How Does It Feel to Pay Off $100,000 of Debt?


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Last Thursday we made the October payment to our debt management plan. After hanging up the phone, I leaned back in the chair to let the gravity of the payment sink in. To be honest with you, my bottom lip trembled a little bit as tears started to form in the corners of my closed eyelids.

With our 52nd payment, the amount of debt that we have repaid through our debt management program has hit the mark of $100,000.

Sitting in a conference room at work with the door closed, I couldn’t quite figure out the exact reason behind my flood of emotion.

Maybe it was the milestone of the number. It’s such an unbelievable number. I’ve told our story countless times, and each time there’s a voice in my head laughing, reminding me how absurd this sentence sounds: “We racked up $109,000 in credit card debt.”

Maybe it’s because with four months to go the end finally feels real. For the last four plus years Vonnie and I have just been trying to get in a rhythm. It’s taken a lot of work. A LOT of work to get to where we are with our communication and budget system. It’s been much like fighting your way against the wind in a driving snowstorm. You just tuck your head into your chest and keep moving forward. You know that over time you will get to your destination, but all you can do is look down at your feet and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Maybe I never thought we’d ever be here, with the finish line in full sight. We started this journey because our hand was forced. In July of 2009 we knew we had to do something, and this debt management program that we had never heard of sounded a lot better than bankruptcy. But did we actually believe that we could make a payment of $2489 each month until it was gone?

Maybe it’s because while we’re staring downhill at the finish line of our debt management program, I realize that it’s not really the end, but a new beginning. We won’t be completely free of our credit card debt, as there were lines of credit that we could not enroll into our plan. But when February 28th arrives, we have a very large chunk of money each month that no longer HAS to be paid to our program.  A beginning of a life where we no longer have to worry about whether an unexpected expense will put us into crisis mode. A life where instead of just paying for the financial indiscretions of the first thirteen years of our marriage,  we can work to pay off our remaining debt, but still apply some of our funds to building wealth.

Maybe it was a combination of all of these things.  What I do know is that as I wrote this post, I had to stop a few times because tears kept forming in the corner of my eyes. I thought to myself that it must be because the gravity of our payment hasn’t fully sunk in just yet.

Or maybe these damned tears keep forming because it actually has.

About Travis

76 Responses to “How Does It Feel to Pay Off $100,000 of Debt?”

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  1. 100K is a ton of cash! That’s amazing! Congrats on hitting that huge goal!

    • Travis says:

      Thanks Holly, it’s like looking down at a HUGE hill that I just climbed and thinking to myself, “I just did that?” We still have some work to do…but the end is within our grasp. Thank you so much for your support!

  2. Like Holly said, that is amazing Travis! I paid off about half in the same time frame and that took all I had and more, so I can only imagine what it must feel like to have that day in sight. Congrats sir on hitting that mark!

    • Travis says:

      You know exactly what it feels like to have that day in your sights, John – you’ve been there and done that….it means a lot to me for you to stop by and give your support!

  3. I wrote a guest post on someone else’s blog (which hasn’t been published yet) about the feeling that one can expect paying off debt. There is a lot of emotion that comes with it…and sometimes it’s not always happy feelings. But what you’ve managed to accomplish is amazing. Makes you think you can do anything when you put your mind to it right?! You’re getting closer!!!

    • Travis says:

      It was emotionally draining, but it was certainly happy emotions….I just couldn’t figure out what exact piece of information was making me leak. 🙂 YES, we CAN do anything when we put our minds to it, Tonya….that much I know with 100% certainty. 🙂

  4. I can kind of imagine because I felt similar emotions when I sent in our last credit card payment about a year ago. It was $30K paid off, so maybe your emotion was 3x greater than mine, but I can still understand. To be able to get ahead of the 8 ball must feel amazing, and I’m sure you feel there is no limit to what is possible now. Congratulations!

    • Travis says:

      When February 28th rolls around it’s going to be a whole new playing field Kim…..sometimes I just sit and daydream about it. Thanks for the support, and for stopping by!

  5. Your commitment and dedication should serve as an example to anybody struggling financially. Many struggle and feel they do not have options to take control of their finances. We are all so very very proud of you Travis and thanks for allowing us to go along for the ride.

    • Travis says:

      I cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done, Suzanne, and for the support you have given me and my family. The hard part of this journey is almost over….and then the fun part begins. The foundation has been laid, and on February 28th we begin building a great future. I hope you and the rest of the CareOne team will come along for that ride as well. 🙂

  6. Ali says:

    Wow, Travis. What a great post and even better accomplishment. I am always in awe of what you and Vonnie have accomplished these past 4, almost 5 years. And I don’t just mean paying off your debt. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Great point, Ali – the fact that we have paid off $100,000 in debt is simply a result of the blood, sweat, and tears Vonnie and I have put in working on how to function as a team when it comes to our finances. Without that accomplishment, we would likely end up right back in debt – and as much as I love everyone at CareOne, I can do without going through the program a second time. LOL. Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂

  7. catherine says:

    So excited for you guys. We will throw a huge online party when you’re done. You’ve gone from owing six figures worth of debt to four. 100+k to less than 10k! That’s huge.

    • Travis says:

      Interesting idea, Catherine….we have a party each year Memorial Weekend, and we were planning on celebrating our accomplishment big in 2014 (within budget, and with all cash of course). BUT, I need to figure out a way to celebrate with my online friends….if you have any ideas let me know!

  8. An incredible, life-altering journey you and Vonnie have been through Travis, congratulations! Have you ever estimated the interest expense you’ve saved over the past 4-5 years? Must be enormous. I suspect your emotions are rooted mostly in pride and a sense of accomplishment over the huge challenge you’ve nearly overcome.

    • Travis says:

      Life-altering indeed, Kurt!!!!! As far as how much I’ve saved on interest…that’s a great question. I do know that over the life of my program we will have paid about $137000 towards our debt (when I subtract the monthly program fee) to pay off $109,000. So that means that we would have paid $28,000 of interest over 56 months. Before we enrolled our payments were almost exactly the same, but with a higher interest rate causing us to make very little progress towards the balance of our debt….so I would guess it has saved us 10’s of thousands of dollars interest just during the program period. PLUS, had we NOT enrolled our debt would be FAR from gone!

  9. dojo says:

    Phew, now that’s some serious dough and some drastic payment planning. Kudos to you for such an amazing feat. Really great job with paying so much debt.

  10. Major milestones coming into view always carry strong emotions for me. I ran my first marathon yesterday with tears in my eyes crossing the finish line.

    • Travis says:

      From our Twitter conversation, I know that the marathon you ran was the NYC marathon. I was watching the coverage on TV. I’m a marathon runner myself, and I know EXACTLY what you mean about your feelings when you crossed the finish line. I’ve run three marathons and I can remember the feeling of crossing that finish line for all three. There is NOTHING like that feeling. I expect that when we finish this financial marathon at the end of February I will feel something very similar. Congrats on YOUR accomplishment, Stefanie!

  11. Mackenzie says:

    Congrats on such a major accomplishment, Travis!! Amazing 🙂 And I completely understand the emotion!

  12. Holy crap! That is an achievement there Travis. I can understand the emotion. Congratulations and I wish you success on killing off the rest.

    • Travis says:

      Thank you for the well wishes, Grayson….I was hoping to meet you at Fincon, but I heard you had some last second plan changes. Hopefully next year!

  13. What an awesome accomplishment! That’s an incredible amount of debt that you’ve paid off already. Congratulations!

    • Travis says:

      Thank you so much, Color Me Frugal – I am overwhelmed with the support we are receiving today. I sincerely appreciate you stopping by and reading!

  14. SOOOOOOO happy for you guys, Travis!!!!! I hope the celebration you guys have at your house will be a good one, whether a mellow evening of celebration at home, or a whoop it up kind of a party. Big hugs to all of you from The Frugal Farmer family – congrats!!!!!!!

    • Travis says:

      Vonnie doesn’t do “mellow evening of celebration at home” very well….so I’m sure it will be a “whoop it up kind of party.” All within budget and with cash, of course. LOL. I feel fortunate to have connected with a fellow Minnesotan blogger, and will continue to support you and your family’s efforts until you reach that finish line as well. Oh, and we simply must meet in person too. 🙂

  15. J$ says:

    CONGRATS MAN!!! You guys killed it – so proud of you!!! 🙂

  16. FI Pilgrim says:

    WOW, that’s incredible. Great job, and keep telling that story, it’s inspiring!

    • Travis says:

      I love the word, “inspiring,” FI Pilgrim – it’s what keeps me writing. I hope to inspire others, and I LOVE being inspired by other people’s stories as well!

  17. $100k?! WOW!!! I’m impressed, and inspired. At the beginning of the year, we had $200k of student loan debt, and are chipping through it. I hope we can stay motivated like you!

    • Travis says:

      That’s a lot of student loans, Rebecca, but you CAN do it! Just keep chipping at it, and you’ll be surprised at how fast those balances will come down!

  18. Brad Chaffee says:


    Man, my eyes are watering just thinking about what you’ve accomplished, so it’s no wonder you are overwhelmed with emotion! You have done what so many people have decided they couldn’t do. I personally know people who have filed bankruptcy on less than $30,000. What you and Vonnie have done says a lot about your character and commitment to do the right thing!!

    As you know I have a very low opinion of bankruptcy and as much as I try not to judge those that choose not to pay back what they owe, it’s hard for me to look past their decision to jump ship on their financial obligation. For me, that makes your story even more incredible! You looked at what must have felt impossible and you and your wife said WE ARE GOING TO PAY THIS OFF! I’m super proud of your accomplishment and I cannot wait to hear your debt free declaration!

    You are truly an Enemy of Debt! It is an honor to have a guy like you write an article like this on a blog I started to simply tell my own story. Better than that I am lucky to know you and call you friend! CONGRATULATIONS BRO!!

    Keep killing it dude! You guys are amazing!!

    • Travis says:

      Great to hear from you, my friend – I read your comment to Vonnie and it made her cry. Your support means more to me than you can ever know. I continue to post here on Enemy Of Debt with absolute pride – I do my very best to carry on the tradition you started, and to pay tribute to the ideology behind why you started this site. I miss talking with you, Brad – expect to hear from me soon. 🙂

  19. Aaron says:

    Wow. Way to stick with it.

  20. Congratulations to you! Just let those tears flow! I think that part of the emotion stems from a changed self concept. You used to think you weren’t equal to the challenge, and perhaps there was a part of you that didn’t think much of yourself for being in such a debt-ridden position. Now you know you ARE equal to the challenge. Now a new self-respect is washing out the old negative view of you had of yourself – and those tears are doing the washing. Does that sound right? I can hardly wait to feel the way you do right now! Soak it in : )

    • Travis says:

      Great perspective, Prudence….I think you’ve put into words exactly what I was feeling. I think at that moment I realized that the $109K of debt did not define me, and for the first time I knew that I was better than that. A coming out party for myself in that conference room at work. I’m excited for you and your family to feel that way too……I’ll be following and walking with you on your journey until you do!

  21. Darla Mathews says:

    I think that is an AMAZING accomplishment and you deserve all the above kudos! I’m thinking those are happy, relieved tears that your long anticipated goal is in sight and, WOW, what a journey! Enjoy your upcoming freedom from debt because it is surely coming soon and thanks for inspiring all of us as well! 🙂

  22. Wow, 100k is insane, but you guys did it! Just a little bit left and then it will all be gone. How much more emotional will that be for you than the 100k mark?

    • Travis says:

      I can’t even imagine, Lance. I may have to take the morning off to recover from that phone call making the final payment – it’s going to be!!!!

  23. That is impressive, Travis.. I know that it has surely been a long road to get here, and you definitely deserve some congrats.. The end of the road for you guys is getting closer every day. We hit our debt free moment not all that long ago, and I still have a sweet taste in my mouth 🙂

  24. The Warrior says:

    I know this is nothing new, but it’s probably the freedom from the debt shackles that hit you.

    I know that each time I have hit zero debt, I feel overjoyed. Why am I still in debt then? That’s for another day.

    Congrats and well wishes. on your journey to wealth building after the next 4 months are up

    The Warrior

    • Travis says:

      Freedom sounds good, Warrior….I’m definitely in anticipation of that feeling!! I’m looking forward to reading a future blog post about YOUR story. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  25. Wow – Travis! I cannot imagine how good and powerful it must have felt to make that payment. To see how far you and your wife have come. That is outstanding and yes, the best part lies just a little bit further ahead. When those payments can now go towards building wealth and creating the life you want for yourself and your family. A great inspiration and congratulations!

    • Travis says:

      It was a powerful moment, Shannon….the kind of moment that lets you know you’re alive. Did I ever feel alive – it was awesome. I can’t wait to experience the day we make that last payment….thanks for your kind words, and for stopping by!

  26. Just got goosebumps reading this! Can’t say congrats enough, you have such an inspiring story! Honored to know you!

  27. Mike Goodman says:

    That is awesome! You deserve the praises from all these comments. 100k is no small feat and knowing how life-changing it is, it can inspire individuals to be brave enough and take their first big step towards financial freedom.

    • Travis says:

      I hope it does help people to take that first step…..when we hit our financial breaking point, we didn’t know what options are out there – and I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck. They don’t know that there are options to help them so they keep drowning in debt. There ARE options, and they CAN get back on the right path. Thanks for your comment!

  28. Congratulations! This brings tears to my eyes! We paid off our debt 15 years ago and while it was medical bills and some credit card expenses, it didn’t matter what it was spent on, the debt felt overwhelming. Living within your means is a lot easier when you aren’t financing your lifestyle. Congrats, again!

    • Travis says:

      “financing your lifestyle” <- oh boy do I know that this feels like! I can't wait until the day comes when I can look at our budget and see that we don't spend *anything* on throwing interest payments away! Thanks for reading ,Betsy!

  29. Man, that’s big bucks Travis! Congrats!

    Do you have a post pointing to how you got into $100,000 in credit card debt? I think you do, but I don’t know where to find it.

    The most my personal CC gave to me was a $35,000 credit limit. I’m actually kinda interested in figuring out a way to lever up.



    • Travis says:

      Thanks, Sam, nice to hear from you! I’ve described in several posts how we got into such debt. This is probably my favorite post about it:

      But it kind of sounds like you’re wondering how we got that big of a limit. I certainly don’t advocate having that kind of credit limit unless you’re very self-disciplined, which from what I know you are. 🙂 It wasn’t just one card – our largest one had a $32,000 limit. It was a total of 13 accounts – owned by both my wife and I. When cards filled up, I’d apply for a new one, then consolidate and do balance transfers. Then fill them up again.

      It was a complete financial death spiral. Thanks for stopping by, Sam!

  30. Michelle says:

    What an amazing, amazing accomplishment! I am so proud of you and your wife. Your teamwork, good humor, focus, and dedication to one another helped make this happen. I can’t wait to read the paid off post!!!

  31. Deacon says:

    Wow! That is incredible! We paid off $52,000 in consumer debt and it was a great feeling, I can only imagine what it is like paying off $100k. Way to go on being so disciplined!

  32. Gina says:

    That is great! Congrats to you both!

  33. So inspired by your story. You two are amazing, and you make me think anything is possible!

  34. Dear Debt says:

    That is so incredible and inspiring! By the time I’m done, I’ll have paid off at least 81k and some interest. It hurts like heck, but the finish line will be so sweet. Glad yours is coming soon.

    • Travis says:

      Looking forward to crossing that finish line in February, Dear Debt. Paying off 81K is quite a journey as well – it takes determination and motivation, and I know you’ve got it! Keep going, step by step!

  35. I reckon it feels better than taking out $100,000 in loans!

  36. Well done, Travis. It feels even better when it is all paid off. Then you can just go to your account and watch the ‘Benjamins’ piling up :).

    • Travis says:

      That’s what I’m talking about, Maria – let’s see how high we can stack ’em! Congrats on paying off your debt as well, Maria, and thanks for stopping by!

  37. jim says:

    Way to go, Bud!!!!!!!!!!!!! Excellent job. I’d be crying too! Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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