December 18, 2014

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. I’ve been working hard to get my client work done, side hustle, and try to get things done early before the holiday.

The past two weekends I worked as a brand ambassador for one of my favorite companies, Columbia Sportswear. I worked for them three years ago in NYC and got tons of free clothes, and was pleasantly surprised to get more free clothes. I hate shopping and never buy clothes, so it was a nice bonus. I’m very happy as the $500 I will get from this gig will go straight to my Spain fund, and now I have $400 in free clothes, which includes a nice jacket, boots, scarf, hat, and a shirt. I’m telling you, I love being a brand ambassador.

I have also had some fun writing opportunities that deviate from the normal blog posts. I wrote a video script for a financial literacy nonprofit (using my theater degree, woo hoo!) and also did some copy writing for a friend. I love tinkering with words, and am looking for more projects that are outside of the box.

Aside from that, I also just confirmed a sweet opportunity that I’m beyond excited about. I’ll share the details once everything is ready to go, but it was a nice, early Christmas gift.

This weekend, I am working an epic 11-hour shift for a holiday event, and then Monday I fly to Los Angeles for the holidays.

I will be in SoCal for a whopping 2 weeks. I’m excited and nervous. It will be the first time that I’ll really be utilizing my location independence to work and I’ll be staying with my partner’s family. I love them to pieces, but I will also need to carve out some personal time.

We are flying down, but we are taking the train back up to Portland! 31 hours of train time — that may sound insane, but I love trains. I love that time stops and that you have nowhere to go. It forces you to be in the moment. Last year, I applied for Amtrak’s writers’ residency and they rejected me — so I’m creating my own!

Aside from all this, debt repayment is going okay, but I keep chugging along.

In the past month, I’ve paid $827 towards my debt and my current debt totals are:

Grad loan: $28,725.93

Undergrad loan: $5,819.42

Total: $34,545.35

I’ve paid off about $10k in debt this year, on a minimal salary! Every month it feels like I’m barely progressing, but when you look at the totals, I am! It’s always important to look at the big picture.

Lastly, I know I haven’t been writing here as much as I’d like. It makes me sad and I want to try to change that. I’ve just been dealing with client work, some ups and downs, and an intense need to take care of myself first. I didn’t want to force writing here because of some self-imposed schedule and deliver content that didn’t have any heart or soul in it. Dear Debt is still my baby and I have big plans for 2015 — but I’m still figuring things out!

If you do want more things to read, check out my work elsewhere:

4 Non-Traditional Ways to Increase Solopreneur Income and Productivity via Careful Cents

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the New Year via Retire by 40

5 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Finances via Personal Income

21 Tips to Overhaul Your Finances for the New Year via The College Investor

Hobby to Business: How to Grow Your Hobby into a Serious Income Source via NarrowBridge Finance

How Your Relationship with Money Affects Spending and Earning via Money Ning

3 Steps to Avoid Financial Infidelity in Your Marriage via The Savvy Duo

How Not Having a Smartphone Cost Me Money via Cell Phone City

Also, I got with the program and am now on Pinterest and Instagram. Still figuring it all out, but you can find me there!

What’s new with you? What are your plans for the holiday?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

Latest posts by Melanie (see all)

36 responses to “Month in Review: Debt Update”

  1. The brand ambassador work sound fantastic if it’s for something you really like and you get free product AND money! Congrats.

    I’m taking the train home and back again for Christmas — 14 hours each way. I usually sleep ok on trains and I just find them a really nice way to travel; good scenery when there’s light outside, nice gentle motion, easy to get work done (like you say) or just read and relax. Enjoy! And good luck carving out some time while you’re with your partner’s family 🙂
    C@thesingledollar recently posted…100% Completely Absolutely Positively No Doubt About It Debt-FreeMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      The scenery is unbeatable on the train. It’s so gorgeous! I can’t wait. I just hope I can balance work, family, friends, and have SOME time for myself. Even though I’m an extrovert, I’m usually ready to be a hermit after these trips.

  2. Great job on your debt repayment! And I hope you have fun in L.A. That’s the awesome thing about being location independent, isn’t it?
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…How Long Do You Shop for Big Purchases?My Profile

  3. I hope you tell us about your train trip. My husband and I have wanted to do that for years!
    Robin @ The Thrifty Peach recently posted…Get Rid of Your Clutter!My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      We’ve done the Coast Starlight trip from LA to Portland before. It’s gorgeous! It goes through mountains, forests and is right along the beach. Will take some photos 🙂

  4. Ben Luthi says:

    That’s some major progress this year! I’m jealous of your location independence 🙂 Have fun in California!
    Ben Luthi recently posted…Debt: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You ShouldMy Profile

  5. That brand ambassador gig sounds awesome! I might have to look into that for next year. I can’t wait to hear the surprise you have!! I hope we can meet up while you’re in LA but more importantly I want you to relax, so if that means another time then that’s fine with me! Hope you get some good relaxing time in. I’m not doing anything special. Probably just getting another meal from whole foods and watching movies.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…I May Not Have Everything I Want…My Profile

  6. I went to visit my bf’s family in San Antonio over the summer and had to work hard to carve out the time to work on my biz without feeling like I was being totally rude, sitting alone at my computer. Luckily it’s the holidays, so I feel like it’s okay to scale back a little anyway 🙂 enjoy the trip!
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…A Black Friday Lesson For the New YearMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, I feel like I’m going to be that weirdo in the corner working while everyone is drinking and laughing, wondering what the heck I’m doing. Hopefully they understand 🙂

  7. Sounds like you have been busy with some pretty great gigs! Congrats on your debt repayment and enjoy your time in SoCal!
    Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife recently posted…Paying for Christmas with Credit Cards?My Profile

  8. I am exhausted reading everything you are doing!!! I am SO proud of how well you are killing your new freelancing career!!! And free clothes from Columbia sportswear sounds SO awesome!! I know that $800-1,000 here and there doesn’t sound like much, but $10,000 is really amazing!! You are doing such an awesome job battling your debt!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Financial Planning Should Not Be PrejudiceMy Profile

  9. Kassandra says:

    Congrats on all of the success with BA and freelance writing work! I intend to go offline for 2 weeks starting this Sunday when it comes to my blog. My business travel starts right back up in January so I need the rest.

    Like you, I have no intention of writing a post just because I “must” adhere to a strict schedule. Happy Holidays Melanie. 🙂
    Kassandra recently posted…Stop With The WantingMy Profile

  10. You are killing it! With finishing my grad degree in early 2015, I’m thinking of drumming up my side hustle, and I’m digging the brand ambassador thing!

  11. Yay SoCal Christmas! Where are you headed in the LA area? I have always wanted to do a long distance train trip. My grandparents used to do NYC to Miami when they had two homes. It seems like it would be amazing. Enjoy!
    Megan @ Megan And Eggs recently posted…Holiday Gift Ideas… Under $30My Profile

  12. There is nothing the matter with Columbia Sportswear (other than they are more expensive than my generic brands).

    Great job on getting the gig.
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted…How to Get the Best Tenants into Your Rental PropertyMy Profile

  13. Wendy says:

    Congrats on another great month with your debt repayment Melanie! 🙂 And free clothes? You know I love hearing about that! 😉 Merry Christmas lady! xo

  14. Myles Money says:

    Woo! You’ve been busy!
    Myles Money recently posted…War!My Profile

  15. Wow you busy bee! I admire your work ethic. Enjoy SoCal and have a great holiday! I’ll be freezing my butt in Toronto 🙂
    Christine @ The Wallet Diet recently posted…4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Host Christmas DinnerMy Profile

  16. Wow! New clothes and cash from Columbia?! I need to move! I live in way too rural of an area, no brand ambassadors here, haha. Have a Merry Christmas!

  17. Alexis says:

    Wow, that is impressive. You’ve paid off quite a bit on like you said, a minimal salary. Congrats!

  18. Amos says:

    Great work Melanie. I am also thinking of going underground for some days too.
    Amos recently posted…5 Unexpected Ways to Save Your Business Time and MoneyMy Profile

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