Even though she’s an optometrist, Kim Parr didn’t always have a clear vision on how to get out of debt and lead a financially stable life. Yet, her blog, Eyes on the Dollar, has helped her and her family remain accountable and work to save money on everything from traveling to cable bills. For some much-needed insight into how to manage your money, check out Kim’s words of wisdom below!
Your blog, Eyes on the Dollar, follows your journey to pay off debt and invest in the future for you and your family. What made you want to start the site?
I started Eyes on the Dollar for a few different reasons. Number one was to share my story so other people in debt could see that it happens, but it’s fixable. I also wanted something to hold me accountable. We’d been out of debt before and gotten right back into it, so I thought making our struggles and successes public would help us avoid making the same mistakes again. I also wanted to connect with like-minded people, and the personal finance community has been top-notch for support and inspiration.
You’ve written about the fact that you managed to pay off more than $30,000 in credit card debt. What were some major milestones you experienced during the process of overcoming your debt?
I think I started getting gray hair during that period! I think it would have happened anyway, but I’m sure the stress didn’t help. In all seriousness, the journey out of debt was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but it also gave us the confidence to dream big. If I’d never had debt, I would never have seen that it is possible to achieve goals that most of society thinks are impossible.
You’re actually an optometrist aside from being a blogger. How has your career impacted how you view financial issues or your spending habits?
Well, I certainly never viewed financial issues with 20/20 vision! At least not in the beginning. Most people assume that I make lots of money. I’ve always had a good salary, but I am far from what most would consider rich. I think I felt that I “deserved” to have a certain lifestyle because I worked really hard to get through school and residency training. I also think organizations are more willing to give credit to people who have a higher paying job. I don’t blame anyone for extending credit to us, but we did have lots of debt and were still never denied anything we applied for.
The “Travel” section of your site details how readers can save on vacations. How did you become a travel expert? And what are 2 or 3 of your favorite ways to cut costs on airfare or hotels that we might not have thought of before?
I don’t consider myself an expert, but we do love to travel and have had some pretty amazing trips over the last few years. We do fly, but really save lots of money by road tripping. If the trip is under 12 hours, we usually drive.
I would also suggest looking at VRBO or AirBnB. Sometimes you can rent a condo or whole house for the price of a hotel, and you can cook meals instead of eating out.
Our most successful trips, budget-wise, are those when we give ourselves a daily spending allowance. Once we hit that amount, we are done. If that means eating peanut butter for dinner, then so be it. It’s really easy to get carried away on vacation. You are supposed to have fun, but overspending always catches up, often when the credit card bill comes the following month.
You have more than 4,000 (!) followers on Twitter. Can you recall any times when you received any unusual money-saving tips from readers that actually work?
I’ve gotten tons of useful tips from readers. I had no idea you could invest health savings account money in the stock market. That might not be unusual, but it’s made us a good amount of tax free interest this year. I also learned to make a cake from beets, which sounds gross, but it was really good. My husband even ate some, and he hates most foods that aren’t brown or white!
In “9 Ways to Pinch Pennies Around the House,” you suggest some ways that people can save money on everyday expenses. What is one thing you do that ends up reducing your monthly bills?
Cut things you don’t use or don’t use enough to get your money’s worth. If you only work out twice a month, you don’t need a monthly membership to a gym. If you don’t read magazines, don’t continue the subscription just because it’s a pain to call and cancel. We cancelled our satellite TV over a year ago because we were busy and only watched it a few hours a week. At $10-$12 an hour to watch TV, it just didn’t make financial sense.
It can be difficult to navigate the financial world. What one piece of advice would you give your younger self about managing money?
LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. Whatever your means are, as long as you learn to live below them, you’ll do fine financially. I would also give your money a purpose. If you just make it to spend it, you’ll always be broke.
You mention on your blog that you’re a mom. How has raising a child changed your financial habits?
Having a child was a huge reason we got out of debt and changed our financial ways. I don’t fault my parents at all, but there was lots of “do as I say not as I do” when I was growing up. I strongly believe you have to lead by example. If I can teach my daughter to be a financially responsible person from day one, she hopefully won’t have to lose years in debt like her parents did.
Your blog is such a wealth of information (no pun intended!). What sources do you rely on for money-saving tips?
I have many personal finance blogs and websites that I read every day. I almost go into withdrawal if I skip a few days without them. I learn or reaffirm something every week. It’s kind of like working out: once you get in the habit, you feel blah if you don’t keep it up.
Thanks so much for participating in our interview series! Any last words of advice for our CouponPal readers?
Obviously, if people are reading this, they are trying to find ways to save money and use good financial judgment. I’d say keep at it. Everyone has different goals and motivations, but continuing to learn and grow is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
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!