Interview with a Savings Expert: David Bakke

Like most Americans, many of us have found ourselves in debt. Money Crashers contributor, David Bakke, has learned some great ways to get out of debt and gain financial stability through budgeting. Read on for his advice on ways to save your hard-earned cash.

As a contributor to the blog, Money Crashers, you’ve written many pieces about obtaining financial security. Was there a particular moment in your life when you realized you needed to focus more on budgeting your money?

I found myself in significant credit card and personal debt shortly after graduating college, which came about from the cost of attending school, plus some serious spending mistakes. It was then that I realized that a major change was in order.

In your book, “Don’t Be a Mule: a down-to-earth, common-sense approach to saving more, spending less, and generating extra money in your everyday life,” you write about the importance of paying off debt. What is the most important step a person can take towards becoming debt-free?

Committing to doing something about it. Far too many people view carrying debts as an acceptable part of life. In fact, it's not, and they'll enjoy a much higher degree of financial independence by making it a priority.

You started your own blog, Your Finances 101, back in 2009. In one of your posts, you write about eliminating everyday purchases to help cut down on expenses. You suggested buying a coffee maker instead of going out and purchasing a coffee every morning. Are there any other purchases you’ve cut back on that have helped save you money?

You can also save money by not buying newspapers and getting your news updates online. And lottery tickets are an absolute waste of money. Take your lunch to work with you and you'll also save cash. Buy your clothes from Kohl's (with a Kohl's charge card) when they have sales, and you'll cut clothing costs. Get yourself some liquid pure castile soap, and use it to replace virtually every household cleaner.

As a homeowner, you’ve written several entries for Huffington Post about ways to save money on DIY projects around the house. What are some of your favorite solutions to cutting costs when upgrading your home?

Get expert help from your local hardware store or home improvement center, and you'll cut down on errors. Check both in-store and online prices for materials – you can often save by going one route over the other. Rent the tools you need for specialized projects instead of purchasing them. Get smaller supplies, like fixtures and accessories, from Amazon or eBay.

One of the ways people often go over their budgets is by going out to eat frequently. Over the years, you’ve spent time working in the restaurant industry. Has this given you any insights as to how diners can save money when eating out?

Drink tap water (not bottled), and skip the soft drinks. Don't order an appetizer – almost all restaurants give you complimentary pre-meal munchies. Avoid the nightly special – they are appetizing for sure, but also come at a premium price. Hit the grocery store after your meal and buy your sweets there – restaurant desserts are expensive.

In a post for the Financial Finesse blog, you write about easy ways to organize your finances, like analyzing your monthly bills and mapping out your tax deductions. What are some of the best ways people can save money by following these steps?

Review the competition online for all monthly services, such as Internet, smartphone, and cable TV. There are plenty of perks for new customers – free months of service, gift cards, and reduced rates. Bundle those services and save even more. Consider itemizing your taxes, as opposed to taking the standard deduction, and save even more.

You’ve written about how your young son influences some of your financial thinking (especially the willingness to acknowledge some of your mistakes). Are there any specific lessons about saving money that you’re going to teach him? And are there any things he’s already taught you?

I'm going to teach him the importance of saving money at an early age, and I've actually already started doing that – he already has his own bank account. He has taught me to be more selective about how I spend my money – when he buys a new toy, he does a lot of investigating and comparing before making a final decision.

As the new year starts, many of us have made resolutions to become more financially-savvy or set firmer budgets for ourselves. What is the one rule you set regarding your finances that you follow all year long?

Never pay full price. Whether you shop at garage sales or use coupons for groceries, there are always ways to get discounts on anything you buy.

A post you wrote called “How Frugal is Too Frugal?” asks whether some people might be going overboard conserving their money. Are there any areas in your life where you refuse to cut back?

I refuse to cut back on purchases for my son. I spend my money quite frugally in order to spend what I want on him.

It’s been awesome getting the chance to pick your brain. Any last words of advice for our CouponPal readers?

Every time you think you want to spend money on something, whether it's $5 or $500, ask yourself, “Do I truly need this?" Most of the time you'll find the answer to be "no."

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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