Hi! My name is Amanda, I’m 27 years old and I’m a college graduate. I just earned my Bachelors Degree in Psychology in California. As of February 2017, I paid a total of $10,400.28 of debt in 6 MONTHS while making $20K a year!

How did you acquire $10,800 in debt? What did that debt consist of?

In June 2016, we had a big tragedy happen. We lost an income in our household. I was on summer vacation, and only making about $1,600 a month, and our rent was $1,400. All of a sudden, I found myself having to come up with our rent money within TWO WEEKS, when I had no money saved. I eventually had to move due to the insane cost of living.

My debt consisted of credit cards, a loan, medical bills, court fees, a partial car loan, a cell phone, utilities, a towing fee, and a credit line for car repairs.

What did it feel like to have that much debt?

I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and no amount of work was going to save me. I basically didn’t have a social life. I was either working, finding extra work, or researching blogs and ways to make money. I did everything I could to get into the flow of paying off debt, but then an emergency would happen and I would be sideswiped.

How long did it take you to pay it all off?

As of March 2017, with the exception of $4,600 for my car loan and my $16,000 student loan, I have paid off $10,800 of debt in 6 MONTHS. I was very shocked while crunching the numbers.

What resources did you use to help you through this process?

My grandmother was a HUGE force in my life. Before I moved in with her, I did everything I could to keep up with rent, utilities, and my debt. Since I wasn’t in school during the crisis, I worked as much as I could, got a pay advance, had a yard sale, sold my stuff on Facebook, and started cleaning houses.

I also lived very frugally with the use of my gas and food, and I collected change wherever I could. I managed to make things work for about two months, and then I decided the best choice would be for me to move in and look after my grandmother while I was finishing school. Trying to work multiple jobs and go to school full time (I had to commute 400 miles a week round trip) wasn’t going to realistically work.

My boyfriend was also so wonderful to me, and helped me get ahead by filling my gas tank when I needed it, helping me with groceries, and letting me vent when I was struggling financially. We are both a fan of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, and I have been watching YouTube videos about how to become more financially free. We talk about marriage, having children, and saving for the future. We both want to be financially sound when the time comes.

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Did you face any challenges along the way?

Other than becoming sleep deprived, sometimes I felt like I was living by the seat of my pants. I was always on the go. I don’t believe I ever had a real challenge that I couldn’t overcome with a debt vlogger’s YouTube video to realign myself. I was immersed deeply in “flow” (psychology term for steadfastly focused) and didn’t let anything stop me, not even Amazon deals or expensive coffee runs. People thought I was crazy for working so much, especially while getting my degree. I didn’t always look my best, and coffee became my best friend.

What were you doing for a living while you were paying off the debt?

I work in a busy marketing office, and had been gratefully accepting opportunities to work overtime. I also started cleaning houses on the side, sometimes making a couple hundred bucks in a weekend.

How did it feel once you paid it all off?

I couldn’t register any feelings once I paid that last medical bill, until I started seeing my savings accounts grow! I’ve started to save money for the first time on my own, and it feels good. I’m way less stressed and I can focus on things that give me joy.

I have a savings account, a 401K, a wedding fund, and an emergency fund. Every week, the extra money that would have gone towards my debt now goes into savings. My handful of bills that aren’t debt are much easier to manage, and I feel like I can actually plan for the future.

I advise people to learn to save, otherwise you’ll never really value ANYTHING you have. Instead, you keep buying things you want, but those things will never be enough and they don’t lead to real happiness. My next financial goal is to pay off my car. I’m also in the beginnings of starting my own Etsy business, and I’d like to go back to school to get my Masters degree in either Social Work or Child Development.

What practical tips do you have for people looking to pay off their debt?

Start paying as much as possible towards the debts that accumulate interest! My grandpa taught me this lesson when I was in junior high.  I made regular payments on medical bills, but I didn’t worry as much about them because there was no interest attached. I also negotiated payment plans that were reasonable, and made every attempt to lower all of my bills and interest rate (car insurance, car payment, cell phone plan, etc.)

Sometimes, we have to make tough choices in order to be financially free. I was used to being on my own and independent, but I had been attempting to live beyond my means. I didn’t know how to say “no” to people or myself, and I always wanted to buy stuff just because I wanted it. Getting out of debt has allowed me to save for myself, help others, raise my credit score to 700 to 761, and actually live my life instead of working to barely survive. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to share my story, and I hope others can achieve this level of happiness.

Want to pay your debt off quickly? Here are some things you can do:

Get a lower interest rate – SoFi will refinance your credit card debt to as low as 5.99% so that you can pay your debt off even faster. They refinance student loans as well 🙂

Online surveys – You can get paid for taking surveys online in your spare time. Three of the most reputable companies to check out are Survey JunkieHarris Poll and Opinion Outpost. If you sign up for all three then the more survey opportunities you will have.

Evaluate Products – get paid to evaluate products before they even hit the shelf with Pinecone Research.

Sell your old textbooks – Do you have old textbooks lying around? Turn those into cash with Bookscouter. They have people that are looking to buy textbooks and will even give you a label to ship the book for free.

Cut the cord – Are you tired of paying for channels that you don’t use? Check out SlingTV where you can get major TV channels like ESPN, Disney, AMC and more for only $20 per month!

Use the Debt Snowball – We used this method to pay off $52,000 of debt in 18 months. Download my free Debt Snowball worksheet here.

Refinance Your Student Loans or Credit Cards

With the average credit card interest rate around 15%, this could save you a ton of money over the long haul. Check out Credible who will help you refinance your credit card debt to as low as 5.99%.

Want to refinance your student loans? Credible can help you get as low as 2.78% APR. Use this link to get $150 cash back if you get approved for refinancing your student loan. The average graduate who refinances through Credible saves $18,668!