Home > Credit Cards > How We Paid Off $30,000 in Credit Card Debt

How We Paid Off $30,000 in Credit Card Debt

credit card debt payoff


November was a truly happy month in our household. After a year and a half  of hard work, we paid off the last of our credit card debt. We learned some new things about ourselves and our needs and wants along the way. It isn’t rocket science, but here’s how we did it.


The reason we ended up with this debt was pure and simple lifestyle inflation. We were doing pretty well until we built our house in 2004. It took most of our savings, and by itself, was not a toxic debt. The mortgage is affordable. We have good equity. You have to live somewhere. What got us was the need for stuff to fill it up. We left a couple of rooms unfinished, but filled the others up with new furniture, curtains, rugs, a new washer. I could go on and on. We also bought tons of lawn equipment, new bikes, and skis, whatever we wanted. Before our daughter was born, we decided to finish the spaces we had left, so that was a big bill on the Home Depot card. All the while, we were trading in cars every three or four years, which insured a continuing car payment. It was fun to get into debt. It’s fun until you turn into an insomniac because of the two ton elephant that is sitting on your chest waiting for his payment at the first of the month.

Turning Point

I was the one who initiated the debt conversation in June 2011. It wasn’t pretty. No one wants to admit there is a problem, but after watching our in-laws lose their house to foreclosure, it makes you re-evaluate your position. After some hard discussions, my husband and I sat down and wrote out all of our debts and their respected interest rates, ranging from 0% to 18.99%. It came to just over $30,000! That is almost a year’s salary for my husband.

Then we got angry. That debt was holding us back from financial independence. I carried a ton of mommy guilt. I wanted to be a better Mom and role model for our daughter. That’s hard to do when she is in day care all the time while I work to pay for this crap that we just didn’t need.

We started by paying off the lowest balance, which also had the highest interest rate. Every payoff was like a victory against the elephant. We sold tons of stuff that we had accumulated over the years. My husband joined as many paying committees at work as he could. I took on a contract job that had me working more in the short term, but it was for the goal of being debt free. We looked at every option, including selling our house, but we love it, and decided it was best to stay put.  When we got half the debt paid off, we transferred the remaining $15,000 to a 0% interest card.

At this point, we ventured from the gazelle strategy. You may not agree, but it’s easy to burn out. We took a vacation using reward points, which could have been applied toward the debt, but we needed that break. After much soul searching, I decided I didn’t want to own my practice anymore.  I made plans to sell. Due to my extra job, we also were able to purchase a rental property, very cheaply with 25% down, to create some passive income. We had until August 2013 to pay off the rest of the credit card debt, but when I got a big paycheck last month, we decided to go ahead and kill that elephant.

What Being Free of Credit Card Debt Means

We learned many things on our journey out of credit card debt.

  • We never again want to take on debt that doesn’t produce income for us.
  • We have learned to let our values dictate what purchases we make. We love travel, the outdoors,  and family time. Things that don’t directly contribute to those things aren’t that important (and yes, my husband feels ESPN and the History Channel contribute to our family happiness). 
  • We now have a budget and evaluate all spending in case any elephants try to join the circus again. 
  • Paying off debt feels darn good. We’ve decided to keep on this path for our remaining debts. The student loans should be gone with the down payment from the sale of my practice, and then we will start aggressively paying off our rental and home mortgages. After that, we will be light as air with no debt and tons of possibilities.  
Anyone, regardless of income, can get into debt. It’s much harder to look at the behaviors that caused the problem and make positive changes. Our journey from credit card debt has empowered us in many ways. We now look forward to a wonderful future instead of dreading the first of the month.
Disclaimer: No actual elephants were harmed during this journey. I actually enjoy real elephants in controlled environments. If you can’t get enough, go read my guest post today at The Debt Myth.  What is your greatest debt payoff?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. What an inspiring post and so well written! Great story Kim – you guys should be proud of yourselves. PS I am behind you on the vacation mid-way!! 😀

  2. Almost exactly 1 year ago we extended our HELOC out to $38K in order to buy an empty lot. We spent the first 6 months building up our cash cushion, and since June have been paying it down like mad. Its balance is now at $8K and we are hoping to have it fully paid off in January.

    Even though it’s not consumer debt in the traditional sense, it was still a weight on my shoulders to see the minimum interest payment of ~ $190 go out the door each month at first without decreasing the principal at all. I will be so glad when it’s gone. =)

  3. Great post, Kim. I love hearing stories of people paying down large credit card balances, because to me having $30k in credit card debt sounds like it would end in bankruptcy more often than not. So happy for you guys getting rid of that debt and I hope it inspires others!

    • Interesting point DC. I’m curious what the average credit card debt is for someone declaring bankruptcy.

    • The difference between us and my inlaws, who lost their house, was our ability to earn a higher income. If one of our jobs, especially mine, had disappeared, it could have been a different story.

  4. It is good that you were able to communicate about the problem and work together in resolving it. So many times I see couples having different ideas on how they should spend money, I often wonder how long these couples will stay together considering the extra amount of stress it must place on the relationship.

    The other thing to remember is to remain firm in keeping up those saving habits even when the debt is gone. Otherwise you will find that lifestyle inflation will return.

    • There is no way we will go back. We both check each other and debate over purchases instead of just buying. That type of debt creates unbelievable strain in a relationship, and I can see how money issues lead to divorce in many cases. If this had been 5 years ago, I don’t know that we would have been ready to change, but it was finally time.

  5. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom

    I totally support a vacation half way through your debt pay off. Financial discipline like that is hard work. You need a little breather now and again, or you’ll burn out, fall off the wagon, and start buying on credit again. Way to go, killing that debt was something to be thankful for I’m sure.

  6. Great story Kim and congrats on paying off your debt! I had roughly $20-25K in credit card debt and am so glad to be out from under it now. I agree that the harder part is to look at the behaviors that caused it. For me, it was being unhappy with what I had and using cards as a way to provide the things I wanted.

  7. Totally in agreement with Mandy about the break. You can only go hard and fast for so long without it affecting you negatively. Everyone needs to take a breather now and again to refresh and refocus. The important thing is that you found what works for you and are on your way to reaching your desired goals.

  8. The realization had to be the toughest part and that’s always the turning point, when you accept it 100% as a problem. If you don’t, you end up justifying it or not really fixing the problem. Sounds like you had your 100% moment and it really paid off. Good work.

    • It was a problem, and it took lots of teamwork to stop it and fix it. One person can’t do it. If you aren’t both on board, it doesn’t work.

  9. What a great story! You guys have made really quick work of turning your finances around – congratulations! I love that you emphasize spending in line with your values and generating passive income.

  10. Good job, Kim! You did awesome! Isn’t it a freeing feeling now that you paid it all off?

  11. Woohoo! Awesome story! It certainly is easy to get into debt and you can accumulate it a lot more quickly than you can pay it off. I’m with you on the gazelle intensity: I was only able to make it about 1 1/2 years on a bare-bones budget before I burnt out. I then (quickly) adjusted my budget to have a more balanced life.

    • It’s like going on a strict diet. You are much more at risk of having a relapse and eating a giant bag of chips or something. Moderation is important sometimes.

  12. This is a great story Kim. I know exactly how it feels to initiate the “debt” talk, but once you take the bull by the horns you can actually start dealing with it. Congrats on getting out from under the credit card debt!

  13. That is a lot of hard work. Congratulations on paying it all off and buying a rental property at the same time.

  14. Congrats on the debt pay-off! We are still trying to pay off our consumer debt; your story inspires me to work that much harder to get rid of it!

  15. Congratulations! That is one hell of an elephant! I don’t repay my debt because I am taking the risky path and choosing to invest, my biggest payoff is about $5K last summer, that I wish I’d kept to pay the works on my new house! I never bought anything on credit that is depreciating but I imagine it hurts to pay it back, like a wrecked car that you still have payments on.

  16. That’s fantastic! Are you enjoying having the freed up money this month? Congratulations!!

  17. Congratulations! Lessons learned through experience are invaluable.

  18. That’s so great, Kim — congratulations!

  19. So happy for you. Congratulations on getting out of the hole !!! I’m sure it feels amazing.

  20. That’s great Kim. I’m so glad that you were able to get rid of your debt. Sometimes you do need a momentary break from paying off debt at full force. I’m not saying stop fully and go back to your original lifestyle, but a vacation at the halfway point I see it as being okay.Keep on your path.

  21. Congrats KIM, that’s great news! Funny how we can look back after making all the right moves and wonder why we got ourselves into that mess in the first place. Like you said it’s behaviours and no matter how much money you make debt can pull you down. Cheers mate!

  22. Congrats. The scary thing about debt is all that money is going towards paying it and you are left with very little breathing room if something else comes up.

  23. Thanks for sharing that experience.

    I like the fact that you took the vacation. I too am a believer in rewarding yourself after accomplishing a big milestone.

  24. That’s fantastic – and I like the part about “it’s fun getting into debt”. It’s like gaining weight – so much more fun than losing it, and easier too!

  25. Great story, congrats to you and your husband. I remember that amazing feeling of paying off our last amount of debt, a very euphoric felling. I totally agree when you say you now have possibilities, that is a great way explaining it. Living with debt limits your possibilities in so many MAJOR ways.

  26. I l.o.v.e.d. getting my student loans paid off. For some reason, having that college debt completely off my back was a huge win.

  27. That’s awesome! My biggest debt payoff was about $10k in consumer credit card debt that I had accumulated shortly after starting college. Felt great when it was gone. 😉

  28. Wow, you guys really went to the far reaches of debt hell and back. But unlike how some people would just simply whine about it, you guys picked yourselves up from the depths and made a come back. I bet the rental property endeavors will have you guys making more side income than you can imagine before you know it!

  29. Congrats Kim!
    You did an amazing job. I repaid back $10k in debt, and I thought that was accomplishment. Never the less, I know the feeling!!

  30. Congratulations! Paying off credit card certainly feels good. But I’m with you about using reward points to reward yourself. We still use cards but pay them off every month, and I LOVE using rewards for plane tickets or even getting something we need for free from Amazon.

  31. Wow, what an awesome accomplishment Kim! At the beginning of this year I too paid off all my debt and am now living debt-free. I had to sacrifice a lot in the short term and work a ton, but now it’s totally worth it. I’m glad you and your husband had “the money talk” and are now on your way to financial freedom. Such an inspiring story!

    • I read your story from Ben’s ebook that he is putting together. I’m not totally debt free, but at least no more consumer debt!

      • I know this is an old post, but I like that you talked about your higher earning capacity adding to your ability to tackle the debt. I’m considering taking on a higher paying job (probably more stress) to reduce the debt faster. I’m nervous about it but know that simply cutting out cable, etc won’t do the trick.

        • Thanks for commenting. Yes, I agree that when you have a ton of debt, cutting things doesn’t always get that far, and there is only so much you can cut. However, making more money is an infinite possibility. If you can sacrifice some of your time and sanity in the short term to pay off the debt, it will pay off many times over down the road. I think the key is to give yourself small rewards at every milestone so you don’t get burned out. Best of luck!

  32. Wow that is awesome on the debt repayment. We have about 12k left in CC debt that we are trying to pay off by april. We like you took most of our debt around and preparing for baby 1.

    Great story!

  33. Holy moly CONGRATS! I’m with you on the vacation half way through, too. You need to keep your sanity, and I love how you point out that it’s okay to spend on the things that contribute to the family’s happiness.

  34. Congratulations! This is inspiring and a monument to what can be done if we just set our heart and mind to it. I commend you on this accomplishment, and it’s great to feel lighthearted after being debt free. The lessons we learn are priceless.

  35. Nice,
    Well explained and very useful article.
    This will help me a lot in my business life.

  36. Congrats on the debt payoff! May I ask more about the psychology of getting into consumer debt?

    Why do you think folks can’t just wait until they have the money to buy things? Do you think everything is rational, in the sense that we spend money we don’t have b/c we don’t mind working harder for longer?



    • The psychology should be a whole post in itself, but I think for my husband and I, we thought we deserved to have things and we let society influence us. He made some very bad financial decisions in his early 20’s that took years to overcome and his parents always spent money like it was the end of the world. When he was able to have credit, I think it was so exciting to buy things, it all kind of got out of control. For myself, I was raised with very strict parents in a very rural town. I’ve never quite fit because I wanted out and didn’t buy into the Southern belle mentality where girls were supposed to look pretty and dumb it down for their husbands. I have always sought my mother’s approval and have never quite gotten it. I think that my having things was partly to impress her in some sad sort of attempt at gaining acceptance. Ultimately, you can’t blame your parents. We did it to ourselves and thankfully there are people out there, like yourself, who have shown me a different path is possible.

      I don’t think people look much past tomorrow when purchasing things they can’t afford. Society expects us to work until we are old, so why not have things now since we’ll be too senile to enjoy them when we retire?

  37. Great post, I like the fact that you shared with us how you got out of debt, you can answer if you want no worries, during your journey to be debt free you added a new mortgage. Do you feel like you paid off a big chunck of debt but then added more in the process? Or was it worth it to buy the rental eventhough you added more than 30K of debt, I’m assuming.

  38. Credit cards can be a double edged sword and must be managed wisely. Earning points from making credit card purchases is great. However, the world’s biggest shopping community is offering you CASHBACK with every purchase, either online, at your local shops, with vouchers or with mobile shopping using your smartphone. Earn discounts AND cashback. To get your very own cashback card go to http://getmycashbackcard.com/ and join TODAY!

  39. Wow, amazing story and validated by 120 comments!

    It’s so hard to form good habits with money and debt. Unfortunately, most (myself included) have to learn the hard way how important it is to watch your finances. I like the ‘gazelle’ strategy but agree that you have to slow down occasionally and have a little fun. Many get burnt out too fast, before they form good habits.

    Inspiring story.

  40. I think you’ll be the envy of many – inspiring post, and well done.

  41. And to think I’m sweating the $2000 of credit card debt I have currently… This actually makes me feel a little bit better because, hey, it could be $30000!

    This post is obviously a bit old by now, but hey, congrats on tackling the debt monster 🙂

  1. Pingback: Is there Ever a Reason to Blow Your Christmas Budget? | Eyes on the Dollar

  2. Pingback: LinkLuv Friday Missing Persons Edition

  3. Pingback: MPB - Pool Room Posts #8 - MPB Personal Finance

  4. Pingback: Average Joe’s Friday Sing Along - The Free Financial Advisor

  5. Pingback: Weekly Personal Finance Blog RoundUp – 12/14/2012 | Here Comes Santa Clause Edition

  6. Pingback: Finance Fox Weekend Recap – 2 Year Blogiversary Giveaway Continues!! - Finance Fox

  7. Pingback: Link Love: TGIF Edition! « the random path

  8. Pingback: Personal Finance Week in Review #42 — WorkSaveLive

  9. Pingback: Mid December 2012 Favorite Blog Posts | Modest Money

  10. Pingback: Weekly Update 43 | Evolving Personal Finance

  11. Pingback: How we paid off $30,000 in credit card debt | Eyes on the Dollar | My Simple Info

  12. Pingback: My Best Financial Tip: Stop Being Afraid | Eyes on the Dollar

  13. Pingback: Paycheck to Paycheck is No Way to Live | Eyes on the Dollar

  14. Pingback: Debt Movement: Get Rid of Debt Payments Once and For All | Eyes on the Dollar

  15. Pingback: Improve Your Attitude: Turn Negatives into Positives | Eyes on the Dollar

  16. Pingback: Financial Plans to Make Before Marriage

  17. Pingback: How One Family Recently Paid Off $30,000 in Credit Card Debt

  18. Pingback: Using Coupons to Save Money-$500 Giveaway | Eyes on the Dollar

  19. Pingback: Game on, please vote! - Reach Financial Independence

  20. Pingback: Free Money Finance March Money Madness, Round 1, Posts 5-8 | All information about Money!

  21. Pingback: Free Money Finance March Madness, Please Vote! | Eyes on the Dollar

  22. Pingback: My Lack of Attention Cost Me Money in Fees! | Eyes on the Dollar

  23. Pingback: Credit Cards Are Giving Me a Free Vacation | Eyes on the Dollar

  24. Pingback: Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property | WorkSaveLive

  25. Pingback: The Line Between Making Money and Being a Sell Out | Eyes on the Dollar

  26. Pingback: 6 Money Tips for College Graduates | Eyes on the Dollar

  27. Pingback: Should You Transfer Debt to a Low Interest Credit Card? | Eyes on the Dollar

  28. Pingback: Why I Care about Financial Literacy | Eyes on the Dollar

  29. Pingback: You're Credit Cards Are Paid Off, Now How Do You Stay Out of Debt? | Eyes on the Dollar

  30. Pingback: Help Me Spend $1100 | Eyes on the Dollar

  31. Pingback: One Year of Blogging and $100 Giveaway | Eyes on the Dollar

  32. Pingback: Motivation: 4 Reasons Why I Know You CAN Pay off Your Debt - The Frugal Farmer

  33. Pingback: How we paid off $30,000 in credit card debt | Eyes on the Dollar | Supreme Credit Cards

  34. Pingback: Can You Be Happy If You Have Credit Card Debt? | Eyes on the Dollar

  35. Pingback: [Infographic] Not All Debt Programs are Created Equal: How Debt Settlement ... - The Edwardsville Intelligencer | Kredi karti Finances

  36. Pingback: First Ever Net Worth Report | Eyes on the Dollar

  37. Pingback: The Emergency Fund Has Taken a Hit | Eyes on the Dollar

  38. Pingback: One Year After Paying Off Credit Card Debt | Eyes on the Dollar

  39. Pingback: Fun Things You Get To Do After Paying Off Credit Card Debt

  40. Pingback: The Budget Holds Up in April: Review - Life And My Finances

  41. Pingback: 6 Year Loan For a Honda Civic! | Eyes on the Dollar

  42. Pingback: The Best $20 I Ever Spent | Eyes on the Dollar

  43. Pingback: You will Retire One Day You might As Well Start Saving Now

  44. Pingback: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Are You Eligible? | Eyes on the Dollar

  45. Pingback: Thoughts on Two Years of Blogging | Eyes on the Dollar

  46. Pingback: Buy Credit Card Debt Pennies Dollar | Our Best Credit Cards

  47. Pingback: 21 Motivational Stories About Getting Out of Debt

Leave a Reply

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


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.