Debt Destroyers: Updates From January


It’s that time again! We’re checking in with our Debt Destroyers to see what challenges they faced and what awesome steps they made towards their financial goals.

Each month, the Debt Destroyers participants set a “marker” in their financial journey by sharing “what was challenging” and “what was awesome” about the previous month. This accountability is not only incredibly inspiring to read, it’s also a great example of the power of perspective in achieving goals! Acknowledging even small steps or actions in a financial journey will allow you to measure how far you’ve come, how far you have to go, and what can be adjusted if need be. Kind of like little route dashes on the financial map!

So let’s catch-up with the Debt Destroyers and see what trails they blazed over the month of January and what new “markers” that they set! If you want to join the Debt Destroyers, be sure to check out how at the bottom of the  post!

IMG_8658_2Name: Abbey
About Me: I’m married, working, and a mother to one child. I work about 55 hours a week and I’ve recently decided to go back to school which has added an extra pressure in terms of finance and time.”
Goal: Pay off $20,000 in debt in one year.
Challenge: The problem is both my husband and I spend like we are making three figures each (not the case!) and don’t have a child. The time issue “allows” me to spend more unnecessarily. I take my lunch to work daily but I am easily swayed. Recent weight loss has also contributed to spending money on a new wardrobe.

What Was Challenging:
I need to make sure I’m saving for my tuition payments and books so I don’t add anymore debt to the mix. While I am celebrating paying off that card I really should have put the cash towards my tuition.

What Was Awesome:
Paying off a second store card! I was just staring at the amount that was left and decided to pay it off. I no longer have any credit cards with an APR greater than 16%. I really feel good about that. Seeing my gold cup on Ready For Zero is awesome!!

My Plan For Next Semester:

My plan for next Semester: save up the amount I will need in time to pay cash for both books and tuition. Apply the reimbursement I get from my awesome work to the debt I added so I only have a little bit left over to pay off.

brantName: Brant Gurganus
About Me: Software developer just passing two years in professional world. I also enjoy camping and hiking and assisting from time to time with scouting.
My Goal: Get out of credit card debt.
My Challenge: No credit card purchases, pay more than minimum using the biweekly payment plan.

Progress Update:
My update is that I had a setback with having to repair my car after a road slideoff. Otherwise I’m getting back on track with eating at home more and eating less. I’ve also been trying to keep in mind entertainment choices I already have paid for such as movies and shows through Amazon Prime instead of new rentals.


KatrinaName: My name is Katrina, but I often go by Trina.
About Me: I work as a support analyst and love spending time with those I love and my 2 dogs.  I love trying new things and would love to start traveling again!
My Goal:  
My goal is to pay off credit cards as well as medical expenses.  I’d also like to start saving up so I can set more aside in my savings account as well as budget better on the things I do enjoy.
My Challenge: 
 My challenge is to keep up my current action plan for eliminating debt, but more importantly to limit eating out to only once a week.  I’d rather take what I spend eating out and put it towards paying off debt sooner, and when you live in the suburbs of wonderful Chicago, it’s too hard to eliminate eating out all-together, so I’d like to limit what I do spend.
My Progress Update:

What was challenging:
Staying away from post holiday sales. I had been subscribed to Dealzmodo on twitter to see the latest steals and see if I could score a deal on a computer, however I had to turn it off this month because the deals were becoming too tempting.  I recently broke the hinge on my laptop in such a way that it still functions, but the lid doesn’t stay upright. And being the lover of tech that I am, I really REALLY want to replace it, but I’m trying my best to use it till it stops working!

What was awesome:
I paid off another card! It was a smaller amount on it, but I am just happy to have it done and over with! I will take anything that’s positive. This was the last credit card I got, so now I have the first and last credit card I’ve ever had paid off…now just to get those pesky ones in the middle!

lisaName: Lisa
About Me: Married, recently graduated professional with a Master’s Degree in HR which has left me with very high student loan debt. When coupled with existing debt, this has caused MAJOR changes in my and my husband’s lives.

Debt Breakdown:
$146k – Student Loans
$  98k – Mortgage
$ 49k – Vehicles (2)
$ 23k – Credit Card Debt

$  316k  – HOLY YIKES!!!!!

Life was going happily along until reality set in.  Yes, I made it to where I wanted to be in life, and now I can’t afford to live! This is NOT what I had in mind when achieving my self improvement goals.
Goal: 5 Years – Debt Free Including Mortgage.  From then on, we will pay cash for everything!

What Was Awesome:

The Holidays Are Awesome! Food….friends……giving…..receiving……food…….memories….holiday spirit…..counting blessings…………FOOD!!  Ahhhh….I love it all!

I came up with what I thought was a pretty awesome idea this year.  Instead of buying small gifts that are basically just mementos to give out to friends, I bought a package deal of a famous author’s book that is all about controlling and paying down debt.  I went on Facebook and offered it FREE to all my friends and family on a posting on my personal wall; all they had to do was reply PRIVATELY (not everyone wants people to know they need help) to receive a FREE copy as a Christmas gift from me.  All copies were claimed within a half hour!  This gift cost me $10 each, and I knew they wanted it because THEY CAME TO ME to get it.  I have also asked them to pass it forward after they read it. This is the best $10 gift I have ever bought anyone!  Think about it, what can you really get for $10 these days?  Financial freedom? Life changing knowledge? SOLD!  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  I also invited these folks to a FB group I created named “Money Matters” so we can help each other by giving money saving ideas, tips, tricks and support.  They all accepted the invite, and now we are a support group.  If you are on FB, come join us!  This is awesome!

What Was Challenging:

The challenge this year was trying to control costs of the move we are making to a mortgage free house, along with controlling the costs of Christmas at the same time.  However, I think I did a fabulous job, even with the book giveaway!  I did not let my spending get out of control, and that is very easy for me to do because I am a giving type of person.  I tried to make some gifts; re-gift some items I didn’t need; and sell things I no longer use to obtain Christmas money to buy more gifts.

I am proud of myself; I did not charge one single item this holiday season.  That is my largest gift to myself because it means I am learning better habits and changing my past behavior.  It means that I am on my way to financial freedom – even if it is years away.

New Year’s Resolutions:

1.  Lose 20 lbs. and keep at least 10 off.
2.  Lose $20-25k worth of debt this year
3.  Plant a garden and donate all the produce to the homeless through local churches (I dislike vegetables, but this is a way I can afford to help others)
4.  Plant a pumpkin patch and donate the pumpkins to local children’s services/orphanages for Halloween crafts.

1231348_10202256486075890_284286934_n (1)Name: Shelly

About Me:  I’m a single mother of a college student and about to become an empty nester except for the two cats we have. I am a Legal Assistant and I also work part-time at a retail store.

Goal: Pay off 15,085 of credit card and student loan debt. Also pay off about $8,900 worth of medical expenses from this summer. I would also like to build up a six month emergency fund, which will take a long period of time.

Challenge: Sticking to my food budget and using my extra income to make extra payments on the credit cards and medical expenses.

Progress Update:

What Was Awesome: Working part-time for a retailer has great advantages. I only spent $300 for all of the gifts I wanted to purchase. (actually only $150 my hard earned money, the rest was a gift card from my main employer)  The total price before coupons and all percent off deals, the total at the one store would have been over $500. I stayed well within my budget and I have a few dollars left to buy the cats some toys from Santa.

Accomplishments: I have stayed within my grocery budget this month. Simple to maintain now that I have my daughter pay for whatever she wants that is not on my list and goes over the budgeted allotment for the week.

Goal for Next Month: Rework my budget and reevaluate debt repayment by determining where to pay a portion of my bonus. Also, need to stay firm with making extra payments from part-time job.

Benjamin FeldmanName: Benjamin Feldman
About Me: I’m a writer at ReadyForZero. I like basketball, non-spicy food, and connecting with people both online and offline, including all our great ReadyForZero blog readers.
My Goal: Save at least 15% of my money every month so I can build a financial cushion and have a greater sense of financial security.
My Challenge: Stop eating lunch at restaurants and bring it from home instead.
My Progress Update:

What Was Awesome:
I finally reviewed my spending for 2013 and I am proud of my efforts to save more money. Although there were slip-ups, I did a good job of continuing to stick with my goals and keep trying to save money in different ways. Now it’s time to make it happen in 2014 as well!

What Was Challenging:
One thing that has been frustrating is that my holiday spending took a little bite out of my savings. It’s always hard to see your total savings number go down, and that’s what happened to me this month once all the holiday expenses were tallied up. However, I’m going to stay positive and not let it bother me too much.

Shannon McNayName: Shannon
About Me: I’m originally from Ohio and new(ish) to the Bay Area from New York. I love reading, writing, volunteering, and football. I have a weakness for coffee and chocolate chip cookies.
My Goal: Stick to a spending plan that my new husband and I can agree on with a focus on saving for retirement and paying off student loans.
My Challenge: Pack my lunch daily and buy no more than one coffee per day.
My Progress Update:

What Was Awesome:
I’ve now started to use the cash system to stick to my budget more easily. That means I take out cash for the various things I have budgeted (such as coffee money) and store it in specific sections in my wallet so I always know how much I have for what. It’s easy not to overspend because using cash makes it very clear what I have left for the month.
What Was Challenging:
A month ago, I signed up for a deal on makeup and didn’t realize it wasn’t a one-time deal. I ended up being sent a subscription that I don’t want. It took a long phone call to cancel and now I’m stuck with makeup that didn’t end up working for me (I was using the deal to test it out). I could return it, but I read it can take a long time for this particular company to refund the money – and I feel guilty since I already opened the items, assuming I was stuck with them.

DCIM109GOPROName: Roxie
About Me: 37 year old teacher who recently maxed out credit cards AND acquired a car payment all at once. I went from feeling financially free, and able to buy/do what I wanted to being back to the old days of living paycheck to paycheck and scraping together money for food. I’m also in a semi-long-distance relationship that requires me to spend more money than I have on gas. I went from one tank every 3 weeks to two tanks a week!”
My Goal: Pay off my credit cards.
My Challenge: To live within my paycheck. That way, when I work extra jobs and get some money on the side, it goes to paying off the credit cards, and not to “catching up” on my bills.

What Was Awesome:

The feeling of not having any credit card debt.  The consolidation loan that I took out comes from my paycheck before I get it and was the exact same amount as my raise I just got!  Now the credit cards are paid off and I can aim to pay off the loan with any extra funds.

What Was Challenging:
My landlord informed me that he is selling the building, and I would have to move in the next few months.  I planned to stay with my boyfriend for a few months to save first, last, deposit, and realtor fee (yes – 4 months worth needed to move around here), but found an AMAZING cheap apartment just steps from my current one, so instead I am doing a “sudden” move with 2 weeks to get it done!  I have a feeling I will need to use credit cards for part of it, and it does NOT make me happy.

ClaireName: Claire Murdough
About Me: I’m a Bay Area native recently returned from a year living in/around Beijing. I like chocolate, gummy bears, chocolate covered gummy bears, and of course… writing!
My Goal: Going full force against my student loan debt while also pumping up my emergency fund.
My Challenge: No coffee out, no individual servings (yogurt, granola bars, etc).
My Progress Update:

What Was Awesome:
I did some serious number crunching and created the the most detailed budget I’ve ever had! I usually have a pretty good idea about my spending but it’s enlightening to see just how much I spend on toiletries and light bulbs. Also – I canceled all of my unused subscriptions!

What Was Challenging:
As I mentioned, I created a detailed budget and that meant that I had to face the music when it came to some of my spending. OH MY GOODNESS I spend a lot on “little” things. A soda here, an apple there. Part of this is due to being busy but most of it has been due to the “I’ll stop next week” mentality. Time to start taking action!!

Name: Hayley
About Me:
 I run a blog called A Disease Called Debt which I started to document our family’s journey to become debt free. We need to pay back thousands of pounds of debt. We have a very long way to go but at last we’re heading in the right direction.”
My Goal: Having been in debt for 14 years, the hubby and I had our lightbulb moment earlier this year. We really want to be debt free more than anything. This would be the greatest feeling ever!
My Challenge: To eliminate the debt on a credit card that has been part of our lives for 10 years. We’re halfway there and our challenge is to pay this off by Christmas. (£3675 left to clear on this one). Plenty more challenges to follow after that though.

What Was Awesome:
We’ve managed to save £400 to go towards our debts this month!
What Was Challenging:
We haven’t actually been able to pay this £400 towards our debts yet because we are in the process of taking over our debt management plan ourselves instead of using a provider. At the moment, we have to ask our provider each time to forward us statements from our creditors which is a bit of a pain. So we’re waiting until the paperwork is sorted out and then we will begin making over payments again directly to our creditors. In the meantime our savings pot is increasing!

Name: Tara Dee
taraAbout Me: I’m a marketing and communications consultant in Cleveland, recently freed from the painful hold of grad school. A 9-year journey through higher education has left me ridden with obnoxiously high student loan debt. I love all varieties of ethnic food, design, and totally geek out on urban planning issues.
Goal: I’d like to feel like I have financial freedom. As a first-gen college graduate I’m proud of my accomplishments, but financial security in my mind is defined by the ability to really prepare for the future. I’m not quite there yet.
Challenge: One of my loans (approx. $12,000) has a 9.75% interest rate. I’d love to pay that sucker off in the next year 🙂

What Was Challenging:

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe my state of being at the moment– so my challenges this month have been similar to all of the other months I’ve been a part of this thang 😉 I’ve had less time to cook (or even grocery shop, much of the month). I’ve splurged all too much on restaurant meals and coffee that is ever-needed. I also made some super-big ticket purchases for my business, and had some semi-unexpected expenses come up (you know, estimated taxes and such). So it was a very spendy month.

What Was Awesome:
The reason I’ve been so busy is because I got a new job! I went into the new year just expecting to scrape by with my photo business. But I snagged two part-time contracted positions through May and my photo business is picking up… so needless to say, things are a bit crazy. That being said, I’m making much more moolah than I would have been otherwise 🙂 Also, I created a budget and (sort of) kept track of my spending (admittedly, there was a big lump of entries about 5 days ago covering most of the month in my spreadsheets). So things are at least getting to the point of “under control!”

scottName: Scott Izu
About Me: I was a single income earner for my family for twelve years.
Then came divorce, one of the four deadly D’s (Death, Divorce, Disease, Disaster). Going through this has been a financial nightmare. Together, we had a net worth of $115,000 and only a year and a half later, I am in debt about $42,000.
I had drastically reduced my spending, living off very little. I still believe I am very blessed despite the challenges. I also believe strongly in living within your means.
For a while, I was fighting a ghost since my financial situation changes with each new hearing.
Goal: My goal is to start by living within my monthly income.
I believe God puts struggles in our life so that when we overcome them, we can comfort and help others so I would be happy to join the super league and share my progress!!!

Status Update:

During the month of January, I dropped $500 further into debt, putting me somewhere near $42,000 of debt.  I was encouraged to finally address some of the issues that I have been ignoring, finally getting around to filing my 2012 taxes.  Up to this point, I have avoided this, because of the emotional pain surrounding the community assets, which evaporated during the divorce process.  I think the financial challenges are just an external manifestation of the emotional struggles I have faced over the past few years.  As such, I have been focusing a lot on healing first, and attacking the finances second.

I am very hopeful that things will get better over time.  At one point, in the month, I made and accounting mistake and thought I wouldn’t have enough money to pay my rent for the month.  With this came the fear of losing the place where I am allowed to have partial custody of my children.  From a social standpoint, the California court system, wants fathers to spend time with their children, but this comes secondary to making sure I can maintain the same financial support.  At the same time, I am grateful for the courts, without which, I think the damage would be greater.

If push came to shove, I could always default on my debts, which I wouldn’t want to do, because in a sense, I gave my word that I would repay the money.  I feel that while I am just one small person in this big world, paying back my debts and honoring those debts is what I can do to contribute to some of the financial challenges our society is seeing.

The amazing thing was that, thinking I did not have enough to pay rent, I came to the realization that I have good people in my life who I could reach out to who would help pay the bills if necessary.  With tears in my eyes, I felt humbled and blessed at the same time.

Profile PicAbout Me:  I’m a 45 year-old working mom with one son and a step-daughter. I love my work in municipal government, where I have been employed for the last 14 years.

Goal: Pay off $26,000 in credit card debt by the end of 2014. In 2015, my car loan will be paid so the only debt I will have is my mortgage. My husband and I contribute the maximum towards our 457K retirement plans and will have pensions when we retire, so we are doing great with our future savings goals. In the last three months, I have consolidated all my debt with zero-interest onto two cards, established a realistic budget (trackable by spreadsheet), started paying with cash, and completely reigned in my spending. I don’t even use the vending machine at work for a $1 snack anymore!

Challenge: Totally changing my spending habits. I acquired the debt on my own through mindless spending and international travel before I re-married three years ago. I am extremely embarrassed by my debt to the point that even my husband doesn’t know about it. We both earn good money and I have worked out a detailed plan to pay off all this debt next year using my own income.

What Was Awesome:

Not charging a single purchase on credit for 45 days straight. January expenditures were $800 less than net income! Made total credit card payments of $2,000-met my goal! All debt is now 0% interest. Feels awesome to be on track!

What Was Challenging:

Reducing spending on eating out (at least I did not exceed my budget for this category). Making sure my budget for monthly spending is realistic. I was a bit off in January, but am pretty sure I’ll be back on track by end of February. Got my eagle eye on it!!

And a big welcome to the newest Debt Destroyer, Vivian!

vivianAbout me: The name is Vivian Lee, and I’m a young professional currently working in San Francisco after completing college in Boston with a B.S. in Economics & Management Science. I previously worked in investment banking, M&A consulting, and marketing — I’m not too shabby at corporate finance! Calculating metrics for large clients, modeling an acquisition, analyzing portfolio returns for private equity firms? I’ve done all of those and more in my day jobs. But once you start talking about handling my OWN finances… well, all bets are off.

Goal: Pay off $15,000 in credit card debt by the end of 2015 while becoming more knowledgable about personal finance. I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know what a tax return looked like until a year ago. My parents meant well by managing my money and paying off my credit card in college, but it also meant that I graduated without any idea how the “real world” worked! I racked up $15,000 in credit card debt my first year out of college; most of that was from frivolous purchases and living above my means. After my debt is gone, I hope to become a more active investor by maxing out my 401(k) and consistently contributing to my Roth IRA accounts.

Challenge: Living in San Francisco is my biggest challenge. My salary is not horrible, but it’s definitely below the average income for the area. I grew up in Texas, so I was spoiled on cheap real estate and no state tax (really!) Adjusting to a much higher cost of living – coupled with upcoming student loans (getting a master’s degree) – has been really difficult. In addition, I’m horrible at budgeting (great at making them, terrible at following), so that will be a big challenge to overcome this year.

Check in next month for Vivian’s updates!

Way to go Debt Destroyers!

With a healthy dose of determination the Debt Destroyers are standing up to their debt – and coming out on top!

And now it’s your turn! Are you ready to join the Debt Destroyers Super League? If so, send an email to claire [at] and include your name, a brief description of yourself, your goal, and your challenge. We’ll include you in next month’s update!!

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  • debtfreeoneday

    It’s great to read everyone’s progress! 🙂

  • So inspiring and awesome. I think I will join for next month.

    • Claire Murdough

      I’m so glad you like it! It would be awesome if you joined!! Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll set it up 🙂

  • Lisa Kovac

    Yes, please join us Dear Debt! It is fun! Debtfreeoneday, would love to see you with us too!!!! Come on ladies and gent’s, there is also a facebook group too that helps us each support each other! The sky is the limit for your future, but no longer for our credit cards. Cut them up and join the club!

    • Claire Murdough

      Lisa, you are such a rockstar! Thanks for being such an inspiration for the Debt Destroyers and supportive community member!!