Shane Ede understands what it’s like to have money worries. Before he started his blog, Beating Broke, he made money mistakes like the rest of us. But he’s learned the importance of managing one's finances, and his blog has helped readers understand ways to control their spending and come out ahead. Read on for Ede’s advice about how to tame the personal finance beast.
Your blog, Beating Broke, covers everything you’ve learned about personal finance. What initially gave you the inspiration to start the site?
Beating Broke is actually the second personal finance site I’ve owned. I started the first one after reading Dave Ramsey’s book “Total Money Makeover” and wanting an outlet to discuss many of the topics that came up. I’m also a “learn by doing” sort of person, so for me, learning all this stuff about personal finance required that I process it and lay it out in a blog post in order for it to really “stick.”
In the About section of your site, you admit to making some financial mistakes in the past (like buying stuff you couldn’t afford). What has been the biggest change you’ve made in order to become financially comfortable?
I think the biggest change that we’ve made, and that anyone can really make, is to really become conscious of our spending. We knew we were living on the edge, and had even discussed bankruptcy, but we’d always blamed it on our low pay or other factors. But, when we really took a close look at our finances, and started budgeting, our spending habits were one of the largest factors of all.
In the article, “No One’s Going to Save You,” you make the point that everyone is responsible for their own finances. Why do you think so many people shy away from taking control of their spending?
My belief is that people are naturally scared of the unknown. We receive very little formal education on matters of personal finance, and many of us leave school and get our first jobs without even a basic understanding of how to balance a checkbook, let alone how to create a balanced budget. It can be overwhelming to try and learn a bunch of stuff about money that we don’t know.It scares us. But, we need to realize that it’s not that complicated (basic math in most cases), and that there are resources like my site that are available to help with your self education.
A lot of Americans fall into the habit of paying for expenses with their credit cards, and then they end up in debt. What are some steps you would recommend to help people break this habit?
The easiest way to manage your credit cards is to not have any. Unfortunately, that’s becoming less and less of a possibility as more and more commerce moves online. People are often uncomfortable carrying around cash as well. If you’ve got to have a credit card to pay for stuff, limit yourself to two at the most, and pay them off every month. The second you have a balance that carries over, you get hit with those high interest rates. If you can’t pay them off every month, you still haven’t gotten your spending under control, and you shouldn’t have a credit card at all.
You’ve written several articles about gardening, composting, and how to save on buying produce. What other ways can families save on food expenses?
In addition to gardening for some of our produce, we also combine coupons, sales, and a stockpile in our basement to save on food. By keeping the stockpile, we are able to buy extra shelf stable goods when they are on sale and not have to pay full price for them later. We use coupons quite a bit. People see shows like “Extreme Couponers” and think you’ve got to dedicate all this time to collecting and clipping coupons when all it really takes is 30 minutes a week of printing off coupons and clipping them and you can still realize savings on every shopping trip. You just won’t be coming home with a hundred free tubes of toothpaste...
In “How Much Stuff Do You Own,” you write about the culture of consumerism we live in. What are some ways people can cut back on the amount of stuff they have or buy?
Two methods that I use personally are to wait at least 24 hours before you buy anything that isn’t a necessity, and to use that time to really decide whether the item is something that will add value. I’ve recently begun looking at things in terms of the uses they have. If an item only really has one use, it probably isn’t worth adding to my stuff. The same can be used to help declutter the stuff. Donate the stuff that is so specialized you only use it once or twice a year. Keep the “swiss army knives” that have multiple uses and you find yourself using repeatedly.
An important step towards being financially secure is to ramp up your savings. What are some ways for people to increase their savings even if they’re still living on a budget?
The most important thing to do is to make sure that you’re budgeting for something. Even if it’s a token amount, it has to be in the budget. If you don’t put it in the budget, it will never happen. Aside from that, finding small “tricks” to save money helps too. Save all of your dollar bills and change, and put them in a jar at the end of the day. Take the jar to the bank once a month. Find ways that work for you to save all the random unplanned extras. Give it all a purpose. If it has a purpose, you’ll find ways to save more.
You have more than 4,000 followers on Twitter! How does interacting with your readers on social media affect your blog?
Social media has provided an excellent way to interact with readers.Readers are able to ask a question easily, and I’m able to respond just as easily. It can be done in the comments of a post, but it’s far more accessible to readers on social media. It also acts as a way for readers to discover new posts (and old ones) that they haven’t read yet.
As a parent, you’ve probably seen the importance of teaching kids about money. What lessons do you try to instill in them regarding finances?
I don’t know if it’s any one lesson in particular. It’s more about teaching them how to appropriately handle their personal finance so that they are able to avoid debt and save for the purchases they want to make.
Thanks so much for your time! Do you have any last words of wisdom for our CouponPal readers?
Personal finance doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be this big hairy monster that is out of control. You can learn the basic principles of handling your money, and gain control of where it goes and what it does for you. There are all kinds of resources available to you through books, blogs like mine, and sites like CouponPal. Get focused, give your money purpose, and lead yourself to a more secure financial future.
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