Reader Pays Off $14,330 In 20 Months With Our Tips

Stuck in a $14,300 debt hole, reader Trixare4kids was able to dig herself out using tips she learned about on Consumerist.com. Let’s learn how she attacked her personal finances and learned to live frugally, and did it all in 20 months.

She writes: “This morning I made my very last payment on $14,300 in credit card debt and a personal line of credit for a home improvement project that was completed a few years ago. I paid it off over the last 20 months thanks to applying some of the stuff I learned at consumerist.com. It was tough. It took discipline, but I did it!

Instead of making a bunch of changes at once, I did things a little over time. It looked something like this. It’s maybe not in the order that makes the most sense to a financial planner or in the order that someone else would do things; I just know that it worked for me.

MONTH 1: NEGOTIATING BETTER CREDIT CARDS RATES:
I called every single credit card company and tried to negotiate for a lower rate. I was successful with a lot of them. In once case the rate went from 14% to 7.99%. If they would not lower the interest rate, I politely thanked them and then transferred those balances onto lower rate cards. I canceled each card as it was paid off.

RELATED CONSUMERIST POST: Sample Script To Get Your Credit Card Rate Lowered

MONTH 2: GO CASH-ONLY:
I cut up every single card except one for emergencies. I actually put my remaining credit card in a big plastic cup full of water and stuck it in the freezer. That way, I’d really have to work at it to get that card. Cash only was the rule. If I did not have the cash, I did not need it. It’s still in the freezer 20 months later.

RELATED CONSUMERIST POST: Paying Cash-Only, Family Spends $1,800 Less

MONTH 3: START DEBT-SNOWBALL:
It really works. I first heard about this method on consumerist and set myself up to pay off the lowest balances first. I used an Excel spreadsheet I downloaded here. I liked this one because it was easy to add extra one-time payments. I know that it would probably save me more money to pay off the higher interest rates first, but it was very, very satisfying to get stuff paid and DONE with. I cannot even begin to explain how highly motivating it was to finally pay something off. It was worth whatever little amount extra it cost me extra to pay the smallest balances off first. It makes for that good “light at the end of the tunnel” feeling. I also set up automatic payments on payday through the online bill pay to make this a seamless process. For the first couple of months, I just started off with just $50 extra because that’s all I could afford. Once I started living more frugally, I applied more to the snowball.

Make extra payments to the snowball. They really do help, no matter how small. Every single extra penny that came my way went toward paying down the debt. At the end of the month, if I had anything left over in any of the budget categories, I immediately applied that as an extra payment. The nice thing about online bill pay is that it’s just so easy to make as many payments as you want. Sometimes it was $100, sometimes it was $10 or even $3 one month, but every little bit helps. I purchased a printer that was almost free after rebate and applied the rebate to the debt. I did a few side jobs helping a caterer do some prep work; I sold some books on half.com, cleaned out my garage and made $300 from a yard sale, grandma sent me money for my birthday and Christmas, you get the idea. The point is, every single extra penny went right to the debt.

RELATED CONSUMERIST POST: Use Snowball Method Spreadsheet To Pay Off Debts

MONTH 4: SET UP BUDGET:
I made a budget and figured out where exactly my money was going.

RELATED CONSUMERIST POST: On The Money’s Budget Calculator Helps Guide Your Monthly Spending

MONTH 5: CUT BACK EXPENSES:
I figured out what I could cut back on or go without. Not only did I figure out what I was giving up would save me I also diligently applied that amount to the snowball. It also really helps to figure out what something is costing you per year. I had no idea I was spending $600 a year just on manicures!

Here’s what I gave up:

Cable TV. Got a cheap netflix plan and a roku player instead. Savings: $17/month, $204 a year
Land line phone. Savings: $27/month, $324/year
Gardener. Savings: $40/month, $480/year
Got slower DSL. Savings: $10/month, $120/year
Manicures. Did my own. Savings: $50/month, $600/year
Public Radio Membership. Sorry KQED and KALW, but I have to come first right now. I’ll continue to support you later. Savings: $11/month, $132/year
Gym Membership. Savings: $30/month, $360/year
Lunches at work. Savings: $120 month, $1440/year
Starbucks. Savings: $60/month, $720/year

Total extra towards snowball: $365/month, $4,380/year.
Just like that.

RELATED CONSUMERIST POST: 5 Expenses You Can’t Afford If You Have Credit Card Debt

MONTH 6:
I worked on cutting my spending in other ways.

I am an avid reader and I realized one of my biggest expenditures was new books. I gave up my Amazon habit and switched to the library. My local library allows you to browse the catalog online and request books be sent to the branch of your choice. I work 2 blocks from a branch so I just picked up things there. I also used paperbackswap.com, bookmooch.com and swaptree.com to give books I no longer wanted and in return get books I wanted. It only cost me the price of shipping books to other users via media mail. I saved unknown hundreds and hundreds of dollars by making this simple switch.

For example, in September, I spent $36 on postage to send out used books, books that would otherwise just be sitting around and in return I received about $300 worth of books had I bought them new at retail price. For those who are into DVDs and CDs, swapadvd.com and swapacd.com are also awesome sites. (Other than being a member, I’m not affiliated with any of those sites)

I stopped buying anything new. If I really, really needed something, I would ask first on freecycle http://www.freecycle.org/ and search craigslist for used items for sale. For example, my hairdryer stopped working about 6 months ago. Instead of running out to buy a new one, I posted an “Item Wanted” listing on the yahoo group and had a new and FREE hair dryer within 24 hours.

Food Budget: I ate the kind of things I normally eat; I just made some simple substitutions. I ate at home instead of eating out. I brought my lunch to work instead of eating out, but I did let myself eat out on Payday Friday. I used coupons and only bought very small amounts of perishable items so there was no waste. I stocked up on items like toilet paper when there was a really good sale, but was careful not to buy too many perishables. Nothing went to waste. I gave up paper towels and used rags instead. I shopped at the grocery outlet instead of Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck)

Instead of buying new clothes (except for bras, panties and socks) I shopped for things at thrift and consignment stores.

I know it sounds like I gave a lot of stuff up, but I don’t see it that way – I kept thinking about what I was GETTING instead, which is freedom from debt. I still gave myself a small budget for entertainment and frugal dining out once in awhile, and please, nothing could induce me to give up my hairdresser!

You’d be surprised how much you can actually do for FREE if you just look around.

Free Theatre: Lots of theatres need volunteer ushers. You work in the theatre for an hour or so before the show, maybe stuffing envelopes or something. You help seat people before the show and then you get to see the show for free. You often get good seats too. I saw 3 or 4 free show a month this way. You often have to wear black
slacks or skirt and a white shirt, but that’s a small price to pay for free theatre.

Artist’s receptions: You get to mingle and talk with people, see some (hopefully) lovely and interesting art, plus get fed wine and cheese.

I also used squidlist to find cheap and free things to do.

HOW IT FEELS
I was disciplined and determined and I did it! Thank you consumerist! As of today I am debt free (except for my thankfully low fixed-rate mortgage) and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my mind. My spirit feels lighter. I am FREE. I am doing a happy dance! My plan is to continue to live frugally and start building up a savings
now. I will never, ever be in that much debt again. I never want to feel the stress an anxiety of owing so much.

Oh yeah, all during this time, I also put just $40 per month away into a savings account (ING) which I set up as an automatic $20 deduction every payday. I now have $800 to spend guilt-free and after 20 months I’m ready for a vacation. So, as my prize for getting debt free, I just booked a $295 flight to Cancun a bit later in October. I really deserve this vacation for a job well done and best of all? It’s NOT going on a credit card.

Thanks, consumerist!

-trixare4kids”

Excellent work! We’re proud of you, trixare. You really buckled down and make the right decisions to aggressively attack your debt. For anyone who’s in debt, even if you just adopt a few things, there’s a lot in here to get you further down the path towards true financial freedom.

(Photo: lemonjenny)

Comments

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  1. MercuryPDX says:

    KUDOS! :)

  2. TracyHamandEggs says:

    Thats great! But most people don’t have 10k worth of extra expenses that they can trim.

    • Necoras says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: Yes, they do. Cut your cable completely. Cut phone. Get the lowest internet speed and use skype. Stop eating fast food, Sell the newish car, get a used car and the cheap insurance that goes with that. If you want out of debt, there’s ALWAYS something you can cut out.

      • Ajh says:

        @EtoilePB: That’s where I am. I wish I got coffee every day, then I could stop and save some money… but I don’t. I’m the girl at the checkout that feels guilty buying those oranges because they’re so expensive.

        • mepoochkey says:

          @Ajh: I’m in the same boat about those expensive oranges! We stopped eating out a while ago but buying “extra” at the market for our bagged lunches (sandwich innards, fruit, chips, etc) makes me feel just as guilty as splurging on a “McDouble.”

    • billbillbillbill says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!:
      While I agree to a point, when we got serious about debt, we found all sorts of things we were doing. We kept takingvacations that put us in debt, we would eat out a ton, etc. There is always somwhere that can be cut. I think scaling back our lives temporarily was good because we valued the things we spent money on all the more.

      • Etoiles says:

        @billbillbillbill: But when you already take vacations once every 4-6 years (if ever), don’t eat out unless someone else is paying, don’t own a car, haven’t had a landline in 7 1/2 years…

        There really is a floor beyond which you cannot reasonably go, in many cases, and it’s frustrating to be at or near that floor and still have debt. I think that’s the gist, there.

        • whatsthisnow says:

          @EtoilePB:
          Everyone figures out what works for them, and there are really very few people who absolutely cannot cut costs any more than they do and be in debt. Those people should be on some sort of government assistance.

          • Etoiles says:

            @whatsthisnow: @Necoras: @RandomHookup:

            My personal situation improved drastically when I sucked it up (which cost $1500, HA) and relocated from New York City to Virginia. My new job (since April) pays 18% more than my last job and my cost of living is lower.

            My outrageous debts are all student loan debt and there’s nothing to be done about it except to suffer mirthlessly.

            However, I wasn’t so much writing about me specifically as I was addressing the point: not all folks with debt get it from irresponsible spending and in some cases you really do hit your limits of cutting back. It’s not just about not buying a pair of shoes at the mall; it’s about living on 2 meals a day.

          • kaizoku80 says:

            @whatsthisnow:

            Right, because *I* should pay for other people’s irresponsibility.

        • Necoras says:

          @EtoilePB: If you’re at that point and you still have a significant amount of debt, then it’s time to consider bankruptcy.

          • Ananelle says:

            @Necoras:
            Not true at all.
            I’m a college student, take the bus everywhere, don’t have a land line, don’t eat out, moved back home to live with my parents to CUT my expenses, buy all my clothes secondhand and still have about 9000 of debt over my head already, which I am attempting to even put a small amount of money towards but have no time to work as I’m carrying 18 credits and 6 extracurriculars to look good for grad school.. in 2 years.
            It’s not just about the person. It’s about their surroundings and background as well. College is more expensive than ever and getting out of those loans is hellish.

          • funnymonkey says:

            @Necoras: Bankruptcy is never really a good option. Filing chapter 11 can have serious affects on your finances for the rest of your life. It makes it nearly impossible to get a loan in the future for a house or a car. If you have no where to trim, at all, then you pay what you can and it takes longer. If you can’t make more than the minimum payments, then you need to find a second job. If you can’t find room to trim your budget, you are going to have to find time for a secondary income. Definitely not an easy answer or a fun one, but significantly better and easier, in the long run, than bankruptcy.

            • TracyHamandEggs says:

              @mynameisrita: Wrong Wrong Wrong wrong wrong. BKs are a slate cleaner for some people. I’ve seen folks with credit scores in the upper 600s 2 years out of BK (had been in the 400s).

            • baquwards says:

              @mynameisrita:

              Wrong! My bankruptcy was final in jan ’07 two weeks later I had another credit card (and not a terrible first premier with tons of fees) and 8 more by the end of the year. These accounts helped me build my score to over 700 in a year and a half, that and being very responsible with them. I got 0% financing on a new car recently when mine gave up the ghost.

              I have far better credit now than I did 2 years ago.

              I am still debt free, and will be cutting loose some of the credit cards slowly so I have less to keep track of.

              • RedwoodFlyer says:

                @EYESONLY:

                It’s also against your terms with the CableCo…and what if you’re the acct holder and your neighbor decides to use limewire or download childPron?

                Nothing against using someone else’s net as far as I’m concerned..but would never let them use mine!

              • keyz says:

                @baquwards: This is exactly what Dave Ramsey talks about: Your credit score is an “I Love Debt” score, and only shows your ability to make payments. Has declaring bankruptcy really changed your lifestyle? Do you carry a balance on those nine shiny new credit cards?

                Also, with the car, 0% financing on a vehicle that dropped in value as soon as you drove it off the lot is not that great a deal.

                You’re not debt free if you are making payments on the shiny new car.

                Please read Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” for the full picture. Trix* steps overlap much of what Ramsey teaches.

        • RandomHookup says:

          @EtoilePB: When you are at the bottom of your spending, then it’s time to look at the other half of the equation — income. What can you do to increase your inflow? Change jobs? Take a weekend job in retail? Sell stuff on eBay or Amazon (maybe even get the stuff from Freecycle or the trashpile on move-out day)? Dogwalk? Babysit? Personal shopping? Sign up for focus groups or paid surveys? Take up stripping? There are lots of ways to supplement income if you are willing to trade some of your time and energy to do it.

          Even netting $50 a week will put you $2500 a year ahead of where you were.

        • notsayin'nuthin' says:

          @EtoilePB: @MercuryPDX: yep, good job. this got me going to do the same thing. the economy will be totally destroyed by the time I pay everything off. but what the hell.

        • craptastico says:

          @EtoilePB:
          than it’s time to get a better job, or another job to increase your income. if you say that’s not possible, than just sit around and wait for your next government handout because you don’t want to help yourself, you just want a magic wand that will fix everything

    • smirky says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!:

      That’s not the point. The point is to take an honest look at how you are living and see what you can temporarily give up to reach a goal. It’s not like trix* can’t ever have starbucks or a new book again. Those are just some of the sacrifices she made in order to make her goal a reality.

    • Princess Leela says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: I’m guessing Trixare4kids didn’t think she did either, which is why this takes work and finagling and note-taking and figuring. Not to mention that she didn’t just-like-that cut $10K. She trimmed $365 a month out of her budget. Doable for everyone? No. Doable for many? I’m gonna bet yes.

    • whatsthisnow says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!:
      Yes, but you’re missing the point.

    • starrion says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!:

      You would be surprised.

      People have monthly expenses that they pay unconconciously. 120 comcast bundle? That’s $2400 a year. And some of it is rounding up. Someone might not get lunch out every day, but calculates it as if they do.

      Really this is the full plan for putting the financial house back in order. If everybody did this, in a year or two, everybody that had a job would be debt-free and contributing to their savings. As an added plus Starbucks would be out of business.

    • Sinflux says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: Me included, I can cut out energy drinks, that’s about it. I don’t eat out much, don’t have cable, don’t have a landline, and don’t go shopping. I suppose I could get slower broadband but I really don’t want to.

      I’m moving to an apartment in the ghetto to try to pay off my debt faster. *shakes fist at health insurance company

      • slopirate says:

        @Sinflux:
        “I suppose I could get slower broadband but I really don’t want to.”

        I think I found your problem.

        • Sinflux says:

          @slopirate: cutting my speed to 1/4 of what it is now isn’t worth the $10 savings to me. It’s my only “luxury”.

          • EYESONLY says:

            @Sinflux: Another option (if you and/or a neighbor use wifi-only): Split the cost with a neighbor–share the password, and halve the cost. Granted this is more an option for apartment- and dorm-dwellers, but a neighbor and I are doing this now, so we both get $30-speed Internet for $15. (It was her idea, but I wanted to kick myself for not having come up with it myself!)

      • lostsynapse says:

        @Sinflux: Just don’t tell your auto insurance company or they might raise your rate for living in a high crime zip code

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @Sinflux: Do you have iron bars on your windows? I suppose not all ghettos are unsafe, but almost all of them are, actually. I can’t honestly say I’d be willing to give up my condo in a safe, gated neighborhood, to move to a ghetto to pay off debt.

      • freshwater says:

        @Sinflux: “I suppose I could get slower broadband but I really don’t want to.”

        That’s the thing. To really make a dent in your debt reduction, you might have to give up the things you don’t want to. That’s what makes these stories impressive — people reassess their values and decide that being debt free is more important than broadband at home.

    • Alexander says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: Oh yes there is. I think the concept should be what you are wiling to “sacrifice” rather than “trim”. You don’t have to have cable or an iPhone or a 10mbps $50 internet connection.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: Isn’t that the truth! I’m impressed that she achieved what she did, but I’m also shocked that what she was spending in a month at Starbucks was almost as much as I spend on groceries.

    • VA_White says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: That is usually a bullshit excuse to keep living beyond your means. There is always something you can cut, even if it’s painful and unpleasant to do so.

    • MoreFunThanToast says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: I agree with you to some extent.
      In the list of items she gave up, I never used/owned most of them. I haven’t had cable TV for 6+ years, no land line, quit starbucks, bring my own lunch to work. Only thing is I pay the extra $10 or faster internet. I’m working full time in an office, so its not like im lazy and jobless. With that said, I’m still stretching every penny I have to try to pay off debt, and the student loans haven’t even started.

    • dvdchris says:

      @TracyHamandEggs!: If you are to the point where no more trimming can take place, you need to make more money. A second job can do wonders to put a dent in your debt until you pay it off.

  3. VeritasNoir says:

    Very impressive. Congratulations!

  4. dripdrop says:

    This is really awesome. I love reading real stories like this. It gives me hope for the future!

    Enjoy your well-deserved vacation!

  5. BrianDaBrain says:

    I did something very similar to clear my debt, and it is very satisfying indeed. Kudos to you and your new debt-free life!

  6. Necoras says:

    My wife and I are paying about that much across car, student loans, house payments (extra to principal, not the standard payment). Takes a while to get it done, but it’s certainly doable. Gratz.

  7. crazydavythe1st says:

    That’s pretty good. Only thing I would have done differently is to keep the credit cards that don’t have annual fees open and just cut up the cards to avoid the credit score hit, just in case you absolutely need credit later on. But everything else was great.

    • econobiker says:

      @crazydavythe1st: Actually some card companies are now closing inactive cards so you take the score hit either way. But that shouldn’t matter if you are all cash spending…

      • baquwards says:

        @econobiker:

        What’s more important is that credit is getting increasingly harder to get, so hanging on to the credit you have is important, as it might be hard to get later.

        If you have trouble with running up cards, closing them would probably be best.

  8. fisherman23 says:

    WooHoo!!! Nice job. I did the same thing about 4 years ago with almost the same amount of debt. I was great to wake up every morning and not to have that on my mind weighing me down every day.

  9. shorty63136 says:

    I’d love to be able to pull this off. Unfortunately, I have a roommate that insisted on a 3BR (instead of 2) and a land line with the cable and Internet bundle.

    • Necoras says:

      @shorty63136: So have them pay for it? If they insist on the higher priced services, that’s their cost.

    • jeknee says:

      @shorty63136: Or get a new roommate.

    • VaMPKiSS1 says:

      @shorty63136: You’re more gracious than me. I’d tell them “Okay fine, you pay for two and I’ll pay for the one.” But I’m sure it’s more complex than you’re making it out to be.

      • lincolnparadox says:

        @VaMPKiSS1: I guarantee that you could find an efficiency for about 1/3 the total rent that you’re paying now (still in the same part of town). If your roomie HAD to have 3BR and you’re never going to use that room, split rent 1/3 you, 2/3 roomie.

        As far as the services go, I end up paying $80/month for cell and internet. If your share is less than that, I can’t tell you to give up what I can’t…

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Congrats on getting out of debt! Wow. I agonize over getting a mani/pedi every few MONTHS, let alone once a month. My usual person told me ideally, I should get a pedicure every four weeks. I did the quick math and began to look at her as if she were nuts. And she was.

    I agree, not everyone has 10K to trim, but I personally can attest to having some things that I could trim. BUT, I’m also not at liberty to cancel my internet or my phone or reduce my plan in such a way. We considered getting rid of one TV service (and getting something else that was cheaper, not giving it up entirely) but the early termination fees were outrageous and I doubt we could’ve gotten out of those. Bottom line, some places require a contract, and finding one that doesn’t is pretty difficult.

  11. Please, everyone take her advice on free theatre. Volunteering is insanely easy if you do it for smaller or mid-sized theatre companies, and the show is absolutely free. A lot of smaller companies don’t even make you do the white shirt/black slacks thing. We’re just happy you’re there; because if you weren’t there, we’d have to do it while selling tickets at the same time, which is not fun – trust me.

    With theatre tix costing anywhere from $10 to $50 a pop, how can you go wrong?

  12. ilves says:

    takes a lot of dedication to start using free hair dryers and shopping thrift stores, not sure I’d be able to handle that.

    One thing though, I don’t really get everyone’s aversions to credit cards when they are in debt. You can use credit cards just the same way as you do cash if you only use it for what you need and pay it off at the end of the month, plus that way if you have a decently high interest savings account you can accumulate a little interest on that money before paying it at the end of the month. Credit cards, when used correctly, are IDENTICAL to using cash except you just pay in one big lump sum. The only reason not to use credit cards is psychological, and if that’s the reason for it, cool, but if people are somehow imagining a difference I don’t understand why…

    • NotATool says:

      @ilves: The difference is the discipline that credit cards require. You have to say NO to the temptation to overspend. If you stick to cash, you won’t overspend (as much).

      Also, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot…paying off the new balances first and not making a dent in the higher interest old balances, depending on how the CC company applies your payments.

      I agree, if you have the discipline to handle credit, then by all means do so. You can save/earn a lot by using a credit card.

      But for someone trying to get out of CC debt, freezing the card is a great way to go. Whatever works for you, do it.

      • Jetgirly says:

        @NotATool: I got my first credit card when I was fifteen and going abroad on a school holiday. Back then, the bills came to my parents’ house, my parents looked them over and I paid them from my savings account. More than one hundred months, and monthly payments, have passed since then, but I still pay my credit cards off every month. If you get in that habit from Day One I think it’s very easy… in fact, it would take more discipline for me to restrain myself from not paying it off at the end of the month! I would be PLAGUED by guilt and worry! I get cash back on everything I put on my credit card, which saves me a couple hundred dollars each year. There is no downside for me.

    • EYESONLY says:

      @ilves: Even if you’re a disciplined spender, you’ll probably spend less money when you’re paying cash. They’ve even done some studies on the phenomenon… this one for instance.

      I went cash-only while in Europe this summer (to get out of the foreign transaction fees), and managed to live in London for two months on slightly less money than I was spending before to live here, despite the ridiculously high cost of living in the U.K. I’ve never carried a balance on plastic–they’re strictly for airline miles for me–but even so, it’s only human to spend more money when you’re using plastic, and don’t have the tangible reminder of bills leaving your wallet. It feels too much like OPM, so it’s easier to spend–simple as that.

      Also, depending on where you live, thrift-store-shopping might surprise you. I bought pretty much everything out of them when I was living in a college town, and regularly found things like $50 Express skirts for $2. The “sting” you might imagine to go with thrift-store shopping, goes away awfully fast after finds like that! (That said, selection will tend to vary by area–I’ve found thrift stores are less handy in the places I’ve lived since. In a college town with lots of upper-middle-class kids with overstuffed closets, though = win.)

    • edosan says:

      @ilves: “takes a lot of dedication to start using free hair dryers and shopping thrift stores, not sure I’d be able to handle that.”

      Good plan, especially on the thrift stores. It will save the good stuff for those of us that don’t mind going.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @edosan: When the thrift store is more overpriced than the retail store like it is where I live then its just not worth it. Why would I buy a used pair of pants that look like they are from 1991 for 10$ when I can go to a store and get a brand new pair for 10$ on clearance. I have found that most of the time you can get a better deal from the clearance racks than from the thrift here.

        The good deals over here come from yard sales, yes it does take driving around a bit but we stay local and prices are low, most sales have clothing items 5 for a dollar and its good stuff too that was only worn by one person/household, or in some cases never worn. 5 clothing items in the SA can easily add up to 20$ or more, and its beat up ugly and outdated stuff.

  13. spoco says:

    The snowball method does work, we compiled it and it stated that it would take 39 months to pay off $20k in debt. We set a goal for 2 years and amoritized all of our debt, and got it paid off in half the time of the snowball for a $14/month difference.

    I should write a book and get on the radio. I could be a multi-millionaire like some other guy in my city.

    http://www.daveramsey.com

  14. Oface says:

    That’s awesome. Reading good news makes my cold little heart smile a bit.

  15. innout3x3 says:

    I’m on my way to debt freedom. I can’t wait to feel like she did. I’m doing the snowball too. I got rid of 2 small credit cards and now I’m tackling the big boys.

  16. IphtashuFitz says:

    I’ve ushered in theaters numerous times. As the article indicates, it’s free and pretty easy (depending on the layout of the theater). I’ve seen big names like Rodney Dangerfield, David Copperfield, and Penn & Teller this way. I’ve also seen plenty of well known dramas & musicals like A Christmas Carol, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, etc.

    Another way to save money, if you like live theater, is to go to amateur community theater productions instead of the big professional ones. True, some amateur productions can be pretty bad, but there are a lot of community theaters in the towns around where I live and work, and many of them have very good reputations. You can likely volunteer at them to see shows for free, or if you just want to see the show they’re usually 2 to 3 times cheaper than a professional one. You can find some community theaters in your area using this search form: [aact.matchingneeds.com]

  17. Alexander says:

    Amazing! Congratulations. I will forward this story to my brother-in-law as he has $14,000 in debt too…

  18. Mr. Guy says:

    Now we know who’s sending the economy down the crapper!!

    I kid… this is inspiring. Well done Trix. We should all be so disciplined!!

  19. 11hawkinst says:

    Wow, awesome job! This is why the Consumerist is AWESOME! It’s really cool to see some good news about debt! I think you do deserve a vacation after accomplishing that.

  20. zeitguess says:

    Congrats to you! My eyes bugged out on all the ‘luxe’ items you gave up. Not eating a brown bag lunch is considered living high on the hog for a lot of us.

  21. Scalvo2 says:

    You had that much debt and a gardener?

    When you decide to join the gym again it will be at least twice as expensive.

  22. Ms. Pants says:

    Trix, you’re my hero! I think I might have to print out that photo and put it on the back of my front door (where I stick all my affirmations/reminders/things I need to see) to remind me that I have a plan in all of this cutting back…. :-)

  23. VViley says:

    Not to belittle the situation, but just considering my car payment, I knock down over $9k in 20 months… and that’s only considering my car.

  24. equazcion says:

    This is a great article. Very inspirational.

    By the way, regarding the gardener/gym membership, many people swear by this: Doing your own gardening is better than any workout.

  25. meechybee says:

    Congrats — I’m sure you’re loving every minute of your success! I managed to get to zero a few years ago (before I bought my apartment), and it is amazing how much extra pocket money you have once everything is paid off.

    One extra piece of advice. If you feel too guilty for cutting out non-profits, you can always volunteer for them — many need helpers as much as cash. I spent a good part of two years volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

  26. dtmoulton says:

    Congrats Trix!
    You should really buy books again now.*

    *I work in books.

  27. mushroom104 says:

    I started using the public library recently too. The online catalogue and branch transfer is excellent! It’s saved me so much money. I highly recommend this.

    I wish I could cut my cable. I could live without it since I don’t watch much TV, and I could Netflix any shows that I want to watch. Unfortunately it’s rolled into my HOA dues so I don’t have a choice.

    Another way you can save on grocery bills is to buy your fruits and veggies at your local farmers market. You can save a LOT of money this way and the variety and quality is a lot better too (or at least it is where I live). I buy large quantities at a time, spend a weekend cooking, and then freeze it. I freeze enough for a month of lunches. It saves me time on cooking too. I eat fruit for dinner, which is a lot cheaper than cooking a full meal. This winter when the farmers market doesn’t have a good variety I will buy fruits and veggies at Costco. I always buy my meat at Costco and freeze it.

    We only eat out for dinner once a week. It’s our last remaining splurge. I’d hate to have to give that up. It may come to that soon though.

    I don’t have much in the way of debt but I am trying to live more frugally in an attempt to increase my savings accounts incase I lose my job soon. I work for a landscape architecture firm, an industry hit hard by the downturn in the housing market.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @mushroom104: I love, love, love the public library system, I always have. The only thing I really buy now are books that I am 100th in line for in the library queue. I fully take advantage of my TV…the DVR is running every night, we watch a lot of TV (hubby watches a lot of sports too) and it’s a way we unwind from a hectic workday. Neither of us are very outdoorsy (we go walking a few times a week) but even more outdoorsy pursuits have a limit since it’s getting chilly here.

      I’m trying to live a bit more frugally too, while allowing myself a few luxuries here and there. I stopped clothes shopping, but did buy a pair of boots. I spent a lot of time trying on shoes and price shopping.

      One really good way of saving money with groceries is like you said, freezing veggies, or making large batches of things to last a while. Soups especially freeze well. I’m about to make some stews that are hearty and also nutritious.

  28. RStewie says:

    Wow. I’ll be this thrilled when I ONLY have $14K in debt.

    My first move: ask for a raise!

    Next month: get my GIBill started!

    December: minimize Christmas!

    I DO have a plan, after all!!

  29. Finine says:

    Great job and enjoy your well-deserved vacation!!! :)

  30. SadSam says:

    Way to go Trix. We worked a similar plan in 2006 (Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) and paid off $55,500 in debt in 12 and half months.

    I had a pedicure on Saturday and enjoyed every minute. Some how not having debt and paying cash (or debit) for all our purchases (except travel and large purchases that we want/need extra protection and for which we have saved up the cash in order to pay off the CC ASAP) makes those little treats that much sweeter.

  31. quail says:

    If you’re willing to make the life changes it is amazing what you can save if you do without. She was obviously overspending, but at least she did something about it.

  32. no.no.notorious says:

    good for you! i love stories like this. it goes to show that with a little will power, people CAN get themselves in a better situation…and now she’s got good money habits for a lifetime!

  33. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    There was an article on Yahoo.com (cause aren’t they the epitome of quality personal finance advice?) that was about saving $1,000 for Christmas. When I first started reading it, I thought, “why do you need $1,000 for Christmas?” And I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with debt.

    We have a culture that wants to condemn people for being in debt, but does not necessarily (as a whole) facilitate people avoiding debt. I don’t think there’s enough education about financial responsibility, but at the same time, there are articles like [finance.yahoo.com] that assume you should have $1,000 for Christmas. As if the holidays are just SO important that if all the adults don’t get a gift, they’ll all cry. Or if a child doesn’t get a $10 toy he/she will play with and ignore within a month, he/she will end up in therapy later in life.

    I love spending money, I do. But this Christmas, we’re all on a budget. I hate that there are articles advising people to cut extras not to save money, but to pay for GIFTS.

    • econobiker says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: Especially for children’s toys- start buying for Christmas in August through October when they clear the last years stuff for this years Christmas stuff. Or shop right after Christmas for next year with return gift cards. And try to keep your kids about 1 to 1.5 seasons behind on the “cool” trends or keep them in the classic toys such as Hotwheels, etc… Teach them that must have toys are for them to save up for (or for grandparents to buy)…

      A small Hotwheels set – was $19.99 now $5.00.

    • BytheSea says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: Did it include travel costs, or something?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @BytheSea: The article was really generic and useless, I found. It didn’t actually explain the amount of money saved and the first tip (Adjust your W4 to keep more of your money) is a little irresponsible, IMO. Mucking with your W4 unless you need to seems to be a plan to bite yourself next tax season when you realize that you owe Uncle Sam more money in taxes than you thought, and you spent all the money you saved on adjusting your W4 on gifts.

      Not only did it not explain the amount of money saved (how saving on lunches adds up to $200 over two months). It suggests things like reading your newspaper and magazines online instead of buying them, not buying a cup of coffee every day, not going to get lunch out every day…all good tips, but they really don’t break down how not doing those things (and others) would save $1,000 over two months.

    • battra92 says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: $1,000 for Christmas, are they nuts?!

      Let’s see, I come from a big family so I need to get for 7 people. I’m planning on $200 absolute MAXIMUM and it will most likely be more around $100 or so. I plan on making people a lot of stuff as well to save money. My family might call me cheap but we don’t need the stuff nor can we afford to spend the money.

  34. katiat325 says:

    Awesome, it gives me hope. I always pay about 2x as much as the minimum for each of my 2 credit cards, recently both cards lowered my interest rate to 10% (sweet), but somehow something comes up every month that requires me to use one of the cards: vet bill, car repair, etc. My new project is to learn how to sew…because as much as I like clothes, some things I just don’t want to pay $40+ for.

  35. YardleyCorvus says:

    Congratulations.

    However, canceling cards as they are paid off is a fast way to destroy your credit score. Never cancel the cards. Just pay them off.

    Your credit score is partially calculated using the amount of available credit you have vs. how much you use. When you close an account, you actually reduce your available credit line and can annihilate your good credit you earned by paying it down.

    • econobiker says:

      @YardleyCorvus: The whole idea is to not HAVE to have credit since you will be so flush with cash from not having debt from the credit.

      We are seeing even the credit card companies begin to close idle, zero balance cards on people with out notice- the same people who kept the cards idle to increase their scores…

      Plus some folks just need to close the cards for the discipline involved – nothing to temp them…

  36. thatgirlinnewyork says:

    brilliant contribution and inspiration for us all. congratulations!!!!

  37. drunxor says:

    man it would be nice to do this :( too bad half my income goes to rent!

  38. Robobagins says:

    Bravo! Bravo! Good job! You’re a shining beacon of Starlight for all of us to navigate by!

  39. kerpalguy says:

    Congratulations! Credit cards are evil. They have very high interest rates and the spending just comes oh so easy when you’re out shopping.

  40. Blackie says:

    Nicely done. (golf clap)

    I did the same thing with a lot of help from my girlfriend. I was getting fed up at work and almost walked one day, but I stopped just short because I knew it would ruin me. I now have one credit card we use once in a while and I owe nothing but my montly bills. Used cars with no payments, work out great.

    We could go back through our monthly bills and shrink them, and probably will, but it sure is nice to know I could just say screw it now and have a chance of surviving it.

  41. rhobite says:

    Congrats, but… how can you save $120 a month by bringing your lunch to work? Assuming 20 working days per month, that’s a savings of $6 a day. Unless this woman went from eating $10 – $15 lunches to Alpo, I don’t understand the savings. I pay about $6 a day for cafeteria lunch and I’d maybe save a dollar or two by making sandwiches. Not worth it to me.

    • econobiker says:

      @rhobite:

      The lunch savings is probably based on her spending $10-$15 dollars (including tips) each lunch.

      How cheap can you get:

      1 can Pepsi- costco bulk 36pack= 35¢ (after tax)
      1 package Ramen soup= 50¢ (thats on the high side- maybe with the throwaway cup)
      1/3 of one sleeve of of aldi saltines=30¢ (a little high)
      hot sauce/pepper bulkpurchase= 35¢ (also a little high)
      Total about $1.50 or $7-8 dollars x 5 day week…

      microwave power= work
      reusable spoon and ugly microwave safe bowl from goodwill = $1.50 for however long you keep it.

      I bet you would save more than $1-$2 by making sandwiches…

      • TurboBrick [LIGIER] says:

        @econobiker: That’s a great way to save money but I’m not sure I’d want to economize on the expense of my health. That’s nothing but refined carbs and sodium! I used to eat like that until I realized how awful it made me feel.

        I eat leftovers for lunch and I estimate my daily spending on that to be about $2 on average. I feel better and my co-workers are always eyeballing my lunches as they’re heating up their frozen pizzas and TV dinners (which cost twice as much).

  42. BytheSea says:

    Don’t cancel your cards, you’ll reduce your FICO score by reducing your credit-to-debt ratio.

    Pay off the *highest interest* debt first, not the lowest or highest balance.

    • RJS says:

      @BytheSea:

      You miss the point. Paying off debt isn’t a purely mathematical exercise. There are psychological aspects to paying off debt, the most prominent being the feeling of accomplishment as you zero out a balance.

      When it looks like you’re facing an insurmountable mountain of debt, it helps to chip away at the smallest balance you have. When that first, small balance is paid off, it’s a very liberating feeling that helps you tackle the next smallest balance… and so on. Tackle the foothill before you attempt K2.

      It really is a “snowball”. Unless you’re an emotion-less automaton, trying to pay off debt using only numbers is a sure way to fail. You need to account for the emotional need for progress. Who wants to give up 50% of their non-work life and have nothing to show for it after a year, when they might have had many small victories along the way and be loving life because of the real progress they’re making?

  43. qrius says:

    congrats, great job!

  44. GemmaPavo says:

    That is an amazing story. It really inspired me. Thanks for putting it up, Consumerist!

  45. NotAppealing says:

    Congratulations. That sounds like a lot of hard work that really paid off. Good job.

  46. Vroomtrap says:

    Shoulda just done a bail out… come on everyone is doing it!

  47. BytheSea says:

    Don’t splurge that money! Contribute up to the maximum of a Roth IRA or 401k (only if your employee matches it) and then build up a 6-8 month emergency fund.

    People who got into debt into the first place often get back into debt again because the bad habits are still there. Just because you’re out of debt doesn’t mean you can afford to treat yourself. If you don’t have any savings, or any retirement, and you’re still buying things beyond your means, you cannot afford that vacation.

    Listen to Suze Orman – debt is an addiction. People get back into it all the time. Build up your savings and retirement before you start making big ticket purchases again.

    • pandroid says:

      @BytheSea: I disagree. The battle against debt is psychological, and it can’t just be “punishment, punishment, punishment” – there has to be some reward. I paid off 10k in 18 months, and my reward for myself was a trip to San Francisco to visit a friend, a new couch to replace my beat up futon, a party, and a ticket to a concert. All of these rewards were paid for with cash. I’ve been debt free for five months, and show no signs of relapsing – I’ve started a retirement fund, an EF, a car fund, and even a fun “fund” for the next time I want to get out and do something amazing.

  48. chelotoyou says:

    Whoohoo! Thanks for the Monday inspiration!

  49. wee0x1B says:

    Congrats!

    And think about this: Not only are you FREE, but you’re actually making money! If you’d muddled along for the last 20 months paying the minimum balances, do you know how much interest you’d have paid? Calculate it using your old statements and add it to your vacation fund! You *earned* that money you didn’t pay out every month. And every month you reduced your debt, you earned even more for your hard work.

    It does feel good. We paid our stuff off a few years ago, finally including the cars. Yeah, my wife’s still in her 2001 Honda, and I’m still driving the 2003 Toyota but they’re basically free aside from maintenance. We have friends who drive whatever the new hotness is, and I don’t care. It gets me to work, out to the woods every once in a while (BTW, a camping trip is a really cheap weekend vacation), and it’s reliable. I know people who buy/lease a new car like every 3 years. They must like shelling out that $500 every month or whatever.

    We also cut up our cards, except we kept one each. Our score went down a bit, but it went up again in time. It’s very, very worth it.

    This may sound like it flies in the face of all the normal advice here on consumerist, but we also opened an AMEX account for daily use. It’s credit-like, so you can comfortably use it online, but it’s got to be paid off every month. So it’s like a safe debit card (which I don’t trust after our number was stolen once and we had to wrestle to get the cash back into our checking/savings accounts). Better yet, AMEX has some nice online tools for figuring out where your money was spent, so it’s super easy to work up a budget with pretty graphs and all that. And we get double points for food and gas, so the extra bonuses at the end of the year are well worth the small annual fee. Our holiday airfare was free last year, for example.

    Anyway living debt-free is good living.

  50. Nice work Trix.

  51. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    But I’ll say one thing about credit cards…often online prices cannot beat in-store prices. I bought a pair of shoes and debated going to the store to buy them (thus avoiding shipping costs) but after I found a coupon code that gave me 20% off, it was cheaper just to buy it online, rather than going to the store. Most online stores don’t use PayPal (which I don’t use anyway) so credit cards for ecommerce are a must.

  52. GeoffinAround says:

    Awesome, just awesome. Trends of spending behavior like this make me optimistic for my own future. Thanks for sharing.

  53. PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

    Who ACTUALLY donates money to public radio? Pfffph.

    Oh, and you may have no debt, but you also didn’t have a gym membership for almost 2 years, so enjoy being fat!

    • drjayphd says:

      @PercyChuggs: Uh, me… and I’m fairly certain losing the gym membership didn’t automatically mean she’d gain weight. Thanks for playing.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @PercyChuggs: There’s this amazing thing called running, and you can also stretch for free! Well, how about that? Also, there are these amazing things called “home gym equipment” that can be purchased on sale or on Craig’s List.

    • wesa says:

      @PercyChuggs:
      I donate to public radio. A lot of people do.

      I canceled my gym membership when I moved from community college to the University. Part of my tuition pays for the gym there, so I may as well get my money’s worth, plus save $50 a month.

    • edosan says:

      @PercyChuggs: This just in: there are other ways to work out besides using a gym membership.

    • gte910h says:

      @PercyChuggs: you also didn’t have a gym membership for almost 2 years, so enjoy being fat

      Actually exercise is shown to have a non-impact on weight for most people. It’s only that people who are dieting often happen to go to the gym. Weight loss is a effect of calorie moderation, not an exercise effect.

      Regular exercise has many benefits(physiological and psychological), but weight loss is not one of them.

      –Michael

  54. Darth Obiwan says:

    I did a similar thing a few years ago. I had accumulated $8k in debt from mostly living expenses. Sometimes the only way to buy food was with the credit card. When I finally landed a better job I put all the extra money towards my debt. Now 3 1/2 years later I have that much in savings, plus a 401K with about half that (well till today…)

    The thing that helped me out the most was not changing my lifestyle all that much. I lived as I had when I was a poor schmuck.

    I’m now financially secure, something getting rarer these days. Blessed with a job that is more recession-resistant than most (computer programmer).

    I’m hoping to buy a house but am getting dismayed at the moving goal post. I originally wanted to get 5% down, then the sub-prime mess started and 10% was the starting point.. now I can’t even find anyone that will quote a good rate without 20% down. All the houses on the market and no one able to buy them.

  55. ArntorFTL says:

    Congrats! I love reading stories like this. Though we don’t have any credit card debt, the chickens are about to come home to roost on both of our student loans. We will be applying the same principles to paying that debt off ASAP.

  56. DrGirlfriend says:

    Well done! I like to hear stories like this, and I’m sure the Consumerist people like it even more!

  57. NightingaleJen says:

    Wow, congrats! That is incredible. What an inspiration! I think everyone can find something to cut back on or dump entirely…and often find they don’t miss it as much as they thought they would. Before marrying I didn’t have cable for about 6-7 years and didn’t miss it at all…besides, if there was a hockey game or something I *really* wanted to see, I’d just go visit my parents or grandfather and watch the game with them…and get some extra family time to boot.

  58. loslosbaby says:

    FOR-REAL this is the only good financial news I’ve heard ina long while! You did AWESOME and you deserve to have some fun, because you have learned _to pay yourself first_.

    One person freed from the Debt-Matrix!

    G.

  59. ModernTenshi04 says:

    I’m working towards something like this myself. I have nearly 40k in student loans, and started a great job this past July. I was considering moving out, but my parents said I could stay longer if I wanted. After talking with them, I’m likely going to stay with my parents another two years. This way I can apply around 20k a year towards my loans, and hopefully pay them off in two years time. The amount I have left over is enough for me to save a bunch as well, and is more than I ever made while working in college, which is great because I lived just fine on what I made in college.

    Throw in some company related profit bonuses at the end of the fiscal year, and I’m hoping to be free of my student loans 5 times faster than my current longest repayment period.

  60. ugly says:

    One of my pet peeves has always been people who flat out say they “deserve” something. As if by some divine negotiation that new hummer is something they deserve for putting in their time. Perhaps they’ve made some deal with society that they get to have a new xbox every 2 months because they put up with the rest of us lowlifes walking this earth.

    To me deserving something means you’ve upheld your end of an agreement and have sacrificed. You would deserve the rewards of that sacrifice.

    Congratulations on paying that off and enjoy your vacation, because in this case you absolutely do deserve it, and deserve to enjoy it without guilt.

  61. oneswellfoop says:

    Is that her in the pic? Does she live in Portland? If so, I’ve got my phone number that she really needs to call…

  62. Maffu says:

    That was an inspiring read. All too often these kinds of article are written by people with fabulous incomes and piddling amounts of debt. Just seeing the fact that you have shifted this amount in such a short gives me some hope and motivation in moving my own personal mountain of debt.
    Well done, and enjoy your holiday – not to mention your newly unabridged salary.

  63. justhesh says:

    “It was worth whatever little amount extra it cost me extra to pay the smallest balances off first.”

    Think of it like an RPG. You’ve got two kobolds and a chimera.

    Sure, you can ignore the kobolds and just swipe at the chimera, but those kobolds are just gonna keep pecking at you. Or you can blast the kobolds and get them out of the way quick, so you can focus all of your attention on the big baddy.

  64. OprahBabb says:

    No shit! Can we give her an award or something, that deserves more recognition than a blog. Wooooooo.

  65. William Mize says:

    Now this is a great reason to read Consumerist; I love stories like this and would actually love to see more of them – practical applications of the tips and tricks written about and suggested by editors and readers of the site.

    Well played, Miss. Well played!

  66. rochec says:

    Or you could have just done a debt settlement program and saved 10x as much!

    You know, since most people don’t have enough income to give up half of those luxuries, considering they would never have them in the first place.

  67. BarryAss says:

    That was simply awesome! I’m very happy, and inspired to take the same steps myself. Buckets of Karma for sharing!

  68. MontagueHaermm says:

    Check out http://www.mint.com to easily see how you’re spending!!

  69. jeffsters says:

    Yeah, good job! The only thing I would suggest, if you also want to improve your credit score, is to not cancel the credit cards unless they have some huge annual fee etc., you can hurt your credit score, crazy as it sounds, by paying off and canceling a card. Better to leave it open with a zero balance to improve your debt to credit ratio. other than that good common sense steps taken and stuck to.

  70. BenedictNike says:

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but you inspiring enough that I have to give you kudos. Nice work.

  71. PantheaAculeo says:

    Well done! Last month I finally became free of all the the debts I built up from being a student and travelling (roughly £5000 ($10,000)). I did it by keeping track of every single penny I spent using Excel, which allowed me to compare what I’d spend each month against what I’d earned from work. It also allowed me to see what I was wasting money on and what I could easily cut back on.

    Now that I’m completely debt free (no mortgage), I feel that I can do anything I like now. I currently hate my job, but the past two years I’ve felt that I HAVE to do it, which was quite depressing as I couldn’t afford to find something I like. Now however I’m doing what I do now because I WANT to do it… sure I still do the same job, but I’m still keeping track of my spending and so I’m building up a very healthy amount of savings.

    Keeping track of my spending makes it feel like a game, where you’re constantly rewarded. Each month you find yourself trying to lessen the amount you spent previously, and feel great when you’ve achieved it. Before you know it, you’ve cleared all your debt, and have started saving the cash.

  72. SarakshiSiskin says:

    Great job!!! I hope you are very proud of yourself!!! Me and the wife have alot more debt then that when you throw in student loans and car loan but we just started on a similar plan. And although our plan is going to be much more severe I believe we can make it for 20 months to be debt free.

  73. TatumJibsheet says:

    Massive congrats to you. I am so glad you setup a plan and then worked the plan.

    Now i feel really bad about signing a new car loan this am, but i NEEDED the new 2009 Mustang GT, my 93 Golf was costing me more in repairs then the loan payment. :D

  74. PenelopeGoolay says:

    I just called AMEX and got my CC interest rate dropped from 26% to 7% just by asking.

    Thank you Consumerist!

  75. OctaviaGaze says:

    Thank you for sharing your success! I just began the process to get out debt ($8,300) and your suggestions are a huge help.

    I know a lot of people are saying they couldn’t give up certain things, but when you’re in heavy debt, the DEBT feels much worse than not having cable or not eating out. Trust me. You’ll do without to get out of debt AND make the changes needed not to go back into debt.

  76. bmacleod80 says:

    Job well done! I would have put the budget as #1. I am consistently surprised at the amount of people I talk to that don’t have a budget. One of my co-workers didn’t even know how much money she made per year. How is that possible? Regardless, your successes will hopefully bring hope to others. :-)

  77. ShakuntalaNermin says:

    Great Job! I did this awhile back… found Microsoft Money had a great debt reduction tool where you could move a slider and instantly see how much faster you could pay off your debt with a little more money. Microsoft Money was free after rebate when buying TaxCut… doing your own taxes also good.
    Someone said that credit cards aren’t a problem and are the same as cash if you pay them off each month. I disagree… credit cards are better than cash if you pay them off each month. Most give points or cash back. I moved to doing all of my purchases on credit card, from groceries to gas, and it adds up to some nice cash back. A few hundred dollars every year. Just takes discipline… Money is good for that too – you can set up a budget and download your statements every few days to see how you are matching up. I imagine Quicken is good too. Using a credit card also helps your credit score.

  78. mhuggins says:

    This is truly inspiring! I have acquired over $10k in credit card debt on top of about $5k remaining on my car loan, and $7k+ in student loans. I’m finally starting a job again next week, and I’m going to be paying everything off over time. I’ve already reduced my CC’s interest rate, though I may transfer the balance since it wasn’t reduced by much. Thanks for sharing! :)

  79. HogwartsAlum says:

    Congratulations! Enjoy that vacation!

    I’ll have to remember these. I’m planning to quit school soon (it’s useless for me) and will have to start paying back school loans. *GROAN*

  80. pandroid says:

    Great job. I did something similar – 10k paid off in 18months. My big thing was getting an EF in place before starting debt payoff… that way I didn’t have to put much on my credit card because of emergencies once I’d starting paying down the cards. It really helped psychologically.

  81. SubhujaErichthonius says:

    These are all really great tips, but I find my eyes glazing over when it comes to saving money. I’ve had exactly 1 manicure my entire life: the day I got married. I’ve always cut my own hair and shopped at thrift stores, and we haven’t had a vacation since we got married 10 years ago. My credit card bills aren’t high because of vanity purchases, they’re high from home repairs, car repairs, and medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance.

    I’m not trying to downplay the kudos this woman deeply deserves, but I always wind up feeling very irritated when cutting down debt articles include things like eating out, Starbucks, gym memberships, etc. — things a lot of hard working people with tons of debt just don’t do.

  82. JacintaMartrylicious says:

    I agree. It takes alot of discipline and is much easier when you don’t carry a balance, but paying off your expenditures every month is like getting a free loan. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot but most credit cards give you a 20-30 day grace period before they start charging interest. It’s marginal, but keeping your money in a high interest savings account and paying your CC bills every month can make you around $100 a year minimum. Much more if you do all of your shopping on your CC and pay the bills in full at the end of the month like I do. I’m not sure of the compounded rate but I probably make about $500-$800 a year this way by charging my $2000+ expenses every month (everything except rent) and then paying it off in full in 22 days (my grace period). Exploit the credit card companies. They are eager to do the same to you.

  83. twistedcain says:

    You didn’t specifically say whether or not you live in the United States or whether or not you have kids, but wait and see what happens if you or someone in your family gets really sick in this country. Fourteen thousand is a drop in the pan next to how quickly your medical bills can pile up even with good insurance.

    My friends dad got cancer. Died after 2 1/2 years. Had great insurance with a 2 million dollar cap (check your policy, they all have caps), had a half million dollar life insurance policy, and worked so hard and long during his life that his wife was left with $2,000 a month in social security benefits.

    The bills came up to 2.8 million. The insurance capped out and by the time his wife received the half million in life insurance, the money she still owed after the 2 million insurance cap had increased by an additional thirty thousand through interest and late fees.

    They left her with only $10,000 out of the half million dollar policy, just enough to cover the funeral expenses (how generous of them). Next they tapped into the $2,000/month social security she was receiving, leaving her only $500/month to live off of. She couldn’t afford to pay off the home since they took all her life insurance money and she couldn’t afford the payments anymore, so she lost her house as well. Side note, her and her husband sold their old home and moved into a new home before he got cancer, he had intended to pay it off and if something happened to him before that, he had the half million life insurance to pay it off, irresponsibility wasn’t why his house wasn’t paid off before he died, he was just unlucky and got cancer in America.

    Her own health deteriorated greatly after she watched her husband of 30 years die a slow painful death to cancer and then had her home and everything her husband had worked hard his entire life to earn taken away to pay medical bills.

    She now has to live on government support and is still drowning in debt. The last time I talked to her she told me a great story about how she was talked down to at a doctors office where they told her she was lucky they even saw her because they don’t have to help bums who live off the government.

    Just imagine how much different her life would have turned out if they had lived in Canada where they don’t have for-profit health insurance companies making profits off the sick. She would be living in her home with almost half a million dollars sitting in the bank.

    So yeah, good job paying off that fourteen thousand, just make sure you or anyone in your family never, ever gets seriously ill in the United States of America.

  84. TurboBrick [LIGIER] says:

    Great to hear that someone at least is succesful in this game! I took on a 35K beast in 2004, managed to come within 15K of victory by 06, and then life happened… loss of one income, 3 month period of unemployment and a new mouth to feed = my crippled financial Bismarck sank beneath the waves this summer as I filed for Chapter 7 with 45K in plastic debt alone.

    You have to look ahead and see how long will it take to get out of debt, and then make the decision to scuttle the ship based on that.

  85. PerryMidas says:

    Try going to a debt manager. My sister hired a guy that manages your debts for you. If somehow you got overwhelmed by your debts and can’t manage them all. These guys will do the leg work for you. They will negotiate with collection agencies to reduce your bill. My sister had one credit card that she was 3 months overdue for 1600 dollars, the guy managed to negotiate the debt down to 1200 and that’s one credit card, my sister had 10 (she was really bad with managing her accounts). The guy managed to negotiate most of them and they are now being garnished from her paycheck.

    She figures it’s better that way. Now she only gets to take home 1,200 every 2 weeks but that’s enough for her groceries and everything else is already accounted for.

  86. Finder says:

    Pretty inspiring, however, I’m not sure cutting out a gym membership would be an option for me. Getting out of debt slightly faster is not worth turning into a fatty to me.

    • edosan says:

      @Finder: You can’t think of any way to work out without going to a gym? Walk out your front door and start running.

    • gte910h says:

      @Finder:

      Weight loss/maintenance is shown to be not causally caused by going to the gym but by caloric intake moderation

      Hard Muscles, Psychological and physiological fitness, these are the benefits of regular exercise.

      A well referenced article on the fact is here: [www.thefactsaboutfitness.com]

  87. PrimeMovr says:

    We got out of $24k of debt in 15 days, thanks to an unfortunate loss in the family, I don’t know how we would have done it otherwise. Major respect goes out to Trixare4kids.

  88. iChop says:

    Congrats! I am not in debt but thanks to this site it helped me to see what I was spending way to much on. I have since then saved a lot of money. btw trixare you are pretty cute yourself. ;)

  89. IraJorts says:

    That’s very cool to see. i just finished paying off $14,000 in 13 months. However, I alredy cut my spending. I picked up an extra job to get more money to pay off the card quicker. It makes a huge difference.

  90. Speak says:

    You might want to add a caption to the photo clarifying that it isn’t of trixare4kids, which is what I and, I’d bet, most readers initially thought. (And I’m guessing it’s not her because the woman in the photo posted this on her website: “whoah. I just found my face on the front page of this website, on a story not about me! weird!”)

  91. timsgm1418 says:

    congratulations to you, wonderful news, and very inspiring

  92. Shawn says:

    Way to go, Trix! You’re a trooper and a great inspiration :)

  93. Fist-o™ says:

    WOOHOO! Awesome! Congratulations.

    I would like to comment regarding the FICO score: At least 2 people here have commented that you should leave credit cards open, but with a zero balance, in order to keep your FICO score up. However, if you’re living debt-free, the only time you should ever borrow money is to get a mortgage. When getting a mortgage, the FICO score is only one of many factors that are looked at, so why worry about FICO so much? I don’t. (Brainwashed by Dave Ramsey, I guess!)

    Have these people forgotten the Consumerist articles talking about how companies randomly open old accounts, people get their identity stolen, etc., all that? I personally believe that the arguments for a credit card do not beat the arguments AGAINST them.

  94. Poltron.Galantine says:

    I owe close to the same amount. I’m moved out of my rental and into a community living situation with my dog. This was a hard place to find, especially for the upscale area I’m in. I pay 500 a month and this includes a bedroom, access to the house, a back yard for my dog, all utilities paid. I’ve combined my eating expenses with the family and so am paying 150 a month for their grocery bill and this almost covers all my eating. I found this place under ‘shared living’ section on craigslist.

    Before this, I was actually going to buy an RV for $4000 (a nice one with a slide-out) and had posted a few ads on craigslist saying that I was looking for a place to park my RV that was secure for around $200 a month plus cost of utilities (cable internet, power, water.) I got two replies in the about 2 weeks of posting, so it IS possible to live even cheaper.

    I guess it depends on your level of morals, because the poster talks about getting rid of cable and using netflix. Heck, get rid of netflix and use bit torrent. Along those lines, poach free internet wifi spots by using a cheap parabolic antenna found on ebay. I guess it depends on your morals.

  95. HanselEpeius says:

    That is great. But I did, $14,000 in 12 months. And using a simpler meithod. The push was being suddenly laid off. The method – stop using credit cards for anything. If I couldn’t buy with cash (debit card) then I didn’t buy. Continued making slightly more than minimum payment and the debt melted away…

  96. MerleMongoose says:

    Not true. There have been studies that show people spend more when they use a credit card as opposed to using cash. Spending cash has that “ouch” effect that hits home better than using plastic.

  97. MerleMongoose says:

    I was also thinking about Dave Ramsey when I read “Debt Snowball.” It’s not rocket science…

  98. JanetCarol says:

    my favorite kind of story
    :D

  99. GeorgetteMaylord says:

    $1000 in debt for my Masters (will graduate this December)! You won’t believe but my blog takes care of most of my bills and the scholarship too! I don’t understand why people don’t realize the fact that they can squeeze the most out of internet? I am sure every one has a passion and why not document it online while you get paid for? It takes sometime to start off with a good ranking on search engines but every penny counts and the best part it is free:)

  100. jansteph says:

    Way to go!! If more people would use those principles less people would be in debt. Keep up the good work! You can only gain from it.

  101. BrookeKliet says:

    congrats, but personally use a spreadsheet to budget and you’re set. 1.5 years out of college and 0 credit card debt. simple: know your yearly income, estimate your yearly expenses, see the big picture, monitor your money spendings in the spreadsheet and don’t spend anymore than that. i don’t know why so many people don’t have discipline to do this initially, but glad to see you figured it out.

  102. mobilehavoc says:

    Wow, congrats but only $14k of debt? I’m assuming that’s credit cards only? I don’t even want to say how much debt I have but it’s all loans (car, mortgage, student loans) etc. since I pay off credit cards month to month. No way in hell I could ever pay off all my debt even if I didn’t got rid of all my expenses. $14k is impressive but achievable…try $500k on for size

  103. DanGarion says:

    Can someone explain to me why I’ve seen this article THREE times now in my Google Reader?

    I’m subscribed to from Consumerist: Top and I always seem to see articles multiple times.

    Appears that every time the link for the article changes it’s being resent through Google Reader. Can this be fixed? I probably see about 2-3 repeated articles a day and sometimes I see the same article 3-4 times.

    [consumerist.com]our-tips

    [consumerist.com]consumerists-tips

  104. QuiterieCadish says:

    She mentioned she’s an avid reader. I recommend checking out Paperspine: http://paperspine.com/ It’s like Netflix for books. Plans start at $10/month.

  105. stepup.stepout says:

    I would also recommend to anyone: save every freaking receipt for everything you buy. I dont know about anyone else, but chances are if I buy something, it ends up breaking within the first 1 or 2 months. So instead of spending money and buying a new one, try returning it to the store first. Many stores have 90 day return periods and some stores are totally lax on their return policies (Best Buy and electronic stores, not so much, though general stores like Target and Walmart are pretty good).

  106. Xerloq says:

    Congrats on the accomplishment. One gripe, though:

    MONTH 4: SET UP BUDGET:
    I made a budget and figured out where exactly my money was going.

    A budget determines where money will go. Finding out where money is (was) going is a spending report.

    It’s a spending report will help you set-up the budget, however. Kudos – you’re $14K richer than I.

  107. not at all being critical, but she doesn’t say what she uses instead of a landline phone. Generally speaking if you go w/Vonage or skype or any other VOIP you’re going to get really crappy quality if you lower your DSL speed. 768K just won’t cut it for VOIp. Course if she was using her cell phone then never mind.

    I agree with almost all her moves, and think that if she was disciplined enough to make these moves then great, but just remember, your family has to be on board. That can be a killer. Also, eating out is a HUGE one to break out of. A lot of times you have to go run errands, go to the doctor, do whatever after work and it’s already 730 and you’re thinking “Man I am NOT cooking tonight!”

    Pre-preparing meals is a great way to head that off because the food is already made, just nuke it/boil it/heat it and go.

    I know out of everything she listed, this would be the hardest one for me to cut back on.

  108. ZadaDemigod says:

    Selling a new car and getting a used car sounds like a great idea for extra cash, until you think about the extra maintenance on an older car. Cheap insurance is great until you get in a wreck or get hit and it’s not covered.

  109. onesong says:

    Not to threadjack…but I’m going to…I’m looking to reduce my debt significantly and a big portion of that is the remainder of my car loan (over 10k). If I begin in February and pay about 1k/month, I can pay it off by December of next year. I’ll still be saving on average $500 a month. Does this make sense, or should I stretch it out longer? Any other suggestions for stupid people (me) who have taken on too much debt (me), and have been spending every last penny of their income and want to stop and really create savings? BTW, I don’t start that until Feb because I need to create a $3k cushion savings first. Yes, I have fewer than 1k in the bank right now. Any resources for idiots like me?

  110. b1tr0t says:

    I was $20,000 in debt once. I decided to default on all my loans and credit cards. No bankruptcy, no credit counselors, nothing like that. Just stop paying.

    Then the phone calls came. I ignored them. The letters came and I ignored them too. And then, nothing. For a few years I didn’t hear from any of my former creditors. Turns out that they sold my debt to other companies and I started getting calls from them and they received the same treatment. I just went along with my life, buying things and living life as normal.

    Six or seven years after I defaulted, the woman I was with and I wanted to settle down and buy a house. I took a look at my credit report and, as you can imagine, there were all sorts of unattractive items on it that mortgage would not like so I decided to clean it up. Did I pay off my debts like a good boy? No way.

    I wrote letters challenging every bad mark on the report and demanded proof that showed that I owed what they said I owed. They had 30 days to comply under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Well, my account info must have been buried in some bankers box in some warehouse somewhere because I never heard a thing from these guys. 9 months later, my credit report looked immaculate.

    Now, with my credit report cleaned up, my wife and I bought a house easily. And we lived in it, happily ever after, since by then the statute of limitations had run out for all the debts.

    The moral of the story? Don’t pay your debts back to these corporate criminals. Take the bailout option like they, and I, did.

  111. trixare4kids says:

    A big thank you to everyone for the supportive comments, I really appreciate it. I hadn’t realized this had been posted – I’m currently on jury duty so away from the computer all day for awhile.

    I have just a few replies:

    1) That’s NOT me pictured next to the article.

    2) There were a few complaints from people who don’t have the kind of expenses to cut like I did. The article was about what I was doing with my money and what worked for me personally. Take what you like and leave the rest. To the person who was shocked at how much I was spending at Starbucks: No one was more shocked than me when I finally sat down and did the math.

    3) Getting fat: Wow, some of you can be downright nasty. ;) I didn’t get fat just because I gave up my gym membership — I took up jogging instead. There’s a beautiful lake to run around not 4 blocks from my house- 4.3 miles door to door. Cost = Free. I even lost weight since I wasn’t eating out so much. My dog appreciated the running too.

    painfullyblunt: When I gave up my land line, I kept my cell phone. I just didn’t need both.

    Again, thanks everyone!

  112. SahilaDarnified says:

    We moved into what most would consider a ghetto shortly after we were married because we wanted to buy a house and that was about the best we could justify spending. We lived there for 3 years and met some wonderful neighbors and really enjoyed our time there. When we left, we had significant equity in the home that we used to buy a house when we moved out of the area.

    Our friend who stayed in the “safe” neighborhood continued paying nearly twice the rent we did for our mortgage. He built up no equity.

    It’s not like we hung out on the corners at night. We were smart about it. We met nice people that we still keep in contact with. We had a cute house. We had friends over. And we have memories. All in the ghetto. :-)

  113. BonnieAstyoche says:

    Ms. Trix has done a great job and I applaud her. However, I’m working to pay off debt and most of this stuff doesn’t apply to me. Got any advice for me?

    Example:
    1. I have the most basic cable, 8.95. Total bundle TV, phone, and internet is $95 per month. We have only one phone with unlimited long distance, no cellular.
    2. We eat at home most of the time. We do eat out but then there are times when I have worked so hard, I really don’t have the energy to cook. We try to keep these occasions to 3 or 4 occurrences per month.
    3. We grow a lot of our own food. Example, we are digging up our peanut patch which will yield about 100 gallons of peanuts in the shell. It will get turned into candy for Christmas gifts, peanut butter, and snack food.
    4. We do buy some “U Pick” fruits and veggies which we put into a freezer or turn into jam. We did purchase a new freezer to accommodate this practice.
    5. We do buy some new clothes for out sons who are 6 and 8. Mostly we get uniforms at Wal-Mart and shoes on sale. I try to buy out of season and one size up so that the shoes are on hand when they are needed.
    6. I knit, crochet, and sew. This means that the boys have brand new wool blend vests with sweaters coming soon. My husband is getting a hooded sweater made from the same material within the next few weeks. I also make most of our blankets and throws and I make things as gifts.
    7. We cut and burn wood for heat in the winter.

    We spend most of our money on seed and keeping old chainsaws, lawn mowers and rototillers running. We have 1 vehicle, a 2001 Ford Windstar minivan with more than 200K and original engine and transmission. We really don’t have a lot to cut out yet our families are always ragging on us to do more to save. Personally I’m glad we don’t have anything in the bank right now. I’ve taken $20k of debt down to about $7k in less than 3 years and we don’t ask anybody for anything. Still we get nagged. It’s very frustrating especially when we work our fingers to the bone and they all sit on their cushy butts whining about everything.

    Thanks for letting me vent. I sure appreciate it.

  114. Poltron.Galantine says:

    I owe close to the same amount. I’m moved out of my rental and into a community living situation with my dog. This was a hard place to find, especially for the upscale area I’m in. I pay 500 a month and this includes a bedroom, access to the house, a back yard for my dog, all utilities paid. I’ve combined my eating expenses with the family and so am paying 150 a month for their grocery bill and this almost covers all my eating. I found this place under ‘shared living’ section on craigslist.

    Before this, I was actually going to buy an RV for $4000 (a nice one with a slide-out) and had posted a few ads on craigslist saying that I was looking for a place to park my RV that was secure for around $200 a month plus cost of utilities (cable internet, power, water.) I got two replies in the about 2 weeks of posting, so it IS possible to live even cheaper.

  115. deadspork says:

    I wish I’d taken my mother’s advice and never gotten a Credit Card. I’m 25, and have only had a card for about a year. I’m not in “trouble” yet, but I’m uncomfortably close. I’ve cut up the card and thrown it out, transferred the bulk of the balance to a 0% card elsewhere (which I also cut up and threw out), but I’m still finding it difficult to meet more than the minimum. I know I will never pay the account off just paying the minimum, but it’s hard as a college student to rein in extraneous spending.

    I have to have internet as I take some classes online, I have only a cell phone and no land line. I eat as cheaply (but healthily) as I can – very minimal eating out, preparing meals at home, packing lunches, etc. I have no gym membership (I go running in local parks instead). My roomate gets free movie passes all the time from work (premiers even!), so we never really pay for entertainment. I don’t get mani/pedi’s and get very cheap haircuts. If I do buy something I need I try to get used – including books, clothes, etc.

    I feel like I’ve cut out as much of the extraneous spending that I can, and it’s still hard. As it is now, I’m just not using the accounts, and staying on top of my payments. Hopefully in 2 years when I’m done with school I can get into a better position to get out of debt :(

    Kudos to Trix though, I can’t wait for that day!

  116. Anonymous says:

    While I agree getting rid of debt fast is a good thing, don’t forget things like building assets. If you want to save for a home, retirement, as so forth you can not put EVERYTHING into debt reduction.

  117. Anonymous says:

    This doesn’t inspire me at all. New books at Amazon? A gardener? Pedicures? A daily Starbucks fix? Most Americans do not have lives living in such luxury. I think I’ll give up my Bentley and downsize to a house without an Olympic-sized pool. Come on, most people who have crushing debt can’t do the things this woman did.

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  119. Sandra Mary says:

    I will forward this story to my friends who want to be debt free. Nice information.

  120. Rockortreat says:

    Great work. I’m trying to do the same myself. There’s a handy Excel based Budget Planner you can download here: http://www.cutyourcreditcarddebt.com/budget-planner

  121. mambojambo says:

    That is very encouraging to hear, for all of us who are in debt. And yes, most people do not have $10k extra of expenses that they can trim down to pay off debt. Here’s a trick from http://www.debtconsolidationblog.net that I am using now to reduce debt with the highest APR (I have not contacted any of my credit card companies to reduce the APR).

    Big mistake on my part, that is the first thing I should have done, but I am on it now!!

    3a) Pay Off Debt with Highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Consider the following example. Peter has an after-tax monthly take home pay of $2000. After paying off all his expenses every month, Peter has $450 remaining to pay off any debts owed. He should therefore allocate this $450 towards paying off debt that has the highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR). This is the fastest way to reduce your debt.

    After Tax Monthly Take Home Pay: $2000
    Monthly Expenses:
    Groceries $400
    Rent $600
    Car Insurance $150
    Utilities $200
    Student Loan Payments $300
    Remaining amount goes towards paying off debt with highest APR $450

    Continue this process every month until the debt with the highest APR is fully paid off. Once it is fully paid off, move on to the next debt that has the highest APR. We make a few assumptions in this Do It Yourself Debt Reduction Plan:

    You are not racking up any more debt on your credit cards