Ten Ways that I Paid off $30,000 of Credit Card Debt in Two Years

10 ways to pay off $30,000 in credit card debt in two years

In April 2009, I had $37,000 in credit card debt. Now, the total is under $7,000 and will be paid off by the year-end. I know you are thinking, Danielle, you’re amazing, how did you do it? One thing that I’ve done is make the biggest possible payments to my credit cards, but I think that is pretty generic advice. This list is about the little things. The life changes and commandments that anyone can implement to crush your credit card debt, no matter how big or small.

1.  Make Deals with the Devil

Go to the source: your creditors. For me, due to the size of my balances and my mortgage, my creditors laughed in my face. When I couldn’t broker a deal, I consulted a middle man, CCCS. Since I went on a debt management plan, my interest rates were lowered and I make one payment each month. My credit score also went up significantly. (Some people hate CCCS; I, as someone who uses them, love them.)

Make deals and get any high interest rates lowered.

2.  Be Like Dexter – Carefully Plan Your Kills

Pick your victim and KILL IT.  I’m not into the Dave Ramsey method of attacking the lowest balance. It makes no sense to me because it could end up costing more in interest charges. KILL the highest interest rate first. My first kill was Citibank. I recommend doing something negative to your card when you are done. I recently KILLED DISCOVER.  I’m holding a viking funeral, which I will vlog.

Once you determine your target, attack and KILL. The victory is so sweet.

3.  Spend More Money

When I realized that I was a financial hot mess, I needed to make an investment in me. I hired a money coach, Dr. Dean and he whipped me into shape. Even if you don’t need long-term individual coaching, a webinar or a single counseling session with a money therapist could be a huge help so that you don’t continue down the same paths of destructive behavior. Debtors Anonymous is also a low cost option.  (They survive on donations.) If you are in a really bad situation, don’t think that you can change the world by yourself. Seek help.

Sometimes, it is necessary to spend a little bit of money to get to the root of the problem.

4.  Buy it when it’s cheap.

This is the first part of a maxim that my father taught me. One of the reasons I accumulated so much credit card debt was due to compulsive shopping addiction. As I had less available credit, I was more inclined to make designer purchases.

Designer tastes on a Marshall’s budget? Get over the designer obsessions or learn how to get your fix through less expensive means. Read sites like The Recessionista and learn about bargain shopping. I did it and you can too. I still buy Kate Spade purses (only at the outlet if they are already on sale and I have a friends and family coupon for 30% off).

You have to learn to live like you are poor, even if that means giving up a new Prada bag each season.

5.  Take it when it’s free.

This is the other half of my dad’s maxim.

Use the  library and internet. When I first decided to tackle my debt, I read every book in the personal finance section of the library. Which is how I discovered that I don’t like Dave Ramsey and I do like David Bach. Soak up as much knowledge as you can and see what works for you. If you’ve gotten into a financial mess, you need help. Have I mentioned Dr. Dean?  You should read his book. It was and is one of my financial bibles. (And I’m not a nurse.) Also, read personal finance blogs.

There are tons of FREE financial resources available to help you get out of debt.

6.  Know your frenemy.

Are there stores that you can’t enter without getting sucked into some sort of black hole of spending? I have an evil trinity: West Elm, Whole Foods and Target. I simply don’t go into West Elm now. (Fortunately Las Vegas doesn’t have an Ikea so I don’t have to face its siren song.) For a while, I had to avoid Whole Foods and Target. Now, I can go into both and stick to a list and get the things I need. If you have a frenemy that sucks away your money, you have to learn how to balance that relationship. More importantly, you have to get control.

Avoid your financial frenemies until you have the willpower to say no.

7.  Kermit was wrong. It is easy being green.

How much money do you spend on cleaning products and paper towels? How much of your monthly budget is it? I spent at least $15-20 per month before. Then my friend Robin showed me the way. I could make my own cleaners for about $.50. Screw paper towels. I switched to rags and cloth napkins.

Saving money and the planet.

8.  Spring cleaning all year round.

Got stuff you don’t use? Sell it. All of those designer shoes that I bought? Sold. Jewelry? Sold. Books? Sold. If you aren’t using it and you won’t miss it, why are you hanging on to it? De-clutter your life and make some money in the process. Then put it all toward your debt.

Don’t let extra money gather dust when it can fight finance charges from accruing!

9.  Learn to DIY.

I’m talking about stupid stuff that you should be able to do yourself that you are paying money for.

Why should I pay someone to thread my eyebrows on a regular basis when I am capable of keeping them shaped for a relatively lengthy period? Why should I pay Whole Foods to chop my organic produce ($7.99/lbs.) when I can make a salad at home and take it to work? Why am I going out to lunch at work anyway? It is much cheaper to make it myself and spend my lunch hour reading the news. Can you make coffee? Why are you going to Starbucks everyday if you have a pile of debt? Get a French press and make it at home and take it to work in a reusable mug.

Don’t take shortcuts when they are costing you money, regardless of whether or not it seems like an insignificant amount. All of those little things add up and could go directly to your debt.

10.  Go to confession.

Be honest about your debt. I use this blog as my platform to talk about my debt. You hold me accountable. Be transparent. Talk about it. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. If you have friends who push you to overspend, you have to confess your debt. It’s hard, but you can’t put yourself into situations that will jeopardize your progress.

Good luck and good riddance to your debt!

Comments

  1. Lora Sasiela says

    Danielle, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. It is so jam-packed with huge nuggets of wisdom. And I’m beyond thrilled about you success! My complete pleasure to have provided some support along your journey. Xoxo

    • Danielle says

      I still have over $125k left due to student loans, but it will be amazing to get the credit cards paid off.

  2. says

    Who/what exactly is CCCS?

    With a one income household we’re fighting to stay above water and slowly drowning. We’ve eliminated cable, eliminated a lot of our playtime (rare occasion when we do spend money now), avoid too much eating out, an look for ways to get our debts paid yet we’re still barely surviving. I’m at my wits end trying to figure out how to get out of all of this and start putting money away for retirement.

    Anything else we can find to cut back and increase income while lowering bills would be a huge help…and a second income too.

    • Danielle says

      CCCS is Consumer Credit Counseling Services. I use Money Management International. I will have to do another post on them in the near future. They saved me. You can’t use your cards, but they negotiate lower rates and a fixed payment with your creditors for you. I pay them a small fee each month ($40 of my payment goes to them), but it is so worth it considering how much money they saved me.

      • says

        I’ll have to look into that. We have a BK on our records (hubs) plus several past accounts that aren’t cleared that are screwing us. Just looking for ways to maximize what we have and pay off the things that have gone to collection or are about to. Thankfully we seem to be doing better keeping things caught up but it’s a thin tight rope we’re walking.

        Thanks for the tips!

  3. says

    I am printing this out! We’re working on buying a house, andatacking our leftover debt- I already got the my cards almost paid off.

    • Danielle says

      Glad to hear from another David Bach fan! He was my favorite. I also liked some of Suze Orman’s books (although she scares me on tv). I really like that he is also really into being green.

  4. says

    Thank you for this refreshingly honest post. I really like your “killing the card” idea and as soon as I’ve paid off my credit card, I’m going to kill it as well.

    • Danielle says

      Killing my Citibank card was a really random act of violence one night. Then I started taking photos of it. My Discover balance was huge and it took me a while to pay it off. So I had a lot of time to think about the best way for it to die. Which is how the viking funeral thing started. It is going to be AMAZING…

    • Danielle says

      Yes, I am fortunate to be employed as a lawyer. One big payment came in the form of a year-end bonus that went to KILL CITIBANK.

  5. says

    Wow Danielle! I totally LOVE your post! I don’t have like you a huge credit card debt. My debt is to the bank, for my car, my laptop, my student loans…

    Those tips you are sharing are going to be really helpful for me! Especially now that I left my day job because i’m pregnant, I really needed to read something like that today!!

    Thank you!

    • Danielle says

      Thanks! Glad I could help. These are the tips that I hope everyone can implement. Not the quirky things that I had to do with my own budget to make the numbers work. Those methods were torture…

  6. says

    Hello Danielle
    Can I just say that has to be one of the clearest and easiest to read blog posts I have come across. No put downs – no blinding with science – no ‘oh poor me’ – simply put with lots of tips that are ‘understanderable’ (is that a word lol)
    I’m not or should I say we’re not in debt these days – been there……….done that in our younger days – but I have to applaud you on this post. It seems relevant to any age and lifestyle
    Take care
    Cathy
    Still Waters

  7. says

    Thanks for the mentions. But you did it all yourself. I was/am glad to help. Look forward to the Chicago meet-up!

  8. says

    I love # 5 – such a great tip. It wasn’t until I found myself in a financial hardship that I realized how much free stuff is actually available. Discovering the Library has changed my life – I don’t think I’ll ever need to buy music or books again!

    Found you via the SITS31DBBB forum! Love your site and this post especially!

    • Danielle says

      The library saved me. It gave me copies of everything I needed to get myself on track. I can’t believe that I can get free music from them too. I wonder how many people realize it’s available.

    • Danielle says

      Thanks. I can’t wait to hold the viking funeral and post it. I have to build a boat first. That’s the tricky part. I’m not good at crafts. AT ALL.

  9. says

    Thanks for an excellent collection of tips! Trader Joe’s is one of my frenemies; I gave up Whole Foods a long time ago. It’s tough being focused on attacking debt, but you give me great hope.

    • Danielle says

      Trader Joe’s is pretty far from my house. If it was any closer, I’d be screwed. We have a chain called Sunflower that is also troublesome.

  10. Heather dh says

    Great article, just curious what it was about Dave that you didn’t like? We’ve worked his plan for over a year and its extremely effective, especially working the “baby steps”- starting from paying the smallest debt first and feeling empowered as we are knocking them out.

    • Danielle says

      I read TMM after I had already read a lot of other books. While it had a lot of nice quotable language, I didn’t feel that his financial advice was as strong as other authors. But if his way works for you, that’s what matters. Getting out of debt is the key. Some of my good friends use Ramsey’s methods and swear by them and we joke because they know how much I dislike him. (I really hated that book.) I believe the best thing is to read as much as you can and decide what is going to work best for you. I am a big believer in paying off the highest interest rate first because it is going to save you money in the long run. That’s why I went after Citibank first and then Discover. Discover was my biggest balance. The sense of satisfaction I got paying them off was HUGE. Especially knowing that I just paid off the card that used to have a balance of $13,000. Hmm, I think I need to throw 13 flowers into the viking funeral to represent each thousand that I used to owe on that card.

      • Heather dh says

        I find that with Dave, its a total love him or hate him… I personally have worked his plan because it has not only transformed my bank account, but my mentality from feeling overwhelmed and out of control to on track and motivated. I knocked out a few little ones and was on fire to tackle the biggie..and for us, that is why its worked. I love how he speaks to paying off your car debt, and to pay cash for cars from now on, get off credit and live below your means. Just knowing I have an $1,000 emergency fund in place has allowed me to sleep better at night and not stress so much when the “oopsies” of life happen. It so free-ing to live this way! But your right, everyone is different and its important to find the right plan for you!

  11. Brian T says

    Thanks to YOU and you’re advice, we just filled out something at the CCCS website for Maryland and Delaware. I don’t want to leave Milo in debt.

    • Danielle says

      This is one of the best comments you could have left. Seriously. I have been this transparent in an effort to a) be accountable and b) to help others. I’m not the only one out there in this kind of mess and I am happy to be the example of “This works!” I hope it works really well and that you are happy with it. (Just make sure you are dealing with one of the non-profits. The other ones are evil.

  12. Carolyn says

    Really really REalLy great tips. Thank you for sharing them. I’m definitely going to check out some of the sites you linked up.

  13. says

    Great Post! Some super helpful info, lots I’ve used myself in the past… whew! I especially like #7.. you can make SO MUCH at home for cleaning to save money and the earth… almost makes cleaning fun… almost. ;-)

  14. says

    Awesome Advice! We too are looking to try and save for our own home, but still have school and a few credit card debts to get paid off. This is super inpspirational!! Thanks so much!
    PS… found you through SITS :D

  15. says

    Agreed.
    We are working very hard on our debt, and kicking ass. We have a count down to when the last of the 3 big credit cards should be gone, and it’s with in the next 12 months.
    I agree on avoiding stores. Target for sure is one I avoid. Marshall’s too. We were buying things like gas, groceries, and oil changes on credit cards. And STILL paying on them 5 years later. Realized that YES buying Starbucks and brewing it at home is MUCH cheaper. Cloths are my friend, and selling clutter is a good way to loose clutter weight.
    Fast food is a treat, and nature walks, parks and free splash pads are our friends.
    Thanks to my husband having a 401K since he was 23 (12 years now) has bailed us out twice now. Loan from that. Plus getting a no interest credit card that we could transfer balances too, has really helped us focus. Great advice here, and a good reminder for me!

    • Danielle says

      Congrats! Isn’t it such a great feeling to have an end in sight? I love knowing that the end is near.

  16. It's Called Salt says

    This is a hot topic with me right now and just blogged about not wanting what you haven’t got and doing things like coloring your own hair and getting your ends trimmed for $14.95 at SuperCuts instead of for $60 or more at your salon. I am on track to pay off huge debt over the next two years thanks to my 5-year plan and identifying my frenemies was a huge player in my success. I no longer go to Target, I am still staying out, and I run, run, run from Ann Taylor Loft. (I also live in Las Vegas…hi there!) Great post!

    • Danielle says

      Yay! Another LV blogger! I’ve met two new ones this week. How exciting. I let my hair go back to my natural color. Which I discovered was still blonde. About two shades darker than the highlights I had been getting. That I had been paying a lot of money for. Lesson learned.

  17. says

    WOW…found you through SITS and I’m blown away by this post AND your blog. I’ll be back….as a single mom working contract gigs, money is ALWAYS an issue. And I hate it. I have a feeling I could learn quite a bit from you.

    • Danielle says

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Check out my money categories. You can see every single mistake that I’ve ever made. (Don’t buy yourself diamond earrings just for going to jury duty. Yeah, I did that.)

  18. says

    Came to your blog via SITS31DBBB forum and challenge. So glad I did. I’m thankful that I’m not starting out with as much debt as you had but so thankful for these tips because I’m really over the debt that I do have.

    Thanks and I’m a new follower. :)

    Vikki

  19. says

    Loved it! and awesome tips. Ive recently started a budget and wow overwhelming but we need to cut the debt asap. thank you very much!

  20. says

    Yes, yes, and YES! While we are fans of Dave Ramsey, parts of his plan don’t make sense to use, either. We, too, went for the big kills FIRST :)

    Another great way to save money I found was to “trade” services with other friends. I babysit and do haircuts for friends who give me farm fresh eggs and produce in return. I also started cutting my husband’s hair – it’s not as intimidating as it sounds and I do it better than the girl at the salon!

    We’re only months away from the end of our battle with 60+K in student loans and credit card debt!

  21. Lauri says

    Danielle,
    Fantastic article! Everything in here is realistically actionable for those of us that struggle with eliminating our debt, which is pretty rare when it comes to reading articles on these topics! Great job on the article and your progress against your debt!

  22. Marie says

    Hi,
    I’m so glad I found your blog. My husband and I have $35k of credit cards (and 75k student loans). We have considered bankruptcy but I would like to find a solution to pay them off and not have a BK over our heads forever. It’s amazing that when you feel like you’ve cut corners in every area, there’s still so much more you can do. Such as, this morning I ran out of Method cleaner (which is not cheap) so I made my own using white vinegar and water. It worked better than Method! A few bucks saved. I’m going to search your blog for the info on CCCS. I’ve heard positives and negatives about them. Thanks for posting this. :)

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