Ashley Stetts, a.k.a. The Frugal Model is also a blogger who shares money-saving advice and lifestyle tips on TheFrugalModel.com. Having grown up in a household that reused paper towels and wiped windows with Win-dox, not Windex, the Ashley of today brings a thrifty perspective, a lot of personal experience and wise decisions to the financial table.
MBT: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you were raised to manage your money.
TFM: I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada by a single father who could have taught a class on frugal living. He had to sacrifice a lot to be able to provide for us, and it taught me that you can still live happily with little. I began working as soon as I was able to, and saved most of it since I knew I would likely have to pay for most of my college education. I wouldn’t have had it any other way — I attribute all of my money smarts to this upbringing.
MBT: How on earth did you save all that dough at such a young age?!
TFM: I am so fortunate that education in Canada is subsidized by the government, so I didn’t have to take on the incredible student debt most Americans have to. So while I was in college I was also working part time selling cell phones at the mall, bartending at a nightclub on the weekends, and modeling when I could. Whatever money didn’t go towards school was put into savings. When I moved to NYC I got lucky working as a fit model — fitting clothes for designers and making really great money. I never gave up my night job though, and continued working both jobs so that I could build a comfortable savings. On top of that, I always lived far below my means. I lived in an apartment half the price of what I could probably really afford, I never took cabs or paid full price for things.
MBT: What inspired you to start your blog?
TFM: Seeing so many young people making good money in debt because they just aren’t paying attention to their spending habits made me crazy. I realized that we just aren’t generally educated on smart spending and money allocation growing up – and this is especially a topic that seems to be taboo to women. I wanted to create a place for young women to come and get funny, light posts about simple, everyday money saving tips that let you still live a fashionable life.
MBT: Being a glamorous model living in NYC, what are your shopping habits like?
TFM: I very rarely buy things at full price. I am a huge fan of comparison shopping online for high-end pieces, and I’m not afraid to buy things from eBay (even second-hand). When I do go out shopping, I always go out with a mission for just what I need — and I always make sure I shop where I can return in case I get home and realize I don’t actually need it!
MBT: What’s the wisest money decision you’ve ever made?
TFM: The wisest money decision I ever made was working hard to ensure that I would never have to depend on someone else for financial security. It sounds pretty straightforward, but so many young people want to be wealthy, but just aren’t interested in doing what it takes to get there. I was making good money at my day job, but I continued working four nights a week at a club until 4 am because I knew that I would only be able to pull that off in my 20’s. It was with that extra money that I was able to invest and have financial independence at such a young age.
MBT: What’s the worst money mistake you’ve ever made?
TFM: Not being better educated on investing sooner. I kept my money safe in a bank account earning very little interest during a time when I could have been making much greater returns. As a young woman, the world of finance, stocks and bonds were a foreign language, and it’s difficult to trust people with your money. I really wish that I had taken the time to learn about my options and found someone to guide me when the market was better.
MBT: Tell us about your favorite frugal thing you enjoy doing.
TFM: I would have to say eBay is my guilty frugal pleasure. I love hunting for designer clothes heavily discounted on eBay — and generally when i buy something new, I will turn around and list something of mine that I no longer wear. It’s almost like a swap, and I feel like I’m getting something new for free. It’s also exciting seeing people getting into bidding wars for your stuff — sometimes I end up getting more for my old stuff than what I originally paid for!
MBT: What do you envision for your future (financially and otherwise), and when do you plan on retiring?
TFM: I’m really hoping to bring The Frugal Model to an even larger audience so that the message and ideas of the brand can be more recognized. It would make me so proud to have this labor of love be the vehicle that brings me to great financial success, especially since modeling is a job that has an expiration date! I have no idea when I will be able to retire, but I’m making sure there’s money stashed away now so I can be a pimped-out grandma.
MBT: How do you manage/grow your savings?
I currently have my savings account in an online-only Ally account. This way I’m earning slightly more interest, but more importantly, the money is not easily accessible. Every time I accumulate excess money in my checking, I transfer it to this account. This method has really worked for me to grow my savings. I also have money invested in a CD for higher interest earnings (but again, I wish that money was in a better earning investment — maybe if I had been better educated!)
MBT: What’s your stance on using credit cards?
TFM: I’m a fan of credit cards if you are able to pay them off in full each month. If you are not able to do this, it means you’re just spending money you don’t have, and spending money on interest — that makes whatever you’re buying even more expensive. It’s a frugal person’s nightmare. When used properly and paid off, credit cards are great for building good credit, and cards that let you earn points can save you a ton of money on flights and hotels.
MBT: What is your favorite frugal advice for others?
TFM: Work hard and live below your means. That equation will lead you to where you want to be with your money.
Ashley is a model living in NYC and the creator of TheFrugalModel.com, where she gives tips and advice for saving money and living luxe for less.