Today’s Debt Free Story comes to us from Mr. Compounding from over at Net Worth Is King. He has an inspiring story about his journey out of student loan and credit card debt. I encourage you to check out his site, full of excellent information on personal finance, wealth building and motivational posts to help you take control of your finances.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. When he was young, my father had the opportunity to study in the US through a scholarship and later was able to obtain citizenship. Shortly after I was born, my parents decided to move back home and raised me there until it was time for me to go to college.
I went to Boston College and got a degree in Computer Science. Although it was very expensive, I was able to get it done in four years without any issues. Most of the tuition was covered by my parents and a few scholarships and grants. I took out some loans to cover the rest.
How much debt did you have ?
The student loans totaled about $19,000. I maxed out my credit cards after graduation a couple times. The first time was to move in my new apartment and furnish it. A few months later, it got broken into while I was at work and I basically lost everything. I moved out shortly afterwards to a safer neighborhood and of course my clueless 23 year old self had to refurnish my new place right away. So in total I wanna say at least $25,000.
What was the defining moment that made you decide to tackle your debt?
I always planned to slowly pay off my debt and I never worried too much about it. But during senior year, I took a finance class that drew my interest to the world personal finance and led me to start reading and listening to podcasts.
Of course I ran into Dave Ramsey at some point and he helped me realize how awesome things could be if I paid off my debts in a couple years. I was sold.
What was your plan for paying off the debt? How did you prepare?
The biggest thing for me was the budget. After quickly saving a few hundred dollars, I created a monthly budget that honestly made me realize how much money I was wasting. Some people think they don’t need a budget because they’re not big spenders and I used to think the same way. But once I put everything on paper, it was obvious that I was doing a bad job of tracking my spending. I still don’t know where I was wasting money on, but I know I was mismanaging it because I suddenly had a lot more available to put towards debt.
Even today, despite being debt free, I still use the same budgeting techniques. I simply use what I was putting towards payments for my current financial goals. I consider debt repayment practice for a lifetime of wealth building.
Where did you find the extra money to put toward the debt?
My biggest weakness is that I’m not a hustler. I completely went the easy way and relied on my regular paychecks. I was lucky to secure a great job right after graduation so that definitely helped, but imagine how much faster I would finish if I actually tried.
How long did it take you to pay off the debt?
I started making payments in December 2014 but really started going hard the summer that followed. I made my last payment in September 2016.
How did you stay motivated to continue on your path to debt freedom?
This might sound weird, but tracking my net worth was a great help. Sometimes when you’re making payments and barely have enough money to replace a flat tire, you can start feeling like you’re not making any progress, which is absolutely false accounting wise. Every dollar that isn’t spent on buying stuff and is put towards debt represents an equal increase in net worth. Looking at the numbers every couple months or so is a great way to pat yourself on the back if you start feeling stuck.
Did you make any mistakes or hit obstacles that slowed or stopped your progress?
I had one major obstacle earlier this year, about a year into my repayment process. There was a restructuring at my company and for a few months, I had was not certain my job would still exist or if it would be relocated (I was not willing to leave Boston).
As a result, I prepared as if I was going to get let go and stopped paying my debt until I got the guaranty that everything was good for the foreseeable future. All the money that was previously allocated to the debt went to a savings account. Because I was making such big payments until the hiccup I’m describing, I could have not made a payment for years and still be on schedule with the lender. Not to mention that the interest rates were less than 5%
My logic was that if I ignored the situation and kept paying off my loans, I could have been in a horrible situation if I was let go. I would be debt free or at least very close to it, but I would also have nothing in cash to survive until I find a new job. On the other end, building that emergency fund gave me security and I was no longer scared of losing my job. It would still suck, but it would not set me back financially in the form of credit card debt.
How is your life different now that you are debt free?
It feels like a weight is off my shoulders and thinking about money is actually exciting. I have the freedom to decide what I do with my money and that’s a very empowering feeling.
In addition, I can be a lot more generous since I don’t owe anybody. Helping those in need is something I enjoy a lot and I will be looking to do a lot more of it as I make more progress towards financial freedom.
What advice or actionable tips can you give people who want to pay off their debt?
Start with a budget, then determine how long it would take to pay it off. Maybe be more proactive than I was if necessary and try to get a raise and/or start a side hustle. Once you have this simple plan established, it’s just a matter of executing and figuring out how to go about the roadblocks and pitfalls.
Mr. Compounding is a part time personal finance blogger who works in the technology sector. On his blog, he writes about his money lessons and experiences and hopes to show others that financial independence is an attainable dream. He lives in the gorgeous, cold city of Boston and aside from helping people make wiser decisions with money, he is addicted to music and basketball. He can be found at networthisking.com and you can also keep up with his stuff through twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.