How one loan helped me pay off $85k in debt in 3 years

Well, one loan and a hell of a lot of discipline.

Paid in Full

Name: Ryan Masajo

Age: 36

City/state: New York, NY

Amount of debt: $85,000 ($50K credit card + $35K student loans)

Type of debt: Credit cards and student loans

How long it took to pay off: 3 years

Jobs held while paying the debt: Investment Banking and Non-Profit Administration

I got my first credit card when I was in college and they were offering free beach towels with my school’s logo if I signed up. I think that’s a perfect depiction of how much I didn't know about finances. At some point when my income kept increasing, so did my credit card limits and I used it a lot on traveling multiple times every year.

I eventually had seven credit cards and five of them were maxed out, so I would move the balances to other cards to get the 0% APR for a year but pay the 3% charge. I also had two student loans totaling $33K and a 401K loan from when I purchased my condo. By the time I decided to really get serious, I had nine credit cards and five of them had a total balance of $50K.

Our family came to the U.S. from the Philippines when I was 14. We weren't poor but we didn't have much either. I will never forget when we would go to the mall and I'd ask my mom if we could buy something and she would say, "when we have money." I got conditioned to then ask, "Mom, when we have money, can we buy this?" My parents are great people and they did their best to provide for us and we had a great childhood, but there were definitely a lot of things I had to learn on my own.

Eventually, I just got tired of feeling like I was not getting anywhere. I would get my bonus at work and I'd use it to try to pay off debt but the credit card debt kept increasing. I tried so many different ways to conquer the debt but I really had no idea what I was doing so it took me a while to find what works for me.

First off, finding a mentor can be invaluable. My partner and I both didn't have role models in our lives when it came to finances, but we met a couple a few years ago who introduced us to a community of people who have a similar mindset. They were able to retire from their jobs at a young age by being entrepreneurs. Now they’re stay-at-home dads with their twin three-year-olds and they’re only 33.

Meeting our mentors was such a blessing since they were honest with us and guided us on what we need to work on. They took me under their wing and have been great at keeping me accountable on what I committed to accomplishing, especially when it comes to personal finance. My partner and I now have a YouTube channel called Sage & Rice where we talk about our journey and what we’ve learned along the way.

I was looking up how to consolidate my debt and I came across personal finance company SoFi. I'd never heard of the company at that time but I applied and surprisingly got approved for a $50K personal loan. That was such a game changer since I didn't have to worry about making so many different payments. On top of that, this really helped me get my credit score up since my credit card balances went down.

It felt good to finally feel like I was on track, using that money to pay more pressing loans off. At this point, I made a declaration to myself, my family and friends, that I would not travel for three years. No one believed me when I said it but I stuck to it. Seeing everyone on Facebook and Instagram take vacations was hard, but I made the most of it. The rewarding part was when I finally paid off my debt.

Consistency is definitely difficult. I wasn't always successful every month but I just kept on it. I love to eat out and I had to learn how to cook and bring food to work instead of buying lunch. I also love custom suits and would spend $1,000 on one, so I really had to plan and budget it out if I wanted to get one.

It was all worth it. I now track every single dollar that I spend. My partner and I have big goals for our future, including starting a family. We go through our budget on a monthly basis. We use zero-based budgeting. On top of my budget, there’s room for charity and savings. I felt that as I kept increasing how much I gave away and saved, money didn't have a hold on me anymore and money kept coming in.

To anyone else working to pay off your debt: Know that your planned budget will never be perfect. There will be months when you overspend, but don't be too hard on yourself. It will take time to build a habit. If you fall off, get back on it. We built a vision wall and every morning when we wake up, we look at it. It's a great reminder of why we do what we do and what we're both working towards. Set up a reward system so you have something to look forward to.