There's been a lot going on in the world over the past year. From group chats to social media to the constant news cycle, there's a million issues being discussed on a daily basis. It's overwhelming. In particular, there are so many issues being discussed within the Black community; yet, we're not talking enough about our finances. We should be.
Earlier this year, I celebrated a major milestone. I paid off $40,000 in 18 months. There were so many sacrifices I made within those 18 months to achieve this goal. I made being debt-free a priority. Our biggest tool to building wealth is our income. When your income is being divided and sent to multiple banks, companies, etc. with debt payments, you're preventing yourself from building wealth. In fact, studies show that most self-made millionaires (not Kylie Jenner), the real ones, live a debt-free lifestyle.
We live in a system of oppression that has hindered us from accumulating generational wealth. Everyone wants to "get money;" yet, so many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. While, there are many factors that impact our finances, there are certainly habits and mindsets that we've embraced that do us a disservice.
I knew when I graduated from Spelman in 2013 that I wanted to save money and build generational wealth. My parents grew up poor in the South Bronx and worked really hard to make sure my circumstances were different, but I knew that I was different from many of those women at Spelman. My family wasn't upper-class, and it was clear in the conversations of how people spent their summers, where they travelled, college funds, etc. I was well-aware of the sacrifices my family made to send me to Spelman and I wanted to use my education and network to achieve financial freedom.
At 27 years old, I am proud to say that I have achieved that financial freedom. I am debt-free! I paid off $40,000 in 18 months following Dave Ramsey's Seven Baby Steps, which I strongly recommend. The baby steps are free to access. No excuses. Here's the key things I learned while following Ramsey's plan.
How I Paid Off $40,000 In Debt In Less Than Two Years
1.Income Is Key When Paying Off Debt.
When I first graduated college, I was working for a large PR agency and was largely underpaid. I chose not to defer my student loans. I was living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with a $500 lease payment for a brand-new Mercedes-Benz. I transferred from Atlanta to Los Angeles and received a raise. However, I was still underpaid. I was struggling to make minimum payments and using credit cards for everything. The debt started rising. Here's a rough estimate of my debt breakdown at that time:
- $35,000 (Mercedes Benz Lease)
- $10,000 (Credit Cards)
- $15,000 (Student Loans)
I knew that income was the issue. I simply did not make enough money for the lifestyle that I lived. I was driving a $35,000 car making $45,000 a year. AND I didn't even own the car. I needed to increase my income and get rid of the car ASAP.
Luckily, the lease was up for the vehicle. I turned it in and purchased a USED Honda Accord for $19,000. Vehicles are NOT an investment. They depreciate in value. It does not make sense to drive an expensive car unless you can afford it. Leasing vehicles are irresponsible, especially when in debt and end up costing way more than the vehicle. The total costs of your vehicle/s should not be more than half your income.
Next, I needed to find a new job and increase my additional income. I knew that going to work for a company/brand would pay more than an agency. I was recruited by a major beverage brand and negotiated a $20,000 raise off that transition alone. I busted my behind the first six months, proved my value and received another raise. THIS started my debt-free journey. I began the journey 18 months ago making $80,000 with the following debt breakdown of $40,000:
- $19,000 (Honda Accord)
- $11,000 (Student Loans)
- $10,000 (Credit Cards)
Income is KEY to paying off your debt. At some point, we have to take accountability for the many loans, credit cards, etc. we sign up for. Education is an investment, and you should have a return on your investment. Taking out $100,000 in student loans does not make sense when your trajectory for your career is only going to deliver at max $60,000 in the first five years. We must make smarter decisions when it comes to taking out student loans.
I see the jokes about student loans being with you forever. I do not accept that.
For every monthly student payment I made, that could've been going into an investment account. I refused to be 40 years old, paying off student loan debt.
In addition to the raise that I received, I stepped my side hustle up or as I like to call it, my second career. I am passionate about both. In addition to serving as a consultant/analyst, I am an entertainment journalist and correspondent.
I started booking more hosting gigs, brand ambassador gigs and increased my writing opportunities. I increased my additional income significantly. I even went as far as to work mall shifts at a local mall near my day job. I worked 9am – 5pm, then headed to the mall for part-time shifts from 6pm-11pm, and then I would write articles and host red carpets on the weekends. ALL of that extra income went to my debt payments. I was EXHAUSTED, but I had my eyes on the prize. I knew that it was a short-term sacrifice that would pay off.
2.Pay Your Debt FIRST.
You can ease your way into debt, but you can't ease your way out of it. While beginning my aggressive debt-free plan I treated those major payments (as much as $2,000 a month) as a "necessity." Rent, Food, Utilities, Transportation, Debt Payment. That was my order. I didn't even give myself an opportunity to spend the money on anything else. As soon as I was paid, I went in that order. NO exceptions.
3.Use The Snowball Effect To Pay Off Your Debt.Dealing with bills
A key differentiator from Dave Ramsey's plans and other financial experts is that he encourages people to pay off the smallest balance first, as opposed to the debt with the lowest interest rate. Paying off debt is not just about math. It's psychological. When you get aggressive and start seeing those debts disappear, it sparks something in you. I listed my debts from smallest to largest and tackled them that way. My credit cards were first. Student loans were second, and then the car.
4.Live Within Your Means To Pay Off Debt.
I made a lot of sacrifices. I did not get my nails done at all. I painted them myself and saved money. Getting your nails, hair done very week, eyelashes etc. all add up. I cut down on brunch and eating out. I didn't even shop. I work red carpets for major awards shows and film releases. I reached out to friends and other correspondents to borrow outfits. I reached out to stylists. I had no shame. If I had to purchase something, I would go to Goodwill. My wardrobe struggled, and I definitely didn't purchase anything designer.
Your net worth is your total assets minus your debt payments.
The reality is that most people are BROKE, but we aren't living as such. Those purses and designer shoes. They aren't helping you achieve wealth. I didn't pay for ANY travel. I had several trips that were the luxury of my entertainment gigs. Those trips were paid in full. I used my airline miles to pay for a flight to Bermuda for a weekend trip with my girls. I budgeted for the weekend and didn't use any credit cards. I was also able to use airline miles to cut down the costs of my holiday travel.
5.Stick To Your Budget To Pay Off Debt Quickly.
Making a budget and sticking to it is ESSENTIAL to paying off debt. Have the discipline and hold yourself accountable. Personally, I am old school. I created an Excel template that I used, because manually looking at my bank account and monitoring my transactions really helped.
Dave Ramsey also offers a free app "Every Dollar" that helps with budgeting. The easiest way to mismanage your money is to not budget for every dollar and to not monitor your behaviors. EVERY DOLLAR that I made had a designation.
Dave Ramsey's plan has helped millions of people become debt-free. As a next step, I'll be building an emergency fund ($15,000) and then saving for an investment. This is no promo. Dave Ramsey is a free resource that I found extremely helpful and wanted to share my journey.
If it's easy to obtain, it will not make you wealthy. Credit cards. Car notes, etc. are all easy to obtain. They will not make you wealthy. Also, while I understand that there are people who have way more debt. Understand this. If I paid off $40,000 in 18 months that means that I could pay off $80,000 in 36 months. I strongly encourage you to not make excuses. To feel motivated. To listen to a few debt-free screams on Dave Ramsey's YouTube channel and be inspired. It's worth it.
Many believe that when you start to show God and the universe that you know how to manage your money, you begin to get rewarded with more of it. I am walking proof of that. This year, after paying off ALL my debt, I am slated to earn more than $110K.
I have an 800+ credit score and have made a vow that I will NOT take out any debt except for a mortgage. I will not have credit card debt. I will not buy a brand-new car. I will save and invest and live the lifestyle that I deserve.
Click here to view Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. Good luck on your journey!
Originally published on March 15, 2019
Featured image by Shutterstock
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How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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The Scorpio man and Pisces woman form a relationship that is heartfelt, sincere, and not for the weak. There is an immediate connection and familiarity between these two, being that they are both water signs and are both ruled by their emotions. They are on a similar playing field in life, yet they go about their desires in love in a very different way.
Scorpio Man And Pisces Woman Love Compatibility
Ultimately, a partnership being formed between the two is an intimate and emotionally transformative one, and this is a relationship they both never forget. Things can get messy, but if they are willing to do the work within, then the love can also be pretty amazing for them as well. They are all in or nothing when it comes to partnerships, and they learn a lot about true commitment and vulnerability through this pairing.
What attracts a Scorpio man to a Pisces woman?
The Scorpio man is attracted to the Pisces woman's mysterious aura and emotional demeanor. The Pisces woman is attracted to the same things as the Scorpio man. See, these two are more similar than most signs of the zodiac, and they can intuitively feel this about each other right away. Pisces and Scorpio often share similar interests and have a lot of opportunities to meet each other because they like to do the same things and are often in the same places. These are two creative and artistic souls, and there is something that they both find inspiring about each other right away.
The connection and synergy of a Pisces and Scorpio couple is undeniable, and there is a strong force in life that often brings these two together. The Pisces woman can feel that there is more to the surface than the Scorpio man presents right away, and this is instantly intriguing to her, being that she rules the 12th house, which is where everything is hidden in life. The Pisces woman has secrets of her own, and she sees the Scorpio man as someone who can resonate with how she feels and dive deeper into the relationship together.
What is the relationship like between a Pisces woman and a Scorpio man?
The relationship between the Pisces woman and the Scorpio man is emotional. Emotions run very high in this relationship, which is often a good thing, but can turn into something entirely different very quickly as well. The Pisces woman and Scorpio man often get into a relationship together quickly. They are not earth signs that take their time developing a relationship; they are water signs that base their decisions on their emotions and go with the flow of the currents here.
So when they meet and they feel that instant connection with each other, they often jump into a pairing with one another right away.
This couple will enjoy spending time together and will feel like they are deeply understood in the relationship. There is a comfort here that is truly profound, and if anything, they are best friends first and foremost. However, the Pisces woman and Scorpio man tend to let their emotions overwhelm them and can turn little things into something bigger. Arguments or disagreements in this relationship can get messy, and they are both somewhat emotionally impulsive. Neither will forgive and forget easily as well, so reaching a point of forgiveness or harmony after something challenging occurs may never happen.
This relationship works best if both parties have already experienced a long-term commitment or have learned their lessons in love and evolved. The longevity of the relationship will depend on how they begin it. However, the love they have for one another is undeniable.
What is the sex like between a Scorpio man and a Pisces woman?
The sex life between the Pisces woman and Scorpio man is transcendent. They tend to have no issues in the bedroom, and that instant connection they feel when they meet often has an underlying energy of sexual compatibility as well. This isn’t the type of couple to wait a long time to explore each other in the bedroom, and they form a deep intensity here right away. They are looking to connect on many different levels, and they feel enough compatibility in the connection to do so.
The Pisces woman is willing to explore in the bedroom, and the Scorpio man is ready for anything. This is a couple who will entertain role-play, bondage, etc., and there are a few limitations to what they are both interested in. With the Pisces woman providing a safe space to many, the Scorpio man feels comfortable opening up in many different ways, the main one including behind closed doors and in the bedroom. They are emotional at their core, however, and will still want a level of intimacy with each other that goes deeper than just sex, so although their sex life is great, there is more they both want at the end of the day.
What makes a relationship between a Pisces woman and a Scorpio man work?
What makes the relationship work between these two water signs, is that they both understand each other deeply. They don’t have to explain themselves or work too hard on getting to know each other because it’s almost instant that they do. They speak the same language, in other words, and they can learn a lot from each other in the process. They are more open with each other, and their more reclusive demeanor changes in the presence of one another. This is a couple that likes to spend time together doing things that each other has an interest in.
At the end of the day, these are just two people who want to love and be loved, and they can give each other that.
The Pisces woman helps the Scorpio man open up more, go with the flow, and trust the universe. The Scorpio man helps the Pisces woman step into her power, stick up for herself more, and live life fully. There is something creative and eye-opening about this pairing, and they create their own world together. Trust is everything between the both of them and once they have that, they lay the foundation for the relationship to grow and thrive.
What may cause a Scorpio man and a Pisces woman to break up?
The thing about a water sign relationship is that things can get messy. Emotions are always running high, and if they are not on the same page, this can lead to the energy of the relationship being all over the place. The Pisces woman is loyal, attentive, and compassionate, but she is also a free spirit who likes her space and freedom. The Scorpio man, on the other hand, craves deep intimacy and partnership and may have a hard time trusting the Pisces woman, and that trust needs to be had in a relationship.
Scorpio may find Pisces to be too wishy-washy for his liking, although Pisces just sees herself as someone open-minded and flexible and doesn't understand why the Scorpio man can’t be a little more like that as well.
This relationship can fall apart due to things becoming overwhelming too quickly. They tend to get into the relationship quickly and break up just as fast as well. If they can act on mental clarity as much as they do their emotions, then this can create a more solid ground for the relationship to grow and continue to grow upon. You would think that being with someone who is the same element as you is a recipe for success in a relationship, but two of the same things can be too much at the end of the day.
Summary: Is a Scorpio man and a Pisces woman compatible?
Ultimately, this is a relationship with high compatibility, and depending on the two people at hand, it will determine how things unfold here. They have the tools needed to form a sincere, loving, and compassionate relationship but will have to confront each other's differences with the same attitude to work. Once the first challenge or conflict arises in the relationship, how they handle it afterward will determine if the relationship is going to work out or not.
These two are perfect when things are going well, but can be dramatic when they are not. The Pisces woman and Scorpio man can’t get enough of each other at the end of the day, and this will indeed be a relationship that they will never forget.
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Featured image by Anchiy/Getty Images