How I Paid Over $120,000 in Debt in 52 Months

Sour Cream Coffee CakeGetting out of debt is a lot like baking a cake. Mix in the right ingredients, in the right proportions, and pop it in the oven. Then the waiting begins. You can smell it baking, the sweet aromas of vanilla, butter, eggs, and flour. You can see it baking as the once gooey batter transforms into a golden dome of goodness. Then you carefully bring it out of the warm oven to a cooling rack … and you wait some more as your taste buds scream for cake!

No matter how you slice it though, TIME is one of the most important aspects of baking. Time is a key component when it comes to getting out of debt, provided you’ve mixed the right ingredients. And once you’re on the right path, you can almost taste the freedom!

I shudder to think about how much debt I had acquired. But, in just 52 short months my wife and I have paid off:

  • $35,000 in credit cards
  • $5,500 on my truck (sold it)
  • $25,000 on my wife’s minivan
  • $12,000 on another car (sold it)
  • $15,000 in medical bills
  • $6,000 on my daughter’s braces
  • $2,700 to Lowe’s
  • $20,000 in student loans

Today, I still owe $15,000 on my remaining student loan and quite a bit more on my mortgage, but that student loan is squarely in my sights!

The lesson? Patience, and doing the right things over and over again pay off. But it will take some time.

Here are the ingredients I mixed into my personal “Debt Reduction” cake:


The basis for almost all baked goods is flour. In a debt reduction cake, flour represents money. In my case, my wife and I threw every available dollar at getting out of debt and we consistently found ways to make extra money or save extra money to apply toward our debt. Those ways can be anything from having a yard sale, to clipping coupons, to turning down the thermostat, to freelance writing, to picking up a shift as a substitute teacher. We’ve done all of those.


Eggs bind all the ingredients together and help the cake to rise. In the case of a debt reduction cake, eggs represent your personal motivation for getting out of debt. What motivates you to get rid of the shackles of debt? Fear? Desire for freedom? Payment fatigue? Whatever it is, THAT will be what keeps you going when the AC unit blows up or the transmission won’t shift out of second gear. Always ask yourself, “How will I benefit from getting out of debt?”


The butter in a cake gives it richness and texture. Ever had a crumbly piece of cake? Yuck! Butter in our debt reduction cake is your own personal plan. It’s how you prioritize your debt payoff strategy. Do you need to see those creditors checked off your list quickly or do you have the patience to tackle the highest interest rate accounts first? I went for the smallest balances, then moved on to the larger ones but which ever way you choose to pay off your debt, have a personal plan. One that means something to you.


Ah, sugar. Sugar does more than just sweeten. It’s crystals cut up the butter molecules and allow them to get coated with flour so that the texture is even throughout the cake. When it comes to debt reduction, sugar reminds me of debt snowflaking. It’s actions are small, microscopic even, but when added together, those actions have a huge impact on debt.

Baking Powder

Reacting with the acidic ingredients in a cake batter, baking powder creates tiny bubbles that give the cake lift and help it to rise. Without it, you have a flat, dense cake that isn’t very pleasant to eat. Your attitude throughout the debt reduction process acts the same way. Make sure your attitude is one that lifts the other members of your family and explain to your family how their attitude lifts YOU. If you are working on debt reduction alone, get some “baking powder” from your friends and others who understand what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to let other people give you a morale boost!


Milk give a cake moisture and flavor. Ever had a dried out piece of cake? Double yuck! Did you know you can use different types of milk to bake a cake? Rice milk works, but you’ll need more butter, soy milk browns beautifully but sometimes prematurely, and potato milk will whiten your cake. I think milk represents flexibility. There are times when we’re getting out of debt that we have to alter our plans because of unforeseen events. Don’t be afraid to make changes along the way if your personal situation calls for them.


As a flavor enhancer, salt is the king! Salt represents your tenacity and when you really, truly, finally get mad at your debt – I mean all out MAD – you’ll understand how it will enhance YOUR debt reduction cake!

Vanilla and other flavorings

How many cake recipes are there? A Google search pulls up over TEN MILLION. Each one has a different flavor and each one is the creative result of its baker. Vanilla and her sister flavorings represent your own creativity for getting out of debt. What will you do differently than someone else? Will you go on “rice and beans” for six months or will you get a part time job delivering pizza? Will you finish your degree to help you get a better job and more “flour” (money) or will you figure out a way to get paid what you’re worth at your current job? Will you negotiate a raise or figure out what frugal things you aren’t doing?

So, how did I pay off so much debt?

  1. I finished my degree and that helped me get a better paying job.
  2. I put every spare dollar I made into debt reduction.
  3. I quit racking up additional debt.
  4. I got sick and tired mad at the thought of debt enslaving me.
  5. I wanted to be a better example to my children so they learn from my experience rather than have to learn from their own.

When it all boils down, HOW I’ve paid off so much debt isn’t important. WHY is what’s important.

Now, moving forward, I’m getting prepared to enter the third stage of personal finance.

photo credit: kimberlykv

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