This is our 10th “Better Know A Blogger” interview. We’ll be posting two 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 Michelle from SeeDebtRun.com. Enjoy!
I really like the image on your homepage – where did you get it, and does it depict your real-life family?
I love my little cartoon family! Andrea from Nuts and Bolts Media took a couple different pics and then worked her customizing magic to make the adorable cartoons look a little more like us. Our boys are 11 and 8 years old and our daughter is 13 months, so yes, it definitely is meant to depict our family. I will admit, though, that my avatar has smaller pores, and Jeff’s is a bit thinner. Oh to be 2D!
You have a page on your site that shows your progress toward getting out of debt, and so far it looks like you’re right on track! What’s it been like to share this goal publicly?
At first, there definitely was some anxiety about sharing our deepest, darkest secret with the world; however, we were even more anxious about coming out to the people who thought they knew us best. Before starting this blog, we hadn’t told any family or friends that we were in the tight clutches of consumer debt, so we were really worried about the judgment. Fortunately, we have amazing friends and family that have been nothing but understanding and supportive of our hardcore debt eradication, even when that has meant a lot of declined invitations. This year, we didn’t even take a family vacation or go to any concerts with friends, but one thing we’ve learned in this process is the value of spending time with the people we love. Having friends over for boxed wine and popcorn can be just as enjoyable as going out for sushi and cocktails. I think sharing our finances in such a public forum has been therapeutic and freeing in a lot of ways.
You obviously work together with your husband on both your family’s finances and your blog. What allows you to be successful as a team? Is it ever hard to “co-blog”?
My husband and I have a lot of respect for eachother. I think that’s why it works so well for us. Regarding our finances and our website, we discuss every decision, big and small. Communication is key!
Co-blogging hasn’t ever been difficult for us, because we are a really good team. We each have our strengths and our weaknesses and we just do our best to support one another. One thing most people don’t know about blogging is that there is an awful lot of work involved! My husband’s bread-and-butter happens to be computers, and I’ve always enjoyed writing. He’s shy, book smart, and very good with numbers, and I’m the outgoing one that enjoys networking with other bloggers. We both have had our share of writer’s block, but thankfully–never at the same time!
You both have written about some great tips for budgeting. Can you share a few of those with our readers? Also, many of our readers are working to pay off their debt like you are – any advice for them?
Sure! Just recently, I shared a breakdown of my cost-per-serving for one of my super easy recipes. A lot of people think you have to eat cheap junk food in order to save money on groceries, but in reality, planning and cooking meals at home can save you so much money, taste better, and give you peace of mind knowing you’re feeding your family healthy, nutritious foods.
As for budgeting, it does take some time and energy, but it’s so important! Every month, we start over with a new budget and it takes 15 minutes to complete because we already know how much money Jeff is bringing home from the day job, how much our car payment and house payment will be, and we set a goal for our credit card debt payments, emergency fund payment (if needing to be replenished), and savings goals. Next, we try to predict our variables; gifts (does anyone have a birthday this month or a baby due?), beauty (do I need one of my bi-annual haircuts?), kids’ activities (is soccer starting?), etc. We also attempt to predict our on-line and side hustle income. Everything is accounted for! Throughout the month, we update the spreadsheet. If I sell a pair of shoes, it gets added in. If I sign my daughter up for a class, added! If I give my boys a raise for cleaning the basement, ADDED! So you see, it can be tedious, but it’s really important, at least while you are in the trenches of debt, to document everything! You might just catch a trend, i.e. spending way too much on groceries like we were!
How does having kids shape your financial decisions? Are there any lessons you’ve learned about making finances work when you have kids?
I would say that the birth of our third child was a real wake-up call. After analyzing the costs of day care, and the realities of needing to be home for my older children before and after school, it made the most financial sense for me to leave work and to stay home with my daughter. However, when we looked at our budget situation, it wasn’t pretty. We started cutting costs wherever we could, selling items that could bring in extra money, and making a lot of sacrifices in our lives.
Our lives are very focused around our children and both Jeff and I really love being parents. We have skipped out on a lot of things this year while getting out of debt, but we make sure that our kids never have to go without. We still make room in our budget for kids’ sports, music lessons, and fun activities almost every weekend; we just try to find a cheap way to do them all.
Okay, last question: Did you go to FinCon last year and if so what was it like? Also, what are you looking forward to at this year’s conference and do you have any tips for a first-time attendee?
Since we’ve only been blogging for 7 months now, I hadn’t even heard of Fincon until this year! One thing that’s really cool about the personal finance community is how supportive everyone is. I really feel like some of these people who I’ve never even met have potential to be really great friends! I might sound like a total dork saying it, but it’s true. Digging yourself out of debt can feel so lonely and even kind of scary, and these people have been so supportive and helpful.
On top of building connections and making friends, I’m really excited about learning tips on how to take my little baby blog to the next level.
Even though I’ve not attended before myself, I would give other new, slightly nervous attendees the same advice I gave my son on his first day of middle school; You’re the cutest thing in the world. How could anyone NOT like you?
I’m not sure if that works for adults, but it made my son smile!
That’s perfect! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Michelle.
Have questions for Michelle? Post them in the comments below.