How She Paid off $8,400 in Debt in Just 90 Days

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Lauren Bowling headshot

Well Kept Wallet chats with Lauren Bowling, who obliterated over $8K in debt and even started a blog about it. Find out what she did to pay down her debt and stay sane.

How did you acquire $8,400 in debt?

I battled with credit card debt throughout college and graduated with $10K in debt when I left school in 2009. By late 2011, I was debt free and managed to remain so until I bought my first home in July 2013.

I lumped a renovation in with the mortgage, but the renovation went crazy over budget (Thanks to a crook of a contractor and my own negligence as a first-time buyer!), so I put the $8,400 or so in renovation overages onto my credit cards.

Emotionally exhausted from the renovation, I ignored the debt and just paid the minimums for about a year until I decided to get serious about paying it off. Some of the money was on a 0% APR card, but the rest of the balances were quickly escalating because of all the interest.

What did it feel like to have that much debt?

Honestly? Super embarrassing. I made a living by teaching others how to be better with money, and here I was, committing the “ultimate sin” by carrying high-interest card debt.

The debt was also a strong reminder of what a hard time I’d had with the renovation, the relationship I was in at the time, and it felt like a lot of unnecessary baggage I didn’t want to keep around anymore.

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

I’m big on doing 30-day challenges on my site, so I began to brainstorm how I could make a “challenge” out of paying off all my credit card debt.

Paying off all that debt in 30 days was completely unrealistic, but I began to dream about how I might be able to accomplish it in 90 days.

To help keep myself accountable, I decided to document my progress publicly on my blog, Financial Best Life. As a personal finance blogger, I didn’t want to fail in front of my audience, so that really helped keep me on track!

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

Good, old-fashioned, goal setting best practices, mostly. But I had to get super granular with it, and I tracked my payoff weekly, which helped a lot because I was working with such a short time frame.

I also did a couple of other things I feel were key to my success.

  • First I picked my goal, $8,400 and “reverse engineered” my goals from there. To pay that off in 90 days I’d have to pay $2,800 a month or $1,400 every two weeks.
  • I put a small portion of my emergency savings toward paying off the debt (~$1,000) because I figured the debt was costing me more than that in the long term. (I also made sure I left enough in savings for actual emergencies.) It was also a nice jumpstart to my challenge and left me making $1,200 payments every two weeks.
  • I used the debt repayment tracker that I now offer on my site as a way to track progress.
  • I cut my budget to the bare bones and got creative with ways to make extra cash.
  • To stay motivated, I also created a vision board which I’d never done before. It helped me articulate what I wanted my life to look like after the debt was gone.

Did you face any challenges along the way?

Mostly just fatigue. I was taking on extra work, and that’s basically all I did for 90 days. It also got harder and harder to keep saying no to friends and family who wanted to go out and do things. But hey, it was only for 90 days!

Honestly — It took up all my free time to focus on my big goal: making sure the cards got paid. Not having time or energy to do much else was the most challenging part, and I was definitely exhausted by the time it was over. But paying off debt on any time frame is exhausting, which is why I like the idea of accelerated payoff.

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

I was working full time as a marketing content strategist for a great software company in Atlanta. I made $60K a year and was bringing home ~$3,800 after taxes each month. $400 of each paycheck ($800 per month) went directly to my debt, and the rest was used to pay my bills.

I was also relying heavily on my “side hustle” as a freelance writer, and earnings from my blog to make extra money to pay down debt. I made ~$2,700 each month on that after expenses, which is where the majority of the debt payoff money came from.

I did pretty much anything I could do to make extra side cash: selling items, babysitting, asking my friends if they needed work, etc. I even got paid to do a little voice-over work for a friend, which was fun!

How did it feel once you paid it all off?

It felt so incredible! Maybe even more empowering than the first time I paid off cards after college because the goal was so aggressive and I had to focus so completely to get it done.

I’d taken on so many new clients during my “challenge” who wanted me to continue working that I was able to leave my full-time job to work for myself shortly after I completed the challenge. I’d always wanted to be my own boss, and with the debt gone, there wasn’t anything holding me back.

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

Start backward: look at your debt, set a realistic timeline based on your personality (Are you slow and steady or want to be aggressive?) and set a monthly goal.

Also, even though you have to sacrifice your free time, side hustling is a fantastic way to bring in extra cash to pay off your debt faster. It can be addictive to put such large amounts toward your debt each month!

Lauren who paid off her debt

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  1. Congratulations!!! That’s an awesome accomplishment!! I too want to get out of $150K debt. You are an inspiration:)
    I don’t have a lot of stuff laying around but would like to clean out a lot of really large furniture pieces.
    What an easy way to sell stuff in your house!

    1. That’s awesome to hear! I believe you can do it! Best of luck! Selling some stuff is a great way to get started!

  2. Pran erpa says:

    Hi. This article is beautiful. How she has paid all her debts is amazing. Congratulations! 🙂
    I’m a student studying in a foreign country and I cannot do any extra jobs here as I am not allowed to. I did not get my student loan and I am unable to pay my fees as my parents are in a tight position. Is there any other way I can earn money and secure my career? I cannot lose my career. Can you help please? Thank you.

    1. Her story is definitely an inspiration!

  3. Thanks for sharing! It takes a lot of time and energy to pay that off. So, manageable goals are best so that a person doesn’t burn out.

  4. Sensationalism sells. This has been true for ages, am I right? It’s what helps bring that income to your blog. However, the blogger fails to realize that these sensational titles may catch readers, but many of these readers are those earning $50,000 and less. They are in debt and wondering just how they can get out of the trap. Then comes an article where someone is earning the equivalent of $120,000 or more and is single, no less, and tells their tale of how they took $2700 a month of their income and turned it into paying off their debt. This situation is fully impossible for a single mom with a kid or two earning $50,000 a year ,or less, or a family of 4 earning $60,000. Please stop with the sensationalism because it only serves to make those less fortunate feel even more depressed rather than helping them.

    1. Hi, April. Thanks for your comment. As you can see, she was earning $60,000 from her full-time job. The rest of her income came from working outside of her normal day job. Don’t forget that her extra income hadn’t been taxed, so really she wasn’t getting to keep all of that income either. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

    2. April, don’t let anyone bullshit you. This situation may not be for you. There are many ways to do it and I’d like to offer one, if I may.

      I was making a pretty good living and spent 8 years climbing the ladder. My income was meeting my expenses and I wasn’t hurting. I took a job based on prestige to help pave my way to a well off life. Unfortunately, this would be my undoing. I started as a 6-month contract to hire. The employer and I had an arrangement that the contract rate would roll over into full-time and the pay would remain the same.

      After 6 months, the employer purchased my contract from the subcontractor and made up some excuse where they misreport my actual salary and it wasn’t written into the budget. It was cut by $14,000. Three months later, I was made an “exempt employee”, meaning I was no longer able to collect overtime even though I still had to work it. That cost me about $15,000. A year later, I lost a professional retainer that I had coming in on the side which cost me another $12,000. In all, this job cost me $41,000 in income. I had large debts, 2 brand new vehicles, a new motorcycle, a house, and everything in between. At this point, I am no longer able to make those obligations. This is how I got out.

      First, don’t be get behind on your essentials. You need food, water, trash service, electricity, a roof over your head, and a vehicle. Those take precedence over everything else.

      Second, the trick is not paying off the highest interest first. It’s financial leverage, meaning the more money you can free up, the better off you are. Most people have a bunch of little debts that nickel and dime them to death. Tackle those next. For example, if you have a $4000 credit card but the payment is only $50/month vs 4 smaller bills that are $4000 in total but cost $25/Mo each. Pay the smaller bills off one at a time. In both cases, you paid off $4000, but now you have freed up $100/Mo instead of $50. Now you can apply more to the principal of the next smallest debt in the list.

      What’s more important is that now you can handle a larger unexpected expense without incurring more debt. It also gives you quick wins faster and keeps you motivated. The more people that know you are doing it (family and close friends), the better. It keeps you accountable and on track.

      If you find you are over extended, remember to pay the essentials first, like your car, house, utilities and food. Then, start with small debts and work your way up. Also, if you are already over extended, worry about keeping the debts that have not yet gone to collections from going there.

      Best wishes

  5. Is that Credible information part of this article, or is that a paid ad? I’m just wondering…student loans etc…

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      This is not a paid ad. This is a real story from my friend Lauren. Credible is just a good solution for those who are looking to pay off their debt faster at a lower interest rate.

  6. As inspiring as these testimonies are, some of us have to be realistic. I went into debt due to losing hours and OT to only 35 hours a week. This made me behind in everything I owed. If that wasn’t enough of a blow, I was in a wreck and had to get a new vehicle. This gave me more debt (my car was already paid for).
    Realistically, for me or anyone else that this would have happened to, there is no way to pay $1,200-$1,400 every two weeks when that isn’t even close to what I’m making. At this point in time, I don’t even make that much a month!! I know you’ll say to get another job. I have two and it still doesn’t meet what you’ve recommended. I’m actually $1,500 short every month. Playing catch-up is not fun, especially when your creditors don’t care about what happened. They only want the money.

  7. Paul Etheridge says:

    Hi. This is a great article and a great job!
    I was unable to find the “debt repayment tracker”, though. Is the link no good?

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      It looks like that form is no longer available from LB. However, feel free to use my mortgage tracker which you can use for tracking any kind of debt. It’s right on our website.

  8. The point may be to start somewhere and that is a good point. However, it is completely discouraging and depressing to read the headline and then learn that it is unrealistic to people like me, and the others who have expressed the same, who make no where near 60k. I am not anywhere near poor making $16 and raising two young toddlers. But when I read a headline that gives me the barest of hope that I may get out from under my student loan faster only to learn that I don’t make enough to realistically pull that off it becomes quite depressing! This blog article did NOTHING to assist me. I already put what I can and do EVERYTHING this woman has done but will still be paying off this debt for a minimum of a year yet.

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      Hi Lindsay, it would be tough to get out of debt trying to raise two kids on only $16/hour. The takeaway from Laurens story is that she made extra money on the side to pay off her debt in a short period of time. Freelance writing is a great way to do this with kids as it gives you the ability to write when they take naps or go down for bed. There are many other ways, but this is one of the main things Lauren did to pay off $8,400 in debt in 90 days. We have on our site a list of 80 plus ways. Hopefully you can find something helpful in the article. Be sure to check it out.

    2. Lindsay
      Don’t think that people who make this kind of money just woke up one day and made that money. It takes experience and years of hard work. Yes, we have children, but they are adults. Remember the saying, “the more you make, the more you spend”.

  9. Robin Bryant says:

    I think the point is to start somewhere. If you sit in all your doom and gloom, then yes, you will never get out of debt.

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Robin. That was well said!

    2. That is it in a nutshell. Well said.

  10. Stuff like this is inspiring until you read the part where the person makes $60K a year on their main job and is single or married and both of them make a combined $80K a year. Some have “side hustles” that make an extra $32K a year, so that woman is making around $92K a year… Yeah, people like that CAN pay off debt fast. Try doing it when you are making $32K or less a year and married.

  11. I would add trying to transfer as much debt onto a 0% interest card if you can’t do a 90 day pay off. If you then put most of your money on the smallest left-over card, pay it off, and then dump all of the money on the next card, it really helps – especially if you are making less than $50,000 a year. Always pay minimum plus interest at the very least.

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      I think the challenge with doing a balance transfer is that it delays the urgency of paying off the debt. I like how Lauren just worked hard and made extra money on the side without having to delay paying off her debt.

    2. This is a great article and great advice on minimum plus interest, at the least. I never thought about that! Thanks!

  12. How is this even an article? Where are your “how to” instructions? All I am seeing is someone who makes an extra $2700 per month doing side jobs. This is totally unrelatable.

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      Hi, Ashley. That is the essence of “How to” get out of debt, at least from Lauren’s story. She hustled and was able to make extra money on the side. I agree that $2,700 per month might not be realistic for everyone, but anyone can make side income to tackle their debt. People drive Uber at night, deliver pizzas, and provide freelance writing – you name it. I challenge you to figure out how you can make an extra $500 in the next 30 days and then let us know how that goes!

    2. How is that unrelatable? How else do you make money? YOU WORK. YOU SWEAT. What did you think, that a magical pony would bring you some cold hard cash one day? Find something you’re good at doing and make money doing it, or learn how to do something and make money doing it. If you want it badly, making extra money isn’t hard.

    3. Ashley, I totally agree. It’s big kudos to this young woman, who not only did what most dream of, but did it in record time. Being in good health, having a fantastic career, being a home owner, and having no one to care for but yourself is certainly a perfect scenario to achieve this success easily. As life throws curve balls, and your health, as well as the health of your spouse, becomes in jeopardy, attempting this task is even more out of reach than someone such as she. Happy for her! May her success continue.

  13. This post has great info! It’s so hard to do, but that hustle in bringing in more money and the slashing spending are the keys! Congrats!

  14. I am so glad that I ran across this article. My challenge begins now!

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      That’s awesome! Keep me posted in how you do over the next 90 days!

  15. What a great accomplishment! What was your typical payment each time you made a payment? Thanks.

    Pam C.

  16. No way would I ask friends if they had any work they needed done. I’m too much of a chicken. Haha

    Maybe I need to toughen up! I am focusing on paying off my second student loan right now and I think I’ll need to get creative.

    1. Deacon Hayes says:

      Thanks! I am glad you liked it, James.. Lauren is a rock-star for sure!

    1. That’s great if you have the capability to make $60K a year and can work extra for $2700.00 a month. Try supporting 2 teenagers on $17.00 an hour and cleaning houses in your spare time. Plus the fact that my health insurance is $10,000.00 a year. I can’t even dare to think of getting in debt in the first place. It must be nice to brag about how you can pay back so much so quickly. On your salary I could have done it without an extra job if I was only supporting myself.

      1. Deacon Hayes says:

        It sounds like you have a tough situation. However, because your life is challenging doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate those who have successes in life. Anyone can get out of debt, but for some people it can take longer based on their circumstances. I would recommend going to my recommendations page and downloading the starter budget form as a good place to start.

      2. I think it’s awesome that you were able to pay down your debt in a short amount of time. This article has motivated me to take a real look at my debt and set realistic goals. I believe it is doable. Thanks for sharing your story. It has truly motivated me. I have recently launched a new business to generate extra income. I’m currently working on launching my website. I love reading stories of people who set their own goals and achieve them. Thanks for sharing!

      3. I feel the same way when I read these types of articles. I wish it was a realistic solution.

      4. I hear you and understand were you’re coming from. Don’t give up hope and if you do have any debt (mortgage comes to mind), just keep nickle and diming it away. Every little bit helps. These young ones don’t understand what it’s like on an hourly wage. It took us years and years to get to a low end middle class income. I once read an article of what one penny can save off a credit card bill at 18 percent (it took over a month off the bill). Remember Carter and double digit inflation? They don’t, but I bet some might.

      5. These plans, at first, don’t sound realistic, but they all have something in common. You have a goal and your own plan. I learned that this works from a goal I had decades ago. I was in college, but I wanted to go to the Olympics. I saved $0.25 a day, and it worked. Over the years, things happen: your family grows, you gain debt, etc., etc. My goal now is just to save money. I misunderstood my friend’s suggestion of a plan, but I found out that it works for me. It’s not necessarily aggressive, but it’s doable, which is more important. I’m retired with credit card debt and a portion of my child’s college loan. What ever you do, tailor it to be YOUR plan and be consistent.

      6. I agree.

      7. I completely agree! Who needs a second job when you’re making that much??!!

      8. Deacon Hayes says:

        You have to keep in mind where people live. In NYC, $60,000 per year is barely enough to pay rent, where in a more rural area you could have a nice lifestyle. So, for some people, they need a second job if they live in a city with a high cost of living.

      9. Saphia Louise says:

        I think this is very realistic. It’s stated in the post ” set a realistic timeline based on your personality (are you slow and steady or do you want to be aggressive?”

        Sometimes we think too far ahead and try to figure how long it will take us to clear debt. But, that fear of it never being done makes us settle for just paying the minimums on our card. I only make $40K a year and this post motivated me to create my own chart, analyze my debt, and put a step forward to clearing it.

        This was very helpful for me and, as she said, it depends on your personality and whether you want to get it done now or later. We all have obstacles that will come in our way, but as long as we budget and really, really sacrifice the needs vs the wants, we can definitely tackle our debt and be free from it eventually.

      10. Yes, this is true. I also live across the river in New Jersey and make $65,000 and live paying $2500 a month for a one bedroom apartment without parking.
        If you have two teenage kids and work for $17.00 an hour, you need to look for another job that at least provides insurance.

      11. That’s all good and is possible if you are single and have no children to support. I am working my way to being debt free. I don’t have that large of an amount – my credit card bills total $1700.00. So, some would say that is nothing, but for me it is. I am also paying off my car and plan to buy a house in the near future. Good luck to everyone.

      12. Wow! I’m sure there is more to your story than the hard times.. Sounds like she had a good job with a degree, maybe no children & good money managing skills, as well as time management & patients.

      13. I understand you because I have been through it, like you. I even have 3 kids and a dog and make less at work than you make. However, I have found some ways to pay off my debt by making extra money besides my job (that didn’t pay really well). It took me over a year to pay off the debt, but I did it.

        I learned that the important thing is always to respect people who are doing well in their lives.

        If you look for people who do the same thing as you do, you’ll never find solutions. You will stay in the same circle.

        I hope you can find ways to pay off debt. I really believe that there is always something you can do to make the situation better.

      14. Good for you that you got your debt paid off. Each persons’s journey out of debt is different based on their circumstances. You can change your situation if you want it badly enough.

      15. Put those kids to work!! They are teenagers with TONS of energy…get them to get a job delivering newspapers or selling their artwork?? If they are artistic, lots of people make money from their hobbies. What do they like to do that could bring in some extra cash? If they don’t already have a part time job, tell them to pitch in and get a job to help pay off debt! If they start working now, they will appreciate the worth of a dollar vs if they didn’t start to work until after high school or college. Start buying the ‘cheaper’ brands of groceries, reuse items whenever possible, and instead of buying new stuff, only buy clothes unless you really need to. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales for pots, pans, clothes, and other household items. Believe me, I come from a family that was ‘poor’ and we scrounged, and now after putting myself through school, I am happy. I’m not totally debt free, but working on it. Good luck!!

      16. Those are some good ideas to help pay off debt. It doesn’t hurt kids to help out. You’re right that they will learn the value of money by working for it rather than having everything handed to them.
        I’m also glad to hear that you are paying off your debt. I wish you luck in getting it paid off quickly!

    2. Hello, I’m on a path get debt free as soon as possible. I have been inspired. Thank you.