Recently while at FINCON 2012 in Denver, Colorado, where the worlds leading money experts, bloggers and journalists came together to share information, and have some fun, I met up with Shannyn Allan the blogger behind the website Frugal Beautiful. Allan and her site offer a new spin on finances, mixing topics like saving, credit cards, investing and staying debt free with fashion and beauty tips. Just back from the conference she agreed to share her unique perspective on money and financial wellness with our readers.
I originally came up with the blog because I was a broke grad student living in Chicago with few options and little income. I wanted to figure out my own finances and share my ideas on how to creatively live a beautiful life with very little money by implementing frugality into my life. As the blog developed, I also became interested in sharing ideas about saving, spending, investing & staying out of debt. Those topics come to life in my discussions of fashion, beauty & shopping - so it's not "finance" but I try to make talking about money relevant to people who are fashion focused and typically bored by financial discussions.
Combining my love for fashion and finance opens a lot of doors to readers that previously felt left out by "traditional" finance blogs. When I write a blog post, the discussion starts with fashion, beauty or shopping, but at it's core, it's still a discussion about money. FrugalBeautiful.com is all about being fashionable but also financially savvy and staying out of debt. My readers are smart ladies who want to have discussions about their love of style but also be grounded in financial responsibility. Fashion and finance do not have to be mutually exclusive, you can have beauty & brains in one blog, and that's what I try and accomplish.
Additionally, for readers out there that are in debt or intimidated by finance blogs, my approach to blogging serves as a bridge to challenge their notions about financial education. I've had feedback from readers that feel like they've found a home at FrugalBeautiful.com because it speaks to them - they may not be ready for investing or buying a home, but they simply want to learn to live debt free or reduce their debt, establish credit for a solid financial future, but also don't want to completely sacrifice what they're able to do today. Living a frugal and beautiful life is about living for today and saving for tomorrow, being stylish and smart.
My post ideas come from what I see being discussed on Twitter and Facebook, reader feedback and my own interests. My ultimate goal is to provide content that is valuable to women just starting out on their financial journey. Many young women who read fashion/beauty blogs just see a polished version of the blogger or ideas on how to spend their money with glossy images and expensive outfits. Each post that I write is to not only teach, but bring some additional authenticity to the blogosphere since I know that a lot of the content out there is a polished version of reality. I read many of the blogs that my readers do, so my feelers are out to address consumerism, debt and the financial realities that are typically overlooked by fashion blogs.
Conversely, I also try and bring in some of the great topics that finance blogs cover, but adapt them to my readership. My goal is to make financial content accessible, understandable and even enjoyable for women who are just starting out in managing their money. I use my own experiences to try and illustrate the points I make, and back it up with statistics, helpful websites and other blogs to provide relatable experience as well as the data and education to back it up.
Truly, there isn't enough education out there to teach young folks about their finances, so what I've learned is primarily self-taught. When I was a wee-little-sprout of 18, I went to the library and got books on finance from Suze Orman, Ramit Sethi, and Robert Kiyosaki because I had a sense that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. From there I started to stumble upon financial blogs and my love for financial education and discussion really blossomed. To be honest, I have both a bachelor's and master's degrees and in my 6 years of education, there was nothing covering finances, and if you weren't an economics or business major, those topics just weren't covered. It's a shame that financial education has to be self-taught, but luckily there are plenty of resources if you have the drive to learn.
To get started on the track of financial well being you first need to assess where you're at. Do you have debt?
Do you have big purchases coming up? What are your assets? Do you have an emergency fund? What are your strengths
and weaknesses when it comes to money? After that you need to get educated- what's your FICO score? Have you checked
your credit report recently? What could you do to fix your credit? If you can't answer those questions, do yourself
a favor and either do your research online or with a book or hire a professional to get the ball rolling - there are
some great certified financial coaches out there.
It can be totally intimidating to get started on the track to financial wellbeing, but you just have to first assess where you're at, educate yourself (even by starting small, you don't need a degree!) and finally get the tools you need to get yourself back on track with a good credit report, financial consulting or starting an emergency fund. Start where you are, but just get started!
I have a Southwest Card to rack up airline points and a Citicard one that I've kept for years since it helps me establish credit history and has a higher credit limit for bigger purchases.
Well, originally the Citicard credit card I got was because it was student friendly and at the time I had no credit. I always paid off my balance and it provided cash back so that was a great way for me to get started and work on building credit. I've had it for about 5 years now so it's my go-to. The Southwest Chase card has fees but I typically only fly with that airline and it's linked to my bank account so it's easy to use and pay off quickly without complicated log-ins.
Yes, I use these cards for my business since I frequently travel for blogging conference presentations or to visit clients for CakeMixMedia.com when my social media clients need to meet in person or need help executing a large project.
As mentioned, I travel frequently to meet with my social media consulting clients, but I also have to cover some up front expenses such as hotels, rental cars & event printing costs. If a client of mine needs me to order their promotional products or pay for website expenses, I can put those on my card. Additionally, blogging at FrugalBeautiful.com has it's cost - I have website and hosting fees, design projects, and I'm always needing new gear to put together review posts & new content!
Shannyn Allan is just one of the financial experts I rubbed elbows with at FINCON 2012, which means that there will be more interviews coming very soon!