A few weeks ago, I did a call out on Twitter, Facebook and my email list to see if anyone had a debt-pay off story they’d like to share on my blog. Debt is something we all have to deal with at one point of our lives or another, and the amount can sometimes feel insurmountable.  Especially during these summer months when everyone’s spending money on trips and expensive patio cocktails.

Inspirational debt payoff stories from 4 women who've crushed debt.Thankfully, I received a number of emails from readers who had stories they wanted to share, and for this post I’m going to share the debt-payoff stories from 4 incredible women.

The amounts they owed are all different (and some are still chipping away at them), but it is seriously the coolest thing to read how they are all tackling their debt head on and what advice they have for others in similar situations. If you have a debt-payoff story you’d like to tell me about for a future post, make sure to email me!


Amanda D.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Health Care Professional

I’m a 35-year old health care professional from Ottawa, which is where I was born and raised. Growing up, I don’t recall many discussions with my family on personal finance matters, and I didn’t actively seek out much in the way of financial advice.

I did have part-time and seasonal jobs throughout high school and university, but not caring to manage my money, and having a hunger for spending, I didn’t save nearly as much money as I could have.

How did you get into debt?

A large portion of my debt was the result of student loans. For my university program, I had to go away to school in Toronto. It was a professional degree, which came with a higher tuition cost, in addition to paying for the cost of living in Toronto.

After I graduated university, and completed an additional year of training, I was very fortunate to find steady employment in my field of study. One would think that I would have immediately taken advantage of this and worked harder at getting rid of my debt. Unfortunately, I was still stuck in my old habits and I continued to spend most of what I made after essential bills were paid.

In addition, at some point I blindly accepted a line of credit from the bank where I had student loans, telling myself I needed it to “upgrade” my life.

How much was your debt to start off with?

Two years after graduation, I was at the peak of my indebtedness, close to $64,000 in combined student and consumer debt.

How much is it now?

I have been free from these debts for three years.

How long did it take you to crush it?

I started making the required payments on the government portion of my student loans six months after my university graduation, though most went towards interest (the rate was 10.5% at the time). During my training year, and for another year afterwards, I only paid interest on the bank loan.

In total, from the time I started paying the government portion of my loans, I took just over seven years to get completely debt-free.

What strategies did you use?

On the advice of a trusted family friend (who is an accountant), I consolidated all of my loans with the bank from which I had part of my student loans and my line of credit. This included negotiating with the bank to have them pay my government loans off in full, adding that value to the bank loan.

While interest payments on government student loans can be claimed on taxes, for me, at the time, it made more sense to negotiate a lower interest rate. The final loan at the bank was a variable rate loan of prime plus 0.5%. This started at 6.5%, but declined over the years, allowing more money to go towards the principal.

When I started paying off the consolidation loan, I didn’t take it seriously that I could and should pay it off faster than the standard prescribed ten-year repayment plan. However, a couple of years into my repayment, I stumbled across Gail Vaz-Oxlade‘s show Til Debt Do Us Part and this got me to sit up and pay attention.

I started reading personal finance books, articles, and I religiously watched Gail’s shows. I started to realize that the debt and my spending habits were seriously holding me back from moving forward in life. I got the motivation I needed, and eventually accelerated my payments. I doubled the monthly payments and made periodic bulk payments.

The other thing that helped keep me motivated was to simultaneously start putting away long-term savings with each paycheque. I set up pre-authorized transfers into an RRSP and then a TFSA.

I also learned about the “emergency fund,” and so I started putting money into a high-interest savings account for this purpose. Putting away money at the same time as paying down debt accelerated my net worth, which gave me the boost of energy and confidence I needed to keep at it.

What have you learned from this experience?

I learned that when the opportunity is there to change your financial situation for the better, do not squander it. While I don’t regret everything I spent money on during my debt repayment, such as a couple of trips to places like Iceland and New York City, a lot of money was also spent on meaningless stuff that no longer holds value in my life.

While I can’t take back those purchases, I now have a much healthier respect for my money, and I am working hard being more intentional about how I save and spend it.

I also learned that I was allowing my own fears and bad habits to have immense power over me, and this held me back from a healthier financial future. By actively seeking to better my education in personal finance, I was able to overcome many of these fears and habits, and I am now in a much better place.

What advice would you give others in the same boat?

Personal finance education can be incredibly empowering, so read, watch and listen to as much as you can to find inspiration and strategies you can use for your own personal situation. The amount of resources out there have exponentially increased since I started my own personal finance journey, so there is bound to be something applicable for most situations.

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Taylor Milam Blogger HeadshotTaylor Milam
San Diego, California, USA
Social Media Strategist & Blogger at The Freedom from Money

I live in San Diego, CA and work in digital marketing at a local university. When I’m not at work or on the beach, I’m probably reading, running or planning my next travel adventure. When I graduated from UCLA last year, I had about $14,000 in debt and wanted it gone ASAP, so I started my blog to document the journey. (I became debt free in April!)

How did you get into debt?

All of my debt was student loans from my last two years at college. My father unexpectedly stopped helping me financially and I had to pay my own way through for the second half. I didn’t have any time to prepare, so even though I was working three part-time jobs to support myself, I still needed to take out loans to cover my tuition.

Even though it was a really hard and stressful time, it also taught me a lot about money and what is a “need” versus a “want.” I was plunged into financial autonomy before I was ready, which is super hard, but it also forced me to start thinking about my relationship with money at a pretty young age.

How much was your debt to start off with?

About $14,000.

How much is it now?

I became debt free after 7 months of aggressive repayment in April 2016.

How long did it take you to crush it?

7 months.

What strategies did you use?

My story is pretty typical in the sense that I cut back wherever I could — no more meals out, no subscription services like Spotify, strategic grocery shopping at Costco and no car ownership.

The other important thing I did was increase my earnings with “side hustles.” In addition to my full-time job in marketing, I started picking up other freelance writing and consulting jobs as well. The extra income really helped because I could throw it all at my debt.

Basically, I didn’t increase my standard of living at all, even though I was making significantly more money. Of course, I was lucky to have a full-time job that came from an unpaid internship I did during college. It’s a luxury that a lot of recent grads don’t have.

What have you learned from this experience?

Oh man, I’ve learned a lot. Primarily, I learned that money is important but it also isn’t. I think that for a long time, I placed too much importance on paying off my debt. I had tunnel vision and it was my primary focus for about a year.

When I finally paid it off, it felt super anti-climactic because my life was the same. I actually went into a huge funk after I paid it off because I finally had the brain space to look at other areas of my life and pinpoint where I needed to make changes.

That isn’t to say that paying off your debt isn’t important. It is, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s important in the sense that it allows you to focus on the things in life that truly matter like fulfilling work, family, travel, creativity and friendship. Money isn’t the goal, it’s a tool.

What advice would you give others in the same boat?

You’ve got this! You’ll never regret paying off your debt ASAP. The feeling of freedom is worth the sacrifices.

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Sharifa Samuels
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Digital Producer & Blogger at Maturish Life

I’m 32 years old, originally from Ontario, but now living in Vancouver since 2012. Before moving to Vancouver, I was living in South Korea teaching ESL after graduating with a Marketing degree from the University of Guelph in 2008. I moved there shortly after graduation to pay off student debt and travel; I ended up staying there for 2.5 years and meeting the man who eventually became my husband.

After moving back to Canada, I moved to Vancouver to be closer to my boyfriend and study New Media and Web Development at BCIT.

While in South Korea, I paid off approximately $16,000 in student debt from a line of credit and OSAP by working at my full-time job and taking on private ESL lessons.

How did you get into debt?

Mainly student loans: OSAP and a line of credit. After graduation, I paid the line of credit off first because my dad co-signed.

How much was your debt to start off with?

About $22,000 in 2008 from my first degree, and then $12,000 in 2012 from the diploma program in Vancouver.

How much is it now?

I owe $3,150 from student loans on my first degree (not including my mortgage), and $400 in consumer debt.

In 2015, I paid off $7,200 on my line of credit that I took out in 2012 to go back to school. Initially it was $12,000.

How long will it take you to crush it?

My plan was to pay off the last of my debt by the first week of June 2016; however, we have a roof repair in 2017, so that is taking priority. However, I’m still paying more than the minimum to pay it off as soon as possible.

Also, I recently decided to go back to school to study coding at a 12-week boot camp and will incur $15,000 minimum in tuition and living expenses, which is worrisome but since we don’t have kids I’m taking a leap now.

What strategies do you use?

In 2015, I purchased a mid-century couch for $750 at a sample sale and sold it for $2,800 two weeks later. Then my husband and I split the gift money from our wedding (we got married in April 2015) and what we didn’t use on our down payment, we put on our student loans. I also took on a part-time job at Lululemon.

Another thing I do is carry a small black book that I write my expenses in (I view it regularly).

Last year, my goal was to pay off my line of credit by the first week of October 2015, but I paid it off a week before. Goal crushed! I worked hard to pay off as much debt as possible because I wanted to cut our debt load before applying for a mortgage.

What have you learned from this experience?

Having debt limits your options. I want flexibility and I don’t want to have to work that hard unless I’m working hard for myself.

What advice would you give others in the same boat?

  • Write all your debts down, including interest rates and minimum payments
  • Pay yourself first the entire time
  • Choose your payment strategy: highest interest first or smallest balance, based on what makes you feel good
  • Cut expenses!
  • Automate as much as possible
  • Write down and look often at your “Why?”
  • Enrol those closest to you

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Lindsay Van SomerenLindsay VanSomeren
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Personal Finance & Science Freelance Writer

I’ve been in the National Spelling Bee, I’ve lived in Alaska for 10 years, and I’ve helped train an Iditarod dogsled team and raise a herd of caribou. I’ve spent my whole life reading and writing, and I have two degrees in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. Currently, I’m a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and science.

How did you get into debt?

I got into debt through “normal” methods — mainly student loans and a car loan. My husband and I also bought a house when we were younger and we moved across the country away from it two years ago.

We’ve been trying to sell the house since 2014, but no one is interested in it. We can’t afford the mortgage on it plus our own rent, so we’ve rented the house out to cover the mortgage until we can sell it. Unfortunately, the house is built on non-stable ground, and over the years we’ve spent over $35,000 in repairs. We were legally obligated to pay for the repairs because we were landlords.

This has been another major source of debt, and extremely frustrating because all we want to do is get rid of the house, but we can’t do anything if no one will buy it. It’s like having a ball and chain around your foot that keeps you from getting ahead.

How much was your debt to start off with?

I’ve been making debt payments for what seems like forever, in one form or another. My total amount of debt reached a peak after I graduated though, when it was $87,885. This isn’t including our mortgage.

How much is it now?

Right now, it’s $82,568. I’ve only been able to make the minimum payments on my debt because all my extra money so far has gone to pay for repairs on my old house.

How long will it take you to crush it?

Ready For Zero tells me that I will officially be free of debt on April 1, 2024. I hope to make it sooner than that though!

What strategies do you use?

I’m using Ready For Zero to keep track of all my debt. I really like it because it’s got all kinds of neat statistics and you can easily see the effect of early payments, and it helps motivate me to pay off my debt sooner (or at least try to pay it off sooner when I’m more able to do so). Ready For Zero uses the debt avalanche method.

What have you learned from this experience?

Be very, very, very careful about buying a house. Get it inspected by the best person you can afford. Our home inspector was a buddy of our realtor’s. A real home inspector would have flagged the ground issue, and we never would have bought the house or gotten into this situation in the first place.

What advice would you give others in the same boat?

It’s really easy to get discouraged, especially when you’re working so hard for something that you don’t get any immediate benefit for. I can hustle and work hard for months and make a few thousand dollars, only to have it wiped away in one fell swoop by something totally outside of my control. It’s very frustrating.

Instead, I try to think of it this way: I’m training myself to earn lots of money, so that when I finally am free of the house (or whatever your financial obligation is), I can shift my focus to my debt and take it out with laser precision.

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Do you have a debt-payoff story? You’re not alone. Join my Facebook group to be part of the Money. Life. Balance community!

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