How I Got Out of Debt Without a Job

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The following is a guest post by Tony S., a personal finance specialist and writer with a passion for helping others learn how to get out of debt and live healthier financial lives. Enjoy! 
Not too long ago, I enjoyed a fairly smooth ride on the debt train. Granted, I had racked up thousands of dollars’ worth of credit card debt, but I was making good money and I was paying more than just the minimum payments each month. It seemed like I could continue living beyond my means indefinitely because I had a nice comfortable salary to fall back on.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The owner of the small business I had worked at for over five years had a stroke. A week later, her daughter came into to tell us that the company would be closing by the end of the month. It was not just her business either. Job opportunities that fit my niche were evaporating faster than ice on a hot summer day. I had no choice but to find a way to bring the debt train to a grinding halt.

Consolidating My Debts

I had a plan to start my own freelance business, but I knew I could not continue to make my credit card payments every month. I also knew that I had to get a loan while I still had verifiable income. I applied at several banks and I was turned down because of the high balances on my credit cards. I did not have any luck with either. A friend of mine told me about the wide variety of personal loans. I made a last ditch effort and, much to my delight, they were able to connect me with a lender who offered me a high enough loan to roll all my credit cards into one monthly loan payment. The loan payment was not cheap, but it was still a lot less than I was shelling out every month on individual payments.

The Next Step

Once I got my monthly debt payments down to one lump sum that I could plan on every month, I started creating a budget. The first thing I did was get rid of all those extra “little” monthly expenses that I could stand to live without like the gym membership I never used. Netflix had to go too. I also cancelled my gaming account that charged monthly fees. Next, I got out of my cell phone contract and went with a prepaid phone that was half the monthly cost of my old phone. Did I miss any of these things? Probably a little, but I had a crazy idea that it would better to keep a roof over my head and be able to eat rather than watching streaming videos. Once the excess fat was gone from my budget, I made a list of all my expenses and my estimated income.

Making it all Work 

Things were really rough the first year. Even though I had been writing as a side gig even when I had my job, it took me a while to build up enough work to support my expenses. I did have to go on unemployment for a while until I could build my business up enough to self-sustaining. However, instead of squandering my limited benefits, I used every free dollar I had to pay off my loan. It meant that I had to cook at home a lot more and eschew frivolous purchases that I once would have charged without even thinking twice about, but I committed myself to a plan to get out of debt and stuck to it. Was it easy? No, not even a little bit. However, it did force me to realize that all those things that I thought I needed, were not that necessary after all.

Conclusions and Lessons Learned

Getting out of debt was probably one of the toughest struggles of my life. For years, I lived “high on the hog” simply because I could. It bought me many material things, but I do not think that they made me any happier. I do not have the latest iPhone and I do not get to take vacations to exotic locations, but sending in that last loan payment made me happier than any of those other things did. Once I was debt-free, I was able to enjoy the profits from my business without worrying about paying so many bills each month. Now, most of the money I earn is mine, and except for regular living expenses, I can spend my “funny money” without feeling guilty because I am no longer racking up debt for things I do not really need.

How about you all? Have you ever had to struggle with paying down large amounts of debt while also dealing with a job loss/switch? What strategies either worked or didn’t work for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are my random thoughts as I was reading this article.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story with us today, Tony! 
  • I’m curious – what sort of interest rate did you get charged on your consolidation loan?
  • The decision to go with a consolidation loan can be a tough one because often times, there are underlying debt behavior problems that must also be fixed and there can be large fees charged for the consolidation agencies.
  • I’m glad to hear it worked out for you and that you are on a better path now in your freelance career!

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About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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Leave a Comment:

Jules@FWAF says March 5, 2013

Wow! I think it is so admirable that you didn't make an excuse, but you made it work. You sacrificed a lot of things, and that is hard sometimes. Great job and best wishes in the future, Thanks for sharing!

    MyPerFinJourney says March 6, 2013

    Thanks for your comment Jules! I’m with you – I’m not sure I could be able to sacrifice as much as he did!

Martin says March 6, 2013

wow, this exact situation would scare a sh***t out of me, that's why i started paying my debt off before anything like this would ever happen to me. I can't imagine myself in your shoes.

    MyPerFinJourney says March 6, 2013

    Thanks so much for your comment Martin! What types of debt do you currently have?

    Jacob A. Irwin

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      Martin says March 6, 2013

      I have a mortgage debt and credit cards. I am now eliminating my CCs before I jump into the mortgage. But it is difficult. Not an easy task.
      My recent post Do you pay your fair share?

        MyPerFinJourney says March 6, 2013

        Yeah getting down the CC debt can be very challenging. have you tried calling the cc company to ask for a reduction in interest rate?
        My recent post Five Reasons Why DIY Could Backfire on You

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