Momentum Series Interview – Spills Spot: Debt Freedom, Goal Setting And Blogging
This marks feature #18 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m excited to welcome Matt from Spills Spot to the Momentum Series Interview chair.
Matt lives in the Bay Area of California with his wife and two dogs. They recently entered debt freedom after paying off over $55,000 in debt. Today, Matt stops by to share their financial journey, story of crushing their debt, personal finance blogging experiences and much more.
If you want to connect with Matt:
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Matt! Here is the Momentum Series Interview – Spills Spot: Debt Freedom, Goal Setting And Blogging.
I’m Matt, I’m 27. I’m married and live with my wife and 2 dogs in the Bay Area, California. I’m passionate about personal finance and blogging. My other interests include sports, movies, music, and travel.
My website is Spills Spot, where I write about my personal finance journey. We paid off over $55,000 of debt (including $36,000 in 26 months) and reached debt freedom, and now I hope to inspire others.
I write about paying off debt, saving money, budgeting, investing, and other personal finance topics in the pursuit of financial independence.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Sports Marketing from Fresno State.
I work in Customer Marketing for a tech company in the Bay Area. Before that I did Content Marketing at a startup for two years. My side hustle is doing scoring/stats in the press box of a minor league baseball team.
How were you first introduced to personal finance and the financial independence mindset? What were your expectations with money and its role in your life before that?
I’ve always been a saver and was blessed to grow up in a home with strong financial values. My dad is very financially savvy and was taught me a lot of the basics such as avoiding debt, building up savings, and getting started to invest early. I’ve always known the value of a dollar, the importance of hard work, and thought of money in terms of the time it took to earn it.
Dave Ramsey’s teaching was what really helped kick our debt payoff into high gear. Discovering Mr. Money Mustache’s Shocking Simple Math to Early Retirement was what introduced me to the concept of financial independence and gave me a tangible goal that was much deeper than just building wealth.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
I took out around $25,000 of student loans and a $15,000 car loan. I don’t necessarily considers those decisions to be mistakes because I was making the best decision that I could at the time, but it definitely hammered home the message of avoiding debt as much as possible. I’m certainly not perfect with money and there are definitely areas I look back on and learn from, but I don’t beat myself up about them.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I’m trying to learn more about real estate and owning rental properties as it’s an area I haven’t focused on much yet, but am becoming more interested in. Also looking ahead to having kids someday, that will be a new area of money management to learn about.
If you could send a memo to every 18-22 year old in North America about better managing their finances and understanding money but it could only be 3 sentences long, what would that memo be?
- Spend less than you earn, avoid debt as much as possible.
- Track your expenses, determine what you value most, and align your spending towards those areas.
- Get started investing early, keep things simple.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
- Do You Even Blog
- FIRE Drill
- Bigger Pockets Money
- Marriage, Kids and Money
- Mad Fientist
- Tim Ferriss Show
I read so many blogs, and there are so many incredible ones out there.
Some of my favorites that I’ve been following for years include: Think Save Retire, Millennial Money Man, Millennial Money, Four Pillar Freedom, Freedom is Groovy, Luxe Strategist, and Millennial Revolution.
I could go on and on, and hate to leave anyone out. There’s so much good content being written by the personal finance blogging community.
Apps or Service(s)
In March of 2018 you and your wife were able to accomplish a major goal – paying off your student loans! Can you share the timeline of that journey?
It was a long journey and I’m very proud that we were able to pay off our student loans!
- In May 2013 we graduated with $40,000 of student loans combined.
- We used the 6 month deferral time and didn’t start making minimum payments until November 2013.
- From November 2013-January 2016 we mostly paid the minimum payments, with an occasional extra payment here and there.
- In January 2016 we still had $27,000 left, and we went on to pay off $15,000 in 10 months, getting the balance down to $12,000 by November 2016.
- At this point, lay-offs began happening at my job, so we shifted our focus to building up more savings.
- I lost my job March 8th of 2017, one year later on March 8th, 2018 we made our final student loan payment!
What strategies helped create the most success with conquering that debt?
The biggest key was making our debt payoff be our biggest focus. We were highly motivated to do whatever it took to pay off the debt as quickly as possible.
For us these steps included building up an emergency fund, tracking our spending closely with Mint, cutting back on various expenses (including restaurants, switching car insurance, switching cellphone providers, and cutting cable), side hustling, setting up automatic payments a few times per month, and celebrating the small wins.
It was a true team effort and it was hard to be patient sometimes, but we made it!
Has your mindset towards money and life shifted at all since paying off your student loans?
I wouldn’t say our mindset has shifted too much, but we definitely feel like a weight is off our shoulders. Being debt free means less monthly payments and helps bring a sense of peace in our lives. It’s exciting to be able to put money towards other goals like savings/investments instead of towards extra debt payments every month.
How are you using goal setting in your own financial journey? What tactics have been the most influential for you and your wife?
Our focus is on making consistent progress over time, and celebrating the small wins along the way. We’ve accomplished a number of goals so far on our journey, including creating a monthly budget that works for us, establishing an emergency fund, paying off our student loans, paying off our car loan, and investing monthly. When you have a clear picture of what you’re working towards it’s much easier to stay motivated along your financial journey.
Our future goals include traveling to various places, maxing out our retirement accounts, buying and renting out a duplex, and reaching financial independence.
You’ve written about how taking ownership of your financial future can’t truly begin until you “care”. Can you share some of those initial steps that can help springboard progress?
My opinion is that a person’s financial turnaround can’t truly begin until they start to care about their finances. By “care” I mean taking ownership of their situation, including both the good circumstances and difficult circumstances. Everyone has a different background, but we all need to take hold of our finances and desire to improve them. Without this initial mindset shift, you won’t begin to see positive progress made.
Some of these steps can be sitting down and taking inventory of where you’re at, tracking your expenses, signing up for an online budgeting tool, reading blogs/books, listening to podcasts, and finding a mentor or accountability partner to help.
Again, it’s all about taking ownership of your situation, learning as much as possible, and then putting what you’ve learned into action. You don’t have to do everything at once, one step at a time will lead to making progress.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I started blogging about personal finance in January 2016. I had always enjoyed writing, but had really only done it in a school setting. Initially, the blog started out with the intention of being a portfolio for my writing to help advance in my career, but it very quickly became much more than that. I discovered that I had a passion for personal finance and wanted to learn as much as possible to pass that knowledge along to others.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Spills Spot?
My passion is to help fellow millennials become better at managing their finances. With personal finance very rarely taught in schools, I want to make a difference and help people learn to manage their money more effectively. After paying off over $55,000 of debt and reaching debt freedom, I want to help others reach their financial goals too.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog(s) over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
At the beginning of the year my goal was to double blog traffic (from 24,000 page views last year to 50,000 this year), and to write a Rockstar Finance worthy post. So far both of those are still works in progress.
My tactics are to be active on Twitter, the Rockstar Finance forums, and post more often.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
- How We’ve Paid Off More Than Half Our $27,000 of Student Loan Debt in 10 Months – discusses our journey paying off our student loans and the tactics we used.
- What Experiencing a Job Layoff is Actually Like – profiles when I was laid off in March 2017 and the steps I took to bounce back from this bump in the road.
- How My Dad Finally Got Me to Read Investing Books – talks about a unique method my Dad came what with to “bribe” me to start reading investing books.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Determine “why” you want to get your finances in order, track your spending, and find a support system to help keep you motivated along the journey.
Any special shoutouts?
Shoutout to all my readers, and the personal finance blogging community! I appreciate all the support along my journey and hope you’re getting value from my posts.