Get debt-free by 30. Check.


As I wrote a couple weeks ago, one of the things I wanted to do by age 30 was get out of debt.

This is incredibly embarrassing to type out, but last year, a few months before my 29th birthday, I was realizing that I was nowhere near where I’d hoped to be financially. For some reason I thought, by that point in my life, I’d have 10, maybe 20 grand in the bank and be well on my way to a financially secure future. In reality, there was my car loan, two small credit card balances, a couple dental/health bills, my student loans, etc. They were all small amounts when you looked at the bills separately, but when I actually added up my total debt, I was disgusted with the number… and myself. $12,000! I owed 12K and had just a few hundred bucks in savings… What had I been doing the past few years?! Not focusing on finances… obviously.

Initially, my debt didn’t seem to stand out to me. Most of my friends my age have a car payment, student loans, and some sort of credit card they’re paying off. Online I’d read tons of stories of folks owing tens of thousands of dollar in just credit card debt alone. I thought I was way better off than those people. But when sat down and looked at the amount of money I could save each month by not paying on debt, it rocked me. I was spending about $1000 each month on debt bills. That ish was completely unnecessary. Saving $1,000 per month sounded way better than shelling it out.

I had been under the impression (from myself) that  I was doing good financially: I made more money than I had to pay each month and I could pay my bills and still have some left over. Great. But all the “leftover” got spent each month. I’d been out of college for 7 years and had nothing to show for it. (I won’t say I didn’t have anything to show for it… not in terms of “stuff.” I took plenty of trips, saw 6 countries, and made great friendships from a lot of those trips. But still…) It was time to reel it in.

At this realization, I was kicking myself for not making larger payments all this time. Especially when I was married and living in a two-income household, with a husband that saved everything. Going from that kind of household back down to a single income household was more costly. I realized that since my divorce in 2011, I just stopped focusing on my financial goals. I could still support myself, but there definitely wasn’t as much “extra money” and I wasn’t making any goals of my own. However, I couldn’t sit around moping about what I didn’t do for the last 3 years. It was time to get after it and tackle my debt.

Step 1. Take advantage of 0% interest rates.

I needed to make sure the debt I had wouldn’t accumulate any extra interest. I had an empty credit card that had $9600 of credit available and it was offering a 0% interest rate for any balance transfers for 1 year, so I put as much as I could onto that card. That only left a few thousand dollars to get rid of as quickly as possible and gave me a year to pay down what I’d just transferred. This bought me some time and saved me some dollars on interest.

Step 2. Pay down the smallest balances first.

If you’ve got more than one balance (like a credit card, car payment, student loan, etc), focus and start on the smallest one. Make minimum payments on everything else and put everything you can toward the smallest balance until it’s gone. As soon as that one’s paid off, you do the same with the next highest one. You’ll knock out payments and have a bigger amount to spend on the next thing every month. It snowballs each month and gives you a small sense of accomplishment, which helps!

I had $800 that I owed on my computer so I started with that first. Since I didn’t have crazy interest building on my other credit card after the transfer, I was able to get rid of that balance in just 2 months. Then I moved on to finish paying the $1100 I owed for my dental work. Each time I paid something off, it left more money to pay off the other things faster. This was great for me psychologically too. Every time I crossed something off my spreadsheet, I got more motivated.

Since I’m self-employed, how good/not-so-good business was that month was the deciding factor on how much I was able to pay off. Some months were better than others and so I’d put as much toward my debt as possible. Once those little things were all done, I just had the big sum to start chipping away at.

I did this before I’d heard Dave Ramsey talk about the debt snowball, so I felt validated after the fact.

Step 3. Cut back on monthly spending.

Looking back, I could have paid off my car in under two years if it had actually occurred to me to do so. But instead I spent any extra money I had. However, if you’re in any kind of debt (other than your mortgage), there is no such as thing as “extra money.” I used to think I had leftover money each month after I paid my bills, but that wasn’t a great way to look at my account. There’s no reason to be buying things, going on vacations, getting a new tv/car if you owe money to other companies/people. I had to re-wire my thought process on my spending.

Since it’s easy to drop anywhere from $30 – $60 on a single night out, I cut back on dinners/drinks. This wasn’t incredibly hard. I wake up at 5am most days of the week so usually want to get to sleep by 10pm. This doesn’t leave a lot of time at night. Also, since I travel for work most weekends I’m really only in town a few days per week.

I also started cutting my monthly expenses. I got rid of my storage unit ($60/month), found new car insurance (saving me $40/month) and even changed my phone plan (saving me another $40/month). The extra $140 per month went to the debt.

My next move was to stop buying “stuff.” I don’t shop a lot, but every now and then I’d go with a friend to the mall and walk out having spent $100. For NO REASON. And we all know about the $30 cover charge just for walking through the doors of Target. I had all the clothes I need. I’m stocked up on shoes/accessories. I don’t need any “things.” My new plan: if it was an item, I didn’t need it. (Reading about minimalism lately has really gotten me pumped on not having a lot of stuff. This will also be helpful the next time I move…) Now, I didn’t get crazy and just stay at home in the dark eating Ramen noodles. I just looked at my bank statement and added up everything that I didn’t need to spend money on. It was a lot. I knew I could do better… and so I did. All the money I stopped spending went to paying down my debt balance. And it was getting lower, faster.

Step 4. Make more money.

I took on a lot more work this year than I had the years before. This meant a lot more travel and time away from home, but it had to be done. I was thinking if I could pay off this debt by the time I hit 30, then I could cut back on some hours, but until then, it was time to crank it out. The extra work paychecks that I made went directly to my debt. ALL OF IT. This is definitely disheartening, seeing your account balance go up and then right back down in the same day, but it was necessary. If that money had been in my account, I would have found something to spend it on. The good thing about working more is having less time to spend. Since I was gone more weekends, I spent less on groceries, entertainment, gas, etc. I was making more, spending less, and knocking out my payments.

Step 5. Saving at the same time.

Since the other part of my goal was to increase my savings, I had to actually act on that. Unfortunately being self-employed doesn’t mean I get a company matched 401-k. I was gonna have to get started myself and I didn’t want to wait until my debt was paid off (who knew how long that would take). I started small: I opened an IRA and a Money Market account and just set them up to automatically withdraw $100 per month each. This was an embarrassing amount to set up, (because the guy I talked to suggested $1,000 per month…. riiiight) but it was better than nothing. I just wanted some forward movement. Any forward movement! The majority of my money needed to go to my debt. Once that was paid off, I would increase the monthly contributions.

The good news is, those contributions add up quickly. Since they were automatic, I completely forgot about them at times. When I looked at them last month, there was a total of $3300! That’s $3300 in savings that I didn’t have before! That balance doesn’t allow me to retire soon or anything, but it’s definitely more than I had. Now that my debt is actually gone. I can make those amounts bigger.

Step 6. SAVE: The $1,000 Buffer and 6 months of expenses.

$1,000 Buffer: For the past 6 years or so, I’ve kept a minimum of $1,000 in my checking account. This makes me feel taken care of should anything unexpected pop up; needing new tires, an unexpected medical bill, a car break-down, etc. I’ve dipped below it a couple time when things came up, but I always replaced it. If my checking account read $1700, my mind only saw $700. This helps. It’s a great way from having to dip into savings or use a credit card in times of need.

6 Months of Expenses: They always say that you should have 6 months of expenses in a liquid account in case you lose your job, but I hear more and more, you’re probably ok with 3 months worth if you don’t have a family yet. I’m in the process of that right now, but I’m nearly halfway there, so that feels good.

Now: I’m 30 and debt free!

Five days before my birthday, I made my last payment on my last bill. I’m officially out of debt, I have a few thousand in savings/retirement and I’m on my way to feeling more financially secure. I know I’ve still got a ways to go; getting my 3 months of expenses saved up, having a chunk of money that can actually be invested, etc, but I’m in a way better place now than my last birthday and that feels wonderful.

So tonight, I’m congratulating myself by drinking a bit of sparkling wine that a client of mine gifted me.

Good night!

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Do you have any financial goals you’ve recently made for yourself or accomplished? How did you do it? Any tips for investing and becoming ridiculously rich? Pass ’em on!



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New Year Resolution, check. Charli Is All Mine!

One of my resolutions this year was to get my car paid off. I’ve been working at this for a little while now, paying double payments to get it done early. I’ve made the last payment and now she’s all mine!

Charli is the first “new” car I’ve ever had. Hers was also the first car payment I’d ever had… and making that payment every month SUCKED. It was basically a plane ticket equivalent. Every month when I made that payment I thought, “I could be taking a weekend trip with this money.” But it’s all good! She’s paid off and I plan on driving her until she doesn’t run anymore. Just like Mona… 

2009, Trading in my old car, Mona
(a ’95 Corolla with 230,000+ miles on her!)
I cried a little… 
And getting my new car, Charli!! 
She’s an ’08 Mazda 3 that only had 10,000 miles at the time. 
Only a few months old, practically new, and $10k cheaper than a brand new one. 

So far, Charli has been all over with me; 
from west coast to east, all the way up north, 
and almost all the way south. 
Between road trips and moves, she’s been through a lot. 
I’ve put 100,000 miles on her in 4 years, 
but I know she’s got a LOT left in her. 

Is anybody else in love with their car?
How good does it feel to send that last payment in? 
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Resolution Race: Pace Yourself

It’s almost a joke – setting a resolution. 
Everybody knows they’re rarely kept. 

Sooo many people jump on the New Year Resolution train and start going so hard that they overdo it. I believe people get really amped after the holidays (and with good reason after all those parties and holiday dinners). They want to feel better. They want to look better. They want to BE better. Myself included. And what better time to hit the ground running than Jan 1st?

Just a quick reminder though: It’s only Day 4 of the year. 
You’ve got 361 more days left in 2013. 
Save yourself from burnout that will make you quit. 

Pace yourselves, peeps!

I needed this reminder in the middle of the afternoon yesterday when I was so overwhelmed with all the ish I wanted to accomplish (and didn’t) that I had to just STOP. And take a minute to decompress. 
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My New Year’s Resos

If you want to follow through with something,
putting it out there is the best way
 to ensure you actually do it… 
so that’s what I’m doing now.
Some small resolutions for this year, for myself: 

Be a BEAST! 
I’m active, I’m fit, but I could be better. I take it easy sometimes in my own workouts and there are things I should be able to do, that I can’t currently do (20 pullups, TRX 40/40 challenge, etc).  I haven’t been pushing myself and am capable of a LOT more, so I’m going to get back into the swing of kicking ass. And be a beast.

Workout Vlogs
 I’m horrible. I hate videoing myself, but I’ll do it this year. Because I know you guys want exercises. And I have a million combos that I teach in my classes and just have never recorded them for you guys. So I’m declaring, here and now, that I will do this for you! I’m not declaring how often, but my goal is at least once a month, damnit!

Things like
“How to get sexy shoulders”

“How to get a sweet ass” 

Get Back to My Financial Goals
I play more than I work. It’s a problem. Yes, I still pay my all my bills on time, but I used to be on track with certain financial goals for myself (saving and investing) and have definitely lagged on that end the past year and a half. I took a million trips this year; a lot for business, but a lot of fun trips too. Those trips were worth it, but when you’re self employed you don’t get paid vacation. So I spent money on all those trips, and didn’t make any money while I was gone… Tsk tsk tsk, says my financial planner. So this year, I’ll still travel, but maybe less. And only after I’ve met certain revenue goals. Meeting with my tax chick this week, and my finance person in the next week or so after that. Gotta get this ball rollin’ again.

Conference Presenting
In my field, the next step up is presenting at conferences… I was supposed to present at my first one this past September and I was STOKED, but then it got cancelled. But I’ll be presenting for TRX this March in Chicago which should be fun/stressful/exciting. I’m looking forward to it and trying to push myself to create my own content for future conferences. We’ll see how it goes!

This is my serious, professional face: 
What are your resos for 2013? 

See more about Goal Setting tips here

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Goal Setting 101

Anybody else’s to-do list look like this? Mine usually starts with things like “take a shower” or “eat breakfast” because it makes you feel good to know that you’ve made a small accomplishment in your day, right? Small accomplishments feel GREAT, mainly because your big ones are too big to get done all in one day. So keep that in mind when you’re trying to figure out how to reach a HUGE goal for yourself… sometimes it’s best to break it down into smaller goals first.

For example: One of the biggest mistakes my clients make when they set their goals is that they make a really big goal and then stop there. They don’t reach it as quickly as they’d like, get frustrated, and quit. Which then makes it harder to start up again, which then makes it harder to achieve their goal. So if their big goal is to “be skinny like they used to be” we make that the big one, then make smaller ones that will serve as steps to take in order to reach the big one. 
Exhibit A:
Big Goal: Get skinny like you used to be. 
Too big to do really fast so let’s make smaller goals to get there…
Goal #1: Figure out how much weight you want to lose, how much time it will take, and be specific
“I want to lose ____ lbs in ____ weeks.” 
(remember that you’re only able to safely lose 1 to 2 lbs per week so be realistic!)

Goal #2:  Join a gym or hire a trainer. Either of these will work, but make sure your gym is close to your home/work or your trainer can train you at convenient times so you’ll actually attend sessions without having to rearrange your schedule too much. (You’ll have to rearrange a little bit, obvi.)
Goal #3: Commit to working out at least twice per week to start. 
Go take a group class that has strength training involved. Pick two different ones during the week so you can see which you like best so you’ll actually go. Or schedule two sessions/week with your trainer. Either way, put them on your calendar and GO. Make it just as important as a meeting you have to attend for work, but don’t tell yourself to go to the gym EVERY night during the week, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen. And you’ll just set yourself up to feel bad later.
Goal #4: Get at least 2 servings of veggies per day. 
Notice I didn’t tell you what NOT to eat. When you look at eating healthy like taking away things that you like, it makes you not want to stick to it. So, just start by adding in the things that you know you should be getting. If you can add these things in, you might not be so hungry for other things (mickey d’s) later. 
Goal #5: Get 7 or 8 hours of sleep at least 3 days during the week. 
You sleep in order for your body to have a chance to re-charge the batteries, get back to its normal operating state, and for your muscles to heal. If you’re not allowing yourself time to sleep, you’re asking for trouble; getting sick, staying sore, being stressed the f out. It doesn’t have to be every night, but try for a couple nights a week of hitting the sack at a decent time. 
then all the sudden…
“HOLY SHIT, I’m losing weight, getting stronger, and feeling better simultaneously!”
*angels singing*
*clouds parting*

Not all these goals need to happen at once. 
Maybe work on goal # 1 for week #1. 
Add in or focus on a new goal each day/week. 
Eventually you’ll get to the point where doing all of them will come naturally…
just not the first day.
When you start making small changes, it’ll eventually add up to help you reach that big goal, but make sure you’re being realistic in the steps you’re going to take to get you there. Your goal may require 10 small steps to get you to the next level and that’s FINE. There’s no limit on how many goals you can have, so make your to-do list achievable. 
This goes for ALL types of goals.
 Say you hate your job and want a new one, but it’s in a different field than you’re already in. Damn. You might need a whole new degree or certification. Seems daunting at first, but break it down…
 Goal 1: register for class/test. Goal 2: study x number of days per week. Goal 3: update resume. Goal 4: take 20 minutes per day to search for new jobs/internships that will give you experience in that field. Goal 5: apply for new jobs. Now it’s still a lot, but much easier to wrap your head around.
Get my drift?
  1.  Make small goals. 
  2. Smile as you check them off your to-do list. 
  3. Get better. 
  4. Achieve goal. 
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Goal: TRX Suspended Press

I have a dream! Well, that’s being a bit dramatic… it’s really just a goal. I want to be able to do 10 FULL TRX Suspended Presses. With my head nearly to the ground. I’m giving myself a month. Here’s what I can do now:

Not full range of motion, but I’m workin’ on it.
You gotta start somewhere… don’t hate!

I swear I’ll be able to move more than 3 inches later!

What’s your goal?
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