How I Paid Off $25K of Debt In One Year

People borrow money for a variety of reasons. You may take out a loan to go to college, cover a medical emergency, or fund a weekend getaway.

I found myself in $25K of debt because I was impatient. And I suspect there are many others who’d rather not wait until they can pay cash for the things they want. After all, saving money takes time; it takes sacrifice.

Breaking the habit of mindless spending is painful. All that thinking about what you can afford, what you can’t afford, what you need, and what you don’t need is exhausting.

Still, if you want to defeat your internal give-it-to-me-now monster and blast away debt, you’ve got to change your attitude.

Debt Free Green Road Sign and Clouds

Accept that sacrifice is uncomfortable

A few weeks ago, I shared with you ten frugal habits that don’t bother me at all. However, some of the techniques I used to save money and get out of debt bugged me–they bugged me a lot.

  • Taking a fifty minute bus ride to work. Instead of waiting outside during the frigid winter months, I could’ve hopped in my car and drove to work in half the time. As an added bonus, I wouldn’t have been subjected to the loud (and often ignorant) conversations of fellow passengers.
  • Wearing clothes that were torn, pilling, or faded. No one has ever labeled me a fashionista, but I like to look good.
  • Living with roommates. Let’s get one thing straight here: I don’t like people. Well, at least not when they start yakking as soon as I walk through the front door or when their presence prohibits me from lounging around in my undies.

I didn’t want to do any of those things, but I did them anyway. Why? Because it was necessary.

Appreciate what you already have

For one reason or another, we often feel like our lives are incomplete—that if we acquire the right trinkets all will be well. Usually, we’re wrong.

Some things you’re born with—loving parents, individual freedoms, gorgeous hair. Others you have to work for—a successful career, an amazing physique, a fabulous home.

Either way, you’ve got it; be grateful for it.

If you focus all of your energy on what you don’t have, you’ll fail to enjoy what you do have. You’ll get stuck in an endless cycle of longing and acquiring and never break free of burdensome debt.

Stop caring what other people think

Why siphon money away from the things you value to pay for something you couldn’t care less about?

Will Smith once said, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” Wise words, indeed.

Look, you know what you want. Don’t distract yourself with what others want.

My 2007 Honda Civic could never replace Betsy (my banged up, death trap on wheels, 1995 Geo Prizm), but I like it.

When shopping for a vehicle, I look for fuel efficiency, reliability, and affordability. Well, what do you know! That’s exactly what I have. I’m happy. 😀

What’s important to a complete stranger or even a close friend doesn’t affect my car buying decision—not in the least.

If you dream of owning a $200K Bentley, find out how you can afford one. As for me, I’ll dedicate my resources to achieving my dreams.

Understand that major sacrifice is only temporary

Your “suffering” won’t last forever. If you’re disciplined, eventually, you’ll become debt free. So quit whining, why don’t you?

In order to obliterate $25K of debt in 12 months, I drastically cut my consumption. I’m not gonna lie; it was tough sometimes.

But I never planned on skipping my favorite restaurants forever. At some point, I’d update my wardrobe. And I knew a two-hour flight would replace the 16-hour train ride it took to visit my family. I recognized the journey to debt freedom wouldn’t last long.

After I achieved my goal, for the most part, life returned to normal.

Rethink what saving means

When people learn that I’m a personal finance blogger, they usually want me to share tricks on how to get the best discounts. I tell them to forget about that stuff. If you want to free up more cash, the solution is simple: stop spending it.

I know, it’s easier said than done. But here’s the thing, if you pay $400 for a television that normally retails for $1,000, you don’t save $600. You spend $400.

Skip the TV, and put the $400 toward your debt.

The same applies for concerts, clothes, whatever you can think of. Unless the item you buy is specifically for making more money or reducing expenses, its purchase will result in you having less money to repay loans.


About the Author

Shawanda Greene is a free thinking, frugal gal whose only vices are boxed wine, lip balm and money grubbing. You can find more of Shawanda's musings at You Have More Than You Think – a productivity focused guide to maximizing the money you have to obtain more of what you want.