• Interview with Miranda Marquit on Personal Finance for Mint.com

    Journalist and professional blogger Miranda Marquit isn't big on pinching pennies.

    Instead, the contributor to nearly 20 financial blogs tries to make smarter choices about what she spends her money on.

    "I don't mind spending extra on things that I enjoy, but I loathe spending on things that are only 'OK,'" she says.

    Miranda, who graduated from Syracuse with a MA in journalism in 2005, started a personal finance blog, Planting Money Seeds, in 2011 as a way to carve out her own home on the web.

    Here she offers a few tips about money management and investing to folks hoping to get a handle on their finances.

    Who should be reading Planting Money Seeds?

    Anyone who wants to learn more about obtaining financial freedom through better financial management, investing and running a home business. Planting Money Seeds focuses on creating income and directing your financial resources so that you can meet your goals and feel more satisfied with your financial situation.

    How did you become so passionate about investing and finance?

    After I began learning more about money as a result of my freelance work, I began to see how it could go to work for me, and how it could be a means to an end. So I started thinking about what I wanted to with my money, and became excited about the prospects.

    What's the hardest lesson you've learned over the years about managing your money?

    The hardest lesson I've learned is that sometimes you need to give up the OK -- or even good -- things in order to make sure that you can do what's most important to you. I had to learn to pay attention to how I use my money and ask myself "why" and answer honestly. It was tough, but now I just spend on what I'm most interested in and cut out the things that aren't as important.

    What do you think are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to money management?

    I think not understanding your motivations is a big thing. Too often, we just spend on whatever, without really thinking about why. I think it's important to understand your motivations, and bring your spending in line with your values and priorities. Another mistake is not understanding your cash flow. With cash flow, there's a timing element. Sometimes it's not always about how much you expect to have (and how much you spend), but WHEN you get that income, and when your bills are due. You need to smooth out the way your money moves through your personal economy.

    For people who have never invested, what advice do you have for getting over the initial jitters?

    Start small with an index fund. I love index ETFs. If you are especially nervous, start with an all-market fund. Use an automatic investment plan and put in the same amount every month.

    Where's a good place for first-time investors to get their feet wet?

    There are a number of online brokerages that make it easy. Loyal3 is an interesting choice because it doesn't charge commissions. TradeKing is popular because of its low commission fees. I like Betterment for my retirement account because it takes the guesswork out of investing by managing it for you. If you can invest $100 a month, you can use Betterment.

    What do you think are some surprising ways people can earn money or invest?

    I think one of the ways to invest that is still under the radar is P2P lending. Many people still don't think of it as a way to earn a return.

    Follow Miranda on Facebook and Twitter.