David, writer from Run The Money, explores similarities between physical and financial health

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Sure, it hurts, but he's been through worse.

Not too long ago, David’s debt breakdown looked like this:

  • $20,000 in student loan debt
  • $10,000 in debt for his wife’s wedding ring
  • $30,000 in credit card debt

David, who writes about personal finance at Run the Money, told me, “Paying off my student loans took about one-and-a-half years and my wife’s ring about one year.  The $30,000 took about 6 to 8 months.”

The incentive to pay off the $20,000 came from his wife — she was his girlfriend at the time. “My wife said she wouldn’t marry me unless I paid off the debt,” remembers David. After that he paid off the ring. But the $30,000 debt required drastic action — and pain.

David and his wife found out she was pregnant and they quickly realized their lifestyle must change. So, they bit the bullet. They sold their house in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and decided to build another, two-and-a half hours away in Gettysburg — a less expensive area. David also transferred to another office, where he works as an auditor.

Without a home, they again made a drastic move. “We lived with my wife’s parents for two months near Gettysburg, while the contractor built our home,” says David. “We put $2,200 per month extra on the debt, which equated to our previous mortgage payment.”

But David took the financial pain in stride, because he literally takes real pain in stride. He runs to keep in shape. Not just two or three miles like some people (me).  He runs hard. His accomplishments include: five half-marathons, one marathon (2015 Philadelphia Marathon), and a bunch of 10Ks and 5Ks.

The marathon really hurt him. “When I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2015, I was dying after mile 20,” David recalls.  “That’s the proverbial ‘wall’ that runners hit, especially in their first marathon.  I had such bad arch pain in my left foot I had to sit down, take my shoe off, and massage it twice to keep going.”

The pain became so severe he didn’t think he could finish. But then something happened. “I was pushing my way through the last six miles and close to the end a spectator screamed, ‘You’re about to finish a marathon!’ – and that was all I needed to bring it home.”

Running and changing his diet helped David lose 40 pounds. He believes physical health and financial health dovetail with one another, and he demonstrates it daily on his blog.

“I follow a strict schedule of running three to four days per week,” says David. “I enjoy checking off each workout. The same is true with obliterating debt.  I need to see the balance decrease each month as I sacrifice and throw any extra money at it.”

Yes, David does sacrifice and take the pain. But one financial sacrifice nearly broke him — even more than the brutal marathon he finished. It occurred in 2008 and David is sharing this story for the first time.

“I’m a huge Phillies fan and my wife and I signed up for a partial season ticket plan,” recalls David. “When finances were especially tough after I just graduated college, we both stood on a corner to sell some tickets to that night’s game. It might not seem like a big deal, but it humbled me.”

I can sympathize with David. But even though he lost the Phillies tickets, he did run a marathon and paid off $60,000 in debt. In my book, Bill Murray’s profound quote from “Caddyshack” seems appropriate — “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

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Meet the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski


Bienkowski is a contributing writer and is the face of's 'By the Numbers' videos.


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