How many of you have those days when you get depressed about your financial situations? How many of you realise that there is a connection between mental health and personal finance? There are lots of us who are struggling to cope financially, which in turn impacts everything from relationships to physical health. But for some reason, mental health and personal finance issues are not given as much attention as they should.
As you make your way carefully through the road of debt, look for inspiration and good advice on how to reach your financial goals without too much weight on your shoulders. I remember the days when I would read endless blogs looking for something new to try, but yet something that makes complete sense. I could not and still cannot jump blindly into something unless I’m convinced and at ease with the idea.
I’m a huge fan of Instagram and as I was scrolling though the hundreds of personal finance accounts, I came across a page that literally jumped out at me. It was not your average Instagram page. In fact, it was the last thing that you would expect from an account dedicated to helping people get their money right. The page was funky, unconventional, fashion forward and teaches young women how to become debt free.
And that’s exactly why I like it.
Kristin is the brains behind the Debt Free Black Girl brand and if you’ve never heard of her, then it’s time for you to check her blog. Her story is similar to many, but in many ways very different. She was tested in several ways – she was over one hundred thousand dollars in debt, battled depression and got evicted and desperate. But what she would later realise was that she was a fighter and she refused to give up, especially when it felt as though the walls were closing in around her.
Welcome Kristin. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the Odd Cents blog. I read many of your articles, I follow you on Instagram and I felt as though your story was one that should be told.
My first question has nothing to do with personal finance. Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
I’ve just always been really big on fashion/style, pop culture, and some other things that inspire me is music, art, technology, and anything psychology related. I love to express myself through my clothes!
You took on a challenge and launched Debt Free Black Girl in 2016. What was it like launching an innovative and fresh initiative as a money therapist?
It definitely hasn’t been easy because I wasn’t always so clear on the vision for my business. It took me some time to gain clarity about the direction that I wanted to go and how I wanted to touch the lives of others. On the other hand, it has been super rewarding and an exciting journey to say the least.
Many of the posts on your blog encourage positivity, self-belief and empowerment. Some days I can go from one extreme to the next in sixty seconds. How do you deal with those days when you are sad, miserable and just want to give up?
When I feel like I want to give up, I take a step back and take some time to just unwind and relax. These days surprisingly happen pretty often for me so I have to continuously push myself to keep going. I had an online clothing store that I launched 5 years ago but wasn’t consistent with at all. Because of that experience, I know that I never want to let that happen again so I try to stay encouraged to keep going no matter what this time around.
It sounds scary to think that you were faced with over $100k in debt. What did that feel like and how did you survive each day?
It used to make me feel like crap! Especially when I was at my lowest point, just thinking about it put me into a depressed state. I would complain and complain about my situation, yet would do nothing to turn it around. Sadly, I was barely surviving. To cope with it all, I would literally do nothing but eat and sleep all day. I was completely miserable. Once I stopped throwing myself pity parties everyday, I was able to look at my situation a bit differently. I started thinking about ways that I could work on paying down my debts even though I was still completely broke. I started to regain my faith that everything would be ok despite my current situation. That’s when I really started to see a difference in the way I felt about my debts, even though I still had a ton.
Like so many other people you were not taught how to manage your finances and you had to learn on your own. What was the moment when you decided that something had to change?
That moment for me happened when I hit rock bottom. I was jobless, 40 pounds overweight, and on the verge of being homeless. Going through this time period in my life made me snap out of it and really start to think about what I wanted and what I would need to change to get there. I had to first change the way that I thought. My negativity was the first thing I started working on.
Kristin, you took a bold step and went to a therapist when you needed help. That takes tons of strength and courage. Can you detail that experience?
Yes! Being in the mental health field, I know how important it is to seek out help when you’re not feeling like yourself. However, because I’m in the mental health field I struggled with thinking that I needed help outside of myself. Weird right? I’m glad I was able to recognize that things were beginning to be a problem for me. Like I mentioned earlier, I was just sleep all day long and isolate and then stuff my face during the time that I wasn’t sleep. I wasn’t answering any calls from my family and friends either. I was a complete wreck and decided that something had to give. Although I was dead broke and jobless, I found an angel that agreed to provide therapy services at like $10 or $20 per session. It was heaven sent! I’m so glad that I decided to put my pride aside and seek help; who knows where I would’ve been today if I didn’t.
It was refreshing to find out that you are a mental health counsellor. Do you think that enough attention is placed on mental health and personal finance issues?
Not at all! Most people don’t think about how financial issues can impact every area of our lives. I want to bring awareness to this and to the fact that in order for true change to stick, then one must change the way that they think. Our money habits are shaped from our experiences and how we were raised so it takes time to undo all of those habits. Digging deep into the root causes of your financial problems is imperative.
Can you tell me about your career as a mental health counsellor?
I’m currently a therapist working with offenders who are on probation and parole who have co-occurring disorders (substance use and mental health). These disorders impact their relationships, finances, and other areas of their lives. I truly enjoy my role, it’s so rewarding (even though it can be extremely draining at times).
You’ve been on both sides – the patient and the counsellor. Does having this unique perspective make your job easier when someone asks for help with money problems?
Yes, it definitely does make it easier because I’ve been there. When people tell me their story, I can relate. I’m able to connect with people easily because of my experiences and expertise.
There are many emotional effects of debt and depression. How do you help your clients deal with these effects?
With my therapy work, I use CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) techniques to assist my clients where the goal is to help them learn to recognize negative patterns of thought, evaluate the validity of those thoughts, and replace them with healthier ways of thinking. So the most important part of my work with my DFBG clients is uncovering self limiting beliefs and other unhealthy ways of thinking about money, then working towards developing that new money mindset, which ultimately improves their mood.
In one of your recent blog posts, you talk about putting on your grown up pants and accepting your responsibilities. Why do you think people struggle with this?
I believe people struggle with this so much because of denial. We hate to face the fact that we’re in certain situations because of our actions, thus acting as if those responsibilities don’t exist. Sounds crazy, but it happens.
What are some of the tools and techniques you use to keep your finances in check?
I honestly just use a notebook, pencil, and my phone’s calculator to do a budget each time I get paid. I do a budget each time because some things change a bit depending on what I have planned during that time period. I have some money management/debt management apps on my phone (ReadyForZero, Goodbudget, Mint, Mvelopes) but I rarely use them; I’m old fashioned I guess! I also use cash for all of my purchases. The only time I’m using my debit card is to pay all of my bills online. Other than that, cash only my policy! This has allowed me to really stay on track with managing my money and sticking to how much I designated for each category.
Shifting one’s money mind-set is a major theme for your brand. Where do I begin if I want to shift my money mind-set?
By digging deep! A lot of times people don’t get down to the root causes of their thoughts and behaviors, which usually prevents them from making real, lasting change. By uncovering how your past experiences have shaped your current money mindset and habits, you’ll be able to start to work on making small changes on a daily basis. For instance, you can start small by changing the way that you speak about your finances. Once you start to develop these practices into habits, you’ll start to see changes in the way that you think and behave with money.
I’ve noticed that you have an e-book called “ A Mindset for Financial Success: Changing the Way You Think About Money.” What was your process for creating a book that goes to the cause of many of our financial problems?
I had a speaking engagement earlier in the year where my speech was titled the same as my e-book. I used the outline from that event and just started expanding on those ideas. Everything just flowed and in no time (I believe it took me about month) I had enough to package as a product.
If there is one thing you want readers to take away from this interview, what would it be?
There is a quote that I stumbled across one day and I can’t remember who said it but it’s ultimately why I do what I do. “Money is the symptom, not the disease.” There’s a reason why people can’t manage their money and stop their overspending that goes far beyond what they believe is the issue. In order to see positive changes, you have to treat the underlying causes, not just what’s on the surface.
You can find Kristin at Debt Free Black Girl. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to get the Count Yo Coins Budget Worksheet and the e-book – A Mindset for Financial Success: Changing the Way You Think About Money.