Joseph McClellan worked in banking since 2005.  He decided to continue his education at Arizona State University, where he studied business.  Eventually, he decided to pursue the path of full time self employment.  Upon doing so, he made certain lifestyle changes, and he began to blog about them.  He advises people to focus more financial health as opposed to strict cost cutting.


*Can you talk about how you got started writing about personal finance? What were some of your early lessons on this topic?

I majored in business while attending ASU and decided to do an emphasis in finance since I was interested in it (and I worked at a credit union at the time). Since I was learning finance I was suddenly finding myself in conversations about money, investing, etc. with friends and associates. I figured since I was already talking about it I might as well try blogging about it. Thus was born Debit versus Credit. My earliest posts talked about saving for retirement, setting up an automatic savings plan, and some of the financial mistakes I’d made.

*What are some personal finance topics that people have a difficult time understanding? What is your advice to these people?

This is a tough question. Obviously the more advanced topics on investing can confound most people without a background in finance. That said I think those articles are rare and the more pressing matter is less about understanding and more about commitment. I think the finance topics that people have a difficult time actually implementing include budgeting, cutting costs and saving money. My advice to these people would be to make it as easy as possible to remove the barriers. Automate your finances and try to earn more instead of cutting costs.

*What are some great online tools to help manage finances? Why?

I’m a big fan of Mint, personally. I’ve also used SaveUp and I’m interested in payoff.com, although I have yet to sign up for it. Mint is just a great all-around money tracking tool. You can use it to track saving, checking and even investment accounts. It can even help you stay on budget and track progress with goals. SaveUp is pretty cool as well — it basically promotes saving money by offering rewards to those who do. It works like a lottery. You get points to buy into contests as you increase your savings balances. You can win stuff like vacation packages, electronics and even a million dollars! Payoff.com seems to be the opposite of SaveUp — instead of earning stuff for saving money you earn badges (and can win small cash prizes) for paying off debt.

*What are some of the worst advice you are seeing people receive in personal finance? How would you make it better?

Worst advice huh? That’s a tough one. I’m not a big fan of the budgeting and cutting costs posts out there. Maybe it’s just my personal preference but to me budgeting (at least following a strict budget) never works over the long run and cuttings costs by dropping the daily latte is just silly. Yeah it’s $5 a day, which does add up, but the problem is that most people will still spend that money, just inadvertently. Better advice is to cut costs on things you don’t care about and can afford to (in other words not your rent) and spend on the things you love (all while setting up an AUTOMATIC savings plan). Or better yet — earn more money (and still set up an automatic savings plan).

*You wrote a recent post about self-employment. How is that going? Any tough challenges or surprising learnings?

I’m not going to sugar coat it here. It’s been tough. You can’t go into it expecting to make a lot of money right away so you’d better be prepared to be broke for a while. I think the hardest part of self employment for most would-be entrepreneurs is the income isn’t always stable month to month so you have to be good at saving on the prosperous months and cutting costs on the slow months. That said I’m looking forward to more business in the very near future and things are looking up.

*Lastly, can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What do you do for fun? What do you splurge on?

I’m almost 30 and nervous about it, married (sorry ladies) and a bit of a geek. For fun I like to spend time with my wife, work in my garden, play video games and re-watch (again) Arrested Development. I splurge on electronics (I’m a big Apple guy). I can’t get enough of them; it’s a disease really. That said I don’t go into debt to get any of them. I always pay cash. Needless to say since I’ve become self employed the buying of electronics has slowed considerably. Haha.