18 Debt Free Stories That Will Inspire You

I love a good debt free story! If you are interested in learning how to pay off debt, the 18 stories I’m about to share will teach, motivate, and inspire you. When I was paying off my $40,000 student loan debt in 7 months, I spent a lot of time online reading how other people…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: April 12, 2024

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I love a good debt free story! If you are interested in learning how to pay off debt, the 18 stories I’m about to share will teach, motivate, and inspire you.

debt free storyWhen I was paying off my $40,000 student loan debt in 7 months, I spent a lot of time online reading how other people paid off their debt.

Because I wanted to pay off my debt as quickly as possible, I knew I needed some extra motivation.

Finding a good debt free story would give me the boost of energy I needed to keep working on my side hustles, finding new ways to save, and put all of my extra money towards debt. 

I also learned so many great tips and tricks to help me pay off my debt that I wouldn’t have learned about otherwise. Not all of the tips I read about worked for me, but some did.

By reading other people’s debt payoff stories and learning how to become debt free, I believe that you can find motivation to pay off your own debt.

You can learn new approaches to paying off debt. And, you will realize that paying off your debt is possible.

You may find one or two stories of becoming debt free in this article that really click with you – maybe the person was in a similar situation as you, had more debt than you, etc. Finding a debt free story that inspires you can be truly motivating.

One of the things I also like reading about in these stories is how paying off debt changed the person’s life for the better. 

And, learning how to become debt free can lead to many positives, such as:

  • You may finally feel less financial stress.
  • You can stop living paycheck to paycheck.
  • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, like saving for retirement.
  • Reaching debt freedom may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

In today’s article, I am sharing 18 interviews and guest posts I did with people who share their debt free story. You’ll learn how much debt they had, how long it took to pay off, and what they did to make it possible.

While some of their debt payoff strategies may seem crazy or impossible to you, they show that paying off debt is possible.

But, don’t get discouraged if it takes you longer than what you read about in these stories. It isn’t about comparing yourself to others, and everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you can only pay off a fraction of what the people below are able to do or if it takes you twice as long, you are still doing something to improve your life.


Below are 18 great debt free stories to motivate you.


1. How Amanda paid off $133,763 in debt in 43 months

Amanda paid off $133,763 in debt in 43 months.

In this debt free story, you’ll learn:

  • How Amanda got into debt.
  • Why she decided to get out of debt fast.
  • The expenses she cut so that she could pay off her debt quickly.
  • What she thinks about the cash envelope method.
  • The sacrifices she made to reach her goal.
  • What she did to stay motivated.

Read more at How Amanda Paid Off $133,763 In Debt in 43 Months.


2. How we paid off $266,329.01 in 33 months

Lauren Mochizuki is an ER nurse, wife, and mother. She and her husband paid off $266,329.01 in 33 months.

Here’s the basic gist of who Lauren was before she got serious about paying off her debt:

“Female, age 25, nurse, recently married, living her life with no regard to finances. Frequently dines out, goes to concerts, travels to foreign countries, never volunteers to work any extra shifts, lives beyond her means. Purchased a brand new Subaru Forester, husband also purchased a brand new car, lives in an 1,100 square foot condo. Total debt owed: $266,329.01.”

Read more at How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months.


3. How I’ve paid off $29,000 in debt by living in a van

Sarah paid off $29,000 in debt by living in a van full-time. I love this debt free story because I am just like Sarah – love traveling but hate moving! She was able to combine those things and pay off debt.

“Why am I living in a van? As a traveling healthcare professional, I typically work contracts at healthcare facilities for 13 weeks at a time. The decision to downsize was initially derived from my inherent laziness. You see, I love traveling but loathe moving. The thought of having to do less work each time I moved was highly motivating. My first three years (before Vanny), I would pay for short-term furnished housing which was very expensive. Most of the time I found the housing myself and it cost anywhere from $1600-2900 a month. I could think of so many better ways to spend my money so I quickly began brainstorming alternate options. The revolution of tiny house/home living that I had been reading about had me very intrigued.”

Read more at How I’ve Paid Off $29,000 In Debt By Living In a Van.


4. How our family of 5 went from house poor to debt free in 3 years

Do you feel like you are house poor? Here’s a great post from Renee on how her and her family went from being house poor to debt free in just 3 years.

Here’s a quick snapshot of her debt free story:

“Three years ago my marriage was on the rocks, I felt aimless in my career, our family life was messy, and we were officially smack dab in the middle of being crazy house poor. We got to a point where we knew it was either cut our losses and walk away from our marriage, or take a hit and sell the house that was breaking us.”

Read more at How Our Family of 5 Went from House Poor to Debt Free in 3 Years.


5. How I repaid $65,000 in student loans and invested at the same time

Do you want to pay off debt but also invest at the same time? Here’s a great debt payoff story that shows exactly how this is possible. I get a lot of questions about whether or not you should pay off debt or save/invest, and this story proves you can do both.

Read more at How I Repaid $65,000 In Student Loans and Invested at the Same Time.


6. How we visited 8 new countries in 2 years – while also paying off $58,000 in student debt

This couple paid off $58,000 in student loan debt, all while traveling! This is an incredible debt free story that you will want to read if you love traveling too. 

“My husband and I got to explore eight new countries together and still pay off $58,000 in student loans. It was hard work at times but it also inspired an even greater love for traveling and gave us the financial freedom to pursue freelance careers. Now I move to a new city almost every month and that dream of full-time travel that I had as a child has become a reality.”

Read more at How We Visited 8 New Countries in 2 Years – While Also Paying Off 58k in Student Debt.


7. How we paid off $100,000 of debt on a single income

This is the story of how Sarah paid off $100,000 of debt on a single income. Sarah was a  stay-at-home mom, and she got very serious about budgeting to become debt free.

Here’s a quick snapshot of this debt free story:

“We outlined a strategy to budget by paycheck using a zero-based budget, and I created a budget binder to help us track our finances. This strategy helped us pay off $100,000 in 4 years on a single income while growing our family (and we’re NOT rich!).”

Read more at How We Paid Off $100,000 of Debt on a Single Income.


8. How I paid off $30,000 of student loans in 2 years by paying the minimum balance

Alyssa Hunt paid off $30,000 in student loans in 2 years, all while simply just paying the minimum balance. I know that might seem like the complete opposite of how she would pay off her debt so quickly, but you’ll learn how it worked in Alyssa’s debt free story.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

“I owe my success to two major decisions:

  1. The decision not to consolidate my loans.
  2. The decision to pay only the monthly minimum.

The reason I chose not to consolidate my loans into 1 giant loan was because I chose to focus on paying off one loan at a time.”

Read more at How I Paid Off $30,000 of Student Loans in 2 Years by Paying the Minimum Balance.


9. How (and why) we paid off $34,000 of debt in our first six months of marriage

This is a great debt free story from Zach Buchenau. He is a reader of Making Sense of Cents and shares how he and his wife paid off $34,000 in debt in the first six months of their marriage.

Read more at How (And Why) We Paid Off $34,000 Of Debt In Our First Six Months Of Marriage.


10. How this family moved to the “hood” and paid off $120,000 in debt

Aja McClanahan made big sacrifices to pay off $120,000 in debt!

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • How she got out of debt.
  • How she kept up with her debt paying discipline.
  • The sacrifices she made to get out of debt.
  • Her tips for paying off debt when you feel like you have no money.
  • How she increased her income so that she could pay off debt.
  • What she would do differently, and more!

In her article, Hood Rich – How Living in the Hood Saved Our Finances, she says “We live in ‘Da ‘Hood.’ Corner stores, kids out late at night, gunshots, alley mechanics and all the glory of what the ‘hood life entails. Yes, this is where our home is located. A home on the next block is selling for $2,500.”

Read more at How This Family Moved To The “Hood” and Paid Off $120,000 in Debt.


11. How we paid off $100,000 in debt in 40 months: Marriage and the military

Nolan Martin is a military officer who successfully paid off $100,000 in debt in just 40 months.

“We were incredibly anxious to get our lives started together. Fresh out of college and new to the military life, I convinced my wife, Erin, to marry me. Like most new couples, we both entered the relationship with plenty of debt on both sides. I was fortunate enough to receive a ‘career starter’ loan of $35,000. Erin represented the ‘normal’ in America with over $40,000 in student loans. Then of course came the things you have to buy in a new marriage: the car, the house, and the puppies. On February 1st, 2012, we had accumulated over $100,000 in debt.”

Read more at How We Paid Off $100,000 in Debt in 40 Months: Marriage and the Military.


12. This couple paid off $62,000 in debt in just 7 months

James and his wife paid off $62,000 in debt in just seven months! Their debt free story involves turning a profit on their wedding, combining their finances, and paying off $62,000 of debt in seven months. Their lives changed drastically once they learned how to become debt free.

Here’s a quick summary of how they got into debt:

“I was 22 years old, only four months into my Army career, and had racked up over ~$115,000 in debt. All I had to show for it was a fancy diploma, a 3-year-old Mazda, and $1,100+/month in debt payments.”

Read more at How My Wife and I Paid Off $62,000 in Debt in 7 Months.


13. How this couple paid off $10,000 in 10 weeks

Cassie paid off $10,000 in debt in 10 weeks and shows you how to make this a reality too.

Here’s a quick summary of her debt freedom story:

“While we knew we had student debt, we had always assumed that we would simply pay the minimum until it was gone and that would be that. What did we find when we did the math? It turns out that my wife and I owe a grand total of almost $200,000 in debt (OUCH!). Even worse? The minimum payments don’t even begin to cover the interest which means that no matter how many payments we make, we will never escape from this debt’s grasp.”

Read more at How We Paid Off Almost $10,000 in 10 Weeks.


14. How I paid off over $100,000 in debt with the help of eBay and garage sales

This is a great debt free story about how side hustling can completely change your life.

Here’s a quick summary:

“To date, we have completely paid off $96,500 in student loans, our $15,000 wedding, $5,000 in credit card debt, a $6,500 car, and over half of our mortgage – $76,600 and counting! No, we didn’t receive an inheritance or win the lottery. Our secret? An extremely frugal lifestyle supplemented by re-selling second hand items on eBay. The second hand items come from the weekly garage sales, estate sales, and auctions that we attend.”

Read more at How I Paid Off Over $100,000 in Debt With the Help of eBay and Garage Sales.


15. How this couple paid off $204,971.31 in debt

Claudia and Garrett paid off a crazy amount of debt and are now living debt free!

They sold their 1,500 square foot house, downsized to a 500 square foot home, sold 80% of their belongings, side hustled like crazy, and were able to pay off $204,971.31 in debt.

Yes, they paid off over $200,000 in debt!

Please head to How This Couple Paid off $204,971.31 in Debt to read the whole debt free story.


16. How we paid off $195,000 in debt in 18 months

Sami and Dallas started their debt free journey in January of 2016, and by July 28, 2017, they were debt free! They paid off $195,000 of debt and have a great story to share.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • How they got into debt.
  • Why they decided to pay it all off.
  • How they managed to pay it off in just 18 months.
  • Why they decided to pay off their debt instead of primarily investing.
  • Their tips for others to pay off debt.
  • How their debt payoff story is different from others.
  • The financial goal they are working on now.

And more!

Read more at  How We Paid Off $195,000 in Debt in 18 Months!


17. How I paid off my $400,000 mortgage in 7.5 years and before I was 32

Rob has an incredible debt free story. He was able to pay off his $400,000 mortgage in just 7.5 years, all before he was 32 years old.

“I was one of those weird kids that couldn’t wait to graduate from college. I’ve always had a long-term focus and viewed college as a stepping stone. One day during my freshman year, I remember walking to class with a friend saying that I couldn’t wait to graduate and start making some money. My friend turned to me with an incredulous look and confessed he planned to live it up while he could. Needless to say, I probably didn’t enjoy college as much as others did.”

Read more at How I Paid Off My $400,000 Mortgage In 7.5 Years, Before I Was 32.


18. How I paid off $40,000 in student loans in 7 months

Okay, this story is my own, but I’m still very proud of it 🙂 Here’s how I paid off my student loan debt.

When I graduated with my Finance MBA, I had around $40,000 in student loan debt, which included debt from my undergraduate degrees as well. I was able to pay it all off in just seven months because I was able to find ways to make extra money!

Read more at How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months.

I hope you enjoyed each debt free story. Many of these drowning in debt stories can help introduce you to new ideas to save money.

Do you want to learn how to become debt free? How far away are you from debt freedom? 

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Amazing stories, I love read how they achieved their goals!!!

  2. Lazy Girl

    It’s so great to see so many different stories with different approaches. When you’re paying off debt, it’s easy to get intimidated by the stories of people who lived on rice and beans in a tent with no electricity to pay off $700,000 in 4 months. But not everyone wants or needs to be that intense. Whatever your method, it’s valid. What works for some may not work for others, so you have to find your own groove.

    However fast or slow you are paying off debt, you should be proud of yourself. This article just shows that everyone can do it, there’s no ‘correct’ way to go about it, and progress (however tiny) is still progress.

    Thanks for the roundup!