This week's installment of Bloggers & Budgets comes from Alyson. If you don't know Alyson you need to. This girl gave up shopping for an entire year! Seriously. I can't even imagine that, but she did it. Not to mention that I just absolutely adore her style.
1. How would you describe your approach to personal finance: hands-on or hands-off?
I am very hands-on, but definitely not to the point of SSF. I love keeping budgets and seeing where my money has gone and where its going. I adopted the "adding on spare paper" disease from my mother. She was always keeping track of bills, expenses, incomes, etc on the back of envelopes, receipts, open spiral notebooks... you name it. I try to keep track of what I will have left over and make my budgets every two weeks (which is when I get paid). This became even more true when I lost my job in 2010. Call it worrying, but I like to see what I'm going to have when all the bills have hit the floor. I have several apps on my phone that allow me to be instantly connected to my expenses, bills and most importantly my bank account. I will definitely say I am still in the beginning stages of taking the reins of this race horse called finance, but I know the race is going to get good.
2. How do you balance your finances with style blogging? (Buy everything on sale, remix, budgets?)
Well, my first year of style blogging, I didn't buy clothes for a year. I borrowed a lot. I accepted hand me downs. I sewed. I got REAL creative with my closet. But I didn't buy any clothes for that whole year. Now that I've started shopping again, I shop very wisely. I try and get things on a discount, and definitely shop sales. I only buy stuff that I really really want. I hate paying full price on something new, but I will pay a little bit more for hand-made and vintage. I set myself a budget for clothing each two weeks. Depending on what I have coming up... birthday for a friend? vacation to save up for? a nice dinner with my man? All of those things will go before shopping. This amount can range anywhere from $30 to $100 or more. Its usually closer to about $50 a pay period, but sometimes lower.
3. What do you want to accomplish [financially] in the next five years?
Get. Out. of. DEBT! I have two credit cards with about $5,500 on them total. I have a $14,400 student loan. I need to save up a 6 month emergency fund. My job has fantastic benefits when it comes to retirement funds, and I am excited to take advantage of that as well.
4. Do you have any financial regrets? (something you wish you had done sooner, hadn't done at all?)
I fully regret using credit cards before I knew how bad they could get. I wish I had believed what everyone had said which was, "Don't get a credit card. You don't need to buy those clothes." I also wish that I had gotten professional help from my days of being a shopaholic. When I decided to not buy clothing for a year, it all started when I read an article about being a shopaholic and some tell-tale signs. There were 50 characteristics I think, and if you exhibited 18 you were considered a shopaholic... well, I had way more than that. I wish I had seen it sooner, and identified why. The way we spend money can be directly related to our emotions. It is scary. Now, I understand why when I have a bad day, I want to hit up Wal-Greens and get some new nail polish. Instead of shopping, I try to take responsibility for my own role in my bad day, and what I had no control over, then let it go.
5. Share with us your best/favorite tip for saving/spending/paying off debt.
Cut off access to credit. Its the same concept as freezing your credit cards in ice but who has the freezer space for that? I've heard of people sewing their credit cards into fabric pockets. What I did though was use what I had on me at the time. I took a few sheets of paper and scribbled in bold black letters NO!, I then wrapped my credit cards in the paper, and then wrapped them in clear packing tape. I stopped using credit. I kept them in my wallet in case of an emergency. I have since had to rip them back out, but it took some WORK! They need to go back into their safe homes... its time.