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It took hard work, sacrifice and a lot of sweat.

3 minute read

Colin from Rebel with a Plan graduated college in 2014. He received his bachelor’s degree in only two and a half years. But two things dampened his spirit at the time: He couldn’t find a job, and he owed $21,000 in student loan debt.

After not finding a job in marketing and public relations, Colin realized he must make a move, so he took a blue-collar job at a big telecommunications company. He worked as a technician installing internet and cable systems in people’s houses. Only a short time passed, and Colin hated the job.

“The ever-growing expectations from management and their desire to maximize profits by making us work longer hours wore me down,” remembers Colin. “But working so many hours did provide a positive. I received overtime. Since I was living at home and not paying rent, I put a big portion of my income, sometimes over 50 percent per month, towards my debt. I would make $1,000, $1,200 and sometimes $1,800 payments every month towards the debt.”

He told me about one particularly brutal day that sticks in his mind.

“I remember there was one day back in August 2015, when I had to climb several telephone poles to properly run this cable to a person’s house for their internet service,” says Colin. “It was over 100 degrees that day and very humid. I was sweating so much, and I knew the workday would be a 12-hour day. After the workday finished, I wanted to just lay in bed.”

As he lay in bed, Colin knew that he must pay off his debt quicker. So, he figured out a plan. “I set up a budget in Mint since it was free and cut down my costs,” says Colin. “I didn’t even have a $10 Netflix or Spotify subscription. I looked at my bare expenses and tried to see how I could earn more money. I was so tired at the end of the day that an ongoing side hustle wasn’t possible.”

Colin was still driving the old car he bought when he was 17, so cutting down other expenses wasn’t realistic. As a result, he pushed himself even farther physically and mentally. “I knew I could get overtime at work if I wanted,” says Colin. “I actually shuddered at working longer hours in the hot Texas sun, but I really wanted to get rid of my debt, so I started working more.”

A change of location

The grueling work eventually became too much for Colin, and in February 2016 he quit and decided to travel. With a bunch of savings and just a little more debt left, he started teaching English in Thailand.

“When I got to Thailand, the cost of living was super low, and I got to live on less than $500 a month,” says Colin. “My salary was around $1,200 a month. In addition to this, I worked a weekend tutoring job where I brought in $300-500 per month. I was working seven days a week while in Thailand and it was rough, but I still had fun.”
While in Thailand, Colin also started his blog. “I had been reading about personal finance for the past few months so I started a personal finance blog, Rebel With A Plan, in February 2016.” He channeled his favorite movie that starred James Dean. In  February 2017, Colin paid off his debt. In took him 18 hard months.
Last April, Colin arrived in Australia with no specific plan. He worked some odd jobs on a holiday visa and eventually found himself back in the U.S. at FinCon in October. He says, “I was able to pick up some freelance writing clients which is what I do now while I look for a full-time job.”
Colin is back in Texas now, and provided three financial tips he believes are very important:
Track your spending: I always thought I was good with money because I didn’t make a lot of big purchases, but once I started tracking my spending, I saw little money leaks here and there where I would spend $10 or $20. By the end of the month, it would amount to a lot.

Open multiple savings accounts: Open an online savings account at a place like CIT Bank or Ally Bank to take advantage of their 1.35 percent interest rates. Online savings accounts have higher interest rates than traditional banks and you’re not constantly seeing the balance so you’re less likely to spend the money or “skim some off the top.”

Have weekly check-ins with your money: When I first started budgeting, I would always get to the end of the month and be shocked at how much I was spending. I got irritated, so I set weekly check-ins with my money and reviewed all my expenses. It cuts down on the surprises at the end of the month.

Check out Colin’s site and as he says, “Go against the norm and take charge of your money and your life.”
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About the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski has been writing about personal finance for over 15 years covering debt recovery, fraud, and credit topics. He has worked on several personal finance books and guides that help consumers navigate the US credit system. When he’s away from the keyboard he enjoys craft beer and fishing — and once enjoyed a cold Sweet Water IPA after catching a sailfish.

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