This interview is with Jessi Fearon who blogs over at thebudgetmama.com. She is an awesome person with a heart for God and helping people manage their money. She has great tips on how to live well and live frugally. Check out her awesome interview!
Financial Words of Wisdom from Jessi Fearon
- 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?
I’m Jessi Fearon from thebudgetmama.com, where I share my family’s real life on a budget in all its gory details. My family of five lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Northern Georgia along with our crazy Bluetick Coonhound, named Blue.
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?
Well, my story starts when I was 21 years old and dead broke. I had an eviction notice on my door and over $11,000 of credit card debt (not including the fancy brand new car I had). I was drowning in debt and struggling to take control over my financial life.
Thankfully, I had a mama that raised me knowing how to create a budget and that very first budget that I created all on my own without my mom’s help is what saved me.
However, my mindset about debt hadn’t changed yet. I still believed in using debt – just a little more responsibly than I had in my early adult life. And that failure to change my mindset resulted in my husband and I having just over $50,000 of debt (not including the mortgage). Once we were expecting our second child, I knew that there was no way we were going to stop living in the endless paycheck to paycheck cycle if we didn’t get out of debt.
So in March of 2013, we decided to kill off the debt monster and haven’t looked back since. We paid off that $50,000 in just over two years and now are currently working on paying off our home so we can achieve our dream of owning our homestead 100% debt-free.
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 attitude has definitely changed! I went from thinking that a budget was something that only poor folks do…despite being raised by a mom that always has a budget.
We definitely had to sacrifice – everything from getting rid of cable (seriously, you don’t need it to survive) to getting rid of my fully-loaded Tahoe in exchange for a not-as-awesome (and older) Sequoia.
At the time sacrificing was hard. Especially getting rid of my Tahoe because unfortunately, I’ve been the poster child for the American belief of “you are what you drive”. So going from a really nice SUV (built-in navigation, heated seats, DVD player, you name it, it had it) to an older SUV that didn’t have the bells and whistles was super hard for me
4. What helps keep you motivated to following a budget?
Having set goals in place is what keeps us motivated to following a budget. By knowing where we want our money to take us, figuring out the budget and knowing the importance behind managing our money well becomes clearer and makes saying “no” to things easier.
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 is freedom. I know that sounds strange, especially since we tend to think of a budget as something that is restrictive, but yes, the biggest benefit of a budget is freedom. It’s freedom from staying up at night worrying over money. It’s freedom from wondering how you’ll pay for this or that. It’s freedom from feeling out of control with your money.
That’s why I want to encourage others to follow a budget – so they can realize this freedom for themselves and most importantly for their families.
6. What are 3 big tips you would give to others who are just starting their journey to debt freedom?
1- Develop financial goals – This will allow you to know where you want your money to take you and help you keep your “eye on the prize” during your debt-free journey.
2- Start small – Avoid burning out during this journey by starting with the smallest, most manageable debt first and work towards paying it off. Once you’ve got that one paid off, work towards the next smallest debt and continue on from there.
3- Avoid debt at all costs – Whatever you do, stop taking on more debt. Avoid debt at all costs by not being afraid to say “no” to that store charge card offer.
7. I find that reading motivational books helps me stay motivated. Are there any books that helped you along the way?
Yes! My favorite is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, but I’ve also really enjoyed Financially Fearless by Alexa von Tobel and The One Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards.
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?
Oh goodness yes! I mean, sometimes you just want to go sit on beach and drink chilled fruity drinks listening to the sounds of crashing waves, but that wasn’t a reality for us as we were working our way through our debt. And that was hard.
It was hard not being able to go on a much-needed, well-deserved vacation. It caused arguments between my husband and I, and it took a toll on me whenever I’d see friends and family on Facebook “checking in” to their amazing beach front resort.
It was hard to keep going and to avoid opening up a credit card in order to just go on vacation. The only thing that kept us from doing that – from giving in to our jealousy and discontentment – was the fact that we knew our main financial goal was to one day be able to live debt-free on our homestead so my husband could leave the rat-race.
That was worth more than a “borrowed” vacation to temporarily relieve our unhappiness.
9. I love your blog and all of the practical tips you give others to make money and budget. What are some tips you could give others (that are easy) to start either making money or saving money?
I’m a huge fan of setting goals. I truly believe that whenever you write down a goal, something magical happens and it starts becoming more and more real.
So, my biggest tip, is to start off by saving up an Emergency Fund. An emergency fund should contain, 3-6 months worth of expenses. I know that sounds daunting, especially because that number is more than likely over $10,000, but it’s totally doable if you start small.
Start with the goal of saving a $1,000 in 90 days and hustle to make it happen. Once you reach that goal, make a new goal of $3,000 in 90 days and keep going until you reach your ultimate goal.
In order to generate more money, apply the goal-setting system to how much money you want to earn. For example, back when I was 21 and trying to get some “breathing” room in my budget, I decided to take a part-time job waitressing (in addition to my full class load and working a full-time job), in order to pay off a $450 credit card bill.
My goal was simple, work that waitressing job until I had earned enough to pay off the $450 credit card. Once I had paid it off, I could quit the waitressing job.
Create a goal based on how much money you want to earn and keep the end in mind while hustling.
10. What has been the best part of your financial journey?
This financial journey has brought my husband and I closer together more than I could have ever imagined. It’s forced us to work together and to plan out our future in a very practical way in order for us to make it a reality.
(Becky-I love Jessi’s answers! I have found in our marriage that working toward debt freedom has also helped us work toward a common goal and helped our marriage. )
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