A recent article in Parents magazine, New Parent Mistakes to Avoid, discusses overspending:
Everyone tells you the baby is going to change your life, says Alan Fields, coauthor of Baby Bargains and a father of two. But no one tells you how parenthood will affect your pocketbook. You get sucked into Babyworld, and there is no escape. Fields estimates that the first year will cost parents at least $6,200 for diapers, clothes, food, strollers, and other essentials.
What’s a parent to do? Anna Newell Jones may not be a parent just yet, but she has quickly become an expert on saving. Anna is the author of And Then She Saved, a blog chronicling Anna’s year-long spending fast and her current spending diet.
By January 2010, Anna had accumulated over $23,000 in debt. In an attempt to get her credit card debt under control, Anna went on a spending fast, buying only absolute necessities. Fifteen months later, in April 2011, Anna had managed to save $23,605.10 and was able to pay off all of her debt!
Anna’s blog teaches readers a proven technique for saving money. Among other things, Anna shares her spending fast guidelines and her spending diet guidelines. She also created a nifty “Should I Buy It” decision card. The blog features guest writers in the “Gettin’ Guesty” section and Q&As in the “Bankruptcy and Big Wins Interview Series.” If you want to learn how to save money and eliminate debt, visit And Then She Saved.
By day, Anna is as a clerk for the State of Colorado. Anna and her husband, Aaron, do freelance photography too (Newell Jones and Jones). They shoot weddings, events, portraits, families, and BABIES. Click here for more details. You can follow Anna on Twitter, or check out her Etsy shop. You can get in touch via email too (Hello@AndThenSheSaved.com).
I hounded Anna with tons of questions, and she kindly agreed to share her answers with Spilled Milk readers. Below you’ll find my Q&A with the Queen of Saving, Anna Newell Jones.
Me: How great did it feel to have all of your debt paid off?
Anna: It’s still kind of hard to believe because I thought I would die with debt, especially those college loans. My comfort-zone is having debt. That’s weird to admit but it’s true. When I started my blog and spending fast my only goal was to get my 6k-ish in credit card debt paid off. Getting all of my debt paid off through this process has been completely unexpected. The momentum of paying off my debt started and I didn’t want to stop. It got to where saving became as fun as spending. Totally unbelievable, I know. So to answer your question, it feels amazing to be debt-free, and that’s why I’m so passionate about helping others get out of debt too. I found a way that works, and I want to share it with others.
Me: You published one post on the joy of being autonomous. Tell me more.
Anna: My whole blog (And Then She Saved) is about my desperate desire to get out of debt so that I could start living a life that is true to me. When I talked to my mom, I found that I wasn’t telling her everything I was doing (going on trips, buying new clothes, seeing movies, going out to dinner) because I owed my parents money. They had taken a college loan out for me years ago, and I was supposed to be paying them back. Instead, I was going on trips and shopping. If you owe someone money, they’re going to want a say in how you’re spending the money that you’re not giving to them. That is understandable. They want their money! Being autonomous means that I can now makes decisions in my life based on my own (and my husband’s) best interest rather than on the best interests of others.
Me: You have done both a spending fast and a spending diet. What is the difference between the two?
Anna: The main difference between the spending fast and the spending diet is that with the diet you are given a $100 “allowance” per month to spend on “non-need” items whereas with the fast there is no allowance and you only spend money on “needs.”
Me: Who should do the fast, and who should do the diet?
Anna: The person who wants to get rid of their debt as quick as possible should do the spending fast method. I suggest doing the spending diet after the fast as a way to ease back into normal spending habits. For me, it was best to cut off all of my excess spending cold-turkey.
Me: What was the most difficult thing you had to give up during your year-long spending fast?
Anna: The hardest thing to give up was probably a combo of eating out and movies. Both were things that my husband and I liked to do together, so it was hard to constantly have to say “No, I can’t go because of the spending fast.” Always saying no to that stuff got old quick.
Me: Did you really give up Starbucks for the whole year? Have you been back since?
Anna: I did give up Starbucks for the entire year. I’ve been back since but it’s not an everyday thing like it used to be. Now, I only go as a treat. I appreciate it a lot more than I did in the past.
Me: What beauty products did you use during the fast?
Anna: Before the spending fast I would buy all sorts of beauty items because I hoped that they would end up being some sort of miracle product. Of course, they never were. When the fast started I had a whole bunch of random makeup and hair-stuff under my bathroom sink. During the fast I used up all the stuff I already owned. The only thing I ran out of was face wash so I bought the liquid Neutrogena.
Me: Did you buy the crappy toilet paper?
Anna: Yes! And we still do. It can be annoying, but it’s not something we want to spend our money on.
Me: Do you clip coupons?
Anna: I hear so many good things about all the money that people save clipping coupons, but I personally haven’t been able to get enthusiastic about using coupons. So I don’t do it.
Me: What are the top 3 ways Spilled Milk readers can save money now?
Anna: There is so much that we can all do to save money. First, find out where your money is going. Go through your bank statements from the last 3 months and put what you spent into categories (food, entertainment, clothes, groceries, medicine, etc.) Then, calculate the average for each category. That will help to give you a realistic look at where your money is truly going. This is something you can do today. Second, eat out of your cupboards. We all have that stuff we buy thinking that we’re going to really “get into it”- quinoa, anyone? So, this is the time to eat it all up. Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. It might look like your neighbors are doing amazing because they have the newest iPhone and nice clothes but you don’t really know their financial situation. They may be in tons of debt, or borrowing money from their parents. You just don’t really know so, don’t go there.
Me: Do you truly believe anybody can follow your method and get out of debt? What about me? I am not very disciplined when it comes to spending.
Anna: Anyone can get out of debt using my spending fast method. It might seem like I’m very disciplined because I did the spending fast, but I actually messed up a lot. The main thing that contributed to the success I’ve had with paying off debt is that I kept going for the entire year even though I messed up. It’s unrealistic to think that people will do this perfectly. It’s simple but it’s not easy. With that said, I think the fast is far easier to do than the diet because with the fast you don’t have the discretionary spending that gets so many of us in trouble. Ultimately, to succeed with paying off your debt you have to decide that you want to be out of debt more than you want whatever item it is that’s got your eye.
Me: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
Anna: A spending fast (or spending diet) doesn’t have to be forever. You can do it for a year and then you’ll have a year’s worth of history with learning how to say “no” to yourself. The habits that you learn in that year will continue for the rest of your life. The benefits of the spending fast will keep on giving. Also, the Community section on And Then She Saved is a great forum to talk with others who are also trying to get out of debt. Utilize this resource!