Amanda & Julia here! We are the founders of finance and lifestyle blog The A&J Muse (formerly AJ Money Matters). We are both millennials, recently graduated with our Masters of Finance and on a mission to help our fellow millennials be financially stable and chase their passions whilst living the lifestyle they desire.
Now Let’s Talk About Money: #MeetMillennials Series with Amanda & Julia
How would you describe your current financial situation?
Amanda: I have such a high student loan debt it’s ridiculous. I did both of my degrees at a private uni in Australia so that definitely got a bit out of control. Having said that, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I’m known to be that person who is REALLY good with money and budgeting. I’m pretty frugal but I do impulse buy on big-ticket items. Somehow I can justify an expensive plane ticket overseas, but I can’t justify spending $80 on a pair of jeans. However, I do live within my means, which allows me to save up for holidays etc.
Julia: Student loans… do I really need to say more? I went to uni in the US (my home country) and then decided to travel to the other side of the world and achieve my masters degree in Australia. So, let’s just say… out-of-country tuition is insane especially from a private uni! However, I wouldn’t change my experience for anything (I mean, I wouldn’t have met Amanda and The A&J Muse wouldn’t be here). I’m a tight ass with money to be frank. I’m sure my boyfriend hates me half the time for it when I tell him to pre drink at home and only drink at the pub, but hey, tight budget & financial goals are the reasons why.
What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?
Amanda: I started working in men’s retail when I was 17 and I WISH I was told to always save 10% of my paycheck right from the start. I didn’t learn this saving concept of ‘pay yourself first’ until I was about 21…let’s just say my emergency fund would have been all sorted by the time I was 20 and not 26.
Julia: Honestly, as silly as this sounds, I wish I was told that I shouldn’t expect the full amount of my hourly wage. I was 16 at the time and just not 100% educated in the working world yet. Hello, taxes come out. I ‘knew’ this, but I didn’t really expect it to be THAT much. Once I caught on though after my first paycheck, I really wish someone could have given me the ideas of multiple separate saving accounts for different things, i.e. emergency fund, travel fund, etc.
What financial achievement are you most proud of?
Amanda: When I was doing my Masters degree, I ran out of government loan money halfway through my degree. I knew this day was coming so I was frantically trying to save my money to pay $25,000 to cover the other half so I could graduate on time. I didn’t think it was possible but it happened! I was working a casual job (the pay was amazing) but had to work loads of hours a week AND keep up with my studies to do this. So, I would say this is definitely an achievement I am super proud of.
Julia: Let’s take a second to give Amanda applause for her achievement during uni! Seriously, mad props. I would say my biggest financial achievement would be learning to budget and live frugally with little money I have had during unemployment and side jobs for the past year (getting a job in a different country with visa restrictions is no joke one of the hardest things). The best thing? Living this frugally and STILL enjoying life and being able to enjoy going out on occasion.
What expense can you not live without?
Amanda: I HATE to say this but Netflix! Settling down and watching Netflix is one of my favourite past times and it allows me to relax. A lot of people who are trying to build their own business will say that TV is the biggest waste of time, but when there’s a new Netflix original series out that it binge worthy…you just gotta go for it.
Julia: Alright, call me your typical millennial, but Netflix. When I first moved to Australia I had to use a paid VPN subscription just because I wanted to watch Netflix THAT bad and Australia didn’t have it at the time! The trade off though? I’m not paying for Foxtel or an expensive cable service. Everything I need is on Netflix, so when you look at it that way, I’m saving money people! Like come on, who doesn’t want to binge on Gossip Girl or Grey’s Anatomy?!
What expenses could you cut down on?
Amanda: Definitely my rent. I’ve chosen to live in an expensive area for the past year, purely because I’m tired of having new housemates and adapting to their lifestyle. So, I chose to move in with someone who I was already living with before, but just in a new place. I pay $270 per week and this definitely hurts my bank account. I kind of wish I moved to a different neighbourhood instead as I would’ve been able to save SO much more but hey, that’s the price you pay for trying to maintain a lifestyle you’re familiar with.
Julia: Living in Sydney, everyone’s dream is to cut down on rent. The renting prices are seriously all my organs, and then some. Each year since living in Sydney I’m always looking for a new place at year-end for cheaper rent, because guess what. Once your 12-month lease is up, your rent increases too without doubt. So, I’ve gone from $630 per week, to $570 per week, and now to $540 per week! Aside from rent expense, things that could be cut down would be to start buying homebrand instead of name brand for some household items.
What are your long-term financial goals?
Amanda: Pay off my student debt, which is currently at $130k. It hurts to even write that number down. We recently wrote a series on strategies to become debt free which has actually really motivated me to be serious about paying this off, as it keep indexing each year with the current interest rate. I think I’ve got the right mindset now to tackle my repayments which I didn’t have before, so I’m ready to confront it head on!
Julia: No student loan debt or credit card debt. Obviously, my long-term financial goals are to be financial stable and fit, and to have a large down payment ready for a house to minimize the amount of home loan needed. When I think long-term I’m thinking 5+ years away, and a lot could change between now and then. I like to give myself a blanket goal of financial stability and be capable of having the money necessary to live without fear of anything bad happening that would chew through my savings.
What are your short-term goals?
Amanda: Get a job! I was made redundant 2 months ago so I’ve been unemployed since then and haven’t earned anything. I definitely worry about money everyday but I’m not completely stressed out (thank god for a redundancy package). But, I feel like I’m pretty limited on what I allow myself to do in this phase. I can’t really plan for my future very well as it’s so uncertain. I can’t repay my student loan, plan a holiday, invest in the blog etc. Having said that though, I’ve definitely learned that everyday happiness is found in experiences that don’t cost money, or they cost very little. You don’t need to shop every weekend and buy something as I think it only gives you momentary elation, and not ongoing content. So, being unemployed has definitely opened my mind up to what truly makes me happy and what I value most.
Julia: You may laugh, but to pass my AFP and ACIC check (federal police & criminal intelligence) so I can start this crazy job opportunity that I’ve been given. Then, my short-term goals will to be increase my personal savings account a lot, the majority of my paycheck and then to top off my travel fund. However, if for some reason me running a red light on accident 6 years ago flags me, then my short-term goals would be to keep increasing traffic to the blog and to tackle some fitness goals.
Do you have any side hustles or ways to gain supplemental income?
Amanda: We are hoping to turn blogging into another income stream for both of us. It’s a hard slog but, patience is a virtue. After being made redundant this is an area I looked into a lot more. I think Fiverr is a really great site for freelancing if you want to make extra cash. I’ve made a tiny earning on there. Every little bit helps. I think Uber is a really great model as well, and I know people who can make a few hundred dollars in a night. I’m also really keen to learn more about dropshipping which again, I’ve heard people can make thousands of dollars from. I think if you’re willing to put in the hard work and you enjoy what you’re doing, then you’ll find a way to increase your income streams. But I’m no believe in a ‘get rich quick scheme’.
Julia: Who loves sloths?! I think they’re adorable, but that’s what it feels like sometimes trying to turn blogging into a side income. It’s slow to start, but I feel like we are nearly there. Fiverr is awesome for some side cash and also Airtasker. I would say my ‘side hustles’ would be taking apart my individual skills and abilities and turning those individual things into side cash. I used to play a high level of soccer back in the US, so I decided to do some soccer coaching in Australia since I have the skills and know-how.
How do you manage paying off student loans and/or consumer debt? Any Tips?
Amanda: Even though I’m in no position to pay off my student loan right now, I do know what I’ll do as soon as I can. Budgeting is so important but al reviewing you budget and constantly updating it to reflect your financial goals and your lifestyle. If you are serious about paying off a loan, you need to adjust your budget accordingly. Something needs to change in your life and yes, that usually means you have to sacrifice something but the freedom you’ll feel when you’re debt free is well worth any sacrifice I think. It doesn’t have to be big to start with. I would look at my fixed (rent, phone, internet, etc) and variable (entertainment, eating out etc) expenses and see which areas I’m able to cut down in. For example, I’d love to have the new iphone model but I’m saving heaps by being on a $30 prepaid plan using my Samsung S5. My phone is pretty slow and it’s old but I make do.
Julia: Budget. I don’t think I really need to say anything else. I will say though that budgets may seem boring and ruin your fun, but they are so critical. Without setting a budget your money doesn’t have a home and it just wanders from one thing to the next until it’s gone and you’re like oh crap, my phone bill is due, where’d my money go?! I think the biggest tip though would be to keep a positive mindset. It gets draining and hard sometimes to realise your debt may be higher than you ever imagined and it can really bog you down. However, shifting your mindset and telling yourself you are capable, and it can be tackled really makes the difference. Don’t give up, don’t just keep spending because “you’ll always have debt,” be positive and know you’re capable.
What career path would you choose if money was not an issue?
Amanda: I’m pretty musical, so perhaps I would go down the path of being a musician. Or maybe some role within personal finance education. Traveling would be great for a while, but not forever.
Julia: Honestly? A nomad… I would just want to travel the world and get paid to document my travels on Instagram. Simple.
WANT TO SHARE YOUR STORY?
All of us have a story to tell about personal finance, and I created the Meet Millennials series so that anyone can share their story with money. Talking about money has been considered taboo in the past but we are here to change that.