Personal Finance Interview with Monica Iannacone on Going Debt Free for Mint.com
People who write about personal finance and living on a tight budget might get the reputation for being misers, but Monica Iannacone wants to assure you that it's just not true.
"Living frugally doesn't mean you can't have fun! It means being smart about financial decisions and prioritizing your money," she says, adding that she makes sure to set aside money each month for eating out or buying gifts. "I think it's important to not be a scrooge."
Monica is a personal finance writer with a B.S. in International Business and an MBA from Jacksonville University who writes about saving, budgeting and frugal living on her blog, www.MonicaOnMoney.com.
Here, she shares what motivated her to try to be debt free and how she's working toward her goal.
Can you tell us a little Monica on Money?
I started Monica On Money because my goal is to be completely debt free in five years. This personal finance blog is my journey to being debt free, my readers inspire me everyday to continue to save, budget and live frugally. In 2011, I paid for my Master of Business Administration in CASH because I didn't want to spend my life paying off my student loans. My current goal is to pay off my mortgage in five years and my plan is to pay an extra $2,000 per month towards my mortgage. I can't wait to be completely debt free!
Who should be reading it?
Monica On Money is for anyone. Anyone who has financial goals. Anyone who's on a budget (or needs to be on a budget!). Anyone who wants to be completely debt free one day. Anyone who's tired of living paycheck to paycheck.
What inspired you to go debt free?
My dad inspired me to become debt free. As a teenager, he gave me books on financial independence (like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey). After college, he inspired me to save $5,000 in a CD instead of spending it, at the time this was my single largest financial decision. As an adult, he inspired me to pay down my mortgage instead of living paycheck to paycheck.
What was the moment when you said enough was enough?
When I was on Active Duty in the Navy, I never thought about saving money because I always knew that two weeks later, I'd get another paycheck. I spent the money that I made and got more to spend again. But when I left Active Duty in 2010, during the recession, I was worried about job stability and knew I needed to have a better plan for my money. I finally decided to become debt free so I wouldn't have to worry about bills, student loans, credit cards and debt.
Why is financial independence so important to you?
Financial independence is important because I don't want to spend my life stressing about money. It will allow me to focus on what really matters.
What was the hardest thing about transitioning from spending everything you were taking in to saving?
The hardest thing is not eating out every day. One month, I calculated that I spent over $800 on eating out. For just me! It was a wakeup call I needed and I started eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at home instead. (And putting that $800 towards my mortgage).
What tools do you use to help manage your money?
I use my bank's online billing to pay my bills each month. I also use several personal finance tools like Mint.com to organize my finances and stay on my budget. It's a quick and easy way to keep track of my money online.
What's your definition for frugal living?
I think frugal living is about saving money and living a lifestyle that's not wasteful.
What are some of your favorite methods for living on less?
I think a budget is a MUST for living on less! Part of that is deciding what's a NEED and what's a WANT. I might WANT an iPhone 5S but I certainly don't NEED one! Also, I love shopping at the Dollar Store to buy birthday cards/wrapping paper/balloons, wine glasses, and household supplies. I shop at the Dollar Store once a week and save about $50 compared to shopping at the grocery store for those items.
How are you paying for things these days?
I still pay all of my bills electronically but I use cash for everything else. I like using only cash because I'm MUCH more likely to be frugal when I'm spending my hard earned cash! I still have a credit card and did use it to pay for new floors when I did a home renovation this year. I did that because I got cash rewards from it but that's the only time in over a year that I've used a credit card. My preference is certainly CASH.