OppLoans Q&A with Ashley Stetts, The Frugal Model: Part I

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Ashley Stetts is a working model and creator of The Frugal Model, bringing you tips for saving, investing and living your best life on a respectable budget. In 2015, Ashley also founded her own modeling agency, Stetts Management, a boutique firm that represents fitting models of all sizes.

Hi Ashley, Thanks so much for talking with us! To start things off, have you always been a frugal person, or was that something you needed to learn later in life?

I was raised by a single dad who was VERY frugal. He definitely taught me to value every dollar and to do whatever it took to save money. I knew that if I wanted to go to college I would need to pay for it myself, so that was a motivator to watch my money and create good spending habits that stuck with me through life.

What made you decide to start writing about personal finance?

Young people are so uneducated about the basics of saving money, especially since it isn’t something that we’re taught in school. I had friends who had no idea about credit card interest rates and who had never once checked their credit scores. Living in NYC and modeling, I knew that I had a platform to speak about personal finance from the perspective of a young person who still needed to keep up appearances and live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I figured if I could also infuse some humor and personality into my posts, it would be easier to understand and more relatable.

What has living in New York City taught you about better managing your finances?

NYC is one of the best places in the world to live when you’re in your 20’s, but that’s also the time that you need to be saving the most. I quickly learned the ways to buy designer clothes for cheap (used on eBay), how to experience fun events at a discount (Groupon), and how to save money on all of my monthly bills (call and negotiate!). I cover all of these things on the site—they saved me big time and still allowed me to experience all NYC had to offer.

You’ve worked as a freelancer. What are some of the unique challenges of freelance employment, and what advice do you have for other people seeking to work freelance?

As a freelancer, you never know when your next paycheck is coming in. You have to be even more careful with your money so that, when you have long breaks between jobs, you have enough in the bank to pay the bills. To anyone who is considering leaving their 9-5 job to pursue a passion project or work freelance, I would definitely make sure that you have some money saved! Be sure to have your finances in proper order with an emergency fund before you take the leap, because it can be a scary place.

How can people balance the need to live frugally and responsibly with the need for self-care?

Taking care of yourself is something that you always need to make time for. This doesn’t have to mean spa days or big vacations when you’re feeling burned out. So many people tend to use spending money as a way to feel better. I can attest to the power of taking ten minutes every morning to meditate and of deep breathing when you start to feel stressed. Meeting a friend for a run or a workout is always better than heading out shopping (that will just stress you out more if money is tight!).

What should people do to find the best deals and savings both online and IRL?

I always, always look online before I buy almost anything, since you can usually find it cheaper. As I mentioned, things like designer clothes, shoes, and handbags are a steal pre-owned on eBay. Social coupon sites like Groupon are great for buying things like cooking classes, even visits to the dentist (and I still have all my teeth!). I also always check for promo codes before I check out online … there’s usually always something like “20% off your first order” or “free shipping” out there. I also live by the rule “don’t ask, don’t get.” It’s always worth asking if someone can give you a better price.

You’ve written before about how to travel on a budget. What are some of your best suggestions for people who want to go on vacation while staying within their means?

Travel in the off season! Also, book flights for off days. Don’t travel on Friday and return on Sunday – book leaving Thursday or returning Monday. Also, checking other surrounding airports can save money. And I’m a huge fan of Airbnb instead of hotels.

For more of Ashley’s financial tips, check out www.TheFrugalModel.com.

She’s on Twitter as @thefrugalmodel, and on Instagram as @astetts.

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