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CashBlog Frugal Interview #2

I am very honored to feature my lovely mother for this CashBlog Frugal Interview. My mom was a huge role model for me when I was younger as I watched her persevere through some very tough financial times for us after her and my dad divorced. Above all, my mom taught me to put God first and to never, ever give up. She is one of the most kind-hearted people I know.

A short history on my mom: It was circa 1979 when my parents divorced. Mom had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years and didn’t even have her drivers license. After dealing with some depression issues due to the divorce and living on welfare for a couple of years, mom pulled up her bootstraps, learned typing and some other office skills, and with the help of the welfare department got a job. She went through several layoffs, firings, quit a few jobs and had some other setbacks, but eventually found a long-term career in the health insurance industry. She wasn’t ready to retire at 62 when she was laid off from her failing company, but decided to try retirement and see how it went after her unemployment ran out. I’m happy to say that she just turned 70 and is still enjoying a happily frugal retirement that allows her to enjoy her kids, grandkids and hobbies full time.

1. When did you decide that you wanted to learn to manage your money better?

It was 1982. I was somewhat newly divorced and having trouble managing on the lower income. I thought I didn’t make enough to live on. I was lamenting about this to a friend, and he gave me one simple piece of advice. He said, “Just pay the bills first.”  It was then that I realized that I had a lot to learn about money management, and my financial education began.

2. As specifically as you are willing to share, what is the range of income that you are currently living with/have lived with?

My social security income is just about $700 a month, and then I take between $260-$500 a month out of a small retirement fund  that I have.

3. Do you have a mortgage or do you pay rent? How much are your monthly expenses to cover housing?

I currently own and share the housing costs with my second husband. We live in a small house (740 sq. ft) in the city and my share of the housing costs is $325 a month. My husband and I have totally separate finances.

4. What is your view on debt and what is your current debt load?

I try and stay away from it as much as possible. We do still owe a small amount on our mortgage, but I don’t have a car payment and when I use credit cards I pay them in full each month.

5. How much of your income do you put toward savings/retirement each month?

I’m in the “drawing out” stage of retirement now, but I do take whatever money I have left over from my spending money each week and put it into a savings account for unexpected expenses.

6. What percentage of your money is spent on non-essentials such as eating out/going to the movies?

Well, kind of a lot, percentage wise I suppose. I spend about $30 of my weekly $65 in spending money on movies and going out to eat. The rest is spent on gas for the car and miscellaneous expenses.

7. What are your top tips for managing money on a smaller income?

Pay the bills first. Stay away from the stores – don’t go unless you have to. And don’t allow yourself to be drawn in by weekly store ads or keeping up with the Joneses. Know the prices of the essentials you need. Never grocery shop without making a weekly menu and a coordinating list, and only buy what you need.

8. What is your advice to those who say they can’t live on less?

Yes, you likely can. Don’t give up. Keep working with your budget to eliminate non-necessities and keep working to learn to live within your means.

9. What are your keys to successful budgeting?

I think the number one reason I’ve had success in budgeting is because  for years I’ve tithed and worked to keep money in its proper perspective. Once I started tithing my money situation improved immediately. It doesn’t make sense from a numbers standpoint, but I feel like God has shown me how to manage my money better because I’ve given him the first fruits of my income.

10. What’s the main money goal you’re working on right now?

Just staying within my budget to make my retirement money (I like to call it my ‘ol lady money) last as long as possible through frugal living and wise investing.

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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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