Jessi is a wife, mom, personal finance coach, speaker, blogger extraordinaire, and all-around personal finance expert after overhauling her own family's budget. Her family of five paid off over $55,000 of consumer debt in two years and is now 100% debt-free with a paid-off home all on a salary of $47,000! Since documenting her journey on her blog, jessifearon.com she has been able to help thousands of others achieve their version of financial independence by embracing their own real life on a budget.
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So why don't you just go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you started on this journey. Okay. Well, I am a wife of 10 years and we have three children and we live off of adjustment, husband's income. Um, and we have been for the last almost eight years now. And I'm, I am a certified financial coach. I became a certified financial coach after we, um, became consumer debt free. We paid off just over $55,000 of consumer debt and two years on one income a right before the birth of our third child. And we are now as of January of this year, 100% debt free when we paid off our house. Wow. That's so exciting. I can't wait to get the hundred percent debt free. That is amazing. Especially on one income. Like that's really hard for people to fathom, even with two incomes who are doing it on one I'm sure.
Like just blows people's minds. Well, it wasn't easy, but it's so it's been so worth it absolutely worth every single sacrifice that we made. That is awesome. So can you tell us kind of what started you to um, pursue being debt free? Um, so it actually kind of started, the story is kind of starts in, uh, 2012 so in 2012, um, I gave birth to our first child. I also graduated from college and I became a stay at home mom. And we also ended 2012 pregnant. The boys have Irish twins and so we started, yeah. Oh. And in 2012 my husband had a horrible work related accident where he fell out of a two story window that obviously he is fine, but you know, he, um, he shattered his left wrist and fractured his right elbow. And the problem was that when he's left handed, and so he obviously couldn't go to work anymore, um, was for a couple of weeks, but he had to have emergency surgery on his wrist because of the potential nerve damage.
The fragments were like pinching against his nerves and there was danger of them like severing his nerves. Oh my goodness. So he would lose all ability to actually use his hand. And so we had an emergency surgery problem is, is that we didn't realize that my husband's employer didn't have workman's comp insurance. We had told the hospital it was a work related injury. So when we found out they didn't know workers' comp, we tried to get our insurance to pay for it, but they of course kicked that back because it's a work related injury. And so we had to drain all of our savings in order to get my husband this surgery cause they literally would not take him back there until we paid them the cash. And so we did that. And so when we started 2013 we were hurting pretty bad financially and we were expecting our second child.
And so I was sitting there trying to like figure out, okay, what's money going to look like? You know, when our baby comes, like what is money gonna look like? And I started to realize that we were going to be broke. Like we were going to be running a deficit every single month. There was absolutely no way we were going to be able to pay all of our bills. And all of our responsibilities, they just, it wasn't going to happen. And so it brought about, you know, really hard conversations of, you know, me going back to work, going back into the corporate world, which would not have necessarily been a big deal, but the reality is that we would be, but half of my paycheck was going to go towards just daycare for two kids under two years old. And then we live in Metro Atlanta. And so there's traffic and there's all these things.
And we just realized that we were gonna have this really rushed and chaotic life that we didn't really want for our family. That's not what we had envisioned for our family. And so we had to make these really tough decisions of how do we fix this? And so we decided right then and there that we were going to become debt free. And I'm so grateful that we did. Um, it has allowed me to continue staying home with our kids. Um, which is such a blessing and it's honestly, it's taught us how to live just on the money that my husband makes, like taught us how to live with within our means. You know, you hear that all the time, like live within your means, but sometimes I think we don't know what that means. Um, we don't know how that practically plays out, but when you truly do just live off of what your paycheck is, it's totally life changing.
Yeah, you're absolutely right. So what, um, well I'm first I'm really glad that your husband's okay and that it turned out everything turned out okay. Um, you know, and a lot of times with people now I know it's true for me since like it was true for you. It's usually like this, the catalyst for starting this journey is like something major life that, you know, and at the time you're like, how am I going to get through this? And then once you're on the other side and it leads to being debt free, you know, you're at least I was, I was thankful for that struggle because it led me here even though at the time it was, you know, I'm sure your husband is, I'm sure he wished he didn't have to have surgery. And so I'm sure that was really painful. But you know, the catalyst to get you there, you know, usually it takes something dramatic like that to kind of get you moving.
Exactly. And so that's always like, yeah, they'll push that you need. So. So can you tell us just kinda like what you did, like what changes did you make to actually become debt free? Well, the first thing that we did is that, um, so we had been married, oh my goodness, you married by like five. I don't know. We've been there for five years, but like we've been married for like four or five years. Like we weren't newlyweds anymore. And it was like the first time we were actually sitting down and really talking about money, like not arguing about money, but like talking about it. And planning our money and sitting down and looking at how much we were spending every single month. I mean that was life changing. Just pulling up all of our bank statements and categorizing everything out and realizing that we were spending an obscene amount of the money on one.
Just stuff that we couldn't even identify where we were spending money on, you know, and we were just, overspending is so many different areas and it was just mindless stuff. And it was like once we sat down and we became real with our money and we started, you know, focusing on, okay, where's our money going? It totally changed the story for us. That's awesome. That's usually the, you know, the biggest mindset shift is when you sit down and actually see where it was going. Um, you know, for us it was food and eating out. I was spending so much money on groceries we were eating out for like every meal. It was ridiculous. Actually. We had spent over $1,200. This is back when we were a family of three. Okay, $1,200 on groceries. And I'm like, what? And worth rolling so much of it away.
And then, oh that much we were spending on Papa John's. Yeah, exactly. This is the same price. We were like three with a newborn. So before, but you know, she wasn't really eating it and it was $1,200 and I was like, what are you doing? It's ridiculous. So yeah, that's funny. That's like the same amount too. So how, did you have any issues with it getting your spouse onboard with a budget then? Or do you have any tips for that? You know, I kinda thought I was going to have issues with it cause my husband is naturally a spender and I'm a saver. And so when I first tried to bring up the conversations, I didn't quite realize that I was really just yelling at him and nagging at him. Like I thought I was being helpful. Like, oh my God, you're spending so much money on red bull every single month, you know?
And instead of like actually trying to sit down and have an adult conversation, I was instead like trying to act like I was his mom. And so I had to realize that, you know, this wasn't just about me, that we in fact were a team. We committed our lives together. We're gonna figure this out. And so, you know, I had to pick a good time, not like a time right when he comes home from work, you know, and he's like, you're tired. Um, but you know, pick a good time to sit down with him. I had already run all the numbers, so I didn't like, you know, expect him to have to do that with me. I'd already run all the numbers, had everything tallied up and brought it all to the table and I showed him everything so he could see like the proof in the pudding, so to speak.
He can see those details. And once he kind of realized that, you know, he was like, you know what? You're right. He was like, here, take, he's got his credit card out of his wallet and hand it to me. He handed me his debit card. We have actually had, we have shared my debit card, the one with my name on it for years now because my husband's like I don't want it. I don't want to. Even our bank knows that my husband is actually the one that uses that debit card occasionally. Like they know that don't even send him his own debit card anymore. That's awesome. You know, cause sometimes like with my husband it was kind of the same thing. Like I did all the leg work and showed him the numbers and stuff. But you know it's still hard and you know, do you have any advice for people where their spouse isn't like on board with it where they like they don't, they may sabotage it, you know though like okay I I understand.
But then they still go and use their debit card at the gas station, you know, a couple of times a week. One of the best books that I read that was super helpful for figuring out how to communicate. Now it's not necessarily like a marriage related book. I think it's actually labeled as a business book, but it's just about like communicating and uh, in relationships in general, it's called crucial conversations. Borrow that from the library. It is so good. One of the things they talk about in that book is how we have to realize that we sometimes tell ourselves a story about the situation. And so in our mind we're going into these conversations, but we're speaking through the lens of the story we have already told ourselves. And that story may not be true. And so for me, I had to always kind of recognize, like if I'm telling myself the story, I need to bring the story out in the open and say, okay, this is what, you know, this is how I'm seeing this, you know, x, y, Z, you know, whatever.
Is this how you're seeing it? And that kind of has that really has changed the way that we communicate because it puts us on the same page. We're not just assuming we're on the same page anymore. We actually know that we're on the same page, if that makes sense. Wow. Yeah. That's, I'm going to have to go find that book. I haven't heard of that. So that, that would be really good for me because I'm a visual person. And so that sounds like that would kind of help me. Yeah, it's really, really good. Like I said, they talk about, you know, just all sorts of relationships, whether it's your coworker, whatever. It's just, it's really, really good. That's great. Yeah. Cause I mean, a lot of our perception and what we expect from people or is, or, you know, IX think that people will do is based on our expectations, but they're not always the same.
Like they may think that you want this and you want something else. So it's really, that is very important to be on the same page about what you expect, so. Exactly. Exactly. Um, so did you, during this journey, like I know for me, I would get comments, um, you know, it must be nice or you're so lucky I can never do things like that. So did you ever get any day or maybe you still do? Um, I think I saw your post this morning on Facebook. Uh, tell us about maybe some negative comments about being debt free or during your journey and, um, like how, how do you deal with the negative comments when you are, you know, working on a financial goal and maybe your friends or your family don't understand that this maybe saying no to certain things to get to your bigger goal?
Like how do you deal with that? Well, at first it was really hard. Um, we had one particular family member, obviously I won't say who it is, but one particular family member who, um, like ripped me apart personally for saying that because they found out that we weren't using credit cards anymore. They told me that we were gonna destroy our family, that we were gonna fail. Like, don't, you know, you need a credit card for emergencies and all of these things. And then a few months later, um, some extended family members that come into town and everybody was wanting to meet at this restaurant. But Pat and I couldn't afford it at the time because we were so on our debt free journey and we just didn't have the room in our budget. And this family member was like, well, I will pay for you. I will pay for you.
And we were like, no, you're not understanding. We're, we're telling you no, because we don't have the money to do it. We appreciate you wanting to pay for us, but you're going to need to respect our, no. And it was really hard, but we had to actually keep saying over and over again, you're going to have to respect what we're saying. So if we tell you no, you need to respect it. And it was, and it was really challenging for a very long time, especially with that particular family member. Um, but it just comes down to really holding your grounds. You have to hold your ground. You don't have to fight about MCL about it because it's your family, you know, this is your family and you have to make those decisions for your family. And so you have to just kind of stand your ground and, and be firm in what you say.
Yeah, that's hard with, I mean, and it's important, like you said, to set up, um, boundaries and so that people know what to expect, that you, you know, you're not making up excuses or anything, you know, be honest with them that, no, I can't afford it, I'm not going to go. Um, instead of being, you know, like even wishy washy, that even for me, that would be hard, especially if they offer to pay for it. You say no, it's like, you know, cause you don't want to borrow money or feel like, exactly. Well, and that was the thing. So it was, let's just say that this particular family members, the type of that that wouldn't in there. That makes sense. You know what I mean? And so we knew that we couldn't accept that offer as generous as it was, because it wasn't actually being given in a generous way.
It was given in a way like, we want you at this restaurant and you're gonna be there type of way instead of more like, well, hey, you know, I don't mind, you know, paying for you guys. It's not a big deal. If you still want to go, let me know, I'll pay for you. It was instead of like, no, I'm paying for you, you know. Okay. I got you. Yes. So it was very smart for you guys to set up those boundaries ahead of time. I'm sure. Well, I hope that it's gotten easier for them over time. It has. It has, thankfully. Thankfully now they realize like that, no, you don't have to have a credit card. No, you don't have to, you know, live life that way. Like it's okay to put off going out to eat for a little while so you can save money and pay off debt.
It's okay to do those things right. And you know, and I like to tell people to budget in the fund because I mean, if you're just always saying no and never doing anything, it's hard to stick with the plan and keep going when, if you know, you're miserable all the time and can't have any fun. So, um, you know, how do you guys still budget in for date night and going out to eat and stuff? Well, I'll tell you that my husband and I work, we're kind of weird. We have realized that we're not the biggest like date night people. Yeah.
That often. Like we've tried a couple of different times. Like I mean we stole like every once in awhile we and him will like have a date night and go out to eat or whatever. But like word, not like regular go out to eat people anymore. And I think it's because like I really challenged myself when we were on this debt free journey to get really good in the kitchen. And my husband even says, he's like, honestly I don't want to eat other people's food. I like my wife's a good smart man. Totally. Exactly. And so it is funny because sometimes like we've been to like, we went to this one restaurant, there's this new restaurant in town, it's our last date night and mean it was kind of expensive, but that was fine. It was budgeted, but the food was honestly terrible. Like, yeah. And I would have rather have just made a pizza at home like, right.
You like that. So I'd like you save up and you have all these high expectations cause it's like you don't do it very often. And then for the food [inaudible] like that's just, yeah. And so we've kind of like, we've transitioned, like when we do have our dates to it being less like going out to eat and we're just going and doing something, whether we're just going hiking or something, like just something for us to go do together. Oh, that's a good idea. Um, so d what kind of kept you going while you were paying off debt? Cause I mean, I'm sure it wasn't always easy and you know, hard to say no to some things. So kind of what kind of helped keep you motivated? Honestly, it was, it was my kids. Like knowing that I, I didn't want to like [inaudible], you know, I didn't want to put them into daycare because one, we really weren't gonna be able to afford it.
But two, it was like, I enjoyed it, getting to be here with them. I enjoy the fact that if the school nurse calls because my kid is sick, I can drop what I'm doing and go get them. Like I love that. And I realized that that is something that my family truly needs. Like they need that, that family member that is here and um, is ready for them whenever they need them. And for me, that's what kept me going is that I wanted to, to be here cause I do really believe that, you know, the mom sets the tone of the household. And I know for me and my personality that if I did go back out into the workforce and I had that lifestyle, like I would be crazy all the time because I don't like being rushed and I don't like being frantic and I don't like running late and I don't like those things that I'm like, it would just never work for me.
Yeah. Same here. Like I have been home now two years and I just like the thought of going to work and like being rushed. I'll, I mean, I was stressed out, you know, my kids were sick all the time. So then I was having to miss work for that and it was just stressful. So I really like being able to work at home and you know, be there for certain things. But you know, honestly I also enjoy having alone time and working, like being at home, like where I have more control over my schedule and, and you know, just what my kids need at the time type of thing instead of being like confined to an office. Yes. So what is your number one advice or tip for people that want to be dead? My number one piece of advice is to make sure that you want to become debt free.
That you don't compare your debt free journey to someone else's. Don't assume that you know that just because this one person has paid off this mass amount of debt and they make less money than you and they did it and say you know a year that you're going to achieve that same fee in a year because then you're going to disappoint yourself if you don't meet that goal in a year. Set realistic expectations for you and for your family and for your own debt. Pay off plan. Don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed or fall into that comparison trap. Yes, that is, that is really good. That's very good advice because especially with social media and stuff, it's like, I mean even just anything in general, uh, you know, life, vacations, kids, everything. It's like you're constantly comparing yourself to what you see but you may not see the sacrifices that they make.
Cause you know, people want to post happy stuff. Not like I will, I'm sitting at home saving some money, you know, today. Exactly. They don't want to post the messy stuff. They don't want post the fact that it's, you know, Friday night and their husband's working lay and the kids are being crazy. You know, they don't want to post about that, but they, you know, they're not going to go out to eat or anything. They don't, we're going to order the pizza, they're going to help it out and find something to make in the, in the Pantry, whether it's PB andJ or cereal. Right. Like they don't want to post about that stuff. Exactly. So it's just so important not to compare yourself. Um, so just, let's see, a couple more questions. Uh, what are your current financial goals? Our current financial goals are to Max out our, um, our Roth IRA contributions.
So we are working very hard to try to achieve that. It's funny, it's easier to pay off the debt than it is to save money. I don't know. I know it is so true. I don't know why, but that is true. Like we've had, you know, it's been a struggle for us going from two incomes down to one the last two years. And so like it seems like saving or especially the Roth is always like, even though I budget it first, you know, it never, it never seems to happen like, or it's sporadic, you know, and it's something is always coming up. But it's been, it's actually been a pretty big challenge mentally for us to go from two incomes to one. Even though we're debt free, it's been really tight. Like I wouldn't have even been able to stay at home if a, if we still had debt.
So, um, you know, just, just mentally and just something just is constantly coming up that we didn't think about or something like that. Like did you have any tips from going from two incomes to one or you know, surviving and staying sane on one income? You know, it, yeah, it can be so much of a challenge. It really can be. And I mean, I think it's amazing that you guys have done that, um, after becoming debt free, you know, because it is such a lifestyle change and that for us, like we, when we got pregnant with our oldest, we knew that we wanted me to stay home. And so the best thing that we did while I was still working is we changed my paycheck from being a direct deposit into our checking account into our savings account. That allowed us that kind of time to figure out how to live on just my husband's income.
Cause yeah, it was very rocky for a few months. Like we were just constantly to go back into savings to pull money from my Bates things. Um, you know, so definitely if you are planning to make that leap from one income to, to save as much money as you can. Um, just so you have sort of that buffer because it's going to be a bit of a challenge, but don't allow the buffer to be an excuse to not budget and planning your money accordingly according to the one income that you're now trying to live off of. Absolutely. Okay. One last question. I always like to ask people about their favorite nonfiction book because you know, studies show that millionaires read like at least one book a month or something to that effect. So I always like to ask people about what their favorite book and why. Oh my goodness.
I have so, so many. Um, but I would say my favorite book would be the millionaire next door. Mm. Yeah, I have that one. I haven't actually finished it. I started it, but I had never finished it. I mean, it kind of reads like a textbook, not going to lie. Yeah. But it's, it is very insightful into what actual millionaires will look like in the United States. Um, and it's just, it's fantastic. It's like just fascinating to read it. It really is. And it really motivated us to really get this whole retirement game started. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've really enjoyed it just because it, it does give you a realistic view because I talk to people all the time and they, they really believe that millionaires inherited money or had like their parents help or whatever. But that's not true or accurate at all. Like most millionaires are self-made.
But I think there is also kind of a disconnect of what people think is, or who they think is a million. They think people that drive Lamborghinis are all millionaires and that's not really the case. Or that they make $1 million a year, which is, you know, a millionaire or somebody that is a, has a net worth of $1 million and they only be making like 50,000 a year. So I think that's kind of where the disconnect is too. So we see, you know, the Kardashians on TV and stuff and that's what a millionaire does, but that's not really accurate. So you're right, that book does give you a more accurate representation of what a millionaire is and that, you know, and Kinda like their spending habits and things like that. So that is a very good book. Um, but I've just get in the habit of like starting a book and then I never, I don't finish it.
Uh, not always actually did finish when it was a quick read. It was um, uh, the mock, the monk and the merchants. Oh, I love that book. Oh my gosh. That is such a good book. That is a good book too. Yes, yes. And it's a really quick read. Like it didn't take long at all, so I read that in one night. It was so good. Yeah, it was really good. So that I did finish that one over the weekend. So, um, alright. D uh, any last tips or advice for people? I mean, you know, don't be afraid of the sacrifice that's involved with becoming debt free. Um, I know a lot of times that we can be met with a huge sacrifice that we're going to have to temporarily give up in order to become debt free or to save money. Um, just keep in mind that it's, it's temporary. Life is so much longer than just a day. You know, don't, don't stress about the one sacrifice that you have to give up for just a short period of time to gain what you truly, truly want. Oh, that's awesome. Um, where can people find you? They can find me on social media @jessefearon and they can find me online at jessifearon.com that's great. I'm so happy that you are here with me today and I appreciate you coming on to speak with us. Well, thank you so much, Ashley, for having me. I really appreciate it. Thanks.