An influencer ended up 10k in debt because of Instagram, here’s how she paid it off in 18 months – CNBC

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While full-time influencer coach Lissette Calveiro tries to be honest about the ins and outs of being a content creator to her nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram, she wasn’t always frank about the challenges of being an influencer.

Between 2013 and 2016, Calveiro racked up around $10,000 in credit card debt trying to portray herself as a wealthy, jet-setter on Instagram. Among the purchases she splurged on to show off on social media were a $700 flight to Houston and a $1,000 vintage Louis Vuitton bag.

Calviero’s wake-up call to get out of debt came in 2016 when she accepted a job in New York City. After living briefly in New York City for an internship in 2013, Calveiro had settled down in Miami as a publicist and was making around $40,000 a year. Her salary was not nearly enough to keep up with the lavish lifestyle she depicted on Instagram. While the new job offer had a higher salary, it prompted her to reevaluate her spending habits. If she wanted to make her dream of living in New York City come true, she would have to pay off her debt.

Calviero allocated time to analyze her finances, cut back on lifestyle spending and saved more. She would spend 30 minutes each week looking at her credit card statement and updating a spreadsheet which contained her regular and recurring expenses and the value of her debt. Tracking her expenses allowed her to figure out what spending she could cut down on.

Now, she’s created her own personal finance Google spreadsheet template that she shares with others. Her template allows people to track their assets, income, budget and debt.

She also started making changes to her lifestyle. 

She found a cheaper apartment in New York despite having a longer commute time and got a Rent The Runway subscription, which reduced the amount of money she spent on clothes but still allowed her to have different looks for social media. Lastly, she started using an app, Digit, to both save and pay off her debt. Digit is an app that automatically puts money into your savings account, towards paying off your credit card debt or into an investment account.

Calveiro was able to pay off her debt in around 18 months. Now, she has a much healthier relationship with social media, her finances and credit cards. 

Using travel credit cards to save money

She uses The Platinum Card® from American Express, a luxury card with a steep annual fee of $695, a host of benefits and a high welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending $6,000 within 6 months of account opening. While there are more affordable travel credit cards with lower annual fees, the Platinum offers numerous luxury benefits like airport lounge access, an up-to-$300 Equinox credit, an up-to-$200 annual airline fee credit, and an up-to-$100 Saks Fifth credit, just to name a few.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 10X points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership, 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting January 1, 2021, this applies on up to $500,000 per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    100,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $6,000 within 6 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

Calveiro has cut down on her travel-related expenses by taking advantage of travel cards and the welcome bonuses they offer, signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because of its 100,000 point welcome bonus, after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That bonus is worth $1,250 when redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal.

She now monitors flight prices before buying a ticket by using the calendar function on Google Flights to determine which day of the week is cheapest to fly. Plus, she redeems the points from her travel credit cards to pay for her flights.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Opening up about her financial story

When it comes to her relationship with social media, Calveiro feels that being honest with herself and her followers about debt allowed more people to resonate with and relate to her story.

“What I found in that is that people really resonated with the debt story just because it’s a very common thing,” Calveiro said. “And it built a bunch of conversations that were, to me, previously taboo.”

Her perspective on using social media has also changed since sharing her debt story.

“What I learned was really that people just want to be seen and heard on social media, and that made my platforms pivot more towards wanting to connect with people through social, versus showing off through social, which I think is what the social media culture was before: all the cool places where you were eating, the cool stuff you’re wearing, and not really about connecting with people,” Calveiro said.

Calveiro emphasizes that people shouldn’t be ashamed of their debt and that it isn’t a burden that should be shouldered alone. She recommends employing the help of a close friend to serve as an ‘accountability buddy’ or to seek out a community on social media if you’re comfortable going public with your story.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

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