How I Blogged My Way Out of $22,000 of Debt

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blogged out of debtIn the spring of 2011, I was completely maxed out.

There was less than $100 in my checking account, which needed to cover all of my expenses for six weeks, and I had another $100 of wiggle room on my $6,500-limit credit card.

On top of that, I had a $10,000 car loan that I was chipping away at, as well as another loan and $4,500 of student debt. In total, I had managed to rack up more than $28,000 of debt.

The worst part of having that much debt wasn’t the debt itself—it was trying to keep it a secret. My family, who all thought that I was “so good with money,” had no idea that my credit card was maxed out, and that I could barely make the minimum payment. The friends who knew I was making more than $50,000 annually assumed that I was “rich.”

Even when I wanted to talk to someone about my financial situation, the fear of disappointing or being judged by the people in my life always stopped me … so I started a blog.

The Community That Embraced Me—and My Debt

My original idea was to keep the blog—Blonde on a Budget—private, publishing the very boring details of my daily financial transactions for my eyes only. But as I started working on the project, I discovered that there were hundreds of personal finance bloggers all over the world who were writing about their own money situations—from sharing the balances of their bank accounts to offering strategies for paying down debt. No topic was off limits, and everyone in the community could relate.

“Reading personal finance blogs can give [you] a different perspective on how others handle their finances,” says Travis Pizel from Enemy of Debt. “When I started blogging, I had about $95,000 of credit card debt. Sharing ideas—including ways to save money—is a powerful [way] to make getting out of debt a positive experience.”

Much like a support group, the personal finance community accepted me for who I was and the mistakes I had made, and cheered me on to the finish line. I didn’t realize it at the time but starting my blog and joining this community was the tool I needed to get myself out of debt.

With each post that I published, I earned a new reader—and a friend. Even though everyone had a different story and varying amounts of debt, we did have one thing in common: the struggle to not spend.

“When I started blogging, I had just over $14,000 of consumer debt,” says Carrie Smith, the blogger behind Careful Cents. “There was a period of time when I wanted to quit blogging, and stop putting so much money toward my debt. But thanks to [the support of] my readers, I was able to keep going—and even met my goal a few weeks sooner than I’d anticipated.”

One of the things that surprised me the most while writing my blog was just how much knowledge readers had. On top of sharing books to read and new blogs to follow, people had a genuine thirst to learn and share everything personal finance-related. Within a few months, I had learned more about how to budget, how to pay down debt and how to save than I ever could have without my readers’ comments, emails and tweets.

With inspiration from other bloggers, I committed to have as many “no spend days” in a week as possible. Those eventually morphed into month-long “no spend challenges,” in which you try to buy nothing but groceries, gas and necessities for 30 days. For a while, I even switched to a cash diet, essentially giving myself an allowance each week!

The Power of the Accountability Factor

Since I started my blog, I’ve been posting weekly spending reports. And while the list of transactions are still only meant for my own budgeting purposes, knowing that a few eyes could read them has stopped me from making a number of impulse purchases. What would my readers think if they saw that I spent $25 on a scented candle? I couldn’t bear the shame, especially if I’d set a monthly goal to not spend money on anything but essentials, like I did in January.

“It’s amazing how fast your habits change when you know that you have to report back [to the world] every month,” says J. Money from Budgets are Sexy. While J. had only a couple thousand dollars of credit card debt when he started blogging, he’d also just bought a house—with no money down and no budget. “I started blogging because I thought it would be fun to share my finances in a real and transparent way,” he says. While his monthly net-worth updates may not be the “sexiest” posts to read, they’re all the motivation that he needs to be on his best financial behavior.

Along with finding a community of people to keep me accountable, writing about my debt repayment journey has taught me how to challenge myself—I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for this virtual support system.

Since June 2011, I have paid off more than $22,000 of my debt, saved a little bit on the side and even reached a positive net worth. And while I’m not 100% debt-free yet, I am on track to be debt-free by June 7—two years from the day that I was maxed out.

Love reading other people’s financial tales? Check out more great LearnVest-exclusive personal stories.

getting out of debtCait Flanders lives in Toronto, Ontario, and is the creator of Blonde on a Budget, which she details her quest to be free of debt.

 

  • rei

    I think this is great! Where did you initially start blogging? I would like to start something like this!

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      Hi Rei! I got a free blog through wordpress.com – hope that helps!

  • Budgetman

    The key to personal financial mgt. is BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET, and sticking to the realistic budget. Oh did I say BUDGET.

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      Couldn’t agree more!

  • Heyitsnay

    Great read! I would love to know if Cait actually made any money from her blog to help pay down her debt. Just curious.

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      I have never monetized my blog (aka no ads, etc.), but I have picked up a little bit of freelance work here and there. Not enough to make any substantial debt repayments though, I’m afraid. But good question!

  • MWyatt

    Cait what a great article please checkout my blog and let me know your thoughts: http://melissawyatt.wordpress.com/

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      Awesome that you’re writing about finances and real estate, MW!

  • Laura

    There’s something super powerful about “standing in your financial truth” as Suze Orman would say. It’s about facing your debt yourself and making others face your debt. It also liberates you from the pressure to spend to impress others (like family and friends). 

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      Feeling the social pressure to spend is a huge issue in western society. It’s not easy to say “no” to people, especially when you want to say “yes” – but doing what’s right for you (and your finances) is really the best answer. Thanks, Laura.

  • Erica

    Cait, how did your family/friends react when they found out? Or do they still not know?

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      I finally told my family and friends in April of last year and everyone has been incredibly supportive. At first, my parents were shocked by the original amount I once owed ($28K) but they were proud of how much I had paid off. Thanks for the question, Erica!

  • Denise

    Nicely done!! I only make about 1/5 of what you do, but have $20k in student loan debt that I’m chiseling away at. Having auto-deducted payments insures that I always make a payment,and curbs my impulse spending. It’s nice to hear a success story to keep me on track.

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      You can do it, Denise! It sounds like you have a plan of action and are making it a priority. Good luck :)

  • JP

    Great article!  Coming to Learn Vest and reading the articles here has really opened my eyes about finances and provided some solid ideas, discussion and real life experiences to share how people have managed the issues.  I imagine the same with a blog where you are talking openly about finances and keeping it in focus.  Otherwise, “out of site, out of mind” where you trick yourself into thinking that if you don’t talk or think about it, that somehow the debt it is not real.  Until you talk about it and make it a focus and priority, you continue have debt building up and no plan to get out of it.  I love seeing people (especially) women become so empowered to take charge of their financial situation.  I recently got divorced and after years have paid off all debt.  How empowering that is to have ZERO debt!!!  My eyes are open now and I agree BUDGET is key!  Good for you, Cait!  Thanks for sharing…

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      It excites me to see that LearnVest has helped you join in on discussions about finances. I don’t think enough people talk about it in a positive way. Thanks for your comment, JP! And congrats on paying off your debt.

  • Teresa

    Just found you, looking forward to watching you cross the finish line. Have $5,000 debt let’s see how I can plan to chip way as you have. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      You can do it, Teresa! Just make it one of your priorities – that’s the only advice I give people. If getting out of debt is important to you, you’ll make it happen.

  • Sooj

    This is INCREDIBLE Cait, absolutely incredible.  

    And I agree that money/finance shouldn’t be such a taboo topic. True, we should be polite and it shouldn’t be a carelessly casual subject, but also being open and honest about finances gives us a realistic idea about how real people live, which frees us from trying to keep up with the Kardashians. And let’s face it: surprising number of celebrities are in debt.

    Keep it up Cait!

    • http://twitter.com/blondeonabudget Cait Flanders

      Good points, Sooj! I also think that if more people were willing to talk about their finances with others, we might learn little tips and tricks from each other, that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Going for coffee and chatting about budgets, etc. with others is seriously one of my favourite things to do… but maybe I’m a dork, lol. It’s also why I come to read stories on LV. :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.thechickvestor.com/ Thechickvestor

    Congratulations Cait!  You are truly a success story.  I’ve started a similar project, but the purpose is more to help friends and create an open and honest dialogue.  I look forward to learning and evolving my work the way you have!

  • Paulie

    Thanks Cait for sharing your experiences. Can’t wait to read your blog. Just signed up.

  • Liz

    Great article! I’ve been working on paying down debt too and have made great progress, thanks to my budget. Curious, though – is it advertising that brought in the money?

  • SF

    I think it’s so important for women especially to have a good network that will not only be supportive and encouraging but also hold them accountable. This article is a perfect example of this. Great work, June 7 will be here in no time!!

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Cait, what a great story!  I too just started blogging about our new journey to debt free, and I have to agree with every point you made.  We’re in month 3 now, and I’m certain I would’ve given up already had it not been for the amazing support of the PF blogging world.  It’s so encouraging for me to read your story and imagine ourselves in your shoes a couple of years from now.  Thanks for sharing, Cait!

  • J. Leonard

    Congrats to you!

  • http://twitter.com/jenine_holmes Jenine

    Great tips, great fun to read…you have great courage!
    Congrats! Best, Jenine

  • ubil123

    I really enjoyed this blog post – it reminds me to stay focused. I have been dealing with debt and a spouse who still doesn’t have the right money mindset yet.

    I have been working hard reading blogs, financial websites and books.

    I went as far as buying my nine year old a book: for children how to become rich successful & do well in school and I bought my daughter the ebook: You are Worth Millions you just don’t know it.

    I even purchased a board game that teaches financial concepts, plus we love to play monopoly all the time (a way of staying home, saving money and learning). But I find that it’s very difficult to try and teach my children how to avoid the many financial pitfalls out there when my partner ‘unknowingly’ or by foolishness works against me.

    I want to thank you for the so many links you provided – I followed and read some that were very informative and enjoyable. I believe I have new online sources of help.

    Keep up the good work. Thank you from Bill.

  • Mike

    I was stuck in debt and had to use a debt settlement company. I found a BBB A+ Rated company, The Debt Corporation http://www.thedebtcorp.com and they helped me out..I was 50+K in debt and they settled for under .35/dollar.. I do love what you wrote though

  • Green Money Stream

    This is great! Very inspiring story – awesome job!

  • debtoutofhere

    Good to see you’re getting that debt busted.

    Don’t forget though that most credit card or personal loan debt isn’t actually debt at all. You created the credit that was then “lent” back to you so you can pay the bank the full “loan” amount plus interest.

    If you know the tricks of the trade you can easily just stop paying credit cards etc and let them default. Once defaulted and a debt collector buys the debt, you’re debt free again. The debt collector paid the debt off for you… legally.

    You just need to know how to communicate with the debt collector, what to ask them to provide and you will never need to pay a cent again.

  • Helene Mearing

    Wow, I loved reading this blog. Thank you. What stands out for me is how you relate your blog to your life story… think this is where I need to focus more…. Helene

    http://helenemearing.com

  • Jonathan Mok

    Good to read your blog!

  • smartpitch

    So many whats to find your way out of debt. The key is to have a strategic financial plan which forces you to allocate your money efficiently and responsibly. Falling into debt can quickly snowball so make sure you readjust your priorities spending and saving money wisely. http://www.frankholder.com/

  • Jenny

    Hi! Great article! I as well am trying to blog my way out of debt. I just started my own debt blog, http://www.skinnydebt.blogspot.com . I feel pretty passionately about getting out of debt so hopefully it works as well for me as it did for you!

  • Ziad K Abdelnour

    The US national debt would only foreseeably be reduced if the entire
    global economic paradigm underwent a tectonic shift due to new
    technology, and it would have to be something along the lines of
    universally cheap energy, energy-matter conversion, interstellar FTL
    travel, or teleportation.
    Ziad K Abdelnour