The Inspiring Story of How Jacquelyn Paid Off $48k of Debt

Do you guys remember Jacquelyn?

She came to me in April of 2014 because she was drowning in debt and frustrated with her situation. She wanted more out of life. She wanted to be debt-free and to be happy.

Spoiler alert: Jacquelyn has paid off $48k worth of debt. I can’t hide the excitement!

Paying off your debt

I received the following email on April 18, 2014:

Hey Martin,

I’m not sure what the chances are of you actually seeing this. I’m currently at work (working overnight boo). I’ve been browsing things for a few months now. I just got promoted at work (yay money, boo to the job).

Anyway, I want to make a change, like most people I’m sure. I’m different though, I really want this. I need this. I see myself doing too much to be held back by the assumed corporate lifestyle, especially because I am ALL about passion and I constantly feel like I am being tied down.

I wanted to reach out because I saw multiple benefits in what your site/company offers from getting rid of debt and for making money online. I love writing, it’s my true passion and I want to make that my life versus staring at computers doing robotic work for the paycheck.

Granted, the paycheck is necessary and I would be a lot more stressed without it BUT I’m wicked ready to move out of this into something better.

I started at WordPress but for whatever reason am having issues installing the program, something with PHP or mySQL I think… and I am trying to decide the name for my domain. Mostly, I can’t decide which way to gear the blog/freelance site I want to create.

However, for too long I have been stalled by need to have everything perfect before it can start. This is why it has never started.

 Long story short, I want to step up and I hope you can help me.



P.S. Going to buy your book, left my Amazon card at home, whoops.


She came to me because she was confused and pissed off at the world. Worst of all, she was drowning in debt. I’ll let Jacquelyn tell you her story because it’s her story. I was just here for the journey. Jacquelyn first opened up about her finances in September of 2014. Then she returned in January with an update. This is her final post about debt.

“Perseverance is everything. Never giving up will give you the ability to go through anything in your way and accomplish everything that you wish.” — Ben Lang


The final email from Jacquelyn.

Total Debt: $48,000.
$28,000 in student loans, paid off in 6 months.
The rest was credit card debt (interest and acquired debt throughout).

Monthly Debt payment from March – Sept 2015: $4000-$4800

Highest Monthly Payment: $5500

Tools Used:

  • ReadyForZero.
  • Personal Capital.
  • BudgetsAreSexy template (download the templates!).
  • Increased income.
  • Weekly payments.
  • Online banking.
  • Sheer relentlessness.

How much work went into this?

I averaged 85-90 hours a week, half spent driving for GrubHub after my day job.

Typical schedule:

M-F: 7:30 – 5, 5-9/11 with Grubhub.

Sat/Sun: 11-9 Grubhub.

What were the costs?

  • Gas: Averaging $400/month varied based on prices
  • Food.
  • Health — lacking working out, shitty food for convenience/boredom
  • Sleep.

Used about 40% of my salary to cover expenses, everything else went to debt

Time off:

Spent with family in suburbs, I was often too tired or working and didn’t want to go out. I also felt guilty when I spent money but I forced myself at times because that type of frugality builds resentment. I often realized that a small drop of money infrequently was far less painful than a major splurge where I could have felt extreme guilt and fallen off the debt freedom track.

I took part of a day off my salaried job in order to work for Grubhub and make some extra money.

I worked holidays in some fashion, maybe not the full day depending on the importance to Kristina/family to have us there. We often sacrificed by splitting up on the holiday. It was harder for me than her because I wanted to be enjoying time with the family.

Overall thoughts…

I’ve never understood the feeling that people describe as surreal. I keep waiting to see the numbers jump back up and to have debt again. Quite frankly, the debt was never tangible as I watched the numbers dwindle down. I kept my head down and worked hard. We had a lot of strenuous times where I was angry, bitter, embarrassed, annoyed and bloody tired. Kristina and I stuck together on this and it helped a lot.

It made me feel good to see her start to appreciate and challenge her own finances, without my oversight. Although, I’m a nut and prefer to know every detail about what’s going on with the finances (when they’ll be handled and so on). This was why debt payments were fun because I am a self proclaimed paranoid planner.

One of the things I did to make feeling comfortable with massive payments (relative to my income) was pay the bills we had as soon as we got them, aside from rent. We are lucky to have a landlord that allows us to pay sporadically through the month and with some flexibility in general. I was transparent with him about my goals and that anything he thought I could do to help and make some extra cash I was open ears. He didn’t have anything but did give some advice and was very understanding of situations that came up. Rent was important and never wavered but it was nice to know we have a landlord that would be helpful.

I also felt my confidence grow over the last few months. I didn’t settle for spending money on unnecessary things and I felt less and less guilty when I declined invites.

The goal of $0 debt far outweighed everything.

I know I pissed a lot of people off or made them angry.

I was selfish and I was unapologetic about it because I knew the goal in mind and I knew it would shape me into being a better person in the years to come versus the few days or dollars I spent in temp-minded way. It was strange to see the people that objected, ones I would least expect, and it put many things into different perspectives for me.

The pushback I got was actually a large reason why I knew I had to be selfish because there would always be the temptation, the doubter, the “oh come on it’s just one thing” person, the jealousy. All of it was painful when it came from people that I thought would be excited. Looking back now I can understand because I’ve been the jealous person. It’s a tough way to live and often coated with judgmental statements to make me feel better.

I stopped being upset, concerned or overly paranoid about other people being mad at me. I realized that my best friends, which are few, would understand the sacrifice. For some, it took their own circumstances to understand the sacrifices we were really making.

I struggled with a lot of things. I mostly struggled with understanding the value of college. Here I was, in the middle of my debt payments and questioning the value of college. I was spending a ton of time working my ass off to pay for college and a degree that I learned more from outside of class. There are things I will always appreciate but it took a lot out of me to not swear off my degree and school. It put things into my head I never imagined, mostly confidence and questioning priorities.

My value of time has been transformed completely.

I have learned a different type of quality of life.

  • I enjoy the 15 minutes of good coffee outside my car.
  • I can take time to enjoy the crisp morning air.
  • I enjoy the feeling of walking to places, outside of any type of sitting environment.
  • I still cringe when I’m in my car as I spent my entire summer in some form of sitting position.

The benefit of the double full time schedule was the time sensitivity that forced my work in my salaried job to get better. I no longer had the freedom to bullshit with unrelated work things.

I’ll admit I spent a tremendous amount of time with personal finance work.

I have to credit a major transformation to my new boss. She opened up my eyes and mind to an untapped work ethic and desire to get things done. She gave me fresh air to flex my old school work muscles. This helped me push through the shittiest month. I wanted to have more time to work on projects at work. I resented the hell out of Grubhub. I wanted to be better but still felt a certain restriction in life while that was still a large part of it. I spent some nights super chill, driving and delivering with no issue. Other nights I was high strung, anxious and angry. More often it was due to lack of sleep and hunger.

Other times I was so exhausted from this non-stop life that I wanted to quit.

I thought about it. I wanted to slack but I wasn’t close enough. I had spent too many weeks working those extra hours to give up then. Sure I could extend my debt payments another month but why?

Debt itself isn’t draining, it’s how you get there that is.

I found I was often berating myself for not spending more time on scholarships, for not educating myself on how to pay for school or why I didn’t look into cheaper alternatives.

That’s what paying debt did. It put the value on money that I didn’t ever have before. I have been given a new chance at a different life. I am wiped clean of my degree and can do whatever I want.

This process has forced me to reevaluate a lot of what I consider to be important.

  1. Is making an extra $60 worth the time that could be spent bonding and growing with another family?
  2. Is the time spent working for an hourly wage better than using that same time to build something that can grow my wealth at an exponential rate?

I needed to pay off my debt. I needed it. I was lost, confused, devoid of work ethic. The last thing I actually finished was my degree. I had lost belief in who I was becoming, what I could do and I was slipping into a miserable desk job where I did spend a large portion of my time doing things I didn’t like. I needed to feel this pain. It’s opened my eyes to why time should be deliberately spent in a way that aligns with your actual dreams. The beauty of paying off debt is that I have realized, thanks to the first email that started this exchange, that when I doubt myself the most is when I need to go for it. I put a date on my freedom: 12/31/15…what a way to ring in the new year right?

I finished debt free 9/17/15.

I blew my goals out of the water, I underestimated myself and my passions. I had been stuck. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t think much about being stuck in debt, it sat like a typical monthly expense, nothing I thought I could make change in such rapid fashion.

What happened after I paid off my debt?

I’ve spent the past week dreaming, visualizing and imagining things/places/trips/experiences I want that are no longer out of the question. I don’t have excuses anymore to halt life. I can imagine ways to make things happen, not because I paid off my debt (although that helps) but because I understand my money in a way that is so different from numbers. I can attach an amount to an experience. I can imagine that life is so much better spent through money that catapults me into a better quality of life.

I don’t need fancy things, even though they’re nice, because I want to see that money take me places. I want to see my money work for me. I want to see my net worth as far away from (-) as humanly possible. I have seen my net worth casually sit at-$35,000 and it was no big deal to me. I didn’t think about how my death in that time would leave me as beyond worthless, I was a liability. (a bit morbid but took a toll on my pride).

To me, I was fortunate to have that smaller loan amount and the ability to leverage anther job to pay off that amount in a shorter period of time.

It was hard work. I was a zombie. I spent many days wanting them to end as soon as they started. As the journey continued on though I felt a change. I felt the weight of debt coming off me and I felt myself begin to understand that I needed to take the time to value the aspects of life I had given up and what I would do to avoid this type of stranglehold again.

I can’t stress enough the way that this has increased my value of time. I understand why people, especially successful ones, talk about how much more important time is. With focused short periods of time, insane amounts of wealth are possible, all while maintaining life that is far more fun.

Fun to me is work that is more consistent but enjoyable, easy to talk about, something that helps others and leaves me excited to take on new challenges.

Relationships are insanely important. I find myself beyond thankful to have had a best friend tolerate my temper tantrums, push me in the toughest times and help me when I am emotionally drained. I missed my relationship, I missed my dog. They are two important aspects of my life that I missed more than I thought imaginable. Time with the puppy and the love are hard to give up.

Most important takeaways from this journey…

  1. Time is your greatest investment if allocated correctly.
  2. Health should always coincide with your goals. Never let health suffer at the facade of a short term goal.
  3. Spend money deliberately and without impulse. You will appreciate where it goes more and feel less guilt/self-deprecation.
  4. Prioritize values. If money spent on a gym makes you feel good, it’s a good investment. DOn’t feel guilty about money well spent.
  5. Buy higher quality items. If you spend deliberately, you will be prepared for a larger upfront price tag knowing it will last you.
  6. Make time to splurge, relax or buy something to keep you going. IT may seem like it’s feasible to cut back endlessly to reach a goal but it will work like almost any restriction technique, causing a slippery slope.
  7. Earn more. Always.

What’s next?

  • Save.
  • Fitness/Nutrition.
  • Learn to invest and actually do it.
  • Blog. Share. Blog. Build.
  • Travel.
  • Smile.
  • Let debt freedom set in. Enjoy it, revel in it.
  • Enable an automated savings system.
  • Emergency fund.
  • Live unapologetically.


What’s next?

The whole game changes when you’re debt is paid off. Jacquelyn’s journey isn’t over. I’m going to be helping her with her income and blogging now. I’m not here to make a quick buck. I want to be a trusted advisor for life. Let’s all take a moment to congratulate Jacquelyn.

Check out our exclusive theories!

  1. The Cancun Technique For Saving Money.
  2. The American Pie Strategy for finding your first freelancing client.
  3. From Dreamer to Doer.
  4. The You System for getting ahead of your friends.
  5. What Wikipedia Won’t Tell You About Investing In Yourself.

My gift to you.

I want you have this case study in one place so that you can read it whenever you’re doubting yourself. All three articles are going to be in one place. I put the whole journey into one inspirational guide. The guide is yours for FREE!

Bonus: I’m also throwing in my Completely Conquer Credit by 30 guide for FREE. I want you to get on top of your credit right now before debt takes over your life.

Debt can go to hell!

“Debt is normal. Be weird.” — Dave Ramsey

16 thoughts on “The Inspiring Story of How Jacquelyn Paid Off $48k of Debt”

  1. Wow, this is absolutely amazing. Great job, Jacquelyn!!! I really love that you’re being transparent about the difficulties of being so aggressive with debt, especially bringing up health aspect. It’s an inspiring story, but even better because you’re transparent about the struggle and don’t gloss over what you had to do to get out of the red.

    1. I was planning to email you about this since we had spoke back at the beginning of this journey! It’s great to be debt free!

  2. Dayuuum! Work it girl! So f’ing inspirational! I don’t even have debt and I’ve got goosebumps! haha… probably because I’ve been half assing it in the wealth-generating route lately as I don’t have that sense of urgency. That, and kids 🙂 This is a helluva great reminder on the importance of time – and making the best use for it – for sure. Absolutely loved this article. Thanks for opening up and sharing! And for you too Martin for posting it out there. I’m totally pimping this on Rockstar Finance later, as well as my social channels. Well done, Jacquelyn!!!

  3. Jacquelyn this is amazing! I can totally relate to the feeling you have once you pay off that last dollar of debt. It feels so good.
    You definitely have to make those sacrifices and it sucks while you’re “in the trenches” so to speak. I’m glad that you described that experience because so many people only see the before and after but its the discipline in between the before and after that makes the after possible.
    I also love this “spend money deliberately”.
    Awesome awesome story.

    1. It’s still very unreal to me. It’s a great feeling and it seemed to happen so slow in the moment but so fast in the grand scheme of things. Thanks so much! The personal finance community has been a huge motivator for me.

  4. WOW Jacquelyn CONGRATS girl! That is a major accomplishment in a small period of time. It took me over three years to pay off my debt. Enjoy your extra moo-lah!

    1. Thanks for the comment and congrats! It was a very strenuous year but totally worth it.

      Growing wealth is the fun part and from what I hear the hardest part. I am looking forward to it. Share it so people believe it!

  5. Jacquelyn,

    Congrats on paying off all that debt! It feels good doesn’t? I was in your situation last year with $41k in student loans hanging over my head. I was so sick of being in debt that I just decided to get rid of it as fast as possible. I basically didn’t have a life for 7 months and spend hardly any money. My goals was to pay it off by the end of last year. Because I was so focused, I made my last payment to Sallie Mae on 7/16/14. Being debt-free is so exhilarating and I’m still riding that high over a year later. Kudos to you again.

  6. Congrats Jacquelyn! I hope your inspirational story motivates many to do the same. Good luck as you grow your net worth–your future looks bright.

  7. You know what? As amazing as your accomplishment is…it is nothing compared to what else you are going to do in this life. You have learned how smart, hard-working and motivated you can be so you have almost limitless possibilities. Congratulations!

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