TLDR - Worked my ass off, made sacrifices and lived in a van.
It started a decade ago and slowly built up. The biggest debt owed was to my parents. Approximately 8-10 grand. They didn't hound me for it so I kept putting it off and it kept building up. An old phone plan. Two or three cruises that they booked and I'd "pay them back". Things kept stacking. It nagged me, but I did nothing. They didn't put the pressure on me so I kept spending money on other things. Some were "tools" that I dreamed would pay for themselves and eventually the debt. Paid for with mostly zero interest credit, it could have been worse.
The year was 2020 and I finally got my act together. It was a great year for me. Honest, 2020 wasn't bad. Like many new years, I was determined to pay off everything I owed them and any tool payments I still had.
So I quit my job in March to work on making my own money. You know, instead of staying at the job to have money coming in. The timing was terrible obviously with everything shutting down for a "few weeks". I worked on stuff and didn't make any money. Just like normal. I have decent ideas, but no audience to pitch them too and execution is sus sometimes.
Quitting wasn't too stupid. I lived in a van and would work out of it while boondocking. That made my expenses super low. Since I didn't have rent, I could work on fringe projects. Exploring my creativity. But I wasn't really making money.
The months ticked by and I still didn't have a good plan as to how I was going to come up with the money. Things I tried fizzled out.
Finally I hit up a buddy who I hadn't seen for awhile and ended up working a few months at his farm.
It was July when the money started flowing in. That meant 6 months to get all the cash I needed to become debt free. For someone who typically made $15K a year, that's a huge hurdle.
Working on the farm was a great cash infusion that I used to pay off the last of the tools and finally start adding to the debt account I'd setup for paying back my parents. But I needed more. I did have a seasonal gig lined up.
I left the farm and drove 1,500 miles to North Dakota. Worked there for two weeks, then onto the Michigan harvest for three. Same hiring company, different sugar companies. Interesting work and decent money. By the time I was done with those harvests it was almost mid-November. I'd banked everything; minus travel expenses, food and standard stuff. But there was a problem, I was short.
About $2K short. I didn't have anything lined up and as I drove back to California, started looking. A Christmas tree lot opportunity opened up. Applied, interviewed and got it.
I knew it would be hard work and the day rate/bonus for setup/teardown wasn't great, but it would help me get that last little bit of cash. So I did it. I missed Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. It sucked, but making sacrifices to reach goals is what you have to do. If that means living in a van and taking work that doesn't excite you, do it.
It was New Year's Eve. I had finished my tree lot gig the previous day. A 5 hour drive back home was the plan. To visit family and present a "gift card" to my parents. A gift of their own money back, way late and without interest. They were surprised and appreciative. I was happy to be done.
Right at the close of 2020, I'd won. I'd conquered my debt. All of it. I don't owe anything to anyone. It felt great. It feels great. It always loomed over me. Nagged at me. Even with my super cool parents who didn't pressure me to pay them back, or charge interest, It just wasn't right. Not fair to them. Selfish of me and not the kind of thing I want to be known for.
Now that I'm truly debt free, I've got a little bit of cash in the bank. Not stressing on how to cover basic expenses, let alone debt. Also just bought some land and a micro tiny house is in my near future.
To wrap it up. I made over 10K in 6 months. It covered travel expenses for the harvest/tree gigs ($1,000+), food, tool payoffs and family payback. And for someone who makes very little, it's a huge deal for me.
The weight is gone. I've been relaxing for the last month or so and slowly designing out my tiny house.
Make sacrifices. Make the difficult choices to solve problems you have. Most are temporary and the mental clarity you'll get once it's done is amazing!