Our Beginner to Blogger interview series invites personal finance bloggers to share how they started their personal finance journey, what financial obstacles they’ve overcome, and how they’re still progressing on their journey toward financial independence.
Today’s interview comes is with Matt from Spills Spot!
My name is Matt from Spills Spot, a blog where I write about my personal finance journey with the goal of inspiring others to be more interested in personal finance and improve at managing their money.
My wife and I paid off $55,000 of debt to reach debt freedom. It was a long journey, but being debt free and building wealth is an incredible feeling, a feeling I want to help other people achieve in their lives.
What prompted you to start focusing on your personal finances?
My parents did an effective job raising my siblings and me to have a strong understanding of financial concepts. The importance of good money habits was engrained in me at a young age.
I’ve always been a saver, and I’ve always thought about money in terms of the amount of time it takes to earn it.
A big turning point for me was when I landed my first salaried job. My attitude previously towards personal finance was that I didn’t have enough money coming in to make any real progress.
When I finally started making more than minimum wage, I was inspired to learn as much as possible about personal finance so that my wife and I could remove the stress that financial problems can bring.
What was the greatest financial obstacle you faced or mistake you made during the “early days” of your personal finances? How did you improve the situation?
Our $55,000 of debt ($40,000 of student loans and $15,000 car loan) was definitely the biggest obstacle we’ve had to face thus far.
Also, during our debt repayment journey, I experienced a layoff from my job which was also challenging.
Thankfully, I was able to find a new job in about 6 weeks and our debt payoff was able to get right back on track.
What is one area of personal finance that you still struggle with?
One thing I struggle with is balancing enjoying the present with preparing for the future, but it’s something I continue to get better at over time.
There are also areas of personal finance where I’m still not very knowledgeable in yet (real estate, tax optimization, healthcare, etc).
What does financial independence mean to you?
Financial independence means the freedom from needing to earn an income through a day job. It means having enough assets to cover your expenses indefinitely. It means freedom to pursue your passions, and having numerous options for how you choose to spend your time.
Since making your personal finances a priority, how has your quality of life changed (happiness, relationships, career, hobbies)? What’s improved that you may not have expected, or what unexpected challenges may have surprised you?
There have been a number of benefits that we’ve experienced through making our finances a priority. The biggest has been the sense of peace we’ve had.
We’re now debt free, which has taken a huge weight off our shoulders. We’ve built up savings and investments which means we no longer stress about how the bills will be paid or what would happen if one of us lost our job. We pretty much never argue about money, which has helped keep our marriage strong.
What advice (money or career-related) would you give to a recent college graduate just starting their first full-time job?
Don’t worry about landing your dream job yet.
Find a job that pays the bills and provides you the opportunity to learn, grow, and build your network.
Learn from people smarter than you, build new marketable skills and gain additional experience. The more you learn, the more valuable you become.
When you’re more valuable, you have the potential to increase your income and have many more doors opened to you. I think many new graduates are so focused on only pursuing their passion and trying to find the perfect job right away.
What is a common misconception or belief about money you’d like to warn beginners about?
There are a few things: “investing is risky,” “buying a house is always a good investment,” and “renting is throwing money away.”
I’ve heard people say these things and while they may have meant well, I don’t agree with any of them.
Almost all aspects of personal finance are not black or white, it all depends on your own situation. Do your own research and make decisions after considering multiple viewpoints.
In the last three years, what is one new behavior or decision that has most improved your financial situation?
Tracking our expenses and budgeting with Mint has honestly been life changing for us.
It was a huge reason why we were able to pay off our debt so quickly and start to build wealth. It was eye-opening to see how much we were spending each month and where the money was going. This helped us realize areas we could improve and got our finances in order.
What is one item you like to splurge on?
My wife and I love to travel and explore new places, so we definitely allocate additional spending towards that area. Baseball games and concert tickets are also some other splurges of mine.
If you could give a personal finance book to everyone just starting their financial journey, what book would you give them?
I love the Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins, because like the title indicates it describes a simple way that people can build wealth over time. I think a lot of people are intimidated by investing and knowing where to start, and Collins does a great job of making investing much more approachable.
What led to your decision to start a blog, and what has your experience been like so far?
I started Spills Spot in January 2016, with the thought that the blog could be a portfolio for my writing. I quickly realized that my vision for the site was much bigger than a portfolio.
Through writing about personal finance I discovered a new passion. I wanted to share what I was learning in my money journey with as many people as possible, to help them along their own journey.
I’ve learned a lot about blogging along the way and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. One of the best parts has been how incredibly supportive the personal finance blogging community is, which was something I never knew before I started!
If you had to delete all of your blog posts except for one, which post would you keep and why?
Wow, this is a tough one! I think I’d have to go with my post where I talk about my side hustle working in minor league baseball. In this post, I talk a lot about my story and my career path. I talk about how I’ve learned to balance the pursuit of my passions with growing in my career and making money. I think it’s a post that a lot of people can connect with.