Debt can be isolating. It can make you feel like you’re the only one who is struggling financially. The reality is that millions of Americans are wrestling with debt. You’re not alone.
We’ve profiled some amazing people from all walks of life and all parts of the country. The one thing they all have in common is that they had large amounts of debt and have paid it off. We’re inspired by their success, their openness and their advice for those of us still working toward being free from debt.
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Learn how they did it, and how you can, too. Find out more about the debt journeys of these inspiring folks, in their own words, by clicking on a heading — each one links to more details about their debt experience.
Bible Money Matters
“When we were first married my wife and I had thousands of dollars in student loans, credit card debt and other consumer debt. We decided that we had had enough. We made a decision to become debt free and get rid of the heavy weight that debt put on our shoulders.”
Peter Anderson started Bible Money Matters after noticing that there were over 2,300 verses in the Bible pertaining to money. Bible Money Matters is his way of sharing the Bible’s money wisdom with everyone, especially with people struggling with debt like he and his wife were.
Bailey began her debt journey by paying off $17,000 of car loan, student loan and credit card debt in a year and a half using the “Snowball Method.” At the time, she was working a full-time job that paid slightly above minimum wage, as well as a part-time job on evenings and weekends.
When she got engaged to her husband Andy, a soldier in the US Army, she paused her debt snowball to fund their wedding. She and Andy felt slightly off-track as they funded a small portion of their wedding with a personal loan, but they quickly picked themselves up and got back “in the saddle” to resume their debt-free journey. Since becoming married and settling into newlywed life, Bailey and Andy paid off their remaining debt of $18,000 as a team.
“Do You Remember the Last Time You Were 100% Debt-Free?” This question was posed by J. Money, the founder of Budgets Are Sexy. Don’t worry; you can trust him. He has a mohawk.
Seriously though, it’s a good question. When WAS the last time you had no debt? When you were in high school? Earlier? People get frustrated because it takes longer than they’d like to pay off their debt. But it stands to reason – if you’ve been a long time in debt, it’ll probably take a long time to get out of debt.
Dear Debt is committed to inspiring others to get out of debt for good and take back their lives.
It’s a safe space, a community and a place where people can talk openly about the emotional aspects of being in debt — the highs of making progress, the lows of feeling buried in debt, and the plateaus of feeling stuck.
Dear Debt was founded on a few principles:
- Everyone matters and we can all learn from each other.
- Although we are all in debt for different reasons, we are in this together and we will help inspire each other to get out of debt.
- There is no judgement.
- You are not a loan. You are not alone.
- Your self-worth is not based on your net worth.
Melanie started Dear Debt after racking up a total of $81,000 in student loan debt. Discouraged by her employment options after graduation and feeling hopeless, she started Dear Debt and gave other people struggling with student loan debt a platform to tell their stories. Her story had a happy ending: She paid off her student loan debt in 4 and a half years.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner paid off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months. One more time: Michelle Schroeder-Gardener paid off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months!
This just goes to show you that if you really want to get rid of debt, you can. Michelle shares some of the positives that can come from learning to pay off debt, including:
- You may finally feel less financial stress.
- You may be able to put that money toward something more important, such as saving for retirement.
- Getting rid of your student loans may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more, or looking for a better job.
As Philip Taylor from PT Money recalls, “I signed up for my first two credit cards in college (you know, to get the free t-shirt). By the time I left college I had a decent amount of debt and two worn out t-shirts. I wasn’t paying this off every month and so I was paying 20% or more in interest charges.
“Looking back, it’s hard to believe I left college with this debt considering I graduated with an advanced degree in accounting and was preparing for the CPA exam. I guess I was living for the future, thinking that first big pay day would bail me out.”
See?! Debt even trips up people with advanced degrees in accounting!
Five memories of Bob Lotich, founder of SeedTime:
- I remember sitting in a broken down car, 1,000 miles from home, with no money, and no one to call for help.
- I remember calculating our net worth for the first time to discover that it was NEGATIVE $13,843.84
- I remember getting married and looking at our $47,000 of debt and wondering how in the world we would ever pay it off.
- I remember the day we finally paid off my $17,000 student loan – our last remaining non-mortgage debt.
- I remember dreaming of a day like today – debt free, happily married, and living with purpose – and I am thankful that I didn’t stop fighting for it.
Yes, it’s another story about a married couple that paid off X thousand dollars of debt in Y months. More interesting is how Deacon Hayes, creator of the Well Kept Wallet, describes he and his wife Kim’s lives:
“We didn’t own our stuff, our stuff owned us. Not only did we have the $52,000 in debt we also had 2 mortgage payments as well. It was slavery. Get up, go to work, get a check, pay the lender. Get up, go to work, get a check, pay the lender.”
It was time for a major life-change. And that’s exactly what happened. They did a massive purge of their stuff, sold their year-old car and slashed their expenses. A year and half later, they had no debt other than their mortgage.
Three days after her son’s first Christmas, Amiyrah and her son stepped outside in the dead of winter to find her car missing. She called to report a stolen vehicle but learned that the car was repossessed.
Amiyrah enlisted in the US Air Force after high school. Like many brand-new soldiers, and 19-year-olds in general, she spent her money less than responsibly. Fast forward a few years, she and her husband found themselves $36,000 in debt. It took time, but hey paid off their debt and got their spending under control.
For the past 10 years, she’s run a blog called 4 Hats & Frugal where she chats about family, food, fashion & finance. She’s a firm believer in living a frugal lifestyle while still having fun.
There are many types of debt, but perhaps the most harmful form of debt doesn’t involve money. It’s spiritual debt. Molly – of Still Being Molly – describes how losing her mother in high school left her feeling angry and empty inside. Before she could get her finances – and the rest of her life – in order, she had to find God.
As Toni Collier points out, money can be a bully in our lives. It can make us feel like failures.
“I was tired, disappointed, depressed, broke and broken in more ways than one. I hid all of this from the world, including my parents and closest friends. I was so hard on myself, and I felt horrible for the unhealthy relationships and financial mess that I was in.
“But when I prayed and looked into my little girl’s big brown eyes, I was reminded that my story had a greater purpose in ministry. I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:9 ‘…persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’”
I knew that, if I allowed it, my brokenness could be used for God’s glory! I couldn’t let money bully me anymore. To do this, I had to tap into a level of bravery that I didn’t know I possessed. I had to stare money in the face and say, “You may be a giant in my life right now, but there are no giants that could defeat the force behind my faith.”
We hope these stories inspire you to take action. To help, we’ve linked to a collection of debt resources in our free digital financial tool Together™. That way, you can work together as a couple to determine the right method for YOU to tackle your debt.