Interview with a Savings Expert: Karen Cordaway

Karen Cordaway was a self-confessed shopaholic before she got her spending on track. Gone are the days when Cordaway used to spend money blindly (like on weekly clothing sprees). Now, she has spending under control and wants you to as well. Her blog, Money Saving Enthusiast, teaches readers to shop smarter and stick to a budget while covering everything from talking to your kids about money to cutting costs on everyday expenses. Read on for more budgeting advice from this expert.

Your blog, Money Saving Enthusiast, helps readers get ahold of their finances. What initially gave you the idea to start the site?

In the spring of 2011, I was faced with an unexpected challenge of having a broken foot and wasn’t able to keep working. Being laid up at home, I started to launch my blog. I relied on money-saving tips I learned from my grandmothers to get me through the injury and short-term loss of income. So I decided to put some of those ideas on a blog in a more modern way.

You mention on your blog that you used to be a shopaholic who would spend money frivolously. Did you have a specific wakeup call that made you see that you needed to focus more on budgeting your money?

I have had several wakeup calls that made me see that I needed to focus on budgeting. The first one was when my husband and I wanted to save for a down payment for a house; I had to figure out how to get this large amount of money quickly because the person I was renting my condo from was putting the place up for sale and was looking to sell immediately.

What 2 or 3 steps did you take that were the most helpful in getting your spending under control?

Drawing up a budget was the first step. Being aware of where I spent my money was a vital step. As the quote goes, “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”

After making a budget, my husband and I adjusted our spending to match our goals. Shopping was a habit I formed over time. I truly went shopping for clothes every Saturday. Like anyone who is trying to break a habit, I stayed away from the temptation. I stayed out of stores where I could have been influenced to make impulse purchases.  

You wrote a story for Huffington Post called “5 Ways to Save Money Using Pinterest.” In what ways do you think social media can help people better budget their money?

Follow people in the area of personal finance on social media where you need the most help. For example, if you don’t even know where to begin with a budget or dread the thought of making one, follow someone like “You Need a Budget” on Facebook or other social platforms to get inspiration and steps for what to do. If you know you need to learn how to spend less or get better deals when purchasing needed items, check out sites like PennyPinchinMom.com, Raining Hot Coupons, and many other coupon sites. If you are looking for quick tips versus couponing advice, follow people in mainstream media who give timely advice via video.

You’ve also written several stories for US News about how to talk to your kids about money. What do you think is the most important financial lesson parents should teach their children?

The best lesson is showing children that money is a finite quantity. It’s a limited resource. So, if we spend more than we planned on, then we have to spend less on Y. They learn how to value money.

For example, if you go shopping with your kid and give them a specific number of how much they can spend, they will know how to pace what they can buy. They learn how to stay within a spending limit by making them practice.

Your site often features stories about how to save money on food (which can be a huge household expense). What is your favorite way to cut everyday food costs?

My favorite way to cut food costs is just by eating the food I purchase. Many people focus on spending less at the grocery store but don’t realize how much food they actually throw out because it has expired. This strategy alone can save you about $2,000 a year.

You have over 1,000 fans on Twitter. Have you ever learned any great money-saving tips from them? Can you share one of your favorites?

Although I haven’t found great tips from followers, I have  learned a great deal of money-saving tips from Twitter chats.  It’s hard to choose one tip to share.

The #WBchat and #CreditChat are my two favorites. WiseBread discusses timely topics, while #CreditChat helps people improve their credit scores. What many people don’t realize is you can save so much money on the interest rate you pay for a house or car by having a better credit score. Big purchases are where you save a great deal of money in one shot.

We’re constantly searching for ways to find great prices, and you include tons of bargains on your site (on everything from groceries to beauty products). What is one way you look for a deal that people may not have tried?

I’ll ask about sales and promotions in person. I recently went shoe shopping with my daughter. I knew the shoes she wanted were full price. I asked the cashier if there would be a sale soon. He told me to check back in a week and most of their shoes get marked down every two weeks. I learned the sales cycle of this store just because I took two minutes to ask. I went back and got the shoes for less at a later date.

One of the keys to managing your money is to stay organized. Do you use any tools to keep your finances in order?

I use Google Calendar to keep me organized. I can remind myself to pay my bills by putting them on Google Calendar. I type in when all of my bills are due right on the calendar. The reminder goes to my email, so I pay on time and avoid late fees.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last minute words of wisdom for our CouponPal readers?

Know yourself and your habits to choose tools and money-saving strategies that work for you. You don’t necessarily have to do anything extreme to spend less. If you can identify some big ways to save that don’t really affect you, then spending less doesn’t have to be so hard.

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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