How to Pay Off Debt Quickly: The $8k in 90 Day Challenge


For those just joining me, here's how the “$8,000 in 90 Day Challenge” came about:

Three Months. No small feat! It’s easily the most aggressive goal I’d ever set for myself (before or since), and one of the few that I’ve actually kept and completely smashed. But before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to share why wrote this post.

I've read lots of debt payoff stories in my nearly four years of blogging about money and personal finance.

Some are really great and inspiring; others are really annoying, because they don't actually share any real numbers or advice for how to get it done. In fact, these types of posts are so predictable, they often follow a formula: the more outlandish the amount and payoff timeline, the less information there is in the post.

I wanted my big debt payoff post to be different AND actionable, so here's the step-by-step plan for how I tackled my own aggressive debt pay off plan and paid down over $8,000 in 90 days. 

How to Pay Off Debt Quickly – A Step-By- Step Guide

Step #1 – Get Clear on How Much Debt You Have

Because I'm a finance person, I knew how much I owed because I was tracking it in my Net Worth Spreadsheet that's in my Grow Your Money Tree tool kit. If you don't know how much you owe, this is the first step. I know it isn't easy to take a good, hard look at what you owe, but I promise it is worth it.

For those who don't want to splurge on the tool kit, I also offer a FREE debt tracker to those who sign up for my email list. Grab yours in the link below!

Get a handle on your debt by using our free debt tracker. Click here to subscribe and grab the debt tracker and six other worksheets in our “Best Life Vault”! Or click here to take the FREE course, “The Debt Master Plan.”


Step #2 – Pick Your Payoff Terms

I knew I needed to do something drastic in order to get rid of all my debt, once and for all, but making significant sacrifices for an entire year felt like a real drag (spoiler alert: paying off debt is ALWAYS a drag, which is why you should avoid getting into it in the first place.)

Twelve months also seemed so, so, so incredibly far away.

A whole YEAR before I could jump up and down about being debt free? Puh-lease. I have a very short attention span.

I'm also the type of person that likes to get the painful bits over with right away, so I started brainstorming ways to help me accomplish my goal in a way that felt good and authentic to me as a person.

I wanted a process that would work for me rather than against me.


  • Could I pay all my debt off in a month? No, it just wasn’t realistic.
  • What about six months? I could, but even that still felt like a lifetime.
  • What if I got really serious and paid it all off in three months?  Maybe.

Start at the top of the new year, and with my birthday being in March, being debt free seemed like a great thing to gift myself. Once I began running the numbers, I found it was possible.


Not probable. But possible.

Yes, I know $8k in the scheme of things isn't a ton of debt. There are many out there struggling with tens of thousands in consumer debt, or student loans. Some don't have the time to side hustle or get side work.

I get it.

Paying off all your debt in 3 months isn't possible for everyone.


Still, what if by being aggressive you could retire a significant chunk of your balance, no matter how much you owe?

That could make a huge difference plus save you tons of money on interest.


Step #3 – Figure Out What to Pay and When by Working Backwards from Your Goal

With my target date of three months in sight, and zero debt consolidation or zero balance transfer offers to take advantage of, I then began to work backwards.

$8100 divided by 3 (for # of months) = $2700 in debt payments each month.

That still seemed like a huge amount, so I bit the bullet and moved $1,000 that I could spare from my savings. I don't recommend raiding your emergency fund. In fact, if you're in debt, you should start an emergency fund if you don't have one to avoid future credit expenses when those emergencies arise. But if you have the money to do this, I recommend it, because that money would likely serve you more by reducing balances you owe money on, rather than sitting in an account accruing negligible interest.

Contributing $1,000 right off the bat brought my total each month to roughly $2400, which is still high, but do-able in my timeline.

  • It was $1200 every two weeks
  • …or an extra $600 a week.

So, $600 a week. That was the goal.

#4 – Trim Your Budget

I am a big fan of hacking your budget regularly to find hidden money. (To see how I do this, click here.)

There's also no better time to tighten the ol' belt than when you're getting really serious about your debt payoff.

By doing these few things I could then allocate $800 from my full-time paycheck (or $400 every two weeks, of my roughly $2,000 bi-weekly paycheck) to my debt repayment each month after my living expenses and automatic savings withdrawals.

But even after all that hacking and slashing, I still needed to come up with an additional $1600 each month in order to meet my goal.

This is where it gets exciting.

#5 – Earn More: The Only Real Way to Pay Off Debt Quickly

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that penny-pinching is an absurd waste of time. 

Sure, saving money is good sense, but spending hours and hours of your precious time to bargain hunt to only slightly lower your bottom line? Ri-dic-u-lous. 

I make more hourly than I could ever save by bargain hunting.

After finding as much money for debt repayment as I could in my budget, I turned to my side hustle as a freelance writer and marketing gun-for-hire to ramp up extra income. Here are a few things I did to drum up work:

  • I hassled a few clients I hadn’t heard from in months.
  • Logged on to Upwork and found a handful of new (and surprisingly not terribly paying) clients.
  • Brainstormed new streams of revenue for my business, and so I started offering blog coaching for beginner bloggers and businesses.
  • Started offering “sponsored content” to brands.

But leveraging/starting a side hustle isn’t the only way to make extra money to pay off debt.

There are a million low-time investment ways to make extra cash to pay off debt. Here's a few more that I did:

  • I sold some of my old stuff on Ebay.
  • Did little voice over work for a video my friend was making for her business.
  • Opened up two new checking accounts just so I could get $300 in bonuses, which went to credit repayment and helped out a lot.
  • You can earn $3 per survey with Swagbucks. (Here's the other top survey sites we recommend.)
  • Or look for jobs on Fiverr or TaskRabbit.
  • Use the latest FinTech apps to pay off debt faster. I like Qoins (which saves the change and makes extra payments toward your debt) and Tally (qualifiers get a low interest rate, and their algorithm optimizes payment decisions so you pay off debt more quickly.)

Basically, anything I could do to bring in extra dollars, I did.

Related:  83 ways to save more money this yearHow to hustle $100-$5,000 dollars


#6 – Stay Motivated

Here's a few other tips for what I did to stay motivated while paying off debt.

  • I employed the use of vision boards to help visualize being debt free.
  • I also built in “rewards” for myself each time I was able to contribute my bi-weekly debt payments. (spaces for you to write down your debt pay off rewards are also in the free debt repayment worksheet that you get when you subscribe via email! It's so important!)
  • I also recommend getting competitive with yourself. I’m a money nerd, but it was almost fun to look at my checking account balance on February 15, see I needed 2-300 more dollars to hit my weekly $600 goal and start hustling my pants off to make it happen.

These steps may seem insignificant, but I’ve tried to accomplish goals without them before, and this time it was much easier with these helpful reminders along the way.


Are There Other Options to Pay Off Debt Quickly?


One of the biggest criticisms of my story back when it came out was that people assumed it was easy for me to pay off a large amount of debt because I was a single, childless woman making over $60,000 dollars a year. And yes, this does mean I have more time and more discretionary income, but it doesn't mean it was easy.

Or that paying off debt doesn't take a lot of hard work no matter who you are.

I gave up my social life to freelance write on Friday and Saturday nights to make this happen. I didn't buy anything other than the bare necessities for 90 days.

People want to hear debt payoff stories, but they often don't want to accept that paying off debt isn't super fun. It's not glamorous, or sexy, and it's often boring and frustrating. It's why a lot of people fail and give up and live their lives in debt.

But for those of you that have decent credit and zero time to hustle – there are a few other options, which I've listed below.

Balance Transfer Offers

At the time I was doing this challenge, I wasn't eligible for any balance transfer offers and since I wanted to be done with debt fairly quickly, I didn't feel taking time to lower my interest rates (plus any balance transfer fees) was worth the money.

Still, a big component to paying off debt quickly is figuring out how to get your interest rates as low as possible. This is because interest compounds, so the higher the interest rates – the more you pay and it'll take you longer. No bueno.

If your credit is decent, (I repeat don't try this unless you have good–ish credit!) I'd try 0% balance offers with credit cards before trying to consolidate to a lower interest rate. Why?

Because paying zero interest for a certain number of months is a great way to leverage credit strategically to pay off debt. Debt consolidation is nice, but they're still making you pay a (lower) interest rate. You want the lowest interest rate possible. So, start here and if you don't have any available, move to the next.


Refinance Loan

A refinance loan works for those with over $5,000 in debt, but with less than they would consider to be staggering. You apply for a loan (at a lower interest rate than offered on a credit card.) You apply, get approved, you get the funds and you pay off your credit cards with this money. Then, each month you pay the loan provider.

It's (typically) a lower monthly payment at a much better rate – meaning you'd save on interest, and have more money in your budget for additional payments. These are a really strategic tool to use in any debt payoff journey.

Ready to explore other debt options? Have 640 credit score and above? Click here to explore The Payoff Loan® for credit cards.  For those with lower credit, I recommend Upstart as they factor in work history and school record to give you the best rate possible.


Debt Management Company

For those who have average credit and few other options and an insurmountable amount of debt there are options, such as working with a professional debt management company.

By consolidating your debt, you can lower your monthly payments, pay just one creditor, and pay less in interest because you're consolidating at a lower rate. A debt management company, such as Accredited Debt Relief, will help you.

Related:  Click here to hear one woman's story about using a debt consolidation company.



Here's What Happened After I Paid Off Debt Quickly (My life changed!)


The  benefits of paying off debt are numerous:

  • My credit score went up (check yours for free here.)
  • I have more money and freedom in my monthly budget ($600 worth in minimums was what I was paying. It is awesome to have this money back in my budget!)
  • And it is four (yes, FOUR!) less monthly payments to worry about.

Also, my debt journey has opened up a lot of new adventures. I ramped up so many new clients that I was able to leave my full time job and start working for myself in April 2015.  I would never have been able to leave my full time job if I were still making such high monthly payments on my credit cards. It's also a lot less pressure when you're building a business.

I was also holding onto a lot of financial and emotional baggage from the time when I racked up the debt.

My mother always used to say, “you can do anything for 30 days,” which is true.

I also think you can do anything for 90.

Even though I only had to sacrifice my high-falutin’ lifestyle for 90 days, it still taught me new things about what I can (and can't) live without.)

And perhaps best of all–I’ve become incredibly financially empowered in the last 90 days.

Some may think that since I write a personal finance blog that preaches financial empowerment I was already very money aware, but being able to pay off debt so quickly reminds me I can focus and get motivated and accomplish GREAT things when I'm not distracted, when I prepare, and when I push myself.

But seriously, go do something you think can’t be done, whether it has to do with money, fitness, relationships….whatever.

Sure it may seem tough at the beginning, but do it anyway. Your future self will thank you.



Previous Story
Next Story
  • nick sample
    November 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Ocean Lenders and Mortgages Limited for small and large amount of loans. We give out loan at 3% interest rate, Our experts is to come to the aid of people in need of money and for what we put our services to the benefit of every person. In order to increase the number of our activities and give an opportunity to deliver on, we assign money loans to every person anxious or having financial difficulties for real estate purchase, the agricultural project accomplishments or different construction project, and other type. If our offer interests you please contact us.Email Address;

  • Alexandra @RealSimpleFinances
    May 24, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    This is awesome. Thank you for sharing! You motivated me to start my own 90 day challenge. 🙂

  • Tommy Santos
    April 15, 2016 at 10:04 am

    My name is Tommy Santos. I live in USA Florida and i am a happy woman today? I told my self that any Loan lender that could change my Life and that of my family, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to Them.
    She gave happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as a single parents with 3 kids I meant this honest and GOD fearing loan lender online Mrs herlinda that helped me with a loan of $250,000.00 U.S. Dollar, She is indeed GOD fearing Lady, working with a reputable loan company.

    If you are in need of loan and you are 100% sure to pay back the loan please contact them and please tell Shem that Dr Tommy Santos, Lillian referred you to them.

    contact via

  • James Adams
    March 24, 2016 at 6:07 am

    do you need a loan of 3% to start up a business or to pay your debt contact us right now on our private email( for more details

  • Erin Jade
    May 23, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Loved reading this, it’s inspiring! I too have some personal debt to clear and my partner’s job is hanging in the balance so I have been hustling to reduce our mortgage enough to refinance and then work on the personal debt. I have looked at it in a similar way to you of starting with the figure and subtracting from there, i find it works a lot better for me. Congratulations on making a full time income from home!

    • Lauren Bee
      May 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks Erin! And thanks so much for stopping by!

  • amandaabella
    April 28, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Fabulous! Congratulations! You’ve just inspired me to do my own little 90 day money challenge 🙂

    • Lauren Bee
      May 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Mark
    April 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Am new to the site and I like to hear about how others have dealt with student loan debt. I in my 40’s decided to go back to school and get my degree. Yeah so I finished the degree only by getting student loans. With one child in collage and picking up his student loans I had about 75k. After 42 months I have reduced the student loan debt to 20k. Which will be taken care of by the end of 2016 (a little over a year and a half) in total I will have paid off over 85k. To read how individuals have or are paying off debt is interesting, as what works for one may not work for someone else. What works best for me is to start with the smallest and roll each payment into the next for the snowball effect.

  • Lisa
    April 20, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    $8k in 90 days is amazing!!! Great job, girl!

  • No Nonsense Landlord
    April 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    one of these days I will be writing a post about how much debt I have paid off in the past few years. Here is a hint, it’s well over 6 figures each year.

  • Hello Pre Nurse
    April 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing what you did to reach this amazing goal. -Kayla

  • Jessica
    April 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Great job! Your hard work goes to show that if you get serious about debt repayment and really dedicate yourself to it and get creative, debt freedom is possible.

  • Lauren L
    April 15, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    This is absolutely amazing! I’m facing nearly 45k of student loan debt upon graduation in say… oh… two weeks… (EEK) and I love seeing these motivating stories of people knocking their debt down like this. Clearly, it will take me much longer than 90 days to knock out this student loan debt, but it’s good to know it is not an impossible thing to overcome. Good job, go you!

  • Neil Brooks
    April 15, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Great job. So does going back to the “high falutun'” lifestyle even seem worth it? Are there things you can live without that you now want to live without?

  • Amy
    April 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Wow – such an inspirational story! Thanks for sharing your secrets! 🙂

  • Tre
    April 15, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for sharing how you did it. It shows that if you are really motivated, a goal that seems impossible is possible.

  • Courtney
    April 15, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Love it! Especially “taught me new things about what I can live without”. This is true. We have been cutting our expenses to save aggressively for our goals and it’s amazing the things that you don’t miss once they are gone. I also like the you set up a reward system. That is a great idea and always helps me when I have a hard goal I have to slog through.

  • Bridget Casey
    April 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Actually laughed out loud @ the opening of new chequing accounts for bonuses — that is pure genius. I ALWAYS see those offers and other bloggers talk about credit card churning just for rewards and its CRAZY how much free money is out there that only takes a little bit of paperwork (and the discipline to close the account at the end)

    You’ve done really great — and I agree you seem so much more financially empowered over the past 90 days. Killing that debt in such a short time was amazing. Great job!

  • Sylvia @ Professional Girl
    April 14, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Congrats on paying off your debt so quickly! I wish I could pay off mine in 90 days. So far I have paid off $5600 with about $17,800 to go. Hopefully, I will be able to be debt free by the end 2015.

  • Alice @ Earning My Two Cents
    April 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    This is so inspiring! Thanks for posting this. I find that breaking down my savings goals into smaller monthly goals makes so much sense for me. I have never tried to do the same for a debt goal like this and I think it sounds like a good challenge!

    April 14, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Incredible! Good for you! Super exciting!

  • Dear Debt
    April 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I love your story, Lauren! I’ve been feeling debt fatigued lately, but made the most income in April and threw $1200 to debt (a lot for me). I feel more inspired to keep going at this rate or more and move up my debt free date!