Category Archives: Debt Free

Getting Good with Money and Dumping Debt

Want to pay off debt, but are on a tight budget? Learn how one family became debt free (mortgage included) on around $50,000 a year!

Getting Good with Money

I love to highlight a variety of stories about how the different families face them, both with making the numbers work and with the conversations they have during the process.

Last week, Toni Husband shared some of the ups and downs of her debt free journey to pay off over $100,000 of debt. 

Knocking out that mountain of debt including getting her husband on board and finding a pace that allowed them to pay it off without sacrificing time with their young kids. 

There are other struggles when it comes to becoming free, including making every dollar go further when you’re making closer to the median household income of around $67,000

Which is why I’m thrilled to have Jessi Fearon on today’s show. 

Jessi and her family paid off their debts including their mortgage on about $50,000/year income.

In her new book Getting Good with Money, she talks about some key changes they made as well as offering practical tips on how families can get out of debt.

In this episode we get into:

  • Identifying your money type, triggers, and key behaviors to adjust
  • How to have more productive conversations about money as a couple
  • How to find and make money to hit your financial goals faster

Are you ready? Let’s get started! 

Resources to Dump Your Debt Faster

If you want to chat some more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start-to-finish – for FREE. They handle the process from start-to-finish, and yes that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Understanding Your Money Mindset and Personality

Elle Martinez: I love following what you're doing online, not just with paying down debt, but the message you're sending with families with hope, especially us parents, where we're juggling so many different things with finances.

You and I know that this time of year, a lot of people are motivated and on their list of things to improve for the year is getting better with money.

They want to either pay down debt, save, invest, but it's hard to stick it out. Something I appreciated in your book, which was before you come up with a plan, kind of assess who you are, what's your money story, and how you interact with money. Cause you go into a couple different like personality or mindsets.

Could you go over first of all, the different types and for yourself, what did you have to do?

Jessi Fearon: Absolutely. The first one is the Daredevil. The Daredevil doesn't have any savings or little to no savings, rather. So they're living life on this tight rope and hoping that no little hiccup, no little bump in the road happens. It does. They're completely derailed and it's financial catastrophe.

I have definitely been all four of these different personalities. So I have definitely been the Daredevil before more times than I care to admit to.

I've also been the floater. The floater is someone who lives at paycheck to paycheck has no idea where their money is coming in. It has no real plan for their money. They keep trying to make progress, but because they haven't gotten really real and honest with themselves and how it is that they're using their money is all a complete mystery to them.

The other one is the spender. Yeah, the spender is, it's not someone who's just necessarily going in blowing all of their money, but it's someone who doesn't actually know what their spending trigger is and we all have them, including savers.

We all have something that whatever it may be, whether it's a good deal or we, again, where we see something and we think, oh, so-and-so would love that. We pull that trigger and we spend the money. If we don't reconcile that within our budgets and within our money management, it will completely derail whatever plans that we have.

The last one is the avoider. I was an avoider for a really long time. And the avoider is someone who doesn't plan for their future. Mainly talking about retirement here, but someone who does it plan for that 70 year old self. They kind of think, oh, that 70 year old self is. Way out there, but you know, it's funny.

Cause then all of a sudden you wake up one day and you're a lot older than 21 and you're like, ‘oh wait, I'm a lot closer to being retirement age than I am to a teenager now. So what am I going to do'?

As I said, I've been all four of these and for me discovering that about myself was realizing the way that money made me feel.

Working Together with Your Money

I'll use me and my husband pat for an example. My husband is a spender. I'm a safe. So for me, I like to have a lot of money in the bank account, but I also don't ever want to spend any, like I like regardless if we actually have to spend the money, I don't want to touch that money in that bank account.

Like I want it to sit there and be really, really big, you know, and with some around in my goal cleans, I want that, that makes me feel good. It's like a little trophy sitting on the shelf that makes me feel safe and secure. Whereas for my husband, he likes to spend money, but that doesn't mean that he wants to honestly spend all of the money and blow all of them.

And just means that he wants to have that ability to spend whenever he needs to or wants to spend. He wants to be able to have that ability to do that because it gives him a sense of accomplishment. And I say that because for us that's one of the key pieces for us was that we had to kind of come to terms with, okay, how does the money make us feel?

Like, what is it about money that we value? And the reality is that we. Something with money that we attach value to. And for me, it was safety and security for my husband. It's a sense of accomplishment and success.

Neither one of those answers is right or wrong. I know sometimes people want to answer in the way they think they should, like, well, I should say it's for safety and security or because I want to give a bunch of money to everybody. But it's okay if it's for you, it's accomplishment and success. That's totally fine.

Just own up to it because then it helps you figure out from there, like, okay, how am I using money? When money comes into my hand, what is my first thing that I'm doing with it? Am I immediately going out and spending the money?

Am I hoping that nothing comes up? So then that way we don't have any hiccups in the road, we don't go broke. The car doesn't break down. Whatever.

In those cases you may be a spender. You may be a Daredevil, or you may be a floater. If you weren't planning for retirement, then you're an avoider and you have to ask yourself why in all of these situations and getting down to that brass tax of why we'll help you reconcile and come to terms with these and then make progress and changes that you need to make.

Conversations Needed Before You Can Line Up Your Numbers

Elle Martinez: I love that. Yes. You not know about this, especially you've written a book about budgets specifically.

Yes. You have to have the numbers line up and there's a process to that but at the same time, if you don't address the root of it, which is why do I view money this way? And why do I act when I'm stressed or I'm coming up with a specific situation.

If you can't answer that, or you can't work through that both yourself. And if you're married, you know, with your spouse, Not impossible, but it's really hard and it's really slow to get through and make real progress on whatever your financial goals are.

I love that you opened up with that with those conversations, because that's something you can't avoid.

We were kind of the opposite. So I wouldn't say I'm like a spender, I guess, like you mentioned with pat, I don't want to spend everything, but I was comfortable with spending.

I would do too much. I was paying down debt. It was also saving a little bit of saving, a little bit of investing. So it was like going everywhere, but not really making any progress.

My husband, Rob was just like you, which is like money for him was security. I think for me, it was like freedom and options. Until we had that conversation, it was like we were just doing the same script over and over again and not really making that progress.

I'm glad you've included in the books. I think that is going to be a big breakthrough for a lot of couples and families.

Jessi Fearon: Especially when you're married, I'm a big proponent of like figuring out for you individually.

Get clear on money with you, like sit with it and really think about it. Because the clearer you get on how it is that you feel you value a new use of money the easier it's going to be when you have those conversations with your spouse.

You're going to be able to articulate your point and your spouse is actually going to be able to hear it because now emotion has been removed from the conversation and you are clear.

You're personally clear on how it is that you manage money and that will help bring the conversation to a much better place than if you're just screaming and yelling. Because I know that conversation really well too.

Dumping Debt on a More Typical Budget

Elle Martinez: I think we've all been there, you know? You don't see eye to eye. And when you let the emotions take over, it's very hard to make any kind of progress or see each other's point of view.

Another thing I appreciated with your story, and I think many people relate to is you did this without a huge income like you and I were fans of debt-free stories.

I love, and I'm rooting for families that open up more opportunities for themselves by becoming debt free.

At the same time, there have been times where I'm frustrated and I'm rooting for them where it feels like you read the story, they paid off this crazy amount of debt in like two years and then you read in the paragraph, they each make like six figures or they've had family help them with buying a house.

Again, nothing wrong but if that's the only money story that's being shared or that's the one that's being shouted out it can be discouraging for a family who has either a huge amount of debt that they're dealing with, or they don't have that large income to throw towards the debt.

First of all, thank you for including your story with that. I think that needs to be shared more, but what advice and encouragement would you give to a family that finds themselves in a more typical situation with their debt?

Jessi Fearon: First any income level is okay. I feel like I have to say that because, for us, we did this on just over $47,000 a year salary.

I know that for my husband, sometimes that was hard for him more than for me. I think he had more pride issues with that. That was really difficult for him because so many of his friends made so much more money. We had in comparison to our income level, a lot of debt and we had to figure out how to pay it off.

I was going to have to go back into the corporate world. So for us, what it came down to was, okay, what do we want more of?

Did we want me to be a stay at home mom? Do we want me to go back to the corporate world and having to put the kids in daycare? Because at the time we had two kids under the age of two, which that would have been even astronomical.

I can, God bless every single parent that has their child in daycare right now, because I can't even imagine what that cost is right now.

I know back then it was going to be crazy and it was with my paycheck, just to put them into daycare.

At the time my husband was working a graveyard shifts. So most of the burden of [taking] kids to daycare and them up from daycare and then doing the cooking dinner and feeding them, getting them in bath, saying prayers, reading the stories and going to bed, doing it all over the next day was all going to fall mostly on my shoulders.

So we had asked ourselves, is that the life we actually want is that what we're building?

I think key piece that any family of any income size has to ask themselves, what are we building like, is this what we want? When we are on our deathbed and we look back on this time, is this what we hope that we had built during our lifetime?

For us, that was not what we wanted and so we knew that we had to either find a way to make that $47,000 a year work, or I was going to have to go back in the corporate world and who, and we were going to have to live a life that we didn't necessarily want to.

Again, sometimes we have to make temporary sacrifices. that's not saying there's any shame that that's a situation that you find yourself in cause we certainly considered that, but for us it just became clear on our why and why we wanted to do it.

From there it made the actual sticking to our plan so much easier because we knew what we were fighting for because if you don't know what you're fighting for, then it's going to go up in smoke.

You're not going to, you're not going to actually try to achieve anything at that point, because once it gets hard, cause it will get hard. Yeah.

Define Your Family's Priorities

Elle Martinez: It definitely will. I mean, it's, it's not a matter of if it's when and I do love how you framed it cause it is included in the book. Like what kind of life do I want? What kind of life do we want?

It's very easy to get into the script of, ‘oh, I'm saving for retirement'. Well, let's just take that. What does that even mean to you? What kind of retirement?

If my husband had a choice, it'd probably be like a cabin in the mountains and I'm imagining traveling. So we were having these conversations and figuring out what does that even mean?

Like ‘I'm saving to buy a house'. What kind of house? Where do you want to live?

Having these deeper conversations definitely makes it easier to kind of work backwards. Okay. Well, if this is the type of house, or this is the neighborhood we want to live in, let's look at the numbers.

You give a lot of great advice and maybe kind of share a few of your favorites about finding money. Again, if you don't have a ton of income, you got to get creative with the budget and at the same make it sustainable, especially when you have kids.

Where to ‘Find' Money on a Tighter Budget

Jessi Fearon: Absolutely. Yeah, because kids have a way to eat at your budget. They really do. Especially the older they get, okay. Diapers may have cost a lot, but then once your boys started growing up, then all of a sudden they're just like eating you out of house and home.

So side hustles, I call them side hustles. I know that sometimes people now don't feel so nice about those words, but anything that you're doing on the side to generate additional income.

One of my favorite ways and one of the easiest ways for any of us to jump on board that is to ransack our houses and sell off stuff that we don't need or use. Most of us have a closet full of stuff that we don't ever use.

We probably don't want to open the closet cause we know there's a bunch of stuff in there and we don't want to deal with that mess. We know and so just pull it out, sell off what you can.

Don't focus on the fact, oh, this thing costs me a hundred dollars. And then like, if I can't get you at least, you know, $89 for this, like I can't sell it. Like, don't focus on that. The money's already been spent. It's a sunk cost move on from that, sell it for what you can, and then take that money and throw it immediately to whatever your current goal is.

Whether it's saving your emergency fund, paying off your debt, saving for retirement, whatever that current goal is and neatly take the money and put it.

The key point there is that action of taking the money and immediately putting it. So if you just sell it and then don't move that money to that current goal, it will slip through your fingers. Trust me, it doesn't matter if you're a saver or spender, it will disappear. I promise you.

So that is my favorite way that most people can generate additional income. The other way is to think about your skill sets that you have.

If you're an administrative assistant, you can take that and become a VA and start doing things, after your kids go to bed at night, you know, spend an hour or two doing VA work. Which VA stands for virtual assistant for bloggers or for other companies.

Same with accounting, as long as your company that you work for is okay with it but if you're you're an accountant or you do bookkeeping, you can do that as well online on the side. Do that for bloggers or for other companies that work online.

Same with photography. Believe it or not. If you're actually really good at taking landscape photography, you can actually. Those landscape photography, photos, that to various companies, because they'll use it in like calendars and stock photos and all sorts of things. So you can sell that for royalties. You know, and just anything like that, just get really creative with the skillsets that you have that you can use.

Also there's places like VIP kid, which you can teach online. So. Cool parent, you can actually teach online.

Same with Outschool. Outschool [is] another fantastic platform that if you're an educator or you're just someone who has some sort of you're a music person, you know how to play the guitar and you want to teach other people how to play the guitar. You can actually make a course teaching people how to play the guitar online and earn money from that.

There's a lot of different ways that you can do that. You just need to come up with what your skillsets are and the time that you have available and what you can do and maximize that time and your skill sets.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I'd love that. And I do agree with you. Like people have very mixed feelings about side hustles and I think it's the connotation, but then again, what kind of life do you want?

You get to decide like, am I going to spend X amount of time for short knocking this out, or am I going to look for something a little more sustainable or pull back? Because I want to have that time with my kids, especially when they're little and you don't get that time back. Yeah. I love that.

New Opportunities and Options When You're Debt Free

Elle Martinez: Also something that I really appreciated with reading your book is that message of, as you are paying off the debt, you get to decide how. You get to live your life with your family.

You have more options and more opportunities and you know, it's been a crazy couple of years, Jesse. Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Unfortunately depending on where you were in your financial journey, when COVID hit the financial fallout from the you know, you were either I've heard from some families like new opportunities or rose, or when opportunities came up, they were able to take it.

On the other side was, unfortunately, if you were deep in debt, it was almost like you were obligated to make choices, more geared towards the finances versus what's best for your family.

I don't want that and I know you don't want that for listeners. So if there are now. Starting their journey or restarting their journey because they are focused on getting out of debt.

Can you kind of share how that's benefited you personally, what opportunities have opened up because you guys have knocked out that debt, including the mortgage, which is amazing.

Jessi Fearon: One of the best things that we ever did for our family, for our children is becoming a debt-free because my husband actually does not make much more than that. $47,000 now. I'm he makes a little bit more than $52,000 a year right now.

And you know, he's self-employed. He owns his own business and he could theoretically pay himself more money, but then he wouldn't be able to pay his employees.

What he pays his employees. He wouldn't be able to give them the vacations and the paternity, what, you know, these are men that work with him cause he's in construction. So these are guys who are becoming fathers for the first time. So he's able to give them paternity leave and able to do certain things for his employees as well as for his customers and his client that he would not be able to do if he took a bigger salary.

But because we have been able to become debt free and intentionally design our life this way, we don't have to make a whole bunch of money to have an amazing life. My kids get to go on vacations that me and my husband would have never been able to go on as kids and we're able to do it debt free. Now, granted, when we started our debt free journey, that wasn't the case, our vacations of choice were camping and backpacking down the river.

Elle Martinez: Those are exciting.

Jessi Fearon: We still do them today because they are fun and just like you work together as a family and it's really great, you know, but my kids actually get to go to the beach now, you know, they get to go to the mountains, they get to go do these things that, we didn't get to do every year as a kid. And so it's blessed them.

It's also blessed them with the fact that I'm not just a stay at home mom anymore. I'm now a homeschool mom. When the public school shut down. My boys were in public school. We just, we discovered very quickly that digital learning and me did not mix very well.

It did not go over very well, but I also discovered just how far behind my boys were in school. And so that opened up the opportunity for me to be able to homeschool my boys and then now my daughter as well. I'm able to homeschool all three of my children here at home.

I don't have to worry about, you know, the math now, right? Like if this kid's been exposed to, to COVID and, you know, test positive and all this stuff, like how many days until they go back to school, I don't have to worry about that.

My kids don't have to worry about that and it's just been, it's been so nice to not have those disruptions and not having to worry with, well, what's my county gonna decide as far as are we doing digital? Are they going to school or what does this look like?

Having those opportunities has been such a blessing for my family. I'm so grateful to former pat and Jessie who made these hard choices too, in the sacrifices that came with it to go on this journey and become debt free, because it truly has freed our family from just from not being able to live the life that we desired.

We're able to, when these opportunities come up, we're able to assess, okay, is this the right opportunity? For our family, we don't necessarily have to do opportunity or, you know, had to say no to it because we don't have the money or the time available to do.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think that's like the best definition of financial freedom.

It's not the number in the bank account. It's the options that you have that's best for your family.

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Music and Photo Credits

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio. Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

What to (Really) Expect on Your Debt-Free Journey

What’s the process really like when you’re paying off over $100k of debt? Today we get into the habits and mindset changes Toni and her family made during their debt-free journey! 

Debt-Free Journeys: Different Paths and Strategies

I love a good debt free story. I enjoy seeing others work hard to get rid of the credit card, student loans, car loans, and other debt that is weighing them down. 

I also know personal experience is not always fast or even a smooth process. For us, it began with getting on the same page with how we wanted to tackle it. Then there was the reality of the numbers. 

My husband has his first post-grate job and I had a part time internship. With time, we found our rhythm and knocked it out. 

I’ve also had quite a few episodes on this podcast and on Couple Money sharing people’s journey, including Toni Husbands.

What I loved about her story is that it wasn’t a ‘We paid off ‘$100,000 in year and half story’. 

Which in all honesty, I enjoy watching and reading too, but when that's the main narrative being shared, it’s a bit discouraging because they tend to gloss over key details. 

When you dig into the article, you can see that both are earning six figures or I’ve even seen where parents chip in for them to buy a house in an expensive city. 

My problem isn’t with those details, but the fact that it gives the false impression of how easy it is to become debt free. 

In many cases, it’s a commitment and in that journey not only are you freeing up your finances because you don’t have that debt anymore, but you’re opening up options. 

In this episode we are discussing a lot of the nuances and struggles that can come up. We’ll get into:

  • Some of the hurdles and challenges she had to overcome 
  • Which habits helped and what she would do differently
  • Opportunities that opened up now that’s she’s dumped her debt

Let’s get started! 

Resources to Dump Your Debt Faster

If you want to chat some more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start-to-finish – for FREE. They handle the process from start-to-finish, and yes that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Starting Your Debt Free Journey in 2022

Toni Husbands: I'm looking forward to what 2022 has to offer and how we can make the most of it.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I'm glad you say that. Anytime we can make a change is good, but this time of year, a lot of people that's on their minds. They've hopefully had a nice winter break. They could relax their friends and family, but they're looking forward to accomplishing something, especially when it comes to finances.

I think last two years for many families has been a case of let's just tread water. Let's just not, In a worst situation. But they're ready to tackle on, especially debt. That's one of the top three goals every year.

I've had you on the podcast before, and you're like my debt expert buddy.

Toni Husbands: Right, right.

Elle Martinez: Yeah; because you've been through that. You and your husband paid off over a hundred thousand dollars of debt.

One of the things I wanted to point out, which is I find amazing, first of all, that's a huge amount, but second of all, I think you're like most people, it was not an overnight, we paid it off in 12 months story.

So for those are just listening for the first time. Do you mind kind of doing a high level review of that debt-free journey?

The Bumps and Hurdles When Becoming Debt Free

Toni Husbands: Sure. Sure. So you're exactly right. It was not an overnight process, took us seven years to do that. And that was all encompassing of creating that mindset shift.

It took us, it took us a minute. I'd say at least 12 months to even just get on the same page that we both agree that we should be doing this. And we paid off $107,000 of debt over that time, but we didn't start with that much money. Right. We didn't start with that much debt, which kind of shows you like we were making progress and then life would happen or maybe a decision would be made and we will take on more.

Then we would make progress and then something would happen or a decision will be made and then maybe some more debt was, you know, so it was kind of a, it was a rollercoaster.

So while it wasn't a straight shot from a to Z like I said, there was a lot of wind rows. There were some pauses, there was, second guessing and reflection all of that, all of that in there. But the one thing that I'm, that I'm very thankful for on this side of the experience that we didn't stop.

There's a, there's a classic quote. Somebody said, I love it. It's just like, you haven't failed. It's just success in progress.

So that's the thing about wherever you are in your process, whether you started, I feel like it's kind of like that about paying off debt, losing weight -wherever you are in your process. Just remember you're not where you were at when you started.

As long as you just taking that next step, taking that next step. I think even sometimes it's you mentioned, you might feel like you've been treading water for a little time. Sometimes it's like mentally necessary to just kind of press pause, just press pause and just smell the roses for a bit, you know, or breathe for a bit.

Go through the process of getting out of that. So sometimes it just, either things happen to you or decisions that you make and, and it sounds good in the beginning, but you might hit my feet. I might have, yeah. Might have a different result, you know, further down the road. Each time, like you've learned from it grown from it, you've experienced something.

Maybe one person in our case, maybe one person wants to do something other didn't, but there wasn't, you didn't have the details at the beginning to say like, feeling like this is not a good idea, but I don't necessarily have like the facts to back it up.

So we just do it. It turns out not to be such a good idea, but guess what both of you now know you don't ever have to have that argument again. So it's just, it's a process.

That it is a process that we'll get through it. Each experience is another lesson learned and I'll will make you smarter, make you stronger for the end.

And eventually you will be sitting on the side of the podcast telling Elle how you paid out of it, how you cut out.

Don't Let Comparison Rob Your Family of Joy

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I love hearing, you know, when people reach out emails or social media about that success, and it doesn't matter if it took them a year or took them seven or however long. I am so excited for that.

I love you brought out some really good points. First off, you know, when, whenever I share a story on the podcast, my idea is that I would like to give models with people's stories, take ideas from it, rather saying, then giving them a map saying heal. This is the plan. You have to follow it.

Exactly because we are all starting out in different situations for some, they are maybe newly engaged and now they're in, before they get married, they have get their finances squared away. That's great.

Maybe they've already been married and what they're doing, isn't working, you know? And so now there's baggage w whether it's financial or even how they approach their money, that they have to undo first and then, you know, focus on that.

So our journey are going to look different because we're starting at different places and then we all have different goals, the following. So I love how you address that.

Sometimes we're making fast progress, we're going up that hill and sometimes we got to pause or go down.

Exactly. Cause it's all tied together. Right. There isn't a perfect budget. There are some great tools out there. There isn't like this one path that's going to make sense because we're in situations where maybe you mentioned, and this happened with us. We weren't exactly on the same page with the how.

We had an idea, like, okay, definitely want to pay off the debt, but the how the pace at which to go with. Also give yourselves grace for that. As you figure out a budget that you're both happy with, especially with families.

Staying Motivated to Pay Off Your Debt

Elle Martinez: Now that you're on the other side at any point while you were paying off this huge amount of debt, were you frustrated either at the speed of it or even the process of it?

If so, like how did you stick with it?

Toni Husbands: So, yes, yes, yes.

So, hello. Good question. I think that number one and most important for me in terms of sticking with it. It's like celebrating small wins, celebrating and appreciating small wins. So when you pay that first thousand dollar credit card off, that's a win, that's a milestone, and don't like the little that something, or when you pay the first 500, whatever.

Maybe it's I haven't overspent in the last 30 days, whenever you see changes or progress, like celebrate those, appreciate those.

One of the things that I did. So we were still kind of using just basic spreadsheets and printing it out. And I would print out my budget and put it on my refrigerator. Then after the month was over, I would file that. Over the over time I built kind of a nice little. File folder of budget sheets.

I would actually go back through and look at my budget sheets to see progress. And it was like for me, therapeutic to see cross offs or little notes that we had made, okay, we can do this or whatever. I would start to see my list. I had listed all of my items and my debt items in a little section and I had a whole section and I would see those numbers shrinking.

That would, especially in the times where things were not so dynamic because, paying $400. Oh on, $40,000 of debt in the beginning it's like trying to, I'm looking at last now. So trying to move the snow with a star, something like that.

doesn't seem like it makes me feel like it doesn't feel like it, but you look at that over over months then years and stuff like that, then you can kind of remind yourself like, oh wow. Even though I'm feeling like this is kind of slow going. When I look back at where I started, because I have this record and we can even do that now with our tools.

Go back and look at your history, you know, pull up your go back and look at your progress and all the graphs and all the pie charts and everything, all the nice colorful tools and stuff like that.

Look at that history and, and reflect on that and just remember like, wow, I haven't, I'm not where I want to be, but I'm not willing to start it much further beyond where, where I've started. So keeping a records, but even maybe journaling, the system journaling and go back and read that.

Breast you were about not being able to stay on budget and now you're budgeting in your sleep. Those things are, even if you can't necessarily see them or maybe you can't touch them and in a physical sense, but that's still like concrete progress.

That mindset shift on Monday just to the point where now I can even see this in my budget sheet. Where my husband started to come on board and so now you see more of his notes on the budget sheet. Whereas before he was just like, I don't agree with this, but now he's like making, then once we got out, we were still arguing about how to approach, our finances and you can start to see more of his notes and stuff like that.

That was another milestone for me. I would don't minimize even small wins. Those are going to be huge fuel for your momentum or just your mental sanity or your personal motivation.

Cause it's going to take some of that. You have to figure out what it is that you can keep yourself motivated to go because the debt, I don't want your snowball list or however you doing there, you know, there, there might be an extended period of time. And so how are you going to keep yourself going and, and, and excited and do stuff around about continuing to make that progress in each of them? For me, it was looking back at my budget.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I love that. I never would've thought like how powerful journaling could be cause we're all different. Some of us are visual, our mutual friend, Michelle she loves the vision mood boards, like establishing that and tracking progress with that, but journaling is also a great one.

It sounds like you've picked up some really good financial habits as you're developing that muscle and paying off. What habits have stuck now that you're this new phase, you're more on the investor side and which habits or mind shifts did you have to make because now you're no longer paying debt and you're investing?

Toni Husbands: Good question. I will say honestly right now, the habit that I don't even struggle with anymore. Recognized thing needs versus once that's something I don't struggle with at all anymore, or I don't allow the temptation for the shiny new thing, because I am thinking now about, okay, so I can go.

I spend my money and basic my heart on time on this shiny thing, that'll look nice and Instagram photos, or I can stay focused on, the goal right now, which isn't investing.

We're having a save more and invest more, which again, they don't have immediate payoff. You know, like it's not something I can touch. I'm not buying a piece of property every month, right? I'm not buying something here or I don't know what the next thing is, but I know that I'm going to want to do something. So I have more of a focus on using my money or diverting my money to things that are going to build wealth versus spending for trinkets that don't have any long-term value.

Now there are some things that I like to eat , like travel. I like to do so those are things like, I plan for makes sure that we're doing with cash. That we can pay cash for it that I'm not traveling with strings attached. Cause I like to say I'm not coming home and having to worry about how I'm going to pay the bills later.

I think the thing I think about too is I don't want to be in that place.

I do that. I don't want to be in that place where I am burdened by debt. for me, that was a sense of, it was stressful, you know, source of anxiety. I don't like that anxiety. I like the the options. I feel like doing, like investing money or buying property or thinking about, oh, I'm buying this and my children will one day be able to benefit from this.

Those are the things that give me like joy and a sense of freedom and like even creativity.

Having to spend on things are items that are just going to pile up interest in it terms of debt or, or that I'm going to have to be kinda juggling or, or shifting or borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Like that was not an existence that I enjoy at all. I don't want to go back down that road.

I think those are kind of the things both the positive and I'll say the thing I want to avoid that kind of keep me in this place now wanting to maximize and be super, super efficient with the money that I have.

You know, it's like, we only have this, we have a finite amount of time and, years of energy, I don't want to like maximize it. And I don't want to spend that time. Yeah. It's enough. I don't wanna spend.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I agree with you and you brought up something interesting, like opportunities. COVID and the financial fallout, depending on where you were; if you were in a good financial spot, I've heard from a lot of people, new opportunities, or they took advantage of opportunities.

On the other side of unfortunately seeing where they were just at the beginning and their employers put pressure on them to kind of leverage that they had to keep their job. And maybe they made decisions that they felt didn't put their families interests first.

So for those listening and they're at the beginning of their journey, I'd love to maybe share some encouragement for them.

Now that you've paid off that weight, got that debt off your shoulders. What opportunities have opened up for you because of that?

Toni Husbands: Okay. Oh, I left my pursuit. So we have in the last, I'm going to say five or six years, maybe a little bit more in the last five or six years. Been real estate owners for about probably not going on 20 years now.

We've had real estate, but in the last maybe five or six years, we've really started to Think about developing a portfolio portfolio and we're like rental income and would become a major passive income source for us.

One of my goals is to achieve a financial independence. Basically financial independence is where your passive income exceeds your monthly living expenses. And and so we have Dell delved into some things that I never would have thought before. We've obviously started adding to our real estate portfolio from a perspective of rental income, but we've also taken advantage of the opportunity to save and build a patch so that we've been able to like purchase real estate purchase houses and flip them.

That was something that I did in 20 maybe 2018. I bought my first home water for cash and then,

Elle Martinez: wow, that's a big accomplishment.

Toni Husbands: We flipped it and we were able to sell it. Now I will say in that experience, we didn't make a profit in the actual transaction. What that transaction did was give me the confidence to know that I had like assemble a team and going, cause I know nothing about construction.

I'm not even interested in like swinging hammers. That's not something I'm interested in at all, but the idea of acquiring property, fixing it up and then adding that to our portfolio over to income is something that was a good thing.

The next year from that experience that we've made no money from, I think we on paper, we lost $5,000 from that experience. We ended up purchasing another property and two years later, I think we made 70,000 from that.

Those experiences have come because we, number one, freed up my our cashflow to do some different things with, and also just Taking that, that burden of stress of worrying about finances off the table.

Now we're now some creative ways for adding to our bottom line. After that experience again, and I say just meeting the people that I work well with on, on renovating houses has led to now we've purchased talk about the opportunities that happen in as a COVID.

I probably wouldn't have thought about that had not everybody come home and been remote. So we ended up moving to a vacation town, which is about eighty miles outside of the city that I currently live in. We bought a property that our teaching right now, we're in the process of renovating it now to turn it into a vacation rental that number one we can use when you want to come up here, because this is a nice place, but also that pays for itself and also generates it.

We're looking at the passing it on so that we can accomplish our goal of financial independence. So these are some things that when we're not stressed about finances.

We're not fighting each other about finances. So just whether to buy a place here or where to buy this place, so those are the kinds of the base that we have now.

Right. It's about progress about like how are we going to build wealth? How are we going to provide for our family? How are we going to leave a legacy, for our children's children, which is something that is definitely very important to me.

Those are the discussions we're having now because we're not bogged down in. You know, do I pay my car note or did we pay our chase bill and we pay it, you know, or do, or do I buy some little shiny thing to make me feel okay for, you know, make me feel a little bit better for, for the next 30 days, but then I have to keep up the notes on it.

You know, those are the types of things I'm looking at now, purchases that will put money into our packet versus taking money out.

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Housing Hacking to Pay Off Your Debt Faster!

Learn how one couple creatively used house hacking to pay off their students loans faster!

Paying Off You Debt Faster By Thinking Outside the Box

Welcome back! It's the first week of a new year and I have a question to ask you – how many times have you seen the phrase new year, new you already?

How does that make you feel as you're planning out what you're going to do in 2022?

While I hope you're energized and enthusiastic about your family and financial goals that you want to tackle this year, I can also understand if you're a bit frustrated by all the hype about how important it is to hit the ground running.

Honestly, I kind of feel the same way.

I've been writing about that intersection of personal finance with family and marriage for over a decade.

Every year as we talk about setting and achieving your goals, there are certain patterns that I see happen over and over again.

The biggest one is how few people are actually hitting their goals.

Fidelity and a few others in the personal finance space and beyond do annual surveys and reports to track what people are working in the new year.

While most people start off optimistic about how things are going to go, many times they burn out before they hit their actual goal.

There are many reasons for that and of course, these last two years have thrown a lot of people for a loop, with COVID in the fallout from that.

However, I think a core reason why people aren't able to tackle their goals is how they approach it.

A few episodes before we wrapped up the year, I was talking about setting up those pieces, building those better habits- making sure that your goals are smart, very specific in that you work backwards to break it down into small steps.

Finding a System That Works for You

Those are key components, but there's another ingredient when it comes to not just making your goals but sticking with it and being consistent. That's finding a sustainable system that makes sense for you and your situation.

I see too many families get very focused on this specific of how. For example, when paying off debt – should we use the debt snowball, avalanche or lasso? The answer is it depends.

  • It depends how much debt you have.
  • It depends on how much extra income you have right now to put towards that debt.
  • It depends on the type of debt you have – high interest or low interest.

All these different factors mean that different families will have different approaches. When I have interviews on hereon the podcast. I want to give you models, not necessarily a map.

The map is what you do. You create this destination that you want to achieve. You can then take the habits or systems or ideas from others and hopefully make it your own. You'll then be more likely to stick and be consistent with the process and see it through two, you hit that goal.

So all this month, we're going to do things a little bit different. Yes, we're going to be talking about families that have hit some great goals together and get into the process of how they did that.

More importantly, though, we're going to be digging into how they were able to find a system that fits them and their season of life.

One of the most important steps is to address and acknowledge where you are now with your financial journey. Then you can see which tools would be best for your situation. So that you can achieve whatever goal you're pursuing.

Another piece of that puzzle. Is to find a process that you enjoy.

If you are trying to tackle a big goal, say you have a mountain of debt to pay off. Or you're trying to get a house down payment put together. Chances are it's not going to happen overnight. So again, that consistency's important. But to stick with it, you have to feel motivated. And one of the best things you can do is find a process that you think is enjoyable.

And some ways fun. Which is why I'm so glad Jillian Sirianni from Frugal Friends is on the podcast today

She and her husband had the big goal of paying off their student loans and cashflowing her degree. It took some creativity as you heard in the teaser because they had to find money in their budget somehow.

They went for a big win and did some house hacking. Not only were they able to save and pay off debt; they had a little bit of an adventure along the way!

In this episode, we're going to get into:

  • why going for big wins in your budget can be a game changer
  • some unconventional ways you can slash your housing expenses
  • skills that you may already have that can save and make you money.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

Handy Tools to Pay Your Debt Off Faster

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

They have wonderful services and accounts to make saving easier including their competitive money market accounts!

As I mentioned in the episode, if you're a Coastal member and are thinking of consolidating your debts, check out Coastal's options to refinance!

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And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

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Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Paying Off Dent By Slashing Housing Costs

Elle Martinez: You were trying to pay off student loans, which I know is on the minds of a lot of them in the community, but also debt in general. You and your husband, Eric took an unconventional route, especially when it comes to housing.

So before we jump into how you did that, can I ask who started that conversation and who came up with that idea?

Jillian Sirianni: Which one of you is crazier? That's what I want to know. Oh,Elle first of all, I love the theme that you're pulling out. Thinking outside the box, because I think that that is the primary component.

When we're looking at really slashing debt or getting at other financial goals. A lot of times it does take thinking outside the box and moving past some of the limiting beliefs or mindset that we have. Some things are more attainable for some than others so I think there's permission and there's ways for all of us to find ourselves on this journey and what fits for us.

So to answer your question of who's the greatest fear on it? I think for my husband and I, we kind of are neck and neck with that. I don't know that I could fully say who actually ended up making the final call.

But I do remember when we were considering well, before we even considered tiny living, we were looking at boats and motor homes. Not for us.

We were not, we were poor by a lot of standards. We were on vacation. Family and they were talking about, oh, wouldn't it be fun as an extended family to have a used boat that we can share in the summer times together.

So my husband loves to scour Facebook marketplace and Craigslist at the time. Although we don't use that as much anymore, it's gotten a little more sketchy.

In that process, as he was kind of scrolling through, it was looking over his shoulder and seeing these motor homes and realizing whoa, That's everything you need. Why would that need to be just for vacation? What if we were to consider living in it?

So I think it was kind of this, he was looking at it. I was looking over his shoulder and we both add this. What if question? And then that turned into reality. Yeah.

Is Downsizing Your Home Right for You?

Elle Martinez: So can you kind of give me an idea, the general timeframe of having that conversation? Because I think all of us get inspired.

I know for me, I look at the tiny homes and maybe not the super tiny homes, but this idea simplifying and kind of paring down the things we don't need. How did that go from, this is a good idea to let's try this out?

Jillian Sirianni: For us, we move relatively quickly so I would say it was only couple of months before we ended up pulling the trigger on a motor home. Now, granted that was because of life, stage and obligation and responsibility.

We were renting at the time, month to month at this point so we weren't locked into. We don't have kids didn't have kids at the time so we were able to make a shift relatively quickly. It really was just a matter of finding the right deal, finding a good fit for us.

That is the case a lot of times, especially when you're buying used to kind of got to be able to jump on the deal as you find it.

My husband, thankfully, he knows a lot about motorhomes and found a really great one for us and we within a couple of months, bought it pared down, moved in, did that life.

Elle Martinez: That sounds exciting, but I want to take a step back cause I know you definitely saved money. A lot of times when we were doing financial goals and family decisions, there's a little bit of melding and the layers kind of get tangled up.

So were you trying to simplify and saw that this was one way you could do it and save money to use, to pay down the debt? Or were you thinking, we got to pay down the debt. Let's look at these big expenses. What can we change? How did that work out?

Jillian Sirianni: That's a great question. For us, it was definitely looking at the numbers, not only paying down debt, but at the time I was in a place in my career and educational goals where I was seeing an opening to go and earn my master's degree.

When we looked at the numbers and our earnings it just didn't line up, and we said, ‘we've got to find somewhere'. That's one of the things that caused us to look at well, what are our biggest expenses? We lived pretty simply before that. I don't know if I would have described myself as a minimalist at the time, but simply, frugally, absolutely.

In that slow going process of paying down debt on very small incomes. We saw as an opportunity to really cut back on a major expense living expenses due for most people represented usually about 30% of our incomes and so if we could slash that, what an amazing opportunity.

So a lot of people, when they saw us do that, their first question was, well, where are you traveling to? And that wasn't the case. That wasn't the goal.

We did do some traveling, but for us, it was living within our means. We wanted to be able to afford our housing and be able to pay down debt and save and potentially earn my master's degree, which by the way I did do as a result of that motor home.

I know it's such a celebration, but that was the reason and that was the, as you said, Elle thinking outside the box, then that we thought, oh, well, we're already just renting and it's very inexpensive rent, but we found a way to slash that even for.

Look for Big Wins in Your Budget

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. You bring up a good point. It's like, what's our circumstances at that time?

Every family is different where they are in their season of life, but I really appreciate that you were willing to look at all of the expenses.

I talk about this on the podcast a lot. I said, yes, you know, it's good to save $5, $10 here and build some good habits, but to have some huge wins, like. Housing, big expense transportation, if they have a car payment and food, like those are the three biggies. If you could get those under control or somehow optimize that, not that you can coast with everything, but it's so much easier.

So kudos on just putting that and keeping that on the table to discuss, even if you didn't decide to go that route.

Jillian Sirianni: Yeah and as you mentioned too Elle fun, like cool, to be able to have this experience and be able to see the actual big win and our finances as a result of this decision, but also learning along the way and things that we're able to implement as a result. We had a lot of other even non-traditional living experiences even from there.

I will say at this point it might come up later, but own and live in a home. It's a small home, but this wasn't for eternity and I think that that's a big misnomer about tiny living that it has to be for forever, or this is a lifetime decision now.

I think even not having a limiting belief in that regard, that I could just do this temporarily to get at a financial goal and then make changes from there based on life situation and my desires that next juncture in the road.

Elle Martinez: Absolutely. You mentioned you had to pair down. Yeah. So first of all, how big are we talking about this, RV, this motor home space was and how much pairing down did you have to?

Jillian Sirianni: So we went from an apartment that was probably about 1200 square feet so not massive, but two bedrooms, big living space, full kitchen, everything you would imagine there to about 800 square feet in that first motor home that we lived in. So relatively big, it had slide outs and. Yeah, it was a good size motor home, I would say, but it was quite the process.

Thankfully, I had moved a lot of times before that, so I became pretty good at understanding what that's going to take, but I, I definitely made throughout our transition time of what am I donating? What am I selling? And what am I taking? And actually there's a fourth category of storage.

We did end up taking out a small part of my parents' attic to put some things that we imagined we might need eventually this may not be an eternal life decision that we live in 800 square feet so let's put some things aside, so we don't have to rebuy them years down the road.

So those four different categories found their homes in four different locations throughout the house. And it really was quite an exercise of identifying and really paying attention to my lifestyle throughout those couple of weeks of what am I using most often? What might be necessary and what's not what is not going to be able to fit? And isn't going to actually have value or benefit to my life in a tinier situation.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I know sometimes that can be difficult. Like this past year, my mom moved, she's getting closer to retirement. She wants to be with the grand babies so she's rightsizing her house.

She had a nice space, but now she realizes she still wants to have people over. But she had to kind of do that inventory of like the stuff that she had. How often does she use it? Does she want to keep it? Does she want to give it to her friends? Sell it? Like you mentioned, temporarily she stored it just until she knew for sure that this was something she wanted to keep or not. It is the process.

You mentioned your motorhome was used. So be honest with you, was it moving ready or did you guys have to update that or did you do any customizing?

Jillian Sirianni: It was move in ready, quote unquote, but dated. So my husband and I in a previous. I would say life we've been married almost 10 years now, and we've had different side hustles together throughout our marriage. One of which was home renovations.

So we actually had a small business doing renovations for people. It's something we enjoy doing. It's a fun thing for us to do together so we did do quite the overhaul of this motor home. Did our own renovations.

It wasn't necessary, but we wanted to make that little space beautiful and our own so we certainly did our own renovations.

I mean, I'll be Frank about numbers. We were able to purchase it for $18,000 and we put a couple thousand dollars into it and ended up selling it at a profit. We made about $12,000. Yeah. Yup. Great. And that's how we were able to cash flow. My master's degree was through the sale of that motor home then eventually. So it did, it did. I mean, we –

Elle Martinez: get a home for 18,000 now.

Jillian Sirianni: We were able to say we own our home. Just within our means. And at the time, I mean, I'm a social worker, so you can imagine what my salary has been that, but

Elle Martinez: I do love that because it allow you to pursue a career that's meaningful for you, you know? And you do it on your terms.

You lived in another motor home and you tried some other, can you tell me a little bit of those adventures and how that went?

Jillian Sirianni: Sure. I'll take you a little bit on the quick snapshot of the journey. It was the larger motor home and then we moved into and house sat in a log cabin.

So a couple who was nearing retirement, but final years of work and they needed to. I go work in England, but yet they didn't want to sell their home or rented. They just wanted it taken care of. And so us moving into that log cabin allowed us to sell the motor home, but still live rent, free cash master's degree.

Yes. Amazing. From there, we moved in with my grandmother who has dementia and wanting to prolong her ability to be in her own residence for as long as possible. So we then moved in with her. Of course, that was rent-free, but we cared for her. So there was a lot of exchange there yeah. In the caretaking role.

And then from there we bought and lived in a trailer. So the pull behind, not the vehicle version, but a pull-behind trailer. That was the biggest downsize at 170 square feet.

It was so good though. And then sold that and the sale of that was our down payment on our current home.

We are now homeowners and live in St. Petersburg, Florida, but that was the kind of non-traditional living situation that we were in for about four years .

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's fantastic. If you don't mind me asking, how did you learn about that house sitting? Was that like a friend of a friend or in your network?

Jillian Sirianni: It was within our network. Yes. So it was a friend who knew that we were the type of people who might be open to something like that. Flexible and able to live in someone else's home.

I will say that's not for the faint of heart. And I did learn a lot through that, both in living in the log cabin, as well as with my grandmother, what it is to live in a space where you don't have any of your own things. Right. And I didn't have my own towels. My own dish were my own home goods, but am I able to be content and live in an instant.

Where nothing of it is mine, but I'm able to still make a home there and be content. And my goodness did that teach me so many things that I've now carried over into my own home.

But that, that was through friends or friends however, anyone interested in it absolutely is available to people. There are websites that help connect those who are looking for house sitters with how cities, many people find themselves in those situations where they don't want to rent it.

They don't want to sell their home. They just want it taken care of. So, it's, it's not only for those who have connections.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, but I think it also goes to show that when you take those first steps, your network knows oh, they're willing to try something different.

I think most people their loved ones want to help them out so communicate your goals. Like, Hey, we're trying to tackle debt or, Hey, we're doing this being up you know about your goals.

You never know what opportunities can pop up. Cause I think that's something we overlook or we think loud. I don't want to talk about like, you know, I'm cutting back because I'm, you know, trying to pay off this debt or I'm trying to save up for a house down payment, but if you put it out there, a lot of people will support it.

Jillian Sirianni: It can feel daunting, but I think it's such a good tip Elle to, in anything, right? Whether we're looking for work or we're trying to reach financial goals, or we need a housing situation, I think exploring our own community and telling people that I think sometimes it can feel uncomfortable and maybe even taboo for whatever reason.

But man, do I admire my friends who send me their resumes and say, Hey, I have no expectation here, but if you hear of anything, let me know. So many times it has worked out that, okay. Maybe not in the immediate moment, but now I know so-and-so is looking for something and, and I can help out in that way. So utilizing our own community, I think that's great. Absolutely agree.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know for us, it was that stage where we were saving up for a house and we just put it out there. We love to eat that's our socializing, but we needed to save money and it actually was so beneficial. We didn't realize that that time we had friends who were already homeowners and they're like, let's do some potluck.

Let's get out of that rut of going out and meeting somewhere and let's go to each other's places and they realized like, you know, we could save some money. This is always good. Uh, upped our kitchen game with cooking years later. You don't know until you put it out there.

Everyone has a talent and I think most people want to share, you know, if I can help them out, I'll help them out. If there's an opportunity that they think that could, help me, they do that. But if you keep it to yourself, if you're not sharing your, your goals or what you're looking towards, it's hard for people to, you know pitch in.

Jillian Sirianni: It's an untapped form of wealth and capital. If I can even put it that way of when we might find ourselves limited and finances, well, what else do we have available to us?

Who's in our community. How can we utilize friendships with reciprocity? I'm not just saying. Take advantage of, but you might find that others are in a similar place and there's so much that can be gained through relationship and given, and we all desire that that reciprocity and relationship that we don't have to.

I know I described myself as, you know, Poor by some standards, when we moved into our motor home, but also rich and wealthy by others because we did have an amazing community of friends and family. And so I think recognizing that there is more to it than just what's in the bank account.

Elle Martinez: Yes. And I think a lot of people want to share their talents too. Like you mentioned, think outside, that box of only helping financially, maybe there's a talent or something we could swap with each other where it's mutually beneficial.

If someone's listening and they're thinking, you know what, I'm not sure if I want to do the motorhome thing, but I love this idea of trying something different.

Even if it's temporarily, like you mentioned, what are some life lessons or tips you would suggest?

Jillian Sirianni: Absolutely. And again, there's freedom in this not one person's journey needs to be everybody's journey, but I think we don't talk enough about the intersection of our finances with minimalism simple living.

Uh, eco sustainability. And I think that is something that I did learn more about through my non traditional tiny living experiences that I think can be passed on without actually doing something drastic. And so I think even the message of what can we scale back on? Where can we simplify even where in our current lives with how.

Now looks, where can we declutter and free up mental space and energy within our homes? Where can we cut back on some of the mindless spending? I know for me, that prior to moving into tiny living, I love thrift store shopping and yard. I still do like that, but I will say I did it almost as a hobby or weekend activity.

Whereas when I moved into a tiny home, it's like I can't just bring in things, even if it's inexpensive things, I don't have space for it. I think just being more intentional and mindful about what we're spending money on, even if it's inexpensive, even if you have room for it, Do you need it?

Does it serve a purpose? Is it going to help you towards a financial goal? So I think some of these learnings we can implement, even if our current circumstances aren't forcing us to live super small. I also think that just aiming more at that values-based spending, really identifying what's important to us.

Where are our values? How can we make sure that our spending and saving aligns with our values? And where it doesn't the freedom and permission to get rid of that thing. That I don't have to do that even if other people are doing it, people think I should be doing it. I think I should be spending on it.

If I don't actually enjoy it or value. Yeah, there's there's room to adjust our lifestyles. Again, not needing to do something incredibly drastic. And I just think intentional living, we w there are components of what I walked through that I think anybody could implement to varying degrees somewhere along that spectrum.

I think at the end of the day, also looking at what we deem fixed expenses. I think sometimes we just blow past rent, transportation bills, mortgage, you name it because that's fixed. Those are the bills. Now what else? Let me cut coffee. Okay, great. But like you said, L that's not gonna help us long-term cut debt. Really have those big wins that we want to have.

Thinking outside the box, looking at those fixed expenses again, doesn't mean you've got to move into a motor home, but where might there be room? Maybe we're stuck in a mortgage that is super massive. It doesn't align with our values anymore. Kids are out of the house.

I love the term you used for your mom sizing for her current lifestyle. Maybe. Super important. So you don't need a large house anymore and downsizing or whatever capacity that that means. Or maybe you no longer need two vehicles and one vehicle will do it for you. Or maybe we could flip the whole thing all together and you've got room to host people on your property.

You could be the place where other park their motor home or tiny house, or you've got something to rent out on your property and thereby gain community, but also earn more money. So I think, again, we think outside the box on these massive things, and we might find room for ourselves. I think just people often myself included.

We need permission to do that. We need somebody to kind of. AHRQ the fire to think, well, what is available to me with the resources that I currently have?

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love this and I am totally in agreement about value based spending. I know initially it's hard because you do, especially if you've dealing with these bills, you feel like they are all fixed in a way, like you're stuck with us.

But I think like that first step is, can you define the one or two, the few priorities that absolutely. You will never cut from your budget because they bring you that much joy or, you know, you would be miserable without it.

It took us a little bit of time, we did like little money challenges to figure out like, oh, okay. I definitely want to have this in my life or yeah, I really didn't care. But for you, I'm curious, kind of like to wrap things up, like if you had to summarize your must do's or your priorities, that absolutely your budget will support, what would you say those are?

Jillian Sirianni: Yeah. At this point in time and I think that there's room for that to change as life seasons change, but I've narrowed down that I think some of my highest values and priorities are community and our relationships, generosity and beauty.

I think most of what I spend on most, if not all, could be correlated to those top three values and priorities. And so again, what that means for me might shift but at this point it does include food. I am with you on that one.

I that doesn't always need to mean going out to eat, but sometimes it does definitely supplying food to other people. Hosting is the generosity and community piece.

We have a lot of people in our home and staying with us and, and the beauty piece is traveling. Right now for me, I really well COVID really did a number on me with

So thankfully I then moved to a place that I find beautiful and I live near the water. Right now, So means is renovating our home and making it a space that we find beautiful. And so those things I'm okay with spending on and we'll make room to spend on within reason. Of course, we've all got to look at our income and what we can afford and what makes sense for us, but that's where my money is going currently. And I'm thrilled for it.

Elle Martinez: That's exciting. That is fantastic. Now I know. Just scratched the surface because I feel like you have a ton of good stories. So if anyone's listening and they want to, learn more about you and those adventures and lessons learned, how can they do that?

Jillian Sirianni: Oh, you're so kind out Elle I have a podcast with my good friend and cohost Jen, the frugal friends. So you can listen to that anywhere you find podcasts. And also just our website for FrugalFriends

We've got all kinds of fun stuff going on. You can learn about it there and find our episode archive. I know you Al said you might link some episodes specifically about tiny living, but we did do a couple of spots on that.

Elle Martinez: I hope, and I feel like this will inspire families to, find what creative path makes sense for them at this stage of life to tackle those family and financial goals, because it should feel like an adventure.

I don't want anyone listening saying, I have to pay off debt in three years and I'm going to be miserable. No, you can have fun and take care of those financial goals. Thank you so much, Jillian. I'm so glad you came by.

Jillian Sirianni: Thanks Elle for having me. I love the message of freedom you're spreading. Thank you.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
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Music and Photo Credits

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio. Photos by Clem Onojeghuo and Nubia Navarro from Pexels

How to Negotiate and Pay Your Debts Off Faster

Are you frustrated with your debt and feel like you’re stuck in this rut? Today we’re going to see how you can negotiate your debts to lessen the stress and get you closer to your debt free goals!

Paying Off Your Debts and Dealing with Debt Collectors

Usually when people make money goals for the year, paying off debt is in the top three but many struggle to achieve that goal.

Depending on where the pandemic caught you on your financial journey, you may have had an extra struggle. Perhaps a drop in income meant slowing down or even pausing your debt payoff plan.

That can be a real and huge burden because those balances are lingering or worse, growing. If it makes you feel any better, you're not alone. Debt is weighing down on a lot of families.

According to Experian, 90% of adults in the US have at least one credit card on their report And of those 75% carry a balance month to month. The average balance for that group is over $5,000.

The average balance on a car loan is $19,700. And Then you have student loans. In 2020, the average balance was $38,000. While there is some relief for federal loans, with the pause in payments, if you have private loans, you're still dealing with them on top of everything.

Hopefully things have improved in stabilize but now you're at the point where you're trying to figure out how to jump back, in which debts to tackle first, and what payment plan makes the most sense for you.

Which is why I'm happy to have attorney Taylor Kosla be a part of this episode.

Taylor is a partner at Agruss Law Firm, a team that's focused on helping people deal with debt collection.

In this episode, we're going to look at:

  • ways to negotiate with your creditors,
  • protections available to you through the fair debt collections act, and
  • a possible opportunity for you to have an attorney assist you without you paying out of pocket.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

Handy Tools to Pay Your Debt Off Faster

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

They have wonderful services and accounts to make saving easier including their competitive money market accounts!

As I mentioned in the episode, if you're a Coastal member and are thinking of consolidating your debts, check out Coastal's options to refinance!

Debt Negotiation

Elle Martinez: Let's start off with the best case scenario. Your finances have stabilized and you're now ready to get back into your debt free plan. Perhaps you've kept payments, but it was the minimum or maybe little less than that. So the balance has grown or you've had to pause your payments while taking care of more essential bills.

So now you're ready to get back into the swing of things. But you're wondering. How can you approach this?

Attorney Taylor Kosla walked me through a few key steps with negotiation that you can use to work with your debts and make them more manageable.

The first is be proactive and reach out. You have to resist that instinct of avoiding and ignoring calls which is difficult, especially if you were dealing with financially tough times.

Something that you want to consider though, is that because so many people have been financially affected by the pandemic, creditors may be more eager to work with you then you expect.

Taylor Kosla: I'd like to start off by saying the biggest advice I give to our clients and just about everyone I meet is if you have debt, don't ignore it.

Based on my experience debt collectors creditors, they'd rather get something rather than nothing.

Elle Martinez: The second point is verify the debt. Before you send any money over, verify the numbers.

This could be a situation where your original debt has been sold to another company. Sometimes they don't have correct information on the accounts. So you want to make sure that that balance is accurate.

Taylor Kosla: People that have debt, especially post COVID, they're getting hit with their behind them auto bills, credit card bills, medical bills, especially with COVID.

It can be an overwhelming experience. So you'll want to negotiate the debts down, but you also want to be well-informed of what your debts are.

What are the balances? What amounts are due? How old is this debt? I think now is the time because the debt collection industry is booming, that collectors are probably going to try and sneak in some of those old debts.

If you make a payment on an old debt, that'll actually revive, the statute of limitations. Do your homework know what the accounts are, and you can ask a collector, ‘I want you to verify this account for me', and they should send you documentation showing, what they're collecting on when the account was open, when it was charged off, what the balance is, and what fees or interest has been incurred ever since.

Elle Martinez: Third, run the numbers yourself. When you're working with creditors and debt collectors, they're going to try to get you to commit to a higher payment. That's their job. But you're the one that has to live with this so go through your budget and work out the numbers beforehand.

You should consider both what you can afford on a monthly basis and as Taylor points out a one-time payment to settle it.

Taylor Kosla: You should negotiate your debt on and you need to be honest with the collector. Collection agencies get more upset, if you commit to something that you can't maintain so be reasonable.

I think 99.9% of consumers with debt, they want to pay it off. Often times either with a payment plan or a lump sum payment. Debt collectors and creditors really like a lump sum payment.

They're oftentimes willing to shave off decent amount in order to get that money in their pocket, because the longer that debt sits out there longer that you wait to start making payments to get that resolved, the more fees and interests are getting tacked on it.

That balance just keeps going up and up and it's going to be a lot harder for you to dig out of it.

Elle Martinez: If you are able to come to an agreement, make sure that you have it in writing. You want the terms to be clear and to make sure that they honor that agreement.

Now if they aren't willing to work with you on a sustainable payment plan. You do have a few more options. You can work through your own debt payoff plan, whether it's using a method like the debt, snowball, avalanche, or lasso. I have entire episodes that walk you through the details and one this year about how to find the best solution for your situation.

Another route that you may want to take is consolidating and refinancing your debts. Some families have found it to be a very helpful option because they can take multiple high interest loans and merge it into one that's at a lower, more manageable rate.

If you're happy with your current bank or credit union, reach out to them first. See what they have to offer, but then also shop around. You want to make sure that you're getting a competitive rate.

If you are a member of coastal credit union here in the triangle area, I'm going to include a link in the show notes to make it easier for you to find that page and reach out to them.

Hopefully you can take this information and use it to come up with a payment plan that you feel comfortable with but if you're dealing with an aggressive debt collector, That's beginning to harass you We're going to go over some ways that you can protect yourself and what rights you have.

How the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Can Protect You

Elle Martinez: Debt cannot only financially squeeze people but when the collectors start harassing you it can be emotionally stressful as well. In some cases, it crosses the line and becomes abusive. That's where the fair debt collection practices act comes in.

The purpose of the FD CPA is to help give you some protections and limit abusive debt collectors.

Your credit cards, medical debts, and consumer debts like your mortgage or car loans are covered under this.

We'll get into how it can protect you from creditors that are harassing you, but it can also help you with your credit report.

Taylor Kosla: a good way to keep track of your accounts and what's going on with your credit is regular check your credit report. By federal law you're entitled to a free copy of your credit every 12 months.

I recommend going to annual credit and go through that report line by line to see if there's something inaccurate, especially with medical debt.

I see a lot times consumers have health insurance that should have paid a bill, or maybe the insurance company paid the hospital bill, but they didn't pay the physicians bill that was associated with the hospital.

Those bill slipped through the cracks. They ended up on your credit report, that collectors are coming after you now for it. You want to keep ahead of that stuff by checking your credit report.

My firm handles fair credit reporting act cases, which allows us to help consumers get an inaccurate information removed from their credit report.

There's a dispute process to request, a negative and or inaccurate information be taken off your credit report. If the bureaus don't fix it after that, you can file suit.

Elle Martinez: Now here's where it can help you with a collector or creditor that is harassing you under the FD CPA, that collector can't contact you at unreasonable hours. Either before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM, unless you agree to it.

They can't contact your work. If you inform them, they're not allowed to.

And they can't contact you. If you have already have informed them that you hired an attorney. Plus they can't discuss your debt with anyone except you, your spouse or attorney.

If you're thinking, okay, I'm in debt. I don't have money to hire an attorney. Taylor has some good news for you.

Taylor Kosla: One of the great things about that law and the debt collection is there's, what's called a fee shift provision.

So consumers don't actually have to pay my attorney's fees. The bureaus and the debt collectors do.

on top of that, you're entitled to statute for damages, which are between zero and a thousand dollars and actual damages.

If something was inaccurate on your credit and you were denied an auto loan, or maybe you got a higher interest rate on a loan on that actual money out of pocket as a result of the inaccuracy is something that you can claim under the statute.

The debt collection act, which is a protection for consumers being harassed by debt collectors.

It also is a fee shift provision. It's great because again, our clients can reach out to us and we can help them at no cost to them. They're entitled to statutory damage between zero and a thousand. Now.

Actual damages for a debt collection case usually occurs when a debt collector threatening to file suit, or they're making these empty threats that they don't intend to take.

That consumer then pays them $500 because they're afraid of getting sued. That's actual damages, money that they spent based on the false representations made by the collector.

Elle Martinez: These are just a few of the big provisions that this act has that can cover you when you're dealing with creditors that are harassing you. And if you want to learn more about the services that Taylor's firm offers, just go to

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your MoneyMy book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Finding the Best Debt Free Plan For Your Family, Budget, and Timeline

Dealing with debt can be a grind, especially if you have a ton of debt or if it is high interest.

Today we’re going to see how the debt lasso method can speed things up with credit card debts and we’ll get tips on how to pay off over six figures of debt without sacrificing fun!

Creating a Plan to Pay Off Your Debts

One of the most popular goals families make when it comes to money is paying off their debts and with good reason. 

Even before the pandemic, debts were a considerable chunk of an average American family’s budget. 

The median household consumer debt was $67,000 according to data in New York Fed’s quarterly Household Debt and Credit Survey.

Getting rid of that debt is not always so easy. 

You need something that is realistic so you can stick with it as well as a way to speed things up if you’re deep in debt. 

We’re going to look at how you can create a debt free plan that fits your family and budget. 

Today’s financial experts are John and David Auten-Schneider and Toni Husbands. 

In this episode we get into:

  • Deciding which plan would work best
  • Getting your spouse on board
  • finding that balance between hitting your financial goals still enjoying your life

Let’s get started!

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAndroid, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Resources to Dump Your Debt Faster

If you’re looking to create a debt free plan that fits your family, budget, and timeline here are some helpful resources to review. 

If you’d like to chat more about your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal Credit Union!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!

We’ve been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Using the Debt Lasso to Pay Off $50,000 of Credit Card Debt

Carrying a ton of debt can be tough. When it’s credit cards, it’s especially frustrating.

What makes credit card debt so challenging is the high-interest rate. Even if you’re paying each month, it doesn’t seem like it’s making much of an impact.

It can almost feel like being stuck in quicksand. You’re sinking debt into debt and you’re just drained.

Two of the most popular methods for paying off debt are the debt snowball and avalanche, but if you’re dealing with several cards and they all have a high interest rate, then you may want to try the debt lasso

John and David Auten-Schneider created this method to knock out over $50,000 of credit card debt. They’re also the creators of Debt Free Guys. I spoke with them about the process behind the debt lasso. 

Dealing with Credit Card Debt

Elle: David, John, thank you for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk to you guys about a goal that kind of transformed my husband and my trajectory with our families and opening up options, but I’m sure also has done the same for you, which is paying off debt, especially when we’re talking about high-interest debt.

John: Thank you for having us.

Elle: Every year Fidelity releases, their money resolutions [survey] and paying off debt is usually in the top three.

The frustrating part is it seems like you start off good. You’re motivated. And then by the end of the year, you’re like, I really didn’t make any progress.

I think a big part of this is not finding a system that works for you.

John: Absolutely. Absolutely.

David: Yeah. It’s interesting. That was one of the things that John and I at the very beginning, realized that if we didn’t have something that would work for us, it wouldn’t last.

Because we knew it was going to take us several years to pay off our debt, we knew that we needed to figure out something and get into a groove that that would propel us forward and keep us motivated to keep going.

Elle: It’s interesting. You’re saying you knew that it was going to take years. We have a mutual friend, Michelle Jackson, and she recently had put a great post about personal finance unicorns, where not everybody pays off their debt in a year and a half.

They don’t knock out $60,000 in a year. It’s usually a process [such as your own situation].

So you guys came up with something different. Two of the biggest methods are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche, but you guys forge your own path with the debt lasso.

I wanted to talk to you about that. Why did you create that method and how does that work?

Escaping $50,000+ of Credit Card Debt

John: Yeah, absolutely. So well, so our story is, is that we sort of, at some point just profoundly discovered that we had $51,000 worth of credit card debt.

We got into a panic and a funk and depression, and after we came out of that, we came out of it committed to paying it off.

We started to look at the options that were available at the time to pay that off. We stumbled upon the snowball and the avalanche method and fortunately, my husband’s really good at math.

He crunched the numbers and he’d estimated that it was going to take us like four to six years to pay off our debt with either method and that was just deflating. Like I don’t have that kind of patience.

It just seemed too hard. In our minds, we thought that the faster we could pay off the debt, the more likely we were going to achieve our goal of becoming debt-free.

Our background actually is in finance. So we were helping other people with their money and telling them how to save and invest. We weren’t doing that ourselves, like the cobbler’s kids and their shoes.

David looked at the numbers and we thought, well, what is inhibiting us from being able to pay off our debt faster with either of those methods,

David: – besides our bad spending habits

John: besides our bad spending habits. And it was the high-interest rate that was whether it was the snowball or the avalanche method. It was that high-interest rate.

Tackling the High-Interest Rates

At the time we were paying anywhere between 15 and 20%, that was slowing us down. So we asked the question – how can we make that go to zero?

Is there a way to make that completely go away? We started to do some research and we found out that there are actually zero interest balance transfer credit cards.

And we thought, well, is this an option for us to maybe do some consolidation and to pay off our debt faster?

The next problem was those balance transfer fees, so they’re not well, does that make actually make sense?

We actually found out with our particular situation, it did actually make sense to pay those transfer fees, especially if you can find the 12 to 18 month terms that the zero interest rates would last.

We thought, well, geez, we can just eliminate that. And that actually helped us. We had estimated we pay off our credit card debt in three years.

We were really committed and aggressive with it and we ended up paying it off in two and a half years.

Elle: There’s a couple of things I wanted to talk to you about that because you guys use balance transfer.

Again, high-interest debt. I can totally understand wanting to lower it, but for some people that advocate for the debt snowball or debt avalanche, they kind of want you to completely avoid credit cards.

So how do you resist the temptation of relying or getting back into the credit card habit while you’re moving and you’re opening these accounts?

John: Yeah, of course.

How the Debt Lasso Works

David: So the debt lasso method is more than just a balance transfer or refinancing of your debt. There are actually five pieces to it.

Those five pieces are the things that help you with that whole process.

The very first step is to commit and you have to commit to not adding more balanced to your credit cards.

There’s a number of ways to do that, but that’s the first thing you have to commit to doing. If you don’t commit to doing that, you’ll never pay your debt off.

The second is to commit to a specific amount every single month that you’re going to pay towards your credit cards.

And that amount must be well above your minimum payments. That way you are actually making progress because you’re paying a bigger chunk.

So that’s the first step is making that commitment. The second step is similar to the debt snowball. You want to go out there and you want to look. In this amount that I committed to paying every month, can I knock out a credit card or two in that first month or two?

Do I have a credit card that has a really low balance, a knock those out and that way you get a little boost right at the very beginning?

John Schneider: Step three is the actual debt lasso method where you try to ideally lower your interest rate down to zero, but that option is not available to everyone.

So the lower, you can lower your interest rate the better into as, few locations as possible, which is why we call it the debt lasso.

The fourth step is to automate the entire process. You’re committing to a specific amount that you’re going to pay towards your credit card each month.

You can put that in your bill pay system so it goes out automatically , that eliminates the risk that you won’t make a payment. Or you’ll rationalize away making the amount that you commit to in step one.

Then number five is to monitor. You want to make sure that even though everything’s sort of on automation. You want to just make sure everything’s running smoothly and you’re not missing any payments.

When you do pay off any card, then you rolled that additional payment that was going towards that card to the next card.

And that’s that entire five-step process that helps folks pay off their debt as quickly as possible.

Finding Money in your Budget to Pay Off Your Debt

Elle: Wow. I love how you guys start off with the commitment because it does take a significant change.

Of course, one of the biggest things is the money has to come from somewhere.

Realistically, initially, it’s going to be from your budget. I mean, hopefully you’re earning extra income.

For you, what changes did you have to make with your budget? Where was it coming from with your first part of this debt lasso of those payments? Which one was the hardest and which one was the easiest changes to make?

John: Absolutely. Actually, the very first step that, that we took when we came out of our funk of having so much credit card debt was that David methodically and meticulously went through every expense of ours for the previous 12 months.

He grabbed all our account statements, all our credit cards, checking everything that he could find, any itemize, every expense that we had.

It really blew us away when we did that spending analysis is what we call it. Because had you asked us prior to this analysis, what the quality of our life was? We would have said, you know, it’s okay. But when we looked at our spending, it blew us away. We were living like rockstars on, you know, a bartender budget.

You know, we were just living way beyond our means, but we were traveling well, we were eating and dining. Well, we were drinking well, we had some really nice bottles of wine. It just blew us away.

We realized that if we could reign in our spending is especially in a few particular categories that would help us save a significant amount of money.

So were able to reign in our spending in those particular areas. Probably the number one win that we had – and this is likely the case for most people, most Americans – was that we reigned in our grocery spending in our dining spending dining out spending.

There were some weeks that we were spending $400 a week at the grocery store and $400 dining out. And

David: – for two men –

John: $800. That’s just two men in our thirties. We have never been skinnier. So I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong now, but nobody needs to eat like that.

We were able to lower that and we saved about $30,000 a year by becoming super meticulous with our grocery shopping and reigning in our dining out.

The other thing that we did, and this was the most challenging to answer your question was we were very, very, very social creatures.

We were constantly going out to happy hours and parties and clubbing and to bars and whatnot with our friends who were traveling a lot, most often on credit cards.

So that was the hardest part for us, but we were able to reign that in and we tell people we didn’t stop going out to your point earlier. Cause we. We knew we were social creatures.

We couldn’t just cut cold turkey, but we stopped going out as frequently. And that, that not going out as frequently, also freed up some more money that we could put towards expedite paying off our credit card debt.

So that combination, as well as eliminating our high interest rates really helped fuel paying off our credit card debt. And that’s how we got that paid off in two and a half years.

Paying Off Debt While Still Enjoying Now

Elle: Yeah, that is fantastic. Congratulations because first of all, $50,000 of any kind of debt is a huge one, but credit card debt, which for so many people can sink them to get over.

That is incredible. But I do want to talk about this just a little bit more before we wrap things up. With personal finance, I found for us and for a lot of couples is finding something that’s sustainable. Right?

We’ve talked about this before we hit record of diets and finances going all drastic and yeah.

The big stories are usually these drastic stories that get the headlines. But if you, you want to hit your goals, you have to have something that’s sustainable.

How did you guys strike that balance of paying off debt, which is a good goal to have, but still living and enjoying your life?

David: Yeah. So I think for us one of the biggest, I think issues that folks have today is that people don’t feel like they can have a fabulous life and less they’re in some way, showing everyone else that they’re living a fabulous life.

The easiest way to do that is by your experiences in the past, it used to be things. I think to some degree it is still things, but we’re seeing this shift towards people blowing their budgets and their fi financial future on experiences versus things.

What we realized is that we did have to have something sustainable. One of the things that we came up with is our fabulous life calendar, which is a part of our fabulous life combo you can get it debt free,

The idea with that is that we knew that we still wanted to have a great quality of life. Every single month we wanted to be doing fun things and being out with our friends and doing all that.

We knew that if we didn’t fill the calendar up with things that were either free or lower costs that we still really enjoy doing, then we would be susceptible to dropping a hundred, $150 on brunch and day drinking on a Sunday with our friends or having a happy hour that was supposed to be two beers, turned into something that is way longer than a happy hour.

You know, you can do happy hour, then you have appetizers then you have dinner. That kind of thing was what was wrecking us financially. We knew that we needed to fill our calendar up with the great quality of life fund things that we could keep control of the costs of.

And that is what allowed us to feel like we were living fabulous while we’re still paying off our debt and how we have since then had this fabulous, not fabulously broke life because we still focus our a lot of our time and energy on things that are within our budgetary control, which allows us then to focus our money on growth, on investing on enjoying the things that we really want to enjoy instead of things that are kind of disappear quickly after you’ve spent the money.

Elle: I think you’ve hit a lot of good points. It isn’t about deprivation. Yes. You do have to cut out your budget, but you shouldn’t, you should still have joy in your life.

So you mentioned your pay off debt course. Do you mind giving a little more details?

David: So the credit card pay off plan is basically a distillation of what we did over those three roughly three years to learn what we needed to do to get ourselves to where we could pay of debt off and then start paying it off.

So it really comes down to the first set. Is it is all around your mindset. How do I change my mindset to focus on what’s important?

The second, is that the whole idea of how do I reduce my interest and get myself ready to really start paying my debt off?

The third step is how do I create a budget that really works for me? We define our budget as dynamic and focused on happiness. And a lot of people hate the word budget because they don’t focus on what makes them happy when they’re budgeting. They focus on all the other stuff. That piece there, we also kind of loop in this idea of, how can I make more money?

There are some easier ways, not necessarily easy, but there are some easier ways to make a little bit more money to help you pay off your debt faster.

Finally, the thing that most folks don’t have is how do we create a plan with them all of that; that will work for the time period that it will take for me to pay off my debt?

That’s kind of all encapsulated in this course. We have a supplemental piece to that, that our folks who meet with us every Thursday night, we do, I’m sorry, Tuesday nights, we do a group session. They call it financial therapy because we’re constantly talking about wins and challenges and how everyone can contribute to this idea as a group, people are moving through paying their debt off.

John: So you can find information about the credit card pay off plan at

But if you want to get an idea of how the debt last one method might work for you and how it might work relative to the snowball, the avalanche method, you can also go to debt-free or go to to download a free copy of the debt lasso calculator.

Paying Off $100K of Debt (without Feeling Deprived)

Let’s be clear – getting out from under a ton of debt doesn’t happen overnight. You need a plan and a system to get you free. 

One of the challenges families face is when one or both of you are reluctant to get it done because you feel like you’re going to sacrifice having fun for the next few years. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Toni Husbands, the creator of Debt Free Divas and the author of The Great Debt Dump shares what helped her family pay off $100,000 of debt while still enjoying life in her city of Chicago. 

Digging Out from a Mountain of Debt

Elle Martinez: With everything that happened in 2020, and then what this is the first week of 2021 is very eventful as well. The idea of financial security and getting your footing is on the minds of a lot of family.

Specifically one of those goals, as you know, I’m sick and tired of the debt we have and getting rid of them.

I want to jump in with that. Cause you and your husband, Colin paid off a considerable amount of debt. It was over a hundred thousand, right?

Toni Husbands: $107,000 in debt, consumer debt. I was like to remind, so that did not include a house. It took us seven years to do that.

Elle Martinez: Wow. I’m glad you share that information.

Cause I know sometimes I enjoy reading those articles, but you do after a while, get tired of seeing like I’ve paid off a hundred thousand dollars of debt in two years, or these dramatic stories, but many families the story is we came up with a plan and it took some time, but we got there.

First of all, I want to talk to you about how you paid off your debt. You use the debt snowball method, right?

How the Debt Snowball Works

Toni Husbands: I did and that was popularized by a Dave Ramsey, uncle Dave as I like to refer to him.

He’s a little shorter for some people, but I can across his book in 2005 at a conference that I was attending with my mom, he was speaking there at that time.

And his book, the total money makeover. So I read his book and that’s where I became aware of the concept of the debt snowball.

Just to explain it real quick, the debt snowball is basically a process where you list your debts in order of smallest to largest. You focus all of your available cash and pay your minimum on everything, but you focus all of your available cash on the smallest debt on your list.

And the purpose of that is that so that you can achieve quick wins.

Elle Martinez: Gotcha.

Toni Husbands: So you pay that one off and then you go down to the next smallest, once you’re finished with that. Basically the amount of money that you’re using to retire debt grows or snowballs.

As you start to take things off on your list, that snowball grows and you develop momentum and that’s kind of what carries you on through the process.

Why the Debt Snowball Works

Elle Martinez: Okay, so you read this. What about it clicked for you and when you were paying off your debt? Did you make any adjustments to fit your family and your goals?

Toni Husbands: Before I came across Dave Ramsey, we probably were working on this process for some time. I had read other books, are there. There are a lot of different processes, a lot of different approaches.

I known about Suze Orman. I read about the automatic millionaire. Like I was intentional about trying to work on this problem.

At that time, we didn’t even have that much that we, well, I shouldn’t say that much. We had maybe about 40, 45,000 at the time, you know?

When I came across Dave Ramsey, that’s when I had quit my job because we, although we had the debt, we were able to make the payments.

I think that was always our financial philosophy. Can we make the payment? Right?

Elle Martinez: I’ve been there.

Toni Husbands: We can make the payment. We can afford it. Right. Regardless, not looking at the total bill, but before we would, we would try different things.

We were both engineers and so we would create these like really magnificent spreadsheets with all of these colors and bells and whistles.

Then we would like put it on our, putting it in a folder somewhere and not look at it for three months, you know?

Probably two things that happened when I read Dave Ramsey, number one, we had to make a change because a third of our income was mine because I had left my job. We were starting the laundromat. So a third of our income just left and we had to be more intentional and more careful about how we were using our money.

On top of that, I think at this point, just wrote down everything that we had them start to look at it on paper. That was the big thing for me. It’s like looking at it on paper.

I stopped with the spreadsheets. I just would write down everything, put it on my refrigerator and have it there in black and white.

We would look at it every day. We would have discussions about it, we would argue about it, but it was on the top of our mind. It was in the forefront of our mind.

It was something that we paid attention to constantly. I think that’s one of the biggest things that really helped me to stay focused and not just come up with these fancy spreadsheets, Pat ourselves on the back. ‘Yeah, that was good’ and then just not, you know, then kind of go back to our regularly scheduled, you know, and not in that, you know, continue to work on what we needed to work on. That was the big thing for me is like posting it somewhere where it was visible. Daily.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I love what you bring out because I think that’s not addressed enough, which is how do you find a sustainable plan that already is aligned with really who you are and what you want to accomplish?

Because You could have the perfect template for paying off debt or budgets, but if it’s not you, or it’s not close enough to you, you’re just not going to keep it.

I have that same idea when we talk about like money management apps. People always ask me, well, what’s the best one?

I was like, it’s the one that you can actually keep. There’s so many different options there. I might have a personal favorite, but what works for me, isn’t going to work for someone else in their family. But with that, you have to come up with a plan to tackle it.

Finding Money to Pay Off Your Debt Faster

A big part of that is finding money within your budget. Again, this is something that’s very personal because initially at least it’s going to come out of your budget somehow.

For you guys, Where did that money come from? What was the hardest part that you had to change or adjust and what was the easiest one?

Toni Husbands: That’s a great question. I will tell you that the hardest part wasn’t actually the money part. It was the I would say mentality part because I wanted my husband to make all the changes. So I was like, ‘if you stop doing this and if you stop doing this’, and can make progress, right?

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Toni Husbands: I didn’t need the cable, you know, you watch them mob package or whatever , so we cut that out. We’ll be good. Right?

That was interesting too, because he was just like, no, and I will tell you too. He was not, he thought Dave Ramsey probably still does is a coop. He was, he was like, he’s just trying to sell books.

He’s very like analytical and critical. That’s the engineering brain so getting him on board was hard, honestly. And it was good. I can say we, we, we debated, we had a lot of intense fellowship, right?

Elle Martinez: That’s a nice way to phrase it.

Toni Husbands: We had a lot of discussions and honestly, I had to stop thinking about what he could do and what I could do in a way that didn’t affect him.

There were things I do in my own hair, right? I started now that’s a big one, especially in the African American community. We spent money on our hair.

I took to YouTube, you know hairstylists since, you know, I figured out how to do a lot of things at home and stretch the amount of time that I would go to a salon, you know, once a month or getting my hair braided all the time. Like figuring out how to do those things myself. Now I might not have looked like I just stepped out of a salon, but I was paying debt off.

Elle Martinez: You got to find that balance. Yeah. I got schooled by friends. I’m like, what? You just go to Supercuts, you get your hair done it cheap, you know? And they’re like, no, not for us. but again, that’s personal because in every situation, first of all, it’s what matters to you, what matters most.

Everybody’s going to be different, but for you to make that sacrifice and find ways to still fit that personal care in with your budget while still dumping the debt is really key.

Slashing Food Bills

Toni Husbands: Another one is cooking. You would think that would be an easy one, but I hate to cook.

I shouldn’t say hate, but I don’t enjoy the cooking experience. How about that? We lived at the time we lived downtown and a very cool little swanky neighborhood, lots of restaurants. And so we was just my husband and I, we would, you know, you can walk outside and go to this restaurant, go to this restaurant.

My husband loves to eat. I’m not that big on cooking. And if I didn’t go, if I didn’t cook, we would just go out or order in or something like that. We had a lot of options.

We were able to save so much money by going to the first of all, switching the grocery store that we went to. We stopped shopping in our little swanky neighborhood.

We found Aldi. That was a huge, at that point I was tracking it at 30% savings by doing nothing else but switching grocery stores.

I’m not a couponer or I don’t clip, but you know, you have to do things that you can do that, you can be consistent about. I got over my grocery store snobbiness.

We thought I’ll be 30% savings and food just right there. Cooking out how long save so much money over, going out to restaurants also better on your waistline to just, you know, just a side note.

Those are things that I had to kind of train myself and it wasn’t, obviously it’s not something that I didn’t get tired or we didn’t go back out, but we budgeted a date night or outside time, you know, smaller things, but not every day of the week.

Six days a week, we were cooking, we were eating inside. My husband doesn’t care where he eats. As long as there was food in the house, he would eat now.

That was a way to make a change without, without forcing something that I wanted on him when he wasn’t ready. I will say it probably took him about a year, about a year to actually kind of come on board.

When he started see like, Oh, we got rid of the first debt was $450 and that win being able to scratch that off was such a boost of momentum.

We were able to pay that one off and then the next one, and I would actually leave them up; checked off X off on my little sheet that I would print out every month.

We can start to see the progress that we were making and that was a source of encouragement and momentum.

Then he starts to kind of come around and like, okay, we can do then he volunteers to make changes on his own.

He’s not being told I’m not his mother. Right. That was kind of the biggest, the hardest thing for me is like, this is a grown man, a fully functional adult, you know, he’s going to make decisions.

Dave Ramsey, he has a saying those convinced against their will or have the same opinion still. Basically you can’t make people do.

As he sees that I’m sticking to this, that we’re making progress, he comes around and so now we’re arguing about what we’re going to cut versus about doing it or not doing it.

Elle Martinez: Improvements you get those steps you moving forward.

Toni Husbands: Right. I was like, ‘yay’ behind his back, but that’s okay. We’ll argue about what you want to cut next. That’s fine. Again, it took about a year to get to that point, but it was like continuous progress on my part in the ways and the things that I could do to show that I was serious about this.

Hitting Your Money Goals (While Still Enjoying Life)

Elle Martinez: Totally makes sense. There’s so many good points I want to get into, but I do want to focus in on your husband, Colin, and you had different approaches.

I think we’ve talked about this before, where he didn’t want to be deprived. That was one of the concerns, going debt free.

So how did you balance hitting that goal, becoming debt-free while still enjoying your life, because you have two kids. That time it doesn’t come back.

Toni Husbands: Right. Yeah. One of the things that we definitely loved to and still love to do is travel.

What we would do is if we just, we wanted to go somewhere or something came up, you know, where there was a trip involved. We would just pause our debt, snowball. Okay. We decided we would pay cash for everything. So we would know we were no longer charging plane tickets and hotels and things like that. We would pay cash for it.

We still traveled throughout this. So that could possibly be why it took so long. So we would pause our debt snowball. We will go on our trip. We would enjoy ourselves. We would come home with no strings attached.

Okay. No bills following us. Then we wouldn’t get back into the debt snowball after. We travel quite a bit, even now with two kids, we still, you know, pre COVID. We still two, three times a year small mini trips.

We take a lot of mini trips, but we have family in different parts of the country.

And then of course I just like to explore periods. So that’s one of the big things that we would definitely do. We started to become tourists in our own city. There are a lot of fabulous things.

You’ve done this before. You’ve done the $20 [date night] challenge. Things like that.

We started to like really get into either low cost or free things. You hear a lot of the bad stuff about Chicago, but it’s a very fabulous place to live. It’s there’s a lot to the cities. There’s a lot of great entertainment, you know, like live music and downtown, the taste is free.

There’s a lot of, especially during the summertime, a lot of things that you can do if you research and find things and pay attention. I was intentional about that type of thing too.

We have the festivals, the here, there, everywhere, dancing in the park, the free movies we would do all of that.

Yeah. Honestly, we still do. We still do things that are either very, that you pay for parking pretty much, or you can jump on the lesson, get there. We do that now with our kids .

We really have a pretty full dance card if you will, without spending a lot of money. The libraries have a lot of interesting speakers, the universities have a lot of very interesting things like plays that are, you know, five or $10.

We really had a very enriching experience and didn’t spend a lot of money.

Getting the Most Out of Living in an Expensive City

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I, I love that. We are fans of the library too. I mean, besides picking up books, there’s Storytime, there are crafts.

Now because of COVID, we can’t go inside our community library, but what they did is they did like a Storytime walk around cause it’s by a park, to get the kids engaged.

What I liked about your story is. A lot of people assume like ‘I live in a high cost of living area’, so I can’t do this. We almost put hurdles ahead before you even get started, but it does take effort, not going to lie.

Toni Husbands: Yes. It takes research and, and your taxes are paying for it. So I might as well.

Elle Martinez: You bring up a lot of good points. I know we scratched the surface, Toni. I’m definitely going to have to have you back on again and, you know, chat with you because.

You’ve already like got me thinking about so many different ideas, but for those that are interested in learning more about you, where’s the best way they can reach out?

Toni Husbands: So you can reach out to me through my website, Debt Free Divas.

I’m also on FacebookTwitter now, Instagram.

I’d love to talk with you, connect with you get you involved in the community of like-minded debt dumpers and support your journey!

Key Takeaways on Becoming Debt Free Faster

This month’s money challenge of tracking your finances really lines itself up well, With today’s episode all about paying off your debt.

Seeing the numbers in front of you gives you a clear idea of first of all, how much debt you are looking to pay off and how much room in your budget, you have to hit that goal.

Your next challenge. though maybe deciding which debt payoff method is right for you and your family.

While the debt snowball, avalanche and lasso may have slightly different ways of tackling your debts. There are some key points to them that make them successful tools for many families

The first is that you are making a commitment to get rid of that debt. That might seem like a small step, but it’s absolutely necessary when you’re dealing with a significant amount or with high interest debt.

You have to be sick and tired of having that debt draining your budget month after month.

And be ready to find ways to adjust your budget so that you can have more money to finally knock that debt out.

The second key to why I believe they work so well is that it gives you a focus target. You are tackling these debts one at a time, you pay the minimum on all but one. And then as you’re knocking these out, getting that momentum and having these wins. Then you move it over to the next debt

One point I appreciated with John and David’s conversation. They looked at all the numbers including the timeframe

I’m going to include a link to a free debt payoff spreadsheet that allows you to look at the different methods and find one that fits your own plans.

And as Toni pointed out, when you’re coming up with your debt-free plan, you may have to make some compromises, at least initially so you can get your spouse on board.

She started off with family activities so that she could show her husband that it was possible to pay off debt without sacrificing quality of life.

As they had these wins, he then joined on board and they were able to speed up the process.

Finally, whatever debt free method you decide to go on, make sure that you get it done by automating all of your payments.

You can go ahead and use bill pay to schedule these payments out which can help you stay on track.

If you need help with ways to find money in your budget to get that debt, snowball, lasso, or avalanche started, please sign up for our free course, five days to five K.

It’s a week long email course that shows you some ways that you can readjust your budget. While still enjoying life now. Just head over to simplify and K.

Besides the tactics strategies and tips on paying off debt another helpful thing is having the support. So, if you haven’t already please join our free Facebook group; it’s called thriving families.

We enjoy swapping stories, encouragement, and ideas on how to tackle our family and financial goals.

You can get there by going to simplify and families. We’d love to see you there!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
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Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

How Our Basement Renovation Will Help Us Become Mortgage Free

Is it 2019 already?

Looking back at 2018, the year definitely got chaotic towards the end. I wish we could say we ended on a high note, but we didn't.

We had several loved ones dealing with serious health issues and a couple of weeks ago, we went to a funeral.

Obviously, it hasn't been a joyous season, but it has been a reflective one.

While I haven't written much recently (following my own advice about paring down to essentials), we have been simplifying.

It has been tremendously helpful this past year. Paying off debts has freed us up to be able to make those trips to be with our friends and family as needed.

Not having the burden of those payments hanging over us has also allowed us to be able to take time off to just recharge and reset.

To be honest, reflecting on what's happened these last few months is on some level inspiring.

You don't want to waste time anymore. You see how important it is to cherish those around you, your health, and it really pushes you to define what you truly value.

Looking ahead to 2019, it's affected our plans for this year and beyond.

Our 2019 Goals

There are a ton of things we want to do, but we're keeping it down to three main goals.

I found that trying to tackle too much at once is the fast path to burnout.

What I like to do instead is focus on a few goals. If we knock them out sooner than planned, great.

For now, this is what is on our plate:

  • Decide on a plan to pay off our mortgage early
  • Save for a replacement for our family car
  • Get fit and run a 5k obstacle course (which means optimizing our food spending for healthier (and still tasty) meals)

Okay so technically the last one is my personal goal, but I'm hoping to gently nudge my husband to join in with me.

Our Plan to Be Mortgage Free

With no car or student loans now, paying off our mortgage early is one of our major goals going forward.

(Right now, we’re looking at $130k on the balance.)

Now the tricky part is figuring out how aggressive to be on it.

If were just me, I'd go full throttle on it. But….

It's a family effort which means we all have a say.

We're looking for a sustainable speed that will allow us to enjoy this FI journey.

So we're going to knock it out faster, just not in 3-5 years.

If you're looking to speed up your mortgage payoff, but you're worried that you don't have enough of dent, please know that every little bit helps.

To give you an idea of what extra payments can do, here’s an easy way we’re shaving off the mortgage.

So when we got the loan we started small with the extra payments, rounding up to the next hundred dollars.

A small blip in our monthly cash flow, but it’s going to knock off about five years (and save us just under $20,000 in interest!).

We love that our cash flow still has wiggle room.

The question is, how much do we shoot for?

We both want to have a consistent plan that will allow us to knock this debt out while still reaching our other goals (and have some fun).

After using Andrew’s awesome Mortgage Free spreadsheets to run some ideas and review the numbers, we think we found it.

You may remember last year we renovated our basement. It ended up costing us a little over $11,000.

Even though we had to keep our spending in check to save that amount upfront (among other goals), neither of us felt deprived.

So here’s our 2019 mortgage plan – we’re shooting for $11,000 in extra payments and testing out a quarterly payment system.

If this works and we keep this system up going forward, we’ll turn our 30-year mortgage into an 11-year one and save over $62,000 in interest payments!

As nerdy as it looks in this post, we are really thrilled about this prospect.

As I mentioned, to do we need to keep our spending in check so every month I’m doing a challenge to gamify the savings.

This month is the Zero Day Challenge. All through January, I’m tracking our spending on a daily basis.

It’s a simple challenge, but it’s effective. David did this so he could get his spending under control. Thanks to this challenge, he was able to cut back on over $18,000 of expenses!

I’ll start sharing my numbers on Instagram if you want to follow along.

So there’s our big goal for 2019, it’s kind of scary and exciting which is a sweet spot for me. I think it’ll push us to be smart with our spending so we can knock out that mortgage faster.

If you’re thinking about paying off your mortgage and want to run the numbers, definitely check out the spreadsheets Andy created in his Mortgage Free Master Plan.

Your Take on Goals and Being Mortgage Free

There you have it – our plan for 2019 and our mortgage. I'd love to get your take. What's on your to do list?