When we're in the midst of paying off debt, it's important to know how to stick to a budget. This way, you're telling your money what to do instead of the other way around.
Imagine you have $77,000 worth of debt. Sounds a little daunting, right? Depending on your income, that may take years and years to pay off.
Kumiko Love, also known as The Budget Mom, paid off that amount of debt in just 8 months using her own budgeting solution, finding ways to increase her income as a single Mom and controlling her expenses by sticking to a budget.
The Budget Mom's History With Debt
On top of student loans and credit card debt, Kumiko got into a bad motorcycle accident in 2011 that landed her with an additional medical debt—which she managed to pay off entirely after she got married.
But the unexpected happened and she went through a divorce, triggering bad spending habits that came with the emotional issues she had to deal with which caused her to rack up a hefty credit card debt. At the time, she relied on debt to find her own place with her son to start her life over.
How She Crushed $77,000 of Debt
The first step towards crushing her $77,000 debt was writing things down on a piece of paper, putting it on Excel, and looking at the big debt picture—something she didn’t do the first time she paid her debt.
“When we have debt, we think that making minimum payments is fine—$100 every month, $40 every month. It’s not too bad,” she says.
Seeing the actual numbers gave her that first epiphany moment. It wasn’t until she wrote down all her debt that she felt a wake-up call and thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really, really bad.”
Earning Extra Income
Kumiko realized there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to finance and budgeting. She experienced firsthand the difficulties behind looking for additional sources of income as a single mother especially now when childcare expenses are pretty steep.
She thought about hobbies and asked herself, “what are the things in my life that I could possibly make money from?”
Kumiko loves photography, so she jumped on YouTube and spent a month learning about photography. This kickstarted her side gig in real estate photography where she would shoot houses on the weekends with her son in tow. It wasn’t a lot of money, but that was when she made significant extra debt payments. It gave her hope.
So that’s what she did—she looked at things that she enjoyed doing that could possibly have value in someone’s life as an opportunity to earn extra income. And her site TheBudgetMom.com was a significant source for that extra income as well.
Cutting Down on Expenses
“Food is a necessity that quickly turns into a want.”
A ‘quick’ stroll down the snack aisle and that extra six-pack of soda? Kumiko realized quickly that the food budget is the silent killer of finances. That was the first thing she tackled and was able to cut it down in half from $900 to $400-$450 a month!
In addition to going for generic or store-brand products, The Budget Mom also began meal planning and looking up recipes using the things she already had at home to save on costs.
“We usually look at our income as a limitation—that we’re limited by the paycheck we receive. I started looking at it as a resource, and that the only way to stretch it is to decrease spending and really analyzing the expenses.”
That’s how she looked at every other area of her budget.
After food was clothing, which was admittedly huge for her. To combat the natural spender in her and the emotional issues that cause her to spend on clothing, she waited a full year before buying new clothes, not including the necessities like underwear and socks.
Living the Debt-Free Life
Paying off her debt gave her hope and the confidence to dream bigger—which meant buying her own home and doing it in cash. She was also able to seize opportunities with her son without relying on debt to make memories she wanted with him.
“I can’t tell you how many Happy Meals I put on my credit card because I was afraid of my debit card declining.”
Living debt-free gave her the freedom of options and being able to pay with cash for small things.
Here on MKM, we’re all about living the mortgage-free life. Kumiko skipped the mortgage entirely and was able to buy her dream home in February 2020.
Related Story: How We Paid Off Our Mortgage in 5 Years
How to Stick to a Budget and Pay Off Your Debt
Kumiko's success story is incredibly inspiring. Her situation is unique and may not be similar to yours. That's why she shared 5 steps with us to help us all pay off our debt faster.
1. Have an Emotional Connection with your Financial Journey
People would say that emotions don’t belong in the world of finance because it causes us to make irrational decisions. Kumiko thinks the opposite—it’s emotions and feelings that drive us in our financial journey.
“We have to deal with the emotional side of finances before we can ever make any lasting changes in our lives.”
Ask yourself, why are you on this journey to be better with your finances?
Anytime you feel like you’re not motivated enough or you’re not dedicated enough, that emotional connection to your why is what will drive you, what will light a fire in you, and it will be the reason why giving up is not an option.
2. Ditch Self-Comparison
It’s the thief of joy. Embrace the fact that your journey is not going to look like anyone else’s. There will be people who will not understand your decisions, and you have to be okay with that.
3. Make Sure to Have Visual Progress
Get financial trackers, start embracing adult coloring. When you hit a major goal, keep that tracker so you can look back on it when you feel like you’re not making progress. It’ll keep you motivated to keep pushing forward.
4. Have Honest Conversations
Being a single mom was lonely. It was hard not having anyone to have an honest conversation with about her financial journey and everything else she was going through.
Kumiko started The Budget Mom way before she found out that you can make money from blogging. She initially wanted to start a community where people like her could talk freely about their own financial journeys until The Budget Mom ultimately grew into a supportive and understanding family that became her resource for motivation and dedication.
5. Save More Money
Kumiko uses online coupon apps such as Fetch Rewards which allows you to scan your receipts for rewards points that you can redeem as gift cards.
In her day-to-day life, The Budget Mom saves money by looking at ways not to spend. “If I don’t see it, I can save it.”
Be intentional with your spending. Rewards apps and the Cash Envelope Method could only get you so far. It really comes down to being intentional with how we spend and challenging ourselves to do better.
Final Thoughts on How to Stick to a Budget
Kumiko Love said it best …
“You can’t change what you don’t know. Until you know where every dollar in your life goes, you’re going to have a really hard time creating a realistic budget that works in your life.”
You need to have a firm grasp of your entire budget picture and make changes from there. Take this opportunity to create your first budget, really look at the numbers, and take control of your finances to create the life you've always wanted.
Do you think it's important to know how to stick to a budget like The Budget Mom?
Please let us know in the comments below.
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