In this new series of interviews, my plan is to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful.
One of the blogs that I have really enjoyed reading recently is Enemy of Debt. I recently spoke with Brad Chaffee, the brains behind this blog, about his life, blog, and his financial advice. This is how it went down:
Me: Please tell my readers a little about your personal life.
Brad: I'm a 35 year old husband and father of three beautiful children. I recently quit my job so that I could be a SAHD/WAHD and work on starting my financial counseling business. I love being a father and take every chance I can to spend time with my kids. We are also debt free (except for the house), after paying off just over $26k of debt in 20 months.
Me: How awesome to be debt free! What inspired you personally to get out of debt?
Brad: One man inspired me, but what he really did was help us understand why it was so important to get out of debt. It all started with Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover. The book just made complete sense and made us feel like we could do it after all. after that Financial Peace University kept us motivated and taught us a lot about ourselves in the process. It was the very best decision we have ever made and THE only New Years Resolution we ever completed.
Me: That book was our inspiration to really ramp up our efforts as well. Do you still read/listen to Dave Ramsey to stay on track or are you pretty self-motivated now?
Brad: Actually I do. I have his audio book The Total Money Makeover, and I listen to it regularly, but the main thing is I coordinate and lead Financial Peace University at my church. When you throw my God given passion, those classes, and my wonderful readers into the mix, it definitely helps me to stay motivated. That's not to say I do not have my occasional mishaps, because I do, but they tend to be more controlled these days. ;)
Me: What was the biggest change in your life that made getting out of debt possible?
Brad: Intensity and focus made it possible but first we had to address the very problem that caused us to be where we were at the time. Our behaviors needed to change, and once we did that, it was all she wrote. We started a budget, stopped borrowing money, sold our "stuff", and became intensely focused on saving money and paying off our debt. We learned a lot about contentment during that time, which was what gave us the strength to get rid of our beloved "stuff".
Me: Clutter is such a stress for me. Do you find your home (and life) less cluttered now after selling all your "stuff" and better evaluating purchases?
Brad: Well, we did sell all of our expensive stuff but the rest of the clutter we have, we just now started to get rid of. Just like with our debt, it took us a while to realize we were collectors of stuff, even if it was cheap stuff. The problem for us isn't buying a lot of things anymore, as much as it is not getting rid of the things once they lose their usefulness. Baby clothes, toddler clothes, our clothes, you name it, we had extras. We are seeking to become minimalist in every way, even if it is not to the extreme of others. I'm looking forward to it.
Me: What was the most extreme measure that you and your wife took in paying off debt?
Brad: We sold everything we could! Our car, big screen tv, my XBOX 360, and anything else we could get our hands on. Probably the most extreme thing, at least in most people's eyes was that we did not go on vacation, buy each other gifts, and we cut up the credit cards for good. This year was the first time we bought each other birthday presents in 2 years. We made them good ones too, because we earned them. The sacrifice was worth it!
Me: Did people think you had lost your mind? Did you find any unexpected support in the process?
Brad: I of course had my non-believers, but for the most part they were co-workers and friends. My boss for example said he didn't need a Total Money Makeover at first, but after hearing me tirelessly rant about it, he became convinced he was wrong. Now he's paying off debt like a champion. Best part is, he's getting married soon, and him and his fiancee are on the same page. I have more than a hunch, that they will end being very successful in life. I'm very proud of them both!
There were people that said I was crazy for cutting up my credit cards to never borrow again, and I did receive some emotionally confused looks from others during that process. My dad for instance said that you just can't live without a car payment, or credit cards. He's of course got the mindset that he "is" his credit score. I'm financially responsible and I use cash, but my credit score is not calculable. I'll live. :)
Me: What is your personal spending weakness?
Brad: It used to be video games, electronics, books and eating out. Since becoming debt free we have slipped a little in the eating out department but we are still maintaining our plan to save our Fully Funded Emergency Fund of $15,000 by the end of 2010. We are almost half way there already so we should reach that goal. We ask ourselves a lot more questions before we buy anything these days. Do we need it? Can we wait? How will it affect our plan if we buy it?
Me: Those are all great questions for any purchases. What did you find to motivate you when you got sick of living meagerly in order to knock out your debt?
Brad: We took a break for one month. All the money we could have thrown at our debt snowball went to doing something nice. we took a small weekend trip to Washington D.C. (Free zoo, and museums made that trip nicer, but we still spent a pretty penny on hotels. was it worth it? Absolutely! We were refreshed and ready to get back on the train when we returned to the plan the following month. I would say that month saved us because we were close to getting burned out. Usually when that happens to people they never return, so I recommend a ONE MONTH break. Then it's back to business!
Me: Taking a month off is a great tip...especially if it is going to be a long haul. I would expect that it takes a lot of discipline to get back rolling though.
Brad: You can't just take a month off and go wild, there still needs to be self control and the understanding that you still have goals. Spend a few hundred dollars on a 2-3 day trip somewhere, enjoy yourself and get back to it. I would be very careful when putting a specific time frame on it though because then it makes your attempt to get back on more challenging. I say just be realistic. when I talk about taking a month off I just mean for you to take a month's worth debt repayment money, and spend it on some frugal family fun. We didn't spend quite all of our debt snowball for that month, but we did blow about $500.
Me: What inspires you to want to help others become debt free?
Brad: Hope! I want to inspire and motivate people to find the hope that being in debt steals from people. That hope is hard to find when you have tons of debt, no savings, and someone waiting for your each and every one of your paychecks. Debt has a funny way of making you believe you cannot do better for yourself. Inspiring people to become debt free is my passion and my purpose, and I intend on changing lives a little each day.
Me: What an awesome goal. What is your favorite success story that has been shared with you?
Brad: There really is not one single story that stands out the most, because to me success no matter what, is something to celebrate. But I would have to say that the best debt free stories are the ones where the person loved debt, credit cards, and everything else that made them broke, only to do a complete turn-around after realizing they were doing it wrong. The stubborn ones make for the best stories!!
Me: Now we want to know what you are reading. Who are your favorite bloggers to read?
Brad: I enjoy reading Budgets Are Sexy, Punch Debt in the Face, Deliver Away Debt, Out of Your Rut, and Engaged Marriage. Those are the ones I most consistently read each week, but there are tons more I make sure to check up on from time to time. .
You can find Brad anytime at his blog, Enemy of Debt. He also contributes to the Self Reliance Exchange and can create some custom graphics for you at Logos4You. Go pay him a visit. Better yet...add him to your blogroll, reader, or however you keep up with the blogs you read. I guarantee that you'll learn something while you're there.
Thanks again, Brad! I'll be there (debt free) with you one day...soon!