Our Debt Story: An Update

by Julie on March 27, 2012 · 36 comments

Last year I wrote about our debt story. In the first installment I wrote about where our debt came from. In the second, I explained where we were and what our plan was.

At that time, we had two non-mortgage debts left: a business credit card balance and a home equity loan. As of this month, the business credit card debt is gone. Finished.

Here’s a snippet from the most recent credit card statement. It was a happy day when I saw it in my inbox.

We’ve been paying $1000/month toward the card for the last eleven months, so this will be like getting a $1000/month raise.

That is an awesome feeling and I know right where the $1000/month will go: to our last debt, the home equity loan.

Making Extra Payments with Found Money

I’ve been making our regular payments toward the home equity loan, and adding in some extra payments when I can. Even when those extra payments are really small, like this one.

This week, I was able to use found money to send an extra $369 to this loan. Here’s the breakdown of where this most recent found money came from:

  • $210 earned through several Craigslist sales. I blogged about them here.
  • $39 I earned for selling an unused $50 gift card to Plastic Jungle (referral link). Here’s my super-quick Plastic Jungle review: Went as planned, got my money promptly. They accidentally issued me two checks, but contacted me quickly and asked me to cash only one. I would use them again.
  • $20 in Target gift cards* I earned $10/each for filling 1 new and 1 transferred prescription at Target. I used coupons that came from joining the Target pharmacy rewards program, but they are also regularly found in the Target Sunday newspaper ads.
  • $100 in PerkStreet rewards that I redeemed in the form of a Target gift card*. PerkStreet (referral link) pays me cash back for debit card purchases. Since the fall of 2010 we’ve earned $657 in cash back from PerkStreet.

* I turn gift cards into debt payments by spending them on groceries or other things I would have normally purchased, and then sending that amount from our checking account to our home equity loan.

Found Money Comes in Many Forms

Where That Leaves Us

I am so excited, happy, and proud to say that since October of 2010 — 17 months ago — we’ve paid off $49,613 in debt. That doesn’t include the amounts we’ve paid toward mortgage debt.

We have $9,685 to go. That’s what’s left on our home equity loan.

When that last debt is gone we will have done what feels to me like turning around a ship. A very large ship.

Lessons Learned So Far

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always been easy. The urge to spend and acquire and consume in this culture is strong.

And there are no shortage of worthwhile places to put your money. Education, a nice home, travel, retirement savings, quality healthcare, etc. just to name a few. It’s not as easy as skipping a latte or canceling cable.

But it’s been so worth it. We’re so much more intentional and purposeful with our money now. Even when we have setbacks or make decisions we wish we wouldn’t have, it’s a learning experience.

Are you on a journey to pay off debt? What are you learning from the experience?

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Mysti March 27, 2012 at 6:20 am

FABULOUS!!! If you have 9k left on the equity loan, and now you are going to add $1000 per month to the regular payment…it will be HISTORY in just a few months.

What a wonderful feeling!


Julie March 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

Mysti, it’s amazing when you’re down to one debt and can focus all your energy on it.


Melissa@Mom's Plans March 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

Way to go! I am so impressed by how much you have paid off so quickly! You will be out of debt in no time! What will you do with all that extra money monthly once it doesn’t go to debt repayment?


Julie March 27, 2012 at 11:20 am

Melissa, a bigger emergency fund, more aggressive retirement savings, and home improvements. That’s the plan for now. Thanks for your nice comment.


Jackie Walters March 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

Congratulations Julie! I love seeing people win with money! I can hear your excitement in your blog post. I bet you pay off that home equity loan sooner than you anticipate.


Julie March 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

Here’s hoping! :)


The Happy Homeowner March 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

Congrats; this is fantastic news! I love your strategy for turning gift cards into “cash.” That’s definitely something I’ll consider in the future


Julie March 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

It has certainly worked well for us, HH.


Sheila March 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm

What a GREAT feeling!! It is nice to see how staying focused on goal can make it happen.


Julie March 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Thank you for your nice comment, Sheila!


Carla March 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Youre doing amazing! Great suggestions to apply to any debts!!


Julie March 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thank you, Carla! :)


Tackling Our Debt March 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Julie, That is so very exciting that you have paid off close to $50 grand in debt in such a short time frame. I bet it was a lot of hard work and dedication on you and your family’s part but you must feel such a weight lifted from your shoulders knowing that it is done.

And that you now have that extra money each month to pay against other priorities. Congratulations!! :-)


Julie March 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thank you, TOD. We’re not quite there…but we’re close enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Sharon March 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Congrats! $1000 is ALOT of money..it won’t be long before you have the HEL paid off!!

We still have my husband’s car loan. We owe a bit under $8000, and hope to have it paid off by December. I’m not rushing to pay it off, I’m sending all of my extra to my EF. I will feel a whole lot better when that is fully funded!


Julie March 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Congrats, Sharon. A fully funded EF is next on our list.


Audrey @ Mom Drop Box March 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

That is so great that you’re getting close, Julie! I think all your readers are cheering you & your husband on!

We have student loan debt to repay, but repayment has taken a backseat to saving right now b/c of job insecurity. I’ve learned that when you have debt, it feels like it hangs around for forever.


Julie March 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Thanks so much, Audrey. I’ll take any cheering on we can get.

Sounds like you need to be saving right now. But just think, if the job insecurity passes, you can funnel a bunch of that savings into paying off a big chunk of your student loan.


Young Professional Finances March 28, 2012 at 12:17 am

Congratulations! You managed to pay off $50,000 in a year and half – that’s amazing.

I’m not paying off debt right now (other than making the standard monthly payments) on my student loans/mortgage but I know I’ll have to start working at those soon. Especially those pesky student loans.


Jen @ Dear Mommy Brain March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Congratulations! That is so exciting! I can’t wait to see the day when we only have our mortgage debt…


Julie March 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Thank you, Jen. We definitely are excited. Hopefully you’ll be there soon, too.


Mariah March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Congrats! That’s a huge weight off of your shoulders, I’m sure! We’re working towards getting our car payed off this year, can’t wait to get that $1000/month raise :)

A tip: I’m hosting Cake week 2012 here (http://theefirewife.blogspot.com/2012/03/cake-week-2012-rules-regulations.html) and would love it if you added your favorite cake recipe to the mix! There’s going to be lots of sweet prizes, that might just make the desire to spend $$ a little easier to bear, since they’ll be free!


Julie March 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Good luck with the car payoff, Mariah.


Wayne @ Young Family Finance March 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Great news! I love the feeling I have after I’ve paid off a debt. Tastes like freedom.

My family cut back the budget a little to help make extra payments towards our debt. So far, things have been working great and I’ve almost paid off one of my student loans.


Julie March 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

That’s wonderful, Wayne. “Tastes like freedom” – I love it!


Christa March 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm

That’s amazing — you should be so proud!


Julie March 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thank you, Christa. And thanks for being such a loyal reader/commenter. I really appreciate it.


April March 30, 2012 at 6:27 am

that’s an amazing number! we are just getting started so we ahve a ways to go


Julie March 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

April, you will be there before you know it. Congrats on getting started!


Stacie March 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

WHOOOHOOOO Julie!! That is FANTASTIC! What an inspiring post & I agree with one of the early commenters, you can feel your excitement through your post. I can’t wait until my next debt gets knocked off. Then only one left! What an exciting thought!! Congrats again & thanks for sharing with us! It helps keep me motivated, too. :)


Julie March 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thank you so much, Stacie. And thanks for telling me that it helps motivate you too. That’s the nicest thing you could have said. :)


Paul April 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I can relate. I got tired of that home equity loan and went crazy on it starting last August. I paid it off on Feb.28th and immediately added that money to my car payment. Last one will by May 1st. Just to show how intense it’s been, I owed $19,600 on the home equity loan last July and $15,000 on the car last May. $34,000 in about 10 months is not bad! The mortgage on my condo is all that’s left and that’s now a rental. I wish I would have started a long time ago, to say the least. One other thing, I was able to maximize my 401k during the whole time and take a week’s vacation with all the kids last summer-cash of course.


Julie April 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Paul, congrats to you. That’s a ton of debt paid off in a short time. I think you put it best when you said you just got tired of it and went crazy. Good work.


janie April 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Wow this is so inspiring! I would have to do this on a much smaller scale however. If I saved every penny I earned and not spent a thing I would have to work close to three years to save that. Maybe I’ll win the lottery? That would be fabulous! I’ll start where I can and try to add more to every payment, it’s a start:)


Julie April 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm

It’s absolutely a start, Janie. I’m glad you were inspired. Once you get it rolling you’ll make great progress!


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