3 Ways to Stay Accountable While Paying Off Debt
Amanda is a 20-something architecture graduate and owner of one of the most beautiful blogs I've seen called The Woo District. She blogs about personal finance (specifically debt freedom) as well as design because she is passionate about both areas. Let's learn a bit more about her journey and her recommendations for paying off debt quickly.
Tell me a little about yourself and background.
I graduated architecture school in 2012 with approximately $24,000 in student loans and credit card debt. I remember applying for loans in college and thinking “Oh it’s no big deal, I’ll just pay them off when I get a job.” Looking back, I wish someone would have explained how much loans can affect your life after graduation.
Anyways, I graduated with debt, moved back home and about 6 months later I got a job at a solar company drafting solar panels on roofs and making $10 an hour! I remember looking at my paycheck thinking it was going to take FOREVER to pay off my loans. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t learn my lesson then and 6 months after that, when I landed a job at an architecture firm, I got another loan for a car. I’ve since learned my lesson and no longer borrow money. I’m still working at that architecture firm full-time and blog in my free time. I’ve cut up all my cards and am more conscious of how I spend my money.
What tools have helped you on your journey to pay off debt?
Finding inspiration. After graduating with student loan debt and purchasing a car, my mom introduced me to The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey and I was hooked! I’ve always been into personal finance but didn’t have a financial plan to follow. I used to think being in debt was a good thing because it meant I was increasing my credit score. (insert eye roll here). When I read The Total Money Makeover everything just made sense. I listened to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts every day and found the motivation to get on a debt payoff plan.
Getting on a plan. I created a zero-sum budget which helps me to stay on track with money. Dave Ramsey defines a zero-sum budget as follows.
“The point of a zero-based budget is to make income minus the outgo equal zero. If you cover all your expenses during the month and have $500 left over, you aren’t done with the budget yet. You must tell that 500 bucks where to go. If you don’t, you lose the chance to make it work for you in the areas of getting out of debt, saving for an emergency, investing, paying off the house, or growing wealth. Tell every dollar where to go.”
You can download my zero-sum budget template for free, here.
Becoming accountable. It’s been about 3.5 years since I read the Total Money Makeover and have paid off around $22,000. I got serious and made most of my progress since starting my blog in October 2015. I recommend anyone who is paying off debt to use some type of tool to keep them accountable for staying on this journey. I use a blog to document my journey and it has helped in many ways! For example, each month on my blog, I post a debt payoff report. Here's my latest one for March.
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What's been the hardest part of your journey?
When I first started I thought the hardest part would be not being able to buy clothes as often as I was used to or not owning the latest gadget (I still use an iphone 5s I bought for $100 about 2 years ago). But I’ve realized that as you go through this journey, you stop caring about material things and your goals start to shift. I would say that the hardest part of my journey is wanting to save for retirement and a down payment for a house but not being able to until I’m debt free.
What's been the most surprising thing you've learned?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned is how little I need to be content. I’ve also been surprised to find out how many people don’t budget or have a financial plan. I’ve talked to a few people who don’t think getting out of debt should be a priority and that always having a car payment is normal.
What are some of your goals for the rest of the year?
My main financial goal for 2017 is to become debt free! By the end of the year I hope to have my emergency fund fully funded so that in 2018 I can focus on saving up for a house.
A non-financial goal I have is to produce more content on my blog to help others also become debt free.
Switching gears a little bit, what made you decide to start a personal finance and lifestyle blog? How much of your content is geared toward personal finance and how much toward lifestyle?
I decided to start a personal finance blog after realizing how motivating it was to read other debt-free stories. I want to be that motivation for others and think putting my story out there can help others relate and realize that they can also become debt free.
Currently most of my content is geared towards personal finance but I will be incorporating more lifestyle posts here and there. After being on this debt payoff journey for the past few years, I’ve realized how much it has influenced other aspects of my life and I want to talk about that on my blog too. The majority of my posts will still be about personal finance, I would say 80% personal finance and 20% lifestyle.
Any tips for our readers out there in terms of setting & achieving their goals?
When it comes to setting and achieving goals, I think the most important thing is laying out a clear plan for achieving that goal. For example, when I decided my goal was to pay off my debt, I sat down, added up how much money I made in a month, how much I could put towards debt and calculated when I would become debt free. I then had smaller goals each month that I needed to reach in order to achieve my big goal.
Once you have a plan and know what steps you need to take to get there, you need to find ways to keep yourself motivated because there will always be highs and lows. For me it was listening to the Dave Ramsey podcasts that kept me motivated on this journey.
Be sure to check out Amanda's blog here and follow her on Instagram @thewoodistrict for more motivation! Thanks Amanda, for sharing your journey!
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