Slaying the credit card debt dragon in three steps

It’s time to celebrate: I made my last credit card payment! That high-interest money sucker has been slain. How do you pay off a credit card? This episodes reveals the financial tactics I used to cut expenses, save more money and pay off the credit card debt as quickly as possible.

We’re on our way towards financial independence.

Episode 2.13: Slaying the credit card debt dragon

Listen, subscribe, review: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google / Spotify

I used a debt payoff calculator to figure out when I could finish payments on our credit card and other debt sources. If you have multiple sources of debt, then Nerd Wallet offers a pretty cool payoff calculator. I based my payments on a payoff date. And this calculator from Financial Mentor offers a pretty easy way to calculate payments based on a specific date.

If the Along Came Polly/throw-pillow references seemed a little out of place. Here’s some context:

Episode Transcript:

How I paid off my credit card

  1. This is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod
    1. The podcast for living our best lives physically, financially and relationally
    2. Right now… no matter what age we are.
  2. It’s a celebratory episode!
    1. Why? 
    2. Because I hit a big milestone.
    3. When I started this podcast, I was setting out on three quests.
      1. I was going to dunk a basketball.
      2. I was going to stop taking my most important relationships for granted.
      3. And I was going to get out of debt.
    4. Well, I’m still working on that dunk.
      1. I’m so super-close.
      2. Like, centimeters close.
      3. It’s been a lot of fun getting this dunk training thing happening.
    5. As for the most important relationships:
      1. I think that is always going to be a quest.
      2. The more I work on it,
      3. The more I realize that there’s no finish line.
      4. Good relationships always take work.
      5. There’s no place for sitting on laurels in good relationships.
    6. So those two quests are in process.
    7. Actually, so is my 3rd quest: to get out of debt.
      1. BUT, I hit a HUGE milestone a couple weeks ago
      2. In that I paid off all of our credit card debt…
      3. Not totally debt free yet…
      4. But the biggest, nastiest dragon of debt has been slain.
    8. And in this episode, I’m going to recount the steps to doing it.
      1. It isn’t rocket science, for sure.
      2. But I found I needed to be reminded of these principles again and again…
      3. So whether you’re an old-hand at debt retirement… or just kicking the tires on that budgeting and and the debt-free life… this episode is valuable.
  3. Friend,
    1. My name is Ryan Dunn
    2. I am the slayer of the Visa Dragon.
    3. The despoiler of the AmEx Troll.
    4. The dispeller of the MasterCard Mythical Beast.
    5. I’m a Level 8 Gym Warrior
    6. A level 6 Relationship Ranger
    7. And a level 5 debt mage, sucka.
    8. And I want to help you level up as a debt mage, too.
  4. So let’s rock, my apprentice…
  5. Let’s rock on back to 2018, as a matter of fact.
    1. Summer of 2018, to be exact.
    2. The time at which I made a startling realization.
    3. Our family income was higher than it had ever been.
    4. My wife and I were each in our highest paying jobs ever.
    5. And yet, there was something fishy going on….
      1. You see, despite pulling in more money than we were accustomed to…
      2. We still faced the same old money problems.
      3. We were still stretching to make our dollars last until the end of the month.
      4. We always felt like we were one financially emergency away from ruin…
        1. Like if our car just blew up, we’d be screwed.
      5. And we had goals of things we wanted to do as a family…
        1. Like take a vacation to NYC or the Grand Canyon.
        2. And to buy a house…
      6. BUT, it didin’t seem like we’d ever be able to afford to do anything like that.
      7. We were pretty much just treading water, financially speaking.
        1. We werent’ going anywhere.
        2. We were just treading in deepr and deeper water.
    6. So I wanted to know what the hell was going on.
      1. Supposedly, we had more money coming.
      2. Yet we weren’t feeling any better than we were years ago… when we had far less money at our disposal.
      3. Where was all the money going?
      4. Ever asked that question yourself?
      5. It’s disturbing isn’t it?
      6. Well, here’s what I’ll guarantee you: it’s going somewhere.
        1. And it’s pretty likely it’s not going where you think.
  6. When I asked this question, I followed it up by doing the hard work of analyzing our expenses across several months.
    1. I thought our money was getting nickeled and dimed out.
      1. Like, I thought we were just kind of throwing money away on random purchases… like lunches out… and throw pillows.
      2. Actually, we do spend far too much money on pillows, in my opinion.
      3. There’s a movie where one of the characters calculates the time he spends removing and storing pillows from his bed.
      4. I feel that… I feel that so hard. 
      5. That movie makes me want to cry… not because I’m laughing at the hilarity of the situation…
      6. But because I know that character’s pain.
      7. It is my pain.
      8. And if it wasn’t so futile to punch pillows, I would punch all the damn pillows.
    2. ANYWAYS, what was I doing?
      1. I tracked our expenses.
      2. And, for sure, we were nickel and diming money away at a considerable degree.
      3. Besides the constant stream of throw pillows–seriously, they were like Tribbles… they reproduced at an alarming rate… but each time they did it  cost me 30 bucks.
      4. BESIDES the pillows, we were really throwing money away on random subscriptions.
        1. Like a barely used New York Times subscription. 
        2. And an extra, unused, Spotify subscription.
        3. And subscriptions to so many premium streaming services.
          1. Actually, like the pillows, we still fight that battle.
          2. It’s funny, we thought we’d save all this money by cutting our cable and just doing streaming services. 
          3. WELL, we you total up the dollars you pay for HBO streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus… and whatever else… you’re getting hit just as hard in the pocket book.
        4. So one of our steps to tightening down the money siphon was to really address whether or not our subscriptions brought us the value we paid for them. 
          1. For example, we had to ask: What are we watching on HBO and can watch it anywhere else?
          2. Like, could we pick up the one movie we streamed on HBO per month over at RedBox instead?
          3. The point was really to address if we were using the things we spent money on.
          4. Often, we found we couldn’t justify the expense… so those things went.
      5. So that was the nickel and dime stuff–random expenses that siphoned off a small portion of our income.
    3. But when I did the expense analysis, I found that there was one line item that was HUGE and was killing us to the tune of $1000 a month–nearly what we paid in rent.
  7. And that item was debt payment.
    1. Between credit card payments, car payment, and an old personal loan payment, we shelled out nearly 1000 a month in minimum payments.
    2. THAT crazy, right?
    3. That was a significant, well over double-digit percentage of our monthly income.
    4. So we could limit the nickel and dime stuff, but if we really wanted to get serious about becoming financially stable–and eventually financially independent–than those debt costs needed to be controlled.
    5. I started having daydreams out what an extra $1000 a month would look like.
      1. That’s like a vacation a month.
      2. It’s college tuition for our kid… you know, when you string a ton of those bad boys together….
      3. It’s a lot of guilt-free vinyl record purchases…
        1. And friend, to me, that’s a thing of beauty.
        2. Because I love collecting some vinyl…
        3. And I really look forward to the day when I can do that without feeling like a selfish ass…
        4. Speaking of being a selfish ass…
          1. I have always wanted to be a generous person…
          2. But I always felt like being extravagantly generous was going to really hurt my family…. Because we were on the razor’s edge of financial security every month.
          3. I wanted to give to benevolent without feeling like I was taking food out of my kid’s mouth.
        5. So many people have been generous to me over the years
        6. And I felt like I should be at the phase of life where I could afford to be generous to some young up-and-comer like so many had been generous towards me.
      4. An extra $1000 per month could make me benevolent Mr. Dunn.
    6. So many better things we could be doing with that $1000 per month than using it to pay debt.
      1. And here’s the real killer part of that debt… 
      2. Most of it was for things we no longer own.
      3. That personal debt, it came out of doing some improvements to house we no longer owned.
      4. The credit card stuff?
        1. It was all to purchase stuff in the past.
        2. It was all for old trips.
        3. We were spending now to fund things we did years ago…
        4. Which, in hindsight, isn’t quite worth it.
          1. So let me throw this word of caution out to you…
          2. COVID restrictions are lifting and maybe you’re thinking about taking a trip.
          3. IF you don’t have the money in the bank to fund that trip, then don’t take it.
          4. Do you think 2025 you is going to like 2021-you very much when that future version of yourself is making those monthly credit payments?
          5. No, no he’s not going to have good things to say about you.
          6. So spare yourself the regret… and wait.
          7. I wish we had.
          8. Because if we had, we’d be $1000 a month richer.
    7. OK, you’re getting the point, right?
      1. Debt is bad.
      2. We had a considerable amount of it.
      3. And it was limiting us from reaching our future goals.
  8. Therefore, the debt had to go.
    1. Up to this point, we’d been making minimum payments.
    2. That’s right, the $1000 per month was just minum payments on our various debts.
    3. At the rate we were going, we wouldn’t done paying our debts until something like Fall of 2027.
      1. And, because of compounding interest, that would cost us thousands of dollars extra.
      2. That’s the killer part of debt… is that you have to figure that only a portion of your payment is going towards your actual debt. 
      3. A significant portion is going towards paying interest.
      4. And the longer you take to pay something, the more interest you pay.
    4. So we found ourselves in the precarious position of wanting to eliminate our debt payments as fast as possible.
  9. There are a couple of ways to approach this.
    1. The first is to go after the lowest hanging fruit first.
      1. Meaning, you go after the debt you owe the least amount on.
      2. For example, maybe you own $7,000 on your car, but $12000 in credit card debt.
      3. You can eliminate that car payment quicker, so you begin making extra payments there to get it eliminated while making the minimum credit card payments.
    2. I went with a different approach.
      1. And it worked for us because of our specific circumstances.
        1. So we had three sources of debt.
        2. The totals of each debt weren’t all that far apart… so there wasn’t one that was going to be significantly easier to pay off than any of the others.
          1. They were all going to suck to pay off.
        3. BUT, there was one that I felt was more damaging than the rest.
      2. We had a credit card debt that had a high interest rate.
        1. I felt that was the most damaging to us,
        2. So we concentrated on paying that off first.
        3. You’ll probably want to concentrate on that credit first, too.
          1. Unless you have some pay advance loans or something with crazy high interest rates
          2. The credit card is likely your main money sucker.
        4. Therefore, it became our plan to kill the credit card as soon as possible.
        5. And that was how we paid that thing off sooner than 2027… and how we’ll be debt free by this time next year.
    3. So how did we get the money to start getting aggressive in paying that debt?
  10. Yeah, that’s the trick isn’t it?
    1. Well, that’s where the expense analysis I did became even more important.
    2. So I’m going to say that step one in eliminating credit card debt is to do an expense analysis.
      1. That is simply looking at all the expenses you incur over a couple months.
      2. And then identifying where your money is going.
      3. From there, you can decide what needs to get cut in the interest of frugality.
      4. And what can be moved around.
    3. In our case, we could get the superfluous subscriptions and some of the frivolous spending–like a lot of lunches from restaurants–and then use that money to make extra payments on the credit card.
    4. I went a little further actually.
      1. I set a goal to get the credit card paid.
      2. So I used an online calculator 
        1. Where I entered in the amount I owed
        2. And when I wanted to get the credit card paid by
        3. And it kicked back a monthly sum I needed to pay in order to meet my arbitrary deadline.
        4. THEN, I figured out how to make that number work.
          1. Now, initially, I set my sights a bit too high.
          2. I was over aggressive in how quickly I could pay off that credit card.
          3. And I couldn’t come up with the money to make my inflated monthly payments.
          4. So I had to do some recalculation.
      3. That really was step two: Allocating extra payments.
        1. I figured out what we could cut from our budget and we then used that money for extra payments on the credit card.
  11. Now there’s a third, kind of hidden step here, too.
    1. And it involves setting oneself up to not use the credit card any more.
    2. We had gotten in credit trouble because we had no emergency savings.
    3. So whenever a medical emergency or car emergency came up–like needing to replace the serpentine belt and some rotors on the car–then we would have to toss out the credit card for payment.
    4. Our first step was actually to put money into savings so that we wouldn’t have to use credit the next time an unplanned expense came up.
    5. This might be more important than making additional payments from the get go.
      1. Because you can start making those additional payments on your credit card.
      2. But if your just upping your balance on the back-end because you have to keep using your credit card, then you’re not actually getting any where.
    6. So an important, and maybe overlooked, step in in this debt retirement process is to set oneself into a position where you don’t incur more debt.
  12. Let’s review:
    1. Steps to killing credit debt:
      1. Figure out where your money is going
      2. Reroute whatever expenses you can towards your goal
      3. Build up an emergency savings 
    2. And last thing: give yourself some grace.
      1. What happens to many of us is that we start this plan, and then something sets us back… like we have to pay for a root canal out of pocket before we have the emergency savings built up…
      2. So we use the credit card, right?
      3. Some people might take that as a sign that the plan’s not working.
      4. We’re not going to do that.
      5. We’re going to take the hit, then keep on chugging… because that’s what a bad-ass does.
      6. You’re still bad-ass if you stumble.
      7. You’re bad-ass as long as you keep going.
    3. Now that the credit card is gone, I can take all that money I was paying on it and make additional payments on another debt–in this case, the personal loan.
      1. So now my payments there have doubled.
      2. Which, you guessed it, means I’ll pay that off in half the time.
      3. I was supposed to be done with it Fall of next year.
      4. Now it will be late this year.
    4. And then one day soon… I’ll have that extra $1000 a month in my pocket.
      1. Then… who knows.
      2. But it feels good to dream.
      3. It’s coming.
  13. Alright, thanks for celebrating with me.
    1. If this episode on debt management and paying off the credit card has been helpful, then say so by dropping a review.
    2. Hit the subscribe button while you’re at it.
    3. My name is Ryan Dunn.
      1. The Bad-Ass Dad Pod is a weekly podcast
      2. We generally have a rhythm of alternating shorter and longer episodes. 
      3. I got off rhythm in this case–that’s life, right.
      4. But we’re going to pick back up next week… ‘cuz that’s what bad-asses do, right?
    4. More conversation is happening in our Facebook group: the Bad-Ass Dad Squad.
      1. Join in the fun and support.
      2. It’s a good time.
    5. There’s also more information on becoming a bad-ass physically, relationally and financially over at thebadpod.com.
    6. Music is by Eyoelin.
    7. Talk at you next week.
    8. OK Bye.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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