Two years ago today, I published my very first post. I shared my story, my struggle with student loans, and my desire to get out of debt.

At that time, my blog was not so much a form of self-expression — it was a lifeboat. It was an outlet, to have someone, anyone, listen to these thoughts that were driving me insane.

You see up until that point, I thought I did everything right. I went to college, worked hard, had a career, and went to a prestigious graduate school. I thought the world was my oyster. I played by the rules. While I have always opposed debt, I thought education was different. I truly believed that education would lead me to the biggest, and best opportunities out there.

But it didn’t quite happen that way. After graduating from NYU, I stayed in the city for six months looking for full-time work. After 30 interviews, I was exhausted of being on the merry-go round. So I moved to Portland, Oregon to be with my love, after miraculously surviving a long-distance relationship.

I thought I’d arrive in Portland as a big fish in a small pond, but then I realized that Portland is more like an aquarium. The job market was even worse — there was hardly any funding in the arts, or nonprofit sectors, and for the year and a half I looked for full-time work, I had a total of 5 interviews.

So I jumped from temporary job to temporary job, doing anything to get by. It was also the time I did what I previously thought as unthinkable. I went on food stamps.

To have a master’s degree to being on food stamps was a startling and humbling jump. Every day I felt like I was drowning in debt. Without a career, I didn’t know who I was. My career and my identity were so inextricably linked, I felt lost and wandering. What did all of this mean? Who was I without a career? Who was I with all this debt?

I felt like one sad sap. Every day, I would cry and complain about my situation. After crying one too many times to my family and my partner, I sought professional help. Since I was on food stamps, I couldn’t afford much. Luckily, the local counseling graduate school had low-cost sessions as part of the students’ training, so I negotiated $5 therapy sessions.

Therapy was great in that it gave me someone to talk to. But after six months of treatment, I felt like I was rambling in circles. I hardly felt any better.

After a few months of continuing to feel this way, I was absolutely sick and tired of myself. I was selfish, sad, and lost in debt, unable to truly see the great things around me. So I started searching for some answers.

How could I get out of debt? How could I turn my life around? And so I started lurking and became an avid reader of personal finance blogs. I felt like I found a community. Every day at my seasonal job, I would sneak around  to read the latest posts. I loved it.

After lurking for a few months, I finally got the guts to email Kathleen and invite her to dinner. I was thinking about starting a blog, but I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. At that time, I was so embarrassingly inept with technology, having a blog sounded like mechanical engineering.

A few days later Dear Debt was born. But the first iteration was called Do or Debt, because for me, it felt like a do or die situation. I had to get out of debt. My blogger friends make fun of me now, because it looks like door debt. For the first seven months of blogging, I fell in love, but also felt like I wasn’t exactly myself. I was talking in vague notes and petrified of people knowing who I really was. After all, I was on the job search too, and didn’t want people to find me whining about my debt and not finding a job.

Funny enough, I finally found a job, which allowed me to loosen up a bit. I started to think of ways I could recharge my blog and make it more me.

I’m a sucker for relationships of all kinds, and I truly believe many of our financial decisions are deeply rooted in our emotions. From this, Dear Debt was born, and I started writing break up letters to debt.

I’ve been astounded with the feedback and grateful for the people who have participated in the project, by submitting their own dear debt letter.

I want to empower people to express themselves and break up with debt, once and for all. Flash forward another year, and I quit that job that I was desperate to find. In the end, it wasn’t a place that was right for me, and I was on a different course. My talents weren’t being utilized to their full advantage.

And so with that, I’ve been a full-time freelancer for six months and I can’t believe it. This year has brought so much joy, so many opportunities, and so many friendships.

This blog has turned into so much more than just a place to keep myself accountable. It’s turned into a place of friendship, community, hope, love, support, and guidance. I’ve been mentored by some great people in this community and I’ve received some truly heartwarming feedback from people who have told me my writing is helping them get out of debt and feel less alone.

In my first post 2 years ago, my total debt was: $57, 426.14.

Today it is at $34,640.53, which means in 2 years, I’ve paid off $22,785.61 or roughly $949 per month on average. Before that, I had already paid $23k over six years by paying slightly over the minimum, which accounts for my $81,000 total. It wasn’t until I graduated with my M.A. that I realized I had to do things differently this time.

While I wish my debt pay off number was bigger, I have to remember that I’ve been able to do this on a very small salary. When I started this blog, I was making $12/hr. Through hard work, pay increases, cutting back,  and depleting my savings I’ve been able to do this.

And of course, with all your generous support. I would have given up blogging long ago if it weren’t for the bright stars in this community guiding me towards debt freedom.

So whether you are a new reader, or have stuck with me since the beginning, thanks for your support. It really does mean the world to me. I found a place where I felt like my voice mattered.

Thank you and may all your debt free dreams come true.

Melanie

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 DearDebt.com.

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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54 responses to “What a Wild Ride: Dear Debt Turns 2”

  1. Beautiful blog!! And you have come such a long way!!

    I started my blog in September last year and not been able to put my name to it – scared that people will know the real me so thank you – I hope to muster the courage this year.

    I am having therapy at the moment – it’s slow but it has unearthed why I have got myself into debt and bury my head in the sand.

    It’s so good to hear you coming through it and what an amazing achievement paying off so much debt!!!

    I hope to be where you are soon!! Thanks so much for sharing your story and being so inspiring

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s hard to “come out”, but I’m so glad I did. My work was never as good when I was anonymous. Therapy can be so helpful in letting you heal and understand yourself better. Keep going with the debt pay off. Small actions make big differences. You can do it! WE can do it.

  2. Congratulations both on making progress on your debt — and on finding yourself in life. You’ve done an amazing job of digging yourself out of a hole you hadn’t anticipated and figuring out what’s really important to you and how to get it. I can’t wait to see what you do in 2015.
    C@thesingledollar recently posted…Five Ways to Warm Up Without Breaking the BankMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I’m so happy I was able to turn things around. I was seriously a depressed mess there for a while, and I felt directionless and borderline hopeless. Sometimes through challenges, a new life is born.

  3. Brooke says:

    Congratulations, Melanie and happy birthday, Dear Debt blog! I can’t wait to read about your journey and all that awaits you. What a great feat, making sure all that $$ is going to debt payments and bringing your total down!
    Brooke recently posted…Let’s Go, 2015! Brooke’s 2015 GoalsMy Profile

  4. Whew!!! I felt like I was on a roller coaster there! What a journey indeed! I’m incredibly proud of you and all that you have accomplished and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you more in person! I’ll be right there with you as you kick ass in 2015!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…2015 Goals: Slow & SteadyMy Profile

  5. Michelle says:

    You have done a great job paying off your debt! That is a huge amount of money!

    • Melanie says:

      It’s crazy what focus will do. I paid off $23k in 6 years when I made more money. Then, making less money, I paid the same amount in 2 years. Once I committed and focused, everything changed.

  6. Alicia says:

    I’m so glad you started this journey and ended up in the PF community. I’ll admit I laughed at your older blog name when it was “door debt”… I thought there must have been something I was missing 🙂

    Keep up the awesome writing, and work on crushing your debt!
    Alicia recently posted…Financial Update: December 2014My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Haha I’m glad I came to my senses and found something that suited me much better 🙂 I’m excited to crush debt and keep growing in 2015. Thanks for all your help and support, Alicia!

  7. Melanie! Your story is so amazing and inspiring and I’m so grateful that you decided to share it. Starting a blog can totally change you life and I’m thrilled to see how yours has changed. At the rate you’re going you’ll be out of debt in no time and have inspired so many others to do the same. That’s pretty amazing!
    Fig @ Figuring Money Out recently posted…Bits & PiecesMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Aww, you’re sweet! Sometimes I’m nervous about sharing my story, but I’ve put myself out there so others can see that you can change your life and get out of debt.

  8. Alexis says:

    Congrats Melanie! Paying over $22K in two years is a great accomplishment! I have a friend who lives in Portland and it took him a while to find even a part-time job out there. Best wishes as you continue your journey to be debt free and continue working as a freelancer. You’re doing great!
    Alexis recently posted…A fresh startMy Profile

  9. Michelle says:

    Congrats on two years of blogging! You’ve done a great job with paying down your debt. It will be gone before you know it.
    Michelle recently posted…The Best $80 I’ve Ever SpentMy Profile

  10. I love this post Melanie! You and your journey are truly an inspiration! Best wishes to you!
    Nichole @Budget Loving Military Wife recently posted…Mortgage Payoff Update: January 2015My Profile

  11. Congratulations on 2 years of blogging, and I cannot believe it’s been 6 months since you made the leap! I like to think that the world is our oyster now. =) Thank you for being such an empowering and inspiring person in the PF community. You’ve done an incredible amount in such a short time.

    • Melanie says:

      I know, it has absolutely flown by! The world does have more opportunity in it for me and for that I’m forever grateful. I’m so happy to call you a friend, Erin!

  12. Michelle says:

    This post made me smile 🙂
    Michelle recently posted…I’m BACK!! Happy New Year! I Missed You 🙂My Profile

  13. Even Steven says:

    Congrats on turning 2 and kicking arse on your student loans, one day at a time.
    Even Steven recently posted…2015 Goals and Big DreamsMy Profile

  14. Happy Blog Birthday! I think your debt payoff numbers are outstanding!
    Kara @ The Daily Whisk recently posted…3 Things I’m Leaving Behind in 2014My Profile

  15. Huge congrats on paying down so much of your debt AND on the blog birthday :). Lots to celebrate for sure. I think it’s awesome that you do share so much of your personal experience and thoughts–I find it really inspiring and refreshing. Happy 2015!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…December 2014 ExpendituresMy Profile

  16. That was such a touching and heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing. Happy Blogiversary, Melanie! You’ve come such a long way! 🙂
    kay ~ lifestylevoices.com recently posted…When A Minimalist Has to Minimalize …My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks, Kay! I feel stronger and more empowered. I know there will be tough times again (there always are), but hopefully I’ll have the tools to deal with them.

  17. It’s amazing how a simple blog can change our lives. Congratulations on your success and to many more years of blissful writing days.
    canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…What you need to do in order to become rich : The Saturday Weekend Review #104My Profile

  18. Mel I love your honesty! Honestly, your openness on this blog is one of the reasons I started mine! to know that I was not crazy and that I was not the only one who was seriously, seriously struggling with my debt was so eyeopening to me. It has been so therapeutic to get out all of the crazy emotions that come with being in and trying to get out of debt. Best of luck for year 3 of Dear Debt. I look forward to hearing more of your journey!!
    La Tejana @ Debt Free Tejana recently posted…Blood Money… Is it worth $20/hour?My Profile

  19. Happy 2 Year Blogiversary Melanie!!!! I am SO happy that you found your way to blogging and that we have found our way into each other’s lives through our blogs. You have accomplished so much in 2 years and I love being a part of your journey of debt destruction.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Weekly RoundupMy Profile

  20. Corina says:

    Hi Melanie,

    Super sincere post. Thank you for being so opened. I read something today that got me thinking: “get out of your own way”. And it´s true. We are the ones standing in our way with the limits we put on ourselves, with “I can´t do that” and so on.
    Last year I read a book that literally changed the way I think and see everything around me. I liked it so much I wrote a review on my blog. It´s called “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Dr. Joseph Murphy.
    Basically you learn how to control your mind to bring what you want in your life. An it works, really works. If you have the chance to read it, I highly recommend it.
    I can´t wait to read more about your journey in the freelance world.
    Greetings from Spain,
    Corina
    Corina recently posted…HAPPY HOLIDAYS!My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yes! I do need to get out of my own way — frequently. Will definitely check out that book! I look forward to sharing my freelance journey and hearing more about yours!

  21. Kassandra says:

    Congratulations Melanie not only on two years of blogging but two years of self-improvement! I know you are capable of reaching the debt finish line and I really want you to get there so you can further your goals even more.

  22. Congratulations Melanie and Happy Anniversary! Continued success in 2015!
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Net Worth Update: DecemberMy Profile

  23. This is late, but congrats on two years! I can’t believe it’s been that long already! I do remember door debt 😉 like it was yesterday!
    Kasey @ Debt Perception recently posted…Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!My Profile

  24. Christine says:

    Congrats on the blog anniversary! You’ve come a long way since then.

    Finding a job can be one of the most frustrating things. I remember feeling so worthless that with all my education and experience, no one even wanted to interview with me. When I received my first job offer I felt like I had won the lottery!

    It’s awesome that you’ve been able to squeeze in travel during your debt repayments. You know how I feel about that 😉
    Christine recently posted…A PF Blogger’s Confession: None of My Resolutions Are Finance-RelatedMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Finding a job can be so brutal and heart-wrenching. It really does a number on your self-esteem. I’m glad I can work for myself now, though! Yes, will not give up travel. Just being smart about it. 🙂

  25. Congrats on the blogiversary Melanie! You are doing amazing things 🙂

  26. I had read many of your posts, but this was the first time I got an idea of your full story. What a wonderful post! Thank you for your open transparency. Many of us can relate to your story, and it’s so much better for all of us to have a little group support as we make our way out of debt. I hope that 2015 will see that number get smaller still!
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Careful Resolutions: Promises You Can KeepMy Profile

  27. Lisa says:

    Don’t we all wish our debt payoff amount was bigger? 😛 In all seriousness, you’ve made amazing progress with your debt AND with this blog! I can’t wait to see what year 3 brings Dear Debt!
    Lisa recently posted…Giveaway: $100 Amazon Gift CardMy Profile

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