Behind the Screen Interview #8 – Penny from She Picks Up Pennies

She Picks Up Pennies

We have a great interview in store for you today. Penny is an awesome blogger who rocks the website She Picks Up Pennies. She’s been blogging for about a year and has some great posts (my favourites are the Vegas trip). Make sure to check out her site after this interview. 

Let’s Begin!


Let’s talk a little bit about who you are and where you are coming from. Tell me about your money journey. What got you started in learning about personal finance?


I think about this often — I honestly have no idea how I stumbled into the world of personal finance. It wasn’t a direct Google search or anything like that. In fact, I used to follow style and lifestyle bloggers pretty religiously, so my blog reading was fairly oppositional to what it is now. Once I found Budgets Are Sexy and some of the other big blogs out there, I couldn’t stop reading through archives. I spent a lot of time — probably two or three years — lurking. I was too nervous to even leave comments anonymously! Then, finally, I made the commitment last summer to start my own blog because I wanted to become more purposeful with my spending and my day-to-day living.


What would you say the biggest money obstacle has been for you to overcome?


Me. The personal finance community does a really terrific job of calling out consumerism, society, neighbors, and even friends. But that would let me off the hook too easily. I try to be really frank about this on my blog — I’ve never experienced bankruptcy or anything of that magnitude.


Heck, I even made it through undergraduate and graduate school without any loans thanks to several scholarships, campus jobs, and some help from my parents. My money obstacle, though, had to do with what I was buying. The breaking point literally came when a shelf in one of my closets collapsed. I was sitting in a pile of stuff that I didn’t even like, and I was so incredibly frustrated with myself.


Instead of saving aggressively, I would save some money from each paycheck. I did pay myself first. But then any extra money I had leftover from side hustling or anything like that went directly into my closet. I was doing everything right and everything wrong at the same time.

How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?


I don’t shop for fun anymore. If something is worn out, I’ll replace it – but that’s really the extent of it. In fact, I even struggle with replacing things now. Financially, the biggest change is the rate at which our savings grows now. When I see how much I actually can save, it makes it so bittersweet to think about where I could be if I had started this journey sooner.


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Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?


Decluttering. Now that I’ve realized that I don’t need to spend incessantly, I’ve stopped shopping unless there is a clear need. Now, though, I’m trying to pare down everything in my closets. I started with the first floor of our house, and I’ve had a lot success there. The upstairs is still an overwhelming work in progress, but I haven’t given up yet.


There’s a moment in the Godfather 3 when Michael Corleone is trying to get out of the “Family Business”, and he says: “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.” What is one bad money habit you just can’t seem to shake?


Compulsively checking my Vanguard accounts. It’s a fool’s errand for sure. I have no control over the stock markets no matter how long I will the graph on the screen to stay green. But I can’t seem to quit them.


If you were to start your money journey all over what would you do differently?


I would start sooner or worry less. In fact, I try not  to think about my journey from this perspective because it makes me unnecessarily anxious and frustrated with myself.

What is your proudest money accomplishment?


My proudest money accomplishment is every conversation I have with people in my life about money. Being purposeful and positive about a topic that is so emotional and even taboo makes me feel really accomplished and grown up. But then I remember I still can’t properly fold fitted sheets.


Who is your money hero?


There are so many bloggers and finance gurus that really inspire me. But if I had to call someone a hero in regards to money, I’d say my grandma. She’s the inspiration behind my blog. As a first-generation American, she overcame so much. She never even went to high school, and she was widowed at a very young age. Still, she managed to raise three kids, buy her own house, and live the most inspirational and purposeful life.

What was your worst money mistake?


Waiting so long to invest. I know I’m supposed to say buying a new car six years ago, but I really don’t regret that at all. I financed it at 0%, and I’ll drive it until I’m 90. I seriously put about 4,000 miles on it a year.

What was your first money lesson?


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Pay yourself first. My mom always had me put at least half of every paycheck in my savings account. Even when I was babysitting for $3 an hour and being paid in tollway change out of the woman’s minivan.

What money habits do you see in yourself (or others if you are perfect) that make you cringe?


Since I spent so much time spending mindlessly, I spot it very easily in other people now. In terms of money habits in myself that make me cringe, I think I’m too cautious. I’m not necessarily talking about investing either. It’s like I’ve overcorrected, and now I don’t want to part with any of my money. Balance is so important. I’m continually reminding myself of that.

Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?


I’m definitely a saver. I’ve always saved first, even when I was shopping like it was my job. Like I said earlier, I still have a hard time parting with money. If there’s an emergency, I’ll look for 12 ways to side hustle or squeeze money from our current income before I’ll dip into our fully-funded emergency fund.

What’s the one personal finance book that had the biggest impact in your life?


I had a professor in undergrad insist that I read Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. I went down swinging that semester. But in hindsight, it was the start of my slow awakening in terms of conspicuous consumption. That same class had me tackle The Communist Manifesto, some works by the Stoics, and a whole slew of other philosophers. I’m really fascinated by how other people, other cultures, and other societies–both past and present–think about life and work and money. That always makes a stronger impression on me than some of the more prescriptive personal finance books.

She Picks Up Pennies

Ok now for some non-money questions. Let’s give our readers a glimpse of what makes Penny who she really is. 


Give me a list of your top 5 foods.


I’m assuming that chocolate or sangria don’t count as foods, so let’s go with this list: sushi, veggie burgers, homegrown vegetables, edamame, and pasta.


What is your favorite drink (alcohol or non-alcohol)?


Tea! I’m a big fan of sangria or Aldi Riesling to celebrate, but my go-to drink is always tea. Chai if I’m feeling really fancy.


What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?


I write every day, even if most of it never sees the light of day. I meditate pretty poorly, but I’m working on it. I also include some type of exercise, whether it’s yoga, kickboxing, hiking, or running. I also talk to my parents every day.


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Which group do you fall into:


Apple or Samsung? Apple


Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke if I have to drink a pop


Coffee or Tea? Tea


Night owl or morning bird? I’m an early bird for most things. I’m a night owl when it comes to writing.


I’m a huge music fan, what’s one (or more) of your favorite albums?


Now that it’s summertime and I’m driving around with my windows down, anything by the Stones.


What’s the one movie you could watch over and over again and never get tired of it?


Clueless, which explains so much about my current closet situation. If you’re looking for something meatier, I never pass up Shawshank Redemption when it’s on TV. I’m also a total sucker for teacher movies like Stand and Deliver and Dead Poets Society. And anything John Hughes. How’s that for eclectic?

What book are you reading right now?


I am currently up to my eyeballs in YA books for some summer curriculum work that I am doing. Once that wraps up in the next week or so, I plan on diving into Fates and Furies, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and other grown-up books that I’ve neglected for the better part of the school year. I also love rereading classics over the summer. I was on a Vonnegut kick over spring break, but Hemingway feels right for summer.


Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind


I would rather make a difference than make millions. Though it would certainly be nice to do both, wouldn’t it?


Do you have a favorite quote?


The current Post-It next to my laptop reads: “If not now, when?” I scrawl these notes to myself occasionally and stick them all over my desk at home and at work. Another favorite is by Tim Ferris: “People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”


Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you? 


People can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.


Andrew here Make sure to head over to check out Penny’s blog, She Picks Up Pennies and say “Hi”.

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