In response to “Here’s my story” Jonathon wanted to know how long it took me to pay off my debt and how I did it. Well Jonathon, here is your answer….
I first added up my debt total in April 2004 and finished paying it off June 2006. And as to how I did it, well it was a combination of MANY things. I lived in a 1 bedroom apt so I knew I couldn't take in a roommate and would have to find other means to reducing my debt. I became gazelle intense about it. Here's my list:
I stopped eating out, completely! I didn’t buy a meal out in a restaurant for at least 18 months!
I take my lunch to work everyday and I reuse plastic baggies whenever possible or put my food in reusable containers.
I cook in bulk and freeze meals for later.
I plan my menu based on what is on sale. I pass by each of the main grocery stores every day on my way to and from work, so it is easy for me to shop the loss leaders at each market.
I never passed up a free meal at my parents or my brother’s house and if they offered leftovers for me to take home, you bet I took them.
I learned to love eating meatless meals a couple times a week.
I have a friend who is a fisherman and when he offered up halibut and salmon, I filled my freezer.
I dropped my landline and just used my cell phone, and I reduced my plan on the cell.
I cut my cable and started borrowing movies from friends and the library.
I started checking out books from the library.
I read every book on debt reduction I could find.
If it was cold, I put a sweater on or threw a blanket over my lap.
I added an extra blanket to my bed.
I combined all my errands in one trip and planned my route before heading out in order to eliminate a lot of backtracking.
I never passed up samples in stores. (Costco is great on the weekends)
Instead of buying gifts for my niece and nephew for Valentine’s or Easter, I would bake them treats and we would go to the park.
I didn’t buy any new clothes for a really long time.
I line dried my clothes instead of using the dryer, still do, the clothes last longer this way.
I mended clothes when needed.
I re-dyed black clothes that had faded, they look brand new when doing this.
I kept the heat turned down as low as I could stand it.
For exercise, I quit the gym and started running again.
For my birthday or Christmas I would ask for clothes or necessities.
I sold books, CDs and movies that I didn’t need or want anymore on half.com
When my brother had a garage sale I asked if I could put my stuff in it too and made a lot of extra cash on stuff I wasn’t using anymore.
Every little bit of extra money I had went to my debt.
On payday, whatever was left in my checking account from the previous paycheck went to my debt.
I gave myself my own manicures and pedicures.
I went to the beauty college to get my hair done, still do!
I started taking vitamins and have been so much healthier since doing so.
I adjusted my withholdings to keep as much of my paycheck without having to pay come tax time. I usually get about $50 for a return.
I have a knack for finding change on the ground and I ALWAYS pick it up. You would be surprised how that adds up.
I recycled cans and bottles that I found while out on my walks.
I stopped drinking soda and I have never smoked.
I took my own shopping bags to the grocery store, they give a 5 cent credit for each bag.
Whenever I paid one debt off, I rolled that payment into the next debt in line.
I used up things I had on hand before buying new. (lotion, shampoo, toothpaste)
I cut my fabric softener sheets in half.
I started doing some surveys online to earn money, there really are a few reputable sites out there!
I cancelled magazine subscriptions, you can read them at the library.
And, I learned to say No thank you, to invitations that would cost me money. I had to.
I stayed home a lot! Sure, I missed going out with my friends, but I knew it was for a greater good and that I wouldn’t have to stay home on Friday and Saturday nights forever. Every time I started to feel bad about not having much of a social life, I would look at the spreadsheet of my debts and the progress I had made. That usually made me feel better and motivated me to keep going. And the thought that once I was done paying off my debts I could save for a home of my own.
Now that I am debt free I am very careful about how I spend my money. I think I learned a lot of good habits that I still practice. I have instituted the 7 day rule for purchasing things. If after 7 days I still want something and I can afford it, I will go back and buy it. Most times I have forgotten what it was I thought I wanted. I know some of my methods are a little more extreme than some people would be willing to do, but for me it worked and I feel like I am a better person for having gone through this. I think I am kinder to the environment, am less materialistic than I use to be and I am more aware of how good my situation really is in comparison to others in the world.