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Make Love Not Debt – Best of the Best Blogger Series

by on March 13, 2012

Make Love Not Debt - Best of The Best Blogger SeriesIn the 46th edition of our Best of the Best Blogger series, I was stoked to get an opportunity to sit down with Mr. H from Make Love, Not Debt.

(For those of you who don’t know, the founders of Make Love, Not Debt blog anonymously under their pen names, Mr. H and Mrs. H (Him & Her).  Mrs. H is currently on a blogging hiatus, which means that Mr. H is running the show. However, that doesn’t mean that Mrs. H doesn’t have any effect on what happens on the blog. Mrs. H will be making a guest appearance in this interview.)

The H’s story started with their first official blog post for Make Love, Not Debt back in 2006, launching their self-described “relationship finance blog” in an effort to chronicle both their personal and financial journey. Residing in Chicago, the married couple has managed to trudge their way through repayment of a considerable amount of debt, including both student loans and credit card debt. While a big chunk of student loan debt still remains, they did manage to pay down all of their credit card debt in just under a 2 year period.

In many ways, the financial stories of both Mr. and Mrs. H prior to their marriage is very typical of how young people get hamstrung by debt so early on in life. As a college undergraduate, Mr. H. quickly fell into the credit card debt trap with excessive discretionary purchases on fast food, electronics gear, clothes and, uh-hum, a few beers here and there. Fast forward to graduate school and Mr. H found himself making just the minimum payments on a grand total of 6 credit cards (that’s right, six credit cards!). He managed to consolidate all of his high interest card balances with a credit union loan but, when all was said and done, Mr. H walked away from graduate school saddled with the same amount of credit card debt that he finished undergraduate school with – $5K.

Mrs. H also got quickly got sucked into the credit card debt trap after acquiring her first card at the ripe old age of 18. With a minimum wage job and Dolce & Gabbana tastes, she quickly found herself eyeball deep in debt. Adding to her $17,000 in credit card debt was a staggering amount of student loans (more than $140,000).  One day when her student loan payments came due, Ms. H panicked, confessing her dire situation to her then boyfriend, Mr. H.  Desperate, she quickly jumped into “debt repayment mode” which had a profound effect on her life. When she finally hit rock bottom financially, she realized that she had to “change every aspect of [her] life” in order to save herself.

Mr. and Mrs. H have come a long way since 2006 but their debt is no longer the center of their universe and nowhere near as overwhelming as it had been just 5 years ago. They’ve turned their attention now to higher quality “problems”, such as buying a new home, saving for retirement and picking out varietal specific wine glasses.

We sat down with H & H recently to talk about retirement contributions, financial dirty laundry and power saws, among other things.

MakeLoveNotDebt.com is a personal finance blog, which is a notoriously challenging subject matter for most couples… that seems like a pretty daunting task. How do you find the right balance to express your own individual financial opinion but staying on message with a single voice for the blog? Do your opinions ever diverge?

Him: We try and stay on the same page with finances by having similar financial goals. Like many (most?) couples, our opinions on many financial topics diverge, especially on how to reach our shared goals. We’ve written a few posts where we air our dirty laundry, so to speak, and reveal how we deal with financial scuffles. Those seem to get the most page views as people generally love to read about conflict. In the end, we’re grateful that our blog has allowed us to be more open with each other and has also allowed us to benefit from the wisdom of our readers.

Student loan debt seems to be a consistently hot topic these days. Knowing what you know now about student loans, is there anything you would change about your college experience? Community college? Different major?

Her: I would have fought harder, even have gotten a lawyer, to have declared myself financially independent from my parents so that I could have paid in-state tuition. I could have saved literally tens of thousands of dollars, even with lawyer fees, compared with the paltry amount that my parents saved on their taxes for 6 years. My college experience was wonderful in that I met Him, I’m now working at one of the (if not the top) firms in my field, and had great experiences overall.

You’ve both experienced challenges with credit card debt in the past. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from climbing out of such a deep credit card debt hole?

Him: We’ve learned that credit cards should be used as tools, not crutches. Without respecting them, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to use a power saw, you might lose a finger. If you don’t know how to use your credit cards, you might lose your house.

Do you have any favorites for personal finance bloggers (besides MLND)?

Him & Her: So much has changed in the 6 years we’ve been blogging! We’ve seen so many blogs come and go (including ourselves). There are definitely the stalwarts: Get Rich Slowly, Bargaineering, Consumerism Commentary, Free Money Finance, Consumerist, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Five Cent Nickel. Then there are the more personal finance bloggers: Budgeting Babe, Well-Heeled, Couple Money, So Over Debt, Frugal Beautiful, My Open Wallet, Blogging Away Debt.

What’s your stance on credit cards? Useful if used correctly? Or the root of all evil?

Him: See above. They’ve been very useful tools for us. We’ve gotten to travel and stay in fantastic places around the world by using rewards points on our credit cards. Because most credit cards allow convenient online access via Quicken or Mint, we can easily keep tabs on how much we’ve been spending. There are other great benefits, too: travel insurance, extended warranty, rental car insurance, and 0% balance transfers, to name a few.

What are you most grateful for about your blogging experience with MakeLoveNotDebt?

Him: Being able to relate with other people on money issues. Talking about money is still socially taboo, but blogging about it doesn’t have that same social stigma. All of the comments on our blog (even the mean ones) are taken into consideration, and many are filled with great nuggets of wisdom. We’re grateful that people read our blog and keep coming back. It keeps us grounded and at the keyboard to produce more content.

I’d like to thank Mr. and Mrs. H for spending time with us.  Thank you for your candor and your willingness to talk so openly about what always seems to be such difficult subject matter for couples.  Cheers!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Him March 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks for the opportunity! It was fun!

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Hareiana April 24, 2012 at 10:13 am

There is one budgeting website that has what they call the Credit Card Debt Terminator built into the budget system which is a godsend for anyone wanting to get out of this debt prison for good. It helped getting me out of the this debt prison like nothing else did. It’s called Out Of The Dark Budgeting at: <a href="http://www.myootd.org” target=”_blank”>www.myootd.org

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