I Paid Off $20,000 in Debt in Two Years

Tired of living in financial chaos? This Atlanta woman in her early 30s paid off a huge amount of debt and got her life back on track. Here's what you can learn from her.

brenda-lane debt paidCourtesy Brenda Lane

Two years ago, Brenda Lane was drowning in debt—a combination of a car loan, six credit cards, student loans, and two debts in collections. By changing her spending and saving habits and by using two successive tax refunds, she paid it all off within two years. Brenda’s life has changed for the better with a new job, a new truck, and a new house in a nicer neighborhood than she ever imagined. Lane is fan of Credit Karma services and by focusing her efforts on its six credit score factors—credit card utilization, payment history, derogatory marks, age of credit history, total accounts, and hard inquiries—she has improved her credit score by more than 150 points! But before paying off her debts, she suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are the things she has overcome.

Depression and anxiety

When her finances weren’t in order, Lane felt down about her circumstances. “With bad credit, you can’t do anything,” she says. When she owed money “to this person and that person” she didn’t have room for positive things in her life. Struggling from depression and anxiety was hard, but she has learned, “It’s better to suffer now than later. With bad credit, you have high-interest rates, because people can’t trust you.” Check out the money rules finance experts teach their own kids.

Poor sleep

The weight of her debts and the pressure she felt from creditors made it hard for Lane to sleep. But as she changed the way she spent money, her life became more peaceful. “If I can’t afford to pay it off, I don’t get it,” she says. Her realization that she would have to say “No” to certain luxuries actually improved her quality of life. If she couldn’t pay for shoes or travel expenses during a given month, she accepted her limitations—reducing her stress, which led to improved sleep. Learn from these 9 retirees’ money mistakes.

High blood pressure

Lane thought something was physically wrong with her and went to see her doctor. She discovered she was experiencing high blood pressure and her doctor prescribed a medication to get it under control. Needing something but not being able to get it made her feel overwhelmed—since bad credit was hanging over her. Managing her debts has led to better physical health, and after just one year of debt reduction, she was able to go off the blood pressure medication. “Life is not as hard as it used to be, and it has been worth it,” Lane says.

Low self-esteem

By paying so much in interest on her credit cards and by having bad credit, Lane wasn’t able to focus on self-care. But since paying off her debts and improving her credit, she has budgeted her money to get her teeth fixed—something she hadn’t been able to do previously. No longer feeling insecure, she refers to herself as “happy and always smiling.” Her confidence boost comes from knowing she will get approved for financial offers, rather than rejected. “That part of my life no longer exists,” Lane says.

Spiritual darkness

There were times when it was hard to have perspective—dealing with creditors and lots of phone calls. To Lane, it was like being in a hole. But now that she’s out of it, she likes to help others improve their credit and pay off their debt. “I wanted to be on point, and I feel like a new person. Spiritually, I look at life in a new way,” Lane says. Read here for tips on how to stop fighting over money.

Being out of control

“People ask how I got to where I am now—it all goes back to good credit and making payments on time,” Lane says. She encourages friends and family to pay more than their minimum balance on credit cards when possible. Lane is in charge of her budget now, and she knows her credit score on any given week or month. Lane monitors her information with all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—locking her credit, so she’s in control. Her financial health is no longer a guessing game—and you can get help too. For more inspiration, check out how one couple paid off $18,000 in debt.

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Dianne Bright
Dianne Bright is a southern California-based writer and a regular contributor with RD.com, where she writes about the environment, nutrition, finance, pets, and books. She also contributes to TheHealthy.com. Her work has appeared in Scholastic's Parent & Child magazine and blog, I Love Cats magazine, and Christianity Today, among other publications. Bright's book of parenting reflections: MOMS KICK BUTT, comes out in February, 2021. Her M.A. is in Spanish American Literature. Follow Dianne on Twitter @dibright, Facebook @AuthorDianneBright, and Instagram @authordiannebright.