As a member of the personal finance community, I’m amazed at how many people are a part of it. Unfortunately that often means that I can’t always keep up with everyone. It’s a shame because there are some wonderful bloggers with their stories and advice on handling finances responsibly and with fun.
To counteract that and get the word out on other sites, I’m interviewing bloggers in the community. So happy Julie from The Family CEO shared her story this week!
Since you’ve hired yourself years ago as your family’s CEO, what have been some of your favorite successes? What lessons have you learned along the way?
We really changed the way we looked at debt and that resulted in two big successes: 1. We paid off all debt except for the mortgage and one car payment. 2. We put our oldest through college using cash and are hoping to do the same for our youngest, who started college last month.
We’ve learned that little things really do make a big difference. And it’s not so much about deprivation as it is about choices. When you approach things that way it’s much more liberating. We skimp on the things we don’t care as much about so that we can spend on the things that are important to us.
Besides discussing family finances on your site, you also cover cooking, travel, and organizing. Have you noticed any parallels between these topics?
Definitely with the organizing or, more specifically, simplifying. Decluttering is a great tool to see what you’ve been spending money on in the past that ended up in a drawer or box in the basement or garage. You see what you really don’t value and you tend to quit spending on that. I did, anyway.
For instance I really, really wanted one of those steam mops. The commercials made them look so appealing. One of my best friends told me not to do it; that it wouldn’t get used. I did it anyway and guess what needs to go with my next decluttering effort? So I still slip up at times but I spend way differently.
You’ve mentioned hating to follow budgets, a sentiment that I’ve heard from others. How does your family manage its money?
I do hate to follow budgets. I love making them (I’m a numbers nerd) but I hate following them.
We stumbled on o a strategy called found money, where we take little bits of money and give them a job to do. For instance, anything extra that comes in to our bank account or wallets (gifts, rebates, Craigslist sales) used to go toward paying off debt and now goes to building up our emergency fund.
And the extra money that I make through bookkeeping and blogging goes toward offsetting college expenses. Every dollar that comes in has a place to go and that strategy has worked wonders with our finances.
I know that some personal finance bloggers have strong feelings about credit cards? How do credit cards fit in your family’s finances? How do you keep them under control?
While we were paying off debt we switched to debit only but now we use our main credit card for almost everything and pay it off every month. The cash back (about $500 last year) is one of our found money sources.
We haven’t had a problem keeping the credit card spending under control. I think the fact that we paid off so much debt and our monthly expenses are lower helps with that. Also, carrying a balance just isn’t an option any more. The alternative is dipping into savings to pay off the card and I hate the thought of that so that keeps things in check.
Giving seems to be an important topic to you. What tips or ideas do you have for couples and families who want to give more, but don’t have a ton of money right now?
Good question. I would say the act of giving is more important than the amount. Start with something, no matter how small. And there’s always the gift of your time, as well.
If you haven’t already, please check out Julie’s story at The Family CEO!