7 Epic Ways I Knocked Out 40k in Credit Card Debt Quickly

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There are few things in life more spirit crushing than significant financial debt.  The constant fear of family and coworkers discovering your shameful secret taxes your energy.  Not to mention the hopelessness you feel as your situation spins out of control with outrageous interest payments and additional fees.  Then there is the dread of opening your statements every single month.

I know this with certainty because I experienced it in my twenties just as many of my friends did.  But rather than running up my own bills, I had unknowingly married into 40k in credit card debt.  Ouch!  And rather than bail on the new marriage, in spite of the King Kong sized red flag, I chose to stay and help my future ex-husband pay off this enormous liability.  What can I say?  Love is blind.  You can read more about my personal story here.

Admittedly, this is an unusual way to fall into a money pit.  However, whether it’s from reckless spending or a medical situation or a divorce, debt is debt.  It is the thief of dreams and opportunities, and I loathe it.  So we formulated a plan to knock out this balance within two years.  As ridiculously lofty as that goal sounds, keep in mind that forty thousand dollars back then is about sixty-three thousand today.  Now we’re talking crazy ambitious, right?

Given our household income was approximately sixty thousand dollars per year, we knew the cuts in expenses would be drastic and uncomfortable.  Even so, we pressed forward and managed to wipe out our obligations in twenty-four months.  Do you want to know how?  Let’s cover the seven ways I knocked out 40k in credit card debt quickly.

 

1. Food and Drinks

For the sake of being thorough, I will include a few ‘no-brainers’ within my list.

  • Buy and cook in bulk.  Then freeze leftovers for future meals.

  • Pack a lunch every day.  I splurged and went out once a month.

  • Carry snacks and a water bottle in your purse to sidestep the store.

  • Avoid restaurants & coffee shops.  Go out to dinner once a month.

  • Clip coupons or use sites like coupons.com

2. Shopping

  • Regift presents you don’t use.  I know it stinks.  Do it anyway.

  • Use mail-in rebates.  They are time-consuming but worth it.

  • Apply to reward programs from every chain that offers them.  It adds up.

  • Browse garage sales and thrift stores instead of buying new.

  • Don’t take kids/grandkids to the market.  Just don’t.

  • Shop on clearance.  You can find sale items on the end caps of aisles.

 

3. Entertainment

  • Eliminate date nights.  Have romantic meals by candlelight at home.

  • Check newspapers & websites for calendars of free events in town.

  • Go camping, on day hikes, or take staycations instead of vacations.

  • Invite friends over for drinks and food instead of going out.

 

4. Slashing Monthly Expenses

  • Stop frequenting hair & nail salons.  I hated this one but did it.

  • Cancel your gym membership or exercise class.  Workout at home.

  • Shop around for the best gas prices. You can use gasbuddy.com

  • Refinance your home and auto loan.

  • Drop your cable provider.  Tell yourself, “It’s a want, not a need.”

  • Bundle your insurance coverage.

  • Temporarily stop contributing to retirement. (It is a personal choice)

**** I did not borrow from my 401(k) ****

 

 

5. Fundraising

  • Have a yard sale.  Borrow someone else’s yard if needed.

  • Take paid surveys.

  • Offer to sell items for friends & family on eBay or Craigslist for a fee.

  • Pawn old jewelry or tools.

 

6. Credit and Banking

  • Use auto bill pay to avoid late fees.

  • Change banks to reduce checking & ATM fees.

  • Use cash or debit cards instead of credit.

  • Transfer high-interest balances to low, introductory rate credit cards.

  • Cut up all but one credit card to use only in an emergency.

 

7. The Difficult Stuff

  • Temporarily quit school.  No sense in digging a deeper hole.

  • Eliminate hobbies like tennis, golf, skiing, & other fun activities. Yuck!

  • Don’t tell others about your debt.  Pity will ensue.  (I know you want to vent)

 

Well, those are the painful methods I used to erase 40k in credit card debt quickly.  Implementing these tactics was frustrating at times, but ultimately successful.  I vividly remember sending off the last installment.  There were tears of joy in my eyes and pride in my heart.  Trust me; it was worth the sacrifices.

Have you ever experienced crushing debt?  If so, do you have any suggestions on how to pay it down rapidly?  Please share your tips in the comment section below.  Life is better when we lift each other up.

 

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42 COMMENTS

  1. First of all, I so applaud your not ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ by not giving your marriage the boot, just the debt. When my 20-something daughters started dating seriously, I told them they should ask their boyfriends if they had any debt, and make sure it’s a serious conversation. We have been very fortunate to be able to pay for our children’s education. So they have no education debt. But they also are in charge of their own finances now, so although we continue to talk about money with them, we hope to instill good habits and the real need for financial conversation in marriage. Love your post…it is really empowering.

    • Hi, Cathy. I appreciate your kind words. Rest assured I will have many conversations with my children about money and debt, just as you have with your daughters. I wish every parent would talk with their kids about money and how to handle it. It can either help you or hurt you. Thank you for your input.

    • Hello, Chevelle. Thank you. Paying off debt results in such a sense of accomplishment and freedom. It is absolutely worth the sacrifices.

  2. Very impressive! My wife and I were in a similar situation a few years back. My wife finished graduate school with 60k in student loans (before interest). And although our incomes were high, we busted our butts living below our means trying to get out of debt so we could live the life we really wanted. Congratulations on your success!

    • Hi, Jason. I would put school debt in a different category than credit card debt, but I hear what you are saying. Living below your means is the key to financial success. Congrats to you and your wife. It feels great, right?

    • Hi, Melanie. It takes a crazy amount of discipline to pay off that much debt in two years. I don’t know if I could have held on even one more month. It was exhausting. You’re so right about awareness, though. Making the conscious effort to live lean is crucial for financial success. Thank you for your input.

  3. I’m currently paying off my student loan debt *ugh* and as much as I want to save money, there are still little luxuries like getting coffee that I don’t want to give up. I’m currently living in another country, so I have to find means to make money online. Your blog post is really helpful and is a reminder that I need to get even more serious about saving

    • Hello, Mia. Student loan debt, in my opinion, is not the same as credit card debt. At least you spent the money on something that should financially benefit you in the years to come. However, I completely understand your desire to wipe out your loan balance. I recommend setting a realistic yet lofty goal. Ask yourself, “How long will I allow myself to have this debt?” That will be a personal choice. Then, make that plan. You can do it! Remember to let yourself have a few small luxuries per month or you will burn out. Good luck and thank you for your feedback.

  4. These are great tips! Over the past few months we’ve been doing many of thee things. It makes such a big difference and it’s exciting to see a light at the end of the tunnel!

    • Hello, Lynn. I’m so glad you are on the way to financial freedom. Keep plugging away. I know you can do it! Thanks for sharing your experience. It will help others.

    • Aw thanks, Carol. That is very generous of you. I hope my story helps people realize it is possible to climb out of debt in a shorter period of time than they might think. It’s challenging but doable.

  5. Fantastic tips!
    Defiantly bookmarking this and going to try and in-cooperate some of these in August.
    I’m not in any debt but recently lost a lot of money from my job as I’ve been so ill and want to try and save/make the whole amount back up. I’m also trying to be more financially responsible as there’s a lot of things I want but cost a lot.

    Thank you so much for this post 🙂
    Keep it up x

    • Hey, Charley. Good for you. It’s nice to know you are taking control of your finances and setting some concrete goals. Let me know how it’s going in a month or two. I would love to get an update. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi, Stephanie. Yes, it’s true. So many of my expenses were wants, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. They were hard to give up. The sacrifices were sure worth it, though. Thank you for your input on this.

    • Hey, Jenna. No time like the present to refocus on your budget. I hope it proves lucrative for you. Thank you for sharing.

    • Howdy, Jennifer. Living life without debt should be the goal of every adult. Nothing squashes dreams and opportunities like a pile of unpaid bills. Thank you for stopping by, as always.

  6. I am not the most practical person. (I live in a world of ideas.) Pragmatics eventually come beating down my door, so it’s good for me to spend a little of my attention on money matters. Thanks for such a densely packed post with a lot of sound tips.

    • Hello, Karen. All it takes to stay on track is a little planning and will power. The change in your finances will be positive and dramatic. I wish you the best on this issue. It’s too important to ignore. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Hi, Michelle. Thank you. I hope you don’t ever have to use the advice. But if you do, just remember that climbing out of debt is possible.

  7. Excellent tips and echoes your own story of your life with your ex-husband. #6 is really important for those who forget or are delinquent in bill paying.

    • Hello, Haralee. Yep, setting up auto pay is just plain smart. It is the ‘set it and forget it’ method that keeps you from late fees and messy finances. Thank you for your input.

    • Hi, Rebecca. I used to love camping, but not anymore. I did too much of that when I was younger. Give me a hotel room with a comfortable bed and a warm shower and I am much happier. Yet another reason to stay out of debt. Thanks for your input. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Hi, Shelby. It’s not so much horrible as it is common. Just stopping at Starbuck’s costs about three dollars. So, if you add it up over the course of a year, that is a lot of cash. Thanks for your input.

  8. Great ideas! It is so easy to fall into the habits of overspending especially if you eat out often or go to the salon. I have never been one to do either, but I know that the times I do go I feel like I spend too much.

    • Hello, Libby. I know I spend way too much at the salon each time I go. When my husband and I go out to eat, we have a habit of ordering water with our meal. It is healthier for both body and pocketbook. It saves $5-$15 when you include taxes and tip. Every little bit counts. Thank you for your feedback.

  9. My husband is super frugal (irritatingly so sometimes), but I’ve kind of picked up his habits and they work. Your list is a pretty nice example of how we’re living and we’re definitely saving money!

    • Hey, Tara. I’m glad you chose a husband who is frugal. It is better to be occasionally irritated than constantly indebted. Good fortune to you both and thank you for setting a great example.

  10. Hi Jen! Congratulations on your accomplishment. You are so right that debt can be such a drain on life in so many ways. My husband and I both went through a phase where we had tremendous debt. The constant stress of juggling bills and worrying about debtors can be taxing. I think we did what you recommend the most…just gradually cut all the expenses you can and do what it takes. I don’t think living below your means and paying off debt is something we don’t know how to do…we just have to find the motivation. Fortunately, once we realize the benefits of living debt free it makes it all worthwhile! ~Kathy

    • Hi, Kathy. Thank you for your feedback on this important topic. I know so many people who have gone through the exhausting experience of paying off tremendous debt. It can be done, but it is painful. It’s just better to avoid it in the first place. I wish our school system taught high schoolers the perils of debt.

  11. These are all great tips. If I could just get my husband on board with consistently taking his lunch to work, I feel like we’d save a decent amount of money and he’d be healthier. Staycations are another great idea, there are so many things to do that we haven’t even taken advantage of. Why not be a tourist in your own city.

    • Hello there, Heather. Getting a spouse on board with a financial plan can be tough. It’s frustrating when there is a lack of cooperation. He may just see things differently than you. Maybe you can talk your hubby into the staycations rather than the lunch thing. That would be a step in the right direction. Good luck and thank you for sharing.

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