The bills never cease. Walking to the mailbox only to find more demands for payment, delinquent notices and credit card bills serves only to remind an individual of their debts. The expenses now have exceeded the monthly income, and the financial mountain of doom and gloom seems inescapable.
Is there an escape to debt outside of bankruptcy? Is it possible to pay off everything? Sometimes the solution isn’t always clear. Some debtors have found unique ways to pay off student loans and other debts. These stories show that creative ways to gain financial freedom and pay off debt are practical and simple.
When those trips to the mailbox feel like a heavy weight, here are three stories to showcase that paying off debt is possible. Sometimes, it just calls for a little creativity.
The Man Who Ate Every Meal at Six Flags
Dylan, from Santa Clarita, Calif., paid off his $33,000 student loan in a tasty fashion; he ate at Six Flags Magic Mountain every day for seven years! For those who think the food at Six Flags and other theme parks is insanely expensive and that this makes zero sense, there’s more to the story.
Six Flags theme parks offer both memberships and season pass options. Both a season pass and memberships to Six Flags can range in price, but the park often offers promotions that lower the price.
With both season passes and memberships, customers also can add on other perks including a year-long dining pass. The dining pass is offered in two options; the basic pass lets individuals eat a meal and a snack all season for free. The upgraded dining pass includes lunch, dinner, a snack, and a drink bottle that comes with unlimited fountain drink refills.
Guess which option Dylan chose?
With his season pass, he added the upgraded dining pass. For seven years, he ate every lunch and dinner at the park. While dining options at each park vary, typically park patrons will find staple theme park food: hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, ice-cream, funnel cakes, etc.
In the story for Mel Magazine, it was noted that Dylan’s season pass with the upgraded dining pass added on cost him $150. For this price, he was able to avoid buying groceries and meals for years. With the money he was saving, he paid off his entire student loan balance. Mel Magazine also reported that he got married and bought a house.
Eating at Six Flags isn’t an option for all those who are in debt. However, individuals who live close to one of these parks might investigate the options. It could be a creative way to save money and start paying off debts.
The Avalanche Method: Paying off a $7,000 Credit Card Debt in Less than a Year
NextAdvisor profiled A’Shira Nelson, a 32-year-old who paid off $7,000 in credit card debt in less than a year. Nelson explained how she was able to pay off her debt and gave some insight to others who hoped to do the same.
Her first step is often the best first approach—creating a budget. Nelson explained to NextAdvisor that she put together a spreadsheet to better understand her income and expenses. Looking at her budget, she was able to see what she could slice from her expenses.
She also noted that she used the avalanche approach to paying off debt. The avalanche method is when an individual targets the debts with the highest interest first. This can help free up even more cash each month when that debt is finally paid off.
Nelson also recommended amending the debt payment plan as needed. The story noted that while Nelson didn’t have a major emergency unplanned expense while she was paying down her credit card, this could have thrown a wrench into the best laid plans. Sometimes the plan needs to be adjusted to accommodate for unplanned issues.
The Snowball Method: Paying off $100K in Five Years
When the debt hits six figures, the stress can be overwhelming. Tackling even a debt total this large, though, isn’t impossible. CNBC profiled Alaina Curry, a 30-year-old who paid down $100,000 in just five years!
Curry consulted numerous tools to help her on her debt paying journey. She told CNBC that she watched the YouTube Channels Minority Mindset and Graham Stephen. She listened to podcasts. She also read Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover.”
While Nelson used the Avalanche method to tackle debt, Curry used the Snowball method. This method is when the smallest debts are paid first. The benefit of this type of debt payment plan is that it can feel rewarding when a debt is cleared quickly.
CNBC also explained that Curry created a payment plan for her student loan by setting a standard amount that she would pay each month. Every month, she paid $900 on student loans. This helped her pay off the balance quicker. Curry also saved money by moving in with relatives for several years.
In addition, CNBC noted that she also did side jobs–she became a freelance writer/editor on Upwork, became a photographer and also worked at Target. This extra income helped her accrue a fund that she could use for emergencies.
Tackling Debt to Manage Debt
Not every individual can tackle debt the same way. The three stories highlight how each individual created a plan, stuck to it, and managed to pay down massive debts.
For those who want to live debt free and pay down the loans and other expenses that are weighing them down, take action. Start by creating a budget. This can help understand where the money goes each month. Individuals also can better understand their income flow, too.
The budget spreadsheet may show that expenses outweigh income. In that case, something will have to give. Go through the budget and find ways to cut expenses. Look at the following common, and commonly cuttable, expenses:
Eating out: Those drive-thrus are convenient but eating at restaurants—even fast food—often costs more than cooking at home.
Excessive store visits: This doesn’t mean the average grocery run once a week. Excessive store visits are those that cause unnecessary spending. Maybe an individual forgot laundry detergent or milk. What can happen is that the visit for one item leads to someone buying more than what they really need. Make a list of groceries and stick to it.
Streaming services: Multiple streaming service subscriptions add up. Choose one and cancel the others.
Coffee trips: This is the same as eating out, but many consumers have no idea that those $2 cups of java end up costing a lot more when added together. Brew at home.
Everyone may have their own vices that cause them to add to their expenses. Maybe it’s a bar Happy Hour. Movie theater expenses also add up. Some people just buy more clothes than they need. Look at last month’s expenses and find any areas of waste. Then make a plan to cut out that unnecessary spending.
Not Every Plan Works for Everyone
There are multiple ways to tackle debt. Some people prefer paying down the highest interest loans first; this can help save a lot of money. Others, though, really want to be able to scratch a debt off their expense list quickly. They may feel better paying off smaller expenses first, then tackling bigger debts.
Make a budget, identify expenses that can be cut, and then make a plan on how to tackle it. Get creative or even read books to gain insight. Paying off debts isn’t a hopeless goal, but it does take dedication and sometimes even some willpower.