I’m starting up a new feature of the site today which I’ve decided to call “BlogFAQ”, which is going to be a series (hopefully!) of interviews with other blog owners, about their blogs and how they live their lives. The reasons behind the name are twofold:
The first is that when I stumble upon a new blog I often have some questions for the owner, which I am guessing may well be questions that are often thought of by other new readers. You know, like Frequently Asked Questions. The answers are no doubt hidden away somewhere in the depths of the archives, but wouldn’t it be great if they were all in one place for them to refer new users to? (Note to self: do this for theFIREstarter blog as soon as possible!). Most “normal” websites tend to have a FAQ section so why don’t most blogs? I don’t know and I am here to fix this unexplainable anomaly.
The second reason for the name is clearly that it sounds a bit funny. (Or is it just me that thought that?)
Anyway, if you would like your blog to be featured please drop me a line on the contact form page and I will look at your blog and formulate some questions for you to answer! Likewise if you have any FAQs about theFIREstarter blog then do the same and I will add them to my own BlogFAQ and publish it in a couple of weeks time.
BlogFAQ I – Eco Thrifty Living
The prestigious honour of featuring on the very first BlogFAQ goes to one of my favourite blogs since I discovered it: Eco Thrifty Living. ETL is written by Zoe, who has introduced me to many great new ideas such as seriously reducing the sugar in my diet and reducing the amount of single use plastics in my home. And the great thing about most of her ideas is that they will save you money as well as the environment! I can tell you are bored of me by now so let’s move swiftly onto the BlogFAQ to hear from Zoe herself:
How did you get into the frugal/eco scene? What was your main motivation and did you have a particular “light bulb” moment?
I have been interested in environmental issues for as long as I can remember and have always been pretty sensible with money. I wasn’t especially frugal though until after I had my second child and I realised I really didn’t want to go back to work, but felt like I had to. We had just moved house and had our second child and I wasn’t prepared to stop buying organic food and eco-friendly products, which can often be more expensive. At this point I came up with the idea of being eco-friendly and thrifty and it changed the way I viewed everything. The more I looked into it, the more I found that being genuinely eco-friendly rather than costing more can actually be the key to spending less!
I am lucky that in general my family and friends are pretty supportive and some read my blog/ want to know why I am doing a particular thing, which has sparked some interesting discussions. I think the things that have been hardest for my family to accept however were my choices to quit my job and some also weren’t so keen on the idea of me quitting shampoo. Quitting my job was the most difficult change to make, but I didn’t quit it until I was comfortable that we would be ok financially. I felt confident in my decision and decided that everyone else would see what I saw eventually.
Blogging definitely helped give me the confidence to see the alternatives to working both because of what I was blogging about (i.e. how I could thrive on less) and because of the whole experience of and learning curve of blogging. Other things that have really helped me include listening to hypnotherapy CD’s (specifically Glenn Harrold’s Learn How to Think Positively CD) and inspirational quotes like this one:
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
– G.B. Shaw
Switching quickly to a positive vibe, have you converted any friends and family to your eco thrifty ways?
My immediate family i.e. my husband and kids have gone through a lot of the changes with me without really noticing many of them. One simple change which has saved us a lot of money is taking packed lunches (and sometimes packed dinners) everywhere with us. They are packed in reusable containers and the contents are homemade and unpackaged e.g. sandwiches with chopped up fruit, veg and chunks of cheese. My family has become used to taking staycations (i.e. holidays at home), having foreign students living in our house and having mostly second hand toys and clothes. My kids are also shampoo free and have been most of their lives.
We often say be the change you want to see. What actions of change have rubbed off the most / easiest on your friends and family?
Some friends have got into clothes swapping and I have given away and been given loads of clothes this way. Other changes people have told me they are making since reading my blog include going sugar free (or greatly reducing sugar in their diets), reducing food waste and doing more local shopping. I am undertaking a Year of Eco Challenges and have asked people to sponsor me with eco actions via my DoNation page, which has also encouraged friends to make changes. (See my page here). In general though I tend to live and let live and try not to tell my friends and family how to live their lives (although I probably do go off on one from time to time if someone asks me the wrong question )
What are your main methods for generating passive income?
We rent out our garage, have invested in solar panels and sometimes rent out our spare room to students (this is semi-passive income as it doesn’t involve much work), and I make a tiny amount of money from affiliate links and sponsored posts on my blog… In total when we do have students we are making over £600 a month from these sources.
Common advice in the FI community is to invest in broad based index funds of stocks and shares to produce your income. For example the FTSE 100 index. Considering that you are essentially buying a small part of every large corporation in the country by doing this, some of which you would clearly disagree with their actions and policies, would you ever consider this method for passive income? (Sorry for the long question!)
I wouldn’t invest in mainstream funds, but would consider investing in ethical funds.
Would you ever consider any type of stocks and shares as another means to generating passive income? (For example investing in wind or solar energy companies directly)
This is something I have considered and I have heard of (but not invested in) local energy schemes such as the Brighton Energy Co-op which I find very interesting.
You cover a portion of your expenses with passive income, and are frugal to the extent that you don’t have to work any more. How would you describe your situation, do you consider yourself Financially Independent?
It really depends on your definition of financial independence. The income we are generating from the passive sources mentioned above pretty much replace the salary I was earning after childcare, plus on top of that I have made lots of savings by cutting back, so we are probably actually better off financially than we were when I was working with two kids in childcare. As a family though we are not financially independent as we still need an income, although we do have various back up plans which would cover us for a time should my husband ever be out of work.
You quit your job to become a stay at home mum and blogger. What was the job you quit from? Have you ever had the urge to rejoin the workforce since?
I used to be a Chartered Member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and worked as an internal auditor in the NHS for 10 years. I have no current urge, plan or need to go and get a job, but I can see myself doing work of some form as my kids get older (most likely working for myself or on a voluntary basis).
A lot of people worry they would get bored without a full time job. Apart from looking after the kids and blogging, how do you keep yourself busy? (I’m kind of expecting the answer “There is no time left!” for this but thought I’d ask anyway )
I only have a couple of kid free hours a day (except for one day a week when I get the whole day) and when I’m not blogging, I’m doing stuff around the house, doing my ‘local’ shopping, or doing stuff that relates to my blog e.g. experimenting with making bread or decluttering and giving stuff away… I do also sometimes squeeze in a catch up with friends.
What is your number one money saving tips (it doesn’t have to highest in terms of money saved, but just your favourite tip for any reason)
Dust off some old skills and/ or learn some new ones. This can save you money as you realise you are capable of doing more than just your day job (if you have one) and can help to increase confidence in all areas of your life. Rather than buying something or getting someone in to do it for you, you might give it a go yourself instead and in the long run that can save you a lot of money.
What are your three biggest goals for the future in the areas of your financial life, eco-life, and your blogging life?
At the moment my main eco focus is to complete my year of eco-challenges and on getting 100 pledges on my DoNation page for undertaking a year of eco-challenges. Financially I feel we have achieved our goal of being able to thrive on one salary, but maybe we should start to think about thriving on no salary… I can’t lie to you, I don’t have any blogging goals at the moment, I just enjoy writing it.
What are your favourite blogs that readers of theFIREstarter may not yet be aware of?
Mymakedoandmendyear - http://mymakedoandmendyear.
Freeourkids - http://www.freeourkids.co.uk/
A girl called Jack - http://agirlcalledjack.com/
My Zero Waste - http://myzerowaste.com/
Little Green Blog - http://littlegreenblog.com/
Wonderthrift - http://wonderthrift.com/
Westywrites - http://westywrites.wordpress.
My Plastic Free Life - http://myplasticfreelife.com/
Can you give us a few book and film/documentary recommendations to get us started on our eco thrifty ways?
The Story of Stuff (and all related videos) - http://storyofstuff.org/
The Clean Bin Project - http://www.cleanbinmovie.com/
Trashed - http://www.trashedfilm.com/
The Moneyless Manifesto - http://www.moneylessmanifesto.
Well there you go, what a great first interview to kick the BlogFAQ feature off with! I can’t thank Zoe enough for agreeing to answer my questions and doing so in such a detailed and interesting manner. There is a lot of food for thought in there and some great links to keep you all reading (for weeks!) but obviously don’t forget to come back and visit your old friend TFS once you are done
Completely unrelated note: Those of you expecting the next post in the FI Planning series this week… apologies! I have seriously put about 15 hours into this post already and it’s still not finished yet! I am away from tomorrow until Sunday so I will pick it up when I get back, get it done, and post hopefully in the early part of next week. A valuable blogging lesson has been learnt – don’t promise an article will be posted unless it’s already been written!