How to Pay Off Debt as a Single Mom
Christina is a single mom of 2 boys who's working hard to achieve financial freedom. Having paid off a chunk off debt since 2015, she is now focused on getting rid of her student loans within the next 2 years. Christina has been gracious enough to share some more details about her amazing story with us today.
Without further ado, let's dive right into our interview!
What was your relationship with money growing up?
Growing up, we didn't talk about money very much. I knew I came from a middle class family, but we never went over a budget. If I wanted something it was never really an issue. However, later on, as an adult I found out that my parents weren’t very good stewards over their money.
Learning from this experience, I'm doing things differently with my kids by encouraging that dialogue and as they get older showing them how to manage money.
What was your wake up call to get more serious with your money goals?
There were three things:
- In November 2015, I celebrated my ten year work anniversary and felt that I had little to show for it despite making really good money.
- I met with a financial advisor who forced me to look at my entire portfolio and come to terms with the fact that I had a negative net worth.
- My kids no longer being in day care freed up some income which I felt needed to be put to good use.
What were your next steps?
Learned as much as I could about personal finance and paying off debt. Once I figured out where I stood financially, I started to binge on Dave Ramsey for several months. One day while listening to the podcast, one of my coworkers called in to talk about how successful he had been with his financial goals! I ended up reaching out to him and he was gracious enough to help me figure out my next steps.
Got on a proper budget. Although my aunt had introduced me to Dave Ramsey in the past, I never really stuck to his plan or took my budget seriously. But now that I follow a detailed budget, it's been a game changer in terms of tackling debt.
Created a debt snowball. I listed all my debts from lowest to highest and then I started to attack the first one. Here is my debt snowball below:
- Medical debt - $1,200
- Homeowner's association - $2,500
- Car loan - $3,000
- 1 credit card - $6,000
- Student loans - $82,000
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Downsized our living situation. After paying off the first 4 debts, I ended up downsizing. We moved into a smaller apartment and I rented out my home. Emotionally it was difficult but this was the best decision I could have made at the time to save money.
Refinanced my mortgage in September 2016. I had to pause my debt free journey because my tenant left. Initially, I was hoping to sell my home but we ended up moving back in last summer. At that point, I got a recommendation to refinance to a 15-year mortgage at 2.99% which was a huge blessing.
Threw extra income at debt. My approach has been to throw extra income to my student debt every single month. At the beginning of my journey, both of my kids were finally out of preschool which freed up quite a bit of income.
Temporarily halted retirement contributions. For the first year of journey, I stopped contributing to my retirement. However, I recently reinstated my contributions because my company no longer contributes to my pension. I will probably stop contributing in order to focus 100% on paying off my debt.
Having an end goal keeps me accountable. The hardest thing about paying off debt is saying no to my kids and to myself. Because I’m a single mom who works full-time, I would often overcompensate in other ways. I used to be the "activities mom" and signed my kids up for any event or activity they wanted to participate in which got expensive, quickly. However, I explained to my kids that right now the focusing is paying off student debt. Once we meet this goal, we'll celebrate by getting a dog and my boys are really looking forward to that.
RESULTS AND 2017 GOALS
By getting on a budget and focusing on the debt snowball, I paid off $8,000 of debt in the first 4 months which was crazy to me (in a good way)! My goal by the end of the year is to pay off half of my student debt which is about $41,000.
Any advice to someone just starting out with their journey?
There’s no way you can clean up your mess if you're not honest with where you are because there won’t be an end in sight. Once I figured out my numbers, I was able to project how long it would take me to get out of debt and get organized. If I can do it, you can too!
Thank you so much, Christina, for sharing your amazing story and words of wisdom. Be sure to check out her blog at LoanFreeStudent.com and follow her on Instagram @loanfreestudent! Apart from personal finance, I count on her posts to stay motivated every single day.
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