How I Got Interested in Personal Finance

This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away - these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post comes from Vanessa, who blogs about personal finance (among other interesting topics) at Random Thoughts and Acronyms. Check out her blog to see more of her writing!!

My first introduction to the PF community was waaaay back in 2008 when I found Poorer Than You. I immediately started a blog and gushed about how great her idea of a debt snowball was and she commented! I was ecstatic! An internet stranger thanked me for stopping by her blog – I must be special.

Slowly I collected more and more PF blogs in my Google Reader. In true Vanessa fashion, I was hung up on the logistics of “What should my first real post be?” and I never blogged on that blog again. I did clear $6,000 of debt in 3 months though.

After clearing my debt, I looked at my salary – a whopping $411 a week after taxes – decided that it would be enough to live off of, and stopped working overtime and tracking my money. Only recently, say, tax time 2011, did I sit down and calculate how much income I’ve earned since I’ve started working and how much I had left.

2005: $1,000
2006: $13,000
2007: $16,000
2008: $18,000
2009: $34,000
2010: $24,000

Actual net worth: Not $100,000, not even half.

What had I done wrong!? I always felt (and continue to feel) as though I’m living the life of a pauper. I didn’t have a car, I lived in the most ghetto apartments imaginable and I didn’t buy clothes or makeup. Where was all my money going?!

The answer, I soon discovered, was that it was going toward the sheer amount of fast food that I was consuming. 2011 was my renewed year of blogging and I started to blog (albeit unseriously) in June. Today, after almost a year of meticulously tracking my expenses and finding the holes where my money leaks out, I’ve increased my net worth by almost $2,500, while paying for my university tuition in cash and travelling to Cuba, Europe and the Dominican Republic.

The first step toward financial independence and achieving your goals (to travel, in my case), is to track your spending and identify where your money is going. Your money is essentially being wasted unless it’s being used to fulfill your dreams.

19 Responses to “How I Got Interested in Personal Finance”

  1. DontDebt says:

    I think that this problem is the same that a lot of Americans have. They just don't know where they are spending their money and don't know why they don't have more of it left over. Fast food - eating out in general - is a black hole where money goes, never to be seen again. I'm not sure why it is so often that folks with the least amount of money seem to spend the most on eating out.

    Great post!

    • Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:


    • Christi Frederick says:

      Speaking for myself, because I work two jobs, I try and "justify" the eating out by saying "I just don't have TIME to cook". I could still figure out things to cook, use the crockpot more, plan more. Lack of planning is what drives us to the fast food drivethru windows, so it is something I can control if I choose to make it a priority.

      • Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:

        Oh my! Yes, that's definitely something that I still do. If I'm working 9am-11pm I have to carry a lunch, supper and mini-supper for the evening PLUS snacks? Nu uh, I'm eating out, which is why I still spend a good 40$ a week in restaurants

  2. Jordann says:

    I was obsessed with my spending habits for the first six months after I signed up to Mint.com. Now I watch it like a hawk and I think I finally have my budget to a place that I'm happy with. You are right though, you can't make any progress until you know where the money is going.

    • Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:

      I never really got into Mint. I loved the idea when it came to Canada but by that time I already had most of my spreadsheets set up :S Mint does seem awesome though!

  3. shopping2saving says:

    Yay Vanessa! Love this post because I truly remember the beginning of my personal finance journey. Like Jordann, when I finally started using Mint to track my spending I was shocked by my spending habits. Spending without thinking or adding up your spending can really, really hurt you. The amount I could have saved made me cry, because I didn't have any savings at all.

    • Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:

      Awww Yes, I was the same way. I'd "save" money but then spend it all on tuition or rent. It was only when I actually calculated it that I thought to open a retirement account etc

  4. thisaggiesaves says:

    I track my expenses on mint and still find myself eating out too much, even after seeing how expensive it gets. Convenience is just too… convenient. But, if I want to be successful in saving money I need to step up and get serious about it.

  5. bogofdebt says:

    Excellent post! I always set it up through excell to find out my spending habits and I halfheartedly tracked the first time. It w as a shock to to see how much money I wasted.

  6. MasterTheArtOfSaving says:

    I want to be able to travel too, but my budget still needs a lot of work. Congrats on getting things on track and increasing your net worth. :-)


  7. Savvy Scot says:

    I agree with Dontdebt - a lot of us spend so much money on food/snacks/drinks without even realising it!

  8. Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:

    Thanks all for your feedback. The PF-community sure seems to love fast food

  9. Bridget says:

    Eating out is such a demon for me too… i don't eat fast food, but I grab lattes on the go all the time which costs about the same. It's so easy to lose track of cash when you're eating it!!

  10. MLISunderstanding says:

    I had a similar experience a couple of years ago around tax time. I hadn't been saving ANYTHING, and it was shocking to see how much total money had made its way through my hands. (Now, catching up, I may be swinging a bit too far in the other direction — this year's goal is to save/donate 50% of my takehome income.)

  11. Marissa says:

    Vanessa, this a great post! Fast food is my vice. I have no idea where the money goes most of the time!

  12. savingfromscratch says:

    Eating out kills me - especially since I moved to Toronto. Sushi, Indian, dim sum, pho, pad thai…there's just too much selection here!

  13. belowhermeans says:

    I adore Vanessa.

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