Kelly sits down with Annika Caldwell from 23 & Debt Free to discuss her family's financial journey, their business, and her new book which releases today! Annika has a servant heart which allows her to take her family's experience and vulnerably share it to help others reach their own freedom from debt. A debt free life doesn't just change your check book. It can change your mental health as well. Listen to find out how!
Annika Caldwell Interview
K: Thank you, Annika for being on the show today, I appreciate it. A: Not a problem. K: Can you introduce yourself and tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? A: Yeah. My name is Annika Caldwell. I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which is actually a recent change for us. We had been in Jamestown for a few years. My husband and I came up here to Grand Forks so that he could attend Law School. We have two little girls - a 3-and-a-half-year-old and a 2-year-old and another one on the way, so that's a little crazy. I'm a stay-at-home mom, which honestly blends itself perfectly to running my own business. On top of being a stay-at-home mom, I get the privilege of being a financial coach, owner and founder of the company 23 and Debt Free. K: Awesome! Well, thank you for sharing that with us. Could you tell us a little bit more about the story of your financial journey? A: Yeah! I'll take you back a few years. My senior year of college, my husband and I were preparing to get married. We got married halfway through my senior year. I was about to graduate from the University of Jamestown completely debt-free. I didn't have any student loans, didn't have any credit cards - nothing. So that was awesome. I knew I was marrying into debt, however. We got married and we were a little bit scared by his student loans, which honestly when compared to the national average, were pretty much right on par. It was still scary. My husband had some student loans and furniture notes, credit cards, and so I married into this debt. It was like, "Okay, I didn't have any debt but this is our debt and we need to tackle it.” We knew that the lifestyle wasn’t one we wanted to live. It took us a while to really get into a spot where we could not take on more debt. When we started this process, I can't remember what our number was. I want to say he graduated undergraduate with about $40,000 in student loans. But then he had other debt, too. Along the way, we actually came into a little more debt. Like, we may have had a home renovation that we weren't prepared to pay for. Had the first baby, wasn't prepared to pay for that. We worked our tails off - Hard, hard, budgeting, lots of cost cutting, really living on about fifteen percent of our income. K: Did you say fifteen? A: Yeah, fifteen percent of our income is what we were living on. K: Oh, my goodness! Okay, I just wanted to clarify. A: Yeah. No, it was crazy. It was crazy tight. It wasn't like that at first because when we first got into budgeting it wasn't that important, I wasn't that invested. Like, it wasn't my debt, but it was, you know? I had married into it - I just, I wasn't invested in the same way he was. It took us a while to get to that point of really living on fifteen percent because we were learning to cut and because we were willing to give up things. We were able to pay off almost $97,000 of debt in 26 months. That was really where our story began. We saw the end, we thought we were done; we're like, "Wow! That was amazing! We're never going to be in debt again!” We really saw that as the conclusion of our journey. But, I believe that sometimes God just places experiences in your life to give you a testimony. We were starting to feel that we were supposed to share our story. That's kind of how 23 and Debt-Free came about. We began sharing our story. Now, fast-forward. We got married in 2014 so fast-forward almost four years. We're now cash-flowing a lot for my husband and keeping me at home. It kind of shows you the transformation that has happened on the surface level of our debt-free journey. K: Absolutely. Can we just take a moment to appreciate what you guys were able to do though? Fifteen percent?! Sorry, that I interrupted you, but fifteen percent! That's mind-blowing! A: It was crazy. Like I said, it didn't start off that way. We weren't ready to give that up right away but we got to the point where we just got mad at our debt. We just wanted it gone. It's like, why do we have this? We don't want to owe people money. That's not the lifestyle that we wanted to live. By the time things were said and done, we were at fifteen percent. When I’m telling our story, a lot of times I say “We've paid off almost $97,000 in debt.” And I always follow it up with, “Guys, we weren't making a six-figure income. When that started, our annual household income was about $40,00. We had raised it to about $60,000 by the end. We weren't working with big numbers. I get it; you guys can do it, too!” K: That is so remarkable! And just really speaks to your dedication for wanting a different life for yourself, you know? That's really awesome. Can you talk us through some of the tangible steps that you took throughout this process? A: Absolutely. The very, very most important thing you can say is we budgeted. And we continue to budget. Budgeting, by far, is the number one thing that you need to do to really take control of your finances. Your income size doesn’t matter. It doesn't matter if you're like we were and you're staring down the barrel at $100,000 of debt. You know, maybe it's $200,000 of debt. Or if you're a millionaire. It does not matter. You need a budget. Getting that budget in place was key for a few reasons. One - it allowed us to step back and look at where we were spending. When we first started budgeting, we were freshly married. We didn't really have an idea of what are we going to spend on groceries. What does a grocery budget look like? When you're just swiping your card or whatever, you're not taking that in the same way. You're not always aware of how much you really are spending. Budgeting made us more aware of those numbers. It also forced us to communicate. I’d like to think that we're pretty good communicators in our relationship but budgeting was that bit of motivation to communicate on a regular basis. If you're single, it’s a little different. When you're talking to a couple, this is a process that has to happen together. When we first started budgeting, we were actually doing bi-weekly budgets rather than monthly budgets. We were forced to check-in with each other at least every other week on the topic of finances. It was really good to open those lines of communication. Other things we did - oh my word, we did so many things. I can't even name them all and I’ve been writing about them, however many years. Lots of little things we think of, like paper coupons that I take to the store. Those are pennies saved here and there that really do add up over the months, over the years. We looked into almost every insurance we had. Is our Home Insurance policy the best policy we can have? Is our Medical Insurance? We were looking at those and shopping around. If you think about the different types of insurances you have, you probably have at least five different types of insurance. If you're over-paying on those, that can be the difference between hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Medical Insurance for sure - that was a really big one when we decided to go to more of a high deductible plan and switch those things around. Analyze a lot of cost in different areas of life. Be willing to make sacrifices. By the end of our two-year journey, we were honestly kind of lonely because the choices we were making were weird. We live in a society where it's totally okay, it's totally normal to have debt, to use debt to live on. We can swipe credit cards. Those weren’t the choices we were making because we were living on fifteen percent of our income. There was a lot we weren't doing. We weren't doing a lot of social things because they cost money. One of the big things was just being willing to make that sacrifice. Looking back now, I'm like, “Oh my word, we had to make that sacrifice for what? Two years? Now we get to raise our children in a home that's completely debt-free and we get to have little splurges now and then because that works in our budget. Budgeting seemed really lonely and really exhausting at the time, but I’m so thankful we made those choices. K: That makes a lot of sense. Can I ask, did you guys do the Financial Peace Program? I remember reading something about that with Dave Ramsey and his plan. Can you tell everyone a little about that? I love Dave Ramsey's plan. I’m really familiar with it. But there may be people listening that aren't. So can you talk them through that process? A: Absolutely. My husband graduated the year before me. He was not aware when he started school of all of the papers he was signing. Hee thought that he had quite a few less loans than he did. When he graduated, he got a little scared by his numbers and he was like, "Okay, I need to fix this. I got a woman I want to marry, I know I want to have a family someday." So he started researching. It was Dave Ramsey that really caught him. He read some stuff by Larry Winget, some by David Bock, but Dave Ramsey drew us in.
We didn't get a chance to take Financial Peace University right away. We got married in December and kind of started the process right away. It was that next Fall that we took it and were hooked. Sometimes people are like, "Oh, I just can't spend that $125." For us it was a no-brainer. We wanted the education that he was able to provide. So, we hopped on board with Financial Peace University.
They've redone it a few times since then.
It's a nine-week course and every week kind of delves into a different subject. You're not spending nine weeks on budgeting. You're spending time on budgeting, you're spending time on insurance, you're spending time on buying and selling a home, negotiating. You're covering all these different topics that are going to make you a more successful person, a more successful consumer. He's addressing all of these different topics.
We actually had the opportunity, and we took it, to help lead a small group there and then we both had to lead it one more time at our church. You can take Financial Peace University online but I always try to encourage people to take it in person if they can because when you show up for a week of Financial Peace University, the first thing you do is you watch a video and it’s usually Dave doing a majority of the teaching for about a 45 to 50 minute video. Then, you break into small groups. There are discussion questions and that's where it really happens. That's why I encourage people to take it in person if they can. In that small group, you're surrounded by people that are in similar situations to you. They're people that want to be serious about this, too. And they're people that are scared. They're just real people - They'll hold you accountable, and they'll encourage you. Those groups were so key for us. We already knew that was a lifestyle that we wanted to lead but when we were getting defeated and we were unsure about things, those are the groups that scooped us up and just encouraged us and kept us going. Financial Peace University is a really awesome class. Just a side note for your listeners in the Jamestown area, I was kind of bummed because I had gotten in contact with a couple who has hosted at our church before and they're not hosting this fall. But I was on Dave Ramsey's website just the other day and noticed there's this individual in Jamestown that is going to be hosting a class starting October 25th. If you have listeners that are interested in taking Financial Peace University, I know there is one class coming to Jamestown. K: Awesome! That's really exciting. Thank you for sharing that! Would you say that one of you was more insistent about financial freedom for your family or were you both kind of on the same page? A: I would say it flipped a little bit. At first, like I said, I just wasn't super on-board. I didn't feel committed the same way. I think Logan felt pretty convicted by his debt so badly that he was starting a family and hadn't been able to take care of it first. If wishes were fishes, he would have liked to have all his debt paid off before were married and having kids. So, I think he felt convicted by that. He felt that as the man of the house he was supposed to provide for his family, and instead he provided all of this debt.
He was so on top of it right away. He was like, "We have to do this, we have to be intense. This is what we're going to do." Slowly, I got more on board and I started seeing the progress.
We made these debt thermometers that were on our fridge and every time we paid off some debt, we colored it in so we could see the debt being paid off in a visual way.
Both of our birthdays are in March and at the beginning of that month, we made our last debt payment. We celebrated our birthday month by being debt free.
But it was shortly before that time, around Fall, I started to sense Logan losing that enthusiasm that he had had - that drive. Quite frankly I think he was just exhausted. I was working some from home, but he was working the long hours away from his family and he just wanted to be done. I started to see him lose that enthusiasm and I remember thinking, "We have to do this, we have to do this."
I started selling stuff on Facebook. There was one time that in two weeks I sold $1,000 worth of stuff. We kept all this cash that we took in as payment and at the end of the two weeks, I showed it to him and he was like, "Oh my word! I think you might've outdone me this week." It was reassuring for him, when he was losing that motivation, that his wife wasn't going to allow us to let it slip. We took turns being the super on top of it. When one of is us fading, the other one was able to kind of push through. Which I think is the beauty of marriage. K: That's awesome. That was one of the questions I was going to ask you - how do you keep pushing through? But it sounds to me like when one person started to waver a little bit, the other person just came alongside and was like, "we're going to do this." A: Yep. That spouse is like your built-in accountability partner. I feel like if you're single, it's really important to find that accountability partner that's not just like any friend but is that person that understands your convictions. Because I understood his conviction, I knew his dreams.
I know where we want to go as a couple, I know the things we want to do so that made it easier for me to just push and say, "No, we're going to do this! Keep going! Don't lose it now!" K: Absolutely. And I love the fact that you brought up an accountability partner for someone who is single because I think a lot of times we forget that not everybody necessarily has a spouse or is even interested in a significant other. And so, I think it's great to be able to talk through that process and that you don't have to have a spouse to do this, but if you need somebody to support you, it sounds like an accountability partner would be a really fantastic idea.
I'm super supportive of surrounding yourself with people who are really authentic to you and can really be there for you in those moments. I think, for the people who don't necessarily feel like they have that immediate person who they can rely on, to be able to look around to even your friend's group, your family group, and know whose going to be able to withstand it for the long haul, depending on how much debt you have, of course. A: Right? Absolutely. I love how you said that. Understand where your heart is and really be able to support you. K: I'm really curious, because you said that you came into the relationship debt-free already - were you taught financial freedom as a child and did you have a good concept of money at that point? A: That's funny that you ask that because I was just having a conversation with my husband about this the other day. I was raised in a single-parent home. My mom raised us and she was a teacher in rural North Dakota, so not making a lot. In fact, our family was considered low income. I didn't actually know that until my senior year of high school when I was applying for scholarships. I went in to talk to the high school counselor and just ask her what scholarships she had. She put one down in front of me and I said, "No, no, no, you don't understand. This is low income. I’m not low income."
She looked at me and said, "Yes, you are." So that gives you an idea of the home I was raised in. I never had a concept that we were low income. Now, my mom really did a great job of teaching us about finances and being open about it from the perspective that, I know she didn't make a lot but I also knew kind of what her budget looked like. I knew the ways that she was saving. She was honest about the ways that she was frugal. She was honest about her spending.
I grew up in a rural town and when we drove to Bismarck once every few months to do our shopping and doctors appointments, I remember that we got a lot of our clothes at thrift stores. We didn't buy clothes brand new, which was fine with me. But I remember her making me conscious of that. We would get done at a thrift store and she'd be like, "Wow! We spent $50 but how many things did we get? How many things did we cross off our list?”
We would go to Wal-Mart and we'd have this big cart full of stuff that we had to stock up on because we were in the big city of Bismarck and she would go, "Okay, how much do you think it's going to be, kids?" I think she made us really aware of what those expenses looked like and aware of how to live frugally.
We lived well. We had splurges, we had opportunities. And we were living on a teacher's income. Now, I will say, when I got ready to go to college, I applied for forty scholarships my senior year of high school. My mom, bless her heart, was next to me through the whole thing, otherwise I don't think I would've made it. 40 scholarships.
I remember looking at my mom and being like, "Mom, I’m gonna do school debt-free."
No idea where I heard that. I knew nothing about Dave Ramsey. Our personal finance class in high school was how do you write a check and how do you balance your ledger, you know?
I don't know where that idea came from.
My mom, knowing the cost of college, knowing that I was working my tail-end off but that my work didn't guarantee scholarships, and also knowing that she didn't have a ton saved for me, sat me down and got real with me one night. She said, "You know what, Annika? I'm really glad that you have this goal but I want you to know that you're probably going to have to take out a student loan or two. And that's okay."
She talked me through that process. I would say that I had a lot of financial education as a child, not because she went out of her way to provide it, but from a perspective that we were aware of it. When it came down to doing college debt-free, I think that came down to a crazy goal on my part that was actually able to be fulfilled, almost completely on scholarships. I did over ninety percent of my schooling with scholarships. There was a little bit my junior and senior year that was paid from a cash-flow out of a summer job that I had had or touching a little bit of the savings that my mom had had for me for college. K: That is so impressive! If I can just really give you props for that. For you and for your mom to, throughout your whole childhood, talk about finances without making it a big formal, just kind of yucky subject. It's just incorporated throughout your life. A: Yeah. And looking back at that, it’s beautiful how she did it.She was teaching us and making us so aware of it and it was so informal. Like you said, it was just a part of daily life.
I had the beauty of experiencing that with my own daughter. We used to do a lot of our spending with cash. We use cash for a lot of things and we use coupons and when we go to Wal-Mart we often use Self-Checkout because my 3 and-a-half year old loves to scan items.
One night, I was doing something and she came bounding out of our room and up to me and she had this hand full of coupons and a couple ten-dollar bills. She said, "Mommy, we have to take these to Wal-Mart." Or we have to go buy groceries, something like that. I just stopped and I was like, "Oh my word." I had not gone out of my way to teach her anything. But because she was scanning, because she was putting the coupons in, she was putting the cash in and getting cash out - she was a part of that process. She doesn't really understand it, but it made me stop This is what my mom did. This is how she did it. She just made us a part of it. K: I love that so much. I think a lot of times kids are watching when we don't really realize and they pick up a lot more. To be able to just have her witness your dedication to that and take that over herself, that's awesome.
I’m really glad that you touch on things that you do for your own kids and that this conversation came up with your mom because that's one of the things I think people struggle with.
So now, if they do have that financial knowledge, how do they then incorporate that with their own children. I feel like this conversation is going to give people a lot of ideas of really tangible ways to just make it a part of daily life. Can I ask you a little bit about, as of course I’m therapist and so I'm always thinking mental health-wise, how do you feel financial strain affects mental health? A: I feel like I had a little personal insight into this this last summer. We moved to Grand Forks in July. At this point, we're debt-free, we have this savings and we're also putting into the house, which I guess you could consider another kind of savings in a way, it's just not in your bank account. It's in your house instead. And so we had this estate, we had a fully funded emergency fund, we had three to six months of living expenses, meaning if something happened and my husband was out of work we were okay for three to six months. We had that.
Before we moved, we had renovations that had to get finished. We were doing a lot ourselves but we had to get it done so we could sell the house and we could move. We had this pressure and by the time it was all said and done and we were moving, our savings had squandered. Our savings had to be put into the house and our house hadn't quite sold. We were in negotiations but it was unsure as to whether or not the buyer was really going to buy and that was really hard.
During our debt-free journey, it was tight. We lived on next to nothing. But what's the worst that was going to happen? The worst that would happen was we couldn't make an extra debt payment. We had the money for the basics but we just couldn't pay extra. We asked ourselves if we were going to make it, if we would make it to next month? That was the feeling and that was a crazy spot to be after working so hard and getting to this point of security.
It got to the point that I actually went in and talked to someone. I was not okay. Granted, Logan was already working in Grand Forks, I was kind of doing the stay-at-home mom gig, and I was pregnant, so there were a lot of factors but I was absolutely amazed at how much stress and tension that caused in my life and in our marriage.
I think that July was probably one of the most tense months we have had in our marriage. We were just like, can we do this?
We knew the Lord called us to do this. I kept telling myself, "We just have to trust Him. We just have to trust Him and stay dedicated to what we're doing."
But it was so hard.
My emotional and mental health was not good. I was not in a good place. I feel like I was struggling with spiritual health, too, I would say to some extent. I was clinging to that, and felt like I had nothing else to hang onto.
When you look at the statistics, money is the number one or two reason for divorce and after those couple of months, I was like, "I get it." Money causes so much tension, almost an unspoken tension but we were both aware of it and we both knew we were struggling. I would say, yeah, huge mental health things, huge relationship things as well. K: For sure, I would agree with that. I always think when people say, "Well, money doesn't buy everything." Well, that may be true until you're to the point where you can't even buy groceries or pay your rent and then money is way more important that you ever realized in your life. I think to realistically say that money doesn't matter or that we don't need that or it doesn't affect us, would really be minimizing of the effect it can have.
Now, certainly I don't mean to say that money should be the only focus, but I think that it can give you so much more freedom in life to even just pursue more of your goals or be able to help other people more, whatever you may want to do with that. I think that it's important to know that money absolutely does affect mental health. A: Yeah. I love a few of the things you said there, Kelly. We have tried to be careful not to get too focused on money. You don't want that to be your existence by any means. That would be horrible. But you're right; it touches every single area of our life. Money is a part of how we function and how we live. It’s amazing - the stress it can cause. But I also love the part you said, too, is that there is a more positive side to it.
We've talked a lot about the sacrifices we made, the cost -cutting we did, the budgeting. People hate that word - budgeting.
I love that word.
Some of these things sound so negative but when we have them in place, we're able to do fun things. When you talk about those goals, like vacations, vacations are totally in our budget. We can do that because they're making choices to allow us to do those fun things we want to do. K: I think the one thing, too, is that a lot of times people who are in debt, who are using maybe, and this is not a judgment towards anyone, but anyone who's maybe using a credit card when you go on vacation, that adds a whole new level of stress and so when you're really able to cash flow that more, that freedom just really opens up for you. You can really be present in the moment and enjoy it rather than worrying that you’ve added more debt. You’re not thinking, “I’m not sure how we're going to make this work, I don't know when we can ever do this again.” I think that just puts a different experience for everyone, really. A: Oh I think so. I think you're way more relaxed and stress-free when you're there and you know that you have financially prepared to be there. K: Yes. I like the way you said that. That is a great perspective. What would you say to somebody who may be a single parent, or someone who is going through a really terrible health issue? How would they navigate this process? A: I would say a few things. First of all, for us in particular, our faith is really important. We have made the choices in our finances the way that we have because of our convictions through our faith. So that's been really important.
One of the first things I always check in with people when it does come to the financial aspect of it, is do you have a budget in place? Because it's amazing how much money just disappears when you don't have a budget. And that budget actually ends up being a zero-based budget. We don't ever want to have leftovers in our budget because those leftovers just disappear, right? So that's always a big push.
When you're looking at something like health issues, that's a different ball game. There's more concerns, too, because now we’re thinking what is your physical well-being? Are you out of work? How big are these health issues? There's so much to a person besides just their finances, which obviously you know well. I think it's different based on every situation. If I were just to go surface-level with you and not really know someone's personal situation, if they're trying to pay off all their debt but they also have all these medical bills coming in because they're not doing well, I’m going to tell them to pause paying big amounts on their debt and to only pay their minimums.
This is what we did when we found out I was pregnant with our second, actually. We paused. We were only paying minimums on our debt and we were cash flowing. We were able to then cash flow her birth.
In the case of the health issue, if it means by cash-flowing that you backup your goal a little bit for your final pay-off, that's okay because you haven't taken on extra debt at extra interest rates in the meantime. K: That's really great advice. A: Every situation and every person’s needs are so different. The budget absolutely is unique but then how you handle it really does change based on the situation and what the needs are. I would say that one of your bigger goals is going to be not to take on more debt. If that means you need to slow down debt payments in order to allow for that, then that's a good thing to do. K: I love your perspective - that each person is so individualized. Sometimes it feels like when you hear, not just financial plan, but any plan in general, it feels super generic. But the fact that you're wanting to really fit that for the person, for their particular situation, to make sure that that's what's best for them, I think is really valuable. A: And everyone has different needs, different concerns. Everyone's budget is going to look way different. The budget categories my husband and I have are not going to be the same as someone who is single with no kids.
We were sitting in with a couple once, we were helping them through things, and I remember seeing that they had cancer insurance. And cancer insurance is not usually a necessity because most medical insurances actually cover you for cancer. In this situation, it was a real concern for this woman because she had had enough cancer in her family and it was a fear for her and so although that wasn't in my mind a necessity, to her it was. Understanding that perspective and knowing where she was coming from and knowing that was a little fear-based for her, I knew that we couldn't touch that. Maybe there will be a day where she can say, "You know what, no. I’m okay with just the medical." But that was not something we could touch at that point. K: I think not pushing someone to have that same perspective as you do is really great to be able to honor their wishes and empower them and encourage them to make their own choices. It's really great. A: Absolutely. I'm going to provide resources, I’m going to provide tools but it's up to you how you utilize them. K: Can we talk a little bit about your book? A: My book, I actually just got a package in the mail today, so I got to hold it for the first time. I'm super excited. It looks great, We're going to be releasing it for the public very soon, actually.
My book is titled “23 and Debt-Free”. It is fifty practical tips to help you live life debt-free. When we were walking through this whole debt-free process, we touched before on Dave Ramsey. We relied a lot on him and his plan and we are still sticking to Dave Ramsey's plan to this day. I feel like he’s really good at addressing the bigger issues. How do we go about finding insurance? How do we budget? He delves into a lot of those big topics. But I felt like what was missing was the nitty-gritty everyday stuff. How can you replace reusable items for disposable items and save and what do those savings look like? What kinds of items are out there?
With all those everyday choices that we're making, what are the choices that we were making that was making our food budget smaller? What were the choices that we were making that were helping us at holiday times? Holidays can be so expensive, how do we make that doable? This book goes through fifty tips and tells our story the whole way through as well. We're really excited for it to finally be out there. K: That's really exciting. I would say, just from my knowledge of Dave Ramsey, I’ve read his books, I’ve learned about his plan as well. I would absolutely agree with your assessment of that. He is thinking bigger picture and that he is wanting you to figure out the steps you will take day-to-day and how you will determine it yourself. I don't think he gives a lot of those tips that your book would. I think that's a really great addition to this whole financial process. I think it's great that you're doing that. Did I see that you're having a book signing? Is that right? Can you tell us about those? Where they are and when? A: We actually only released the date on one of them so far. On the morning of Wednesday, November 14th, I will actually be at Plantation Coffee Bar doing a book signing that morning and I’ll have copies of the book with me. I am so grateful that Plantation has offered to host me. We’re running a little deal that the first ten people who buy my book that morning will get a free coffee. So if you're an early bird, you get a coffee on me that morning. That'll be really fun. I'm excited to kind of be back where our journey began and getting to see the people there.
We also have a book signing in Bismarck. That week in November I’m actually doing two days of speaking in different engagements in Jamestown and then I’ll be two days in Bismarck. So we will have a book signing in the Bismarck area. I haven't released the details on that one yet. That one's going to be in coordination with Mighty Missouri Coffee Company at the YMCA. We haven't released that event on our page quite yet just because we don't have the exact time nailed down. K: We'll kind of get a sneak-peak down here then. A: Yes, yes, sneak-peek. You can always press the page for more details. And then there will be one in Grand Forks with Ferguson Books, which should be happening also in the beginning of November. I'm still trying to coordinate things with Fargo or Minot, some of those other big cities, but we've got Bismarck, Jamestown, and Grand Forks all on the schedule or very close to on the schedule. K: If I can, I will certainly stop by when you're here in Jamestown and say hello and get a book and everything. That'd be really nice to be able to do that. I just want to ask a couple of questions as we close out here. Are you familiar with Brene Brown at all? A: Yes. Oh my goodness. K: Every time I ask someone that, they're like absolutely, like how can you not? I mean she's so good. So listeners, if you're not familiar with Brene Brown, go check her out. I'm going to say that every podcast episode probably. People are going to be like, "I get it! Brene's awesome." But she is awesome.Have you read her book "Braving the Wilderness”? A: I have not yet. K: She is super amazing in there. One of the things she talks about is about how walking into the wilderness is terrifying. You obviously don't know where you're going, you don't know what you're doing and you're doing it alone. And so I’m wondering, has there been a time in your life when you're like, “I am stepping into this, I’m not sure what I’m doing, I am feeling completely alone, but I’m going to go anyway”? A: I feel like that happens a lot. It's so sad to say. I would say this past summer was a big one for me actually. I grew up in a small town, moved to Jamestown for college, and we stayed there.
The summer when we're trying to finish renovations on our home, my husband was working crazy hours. At that point he was working in Grand Forks, so he was gone for days at a time. And when he was home he was working crazy hours on the ambulance in Jamestown, so I’m kind of alone. I mean, that's not how it should be.
He was very supportive but I felt alone.
Here I am, tryng to take care of two kids, I’m pregnant, I’m sick, trying to finish these renovations and I am just scared because all of a sudden we're moving and it wasn’t something I wanted to do.
I had a tribe in Jamestown. We had a huge support network between our church and our University family and my Bible study ladies. We were connected and my grandma was right there in town. We had people who were always watching out for us, always on our team and all of a sudden I’m being taken away from that network.
I think that was even more terrifying from the standpoint that I was a stay-at-home mom, so I really did need that network of people. I would say this last summer was very much like a time of wilderness. It was a time where people didn't know really where I was at. We were not public about our pregnancy at that point. I was really struggling with that. There were just so many emotional challenges that were coming with all that, that are so hidden. Logan was aware of them but that was about it. So I would say that was very much a time of wilderness where I was just like, “What am I doing? Where am I going?”
I couldn't lean on anything else except the word. That's where it was for me. I was like, I can't do this, I'm terrified right now. Like, God, you're calling us to do this, I know you've asked Logan to go to law school, I know we're doing what you asked us to, but why are we doing this? K: And just being a little unsure of that but you continued anyway? I think that's great and I'm guessing that's going to resonate with a lot of people as well. If you had to pick out, it can be a few people, but who would you say are your biggest encouragers in life and why? A: My mom, for sure. Always has been. My book is dedicated to my mom and my kids. She was the one who really helped mold me into who I am today.
I was a very, very shy little girl. So to have gotten to this point, being able to be outspoken about things and setting and achieving goals, she was a huge part of that for me and establishing those skills in my childhood. Now that I’m married, my husband, for sure. He's a huge cheerleader. In fact, it was when I started writing, I was just writing for fun, I just like to write. And all of a sudden, one night he goes, "I think you need to write a book." Like, you need to write this down. And so he is, he is just, in all those moments where I’m just doing the leap of faith thing, I’m like there's something in my heart, I know it's there, I know I should do something about it but it might cause a few ripples. He's always the one that's like, "Go get it babe!." Like, just go do it. You just need to get it done. I definitely would say my mom and my husband are like my two top cheerleaders. Also, I have a little brother that's pretty awesome, too. He's always been my number one fan. K: I'm really glad to hear that. Well, shout out to all three of them for sure. A: Yes, for sure! K: Can you tell everyone just real quick where to find you online, where they can buy your book, and all of that good stuff? A: If you're looking for us online, we have a few different options. We have a website - www.23anddebtfree.com and we've got lots of links on that page. We have all the information for the financial coaching that we provide, event information is on that page, basic financial information like if you're just having questions about things, links for all of our social media pages. I'm working on putting a blog on there, too, so hopefully there will be some fun stories filtering their way onto that page eventually. We have a Facebook page and an Instagram page. Both of those are 23 and Debt Free. We're very active on Facebook. I just did a live tonight. We try to be active on Instagram as well, so you'll want to watch both of those pages to find out the release date for our book when that is finally public. Just a dream come true, I can't quite wrap my brain around it. K: I can't wait to see what all you do with it and, it's just really great. I'm really excited for you guys. You should be really proud, truly, of what you've been able to accomplish and where you're going. It's really great and it's going to help a lot of people. A: We’re really excited about our events coming up, too. Be sure to check those out, because many of them are completely free. We're not charging people for this information because we're really passionate about it, and providing the resources and the tools for other people that we have. K: I did see, too, that you even have childcare at one of the events. Is that right? A: Yeah, yes! For the Jamestown event. The Live Life Financially Free event happening in Jamestown on November 13th , Trinity Lutheran Church has graciously offered to host the event and then in offering to host it, they are also providing childcare, which is just amazing. I mean, my husband and I understand that childcare is expensive and it's hard to find a babysitter. There's sometimes things we just miss out on because we can't. Yes, if people want to be there, we've got their kids covered. K: That's awesome. That is great. Thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your passion and I just think truly it's going to make a huge difference for a lot of people. A: Thank you, Kelly!