How We Paid Off $50,000 in Debt in 4 Years - Part 2

Scott McEachern |

Thanks for taking some valuable time out of your day to read about our story on how we became debt free. Whether you are a long time reader or this is your first visit to my blog, I truly appreciate the visit.

To recap, click here: My wife and I accumulated $20,000 each in student debt and bought a $10,000 used car after graduation. Our goal was to become debt-free, as soon as possible. Last week the tips and strategies I discussed were a little math-y: Increase your repayment to save on interest, find a cheap place to rent then stay put and use your tax return to pay off some debts. This week focuses on the behavioural choices we made (along with the sacrifices…)

Tip 4: We made it work with 1 used car

Cars are expensive! I blogged about it last year here: We bought our used Kia when we settled in a new town that had limited public transit. Stephanie needed this car to accept a job where the pay outweighed the cost of the vehicle, so we went ahead with purchasing our vehicle - a two year old used Kia Rio. When we moved back to Ontario, I used the car primarily and Steph was able to commute with co-workers during her teaching jobs. Steph worked at two different schools but was able to set up carpooling plans for each job. Commuting cost us $80/month instead of the cost of purchasing a new car (around $625/m). Don’t believe me? Go look at the blog link above. Cars are expensive!

 Tip 5: We limited our bills

This was another area of sacrifice for us. We completely cut out cable from our monthly expenses and jumped to Netflix for $9.99/month, saving us around $50/month. Our choice of cellphone was mocked quite often. My phone had a keyboard and no data, but it still did what I needed it to do: call and text. Stephanie and I had a combined bill of $50/month total. I have friends that pay over $100/month for their phone. We made our choice and they made theirs. It wasn’t until we were completely debt free that I switched to a phone with data. Internet has always been included in our rent because we negotiated with both our landlords. We also didn't buy any new furniture. Everything bought was secondhand, with the exception of our bed. To the right you'll see what our living room looked like for the first month in our very first apartment until we found suitable used couches!

Tip 6: We didn’t have kids

This was a tough decision for both Stephanie and myself. We got married at age 24, but held off 4 years until we were debt free before having Elliott. It was tough seeing friends and family having babies, knowing we were ready in every other area of our lives except finances. We could have had Elliott a few years earlier, but being able to go on maternity leave and have no worries about the reduced income was such a blessing.

Tip 7: We tracked our spending and expenses

I wouldn’t say we lived on a budget, but we did track when we spent money and when we got paid on an app on my phone (iPod touch back in the day and pencil and paper on the fridge before that!). This gave us a daily running total of our monthly balance and we simply spent accordingly. It does not take long to become accustomed to your earnings and to get a feeling for what you can safely spend without too much thought and it certainly stopped us from making some dumb purchases. I encourage everyone I know to use the “Spending Tracker” app we use on our phones.

Tip 8: We both worked a few side jobs to earn extra income

We made a lot of sacrifices to lower our spending each month, but to accelerate our progress, we decided to pick up a few side gigs to earn more income too! I worked a few weekend jobs with an experiential marketing firm, Steph even joined me for one or two of them. We raked in some solid dough for a weekends worth of work. Steph also started working with a tutoring company for a few hours a week. There were a few months that we were able to bring in an extra $1,000 to put towards debt.


I won’t lie – it wasn’t fun all the time, but let me tell you, it’s doable and it’s so worth it. Take a moment right now to close your eyes and imagine not having to make a single debt repayment this month. Just thinking about it probably put a smile on your face. Now think of all the great things you could reallocate your debt repayments to – vacation, future savings, donations to charity, or whatever you desire. Believe me when I say debt-free makes life a little more stress-free! My hope is that you can implement some of these tips to help reduce your debt or you can forward this blog to someone you know who is working hard to get out of debt. Once again, thank you for reading!