From Poverty To Prosperity: How Gina Became Her Own Money Hero

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Gina Zakaria from SavingWhiz.com joins me on the podcast to talk about her journey from poverty while pregnant to prosperity.

Listen below as Gina shares how she left a toxic marriage, built good money habits with her 2nd husband, and is now on the road to early retirement.

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I think there's a proper way to spend your money and an improper way. And the proper way is to actually plan for how you're going to spend your money. The way that I was spending is like, Oh, that looks good. Let me put that in my cart, and I would just buy it. And so I realized really quickly after I had gone into debt, that we're not gonna be able to afford this house and this debt if we don't fix something.

Michael Lacy 0:26

You're listening to the winning to wealth Podcast, where you'll hear real stories from real people who are on the path to building real wealth. These stories will show you how to earn more money, pay off debt, start investing, and make better money choices so you can build wealth for your future. Now, here's your host, Michael Lacy, what's up? What's up? What's up teammates. This is Episode 41 of the winning to a podcast. I'm your host Michael Lacy and this week we're talking about perseverance and how it can be the key to finding financial freedom.

Michael Lacy 1:00

My guest this week has an absolutely incredible story to share. Her name is Gina and Gina is the founder of saving with.com. Now throughout her journey, Gina has dealt with many low points like toxic relationships, job loss, and so many other challenges that we're going to discuss on this episode. But through it all, she's continued to persevere on her wealth building journey, and I'm definitely excited for you guys to hear from Gina. But before we jump into the interview portion of this episode, I have to let you know that you can find the show notes any relevant links mentioned, as well as the audio transcript for this episode at winning to wealth comm slash Episode 41 that is winning to wealth comm slash Episode 41. But hey, let's jump right into this interview with Gina from saving whiz.com

Michael Lacy 1:54

Hi, Gina, welcome to the show. I'm excited to talk to you today. I know we've kind of interacted a few things

Michael Lacy 2:00

times on social media and other places. But I'm excited to really dig into your story and learn a little bit more about you. Hey, Michael, thank you so much for having me on. I'm so excited for this chat. Yeah. So, you know, and just kind of doing some research on you. I've heard you talk about kind of this rock bottom moment, right where you were married to, I believe your ex husband. There's this one day where he kind of takes your things and leaves you at home while you're pregnant. And ultimately, you find yourself eating this jar of pickles and you get sick and all that. So can you just talk a little bit about what happened in that situation? Well, I was 20 years old at that point, and I had really no idea about how to manage my finances, or to be like financially stable, and all I had was a credit card. And no, no, no cash in the bank or anything like that.


So my ex husband at that time, he took my credit card, my car, my cell phone at that time. And he went out and I had no way to communicate with people. I didn't have a landline at that point. I didn't have any way of like getting other groceries or even going to get the groceries. I was probably like four or five months pregnant at that time, and I was constantly nauseous. So I just remember opening the refrigerator and finding this jar of pickles, and that's literally all I had to eat. So, of course, I decided, Okay, this is what I'm going to do until he gets back. So I eat my jar of pickles, I get sick, like you mentioned, and then I'm sitting on the floor crying and realizing that this is not the life that I want to live. I don't have any money, I'm flat broke. I don't even have any money to get food, which is like the one resource that I need right now. And I feel hopeless. But in that moment,


I'm a pretty religious person, I'm sitting there praying, and I'm telling my myself that it's my fault. I put myself in this position. And then right after that, I realized, okay, well, if I put myself in this position, then I have the power to pull myself out of this position. So what can I do to get myself into a better place when I had to drop that person completely, and then to, I learned how to start saving and like saving money on a lot of things, so that I could start building a savings account, which I've explained on some other podcasts, he actually ended up taking that money from my savings account and put me on zero again. But the fact was that I was starting to build on this foundation of learning how to save knowing that if I was going to be able to get out of the situation, I was going to have to stabilize my finances and figure out a way to have enough resources to leave. And so that's exactly what I did. It took about a year for me to


Get out.

Unknown Speaker 5:01

And when I did, I had $1,000 to my name. And I remember there were some, like, organizations that helped me, and they gave me some financial aid to get out as well. But ultimately, the idea was that if I didn't have the financial security, I wasn't going to be able to get out because I wasn't going to be able to afford it. And so that changed my mindset and made me feel like, okay, the way that I'm going to have to have power in this situation is to be able to have money. So that's kind of how I got out of the whole situation. But yeah, I mean, let's talk about that, because that's very interesting. I actually grew up in a household where domestic violence was present. And in talking to my mom, like in our later years, you know, that's one of the things she mentioned is just like not feeling like I could handle the bills on my own and I didn't have that solid footing to be

Unknown Speaker 6:00

able to leave and support myself and kids and all of that. So can you talk about just some of the things that you had to do? You said it took a year. So what were some of the things that you were doing to kind of get yourself to a place where you felt comfortable walking away from that situation? Well, at the time, I was a full time college student, I was working at a bank as a teller. And of course, I was paying all the bills. So I was paying the rent, I was paying for the babysitter for my brand new baby, I was paying all of the bills. And what I ended up having to do, and I don't recommend this, I went to those payday loans, because I needed to get extra cash just to be able to pay my rent and things like that. And I got myself into this really bad cycle of payday loans. But it was enough for me to be able to pull that cash out and leave. Because if I knew that if I had put it into a savings account, he was going to get access to

Unknown Speaker 7:00

Even though his name wasn't on my savings account, but he had access to my card when I was home, so I didn't want to do that again. So I remember going and getting payday loans, which took me about six months to a year to get out of later on. But it was enough to just pull that money out and move on. But it took a long time for me to figure out how to do it. As a 20 year old, my my mom and my family were super supportive. But I had this sense of pride and I didn't tell anybody what was going on, because I wanted to do it on my own. And as if, at that point, I was 21. And at that point, I'm like, I'm an adult. Now I have to figure out how to get out of the mess that I put myself into. And so I decided to go with the payday loan instead of like borrowing the money from my family. And it worked. I was able to get out. I lived with my brother for a while and then I slowly started to pay back those those loans and get myself back into

Unknown Speaker 8:00

You know, a positive balance. Right? Alright, so you've mentioned that, you know, that really wasn't kind of the ideal decision, the payday loan. So looking back on it, do you feel like you would have done it the same way? Again, if you were in that situation again? Or would you have done things a little different? No, I think I would have done things completely different. In hindsight, I look back and I think I shouldn't have been using my credit cards. What I should have been doing is creating a savings account in a completely separate bank and not having an actual card. That way I could protect myself from him having any kind of exposure to my account. But I could have saved a little bit per paycheck and done it that way, or maybe worked another smaller part time gig somewhere where he wasn't aware of it that I was able to get out that way. Or I should have just asked my mom because that would have

Unknown Speaker 9:00

In an interest free loan, that I could have paid her back, I would have been able to take my time getting the money to her. And it would have been easier on me. But I think at that point, I felt like the only way out was to figure it out on my own. I didn't want to be a burden on anyone else. So that was my way of, kind of like,

Unknown Speaker 9:23

tracking my own path. Yeah, creating my own path out. Yeah, no, it makes sense. So, okay, so so far, you have this moment where you realize like, your life is kind of starting to unravel. And then you kind of pick yourself up and start moving forward, putting some things in motion to get yourself out of that situation. But there there is a child involved. So can you talk a little bit about like, what happened once your child was born? And I guess what I'm looking for here is like, you know, what were you doing? Where did you where'd you earn money? Where did you move to? Those kind of things just overall, what was your life like in that season?

Unknown Speaker 10:00

So we lived in two different counties. He was in Orange County and I'm in LA county or my family's from LA. So I moved back to LA County with my family, I lived with my brother. I was very lucky and very blessed that my family, like supported me 100% they helped me with my daughter. But I was also able to get things through my university that helped me get childcare for her while I was at school. And one of the things that I made sure that I had to do was finish my education, like actually get a degree and get a better job because at that time when I was working as a part time Teller, I was making like 12 or $13 an hour which was good at that time for a young 21 year old. But it was definitely not going to be enough for me to stabilize my situation and be able to be independent with my daughter later on. So I made sure that I continued my

Unknown Speaker 11:00

Education, I tried to tap into any resources that I've qualified for. So that meant that I was like applying for University Housing, which I didn't end up getting. But I applied for it. I applied for. They had a childcare program where they would actually pay for your childcare, and even the schooling for your child, as long as you were a full time student. And so I did that. I did end up getting financial aid from the government at one point for about six months just to kind of get myself going. And then once I got my first job out of college, the first thing I did was like, I don't need this anymore, I have my job. So it was an amazing feeling. But yeah, like there were there were definitely moments where I felt like I was much more blessed than a lot of people in that situation because I did have my family's backing and they did even financially support me when I needed it. But most of it was me just trying to hustle and for

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Unknown Speaker 12:00

out where I can get those resources. Gotcha. Okay. And so kind of moving forward a little bit like at some point you meet your current husband and you get married again. So where were you financially around this time?

Unknown Speaker 12:14

I was doing better. I was not I was still in school when I met my second husband. So I was still in college. I was working a part time job at that time. I wasn't racking up any more debt. But I definitely had debt that I was still working through. I had a lot of collection calls and stress when it came to that. So my poor husband when he came into the marriage, we had about, I want to say $15,000 worth of debt. I didn't really think much of it because I was like, Well, you know, I'm, you know, once I graduate, I'm going to be able to work and pay that off. And so I did, I graduated and we were kind of paying it off together. He was paying more of it than I was before.

Unknown Speaker 13:00

He had already been like established and working for about six years. So he kind of was he was making more money than I did. And so he was paying a lot more of it. But ultimately, what ended up happening was I got an offer for what at that point was my dream job. I was working in the mortgage industry, and I was working as a temp right out of college. And they offered me a promotion with like, $4 more an hour, and I was like, super stoked about it. And then they realized that I had bad credit. And I didn't know that they were going to run my credit. So they ran my credit realized that I had really bad credit. I had like 560 was my score 550 and it was because of all those collection, debt. I just remember like, I'm temporary, I'm about to get promoted and get a permanent job and then all of a sudden, I'm fired. So I'm like, Okay, now we're going back to

Unknown Speaker 14:01

But my husband was, I mean, he's just such an amazing person. But he ended up like, we paid off that $15,000, probably in three months after that, because he recognized that this is going to be an issue later on, I'm not going to be able to get a good job without them checking my credit, especially because I'm in the finance sector, right? They want to make sure you're good with your money before you're managing theirs. So

Unknown Speaker 14:29

in order for me to actually, you know, be able to be successful with that, with that sector, I'm gonna have to do better with my finances and my credit, so he helped me pay it off. We paid it off together. And then slowly, my credit started to build up. And we were able to get better jobs and I was able to get better jobs and be confident that I was going to get the job because my ability allowed me to have those jobs like I had a good skill.

Unknown Speaker 15:00

said, I'm very analytical, I know how to deal with numbers, I'm, I'm good with other people's money. I just made mistakes when I was younger. So with that, my credit started to get better. And I got up to like a six 700 score. And then I started to get better jobs. And so now Luckily, my credit score is like at 850. So I'm never gonna go back to where I was. But I think I had to go through those phases, in order to really recognize that your financial health is not just about you being able to afford nice things. It's also about you being able to acquire the jobs that you want. It's also about being able to actually make your dreams come true. It starts with your money. It always starts with your money, because that gives you the power and the slack to be able to do the things you want to do. Right? That makes total sense. But I do want to go back to the moment where you're thinking you're about to

Unknown Speaker 16:00

Get a promotion and you end up fired over your credit score. So I guess I just want to know kind of how your husband responded to that. Like, did you guys talk a lot about money while you were dating? Like, was he aware of your credit score? Or was this just a complete shock to him or just kind of where were you guys in your relationship at that point? Well, I haven't actually ever discussed this on a podcast. So you're going to be the first one to hear.

Unknown Speaker 16:25

My husband comes from Egypt. I mean, I'm Egypt. My husband was born and raised in Egypt. I was born and raised in America. But in Egypt, their way of spending and using money was completely different. They don't use credit cards. I mean, maybe now they do, but at the time that he was there, credit cards wasn't a norm. You use cash for everything. So if you didn't have the cash, you didn't spend the money period. They didn't have instant gratification like we have here. So when he came here, and realized that I had 15

Unknown Speaker 17:00

thousand dollars worth of debt. Some of it was student loans, but a lot of it was credit card and loan debt. He looked at it as a way for us to create a clean slate. So he, he did know about my debt ahead of time. I did, of course mentioned that to him and we had those conversations. But he's also an accountant by trade, and by passion, like he loves dealing with numbers and like fixing problems and things like that. And so when he came, he was like, Don't worry, we're gonna get this fix. So it was kind of like the person that helped me learn more about finances, because up until that point, he came from a background of his parents were extremely rich at one point, they changed some government laws, and his father had lost most of his business. And so they went from being very wealthy to not having a lot of money, and so he had to

Unknown Speaker 18:00

deal with that on on his own as well. So he had a lot of experience with fixing finances fixing personal finances. And so he when he came here, he never really showed me that he had stress, I had probably a lot of stress because I felt like, I didn't know how to get out of this hole that I had dug. But for him, he was like, Okay, here's the plan. This is what we're going to do. So he kind of held the finances until we got it together. And I was kind of like over his shoulder like, Okay, what are you doing? I don't know, how are you doing this? Like, how are you how's your brain thinking to get to this place, and within a few months, we were able to pay it off completely. He came from Egypt with money for us to like, start our life together. And I had none.

Unknown Speaker 18:49

So he kind of like built our foundation, and helped me realize how important it was for our finances to be straight. So

Unknown Speaker 19:00

Yeah, he absolutely knew about it. While we were while we were dating and engaged, and I think probably all along, he was kind of figuring out a plan for us to get back on track, because he was kind of marrying and getting himself into a hole. Right. But, you know, and I, I was fully honest with him, and he knew that there was a lot of things that was that were going on. And a lot of the reason why I was in debt was because of this prior marriage. So he understood it wasn't like I was just going going into debt because I decided to buy that expensive purse or, you know, go out on vacation or whatever it was really because I was using it for life expenses. So you know, you're coming from this toxic, abusive marriage, and now you're going into this one, and you're trying to come together and merge finances and things like that. Did you have any kind of like maybe, I guess, trust issues that kind of stemmed from that last

Unknown Speaker 20:00

relationship that you carried into this one financially? Or was it just you were coming into this relationship? You know, fully open, clean slate ready to dive in and see where this would lead? That's a really good question. No, I didn't. And I think the reason was because of my husband. The way that he approached things you could tell he was he was really approaching it as a team effort. He wanted us to get better. He wanted us to be wealthy. And so him actually putting in money on a debt that wasn't his

Unknown Speaker 20:38

dealing with the fact that I had gotten fired and now he was the sole breadwinner again, because he was the first when we first got married. He was the breadwinner while I was still in college for that last four or five months. So now he's back into that same place where he's now still the sole breadwinner. He doesn't have any more

Unknown Speaker 21:00

You know, he doesn't have me there as a second income. And I just realized he, he does it because he wants us to do better, not just him. And so it's never been this thing where it's like my finances and his finances, and he's, he's taking money out for his stuff like, this guy sacrifices to the point where

Unknown Speaker 21:23

if we had an extra $10, at that point, he wouldn't eat lunch at work. He'd make sure that that $10 was used for my daughter or for me, or for whatever. So, because he sacrificed and you can see it on a daily basis, that he was sacrificing for our family. There was no way for me not to trust him. He just he laid the foundation of trust, because he was always sacrificing for us. I had to force him to go buy stuff for himself, because he was like, No, no, the household needs it. No, no, you

Unknown Speaker 22:00

guys need it? No, no, no, it was like it was always someone else. So he has that personality. So, for me, it was like, I just, I could totally close my eyes and know that he was always going to have our benefit. And like at heart at some point, though, you guys start racking up debt together. Yeah, right.

Unknown Speaker 22:22

Yeah adopted the American way.

Unknown Speaker 22:27

What happened? What happened? Again, because he's from Egypt. Again, they don't have the idea of credit or loans or anything like that. So buying a car in Egypt, you have to save a lot of money. So I'll give you an example. He had an 82 Mazda three to 319 82. And he spent about 30,000 pounds for that car, which is the equivalent of like, $30,000 for us since he's buying it with pounds and he made

Unknown Speaker 23:00

Money in pounds, right? So he had to save for like a good year to buy that car. Imagine us saving $30,000 to buy our car, right? So he comes here and realizes, wait, I could I could get a car and just make a payment every month. Well, that's pretty cool. And I could get a brand new car not like a 1980 something. So the first thing we did was buy a car and I was still in that mindset of, well, you know a car is good dead. That should be fine. So we bought a car. And then I had my second daughter and my civic wasn't going to be able to hold all of the baby things right. I had now two car seats from the my newborn and then my five year old. So I had two car seats, a stroller, all this stuff and my civic wasn't gonna be able to carry all that. So he was like, You know what, maybe we should get you an SUV. So now we have two car loans

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Unknown Speaker 23:59

and then we decide

Unknown Speaker 24:00

We're gonna buy a condo. So we buy a condo in like Culver City Inglewood area and the housing bubble burst, like six months after we bought it. So of course what we had owed on it was so much more than the value of the property now, and we were like going through all this stuff. He ended up losing his job during this housing market crash because he was in he was also in the mortgage industry. And so he got furloughed, I was currently working at a university, so I got furloughed, but his was his was 100%. Mine was like 10 or 15%. So I still had an income. He had zero income. So we were racking up a lot of debt because again, we had to pay for our bills. And then that was probably maybe 25 $30,000 worth of the debt. Then we came and bought our forever home which is where we are now.

Unknown Speaker 25:00

And sold that condo. Luckily, this was like four years later. And we decided, Okay, this home has to have our special touch. Because right now it's just the house. We got to make it a home right? So we started doing all of these things too, right when we moved in like the first week we moved in, we got the electrician, we were like doing the cam lighting, and we had to like change all the the outlets and all this stuff. And then we ended up painting in it having a new roof and a new garage door and new, a new fence around the front yard and taking out trees from the backyard. And we did so much to this house that was so unnecessary. I look back and I'm like, none of that stuff had to be done for it to be a livable home. The house was perfectly fine just the way it was. The kitchen had already been renovated, which was great. The things that were essential were already in the house. So nothing really needed to be done, but we had this thing

Unknown Speaker 26:00

Have, okay, we've been struggling for so long. We've been struggling for the last four years now is our time to actually feel like we're living a little bit. And our notion was, we're living by being able to upgrade our home so that we feel like everyone else feels when they're like upgrading their lifestyle, right. And so we ended up racking up up to a little bit more than $105,000 in debt in total. At that point, we had paid off my car, we were in the process of paying off his car, but now we've racked up all of these different lines of credit to keep the house looking what we considered a home, and then it hit me. I'm like, Oh, my God. We just put ourselves into a huge mountain of debt. How are we going to do this, and at that point, I was still kind of not on a budget. I was definitely not on

Unknown Speaker 27:00

budget, but I was not learning how to spend correctly. Because I think there's a proper way to spend your money and an improper way. And the proper way is to actually plan for how you're going to spend your money. The way that I was spending is like, Oh, that looks good. Let me put that in my cart, and I would just buy it. And so I realized really quickly after I'd gone into debt, that we're not going to be able to afford this house and this debt if we don't fix something. And that was really his idea, too. And we sat down together and we're like, Okay, the first thing we need to do, we got a, we got to create a budget, this is not going to work. And so that was the thing. We ended up creating a budget which changed a lot for us changed a lot of things. Okay, so you get on the budget, and you start that process. So what happens from that point?

Unknown Speaker 27:51

I fail. My budget ultimately fails at first.

Unknown Speaker 27:56

I'm telling you,

Unknown Speaker 27:58

but it gets better. I promise.

Unknown Speaker 28:00

Michael it gets better. But I did. I failed for the last three for the first three to six months because I got really strict with myself. For me, I always thought of a budget as being super restrictive. And my husband for years had been telling me while we were in debt, we got to get on a budget. I'm like, No, I work really hard for my money. I deserve to spend it. And so I was just spending it. And we were living paycheck to paycheck for a really long time. Even when we came in to our forever home. We were living paycheck to paycheck. And when we ultimately ultimately sat down together and talked about having a budget, I was like, Okay, I'll work. I'll work with this budget, because I know our situation right now is dire. We have all this that plus our home, if one of us loses our job, we're losing everything. And so I decided I would go with this budget.

Unknown Speaker 28:51


Unknown Speaker 28:53

I thought that my budget was going to be restrictive. So the only thing that I added on my budget was bills.

Unknown Speaker 29:00

And actual expenses that I owed. I never added my life to my budget, which was crazy because I didn't think, oh, you're supposed to actually add the things you want to do with your budget for me, I was like, Oh, just the bills, nothing else. Everything else goes to debt. Don't touch any of the other money. And so the first few months, I was like, Okay, well, I gave myself an unrealistic goal of only spending $250 at the grocery store. I don't know what I was thinking in California. And so I kept going over and I was so frustrated with myself, Why is this not working? And then I realized, wait a minute, you're supposed to adjust as you go. And so I started adjusting and realizing, oh, the last two months I've been spending $350 on groceries. Okay, so I need to increase that to 350. Oh, our internet went up and I didn't include that. So I need to put that in there. You know what I really want to go to a restaurant. This

Unknown Speaker 30:00

This month, let's put $60 in that category. And then I started adding all these things and realizing, wait, I could do all of these things and still have money that I could put towards my debt and savings. Wait, something's not right. Like, are we supposed to have this much money leftover, and then it started clicking, that when you start adding your entire life to your budget and you start adjusting and making sure that like you're paying attention to fluctuations and expenses. Your budget actually allows you to do the things you want to do. And it just changed everything from there. I was like, Oh my god, I love this thing. This is so cool.

Unknown Speaker 30:43

So it's there that you kind of find your momentum it takes you you said like three to six months to kind of find your stride, find your momentum, get things rolling in the right direction. But as we know, I mean the debt free journey, it has its own challenges. I mean, things pop up, things happen. So what challenges

Unknown Speaker 31:00

Did you guys have while you were in the middle of paying off all this debt?

Unknown Speaker 31:05

I think the biggest part for us was the amount of interest that we were paying on all of this debt. Because we knew it was going to be a long period of time before we were able to pay off our debt. We had to start getting strategic. It took us about five years to pay off everything, because we went totally frugal. Um, we I was looking for free ways to have fun with my kids. So we were going to like outdoor summer concerts, going out with friends doing all these things so that we can still have fun while we were paying off our debt because that was a big priority for me, making sure that my kids didn't feel like we were deprived while we were paying off the debt. So we did a lot of those things. Were able to save a lot of money but the interest was killing us. So I started looking at ways to really figure out okay, what can I do to make our debt journey go a little

Unknown Speaker 32:00

faster and save money on interest. And what I realized was there are so many programs out there so that you can reduce your interest rate. So I started calling lenders I started applying for lower interest cards, especially because my credit at that point started to get better ever since we bought the home so I was able to get lower interest cards. And then there was one thing that changed the game for us. We got a zero percent APR promotional card that we had for 18 months. And I literally transferred as much of all of our balances to that card as I could. And then we just went ham on it. So we you we didn't do the snowball method we did the as as much as we could on the zero percent APR. And then the next one was the highest interest rate so we did more of an avalanche method. But I cranked out as much as I could on the zero percent APR until we paid it off. And then I

Unknown Speaker 33:00

Add more balances to it. I just kept on transferring balances, because I'd rather pay on the one that like has zero percent interest rate and just like get all of our money paid to into principal, instead of having our money being wasted on interest. And so I kept transferring all the highest interest rates to that zero percent. And it saved us. I'm not even kidding, like literally thousands, probably 20 $500 we saved just on interest because of that one hack. And I wouldn't have noticed that if it wasn't for me feeling like it was moving too slow. The needle was not moving fast enough and I really wanted it to move faster.

Unknown Speaker 33:39

Okay, so you said that it took you guys like five years to kind of plow through your debt. So what was it like once you finally became debt free, like when you hit Submit on that last payment, or you mailed that last check in, kind of walk me through what that was like? Oh, gosh, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Unknown Speaker 34:00

It was January 2018. And Christmas had just passed. And then all of a sudden we're debt free. And it was the most amazing feeling. We had all this free money that I was like, okay, so where are we going to put this money? Can we go on a vacation? Can I start putting it in a sinking fund? I got so excited because the first time in my life, the money that I had worked so hard to get every single month was finally something I had full control over. No longer did I owe anybody any money. Because you know, when you have a lot of debt, and you're going to work every day, and you're like, I have nothing to show for my work other than that I'm paying someone else back. I'm working really hard and none of that money is coming to me. So it was the first time in my life that I felt like, wow, this is what it feels like to be free. You're working and that money could be used for anything you want. You are now the full master of your full salary and it just felt amazing and that first time

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Unknown Speaker 35:00

year, we went on like two or three vacations with the kids, we we did all of these things that we really wanted to do. All cash flowed. And it was like, I never want to go back to debt. Again, this is amazing. I'd rather have the delayed gratification and feel like I could truly afford what I'm purchasing versus the other way around. Okay. And so I mean, let's talk about it. You have this big pile of cash, now you've got this influx of cash flow. So what happens next? From that point, I realized I wanted to retire early.

Unknown Speaker 35:37

So let's talk about why why did that become important to you? Because I felt like I had been working just to pay the bills at that point. And once I became debt free, I realized, now I don't have quite as many bills and I don't have as many wants as I did in the past years. So because I started to adopt frugal living

Unknown Speaker 36:00

I realized what really mattered to me what was really important. And that lifestyle was so much cheaper than the lifestyle I thought I wanted. And so I realized, well, if I invest most of the money that I was using to pay off the debt, I can actually retire early and do more of the things I want to do. And be able to have the freedom to use my creativity to create passion projects, and to actually help my community more and be able to do things that I wasn't able to and couldn't afford to do before. So it just it changed everything. My perspective, my perspective started to change because I realized I no longer have to work until my mid 60s to be able to afford retirement. Now that I have the money I can actually invest a lot more and retire a lot earlier than I thought.

Unknown Speaker 36:51

So was your husband was he on board with that? Like once you've kind of discovered the fire movement and you're like, Okay, we're paying all this money towards debt. I know you may have

Unknown Speaker 37:00

Thought that we're going to enjoy it, but now we're going to invest it. So like what was his thought process on and that conversation, he was totally for it because he, he loves to, like, learn more about investments and like figure out what areas we can really grow our wealth in. And so for him, it was like his own little passion project. As soon as I said that, he was like, Okay, this is what we're gonna do.

Unknown Speaker 37:25

And he's just wet, like, just at the beginning, same thing, like he's just very good about, like, wanting us to grow together. And so when I told him my plan, he was like, Okay, this is this is how we can get this done. And for him, he was like, I don't want to retire early. I love working. I love doing what I do, blah, blah, blah. And I think that started to change with the Korean team, to be honest, like now that we're both working from home. Luckily, we were so blessed that both of us still have our jobs or working from home and he realized, wow, I would rather have

Unknown Speaker 38:00

Like my time freedom like this, where I'm able to be productive when I need to be and be able to have some downtime. And so now he's thinking about early retirement too, because that was the whole thing for me is I felt like I was spending way too many hours outside of the home, and not enough hours doing the things I wanted to do with my family, and watching my kids grow. And I think now he's, he's of that mindset to first he was investing so that and we would always talk about it probably every month or two, he was like, okay, so retirement, you're probably going to be able to retire at like, 50. We're going to pay off the house. And then we're going to do this, we're going to do that. And now, ever since quarantine, we're like, Okay, how do we both retire early, so that we can start doing the things that we want to do. So now we're starting to invest in real estate, and invest in other things that may be able to give us passive income so that we can retire even earlier than we expected to. So do you have a target date in mind that you're shooting for

Unknown Speaker 39:01

I would like to retire by the time I'm 45 I'm I just turned 39 about two weeks ago. So I've got six years.

Unknown Speaker 39:10

And I would love for him to retire at the same time that I'm retiring, which would make him 51

Unknown Speaker 39:18

that is my ultimate goal. Like if I can hit that I'll be really happy. We're planning on having the house paid off before them. So when we retire, we'll be completely debt free 100% as of now our consumer debt free. Awesome, awesome. I love it. I love that and and thank you so much for sharing so openly and honestly, just really about the totality of your journey from the beginning until now paying off debt and all the ups and the downs that you've dealt with from you know, thinking you're going to get a promotion to losing your job and, and all of that stuff. But I do want to have I do have one more question that I want to ask is is like, what would you say to maybe the single

Unknown Speaker 40:00

parents out there that wants to get their money together. But everything kind of feels hopeless right now like maybe they feel like they don't make enough income or they have too much debt. What would you say to that person to give them a little hope, give them a little inspiration to get started. A couple of things, I would say one, take it one step at a time, when we had the hundred thousand dollar debt. I looked at it initially as a big mountain. But then we started to break it up into smaller bite sized pieces, because I feel like a lot of times when we look at our debt, it's very easy to get overwhelmed. And so take just one step at a time, create a habit of progress, versus trying to like figure out how you're going to pay it off all at once. Just take it one step at a time. It makes it so much easier because when you have your head down and you're just moving forward, your journey goes by a lot faster if you're like whoa. I've been doing this for

Unknown Speaker 41:00

Yours Wow, I'm almost there. versus if you keep looking at the goal, sometimes it just feels like it's too far away. And to give yourself grace, I think that was one of the biggest things that I had struggled with when I was a young mom and not really understanding a lot about finances, because I never gave myself grace or the time to really learn about finances. And so I think, giving themselves enough grace to say, you know what, I wasn't born knowing finances, I can still learn everything I need to know. And I can take it that one step at a time and learn as I go, it's going to make a big difference, because you're never going to be at the place that you are now. You've already made it. You've made that decision in your mind to progress forward. And so just know that where you are right now isn't where you're going to be in six months or a year or five years down the line. You're going to get there, but you just have to be patient with the process.

Unknown Speaker 42:00

And take it one step at a time.

Unknown Speaker 42:02

Awesome. Love it. Hey Gina, thank you so much again for being so open and sharing. I do want to give you an opportunity to share where people can connect with you if they want to follow your family's journey to early retirement. Well, thanks so much for having me first. I really loved our chat.

Unknown Speaker 42:19

If anybody wants to find me they can find me on Instagram at saving with with an H and they can find me at saving was calm. I share tips and tricks on frugal living debt freedom, how to save money, and I even share some of our middle eastern recipes that are budget friendly. So I've got a lot of resources. I've got a lot of free resources on there as well. So that's where they can find me. Awesome, Gina. Well, hey, I will be sure to link to your social media handles and your website on the show notes page. I would like to also ask one thing of all you listeners out there specifically you listeners on Apple podcast if you enjoyed this interview with Jean

Unknown Speaker 43:00

Or maybe you just learned something new that you didn't know before you press play, please consider leaving a five star review on the show. Now, I love your reviews. I love reading them. It makes me feel great about the content that we're able to put out. But more important than that your review also lets any potential listeners know that we serve up good content on this show. So if you're on Apple podcast and you enjoyed this episode, definitely leave a five star review. Alright, so now it's time for this week's win of the week. So Gina and her husband knew that they needed to do something different as they were trying to figure out how they were going to attack their hundred and $5,000 worth of debt. They hadn't been living on a monthly spending plan. But a few months after they started they found themselves crushing their debt. Living on a spending plan not only helped them crush their debt, but they're also currently in the process of paying off their mortgage early and retiring early two guys

Unknown Speaker 44:00

That is just incredible. So if you are not currently utilizing a monthly spending plan, this is a great time to set one up as a new month does start in just a few days. I'll be honest, I personally love and use the every dollar app. Like it's super easy to create categories for spending. It's crazy simple to track your expenses. And no they don't pay me to say that but if you're not living on a spending plan, sit down this week before the new month begins and start working on your very first one. The impact can completely change your life not only is Gina a witness to that, but I am as well. And if you need help creating your first funding plan, I walked through some simple steps that you can use to get started in my winning towards playbook which you can download for absolutely no cost at winning to wealth comm slash playbook that is winning to wealth comm slash playbook. Also if you have questions or maybe you're struggling to figure out your budget like Gina was in the

Unknown Speaker 45:00

Beginning head over to my private Facebook community where we can help you by answering any questions you have. You can find that at winning to wealth comm slash teammates. But hey, thanks for listening to another episode of the winning to wealth podcast. Until we talk again keep racking up those wins one at a time. Take care.

Unknown Speaker 45:21

You've wrapped up another episode of the winning to wealth podcast. To learn more about how you can start making winning money decisions head over to winning to wealth.com

Connect With Gina Zakaria


@SavingWhiz on Instagram

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How frugality and budgeting helped this couple pay off $105,000 worth of debt in just 5 short years.

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