I spoke with Crystal and got her permission to use the story that she put up on the simple living board a few years back. I found it inspirational and thought you might as well. Just so you know a little background, she lives in west Los Angeles, so this puts a slight spin on it. (the bold items are my emphasis)

If I can pay off $18K in 13 months on a $27K annual net, you can betcha....

Read The Complete Tightwad Gazette from cover to cover several times (and continue to re-read at intervals.) Got plenty of advice from these forums. I still have the little note in a file where I asked myself, "What if I could put $100 a month more toward debt payoff?"

After a couple of months of successfully doing that, I wondered if I could put $300 a month more toward debt payoff. After the credit card was paid off, I rolled that payment over onto the car loan. Saved a little each payday for an emergency fund so that I wouldn't be putting periodic expenses (car maintenance and repair) or emergencies (refrigerator dies) on the credit card.

Started daily tracking and monthly spreadsheets. I calculated net worth, life energy, etc. Bought a freezer. Started cooking at home, buying in bulk, buying cooperatively (I share an apt. with my two grown daughters and three grandchildren and we used to all buy food separately.) Started using leftovers. Decided that, though I prefer salmon and fresh veggies every night, I am probably not too good to eat casseroles. Started shopping at several stores for the best value (one of which is an ethnic supermarket with very good prices on meat and produce.) Implemented 10-cent work lunches instead of fast food. (Ten-cent lunches are mostly homemade soups, frozen into portions and nuked at work.)

Cut off my $100 a month allowance. Started washing my car myself. Started looking at everything in terms of annual cost rather than short-term cost. Stopped thinking that $20 was a small amount of money. Stopped watching so much TV. Stopped all magazine subscriptions (TV & magazines sell a consumerist lifestyle and I don't need the brainwashing.) I KEPT DEBT PAYOFF WALLCHARTS. (This was tremendously motivating to me -- not sure why.) Stopped comparing what I could afford with what others could afford. (For instance, most people I know have a housekeeper, dine out frequently, go on frequent vacations, buy lots of gifts, etc.)Started to control gifts, dining out, and donations (I'm still not doing as well as I'd like with these, but I'm doing better.)

Stopped buying books at fancy bookstores. (If I really want a book not available in the library, I shop Amazon used or do without.) Stopped buying new clothes. Started shopping at thrift shops. Reduced everyone's expectations in the household, especially the children's. A movie is a once-in-awhile treat, for instance. Worked on my daughters to be more frugal too (since their financial disasters tend to eventually affect me.) They've cut down on pizza deliveries, for instance. One of them used to pay a monthly storage fee until I encouraged her to go through her stuff and sort into keep, sell, and give away piles. One of them got rid of an expensive boyfriend, too, but I didn't have anything to do with that. (Hehehee)

Cleaned out and gave away a bunch of stuff. Reorganized 3 rooms. (Seeing that things sell for pennies compared to what you originally paid for them really hits home.) I'm sure there is a lot more, but this is already turning into a book

You may say that spring or summer is a great time to get to working on that debt, but really the best time to start is NOW! No time is better than the present.
Photo courtesy of James Welch

On that note I would like to say that I am off on vacation to Massachusetts and will be posting guest articles for the upcoming week. If you would like to be a guest writer please contact me, I should have access to email. Thanks


  1. finallygettingtoeven.som // Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:23:00 AM  

    This is an amazing goal to work towards and she is on the right track to make it happen. Once one sees where all the 'little' money is slipping through their fingers they are able to plug the leaks and begin to make great big strides.

  2. Anonymous // Friday, July 16, 2010 9:22:00 AM  

    Not enough info to calculate housing costs - huge difference in cost between an owned apt and one that is rented, whether these costs are split evenly, etc.

    I live on about $9K a year and pay half of that for housing (getting soaked forced to subsidize my energy and water-guzzling housemates, none of whom work and who therefore watch energy hogging televisions all day and invite their friends over, collectively flushing the older water hogging toilet 30 times a day)...their idea of getting out of the house is Booze run!)), so I think I'm probably even more frugal.