Nowhere is it written: Personal finance must be boring. We promise. And because we’re so firm in our conviction that personal finance doesn’t have to be a drag, we called upon one of our favorite, fun-loving finance bloggers, Anna Newell Jones of And Then We Saved—to drive home the point.
Anna Newell Jones crushed more than $23,000 of debt in just 15 months, entirely of her own volition and without the help of any finance professionals, using her own method—The Spending Fast. Since then, she’s continued to document her financial journey, providing advice and inspiration through personal experiences, crafty tutorials and vibrant graphics.
In the following Q&A, Anna talks debt, spending and how she keeps her eye on the prize, despite being a self-proclaimed “spender at heart.”
Smarty Cents: Can you describe the concept of The Spending Fast? What inspired you to to embark on a Fast?
Anna Newell Jones: A Spending Fast is essentially where you spend money on necessities only. It’s bare-bones living, and it can get pretty intense. It’s super effective, but if I’m being honest, it does get tough at times.
I decided to start my Spending Fast, because I was weighed down by my debt. I knew my life didn’t look the way I wanted it to because I had overwhelming financial obligations. I was overspending every month, paying the minimums on every single bill, and I could never make any progress on paying off my debt. I was convinced that I would die with my debt; I didn’t think there was any way out of it.
SC: Now that you’ve paid off a whopping 23k in debt, it’s clear that your commitment to saving continues. What’s your greatest temptation to spend, and how do you manage to overcome?
ANJ: Even though I come across as being super frugal, I’m really a spender at heart. I have to fight with everything I’ve got to not spend ALL of my money on boots and clothes. I overcome the temptation by continuing to write on AndThenWeSaved.com, by talking about my daily struggles and successes with money and by really remembering how hard it was to get out of debt in the first place. I don’t want to have to do that again!
SC: To some, as I’m sure you’ve heard more than once (or twice), a year-long spending fast may feel a bit extreme. Is that where the Spending Diet comes in?
ANJ: Oh yes, a lot of people think that the Spending Fast is extreme—and that’s because it is. If you want to change your life, you have to change the way you live. You have to break those old habits, and you have to start thinking in a new way.
The Spending Diet is an easier, slightly softer approach. With the Spending Diet, you’re allowed a certain amount per month for “non-needs,” so it’s a little easier for some people to digest. Really though, I recommend going all in with the Spending Fast so you can get out of debt quickly and get on with your life.
SC: We love your blog’s fun-loving approach to personal finance. Where do you glean inspiration for the content of your regular posts—and your colorful graphics?
ANJ: Thanks, that’s nice of you to say! There are so many dry and dreary personal finance sites and books out there that just don’t appeal to me. I knew if I didn’t want to bore myself to tears writing my blog, I had to make it fun. I get inspiration for my posts by writing about what’s going on in my life financially, and I try to make my entire blog light-hearted and fun, carrying that through the graphics too.
SC: What’s your personal favorite resource for money-saving tips and inspiration?
ANJ: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite resource so much as that I have a motto for saving—How can I do what I want to do without spending a single cent? By keeping that question in mind, I come up with clever ways to save throughout every area of my life.
SC: Do you have any essential dos and don’ts for starting from scratch in approaching a healthier financial life?
- Do find out how much debt you have and what the interest rate is on each debt.
- Do be willing to tell learn how to tell yourself no.
- Do know that there is hope out of debt if you really want to do it.
- Don’t try to keep up with anyone else! You have no idea what their financial situation is.
- Don’t buy name-brand groceries—such a waste of money!
SC: Do you see another Spending Fast in your future?
ANJ: I don’t see another Spending Fast in my future, because I don’t have any debt to pay off (what a miracle) other than our mortgage, and we’re not rushing to pay off our mortgage, because we got the lowest interest rate that has been available on 30-year fixed mortgages in 30 years. Though, if we needed to do a year-long or temporary Spending Fast, we’d do it in a heartbeat.
For more on Anna Newell Jones, visit her blog at AndThenWeSaved.com.
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