Money·3 min read

I Paid Off $75K of Debt After Getting A Divorce

September 23, 2020

The Story

In 2012, Nakeya got divorced and became a single mom. She had $500 to her name and more than $80,000 of debt. Eight years later, she’s paid off $75,000.


That’s what we said. Her first move was to stop using credit cards. Pro tip: taking your cards out of your wallet and deleting the number from your fav sites can go a long way. Paying for everything with cash (or debit) means you’ll never spend money you don’t have.

She also kept “meticulous” records along the way. You can track your progress on a big money goal with spreadsheets, a budgeting app or pen and paper. Make sure to schedule regular money dates with yourself to see how things are going.

But that debt, though…

Nakeya used the snowball method. That’s when you focus on paying your smallest balances first, building momentum before you tackle bigger ones. If you’re team ‘efficiency over everything,’ the avalanche method prioritizes debt payments based on the interest rate – saving you more over time. No matter which one you choose, make minimum payments on every balance, every month.

She also took about $20,000 out of her 401(k), which is typically a last-resort kinda move. Because dipping into your retirement money usually comes with taxes and penalties. And it means there’ll be less for Future You.

Related: How to Get a Lower Interest Rate on Your Credit Card

What else did she do?

She put in a LOT of hustle. On top of her 9-to-5, Nakeya picked up social media strategy work, earning $175 per client each month. And turned her passion for makeup into a job at MAC, earning $15/hour.

Psst...cutting back can help you pay off debt faster, whether you have the time, skills or motivation to start a side hustle...or not.

Related: theSkimm on Side Hustles

That sounds like a lot of work.

It is. Now, Nakeya uses some of her Big Debt Energy to save. Exhibit A: she’s set up automatic transfers to her emergency fund. She’s also passing on some of the lessons she’s learned to her son. Here are a few ways you can share financial basics with little ones: 

  • Give them some fun money. Even a small allowance for doing household chores can help kids understand the value of a dollar. And what it’s like to save up for something they want.

  • Stock up on edu-tainment. They’ll learn a lot from watching you handle money, but they can also learn from characters. So choose their bedtime books wisely.

  • Walk them through your budget. Remember the part about having money dates with yourself? Set the table for two once in a while, so they can see both the spending and saving side of the money equation.


Debt can weigh heavy on your resources, relationships, and mental health. Getting organized, upping your income, and learning from other people who’ve been in your shoes can put you on the right track.

Asking for a Friend videos highlight one woman's story. They do not necessarily reflect theSkimm's point of view.

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