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My Ditched Debt Story: My shiny nickels
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How I Trespassed Debt My shiny nickels
By Anna Helhoski Senior Writer | Economic news, consumer finance trends and student loan and debt Anna Helhoski is a senior journalist who covers economic news and developments in the field of consumer finance at NerdWallet. Also, she’s an expert for student loans. Her work was published by NerdWallet as of the year 2014. Her work has appeared on The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. She was previously a reporter for local news in the New York metro area for The Daily Voice, Daily Voice and New York state politics for The Legislative Gazette. She holds a bachelor’s diploma in journalistic studies from Purchase College, State University of New York.
April 4, 2017
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In this series, NerdWallet interviews people who have triumphed over debt by combining dedication, budgeting and wise financial decisions. The stories of these people may motivate you to .
My Shiny Nickels blogger Laura Dobbins and her husband, Randy, on a trip to Paris, a vacation they could afford after they got out of debt.
In the year 2011, Sacramento, California-based IT manager Laura Dobbins, her husband and two children resided in a luxurious home that had all the luxuries of wealth- but their finances told a different story. They were in nearly $40,000 of debt, and had billed so much onto their cards, that Dobbins could not afford a plane ticket for the business trip.
Dobbins realized they needed to alter their lifestyle. Dobbins along with her husband, Randy began to save instead of spending and paying off their debts. They also downsized their house and, in just two years, they were debt-free. She has since shared money-saving advice and details her debt payoff strategies on her blog . Here’s the story.
Was your debt total at the time you started your repayment journey?
Laura Dobbins: 2011: $39,685 total, including $17,000 in debit card balances, $15,000. of auto loan debt, and $8,000 in personal loan debt.
What is your current total debt?
In 2013, became debt-free. Today, still zero.
What led you to end up in credit?
In a strange way, it was the year I got my first big promotion and salary rise. It’s not logical from the outside; you make more money, and you’re then in debt? As backward as that sounds, the answer is “yes.” Then we were in the position of having all this extra money, even though we lived living in a decent home in a gorgeous middle-class neighborhood, we decided to put that extra income towards a larger and more luxurious house in a more upscale neighborhood. With that came the “need” for more furniture and a professionally-designed new backyard and an SUV just like the neighbors had, a gardener, and … well, you get the idea. Instead of being rich, we were financing the design of it. Each month. The spiral downwards of debt had begun.
What triggered your decision to start getting out of credit?
The realization that I couldn’t get the $400 flight ticket for a business trip that was coming up. We have paid down the credit card only to have some available credit to cover any eventual expenses. This pattern stopped the day my boss advised me to travel to St Louis for work. I went to our credit card account and found that we had $90 in available credit (and an additional $52 in the checking account). We had managed to conceal our financial status from the world for a really long time, but it was bubbling up out. It was terrifying.
What steps did you take to reduce your debt? What were the resources or services you use?
The first thing we had to accomplish was stop the cycle of being in debt to “rescue” us. Before we paid off the debt we owed, we set aside the equivalent of a $1000 emergency fund.
We also realized that to pay off our mountain of debt in the shortest time possible, we had to be able to earn more. It was not the time to sit back and give a mere $50 to our monthly debt. It was an “hair’s-on-fire and call the firemen” situation, so we had to make a major move. Literally. We gave up the massive house in the suburbs, and then moved to a tiny 1,000 square foot home in a neighborhood that is primarily working class. The change alone helped us save more than $2,500 per month. (I’ll do the math for you: That’s an amount of nearly $30,000 annually.)
We also started eating out less often and found more economical ways to spend time together as the family. With that extra money every month, we paid down the debt by using the “snowball method.” We started with our smallest account balance on a credit card of $1,500 to score a quick mental victory immediately and after that, we paid all the other debts from the smallest to largest. As we paid each debt off, the cash which was originally used for paying the monthly debts was applied to the next one on the list. This “snowball” of money that was going toward the debt each month increased like crazy.
How have your lives changed for the better since you got rid of debt?
We’re happy. Truly, wonderfully, down-in-your-soul happy. After all debts were paid and house costs were at a low level we could spend on things that mattered the most. The huge home in the suburbs did not provide us with joy however, traveling around the globe does. We save a lot of our money and have enough to splurge on the things that matter.
A couple of many years back, my husband hated his stressful management position. With the money we’d saved up, we bought our first business — an important part of our husband’s lifelong desires. His job was cut, is now the boss of his own business and enjoys it.
Being debt-free gives you more than just the feeling of liberation; it opens up opportunities you’ve never imagined.
How do you tackle your own debt and start the process of paying it off
The method Dobbins describes is best for people who require small victories as motivation to pay off bigger debts. But, the strategy, in which you prioritize paying off debts with high interest such as credit cards and payday loans before lower-interest ones like student, mortgage and auto loans can help you pay down your debt more quickly and lower the cost of interest. This shows you how long it will be to eliminate one debt at a time.
To better manage your debts Consider debt consolidation, which rolls several debts into a single one that has a lower interest rate. Two options for consolidating debt are a or a . Use a to estimate your interest rate.
Anna Helhoski is a staff writer for NerdWallet the personal finance website. Email: . Twitter: .
About the author: Anna Helhoski is a writer, and NerdWallet’s expert regarding student loans. Her work has appeared in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.
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