One of the best things that happened to me on my trip was that I got really inspired to pay off debt.

Being able to really be alone and sit with my thoughts made me realize a lot. More than anything, I really want to be out of debt.

I started thinking of how I could be out of debt as soon as possible and not the 2-3 years I’ve been thinking of. After looking at my income and doing some soul-searching, I set a crazy goal of getting out of debt in one year.

My mind is still grappling with this goal as it seems so crazy and out of reach. My debt is currently atΒ  $28,737.59 (I just recently put $2,200 to debt).

In order to accomplish this goal, I need to make 4k or more each month. I want to pay at least 2k to debt each month, live off of roughly 1k (see my low expenses here) and put 1k to insurance and taxes. If I make more, I will put more to debt and savings β€” and perhaps even investments. I’m getting the urge to dip my toes in the water and get started.

After a year of making 2k+ payments, I want to throw some of my remaining savings at debt and be done.

Once I did the math, I felt so motivated. Because my income was stalling for months, my debt free date was constantly 2-3 years away. But in March, I made some drastic cuts, and started focusing relentlessly on higher paying work. And I’m so freaking glad I did. Because for the past two months, I’ve made more than I have in my whole life.

If I can keep up at this pace, I’ll be looking at a $48,000 or more salary. That may be a modest salary to some, but considering my salaries have all been low to mid thirties, this is a huge jump. A palpable jump. I can see the difference in my bank account and it’s the only way I’m able to afford to put 2k to debt each month. It just reminds me that as much as I like being frugal and saving, sometimes it really is about earning more.

So how in the heck do I plan to make this happen?

Well, the move is off. I realized I cannot accomplish this goal if I moved to LA or NYC. At this point, both of the cities have lost their charm after my enchanting affair with European cities anyway. I’d love to move to Europe some day. But that’s a story for another day. The point is, I’m staying put in Portland for at least another year, or more to get my financial life in order.

Secondly, I’m going to continue to work my butt off (while continuing to prioritize self-care and rest) so that I can keep my clients happy and also secure more work when I need it.

Also, starting June 1 I am mostly giving up credit cards and opting for cash. I say mostly because I will still have my insurance and other auto pay things on my card. But I don’t want to be tempted at all to spend more, so I am sticking to cash for everything else.

I am also giving myself a strict $100 budget each month for fun. I plan on significantly reducing my restaurant and happy hour expenditures.

These are the strategies I am going to use to try to knock this debt out in a year. A year seems manageable. A year seems like if I work really hard and stay focused, I can be done with this forever.

I can start saving and investing 2k each month. I can travel for longer periods. I can rid myself of 99.9% of spending guilt.

Before I was burnt out and just surviving. Now I’ve had time to rest and really evaluate my priorities. I know money is a tool to help you get what you want out of life. I want freedom and travel and adventure. I know I can have all of those things, while still setting myself up for a nice future, if I get out of debt asap.

It feels weird and scary to share this goal. Especially because my income depends on me. I don’t have a cushy job where I can sit back and make $50k. I have to work, hustle, pitch, edit, revise, and manage my work to make a buck. And I’m so grateful for that. But I know that things can change with clients — budgets change, directions change, etc. So much feels out of my hands, but I will do my best to continue to work hard and if things fall through, make something else work.

Self-employment is for the resilient.

So, there you have it. My big, crazy, audacious goal. I am nervous, but I’m ready for a challenge.

I will be debt free by May 21, 2016. Let the countdown begin.


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.

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46 responses to “My Big, Crazy, Audacious Goal”

  1. I think this is very doable! I’m glad you’re having a moment of renewed energy around your debt — you’ve worn it down to a point where you can really see the light at the end of the tunnel, and your plan sounds solid and workable. Good luck!

  2. Lindy says:

    Melanie, I have been following you for a long time but have been a lurker! This would be a fantastic goal, to be debt-free in a year. Have you read Kara’s story too? She is very close to debt free on a limited income. You girls are rocking it! You are a different person now, Melanie!

    • Melanie says:

      So glad you commented! That means a lot. I have read Kara’s story, but it’s been a while since I checked in. Thanks for the reminder. I do feel like a different person from this trip.

  3. Woohoo!!!!! This is SO freaking exciting Melanie!! I love that your amazing trip kicked you in the butt to do something like this and it further proves why traveling while being in debt is not the worst thing in the world. I am so psyched that I have a front row seat to your audacious goal journey and I can’t wait to see you achieve it!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – StrongerMy Profile

  4. I think staying in Portland for another year is smart! It’s just so expensive in LA and NY and if you don’t have to add that to your list of things that might make you stressed, then don’t. I’m rooting for you (and first I wrote rotting-lol!) Melanie!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…The Gut FeelingMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      It just didn’t make sense to increase my rent 50% when I’m paying off debt. And I realized I could live in Madrid or Lisbon for the same price, if not cheaper than Portland!!

  5. Brittany says:

    This is a great goal! Big goals can be so scary but once you’re committed they can also be crazy exciting. Good luck!!
    Brittany recently posted…When I Say No to Making Money on my BlogMy Profile

  6. Liz says:

    You are such an inspiration, Melanie!

  7. Liz says:

    Good for you! I’m glad you’re inspired to pay off debt and you’ve reinspired me! Good luck! I’ll be following along!
    Liz recently posted…25 Ways to Inspire YourselfMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you for being a valued reader. Glad I could provide some inspiration. Honestly, my trip changed everything and I’m finally in the mindset and income to make this happen.

  8. Great goal Melanie! I can’t wait to read your “debt free” post 1 year from now!! πŸ™‚
    Financial Conversation recently posted…The 3 Legged Stool: A Retirement TheoryMy Profile

  9. Kara says:

    YES! Once you set a goal and a timeline, I found it made things easier. It keeps you focused and gets you excited. I’m so happy that you’re recharged and ready to hit it full on. You can do it!

    And thanks for the shout out Lindy! =)

  10. Mario says:

    Wow! That must be an amazing feeling. Audacity is definitely a good thing here because even if you don’t reach it in exactly one year, it’ll be very motivating to see the end as it comes within reach.

    Best of luck on getting there!
    Mario recently posted…Three things I wish I knew in my 20s about life, turning 30, and personal financeMy Profile

  11. Debt Hater says:

    I look forward to following your progress on this ambitious goal. I think staying put for another year isn’t the worst thing to become debt free within the year. Especially if you aren’t fully committed to LA/NYC. $2000 a month payments will put you at roughly $24000 in an entire year. So I think that if you are able to boost your income even more your plan is entirely do-able!
    Debt Hater recently posted…Buying a Used Car: Dealer or Private Party?My Profile

  12. You can do it, girl! I’m so excited to read about this big and important goal for you and I believe that you can make this happen — and then some πŸ™‚ Will be cheering you on the whole way, and of course, don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything from me along this journey. Always happy to help and support you in whatever way I can. You will knock this out of the park!
    Kali @ XY Planning Network recently posted…How to Manage and Pay Down Student Loan DebtMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks so much, Kali! You have been instrumental in my career and bringing me this far. I owe so much to you. You are such a great supporter of me and I love you for that!

  13. NZ Muse says:

    AMAZING. Can’t wait to see you accomplish this.

  14. Wow, hats off to your calculations and they ways and means you’re going to pay off your debt.Nice post.

  15. Petra says:

    That sounds good. The year will fly by, I promise. And after that you’ll be free forever from this thing called debt.

  16. Hey!

    Wow that is one AUDACIOUS but inspiring goal!!

    One thing to think of and just going off my personal experience don’t forget to maybe schedule milestone celebrations. When we were paying off debt we enjoyed seeing the numbers go down. Especially that interest number πŸ™‚

    But I can remember doing a little celebration dinner say we are at 10K or under 5K I think I can remember doing something just a little extra splurging within your fun budget just because your doing so well.

    I know you can you do this girl and look forward to continue to read about your process of knocking debt in it’s mouth!

    Great inspiring post!
    Eric @ recently posted…Why Having a Financial Planner is ImportantMy Profile

  17. Michelle says:

    Melanie-I am 100% sure that you will ROCK this goal and finish a little earlier than you think you will. I am predicting that I will read your debt free post by March of next year. BOOM!
    Michelle recently posted…My New Cash Budget And The Hack That Will Keep Me On TrackMy Profile

  18. There is nothing that is more satisfying than paying down debt. I am paying $2,700 month and living off $2,500 month so somewhat similar to you. I can tell you that it’s not easy but it’s SO rewarding seeing the amount go down.
    Natalie @ Financegirl recently posted…6 Simple Tips to Help You Control Yourself with MoneyMy Profile

  19. Chonce says:

    Wow! Love this goal! I know that feeling of just wanting your debt gone and I’m sure you can do it, you’ve got a great plan. I’m all about paying off debt ASAP because a year is not a really long time to give it your all and when you spend several years working toward a goal it’s easy to get burnt out. Good luck, you got this!
    Chonce recently posted…My Shopping Ban Update: 4 Months InMy Profile

  20. Lisa says:

    This is so exciting! I’m rootin’ for ya, girl!!
    Lisa recently posted…What the Golden State Warriors Can Teach Us About Our GoalsMy Profile

  21. Laura says:


    I have the SAME goal! Pay off my student loans in a year. I’ll definitely be following along and hopeful be inspired and motivated. Here’s to celebrating in a year!

  22. Laura Harris says:

    My favorite line: “I can start saving and investing 2k each month. I can travel for longer periods. I can rid myself of 99.9% of spending guilt.” That was definitely what helped me on my debt-free journey – the positive outlook. My family of 4 live on my husband’s income – which is under $40,000, but because we are debt-free, we can still save up, invest, and not feel the stress of outstanding debt. I cannot wait for you to experience that freedom soon!
    Laura Harris recently posted…15 Little Money-Saving ExperimentsMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Wow, that is so impressive and inspiring! I appreciate you stopping by and giving me a boost of encouragement. I don’t have that far to go, but enough time that I need to keep my motivation high.

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