How Ashley Escaped $40,000 Worth of Debt by Side Hustling

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Ashley Lee, host of The Financial Key podcast, joins me to share how side hustling helped her escape $40,000 worth of debt.

We also discuss:

  • trying to outearn bad spending habits
  • living on 1 income in a HCOL area
  • creating your first budget
  • learning your spending triggers
  • when side hustling can become unhealthy
  • finding balance and dealing with burnout

Listen to the full episode below.

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See also  Building A $60,000 Side Hustle After Being Laid Off
See also  Teacher Makes An Extra $30,000 With This Side Hustle

Read The Transcript

Michael Lacy 0:00

Welcome to Episode 54 of the winning to wealth podcast side hustling your way out of $40,000 worth of debt.

Unknown Speaker 0:09

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 and 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 is up wealthy fam.

Michael Lacy 0:33

This is Episode 54 of the women's wealth podcast. And I'm so excited to have you here with me because, as always, you're going to get some practical tips in this episode that will help you continue to rack up money wins on your way to building wealth. This week, I have joining me Miss Ashley Lee, host of the financial key podcast, Ashley picked up a few side hustles and ultimately paid off $40,000 worth of debt as a single woman living alone in a super high cost of living area. So on this episode, we're going to be talking about the ups and the downs of her personal journey out of debt. Now if this is your first time here, I definitely want to invite you into my private Facebook community where almost 15,000 people talk every single day about money. They share their wins, they share their challenges, they share the questions that never got answered in school or at home, and you're more than welcome to do the same. To find the group, just look in the episode description. Or you can just search winning to wealth.com slash teammates that is winning to wealth.com slash teammates. Also starting today and going through November, you can download that free coloring charts on my website for absolutely free. Now I created these charts for the sole purpose of helping you stay motivated to reach whatever financial goal you're working towards. Whether it's paying off debt, saving for a house, or even hitting an investing goal that you've set. Just head over to winning to wealth.com slash shop, download however many you need, print them out and start tracking your progress in this super fun, super cool way. But again, thank you for being here today. Now let's jump right into this episode with Ashley Lee from the financial key podcast. Ashley, welcome to the women to wealth podcast. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode. I'm really looking forward to sharing your story this week. So again, thank you for being here.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 2:32

Absolutely. I'm so happy to be here, Michael.

Michael Lacy 2:34

Awesome. Wait, I like to start the episodes off by really just having you talk about just some of the money lessons that you learned in childhood.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 2:43

Absolutely. So I grew up in a single parent home. So my earliest memory is just seeing how my mom would handle the bills. So one of my chores as a kid was to go outside, go to the mailbox, bring in the mail, and then she would tell me to put any bills on her desk. So that was my choice. I'll go out to the mailbox each day. And then I'll put the mail on her desk. What happened to it after that I wasn't really sure. But I do remember like just kind of peeking into the office. And I would just see her at the table just like writing out checks and just having different piles of like bills. So that was kind of like my earliest, I would say memory. And I just know that she was always very, very organized with money. And she was very on top of things. So I think that's where like my love for like Excel spreadsheets and budgets, like just seeing how she just had a love for it. And then growing up, especially it was just my brother and I and I think out of the two of us, I was the one that would definitely ask for more things. Because at the time, I didn't really know where money came from. I just knew like if I asked my mom, you know, if she could get it, she would get it if she couldn't, you know, she'll just tell me like, um, you know, we can save for it. So that was definitely one of my earliest memories that were asked. And I didn't really ask her anything like Farfetch, like if we go to Walmart, I'll just say like, Hey, can I get this toy? And a lot of the time she would but as I started to get older, and I guess like out of that age where you know, you're just kind of getting to get, she definitely instilled in me the importance of saving for what you want. And also being able to go into a store and not get something every single time because in my mind, I'm like, well, we're going in Walmart, like I have to get something. So I think that was probably my earliest memory of her just teaching me the importance of saving and the importance of just being content with what you have. I love that. So let me let's talk about it. So did that lesson of always saving money did that carry over into your maybe college years or early adulthood years?

Somewhat. It definitely carried when I was at home so I think when I was maybe about 13 14, I was able to like set up a little account. And each time that I would get allowance every two weeks for doing certain things around the house, she made it a point that we would go to the credit union and a portion of the money that she gave me I had to save. So I think I had the foundation from living at home. But then once I moved out and went to school and kind of saw like how my peers were spending money, and nobody was really talking about like, Oh, yes, set aside this much for saving. I'm like, Oh, well, I don't need to save either. So I think I kind of like, drifted away from it. But just having that foundation and knowing the importance of it. And I'm glad that I did have that experience as a child. But in my late teens and early 20s, I definitely drifted away, or initial teachings.

Michael Lacy 5:47

So eventually, you find yourself in a little over $40,000 worth of debt. So do you think that you're drifting away from, you know, those teachings that your mom gave you, is kind of what spurred a lot of that on?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 6:03

I think so I definitely think so. So once I moved away from home, and I was in college, one of my first jobs at school, I worked at the mall, express specifically, and at that time, they were like pushing credit cards, you know, their charge cards on everyone. So I remember my manager saying like, hey, if you open up a charge card at the store, like I'll let you have a longer lunch. So I was like, oh bit opened up the charge card. And that. I know, right? I was just like a longer lunch. Yeah, I'm all for it. So and I feel like that's kind of like what started because that was my very first like, credit card. And I do remember when my mom moved me in on campus, so this was back in like 2007 2008. This is back when like credit card companies were allowed to be on campus. Son, I don't know if you have that experience. But I remember my mom moving me into the dorm and discover had a table like literally like right outside the door. They had like, different t shirts. They had like little basketball, just different things like that. And my mom's like, no, like, keep walking. And I just was like, Mom, I'm like I'm grown. Now I'm in college, I think I need a credit card. So the fact that she shut it down so quick, when I had the opportunity to get a credit card at the job I was working at and my mom wasn't there to tell me like no, like I was all for it. So I think that's kind of what started the cycle of my relationship with debt. So gotcha, gotcha. And,

Michael Lacy 7:34

you know, that's really the catalyst for a lot of us. It's like that one opportunity, the one place or the right place at the right time. Like that's really kind of what kick starts the debt free journey for a lot of us, like a lot of us, I don't think anybody just wakes up and they're like, Oh, I want to be $40,000 in debt by next year. Like it just kind of gradually happens, right? And so what was that process like for you? So like, you know, you get the card? How else did you add to your debt.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 8:01

So also on campus, there's like a credit union. So I had switched the credit union that my mom and I had opened up when I was younger. And there was like a university credit union. So it was, you know, a lot more convenience. I was working on campus. So my direct deposit was going there. So I asked my mom, like, Can I just transfer everything at this credit union, so then I don't have to travel back and forth, because everything is on campus? So she says Sure, no problem. So in doing that, I went to the credit union and I opened up the account. And then you know, as they always say, like, Oh, well, you know, you should open up a credit card as well. So I went from having the Express charge card where I can only use it at the store. And then now I have a credit union at or excuse me a credit card at my university. So from there, it's kind of like the floodgates just open. So I realized I wasn't constricted to just using it at a particular store. Like this is a credit card that I can use everywhere. So anything I want it whether it's like an outfit, or you know, if I was going out that weekend, and I wanted another outfit or my friends and I were ordering pizzas or whatever it was like it was going on that credit card. And it just became like such a slippery slope, I was cool with making the minimum payment. I think at the time, it might have been $25, which is fine. So I was like, as long as I make the minimum payment, I'm still responsible. So I made sure not to have any like late fees, but I also wasn't paying attention to how much money I was putting on the card each month. And I definitely wasn't aggressively paying it off. So I was fine with the minimum payment of the $25. And I think of that $25 I think 18 was going towards the interest. So I practically wasn't paying anything at all and it just kind of was like a vicious cycle from there.

Michael Lacy 9:47

So okay, so then you find yourself $40,000 in debt at that point, what all went into that $40,000 worth of debt.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 9:55

So had credit cards, had student loans. So by the grace of Got to actually was able to get out of undergrad without any student debt. So I had a full tuition a full ride. So I didn't have any student debt going, leaving undergrad, but I wanted to go on to graduate school afterwards. And I wanted to go out of state. And I also chose a private Catholic University. So I had to pull student loans to pay for my graduate education. So it was credit cards, student loans, and then I also had a paid off card. And then once I finished undergrad, I felt like I needed a grown up car because I had a grown up job. So I so my paid off car to finance another car. So then I also had a car loan mixed into that as well.

Michael Lacy 10:48

I want to ask, did this feel normal to you? Or was something in the back of your mind saying like, this is something's not right, something's not adding up. Something just doesn't feel right about this.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 10:58

Yeah, so it definitely felt normal for a very long time. I think when I finally had that lightbulb moment, is when I reached a point in my career that I was making more money than I ever had before. But I was still feeling like that paycheck to paycheck lifestyle was still in my life. So it was as if I didn't have any type of salary increase since college, because it's like, I was barely making it in college. And you know, that kind of just goes with the experience like the broke college students. So I understood living paycheck to paycheck then. But even like four or five years post undergrad, and I'm still filling that pool of like, I can barely make it to the next paycheck. And I'm like, this doesn't make sense. Like, I understand why I was broken college. But why, you know, at 25? Do I still feel like I'm trying to like, put things together to pay this bill on time, or different things like that. So I think that's when I finally was like, this doesn't feel right. So I think that's when like the light bulb kind of went off in my head.

Michael Lacy 11:59

Okay, so you have your moment the light bulb goes off from that point was that when you decided to change? Because I know some people like they have that moment where, okay, something's got to change, but it's like, I don't know where to start. I don't know what to do. And so they just don't do anything yet. But for you was that what was your story like?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 12:17

So at that point, when I had the lightbulb moment, my, what I thought I could do to rectify the situation or fix the situation is make more money. So that's when I started like picking up part time jobs doing different side hustles. So I just thought I could make more than my spending habits. So my spending habits and the lifestyle creep was was all still there. But I was just like, I'll just make more money, and then I won't feel so you know, tied each and every time I have to make a bill payment. And it just went to the point where it's like I'm making more and more money, I'm trying to do more and more side hustles. And my lifestyle creep is still like as my income is going up, the lifestyle creep is going up as well. And it just never, I just never had any margin at the end of the month, or even in between paychecks.

Michael Lacy 13:06

So I know, or I think I read somewhere that part of your story was like you lost your job at one point. So how did it feel like having this debt? And then your income gets cut, like completely out from under you?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 13:21

Yeah, it actually made me and I'm so glad. And you know, of course, as they say 2020 or hindsight is 2020 I'm so glad that that happened to me because had I've not been in that situation. I was doing okay, I was like coasting by nothing was ever shut off, or I had any late fees. So things were still getting paid. I just didn't have any margin to save. I didn't have any margin to invest. But it wasn't until I lost my job when I realized like, I'm not in a good financial position at all. So at the time, when I lost my job, I had already finished graduate school. And I thought I had this amazing job out of graduate school that you know, like I worked so hard for. And at the time, I think my credit score was probably like around 737 40. So in my mind, I'm like, Well, I have to be good with money because my credit score wouldn't be high. But it wasn't until I lost my job. And I realized I didn't have anything in savings. I didn't have an emergency fund. And I really was living paycheck to paycheck. So when they brought my team into the conference room to let us know that they weren't renewing our contract. And this was like right before Christmas. So I'm thinking like, Oh, you know, there's still more Christmas gifts I need to get. And then my birthday is in January. So I had a big international trip planned for my birthday. And then to get hit with that news. Like, you know, we're not bringing you all back after the holidays. I think that was like the biggest wake up call. That I'm not in a good financial position at all. So it didn't matter what my credit court my credit score said I wasn't in a good position at all and I wasn't as good with money as I thought I was,

Michael Lacy 14:59

you know, it's answered thing that when you got laid off or Lego, your first thought was like, Oh, I can't buy stuff for other people, I can't buy stuff for myself. Like, it wasn't necessarily like, how am I gonna get by with all this debt? And then it was like, oh, man, I can't buy stuff. So can you talk a little bit about your mentality just as a spender during that time.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 15:24

So around that time, I had just like I said, I had just finished graduate school. So I felt like, okay, I am an adult now. Like, I just found this really nice townhome. And I was renting it. And I was just, you know, having a good time, I was still in like my late 20s. So my friends, and I were kind of still all on the same path, like career wise. So we were, you know, using our extra time, our extra money to travel a lot to go out to eat a lot. I'm originally from Kentucky, like I said earlier, so I moved to the east coast. And I didn't know brunch was such a thing here until I moved here. And it just became like a weekly, a weekly thing with my friends and I so you know, we were all, I guess, looking at each other like, Oh, well, you know, we all went to the same school, we all have similar career paths. So I was thinking like, Oh, well, if they're financing cars, or they have this luxury apartment, like I can afford it, too. So it was a lot of just like looking at other people, and comparing, like what they were doing and assuming like, Oh, well, we're in the same age demographic, we're in similar careers, like if they have money to do that, I certainly should have the same money. So it was a lot of just trying to keep up with my friends keep up with this new lifestyle of living in this area, as well as just a lot of like you deserve. So I had finished school. So I just had a lot of you deserve moments like Ashley, you deserve, you know, this, or you deserve this trip, or you deserve to get this outfit or this bag. And I think that's where I just got into like a tailspin of credit card debt, because I just kept telling myself, I deserve it. And it wasn't until I lost my job that I didn't you know that I realized how deep of a hole that I had dug for myself on

Michael Lacy 17:05

I love that so much like the the you deserve mentality is such a prevalent thing. And like, one day, I just really, for me, personally, I had this moment where I realized dude, like, the only thing you deserve is the stuff that you can actually afford, like the stuff that you work to earn money for anything that you finance, you don't deserve it, because you can't technically afford it. So, but I want to go back to your story. So like, Is it safe to say that, like you losing your job? Was that the beginning of your debt free journey?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 17:35

Yes, it was. So that was the point where it's like, I can't push finances in a closet and not you know, want to touch it or not want to really think about it, I think before since I was coasting, and I was just kind of getting by. And I knew I could expect, you know, another check the following week, or the following two weeks, I was kind of still like in a bubble. But if it was once that bubble popped, and I knew that another check wasn't coming, and I've really had to face my finances, I really had to look at the decisions that I was making, and even like the triggers to why I was spending money at the rate that I was spending it. So that was definitely like a huge, a huge wake up call for him.

Michael Lacy 18:17

Now something that you've mentioned also was the fact that you moved and you move to a high cost of living area. And so I know like a lot of people feel like, especially in high cost of living areas that they just can't address their debt on a single income. What gave you the confidence that you could not only start addressing it, but that you can actually complete your debt free journey.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 18:42

It actually took me a while to get there because I had that same mentality. So when I first moved here, I lived right outside of DC. So anyone who's familiar with the DMV area, they know it's like it's not cheap out here at all. I think at the time I was running a studio apartment is probably about 600 square feet, and it was about 1300 dollars. So it's ridiculous out here. But I think for the longest I use that as an excuse to not really address my debt or really not aggressively attack it because I'm like, Well, actually, you're single is just your income, as well, as you know, you're living in this area. And everybody here has two, three jobs, or they have two or three or four roommates to kind of offset their living expenses. So I knew that I didn't want to sacrifice in that way. Like I prefer to live alone. So I was like I have to do whatever it takes to make more income in order to address this debt. Since I know I didn't want to sacrifice by you know, living with 1015 girls in a house or anything like that. So I definitely use that excuse at the beginning of the journey. And I feel like that's where I was kind of like lazy like oh, you know, send an extra $20 here. But it wasn't until that I got serious maybe I think it was September of 2018. And at the time, I had been unemployed for about six months. And I just finally had one of those come to Jesus moments like nothing is gonna change until I change it and me making excuses that this area is very expensive, expensive for me making excuses that I'm single or you know that I wish I could earn more different things like that or filling, you know, guilty about the past financial decisions that I made in the past wasn't going to cut it. So I definitely had like Elisa good for five months of like that pity party like, Oh, she's expensive here, everybody struggling, but I just really had to pull myself out of that.

Michael Lacy 20:43

So you mentioned that you wanted to focus on earning more money. What were some of the ways that you did that early on.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 20:50

So early on. So at the time, I was just wanting to make money, especially like once I lost my job. So I just happened to Google like side hustles or side hustles you can do from home. And one of the things that kept popping up was teaching English online. So I have no experience in teaching. I'm the youngest in my family. So it's not even like I had like younger brothers or sisters that I would teach or like boss around. So I kind of just went for it. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to kind of like get through the interview process. And I ended up getting that job. And I just did that day and night, night and day. Like if there was any like free moment that I have, I would open up my schedule and like tried to teach. And I would just use that money at the time, I was just using it to just have an income while I was still like job searching. But even before I would just do just different, just different side hustles. Like I said, I really like doing spreadsheets. So a lot of my friends were like in finance or accounting major. So I would help them with their homework and they would pay me like just random things. That's what I was doing in undergrad. So any any way that I could make money, or anything that I can monetize, I was doing it.

Michael Lacy 22:05

Okay, until you start making an income. Right? You're you have the determination that I'm going to do this. So how did you have to restructure the way that you manage money the way you spent money in order to start making that progress? Like, and specifically what I'm looking for is like, how are you budgeting? How did you organize your debts and those types of things?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 22:26

Mm hmm. So I actually googled that because I didn't really know much about budgeting so and that's when Dave Ramsey and his program popped up. So I learned about zero based budgeting I read total money makeover and probably like a day and a half. And that was like the first finance personal finance book I've ever picked up. And he talked about zero based budgeting. So I just kept reading more about it. So I remember at the time, I was at Panera, and I had my computer and I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna make my first budget and see how this goes. So I didn't have any paper. I didn't even do it in an Excel spreadsheet, because I just didn't really know what it was supposed to look like. So at the time, I just had like a Panera napkin. So I just wrote on the back of the napkin, I wrote what my income was. And then I wrote out all of my expenses. And that was actually the first time that I saw my debt. Like, before my eyes, I think before I was just doing like a lot of mental math like, Well, I know I have like about 5000 on this credit card. I know I have 7000 on this credit card, but actually seeing it on paper is when it became real to me. So having that zero based budget is what worked the best for me and then just writing out what my expenses were and seeing how much I was sending to debt each month versus how much was coming in is kind of like is what put the fuel under me like I have to get this under control.

Michael Lacy 23:49

So you got your budget, right you find the extra in there from you know the gap between your income expenses that you can send to debt. Once you lay everything out, like which method did you decide to use when you started addressing your debt? And why did you go that way over the other in terms of like snowball versus the avalanche?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 24:08

Yeah, so I actually mapped out both and I realized if I did the avalanche over the snowball, it would only shorten like my debt free journey by two months. So it didn't make a material impact like if it was like six months or a year then I definitely would have picked the other so I ended up going with the snowball and that's kind of how I had listed my debts anyways, I just happen to list them from the smallest amount to the largest I was like okay, well I already have it down here on paper so I might as well just like work my way down through the list but once I put them both on paper and saw that doing the Debt Avalanche wouldn't have made a huge difference as far as timing. That's why I just went with the the Debt Snowball method. Gotcha. Okay.

Michael Lacy 24:51

And earlier you mentioned that, you know, you'd like to spend you like to buy other people's stuff you liked hanging out with your friends. And so I just want to know like, as your Figuring your budgeting out like what were some of those spending habits that you had to really change? Once you got serious about your debt? And then how hard was it to change those spending habits?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 25:12

Yeah, so I realized, and I feel like that's a part of a debt free journey that maybe most people don't hear enough about or talk enough about is, how important it is that you are self aware of yourself, like your triggers of why you're spending money, or why you're doing the things that you do. So if you're a natural saver, you know, there's maybe something from your childhood or a trigger, or anything that, you know, allows you to be a natural saver for me, I'm a natural spender. So I definitely had to become more self aware of why do I feel like when I go into a store, like I have no self control. So a lot of that was just recognizing those triggers. So at the time, being single and being in a new city, and not knowing a lot of people, like my form of recreation was going to the mall or going to target and spending money when I was bored. So say my friends were busy or you know, anything like that, when I was bored, that was my trigger, like, Oh, well, let's just go to the store and like browse, quote, unquote, but of course, I end up coming out with like, a cart, full of things I didn't even plan for. So I think really just being aware of why I was spending money, or why do why did I feel like I need something, because all of my needs were met as far as like, utilities, rent, food, everything was met. But why did that feel like I needed to have this, and then just finding other things that I can do like, Okay, if you're bored, and you want to get out the house, there's other things I could do without spending money that's gonna put me in a worse financial, you know, situation than I was already in. Gotcha. And

Michael Lacy 26:46

do you mind sharing your income range during your debt free journey?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 26:49

Sure. Um, so at the time, I think so. Well, it started off as zero because I was unemployed. And then I ended up getting a job, maybe about seven to eight months later. And I was at 65 K. And then once I had a full, full time income again, that's when I really buckled down and started working on my debt free journey. So I would say that my income range went from 65, to about 78, during my debt free journey,

Michael Lacy 27:24

so and that's really interesting, because I didn't even think about the fact that like, at some point, you got a job, right? And you went back to work. So did you continue doing the teaching side hustle that you were doing?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 27:34

I did. So by the time I did get a job, I had already been teaching for about six months. And I had started putting money towards debt. And then just seeing that number drop and seeing like, Oh, I'm actually making some progress, I just got really addicted to like paying off debt. So I kept the side hustle. And then I also picked up a part time job, because I'm like, why I still have more free time. So I went, I would do the teaching thing first thing in the morning, because these children are in China. So they're 12 hours ahead. So I would teach from about 430 in the morning to about 637 o'clock, go to my full time job, and then leave my full time job between like five and six in the afternoon, and then go to my part time job. So I kind of like when Dave Ramsey talks about gizelle intensity, I was like, Oh, I have to do that need, like all the jobs. So yeah, I definitely went a little crazy in the beginning, because I just became so addicted to seeing like that number drop in feeling like that rush when you pay off a credit card, or that rush when you pay off, you know, a smaller student loan.

Michael Lacy 28:44

So what I mean, one of the key things about the debt free journey is like how the people around you kind of react to the lifestyle changes and choices that you make, because people get used to a certain version of you. And then when you level up, it's like it's different, you know, so how did your friends and family react to you know, maybe you're not going out as much now and you know, now you're waking up earlier side hustling you working a part time job after work and all these other things. So what was their their take on your journey?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 29:13

It was definitely, definitely I will say that was probably the hardest part is just telling friends or family no to like certain events or certain trips. And I think at first they thought like, Oh, you know, she's just gonna do this for a little while. And I think after a while when they saw like, Oh, she's really committed, like, she's not going to come to this birthday trip or she's not going to come with us to this restaurant. They realize I was serious about it. I know my mom specifically was really worried about me because she thought I was working too much. And you know, she just didn't want me to burn myself out or over exert myself. But I think in the beginning they were like, Okay, this is maybe this just like a face that she's going through. But I think as the month went on, and they saw it was just becoming more committed. And I was trying to, like, grab money from wherever I could. So if that meant, you know, I was only eating twice a day versus eating three times a day, if that's like more money I can put towards my debt, like I was that type of person that I was all in and they just realize like, okay, she's too far gone like she's gonna see this through.

Michael Lacy 30:18

Okay, and so how long did it take you to pay off your debt?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 30:23

It took me 22 months,

Michael Lacy 30:24

okay, and so now looking back on another, you've been debt free for a little while. Like we're all those challenges and sacrifices worth it getting to this point that you're at right now.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 30:35

It was in the, in the thick of it. And I've definitely had some burnout periods where I kind of had to, like, ease up a bit, it was definitely worth it. I just feel like it almost feels like a haze. Now like I still, you know, remember it, but it almost seems like a haze, because I was just so tired, going from job to job to job, I was just trying to get through the day, go home sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. So sometimes, it seems like such a haze. And it's almost surprising to me that I was able to do it because 22 months sounds long. But it also feels short. It's hard to explain. But I feel like I was just in a constant fog, because I was just always trying to figure out how to make money, how to save money, how to put more money towards my debt. So I'm just glad I made it to the other side.

Michael Lacy 31:26

So you mentioned there in your in your last answer a little bit about burnout. So can you talk to me about dealing with that, because that's something that doesn't get talked about a lot, either is dealing with those moments where you are tired, because it can be a long journey, you know, you get tired, you get frustrated? Your friends are doing great things. And you're like, ah, I want to do something you know what I mean? So talk about how you personally dealt with those moments.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 31:52

Yeah, it was really tough. And I think what made it hard for me or I wouldn't say made it hard, but made it more difficult is right when I started my journey, I came across the debt free community on Instagram. So I was so happy that there was a community like that on Instagram, and I created an account to kind of hold myself accountable and to just follow other like minded people. But in doing so on the flip side of that I was comparing my journey to other people's journey. So I felt like oh, well, she was able to pay off 2000. And you know, I don't know her income. I don't know, anything. This is just a random follower on Instagram. I felt like that's what always kept pushing me to do more and do more and do more. And I actually had an incident that caused me to have to slow down. And that incident was I was driving home from my full time job to my part time job. And I actually fell asleep while I was driving. And I was that tired. And I didn't realize I fell asleep until I had I guess veered on the side of the road. And you know, on the side of the road is like ribbed. And hearing that sound is what woke me up. And it's like, right when I woke up, I saw like I was getting ready to hit the guardrail. So that was kind of like my wake up call like Ashley, you're doing too much, you're putting too much on yourself, like your debt is still going to get paid. It's not a race, you don't have to look at what other people are doing on Instagram, you know, if they're sending $5,000 every month, like you don't know their financial situation. So I think that's when I really knew I had to slow down. And then after that, I just had to take it at my own pace and know that you know, I'm blessed to even be in a situation where I can aggressively pay off my debt while still maintaining like my monthly bills and everything. And I couldn't compare that to someone else.

Michael Lacy 33:44

So what did you do to find more balance after that incident? Right? how did how did it How did the journey change for you after that?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 33:53

It definitely changed me a lot. So I ended up letting go of my part time job. And I like definitely reduce my hours teaching in the morning. And I just started to do more things to take care of myself. So I thought that I was taking care of myself by getting myself out of debt. But in doing so I had stopped working out I stopped eating clean like I used to. So I just started to pay more attention to those things. And I just felt like beforehand, it's just like my mind was just constantly running like okay, you sit in 1500 to debt this month, what can you do to sin 1700 so I just felt like my mind was just always in a constant state of motion. So I just started doing more things to really take care of myself, working out going to therapy, spending time with friends doing finding activities that are free that wouldn't, you know, mess up my budget for the month, but not constantly, you know, either trying to sell things in my home or trying to find another side hustle or try to squeeze another hour out of the day to make money. Gotcha.

Michael Lacy 34:57

Okay and so once you hit Submit on that last payment. What was that moment like for you? How'd that feel?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 35:05

It was so surreal at the time, and I had mentioned this on my Instagram that my debt free date was the same day that the verdict came out for the Brianna Taylor case. And I just really, really, her story just really affected me one being from Kentucky knowing like that could have been me, that could have been a friend of mine of cousin of mine. So I feel like there was kind of a damper on the day after hearing the news from that case, but I still wanted to, you know, go for with my plan of celebrating, but I did definitely take a few days. So I hit submit. And that felt good. But on the other hand, it I just also felt, I don't want to say guilty, but just being able to be in a position to pay off debt, especially in the midst of this pandemic. And so many people are struggling, so many people have lost their jobs or have been furloughed, I think just having the heaviness of everything that's transpired in 2020, along with the decision on her case, definitely made me feel a lot heavier than I expected to feel because I just thought I would be doing cartwheels across my room, you know, when I hit submit. So I didn't have that feeling. But I was just really grateful just to be in a position to pay off my debt to be in a position to still be employed this year to still be healthy. Just all the blessings that I have. So I think I was just a lot more just grateful and mindful of the things that I do have that day. But I definitely didn't have that huge sense of excitement or exhilaration that I thought I would

Michael Lacy 36:45

gotcha, that makes total sense. I can 100% relate to and understand that. And so the last thing I want to ask you is now that you're debt free, you freed up your cash flow, what goals are you working towards now?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 37:00

Yes, so right now I am working towards saving for a down payment. I just always thought like living in the East Coast, I always thought when I would get older, I'll probably move back to Kentucky or somewhere down south where like owning property is possible. And I'm not saying it's not possible here. But it just always seems so far fetched, especially as a single woman like to save up a downpayment. But that's just something that I've always wanted to do. And I've put a little bit of money aside on my debt free journey, I tried to send all extra money to my debt. But I still wanted to like feed that vision of owning something on the East Coast, but now being able to do so and not you know, have a navy and take half of my check, it feels amazing. So I actually just deposited my first payment towards my house fund last week. So that actually felt better than submitting my last debt payment, knowing that I'm starting to work towards my future, knowing that dreams and goals that I thought weren't attainable for me, especially when I was in debt, it now seems clear, I definitely just have a renewed sense of like, if I can pay off this debt in the amount of time, you know, that I've done like, there's nothing, you know, there's nothing that I can't do, if I don't put my mind to it. So I'm just so happy for the future, the saving, definitely investing, because I also paused, all investing during my debt free journey. So I definitely want to start investing again, and really just be able to be generous. I have a strong faith that you know, God has given us money to be a good steward and to help out those that are less fortunate, especially during this time where there's a lot of people struggling, I just want to be in a financial position where I can be generous to family or friends if they ever find themselves in a situation. Awesome. Hey, Ashley,

Michael Lacy 38:53

this has been incredible. The last thing I like to do for these interviews, I like to ask a hypothetical question. So what would you say to the person who is in your situation who's on a single income and high cost of living area? But maybe they feel like, I could never do that? Right? Like what would you say to that person to give them some hope, a little inspiration to go ahead and take that leap and start attacking the debt?

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 39:20

Yeah, so there's a couple of things I would say the first thing I would say is you have to be sure within yourself, I think a lot of times and I think because I kind of had a little mini debt free journey as well to kind of start and then stop. But I didn't have that same assurity that I can do it. I saw other people do it. And I heard of other people, but it wasn't until I believed it for myself. And I think having that extra piece of like, I know that I can do this. I don't know how I'm going to do it at the time. I didn't know if it was going to be done in two years or three years. But I knew that I was going to stick with it. So I think just having that part that no matter how long it takes you not comparing yourself to others about your journey versus theirs or, you know, things they can continue to do that maybe your budget won't allow for you to do is really just staying focused, almost like having blinders on. And just staying focused on your lane using your income, you can't be in any one else's wallet and how they choose to spend money. So just being just knowing that you can do it, and then also just staying focus. And then the next thing I would say is definitely getting around like minded people. Because if all you follow on social media, celebrities or influencers, like you're gonna always feel that tug of war of like, you know, there's been the money, I want to spend money, but I think really being around like minded people. So if your friends you know, aren't concerned about their finances, or trying to aggressively pay off their debt, like find people that are like minded, because that's what's gonna help you on those tough days, when you want to give up that's going to help you when you want to charge something on your credit card or put a trip on your credit card. It's just being around other like minded people. Awesome. That's a great answer. But

Michael Lacy 41:05

actually, the last thing I want to do is I want to give you the opportunity to share where people can find you where people can connect with you, if they want to follow along as you continue on your wealth building journey.

Ashley Lee From The Financial Key Podcast 41:18

Yes, yes. So I actually just launched a podcast, the financial key podcast. So this is kind of like the second iteration. So my initial Instagram was just kind of following my or documenting my debt free journey. So once I completed that in September, I just realized that I found a passion for personal finance that I didn't know that I had. So that is what the podcast came out of. And on the podcast, I just talked just like how you and I are talking, I talked to other people who are in the middle of their debt free journey, who's finished, who are just in different walks of life, and that's trying to build generational wealth. So you can definitely check out my podcast, the financial key podcast, as well as on Instagram. The financial key, I do also do financial coaching. I've paused it at the moment just to really put my energy into the podcast. But that's where you can find me Instagram and then also on Twitter. My Twitter's a little dry, but I'm mainly on Instagram.

Michael Lacy 42:20

Well, thank you again, Ashley, for joining me on this episode of the women to wealth podcast, I'm going to be sure to link to everywhere that you guys listening can connect with Ashley plus everything she mentioned throughout this episode on the show notes page, which can be found at winning to wealth.com slash Episode 54. All right, now it's time for this week's win of the week. And as part of this episode, I asked Ashley about the process of changing her spending habits. And she said something really interesting that that really struck a chord with me during the editing process. And it's something that we hadn't touched on much in the show. And that's really learning your spending triggers. See Ashley would spend money when she was bored. And when I was racking up debt, I would spend money after a long or stressful day at work. Maybe you spend money when you have a good day as a way of celebrating or maybe you always overdo it when you're with a group of friends or family. Knowing your spending triggers matters, because it's gonna put you back in control over your money instead of letting your emotions run the show. And it doesn't matter if it's a small amount or if you buy a new Louis Vuitton bag every time you encounter one of your spending triggers. Because the problem again isn't what you buy, or even how much you spend. The real problem lies in the fact that you are in control of your spending your emotions are and that's a really dangerous place to be. Emotional spending is a type of spending that leads to financial shame, guilt and even resentment in some instances. And so by stepping back and thinking about the situations that are most likely to cause you to make unplanned purchases, you go a long way towards identifying some of your biggest or most consistent spending triggers. And when you know your spending triggers, you'll be far more likely to stop and think before making that purchase out of emotion. So this week, take some time to think through and start to identify your spending triggers. And let me tell you your spending plan and your net worth will definitely thank you for it. Now if you enjoyed this episode in this interview with Ashley Be sure to leave a five star review wherever you're listening to this. I greatly appreciate it. I love reading the reviews. And it does help the show grow like I know when I'm looking for services online or whether I'm looking for podcasts or movies or TV shows or anything like that. The reviews are a way of validating me and showing hey this is great content so it does help the show grow when you leave those five star reviews. Also remember to grab your debt free coloring charts for free for the remainder of this month and November at winning to wealth.com slash shop. That is Winning to wealth.com slash shop. But hey, that's all the time I have for this week. So, until we talk again, keep racking up those wins one at a time. Take care.

Unknown Speaker 45:13

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

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