Charissa talks about the 3 things she did to turn her money stress and fear into excitement so she could pay off her debt and put her husband through college debt free!
Grab your freebie at changeyourfinances.com/easy
Welcome to the money mindset podcast, where you will find the inspiration and motivation. You need to manage your money better. So you can stress less as living the life you want with budgets and the money mindset podcast. And today we are talking to Charissa from www.changeyourfinances.com. And she's going to tell us all about three ways that she has changed, how she approaches money to get rid of the money stress. She has implemented these three tips to change the fear she had around money in to excitement. Now she gets to be excited about her finances, as well as her story about paying off her debt while putting her husband through college debt free. So let's jump into Karissa's interview. Hi Chris. Thank you so much for being with us today. Hey Ashley. You're welcome. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. I am so excited to talk to you about your not only your debt payoff journey and just how that has affected your life, but really about how you have turned that journey and those financial fears into confidence.
And I know you've got some really cool freebies for my audience as well that we'll get to at the end, but before we jump into all of that, can you kind of just give us like a background on your story? Um, I know you paid off some debt and so if you want to just kind of give us a little bit of background about yourself. Sure, absolutely. Uh, I think it all started really at the grocery store and I was right next to the flour and chocolate chips and, you know, I was struggling to keep bacterias, uh, because I had counted out my groceries again, and I realized that overspent and I was just overcome like with, you know, why couldn't I make this work? And I felt like such a failure and all these things like money and budgeting really made me panic. I really didn't know what to do.
So I was newly married and we both brought that into our marriage. I had my car loan and he had a student loan and his credit cards and it wasn't a lot, but the burden fell upon me as the sole provider. And I had a no regular income and I'm putting my husband through school and like, I didn't know what I was doing. And it was just so overwhelming for me, but you know, what if he decides all of this chaos is stress with my money that I had. I had this like dream in my heart to see my husband graduate debt free. Now I really didn't know how we were going to do this because like I said, money was super tight. Uh, the debt that we did have was 20% of my income that year. And I was trying to figure out how to pay off debt and how to manage my money and still pay for school, pay cash for school.
So we didn't take on any more debt. Uh, I had seen my parents pay off their debt when I was in, I don't know, early teens or young teens preteens. And that made such an impact on me that I knew somehow was possible. I just didn't know how I could do it. So I stumbled along, um, best. I could just trying to make things work, trying to manage the money and trying to pay things off and, um, pay for school. And then one day, you know, a couple of years later I looked up, I was trying to match up all my receipts and do my budget and all that I looked at. And I realized if I could come up with a couple hundred dollars extra today, we could be debt free. So I called my husband in, I mean, it was his student loan.
And so I made him, he didn't really know what he was doing, but I made them like click submit the payment because, uh, you know, it was system alone. And as I watched the, that balance dropped to zero, I didn't realize that that day, March 17th, 2010, which is kind of special because it's now March 17, 2020. Um, but that moment was such a defining moment in my life. And that's awesome. Yeah. I taught my 10th dad free anniversary and you know, like that has been such a pivotal point in my life that I celebrated every year. Um, because here's the thing like immediately afterwards, like I watched those numbers dropped to zero and I was expecting some like huge life changing, you know, I dunno something and it wasn't, it was just quiet. And we actually went up to celebrate that night on a gift card.
We went to Coldstone celebrated with some ice cream, but as I headed into the summer with my slow work period, that's normal, slow. You know, I was completely struck by the fact that there's so much peace of mind, even though everything else about our situation hadn't changed. Money was still tight. A work was going to be slow. Um, we were paying for school, all those things. There was peace of mind. And so now I have to be honest, like at this point when I paid off my debt, I didn't like money at all. I still at like budgeting and that I had this, I had this bigger fear, Ashley and this fear the was being stuck in the same place. Uh, still stressed out, still overwhelmed and worried about money and not ever making the progress on the goals that I wanted. So I, that really drove me into figuring out how to handle money.
God's way, how to, to be wise with my spending, how to do all those things. And so I ended up over the next few years, I turned around and saved up over $79,775 in Oh wow. My husband's school. Holy cow. That's awesome. Thank you. Yeah, it was, it was a huge thing. I didn't know, uh, how we were going to make it a lot of times, but you know, God provided it and we were all able to do that. And now I've lived at free for 10 years. And so then at that point, friends and family really started asking me like, Carissa, how did you pay off that so quickly? Uh, you know, how are you budgeting? How are you paying for school? And then they started asking if I could help them with their finances. And so it was at this point, I realized that, you know what, I have gone through something that's really big.
And I now have a gift that I can take something as stressful and complicated as money can be, and I can really break it down into simple steps that get results. And so, uh, and that was probably a couple of years after becoming debt free. At that point, I just completely fell in love with budgeting. Um, it makes me so happy to talk about your money and talk about budgeting. And I also dedicated my life to helping other women overcome the same money struggles and gain financial peace with a biblical perspective so that they can have confidence with handling money. They can provide well for their families and they can impact their communities. And the methods I've taught have worked, which is so humbling. Um, I, the women I've worked with, uh, they've been able to stick to a budget, pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and just a couple of years put money into savings and most importantly, gain confidence and peace of mind when it comes to money.
And I'm just so amazed that the struggles that we went through and the trials that we went through, um, was a, has been used in that way to help other people. Yeah, that is amazing. Um, so whenever you decided that you were going to pay off your debt and pay cash for your husband's school, um, what were some of the things that you did to get there? Like what did you start doing at first? Uh, so at first, um, I just knew I wanted to pay off my car, so I really didn't have a plan on paying off debt. I feel like I just stumbled through paying it off. Um, I was paying minimum payments. I think I paid a little bit extra on my debt, but I really bounced around. I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a strategy. I just, uh, you know, somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm like, I want to see them graduate debt free now paying cash for school.
That's something different. Like I really was intentional about, we lived very frugally, um, in a cheap apartment. Uh, we drove old cars that my husband kept fixing. I just worked and saved up as much money as I could for each semester. That's, that's amazing that you're able to do that. Um, what were some of the things that you did to, um, you know, save money, like, uh, grocery planning, a meal planning, or, you know, with your budget, anything like specific that you can, um, maybe tell somebody if they're thinking about doing that as well? Cause that's a lot of money to save. You know, most people don't think that they can save a thousand dollars, so to save over $70,000, that's a huge feat. So, um, what would you tell somebody that is just even wanting to save like a thousand dollars? Well, first of all, I mean, you have to remember, like it doesn't, I didn't go out trying to save $79,000.
I was trying to say for the next semester. And so I'm breaking down a goal into smaller pieces. And what I've learned now is there's a couple of things, um, that to really have a plan for your money to be on a budget, which I know you love budgets. And, uh, because when I, when I'm control in control of my money and I have a plan for it, like, it really makes a difference because I am able to tell my money where to go and then I have extra money, you know? So if I, all my expenses are covered and then I have extra money, I am intentional about telling that money to go to savings. Then the other thing, like I close out my budget and I skim off anything that I didn't spend and I add that to it. But I think also, um, let me think, you know, I, I just, I think one of the big things that I came to with paying cash for school was the realization that you can't look at anybody else, um, for comparison because, you know, they have, you know, on social or whatever, you see all the fancy cars, the houses of vacation, whatever.
But I had to come to a point where I'm like, I need to do what's best for my family. And if that means saying no to going out and buying whatever all my friends were doing, then I had to be okay with that because my family, I needed to provide for my family, I needed to put my husband through school and I was committed to not taking on any more debt at that point. So I had to do what was best for my family. And, you know, that became such a motivator for me. And it really freed me from, you know, like, Oh, I don't have this, Oh, I don't have that. I must be not as good of a person or good with my money. Like, no, it doesn't have anything to deal with that you have your goals and what's important to you.
And like everyone is different everyone's situation is so different. Absolutely. And, um, how long did you save up this money? Cause some people may be thinking, Oh, well, that's great, but I don't make, you know, $79,000 in a year. There's no way I could do that. But it sounds like this was kind of small steps over time. So just like how long did it take you to save up that much? Well, I mean, like I said, it was semester by semester, so, you know, I had four months at a time that I had to save up, uh, you know, at the beginning my husband was going to community college. So it was like, I dunno, $1,500. And then as we got up to the university, it was more like five or 5,500. And so you, um, but I started out, you know, that first year when, um, we had debt, we got married and all of that, like my income was $37,000, so I didn't start off, you know, having it. But I think it's just the discipline of you having a big goal and you breaking it down into small manageable pieces. That's still a stretch that you can save for the kind of pushes you past it. And then you just keep working on that smaller goal until you reach it, then you add another smaller goal and you just keep you keep adding it because that's another thing I learned. Um, I did, I got to a point where, Oh, you asked me how long it took and then I'll get under my other story.
Uh, so w it took us a long time to get through school. And it was about 10 years that we went through school and that I was paying cash for my husband's school. Well, that's awesome. I mean, then when you say it like that, you know, that seems a lot more doable for, you know, an average family and you might, I mean, you weren't making like an extravagant income or anything like that. So, you know, just like you said is to not focus on like the big amount. Cause then that just gets overwhelming, but focus, like you said, each semester and just chug away at the smaller amount. So you don't get so overwhelmed and go ahead with what you were going to say. So a couple years in a few years ago, uh, I was just, I had gotten to a point where it felt like no matter what money I brought in and I had increased my income at this point, but, you know, it was all just going out.
It was all just going out and I'm like, I can't say I'm not a saver, like what is wrong with it? You know? And I was really discouraged and kind of burned out. And so I actually, for an entire year, I tracked every single dollar that I spent, excuse me, every single dollar that I put into savings, even if it was money such as, cause I saved for like Christmas, I saved for annual bills, you know? So any type of money that I put in the savings, whatever, the reason I was four and you know, some months I only put in $33, uh, other months I put in more, but as I track my progress through the whole thing, I realized that even small amounts, uh, really add up. And so at the end of the year, I had put in over $19,000 into savings.
Wow. That is amazing. And I always try to stress that to people too, because I get the same way. Like, especially with savings, it seemed like when I was paying off debt, I was like, so focused that, and we did it really, really fast, but then once we got to the savings part, it's like, Oh my gosh, I'm never going to get there. Like it took forever. There's constantly things coming up and you know, it's like, you don't feel like you're making progress some months, but you know, even like you said, $33 or even not going back into debt is progress. So yeah, definitely. I like the idea of tracking each month or, you know, every week, every payday, whatever, so that you can actually see all the small progress that you're making that adds up over time. That's great. And, and, you know, I colored in a picture.
I actually like went way crazy. I colored in a picture, I wrote a blog post. I had an Excel spreadsheet that my husband made up for me. Cause I was like, I am determined that I'm going to prove that I can be the saver and having those visual things that I actually colored in or seeing that Excel sheet, you know, like really motivated me. I was like, Oh, this is dumb. You know, whatever at the beginning. But as I did it, I was like, wow, because one, it showed me that I was making progress and not only was I making progress, like the amount I had to go was a lot less than when I started and the amount where I had come from, you know, like you could see all that. And so that really just motivates you to find extra money, to skim off your budget or to sell something or make more whatever the, you know, cut expenses and all of those things add up.
And so I still, I don't, I mean, I still call her in a picture for my savings goals now, but I don't, I'm not all that crazy as far as tracking everything, but I still skim off money and every single month I'm looking for ways to put more money into savings. And because I know even, you know, like for example, like my cell phone bill, I have it at $70 in my budget and it's usually like 66 and some change, but I like round numbers. Yeah. And so then, but at the end of the month, I'm going to skim off that $3 and something and put it with everything else I can skim off so that I can have some extra money. And that usually gives me, you know, close to a hundred or a couple hundred dollars depending on the month extra that I hadn't even planned on.
That's awesome. And that's just a habit that you have built over time, which really helps, you know, with sticking to the budget and just building those habits for the longterm. Now, what were some, um, other ways that you stayed motivated, you talked about the picture, um, and then the tracking, was there anything else that you did to kind of stay motivated over this time to save up money for my husband's school or yeah, just saving, um, you know, whether it was saving for that or just saving in general now that you're past that? I think one thing that's really motivated me is the incredible peace of mind and freedom I've had been debt free. And so that, cause I remember how stressed out I was. I mean, I told you I was crying in the grocery store and I remember just that feeling of panic and failure and all those things.
And once I became debt free and really figured out how to manage my money at that point, um, there's very few things I'm going to even consider going back into debt for because my peace of mind is worth so much. And so that has been a huge motivator. So, um, even if I like I'm saving, I'm saving. And let me give you an example, you know, for when I was trying to do this great savings experiment, like I was talking about, uh, I was actually trying to save for school tuition. I was trying to save for another vehicle. I was trying to save to move. I was trying to save for an emergency fund. I was trying to save for all these things. And what would happen would be, is I would put this much, little, tiny bit here, a little tiny bit here, a little time right here, a little tiny bit here.
But then when it came time for a tuition payment, I had to clean out all those accounts and put it towards the tuition. Cause I didn't have enough money or, you know, a car repair or something. And you know, at one point I was like really discouraged that, you know, so things kept coming up, but then I realized I'm like, you know what, even if I had, you wanted to use that money for something else, I didn't go back into debt. Exactly. I had the money, uh, I was able to make it work and um, I'm just super, I'm really goal, more motivated. You know, I love, we have big goals where, uh, renting right now, we're renting a house and we're saving up to buy a house at this point. And so I have all these things I want to do, but what I realized is it's okay to just focus on one at a time.
And when you focus on one, it may seem at first, like you're going to make really slow progress and you're not going to get to all the things that you want to do, but that's not true. You do. It's just, it's a matter of priorities, but here's the thing you're actually making progress and you, uh, once you get it, then you can enjoy it. And then you're not like when you're trying to be spread so thin trying to do so many things at once. It's really discouraging. Cause you're not making any progress towards anything. Yeah. I'm the same way. Like, especially with saving for things like you talked about with Christmas and vehicle repairs and all that stuff. I can't stand to have like all those little things coming out of my budget each month. And so what I like to do, it sounds like you're really similar is I like to just fill up one fund, just focus on that one thing, get it done. And over with. So like in January I'm usually done for Christmas, like I'll cause my husband gets a end of the year bonus usually. Um, but the, you know, the amount changes, but, um, and so I usually try and fill that up like in January. So then I don't have to worry about Christmas the rest of the year. So I don't have like all these little things coming out of my budget every single month. Like it just, I can't do it. I'm the total opposite.
So those things like that are regular expenses that I know are on the come up. My insurance, I pay every six months, Christmas, um, car repairs, you know, all of those things. I actually, even my renter's insurance, which isn't much I will take that and that, cause I prefer to break it down into a smaller bite size thing that I can absorb into my monthly budget. I put it into its own savings account. So then when the insurance is due in may I already have the money and I don't have to stress about coming up with, you know, this big bill. And so I actually do, I actually do it differently, but you know what, that brings up a really good point, Ashley, because this is the thing like personal finances, personal for a reason, exactly like your income, your expenses, your stressors, your goals, you know, all of them are different than anybody else's.
And so you really can't focus on what other people are doing because it doesn't even make sense for what you're doing. Right. Exactly. You're exactly right. So I know, I, I, uh, yeah, I just, don't like a whole bunch of stuff coming out every month. I'd rather just like do it. I I'm the type that I just want to do something, get it over with like, I just want to move on. I don't want to think about it every month. So how, um, how did you take that fear about money and turn it into, you know, confidence? What are, what are some tips for that? Well, I got three things that really made a difference and I'm happy to share them with you. So the first one is really the power of an intentional plan for your money.
And this is such a huge tool.
Uh, now I'm talking about a budget. I've mentioned that several times, but when I originally started budgeting and I use that term very loosely is I would have this pile of receipts. And every time I came home, I'd crumble up the receipt and then throw it in this pile until it became so big and like fall off the desk and like on the floor. And like, I'd have to clear out a whole Saturday to try and figure out from these faded white crumpled receipts where my money had gone for the last two months. And I would be in tears and I'd be panicked and my husband totally stayed away. And I just felt like the budget was telling me like a neon sign saying you're feeling with money. And I felt like I couldn't do it. But what I realized as I, as you know, in my whole transformation is that a budget is actually a plan for your money ahead of time and where you're in charge and you get to decide what's important to you.
And, uh, you know, something, um, eating out is not important to me. So we don't eat out very often. So that amount is very small, but I have other things that is larger, but for whatever your family is, you get to decide and you're going to set up, what's important, you set an amount to it and then you stick to it each month. Now I use a prioritize budget, which I have found to be the most easiest way to set up a budget, simple, to set up and simple to stick to. And this helps me close out my budget every single month so that I can actually bring, um, you know, skim off extra money, like I was talking about to put towards my money goals. And so a couple things, first of all, uh, for your readers, I do have a prioritized budget worksheet, and I would love to give it to you guys as a gift.
Um, and that's free. Do you want me to give the website or you want to just put it in the shadow? Um, and I'll add it to the show notes as well. Changeyourfinances.com/easy and that's for budget made budgets made easy. Uh, but one thing I really realized is if I put the four essentials, my food, my life's in water, my housing and my transportation at the top of my budget, all my gosh, a whole bunch of money stresses completely melted away because I knew my family's needs were taken care of. And that gave me the mental ability to, um, tackle debt, save money. And you know, you get creative ideas on how to come up with more, to put towards your money and goal. But most importantly, like that gives you hope and you know, that you can make it at this point.
And so that has totally changed my life. And that's what I teach. And, you know, I have students telling me all the time, how much this budget method has really changed their lives. So that's the first thing is having an intentional plan for your money. The second thing is I learned is that money really doesn't have to be stressful because here's the thing. Anyone can change their finances and it's all small changes that you would make today and then are going to make a huge difference in your future coming up. It's like a plane, like you take a plane and you're going to, um, across the country say, I'm coming to visit you Ashley, but just the slightest change. In course, the slightest degree of difference. I'm going to end up in Alaska or instead of coming to see you.
Yeah, that's a good point. And that's,
It's the same with your money. So it's small changes that you make today that will make a completely different future. And the problem with money, like when we're stressed out about it is we don't know where it's going and we, we're not sure how to manage it. You know, trying to manage the debt. We don't have any savings and you feel like you're not making any progress and you're not making any traction. But what I have found is one, when you have that plan, like it gives you a roadmap to follow so that you know exactly where your money is going so that you're in control. And that, you know, I've seen how, um, God has provided all these years when I had no idea how I was going to make the next tuition payment or, um, pay off the debt before graduation and everything.
And he's provided all these things, uh, and just really shown me that managing money God's way really makes a huge difference. Not only in your stress and your, um, mental status, but just how you're able to reach these goals. So that's the second thing is money doesn't have to be stressful. The third thing is that God has given each of us a gift and he wants us to use it. But too often, like money struggles hold us back. You don't have the ability financially, emotionally, you don't have the ability mentally or the space to be able to use that gift, to bless other people. And when you're in control of your finances, you can change your finances. And when you do not only are you providing well for your family, but you're able to change your life and you're able to be able to be a blessing for other people.
And so I just want to encourage you guys, like it's not just about you and your money. I mean, that's totally taken care of our families is a good thing. Changing our financial future is amazing, but there's also a bigger purpose that you have to impact those around you and whatever gift it may be. Like. We all have different things that our heart is drawn to and different gifts and abilities. And it can even just be the, the, my, my family's needs are met. And I have peace of mind on that, that I can go volunteer or, I mean, it doesn't have to be like you giving financially, although that could be, but it just has you, aren't worried about your family survival and you have the ability to look beyond that. So that's, those are the three things that have really made a huge difference in transforming that fear of money that I had that panic overwhelm and that worry into something that I'm super excited about.
And I love seeing that transformation in the lives of the women that I help. That's amazing. I really love those three points and completely agree with you. Um, so I do like to, at the end of every episode, ask what your favorite nonfiction book is, um, just so that we can, you know, improve our minds and our lives, not just our, not just our finances, so it doesn't have to be, um, financial, but do you have a favorite nonfiction book? Um, I would say probably right now, one of my favorites was it's the millionaire woman next door by Thomas Stanley. And I was just really impacted by the fact that one, a lot of the things that I've learned actually is legit and works for so many people, but so many women in particular, but just the fact that you, uh, as a, as a woman, we have an incredible ability to really make an impact and change our family's finances.
And I just want to empower women, especially, I mean, men too, I focus on my audience is all women. Um, but you can create a better financial future. You can get out of debt, you can save money, you can stop living paycheck to paycheck. And it's, it's not really that hard. It doesn't have to be that hard and complicated can actually be pretty simple. That's great. I didn't realize there was a women's version of that book. I have the, just the millionaire next door, but I didn't know they had another, you would love it, like highlighting every single page. I'm like, Oh, I guess I can't give this one away.
Yeah. Yeah. I like to highlight my books too. I'm to have
To check that one out. Um, I say that like every episode, so my reader or my listeners here are probably getting tired of me saying that, but I, I didn't know, they had a women's version so, well, I appreciate you being with us today. And before we go, can you, um, give us the website again and tell us how, um, people can find you, like, are you on Facebook or Instagram, Pinterest, all those things. Sure. But could I just share one last thing with you? Yes, absolutely. So, uh, one of the proudest moments of my entire life I'm sitting there in the crowded stands, uh, the air horns are blowing. People are cheering when they're not supposed to. And I was watching my husband walk across that commencement stage and this cap and gown, he was completely debt free and we had done it. Uh, we had paid off our debt.
We had paid cash for his school and along the way, I really overcame the fear of money. And I started handling it with confidence and I had peace of mind. And so I just want to encourage you guys like it's now is the perfect time to start making those changes to change your finances because, and your future, because small things. And I didn't even realize it at the time that was going to make such a huge difference, and it really has completely changed my life. Uh, you can find firstname.lastname@example.org and I might change your finances on Instagram, on Facebook. Uh, I don't, I have a, I have a Twitter account, but I don't ever use it. So come check me out on Instagram or Facebook, all that changed your finances. Oh, well, thank you so much for being with us today. You are so welcome and I am so thrilled to be here, and I'm just so excited for all of your readers, to our listeners, to be able to see what they do with their finances. Thank you.
Thank you so much to Carissa for being with us today and sharing those wonderful tips on transforming your fear of money into excitement, as well as some simple tips on reaching those big financial goals all while doing it on an average income, just, you know, small wins over time. So be sure to go check out her website and get your freebie. It changeyourfinances.com/easy. And also don't forget. You can go get your paycheck budget spreadsheet www.budgetsmadeeasy.com/spreadsheet. And I will see you guys in the next episode.