Employee Stories

LT employee demolishes $20k debt amid pandemic

Written by

Nadia Gonzalez


March 11, 2021

While the coronavirus raged, my husband and I paid off nearly $20,000 of debt. Before you think “well that’s easy for her to say…” let me tell you how this all happened.

In the beginning…

I felt like I was having a banner year in 2019. We were slowly making headway on our new budget and we had big plans to pay off debt. Then came December 2019, when a Mercedes slammed into the passenger side of my car on my way to Cookout. Not only did I not get the food, but my car was totaled.

I pleaded with my insurance company, assuring them that my 2013 Kio Rio was perfectly safe to drive. No dice. This meant all the money I was hoping to throw at debt would now have to go to a car payment. It took my husband, William Gonzalez, and me a series of weeks before we finally settled on a new car that would set us back $600 per month with payment and insurance. Bummer.

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

When the pandemic began in 2020, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had to stock up on food and most grocery stores had been ransacked of all toilet paper and paper products alike (toilet paper shortage of 2020, anyone?). Everything was uncertain, including the jobs my husband and I both had. A job loss would cripple us, but I hoped it wouldn’t break us financially or romantically.

Nadia calculates her family’s debt payoff goals.

My husband’s salary got cut 10% with no end in sight. He also processed out of the military, which meant we wouldn’t have his extra income to fill gaps. Luckily, I still had my job, but to be honest, I knew our purse strings were going to be so tight, we could hardly pop a quarter out.

But we trek on

Luckily, quarantine helped a little with the parts of our budget we normally had to reel in. Our dining out, coffee, shopping, grooming, and other various budget items had been cut completely since we were all required to remain indoors. My husband and our Mint app were grateful for this. That meant we were saving a few hundred dollars to just stay home. We could do that.

The empire strikes back…

I’m sure many of you have those ever-present money mongers you hide in your debt closet. Yes, I’m talking about student loans. For some of us, they eat a good amount of our paycheck whole. My student loans cost my husband and me $1,560 per month. That includes Sallie Mae and Navient (government loans). We may not like everything the government does, but we were glued to the news like vicious, hungry dogs when we heard they might defer my government loans. Even though we’d still have to pay the private loans, delaying payment and interest on my government loans put $1,000 back into our budget. That was money we’d use to make some real dents in our deficit.

We went from just a few hundred dollars left over at the end of each month to tackle some extra payments, to a little over $1,200 a month to crush our debts. That didn’t include the stimulus checks we were able to use to keep our creditors at bay.

Baby, it’s Christmas

Nadia and her husband, William, pore over their finances.

Exhausted and beaten down by a long 2020, we sat in our final weekly calendar and budget meeting before the holidays. We stared at our debt sheet and bank accounts with sadness. We hadn’t reached our goal, and I remember choking up and asking my husband how that was possible. We’d had so many opportunities and we (I, it’s usually me) were forced to behave. Where did the money go?

I looked at our accounts again and noticed one was missing. See, we’d pulled the ol’ ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to ensure we didn’t spend ANY of the “extra” money that came in, and somehow we’d forgotten about it. He and I looked at each other and then scrambled for the logins. As the account loaded, we bounced our knees, and both leaned our heads in. The amount flashed $8,000.

We both looked at each other with goofy expressions and my husband said, “Merry Christmas, my love.” I let out a choked sigh and hugged him. We didn’t just pay off $3,400 in 2020. We were going to pay off over $12,400 for Christmas.

New Year, New Us

Right after we rang in the new year, we laid in bed talking about everything 2020 taught us about paying off debt and our plan to continue the trend in 2021.

  1. Instead of waging war against each other, we made debt our common enemy and attacked.
  2. A goal without a plan is just a wish. We met every week to see where we were and how well we were working on our plan.
  3. Our love didn’t cost a thing. We could hang out and enjoy each other’s time for nothing.
  4. We could burn coffee with coconut milk at home and it’s a lot cheaper.
  5. Cooking our meals helped us tighten our physique and add bulk to our wallets.
  6. My standards for beauty and self-care were a lot more like me and cost far less.
  7. Playing outside is free exercise and, if all else fails, there’s still our apartment gym.

February brought new love into our life in the form of Dee-1’s “Sallie Mae Back” song. We got the privilege of hearing it after paying off three of my Sallie Mae loans, bringing our debt payoff total to $19,890.

Life still happens, and things still fall apart. My husband’s car broke down last month and we’re now faced with the challenge of fixing that rust bucket or declaring ourselves a one-car household. But having a handle on our budget and a plan to beat debt in the meantime helps us keep everything in perspective.