Debt Free on A Low Income Success Story!

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This is the second interview in the Debt Free Interview Series.

I put this series together to show you that becoming debt free is possible and that there are lots of different people that took lots of different paths but all ended up at the same destination: Debt Free Living.

This week, I’m excited to share this story from Nicky. Nicky paid off $10,000 in debt in a year and a half on a salary of $20,000/year. She suffered some set backs but also has a really unique budgeting style that I think you’ll love. Check out her story!

Debt Free on a low income success story

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Angela Nicole Johnson but I go by Nicky most of the time. I’m 39 years old and I’ve been debt free for about 4 years or more. I write about becoming financially free at (as well as faith, health, beauty, and mental wellness). I work as a media assistant in a library and I make less than $20,000 a year.

How much debt and what kind of debt did you have before starting your debt free journey?

At one point I had $10,000 in debt. I had student loans, credit card debt and personal debt.

How long did it take you to pay off all your debt?

It took about a year and a half.

How did you budget? Excel? Budget Planner etc? How did it differ from how you were budgeting?

I wrote everything out on paper. I like to budget using sentences. For instance, instead of just saying on a spreadsheet “credit card-$6,000”, I like to put “I still owe $6,000 on my discover card. My payment is on the 15th of the month. If I pay $100 extra per month it can be paid off in this amount of months”. I like it all written out for me so I can understand exactly how much I have left to pay. It makes it more cemented in my brain this way since I’m a writer. It’s different than I how I budgeted before because I didn’t budget lol. That was the problem!

Related: This Family Paid Off $100,000 in Debt

Did you experience any setbacks while paying down your debt? How did you handle those setbacks?

Yes, so I fell victim to a scam in which I stupidly did a “mystery shopping” gig. I wired money (which came from a fraudulent money order) to a “company” (which of course wasn’t a company at all but instead were scammers) in order to “evaluate”their services. Long story short, because the money order was fake, I had to cover the cost of the money order to the tune of $1,400. My blessed mother covered for me but I had to pay her back. So this was definitely a setback but I just kept on doing my hoarding method.

The hoarding method, as I call it, is this: When I would get my check, I would pay all my bills and then I would put as much money aside as I could (in other words, I would hoard it) in a place where I wouldn’t touch it, like a bank account not associated with my debit card or take the cash and hide it. The purpose of this was to put this money aside and try as hard as I could to live without it for the next two weeks until I got my next paycheck. If I still had my hoarded money, I would put all of it towards my debt. For instance, if after paying all of my bills I had $300 left over, I would take $250 of it, hide it in a safe, a drawer, or a bank account that wasn’t very easily accessible (but not too hard to access) and see if I could just live on $50 for the next two weeks. If I could, I would then take that $250 and pay down my debt. If I did need to use the money for an emergency, it was still available for me to get to but I tried hard not to use it so I could pay my debt faster.

Share your best money saving tip!

Don’t look at sales… they convince you to buy stuff you weren’t looking for. Instead just use the app Flipp and search to see if what you want is on sale that week.

Related: 31 Simple Ways to Save Money

Did you do anything extreme to pay off your debt?

Not necessarily unless you consider the hoarding method to be extreme. Trying to subsist on as little money as possible in order to pay down your debt could be extreme.

What would be on piece of advice you would give others just starting to tackle debt?

Take the plunge and write down all of your debt, how much you can pay off per month, and how long it will take you to pay it off. Seeing all of it in black and white really motivates you to take action and as Dave Ramsey would say “get after it”.

What advice would you give to people about staying debt free?

Always have your next goal ready. As soon as you pay off your debt, be ready with your next financial goal. Either to save money or invest or whatever but if you don’t have a goal in mind you will start squandering your money again (ask me how I know!).

Is there anything else you want to share about your debt free journey?

It can be overwhelming to see how much debt you have and you may feel like you’ll never get out but I believe getting out of debt is always God’s plan for you and so if He is on your side , you will succeed!

Thank you Nicky for sharing your debt free story with us!


Would you like to share your own debt free story? You don’t need to be a blogger or a personal finance guru! Just send me an email at with “Debt Free Story” in the subject line and I’ll send you some questions so you can share your own story. 

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