Interview with a Savings Expert: Marissa Anwar

Marissa Anwar understands the struggle so many Americans are facing - paying off debt can be a nightmare. Her blog, Thirty Six Months, documents her journey to pay off credit card debt and student loans. With personal experience and tips for budgeting, Marissa has become a trusted source of wisdom for her readers. Check out what Marissa had to say about becoming financially stable.

Your blog, Thirty Six Months, is based on the theory that people should pay off all of their debts within that time frame. What inspired you to create a site on this topic?

I am huge fan of Gail Vaz Oxlade, and that’s one of her philosophies. Anything longer than 3 years allows for debt fatigue to set in, and people lose motivation to keep going.

The 36 Month Goals that you’ve created for yourself include paying off your credit card debt and student loans. These are definitely financial issues affecting many people! What advice would you give to readers who are just starting to pay off their debt?

Every little bit helps. That extra $12 that you didn’t think would go far really does. Also, setting smaller milestones is a great to keep motivated and see progress. I am also a big believer in paying off the smallest debt first, and snowballing that payment into something bigger.

On your site, you write that “peace of mind is the most important financial asset.” What are some steps you’ve taken to create a financial safety net that gives you that sense of stability?

Having an emergency fund helps me sleep better at night. I also started aggressively saving for retirement by investing not only in the stock market, but in real estate and building a company.

You have more than 6,000 (!) followers on Twitter. Have you ever received any money advice from readers that you’ve actually applied to your own life?

The best tips that I get from my readers are tips on different credit card rewards as soon as they come out. I, sadly, can’t stay on top of all the perks out there right away, but my readers are great for sharing that info.

You wrote a piece called “What I Wish I Knew About Money When I Was 20” for the blog Moven. If you could give one piece of financial advice to young adults, what would it be?

Save at least 20% of your income - and that’s a minimum. I know that young adults are going to spend money on foolish things, it’s part of growing up, but setting up an automatic system where you pay yourself first is the best gift you can give your future self.

You also work as the director over at Chic Darling, which covers a wide variety of topics, including fashion, beauty, and travel. Has your goal of paying off your debt impacted the way you spend on these areas?

I do! Not having debt, and having a sound investment and savings plan helps alleviate any guilt over little indulgences. I live for travel, and having a travel fund that I contribute to every month makes it really easy to just pick up and go when I need a break.

In your bio, you mention that you’re never caught without four-inch heels on. As a lover of fashion who’s also on a budget, what are 2 or 3 ways that you manage your spending when it comes to buying clothes and shoes?

I believe in the high-low approach. Not everything you own has to be name brand. I also believe in fit over flash, so finding brands that you love and that fit properly, allow you to feel comfortable in your skin without needing to buy new things every few days.

One of the other ways to save is buying things off season - so, summer clothes in the fall and winter clothes in the spring. The key here is remembering your new wardrobe months later!

You’ve also written about your love for travel. Have you learned of any reliable ways to save money when you’re booking a vacation?

I use Sky Tracker and Trivago when looking for flights or hotels. I also am really open to cheap last minute trips.

Your site is definitely a valuable source for people looking for support to overcome debt. Do you depend on any other websites or apps to help with your own financial journey?

There are so many great resources out there. Gail Vaz Oxlade’s site is one of my favorites. I also use Mint to track my finances.

We’re so grateful you got the chance to answer some of our questions! Any last minute words of wisdom for our CouponPal readers?

Yes - debt is a scary thing to tackle without a plan, but very manageable when you know how to deal with it. Get help if you can’t figure out a plan on your own. There are tons of resources around you!

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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