How I Paid off $40,000 of Debt

In August 2017, I became debt free. After viewing my Youtube vids I’ve created during this time and my past blog posts, I realized that I haven’t talked much about the strategy I was using to get myself out of the debt abyss or the choices I made that really gave me a leg up at slaying that debt monster.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve been in debt and dug my way out. Before I decided that acquiring a Bachelor’s Degree was a great idea, I was debt free with about $8,000 in savings. This was accomplished a year or two after I had paid off $10,000 to $15,000 of debt. Sorry about the vagueness of numbers. It was at least ten years ago and I’m nowhere near my financial records from that time to double check the numbers. The point I’m trying to make, I had experience with paying off debt towards debt freedom. I knew how difficult it would be, but I also knew that I could do it. That I would be successful.

Since I had such a huge amount of debt versus income ratio, I felt that my attack against the debt monster should be as fierce as possible. Instead of using the “Richest Man in Babylon” strategy that I used before to slay debt, I chose “Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps” plan. At the time, it made absolute sense to me to throw all my extra money towards my debt once I got my $1,000 emergency fund saved up. For now, I won’t spend too much time on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, but if you’re curious, just type in his name in Youtube and you’ll be set.

I might add to this list in another post, but here are some things I specifically did to help pay off my $40,000 of debt:

  1. Take ANY JOB. I understand why people won’t take certain jobs. I kind of understand why people only take jobs related to their career. But when I was drowning in debt, I wasn’t going to be super picky about the kind of jobs that were available to me. When I first moved back after college, I worked for a temp agency. Then I got a, nice to me, paying job at a factory. Followed by a different job closer to my apartment. When I’m focused on surviving, I’m definitely not above working for McD’s or Wal-mart to provide some type of income while I’m trying to “upgrade” to another job or career. Since I never stopped paying my minimum payments on my debt or put it into deferment, I was able to keep the accruing interest at bay while I worked on acquiring extra income to make my extra payments.
  2. I picked up a second job. I was a dishwasher. I worked at least 70 hour weeks. Sometimes up to 80 hours. But having an extra 600 to 800+ paychecks a month really helped me get ahead on those loans. Free meals during my shifts also helped out quite a bit.
  3. I picked up overtime at work. It wasn’t very often, but around the holidays and when co-workers took vacations, I would pick up as many shifts as possible. Again, the extra money slayed more debt.
  4. My apartment. I can’t remember if it was my parents or an ex, but someone in my past gave me great advice: Only rent apartments that have heat included. I went one step further and only rented apartments that had all utilities included. Now I know I was super lucky with this because I lived in a college town. Finding affordable studio apartments with all utilities included was fairly easy. Sometimes they even came furnished. 🙂 Since they were studios, they were also fairly cheap. I don’t have my past budget in front of me, but I’m pretty sure I never paid more than $615 a month, and my rents were often in the $500s a month.
  5. Hippy Christmas. Every year in August in my old city, most of the college students move apartments at the same time. During this time, a crap ton of great stuff gets thrown out to the curb. Seriously. I have no problems picking up free dishes, furniture, etc.
  6. Thirft stores. I LOVE thrift stores. My favorite is St. Vinnies, followed by Savers, then Goodwill. I mostly shopped these places for my clothing needs. I’m seriously having issues with living in Korea because thrift stores aren’t really a thing here. It kills me inside that I have to spend full price to get a pair of good jeans. Korea: roughly $30 for a pair of jeans. US Thirft Stores: $3 to $7 max.
  7. Geo-Arbitrage: I think I spelled that right. Speaking of Korea, I moved there specifically to experience a new culture, fulfill the reason why I went into debt in the first place, and to pay off debt. As an English teacher with the public school system here, my apartment is free. I earn a decent salary, along with quite a few bonuses. Long story short, I can easily send over half my income home without making too much of a sacrifice in my day to day living. I paid off the rest of my debt here; about $23,000.
  8. My bicycle: At the very beginning of my paying off my debt, before I got intense about it, I was working a job that I needed to commute to by car. Once I was able to find a job closer to my apartment that I could commute to by bike, I took it. Goodbye car insurance and the pricey downtown parking. Hello, lots of exercise.
  9. Library, lakes, etc: Most of my free time was spent reading books, watching netflix, hanging out at the lakes in town, and with my friends. Lots of free activities.

I’m sure there are a few more that I could add, but those are the ones that pop out at me at this time. I’m also aware that a few of these won’t apply well to families. However, if you’re a single person trying to smash debt like me, then you could easily use all of these to help slay your debt monster. If you’re paying off debt or are debt free, what are some things you’ve done to help fight off debt?

BE 5: I’m sick? I think? Pollution?

And late….again. Here’s why.

1. Blog/Vlog Ember Update: This project of completing both a blog post and a new Youtube video everyday takes much longer, on a day to day basis, than I originally thought. I kid you not; a 2 to 3 minute video can take up to 4 hours to edit. This includes sound and visual editing, captioning (for my dad: No problem by the way. Heart.), and all of the uploading processing time that my comp and YT take to complete. I may need to scrap this project and scale it back to 3 days a week or something. Going from very sporadic posts/vids to trying to create and upload something new everyday is quite the big jump, and I believe it was too much of a change at once. My ambition got the best of me. I admit defeat at the moment, but I’ll keep trying to complete the project.

2.Was I sick or was it pollution? I may have been sick on Sunday (Nov 5th), but I’m not sure. I had a stuffy nose that started late Saturday night. This caused me to not sleep much of the night due to the uncomfortableness of not being able to breathe. Sure, I could’ve taken meds, but since I pretty much never get sick, I had none in the apartment and the local pharmacy was already closed. I’m not really into taking meds to heal a sickness, so I was okay with not having any.

Plus, like I said above, I wasn’t sure if I was actually sick. Pollution here can be quite the issue sometimes. Now it’s not as bad a places like Beijing, but enough of a problem that it can cause sickness for the citizens in the city. The regular pollution levels here on a day to day basis used to cause one of my friends to get sick quite often with stuffy noses and such. She had a specific term for it, but I can’t remember what it was. For my friend, not wearing a face mask and checking the pollution/dust levels before she left her apartment wasn’t really an option for her due to it affecting her health.

99% of the time I waltz outside without checking to see how bad it is or without wearing a mask because it’s super, super rare for pollution to affect me. If I remember right, there were a couple of days in either the spring or summer where the dust/pollution was so bad, that there was a city wide emergency alert sent to everyone’s cell phones to wear masks when we went outside. I still didn’t wear a mask; I never do. But on those days, I’d wished a bit that I had. When I breathed in, I could feel/taste the dust/pollution on my tongue and feel it sticking to my throat. But I still didn’t get sick from it, so maybe I was really sick with a cold on this past Sunday.

So long story short, by Monday morning, my stuffy nose was gone. I have no idea if I caught a brief cold, if it was an effect from the seasons changing, or if pollution caused it. However, it was definitely enough to set me back on this project for a couple of days due to catching up on sleep.

BE 4: Ranch? They have ranch dressing!!!

A few months ago, one of the bigger grocery stores, Homeplus, started carrying Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. This is something I missed from home on at least a weekly basis. Once I found out a store nearby-ish had some in stock via a Facebook group, I spent a Saturday tracking some down. Here is my mini-adventure. Enjoy!

BE 3: Dental Care in Korea

As you can see, I’m a day late on finishing day 3 of Blog/Vlog Ember. Last night I decided to take a nap after work, but it turned into me sleeping all night. Oops! Today, I will try to complete two posts, and subsequently, two videos on my Youtube channel as well. Today’s topic is about my recent experiences with dental health in Korea.

Step 1: Making the appointment. I currently am not fluent in Korean enough to do this task by myself over the phone (in person I draw pictures and use a translation app), so I need to rely on the kindness of my co-teachers to help me. In this particular case, I was asking a co-teacher about dental clinic hours in Korea because I’d read that some clinics can be open up until 8pm or 9pm on weeknights and sometimes on Saturday. After a conversation, I ended up with an appointment at a dental clinic that my co-t knew about. However, I will note that this is not the place I wanted visit, but decided to go with the flow and check out her recommendation.

Step 2: Last Saturday, Oct 28th, I went to my first ever dental appointment in Korea. When I arrived there was a bit of confusion because the reservation was under the dentist’s friend’s name (who is my co-t’s co-worker) and not mine. The receptionist had to make sure it was okay for me to be seen, so she went in back and talked to the dentist. All of this was communicated through gestures, my limited Korean, her limited English, and translator apps. All in all, a normal everyday interaction and all is good.

The dentist briefly checks my teeth and I explain to her about my issues, my periodontal disease, my partial dentures, etc. After x-rays are taken of the teeth I have left (which is my canines and most of my molars). Then the dentist and I talk about the x-rays, my periodontal disease, and where I’m currently having pain. She suggests that I get a cleaning/scaling done to see if my gums will heal or bounce back a bit due to the periodontal disease. I agree to do this (which is common practice for me in America) and we agree to meet the next Saturday to see the results and then talk about what kind of treatment plan we’ll proceed with next (also common with dentists in America for me).

Step 3: The cleaning/scaling. I DESPISE cleanings. I’d rather have the dentist numb me to oblivion and perform major dental work on my teeth anytime, any day, ever. Because of my periodontal disease and the cavities on my molars, my mouth is quite sensitive and cleanings often mean pain, especially when those metal picks are involved. Ugh. However, this cleaning turned out to be the best one of my life. It was virtually painless, minus a couple of super sensitive spots, and actually relaxing. The dental technician placed a green surgical cloth over my face that had a hole cut out around the mouth. Then she mostly used the water pick to clean my teeth. She used the metal picks once or twice on a couple of teeth, but that was it. There was no polishing. One of my friends, that went to a different dental clinic, mentioned that he didn’t get a polishing on his teeth during his cleaning, so I assume that is common practice in Korea to not polish teeth. The cleaning and x-rays are 21,000 won (approx $18.83 USD). Overall, it was a great a experience.

Step 4: Return visit to re-evaluate my gums. Today I returned to the dental clinic to see if the cleaning helped my gums heal or if it didn’t really do anything. I’m completely under the impression that no work will be done on my teeth and that this is a follow up consultation visit on what kind of treatment plan we’ll put in place.

Then things don’t go as planned. However, that is not what happened. When I arrive, the office is packed with people sitting and standing for their turn. The previous week, there were a few people waiting to be seen by the dentist, so I was seen on time. This week, though, my appointment is at 3pm, but I’m not called back to the dentist chair until 340pm. By this time, almost every patient before and after me has seen the dentist or dental assistant. I’m a bit mad but stick around out politeness. Once I’m in the dentist chair (340pm), I wait another 20 minutes before the dentist rushes over to look at my teeth. Immediately she begins tapping at the tooth that I’d said was causing a bit of pain. We talk about the tooth. I’m under the impression that she is going to talk about each tooth and the treatment plan, so I go along with it. She tells me I will need an endodontic treatment for that tooth. I’ve never heard that term before, so I say ok, thinking that she’ll continue on with her evaluation. Then she says something to the dental assistant in Korean. The dental assistant leaves and comes back with a needle to numb me. “Whoa! Not today!”, I say. Even though we’re both speaking English, I’ve misunderstood what she is saying/meant. She wants to start the crown (ah so that’s what it means) process today, but I’m thinking we were just  going to talk about my issues and come up with a plan. I end up leaving shortly after because I truly don’t have the money at the moment for a crown, and don’t feel comfortable after the misunderstanding.

Side note: Even though the follow up visit didn’t go as I’d planned or thought it would, I still recommend this dental clinic to any of my Korean friends/co-workers and foreigners that have normal issues (like cleanings and regular cavities). However, I feel that when it comes to periodontal issues, the clinic doesn’t have enough experience with patients with this problem. I personally don’t feel comfortable continuing at that clinic. I will make my own appointment this time at the dental clinic I originally wanted to visit that my friends have gone to, along with quite a few foreigners in town. Hopefully, this time, it’ll go more smoothly without misunderstandings. 🙂

Blog Ember 2: I’m Debt Free….Now What?

Here are my new financial goals/timeline now that I’m debt free.

  1. Save up $3,000 to visit home during my winter vacation. This is a bit higher than I actually need, but my schools changed my summer vacation quite last minute this year due them not communicating well with each other. In case that happens again, I want to make sure I have enough for the pricey plane ticket. Plus I plan to eat a crap ton of food back home. Lol! ETA: Nov 31st, 2017.
  2. I have a 6 month emergency fund already, but since I live abroad, I’d feel more comfortable if my emergency fund was closer to a year oTf expenses at about $1200 a month. (My living expenses were $1100 a month when I lived in the US, so totally do able if I move back to the same city or a smaller city). ETA: Feb 31st, 2018.
  3. Start fixing up my teeth. Again. I was fixing them a bit before I moved to Korea, but didn’t get very far. I went to my first ever dentist appointment here last Saturday. I’m still in the consultation process, but my teeth have always been super f’ed to put it lightly. Even though, dental health costs are basically half price here (THANK YOU NATIONAL INSURANCE!!! AMERICA GET ON THAT!!!), it’s still going to be crazy expensive. We’re talking crowns, extractions, and possibly new partial dentures or even full dentures. ETA: ? We’re talking thousands of dollars here and it’s more pay as you go for now.
  4. Save for an Around the World trip. I’ll start saving for this, hopefully, around March 2018. My original goal was to hit up all 7 continents, but I’ve had to revise it to 6. Sorry Antarctica, but at the moment, you’re too expensive. I’m still hoping I’ll find a way to fit that in too. We’ll see. ETA to finish: March 1st, 2019.

That’s the plan for the next couple of years. Feel free to share about your financial goals below!

BLOG EMBER BEGINS!!!

Currently it’s been 2.5 hours of video editing, and I have at least another 1.5 to go. On a video that took 2 minutes to film. Ugh. When I haven’t made a video in awhile, I forget how freaking long it takes to edit one. The filming part is easy and I enjoy that part, but condensing, slicing, and adding additional pics, vids, and music takes forever. Anyways, it’s not that horrible once you get into the groove. Plus it’s an excellent reminder to pre-film, pre-edit videos on weekends so I don’t have to cram a video a day during the work week.

Ah, well. If this was easy, then it wouldn’t of been a challenge. I like challenges. Sometimes. Lol.

Anyways, I’ll link the video below. It includes this; one of my favorite animals:

I also attempted to recreate crab rangoons since I’ve been craving them lately:

I don’t like the “traditional” star shape, so I made them into half moon shapes. They look bubbly because the stores don’t carry wonton or egg roll wrappers, so I substituted with dumpling wrappers (which are made more for boiling than frying, hence the bubbliness).

Here’s my video for the day. Finally finished after 3 hours. (I was working on it while writing this post).

Oh, Dear. This is Awkward. I’m Debt Free!!!

If you’ve been following my blog at all during the past couple of years, you already know that consistency isn’t my strongest trait. With that being said, I have issued myself a challenge to post here everyday in November. However, there is a very important update I need to announce. Oh, dear…this is awkward.

I’M DEBT FREE!!!

Since August 31st, 2017.  

In case you’re curious, here is the YT video about my accomplishment and how I celebrated:

 

As you can see, it seems like I’m more motivated to make videos than writing posts. However, I also struggle with consistency there. I’ve also issued the same challenge to myself to make a Youtube video everyday in November as well. This is will be interesting. Hahaha!

I hope you are all doing well and kicking butt at life! Stay tuned!

T-minus 28 days to Freedom

Sooooo, I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself, but everything so far looks good. If all goes well, I should be debt free by the end of August. I’ll be at least 4 months ahead of my original debt free date of December 31st, 2017

My next plans are to save, save, save.

  1. Save up 3,000 to visit back home. I haven’t been home in almost 2 years.
  2. Save up my 6 month emergency fund. Approx 10,000 is what I feel comfortable with.
  3. Save up for an Around the World trip. I plan to visit all 7 continents, so this one will be very expensive cause of Antarctica. Anywhere 15,000 to 20,000 is needed.
  4. While doing all of this, take care of major dental work that I’ve been putting off these past two years or so.

My time line for accomplishing my savings goals will be from 1.5 to 2 years. Once I’m debt free.

Battling Ambition

No questions about it; I’m without a doubt a Slytherin due to my ambition alone. Once I set a goal or dream that I’m super excited about completing, my ambition rears up in a thunderous bear roar and charges forward. I’d always thought this zeroed in focus was a great, wondrous thing until one day it turned slightly dangerous. In summer of 2015, my ambition, specifically focused on annihilating my school loans as fast as possible, landed me in the ER.

So what happened to put you in the ER, you ask? Short story: a migraine. Long story: One moment I’m speaking normally. The next, I’m speaking incoherently even though I can think properly; I was showing signs of a possible stroke. I headed off to the ER to make sure it wasn’t a stroke, and after all the tests, a stroke was ruled out. However, it was a slightly rare form of ‘migraine aura’ that affected my speech temporarily. After getting back all the test results, and talking to my doctor, it’s determined that the migraine was brought on by overworking, stress, and lack of sleep. All side effects of my ambition when I’m championing towards accomplishing a huge goal. In this case, being debt free in too short of a timeline that I placed on myself. (In case anyone is curious about what my migraine aura symptom looked like, here’s a YT link to a reporter who had one of these migraines hit when she was live on air).

Real talk. Ever since my ambition landed me in the ER in summer of 2015, I’ve been cautious about letting the beast back out in full force. My hesitancy has made me a bit fearful about repeating the same episode above. As a result, I often make excuses to not start or finish goals or I’ll lose my motivation to continue projects or goals. The exception to this is my remaining school loans. Those bitches are still getting slayed. All the other smaller goals I set for myself, like reading 20 books (etc. see goal list), are put on the back burner or completely forgotten once I start to feel I’m pushing the boundaries of the level of ambition I was sustaining before my ER trip.

Now life, for most people, is a delicate dance between options, goals, survival, and wants. Keeping a healthy balance is admittedly difficult, but as I learned the hard way, it is critical to my well being to make an effort not to push myself too hard. Unfortunately Ambition doesn’t always get that memo. Anytime Ambition isn’t racing and working on multiple projects at 110% capacity, it teams up with that Nagging Voice. “Tantan, you’re lazy”, “Tantan, if you do this X hours of work, then you’ll be debt free in X amount of time”, (Nagging Voice and Ambition suggesting a crazy hard goal), “Tantan, you should be more productive. Stop relaxing”. You get the point. The slightly weaker, but well intentioned, Health Voice is constantly in battle with these two other forces. Most of the time, Health Voice teams up with Happiness and their reasoning wins out. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes Happiness switches teams and gangs up on Health Voice, especially when it comes to opportunities of paid work. When it comes to money, which I see as a symbol of future freedom, I’m a  chronic workaholic. Working makes me very happy, and even more ecstatic when I can see all my effort slaying the debt I currently have. However, my body and mind have limits. I just have to keep everything in check so Body won’t pull out a huge stop sign and send me back to the hospital.

With all that said, though, I’m happy with where I am in life. Even though I recently picked up a great paying side gig*, I think I’ve begun to figure that balance out. I’m the happiest that I’ve been in years. Everyday is a mix of new adventures and peaceful mediocrity. Ambition, for the most part, has been pacified enough that it doesn’t constantly nag at me to do more. 🙂

Do you have problems with any inner demons like Ambition and Nagging Voice? How do you deal with them?

* (as compared to this blog and Youtube; both that have yet to make any side income past $5. Totally my fault. I’m not consistent in producing content and I don’t really research how to optimize my sites)