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Personal Finance Interview with Jordann Brown Reducing Debt for Mint

Personal Finance Interview with Jordann Brown Reducing Debt for Mint.com

Jordann Brown graduated from college $38,000 in debt, but rather than take 10 years to pay off her loans, she buckled down and did it in just a year and a half, writing about her journey on her blog, My Alternate Life.

More and more college graduates are starting off their professional lives loaded with debt that can seem impossible to pay off, especially when well-paying full-time jobs have been harder to come by.

"I definitely felt like budgeting, scrimping and saving was futile sometimes, because of the debt that was looming over me like a great black cloud," Jordann says.

But Jordann was able to chase that cloud away, and here she offers other Millenials and those interested in getting a handle on their finances advice on how to get started.

Can you tell us a little about your blog, My Alternate Life?

My Alternate Life is a personal finance blog about a debt-ridden 20-something (played by me) coming to terms with the fact that adult life might not be the amazing ride she hoped it would be. I started my blog two years ago when I graduated from university $38,000 worth of debt. I intended it to be a way to keep myself on track and accountable during my debt repayment journey.

Who should be reading it?

Anyone with debt! Although My Alternate Life is aimed primarily at Millennials, anyone with debt can benefit from my budgeting and frugality posts.

How has blogging about getting out of debt helped you tackle it?

Blogging about my debt has helped me in two ways:

1. It's kept me accountable. On the first of every month I would post my net worth along with my debt repayment totals. This motivated me to keep striving to pay off as much debt as possible every single month, which in turn helped me pay off my debt eight years early.
2. My blog has helped me connect with the wonderful and inspiring personal finance community. This community is so supportive; it really helped me stay on track. I've met so many amazing people through blogging, and some of them have even become lifelong friends.

You paid back almost $27,000 in student loans just 18 months after graduating; how were you able to make this happen?

In order to pay off so much debt so quickly, I left no stone unturned. I lowered my monthly expenses to the extreme by moving to a rural area and permanently house sitting a cottage for a relative. I gave up many luxuries including haircuts, shopping, yoga and Starbucks, and I increased my income as much as possible by side hustling. I was also able to take advantage of two huge tax returns and two provincial tuition rebates, which gave me a great boost and kept me motivated.

What is side hustle income? How has it helped you?

Side hustle income is anything that you to do earn money beyond your regular job. My side hustles were mostly blogging related and included staff writing for other blogs. Side hustling helped me pay off my debt faster because almost every cent I made from my side hustles went directly towards debt. This helped me exceed my monthly debt repayment targets and gave me confidence that I really could pay off all this debt.

What suggestions can you offer readers on finding their own side hustle income?

My best advice is to capitalize on a skill that you already have. If you're a writer, start a blog, if you love kids, babysitting could be a great option. The best way to find side hustle income is to let everyone know you're looking. Word-of-mouth is a great form of advertising!

What do you think are some of the smartest things young people can do to get a handle on their money?

Picking a degree program that will land you a good job after school is probably the most important first step. I'm lucky that I graduated from university with a degree in business and landed a job right away. After that, don't delay paying off your debt, because it won't get easier once marriage, a home and children enter the picture.

Is there anything you wished you'd done differently as far as financial decisions you've made in college and after?

I wish someone had sat down with me before university and showed me the effects of borrowing so much money. I finished school with so much debt, it was supposed to take me 10 years to pay off! I probably could've minimized it if I'd applied for more scholarships and lived more frugally.

What tips do you have for creating and sticking to a budget?

My No. 1 tip is to track your spending habits before you make a budget. How can you hope to make a realistic budget if you don't know how much you are actually spending?

Then, ease into it. If you start out very strictly, you'll feel suffocated and it'll be hard to stay on track. My husband and I used to spend $800 per month on groceries, now we spend $400 per month very comfortably because I gradually reduced our grocery budget over many months.

Follow Jordann on Facebook and Twitter.