“Jennifer, thank you so much for creating this interview and hosting it on your blog today! I love your new blog, and your new life, and I am very happy that we bumped into each other on Twitter and became friends.”
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with a woman named, Sicorra, on Twitter. I was inspired by how Sicorra and her husband tackled their debt and took control of their finances – and I want YOU to know you can do the same! I believe that learning from those who have “been there, done that” is a great way to approach certain struggles in life. After visiting her and her husband’s blog, Tackling Our Debt, I was quick to reach out and ask Sicorra to answer some questions that may help you realize that debt does not have to hold you back from chasing your dreams!
1. What inspired you to start a blog consisting of financial tips/advice for helping others tackle their debt?
“I love working online and always wanted to create some sort of online magazine that others would find helpful as they go about their daily business and living their lives. But it wasn’t until January of 2012 that I decided that I would blog about finances.
At that point we had been struggling with our finances for about 6 years and instead of finding solutions to solve our problems, we were feeling quite overwhelmed with worry and fear of what might happen to us. So in January of 2012 I created a spreadsheet that listed all of our debt, which was a huge eye-opener.
I then began searching for help online and discovered a variety of personal finance bloggers that were also working their way out of debt. As I began using some of their suggestions I decided to write a blog about debt and managing money as a way to learn more and to motivate us to continue to take more positive steps towards tackling our debt.”
2. If someone were to say that money is one of the main reasons why they aren’t chasing their dream – to start their own company, to relocate, etc… – what are the courses of action you would advise to help them get started in financial planning?
“Get all your ducks in a row before you make the big leap. Increase your savings account. Calculate your monthly living expenses and know exactly what it costs for you to live, right now, right where you are. If that includes re-paying some debt, then so be it. Then do the math around how much it will cost you to relocate and how much it will cost to live in that new location. There are so many resources online to help you with that.
Alternatively, if you are considering starting a new business, again you need to do your homework first. What will your upfront costs be? How long will it be before you make money? How much will you make? If you do not make any money for several months, will your savings account cover your expenses, or will you begin relying on credit to live? As well, consider medical benefits and insurance and make sure you have enough money to pay for those on an on-going basis.
Chasing your dream is awesome! We cannot live in fear and let it hold us back. But if you do not have a good plan in place, your dream could easily be shattered simply due to lack of resources.”
3. What are some tools you use to help monitor your finances?
“Actually, that is easy for me. I use Excel to track my monthly budget and of course, online banking. I do not carry a cell phone because I can’t justify that monthly expense, so I do not use any of the cool cell phone apps to manage my money.”
4. What is your opinion on credit cards? Any advice for how to use them wisely?
“(ha…ha…) Most people would say that, right now, I am the last person who should answer that question. Although I have had many times in my life where I had no debt whatsoever, over the past 6 years I managed to accumulate quite a bit of credit card debt. Why? The simplest answer is: poor planning and not paying enough attention to my finances.
Prior to 2006, money was always there, as I mentioned on Rock Stew recently in my post, What Happens When You Have Too Much Money? And unfortunately, as a result, I didn’t pay super close attention to what I spent it on. When the money tree stopped blooming, I kept spending anyways, thinking that one day things would be okay again and I would be able to pay it all back. I know now that was not a very realistic approach.”
5. Student loans are a huge concern for my generation and tend to be a ball and chain. Do you have any advice for how to repay student loans wisely, yet quickly?
“I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with this, but I do know of someone that while attending a university, had a large amount of student loan debt as well as a loan for a brand new car. So, I will share his story of how he paid it all off.
In his second year of attending college he decided that he didn’t want to graduate and be in debt, so he found a way to make money while attending school – and not just a little bit of money. He discovered that there were subjects that he was very good at and other students were struggling with so he began tutoring them on campus on a weekly basis. Of course, because those students did so well, they told all their friends. After a few months, he was holding his own tutoring classes after hours, consisting of about 20 students at a time. He charged each one a fee and by the end of his second year, he had his car loan paid off. By the end of his third year, he had his student loans paid off – all through tutoring.”
6. We all battle with the temptation of shopping – whether it’s new clothing, a piece of technology, etc… – what suggestions do you have to help ration if the purchase is necessary?
“We used to shop for fun, too. We loved buying things for our house and of course we loved computer stuff. But now, instead of just spending, we really discuss the purchase first – the overall cost, how we will benefit from the product, and how much use we will get out of it.
For example, although we’d love to each carry a fancy new cell phone, we do not need them right now, and we know that. My husband has an older cell phone that he bought 6 years ago and we share it, only using it for emergencies.
As well, I was never one to return merchandise unless of course it broke soon after the purchase. In the past, if I bought something and soon discovered I didn’t like it, I would simply stop using it. Now, if we buy a more expensive product, the first thing we inquire about is the return policy, and if necessary, we make sure to use it instead of just letting the product sit at home, unused.”
7. What would you say to motivate someone who is ready to surrender to debt or the thought of “never having enough money”?
“It is never too late to start over again. If your debt has taken over your life, look for debt counseling. There are many free services available to help you. Utilize the resources online to find ways to make more money.
Ignoring it will not make it go away. Sitting and worrying about it all by yourself will not make it go away. In fact, many times when we worry about things, we lose the ability to see them clearly which can end up making the issues bigger than they really are.
A bit of a story…
When I first started reading online about debt and money management, I came across a few articles that basically said that anyone with debt is stupid. Anyone that has ever used a credit card and wasn’t able to pay it in full at the end of the month is stupid. Are you in debt? Do you believe you are stupid because you are in debt? I certainly hope not.
Being in debt does not make a person a bad person. We all struggle with something in our lives, right? Debt is my struggle and maybe it is yours as well. But, you can get past this time in your life. You can make more money, and you can pay off your debt while paying your living expenses. It is never too late.
Finally, set up a realistic spending plan. List all of your expenses and figure out which ones you can do without, even if it is just until you pay off your debt. Once you get going, the momentum just builds and slowly but surely, things get easier and life gets better. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone.”
Connect with me on Twitter: @TacklingOurDebt and please visit me at Tackling Our Debt where I blog about ways to pay off debt and live a frugal lifestyle, as well as ways to make more money. Please understand that anything I write about is based on personal experience and is not meant to be taken as professional advice. If you require financial advice, please contact a professional in that field.