How I Wiped Out $37,000 of Debt in One Year

Debt
Photo by Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s note: We first published this guest post from Rickey Willis — a Money Talks News reader in Virginia — five years ago. Given that Americans are more in debt than ever before, we thought it would be a good time to revisit Rickey’s story. Find out what you can learn about getting out of your own debt trap.

I’m a 56-year-old social worker supervisor, and my wife is a 51-year-old elementary school teacher. We have four children, from 14 to 26. Two live with us. We have two grandchildren.

It was early last year while preparing our 2010 taxes that my wife questioned where our $121,000 combined salary had gone. I had no answer, and neither did she. It was as if we’d been living in financial darkness. Then, I had an epiphany.

From that moment, I went on a quest to find out what happened to all our money. So determined was my desire, I meticulously combed through all of our bank statements from the past year. It was there I found most of the answer.

The huge elephant in the room was called debt.

Beginning our journey out of debt’s darkness

An inordinate amount of money had gone toward interest alone. I began visualizing driving down the street and throwing dollar bills out the window — a clear picture of what we had done. Over the next few days, I totaled all of our debts and came up with $151,218.

I went back and picked up “Life or Debt by Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson. It was a book I’d read a few years ago. I gleaned some astounding insights, not the least of which was the concept called the Debt Destroyer.

Stacy puts forth the notion of coming up with funds that total 10 percent of your gross salary and using that money to start tackling debt. Since I’d already gone through last year’s expenditures, it was easy to identify money to start our Destroyer. We simply devised a plan by using a calculator, paper and a pen.

We immediately made a decision to stop incurring debt! We gathered all our debts and arranged them from smallest to largest, along with time frames for each to be paid off. We used the “snowball method” by using the Debt Destroyer to get rid of the smallest debt. Then we took all the money we’d been paying on the smallest debt and applied it to the next one — and so on.

We did this while making minimum payments on our other debts. But when it came to the credit cards, we focused on the one with the highest interest first.

I began visualizing myself being debt-free. When the first debt was paid off, we received an emotional jolt and a psychological lift. Debts started coming down so rapidly that we beat our self-imposed deadlines. We didn’t alter our lifestyle much, but I did give up my gym membership for seven months.

Because we’re part of a faith community, our church emphasized the need for parishioners to retire debt too. Our church sponsored a 15-week class, but we weren’t able to attend. However, a friend provided us with material that was covered in the classes, which was helpful.

As a way to stay on track, I devote at least one hour a day to listening to debt-reduction tapes and reading something about debt removal. The first day of the month, I also posted our progress throughout the house, which we view daily.

The light at the end of the debt tunnel

A few months after beginning our debt-destroying odyssey, I decided to contact Stacy with the purpose of seeking guidance about what to do with $15,000 we had in the stock market. He replied immediately with some advice for us to consider that revolutionized our thinking.

We learned that the proverbial cart had been put before the horse. Subsequently, we sold the stocks, took the proceeds, and put money toward our emergency fund and the rest on debts.

We have paid off a department store bill, a personal loan, a vehicle note, and a credit card for a total of $36,838.57. By doing so, we have unencumbered $860 a month. We still have a car loan, a credit card (which will be paid off in three to four months), a student loan and a mortgage.

Total debt freedom is within our reach — it’s not an elusive dream. I’d like others to know that it takes unwavering focus, tenacity, a resolute mind, considerable discipline and a determination to remove the burden of debt from one’s life.

Do you have a story about escaping debt that you’d like to share? Tell us about it by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Drivers Give These 5 Car Insurers the Highest Marks
Drivers Give These 5 Car Insurers the Highest Marks

One company claimed the top ranking in several categories.

3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing
3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing

Not using any of these methods for saving on laundry detergent? Then, you are washing money down the drain.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest
10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest

Think twice before pursuing these shrinking occupations.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash
8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash

Sometimes, the humblest household items are worth the most money.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach
10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Does the pandemic have you reaching for bleach more than ever before? Learn the ins and outs of using this powerful disinfectant.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.