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Episode 21 - Zero Based Budgeting with Jenn Neilson

Episode 21 Overview

This month we are diving into the topic of your money. How do you create a budget as a newlywed? What do you do if you fight with your husband about money? How can you travel when you're tight on funds? Jenn has some amazing resources and fantastic tips on how to manage your money when you're just starting out--even if you have student loans. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven't already, check out Episode 15 where I talk about Money and Debt in our marriages!

You can also sign up for my course starting in May here and get free access to the first class immediately.


Kayla Levin: 00:01 Episode 21, Zero Based Budgeting with Jen Nielsen from Will Save For Travel.

Kayla Levin: 00:06 Welcome to the First Year Married podcast, where we get real about building your marriage and big dreams. I'm marriage coach Kayla Levin and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious, insecure to confident and connected. With practical tips, real life inspiration and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

Kayla Levin: 00:41 Hey ladies, welcome pack. I am so excited. I'm bringing you another interview really early on in the month. We just had an interview with just two episodes ago and now I'm bringing you Jenn, but I thought this would be a great way to kick off our money in May theme. We're really focusing in this month on how money affects our relationships, tips for dealing with our money, better managing our minds with money, all sorts of things to do with money and Jenn is an expert in the idea of zero-based budgeting, but what I love is that she really has her own flavor and she gets that everyone has their own unique approach to personal finance.

Kayla Levin: 01:27 I really think you're going to enjoy her interview. One of the things that I really got out of it was that she's very clear on what it is that she's saving this money for and I think that makes this whole thing really empowering and exciting. I would love to hear from you. I can't wait to hear what you think of this interview. Again, her blog is We'll Save for Travel, and you can also find her on Instagram over there too for lots of great tips. I hope you enjoy and so we'll be in touch.

Kayla Levin: 01:58 Okay, well hi Jenn. Thank you so much for coming today. I am really, really excited 'cause I know how valuable it is to get your head around the money thing, especially early in marriage. So I'm so grateful for you for coming on today.

Jenn Neilson: 02:12 Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm really excited.

Kayla Levin: 02:15 Let's sort of step back for a second. If you could just talk a little bit about who you are, what you do, what relationship you have with this whole question of budgeting and finance.

Jenn Neilson: 02:24 For sure. So I wasn't always good with honey, shocker. My parents would laugh when they tell you that I spent every dollar that I ever got as a child. As soon as money came into my hand, I was wanting to go to the store to use, spend it. As an adult I had to really look at my relationship with money because I knew that spending every dollar that I ever had would not put me in the place that I want it to be in.

Jenn Neilson: 02:55 Travel is a really big priority in our life. And in order to travel more, we knew we were going to have to manage our money better. My husband and I had been... we've been together for 10 years and we've been married for almost four. So when we got married, we both had student loan debt, which was taking up are pretty big chunk of our monthly budget. And so we decided, about a year and a half ago that it was time to really sit down and look at it and come up with a plan. And that was around the same time when the blog was born. So we started in September of 2017 with $26,556.64 worth of debt-

Kayla Levin: 03:48 Did that include any of your student loans?

Jenn Neilson: 03:49 That is just student loans.

Kayla Levin: 03:53 So Jenn, you have to... this outs you as a Canadian.

Jenn Neilson: 03:57 Yes, that is probably true.

Kayla Levin: 04:00 Because that's about half a year of an American's dream.

Jenn Neilson: 04:05 That wasn't our starting. My student loan at that point was already gone. So I had about $15,000 of student loans, but I graduated in 2010. I had already paid that off and my husband has a university degree and then went back to school while we were together. So I know it does definitely, out me as a Canadian and that it could be way worse, but you could still use the same principles in paying down $100,000 of the debt as you do your $40,000.

Kayla Levin: 04:37 Absolutely, and I think for anybody, whatever amount it is, I think feels overwhelming for .

Jenn Neilson: 04:44 Yeah, for sure.

Kayla Levin: 04:44 Whatever your number is, it's too .

Jenn Neilson: 04:47 Yeah, absolutely.

Kayla Levin: 04:49 Yeah. Okay. Wow. And so early on in your marriage, you're starting to see that already these finances, which are coming in from beforehand are now affecting your goals as a couple.

Jenn Neilson: 04:59 For sure. Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 05:00 Can you share the name of your blog and your Instagram handle?

Jenn Neilson: 05:03 Yeah, for sure. So my blog is, And our Instagram is @willsavefortravel as well as on Twitter is willsave4travel.

Kayla Levin: 05:15 So I just love it because you know, you're putting the goal out there right away. Right?

Jenn Neilson: 05:21 For sure.

Kayla Levin: 05:22 And I think that it must've been so much more motivating for you. But I love, it's almost like a mantra. Like I will do it, I will do it for travel. It's worth it for travel.

Jenn Neilson: 05:31 It is.

Kayla Levin: 05:32 Yeah. Instead of it just sort of feeling like you're climbing out of a hole for no particular reason here you really have put in that, that goal for yourself. So I think that makes it so much fun.

Jenn Neilson: 05:41 Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 05:42 Okay. Amazing. Okay. So what I really wanted to get from you, because I think you have really articulated the benefits and sort of the how to of the zero-based budgeting system, which we both know it comes from Dave Ramsey, although I think a lot people have adopted it at this point. I even did a couple of podcasts ago, the zero-based calendar which is an episode called Why you Don't Have Enough Time. Which is inspired by this idea of zero-based budgeting because I found it to be really helpful. So instead of me rattling on about what I think zero-based budgeting is, could you take the expert moment and sort of give us a rundown for somebody who really has never heard about it before or they don't really know how they should go about budgeting, what is this particular way of looking at your budget?

Jenn Neilson: 06:27 Yeah, absolutely. So, I want to start off before I go into really budgeting by saying I believe that personal finance is personal. There's no one size fits all solution when it comes to managing your money either on your own or with a partner. I mentioned Dave Ramsey and well zero-based budgeting was definitely made popular by him. I don't necessarily follow his baby steps that he has laid out. I think it can be a great program for some people, but I don't think it's the end all be all. So I just wanted to throw that out there because people tend to see one thing and think this is the only way that you can do it. And I don't think that's correct.

Kayla Levin: 07:09 And I think also because you can take some pieces of wisdom from different things and if you become very dogmatic then it's kind of you could end up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Jenn Neilson: 07:18 Absolutely. I'll describe to you how I use zero-based budgeting. Maybe it's not the exact way that some other people use it, but so basically the idea behind zero-based budgeting is every dollar that you earn, has the job? So every dollar that comes in is allocated for something, whether it's paying your mortgage, buying your groceries, paying off your debt, or saving for something like a down payment or a vacation. I believe in paying yourself first. The first thing that you do when your money comes in is save it or use it to repay debt, which is essentially paying yourself because once your debt is paid off, that money will be freed up in your budget to go wherever you want to do and then use the money after that saving goal and debt repayment is made, use that money leftover to buy your groceries and that sort of thing.

Jenn Neilson: 08:15 It does not mean that your account's going to go to zero at the end of the month. I know the name zero-based budgeting kind of lends itself to thinking that you might go down to zero, but the idea is that you should have a float in your account. So an amount of money, either a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand or whatever you're comfortable with having there just in case of an unforeseen circumstances. I mean, you never know once that they might pop up that using debit card and you don't want to be going into overdraft if it's a couple of dollars? So if you're living paycheck to paycheck now and you are going either to zero or worse than zero at the end of the month, you need to build that into your budget to build up a float first before chewing any money. Because if you don't have a float and you have an unexpected bill or whatever, you could be going back into debt, which is definitely not the direction that we want to be heading in.

Kayla Levin: 09:19 And I want to interrupt you just for a second because I think that, there are a lot of people, especially early on in their marriages... I think you sort of have this multi-edged obstacle in that often people are early on in their careers, so they're not really making a lot of money yet. And they're having to maybe furnish a house or an apartment. There can be a lot of expenses early on.

Jenn Neilson: 09:42 For sure.

Kayla Levin: 09:43 It's very normal in some cases for people to really struggle with money in the very beginning. And what I see happen is that it can, instead of it just sort of being like the way... I love the way you're talking about it because you're looking at it in a very like this isn't what I want, right? What I want is to get out of debt. What I want is to start to build this and I want to encourage everyone listening to just really tune in to if you're adding guilt into this situation or you're adding blame because you feel like maybe it's one of your faults or the other or whatever. Like once you get there and you know you combine the debt, you're married now, this is sort of something, this is one of those great opportunities you get early on in your marriage to say we can sort of stand shoulder to shoulder and tackle this together. And it starts to form that relationship of it's us as a team, right?

Kayla Levin: 10:34 Instead of when you're dating where it's more kind of figuring each other out and do you fit into my life? Do I fit into your life? It actually is a huge opportunity. It's not an obstacle you guys need to overcome. It's one of the things that's going to build you as a couple so that when other things come down the road, you already have some experience. And when we stand shoulder to shoulder, when we support each other, when we don't blame each other, then we know we can do this and we've done this before.

Jenn Neilson: 11:02 Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I had to reconcile myself with early in even before we were married, but you see what your parents have and sometimes you forget the how long it took them to get there. I see my parents traveling often or having nice things, either a car or a new whatever, random house renovation and I have to remember that how much further ahead in life they are. The comparison trap happens even between a parent and a child. I find especially with my husband, I first got married and we bought our house and I wanted it to be... I wanted to buy all the furniture. I wanted to upgrade the appliances, and it's like you have to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint and you can't just go and buy everything new right away and just kind of gradually do any changes that you want to. But the comparison trap is real.

Kayla Levin: 12:10 Yes. And especially because especially if you are trying to go the zero-based budget way and you're trying to pay off debt first and build up savings for those things and pay them in cash down the line, then you're also seeing a peer group that at least some of your peers are going and putting everything on credit.

Jenn Neilson: 12:27 Yeah. That's the keeping up with the Joneses. The Joneses are broke kind of situation. You don't know what anybody else is, has going on in their life. So, yeah, I just have to really be... I have to be mindful of myself and I like to remind everybody else that I kind of talked to you to remember that. Just because they have it doesn't mean they're not in debt and just because they have it doesn't mean you can't have it. You just need to save for it.

Kayla Levin: 13:02 Okay. So for a couple who is like super excited and really wants to try and go this direction, what would you recommend for them? How do they sit down and get started? What should they do?

Jenn Neilson: 13:11 So the first month it's going to be the hardest because you've never done it before. You should sit down together and just write out all of your necessary expenses. Your rent, and your mortgage, a car payment if you have one, your student loan or any debt that you have, just figure out what all those necessary expenses is and then as well figure what your income is. So if you have a super stable income, that's going to be a lot easier. I have been self-employed for almost 10 years and my husband's income also varies a little bit, so it's a little bit more challenging. But in general we have a usual amount that comes in and then as well, I usually kind of make an income goal for myself so I know how much money I have to make that month to make the budget work.

Jenn Neilson: 14:00 Once you have your income and your necessary expenses, you can subtract that and then you'll have a budget or amount leftover that you can divide between things that are variable. So like groceries, entertainment, clothing, and that kind of stuff. Budgets are never perfect. I do a new budget every month. I think that's the best way to go because you're not going to be able to make one budget that's going to fit for every month. Every month is different. You know, if you have a birthday or if you need to buy for a holiday or anything like that, of course that's going to throw a wrench into your budget. Say your budget for December is not going to be the same as August or April. So I definitely make a new one every month and look at what expenses we have coming up that month so we can plan for them.

Kayla Levin: 14:57 That's great. Also because instead of looking at it as, I didn't do a good enough job with my budget, it's not that, it's that, that is the nature of a budget. You just have to look at it again each month because it's supposed to be different.

Jenn Neilson: 15:08 Yeah. You know, I've been doing this every month for almost two years and we go over budget. I don't look it as a failure. It's okay, what can we do next month to make sure this doesn't happen or what can we do in the future to make sure this doesn't happen or what came up that we weren't expecting and is there a way to make sure that doesn't happen again? So for example, we recently had a car trouble and it wiped out our entire emergency fund. It made me really think like, our car is seven years old. We should be saving for either a new one or repairment again, because realistically your car's going to break down. We save a little bit every month now so that it won't destroy our budget again.

Jenn Neilson: 16:04 After you start budgeting, you'll really realize that it's not restrictive. Like it's actually a tool and it shows us where we spend money and things that we might be spending on that are actually important to us and then we can cut that back and put that money towards something that is really important to us.

Kayla Levin: 16:29 I think I probably started with zero-based budgeting around the same time in my marriage as you like a couple of years in when you sort of start to realize you have to pay more... Somehow you just have to pay so much more attention when there's two people.

Jenn Neilson: 16:41 Yeah, for sure.

Kayla Levin: 16:43 Maybe that's just because you have to explain it to somebody why there's no money.

Jenn Neilson: 16:46 Yes, you have to be a little more accountable to somebody.

Kayla Levin: 16:50 But even though I am the same as you, I don't know that I'm definitely not always perfect on my budget, but I just find that it's better. We do better with our money. We're more tuned into it. It's kind of, I think I said this in the zero-based calendar episode that if you sort of know you have some amount of money leftover, you end up spending like 10X that. You think like I'll probably have 200 at the end of the month, you spend not $2000 but you definitely go over 100 because you're really thinking, "Okay, what could 200 actually get me and let me decide what I'm going to spend on it."

Jenn Neilson: 17:25 Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 17:26 Even if that's just saying, "Okay, so let's each take $100 for fun." I guess we could talk about that later, but if I actually sit down and I say like, "Okay, it's $200 that's leftover and I want to save half of it or whatever I plan, then even if I mess up a little bit, I'm messing up in the 10s and 20s more often than before where I was just, it seems like money, it was sort of flying out the cracks and that was where it was going.

Jenn Neilson: 17:51 Yeah. So the way that we've actually paid off most of our debt is, by that money leftover at the end of the month, if it's $20, if it's $200, it is $2,000, we send it to the debt. And so that's how we've paid off the majority of our debt quickly, is-

Kayla Levin: 18:12 Did you do the debt snowball, do you start with the lowest amount or you ?

Jenn Neilson: 18:15 No, I did not which is why that's one of the reasons we're not following for . My husband student loans are broken up into two different loans. One of them was quite small. It was around $5,000 and where I live, the province of Nova Scotia, student loans through the province or in interest free. So it wasn't charging us any interest. And meanwhile we had another $21,000 that was being charged interest over $2 a day.

Jenn Neilson: 18:46 So it didn't make any sense to me to pay off the smaller amount first just because we were getting dinged with interest so bad on the other one.

Kayla Levin: 18:56 While you're in the middle of this debt journey, for some people, they're able to knock this out in the course of six months to a year. And for some people this is more of a marathon, like you said. So for people where this is a longer process, do you reward yourself along the way? How do you deal with things like not going on a trip together? I know you love travel, things like that. How do you deal with that?

Jenn Neilson: 19:17 Yeah. So I knew it was going to take us around two years, actually should be less than two years, but I wasn't willing to give up travel for two years in order to do this. We still traveled, while we were paying off debt. And so how we did that was just by saving for it. So we weren't willing to go further into debt to travel. And I think that's really important to note that anything you want to do, I'm definitely not a believer of going further into debt in order to do it. But we just saved every month in order to afford traveling. We could have paid off our debt faster, it would be paid off by now. But we've taken some amazing trips with the two of us and with our families. And so that's how we've kind of balanced it. I mean, some people, Dave Ramsey followers like to be gazelle intense and they don't believe that you should do any of this while you're paying off debt. But I definitely wasn't willing to give it up for two years.

Jenn Neilson: 20:26 So I just think we call it sinking funds, so every month just sending some money over to a sinking fund. So a savings account that you wouldn't touch with your debit card and then once you have enough to pay for the trip, booking the trip and paying for it that way.

Kayla Levin: 20:43 Oh, neat. Okay. And so how do you balance how much you're putting towards the debt and how much you put a sinking fund?

Jenn Neilson: 20:48 We definitely send more to debt than we do the sinking funds. It was kind of a general, where do we want to go and how much would that cost?

Kayla Levin: 20:58 Do you have a goal of a trip in mind?

Jenn Neilson: 21:00 Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 21:01 Okay, there you are.

Jenn Neilson: 21:02 It's the same way I would say for it even after the debt is gone.

Kayla Levin: 21:07 Right, and so the one little nuance that you said that I think is really great is that you're saying you put it towards the sinking fund, but you're not booking the trip in anticipation of I'm sure I'll have the money by then.

Jenn Neilson: 21:20 Right.

Kayla Levin: 21:21 You are actually waiting until the money's in the account. I mean, I know there are people who are listening because I've been one of them that this whole idea of actually never putting anything on a credit card is a little mind boggling.

Jenn Neilson: 21:36 For sure. We have credit cards but we don't use them unless the money is in an account to pay it off. And that thing has been planned for in advance. So nothing's sits on our credit cards waiting for money to come in to pay for it.

Kayla Levin: 21:54 Right. Okay. So speaking of that then, when it comes to a new couple especially, I see this happens a lot more when couples have had longer, more careers and they've been out in the world's a little bit longer. Why would do you think in terms of separate or joint bank accounts? And I'm very curious if we agree on this.

Jenn Neilson: 22:14 Yes. There will be. I will say that I had a joint bank account with my husband before we were married, which worked fine for us, but I've definitely seen situations where the couple breaks up and that it's a lot more challenging.

Kayla Levin: 22:35 Really sticky. Yeah.

Jenn Neilson: 22:37 Very sticky. So I believe in having a joint account. I believe that it helps you be accountable to another person and helps you work on things together. But I really don't think that there is a right answer. It depends on the couple. I've seen situations where, if you've been married previously and you have kids from a previous relationship, how that could be something that you should talk to your partner about and see what you both want. But the way we do it, we actually have a separate... we have separate accounts and as well as as joint accounts.

Jenn Neilson: 23:17 So when we get paid into our main joint account. Both of our paychecks go in there and that's kind of like the heartbeat of our budget. Everything goes out from there. But once a month we each get an allowance that goes into a personal account and we could spend that however we want. So, and the other person can't see that account. They have no idea, what you're spending it on. So if you want to spend your whole allowance on takeout coffee or a video game or you want to spend it on, that up to you and it's definitely save some fights about money because it doesn't affect the overall budget, you can do whatever you want with that allowance money.

Kayla Levin: 24:00 Yeah. So we actually do the allowance money in... I think we call it fun money or pocket money, but we do that as cash. So it's really similar in that, the money's going into the same accounts and then we each get a little bit. And I found, I was so shocked how just $20 a month, of money that I didn't have to be accountable or I didn't have to justify. And it was just mine too. When we were on such a strict budget, that $20 felt like I was wealthy. It really went so far. And I know... I think my husband would like your version because he always has this issue where he tries to get like my birthday present before I do the budgeting. Because I always end up finding out . If theoretically he could get in cash, It doesn't really work out.

Kayla Levin: 24:50 But yeah. So I think that's it's really a good idea. And I want to really encourage anyone that has not considered this to seriously consider the idea of some money that each of you can spend that there's no judgment because it's just not being run by. Because I know that for me, I'll spend it on things that other people might think are silly and I hear a lot of women who can get very frustrated 'cause they have a lot of opinions about what their husband is valuing or where he's spending his money. But really if I were to be like, but did you really need that extra special gadget or did you really need that five cups from Starbucks? Like you really want somebody breathing down your neck analyzing every move you make? No. So don't do it to him. I think this just sort of, it just sets the stage for each be individuals and to just have those little special quirks that are different and don't have to be sort of constantly analyzed and over constantly being looked at.

Jenn Neilson: 25:47 Yeah. I think it's really important to have a little bit of autonomy almost that is like, I have this and I can do whatever I want with it and the other person can't say anything 'cause they're over there doing whatever they want with their money.

Kayla Levin: 26:03 Exactly.

Jenn Neilson: 26:03 So I think that if even if you don't have joint bank account or a joint bank account that you're seeing what each other's spending, it's nice not to have to answer to somebody with just a little bit of money.

Kayla Levin: 26:17 Yeah. I mean even the fact that... even though he sees how much money I'm spending on it, just the fact that we have that concept that we each get a little bit of money means that it doesn't even matter that he can see it. It doesn't even matter that I can see what he's spending it. We already built that into the system. So I love that.

Jenn Neilson: 26:35 Yeah, me too.

Kayla Levin: 26:36 And so honest, this is sort of similar topic, what do you recommend for couples that are fighting about money? I know there can be tons of and frustration over money. So what is your advice?

Jenn Neilson: 26:47 Yeah, so obviously fighting about money is super common and I know you've talked about this before in other podcasts, like bringing two people together that have different ideas is super challenging, especially when you're like, wow, this is like I'm right, so you need to do it my way. So definitely having a common money goal definitely makes things easier and like us for traveling and we know that something we both wanted to do. And so it's just easier to see the big picture if you're fighting about money, it's like come back, can remember, oh yeah, we're doing this, for this reason, and we're doing this to get out of debt. We're doing this to save for a house, we're doing this to travel, we're doing this for a reason. And having someone else to keep you accountable and remind you of your goals.

Jenn Neilson: 27:42 I think the number one thing is just talk about money. That's so important because money is still super taboo in our society. People don't like to talk about how much they spend or how much they make or whatever and so just having super honest conversations about money is helpful. I'm sure there are situations where people... you know when you're dating, if you are nervous by telling somebody like how much you make or anything like that that-

Kayla Levin: 28:18 How much debt you have.

Jenn Neilson: 28:20 How much debt you have, you know you don't want to go into this.... You definitely don't want to go into marriage blind. So you need to have an idea of how much debt they have, how much money they have coming in so that you guys can make a plan together and just talking to them if they do spend a lot of money on something, talking to them about it and telling them how you feel about it and giving them a chance to tell you how they feel about it. Because being silently mad does not get you anywhere.

Kayla Levin: 28:49 Right? Absolutely. Okay. So I really love that idea that you really do want to have that common goal. And I totally agree with that, that it really can help put things in context. And in terms of talking about money, I personally found that that was one of the biggest benefits of doing a monthly budget because even if one of us did most of the sort of heavy lifting of designing the budget, usually that was me because for whatever reason I find it really satisfying to sit down and budget.

Jenn Neilson: 29:16 I totally get it.

Kayla Levin: 29:16 You do. Yes. It's like stress relief for me. So I put together a budget, assuming it's not a really scary budget and then he would sort of come in afterwards I would ask any questions that I had or I would ask... I would sort of run it by him, but it forced us to sit down and look at our money once a month.

Jenn Neilson: 29:34 Absolutely.

Kayla Levin: 29:34 And I definitely see that, that's one of those things where if I start to feel stressed out about money and obviously like we say this in this podcast all the time, that's I'm having some thought about money that there's not enough money or we're not going to be able to pay everything. And then what I do, which is very natural and very common is, and I just don't want to look at it.

Jenn Neilson: 29:52 Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 29:52 What that actually does, totally reinforces there isn't going to be enough money because if you're not looking at your money, then it will disappear magically.

Jenn Neilson: 30:01 Absolutely. I do like saying, if you don't tell your money where to go, it will leave. So you need to manage it because otherwise it will go and you don't know where it will go.

Kayla Levin: 30:19 Right, right. And I think this is definitely one of those things, especially early on in the marriage, you really, really can frame this, as I said before, but it bears repeating as this, you really have to see yourself as a team. And if you do, it can really, really create such a solid foundation for your marriage because you're doing something together, you don't have that many opportunities, especially before you become parents to just sort of partner on something and support each other. And when you have different ideas, I always like to look at my husband and what I call him in my brain, he's going to edit this Bob, Nick Kastenholz. Whenever he's saying something that I don't agree with, I call him the outside consultant. So I'm like, it's interesting 'cause it gives him a lot of respects, right?

Kayla Levin: 31:03 An outside consultant is someone who's coming in and you're paying them for their unique perspective. So I'll be like, "Huh, the outside consultant disagrees with my choices about money why." So then I'm immediately curious and I'm respectful and they want to hear because maybe I'm wrong about this, maybe he does have something to offer. And it puts me in this position of, instead of feeling defensive, like I need to defend my choices or feeling insulted or all these sorts of negative feelings that can come up when you talk about money. Now I'm just sort of even very curious. So I know he has a different perspective and anytime you want to do something big, the more people, the more brains you can get in on it, the better. So as long as you can collaborate, you can do so much better with your husband's opinions, which ideally will be different than yours, right.

Jenn Neilson: 31:48 Absolutely.

Kayla Levin: 31:48 'Cause otherwise you can't do any better than you would have done on your own.

Jenn Neilson: 31:52 Right. I just wanted to throw in one thing that we feel, to remind us of our common goal of paying off debt is we have a little debt repayment tracker.

Kayla Levin: 32:05 Oh, really talk to me about this.

Jenn Neilson: 32:07 It's literally on our fridge. So we see it multiple times, every single day.

Kayla Levin: 32:13 Can you describe what it looks like?

Jenn Neilson: 32:14 Yeah, it's like a little thermometer. I probably see them more commonly, like with fundraising goals for you colored in, as you get closer. So we started at that 26,000 and then the top is zero and we've been coloring in it and all the way up. So it's just like you see it every single day and it reminds you, this is what we're doing, this is our goal. And you watch it get closer and closer-

Kayla Levin: 32:41 Yeah, you're seeing your progress too. So it's like, it's not just that number that's still there on the bill. It's that whole goal and that whole progress. So far that's amazing.

Jenn Neilson: 32:50 Yeah. It's just a nice visual reminder of what you're doing and what the point is, so I do actually, I have that available on my website as a download so you can hop over there and grab that if that's something that's an add that you'd like to put on your fridge.

Kayla Levin: 33:07 Yeah.

Jenn Neilson: 33:11 And I know that you are an expert when it comes to traveling on a budget. So I wanted to see, would you share a couple ideas for people who are listening, what would you recommend or the number... I don't know the top couple of things that they should think about or that they should try if they want to go on a trip and they are working on their debt payment?

Kayla Levin: 33:28 Sure. So I kind of just have a couple of tips. Obviously it depends on where you go on and where you live. How much it's going to cost you to get there. You have to take a plane or a train or car or whatever. But my first tip would be to get at least the kitchen. And obviously now that's a lot easier with Airbnb being so popular to rent somebody's apartment or house and if you want to get groceries. Even if you only buy groceries for breakfast, if you're going to be gone from the apartment all day, breakfast can be really cheap if you get it from the grocery store. And it can be a little bit expensive if you're going out for breakfast every single day. And even just going to the grocery store and buy granola bars or fruit or whatever that you didn't carry with you, so you're not turning to a restaurant every single time you're hungry. I find for us like food is probably one of our biggest expenses when we are traveling. So being able to cook is huge.

Kayla Levin: 34:36 I definitely would recommend as well. I'm looking into a public transportation wherever you're going. So, it's almost always cheaper. It's in most cities that have public transportation, it's safe and reliable. We've traveled to New York a lot and we always take the subway instead of a taxi, that sort of thing. It's just it's way, way cheaper than taking a cab. Of course walking is always good too. That's totally free. But if you're going blocks and blocks, you might not want to walk. And then also looking into getting an unlimited card instead of a pay per use card for things like subways and buses, if you're going to be using it a lot, usually the unlimited card is a better deal than paying 250 or whatever, every time you're hopping on the subway.

Kayla Levin: 35:32 And the last one is maybe a little bit less well known, but there is a lot of free walking tours. Some museums do like a free or reduced price day that can save a lot of money and you still get the experience of going to the museum or getting to walk around the city with a local that knows everything is a really nice 'cause they'll point things out that you wouldn't have noticed. So just doing some research ahead of time, can save you a lot of money.

Jenn Neilson: 36:10 That's great. And now they have you as a resource also for ideas. And I know you have a lot of stuff up on your blog for different places. Can you share with your favorite places to travel?

Kayla Levin: 36:23 We're big Disney world people. I have to say, which is not exactly a budget destination that's important to us. And we go as often as we can and we found some ways to save it a little bit of money. But we really, really like to check out cities as well. So we've gone to New York quite a bit. It's not too far from where we live in Canada, so that's really nice. But definitely

Jenn Neilson: 36:55 From New York to Nova Scotia.

Kayla Levin: 36:57 How long?

Jenn Neilson: 36:58 Yeah.

Kayla Levin: 36:58 It's like a two hour plane ride.

Jenn Neilson: 37:02 Oh wow.

Kayla Levin: 37:03 It's... 'cause we have to drive up over through New Brunswick to drive. So it would be-

Jenn Neilson: 37:09 How longer?

Kayla Levin: 37:11 It's probably a 16 hour drive, but yeah. But you can usually get flakes. Not too expensive, but... we're checking out Toronto this summer. So that's weirdly my first time in my own country's biggest city.

Jenn Neilson: 37:28 Your first time really?

Kayla Levin: 37:29 It's my first time I've been in the airport in Toronto, but this is the first time I'm actually going to Toronto and it's going to be my first to try Airbnb. So-

Jenn Neilson: 37:37 Amazing.

Kayla Levin: 37:37 We'll see how that goes.

Jenn Neilson: 37:38 Okay. I look forward to sort on a journey.

Kayla Levin: 37:41 For sure.

Jenn Neilson: 37:42 Amazing. Okay, well thank you so, so much. I'm so excited to be able to connect you with my listeners, could benefit from all your wisdom and also so much positivity and such like a calm. We can do an attitude. I feel like it's very very inspiring. I want to go look at my budget.

Kayla Levin: 38:01 Let's go look on the budget. It's almost May. That's the perfect time to study the budget.

Jenn Neilson: 38:05 We could do like a budget and party. We should totally do that like a Facebook live budget.

Kayla Levin: 38:11 Yeah, a watch party. But everyone . Sign me up. I'm in if you ever do it. Alright, thank you so much.

Jenn Neilson: 38:23 Thanks Kayla. It was really great.

Kayla Levin: 38:25 Well, Okay. Bye.

Kayla Levin: 38:27 Thanks again so much for listening. I hope you really enjoy the interview with Jenn. If you are looking into the First Year Married Course, I just want to give you a heads up. That registration closes May 19th. That is just around the corner, so please get your name in there, grab your spot right away. It's going to be an amazing six weeks. We're going to be diving into this in very deep way, and you're going to walk away, able to really apply it to your marriage.

Kayla Levin: 38:53 And during those six weeks, you get tons of coaching time with me inside our private Facebook group where I'll be taking your questions, even anonymous question for me now. So I don't even know if he's asking the question and listen, you want me to, and we coach on all the things as they're coming out. So you're able to troubleshoot this information as you're learning it. So it's a phenomenal course. I have so much fun with it. My clients, have so much fun with it and I just would really love to have you join us.

Kayla Levin: 39:19 You can sign up for it at and then click on the link that says the FYM course. And I'm going to see you over there, right? Can't wait. Bye.

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