Personal Finance Interview with Travis Pizel for Mint.com




We feel it's safe to say that most people sitting on more than $100,000 in credit card debt would prefer not to broadcast their family finances on the internet.

But thankfully, Travis Pizel, a blogger with Enemy of Debt, is not like most people. Instead of ducking behind his family's mountain of debt, he and his wife started climbing out of it - publically.

"Sharing my story through blogging helps keep me accountable for my actions," he says. "Also, what started as simply sharing my story as a customer blogger for my debt relief provider turned into a second career as a freelance writer that provides a significant amount of income for my family each month."

Here, Travis shares his thoughts on money management and why creating a budget is crucial to financial freedom.

How did you come to blog on Enemy of Debt?

I started reading personal finance blogs for motivation in my own personal battle against debt, as my wife and I are determined to eliminate $109,000 of credit card debt. I found Enemy of Debt, and started interacting with Brad Chaffee, the site's founder on Twitter. He asked me to guest post, and over time my role increased to being the featured writer today.

Why have you declared a war on debt? What do you have against it?

Our debt is a reminder of 13 years of complete financial irresponsibility. That irresponsibility and the debt that resulted has robbed us of the life that we could have had, and want to build for our future.

How were you able to erase your personal debt?

In June of 2009 we reached a financial crisis -- unable to pay all of our monthly bills. We enrolled in a debt management program with CareOne Debt Relief Services, which lowered the interest rates on our lines of credit and has allowed us to make progress toward paying down the balances. My wife and I now have twice-a-week budget meetings, constantly evaluate our expenses and live within our means. In February 2014 we will make our 56th and final payment to our debt management program, and that $109,000 of credit card debt will be GONE!

Where do you think families make the biggest money management mistakes?

I know that the biggest mistake that my family made was that we simply didn't talk about money. We thought because we had a good income that we didn't have to keep track of where our money was going. Because of that we habitually overspent and dug ourselves into a huge hole. What we needed was a budget and constant communication about what we're doing with our money. We have that now, and are on our way to financial freedom.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned about yourself, your family or money in your debt reduction journey?

The most surprising thing I've learned through our experience is how liberating it can be to live on a budget. Knowing where our money goes and being on the same page with my wife in regards to our finances gives me peace of mind and the confidence that we are building a financial foundation for the future.

Why do you think it's so important to create and stick to a personal budget?

Without a budget, my wife and I couldn't possibly know how much money we have, or plan for any future events, vacations, or retirement. Without a budget, it's impossible to get the most out of your money because you have no idea where it's going.

What advice can you offer on creating a budget? What's the first step?

The first step in making a budget is simply writing down all your monthly bills, and your monthly income. Subtract your bills from your income and see what you've got. When my wife and I did this for the first time, we were horrified for two reasons:

1. How much we paid each month in credit card bills
2. How little we really had left over compared to how much we had been spending.

In your bio you say that eliminating $100,000 in credit card debt has helped you build stronger relationships with people. Why do you think that is?

When we enrolled in our debt management program our, lines of credit were closed as part of the enrollment process. Without being able to supplement our income with credit cards we had to make significant lifestyle changes. We had to learn to appreciate the simpler things in life. We learned to truly appreciate all the wonderful people in our lives, and the relationships we have with them.

What do you do to teach your kids about money management?

Our kids don't know the numbers, but they are aware of what is going on. They know we are in debt because of habitual overspending, that we are enrolled in a program and when our graduation day is.

We are constantly using real word situations to teach them the importance of saving your money, paying cash for purchases, and of ensuring you get the very best value out of your money.

We hope they will enter adulthood with a unique perspective on finances, and the potential consequences when they are not handled correctly.

Ready to read more from Travis? Follow Enemy of Debt on Facebook and Twitter.