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How To Get In The Debt Payoff Mindset

how to get in the debt payoff mindset. Some tips I personally used to help me stay motivated in paying off my debt and gaining more freedom in my life. Click through to read.

One of the best accounts I follow on Instagram is Humans of New York. The creator of the project, Brandon Stanton, posts updates several times a week. Each photo comes with a story.

One of my favorite stories he shared was a story about focusing on the work. Even when times get uneasy and tough. The person in the picture, the one telling the story, was then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama talked about his career progress and times he felt defeated. He ran for Congress and got beat, or “whooped” in his words. He had put so much time and effort into running and to lose felt devastating. He felt behind and unsure.

Paying off debt feels like this. Unsure thoughts sweep through you constantly. You think you’re not making enough progress. The pace isn’t fast enough.

I would be making a far-reaching claim if I told you paying off my $21,000 of debt in 18 months was easy. It wasn’t. Although I’m thinking I probably could have whipped it up to seem like it.

I’m not a copywriting headline whiz but I can think of what they probably would have looked like.

See this guy’s one simple trick to vanish $21,000 of debt in 18 months!

I was bored so I decided to pay off my thousands of dollars of debt super fast! Here’s how!

You get the message. When I was paying off my debt, I thought I had to do it within a short timeline. I would make several extra payments and then…my debt would still be there. A little smaller, yeah, but still there, looking like it was never going to go away. For some reason though, while I was in the throws of paying off debt, I thought it was, in fact, a simple linear progress.

My mind thought the debt payoff process worked like this:

Wanting to get rid of debt. Start and do a debt payoff plan. Finish paying off debt and celebrate. YAAA

If only. A debt repayment journey usually takes several years of fighting, hustling, and keeping your head up. Reading other debt payoff journeys, making extra income, all of it can feel good and motivating. However, they don’t stop the ruts from happening. The ruts where you feel uninspired and trapped with your debt, unable to move forward.

Paying off my debt was hard. Really hard and really exhausting. The journey was tedious but I reached the finish line. There are some things I learned about getting into the debt free mindset while paying off debt.

How to get in the debt payoff mindset

Understand your spending triggers

I’ve never been one of those people who has to leave their cards at home in order to not overspend. My spending trigger was more subtle. And you know what people say about subtle, sometimes it can be the most dangerous.

Case in point, one afternoon when I was cleaning and I had to come face to face with the big stack of Amazon boxes I had. I had Amazon Prime at the time, which if you don’t know, offers free two-day shipping. Having Prime caused me to spend a little too much on things I really didn’t need.

Figure out what your spending triggers are. Whether it be eating out, spending a lot on entertainment or whatever. Hone in on it, and prioritize on fixing it as much as possible.

Write down your negative thoughts and why they’re not true

Don’t let your negative thoughts continue to beat you up. You don’t have to pay off your debt in x amount of months or do it like so and so. You don’t have to make goliath payments all the time. And it’s okay to feel down sometimes.

Whenever I thoughts about how I wasn’t doing enough towards debt, I would write down the negative thought and a few examples of why it wasn’t true.

Example: I have so much debt. It’s going to take forever to pay off
Counter-points: I’ve put $1,000 towards my debt 

Debt progress charts were my favorite thing for this. Whenever I would pay off $500. I would color in red on this debt-thermometer chart. It was a great way to physically see my progress.

Surround yourself with people who have a debt-free mindset

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to “just pay the minimums because debt was normal” I would probably have had enough to have paid off my debt. People don’t see the freedom that comes from being debt free.

Surround yourself with debt destroyers. People who realize the clarity that comes from being debt-free.

It’s about the work

This is where the Obama speech about his 1999 Congress run comes in. A debt payoff journey is exhausting. You fell behind and defeated. In spite of it all, you can’t lose hope. Losing hope is the real tragedy.

Remember that it’s about the work. If you let your mind constantly wonder about whether you’re making enough progress or succeeding, then you will get frustrated. Keep it about the work.

What keeps you motivated in your debt payoff journey?

How To Carve Out Time For Personal Development

Making a point to carve out time for personal development can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. Consistently setting aside time to work on yourself can be rewarding both in the present moment and in the long run.

Making a point to carve out time for personal development can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. Consistently setting aside time to work on yourself can be rewarding both in the present moment and in the long run. Click through to read!

I’ve been making a point over the past year to invest time into bettering myself and doing stuff I enjoy. I do enjoy binge watching episodes of Parks and Recreation and Superstore, but I try to find ways to be more active in growing myself. TV isn’t bad but gotta keep that stuff in check. This blog post is about ways to actively help yourself out and do more rewarding things.

I’ve most likely spent lots of money of the past few years on personal development. Some of it was good and some it not so much. Sometimes I buy things…and then never really get around to using them. Either I’m too busy with work or “life gets in the way” as I would like to tell myself. 

Whenever I found myself not intentionally setting aside time every week to work on my personal development, I would start to feel empty. My days feel more meaningful and full when I have personal projects outside of work I get to do.

What I’ve learned is many people want to work on themselves but never feel they are able to carve out time for personal development. They may work long hours, have a long commute, or have lots of life responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be impossible or take a huge chunk of time every day to work on your personal development. You can do it through small simple recurring habits. Practice intentionally setting aside time.

Here are some different ways to carve out time for personal development.

Start small

I’ve found I do best at building habits when I start small. I make a point to do 15 minutes of something that helps me grow every day. Something that “helps me grow” is a pretty broad definition. For me, it usually means watching one or two Skillshare videos.

Skillshare is an online learning platform. They have classes in a lot of different subjects but the most popular ones are calligraphy, business, photography, and creative classes. The site’s goal is to offer bite-sized classes on demand for people. There are lots of great 30 minute to 1.5 hour classes with individual lessons that are only 5-10 minutes each.

Practice the Pomodoro Technique

The pomodoro technique is a time management method where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. The intervals are called “pomodoros” which is the Italian word for tomato (which is why the timers are tomato-shaped/themed). Test it out and see if it works for you.

Stay accountable

If you’re really committed to doing something for your personal development, whether it be writing a novel, making videos, building a website, or whatever, it’s important to tell others so they can hold you accountable.

Don’t go blasting your announcement to your entire Facebook. There is a better way. Find people who you really trust or who are already doing what you want to do. They’re often better at keeping you accountable and providing insights. Niche Facebook groups are good for this. 

Reward yourself

It’s always fun to reward yourself after some consistent hard work. But, make sure you do yourself in a way that is relatable to your goal. For example, if your goal is to eat a paleo diet consistently for three months, don’t reward yourself by buying a new Macbook. Buy some cookbooks or exercise equipment instead. Make it something that is in line with your goal.

As with many things, you just have to make an effort to intentionally set aside time and focus, even if for only 10 or 15 minutes a day. Start small and work from there. How do you carve out time for personal development?

How To Pay Off Student Loans While Traveling

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans. Read on to learn how.

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans.

The way you can do it? Working abroad.

This isn’t the first thought that pops into most people’s heads. Whenever people think about travel, they usually picture sitting on a beach, drinking a cold one, and basking in the rays of the sun. In the distance sits a 4-star swanky hotel where there are a hundred different settings for the bath tub.

That’s more of a relaxed vacation. Travel can mean lots of things. Many people would describe it as being an experience of seeing new places and being immersed in new cultures. It’s not all about sitting on a beach all day long sipping a margarita.

A lot of twenty-somethings with student loans dream of being able to travel and see new places. But they think their student loans prevent them from doing so. They look at travel as something expensive and not possible while paying off student loans.

That’s what I used to think. Before I moved abroad, the idea of traveling and visiting several places never crossed my mind. I had graduated university with $21,000 in student loans and was intent on paying them off as fast as possible. Travel was something that would happen years down the line.

A swift leap of faith involved me moving abroad to Thailand to teach English. In the past year of being here, I’ve gotten to explore lots of Thailand and visit places like Myanmar and China. During this time, progress on my knocking student loans never even had to slow down. I’ve worked like mad for the past several months to make more money but I’ve also gotten to travel quite a bit.

It does take some patience and persistence to stay focused on paying them off your loans while traveling. When I was paying off my student loans, there were times when I wanted to use the extra money I had for a weekend getaway or to go off to another country like Vietnam or Cambodia, but through commitment and utilizing and allocating for fun money, everything worked out.

Here’s how to pay off student loans while traveling

Find a job teaching English abroad

Teaching English is one of the top ways people fund their travels and work abroad. It’s for good reason. Teaching English abroad allows you to really immerse yourself in another culture and see how day to day life is.

Teaching positions are typical 40-hour per week jobs where you spend 20-25 hours each week teaching. The rest of the time outside of teaching is either for lesson planning, making materials, or free time!

Googling “teaching English abroad” will yield thousands of results. The top places to teach English are China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Asia is the most common place people go to teach English. There are English-teaching jobs all over the world but Asia is where the best-paying jobs are. When you’re focused on balancing student loan payments and traveling, having a good salary makes all the difference. The two best countries pay wise are China and South Korea.

South Korea is very popular because it’s a relatively easy place to transition into. Starting salaries for foreign English teachers range from 1.9-2.3 million won. Many jobs provide free housing, free school lunches, and reimbursed airfare cost for your travel to the country. South Korea positions have a lot of benefits!

A salary of 2.1 million won is around $1,850 USD. Many teachers are able to save around $700-1,000 per month. This can put toward extra student loan payments if you desire.

According to Forbes, the average class of 2016 student graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt. If you’re on the standard 10-year repayment plan, paying back loans with a 5.7% interest rate, your monthly payment would come out to $407. Saving $700-1,000 would allow you to pay extra towards your student loans every month.

The blog Great Big Scary World has tips and resources on teaching English in South Korea.

Private tutoring

In an effort to make more money for travel, many English teachers do private tutoring on the side of their full-time teaching job. They usually get private tutoring sessions through inquiries with parents or putting up fliers.

I taught several tutoring classes at a Thailand language center. It was fun and good way to make extra money.

Working Holiday Visa

Australia and New Zealand are two countries that offer one-year working holiday visas to people from several different countries. The visas allow you to work in the country for up to six months with one employer. 12 months in total.

From the countless articles I’ve read, the general gist is that Australia is the best for doing a working holiday. Australia and New Zealand have the same high cost of living, but backpacker/working holiday jobs are more plentiful and higher-paying in Australia.

Kate From The States saved 10,000 AUD in six months from her working holiday.

Now, when you’re wondering how to pay off student loans while traveling, the above options are good ways since they make you money. However saving money when you do travel is also important.

Below are some tips on cutting costs.

WWOOFing & Workaway

WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. Through the website, you can find volunteer positions where you get free room and board in exchange for work. Many long-term travelers do this. It’s a great way to reduce expenses while still being able to experience new things and places. You don’t even have to know anything about farming. Usually the jobs involve fruit picking, cleaning, and general landscape work.

Workaway is also another great option.


I used to think of couchsurfing as this weird thing to avoid…until I actually tried it. It’s great. I used it for the first time when I made a trip to San Diego for a conference. My host was fun to talk to and gave me great information on things to do in the city.

A few tips would be to make sure to go with someone who has lots of positive reviews and has a verified badge. Trust your gut. Always make sure you have the funds to book accommodation in case your host cancels or it doesn’t work out.

Basically, when you’re wanting to know how to pay off student loans while traveling, it comes down to working abroad and choosing budget-friendly options when you travel. Teaching English in good-earning places like China and South Korea where you are able to save up to $1,000 every month really helps.

Thailand (the place I’ve taught in) isn’t as great when it comes to making a good salary. However, I’ve made it work through getting a job at a school that offered higher pay and also doing tutoring sessions during the nights and weekends.

I paid off $21,000 in student loans in 18 months. 11 months of that was spent while abroad teaching English.


How did you go about paying off your student loan debt? Do you like the idea of long term travel and working abroad? 

Not Another Emergency Fund

how to build an emergency fund

Can you ever have too many blog posts talking about emergency funds? Personally, I think so but others might disagree. The “blog post talking about an emergency fund” has been done over and over again in the personal finance world. And this post is about to be another one 🙂

When I first started reading personal finance blogs, I was a soon to be university grad who didn’t have a lot of money in savings. I read countless times about the importance of an emergency fund and why everyone needs one. It helps in case of unexpected expenses! Job loss! Your car breaking down! You need it!

I liken the experience of it to that of being told to eat my vegetables growing up. It should be something that happens but I still don’t listen to it all that often. I mean, you have to actually set aside money for some hypothetical event. When you have things constantly eyeing for your attention at the current moment, saving money for future emergencies can fall through the cracks.

However, I’ve always known of emergency funds. Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of money set aside for emergencies was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either.  

Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of an emergency fund was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either. 

People know unexpected expenses pop up. They know they should have money set aside for an emergency. The problem lies in people’s perception of an emergency fund. Many people don’t fully know how an emergency fund works (problem one) and they usually underestimate the amount they need in one (problem two). 

For the longest time, I thought an “emergency fund” was the small amount I had in my savings account. I also thought it was the leftover “buffer” amount I had in my checking account after I paid all of my bills. Most people think of emergency funds along this same line.

Having this way of thinking led me to dip into my savings account for not so critical reasons. I would take money out when I really wanted to buy some nice, but unnecessary, thing or when I would go on a vacation and need money for it.

Constantly seeing the money sitting in my bank account made me feel okay to spend it. Everything about my way of thinking of emergency funds was misguided.

An emergency fund is a dedicated account used only for real emergencies, like a job loss, medical bills, car repairs, and so forth. It’s not for when you really want to buy new clothes. It’s not the money that’s left over in your bank account after you pay your bills. That’s a buffer, not an emergency fund.

For the best chance of growing and keeping an emergency fund intact, people would be better off putting the money in a savings account at a bank different from where they do their day-to-day banking. Doing this helps when you’re someone who isn’t a natural saver.

Online banks come to the rescue with this. They’re best when it comes to holding an emergency fund. Ally Bank’s 1.00% APY for accounts blows past the traditional average 0.06% APY.

How much to keep in an emergency fund? There’s two common rule of thumbs: $1,000 in a starter emergency fund, then leveling up to 3-6 months of expenses stashed away.

Do what makes you feel most comfortable. From my senior year of high school all the way to after graduating university, I had the same old Ford Focus that I had bought on my own. Fully paying for my car at age 17 felt awesome but having to go through car repairs every year because the car was old was not so awesome.

My car situation and job situation were the two biggest things that influenced my emergency fund. It’s why I kept way more than $1,000 in an emergency fund while I was paying off my student loans.

Two big reasons I want to keep a good sized emergency fund now is because, one, I will be moving back to the states in the next year. That’s gonna entail moving around and getting a new job, a.k.a major money vacuums.

The second reason is because of an experience I’ve long fantasized about since I was a kid: buying a car with cash. I got a taste of this when I bought my first car at 17 and paid for it in full on my own. The current car I use, a Smart Fortwo, is completely off.

So, for the next few years, I won’t be buying a car with cash, but it’s still on my list. Walking into the dealership, they ask me how I’m going to finance the vehicle, I put on sunglasses and gaze into the distance and say “I’ll pay with cash.” Then they’ll look in shock as I put down the cash or write a check (<–do people still use those?).

I’ve been watching too many movies, but yeah, that’s kinda how I see it playing out.

Overall, I keep a good sized amount in my emergency fund because I’m aware of my own situation, spending habits, and priorities.

How much do you keep in an emergency fund?

I Moved To Australia!

working holiday visa australia

I landed in Sydney Australia a few days ago. It feels surreal to even say (type…) those words. It’s real though. I blinked several times and pinched myself to make sure.

I’m on a 462 work and holiday visa that lets me stay here for up to 12 months. Australia is wonderful for offering up this type of visa. You don’t need any employer sponsorship in order to get it. If you’re age 18-30 and have no dependents (kids), then you’re eligible for the visa.

The visa came at a hefty price tag of 440 AUD ($332.73 USD). The cost was way more than the cost of my Thailand visa. My excitement got me over the sticker shock.

Being here in Sydney still feels weird. My mind keeps going back to comparing it to Thailand. The streets here are so clean and there are all sorts of people walking around. There’s English signage all over. It kinda feels like some form of culture shock.

In Thailand, whenever you meet an expat, there was probably a big chance they were in Thailand to teach English. There were a few people you would meet who had sponsorships they were in the minority. The conversations usually started with, “So what school do you teach at?”

Here in Australia, there are all sorts of people from all over the world here on working holiday visas. They’re doing all sorts of jobs: restaurant, bar, office, carpentry, and fruit picking.

When I was in university, my dream getaway always included Australia. The barrier was always flight costs. A round-trip flight to Australia is expensive, holy moly. I would see costs being around $1,700 or $1,800. I couldn’t swing that.

Now, a few years later, I still wouldn’t wanna swing that. I came here on reward miles! My first experience in using it. I got the United Explorer Card last year. The signup bonus offered 30,000 miles, no annual fee for first year, 2X miles on United flights, and some other benefits.

I would put purchases on it and pay the balance in full every month. When it came time to book my ticket, I had enough reward miles to use. I ended up only having to pay $28 for my flight here. You can bet I was super happy when I found that out.

This Australia experience is more on the nerve-wracking side than my Thailand experience. I’m here with just a backpack and duffel bag. Nothing super planned out. A lot of the work and holiday visa (WHV) people get jobs at bars, restaurants, and such.

I’ve gotten set up with my Australian bank account, tax file number, and Aussie phone number. The bank teller was friendly and really interested in learning more about America. He was a final year uni student and said one of his goals had been to study for a semester in America, but he never got to.

We talked about the best spots in Australia and America. The conversation got me more excited about visiting Melbourne (pronounced ‘Melbin’) and going to Rottnest Island to see the smiling Quokkas.

I have a few job leads come up, some with office and one with a restaurant. I’ll update what happens.

All of the flying got me thrown in a loop. My first three days here in Australia, I slept. No kidding. I slept and whenever I wasn’t sleeping, I was in a constant drowsy state that even coffee couldn’t fix.  With the flying and moving around so much I haven’t been able to do consistent blog work for the past two weeks. Makes me sad. Hopefully, a more structured routine will solidify in the coming week or two.  This is a big reason why I could never be a travel blogger, haha :).

I’m gonna work to consistently put out a new blog post every Wednesday morning on American central time. Sydney is 13 hour hours ahead of the central time zone, so I’ll be in my little corner, late at night, scheduling them out. Alllll about that tenacity. 

What have you been up to lately? Any projects or travels? 

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