There are hundreds of articles on how people successfully paid off debt and the sacrifices they made to achieve their goals.
This isn’t that type of article. I’m not going to tell you how to pay off $30,000 in credit card debt.
Instead, I want to share what I learned about (and wished I’d known before) paying off $24,748 of debt in 12 months.
Had I known then what I know now about how to pay off $30,000 in credit card debt, I would have saved myself costly setbacks and a lot of headache and heartache.
Whether you’re in debt up to your eyeballs or just have a thousand dollars you’d like to wipe out, I encourage you to read my story below with the hope you can avoid the mistakes I made. Make sure to read to the end for my tips to pay off credit card debt.
I Had the Perfect Debt Payoff Strategy (or So I Thought)
Here was my plan for paying off debt:
- I set a goal to pay off all my $24,000+ in debt. I wrote it on sticky notes and posted them all over the house to remind myself of my commitment.
- I researched the various debt payoff methods and decided the snowball method was right for me (this method pays off the smallest of all your debt as quickly as possible).
- Then, I looked at my monthly projected earnings for the coming year. I knew I made most of my money from January to April and again from September to November.
- With that in mind, I set a monthly debt payoff goal based on what I projected to bring in each month.
- Come January, I started to work the plan, and I met my monthly payoff goals.
Solid planning, right?
Where I Went Wrong
I was so on fire and ready to be debt-free that I went bonkers paying it off.
I became so consumed with paying off debt, that it was all I could think about, talk about, and obsess about. My friends stopped listening (some went as far as to nicely tell me to shut up)!
By June 30 that year – 6 months after I’d started — I had paid off $18,336.
You might think that’s amazing. The problem was, I wasn’t happy with my progress.
No matter how much I paid down, it was never enough.
How I Almost Let My Debt Payoff Strategy Break Me
I pushed myself too hard, too fast, and no matter how much I paid off, I wasn’t happy because the debt was still there.
I became obsessed with the idea of being debt-free, instead of just working the process.
The result was burnout…and apathy.
By early July, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d paid off way more than I’d originally planned, but I had more to go, and I didn’t see myself getting there fast enough.
Then came an unexpected tax bill. I’d filed late that year and was expecting to owe something, but not $6,050 to the IRS!
So, I threw up my hands and said, “Forget it!” I let loose, took my eye off my debt-payoff goal, and started spending.
I went on vacation. While it set me back financially, it did more of a number on my mindset.
Here I was, feeling as if I couldn’t see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel…and now I had another 6 grand added to my debt thanks to that IRS bill, and I’d spent $1,000 I didn’t have on a vacation.
And into the shame spiral I went.
Instead of regrouping and getting back on track, I spent more and paid off less debt.
The trouble was, that mentality was exactly what got me into debt in the first place.
To make matters worse, I was not saving at the same time so I had no cushion to fall back on. All I did was focus on paying down debt.
What I Learned Paying Off Credit Card Debt
Retelling this story, I realize how overly dramatic and obsessive I was leading up to this point. However, once I pulled myself together, I got back on track fairly quickly and haven’t strayed from the plan since.
Here are the steps I took…
#1 Forgave myself – The first thing I did to get back on track with my debt-payoff goal was to forgive myself for the setback. I chalked it up to a learning experience and moved on.
#2 Planned for success – I sat down, added my new tax bill to the pile of money I owed, and then created a new debt payoff plan. This time, I didn’t solely focus on paying off debt. I built splurge money into my budget in case I reached a boiling point again and felt the need to spend, it wouldn’t derail me from my debt payoff strategy or cause me to go into more debt.
#3 Budgeted savings – I reworked my budget to include saving. I matched how much I was saving with the amount I was paying off each month. This was a game changer for me because I was paying me as well as my creditors.
Tips to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
Drawing on what I learned, here are my tips to pay off credit card debt:
#1 Save at the same time. My #1 piece of advice is not to focus only on paying off debt. You need to be saving at the same time.
This way, should anything happen (your car breaks, the air conditioner goes out, or your child needs sports equipment), you have money in the bank and won’t have to rack up more debt to pay for it.
Looking for an easy way to budget in savings as well as debt payoff? Check out YNAB.
#2 Try to pay less debt. The quickest way to pay off debt is to pay less of it! Look for ways to lower your debt through low interest or zero percent balance transfers on sites like Credit Sesame.
Tally has an awesome debt calculator that shows you how much you could save on your current credit card balances with a Tally line of credit.
#3 Don’t let debt consume you. If you let it consume you like I did, chances are, you’re going to end right back up where you started…or you’re going to snap and make poor financial decisions.
#4 Treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. There’s nothing wrong with small bursts of paying down debt.
If you know some money is coming in from a tax refund or some other source, go ahead and make large payments.
But it’s best to approach it with a marathon mindset…what’s important is you finish the race, no matter how long it takes you.
#5 Be kind to yourself along the way. Life happens. If you experience a setback, it’s not the end of the world.
Pick yourself up, recommit to paying off debt, and follow these tips to pay off credit card debt. It’s also important to take care of yourself in the process and to treat yourself when you reach milestones.
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