Are You More Than a Number? (YES)

More Than a Number Series

Hi there. My name is Ben and I’m More Than a Number. And you know what? It feels great to say that! … but wait, let me back up for a second and explain.

Last week we posted a survey here on our blog in order to get feedback from our readers about how we could improve the blog posts we write for you. Two of the clear patterns that emerged from the survey responses were:  (1) that people want more personal stories about how others deal with their own financial challenges and strive to accomplish their own goals, and (2) that people want more practical insights and motivation for getting out of debt.

We’re going to do our best to meet both of these requests from our blog readers. And one of our first steps to do that is this series right here. It’s called “More Than a Number” because its purpose is to profile regular people (including our friends, co-workers, fellow bloggers, and our readers) and look at the personal stories behind their financial numbers.

In essence, we want to show that although we depend on our finances in a variety of ways, each one of us is… well… so much more than just a number. We’re also doing the monthly Debt Destroyers Super League, which will be a fun way to follow different people’s progress toward their financial goals. But we wanted to do a more intimate look at people’s finances and find out what we can all learn by sharing our stories. After all, taking away the stigma of debt and replacing it with a supportive environment where we can all learn from each other has always been one of our main goals here on this blog.

Anyway, to kick things off, I figured I would go first. And since I write for the ReadyForZero blog I decided to conduct this interview myself – in other words, I chose the questions and the answers. Seems fair, right? You can read my profile below…

(Oh, and if you want to be one of our “More Than a Number” profiles, post a comment below or email us at ask@readyforzero.com)

Ben photoMy name: Ben
My biggest goal in 3 words or less: A financial cushion
My biggest challenge in 3 words or less: Learning to save

Can you tell us who you are?

I work at ReadyForZero and I like to write. In the two years that I’ve worked here I’ve learned so much about personal finances. Part of that is because these topics obviously relate to my work – we’re building tools that help people get out of debt, and the blog is an integral part of that. But I’ve also been trying in my personal life to discover how I can use the things I’m learning at work to improve my own financial situation.

What’s your general financial philosophy?

My general financial philosophy has always been to mostly buy only things I need (with a few fun things thrown in there for good measure) while trying to always have enough saved up for a rainy day.

What has been your biggest financial hurdle or challenge?

My biggest challenge has been that my philosophy about money was a little vague, and it was preventing me from having confidence in my finances and accomplishing the things I wanted to accomplish. Before I worked at ReadyForZero I was working in a different job, and at the time I wasn’t really paying much attention to my finances. Sure, I thought I was being careful and responsible, but I wasn’t tracking my spending – in fact, I wasn’t using a budget or spending plan of any kind. That meant every month I was allowing money to slip through the cracks.

Then, as is often the case, something changed in my life that forced me to start looking at my finances differently. I decided to switch careers. I quit my job and began looking for a new job that would allow me to do the writing I had always loved. I was really excited about this transition, but financially it put me in a precarious position. Suddenly all those little times I spent more than I should caught up to me. As I conducted my job search, my savings account began to dwindle and soon I was putting monthly living expenses on my credit card. The balance crept up and up into the thousands of dollars.

It was around this time that I found my dream job with ReadyForZero. And as fate would have it, I was going to be writing about how to get out of debt for our blog – what a great time to figure out how to pay off my own credit card debt! So I ended up writing about my journey and documenting my attempt to pay down the credit card balance each month… and finally I became debt free in July of last year. (If you want to read the whole story go click those links and then come back here)

What are some of the strategies or lessons you’ve learned from taking on this challenge?

The main lesson I learned is that our finances are too important to leave on the back burner. Believe me, I thought I was doing great several years ago even when I wasn’t paying much attention to my finances. But now I see that I was missing opportunities to be proactive and set myself up for an easier financial future.

I’d describe my experience as being a journey through these three stages:

1. Attention focused elsewhere
2. Realizing I need to make changes
3. Implementing new habits and pursuing new goals

Whichever stage you find yourself in right now, please know that you can definitely make the transition to the next stage. It may take time, but you can do it!

And I’ve found the most helpful techniques are to make a goal and then track your progress. Whether it’s spending less, saving more, or getting out of debt, if you have a concrete goal and keep track of how well you’re doing in achieving it (on a monthly basis) you’re very likely to see some positive results.

Do your finances control you or do you control your finances?

This is a tricky question! I would say that sometimes my finances control me and sometimes it’s the other way around. But I’m getting more and more confident in how I manage my money and that makes me think I’m starting to take control over my finances for the long run.

What is the hardest expenditure in your budget to maintain at a reasonable level?

Well, this one’s easy to answer because I’ve already mentioned it on the blog. I’m working on reducing my food expenditures – and I’ll update you on the progress of that in the coming months.

What would you tell yourself if you could go back and in time and talk to “you” from ten years ago?

I would tell myself that simply trying to avoid unnecessary spending is not enough because you won’t be able to know how much you should (or could) be saving unless you actually track your spending each month and look at the patterns to know where your money is going and where you might be able to save more.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your goals for the future?

My main goal for the future is to build up my financial cushion – in other words my savings account – so that I can be prepared for any type of situation that might come up in the future. It will feel good to know that I don’t have to worry about going into debt again if I have some kind of financial emergency or if something unexpected happens. But more than that, having a financial cushion will serve as the beginning of my retirement fund which will one day give me the peace of mind to retire without having any financial concerns. Those are my goals for now, and that’s what is motivating me!

Do YOU want to be profiled in an upcoming More Than a Numbers blog post? We’d love to have you! Send an email to ask@readyforzero.com or leave a comment below. Thanks!

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