Earning

I went from owing $15,000 to a net worth of over $130,000 in 6 years: Here's how

"When I began my financial journey, I had 1 income from my day job. Today, I have 6 streams of income."

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Alyssa Davies is the founder of Mixed Up Money.
Courtesy Alyssa Davies

When it comes to money, so many of us feel significant pressure to assess our personal value in terms of milestones like buying a house, excelling in a career, getting married, or having kids, all while consistently saving and investing for your future. The need to meet these marks can feel overwhelming. I certainly felt that way. 

In 2015, my net worth was negative $15,000. The way I was managing my money felt unsustainable. So I started a blog called Mixed Up Money to hold myself accountable while paying off my consumer debt.

At first, I started writing anonymously. But within a month, I found a community of people that made me feel comfortable with who I was, and where I was at in my personal finance journey, without any shame. 

Then in December 2017, when I was 27 years old, I found out I was pregnant. This surprising news was all it took to realize that the single income stream I had from my job at a not-for-profit organization wasn't enough to secure the financial future I wanted for myself and my growing family. 

I had only been investing for one year, and Mixed Up Money wasn't producing enough additional income to be worth the amount of time I was spending on it. I ran the numbers and as we put together a plan for how we would cover our expenses during my parental leave, I realized I needed to boost my income in order to create more of a safety net.

And I realized how important it was for me to live my life on my terms. I didn't need to struggle to adhere to someone else's arbitrary vision of success.

Understanding this, rather than trying to do it all, I focused on doing everything I could to feel confident about and in control of my finances. Today, I have a net worth of over $130,000. 

Here is how I got started.

I focused on paying off my debt 

When I decided to pay off my debt in 2015, I had $10,000 worth of credit card debt and $5,000 of student loans.

I knew that one of the biggest ways I could make a dent was by reducing my fixed expenses like my rent, phone bill, and utilities. I decided to move into a smaller space to reduce my rent, stopped shopping for non-essentials, like make up and clothing, and started living below my means.

One strategy that worked for me, but that definitely isn't for everyone, was a shopping ban. I avoided going to the mall for an entire year. In addition, I also started to put away $20 each week into a savings account which would inevitably become my emergency fund.

Using the debt avalanche method, where I paid the minimums on each source of debt and tackled the one with the highest interest first, I fully paid off my debt within 10 months. I paid off $15,000 of consumer debt and student loans on an after-tax income of $35,000.

It wasn't the most glamorous time in my life, and it was never fun to tell my friends I couldn't go shopping or out for drinks with them, but it was temporary and 100% worth it to get to that zero debt balance.

I created multiple streams of income 

There are definitely elements of hustle culture that can be problematic. But just like with those big life milestones, you can do side hustles your way.

I began to focus more on my blog and freelance opportunities. In 2016, I started pitching stories to websites every week, and began to build a network. By 2018, I was making a consistent side income of at least $500 every month from my writing. 

On top of that, I got a side gig taking statistics for the teams playing at college sports games on the weekend for an extra bit of spending money.

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Through my network, I found some freelance marketing contract work, and what I earned from those gigs ultimately helped me save up a large enough down payment to buy my first (and last) home in 2019.

I believe almost every skill or hobby has the potential to become a side hustle.

To figure out what yours could be, my best advice is to write a list of every potential source of income you could have, write down how much time each one would take, the type of income it would be, whether it is active or passive, and then cross-reference those hours with how much earning potential they have. I bet you can narrow down a solid list of options from there.

It is possible to make money doing everything from walking dogs to house sitting for strangers to selling artwork as an NFT (non-fungible token). With a little ingenuity and imagination, you can build a side hustle that you are excited about.

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When I began my financial journey, I had one income from my day job. Today, I have six streams of income.

By investing, having a side hustle, having my own business, using a high-yield savings account and being a published author, many of my streams of income not only protect me in case of job loss but are also partially passive, meaning I don't have to do work to keep the money flowing in.

I prioritized investing

In the spring of 2020, I published my first book, "The 100 Day Financial Goal Journal." This year, I took my own advice to heart and got even more focused about my investing goals. 

At the start of 2021, I set a monthly investment contribution goal, followed by a stretch goal. For example, I try to invest $500/month at a minimum. If possible, I extend that amount to $700/month. I was able to exceed my stretch goal eight out of 12 months this year.

Investing can be intimidating. Even though I've taken courses and done a lot of research into how to manage a self-directed portfolio, I still opt to get help from a robo-advisor. I choose this method of investing because it's hands-off and you don't need to do anything other than set up automatic contributions and not touch the funds. 

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In 2015, I started by investing $50 per month into my investment portfolio. Now I'm contributing nearly $1,000 each month.

As your income grows, so can your investments.

I switched jobs to earn more 

The last thing that helped change my financial situation was finally taking the leap and finding a new job to receive more substantial compensation. I made the switch at the end of 2017 and now work in the digital real estate industry as a content manager.

I know how hard advocating for yourself can be. As I started to negotiate for my new salary and subsequent raises, I changed my mindset and went about it as though I was negotiating for my best friend.

While these strategies have worked for me and continue to help me grow financially, that doesn't mean they're going to work for everyone.

But if you can implement one or two small changes to your financial life, whether that's investing, finding creative ways to cut expenses, diversifying your income streams or starting a budget, to make money feel less stressful, that's worth your time.

Alyssa Davies is a content creator and a published author living in Calgary, Alberta. She is the founder of the two-time award-winning Canadian Personal Finance Blog of the Year, Mixed Up Money, that has over 60,000 followers across social media. Through her work, she has been featured in many notable publications, including The Globe and Mail, FLARE, Global News, and more. In 2021, she was host of The Dream Team featured on CBC Gem. Her first book, "The 100 Day Financial Goal Journal," was published in 2020, and her second book, "Financial First Aid" is currently available for preorder.

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