The Power of Purposeful Thinking: How I Thought My Way Out Of $60,000 In Debt

Colleen Oakley

How We Thought Our Way Out of DebtWe’re giving away two copies of Carrie Rocha’s book Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make. See the bottom of this post to find out how to enter! 

Six years ago, Carrie Rocha and her husband Marco were $60,000 in debt–and steadily accumulating more.

But a vacation to Brazil stopped them in their tracks. “We were reminded that we really want to move there at some point,” says Rocha. “The only problem? Brazil is a cash-based society where people pay in cash for big stuff, like cars and houses. We couldn’t even get to the end of the month without overdrawing.”

From that moment on, the couple decided to get out of debt–and stay out. Three years later, they wrote their last check to a creditor, and Rocha is now a financial expert with a popular blog.

In her new book, “Pocket Your Dollars,” she shares her key to financial freedom, which according to her, actually has very little to do with money.

LearnVest: $60,000 is a lot of debt to pay off in three years! How did you do it? What’s your secret?

Rocha: ”When Marco and I first sat down to track what we were really spending, we were in the red by over $1,000 a month. It was no wonder we were in debt! So we drastically cut expenses in every conceivable area. I cut Marco’s hair. We went on a prepaid cellphone plan for $9 a month.

But above and beyond all of that–and this may sound overly philosophical–the big difference between this time and the dozens of other times that we tried to get out of debt is that we changed the way we thought about money. Every other time that we had attempted to do the right thing (sit down, make a budget and live by it), we couldn’t make it more than a few days before falling off the wagon because we were just trying to cram new behavior on top of faulty thinking.”

In the book, you discuss basic attitudes people have about money that need to be changed in order to have financial freedom. Which one did you and your husband suffer from?

“We had them all, but the one that really affected us the most: If only I had more money. When we tell ourselves, “When I get my next pay raise, I’ll be better off financially” or “When the tax refund comes, then I’ll get out of debt,” we’re pushing change into the future.

I lived that way for a long time. But that day in 2006 was the first time that I said, ‘Today we’re going to change. The money we have now has to be enough for us. How are we going to make it work?’ Taking ownership and personal responsibility for my situation was powerful.”

  • BD

    For me tracking my net worth over time really helped me. I got more excited about watching my n.w. grow then buying a new dress.

    • Sara

      Yes…I do this too! Watching the debt numbers go down helps but you can also feel frustrated sometimes, but the net worth rising is definitely an extra motivator.

  • Paula Cameranesi

    We have so debt is overwhelming at times

  • Ckuna

    Thank you for this article.  It really drove home the source of my problem with budgeting.  I already have ideas and can’t wait to get home to start working on my budget!

  • Bingo

    So spend less and if you absolutely can’t spend less than earn more money.  Wow what revolutionary advice.

  • Bigcreative12

    Easier said, than done! Prices keep going up and salaries go down. I was at the peak of my career 5-10 years ago and now it’s been one setback after another. I don’t see any magic answer here about adjusting your thinking.

  • Sara

    Nice article. We will have paid off $90,000 in debt by the end of the month. It took 3 years…we followed Dave Ramsey’s plan which is similar to some of the ideas presented here. I cannot tell you how much eliminating debt and just deciding to NOT use debt has improved our lives. It has been wonderful. We had a great income for our area but couldn’t figure out why we were living paycheck to paycheck and I was upset that we never had any money left over to put toward our daughter’s college savings.
    I thought we were in great shape financially because we didn’t have credit card debt. Well, surprise, surprise all of our *other* debts (cars, student loans, personal loan) added up to $90K. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that number in black and white on the spreadsheet in front of me.  Plus, we *used* credit cards and while we paid them off every month…we were buying so much stuff that we just did not need or could get cheaper in other ways.
    Our longer term goals that motivate us are wanting financial security so that our children do not need to support us when we are older, to provide good educations for our kids (without debt), and to be able to give/donate in a way that really makes a difference…not just scraping together $20 here and there like we have to now. 

  • geewhiz44

    Not much we can do when we are retired and disabled, or disabled. Try to find work at 65. I am retired teacher but did not teach long enough to earn a better pension, and so grateful to have that. Teachers are not lower middle income. Suzie Orman says half of USA population is lower half. Pres.. Carter said same years ago. Soon I will be moving down to lower , then to poor , poverty as Suzie Orman and others -our leaders know!
    What else can we cut???
    Never thought it would be like this 10 yrs ago.
    Praying is all many of us can do.
    They say we are obese. No way to eat healthy when we do not have enough for all our monthly basic needs.

    • nomadic translator Maria

      you could be making money online! 

      As a retired teacher, you could create your own WordPress website and advertise your services. 

      For instance, you could become an online English tutor for kids all over the world, in addition to holding your own classes online by using free services such as Skype. 

      There are many options honey, don’t give up!

      - Maria Alexandra

  • geewhiz44

    Add to that medical care. As it is, many Drs. do not accept medicare, even with supplement. I cannot find the care I used to receive anymore. Lack of standard medical care, obesity, etc., will end our lives sooner and that is what they want. I meant to say below, teachers , cops, firefighters are now considered lower middle income. We move down the ladder–what can we cut out of our budget. More food, dentists, etc.,?

  • Ftapp

    Just a little piece of information: Brazil is a cash-based society, but we definetely DO NOT pay in cash for big stuff, like cars and houses. The concept by itself sounds ridiculous. Yes, the use of Credit Card, checks and other forms of payment are not as daily common. It is just a matter of culture. You would not use any one of those to pay for your burger at McDonald’s, but you can. It would just look silly.
    P.S. I am Brazilian, born and raised, so I think I know what I am talking about.