Debt isn’t your typical cocktail conversation, but it’s an important conversation nonetheless.
About 80 percent of Americans have some form of debt, be it credit cards, car loans, student loans or a mortgage. So with this many of us in debt, why don’t we talk about it?
In a society where there’s a social network or dating app for almost every interest, you might be wondering why there isn’t a social network for those who are aggressively working to pay off debt? There is, and it’s amazing.
OK. so it’s not a whole new social network. It’s probably one you already have on your phone and refresh 10,000 times a day. It’s Instagram.
The magic is when you search the hashtag #debtfreecommunity. What you’ll find is thousands of people with Instagram handles like @debtfreeby30 (that’s me) or @dumpingdebtwithdave (a married couple with advanced degrees) or @savvysagittarius (a 23-year-old woman who is laser focused on dumping debt and owning a home outright) who want some extra support and accountability in paying down debt fast.
Terms And Phrases You’ll Encounter
Before I continue, it’s important to share some terms you’ll encounter when perusing the #debtfreecommunity:
- Dave Ramsey: a leading financial expert who founded Financial Peace University (FPU), authored “Total Money Makeover,” and is on an AM radio station near you in the evenings.
- Debt snowball: the debt pay-down method Dave Ramsey recommends for sustained motivation and gratification. It means paying off debts from smallest to largest.
- Debt avalanche: this is the other popular debt pay-down method. It means paying off your debts in the order of the accounts that have the highest interest rates.
- Baby steps: this refers to Dave Ramsey’s method to become debt free and build wealth. There are seven baby steps.
- Cash envelopes: the process of designating cash for expenses like groceries, restaurants, gas, everyday purchases. This is literal cash in literal envelopes.
Ramsey is a popular financial expert and his methods prove successful for many, but he’s certainly not the only player in the space. Other names you may encounter include Chris Hogan, Suze Orman and David Bach.
Plus, you don’t have to be a fan of his to take advantage of some of the concepts he promotes, which have become pretty widely adopted.
Who You’ll Meet On Instagram
These inspirational Instagram accounts are likely separate from the users’ personal accounts and, in many cases, are completely incognito. Some members of the debt free community aren’t comfortable revealing their identities (including the people we interviewed for this story) because they don’t want friends and family to know about their financial situations. Regardless, it’s a highly motivating and encouraging community.
Kayla and Ryan are behind the Instagram handle @dumpingdebtwithdave. When they began their debt free journey, they were a whopping $336,676.13 in student loan debt.
“When I first added up our debt I cried, then I immediately Googled ‘how to get rid of debt quickly.’ A YouTube video of this super hyper bald man popped up and he was jumping around the stage talking about these seven baby steps and how to work like a gazelle. And five minutes later I was completely sold. Dave Ramsey became our new family member and the rest is history (almost),” Kayla says.
Two years later, she and her husband discovered the debt free community on Instagram. In less than four years, they’ve paid off more than $308,000 in student loan debt.
“I love the authenticity and transparency of the debt free community. It is so nice to watch other people’s experiences unfold, the highs and lows, victories and failures and to be able to share our own. Being a part of the tribe helps keep us motivated and has even produced some real life friendships,” she adds.
After @resourcegirl found herself with $15,000 worth of debt four years ago, she decided to do something about it. She facilitated a Dave Ramsey financial course among a group of friends.
But she discovered that she was further along in her commitment to eradicate her debt than they were, so she set out on a solo journey. In 2016 she documented a “90 Day Work Run” on Instagram where she sought to bring in income every single day.
If you’re worried about sharing your financial struggles with your friends and family in real life, the Instagram community can provide support, without revealing your identity.
“It has helped so much because I’ve really had only two people who are really close enough to know my intense struggle with money,” she says of the debt free community. “I have been able to encourage others as well as be encouraged by celebrating with others our success … I couldn’t imagine my life the past four years without an online community.”
Most people who are in debt and actively paying it off have at least one thing in common: they wish they had done it sooner. Elyse at The Savvy Sagittarius is doing that very thing. She’s incredibly inspirational and has an Instagram following that proves people love what she has to say. At 23 years old, she’s paid off $20,708 in 16 months. Now, she’s $15,000 away from saying goodbye to her debt.
This highly motivated young woman says after she finishes paying off her student loan this year, she’ll save to buy a home and hopes to have her mortgage paid off by the time she’s 30.
She says the Instagram community has been super supportive, which has kept her motivated.
“I have been working on paying everything off for 16 months now. There hasn’t really been a point where I thought about giving up because I spend so much time on my Instagram reading messages from my followers. I know that if I were to fall off the wagon or give up, that I would disappoint a lot of people. Knowing that others are watching me in my journey to success has definitely helped keep me on track and stay motivated,” she says.
The Instagram #debtfreecommunity is just one of various debt-crushing social media communities. Some are closed Facebook Groups and some are simply hashtags that a group of people have chosen to use and follow. There’s even a podcast to help you start your journey called Popcorn Finance. Whatever your debt crushing strategy be, may you find a community to support you along the way!