Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for placement of sponsored products or services and this may affect our decision about who to promote and where to promote them. We make every effort to be authentic and accurate with every article we write.

Get Out of Debt

Living “Lean” Helped Me Be Debt Free

Today we have a guest post from a reader named Crystal, who successfully became debt free last year. Enjoy!

In 2007, I went back to school to obtain an M.A. in Education/Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in English and Language Arts so I could teach English classes at a community college part-time.

Since I was working full-time, I decided to do an online program.  At the time I enrolled, I thought nothing of the true cost of getting my master’s degree since I had never take out any loans to go to school.  Over the course of the two year program, I took out a total of $41,000.00 not including interest that accrued while I completed the program.  I was lucky that I only took out federal graduate loans but the interest at the time was 6.8%.

I failed to see the reality of the noose I placed around my neck until I completed my degree and had to start paying back the loans plus interest.

Shortly after I finished my degree in 2009, I was laid off from my job.  As a result of this, I had no choice but to put my loans in deferment.

After I got a full-time job again, I took my loans out of deferment.  My balance had grown to over $45,000.00.   In order to lower my monthly payment, I switched to an extended payment plan and continued to pay the minimum monthly payment for over two years with no progress made in paying down my balance.

In December 2013, I was sick of being suffocated by all the debt I had and decided that I would pay off all my loans and become debt free by the end of 2014.  I felt that I needed a “quick win” to get things going so I took $23,000.00 from my Roth IRA and paid off the two oldest loans in full and applied the remaining $3,000.00 towards the smallest of the two loans I had left.

Even though I paid off about half of my debt by the end of 2013, I still had $22,000.00 remaining.  In order to meet my goal, I ruthlessly cut my expenses.  No gym, no Netflix, no vacations, no eating out, etc.  I created a strict budget for myself and stuck to it.  It sucked most of the time as I had to say no to a lot of things but it was more important to me to become debt free.  I put more than half of my paycheck towards my loans every time I got paid.

In March 2014, I paid off the smaller of the two loans I had left.  Even though that was a small victory, I knew I had several thousands more dollars to pay.  I continued to live “lean” and put more than half of each paycheck towards my loans and watched as my balance rapidly went down.

I made the final payment to Sallie Mae on July 16, 2014.  In total, I paid $54,147.69 and $13,147.69 in interest alone.  I can’t say enough how elated I was to make that final payment.  I never had to pay Sallie Mae again, I was 100% debt free, and I obliterated my goal by over 5 months.

It’s over a year and a half later and I’m still 100% debt free.  Having several thousand dollars of debt is soul crushing and I never want to experience that feeling again.  I had to make sacrifices to get completely out of debt but it was so worth it.

Crystal is a 30-something single gal living and loving life in coastal Southern California.  When not working as a paralegal, Crystal loves reading (especially personal finance blogs), working out, spending time with her boyfriend, and watching way too much TV.

Like what you read? It’s your turn! We’ll pay you for your debt story.

Around here, we’re all about taking our debt and beating it down. Grrrrrrrr! We pay $5 for every awesome debt story we publish (whether you’re in debt, out of it, or barely living to tell the tale) so send yours our way to be considered: reddebtedstepchild[at]gmail[dot]com!
Photo of author

Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
Want to Say in the Loop?

Get the latest updates we offer about all things "Money" by signing up for the CashBlog newsletter.

As Seen on

The content on is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not financial advice and we are not certified financial advisors. strives to keep its information accurate and up to date, but it may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for the placement of sponsored products or services. We work hard to write authentic and accurate articles.