Interview with a Savings Expert: Aaron

Aaron's blog, Three Thrifty Guys, offers tons of advice on living frugally. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt or just wanting to be more conservative with your finances, Shepherd provides tips on becoming more savvy with your money. Read on for a look inside Shepherd’s money-saving process.

You started your blog, Three Thrifty Guys, with two of your friends once you realized you had frugal living in common. Since then, your site has been mentioned in multiple publications like Time, Star Tribune, and US News. What gave you three the inspiration to start the blog?

Charlie had actually been writing his own “early retirement” site, and we were both working on getting out of debt. We were nearing the end of that journey and thought it would be neat to start a site together where we could share our experiences and give others hope / inspiration to do the same.

On the site, you mention that you were once more than $40,000 in debt. After five years, you were able to call yourself debt-free. What were some of the most impactful steps you took to achieve financial freedom?

Ah, there were quite a bit. You’ll probably hear others say this, but I was very influenced when a friend of mine gave me "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. His philosophy of “living like no one else, so you can live like no one else later” really impacted and challenged me to do the same. One of the things I did pretty quickly was to share a part of a duplex with two other guys – where my rent was about $300 / mo. That and I just started living “like no one else:” shopping thrift stores, never eating out, making my meals, walking when I could, and hardly spending on entertainment.

Your site is dedicated to providing readers with tips for living on a budget. Do you have  some trusted sources that you go to for financial advice?

A lot of our advice is from our own experiences, watching others, and also learning from (as Charlie loves to write about with his grandparents who lived through the Great Depression) those who came before us.

The Money Saving Reviews you and your partners have conducted lets readers see first-hand accounts of products you’ve actually tested. Have there been any standout services that you still use?

Charlie loves Ooma, and I think sites like Rather-be-shopping.com (and CouponPal) are great for helping folks save money when shopping (plus they have excellent customer service).

In the post, “How We Spend Our Money,” you shared a breakdown of your monthly expenses in a pie chart with readers. If readers were to make a similar chart of their expenses, where would you expect to see people commonly overspending?

Probably their homes, vehicles, and entertainment / eating out.

Some of your articles have appeared on Lifehacker.com. One of them, called “5 Financial Beliefs I Was Wrong About,” details certain misconceptions you had about personal finances. What is one delusion that tends to trip people up regarding money?

I think many people (I know I did) take a very passive approach to their finances. They tend to think that “someday I’ll get enough money” or “make more money” and then I’ll be able to save more or get out of debt. Often it takes a crisis to jolt people into changing their financial future.

You have tons of followers on Twitter and Facebook. Have you ever received any surprising budgeting tips from your readers that actually work?

All the time. Readers provide great ideas and are willing to share how they are living a thrifty lifestyle.

One of the aspects of your blog that I love and is different from others is your Benevolent Fund page. This is a section of your site that allows people to write in and request money to help them through hard times. So far, you’ve raised money to help people pay phone bills, keep utilities on, and cover expenses for dental surgery. What gave you the inspiration to start this charitable work?

Thanks for bringing this up. As Christians, we are just hoping to show the love of Christ to others with the Benevolent Fund. It’s been a real highlight of this past year to see how readers have stepped up to give to the fund and humbling to hear people’s stories of their needs. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

Now that you’re an expert on saving money, what is the one thing you wish you’d learned a long time ago?

Haha...by no means are we experts. Just hoping that our experiences and thrifty tips might help others here and there. Personally, I wish I knew how long it would take to pay off my debts and to start saving / investing earlier. Putting money away for a rainy day can save a person a lot of heartache.

We’re so grateful for your time answering our questions today. Do you have any last pieces of advice for our CouponPal readers?

I think living with gratitude can really transform the way we think about finances. When we stop trying to keep up with our neighbors and friends – but think about what we have and enjoy what we’ve been given – our outlook changes. Thanks for the opportunity to share with you and the CouponPal community!

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with a Savings Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #SavingsExperts to @CouponPal!

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