I ain’t settling for just getting by, I’ve had enough so so for the rest of my life!

I credit Sugarland for that title and I am pleased to announce that as of 1/31/2014 I am 100% debt free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I do not owe a penny to anyone – there are 21 exclamation marks for the 21 months it took for me to pay off my $67,899 in debt.

My journey to financial freedom began in May 2012 when I received an email from a loan company that said they acquired my student loan balance and my monthly payments were too low and I would not pay my balance off by the stated due dates ; they were going to recalculate my monthly payments and were giving me a two month deferment in order to adjust/prepare for the higher payments I would be responsible for. I was already trying to pay extra on my student loans, but there was no rhyme or reason to my extra payments, $50 extra here $100 extra there – I was not seeing any progress. So when I found out about the deferment I asked my roommate for her advice on what to do with the $1200 I no longer had to pay. I asked if I should save it, pay it towards the loan it normally would go towards, or pay it towards a different loan. My roommate went into her room and came back with a copy of The Total Money Makeover and suggested I should give it a read before I make my decision – the best financial advice I had ever received. I read The Total Money Makeover in entirety that night, I was hooked and I already had my $1,000 for baby step 1.

When I started on baby step 2 I was earning $40,000 annually at my full time job and $6,000 annually at my part time coaching job. My $67,899 in debt consisted of $54,468 in Student Loans, $11,336 on a vehicle loan, $1,590 on a Care Card (orthodontics), and $475 on a Credit Card (that I charged all my expenses to and paid off every month to “build credit”). When I compiled all my debts and monthly payments to create a budget I calculated it would take me three years to pay off my debt, but through a series of fortunate events and a lot of extra effort, I was able to take over a year off that target date. It turns out showing up to work on time, actually working while you’re at work, and having a cheerful demeanor at work will earn you promotions and pay raises. I earned two promotions bumping me up to $43,000 and then $52,000. And it turns out the more time you spend at work, the more they pay you! I was able to earn about $10,000 in overtime each year at my full time job and I picked up an additional weekend job over the summer giving kayak tours at the beach which allowed me to earn tips and gave my brain a break from the office (sanity). I started babysitting, pet sitting and house sitting for the families of the athletes I coach and co-workers from the office as well.

I cut EVERYTHING from my budget. If something was not free, I did not participate. I carpooled to free events, or I did not go because there was not enough cash in my fuel envelope. Dave is right, if you get fired up enough you get creative and crazy. It was easy for me to be crazy as a young single person making all my own decisions. The hardest part was saying no. And not because I really wanted to do things or buy things, but because I felt like a bad friend and family member for declining event invites. Sometimes I felt like all I did was work and sleep, but it was manageable because I knew it was for a short period of time. Listening to Dave’s show everyday at work and reading the other success stories have really helped keep me motivated. Sharing my goals, successes and set backs with someone else also helped as it made me accountable and allowed me to vent. I also kept a thankful diary where I wrote down at least one thing I was thankful for each day which keeps me humble and positive.

Since January I have slightly detoured from Dave’s plan. After I made my last payment I immediately started contributing 10% to my 401k at work which matches 8%. But I was still able to save my fully funded emergency fund at the same rate because I was actually bringing home the same amount of money. My company applies annual pay increases in February and the same month I started contributing to my 401k I started to received my pay increase for a $9,000 annual salary raise. My emergency fund is up to $10,000 and I have been able to save $5,500 to open a ROTH IRA as soon as I decide on an ELP.

I am really excited to start investing and saving for future life events and lots and lots of giving. I cannot wait to give back with more than just time.