How This YouTube Creator Paid Off Debt

Laveta Brigham

Aja Dang is not shy about her $200,000 debt payoff journey. In fact, chronicling her monthly budget and progress along the way to her 450,000+ YouTube subscribers was what helped her pay off the six-figure debt in just two years. After years of ignoring her debt, Dang decided in November […]

Aja Dang is not shy about her $200,000 debt payoff journey. In fact, chronicling her monthly budget and progress along the way to her 450,000+ YouTube subscribers was what helped her pay off the six-figure debt in just two years.

After years of ignoring her debt, Dang decided in November 2017 that it was finally time to address it when she couldn’t afford surgery to help her sick dog.

Dang’s debt load included outstanding credit card balances, a car loan and undergraduate and graduate student loans that made up the bulk of the $200,000. Once Dang realized that she wanted to address her debt, she immediately tackled the smaller items. She paid off her credit card balances in one night, which she estimates was around $1,200, and paid off her car by February 2018. The rest of the time was spent paying off student loans.

While Dang’s journey to paying off her student loan debt was accelerated thanks to the sizeable income she made as she gained traction as a social media influencer, she has some insight that can apply to anyone trying to tackle their debt.

Below, Dang shares with CNBC Select her number-one rule when paying off debt, plus three tips for becoming debt-free.

Dang’s No. 1 rule when paying off your debt

Tip 1: Budget and track everything

Dang stills keeps a budget now that she’s debt-free. She breaks down the details of it on her YouTube channel.

“When I first started, I didn’t fully understand how much I was really spending on stuff,” Dang says. “You really can’t commit to paying off debt if you don’t know where your money is going.”

To start, Dang first read Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” after a friend suggested it.

Feeling motivated, she then created an Excel spreadsheet to act as her budget template. The spreadsheet included a monthly recap of things like her income, expenses and outstanding student loan debt. When Dang first started out, she went through four months of bank statements and divided up everything she spent her money on into separate sections, such as food (restaurants, groceries, delivery), her dog and living expenses. She then calculated how much she spent in each category per month on average and created target spending goals to lower her expenses and put those savings toward her student loans.

Learn more: How to create a budget in 5 steps

Beyond her monthly budget spreadsheets, Dang tracked her everyday spending through mobile personal finance apps like Qapital, as well as in a planner. Each night, she would make a routine of writing down her daily expenses from that day. This helped her visually see how much money she had spent and on what. It also helped her realize her needs versus her wants. She learned to cut out any expenses she made constantly that she could easily get rid of, such as Postmates food delivery.

Tip 2: Try a side hustle or two

Tip 3: Treat yourself

Bottom line

Dang’s influencer income from her brand sponsorship deals played a big part in her paying off 6-figure debt in such little time. Along the way, however, the tips outlined above helped her and can apply to anyone trying to get rid of their own debt. Focus on bringing in more income with the skills and resources you’ve got. Then, trim the budget and find ways to stay motivated that work for you.

No matter if it takes you two years or 10 years (or even longer), the goal is to establish some good debt payoff habits, such as finding a community, making a budget, tracking your expenses, side hustling and treating yourself, that can help you progress.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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