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She paid off $25,000 in 10 months, then went on the adventure of a lifetime

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Charis Brown |
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If you have a big debt to pay off, and especially if the debt has been looming over your life for a while, it can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. But if you have the will to conquer debt, there's always a way!

And Miriam Lilly, a hard-working young woman with determination and big dreams, is a perfect example.

Read more: 7 things debt-free people never do

How she paid off $24,600 in 10 months

Just a few short years ago, Miriam decided she was done with debt, and created a plan to get rid of it as soon as possible. Like most college grads, she had racked up a significant amount of debt from various sources — a little over $24,600. And once she realized how much that debt was eating away at her life and keeping her from the life she wanted, she started on her plan of extreme debt elimination. 

"I put my realistic cap on, took a hard look in the mirror… and my bank account and I had to make a very difficult admission: The ball and chain of debt was a death knell…" she says on her blog

She knew that in order to get more money to pay off her debts in a short amount of time, she'd have to do two things: make more money and spend less.

Miriam was already working the overnight shift at a hotel 50 hours a week but had her daytimes free, so she worked at a local florist as much as possible during the day to make all the extra money she could.

"As the chains from the debt began to fall off I felt breath coming into my lungs and light in my eyes — I was on a mission," she said.

Read more: How to create a budget and stay on track

Ruthlessly slashing spending

You might have heard the saying, "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten." Miriam understood this, and so she was willing to endure temporary sacrifice for a long-term benefit.

"I literally stopped spending money," she says. "I killed any 'entertainment budget'… ate to the end of my pantry then purchased only rice and oatmeal for a very long time; which eliminated my need for a refrigerator. I unplugged that to save energy, along with my microwave and other appliances. I then unplugged everything from the AC & heater, to lights and clocks, and even charged my phone and laptop only at work. I stopped driving except the 6 mile loop to work — I even banned Target & Walmart…"

The going got tough — but just for a while. "Days were hard," she says, but friends in an online community were cheering her on, not letting her quit and reminding her why she started in the first place. 

Finally, after 8 months, she began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

"Somewhere right before Thanksgiving I caught a glimpse of the finish line, and people started asking what’s next. And it dawned on me: anything. At the pace I was going I had the world at my fingertips."

Once she got to this point, she says, she began to think of all the possibilities. 

"A wonderful idea occurred, I could go anywhere, OR I could go everywhere, and that’s just what I decided to do. There was literally nothing standing in my way. As of March 20, I was completely debt free, 24,600 in 10 months."

A dream adventure ending in Hawaii

As ideas poured in from her friends helping her decide what to do with her newfound financial freedom, suddenly she found herself on the edge of a grand adventure: Traveling to all 50 states before her 30th birthday. 

"Before I could blink, the empty spots on my map of America sprouted destinations and I had 73 stops and the 48 continental states on the drawing board," she says.

But, before she could venture forth, she had two places she wanted to go she had no budget for: Alaska and Hawaii. 

That's when she made her most extreme money-making move yet: She sold her hair! 

How a young woman paid off $24k of debt in 10 months and then went on the adventure of a lifetime

"…I sold 20 inches of my hair for $700 and in the same breath bought a ticket that took me from the mainland to Alaska then on to Hawaii in one swoop for that exact amount," she said on her blog.

But, even though the journey required sacrifices that were painful at times, Miriam says she wouldn't trade it for anything. 

"Before, I felt like my life was one big 'no.' I was stuck. I took a hard look at how long it would take to pay off my debts at just the minimums and it was about 30 years. I told myself, 'You do not have 30 years before you can start saying yes to what you feel is important to you.' So I had to say no to a few things for a while so that my life could be one of 'yes.'" 

So what's her next goal? Now that Miriam lives debt-free in Hawaii, her goal is to raise as much money as possible for a cause she is most passionate about: Ending human trafficking. 

The takeaway

Bottom line: If you make paying down debt a priority, you can make it happen. Becoming debt free and saving as much as possible is the only way to reach true financial freedom. This allows you to make your own choices in life instead of your financial circumstances making those choices for you, and gives you the freedom to spend your time on things you are passionate about. This is exactly what Miriam did in order to live out her dream of traveling to all 50 states and giving to her favorite charities. You can do it too! 

If you want to make being debt free a reality, check out the below resources that can help you get started:

Read more: How to earn $20,000 doing small jobs from home