Personal Finance Interview with Grayson Bell on Fighting Debt
The $50,000 Grayson Bell racked up in credit card debt made it difficult for him to sleep at night. It was causing him so much stress it had started to affect his health (not to mention his waistline). One day he realized he couldn't continue living the way he was so he decided to start chipping away at the debt.
It took four years to bring his balance down to zero and the journey transformed him so much, he wanted to share about it with others. So he started a blog called Debt Roundup on which he shares his story and experiences, and encourages others to do the same.
You might assume that after paying off that much in credit card bills that Grayson would've sent every credit card that came his way straight into the shredder, but that isn't the case.
"Some like to fault me for going back to credit cards. Some like to blame them for being in debt, but I don't at all," he says. "The credit card is just a tool in your financial toolbox. You can use it the right way or the wrong way."
In the four years he spent paying down his debt, Grayson says he learned how to use credit cards way and now he uses them on every purchase, which makes it easy for him to budget and offers an added layer of security. Plus, he gets cash back or travel rewards from his two cards.
"I pay them off in full each month and have not paid a dime in interest since I got out of credit card debt," he says.
We recently caught up with Grayson to learn more about his journey out of debt and get his advice on how to make smart decisions about your money.
Hi, Grayson! Tell us about Debt Roundup. When and why did you start your site?
Debt Roundup was started in August of 2012. It was a month after I paid off my last credit card. I decided that I wanted to share my experience with people online. There were so many people around my area asking me how I did it that it was a natural step to make. There are so many ways to pay off debt, no matter the type, so I thought it would be good to share my story and how I did it.
Who should be reading it?
My motto is "fight debt and grow wealth." Anyone looking to do those things should read it. I don't just talk about debt day in and day out. I also show you how to use credit cards wisely, how to keep on top of your credit score, how to make extra money on the side, and many more topics. I encourage my readers to share their stories or ask me questions. My community is quite involved and they have proven to provide great advice to readers needing it.
How has blogging about personal finance helped you manage your money better?
Blogging about personal finance has completely changed how I manage my money. Right after I got out of credit card debt, I didn't know what to do. I was in the "what's next?" phase of my finances. When I jumped into blogging I found other people who were doing great things with their money. I took the time to learn what others were doing and then tweaked it some to fit my situation.
When I was in debt, I was a dedicated spender. If I had extra money, it was spent on something useless. Now that I am credit card debt free, I am a saver. I get joy out of seeing my account balances rise. Consumerism is not as important to me as it once was.
You dug yourself out of $50,000 in credit card debt, when did you realize you needed to do something about your debt? What spurred you to pay it off?
I remember the day when I decided to make a change. I was talking with my wife, who has been supporting me this entire time. I had not been sleeping much and my health was deteriorating. I was running an e-commerce business on the side of my full-time job. It was a lot of work. I was stressed out. On top of the business, my credit card debt pushed me to the limits. I was paying close to $1,000 a month in just minimum payments. I had to make a change.
The biggest reason why I wanted to make a change is that we wanted to have a baby at some point. I knew my financial situation would have made it very difficult to do so. This, on top of my stress, caused me to finally make the change. I shut down my business and sold some of the assets, which paid off some credit card debt. I was left with a little over $50,000 after those business assets were sold. That is when I got down to business.
What was the most difficult part about your journey?
For me it was about staying motivated. It took me about four years to pay off my debt. Staying motivated during that time frame was difficult.
I speak to many people who fail to pay down their debt because they have no goals. Setting goals and milestones is extremely important. I also recommend celebrating said milestones. I would set my milestones by dollar amount. If I paid off $5,000 I would go out to dinner with my wife. This dinner was paid in cash, of course! These little celebrations help you along when the struggles get tough.
Each person can create specific milestones that will keep them motivated. Just don't celebrate with anything expensive. That defeats the purpose.
How has your perspective of money changed since paying off your credit cards?
I finally realize that money is just a tool that you can use to get what you want and need. It has also changed the way I look at my wants and my needs. I used to always say that I need this and that. This one word pushed my purchase decisions. Now, I understand the difference between the two. My spending is down because of this and now I spend more time thinking about my purchases before I make them. I used to make a lot of impulse purchases, but now I don't.
What are your go-to money-saving methods? Where have you found the most surprising savings?
My go-to way to save money is to compare prices. This is how I save money on almost everything. I use coupons when I can find one for the things that I buy. I also don't settle for the status-quo. I am not dedicated to any brand or company. If you don't treat me with respect and do what you say, then I will go to another one. I don't get comfortable with places that I shop or services that I have.
I am constantly surprised when I save money just by calling companies that I use. I call my insurance company ever time my policy is up for renewal. I also bring in other companies to bid. You would be amazed how you can save just by calling a company to tell them that they need to work with you. I have never had it fail yet. You should always check around to get the best price. Don't be afraid to move on just because it might be a temporary inconvenience. Having more money in your checking account should be enough incentive!
What money-management tools or resources (websites, books, apps, etc.) do you find yourself using over and over again?
I use three money-management tools each and every month. I use Mint.com for budgeting, as it is super easy to use and follow. I use Personal Capital to give me a net worth overview and really dig into my investments. I also use Manilla.com to keep track of all of my bills. I like technology when it can make my life easier and reduce the hassle of having money in many different places.
Why are creating financial goals important? How important is it to recruit help (like the advice of a financial planner) when trying to set money goals?
Creating goals for anything financial related is extremely important. Think about driving down the road at night with no headlights. You have no idea where you are going and what is around you. This is what it is like trying to navigate the world of money without goals. Goals give you something attainable. They give you something to strive for. Without them, you have no idea where to go and how to get there.
I recommend that everyone gets help if they have questions or concerns. There is not one person that knows everything about money. If you aren't ready to pay for a financial planner, then find the many great guides for your specific question.
The internet has a lot of great advice, just make sure you look over different opinions on the subject. If you are having problems with handling your money, then a professional might be for you. There are many financial planners out there, but you should find one that you are comfortable with and who is affordable in your specific budget. Asking advice in order to create goals can be extremely helpful when you are trying to plan for your future.