Let’s Get Serious About Crushing Debt

Pay off debt at Happy Simple Living

It’s Day 5 of the January Money Diet, and I am touched and inspired by the hopes and goals you shared during yesterday’s challenge, “What Is Your Financial Dream?”

Many of you have plans to eliminate debt:

“My financial goals are to pay off debts as soon as possible and start saving for the short and long term future.” – Tricia

“Our short-term goals include setting up and contributing to college funds for our two boys, while also paying off our own student loans.” – Laura

“In five years our debt will be paid off.” – Karin

Bravo! These are powerful goals. Living without debt is a secure, peaceful place to be.

If you’re carrying debt, you’re not alone. According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, the average U.S. household has more than $15,000 in credit card debt. How can we ever accomplish the great things we want to do with our money, when we’re stuck paying for stuff we bought years ago — plus interest?

I’m living proof that there is a way out of the mess.

My Name is Eliza, and I Was a Charge-a-Holic

Five 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.

I finally 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 every week, and I budget like a fiend.

Are you struggling with debt? 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.

Also, 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!

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 2015. If you’re willing, share a few words in the Comments 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’d love to hear 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!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. You could win a deluxe Happy Simple Living gift box by participating in the January Money Diet.  The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and much more.

At the end of January I’ll choose one winner from among everyone who comments–someone who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results. Good luck!

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.

19 comments to Let’s Get Serious About Crushing Debt

  • Laura

    I’m so inspired this year to tackle this head on! We have decided to take a portion of our profits from the sale of our condo to pay off one of our student loans. It’s the smaller of the two, but has a slightly higher interest rate. We will take another small portion of our condo money to open the college funds for our boys and we will be able to contribute to them by using the money that was once allocated to the student loan we no longer have to pay. I’m a lucky mama to be able to stay home with my kiddos, but I just got a little evening job on the side and anything extra I make from that helps pay off our last student loan. I’m hopeful my boys won’t have this much student loan debt as I do in my thirties! I will definitely check out Dave Ramsey’s ideas too!

  • I hope 2015 is a great year for you! While I do not have debt, we do need to have better control of our spending so that we can save money money. We’ve been a little too loose with our spending lately.

  • Kris

    I’ve been working on my snowball plan this weekend. My plan is to have $25,000 paid off in 17 months. My debt consists of a student loan, a car, and a home equity loan. Thanks for the inspiration to get busy in 2015.

  • Lisa F

    My goal is to pay off our mortgage within 5 years. I currently pay between $100 and $500 extra per month, depending on whats leftover. My goal for this January challenge is to make a double mortgage payment on February 1st! ($2400)

  • Cindy

    I have been debt averse for a long time. I took out student loans for school and paid them off as soon as I could. I borrowed money for a car and decided never again. I saved and paid cash for the last car I bought (which I will drive for at least 10 years). I currently have a low home mortgage and could pay it off, but for me, it is better financially not to do that. That is my only debt.

    The only time I have had credit card debt was when I was young and foolish. It involved love and betrayal (the story is too long for here), but I learned a painful lesson and have never carried a credit card balance since I paid that off 30 years ago.

    I use my credit card for almost every single purchase, but I pay the balance in full each month and I use the miles to take free trips to exotic places.

  • Baylee

    We have really buckled down… we found a budget that we can stick to. I shop at Aldi to buy cheaper, off-brand foods and am going to try to coupon more to help our budget. We already have money go to savings every month but any extra money, we are putting toward our credit cards (bi-monthly payments) to get them paid off. Should be debt-free from credit cards by May, but will still have student loans to start paying…

  • Georgina Bowie

    Snowball debt removal has now been worked out and I’m now on the road to no more debt:-D. I’ve added another goal, to save up for Christmas this year as that’s when my debt really gets out of hand.

  • Lisa Morowski

    My goal is to not take on any new debt this year. We paid off our car last year, so all we have left is one student loan and a home equity loan used to purchase hunting land. Our best decision ever was to pay off our home mortgage early by refinancing and making extra payments. This was a life saver when we experienced job layoffs. We feel secure knowing we won’t lose our home; and this is the best advice I can give to anyone.

  • Lynn Louise

    I use my credit card for absolutely everything and pay off the total balance each month. I earn 3% cash back and have $500 in cash back just waiting for me. My only debt is 2 more car payments. I am pretty good with watching my money. I too shop at Aldis, buy store brand groceries, and don’t splurge on foolish items. We treat ourselves to well earned vacations about every other year. God has kept me on the straight path in life and I pray that his blessings continue for me and my family.

  • Kelli Tolstoy

    This is fantastic! I found the snowball plan awhile ago and already made my sheet. I will be $3000+ closer to my goal of debt free by the end of the year and another $8200+ in 2015. I am just loving this challenge. It is making me much more focused. Thank you.

  • HeatherP

    I have one of those debt dumb pasts and your post reminded me of how far I have come. Those days of collection calls and crisis were hard lessons to learn and I am happy to have that behind me. My student loan is the only debt left… I am excited about this Money diet because it seems like no matter what I do there is only just enough to cover bills and pay the minimum on my debt. My goal is to be debt free in the next 3 years. Focusing on simplifying our lives and being more and more self sustaining to meet our needs. No New Debt!

  • Catherine Godfrey

    I want to be debt free by the end of 2015, which totals $15,300 (1car we own the other, student loan, 1 credit card, & a family loan. I’m so tired of making promises to myself & don’t follow threw, but I’ve never really written it down. We also did one of the worst things we took a 401K loan 3 yrs ago. My husband increased the payment so we could pay off a year sooner. We will never ever do that again. I don’t want to waste anymore money on interest. I’m currently working on the snowball. I’ve got to learn that I can’t pay everything off at once.

  • Jennifer

    Oh how I want to take a vacation where we actually need a passport this year! One with the whole family. Normally this would be a simple request but we are a family of eight. So really it comes down to booking by March or having the car paid off by then. This is taking an incredible amount of self control for me. I have set a goal for paying it off several times but have always found something more “important” to spend the money on. I know that once I get it paid off, it will be easier to save for a later vacation. I do vow no new debt for 2015 but I would like to add: a little credit is vital in this world we live in as long as it is used responsibly. Employers may look at your credit score for hire, landlords for tenancy, insurance companies even base their rates on it. A good, responsible use of credit can actually save money. I’m working on the responsible part 😀

  • Catherine Godfrey

    Hi Jennifer, I’m totally the same with paying off our car or going on a trip for our 15th anniversary. This has been a hard decision. So we are going to do both. Our trip won’t be till Jan. 2016 so we are going to work our butt off & conquer both.

  • Jessica Keenan

    My goal is to erase all of my debt besides student loans, and pay HALF of those by December 31, 2015. I can do it.

  • I wish Would had this advice just before I entered into a few of the agreements I’m currently bound to. I’m sure most planners out in the market are there to assist. Unfortunately, I leaped into salespeople pushing products early on, plus fell into their capture.

  • My goal is to be able to buy our next car (when the current one with 231,000 miles on it conks) in cash.

  • Tricia

    My goal this year is to not take on any additional debt. And to try and get 2 credit cards paid off and continue to pay down the other credit cared and the mortgages on our current house. The sooner I can do this, the sooner we will be in a better position to sell our farm in NH and relocate and downsize to a smaller place (physically and financially) in FL.

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