Blogging yourself out of student debt

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Victoria woman clears a $22,000 burden in two years

By Keating Smith, Staff Writer

Two years ago, Cait Flanders was like any recent Canadian university graduate: happy to be done school, but overwhelmed with financial debt—a debt so large that she was afraid to tell her family and closest friends about it. But that all changed when the 28-year-old found financial freedom, thanks to the help of her famed finance blog,

“I was completely maxed out financially, with more than $28,000 of debt—mostly consumer debt [and] $4,500 in student loans,” Flanders told The Other Press. “I’ve always been a writer, and had written other blogs before Blonde on a Budget, so it seemed like a good way for me to express what I was going through.”

At first Flanders was hesitant to reveal her real name on the blog and referred to herself by her initials in the first year. It wasn’t until a year later, when she had finally paid off her credit cards, that she revealed her financial secret to those around her, and her identity to those following her blog.

Living with the hardships of student debt fresh out of post-secondary education was not an easy task, says Flanders. She can relate to the stress any student faces while staring at the gaping hole in their bank account and the end of the line their credit cards may have reached.

“If you’re already starting to feel stressed about how much student debt you’re taking on, look at other areas of your life [where] you might be able to cut back your spending,” she says. “While going out for dinners and drinks with your friends every week is fun, if you’re putting it all on a credit card or a student line of credit, you’re borrowing for a lifestyle you can’t afford and have to eventually pay back.”

“It might seem worth it at the time, but I can promise you that having your debt control where your money goes after you graduate sucks—especially because you’ll want to start working towards other goals, like saving for a big purchase or going on a much-needed vacation,” she added.

Flanders moved back home for six months, during which time she made some serious life changes: “I didn’t shop [or] get my hair cut. I may have only gone out for a cheap dinner once or twice a month, and bar nights were out of the question… The worst part was having to say no to a 10-day trip to Nicaragua with a group of my friends, but putting every penny that I could towards my debt was more important.”

Flanders admits that as time went on, things became easier for her. After earning a degree in communications from Royal Roads University, she left her job with the provincial government last year and relocated to Toronto to be closer to the Canadian media and communications hub. Since her move, she receives calls almost every month from media outlets such as the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and even Business Insider. Her blog has also been the recipient of the West Coast Social Media Award for Best Personal Blog.

“If telling my story over and over can help motivate even one person to take control of their finances, I’ll accept every interview request that comes my way,” Flanders says.

So how far has Flanders come in her journey to cut down personal spending while blogging about it? “As of this Friday, my debt will be down to $2,750. That’s less than 10 per cent of what I started out with. My goal is to be debt-free in June of this year—two years from the date I was maxed out,” she says.

No longer interested in a lifestyle of swiping credit and debit cards she can’t afford, Flanders says that there’s a slim chance she will go back to her old ways. Flanders tells us that the next items on her financial to-do list include beginning to save for her future through RRSPs and setting up an emergency fund. She adds, “I will probably buy some new clothes since I’ve lost close to 30 pounds in the last year and would love to finally buy some clothes that actually fit.”

Want to see Cait’s tips for saving money in school? Read more: