Overcoming Debt Put This Man on A Journey to Start His Own Business

Tom PortraitTotal Debt Paid Off: $7,162
Months using ReadyForZero: 12
Accounts paid off: 2 of 5

“I’m really proud to see how much I’ve paid off… [it] is so reinvigorating. You sleep better and life’s just better. That’s how it feels after I pay off an account.”

I have a secret. Whenever we do a new success profile, I jubilantly declare that this is going to be the best success profile ever. Our users have worked so hard to pay off their debt and they find incredibly unique ways to do so. They never fail to amaze me with their creativity and resilience; and today’s story is no exception.

In fact, I’d argue to say that this is one of the best success profiles ever!*

Tom’s ReadyForZero story – which actually started one year ago today! – is especially unique because we interviewed him a few months ago and told him that it could take awhile to post his story since we’re lucky enough to have interviewed a lot of people this year. While Tom patiently awaited the publishing of his story, he continued to surge forward on his debt payoff…

Then one day, I reached out to Tom to let him know that our manual tracking tool (which he had also been waiting for) was about to be launched. I was pretty excited to share this long awaited news with him, but it turned out he had some pretty exciting news himself.

Tom started his own business.

That’s right, not only was Tom well on his way to becoming fully debt-free, he decided to turn one of his favorite money saving tricks into a business! Here’s how he did it.

The Beginning of a Debt Payoff Journey

Tom’s debt journey began slowly, as they so often do. He didn’t have a pile of student loan debt and he wasn’t racking up credit card debt at the speed of light. Slow, unchecked usage of his credit card (from car repairs to spending on daily expenses when unemployment hit) started to add up quicker than they were able to be paid off.


Tom at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid

At the same time, Tom was also training to become a part of the US Skeleton Team – an activity in which you hurtle down a bobsled track head first at insane speeds. Training was expensive and it was hard to reach his goals without being able to quit his job and focus on training full time. The thing holding him back was monthly credit card bills. In Tom’s words,

“It was a good experience and it really kind of opened my eyes as to how much the credit card was preventing me from having freedom to do whatever I wanted.”

For the first time, Tom realized that he was being held back by debt. No longer was he satisfied to simply make his payments every month. He realized that those bills were becoming a barrier to achieving his goals:

“It weighed on my general being and having to feel under pressure every month to make sure I had enough cash flow to hit the payments. I was really good about never being late, it was just that it didn’t really give me any freedom to do anything else or anything fun. I really want to get rid of the debt as I transition to the next stage of my life where I’m not bringing this baggage with me.”

That’s when Tom decided to make a change. He applied the principles he learned from his athletic training to dive into debt repayment head first.

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An Athlete’s Approach to Debt Payoff

Working as a graphic designer and a project manager, Tom faced a bout of unemployment and struggled with earning money as a freelancer. But a new job helped him find stability and use the laser-focus he gained from athletic training (also including a love for Crossfit and the paleo diet) to work on getting rid of his debt:

“I started a new job running the development department at an unscripted television company…I really decided to focus and every paycheck put half of it towards ReadyForZero. I bring my lunch all the time and eat lots of nutrient-dense foods that are not going to be so expensive.”

Packing lunches to save money isn’t a new strategy – in fact, it’s one we use on our own at ReadyForZero quite a lot! But Tom didn’t just brown bag it to save money on lunch. He carefully chose the types of foods to bring so that he would stay full longer and gain the nutrition he needed:

“If you do cost per calorie and that sort of stuff, protein and fat are super-efficient and they keep you full for a long time. You can buy ground beef and that’s not too expensive and you can get frozen vegetables which aren’t too expensive and you’ve got pretty good fuel for not too much. Now does it taste great? Not really, but you can transition from thinking about food as pleasure into food as fuel with a long-term goal of saving money and paying stuff off and also being healthy, that’s kind of where my mindset is right now.”

It’s not uncommon for an athlete to prioritize utility and nutrition of food over taste when fueling their bodies. And that determination is helping Tom in more ways than one…it led to the start of his own company!

Coffee Blocks

In his desire to eat healthier and gain more energy, Tom tried a new type of coffee called Bulletproof Coffee: coffee made with grass-fed, unsalted butter and coconut oil, lending a great deal of flavor and fat (which converts to fuel for athletes who drink it). Tom didn’t want to spend a ton of money buying this type of coffee every day while deep in debt repayment mode, so he found a way to make it himself.

His coworkers loved the idea so much that they asked him to start making it for the office. One thing led to another and suddenly the light bulb went off: this could be a legitimate company.

Enter Coffee Blocks.

Coffee BlocksCoffee Blocks are small containers of the ingredients needed to make Bulletproof Coffee that you can buy so you don’t have to prepare the ingredients yourself. What’s even better, you save time and money by skipping the coffee shop trip each day. Each container is packed full enough for a 12 oz cup of coffee. Tom’s hoping Coffee Blocks will spread the Bulletproof Coffee trend far and wide and save people some money in the process.

Curious to try it? Check out Tom’s kickstarter campaign!

Growing a Business While Paying Off Debt

Tom still has a ways to go before he pays his debt off completely – and he’s just starting to get his new company off the ground. While each of these alone is a lot to handle, Tom’s approaching the challenge with a lot of logic and a healthy dose of athletic fearlessness.

On the logical side, Tom’s broken his paychecks down to a science that allows him to focus on debt payoff and wealth building at the same time. Saying that he likes to live life by certain percentages and rules, he gives 30% of his paycheck to debt, 30% to taxes, and the rest to bills and Wealthfront.

We asked Tom if it was hard to stick to such a stringent repayment schedule and he responded with the exactly the attitude of someone willing to go down a bobsled track head first:

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Just go for it. Don’t think about the outcome, just act.”

Thinking about debt can be so overwhelming that you never even get started. This “just act” mentality is also what’s helping Tom move forward with a business that he previously knew nothing about. That leads us to the other element of Tom’s success: finding help, even if it’s not something you normally would do.

Using Resources to Reach Your Goals

By all accounts, Tom is a self-starter. But he’s learned over the years that finding help when you wouldn’t have otherwise is a pretty smart way to achieve your goals. In fact, it’s a great way to get someone else to do the stuff you don’t really want to think about.

In Tom’s words, for debt, that’s ReadyForZero. For investing, that’s Wealthfront. And for starting a company that creates a physical product – something he’s never done before – that’s finding a manufacturer who is willing to work with him and help him through the process. Now Tom’s doing all three and hopes to be debt-free and have a sustainable business by the end of the year.

As soon as Tom began using ReadyForZero, the design of the tool impressed him. “I liked the setup,” he said. “It feels like so many of the younger, well-designed tools.” As time went on, he made use of all the different features and he especially appreciated the emails that were sent to his inbox when he’d get a large deposit in his bank account, reminding him to pay some of it toward his debt. “Receiving an email, when it says ‘take $50 out of this giant chunk of money and put it toward your debt’ – I think that’s so awesome.”

He has been using ReadyForZero for a year now, and he loves seeing the progress he’s made. More importantly, he can’t wait to see his graph keep going down!

Getting Closer to Debt Free

Now that Tom is having such success, he is feeling really good about how far he’s come already:

“I’m really proud to see how much I’ve paid off totally. Another one is to see how much basically I’ve paid my future self, more like in the total savings. I find those very motivating to see how much a little dedication can go to saving yourself. You’d never have a concept on it. I find that pretty motivating.”

He especially loves the feeling he gets every time he pays off an account:

“It feels really awesome. There’s got to be some good analogy out there, I guess when you clean your room after not having cleaned it for a long time and how it feels like a brand new room and totally reenergizing to you and your life. If you let stuff accumulate in your bedroom and clothes pile up and you put everything off, you don’t realize it but it slowly starts to drain you but after you clean that room and everything’s put back into place, dusted and it smells good, you vacuum the carpet and it’s nice and fluffy again. That is so reinvigorating. You sleep better and life’s just better. That’s how it feels after I pay off an account.”

We think Tom’s story is pretty invigorating and motivating ourselves! What could be better than watching someone get closer to achieving debt freedom each day while also starting their own business? Pay off debt, build a business, and achieve true freedom? Sounds pretty great to us!

*That is, the best success profile ever alongside John, MichaelJoe, Katrina, Laura, MikeMarcJenNick, Chad, Chuck, Tiffany, Jared, Felipe, Colin, and James. What an amazing group!

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