Her name is Rebecca and she is a Stapler’s addict. This week’s Money Master is Rebecca of Stapler Confessions. Rebecca loves Staples (like we love wine) and things she can get for free or cheap from Staples. Free wine is usually only good if you steal it from a friend’s wine cellar. Rebecca goes so far as to include a Staple’s Page that lists weekly Staples deals.
Rebecca’s personal finance journey started out similar to many. She found herself under a mountain of debt. Unfortunately, this is what it takes for many of us to get our finances in order. Rebecca’s goal is to let her situation help yours.
We’ll post the third of a five part series on millennials and retirement on Monday. With that in mind, a recent post of Rebecca’s, “A Retirement Plan When Your Employer Doesn’t Have One”, is perfect for that topic in this economy. She provides an in depth analysis to prepare for retirement when you’re flying solo.
1. What’s your story?
I was raised with the notion that educational debt was “good debt.” Although I made it through college debt-free by getting scholarships and working as a Resident Adviser, I took out the maximum amount of loans I could when I financed my law school education. In addition to learning how to be a lawyer, law school also brought me the good fortune to introduce me to my husband — who also financed his education with student loans. We graduated with over $200,000 in debt.
After a few years, and seeing how $1,300 per month in student loan payments was affecting our career and family choices, we decided to buckle down and live more frugally so we could aggressively pay down those loans. There was nothing “good” about them. Over the past 14 months, we paid off a $12,000 loan and sliced another $12,000 loan in half. We hope to eliminate that second loan by the end of the year. How did we do it? We lived frugally and increased our income.
2. What’s your point of view, as a personal finance blogger?
Three themes have emerged in my personal finance blog over the past year.
1) Frugal living is not a sacrifice. We found that eliminating mindless spending made us more mindful of how we spend an even more valuable resource: Our time. For example, instead of celebrating holidays and birthdays with expensive gifts or restaurants, we celebrate each other with thoughtful gifts (photos and handmade items) and thoughtful activities (a picnic in the park, tickets to a family activity).
2) Planning ahead is the key to living frugally. I am a stockpiler and extreme couponer. After four years, it takes me about 20 minutes a week to save 30-40% on my groceries, or to stock up on toiletries for pennies on the dollar. I also plan gift-giving and kids’ clothing purchases far in advance, which allows me to get my kids’ clothes for under $5 for most items and thoughtful gifts for $5 – $10.
3) Eliminating debt and other spending increases opportunities by getting us closer to financial freedom. When we’re free from the yoke of monthly minimum payments, we will be able to choose our careers based on our interests and not the paycheck. By eliminating a lot of our expenses, we have been able to have another child — something we didn’t think we could afford before.
3. In one sentence, what’s one piece of sage advice from your personal finance background that you’d like to share with our readers?
Instead of considering it a sacrifice to cut luxuries out of your budget, consider the sacrifices you’re making in order to afford those luxuries.
Check out what Rebecca has to say at Stapler Confessions or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Google+. We know you’ll be glad you did.