Better Know… Andrea from So Over This

Better Know A Blogger - Andrea from So Over This This is the second-ever “Better Know A Blogger” interview. We’ll be posting one per day, except on Saturdays and Sundays, leading up to the 2012 Financial Blogger Conference next month. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to some excellent bloggers from all across the web who are able to shed light on topics ranging from debt to saving money to investing. (Each interview is conducted via e-mail and then published here)

Today’s interviewee is Andrea from Enjoy!

Andrea from So Over This

You recently switched your blog’s name from “So Over Debt” to “So Over This” – does that mean you are out of debt? And has it been easier or harder than you expected to make that switch?

Unfortunately I’m not completely out of debt – I paid off my last credit card in July 2011, but I’m still working on my car and student loans. After nearly 2 years of responsible financial behavior, I feel like the habits that contributed to my debt are under control, though. I wanted to broaden my focus and talk about other topics (though I still write about financial topics as well).

The transition has gone pretty much as expected. I knew I would see some fluctuations in my traffic and subscribers, and that has definitely been the case in this first month. My social media accounts took a large hit as well. However, it was more important to me that my audience be engaged and interested in what I have to say, so I’m not upset about the temporary loss of numbers. I was also maintaining five blogs before, and I’ve now consolidated into two: So Over This (my personal blog) and the one on my business website.

I think it’s great you took that leap – and I love the variety of topics you write about. Congrats on paying off the last credit card! What advice would you give our readers who may have both credit card debt and other types? How can they pay off those cards faster?

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The only way to make progress toward paying off your credit cards is to stop using them. For years, I would make a little progress on paying off my cards, then end up maxing them out again when something came up. Of course, in order to stop using credit cards, one has to find an alternate way to deal with emergencies. I started very slowly by adding $20 to a savings account each pay period, then gradually increasing that amount. The funny thing is that I really didn’t want to spend that money once I saved it, and most of the “emergencies” I would have charged in the past ended up not being so important after all.

That’s a great insight. Once you see the emergency fund growing bigger, there is a psychological desire to protect it. Do you recommend continuing to have credit cards once you’ve paid them off or would you say that’s playing with fire?

For me personally, it was dangerous to keep credit cards around. My cards spent over a year in my parents’ safe because I didn’t trust myself! I do use my cards occasionally now, but only to pay bills and then immediately pay off the balance. It still takes an enormous amount of self control to use my credit cards the right way, and I don’t carry them in my wallet at all. I have to ask myself, “How would I handle this situation if I didn’t have available credit on my cards?” And there is always another way, whether it’s taking money from my emergency fund or delaying a purchase.

That’s good advice – I like the idea of putting them in a safe, just in case. You’ve written about how you left your “9 to 5” job in order to pursue a career as a freelance web designer (and writer?). What was that like? Any tips for people who want to make that transition?

The economic conditions of the last few years have led a lot of people to look for ways to pursue their passions. And while passion is definitely needed to work as a freelancer, you also need concrete skills! Far too many people quit their jobs before they figure out what they’re good at. Many of those same people quit without a clear plan or adequate savings in place, which is a recipe for disaster.

I would advise anyone looking to become self-employed to start their business on the side first. Save like crazy, find a niche where you are skilled and able to offer something people will pay for, and juggle the two until your job is preventing you from expanding your business (or you’re consistently making more from your side gig than your full time job). Most importantly, would-be entrepreneurs need to be sure they will actually get up and work each day – it’s not as easy when you work from home and know your boss won’t fire you!

That makes sense. When it comes to blogging, having loyal readers is a great motivation – is there any feedback you’ve heard from your readers that was insightful and/or changed how you approach blogging or your finances?

It is amazing how much I’ve learned from my readers. I’ve always made it clear that I’m not a finance expert – in fact, I’m probably the opposite of a finance expert – but I’ve always been really good at making financial mistakes. Many of my readers are in a similar situation or have been in the past. They challenge me to move beyond my mistakes and keep trying, which is exactly the message I strive to send to them.

By presenting myself as an average person trying to get out of debt (which is exactly who I am), I’ve developed a community of people that support each other and are invested in what happens, not just to me but to other readers as well. And that means much more to me than being perceived as an authority. In other words, I try to be honest and it has kept blogging fun.

That’s probably why people really enjoy your blog! Okay, last question: Did you go to FinCon last year? If so, what is your most vivid memory of it and what advice would you give a first-timer for this year’s conference? For FinCon12, what are you looking forward to the most?

I did attend FinCon last year and it was the best decision I ever made for my blog. What stood out most was standing in the hotel lobby waiting to check in, wondering if the people walking by were there for the conference. It really reinforced my decision to attend – if I hadn’t, I would have missed out on the opportunity to put faces with all the awesome bloggers I interacted with online.

This year I’m excited about seeing all the friends I met last year and hearing many of them speak, but I’m especially thrilled to meet new bloggers and those who didn’t get to attend FinCon11. For first-time attendees, I recommend keeping a pen and paper handy at all times – there was SO much great information to help take any blog to the next level. It’s also a good idea to interact with as many bloggers as possible because you might be surprised by who you’ll connect with most.

Excellent! And on that note, I look forward to meeting you in person at the conference. Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me.

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  • Yay Andrea! You are so well spoken and it really comes through here. <3 this interview.

    • Andrea

      Thanks, Lauren! It helps that I got to do the interview by email – gave me a chance to edit out all the dumb stuff. 🙂

  • I’m looking forward to getting out of consumer debt as well and I love what Andrea said about emergencies not feeling so important once she took control of her finances. I’m hoping to feel that way soon, because right now…our master bathroom feels like it’s in a state of emergency!

    • Andrea

      Uh oh… Home repairs are never fun! However, I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that since you said “master bathroom” I’m guessing you have more than one. So not an emergency just yet! (Unless you have an active leak or something.) You’ll get there!

  • Awesome job, Andrea! I completely agree with the note about emergency funds. Things somehow don’t seem as important when you start paying attention to where your money goes.

    • Andrea

      Agreed. I was always awful about putting money in savings, then taking it out later for a non-emergency. But when I set a goal to reach that first $1k, it’s amazing what a difference it made in the way I thought about saving money.