21 Motivational Stories of People Who Attacked Their Debt and Won

Stories About Getting Out of Debt

Last week, I wrote about making financial sacrifices now so that you can have a lifetime of financial freedom later.

For some of you, just reading the words in that article will not be enough. It’s easy to sit down and think about how things could be, but actually getting the results you seek can be extremely hard.

Therefore, I figured it would be extremely motivational to provide a list of people just like you who have given debt the middle finger.

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Every one of these individuals became fed up with their financial life and ultimately changed it for the better. For some, this transformation took only a few months. For others, it took several years. 

Let’s get to the stories!

Leo Babauta (ZenHabits.net)

Leo BabautaLeo found himself drowning in debt back in 2005. He was consistently living paycheck-to-paycheck and sometimes found himself borrowing money from friends and family just to make it to the next month.

Leo was able to buckle down and eliminate his debt (including his mortgage!) in a little over 2 years while supporting a family of 8 (yes, I wrote 8). He did it by cutting up his credit cards, eliminating non-essential expenses (like cable TV), sticking to a budget and increasing his income.

Leo’s been debt-free since that time and has gone on to create on of the most popular blogs on the planet in Zen Habits.

J.D. Roth (GetRichSlowly.org)

jdrothBy 2004, J.D. had accumulated over $35,000 in consumer debt. If that wasn’t enough, he then decided to purchase his dream house. Once the mortgage payments and new homeowner costs started rolling in, he became overwhelmed.

J.D. then took matters into his own hands by reading any personal finance book that he could get his hands on. In 2006, he also started the blog Get Rich Slowly where he wrote about his quest to get out of debt. His hard work paid off in December of 2007 when he became debt free except for his mortgage.

J.D. then went on to sell Get Rich Slowly for a good sum of money. He now lives a life full of travel and various other freedoms. You can read about his new journey on his blog More Than Money.

Anna Newell Jones (AndThenWeSaved.com)

annanewelljonesTowards the end of 2009, Anna found herself in debt to the sum of $23,605.10. It was overbearing and she was getting tired of the vicious cycle. In January of 2010, she made a pledge to get out of debt.

Anna attacked her debt by going on a Spending Fast®. She cut all of her expenses down to the bare-bones and only purchased items that were absolutely needed. By the end of 2010, she had paid off $17,911.89. She was then debt-free 3 months later.

Since becoming debt-free, Anna continues to run her blog And Then We Saved. She also runs a wedding photography business with her husband.

David Weliver (MoneyUnder30.com)

davidweliverDavid started accumulating debt while in college. It started out innocently enough with just a few credit cards with small minimum payments. The minimums were easy to maintain so he decided to charge more. By the time he graduated in 2003, he had over $80,000 in credit card and student loan debt.

He decided to turn his financial life around in 2006 when he struggled just making the minimum payments. Like many others, he thought he was doing fine because he was making his payments and his credit score was great.

David was able to eliminate his debt in a little over 3 years and became debt-free. He did it by taking on part-time jobs, living with roommates and cutting other non-essential expenses. He now operates Money Under 30 on a full-time basis.

Brad Chaffee (EnemyOfDebt.com)

bradchaffeeBrad and his family found themselves buried under $26,076 of debt in January of 2008. They constantly found themselves charging up the credit cards and then making large payments on them. One of the big motivational factors for them was the thought of what they would do with all of the extra money. This “financial dreaming” sent them into gazelle mode!

Brad and his family were able to save $2,000 as an emergency fund within 2 months and then eliminated their debt in another 18 months. They even sold their reliable Pontiac Vibe for a clunker (a 1985 Honda CRX). Now that’s commitment!

Since becoming debt-free, the Chaffee’s have been able to save for a proper emergency fund and are currently saving to buy a new house in cash.

Amanda Grossman (FrugalConfessions.com)

amandagrossmanAmanda graduated from college in 2005 with $36,000 in student loan debt and $2,000 in the bank. Over the next couple of years, she was able to pay off a good chunk of the debt even while facing a brief stretch of unemployment. She was also able to save $10,000.

In 2008, Amanda rekindled a relationship with her now husband Paul and this added about $15,000 of additional debt to the picture. However, they aggressively attacked the debt and became debt-free in September of 2010.

Today, Amanda and her husband live in Houston, TX where they have pledged to pay cash for everything. Amanda continues to write at Frugal Confessions and also has a blog at the Houston Chronicle of the same name.

Travis Pizel (@DebtChronicles)

TravisPizelTravis and his wife Vonnie had amassed $109,000 worth of credit card debt over a 10-year period. They both made good money but always found ways to spend beyond their means. In 2009, they faced increased minimum payments on their debts and realized that they could no longer sustain the debt load.

They both felt responsible for the debt and wanted to avoid bankruptcy at all costs. Because their credit cards were extremely costly, the decided to enroll in a debt management plan where the company negotiated their interest rates down and dispersed the monthly payments for them. Upon enrollment in the plan, Travis and his wife agreed to make 57 monthly payments of $2,489 each. Yikes!

Through cutting expenses, getting on a budget and selling some unused items in their house, they have been able to pay off over $100,000 and are only a few months away from becoming debt-free.

Travis continues to write about his journey out of debt on the blog Enemy of Debt.

Philip Taylor (PTMoney.com)

Philip_TaylorPhilip racked up most of his debt in college. When he graduated, he had over $20,000 in student loans and over $1,500 in credit card debt. That credit card debt later increased to a little over $3,000. However, he didn’t stop there. He fell victim to the “low interest rates are good!” argument and added a car loan while also financing his wedding on a 0% credit card.

Philip and his wife had an epiphany in 2009 and decided to eliminate debt from their lives for good. They lowered the non-essential expenses, increased their income and are now debt-free except for their mortgage. Philip spends his debt-free hours operating his website, PT Money.

Adam Baker (ManVsDebt.com)

adambakerAdam and his wife Courtney found themselves in debt to the tune of $72,000 with $17,000 of that debt being from credit cards and 2 car loans. After their daughter was born in 2008, they reevaluated their lives and decided to sell everything that they owned in order to travel.

11 months after they started attacking their debt, they had eliminated the credit cards and car loans while also managing to save another $17,000 for their travels. In fact, they packed up their remaining belongings (which fit into suitcases) and lived abroad for several months. When they returned to the U.S., they purchased an RV and traveled across the country.

Adam has since “retired” from ManVsDebt and works for a film making company.

Joan Otto (JoanOtto.com)

joanottoJoan and her husband found themselves over $89,500 in debt back in early 2011. After reading about Adam and Courtney Baker’s progress, they decided that it was their turn. They were sick and tired of being broke and tired and decided to take action.

Joan has been chronicling their journey on ManVsDebt.com for over a year and a half. During that time period, her and her husband have been able to pay off over $34,000 of their debt. That’s quite an achievement!

Although Joan and her husband still carry debt, they’re attacking it with a passion and it’s great to be able to follow along on their journey. They are hopeful to be out of debt by early 2016.

Jaime Tardy (EventualMillionaire.com)

JaimeTardyJaime and her husband were facing $70,040 in debt in early 2006. The debt consisted of student loans, a car loan and a variable home equity loan. Jamie’s desire to work at home part-time and start a family were the main forces driving their attack plan.

They were very aggressive with their debt repayment plan and even traded in their new car that they purchased only 2 months prior. They also eliminated several non-essential expenses and reduced their major ones.

Jaime and her husband welcomed a new baby in December of 2006 and eliminated their final debt in the spring of 2007 while still having $23,000 in the bank. Jaime now works from home running the blog Eventual Millionaire where she interviews successful entrepreneurs.

Johnny & Joanna (OurFreakingBudget.com)

joannajohnnyJohnny and Joanna were $20,000 in debt at the height of it all. The majority of their debt was from student loans while the remaining amount was accumulated during one of Johnny’s unpaid internships.

They were able to pay down their debt in a few short years even after moving several times. These moves weren’t to small little towns either. We’re talking about NYC and Boston here! Regardless, they kept level heads throughout their plan and stuck to their (freaking!) budget. Nice!

Both Johnny and Joanna are working full-time, writing at Our Freaking Budget and taking care of their new (and adorable!) baby girl.

Meadow DeVor (MeadowDeVor.com)

meadowdevorIn January of 2009, Meadow found herself $571,817.68 in debt. Sure, the number included her primary mortgage plus a mortgage on a rental property but hey, debt is debt. Outside of the mortgages, she still had over $40,000 in consumer loans. Ouch!

She started her attack plan by selling her house at a $25,000 loss and taking a personal loan to cover the difference. Next, she ended up selling the rental property in a short sale. To eliminate the remaining debt she took on 3 jobs, sold a TON of her stuff and finally lived within her means.

In November of 2011, Meadow became debt free and will never look back. She continues to write for her site MeadowDeVor.com where she shares a ton of great information!

Krystal Yee (GiveMeBackMyFiveBucks.com)

krystalyeeKrystal graduated from college in 2006 with $20,000 in student loan and credit card debt. Like most college students, her credit card debt was accumulated by purchasing clothes, concert tickets and trips.

After landing a job in June of 2006, she was able to start throwing $1,000 extra per month on her credit cards. She had them paid off in a few months. After landing a new, higher paying job, she was then able to throw an extra $2,000 per month on her student loans. She was completely out of debt by May of 2007. Now that’s fast!

In order to attack her debt, Krystal did a number of things such as selling her car and buying a scooter. This helped reduce a number of her budgeted expenses which in turn allowed for higher extra payments on her debts.

JoAnneh Nagler (@MoneyPeace4Life)

joannehnaglerJoAnneh started using credit cards at the age of 25 and used them to extend her income for expenses like dining out and clothing. By the time she was 42, she had accumulated over $80,000 in credit card debt.

When JoAnneh decided that enough was enough, she set out on a quest to learn as much about personal finance as she could. While searching, she wasn’t finding useful enough information for her situation. Therefore, she created her own process called The Debt-Free Spending Plan, a five-minute-a-day approach to living debt-free that’s “easy on the soul” and covers every need–including vacations. She now spends time as an author, yoga teacher, coach and artist.

Joe Mihalic (NoMoreHarvardDebt.com)

joeJoe graduated from Harvard Business School in May of 2009 with a MBA and $101,000 worth of student loans. After making 21 payments of $1,057(!), Joe checked out his balances expecting them to be down around $80,000. To his surprise, the balance was still $90,717. He decided right then and there to challenge himself to get them paid off as fast as possible.

Joe was able to pay off the remaining $90,717 of student loans in 7 months. To get it accomplished, he stopped contributing to his retirement plan, sold a car and motorcycle, temporarily stopped entertainment expenses, missed out on bachelor parties and learned how to more DIY stuff around his house. He also increased his income by taking on roommates, starting a business and attempting other odd jobs. Needless to say, Joe had a goal and went at it full force!

Joe still works full-time in Austin, TX where he lives a life full of balance. He also wrote an eBook about his journey.

Carrie Smith (CarefulCents.com)

Carrie-SmithIn March of 2011, Carrie looked at her $14,000 pile of debt and decided that enough was enough. She asked herself, “How can I make this much money but always be so broke?”. 

Carrie then sat down and made a plan. She cut back on a number of non-essential expenses such as cable, dining out, gym memberships, etc. She also raised her income by doing side work and marketing her skills. As she worked her way through her debts, she also rewarded herself.

In May of 2012, Carrie became debt-free. She now spends her time running her website and writing at several major news websites such as The Huffington Post.

Eric and Erika (NewlywedsOnABudget.com)

ericandericaAfter dating for 3 months, Eric and Erika decided to get married. They unfortunately forgot to talk about money beforehand and found out that they were starting their new lives together with $45,500 in debt. They vowed to eliminate it.

Eric and Erika started their debt elimination plan in April of 2010. Over the years, they have certainly had some setbacks. For example, Eric attended the fire academy full-time for four months and he also sustained an injury that caused him to miss some time at work. Even with those events, they’ve been able to get their debt down to a little over $11,000.

Stephanie Benedetti

StephanieHoodA few years ago, Stephanie found herself $90,000 in debt. The majority of the debt was from student loans with about $9,000 in credit card debt. She had been dating her boyfriend for about 6 months when she told him the ballpark figure for her debt. He then offered to save money like crazy while she was eliminating her debt so that they could start their lives together right.

To eliminate her debt, Stephanie moved in with a roommate, canceled her cable, and reduced other expenses. She also took on odd jobs such as mystery shopping and babysitting. These changes allowed her to throw an extra $2,000 on her debt per month which ultimately led to her becoming debt-free. She was even featured on Katie Couric’s talk show!

Kim Parr (EyesOnTheDollar.com)

kimparrWhen Kim’s in-laws lost a house to foreclosure, it caused her and her husband to evaluate their debt. In June of 2011, they had about $70,000 in student loans and $30,000 in credit card debt. They knew that if one of them lost their job, it would be difficult to handle. Because of this, they vowed to eliminate their debt and become more financially responsible.

Kim and her husband had to change their entire thought process regarding money. They cut back on expenses, sold things around the house and increased their income. By November of 2012, they had paid off their credit cards. Today? Well, they’ve also paid off their student loans and are on their way to the millionaire club!

Jordann Brown (My-Alternate-Life.com)

JordannbrownIn July of 2011, Jordann and her husband purchased a used car after an accident totaled their other one. They financed it for a little over $11,000. At the time, Jordann also had almost $27,000 in student loans.

Jordann then got interested in personal finance and they decided to eliminate their debt. It took her a little over 2 years to accomplish it, but they’re finally debt free!

Jordann still works full-time in marketing while running her website My Alternative Life.

Each one of these stories was completely different. 

Some people took on additional work while others cut their expenses down to the minimum. Some even did a combination of both.

Some needed the assistance of a debt management plan while others cut up their credit cards and went at it alone.

I guess my point is: they each took different paths to financial freedom.

Want to know something else? This is just a microcosm of people who have eliminated debt from their lives. These people just happened to write about it online. You can easily find dozens more in your hometown or work. Just ask around!

In fact, if you’ve eliminated debt from your life, share your story in the comments. I want this article to be a huge collection of stories for anyone looking to eliminate debt!

I hope you enjoyed these stories about getting out of debt. Start attacking your debt and working on your get out of debt story TODAY!



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15 Responses to 21 Motivational Stories About Getting Out of Debt

  1. This is a fantastic accumulation of inspiring stories, Adam. I know many of the others listed personally, and I’m honored to be included with so many inspirational people. Your point is right on, there are many ways to get out of debt and get your finances back on track. If you’re struggling with debt, you have choices to turn it around!

    • Exactly! It’s not one size fits all. Find something that works and run with it!

      Big kudos to your family in that department. You’re kicking debt’s butt! I imagine you are just counting down the days!

  2. I hope to add my story to the bunch one day. Starting last fall, I lived in my car for 4 months, and threw every dollar I got towards debt. Now I rent a room. I will pay off the last of my 3 credit cards this week. I had a budget for years and I thought that I had trimmed down to the bare essentials, but as I studied how to get out of debt (I read articles and watched 100 debt-related videos), I’ve realized that there was really more I could do, and I’ve been doing it.

    $5,500 paid off.
    $50K of debt left to pay.

    I’ve been chronicling my story with a blog, and I can’t wait to tell the ending.

  3. This post really, really gave me the push i needed to finally face my finances. I am a 23 year old British woman, so seeing people who have cleared $90,000 worth of debt in a year is so so inspiring. I owe just over £3000/$4000 and i want to clear it asap! THANK YOU!

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