American Dream

Jessi Fearon: Being a Mother While Breaking Out of Debt

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Singles and newlyweds can often be carefree about their money. After all, they have only themselves to support. Once you become a parent, however, all that changes. Being a mother or a father means that your children depend on you for their daily needs, which can get increasingly expensive as they grow. If budgeting and saving have never been a priority for you before, they will be once you become a parent.

Here’s one mom’s story of a financial challenge that she and her family are working on overcoming together.

Marrying Into Debt

Jessi Fearon, a young mother of two little boys, looks back on her single days and remembers how much she struggled to manage money in her early adult life. “I felt very alone and like I had no one who understood what I was going through,” Jessi says.

When Jessi was ready to get married, she knew she’d be bringing a substantial amount of debt to her marriage, as many people do. “I still had a lot of debt from the silly financial mistakes I made in my late teens and early 20s.” She sat down one day to sell the “mountain of junk” she had accumulated—items that when looked at in retrospect, she really didn’t care about.

She and her husband spent only $500 on their wedding, and then they had to figure out how pay off their debt.

Snowballing Payments

Jessi and her husband are on their way to becoming debt free. They’re not only budgeting, but also using the snowball method—a tactic created by financial guru Dave Ramsey. Here’s how the snowball method works:

  1. Write down all your debts. This could include a medical bill, a car loan, a student loan, and various credit cards.
  2. Pay the minimum on all but your smallest debt.
  3. Pay as much as you can on the smallest debt until it’s paid off.
  4. Once your smallest debt is gone, apply the amount of money you were allocating toward it to the next smallest debt, in addition to the minimum you’re already paying.
  5. Keep repeating this process until all your debts are paid.

“We feel the snowball method has helped make our debt payoff plan more manageable and more structured,” says Jessi. In the end, the couple paid off $40,000 in debt before turning 30.

Avoiding Further Debt

Besides living debt free, another goal for Jessi since becoming a wife and mother is to build and maintain an emergency fund. During her first year as a mom and living on one income, Jessi’s husband had a bad accident at work that required immediate surgery to fix a shattered wrist. With no worker’s compensation available, the couple had to pay for the surgery out-of-pocket. They did so with their emergency fund, instead of tapping into resources saved for their children or going further in debt.

Jessi has devoted her time since to being a guiding light in the financial management community. She created The Budget Mama, a blog that teaches people how to set up a budget while also providing money-saving tips, recipes, and do-it-yourself ideas for parents. “I wanted to create a place where others can come to seek help and advice and to find the support they need while they figure out the best way to manage their money.” As Jessi’s story shows, being a mother and climbing out of debt isn’t easy, but it is doable once you learn how to become a better money manager.

Laura Agadoni is an award-winning writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appeared in her local newspaper. Agadoni has been published in Clean Eating magazine and in Dimensions magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. She has written for The Nest.com, Huffington Post Travel, MapQuest, Modern Mom, Chron.com, Motley Fool, Livestrong, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Shine, San Francisco Gate, Zacks, Opposing Views, Top5, InsuranceQuote.com, Global Post and AZ Central. Agadoni has also written for commercial sites such as Hidden Valley and Dremel. Agadoni has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations. She also edits articles for online websites and for various clients. Her website is www.lauraagadoni.com