After I paid off $28,000 of student loans in three years, friends started asking how I did it—and how they could do it, too. The truth is, paying off debt is simple: Spend less than you earn, and funnel any money you can spare toward your balance.
Still, the journey to debt-free can be a long one, and it helps to employ tactics to accelerate the process and stay motivated. I used a lot of strategies for saving money, like comparison shopping for the cheapest household goods and buying my clothes and books secondhand.
But I also created a visual reminder of my progress—a running tally of what I owed and how much I’d paid off—to keep me on track. When I felt down, I’d look at it and be encouraged by how far I’d come. That helped me stick to my plan. Ultimately, I was able to devote half of my $30,000 annual income toward my debt each month until it was finally paid off in 2014.
Whether you’re staring down a big balance you haven’t begun hacking away at yet, or you’re looking for ways to hit your debt-free goal faster, get inspired by these five and the tactics they used.
Eric Rosenberg, 32, a web developer in Ventura, Calif.
Establishing automatic payments not only ensures you’ll avoid the stress of late fees, but it can also help you accomplish your goals without feeling the pinch. Take it from Eric Rosenberg, who paid off $40,000 in student loans in just two years by submitting auto-payments from each paycheck.
“By paying automatically, I was used to living without the money and never had to go through the pain of seeing my checking account balance go down on payment day,” he says. Rosenberg also gradually increased the payment amount, using automation, in order to zero out his debt ahead of schedule.
Since becoming debt-free in 2012, Rosenberg’s found other productive ways to take advantage of automation, like allocating a portion of his paycheck to his 401(k) and diverting some of his direct deposit into a Roth IRA until it was maxed out. By the time Rosenberg transitioned to contract work, his automatic savings habits were ingrained—making it easy to remember to manually deposit his retirement savings each month.
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