I recently had a guest post on The Penny Hoarder, and a lot of people started asking exactly how I did it. So here’s my response.

In that post, I go over the basics. How to pay the debt off as an overall strategy, but I didn’t say what I personally did. There were a lot of comments about it being ridiculous and unbelievable. And I agree. It was ridiculous, and the story is a bit hard to believe – but I am telling you, it happened. And I tell my story, not only because it’s the truth, but because it helps people who weren’t quite as dumb as I was to understand that you don’t have to live in that painful place anymore. If I can pay off as much as I did, you surely can pay off what you’ve got.

I want to stress that as awful as that debt was, I do not regret a penny of it. Because it led me down roads I would not have otherwise gone. It made me find strength I didn’t know I had. And it opened doors that I wouldn’t have even thought to go through.

But, how did I do it?

The simple answer is I worked my butt off. Literally. I worked easily 80-90 hours a week on top of having three little kids. I slept very, very little. And I was probably not that nice to live with.

I started by looking for work on Craigslist – because in 2006, it wasn’t creepy. And I found this guy who was looking for a virtual assistant. At the same time, I was writing (for free) for a couple of websites doing reviews and recaps of tv shows. The latter was to build up a portfolio.

The guy from Craigslist gave me a bit of steady income while I worked on other things. I got other gigs that didn’t pan out. I got gigs that did work out.

I signed up for HireMyMom.com – a GREAT resource for women who need to work from home. I got more clients.

I taught myself how to design websites with WordPress…got even more clients.

At one point, I had well over twenty clients I was working with – and the money was just rolling in…enough to pay off the debt in virtually no time.

Right here I need to give a shout-out to my husband for not divorcing me when he found out about the debt…because, yes, he had no idea. I was down to $48k by the time he found out about it, and while it obviously caused a major problem in our marriage, he stuck with me. Without him, it would have been harder to pay it off – and I completely acknowledge that. It would have taken longer, I have no doubt.

So, the short answer is – I found ways to make money that allowed me to work from home.

And just to be clear – working from home did not EVER look like this:


It was more like one kid nursing while I typed with my free hand, and another kid climbing on my shoulders while my oldest son burned up his clothes in the microwave. It wasn’t pretty.

But the point is that it is something that can be done. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t something I would have wished for myself, but I had no idea the doors that would open to me because of the people I’ve met along the way with this journey.

And while I’ve got you here – these are the things I didn’t do…

1. Coupons.

Not to disparage people who do clip coupons, but for me, it wasn’t a good strategy. It encouraged me to buy things I didn’t necessarily need because I had a coupon for it that was about to expire. This was not good.

2. Work that I wasn’t good at

I worked hard at things that suited me and my situation. I have a degree in English, and writing has always come easily to me. So I wrote. I worked as an actual assistant at a TV station before I had kids, so I knew I could totally do a virtual assistant gig. I’m very good with languages, and realized that coding is just another language, so I taught myself how. When I tried to do things like bookkeeping and other math-related stuff, it was ridiculously not good.

3. Mope and worry

Moping and worrying never got anyone anywhere. Honestly, I did worry a bit – but I did not let it get to me (most of the time). I just kept working away. As I saw progress, I got even more motivated and worked even harder. No pity parties here, people!!

4. Give up.

When you get yourself into a less-than-ideal situation, you cannot under any circumstances give up. EVER. Every day you have to choose to do something that pushes you toward your goal. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it.


The bottom line here is that you cannot ever let it get to you. You did it. You’re paying it off. And that’s the bottom line. If you let it get into your head, or make you feel bad, you are going down a road that is hard to get off of. It’s not a mistake – it’s a catalyst to changing your life and the way you do everything.