What It's Like to be an Indiehacker with $200k in Debt

When your app revenue goes to groceries instead of reinvesting.

May 03, 2018


Half of my current income goes towards paying the minimum payments on the debts that I owe. Just the debt, not other bills like rent or electricity.

That’s a mind-boggling statistic. It’s been my reality for 2 years now.

Every day I get at least 4 calls from debt collectors. I’m behind on a few of my bills. I could negotiate lower payments but it’s easier to just ignore them and pay the late-fee.

It’s hard to open my finances spreadsheet that allows little wiggle room. There’s no money allocated for dates with my wife, no money allocated to saving, no money invested, just bills. Lots and lots of bills.

Living like this has been eating me alive for a long time. Anytime my spouse mentions the things we need to buy for our upcoming second child, I go numb. I know we can’t afford any of those things in this current state.

In January I set a goal of making an extra $500/mo on the side by the end of April 2018. If I didn’t reach my goal, I needed to get a second job just to keep up with our debt.

Through the Indiehackers community and support, I was able to launch and start Closet Tools. In just two months, I hit $460/mo. It’s been slow but steady growth. I fell just shy of my goal, but it was close enough for me to not get a second job (which would have killed me inside).

That extra $460/mo is just enough to allow us some wiggle-room in our budget. Maybe my wife and I could go out on a date once a month, or my wife could buy some extra art supplies.

But no, that extra money needs to go towards accelerating my debt snowball. That’s the only way I’ll be able to get out of this mess in this lifetime.

How Did This Happen?

Back in 2010 I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology for Electrical Engineering. I had no concept of what it was like to pay for student loans, so I took out as much as I could. My student loans payed for housing, tuition, and food for me for 4 years.

That alone put me at $120k in debt.

Then, I got married to my awesome and beautiful wife. She brought along another $25k in student loans from her state-school college education.

When my wife and I got married in 2015 we needed vehicles, so we picked up two cheap ones for $8k and $6k.

Right off the bat, when I graduated college, my income didn’t support the payments that I needed monthly. So, regretfully, over the next two years we accumulated another $15k in credit card debt.

It just kept growing and growing. It never went in the right direction. The hole just got deeper every month.

The minimum payments were increasing much faster than my engineering job salary was increasing over the years. This was a completely unsustainable model for my finances.

I decided the answer to our problem was increased income. I don’t live very lavishly, so there isn’t a lot of room to cut anything out of the budget. The only way to get this under control was to make more money.

So, I tried to start an e-commerce business. That ended up being a failure. I tried to start an SEO service business, a web design firm, and a phone repair shop. They all failed and/or were not for me.

I was just about at my wits-end when I decided that I needed an additional $500/mo by April 2018. You can understand the relief when it actually happened.

What It’s Like To Pay Bills With App Revenue

TLDR; It sucks. But, I’m grateful to be able to finally catch a break and stay afloat.

I’d love to reinvest that money back into the business. I’d pay for an SEO monitoring service, some FB ads, and run some giveaways to generate some quick growth.

But, my family needs to use the money. I can’t reinvest in the app until I get out of this hole (or at least can see the light).

It’s growing slowly. I’m just going to have to live with that. I don’t have the luxury of throwing money at different funnels to see what sticks. Everything I do has to have a $0 price tag.

Things Are Finally Looking Up

It’s been a long 2 years. I’m tired of being behind the 8-ball on my finances. But, I can finally say I am making additional income, and that I will be able to get out of debt before I’m old and gray.

I wanted to write this post to document my journey. Maybe it will resonate with someone else, and maybe it will inspire them to keep going.

Thanks for reading.