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Having to pay off debt on one income is a bit more challenging than if you had two, but it's definitely doable.
I began documenting my debt payoff journey in September of 2016, and I had exactly $34,907.10 tied to my name. My credit card debt had reached $5,000, and although it may not be much to others, it seemed like a ton to me!
During that time my income was extremely low and I felt like maybe this whole “debt-free journey” stuff wasn’t possible for someone like me.
Although I felt like I was way over my head, I made the decision to pay down debt anyway. After a little creativity and A LOT of trial and error, I can finally say that I’ve paid off $18,000 in debt. (*Update: I'm now debt free!!!)
Now, here's how I did it!
Steps I took to pay off debt on one income
I MADE A BUDGET
It’s pretty much impossible to understand your complete financial picture without a budget. You have no idea how much money is coming in each month, nor how much is going out.
There may be money leaks (money you’re wasting) that are tarnishing your finances, but you’ll never know until you begin to track your spending.
I was 22-years-old when I created my first budget. I had just moved into my first apartment, and I was so confident that I had a good grip on managing my money. Psh!
As you can imagine, it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn't being realistic. I had no idea how to take control of my money so it took control of me.
Even after payday, my account balance had tumbleweeds and I couldn't understand where all of my money was going. Side note: It was going to food, my hair, and clothes!
Frustrated, I sat down and scribbled out all of my monthly expenses on a little piece of paper and compared it to my income.
Thus, my budget was born and I could actually see that the extra money I was spending wasn’t extra money at all. It was money that belonged to my bills, and my spendable income was actually non-existent.
If you don't have a budget, I highly recommend reading this post for budgeting beginners!
Additional posts you need to check out!
I USED MULTIPLE BANK ACCOUNTS
And I still do…
Look, a budget is just a piece of paper with numbers if you haven’t developed a plan to actually stick to it.
I got the idea to break up my budget categories into multiple bank accounts and it was honestly the best thing I could’ve done.
Today, I have six.
I started off with an account for all of my bills, an account for my food and gas, and one for savings. Then, I broke each paycheck up by the amount of money I needed for each category.
For example, let’s say I need $160 for gas each month. I'd have $80 out of each paycheck direct deposited into the account that held my gas money.
All of my bills are automatically withdrawn from my bills account so I just let technology do its thing with no stress.
Judging by the available balance in each account, I am able to see how well I am doing for the month. Any extra money I have leftover normally goes to my savings account or debt.
I DEVELOPED A FRUGAL MINDSET
Your situation is not going to change until you do.
I was addicted to shopping which put me in a lot of credit card debt. To cover up my problem, I told myself that I deserved to make the purchases.
What I meant to say was that I deserved to be in debt!
Once I made the decision that I was going to reach financial freedom, I established ways to stop my senseless spending.
I knew that I had to change my way of thinking if I wanted to see a change.
When you’re serious about getting out of debt you’ve got to buckle down and make some major sacrifices.
What is it that you find yourself spending the most money on that is not a necessity?
For me, this meant giving up stylish, new clothes for a while.
Of course, you cannot completely deprive yourself of what brings you joy otherwise you’ll wind up miserable.
When you’re unhappy, you may find yourself spending more money in an attempt to boost your mood. Because of this, I won’t sit here and tell you to cut off every form of entertainment from your life.
Paying off debt is often a long process and things can get pretty stagnant. You’ll need all the motivation you can get, and treating yourself while doing it important. Just be sure to do so in moderation.
I SIDE HUSTLED
A side hustle is anything you do for extra money. It allowed me to pay off debt so much faster than I would have with just my regular income.
I’ve always loved to write, and once my classmates picked up on my hobby they began paying me to help with their writing assignments. I also freelanced full-time for a company called Writer4Hire and was able to bring in about $400 extra a month.
Soon it got difficult to juggle my job, motherhood and freelancing so I began selling unwanted clothes and gadgets that I didn’t use anymore. This earned me around $150 a month from eBay.
To find a side hustle, think about what you enjoy doing or what you do well. Then, determine how you can make a profit from that.
Although there are a lot of side hustles out there, I recommend finding something that actually interests you. If you don’t, you may get burned out quickly.
Need some inspo? Check out these posts:
- 11 Best Ways to Make Money on the Side – Earn Thousands!
- 10 Easy Ways You Can Make Extra Money From Home
I GAVE UP MY REFUNDS
Many people will receive a large sum of money at least once in their lifetime. This could be anything from a tax refund to a court settlement.
When you want to pay off debt on a single income, you’ve got to be strategic about these large amounts of cash.
Alright, so I’ve had my fair share of auto accidents (I’m a good driver I promise). Even I’m amazed that my car is still holding on!
Once the insurance company issued me a check, it went straight to the bank. Not because I wanted a shopping spree, but because I saw this as a way to knock down debt.
As I matured, the aesthetics of things didn’t matter as much anymore. If my car has no mechanical issues, then I can honestly care less if the bumper is dented! Just being honest here.
In regards to tax refunds, a lot of my peers see them as a way to live “the good life”. To each his own, but I see a way to give myself some financial relief.
For every tax refund I receive, a portion goes into savings and the rest goes towards debt.
In fact, 2017's tax refund was used to pay off my last credit card. I didn't have fancy clothes, but I did free up an extra $300 each month!
You don’t HAVE to use all of the money from your large refund. You can live a little, but I promise using some will help you out a lot.
If it's one thing I know, it's totally possible to pay off debt on one income!
Developing a debt payoff plan and creating financial goals are key to keeping you on track and motivated during your debt-free journey.
Financial freedom may not be a quick process, but it is within reach!
If you're a single working woman who needs help developing a plan and desires accountability along the way, click here to learn more about my 1-1 coaching services!
MY FAVE RESOURCES!
Greenlight. With the Greenlight debit card and app, kids earn money through chores, set savings goals, spend wisely, and invest. Parents set flexible controls and get real-time notifications every time their kids spend money. Check it out here.
Acorns. Acorns offers a micro-investing app that helps people save and invest for their future. Over 3 million Americans use Acorns to help set aside a little from their everyday purchases. Start investing now!