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Today I have my first session of My Strategic Dollar’s (M$D for short!) Dollars & Debts Interview Series. The first interview features Brittany over at Tiny Ambitions. I’ve really enjoyed reading her posts recently and getting to know her story.
Dollars & Debts Interview Series – Introduction
Brittany works as a Marketing Coordinator by day and as a blogger over at Tiny Ambitions by night (i.e. she spends all of her time staring at a computer screen). While she was getting her Master’s Degree, she also trained to become a yoga teacher – who said multitasking is dead? Brittany might be a minimalist now, but she has a dark past of being a shopaholic. Among other things, Brittany is currently saving up to build her very own tiny house! Oh, and she’s also Canadian!
When did you start learning about money?
I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t learn about money seriously (i.e. investing) until this year at the ripe age of 26. Previously, money was just this ‘thing’ that I either had or didn’t have. In my case it was mostly ‘didn’t have’ because I had a habit of spending most of my meager grad school paycheque on fancy yoga pants.
It wasn’t until this year when I seriously started saving for my tiny house that I realized I could make my money work for me. Shout out to the ladies over at Budgets and Cents who convinced me to open my first investment RRSP in March!
What got you started on your financial independence journey?
Actually, it was my desire to downsize and build my own tiny house that led me down this path. I realized that if I wanted my life to start looking the way I had imagined it, some major things needed to change.
For starters, this meant getting a better grasp on my finances (and realizing I had ‘finances’ in the first place).
Second, it meant my days of spending the majority of my paycheque on fancy yoga clothes were long gone. I put myself on a shopping diet, got rid of close to 75% of my belongings and started saving 40% of my income (give or take) to support my retirement and tiny house goals.
How much debt did you have?
After graduating from university, I had $22,000 in student loans. I know this number is not high compared to some people, and I count myself as very lucky to have been the recipient of numerous grants and scholarships over the course of my two degrees (B.A. and M.A.) that covered a good chunk of my expenses. In hindsight, I probably could have completed my B.A. with no loans, but no one tells you not getting OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) is an option when you’re 18 and terrified of how you are going to pay your tuition.
Part of this $22,000 also includes my 2005 Honda CRV I purchased outright (not financed but that’s cray) in 2016 with a $3000 loan from my mom (plus my own $8000 I had hidden away over three years).
How much have you paid off? And what steps did you take to do it?
I am happy to say I’ve paid it all off, but it’s not a glamorous story. I worked multiple jobs (yoga teacher and health food store clerk) through grad school to help chip away at my student debt (chip being the key word here – interest is a killer). Once I graduated I kept working those two jobs until I moved out of ‘the city’ and into ‘the country’.
Where I currently live doesn’t have a lot going for it – meaning there was really nothing for me to spend money on except groceries and rent. Even on my then $14/hr salary as the Marketing Manager for a local farm equipment company, anything extra went towards paying down the debt. My day-to-day life looked pretty boring at this time: work, home, dinner, Netflix, bed. But it’s not like I had any other options! And it turned out to be a benefit for my debt repayment strategy.
Embracing minimalism and the simple/frugal life has also been invaluable here.I don’t need to buy my lifestyle - I’m fine with what my life looks like.Click To Tweet
And I certainly don’t need to blow my paycheque on expensive toys (this is why I have a second-hand, hand-me-down, iPhone that is held together with duct tape and dreams. It still works FYI!). Once you realize you don’t actually need the latest and greatest in tech, clothes, cars, etc, your financial goals somehow become a lot more manageable!
What are your money goals for the next year and long-term?
This might be a tad unconventional, but in the next year, I would love to make more money from my ‘stuff’. A big part of my journey so far has involved decluttering and getting rid of 75% of my belongings – which was a wasted money-making opportunity.
I’ve held onto a choice handful of items (i.e. desirable brands, collector items), in the hopes of selling them. Now I just have to commit to the time of listing everything online!
In the long term (long term being five years for me), my plan is getting my tiny house savings as close to my $50,000 budget as I can! I’m just over 10% of the way there right now. Since I am saving roughly 40% of every paycheque for this purpose – I think it’s totally doable.
What obstacles have you ran into that you had to overcome?
The main one I think has to do with mindset. I struggled, in the beginning, to believe I could pay off the rest of my student debt, save for retirement, put money away for the tiny house AND have money left to live on on my original $12/hr salary (which then become $14/hr, which is now $42k a year).
When I first started putting money into an RSP, I also struggled with a risk-averse attitude. I was honestly terrified I was going to lose all my money overnight and have to start over from nothing.
Thankfully, in both cases, I managed to calm myself down and just focus on the day-to-day savings and frugal living habits that were going to make my goals a reality.
Any words of advice for those that are afraid of starting their journey or feeling like they aren’t making enough progress?
The best piece of advice I can give you is to stop comparing your debt repayment or savings story to anyone else’s. There will always be someone who is doing better AND worse than you. And you never know what life circumstances, luck or behind-the-scenes action is contributing to their success (or failure).Stay in your own lane. You’ll get there if you put the work in.Click To Tweet
If you want to follow along on Brittany’s tiny house savings journey or read more about how minimalism and simple living are helping her reach her goals – check out Tiny Ambitions!