News & Special Offers
Home > Debt > How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt
Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard - Earn 2x on All Purchases

How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt

How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt debt 2 Since August 2012, I have been writing on Debt Roundup about many different topics.  They have all surrounded money and debt, because that is what I am passionate about.  I have provided this information because I wanted to help those that are in the same situation that I was once in.  I also wanted to show others that people make mistakes and that I am very much human.  I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be.  I have been thinking about writing this post for some time, but just haven’t pushed myself until now.  I want to provide you with what I did to pay off my credit card debt.

How I paid off $50,000 – The Steps

There are many others that might have more or less credit card debt, but we all got into it for one reason.  We spent more than we made.  Simple and to the point.  There might be many “reasons” why we get into debt, but it all boils down to spending more than is made.  It doesn’t matter if it is due to compulsive spending, medical bills, emergencies, or anything else.  If you spend more than you make, then you will be in debt.

I have written a few times about why I got into debt.  There were many reasons, but it all boiled down to me spending more than I was bringing in.  Credit cards allowed me to get things that I couldn’t afford and charge it to my future self.  If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have gotten my first credit card in college.  I would have taken the time to learn more about credit and use it in a wiser fashion.  I can’t take back what I did with credit, but I can use that failure to teach me what not to do.

How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt debt 2 Step 1 – STOP SPENDING

This one may sound easy, but it is by far the hardest.  You have to figure out why you are spending so much money.  I was spending in order to fund my business, along with just buying things that I didn’t need.  I was purchasing to satisfy my wants.  It is time to figure out the difference between wants and needs.  I took a hard look at my finances and realized that I needed a change.  I shut down my profitable online business, stopped eating out, cut our cable, and created detailed grocery lists.  To this day, I still take my lunch to work as a way to eat better and save a lot of money.  These are the things that I did to stop spending money.  Beyond paying your regular bills, you need to figure out where the rest of your money is going and cut off the spending.  It may be harsh, but it is important.

Step 2 – Pick Your Method

Once you figure out how to stop spending money, then you need to choose a debt payoff method.  There are quite a few to choose from, but the two main ones are the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche.  If you want to know the difference, then check out my snowball versus avalanche breakdown.  I chose the Avalanche method because it made mathematical sense.  I used my emotions to get into debt, but I wanted to take them out of the equation.  By using the Avalanche method, I was able to save thousands of dollars worth of interest payments.  That was my emotional win.

Step 3 – Stay on Target

Welcome to the next hardest step.  Paying down debt is not easy and it will usually take some time.  We all don’t have the luxuries to just pay off our debt in a couple of months.  It will most likely take years.  It took me 4 years to pay off my $50,000 worth of credit card debt.  It took longer than some, because I saved along with paying down my debt.  I worked hard to make sure I stayed on target.  There are so many temptations that occur in everyday life, but you have to understand your goal.  Do you want to be buried in debt or would you rather have financial freedom?  I chose financial freedom.  Don’t be afraid to tell your friends or family that you can’t do something because you can’t afford it.  You may not want to irritate your friends or family, but these are necessary changes.    You have to do what ever you can to stay on target.  I made some simple changes along with harder changes to make sure I stayed on my debt payment plan.

Step 4 – Make Extra Money

You can only save so much, so there might be many times where you just don’t make enough money to accelerate your debt repayment.  There are quite a few ways to make more money besides your full time job.  I made money by selling things on Craigslist, selling on eBay, and freelancing on certain projects via Elance and Odesk.  I even picked up a part-time job at night after my full-time job.  I worked hard each and every night to make a little extra cash that I could throw on my credit card payments.  You have to think outside of the box when you are paying down debt.  Think of something that you are good at and go see if you can make money from it.  Don’t spend money to start a side business though.  That would be unwise.

How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt debt 2 Step 5 – Celebrate

Here was my most important step.  Since we know that spending money is very emotional, then we have to create celebration moments.  I took the emotional aspect out by using the Avalanche method, but you can’t take it out entirely.  So, in order to make sure that I stayed on my target, I created celebration steps.  During times in my debt repayment, I would celebrate when I paid off debt to reach a certain level.  If I paid off $5,000, I would go out and celebrate with my wife.  Now, I wouldn’t go on a spending binge, but I would go out to eat and have a beer.  I paid for that in cash, so I wouldn’t add it to my credit card, but it was important.  Any times I would reach a new milestone, I would celebrate.  This step kept me so motivated and allowed me to keep my head up.  Debt likes to keep you down, so you have to make sure you figure out ways to keep your head up.

Alright everyone, now you have seen how I paid off my $50,000 worth of credit card debt.  It was a long journey and a very hard one at that.  I don’t wish debt on anyone, but it has taught me a lot about myself and how I handle problems.  I took my debt by the horns and rode it right out of my life.  I don’t plan on turning around and using my credit card frivolously, but at least I know that I have the tools to take my life back.

Do you have debt? If so, what is a step that you think is important to get out?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Want To Start Investing? Check Out Scottrade

When I first started investing on my own, I went with Scottrade.  I love the service and it is super easy to use.  I highly recommend Scottrade if you are looking for an online brokerage account.
Subscribe to Debt Roundup
You will receive an email when a new post goes up on DR. Your email address is NEVER shared!
How I Paid Off Over $50,000 Of Credit Card Debt debt 2

About Grayson Bell

I am an average Joe, who built up over $50,000 worth of credit card debt and had to learn how to break it back down. It took 4 years of learning budgets, secrets, and many other personal finance tricks in order to cut the debt to $0. Now, I push to teach others not only how to get out of debt, but how to use credit wisely and how to start growing their wealth. You can view my other site, Sprout Wealth for ways to grow your money. I am also a freelance personal finance writer who provides staff writing and ghost writing services.

83 comments

  1. Like anything else, there is no magic bullet. It’s simply a matter of understanding the issue, addressing it head on, and stick with it to completion. I like the focus on earning extra money too. There’s so much talk of cut, cut, cut, which is important but there’s a whole other side to the equation that often gets ignored. Nice job staying focused and working yourself into a betters situation.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Check Your Social Security BenefitsMy Profile

  2. You have a great “testimony” to debt payoff, and your tips are practical. I definitely am taking these steps to pay down student loan debt as well as our mortgage. Making extra money is key, in my opinion, because you try to live off of your full-time income for the most part and anything else feels like a “bonus” that can be put towards debt paydown.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The 5 Things I Will Actually Splurge OnMy Profile

  3. Simple to the point and great advice. I think the first like you stated it stop with the over spending and figure out what you and your family needs vs just things you want. When the debt is gone you can get some of the things you want. I don’t know how often I am seeing people purchase new cars, tv, video games, Ipads and the like yet they complain about having no money to pay off debt.
    Thomas @ Your Daily Finance recently posted..The Best 12 Money Saving Tips To FollowMy Profile

  4. Staying on target is the hardest. Debt reduction progress is just so slow that it is hard to stay focused and I don’t make enough money to have a lot to throw at bills.

    I have paid down over $4,000 of HELOC debt so far this year but there is still a balance of $15,900 on my HELOC that drags me down mentally. 16 months to go and I will be free.
    Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle recently posted..Who Really Controls The World’s Money And What Happened To My Invitation To Bilderberg 2013My Profile

  5. It is hard to stay motivated, but if you try to make extra money, the accelerated rate of repayment should give you the momentum to stay on track. Well done Grayson!
    Pauline recently posted..I need your help! Please help me pick a logo!My Profile

  6. Awesome post, Grayson. Yes, steps 1 and 3 are definitely the most difficult, but the most crucial, especially if you’ve got lots of debt like we do and you did. Sometimes it can seem like it’s taking forever and that you’ll never get to debt free, and that can be a tough feeling to overcome. But the truth is that for every dollar you put towards debt, and for every dollar you say “no” to spending, those are the dollars that WILL get you to your goal eventually. You’ve just got to stay the course!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..3 Reasons You Should Start Investing In CollegeMy Profile

  7. Nice post Grayson! I can relate to a lot of it as I did many of the same things to pay my debt off. I know that #1 sounds easy, but it definitely was not as it required a total shift in thinking. It seems counterintuitive, but #6 was vital to me continuing. It helped me feel as if I was accomplishing something if I celebrated small victories along the way.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Do We Care About Our Employers Anymore?My Profile

  8. You have a great story Grayson, one that many people need to hear. Your steps are right on and are all necessary for a person in debt to sustain the momentum they need to see it through. We plan on having a big celebration when we pay off our final debt soon, that being the mortgage.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..Funding College: Should I Work or Do SAT Prep?My Profile

  9. It’s good to be able to see others that have accomplished the goal and how they got there. It makes it seem more attainable. I get very into looking for ways to make extra money. You are right, definitely think outside the box with those. There is very little that you can’t find some kind of a market for.
    Greg@Thriftgenuity recently posted..The Liebster AwardMy Profile

  10. Wow, that’s a lot of debt! You must be very proud of yourself. I did get myself into about $3000 worth of credit card debt when I was a teenager and I worked so hard to pay it off that I am scarred from doing that ever again!
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Make Life Better For Yourself: Reduce Your StressMy Profile

  11. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth

    These are great steps and very similar to the ones my wife and I used to pay off our student loan debt. I think the biggest thing for us was tracking our progress and celebrating the milestones when we reached them. It’s all doable if you just have a plan and stick to it.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted..The Rule of 72 and Impact of Compound InterestMy Profile

  12. I have debt, mainly my student loans. Just gotta think about the end goal!
    Michelle recently posted..I Started a New Blog and $1,258 in Extra IncomeMy Profile

  13. Wow, $50k in debt is quite an accomplishment. Well done. I only have the mortgage left, however, I did use the debt snowball when paying off consumer debt.
    AxeMan recently posted..Example of How The Debt Snowball WorksMy Profile

  14. Great post! I am currently paying down my student loans, and I think tracking my progress has given me more perspective and more motivation to accelerate payments. It’s interesting to note how much progress you’ve made over the course of a certain period of time. I don’t spend on anything I don’t need, and I plan on celebrating little milestones along the way.
    I think it’s important for some to realize debt can be an “emergency,” and that it’s not just the norm. My parents have credit card debt, and they pay more toward it than the minimum, but they’ve never been very motivated to pay it all off. They are currently selling their house, and I keep telling them they should set aside what they can to pay the debt off so they can go into retirement without having to worry, but they’d rather focus on other things. This debt has been an ongoing issue for at least a decade, and I could never imagine living like that.
    E.M. recently posted..Two Sides: Furnishing the ApartmentMy Profile

  15. Thanks for sharing your story, Grayson. Eliminating $50k in debt in 4 years in quite an accomplishment. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy journey but now that you’re on the other side – one your immensely glad you made. I agree it’s so important to celebrate milestones and to savor every win over your debt.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..How to Talk to Your Kids about Family DebtMy Profile

  16. All good points Grayon. My motto, it’s not about how much money you make it’s how you save it.. or in another sense spend it. Figuring out why someone is in debt and how they got there is imperative. Stopping spending sounds like the common sense thing for people to do but shopaholics or those who make excuses for spending will find it even harder. Hide the cards bury the cards, cut them up…. I think with a clear plan and mini celebrations after achieving small wins and big wins is very important and motivating to anyone paying down debt. We are currently debt free including the mortgage although I’m just waiting for the cash to pay it off, the money is there. It will be the best day of our life and a post I can’t wait to write!! Cheers mate. Great post.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Investing 101 for NewbiesMy Profile

    • The most important step is to figure out why you are spending money. You can only make a difference after you change your spending habits and create a saving habit.

  17. Kudos, Grayson! This is an enormous accomplishment and the steps you offer are spot-on. Some may see $50K worth of debt as an insurmountable task, but you took responsibility, hunkered down and got it paid off. That’s definitely worth a [frugal] celebration!
    Kendal @ HassleFreeSaver recently posted..Extreme Saving – Online EditionMy Profile

  18. I’m with you on this one, but one thing I want is to really find ways to celebrate in non-material ways. Any ideas?
    Debt Blag recently posted..Getting lower credit card interest rates by asking for themMy Profile

    • That is a tough one, but I would recommend spending time with family. It doesn’t really cost anything, but it can be great for the emotional support.

  19. Great post, I remember reading that you used to have $50k debt but was curious how long it took for you to pay it down – great to know! Congrats on a huge accomplishment!
    anna recently posted..Wedding Dress on a BudgetMy Profile

  20. Wonderful post about your inspiring journey. It must be extremely empowering to eliminate that much debt. You are correct in saying that one needs to understand your goal and stick to it till the end. We live in a consumer led society that likes to spends on wants not necessarily needs. Finding other ways to make money is also a great way to supplement the debt money.
    It was good that you had a reasonable ending celebration. Great job!

  21. When I graduated college and got myself into credit card debt I did just want you outlined. I first had to understand why I was spending so much. Once I did this, I got much better with my finances. I ended up working a full time and part time job just to pay it all off. It was tough, but worth it.
    Jon @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted..Reader Writes: Short Term SavingsMy Profile

  22. Awesome advice and an inspiring amount of debt conquered! Well done.

    My biggest hurdle has been student loans, but the credit cards are still a problem because they can encourage more spending.

  23. Wow, that is a herculean accomplishment. Congrats on kicking debt’s ass. The will probably serve as a game plan for other folks who are currently deep in debt.
    CashRebel recently posted..Irrational Consumers and Electric VehiclesMy Profile

  24. The hard part for me was not spending anymore on my credit cards. I literally had to lock them away in a filing cabinet in my office so I wouldn’t be tempted by them. I paid off about $8k of credit card debt, so congrats on $50k, that is a huge accomplishment!
    thepotatohead recently posted..How Do I Get to Italy? The Vacation ConundrumMy Profile

    • I put all of my cards (except one) in an old wallet and put them in my safe. This worked for me, but I just ended up not using them much anymore. Nice work on paying off the $8,000!

  25. When it comes down to it I think you have to stop spending and start cutting expenses is what I believe is the most critical step of them all. You can have a debt plan all day long but if you haven’t cut down the spending you will continually end up back in debt.
    Chris @ Stumble Forward recently posted..5 Reasons Why We Make Terrible Financial DecisionsMy Profile

  26. The most important starting point is to spend less than you make. You’ll not get into consumer debt. The same goes for mortgage or rent. Some folks keep buying bigger and bigger houses not realizing they could lose their jobs and not being able to pay the monthly installments.
    Shafi recently posted..How to Get Low Interest Rate Secured LoanMy Profile

    • That concept is so easy to understand, but it can be harder to do in reality depending on the situation. I was going it out of stupidity, so it was easier to stop for me.

  27. I love this, and I’m still so pumped about your 50k that you paid off. That really is incredible. Staying focused on the goal and saying “no” a lot is how I’m knocking out the student loan debt!
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..4 Ways to Start Saving for a New CarMy Profile

  28. I think I always went the other way with trying to pay off debt. I was always so focused on making extra money that I often didn’t consider the added expenses that I was incurring. For instance, I would work three jobs and then fail to consider the “expense” associated with it – like having zero time to cook at home or keep up with my laundry.
    You are so right, balance is so important. Looking after both your incoming and outgoing is key to success with paying down debt.
    Thanks
    Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility recently posted..Saving Like a Boss, Weekly Review: June 3 – 9My Profile

    • I can see how you can get caught up in trying to make more money, but as you indicated, balance is crucial in taking care of debt. You have to have a balance in every aspect of your life.

  29. Thanks for sharing the details. I’ve always thought that awareness and acceptance of the problem is the very first step. There are some folks out there that just don’t want to admit that they’ve caused problems for themselves, don’t want to look bad, etc. Setting aside pride and getting real with the problem is half the battle for many!
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Father’s Day Financial LessonsMy Profile

    • Pride can be hard to get around. I just had a stern reality check and it seemed to help. I was able to put my problems into graphics and that helped me get an understanding of it.

  30. Hi I read where you said not to start a side business to make money to get out of debt. I have just started with empower network, it’s a money making blogging system. I do have to pay a small amount, only $19.00 a month to have access to the financial system part, so I get paid weekly, and straight into my bank account. This company has an Alexa ranking of 420, and the guys that run it seem legit. Have you heard anything of them? There is a video on my site all about it if you feel like checking it out and letting me know what you think.

    • You are paying for a MLM blog network. You are paying to create a blog when you can do it for free on wordpress.com. If you are in debt, then you need to focus on the debt. Don’t start a business, just sell your services without paying to advertise. I would recommend that you get off the “Empower” network and blog for real on wordpress. $19 per month is too expensive for such an overrated blog network.

  31. Congratulations on paying off your debt. It’s a wonderful feeling. Those steps do work for anyone. They worked for me. I can’t say it was fun going through them, but they work if you stop spending and don’t give up.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Broke in Retirement: Why It’s Important to Know Where Your Money Is.My Profile

  32. First off, congrats on ridding that much debt.

    I couldn’t help but laugh when you mentioned step 1: stop spending and said how easy it sounds. It sounds easy, but as a nation, we don’t understand this concept. We are so heavily indebted and Keynesian’s believe the only way out is to spend more! Too funny…
    funancials recently posted..Housing Soars 10.9% As Inflation Remains SubduedMy Profile

    • Thank you and you are correct. I was a part of the problem, but I didn’t want to be a part of that group anymore. The concept of not being in debt is so simple to understand and I don’t know where we started this horrible trend. Probably with the access of easy credit.

  33. Congrats on paying off your debt! I think the real challenge is finding the motivation to start step 1 before you’re forced to do so. That seems to be the big difference. Some people see the debt wall coming in the distance and change direction, others don’t stop until they hit it.
    Alex recently posted..5 Life Lessons from Han SoloMy Profile

  34. The biggest lesson I learned was to stop using credit if I wanted to get out of credit card debt. Eventually I mastered the credit card system and now I get paid (redeeming points) for using credit cards. But, like you said the first step is stop using them and do everything you can to pay them down.
    The Phroogal Jason recently posted..Credit Unions: 5 things everyone should know about credit unionsMy Profile

    • I had to stop using credit as well, but as you, I am now using a credit card to earn rewards (cash back) and then pay off my bill every month. I don’t want to be afraid of credit anymore.

  35. It’s true, no matter which method you use, probably the biggest component to being successful is staying as consistent as possible. Doing the right things to save money and build income even when you don’t feel like it. I stopped using credit altogether for a while to get myself into better habits, and then began using my CC again, but with a much better set of habits, I don’t consider it free money and I pay it off at the end of each month, so I never pay interest. Paying down large amounts of debt — or any debt for that matter — is all about good financial habits and psychology, as well as math.
    Kayla recently posted..8 Things You Can Do This Week to Come Up With Extra MoneyMy Profile

  36. I think the biggest step is creating a budget and sticking to it. If you do this one key step, all of the others will come.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted..Lessons From My First JobMy Profile

    • That is true. You have to know where your money is going. I would say that first admitting that you have a problem is the first step, then the budget.

  37. Congrats on that much pay off! I have a little over $40,000 in student loans I am working hard to pay off. Was your credit card debt the normal high interest or did you try to save by doing balance transfers? If you were able to pay that much money off with over 10% of interest, that’s even a bigger accomplishment! Here I am complaining about 6.55%…

    • Thank you and good luck to you Tara. My credit card interest was on average of 17%. I worked to pay off the majority of that and then was able to score some great 0% balance transfer offers and paid off the rest that way. No matter what, I still had to pay off at least $50,000.

  38. This is one of the best articles explaining the topic of credit cards and debths! Sure needs and wants are different things, but it’s very very difficult to make change between. You give very good and wise advice with stop spending on useless things ot things that you think you really need. My family had fallen in a big debth and credits cards were those who helped the debth to grow. In the beginning it was very difficult to cut and tight our budget and to stop spend money on things we want, but don;t need. But this is a precious advice!

  39. I think your story is really inspirational. It gives me hope that we (the hubby and myself) can eventually be debt free. I agree with thinking out of the box when it comes to making extra money to pay down debt. I’m currently considering various options which might help to increase our debt repayments. Fingers crossed I can find something that works!

    • Thank you and I am glad that my story is inspirational. That is the purpose of this blog. I want to show people that getting out of debt is very possible, buy sometimes you have to think a little differently. Good luck to you and your husband on your debt free journey.

  40. Thank you for your blog post. Great information! I especially liked when you referred to the debt payment options as Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche. Brilliant! After I post, I am going over and read that blog too. I also appreciate that you recommended finding ways to MAKE more money. We too, are in the Debt Relief and Credit Counseling business and always looking for inspiration to present our material. Like you, we want to help consumers become and stay debt free.

    Do you ever visit the website Moz? We are not affiliated with them but were inspired by a blog post from Aleyda Solis about creating “superhero slides” and our team put in over 36 hours to complete ours. This is truly the biggest project we have ever done. The project includes the slides at slideshare, a blog post to compliment that and a press release will also be published in the next week.

    Grayson, would you be willing to give us some feedback on the project from your experience writing and marketing Debt Relief and Consumer Crediting Services? Alternatively, if you have questions about how we created the slides, we would be happy to help. My team members that participated on this project will be involved with answering questions on our blog.

    Thanks in advance for your comments, suggestions, feedback, or even just checking it out.
    blog – http://nomorecreditcards.com/how-to-pay-off-credit-card-debt-fast/
    slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/gfsdebtrelief/how-to-pay-off-credit-card-debt-fast-25183820

    Regards,
    Karla Twomey
    Karla Twomey recently posted..How to Pay off Credit Card Debt Fast!My Profile

    • Nice work on the slides Karla. I do think it is a great way to illustrate problems. I mean, who doesn’t love lego men? I am glad you like the post and I hope it inspires many more to get out of debt.

  41. Hi,

    Great post. I am amazed you managed to pay off that much. 50,000 is a lot! I’m all stressed out about 10k in student loans :P.

    I find though that choosing where and how to invest is really important in paying off debt. For example if I pay off debt it matters what kind(s) of debt I pay off.

    My student loans have an interest rate around 3.5% so if I can make more than 4% on an investment it doesn’t make sense for me to pay my debt all the way down yet due to opportunity cost.
    Stu Dent recently posted..How to Make a Budget and Stick with ItMy Profile

    • Thank you Stu Dent, nice word play there! I am glad you enjoyed the post. I invested while I was paying off my debt because it was important to me to run both sides of the table. Yes, I could have just done one or the other, but that wouldn’t have gotten me where I am today. I agree with your remark about opportunity cost. Many people don’t look at it that way. I think it is smart and can lead to many things down the road. Good luck to you!

  42. Very encouraging, but not in my mind the most effective way to pay the bills. In the long run, it is great that you were able to pay it off. Keep up the good work!
    David recently posted..Is Global Warming truly happening?My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge