Welcome to the another one of my Debt Free Community series interviews. This week I am featuring Jeanne-Marie from Spain. I hope you are enjoying this series!
Q: Jeanne-Marie, tell me a bit about yourself
I am Jeanne-Marie, a French native who’s lived in Spain for the past 20 years. I spent three summers working in the US while I was a college student in International Business & Languages in the 90’s and I love the US. My goal is to visit the 50 States (19 crossed the list so far). I spent my last year of studies in Valencia, Spain, thanks to the European Exchange Program called Erasmus and fell in love with the country and the way of living. I’ve worked my whole life in the Automotive Industry and relocated in 2004 to Barcelona, due to a work transfer. I’ve been married for 4 years and we are fur parents to 2 cats and 2 dogs.
Q: What is your current financial situation?
My husband and I have around $50,000 in debt, besides our mortgage. When I met him, he had debt from a company he used to have and had to close due to his main clients not paying the invoices but the State still asking for the VAT payments.
After we met, he decided to change his career and go back to school. In Spain, education is usually inexpensive but he chose a private career to become a pilot. We sold a lot of things (our Harleys for example) to pay for his education, but he still had to take out loans for that. We also bought a house and took a personal loan to be able to do big renos needed on the outside of the house.
Q: Where did you start with your debt free journey and where are you today?
I actually started the debt free journey on my own on December 2017 with €23,000 in debt (approx $27,000 US dollars). Besides the house reno loan, I also had a couple of consumer loans and a personal loan for dental work. Hubby jumped on the wagon and we decided to combine debt in April and now have €48, 550, 53 in debt ($56,801, 50 US approx).
Q: What was your turning point or your reason for paying off debt?
My turning point was during 2017. I read Marie Kondo’s book “The life changing magic of tidying up” and de-cluttered my house. One of the first categories you have to sort is clothes. When I saw the amount of clothes I owned but did not fit/spark joy/was old/was deteriorated, it drove me mad. I only kept half of my wardrobe. When I saw the other half of the pile go to be sold/was donated or directly trashed I got really upset and thought about all the money that had been wasted for nothing.
I discovered the debt free community and then started to think about entering the debt free journey, as I saw it as a wonderful tool to manage your personal life and obtain financial freedom.
Q: What did you do to help pay debt?
When I discovered a few debt free accounts on Instagram, I heard about Dave Ramsey and read the ‘Total Money Makeover’ and thought I could definitely follow this method and that it would help me to be debt free quicker.
I was never a huge spender, had budgeted, had sinking funds and savings since I was a student, though I made several financial mistakes: i.e: buying 2 new cars, having a credit card debt or financing half of our wedding.
The game changer for me was actually budgeting to ‘0’, where you give every euro a name, create categories and use the cash envelope system for the groceries, eating out and entertainment budgets. When you have to pay cash for groceries, fun or eating out, something gets activated in your brain and it is much more difficult to use the cash.
Meal planning and prepping is also key and has helped cut off our grocery budget by 20%. We love food and still have to eat healthy so we are not the type of spending 150€ a month for groceries only. We always budget around 450€ a month for 2 and aim at not spending more than 350€. Still, I am quite proud of these results and the fact that I learnt to batch cook several healthy and cheap meals that can go to the freezer and you can pull them out whenever you want.
As a side hustle, I sold a lot of things on ‘Wallapop’, (the equivalent of ‘Letsgo’ in the States). I made a good money out of that, by selling a lot of Harley tees and jackets, my 8 year old digital piano and some name brand shoes. I don’t have a lot of things left to sell, so this has slowed down quite a lot. I have a high pressure and demanding job, therefore I can’t really pick up a second job, as I need my weekends to relax or because sometimes I still have to work on projects/events for my main work.
Q: Have you had any particular setbacks during this journey? If so, What did you do to overcome these?
We currently have paused our snowball as we have to save to pay for my husband’s Type rating (the license to pilot a particular plane). Other than that, Murphy visited for vets bills, but again, we have a small sinking fund for that purpose, so we feel totally cool about the fact we can pay the bills and will replenish in the next months.
Q: Where do you see your financial situation in 5 years time?
We should be debt free, with our 6 month Emergency Fund in place, having travelled the US again, cash flowed more home reno projects, invested and in a place where we can be more generous, and have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and freedom.
Q: What advice would you give a beginner on their debt free journey?
I would tell them to breathe, sum up their debt, do not beat themselves up and find what works for them. It can be the avalanche or the snowball system. It can be Dave Ramsey’s or someone else’s method. But what is key is; budgeting to 0, un-subscribe from all the companies mailing lists, trying to overcome the ‘FOMO’ feeling (Fear Of Missing Out) and think about themselves and their well being, not act as society tells them to do.
There will always be nicer cars, engagement rings, bigger houses. Though material things and financial security are important, practicing gratitude, enjoying the moment and the beauty of simple things feel amazing.
I would also tell them, that no one has it figured out the first month. It takes a few months to get there, especially if you have never budgeted before. It is scary, and it is ok to acknowledge that feeling, that life WILL happen and you will have setbacks, but that they are preparing for a lifetime marathon, not a sprint. The important thing is to never surrender.
Q: Do you have anything else to add?
It is never too late to start! I am almost 42, my husband is 38. You should not feel ashamed and if you are a lurker, just stop now and join the debt Free community, you will not regret it, they are the most wonderful, positive and supportive people out there and will help you through your journey.
Q: Where can we find you?
You can find me on Instagram:
If you’d like to be featured in the next post let me know! Comment below or send me a message on my contact page.