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The Report from the Three-Year Mark: Joan’s Mid-April Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Our Financial Journey, Pay Off Your Debt

number-3

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

It’s official: I’ve been tracking my debt for exactly three years.

While I didn’t post my first financial update on Man Vs. Debt until a year later, I first sat down and wrote my detailed list of debts – the one you see listed on my Joan’s Finances page – on April 14, 2011.

Taking inventory and facing what I owed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the effect it’s had since then has been nothing short of amazing.

In exactly three years, we’ve paid off $33,422.83 in debt.

And since I’d figured out our worst-ever total debt (as of January 2011, a few months before I did the detailed debt-by-debt breakdown), we’ve paid off $37,504.24, or 41.82% of our total debt.

Looking back at $33,422.83

On one hand, that’s pretty amazing news. 41% debt-free? That’s a serious number!

On the other hand, this month is hard for me. It’s exactly three years since I started my hardcore debt-repayment plan, true. It also marks the point at which we originally expected to be debt-free. Thanks to setbacks of numerous kinds, many of which I’ve been chronicling here in the interim and some I haven’t been able to share, we’re not even halfway there yet.

That hurts to write.

This journey is hard – much harder than I realized it would be three years ago. 

I truly thought that once I started doing the “right” things, the debt would just keep going down, month after month, and … BOOM. Three years later, it’d be gone.

Instead, three years later, I’m looking at three more years – if not longer.

That feels so awful that I’ve been toying with the idea of not writing this post. I’ve done everything I can to stall, to stare off into space, to come up with “important” things I could write about instead, or at least to come up with ways to gloss over the bad parts and then quickly turn the story to the better ones.

I want to do what I’d encourage any Man Vs. Debt reader to do. I want to celebrate the progress I’ve made – and to be clear, there’s much I’m happy about.

But tonight, when I sat here thinking about why I originally started sharing my story, I realized I have to be honest about the rough parts.

Because I don’t write to make myself feel better – well, not really.

When I’m doing what I really am meant to do, I write to connect people. My biggest goal here at Man Vs. Debt is that everything I write makes at least one person think, “Wait, really? I’m not the only one?”

And that means I have to be honest, because I want it to be OK for all of us to feel this way: I’m ANGRY.

I’m angry at a lot of situations in my life that, while outside my control in some ways, have made this journey longer and harder.

I’m angry at myself for not being debt-free by now as planned, obstacles or not.

I’m angry at myself for not being happier about the progress that I have made.

I’m angry at myself for being angry about all of these things, because they’re kinda … dumb.

But you know what else? 

I’m not going to quit.

Looking ahead from $33,422.83

We have paid off an average of more than $10,000 a year for three years straight.

We’ve taken our awfulest credit card ever down from more than $36,000 to just over $14,500 – knocking it more than in half.

And while we have $52,181.99 to go - not that I’m counting or anything! - I also have a plan.

I firmly believe that if I could pay off just under half the debt, I have all the tools I need to make it the rest of the way.

It might not be fast, and that might make me angrier than I can say.

But I’m going to make that anger work for me.

That’s the coolest part about tackling things the Man Vs. Debt way – emotional impact matters. That’s our debt tsunami philosophy: Figure out what makes you angry, or sad, or otherwise SUPER emotional. And then use that to stay motivated.

Even when three years doesn’t seem to make a dent. Stay motivated.

Even when crap happens. Stay motivated.

Even when you want nothing more in the world than to give it all up. STAY MOTIVATED.

I might not be thrilled – but I’m ready for what’s next.

Are you in with me – for three more years or more?

And what are you doing to keep yourself motivated for the long haul, even when it’s awful?

I want to hear your stories in the comments.

We’re in this together.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth April 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM

This is a situation you just have to look at the positive and how far you have come. You have to continue to believe in what you are doing and yes, make your anger work for you. A few years back, we decided to work on debt free, we missed our initial goal, so we work on first being credit card free, then to student loan free. Just as we would have reached the goal of credit card free – I lost my job. It’s put us back when we were so close. But I take comfort that people like you hit roadblocks too – its not a lack of dedication or commitment – we are not going to give up. Continue to inspire and motivate yourself and others,

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Den April 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM

THANK YOU JOAN for keeping it real and raw!

I feel your anger and pain ’cause I’m right there with you. We started our debt journey 5 years ago – yep, you read that right – 5 years! We thought we’d be done by now too, but alas we’ve had 3 high school graduations, 3 kids in college (3 more years to go on that), vehicle issues, medical issues, house issues – ya know – life!

It feels like we’ll be fighting this fight forever, but we are chipping away at it and WE’RE NOT ADDING TO OUR DEBT. I shudder to think what mess we would be in right now if we hadn’t started our debt pay off journey 5 years ago.

We have another 3 years to go too and just keep reminding ourselves to keep chipping away….best wishes to you and your family to keep at it too – you will conquer this debt!

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Andrea April 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Hi Joan!

I’m a long-time reader, and a first time commenter. I am so impressed by what you have accomplished! Your story has helped me shift the way I look at stuff, led me to recategorize things as needs or wants, and most importantly, kept me motivated to pay down my debt. I am credit card debt free now (BEST FEELING EVER). I made a very smart car buying decision and will have that paid off this summer. AND I am chipping away at the remaining 50K in student loans that I have (will eventually be the BEST FEELING EVER). I am so grateful for your writing and your honesty.

I have definitely been angry in this process. I have also felt sad and defeated. But the whole reason for staying strong and continuing on is that feeling of checking another debt right off of that list and getting that much closer to financial freedom. It’s liberating and absolutely worth it.

You are crushing your debt in a realistic way and that has helped me have realistic goals and be kinder to myself along this process. You rock! You will reach your goal and it will be glorious! Thanks for everything that you do! Stay strong :)

Andrea

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John Pedroza April 14, 2014 at 8:50 AM

Way to keep it real. I just recently became debt free and though it was anything but easy I can definitely say it was worth it. Just keep working hard and you will get there!

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Travis April 14, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Keep up the good fight:) You’ll get there

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Alan April 14, 2014 at 8:57 AM

Keep at it Joan. Every cent at the debt. Kick it in the teeth. Especially the hated Bank of Satan (ahem, America). My apologies to Satan, as he as higher morals. I have been there on the debt. Out, feeling is wonderful. Next month, I get to see Dave Ramsey in Salt Lake City. Can’t wait.

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Mary April 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Thank you so very much for talking about your current situation and your feelings about it. I often feel alone in my own financial struggles and mad over various obstacles, some that have come my way through no fault of my own and others that are of my own making. I do very much appreciate knowing that I’m not the only one out there hurting. I’m right there with you, putting one foot in front of the other in order to reach my goals even though the journey is hard.

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Anne April 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Ditto on exactly what Mary said! It helps so much to hear that others share the same feelings. Thank you!

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Mary Ann April 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM

I hear ya!! We started our debt repayment program in 2008, in fact that is the name I gave my Excel Sheet, so it’s a constant reminder. I also had grand illusions that we would be debt free in 3 years, but we started with 50,000 and are now only down to 18,000, but we are down and not up and we continue to push on. Following you and Man vs Debt is part of my debt repayment program and it keeps it real and it keeps me motivated. And guess what?! Life happens while you’re trying to do better financially and I do believe I am definitely in a better place than I was in 2008 and with your continued advice we’re going to make it to “stupid” debt free hopefully by 2016, that’s my new goal. I’m not going to rush it, because just like with a diet something will always come up to steer you off track and as long as we have a good foundation we can easily get back on track again, thanks to you & Man vs Debt!!

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pt April 14, 2014 at 10:19 AM

keep going joan, you’ve helped me out so much! I am in the same spot, no shame in that. I am no longer in denial today. That’s HUGE for me.

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Mindy April 14, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Hi Joan, Your story is so inspiring and it does help keep me motivated. I am 28 and finished school 2 years ago, and even just life debts (not credit cards) were wearing me down. I saw someone reading dave ramseys book and picked it up just to skim and became so inspired i decided i needed to be debt free. I didnt even feel like i was in debt? Crazy! I had
My husbands car – $5000
My Car – $16000 (just got my 2nd car ever after my first one died 11 years later)
My student loans – $12000
My husbands loans – $20000
Our honeymoon/wedding credit card – $4000
= $57000 in Debt
(plus a $100,000) Mortgage

I got a 2nd job meaning workin 64 hours/week 7 days/week with rarely a day off and decided EVERYTHING i made would go to debt for as long as i could stand it (we have no kids so this is the perfect time to work my butt off)
I started in sept 2013 and today just 7 1/2 months later I just have

My car – $6000
My husbands loans – $13500
(plus $93,000) Mortgage

I am getting extremely tired now and am going to try to push myself til sept so I will have worked for almost a year straight but i believe i will be debt free minus the mortgage in 1 years from when i started.
This has been a tough couple months especially since we are newly wed (Married in May) but we want to start our life off right and not let things get out of control. The best way to quit a habit it to never start it. So thank you and everyone for all your inspirational stories. It keeps me going on those really long days.

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Alan April 14, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Mindy. That is fantastic process. Keep going. No letting up. In fact, more p!$$ed off at the debt and gazelle intense to get rid of it. I have been there, it will be worth it to be rid of the debt. Then, all the money is yours for real needs, your family.

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Victor April 15, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Wow would be an understatement!!!!!!!!!!
That is more than inpressive and very motivational. I need to try this for just one year also. Thank you.

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Isabella April 15, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Boy, you are so committed! I say keep at it for a few more months and then breathe easy. You are amazing! Soon your debts will all be a distant memory.

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Matt July 9, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Mindy – That is so impressive!!! Keep up the awesome effort! I would add a bit of advice. I know it seems like forever, but work even a couple of extra months to build up an emergency fund. I am in my 40′s and have learned the wisdom of this advice.

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Katie April 14, 2014 at 12:37 PM

Joan, keep up the great work and focus! It has been hard for us to realize how slow the debt pay off is going but when we do pay off a debt, it still excites me!

Like Mary Ann said above….as long as we keep the good foundation we have learned here, we are all going to get to that debt free moment sooner or later!

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KariVery April 14, 2014 at 12:40 PM

As usual, I came here today seeking understanding and perspective and I got it! Thanks! Some days I feel like “what’s the point??” for example when I figured out that if I paid just $74 more per month more than what we are paying now on our remaining IRS debt, we’d have it paid off in a year…. and then we got hit with ANOTHER tax bill for 2013…. or trying to save $500 per month for our emergency fund, and discovering a screw in both back tires (which cost an arm and a leg each) or having our doggie get sick and having to make frequent trips to the vet ….. it’s never ending! ARRRRGGG!!!!!! But, the great thing about tracking the debt is looking back over the year, and even though we didn’t put nearly the amount of effort we could have into it (eh hem… as in pretty much being in denial…) we did manage to pay off $1,900. Okay, so that’s not that much… but it’s better than being $1,900 more in debt, right?? I guess we just need to remember that it will get better. My new mantra is “Remember what’s important.” Decent home? check. Enough food? yup. Good jobs with steady income? Thankfully, yes. Healthy and well? We are. So ya know, life’s pretty good!

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Lisa James McKenzie April 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Hi Joan, Thank you for this. Thank you for being honest and real and showing everyone how hard it really is to get out of debt. As a reader, this is actually a more compelling story. We aren’t getting the ending we expected, and neither are you (but you will, Joan, you will),. You are brave to share it.
You progress is nonetheless phenomenal, Joan. It is HUGE. So give yourself a break for being human and not a debt-busting machine and give yourself credit (well, I don’t mean credit card credit, of course) ;)
Kudos, Joan, kudos

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Rebecca April 14, 2014 at 12:56 PM

I understand the anger. It is hard to stay motivated when you feel as though you are behind but, seriously 41% is AWESOME to be down much better than 3 years ago when you were down 0%. Be proud of the accomplishment and keep plugging away at your debt you help the rest of us stay motivated and that is what we All need. Thanks for keeping it real and honest.
I keep at my student loan and pay more than the minimum no matter how little it may seem but, it is down from what I was originally owing and I hope I am actually paying it off slowly rather than just the interest.

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MM April 14, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Thank you, Joan!!! I can SO relate to this post! I chip away, chip away, then have a set back … I feel like I’m making big changes in the way we live and spend our money, but I don’t see “big” results in our accounts at the end of the month … I get really motivated for a time, then discouraged again … Anyway, I really needed this post right about now. You are such an inspiration to me. Let’s all hang in there together!

-MM

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Nikki @ Nikki Rae Ink April 14, 2014 at 2:36 PM

It’s very refreshing to hear that it’s difficult for other people as well. I love hearing success stories but also hearing the struggle to get there. It makes the end result that much more enjoyable.

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Rosa April 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Thank you so much for your honest post; it’s exactly the message I needed to hear today. I am so proud of you – you are a huge inspiration. I too was feeling discouraged of having one year where the debt is down considerably and then life happens and the next year it’s “up” again. It’s a vicious cycle. If you weren’t so vigilant you probably would have had more debt today than 3 years ago. Keep up the excellent work!

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Jason B April 14, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Stay focused. You will get there. You are not the only person to have things happen that throws you off the plan a little bit.

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Jenny April 14, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Hi Joan
Thanks so much for your post; I look forward to them every month.
Any more news on changing jobs situations etc you have been mentioning in the last few posts?

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Dwight Anthony April 14, 2014 at 7:26 PM

Joan, thanks for sharing and being so transparent. Over 33,000 dollars paid off in debt in three years is still nothing to sneeze about. Proof that the road to Financial Freedom is a lifelong one of continuous improvement and commitment, it pays offs in great dividends though.

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Stephanie April 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve pretty much hated every step in our debt reduction process, and this is where I go to get the kick in the pants I need, the reminders that set backs are part of the process. You are my inspiration!

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Kurkela April 15, 2014 at 3:09 AM

Yes, everything so familiar. Once you start to see the sun behind the clouds, your car tire explodes in a pothole, you break your tooth and the dentist beckons, and your old mother suddenly needs regular professional care. Here goes your safety fund, and more. As the sailors say, the big waves always come in packs.
There are two things that keep me going: yes, the anger, or, even better, THE ANGER, and something that a very old lady once said to me – “it is so funny, you decide how everything should be and then get angry when it doesn’t work out that way. Just give me one good reason why it should. You are a microscopic piece of sand in the huge beach near the ocean, how can you make the waves roll according to your fancy?”
I guess the answer always is to make do as well as we could. And never look back. And I know how easy it is to give up. Been there. No more, thanks. I will pay that damn debt, even if it takes me to the age of ninety-nine.

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Alyssa James April 15, 2014 at 5:02 AM

Wow! I think that’s impressive. I have more than that in student loan debt and I’ve been avoiding paying it off – to travel instead. :(

After reading this, I definitely have no excuses! Great work and I agree with Dwight – it’s great. I’ve been out of university for 3 years and I would be close to paying off my loans if I had been doing what you did!

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Victor April 15, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I have lost my motivation and most of my anger. I have been making payments on my 4 last items (2 school loan, personal loan, last credit card) but not too much extra. I have in the past 6 months lost interest in going gazelle and paying it all off like crazy. Instead I have only added about $500 to extra on bills, continued my monthly savings, and playing catch up with the house and car maintenance.

In the last 3 1/2 years I have paid off about $25,100 or 33%. I really thought that I had done more.

I like the energy that Mindy has and want (NEED) that back.

Thank you for posting and it is Time to Re-focus!!!!!!!

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Sorcha April 15, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Anger can be a great motivator, especially on a long-term goal like this. (But on the other hand, $10,000/year is pretty damn impressive!)

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Jacqueline Fisch April 15, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Thanks for your honesty in not wanting to post this! We’ve had times when we were debt-free, not that long ago and somehow owe a sh!t ton in credit. UGH!

I’ve come to look at it differently, and take an attitude of gratitude to keep me from losing my head:
When I open a bill, medical bill, sign into my bank, I think how GRATEFUL I am that I have the resources to pay these bills (even if only in part). And I’ve begun respecting the flow in and out of money.

Instead of fighting it, I’ve come to accept that debt is a part of my life. My goal (baby steps) this year is to spend less than I make – sounds easy enough right? For the next few years, we’ll have some debt, and I’m cool with that.

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Prudence Debtfree April 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

I really appreciate your honesty. I have been in that situation too – where I’m dreading writing about the disappointments in debt-reduction – but you are so right in saying that it’s important to share those disappointments. It will make victory at the end all the more sweet. I predicted that we would pay our business debt off in 18 months. Well, we’re just about at the 18-month mark, and we’re not even half way there yet. So I hear you. And like you, I’m not giving up. All the best!

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Alan April 15, 2014 at 10:43 PM

For all of those sharing their debt challenges, I appreciate reading them. I give my sincere encouragement and best wishes to pay off as soon as you can. I just wound up with short term loan on new house renovation. Was holding nose even asking bank for loan. I am happy to say it will be fully paid off ($30K since Christmas) by May 12. I can tell Dave Ramsey when I see him at his event in Salt Lake City May 13, debt free except house. It is worth whatever sacrifice to get debt free. I scoured every source I could find, and did my best to minimize spending In the 90s, I had some bad times which culminated in going bankrupt, no car for over a year, etc. I used to calculate those debts to the penny too. Back then, no support or experience to share like this. I also went through a short sale in 2012, so also recent debt stress. So, all, keep gazelle intense. If it takes longer, just keep plugging. Don’t give up, don’t accept keeping the gorilla on your back. I want everyone, especially you Joan, to be able to do your debt free scream on Dave’s show. We are all here to help. Thanks for reading my comment. I hope they are helpful.

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StillPlugginAlong April 16, 2014 at 7:21 AM

I, too, feel the anger at the “if only” clause in my life. My own dumb decisions coupled with the curves life throws at me are sometimes over-whelming. But the numbers are getting smaller, so if I haven’t made the progress I’d planned at least I haven’t made the situation worse. Your story has been inspirational. My thought process has been that if you can do it, so can I. Appreciate your honesty and openness. We’ll get there!

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Candi April 17, 2014 at 4:32 AM

Don’t forget the power of compound interest in your debt payoff. I don’t see interest rates listed on your page but for credit cards if we assume at least 10 % as an example then that 33,000 paid off is saving you $3,300 per year. Many credit cards have more than double that interest. There will still be bumps in the road because life’s like that but you will continue to build momentum as more of your hard-earned money goes to repay the actual debt instead of making the credit card company richer. Keep up the good work! I really enjoy your writing.

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Financial Samurai April 17, 2014 at 7:07 AM

Congrats on sticking with it! When you’re done, I think you’ll look back and think about all the adventure you had and appreciate the journey the most!

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Deborah April 17, 2014 at 7:43 AM

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve read every post here, but I think what you have done is amazing. I’ve had the worst 5 years of my life, and I’m faced now with not having a place to live past July, because I don’t have a high-enough rent-to-income ratio, due to being on SS and not being allowed to earn over a certain amount monthly. I have also incurred an IRS debt that I need to pay off as quickly as possible. Stuff happens. You just have to deal with it and keep putting one foot in front of the other. All these sites that say “I paid off my debt in three years” are usually bullshit. You’ll be fine. You’re doing well. Take it from someone who has crappy credit and has rebuilt crappy credit three times and come out on top. Oh, and I’m 61 years old, so if I can do it, you can do it.

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Alan April 17, 2014 at 11:28 AM

You have my sympathies Deborah. The Ssdi cycle of limiting income is not always fair. I would direct you to one of the housing or low income legal advocates for help. You will have our prayers. I hope that helps

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Deborah April 17, 2014 at 1:20 PM

It’s actually not SSDI. It’s SS Widows benefits. I am so frugal, just like you, that I could easily live on much less than what these people say I need to pay their rent. I’ve done the numbers, and even with having to pay the IRS, I will still have between $200 and $300 a month in discretionary income. These idiots live by formulas and they have no idea about people. I even said I would let them do a bank draft every month, but that’s not good enough for them. It makes me so angry. I grow most of my own food, don’t own a car, have no credit card debt, and only have that one $1,000 debt to the IRS. Still, they insist on figuring things into their formula that don’t apply to me. They judge you by what you “might” do, not by what you “can” do.

Thanks for the prayers.

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Alan April 17, 2014 at 6:48 PM

I fully agree with you Deborah. Just keep living frugal and get rid of IRS as soon as you can. It was the IRS starting wage garnishments back in the 1990s that pushed me into bankruptcy. The one time I talked to them they wanted to leave me $100 a week (which was not enough to live) and suck everything else. I had no car then, lived cheap, and it was miserable. Now, I am on Ssdi (not by choice) and medical retirement. I have 2 young girls still to raise. We are fortunate wife can make decent income, combined with mine, we are ok. The government discourages people trying to do everything they can to be self sufficient, which they should. The programs should encourage self sufficiency, and give a boost where needed. If I can give any help, ideas, etc, will be happy to

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Deborah April 17, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Speaking of self-sufficiency, I planted my first garden with seeds and veggie plants I got with my food stamps. Most people don’t even know you can buy them that way. $20 worth of seeds and seedlings got me over $1,000 worth of food and the seeds for the next year. But do the stupid landlords want to hear that? Nope! I’ll be o.k. I may have to leave my stuff in storage and rent a room for awhile, but I’ll be fine.

Alan April 17, 2014 at 8:50 AM

I agree with Candi on the compound interest. Make a motivating factor of wanting to collect the interest to accelerate payoff. I have experienced both. Paying is hurting pain. Collecting is good. I hope that helps. Nobody is alone heret

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Alan April 17, 2014 at 9:37 AM

What’s left. Bank of the West handy line loan $5961. You are going down ASAP. Already gone this month, Wells Fargo LOC $3000 and Citibank LOC $2700. Both, out of here. Sources to takeout West. Paydays, $3200, $1100, $650 in April. And early May $2000. WEST – your days are numbered. That is my last loan ever. Get mad at the debts. Want them evicted from your life. Let some other shlub pay them interest. (I like and will still use all three for checking and savings). May 14, able to tell Dave Ramsey in person at his live event, I am debt free. That is my motivation factor. Find yours, Make it visual. My visual is my earlier picture with Dave, and I can’t say I have a loan to the master.

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Kris April 17, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Joan, thank you SO much for your bravery and honesty in chronicling your debt reduction journey! You are doing a tremendous service for others by sharing your progress and your challenges. I have complete confidence you will eventually hit your goal to be debt free within a few years and then you can have a MASSIVE celebration … and we will all be celebrating with you! You will still be pretty young when you become totally debt free, and then you will be on your way to a financially abundant life & retirement. And, you are teaching your daughter incredible lessons on the importance of good financial management. You are doing an amazing job!!!!!

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Amy April 21, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Joan, congratulations on all you have accomplished, sometimes under very difficult circumstances! I have no doubt that you’ll achieve your goal and help a lot of others along the way. You are an inspiration.

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Sophie April 23, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Joan – the simple fact is this: instead of being $33,000 deeper in debt, you are $33,000 closer to your goal of being debt-free. Please always keep that thought foremost in your mind – you are getting there! I truly know how it feels to slog along this path, having been there not so long ago myself. Like you, I get angry at myself for my slips and stumbles, but we’re human and that’s part of the path. Although I am living a much more frugal life now, I still can’t break myself of the habit of buying a book or two off Amazon. Yes, they’re USED copies, and yes, it truly is only a book or two over six months, but still, I know I don’t need them, but I want them, and I’m not using a credit card, but then, it’s hard to keep that financial emergency fund cushion at its optimum level.. . .so, yes, I totally know how you feel. However, you are making progress and you will do this! And there will be a HUGE celebration when you arrive at your goal (paid for with cash, of course.) You are a true inspiration and I am sending positive thoughts your way.

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Alan April 24, 2014 at 11:35 PM

Sophie, nobody will find fault on a few used books. I wish you speedy get out of debt also. It will be so worth the struggle. I explained my story a few posts up. I too appreciate Joan and hope all of us debt free and mingling with Dave Ramsey and the debt free crowd.

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Sophie June 11, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Thanks, Alan! I actually paid off my two credit cards in December, 2012 and then made the commitment to continue living debt-free and as frugally as possible. Yes, it can be very hard at times, but I am learning to balance straight-up needs with some reasonable wants. So far, so good – now I’m helping my mother reduce her credit-card debt. She’s doing a great job and is progressing really well toward her goal of being deb-free.

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Alan June 11, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Awesome Sophie. I just sent request to The Dave Ramsey Show to do our debt free scream. Best of luck with your mom too. It will happen.

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Sophie June 14, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Alan: Thanks so much!! When I began getting serious about paying off my debt, I checked out A LOT of books from the library. Of all the books I read, Dave Ramsey’s were the most practical, sensible, and encouraging. His attitude always gave me encouragement when I needed it, and his Snowball Method of paying off multiple areas of debt is truly the best I’ve ever seen. It really worked for me! My mother is very fortunate in that she only has one credit card and she is nowhere near her credit level; however, she wants to pay this debt down so she can use her credit card for emergencies only. She’s been reading some of Dave Ramsey’s books and really enjoys them. I recommend these books to anyone who is serious about taking charge of their personal finances once and for all. Every once in a while, I go back and re-read Dave’s books to help keep me on track with my finances, and they always encourage and inspire me.

Alan June 14, 2014 at 6:20 PM

Thank you Sophie. I have had the opportunity to hear and meet Dave a few times. Just being in his presence is an inspiration. Take the chance to see him live if you can.

Howard April 27, 2014 at 10:53 AM

I smiled when I saw that you wrote that you’re 41% debt-free, and that’s a huge accomplishment! So many people these days don’t even worry about being in debt, never worry about paying it off so for someone to have such control and power over their financial situation is refreshing. Woman vs. Debt!

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Alan April 27, 2014 at 9:13 PM

I agree with you Howard

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Dominique April 28, 2014 at 7:57 AM

Thank you, Joan for posting this. Although it may have been very difficult to write, you have most likely helped quite a few people out there, including me. Will be right there with you for the next three years. WE CAN DO THIS!!

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Diane C April 28, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Uh, last time I checked, books at the library are still free. Instead of going online to Amazon and ordering a book, hop over to your library’s website and order it online instead. This way, you can enjoy many more books for no money. More books, no money, less guilt, win-win-win!

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Sophie June 11, 2014 at 9:39 PM

Diane: Yes, the library can be an excellent option, except for those multiple times when the book one wants isn’t there and never will be because someone has stolen it! This has happened to me too many times to count. I am more than happy to wait for a book I want but when I learn that it has been permanently checked out it is a bit of a buzzkill. On those occasions, I don’t feel that much guilt to try to score a used copy off of Amazon or at my local Half-Price Books.

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Jabef May 16, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Thanks for writing this post and being honest. Your debt might be going down slower than you hoped but the main thing is that you ARE making progress and it IS going down. So take heart in that fact. I am on a mission myself to pay off $151K of debt (hopefully in 5 years). I just started a blog a little over a week ago where I’ve detailed how I paid off $25K in 9 months so far and hope to continue blogging about my journey to paying off that $151K. I am happy with my progress but I know that life happens sometimes and though I may want to pay of the remainder in 4 years this may very well not happen. I will keep reading!

http://debtsquasher.wordpress.com

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Terri June 28, 2014 at 8:01 AM

This is a post that I really identify with. If it will make you feel better, my total debt is in the 114K range, and I’ve paid off a bit over $9K in the last 10 months. So I know how you feel. You feel like you will never get there, no matter how you cut your expenses, or work three jobs, and feel like you never have time for yourself. But as someone else commented, you have to look back and see how far you have come. And I admit, it does get me down, and angry (ANGRY was last night, actually, just thinking about all of it.) My debt is all from student loans at this point, luckily no consumer debt. I kicked that crap to the curb as fast as I could. But it’s frustrating to think that a decision I made so long ago (to go to law school) still has some control or effect over my life today in that the debt is always there in the background.

We’ll get through it though. Keep writing, Joan. I love your posts. They’re real.

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Mel July 23, 2014 at 9:29 AM

I’m sitting here at work, trying not to cry from relief. Logically, I know I’m not the only one who gets angry, and loses motivation, and feels like this debt is never going away. But reading my thoughts in your words, as well as feeling encouraged by all the amazing comments – it gives me hope…. so thanks.

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Liz July 29, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Joan, thank you SO MUCH for writing this and being honest! I have similar numbers (30k/40% paid in 3 years, about 47k + 5k IRS to go) and was feeling really weighed down and defeated today. I so wanted to be further along in three years, too. Reading your post helped a lot. Thanks so much for doing this hard work and sharing it with us–you will probably never know how much help it is providing in the world. Sending lots of love and encouragement your way! :-)

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