In this three part series Kaila from The Money Edit will be taking us through the three key moments in her journey to financial freedom. In part one Kaila tells us how she ditched debt once and for all in just six months.

The Money Edit truly began in 2014 when I paid back my student line of credit of $12,000 in 6 months. The first kernel popped and I was hooked. Exploring money as energy, currency and a way to get ahead, all I knew in 2014 was that I had to know more.

A Turning Point

It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m at my mom’s house in Ottawa, sitting on the floor in the spare room talking to my boyfriend on the phone. The twinkle lights are up & everything smells like fireplace and holiday baking. My whole family is around and I am grateful for this season of love and joy. My boyfriend and I are 4500 km apart, and I know this will be my very last holiday without him. 2014 is going to be a big year. I’m pretty sure I found my person. The one who I want to be with forever.

At this (supposedly) blissful moment, the one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind was my (lack of) money. I was great at pretending that I had it all together. I always had cool outfits, lived on whole foods take out and was fiercely independent. This was the moment I knew it was time to take the reins and step up my financial game. I made it a personal goal to be debt free before merging finances with my (soon to be) fiancé. I did not want to start our life-long money partnership off on the wrong foot.

At the end of 2013, I was facing $12,000 in student loans and consumer debt. I had never spoken to anyone about my money habits. On one hand, it felt like everyone else was in the same boat – clueless about money, always having fun and eating out. On the other hand, I was stressed and overwhelmed about my growing debt. It was staring me in the face every day.

 Making a Change

With some deeply real self talk and a personal kick in the ass, I decided to tackle my debt the only way I knew how: blunt force. I would pay it back in 6 months by saving $2000/month. Little did I know this would be the hardest thing I’d ever done but, also, the best learning experience of my life to date.

At the time, I took home $3400/month. My rent and utilities were $900. As for food, I mostly lived off the Whole Foods coffee & muffin combo, leftovers for lunch, more takeout coffee and some sort of easy veggie for dinner. Let’s just say, I’ve never been very gourmet. So far, the budget looked like:

$3400 – $2000 (debt repayment) = $1400

$1400 – $900 (rent) = $500

$500 for food, transportation, vitamins, fun times and pretty much anything else that came my way.

So $125/week.

Hell Bent and Determined 

Looking at this now it’s pretty obvious why I didn’t have any money left at the end of the month. But, at the time, it was truly mystifying. There was always something more fun on the docket than sitting at home and saving money! By December 2013, I was hell bent and determined to be rid of debt once and for all.

On my way to being debt free, I learned a million lessons. I felt like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, hiking across the Pacific Crest Trail except I was taking the bus to work everyday, reading my library book and drinking free office coffee. It was an epic quest of humbling experiences and changing habits.

Lessons Learned

Saving money is a refreshing change of lifestyle. Once you determine your goals and align your life to reach those goals, you reduce stress by gaining control.

  1. When you decide to get out of debt, you learn A LOT about yourself. For example, I place a very high value on access to coffee. I don’t like the feeling of not having a choice. Saying no is hard for me. I deeply value generosity and struggle with prioritizing my needs.
  2. Get real about saying no. Yes, it did disappoint people and yes, I survived. Saying no to friends who enjoy paid entertainment, restaurants and weekend trips is a quick way to find all of the wonderful free, fun things to do in your city.
  3. Every single dollar counts. I picked up side hustles including painting, cleaning, babysitting and editing papers. I stopped mindless consumption. I had a serious chat with myself before I bought anything other than nutritious food. I wore the clothes I had and traded clothes with friends to change up my wardrobe.

A New Passion

2014 was the year of committing to my first big crazy money goal, earning extra income and challenging the limits of my self discipline. And you know what? I wasn’t “ready” when I jumped in with 2 feet. I said HELL YES to what I deeply wanted and then figured it out along the way. And my biggest gift: I learned how to live when it’s not all about spending.

So that’s the beginning of The Money Edit story. Paying back my debt in record time felt like the first kernel popped. I was hooked. I loved exploring money as energy, currency and a way to get ahead. By the middle of 2014, all I knew was that I had to know more.

Kaila will be back with more of her money journey in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can find out more about her here:

Kaila Pilecki is the founder of The Money Edit, the community that changes your mind about spending, saving and living your best life. Subscribe to keep up to date on the newest posts, book reviews & personal finance wisdom.