This interview is from my friend Latoya from Life and a Budget. She shares her story about how she went from bankruptcy to ruling her money. She gives some great advice on her site and she is 100% real! Check it out!
- Could you tell me a little about yourself? What is your blog URL? Where are you from and do you have a family?
Hey ya’ll! I’m Latoya Scott and I’m a personal finance writer for hire at www.lifeandabudget.com. I reside in the capital of South Carolina and I’m a mother to a darling baby boy who just turned one-years-old in June and a feisty six-year-old daughter. My husband and I have been together 10 years and married for 7 years.
2. Could you tell me a little about your personal finance story? When did you start your financial freedom journey and what made you decide to start on this path?
My personal finance story is interesting, but probably not that uncommon. I come from a financially illiterate family and there wasn’t any money smart conversations in my household growing up. The only positive thing I can remember actually learning about money is when my grandma used to make us count change from her coin purse. I don’t know why she taught us that, but I think she really wanted us to know how to count change and make sure no one short changed us.
All the other lessons I learned I thought were normal growing up. Needed something? Take out a loan. Needed Christmas? JCPenny credit card. Needed a violin in the 5th grade? Granny will rent you one from the music shop because your mama can’t do it under her name. Those were my money lessons. No one owned property or homes. No one purchased cars in cash and the only person in my family who went to college was my mother’s sister and she graduated with student loan debt.
Needless to say, by time I graduated high school, I thought debt was a means to an end. I thought it was just something people did to get what they wanted. I wanted to go to school and my family didn’t have savings for me. I received a state lottery scholarship to cover my tuition each year, but I was on the hook for everything else. Books, food, residence — I took out loans for it all!
By time I turned 24, I was $30,000 in student loan debt and had a significant chunk of consumer debt. I ended up filing bankruptcy. Again, I’d seen others do it, so I figured it was a way to get myself out of the mess I was in. I didn’t truly see a reason to get my finances in order until I met my husband.
Here he comes with his non-credit score self and he was graduating community college debt free. He had a car that he never made a car payment on and he was so responsible with his money— honestly, I was a little jealous. He was a saver, I was a spender. However, whatever he lacked, I was usually able to fill in the gaps. He had no experience paying bills, I knew exactly what bills were and what happened when you didn’t pay them. So basically, our different backgrounds came together and complemented one another.
I was able to help him where he was weak and he helped me in areas where he was stronger. I taught him about managing bills and he helped me break my bad spending habits. Once we had our daughter, I knew I didn’t want her growing up with the same money background as me. I was financially illiterate and I wanted my kids to soar not only academically as I had, but financially as well. I wanted them to be more like their dad in a sense. This is what motivated me to pursue financial independence.
3. How has your attitude changed since you started following a budget? Have you had to sacrifice a lot or do you feel that giving up certain things isn’t that big of a deal?
My entire mindset has changed about money and it had to for me to be where I’m at today. I used to think there would never be enough for me. I was always quick to tell folks I was broke. Now I don’t let those words leave my lips because it’s simply not true. I’m not broke in any sense, I simply choose to spend my money different. Just because I want to spend differently doesn’t mean I’m lacking anything.
As far as my budget goes, I’m a lazy budgeter. I’m not the one who wants to sit and look at a spreadsheet every week and I promise you, I’ve tried my darndest to track my expenses, but I give up after a few days.
I budget this way — stuff that has to be paid (non- variable expenses) goes into one account. This includes savings. My savings are non-negotiable expenses so I treat them as bills. The rest goes into another account for spending. As long as my savings is growing, debt is decreasing, and my children aren’t starving…I’m doing alright.
4. What helps keep you motivated to following a budget?
What keeps me motivated to following a budget is knowing my bankruptcy papers are sitting in a file cabinet. Even though it’s almost been ten years since I’ve filed and my credit score has bounced back into the high 700’s, I know that frivolous spending can send me back down a road that I don’t want to travel again.
I’m still in debt with my student loans, mortgage, and daggone car payment, but there’s a big difference. I can afford to save, interest rates are MUCH lower than when I was younger, and I have a debt repayment plan to help me get out of debt. I don’t want to see another bankruptcy judge. That’s motivation enough for me.
5. What is the biggest benefit that you have noticed since starting and following a budget? Why would you encourage others to follow a budget?
The biggest benefit of following a budget is knowing that I’m covered. Before I got married, I used to always wonder if I would have enough to pay the power bill. I used to wonder if this was the month my cable and internet would be cut off. I used to wonder how I was going to pay back this credit card or that credit card. All I did was worry about money. It was never ending and it was depressing.
Now that I follow a budget, I know how much I can spend on certain things. I know how much things typically cost so I can save for them. I never worry about my bills being paid on time and in full because I’ve been working on getting a month ahead of my spending.
When the first of the month comes, I’m not stressing because there isn’t enough in my account for the mortgage. There’s enough in our main account at the first of the month to cover an entire month’s worth of expenses! It’s seriously the best feeling ever. Until you’ve walked in shoes where you worry about money non-stop, you will never understand how good it feels to be on top of your expenses.
6. What are 3 big tips you would give to others who are just starting their journey to debt freedom?
My 3 big tips are as follows:
- Worry less and act more. Once I started acting on things and working towards how I wanted things to be, I was stuck. Just stop worrying and be willing to do the work.
- Find a circle of likeminded friends. If it weren’t for my husband and for my college friends modeling good money habits, I’d probably still be doing the same things.
- Don’t depend on your 9 to 5 to get ahead. Find something you’re good at and make extra money to build up your savings.
7. I find that reading motivational books helps me stay motivated. Are there any books that helped you along the way?
I’ll always recommend The Wealth Cure: Putting Money In It’s Place by Hill Harper.
8. Were there any big struggles you have faced along the way or was there ever a time when you felt like giving up? What kept you going?
I remember getting into an altercation with a bill collector on a job I hated. I remember it was like the worst day ever. I spent 8 hours a day on the phone trying to provide technical support for angry customers. I was fresh out of college and I just wanted a job to be able to stay in the same city (where I went to college) because of my boyfriend (now husband). I was in love and I was determined to make it on my own even though I couldn’t find a job in my field after graduating.
I was on the phone with a bill collector from a bank. They were calling me non-stop and I finally had the opportunity to answer their call during a work break. They were mad because I closed out a savings account that had 30 cents in it and the money was transferred towards the balance owed on my $3,000 credit card bill. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate the 30 cent payment and wanted the rest of what was owed.
I didn’t have money for minimum payments. I was making $9.00 an hour and my rent took the majority of one paycheck. With the other paycheck in the month I had to pay my car note, power bill, and buy groceries. This didn’t include the gas it took me to get to work and church, or tithing money. My mom was paying my car insurance and my cell phone bill.
That night after I got home from that job from hell, I blacked out and woke up on the floor. I was stressed and it made me sick. When I woke up and realized what happened, I could have thrown in the towel right there. Afterall, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment which wasn’t furnished at the time (I was sleeping on an air mattress). I was simply tired of being tired. Instead of giving up and succumbing to my current situation, I kept looking for a better job and eventually ended up with the company I’m still employed with. A couple of months after that happened was when I made the tough decision to file bankruptcy. It wasn’t an easy decision or process; however, after all was said and done, I was tired of making financial mistakes and chose to start being more responsible with money.
9. I know you talk a lot about ways to make money or “side hustling” on your blog and I have to say that is one of my favorite parts about your blog. Could you explain a little more about that and what you do for your side hustles?
I didn’t start side-hustling until after my daughter was born. Honestly, the thought never occurred to me throughout college! If it did, I’d be in a different place right now:)
In 2011 I was really into blogging. I ran a now defunct diy/lifestyle blog called The Scott’s Crib. We had just purchased a home so I was really interested in ways to save money, decorate my home for cheap, and increasing my bottom line. I started taking surveys as a way to afford little things we needed around the house and started doing graphic design work on the side.
After taking a long break starting in 2013, I picked back up last year and decided I wanted to do what I really loved — writing. Currently, I have 2 to 3 clients each month that I provide content for and I offer blog commenting services. In addition to my freelancing income, I’m focusing on ways to build blogging income for the long-term as a form of passive income. I’m using all of my side hustle earnings to pay off my debt.
10. How did friends and family react when you decided to start a budget?
Ha! A few of my family members call my husband and I the Joneses. I laugh everytime I hear it because little do they know, they are the Joneses. My family knows where I stand when it comes to excessive spending and saving. They know it doesn’t phase me so they don’t even offer an opinion on the subject. As far as friends go, I’ve always looked up to them because of their financial savvy, so their responses have been positive.
(Becky: Thanks to Latoya for sharing her inspiring story with me. I love hearing her story and how she follows a “lazy budget.” Simple techniques are sometimes the best. Thanks again Latoya!)
Learn to budget like a ROCKSTAR!
Learn how to set up a budget that rocks, stay motivated, reduce your monthly expenses, and leverage your money like a boss! You will learn how to master and create the life you want. There is no need to be stressed about money! Sign up today!