How I got out of debt
Disclaimer: This will not work for everyone, but this is how I got out of debt.
I was $60,000 of debt when I graduated from college (all tuition), with no consumer debt (I’ve never paid a red cent in credit card interest).
I cleared it in 18 months.
I only realized I was in a big financial hole when I started paying attention to how much interest they were charging me on my debt (5% and 7.5%), now that I was no longer a student and it was no longer interest free.
I decided I wanted to get out of debt, but not having managed or handled money in an intelligent manner my entire life, I figured I needed a crash course in Money 101.
I started reading as many articles that had the word ‘money’, ‘finance’, and ‘budget’ as I possibly could, which included blogs, books and articles in magazines.
After I got the gist of what I had to do by budgeting and tracking my expenses, I started paying down my debt and I finished it in 18 months.
So how did I do it? Looking back, this is what I think helped.
DECIDING TO GET OUT OF DEBT
If you earn $10,000 or a million, if you are in debt and comfortable with that hanging around your neck, it won’t matter whether you are in debt or not.
You have to make a DECISION to get out of debt, and not to be comfortable with owing people money.
DECIDING TO CLEAR IT IN 5 YEARS
My plan was to get rid of it in 5 years. I didn’t want to keep paying it for the rest of my life, and the loan period was going to be about 10 years before I would clear anything!
STARTED CARING ABOUT MY OWN MONEY
I started caring about MY money. Rather than “someone else’s debt”, it was MY debt. I started caring about my income, my debt, my expenses, my obligations and basically.. my money.
I really wanted to do things right, financially and stop having to care or worry about where my cash would go each month.
By the end of 6 months, I had a routine down pat, where each paycheck would hit my bank account, and it would be allocated to each category down to the penny.
STARTED A BUDGET AND TRACKING MY EXPENSES
That was the time I created my budgeting and tracking expense tool. It has been proven time and time again that if you make a budget, track your expenses and stick to your financial plan, you will become debt-free and wealthy.
You do not need to make a high income to be able to save or to get out of debt, you just need a change in lifestyle and in your mindset.
People who make 6-figure incomes and spend every penny of it, are no better off than those who make a fraction of that, because they don’t save anything.
In fact, people with high incomes who don’t save, tend to feel like they deserve to spend more than what they earn, and may end up with bigger debts than someone with a lower income.
EARNING A GOOD INCOME
I graduated from college and got a job at $65,000 a year.
I obviously worked hard to get to the level where I could get a job that paid that kind of money, but it was also not during a recession and the general economy was quite good.
As a result, my fairly high income for a new college grad, allowed me a net income of about $3200 each month after taxes to spend.
HAPPENED TO BE A CONSULTANT
I also entered into a profession (consulting) that offered me a lot of benefits, such as:
- Lots of expenses to pay for that would be reimbursed — this gave me credit card points to use towards groceries and other living expenses
- Ability to travel and live where the project was — this was cheaper than flying me back each week, so I gave up my apartment and lived in each project city, with shelter and food paid for 100% by the client
For the first year, I paid for an apartment and realized I hadn’t really lived there for most of the year, and it was $1500 out my net income each month.
So I gave up my apartment, and my net income was freed up by not having an apartment hanging over me. I was able to put up to 90% of my net income towards my debt each month (but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I did).
BECAME VERY EXPENSE-CONSCIOUS / CRAZY
Even though I had the ability to put 90% of my net income towards my debt, it didn’t mean that I did it regularly all the time in the beginning.
I was more in the mindset of: Great! I have all this money, now I can pay my debt comfortably to be out in 5 years, and spend the rest.
It wasn’t until I realized how silly that was, that I slowly started increasing my net income payments towards my debt. Near the end of my debt ($15,000 left to go), I was counting pennies to try and hit my target of 90% of my net income towards my debt. I didn’t go out to eat let alone eat! I ate less, and I kind of went nuts.
It was kind of obsessive compulsive and I was told I was really going too far off the deep end. 😛
I even briefly toyed with the idea of NOT putting money into my retirement fund (100% employer matched), just to have that extra cash each month towards my debt. Luckily I didn’t do it, but it did cross my mind.
QUIT MY JOB AND FREELANCED
Near the end of my $15,000 it was about the time I got sick of my company, quit and started freelancing. I quadrupled my income, and cleared the last $15,000 with the money I earned.
Even without quitting my job and freelancing, I was on track to finish off my debt by the following year, a good 2 years less than my estimated 5 years.
I already had fairly good money habits in place, I was already putting a lot of my net income towards my debt, and I was being very careful with my expenses, all of which helped.
This is NOT a story that everyone can replicate fully.
My situation is different.. even unique, and I just made the most of the opportunity I was given. I absolutely acknowledge that not everyone could and SHOULD do this, but the main parts that are still relevant to everyone getting out of debt are highlighted in red.
- Decided to get out of debt
- Decided to clear it in 5 years
- Started caring about my money (and my debt!)
- Started a budget and started tracking my expenses
- Earned a good income
- Happened to be a consultant (in the right profession to save money)
- Became very expense-conscious / crazy
- Quit my job and freelanced
And that’s how I did it!