How I Paid Off $14,000 in Credit Card Debt in Less Than One Year

Simply stated, there is no “magic bullet” formula for paying off debt.  What this post boils down to is a recipe for success found through hard work and determination.

Pay off credit card debt Review the Past

While reviewing my budget spreadsheet (I’ve kept a detailed account of all income, savings, debt payoff, net worth, and spending in Excel for the past 4 years), I seemingly re-lived my debt payoff journey.

With each click of a different page in my workbook, I reviewed the multitude of income-generating positions held (at one point I was working SIX different jobs!), and I found myself truly appreciating the sacrifices made to get to where I am today.

Face Reality

As far as the details, I simply had an epiphany one day while charging yet another needless item at a store where I had no business shopping.  As the post-spending exhilaration faded, I finally came to terms with my need to get my financial life on track.   While I had a great full-time job that provided me with excellent benefits, salary, and constant challenge, I realized there was something missing.

Whatever that missing piece was, I finally understood that it couldn’t be replaced with shopping, vacations, or other living-beyond-my-means behaviors.  With this realization came the beginning of many things:  my graduate studies, a move to Boston (with $14,000 of credit card debt in tow), a career change, and a commitment to debt payoff.

Never Stop Working Hard

Moving to an expensive city necessitated a change in attitude towards spending, savings, and income.  While I was interviewing for full-time work, I stumbled upon an advertisement for a part-time job in a residential assistance home.  The posting seemed too good to be true:  live in Boston for free, work only ~10 hours a week, and be guaranteed the position for at least 2 years?!  Sign me up!

Enter the phase of my life I endearingly refer to as Insanity:  full-time work, full-time grad school, a part-time gig to “pay the rent,”  and a plethora of odd jobs to bump up my bottom line.

Get Creative

However, “pay the rent” is exactly what I did:  I paid to my credit card bills the equivalent of the standard rent I would have had to pay in a comparable setting (room fee, utilities, and food).  I sent at least $1,300 per month to my cards.  I chose only one card to use (sparingly) during this payoff period; one that provided cash-back and that was paid off in full every month.

Over a span of 10 months, I watched the balances dwindle and my financial freedom begin to take root.

Bye-bye, Debt

In August of 2008, I made my final payment, $1,277.25, became credit-card debt free, and have remained so ever since.


Photo credit: Andres Rueda

- Jen Smialek

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Freelancer; reformed spendaholic; risk taker; adventure seeker; world traveler; rose smeller; debt destroyer. My mission is to inspire others to live a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time.


How I Paid Off $14,000 in Credit Card Debt in Less Than One Year6

  1. Pingback: Don’t Stop Believin’…Why Financial Success is Simply a Case of “Mind Over Matter” | The Happy Homeowner

  2. Inspiring! Congratulations!

    I've found that remaining debt-free is kinda like trying to stay fit: Once you achieve your goal, you still have to do maintenance to make sure you don't slip back into your old ways and situation.

    Once our family became debt-free (aside from our mortgage which we're working on now), we vowed to never again spend money we didn't have. So no loans or credit cards. When we finally made that mindshift and firmly set our limitations, we found it easier to be content with what we have and eventually learned that we already have more than enough.
    My recent post Nurture Your Child and Yourself (At The Same Time)

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