I started blogging five years ago as a way to work through losing my grandma. She was “my person,” if there is such a thing. She had so little, yet I can’t think of anyone who lived so vibrantly and touched so many lives. My tagline is to live a more purposeful life one cent at a time, and I think even after half a decade, that’s still my purpose. Though my blog is really about chronicling my own journey and holding myself accountable, I hope my message resonates with others, too. My husband and I are both teachers and we are new-ish parents, so I think our journey is pretty relatable. Check out our Q&A with She Picks Up Pennies here.
Check out the blog, She Picks Up Pennies, and learn to live a more purposeful life, one cent at a time.
Each week at Personal Finance Blogs, we publish interviews from amazing bloggers from the personal finance space. This week, we are featuring the blog, She Picks Up Pennies. During these weekly features, we are hoping to provide a way for you to interact and learn more about different blogs in the personal finance space. Below, you can read more about the story behind She Picks Up Pennies, learn about the author, and learn personal finance tips from She Picks Up Pennies to help you improve your financial situation. A big thanks for She Picks Up Pennies for this interview! Now, we will turn it over to the author for this interview.
Tell us about She Picks Up Pennies
I started blogging five years ago as a way to work through losing my grandma. She was “my person,” if there is such a thing. She had so little, yet I can’t think of anyone who lived so vibrantly and touched so many lives.
While many people think my blog name – She Picks Up Pennies – is about me, it’s actually named in her honor. It’s not that I don’t pick up pennies. I do! It’s thrilling to me, and she’s the one that taught me to take the time to do it.
My tagline is to live a more purposeful life one cent at a time, and I think even after half a decade, that’s still my purpose. Though my blog is really about chronicling my own journey and holding myself accountable, I hope my message resonates with others, too. My husband and I are both teachers and we are new-ish parents, so I think our journey is pretty relatable.
What makes you and your blog unique?
Perhaps what makes me unique is that I’m not. I think most everyone can look at my blog and see a sliver of themselves. I’m not an expert, and I don’t play one on the Internet.
Whether you earn, invest, or spend more or less than me, I think everyone can relate to awkward money situations, learning from mistakes, and hammering away at goals.
What does “being good with your personal finances” mean to you?
Personal finance is, of course, personal. So I would say that being good with money or being good with personal finance means that we’ve found a way to make our money work for us.
When I first started out adulting, money just burned a hole in my pocket. I can’t count the number of shoes I owned and wore maybe once – but I can tell you it was easily over 100 pairs. The same thing was true with clothes. Shop, add to closet, forget about purchase. After I started to rein myself in, I definitely over-corrected. It was like I was paying some sort of penance. After I got past feeling like I needed to atone for my handbag collection, I moved toward a middle ground.
Fast forward to present day, I’m married and have a toddler. Our money works for us, but we also aren’t afraid to spend on things we need or things that make us happy. I even buy shoes on occasion. I just make sure I swap out a pair and then actually wear them. We are in a place where we are working toward big future goals and still very much enjoying the present.
What are some habits you practice to keep your personal finances in order?
For us, tracking expenses is a lot more significant than budgeting, though we do both. I’m probably the laziest budgeter in all of personal finance. To set up our monthly budget, I simply click the Duplicate option. We have our spending in check and our bills don’t deviate much from month to month, so it works. The most important part to us anyway is actually that we track our expenses and take a look at them at the end of the month.
Another habit that’s worked well for us is that we put extra money toward our Roths at the start of the year. Then, once they’re maxed out, we hammer away hard at our mortgage. The mortgage is more psychologically and emotionally charged for me. So forcing myself to invest in my future is a lot like eating dinner before diving into dessert. I know I would kick myself if we didn’t save while we are still relatively young, so this habit works for us.
What are your three articles people should read to get to know you and your message better on your site?
I’m going to cheat a bit here and say you should check out my blog manifesto and my updated manifesto. They both do a good job explaining the spirit behind my blog and the spirit of my grandma. The latter post is also the most heavily trafficked post I’ve ever written, and it’s full of really cute comments.
I also think I do a pretty good job of being honest, and sometimes that includes some contrarian takes. My post on my new car generates a ton of comments. I also recently wrote about spending your savings, and I think it’s a good reminder (at least for me!) about the purpose of money.
For someone looking to improve their financial situation, what’s your best advice?
Figure out where your money is going and if you really want it going there. But also don’t beat yourself up over it if you realize you haven’t been sending it to the right place. At one point in my money journey, I dumped all of my shoes out on the floor and tried to ballpark how much money I spent on them. Ditto for all my handbags and pieces from Tiffany. It’s all a sunk cost, so there’s no point in dwelling on it too much.
I also think it’s important to set yourself up with as many levers to pull as possible. My husband and I are both teachers, so for years, we had to rely mainly on cutting our expenses and side hustling. Finally, I’ve doubled my salary, and it makes a huge difference. It sounds dramatic, but it’s honestly life-changing to make more money. Just remember to save it!
In your opinion, what’s better? Renting a place or buying a house to live?
Buying a house made the most sense for us. Rent is shockingly high in the Chicago suburbs despite the fact that we live in the Midwest. Plus, we are huge fans of big outdoor space. We’ve never seen anything on the rental market that comes close to our home (or our backyard!), so we are usually quite happy to be homeowners.
I actually bought our house while we were engaged (I know, I know!), but my credit score was so much higher than my now-husband’s–he tanked our interest rate offer. Thanks to a really competitive interest rate and perfect timing, we ended up buying pretty much at the bottom in 2012. It’s not something I think we could necessarily ever recreate, but it’s worked out well for us.
In your opinion, what should you do first? Pay down debt, or invest?
Both! Of course, if you have high-interest debt, I would tackle that first. We are really determined to crush our mortgage ahead of schedule, but I don’t want to do it totally at the expense of time in the market.
One of the biggest points that I think is left out of the conversation regarding time in the market has to do with the fact that very few people invest perfectly from the start. In addition to wanting the most time possible for your money to compound, I think it’s important to work the kinks out as early as possible. That being said, we know that once our mortgage is gone, we will have a much bigger shovel to scoop with.
I think when people give an answer of “both” to things in personal finance, people think of that “Jack of all trades, master of none” saying. But they forget the last part– “but oftentimes better than a master of one.” We don’t want to master our mortgage payoff so well that we forget about retirement and vice versa.
In your opinion, what’s better? Focusing on increasing your income, or focusing on decreasing your expenses?
I’ll answer from my own perspective. Increasing your income can move the needle much faster as long as you’ve trained yourself to not fritter away money (gulp!). However, as a teacher, there’s only so much you can do at the start of your journey. It took me a decade to max out my salary schedule, and I’m probably part of only a small handful of people my age that I work with who are even close to being able to say that. It took A LOT of grad school.
To increase income, both my husband and I did a ton of side hustling. But you run the risk of monetizing all of your free time. So for us at the start, decreasing our expenses (and figuring out what the heck I was even buying!) was the better level to pull, especially at the start.
Do you have any financial mistakes you’d like to share, and how have you grown from these mistakes to improve your personal finances?
I am a financial work in progress, so if there’s a mistake to be made, I’ve probably made it – or I’m currently easing my way out of it! Something that I will likely always struggle with is the amount of gusto that I throw into things. I have an obsessive personality, and that means I have to do everything full throttle. When I was really getting into frugality, butter would melt at the kitchen table. I could give Scrooge a run for his money.
The same is true for side hustling. I tutored for years, and I absolutely adored it. But pretty soon, I was tutoring 5, 6, and 7 days a week, even while pregnant! It’s easy to get carried away with side hustles, or it is for me anyway. Before I knew it, I was tutoring while I was having contractions and sending lesson plans from my iPhone while I was being checked into Labor & Delivery. I wish I was kidding. That was definitely a wake-up call to dial it down and allow myself some free time and rest!
What’s a non-money related interest you have and what do you love about it?
Gardening, practicing my Spanish, baking, reading. After years and years of trying to monetize basically every moment of my free-time, I’m trying hard to cultivate true hobbies. This is, of course, infinitely more complicated now that I’m a mom, but I think it’s really important.
I really like to challenge myself, and I think by trying out different hobbies, I can continue to do that. I also see a lot of overlap between my hobbies and my personal finance journey, especially with gardening. There’s so much effort (and expense!) that happens up front, and once you really get good at it, it’s mostly just waiting. If only I could make my money compound like zucchini!
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