If you’re on social media frequently, odds are you’ve seen memes, tweets, and/or articles being shared regarding the major student loan debt we Millennials have unfortunately accumulated. I’d also bet that you’ve seen articles about how “Millennials are killing the *insert industry*” by not contributing as much of their spending toward whatever commodity as prior generations did. (To which we reply, “Well, maybe if we weren’t in debt…”)
Everything seems to come back to the thousands of dollars of debt we’re burdened with. Not all of it is student loans, either. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 now owe an average of $42,000 in debt and most of that is credit card debt. However, there has been a push back on the deepening debt trend by an online community devoted to helping each other become debt-free. Enter: the #debtfreecommunity.
Who is part of this #debtfreecommunity?
The #debtfreecommunity has people from all walks of life—different beliefs, socioeconomic backgrounds, political affiliations, and so on—and from all around the world uniting for the sole purpose of getting out of debt and encouraging others to do the same. While the debt-free community includes people of all ages, Millennials make up the largest percentage of active users across all social media platforms. With the debt crisis our generation faces, it’s no wonder that we’re the most vocal and active in the community.
What does the community offer?
The biggest thing the community offers is support. Most of us are more likely to give up on something when we don’t feel encouraged by others to keep going forward, especially with particularly difficult goals. Some members of the DF community have already gotten themselves out of debt, and they give back by sharing what has and has not worked for them on their journey to debt free. If you ask a question about what you can do about a particular financial problem you may have, you will receive a slew of answers from strangers who simply want to help you achieve your goal of being debt-free. How amazing is that?!
How can they help you get out of debt?
There are several things shared within this community to help you not only get out of debt but also not accumulate more debt as you go forward. The main thing the community shares is financial savvy accumulated through their own journey. They will point out which books, articles, and payment plans—for example, the “snowball method” (paying off the smallest loan first) versus the “avalanche method” (paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first)—you can use to help make your own decisions about how to begin your own debt-free journey. You’ll be introduced to the ideas of “cash envelopes,” monthly financial goals, the importance of savings accounts, and, most importantly, why the word “budget” should become part of your everyday vocabulary.
Many members are creatively gifted, so they will create visual aids to help along the journey. Some design charts which you can fill in (color, mark off, etc.) to help keep track of how much you spend, save, and/or pay back every month. Most of these charts are free, though some will accept donations to help their own attempts to get out of debt. It’s part of their “side hustle” as it’s known in the community. Others will write articles or make videos and post them on their websites, some aimed toward specific groups of people—such as young women, minorities, growing families.
Where to start?
If you want to get out of debt, the easiest and best way to start is by simply searching the #debtfreecommunity and #debtfreejourney hashtags on your favorite social media sites. As a visual person, I’m active (though anonymous) in the DF community that shares through Instagram.
As I write this article, I’ve made some progress in my own debt-free journey. I have managed to eliminate the only credit card debt I had (a laptop purchased for work), I have paid off a tenth of my smallest student loan (I’m using the snowball method), and I have taken control over how much I spend and save to the point where I’m no longer worried about making ends meet at the end of each month—all in just seven months. Of course, some people have bigger monthly paychecks, so they’ll finish their debt-free journeys sooner, but this isn’t a race or a competition. This is about motivation and inspiration from both people who are on the same debt-free journey and those who’ve already arrived safely in the promised land of living without debt.
The only word of caution I would offer, is to be careful about not spending so much time on social media searching for solutions that you never start to implement them. The DF community keeps growing and there are too many posts for any one person to read. Start by reading the most popular or top posts and go from there. The people or accounts with the most followers tend to be the ones who have successfully gotten themselves out of debt and are sharing their own journeys to help those who have recently joined the community. Don’t be afraid jumping into a conversation or asking a question; I have yet to meet a single community member who has refused to give me some advice, and everyone has made me feel a part of the community.
If you’re serious about no longer being just a depressing Millennial statistic, I urge you to give the #debtfreecommunity a try! Some of my favorite websites you could start with are The Finance Twins, The Millennials Next Door, and Debt-Free in Sunny CA. They are all active on social media, so you can follow their tips across the platforms if you'd rather do that than receive weekly emails from them. On Instagram, @MommyGazelle, @WiseWomanWallet, @SweetFrugalLife, and @forget.the.joneses are some accounts that continue to inspire me to keep going when I feel like giving up. Of course, you can always go to the man who started most of us on our debt-free journeys, Dave Ramsey. One click and you’ll realize freedom awaits.