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How I Achieved a Debt-Free Life by Age 30 (Tips and Benefits)

I paid off my house at age 29. But what were the benefits and disadvantages? Check out the post.
Derek Sall - Founder/Personal Finance Expert
Written by

Derek Sall

Derek Sall - Founder/Personal Finance Expert
Written by
Derek Sall
Founder/Personal Finance Expert

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.

Learn more about our editorial process

Lauren Bedford - Finance Writer

Lauren Bedford

Lauren Bedford - Finance Writer
Lauren Bedford
Finance Writer

Lauren is a published content writer and journalist. In the last five years, she has written about a range of subjects, including business, technology, and finance.

Learn more about our editorial process

August, 02 2023

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I graduated with my bachelor’s in finance in 2008 when the banks were shutting down. My first full-time job paid me just $33,000 a year. And I got married and divorced by the age of 27. I didn’t do most things right—but I still achieved a debt-free life by age 30. And you can too.

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This article will show you:

  • What it really means to be debt-free.
  • How I achieved a debt-free life, and how you can too.
  • The benefits and disadvantages of becoming debt-free.

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What does being debt-free mean?

I am debt-free.

I was consumer debt-free by 28 years old and completely debt-free at 29. 

So for starters, what do these two terms actually mean?

Consumer debt freedom

My golf buddy and I were chatting on the course the other day. 

Naturally, the conversation moved toward personal finance and debt (I just can’t help myself), and he mentioned he was debt-free. 

Cool. Good for him, right? 

Then, just a few minutes later, he was talking about his car loan and student loan.

Wait, what?

Dude, this is debt. Apparently, he didn’t know.

So what is consumer debt?

Consumer debt is any loan that’s not your mortgage or business debt.

This includes:

  • Medical debt
  • Credit card debt
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Payday loans

Even if you think your loans are “good debt,” it’s still debt. 

If you get rid of all your debt outside of your house and business, you are considered consumer debt-free.

Is a mortgage debt? 

Yes, a mortgage loan is certainly debt. You borrowed money with the agreement to pay it back, after all.

But it’s not consumer debt, so it often gets its own category.

Complete debt freedom

What is complete debt freedom? 

As the name implies, this is when you’re totally debt-free, including your house and business

You don’t owe anyone a single penny, and all the cash you earn goes straight to you and stays with you. 

The Case For Living Debt-Free

I’ve been living debt-free for nearly a decade now. 

What does it feel like? What are the benefits of being debt-free? Is it worth it?

And what about the disadvantages of being debt-free? Are there any? 

Believe it or not, yes. (Even I can admit that, and I’m a hardcore get-out-of-debt guy.)

Let’s dive into each side—


  • You can save money on interest. That’s because you don’t have to pay any.
  • You’re a lot less stressed out. You no longer have payments to worry about every month.
  • You have more cash to save, invest, and have fun. I was shocked at how quickly our bank account grew when we got out of debt. You’ll have tens of thousands of dollars before you know it.
  • You feel more confident at work. You’re not as worried about losing your job. You’ll speak up more and make a bigger impact when you’re financially secure.
  • You have more freedom to do what you love in life. When you’re not a slave to debt and have huge savings, you can afford to take risks and follow your passions.
  • You can retire early. That’s because of your low monthly expenses.
  • You can improve your credit score. Yourutilization drops and you can easily pay your credit cards in full each month.


  • You become unrelatable to most. When you’re debt-free, you’ll view things differently. And when‌ people discover that you’ve paid off all your debt, they won’t want to tell you about their dumb financial choices anymore. So you might lose some friendships along the way.
  • You won’t own a mammoth house like your friends. I own a modest 1,900-square-foot house. My friends earn less than me and live in brand new houses of over 3,000 square feet. I sometimes envy them but then realize they’ll be in debt for the next 25 years.
  • You’re not leveraging your money. Instead of being debt-free and owning one rental property, you could put a 10% down payment on ten and boost your earning potential. But this also comes with increased risk and hassle.

Is being debt-free worth it?

I achieved complete debt freedom before the age of 30. 

And—to give you all hope—I achieved this with a very modest income (far below six figures).

Was it worth the sacrifice? 

Let me paint you a picture of where I am—personally and financially. Then you can decide for yourself if being debt-free is worth it:

  • I’m married with two wonderful children.
  • We have no debt and live on wooded acreage near our local lake.
  • With no debts, we have thousands of excess dollars a month.
  • We have funds available to put our kids through private school and college.
  • We have hundreds of thousands of dollars in our retirement accounts, which will likely grow to $2+ million by our mid-sixties (without us having to add another dime).
  • I used to work in corporate as a financial analyst. Now, with our financial stability, I’m working on my passion—this personal finance website (so I can help all of you get to where I am and beyond).

I hesitate to share all of this information since I’m really not the type to boast or flash my cash around the neighborhood. That’s just not me.

But I think this might sell you on the idea of debt freedom. It’s just amazing how fast you can save up money if you get out of debt early in life.

So is it worth it? I believe absolutely, yes.

Would I do it again? A hundred percent.

How to Become Debt-Free

How did I get completely out of debt before the age of 30? And‌ how can you do it too?

There are three main emotions that drive you to do something different than you’re doing today:

  • Greed
  • Fear
  • Anger

If you want to get out of debt, you either aspire to be wealthy, you’re afraid of not being able to pay the bills, or you’re downright angry at your debt or situation. 

If any of these emotions describe you, great. You’re ready to pay off your debts.

So what do you do now? How do you get started?

Steps to becoming debt-free

There are many detailed steps and tips I could give you here—we outline nearly all of them in our recent post, “40+ Tips to Get Out of Debt Fast”—but for this post, we’ll limit it to the biggies:

1. Lay out all your debts and make a plan

If you don’t know what your debts are, you’ll have no chance of paying them all off. 

Step one is to list your debts. I’d recommend entering them into our debt snowball calculator.

In the calculator, not only can you see how long it would take you to get out of debt by making the minimum payments, but you can also enter extra payments and see what impact they would have on your debt-free journey.

With this, you can make a debt payoff plan in minutes.

2. Save up $2,000 to $3,000

Before you wage war on your debts, though, be sure to first save up a little savings account.

This will keep you from going back into debt when emergencies pop up.

3. Cut back on expenses

If you really want to live debt-free someday, you’ll have to cut back on expenses.

To make the biggest impact, look at your biggest spending categories—likely your home, cars, and food. 

4. Increase your income

The other way to speed up your debt payoff journey is to boost your income. 

The best ways to do this are to ask for a raise, get a promotion, switch to a new job with another company, or build up a lucrative side hustle.

5. Go FAST

Going slow is painful, and you’ll likely quit. 

If you want to get out of debt, it’s best to just rip off the band-aid and get after it.

How to Maintain a Debt-Free Lifestyle

Some people are so set on paying off their debt that when they finally reach their goals, they say, “I’m debt-free. Now what?”

It can be confusing after having such a clear direction up to that moment. 

So, once you become debt-free, what do you do from there? Do you take a world trip and buy everything you’ve always wanted? 

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. 

If you want to stay debt-free and continue to grow your wealth, you’ll want to:

  • Keep your expenses low.
  • Build up a full six-month emergency fund (at minimum).
  • Invest at least 15% of your income toward retirement.

Stay in your modest home, drive your modest cars, and take modest trips. This will enable you to stay out of debt and save aggressively for your future, allowing you to retire early or become incredibly generous with your wealth later in life.

Characteristics of People Who Are Debt-Free

Debt-free people all have a certain persona. 

They’re different. But in what way? 

What are the characteristics of people who have ditched their debtand aren’t looking back?

  • They don’t care what other people think of them.
  • They’re incredibly disciplined.
  • They set goals.
  • They’re forward-thinking.
  • They aren’t afraid to say no.
  • Stuff doesn’t define them.
  • And they don’t blame others if something goes wrong. They take responsibility and fight to make their situation better.

Is a Debt-Free Lifestyle Possible For You?

So what about you? Can you have zero debt and live the carefree life you’ve always dreamed of?



All it takes is determination and the willingness to open yourself up to what’s possible. Stop listening to the naysayers and start thinking about how you could achieve your debt-free goals.

You’ll be shocked at how this simple mental flip can change everything.

Start Your Debt-Free Journey Today

There’s nothing left to analyze or consider—

If you want to be wealthy in the future, it’s best to get out of debt today

Are you ready? 

If you are, I’d suggest starting with our debt snowball tool

The smallest one holds up to eight debts and is totally free. If you have more debts than that, you can get our largest tool (and it’s still less than $10). 

If you really want to push it and get as much get-out-of-debt information as possible, check out our “Get Out of Debt Fast” course. It comes with a ton of extras and costs much less than you’d think.


Keep your mind open, be willing to sacrifice, and move fast.

Key Takeaways

  • Being debt-free is awesome. I became debt-free ten years ago—and I don’t regret it one bit. There are certainly more pros than cons.
  • To become debt-free, you’ll need to be okay with being weird, you’ll need to be disciplined, and you can’t be afraid to say no.
  • Debt freedom is possible for anyone. They just need to be willing to work hard, open their mind, and start sooner rather than later.


What does debt-free mean?

Being debt-free can mean different things to different people. 

If you’re consumer debt-free, you don’t have any loans except for your house or business. 

If you’re completely debt-free, you don’t owe anyone any money. You’re entirely loan-free and have no payments.

Start here if you want to learn how to become debt-free.

Is it possible to live debt-free?

Of course. Many people live debt-free lives today. 

They spent far less than they made when they were younger, lived frugally, and either paid cash for what they bought or bought it on credit with the intention of paying it back quickly.

Once they became completely debt-free, they continued to live frugally and save so they never had to go into debt again.

What are some tips on how to live a debt-free life?

There are five main things you should do to live a debt-free life:

  1. Lay out your debts using the debt snowball and make a plan.
  2. Save up a mini-emergency fund.
  3. Cut back on your expenses.
  4. Increase your income (perhaps with side hustles).
  5. Get out of debt as fast as you can.

Beyond that, continue to live frugally all your life to avoid the chance of falling back into debt.

At what age should you be debt-free?

Most people go to college and take on student loan debt (and possibly also car debt and credit card debt).

They’re at the peak of their borrowing when they graduate at age 23. Based on this, most people should be consumer debt-free by age 30.

If they buy a house during that time, they should be able to pay that off by the time they’re 40—and become totally debt-free by age 40. 

If you go to school longer (to get a master’s or a PhD), then your debt-free timeline will be extended accordingly.

Interested in getting out of debt? We recommend the debt snowball template.

What percentage of people live debt-free?

According to a study by Experian cit@tion, over 75% of people have some form of debt today, which means that just under 25% of people are completely debt-free.

What do you do once you’re debt-free?

Some people become lost once they achieve debt freedom, but they shouldn’t be.

After you get out of consumer debt, you should:

  • Stay frugal (but not super frugal).
  • Build up your full emergency fund.
  • Invest 15% or more into retirement (check out our top investment apps).
  • Consider giving on your way to becoming wealthy.
Can you use life insurance to pay off debt?

If you have debts that will pass on to your spouse or heirs when you die, you may want to consider a life insurance policy to cover those debts so you don’t burden your loved ones with them.

If you’re considering this, be sure to shop around to find the best rates. It may be that the numbers just don’t make sense. In this instance, do your best to save up the cash and cover the debts yourself before your passing.

What are some disadvantages of being debt-free?

If you pay off all your debts, you’re initially limiting the cash you have on hand. This can affect you negatively in two ways. 

First, you might be vulnerable if you suddenly have a reduction of income (due to job loss, an accident, or what have you). 

Second, with limited cash comes limited opportunities. If a great deal or opportunity comes your way, you’ll have to pass because you don’t have the resources to invest in it.


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By. (2023, February 24). Average Consumer Debt Levels Increase in 2022 - Experian. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/consumer-debt-study/

Editorial team

Meet the team
Derek Sall - Founder/Personal Finance Expert

Founder/Personal Finance Expert

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.

Kacper Kozicki - Editor-in-Chief


Kacper is an editor, writer, and multilingual translator with expertise in producing tailored content for global online brands.

Lauren Bedford - Finance Writer

Finance Writer

Lauren is a published content writer and journalist. In the last five years, she has written about a range of subjects, including business, technology, and finance.

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