than I paid for it.

My first project was a 2007 Nissan Altima. I found it listed for $6,000 and was able to talk the guy down to $5,500 because a “Service Engine” light was on (which thankfully turned out to be nothing! Sa-Weeet! – but kids, don’t try this at home, it could have turned into a real bad deal for me…).

After just one month, I cleaned the car completely (and honestly did nothing else…other than take it for joy-rides), put it back on the market, and sold it for $7,000. Cha-ching!

Project #2 was a 2001 GMC Sierra. I bought it for just $4,700, repaired a door handle, replaced some oxygen sensors, and put on a new front bumper fascia (twice!…I hit a deer literally one day after putting on the first one). Then, the 4-wheel-drive went out on me…which needed to be repaired of course (for another $450).

It felt like a complete nightmare, but I still sold the truck for $6,300 and netted a profit of $700. Still not too shabby!!

All in all, I flipped two cars and earned a cool $2,000.

Related: Make Money by Flipping Cars?

4) Re-Evaluated All My Bills

This is something hardly anyone does, but it really can make all the difference.

Almost immediately after I knew I was on the hook for $21,000, I popped open my laptop and started scouring all my expenses over the last three months.

With this personal expense data, I:

  • listed every item into a category (gas, insurance, food, cell phone, etc.),
  • totaled up each category,
  • and then I literally just stared at them…and soon devised a way to reduce nearly all of them.

Before this sucky challenge had been bestowed upon me, I figured all my expenses were reasonable and that I probably couldn’t live much cheaper than I was already.

Put simply, I was wrong.

In just one sitting, I was able to:

  • Reduce my cell phone bill from $85 a month to $65 a month – I basically just called Verizon and told them I was going to switch to a lower-cost provider…they back-peddled immediately.
  • Cut my car insurance from $85 a month to less than $50 – I simply switched to the insurance company that my work offered and got some pretty heavy discounts since I was an employee.
  • Stopped making escrow payments – My property taxes weren’t due for another 11 months. I needed that money now. So, I told the bank to discontinue the escrow payment plan, and that I would only be making mortgage payments in the future (deferred savings = $200 a month).
  • Cut my grocery bill from $250 a month to $150 – I stopped eating out, and I bought only the simplest, cheapest, yet still healthy, food.
  • Reduce my gas costs by $10 a week – I figured out that it cost me $2 a day to drive to work, so I started taking my bicycle…. every. single. day.

And of course, I cut out all vacations (that should have been a given…but I know that for some interesting characters…it’s not (eye-roll)).

I thought my budget was razor thin, but instead I was spending like a King and didn’t even know it! If you do the math on the above list, I saved about $400 a month! And that was just from sitting down and staring at my spending for about an hour. Totally worth it if you ask me!

5) Stopped My 401k Contributions

At that time, I think I had about $10,000 in my 401k, and I was contributing $400 a month. By halting my 401k contributions, I was able to beef up my paycheck by about $275 a month (less than $400 because of taxes), which definitely helped!

Many investment professionals gasp at the idea of stopping a recurring 401k contribution. “But that’s your future!” they say… But you know what? Sometimes we just can’t worry about our present and future at the same time. It just becomes ineffective. I had to stop looking ahead for a minute and just focus on the mess that was in front of me. I needed this debt GONE!!.

What About You? When Are YOU Getting Out of Debt?

Well, it’s pretty obvious (based on the title) that I made the $21,000 debt payment to my ex within the 6 month window (BOOM!!). The five ideas above helped me scrounge up $8,520, and thanks to my decent job, I was able to come up with the other $12,480 via my regular salary and frugal living.

Paying off that huge debt in such a short amount of time seemed impossible, but as the old cliche goes, “Where there is a will, there’s a way.”

Do you need to get out of debt in just 6 months? I know it might seem impossible, but don’t give up!

  1. Use my tips above to your advantage
  2. Never say, “I can’t.” Instead ask, “How can I?”
  3. Plan quickly and then just go do it. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

And, if you need any help with your get out of debt plans, please email me (via the “Contact” tab in the upper-right of this page). Seriously, send me an email. Far too few people actually do.

Are you busting your way out of debt? How’s it going? 

Battle of the Mind Get Out of Debt Money

AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. When we were first married, my husband and I kept investing in 401ks, but only to our respective employer matches or slightly above that… funneling all extra money into paying off student loan, car loan and credit card debt. Within 15 months, we were consumer debt free and have remained that way ever since! While I wonder how well my 401k would be doing if I maxed out earlier and took more time on our loans, the relief we found paying off debt helped us immensely in our financial journey!

    • If it were me, I would have said to NOT invest in your 401k while paying off consumer debt, so you’ve got more than I would have recommended! Either way though, you’ve been debt free for years and I bet you’ve got a pretty impressive nest egg!

  2. Be careful of the check engine light. It’s a very vague diagnosis. Last month I had to pay 3,300 dollars for a timing chain and cam and intake. That was just to pass smog! The car ran okay, just slightly sluggish. Of course, I had a $3,000 emergency fund. Now, I have to refill it.

    • Here in the great state of Michigan, we don’t have to pass any car safety checks. 😉 Ha, it’s good and bad. Probably bad for the environment, but good for those of us that don’t want to dish out $3,300! 😉

  3. Congrats on kicking that debt so quickly! It’s amazing what can happen when you’re willing to do whatever it takes. Nobody is above mowing lawns, washing cars, or whatever else brings in a few bucks. Most people are willing to pay someone else to do something they don’t want to do themselves!

    • You got it! Then, when I was done paying the $21,000, I thought, “If I can pay off $21,000 in less than 6 months, I could pay off my $54,500 mortgage in just a year!” …and I did. 🙂

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