If you were tens of thousands of dollars in debt, you’d probably keep mum about it. Not Anna Newell Jones. The Capitol Hill–based photographer started a blog, AndThenSheSaved.com, on December 27, 2009, to chronicle her financial woes. On it, she vowed to pay back every penny of the $23,605.10 she owed to credit card companies, student loan institutions—even her parents. “I felt horrible,” she says. “Overwhelmed. Depressed. Completely demoralized. I kept spending money because it made me feel better for the moment. I really didn’t think I had any money to pay off my debt.”

But, as 31-year-old Newell Jones discovered, she could scrape together some dough by changing her lifestyle—and use the blog to keep herself accountable. She swore off eating out, Saturday trips to the Cherry Creek mall, and her beloved MCA Denver membership. She tracked every dime that went in and out of her bank account to stop the “cycle of debt.” She took public transportation and stopped getting regular haircuts or buying new clothes. Through it all, her blog’s readership grew (it peaked at 86,000 hits in one day) and her debt shrunk (she paid off $18,000 in 2010). By March of this year, she was debt-free. “I thought I would die with my college debt,” Newell Jones says. “I had no idea it would happen so quickly.”

Just because Newell Jones prevailed doesn’t mean she’ll now lack for blog content: In the coming months, look for her to blog about the next steps to financial security and investing. She’s booking speaking engagements and writing essays for CNNMoney.com about her saving strategies. She’s even hoping to write a book. “It’s so cliché to say,” Newell Jones says, “but paying off my debt changed my life.”

Newell Jones’ debt, which she paid back in 15 months.

Summer Savers

Three of Anna Newell Jones’ fave Mile High City spots for scoring a bargain.

  1. Denver Handmade Alliance Crafty Ballyhoo “Denver craftsters set up booths and sell their goods—cute, cheap, and unique stuff that’s perfect for gifts. Most of the sellers would be up for trades, too, if you’ve got something to offer them.” denverhandmade.com
  2. YesPleaseMore “This is a pop-up shop that sells 100 percent Colorado-designed goods. Events vary depending on the month, with creative and interesting projects and concepts.” yespleasemore.com
  3. Fashion Denver “Hip and creative people flock to these seasonal day-long fashion markets. The fashion shows—all the goods are handmade by local designers—are put on two to three times during the day of the market.” fashiondenver.com