In October 2011, Paulette Perhach, who wrote the viral blog post “A Story of a F*** Off Fund,” decided to face her debt head on. At the time, she had roughly $14,000 in student loan debt, a $145,000 mortgage, $1,500 in credit card debt, and what she calls “embarrassing debt” – more than $3,000 owed to her mom and her boyfriend.
Paulette felt like she was in over her head. “I was just really tired of feeling financially desperate,” she said. So she turned to what she knew: writing.
How writing helped her pay off debt
At the suggestion of a friend, Paulette started a blog to write about her experiences and keep herself accountable while paying off debt.
“I used a blog that I started with nerdy graphs to pay it off,” Paulette explained. “I gave the blog address to just a few people, and the only person who followed it was my best friends’ mom,” she said. She now continues that blog through the F*** Off Fund Monthly.
Having someone following her progress was enough to keep her motivated and on top of her debt. “Having a blog with charts made me really look at how my life was going. Posting it and having a friend look at it helped me stay accountable,” she said. “It was the tiniest thing, but I didn’t want to disappoint the friend who checked the blog,” Paulette explained.
Through writing and changing her habits, Paulette was able to knock out her credit card debt and “embarrassing debt” to her mom and boyfriend in July 2012. By October 2013, she paid off all of her student loans and sold her house.
Writing helped Paulette pay off her debt in two years, but it wasn’t the only thing she did to achieve debt freedom.
Strategies she used to get out of debt
Paulette started following Dave Ramsey, which helped give her an action plan to get out of debt. That included her student loans, which can so often be written off as the “good debt.”
“I would have otherwise just paid minimums on my student loans, I’m glad he convinced me to just knock them out,” she said.
Paulette also took on an extra job as a waitress, in addition to her 9-to-5 job. She worked Friday nights and one weekend morning to earn more and eliminate her debt faster.
She also focused on expanding her skill set. “I also continued to educate myself, especially in software and soft skills. There are all these skills that schools don’t really teach us,” she said.
She learned skills such as how to run a meeting, negotiation, and project management. Learning new skills helped bring value to what she had to offer, which gave her the confidence to go after the work she really wanted.
But one of her biggest motivations to get rid of debt and become financially smart was her career as a writer. Though she was blogging and writing to keep herself accountable, she knew she wanted to write for a living.
“I had a really bad history with money, always paying late fees and insufficient fund charges,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a writer, so I realized that I had to be much smarter about money and set myself up to be able to live on a lower income.”
Overcoming bad habits, starting fresh
Though Paulette was able to use her blog to get out of debt and employed several strategies to reach debt freedom, it took a lot of work to overcome some bad money habits that were holding her back. It also required an honest look at herself to understand what would work and what would not.
“I had to know myself in order to make a plan for me,” she said. So Paulette ditched the credit cards, automated payments, and sent half of her rent with every paycheck.
She also acknowledged characteristics about herself, such as being impulsive, that affected her money management.
“I struggle in a world where I can order sushi delivered to my door by just hitting a few buttons,” she admitted.
Through commitment and self-discipline, Paulette worked through her bad habits so she could pay off debt.
Life after debt
Paulette admitted that while she was in debt, she did not have a “F*** Off Fund” like the one she wrote about. But once she paid off her debt and got her financial life together, things started to change. She didn’t have debt holding her back and could save her money.
“Once I paid off debt, it was like I could stop running from something bad and start running toward something better,” she said. “Debt had been like handcuffs – savings are like a jetpack.”
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