How did you pay off your debt?

Let’s start at the beginning: I was maxed out in June 2011. Seeing that I literally only had $100 left to my name, I asked my parents if I could move into their basement for a few months and they said yes. This wasn’t pretty. My mattress was on the cement floor of an old garage-turned storage room. But I’m so grateful it was an option.

I paid off $10,000 in the time I lived with my parents. In 2012, I moved out and paid off another $11,000. I made my final payment in May 2013, which means I paid off nearly $30,000 of debt in two years. I documented all of that on my old  blog, but this post about debt is my favourite reminder/motivator: you weren’t born to pay off debt and die.

Looking back, would you do anything differently?

Yes! First, I would’ve been kinder to myself. I had so much shame about my debt, and the fact that I was once maxed out. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I was not a bad person. Being in debt does NOT mean you are a bad person. It just means you are spending more than you earn, and you should figure out how to stop that.

I would’ve also saved more money. When I finished paying off my debt, I barely had any savings. I was so obsessed with paying off my debt that I continued to live paycheque-to-paycheque and stretched myself super thin. It wouldn’t have hurt me to take an extra six months to pay off my debt, in order to save a little more and sleep easier at night.

How did you learn how to budget?

I read Debt-Free Forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, then tracked my spending for three months, took the average amount I was spending and turned that into my very first budget. From there, I basically just kept tracking my spending, seeing how things added up, and asking myself if I was happy with the numbers. If things didn’t feel good, I challenged myself to try to change certain spending habits.

Why did you decide to do the shopping ban?

The most common misconception is that I did the shopping ban to pay off my debt, but that’s not true. I had been debt-free for a year! The problem is that after I paid off my debt, I basically went right back to spending all of my money. I wasn’t happy with where my money was going, so I decided to put myself on a ban:

Are you a minimalist?

I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ There’s part of me that hates labels, so I don’t really like to apply any to myself. Labelling myself as a “minimalist” makes me feel like I’m never allowed to buy stuff, or like I should only own 100 things, and that each one of those things must be beautiful and high quality—and it all needs to match.

Here’s what I can say: I am not a fan of the image/branding that’s been created to showcase what minimalism should look like. It’s another form of marketing and feeds into consumerism. You don’t have to buy minimalist things to be a minimalist. Just buy what you need, live according to your values, and be kind. :)

I’m thinking of starting a blog. Where do I begin?

Honestly, my first suggestion is usually to write a handful of blog posts and see if you actually enjoy that process. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work. If you don’t enjoy writing, you won’t enjoy blogging! So, start there. If/when you’re ready to set one up, I started with a free WordPress blog and use ConvertKit for my mailing list. (And I haven’t used Squarespace myself, but keep hearing great things from friends!)

PS – If you’re stressing out about what to name your blog, what it should be about, etc. then my advice is to just get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you’re allowed to change your mind and your goals whenever you want to. Remember: this blog used to be called “blonde on a budget”! Don’t overthink it. Just get started. :)

Do you take the pictures featured on your site?

No, I get all my pictures from the amazing photographers who share their work for free via Unsplash.

Do you have any advice on how to make a career out of writing?

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to write all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re scribbling in a journal, publishing blog posts, or doing it as part of your job (or side hustle). Just write. All the time. You will slowly begin to find your voice, and then challenge yourself to get better. But you have to start somewhere. So, write! (Also, read a lot!)

My other piece of advice would be to remember that “success” probably won’t happen overnight. I started this blog in October 2010 and got a book deal in July 2016. I took a lot of small steps during those six years, including maintaining this blog, writing for free, getting my first client and fostering countless relationships.

If you want more advice, I trust everything Kaleigh and Kristin have to say. :)

Did you self-publish your book?

I did not. I have a literary agent who helped me complete/sell my book proposal to a publisher (The Year of Less was published by Hay House).

Any thoughts on how to start a business, so I can quit my job and work for myself?

I hear something along these lines almost every day. My initial thought is to be really honest and say: working for yourself is HARD. People paint a lot of pretty pictures of what it looks like, but in my experience, it includes: working more than ever before, trying to budget with very irregular income, and saving less money.

But if you’re set on the idea, I also can’t blame you! Because it comes with a lot of freedom too (especially around your time). So my advice is to keep working, save a huge cash buffer (4-6 months of your monthly expenses is a good place to start), and don’t quit until you’re making enough to cover your expenses (so you hopefully don’t have to touch your savings).

In my own journey, I have also gained a lot of insight from my friend Paul (and his course Creative Class) and the Being Boss podcast.