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The problem with debt is that it can become so normalized. Debt is a national pastime and it seems like nearly everyone has it.

Not having debt goes against the status quo.

All of this can add to the difficulty of paying off debt. Doing something that most people don’t do can be isolating and tough, but let me tell you something.  

Being debt-free provides you with freedom. It provides you with more choices. Having that extra money allows you to pay for your future, not your past. It allows you to do the things you’ve always dreamed of, while also dealing with some of life’s difficulties — without it being a crisis.

I’ve been debt-free a little over a year now. In many ways, I’m living my “debt-free dream”. I work for myself. I moved back to Los Angeles.  I was able to go on the Italy trip my mom and I talked about for nearly a decade.

Just last week, I was able to whisk my mom away for her big 6-0 birthday bash. We went to New Orleans and had a ridiculous, joyous time. These are memories that will last a lifetime.

These things were all out of reach for me not that long ago. To be able to do the things I only dreamed of is so incredibly sweet. But debt freedom isn’t just about the sweetness, it’s about the sour, too.

Dealing with tough times

By being debt-free, I’ve also been able to better deal with the hard times instead of going into panic mode. It seems the year has just begun, but there’s already been some tough times behind-the-scenes.

Some clients have put their content on pause or shifted their strategies, which directly affects my income. I’m putting my heart and soul into another project that is bigger than myself — but is also risky (launching soon!).

On top of that, I’m dealing with a health scare that is leaving me a bit frazzled and distracted. At some point, I might write about it, but I’m currently in it and simply trying to take care of myself.

All of these things have been incredibly stressful. Life can have unfortunate timing, especially when it comes to accomplishing your goals and dreams.

But being debt-free makes it so much more manageable.

As soon as I realized I would be going to the doctor more often, I put $500 in a Capital One Savings Account called “Medical”. That amount happens to be my deductible through Liberty Healthshare. I didn’t want to be caught off guard.

I’ve also been allowing myself not to worry about work as much, or hustling hard. And I’m grateful I can do that at this point, thanks to my emergency fund. If I was dealing with some of this stuff while paying off debt things would be much worse.

Debt freedom

My point with all of this is that life is going to happen, for better or worse. Your dreams and your freedom are right on the other side of debt.

As you can see, being debt-free isn’t just some magical fairyland devoid of problems — life can still throw you some curveballs.

Being debt-free allows you to deal with crises on their own, without having a chunk of your paycheck already spoken for. It allows you the freedom to deal with what comes your way, without having the emotional and financial drain of debt.

I remember when I began my debt payoff journey, it felt like I would never get there. It seemed so far away, like a destination I’d never reach. But I did.

What was the shift that made it all happen? I started treating debt as a crisis.

I realized that debt was holding me back from my dreams. It was affecting my relationship. It took a toll on my mental health (feeling shame, guilt, depression, and anxiety) and my physical health (hustling all the time). It was this heavy weight that was always there.

I made the mental switch that there was no other choice but to become debt-free, NO MATTER WHAT.

I am now on the other side of debt, dealing with some other personal and professional stressors. But I am managing. If I had debt still, I’d be in straight up panic mode.

I want you to experience debt-freedom so you can have a chance at living your life to the fullest.

What people don’t tell you is that you have to change your mindset first. Action follows thoughts and if your mind isn’t in it, you’re not going anywhere. Tell yourself there is no other choice but to become debt free and that you will do whatever it takes to get there — no matter the time frame.

This also means being uncomfortable. You will need to cut back on certain things that you probably see as a given in your lifestyle. It means hustling more and working more hours. None of this stuff is fun, I’m not going to lie.

In 4.5 years, I was able to pay off the $68,000 I had left after NYU — after already paying my loans for 5 years before that! Paying off that amount was hard and at times I wondered if I would ever live the life I knew I was meant to live. At that time, I did a lot of work I didn’t want to do. I scrimped where I didn’t want to.

It was all worth it though. And I want that for you. Now, I think it’s more important than ever to get your financial ducks in a row and pay off that debt. We live in uncertain times and while money can’t save everything, it certainly helps.

So I urge you. This year, commit to paying off debt. Start small and put your spare change toward debt. Make biweekly payments instead of monthly payments. Put $10 more to debt. Focus on slashing the big three expenses: housing, food, and transportation.

You can do this.

Need more inspiration? Check out my book! Want more personalized debt help? Set up a coaching call. Want to help others in debt? Check out #DebtDrop!



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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22 responses to “Why You Need to Pay Off Debt (Now!)”

  1. Hope you are on the mend Melanie! Eliminating debt removes that stress from your life. When something unexpected pops up and they will, removing the money worry allows you to focus on the problem at hand. It never to early to start.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Interview Series: From Cents to RetirementMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks Brian…time will tell, but I am positive I’ll be good. It’s so great to be debt-free. Makes dealing with unexpected crap much less stressful. And you’re right. It’s NEVER too early to start.

      • hendrick says:

        I found that WEEKLY automatic payments to my credit card works for me (it’s also great for my credit score). Instead of coming up with a big chunk of money once a month, I pay a little each week. I get paid every Friday, and pay my card every Monday (never using it for anything). If there are 5 Mondays in the month, then I pay a little more that month than if I made 1 monthly payment. It equals to one extra “monthly” payment in that year.
        $100/wk. X 52 weeks = $5200
        $400/mo. X 12 months = $4800 ($400 difference)
        I also put some into savings each week (direct deposit at work). Even if you start small ($10/wk.), you would have $520 in a year. In my book, that’s a big help for Christmas presents, and you might not even feel it.
        Another “savings” that my husband and I do is keeping a jar that we add to each week. Every week for 1 year, you add $1 more than the week before.
        Week 1 $1
        Week 2 $2…
        Week 52 $52

  2. I like the idea of treating your debt like an emergency. It’s funny because so many people ask why we’re rushing to pay off debt–and then boom! They’re hit with an unexpected expense or tragedy, all while in a debt strangle-hold.
    I remember the Great Recession pretty vividly, and I want to be as prepared as possible for money emergencies–and that means treating debt like an emergency.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend!My Profile

  3. Lisa says:

    Thanks for all you do for the debt free community Melanie. And thanks for letting me interview you for!

  4. Glad your debt payoff has freed you to do many of the things that can make you happy in life Melanie! Take care of yourself and I’ll be thinking about you. And can’t wait to read about the big project! 🙂
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Living a Simple Life in a Big City: Part TwoMy Profile

  5. When life happens, it’s so much easier to deal with when there isn’t the burden of debt to weigh you down.

    I wish you the best, Melanie! 🙂

  6. Holly says:

    Hi Melanie, I hope your health scare turns out to be just that, a scare, which is bad enough, I’m sure. Be well!

  7. It’s hard to be too free. I remember the day I first became debt-free, way back in the day pre-mortgage. It’s a wonderful feeling.

    Now with the mortgage, I’m looking forward to the day it’s paid off in a few years. But I expect by then I will have a new mortgage on a rental property. So I look on business debt as a asset – something that helps me produce what I need – rather than a problem. Like any powerful tool, debt can be incredibly helpful. The hard part is keeping it under control – with the realization that nothing in life is ever truly under control…
    Jack @ Enwealthen recently posted…Dividend Income Update Q4 2016My Profile

  8. I’m so sorry to learn about your health concerns. You are right: being out of debt makes you so much stronger in dealing with the crises that life will present. Strength to you, Melanie! Take care.
    Fruclassity (Ruth) recently posted…Personal Finances and Sexual HarassmentMy Profile

  9. We are finally “treating debt like an emergency”. I am actually so much calmer and less stressed.

    Hope you are feeling better soon.
    Jennifer Connolly recently posted…Bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrowMy Profile

  10. Sending much love and many prayers your way, my friend! Stand strong – you are an overcomer!

  11. You make such valid points here about putting your debt payments on the fast track. Enough of us take it as a status quo of letting the EMI be deducted from the paycheck every month, only at the cost of building a better future life.
    Aparna @ Elementum Money recently posted…Top 5 Spend Tracker AppsMy Profile

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