How a Single Mom Paid Off Nearly $6,300 in Credit Card Debt and Student Loans in Less Than a Year

a woman looked so stress...
a woman looked so stress...

Easier said than done when you're a single mom.

You're trying to balance a checkbook while pay for the household bills, soccer uniforms, and trips to summer camp.

I know you can do it because I did it with a 9 and 7 year old swinging from my coat tails.

I won't bore you with elongated dialogue because like you, I just wanted to get my debt over and done with as fast as possible.

Or at least get into a momentum of paying off debt to the point where it's second nature to apply extra money to a credit card.

Finding Out How Much I Could Snowball Towards My Debt

My usual monthly bottom line, or what I called "net-net income" after paying all my bills and groceries and gas was around $687.

Following Dave Ramsey's snowball method, I simply put any and every penny I had available to small debt first. For me, snowballing is the easiest way to get into the momentum of paying off debt. Because once you pay one off, it will feel like Christmas in July!

And if you're not satisfied with your "net-net" amount, look into trimming leisure bills (i.e. cable, internet, cell phone, etc.) or start looking for a side income or better paying job. (I actually scored a few interviews back to back following Ramit Sethi's resume design!)

I Sacrificed My Savings...A Little Bit

Paying off debt was more important to me than a plentiful emergency savings (although I've since changed my mind big time on that one!)

Instead of putting $100 of that $687 towards my savings, I started putting less in it and applied that $100 to debt.

Was it kinda like living on the edge? Yes, but again, this step is called "sacrifice" for a reason. And fortunately, I'm now receiving financial benefits from my children's father that make saving for a rainy day less of a burden.

Saving and paying down debt simultaneously will be a headache. Unless you're making a pretty nice salary and/or have a very strict financial discipline, one may have to take priority over the other.

I Freelanced on The Side

While we were far from poor, I still wanted to generate extra income for my family. So I took my passion and tried to make money from it.

And while I didn't exactly set the world on fire, I did make around $1300 by freelance writing from summer to winter of 2015!

I simply pitched to some blogs that paid writers for their stories.

If you're interested in this type of work -- and know how to actually, well, write -- simply Google "paid bloggers." You should find plenty of opportunities to write on a variety of topics.

Picked One Debt At A Time...And Went Crazy!

I had several debts to pick from as you can see:


This is what I was looking at as far as credit card and credit line debt in early 2015.

(And I do have MUCH more in student loan debt, but my snowballing efforts were clearly more for credit debt and small loans.)

So, I started with my oldest debt, my student loans, and went into beast mode with it. That $100 I was putting into my savings went into that $1100 student loan.

Every month. Over and over. Sometimes twice a month. Without fail.

After a few months, that student loan was down to $600-500 and that gave me the momentum to attack my other debts in the same manner.

I "Snowballed" Big Time on One Debt, Small Time on others, Then Switched It Up

Bottom line, I was dedicating anywhere from $400-600 or more in snowball payments towards all my debts on top of the money I made in freelance writing in the latter part of 2015.

By August, my student loans was paid off! I put most of my snowball efforts into that until it was gone and smaller amounts into other debts.

Once the student loan was history, I started dedicating that extra money towards my Capital One credit card, sometimes twice a month.

Meaning, I made the regular installment payments on top of extra payments. Basically, I was paying the installment payment plus an additional $100-200 a month.

By December 2015, Capital One had their money. This is what my debt scenario looked like and the year hadn't closed out:


The only reason why I have $500 left on my Barclays card was due to the Christmas holiday. I wanted to reward my babies with a nice Christmas after putting up with my cheap ass all year!

(The balance on the Barclay's card, as of April 17, 2016 is less than $300. Come my final pay period for April, I plan to have most or all of it paid off.)

My Kids Thought I Was The Cheapest Mom Ever...And I Didn't Care

Getting out of debt requires a lot of financial sacrifices. It's discussed all over financial blogs on the net.

But you always have to make emotional sacrifices.

Young kids, like mine, don't really grasp the concept of debt management well. They just see junk food, toys, and video games and think money grows off trees.

Plus you don't need to shower your kids with crap to show you love them. In fact, make experiences (i.e. short travel getaways, the museums, taking walks to the park, helping you cook instead of going out to eat, etc.) their means of entertainment. I know many single moms tend to feel like they have to overcompensate everything to keep their kids happy but the inexpensive things could be just as fun. My kids enjoyed these things, even though it didn't stop them from asking about video games and tablet purchases.

And when they'd try to throw a fit because I would always say "NO" to them asking me to buy something expensive, I'd tell them straight up: I. DON'T. CARE.

If you're little ones are anything like mine, get ready to apply some REAL tough love with the whole "Mommy, I want! I want! I want!" game while aggressively paying off debt.

It's all about discipline more so than money. You could make a 6-figure salary, but if you're reckless, you'll always find yourself struggling. Your kids could scream for junk all day, but if you don't have the discipline to say "NO" you'll always feel the need to entertain them, thus reducing your pay check to pennies.

Stay persistent and focused on that debt freedom on the horizon, snowball the hell outta everything one at a time (or at the same time if you can comfortably do so), and watch the "paid in full" notices trickle in!

I did it. So can you!

This blog was originally posted to A Rich Single Mom.