8 Things I Did To Get Out of Debt

Three years ago, I achieved something I never thought possible — I paid off all of my debt.

The “T” stands for “Take a hike, Sallie Mae.” It’s a family name.
The “T” stands for “Take a hike, Sallie Mae.” It’s a family name.

Now people hit me up for advice on getting out of debt like I’m Suze Orman or something. I’m not a financial adviser, but I’m going to tell you how I got Sallie Mae off my back in this no-nonsense article.

Pro-tip: Read the rest of this article in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice for dramatic effect.

I Tracked Every Goddamn Penny

The first thing I did when I was ready to take my financial health seriously was implement my own government shut down. I don’t have the luxury of raising my debt ceiling. I shut down all spending and didn’t buy a fucking thing that wasn’t essential to me living. Then I looked at my bank statements and tracked where every cent went. One month, I spent over $200 on fast food.

The hell?!

Freeze spending and go line-by-line through your accounts and cut off funding to all nonessential stuff immediately. You can use programs like Mint to track your spending, but I’m old school. I kept a handwritten journal.

I Got Side Hustles

You can’t get out of debt if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, so I got...more paychecks. Because I was working every waking minute, you know what I was not doing? Spending! I can’t spend $20 on avocado toast if I’m busy serving it. Not only was I making extra coins, I wasn’t spending a nickel. Too many people think they are too good for service jobs. I have two Master’s including one from Georgetown University. Hell, I even served a few of my former students. You think I gave a fuck? Not one. Why should I be embarrassed about making a honest living and taking care of my affairs?

You’re probably thinking, it’s easy for me to work three jobs when I don’t have kids or a spouse or whatever. Maybe you’re right. I knew early on I couldn’t afford some snot nose rugrat when I could barely take care of myself, but in today’s digital society, there are plenty of cyber, side hustles you can find to get some extra income flowing.

I Stopped Buying Gifts

Yes, I said it. I don’t buy gifts — especially not for adults. Why the hell do I need to buy another adult a gift? Buy your own shit. Did you know that every year, 1 in 4 Americans goes in debt during the holidays? That shit cray! You’re not getting a damn thing from me and I don’t want a thing from you. I sold all of my crap for extra cash. I don’t want cards or other crap I don’t need.

I Skipped Destination Weddings

Did you know that 10 percent of adults admit to going into debt from attending a wedding? Okay, so you’re trying to ruin my life as you start yours?

Nope! I ain’t going. I’m happy for you, but I can be happy for you while I’m at work. I’m happier with money in my pocket. I will buy you a gift even though you and your insignificant other have been living together for like 5 years and don’t really need anything, meanwhile I was living with 3 roommates and only had one wash cloth. Anyway, here’s a $50 skillet from Williams-Sonoma, or whatever. Your ass don’t even cook.

Oops, I got off track.

Yes, I did break one of my rules on gift buying from time to time, but that money came out of the allowance I gave myself, so that was one movie with popcorn and soda I had to skip. Most people would feel bad about missing a friend’s wedding. I don’t give a fuck. If they are really your friend, they will understand you got bills to pay. If they don’t understand then reexamine your friendship.

I Packed My Lunch

When I examined my bank account, I saw I was spending like $300 a month just on lunch. That’s a car payment! You know those donation commercials that are like, “for only $1 a day, you can feed a family of five?” I was like, watch me apply that shit to my life. Watch me eat lunch for $15 a week. I took my broke ass to Trader Joe’s where you can get a bag of frozen chicken for $3 and frozen veggies for like $4 and get three meals out of it. I started eating lunch for like $2 a meal. And if my colleagues invited me to lunch, I was like, “unless corporate is paying, I am not going. Meet me in the kitchen for water and candy from the receptionist’s desk if you want to catch up.”

I Used Credit Cards Wisely

I didn’t always use my credit cards wisely. True story, one time, I bought a Daewoo Nubira on a credit card and financed that shit myself. I was paying the minimum of $10 a month and living my best, damn life. You couldn’t tell me nothin’ until it was like Daewho? Six months later, the car was deader than Kevin Spacey’s career and I was $6,000 in debt biking to work to pay off a car I no longer fucking had. Now, I use credit cards as an expense management tool. Monthly expenses I know I’m going to pay each month – electricity, gym, cell, etc… -- go directly to the credit card. When I reach my monthly expenses number including the allowance I give myself, it’s a wrap. The bank is closed. I am broke and I don’t spend a motherfucking cent. And my credit card has great perks like price protection. You know when you buy a shirt and then you go back a few days later and that fucker is on sale? I hit up my credit card company and they run me my money back. Shout out to Chase Freedom for that.

I Found My Zero

Remember when you were a kid and you’d ask your mom for money and she’d say she was broke? She wasn’t really broke. She just reached all the money she was going to spend that month. That’s what I did. I didn’t wait until I had $12 in my account anymore. I set a baseline for myself and once I reached it, the spending, like Jack Dawson, froze.

I Didn’t Help Anyone Else

Just like when you’re on a flight and they tell you to secure your oxygen mask before helping others — same thing. People, including family, had the audacity to ask me to help them with their financial situation like I didn’t have a mountain of debt while living in one of the most expensive cities in America. As kids today say:

Don’t let people guilt you into giving them your money — especially grown ass people capable of getting their own jobs.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in Manhattan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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