Getting Dirty to Destroy Your Debt – One Toilet at a Time!

by Jason on October 22, 2010


It was already hot and sunny. 

Even though it was only 9 a.m., August summer mornings in the Chicagoland area can be quite muggy!

After breakfast with a buddy, I headed to the campus. I was excited for my first day of college.

I walked into the student center, and the halls were buzzing with excitement. 

Tables were lined up and down the main corridor with various campus groups, fraternities and even credit card companies vying for the attention of college freshmen.

That’s When I Saw It…

A T-shirt with a globe on it that read, “The World, In Your Hands“.  The table skirt proudly displayed the credit card company’s logo and a young man offered up a nice hello as I approached. 

Sign up for a credit card today and walk away with this FREE t-shirt!”, he explained as I got closer.

“After you get approved, you’ll have your card in about a week or so.” 

“Sweet!”, I thought to myself – a credit card AND a FREE t-shirt!! 

The world really was in my hands!

Or, so I thought.

I was 18, naive and ready to prove to the world that I could handle anything – even a credit card.

But I Wasn’t Ready…

The next week I received my card in the mail and couldn’t wait to use it!  Although I don’t remember the first purchase exactly, I can only imagine it was a CD.  (Yes, this was before anything like an iPod or MP3 player came out!).

Over the next year, I spent money on food, clothes, music - just about anything and everything. 

I had a part-time job during college, so I figured I’d just pay it off in full the next month.

But I Didn’t Pay It Off…

The monthly statement came, and to my shock and horror, the balance was HUGE!! 

“How did that happen?”, I asked myself!  “This can’t be right!”.

I looked over the charges, and sure enough they were all on there.  What a waste.  I paid a little more than the minimum, and felt horrible.

So I curbed my use a bit.

But That Didn’t Last Long…

Soon, the temptation to spend and splurge was too great, and I gave in regularly, using my card for everyday purchases.

I started down a crazy cycle of spending, feeling horrible when I received the statement, and paying just a little more than the minimum payment.

And, of course, that created more and more debt!

Over the next couple years, I wiped out a mutual fund that I had saved into in order to pay off my card, but I went right back to spending and racking up more debt.

Although now, it was worse.  I had no mutual fund – and I had more debt.

I Needed to Change…

Over the course of the next several years I managed to rack up $10,000 worth of credit card debt, which included an engagement ring I bought for my girlfriend.

She was a master with money and had been saving for a while.  So, I brought my liabilities to the marriage and she brought all the assets.   Some would say that summarizes our marriage today – She’s the asset and I’m the liability! :)

Marriage, poor health, and a struggling business forced me to make some pretty big sacrifices and cut out all frivolous spending!

So We Came Up With a Plan…

My wife was very gracious about the debt and was willing to help knock this out.  We decided we would do whatever it took to pay off this ridiculous debt! 

We Got Part Time Work

We ended up getting part-time jobs cleaning two office buildings. 

My wife and I would go in after hours on a weekly basis to clean these buildings and earn some extra cash.

I ended up taking on the bathrooms and my wife would clean much of the open space. 

I hated those jobs. 

I don’t know of anyone who likes to clean their own bathroom, let alone bathrooms for other people!

But we sucked it up! 

We got dirty week after week and did what we had to do to pay down our credit card debt (or rather, MY credit card debt).

We Sold Our Junk

We started selling our old clothes, cell phones, and other junk on eBay.  I ended up making several thousand dollars from selling unwanted items that year.

It became a game for me to try to sell anything and everything on eBay!  I actually had family and friends asking me to sell items for them on there as well!  My best sale was an old pair of Air Jordan shoes that sold for $428!!

We Started a Side Business

My wife also took on a side business selling jewelry, which was lucrative enough to generate a couple thousand dollars!

We took almost every extra dollar we could find and put it toward our credit card debt.

Debt Free Within Two Years…

God blessed our efforts, and within two years we had all of our credit card debt paid off! 

I couldn’t wait to quit cleaning those bathrooms!

Since then, we have never carried a balance on our credit cards.

Here’s The Point…

This post was included in:

  • The Carnival of Money Stories hosted by The Canadian Finance Blog.
  • The Best of Money Carnival as Editor’s Choice hosted by ChristianPF

This post was chosen as the winner of the $1,000 Charitable Contribution for the Best Post of 2010 out of all Best of Money Carnival winners!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa @ cents to save.com October 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm

You are right, you have to a plan of action to erase your debt. Sometimes the debt is overwhelming and discouragement sets in. Working as a team with your spouse will definitely help .

Before You Invest October 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm

My first job out of high school was janitor work @ the local rest stop on the NY State Thruway. Nothing like cleaning toilets in a very public place to put life, work and the value of a dollar in perspective!

Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Wow! Cleaning toilets at a rest stop – I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! ;) That will definitely give you perspective.

Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Yes, teamwork was and is key to getting ahead in life. There were many times one of us just did not feel like going, but the other spouse was right there to step up and say, “let’s get this done!”.

Money Funk October 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I love successful get out of debt stories like this one. Kudos to you and your wife for making the effort. I believe it makes the marriage that much more special, too!.

Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Thanks Money Funk, I agree – it’s cool to overcome odds like that together!

Kaye October 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Congrats on the success story! Crazy thing is, I was a good manager of money when I was young. I had two credit cards in college (what college student WITHOUT A JOB needs two credit cards?), but paid them off every month. On a bad month, I paid it off the month after the spending. It wasn’t until I was “grown up” that my spending got out of control. I’d like to blame my husband, but 1.) it wouldn’t be fair, and 2.) wouldn’t be entirely true. Although he is more of a spender than I, I can’t place all of the blame on him. Now we’re working to get out of debt. And a huge amount.

Sad that the getting out of debt isn’t nearly as “fun” as getting into it! But it will feel SO GOOD when we are done.

Cheapskate Sandy October 22, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Your wife is a saint for cleaning those offices with you. I can’t get my BF to even THINK about a P/T job. Sigh.

Anonymous October 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Haha, yes she is a saint! The least I could do was take the toilets for her! ;)

Anonymous October 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for sharing Kaye – that’s an opposite story from the norm, but I’m excited to hear you guys are working to pay that debt off! All the best to you!! It WILL feel great when you’re done!

Credit Cards October 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

We are also debt free from one more Credit Card today. Now very little left to close. The same story husband brought all the liabilities and I ended up paying for them. The situation was not improving until I became really strict and started monitoring his expenses. Hoping we would be debt free by end of this year.

Anonymous October 27, 2010 at 12:48 am

This is a great story! I’m glad that you were so determined to get out of debt. And, I’m glad that you have such a supportive wife!

I remember cleaning toilets overnight at a Hilton Hotel. I hated it…I can only imagine an office building!

Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Khaleef, I’d probably stick with the office building bathrooms than have to clean the hotel toilets! Yikes!!

I am definitely blessed to have a supportive wife – no doubt about it!

Rich Avery October 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Found this post through Money Carnival. Yes, we must make a plan…and commit to sticking with it no matter what. It is really amazing how things can snowball once we take a few small steps, or re-arrange our lives a bit to pay debts off!

www.keglawyers.com December 21, 2010 at 1:30 am

Awesome story. My husband and I also trying to pay off debts and have frequently done sidework. And kept our expenses down. We have one car between the two of us that we finally paid off in July!

Anonymous January 7, 2011 at 3:56 am

Thanks for checkin’ in…Good luck on your journey, sounds like you’re doing great!

Richard Stooker January 13, 2011 at 1:21 am

Hi, Jason,

Great story – your wife must REALLY love you!

I also worked two jobs to get out of debt, but I didn’t have to clean toilets. Well, not often anyway. I mostly delivered pizzas. Although I worked many long nights and lost a lot of sleep, I eventually finished the payments.

You have to have a decent driving record, and of course a car and insurance, but if so, I’d say delivering pizzas is a better idea than cleaning buildings.

Apply first at a restaurant serving the most affluent neighborhood in your locality because they tip the best. Stay away from areas that are dangerous. They may not rob you, they won’t tip you either. My area covered both wealthy people and people on welfare. If the wealthy (and working and middle class areas) hadn’t made it worth my while, I wouldn’t have gone into the poor areas. The risk isn’t worth the reward.

General Growth Properties

Anonymous January 19, 2011 at 3:21 am

Yes she does! Great job at working hard and knocking out that debt!

Set2sin March 16, 2011 at 12:48 am

you have to suck it up and fix it when you make a mistake

FinancialSuccessforYoungAdults July 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Great story! Taking a part time job is a good way to pay down debt fast.

Anonymous July 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Thanks LaTisha!

Anonymous July 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Thanks LaTisha!

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