14 February 2012

Step 11: Start a Debt-Free Life

A full list of the Simple Living Challenge steps can be found here.

Thinking about setting your finances in order and venturing on a debt-free life you need to reconsider your habits and your needs. After Vanessa powerfully revealed yesterday how she learned to live with less, today I have prepared a blitz interview with Anna Newell Jones, who got famous for going on what she called a "Spending Fast" for a year, followed by a "Spending Diet" and getting rid of her $23,605.10 debt in 15 months without the help of professionals. Anna has been writing about  living a debt-free life on her blog, where she has done a pretty amazing job at motivating other people to confront their spending habits and change their lifestyles.

How did you get in debt in the first place?
By not being conscious with my money, by living outside of my means, and by not wanting to honestly look at my financial situation. 

Did your debt bother you? Were you able to sleep comfortably at night? In what way did it affect your everyday decisions?
It really bothered me but I didn't think there was any way out so I got comfortable with it. Since I thought that I would die with my debt I adopted an "Ahh, screw it, might as well enjoy myself!" mentality.

When was the break-through moment? What made you decide to go on a spending fast?
It was after 3 consecutive years of rolling money from account to account to cover my over-spending. I was on a flight to visit my family for the holidays (after acquiring EVEN MORE debt from gift shopping) and it just hit me. Enough was finally enough.

What was the first step you took to cut expenses?
I made a "wants and needs" list and I decided to be committed to the process for a year. I only spent money on the "needs" side of the list.

You've cut on so many "wants" like eating out, buying clothes, makeup, driving your car. Are there moments when you regret starting this journey?
Yes it has not been a completely perfect and joyous experience at all times. Doing a Spending Fast and changing your life, habits and comfort zone is very hard work. There are a lot of fun things I missed out on: trips, movies, hanging out with friends at certain events, cute new clothes, and dinners out (among other things) but, I'm still happy I went through the process.

I'm debt-free now (I eliminated $23,605.10 in debt) and I wouldn't change that for the trips, clothes, meals or movies that I missed out on. It was completely worth it and I am beyond happy that I did it.

How much is enough? In what way did you change your buying habits?
I stopped all superfluous spending.

What new skills did you have to learn to adapt to your spending fast?
I had to get very crafty (which is really fun!) and I had to allow for a little more time to get things done since I couldn't do the "quick fix" solution of just going out and buying what I needed to remedy whatever problem I ran into.

Is this a family affair? How does your husband relate to your decision?
It was not a family decision. I didn't ask my husband if he was okay with it. We were 6 months into our marriage when I decided to do the Spending Fast and start my blog. Honestly it was hard on our marriage, but at the same time my husband is a natural saver so he was like, "Finally!"

The fast you initially planned to last 1 year has gone to a bit over 2 years now, how long are you going to go?
I did the Spending Fast for a year, and then the Spending Diet. I'm still doing a Spending Diet and I don't plan on stopping. It's a way of life now.

Do you feel truly happy now?
That's a tricky question. It's more that a weight has been lifted and my debts no longer angle my decisions like they used to. I have an autonomous life now which is more freeing than anything.

What advice can you give to anyone who is struggling with their debt?
Oh, I have a lot of advice if people want it! The main thing is this: you are not alone and you can get out of debt.

See also: 
Step 1: Embrace Your Imperfections
Step 2: Simple Living as Men's Trait
Step 3: The Rules of Simple Home Organization
Step 4: Simple Crafting for Happy People
Step 5: Simple Scheduling and Planning Routines
Step 6: Spend More Time With the People You Love
Step 7: Spend More Time Alone
Step 8: Connect to Your Inner Self 
Step 9: How to De-Stress 
Step 10: Learn to Live With Less and Enjoy it 
Step 12: How to Overcome Consumerism
Step 13: Declutter Your Life 
Step 14: Get Rid of Toxic Cosmetics and Reclaim Your Natural Self  
Step 15: Wean Off Plastic 
Step 16: Celebrate Your Story  
The Final Step: Gratitude 

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