The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Savings Confessions + 4 Budget Blogs to Follow

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Let’s be honest: budgeting blows. “Saving” money by getting a great bargain is a thrill, but actually moving that money into a high-yield savings account, or seeking the freedom delivered by becoming debt-free (with a nest egg in savings) seems like a chore. At least that’s how I used to feel.

I’ve spent my entire life in blueblood Boston seeing firsthand that the truly wealthiest people on the planet are cheap, penny-pinching, unabashedly frugal folk, but that hasn’t kept me from being frivolous. Even when my husband and I were each making six figures a year at our technology jobs, we weren’t buying expensive vacations, clothes, cars, or luxury goods, but we weren’t socking it away for our future, either. I’m shocked by how little we have to show for all our hard work: we don’t own a home; we don’t have an album of photos from impressive ’round-the-world adventures; we don’t even currently own our car.

About a month ago, however; I started really trying to get my finances in order for the first time since I was a new college grad (cough, cough…12 years ago). I updated my account, I started using ImpulseSave, I re-read On a Dollar a Day and tried to get our Maslow hierarchy of meal planning back in order. I cut out unnecessary spending anywhere I could find it.

Sure, as you would expect from the gal behind Shoestring, I’ve always lived pretty cheaply, trying to get the most value out of every single thing I do, see, use, consume, or wear, but — spoiler alert! — I’ve never once stuck to a budget. I like to think that I’m smart about money, but in reality I kind of ignore mine — how much I really have, how much I really owe, where it all really goes — and I tend to throw it around generously by spoiling those closest to me when I’m in a celebratory mood. Or it’s happy hour.

I often feel a lot like Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic when her Successful Saving readers find out that their beloved “Girl in the Green Scarf” is actually running from a collections agent. “Hello, my name is Melissa, and I’m a sustainable lifestyle ‘expert’ who is a actually a rank amateur when it comes to saving, investing, budgeting, and personal finance.”

That ends now: it’s time for this Stealfinder to strap on a pair and take her financial future by the horns. I’m getting my money-saving mojo from these guys, my four favorite budget bloggers — my Girls in Green Scarves — who’ve helped me over the years to work up the guts to to be real with you and finally crack open my books for all to see.

J. Money of Budgets Are $exy
Twitter: @BudgetsAreSexy

When I first started Shoestring, J. Money was the first blogger I started following, on the recommendation of our mutual friend Kim, a.k.a. Glamour‘s Lil’ Miss Fortune. Much like my dear college friend, J. helps savers everywhere take life (and budgeting) less seriously. He’s flip and snarky yet never mean-spirited, and so friendly it’s impossible not to want to immediately spend more time getting to know him. Luckily we can, by reading his blog, following him on Twitter, and seeing his point of view on the world through Instagram. For the new parents out there, J. and his wife are about to welcome their first child, and I promise they’re going to prove you can still save while spending on ALL. THOSE. BABY EXPENSES. Seriously, budgets CAN be sexy — and J. has all sorts of budget templates, tools, tips, and honest lead-by-example inspiration. It’s impossible to pick a favorite J. Money quote, so just follow him, like, everywhere. Now. You’ll see.

Anna Newell Jones of And Then She Saved
Twitter: @AndThenSheSaved

Earlier this year, after seeing her on The Nate Berkus show telling the story of how she paid down $24,000 in debt in 16 months by going on a Spending Fast, Anna and I connected over our mutual love of clothing swaps and all things budget living. Though we’ve never met in person (yet), I consider Anna a friend, and love keeping in touch with her via email, our blogs, Twitter, and Instagram (where you can see that photography degree paying off in spades, her snaps are GORGE).

As Anna looked back on two years of saving at the end of 2011, she said exactly what I’m feeling right now (after only two months!):

“Saving started to become more fun than spending. Which is completely nuts.”

Carrie Smith of Careful Cents
Twitter: @AppleCSmith

I only recently was introduced to Carrie’s blog after finding her through a mutual friend, Beth Styles of {Parsimonia} Secondhand with Style. Not even two weeks later, I was reading Carrie’s tell-all about how she had just completed a 15-month journey to pay down $14,000 in debt on the Huffington Post. I totally, totally, TOTALLY loved when she wrote:

“My initial reasoning for being debt free was to stop paying all my money to banks and credit card companies. I have a rebel streak in me and got sick of people telling me what to do with my money.”

And this coming from an accountant! Damn the man. Save your money. (That’s a little riff on Empire Records, did you catch it? No? OK, fine, I’ll keep my day job.)

Jeffrey Kosola of Deliver Away Debt
Twitter: @DeliverAwayDebt

When I discovered Jeff’s blog sometime in 2009, I was immediately hooked. He was the first budgeting blogger in this new Great Recession world to really push the “side hustle” — or the idea of swallowing your pride and getting a second, part-time job (even one typically reserved for teenagers and townies) in order to pay down debt and increase your net worth. Jeff currently makes between $1400 and $1800 per month delivering pizzas. Inspired by J. Money (surprise!) of Budgets Are $exy, he’s been chronicling his monthly “Net Worth” from November 2009 to December 2010, with an increase of $70,591. Delivering pizzas. I loved when he said:

“You can only frugal yourself so far, then there is nothing left to frugal. Earning extra income and maintaining a good budget is how I’ve gotten this far. I will be debt free, how about you?”

So, how ’bout it: will you work towards being debt-free with me? Stay tuned next week as I chronicle our net worth for all to see…eep!

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Story: Copyright 2012, Shoestring LLC. Photos: Courtesy of Shutterstock, J.Money, Anna Newell Jones, Carrie Smith, Jeff Kosola.