How a 28-Year-Old Entrepreneur Paid Off Her Debt in 18 Months

By Chris Terschluse
February 15, 2017
 Do you ever wish there was a silver bullet to paying off your student loans faster?

As millennials, we’re a generation hell-bent on pursuing our dreams with a YOLO mentality. Meanwhile, our paychecks disappear into monthly bills, loan payments, and rent–putting those dreams of financial freedom just out of reach. The struggle is certainly real and requires a combination of ingenuity and self-discipline to accelerate the process of getting out of debt.

Jesse Genet, the 28-year old founder of Lumi, literally found her silver bullet in the form of a vintage airstream and an “aggressive saving” strategy that enabled her to pay off her student debt in just 18 months. The best part? She did it without giving up on her dream of starting her own company which manufactures innovative packaging and branded supplies.

Being an entrepreneur, Jesse is no stranger to overcoming adversity. Not only has she found incredible success with her startup after a challenging Shark Tank appearance, she’s also paid off tens of thousands of dollars of debt in just 18 months. Here’s Jesse’s story:

Tells us about your financial journey.

People often assume that as an entrepreneur I have millions of dollars, but that’s definitely not the case. I bootstrapped my business, Lumi, for five years while also trying to pay down thousands of dollars in student debt. Entrepreneur finances can be rough. I often found myself taking financial hits for the sake of my company at the beginning. I was paying myself very little and I was in and out of credit card debt as a result. The little money I made here and there would usually go toward necessities. However, without a steady paycheck, the debt was persistent. For me, credit card debt was truly anxiety producing and it really started to affect me emotionally. That’s when I decided to become an aggressive saver.


What did you do to become an “aggressive saver?”

It really just means that I spent time finding unique solutions to cut down my living expenses. About 18 months ago, I decided to focus only on necessities. Two major expenses I eliminated immediately were rent and car payments. I moved into a 220 square foot airstream that’s parked behind my company’s office building. My partner and I bought the used airstream for $25K and put about $5K into remodeling it. It has queen size bed, full kitchen, and shower. It took a little bit of getting used to a smaller space, but it has everything I need and I no longer pay rent. I also opted to skip the lease and just go for a used car that gets me to get from point A to B. It’s a 1972 truck that I absolutely adore.

That’s a pretty amazing way to reduce your expenses.

Yeah. It might not work for everyone, but I think just focusing on eliminating a specific type expense can lead anyone to find some creative solutions. Case in point! But cutting back on my day-to-day spending also really helped.

What did you do to change your spending habits?

I cut way back on how many credit cards I regularly used and instead opted to simplify my spending with a debit card account. That’s actually when I started using Chime.There’s absolutely zero anxiety with a debit card. My Chime debit card and the Chime app really help me stay self-disciplined with my spending. The app makes it super easy to always know where I stand and it helps me figure how much I should spend in a given week.

I love the daily balance notifications and having a bank account that’s actually well designed makes staying on top of my spending actually enjoyable. I use Chime for all of my daily expenses and to pay my bills through the app because I know it will provide clarity on my finances. Chime has basically become the central hub for my spending. I also have all my other bank accounts linked into Chime as well so I can see all of my balances in one place. I feel way more in control now compared to the old habit of putting random purchases on random credit cards and then paying the price later.

What advice would you share with others who are struggling with debt? 

You can have radical financial change quickly. I was able to eliminate tens of thousands of dollars in debt in just 18 months, not 10 years. Of course, I took an aggressive approach, but a big part of what led to that transformation was simply changing how I thought about my money. Finances can be fun. Not onerous and scary. I think having financial goals is the key to thinking of saving money as fun. It becomes addictive when you start to see progress and it feels great to achieve what you set out to accomplish. I also think it’s important that people take the time to understand the math of compounded interest on student loans. I paid the absolute max I could on my on my student loan every month and ended up saving $18,000 over the life of the loan. 

What are your goals now that you’re debt-free?

My financial stability and freedom is all very new. Freedom and autonomy have always been life goals for me. It flows with entrepreneurship and always trying to build something. I feel like my first goal was to achieve freedom by no longer making financial decisions out of fear e.g. staying in a job because I needed the money. Now that I’m debt-free, the next bar is making the right choices in my new autonomy. I’m thinking that someday I’d love to build my own home. To have a space that I really feel like I own. I’m just now starting to think about how to save for that goal. There’s a gorgeous lake just 90 min from LA called Lake Arrowhead that’s been calling my name.

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