This interview is from Brian at Debt Discipline. Brian is personal finance blogger who is taking life by the horns (I know an old term). He significantly changed he and his family’s financial future and he is helping others in the process. I love what he says about what keeps him motivated to stick to a budget! Check out his answers to these questions.
Could you tell me a little about yourself? What is your blog URL? Where are you from and do you have a family/are you married?
My name is Brian and I blog over at debtdiscipline.com. I’m happily married to my wonderful wife Lynn. We have three teenage children, boy and girl twins and a son. The family and I live in Long Island, New York.
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?
While attempting to plan a summer vacation in 2010, I realized that we had no cash and we were close to the credit limits on our five credit cards. I attempted to increase the credit lines on each of the credit cards to finance that vacation, but was unable to. The was the rock-bottom moment that I knew we needed to make a change with our money. It was disappointing to have to tell the family we would not be taking a vacation that year, but it was necessary. I began to seek out information on personal finance. I figure there had to be a “get out of debt quick” plan that I could find, but I only found common sense advice like “spend less than you make” “have a plan for you money” and a guy name Dave Ramsey. I read his book “The Total Money Makeover” over a weekend, a book I checked out from my local library because I didn’t have the money to buy a copy. I presented the principles to my wife and we got started. In the end we were in $109,000 worth of consumer debt and were living paycheck to paycheck, all while making a six figure income.
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?
Yes, someone asked me that question recently in regards to our spending habits, and we spend intentionally today, because we have a plan for our money in a form of a budget. We used to just spend on whatever felt right or on impulse without understanding the long term consequences. We had to sacrifice more while we were paying off our credit card debt. We cut expenses from our budget, things I like to call luxury items. It really hurt during the first couple of months, but once we got use to our new habits we didn’t miss those things anymore.
What helps keep you motivated to following a budget?
We never want to go back into debt. I don’t want to have the stress, disagreements and general uneasiness that having debt hanging over your head can cause. We also want to be good role models for our three children. We are teaching them as much as possible about personal finance. They are involved in our budget discussion. As they begin their financial lives we want them to get started better than we did. That in itself is super motivating.
What is the biggest benefit that you have noticed since starting and following a budget? Why would you encourage others to follow a budget?
Our level of happiness, and reduced stress in our lives. If and emergency occurs we don’t panic. A car breaking down, house repairs, etc is not a big stressful event because we can handle it. I lost my job in 2015, after working for a company for twenty plus years, and sure it was upsetting to be let go, but because we had a plan in place for our money and emergency fund saved, it was just a small bump in the road.
What are 3 big tips you would give to others who are just starting their journey to debt freedom?
Define a “Why”, get organized and communicate. A big part of getting your money together is the mental piece of it. You need to have a reason why you are doing it. For use we wanted to stop living paycheck to paycheck, reduce stress, provide better for our children. Everyones “Why” is going to be different, but you need to have a goal to be working towards. Get organized., build that budget use a paper and pencil, excel, an app, or software. You need to find what work best for you. They call it PERSONAL finance for a reason. None of this works unless you communicate it with your spouse and family. My wife and I have a better relationship now because we have ornagaized our money.
I find that reading motivational books helps me stay motivated. Are there any books that helped you along the way?
I agree, I read about a book a month these days. My two favorite books are the Millionaire Next Door and The Total Money Makeover.
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?
There were plenty of ups and downs along the way. During our debt repayment my wife was in a car accident and was out of work for one year. She is fine today, but our concern was her health. This event slowed our repayment a bit, but we continued to focus on the end goal. We knew once we got there we would have a surplus of money each month to begin to build wealth.
I love your blog and all of the practical tips you give others regarding money. What are some tips you could give others (that are easy) to start either making money or saving money?
The easiest way to save money is to look at your spending habits. I like to advise people to save receipts for a month or two to see if there are any leaks within their budget that they can correct. We found we were spending money on convenience too often. Ever heard of e-bay or craigslist? We sold a bunch of used stuff that was sitting around our house to bring in extra cash right away. Beyond that, is overtime available at work, have you asked for a raise, or pick up a part-time job. The key to keep in mind is that extra work like this will not be forever. It will be for a period time until you reach your goal.
What has been the best part of your financial journey?
Helping others. I started my blog about two years into our debt repayment. I wanted a way to help stay accountable to myself and family. I also wanted to share our story because I’m sure others were facing the similar situation as us. I have coached a number of family and friends and have seen their success. I have help complete strangers via my blog. It is wonderful to be able to help others, because I know what a big help getting our financial act together has meant to our family. I’m currently working with local school districts in my areas to promote financial literacy at the high school level. I believe it’s so important to teach this topic to students just as they begin handling money for the first time. I am also speaking at a number of local libraries in my area sharing our debt journey and best tips to get out of debt yourself. It has been a great experience so far.
Thank you so much Brian! I love how Brian is using what he learned in regards to personal finance and now going out in his community and really making a difference. Your life is all up to you and you can make a difference in the areas you excel. Brian used something that was once very stressful for him and his now helping others through his blog and in his community! Gah! I love it.
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