By listener request, we introduced Personal Finance Spotlights to the website this year. It’s been great! I love sharing stories of people taking charge of their personal finances.

Our readers and listeners said they wanted to read more profiles on “ordinary” people making extra-ordinary accomplishments with their money and career: inspiration through representation. I was encouraged by this request because I believe there should be more stories about Life After Debt. We all need something to look forward to besides working for random employers the next 40-years of our lives.

Paychecks & Balances believes your money is meant to be enjoyed before, during, and after debt do us part. However, as with most things in life, the Pursuit of Happyness is more art than science. In today’s post, we found another person that rescued her finances with a little bit of focus and a lotta bit of hustle.

From $89,000 in Debt to Debt Free in 25 Months

Amber Guyton is a 32-year old single African-American woman who paid off $89,000 in debt in 25 months. In 2019, all her debt is finally paid off. Well, except for the mortgage.

I wholeheartedly believe that you should love where you live, and loving your home shouldn’t require spending a fortune! Affordable and aesthetically pleasing home décor is well within reach, you just have to look in the right places with the right eye. Not coming from much, I was brought up always shopping on a budget. – Amber Guyton

The journey to debt freedom wasn’t easy. After undergrad, she had $22,000 in student loan debt, which grew to $39,000 with interest. Her first job after college paid $28,000. That’s a bit of a gap. To make ends meet, like many of us, she turned to credit cards and loans.

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What Kind of Debt Did You Have and How Did You Pay It Off?

Paying off nearly $39,000 in debt on a $28,000 salary is a daunting task; paying off $89,000 is an even bigger challenge! It took a lot of hard work and patience; from 2008 to 2019 to be exact before Amber got the formula for success just right. She estimates her original debt was in three main areas:

  • $39,000 in total student loans (principal, plus interest)
  • $24,000 car loan
  • $36,000 in credit card debt (at its peak)

Although she managed to make some dents in her debt since college–paying off the first $10,000 on her own–she wasn’t seeing progress as quickly as she wanted. In 2017, she made debt freedom her top priority. It would take January 2017 to February 2019 to pay off the debt in all three areas. Specifically, she believes four key steps kept her focused on achieving this financial goal.

1. A commitment to breaking the generational curse of credit card debt and bad financial habits and behavior.

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2. Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball system and establishing a monthly budgeting.

  • The Debt Snowball: For starters, you need to collect all of your outstanding debt (If you have no idea how much outstanding debt you have, download your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com). Once you’re sure you’re aware of all of your debts, arrange them by lowest balance to highest. Next, pay off as much of the smallest debt each month as you can while still continuing to make at least the minimum payment on all your other debts. Each time you pay off an outstanding debt, roll this payment towards your next smallest debt until you are completely debt free.
  • The Debt Avalanche: The minimum payment rules from The Debt Snowball still apply but instead of making payments by lowest balance, you arrange your outstanding debt by the highest interest rate. In the avalanche system, you pay off as much of the high-interest debt as you can while still continuing to make at least the minimum payment on all your other debts. Each time you pay off an outstanding debt, roll this payment towards your next largest interest debt until you are completely debt free

3. She started an interior design business (website and social media info below) as a side hustle to fulfill her passion and provide a second stream of income. Combined with the income from the traditional 9-to-5, she grew her total annual income to over six figures.

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4. She refinanced her student loan with SoFi and began doubling payments with the debt snowball method, including throwing her newfound side hustle income and corporate job bonuses towards her debts until they were all paid in full.

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Follow and Support Amber Guyton Online

When asked about any other steps that helped her over the years, she says: Tithing and faith, saying “no” to yourself and others but not depleting all your fun (I still traveled domestically and internationally).

“surround yourself with a circle that is also chasing financial freedom, working for an employer that provides a culture of financial advice and promotes good personal finance, and no matter how much you make, you can’t dig your way out of having zero discipline.”

If you don’t know where to start, we have a great group of accountability partners and like-minded individuals looking to better themselves personally, financially, and professionally. You can learn more about Ms. Guyton on the following social media:

Support her business and view additional media features at blessedlittlebungalow.com/Praise.

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