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How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

Today’s post is contributed by Amy Nickson, a passionate writer on finance. Amy is a professional blogger who has started her own blog and also works as a contributor for the Oak View Law Group. Please share your opinions by commenting below.

The debt payoff journey was the turning point of my life. Once I was a reckless spender; the debt payoff journey helped me to become a financially responsible person.

Read my story to know my debt journey

The year 2011 wash ruthless; my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer, which took her life after 6 months of struggling. In addition to this, I started getting creditors’ calls that made me realize about my high credit card debt, which was a double shock for me.

Being a single mom, my mother earned our bread, showered love and compassion on me and treated me as a most delicate possession.

She never wanted me to see hurt or sad. She had given me a credit card and told me to use for convenience. I started living a lavish life (planning trips, visiting Starbucks, partying, shopping, and hanging around with friends) with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend wanted me to buy a good car. I soon took out an auto loan to buy a costly car without giving it a second thought.

After college, I started working and earning. But, most of the money went out on leading extravagant lifestyle. As a result, I fell into costly credit card debts.

How I paid $51000 credit card debts that I mostly incurred during my college days

I had no clue where to start; what to do with $88,000 debts including $51,000 credit card debt and $37000 student loan debt, and a car loan.

I was not in a normal state of mind; my mom wasn’t there to support me, not even my boyfriend who influenced me to live a lavish life.

The settlement story

A few weeks later, I called John, my friend and a financial advisor.

After knowing all the issues, he advised me to settle the debts, especially the highest interest rate debt. A few months later, I got rid of the higher interest credit card debt ($16000).

The cost of the debt settlement was too high for me. I decided to pay the rest of the credit card debts on my own.

How debt snowball method worked as a savior

I contacted John for the second time to know how to pay off the debts on my own. He explained me the debt snowball method and suggested me to consider a side hustle to save quite a bit so that I can make some extra debt payments.

As per the guidance, I started paying some extra to the smallest amount of debt while paying the minimum to the rest of the debts. Since I had to manage the living cost on my own, I thought this could be the easiest way for me to get out of debt. Following the same method (debt snowball), I paid off the $35000 credit card debts within 3.5 years.

How I started freelance blogging

I had interest in writing projects. So, I tried to search online to find out blogging related freelance jobs. Soon, I started getting small to big projects. Freelance jobs are well paying. For instance, Wallet Squirrel makes $35 per article on Seeking Alpha.

Honestly, the side income helped me quite a bit to make extra payments on my credit card debts.

After paying off the debts on my own and earning extra, I felt a sense of accomplishment and started working on the other debts enthusiastically.

How I paid $37000 student loan debt

The student loan debt payoff journey was relatively smooth, because the credit card debt journey had taught me to live a frugal lifestyle. I started following the extreme money-saving strategies to pay off my student loan. I paid a little extra than the minimum payments. I followed the same until I paid off the entire loan. After 3 years, I was also free from my student loan.

Financial lessons I learned from my debt-ridden past

To be very honest, the intense financial situation helped me to become financially disciplined. I have learned to live life staying within my means. Since I grew up in a lavish way, I never realized the importance of living a disciplined financial life.

However, thankfully, the bad time helped me to learn how to set aside money and advantages of living a debt free life.

Here are some useful tips that will help you to avoid debts and get rid of them fast:

1. Budgeting is the key to avoid

I realized that without following a budget, it is impossible to keep finance in order. I had no idea how to manage monthly bills along with those credit card payments.

John told me to follow a budget where I include debt payments as the main expenses including other necessary expenses like grocery, utility, transport, etc.

By doing so, I noticed an improvement in my money managing skills. Dealing with bills became easier. And trust me, you never experience financial difficulties if you honestly follow a budget.

2. Cut down junk expenses to set aside money

I truly felt restless and unprotected when the situation needed to save every dollar. But, you have to set aside money if you want to get rid of debts.

To do so, you need to cut down unnecessary expenses like eating out, partying, clubbing, subscribing to unwanted things, etc.

I did the same and was able to save some extra dollar so that I could make extra debt payments.

3. Live within your means

Living a lavish life leads to debts. If you spend more than you earn, you will soon fall into debts.

After college, I started earning but I went overindulged and used to spend more than I earned. Most of the time, I used credit cards randomly, which was enough to accumulate huge credit card debts. Extravagant lifestyle only welcomes debt; so, you need to live within your means.

How can you do so?

  • Eat homemade food as much as possible. Try a PBJ.
  • Carry a water bottle and lunch from home.
  • Skip expensive morning latte from Starbucks. You can make your own coffee that tastes same as Starbucks at home.
  • Plan short trips instead of long and expensive gateways.
  • Practice home exercise and yoga instead of paying a big amount for a gym.
  • Shop grocery when you need and also reduce wasting food.

4. Make your credit card bill payments on time

You should deal with your credit cards responsibly. You shouldn’t buy an item, using a credit card, that you can’t afford; because making credit card bill payment within the stipulated time is very important.

If you avoid paying credit card bills on time, you will shorty fall into costly credit card debts.

5. Save money as much as possible

I took out an auto loan and bought an expensive car, which was a fatal mistake. To pay off the auto loan, I sold the car. Later, I bought a small car with cash. It took quite a bit of time to save money for the car, but buying a car with cash is actually a win-win deal.

6. Consider a side hustle

You should boost your income to get rid of debts fast. Earning some extra, like these extra ways to make money, will allow you to make extra debt payments. You can also be able to save a certain amount, which is a good way to avoid falling into further debts. I started part-time blogging to earn some extra. I had a full-time job, but the income was not upto the mark; the extra income helped me to pay off the credit card debt fast.

7. Get rid of junks to get out of debts

You should remove all the junks. Try to remove junk expenses and junk goods. By doing so, you can easily save money that you can use for debt payments.

8. Choose the right debt payoff strategy

I have mentioned earlier that I couldn’t continue with the debt settlement program due to its high cost. I didn’t have a well-paid job; so, I gave up. But enrolling in a debt settlement program helped me to pay off the highest interest debt fast.

Though a settlement program is a good debt repayment option, it is a costly one. It will also impact your credit score since you are not paying the total debt.

On the other hand, DIY debt repayment options are also effective. You can choose either debt snowball or debt avalanche to get rid of the debt on your own. You don’t need to pay money to a third party debt relief company.

Lastly, I should agree that living a debt free life is amazing. At least you can sleep peacefully without worrying about creditors’ calls. The debt payoff journey made me more mature and complete. Thank you for reading my debt payoff journey patiently.

The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

I’m about to save you thousands of dollars.

All the money you spend in your life, or even an average month. Chances are one of your largest expenses is food. It happens, literally to everyone.

Eating Out Is The Worst For Your Wallet

So when people start to track their budgets, they always come to the same conclusion. “I need to quit eating out more”. Get this, the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average according to a 2016 survey conducted by Zagat.

“the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average”

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you earn lots of money, is the obvious answer to eat in?

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can quit going out to start having nice and relaxing meals in. Here’s the thing with eating in, the movies get it wrong.

It’s not always a romantic and soothing experience.

Often times it’s a “Crap, I need to eat. What should I cook?” experience that you pray to the food gods you have the right ingredients in your fridge and dishes are clean.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying new ingredients for a new recipe we found on the internet.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon over two decades collected data as consultants for consumer packaged goods companies. He found that:

  • 15% of people say they LOVE to cook
  • 50% of people say they HATE to cook
  • 35% of people say they are ambivalent about cooking (mixed feelings)

If you’re one of the people that hate cooking, you should create a meal plan to make it as easy as possible. Plan a week in advance what you’re going to eat for each meal and know how to cook it. This way you’ll have the ingredients and can plan accordingly for time.

However, not all plans work out.

Introduce The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

When meal plans fail, let me introduce Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, otherwise known as a PBJ.

Let me first admit that I have an addiction to commenting on Finance forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs. The mechanics of building wealth are simple and I’m always happy to remind people that things are often more simple than they appear. Like how I responded this comment and created “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory”.

I get it, you want to start saving money on food and you’re looking for suggestions from the personal finance community to help.

Answers ranged from getting a crockpot to make meals simple, cooking large meals on Sunday and eating leftovers throughout the week, to buying frozen meals that may not be great for you, but easy to prepare.

All of the responses skirted around the idea that a solid weekly meal plan is the best option to help you save money on food. However, sometimes these meals don’t work out for a number of reasons and one fall off the wagon can end up at the local McDonalds.

So I introduced the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory. The cost-effective, quickest meal ever to keep your budget on track.

This is easily the most actionable thing you can do to start immediately saving on your food budget. In many cases when people eat out, it’s due to convenience because they don’t have anything at home that sounds appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

Stash emergency PB&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry but have nothing else, eat a PB&J. If you’re not hungry for a PB&J, wait 2 hours until you’re hungry enough to eat a PB&J.

Sometimes a PBJ isn’t exactly what you’re craving and your favorite restaurant sounds better, or your “husband would not be happy about that” (see comment). Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your husband a jet ski. Everyone loves a jet ski.

Try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

If you want to save THOUSANDS on food budgets, you should try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory! Meals cost less than $1 to make, you’ll save time and money. Most importantly, you’ll have a secret stash of PBJs to make when you get those cravings to go out and spend money.

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Wallet Squirrel did not invent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, just an advocate of saving money. Wallet Squirrel was not sponsored by big PBJ corporations to promote their superior and delicious product.

How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – How I paid off $7K in 3 Months

How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – How I paid off $7K in 3 Months

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Today it is your turn to learn how to pay off your car loan faster.  Over the last three months (May to August), my wife and I have worked really hard to pay off our car loan.

I can now say, as of the end of August we finally did it! What an amazing feeling it is to free up $405 a month to tackle other debt we have. Ugh….student loans…

We took a multi-faceted approach to tackling this debt so we could start focusing on our combined $90,000 student loan debt.

Where to Start

To start off with how to pay off your car loan faster, you need to create a roadmap. Do not just jump into the process without a plan on how you will tackle debt so aggressively.

This roadmap should look to answer three questions. When? How? What? You should look at when do you want to pay it off by. Then look at how and what you can do that will help pay that car loan off faster.

You will want to make sure that you choose items that are feasible for you to achieve. I want you to be successful in paying off your car loan faster!

It is a good thing I have a list of easy ideas for you to use. Let’s get started!

Refine that Budget

One of the first things we did was take a serious look at our budget to find where we could cut down costs. We decided to cut our weekly grocery bill by 25%. We also cut our entertainment budget along with our utilities.

Take a look at your budget to determine what categories can be trimmed down in costs. Some easy categories to start looking at first are entertainment, eating out, groceries, or utilities. I use Mint to help organize our budget and see where we are actually spending.

One sneaky way we adjusted our budget was during the summer. We were able to temporarily remove our son’s daycare expense. As a teacher, my wife has the summer off so we were able to pull him out of daycare for 10 weeks. This ended up saving us $3,000!

mint can be a great tool to help refine your budget so you can pay off your car loan faster

Cutting Excess Spending

Cutting excess spending goes along the same lines with refining our budget. I look at refining your budget as a high overview and cutting excess spending as working on the nitty-gritty details.

So how did we cut out our excess spending? Easy. Start by looking at each expense you have and ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want?” If it is a need, then keep it. If it is a want, then it needs to be cut out. Do you really need to pick up a pop every day on your way to work (Personal example)? Probably not.

We made the cut with our cable bill. We didn’t need it anymore so I canceled it, just leaving us with our internet. This saved us 50% a month on our cable/internet bill.

Couponing on Necessary Spending

Of course, there are plenty of items that are necessary. These include groceries, cell phone, gas, and so on.

In today’s digital world it is so easy to find coupons to help us save money. I recommend grabbing the Honey extension for your internet browser to help you with necessary online shopping (see review here). Then for in-store shopping, I would download the Ibotta app on your cell phone (see review here).

These apps help my wife and I save money each and every week which in turn can be used to pay off our car loan faster.

use the Ibotta app to pay of your car loan faster

Selling Unnecessary Items

If you read my How to Get Rid of Distractions article, you know I was trying to sell items around the house that I did not need in my life anymore. Well, I did sell most of the items on my list. This money helped us shave off nearly $1,000 from the car loan. Pretty awesome right!?!?

Your assignment is to look at the items you barely use around your house. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Does it help me towards my goals or does it distract me from them?” If you do not need the item or it is a distraction, it is time to sell it. You can either sell the item on Craig’s list or eBay to help you earn some extra cash to pay off your car loan faster.

Side Hustling

I could write a whole book about side hustling, in fact, some people have. So this will be a 30,000-foot level overview about earning extra money so you can pay off your car loan faster.

Side hustling consists of extra gigs you do to earn extra money on top of your full-time job. These gigs could be selling photography, driving for Uber, delivering for Amazon, freelance writing, and so on.

I have used any income that has come from Wallet Squirrel or my photography sales to help my wife and I widdle down our car loan.

For more ideas, check out our list of side hustles that Andrew and I have actually tried out.

Remove Temptation

Advertisements are everywhere to tempt us with the latest coolest gadgets for purchase. Giving in to these temptations is a weakness of mine because I am such a materialistic person. So I had to find a way to minimize these temptations so I did not want to go out and buy things I did not need.

For me, the biggest culprit was all of those emails from retailers that I love such as REI. To help reduce these, I started using Unroll.Me to unsubscribe me from all of those pesky emails.

Whatever might be tempting you, try to find a way to remove that trigger to spend excessively.

Staying Focused

The last item on this list is the centerpiece that brings all of this together. You need to stay focused on your final goal.

I like to have my overarching goal written down with every subgoal that is going to get me to the final goal underneath it. Then I look at these goals on a weekly basis deciding on which subgoal I am going to accomplish. It feels so good to check those subgoals off knowing that I am one notch closer to completing that overarching goal.

Now Go Save!

Now it is your turn to go out and save to pay off your car loan faster.

How do you plan on tackling this debt?