Two years ago, Jessica was a single mother of two boys, working two jobs, going to school part time and feeling the pinch of continually living paycheck to paycheck.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to figure out a way to stay ahead of these constant curve balls life was throwing at me. I didn’t know where to start and how I would ever be able to save money. I had this lingering debt I wasn’t getting a handle on and things were slowly going from bad to worse.
Making the Change
The first step to solving any problem is first admitting there is a problem. Often we lie to ourselves and pretend everything is just awesome. We ignore reality and live in this little fantasy world of:
Oh, everything will just work out.
Then life (and our lack of good financial habits) tackles us from behind and we find ourselves lying there, face down, with a ton of debt and no money.
Not cool. Not cool at all.
This could have been Jessica’s story, but she decided to do something different.
The pain of going through another day constantly worrying about money became greater than the pain of making the change to live a life on her terms – not the bank’s.
Jessica had made her decision: it was time to take action.
What gets measured, gets managed.
Before Jessica could manage the money, she needed to first measure the money coming in and the money going out.
Food for thought: if a small business owner simply guessed on the money coming in and going out each month, eventually the owner would be out of business.
This of course makes sense.
But if this makes sense, then why don’t we do this for our own money?
Every. Single. Dollar.
Jessica had to go through every dollar that came in and out of her life in a one month period. Yes, every single dollar.
The possibility of what she was so afraid to face for so long was now staring at her in the face. It was obvious – there was more money going out than there was coming in.
Jessica felt like she was living paycheck-to-paycheck, because she actually was. She couldn’t make it to the end of the month because the money was already spent. However, for the first time in her life, she could now see exactly where the problem was and now she could create a plan to fix it.
The Cash Flow Plan
The first place you must start in any financial plan is simple: A
budget Cash Flow Plan.
It’s impossible to know where all of your income is going when you’re keeping track of it all in your head. Think about how many monthly payments you have, when they are due, how the balance in your account, and then add in the everyday spending of food, entertainment, and the occasional four-dollar latte. How could anyone possibly keep track of all it and in real time?
The answer is simple: you can’t.
Keep in mind, saying you’re going to do a cash flow plan and actually doing one are not the same. When someone asks me a question about why they’re living paycheck-paycheck, it usually starts like this:
Person Struggling: Why do I always feel like I’m living paycheck to paycheck?
Chris Peach: Are you doing a monthly cash flow plan?
Person Struggling: Yes, of course.
Chris Peach: Can I see it?
Person Struggling: I keep it in my head.
Chris Peach: That’s why you’re struggling.
Savings, Debt, Savings, and More
Think of the cash flow plan as the fuel gauge for your money. You wouldn’t take a lifelong roadtrip across the country without a fuel gauge, so you shouldn’t be doing this with your life either.
However, the cash flow plan is only step one.
What about Saving?
In order to save, you need to have money. In order to have money, you need to have an income and a way to manage it – the cash flow plan.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on our four reasons for saving:
- Building Wealth
That’s it. These are the four reasons why we save.
Doesn’t it seem like emergencies always happen when you don’t have any money?
The best way to avoid this mess is to save for a small emergency fund before you save for anything else. Now when the next unavoidable hiccup comes your way, you won’t panic – you’ll just write a check 🙂
Paying Off Debt
It wouldn’t be a debt success story without paying off your debt. Raise your hand if you enjoy sending your hard earned money to the bank in the form of interest?
I hate debt. I cannot stand debt. Debt is a thief and robs all of us of our biggest tool for building wealth – our income.
We all know the feeling of sending a check to Visa each month sucks, but what people don’t look at is the opportunity cost of having debt in your life.
The truth is this: you are either going to spend your life being used to help someone else build their dreams and desires, or you’re going to spend your entire life building your own.
The choice is yours.
Let’s think about this:
- If you are sending $1,000 to VISA, then you’re giving up the opportunity to put $1,000 into your investment accounts.
- If you are sending $482/month towards your car payment, the you are giving up the opportunity to set aside $482/month for your kids’ college accounts.
- If you continue to make the minimum payment on your student loan for the next 20 years, then you are paying interest longer instead of earning interest longer.
You get the point.
Therefore, what is the opportunity cost in your life?
No. More. Debt.
Once Jessica had her cash flow plan in place and her emergency fund set aside, it was time to start paying down debt like a machine.
She had to became obsessed about it.
At first obsessed sounds like a bad thing, but I assure you it’s required to win when paying down debt. Think about anyone who has accomplished HUGE goals in their lives and you will find that along the way they were obsessed about those goals.
Jessica began to eat, breathe, sleep, drink, talk, walk, run, fight, pound, and climb her way out of debt. Remaining in debt a second longer than she had to was no longer an option. Her friends thought she was crazy, her co-workers thought she had lost her mind, and her family actually worried about her.
That was until they saw the results.
Jessica paid off $15k in only 7 months.
She was obsessed about her freedom.
Q&A With Jessica
After Jessica had gone through our financial training program, I asked her to come on the blog to share her story. If a single mom with two kids, working two jobs, and going to school at night can pay down $15k in only seven months, then other people need to hear about it too.
My interview with Jessica:
Chris Peach: How much total debt did you pay off?
Jessica: Just over $15,000
Chris Peach: How long did it take you to pay it off?
Jessica: It took me 7 months!
Chris Peach: What was the debt made up of?
Jessica: I had a few credit cards, a 401(k) loan, and some past due medical bills.
Chris Peach: What did it feel like to have that much debt?
“I felt suffocated and buried by it. I have a great job and yet I still was living my life paycheck to paycheck. I just could not seem make it to the end of the month or figure out a way get ahead. I felt trapped.”
Chris Peach: What was the hardest/craziest thing(s) you did to pay down your debt?
Jessica: Well, I don’t know how crazy this is but I cancelled our cable television and sold anything I could find that we didn’t need anymore. But, the ultimate sacrifice I made was we stopped eating out entirely. It has now been seven months since we went out to eat for a meal. That just sounds crazy!
Chris Peach: What challenges did you face along the way?
Jessica: The biggest challenge was having to tell my kids “no”. I tried to explain that we wouldn’t be doing any upcoming Disney trips, but all my boys heard was “no.” Then, just when things were starting to click, we had to put our dog down. This turned out to be a pretty large unexpected cost associated that normally we wouldn’t have been prepared for. Luckily I had my sinking funds for things like that instead of putting it on a credit card.
Chris Peach: How Did this Affect Your Relationships Along the Way?
Jessica: I’ve had a long time boyfriend and he has always been good with his own money, so he struggled a bit at first when I started cutting back my lifestyle. However, although he didn’t love the idea of not going out to eat for 7 months, he did always support my goals.
Chris Peach: What is Life Like Now Without Debt?
Jessica: I feel a huge weight has been lifted. My bank account has money in it again and I actually have a savings account. I’ve adjusted to a simpler way of living and realized I don’t really need television and I actually like eating at home. Now that I have money set aside and an overall picture of my financial future, I have a ton of hope back in my life!
Chris Peach: What advice would you give someone who is on the fence about finally changing the way they handle money.
Jessica: Just do it! I’ll be honest, it hurts at first to live within your means because we’re just not used to it. But once you start down the path of financial freedom, you’ll quickly realize it’s not so bad and soon enough you’ll become debt free. In a nutshell, living within my means has a completely different look today than before I started Chris’s program.
Chris Peach: What is something you would like someone to know about you?
Jessica: I am a single mom. I work two jobs, one for a paycheck and one because I love the work, and I am also a full-time student working on my Bachelor’s degree. With that said, if I can make this work, then I promise you can as well.
**Update June 7th, 2017
Since this post was first published, Jessica has been married, had a third baby boy, and is getting ready to travel the the Pacific Northwest with her family!
By the way…she is still debt free 🙂
[Your program] was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Because of that I do get to enjoy things more and I’m not stressed or living paycheck to paycheck. The older boys know and understand the responsibility of saving and spending but spending wisely because of the model you taught me. My sinking funds give me a snapshot of what is important to me and allows me (and Santa) to spoil my kids a bit without hurting myself.
Thank you for all your help. If I had not had your guidance I’d likely still be stuck in the cycle of debt.