This is a story from Jacob Evans of Dollar Dillegence. He paid off $25,000 of debt in 18 months, which is an amazing accomplishment. Here he shares the strategies he used to do so.
Take it away Jacob.
My nearly 15-month journey toward paying off $25,000 in debt started six years into student loan repayment. I looked at my balance and my head throbbed when I realized that making the minimum payment each month was doing me no favors.
I had to come up with a solution, and I needed to come up with it fast because I felt like my debt had a mind of its own.
I understood at that point that I was going to have to do something radical or I was going to be one of those 20-somethings repeating history. It’s that part in history where people ruined their family name or honor by acquiring incredible debt. Basically, I didn’t want to be crushed by debt for the rest of my life!
No one goes into a debt situation thinking that they are going to be stuck for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, that happens to some people, but I made sure it wasn’t going to happen to me.
How I Went About Paying Off Debt
During my 15 months of paying off $25K in debt, I did some things that some people would deem extreme. I created a super strict budget. I stopped buying new clothes; in fact, I stopped buying a lot of things. I severely adjusted my eating habits (Lost some weight, too. It was a ramen habit. It wasn’t healthy.).
I moved back in with some close relatives; in fact, I moved in with my generous aunt and uncle who lived nearby. I started working more in my free time. I took a big step and tried to refinance my debt as well. I did all of this on top of my regular job. It all paid off.
Instead of squaring up a bar tab from the weekend, I made money by writing articles or snapping photos as a freelancer. I didn’t see the inside of a department store for a while. Instead of ordering a pizza, I ate a pack or two of ramen (they can cost as much as a dime).
I cut my monthly rent expense to virtually nothing. I was able to tackle my consolidated student debt all at once. All of these changes came together to form the perfect scenario for my debt repayment. You could say my strategy was a full on change of lifestyle.
If I had kept on chugging along as before, I would have been struggling with multiple loan payments, monthly rent, a habitual credit card bill from the weekend, and the occasional new shirt. I gave all that up.
Like many things, everything I just mentioned sounds much easier said than done, but the main takeaway should be that major life changes are sometimes necessary if you want to make a difference in your life. This holds true in the financial sense.
Barring winning the lottery or tripling your salary, the only true way to eliminate debt is to change your lifestyle and find livable ways to save more money and make more money. I did those things. It helped. It worked.
For instance, I took on more work in addition to my math teaching gig. I found those different ways to make money so I could add the extra funds into the equation. I even completed online surveys that paid. There are plenty of different ways you can grow your income or cut your expenditures. Sometimes, creativity is the key, and oftentimes, diligence is important.
Changing how you eat, altering shopping habits, changing the thermostat, and getting rid of that gym membership are just some other ways you can cut expenses. It’s no fun being in debt, so devoting more money to the deficit today can lead to more fun later.
Doing what I did eliminates the revenue and expenditure issue that pushes many people to depend heavily on credit to get by from month to month. That doesn’t have to be you. When you live within your means – and sometimes under them, you can become a much humbler and more satisfied person. Then eventually, you’ll come to truly appreciate the smaller things in life, especially without a price tag over your head!
Jacob is a self-proclaimed personal finance enthusiast and blogger. Catch up with him @DollarDiligence!