Subscriber Swap Saturday: Poorer Than You

by Kevin on April 11, 2009

This is the nineteenth edition of Subscriber Swap Saturday.

For the uninitiated, every Saturday I do an interview with another blogger. That blogger also interviews me and posts that interview on their website.We then tell our readers — hey, I think this gal is interesting, you should subscribe to her blog for a week.

This week I’m interviewing Poorer Than You. I highly encourage all of my readers to subscribe to her blog and see if you like what you find! Read more about Subscriber Swap Saturday at the link above. Her interview questions for me are up at her blog as well.

Stephanie has been writing Poorer Than You, a personal finance blog for college students and 20-somethings, for over two years. In a story that’s nearing urban legend status, she started the site when she dropped out of film school, and through learning about personal finance and writing the site, was able to go back and finish her degree. One part cautionary tale and another part snarky financial commentary, Poorer Than You offers a little something for everyone! You can get daily updates from Stephanie with her RSS feed or e-mail subscription options.

Question (No Debt Plan): Why are you Poorer than Me? Sounds like a self-deprecating kind of title!
Answer (Poorer Than You): When I first started the blog, I was a little sore from just having dropped out of school. Most of my fellow college students (especially film students) had greater resources than I did, and just didn’t understand the idea of a person dropping out of school for financial reasons. One of them even said to me “Well, that’s what parents are for!” So at the time, I had a bit of a complex. And I was very snarky. There weren’t a lot of young people blogging about finances from the bottom of the ladder, so I felt poorer than just about everyone at the time.

I’ve considered changing it, but I’m still pretty snarky, and still pretty poor! I like that it serves as a reminder that I come from humble roots, and that anyone can improve their financial situation.

Q: You’ve obviously had your fair share of money problems considering you dropped out of college and then rejoined 9 or so months later. What did you learn by being forced to drop out, and how did it happen?
A: I didn’t realize that college was going to be so expensive – which sounds so silly when I say that out loud! But it’s true – I had enough in financial aid and loans to cover my tuition, as well as room and board for the first few years. But I was on my own for textbooks, and as a film student, I had to fund all of my projects out of pocket as well. During my third year, I reached the limit on one of my students loans, and at the same time I maxed out my credit card financing my film projects. Oops! Unable to afford rent for my on-campus apartment, and unable to finance my film projects anymore, I dropped out.

I learned quite a lot from working those nine months. First and foremost, film school isn’t for poor kids, unless you go to a cheap school, or you manage a full-ride scholarship. It’s not a pretty truth, but it’s there. It’s an expensive degree with expensive projects. (Thankfully, my time in film school and living in Hollywood taught me about the alternatives to film school!) Seredipitously, I also discovered that film work wasn’t really for me. I put in a good-faith effort, and tried lots of possible roles within filmmaking, but nothing clicked. I’m both grateful that I tried, and grateful that I gave up the goose when it didn’t work out. I’ll never have to wonder about an unrealized dream, but I also won’t be stuck in a career I hate.

And truthfully, everything I know about money and finances sprung from dropping out. I very quickly realized I had to get my whole financial house in order if I wanted to make anything of myself. I had limited resources, and I would need to push them (and myself) to the limit. It worked out really well – in researching my own financial situation, I found that I really love reading and writing about personal finance.

Q: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your blog readers?
A: My readers are an excellent resource. It’s tough – in college and your early 20s, most of your friends aren’t financial savvy. Even though I feel like I have a disproportionately savvy friend base, I still have very few people to bounce ideas off of. My readers are both gracious and critical – if I post about something I’m thinking of doing, they’ll help me to find all of the pros and cons that I didn’t even think of. I learned this the hard way, after I posted about the tax benefits of something I’d done, and a reader pointed out I wasn’t eligible to deduct the taxes for that action (because I was still a dependent). Ouch! Now I know I should probably post about things like that before I act, and see what the readers think. They’re smart cookies!

Q: Do your friends and family know about your blog? (If so, how did you tell them?)
Yes. I’ve had blogs in the past my family didn’t know about (I’ve been blogging since I was 14), and it usually ended badly, unless private blogs were password protected. This taught me to greatly respect information on the internet, and never post anything I wouldn’t want my mother to read! (My mother is extremely tech-savvy.) My family doesn’t read my blog, as far as I know, but they do recommend it to their friends and coworkers, which I greatly appreciate! Some of my friends read as well.

I have no trouble mentioning my blog in casual conversation, so that’s how most of my friends and family know about the site. I don’t wave it in anyone’s face, but it tends to come up. I spend a lot of time on my blog, so it’s usually the first thing I think of when people ask what I’ve been up to lately.

Q: You’re almost done with school. What’s next for you in the dreaded “real world”?
Ah, the dreaded “real world!” I’m officially done with classes now, and my degree is even certified! I’m in full-on job search mode currently, although I do have some freelance work to keep myself occupied and keep a little money coming in. I’ve also been working on Poorer Than You a lot more since classes ended – I bumped up my posting schedule to nearly every weekday!

Last fall I went back to my old high school to produce and direct their fall drama productions, and I caught the theater bug again in a big way. I’m hoping to put some of my film degree to good use, and put the transferable skills to work in backstage theater work. If anyone knows of any stage managing internships that will have me, please let me know! The trouble with trying to get into that field is that I don’t have any contacts or a network built up. I probably should have gone to school for technical theater, but… I didn’t! 😉 I have to work with what I’ve got so far and, as usual, try to make it work with limited resources. I think I’m getting pretty good at that!

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Thanks for the interview, Stephanie! Seriously readers, Poorer Than You is an entertaining read. I’ve been touching base with her for several years and have kept up with her blogging adventures. You should try her out for at least a week!

Bloggers — interested in being featured? Check out the schedule. I’ve got openings coming up in June.


Roger April 11, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Interesting perspective on Stephanie. I was not aware of all the details of her past, and she certainly does have a different view on the importance of personal finance than most of the bloggers out there. You’ve gained at least one new reader with this particular Subscriber Swap.

MK April 13, 2009 at 7:52 am

Roger pretty much said what I had to say!

Great subscriber swap questions! It’s nice to learn more about the bloggers you read every day, and now you’ve gained yest another new reader!

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