Quantcast

I Paid Off $40,000 Of Debt In 18 Months

Here's how.

Finance

There's been a lot going on in the world over the past year. From group chats to social media to the constant news cycle, there's a million issues being discussed on a daily basis. It's overwhelming. In particular, there are so many issues being discussed within the Black community; yet, we're not talking enough about our finances. We should be.

Earlier this year, I celebrated a major milestone. I paid off $40,000 in 18 months. There were so many sacrifices I made within those 18 months to achieve this goal. I made being debt-free a priority. Our biggest tool to building wealth is our income. When your income is being divided and sent to multiple banks, companies, etc. with debt payments, you're preventing yourself from building wealth. In fact, studies show that most self-made millionaires (not Kylie Jenner), the real ones, live a debt-free lifestyle.

We live in a system of oppression that has hindered us from accumulating generational wealth. Everyone wants to "get money;" yet, so many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. While, there are many factors that impact our finances, there are certainly habits and mindsets that we've embraced that do us a disservice.

I knew when I graduated from Spelman in 2013 that I wanted to save money and build generational wealth. My parents grew up poor in the South Bronx and worked really hard to make sure my circumstances were different, but I knew that I was different from many of those women at Spelman. My family wasn't upper-class, and it was clear in the conversations of how people spent their summers, where they travelled, college funds, etc. I was well-aware of the sacrifices my family made to send me to Spelman and I wanted to use my education and network to achieve financial freedom.

At 27 years old, I am proud to say that I have achieved that financial freedom. I am debt-free! I paid off $40,000 in 18 months following Dave Ramsey's Seven Baby Steps, which I strongly recommend. The baby steps are free to access. No excuses. Here's the key things I learned while following Ramsey's plan.

How I Paid Off $40,000 In Debt In Less Than Two Years

1. Income Is Key When Paying Off Debt.

Getty Images

When I first graduated college, I was working for a large PR agency and was largely underpaid. I chose not to defer my student loans. I was living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with a $500 lease payment for a brand-new Mercedes-Benz. I transferred from Atlanta to Los Angeles and received a raise. However, I was still underpaid. I was struggling to make minimum payments and using credit cards for everything. The debt started rising. Here's a rough estimate of my debt breakdown at that time:

  1. $35,000 (Mercedes Benz Lease)
  2. $10,000 (Credit Cards)
  3. $15,000 (Student Loans)

I knew that income was the issue. I simply did not make enough money for the lifestyle that I lived. I was driving a $35,000 car making $45,000 a year. AND I didn't even own the car. I needed to increase my income and get rid of the car ASAP.

Luckily, the lease was up for the vehicle. I turned it in and purchased a USED Honda Accord for $19,000. Vehicles are NOT an investment. They depreciate in value. It does not make sense to drive an expensive car unless you can afford it. Leasing vehicles are irresponsible, especially when in debt and end up costing way more than the vehicle. The total costs of your vehicle/s should not be more than half your income.

Next, I needed to find a new job and increase my additional income. I knew that going to work for a company/brand would pay more than an agency. I was recruited by a major beverage brand and negotiated a $20,000 raise off that transition alone. I busted my behind the first six months, proved my value and received another raise. THIS started my debt-free journey. I began the journey 18 months ago making $80,000 with the following debt breakdown of $40,000:

  1. $19,000 (Honda Accord)
  2. $11,000 (Student Loans)
  3. $10,000 (Credit Cards)

Income is KEY to paying off your debt. At some point, we have to take accountability for the many loans, credit cards, etc. we sign up for. Education is an investment, and you should have a return on your investment. Taking out $100,000 in student loans does not make sense when your trajectory for your career is only going to deliver at max $60,000 in the first five years. We must make smarter decisions when it comes to taking out student loans.

I see the jokes about student loans being with you forever. I do not accept that.

For every monthly student payment I made, that could've been going into an investment account. I refused to be 40 years old, paying off student loan debt.

In addition to the raise that I received, I stepped my side hustle up or as I like to call it, my second career. I am passionate about both. In addition to serving as a consultant/analyst, I am an entertainment journalist and correspondent.

I started booking more hosting gigs, brand ambassador gigs and increased my writing opportunities. I increased my additional income significantly. I even went as far as to work mall shifts at a local mall near my day job. I worked 9am – 5pm, then headed to the mall for part-time shifts from 6pm-11pm, and then I would write articles and host red carpets on the weekends. ALL of that extra income went to my debt payments. I was EXHAUSTED, but I had my eyes on the prize. I knew that it was a short-term sacrifice that would pay off.

2. Pay Your Debt FIRST.

You can ease your way into debt, but you can't ease your way out of it. While beginning my aggressive debt-free plan I treated those major payments (as much as $2,000 a month) as a "necessity." Rent, Food, Utilities, Transportation, Debt Payment. That was my order. I didn't even give myself an opportunity to spend the money on anything else. As soon as I was paid, I went in that order. NO exceptions.

3. Use The Snowball Effect To Pay Off Your Debt.

Dealing with bills

Getty Images

A key differentiator from Dave Ramsey's plans and other financial experts is that he encourages people to pay off the smallest balance first, as opposed to the debt with the lowest interest rate. Paying off debt is not just about math. It's psychological. When you get aggressive and start seeing those debts disappear, it sparks something in you. I listed my debts from smallest to largest and tackled them that way. My credit cards were first. Student loans were second, and then the car.

4. Live Within Your Means To Pay Off Debt.

I made a lot of sacrifices. I did not get my nails done at all. I painted them myself and saved money. Getting your nails, hair done very week, eyelashes etc. all add up. I cut down on brunch and eating out. I didn't even shop. I work red carpets for major awards shows and film releases. I reached out to friends and other correspondents to borrow outfits. I reached out to stylists. I had no shame. If I had to purchase something, I would go to Goodwill. My wardrobe struggled, and I definitely didn't purchase anything designer.

Your net worth is your total assets minus your debt payments.

The reality is that most people are BROKE, but we aren't living as such. Those purses and designer shoes. They aren't helping you achieve wealth. I didn't pay for ANY travel. I had several trips that were the luxury of my entertainment gigs. Those trips were paid in full. I used my airline miles to pay for a flight to Bermuda for a weekend trip with my girls. I budgeted for the weekend and didn't use any credit cards. I was also able to use airline miles to cut down the costs of my holiday travel.

5. Stick To Your Budget To Pay Off Debt Quickly.

Getty Images

Making a budget and sticking to it is ESSENTIAL to paying off debt. Have the discipline and hold yourself accountable. Personally, I am old school. I created an Excel template that I used, because manually looking at my bank account and monitoring my transactions really helped.

Dave Ramsey also offers a free app "Every Dollar" that helps with budgeting. The easiest way to mismanage your money is to not budget for every dollar and to not monitor your behaviors. EVERY DOLLAR that I made had a designation.

Dave Ramsey's plan has helped millions of people become debt-free. As a next step, I'll be building an emergency fund ($15,000) and then saving for an investment. This is no promo. Dave Ramsey is a free resource that I found extremely helpful and wanted to share my journey.

If it's easy to obtain, it will not make you wealthy. Credit cards. Car notes, etc. are all easy to obtain. They will not make you wealthy. Also, while I understand that there are people who have way more debt. Understand this. If I paid off $40,000 in 18 months that means that I could pay off $80,000 in 36 months. I strongly encourage you to not make excuses. To feel motivated. To listen to a few debt-free screams on Dave Ramsey's YouTube channel and be inspired. It's worth it.

Many believe that when you start to show God and the universe that you know how to manage your money, you begin to get rewarded with more of it. I am walking proof of that. This year, after paying off ALL my debt, I am slated to earn more than $110K.

I have an 800+ credit score and have made a vow that I will NOT take out any debt except for a mortgage. I will not have credit card debt. I will not buy a brand-new car. I will save and invest and live the lifestyle that I deserve.

Click here to view Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. Good luck on your journey!

Originally published on March 15, 2019

Featured image by Shutterstock

Related Articles From Your Site
Related Articles Around the Web
ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

I started dreaming about moving abroad when I was about 21 years old. I remember returning from a two-week study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland having my eyes and mind wide open to the possibility of living overseas. This new travel passion was intensified after graduating from college in 2016, and going on a group trip to Italy. I was intoxicated by my love for Italy. It's hands down my favorite place. However, my post-grad life was one twist and turn after the next. I'm sure you can relate.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

If you are a frequent reader of my articles, then you know that I am front-of-the-class here for the culture. Using all of my platforms to be vocal about Black women and all things Blackity, Black, Black, Black is how I get down, and frankly, if you aren't here for me bragging on my people, then we probably won't have much in common. The wave has been snowballing too, because so many feel the same way I do, which is something we've had to consciously build up as a community.

Keep reading... Show less

This article is in partnership with Staples.

As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

Keep reading... Show less

Whether still dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic, not being able to get enough time off or money being a little on the tight side is what's preventing you from going on a romantic vacation this summer, who's to say that you can't do a sexy staycation instead? If the mere thought of that feels like a poor man's — or woman's — consolation prize, I promise you that it absolutely does not have to. Opting to stay at home while possibly throwing in a couple of day trip adventures (which is a classic definition of a staycation, by the way) can be loads of fun, super romantic and also really cost effective without feeling mad cheap.

Keep reading... Show less

Growing up, my mother didn't let me wear make-up. At the time, I was pissed. Oh, but now that I'm deep into my 40s, I'm ever grateful because it's rare that a week will go by and someone won't be shocked when I tell them my age. Meanwhile, a lot of the — I'm gonna be real — white women who I went to high school with? Whenever I run into them, the combination of constant tanning and piling on cosmetics back in the day now has them looking several — and I do mean, several — years older than I.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

'Insecure' Writer Mike Gauyo Talks His Journey From Med School To The Writers' Room

"Meeting Issa Rae was a story of perseverance, following up, being persistent and all of the characteristics and attributes you need to be a successful writer."

Latest Posts