My grandparents were storytellers. I could sit down with any of them and become engrossed in their words. I loved their insight, experience, and thoughtfulness. That love of learning about others continues, and now I’ve been spending some time interviewing the best of the personal finance community (like the founders of Budgets Are Sexy and Modest Money).
Surprisingly, it’s a tight-knit group of writers and financial experts. Some are certified financial planners, while others (like me) are experts in another field. The latter feel like the Supermen of the personal finance world: regular employees by day, financial bloggers by night.
Today, I have the privilege of interviewing one of the top financial bloggers, Stefanie O’Connell from The Broke and Beautiful Life. Her work has been featured around the top personal finance sites, and even on Frugaling. Here’s my interview with her:
What inspired you to begin TheBrokeAndBeautifulLife.com?
Oh, lots of things:
- I spent the first several years of my acting career on tour where we would get a per diem for housing, food, and other day-to-day expenses. My goal was not only to live entirely off that modest allowance (rather than dipping into my salary), but also, to save as much of the per diem as possible. Unemployment is an inevitable reality in the acting world. Every job ends, I knew that going in, so I prepared accordingly. By implementing this strategy, I learned lots of ways to scrimp and save that I felt I should share.
- Some actors are terrible with their money. I knew it would make for an uncomfortable working environment if I walked up to them and told them they were being stupid with their spending, so I decided to write about it instead.
- I heard so many stories about actors in Broadway shows who were left with zero savings when the show closed because they had inflated their lifestyle so much during that time. (The minimum salary for an actor in a Broadway show is $1,807/week; yep, that’s some serious spending).
All in all, I just wanted to spread financial literacy in the acting community. If anyone needs to know how to budget well and make money last, it’s actors.
How did people (friends, family, etc.) react when you first started?
I’m not really sure. I think people may have been skeptical because they knew I was a “theatre person.” I don’t think anyone ever expected me to make a career writing about money.
What was your experience with design, code, web work prior to starting your site?
Zero! I started out on a free blogger template. After toying around with that for a year I decided to get a logo, hire a designer for the site, and setup self-hosting. As soon as I made that financial commitment to the blog, I suddenly felt committed to myself as a business owner–I needed to make the investment worthwhile.
What advice would you give to those thinking about starting their own site?
- Define what you want from creating your own website. Are you looking to start a business? Are you looking to have a hobby? Do you want to use it as a portal to market yourself or your service? Are you looking to make a lot of money? Clarifying your goal for the site will help guide a lot of your initial decision making.
- Embrace your YOU. When I decided to transition to a self-hosted site, I hired a blog coach to help me figure out where I wanted to go with it. After talking to her for five minutes she said, “I’ve read through your entire site and I didn’t know until just now that you were an actor.” I had been afraid to pigeonhole myself and make myself irrelevant to non-artists, but the truth is, it’s my perspective and experience as an actor that sets me apart from all the other finance sites out there. Heck, that’s why I started writing in the first place!
How do you make money from your site?
While I make a fair amount of money blogging, it’s mostly from freelance writing (hire Stefanie!). My blog has served as a kind of active, online portfolio/resume to get me jobs writing for other websites.
Going forward, I’d like to generate more from the site itself through affiliate income and direct advertising. I’ve got a little bit of that going on now, but maximizing that earning potential is definitely my next big goal.
What do you think you’ve learned from your readers and fans?
I am a huge fan of alternative perspectives. Reading through the comments on each of my posts is always exciting and enlightening. I truly value the different opinions I come across, even when I don’t agree.
How can somebody in lower incomes best overcome financial hurdles and prosper?
Everybody has challenges, some of us more so than others, but the steps for overcoming them are universal: S.M.A.R.T. goals coupled with defined action steps. Chances are, you already know what you need to do, as Nike says, “just do it.”
Who are your financial role models?
Honestly, it was Suze Orman who really got me interested in my finances. I read her book, The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke, and I was hooked; not necessarily because she had some life changing techniques or advice, but because I found her engaging and interesting. That’s what I hope to do with my blog, engage people enough that they want to take control and learn more.
What personal finance sites do you read?
I once tried making a list of all the blogs I read on a regular basis and it just got to be too long. Somewhere between 50-100 (maybe more), and they’re all fantastic in their own way.
What else would you care to share with the readers of Frugaling?
One of the big messages on my site, and one that you’ve undoubtedly heard before, is balance. I’m all about pursuing dreams, while earning income, saving for the future, and living in the present. You can have it all if you’re willing to prioritize. I don’t do the daily latte, but I’m going to Europe next month. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice when you’re thinking about the big goals.
Want to read more interviews like this one? Read the entire interview series here!