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Karen Paid Off $54k As A Single Mom!


“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.” ― Simon Sinek (I’m not sure I agree with this one.)

"People show up for themselves (what they believe). “I have a dream” rather than “I have a plan”. - Simon Sinek


Even the mere thought of taking the time to sit down and figure out how much debt we have can make even the most sturdy among us shudder in complete defeat. Addressing and then making the decision to get out of debt takes conviction, a strong "why", a plan, a budget and LOTS of encouragement. And as a coach, I've seen that one of the best ways for our students to stay motivated is to hear other people's stories, listen to their struggles and live vicariously through their wins.

This is the whole reason I started this "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series. I wanted to curate a reservoir of personal stories that will help you "find your own story" and keep marching forward toward your personal finance goals and ultimately to debt-freedom and beyond. 

Along those lines, if you have a "debt-free" or "on-my-way-to debt-free" story, I'd love to share yours with our audience. It's always such a gift to our subscribers and fans to hear your particular story AND will help you, especially if you have a a blog/platform/YouTube channel you want to promote (although that's not at all necessary).

Next up in our "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series, meet Karen!


Introduce yourself, Karen.

I'm Karen, I live in South Florida with my husband and 13-year-old son. I'm a CPA by profession and are currently doing contract work from home. In my spare time I run Debt Free Lab, a personal finance blog focused on providing actionable tips to manage money, get out of debt, and more.


Give me a little bit of background about your financial situation and your decision to "tackle it". Tell me about how much debt you've paid off so far and in how much time. What is your debt made up of?

I got married for the first time when I was only 18! While married, we racked up over $50K of student loan, credit card, and medical debt. Unfortunately, because we got everything under my credit, when we divorced the judge decided all that debt belonged only to me. I felt that was really unfair and for a while all I did was mope about it and bury my head in the sand so to speak.

It wasn't until I had a medical emergency and I refused to go to the hospital just to avoid more debt that I realized I couldn't ignore the situation any longer. That's when I got serious with my finances. I started budgeting and tightening my spending. It took me about 4 years to pay off all the debt I had, which is an achievement to me considering that I was a single mom living on a low income throughout that entire time.


Looking for a way to get started on your own debt-free journey? Check out my: 

 “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through this 30 day challenge.



What was "the moment" you decided, "enough is enough" and what actions did you take or resources did you use to get the process started?

Thinking about it twice to address a medical emergency was a really low point for me. I also started thinking about my son and what kind of financial path I wanted to model for him. That's when I started closely following a budget and being really frugal.

I used any free resource I could get my hands on, from local charities and the like. I was also sponsored to take the Financial Peace course, which I felt really empowered me to make lasting changes to my financial life.


Looking for a ways to live more frugally and address your debt? Check out my: 100 Frugal Ways To Save Money And Get Out Of Debt.


What was your "why"? What kept you going when you wanted to quit? How did you stay motivated?

My "why" was definitely my son. I didn't want him to grow up believing debt was just a normal part of life. Throughout my debt repayment journey, I made it a point to teach him basic principles of money management, which I've expanded on as he's grown.

I stayed motivated by surrounding myself with supportive people. I also used a lot of visual aids to remind me of my goal and why I was doing what I was doing. And because I'm an Excel geek, I used lots of spreadsheets to model when I would be debt free and what would it take to get there :)


Describe your "belief system" about money and (if/how) has it changed? Maybe even talk about how you were brought up to think about money and how that changed as you progressed through the process.

I definitely had to address some beliefs before I could make any progress paying off my debt. The first thing that I had to address was that it wasn't my fault. Many times we get into debt for reasons out of our control, and I definitely felt this was my case.

It wasn't until I took responsibility for my situation, regardless of how I got there, that I started making real progress. The second thing I had to address was the belief that debt is normal and everybody has debt because it's just impossible not to. As I started meeting other people who were actively pursuing a debt-free life, I began to confront this belief.


What have been the biggest/toughest sacrifices you've made in your personal finance/debt-elimination process?

I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my toddler for 3 whole years while paying off debt. Even after I could afford a bigger place, I chose not to so I could benefit from the savings in rent.

I also drove an old beat-up car until it literally died on the road. My boss had to come get me that morning in order to get me into work!

I also used coupons for just about everything. If I couldn't get it at a discount, I didn't buy it. Another sacrifice I made was not going out of town to visit family for an extended period of time. I kept my "vacations" local and far apart.


Describe how it feels or how it feels to be debt-free. 

Being debt free feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. When you're in debt, it tends to consume your thoughts. You're always thinking about the next payment, and the next after that. Being debt free feels liberating. It feels like you can finally focus on what really matters in life.


This “$1000 In 30 Days Challenge and Resource Pack” is designed to help you find, cut and/or earn $1000 inside of 30 days so that you can: pay off debt with it, save it or invest it.

Here's the free downloadable/printable PDF.


What are some pieces of advice you would give to someone who's ready to get serious about tackling their finances?

I would say:

1. Find a support network, whether locally or online. This is something that really made a difference for me. Paying off debt is tough. It can be really discouraging at times, and it helps to have someone to give you encouragement when you want to give up. Additionally, accountability is key to keep you from slipping up, or to get you back on track.

2. Find what works for you and stick with it. Paying off debt may take some trial and error. In my opinion, there's no one size fits all solution. That's why it's important to not give up when something doesn't work - just try something else until you find your own rhythm. Once you do, stick with it!


Where can we find you (website, social media, etc.)?






Call To Action

Now that you've heard Karen's story, maybe you're ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to start your own "journey to debt freedom". And, if you’ve hung out on this platform for any length of time, you’ll know I’m all about helping you to take action. And here are two very easy next steps to keep you moving in the right direction:

  1. Download our free PDF guide that goes along with this series: “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This has a very comprehensive and dedicated video on establishing your “why”.
  2. Head over to YouTube and start with the “Day 0” video. You can totally binge-watch the whole series if you want. That “first pass” will give you an idea of where you are and what it’s going to take for you to get to the next level with your own personal situation. And again, starting with your “why” is the absolute most important step.

I want for you to capitalize on any and all emotional momentum you’ve gotten from this piece of content by committing two just getting started by completing those two actions I mentioned above. If you’ve done that, congratulations, you’ve started! Now just follow the breadcrumbs and please let me know what’s helpful and what you might need more detail around.


What To Do After That

After you complete the "quick start", maybe you'll be ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to continue your own "journey to debt freedom". So, I want to offer you another completely free resource that will help you map out your money with even more confidence.

Ready to get total control over your money? Introducing My FREE 8 Steps To Erase Debt Guide

These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years

Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.

  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!

I’ve created a simple, easy to follow “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever. 


Here are some additional options to help you accomplish your personal finance goals:

  1. Check out our YouTube Channel for "how to" video guides.
  2. Join our Zero Debt Tribe Community on Facebook, a group of friendly, like-minded personal finance enthusiasts, budgeting nerds, debt-eliminators and “FI-ers” who are there to help each other succeed? Click here to request to join for support and encouragement!
  3. Our library of Free Products & Printables.


What do you need help with the most right now?

And finally, I want to encourage you and challenge you to get started in this process. You can do this by downloading this blogpost as your guide. The downloadable pdf contains all the printable forms and instructions you need to get this process started.

So, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,


Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.


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