Paying $18.5K Debt in 100 Days.
When I started 2017, I thought I would never pay off my debt.
I graduated college in May 2014 with $13,000 of debt (mostly school loans). I ended up paying more than half of it off by April 2016.
Then I relapsed.
Around that time, I was working a full-time position at a under-profitable but well-funded start-up. I hated my job. Actually, I hated that my time was controlled by a need for money. Outside of the politics of the company, I was doing work that I enjoyed. I was creating advertising campaigns, websites, and learning how to market digitally around the globe. Plus, the pay was good. The role put me in a position to pay $1,500 of debt a month. That was great, except for the fact that it made me hate my life. My job was eating so much of my time, that, to counter the unhappy hours, I needed an escape. I would spend money on frivilous things. One time, on my birthday, I went shopping and spent $1000 on clothes I did not even need! I bought a pair of shoes for $220. What the... I never have or needed to spend that much on shoes. And I was not in a position to spend so much.
At the beginning of this year (2017), I decided to just ignore it and hope for the best. But that's when it hit me: I decided to really look in the mirror and accept all my flaws, mistakes, and baggage. Get this, I wanted to travel the world and help other people. I thought I had a great heart. Yet, I wasn't taking care of my own.
And on March 29, 2017, I set all my focus to paying off debt. I started with $18,523 of debt. By July 7, 2017 - only 100 days later, I paid off all my debt. I built 7 websites, did marketing for a few different companies, got my tax return, and creating design files in Photoshop. All of this, in 100 days.
Note: I don't credit myself as a website designer or a designer. I worked with what I had.
The Steps to Start
March 05, 2017
I was hanging out with a friend and telling him how I wanted to travel and become fully remote. At the time I had a steady income coming in of about $2000 (after taxes). For me, even with loads of debt, that seemed okay. I was working remote doing Google advertising for an agencies clients. I was really bent on creating more money but didn't know how. My thinking at the time was like this: focus on your passion and hopefully, maybe, possibly, it will all work out.
March 26, 2017
I really wanted to do fun things around the world with helping other people, especially orphans. I was making videos and writing articles. I felt productive but it wasn't actually addressing any of my real red flags. And, there was no way it was going to pay the bills. It was an everyday battle of irritation. After countless conversations with my friend he asked me, why don't you do Google ads for yourself?
I was curious of what service I would even offer. I decided to create Google Ads for creating Squarespace website design. I set up a landing page, creating the campaign, and began.
March 27, 2017
I woke up (the next day) with a notification for a website. I was blown away. It was beyond me to think that someone would pay me to build them a Squarespace website.
I didn't even have a plan on what to do next but I said, "Let's do this!"
When we had our call, in less than 25 minutes, I landed a deal for $1,750. $1,750! That was nearly the same amount I got paid per month for my Google AdWords gig at 20/hr week.
This launched into the 100 Day process. From March 29, 2017-July 6, 2017, I set all my focus to paying off debt. I built 7 websites, did marketing for a few different companies, received my tax return, and creating PDFs in Photoshop.
It was a tremendously thrilling experience. I had no idea this could happen so quickly. When I began, I thought I would be in debt for the next two years, minimum. I had no idea it was going to be a 100 day project.
At this point, I had landed 3 websites. My latest website was confirmed for $1,300. Our initial conversation was only 17 minutes. I know I have to do the work but, in 17 minutes I opened an opportunity to bring $1,300! This is wild mainly because I would of spent that time somehow, so now it was earning me money. And, all of that money (after tithe and taxes) would go to paying off debt.
It did come with its share of sacrifices.
Mainly, I had to dedicate myself to the work. Working with clients that are all too busy meant I had to put in work that would keep them satisfied. I believed in quick turn around. I believe in quick responses. I believe in deadlines.
And it all worked out fine since I am young, single, and no kids. I don't have many holds on my time. There aren't many people expecting things from my time. I cut my social life to only productive activities that pushed forward what I was working on. No more 'catch-up-coffee-gatherings' I was set and focused on getting debt free.
Creating Wealth for the First Time
I remember when I was a kid and at the mall with my mom. I wanted to buy a pair of $20 shorts and I remember my mom telling me we couldn't afford them. I then remember watching a guy buy a $43 t-shirt. That was beyond me.
Two notes about creating wealth.
The thing that will keep you from going forward in life will be your comfort zone and staying inside it. The thing that will keep you from ever providing more value is from being afraid of the potential.
You can do exactly as I did but the challenge isn't within the task list. It's about initiative. It's about leadership. Leadership in your own life. I can teach you how to make a website, run ads, and work with a client, and all that but what is way more important are these two things: stepping outside your comfort zone and confidence.
Audit Your Money Habits
The other part of the process that was a sacrifice was looking at how I spent money. Before I started this process, I ran with a really bad money mentality. And that's okay. Most people were never trained on how to think about money and their relationship to money.
Before I began, I spent money on anything that I wanted to spend money on. I made frivolous purchases needs (like $220 shoes). Like new clothes. Like subscriptions to everything. Like new stuff from Amazon.
Seriously, how dumb? I would convince myself that a $100 razor set was necessary when I didn't have the money for it. Big red flag: When I made purchases that were not necessary and deemed them necessary, I was bound to be in debt.
When I started this process there were a few changes I made:
#1 I started with a rough budget. I'm not a budget expert. I just needed to know that all my bills were being paid and how much I could spend. From there, all my projects were to pay off debt.
I concluded that I could pull out $100-$200 every two weeks to cover food, groceries, coffee, and anything that was not already built in the budget (like gas, rent, car payment, insurance).
When I was running out of money in my pocket, I had to be more conscious of my spending. It made me pray more and say, "God, I only have $15 in my pocket for the next five days, let's do this!"
#2: I took off all my payment methods from any websites I would make purchases from... even Amazon.
I removed my card info from Amazon, Nike, Adidas, and anything that made it easy to spend money. I deleted apps that did the same thing.
I also left my wallet in my car. So when I was sitting on my computer and 'needed' to make a quick purchase, I wouldn't. I was too lazy to go from my house to get my wallet.
Key: Make it tough to make quick, emotional purchases.
Remove all payment methods from Amazon and other companies you frequent. (Side note: Every time I made a purchase on Amazon, I would add in my payment info, make payment, and then remove it. Every time.). You can't make the temptation to mindlessly spend, easy.
I also stayed away from stores like Target, Macy's, and other places that I was known to make unnecessary purchases. And, I unsubscribed from every email that came in that offered a sale. I removed myself from all forms of additional payments. I stopped buying cloths (even though I felt I 'needed' new cloths). It got to the point where it was summer and I had no shorts. Too bad. Just wait.
I want to make a quick note: Society doesn't brag about anything I just discussed. We sign up for more news letters, just walk into Target casually, and use one-click payments any time. The institutionalized system isn't setup for you to pay off debt. Plus, as much as I love Dave Ramsey's Debt free teaching, Financial Peace university is becoming slightly irrelevant for the common millennial who has subscriptions to Spotify, Bevel, Netflix, YouTube Red, Dropbox, iTunes, Squarespace... the list goes on.
#3 It's something you have to do, forcefully and willfully. If you have debt and want to get out asap, the first thing to do (like right now) is start unsubscribing from retail newsletters, stop following them on Instagram and Facebook. Trust me, you won't miss anything. Nearly everything around us is hype. It means it comes and goes. Amazon's Prime Day is hype. Black Friday is hype. Sales are hype. You don't need a new pair of headphones. You don't need another gadget. You don't need another pair of shoes. As you pay off debt, fall in love with what you already own. It will make you more grateful.
Tactic: When I needed soap, I went through my travel toiletries and found enough soap to last me a year! We often make up these ideas that there are so many things we need, but in reality, there is so much we have that we don't need.
Another key for me: Accountability. I spoke everyday with my friend, Joe Chavez, on the phone and gave him an update on where I was. He knew every number and every detail. I started by telling him exactly how much debt I had each day.
As I got to the halfway point, I started to email five friends (bcc) with the numbers and messaged them every two weeks. So, every other Saturday I would message them something like this:
Today, I am super excited to tell you I am only $6,200 in debt. This week I completed a few projects to pay off $3,100 in debt.
Thank you for your support!
That was it. No explanation. No overstating. No excuses.
I made it as simple as possible to update them and as simple as possible to be transparent.
And that will be my final note. We are so capable at making 1000000000000 excuses before we give ourselves 1 reason of why we can. I'm too young. I'm too inexperienced. I don't know what to say. Can I really add that much value? Am I worth it? I need a video before I launch the website. I need a website before I advertise the service. I need a client before I make the service! Dah! There are so many.
If you find yourself in a seemingly impossible situation, I encourage you, don't give up hope. Just try something new. And when you do try something new, turn off everyone else's advice (even mine). Ask yourself, what do I have to do to change my own situation.
For me, I needed to tell my friend everyday the number I had in debt. I had to unsubscribe from every newsletter. I had to get major purchases approved from my friends. Maybe that helps you. Maybe it's irrelvant. That point: own your debt, and you can own your future.
Now, I could greet each new event in my life with what it needs. My next priorities will be my health and then close relationships.
Closing the Gap
I don't like fix-it-quick lists but here is my attempt to encourage you to take some action. The first thing we often need to do but don't is action. Start doing something - even when you don't know if it will work and start building moment. Here are three things, if you are serious about paying off debt, that you could do today:
- Unsubscribe from every email that came in to sell you something (and do it everyday for the next 10 days)
- Open a scary excel spreadsheet (or Google Sheet) and write out exactly how much debt you and divide it by each account (for instance, Chase Credit Card: $3,250, School Loans: $20,189, etc.)
- Get someone close to you to keep you accountable. Text/email/whatever them this:
- Hey, I'm committed to getting debt free and I need your help. After organizing a game plan, I have to pay of $99,999 of debt. Would it be okay to text you once a month (or a week or whatever) with my progress (or backstep)? Thanks!
If this story inspired you, I would love to know with a simple comment below or a ❤️ on the post.