Let’s Crush Debt in 2017!

Pay off debt during the January Money Diet


If you’re carrying debt, you’re not alone. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average U.S. household has $16,061 in credit card debt. If that same household stops charging today and sends the required minimum payment each month, it will take nearly a decade to pay off the balance.

How will we ever accomplish the important things we want to do with our money, when we’re stuck paying for stuff we bought years ago — plus interest?

Before we talk about strategies, you might enjoy reading about what debt-free living is really like in “Happy Simple Money: An Interview with Steve and Jan Berger.” The Bergers’ lifestyle reflects their joint commitment to thoughtful financial choices, which resulted in a very comfortable way of life that suits them. They were very candid during our interview and shared many practical strategies.

EcoCatLady blogs with great honesty and transparency about her choices to have a simple life, and I love the post she wrote when she made her final mortgage payment. She’s living proof that it can be done!

And now, let’s look at another real-life example:

My Name is Eliza and I Was a Chargeaholic

Seven years ago, I had $12,000 of debt spread among four credit cards. Each month I’d pay more than the minimum balances, so I felt somewhat virtuous that I was working on the problem.

Yet each month, I seemed to find a reason to charge a few new things. After all, I was earning airline miles with every purchase on one card, and a whole 1% rebate on another! I also had an excellent credit score, which many financial planners said was very important. Of course, these justifications only fueled my self-deception. Meanwhile, the total amount I owed continued to creep up each month.

Finally, I could no longer stand the constant, sickening, dark cloud of debt. I decided to try Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Plan. Following Dave’s advice, I focused on aggressively paying down the card with the lowest balance first, while making minimum payments on the other three cards.

Four credit cardsOnce the first was paid off, I moved to aggressively paying off the card with the second-highest balance — which went faster (like a snowball) since I had one less bill to pay. You get the idea.

It took me three years to pay off the balances. Today I have one credit card, which I rarely use. I carry a debit card instead, which doesn’t allow me to spend money I don’t have. I balance my checkbook after every transaction, and I budget like a fiend.

Can You Picture Your Peaceful Financial Future?

Are you struggling with debt? What if this time next year, your credit card balance was zero? People do it every year, and you can, too.

What if, instead of paying money in interest, you were applying that money each month to a vacation fund? Or saving for something else important to you?

Perhaps you’d like to make a plan for paying off your balances. Here’s Dave Ramsey’s simple worksheet that you can use to write out your own personalized plan.

Could you take your credit cards out of your wallet and put them in a safe place for now? Physically removing the temptation is a big help to me, and it might work for you, too.

Let’s Do This!

Applying the money you save during the January Money Diet toward debt can be a powerful first step.

Today’s challenge is to make a plan to get your balances paid off, and commit not to take on even one single dollar of new debt in 2017. If you’re so inclined, will you share a few words in the Comments section of this page about your plan to pay off debt?

If you’re already debt-free, perhaps you will you tell us how you achieved that victory and how it has affected your life. We all love hearing your stories.

No matter what your circumstances are, I promise you that people in worse financial shape have gotten out from the burden of debt and you can, too. So let’s agree to attack debt head-on this year.

Here’s to real, lasting financial freedom in the days ahead. Together, we can do this!


The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Grateful thanks to The Non-Consumer Advocate and Clark.com for mentioning the January Money Diet in recent articles. If you write about your experience, be sure to let me know so I can link to your articles.


About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Let’s Crush Debt in 2017!

  • KruidigMeisje

    Being a single mother in a long divorce (6 yrs) wasnt easy. But I had savings, and I was determined to live within my means. I could only work 32 h, but it was enough to live on. It meant simple Xmas gifts and clothes from charity, but it also meant freedom from my ex.
    It also helped that countrymen of ours were having a tiny newsletter imitating the tightwad gazette. That motivated enormously, and had good practical tips. On anything from toiletpaper to mortgages.
    These times made the times after easily luxurious: anything was better. And I knew now what savings meant: being able to obtain a lawyer to free me from my (abusive) ex and having some time with my kid.
    And I had realized, also via the Tightwad Tidings, that one can live a very happy life witout lots of expenses. That I have continuid. That did help with building up savings again.
    Now we (nw hubby n me) are aiming to crush the mortgage.

    BTW: I am still very happy that my health expenses were insured (I live in a country where everybody must be insured by law), because that would have crippled me financially without me having the option of not having that expense. I could not help my body getting sick at some times, not did I choose my son to have a condition. We had only minimized treatments (I dont like spending time on docters when not needed), but still…

  • Deborah

    We have $5000 left on our debt. (2 credit cards) Our cars are paid for and we sold are home (down sizing). We are currently renting. We hope to be debt free by the end of 2017. We are planning on doing several no spend months to help with our debt snowball.

  • Nola

    I, unfortunately, unlike the others who’ve replied to this post, have debt up to my eyeballs. It consists primarily of the credit card type with some student loans thrown in for good measure. In all, my household owes about $70k. Yeah, I agree: *gulp* We’ve monkeyed around with reduction for years, but we’ve finally grown weary (and fearful) enough to take the bull by the horns. 2017 will be our year come heck or high water…

  • Cindy

    Other than a house payment, a car payment, and student loans, I have been debt free since 1985. Once I paid off my student loans, I only had a house payment and a car payment. I paid cash for my last car in 2010, so now I only have a house payment. I use my credit card for just about everything to get the perks and pay off the balance in full each month. The tipping point for me was when I put about $2,000 on a credit card in 1984 because my fiancee told me he would pay it off and was mortified when he didn’t and I had to pay interest while paying it off each month. I vowed never again, and I have never carried credit card debt since then.

  • Amy

    Although I do have a mortgage and car payment, I do not carry any other debt. I am fortunate enough to not have student loans, and the mortgage and car payment were not signed on until I had calculated to be sure I could make the payments each month.

    I do have a credit card that I put all of my expenses on each month, in order to accumulate rewards. However, I have not paid a single dollar in interest on those charges. I treat my credit card as if it were my debit card and do not spend more than I can pay off every month. I know this is not always possible for people, and the shift in thought process might be difficult. But I would encourage others to view credit cards in the same way. The limit is a safety net, but in only spending what I actually have in the bank and in my budget, I can reap the rewards without incurring debt. 🙂

  • Susan Trimble

    We really don’t have any debt at this time. The only thing we have is utilities, gas, insurance, food, gifts, our animals, entertainment.

  • Meg

    We are in the fortunate position not to have any dedtI have a very canny husband who invested for our retirement right from the start of our marriage.
    We paid off our mortgage early we never bought a car that we couldn’t pay cash for.
    I have always been a careful shopper and I always use up any leftovers in next day meals.
    When we were both growing up our families didn’t have much money but my mum was a great cook and there was always food on the table and she taught all three girls and one brother to cook and how to use up leftovers .
    Not wanting to sound like an old woman I think if we could teach our kids to at least learn to cook a few dishes and learn to budget their money it would help them in future years.
    I know that everybody’s circumstances are different but if you are able to take control and learn to budget your money and pay as much as you can off your debts in years to come the peace of mind you will have will make it all worthwhile.

    • Meg, thank you for sharing how you and your husband achieved the amazing goal of paying off your mortgage. I SO completely agree with your thoughts about teaching our young people about practical ways to live within their means and budget their money. Great comments! xoxo

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