How 3 real people saved big money and paid off debt this year


The end of the year is a time to reflect and plan for the new year ahead. For many people, that includes planning out new financial goals like saving more money, being more mindful about spending and paying down debt.

When you're deep in it, debt can feel impossible to escape. It can be helpful to remember, though, that others have been deep in debt and have managed to get out. It isn't easy, but it can be done. You don't need to be an expert, either. Using smart tips, tools, and strategies can make it possible for ordinary people to become debt-free.

Here are a few real people who used different, successful strategies to pay off big debts and start saving in 2019.

1. Kristy Epperson used cash to dig out of debt

For 23-year-old Kristy Epperson of Dayton, Ohio, a cash-only spending strategy was the key to getting out of debt. Epperson was able to pay off $20,000 in student loan and auto loan debt in just one year.

Forgoing credit cards, Epperson became more mindful about where and how she was spending money, which helped curb her online shopping habit. "I would look at my credit card bill and not even remember some of the charges," she told Grow earlier this year.

In October, Epperson decided to take a break from social media until the beginning of 2020, according to her most recent Instagram post, where she keeps followers up to date about her financial goals.

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Video by Courtney Stith

2. Abigail Ness 'Marie Kondo'd' her finances

As of April 2019, Abigail Ness, a young woman in her mid-30s from Nampa, Idaho, was debt-free. Ness took a cue from decluttering guru Marie Kondo and applied home organization principles to her finances.

She took inventory of her belongings, changed her shopping habits, and reduced her unnecessary purchases. All told, the method helped her pay off more than $43,000 in debt in three years.

"I made it my mission to be resourceful with the things I already own," Ness told Grow.

Heading into 2020, Ness is working at her job as a research analyst and focusing on her next big goal: building her home and office organization business, Organized by Abi.

3. The Maulions paid off $300,000 by going minimalist

Bernadette and AJ Maulion of Charlotte, North Carolina, were in a lot of debt: $300,000 total, with student loans and a mortgage. AJ made a salary of $91,000, so the two devised a plan to live off of one salary and adopt a minimalist lifestyle, which included selling off many of their possessions.

"Seeing how much I was paid for things [I sold] and how much they depreciated deterred me from wanting to buy things," Bernadette told Grow earlier this year.

The strategy worked, and the couple is now debt-free. As of the end of 2019, they've set their sights on other goals. Bernadette is producing content for her YouTube channel and helping others "crush" their debts. With the goal of helping people pay off $1 million in debt, the community she's cultivated paid down more than $400,000 as of earlier this year.

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