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$13k Of Debt Paid Off Making $23k!

Pretty much everyone knows that paying off debt is not an easy task. It takes conviction, a strong "why", a plan, a budget and LOTS of encouragement. And as a coach, I've seen that one of the best ways for our students to stay motivated is to hear other people's stories, listen to their struggles and live vicariously through their wins.

This is the whole reason I started this "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series. I wanted to curate a reservoir of personal stories that will help you "find your own story" and keep marching forward toward your personal finance goals and ultimately to debt-freedom and beyond. 

Along those lines, if you have a "debt-free" or "on-my-way-to debt-free" story, I'd love to share yours with our audience. It's always such a gift to our subscribers and fans to hear your particular story AND will help you, especially if you have a a blog/platform/YouTube channel you want to promote (although that's not at all necessary).

Next up in our "Journey To Debt-Freedom" series, meet Jason Brown!

 

Introduce yourself, Jason.

My name is Jason Brown. I live in Roswell, GA. I have a wife of 10 years, and two boys, Maddux 5, and Kameron 1. My day job that pays the bills is with a transportation consulting firm called HNTB where I work as a technical writer/editor.

I have a bachelor's in media communications and recently went back to school to earn my master's in professional writing - both debt free! and both from Kennesaw State University. I

have also published two money-related books in the past two years -

1) Margin Matters: How to Live on a Simple Budget & Crush Debt Forever; and

2) IT IS POSSIBLE!: How I Earned Two Debt-Free Degrees and How You Can, Too.

 

Give me a little bit of background about your financial situation and your decision to "tackle it". Tell me about how much debt you've paid off so far and in how much time. What is your debt made up of?

Our current financial situation is that we are completely debt free except for our mortgage. We own a condo and it will be paid off in 2027 - I think we have about $40,000 left.

We don't use credit cards -- it's probably been 20+ years since I last used one. In Jan. 2020 our second child was born and we transitioned to a one-income household with my wife being a full-time, stay-at-home mom.

Last year (2020) was the first year I was able to fully max out my retirement funding through my employer - I invest in a company-owned stock plan as well as a 401(k). I am on target to max out again this year.

I am way behind in retirement savings and that is a goal I'm working to improve. I actually have TWO debt-free stories: 1) When I was single and in my mid-20s, I found myself in $13,500 of credit card debt while making just $23,800 a year at my full-time job.

I spent the next 13 months radically changing my life in order to pay off that debt and never use a credit card again! 2) about 10 years later I met my wife and when we got married she had $60,000+ of debt with most of that being student loans -- she also had a car loan, and various store credit card balances like Target, etc.

For the first two years of our marriage we made tremendous sacrifices to pay off all her debt with a combined income of $60,000 (we each made around $30K a year at the time).

 

Looking for a way to get started on your own debt-free journey? Check out my: 

 “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through this 30 day challenge.

 

 

What was "the moment" you decided, "enough is enough" and what actions did you take or resources did you use to get the process started?

It was at some point in my mid-20s when I woke up one morning and thought "I'm not doing life right."

At the time I was simply swiping the credit card for everything I purchased and before I knew it - BOOM! - $13,500 of debt while making very little money ($23k a year, first job out of college).

I self-educated and went to the bookstore and bought several books including Dave Ramsey's books, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and Clark Howard's books among others. I also discovered Ramsey and Howard's radio shows and listened religiously.

Speaking of religion, my pastor, Andy Stanley also did an impactful money series called "Balanced" that was helpful. I learned how to write a budget and start tracking all my expenses -- did on this with paper and pen! Later got into spreadsheets and stuff.

I started figuring out what expenses I could cut and how I could earn extra income. I rented out a spare room in my condo, etc., to earn extra money. Down the road I used Quicken and now I use Mint to track everything.

Now, several years later, I'm just a personal finance junkie but still feel there is SO much more to learn!

 

Looking for a ways to live more frugally and address your debt? Check out my: 100 Frugal Ways To Save Money And Get Out Of Debt.

 

What was your "why"? What kept you going when you wanted to quit? How did you stay motivated?

This is my WHY - Proverbs 22:7 - “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender.” This is what my first book is based on!

This is perhaps the most impactful Bible verse I've read. My why is that I HATE debt and refuse to become in bondage and a slave to it. Because when you are in debt you are a slave to everything -- the lender, your job, etc., and your options and opportunities in life become very limited.

Hating debt was and is always my motivation. I will do anything to avoid debt. I don't ever remember wanting to quit but there were plenty of days of frustration after I had cut every expense I could possibly cut and I still didn't seem to have enough extra money to throw at the debt.

 

Describe your "belief system" about money and (if/how) has it changed? Maybe even talk about how you were brought up to think about money and how that changed as you progressed through the process.

Because I was stuck in very low paying jobs for nearly two decades (from working in the sports industry), I always thought, "If I only earned more money...I could....get out of debt, buy a house, take a vacation, travel, etc...."

This was completely false logic and I came to that realization by listening to callers on Dave Ramsey's show that the more money people make, the more debt they are in. EX: "I make $150,000 a year and I have $300,000 of consumer debt."

Then Dave would scream and call that person "stupid." The person's debt always seemed to be double whatever their salary was! The realization made me believe that "It's not the amount of money you make, but the margin that matters the most." - which is the mantra of my book Margin Matters.

Basically, if you can't manage $20,000 a year, you sure as hell can't manage $100,000 a year. In fact, the more money you have the more trouble you will create (think there's a song about that "Mo money, Mo problems") -- unless you have learned financial literacy. I grew up in south Miami, Florida, very poor.

My parents never really taught me anything about money but I learned a tremendous amount by watching their actions with money -- EX: they were very frugal and never spent frivolously, never went out and bought large ticket items (like a car) on a whim, etc., and we certainly never went out to eat at restaurants or took vacations.

Occasionally getting a McDonald's cheeseburger through the drive-thru was a huge treat! My view toward money today is that the onus is upon the individual to educate themselves on financial literacy because this is a topic that certainly isn't taught in the majority of schools in our nation. But why is that?

Perhaps it's because debt is BIG business in our country and keeping people in debt is a form of bondage and slavery which results in the individual drowning in debt being more easily controlled.

 

What have been the biggest/toughest sacrifices you've made in your personal finance/debt-elimination process?

Good question! The biggest sacrifice we made was having to say "no" to everything like - dinner, event, traveling, and vacation, invitations from friends and families -- and as a result becoming more disconnected with those people and worrying that they would just stop inviting us to things all together - because they didn't understand why we were so laser focused on getting our finances in order. "Sorry, we can't go out to eat tonight and drop $100 for one meal because that would equal our entire week's worth of groceries, etc."

When my wife and I were trying to pay off her $60K of student loan debt, we did everything we could think off to earn extra money and some of it definitely did NOT fit under the bucket of "working smarter, not harder."

We tried to hold several yard sales, and while yard sales are not "crazy" what was frustrating was that every time we tried to do one it got rained out. We put so much time, energy, and effort to promote and advertise the sale then rain washed it out. Definitely was not worth our effort.

The craziest thing we did was collect aluminum cans to recycle for money. My wife drinks Diet Coke out of the cans so I thought - "why not start saving all these cans and take them to the recycling center?!"

The next thing I know we are rummaging through the recycling area at our dumpster pulling out all the cans. At one point while we were visiting my family in Florida, we went to all the local beaches with large trash bags and picked up all the cans people left in the sand. I'm embarrassed to know how many hours we poured into these efforts but at the end we only earned about $120 doing this -- but it got it $120 closer to debt freedom! Of course I cut out cable because I was paying $120 a month for 300 channels I never watched. I also cut my landline ($50 a month) because the only calls I was getting on that were spam and robocalls. Also got on a family cell phone plan.

Cut that bill from around $100 a month down to $35. Besides yard sales and scavenging for aluminum cans to earn extra money we also: babysat and housesat, did marketing research and focus groups (taste test studies), manual labor jobs such as helping people move, washing and detailing cars, selling stuff online on sites such as eBay and Craigslist.

I also flipped major sporting event tickets for big money online such as the Final Four, etc.

 

Describe how it feels to be "on your way" to debt-freedom. 

We are almost 100% debt free -- only have about 5 years left of a mortgage to pay off! To get to this point has been a tremendous burden lifted off our shoulders and has provided us with more options and opportunities in life.

For example, it's allowed us to transition to a one-income household so my wife can stay home with the kids.

Money, specifically debt, causes considerable stress and anxiety in people's lives.

Being on the path to debt freedom has provided clarity, comfort, and peace in knowing that we are living our lives the way they were meant to live! It feels liberating!

 

This “$1000 In 30 Days Challenge and Resource Pack” is designed to help you find, cut and/or earn $1000 inside of 30 days so that you can: pay off debt with it, save it or invest it.

Here's the free downloadable/printable PDF.

 

What are some pieces of advice you would give to someone who's ready to get serious about tackling their finances?

1) Start with tracking all your expenses and income (focusing on the expenses) - don't worry about fancy apps or software yet, get a piece of paper and pen and start writing it all down. Create a spending journal! You have to know where it's going (inflow and outflow) or else you'll never get control of your money.

2) After tracking all your expenses -- know you need to review them to determine what you can cut. You'd be surprised at how much you can live without!

3) Now it's time to review your income and decide if you need to look for additional opportunities to increase your earnings!

4) Review your debts and put them in order of highest interest rates to lowest. I would consider trying to eliminate the debts with the highest interest rates first!

 

If there's anything else you'd like to include, please don't hesitate to share that.

I'm at the point where I'm trying to learn about investments - retirement, and other passive income streams. There is still a lot to learn for me but this is the area that I'm currently focusing on. I don't have any rental homes or anything like that...

 

Where can we find you (website, social media, etc.)?

www.yourmarginmatters.com

 

Call To Action

Now that you've heard Jason's story, maybe you're ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to start your own "journey to debt freedom". And, if you’ve hung out on this platform for any length of time, you’ll know I’m all about helping you to take action. And here are two very easy next steps to keep you moving in the right direction:

  1. Download our free PDF guide that goes along with this series: “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This has a very comprehensive and dedicated video on establishing your “why”.
  2. Head over to YouTube and start with the “Day 0” video. You can totally binge-watch the whole series if you want. That “first pass” will give you an idea of where you are and what it’s going to take for you to get to the next level with your own personal situation. And again, starting with your “why” is the absolute most important step.

I want for you to capitalize on any and all emotional momentum you’ve gotten from this piece of content by committing two just getting started by completing those two actions I mentioned above. If you’ve done that, congratulations, you’ve started! Now just follow the breadcrumbs and please let me know what’s helpful and what you might need more detail around.

 

Struggling Or Feeling Alone?

Join Our Private FB Group: Zero Debt Tribe

Now, if this decision process is something you struggle with and you constantly feel isolated about, I’ve got some great news for you and it’s free.

Our private Facebook group, ZeroDebtTribe. It’s a group of like minded people that are all somewhere along this P2P/debt-elimination/on their way to FI continuum. So click the image above and apply to join us. :)

 

Call To Action 

So, we’re all about taking action around here, so I wanted to offer you this free little resource that will help you get your finances organized an on track in less than 4 hours. It’s called our “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide” and the link is in the video description below.

Looking for a way to get started on your own debt-free journey? Check out my: 

 “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through this 30 day challenge.

 

  

How can ZeroDebtCoach help you? 4 ways...

 

1. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and click the notifications bell to make sure you get our new videos every week. 

 

2. Download one of our free personal finance guides. You’ll learn some of the exact strategies I teach my private coaching students on how to organize and optimize their finances, obliterate debt and move on to financial independence by starting and growing online businesses.

 

3. If you’re looking for a community of motivated and like-minded people, go ahead and get on the waitlist to join our private financial coaching community. We only open it for new students a couple of times a year, so make sure to get on the waitlist.

 

 

5. If you need some help right now because you’ve got a burning issue, you need a problem solved, you want to talk through a complex situation, click on the button below.

 

 

All that said, let's keep on building your financial acumen and make this your best year yet!

Thanks so much for reading and we’ll see you in the next video post!

 

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