In January 2010 Anna Newell Jones started a year-long spending fast. No shopping, no dining, no concerts, no trips. She owed over twenty thousand dollars to college loans. Photographer by trade, blogger by choice, this freelancer colorfully illustrates her march out of debt on the nationally acclaimed website AndThenWeSaved.com.
Why she’s fly: In her cozy Capitol Hill digs, I am greeted by a sunny assortment of wall art and keepsakes. Drawings, sayings, cards and photographs adorn the white space, emphasizing her “believing is seeing” mentality. With a simple look around, there is something insightful for every guest to take away. Her inviting nature and bright smile give her an approachable quality, one that lights up on camera. Newell Jones has received a copious amount of exposure for her efforts, including air time on Dr. Drew, The Nate Berkus Show, The Clark Howard Show, and Consumer Talk Radio – to name a few. Plus, she can turn you into a zombie if you so desire.
Favorite destinations, near and far: Newell Jones has reaped many benefits from her debt-free lifestyle, including the freedom to travel more. She and her husband Aaron, the Jones of Newell Jones and Jones Photography, recently ventured to Hawaii. Before that was an excursion to Spain and Portugal. The charming town of Sintra, Portugal, and their highly accommodating hostel there were an easy favorite. Guests regularly enjoy meals prepared by the owners on the back lawn, seated at a large dining table meant for conversation and indulgence. Sign me up.
During The Spending Fast, Newell Jones had to master the art of staying near. If it wasn’t free, she didn’t do it, and so familiar places had to make room for new adventures. Cheeseman Park provided a haven for the lackluster “I want to give up and go shopping” days, “I would go to the park to either walk or run around it and I still do that today. With the tall lush trees and fresh air I’m able to get my thoughts straightened out and it never fails, I always feel better after I go to there.” Newell Jones admits that her answer may not excite the masses, but the plan was always foolproof; and that was her objective.
Suitcase Essentials: “An eye-mask. And earplugs. If you can get a good night’s sleep, even if you’re in a totally random location, it makes all the difference.”
A travel tip: “Go to the grocery store where you’re at. Just because you’re on vacation don’t forget everything you do to save money in your hometown.” Newell Jones understands the urge to let loose while traveling, but suggests a more conservative approach. Packing a lunch for your day trip and passing on those cheesy souvenirs are two guaranteed ways to avoid overspending. Aren’t vacations supposed to be stress-free anyways?
With 67,000 page views a month on her blog, Newell Jones is changing the way people perceive and tackle their debt. More importantly, she is motivating that secret republic of consumers who have been too intimidated to address the issue, “What I’ve found is that everyone has this debt but nobody wants to talk about it.” Since we won’t speak up, she will; and she’ll brighten our day while she’s at it. Visit her site for your daily dose of financial optimism and learn, as Newell Jones did, to kill debt with kindness.