Welcome to the first installment of the new Interview Series: Focus on a Frugalennial. Over the last few weeks I’ve been really looking for ways that I could provide the most actionable tips for other millennials who are like me, in the quest to attain financial success. Ultimately, I decided to start an interview series where I could ‘pick the brain’ of other frugal millennials and see what has proven successful on their journey and pass that knowledge on to all of you.
I should probably let you know upfront that this won’t be the typical interview series where you only hear from people that are debt-free. In fact, this series will introduce you to a wide spectrum of people: from those who have paid off thousands of dollars worth of debt, to those that have made some progress but still have significant financial hurdles to overcome. There will be some names you may know and others that you’ve probably never heard of before.
Since there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in personal finance, you will notice that there is not one course of action that each person followed. That’s the beauty of this series.
This week I had the opportunity to interview Jen with frugal-millennial.com. She writes about a number of topics on her blog from saving money and frugal tips, to eating healthy on a budget. Jen has a great way with words and her content is exceptional. Do yourself a favor and check out her site after you check out her interview and see why she really is the frugal millennial.
TheFrugalennial: Tell us a little about you and your relationship with money
Jen: I’m Jen from frugal-millennial.com and my husband and I are currently working on paying over $100k in student loans in just three years – while we are both working jobs that pay entry-level salaries.
I have always been pretty frugal, but when I finished graduate school a couple of years ago with $75k in student loan debt, I was forced to become extremely frugal. I used to splurge occasionally, but now I don’t splurge at all. Being super frugal has given me a different perspective, and it has forced me to re-evaluate my priorities in life. When I was younger, I valued material things and I wanted to make a lot of money and be “successful”. Sadly, I have seen many people rack up credit card debt in an attempt to make themselves happy (or to impress others) by buying useless “stuff”. It doesn’t work.
TF: What are some of your financial goals (both short-term and long-term)
Jen: My most important goal is to pay off my student loans in three years. After that, my husband and I plan to purchase our own home. It definitely will not be the most expensive home we can afford – it will be a modest home. I do not want to live paycheck-to-paycheck and run the risk of ending up in debt again. After our loans are paid off, we are planning to put a large chunk of our incomes toward retirement. It bothers me that neither of us have started saving for retirement, but right now the focus is on paying off our loans.
TF: How did your financial journey begin?
Jen: I’ve never been a big spender, but I made some very bad financial decisions when it came to my student loans. I used loans to pay for my dorm costs and apartment rent, and I did not do a good job keeping track of how much I was taking out in loans. By the time I finished grad school and saw what my total monthly student loan payment would be, I was horrified and I became very depressed. I thought about my debt constantly.
I had never been given good financial advice until I became friends with someone who has made better financial decisions than any other millennial I know. She gave me a book written by Dave Ramsey and I learned about the “debt snowball” concept. I liked the idea, but at the time, 50% of my income was going toward my student loans and I couldn’t even afford that. I didn’t think it was possible to put more than 50% of my income toward my loans. It is possible – but I have to live with my parents in order to do it. When my husband and I realized that we would save $40,000 in interest by paying our student loans off in three years instead of 10, we knew it was the best decision for us long-term. It’s not easy in the short-term, but it will be well worth it in the end. (We do pay my parents rent in order to keep us living with them from being too much of a financial burden on them).
TF: What are some specific sacrifices that you made to pay down or avoid
Jen: My car is 16 years old and my husband’s car has nearly 200k miles on it – we are both planning to keep driving our cars as long as possible. Both of our cars are paid off, and not having car payments helps us quite a bit financially. I used to splurge occasionally on expensive hair colors/cuts, manicures, and clothes, but I’ve completely stopped with all of those things. I don’t even dye my hair at all anymore because even boxed hair dye costs money. I also have a complete spending ban on outings with friends. I still get together with my friends often – I’ve just found free things to do with them (going for walks, free yoga, festivals, going to a pool or lake, board game nights, movie nights, etc.).
I have also been looking into several ways to make extra money on the side. Unfortunately, every part-time job I’ve considered doesn’t pay enough to make the time investment worthwhile. My husband was able to find one though – he recently accepted a part-time second job as a photographer.
TF: What aspect of getting your “financial house in order” has been most
Jen: I think the most difficult part is getting everyone else on board. My friends try to be understanding, but they still often invite me to do things that cost money even though I have told them many times that I am only able to do free things. It also seems to be difficult for other people to understand – even when I explain that I’m living with my parents because I’m trying to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible, people usually seem baffled. It’s just not the “norm”. The “norm” is putting off your student loan payments, moving out of your parents’ house when you get married, and buying things you can’t afford.
TF: How do you manage your money?
Jen: Because I live with my parents, my only large expense is my student loan bill. I only spend money on necessities, so it’s pretty easy to track and there’s no need for an Excel spreadsheet. I do use the Mint app on my phone occasionally. Since I’m constantly glued to my phone, it’s easy and convenient! I also like the way it organizes all of your expenditures into categories.
TF: What do you consider a non-negotiable splurge?
Jen: I don’t believe in splurging if you’re in a very difficult financial situation. If you can afford to splurge a little and still pay off your debt quickly, then by all means, go ahead. My husband and I are trying to pay off over 100k of student loans as quickly as possible so that we can move out of my parents’ house. We can’t afford to splurge. I would MUCH rather pay our loans off faster so that we can move out and buy our own home.
TF: What advice would you give the younger ‘you’ about money?
Jen: Don’t take out any student loans (or only take out a VERY minimal amount). Get a two year degree first, work for a few years, save the money you earn, and use that money to pay for your four year degree. Don’t get a master’s degree. It’s not worth the cost.
TF: Any additional advice or tips that you would like to share?
Jen: Don’t listen to your parents’ financial advice. They grew up in a very, very different time. College was affordable back then and the job market was stronger. A four year degree is not a necessity for a decent paying job. I would strongly recommend pursuing a two year degree instead. (Of course, a four year degree or advanced degree is necessary for some fields, but if you’re considering getting a four year degree in the liberal arts – don’t).
For more information on Jen, you can find her blogging at: www.frugal-millennial.com or connect with her on social media using the links below.