When it comes to inspiration for getting out of debt, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more inspiring than Anna Newell Jones. In January of 2010 she set out to pay off the most troubling of her debts, $6,000 of credit card debt. She went far beyond that and ended up paying off $17,911 of her debt in one year. She went on to pay off the rest of her debt in 2011.
Anna used a combination of a Spending Fast and a Spending Diet to accomplish her goal. Inspired by her accomplishment, I asked her if she’d be willing to do a Q&A with us here, and she graciously agreed. Here is our conversation:
Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Anna: I’m 32 years old and live in Denver, Colorado’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. My day-job is as a clerk for the state of
Colorado, I shoot weddings and portraits with my husband Aaron (www.newelljonesandjones.com) and I write the personal finance blog And Then She Saved (www.andthenshesaved.com).
Q. Where did your debt come from and how much did you have?
Anna: When I started my Spending Fast I had $23,605.10 in debt. It was made up of a combination of college debt, a loan to my parents (they took it out on my behalf so I could attend college), credit cards, and an over-draft account.
Q. You implemented a spending fast in order to pay off your debt. What was involved in that?
Anna: There were quite a few things involved but the first thing I did (which was the backbone of the Spending Fast) was to create a “Wants and Needs” list and spend on the “Needs” side of the list only. (http://www.andthenshesaved.com/spendingfastguidelines/)
Q. What kinds of things did you learn during the fast? Would you choose that approach again?
Anna: The biggest thing I learned was that having everything I want is not all it’s cracked up to be. I would absolutely, no doubt, take the Spending Fast and Spending Diet approach again. It was extremly hard but I was able to get out of debt realtively quickly (considering I didn’t think there was anyway I’d ever be debt-free and I thought I would die with my debt). I needed to see big results to stay motivated when it got tough and the Spending Fast method allowed that.
Q. How long did it take you to become debt-free?
Anna: It took 15 months (why faster than I ever would’ve imagined).
Q. What are your goals now that you are debt-free? Have your attitudes about debt changed?
Anna: My goals are to stay of out debt, not slip back into my out ways of spending, to build a secure financial future, and to help others get out of debt too. My attitude towards debt hasn’t really changed… I still don’t like it and I still don’t want it hanging over my head;) I now know that I can implement the Spending Fast at any time and I also now know that debt doesn’t have to be forever.
Q. What message do you have for a person or couple trying to get out of debt?
Anna: Be committed to the process. It’s hard to change your life and habits so keep going even when it gets tough and even when slip-ups happen (it’s unrealistic to think that “mistakes” won’t happen). Take an honest look at your finances, be ready to change, know it will be hard work, and know that you are absolutely not alone. (The Community page on my site is a great place to walk through the hard times, get feedback, and share your getting-out-of-debt successes: www.andthenshesaved.com/community)
Thanks for having me Julie! :)
I absolutely love Anna’s all out approach to debt reduction and appreciate her taking the time to share her thoughts with us here.
If you’re looking for information on paying off your debt, my absolute favorite resource for that is the debt snowball information in Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.