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Updated on Thursday, March 19, 2015
I’ve been a personal finance blogger for almost 5 years now, and because of that, I often hear success stories when people conquer their debt and organize their finances. It always gets me excited when I hear from friends who have decided to embrace financial responsibility and get on the right track. It just goes to show that no matter how bad your debt is, there’s always a way to conquer it once and for all.
1. My $6,000 of Debt
My debt is one of the reasons I’m a full time blogger today. I moved out of the country to Grenada a few years ago (although I’ve since moved back) and when I moved I had no job prospects and $6,000 of credit card debt. Since I had trouble finding a job because I was a foreigner, the only way I could pay my credit card bill was working online.
So, I got my first writing job for $10 a post solely to pay that bill, and slowly but surely I added clients. I was able to pay off that $6,000 in 18 months just from the income I made writing online.
The best part as that when I got on the plane to come back to the United States three years after I moved abroad, I was completely credit card debt free and also self-employed.
My debt came from overspending and stupidity in my early 20’s but it’s also the one thing that led me to start a career I love.
2. Kayla: My Shopaholic Friend
My husband’s best friends and roommates in college were actually fraternal twins, a brother and sister. Kenneth and his twin sister, Kayla, were totally different when it came to money. Kenneth was a chronic saver. He counted every single penny. Kayla had a huge personality, loved shopping, and especially loved name brands.
After college, they both worked a variety of jobs, and we kept in touch with both of them. About three years ago, Kayla e-mailed me and said she was inspired by my blog and wanted to get out of debt. She had started the process by using balance transfers to move her credit card debt to 0% interest rates one-by-one until she could get the payments under control.
She was a hard worker who worked in real estate. Every time she made a big sale, Kayla applied the extra money to her debt. What started out as $30,000+ worth of debt on credit cards, student loans, and a beautiful Mercedes is now at $0.
It took her three years to do it, but it’s one of my favorite stories ever because it was such a big turnaround. I always reference Kayla when I talk about loving name brand items and still being able to be debt free. Even if you’re someone who likes to shop, you can be financially responsible about it. Budgeting is everything!
3. Ann: $30,000 in Student Loans
My best friend in the world for the last ten years, Ann, went to an expensive private school for college. She got a small scholarship but between the room and board and the rest of her tuition, she had over $30,000 in student loan debt when she graduated.
Ann is excellent with her money and very frugal. In fact, one of the reasons we get along so well is that a day of fun for both of us is just strolling through a flea market or antiques sale. Needless to say, she has been on track to pay off her student loans, but health problems and an inability to find a high paying job made the process challenging.
With a degree in political science, she tried out a few different careers from working in doctor’s offices to working for a travel company. She excelled everywhere she went and was always given raises. Still, in the rural area where she lived, she had trouble clearing more than $30,000 a year.
What she did to make a huge dent in her debt was live with her parents for very minimal rent and drive her old car that she’d had since high school for as long as possible. She is turning 29 this year and just moved into her first apartment by herself.
I praised her for this endlessly because instead of jumping into an apartment she couldn’t afford, she really took her time to make sure she would be able to make her student loan payments. It’s been five years since she graduated from college, and she’s been able to pay down 75 percent of her student loans. She is side hustling, blogging and is doing extremely well.
She filled her new apartment with some awesome Craigslist and flea market finds and she has a true sense of independence since she’s been able to accomplish all of this on her own with her own paychecks.
Her story shows that it’s really not about how much you make every year but how you actually decide to spend it. She should be debt free in less than five years, far better than the 30 years most people take to pay off their student loans.