I’m not one to think much about money or finances.
I had the privilege of growing up in a middle class family where we never struggled to maintain basic needs or want for anything. We took vacations, I was involved in many pay-to-play activities growing up, and my parents paid my way through undergrad.
We were never the richest, but we always made the most bang for our buck.
Even after college when I was officially “on my own”, my concern with finances came down to can I pay rent, bills, and still make it out for the weekend?
And that mentality stayed with me through registering for grad school and signing my financial independence away to Sallie Mae.
Honestly, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was getting into.
It didn’t even occur to me to think about how I was going to pay it all back (with interest), the thought I would be responsible for this money never truly crossed my mind.
I just went off to start my Master’s and, unbeknownst to naive 22-year old Ashlei, stockpiling debt.
Now I’m going to refrain myself from going on a rant about how the amount of student debt accumulated by my generation is horrendous. There are plenty of articles that go into detail about it (this is a good read should you fancy).
Nor am I going to continue to wax poetic about how I ended up accumulating $105K in student debt.
The cliff notes version is basically I took out several loans to go to school. When I finished school, I decided to defer my payments because my income at the time was dismal. I continued to defer my payments a good 3-4 years after the fact which resulted in a shit-load of interest that brought us to the total of $105K.
What I want to talk about is finally finding the courage to face the mountain and actually do something about it….
The Not So Sexy Method of Getting Debt Free
To be completely honest, I’d probably still be trying to find the courage to take on this debt if it weren’t for the hubs.
I was very lucky to find and marry a guy who is 1000x more financially astute than I am. And I give him full credit for opening my eyes to the total picture and pushing us to getting on the right track.
So much so that we were able to become debt free in less than a year.
So what’d we do?
How’d we manage to get rid of $105K in debt in 10 months?
Well I’ll say this right now – if you’re hoping I’ll reveal some magical plan or solution to getting debt free, I’m afraid I’ll only disappoint you.
In fact, what we did was quite boring and mundane.
Stuff you hear all the time when it comes to getting rid of debt.
But I always say – if it’s something you hear all the time, it’s probably because it actually works.
Paying off debt is a lot like losing weight, it takes time and dedication.
So you’ve been warned – this is the boring and mundane way we became debt free.
Budget like an overzealous accountant
First let’s be upfront. The hubs works in an industry where he gets paid very well. He’s not ballin’ out of his mind, but we can afford to live comfortably.
With that said, we were able to throw a good chunk of change towards the debt each month without feeling too hurt living our day to day lives.
I don’t want to throw around a bunch of numbers, because 1. That’ll make my head hurt and 2. I think it’s more about having the right mindset than a certain amount of cash.
So yes we were able to put a lot towards the debt each month, but what really drove us was……wait for it…..
Creating a budget.
Whomp, whomp 🎺
Like I said, it isn’t sexy. But in all seriousness, creating a budget made all the difference.
It allowed us to see where our money was going, as well as point out areas where we could scale back (we realised we were spending a ridiculous amount of money on takeout).
If you want to get your finances in order, whether it’s to get rid of debt or not, you’ve got to create a budget.
It was a legit life changer for us.
And in a weird way, fun.
Because each month I was given the challenge of figuring out how to make the most bang for our buck.
And that’s coming from someone who used to hate thinking money and finances.
Throw in everything you got
Despite the fact we’re living abroad in a really cool city, during our mission to get debt free our lives were pretty boring.
We didn’t take any trips or make any large purchases during that time because literally any and all spare cash we came across went to the debt.
Any bonuses the hubs received went towards the debt. Our tax refunds went towards the debt. Earnings from past investments went towards the debt. Even some cash from a side hustle we did working on my mom’s website – went towards the debt.
The only way to get rid of debt is to pay it off, which is why we focused every inch of ourselves and threw in everything we had.
As I’ve been saying – It’s not a sexy method by any means, but it’s a method that works. Which at the end of the day, is what matters most.
Find what motivates you
Creating a budget and throwing everything you can at your debt is important in becoming debt free, but it can be draining.
You’re scaling back, making sacrifices, and living the not-so-instaworthy lifestyle.
And that shit is hard, especially when it feels like everyone else is living it up around you.
So before you create a budget and go all in I think it’s even more important to figure out what will motivate you to see this through.
It can be a variety of things. In fact, I encourage you not to limit yourself to just one big thing – cause that can get old after awhile too.
Create a vision board of all the things clearing your debt will let you do. Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage your efforts. Follow and connect with others who are on or have went through a similar journey.
A lot of our daily motivation actually came from listening to Dave Ramsey on his podcast.
He has a book and a course on getting debt free, none of which we’ve read or taken, so I can’t personally speak for those. But I would suggest checking out his YouTube channel where he shares video clips from his podcast.
We pretty much watched him every day as we worked our way through the debt. Something about listening to him talk finances with that Tennessee drawl was both comforting and motivational for us.
However you do it, figure out what motivates you and use it to its full potential.
And finally – Track your progress
When we first started paying down the debt it was hard to fathom we’d ever see the end of it.
We had a whiteboard in our kitchen with the total amount of debt written at the top. And with each payment we marked down the new total underneath.
Until slowly, but surely, we reached $0 at the very bottom.
It may not seem like much, but I believe having some sort of visual representation that tracked our progress really helped us stay on top of it all.
Though we still had a ways to go, we could see how far we’d come and that helped push us to the end.
I’m not sure which felt more thrilling – putting in our last payment or writing a big ZERO at the bottom of our whiteboard.
Come and ride the debt free train
I wanted to share this story because, even though we’ve officially reached February, I feel like the new year is still pretty fresh. And most people are still gung-ho about making changes in their lives.
We started our debt free journey right around this time last year.
And now being at a point where we can do what we want with our money without the shadow of debt hanging over us feels amazing.
We’re saving to buy a house, we’re planning big trips, we’re having a second baby, we’re living life freely.
Having some sort of debt, especially student debt, is so typical of our generation. We’ve become so accustomed to it that we don’t realise how much it can really hold us back from doing the things we want to do in life.
As I said in the beginning, I am not a money and finances person.
But I’ve come to appreciate the power of being financially independent of places like Sallie Mae and credit companies.
Just because everyone has some debt doesn’t mean you have to.
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Are you working your way out of debt? Already living that debt free lifestyle? I’d love to hear your story – feel free to share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!