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How Megan Is Paying Off $67,000 (Part 1)

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -  Antoine De Saint Exupery

“Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you’ve got.” - Jim Rohn

 

Pretty much everyone and their grandma 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 Megan Jacobs!

This interview was particularly exciting because 1) Megan really took a leap of faith in agreeing to do this interview as she wasn't feeling qualified having recently started the process AND 2) we uncovered that this will be our first "where are they now" videos as we'll be checking in with her about every 3 months to see where she is.

So, join me in welcoming Megan!

 

Introduce yourself, Megan.

My name is Megan Jacobs and I live in Oakland, CA. I'm currently splitting my time between working remotely for an MFA program and working on building my blog.

 

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?

I had nearly $67,000 in debt. About $55,000 of that is student loans, $8,600 of that is credit card debt, and about $3,000 of that is for other bills.

I'm still very much in the process of paying that debt off, and as of now have paid down about $7,000. So, still have a long way to go. I just recently became more serious about tackling the debt (just in the last six months or so), in part because of how things have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

I haven't been spending as much money as I usually do because I'm not going out and doing things as much, but also a huge part of that for me is travel. I usually go somewhere for at least a month in the summers, which didn't happen this year. So saving some money made me finally feel like I could begin to tackle some of my debt instead of ignoring it, and I felt like this shelter in place time is actually the perfect time to take advantage of the situation and buckle down about it.

Also, the fact that student loan payments have been put on hold for everyone made me feel like not having to worry about those makes my debt feel a lot more manageable if I can just focus on credit card debt for a while. I have just gotten tired of having money cause me so much stress, and I guess I just realized that I'm never going to get out from under that feeling if I still have debt sitting on top of me.

I have felt like the process has felt too daunting, and the situation with coronavirus has given me the little push I needed to really get serious.

 

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?

Honestly reading your blog posts helped me a lot! The way you've laid out the steps helped to make it feel a lot more doable. I'm a huge list person and am very highly motivated by checking things off a list, so that helps a lot.

It seems that tackling debt has so much to do with psychology and your mindset. It's hard to pinpoint an exact moment, but I think I just have been ignoring my student debt because it feels too big to handle, and hoping that in the next few years I'll figure out how to handle it.

Well, I've realized that those "next few years" have come and gone, and I'm in the same or even a worse situation because I still haven't had a plan to tackle the debt and I've incurred interest in the meantime. So a big part of the change for me is just recognizing that time keeps going on and that I'm going to have to take more definitive action for things to change.

I also opened a credit card and used it to pay for car repairs, and the card had a promotional period of 6 months without interest, so I made a plan to have the full balance paid off before the promotional period ended. That helped me so much just to get started and get used to making sizable payments regularly and in a set time frame. I paid it off in time, and have kept the habit going with my other credit cards.

Also, I've been thinking recently about wanting to buy a home in the next few years, and I don't want to do that until I have all my existing debt paid off. That's a huge motivator for me to be more strict with my spending because I have a prize to dangle in front of myself.

 

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?

A big motivator for me is thinking about wanting to be able to buy a house and have that mortgage payment be my only debt (and hopefully pay that off as well, ASAP!).

Another thing that keeps me motivated is thinking about how it will feel when I can take all the money I'm paying toward my debts now and just depositing that into my savings account.

I can't wait to watch that pile of money grow when I don't have to allocate my dollars to my debt payments, and the peace of mind that savings will provide for me.

 

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.

I think the message I have carried with me about money is that it is a constant source of stress in life. I am working on changing my beliefs and instead trying to think about how money can work for me, not against me.

But to be honest it's hard to do that when I still have so far to go in my debt elimination journey. For now, I just use that as a motivating vision, knowing that one day money WILL be a thing that works for me and is not a major stressor in my life.

 

Do you "get down" with Pinterest? Would consider pinning this image to your favorite board?

 

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

I've picked up all kinds of side jobs to help fuel my progress. I've done pet sitting and dog walking, handy work, sold my blood cells and bone marrow, helped people move, sold clothes, and generally made myself available for all kinds of odd jobs.

As I've said, I feel that a financial journey like this is so much a psychological journey as well, and I like to play little games with myself. For example, one thing I really like to do is choose one thing, like, say, a latte, and decide to try my best to stop spending money on that thing. Then every time I think about going to buy a latte and I choose not to, I put the $5 I would've spent on that thing in a jar or envelope, and continue in that fashion for a week, a month, etc.

So if I think about buying a latte 4 times in a week and resist the temptation, I'll tuck away that $20 dollars and instead pay it toward my debts. It's a great way to turn the triumph of your resistance into something tangible, and it's super motivating to literally see the money be redirected.

Since I've gotten more serious about paying off debt, I've gotten into the habit before purchasing anything to ask myself "Would I rather spend $40 on this thing, or forego the thing and use it to get $40 closer to eliminating my debts?"

Obviously sometimes I still buy the thing, but it helps a lot to make explicit the choice I'm making, because the reality is, whether I think about it or not when I'm spending money, that IS the choice that I'm making.

 

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

I'm still very much on my way there. I still have about $60,000 to pay down, which is a lot! But it's very motivating to imagine how it will feel.

I think for me right now the most important thing to do to keep from getting discouraged is to break that $60K into small chunks. As I said, since federal student loan payments have been paused due to covid, I've been able to just focus on my credit card debt.

My goal is to have those paid off by the time the student loan payments resume. But even those I've dissected into all the individual loans in my whole package, because paying off a couple thousand dollar loan and then repeating that several times feels a lot easier than thinking about the loans as one $60,000 monster.

 

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. Break it up into small chunks if you have a ton of debt, and then focus on one chunk at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

2. Find a prize or goal, like thinking of buying a house, that will ALWAYS excite you to work hard at this!

3. Use trial and error to come up with ways that make it easier for you. If you know you love to check things off a list, make some lists. If you think my jar trick might work for you, try it. But try to find tactics that your brain responds well to and keep doing the ones that work.

4. Ask yourself each time you make a purchase "Would I rather have this thing? Or would I rather be that much closer to paying off my debts?"

I want to mention that sometimes there are mental blocks that need to be overcome. My best example of this is that I have of course heard everybody and their mother talk about the importance of having a budget if you really want to get a handle on your finances, but I haven't had one until last month!

I was motivated to actually try it when I agreed to do this interview because I realized that for some reason I had a belief that that advice didn't apply to me, and that I could get away with not needing a budget.

But I realized how flawed that kind of thinking is. I'm not special! Why would I think I was exempt from needing to do something that works for everyone else? It wasn't even that conscious of a thought until now. It would just be an unconscious sort of "Oh, budgeting, yeah, I'll just skip over that part. What ELSE can I do to get my finances under control?"

But really I think I just didn't want to do it because it's tedious and I also was afraid to take a full look at my financial picture. And at some point I just realized how silly that was. People do it because it works.

So I just want to encourage people out there to start paying attention to moments like that when you feel unwilling to do something or you write something off and try to uncover WHY you are doing that. And then to be kind to yourself about it :)

 

Where can we find you, Megan?

www.cultivatehappinessnow.com

www.pinterest.com/cultivatehappinessnow

www.facebook.com/CultivateHappinessNow

www.instagram.com/cultivatehappinessnow

 

Call To Action

Now that you've heard Megan'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.

 

What To Do After That

After you complete the "quick start", maybe you'll be ready to take a closer look at a "framework" to start your own "journey to debt freedom". So, I want to offer you another completely free resource that will help you map out your money with even more confidence.

Ready to get total control over your money? Introducing My FREE 8 Steps To Erase Debt Guide

These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years

Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.

  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!

I’ve created a simple, easy to follow “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever. 

 

Here are some additional options to help you accomplish your personal finance goals:

  1. Check out our YouTube Channel for "how to" video guides.
  2. Join our Zero Debt Tribe Community on Facebook, a group of friendly, like-minded personal finance enthusiasts, budgeting nerds, debt-eliminators and “FI-ers” who are there to help each other succeed? Click here to request to join for support and encouragement!
  3. Our library of Free Products & Printables.

 

What do you need help with the most right now?

And finally, I want to encourage you and challenge you to get started in this process. You can do this by downloading this blogpost as your guide. The downloadable pdf contains all the printable forms and instructions you need to get this process started.

So, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,

Brad

Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

 
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

 

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