Expert Interview with Angie Beechan on a Secure Financial Future for Mint

For some people, getting out of debt seems impossible. Angie Beechan understands, but knows there is a way. After all, she's been there before.

Beechan started as a way to share information with others about saving money, climbing out of debt, and creating a secure financial future. Read on to learn more.

Your website states that you had to learn financial matters the hard way. Could you share that experience with readers?

I was raised the oldest of four. My parents didn't splurge hardly ever. When I got my first real job and got out on my own, I was still very young. I started buying things I never had before, used credit cards, and always made my payments on time. Then I got married, moved, had a kid, and things started catching up with us. We got in over our heads. We went through all the nasty words of financial ruin: foreclosure, repossession, bankruptcy.

After a divorce and two kids, I was living with my parents as a single mom, and I decided I needed to start picking the pieces up. I read everything I could get my hands on about repairing credit, learned to tighten my purse strings and live frugally.

I'm happy to say the hard work and self-education paid off.

What do you feel are the most important aspects of creating a secure financial future?

Learning the difference between wants and needs. This is something I stress to my kids. You don't NEED a new skateboard, you want a new skateboard. You NEED a new pair of pants because you've outgrown your other pants, etc. Also saving. Save so you can pay cash instead of using credit. Save so if something unexpected happens, you'll have a fighting chance.

Some people might feel that a secure financial future will never be in the cards; what kind of advice do you offer those people?

When you're in a truly dismal financial place like I was, you do think you're never going to get out. Especially when one thing happens after the other. Instead of getting creative with ways to dodge the collectors, get creative with ways to eliminate debt and earn money legally.

Many people just starting out are struggling with enormous student loan debt, credit card debt, high-interest mortgages, etc. What tips can you offer or direct these people to so they can start paying down debt and experiencing more financial freedom?

I feel like there could be tons of answers to each of those scenarios. I read a lot from several different financial gurus. I pieced together what I thought would work for me. Paying the minimum on each bill except one that I would pay more on until it was paid off. Once that one was paid off, use the money I was paying there to make bigger payments on the next bill. The snowball effect is what Dave Ramsey would call it. That worked for me. If you can afford to, put a little extra on it. Even $10 a month can eliminate months at the end. It helps to talk to your creditors if you're struggling, too. When I went through my issues, I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the credit companies were in giving me avenues to try. With debt collectors, tell them the honest truth; they'll work with you.

If you could sum up your savvy shopping tips for someone just getting started in the money-saving world and someone well-versed in the art of saving money, what would you say?

Compare before you buy. Don't assume the big box stores or the discount stores will always have the cheapest price. Don't be afraid of the clearance section; it's usually one of the first places I check. Buy ahead at end-of-season sales. I've bought my kids name-brand clothes a size or two bigger for the next year at a fraction of the price.

Talk to me about some of the most standard issues you have come across when making and sticking to a budget (either in your own experience or from what you have been told by others).

There are ALWAYS unexpected things that pop up: car repair bills, medical bills, etc. I suggest factoring into your budget "just in case" money. Whatever you can afford. $10, $20, etc., to put away each paycheck towards unexpected events.

Another thing is always temptation. Sure, you might want a bigger TV or a new cell phone, but did you really NEED it now? Save up for it and reward yourself when your goal is met. Allow small treats here and there like a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee place when you can, so it's not all work and no play.

What would you say are some hidden budget killers that many people don't realize they are doing?

1. Not shopping around. Keeping the same service for years because you think it's too much hassle to switch or, worse yet, not shopping around and seeing a sale and thinking, "Oh, it's on sale; it must be cheaper."

2. Not keeping an open mind. You can get great deals on grocery items with coupons, especially when a new product hits the shelves. Just because you've used the same brand of expensive laundry detergent your whole life doesn't mean that's all there is. Must you always drink coffee brand A, or would you be willing to try brand B since it's $3 cheaper than your regular brand this week?

3. Not paying attention to utility use. Is your TV running when no one is watching it? Do you leave lights on in rooms you're not in? Is the kitchen faucet leaking, but you think it'll be too expensive to fix?

In your opinion, what do you think individuals, couples and/or families should do in terms of saving money? Do you have a formula that you stick to or recommend?

Just because you have a coupon doesn't mean it's the better deal. Look at the size of the products and what the products do. Just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's cheaper either. When you know you're going to need something, maybe a new vacuum, start shopping online. There are lots of sites out there that post good deals.

You seem to be a big fan of coupons, freebies, giveaways, etc. How do you direct people interested in saving money to become savvy in this area?

I think samples are awesome. You can try something to see if you'll like it before you go spending your hard-earned money on it. I took an online couponing course at one point that taught me how to do a little bit of what the extreme couponers do. I don't do it to that level, but it sure is a rush when you hand over your coupons and pay $2 for $15 worth of stuff your family needs. Be more open-minded; so you've been using Tide your whole life, but Purex is so much cheaper - give it a try.

Please share anything else that you think would be helpful for people of any age looking to save money.

I know when you're in between a rock and a hard place and you go into desperation mode, it's easy to fall for the "too good to be true" things. Make $1000 stuffing envelopes at home, Get a FREE $1000 Walmart gift card, just take this survey types of things. They aren't legit, and they aren't your answer!

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