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?

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