I’ve hinted in a few recent posts that I’ve made a conscious decision to run Money Under 30 and continue working my day job in the software industry. As a new homeowner and father, trying to juggle all this is not easy.
Although I’ve decided not to work on Money Under 30 full-time right now, I still have every intention of moving the site forward. I want to make it more valuable, more known, and more followed.
To help me do that, I’m excited to announce that Amber Gilstrap is going to begin work as Money Under 30’s assistant editor and social media coordinator. Many of you already know Amber from her work here as a contributing blogger (first appearing under her alias Carrie…on the Cheap). You may also know her from her own blog: Blonde and Balanced.
Amber lives in Kansas City, Missouri where she works as an accountant and enjoys writing and working out. The last couple of years have been busy for her: She survived the rigorous prep to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and got married just a few months ago.
In the almost two years Amber has been writing posts for Money Under 30, she’s demonstrated an awesome work ethic, attention to detail, a passion for personal finance, and a genuine interest in blogging…the perfect combination of traits to help grow this site.
Amber will not only deliver more useful content for your benefit, but her work will allow me to focus on more *big* posts and other projects that I think you’ll really like when I’m able to launch them.
So be on the lookout for interesting links and thought-provoking questions, as well as an uptick in posts here on the blog featuring Amber’s perspective and personal experiences on getting married, merging finances, and beginning down the road of purchasing her first home.
To help you get to know Amber better, here’s a brief interview we did over the weekend.
DAVID: Why are you interested in personal finance?
AMBER: I’ve been interested in money and personal finance from a fairly young age. Numbers and math have always come easy to me, so I think that’s what first fueled my interest. But I became increasingly interested in the subject as I was figuring out my own financial path right after college. I think the psychology of money is really interesting, too — why people spend money the way they do. There are so many different aspects of personal finance that it never gets boring!
DAVID: You’re a CPA—has your work experience and training in accounting influenced how you manage your personal finances at all? If so, how?
AMBER: At my full-time job, I work with financial system development, financial reporting, and million — sometimes billion — dollar transactions, so my job hasn’t directly influenced how I manage my finances (although, I often wish my bank accounts experienced million or billion dollar transactions — preferably deposits).
However, when I was studying for the CPA Exam, it really opened up my eyes to taxes. Although I don’t work in tax (yet), it’s a topic that comes easily to me (I scored highest on the tax section of the CPA exam and it was, by far, the easiest section to pass), so that has definitely changed the way I look at my own taxes and tax law in general.
The main thing that has influenced how I manage my finances was getting into and out of debt. I really started paying attention to personal finance when I was paying off debt and it ended up developing into a great interest of mine!
DAVID: As those who’ve read your articles here and your own blog know, you recently got married—congratulations! Now that your wedding is behind you, what’s your next financial goal?
AMBER: Thanks! We’ve actually been saving for our first home for a couple of years now. We plan to seriously start looking for our first place later this fall with the hope to buy something this winter or early next spring.
It has long been our goal to save a significant down payment in addition to maintaining an emergency fund and a “new home expense fund” (both of which are fully funded) before we jumped into home ownership. I’m happy to say we’re almost there! And after six years of apartment-living, we’re ridiculously excited to have a garage (no more scraping our windshields in the winter) and our own backyard. We also plan to expand our family with a puppy when we buy a home!
DAVID: Your own blog is called Blonde and Balanced: What does a balanced life mean to you?
AMBER: Good question! Balance means a lot of things, but when I decided on the name for my blog, I was referring to balance in personal finance and health. Many people try to reach personal finance or diet/fitness goals by being super restrictive — year-long shopping bans or trying to subsist on just celery and egg whites. Most of the time, those types of plans cause burn-out and end in failure.
DAVID: Couldn’t agree more!
AMBER: I’ve found success in both finance and health by taking a balanced approach. And I’ve discovered that making balanced decisions really translates well to all areas of our lives — career, relationships, goal-setting, organization, entertainment, productivity, attitude, and so on. Balance means cutting yourself some slack but also keeping the long-term goal in mind.
DAVID: Enough about money for a minute. If you were a Jeopardy contestant, what would be your “Jeopardy story” (you know, some silly memorable story or fact about yourself)?
AMBER: This is a tough question to answer. I’ve been thinking about it for over a day now. I even asked my husband if I could steal his Jeopardy story (he won a college scholarship by kicking a 30-yard field goal before a KU game), but he wouldn’t let me. As for me, I did study abroad in Valencia, Spain during college. I did the total immersion thing — I lived with a Spanish family and went to a Spanish school. I had so much fun eating way too many tapas, learning Spanish slang with my host brother, and spending most afternoons in the Mediterranean. I definitely recommend studying abroad to any college student!
DAVID: What’s your favorite thing about living in Kansas City?
AMBER: My favorite thing about KC is that it’s a hidden gem in this big country of ours. It’s surprising how many people assume I grew up on a farm or have to drive two hours to get to any sort of civilization. Western Kansas may be empty prairie land, but KC is just like any other urban city. Also, KC has both a small town and a big city feel, which I love. And the people (like many areas of the Midwest) are super nice and friendly. My only gripe about KC is that the public transportation stinks. I’d love it if we had a subway or a decent bus system!
DAVID: It’s happy hour; what do you order?
AMBER: I usually go with my favorite local beers: Boulevard Wheat or Boulevard Zon (a summer seasonal). I’m partial to Belgium white beers — my other favorites are Hoegaarden and New Belgium Mothership Wit.
DAVID: Finally, what’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever received or read?
AMBER: I’m going to be cliché here and say “live below your means”. Living below you means can change your life in addition to changing your finances forever. It has allowed my husband and me to pay off all our debt (school loans, car loans, credit cards) and start saving for bigger goals (like a future home and retirement). Our friends even joke about how we’ve been considering buying a flat-screen TV for three years, but just haven’t taken the plunge. We still think our old-school TV works just fine. (We do plan to buy a flat screen for our new house.) Living below your means also removes such a great deal of stress from your life, which is something you just can’t put a price on.
DAVID: Well, thank you for your time, Amber. I’m excited to be working with you and I look forward to all you’ll continue to contribute to Money Under 30!