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Eliminating Over $30,000 in Debt Through Extreme Organization

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
45 min read
Eliminating Over $30,000 in Debt Through Extreme Organization

Rosemarie Groner was a state trooper—a good, recession-proof position. But chronic disorganization had led to more than $30,000 in consumer debt, when she made the decision to quit her job to stay home with her first child.

In this episode of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, Rosemarie shares how she cut $23,000 out of her spending, paid off her debt in less than four years, and grew her income to the point that her husband could also quit his day job.

Rosemarie gives you actionable tips for establishing routines that will help get you organized so you can focus your energy on your budget—not your day-to-day tasks.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money, Show Number 4.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Scott: How’s it going, everybody? I’m Scott Trench here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing fantastic. I am having a great 2018 so far. We have released this podcast. I have also just released a book called How to Sell Your Home, which will detail the steps in selling a house.

Scott: How come I didn’t hear about this?

Mindy: You probably did. You work here at BiggerPockets.com.

Scott: Oh, that’s right. This is the thing you’ve been working on for the past year and that’s fantastic. We interviewed you on the BiggerPockets podcast, actually.

Mindy: Yes, we did. If you want to hear the story about the book and 16 tips for selling your home, you can go to BiggerPockets.com/Show261 and that is the episode where I talk about the book and like I said, I give tips on how to sell your house. Selling a house, you think it’s just, oh, I put a sign on the front yard and it’ll sell and there’s a lot more to it than that. Yeah, you can do it that way but you can make a lot more money if you plan ahead and do it right.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: I am so excited to bring this episode to our listeners this week. Rosemarie Groner from TheBusyBudgeter.com is one of my favorite people on the planet. She has such an energy and she’s always got this huge smile on her face. Plus, she knows so much about budgeting and getting yourself out of debt when you are in a seemingly unending hole of debt.

Scott: Yeah, I loved how tight, how tough her situation was when she really got started getting serious about budgeting and financial planning and all that kind of stuff and how much progress she was able to make and how quickly she was able to make it. I mean, it’s just incredible and it just shows that her power of organization and she’s really kind of boiled that down and has some repeatable steps that you can take to get your life together.

Mindy: Yes, her tips for making sure that the dishes are done every single night. Once you get into a habit with one thing, it makes it easier to make a habit out of something else. So, I love that tip. I have, since we recorded the show, I have actually started that tip myself and I make sure that I have no dishes in my sink at the end of the day. And it really, when you wake up in the morning and you walk into the kitchen and there’s not a button giant pile of dishes waiting, looking at you like taunting you, it’s freeing. She shares a couple of other tips on the show, too, that are just as freeing as that one is.

Scott: Yeah, I mean it’s just about doing the few kind of trigger things that you need to do to make sure the rest of your life begins falling into place. And I think that her examples of those few things are spot on. And I find that when I have a big pile of dishes in my sink, or when I have a bunch of laundry that’s not done or a big mess in the main room, that I’m just less productive. I’m not going to get on top of the important things if those little things are in place.

Mindy: Right, right. That’s so true. Okay, so I want to welcome Rosemarie Groner to the show. Rosemarie Groner is from TheBusyBudgeter.com and one of the most popular questions we get in the BiggerPockets forums is how do I start investing with no money and bad credit? The answer is, if you’re established, you can totally do that. But if you’re not established, you can’t. You need to get rid of your no money and bad credit situation. Scott has written a book called Set for Life and Scott’s book is a great place to start.

Scott: Yeah, it’s really written for the person that’s starting with zero net worth or barely positive that doesn’t have very much wealth outside of maybe home equity and retirement accounts. How do you go about accumulating investible assets? But that’s not the problem a lot of people face. A lot of people face a different problem, which is how do I get back to zero? How do I get to the point where I can actually begin saving a hundred dollars a month, let alone a thousand dollars a month? That’s the problem that so many people are struggling with and that’s a problem that Rosemarie can really help us out with.

Mindy: So welcome to the show, Rosemarie.

Rosemarie: I am so excited to be here. I love you guys. This is like a dream come true.

Mindy: I’m so happy to have you. I love your energy and I know today is going to be a super, super awesome, very informative show.

Rosemarie: Yes, it is.

Scott: Rosemarie, you’re here to tell us about budgeting and how that can help people improve their lives. Could you tell us a little bit about your story and how you got started, why budgeting wasn’t important to helping you kind of progress in your finances in the first place?

Rosemarie: Oh, my gosh. Yes. So, I was a state trooper and if you don’t have that in your area, it’s like being a police officer but at the state level. And I was making about $52,000 a year and we were pregnant with our first child and I was like, oh, I’m done. We worked crazy hours, like we had forced overtime. I never felt like I was home. My husband and I worked opposite schedules and we were like, how in the world are we going to raise a baby with this craziness?

And then I decided I wanted to stay home. We looked at our numbers and we realized that we were over $30,000 in debt. We lived paycheck to paycheck. We had absolutely zero skills in life. Like, no cooking, cleaning, budgeting. We were hot mess adults. So, I realized that I wanted to come home and I realized that that just wasn’t even remotely a possibility. And I can remember feeling like I was just stuck. Do you know what I’m saying? Like you just can’t do anything else. Like, I’m going to work this job because I have to.

And that was the moment when I just, we had that baby and I looked into his eyes and it was like, I don’t even care. I will find a way. We reduced our spending by over $23,000 a year. I quit my job. I set a goal to quit my job by his first birthday and I made it. His first birthday was my last day at work. I replaced my income working from home, mostly through a home daycare but we had like a couple of smaller side hustles.

And then the rest is history. Like, I found that when you actually figure out what you want and you have that goal, budgeting gets way easier. Like, I knew what I wanted and giving up small little things that I thought meant a lot to me when I was living paycheck to paycheck meant nothing.

Scott: So this is incredible. There’s a lot to dive in here. Sorry, Mindy. Did you have something you wanted to mention real quick?

Mindy: I was going to say, wow, there’s a thousand things to talk about. I want to know, how did you reduce your spending by $23,000 a year? Because that’s a huge, huge number for just somebody who’s struggling.

Rosemarie: It is, yeah. We actually have a full breakdown, I think it was when I started a budgeting blog. That was one of my first posts that I wrote and I have ever single dollar of that. It was actually over $23,000 and it’s all listed out there. Part of it was we refinanced our mortgage to historical low interest rates. We did a—and I only calculated the monthly savings on that, not the long-term, which is actually a lot more.

We stopped buying books, which I am like a book lover. I read like crazy and when I saw how much money I was saving on books, I was absolutely sick. So I haven’t actually purchased a book unless it’s a business books for maybe six or seven years. I now only use library. It went for everything. Meal planning was a huge part of it. I think you guys just did a podcast with Erin Chase. Erin Chase was a huge part of the story by reducing our grocery budget. We followed kind of the grocery budget makeover and we saved $16,000 a year in grocery savings alone.

We did, so it was basically like a lot of teeny tiny little things that added up to really big but I mean we systematically went through every single thing that we purchased and we found substitutions, even all the way down to like shampoo. We were using Pantene Shampoo at the time and then I found out that I love Suave Rosemary Mint Shampoo and our income has skyrocketed since then and I still use Suave Rosemary Mint Shampoo. It’s like a dollar a bottle.

So I mean, even things like that saved I think $118 a year by switching shampoos. And you know, most people are like, oh whatever, it doesn’t matter. But all those little tiny things that don’t matter combine to like a massive, massive change.

So I don’t know if you guys have the store Aldi near you, that was a huge part of our journey as well. We shopped almost exclusively at Aldi now. They have grocery that is about half the price of everybody else, about 50-60%. So we’ve got 15 people at my house this week for a whole week. I’m feeding everybody. Every meal is like tables and tables of food and like everything is from Aldi. It’s like dirt cheap.

Mindy: Wow, yeah. We don’t have Aldi here but I have lived in a place that has Aldi so I miss it.

Rosemarie. Amazing. If it weren’t for Aldi, I would have to be an extreme couponer so I’m really greatful for Aldi.

Scott: So I have a question about this process. So cutting out $23,000 of one’s budget is a pretty intensive process. How long did it take you to cut that and did this come in stages, was this all at once? How did that process work for you?

Rosemarie: Yep, it was in stages. I would say it took about six months to actually do everything. And keep in mind, I was doing this. I called budgeting my hobby at the point. When I wanted that, when I wanted to come home, this was what I did all the time. I didn’t go out and hang out. I just did budgeting. But, to be fair, it ended up being really fun. At the end of it, once you get something—once budgeting stops being like, oh I have to budget so I can do whatever, it becomes like, oh, I get to budget so I can have this awesome thing I’m fighting for, it actually becomes really fun.

And I did do it in stages. We talked a little bit about how I was really disorganized, so we were kind of like hot mess adults. I realized I kept trying and trying and trying to save money, right? And we would be like, okay, we’re going to cook everything from home this week. And then I would go out and spend $300 in groceries and I’m like, I’m going to make all of this expensive food and it’s going to be great. And then of course, what would happen was we got busy. My dishes are like all in the sink. My kitchen’s a mess. And we would end up ordering pizza every single night. So I quickly realized that before I even try to save money, I have to set up just the routines that matter.

So we set up a dishes routine, a laundry routine, and a schedule routine that we actually still use to this today. And it’s been like seven years now. So I don’t care what my house looks like. I don’t care if the sheets get changed, if the vacuuming gets done, the house can be like severely dirty and gross but if those three routines are running, then I can do all of the things that I need to do to stay on budget and my house actually runs really well. It may not look great but it runs really well.

And what we found was once you got those three routines, just those three, under control, budgeting became really easy. Meal prepping and cooking at home became super easy. It was like okay, I got a kitchen. My fridge is clean. I’ve got stuff that I can do and the schedule, of course, was an important part of that because we started something called a stockroom which saved a ton of money. Oh, my gosh. We still have it.

So every time you run out of something, say it’s like shampoo or deodorant, right? You run to the store to pick up some more, right? And there’s a short list of things that if you ran out of you would go out to immediately purchase right now. And every time you go out to purchase that, of course you run into like one or two or ten or twenty other things you needed and you end up buying other stuff. Well, what we realize is that if we took like a shelf in one closet and we just put all of the things, at least one extra of the things that we would go out to a store and run and buy if we ran out of, that we saved a ton of money because one, our schedule opened up. There were no more extra hours that we would spend going to purchase something. Do you know what I mean? So that’s time saved.

But it also meant that we were buying these things at lower prices and it also meant that we were saving on impulse purchases which is one of our biggest problems, is that when we go into a store, we’re not just getting one thing. We’re buying like a hundred things. So that turned into, well now we figured that out, we figured how much money we saved from that so now we go further and now we say, we just automate all of our errands.

So we joke around all the time now that I work from home, we say I never leave the house, which is kind of true. Because we don’t go grocery shopping. We don’t go to Target. We don’t go to Wal-Mart. All of those things—we do go to Aldi. But all of those things are delivered to our house for us and we get them for the same price you would get if you walked into Target. There’s tons of places online that price match. Both Wal-Mart and Target, you can have them shipped to your house for the exact same price that you can go pick it up but the difference is, I don’t also pick up $400’s worth of Joanna Gaines’ stuff. I’m only getting the stuff that’s on my list and I’m doing it ahead of time. I’m being conscious of where I fit it into my budget and things like that.

Mindy: Okay, so again, 47 things I want to talk about now. Okay, so at the beginning of this, you said that you got into a habit. You established a routine for your household and that really just speaks to me as a—I used to be a stay-at-home mom and it’s so easy to just wake up and all of a sudden, the day’s gone and you’re like, oh I didn’t do anything.

So establishing the dishes routine is really, really important in my mind. Establishing the laundry routine so you’re not sitting there and folding 47 pairs of clothes, 47 loads of laundry on a Saturday when the only time you have to spend with your significant other or whatever. That’s really, really important. I really like that tip. And you have established a whole course for this, right? A whole routine. So let’s talk about that a little bit later.

The stockroom is also something I want to talk about. I suffer from almost hoarderism and I did the extreme couponing for a while. It’s really not a good fit for myself. How do you do a stockroom without being one of those crazy extreme couponers who’s got 47 gallons of mayonnaise that they’re never going to eat ever?

Rosemarie: Yeah, so we definitely don’t do that. The secret to the stockroom to start is only to get the things that you would run out and purchase if you ran out of. So like, let’s say shampoo, right? Let’s say you have zero shampoo in your house. You’re going to be like, hey hubby, can you stop by and pick up shampoo on the way home? Or you’re going to go out and get it yourself, right? There’s not too many days you’re going to go without shampoo in your house. Paper towels is one for a lot of people. Deodorant, right? You’re probably going to run out and grab deodorant if you run out.

So if you’re only getting those and if you’re only getting one extra. So we’re not talking about a major like, it used to be we lived in a 900 square foot townhouse when we started this. We had like one little tiny shelf. It’s just like an extra—we had extra toothbrushes, extra toothpaste, extra deodorant, extra shampoo, extra laundry detergent, extra dish soap, extra dishwasher detergent. Things like that. So anything that you would run right out and pick up. My husband was like obsessed with hair glue so we had like hair glue in there but anything that you would run out and pick up—I know, right? Hair glue.

Mindy: What’s hair glue?

Rosemarie: I guess it’s like—I know. Does Scott know? I feel you like you’re a hair guy.

Scott: I don’t know what this is.

Rosemarie: Really?

Mindy: Scott’s morning routine, I’m guessing, is get out of bed and go.

Scott: Yeah, pretty much. I go to bed, I shower, and I go to work.

Rosemarie: Well, you can Google hair glue.

Mindy: Is it like a hair product?

Rosemarie: It’s definitely a hair product. It makes his things in the front spikey. I feel like I should know this. I’m a girl, right? I should know these things.

Mindy: I thought it was like, he looks like he’s got a full head of hair. It’s a really great toupee. I thought it was like hair glue.

Rosemarie: No, not that kind.

Mindy: Okay, so the stockroom is just one extra. And when you take it off, how do you know to get more? Do you just automatically put it on your list or—how does that work? How do you replenish your stockroom?

Rosemarie: So you have different things available. We actually have a free Excel file someplace. We used to, when we started, and again, don’t start with an Excel file. If you make it too complicated, you’re not going to do it. We started with just a Post-it note slapped on the back of the door and it said something like, shampoo, one or two, and then when you took one out, you like crossed it out.

And there’s a big joke in our house because my husband and I, I always use the bath and he always uses the shower and he will come over to my bath and steal my shampoo versus walking the extra two feet to the stockroom and grabbing shampoo from there. Anyway, it’s a side note. So you have to be prepared for that. You can just use like a little Post-it note to track what you have but the idea is that you should, if you’re going to the store, I don’t suggest you go to the store. If you’re going to have something delivered to the house like Wal-Mart or Target or things like that, you can be like, oh okay, I have one shampoo, we’ll grab one more. Or I’ve just used my last shampoo, I’m going to grab one more. Things like that.

You can go one step further and now we do auto-scheduling, which means that we’ve done this for so long that I know how long it takes for us to use up a shampoo. I know how long it takes for us to use up deodorant. So I just set them to be automatically sent to the house every so often and if I find that we’re getting too many, then I’ll bump it out a little bit and adjust it so we can catch back up.

But for the most part, where this used to be like a monthly trip to Target or Wal-Mart that I would load up all of this stuff that we would need. Or worse, I’d buy it at the grocery store where it’s more expensive while I bought groceries. Now, it’s something I don’t think about. I don’t spend time doing it. I don’t go into Target and buy all of the Joanna Gaines stuff there because I’m there anyway and it’s just shipped to the door. Obviously, you get lots of boxes and you can use the boxes for cool stuff but that’s a whole other thing.

Scott: So what I’m getting here is this is just like incredible optimization and tracking and management of your life, the things that you just use, the necessities of life. And you went through this process in stages where you were able to cut your spending by $23,000 and it seems to free up a lot of time, right? My question for you is, let’s say that I’m someone who’s starting to do this and maybe haven’t done any of this. I’m where you were when you started. How was my happiness going to be affected while I’m going through this journey? Is this going to ruin my life? Isn’t this going to make things worse? How does that work?

Rosemarie: Oh, my gosh. No. And I know what you’re saying because I can remember like in the very beginning. So the thing about budgeting is that it’s all about perspective. And I think when most people hear about budgeting, they’re stressed out about debt or they’re like, or the other way, maybe they don’t have debt and they have money but they don’t necessarily want to like live below their means because they’re like, I’ve got all this money. I’m not stupid. Like I want to spend it.

But the thing is that budgeting allows you to get anything you want. Anything you want. We purchased like a gorgeous house. My husband’s got like a fixer-upper Corvette he likes to drive around. But like the thing is we got those things because we put our heads together and we were like, I want this. Let’s go out and get it. So budgeting, I think, has a bad—it just seems like something really negative and it’s the total opposite. It just opens up this whole world of like, on almost any salary, you can have anything you want. You just have to be smart enough to go after it and get it, you know what I mean?

Do the work to get it. And it doesn’t have to be, so some people are really all about sacrifice. We are not. Like if you look at our story, we were over $30,000 in debt and we were both state troopers and the correct answer in that situation is to stay at work. Hoard all that money and then go pay off your debt. And we didn’t do that. It was like, I want to pay off my debt but babies don’t keep and I can’t spend his younger years with him when he’s five. Do you know what I mean? I can’t go back and redo this time.

So I was like, I’m going to quit my job no matter what and I’m going to figure out a way to make it happen and that was what I did. But the thing about budgeting is that it’s empowering. Whatever you want, you can do it. You just have to be intentional when you do it, if that makes sense.

Mindy: That makes such perfect sense and that’s—budgeting, you’re right, it has this negative connotation. It’s restrictive. But if you don’t know where your money’s going, you can’t direct it where you want it to go and if there’s something that doesn’t matter to you then don’t spend money on it. I don’t care what my clothes look like. I want them to be fairly current and I want them to be clean. And that’s kind of it. I’d like them to fit but that’s a different story. So I don’t go and spend on these brand name clothes because it doesn’t matter to me.

But there are things that I like so I spend money on those things because I don’t want to say it’s important, because it’s probably not as important as like kids and stuff, but.

Rosemarie: Yeah. And also like, you also have to think about the fact that this is a very short amount of time. So this was about six months of my life that I was really, really into budgeting. And once I had established those habits, I was like okay, now we’re just talking about an evening a week, do you know what I’m saying?

And at this point, we’re still spending an evening a week but it’s like an hour and it’s almost like a date night. It’s kind of fun. We talk about our goals. We talk about where we’re going after and then we start crunching the numbers. But it’s really like a cool thing that we do now and not like, budget night. It’s kind of fun.

Mindy: Okay, so I want to point out that you have a conversation with your husband every week about money and I’ve been married for almost 16 years and I have one of the best marriages on record because we talk and we talk all the time and we don’t fight and we don’t fight about money. And that is, doing the budget to have a conversation with your husband every week is totally worth it. Because you know how kids suck up every bit of your time and then all of a sudden, it’s been a month since you’ve said hi to your husband.

Rosemarie: And this was interesting for us because when we got married, John and I had incredibly different philosophies about money, right? When we got married, I married into a lot of debt and we had a house that was $100,000 under water and I was not great with money but I was also, my biggest issue is being chronically disorganized but I didn’t have a ton of debt coming into it. And when we got married and looked at what we had, I was totally freaked out. I was like, we have to fix this right now and John’s like, let’s buy 3D TVs and I’m like, what? What is going on?

And he was very like—we fought about money. I can remember our first year crying on the couch being like what have I done? This is never going to work. And we have not had a money fight in I think five years, maybe six. So I think just both of us having goals that we’re going for and having him be able to flip his perspective from this is restricting to like, this gets me what I want. It made a big difference.

Mindy: Yeah, that is—I’ve got to write that down.

Scott: So I have a question here. So you get in alignment with your husband. You’ve begun this system of budgeting and tracking. You’ve cut your expenses a lot. You’ve quit your job. What happens now to income? I’ve found in my life, for example, that when I got serious about tracking my finances and spending and making sure that I’m accumulating as much money as possible, given my happiness constraints, that I was doing two things.

I was accumulating money and I was, which I could then invest, and I was also more comfortable taking risks, you know, on new ventures and that kind of thing. Did you find that to be the case for yourself?

Rosemarie: Yes, and I think part of it is like, we reduced our spending so that we mitigate some of the risk. Because I mean it was a risk to quit our jobs. Woo, we can live on a budget for six months. Let’s quit our jobs. So there was a little bit of a risk there but we reduced our spending so that worst case scenario, we can handle it, and then of course, what we found was that it’s not as hard as you think to increase your income. Like, it was pretty easy for me to make up my income from home in the home daycare.

And then at the point where we were looking at the decisions like okay, so I don’t think I want to be able to do this for 25 years. This isn’t going to be fun anymore when my kids are in school, do you know what I mean? Like, okay, bye kids and then oh, we still have four kids at home. So what we did was I started a blog and then we turned that into an additional income stream and it ended up taking over everything else.

So I think that it’s actually a lot easier than most people think to increase their income and to kind of—that would give you money. That would give you money to invest. That would give you more kind of wealth and then again, the budget gets a whole lot easier but we still budget. Again, it’s just you’re budgeting for more fun stuff. Bigger fun stuff.

Scott: Yeah, the point that I want to throw out there is that in my experience, I’ve met a lot of folks that have gone through the process somewhat like yours. Yours is by far the most intense and coolest that I’ve heard, with incredible results in a short period of time. But folks that go through any type of this process often find opportunities to present themselves on the income front even though that’s not their focus. Their focus is on saving money. But because they’re saving money, they become more comfortable with their position. They build up a bigger financial mode and then all of a sudden, that opportunity to go and do something that they love or something that may pay off financially presents itself.

Rosemarie: Yeah, absolutely, because you get out of, we call it the paycheck to paycheck cycle. When you’re in that paycheck to paycheck cycle, you can’t even build a stockroom. Do you know what I’m saying? Something that can save you hours and hours of time. But if you don’t have that hundred dollars or $150, you can’t do that.

We talk about this a lot of times because my audience is typically people that have zero money. Like, these aren’t people that have any wealth at all. They’re just trying to like get by but if you bring that on a larger scale, like we have a ton of savings. We’re debt-free now. Our life experiences and the risk that we can take and the things that we can go after, we can build new businesses, we can try new things and all of those are within our reach because we kind of like did the work before. Do you know what I’m saying?

But I think there’s this whole world that most people don’t know about. They just think they have to go to a job. They have to work at a job and most people don’t even realize that they don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. There are people out there that aren’t doing that.

Scott: And this is the foundation for entrepreneurship, I think, if you want to go down it. Exactly what you’re doing. What you’ve done, I think, is that foundation. All those skills that you’ve built will, if you ever—will help you in your business that you’re building currently and any of the ones that you go into in the future, I think.

Rosemarie: Yeah, and it’s kind of funny because when I started this whole thing, when I started the home daycare, I never thought of myself as being an entrepreneur. I never even probably thought about that world. It was just, I just needed to escape. Like, this is my escape route.

And then when I built the blog and I kind of got into that whole world that I realized how many people were making a killing at home, it helped me kind of like catapult my business because now I’m in this whole entrepreneur world and there’s so many things that you’re learning but essentially it’s all the same. It’s maximizing your ROI. It’s your return on your investment.

If you look at my budgeting journey, what I did was I figured out the chronically disorganized things that were keeping me from saving money and I let everything else go and I only focused on the three things that gave me the highest ROI. On the budgeting journey, I only focused on the things that were going to give me the best results for what I was doing and then you flip that over. When I started the blog, I did essentially the same thing.

Mindy: I want to jump back to a couple of comments ago. You said something—we did the work before. All these things opened up because we did the work before. You make this sound really easy. Oh, I just looked at my budget and I cut costs and it’s not hard, but it’s not easy. It’s work. And you have to do the work if you want to see the results and nobody is going to just do it for you and there isn’t a button that you can push to make everything just go away. You have to do the work and you have to be committed to it. And I think that that’s what a lot of people will jump in and be like, oh, I’m going to do this. Ugh, nevermind, it’s work.

Well yeah, it’s work. It was work to get into the debt and it’s going to be work to get out of the debt. How free do you feel not having this $30,000’s worth of debt? And I don’t want to belittle your debt but I’ve heard stories of people like $100,000, $200,000. Rock Star Finance has a bloggers’ net worth and at the bottom, if somebody is like negative $600,000, it’s mostly student loans but that’s still $600,000. Do you have $600,000 laying around just waiting to be deployed at your student loans?

I mean, I’m not talking smack about that person. I think they’re two doctors or something but still. That’s got to be pretty soul-crushing to wake up every morning to that. And you know, having no debt, I think all three of us are debt-free on this call. So I don’t wake up worrying about debt. I don’t go to bed worrying. My phone doesn’t ring and I’m like, oh, which bill collector is that? So the work is so worth the reward of being free.

Rosemarie: Yeah, it is. Like, it’s amazing. It gives you so much. You can stay at home with your kids if you want to. You know what I mean? You’re no longer in chains. You’re no longer—the other thing is like, we were just talking about this, is it makes you excited to make more money. Do you know what I mean? Because when you’re paying off your debt, it’s like I can make more money to pay more debt.

And now, it’s like, if John wants a Corvette, he can be like, okay, let’s make a little extra money and we don’t even have to take it off our budget. And that’s what we do. We seek ways to get what we want. Budgeting is actually amazing. It’s the most fun thing ever. We kind of like, when I say I turn it into a hobby, like we really did. When I say I’m working on our budget, I’m not talking about like sitting on a computer and on Excels.

Like, we do what we call Pinterest pretty work books and worksheets. So if you have this like inner organizer in you that likes pretty things and pretty work books and things like that, everything that we do is all like gorgeous and it’s almost like scrapbooking. John says my budgeting is like my scrapbook. It used to be. But it’s like something of a creative outlet. You’re sitting down. Everything is like laid out and it’s just really fun. It really is. I promise. Try budgeting, it’s super fun.

Mindy: Try budgeting, it’s super fun.

Scott: What I want to go back to is, we talked and I asked you a question earlier about whether this was all at once or in stages and for me, my journey was really like a long process of just continuous optimization, bit by bit by bit as opportunity presented itself as time went on. And the word I used for this is “the grind”. It’s like you grind it out for a year, two years, 12-18 months, I found when I really look back, it’s like I’m a huge amount of progress every 12-18 months. But it didn’t feel like it at all during that time. Did you kind of experience that when you were going through this journey as well?

Rosemarie: Oh yeah, that’s the exact same thing. So the first six months was like awful. It wasn’t awful but that was like what I was doing. Do you know what I’m saying? It took a lot to overcome the organizational problems that I had and then to start trying to make some progress and I really had that date in my head, like I could not stand the idea of working past his first birthday.

But over that, we still look for ways to reduce our income. I would say the grind for us was almost two to three years. But year three, everything was a routine and we just kind of keep the routine going but I would say, before then, we were still just learning new skills. It’s like skill-building and it’s different skills for different people depending on what you spend money on. Like some people have to figure out how to reduce their interest, which credit cards to pay off.

For us, it was all grocery budget, figuring out how to make our groceries last the entire month. How to cook at home, add a meal prep, how to get out of the awkward everybody else goes out to eat at lunch at work and then you’re like, well, I don’t really want to spend $70 bucks a week so how do I do this and still have friends at work? And figuring out all of those little things that we never had to think about before.

So it took us a lot time to get out of everything and we also say the art of saying no, when people are like, oh do you want to go to this rock concert and you’re like, well of course I do but it’s also going to be like $200. It’s like trying to figure out how to say no but still having a lot of fun and still maintaining friendships. Because if you just say no every time everybody asks you to do anything, it’s like you have no friends.

Scott: This is exactly how I felt during this. I didn’t have to get out of debt. I was trying to build my financial foundation from which to house hack and then begin investing. That was my goal.

Rosemarie: Way fancier than what I did.

Mindy: Do it Scott’s way.

Scott: I really wanted to get ahead and get on the other side of the financial equation here where I had a little bit of passive income and some things working for me and I just remembered doing exactly what you’re talking about like saying no sacrificing, optimizing, and now I look back and that’s the part that I’m really proud of. It sucked while I was doing it.

It didn’t suck—actually my life got better bit by bit, day by day, month by month. You know. Year by year. But it was a struggle at first and now I’m like, that’s the part where I really became a better person, a better worker, better with my finances, equipped to handle money for the rest of my life, I think.

Rosemarie: Absolutely. Did you notice, by the way, I noticed in the beginning as far as the art of say no goes, in the beginning, you have this huge entourage of people and it’s not that they weren’t real friendships but I feel like you discover your people in your real circle when they support you in your efforts to save money. We came out of that with like ridiculously close friends and I feel like once we figured out who our people were and who we were spending all of our time with, it became no problem at all.

We would have game nights at our best friends’ houses. We would go to different houses and we’d have game nights. We’d put the kids to bed. We would stay up until like 2:00am drinking wine and craft beer and playing board games and we would have the most fun ever and then we’d wake up the kids at like 2:00 in the morning and go home. It was almost like being in college.

But like, the cost of this was zero compared to if you go to an expensive restaurant with friends, you talk for a couple of minutes or whatever—you spend a hundred dollars on babysitters, you spend a hundred dollars on your meal and like, you have a good night but like in comparison I find that when you do things that are cheap, it’s not like it sucks. It’s actually way more fun. It’s just nobody ever does it. You know what I mean? People don’t think about it or try it.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely.

Mindy: People don’t—

Scott: Oh, go ahead, Mindy.

Mindy: We’re both going to agree with you. We’re fighting who can agree with you more. Yeah, and that’s Sarah Wilson, who will be on the show in a couple of weeks. She had the same thing. She had the same tip. She would have friends over and it’s like, you know what, I made it a point to pay off my debt so I just said no to everything and I told my friends what I was doing and I think there’s this big shame or stigma around oh, I want to pay off my debt. Why is that shameful? I don’t want to have debt. Nobody wants to have debt. There is no big prize at the end for the person with the most debt.

So do these fun things and not everybody is your friend. The people who want to go out and spend a hundred dollars a night, $300 a night, go out to bars and drink all the time, they might not have the same goals as you. They probably don’t have the same goals as you and that’s not to say that going out is a bad thing. But if your goal is to pay off debt, then buckle down and do it because like I said before, nothing feels as good as—nothing tastes as good as getting feels. Well you know what, nothing feels as good as being out of debt.

Rosemarie: Completely.

Mindy: Okay, now you agree with her, Scott.

Scott: I also agree. I guess moving on, before we get to kind of our Famous Four and wrap up here, do you have any other tips that you want to talk about for people that are getting started with this? I know you have your first three things that you mentioned to get out there. Any other mindset things that you want to mention or, I’m struggling to get into this, what do I need to hear?

Rosemarie: So the number one thing that we hear is that, well the thing is I really want to get started in budgeting but I can’t because—and some of them are really, really good reasons. My significant other just got diagnosed with cancer. I’m really sick. I’ve got a little one that’s sick. Legit reasons. And there’s also a slew of other things. Well, I’ve got 15 people in my house for a week. I’ve got, Thanksgiving is coming up then Christmas. I don’t want to ruin the kids’ Christmas. We’re getting married.

There’s all these reasons not to budget but I love my readers enough to say you have to do it anyway and this is why. You are already doing the hard thing. If you are struggling with paying off debt or if you are living paycheck to paycheck or just not saving any money, right? You’re already doing the hard thing. The easier thing is just to take a couple of months of your life, get it under control and make it so that it’s a routine.

It’s like shopping or like taking a shower, brushing your teeth. It’s not going to like suck your soul out to continue doing this for the rest of your life and if you can put the time in now and if you can find time and space for this now, it’s a skill that you will have for the rest of your life that will pay you back tenfold but you have to start.

Even if you start and suck, it’s better to start now than just be like, well, after the holidays, when January comes, I’m really going to get into it or there’s always going to be something else. There’s always going to be a point in the future that you’re going to say that you’re going to start and you’re never going to start. So just, the second you listen to this, we’re going to start tonight. Right now.

Mindy: Yeah.

Scott: Awesome.

Rosemarie: I love yelling at people. It’s like my favorite. And a trooper in me coming out.

Mindy: I could just imagine you pulling your gun on somebody.

Rosemarie: Which is funny because I have no idea how I survived. I spent nine years in that job and I’m like, I have no idea how I did that. Go figure.

Mindy: There are very few people who could be—I don’t know how to say this without being offensive. There are people that I find less cop-ish than you. Because you always have a big smile on your face and you exude happiness and positivity and you know, when police officers pull you over, they’re not like, hey, how’s it going? I’m so happy to see you. They’re like, why are you speeding? So you know, it’s just very difficult to—

Rosemarie: I think I was a great trooper but I think my supervisor would have probably liked me to write more tickets. I’m like, no, they really were sorry. Like, I swear. They were super nice people.

Scott: Mindy, you seem to have a lot of experience getting tickets, is that true?

Mindy: No comment. I plead the fifth.

Scott: Well awesome, let’s go ahead and move onto our Famous Four. These are the same four questions that we ask every single guest and we’ll just jump right into it. The first one of these is what is your favorite finance or business-related book?

Rosemarie: So it’s Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I am pretty much a Dave Ramsey fan through and through. So anything he writes, I’m like I’ll listen to it all or read it all. He’s awesome. Or maybe it’s Scott’s book. What’s Scott’s book’s name?

Mindy: That’s going to be my next favorite. For life. Set for Life.

Scott: What was your favorite part?

Mindy: Part Two. Chapter Two. Yeah. I love Dave Ramsey as well. On the original BiggerPockets podcast, the number one recommended book is the Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyasaki. I think Total Money Makeover is going to be the number one recommended book on this show because I think everybody has said that so far? Not Erin Chase.

Rosemarie: Probably.

Mindy: It’s just a really great book. I think that Dave Ramsey does an amazing job of taking you from whatever debt level you are all the way up to zero where now you’re even and you don’t have debt anymore. He does a really awesome job with that.

Rosemarie: And I kind of like the fact that he yells at you. I respond really well to that. I don’t want someone to be like, oh, it’s going to be okay. I want someone to be like fix it now. Right now.

Mindy: Yeah, I don’t want somebody to yell at me so I’m totally going to do it so he stops yelling at me. See, I like it. I wish to be effective. Okay, what was your biggest money mistake?

Rosemarie: Oh, gosh. So, we have a $300,000 townhome that is 900 square feet over three stories, no bathroom in the middle level and it dropped almost $100,000 after the bubble burst. We learned a very important, lifelong lesson about real estate in that we should actually research into what the heck we’re doing before we buy a house for $300,000.

That was, I think, our biggest money mistake. And we’re still paying for that one. We have renters now but we became reluctant landlords for that and we’re kind of, I think that’s kind of the next goal is we look for ways to maybe instead of being reluctant landlords, being opportunistic landlords and turning that into a happy ending.

Scott: There’s a great website that can help you out with that if you ever—

Rosemarie: I heard about that. BiggerPockets, right?

Mindy: BiggerPockets.com. You know, I think maybe somebody wrote a book on rental property investing. What is that called, Scott?

Scott: I think it’s called The Book on Rental Property Investing by Mr. Brandon Turner.

Mindy: That is really—by Mr. Brandon Turner. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Yeah, let’s send Rosemarie a copy of that book so she can start.

Rosemarie: Seriously, on the happy story.

Mindy: I don’t want to say so she can start doing it right but so she can start doing it right.

Rosemarie: Probably, yes.

Scott: Awesome. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out? I know you’ve given a lot of these now so this might be redundant if you want to restate.

Rosemarie: So, highest ROI. Let’s say you’re just trying to reduce your budget. You’re reducing how much you spend. Number one spot for most people, I’m assuming you don’t have some crazy spending thing that I don’t know about—number one spot to reduce your budget is almost always in groceries. So that’s the spot that you should focus on.

But again, there’s a little bit of skill-building involved in there. So if you don’t know how to cook or if you’re not really good at keeping up on dishes, you need to learn this skills before you attack the grocery budget. But when John and I, just John and I—we didn’t even have kids at that point. We were spending $1,600 a month on groceries to feed two adult people. I know, right? Whenever I say that I’m so embarrassed. But now, at the end, I’m like, oh, it’s great because it’s better now.

But I think at our lowest, we were able to spend between $250 and $300 to feed my husband and I and our two kids a month, right? So that’s mostly with freezer cooking. That’s no extreme couponing. That’s definitely a lot of Aldi. High five to Aldi. But once you are able to really tackle that, that makes a massive difference.

Now, part of that was chronically disorganized, we would go out and buy a ton of groceries, let it all rot in the fridge and then we would eat out every night. So skill-building has to come first but if you’re looking for the biggest impact, it’s almost always the grocery budget.

Scott: And that’s the biggest variable expense in someone’s budget. That’s the one that kind of varies month to month. Some people might have more rent, for example.

Rosemarie: Yeah, I mean it’s the easiest one. And also like if you’re going to be making a big decision like buying a $300,000, 900 square foot townhouse, maybe do a little upfront thinking about that one. Talk to some people.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Where can people find out more about you, Rosemarie?

Rosemarie: So, I’m at BusyBudgeter.com and we actually have a special link I think you guys are going to put in the Show Notes for you guys, so it’s going to be BusyBudgeter.com/BiggerPockets.

Mindy: Awesome, and what does that BusyBudgeter.com/BiggerPockets get you?

Rosemarie: So we have a 90-day budget boot camp that we’ve put—we’ve had 65,000 people go through, and what it actually does is it takes you from like chronically disorganized like I’ve got dishes exploding all over my house, I haven’t done my laundry in a month, I kind of suck at being an adult—it takes you from that moment to being able to get out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

So we teach all of those skills in the order that you need to learn them and the idea is that you’re going to be able to go through these challenges, work on one skill a week. It’s not overwhelming, I promise. It’s way simpler than you’re thinking it is in your head.

And I promise, it’s also going to be kind of fun. But the idea is that we give you the things in order so that they have the maximum return on your investment of time and that at the end of it, you’ll be out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle. Then, you can do whatever the heck you want to do. You can keep budgeting. You can do investments. You can do whatever you want as long as we get you out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle, we’re happy. And it’s free. Did I mention it’s free?

Mindy: No, I was just going to ask you how much does that cost?

Rosemarie: It’s totally free. When we created this, everybody else was kind of charging for courses and the thing is that most of my readers can’t pay for it. You know what I mean? They really, really can’t pay for it. So we made the agreement to keep the 90-day budget boot camp free always and we stand by that. It’s been really, really important to us.

Mindy: I’m sorry, did you say 65,000 people have taken this?

Rosemarie: 65,000, yeah, and the testimonials are insane. Like we keep a Slack Channel with just testimonials from it and I try not to go in there too much because I always cry but it’s nice when you have a bad day and you’re like, oh my gosh, see? I know it’s like awesome.

Scott: That is awesome. That’s so many people that you’ve helped with this problem. I mean, that’s amazing. Definitely go check out that link and that will be there in the Show Notes as well.

Mindy: And that’s one of the number one questions that we get on the BiggerPockets forums is how do I start investing in real estate with no money and bad credit? Well, you don’t. You don’t. You fix your money. Fix your no money and bad credit situation.

Rosemarie: That’s really funny. Wow, that’s weird.

Mindy: Well, you know, real estate can change your life. Real estate, it can provide you with so much financial freedom that you can quit your job and live the life that you want to live and do whatever you want to do but you can’t do it if you don’t have any money. I mean, nobody’s just going to give you a free house. Yeah, I promise.

Scott: Or if you are able to do it and you are unprepared and you don’t have the financial foundation for much to invest, it can make your life way worse. We’ve heard that plenty of times, too. So that’s why we go through this process. Almost all of the successful investors that I know have gone through the process of getting their financial house in order and probably their regular house in order before they go ahead and begin thinking about making large real estate investment purchases.

Rosemarie: That’s really funny. I need that book. I’ve got to get that. Next year, I’m going to be a real estate investment person.

Mindy: We’ll have you on the original BiggerPockets podcast. Have your real estate empire.

Rosemarie: I can be your success story, yes.

Scott: Awesome. Well, the last question here of our Famous Four. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties? What are you going to tell your 15 guests in your house this week?

Rosemarie: So I am the most socially awkward person you’ve ever met. If that hasn’t gone through in the podcast, I don’t know what happened. That’s why I’m a blogger, because I love writing but talking to people, I’m like, whoa. That’s a lot. So if I’m telling any jokes or laughing at a party, I’m probably making fun of myself. I do that a lot. Sorry.

Mindy: Yeah, the social awkward did not come through. You just are this effervescent ball of energy with a huge smile.

Rosemarie: Aw.

Scott: Charisma. Charisma, it oozes out of you.

Mindy: Yes. That’s a really good word, Scott. Perfectly describe her.

Rosemarie: Yeah, so I’m definitely not a joker though. What’s yours? I want to know yours. Do you guys have a favorite joke?

Mindy: My God, Scott is the worst person on the planet with jokes—he tells all the ad-jokes. He doesn’t have any kids but he’s got the dad joke thing down pat.

Scott: I just have to cut on puns all the time. I don’t know. It’s a very annoying tendency, I don’t know.

Mindy: Some people appreciate them.

Rosemarie: That’s funny.

Scott: Well, here’s a toast you can give to your guests.

Rosemarie: Okay.

Scott: There are red ships and there are blue ships, but there are no ships quite like friendships. And you know what happened when the red ship collided with that blue ship?

Rosemarie: What happened?

Scott: Both the crews are marooned.

Rosemarie: Oh, my God.

Mindy: Thankfully, every day.

Scott: You’re welcome. You’ll use it.

Mindy: Every day, Rosemarie. He tells jokes like that every day.

Rosemarie: You are so lucky.

Mindy: Tell it at the office.

Scott: All righty, well this has been so much fun, guys.

Mindy: This has been really great. Rosemarie, thank you so much for coming and talking to us about budgeting. I really appreciate your time.

Rosemarie: Thank you guys for having me. This was awesome. I love you guys.

Mindy: We love you, too. Okay, we’ll talk to you later.

Rosemarie: Okay, bye.

Mindy: Bye.

All right, that was Rosemarie Groner from TheBusyBudgeter.com. Thank you, Rosemarie, for joining us on our Number Four episode of BiggerPockets Money. Scott, what did you learn from today’s show?

Scott: Again, I thought she had such an incredible story that she came from. She was in such a tight position. They are both police officers. And she was able, what was previously two incomes in a very tight situation she was in her life—she was able to just take complete control of her finances, in fact, and quit.

And support the entire family on one income. That’s a 50% reduction. They’re doing it for a 50% reduction in a level of household income. Yet, they’re able to make it work and then come to build wealth and then accelerate that wealth creation and then start a business all because of the power of her organization and the very beginning and getting command of every aspect of her life.

Mindy: Yes. And her energy is infectious. I sat there listening to her talk about all of these things, I’m like, I want to get out of debt, too! Wait, I don’t have any debt. But she’s just, she’s so inspiring. I’m so happy that she was here to spend some time with us.

Scott: Yeah, again I just think that what’s got there, what she speaks to is really an incredible business-like optimization of her life. Right? I mean, she keeps inventory of her shampoo. That’s nuts.

Mindy: I know, I’m thinking what can I put in my little supply cabinet so that I can always have it and I never have to run to the grocery store. That’s such a big tip. And you’ve got to make sure it doesn’t go bad but deodorant doesn’t go bad, like she said. Shampoo doesn’t go bad and have you ever been there where you have to run out to the store and you can’t make it another day without running out? It stinks.

Scott: Yes, I am a single guy so if that ever happens then, you know, just shower without the soap that day and get it tomorrow.

Mindy: Ew, no. That’s gross.

Scott: Yeah, you know.

Mindy: I always have hotel soaps.

Scott: No, but I think that if you are in a position in life where you’re starting out and you are really struggling to make any progress, this is the approach to take. You’ve ruthlessly optimized, but you begin to take the simple steps that she talked about. Get your laundry done. Get your dishes done. And then, you go and expand that where you can and where you’re willing to, to each aspect of your finances that you have direct control over and month by month, week by week, you’re going to make progress. And you’re going to start to see those results accelerate and accelerate and accelerate and so you’ve built up a pretty sizeable financial foundation. And then you’re off to the races with the rest of the stuff we’re talking about on this journey to financial freedom.

Mindy: Yes, and I don’t know if you as a single man caught the tip where she and her husband did this together. When you and your husband are on the same playing field, when you’re playing the same game, you are going to accomplish so much more than when he doesn’t have any interest in it or she doesn’t have any interest in it and you’re just doing it yourself.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I have a girlfriend and we actually are starting to do our goals together on a weekly basis. We have little goals and we reward ourselves with a little bit of wine or beer and hang out, watch a movie after that. But it’s like a little ritual we have on Wednesday nights now and it’s pretty awesome.

Mindy: Oh, that’s nice. I’m really excited for you.

Scott: So yeah, I think it’s great and I think I’ve never been married but I can see why that would be obviously a huge part of your ability to get ahead on this.

Mindy: Yeah, when you’re both on the same page, it does make such a difference.

Scott: All right, so should we close out here?

Mindy: We should.

Scott: Awesome, well before we close out, let’s just quickly beg for a little bit and say, hey guys, if you like the show, if you like us, or even if you just like Rosemarie, would you please go ahead and give us a review on iTunes? We are a brand new show here. This is our fifth ever episode and we’re still trying to get those reviews in place to let everybody know whether or not we’re awesome or we suck. So if we’re awesome, please go ahead and give us a review on iTunes and if you don’t like us, well—

Mindy: You can still review us.

Scott: You could.

Mindy: Constructive criticism.

Scott: Awesome. Well anyways, please go ahead and give us reviews. Give us a shout out. Maybe share us on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever the kids these days are using.

Mindy: The kids, like you’re not 20.

Scott: Yeah, but I don’t use Facebook or whatever the stuff is.

Mindy: Okay. For Episode Four of the BiggerPockets Money Show, this is Mindy Jensen. Over and out.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Her backstory and how she got into budgeting
  • How to reduce spending to $23,000 a year
  • How long her budgeting makeover took
  • The importance of setting up routines that matter
  • How to talk with your spouse about money
  • Why you should focus on the things that get the highest ROI
  • How to stay consistent and weather the struggles you’ll meet
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “When you actually figure out what you want and you have that goal, budgeting gets way easier.” (Tweet This!)
  • “In almost any salary, you can have anything you want with budgeting.” (Tweet This!)
  • “You discover your real people and your circle when they support you in your efforts to save.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Rosemarie

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.