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Sustainable Personal Finance Interview

sustainable personal  finance

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 bloggers, I’ve started the Sunday Blogger series. It’s my hope that you’ll discover some new voices in the series.

Today’s interview is with SPF from Sustainable Personal Finance. I’m excited that SPF agreed to do the interview and I love reading their blog every chance I can get. I enjoy seeing couples blog together about finances.

Sustainable Personal Finance Interview

Why did you start Sustainable Personal Finance?

Mrs. SPF and I both have an interest in doing the green thing and at the same time we both enjoy writing.  As we got engaged and then married our discussions about our personal finances increased as we realized we were always evaluating our financial decisions with our goal of sustainable living.   When do we buy locally, or choose the local food option (usually more expensive)?  What are the benefits about not having items shipped across the world.   How much value to we place on supporting the earth and fellow man and how do we balance these choices with our financial reality?

I started reading a lot more about personal finance as Mrs. SPF and I were to be wed.  I was no longer solely responsible for my own situation.  We were responsible for OUR finances.  I knew I was doing a lot of things inefficiently, and Mrs. SPF, who is 9 years younger than I, was just starting to earn income after graduating.  We needed to be smarter about our PF reality.

So I read personal finance articles – many from blogs.  After a while I started to think, hey – we have our own spin on dealing with personal finances, I wonder if we could share it?  This led to more in depth research about how our decisions actually impacted our financial and real-world lives.  I quickly learned that while we pay a bit more up front to live this sustainable lifestyle, our bottom line wasn’t impacted much and many time we’d save money long term.

Now that I’d validated we wouldn’t just be talking sideways if we wrote about Sustainable/Green/Ethical Personal Finance, I posed the ideas to Mrs. SPF.  Timing couldn’t have been worse.  We were in the midst of a 4.5 month reno/prepping/selling our house marathon (think every day, 3-10 hrs a day for 150 days).  She thought the idea was interesting but shelved it.

After we moved into the new house I brought the topic of writing together up again.  We could both write (and we both missed writing) for a site.  I explained my plan/strategy to Mrs. SPF and what I thought her commitment would be to the project would be.  I came up with a good name and ran it by a blogging mentor (Frugal Trader) and we were close to ready to launch a site.  I figured out the technical side of things and got a half dozen articles written and then we launched.

What we both wanted was a project we could work on together.  I researched the car purchase, she researched the baby purchase, she works on the garden, I fix the stuff in the house and put stuff together.  But we don’t do these things together.  We wanted a common project.  To meet common goals and to work together husband and wife writing about what we are passionate about.

How long have you’ve been blogging?

Seems longer, but a short 9 months.  Yea, we’ve been around for only 9 months.  Somehow I think people will be surprised about that.  I’ve been uber active in the blogging community and the awesome Yakezie Network for some time so we may seem “older”.  I sure have learned a lot.  Elle is one of many people who has helped us.  It is very cool we’re experience being new parents with Elle – we’re very happy about that.

You must have some favorite posts that you’ve written on Sustainable Personal Finance, which are they and why?

For this I’ll answer 2 for each Mrs. SPF and I.

Mrs. SPF is most proud of:

  1. Using a Midwife – A Personal Choice – Mrs. SPF loves this article as she shares her personal experience and opinion with using a midwife during this adventure/journey that has been her pregnancy.
  2. Baking Your Own: Make Your Wallet and Your Sweet Tooth Happy – This was an article where Mrs. SPF was able to discuss her love of baking and how she can bake quality goods, frugally, without having the devourer of her efforts taking in less than healthy ingredients.

I’m most proud of:

  1. Mom Knows Best – Financial Advice by Example.  A very personal look at my life growing up in a single parent household which includes the valuable lessons Mom taught me about personal finances.
  2. Making Money Online – 4 Decades of Deals.  The story of how i’ve made money online since the late ’80s.

How do you handle your own finances? Do you have a formal budget or a more informal system?

A lot more informal.  We have a budget, and a plan, and we talk about things.  But we’ve had so many unexpected expenses.  I find it interesting that you can read about babies, or housing costs, housing improvements, using the car less … but when it comes down to it, these things are hard to predict without some base data.  Which we need to develop.

That being said, we keep paying off debt aggressively and investing in our RRSP and TFSA while maintaining an emergency fund.

For us the big thing is not over extending ourselves in debt.  We pay 40% more than our minimum mortgage payment (bi weekly) and plan to increase this to 60% Jan 1 when we can again.  We got rid of my remaining student loans this year.  Less debt means less monthly, and hopefully not so far out, yearly payments (house).

What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve ever made? What did you learn from it?

During university I ran up a credit card bill using cash advances.  I learned to use credit cards wisely and to never carry a balance.

What are your goals this year with Sustainable Personal Finance?

We’ve had a very good 9 months – much more success than we ever imagined we would have.  We were nominated by our peer Preet Banerjee who writesWhere Does All My Money Go and appears on our national newscast regularly for the Globe and Mail for top blog in Canada – when were just 5 1/2 months blogging.  More recently we were nominated by our blogging peers for 2 awards as top 5 finalists in the Top Green / Sustainability blog and Top Canadian blog as well!

So where do we go from these early highlights?  Just continue to produce quality content, build relationships with other bloggers and try to expand our reach.  We feel that you can act in a sustainable manner while doing the best thing for your personal financial situation and we love to write about it, so that is what we’ll do!

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I hope you take the chance not only to visit Sustainable Personal Finance, but to them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Joining the Sunday Blogger Series

If you’re interesting in being interviewed as part of the Sunday Blogger series, I have a few requirements.

  • You’ve been blogging for 3 months.
  • You’ve publish genuine content. I want to connect to genuine bloggers, not linking to a spam site. I review all the sites before sending out interview questions.
  • You’re willingly to promote other bloggers in the series. I don’t expect you to tweet  ever interview, but I would like interviewees to spread the word on their favorite bloggers. By the way, I don’t want others to just promote the posts, please share posts from your favorite interviews. They are some wonderful bloggers out there.

 

 

 

Frugal Activities at Your Library

library activities

I’ve been catching up on some reading lately by visiting my local library a couple of times this month. My mom got me into the habit of grabbing books as way to learn and relax and I hope to pass it on to our daughter.

I’ve noticed that libraries have changed quite a bit and now offer so much more than what I was used to as a kid.

Besides visiting  to borrow books and other media, there are some other ways you can enjoy your local  library branch.

  • Movie Nights: Families can enjoy a free movie at the library.
  • Adult Learning: Many local libraries open their doors for a variety of classes and programs including reading clubs, yoga, and computer/office courses.
  • Jobs: Many libraries offer job assistance centered events and programs. If you’re looking for employment, it’s worth taking a look.
  • Arts & Crafts: During the summer I noticed that my library had several activities planned for the neighborhood kids.

How do you use your local library?

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have fun this weekend with your family and try to stay cool!

Photo Credit: Friar’s Balsam

Makeover Your Bathroom for Cheap

bathroom makeover

Our three bathrooms still have the original finishing and are starting to look dated. Although bathroom remodeling costs have a high rate of return at resell time, it would be a pretty penny to tackle three of them! This is where my hours of watching HGTV are finally paying off. Here are five ideas for making over the bathrooms with a low price tag.

Replace Light Fixtures

Swapping out out of style light fixtures with a current style can quickly refresh the look of any room. Be sure to pick a style that will integrate with the overall design and look of the room. The price range for a new light fixture can range from $20 to over $500, but you can find a very nice light in the $50-$100 range.

Frame Your Mirror

I’ve noticed the trend in bathroom mirrors is to have them framed. Ours are the traditional style of mirror which is affixed directly to the wall. One of my friends told me about kits to frame the mirror without having to remove it from the wall.

Since our mirrors have started to lose some of the silvering around the edges, this solution has the extra benefit of masking that problem. The kits are available in a wide variety of finishes and materials with a price range of $150 – $250.

Change the Color

Yes, painting the room a more contemporary color is a fast and easy way to refresh the look of a room. But did you know that you can repaint that pink or blue bathtub?

It is a lot of work due to the requirement of sanding down the entire fixture before applying the porcelain paint. However, it can save a lot of money especially if your bathtub is tiled in. Since toilets and sinks are relatively cheap, I would replace them versus repainting.

Reface Cabinets

It can be costly to replace bathroom cabinets, especially when they’re attached to or built into the walls. A trick you may know from kitchen remodeling is to replace only the doors. New doors can move the look from the 1960’s to contemporary. We need to strip the white paint off our cabinets and refinish along with attaching new doors.

Replace Hardware

The hardware I’m speaking of includes the faucets, toilet paper holder, towel racks and cabinet handles or pulls. Make sure the style for all of these are complementary and the same color. These are easy to overlook because you see them every day but can add up to making the room look old.

Just because you don’t have $10-30 thousand dollars doesn’t mean you can’t remodel your bathroom. Get a great new look for under $1,000 with these tips. What changes do you want to make at your home?

Photo Credit: steve r watson

Having Trouble with Your Student Loans? 3 Options to Help You

college textbooks

Student loans can be a huge burden, especially when your income drops. We have a student loan that we’re working to pay off early. Last year I went ahead and consolidated the loans to get a lower interest rate.

Since some readers may be carrying a student loan and are looking for ways to get their payments more manageable, I wanted to share 3 options you can take advantage of depending on your situation.

Consolidate Your Student Loans

Consolidating your loans can be a great option for two reasons:

  • Lower payments: If you have lower payment obligation, you can continue making the same payments before the consolidation and pay the loan quicker. No increase in your expenses, but you’re reducing your debt quicker. That’s a win-win.
  • Lower interest rate: Even if you can’t make extra payments, you pay less interest over the life of the loan.

If you’re interested in consolidating your federal student loans, there are 3 ways to do it:

  • Online: You quickly and easily file and submit your application online with Direct Loan Servicing.
  • Phone: You can call Direct Loan Servicing and have a customer service representative walk you through the process at 1-800-557-7392.
  • Paper: My least favorite option, but if you want to do it, you can.

Not Everyone Can Consolidate

For example, you can not consolidate federal loans with private student loans. If you have private student loans, you should check with your particular lender to see if there is a minimum required to consolidate them.

Income-Based Payments

What if you are on a somewhat limited budget, could you make your student loan payments a bit more manageable? Yes you can if you apply to be considered for receiving income based payments. As the name implies, you can

If you want to get an idea about what your student loan payment would be under IBR, here’s a wonderful calculator.

Apply for a Deferment

What if you just can’t make payments right? Perhaps you lost your job and your unemployment check barely covers your essential bills. Can you get some help?

The good news is that you can pause your student loan payments by getting a deferment. It will postpone your payments for a specific time period (interest on your student loan. You have to qualify to get it, but if you have the circumstances this is a good option until you can get your head above the water.

Thoughts on Student Loans

How about you? Do you have difficulty making your student loan payments? I’d love to hear from those who have succeeded in any of the above options. How have you worked through it?

Photo Credit: jennifercw

Who’s Your Financial Mentor?

financial mentors in your family

Dave Ramsey

Suze Orman

David Bach

What do these people have in common? They’re financial gurus and millions of people consider them their financial mentors. I’ve read their books and agree that you can learn quote a bit about finances from them. However I have different financial mentors.

For me my financial mentors are people I’ve grew up with – family and friends who’ve taught me by their own examples. I just want to highlight a few lessons I’ve learned from my family. I hope they’re as helpful for you as they are for me.

My Grandma – Make Savings a Habit

My maternal grandmother had a regular habit to set aside a chunk of her income for savings. No matter the amount, she made sure that she also kept a buffer in her checking account.

Even though other may have higher income, she always had money in the bank. She showed me that income alone doesn’t solve your financial problem. Knowing how to use it and save it has a bigger impact.

That counteracted my belief that if you had a limited income (like I did as a college student) you couldn’t really saved. Paying yourself first sounds simple, but for me it had to be automated for me to get it done.

Grandma -Save Before You Buy

My grandmother loved having a few nice things. She lived a minimalist life and so anything that she bought was high quality and something that she loved. that meant a lot of thought went into her purchases. She typically saved up before she bought something.

The other option was layaway. Being in debt was not an option in her mind. Paying upfront also helped her negotiate better deals on her purchases.

I had to learn the hard way that impulse buying and the ‘buy now pay later’ system was hurting me financially. Worse, I had a bunch of junk that I really didn’t want once the reality set in.

Mom- Help Others When You Can

My mom is a giver by nature. She loves to help others. As a teacher, she’s set aside a portion of her budget for extra school supplies for her students. She is the first to offer help to others and offer a listening ear.

I love her generosity and her big heart. It’s one of her most precious qualities. (I just love my mom! )

I’m glad that she passed this trait on to me. We have charities that we support and we hope to increase what we can give as our finances improve. My goal is not to just give to more charities, but to support a few causes that have a big impact on others.

Husband- Learn to Be Objective with Financial Decisions

My husband has some wonderful traits, but for the sake of this topic, I’m going to highlight his objectivity with money. He typically makes decisions based on long term consequences. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever, but he usually makes the right choice when he does it his way.

He’s generous when helping others and its tempered by his objectivity in seeing what would be the best way to assist someone. Loaning money to family and friends is tricky business. He’s been able to see if money is the solution or if we need to take a different route to help someone.

Being close to others, I can get swept up in the situation. Having a knee jerk reaction can be more harmful than helpful. I love my husband and appreciate his advice.

Who are Your Financial Mentors?

Earlier this month I asked on Twitter and Facebook, who were other people’s financial mentor(s) and I got some wonderful responses:

  • Financial Samurai: My parents are my financial mentors. They taught frugality and also spending in what’s important.
  • My Journey to Millions: Reading other people’s successes and failures inspires me to be held accountable to the 15K+ Readers I have per month.
  • Super Frugalette: My sorority sister. She taught me about mutual funds my last year in college!
  • Barb Friedberg: Definitely my mom and dad are my financial mentors. Dad sparked my interest in investing and both taught me sound money smarts.
  • Grady Pruitt: Some of my favorites, though, have been George Clason (The Richest Man in Babylon), David Chilton (The Wealthy Barber), Suzy Orman, and Dave Ramsey. Regardless of who your mentor is, though, you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t take action!

I’d love to hear about your financial mentors? who are they? What did they teach you? What financial lessons do you want share by your example?

Photo Credit: psycho_pixie