Interview with Jamie from Mr. Jamie Griffin

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk to Jamie from Mr. Jamie Griffin.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about who you are and how you came to start your blog?

I’m a middle school history teacher and have been doing that for the last 6 years.

When I graduated high school, I had about $45,000 of student loan debt and was only making $19,000 a year as a paraprofessional at the current school I work at.

I was overwhelmed and out of panic, extended the loan repayment from 10 to 25 years because I couldn’t afford it.

A few years later, in 2014 when my wife and I got married, she brought in a boatload of student loan debt giving us a combined total of $90,000.

We made a plan to aggressively pay off our loans in five years by learning how to budget, stop going out to eat, tithing, and living below our means. I decided to start blogging to share our story of debt repayment and budgeting.

I wanted to share what we were doing and how big of an impact it had our lives.

I didn’t have big blogging dreams back then, but now that I’m a year and a half in, I love it and am excited to keep helping people get out of debt.

What kind of progress have you made on your debt? How did you stay motivated?

When we got married, we had $90,000 of student loans, and as of May 2017, we’ve paid it all off (minus $17,500 which qualifies for loan forgiveness in January 2019).

We made small goals along the way to help us stay motivated and used Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball method to pay them off faster.

Also, we knew we couldn’t afford student loans and daycare costs, so we knew we had to pay them off before we could start a family. That was crazy motivating for us.

There were a lot of times it really sucked working extra jobs and saying no to traveling, eating out, and spending more freely.

But it’s so worth it to be debt free and have a beautiful baby daughter. 🙂

What have you learned so far about being a parent? How have you personally developed since becoming a parent?

In the few short months of being a parent, I’ve learned how important it is to have a routine. Our daughter functions so much better on a routine, which allows us to function much better.

When she sleeps, everyone’s happier 🙂

I’ve also learned that it’s important to take care of myself. I function much better with good self-care, and that has a positive effect on my family, friends, and blog.

Any lessons you’ve learned from teaching over these past 6 years?

It’s important to always keep learning. There is so much we don’t know and admitting that you don’t know something is an opportunity to learn and ask questions.

My students ask questions all the time and it’s through these questions and my willingness to answer them that real learning can take place.

I taught a personal finance elective this year and we spend so many days just doing Q&A sessions.

They are genuinely curious and I want to help them build a solid foundation of how money works, our financial institutions, and how to live on a basic budget.

What has history taught you about finances? What do we still have to learn?

Hmm…good question. I’ve learned that finances and economics can explain a lot of our conflict in the world, today and in the past.

When I think about people and countries in history, a big theme is seeking money or resources to gain wealth.

Nobody ever seems content with what they have, but always want more and hats created conflict, war, and strained relations between groups of people.

It makes me wish there were more stories of contentment. There might be, we just don’t hear about them as much.

Do you think it’s as easy as practicing gratitude and being thankful for what you have? Or do you think there’s a more systemic issue at hand?

Practicing gratitude can be really challenging when most of American society is tellings us we need more stuff to be happy.

It creates a cycle of consumerism and keeping up with the Jones’s that makes it tough to feel content and have gratitude for the amazing things we already have in our lives.

Even if you’re not where you want to be, everyone can find something in their life to be thankful for, even if it’s a simple fact they woke up breathing and healthy.

Bobby Hoyt of Millennial Money Man says it a lot, that every day you wake up is another day in the bonus round of life, and I like that philosophy.

Gratitude and contentment are skills we need to learn so practicing them in small ways will build until you actually feel content and happy with what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t.

What are some lessons you learned growing up that you appreciate now?

Growing up I didn’t learn a lot about money. In fact, my parents rarely talked about money in front of us kids. I really wish they had, though. I could’ve learned a lot.

However, I did learn that it’s important to work hard and do the right thing. My parents both still work incredibly hard and they instilled that work ethic in me.

What are some things you hope to pass onto the next generation?

I hope to pass on the importance of learning personal finance and to start at an early age.

Also, learning about personal finance is a family value that can be taught to kids at a young age so they can develop healthy money habits as they grow into adulthood.

Money doesn’t need to be a taboo topic. We can all learn from each other and grow.

How do you recommend parents teach their children about money?

Start with basics and talk to them about money. You could even talk with them while you’re out shopping, explaining how much money you have to spend and what you need to buy with it.

It’s a good way for them to start understanding that things cost money and money isn’t endless. One idea I really like is giving an allowance, even when your kids are really little.

My sister and another friend do this. When they give their kids an allowance, they split it up into three jars. One is for saving, one is for spending, and the other is for giving.

When the spending jar runs out, they have to wait to get more money. The biggest thing I’ve learned though is kids want to know about money, they just need someone to help them understand it.

If it’s not parents, they’re going to learn about money from someone else, and it might not be a good source. When they ask about money, be real and honest with them.

What’s an app, a book, blog or podcast you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their finances?

I started budgeting using Mint, which was a great starting point for me to understand budgeting and track my expenses easily from my phone.

Mint also has a great website that lets you track your bank accounts, investments, debt, bills, your mortgage, and help you calculate your net worth.

I wasn’t aware of all those features back when I used it, but I definitely got a lot of value out of just the app.

A few years ago I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and it really got my head turning about money. I took notes like crazy while I read and after I finished the book, I moved onto reading personal finance blogs.

The blog that I kept going back to is Millennial Money Man by Bobby Hoyt. I still get new blog posts sent to my email and soak in as much as I can.

He was also a former teacher turned blogger, which really inspires me to grow and improve my own blog. He has a straightforward style that I like and resonates well with me.

He also hustles like crazy to help people turn their finances around and is very active in communicating with his audience.

What are some lessons you picked up from Rich Dad, Poor Dad?

The biggest lesson I learned is that there are other options for making money besides the 9-5 workday.

It’s important to spend time and effort creating alternate income streams to supplement your income. It flipped a switch in my brain to find a way to start investing, save for retirement, and find ways to make passive income.

If I can create passive income, I have more options in terms of where I work, how much I work, and to invest more money into my family’s future.

Do you have plans for creating a passive income stream?

I have hypothetical plans for creating passive income but no concrete plan set in place.

I would like aspects of my blog to become a passive income source but I have a long way to go.

I would also like to figure out dividend investing too.

With regard to dividend investing, would you use a retirement or non-retirement account? Why?

I honestly have no clue how I would start dividend investing. I don’t know enough about it to make an informed choice. Right now most of our investments are in retirement accounts so maybe I’d stick to that?

I will definitely sit down with our financial adviser before making any real decisions on that front.

Is there anything you’d like to add that would benefit the reader?

No matter what your finances look like right now, it’s within your power and ability to make them better.

If things suck right now, it’s only temporary.

Keep learning and growing from people who know more than you do and can guide you. It takes hard work and discipline, and changes certainly don’t happen overnight.

But if you make a good plan, stick with it even when it’s hard, your future will be much better because of your hard work today.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

You can find me at http://mrjamiegriffin.com. If you want to hear more of our story and tips for saving money, getting out of debt, and growing your family’s finances that’s the place to be.

I’m also active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can follow me there and join the 2,992 other families who follow me and subscribe to get my most recent updates and financial tips in their email.

Follow this link and get a FREE Budget Spreadsheet to get your family finances on track.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Jamie. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth.

Come back next week for my interview with PIG from Passive Income Guy.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for Jamie?

Interview with Marc from Vital Dollar

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with Marc from Vital Dollar.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about yourself and how you came to start the Vital Dollar?

I’ve been working online since 2007 and full-time since 2008. I live in Pennsylvania with my wife and two kids.

I’ve run several different types of websites over the years, but the majority of my experience is with blogging.

Some of my sites have sold digital products or had membership components, but I almost always use a blog as the way to generate traffic to the site, regardless of how I’ve monetized the sites.

The one exception to that was a business that sold products on Amazon.

I started Vital Dollar in 2018. I’ve wanted to start a personal finance blog for several years, but I just never had the time to do it with other projects always taking priority.

In 2017 my wife and I sold our business that we had started in 2015 selling private label products on Amazon, so I had some time available and decided to finally make it happen.

There were a few reasons that I wanted to start Vital Dollar.

First of all, I like having blogs and websites on topics that I want to learn more about, because it makes work a lot more enjoyable. Second, I wanted to share my own approach to money.

I’ve always had the opinion that reaching my financial goals requires me to manage my money wisely and also work to find ways to make more money. Budgeting, saving, and managing my money well is a good start, but it doesn’t get me to where I want to be.

Earlier in my adult life, I was extremely disciplined with my money. But it wasn’t until I started making more money than my financial situation really took a significant turn.

At Vital Dollar, I want to publish articles that will help people to save more of the money that they already have, and help to show realistic ways of making more money.

What tips do you have for someone who would like to start an online business?

This could easily be an article, or a series of articles, in itself, but I’ll try to keep it brief.

First, I would suggest that you have a long-term focus. I know a lot of people who started blogs or online businesses expecting quick results, and that rarely happens, especially if you’re new and starting from scratch.

Have the perspective that you’re going to need to work for several months or more before you really see any results. If you have realistic expectations it’s a lot easier to make it through the challenging early months.

Next, I would suggest starting a business on a topic that you enjoy. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary, but it does make it easier and more fun.

If you have a full-time job and working on your online business in your spare time you’ll probably get burnt out pretty quickly if you don’t really enjoy what you’re doing.

Also, I would say to decide on a type of business or approach that you want to take and stick with it long enough to see it through.

Don’t jump from one thing to the next before you’ve even given the first thing a chance to work.

This is easier said than done with all of the courses and blog posts out there being promoted all the time. But you need to focus on something and stick with it long enough to know if it will really work or not.

What are some lessons you learned growing up that you appreciate now?

All the way through my childhood my parents were missionaries, so money was always tight. There was always enough money for everything we needed, but my parents were very good at managing their money and they made every dollar count.

They taught me to respect money and to take good care of what I have. They also taught me that there’s a lot more to life than money. Both of my parents have doctorate degrees, but they dedicated their lives to things other than careers.

There were times growing up when I wished they made more money, but after I grew up I really appreciated the way I was raised.

Did you ever join your parents on mission trips? What’d you learn there?

When I was about 12 years old I went with my dad to Haiti. It wasn’t really a missions trip, it was more about him just visiting the missionaries and pastors that he worked with down there.

It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

I had seen a lot of photos and videos because he went there a lot, but to see it first hand was totally different.

There were a few things that I took out of it.

First, it struck me how so much of wealth and fortune in life is based strictly on where you’re born and who your parents are.

The people down there worked hard, but they just had such a disadvantage compared to Americans. The average person there has almost no chance.

Second, it helped me to see that we have control over our own outlook on life. I met some incredibly kind people who you would think would have very little to be happy about.

Are there any tips you picked up on how to make your dollar go further?

My parents were big on budgeting and they used the cash envelope system. I guess I didn’t pick up too much from that because I almost never have cash and I use a credit card for everything.

But they taught me to respect money, to be careful how I spend it, to save for the future, and to give to others. I think one of the things I picked up without really realizing it is to have a plan with your money. They executed their plan with envelopes of cash for all the different things in the budget.

If they didn’t have money for something, they didn’t buy it. So I learned to have a plan for my money and not to spend on things I don’t need, even though I go about it in a different way than they did.

How do you manage your money and your financial plan?

My wife and I use a simple spreadsheet for budgeting. I recently started using Personal Capital and so far I really like it, but I haven’t gotten too involved with it yet. It’s great to be able to see all of my accounts in one place and get a quick high-level view.

We use online savings accounts for our emergency fund and for accounts for specific purposes (like medical, vacation, etc.).

We keep more in savings accounts than most people do because being self-employed and a single-income family there is a good bit of unpredictability. And then a lot of our investments are with Vanguard.

I try to max out my 401k every year to reduce taxes and save for retirement.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

This is a very relevant question for me.

My kids are 5 and 2 years old so I often think about what I want to teach them, and especially with our 5-year-old, we’ve started to teach her about money. I want to teach them to appreciate what they have and to manage money and possessions wisely.

One of the challenges I’ve already had is that I want to be able to provide well for my kids and give them a good life, but I don’t want them to have a sense of entitlement.

I also want to teach my kids that there are a lot of different ways to make money and earn a living. When I was a kid I was always told (not just by my parents, but also by teachers) that you need to go to school, work hard, and get a good job.

When I got out of college things weren’t quite the way I expected them to be. I found a lot of the advice I got was bad, or that it was at least outdated.

I don’t plan to force my kids in the direction of going to college. I want them to have skills that will help them to be able to make money, but that could be any number of different things.

My wife and I already try to talk to our kids about giving back and helping people that aren’t as fortunate, and we’ve already seen our daughter respond to that.

She gets money for different things and a lot of times she wants to give her money to someone else instead of buying something for herself.

What are some ways you are teaching your daughter about money?

The biggest thing is to give her some money of her own. When she helps out with things around the house I give her some money for it.

That gives us the chance to talk about saving for something that she wants, the impact of making quick decisions to spend on something in the moment, and just the basics of managing money.

She’s already saved up for things that she wanted to buy.

Another thing that my wife and I are working on is showing our kids how privileged we are, and that not everyone has the same kind of life that we have.

We sponsor a boy in South Africa through World Vision and a girl in Guatemala through Compassion International, so we like to read their letters to our kids and talk about why they need a little extra help.

Those organizations have gift catalogs that include all kinds of different things you can give towards, like buying chickens for a family in Africa, or buying formula for under-nourished babies.

Every now and then we’ll go through the catalog and let our kids pick out something that they want to give towards as a family.

My daughter definitely has really enjoyed being able to help other people, so I think that’s been a good experience.

Any advice you could share with parents just starting this new journey of parenthood?

My biggest piece of parenting advice is simply to be involved and spend time with your kids.

That’s one of the things I love about working from home. I get to have lunch with my kids and see them a little throughout the day (sometimes that’s more of a distraction than a blessing).

Most people aren’t able to do that, so I try to enjoy it because someday maybe I’ll have to go to a normal job outside the home.

But regardless of your schedule, make it a priority to have time with your kids. Kids are more interested in having time with you than anything else.

What’s a book that you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?

A few years ago I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and I would recommend that book to anyone who is looking to pay off debt and stay out of debt in the future.

I don’t agree with everything he says in the book (for example, I use credit cards all the time and he is an all cash or debit card guy), but I appreciate his approach to money and the way he presents the information.

His approach is pretty basic, there’s nothing complicated or confusing about it, which makes it really practical.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

My blog is VitalDollar.com.

There are different sections on the site for saving money and making money.

And for those who are interested in building a successful blog, I also have a free 7-day email course called Blogging Fundamentals.

And if anyone wants to get in touch with me the best way is to email  info@vitaldollar.com.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Marc. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth.

Come back next week for my interview with DGal and DGuy from Dragons on FIRE.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for Marc?

Interview with Laura

Hey guys!

Today I have the this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with money experts. I talked with Laura from Everyday by the Lake.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give an introduction of who you are and how you came to start your blog?

I’m Laura Gariepy, a 33-year-old MA native living in Central FL.  I live with my fiance, his mom, and my cat.

I have my MBA and am currently pursuing my DBA.  I have been in human resources for the last 9 years or so in a variety of capacities and industries. 

I recently decided to quit my full-time job as an HR Generalist so that I could spend more time with loved ones, finish my doctorate degree, cultivate other income sources, and just live a less hurried and harried lifestyle.

As it stands now, I can maintain my part-time work schedule (15 hours per week from home with flex scheduling) conservatively for the next 12 months.  I likely can maintain it for 18 months — if there are no major unanticipated cash outlays.

I decided that my current semi-retirement arrangement would be interesting to chronicle and could add something to the FIRE community. My blog also has a lifestyle component to it– showing my travel adventures and the joys of living on a lake.

The blog is part passion project, part avenue to make new connections and friends and (hopefully) part income stream down the line.

Do you and your fiance have similar money philosophies?

Initially, we did not.

He has been very frugal the entire time I’ve known him. My previous laissez-faire attitude towards money drove him nuts. I can’t blame him for being upset.

At my worst, I had to rely on him financially because my spending got in the way of meeting my real obligations (aka paying the rent). I’m fortunate he stuck around long enough for me to smarten up.

We are now in sync money-wise and it’s much less stressful. We’re both focused on using dollars to attain maximum utility and joy.

Any tips on money and relationships?

My biggest money/relationship tips would be:

  1. Be transparent. Don’t lie to your significant other about money. It can make a bad situation worse. A long time ago, I would hide purchases from my fiance. Now I tell him how much I have in the bank when certain bills are going to be paid, how my investments are doing etc. I don’t tell him because I messed up before and I’m now obligated. I tell him because sharing this information keeps him informed and makes our relationship closer. He tells me how he is doing with his finances as well. It enables us to plan together. 
  2. Have separate and shared financial goals/accounts. We pool resources to fund everyday life and the adventures we go on together, but we also have funds that are ours alone. For example, he uses his funds to upgrade his car into its ideal state. I use my funds to build my website as a creative outlet and future income stream.We are careful to ensure that our individual pursuits do not compromise our main goal of having a nice life together, but the separate goals/activities help us retain our identities and independence.

How have you learned about finance and what’ve you learned?

I learned finance by royally messing up my finances! I abused credit cards, overspent constantly and failed to pursue scholarships. I have a post that details my fiscal shame.

I’m now much more frugal, know what I have going out in relation to what I have coming in, and hardly use credit cards (and pay them in full each month).

After you learned your lesson, what were some things you did to get yourself back on track?

Once I realized how my poor money habits were ruining my future, I got honest about my financial position.  I started tracking my income and expenses.  I made sure I paid my bills on time and rebuilt my credit.  I started saving a ton of money– at times over 25% of my post-tax income. I also started spending in alignment with my values.  I splurged on things that made me happy and I cut spending on literal stuff that didn’t matter. I have a blog post that discusses the best money changes that I’ve made:

https://www.everydaybythelake.com/my-top-5-money-moves/

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

Two very big takeaways:

  1. Unless it’s basic food, clothing, and shelter, you really don’t need it now. Giving in to impulse purchases can really put you in money trouble. Sleep on the purchase. Consider– will it even add value to my life? Do I want it– or is it just trendy to have? Is it worth it? If you’re working– how many hours of labor will it take to pay for it?
    When you consider that you are literally trading your life energy for some item, your perspective changes. Having consideration for your future self is hard when you’re really young– it’s why most kids have to fail to really get it. I know — it happened to me. But if I can get just one kid to buy into what I’m saying, I’ll be happy.

  2. Get scholarships and grants. Work to put yourself through school. Please, I beg of you. I owe more in student loans than I do on my house and my plans to actually retire are severely hindered by this debt burden. I will still get to the finish line and likely still ahead of some of my peers, but when I think of how much faster I could get there if I had managed to finance my education better, it’s painful. Trust me. Finance your education with dollars that you don’t have to repay.

What are some things you’ve learned in completing your MBA? What about things you’ve learned from your doctorate program?

What I remember most from my MBA program was really learning about the connections between business functions. I started looking at businesses more holistically.

This sounds really simple, really obvious but my educational background before starting this degree was in Psychology and my work experience in childcare and retail. I had major gaps in my business knowledge prior to these studies. It was an a-ha moment for me that has enabled better critical thinking about anything business related.

From my doctorate program, I’m really learning a lot about research. Types of research. How to design a research study. How to carry it out.

I am currently working on my dissertation so I’m attempting to put together all of those pieces into a meaningful contribution to the business body of literature.

Did you attain scholarships for your MBA and DBA? If so, any tips on getting scholarships?

Unfortunately, my degrees were financed via student loans. I was fortunate to have tuition reimbursement available to me via my employers for part of the time I was pursuing these degrees. That helped me quite a bit.

I definitely encourage the pursuit of scholarships. I truly wish I had put more effort into that. I also encourage folks to pursue employment with companies who offer a tuition reimbursement benefit.

Do you have any tips on student loans?

In terms of applying for student loans, if you’re going to be eligible for grants, file your FAFSA as early as you can. The grant funds are limited and late filers may not receive the benefits.

In terms of paying them off, check with your loan service to see if you can control how your payments are allocated. Often, the debt is broken into sub-loans with different amounts due and interest rates for each.

If you can determine how your payment is applied, you can attack either the smallest sub-loans first or make your initial focus paying off the sub-loans with higher interest rates. This will help you feel in control and give you a sense of accomplishment as your sub-loans are paid off.

What is an app, a book, and a blog?

  • I’m pretty boring when it comes to apps. My favorite finance app(s) are those that link me to my accounts. I like being able to see my balances and transactions any time. I like having that instant and constant knowledge of my financial position.
  • As far as a book goes, I have to go with a classic. Your Money or Your Life really struck a chord with me. Admittedly, I am not following all of the steps that were outlined. I more take the philosophical nuggets and try to live by them. I really try to consider the utility of each purchase.  I consciously ensure that my spending in alignment with my values and I am acutely aware that what I buy is actually trading my life energy for what I’m acquiring. Powerful stuff.
  • I started reading FIRE blogs about a year before I quit my job. They really made me take the time to consider different possibilities. I saw that people were blazing different paths for themselves and were really living life. It was very inspiring.While I read many, many blogs, and still do, one that stands out is Our Next Life. I find Tanja’s writing very relatable and I admire how prolific she is.

Is there anything else you would like to add that would benefit the reader?

Be conscious of what your dollars are actually getting you. You are trading over 2000 hours of your life per year to get those dollars. You owe it to yourself to make sure you’re not wasting your hard earned cash– because if you are, you’re wasting your life, too.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

My website is https://www.everydaybythelake.com

I’m on the major social platforms:

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Laura. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth. Come back next week for my interview with Scott from Making Momentum.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with Laura about?

Interview with J Money

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with J Money from Budgets are Sexy.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

By now, most people know who you are and your story, but for those that don’t. Who is J Money and how did you come to blogging?

Oh man, haha… the short story is I bought a house when I shouldn’t have 10 years ago, and it led me down this internet portal to blogs and I ended up becoming obsessed with them.

Mainly, because people were sharing their REAL LIFE STORIES online with real-life numbers and all! I had never seen such a thing before, and before I knew it I was starting my own blog and getting my financial life better squared away as well.

And now here we are 10 years later and we’re still blogging 🙂

(For the longer bullet-point story, click here)

Each month you give an update on your net worth. Why did you start doing that? Any forecast of what it’ll look like in 5 years?

Yup – on Month #123 in a row now! One of the best things I’ve ever done for my money as it gives me an overall view of how everything’s going and you can usually tell what areas you’re rocking and what you aren’t which keeps you super accountable.

Seeing someone else’s net worth for the first time was just a game changer for me, so the second I started my own blog I knew I’d be sharing the same and I haven’t stopped since.

And in fact, we now have over 500 bloggers in the space being just as transparent as well! Pretty incredible!

As for 5 years from now, I honestly couldn’t tell you, haha… I’m great at living and thinking in the *present* but horrible about forecasting the future. Just because so much changes in life and dreams, especially when you keep popping out kids like we are (#3 is due any week!).

I can tell you though that we’ll be continuing to save and invest as much as we can as we always have, and God willing our net worth will continue to climb just as much… if that happens, we’ll be over the million dollar mark and maybe even pushing $1.5?

Who knows… As long as I wake up happy each day that’s what matters the most 🙂

That’s awesome! Congratulations on number 3! Any tips for new parents on how to manage the expenses that come along with a new baby?

My only advice for new parents is to make sure they clear their schedules as much as they can when that baby comes because there will be no time to do anything else despite your best intentions 🙂 Because even when you DO technically have the free time, all you’ll want to do is sleep because your brain is a mess!

So the more work-work you can avoid doing during that first month or so the better… (also – as a nurse once told me when my first baby was born – “you can never love your child too much!” which is good now, and probably 18 years from now too when they’re stealing your car and sneaking beers ;))

What were some lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

There were two main ones constantly brought up in our family, one from my mother and one from my father (although growing up, of course, we didn’t always follow them ;)):

#1) You don’t need to buy everything *new*! My mom was/is the queen of frugality, and I swear half of our stuff – if not more – came from yard sales and thrift stores. She was raising a family of 5 on a shoestring military budget, so she def. had to stretch those dollars far.

#2) Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting your FREE 401(k) matches from your employer! This one was brought up multiple times by my father once we were all old enough to work, and despite it being ingrained in our heads we still failed hard early on 🙂

Once it finally clicked, though and I saw the money continue to RISE and never go down, it was mind-boggling as usually at that age you just deplete stuff, haha… And when $100 turns into $1,000 and then $5,000 and then $10,000, it’s just amazing to see and I’ve been contributing to my retirement accounts ever since. Even maxing them out most years.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto your kids?

That you can live a life on your OWN terms and not have to do what everyone else around you is doing (or buying). We’re so caught up in this “American Dream” of the 9-5 work life and buying a home and having 2.5 kids etc that it’s hard, sometimes, to step back and really ask yourself if it’s all worth it in the end? Why do we work so hard for stuff that might not even make us that happy?

So the #1 thing I want to teach my kids is to be more *conscious* about their actions and dreams/goals/etc, and that they can set up a lifestyle that they enjoy themselves vs just chasing what everyone else is.

And I hope to instill a little entrepreneurship in them too, although I wouldn’t be sad if they did go corporate in the end 🙂 Whatever gets them excited to wake up!!

I also want to teach them that no matter what is going on in their lives to always be kind, loving to people and never apologize for it. This world needs as much love as it can get, and even if it tries chewing you up and spitting you out, you always have the *choice* of being nice! So I pray they do so!

What are your best budgeting tips? Any hacks for people who suck at budgeting?

Well, the first thing I’d say is that if you suck at budgeting try tracking your net worth! It only takes 15 minutes and you only have to do it once a month! If you can’t manage that, then you’re in trouble, haha…

Outside of that though, it really comes down to HOW BAD you want it. Most people already know how to do this stuff (spend less, save more!), but it’s the *motivation* you need to actually start taking action.

So I’d focus on the parts that excite you with this stuff and then work your way from there. For some, it may be killing your debt once and for all, and others it may be starting to invest or seeing how low you can get your cable bill or whatever.

But if you can really focus on the areas that motivate you *right now* vs the stuff that you “have to do,” I guarantee you’ll succeed much faster and not burn out.

You don’t necessarily have to save and invest and pay off debt and get better at budgeting all at the exact same time. But you DO need to be taking action on *something*, so why not work on the stuff that’s more fun for you?

How do you keep track of your net worth? Mint? Excel spreadsheet?

I use an old school spreadsheet I found off another blogger 10 years ago which has since been modified approximately 38 times, haha…

You can find the main version of it here if anyone wants to check it out: http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/free-budget-templates-sites/

I find I pay more attention when I manually track my $$ than I do when it’s automated.

Do you have any advice for someone who can’t decide between buying a home or renting?

I would think REALLY hard about what you truly want in life, particularly the next 5-7 years, and see where housing plays a part there.

If you’re one who likes getting up and moving/traveling every other year and/or not having to deal with maintenance, then renting is probably more your speed.

However, if you’re trying to lay down roots and will be staying put for a handful of years, then owning might be better for you long term. It really comes down to a mixture of two things: your personality, and your finances.

Some people have the money but can’t stand the thought of up keeping a house so prefer to rent instead (me), while others like the stability and long-term financial benefits of home ownership and thus prefer to own.

Whatever the case, just remember to a) pick the route that makes the most sense for YOU, despite whatever anyone says! (particularly if you rent – when all the haters come out), and b) keep in mind that home ownership is *not* an investment.

It’s a good place to lay your head down and might be cheaper than renting overtime, but investments grow and pay you money over time – not suck it up 😉 If you’re strictly looking for an investment, I’d pick a different route.

(Editors Note: I threw this question in because my wife and I are currently having this discussion)

What’s a book that you’d recommend to someone who wants to improve their financial literacy?

I really like the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Not necessarily a financial book per se, but one that really gets you to stop and focus on WHAT YOU TRULY WANT in life and to start moving away from all the nonsense that detracts from it.

Whether that’s a healthier personal life, career life, financial life, love life? Anything really. We do so many unnecessary things in our days, and often times we don’t even realize it because they’ve become a habit.

So this book – at least for me – was instrumental in opening up my eyes and clearing the path for a more efficient, and happy, lifestyle.

Is there an app or program that you use to help with your finances?

Two apps I like a lot are Digit for automatically saving more, and then Acorns for automatically investing more.

There’s also a newer one about to drop on the scene called Pickpocket that applies the same principles but towards debt payoff. If you suck at any of those three areas in life I’d give those apps a peek…

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with J Money. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth. Come back next week for my interview with Erik from The Mastermind Within.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with J Money about?