Getting Ahead on Your Financial Goals: Q&A with Stephanie Jones

By Andy Hayes

It’s time for another interview in our Q&A series, and today we’re talking with Stephanie Jones from, a terrific website focused on living below your means.  Stephanie has all the tips for reducing debt and expenses, making lots of room for saving and investing.

Your focus currently is on knocking out your husband’s student debt – and we all know how serious student is a problem currently. But more interestingly, you mention you put off your big dreams – a house – to pay that off first. How did it feel to make such a difficult trade off, and how can others make good decisions when it comes to important money choices like that?

We really had to look at the big picture and decide what we wanted most (not just what we wanted now). Adding a mortgage on top of the student debt wouldn’t have been an unusual thing to do (lots of people have a mortgage and student debt), but the thought of increasing our debt was overwhelming.

Actually doing the math to see how the student loan debt would grow and how much we would pay over the life of the loan was the clincher. It came down to priorities. Getting out of debt was a higher priority than getting a house. There’s always a sacrifice though. My advice is simple: Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now. Like most good advice it’s easier said than done.

It sounds like goal setting was a big part of your financial success (we’ve talked about it extensively). Is that true? Why do you think people are reluctant to make, and stick with, financial goals?

One thing that my husband and I have going for us is that we are a great team. Goal-setting and challenges get us excited and motivated. We work together well and always build and encourage one another.

I think people are reluctant to set financial goals (or any type of goal, for that matter) because goals are hard! They challenge us and make us uncomfortable. Frankly it’s easier to give up on our goals than to achieve them.

You talk a lot about about being frugal – which for some has a negative connotation. What does frugal mean to you and how can we use it as a positive force in our life?

To me, “frugal” describes someone who is not wasteful with money or resources. Wise and responsible use of resources is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. In fact, many millionaires live a lifestyle that could easily be described as frugal. The term that carries a more negative connotation is “cheap.” Frugal takes quality and value into consideration, whereas cheap just focuses on the low cost.

No amount of money will be enough if you can’t handle it wisely. There are plenty of athletes and celebrities that prove that point! If you are frugal, you can make just about any amount of money be enough money.

Let’s say you’re at a dinner party and the host mentions to the fellow guests that you run a personal finance blog. When a guest asks you to share at the table the best advice you’ve heard since blogging, what do you share?

The advice that has revolutionized our finances is to get a month ahead of your expenses. Set aside everything that you earn this month and don’t touch it until next month. When you’re living on last month’s income you know on the first day of the month exactly how much you have to budget and spend. You are using real money, not money that you hope to earn. The change might seem slight, but the effect is revolutionary!

Wow, great advice – thanks Stephanie!  For more free tips & advice from Stephanie, be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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