21+ Motivational Stories About Getting Out of Debt

Stories About Getting Out of Debt

Once I get people to define what financial freedom means to them, their first goal usually stems around eliminating debt.

Simply put, debt hinders your ability to build wealth. 

Debt hinders your ability to build wealth.Click To Tweet

The longer you have it, the longer you’ll postpone doing the things that make your money work for you.

To help get you inspired to eliminate your debt, I thought I’d share a list of individuals that paid off their debt and shared their experience doing it.

Now just reading the words in their articles will not be enough. You need to take action. Like today.

It’s easy to sit down and think about how things could be, but actually getting the results you seek will be hard. But I know you can do it.

On to the stories about getting out of debt!

Pay Off DebtFREE BONUS! Start your debt elimination story today by getting access to my free guide Pay Off an Additional $1,000 in 1 MonthClick here to get the free guide!

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. 

Melanie Lockert (DearDebt.com)

Melanie LockertMelanie started her blog back in 2013 with about $81,000 in student loan debt. Unable to find steady and meaningful work, she made the scary transition into self-employment to try and earn more income.

Since becoming self-employed, Melanie has more than doubled her income and paid off all of her debt – one year earlier than planned.

Since becoming debt-free, Melanie moved to Los Angeles where she still runs her blog, Dear Debt. The site has a section titled, Dear Debt Letters where you can submit a “breakup letter to your debt”. There have been some wonderfully creative letters over time. I highly encourage you to check them out and quite possibly, write your own. She also wrote a book!

Price: NOT an affiliate link. I do not make money if you click the link. Last Updated: 01/01/1970

Jackie Beck (TheDebtMyth.com)

Jackie BeckJackie and her husband paid off over $147,000 in debt, including their mortgage. Of that amount, a little over $52,000 was consumer debt.

To pay if off, their first step was to stop using credit. As I’ve explained in the past, this is a BIG hurdle for many people and Jackie was no different. After they saved up a little for emergencies and planned out their periodic expenses, their momentum began. It took some time, but now their debt-free (including their mortgage) and couldn’t be happier.

You can find Jackie writing on her site, The Debt Myth. She even created an app called Pay Off Debt to help you start your debt-free journey.

RECOMMENDED READING:  Budgeting For Dummies - The Ultimate Guide on Creating a Budget You'll Actually Stick With


Michelle Schroeder-Gardner (MakingSenseofCents.com)

Michelle Schroeder-GardnerEven though Michelle worked full-time during college, she still graduated with around $40,000 in student loan debt.

Through a lot of hard work, Michelle and her husband were able to pay off the debt in less than a year. They were able to do this by sticking to a budget and working hard to increase their income.

Michelle has since become a full-time blogger on her site, Making Sense of Cents.

Zina Kumok (DebtFreeAfterThree.com)

Zina KumokWith roughly $28,000 in student loan debt after college, Zina set a goal to pay it all off within three years.

With a lot of hard work and frugality, she was able to pay the entire balance off in less than three years. During that time she was only earning around $30,000 per year!

Today, you can still find her writing on her blog, Debt Free After Three.


Deacon Hayes (WellKeptWallet.com)

Deacon HayDeacon and his wife paid off $52,000 of debt in only 18 months How? Well, they got INTENSE!

They started off by selling a ton of their stuff. Deacon even sold his brand new Nissan Altima less than a year after he purchased it. Now that’s dedication!

Deacon and his wife are now working on paying off their mortgage in only 10 short years. You can read more at his blog, Well Kept Wallet.


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.

eLeo 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. He’s also written a few books.


J.D. Roth (MoneyBoss.com)

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. He now lives a life full of travel and various other freedoms. You can read about his journey on his new blog, Money Boss. He also wrote a book on personal finance.

Price: NOT an affiliate link. I do not make money if you click the link. Last Updated: 01/01/1970

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 ALL of the debt and are officially 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.


Lance Cothern (MoneyManifesto.com)

Lance CothernIn under 3 years, Lance and his wife paid off over $80,000 in debt.

To pay if off, they made a plan, sold things around the house, and earned additional income along the way. They had a few speed bumps along the way like medical expenses and job changes, but they’re happy to be debt-free.

Since becoming debt-free, Lance still writes about his family’s journey on his website, Money Manifesto.


Stephanie Jones (SixFiguresUnder.com)

Stephanie JonesBack in September of 2013, Stephanie and her husband were staring at $144,000 in debt. A majority of that was student loan debt.

To pay if off, they sat down and made an aggressive, three-year plan. Why was it aggressive? Well, to pay it off that fast, they would need to pay close to $4,000 per month on the debt. At the time, that was more than their take-home pay!

To indicate how dedicated they were to pay off their debt, they actually took the $17,000 they had earmarked for a house down payment and made a lump-sum payment on their debt.

Since becoming debt-free in July of 2016, they’ve made some big plans with their money. You can still follow their journey on Stephanie’s website, Six Figures Under.


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. She’s even written a book about what she’s learned interviewing these entrepreneurs.

Price: NOT an affiliate link. I do not make money if you click the link. Last Updated: 01/01/1970

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 the 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.

Price: NOT an affiliate link. I do not make money if you click the link. Last Updated: 01/01/1970

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.


Eric and Erika (NewlywedsOnABudget.com)

ericandericaAfter dating for 3 months, Eric and Erika decided to get married. Unfortunately, they 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 become debt-free.


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.


Pay Off DebtDON’T FORGET YOUR FREE BONUS! Start your debt elimination story today by getting access to my free guide Pay Off an Additional $1,000 in 1 MonthClick here to get the free guide!

Each one of these stories was completely different. 

Some people took on additional work while others cut their expenses down to the minimum. Most 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 story TODAY!



  1. Carrie Smith on November 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Wow, thank you so much for including my debt story alongside all these other inspiring ones. I really appreciate the opportunity!

    • Adam Hagerman on November 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      You’re welcome but it was really all you!

  2. Amanda L Grossman on November 19, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Neat list. Thank you for including my story!

    • Adam Hagerman on November 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      You’re welcome! Awesome work!

  3. Travis on November 19, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    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!

    • Adam Hagerman on November 19, 2013 at 8:52 PM

      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!

  4. Anna Newell Jones on November 20, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    Thanks for including me with all these great folks! Great round-up of getting-out-of-debt inspiration!

  5. Jaime on November 21, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Thanks so much for including me!! I appreciate it 🙂

  6. Holly on December 5, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    This is great!
    It seems like most PF/Frugality/Debt bloggers were in debt at some point in their lives. I know that I was!

  7. livinginmyhonda on March 21, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    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.

    • Adam Hagerman on March 22, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Awesome! I hope to hear about your story soon. Is your blog live?

  8. livinginmyhonda on March 23, 2014 at 11:15 PM

  9. Meadow DeVor on February 2, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    Adam – thank you so much for sharing my story. So many of your readers have been clicking over and reading my blog. I appreciate you spreading the word!

  10. Brittany Solomon on January 11, 2016 at 10:43 PM

    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!

    • Adam Hagerman on January 13, 2016 at 8:30 AM

      Go get ’em Brittany!

  11. Nicolas C on October 31, 2016 at 11:18 PM

    Great stories! I too was in about 20,000 in debt in 2013 with my credit cards and a line of credit maxed! It came to a point where at the end of one month I had to trade a jar of loose change so I could afford to eat as I couldn’t use my credit card or line of credit and I was still a few days away from my next payday! That’s when I said enough is enough! I got a second job working 7 days a week for 3 months and every penny made with my second job went towards paying down credit card debt! After the three months I quit my old job and got a higher paying job where I was working part time for those three months. I put almost every free bit of cash I had into paying down my credit card debt then my line of credit! Now 2016, I am not only debt free but have over 9k saved and I keep adding about 1-2k/ month in my savings while still being able to reward myself from time to time on trips or photography gear etc! Looking back three years ago, I can’t believe how much debt controlled my life and how I was always on the edge if an emergency took place! I no longer use my credit cards and haven’t touched the line of credit in almost a year and I couldn’t be happier!

    • Adam Hagerman, CFP® on November 1, 2016 at 6:56 PM

      Awesome Nicolas! Stories like yours keep me motivated to keep spreading the word. 🙂

      • brad on March 1, 2017 at 3:38 PM

        Motivating stories like these we all need, whether heavy in debt, or just trying to get things paid down to management of life. Knew about a few of these, but man, you’ve supplied a lot of wisdom here!

        After losing job from downsizing company in my early 50s, I learned (since I had excellent credit) debt and credit somewhat the hard way. I’m out of it now, but I wish I’d had these ‘lessons’ of life when I was going thru it!

        Good stuff here… THX

  12. ? on January 13, 2017 at 3:01 PM

    I am doing a school project on money management and I was wondering if you had any tips for me. some people don’t think money management is important but I say it’s the key to a good life.

  13. Robert Harris on December 2, 2017 at 10:09 PM

    Debt free is an extraordinary feeling for people like myself who spent too many years in shackles of debt. All people should have access to financial advice through OHIP just as any other quality of life health issue.

  14. Jason Butler on October 3, 2018 at 10:27 AM

    For someone that is currently in the process of paying off debt, this is motivating. The last three years have been full of ups and downs. I plan to buckle down and make things sooner than later.

  15. Becky on February 13, 2019 at 3:39 PM

    Hi Adam! Thank you so much for gathering and sharing these stories. I would like to see an example of how seniors or retired people get out of debt. We have a fixed income and I have access to a part time computer job. We have $25,000+ in consumer debt. I realize we have to have a more strict budget. February has been a no excess spend month that has been very difficult for me ( I am the culprit spending on grandkids and crafts). I have stuck to the rules. We’ve cut cable in half, are down to one car, eat out only 1-2 times a month with coupons, reduced insurance expenses, started selling things (not very successful), only buy generic, cut out gifts to each other and do not go out for entertainment. We are taking money from our retirement accounts to cover our expenses but just seem to be going deeper into that deep dark hole. What have people done? Bankruptcy is out of the question. Any help, direction, advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Adam Hagerman, CFP® on March 24, 2019 at 7:46 PM

      Becky – Why do you say bankruptcy is out of the question? I’m not someone that recommends it much, but there are certain circumstances that make it a worthwhile option. Since you’re on a fixed income and it doesn’t appear like you’d be able to increase your income much, it could be an option.

      Before you consider that though, I would ask a question on your retirement accounts. How much are you taking out per year as a percentage of your account balance? For example, if you’re taking out $40,000 per year on a $500,000 account, that would be 8%. If you’d prefer to email me your response, please send it to adam@adamhagerman.com.

  16. Lisa on July 6, 2019 at 2:06 AM

    They can overcome Financial obstacles starting a side hustle online and transitioning successfully to “side hustle millionaire’ status. It’s amazing what Faith and action can do. what I know now I wish I knew 20 years ago because I probably would have been 20 million dollars richer. But we live and learn and every day presents a new opportunity to move forward in faith at full strength by doing the transformation business work out of sheer inspiration.