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How Leah Marie Collins Paid Off $40,000 in Debt and Launched Her Own Business in Only 18 Months

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To be exact, Leah Marie Collins paid off $40,000 in debt, increased her credit score to over 800, purchased a rental property, and launched her own business to help other women and men do the same…all within 18 months. I originally had the opportunity to network with Leah in Austin, Texas. By the time we met, she had already paid off $40,000 in debt and started her own business. Most would have called this a job well done. But, like many high-performing Millennials, she was planning to add to her impressive list of accomplishments.


Over coffee and cheesecake, we figured out how to solve most all of the world’s problems. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the event or post it on Instagram, so did it really even happen? The social media world may never know. Luckily, even though the brand is strong and Leah is an official Instagram celebrity now, she was still humble enough to reconnect. Today I capture and share her story with the good people of the P&B Family for this week’s Personal Finance Spotlight.


The Six Keys to Financial Success

For the sake of transparency, I will disclose that I normally do a complete rewrite of incoming pitches. To be clear, this is not a complaint. I truly enjoy writing, and I especially enjoy doing these Personal Finance Spotlights for you all. I’m opening with this disclaimer for a different purpose. It is meant to disclose that most of the words following this paragraph are just directly lifted quotes from Leah’s pitch with minimal editing by me. I don’t want anyone to think I wrote this piece all on my own. Instead, most of what you enjoy below is a compliment to her writing skills, not mine.

You can view more of her talent for writing here.

1. Know Your Why (What’s Your Money Mindset?)

I knew that I did not want to work a 9-5 until I am 60 (Sound familiar?). I wanted freedom, independence, access, and power. People often want to skip the money mindset step of the journey but that is the only thing that kept me on my path to financial freedom. Once I obtained the proper money mindset, I began looking at money differently. I began studying the wealthy and saw that they find ways to generate income while they sleep. They take advantage of tax laws, create and sell businesses, and buy assets, thereby increasing their net worth.

Instead of focusing on day to day survival, I started concentrating on the big picture which includes financial freedom, developing generational wealth, enjoying my family and friends, capitalizing on opportunities, being able to live strategically, and living a life of contribution.

2. I Became Content

This change in mindset has had a significant impact on my finances, too. 

I realized that the exhilaration of these purchases is usually temporary, leaving me in more debt, and leading to more stress. Initially, learning to be content was a constant battle against my selfish desires. Being happy with what I already had took dedication and continuous reminders of the blessings in my life.

3. Develop A Budget And Track Expenses

I was shocked to see how much money I saved when I created a budget and frequently tracked my expenses. Initially, I tracked my spending daily but that got overwhelming, therefore, I now do it every two days.


There were online tools that I tried to use for budgeting purposes but none of them met my needs, so I created my own in Excel. Once I started budgeting, I was shocked at how much money I had leftover at the end of each pay period. I then put this extra money toward my debt.  

4. Reduce Your Spending (Wherever Possible)

I cut back on everything except for my hair care expenses. I was in management at a Fortune 100 company where I was constantly interacting with leadership and clients. I felt that I had to maintain a certain appearance (smh), so I continued to spend a large amount of money in this area.

In addition, I spent a significant amount of money on travel and eating out. Therefore, I banned myself from going on a vacation (unless it was a close friend’s wedding) until I paid off my debt. I even went so far as to only eat lunch from the cafeteria after 2:30 pm because that is when they would discount food for the day.

For certain items such as clothes and furniture, I would first check at my local Goodwill or Salvation Army to see if they had the items I needed before going to higher-priced stores. I would often find great deals! For instance, during one of my shopping trips, I purchased two never worn Ann Taylor blazers, a pair of Jessica Simpson shoes, four skirts to wear to work, dishes for my kitchen, a vase, and a shredder for under 50 bucks! To make it more enjoyable, I would get together with one of my friends and we would hit Goodwill first thing on Friday mornings during their 50-percent off sales.

Eventually, I became accustomed to spending less and when I was tempted to purchase something that I did not need,  I asked myself if that item was worth me not achieving my goals.

5. Paychecks & Bonuses: Find Savings (Cost Cutting) and Generate Additional Revenue (Windfall Spending)

For me and most people, our largest expenses are our living expenses (rent, mortgage, utilities). I decided to get a roommate in order to lower these costs. Many people are very resistant to getting a roommate but if you do a good job screening candidates, this one simple move will be a game-changer as far as reaching your financial goals. At the time, I was paying $1980 on my mortgage and condo association fees and I made the decision to have a roommate occupy my second bedroom and I charged $1100. This covered over half of my living expenses!

I also maximized windfall spending.

Windfall spending is sudden, unexpected profit or gain (e.g. tax refunds, performance bonuses, signing bonuses).

I received a performance bonus, tax refund, signing bonus from a new job, and a PTO payout from my former job. I took the majority of these funds and threw it at my debt. However, I always allocated a portion towards giving and fun! I think that it is important to splurge on yourself a little, otherwise, you will eventually give up and stray from your path to financial freedom. Although windfall spending was a huge benefit,  I paid off my credit cards and federal student loans prior to receiving any windfalls. 

6. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Far AF Away

The old saying is that you should “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” However, in the age of social media, I (Marcus) recommend keeping your block button game strong. Everything isn’t meant for everyone, and you can spend a lot of energy trying to regulate, monitor, and fix the constantly draining energy of others. That is energy that could be directed towards achieving your goals. The best revenge is your paper, word to Queen Bey.

I had to evaluate my relationships and not associate as closely with people who tried to discourage me and who made fun of me for going against the grain. Surround yourself with accountability partners; people who have achieved what you are trying to accomplish and people who are also on a journey to financial freedom.

Support Leah around the web with a visit to the following links:


We highlight people like you in our Personal Finance section. Think you have a unique financial story? Send me a pitch here to reach thousands more with a possible feature on Paychecks & Balances.

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