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Posts tagged with: dave ramsey

Stuck in Student Loan Debt: How I Paid Off $81,000

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I used to think that everyone had student loans so I wasn’t too concerned about it. But after getting into my dream school, NYU, I tripled my debt load and uprooted my life. I had borrowed $23,000 for my B.A. and $58,000 for my M.A. Spoiler alert: I paid off all of my debt. But it wasn’t easy. Here’s my story.

Melanie Lockert

Dealing with the five stages of grief

When I graduated with my master’s degree, I felt hopeful and like things would work out. I’d be able to pay off my debt and move on with my life. 

A month after graduation, I knew I had to get serious and start paying attention to my debt. I signed up for the budgeting software, Mint. I connected all of my accounts and loans. Then I saw how much debt I was really in. I hadn’t realized just how low my income was nor did I realize how much debt I owed. Even after paying the minimum on my loans for five years and working throughout school, I still had $68,000 in student loan debt. It felt like someone punched me. I felt sick and wasn’t ready to accept the truth. I was in denial and deleted my Mint account shortly thereafter. 

By the end of that year, the truth hit me and I couldn’t hide any longer. I couldn’t afford to live in New York and pay rent while also paying my student loans. I felt forced to leave. I moved to Portland, Oregon for personal and financial reasons but it didn’t feel like my choice. It felt like debt made the choice for me. 

I was angry. I was angry at my school, angry at the government, and angry at myself. After a year of struggling in Portland, I felt deeply depressed and hopeless about my debt. I didn’t see a way out. 

It wasn’t until later that I realized my debt payoff journey was similar to the stages of grief. It wasn’t until I reached acceptance and knew that I had to make a change that I spurred into action. 

Moving into action 

After spending a year feeling like I was going nowhere and being eaten alive by my depression and anxiety around debt, I realized I had to do something differently. I thought that if I could harness the negative energy I had around debt and turn it into something positive, maybe I could actually pay off debt. 

That’s when I discovered personal finance blogs. I fell down a rabbit hole and was hooked. Then I thought I should start my own blog and share my journey out of debt while addressing the emotional impact of debt. I started DearDebt.com in January 2013. By writing and sharing my story, and posting updates each month, I turned my energy into action. Starting my blog changed my debt payoff journey and the trajectory of my life. 

Earning more money

As I was blogging, I knew I had to figure out how to pay off debt. I started with being super frugal but hit a plateau early on. I am a minimalist and didn’t have high-end things to sell. I was sharing a studio apartment and had no car as well. On top of that, I went without health insurance and hardly even went out. 

Once you hit the limits of frugality, your only other option is to earn more. So I became obsessed with side hustling. I scoured Craigslist and Taskrabbit. 

I ended up getting gigs as a brand ambassador, pet sitter, event organizer, mover, and more. I did any gig I could find. Earning more money helped me pay down debt faster and boosted my momentum. 

Staying motivated

For several years, I worked seven days a week. It was exhausting and there were many times I wanted to give up. I stayed motivated by setting benchmarks and creating a rewards system. For example, after $1,000 paid, I could go to happy hour. After $5,000 I’d go out and get a massage at the local massage school which was super affordable. Creating mini rewards along the way helped me keep going. 

I also created a “debt-free dream list” which included everything I wanted that I would get once I was debt-free. On the list was moving back to LA, getting cats, and taking my mom to Italy. 

Becoming self-employed 

During my blogging journey, I realized other bloggers were making money as a freelance writer for other bloggers. I was intrigued. I was doing these very public and active side hustles that left me exhausted. 

I had been writing my own blog for some time and had a master’s degree. So I thought if they can do it, why can’t I? So I started cold pitching and got my first writing gig. Shortly after, a friend of mine referred me to her clients as she took on a full-time job. I then had four clients and began to start making the same amount I did from my 9 to 5 from my writing. 

I was making $31,000 as an events and communications coordinator at the time. After just one year, I quit that job to be self-employed. I had made the same amount on the side so I figured that I could earn even more if I freed up my daytime hours. 

I was right. I doubled my income to $60,000 that first year and didn’t succumb to lifestyle inflation. Boosting my income so much while keeping my expenses low had the greatest impact on paying off debt. 

Paying off debt 

When I doubled my income, I started throwing thousands of dollars per month at my debt. It was exciting but also felt crazy. But it was so motivating to see my numbers go down. By December 2015, I made the very last payment on my student loans. 

I remember seeing the balance at zero hardly believing my eyes. I had been in debt my entire adult life and suddenly I was free. I began to cry and scream and dance in my living room. 

Over the next six months, I moved back to LA and took my mom to Italy just like I had put on my debt-free dream list. I got my two cats a few years later. 

I’ve been debt-free ever since and the feeling of freedom from not owing someone money is wonderful. Given everything that is going on, it gives me a different peace of mind. Things are hard right now and I can focus on maintaining and building wealth and not paying for something from the past. 

Paying off debt was so hard but worth it in the long run. It’s allowed me to go after my dreams, have more choices, and more peace of mind. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, public speaker, event organizer, and founder of the blog “Dear Debt” — where she shared how she paid off a total of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared in Allure, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more.

Does Everything Come in 3s, Part II

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In my last post, I mentioned that our dryer is now dead. I am still waiting to hear from the possibly handyman and History Buff is scouring his workplace for good deals/clearance dryers that might get me a better price, delivery and a warranty. Thank God for a hefty emergency fund, I don’t have to worry about the cost of this issue.

But the same day that my dryer died, I woke up to an email from Upwork indicating a client had done a chargeback on the 3 payments they made to me this summer (last payment was June, I believe.) So Upwork was 1) removing that money from my account and 2) asked that if I wanted to fight it I write them back. Believe me, I wrote them back!

This is the first time EVERY I have had a client pay me and then dispute it. Especially one that I completed the work for…a brand new website for a brand new business.

Project Background

I got this client via Upwork. I was hired to create a brand new website and he was going to provide all the content – copy, images and videos. I gave him a great price because this is a super simple, straightforward project. Or so it seemed…

It should have taken a week, maybe two. I completed the site within a week of receiving all the documents.

Round 1 of revisions. Okay, no problem.

Round 2 of revisions. Understandable and not atypical.

Round 3 of revisions. “Thank you for all the great advice and extra work, I definitely want to compensate you for your time.”

Round 4…5…6.

He wanted to change colors, fonts, videos…he wanted me to edit videos. He wanted images switched, new testimonials added…and on and on. It took months of back and forth.

Then he wanted more…set up a CRM for me, create a lead magnet and no on. I finally put my foot down because these were outside of the scope of work.

By this time, he had approved all the work and paid me in three separate payments based on milestones I had set at the beginning of the project.

Then after all that, he filed a complaint with Upwork. And he wanted me to refund him monies because he hired someone else to edit videos and on and on.

The dispute was closed after over a month of mediation and no action was taken.

Fast forward over a month, maybe closer to 6 weeks.

Chargeback

And this morning I receive a notice that even thought he willingly released payment to me on 3 separate occasions. Even though I have text messages and emails of him saying how much he loved the site. And even though we spent over a month in mediation. He’s still trying to get my work for free…

And as of now, he succeeded…

I did write back, attached text messages of his “thrill” with the work done including him stating he was paying me, etc.

And Upwork has said that they will file the dispute but it could take up to 45 days. Meanwhile, they will take the money from my pay account…

Oh, and let me tell you the best part…I went to look at the site. He has taken it down. Like completely, not even redirected the URL. But a quick Google search of his name and the business type…I found his new domain name. And it has the website I created, same branding, everything.

I submitted the information with the dispute and I am praying they find in my favor. So we will see…

Now I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop…2 crisis in one day. Praying there is not a third.