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The Drastic Measures This Guy Took to Pay Off $428K in Debt in 14 Months
This post was originally published April 1, 2017, as part of our April Fool's Day lineup.
From school loans to unexpected medical bills, racking up a mountain of debt is easy to do and hard to get out from under.
Occasionally, debt can deeply unite people, but for most of us, it’s a difficult burden to bear.
Chad Worthington understands the struggle firsthand. After tallying his debts last year, Worthington realized he owed almost $427,642.98 in student loans and credit card bills.
At 23, Worthington knew he’d carry that burden around with him for decades unless he took drastic steps to get his spending under control and create a plan to pay down his debt as quickly as possible.
His Sad Spiral Into Debt
“I never meant to accumulate so much debt so fast,” Worthington said. “It just sort of snuck up on me. Literally”
Worthington recalls the night his friend, Schuld, crept up behind him in a dark alley and whispered that he needed to borrow $14,942.
Startled, Worthington immediately wrote his pal a check for the full amount, even though he’d earmarked the money to pay off his American Express Platinum card.
“How could I say no to guy whose name actually means ‘debt’ in German?”
Other debts, like school loans, were simply unavoidable.
“I’d dreamed of getting my master’s degree in social media photo filters for years,” Worthington recalled. “I’m glad I have it, but it came at a cost,”.
All told, he spent $392,723.98 on his graduate degree, but Worthington says it was worth every penny.
“Without it, I never would have been able to launch my startup company, Beard Beads, a line of whisker jewelry for men,” he says wistfully.
The Unexpected Failure No One Could’ve Predicted
Unfortunately, the bottom dropped out of the Beard Beads market soon after Worthington launched his company.
“My buddies and I all had thick, luxurious beards,” he recalled. “Well, except for Blane. He had these weird tufts on his left cheek, and that was it.
“Anyway,” Worthington continued, “as nice as they were, our beards lacked a certain adornment.”
The idea for Beard Beads came to him one evening while combing fortified yak fat through his goatee to keep it soft and touchable.
“Everyone loved my concept, so I bought $19,977 worth of beads on eBay, and my business was born,” Worthington said.
A mere three weeks later, singer Ed Sheeran clipped his beard short, and millions of men across America followed suit.
“Suddenly, no one wanted Beard Beads anymore,” Worthington said. “Not even when I offered to include a free tube of super glue so men could affix the beads directly to their face.”
Faced with nearly insurmountable debt and a growing number of creditors expecting repayment, Worthington knew it was time to do something.
So he drank a hoppy IPA.
Then, he formulated a plan.
Worthington’s Top 4 Tips For Getting Out of Debt
“Getting out of debt is really about finding ways to cut expenses and curb spending,” Worthington explains. “Once you do that, everything should fall into place.”
He recommends writing down your list of goals and money-saving ideas to keep you on track.
Worthington pulled out his monogrammed Moleskine notebook and shared a few of his favorite tips with us.
1. Take a Good Look at Your Living Arrangements.
Worthington knew he couldn’t afford his industrially decorated Manhattan loft any longer, so he made the difficult decision to move back into his parents’ pool house in the Hamptons.
“It’s tough because the maids don’t like to drive the golf cart over from the main house,” Worthington said stoically.
“Rather than bring in my own cleaning crew by helicopter, I make my friends wear Swiffer cloths on their feet when they come over. My floors have never looked better.”
2. Find Ways to Save on Utility Bills
Between the lights and air conditioning at Worthington’s modest 14,000-square-foot pool house, electricity is one of his biggest monthly expenses.
“Lucky for me, my girlfriend Lacey likes to wear really long false eyelashes. She kicks up quite a breeze when she blinks, so I just sit really close to her. I’ve lowered my air-conditioning bill $120 month,” says Worthington proudly.
He has also found some ingenious ways to keep his water bill down.
“Of course I pee in the shower,” he says modestly. “I also wash all my dishes in the shallow end of the pool.”
3. Take Care of Your Health to Avoid Large Medical Bills
Worthington is still covered under his parents’ health insurance for another year, but any deductibles and copays are his responsibility.
“The best thing you can do to avoid health issues is maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat right,” Worthington says.
To keep his toned physique without an expensive gym membership, he regularly rotates the tires on his mother’s Bentley and carries 100-pound ice sculptures to the buffet table for his parents’ weekly garden parties.
For birthday gifts, Worthington asks his family to buy him his favorite kale and quinoa protein bars that are manufactured on an east-facing Indonesian mountain range so he doesn’t have to pay shipping.
4. Don’t Skimp on Dental Hygiene
“Caps are expensive, so you need to take care of them,” said Worthington with a blindingly white smile.
He recommends using toothpicks instead of spending money on a toothbrush or toothpaste that just goes down the drain.
“A box of 100 toothpicks is less than a dollar,” he noted.
“Use one end in the morning and the other at night to make them last twice as long. Mint-flavored toothpicks are usually the same price, and they’ll freshen your breath, too.”
Chad Worthington: National Treasure
His willingness to buckle down and take such drastic steps to get his debt under control has paid off.
Now, he’s a mere two months away from being debt free.
“I’ve learned a lot about how making better financial choices can prevent something like this from happening again,” Worthington said.
He’s also learned the importance of creating an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses.
“Without that cushion in my savings account, something unpredictable like a large medical bill could torpedo all the hard work I’ve done to dig myself out of debt,” Worthington notes.
“If push came to shove, I suppose I could downsize my yacht to free up some cash — but only as a last resort,” he says, wiping away a tear.
“The struggle is real.”
Hang tough, Chad.
You’re an example to us all.
Your Turn: What’s the best April Fool’s joke you’ve seen today?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder with some advice for you: Don't be like Chad.