As I mentioned in my previous post, my mountain of debt was more akin to a molehill when compared to the five- and six-figure amounts plaguing other personal finance bloggers.
However, my debt still haunted me. I avoided peeking at my account balances online, afraid that the numbers I’d spy with my little eyes had multiplied. For the last couple of years, I had plodded along making minimum payments and allowing my spending to spiral out of control.
The only fact that brought me comfort was that my number was well below the national average. TransUnion woefully announced that the average Canadian carried a consumer debt load of $28,853 in 2014.
Even though I had racked up less than half the average amount of consumer debt, I wasn’t satisfied with just making the minimum payments any longer. I resolved to get that number down to zero as quickly as possible, and managed to accomplish just that in eight months.
Did I hit the lottery? Did a rich great aunt die and leave me all her money? Nope.
Here’s how I slayed the debt monster in just eight months.
I Got Serious About Side Hustling
As a writer and trained journalist, I’ve always been a big believer in building my portfolio with bylines outside of my regular full-time gig. I mostly wrote a piece here and there. But after reading about the importance on amping up your income from bloggers like Bridget over at Money After Graduation, I got serious about finding new freelance clients to boost my monthly bottom line. With a little time and a lot of effort, I took my side income (completely separate from my full-time gig) from a paltry $100-200 every other month to an average of $1,100 monthly. Not too shabby.
I then took all that hard-earned hustling income and put it toward my debt and building a healthy emergency fund. The old me would’ve been happy to hit the mall and blow that cash on new jeans or a Kate Spade bag (I must admit, I covet this one with a fiery desire). But my stubborn streak kicked in and kept me from senseless spending.
I Created a Budget
I know a budget is the basic building block of personal finance, but before I blindly stumbled upon the PF community I had never done any form of budgeting.
After following Cait of Blonde on a Budget and her debt repayment success, I downloaded her free budget template and adapted it to fit my life and needs. After much trial and error, I successfully started tracking every penny that went in and out of my accounts. Lo and behold: I saw spending trends that explained why I epicly failed at living within my means. And thus the trimming began. I made cuts to almost every budget category and put any savings toward bringing down my loan or credit card balance.
I Wrote Down My Goals (With Deadlines)
As a writer, I live and die by deadlines. Obviously it made sense to create my goals with an end-date in mind. And guess what? I wrote down my goals to really make them stick. I think we’ve all ready that crazy Harvard study that showed participants who wrote out their goals made 10 times more than their counterparts who put nothing down on paper.
I originally set my debt payoff date as December 2014, but all my efforts allowed me to make the last payment in October.
And here’s the moral of the story: If a certified financial screwup like me can hustle and kill off debt in a reasonable amount of time, so can almost anyone else.