How I Paid Off $34,000 Of Debt
It was just a little over a year ago that I decided to get my finances in order. I’m a little late to the game, having surpassed 30. I’ve had many fluctuations in life that have contributed to my debt, so the situation is intricate, yet easy to explain. However, I’m not a fan of letting myself off the hook with excuses, regardless of how rational and realistic they may be.
I’ve read many articles and blog posts that tout the debt payoff successes of others and I’m extremely happy for everyone who has conquered their debt. I’ve decided to share my debt and the approach I took to pay it off in this post.
I have done intense research on debt and the multiple ways to go about paying it off. My specialties in university did not include significantly advanced finance courses. I now see that as a slight error in judgment by my younger self. My majors did include a lot of writing and political debates–do with that what you will. I believe it shows that just about everyone can figure out their finances and stick to a plan that pays off their debt quickly.
To be completely honest with you, I found this goal of paying $34,000 to multiple entities, to be extremely daunting. However, having completed my goal, I now know that although it’s not easy, it’s also not impossible.
Credit Card Debt
My parents started me off early in the credit game. They knew it was good to establish credit early and they helped me manage my bank account and credit card early in life. That’s the bright side.
The dark side of my credit card debt came when college rolled around and I began charging one latte at a time to that card–it added up and paying the bill ate away at the money I had saved up. No, I don’t blame my parents. Managing my finances once I graduated was certainly not their job and they did provide those little tips every now and again.
Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the small warnings they gave and, of course, my credit card bill kept rising. I worked it out and had just maintained a modest amount of debt until I graduated from college and migrated completely to New York City. Unpaid internships (that shows my age) had taken me to Manhattan prior to graduation and actual jobs kept me there.
In the beginning, my paychecks were low and the cost of living was extremely high. I put my student loans on deferment and made it work. Expenses for life’s necessities as well as fun activities landed on my credit cards. This wasn’t the best idea, but it’s not out of the norm either. I was spending more than I was bringing in and was of the mindset that I’d have a better paying job as I got older and I’d pay off my cards then. Also, I should mention that my thought of “older” was 25 and that is not realistic unless you happen to be on Wall Street during a boom. As you can guess, I did not completely pay off my credit card bills by 25 and instead the debt kept building.
I attended 2 universities during my time in college. Having decided to switch majors, I headed from Ohio, majoring in early childhood education, to Indiana and gained degrees in journalism and political science. I wish I had stopped by the Kelley School of Business a bit more often!
After graduation, I had racked up quite a bit of debt. While my parents agreed to help and I received multiple scholarships, I was still saddled with student debt. I decided to put each loan on deferment while living in New York and get back to paying them off at a later date. There isn’t much shuffling around you can do when paying off student loans, and often you shouldn’t want to with such low-interest rates (compare credit card interest rates to your student loans and you’ll understand).
All of that being said, I was still paying off my loans at 31 and they were contributing to about one-third of the amount I owed.
After having a somewhat low-budget holiday spending spree for the people I love, I managed to pay off that $34,000. It’s 2019 and I’m starting fresh!
I have learned my lesson with credit cards and loans, that’s for sure! My new motto is something along the lines of “don’t spend more than you have”. This should work out well as I move forward in life and I’m looking forward to seeing how it affects me post-debt! It will certainly be great preparation for the next steps in life.
Life took me to New York, Maryland, Washington D.C. and New Mexico prior to landing back in Indiana. I thought ending up back home after living in big cities would be a failure, but it has led to a great life and I paid my way out of the monetary hole I slowly sunk into! Bonus: I made it in each state and left by choice.
*Also, I met my husband, the love of my life, back in my hometown and we’re happy as can be. It’s funny how life works out.
The Fix In 4 Steps
Now that you have an idea of my debt and how I got there, I’ll delve into the steps I took to achieve payoff quickly.
1. Research. Do your research. I am providing you with my process and I encourage you to take a look at your finances in the same way, but your debt is different than mine. There may be an alteration you can make in order to pay things off faster. So, along with my post, review a few others and find what fits best–it may be a combination of strategies you discover.
2. Review every bank account, credit card, and loan you have. Don’t forget to include any joint accounts you might be a part of, as these affect your debt and overall credit. Note your required monthly payments and the interest rates on credit cards and loans.
3. Decide what you what to pay off first. I chose to work on the accounts with the highest interest rate amounts first.
4. Always pay more than the minimum amount due (paying just $5 more is great). This will help your credit. Pay more down on the cards you want to pay off first.
What are your experiences with credit card and/or student loan debt? Do you have any advice for paying down debt?