Reader Profile – Jenny from Frugal Guru Guide

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Ask the Readers, financial planning, Help A Reader, Frugal Guru Guide, Reader Profile, Reader ShowcaseToday, in the ongoing Reader Profile Series, we’re getting to know MPFJ.com reader and enthusiastic commenter, Jenny, from the site, Frugal Guru Guide. Let’s all give Jenny a big round of applause for sharing her life with us and listen to her story. Enjoy!

Also, if you’re interested in sharing your own financial story/journey with us in a reader profile of your own, just shoot me a quick email, and we can get the ball rolling!  

1. PLEASE TELL EVERYONE A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF (BACKGROUND, EDUCATION, FAMILY SITUATION, ETC).

I’m in my early 30s and married with two-almost-three (due this month!) kids.  My husband and I both graduated from Purdue University, him with a master’s and me with a bachelor’s.  I worked half a dozen jobs in college, and after graduation, I married and soon had a baby and a career as a novelist (under a pseudonym). 
After five years, the fiction industry went belly-up with the economic crash, and I tried my hand at various things, from house-flipping to tutoring, while homeschooling my oldest and having a second child.  After laughing hysterically at the publishing houses’ offer for my frugal living guides, I decided I could do better on my own and struck out independently.  That’s what’s “under the hood” at Frugal Guru Guide—my first book, on everything to do with autos from commuting to buying and selling to maintenance tips, is going to come out probably at the beginning of next month.

2. DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL SITUATION (WHO WORKS IN YOUR FAMILY, HOW YOUR INCOME IS, YOUR EXPENSES, ETC.).

I’m currently getting drips and dribbles from my novels as they are occasionally published in other languages, but 90%+ of current our income is my husband’s, who works for a large corporation.  I’m hoping that this will change this year closer back to where it used to be.
We have no consumer, student, or car debt – only the mortgage.
We are putting 19% of our gross income away into retirement right now, including 5% employer matching, and 6% is going into kids’ college funds and the same into paying the mortgage down early and to charity—we’re really working on getting charity up to 10% of gross within the next 5 years.  We’re also spending about 7% of gross each year on remodeling, which is desperately needed, and our mortgage, taxes, and home insurance add up to 20% of gross.  We put 2.5% of gross into our very modest car fund every year—we keep our cars a very, very long time.
We spend about $55 a week on groceries (and average $40 on eating out as a family).  I spend $150 on clothing for myself, excluding shoes and underclothes, about $100 for each of the kids, including everything (and with lots of frou-frous), and about $50 for my husband, inclusive of everything (because his mother still compulsively buys him clothes and always will.)

3. WHAT ARE THE CURRENT FINANCIAL CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING (SAVING, PAYING OFF DEBT, STUDENT LOANS, MERGING FINANCES AFTER RECENTLY BEING MARRIED, ETC.)? 

I’m trying to build my own income after it getting devastated by the recession, and we’re trying to save more for retirement and also give more to charity and pay off the mortgage sooner.

4. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE (RETIRE EARLY; BUILD YOUR CAREER, ETC.)?

Career-building is my priority right now.  I’m not really interested in early retirement.  I don’t see work as something to be avoided or shunned, but I do seek out meaningful work that is largely enjoyable.  I do want to have plenty saved up for retirement and old age, but I’m not counting down the days, and I may choose never to retire.  We’ll see.

5. WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE(S) OF FINANCIAL ADVICE AND/OR YOUR GENERAL PHILOSOPHY ON PERSONAL FINANCES?

Live below your means.  Weigh the real benefits before making any financial decision, and don’t assume that every major expense will be a good investment just because people assure you it will.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your life story with us today Jenny! I didn't know you were an author!

    I had a couple questions regarding your savings for your children's college.

    First, I was curious what type of savings account you were using? Is it a 529?

    Second, I was curious if you think saving 6% of your income for your children's college is too much? In general, I've read that people should only save significant amounts of their income for their children's education if they are comfortable that they are saving enough for their own retirement first. Just curious on your take on that! 🙂
    My recent post Reader Profile – Jenny from Frugal Guru Guide

  2. Our retirement is healthy. 🙂 It's always nice to save more, but we're doing well.

    We're doing prepaid college trusts because we're at the very end of a public university tuition freeze, and the prepaid college has greatly outperformed most 529 programs even without the freeze ending. (The cost of a prepaid trust is determined by CURRENT tuition rates. That means that even the price of a new trust is going to jump soon, never mind tuition by the time they get to college.)

    We've got 3 kids starting this year, and I'm afraid that's what it costs! Each kid costs 2% of our gross per year. It's by far our biggest expense for the kids.
    My recent post Toddler Food Is A Scam

    • Sounds like you're managing things really well Jenny! I had read about the prepaid college tuition route, but hadn't heard of anyone using that option though. Sounds like a good deal!
      My recent post Is the Infinite Banking Strategy Using Whole Life Insurance Right for You?

      • The prepaid college trusts work differently in different states. Here, it's a better deal than in other states because the kids can take the complete value of the degree and apply it to ANY university, not just one in the state system. In some states, you only get your principal back if you do that.
        My recent post Savings Strategy: Best of the Worst, or Worst of the Best

  3. Saving 19% of your income for retirement is so awesome. Plus, I love that you have struck out on your own, and I've been super impressed ever since the first time you told me about your writing career! Thanks for Sharing Jacob and Jenny!
    My recent post Writing Wrap Up + A Huffington Post Publication

  4. I realize you are probably pretty set on saving for your child's education, but let me just share a dissenting opinion, so you know that could be a possibility down the road.

    My parents completely paid for my education (the first time around) and while I am completely grateful now, at the time I didn't appreciate school as much as I should have. I never took a job during school and only got an internship because I had a class that required it. Unfortunately, I have a few friends who were in the same situation as me and all kind of went the same way.

    Not saying that paying for education is wrong, just make sure you find a way to make sure they appreciate the experience.
    My recent post The Simple Way To Test A Relationship

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