How This Couple Paid Off $20,000 in Debt After Losing Their Jobs

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In May 2016, everything was going right for Kyle and Adrian Hildebrand. They’d just gotten married and were excited to buy their first house.

Adrian was working as an administrative assistant, and Kyle was working one of his many odd jobs. They had a combined income of $30,000 and were hoping it’d be enough to get approved for a loan.

Until Adrian unexpectedly lost her job. Then several months later, her husband was laid off.

Kyle and Adrian Hildebrand Wedding Photo
Kyle and Adrian Hildebrand on their wedding day

Paying Off Debt After a Layoff

It was these layoffs that got them thinking about their finances and made them realize buying a house may not have been the best choice.

“We had no business at all trying to buy a house,” Adrian said. “We were literally in the process of getting the loan and then we lost our jobs.  At the time, I was devastated, but I am so thankful looking back. We would’ve been in foreclosure in a minute because we had zero savings and no jobs.”

To take control of her income, Adrian started a business as an independent retailer for a clothing brand.

Like many small business owners, she financed her $20,000 inventory with credit cards. She didn’t have a plan for paying them off and hoped her entrepreneurial spirit would be enough to make it work.

Even as the business turned a profit, Adrian couldn’t enjoy her success.

“The business actually did really well, but I bought all of my inventory on credit cards so it was constantly bothering me,” she said. “I knew that it was not how I wanted to run a business.”

Less than a year after starting the clothing business, she sold her inventory at a loss and looked for a fresh start. Adrian knew the first thing she and Kyle needed to do was pay off their debt.

Side Hustling to Pay Off Debt

Kyle and Adrian needed to make money fast. Instead of waiting to find better jobs, they started side hustling to supplement their income.

Adrian waitressed at a Texas Roadhouse in the evenings and worked in her friend’s consignment shop on her nights off. She and Kyle also worked as youth pastors, and Adrian began a full-time job as a bank teller.

Working four jobs wasn’t easy, but she decided it was necessary.

“If I didn’t work those side jobs, we would’ve barely paid our bills, let alone contributed to [paying off our debt],” she said. “It was a hard time, but I kept thinking, ‘There will be an end. This is only temporary. This sacrifice is worth it.’”

Related: 50 of the Best Side Hustles to Make Money in Your Spare Time

Making Time to Make It Work

When you’re juggling a full-time job with a side hustle, you have to become more organized and protective of your time to fit everything in.

1. Stop Multitasking

Instead of signing up for an app like Uber or Postmates that lets you clock in whenever you want, Adrian worked side hustles that required her to show up at a certain time.

They weren’t as flexible as working from home, but they allowed her to be fully present at home when she wasn’t working.

You may think you can multitask, but you’re more effective when you focus on one thing at a time. A study done in France showed that participants who had to complete two tasks at the same time were more likely to forget details and made three times as many mistakes.

2. Schedule It

Adrian said she learned and mastered time management strategies to stay on top of her responsibilities.

“I scheduled everything,” she said. “If it didn’t have a place on the calendar, we couldn’t do it.”

Don’t let your day be dictated by your to-do list. Schedule your work and activities, and then stick to your schedule. Spend the last 15 minutes of the day scheduling the next day.

Write down your three most important tasks so you know what to work on in your downtime.

Whenever possible, schedule your side hustles early in the day. As the day goes on, you’re less likely to want to deliver food or walk other people’s dogs. This is easier to do on the weekends, but you can sometimes get a few gigs in on your way home from work during the week.

3. Be Willing to Say “No”

Don’t let others control your time. Be willing to say “no” to jobs that don’t pay well or events you don’t really want to do. You can fit anything into your day, but not everything.

Be straightforward but courteous in setting your boundaries and you’ll find you have more time for the things that really matter.

Related: How the Clarity App Can Help You Manage Your Money

You Can Pay off Your Debt No Matter What Your Schedule Looks Like

After two and a half years of hustling, the Hildebrands made their last credit card payment in July 2019.

Now that they’re debt-free, Adrian said she likes only working one job. She’s started a new business as a Certified Financial Education Instructor helping others get their finances on track before a crisis happens.

Kyle and Adrian Hildebrand
Kyle and Adrian Hildebrand
Adrian Hildebrand teaching as a Certified Financial Education Instructor
Adrian Hildebrand teaching as a Certified Financial Education Instructor

Kyle and Adrian still hope to become homeowners one day, but they’re glad it didn’t happen when they originally wanted.

“Some of the best doors have opened for us after debt freedom because we’re no longer slaves to our debt,” she said.

There’s hope if you’re struggling to pay off debt on a low income. There are plenty of online jobs that pay well and don’t require much experience. Keep trying and applying until you find the ones that work for you.

If you need to work multiple jobs to pay off debt or make ends meet, use time management techniques to open up small pockets of time for getting more done. You’ll find the more intentional you are with your time, the faster you can achieve your goals.

Author
Jen Smith

Hi, I'm Jen! As a best selling author on Amazon writing about minimalism, spending less, and making more money, my work has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017 my husband and I finished paying off $78,000 of debt and that's what I help others do here.

1 comment
Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE
Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE

Love this inspiring story about people making their own jobs and not waiting for someone to hire them. Freelancing is on the rise (projected to be 40% of jobs by 2030) so embracing entrepreneurship now is critical to career security. Even if you would prefer a typical 9-5, you will be competing with freelancers! I didn’t think I would be an entrepreneur (I started my first business in my 30’s) but even back then (in 2008) I could see how the job market was changing, and I felt like it was a necessity to overcome my hesitation about going into business for myself. Now, I’m so glad I did — no ceiling to your income, ability to set your schedule and choose your work. I’m traveling internationally now and my work hasn’t missed a beat!

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