Have You Ever Thought About Quitting Money?
Author: Anna Newell Jones

“He had heard people speak contemptuously about money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it.” – W. Somerset Maugham

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in Do Without
Gettin’ Guesty with Brenda Miller
Author: Brenda Miller

Today our guest contributor is Brenda Miller. Get ready because this is quite amazing. She acquired $35,000 in credit card debt and it all started with the credit card tables in college. She says “I only wish I could go back in time and shake my eighteen-year-old self and tell her how much easier her life will be if she doesn’t apply for the credit cards her first week in college, but then I guess I wouldn’t have learned everything I know now.”

Brenda shares how she got herself out of the massive credit card debt in her essay below. It’s freaking amazing that she did it! It can be done!
Please help me welcome her!
 

image courtesy of brenda miller

You’re Nothing If You’re Not Buying 

It was at one of those get-a-free-t-shirt tables my freshman year of college that I picked up my first credit card.  I think it was a Visa, but it might have been Discover or Mastercard.  It doesn’t really matter because I had all three by October.  The credit cards were so enticing, these colorful little plastic rectangles with my name on them proving I was finally an adult and I didn’t need to ask my dad for money anymore.

I grew up with a thrifty father whose mother lived through the Great Depression. When I was a kid, I was horrified by our generic sodas. We just seemed cheaper than everyone else. Once we even saved up for a family vacation by taking aluminum cans to a recycler!

Spending what I wanted and not thinking of the consequences was a delayed teenage rebellion.  I had some fun, of course, but I can only name a handful of the things I bought with those cards.  How did I amass $35,000 in debt and not really know how it happened?  It happened quietly, over time, by charging a $20 meal that would end up costing $100 years later because of interest (sadly, my 18-year-old college self knew nothing about interest).  It happened because, for a time, I believed there was such a thing as free money, that buying now and paying later lead to happiness.

By the time I was 30, I had somewhat wised up.  I understood money wasn’t free, but I was still stuck with the debt.  Plus, I’d gained 50 pounds.  I tried half-heartedly to change.  I’d throw some extra money at the biggest balance every few months, but I never stopped using the cards.  I got a gym membership I rarely used. Nothing changed, of course.  What I finally realized was that real solutions require patience, dedication, and un-sexy lifestyle changes.

To lose weight, I started to eat a healthy breakfast, made dessert a “sometimes” food, and got more exercise. To get out of debt, I went on a complete credit card diet.  If I didn’t have cash to pay for something, I didn’t buy it.  Then I started paying more on the card with the highest interest rate and “maintaining” the rest.  When one card was paid off, it was on to the next.  If I had extra money from taxes or overtime, I didn’t buy special treats but used it to pay down debt.  It took less than a year to lose weight and three years to get out of debt.  There was a real high that came with seeing those balances and the number on the scale finally going down.  I did it without one single celebrity endorsed nutritional shake or fancy financial software.

There’s always more to do, more to save, more debts to pay.  We have a mortgage now—something that would never have been possible without first paying off the credit card debt—and student loan debt, which is the next thing to pay down.  I feel more okay with this debt because it  is for important things—a house, education—and not a bunch of crap I can’t remember buying.

My family has been able to live on one income since our daughter was born two years ago because while we were paying off debt, we didn’t touch the second income.  With day care so expensive, it made more sense for me to keep working and my husband to stay home.  We now plan our meals and grocery shopping.  We don’t frivolously eat out because we don’t feel like cooking.  Instead of buying new clothes, we swap or buy 95% of our clothes second-hand.  Most importantly, we really think about each purchase whether it’s a Starbucks latte, a book, or a new mattress.  We save up for big purchases and don’t finance vacations on credit.  I’m still wary of credit cards, but when I do use one, I pay off the balance in full each month—to avoid interest, of course.

Looking back, I see now that when I lived beyond my means, I rebelled against my true nature (which is surprisingly thrifty). When I was living beyond my means I found that I felt empty and never truly myself.  Now I feel less dependent on possessions and more confident in my ability to live a happy life with what I have.

My hope is that my daughter will be a thrifty warrior.  I want to teach her why we live and buy the way we do and how good it feels to save money.  I want her to learn what I’ve learned—that you don’t have to buy something to be someone.

Brenda Miller ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then We Saved!

If you would like to be considered as a contributor for Gettin’ Guesty send me an email at: Hello@AndThenWeSaved.com

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in Guest Interviews, Motivation, Paying Off Debt, Spending Fast, Struggle (Hopeless, Demoralized)
Poor Vs. Broke
Author: Anna Newell Jones

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the question: “What’s the difference between being poor and being broke?”

To me, being poor means there’s no money to begin with while being broke means there was some money and it is no longer there.

They both completely suck.

And while being “broke” and being “poor” are two different things (that both suck) there are some certain similarities.

No matter how much money you make if you don’t manage it well it doesn’t really matter how much you have to begin with. You’ll go back to being poor or go back to being broke if the habits and thoughts associated with the money doesn’t grow and morph too.

Are those that are born poor and raised poor destined to continue to be poor?

Are those that are born into a broke family and raised broke destined to remain broke?

How many of our thoughts about money are inherited by those who raised us? Seeing money being spent a certain way and saved (or not saved) a certain way and it’s easy to follow suit.

Money wasn’t talked about in our house (at least not with the kids). I knew when we had money and things were “okay” because I got to hear “yes” a little more often then the word “no”. How were my thoughts about money shaped by money being a “closed door” topic? Should money matters be discussed with kids? Or is that an adult conversation? What about with teenagers? I not saying parents should bust out with some financial chit-chat and jargon to a couple of 5 year olds but I have to wonder if a conversation or continued conversations about responsible spending and money might be a good idea? My parents told me “no” when it was their money I wanted to spend but when it came to my money, it was my money. Also, my parents probably talked to me about money more than I realized. That’s totally possible. And, maybe I’m hard-headed and had to learn about money by messing up with money. That’s totally possible too.

I learned how to write a check in 7th grade by a teacher with big, curly blonde hair. She had a New York accent and said I was Norwegian once (I’m not). It was exciting to see this sneak into adult life by writing pretend checks in a 3rd floor middle school classroom.

This is what I knew about checkbooks at the time: the checkbook lived in my moms purse, it enabled them to buy groceries, and a maybe a Jaclyn Smith t-shirt from K-mart for the start of school, if I was lucky. I remember wracking my brain trying to figure out how people paid for places to live and food and clothes and cars and everything else. Were they secret millionaires??!! I figured they must be because it just didn’t add up. Money was a complete mystery.

So, how much of it is our responsibility to break free from the financial comfort level we grew up with? What’s the key to changing camps? My classic American thinking tells me that if I can be better I should be better and if I can have more I should have more and bigger and the best because something is wrong if I don’t have that or don’t want that. Not wanting the bigger and the best isn’t even considered as an option by most.

If we’re poor does that mean debt is inevitable? Can we go from being poor to being debt-free? I think so. Can we go from being broke to being debt-free? I know so.

What do you think? What is the difference between being broke and being poor? And, do you think you’re destined to be a certain way financially based on your upbringing?

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in Family, Friends, & Relationships
Powder Head
Author: Anna Newell Jones

This is a DIY (do-it-yourself) post for those of you who have been tempted to buy Dry Shampoo. While this (admittedly) isn’t the most electrifying post I’ve ever written I thought it might be of interest to a few of you. Okay, maybe ONE of you will like it. Okay, if not even one of you likes it then just peruse the NEW Top Posts section over there. Yes, right there in the upper right area of the blog over there. I worked on this new section over the weekend so maybe you’ll like something there and if not come back tomorrow because I’ll probably have something totally prolific to say then.

If you haven’t heard of this Dry Shampoo thing it’s supposed to fluff up your hair, give it volume (it does that well especially for fine hair) and basically it supposed to save you time since you don’t have to wash your hair after working out and it’s handy if you wake up late and are a big grease head and can’t wear a hat to work because it’s just not a wear-a-hat-to-work-kind-of-job then it’s good for fixing an ick head. Dry Shampoo is one of those “little purchases” that add up over time and I would’ve definitely bought some bottles of it in my days-of-debt, denial and over-spending (since I work hard and wanted to buy what I wanted with my hard-earned dough). Actually, who am I trying to kid, I DID buy some right before the Spending Fast started. See this post.

Dry shampoo is basically baby powder in an aerosol spray can. Yes. That’s all it is. People buy this stuff. I bought that stuff. Ugh. Stupid stuff that adds up to a lot of debt. When I think about the stupid junk I used to buy, the stuff that got me into my debt, I can’t help but cringe. You know one of those “Wwhaaaat diddd I doooo?!!?” deep gut cringes? One of those. (Luckily, little things add up to a lot in the other direction too- towards debt payoff!)

I think buying dry shampoo is silly but I’ve bought it and a lot of other things like that because on some sub-conscious level it’s easy to be sold on these things. I WANTED to believe that these types of things would help me somehow, make me prettier, awesome-er, perfect-er. (I still want to believe magazine ads and commercials sometimes. They make it so easy to believe them.)

You know, I really hoped that these things would be the EXACT thing I was looking for. And sometimes, it seems that the only point in purchasing these things was to prove to myself that I could buy something a dumb as dry shampoo if I wanted to. And while these weren’t my proudest moments on some level it was satisfying to know that I could get what I wanted when I wanted it even if it meant getting myself further into debt and after I got to a certain level of debt I started saying to myself “Aw, screw it. I’ll always have this debt so I might as well enjoy myself!”

We know how that story ended: $23,605.10 in debt.

 

Homemade Dry Shampoo Recipe/Technique:

Get yourself some generic baby powder or cornstarch (maybe you already have some in your bathroom cabinet?), sprinkle some on your scalp/hair (not on the ends), fluff it up, use a brush to spread it out.

Poof, fluff, sprinkle and repeat.

I’ve learned that it’s best to do this at night (if possible) so you end up looking less like you have on a powdered George Washington wig. Looking like the 1st president is not a look that I like to go after often. I like to save that for special occasions.

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in DIY, Do Without, Practical Solutions, Spending Fast
Author: Anna Newell Jones

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in Motivation, Paying Off Debt
Gettin’ Guesty with Michelle Mccarty
Author: Michelle McCarty

This week for Gettin’ Guesty we have the wonderful and smart Michelle Mccarty. In her essay she discusses “Good” vs. “Bad” debt and about how her and her husband are making their way to their goal of home ownership.

Michelle’s blog is YoYo’s House.

Please help me welcome Michelle!

image courtesy of michelle mccarty

I am a born native Texan, aspiring to one day own my own home.  I’ve rented for the past six years and now I’m working on purchasing my first home with my husband.  In this article I’m going to discuss the process of how we are working on getting approved for a home loan and what we’ve learned on the importance of our debt to income for the home loan.  I’m not an expert in this; I simply want to share our story.  If there is any piece of our puzzle that you can use during any loan process, then please feel free to use this information.

We both began looking into purchasing our first home two years ago.  We began talking to loan officers and quickly learned the least amount of debt we have to our income the better the percentage of the loan we will receive.  We’ve always had our bills in some sort of list form, so when the first loan officer told us to do this and provide to him, this was the easy part.

The challenging part for us was determining what good debt is and what bad debt is.  For example; someone told us car loans and college school loans were ok debt because they were a secured debt, but on the other hand I was told by someone totally different that these loans are bad debt.  I did a lot of research online and read mixed articles pertaining to this topic.  My overall thought about my car loan and both our school loans is it counts as our overall debt to income, so to me it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad debt.

The first thing we did was pay off all retail company credit cards.  A retail credit card is definitely a bad debt, but we use them to gain points.  My advice on getting a retail card for points is you really must have a great goal toward using your hard earned points.  The hardest part is keeping them paid off and not using them before someone pulls our credit reports!  Now we are paying off long term credit cards, non-retail related.  We are in the process of saving for a down payment for a house, so paying off these credit cards is a bit harder in the time framewe have.  Eventually they will be paid off, because we can successfully say we have not charged on these cards in about 4 years.

Overall, the most important thing I’ve learned during this process is to not live above our means.  We should use our income to pay our living expenses and only get a home loan that we can afford.   I believe this is the biggest piece to the puzzle for us to successfully achieve our goal.

Michelle Mccarty ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then We Saved!

If you would like to be considered as a contributor for Gettin’ Guesty send me an email at: Hello@AndThenWeSaved.com

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in Goals, Guest Interviews, Struggle (Hopeless, Demoralized), Take Action!
Who This Blog Is For
Author: Anna Newell Jones

who the blog and then we saved is for

It’s so great to have new readers. It’s great, amazing, wonderful, awesome, and really… so so good.

Though, I think I should clarify who this blog is truly for. While And Then We Saved started as simply a way to keep myself accountable in my desire to become debt-free it has morphed into something more. This blog has become a way to share hope with people who are in the same place that I was in when I started my Spending Fast – in the depths of the debt. In that overwhelmingly horrible and demoralizing place.

On the Community page those in debt and struggling with getting out of debt have a place to talk about how the process is going for them and receive support along the way. The Community page is a place where those in debt can have that accountability that was so vital for me as I crawled out of my debt (the accountability that this blog provided). The Community page is also a place to share the successes and accomplishments that come along with doing the respective Spending Fast and Spending Diet. Eliminating credit card debt? Hell yeah. No longer being consumed by things? Double Hell Yeah. Getting to do the things you truly want to do in life with out having debt hang over your head?! Yeah! THAT is what it’s about. It’s about turning your life around and seeing that it CAN be done and it’s about knowing that you’re not alone. Not at all.

Doing a Spending Fast or a Spending Diet isn’t a magical lottery ticket. It is hard work. It sucked at times. Some of my relationships really suffered because of it. I wanted to give up. There were a lot of really awkward moments. I messed up. It was hard. Did I already say that? Because it was (and continues to be).

And Then We Saved is a place where I share my experience, strength and hope with getting out of debt, living without all of the time-sucking stuff and it’s about how I’m re-prioritizing my life and getting it back on track so that I can live the life I’m supposed to live and not one possessed by things… like it used to be.

Getting out of debt is about living a life that is autonomous. To be able to have the freedom to make decisions based on your own best interests and not on the best interests of those that you owe money to… because if you owe money to someone they’re going to want a say in how you spend the money that you’re not giving to them.

This blog is a place where others can see what I did to get out of debt. It worked for me so why not share that with others who it might help? The answer is, there is no reason to not share it.

There are tons of people that commit suicide every year because of credit card debt and money problems. Have you seen the documentary movie Maxed Out? Money issues and debt are serious. Knowing there is a way out besides filing for bankruptcy and besides death is a very good thing.

My life has not been a silver-spooned one and it hasn’t been a life of poverty either. I don’t live under a bridge and never have. I know everyone likes a good rags-to-riches story but unfortunately, I don’t have one and wish I did because it’d make this paragraph more exciting. My life has been pretty average. I have a job as a clerk for the state. I have a couple of close friends and I have some acquaintances. Like most people, I try to be a good person. I try to do the best I can at things. I’ve got some good traits and some not good ones. I’ve got some bad childhood memories and sometimes, I eat chocolate for dinner. Sometimes, I fart and hope no one notices. Sometimes, I blame the fart on the person standing next to me. I’m telling ya, I’m not a crazy circus girl here. I tell you this so you can see that while others make more or less money then I do that to get out of debt the Spending Fast can be modified for each person’s different life and varying situation. We all know someone who is loaded and has tons of debt and we know the person who has the 7-11 job and is amazing with their money. Everyone has different stories and different situations but we’re all kind of the same. It seems we all want to try to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

I acquired my debt in my early 20’s like lots of others. I liked shopping and I liked thinking I could afford things I couldn’t. I was in complete denial and was over-spending every month by at least $200 to $300. I was seduced by the thought of keeping things looking nice and perfect and looking like I succeeded even though, I wasn’t there. I wanted to look like I had my life put together so others thought so too. I was judging my insides to others outsides and this is a place that I was at for many years.

On this blog I talk about how I got myself out of my overwhelming $23,605.10 in debt… by eliminating excess spending, finding new ways to make money to get the debt paid off faster, how to do without and make the most of what you have. Just like diet books don’t invent the “eat less, exercise more” model I haven’t invented the “spend less” idea. Through And Then We Saved I try to put the typically stuffy and depressing topics of personal finance and getting-out-of-debt into a light-hearted, relatable and fun format. I try to keep And Then We Saved as true to me as possible because there’s just no reason for stuffiness! (Saving really can be as fun as shopping… unbelievably…)

When the Spending Fast started I literally had no extra money at the end of the month. I thought that I could maybe pay off my credit card debt through the Spending Fast but anything other than that was completely outside of the scope of my expectations. My debt was eliminated by: creating a “Wants and Needs” list, by stopping all “non-need” spending, by doing little things to cut out excess spending, by “Making Do and Mending”, by “doing without”, and by tapping into my skills to come up with additional ways to increase my income.  (My husband did not give me any money and his income didn’t factor into my debt elimination. We have had separate bank accounts until March 2010 and even since then we’ve tried to keep it as separate as possible while still trying out the joint account thing.)

If you have no problems with money, then this may not be the blog for you. Or… maybe it is if you want to help others and share how you do it.

If you already do everything that you’re supposed to do financially, have no debt, are all set for the future financially and have no struggles with life and stuff then maybe this isn’t the blog for you either. Or… then again, maybe it is if you want to share how you do it.

If you’re like the tons of people who have a job, have dreams, have debt, have struggled with money and debt and spending, want a future, want a better future, want to live a life that is not possessed and obsessed by things then this blog is for you.

Life can be better and it can be debt-free and that what this blog is about. It’s for those that want that too. If that’s you, I’m glad you’re here along with me.

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in Goals, Gratitude, Paying Off Debt, Personal, Spending Diet, Spending Fast, Struggle (Hopeless, Demoralized), Take Action!
Clark Howard Clip
Author: Anna Newell Jones

ha! this is a funny freeze frame. aww. cute parents.

So! On Saturday and Sunday I was on the Clark Howard show which is on HLN and HLN is a CNN affiliate. The producers of the show were very sweet and it’s cool to see how they put all the pictures together with the story.

To see the clip click on the above image or click here.

To see my face look wacky/dramatic/blinky look at the below freeze frames from the clip:

funny lookin’

In other news, the hub and I went to lunch with a friend over the weekend. That in and of itself is definitely NOT news. If I ever go out to eat I always try to stretch the meal into 2 meals. Eat half and take the rest home and then eating out and paying the price doesn’t sting as much. Plus, that’s a good technique for keeping the waistline in check too (so I hear…).

SO. On my everlasting quest to save money, spend less and maximize what I’ve got I did something I hadn’t done before. Now, it’s on the verge of tacky but well, okay, I’ll just come out and tell you. I asked our friend if I can have the food that was on a separate plate but was his and it was basically untouched. Basically. I mean, he only took one bite out of it. Then, I took it home and ate it later.

Kind of Totally Tacky, Frugal Warrior or Both? I’m thinking it falls into the BOTH category.

If it was a group of people or someone I think would be weirded out by it I don’t think I would have considered doing that but I didn’t even think twice about it. It was more like that is perfectly good food that is gonna get dumped right into the trash can and well, that’s a meal which means that’s money I don’t have to spend on a meal.

What are your thoughts? Over the line? Or completely epic?

I kid. I kid. Epic, rigghhht. Epic. Plus, that’s a funny word. I mean really, what is epic? The answer is: Oprah. Just Oprah. Not eating someones almost thrown away food. But, it did save me a couple of bucks. And that my friends, is what I’m after.

Buck save-age.

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in Press & Interviews
  • Get the guide

  • Anna

    Hi, I'm Anna! I paid off close to 24k in debt in only 15 months & it completely changed my life! I want you to have a debt-free life too so here you'll be able to read all about: How to do a Spending Fast®, saving & making more money, DIY's, & a lot about living awesomely with less. Also! We're building a Tiny House and we're going to be on Tiny House Nation. Follow along!!

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