How Getting Out of $30,000 in Debt Changed One Woman’s Budgeting Habits Long-Term

Photo: Getty Images/zimindmitry

Talking about money with friends and acquaintances may seem like a faux pas, but if there’s any time to tear down that stigma, it’s now. For many, the effects of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been financially destructive, making budgeting for healthy habits difficult, if not almost impossible. That’s where Well+Good’s Checks+Balanced series comes in. Think of it as a space to inspire more open and frank conversations around money—especially regarding how different people are able to afford the wellness habits that are important to them.

For *Jessica, an entrepreneur who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, getting into debt was easy, but getting out of debt? Another story. In her twenties, she racked up $30,000 in debt, but after making some major lifestyle changes, she was able to pay it all off, and the experience has affected her spending and saving habits in the long-term. Here, she shares how her finances look now, amid the pandemic, including how she prioritizes saving while still budgeting for her favorite healthy habits.

Keep reading to see how one entrepreneur budgets for her healthy habits after getting out of debt.

getting out of debt pie chart
Art: W+G Creative

*Jessica, 34, speaker, coach, and real-estate investor, Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

Income: $86,000 per year. When I was in my twenties, I really loved to shop, and I accumulated $30,000 in debt in just two years. I was spending more than I was making on clothes, travel, and going out. I didn't even have an awareness of where my money was going. When creditors started coming after me, I knew I had to make some major changes. First, I consolidated all my debt into a line of credit and paid off all my credit cards. Then, I got a second job as a waitress. I had a well-paying corporate job, but I needed this side gig to help dig myself out of the hole. I stopped spending money on anything that wasn't truly necessary, and I was able to pay off my entire debt in about a year.

The budgeting habits I developed during that time have stuck with me, and I've kept the same savvy mentality in many ways (even though I have a whole new career now). For example, I kept my waitressing job for almost a year after my debt was paid off so my husband and I could buy a house and turn our first home into a real estate investment to rent out and generate additional income.

Over the past 10 years, renting out properties has become a significant part of our income. We have 28 rental doors, which brings in $36,000 a year, after the expenses of upkeep. Additionally, I work as a speaker, podcaster, and motivational coach, which brings in $50,000 a year. My husband is a power engineer and makes $285,000 a year.

Housing: $1,550 per month. My husband and I put a significant down payment on our four-bedroom condo in Downtown Vancouver when we bought it five years ago. We've also made aggressive monthly mortgage payments, paying more each month than was technically due. Because of that, we now have a very low payment (considering Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in the world) at $900 a month, plus $650 for monthly facility fees.

Other recurring expenses: $11,688 per month. Taxes are really high in Canada—about $10,000 a month collectively for my husband and me. We have a 3-year-old daughter and her daycare costs $1,350 a month. Other monthly bills include our electric ($40), car insurance ($100), gas ($50), Amazon Prime ($13), Spotify ($10), Internet ($35), and phone bill ($90). The software for my website and podcast is about $600 a month.

One money-saving trick I've learned is anything you can pay for by the year is cheaper than per month, so I do that for as many of these bills as I can.

Healthy food: $800 per month. My husband travels for half the month for his job, so to make life easier—from a parenting perspective while I'm the primary caregiver—I use two local plant-based meal-delivery services during the two weeks he's gone: Kula Kitchen and Oco Meals. It costs approximately $250 a week. Our condo is next to a Costco, so any other food we need, I buy there.

When my husband is home, we do eat out quite a bit—or, takeout during the pandemic. It's important to me to support our favorite restaurants when so many are struggling right now, and we probably spend about $300 a month eating out.

Fitness: $10 per month. Living downtown is great because we are able to walk to many places, which is a way I work regular movement into my day. I also love to bike around the city. Our condo building also has a pool and gym, which is nice to take advantage of, and I have a Beachbody membership, which is $100 a year.

Beauty: $100 per month. I am very into good-quality skin care and hair care. Anything you put on your skin is going into your body, so I prioritize buying beauty products that are vegan and organic. My favorite brands are Beautycounter and Monat. Otherwise, I'm pretty low-maintenance when it comes to beauty. I don't wear a lot of makeup or get my nails done.

Self-care: $550 per month. I have a float house and sauna membership that's $50 a month, which also includes access to an infrared sauna and a cold plunge pool, which is really nice. I go about twice a month and it's such a nice treat. My husband and I also spend about $300 a month on chiropractor and massage treatments—our condo has a treatment center right in our building.

The other major thing I do for self care is having a cleaning person come to my condo once a week, which costs $200 a month. This expense allows me to spend more time with my daughter. It may not be a traditional self-care practice, but it allows me to spend my time in ways that fulfill me, and I consider that to be self care.

*Name has been changed.

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