Crush Debt with the Unstoppable One-Bite Method

By Jackie Beck   Updated 05/05/2021 at 4:39 pm

Ready to crush debt? Learn the unstoppable one-bite method that can help you make it happen! It’s surprisingly simple to do, but the why behind it is most important.

So first let’s talk about an old proverb that goes like this: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The proverb relates because like elephants, debt can be huge and overwhelming. It can take up a lot of space, mentally and emotionally.

That means you can’t pretend the elephant’s not in the room. And once you do bite into the elephant, you can’t stand there staring up at it, feeling overwhelmed by how large it is and depressed about how you’ve only taken a tiny little bite so far and there’s so much left.

No, you’ve got to stare at that one bite and think, “I took a bite out of an elephant! How many people ever do that? Go me!”

You’ve got to celebrate every little bit of progress.

And then do it again, ’til one day you’ll have polished off the whole thing.

Use the one-bite method to crush debt

The same thing is true for getting out of debt — especially if you’ve got a bunch of it or are feeling overwhelmed.

Why? Because feeling overwhelmed often equals feeling like giving up, or not taking action because you aren’t sure what to do.

If you want to be debt free, there are only two things you have to do: stop borrowing money and stick with paying it off.

You eat that elephant one bite at a time. You don’t give up, and you keep taking action. Taking things one little piece at a time can keep you on track.

How the one-bite method works

The one bite-method of getting out of debt works like this: pick a debt, any debt, and eat away at it until it’s gone.

(It doesn’t matter which debt you pick, so long as you’re sure you will stick with it no matter what. But most people see great success with a debt snowball — starting with the smallest debt first.)

Once that first debt is paid off, you pick another one. Then another. Do the same thing until they’re all gone.

Focus on the progress you’re making (and not on how much is left to go.)

Staying focused on your progress matters

The key to the one-bite method is absolutely to stay focused on your progress so that you keep going.

That’s why when I created my Pay Off Debt app one of the very first features I put into it was a progress bar at the top for the debt snowball:

progress bar

You’ll note that it doesn’t say “77% to go”. It says “23% PAID”. Because it’s all about paying attention to how much progress you’ve made, and then continuing to build on that progress. One bite percent at a time.

The one-bite method in action: how it worked for us

My husband and I paid off over $147,000 in debt. (Over $357,000 in debt, if you count the duplex I sold almost immediately after buying).

I never know what to say when people ask how long it took. Technically that answer is “around 10 years”, but I hate to give that answer for 2 main reasons:

  1. 10 years is a long time, and I don’t want to discourage others from becoming debt free. (It’d be sad to never start OR finish, just because you think it might take too long.)
  2. We were NOT actively working at paying off our debts for 10 solid years. That’s just the time period from when we first got serious about paying off a debt to when we sent in the very last payment EVER to our mortgage. And boy did that day feel great!

The truth is, we could have done it faster than that.

Or we also could have never done it all, if we’d gotten overwhelmed and quit before we started or given up. That’s the danger.

How using the one-bite method helped crush our debt

We always intended to get out of debt. We hated owing that money, and getting the credit card statements and never feeling like we were making any progress.

Worse, we hated watching our money go to pay someone else, and struggling to do something we wanted with it instead — only to have something come up and then go deeper into debt.

We wanted OUT.

Back then, we thought of “debt” as “credit cards”. And “debt free” as “not paying interest every month to credit card companies”.

So we felt successful when we paid off our last bit of credit card debt. We felt like we were debt free! (Even though we technically weren’t, that’s still a great thing.) We had our first taste of the thing I wanted most: freedom.

Focusing in like that helped, and then gradually got us thinking about the next step. So I paid off my student loan, and felt great again.

Rinse and repeat (with breaks in between to beef up retirement and have fun) until we got to something that wasn’t originally even on our radar.

Paying off the house with the one-bite method

When my husband and I were paying off our house (the very last bit of our debt) it felt overwhelming. Like a big old elephant staring us in the face.

My husband asked me how we were going to do it. I told him that I had no idea, but we would just start with $35 extra, and one day it would happen.

I really believed that, and it did.

Not because of some woo-woo thing, or because we magically came into a ton of money, but because I knew that you don’t have to see exactly how things will happen in order to make them happen.

You just have to start, and then keep going — one bite at a time, until you’re done.

Or to quote Thomas Fuller: “An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything”.

Including crushing debt. Make it happen!

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Food for thought! Crush debt using the one-bite method

4 thoughts on “Crush Debt with the Unstoppable One-Bite Method

  1. It’s all about the small steps along the way, but also realizing that you need to stand back and look at your overall progress from time to time.

    1. I think you should be looking at your progress ALL of the time, but that’s a good point about making sure to recognize the overall progress too :)

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