L Bee and the Moneytree

How to Pay Off Debt in 90 Days

*this post may contain affiliate links, but the story is 100% true and all mine. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for your support!

Here’s the DL on this story:

  • In early 2015 I came clean to my blog readers that I was in serious credit card debt.
  • How’d I get into so much debt after famously paying off $10,000 while I lived in NYC? I’d racked it up in 2013 during my big home remodel.
  • I was devastated to be back in that much debt after all my hard work getting out.
  • In January 2015 I promised I’d pay off the debt in the first 90 days of that year, come hell or high water. And I did it!!

I’m was so thrilled to hit publish on the original post and share that I’d actually done it–—I paid off a little over $8,000   ($8164.97 to be exact) in 90 days. (See my progress: Day 30, Day 60, and Day 90.)

Three Months. No small feat.

It’s the most aggressive goal I’d ever set for myself (before or since), and one of the few that I’ve actually kept and completely smashed. In the days and weeks that followed the post I was met with lots of well wishes and MANY questions about how I actually pulled it off.

I’ve read lots of debt payoff stories in my nearly four years of blogging about money and personal finance.

Some are really great and inspiring; others are really annoying, because they don’t actually share any numbers or advice for how to get it done.

It often follows a formula: the more outlandish the amount and payoff timeline, the less information there is in the post.

I wanted my big debt payoff post to be different, more actionable in a way, so here’s how I tackled my own aggressive debt pay off plan and paid down over $8,000 in 90 days. 

Choose Your Terms

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know I’ve struggled with credit card debt in the past. This time I actually ran the cards up paying for the dazzling renovation on my starter home, but that was in 2013. All 12 months of 2014 went by and even though I made some progress, ultimately I was only paying off the new balances I was putting on the cards and not chipping away at the debt. By the end of the year I was fed up. Fed up, I tell you!

I knew I needed to do something drastic- but making significant sacrifices for an entire year felt like a real drag (spoiler alert: paying off debt is ALWAYS a drag, which is why you should avoid getting into it in the first place.)

Click here to download The LBMT Debt Repayment Worksheet Set

Twelve months also seemed so, so, so incredibly far away.

A whole YEAR before I could jump up and down about being debt free? Puh-lease. I have a very short attention span. I

’m also the type of person that likes to get the painful bits over with right away, so I started brainstorming ways to help me accomplish my goal in a way that felt good and authentic to me as a person.

I wanted a process that would work for me rather than against me.

  • Could I pay all my debt off in a month? No, it just wasn’t realistic.
  • What about six months? I could, but even that still felt like a lifetime.
  • What if I got really serious and paid it all off in three months?

With my birthday being in March, being debt free seemed like a great thing to gift myself, and once I ran the numbers…it was possible.

Not probable. But possible.

Yes, I know $8k in the scheme of things isn’t a ton of debt. There are many out there struggling with tens of thousands in consumer debt, or student loans. Some don’t have the time to side hustle or get side work.

I get it.

Paying off all your debt in 3 months isn’t possible for everyone.

Still, what if by being aggressive you could retire of significant chunk of your balance, no matter how much you owe?

That could make a huge difference plus save you tons of money on interest.

 

Pay Off Debt By Getting Clear on Your Numbers

With my target date of three months in sight, I then began to work backwards.

$8100 divided by 3 (for # of months) = $2700 in debt payments each month.

That still seemed like a huge amount, so I bit the bullet and moved $1,000 that I could spare from my emergency fund (read here why I believe it is important to build an emergency fund before paying off debt) to jump start my debt repayment.

Don’t raid your entire emergency fund. Start building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

But if you have the money to do this, I recommend it, because that money would likely serve you more by reducing balances you owe money on, rather than sitting in an account accruing negligible interest.

Contributing $1,000 right off the bat brought my total each month to roughly $2400, which is still high, but do-able.

  • It was $1200 every two weeks
  • …or an extra $600 a week.

So, $600 a week. That was the goal.

Pay Off Debt By Trimming Your Budget

I am a big fan of hacking your budget regularly to find hidden money. (To see how I do this, click here.)

There’s also no better time to tighten the ol’ belt than when you’re getting really serious about your debt payoff.

By doing these two things I could then allocate $800 from my full-time paycheck (or $400 every two weeks, of my roughly $2,000 bi-weekly paycheck) to my debt repayment each month after my expenses and automatic savings withdrawals.

So after all that hacking and slashing, I still needed to come up with an additional $1600 each month in order to meet my goal.

This is where it gets exciting.

Earning More vs. Saving More

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that penny pinching is an absurd waste of time. (Read here about why I prefer to focus energy on earning rather than saving.)

Sure, saving money is good sense, but spending hours and hours of your precious time to bargain hunt to only slightly lower your bottom line? Ri-dic-u-lous.

I make more hourly than I could ever save by bargain hunting.

After finding as much money for debt repayment as I could in my budget, I turned to my side hustle as a freelance writer and marketing gun-for-hire to ramp up extra income. Here are a few things I did to drum up work.

  • I hassled a few clients I hadn’t heard from in months.
  • I sold my pride got on Elance and found a handful of new (and surprisingly not terribly paying) clients.
  • I thought about new streams of revenue for my business, and so I started offering blog coaching for beginner bloggers and businesses.
  • I started offering “sponsored content” to brands.
Want to make more money to pay off debt? Get the Grow Your Money Tree tool kit + Net Worth & Debt Repayment Spreadsheet here.

But leveraging/starting a side hustle isn’t the only way to make extra money to pay off debt.

There’s a million low-time investment ways to make extra cash to pay off debt. Here’s a few more that I did:

  • I sold some of my old stuff on Ebay.
  • I even did a little voice over work for a video my friend was making for her business. (You can watch it here, isn’t my “children’s theater voice” pretty cute?)
  • I also opened up two new checking accounts just so I could get $300 in bonuses, which went to credit repayment and helped out a lot.

Basically, anything I could do to bring in extra dollars, I did.

I had a very large “debt payoff” brainstorming session at the beginning of January before I started which helped me get creative and think of new avenues of cash that I could contribute to paying off the balances.

My debt repayment worksheet set includes a space for you to brainstorm these things as well. You can get yours here. 

“Pure Heart and Pure Hustle”

You need to make it as easy as possible on yourself to aggressively pay off debt. Here’s a few other tips for what I did to stay motivated while paying off debt.

  • I employed the use of vision boards to help visualize being debt free.
  • I also built in “rewards” for myself each time I was able to contribute my bi-weekly debt payments. (spaces for you to write down your debt pay off rewards are also in the free debt repayment worksheet! It’s so important!)
  • I also recommend getting competitive with yourself. I’m a money nerd, but it was almost fun to look at my checking account balance on February 15, see I needed 2-300 more dollars to hit my weekly $600 goal and start hustling my pants off to make it happen.

These steps may seem insignificant, but I’ve tried to accomplish goals without them before, and this time it was much easier with these helpful reminders along the way.

Even though it would have accelerated my debt payoff, I still made regular contributions to my savings (pay yourself FIRST people!) and to my emergency fund on top of my aggressive debt payments.

For those who were wondering, this is how I was able to fund an emergency cushion and leave my full-time job to work for myself around the same time I finished with my debt repayment.

What if I don’t Have Time for a Side Hustle and am already living on a small budget?

One of the biggest criticisms of my story when it came out was that people assumed it was easy for me to pay off a large amount of debt because I was a single, childless woman making over $60,000 dollars a year.

And yes, this does mean I have more time and more discretionary income, it doesn’t mean it was easy. Or that paying off debt doesn’t take a lot of hard work no matter who you are.

I gave up my social life to freelance write on Friday and Saturday nights to make this happen. I didn’t buy anything other than the bare necessities for 90 days.

People want to hear debt payoff stories, but they often don’t want to accept that paying off debt isn’t super fun. It’s not glamorous, or sexy, and it’s often boring and frustrating. It’s why a lot of people fail and give up and live their lives in debt.

For those who have good credit and few other options, there is debt consolidation. By consolidating your debt, you can lower your monthly payments, pay just one creditor, and pay less in interest because you’re consolidating at a lower rate. A company I like and recommend for this is Payoff, who specializes in helping those with lots of high interest credit card debt.

You can learn more about Payoff and their Payoff Credit Consolidation Loan here.

Or watch the Awkward Money Chat video with Robin, a woman who paid off $33,000 in four years via the use of a traditional debt consolidation company. Her story is awesome!

What Happened After I Paid Off All that Debt

The mainstream benefits of paying off debt are numerous:

  • My credit score went up (check yours for free with Quizzle here.)
  • I have more money and freedom in my monthly budget ($600 worth in minimums was what I was paying. It is awesome to have this money back in my budget!
  • And it is four (yes, FOUR!) less monthly payments to worry about

But personally, my debt journey has opened up a lot of new avenues.

I ramped up so many new clients that I was able to leave my full time job and start working for myself in April 2015.  I would never have been able to leave my full time job if I were still making such high monthly payments on my credit cards. It’s also a lot less pressure when you’re building a business.

I was also holding onto a lot of financial and emotional baggage from the time when I racked up the debt.

My mother always used to say, “you can do anything for 30 days,” which is true.

I also think you can do anything for 90.

Even though I only had to sacrifice my high-falutin’ lifestyle for 90 days, it still taught me new things about what I can live without.

And perhaps best of all–I’ve become incredibly financially empowered in the last 90 days.

Some may think that since I write a personal finance blog that preaches financial empowerment I was already very money aware, but being able to retire debt so quickly reminds me that I can be focused and motivated and accomplish great things when I’m not distracted, when I prepare, and when I push myself.

But seriously, go do something you think can’t be done, whether it has to do with money, fitness, relationships….whatever.

Sure it may seem tough at the beginning, but do it anyway. Your future self will thank you.

paid off 8000 in 90 days

P.S. More ways to pay off debt!

  • I love your story, Lauren! I’ve been feeling debt fatigued lately, but made the most income in April and threw $1200 to debt (a lot for me). I feel more inspired to keep going at this rate or more and move up my debt free date!

  • Incredible! Good for you! Super exciting!

  • This is so inspiring! Thanks for posting this. I find that breaking down my savings goals into smaller monthly goals makes so much sense for me. I have never tried to do the same for a debt goal like this and I think it sounds like a good challenge!

  • Congrats on paying off your debt so quickly! I wish I could pay off mine in 90 days. So far I have paid off $5600 with about $17,800 to go. Hopefully, I will be able to be debt free by the end 2015.

  • Actually laughed out loud @ the opening of new chequing accounts for bonuses — that is pure genius. I ALWAYS see those offers and other bloggers talk about credit card churning just for rewards and its CRAZY how much free money is out there that only takes a little bit of paperwork (and the discipline to close the account at the end)

    You’ve done really great — and I agree you seem so much more financially empowered over the past 90 days. Killing that debt in such a short time was amazing. Great job!

  • Love it! Especially “taught me new things about what I can live without”. This is true. We have been cutting our expenses to save aggressively for our goals and it’s amazing the things that you don’t miss once they are gone. I also like the you set up a reward system. That is a great idea and always helps me when I have a hard goal I have to slog through.

  • Tre

    Thanks for sharing how you did it. It shows that if you are really motivated, a goal that seems impossible is possible.

  • Amy

    Wow – such an inspirational story! Thanks for sharing your secrets! 🙂

  • Great job. So does going back to the “high falutun'” lifestyle even seem worth it? Are there things you can live without that you now want to live without?

  • This is absolutely amazing! I’m facing nearly 45k of student loan debt upon graduation in say… oh… two weeks… (EEK) and I love seeing these motivating stories of people knocking their debt down like this. Clearly, it will take me much longer than 90 days to knock out this student loan debt, but it’s good to know it is not an impossible thing to overcome. Good job, go you!

  • Great job! Your hard work goes to show that if you get serious about debt repayment and really dedicate yourself to it and get creative, debt freedom is possible.

  • Hello Pre Nurse

    That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing what you did to reach this amazing goal. -Kayla

  • one of these days I will be writing a post about how much debt I have paid off in the past few years. Here is a hint, it’s well over 6 figures each year.

  • $8k in 90 days is amazing!!! Great job, girl!

  • Mark

    Am new to the site and I like to hear about how others have dealt with student loan debt. I in my 40’s decided to go back to school and get my degree. Yeah so I finished the degree only by getting student loans. With one child in collage and picking up his student loans I had about 75k. After 42 months I have reduced the student loan debt to 20k. Which will be taken care of by the end of 2016 (a little over a year and a half) in total I will have paid off over 85k. To read how individuals have or are paying off debt is interesting, as what works for one may not work for someone else. What works best for me is to start with the smallest and roll each payment into the next for the snowball effect.

  • amandaabella

    Fabulous! Congratulations! You’ve just inspired me to do my own little 90 day money challenge 🙂

  • Erin Jade

    Loved reading this, it’s inspiring! I too have some personal debt to clear and my partner’s job is hanging in the balance so I have been hustling to reduce our mortgage enough to refinance and then work on the personal debt. I have looked at it in a similar way to you of starting with the figure and subtracting from there, i find it works a lot better for me. Congratulations on making a full time income from home!

    • Thanks Erin! And thanks so much for stopping by!

  • James Adams

    do you need a loan of 3% to start up a business or to pay your debt contact us right now on our private email([email protected]) for more details

  • Tommy Santos

    My name is Tommy Santos. I live in USA Florida and i am a happy woman today? I told my self that any Loan lender that could change my Life and that of my family, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to Them.
    She gave happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as a single parents with 3 kids I meant this honest and GOD fearing loan lender online Mrs herlinda that helped me with a loan of $250,000.00 U.S. Dollar, She is indeed GOD fearing Lady, working with a reputable loan company.

    If you are in need of loan and you are 100% sure to pay back the loan please contact them and please tell Shem that Dr Tommy Santos, Lillian referred you to them.

    contact via E_mail:[email protected]
    Reply

  • This is awesome. Thank you for sharing! You motivated me to start my own 90 day challenge. 🙂

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · L Bee and the Money Tree