The Honest Story of How I Paid Down $50,000 of Debt in 2 Years and 7 Months

Obviously this day would come, but I never actually imagined I’d get here.

As I type this, a day after I made my final payment, I'm still in awe. I no longer owe money to a bank, credit card company, or even the government (until tax season, of course). With the exceptions of my landlord, cell phone provider, and blog and podcasts hosts, no one will be knocking on my door if I don’t give them a piece of the pie. I have reclaimed 45% of my paycheque.

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(No) Buyer's Remorse

A few weeks ago, I bought something that I didn’t need but I wanted. I didn’t realize when I made the purchase but the decision was rooted in aspirational living: I saw someone else had it, thought it would improve my life, and I went out the next day and bought it. Although it didn’t make or break my budget — it came to about $50 — it was still enough for a nice dinner with my girlfriend, a couple of books, or an extra payment towards my student loans.

The problem wasn’t my impulsivity. It’s what happened next.

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It's Time To Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I don’t hide the fact that I’m economically progressive. I’m fine paying my fair share of taxes. I’m grateful to live in a country with universal healthcare. And I’ll sleep just fine if major corporations were forced to pay higher taxes.

While I’d like to consider myself a principled person, I’ll admit that I had neglected to think about how spending and managing my money could be in more in line with my values. For the longest time I parked my money in a major bank, bought cheap clothes at places like H&M and Forever 21, and always made financial decisions that padded my bottom line.

But, of course, the most convenient or lucrative decisions don’t always coincide with your principles. And betraying your principles for the sake of money is hardly a way to live.

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The Worst Kind of People (That We Can't Blame)

Let’s talk about the worst kind of people.

Okay, I’m being facetious. Who I am about to discuss are technically not the “worst.” Not when we consider people who allow their children to hold pro-life posters outside shopping malls for school credit, or those who take their flavourless gum and stick it underneath the armchairs that you lean on at the movies. I swear though, the demarcation between those people and these people, however, are gray. 

I won't beat around the bush: Financial advisors of brick and mortar banking institutions bother me.

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I Paid Off $40,000 of Student Loans By Organizing My Finances Like This

When I graduated law school $50,000 in student debt, I did not have a system for my money. It’s embarrassing, and humbling, to admit that all I did was set an arbitrary line as to how much I could spend whenever I got paid and threw the remainder towards my loans. The result? I, obviously, was too lenient with myself and barely made any progress towards conquering my mountain of debt.

Since then, I’ve built a system that’s worked for me. Over the past 2 years, I’ve paid off 80% of my debt all the while eating out, going on vacation, buying several books, and adopting a dog, despite that during that time I left a well-paying job to work somewhere that fulfilled me but came with, at first, a 50% pay cut. If you have solid systems in place, you can take professional risks and not completely deprive yourself, all because you have debt that you’re actively working towards paying off. If you want to know more, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to talk to you.

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The Real Reason You Are Afraid to Budget

A budget is akin to taking cough medicine. As Buckley’s marketing team so eloquently penned, “It tastes awful — and it works.”

There’s an unspoken consensus that budgeting is helpful. But the mere fact that it’s probably the least-sexy ‘tool’ makes it unappealing.

Up until I decided to address my student loans, I felt like this. I heard a lot about this ‘budget’ schick, but I had no desire to start one, and even less motivation to learn how to make one. I’d rather have sat in a ten-hour lecture on Real Estate Law than take 10 minutes to look at my last month’s credit card statement. And you know why? It wasn’t because I thought it was too complex or too time-consuming. It was because I didn’t want to be honest with myself.

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Why We’ve (Unsurprisingly) Fallen in Love with Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is not a tough topic to explain.

It’s also, relatively speaking, boring.

It's not about robots. Or zombies. Or AI stealing all our jobs and telling us how to think and feel. So why has it become such a sexy topic for new media? A buzzword that rolls off our tongue during watercool conversations? An issue that’s casually brought up around the dinner table? To me, that’s much more interesting than speculating about potential financial gains or the smart and malleable coding behind blockchain technology. No, I want to know why people care so much about this. And here are a few of my observations.

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How To Manage and Grow Your Money In Your 20s

As someone currently in my 20s, I can attest that managing and growing my money is an ongoing work in progress.

There is less job security. Students are graduating with obscene levels of debt. And to make matters worse, we never learned basics of money management.

In June 2015, I graduated with $50,000 of student loans. From then until now, I taught myself how to budget, where to invest, and how to plan for the future - all the while aggressively paying down my loans on a legal aid salary. I’ve narrowed down the ten key things that every 20-something needs to know, so they hopefully don’t repeat the financial mistakes that I made.

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Personal Finance Is Not About Money. It’s About VHM.

You may or may not have noticed but I have been slowly transitioning from exclusively talking about personal finance to branching out about career, self-development, labour economics and more.

Let me tell you why.

I started my blog with the intent of sharing some financial tips & strategies that helped me aggressively pay down the $50,000 of student loans that I owe. I document my journey and open up about how much my relationship with money has changed over the past two years. The feedback has been great, but after having written 60+ blog posts, I realized that money management isn't just about money - it's a symptom of a disconnect between what we think we want (external motivations) and what we actually want (internal motivations).

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