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Being in debt sucks.
Being in debt at 20 sucks worse.
Being $10,000 in debt before you’re 21, that sucks… worser 😉
That’s where Gina from The Frugal Convert found herself before she could even legally enjoy an adult beverage in her home state of California.
But she didn’t let it snowball out of control as she refused to give in to the nasty debt spiral. Gina not only took control of her money, but she took back control of her life as she daily made one decision after the next to build the life she’d always wanted.
Today she’s rocking her financial world as she and her husband have paid off over $100,000 in under 5 years!
Enjoy her wisdom and insights as she shares how she became a frugal convert and THE Frugal Convert!
What is the one book (or books) that you have given to your friends? Or What are one to three books that have greatly impacted your life (money related or not).
The book that literally changed my mindset and my life is The Millionaire Next Door.
Learning about how real millionaires steward their money was a complete eye-opener and really got me thinking about my financial path in a completely different way.
I used to be into status symbols, partly caused by my upbringing in a Middle-Eastern culture where appearances hold a lot of weight.
I quickly got into piles of debt and was really stressed and of course, far from happy. This book changed my perspective on what it means to be financially successful. I owe a lot of my current lifestyle to what I’ve learned from its stories.
It’s important to know your end goal and what you truly dream your life to look like. I highly doubt many people dream of a life of impressing others.
Unfortunately, marketing makes us feel like status symbols are the way to attain happiness and acceptance from others, and many of us never question it. It wasn’t until I read this book that I began to question everything. And I have a wonderful life to show for it now.
(Me, you guessed it, in red!)
I love this!!
Way too often we fall prey to feeling like we only matter if we have the right possessions, or if we do the right things.
But we are human BEINGS, not human buyings or human doings.
Chasing after these status symbols is like chasing the wind, and it leaves us exhausted and empty. And more often than not, DEEPLY in debt.
The Frugal Convert gets this, and I so appreciate her courage in sharing the journey that she’s been on as she moved from debt to freedom and contentment.
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite success?
I have had many financial failures.
I started opening credit cards at the prime age of 18. I piled on student loans just because they were offered to me. I didn’t know you could refuse them. I had more than $10,000 in debt before I turned 20. I even lost my job because of my bad credit.
But, I will say this; in all of my “failure” moments, I’ve gained some really valuable real-life experience. And the lessons I learned have helped me help others with everything from helping teens understand money management to sharing my shortfalls with readers on my blog, The Frugal Convert.
Because of this, I’m very thankful for every obstacle and misstep I’ve experienced, because (as cliche as this sounds) it has made me a much stronger money manager, and I have a much clearer mindset of what I plan to do with my finances as they apply to my life.
Growth mindset. She gets it.
Failures are fuel. And just like fuel can be used to destroy something of beauty or to provide energy to get from A to B, failure too can be harmful or helpful.
We can use failure as one of the most fertile soils for learning or let it become a weed that chokes out new growth.
Whether it is a positive or negative depends entirely on your mindset. And the best part is, you get to decide how you want to view your personal failures.
The Frugal Convert used her failure to fuel her to learn and to grow and now to help those around her. Every day as we face up to our own failures and take responsibility for them, we also get to make this same decision.
By using failure as fuel to power us, we can live a contented life where we get to serve and help others and grow each day.
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means” – Calvin Coolidge
It’s so important to not want more but to learn to love living with less.
We, as natural consumers, tend to clutter our lives with more materialistic items than we need. We also spend money as if we forget how hard we work to get it.
Spending within your means ultimately shows the utmost respect for the time and hard work you put in every day. You respect your time so much, that you’re unwilling to squander everything you work hard for. You plan out your spending carefully, making you a good steward of your money.
It’s a beautiful thing to see this change in others, to see their happiness blossom when they start to finally live within their means and can afford all that they need.
Wow. Nothing to add here…except a GIANT Amen.
What common advice should people in the personal finance world ignore?
That student loans are inevitable.
I think it’s crucial to teach our youth that student loans are not the only option to get a degree or go to a good school. There are so many other options: a part-time job, work-study, grants, scholarships, etc. Even just getting good grades can have some financial perks, you get more money to go to certain schools and qualify for more merit-based financial aid and grants.
Minimizing or eliminating student loans from your college equation can mean experiencing financial independence sooner in your life.
It sometimes feels like no one out there is talking about this. It’s like having a student loan is a foregone conclusion. In fact, whenever I bring up this point, I have people coming at me telling me I’m entitled or privileged and that it’s not a possibility for everyone to graduate debt-free.
It can get a bit intense. And to be honest, I hate when people get upset at me for what I say.
But I can’t stop talking about this. You can graduate without student loans, or at least with minimal ones.
IT IS POSSIBLE.
If the only options are to go to school and get a huge loan or to not go to school, find a better option!
Gina brought up some great ones.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Budgeting and frugality are not restricting habits, they are freeing habits.
After adopting a budget and learning to be more frugal, I’ve enjoyed so much more of my life. It literally took me from living paycheck-to-paycheck, to going on regular vacations and saving for FIRE. It’s enhanced my life beyond my wildest expectations.
I would echo this completely. As John Maxwell states, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
By telling your money where to go, and making those decisions ahead of time, you allow yourself guilt-free spending in other areas.
Do you want to go on a SWEET vacation? If you’ve budgeted and saved for it, you can enjoy every meal and drink on the beach without that knot of anxiety you get in your stomach when you know you’re going to have to figure out a way to pay for it when you get home.
Do you want to enjoy a nice dinner out with your spouse or partner? My wife and I set aside money each month in our budget for going out. I feel NO GUILT when we go out to a nice restaurant and spend $100 because I know we have the money.
We also have money set aside in our budget to save for our retirement and to help our kids pay for their college. Having this money automatically taken out of our account prevents that nasty anxiety many people experience when they think about what the future holds for them.
Making these intentional decisions about where to spend or save your money doesn’t just free you up for today, it also sets you up for success in the future.
Bringing It All Together
The Frugal Convert has an awesome story. Part of what makes Gina’s journey so inspiring is that many people can relate to the situation she was in.
Deeply in debt. Wondering where all of her money was going. Struggling to keep up with the Joneses and to appear like she had all the trappings of financial success. The treadmill of buying things to impress people she didn’t really like with money she didn’t have left her tired and empty.
She was writing a life-story that wasn’t going to have a happy ending.
So she got off that nasty treadmill and started writing a new story for her family. This story was one of freedom, and hope, and with a bright future.
And she’s no different than millions of other people struggling with their money. But she made a choice to change.
And we can too.
Gina is the founder of and writes for The Frugal Convert. She is passionate about helping others find their sweet spot in spending and saving, by being more frugal. It’s her mission to teach her readers how to live a great life, without making a fortune. She’s all about finding new ways to save money without sacrificing her lifestyle. She regularly posts on all personal finance topics such as budgeting, college money, building wealth, frugal recipes, time-saving tips, budget travel options, growing your career, and so much more.
How has starting a budget freed you up? Add to the conversation in the comments below or on Twitter @method_money or my Facebook page Method To Your Money. You can also find me on Pinterest. Want more great ideas for mastering your money? Sign up to receive my weekly emails detailing how to keep more of your hard earned cash!