Momentum Series Interview – Budget Kitty: Taking Control Of Family Finances
This marks feature #36 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m very excited to welcome Mike from the personal finance blog Budget Kitty to the Momentum Series. On Budget Kitty, Mike share’s content focused on helping others master their money and puts a focus on family finances.
Today Mike stops by to share his financial journey, insights on everyday money experiences, single income family finances, blogging mindset and much more.
If you want to connect with Mike from Budget Kitty:
Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy this Momentum Series Interview – Budget Kitty: Taking Control Of Family Finances.
Hey there my name is Mike. Yup, a personal finance blogger named Mike. Who would have thought?
I live in New Jersey with my amazing wife, 3 crazy kids, a cat and a dog. We have super busy schedules and our weekends are often booked solid with travel soccer or cross country meets, but we always find time to relax with some good friends and good beer.
I am the blogger currently known as Budget Kitty. It started out as a husband and wife venture but my wife still doesn’t get “this blogging thing” so it is about 99 percent me right now. I’m hoping as the site grows and income starts increasing she’ll take more of an interest.
Budget Kitty is all about personal finance with an emphasis on family finances. I try to help my readers avoid some of the money mistakes I’ve made in the past and to educate them by explaining financial concepts in plain English.
I’m a college graduate but many of my most important lessons came outside of school.
As Albert Einstein once said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
I’m always looking to learn something new, increase my skill sets, and challenge myself. Those are all vital characteristics for a blogger since the online world changes so quickly. What worked yesterday doesn’t work today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
By day I work as a manager for a very large company in the financial services industry.
By night I’m a blogger working to build a website to supplement and one day replace my full time income.
Has taking control of your money and mastering your personal finances always been your mindset as an adult? Did you had any financial mentors along the way?
My parents struggled mightily with money and they always seemed to be living on their last ten bucks. I didn’t want to end up in the same situation so learning about money and personal finance has been important to me.
I can’t say I’ve had any specific financial mentor that I looked up to. Instead, I’ve taken bits and pieces of knowledge from many different people and combined that with a bunch of hard-earned money lessons I learned through experience.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
I’ve tried to automate whatever I can and keep my finances organized. I love Excel and I track all my bills and, expenses, etc in spreadsheets.
But the most important strategy we’ve implemented is communication. For the most part my wife and I are on the same page, but sometimes our goals and priorities don’t align.
That’s why communication and honesty are vital. We get together regularly for quick money check-ins where we plan for upcoming expenses and discuss our progress toward various goals.
These simple check-ins keep us working together and moving in the same direction.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
One really stupid mistake I made was paying my mortgage twice in one month. Somehow I just forgot that I had already paid the bill a few days earlier and I went ahead and paid it again.
If I had a bigger buffer in my checking account it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Unfortunately, that second payment pretty much wiped out the account. I had paid a number of other bills too and they all bounced. I got hit with a bunch of overdraft charges before I discovered my mistake.
Fortunately for me the bank was understanding when I explained what happened. And since I had enough money in my savings account to cover the bills they waived the overdraft charges.
The lesson I learned was that I needed to get organized so that kind of silly mistake would never happen again!
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
Way to many to list them all, but a few of my favorites are:
And back in the day I loved Consumerism Commentary when Harlan Landes owned it.
Apps or Services
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
We have always struggled with finding the right balance between living for today and saving for the future.
We’re definitely not in the Ultra-Frugal camp. I like taking my wife out to eat. I like that my kids are involved in sports even though it gets expensive. I like drinking good craft beer! Some people would say those things are wasteful, but life is too short to deprive yourself.
Of course you can’t go overboard either. The YOLO attitude has gotten many people into serious financial trouble.
So yea, I’d say finding the right balance between enjoying today and saving for the future has been a struggle at times.
What are the main financial goals your family is working towards now?
Right now we’re focused on paying down our debt and increasing our income (mostly through our blog) so we can reach our goals faster. There’s so much we want to do while our kids are still young, but we also have to plan for our future too. There goes that balance theme again!
Buying your first home is an exciting time as you tinker with financial calculators to see what you can afford. However, there are some real costs you can’t overlook. Can you share those commonly forgotten expenses that factor into the real cost of owning a home?
So we live in New Jersey, where home prices and property taxes are crazy high compared to most of the country. When we were buying our first home we stretched ourselves to the limit just to afford a small fixer-upper on a main road. Bad decision.
Over the next few years we learned the true cost of owning a home, which is so much more than just the mortgage.
If you put down less than 20 percent as a down payment you’ll be stuck paying for Private Mortgage Insurance, which protects the bank…not YOU. For example, you have more rooms to fill now which means you’ll buy furniture to fill them. You’ll have the inevitable burst pipe, leaky water heater, or roof that needs repairing. Property taxes only move in one direction: up.
Oh, and don’t assume your monthly mortgage payment will stay the same even if you have a fixed rate mortgage. If you pay your property taxes and insurance through escrow you could receive the dreaded escrow shortage letter.
A year into our mortgage our bank told us our escrow account was underfunded. They offered us the lovely choice of paying $2,000 upfront or increasing our monthly payment by almost $200.
When we were buying our current home I refused to use escrow and insisted that I take care of the property taxes and home insurance myself. I have a separate online account set up for that and I just automatically deposit money into it every month. When it comes time to pay the quarterly property tax bill I already have the money set aside.
What are some of the strategies or pieces of advice you can share for other families potentially looking to shift to one income?
Raising a family of five on a single income isn’t easy. I have a good job but staying on top of everything and continuing to save toward our goals is always a struggle.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to really think it through. It’s a big decision and you don’t want to do it on a whim. Less income means it will take you longer to save for your goals. Or you might have to switch to new goals that are more humble and affordable.
You also need to mentally prepare yourself to make sacrifices. There will be times when your dual income friends are doing something that looks really fun but is just not in your budget. You have to be okay saying no and not spending your days jealous of their lives.
How are you looking to instill fundamental money lessons in your children to hopefully make their future path as smooth as possible?
We do our best to teach our kids to be financially responsible. I think the biggest lesson is that everything in life is a trade-off. Whenever you make a decision or a purchase that closes the door on something else.
Oh, you want that cute dress for the first day of school? That means you can’t have the new boots you also want. Blow all your allowance on candy? Then it will take you that much longer to save up for a new video game.
I think the best way to teach financial responsibility is by example. Right now our kitchen needs some work, but the fence in our backyard is only one strong gust of wind from falling down. We can’t afford to do both right now so we have to make a choice. Life is all about choices, and being able to think it through and make a smart choice is important skill.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I started messing around with simple websites over a decade ago and I launched my first personal finance blog way back in 2009. It was really just a hobby site but I was making a little money with it. I still kick myself for quitting. If I had stuck with blogging I’d have almost a decade of content and authority to build on. Oops.
I decided to come back to blogging because I wanted to start building a new income stream. Blogging has really low start-up costs but enormous potential. I like that combination.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Budget Kitty?
Budget Kitty’s mission is to help families take control of their finances. We teach them the money lessons they never learned in school, and we give them the tools, resources, and knowledge to succeed.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
Blogging is a long game. When I started Budget Kitty, I thought of it like planting a seed that would grow and bloom over time.
Now the site is just over a year old and we’re starting to see steady progress. The next 12 months are key. I need to commit more time to the blog but also use the 80/20 rule to focus on what really matters. Right now that is content creation and building relationships with other bloggers (thanks for letting me do this interview by the way!) so 2019 will be the Year of Growth.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
Sure! I think the three posts below will give you a good idea of my style and what our blog is all about.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Never stop learning. Always be humble and kind. Choose what is most important to you and throw yourself into it 100 percent.