Getting Out of Debt: The Bucket List Goal to Make All Other Goals Possible

This post was previously published on the blog in September 2014.

I’ve been racking up debt since college. A few years after graduation, I had over $42,000 of it, from student loans, a new car and the day-to-day reliance on credit. Over 1,500 users have “getting out of debt” as a goal, so we are not a small tribe.

After getting out of debt in 2013, I can definitively say that this is the one goal that will make many other goals possible.

Getting Out of Debt One Day at A Time

Between 2009 and 2013, when I embarked upon this epic battle with my debt, I kept a detailed budget in Excel, named “Get The [insert expletive] Out Of Debt.” It was a bold goal, an imperative.

Getting out of debt
Tracking debt was key to my success…and proof that it was not always a winning battle.

I also moved to a less expensive apartment, got two part-time jobs in addition to my full-time job, focused on cheaper hobbies, like hiking, took on new consulting clients, sold things on Amazon, inserted reminders into my budget (“Stay strong!” “Don’t spend!”), and kept a month/year countdown to the day I’d be debt free.

Rather than clipping coupons and sacrificing every daily joy, I focused on:

  • Setting a goal and orienting every fiber of my being toward it
  • Earning more money
  • Cutting the largest expenses, like rent
  • Reminding myself constantly of my goal

Getting Out of Debt One Year at A Time

In 2009, my car loan was the smallest, so I started there.  By paying off the smallest debt first, I freed up money to apply to the next debt, all while making the absolute minimum payments on the other debts. I paid off my car in 2010.

Another method is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate, which is what I did next, by tackling my credit card before my student loans. This one took the longest and was the hardest momentum to maintain, but I did it in 2013.
By that time, my student loans were pretty small and I paid them off that spring – 10 years to the day of graduating college!

Living Debt-Free

Getting out of debt was a double-edged blessing. Not only was it a goal in and of itself, but getting out of debt allowed me to start focusing on all my other bucket list goals. In just the following year, I completed four bucket list goals!

It also taught me how to tackle the rest of my bucket list, including how to:

  • Set a goal and orient every fiber of my being toward it
  • Earn more money (or more time) rather than pinching the joy out of my pennies
  • Cut the largest expenses to free up the largest amount of money
  • Remind myself constantly of my goals
  • Celebrate the successes and build upon them

If debt is holding you back from accomplishing other bucket list goals, tackle it like your life depends on it.  On the other side of debt is freedom!

How are you working toward getting out of debt? If you didn’t have debt, what bucket list goal would you accomplish next?


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