This Woman Did A "No-Buy Year" In 2023, And It Helped Her Pay Off Over $19K In Debt On A $45K Salary

    "I’m a baker who works just about 40 hours a week and makes under $45,000 a year."

    Paying off debt can be really, really hard — just ask me about the time it took four years to pay off $2,000 on my credit card because random emergencies just kept happening. So when I came across Atlanta-based Angela Szot's (@vomitgrocery) videos about how she paid down a ton of debt in 2023, I had to share her story.

    In a TikTok video, Angela explains how she took on a no-buy year challenge in 2023 that allowed her to pay off over $19,000 in debt. Even more impressive, she told BuzzFeed, "I’m a baker who works just about 40 hours a week and makes under $45,000 a year."

    Screenshot of Angela smiling with caption "I paid off a little over $19,000 in debt"

    In the video, she shares how she uses a notebook to manually track her income and expenses, saying, "I am not a smart finance girly. I do not know how to use spreadsheets. I got this $2 notebook from Walmart, and it's been my lifesaver." I always say, the best budgeting tool is the one you'll actually use, so if you love a notebook, use a notebook!

    Angela holding up her $2 notebook from Walmart

    She dedicates three pages to each month. On the first page, she tracks her bills, income, and total debt and savings. She uses the second page to track her spending in various categories, and the third page is for her end-of-the-month totals.

    Angela's notebook open to the page for December 23, with bills, pay dates, total debt, and savings

    And in a follow-up video, she explains the rules she set for herself for her no-buy year, noting that "these rules are super harsh just because I'm trying to get out of debt so fast."

    For 2023, Angela resolved not to buy any new skincare unless she ran out of a product, no new makeup at all, no new clothes unless she needed them for work, no new books, no plants, no art supplies, no nail appointments, and no home decor.

    Angela's rules for her no-buy year

    But, very importantly, her plan also made room for some little treats now and then so she wouldn't feel deprived. "I get cash tips every two weeks. It's not a lot, but it pays for like three coffees, and that's fun. I can buy a candle, oil, or incense, but only one at a time, and only when I run completely out of it." Her plan also allowed for a few cute toys for her dog and takeout once a week.

    In addition to her no-buy rules, Angela also downsized her living space in 2023 to pay off debt faster, moving from a one-bedroom apartment into a rented bedroom in a larger space. This move took her rent down to just $700 a month.

    "Where you at where rent $700?!" Angela replies, "I put my whole life in storage and moved out of my 1BR; I now rent a bedroom to change my life"

    In the comments, people praised Angela for opening up about her financial journey and for her relatability:

    Comment saying 'Finally someone I can relate to! I mostly see people making $90/hr with $25k in debt living with their parents is not me [crying laughing emoji]" and Angela replying, "I love being relatable!!!"

    And there are also tons of people cheering her on:

    "$19k!! You're killing it!! Great job!!" and Angela replying, "tysm" with two pleading face emojis

    Her story is even inspiring others to try a no-buy experiment:

    "I'm planning on going back to school and I was stressed about how I was going to afford it but this helped so much! Gonna try a no buy year for 2024!"

    Angela told BuzzFeed that she chose her no-buy categories because she was so ready for a change, saying, "I was noticing that I was getting cranky and annoyed with myself about the same things over and over: food waste, buying art supplies and never touching them once I got home, my plants constantly dying and me retrying. LOL, I was sick of myself, and it was time to do something about it." As someone who's killed 99% of the plants I've ever owned, I felt this in my soul.

    A dead houseplant

    As for the hardest part of her no-buy year, Angela said, "The hardest part of this challenge for me is not buying trinkets and home decor. I’m a homebody, and adding new elements and pieces to my space brought me a lot of serotonin."

    But she had a great motivation to keep herself on track. "The easiest part of this challenge is knowing everything I’m doing this year is for little 6-year-old me," Angela said. "She deserves the entire world, and I’m going to give it to her." (Can I just say how much I love that???)

    If you're thinking about trying a similar challenge yourself in 2024, Angela says, "My advice would be to make realistic achievable goals and come up with your plan, write all of your rules down, make your final purchases that will help you stay true and on track, and then start immediately. But remember that gratification isn’t always instant."

    Person making a financial plan for 2024

    If a no-buy year sounds intriguing but you feel that it's not the right challenge for you, you might try what I do: no-buy days. Two or three days a week, depending on my current goals, I don't buy anything unnecessary. And if I have a larger goal, I'll try for streaks of no-buy days to see how long I can go.

    Did you reach a big financial goal in 2023? Or is there a goal you're working toward for 2024? Let's talk about it in the comments.