Expert Interview Series: Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter About Reducing Household Expenses and Achieving Financial Independence

Rosemarie Groner is a formerly stressed, overworked, and exhausted mom who writes at The Busy Budgeter about how she reduced her household spending enough to be able to quit her job, stay home with her kids, and even find a way to make up her salary at home. We recently caught up with Rosemarie to hear her advice about starting and sticking to a budget, saving money and reducing expenses, and discovering methods of earning extra income.

Tell me a little about your background. Why did you decide to start a blog?

After quitting a job that I felt stuck in and paying off over $30,000 worth of debt, we had a good handle on what worked and didn’t work for people who struggled with chronic disorganization like we did. Blogging was a fantastic way to teach others who were struggling with both budgeting and organization some easy tricks to overcome their weaknesses. When blogging turned out to be profitable as well, I knew I found my path.

To what extent is someone’s upbringing or past factor into how they mishandle money or personal finances?

It’s the single biggest factor in how we manage money. If our parents never talked about money or if our parents had poor money habits, our chances of struggling with personal finance skyrocket.

While that’s true, we focus more on how our personality affects our efforts to save money and budget. Financial independence has much more to do with behavior modification than it does money.

When someone has struggled for years to stick to a budget, it’s not a money issue; it’s a willpower issue. Rather than attempt to change a personality that’s been set in stone since your formative years, we focus on ways to reduce the situations in which willpower is needed. Then we focus on small changes that make the largest impact in both your life and your budget.

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What suggestions do you have for a person who wants to put together a budget but has never done so before?

If you’re in a position where your whole life is a mess and not just your finances, then focus on creating simple routines that will support your efforts to save money. Having a solid routine to get the dishes and laundry done every day gave us a huge boost in budgeting because we were able to cook at home and pack lunches, so we had more time and mental energy to devote to saving money. Sitting down and actually calculating the mess we were in – the total amount of debt, our interest rates, and how much we spent on food in the last 30 days – was a somber wake-up call and the absolute best thing that anyone who struggles to get started can do.

When it comes to daily expenses for a household, what is the biggest source of wasted money?

The grocery budget by far is the biggest source of wasted money. On the flip side of that, it’s also an opportunity to save hundreds of dollars a month instantly once you get the skills needed to meal plan. In our journey, we went from spending $1,600/month to feed two grown adults to spending $450/month to feed a family of four.

If someone were to say to you, “I want to start a side business to earn extra income, but it seems too scary for me,” how would you respond?

Do it. Having the ability to increase your income and work for yourself means that you will never be stuck. It’s a major part of financial freedom. Job loss, a recession, or even a major unexpected expense loses its ability to wreck havoc on your financial goals when you learn how to make money on the side. The best part is that if you do it right, your side business should be something you do for fun – in other words, something you would have done for free as a hobby.

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My blog started as a hobby and ended up being a business that makes over 10x what my former career earned me. My husband started home brewing beer as a hobby and worked towards opening a brewery in his spare time. After 3 years of investors and business plans and construction, he opened his own brewery, which diversified our income streams and let him live his dream.

If you don’t even attempt to reach your ultimate goal, there’s no way you can succeed.

Is it possible to make some money immediately in order to address some unexpected expenses?

Absolutely! We’ve done this successfully dozens of times throughout our journey.

The easiest way for us was to declutter the house in a weekend and sell everything we hadn’t used in 6 months. Facebook yardsale groups, Craigslist, and eBay make it easy to turn unwanted goods into extra cash quickly. We even scaled that up and bought used jeans from the thrift store on 50% off days for $2 and sold them for $10-$15 each. Peek User Testing let us make $7 in quick bursts of 15-minute tests for small amounts of money we needed. Babysitting or home day care was an extremely profitable way to make extra money as a stay-at-home mom.

While those were our favorites, we found that once you got used to looking, there are unlimited ways to make extra money from home.

Where in a budget can you find room to save or invest money in preparation for retirement, college, or similar future events?

The quickest way to do this is to negotiate the rates you already pay. Things like switching from cable to Hulu and Netflix, or switching from a major phone provider to an alternative provider like Ting or Straight Talk, can add up quickly.

In the long run, the best way to do this is to focus on gaining the skills to meal plan effectively. Many of our readers were able to save over $500 a month by focusing on reducing their grocery spending.

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Finally, name one easy thing that almost any parent can do today to start saving money.

Keep a pantry meal around for the days that you want to order pizza or get drive-thru. I’m talking about a super simple convenience meal that’s easier than ordering out.

Depending on your skill level, this could be spaghetti and pasta sauce or even prepackaged lunchables. Instead of spending $20.00 on fast food on those nights, you spend $5 and save time to let you prepare better for tomorrow’s meal.