How They Ditched Debt

These people defeated debt on their own terms. Read their stories to help inspire your own payoff process.

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Trimming Small Expenses Achieved a Big Goal

Refinancing students loans was the beginning of the payoff journey for Neal and Laura Fogarty. Then they went on the hunt for expenses to trim so they could put every extra dollar toward ditching debt, clearing $36,600 in eight years.


Rebounding From Bankruptcy

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Rashad and Nirvanna Muhammad carried student debt and financial struggles as they married and built a family. After experiencing a bankruptcy, they narrowed their focus and made the sacrifices necessary to pay off $179,000 in just under four years. Read more


Keeping a ‘Passion for Fashion’ on the Road to Repayment

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The promise of a new start to her life — with a house and family — prompted Caitlin Forni to get more serious about paying down her debt. She paid off $123,000 in student and car loans in nine years. 


A Spender, a Saver and Dreams of a Family

When Kendall Berry and her husband started planning for kids, they got serious about paying off their debt. Here's how they ditched nearly $54,000 in less than a year.


‘Happiness Journey’ Fueled Payoff

How I Ditched Debt: ‘Happiness Journey’ Fueled Payoff

(Photo by Abby Bengs)

After taking on over $200,000 in debt from student loans for law school, Okeoma Moronu decided to take a purposeful approach to her life and finances and wiped out her debt in six and a half years. Read more


From ‘Extravagantly Broke’ to Comfortably Frugal

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DeShena Woodard, a nurse from Texas, had nothing in savings and lived paycheck to paycheck until she changed her habits and paid off more than $50,000 in almost three years.


Little Splurges on the Path to Freedom

Brian and Lindsey Baldwin wiped out $130,000 in student loans in just under four years — and still managed some treats for the family along the way. 


Small Wins Help Achieve a Big Dream

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Bernadette Joy and AJ Maulion paid off student debt and two mortgages, a whopping total of $309,800, while building a small business. The recipe: Live on one salary, celebrate small wins.


Whipping Up a Payoff 'Tornado'

Steven Donovan and his dog, Angel.

When Steven Donovan didn't want to plug his debt numbers into a budget app, he knew he had to act. Attacking his most-hated debt helped him pay off $118,000 in five years.


'I Just Pretended I Didn't Have Money'

Sarah McGowan

Sarah McGowan's goal: Be out of student debt by the time she turned 25. By maintaining a frugal lifestyle right out of college and working every chance she got, McGowan got rid of a little over $36,000 in debt in just under two years.


'It Made Our Marriage So Strong'

(Photo by Amelia Campbell Photography)

Ray and Bailey Robertson paid off over $33,000 in 18 months thanks to an aggressive strategy, lean lifestyle, tight partnership and plenty of planning. Read more


Redefining 'Best Life,' Scaling Back

Sonia Sears

Sonia Sears ended up deep in the red while pursuing her “best life” in college and beyond. But she conquered her mountain of debt by working more, traveling less and moving back home. She paid off $79,000 in just over two years.


Kicking Frugality Into High Gear

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Ben and Melissa Panter were always frugal, but when they faced a large mortgage and growing student loan balances, they knew they had to kick frugality into high gear. The Panters paid off $127,000 in nearly four years.


Side Jobs, Meal Planning and Faith

Jenna and Jamie Griffin

(Photo by Brok and Amanda Hansmeyer)

As teachers, Jamie and Jenna Griffin were overwhelmed with student loans. They used budgeting and hard work to pay off more than $100,000 in five and a half years. Read more


Making the Most of a Gig Economy

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(Photo by Shane Henderson)

Kara Perez doubled down on part-time jobs to pay off student loans worth $25,302 in three and a half years. Read more


Holiday Bills Break a Couple’s Budget

Anthony and Jhanilka Hartzog

Christmas gifts piled on top of existing debt persuaded Anthony Hartzog and his wife to act and pay off $114,151 in 23 months. Read more


Thrifty Living and Side Gigs

Through careful budgeting, working full-time and supplementing her income, Tanya Nwamkpa paid off $57,000 in five years. Read more


'We Have Choices Again'

Their finances started to skid with a job loss in 2009. Despite mistakes along the way, Adam and Sally Cleary climbed out of more than $11,000 in high-interest debt. Read more


Conquering College Credit Card Balances

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Natalie Tomko aimed to pay off $50,000 in credit card debt by her 30th birthday. It took six years, a hardship plan and community support to do it.


Changing Habits, Budgeting for a Baby

How I Ditched Debt: Changing Habits, Budgeting for a Baby

After they discovered a baby was on the way, the Baggerlys overhauled their carefree spending and started budgeting, and two kids later, paid off $111,108. Read more


Smart Solutions for ‘Stupidest Decision’

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Cameron Merriman paid off $95,000 in student loan debt in five years while living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Read more


‘It Became Like a Game to Us’

How I Ditched Debt: 'It Became Like a Game to Us'

Josh and Jessie Boyce paid off $147,000 in debt in a little more than three years, after realizing debt was holding them back from financial freedom. Read more


An Olympian’s Medal-Worthy Juggling Act

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John Coyle's $147,000 debt helped fund his Olympics run, and upon landing a six-figure gig, Coyle paid it off over 15 years. 


Tenacious Focus on the Goal

New college graduate Samantha Ealy paid off more than $70,000 in a little under three years — working multiple jobs and at times even neglecting her health. 


Becoming a Budget Obsessive

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A combination of student loans, a car loan, credit card debts and home improvement financing left the Browns $72,000 in debt, forcing them to create a budget. 


Engineer Goes Old-School With Pen and Paper

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Despite receiving scholarships, Brianna Harrington graduated college with $40,000 in student loan debt. Determined to eliminate it, she created a strict budget to pay it off in 26 months. Read more


Setting Pride Aside and Asking for Help

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Jesse Nuno was laid off during the financial crisis and fell behind on a mortgage and auto loans. Cara couldn't pay her bills on disability. The couple turned to a credit counselor to pay off $272, 261 in five years. 


A Wish List Kept Her Going

How I Ditched Debt Melanie Lockert Dear Debt

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Melanie Lockert resolved to wipe out $57,426 in debt and motivated herself by making wish lists of things she’d be able to do once debt-free. Read more


‘Born Spender’ Goes on a Spending Fast

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Anna Newell Jones entered married life nearly $24,000 in debt. She forced herself to go on a spending fast and paid it all off in 15 months. Read more


New Parents Quit Credit Cards

How I Ditched Debt: New Parents Quit Credit Cards

Lydia Senn and her husband pretended they weren't deep in debt until they were expecting their first child. Living frugally, working side jobs and budgeting helped them pay off $36,000 in just over two years. Read more


Grad Gives Gift to Her Future Self

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Ogechi Igbokwe didn't want to be another student loan statistic. To set herself up for success, she lived frugally and paid off $26,000 in three years.


Financial Goals Are Family Goals

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Newlyweds Nicole and Andy Hill saw debt as a roadblock to achieving goals. The couple made budgeting into a routine and wiped out nearly $50,000 in debt in a single year.


No Sleep for New Parents Until Payoff

Chelsea and Nate Day ended up owing her family $52,000 after a bungled homebuying experience. The family debt made the Days uneasy, so they slashed expenses to pay it off in six months. 


Homemade Tracker Kept Her Cooking

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Chef and food writer Stephanie Stiavetti racked up debt to pursue her culinary dream. But she knew that if she didn’t adjust her lifestyle, she’d be saddled with $64,000 in debt for decades. 


Newly Single, ‘I Knew I Had to Help Myself’

How I Ditched Debt: Newly Single, 'I Knew I Had to Help Myself'

At age 25, Carrie Smith Nicholson found herself divorced and $14,000 in debt. She realized she had to get an extra job, cut back on spending and dig herself out of the hole. 


Getting an Education in Student Loans

How I Ditched Debt Kara Stevens

After college, Kara Stevens found herself with student loans and credit card debt. Once she educated herself on debt, Stevens decided to tackle it head-on, paying off $65,000 in six years. 


Extra Payments Became Her Obsession

After Jackie Beck lost her job and struggled to pay for food and housing, she was forced to face her debts. Beck became obsessed with small payments and paid off $147,106 in 10 years. 


Making Sense of Cents

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

By age 23, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner had earned three college degrees, gotten married and bought a house. She graduated with $38,000 in student debt and decided she would pay it off as fast as she could.


Money Under 30

How I Ditched Debt: Money Under 30

David Weliver didn't tackle his $80,000 debt until he faced a painful choice: pay rent or a credit card bill. He consolidated debts, reduced his cost of living and worked a second job to pay it off in three years. 


Lauren Greutman

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Lauren, a spender, was ashamed to let her husband, Mark, a saver, know how badly she’d managed their family finances. Once she owned up and changed her spending habits, they paid off $40,000 in two years. 


Money Peach

How I Ditched Debt: Money Peach

Chris Peach and his wife Andrea hit rock-bottom when they maxed out their credit cards and couldn’t pay for groceries. Peach, a firefighter by training, applied a step-by-step approach to pay off $52,000 in seven months. 


Debt Discipline

How I Ditched Debt: The Brandow Family

Brian Brandow had his debt epiphany when the father of three had to tell his family there’d be no vacation that year. The Brandows had maxed out their credit cards. They used a debt management plan to pay off $109,000 in four years. 


Cait Flanders

In her early 20s, Flanders racked up debt totaling nearly $30,000 by saying "yes" to everything. By monitoring expenses and cutting down on unnecessary purchases, she paid it off in two years. Read more


Active Budgeting Pays Off

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As newlyweds and recent graduates with $20,000 in debt, Johnny and Joanna Galbraith were determined to create an attack plan and get out of the red. They paid it off in 1.5 years. 


My Shiny Nickels

How I Ditched Debt: My Shiny Nickels

Laura Dobbins and her family lived in an upscale home with all the trappings of wealth, but they were nearly $40,000 in debt. They downsized their lifestyle and began saving, and in less than two years, they were debt-free. 


Smart Spending, Dedication

How I Ditched Student Debt: Smart Spending and Dedication

Zina Kumok graduated college with $24,000 in student loan debt. But since she was making $28,000 a year, she knew she had to get serious about her debt. She paid it off in three years. Read more


The Family CEO

How I Ditched Debt: The Family CEO

Julie Mayfield and her husband confronted 18 years’ worth of debt — totaling $59,000 — to help finance their daughter’s first year of college. They put any extra money they had toward debt and paid it off in 22 months. 


'Monster Payments'

NerdWallet's 'How I Ditched Student Debt' series — Amanda Page

Amanda Page graduated with $48,500 in student loan debt. Ten years later, after realizing she’d paid off less than $1,000 of her total balance, she took on extra work and used a strategy of making "monster payments" to pay it off in 14 months. 


Penny Pinchin' Mom

Before marriage, Tracie Fobes declared bankruptcy to get rid of debt. But by the time she and her husband had their first child, they’d accumulated $37,000 more. Open conversations about money led them to pay it off in just over two years.


Queen of Free

Cherie Lowe and her husband, Brian, had more than $127,000 in debt spread across payday loans, medical bills and student loans. The birth of their second child prompted a lifestyle change, and they were debt-free in four years. 


The Budgetnista

(Photo by Tinnetta Bell.)

Tiffany Aliche was saddled with $55,000 in graduate student loans, $40,000 in credit card debt and $200,000 from a defaulted mortgage. She moved back home and switched to an all-cash lifestyle to pay it off. Read more


Well Kept Wallet

Deacon Hayes and his wife Kim used debt as a way to fund their lifestyle. When they were $52,000 in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, they knew they had to take action. The Hayes paid it off in 18 months. Read more


His and Her Money

How I Ditched Debt: His and Her Money

As newlyweds, Talaat and Tai McNeely had opposite money habits and around $30,000 of debt. They lived on one income and used the other to pay off their debts within a year. Read more


Debt Free Guys

John Schneider and David Auten had years of experience in financial services — but they still managed to accumulate $51,000 in credit card debt. They cut down on spending, used a balance transfer and paid it off in 18 months.