Your Questions About Debt-free Living

Lizzie asks…

Is it really possible to live without ever going into debt?

I have pondered both extremes. You live right in the city in a rental and never buy a car using the bus, but without a college education, I dont know of too many people who can afford to live in the city with the entry level wage or near there. On the other extreme, if you wanted to do the whole “Walden” experience and live off the land in the backcountry, you would have to buy the land, thus going into debt. Your thoughts or options. Any articles you know of on this topic?

John answers:

It is absolutely possible. Guess what, renting is a debt. It’s a monthly debt you pay to someone else. You can truely live debt free, if you do things right. Yes, if you are born into money it’s much easier. If you are not born into money, you just do things a little different.

You can live with your parents longer and save up your money. Buy a CHEAP car that runs. If you spend $1,000 on a car, and pay yourself what you would have in a car payment you’ll have more than enough to have a nicer car in a year or so, that you pay cash for. You can buy a house/apt/condo with cash, you just have to work very hard. Think about it, if you are able to get a job paying $30,000 a year ($14.50/hr) you will bring homr at least $20k/year. So you start like you do with your car. Save up, pay yourself rent while living with a family member. Then you are paying yourself rather than making someone else rich. Then when you have however much cash saved, you go buy a home for yourself. You don’t start off life with a 5th Ave penthouse, you earn it. Homes are really the only thing I would ever consider a “good debt”. Because it does appreciate, usually.

But cars, credit cards, etc, are not worth it. They cost you more money than you can ever imagine.

Maria asks…

Can I use loans to pay for me living at the university of tennessee campus?

I am a future student and I dont think minimum wage will be enough for me to live on campus at the university of tennessee. Can I use loans to pay for me living there on campus. How many loans can I use? Any info is much appriciated. THANKS!

John answers:

I support the answer from Nancy.

To add to that, I hope you realize that if you use student loan funds to pay for your housing, you will be paying off that loan, with added interest for at least 10 years or more. That is an expensive way to pay for housing, especially if the loan funds are from a private student loan.

You may need to reconsider to starting at the school this next school year (or whenever you wish to start) and instead continue working and possibly taking on a 2nd part-time job so you can save as much of your earnings for at least a year, while living frugally (keeping your on-going expenses down.) That saved money can be used to cover your college/university expenses (including on-campus housing) along with any Federal aid you are awarded. By following that path, you will not be setting yourself into heavy post-graduation debt. Many people have followed that route and live to tell about it, without being overburdened with student loan debt.

Please find this book at your local public library, check it out, and read it through so you can learn some tips you can apply to avoid getting yourself into tremendous student loan debt:
Title: Debt-free U: how I paid for an outstanding college education without loans, scholarships, or mooching off my parents
Author: Zac Bissonnette
Publisher: New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2010

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Best wishes

William asks…

What is the best way you have found to budget money?

I am a single parent at the moment and always say I’m going to save money and budget myself and I end up still living paycheck to paycheck. I would like to save up money so I can get a house with my fiance and his children but can’t seem to figure out how to save money up throughout the year.

John answers:

The type of budget I use is called a Zero-Based Budget. What you basically do is take your income and write it at the top of a page. Then you budget every single dollar until the balance remaining is 0. You do this for each pay period. So you budget money for food, housing, spending money, etc; everything until your balance is 0. That way, when you get paid, you just look at the budget and know exactly where every dollar is going.

Also, check out a book by Dave Ramsey called “The Total Money Makeover.” I believe this book will help you win with money. This is where I go the idea to do the Zero-based budget. I, too, was living paycheck to paycheck (my wife and I). We make good money, we just weren’t focused with our money. In less than three years time we will be debt free (having paid off about $100,000 on about $90,000 income).

Laura asks…

How do i get a student loan if my credit is bad and my school isnt on the school list?

Im trying to get into a school but i need money for apartments and living expenses. I have bed credit and the school im going to is not on any of the loan site lists and i doubt has a school registration number. its a dog training school. what do i do?

John answers:

If you are looking for a Federal student loan and the school you wish to attend does not have a Federal School Code* so that you can list it on your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid – ) form, then, I suspect the school is what is called a for-profit/career/proprietary college/university. The fact that you state it is a school to learn dog training tells me it is a for-profit school.

*Federal School Code can be found using this database:

A for-profit school, which is 1st and foremost a business, with the main focus of earning profits for the owner/shareholders. Please research the reputation of the school carefully. It may be fine. It may not. A reference librarian at your local public library can help you find good evaluations of the school that interests you.

The school financial aid office staff (if the school has one) may be able to provide you info on private (high interest) loan options, but a private loan will require you to have a co-signer with excellent credit & you will have to start repaying the private loan soon after you receive the money. I do not recommend a private student loan.

My advice: If you absolutely _have_ to attend the school, don’t enroll right away, work at a full-time paying job or more than 1 part-time job, living frugally to keep your expenses down so you can save as much of your earnings as possible to ultimately use for your school expenses (including housing and other living expenses.)

When you go to your local public library to research the reputation of the school, ask a reference librarian to help you find this book to check out and read through:
Title: IOU No More: A Quick Start Guide for Becoming Debt Free and Living Debt Free Forever
Author: Sam Burton
Publisher: Xulon Press , 2007

Source: – database of library holdings worldwide

The book will give you good tips on how to cut your expenses and live more frugally so you can save more money for the school costs. Even while you are taking dog training classes, you will probably need to be working at a paying job to pay for your rent and other living expenses.

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Best wishes

Jenny asks…

What is the best way for a low income individual to create savings for an emergency?

I work full time and make very little income. I also attend school full time. What is the best way for me to acquire savings for an emergency when I live from paycheck to paycheck?

John answers:

If you’ve fallen into the rut of living paycheck to paycheck, its because you haven’t adopted the financial philosophy to pay yourself first.

Its simple and when put to work can seriously make you rich.

On your next payday, you need to take $10-$50 and open a savings account. DO NOT ACCEPT THE DEBIT CARD and DO NOT TOUCH THE FUNDS IN THE ACCOUNT.

From this point forward, pay yourself every payday before you pay anyone else. If you have enrolled with online banking, you can set up automatic deposits and see your savings grow monthly.

Change the way you think and you can change the way you act, but “if you always do as you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Have more questions? Need to set a budget? Just email me… I’m glad to offer my advice for free. I went from over 20Gs in debt to debt-free in less than 5 years because I implemented the system that I created to pay myself first and save everything I could. From the spare change in my car to breaking $20 bills at the post office to get a roll of gold dollars, I’ve found ways to save that I couldn’t think of when I was in debt. Email me for more…

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