How to Tell You’re Ready to Buy a House

Making the decision to become a homeowner is emotionally and financially complex. Here are some key things to ask yourself if you’re considering whether buying is right for you.

Do you have a good reason to buy?
Sometimes switching from renting to buying is a no-brainer.  Maybe you live in a modern one-bedroom apartment in a chic part of town, but you have a baby on the way. If you want a place in a good school district, with more square footage and a yard, buying may well be your best bet.

Other times, the urge to buy is driven by emotion: You see a house you like and you “just know.” There’s nothing wrong with that reaction, but take time to check out the property before you make any commitments. If it’s too far from work, near a noisy road or the best house on a bad block, it may not be as good a deal as it first appears.

And remember: Houses go on the market all the time, and there are tens of millions of single-family homes and condos in the U.S. So there’s no need to worry if your first choice doesn’t work out; your home is out there.

Can you make the upfront investment?
Buying a home requires an initial investment that you can’t ignore.

First, many lenders require a down payment of 20% of the home price. That’s $40,000 for a home that costs $200,000, about the median price in America. You’ll also owe closing costs, which could include loan-origination fees, discount points, appraisal fees, survey fees, underwriting fees, title search fees, and title insurance. Those could total another few thousand dollars.

The expenses don’t end there. You’ll want to hire an independent inspector to look for defects in a home before you buy.  This will cost several hundred dollars, but could save you thousands in repairs. And then there are moving costs, state or city taxes, utilities installation and the costs of changes you might want to make to the home — such as new flooring or painting — that are easiest to do while it’s empty.

This isn’t meant to scare you off; buying a home is still a smart choice for many people, despite the costs. But it does take a lot of cash.

Can you afford the upkeep?
Your mortgage payment might be fixed for the next 30 years, but your property taxes and insurance rates can rise. And if you didn’t make a 20% down payment, you’ll have to buy private mortgage insurance, or PMI, until you have 20% equity in your home. It costs about $165 per month on a $200,000 loan.

Once you’re a homeowner, you’ll also have to pay certain utility bills that might have been included in your rent. And you’ll be responsible for maintenance: double-pane windows one year, a new garage door the next, fixes to the roof five years up the road. It adds up.

These numbers are based on averages.  Plug your specific figures into a rent-or-buy calculator to find out if you’re ready for homeownership. And know that there is no one answer that’s right for everybody. Whether you keep renting or buy, your decision should be right for you alone.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Four Reasons to Buy a Home Instead of Renting

The financial benefits of buying a home compared with renting have yoyoed over the years, especially of late. If you’re sitting on the fence, here are four circumstances in which it may be a better bet to buy.

If interest rates remain low
From a financing perspective, if this isn’t the best time to buy a house, it’s pretty darn close.

The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage, the most common variety, has hovered below or near 4% for several months now. For comparison’s sake, if you bought 10 years ago, the average interest rate was 6.41%. In 1996, it was 7.81%, and in 1981 it was a whopping 16.63%.

Although the Federal Reserve has begun to inchrates upward, it is likely that it will do so slowly and that it will be a while before the cost of borrowing to buy a home stops being historically low.

If home prices level off
Home prices rose steadily in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s before plunging around 2007, and in the past few years they have been climbing again. Different markets have seen different trends, of course, but generally what’s at play is supply and demand: More potential buyers than houses available means sellers can dictate terms and get top dollar.

But something interesting is happening: The oft-told story that millennials are renting for longer or living with their parents nowadays is not entirely accurate. No, people in this age group (born between 1981 and 1997) want very much to own a home, but they are putting it off because of real and imagined difficulties in affording it.

That could mean fewer potential buyers and a cooling of the upward surge in home prices. While others wait, you could pounce.

If rental costs continue rising
Real estate researcher Reis Inc. reports that apartment rents rose 4.6% in 2015. In hot housing markets such as California and the Pacific Northwest, rents are going up by about 14% per year.  According to Zillow, the median asking price nationwide for a rental was $1,575 per month in early 2016.

The monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage — about the average in the U.S. — with a 4% interest rate would be just over $950. Even with taxes, insurance and maintenance, it’s tough to make a financial case in favor of renting.

If you want to save money
Home values over the past 70 years have generally tracked with inflation. Yes, you could make more money in the stock market. But we’re talking real life, not investment advice. Consider two things:

  • Your rent is locked in for a year or two, then will go up. Your mortgage payment can be the same for 30 years.
  • If you are raising a family, it seems all but impossible to save money. But when you sell the house after 30 years (or 20 or 10), someone will hand you hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could put the kids through college or finance your retirement.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Pickaway County Banking Center Donates $25,000 to Circleville City Schools

Circleville Schools Donation (PCBC) 3-18

Pictured, from left, are Branch Manager Jessica Calder, Junior Sarah Moats, Senior Meghan Brooks, Junior Abigail Keaton and Vinton County National Bank Senior Vice President Jodi Motta.

The staff at our Pickaway County Banking Center was thrilled this week to donate $25,000 to the Circleville City Schools for a facilities expansion of their campus softball complex. Since becoming a part of the Pickaway County community in 2014, bank leaders have sought meaningful and lasting ways to contribute to the betterment of Circleville and Pickaway County. Investing in this sports complex will have a long lasting impact for scores of future student athletes in Circleville.

“We invest in the communities we serve,” said Branch Manager Jessica Calder. “That is one of our core values and something we live by each and every day as an organization and as individual employees. Schools are the foundation of our communities and therefore we know that an investment in Circleville City Schools is money well spent,” she said.

The funds will help with the completion of a new softball complex that will include four fields and a building to house concessions and bathrooms. It will be used by high school and middle school teams.

“Time and time again this community has stepped up to help us provide a high quality educational experience, in high quality facilities, for our greatest asset, our students,” said School Superintendent Jonathan Davis. “The Pickaway County Banking Center’s substantial donation is an endearing continuation of such community commitment to our students and I cannot thank them enough for their investment in our Tigers,” Davis said.

The Pickaway County Banking Center is located at 120 S. Court St. in downtown Circleville and recently underwent renovations to beautify the bank’s façade.


Small Business Spotlight: Clary Trucking

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!  

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Talk to Dan Clary about his family’s business for very long and it’s easy to understand the company’s values. Family, hard work, honesty and fairness are not just words in a mission statement but a way of life for the owners and employees of Clary Trucking.

The company is now celebrating its 71st year in business and has grown by leaps and bounds since Dan’s grandpa Jesse Clary, Sr. bought his first truck to haul school coal in 1947. Today the fourth generation family business has an impressive fleet of iconic red Kenworth trucks but they maintain a strong connection to where they have come from and the values that have made them successful.

It all started in 1947 when Jesse Clary Sr. bought that first truck to haul school coal. The next year he bought an International wrecker truck to use for towing services. Then in 1956, on his sixteenth birthday, Jesse Clary, Jr. acquired his driver’s license and began hauling aggregate material and household coal. “Grandpa was a mechanic and happy to do what he did. He was comfortable in his own skin but he didn’t want to deal much with people,” Dan explained. “But he told dad, if he wanted to deal with people, he could do more.”

That’s when the company began to grow. When Jesse Sr. passed away in 1970, the company was hauling coal and was transporting base material for the construction of Route 32, the Appalachian Highway, which cuts through several southern Ohio counties.


Jesse and Patricia Clary are revered by their family for the work they have done to grow the business.

His dad Jesse and mom Patricia grew the business to fifteen trucks that hauled coal, foundry sand and asphalt. Their three children, Rick, Dan and Jackie all joined the family business in the seventies and, by 1978, Clary Trucking had outgrown their location, causing them to move into a new, larger facility in Richmond Dale.

“Mom and Dad did everything by themselves for years, until us kids came of age and could help,” Dan recalled with admiration. “Mom did the bookkeeping at the house and answered the phone. All while they were raising the kids. Dad likes to tell the story that he had six dollars in his pocket when they got married and that’s all the money they had.”

Dan credits his hardworking parents for building the business on a strong foundation and for instilling in their kids and grandkids the value of hard work and growing the business smartly. Jesse Jr. and Patricia have been married for sixty years and, as a team, helped the business grow to what it is today.

And what it is today is impressive.

In 2003 the company had grown so much it moved to a new, larger facility on Eastern Avenue in Chillicothe. Among other things, the facility has a welcoming office space, warehousing and cross-docking capabilities.

With more than fifty trucks and over 130 trailers, Clary Trucking now employs 54 people, including ten who are Clary family. Dan’s sister Jackie, wife Jody, nephew Ben and son’s Scott and John are all part of the operation.

Many of their employees have been with the company for decades, others have retired from there, while some even have grown children who now work for the company. Many employees have been there so long they are like family. They have four employees with a combined total of 175 years working with the company. “Carol, Ron, Wayne and David are very much appreciated. We don’t know what we’d do without them,” Dan said as he talked about folks who have spent their careers with the company.

“We have a good crew of people here. We couldn’t do it without them,” Dan continued. “We have good people and good customers and we learn how to get along with everyone to make it work. One of the best parts of the business is having the family here and that we get along. We don’t fuss and fight. We all pitch in and, for the most part, we’re all pretty universal. We can do each other’s jobs. If it takes extra effort to make something work, you’ve just gotta do it.”

Dan talked about the effect this attitude has on the morale of employees. The drivers notice that the family shows up and works just like they do. “One guy told me once ‘you work with us. You don’t just show up and go home.’ And that’s true. We aren’t living a high life. We live pretty modestly and we work hard to be where we are. We’re not out buying race cars or anything like that,” he laughed.

Dan takes pride in how they do everything in-house. From accounting to mechanics to technology and everything in between, they are completely self-sufficient. “We want things to be done right. It’s that simple. We have found that if we want it done our way, it’s a lot easier to just do it,” Dan observed.

He also emphasized the importance of the company’s good reputation and of doing the right thing, pointing out that they have worked hard to diversify the business and investments to stay on firm financial ground. “You never want to find yourself in the position that you can’t afford to do the right thing. It hasn’t always been easy but we do our best to do the right thing,” he emphasized. “I tell our drivers, it’s not a sin to make a mistake. It is a sin to not own up to it so we can make it right with the customer.”

While some might say they are old fashioned, the Clary family stands by the values that got them to where they are today.

“I want to see us get to a hundred years. But that won’t happen without work. When I was eighteen, I thought growing the business was the hard part and it would be easy once we got there,” Dan reminisced. “I know now it takes as much effort to stay here as it took to get here and we are grateful every day.”

Today, about fifty percent of their business is outside of Ohio and their regular routes include Louisville, Detroit, Charleston, South Carolina and Roanoke, Virginia. “We have grown a lot through our customers because they need something and you have to take care of your customers. You never want to say no if you don’t have to,” Dan explained.

Along with that growth has come countless changes, especially in technology used for operations and for managing their fleet of trucks on the road every day. “Dad, he’s amazed by it, by how much has changed and how quickly it changes,” he acknowledged.

But as they say – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Family and hard work are as important today as they were in 1947 when Jesse Sr. bought that first truck.

At 77 years young, Jesse and Patricia are semi-retired but Jesse still drives a truck whenever he can. They spend part of their year in Florida with their pride and joy – their dog Daisy. The pair have six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

“We’re grateful to be here working and for the people we work with. We’re grateful that everyone is healthy and happy and that we can still be here. It’s been a great life,” Dan said.

Learn more about Clary Trucking at their website.

Why Teens Need a Checking Account

VCNB began offering a student checking account a few years ago in response to a growing number of teens and parents who requested it. There is significant value to a teenager having an age appropriate checking account and we are optimistic that this generation of teens will be more financially savvy because of it.

After all, a teen will be an adult in a few short years. Whether they are headed straight to the workforce or to higher education, your teen soon will experience some degree of independence. Helping them establish good money habits at a young age is an important way to give them a good start to adulthood.

Here’s some food for thought:

Expense tracking and budgeting
Having a checking account teaches teenagers the very basic of skill of not spending more than they have as well as how to record expenses and debits. In general, it helps them develop budgeting skills they will use for a lifetime.

Independence, good habits and financial responsibility
As a parent, you have spent years managing every aspect of your child’s life. While you may not like to think about it, soon your teen will be an adult who needs to make responsible decisions. Independence starts in the teen years and helping them make sound decisions with their money is part of preparing them for adulthood. Habits are created every day – work with them and use a checking account to teach them good ones

Safer than cash
We notice that many of our student checking accounts are opened by teens who are going on school field trips, sometimes out of country. It’s far safer to travel distances or even just around town with a debit card than with a pocketful of cash.

Check out this link to learn more about Student Checking My Way at VCNB. You’ll find this account listed under the Checking Accounts tab.


VCNB Introduces Improvements To Mobile App

We are pretty excited to tell our customers about some new updates to our mobile app, VCNB Mobile! We’re always on the lookout for things that will improve the app experience for our customers and we think you’ll be pleased. Here’s a summary:

Add a bill payee – You asked and we answered! Now you can add a new payee to Online Bill Pay from the app and not just from the website!  Just go to the Payments tab and select Manage Contacts to get started.

Digitize paper bills – Use the camera on your device to take a picture of your paper bill. The app will read the bill’s details from the image so you don’t need to type a word. You can pay the bill now or add it to your To Do list so you can pay it later!

Request money using Popmoney® personal payment service – If someone owes you money, all you need is their email address or mobile phone number to request the amount owed. You can even include a message reminding them what it’s for! The funds they send will be deposited into your VCNB account.

As always, you can use VCNB Mobile to open an account, change your password, transfer funds between VCNB accounts, deposit checks and more! You can even view your balances via Instant Balance without actually logging in to the app.

In case you missed it, you can also use the app to control how, when and where your debit card is used. Click the More tab and then Cards to set spending limits including by type of merchant, geographic location and how much your card can be used for in a single transaction. You can even turn your card on and off at will, ensuring that only you can use your card when you are ready to use it!

What are you waiting for? Log into to VCNB Mobile today to try out all these changes!



Entries Due Soon For Annual Photography Contest

We are excited to announce that our Jackson County Banking Center and Vinton County National Bank in McArthur have teamed up with the Southern Hills Arts Council for their annual Picture Perfect Photography Contest.

This annual contest has been expanded this year to accept entries from both Jackson and Vinton counties and is designed to celebrate the beauty as well as the artistic talents of these communities.

Jackson County Banking Center Branch Manager Josh Palmer expressed his satisfaction that the bank and the Southern Hills Arts Council are working together. “The Markay Cultural Arts Center and Southern Hills Arts Council serve Jackson and the surrounding communities by providing wonderful services and events for our community. We want to do all we can to support them as well as local artists. Opening up this event to both Jackson and Vinton counties will give us a chance to recognize talented individuals that live and work in southeast Ohio,” Palmer said.

He went on to discuss the connection the bank feels to community projects like this one. “As the Jackson County Banking Center is a member of the Vinton County National Bank, we feel a strong tie and connection with both Jackson and Vinton counties. Our bank has always striven to be a community first bank, and organizations like the Markay truly serve our community,” Palmer explained.

This contest is free to enter and cash prizes will be awarded. It is open to amateur photographers including adults 18 and up and youth ages 10-17. Cash awards in both Youth and Adult divisions will be Grand Prize: $100, Second Prize: $75 and Third Prize: $50. A $50 prize will be awarded to the Overall People’s Choice.

Pictures must have been taken in Jackson or Vinton counties after March 1, 2015 to be entered in the contest. Each photographer may enter up to two photos.

Entries are due by 5 p.m. on February 26 and may be submitted at three locations: Vinton County National Bank, 112 W. Main St., McArthur; Jackson County Banking Center, 920 Veterans Dr., Suite E, Jackson; or the Markay Cultural Arts Center, 269 E. Main St., Jackson.

Each entry must be accompanied by an entry form. See below for form and rules. Forms may also be obtained at the drop off locations.

“This photo contest will be a great way to discover and appreciate the beauty of both Jackson and Vinton Counties. We hope everyone will take part,” Palmer noted.

Interested? Learn more about it here!

Click here to download the entry form and contest rules – Markay photo contest 2018

Turn Coins Into Cash At Select VCNB Locations

If you’re like a lot of us, you probably have in your home a jar or a piggy bank filled with loose change. You empty your pockets each evening and give those pennies and dimes a toss into the jar until it gets full. Now, instead of rolling that coin, you can bring it to some of our banks to run it through a coin counting machine.

These self-serve machines are available at the following locations:

     Friendly Bremen Banking Center – East Main Street branch
Friendly Bremen Banking Center – Pataskala branch
Ross County Banking Center – Western Avenue branch
Ross County Banking Center – Richmond Dale branch
Vinton County National Bank – McArthur branch

To use one of these machines, simply follow the instructions on the screen and dump your change onto the conveyor belt. The machine does all the sorting and counting! Then it prints a receipt which you can take to the tellers to receive your cash or have the funds deposited into your VCNB account.

This is a free service to VCNB customers. Anyone who does not have a VCNB account but who wishes to use the machine may do so for a five percent fee.

Small Business Spotlight: The Canal Wigwam

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!  

Canal Wigwam

Canal Wigwam has long been a fixture in downtown Canal Winchester.

After celebrating our own 150th anniversary last year, we wanted our first Business Spotlight of 2018 to feature a business with its own rich history and we didn’t have to look far.  Originally opened in 1899, The Canal Wigwam is known throughout the region as the perfect gathering place for locals and visitors in Canal Winchester.  But its century-plus old history has not been without a hitch; a fire in 2014 threatened the existence of our beloved local business.

Owners Mark and Angela Savino purchased Canal Wigwam in 2011, very quickly after learning the business was going up for sale.  Mark had been looking for a business opportunity in the Central Ohio food industry, and the timing couldn’t have been any better.  With his familiarity of the industry, passion for food, and the assistance of our Canal Banking Center, Mark jumped on the opportunity almost immediately.  “I heard about it going up for sale in February (2011), and we actually closed on June 1, 2011!”  Mark said with a smile.

Mark grew up in the food business – his grandfather owned a grocery store in western Ohio, which Mark, his father and family continued and evolved through the years. Mark eventually came to Canal Winchester in the banking industry but he always had his eye on getting back into the industry in which he worked with his family.  The Canal Wigwam opportunity was too good to pass up and it seemed to be smooth sailing once taking ownership.

That was, until Friday, December 5, 2014.  A fire started in the wiring in the ceiling while a packed house enjoyed their food, friends, and conversation.  Mark recounts “It was serious.  We had to go.  We did what we could, but it was time to get out.”  The fire was severe enough to warrant a shut down lasting nearly eight months.  It was devastating to the business and the community alike.  Especially considering the timing.

2017 Staff Christmas Party

The restaurant hosts a Christmas party for employees every year! 

“It was Christmas time, obviously.”  Mark recalls.  “And Canal Wigwam had a large catering event that very night.  We had to buy all new inventory and supplies – serving dishes, food, you name it.”  And, in a true show of support, the City of Canal Winchester granted Mark’s crew permission to use the Community Center kitchen to cook and prepare for this event, which unbelievably, given the events of the day was a success.

But that wasn’t the only event impacted.  Mark and Angela annually throw a Christmas party in the restaurant for the employees. Now they had this event to worry about in addition to the status of the business and general well-being of the employees.

“The impact on the employees was significant, and it was important to continue the Christmas gathering so that we could come together and laugh despite the tragedy” explained Mark.  Again, working with the City of Canal Winchester, the Christmas party was moved to the  Community Center.  Because the community was also affected by the fire, Mark and Angela extended an open invitation to join in the festivities.

Everyone associated with the restaurant was overwhelmed by the support they were shown.  The Community Center was filled with friends and enough food to feed a City, as all brought a treat to share.  Canal Winchester Human Services provided Christmas baskets to all of the employees.  A GoFundMe account was set up by a customer, and an account was set up at our Canal Banking Center strictly for Canal Wigwam staff support.  By February, that account had reached over $9,000!  “The support we were shown was unbelievable.  Everyone who works at the Canal Wigwam think of our customers as family, and clearly the community mirrored the sentiment.  All who responded were incredibly generous and kind.  The response was humbling and healing, and continues to have an impact on me and Angela.”

The rebuild was not easy.  Facing multiple difficulties in construction and coding updates, insurance, ownership, etc., the project took longer than expected.  Mark continued to press on, eventually working toward gaining ownership of the building.  After months of delay, Brocon Construction was hired to finish the physical repair and rebuild project.  Finally, the project began to gain traction, and was essentially finished about seven weeks after beginning.  Mark was thrilled, crediting Brocon President, Bud Bropst, who “kept things on track with a dedicated and qualified staff and weekly project meetings.”

Raised ceilings, updated lighting, revamped bathrooms and updated equipment are just some of the physical improvements.  Staff updates were also needed.  Seven months-plus was a long time to be without work, and there were employees that had found good jobs elsewhere.  While Mark hated losing them, he was happy to see them land on their feet.

After time spent learning the new equipment and adjusting everything within the diner to their liking, it was time for a grand re-opening on July 31, 2015.  It was a tremendous success.  “We were swamped!  And we stayed swamped for two months straight!” Mark recalls.  “The community support during and after has been awesome!”

Since the re-opening, business is up dramatically.  Canal Wigwam employs about eighteen employees, its catering business is continually increasing, and the diner continues to serve up incredibly delicious, simple, affordable meals for breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner on Fridays.

Dinner at the Diner

Have breakfast and lunch at the Wigwam most days but enjoy dinner on Friday night! 

A visitor recently stopped Mark to shake his hand in the middle of the restaurant one afternoon.  “I assume you’re the owner?  I see you here all the time…” the gentleman started.  “I just want to commend you for the way you run your business.  You don’t know me, but I came across town, across the county to eat here and I wanted to tell you this.  You don’t cut corners.  Everything you serve is top notch – from the potatoes on down.  I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate that.  You don’t cut corners and I know it’s hard to run a small business.  I wanted you to know that.”
“Thank you.  My father would kill me if I didn’t do it right!”  Mark responded with a smile.

In 2001, 102 years after their original opening, it was written that “Canal Winchester just wouldn’t be the same without the Wigwam Restaurant.” Another seventeen years later, and the statement is still so very true.  Canal Wigwam is an icon in this tight knit Central Ohio community, and we’re thrilled to have their business!

Like Canal Wigwam on Facebook, or for a full menu, contact information or for more on the history of Canal Wigwam, visit

How I Ditched Debt: ‘Born Spender’ Goes on a Spending Fast

In this series, NerdWallet interviews people who have triumphed over debt using a combination of commitment, budgeting and smart financial choices. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
and then we saved

And Then We Saved

Who: Anna Newell Jones
How much: $23,605 in 15 months

Anna Newell Jones considers herself a “born spender” whose desire for the latest fashions and gadgets landed her in debt.

When she got married in May 2009, she had a big secret — she owed nearly $24,000 in credit card debt, student loans and money that her parents borrowed for her. She was living paycheck to paycheck and felt like she had hit a bottom financially. So she shared with her husband, Aaron, a plan to cut her expenses to the bone, pay off debt and become a financial adult. And she decided to blog about her efforts to keep herself motivated and accountable.

First up was making a list of wants and needs customized to herself. Do-it-yourself hair color in a box made the “needs” list, but salon services did not. Then she did what she calls a reverse budget — she analyzed the previous three months’ spending to see where her money was going so she could determine what could be cut.

Newell Jones declared a “spending fast” in 2010: spending the bare minimum and only on necessities. The Denver resident found it freed up time previously spent shopping, returning items and worrying about the financial hole she was digging. That extra time helped her figure out how to increase her income, including photographing weddings on weekends, writing a book and creating her website at

» SIGN UP: Set and track your own goal to ditch debt

What was your total debt when you started? What is your debt today?

At the tail end of 2009, I [had] $23,605.10 in debt, and I managed to eliminate all of it in only 15 months! I have a mortgage now. Apart from that, I’ve been able to remain completely debt-free.

How did you end up in debt?

I’m a natural spender. I like new things. I used to live for finding that perfect shirt or decoration for my house. … Even though I owed money to others (like my parents for school), I was always able to find money when I wanted something. I was completely overwhelmed by my debt and thought I’d die with it, so in a lot of ways I decided, “Ah, screw it! Might as well at least enjoy myself!” Basically, I spent money I didn’t have on things I didn’t really need. I was reckless.

What triggered your decision to get out of debt?

I wanted my financial life to be about more than just covering my minimum balance each month or not bouncing a check. I got to the point where I was tired of feeling like crap about myself and the situation I had created for myself. I had, in a lot of ways, hit my “financial bottom.” I was desperate enough to make sacrifices and do whatever I had to to get out of debt.

What steps did you take to reduce your debt?

I made some very serious lifestyle choices … meaning I only spent money on necessities (rent, basic food, etc.) and nothing extra. I started my blog as a way to hold myself accountable. I thought that maybe if I went public about my debt and about how much it weighed on me, I’d be more likely to not immediately ditch the entire idea once things got difficult.

How has your life changed for the better since you got out of debt?

Oh man, it’s so much better! Life without debt, shame, worry and anxiety centered around money is so freeing. Before, I was stressed and worried all the time, and it showed. Now I own several businesses, have money to save for my family’s future, and have the freedom to spend more time with my husband and son.

How do you remain debt-free today?

I’m very mindful of my money and my spending. I regularly do reverse budgets [to watch for overspending issues that could crop up]. I also run a Spending Fast Bootcamp and connect with members of the bootcamp each week in Facebook Live videos. Helping them helps me stay aware and present, rather than mindlessly slipping back into my old “spender” ways.

How to tackle your own debt

Jones, who says her blog kept her accountable, wishes she had known about other people who were also battling debt and also felt ashamed and isolated. She created just such a community on her website. Support and accountability can help, she says.

  • Analyze your current spending, to see where money has been going and pinpoint expenses that can be reduced or eliminated
  • Identify your own wants and needs. Needs are non-negotiable, while wants can wait. But every person’s list will vary.
  • Save for an emergency fund. When you are trying to repay debt, watching balances go up can be discouraging. But emergencies will happen. Be prepared with money designated for just such occasions. An amount as low as $500 in reserve can insulate you from an unexpected expense and running your credit cards back up.

More From NerdWallet

Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

The article How I Ditched Debt: ‘Born Spender’ Goes on a Spending Fast originally appeared on NerdWallet.