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30 Day New Year Money Challenge (Video Course)

"Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not." --Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."--Benjamin Franklin

"Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once." --Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox


Let's Give Your Money Resolution Some Teeth!

New year, new you? Reset and forget? There's just something about the flip of the calendar to January 1st, that creates the perfect opportunity to set some new goals and throw tons of energy behind them.

And, we've all made new year's resolutions. We may have even kept some in the past (right?). :) In fact, I'm pretty sure my own journey out of $43k of consumer debt either started or was renewed as part of a new year's resolution.

But, I'm actually not a huge fan of new year's resolutions.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not on a crusade against them either.
It's just that, as a financial coach, I've seen so many "pie in the sky" financial resolutions be abandoned by mid-February.

So, while I don't necessarily have a problem with NYRs, I'd just prefer that they are attainable and that they "stick". That's why I created this post for you, because I want for you to have some "bite sized", digestible steps to help you make that slow and steady progress toward your financial goals.

So, if your goal is to finally get control of your money, get on a budget, address your debt and start making some financial headway this year, then this 30 day course is for you!

Now, let's talk a little bit more specifically about the "who, what and why" of this material.


Who's Is This Video Course For?

1. "I just need help because [insert situation below]..."

If you're in a place where you want to get your finances on track, this is a great piece of content for you. In fact, here are some scenarios we see in our student population when they first engage with us. Some of these statements may describe or approximate your situation:

  • Feel overwhelmed by the thought of addressing s their financial situation
  • Living paycheck to paycheck
  • Can't pay all their bills
  • Creditors/Collectors calling
  • More month left at the end of the money
  • Have a pile of debt and are sick of the stress it's causing
  • Make pretty good money, just don't have anything to show for it
  • Looking at addressing retirement but don't know where to begin
  • Looking to finish paying down debt, invest and work toward financial independence/early retirement (FIRE)


2. "I've been through Dave Ramsey/FPU, but still need help..."

Another segment of our student population that benefits from this course are the people who have been through Dave Ramsey's FPU or some similar personal finance course. While FPU is a great resource and part of what I used to pay off my $43k of debt in 2.5 years, it does lack a lot of the granularity that people normally need in order to internalize the complicated skills of budgeting, expense tracking and debt elimination.


What Is It Exactly?

It's a full fledged personal finance and debt-elimination course that's meant to give you all the tools, strategies and encouragement you need to:

1. Organize your mindset/thought life around money.

2. Organize your bills, expenses and debts into a solid budgeting cadence.

3. Help you address and even eliminate all of your non-mortgage consumer debt.

4. Help you develop new habits around how you think about and deal with money.


How To Use This Material

This post is meant to be a very thorough, authoritative and accessible personal finance resource that will enable you to learn and develop so many of the baseline financial skills so many of us are never taught either in home or in school.

And yes I know it's thorough and engaging, but I want to encourage you to not be overwhelmed by it. Rather, take it at your own pace. Ingest and digest one bite at a time. If you're super financially disorganized, focus on that and only that until you've made enough progress to move to the next thing. If you're terrible at budgeting, same thing. Focus on small wins and don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

This post is also meant to be a reference that you can keep coming back to as you move toward your own personal finance journey. So, you can bookmark it and keep coming back. Remember to take your time, work hard, pace yourself and reach out for help when you need it ([email protected]).

That said, let's talk about the kind of benefits you can expect by embarking on this journey and plugging into this particular resource.

Now, let me share my own personal benefit from internalizing this material over the past decade, plus...


Exactly How We Paid Off $43k And Built $600k+ In Net Worth (In Under 10 Years)

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be able to eliminate all of my debt (i.e. $43,000) and be within an inch of “early retirement” (i.e. have a net worth of over $600,000), I would have totally laughed in your face.
But lo and behold I’ve eliminated $43,000 and my wife and I have accumulated over $600k (and that’s just in the past 5 years, actually).
And the best part for you is that we did it by doing the exact same things I’m going to cover in this coaching series. That’s right, if you follow these steps, turn them into habits and reach out for help, encouragement and accountability, you will be absolutely amazed at what you can accomplish in just a few short years.

What It Takes To Win In Personal Finance

"I Whanna Whinn!!" - Nacho Libre 

In order to break whatever unsavory financial cycle you’re in, it’s going to require two things:
1. Head knowledge AND
2. Behavior modification (requiring skill building, encouragement and accountability)
Can you guess which one is harder? If you guessed behavior modification, you're right! It's by far the biggest challenge in this process, especially because we're dealing with money and the many thoughts and emotions that naturally surround the subject.
Speaking of an example of head knowledge and behavior modification, I can’t count the number of times new students come to us with their freshly minted budgeting "spreadsheet". 
They often beam with pride at how detailed it is and how much time and effort they've put into it. There's a sense of "I did it" and they're not totally wrong, but this is really only half the (head knowledge) picture.
My heart breaks a little every time I see this, because they typically don't yet understand that this detailed spreadsheet of data is actually the very reason they're not following their budget.
Why? Because they've painted themselves into the corner of over-complexity. What they've put together is actually too complex to follow AND they're also not "in it" (i.e. updating, making changes, tracking expenses) nearly often enough to make any impact on their financial behavior (modification). 
In other words, they're not following the budget. Rather, it’s a wishful document that they set once (a la set it and forget it) but don’t actually follow. It’s a theory and not a practice. 
What we're going to do in this series will be your insurance policy against any of that tendency to get the "head knowledge" and just park there. No, we're going to go beyond that (very important) head knowledge and give it the teeth of forming and reforming behaviors that will ensure your success.
Okay, with all that as a primer, let's jump into the introduction video and get you some quick wins!

Introduction: Day 0 - Introduction To The 30 Day Debt Elimination Quick Start Challenge


Let’s face it, the decision to get out of debt is easy (we’ll, sort of). The hard part is execution. And execution is all about knowing what to do, when to do it and then being accountable to some external source for validation and course correction.
I don’t want to be too harsh here, but I want you to understand that, especially when you’re in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, dealing with finances is straight up warfare. 
There are now and always will be entities that are trying to “get in your pockets”. Now, I’m not recommending you go all “monk” and never buy anything ever again, but I am gingerly tapping you on the shoulder to challenge you to start looking at every dollar you spend under a microscope. 
This is going to be life changing AND fun! So strap in and let's get this party started!

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 1 - It All Starts With “Why”

"Why" is THE most important question right out of the gate. It's THE question that will pull you through this entire process and never look back. 

So, I want you to pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions. 

  • Have you just “had enough” of not being on top of your money and being in debt?
  • Do you have some things in life that your money situation is preventing you from pursuing?
  • What’s your “why”?
  • If you could change one thing you’d like to be able to do or to do differently in a year, what would it be?
  • Are you tired of having to scramble every month to make sure you have enough money to pay all your obligations?
  • Where do you want to be in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 years? Can you imagine what waking up everyday would feel like if you were out of debt and well on your way to financial independence? 

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 2 - What's Between Your Ears?  It will affect what’s in your bank account.

  • Have you ever paused to think about what you believe about money?
  • Is it good?  Is it evil? Is it neutral? Does having it make you necessarily "shady” or "bad"?
  • Did you have a bad childhood experience or series of experiences?

Dig deep. Be honest with yourself.

  • What do you believe got you to where you are with money?
  • Do you believe that your situation can and will be improved with some help?
  • What do you want your financial situation to look like in 5 years?
  • What really matters to you?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What fears are you not sharing with anyone?
  • What insecurities are holding you back?
  • What do you believe about yourself that makes you different from others?

Pausing for a moment to ask and answer these questions is pivotal, particularly as we start to move into the behavior modification aspects of this process.

Believe me, you'll be coming back to these questions again and I want you to be able to see how your beliefs start to change over time as a direct results of the modification of your actual behaviors with money. 

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 3 - What to do when you can’t pay your bills.

If you're in a position where you can't pay all your bills, don’t panic, just prioritize and focus on these 4 particular things for now:
    1. Basic food - All groceries, no restaurants. You won’t be visiting a restaurant for a while unless you’re an employee. Weekly meal planning will help with both resource (money) and time management.
    2. Shelter - mortgage/rent, utilities 
    3. Transportation - may need to look at “downsizing” your car or moving down to one car for the family if necessary.
    4. Basic clothing - We’re talking hand-me-downs, thrift stores, and deep discounts. Malls are to be avoided at all costs again, unless you’re an employee.

This will get you into a posture where you can live to fight another day. The next step would be to start gathering your bills, expenses and debts into a list, so that we can then plug them into a budget. 

We'll cover that in more detail on Day 6.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 4 - The Role Of Accountability & Encouragement

Given your past issues with money and debt, what kind of accountability do you know you need? Dig deep and be honest with yourself.
  • Have you ever been able write a budget and actively stick to it? “Actively” here means rewriting/updating at least monthly.
  • Have you ever been able to keep track of your expenses consistently?
  • Have you ever been able to regularly say “I can’t afford it” when presented with social pressure to spend money you know you don’t have?
  • Do you have problems keeping track of money you spend with your credit or debit cards?

Answering these questions honestly and deciding to engage a coach and/or a community is pivotal if you want to make real progress in this process. I know it may be painful and awkward, but if you REALLY want results, you've gotta have it.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 5 - Got Debt? Stop Doing This (Temporarily).

If you have debt (other than primary mortgage debt), stop retirement funding until you've paid off all your non-mortgage debt..

Yes, even if you’re getting a match I recommend that you press pause on this. I know this may seem counterintuitive and we do indeed get pushback from students and subscribers when we first introduce this idea. 

I mean, it's SO countercultural. But, let's pause and do some math for a second.

Calculate ALL of the interest you're paying monthly and subtract the amount that you’re earning through investments. I know this will likely take some digging to get all the information together and that's precisely why I want for you to do it.

Part of the transformation of going through this process is learning how to think and act in your own best interest. And, it's impossible to do so unless you actually know your numbers.

The truth is, I can help you get to extreme solvency and profitability much more easily once your debt is gone. So, my strategy is to say "let’s throw every dollar at the debt and get it to zero ASAP."

A big part of the reason this strategy works is that, when it comes to money and personal finance, you can really only focus on one thing at time. You can’t paddle your canoe forward when you’re constantly being pushed backward by the overwhelming force of your debt, especially if it carries moderate to high interest rates. Seriously, take the time and do the numbers and you'll see.

Now, I will say that this isn't a hill I'm willing to die on. Some argue that they have mandatory contributions and that they can't stop their retirement contributions. If that's the case, then just stop anything that's above and beyond "mandatory".

Let's get every single extra dollar thrown at that debt and get you some modicum of freedom.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 6 - Make A List Of ALL Of Your Expenses And Debts

This is actually our pre-budgeting step. With this list in hand, you'll be far less overwhelmed when it comes down to plugging it all into your budget.

You can access our "Everything I Owe Form" in our "FREE Products & Printables Library".

So write down all your bills, expenses and debts owed.

In order to become more aware of all the money bleeding out of your household, you’ve got to start saving your receipts and even writing down every penny that you spend.

I have found that this is the ONLY way students start to become more in touch with what and how much they spend.

And again, this will also make your budgeting sessions much more productive because you’ll already have the totals ready to o to plug into the “actually spent” column.

 Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 7 - Track Every Single Dollar (Penny) 

Hopefully you're starting to see that in order to win with money you have to become super aware of where your money actually is AND where it actually goes. That was a HUGE revelation for me as I worked through my own debt elimination process.

And, one of the best things you can do in this realm is to keep very receipt and write down every penny you spend from today on (here’s a printable to help you). Yes, I know I’m repeating myself here, but this is what's required to win.

I know I'm repeating myself here. I actually do that a lot... And... It's actually on purpose because repetition is how we learn best. :)

I also do it because developing a behavior like this one is inconvenient, a pain and hard at first to the point that you won't want to do it. Believe me I remember how hard it is, but I harp on this because it is the teeth in your behavior modification plan.

At first you almost have to force yourself to become just shy of hyper aware of the money that’s bleeding out of your household. Trust me, it gets easier over time and your future self will love you for it.

Yes, it will be painful at first, but you’ll get used to it and this is a habit that will make your finances behave, get you out of debt and possibly get you to financial independence within 10 years. Can you imagine that, financial independence within a decade? I'm here to demonstrate that it's possible and I want to show you how to do it. 

And a little pro tip: Stop all auto-pays until you’ve been able to successfully rewrite your budget for 90 days.

Why? Because you MUST get a precise accounting of every dollar leaving your household before you can put ANYTHING on auto-pilot again. 

Trust me, we'll get there, but let's do it all manually for now. 

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 8 - Build A Budget (On Paper)

Budgeting is just enough like rocket science that most people give up on it before they even start. It can be confusing, overwhelming and wrought with complexity.

This is precisely why I create all the resources I create in the budgeting realm. This is precisely why we break things down into bite-sized pieces so that you can chew them up, ingest them and then digest them over time and with encouragement and accountability.

This video outlines how to do a "zero based" monthly budget. In my opinion, this is the best, most accurate, most precise budget for you to be on. It may be a little challenging at first, but hang with me because the results are astounding.

Yes, the results are so astounding in fact that, not only was I able to pay off $43k in debt in 2.5 years, but I was then able to go on to save/invest over $500k over the next 5 years, all because I learned and perfected the art and science of budgeting.

The key is to do the pre-budgeting step from a couple of days ago before you try to put everything in a budget then to budget on paper for the first 90 days. I explain more in the video why doing it on paper is so critical when you're starting out.

The next key is to look at it every single day. You have to get to know your numbers and not be surprised them every month. If you stick with this simple regimen and reach out when you need help, I promise you'll become an expert budget (potentially) in about 90 days.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series. It has all the pre-budgeting and budgeting printables that will help you get started with confidence.


DAY 9 - Build A Budget (Continued)

So, how did yesterday’s budgeting exercise go?

I mentioned this in the video yesterday, but wanted to reiterate today that there are other budgeting methodologies besides the zero based budget that I normally teach my students.

But I believe that, no matter which methodology or app you wind up going with (remember, no apps until you’ve done it on paper for 90 days), the monthly zero based (or zero sum budget) is the best place to start.

Why? Because it’s great for the logical continuum of:

1. Making a list of all your expenses and debts and

2. Placing those expenses and debts in the context of the monthly budget.

3. Then, if you need to pivot to any of the methods listed below, you already have a “mental map” of what all of your expenses and debts are AND which categories might be problematic as you parse it further out.

1. The irregular income budget

2. The paycheck to paycheck budget

3. The Percentages budget

4. Or to an app...

A thread that you’ll see in the way I teach is: “write, rewrite, rewrite and then rewrite again”. You've GOT to stay in your numbers to know your numbers and you've GOT to know your numbers in order to effectively change your behaviors.

Some students get annoyed by all this emphasis on rewriting, but there’s a bigger idea behind the madness. And that bigger idea is the retraining of your brain, your mental pathways and most importantly your behaviors with money.

If we all could change our money habits by “understanding the concepts”, we’d be financial experts by the end of Sunday afternoon, right? 

But the fact that we both understand is that, winning with money is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior.

The latest “personal finance/budgeting app" is not going to change your financial future.

Retraining your behavior through hard work and repetition will. THAT’S why I have you:

1. List out “Everything I Owe” (Debt & Expenses)

2. Build a monthly budget (then pivot to another method if necessary).  (Debt & Expenses)

3. Build a debt snowball form.  (Debt)

If you’ve done these exercises, you’ll likely have noticed that you’ve rewritten many of these numbers no fewer than 3 times. That’s not an accident.

Again, in order to win with money, you have to know your money. In order to know your money, you have to constantly keep track of how it comes into and goes out of your household.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 10 - Find/Save/Get $1000 As An Emergency Fund

The next step is to compile a $1000 "starter" emergency fund. Since we've hit this whole global cough thingy, I'm actually now recommending that you now have at least $3000-$5000 as a starter emergency fund.

That said, $1000 is a great start and I'll tell you why.

$1000 is usually what stands between you and those credit card, lines of credit or personal loans that you use for emergencies. $1000 starts to break the cycle.

Let’s get you $1000 (and then $3-5k) as fast as possible. As you’re accumulating it, be sure to put it in a place where it’s just accessible enough that you can get to it for an emergency, but far enough away that you’re not tempted to blow it at the mall or at Home Depot.

I suggest a savings account like Wealthfront as a great and safe place to park your emergency fund.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


Day 11 - Sell Some Stuff ($1000 Emergency Fund)

One of the quickest way to start building your baby $1000 emergency fund is to sell some stuff.

What’s in your garage, attic, basement, storage unit, parent’s house that you haven’t used in years? Will you be using it anytime soon or is it just sitting there for “someday”.

My suggestion is to start Craigslist-ing, Facebook Marketplace-ing and LetGo-ing as many of those items as humanly possible. It’s pretty awesome.

As a case in point, when I was working through my debt elimination process, I “found” about $20k worth of (books, furniture, tools, music gear and much more) “stuff”. I was blown away by 1) how much stuff I was able to sell for cash and 2) how much better I felt lightening my “stuff load”.

It may be tough to make decisions on some of this stuff, I know. This is the kind of exercise where I would challenge you to go back to your "why". Why do you want to get more control over your money, get out of debt, build wealth?

Also, a great exercise to get you started is to parse out all of your stuff into 3 piles: 1. Donate, 2. Sell, 3. Trash. This little hack can take some of the overwhelm out of the process and help you to feel much better about any progress you make.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 12 - Reduce/Cut/Substitute ($1000 Emergency Fund)

Another great way to make some progress toward your emergency fund is to start looking at stuff you can reduce, cut or substitute in your budget. This is a great time to start cutting all non-essentials.

Again, this can be uncomfortable, but we can add things back in as your financial posture becomes more secure and your debt begins to fade into the dark pages of your personal finance history.

Even though my wife and I "technically" don't "need" to do this anymore, we still do. Once you get into the habit and rhythm of budgeting every penny, you'll likely always maintain some level of vigilance about the reduction, cutting and substituting of expenses.

Think about it this way, if it's not absolutely necessary or not aligned with your ultimate dreams and goals, why should you give your hard-earned money away for it?

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 13 - Extra work/Overtime/Side-hustles ($1000 Emergency Funds)

A third way to start piling cash up for your starter emergency fund is to hire out as much of your "spare" time and labor as you can.

Side-hustling has become all the rage over the past decade and I think they are a VERY good thing IF you have a specific goal and end in mind. "Hustling" just for the sake of the concept in my mind is dysfunctional and just a codename for workaholism, otherwise.

For the purposes of piling up as many dollars as possible to build as reserves, I think you should take on as many of them that don't cause you to totally collapse or to be threatened with a divorce.

Don't be afraid of hard, smart and frequent extra work. That's part of what it's going to take you to get through these early stages of this process, so I recommend my students do as much extra work, side hustles and overtime as they can.

In the long run, you'll also have some great stories to tell "back when you were paying off debt".

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 14 -The Debt Snowball

Here's the idea of the debt snowball in brief: list all debts, smallest to largest. Start paying extra on the smallest one until it's paid off. Once that one is paid off, move onto the next smallest and combine the payment you made on the previous debt with the minimum payment on this one. Wash, rinse and repeat your way to freedom!

The Debt Snowball in more detail:

  1. Make a list of all of your debts, from smallest to largest, making minimum payments on all but the smallest.
  2. You put all of your effort on that smallest debt, attacking it with a vengeance.
  3. Using the 3-pronged strategy we used to build your $1000 emergency fund (Days 10-13), we:
    1. Sell so many things that your family and pets think they might be next
    2. Continue to make budget cuts, reductions and substitutions as a momentum builder
    3. Get extra work, overtime, side-hustles
  4. Do that until you’ve paid off that smallest debt.
  5. Then, once you’ve paid that off, you take that minimum payment you WERE paying on the smallest debt, as well as all the extra money you were throwing at it, and start throwing that the next debt in line.
  6. The benefits of this method are that you’re building psychological and emotional momentum and focusing your efforts one ONE THING AT A TIME. You can SEE the progress and it helps you to stay motivated. Study by Harvard Business Review as an example (https://hbr.org/2016/12/research-the-best-strategy-for-paying-off-credit-card-debt).
  7. Remember, debt-elimination is all about successful behavior modification and THAT requires building new skills and repeating them until they’re second nature. If this were about MATH, you would probably have never gotten into debt in the first place, right? And you certainly wouldn’t be watching a video about how to get out of it.

Our free "quick start guide" has the debt-snowball form with instructions to guide you.


DAY 15 - Cut Up The Credit Cards - Stop "Renting” Money

If using credit is an issue for you, I recommend that you cut up the credit cards or at least put them in a bowl of water and put them in the freezer.

Once they’re paid, close them. Commit to never using credit cards or going into debt ever again (if that's a temptation for you). 

You MUST vow to stop renting (i.e. sending your hard-earned money) to people who just want to extract more and more of it from you. 

The only way to beat them at their game (i.e. banks, credit card companies and “lenders”) is to abstain from their game. Just walk off the field and don’t look back.

I want to help you get to a place where you’re EARNING interest on the money you have rather than PAYING interest on the money you’re renting (mostly for stuff you don’t even need).

Now, I will say that the overarching issue of credit cards is where I part ways with Mr. Dave Ramsey, once you've gotten to the other side of your debt. The reason is that, once you've gotten on and stayed on a budget and eliminated your debt, will have developed a new discipline with money that you likely don't have right now. 

On the other side of that are some GREAT benefits in the utilization of credit cards. For example, my wife and I have received tens of thousands of dollars of savings on air and hotel travel over the past decade using points and cash back.

Let me know in the comments below if you want me to unpack more about how we do that.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 16 - The Cash Envelope System

Start using cash (envelopes) for the categories in your budget that could easily lend themselves to using cash. If you're not sure what those are, you can download our "quick start guide" which includes the budgeting printable that has all the categories that lend themselves naturally to using cash envelopes.

  1. Look at the cash envelope categories on our budgeting form and start funding each asterisked category using cash for those categories.
  2. You don’t need a fancy “cash envelope system”. Just grab some plain white envelopes from the dollar store and rock forward...
  3. Remember, once the cash has disappeared from the envelope, you have no  more money. So, no “throwing stuff on the card” to make up the difference.

But Brad, isn't cash like... so like outdated? While I personally don't think cash is outdated, I realize there are many among us that just don't like to use it. The good news for that is that you can still absolutely use the cash envelope system yes, even if you don't use cash.

What you would do is:

  1. Decide which budget categories you want to use cash for.
  2. Write the budgeted amount on the envelope (just like you would if your were using actual cash).
  3. Then as you spend, make sure to do these 3 things:
    • Write the date, vendor and amount on the outside of the envelope as a tracking mechanism AND
    • Save the receipt inside the envelope as a double-redundant way to hold yourself accountable
    • Then, reconcile with your main budgeting source (paper budget or budgeting program/app).

So that's the envelope system. Do this and you'll automatically up your budgeting and expense tracking chops!

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 17 - Repeat After Me: "I Can't Afford It.”

Okay, now that we've got you using the envelope system, we have set in motion some boundaries that will help you know what to do when those envelopes have $0 in them.

In short, I want for you to learn how to say, “I can’t afford it” when the envelope is empty.

It's countercultural and indeed counterintuitive in this age of spending money before we earn it ethos (i.e. debt).

But to win in this money game, this is one of those behaviors you're going to have to jettison. And one of the quickest ways I've seen to do that is to reintroduce this phrase that has all but disappeared from our vocabulary, namely "I can't afford it".

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 18 - Mid-Point Check-In. How Is It Going?

Mid-point check-in. What do you need help with? Where are you stuck? What’s working? What's not working?

Any truly effective personal finance program is going to have certain milestones and check points to help you to gauge "where you are". That's what today's video is all about.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 19 - Why You Want to Rewrite Your Budget

So hopefully you've begun your budget by now.  

  1. Resolve to rewrite your budget every week for at least the first two months. This will accomplish two things: 1) it will make you more aware of what you are ACTUALLY spending in each category. Like you’ve probably experienced when you first started capturing all of your expenses, you likely made some “estimates”. I want you to get as accurate as possible. 2) It will help you with your expense tracking. Every time you spend money, I want you to save the receipt ant make a record of it somewhere. The budget is a great place for that. 
  2. Make a weekly budget-meeting and, if you’re married make it with your spouse. This will help with both “buy in” as well as keep the two of you accountable for any expenditures during the week. Remember, every dollar counts. You have to get honest with yourself if you want to win with this.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 20 - Expenses To Cut

18 Expenses To Obliterate From Your Budget

1. Cable TV

That’s right, we cut that bill years ago and haven’t missed it one little bit. In fact, we even got rid of our TV about the same time and haven’t missed that either. When we look at what we were spending (honestly, I can’t even remember what it was since it’s been so long ago) and multiplied it by twelve, we were astonished at how much it was and at what else that money could have been used for.

And besides, with the internet and YouTube in particular, we ALWAYS find free stuff to watch that is both informative and entertaining. So ask yourself, what are you actually getting for all that money you're spending on cable? If you're looking for it, you have our permission to cut the cord!

2. Lawn Care

Even though we live in an apartment right now (for the purposes of stacking cash for the "100% down" plan), this was something that we decided long ago to NEVER spend money on. It’s expensive and doing it yourself give you some time to listen to your favorite podcasts as well as get some great exercise.

3. Books, CDs, DVDs and Magazines

We rarely if ever buy books and never any of the latter. If we do buy books, we can usually find them used on Amazon for a fraction. We think the public library is one of the best ideas ever. Thanks Benjamin Franklin!

4. Credit Reports

We never pay for credit report. You can always go to: annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report once a year. Also, a lot of credit card companies are offering this as part of their normal card member services now (not that we recommend you use credit cards, mind you).

5. Hair Care

Fortunately for me, my wife grew up learning how to take care of her own hair so she’s never spent money on that. I was spending $20-ish per month until we decided to buy a $20 set of clippers and let me be my wife’s first and only hair client (so far). It was rough the first couple of times, but I can say I’m proud of the job she does as well as the $240+ we save on haircuts every year.

6. Manicures and Pedicures

I’m blessed to have a wife who can’t fathom why women (or men) would ever consider spending money on this (apart from the sparsely occasional reward perhaps). If you're in debt, you should really look at this one if it’s one of your expenses. You could "DIY" it for the time being and maybe reconsider once the debt is paid off.

7.Bank Fees (ATM, Checking, etc)

These are actually pretty easy to avoid these days. Most banks require a $1500 balance to avoid fees and if you use your bank’s ATM or an “in network” ATM, you should never have to pay fees. So maybe pad that "starter emergency fund" of $1000 with an extra $500 if this a challenge for you.

8. Cell Phone Insurance

My wife and I have the Otterbox protectors for our smart phones and love them. Wireless providers and phone manufacturers profit hundreds of millions of dollars per year selling cell phone insurance. And sometimes people don't even realize they're paying for it.

So, check your bill and make sure you're not. If you’re particularly adept at breaking your phone, maybe insurance makes sense, but otherwise I'd scrap it.

9. Smart Phone Apps

Admittedly, there have been a few critical ones that I’ve purchased over the years (maybe to the tune of about $5 total), but as a normal rule of operation, we don’t spend money on this. I know for some families, particularly with "app-happy" kids, this can be an area of significant budget leakage.

I would put some eyes on it and see if there is and clamp down on it. There are so many free apps out there that are amazing, even if you have to put up with the annoying ads.

10. New Cars/Leased Cars/Financed Cars

My first and only new car was also a leased car. I bought it after I graduated from college because I felt like I "deserved it". Oh, I "deserved it" alright. Suffice it to say, I paid an abundance of stupid tax in this category. After I added up all the extra money I spent leasing (or being "fleeced" by) that vehicle I determined only to buy used cars and only with cash.

My wife and I are totally convinced that paying cash (i.e. avoiding financing/debt) is the only way to really win when purchasing such a rapidly depreciating liability (and yes, it is a liability because, apart from the transportation function, it’s just about all expense). 

11. Home Warranties

I've been offered them on my previously owned homes. I always though, "nah".

Clark Howard says they are, "not worth the paper they're printed on." So we’ve always avoided them. I also remember going to some consumer review sites to read the comments. If you’re considering it, that might be a good place to start.

12. Computer Antivirus Software

This one hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it on someone else’s list. My wife and I are Apple/Mac users, which I know doesn’t necessarily make us immune, but we’ve never had the occasion to make us feel that this was a justified purchase. Additionally, my "work" computer is a Windows machine and my company pays for that antivirus software (#winning).

13. Eating Out 

I’m not going to say that we NEVER eat out. Rather, when we do it’s for more of a special occasion, rather than a default position. The practice of meal planning and being intentional about not doing this will be a game changer for your budget.

14. Alcohol/Bars 

My wife and I don’t consume alcohol, so that’s not an expense either for our home or for the bar life. From what I can see that my company (corporate job) spends on alcohol, it’s REALLY expensive. Plus, it’s a big no-no on the ketogenic diet.

15. Clothes Shopping

Again, I’m not trying to say that we NEVER buy clothes. Rather, it’s just not a regular occurrence for us to peruse the shops. Also, when we do, it’s thrift stores, discount retailers like Ross, Marshalls, TJMaxx, etc. Then, if it IS straight retail, it’s got to be deeply discounted. Also, it’s important that it meets the following criteria: 1.) we LOVE it and 2.) we actually need it.

16. (Unused) Gym Memberships

I totally see the value and merit of gym memberships for some folks. Like financial coaching, sometimes people really need that external source of accountability to stay on track. A gym membership can be great for that. I’m really more talking about buying a membership and then either never going or going very irregularly.

17. New Cell Phone Plans

We don’t “upgrade” our phones in accordance the way the carriers and phone manufacturers would have us do. Rather, we use our phones until they’re just irretrievably dysfunctional and absolutely require a new one. Then, we usually buy a few versions back. To illustrate: my wife JUST upgraded her iPhone 4 to an iPhone 6s, when the most current is the iPhone Xs.

18. The Lottery

Dave Ramsey calls this an additional tax on the poor. I totally agree. It’s complete and utter nonsense and is largely funded by the people who can least afford it. One sure fire way to stay away from this is to keep your eyes glued to your budget and try to pay cash for as many things as you can. The physical parting with cash is much more painful than a credit or debit card transaction.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 21 - The Amazing Dollar Store

Are you looking for a surefire way to amp up your budgeting prowess and trim away expenses so you can save more money and maybe get out of debt even faster?

If so, the dollar store (like Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc.) is a seriously great resource to help in that area, particularly when looking for substitutions on potentially costlier staple items we cover below.

Now admittedly, if you're new to this you may have to “hold your nose” on a few things, particularly if you’re substituting away from the really “glamorous” options offered in places like Target or even Walmart.

But, if you’re going to win with this money/budgeting thing, you’ve got to find places to trim the fat and sacrifice some of that “sexiness” for the discipline of staying well inside your budget.

You'll thank yourself later, trust me it's worth it.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 22 - What To Do When Your Spouse Isn’t On Board

We all know that debt can be very destructive to a marriage. But how often do we think about just how destructive it can actually be?

Hopefully, this post will get you thinking about the issue of debt in your marriage and get you to deal with it before it's too late.

Within the past six months, I've had a significant number of couples come to me for financial coaching who are literally on the verge of divorce.

In every case there have been money problems coupled with incredible levels of debt. As you can imagine, it's always deeply troubling and complicated to navigate for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, by the time a coach gets involved the marriage is on the precipice of complete destruction.

The brokenness, despair and sense of defeat are always visible and they present us with an additional obstacle to navigate.

By this time there is usually a severe lack of respect, a vacuum of trust and an almost total sense of disdain for each other.

It's heartbreaking every time I see it and really only buttresses my resolve to stay on this mission of imploring people to destroy their debt regardless of their situation.

I wrote this post because I want you to help make a dent in this phenomenon. How do we do that? We do it by being proactive about your own marital situation first.

Here are 6 ways to know your relationship might need some help:

1. Recognize you have a problem.

2. Hit the pause button on big decisions.

3. Seek marriage counseling immediately.

4. Get financial coaching too.

5. Plug into a proven debt elimination system.

6. Commit to the outcome of a healed marriage AND to debt elimination.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 23 - Abandon Upscaling And Dump Debt

So, "what is upscaling", you ask? You actually already know what it is because you (and I) are voluntarily participating in it, whether you realize it or not.

Nevertheless, "upscaling" does deserve a proper definition.

Why? Precisely because we’re so completely engulfed by it that we likely wouldn’t even recognize it as a “thing” unless someone articulated it for us. 

Upscaling, also known as “hyper-consumption” or “excessive consumption”, is the phenomenon in consumer our culture that encourages us to consume more, bigger and more luxuriously.

At this point, it’s kind of like water to a fish, basically invisible.

I know I didn’t recognize it as a "thing" until I consumed the documentary, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Do Not Need, based on Juliet B. Schor's book of the same title. 

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 24 - The Awful Truth About Debt Consolidation


5 Reasons Debt Consolidation Is Not A Great Idea

1. Debt Consolidation is a “quick fix”. 

 It does nothing to address the underlying issues of why you’ve gotten to this point in the first place. In other words, the “easy out” they appear to give you doesn’t cause real change in your behavior. 

One blogger even says, “Debt consolidation doesn’t remove your debt, it just moves it around."

You MUST work the “8 Steps To Erase Debt”, one at a time and in order to 1) develop a new mindset and habits around money and 2) get completely out of debt and never go back.

From that perspective in particular, debt consolidation is just a “band-aid”.

Dave Ramsey is quoted as saying, "88% of people who pursue debt consolidation continue the negative habit pattern of not budgeting, overspending and go even further into debt."

I say, NOPE!!


2. “Consolidation” is not the same as elimination. 

We want you to eliminate it, forever. I know it’s actually harder, but it’s better AND done correctly, more permanent.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is always a tendency with people who are in the latter parts of their debt snowball where the numbers are bigger to be tempted into these types of schemes.

Don’t do it. Instead, stay the course and reach out to your coach/mentor/accountability partner to talk you off the ledge.


3. Consolidation usually protracts the amount of time you’re in debt.

 What looks simple on the surface actually potentially adds potentially multiple layers to your debt elimination process.

If you work with a consolidation company that also negotiates new interest rates with your creditors for example, you’ll have to make sure proposals are accepted and that agreements and payments are agreed upon and accepted.

I actually outline an actual story that highlights this later on in the post.

Can you say potential for a slow-motion, 200-car train wreck?

We want you to get out of debt FAST and with as little friction and complication as possible! 

So, instead I encourage you to just follow the “8 Steps To Erase Debt” faithfully and you’ll have much more success than you would with a “debt consolidation” loan.


4. The interest rates can change and there’s no guarantee your rate will be lower.

You have to read the fine print here. 

Many times these debt consolidation companies will lure you in with a lower interest rate that changes after a certain period of time.

Yes, that's right, the interest can change in very much the same way that an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) can. Read the fine print. Then run away as fast as you can!


5. You’re placing the control of the individual debt payments into a 3rd party’s hands.

Think about that for a second. What guarantee do you have that the debts will ACTUALLY get paid or that the payments will be properly executed?

That's right, ultimately none.

You're actually having to "trust" that these people will do the right thing and always at the right time.

I don't know about you but that would make me turbo uncomfortable.

Think about how difficult and complicated it is for YOU to keep track of all the contact info and bill payment info of your debt. Do you REALLY want to put that in someone else's hands?

Don’t believe me?

Check out the story outlined below. There are SO many others like it, including new ones I get from students every month.

It's an excerpt from the website: https://hansonattorney.com/blog/debt/debt-consolidation-program-nightmares:

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 25 - 4 Timeless Principles


These 4 timeless principles will help you get on track and stay on track. As you move along your own personal finance journey, you need to constantly be reminded of the core principles.

Why? Think about it. How many credit card offers show up in your mailbox over the course of a month... How about over the course of a year?

My wife gets no fewer than two per week! Insane!

Dave Ramsey is often heard saying, “You can wander into debt, you can’t wander out. You have to get really mad, really intense, and really focused to get out of debt."

With the power and influence of what I call the "marketing industrial complex" coupled with a culture that has devolved into an instant gratification machine on organic, gluten-free, non-GMO steroids, the odds are stacked against you if you don’t have a plan for your money.

4 Timeless Principles For Absolutely Crushing Your Debt

1. Decide That You Hate Debt

2. Own Your Story 

3. Trust The Process

4. Get Started And Refuse To Quit 

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 26 - Bankruptcy

This one word (bankruptcy) has such incredible power. As a financial coach, I hear it on the lips of some of the most desperate people I come into contact with.  

And it makes me really sad every single time.

Think about it for a minute, the mere concept of bankruptcy has the power to evoke feelings of desperation, guilt, terror, and utter failure. 

I understand completely because, like so many of our clients and subscribers, I was on the edge myself over a decade ago. You can read more about that at: $43k Paid Off!

The thing is, bankruptcy is not even a viable solution for about 95% (or more) of the folks we come into contact with.

Yep, that’s right it’s normally not something they don't even need to consider. 

We’ll talk more about that later. Let’s first create some clarity around what bankruptcy is and what it isn’t.

For a more in depth treatment of this complicated subject, see my post: The Ugly Truth About Bankruptcy (And Why You Probably Don't Even Need To Consider It)

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 27 - Peer Pressure Insurance

Today, I want to talk to you about "peer pressure" or "social pressure". In American culture, this is also known as "keeping up with the Joneses".

I want to talk to you about how you must have a strategy to deal with this pressure if you ever want to win with money.

And in reality, this pressure is just as pervasive as the marketing industrial complex we're so relentlessly exposed to in our overexposed media culture.

In another recent blogpost, we talked about the art of pressing pause as a tool to help you develop the habits you’ll need to destroy your debt. Peer pressure is one such issue that pressing pause will help you conquer.

We’ll expand pressing pause here, but first let me tell you a little story that may resonate with you.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 28 - How To Reconnect Consumption And Income 

The only way to be able to reconnect your consumption with your income is to break the spell of easy consumption that’s been cast on us as a culture.

It’s the spell of “more is more” and “you can have it all” and “same as cash”.

It’s ridiculous and we all fall for it at least once in our lives. Hopefully, only once, but not likely.

And the only way to break this spell is to reconnect our consumption with our income.

Yes, it’s disconnected and it’s killing us.

Another way of saying this is how Dave Ramsey admonishes, “act your wage”.

It’s a problem, without a doubt. Yet, we seem to be going further and further into debt 

This is not an easy process. Our culture has made it extremely difficult to do this because of:


  1. Credit and debit cards = disconnected from the pain of spending 
  2. The advancing “cashless society” = disconnected from real numbers
  3. The Marketing Industrial Complex = the constant barrage of “buy, buy, buy"
  4. Keeping up with the Gateses = hyper consumption and the supersized desire for executive style homes, luxury cars and expensive artifacts like Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton hand bags.


This used to be known as "keeping up with the Joneses".

The hard truth is that you can’t keep up. You don’t make enough money and you never will.

Why? Because it’s all an illusion. It’s all a construct designed to have you easily and painlessly part ways with your hard earned (mostly digitized) cash.

I’m here to help you reprogram your brain. You MUST reprogram your brain! Economics is warfare! Everyone is trying to “get in your pockets” and you MUST wake up to that if you’re ever going to win at this game.

It’s a game for the system but it’s a matter of life and death for you.

Dramatic words I know, but this type of language is warranted when 78% of our population lives paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t afford a $400 emergency.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 29 - The Day I Almost Quit

I wanted to make this video as part of this series because I want for you to anticipate the challenges you'll likely face as you move through this material, challenges that may tempt you to quit. 

I don't want you to quit. I want you to be encouraged and to hang in there. 

And I wanted to accomplish that by sharing my own "almost quitting" story.

Be sure to download the free "quick start guide" that goes along with this series.


DAY 30 - Survival First THEN Debt Elimination (How To)

Okay, so we’ve arrived at a very odd and disconcerting time in our history, namely a global pandemic that seems to have (at least temporarily) shut down the entire world economy (or at least major parts of it). 

I believe, this crisis has already caused a financial cataclysm in the lives of millions of people. If you’re reading this, then you’re likely affected and possibly severely so.

I want this brief and actionable guide to be a “light in the dark” for you. A crisis necessarily involves the heightened emotions of fear and panic. Rather than succumbing to those emotions, I want to help you to move through them as quickly as possible so that you can set your finances up, not only for immediate survival, but more importantly for great success as this particular crisis hopefully soon rides off into our collective sunset. 

These are likely going to seem ridiculously simple and even nonsensical, but stick with me as we unpack each of them and you’ll have a solid template to navigate this and indeed any crisis that comes your way.

  1. Preserve Capital (Money)
  2. Aggressively Obtain Capital (Money)
  3. Get Help/Encouragement/Community ASAP!


So, let’s take some time and unpack each one of these one by one. By the way, all of the forms and resources listed in this document can be found in my “Free Products & Forms Library” along with TONS of other amazing and free instructional material.


By the way, if you want a downloadable PDF version of this post, just click the link or on the image below: Financial Crisis Survival Guide (Version: COVID19)



The Best Private Financial Coaching Community On the Internet

One of the absolute best ways to get your money moves in order is to do it inside the boundaries of a coaching community.

The ZeroDebt+ private coaching community offers you:

1. A monthly exclusive financial coaching "masterclass" piece of content. This is aimed at helping you (and the community) develop and master a particular financial skill (i.e. financial organization, budgeting, investing, etc.).

2. A live monthly coaching call. This live monthly Zoom call is aimed at buttressing the masterclass material and offering a Q&A forum for participating students.

3. An amazing and connected community of like-minded, similarly postured financial coaching students who will help you stay encouraged and help you be accountable to your goals throughout your financial journey.

Enrollment is only open a couple of times a year, so if it's not open be sure to get on the waitlist. I promise you it's worth the wait!


The 8 Steps To Fully Extinguish The Dumpster Fire:

This is the blog post that outlines the 8 steps I followed to eliminated $43,000 in debt in 2.5 years.
And whether this is your first or thousandth time on the blog, I want to make sure you have this “8 Steps” framework that ALL of our content is centered around. 
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.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
2. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
3. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
6. College Funding (if applicable)
7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!
I’ve created a simple, easy to follow guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever.


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When You Need More Help

And again, if you’re looking for some resources to get started, you can download our free budgeting forms. Also, if you’re in a place where you’re ready to kick your debt in the teeth, here's the link to our free “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide for you to use as your foundation.
To your freedom,
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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