How We Paid Off $28,000 Of Debt In 15 Months

Right here’s how this social employee has paid off $28,000 of pupil mortgage debt in 15 months.

Immediately, I’ve a terrific debt payoff progress story to share from Taylor. Taylor is a social employee who’s engaged on paying off $277,000 of debt and retiring early. She shares recommendations on how she is chopping her bills, the methods they’ve elevated their earnings by means of varied facet hustles, home hacking recommendation, and the way she certified for an $88,000 pupil mortgage award. Get pleasure from!

Now, don’t let the title deceive you into pondering we’re debt free; we most actually should not. 

As of this writing, we nonetheless have $251,195.39 of debt (all pupil loans).

That is our story in regards to the debt payoff methods we utilized in paying off $28,026.02 of debt and our objectives for the long run!

Who’re we?

My title is Taylor, and I’m a 29-year-old medical social employee who completed grad faculty in 2018. I’m additionally a part-time social media coordinator and with each jobs mixed, I make $96,000 (gross). 

I dwell with my husband, Bret, who I’ve been with for 11 years and married for 3. He’s a full-time pupil and has been in grad faculty since September 2020 (he has about 2 extra years left). We like to journey, attempt new eating places, hang around with our family and friends, and simply have an excellent time. 

I even have a weblog at Social Work to Wealth.

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How did we get right here? 

First, I want to provide you some background earlier than we get into the nitty gritty of our debt numbers and payoff methods. 

2012: We met when each of us had been in school. I used to be 18 and Bret was 22. Quickly after we met, Bret took just a few years off from faculty whereas I completed my bachelor’s. I relied completely on pupil loans, and don’t bear in mind making use of to any scholarships. When Bret returned to high school to complete his bachelor’s, he did obtain some scholarships and labored a summer time job to pay forhousing however nonetheless wanted to depend on pupil loans to pay the majority of his tuition. 

I’ll communicate for myself once I say I didn’t take the time to calculate how a lot mortgage cash I truly wanted and blindly accepted the overall quantity. Trying again, possibly I’d have wanted all of it or possibly not, however I want I’d have no less than completed the train. 

Now we have at all times been open with speaking about our debt and cash typically, however I bear in mind us each expressing the thought that we might most likely at all times have our pupil loans. We might simply dwell our life, pay our minimal funds, and that will be that. There was by no means any speak about debt payoff methods, or any cash administration methods, actually. 

We went by means of many life transitions. Residing aside for 2 years whereas I went to grad faculty, him returning to high school to complete his bachelor’s, varied jobs, and a post-bach program.

2019: Bret was ending up his post-bach program and bought accepted into grad faculty. We had been newly engaged and commenced planning and saving for our wedding ceremony scheduled for July 11th, 2020. Such thrilling stuff!

March 2020: We bought the information our wedding ceremony venue was closing for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we resolve to cancel our wedding ceremony. We switched gears and used the cash we saved for a down fee on a brand new dwelling. Then, we had a small intimate wedding ceremony that includes a hot-air balloon with 18 of our closest members of the family! We personally saved a ton and likewise had super assist from our household. 

September 2020: I begin a brand new job and Bret begins grad faculty. We’re newlyweds and settling into our new dwelling in a brand new metropolis.

I want I may speak extra about 2020 as a result of it was a HUGE yr for us with shopping for a house, transferring, getting married, Bret beginning grad faculty and me beginning a brand new job, however that’s a dialog for an additional day!

our wedding with hot air balloons
Our wedding ceremony

From frugal to spenders

Once we had been saving for our wedding ceremony, we had been very frugal. Any more money we had, we put towards our wedding ceremony financial savings (which once more, ended up getting used for the down fee on our home and a smaller wedding ceremony ceremony). 

We went from frugal to swiping our playing cards left and proper to arrange for our wedding ceremony and furnish our home. It was sooo good to lastly be capable of spend the cash we had been saving for therefore lengthy! However this continued into 2020… and 2021…

We had been largely spending on consuming out and experiences. We do like to purchase “issues” however we undoubtedly worth meals and experiences much more. We even determined to place a visit to Hawaii on our bank card costing us round $5,000, together with different bills, as a result of why not? We deserved it!

We didn’t have a lot of a funds, our payments had been getting paid, however the bank card invoice stored growing. Since I used to be the one one bringing in earnings, we took out some pupil loans to assist with a portion of our dwelling bills. And the bank card invoice continued to extend. 

The “wake-up name”

The “wake-up name” is such a theme all through many debt payoff tales. So, right here’s mine. 

I went to breakfast with two associates in December 2021, and one in every of them introduced up high-yield financial savings accounts (HYSA). I had by no means heard of any such account earlier than and was shocked to be taught that these financial savings accounts had a method higher rate of interest than a daily financial savings account. 

How was I simply listening to about this at 28 years outdated? My thoughts was blown!

I believed, what else don’t I do know? So after all, that led me to deep dive into the world of non-public finance. I consumed any guide, video, weblog, or podcast I may get my fingers on. I learn tales after tales of individuals paying off 1000’s of {dollars}’ price of debt, leveraging bank card factors free of charge journey, investing, and a lot extra!

It was so motivating. I used to be hooked! (And nonetheless am.)

Bret was open and prepared for me to share with him what I used to be studying. We began realizing that for the final yr and a half, we hadn’t been telling ourselves “No”. We had simply been shopping for no matter we needed, and we had the bank card invoice and no financial savings to indicate for it. 

We realized that we may repay all our debt and it didn’t have to stick with us ceaselessly. We realized there was a method to make use of a bank card responsibly (we thought we had been). We realized that we may even retire early. That one sounded actual good! We dreamed of getting extra time doing our hobbies, touring and being with our family and friends. And if we ever had children, we dreamed of with the ability to work part-time so we might be dwelling extra with them and accessible for varsity actions. 

Figuring out this, we began reining in our spending, attempting to simply be extra “aware”, however no main change was made. 

We tackle extra debt

April 2022: Folks in our neighborhood had been getting new fences. We began pondering, “Hey, we’d like a brand new fence, too…” In some areas it was damaged, it hadn’t been stained so was rotting, and was 15 years outdated. We had been additionally going to get an up to date appraisal to see if we may get our major mortgage insurance coverage (PMI) eliminated after simply two years of proudly owning our dwelling and thought a brand new fence may assist. 

A coworker informed me she was utilizing a house fairness mortgage to purchase a fence and to do another dwelling renovations. We investigated choices and ended up opening a $20,000 dwelling fairness line of credit score (HELOC) as an alternative with a few 4% rate of interest. We purchase our fence which finally ends up being about ~10,000 and we had been set on it…

The second “wake-up name” 

When it was all stated and completed, we cherished our fence. We nonetheless love our fence, it’s lovely! (And it higher be at that worth!) We stained it and we consider it’s going to final us for a few years.

However we begin speaking once more about our debt and the way we most likely didn’t want this fence proper now. We know we didn’t want this fence proper now. Our PMI was eliminated, and it may have possibly occurred even with out the fence. Who is aware of. 

We started pondering we have to make some critical adjustments in the way in which we handle our cash. We have to do extra than simply be “aware” about our spending. We make a actual plan. We plan to make an precise funds, cease taking up pointless debt, and take a break from utilizing our bank cards for the foreseeable future. 

Could 2022: Starting of our debt payoff journey 

Since we had been critical about our new cash administration adjustments, I documented how a lot debt we had so we may monitor our progress.


Right here was the breakdown:

  • $260,390.25 in pupil loans, Bret & I’s mixed – varied rates of interest
  • $10,676.24 HELOC – 4% rate of interest
  • $5,430.76 is from bank card spending – 4% rate of interest*
  • $449 for furnishings – 0% rate of interest
  • $775.16 for Peloton bike – 0% rate of interest

*We moved our bank card debt to our HELOC since our bank card was round a 25% rate of interest.

July 2023: Present debt numbers

Our present debt steadiness is $251,195.39, * that are all pupil loans. 

Now we have paid off a complete of $28,026.02 of debt! 

*Our present steadiness will enhance to ~$255,000 as soon as Bret will get his ultimate pupil mortgage disbursement (extra on that later). 

I wish to additionally point out that we do have our mortgage, however we aren’t attempting to pay that down as rapidly as attainable for just a few causes: we’ve got a 3% rate of interest, we don’t plan on this being our ceaselessly dwelling, and someday we’d hire it out or promote it.

Actions that helped us repay $28,026.02 of debt in 15 months

We discovered a budgeting methodology that labored for us

We realized we may dwell off my earnings alone and never tackle anymore debt, however we must have a considerably inflexible funds.

Discovering a budgeting methodology that labored for us took a while. I don’t know what number of occasions through the years I’ve tried to trace my bills in a funds app or an excel sheet, solely to seek out out it was too overwhelming and that I used to be nonetheless overspending! 

I’m a visible particular person and realized in regards to the envelope budgeting methodology, so we determined to provide {that a} attempt, however use a digital variation. 

So, for our complete cash administration system we’ve got 4 checking accounts and a couple of financial savings accounts (short-term and emergency fund). Our checking accounts embrace payments, meals and miscellaneous, and two private spending accounts. 

This may occasionally look like a number of accounts to some, however it has labored tremendously for us. I really like having a separate account for every main class in our funds so I can simply see how a lot cash we’ve got left in a sure class with out having so as to add each expense into an app or Excel spreadsheet. We’re joint homeowners on all of those accounts. 

We then use the zero-based funds methodology to find out how a lot goes into every account. 

We do have a number of playing cards to handle, however the execs VERY MUCH outweigh the cons right here. 

And with our personal spending accounts, we’ve got a sure sum of money allotted to us every month, so we individually have some spending freedom. We don’t need to really feel responsible and know this cash is put aside particularly for our private spending.

Minimize bills and elevated our earnings 

I do know some persons are bored with listening to about this suggestion, however it’s one thing that basically did assist us! We reined in our spending a bit however largely we needed to enhance our earnings. At a sure level, there wasn’t way more to chop. 

We didn’t have many streaming providers, began to restrict our consuming out, we didn’t have automotive funds, and we meal deliberate and prepped. We did (and nonetheless do) aaalll the issues. We needed to enhance our earnings by some means. 

Methods we elevated our earnings

My earnings enhance

I continued with my second job as a social media supervisor after which began canine sitting.

I’ve been canine sitting for about 5 years and have primarily used the Rover platform to checklist myself as a canine sitter. I like this app as a result of it’s simple to make use of and I can specify varied providers to supply (e.g., home sitting, boarding, drop in visits, day care, or canine strolling).

It additionally permits me to mark which days I’m accessible after which individuals attain out to me if I look like an excellent match and my availability matches with their wants! Establishing my profile took a while, however now that it’s completed, every thing else is pretty low upkeep.

I now simply have to answer inquiries in a well timed method and arrange a meet and greet if it looks like an excellent match.   

I presently solely supply home sitting and on Rover and I cost $65/night time. Rover takes a reduce, so I find yourself pocketing $52. I even have non-public purchasers who pay me immediately, and I’ve gotten these by referrals from previous Rover purchasers. I cost my non-public purchasers $40/night time. 

I lately elevated my charges on Rover and have been sluggish to extend my worth with my non-public purchasers as a result of they’re loyal.

I don’t make a ton of cash canine sitting, however I’m able to make a pair hundred {dollars} a month. My schedule could be very restricted, however there are individuals with higher availability who make considerably greater than I do!

I really like animals and we don’t have any on account of our sporadic work schedules, so it’s a good way for me to spend time with pets and receives a commission, too!

Bret’s earnings enhance

Final yr, Bret determined to take a break from grad faculty and shortly after, he was provided a summer time job in Alaska.

Once we first began courting, he used to spend virtually each summer time there working for a household who owned a set-netting fishery. His uncle had spent many summers in Alaska working for this household and one summer time introduced Bret to work with him. They might catch salmon and promote it to a shopping for station of their space. 

He went up there for about 6 summers in a row, till he bought too busy with faculty and couldn’t go anymore. 

He hadn’t been to Alaska in over 5 years, however somebody who labored for the shopping for station remembered Bret, known as him, and requested if he’d be fascinated about working on the shopping for station! Since he was already on a break from faculty, he stated sure and labored up there for 8 weeks.

We had been in a position to put each paycheck he earned in direction of our debt as a result of we may handle all our bills on my earnings alone. It was additionally a good way for Bret to spend a part of his summer time and I used to be lastly in a position to go to as I by no means gotten the possibility in earlier years.

Home hacking

We additionally began home hacking! We had a spare bed room and loo I’d use for my workplace and sometimes, for company. A buddy of mine and her husband are actually into the actual property house and gave us the thought to hire it out. 

We weren’t comfy with the thought of getting a long-term roommate, and with each of us working in healthcare, we knew there was a necessity for short-term and furnished housing for travelling healthcare professionals. 

For us, short-term meant renting for 1-6 months, however we had been open to people staying longer if it labored effectively for everybody concerned!

Some questions we needed to handle earlier than renting:

  • Did we’d like a allow?
  • How a lot ought to we cost for the deposit, hire and pets?
  • What furnishings and facilities are essential for vacationers?
  • The place ought to we checklist the room?
  • The way to create a lease settlement?

In our county, we didn’t want a allow to hire out the room if we had been renting for no less than 30+ days at a time. 

After researching rental costs in our space, I discovered rooms that had been of comparable caliber listed for $1,100 per thirty days or extra. We needed to be aggressive and so we initially settled on $900 per thirty days and have steadily elevated it. Now we have now landed on $995 per thirty days which incorporates all utilities and web. 

We set the deposit at $995, with an extra $300 for a pet deposit, and no ongoing pet hire.

We needed to improve the furnishings within the room and IKEA was a terrific place for us to seek out inexpensive, sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing furnishings. We made certain the room had a mattress, massive dresser, bedside desk, and we stored my desk in there too.

I learn it’s essential for vacationers to have their very own TV accessible to allow them to unwind of their room. We had been capable of finding a decently priced sensible TV off Fb Market. 

Furnished Finder is the place we determined to checklist our room, which began out as a platform for touring nurses to seek out furnished housing. It’s now used closely by many healthcare professionals, college students, and professionals in different fields.

Vacationers attain out to us by means of the Furnished Finder web site and if the dates work out, we transfer ahead with scheduling a video interview. It’s essential for us to have the ability to speak to the particular person, even when it’s simply over video, and we would like them to see our faces and residential in actual time as effectively.

For the lease settlement, we used ez Landlord Types, as a result of they’ve leases for every state with particular info on what’s required to incorporate. 

We don’t ask for something main from tenants. An important issues to us are that they’re respectful of our house, don’t smoke in the home, and pay their hire on time. We additionally added a web page on the finish for tenants so as to add two emergency contacts in case we have to name somebody on their behalf.

Now we have had 4 renters to this point with the room being occupied for 13 out of the final 14 months. It has actually helped us with our debt payoff objectives and we’ve got additionally met some superior individuals by means of the method! We plan to proceed renting it out for the foreseeable future. 

Utilized for in-state pupil mortgage assist

My state provided a program known as the Oregon Behavioral Well being Mortgage Reimbursement Program the place they assist minorities within the behavioral well being discipline, or those that serve them, pay again their pupil loans. 

This program is funded by The Behavioral Well being Workforce Initiative which has the objective of recruiting and retaining behavioral well being suppliers who, “Are individuals of shade, tribal members, or residents of rural areas of Oregon, and may present culturally responsive look after various communities.”

To use, I needed to present I used to be employed and actively offering behavioral well being providers and provides them detailed documentation about my pupil loans. I additionally needed to reply two essay questions associated to being part of and/or working with communities who’re underserved and the way my coaching has geared up me with supporting these communities.

I utilized final yr and was a recipient of an award!

As a recipient, there’s a two-year service dedication which suggests I’ve to proceed offering some type of behavioral well being service throughout that time-frame (which I deliberate to). Over the subsequent two years, I shall be getting ~$88,000 in quarterly disbursements to place in direction of my pupil loans. Up to now this yr, I’ve obtained ~$11,000, and it’s been life altering to say the least!

Alongside this assist, I’m additionally pursuing Public Service Mortgage Forgiveness (PSLF) for added pupil mortgage aid.

Managing our psychological well being whereas paying off debt

Since I’m a social employee, I typically take into consideration how cash and debt have an effect on people’ psychological well being. It’s one of many the reason why I began my weblog within the first place. 

I spotted managing cash is a common job and many people don’t know what we’re doing as a result of speaking about cash is taboo. And when you’ve monetary stress, it will possibly actually take a toll in your psychological well being. So, I needed to share our journey in hopes of serving to others. 

Bret and I aren’t these people who wish to keep away from consuming out and enjoyable experiences till we’re debt free. And, we’re additionally privileged to not need to take these excessive measures both. It has been essential for us to make this journey sustainable and never deprive ourselves of experiences whereas we’re going by means of it.

Right here’s how we’re making our journey sustainable: 

  • Nonetheless going out to eat
  • Budgeting for private spending cash, aka enjoyable
  • Setting reasonable debt payoff objectives 
  • Placing apart cash for journey
  • Not evaluating and pondering different persons are higher than us as a result of they’re in a position to repay their debt faster 
  • Monitoring our debt payoff progress (we use Excel). With a lot debt left to repay, with the ability to see our progress is admittedly motivating
  • Brazenly speaking about our debt. Avoidance is a coping mechanism for a lot of, for us, acknowledging and addressing it has been so releasing (however it wasn’t at all times this fashion). 
  • Speaking about our desires and reminding ourselves why we wish to do that within the first place

We all know that if we eradicated going out to eat, budgeting for enjoyable, or each, we might be paying off our debt a lot faster. Nonetheless, that sounds depressing to us. It’s price it to nonetheless exit to dinner, journey, or purchase vegetation (in my case) than to deprive ourselves of the enjoyment these items carry. 

We’re making nice progress and we all know in time, we shall be debt free.

Our debt payoff journey isn’t linear

A number of months in the past, we determined to take out $6,000 of pupil loans. Bret presently has a full tuition scholarship, so we’re tremendously fortunate in that regard, however he simply realized about some conferences that will be actually useful to his skilled development. Now we have gotten $1,500 of this mortgage cash already which is included in our present debt steadiness, however we haven’t obtained all of it but.

We may have pinched and saved to keep away from taking up any of this debt, however that will have induced me to work greater than I presently am. Once more, not in step with our present objective of creating this journey sustainable! 

We had been very intentional about how a lot to take out. We estimated how a lot he would wish for just a few conferences and declined the remainder. We even opened a separate financial savings account for the cash to verify it didn’t get by chance spent on something. 

I’m SO happy with us for that!

The objective right here is progress not perfection. So cliche, I do know. However we’re studying the best way to suppose critically about our cash, spend thoughtfully, use our cash as a device to succeed in our objectives, and luxuriate in our life alongside the way in which. And proper now, that meant taking up a bit of extra debt. 

We’re transferring in the suitable route, and we all know when he begins working, that may actually speed up our debt payoff journey since we’ve got confirmed to ourselves we are able to dwell on my earnings alone. 

Our plan going ahead

Bret remains to be at school which suggests his loans are on deferment, so we presently have his on the again burner. 

With the mortgage fee help I’m receiving, it’s permitting us to place any more money we’ve got every month in direction of our financial savings. Our precedence proper now’s increase an excellent emergency fund of about $16,000 (~4 months’ price of bills). 

This has been tough due to inflation and simply little emergencies that hold popping up, however we’re slowly making progress. 

I’m additionally prioritizing investing in my employer retirement plan, however solely as much as the quantity that will get me my employer match which is 6% of my earnings.  

Bret shall be graduating in 2025, so at the moment, we’ll pivot to incorporating his loans into our funds. Our objective is to be debt free by 2028. 

It is going to take a number of self-discipline and persistence, however I feel we are able to do it. I’m manifesting it!

We wish to proceed to be taught, implement, and develop. We wish to hold having clear discussions about cash and constructing our cash foundations. And I personally wish to proceed sharing our journey with hopes of inspiring, encouraging and educating others. Right here’s to sharing the wealth. 

Do you’ve debt? What are you doing to pay it off?

Taylor is a social employee and private finance blogger at Social Work to Wealth the place she shares ideas, assets, and classes realized on her household’s journey to paying off $277,000 of debt and retiring early. She hopes to encourage and empower social employees with monetary schooling to allow them to have a greater relationship with their cash. When she’s not working or running a blog, you will discover her touring, gardening, attempting a brand new restaurant, or shopping for too many vegetation.