Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I was Featured on Business Insider!

The interview I had with Business Insider ended up being a story that was posted in three separate articles on three different days as opposed to what I thought would have just been one. The reporter, Libby Kane, was awesome to work with, and I loved her tone of writing. 

My parents, family, friends, and co-workers have expressed how proud they are about all of this, and that means the world to me; their opinions matter most.

What I didn't see coming were the mean comments on the article as well as on all of the social media sites (other than my own, of course). It was truly entertaining for a minute, then I quit reading them. People were some kind of tore up over my budget. They had an opinion on just about every category, and didn't hold back in the slightest on expressing said opinions. I never responded to a single person on the article or on the social media posts because you simply can't argue with someone on a faceless platform; it is a true waste of time and energy.

What I would ask that you keep in mind is this - the budget you see in these articles is just one month out of my year. My budget changes a little from month to month; not only in expenses, but in income, too. I am a sales rep as well as a server so the money coming in is different every single month due to fluctuating commissions and tips. As far as expenses go, there are indeed times when I will budget to go see a big ticket act in concert, and there are times where I will budget for an item I've had my eye on at a store. Not every category will stay the same month to month. To quote some Dave Ramsey here:

"A good money plan is dynamic and changes as your life does. Do a review of your budget each month and make adjustments."

My intention for this post is not to spotlight the negativity, but I do want to address some topics that were in question for those that really are trying to build a budget and get their finances in order. That being said, this blog is my house where I say what I want; allow me to sit atop my roof for a moment and clear some things up:

Wow. People really lost their cool over this one; there had to have been several hundred comments on this topic alone. I have 2 roommates. I live approximately 10-15 minutes from downtown Nashville. I live in a townhouse owned by one of my roommates. She has owned it for almost 1 year. I, as well as our other roommate, pay her a flat $450 for rent and utilities combined. It is not, and I quote, "a cardboard box," "a storage unit," "a closet," "a dog house" or "a shed." And we do not "live like hermits." The townhouse was built a mere 5 years ago so it's very modern, and we have more than enough space. Rent like mine is indeed attainable in Nashville. We lived in Brentwood (known for being an expensive part of town) for the last 5 years before moving to this townhouse, and we were paying just about the same then as we are now. The only difference is, now my roommate owns our current house and our rent goes towards her mortgage. Those who don't believe this is possible are the ones trying to find apartments and condos; you have to get in the outskirts a little and look for houses... WITH roommates. Other cities, I have no idea about; I have been in Nashville for 9 years and believe me, have done my fair share of house/roommate searching, and my situation is very possible. I lucked out 6 years ago by finding a roommate that I enjoy living with; she has great taste (hint our nice new townhouse), is a built in friend, and is trustworthy. 

My advice? Find people like that and then go find a house in the outskirts :)

Best stranger danger comment goes to: 
"$450 rent? Is she camping?" (I actually did hit the like button on that one)

I have health insurance. It comes out of my check and is not factored into my budget. The $100 in medical is there for instances like physical therapy and co-pays. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"$0 spent on medical. She is supposed to buy Obamacare. We have ourselves a liar and another phony story"

$150 is doable. It helps that I am a pretty basic, kindergarten eater; however, you can very much so purchase vegetables and healthy food on this budget. I buy store brand a lot of times. I purchase things on sale. I am by no means an extreme couponer, but I do indeed use them if I have one for an item I purchase on the regular. I also work part time at a, wait for it, RESTAURANT! I get a free meal with every shift. Oh, and as for the low coffee budget: fear not, I am human; I drink the stuff every morning, but it is indeed the free coffee that my office provides. 

My advice? Get out of the expensive grocery stores. Places like Publix and Whole Foods provide a great experience and all, but there is nothing wrong with a good Kroger or Trader Joe's. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"For $150/month, I assume she eats paper?"

Not contributing up to the 6% match right now was hard for a lot of people to agree with; and I absolutely understand their reasoning. Rest assured, this will go up to 6% in order to get my current match percentage, but not until November when I am debt free. I already have an IRA from my previous company's 401k match that I rolled over. I was not following the Dave Ramsey theory for some of my 4 year employment there so I contributed a lot to that account. I also still have stocks from that same company which I have not touched. 

Retirement contributions when in debt is a topic where Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have a big difference of opinion. Although I took advise to from both, as it stated in the article, I chose Dave Ramsey's approach. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"If she actually paid attention to Suze Orman she'd know this. That's like her #1 tip to everybody."

Here is a spot on, positive reply to the above...

"She's probably more focused on the Dave Ramsey plan, which has you stop 401k contributions temporarily until you pay off all debt and save up 6 months of emergency fund. It can make sense that you focus on one thing before going to the next. That way she frees up all that debt money, when that's all freed up he urges to put 15% of your money (not including matches) into retirement each month. Yeah she is missing out on some company match right now, but she'll be putting 15% (if following his plan) away each month, which is MORE than most Americans stash away."

Overall winner of the stranger danger comments (It's a tie):
"Alcohol for home: $10 budgeted $21.93 spent. Priorities (3 of the crying laughing emojis)"
Agreed, and cheers to you, sir! 

"Holy cow...we found a responsible millennial. Clone her quick before she gets a tattoo and starts taking pictures of her food."

I read the book Start by Jon Acuff earlier this year, and I wrote down this one quote in my notes even though it didn't pertain to me at the time. I thought that some of my friends might need to hear this one day as there have been times when someone will say a hateful thing about their music when they put it online for the masses. It helped me before it ever got a chance to help them:

"When someone leaves a hateful comment on your blog or tweets about you, that is the equivalent of someone driving by your house and yelling, “I hate your yard! Your heart must be horrible too!” You’d never listen to that person in real life. Don’t listen online."

For every negative comment (I spared you all of the vulgar ones), there was a positive one right behind it, so believe me, those are the ones I will take to heart. Bottom line, what I am doing is working; that is what matters. Thanks to everyone for all of the kind words and for reaching out with your own stories. I wish you all the best of luck in your personal finance journeys!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From Triple to Single Digit Debt: I Am So Grateful

Even though I never saw my debt have a balance in the triple digits, I have indeed paid triple digits. I am only $9k away from being finished. It feels so good to not have any number in front of or behind that 9. It feels surreal. I am so thankful for my journey. I am grateful God has blessed me with the ability to work and be in good health. There is no doubt, even in this less than ideal situation of mine, I have been blessed.

There are a lot of things a person can do to stay on track; there is an accountability that is hard to explain. However, a person could be on track and taking all of the appropriate steps, but for some reason keep getting knocked down: medical bills, car wreck, death in the family, etc. So many things are out of our control, and although we can plan for these things, we can’t see them coming. If these unfortunate events happen while we are in the beginning stages of planning and getting our feet wet with debt pay-off, it can really knock and keep a person down.

Looking back, it is very difficult to not see God’s protecting hand over my life. I have been paying off my student loans aggressively for the last 3 to 4 years; thankfully, nothing catastrophic happened to me in that time which allowed me to finally start winning with my debt snowball. Back when I was first starting, it would have only taken a gust of afternoon wind to knock me back into my same spending habits; now that I have some successful years under my belt, I am intentionally building up my financial life so that hopefully not even a hurricane can destroy it. I have not done this alone, God has been beside me every step of the way. I am beyond grateful for what I have been given and for the opportunity to learn from my twenties and build in my thirties. 

Thank you Jesus for the single number I am seeing on my balance today!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

I Was Featured on CNN Money!

"4 Steps to Paying off Your Student Loans,
from Someone Who Crushed $100,000"

After connecting on Twitter, a CNN Money reporter reached out to me via email and asked for an interview. At first I thought the email must have been spam. It wasn't. So of course I said yes.

The phone conversations and emails that transpired woke me up to just how much I have paid off. Not that it didn't sink in before, but saying my financial story aloud from the very beginning to present day was quite the humbling experience.

I started this blog in 2010 and was so... ashamed isn't the correct word... sad. Sad about the amount of debt I had and therefor did not want anyone to know my feelings about it. After all, many of my friends had the same situation going on, but for whatever reason, no one spoke up about it other than the occasional griping over hefty monthly payments. I needed an outlet. So I created this blog. I had no idea that 6 years later it would land me on the front page of the personal finance section of CNN Money. But I am glad it did. Now that I am out of the woods, I am okay with everyone knowing this blog, and all of these words, are mine. The encouragement I received after the article published was simply unexpected and overwhelming.

I do not have a business set up where I charge people for financial advice. The article does not lead you to a website where a company I created can help you. It leads you here, to this blog; it is simply my story. And Katie Lobosco, the reporter, broke all of my ramblings into 4 simple steps. Those simple steps are what got me to where I am, and I hope that others can follow suit from that. I have spent several hours with several different friends in the last 2-3 years quietly helping them create their debt pay-off plans and budgets. I have no idea what the future holds for me, career wise. It could be staying in corporate sales, singing/songwriting, music business, or it could be becoming a CFP and starting my own company; I just don't know yet. All of that to say, right now I am simply focused on the next 5 months of getting these loans out of my present day life.

If you would like to give it a read, you can find the article here.