Personal Finance Interview with Adam and Emily on Blogging Away Debt

When faced with a mountain of debt ($170,045 to be exact), not only did Adam and Emily decided to tackle it head on, but also to share their journey, warts and all, for the world to see.

The couple from Austin, Texas, are the fourth bloggers behind Blogging Away Debt, a site that documents how these brave and willing souls pay off creditors.

"There are many ways to attack debt and this isn't a bunch of how-to's and advice," Adam says. "But I think people can learn from our experiences and especially from the readers who comment on our posts."

Here's what Adam and Emily had to say about blogging away their debt:

Tell us about yourselves ... Where are you from? Professional background? Hobbies?

Adam: I grew up in small town Indiana and have always been a nerd. I've worked in IT for the past 10 years with a two-year break to pursue an MBA. We currently live in Austin and can be found improving the house we bought this spring, visiting the farmers market, doing some gardening and homesteading, and checking out the latest movies.

Emily: I'm also from a very small town in Indiana and I've always been the artsy type. My background is in art and graphic design and these days I'm running a furniture refinishing business from our home. I host a women's bible study at the house and will find any excuse to try and get our friends and family to come over to the house. I spend my free time on crafty things, thrifting, volleyball, spin classes, learning to cook, and drinking tea and wine.

What's Blogging Away Debt? Who should be reading the site?

Adam: Blogging Away Debt tracks our journey to a debt-free life. We are writing about our experiences paying off over $170,000 in mostly student debt. Anyone who wants to see a young couple's way of working through debt should read the site.

Emily: People who should read this site are only the most open-minded kind of person. It can be hard not to judge someone when you read how much he or she spends on eating out in a month.

How did you come to take the reins at Blogging Away Debt?

Adam: We are the fourth bloggers at Blogging Away Debt. When the previous blogger ended her journey in June, we applied for the open position. We've been reading the blog for a couple of years and the site owner thought that a married couple navigating debt together might be a unique perspective on the blog.

Emily: We laughed, winced and celebrated with the previous bloggers. Their stories helped us communicate about our finances. When the opportunity came up, it seemed only logical that blogging about our finances and debt would help us communicate about our finances. So far it's working!

Why did you decide to make paying off your debt a priority?

Adam: Unfortunately, I've watched many people in my family and community struggle with debt. The housing crash came just as my parents approached retirement age. After graduating business school, I knew I was headed down the same path unless we dealt with our debt early on. I'm not driven by being rich, but rather by being financially stable.

Emily: I know Adam would be fine to stay in the corporate world and he is excellent at his job, so it would be no surprise if he stayed in his field after we paid off the debt. However, I am motivated to pay off the debt in order to give him the option to do whatever it is he wants.

It must be strange to have your family's financials out in the open for the world to see. What's it been like blogging about your debt?

Adam: It is definitely strange. Some of this site's readers have been around since the first blogger started their journey seven or eight years ago. So the accountability and collective wisdom is amazing. But it's also hard to share all the details openly. Probably the biggest benefit is that Emily and I are working together on debt and finances more than ever before.

Emily: In a sense, it's been very freeing to finally be able to talk openly about money with our family and friends. For so long I felt like I had to hide our real financial situation and that was unhealthy. My family, friends and some of our awesome readers have chipped in and are giving us great advice and encouragement and ideas and it's really helping me grow. On the other hand, it's been really tough dealing with readers' comments when I feel like they're not understanding of our situation or they're just rude. I defer to Adam a lot because I'm a softy. I get my feelings hurt easily, but thankfully, Adam is as steady as they come.

What are the biggest mistakes you both have made financially that you'd love to go back and redo?

Adam: I bought a house with 0 percent down in 2006 with the intention of "flipping" it. I still own that house. Although it was a stupid financial decision, I actually met Emily by renting out rooms in that house, and even now it produces rental income. So it may have a happy ending after all.

Emily: I've never really had enough money to be dangerous, thank God. My biggest regret is cashing out my 401K. We moved cross country for Adam's job right after we got married and I didn't have a job lined up before we left. I did have a bit of savings, but I cashed out the retirement, took a huge hit, and burnt through the money in a matter of six months. I had a LOT of fun using the money ... but that was pretty stupid.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned about yourselves since you started blogging away your debt?

Adam: I've been surprised to learn that I'm not as thrifty as I thought I was. I don't feel like I spend a lot of money on unnecessary things, but living in Austin, we tend to spend WAY too much money on eating out and on entertainment.

Emily: I am the "free spirit" when it comes to spending money, but not until we started really talking about it and going over the numbers -- I went through our bank account dollar for dollar -- did I realize we are in this together. We both need to focus on budgeting.

What are some of your favorite money-saving strategies?

Adam: For almost all durable goods (furniture, home d├ęcor, tools, etc.), we've realized you can find great deals on Craigslist or at yard sales, which go on all year in Texas. We also started meal planning recently and cut our grocery bill by 40 percent.

Emily: BUY USED! There are very, very few things I won't buy used at garage sales and goodwill. 95 percent of what we own is recycled in some way.

What has been the hardest part of paying off your debt?

Adam: It's taking so long. We started this journey three and a half years ago and we are not quite halfway done. Sometimes it feels like we'll never be done with this.

Emily: Thinking about what we could have bought if we weren't putting $2,400 towards our debt repayment a month. That's hard for me to wrap my mind around, even three years into it.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources you've found that have helped you track your family finances?

Adam: I'm a huge fan of online banking. I keep track of our debt snowball in an Excel sheet I did myself. But the best tool I've found so far is CASH. When we are disciplined about using cash instead of debit cards, we spend so much less money. We've done envelopes and various other methods, but the key is to use cash and stop spending when you run out of it.