Welcome to The Australian Blogger Interview Series.
We noticed the Australian personal finance community growing, mostly through our interactions on Twitter and we wanted to continue to foster this great camaraderie. We’ve reached out to as many Australian personal finance bloggers as we could and asked them to participate in our interview series. If you have any favourite Australian personal finance bloggers, tell us about them in the comments below and we’ll invite them to participate.
Next Up: Sarah from Keepin’ It Frugal.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Sarah, I’m 31 and the first half of Keepin’ It Frugal. Laura is my awesome wife, she’s 34, and the other half of KIF.
Both Laura and I come from and still live in Adelaide, South Australia. We love this state, it’s like a big country town, and even more so where we are by the beach.
We were both working corporate graphic design and marketing jobs before we quit, sold everything and travelled overseas for a year back in 2015. While travelling, we started out first business – a food blog called Wandercooks, sharing recipes and stories from our travels.
When we got back to Australia, we then started our own graphic and website design business, with a focus on helping women in business. We’ve been working between both businesses ever since!
- How did you get into blogging about personal finance? Was there someone (another blogger perhaps) or something that inspired you to start blogging?
Personal finance has been a big part of our lives for a long time. We got serious about our finances and wanting financial independence around 6 years ago when we’d sold everything, paid our debts and left to travel.
As our journey progressed, we wanted to start helping others the same way books like The Barefoot Investor had helped us.
When we started KIF, we’d already had our food blog for 4 years, and really enjoyed blogging but wanted to try another niche and find a new community who were frugal like us. Our friend jokingly said we should call our blog Keepin’ It Frugal and so here we are!
It’s such a great platform to chat with likeminded people and we’re so glad we started it. We definitely look forward to growing the blog more and educating others along the way.
- What are your financial goals? Are you aiming for FIRE or something else?
For our short term goals, we’re aiming to reach SideFIRE within the next couple of years.
This is where our expenses will be fully covered by our food blog income and our investments.
Once this is achieved, we’ll work over the long term (next 5-10 years) to eventually cover our expenses 100% through our investments, completely pay off our mortgage and officially achieve traditional FIRE.
- What has been your financial journey? Did you start with a pile of debt? How have your finances progressed throughout the years?
We’ve always been pretty good with savings and debt. We did both start with HECS debts (similar to student loans for US readers) of $14,000 each which we both paid off back in 2014. I’d say that year was the start of our journey.
We sold all our belongings before travelling, so it was like starting from scratch (almost) when we got back home in February 2015. We still had half our savings, which was $30k between us.
From there, we rented with our best friend for 2 years while saving as hard as we could. We had enough to then put a deposit down and buy a house in November 2017. It wasn’t long after we purchased our house that we started investing in shares.
Fast forward to today and we now have a share portfolio of over $40k and our mortgage down by a third of the house value. We can’t wait to see where we are in another few years time.
- Do you advocate shares or property to build financial independence? Or both? Why?
We currently only invest in shares but we’re contemplating adding property down the track to diversify our assets. At this stage we like the ease and flexibility that comes along with share investing, so that’s definitely our favourite right now.
- What is your personal investing strategy? Have you ever changed or reconsidered your strategy? Why?
As we’re self-employed, our income is inconsistent, but we do try to keep consistency with our investing plan by purchasing share parcels on a monthly basis. The amounts vary slightly for each purchase but we usually continue to invest in a selection from Vanguard including VAS and VEU.
- What do you think the biggest challenge is for Australians seeking financial independence?
Consistency, fear and mindset.
These are the three biggest challenges we’ve found from the conversations with those we’ve had around us.
Consistency: If you automatically save a dollar a day, you have more than you had yesterday. That’s the secret success formula right there. Okay, if only it was that simple. In all seriousness though, if you keep investing each month, if you keep paying down your mortgage each month, that will help build the path to your success.
Fear: Fear prevents action. It prevents you from even starting, let alone being consistent with your saving habits. Fear in the FI world is usually due to a lack of knowledge. For example, if you don’t understand the share market – how can you put your money into it? It then becomes more of a gamble than an investment. Through self-education and learning, this usually wipes out the fear enough to get started. From there, it’s back to consistency!
Mindset: It takes guts and determination to save for the long term. There’s so much planning, learning and failing throughout the journey – you need the determination and drive to succeed in life. A positive mindset helps to crush fear, keep you consistent and opens up to many more opportunities and doorways to get what you wanted.
- Who has inspired you the most in your journey toward financial independence?
Great question. I don’t think we could ever attribute it to just one person. It started with books like The Barefoot Investor which kicked off our FI journey through to The $1000 Project which got us over the line to buy our first parcel of shares.
We now draw inspiration from so many people around us – especially those that have achieved what we want to achieve, and those who believe we can do it too. It’s a combination of family, our friends, other FIRE bloggers and authors like JL Collins and Vicki Robin.
So many people have helped and inspired us along the way!
- Which do you think is more powerful: frugality or higher earnings? Why?
I think it’s a balance between the two. Frugality is essential for higher earnings to make the biggest impact on your investments.
It’s easier to save a dollar than it is to make a dollar, so why not use it wisely.
- Has there been anything about becoming a blogger that you didn’t expect (good or bad)?
Yes! The community. We have been blown away by the friends we’ve made and conversations we’ve had as a result of starting the blog. The conversations are so positive, so open and so constructive – it’s like a breath of fresh air to talk so openly and build each other up.
- What do you plan to do in retirement (whether early or on time)?
We still see ourselves blogging. It’s a great way to educate others and be part of a community both in person and online.
We also see ourselves doing more of our favourite activities – whether that’s yoga, gardening, paddle-boarding, hiking or travelling! So many things.
I don’t think we’ll ever stop learning through self-education and development either. We both thrive off of it, and there’s always something new to do or learn.
- What’s your biggest splurge?
We love ‘investing’ in high quality food and drinks – wther it’s a $15 tub of gelati or a couple of coffees down at the marina cafe to chat all things life together.
We always spend money in the areas that bring us the most value – expenses on things like yoga, travel and ebikes return so much more lifestyle value than the dollar amount assigned to them.
- How do you think the Australian financial blogger community can grow? Do you think something like Fincon is viable over here?
Platforms like Facebook Groups, Instagram and Reddit all have some great communities in the FI space. I’m sure a Fincon-like event would catch on once people got talking. Maybe at the moment an online event would be awesome for everyone!
- Do people in your real life know about your blog? If so, what do they think? If not, why not?
Some of our friends and family know about the blog, but I wouldn’t say they’re regular readers. I think they prefer looking at our recipes over on our food blog haha!
- What’s your number one piece of advice for those interested in financial independence?
Move past the fear and educate yourself. The next best time to start is now, it doesn’t matter how small. Just start with what you have and do what you can – and remember to be consistent.
Thanks so much for being our next interviewee Sarah and Laura! We look forward to sharing more interviews with you soon!
Do you like the idea of an interview series? Who are your favourite Australian personal finance bloggers?