Growing up, I watched as my family got into debt, only to take on more in order to pay off that existing debt. I was taught that this constant vicious cycle was just how things were done. So that was what I did too. I graduated from college in 2009 with two degrees, and a pile of student loan and credit card debt to go with them.
For years, I avoided my debt. But at the end of 2019, after getting inspired by seeing others share their experiences on social media of paying off their debt, I decided to face it head on, and I started talking with my husband about setting up a plan to pay mine off once and for all.
At the beginning of 2020, my husband and I created our debt payoff plan. But, like so many small businesses affected by the pandemic, the income from my blog Arts and Budgets hit a plateau.
I didn't earn as much as I anticipated, so we adjusted accordingly, and I put a smaller amount towards my debt each month. But in January of 2021, my earnings from the blog began to increase, thanks to some new streams of income I've created over the last year.
Now, my blog and other endeavors have helped me pay off $20,000 of debt so far this year, and I am currently on track to pay off a total of $25,000 of debt by the end of the year. If you are looking to pay off debt right now, here is my best advice for how to get started.
I got into so much debt when I was younger because of how much I didn't know about credit cards and loans. And when I first saw how much I owed after finishing grad school, I avoided the debt for years out of fear.
But in 2019, I started researching and learning everything I could about managing money and building wealth, to fill in the gaps. I read blogs and articles, and even called my student loan servicers to figure out how to pay off the debt wisely.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
This took some time, but it was a valuable investment, because it made me realize that I wasn't alone. And I realized that one of the key reasons that many people struggle with their finances is not because they don't want to get ahead, but because they don't understand how to.
That is one of the biggest reasons why I want Arts and Budgets to be a resource for other people trying to figure out how to earn more.
While my debt payoff journey officially began in 2019, I couldn't take action until I had enough income to make a real dent. From 2019 to 2020, we were only able to put a small amount towards the debt. But in 2021 as my business income grew exponentially, we finally were able to put more money towards the debt and pay it down much quicker.
My husband and I each run a business: my blog, Arts and Budgets, and his artist development and production company, OneFlo Entertainment.
Together, we have 11 income streams, which include affiliate marketing, ad revenue, speaking at events, selling digital products, selling physical products, working with brands on sponsored posts, freelance writing, one-on-one and group coaching, music and vocal production, mixing and mastering music, and songwriting for artists.
Video by Courtney Stith
I had my first $10,000 month with Arts and Budget in September thanks to two new income streams I created, a course called Blog For Profit for new bloggers, and an e-book I wrote called "Side Hustle To Freedom."
All of these income streams have helped us pay off debt much quicker and effectively. If you aren't sure how to find the right side hustle, my best advice is to think about your skills and talents and what people come to you for help with on a regular basis, then look into a side hustle that aligns with your skill set.
One of the most important things my husband and I did was get on the same page about how we were going to tackle this debt.
At the start of April 2021, we had two credit cards with a combined $8,000 of debt on them, so we decided to tackle the highest interest rate credit card first. In four months, we were able to pay off that credit card. The following month we paid off the second credit card and became credit card debt-free in July 2021.
In August of 2021, we set our sights on my student loans, and we started with the smallest balance first. In September of 2021, we paid that student loan off in full and we are currently creating a plan to attack the next student loan for the remainder of this year.
Video by David Fang
When we first started our debt payoff journey, we realized that we wanted a budget that fit our personalities. We're people who have backgrounds in the arts, and I knew that a dry Excel sheet wasn't going to help us accomplish our goals.
So we used colorful pencils, markers, and templates to help make the budgeting process fun and visually interesting, and it helped us actually look forward to making up our budget each month.
It also made it easier for us to find areas where we could reduce expenses, like cutting out monthly subscriptions we weren't using, and cutting back on dining out and grabbing takeout. All of this made it possible for us to put more money towards my debt.
One thing I do to stay motivated is celebrate all my money wins, no matter how big or small.
When my husband and I paid off all our credit card debt, for example, we had a photoshoot with our children. Before we met the goal, planning the photo shoot gave me something to get excited about as we got closer to the finish line.
In September, after paying off my first student loan, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at our favorite restaurant. I believe highlighting those wins can make the debt payoff journey a little easier. It is always more fun to have something to look forward to.
Video by Courtney Stith
In 2019, while I was growing my Instagram account, I came across a blogger named Kumiko Love, who runs a platform called The Budget Mom. Reading her story on how she paid off more than $70,000 of debt by making budgeting fun inspired me to put my debt pay-off journey into motion.
Reading her story, and finding other bloggers who paid off debt on Instagram, like DebtFreeGonnaBe, Leo.Jeanlouis, and Fitnfunds, inspired me on my journey. Seeing them pay off significant amounts of debt made me realize it's possible to become debt-free with hard work, dedication, and consistency.
Being inspired by others in the personal finance community on Instagram has played a huge part in helping me pay off $20,000 of debt so far this year. I have met so many people online who have been so supportive as I document my journey.
So, if you are working to pay off debt this year, my best advice is to connect with positive people who will inspire you. When things get tough, having people in your corner will help you get over the finish line.
Latasha Peterson is a wife, mom of three, side hustle coach, speaker, and the founder of the blog Arts and Budgets. She created Arts and Budgets to help individuals find the best and most profitable side hustles for them. Her blog gets over 100,000 monthly visitors and has over 20,000 followers on social media. She has been featured on Bankrate, Tailwind, LegalZoom, QuickBooks, Mediavine, Plutus Foundation, and more.
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