Melanie Lockert is the personality behind the award-winning blog, Dear Debt, where she chronicled her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Through her blog, she inspires readers to break up with debt by writing their very own breakup letter to debt.
In 2015, Melanie (and her journey out of debt) was named one of the top five most inspiring personal finance stories of the year by Yahoo! Finance. She currently works as a freelance writer and event planner. Melanie and her work have appeared in Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, INC, and more.
What’s the key factor that’s been away for your blog to become so exclusive and successful at the same time?
I really focused on one niche and that is debt. My website isn’t a general personal finance site, but one that is for people getting out of debt or recovering from the emotional hangover of debt. I think really connecting with a certain group of people — and doing something different like focusing on the emotions of debt, rather than just practical financial advice has helped me grow.
What did take you into personal finance blogging?
I got started blogging at a really low point in my life. I was underemployed and overwhelmed with debt. I didn’t know how I was going to pay it back. I was sick and tired of being sad about my debt, so I started my blog as a way to keep myself accountable for paying off debt.
Do you certainly recommend blogging as a full-time source of income?
I think it’s very difficult to make a full-time living from blogging. My blog itself doesn’t make a lot of money. I have leveraged it into a full-time writing and event planning career. So, yes, I use it as a platform for work, but there are no shortcuts when it comes to blogging. It takes a lot of time and effort to be successful, let alone make a full-time income.
Talking about debt, so far is there any such item or product that you regret purchasing?
I kind of regret going to a private school for my master’s degree. Though it helped me live in New York City, it was still unnecessarily expensive.
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What makes “Dear Debt” so distinctive from its contemporary blogs?
I think what makes my blog different is that it focuses on the emotions of personal finance and being in debt. I think there is a taboo around money. When it comes to debt, you can add guilt and shame to that picture too. The emotions can be so overwhelming that they can actually hinder your financial progress.
My blog has created a safe space for people to break up with their debt and reclaim their own power and freedom. Many dear debt letter authors have said how helpful writing a breakup letter to debt is and that they felt better afterward and were inspired to reach their goals. Now that is the best testimonial I think I could ask for!
How do you plan your own finance and budgeting? Do you go by certain strategies to manage it all?
I subscribe to the “pay yourself first” model and always save a chunk of change before paying the rest of the bills. I don’t have a strict budget in place but have always placed saving and debt repayment as a high priority, so put those things first and am mindful with my spending elsewhere.
Whenever I make a purchase, I think of it in hours worked. For example, going out to dinner and drinks might be worth three hours of work. I ask myself, “Is it really worth it?” Sometimes it is, other times it is not. But this helps me spend on my values.
“Having a Credit card may eventually lead to bankruptcy”….Do you agree or disagree with the same?
I don’t necessarily agree. I think you can be a responsible credit card user. Of course, credit cards could lead to bankruptcy, but that is an extreme case. If you do have a credit card, it’s important to pay off your balances in full each month and keep your balances low about your credit limit.
Several students get trapped in student loan debt, what can certainly be the easiest way out of the same?
Getting out of student loan debt isn’t easy. You may need to sacrifice certain things to make progress. Additionally, earning more on the side is key to help you make faster progress. Aside from cutting back and earning more, it’s important to believe you can actually get out of debt. I think many people with student loans just think they’ll be in debt forever and that it’s okay because student loans are the “good debt.”
Believing you can is half the battle! Then staying consistent. Some months will be better than others and it will be tough and you may want to give up. But keep going!
Please guide our readers with some of your expeditious advice to deal with the demon called “debt”.
Realize that you are not your debt. Your self-worth is not your net worth. That no matter how tough it is to get out of debt, it IS possible. Don’t let debt bully you! Most importantly, realize you have to make a lot of financial and mental shifts to get out of debt. These shifts can be tough and you may need to give up certain things, a certain lifestyle, or certain beliefs. Though it’s tough, you can do it!