Bye, Bye Debt! Kathleen’s Journey Out of $25,000 in Debt

By Jackie Beck   Updated 09/24/2020 at 12:46 pm

Kathleen's journey out of debt

You’ve asked for more debt success stories, and so here’s one from Kathleen O’Malley, the creator of the personal finance and frugal living blog, Frugal Portland.

Kathleen writes about fun, frugal things to do in her hometown of Portland, Oregon as well as ways to make the most of our short time here on the planet. Topics include living simply and having fun on a shoestring.

Of course, she’s also PAID OFF HER DEBT! Woohoo! Here’s her story, with my comments in italics.

What did you pay off?

I paid off $25,000 in six years. At first, I was just paying the minimums, so really, I paid off about $20,000 in 2.5 years. (Getting focused makes such a huge difference!)

The debt was a mixture of credit card debt (which was from a check written off a credit card to fund a terrible business idea — find out more here), a car loan, and student loans.

What inspired you to start getting out of debt?

I turned 30 and I still had credit card debt. I was so ashamed. I mean…I am old enough to know better! So after my 30th birthday, I buckled down. Hard. Decided this was no way to live anymore.

I started blogging, killed the credit card debt, then attacked my student loans. After that, my car loan was gone. And in June of 2013, I was completely debt free.

Lots of people are ashamed by debt, or think they should know better. The point is not to beat yourself up over the past, but to move on to the future you want. Sounds like you did exactly that.

What setbacks did you have?

The setbacks I had along the way should sound familiar. There was a car emergency that cost more than my emergency fund (though not by much, I just needed new tires).

I got really bored at home, and lost steam. Several times. So I realized I needed to SERIOUSLY celebrate tiny wins.

Debt lost a digit? I told everyone I knew. I kept track of every dollar, and withheld haircuts when I was really close to the end. That first haircut out of credit card debt was a thing of beauty. I bet!

What would you say to someone who’s struggling to get out of debt?

If you’re struggling to get out of debt, the best piece of advice I can give is to go public. Start a blog, put it on Facebook, tell your parents, whatever.

Don’t suffer in silence. And at this point, there’s no sense in feeling ashamed. What’s done is done.

It was really helpful to me to decide that there were two Kathleens in play here. There was past-Kathleen, who did some dumb things, and current-Kathleen, who really has her stuff together, and a head on her shoulders. Past-Kathleen should be grateful that current-Kathleen came along when she did, because who knows where she would be then?

Thanks for sharing your story, Kathleen!



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