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Today I’m excited to share with you Sarah Wilson, aka Budget Girl’s debt free story! She’s an awesome millennial woman who paid off over $32K of debt on her own in three years. Well not on her own if you count her 17,000 subscribers on YouTube!
So without further ado, here’s Budget Girl!
Can you tell a little about yourself for people who aren’t familiar with you and your YouTube channel?
I’m Sarah Wilson, also known as Budget Girl on YouTube, where I talk about living a frugal and fun life on a budget. I documented paying off my student loans on a low income over the past three years and am now living debt-free, but still frugally, while pursuing my financial goals.
How much debt did you pay off and how long did it take you?
I started off with $32,640ish dollars in debt and paid thousands of dollars in additional interest as I was working the original number down. It took 3 years and two months.
You’re a writer and editor, why start a video channel?
Because I write and edit writing all day, I did not want to spend more time doing that when I got home – hence the vlog over a blog!
Why the name Budget Girl?
I wanted to commit fully to budgeting my income and getting out of debt. (The former really is the secret to the latter.) It wasn’t the first name I thought of, but it was the best that wasn’t taken already!
Logistics aside, it would be very hard to maintain the moniker if I wasn’t doing the best I could at budgeting, so I thought it would also hold me accountable.
How many videos have you done?
Just over 450. 🙂 It’s crazy to think I’ve done that many.
How do you budget?
I use an Excel-type spreadsheet that I created in Google Drive. It’s very basic and doesn’t require a lot of formulas or spreadsheet acumen. Anyone with a Gmail account has access to drive and it can be accessed from any computer or phone – so my budget is always with me.
How can someone else set up a budget in Google Drive?
I have a copy of one of my budgets available in this video, where I also describe how I budget. Anyone can copy the budget to their drive and use it or change it to meet their needs.
What were some of your side gigs that helped you in paying off debt?
I delivered pizzas for a while on the 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift at Hungry Howies. I did secret shopping through SecondtoNone and Marketforce. I bought items at yard sales and sold them online or at consignment.
I also ruthlessly purged my belongings and sold anything I didn’t need. I’ve babysat, dog-sat, dog- trained and helped people organize their spaces.
I have made the most money Youtubing though. My channel currently makes me about $1,000 per month through monetizing the videos with Google. It has been a slowly growing thing. I didn’t make any money during the first year I was making videos, but it really took off during the final year of debt and I was able to put all my YouTube earnings toward my loans.
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What was your biggest setback during the last three years?
Being intentional with your money and having to log every dollar you spend has a wonderful side effect of really coming to understand what life costs.
So if an unexpected expense came up, I dealt with it and made a plan to never have to stress out over that same thing again. So when my car needed sudden work, I started a car repair/replace sinking fund and after that always had at least some money set aside to deal with costly car issues.
The same with medical expenses. So after budgeting for about a year, I was never shocked when a rainy day came and I had umbrellas a-plenty. This allowed me to transform potential setbacks into minor aggravations. I was aggravated that I couldn’t put as much money to debt that month, but planning for inevitable expenses allowed me to never have to walk backwards.
Instead, I would say that for all three years, I never was set back, but occasionally moved forward more slowly or even had to stand still for a moment. During this time I sinking funded two cross-state moves and paid cash for a new-to-me used car. But I never went into more debt. I anticipated the storm and slowed my debt payoff temporarily to save up and pay for it.
What are some of the things you’re going to do now that you’re debt free?
I plan to save about $10,000 as a fully funded emergency fund, as per the Dave Ramsey Plan. This will allow me to pay for most issues that may arise with cash on hand. If God forbid, I was to fall ill or lose my job, I would have a healthy nest egg to ease or deal with the situation.
I do also plan on traveling some and generally enjoying life a little more than I allowed myself to when I was on a scorched earth budget and trying to get rid of my debt. I’ve already started buying the good cheese, chocolate, and coffee at the grocery store instead of the cheap stuff. 🙂 I also plan to save for retirement, invest and generally make smart future-oriented money decisions.
What advice would you give to someone starting their debt-free journey?
It’s not going to be easy, but it will absolutely be worth it. Sacrificing now to live better later will be the best decision you’ve ever made, and looking back you won’t care about the times you had to say no to eating out or the home decor you didn’t buy, because you’ll be free from debt and will have so many more options.
Don’t put this off. You can do it. Keep trying. Definitely, get plugged into a group of like-minded people that will keep you accountable. There is the financial YouTube community, which I can’t recommend enough, but also financial websites and Dave Ramsey groups online that are encouraging and inspiring (Dave Ramsey Baby Steppers with Compassion and Dave Ramsey’s YouTube Crazies are two very good groups).
If you’re looking for ways to get started cutting your budget like Sarah then try out some of these things I do to save money:
- Use Blink to save on prescriptions.
- EyeBuyDirect to save on prescription eyewear.
- Energy saving methods like low-flow showerheads to reduce our utility bill.
- Sites like Restaurant.com for dining deals.
- Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on activities.
- ThredUp for nice secondhand clothing at steep discounts from retail.
- I take advantage of free trials at gyms.
- Shopping through Ebates when making any purchases online will get you cash-back from virtually any retailer.
- Apps like ibotta and Checkout51 to save at grocery stores and other big box retailers.
- Use healthcare sharing to save big time on health insurance.