Welcome back to our Debt Free Living Series. This week we were super lucky to speak with Jackie about how she was able to pay off $147,000 in debt!
To most people that seems like an unachievable goal, not to Jackie!
Let’s find out how she was able to tackle paying off nearly $150,000 in debt!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Jackie, and I blog about personal finance over at JackieBeck.com. I love to help others stay motivated on their own get-out-of-debt journey.
I live in Arizona, and in my spare
How did you end up in debt and how much debt was it?
My husband I both brought debt to our marriage, and I think we each ended up in debt pretty much by being normal. We both had credit card debt, I had a student loan, he had a car loan, we had a mortgage, etc.
All together it added up to over $147,000.
What was the turning point for you where you decided to start paying off your debt?
For me, the real turning point came after I experienced about 4 years of unemployment. I never, ever, ever wanted to be in that position again. (Where I had debt hanging over my head that I couldn’t even afford to make minimum payments on.)
I had to put my student loan into forbearance during that period. I just hated owing all that money.
When I finally got a part-time job, I made paying off my student loan a priority.
I wanted that thing gone!
My husband saw how enthusiastic I was about that, and decided to pay off his car loan quickly too. Things kind of just kept going from there. We inadvertently used the debt snowball.
What was your motivation to pay off all that debt?
I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to do the things I loved without debt hanging over my head. (Turns out, it’s a whole lot easier to do those things without debt too.)
How long did it take you to get rid of your debt?
It took close to 10 years to become completely debt-free. But it wasn’t like we were nose to the grindstone the whole time, never doing anything fun.
We did things in stages, with breaks in between for travel and typical expensive life events.
Did you run into any “bumps in the road” when you were trying to pay off your debt? If so, how did you overcome them?
Well, it’s funny because even though we did, I didn’t really feel that way at the time.
I mean, we took turns being unemployed, there were surgeries, expensive vet bills, a car accident, some college tuition for my son, you name it, it happened.
But I think those are just part of life. You kind of have to expect that things will happen and make a plan for how to handle them when they do. (Or how to handle them if they ever happen again, if something you hadn’t imagined happens.)
We overcame them by sticking to our mantra of only spending money we already
We also did our best to make more money to put toward debt.
Related post: Make More Money: 40 Surprising Ways To Make Cash Fast
Did budgeting play a factor in you being able to pay off your debt?
Yes and no.
We each have a plan for our money, so in that regard it did. (We keep separate finances.) But we didn’t cut back anywhere specifically in order to pay off
I had cut out TONS of things previously so I could literally continue to eat during those years when my income was significantly below the poverty line. Because of those previous drastic cuts, I ended up adding some fun stuff back in while paying off debt.
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What’s the strangest thing you did to save money while you were trying to pay off your debt?
I don’t know if it’s strange, but I walked to work for months while saving up a few thousand dollars to repair my car that had been damaged in an accident.
I only had liability insurance, because it was so old it would have been automatically totaled if someone kicked it.
That was not fun because it gets extremely hot out here in Arizona. But walking to work was more fun than being in debt!
Once my car was operable again, I drove it for a long time afterward with it having multi-colored parts on it. The hood, a fender, and the rest of the car were 3 different colors.
At first, that was because I was saving up to get it repainted, but later it was because I enjoyed having people no longer pull out in front of me as I drove.
It’s amazing how often people let you go first when you look like you must have hit someone.
Related post: How This Couple Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans
If you could give 2 pieces of advice to someone trying to pay off debt fast, what would they be?
#1. Focus on your behavior, not your interest rates. You’ve got to change the way you think about debt and money, and only spend money you already have.
#2. Build an emergency fund. One day you’ll be happy you did.
What steps are you taking to ensure you stay out of debt?
We’re still committed to not borrowing, which is really what it takes. Also, we have insurance.
I am still worried about the expenses that could come from major healthcare issues, but we’re doing the best we can there.
Short of healthcare for all passing in the U.S. or us reaching Medicare age, I’m not sure what else we can do there.
Now that you’ve paid off your debt, what financial goals do you have next?
My next big financial goal is to buy an additional rental property so I can increase passive income. I also sometimes consider saving up for a Cobra kit car, but that’s probably going to wait.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jackie! You committed to the goal of being debt-free and achieved it!
That’s something to be really proud of. I hope that someday you are able to get that Cobra Kit car!
Here is yet another story of how with a little determination and focus, you really can live a debt-free life. It’s possible people, make it happen!
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