Alaina Curry is a media and partnership lead for Change.org, a photography business owner in Dallas, and host of a personal finance podcast called “Vital Money.”
During the height of the pandemic, Curry was laid off from work and used her downtime to track the debt-free journey she started in 2016. She was knee-deep in six figures worth of student loans and other debt and in 2021, she became debt-free at age 31.
She is passionate about creating generational wealth and breaking curses while doing it in a way that is attainable and even fun.
The topic of money and debt might be overwhelming, but Curry is here to encourage the under-40 audience that her testimony is achievable for everyone with a positive mindset, the willingness to sacrifice, and discipline.
Curry shared her journey and strategies for financial freedom with the Defender.
Defender: When did you start taking your financial health seriously?
Curry: I first started my debt-free journey in 2016. In 2015, I got my first big girl job out of college. And I ended up moving to Las Vegas to work at a PR agency. I was doing everything you would do after you graduate, you get the apartment, work, travel, eat out with friends, but the reality was that I couldn’t afford those things. I didn’t have the financial literacy. I didn’t know how to manage my money and I had all this debt. One day I hit rock bottom, I missed payments on bills and got so overwhelmed. It was my turning point. I started to seek knowledge. My best friend introduced me to a book by [finance author and radio host] Dave Ramsey and that is what opened my eyes and I’ve been on the journey since.
Defender: What was your degree in and how much debt did you acquire?
Curry: My degree was in mass communications with a focus on public relations. I’m very fortunate to still be able to work in the career I went to school for. That’s not everyone’s story. I probably had around $70,000 in student loans. The rest was credit cards and a car loan.
Defender: What strategies did you implement?
Curry: I started saving up for the $1,000 emergency fund. I started doing the debt snowball method by Dave Ramsey, and even before then I had to have a mindset shift. Understanding your “why” is so crucial and important to have control over your money, and what that freedom can bring you. I read more books, watched experts on YouTube and it built my confidence. I started to think of ways to cut back on expenses.
I had an uncle who I asked if I could move into his place until I could get on my feet and he graciously agreed. I used my rent money to pay down the debt. I worked at Michael Kors and Target, I started photography on the side. I flipped clothing that I found in thrift stores and sold it on eBay. I was just finding anything I could to make extra cash. Just my primary 9-5 wouldn’t be enough to tackle this aggressively.
Defender: What sacrifices did you make to ensure you were decreasing debt?
Curry: I had to sacrifice my ego. I sacrificed hanging out with friends and family for a while. I sacrificed my weekends to work sometime seven days a week. Just saying no to a lot of things. I kept to myself because I had my eyes on the prize. I knew it was only temporary and that I was going to be a better place soon.
Defender: What advice do you have for someone who wants to pay off six-figure debt?
Curry: Financial freedom is possible. Having the freedom to accumulate more wealth and do the things you want to do is possible. Before you start, look at your life and envision what it will look like if you had no debt. What would you do if money wasn’t a barrier? A lot of the times we put labels on ourselves and say that we are bad with money. Surround yourself with knowledge and change your mindset.
Defender: Now that you’re debt-free, what’s next?
Curry: I was debt-free in October  so I took a break, celebrated my accomplishment, but now I feel behind, so I’m working on my foundation and saving money. My next goal is to invest in retirement, real estate, and into my small business. I’m investing in a personal trainer, I couldn’t do that before. Being debt-free goes way beyond money but [involves] creating a purposeful life. Growing up, my family never went on vacations because we couldn’t afford it. Now I’m planning my brother a surprise trip to Los Angeles. I never thought I could do something like that; enhancing my own quality of life and investing in others around me.
Defender: Talk about your podcast.
Curry: My podcast is “Vital Money.” My debt-free journey had so many ups and downs. I used a podcast as a medium to hold myself accountable and talk about the things I’m learning on my journey. I wanted to bring up conversations around money in a fun way. Talking about money doesn’t have to be taboo especially in the Black community. I bring ideas about how to get money, whether that’s a new side hustle, or telling stories about other people who are getting out of debt.