Debt isn't sexy, baby!

debt is not sexy

Today I am very excited to be publishing a blog post from my new friend Heather. Heather and I connected a few weeks ago on Triberr and after exchanging a few fun tweets, Heather mentioned that she had paid off $30K in debt. I really wanted to hear how she did it and I thought you might enjoy learning about how she got in and out of debt as well. So please welcome Heather and please share her story.

The Lure

I was young, single, and living in DC during the Clinton years. I had moved from Montana to DC, so it was quite a change! My social circle included interesting and amazing people like researchers for political figures, people who work for the State Department, CIA, FBI, staff members of Senators and House of Reps, and Embassy Row folks. My friends and I hit the uber expensive bars, rented beach houses for the summer, took trips to Miami and NYC. I dressed well, had a few pairs of great shoes, and believe you me, I have some pretty amazing memories!

The Reality

I racked up serious debt. I paid the minimum on my credit card because I was scared to see how much I owed, it was easier to ignore it. Most of my friends made excellent money; they didn’t worry about $20 drinks. One day, a close friend admitted she was in debt and needed to reel it in. For some reason, after ignoring my Mom, my gut feelings, the atrocious interest payment on my statement, I listened to her. For the first time, I really looked at my statement and saw that I was 20K in credit card debt. Having a friend helped make the change easier than facing it on my own. Instead of going out, we would make dinner together and rent movies. We still went to house parties and happy hours, but there were a lot of social events that didn't make the cut anymore. The hardest part for me was learning how to say No.

The Plan

I got organized about paying my debt. The only way I was going to get rid of it was to have a plan.

Finding out what I owed

  1. Created a spreadsheet of everything I owed which was roughly 30K (20K card + 10k in auto).
  2. On a spreadsheet, I included a column of the interest rate and then sorted highest to lowest.
  3. I tracked my spending for 1 month to estimate my expenses.
  4. 'Hard' expenses: those that you cannot change and are usually a set amount. Examples are rent or a mortgage
  5. 'Soft' expenses: those that you can change. Examples are dry cleaning or going out to dinner

Paying down the debt

  1. If you can, get a conventional loan with a low interest rate and consolidate your debt. I wasn't able to do this until much later in my payoff cycle because my credit was shot.
  2. If you can, transfer all debt to one or two cards. Sometimes there are specials offered by credit cards that are 0% on all transfers (the catch is you have to use the card for a small purchase).
  3. Call your credit card companies to have the interest rate reduced. If they won't reduce the rate, then usually cancelling the card will get the customer service rep working for you.
  4. Stop using your credit card except for emergencies. I mean real emergencies like, "Oh crap I just blew a tire on this stupid nail at the hardware store." Not the "oh I need a new outfit" emergencies.
  5. Plan to pay off bills in a way that works for you. In my case, I did not have a lot of self control in the beginning.
  6. After calculating expenses, I wanted to spend $600 a month in soft expenses so I withdrew $150 cash to use for the week. Some weeks, I spent all of it on clothes or going out and ate ramen noodles while praying I didn't run out of gas. I was serious about the rule, once my weekly stipend was gone, it was gone.
  7. If I did not spend the full $150, I used it to fund the next weeks stipend. Whatever money I saved was used to pay off additional debt on my credit card. I got so good at this, eventually I lowered my weekly stipend to $100 a week!
  8. Pay credit card bill twice a month. Credit card interest is charged daily. Instead of making one monthly payment, I made two payments each month (each paycheck).
  9. Get help if you need it. If the debt is too much for you to handle, there are several great non profit organizations that can help you organize and pay down your debt. Be sure to research and work with a reputable company. This is not an easy way out, you still have to change the habits that got you into debt.


After going through the hard mental changes of learning how to say no, adjusting my social calendar, and following a budget, I finally learned how to have fun with my new identity as a thrifter. Paying off the debt changed my life. It took a little more than two years to pay off my debt and I learned how to make saving money fun. It became a game to find out how little I could spend for an amazing outfit and brand name. I enjoyed learning how to eat well on less money. I took up gardening because it was cheaper in the long run. I focused on doing the things that I loved again; writing, photography, and running. The process brought out my authentic self. Don't buy into the false credit card advertising. They've created this image that you can have the life you deserve (or be happy, a better person, etc, etc) by taking on debt but the truth is the illusion doesn't bring real happiness.

heather at rockstew

BIO: Heather McCurdy writes RockStew blog and has guest posted for Bliss Habits, Lena B, and Dainty Mom. When not working on the craft of blogging or tending to craziness with two kids under two, she's working on her novel. She'd love to meet you! Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.


    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 06/13/2013 5:25 a.m. #

      Definitely some solid advice in this article. Tackling debt doesn't have to be overly complicated, but it rarely seems "easy" or "fun." Thanks for sharing your story and I hope it motivates others!

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 2:20 p.m. #

        Thank you DC! It was certainly not fun or easy in the beginning, but then you start to see the silver lining. My Mom always told me, money does nothing for you except give you options. It's such a truth for me.

        • DC @ Young Adult Money

          DC @ Young Adult Money 06/14/2013 6:31 a.m. #

          That's what I love about money - you can store value that can allow you to have more options in the future!

    • John Carmean

      John Carmean 06/13/2013 11:23 a.m. #

      More young people need to pay attention to this. It may seem overwhelming but bite by bite debt can be conquered.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 2:23 p.m. #

        It is so hard being young when they throw free credit at a person. It takes a really mature person to say No and live within the means when being out in the real world is so new, which sadly, not many people are. I guess that is why they call it growing up :)

    • David Jeffries

      David Jeffries 06/13/2013 11:23 a.m. #

      $30,000 in debt - you usually see folks going deeper at that point and eventually filing for bankruptcy. Good on you for sticking with your plan and digging yourself out.

      I like the tip about making 2 payments on credit cards per month. Never thought of it like that before.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 2:26 p.m. #

        Thank you for the compliment! Gads yes, it was so hard. It was a major life change for me because I had to reconsider my whole attitude towards money. So I teetered at the cliff and stepped slowly back.

    • miriam

      miriam 06/13/2013 11:24 a.m. #

      I have been there and it is very stressful. I only now use my CC if I must, and stick with debit. And you are right, debt is not sexy.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 2:30 p.m. #

        Hi Miriam, thank you for the comment :) I almost spent the $25 to get myself a tshirt that read, "For $30K I got some great memories and a huge stress hangover"

    • Alex J Medina

      Alex J Medina 06/13/2013 11:30 a.m. #

      Great information in this article. Thanks for sharing your experience

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:04 p.m. #

        Hi Alex, Thank you! :)

    • Daniel

      Daniel 06/13/2013 11:33 a.m. #

      Some great tips here on managing debt. I have to admit I've ended up in the hole more times than I could possibly ever count. I guess it really does come down to managing your money.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:07 p.m. #

        It is not an easy journey and I went back to the red, at least in the beginning. That was why I had to come up with a simple way to manage my money, that worked for me. Hopefully you find a way that works for you :)

    • Chris

      Chris 06/13/2013 11:34 a.m. #

      amazing and eye opener. very inspiring, thanks for sharing it.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:09 p.m. #

        Thank you Chris!

    • Valerie Bloomberg

      Valerie Bloomberg 06/13/2013 11:36 a.m. #

      Live within your means!

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:11 p.m. #

        So true!!

    • Harold Gardner

      Harold Gardner 06/13/2013 12:06 p.m. #

      Always seems that borrowing is the easy way out. Seldom is that the reality in the end.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:14 p.m. #

        Borrowing is made to look easy peasy. I think a lot of us have to learn the hard way about the borrowing fa├žade ... Thank you for the comment!

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 06/13/2013 12:25 p.m. #

      It's great to get to know you better, Heather! I lived in DC around the same time you did. It is a great city and it's easy to spend lots of money there too! :) I'm glad you finally took back control and righted your financial situation. I love how doing so brought out your authentic self and now you're living life as you were always meant to. Great post!

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:20 p.m. #

        Thank you Shannon! It is a great city, I love going back to visit (which I get to do since my SIL lives there :)). It's such a blessing to be where I am in my life and it looks like many others are right here along with me too. I saw your comment on 'intentional saving' ... The two concepts really ties well together!

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 06/13/2013 12:46 p.m. #

      I remember when things were great financially. I had my Coach or Louie purse and I went shopping every week. What me where something twice, please ;)

      So when we had to reduce to one income it was a shocker and our debt was a bad wake-up call. I had to learn how to manage our money and after years of struggling we're on our way to rebuilding our savings.

      Now I can enjoy a little shopping trip every now and then. Only this time I'm much smarter with the way I shop and my budget. Instead of going to Victoria's Secret, you can find me at my local Target ;)

      Nice to meet you Heather and seeing you on Sicorra's blog.Have a great day ladies!

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 3:32 p.m. #

        I love it! Wear something twice, oh heavens no way!! I love Target too and would love to be brand ambassador for them, if I can figure out how, since I spend so much $ with them! haha ... ;) Glad to hear you're shopping smarter and making the dollar stretch! Great to meet you as well and look forward to seeing you on Triberr/Twitter!

    • AverageJoe

      AverageJoe 06/13/2013 4:05 p.m. #

      I love the fact that once you wrote it all down it seems like you became a debt-paying machine. It feels like your brain was laser focused on it. Fantastic.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 9:59 p.m. #

        I didn't think of it that way, but you bring up a great point. It was kind of like a contract with myself, I guess. Plus I didn't break my own rules ha, that was hard to do! The temptation was and is still around!

    • Lindsey Whitney

      Lindsey Whitney 06/13/2013 4:19 p.m. #

      Thanks for the tips. We are dying with student loan debt. If we didn't have that, we could afford a whole other house! :) We're working away slowly, but I've often wondered if getting a loan to consolidate ALL the student loans (many are private) would be a good idea.

      • Heather McCurdy

        Heather McCurdy 06/13/2013 10:09 p.m. #

        I have heard about student loan debt and that today, many professionals (especially business/entrepren) are recommending NO college, that you'd be better off spending money buying a franchise and what you learn in 4 years via running a business is much more relevant than bus school (and cheaper too). Anyways, I think your answer depends on the interest rates between now and consolidation options. If IR is higher, there's no point in paying extra for convenience. Also, you may be able to get a better IR through a HELOC, check that out too (another way to consolidate).

    • Laurie@thefrugalfarmer

      Laurie@thefrugalfarmer 06/15/2013 6:48 a.m. #

      Thanks for sharing your story, Heather, and congrats on being debt free!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 06/17/2013 9:02 p.m. #

        Thanks for checking it out Laurie!

    • David Smith @ PBC

      David Smith @ PBC 06/17/2013 7:18 p.m. #

      Incurring debt is easy. Paying for it is the harder part. Practical consumers avoid using credit cards for unnecessary expenses. Buy something that is important and do away with luxury items unless you have extra money for some expensive fashion accessory. Be a prudent shopper.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 06/17/2013 9:04 p.m. #

        Being a wise shopper is very important but so often people get caught up in wanting everything they see, whether they can afford it or not. And many times that creates unnecessary debt for them. Fortunately for Heather she was able recognize what was going on in her life and repay her debt.

    • Suzanne @ Financial Advisor Coach

      Suzanne @ Financial Advisor Coach 06/25/2013 6:19 p.m. #

      Congrats on taking control of your life! It takes a lot of guts to stop spending and start turning down expensive outings. You'll be much better off because you sacrificed and paid off your debt.

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