Book review: Debt-Free Living

tl;dr: This post is crazy long. Sorry! The book is good and it’s going on my keeper shelf.


I just finished reading The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living, by Anna Newell Jones. It’s about her journey with, and how to do, a year-long spending fast. She’s one of those miraculous people I was talking about, who paid off over $18,000 in debt in a year on a $33,000 a year salary. I just don’t even know how she did it even though she kind of takes you through it and I’ve read enough books by enough people who’ve done the same thing to know most of the tricks. It’s so impressive every time I read it. Not nearly as impressive when someone who makes $100,000 a year pays off $50,000 in debt. It’s a lot but you feel like they should be able to do it.


The book was good. She takes you step by step through several situations and how to start your fast. She reminds you to keep going over your needs vs. wants list and adjusting it; it’s not a static thing. She gives encouragement on how to take it a step further and generate new income by taking up a side hustle or selling the things that you no longer want. She is very cool in that she realizes that some things are needs that you wouldn’t traditionally expect. Gym memberships that you actually use and get a lot out of, for her it was also photography equipment and shows. But she points out that there are ways to save on those things as well. Just be careful and don’t put things on your needs list just because they make things easier or you like them. She goes through needs vs. wants quite well. She also advises you to tell everyone you can that you’re doing a spending fast. It will keep you accountable.


She advises a “reverse budget” which I like better than the spending tracking that other books suggest. I’ve always kind of agreed with her that you’ll change the way you spend if you all of the sudden start writing everything down. She advises getting out the last three months’ bank statements and credit card statements and using those to figure out where your money goes. I started this exercise and quit after the first two weeks of the first month. I discovered that in two weeks I’d spent $80 on Amazon, we’d spent $80 at 7-11 on grocery-type things (mostly tobacco for Hubby and things like milk when we’re too lazy to go the extra half mile to the store), and $80 on pizza. In two weeks! That was enough to show me where we needed to cut back. I glanced through the next two months and it was pretty much more of the same. Ridiculous. We do all of our purchasing on the debit card – neither one of us keeps actual cash on us anymore really – so it was easy to see where the money went. I went through the rest of the month looking specifically at grocery and bills and discovered that I’d spent $700 on groceries. What the heck?! That was before I started meal planning and shopping from a list more often. I’m afraid to look at this month’s grocery spending because I stocked up on meat. I’m betting it will rival that month’s by the time we’re done.


Anyway, She advises a strange way of doing your money. She doesn’t like to budget, so she says that you zero out your bank account every time. The first month send minimums to everything. After that, everything that’s left over at the end of the month goes to the first debt you’re paying off (she advises highest interest rate first or, if you have one that’s been really hanging over your conscience, pay that one first – like a loan from your parents or something) on the last day of the month (or pay period. She gets paid once a month so that’s how it works for her). That puts your balance at zero when you get paid. Pay all of your bills, including minimums to all of your debts, and figure out how much you need for everything else (using the averages you got from reverse budgeting over three months). Now try to do better. See where you can cut expenses and save money. When you have money left at the end of the period, send it to the first debt that you’re paying off.


This sounds good, but I tend to spend to the last dollar. Maybe I need to try it her way. I kind of am planning on it actually. I have given us a certain (lower than usual) amount per paycheck and I’m going to try to spend even less than that. But let’s be honest, any less that I spend will go toward fun stuff. And that’s OK with me. I have already cut our prospective spending by $800 a month. That’s a huge amount. We don’t need to cut any more than that. With Hubby’s retirement contributions going to the debt for the next year as well, we’re going to get it paid off just as quickly as I’d like.


In the meantime, I am going to have to go on a year-long spending fast. This book was nice in its motivational force. Hubby doesn’t want to do it, so I won’t make him. I’m budgeting in money for him, but I do the majority of the shopping for the family. I need to rein it in. I tend to spend freely at the grocery store because, after all, you need to eat, right? I still do it sometimes, though not as often. I’m getting better at meal planning and shopping sales. When I forget or just don’t meal plan for the week, it’s really obvious. We flounder (so to speak) trying to find things to eat, and that’s when we order pizza or just let the kids eat chicken strips all week. Bad Mommy! But, with proper planning and once-a-week shopping, we’ll spend less and get everything we need for meals for the week. Once again, I’m starting a book moratorium, too. I have plenty but I’ve been buying them more and more lately. That’s part of where that $80 at Amazon went.



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5 Responses to Book review: Debt-Free Living

  1. youmeanme says:

    This sounds great! I’m going to seek out the book at the library. I’m intrigued by the zero out idea. I’ve finally kicked the big consumer debt so now I’m trying to find ways to stay debt free and not fall victim to lifestyle inflation, now that I can afford some more frivolous items.

    • This could totally work for building up savings as well. As I said, Hubby and I are horrible about staying frugal once we’re out of debt (or even while we’re still in it ). The book is neat though and totally worth a read. I hope it inspires you and gives you some ideas!

      • youmeanme says:

        So I’ve put it on hold but another book with a similar title came up: The Debt Free Spending Plan by Joanneh Nagler.
        There’s nothing new in it but her method and explanations are nice. I’m about a third through and loving the way she has it set up.
        Thanks for restarting my financial reading kick 😀

  2. Linda Murray says:

    This sounds like my kind of book! I’m always looking for new ways to save money and decrease spending, and one way I’ve found to “trick myself” into not spending is to ask myself, “Do I need this RIGHT NOW?” If the answer is no, then I’ll postpone spending/buying, and often, I’ll discover that I really didn’t “need” it after all, and didn’t really even want it all that much to begin with! Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of your journey. It’s a long and winding road, but you’re heading in the right direction! 🙂

    • Thanks for sticking with me! I just find it so hard to take that second to ask myself questions. I shop on automatic pilot more often than not. I’mean slowly getting better about not just wandering around and putting anything that catches my fancy in the cart, but I still do ithe every once in a while. I’mean going to try that though, asking the question. It’seems easierror for things other than groceries though. I tend to spend on groceries more than anything.

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