Episode No. 69

Paying Off Debt with Kendra Gonzales

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Table of Contents

Years ago, a fellow teacher and friend came to my classroom to talk to me about something that felt very vulnerable and scary to share. She knew I was passionate about personal finances, and she needed help – fast! She was pregnant with her second child. The problem was her and her husband were living paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t afford daycare. They needed to find a way to afford an extra $900 a month. Plus they were in serious credit card debt and had little to no savings.

Her and her husband came to my house and we laid everything out on the table. Kendra and her husband walked away with a plan and today, just 4 years later, Kendra has an inspiring story to share that I think will be a pivotal moment to my listener’s success and motivation when it comes to paying off debt.

Allison:

“Okay, this is Kendra’s first podcast. So we’re just gonna jump right in. Before we kind of dive into your debt free story, I want you to tell us just a little bit about yourself and your family. So that way, we kind of have a picture and idea of who you are and what your just life situation looks like.”

Kendra:

“My name is Kendra, and I am a teacher. And also my husband as a teacher. We have two kids. We have Myles, who is 10. Luna, who is 3, and we have two dogs, a golden retriever and a lab. And about four years ago, we started our debt free journey with you, actually.”


Allison:

“It’s actually a funny story. So I was in my classroom, and you basically came to me and said, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about something. I don’t want you to judge me. I feel very vulnerable. I’m just gonna lay it all out there.’ And you basically said, ‘I need some guidance and need some help. I need some answers when it comes to my money,’ because you knew that this was something I enjoy talking about and I enjoyed working on. So what got you to that moment? Because I feel like, you know, that was a very vulnerable situation. You put yourself in a very vulnerable position. But what was it that inspired you to say, ‘Now is the time that I’m ready to get serious and take back control of my money’?


Kendra:

“Okay. Well, my husband and I, when it came to finances, we didn’t really see eye to eye. He’s a spender, I’m a worrier. I freak out about everything. And we were always just living paycheck to paycheck. We were like, ‘Whew! We made it. There’s $200 left in our account. On to the next paycheck!’ But we knew that wasn’t going to work for us because I was pregnant with my second child, and we needed about anywhere from $800 to $900 every month for daycare. And we weren’t saving that much. We did not have that much money in our account at the end of the month. And I started to panic. And he’s so laid back and relaxed. He was like, ‘It’s fine. We’ll figure it out. No big deal. We’ll make it happen.’ And the planner in me, I just couldn’t do that. Like, it was too much. I — I never looked at our account. I was scared to. I would say, ‘Check our account, see how much it is and just tell me how much it is. I don’t want to look.’ And that’s not healthy. Like, I needed to look at my own finances. I needed to figure it out myself with him, and quit relying on him and quit freaking out. So that’s when I came to you. And it was like, ‘What’s your plan? What do I can do? What do I need to do? How can I fix this?’ So that’s where we started.”


Allison:

“Yep. And you even said, like, ‘Can I pay you? Can I pay you to help me?’ And I was like, ‘No, but Marco is an amazing cook.’ So I said, ‘you can make me dinner.’ He me this amazing meal that you guys came over and we sat down. And We just started with the basics. And I love that you touched on the worrying because I think that a lot of people feel that way. And it’s that financial anxiety of not even being able to open up your checking account, not even being able to look at your credit card statement. Because you don’t want to deal with the damage. You don’t want to face it. It’s too scary. Is that how it felt for you?”

Kendra:


“Absolutely. I mean, I remember not even looking at credit card statements. That was Marcos job. His job was to pay something on it every month, whatever we could. I didn’t look. I don’t know what kind of spending was going on, because I was too scared. I was too worried. And that is not healthy. So that’s something I definitely wanted to change with myself.’

Allison:

“Yeah. So you came to me, and we sat down. And we basically sat down and we looked at all of your expenses, all of your debts. We listed them out, we looked at the interest rates. we looked at the minimum balances. And we basically came up with this unique plan for you guys to pay off so much debt before the baby came so that you had that $900 every single month to be able to pay for daycare. And did you do it? Were you able to pay that off before the baby came?”

Kendra:

“Yes, we were able to do it! I mean it was hard, but we were able to free up as much money so that we could have that extra amount. I mean, we were able to do that. It was definitely challenging. We had to figure out a system that worked for us. We had to cut back on a lot. It was eye opening to look at the amount of debt. We had gotten ourselves into lots of credit card debt. We had loans out just to repair a car that had broke down. So we had to pull out a personal loan. But it was also really awesome to see how to organize it and what to tackle first. And once we started all that, we couldn’t stop. It was like a competition within ourselves. It felt so good that we were just like, ‘Okay, what’s next? What’s next?’ So I mean it started to work for us.’

Allison:


“I love that. I love it. Because you finally felt good with money, right? You finally had the confidence, you finally knew what you were doing. You knew that next step to take. And you knew that okay, if something happened, you had the financial foundation, you had the knowledge to be able to make changes. I have a question though, because you had mentioned that you sacrificed a lot, when you first changed the way that you spent money and you handled money and you felt like you were sacrificing a lot. I’m curious to know, because you’re many years into this, you had you have a kid in daycare. So you don’t have all this extra money as two teachers to be throwing at your debt. So there is a longer process? Do you ever miss that lifestyle you had before? Or have you grown accustomed to what you do now?”

Kendra:

“I have, for me personally, I have grown accustomed to what I do now. It makes me feel in control, and organized. And it makes me feel intelligent. I feel like I’m in control of my money. Like, I feel like I can talk to people about money, like budgeting and I get excited about it. I’m nerding out to stuff that I never have before. But I think that’s always been a part of me. My dad has always been really good with money. He’s been very, he’s very tight with it. And he’s, well, he doesn’t blow money. He’s not one to just frivolously spend. And I’ve learned that from him. So I’ve always had that in me. But I was just too scared to face the truth of what our finances were. And so I wanted to get to that point. You sound empowered, I am empowered. I’m glad it’s true. It’s it is it’s very empowering. You feel powerful. You just feel better about yourself, too.”

Allison:

“You sound empowered!”

Kendra:

“I am empowered. It’s true. It’s it is it’s very empowering. You feel powerful. You just feel better about yourself, too.”

Allison:

“Okay, so I want to know, you’ve been on this journey for a while you guys had a lot of debt. And we won’t dive into the numbers and any of that. But what has been the hardest part in the past four years. I mean, I know there’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be decisions that you have to make, there’s going to be times when you’re really motivated and times when you lose motivation. But can you think of anything that has been just exceptionally difficult during this journey? And then what is it and what made you get past it?”

Kendra:

“I would say, definitely impulse spending will like when you just before, we would really want something and we’re like, just go ahead and get it, we really need it. And we really wanted and just having to be an adult and say, ‘Well, we’re gonna have to wait because we don’t have enough saved up for it yet.’ Controlling that impulse is hard and controlling that impulse is hard. And we’re not perfect. We still struggle with it quite a bit still, sometimes, like the summers are really hard. And we just want to spend, spend, spend. But there’s times that we just stop and we look at each other we go okay, hold on. Look what we’re doing, let’s think about what we need what’s important. So definitely controlling impulse has been that’s been hard. And just like when we have a certain goal that we want to reach every month of money that we have leftover that we throw towards debt or we put it in our savings account. And when we don’t hit that goal, it’s defeating, and I’m like, ‘What are we doing wrong? We’re doing this…’ I go into this like tailspin and then I’m probably constantly rant rambling to my husband, and he’s probably quite annoyed with me. But it’s defeating and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, we just did it again.’ But we have to you know, I think just stopping and realizing that it’s okay to make mistakes. We’re not going to be perfect every month, and we try again. And then when we hit our goal, it’s exciting, and we’re like, oh, let’s do it. Again, we got this!”

Allison:


“I think that’s great. And I love that you have this like set goal, because you have something you’re working towards, you’re not working towards this. I mean, obviously, you have this big amount of debt that you’re paying off. But one of the tips that I actually tell people and I’ve told people on the podcast numerous times, is to give yourself like break it down into bite sized chunks, break your debt payoff goal down into bite sized chunks, and it sounds like you’re doing that monthly. And you can’t expect perfection, you can’t expect for you to hit that every single month. But I love how you use that number to motivate you…You talked about impulse spending, and you and I had a conversation earlier, where you said that you received a kind of an unexpected bonus from work. And you knew this is what I love Kendra. You knew that the summertime because we’re recording this in the summer, you knew that the summertime, you tend to spend more money. And so you said I’m going to take this extra bonus. And I’m going to save it for those summer events. So that in June and July, and you know, beginning of August, you’re not constantly going over budget because you have this kind of cash sitting aside that allows you to still feel like you get to live. And I think I think you should do that every summer. Because, don’t you feel good about the progress you’ve made this summer?”

Kendra:

“Absolutely. Like that has made our summer just that much better that we’re like we can we’ve been on more trips this summer. And that’s something that we haven’t been able to do. And that’s okay, because that’s what we sacrificed in order to get ourselves on track. But it’s been four years. And it’s like, let’s do something and you know, and we were able to go to Colorado this summer. And we had a little extra money for that. We’ve been to visit friends and family, I got to go on a wine weekend with my friends. And it just felt good that I had this money set aside that I was like, ‘No, this is for summer, I worked hard for this. ‘ And then I didn’t have to stress like oh my gosh, I don’t have very much left in my account. What did I do? Like it just it was? Yes. Good idea.”

Allison:

“So in the past four years when you’ve been paying off debt? I mean, obviously we’ve talked about the hard. What’s hard about it? What’s difficult about it? But has there been anything that’s like unexpectedly good that has come from it?”

Kendra:

“Absolutely. So I would say the biggest thing is that we’ve paid off at least 90% of our credit card debt. So we are down to that last credit card. Yay! And that one’s going to take us a little while because it’s the one with the least interest and has the most on it. But we have made it down to that. And I think that’s the best thing is that we have just taken these credit cards and gotten the money cleared off of it done over with. And so that’s probably the biggest thing is as how much debt we’ve paid off, and just also just being able to have, like, for the first time in our lives, a certain amount of money in our savings account. We have savings – is it a lot? No. But is it enough in case we need it? Sure. Absolutely. And it’s there. And it’s just it’s good to have that feeling of like a little bit of comfort in case something happens and emergency like those are the best things is that have happened, we paid off that we have some savings. You know, we’ve just learned a different approach to managing our money approach.”

Allison:

“And I know you’ve mentioned this in the past about how your husband who is a spender, do you feel like his outlook on money and credit cards has changed because I remember the first time I ever sat down with you guys. He said that he sees his credit card balance, like when he pays off his balance and he has room and his credit card limit that he sees that as money he has, right like to his name. And I’m like, No, that’s not how it works. But that’s the way he sees it. Have you seen a shift in him? Over the past several years.”

Kendra:

“Yes, absolutely. I mean for him now. It’s just like we’re getting rid of all of this, like the credit cards are done. Like we’re gonna pay it off. Like he has that competitive nature in him that he wants to do that as well. And his impulse spending has gone Madden better. Is it perfect? No, that’s what he likes to do. And it’s fun. Sometimes I’m like, Okay, let’s go spend money. And then I’m the one that’s like freaking out. And then he’s like, it’s fine. But, I mean, yeah, he’s learned to bring it down, does he really need that sometimes he gets pouty about it, but he gets over it, because he knows what our end goal is.”

Allison:

“I love it. So during this journey, like we said, it’s a roller coaster, there’s moments where you’re really motivated and moments where you just want to spend all the money and impulse spend and get what you want. Because you’re an adult, and you work hard for your money and you want to enjoy it, right? We have these polls of, do I make the adult decision? Or do I do what I want to do? So when you are in this point, where it’s tough to stay on course, when you are tempted to give up? What have you done that has motivated you or your family in general, to keep staying on track and to keep keep working towards your goal, because you’ve been doing this a while you had a lot of debt to start with? I think it’s very easy to give up a lot. I think many people give up along the way, because it is a long term commitment that you’re committing to. So what has kept you committed all these years and months?”

Kendra:

“You know, I definitely think that what is seeing the result has what has kept us going, because I don’t know if we’ve ever been to the point that we’re just like, whatever, we’ll go back to our old ways. We’ve never wanted to go back to old ways. But we’ve had those months where we struggle, and we get defeated. But then we think back to our journey, and like just pulling up that spreadsheet that we made that first night and looking. I was like, oh yeah, we had an Old Navy card. I forgot about that. Remember, when we paid off the Best Buy card, like just talking about those things in ratio, reassuring ourselves that we have, We’ve done so good. Just pepping ourselves back up. Just having that feeling of like, wow, look at us. We’ll go we’ve done. Yeah, definitely. I think that just keeps us motivated.”

Allison:

“Yeah. So basically, you’re saying if anyone’s struggling, go back and look at the progress you’ve made?”

Kendra:

“Absolutely.”

“It’s very easy, I think, to forget how far you’ve come when we’re stuck in the day to day, but zoom out and look at it on a whole. “

Kendra:

“Absolutely. I mean, that’s what I do in my daily life at school is I look at student progress and their success. And it’s just amazing where they can you know what they can reach in a year. But it’s the same thing with our lives. I mean, especially with our finances, we have come so far in four years. And just seeing our journey is just been amazing.”

Allison:

“I love it. Okay, so let’s say that someone’s listening to this right now. And they are on their Debt Free Journey. Maybe they’re feeling stuck, maybe they feel like giving up, maybe they have given up and they’re like, Okay, I need to get back on track with this. What words of encouragement do you have for that person in that stage of their life right now?”

Kendra:

“What I would say is that, don’t give up, look at it again, and try an approach that works for you. Because how we started and like the advice you gave us, we took that we went with it. And then we were like, wait a minute, but for us, those would work a different way. And we adapted to work for us what our goals were what we wanted, we made sure to make that progress. But how we wanted to do it the system that worked for us, so I say just take a look at it again. Adapt your ideas. Start small. Don’t think that don’t set your goals too high…start small work your way up. Yeah, like that’s what’s important. Feel that tiny bit of success and then each time just amp it up a little bit more.”

Allison:

“So instead of saying I’m gonna pay off all this debt, everything my car, my student loans, all my credit cards, everything like that personal loans, just say I’m gonna focus on one of these debts. Yes, choose one and then allow yourself to feel that success.”

Kendra:

“Absolutely. “

Allison:

“I love it. Okay. What’s one money mistake that you’ve made that you would tell everybody to avoid?”

Kendra:

“I would say, making a big purchase without planning it out first, like making sure you have enough money before you pay for that, like, even if, let’s say that you’re going to buy a piece of furniture and put it on a card and have a plan, I’m gonna pay this off in two months, I’m gonna pay this off. And so like, have a plan. Don’t just be like, I’m gonna go buy a new couch, and like, not have a plan for paying it off, like, have some money saved beforehand, like think through your purchases. That’s what I would say, think through your purchases through your purchase.”

Allison:

“And I think that that’s hard, especially with people who are impulse spenders. And so you have a husband who’s very impulsive with money. And so do you ever feel like you have to be like the adult?”

Kendra:

“Yeah. Like, I’m the mama sometimes. I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate it. But maybe in the end, he will. He still loves me.”


Allison:

“Well, Kendra, thank you so much for being willing to be on your very first podcast. Thank you! You did a great job sharing your story. I really think that this has been so motivating to anyone that’s listening. So I do have a request, if you are listening to this podcast right now and you did find this particular episode very motivating for you, I would love it if you would actually send me a DM to @inspiredbudget on Instagram. And I want you to tell me how you felt after listening to Episode 69, because I’m going to screenshot it and I’m going to send it to Kendra! So we can see how many people we get that really enjoyed this episode! So send me a DM and I’ll send it to Kendra. Thank you Kendra for joining.”



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Meet Allison

Allison Baggerly is a blogger, author, influencer, speaker, podcaster, and founder of Inspired Budget, which is proudly a Latinx and women-owned business. A former teacher, Allison blends her talents for teaching with her passion for personal finances to help others learn how to start budgeting and build a life they love.

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