Author Q&A: The Debt-Free Spending Plan

JoAnneh Nagler, author of The Debt-Free Spending Plan: An Amazingly Simple Way to Take Control of Your Finances Once and for All is visiting the blog today to answer some questions about her new book. 

JoAnneh is a Debt-Free Living Coach, writer, and artist.  She was a fund developer and grantwriter for more than 20 years, writing for causes in economic development, housing, health, human rights, youth, arts and the environment.  She has written for Rob Reiner’s I Am Your Child Campaign, and for the Oprah Winfrey Use Your Life Award-Winner Food from the ‘Hood in Los Angeles, among many others.

For the past eight years, she has been a personal Debt-Free Living Coach, helping individuals and couples learn how to use The Debt-Free Spending Plan to revolutionize their relationship with money. She is happily married to her husband Michael, a writer, teacher and activist.

Deb Bailey: Please share why you wanted to write your book?
JoAnneh Nagler: I wrote this book because I was in trouble with debt myself and I couldn't find anything on the personal finance shelf to help me.  What I did find was, "get out of debt--it's a bad idea--and now here's how to invest."  Yikes!  Invest?  In what dream world?  I could barely pay my rent and minimums and I was in trouble!

Deb: Who do you think will benefit from reading your book?
JoAnneh: Anyone who has ever said, "I can't manage my finances."  Anyone who feels hopeless, or needs help with debt, or has a lack of clarity about her or his spending.  The book was written for people who hate numbers, never liked math, or rarely balance their checkbooks.  It's based on simple addition--anyone who can add can do it.  No digging up past spending disasters.  No blame or shame over money in your relationship.  No deprivation.  Just start from today and get clarity with the Plan.

Deb: Would you describe the Debt-free Spending Plan?
JoAnneh: Sure!  The Plan is a simple, easy, five-minute-a-day approach to living within your means.  Again, it's based on simple lists--there is no need to learn a new software program--which, in my experience just makes debtors panic.  The Plan is a planning tool, not a tracking tool.  Most books promote detailed tracking of expenses, but I can track all day long and still overspend at the grocery store and still never fund a vacation.  

The Plan very simply divides Bills from Daily Needs, lets you set the priorities in spending categories, and makes sure you learn how to make savings meaningful.  For instance, dying for a new iPad?  An outlet shopping day?  Great! Plan for it.  The premise is to learn to live well on the cash you have by living within the amounts you set out for yourself each month.  You address your debt, not adding to the credit-roller-coaster of high-ticket balances, but your focus is on learning to live well on your cash.

Deb: What do you feel makes your book different from other books about money? 
JoAnneh: There's so much that's different!  It's easy, it's simple, and it doesn't require an archeological dig into your past spending history or your childhood.  (A lot of books do.)  It's a present moment tool--you give yourself the dignity of starting a whole, new, clean financial history.

The biggest payoff, I've found, is that you stop fighting about money in your relationship.  I call it "The Aphrodisiac Quality of a Spending Plan." Who knew that being more responsible and living debt-free would make you feel more amorous toward each other?  But it does!  And, the Plan shows you how to make money decisions together, without micromanaging each other's daily spending.  Each partner gets his and her autonomy in spending, but you learn to plan together. 

Deb: Why do you think that money is such an emotional issue?
JoAnneh:  It has to do with our sustenance, our sense of fulfillment, and our ability to live and love well in the world.  We've been duped a bit though, into thinking that "more is better" and "big is necessary."  What I have found by living debt-free is that I have more freedom, more choices, and I have done more creative things that I've wanted to do in my life.  I'm more creative about how I do them, but I do them!  I downsized my monthly living expenses significantly to write my book, and I was able to do it because I had clarity in my spending.  My mantra is, "No Debt, No Drama."

Deb: Any advice that you feel would be key for woman entrepreneurs to learn from your book?
JoAnneh:  Absolutely.  Understand that debting to get a business off the ground puts us in a serious pressure cooker to succeed, and then our budding projects don't get the dignity of a normal growth arc. Instead we get desperate because we ran up debt to fund them, and our desperation most often leads us to failure.  Think "Slow, steady steps."  Fund everything you do as you do it.  Your projects will be supported, they will grow at a good pace, and you will stay sane.

Deb: What inspires you to do the work you do? 
JoAnneh: I was in so much trouble myself once--and now my Plan has helped so many.  It was my dear friend Theresa who said to me, "You have to write this down.  This has changed my life, my marriage and my whole approach to money."  She really pushed me to do it, and I'm so glad I did. 

Lastly, there's a huge inspiration from my life:  my husband and I were married, got into terrible debt--which really took us down and limited our choices--and then got divorced.  More than a decade later we came back together and married each other again--this time with a promise to use no credit cards, personal loans, etc.  We are so happy now!  We have money choices, just not money drama.  It's amazing how not having that pressure opens us up to each other.  There's a whole chapter in my book about this and tons of examples of how to do the Plan as a couple. 

Deb: Where can people find your book?
JoAnneh: You can find it at online retailers and stores across the country

Deb: Please share your website and social media URLs

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