Paying Off $30k in Debt in 1 Year While Making $10/hr

For all those asking, "How do I get out of debt?" Here is a special guest post from my badass friend, Brian Kustera-Feeter.

Brian paid off $30k in debt in 1 year while working jobs that paid only $10/hr.


And he's telling you his story... now. Enjoy!

Tell us all who you are. What's your background?

Well... my name's Brian Kustera (in the process of officially making that Brian Feeter though), and I am a 27 year old, first generation American; the relevance of that last fact is particularly significant for this story as it played a major role in my upbringing and consequentially my mindset on money & finances.

Growing up, my parents constantly reminded me to feel fortunate for my education, my many freedoms and especially all of my possessions in my very privileged, American life.

Basically, whether it was true or not, I felt like the most spoiled child in the world. Which in turn instilled in me a lot of gratitude, but also extreme feelings of guilt when it came to spending money excessively.

From a very early point in my life and until this very day, I've enjoyed saving money over spending it. While many people may not relate, I've actually spent the last few years learning how to be better and more comfortable about spending MORE money, because everything's a balance and money and things should also be enjoyed, not just stockpiled for the sake of it--something my husband, Kale (he really likes nice/expensive things), has helped me realize.


Together we've helped each other find a pretty solid, happy medium, and I'm so tremendously delighted every single time he suggests we compare two different toothpastes at the store to see which is a better deal.

Fortunately (in my opinion) many of the frugal, money-conscientious tendencies I learned in my youth are still a huge part of me. It's because of them that I'm sitting here pretty damn happy, totally debt-free and with a good amount of savings for my future.

So how'd you end up with student loan debt? What were some feelings you had when you thought about it?

Not going to college wasn't an option. UC Santa Barbara was my dream school since I was a freshman. And actually it was also the only school I applied to. THANK GOD or fate or whatever you'd like to call it, I graduated in the top 4% of my class, and the college that I was guaranteed acceptance to that year was none other than UCSB.

While my mom did her best to support me through school, she wasn't able to entirely cover the extremely high cost of a college education that included housing and food obligations.

I worked various jobs throughout school (special shout out to my sorority sisters at Kappa Kappa Gamma--worked there as a "hasher" in the kitchen haha) to help lighten the blow/reduce the amount of loans I needed to take out, but by the end of it, despite all the savings from the many off-brand plastic vodka handle purchases, I graduated with $30k in student loan debt.


Obviously, I hated the fact that I was in debt, and the thought of owing someone all this money was less than ideal, but I never once regretted my decision and trusted myself to repay the loan quickly once I graduated and started work in my surely lucrative new job...

Paying down $30k+ in one year is f—ing epic. Why did you decide to do it so quickly?

In reality, the job market in 2012 was still figuring itself out, and after months of looking for jobs in Santa Barbara, nothing came up. The thought of moving back home was insanely excruciating, but the thought of owing all this money and having that linger over me for 20+ years was even worse. So I did it--I returned to the nest, the parent's house in San Pedro, CA.

I wanted to start work immediately, and because I was discouraged by my failed job search in SB, I decided I'd work 3 mediocre paying jobs instead of wasting more time looking for that 1 respectfully salaried one. I worked at a Marriott hotel as a front desk agent, the coffee shop I had worked at in high school and as a personal assistant for a woman who owned an acting studio--all of these jobs paid me $10/hour. 

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Hustled! I like it. What were some of the most helpful actions you took during that period? 

Moving back home, where the expenses were non existent, was both socially destructive and incredibly financially beneficial. And the thing about having three jobs is, you really don't even have time to spend money even if you'd like to, so everything I was making went straight to my loans.

I worked almost every single day for 10 months (I think I took 3 days off total in that time) and just about 80ish hours a week. After taxes and including my earned tips, I was earning about $2.5k a month (wow, this is still shockingly low and also makes me feel entirely grateful for my current income with only 1 full time job). All of this money went toward paying back my loans.


Those rare moments I wasn't at work, I spent doing free, outdoor activities with my friends and family in town. $2.5k x 12= $30k, so exactly 12 months later, and thanks to one final contribution from the madre of something like $300ish (interest), I was debt free...and immediately quit 2 of my 3 jobs.

Sending in that last payment was one of the best feelings of my life.

Bravo. I'm sure things have been different since. What have you been up to since then? How has life changed?

After paying back my loan, I moved out of my parent's house almost immediately and lived with my cousin in our own apartment in Hollywood while working for a wine magazine nearby. Soon after that I met my future hubby and we moved up to San Francisco where I finally started making a solid income. And just four days ago we moved to NYC.

None of those things would have been possible without my initial commitment to freeing myself from my debt. Instead of having to apply my money toward my debt today, I now feel empowered to use my money to build a solid foundation, invest in my future and also enjoy life by having the courage to move to new cities and take on new adventures.

Prior to paying off my debt, I was absolutely debilitated. And given my nature, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy any of these experiences until I had the safety and security of being debt-less.

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