Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time

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New Look and the “She’s Paying It Off” Story

Well hello all.  If you’re reading this right now it means you found your way to my little corner of the internet, my blog.  Maybe you’ve been subscribed to me for awhile, maybe you founds me through social media… however you made it here, welcome.   Over the last 6 years this blog has covered everything from my time volunteering in Bolivia to my life going to Paramedic School in Alaska.  If you’ve been around here for awhile you may notice a bit of a different look and purpose currently.  Just as seasons change so is my blogging season, and out of this new season has grown “She’s Paying it Off.”  A place where I can share about my current journey to become debt free.  A place for victories and struggles, ideas and advice.

Now, without further ado, story time, or moreover the story of how I got to this place financially and why I decided to so something about it. I promise to make it concise *wink*.

Just after I turned 18 my mother took me down to the bank and helped me open my first credit card.  I needed to build good credit she said and this was an important first step. A couple weeks later I left for my freshman year of college.  I hadn’t worked that summer and didn’t have much disposable income at the time.  I still remember my first purchase on that card, Finding Nemo on DVD.  The thrill of the purchase, the idea that I could spend money even though I didn’t technically have it.  Still though I was very careful with the card, typically only using it for needs.  I was lucky I went to college before social media became very big (everyone was still using myspace at this time, and it was new, just to date myself) so the temptation of comparison and the luxury of online shopping wasn’t commonplace.

Fast forward 4 years to graduation.  By the time I was granted my diploma for my Bachelors of Science in History I was well aware of what debt was.  I had maxed that same credit card just a couple months earlier to pay for a spring break trip to Disney World and had approx $35,000 in student debt under my belt from my silly degree as well as a semester spent studying abroad.  Some of you may be confused as to why I refer to my degree as silly but it really was.  I had no plans to do anything with History, I just enjoyed the subject.  Everyone had said I needed to go to college after high school, so I did.  No one told me I should probably have some idea about what I wanted to do with my life first (trust me, I’ll elaborate on this much more later).


Studying abroad with Semester At Sea, Fall 2006

I assumed after I graduated college just the fact I had a degree would land me a good job and I could pay off my debt and live the life of my dreams.  Spoiler alert, it didn’t.  I moved back in with my parents and after putzing around for a year was hired as a second grade teacher at a school in Bangkok, Thailand.  The job definitely wasn’t lucrative but it gave me adventure, something I craved more than anything.  My student loans were deferred, and I had a blast for 2 years.

I won’t go into all details of my life between Thailand ( I moved back to the US in spring 2010) and when I first discovered the way, er, *cough,* I mean Financial Peace University.  We’ll just say I traveled the world and made very little money.  I don’t regret a minute of it but in hindsight it probably wasn’t that smart.


My second year teaching in Thailand, 2009

So on to FPU… my church always offered the class a couple times a year, but it was finally in late 2013 that I decided to take the plunge and invest $100 into the kit, and I flourished.  I did so freaking well.  I budgeted my little heart out and because I had few expenses (lived with my parents at the time and my car was paid off) I was able to save a lot of what I made even though my hourly wage was piss poor.  I knew a life change was coming so instead of applying everything to debt I put it in savings…

Then a lot of change came.  I made the decision to go back to school to get my dream job. I moved to Alaska to do that and bought a new to me car that could survive Alaskan winters.  I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned in FPU, but my debt started to increase and I kept telling myself that was OK…

Now here I sit.  5 years later.  I”m approx $80,000 in debt give or take, but I”m making headway.  I did finish that second degree and got my dream job.  I now make double what I did before which is fantastic, but I still have a long road ahead of me.

If you’ve made it all the way through my story I must say I’m impressed.  I know it’s not that exciting, but it’s also so necessary on this journey.  I need accountability and I’m hoping you can help me with that.  I don’t know how long this journey will take, but I know I’ll get there eventually.  I believe it.

Thanks again,





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One Small Step: A Story About Money

When I left on the World Race in July 2011 I was at the best financial point I’d been at in years, or at least I felt that way.  I’d just finished paying off a credit card and had managed to save up $1000 to use while I was gone. As I boarded my first plane to Ecuador I gave myself a pat on the back for how smart I had been and how set I was going to be.

But here’s the funny thing.  When you don’t pay attention to your money, instead living in a state of blissful ignorance, it can disappear in the blink of an eye.  In fact, I was so content in my financial ignorance that by the time I moved back to the US “permanently” a year and a half later I was not only broke I had managed to max out the credit card I had worked so hard to pay off.

Financial Peace

I had never thought of myself as bad with money, I mean, I’m the queen of finding a good deal.  But the truth was, I’d dug myself a giant hole hole.  Between schools loans, credit cards and just everyday expenses I was drowning.  My lungs were desperate for air and the situation seemed so hopeless.  Rescue seemed more and more like a dream.

It became very apparent that I needed to make a change.  A financial diet if you will.  My desperation turned to motivation and last October I decided to finally take the plunge and do the Financial Peace University coarse that was offered at my church.  I’ll admit I hesitated at first when I found out I had to pay $100 to get the kit for the class, but something in my heart knew it was the right decision, so I went for it.

I’m not lieing when I say that was the best $100 I’ve ever speant.

When I walked into class that first week in early October I was the epitome of living paycheck to paycheck.  I had $0 in savings and enough money related stress to last me years.  And it shouldn’t be that way.

Financial Peace

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Financial Peace University the idea or premise is to work on 7 “baby steps” in order.  The first baby step is to save up a $1000 emergency fund, or as I like to call my peace of mind fund.  Some couples are able to save this up in just a couple weeks, it took me two months, but I wouldn’t let myself get discouraged.  The whole time I held tight to the knowledge of how amazing it would have been If I’d had an emergency fund when I got in my little fender bender last spring.  Instead of having to wait almost a year to get my car fixed and charging the things that needed to be paid for immediately, I could have used my emergency fund.  Every day that I had wasted in worry could have been totally unavoidable.

What’s even more amazing to me now though is the amount of control I have over my money.  One element Dave Ramsey emphasizes in the class is using cash to pay for things.  See, when you use cash you actually feel the money you’re spending.  When you take $40 out of your wallet and hand it to a store clerk it stings a little more, no who am I kidding, it stings a lot more than just running your debit card through the little machine and punching in your pin number.  It’s amazing, but in the 4 months since I’ve started using cash I would estimate that this one little change has helped me save a couple hundred dollars.  And thats not to say I don’t use my debit card at all.  I still use it to buy gas or to pay for things online when needed, but there is always a plan to go along with those transactions.

Yep, a plan, aka a budget.  A concept that is scary for most, and even harder to stick to than most fad diets.   I knew that creating a budget and sticking to it was going to be the key to me being successful at this.  I get paid twice a month, so every other week, a few days before I get paid I sit down and figure out where I’m going to direct all of my money for that pay period.  Then on payday I head to the bank and pull out all the cash I need and yes, I do organize them into envelopes, but it’s not as horrible as it may sound.  In fact I’m thinking of writing a post on just how awesome it is.

Financial Peace

I’m excited to see where this year will take me financially.  I know my debt isn’t going to disappear quickly, but I’m overjoyed that I now have a plan to get rid of it.  It’s definitely a journey, but a worthwhile one, and a journey I would encourage anyone to take along with me.  If you have any questions about Financial Peace feel free to ask me I’d love to share what I’ve learned!