I am so excited to share another debt free story with you! I have learned over many years that reading other people’s success stories can give you the motivation to keep going when you are on your debt free journey. Because let’s be honest, sacrificing to pay off debt can be hard and not everyone understands it. Your friends might think you’re crazy to live on less than you make. Good thing others before you have conquered debt and have lived to tell the tale! That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Chris Browning. Not only is he the mastermind behind Popcorn Finance, but he and his wife paid off $27,000 worth of credit card debt! I hope his story inspires you to start your debt free journey, keep going, or finish it strong!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi, my name is Chris and I am from always sunny Long Beach, California. I work as a business analyst by day (I just got a promotion :)). The job is about as exciting as it sounds. My real passion is my podcast Popcorn Finance which I work on at night and on my off days. I created the podcast as a way to share my passion for discussing and teaching personal finance. When I’m not working on the podcast or my day job I love to go to the movies.
Where did your debt come from and why did you decide to become debt free?
Our $27,000 in debt came from a combination of many things. Our wedding started things off. We covered the cost ourselves using credit cards, which came out to about $14,000. Our family helped us as much as they could but we still had to pay for the majority of the costs. After the wedding, the debt just started to snowball every month. After the wedding, we moved into a small studio apartment which we furnished using credit cards. From there we were hit with a combination of large medical bills, unexpected tuition costs and overall poor financial management on our part. We really didn’t have any cash saved so every new expense went right on a credit card.
What really pushed us to work towards becoming debt free was the endless stress of carrying this debt. I would get so overwhelmed just thinking about how much debt we had and how the balance never seemed to decrease fast enough. It such a burden to carry and it prevented us from ever moving forward towards any of our other financial goals, such as owning a home.
What steps did your family take to becoming debt free?
We started by creating a detailed, line item budget in excel to categorize our spending. We combined this with mint.com to track our spending to make sure that we were actually staying within our budget. Especially in the beginning, we made really drastic cuts to our spending. We cut out all spending that wasn’t a necessity. Eating out at restaurants, which was by far our biggest expense, was pretty much eliminated from our budget.
One of the biggest things that helped towards our journey to become debt free was when I changed jobs. I realized that we could only cut our budget so much and that bringing in more income was going to make the biggest difference. I spent a lot of time looking for work and after many months I was able to find a position that increased my pay by about $1,000 per month.
I also took on a few different side hustles to make some extra money to put towards our debt. From time to time, I would find low priced items to sell on eBay. One of my most successful side hustles was working for Postmates and Door Dash which are food delivery services.
What was the craziest thing you did to help pay off debt?
I would sell all kinds of random things on eBay to make some extra cash. One of the craziest things I did was to drive around to all of the Burlington Coat factories within about 40 miles of where I live to buy Timberland Boots to resell on eBay. I think at one point I had bought all of the boots in my area. I decided to expand my business by buying clearance boots online. The entire living room of our studio was filled with boxes of shoes. I think I overdid things because I was barely able to sell 20% of the shoes I bought. I eventually had to box up all of the unsold shoes and return them by mail.
If you could go back and change any part of your debt free story, what would it be?
Besides not getting into debt in the first place, I would say that I wish I would have just cut up my credit cards once we decided to pay off our debt. I think it was the security of knowing that I had these credit cards to fall back on that made me keep them around. Unsurprisingly, because I kept these cards in my pocket I would use them. If we would have switched to a cash-based budget I think we would have paid off our debt much faster.
What does your future look like now that you’re debt free?
For the first time in our lives, we are actually able to save. I always felt like every extra dollar we earned had to be put towards our debt. It feels amazing to be able to put that money aside for the future. Also, we’ve been discussing buying a home or maybe even a rental property.
I’ve also been able to pursue other passions such as starting the Popcorn Finance podcast, which I never had the time to do. I never had the freedom to consider trying something different with my career other than working my 9-5 and doing what I could to increase my earnings each and every year.
Tell us more about where we can listen to your podcast!
Well, the tagline of the show is “Where we discuss finance in about the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn”. So if you have a few minutes and are looking to improve your finance, come join me. You can find the Popcorn Finance podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Store or anywhere you can find podcasts. You can also visit PopcornFinance.com/Podcast to listen and subscribe. If you want to hear more about our journey with debt, my wife sat with me for a short podcast series that covers how we built up $27,000 in debt and all of the struggles that went into paying it off. Plus a few funny stories along the way. Listen to the series at PopcornFinance.com/27k.
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