I know a lot of readers get frustrated with reading stories of people paying off large amounts of debt in a short amount of time. You read a click-bait headline How I paid off $50k of debt in 3 months!!! and think to yourself, “Wow! I wonder how they did it?” You start in reading with enthusiasm thinking that maybe you have finally found the secret to getting out of debt (there is no secret). Then you get to the punchline. They make $300k per year!!!
I get it.
I’ve been there.
It’s frustrating. I’m all for you and anyone else making $300k per year. That is awesome! But it’s hard for a lot of us to relate. I’m going to tell you my story. Some of you may be able to relate, some of you may not, and that’s just fine. I had a pile of debt after college and did a lot of things wrong. When my wife and I finally made the decision to get our finances under control we made a plan and executed it.
Here’s my story. It’s not pretty but it is what it is.
Spring 2007 – Graduated college
Summer 2007 – Got job as a pig farmer @ $32k/year
That’s right. I was a pig farmer for about four years. This was right as the bubble was about to burst and the recession was coming on so I was just thankful to have a decent job. Most of my friends either went back to school for another degree or struggled with two or three part-time jobs that were completely unrelated to their degree.
2007-2011 – Lived like a normal person (don’t do this!)
I bought a car with a loan (mistake!), I paid only the minimum payments on my student loans and blew what money I had left on stupid stuff. I saved nothing for retirement during this time frame. Zero. Zilch. Think if I had maxed out retirement accounts when the market was at it’s lowest point. Actually, I don’t want to think about it. It makes me sick to my stomach. Let’s move on.
2012 – Got married and got serious about paying off our debt!
2013 – Found a new, higher-paying job
Early 2015 – Success! Debt Free!
Spring 2015 – Started piling up cash and getting the full employer match in our 401k accounts
March 2016 – Crossed the $100k net worth line
Here’s the sad part
This took way longer than it should have. I am obviously no overnight success story. I had about four years where I spun my wheels and got nowhere. Once I got serious and made the decision to become debt free it was just a matter of time.
Here’s the good part
You can learn from my mistakes. No matter where you are, NOW is the perfect time to get started. I should have started in 2007 but did what normal people do. I bought a car and blew all my money on STUFF. Stuff I didn’t need. As you can see you don’t have to have a huge income to succeed financially. You need a plan and you need to take action.
Once I made the decision it took just a little over two years to become debt free. How did I do it? Glad you asked. First off, and I can’t stress this enough….we (my wife and I) made a DECISION and stuck to it. We weren’t sure exactly how long it would take but thought we could get it done in two years or less. Having child #2 slowed down the process a bit but it ended up taking us about 28 months. The second thing we did was put everything on hold and made paying off our debt the priority. Every extra penny we had went towards making extra payments. We cut back our lifestyle. Yes, there is sacrifice involved. No one ever accomplished anything worthwhile without making some sort of sacrifice. We worked hard, got raises, got promotions and even took other jobs that gave us a significant pay raise.
There was one goal and one goal only and pretty much every decision we made revolved around accomplishing that goal. Sound intense? Yea, it kind of is. But imagine what your life would be like without any payments. You now have OPTIONS. And that is ultimately what we wanted.