Yesterday was a momentous occasion, a freaking scream-from-the-rooftops miracle: after working toward it for years, I made the final payment on my student loans, and became 100% debt-free.

I still don’t quite believe it myself.

My debt was made up of common damages: credit cards, a car loan, and everyone’s favorite, student loans. I was 17-years old when I decided to go to a private university, therefore sealing my fate as an indentured servant from graduation on. Borrowing money for school led me to feel justified in borrowing money for other things (“What’s another thousand? At this point, it’s just a drop in the bucket”).

Thus, my entire adult life has been spent owing.

Just about two years ago, my 21-year old Honda Accord rolled to a final stop on the side of the highway just outside of Kansas City. I had no money in savings, and could only laugh when the salvage lot paid me $251 for parts. I had a $2,000 credit card balance, $17,000 remaining on my student loans, and found myself borrowing $8,500 to buy a used car. All of a sudden, after 6+ years of paying the minimum monthly amount on my student loans, I was basically back to owing the original sum I did in the beginning. In other words, in 6+ years, I had made no progress.

Maybe it’s tacky to give dollar amounts. Maybe you read those numbers and think, “Wow, that is a TON of money” – or maybe you read them and think, “Come on, Annie – that isn’t so bad.” The point is that the sum was much more than I was comfortable with, more than I was able to fathom settling – and I had no idea how to get myself out of the mess I had gotten myself into.

Around that time, I started listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. I’m sure there are other financial gurus out there with valid get-out-of-debt plans, but Dave is my guy, and I think he gives solid, common sense advice. I loved when people would call in to the radio show to tell Dave they were finally debt-free, and was sometimes moved to tears as they shared their stories. Some of these folks had more debt and a smaller salary than me. Some of them were single women like me. I started to realize that actually, mathematically, I could do it: I could get myself out of debt.

However, when it came to following the Dave Ramsey plan, I had a bit of a slow start. I spent about a year trying to pump myself up, listening to his show and reading his books but only kind of following the steps. I moved in with my mom for 3 months, built up a $1,000 emergency fund, and started the debt snowball. But I continued to overspend each month, making it so I could never quite pay off the credit card – because I NEEDED to fly to Nashville, or I NEEDED to have that dress from Anthropologie, or I NEEEEEEEDED to have whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I could write an entire book on how this “neediness” is nothing short of a disease. It’s a contentment killer, a sabotager of joy, and a dream stealer – because as long as money is owed, certain dreams have to be put on hold.

And this past February, I had finally had enough.

I knew that I had to “stop the bleeding,” and there was only one way how: I drank two glasses of white wine and took scissors the plastic. And when I realized that I had no backup plan – no way to buy something unless I had dollars for it right then – I stopped buying shit that I didn’t need. Simple as that.

That’s when my debt snowball really took off, first paying off the credit card, then my car. When my student loans were the only thing left, I upped the payment from $200 to $300, and a few months later, I said “I’m over it” and bumped it all the way to $1,000. One thousand dollars every single month on a single girl’s not-gigantic salary. This was the most fun, because I watched the digit drop every month, $10,000, $9,000, $8,000, just like the New Years’ countdown.

Speaking of New Years’, my 2013 will contain zero debt.

Again, maybe you think it’s tasteless to talk about money – and who knows, maybe it is. But I’ve become very passionate about being debt free, so I’m throwing caution to the wind and writing about it – because I want other people to know that YOU CAN DO IT. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, and feel like there’s no end in sight, and that you will spend your entire life paying for decisions of the past, I’ve been there – and I’m here to say that THERE IS HOPE.

And the feeling I have today is worth everything that it took.



  1. rachieannie on December 27, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! After dinking around with it for awhile, we’re getting serious in January. Here’s hoping that we can soon join you!

  2. Kaci on December 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    AWESOME!!!! Congratulations. I hope you savor every moment of this new freedom!

  3. Erin on December 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    This is not tacky and is VERY helpful! Thanks for sharing Annie.

  4. Ginger on December 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Go. Fight. WIN!!

  5. Val on December 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    The HIGHEST of high fives!!! So happy happy happy for you!

  6. Kerry on December 27, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Gold stars for you, sweet one! This is amazing!

  7. kim on December 27, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    oh annie. thank you for this.

  8. Kim on December 27, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    merry christmas and happy new year to YOU!
    i love it!! the feeling of being free from owing money is absolutely priceless. dave is such an inspiration and his plan is solid.
    so happy for you!

  9. Hope on December 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    This makes me SO HAPPY!!

    Cheers to freedom!!

  10. Emily from Seattle on December 27, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    There’s absolutely nothing tacky about celebrating your new debt-free status! Congrats. :)

  11. mrs. chesney on December 27, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Congratulations my friend. I hope this doesn’t sound condescending – but I am so proud of you.

    Happy New Year…

  12. bethany on December 27, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    So cool, Annie. I don’t think it’s tasteless to wave the flag of debt freedom in a society that idolizes stuff and money. Well done!!

  13. Andrea B. on December 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    I hope you’re planning on calling in to Dave’s show and yelling ‘I’m debt FREEEEEEE!!!!!!” I’ll be listening for you!

  14. Sarah on December 27, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    No. Not tasteless – sort of refreshing. I have a lot of debt – mostly accumulated in college – that could be paid off in 10 years, if I make $1000 payments. Yeah, you do the math on that one…

    Still, it’s nice to see people digging themselves out and knowing that it’s a possibility for me as well :).

  15. HopefulLeigh on December 28, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    That is HUGE, Annie! Congratulations! I’ve been working on my student loans and this inspires me to follow through on upping those payments. Woot!

  16. kelsey on December 28, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    WOOHOO! Congrats! That’s a MAJOR accomplishment! I start working for Dave in about a week, so he’s my favorite guru as well. :)

  17. the other Annie's Dad on December 28, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    You Go Girl !!!!!!!!!!
    This is really great news.
    Somewhere in the Bible you can find ” the borrower is a slave to the lender.”
    You are free at last.

  18. Joey on December 31, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I already asked this but when are you calling Dave?

  19. Molly on January 2, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    I don’t think it is tacking at all to talk about money…if we talked more about money problems maybe so many people wouldn’t have them.

    Great work!

  20. Christy on January 8, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    SO mad at myself for just catching up on my blogs today and for having missed this for a week!!!!


    You NEED to talk about this because for every 3 people that may get uncomfortable, there are 3,000 whose lives you may have just changed by your example and inspiration. You owe it to the normal people like you to tell your story to give them HOPE to get there too!

    AGH. Chills and a little teary eyed. Too much? Perfect.

  21. wreckless on January 11, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    the reason i love your blog so much is because of your unapologetic transparency. perfect. inspiring. motivating! bravo, girl.

  22. hootenannie » Blog Archive » Fostering beauty on February 11, 2013 at 7:27 AM

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