Welcome to another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have Debt Free After Three’s Zina Kumok, sharing her financial expertise with us today. After starting her blog about paying off her student loans in 2012, Zina has recently made the transition to writing about personal finance full-time.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?

Don’t count money that you don’t have. I’ve had to learn this the hard way, but it’s always stuck with me. We’re naturally optimistic people so it’s easy to count on something that doesn’t come.

What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?

Start saving now. One of the reasons I struggled to pay more than the minimum on my loans in the first year was because I didn’t have any savings. If you leave college with a couple grand in the bank, you’re leaps ahead.

How do you stay ahead on paying your student loans back?

Keep yourself motivated to do so. Think about what you’d rather do with the money you put toward your loans. Use that as an incentive to pay them off faster. Now that I’m debt free, I have so many more options in my life. I can travel more, go to concerts, take improv and art classes – my life is more free than it ever was.

If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?

Save your money! I had so much cash as an 18-year-old. I never worried about paying off my loans – that was a problem for “future me.” I could have started out in a much better place if I’d been more careful about my spending.

Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?

I wouldn’t. I got a great education that I use every day (I majored in journalism) and I met some amazing people, including my husband. I do wish I had applied for more scholarships and had worked harder in high school.

Any other financial tips for our readers?

Don’t feel bad about your past mistakes. Most of the country is in debt and failing to save, so if you’re starting the process, you’re already doing better. Learn as much as you can and focus on what you care about.

Read more from Zina on her blog, visit her on Facebook and follow her on her Twitter.