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Single mom who paid off $34K of debt empowers other single moms to face their debts

(NEW YORK) — A single mom who found herself saddled with more than $34,000 in debt six years ago is sharing her journey to becoming debt free and is now empowering other single mothers to take control of their finances.

Dyana King, now a mom to two kids — Mikayah, 9, and King, 5 — said it was her firstborn who motivated her to get serious about paying down her debt.

“The main thing was that I was a mother,” the 30-year-old told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I wanted to obviously provide more for my child but also I did not want her to become me. Because in a way, I saw myself becoming my mom … She became a single mom and I saw how hard it was for her to take care of three kids when she did not really grasp how to properly manage her money.”

“I did not want to keep this pattern in rotation. It was literally up to me to break that,” King continued.

But even though she wanted to get started, King wasn’t sure where to begin. So she turned to blogs and social media to figure out what she needed to do in order to chip away at her debt, which consisted of an auto loan, multiple student loans, credit card balances and personal loans — all of which totaled approximately $34,907.

King learned about the snowball method — the practice of listing out all debts and tackling and paying off the smallest debt first before moving on to the next smallest debt — and started getting serious about paying off her debt in 2016. At the time, she was working as a customer service representative and on a salary that totaled about $32,000 a year.

“I started with my smallest balance and I’m like, if I can get this down, that gives me more money to roll into my budget. And so, I kind of went through this trial-and-error phase that way,” King explained.

“I had to get creative and kind of leverage what I had,” she added. “I was working the day job and then at night, I was freelancing for a few clients and that brought in about an extra $200 to $400 a month for me just depending on the time that I had because I was still a full-time parent.”

Along the way, King figured out what would and wouldn’t work for her, kept up with consistent payments and allocated extra money, like her tax refunds, toward her debt. When life happened and she found herself off track, she would reset and come up with another plan, all with her long-term goal in mind.

“What worked for me is shifting my mindset of what success was and what was enough because we often tell ourselves, ‘I’m not making enough. These payments aren’t enough,"” King said. “But the way that I saw it was, even if it’s an additional $20, if I keep making an extra $20, eventually, I’m gonna get it down.”

“I did have to allow myself to have a little something in my budget, whether it was coffee or whatever else, to keep me motivated,” King added. “I tried being super strict. ‘You know, I’m not going to go into a restaurant, I’m going to eat everything at home.’ That didn’t work for me. I’m someone that hates to cook. I enjoy eating out. So I had to be OK with that, too.”

In particular, King found inspiration and motivation from others on Instagram and social media. But in 2018, she launched her own online business, Money. Boss. Mama, to show other young Black women and other moms like her that their financial goals could be achieved.

“I’m a young, Black single mom on a single income, low income. I didn’t find anyone that looked like me,” King said. “I just wanted to show other women that they could do what I was doing and that they didn’t need a super high income and that it was possible, just trying to be the representation that I didn’t have.”

“A lot of the stories [online], they were couples,” she continued. “Some of them did not have kids, some of them did, but for a single parent on one income, a lot of those tips aren’t really going to apply. You have to make sure that you personalize them to fit your unique situation and that’s what created Money. Boss. Mama and the need for it.”

Through Money. Boss. Mama, King, who now works as a corporate curriculum and course developer, offers online courses for single moms to understand emotional spending and build savings.

After starting her debt-free journey in 2016, King finally paid off her final debt four years later — two student loans of around $10,000 — in 2020. For her last debts, she also switched from the snowball to avalanche method, listing out all her debts along with their interest rates and then tackling the debt with the highest interest rate first before moving to the next one.

“The last key part of that is just patience,” King said. “You literally have to ride out, I call it the maintenance mode of your debt-free journey, where you’re not really working extra hard. You got your payments where you’re going to get them. Now it’s just about consistently applying those payments and being patient and waiting to get to that $0.”

For anyone just starting out with debt, King said the first step is to realize a lot of the journey will be a mental one.

“You really have to work on accepting the fact that you are worthy of a better financial situation,” King said. “You have to work to believe in yourself and have faith in yourself because that is literally what’s going to get you to the finish line.”

“You’re running your own race, you’re not behind,” she added. “You’re right on time exactly where you need to be, and realize that the only person in the race is you. So take your time. You’re on time and you can do it.”

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