How a man paid $80,000, including $30,000 in just one year

  • Marc Russell, founder of financial literacy platform Better Wallet, donated $80,000 over 8 years.
  • He was able to pay $30,000 in 2020 alone because he developed Better Wallet and the pandemic reduced some expenses.
  • Changing jobs, moving to a less expensive place, and liability partners helped him achieve his goal.
  • Learn more about Personal Finance Insider.

Marc Russell is the founder of Better Wallet, a financial literacy education platform to help young professionals get their finances in order. Russell launched the platform in 2019 to document his debt-free journey.

He’s paid off nearly $80,000 in debt over 8 years, including $30,000 in 2020 alone, according to records seen by Insider.

Within two years, Russell managed to grow the platform into a six-figure business. At the end of 2021, after paying off all his debts, he quit his financial services job to focus full-time on Better Wallet and dedicate his career to helping others better manage their finances.

Like many people, college was a way out of poverty for Russell. The only way he could pay for his education was through scholarships and student loans.

“I bounced around the Pennsylvania foster care system for the first 13 years of my life when my parents adopted me,” Russell told Insider. “My mom and dad worked by the hour. I grew up in Mount Union, one of the poorest towns in the country. College was my way out.”

After graduating from college, Russell believed he would be in debt for the rest of his life. Russell’s debt consisted mostly of student loans—about $50,000—and a car loan of about $20,000.

However, after talking to clients about his work in financial services, he began to see a path to freedom from debt. Some of the advice he received motivated him to take action.

“Make sure you give every Benjamin a job, pay off all your debts, and eventually get to the point where you can monetize your knowledge,” Russell said.

Here are the 5 strategies he used to pay off his debt.

1. He started budgeting

At first, Russell was reluctant to create a budget.

“I grew up on a low income and thought budgets were too restrictive,” he said. “But I had my breaking point in 2016 when I saw overdraft charges from my bank.”

At the time, he was working in financial services and earning around $55,000 a year.

“I used to help people manage their finances, but I struggled with my finances,” he added. “It made no sense.”

So he started by tracking all his expenses for a month in an Excel spreadsheet. After that, Russell made a budget template for his fixed and variable expenses based on his expenses.

He started budgeting each week to figure out how much to allocate to bills and debts based on the income he was getting.

“It held me accountable — I couldn’t wait until later to budget my money and realize I had nothing left,” Russell said.

2. He cut expenses by moving and negotiating

Russell began looking at his highest expenses to find ways to reduce them. He decided to move to a smaller, more affordable apartment, which reduced his rent by $600 per month.

He also negotiated his car insurance premiums. Russell was paying around $300 a month because his insurance company had identified him as a high-risk customer, but he called to negotiate with them and had it reduced to $100 a month.

Another expense that Russell drastically reduced was his food and entertainment budget.

“I started going out once a week versus twice a week,” Russell said.

When the pandemic hit, Russell was also able to save extra money by not having to commute and not being able to eat out. Not commuting alone saved him an additional $300 per month.

3. He used both the avalanche and snowball methods of debt repayment

Russell used a hybrid of the popular debt avalanche and snowball methods.

He started with the avalanche method by tackling the highest interest debt on his credit cards first, then switched to the snowball debt method and paid off the most next small balance – his car loan.

“I always recommend that my clients choose a model that works best for them,” Russell said.

4. He increased his income through side activities and looking for a job

Russell was able to earn an extra $20,000 a year by getting a job at another company, and he started working side jobs.

“I started driving Uber and then Lyft on the weekends, which made about $200 a week,” Russell said.

In 2020, Russell couldn’t drive Uber or Lyft anymore due to the pandemic, so he turned Better Wallet into a side hustle that year, earning him an extra $20,000 for the year.

5. He had others holding him accountable for his goals

Russell told friends and family that his goal was to be debt free by 2020, and they stuck to it.

“Whenever I felt like I wanted to buy something instead of saving, they would say to me, aren’t you paying off a debt?” Russell said. “Aren’t you going to be debt free by 2020 when you hit 30? So that helped keep me on track.”

Russell has also found accountability partners in the online debt-free community.

“In 2019, I was documenting my personal financial journey of paying off debt, but once you put a number and a goal in there, people start sticking with you,” Russell said. “I was getting direct messages from people asking me, are you on the right track? Are you still budgeting and paying off your debt?”

“And they were very helpful because they were going through the same journey or had gone through a similar journey 5 to 10 years ago,” he added.

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