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5 Inspirational Stories Of People Who Defeated Their Debt

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 22nd April 2024 - 4 minutes to read

When you have large personal debt, it often feels as though there’s nothing you can do to get out of that situation. You throw away bills, ignore phone calls, and often feel overwhelmed and scared.

However, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a simple, single step. There are a lot of people out there who were in a similar situation and decided to grab the bull by both horns and do something about it. Here are five inspirational people who beat the odds.

If they can do it, so can you.

1. John Corocan.

John is a former Clinton White House aide, author and law graduate. He accumulated $129,000 (£85,000) in debt during his law degree. In addition to that, in the five years before he attended law school he and his wife had amassed $755,000 (£500,000) worth of debt thanks to wedding costs, graduate degrees, a rental property and a new car loan. John - realising his wages would never help them escape debt - took a risk and started his own law firm, but only after working out how he could do this with the least risk and lowest overheads. They also sold their own home and became tenants again. By doing this, they eliminated 80% of their $755,000 debt. You can read John’s full (amazing) story here.

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2. Anna Newell Jones.

At the end of 2009, Anna realised she had over $23,000 (£15,000) worth of debt despite working full time and also running a wedding photography business on the side. She had got into some bad spending habits, treating herself to clothes and other luxury items regularly. Planning her wedding had also encouraged her to splurge. Although her debt wasn’t as high as some other people mentioned in this post, as Anna puts it ‘it was too much for her’. She decided to go on a spending ‘fast’ to break the vicious cycle. She cut all of her expenses back to the bare bones and by 2010 she was astounded to find that she had paid off $17,911.89. She was debt free three months later. You can read more about Anna’s journey here.

3. Maria Nedeva.

Professor Maria and her husband John owed over £100,000 on various loans and credit cards, partially due to a drop off in business for her husband’s consultancy company. Her first step was to request an £80k consolidation loan - secured against the house - to pay off seven separate credit cards. However, this still left £20k to pay on other cards. To tackle this, they set a budget for (very) basic, frugal living costs, cut all spending down to the bone and anything they earned over and above that budget went on repayments. She says that the breakthrough was when she realised ‘no payment is too small to have an effect’. Her smallest loan payment was just £4.87! However, it all added up and three years later they were debt free.

4. Carrie Smith.

Despite being good with money, a painful divorce left the then 25 year old Carrie $14,000 (£9,200) in debt, something she had never imagined happening at her age. However, she was determined not to let this stop her achieving her dreams. She realised that her credit card debts were costing her the most due to uncompetitive interest rates, so she tackled them first. She also used free debt payment tools that helped her come up with a payment timeline and, critically, she made sacrifices. She gave up cable TV, gym memberships, salon visits, holidays, meals out and movies. She also took on freelance writing work to up her income. Soon, she was entirely debt free.  You can learn more about her full story here.

5. Stephanie Benedetti.

A few years ago, Stephanie realised that she was $90,000 (£60,000) in debt. The majority of this was from student loads, plus around $9000 (£6,000) in credit card debt. In an attempt to cut down her debt, Stephanie decided to change her lifestyle. She moved in with a roommate, cancelled her cable subscription and stripped all other expenses back to basics. To supplement her income, she took on casual work including mystery shopping and babysitting. These changes all added up and before she knew it she was able to spend $2000 (£1,300) a month on paying back her debts. Before long, she was debt free and has even appeared on talk shows to talk about her achievements.

Remember... debt might seem insurmountable and completely out of your control while you’re still at the bottom of the mountain, but you’d be amazed at the difference just a few months can make if you make a plan and stick to it. Once you start chipping away at it, you’ll start to feel much better… just like these inspirational debt champions.

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Sharon McDougall


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