Here’s a little story.

10 years ago I was completely lost and didn’t even know it. I was living paycheque to paycheque, borrowing money from my mom and sister to make ends meet, my credit was in shambles, I was living beyond my means and trying to “Keep up With the Joneses”. I had LV and Gucci bags, Herve Leger dresses and Louboutin heels but little to no money in the bank, bad credit and no idea how I got there.

Then my dad died, I quit my job, because “YOLO”, and if I thought things were bad at that point, little did I know that they would only get worse. Rock bottom for me was when I went to a bank machine to take out some cash, the machine kept my card and told me to “call a number”. And it wasn’t like I had a credit card I could use as an alternative because when my card expired the previous month, the bank said they checked my credit and I wasn’t getting a new one! So if I thought I was broke before, I was DEAD broke now. Oh and did I mention that I was going to the bank machine to pay for a cab and the driver was watching intently as I tried and failed to retrieve the money that I owed him? This very moment made me realize that my life was a complete NIGHTMARE and everything had to change ASAP. (I’ll tell you how I got out of the cab situation another time) but let me get to the point of the story.

Why am I sharing this? Because I hit rock bottom, turned my situation around completely and if I did it, you can too. Almost 5 years later to the day that my debit card was “confiscated” at the bank machine, I bought my first home and got a great interest rate. I paid off my credit card and student loan debt in full (almost $70,000 worth) and saved about $30,000 towards a down payment on my first home at the same damn time. And after that, I started doing something that I was never really taught how to do. Save and Invest.

A lot of people ask me how I paid off my debt and how I bought a home after all of that. I came up with almost $100k to do this and it wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t as hard as some might think.

Here are a few key things I did that were instrumental to my success:

1. Get Honest About Your Situation

It’s the pretending and fake shit that got me here in the first place and that had to stop ASAP. So I got real with myself and told my loved ones about my situation so that they could keep me accountable. Most of my friends knew that my situation had gotten crazy so when I told them that I was going into “financial rehab” most of them were understanding. The hardest thing was telling my boyfriend (who is now my husband). He had no idea that my situation was in shambles. He just thought that I had it all together because that was the perception I gave him . But when I told him what was up, rather than running for the hills (like I thought he might do), he sat down with me and helped me write a financial plan. And he’s a Virgo so he also kept me VERY accountable. He was like the finance police, actually. But I love him so much for it.

2. Get paid for your performance

The first thing I did was find a job with variable income. Where I was lacking in personal finance knowledge, I wasn’t lacking in work ethic. I made a career switch to media sales where I got paid a base plus commission. So in other words, the harder and smarter you worked. The more that you got paid. So I went from making $60-$70k a year to $150k a year. My income varied and depended on many things but I was able to make a lot more money once it was tied to my performance. This wasn’t unique to the industry that I worked in. There are several jobs out there with a commission or variable income component. If you’re a fighter and you’re not afraid of hard work. I highly recommend it. And $100k is often just the starting point. I know several people in sales that make well over $200k a year. Real estate, insurance sales and corporate sales jobs are great places to start and often times you can get into those roles without a tonne of prior experience. You just have to be hungry, willing to work hard and know how to sell!

3. Save your Bonuses and Tax Returns

If a job with variable income is not for you, put all of your bonuses, and tax returns toward debt repayment or savings every year until you are debt free. Don’t rely on that money or count on it as income. You were fine without it. Put it in the bank and pretend like it doesn’t exist.

4. Corporate matching plans are the TRUTH

If the company you work for has a stock plan with any sort of matching. Stop what you are doing and sign up for it. RIGHT NOW. If you don’t sign up for it. You are playing yourself. I joined my company’s stock plan, where they matched a percentage of what I contributed. This was like free money! I contributed the maximum amount that I was allowed to contribute and they matched it by 50%. This was how I saved for the downpayment on my house while simultaneously paying off debt.

5. Stop Shopping PERIODT

I stopped shopping until I was out of debt. PERIODT. I mostly wore all black everything and had a few great white and black shirts, a few pairs of dress pants, jeans, heels an LBD and only replaced the essentials and only did that during ‘end of season’ sales. This was HARD at first and then I got used to it. I kept a few designer bags from my irresponsible days and used those to elevate my looks. I did this for years and I still looked fly. I stopped caring about impressing others and I actually got addicted to watching my debt go down and my credit score go up! Now when I splurge, I pay cash or put it on my credit card and pay it off in full the same day. No exceptions. I have actual PTSD from previously being in debt so now I’m literally allergic to owing money to anyone, anywhere at any time.

6. Move back home or get a roommate

I moved in with Sean. This was huge. I went from paying $2000 in rent and utilities to $800 by moving in with my then boyfriend and now husband. We shared a studio with one bathroom. It was not glamorous but it was dirt cheap and exactly what I needed to get it together. This also made me realize that this was the man I wanted to marry. If your relationship can survive living in a box with one bathroom, HE’s A KEEPER! And rather than squandering that $1200 I was saving. I put all of it towards paying my debt. If you don’t have a boyfriend you want to live with, move in with a friend you get along with or get a roommate. Or if your parents are cool, move back home.

In Conclusion…

That’s what I did to save $100k in 5 years. There were other things I could have done to save even more, like plan meals and pack lunches for work and not take any trips during that time but I did what I could handle and with the support of my friends and family around me I made it happen. I did have a few slip ups and splurged here and there but for the most part I stuck to the plan and got my situation together.

My main goal was to buy a home and I needed a credit score of at least 600 to qualify for a mortgage. It took me about 2 years to get it there but I didn’t want just the bare minimum score. So I got a credit card to build up my credit and for the next 2 years I used my card and paid it off in full each time until my credit was good enough that it wouldn’t impact the interest rate when Sean and I bought a home. So when it was time to buy a house I had enough saved and a good enough credit score to get a condo on my own with a decent interest rate. I say this because I want people to know that you don’t need a partner to make this happen. You can do it on your own but you might have to start with a more affordable property. Sean and I were married at this point so we obviously pooled our resources and bought a house together.

Wow, this post is a lot longer than I thought it would be but there it is. We bought our home 5 years ago. Since then we’ve maintained our mortgage, I’ve continued to save and not acquire further debt and now my credit score is actually over 800! It’s a great feeling but if you’re in a rut just know that you can get here too. And last but not least, if you can, don’t learn the hard way, like I did. You can do all of these things and SAVE $100k instead of having to pay off $70k first. Let everyone floss and flex on the gram. Save, buy a home and invest for your future and once you have that on autopilot, treat yo self all you want!

If you have any questions feel free to chime in below or send me a DM on social media. I’m not an expert by any means but I’m an open book when it comes to this stuff and I’m happy to help anyone that is looking for answers.

With love, Shannae

71 Comments

  1. May 16, 2019 / 11:41 am

    Wow! Great post I’m actually working on all these things now. Thanks for sharing 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:12 am

      Good for you! Stay strong until you reach your goal!

  2. Jessica
    May 16, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    This was so good! I appreciate your honesty and realistic approach! I want to.addicted to watching my debt go down too!!! Thanks for the motivation!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:13 am

      You are so welcome! These steps are simple but they are not easy. With discipline you can do it. All the best to you ❤️

  3. Adejoke
    May 16, 2019 / 5:55 pm

    I absolutely loved reading about this !!! Wow that’s great and I am motivated to try out some of these steps !!!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:14 am

      You’re welcome!

  4. F. Alexis
    May 16, 2019 / 7:14 pm

    Great post. Thank you for sharing your journey to financial freedom. I’m almost done paying off my debt & looking into investing.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:15 am

      Good for you! I’m at the investing stage now. I’m learning more about it so I can play catch up for all the years when I was spending instead of saving.

  5. Safiya
    May 16, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    Awesome read xo

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:15 am

      Thanks Safiya!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:15 am

      Thank you!

  6. May 16, 2019 / 8:47 pm

    Awesome post I remember filing bankrupt after falling into credit card debt after college. I learned my lesson quick I built my credit score back by first getting a secure credit card after two/three years I was In the 700’s paid everything on time paid with cash and was able to save and buy a house. We all can do it if we put our minds to it.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:16 am

      I started with a secured credit card too! Wow, I completely forgot about that. That was so long ago. I hate debt now and avoid it like the plague.

  7. Onome Ogun
    May 16, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    Great write up!!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:17 am

      Thank you! I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. I’m so glad that I finally did.

  8. Keyanna
    May 17, 2019 / 2:21 am

    Came up as an ad on my instastory. So glad it did! This was a great read

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:17 am

      I’m glad that you liked it!

  9. May 17, 2019 / 10:24 am

    Love love love!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:17 am

      You’re welcome!

  10. Sas
    May 17, 2019 / 3:41 pm

    So happy to have read your post. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to get my finances into shape. What you wrote was very inspiring and honest and it really hit home. Thank you ❤️

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:18 am

      This was what I was hoping to do. Help people that are in a situation similar to mine. You will get through this!

  11. Sonia Welch
    May 17, 2019 / 5:40 pm

    I love this!!! Thanks for sharing I am in the process doing the same thing! But my problem is I give away my money to others! I have to do better at saying no!!! Love this! 🙏🏾❤️

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 18, 2019 / 2:19 am

      STOP giving money to other people. You have to take care of your situation and your future first and foremost.

      • Roxy
        May 27, 2019 / 11:22 am

        This is my biggestttttt problem…. I give money to those close that are in need because they have less than but in fact it’s hurting me!!

        I read something recently that said “ ppl go through stuff and if you bail them out every time they ask they will never learn”

        • torontoshay
          Author
          September 1, 2019 / 8:07 am

          In this situation you have to put yourself first.

  12. Destiny
    May 18, 2019 / 8:59 am

    Love love love this! Thank you for being so candid!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 20, 2019 / 6:54 am

      No problem ❤️

  13. Lauren Lee
    May 18, 2019 / 11:13 am

    Great Read! I’m starting all these things now so this was great motivation!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 20, 2019 / 6:55 am

      You’re so welcome!

  14. Janet
    May 18, 2019 / 11:21 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I moved to Canada less than two years ago and just completed a fashion course. I already have $25000 in student loan debt and 4000 in credit card debt.
    I’m trying to do these things but I don’t even know the jobs that will enable me save enough like you did.
    I’m staying with an aunt at the moment so I don’t pay rent.
    Haven’t gotten a call back from any of the places I applied to yet and the ones I had an interview with didn’t chose me for the job because they are entry level jobs and I am looking to earn more than $15 per hour.
    I’m trying to keep it together but it’s almost 2 months of being unemployed and I am not lazy.
    Can you please advise on what to do Shay?
    What kind of commission based jobs will enable me save aggressively?

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 20, 2019 / 6:54 am

      Are you looking at sales jobs? Luxury retail sales pays well but you may want to consider sales job opportunities. Keep looking until you find something that pays you an amount that you are comfortable with. It’s great that you are living with family right now because that is a huge Help.

  15. Shay
    May 20, 2019 / 2:45 am

    Wow so happy to have read this im assuming this came up as i was looking for ways to fix my situation .. im so glad i did thank you shay

    • torontoshay
      Author
      May 20, 2019 / 6:50 am

      You’re welcome!

  16. Lisa
    May 20, 2019 / 11:56 am

    This was right on time for me. Thank you for your honesty and inspiration. I am in in the midst of a major life shift and my finances are at the core of that right now. This article assured me that I’m on the right path and need to do what I need to right now so I can do what I want down the line. THANK YOU

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:07 am

      You’re welcome. I’m glad that I could help ❤️

  17. Jan
    May 20, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    Very informative information ,thanks for sharing . I am working on some of the things you mentioned ,it is a little hard but I am trying very hard with God’s help . Glad you are debt free🥰

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:12 am

      Thank you!

  18. Roxy
    May 27, 2019 / 11:19 am

    Omg this is actually what I needed to read on a Monday morning! My debt is about $70k after school etc and at 1st it scared me but I’m a total open book and know with my ambitious soul I will follow your steps to get it all gone in 4 to 5 years!!! Thank you again for this write up Xo

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:13 am

      You’re welcome. Im glad that it helped

  19. Trae
    May 27, 2019 / 4:24 pm

    Awesome! This article was honest and incredibly insightful, thank you kindly. I’ve done all of the above at different stages of my life… problem is I yo-yo like a dieter. I recently decided this game ain’t fun no more and I’m making very deliberate changes towards the freedom of having zero to minimal debt, plus finding other streams of income because most 9 to 5 jobs nah cut it!!!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:14 am

      That’s the right mindset. You got this!

  20. Natasha
    May 28, 2019 / 9:52 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You advice was relevant and achievable! I’m in rebuild mode right now, and can’t wait for that debt-free day! Funny, my secured CC should be arriving today 🙂 and I have a somewhat new job in luxury sales with a commission structure — the hustle is real. The weight of financial stress, on top of “life” (and health) stress is a lot to bare. I’m an independent mother of two, and have been in this financial position for DECADES. It’s time for financial freedom. All the best to you and your family Shannae!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:15 am

      Thank you! You can do it!

  21. May 28, 2019 / 12:52 pm

    such a great post ! very inspiring and motivating. Thanks for sharing

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:15 am

      Thank you for reading. I’m glad that it helped ❤️

  22. Yechima
    May 28, 2019 / 10:15 pm

    This is definitely a wake up call that I needed to do better. And that I need a better paying job if I’m to ever get out of debt as fast as I would like. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:15 am

      You’re more than welcome

  23. Annisha
    June 3, 2019 / 1:42 pm

    Wow this is great! I’ve done some of things,but then had to quit work because of school…what do you think you can do to make money between jobs?

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:16 am

      Can you bartend? Anything where you can make tips or commission is ideal ❤️

  24. June 11, 2019 / 2:17 pm

    Loved this, Shannae! I was waiting for this post. This was me the first year of university. You know how these credit card companies would target kids starting out with no financial experience? Well, I fell for it completely. By the end of the school year, I was $2000 in debt (I thought that was all the money in the world), and collection agencies were after me for petty bills. I cried to my mom who basically told me: “Serves me right”. She then told me it was ok and helped me pay off some, but I was left with the rest.

    The collection agency calls really scared me straight. After that, I got my act together, and remembered that experience my whole life. I have it together now (thank God), and save all of my blogging income, which is great. I use that saved cash to invest or do things I really want to do like take my Hubs to Spain for his 40th, buy a car, get boring stuff like interlock patios and the like.

    The feeling of not having to worry about money is completely liberating. What’s better than that? Seeing the money grow thanks to those high-interest investments, girl. LOL! Great post!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:18 am

      If really is liberating. There is nothing like it. Thanks for sharing your story Dom!

  25. Sharon
    June 16, 2019 / 10:28 am

    Love this post! Thank you soooo much for opening up, sharing and being so honest about something that many can relate to, but hide so much. For many, we were never really taught how to properly save or even invest in ourselves, and our future. This was well delivered as much as it was well received by many! With your helpful steps to improvement, you drive hope and faith by showing with a little determination, much is possible! Blessings!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:18 am

      Thank you!

  26. June 19, 2019 / 12:03 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing 💕

  27. Omotola Abegunde
    June 25, 2019 / 7:41 am

    Thanks so much for sharing. Really insightful

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:18 am

      You’re welcome!

  28. Stacey D
    June 26, 2019 / 3:51 am

    Love this obviously I read the whole thing cause I need to work on this myself. Gonna def try some of these great tips and hit you up for more pointers along the way. Thank you soooo much. Much love😘

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:19 am

      You’re more than welcome

  29. Vara
    July 6, 2019 / 12:19 pm

    Thank you for this! But I wonder if it’s possible as a self-employed person. It’s so much work as is. And I don’t make much to begin with. I have some hope.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:12 am

      It’s possible no matter what type of job you have. It’s more about what you spend and not what you earn. You have to live within your means. It’s not easy but it’s a must if joy want to be debt free

  30. July 20, 2019 / 12:10 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I’m lucky to have parents that took care of my studies in full so I don’t have to repaying student loans. However, I’ve found my spending habit spiralling out of control lately and I’m glad I realized before it got out of hand! I would like to buy a house and start another business in the nearest future so my credit score is like my baby right now. Not spending on what I cannot afford and making sure that I still reward myself for working so hard at the same time lol.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:10 am

      You’re in a great place Alma! Looking forward to seeing the home you buy! I’m sure that it will be gorgeous!

  31. July 24, 2019 / 6:01 pm

    I absolutely loved this read!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:09 am

      Thank you ❤️

  32. August 26, 2019 / 12:23 am

    Thank you for sharing this. This made me cry so hard.

    I am currently going through the same financial crisis. As I type this, I have collection agents calling and texting me about my unpaid loans that I have to settle immediately. The past month has been so painful and humiliating, having been called so many times a day, everyday including weekends and holidays. As early as 7 am, as late as 11 pm (due to an automated system sending messages).

    I am the breadwinner of the family, and my siblings help each other by sharing bills to pay. In the past month, there were emergency expenses at home that needed immediate attention. And so my loans went unpaid. And as bad a decision it is, I had to take out new loans to pay for the previous ones. Just as I am determined to leave it at that, the new dues needed to be settled again, and so I am in a cycle of paying of loans with loans.

    I know it wasn’t the right decision, but when family and friends can’t help, it was the only thing to do. Before anyone judges me for this, I do not go shopping for personal wants. I’ve had the same clothes and shoes for the last two years. My mother is a senior citizen now and already out of work. So my paycheck goes to household bills, transportation, and groceries. Nothing is left for savings, and I haven’t gone out for leisure or R&R in years. Stuff at home is the priority. And now that I am drowning in this current financial state I am in, I am feeling hopeless.

    I am thinking about tomorrow, my birthday, and how I will still be harassed by collectors. How it will be the saddest and most difficult birthday ever. And I list down all my upcoming dues on top of previous ones, and wonder how in the world I would survive this week with just PHP500 (around $10) left of Friday’s paycheck. The electric bill’s disconnection notice will take effect tomorrow if I still can’t pay. How long can I keep doing this?

    And so your post has hit home. Especially that part about the cab driver waiting for your payment while your debit card was put on hold. I felt it so badly. I felt it truly. After all this is over, I am hoping to get past it like you did. For now, I weep.

    (Sorry for this super long reply. Your post has hit home, and I just wanted to share. I am also in the process of writing a blog post about this.)

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:09 am

      With discipline and a plan you will get through this. Thanks so much for sharing your story ❤️❤️

  33. Martha
    August 29, 2019 / 8:30 pm

    Hey! Great post. Do you have any tips on how to begin improving your credit? I seem to be stuck in the endless cycle of never being eligible for anything that improves credit due to bad credit and it’s really soul destroying, any help appreciated!

    • torontoshay
      Author
      August 30, 2019 / 10:30 am

      Hey love! Try to pay off your balances in full and pay them on time. If you can’t pay your credit balances in full try not to carry a balance of more than 30% of your of the credit limit and don’t be late on payments. Hope that this helps!

  34. Kelly
    August 31, 2019 / 2:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story! This was such an interesting read. I like the part about making yourself accountable and being around people who make you accountable but don’t judge you.

    • torontoshay
      Author
      September 1, 2019 / 8:04 am

      That’s a MAJOR KEY!

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