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, The Broke And Beautiful Life, 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. Today, I have the privilege of interviewing one of the top financial bloggers, John Schmoll from Frugal Rules. John graduated with upwards of $20,000 in credit card debt after college. That’s when he turned it all around, got an MBA, and worked in the financial services industry. I’m lucky to be able to share his thoughts and insights with you today!
What inspired you to begin FrugalRules.com?
That’s a good question Sam. It really all started as I was looking for a way to be able to talk with others about money. I had just left my job to help my wife run our business and was missing talking about money all day with others. I had been in the financial services industry for roughly 15 years, in various capacities. That’s how it was born. From there, I just started looking for a good domain name and shortly after Frugal Rules was born.
How did people (friends, family, etc.) react when you first started?
Honestly, most of my family thought it was somewhat comical. I have absolutely no technical experience to speak of and have never done anything online in terms of business. They thought I’d either give up due to lack of time or get frustrated with it and throw in the towel. I just took it as a challenge to show that I could do it. 🙂
What was your experience with design, code, web work prior to starting your site?
Lol, absolutely zilch. My wife had a bit of design knowledge and that’s stretching it quite a bit. Because of that it was a bit of a challenge designing the site, but I was happy to just get something that worked. This is something I want and need to change going forward though…I just need to get started on it. 😉
What advice would you give to those thinking about starting their own site?
Find what you’re passionate about and go after that so you can establish your “voice.” You could write about many a number of things, but you want it to be something you care about otherwise it’s going to be a challenge. Beyond that, be prepared for some serious time and effort to make a go of it. The writing is the easy part, it’s the technical things, networking, and building relationships that take time. There are many bloggers out there and in order to make some decent headway you need to be able to make connections and get your name out there. The great thing is that many other PF bloggers out there are nice people and more than willing to help. Just remember that it’s a give and take kind of relationship though and really you should be more on the giving end of things than anything else.
Other than that, I say be yourself. Readers can tell when you’re being genuine and if you’re being yourself it’ll likely come out in your writing. Lastly, don’t get into blogging because of the money. Yes, you can make money blogging, but it takes a lot of time to get to that level and many that start out simply to make money most often give up out of frustration.
How do you make money from your site?
I make money from the site in a number of ways: affiliate advertising, freelance writing, and blog writing through our business. Now that I have a blog, we’re able to pitch blog writing to a number of our clients and we get to sign them on for that all because of Frugal Rules.
I also just started a new site recently with my friend Grayson (Debt Roundup), Sprout Wealth, where we plan to do some of the same things. Other than that, I’m looking to buy other websites to add to what I’m already doing.
What do you think you’ve learned from your readers and fans?
I’ve learned a ton from the community over at Frugal Rules, but it essentially comes down to seeing that we all come from different walks of life and that will color our view of money. I had seen that on one level in my last corporate job, but that was strictly with investments. I know it may sound cheesy, but I’ve seen first hand how there are many shades of gray when it comes to finances. There are a few things that can go across the board, but beyond that there are many things which can be done differently.
How can somebody in lower incomes best overcome financial hurdles and prosper?
Start tracking everything you spend. It sucks and is contrary to what we hear preached to us in our culture, but watch how you’re spending your money. Do that for a few months and see what mistakes you’re making and commit to changing. That could also mean starting to budget and, if so, find something that works for you and run with it. Beyond that, look for ways to can create additional sources of income through things like side gigs. Pair that cash with your lower expenses and you’ll greatly increase your chances of climbing out of that.
Who are your financial role models?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know that there is really one or two people out there that stick out to me. What really inspires me is seeing people who make a modest income that are able to really put themselves ahead financially. I got to see that a number of times in my past and was always challenged to see people who made very little, relatively speaking, that were rocking it with their saving and investing. That is what I aspire to do no matter how much we’re bringing in each year.
What personal finance sites do you read?
There are so many good sites out there that it’s really difficult to narrow it down to a small selection of blogs that I visit. My taste is pretty eclectic, but here are a few of the ones I go to on a regular basis:
And a few others that I’ve really been digging lately are:
What else would you care to share with the readers of Frugaling?
First off, I’d like to thank you Sam for asking me to do this interview! In terms of your readers, my encouragement is to remember that finances are personal. We all have different goals in life and that is going to mean different things for different people. Just remember to make sure you’re doing all you can to make your money work for you as opposed to being enslaved to it.
Want to read more interviews like this one? Read the entire interview series here!