#FinCon15: An Interview with Zina Kumok, Founder of DebtFreeAfterThree.com
Posted By Abby Perkins on September 15, 2015 at 11:50 am
The GoodCall team is getting excited to head to #FinCon15. This year, it’s right in our backyard in Charlotte, NC. And leading up to the conference, we wanted to reach out to a few of our fellow attendees to say hello and ask them a few questions – about everything from college finance to current events.
The first person we spoke with? Zina Kumok of DebtFreeAfterThree.com. Zina, a blogger, speaker, freelance writer and personal finance coach, is an expert on all things budgeting and saving. In fact, she managed to pay off $28,000 in student loans in just three years after graduating from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2011. We asked Zima how she did it, and got her opinions on rising student debt levels. She also shared her top tips for paying off debt:
GC: You paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in 3 years – something that could easily take 10 years or more on a typical payment schedule. However, while you budgeted and couponed, you also took trips to Europe in the Middle East. How did you balance trying to pay your loans off as quickly as possible with still living a normal – and enjoyable – life?
ZK: A fellow blogger of mine, Paula Pant, says that you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything. I was still driving a 1999 Toyota Avalon when I graduated and even though friends of mine upgraded their vehicles, I kept mine. I also didn’t go out to eat very often and I was pretty frugal about my extracurricular activities.
Because my two priorities were paying off debt and saving for travel, I had to cut other things. So even though I would travel to Spain, at home I would rarely go out to lunch or get drinks on the weekends.
I believe most people can do what they want to do and still be financially responsible. It’s all a matter of priorities.
GC: Americans currently owe a total of $1.2 trillion in student loans, with an average of $28,400 per person. Do you think rising student debt levels are a big problem – one that needs to be dealt with on an institutional or governmental level?
ZK: I definitely think the government needs to address the rising cost of student loans. College costs have outpaced inflation for decades now. I heard so many stories from Baby Boomers about how they were able to pay for college themselves, but you can’t do that anymore. The economy will be a lot better off if students are able to graduate and start saving for a house instead of repaying thousands in loans
GC: What are your top saving tips for someone looking to pay off a large amount of debt in a short time – whether it’s student loans, credit cards or a car payment?
ZK: My best piece of advice for anyone trying to pay off debt quickly is to start where you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re making minimum wage or $40,000 a year, if you get started, that’s the most important part. Too many people feel overwhelmed so they don’t do anything except pay the minimum.
When I first started paying off my student loans, I only had $10 extra a month to put toward my loans. Even that took one year off the total amount I paid off my loans. Most of us can find an extra $10 a month. Once you do that, you can find another $10 or $20. Remember, the less time you spend paying off loans the more you save in interest.
Stay tuned for more interviews with #FinCon15 attendees later this week!