The Best “How I Got Out of Debt” Stories on the Web

Paying Off Debt / Monday, July 11th, 2011

Julie’s Note: The following are stories of how people got out of debt. I hope you find them inspiring. For my family, one of the most successful tools we used in getting out of debt was found money.

In 2002, a twenty-something girl named named Karyn Bosnak took a new job in New York City and quickly ran up $20,000 in credit card debt.

When she decided to do something about it, she started a website to document her efforts and, frankly, beg for money. She called it Save Karyn.

As it turns out, Karyn was a pretty engaging girl and she told her story in a pretty entertaining way. She started attracting followers. So many followers, in fact, that over half her debt — $13,323.08 – was paid off through the donations of the people who read her site. The rest she paid off through a combination of eBay sales and cutting expenses.

People love a good story. And even something like personal finance – maybe especially something like personal finance — can be made more compelling when there’s a story behind it.

Karyn’s may not have been the first ‘get out of debt’ story to hit the web, but it was one certainly one of the earliest. And since then many have followed.

Here are some of the best I’ve run across:

  • Jaime Tardy wanted to quit her job and start a family, but first she had to pay off her student loans,a car loan, and home equity loan. She and her husband sold one car, downsized another, and slashed as many expenses as they could. They also took on extra work. Yahoo Finance had Jaime tell her story in How to Erase $70,000 in Debt.
  • Jenny Newcomer was looking for a way to pay off her student loans when a post-holiday cleanup inspired her to sell some of her family’s unnecessary stuff online. Once she decided to do it, she was a woman on a mission and was able to pay off $15,000 in 9 months.
  • Jason Topp started down the road to credit card debt the way a lot of people do: by signing up for his first credit card at a table on his college campus. He got a free t-shirt for signing up, but ended up with a $10,000 balance. Jason and his wife were able to pay off the debt in two years, but it involved Jason cleaning toilets.
  • Dave Ramsey has inspired a lot of people to get out of debt, including Derek at Life and My Finances. After receiving Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, as a Christmas gift, Derek and his wife paid off $18,000 in debt and they did it fast. They also paid cash for a used car along the way. Here is their story.

So what happened to Karyn Bosnak after her debt was paid off? She went on to get a book deal based on her story (told you she was entertaining). I included her book, also called Save Karyn, in a summer reading post I did back in 2006.

Do you know a good story about how someone got out of debt? Maybe even your story? Tell us about it in the comments.

28 Replies to “The Best “How I Got Out of Debt” Stories on the Web”

    1. Once Cent, Harri, and Marissa – Glad you were inspired, affirmed, and motivated. I’m glad these folks have shared their stories. Thanks for reading.

  1. I’m hoping to NOT be one of these stories and avoid getting into debt to begin with. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to get out from under debt. Mathematically, all the rates, fees, and so on are stacked against you along with your own habits. My hat’s off to those who can overcome it.

    1. You’re right, it’s definitely best not to go there to begin with. I’m glad you included habits in the things stacked against people trying to get out of debt. We definitely need to get out of our own way.

  2. Julie–This is such a great post. I enjoyed all the different stories about how each one took control and got out of debt. I taught Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace at my church and these stories really inspire people to do the same things!

    1. Gayle, I never ceased to be amazed at how many people mention Dave Ramsey as their motivation for getting out of debt. I’ll bet you were a great FPU leader.

  3. You’re right — ESPECIALLY personal finance is compelling when it has a story. I thought I’d start a blog and write “factual” personal finance posts … it was an idea that stemmed from my journalist training, which taught me to remove myself from the story. But I quickly learned the Internet works in the opposite way — you have to really put yourself into the story. It’s great “getting to know” people online through their tales of trials and success!

  4. I love this because it reminds me of my own ‘get out of debt’ tale. I (somehow!) managed to pay off $14K in credit card debt in one year by myself as a single 20-something in grad school while also working 6 jobs. In the 2 years that followed, I saved my house down-payment fund, fully maxed out my Roth, bought my home and pared down to 4 jobs, which I still have. :)

    Now that I’m done tooting my own horn (shameful, I know!), I encourage you to read more about these things on my blog–just look on the right nav bar for a link of most of these stories as they are favorites of my readers.

    And keep the motivation coming, of course!!!

  5. My husband and i graduated 2 years ago…with a grand total of nearly $87,000 in school debt. After graduation, we desired to become full-time missionaries, but seeing as our salaries would be provided through fund-raising/donations…we were not able to do this due to our massive debt-mountain. We got jobs in the business world, lived on as little as we could, and paid off every penny last month!

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