I Paid Off $30K in Less Than a Year—on a $75K Salary


It started in March 2015, when my wife Anna quit her job to stay home with our baby—an unexpected choice that left us scrambling to live on one income instead of two. Initially, we relied on credit for everything from business expenses to restaurant meals and entertainment. In other words, we lived way above our means.

By early 2016, Anna and I found ourselves drowning in $30,000 of credit card debt. We decided we were done living this way—and made a plan to start digging out of debt. In addition to relieving our own stress, we wanted to raise our son in a family with good financial habits.

Here’s how we paid it all off in less than a year on a $75,000 household income, and finally got our finances back on track.

We stopped racking up more debt and created a budget.

Our first step was to stop adding to our credit card balances and pay with cash whenever possible.

Next, we created a budget—something we’d neglected to do after becoming a one-income household—prioritizing debt payments and other necessities, but cutting most everything else. We knew that making real progress on our debt meant paying more than the minimums, so we sacrificed everything from our cable subscription to traveling.

We also tapped our savings account, which was at about $10,000. At the time, we felt it was more important to pay off debt, then resume saving. Fortunately, we didn’t have any emergency expenses in the meantime, which we recognize could have left us further in debt.

We moved to a cheaper area.

Our mortgage payment was $2,200—after refinancing. Without Anna’s salary, that was suddenly unaffordable. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to build a cheaper home in an area similar to our old neighborhood. In fact, it was $100,000, or $700 per month, less. (We used the proceeds from selling our home to put a down payment on the new one.)

We lived with my in-laws for two months while it was being built, and put the equivalent of our mortgage payments toward debt.

We put every extra penny to good use.

We immediately set aside the $700 saved from our new mortgage payments. We also received some outstanding checks owed to us from our business, and Anna picked up a consulting gig a few hours a week. Then we sold household items—like our dining room set and sports memorabilia—on Facebook and Craigslist for about $1,000 profit.

All told, this extra money added up to about $20,000 over the course of eight months—and was funneled directly to our debt.

We didn’t give up.

Sticking to our plan wasn’t easy. Sometimes, we really just wanted to go out for a pizza or get away for a long weekend. But no matter how hard it was, living with the tightness in my chest that came from being in debt was worse. Remembering our goal helped us re-commit to the process when it got tough.

By October 2016, we’d hit our goal—wiping out the full $30,000 and finally becoming debt-free, aside from our mortgage. Since then, we’ve shifted our focus to two new goals: rebuilding our emergency fund (which currently sits at $1,500) and paying off our home. Based on our successful debt journey, we’re confident we’ll succeed.

A version of this post originally ran on

More From

6 Budget Tips That Actually Work

The Link Between Money and Fitness

How Much Should I Be Saving? A Look at Savings Goals by Age

acorns+cnbcacorns cnbc

Join Acorns


About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The contents presented herein are provided for general investment education and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any specific securities or engage in any particular investment strategy. Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC (“Acorns Advisers”), an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Brokerage and custody services are provided to clients of Acorns Advisers by Acorns Securities, LLC (“Acorns Securities”), a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”). Acorns Pay, LLC (“Acorns Pay”) manages Acorns’s demand deposit and other banking products in partnership with Lincoln Savings Bank, a bank chartered under the laws of Iowa and member FDIC. Acorns Advisers, Acorns Securities, and Acorns Pay are subsidiaries of Acorns Grow Incorporated (collectively “Acorns”). “Acorns,” the Acorns logo and “Invest the Change” are registered trademarks of Acorns Grow Incorporated. Copyright © 2021 Acorns and/or its affiliates.

NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns Grow Incorporated.