87K in Debt With a Love of $500 Shoes

lauren dahl

Only 5 years ago Lauren Dahl found herself $87,000 in debt. Today, she’s debt-free, and she’s sharing 5 of her getting-out-of-debt secrets with us! How’d she do it?

Unconventional Debt-Reduction Strategies with Lauren Dahl… 

“Flash back to 2007. I had just moved to Utah from Colorado and started a new job at an advertising agency. I had a master’s degree, a satisfying career and a good salary. Life was good, right?It would appear so, but upon closer inspection, you would see my $32K+ in credit card debt, $55K+ in student loans, a 560-ish credit score and a penchant for $500 shoes. Really.

Up until that point, I’d always told myself, ‘You can pay it off later when you make more money.’ But you know what? The more money I made, the more I spent. (Isn’t it funny how that seems to work?) Something had to change.

So, how am I now free of credit card debt (with a 780+ credit score to boot)? Here are 5 of my most successful getting-out-of-debt strategies:

1. I canceled all my magazine subscriptions and cable. 
One of the first things I did when I started paying off my debt was to get rid of all the little expenses like magazine subscriptions and cable. The direct result was that I saved a few hundred dollars a year. But the unintended (and much more valuable) indirect result was that limiting my exposure to advertising dramatically decreased my desire for new things.

2. I used public transportation. 
When I decided to pay off my debt, I was filling up my gas tank about once a week at a cost of $50 or so. Even though I was driving a relatively fuel-efficient Volkswagen Jetta, I was still spending $200/month on fuel. My employer was willing to pay for either a monthly parking pass or public transportation pass. Since my apartment was walking distance from a bus stop, I gave up my downtown parking spot and saved myself over $100/month by taking the bus.

3. I analyzed past spending habits. 
I had no idea where my money was going before I started my debt-reduction plan. My husband-to-be convinced me to spend a few hours analyzing two years’ expenditures (using online credit card/bank statements) before we got married. Much to my surprise, I was spending about $20K more a year than I made! This was a huge step in helping me to develop self-control.

4. I wouldn’t buy anything over $50 without thinking about it for a week. 
You may have heard that you shouldn’t buy anything over $100 without thinking about it for 24 hours. I was serious about paying off debt, so I took this a step further and reduced the amount to $50. And instead of sleeping on it, I gave myself a week to decide on purchases. Oftentimes, I found I either didn’t need or want the item anymore at the end of the waiting period.

5. I realized being financially smart is never embarrassing. 
Prior to beginning my path to zero credit-card debt, I often felt the need to “save financial face” in public purchasing situations. For example, if a salesperson was pitching me an $80 t-shirt or face cream I knew I didn’t need, I would buy it just to appear that doing so was no big deal to me. And if I was out to dinner, I wouldn’t dare share a meal to save money because I found that to be extremely humiliating.

Once I changed my mindset, I became more embarrassed for the person who thought they needed an $80 t-shirt than I was for not being able to (or wanting to!) afford one. I realized that all the people I was trying to impress didn’t matter.

Lauren Dahl is a marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom and part-time freelancer. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, daughter and two cats. During the rare moment she’s not chasing a toddler, she designs knitting patterns, sews hand-made clothes and works on perfecting her pizza recipe. Her family’s “someday” financial goal is to move to the French countryside – just a train’s ride away from Paris (for her) AND world-class bouldering (for her husband).  She blogs at Lauren Dahl


Thanks Lauren!

What are your go-to strategies for keeping your finances in line, and what are you currently focusing on in your get out of debt mission?


If you have a story about how you paid off a ton of debt or if you have another great money related story that would help others send me an email at: hello@andthenwesaved.com (please note that credit or lending companies will not be considered for inclusion; only real people with real stories will be considered! :)

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!


13 thoughts on “87K in Debt With a Love of $500 Shoes

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  1. Mickelle

    I love your blog. Most the blogs I look at make me want to buy things, and your blog help keeps it in perspective. Thank you!

  2. Amanda Piatt

    I’m a recent newlywed and I’m tired of disappointing my husband with my bad spending habits! I found your blog just in the nick of time. New year, new spending habits.

    Thanks so much!!

  3. Laura

    This was such a great article – it makes me feel so much better that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My debt is very small $2000, but my credit score has been completely slashed at 585. I love these great tips and it will really help me with my spending – I waste a lot of money on going out to eat and sporadic purchases.

  4. Christa the BabbyMam

    I’ve found that frugality has become cool among my friends – most of them, anyway – since we’ve all realized the value of being debt free as a first step toward losing the BIG debt aka mortgage!

    Way to go!

  5. Jennifer

    I’ve been on a debt reducing roller coaster the past year or so. I’ve been really great at paying off debt (at one point, I only owed on 1 credit card!), but lately, I’ve added 2 more cards (though not maxed out) back onto that list. I’m ready for a spending fast in 2013. I will tackle my cards first, then my student loans! I’m so glad I found your site!! I look forward to continuing to read it as support and encouragement throughout the new year!!

  6. Melissa

    I’ve always enjoyed Lauren’s blog Baste and Gather as her writing has a very friendly easygoing style. Now that I know about her financial achievements I feel like this is something I can do as well :)


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