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How I Paid Off $24,000 in Debt: Rebecca's Story

Five months into my first full-time job in a new city far from home, my first student loan payment came due. Staring down at my first bill, it was shocking and overwhelming to see the total balance! And interest was accruing rapidly! I realized that I needed a plan if I didn’t want to be paying off my past for my entire adult life.

Spreadsheets, Calculations, and Sparkly Pens

I whipped out my spreadsheets, made some calculations, and crafted a plan to pay off my loans in a few years.  Loans that were totaling over $20,000.

But I knew a spreadsheet wouldn’t be enough. I needed a visual to remind me of my goal. So grabbing a piece of lined paper from one of my school notebooks, I drew an outline of a thermometer. In sparkly gel pen, this chart needed some pizazz, I wrote my projected debt-free date.  Then I taped the paper on my closet door.

Every two weeks, when payday came, I would rush to my laptop to make another payment on my loans. Then, I’d take the chart off my door and line, frantically coloring in a line. In those early days, it seemed like I was making little progress. But Instagram voices in the debt-free community encouraged me to stay in the game.

Don’t do debt free alone

As time went on, I hacked away at my debt. The debt-free community became my constant support. I kept seeing more and more people in the community post photos of charts keeping track of their debt.

These charts were inspiring. Some posted charts only ¼ colored in, celebrating 25% payoff of a single debt. Others posted their completed charts to celebrate debt freedom. The odd thing was, all the charts were the same! I wondered where they came from. Over time, one debt-free blogger tagged the culprit: @debtfreecharts.

I followed Heidi’s account and came to appreciate her down-to-earth approach. Her idea was simple: help people visualize their progress, and they’ll be more likely to persevere. I began to believe her as I took my own homemade chart with me from move to move, and clear across the country. 

I slogged through debt payoff. In a three-year time span, I met with: a job loss, two major moves, a pandemic, a totaled car, and several minor emergencies. I even took on more debt in the form of hefty medical bills. Some days, it seemed like the needle would never move; like I’d always have debt, and that it was impossible to get ahead. But looking at my chart I could see the progress I made and found the motivation to keep going.

I grew to love the debt-free community and began to engage with others who were in similar situations. Heidi and Debt Free Charts would pop onto my feed when I felt ready to throw in the towel. She posted images of walls covered with charts, representing dozens of debts vanishing. I thought, “I don’t have it so bad.” She posted photos of smiling families celebrating debt freedom and I knew that's what I wanted for my future family. 

She posted encouragement along the way. Most of all, she and her community made me feel accompanied. Yes, none of my friends were doing what I was doing, and yes, there were hard days on the journey—but I wasn’t alone.

Bye Bye Balances

May of 2020, I crunched the numbers and found out that I could be debt-free by October, but only if I hustled to get there. Knowing I needed an extra bit of motivation I finally ordered my first chart. I chose the original, the first one I had ever seen, with those coveted words sprawling across the page: “DEBT FREE.”

Armed with the newest tool in my arsenal, I hustled harder than I ever had. I sold jewelry and household items. I couponed. I saved money like a madwoman.

Finally, on October 30, 2020, by the grace of God, I made the last payment on my last of seven debts.  The privilege was mine, I was coloring my last line! It felt surreal. Three years of work had led to this one moment. And I would never have to be in debt again.

You may be feeling like I did: overwhelmed, anxious, and a little hopeless. The mountain of debt waiting for the attack.  But let me tell you a secret. Thousands of people have done this before you, and thousands of people are on this journey with you now. Today. And someday soon you’ll be coloring in the last line on your last chart to pronounce to the world that you’re DEBT FREE.

Wherever you are in your journey, you can do this! It takes a little elbow grease and a lot of encouragement but you will conquer this mountain.



You can find the "DEBT FREE" chart Rebecca used here for FREE to help you in your debt free journey. 





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2004 reviews

Thank you for making it free for everyone! You're helping a lot of people 😍

Amazing way to start a new year in a new way

I started off with checkbook registers as a child. I had microsoft money when I went to "grow up" with my first computer in the past before they discontinued it. It makes me sad as I did like that despite never using it for any budgeting purposes persay but having all my bills in it for a 12 month view made it pretty easy to "visually budget". I've tried quicken for pc and for mac and it's okay until they force me to upgrade to the next year version. I've tried simple excel worksheets and complex ones. NOTHING seems to keep me motivated now that I'm getting serious about getting out of debt. I started this at the beginning of 2021. I downloaded several of Ms. Nash's bundles and separate sheets and what I've found that works for me is a mixture of them all (despite some being pretty much the same thing but slightly different). Going back to what first worked... I incorporated all her forms with a simple checkbook register (but printed on computer paper instead of the tiny book) and it's all in a binder. I went fancy with the heavy duty "better" binder from staples and pre-printed monthly dividers. I've colored in nearly all the monthly quotes which definitely make me think and make things more fun. I bought colorful erasable pens and what I've found by pulling out this book which is mostly Ms. Nash's charts, I'm actually looking forward to having some "color time" while updating bills/income/etc and I spend more time paying attention to the numbers than I ever had before. I second guess purchases to make myself not have to "write" as much down AND.... I'VE GOT MY HUSBAND ON BOARD!!! By putting it on paper with all my "silly colorful charts", my husband is looking at them and pulling the book out on his own to look at how things are going. In our 8 years of marriage and 10 years of being together, honestly, I've always handled the money stuff and he just expected things to work out. When stress of "how is this going to end up" when I started my Dave Ramsey journey a few years ago, it definitely doesn't work well when only one is on board. Finally, this method has brought us together. Granted, he DOESNT write anything at all down, but he's very interested in seeing how we made the goals and what we're looking like through the month. We are dreaming of the future for the first time! SO EXCITED!

I love the Debt Free Chart

Amazing Tool...Easy to use, keeps you accountable, you see the results and you want to keep going. I do recommend using this chart.

Exactly what I needed - 30 day challenge

Sometimes you need a short time based goal to kick you into gear and get you to focus on a 30 day challenge, 1 day at a time. This pack is exactly what you need. And I needed. Sometimes it’s just easier to focus on a 30 day goal to keep you going into long term changes. This pack is perfect, love it.

Create a habit!

I love these charts! They say it takes 30 days to create a habit, well this chart will keep me on track for that! So excited.