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From $159,128.97 to $0.00 - How I Became Debt Free

In May of 2007, I graduated from Spelman College with a degree in Economics, a Finance job at General Electric, and a ton of debt. Welcome to my reality and the reality of over 44 million Americans. My loan payments were not affordable at over $1200 a month, and the companies wouldn't work with what I could pay so I defaulted. They harassed me day in and out - calling me multiple times a day, and even going as far as leaving messages for me on my boss's voicemail. Being in debt was embarrassing, and I eventually got to a point where I decided I would die with this debt before I would pay it off... and I was ok with that.

The journey for me becoming debt free started when I was able to start back paying on student loans. This was around the beginning of 2014... 7 years after I graduated college. Because I was able to start paying small amounts to get my loans current, it gave me the motivation and drive to do more. When I paid my car off that same summer, it allowed me to see that paying off big ticket items was possible.

In January of 2015, I took a look at every last account that was open and told myself that I would be completely focused on paying off the debt within 3 years. Here is what that looked like:

  • Costco credit card - $939.63

  • Capital One credit card - $2,747.20

  • Guitar Center credit card - $2,257.47

  • Fed Student Loans - $24,128.32

  • Private Student Loans - $129,056.35

$159,128.97 OF DEBT!!!

I am a firm believer that God laughs at our plans. On May 21, 2015 I was 100% DEBT FREE... yes that's right... 5 months later, I had no debt obligations. The plan that I had created that was going to have me out of debt in 3 years, got me out in a matter of months.

Here are the 5 steps that I took to become debt free....


My 5 Steps To Become Debt Free

Step 1 - Change of Mindset

If you can change your mind you can change your life

I'm like most American's, where a majority of their debt is from student loans. When I finished school, even with a nice paying job I just couldn't afford to pay the monthly bill. As I mentioned, I had made up in my mind that I was going to die with this debt. This is where I went wrong. It wasn't until I made up my mind that I no longer wanted to be tied down by debt, that things started to happen to me that allowed me to get closer to my goal of being debt free. Manifesting or Law of Attraction is the new age term... I just call it getting my mind right.

Step 2 - Have a Plan

Failing to plan is planning to fail

I'm the type of person where I need to visually see how things will work. This was no different for the process of paying off my debts. After identifying each and every bill that needed to be paid off, payment amounts, and pay dates, I put a debt snowball timeline together that helped me see exactly when I would be finished paying off each debt. This helped me stay focused, motivated, and gave me actual milestones to work towards. Don't just aimlessly attack your debts... have a plan and strategy, and stick to it.

Step 3 - Stay on Budget

paper budget

A part of your plan should include your budget. I know, I know... very captain obvious with this one. The reality is, most people don't budget - and because of this, they have no idea where their money is going. Most people who say they "don't have enough money" to get out of debt, also eat out twice a day 5 times a week (I can say this because that was me). Whatever your "thing" may be, CREATING and STAYING on budget can help you find areas where you can scale back and allocate more funds to your debt.

Step 4 - The Power of Negotiation

Shaking hands

Understanding the power of negotiation was a big factor in being able to get out of debt. When I was in high school and college, I worked at a collection agency and was able to see some of the inner workings of debt collection and negotiating settlements. When I was able to get my student loans out of default, I noticed that every few months they would call me with an outrageous settlement amount. When I became serious about becoming debt free, a part of my overall strategy was to negotiate my way out of debt. I began to take the time to understand all of my accounts, interest rates, how much I had paid to date, what I could and could not afford. I did my research and stood my ground and was able to do the following:

  • I had a few credit cards where I negotiated the interest down to 0% for a limited amount of time. This allowed me to plan to quickly pay them off, and keep them paid off.

  • For my student loans - I was able to negotiate an affordable payment option, and 0% interest for the life of the loans. The low payment allowed me to budget funds for my savings, so that I could offer a settlement amount each year for each of the outstanding loans. Unbeknownst to me, I ended negotiating an offer that I could not refuse... I didn't have to wait multiple years to pay them off :)

Negotiation may not work for everyone, but it is something that can be used to your advantage. For more information on settlements click here and here.

Step 5 - Make More Money

In some cases, after looking at your main bills and budget, sometimes there just isn't enough money left to make a dent in your debt. That's where increasing your income is the only way to get things done. Have you considered asking for a raise? A new job? A second (third or forth) job? These are the hard decisions you will have to make. If your mind is really set on becoming debt free you will have a "get it done by any means necessary" approach. Today there are so many avenues to help you make extra money. What gifts and talents do you have that can produce additional income for you? Here are a few things that can help you make additional income:

  • Uber or Lyft - a couple hours could land you a few hundred dollars

  • Start an Etsy store - if your crafty, sell your talents

  • Host a room on Airb&b - more and more people are using this for travel arragements

  • Become a tutor - a nice way to give back and make some cash

  • Sell some clothes - apps like Poshmark and OfferUp will give you cash for your clothes


While these 5 steps aren't rocket science, I'm living proof that becoming debt free is obtainable. Once I made up my mind to do it, I haven't looked back! It's been 3 years since I made that last debt payment! Becoming debt free opened so many doors for me, and more importantly - it gave me a sense of freedom that I never imagined I could have.

If you have questions or would like to share your journey, feel free to share your story in the comments or email me at

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