It’s not rocket science knowing that the key to being debt free is to spend less than you earn. But talking about it is much easier than doing it, which is why so many Americans are strapped with debt.

So how can one successfully pay off debt? With a lot of sweat and tears, apparently. Stories have surfaced on blogs and online news sites sharing how families paid off tens- to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in debt, and they did it over a three year period (give or take a few months.) It wasn’t a piece of cake, in fact it took a lot of hard work and buckling down to do it. Cutting off the cable, canceling land line phones, no more buying new clothes or going out to dinner – these are all strategies these folks used to meet their goal.

I’m currently working on paying off my consumer credit card debt myself and we’ve used some of these same strategies. However, instead of completely subjecting myself to a life of bare existence, I’ve been able to make a few alterations that shaved off a couple hundred dollars a month in bills:

  • Turned off the cable and installed an HD antenna. I’m fortunate to live so close to broadcasting stations, so my reception for local channels is almost better than when I had cable.
  • Reduced our insurance. By bumping up our deductibles, we saved a couple hundred dollars a year off our renters and auto insurance.
  • Switched our cell phone plan. We canceled Sprint and switched to Ting, which runs off the Sprint network. We saved $100 a month by doing this!
  • Canceled one of our land line phones. We had two, now we’re down to one for my husband’s business.

Of course, another strategy for paying off debt sooner than later is to earn more income. This year, we’ve been fortunate that Mr. LH’s business has been busier than ever. With the additional income, we’ve applied it toward paying down our credit cards and boosting our savings. I’ve set quarterly goals, instead of annual, to keep me motivated on the ultimate goal – being consumer debt free. Smaller steps are just more manageable and achievable.

To date, I’ve already achieved my first quarter goals and have nearly completed the goals I’ve set for the second quarter – and that quarter hasn’t even started! I think I need some new goals. 😉

How did I do it? Exactly as I described above: cut back on “extras”,  earned more income which I’ve applied toward paying down debt and boosting my savings, and set goals that I can be held accountable for in smaller increments.

Have you paid off a substantial amount of debt? How did you do it?

8 Comments

  1. Money Beagle Reply

    I think that coming up with a plan and sticking with it is the key. One of the critical things you must do if your debt payoff plan goes past a year is to set milestones along the way that you can reach and track against. While a multi-year strategy is certainly achievable, the bottom line is that most goals too far out get set aside, so it’s important to keep short term goals along the way.

    • I think my more detailed plan has been the key to our success. Of course, this year has also provided us with plenty of income to work with, which definitely helps!

  2. I agree a plan is crucial.

    I find it so interesting people cut cable and feel it is such a sacrifice. I don’t watch TV and don’t miss it.
    I also haven’t had a landline since before my 6year old was born and even then I only had it because I ran a business from home.

    There are many ways to cut expenses and yes, definitely look at ways to earn more. Congrats on the extra business for Mr LH. It’s great it is busier.

    • @Aspiring Millionaire – So far, our plan is accomplishing exactly what we want it to – pay off debt and boost our savings. With our bills, we really just analyzed where we could save money and made that happen.

  3. Jon @ Money Smart Guides Reply

    This is great advice! When I was getting out of debt, I did many of the same things as you. I took a hard look at my expenses and decided which things I could live without and then did so. I also tracked my goals on a shorter basis as well. Seeing a number like $20k that you want paid off in 12 months can get overwhelming very easily. By breaking it into monthly chunks, I stayed motivated throughout the entire year.

  4. I’m one of those people who have a story of paying off massive debt ($140k) in less than 3 years. It was tough and we did make plenty of sacrifices. However, we did not live a miserable life devoid of any pleasures. We kept tv, went on a few cheaper getaways, etc. We even paid for our wedding! So, it’s possible to live life and destroy that debt at the same time (by the way, I haven’t been featured on any news articles, but I do share my story on my blog so that it might serve as inspiration for others facing a similar obstacle).

    • @Mr. Utopia – I did read your story and it’s very impressive! I still have to tackle my student loans, but that’s something I’ll work on end of this year, beginning of next. I’m just glad my consumer debt is almost gone!

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