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17 Ways We Paid Off $20,000 of Debt In 7 Months

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17 Ways We Paid Off $20,000 of Debt In 7 Months

If you’re anything like me, having debt makes it extremely hard for you to relax. I hate knowing that I owe money. I would get sick over it because I knew that it wouldn’t be a quick fix. It would take time to pay off our debts and to build up a healthy savings account. Eventually I learned to have patience and paying off debt every month became a game to me. I hope you are able to implement some of these strategies to pay off your debt more quickly.

1. Two words – side gigs

I spent a lot of my free time doing side gigs. Since I don’t currently work due to graduate school, it was helpful to be able to contribute extra income to pay off debt. My favorites were photography, sewing, and reselling on Poshmark. Here is a list of many different side gigs to obtain extra income.

Total per month – $1,000

2. Kept $1,000 emergency fund in savings and the rest went towards debt

At this beginning of 2017, I started a bullet journal. One of my bullet journals was a savings tracker. Every day I was to put $10 away in a savings account. That started adding up really quickly. Within a few months, we had easily acquired over $1,000 for our emergency fund. We kept at it until Trent deployed six months later. After he left, we used the remaining to pay off our cars.

Total – $1,200

3. All of our extra money went straight towards debt

I mean all of it. Our tax return, deployment money, money from his TDY, birthday money, graduation money, bonuses…everything went towards debt.

Total – $9,500

4. Implemented the snowball method

So our debt consisted of a furniture loan ($170/mo), two cars ($250/mo and $120/mo), and two maxed out credit cards ($150/mo each). The first to get paid off was the furniture loan. So that extra $170 was put towards paying off the next smallest loan, Trent’s car. So then we were paying $290/mo on his car. As soon as that was paid off, we took the money from the furniture and Trent’s car to pay off my car, making it $540/mo. Then when everything was paid off, there was $840/mo extra to go towards the credit cards.

5. Set goals – reach a goal and we each got $100 to spend

You’ve got to have a system to keep yourself motivated. It’s extremely overwhelming to set a large goal. This is why you need to set smaller goals in between to keep yourself going. Whether it is after paying off each debt or after paying off a certain percentage, you need to reward yourself.

6. We cut back on our bills

We called all of our providers and got our bills lowered. Tell them you can no longer afford their prices and that you need to cancel your account with them. They will do whatever they can to keep you as a customer. This is when you negotiate your payment amount.

Total saved per month – $150

7. We meal prepped

With Trent being on an off shift and me having night classes, meal prepping became a necessity so we didn’t eat so much fast food all the time! We picked four meals a week and that’s what we would eat (two for lunch and two for dinner). Not only did we save a lot of money to put towards debt, we both got healthier as well! This cut our grocery budget in half!

Total saved per month – $150

8. We didn’t forget to live life – like a diet, if you go to hardcore you’ll burn out

Just take a different approach – don’t have fun until you can pay cash for it. When you want to go away for the weekend or buy a fun toy or go out to eat, if you have to charge it on your credit card, you can’t afford to do it yet. Keep saving! You’ll get there!

9. Change your mentality to “this is a lifestyle change” – you will mess up some months and others you’ll do great!

If I have to pick the most important piece of advice out of this entire post, it would be this one right here. Paying off debt is a lifestyle change. If you go too hard and don’t give yourself a chance to live your life, you’ll be miserable.

Just understand that it is going to be normal to mess up and don’t get too down on yourself when those months happen.

10. Utilized savings apps and pulled them out every 2-3 months to put towards debt

I use three savings apps that save me an average of an extra $300 each month.

Digit – this app watches your finances on a daily basis and sees what you can afford to save. The advanced algorithm does not allow the app to overdraft your account, and on the off chance it does, they will refund you! They recommend that you set up a limit. If your bank account hits that limit, it will not withdraw anymore until you have more money. Sign up here to start saving more towards paying off debt!

Acorns – this is a free investing app. It rounds up all of your purchases (IE: you spend $9.41, it’ll round it up to $10 and save the $.59) and when all the roundups have totaled to $5, it’ll pull the $5 from your account and put it into your investments. It is also recommended that you pull out a certain amount each week for an automatic withdrawal which can be as little as $5! If you’re interested in an easy way to save that spare change, sign up here to receive your first $5 on them!

Stash – this is an investment app that is free to download and very credible! You set up an amount to be withdrawn from your account every week (as little as $5) and you can choose which companies you want to invest in! If you’re interested in adding a little investment to your savings, I’d recommend signing up for an account here! As a thank you, they will give your account with an extra $5 to start out with!

Check out this post I’ve written on 5 apps that I use that have saved me over $5,000!

11. Get a commission/tip based job

I love love love commission based jobs! There is no limit to how much you can make. I used to sell furniture and would make an average of $3,000 each month! Pick up a waiting gig and earn those tips! My sister was a waitress at Ballpark Village for the St. Louis Cardinals and on opening weekend alone, she made $2,000!

12. Stay organized and review your budget every month

This is important. If you want to succeed, make sure that you keep a close eye on your spending and budgeting. Track your purchases and see where everything is going. Here are some great budgeting printables that you can print for free!

Review at the beginning and end of each month to see how you did compared to how you thought you would’ve done. This really kept our spending in check. We were also disgusted by how much fast food we were eating.

13. Be prepared for emergencies

Don’t start paying off debt until you have $1,000 in savings. An emergency does not constitute as needing a new outfit for a job interview or forgetting you had a bill to pay. An emergency fund is usually for car troubles or medical emergencies.

14. Cash system

Trent and I allow ourselves $50/week of free spending. With this cash, we can do whatever we want with it. This is guilt free money and allows you to have some fun. Whatever you don’t spend at the end of the week, that goes directly towards debt. It’ll become a challenge for you eventually to see how little you can actually spend! By doing this, we saved an extra $1,000 in cash in six months!

Also, set aside every $5 bill you get while using your cash. It’s enough to make a difference, but not enough to realize it’s missing.

15. Balance transfer

Look into cards that offer 0% interest for balance transfers. Even better, look for ones that offer rewards as well! We switched to the Capital One Quicksilver card. This card had a 3% fee to transfer the balance, but it was 0% interest for 15 months.

16. Made our own fun/free cheap date nights

You know what? The best memories I have with Trent are not the ones where we spent $100 on dinner or a couples massage. Our favorites are the ones where we spend $10 on fast food pizza and spend the night eating ice cream and playing Crash Bandicoot together.

The amount of money you spend on a date does not matter. It’s the connection you are able to have with the other person.

Erica from Coming Up Roses compiled a list of 33 date night ideas under $20. Trent and I loved some of these ideas and have done them ourselves!

17. Kept our faith and prayed

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, everything we have is because we put our faith and trust in God. The blessings have been immeasurable! When God sees you praying about something, he wants you to give up total control. When you are able to give up total control (much harder than it sounds), miracles will start to happen. That’s what we did. I couldn’t take the worrying or obsessing anymore over debt, finally, I just threw my hands up and asked God to deal with it! It was still difficult, but he provided in ways that we definitely did not deserve.

Pay off debt

What ways have you paid off debt? I’d love to hear more about them! Your tips might be featured in an upcoming post!

This link does contain affiliate links. If you use them, I may receive a small compensation at no cost to you. Thank you for your support and good luck on your journey!

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(21) Comments

  1. Loved reading this post! It’s so rewarding to set goals and then get them accomplished. So, congrats! 🙂 I’m going to keep updated on your journey!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you so much, Christian! It was such a amazing feeling! Next goal is to save $20,000 😉😊

  2. Congratulations! I always love seeing people share all the ways that they saved or paid off debt! Too often, I see articles that simply say “eat at home” or “cut cable” and that’s it.

    Thank you for going into detail and sharing all the little choices that really add up. I’m excited to see how quickly you can start saving and investing without debt being a burden! 😀

    Congratulations again!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you so much!! I’m glad you didn’t get that vibe of just “eat at home” or “cut cable”. So many posts I’ve seen have been like that and it was always super frustrating to me! I hope to provide strategies that people are actually able to utilize and make the most of them!

  3. I will be using this. THANK you. It feels like I will never get out of it sometimes

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      I completely understand!! It took us a few years of going back and forth before we were finally able to hit our stride and make it happen! Don’t give up, it’s so worth the stress and heartache when you’re done!!

  4. This is awesome! This month we will complete paying off almost $100,000 in student loans…it took us six years and we used a lot of these tips as well!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you, Courtney! Congratulations are in order for you!! What an exciting time!!! Holy cow! That’s amazing that it took you only six years to pay off that large of a loan! How awesome! I hope you guys have a little celebration!

  5. Great tips! I love reading about how people paid down debt. It’s possible but requires hard work and sacrifice. It’s worth it!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you, Misty! Yes, it’s a difficult time, but for now, you have to live like nobody else so one day you can live like nobody else!

  6. Great post! I really like the idea of having goals and a reward when you meet them. Meal prepping is something I’ve always wanted to do but never seem to really get in to…. Might give that another go this week. thanks

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Suzy, thank you so much!! Goals and rewards is a system that my therapist taught me and I use it for everything in life!! Good luck meal prepping, there are some awesome recipes out there!

  7. I loved reading your post! My husband and I started budgeting last month and we went overboard by $250, so now we’re really do our best to stick to it this August!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you, Roxci! When we started, we went over so many months in a row!! It’s a lifestyle change you’ll get used to!! Good luck in August! I’m excited to hear more about your journey!

  8. Congratss!! OMg I finally paid of some of mine too and now we’re looking into buying our first home! So happy! Takes process but glad I can take steps towards it! Thanks for the tipss!!!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Congratulations to you as well!! It’s so worth the process! I hope you find the home of your dreams!

  9. Congrats on paying off so much debt!! We paid off all debt back in 2015 and it felt absolutely amazing….and then we moved to California. It’s safe to say, we’re far from debt-free living here lol but we’re moving back to the east coast next month and we’re SO excited to get rid of this debt again.

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Congratulations on paying everything off in 2015! I can imagine being in California would make it easy to rack up debt!! Good luck on your move and safe travels!! Can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

  10. It always feels so rewarding as you watch your debt chip away. Living debt-free is such a relief. Congratulations! Now, the fun part begins as you watch your money start to grow!

    1. sarahbanwart says:

      Thank you, Rachael! It’s definitely the fun part now!! Can’t believe I ever lived any other way!

  11. Thank you for this! My husband and I are getting serious about paying down our debts and I am planning on using the snowball method for us too. I think it will feel really rewarding once we finally hit a couple smaller goals to keep us going towards the big ones.

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