Debt Mindset Series: Achieving Debt Freedom

If you remember the Debt Mindset Series I published in 2017, you may remember Jen from Frugal Millennial. Now that I’m doing these regularly again, I wanted to re-interview Jen because of her major announcement — achieving debt freedom has become a reality because she is now debt free!!!

Jen Hayes is an HR professional by day and a frugal lifestyle blogger by night. When she finished grad school, she found herself buried in student loan debt, underemployed, and 50 pounds overweight.

She decided to embark on a journey to shed 50 pounds and $117,000 of debt by 2018. And she accomplished that goal in December of 2018.

You can view her original interview by clicking here.

Jen’s story was the final interview when I closed out this series in 2017. Now that I’m bringing it back this year, I thought it would be amazing to start with her story seeing as she recently paid off six figures of student loan debt!

Did you ever change your strategy during your debt payoff journey?

Yes. My husband is a spender and I’m an extreme saver, so we kept our finances separate in the beginning. He would make extra payments on his own student loans, and I’d make extra payments on mine. At a certain point, we realized we would never get out of debt this way because he struggled so much with overspending.

Now, I manage all of the money and I give him a certain amount each month to spend on whatever he wants (and I’m not allowed to complain about what he chooses to spend it on). This wouldn’t be the right move for most people, but it works for us. Once we started doing this, we were able to pay down our debt insanely quickly.

Related: How to Get Your Spouse On Board With Budgeting

What was the hardest part? How did you overcome it?

I think the hardest part (aside from my husband’s spending) was dealing with comparison-itis and seeing other people doing awesome things that we weren’t able to do right now.

We put off buying a home, purchasing new cars, starting a family, going on vacations, etc. until our debt was paid off.  It’s not easy to make those sacrifices and live below your means, but it’s definitely worth it.

What are your top three tips for someone paying off debt?

  1. Cut your expenses as much as possible
  2. Earn extra income if you can
  3. Remember that this is only temporary

The sacrifices you’re making now will be worth it when you reach your goals. I like this quote from Dave Ramsey: “Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else.”

Would you prefer to cut costs or earn more to pay off debt?

I prefer to cut costs because I feel like that’s an area that I have more control over and it’s something I can do immediately. Increasing income may take time and depending on what field you work in, your earning potential at your day job might be somewhat limited.

My husband and I have both had a few side hustles and we’re willing to work extra hours, but we didn’t want to work 100 hour work weeks to get out of debt. I like to have some balance in life. When you cut costs, you aren’t making a big time investment like you would be if you’re focused instead on increasing your income by working as much as possible.

Related: 50 Everyday Expenses You Need to Stop Spending Money On

How I Shop Smart and Save Money on Groceries

20 Ways to Make Extra Money Today

Are there any side hustles that helped you on your journey to debt payoff?

Yes, my husband and I have both had a few side hustles while we paid off debt. My husband does freelance graphic design and web design, and he has also worked as an assistant photographer for a wedding photographer.

I earn side income through my blog Frugal Millennial. Most of my income comes from sponsored posts and affiliates but I’ve also earned some income through freelance writing and selling digital products.

Related: 22+ Websites That Pay Writers for Guest Posts

How to Make Money with a Blog or Niche Site

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to make a debt payment?

We lived in my parent’s basement for four years.

Do you believe that paying off debt requires a specific mindset? How so?

Yes, absolutely. You won’t get out of debt with the same mindset that got you into debt in the first place. I think it’s important to be thankful and appreciative of what you have instead of always wanting more.

You need to be willing to live below your means. It’s crucial to be able to think long-term and understand that the sacrifices you’re making now will be worth it when you’re debt-free.

On Achieving Debt Freedom – What are your plans now that you’re debt free?

We are currently building our savings. We’re focused on creating a bigger emergency fund and saving for a down payment on our first home.  It’s so much more fun to save money than it is to throw it away on debt.

Related: Emergency Fund Tips: How to Grow Your Account Fast and Where to Start

Learn More About Jen

You can find me blogging on Frugal Millennial and can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


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