November of 2009, I decided to get out of debt. It was really
as simple as realizing that I could do it myself. I could stop
waiting for a miracle or a disaster, and I could take control of the
situation I had created.
It makes sense that I was overwhelmed, because I was not in a little debt. I was in $20,500 of credit card debt. Even three years later, that number still seems unreal to me. But it was real and it was crushing me and limiting my future.
I knew that after several half-hearted attempts, I was serious about getting out of debt this time, so I did what any blogger would do and registered a new domain. I called it A Story of Debt, because I knew I was beginning something important and I wanted to share my experiences. I had never written about money before, but I had a lot to say about how I had gotten myself into debt and how I was going to get out.
There is very little you need to know about how to get out of debt. I would suggest only that you visit Dave Ramsey’s website (daveramsey.com) and look up his Seven Baby Steps. The rest is all about doing the work, and I think that’s the value in reading about the personal experiences of others. This book is the 14-month story of how I paid off $20,500 in credit card debt.
It didn’t occur to me until much later that it was bold to start a story like this without knowing the ending. I was determined.
It’s important to me to continue to make this story available for free, because I got out of debt for free. I educated myself with the free information available on Dave Ramsey’s website. For motivation, I listened to the free section of his podcast. I read personal debt blogs. I didn’t transfer balances around or use a service to consolidate my debt. It was free, because I did it the hard way. I didn’t look for any tricks. I just stopped in place and changed my behavior.
Doing it the hard way meant that I got the satisfaction of paying off every dollar, and I permanently changed my relationship to money. There were people who offered me all kinds of advice and tips, but most of them are still in debt and I am not. I know how that goes, because I did the same thing for a long time. It wasn’t until I was serious about really doing the work and making sacrifices that I was finally able to get myself out of debt.
To give you some background on my life at the time I was writing this blog: I was 25 when it started and had just turned 27 when it ended. I was a full-time PhD student in coursework, which meant that I was spending 9 hours a week in class and at least double that on homework. I worked swing shift in a library, so I went to work at 3pm and got off at midnight every night. I also worked 15 hours a week at a research center on