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“Ten years ago, I walked onto a college campus and signed up for a credit card to get a free T-shirt, just like many other college freshmen do,” Christy Wright says.
“But that card led to store cards, personal lines of credit and a lifestyle that depended on debt as a backup plan during ‘emergencies’ or when I ran out of money.”
When she graduated from college a few years later, Christy was like many young 20-somethings fresh out of school—wide-eyed and loaded with debt.
But that’s where her story begins to separate from the norm.
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Now, at 28, Christy is completely debt-free, working in a career she loves, and ready to begin a marriage without owing money to anyone. But getting to that point wasn’t easy.
“This wasn’t without a lot of hard work and sacrificing. I understand what it feels like to tread water and go nowhere. I know how frustrating it is to get paid on Friday and immediately have to use that money to pay a bill. I was sending my money ‘backwards’ to pay for impulsive and stupid decisions in the past.”
With a lot of persistence, Christy eventually reached her goal of becoming debt-free. Today, she speaks to teens, college students and young adults about the dangers of debt and how to make a plan for their money.
What are some of Christy’s keys to becoming debt-free?
1. Learn the word no.
“I had to miss a good friend’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas,” Christy said. “I absolutely didn’t want to miss out, but I did. I celebrated with her later and didn’t have the strain of going into debt in order to have fun. Today, I’m still okay with that decision.”
2. Take a second job.
“While working for Dave Ramsey, I also took a part-time job at the YMCA for extra cash,” she said. “I took on odd jobs like doing hair for a bridal party or helping my mom with new projects.”
3. Focus on the goal.
Christy said she was clear about her goal to get out of debt, and she communicated that to people in her life. “This kept me accountable and helped others understand why I made the choices that I did. I had a goal that I was working toward, and they knew it.”
4. Make a budget.
This is Dave Ramsey 101, and Christy followed that plan. “I worked that budget into the ground!” she said.
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5. Get creative.
Sometimes you just need to sit down for a few minutes and think about creative ways you can make cash. “My mom offered to let me work an order of 3,000 cupcakes that she received because she knew how badly I wanted to pay off my last credit card. I did all the work and got to keep all the money. I worked for 36 straight hours that weekend and didn’t sleep, but I got $2,000 and paid off my final credit card,” Christy said.
6. Separate wants from needs.
Christy said she tried to avoid the temptation to “upgrade.” “When something gets old, we automatically want to say, ‘I need a new one.’ But I’ve had the same running shoes for two years and trained for two full marathons and three half marathons in them,” she said. “Sure, it’s time for some new ones, but I haven’t been injured and they still feel fine, so I’ve saved money by extending their life.”
Christy said, for her, it all came down to choices. “Making a few choices here and there have really added up. And now I have a paid-off, beautiful $16,000 car, and I wiped out all of my credit card debt.”
She adds, “I’m 28 years old and engaged to the most wonderful man I know. We’re both starting a life together without any form of debt.”
As you can see, Christy has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt (literally!). She knows exactly what college students face when they get to campus and start a life on their own. If you’re heading off to college, check out The Graduate’s Survival Guide, where Christy, along with Rachel Cruze and Jon Acuff, helps prepare you for things you’ll face during your first year.
If you’re already in college, check out these free online tools. They’ll help you create an easy budget, compare cost of living, and track your goals.
With these tools, you’ll be well on your way toward setting yourself up for a successful future throughout college and many years to come.