Expert Interview with Travis Pizel on Getting and Staying Out of Debt
Sometimes, getting out of debt is the easy part. Staying out of debt can be the real challenge. If you don’t have the right planning, preparation, and attitude, it’s all too easy to find yourself right back where you started.
This is part of what led Travis Pizel to start the motivation money management blog Enemy of Debt. Using the principles and techniques he writes about at Enemy of Debt allowed Travis to eliminate over $100,000 worth of debt over the span of five years.
He took a moment to talk to us about some of the techniques he teaches, about how to get out of debt, and stay out of debt, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To start, what is Enemy of Debt? How did you get started writing about finances? What separates you from the other financial advice blogs out there?
Enemy of Debt is a personal finance blog that was actually started by a friend of mine. I met him as I began my own quest to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt. Over time, he wanted to direct his passion elsewhere, and I took over as the featured writer of the blog. The tag line of the blog is “Motivational Money Management,” but it’s even broader than that. It’s about everyday money management for real people. Not what the “experts” say, but decision that everyday people have to make regarding their finances to save money and plan for their future. I also talk a lot about my own goals, as well as my relationship with my friends and family and how they interact with my financial goals.
You recently advised your readers to consider consolidating credit card debt with a loan consolidation company. How does someone go about finding a company like this? You mentioned checking interest and APR rates. What’s an example of a good rate that people might shoot for?
It used to be that your local bank was about the only resource available to get a loan. But today, the financial scene has exploded with options. Not only can you check with brick-and-mortar banks in your physical location, but you can look at online banks, as well as P2P options. I did actually end up going with my local bank and consolidated my remaining unsecured debt with a personal loan at 5.99%.
There was a post recently on Enemy of Debt about staying motivated in getting out of debt. Can you share a couple of these tips, as well as some thoughts on why you feel this is important?
One of my favorite tips to keep yourself motivated to get out of debt, or even just to keep yourself on the right path to financial freedom is to take each day one at a time. Focus on making the right decisions for today. Ask yourself, “What financial choices will I be making today?” Make the right choices for today, and give yourself a win. When you wake up tomorrow, you have a brand-new opportunity to be successful within that day regardless of what happened the day before. Once you start stringing successful days together, you start seeing progress!
You offered the advice “you play how you practice.” What are some ways that people can practice saving money?
The “play how you practice” phrase is meant to remind people that every financial decision matters. If you do not make the right decision when it comes to making small purchases that may not make a significant change in your budget, then you’ll likely not make the right decisions for those big purchases that can impact your finances for months or years. For example, everyday choices that we make every day are whether to dine out, whether we should buy that shirt or not, etc. If we consistently talk ourselves into buying those things even if we do not have the funds to buy them, then we’ll likely easily talk ourselves into overspending on the next cell phone, or vehicle, or home.
You also advocate “living naked,” going without a credit card. Can you give some practical advice for living without credit?
There are a lot of people who treat credit as their emergency fund, or even worse, a resource that can be used to purchase things they want or even need when their cash runs out. I know this perspective very well, as I lived this way for years, racking up a mountain of debt. By “living naked,” you cut up all your cards and live a cash-only lifestyle. If you don’t have the cash, you don’t buy it. At first it may seem scary for people who are used to having credit to fall back on, almost like being naked.
Can you describe the concept of “gazelle intensity,” and why this is important?
Gazelle intensity is a term that is used by Dave Ramsey. Generally speaking, it refers to a period of high intensity, high focus towards trying to achieve a goal, such as paying off debt or saving for the future. It really can be interpreted differently by individual people. To me, it is a short burst of effort in which you concentrate on a goal 100%. You put your blinders on and make every decision based upon whether it helps you achieve your goal or not. Sometimes it means extreme deprivation for a period of time. It is, in my opinion, important to “come up for air” periodically and reevaluate where you’re at, and potentially take a break as to avoid burnout.
Since you’ve started budgeting and saving money, how much have you, personally, managed to save or pay off?
We started our quest to pay off credit card debt in July of 2009 and have eliminated $109,000 of credit card debt as of January of 2014. We have spent most of this year getting the rest of our finances into shape by refinancing our home and consolidating the rest of our unsecured debt. Our goal next year is to ramp up on investing for the future.
You write a weekly blog roundup at Enemy of Debt. How does reading and writing about other financial blogs affect your saving and spending?
It’s unbelievable how many people write about personal finance. With the sheer volume of people sharing information, other blogs are a fantastic resource for other perspectives about finances and ideas and methods to be successful. I often find ideas I try out and pull into the process my wife and I use to handle our finances.
If somebody absolutely has to get a personal loan, can you give an example of what to look for and what is a fair and good deal?
That’s really an answer that is subjective to an individual’s needs and the current environment. The goal for me was to move our unsecured credit with a minimum payment to a finite term consolidation loan. Consumers should also shop around and compare interest rates and terms. Find a monthly payment that fits your budget at the lowest interest rate possible. But I encourage people to make that payment just a little uncomfortable. Push yourself to pay that debt off as quickly as possible!