I am always inspired by a good debt payoff story. The debt free living community is growing larger by the day.
While everyone celebrates the debt payoff success stories, what most don’t tell you is how HARD they worked to get there. Paying off debt is not easy, just like becoming a millionaire is not easy.
It takes grit, determination, and sacrifice. But the payoff is worth it. Getting rid of your debt is the first step to financial freedom.
That’s why I love Ashley’s story. She made a plan and stuck to it, even through the ups and downs.
Keep reading to find out how Ashley was able to pay off $45,000 in debt in a record-breaking 18 months!
Tell me a little about yourself (age, background, family life, where you live, etc.)
I am Ashley Patrick, 34 yrs old, and I live outside of Charlotte, NC, with my husband and 3 kids.
I was a police officer and detective for 10 years before I decided to stay at home with my kids. I am now a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach and owner of Budgets Made Easy.
What do you do for a living? Do you have a degree and if so, do you use it in your job?
I am a financial coach and blogger. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I started on my masters degree but didn’t finish. I never used my degree directly.
I actually decided during my last semester of undergrad that I was done with school and I would pursue law enforcement instead. I originally wanted to be a counselor but would have had to continue on to grad school and I was just done at that point.
So I never directly used my degree but it did come in handy during my law enforcement career and in my financial coaching career.
What is your income if you are comfortable sharing?
Right now our household income is around $90,000 a year.
Before you started your debt payoff journey, what kind of debt did you have and how much?
We had $45,000 in debt when we started paying it off. Of that, $25,000 of it was my student loans, $14,000 was a vehicle loan, and $6,000 was a credit card.
Was there a defining moment where you made the decision to pursue debt free living?
The defining moment for me was the credit card. It all started with a 401(k) loan that turned into a disaster. My husband lost his job shortly after taking out the loan. Then we were told we had 60 days to pay it back, which we couldn’t.
That caused us to owe a ton of money to the IRS in penalties and taxes. In order to pay the IRS, I used a credit card at 0% interest for 18 months. Once I started getting the bill for the credit card, I realized I had no clue how we would pay it off in the 18 months.
That led me to find Dave Ramsey and the debt snowball. I created a zero-based budget and got to work. I was not only able to pay off that credit card before the 18 months were up, but ALL my consumer debt!
What strategies did you use to pay off your debt (the more detail the better)?
We used the debt snowball which is paying the smallest balance first. So, we focused all our energy and money toward the smallest debt, which was that dang credit card. We had that paid off in just a couple of months.
The next smallest was my vehicle loan. We had that paid off by the end of the year. I don’t remember exactly how long it took us to pay off each one but we paid off the credit card and vehicle in 7 months.
The largest debt was my student loans, for a degree that I didn’t even use! It took us 10 months to pay off $25,000 in student loans.
The sad thing is that I paid on that student loan for almost 10 years before that and only paid off $3000 of it! I was accruing almost $5 a day just in interest. The payment barely paid any principal.
Then we got to work making extra money. My husband worked a ton of overtime and side jobs. We also sold everything we possibly could. I even sold decor off my walls and all the lamps in my house. It looked like we just moved in, but paying off debt was more important to me than those things.
We also sold a trailer and four-wheeler and of course all the kids stuff that people would buy.
How did you stay motivated to pay off the debt? What challenges did you face along the way?
I did several things to stay motivated.
I read debt pay off success stories every night. I also made visuals to track my progress and kept it where I would see it every day.
I joined Dave Ramsey focused Facebook groups to be “around” like minded people.
I also listened to the Dave Ramsey podcast almost every time I was in the car. It got so bad that my children would cry in the car “I don’t want to listen to Dave Ramsey!”
I even had people tell me to “stop acting like I was destitute”. But I really didn’t care what anyone thought about what we were doing. I knew that paying off debt was more important for our family and our future.
What changed in your life once you paid off the debt?
I was able to stay at home with my kids! I would not have been able to quit my stressful job if I still had the debt. I no longer have to sit in horrible traffic everyday and deal with jerks or see the most horrible things you can imagine.
I am able to be here for my kids and live the life I want without money stress all because I paid off all my debt.
Do you have a budget? Did sticking to it help you pay off debt faster?
Yep! A budget is your financial foundation. Everything you do starts with your budget. I made a zero-based budget and it was incredibly important when paying off debt.
When attacking your debt, did you focus on earning more, spending less, or a combination of both? Why?
We focused on a combination of all of those things. I cut everything I could from the budget. I cut things like magazine subscriptions, paid radio, eating out, cut my grocery bill in half and even cancelled Amazon Prime.
We worked hard on earning more money with side jobs and overtime and selling everything possible.
We even cut out our retirement contributions for awhile.
All of those things helped accelerate our debt payoff by a year! I was constantly using debt snowball calculators and would see what I needed to add in order to cut time off. I then did what I could to beat that goal.
What advice do you have for someone who is in a similar situation to you at the beginning of their debt payoff journey?
Do a zero-based budget and start tracking your expenses. I used a monthly budget template and got to work on my budget. Paying off debt starts with your budget. You will be able to see where your money has been going.
This will let you see where you can save money and cut expenses. It’s all about prioritizing every dollar to work toward your goals.
Thinking back, what do you wish you knew before you started accumulating debt? What would you tell someone just starting out in their own in life?
I wish I would have know that there really isn’t any “good debt”. I wish I would have known all the dangers and issues with 401(k) loans and how they really aren’t a good idea.
I would tell someone starting out to avoid debt at all costs. The only “good debt” is a mortgage and even that should be limited. Save as much money as you can in investment accounts and pay off any debt you do have as fast as you possibly can.
Sacrifice now so that you can enjoy your life later and do what you really want to do without the stress of money holding you back.
Anything else you want to share?
Paying off debt all starts with a budget and a plan. A budget doesn’t have to be something that you avoid and hate doing.
A budget will let you have fun without the guilt afterwards. It’s all about setting your priorities and letting your money work toward your goals.
A budget is simply prioritizing your money for what is important to you.
Andrew Herrig is a finance expert and money nerd and the founder of Wealthy Nickel, where he writes about personal finance, side hustles, and entrepreneurship. As an avid real estate investor and owner of multiple businesses, he has a passion for helping others build wealth and shares his own family’s journey on his blog.
Andrew holds a Masters of Science in Economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He has worked as a financial analyst and accountant in many aspects of the financial world.
Andrew’s expert financial advice has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Fox News, GOBankingRates, MSN, and more.