Just a bit of background on Brian from Debt Discipline.
To kick off financial literacy month of April, Brian has graciously agreed to be in an interview, so he could share his experience and insights.
Brian started his blog Debt Discipline as a way to help keep him and his family accountable as they pay off $109,000 worth of consumer debt. He has since paid off all his debt and turned his mission to help his three children prepare for their financial lives, as well as others. Brian is actively working with his local community as a champion for financial literacy. One of his hopes is that his story will inspire and motivate you to take control of your money as well.
1. Just to start off, a tough question on relationships. Has the whole experience made your relationship with your family stronger? What were some tougher times which you could tell us about?
Our family dynamic has significantly improved. It’s started with better communication between my wife and me. To get a better understanding of where our money was going we had to be on the same page, that meant syncing up often. Once we build a framework for our money, we shared it with our three children. We want them to understand the changes that needed to take place to clean up $109,000 worth of debt. The first few months were the toughest. Breaking our old bad habits, and getting adjusted to our new way of handling money.
2. Besides the necessities (rent/mortgage, food, and utilities), what would you say had been the hardest cost for you to cut out during your climb out of debt? What were some of your weaknesses?
Once we began tracking our expenses, which I recommend for everyone and anyone to do to get better clarity on where and how their money is being spent, we found some usual suspects, like eating out, subscription services, and personal spending.
Many of these expenses were done out of convenience. Grabbing take-out is much easier than cooking at home, when on the go with three kids. We found that take-out for a family of five, can be quite costly $40 range per meal, and over a month $200-$250 could be better spend on cooking at home. We ate better and felt better too. By reducing or in most months eliminated these conveniences meals we were able to save hundreds of dollars, and have free cash to throw at our debt.
3. Did you have any big influences for you to get out of debt and stay out of debt?
One of the first resources I found was Dave Ramsey, and what hooked me about him, were his real-life examples. People like me, and my family who had conquered debt. If they could do it, so could we.
I also wanted to be a better example for my three children. I felt like I had let them down leading us down a path of debt. The motivation for us starting our get out of debt journey was not being able to afford a summer vacation one year. We had no cash and no available credit. I never wanted to be in that position ever again.
4. From reading your blog, you were laid off from a job of 21 years. However, you got out of debt that same year, so it didn’t hit you as hard financially. How has the experience and being out of debt changed your view on work?
The whole lay-off changed my view on many things. It just reinforced the fact when you work for someone else you are just trading your time for money and can be replaced at any time. When looking for my next position, I was more focused on the responsibilities of the job, work-life balance, and not so much on the overall pay. It was a good experience for my children to witness, something for them to file in the back of their heads for later in life.
5. Do you have any advice for young couples starting out in a similar situation with college loans or credit card debt?
Make paying off your debt a priority, but do it in a way that meets your goals, and lifestyle. I believe the essential piece is being on the same page with your partner. My wife and I are a much better team, working together than as individuals. Listen to each other, and be flexible.
6. Has your internet fame changed your views on what you have been able to accomplish? Did making your journey public make you push harder since it was all out there for people to see?
I’m not sure if I’ve reached a leave of fame with Debt Discipline. I wanted to share our journey to stay attached to the personal finance community at first, but along the way, I realized I was helping others too.
That’s super satisfying, knowing I was able to help someone get started taking control of their money. I have since gotten more involved in the real world. I have coached several family and friends, and help start them on a path to better finances. I’m also volunteering my time with my local school district, promoting financial literacy, and with a local non-profit community group. I’m speaking as well. I have don’t several speaking events, sharing our “Get Out of Debt” story and have presented to people with over $1.5 million in debt.
7. What does financial independence mean to you?
Financial independence means to me having enough money saved that you don’t need to perform work for money. I do believe it’s crucial when achieving financial independence, to not just sit on the couch and binge-watching your favorite television shows. It’s all about following a passion, giving back, and being in complete control of your time.
8. Funny question: Did you ever do the “Dave Ramsey debt free scream”?
We have. My family and I spoke with Dave via the phone in late 2014. It was enjoyable to talk with Dave. Here’s the audio clip of our call.
9. What do you and your family like to do for fun? Favorite vacation spot(s)?
We enjoy movies, Star Wars, and Super Hero movies, please! We enjoy theme parks – Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando. All saved and paid for in cash. We also enjoy visiting California. We have family there and enjoy spending time with them and surfing the Pacific Ocean. All of these things cost money, with excellent planning and savings they all can be achieved.
10. Which is your favorite breakfast cereal?
I don’t eat cereal these days. Gluten doesn’t agree with me much. When I was a kid, I was a Cap’N Crunch and Lucky Charms fan, or pretty much which every cereal had the best toy in the box.