SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Finding financial freedom in San Diego can feel impossible when you're weighed down by crippling debt. Credit cards, students loans, and car payments are some of the biggest drivers.
Vista resident Amanda Williams felt the pain of debt back in 2014. She and her now husband Josh were facing over $133,000.
"I got mad and said I had enough, I hit my breaking point and had to do something," Amanda said.
This was around the time she earned her Bachelor of Arts and was working for an IT company making around $24 an hour. Before that, Amanda had been working odd part-time jobs.
Amanda and Josh's debt broke down to these main drivers:
- Student loans - $60,000
- Financed Prius - $28,000
- Josh's Truck - $14,000
- Credit cards - $20,000
One of the first things Amanda did was sell her Prius and purchase a cheaper car with no payments.
She also committed herself to following Dave Ramsey's debt-free principles, adopting a zero-based budget.
"It means you're telling every dollar where to go, literally every dollar of your money you write it on paper and know where it's going each month."
Every paycheck Amanda and her husband figure out how much of their income will go to rent, utilities and subscriptions like Netflix. The couple also takes out a specific amount of cash needed for groceries, gas and spending money.
The rest goes to paying off debt. Their latest milestone was paying off Josh's truck.
Amanda says the process isn't without sacrifice.
"For the first two-and-a-half years of our journey we were living in a 550 square foot place," she recalls. "Other things we've had to sacrifice, telling friends and family 'no'!"
Amanda says it helped to share with friends and family that they were on a path to becoming debt-free, meaning they couldn't say yes to every dinner or weekend trip invitation.
The couple's situation is common. According to Lending Tree, San Diego is ranked number one for maxed out credit cards, with residents carrying an average of $6,629 in credit card balance. They say nearly one in five have at least one card maxed-out.
Student loan debts are also a concern for San Diegans. WalletHub reported $18,735 while the median earning for a San Diegan with a bachelor's degree is $54,425. That puts San Diego in 36th place in the nation for student debt.
Amanda turned to social media for support. decided to share her progress on Instagram under the handle @debtfreeinsunnyca. Initially, it was just a way to vent and keep herself accountable on the journey.
Since then Amanda has gained over 30,000 followers. The debt-free community she's created works to support each other in their journeys.
Amanda keeps her budget organized through Excel but says there are other tools available to help organize a budget:
See how Amanda's spreadsheet works:
Amanda completed Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, but for those who can't do the course, she recommends reading his book The Total Money Makeover.
She and Josh follow Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps which provides a step-by-step plan to get out of debt, save money, and build wealth.
Since Amanda and Josh began their debt-free journey three-and-a-half years ago, the couple has just $10,000 left. By July they'll be debt-free.
"I've started to get emotional, tearing up, the years of hard work," said Amanda. "We are almost there and have so many cheering us on."
To her followers she is a debt-free warrior, proof it's possible to find financial freedom in San Diego.
Inspired to start paying down your debt? Amanda has a blog post to walk you through the process.
Share your concerns about debt by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.