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Behind the Screen Interview Series #3 – Desirae from Half Banked

Hey Everyone! I have an outstanding interview this week with Desirae from Half Banked. She is on a mission to save half of her income and is a fantastic person. I loved this interview, there are some great insights to her and…well… it’s a lot of fun to read. I trust you will enjoy and then head on over to her site Half Banked and subscribe to her email list so you you can get her  One-Minute Budget spreadsheet here.


Let’s get the awesomeness started!


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?


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Oh man, can I say my mom? Because it was totally my mom. She is a superstar of personal finances, and was tracking her expenses before it was cool (OK, it’s still not cool, but it is helpful af and everyone should do it!) She used to pay me $20 if I finished reading a personal finance book, so I started with The Wealthy Barber and never looked back.


She also placed huge value on education, and I was very lucky to have her support through school, both in terms of money she had set aside for my education and the gracious offer to let me live at home for five extra years. That allowed me to graduate debt-free, which helped me land my first job out of school – because my budget could handle the decidedly new-grad salary, since I had no debt.


Making that money stretch, while trying to hit some aggressive savings goals (probably too aggressive, in retrospect) was my first real foray into money management, and I had some uh… stumbles along the way, haha. From leaving my savings sitting in cash to paying $50 a month in bank fees one time, I made a surprising number of missteps given that I thought I was so good with money.


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


Probably adjusting to life after university on my new-grad salary!


Of all the things I wish someone had told me as a new grad, the biggest one is that your salary doesn’t have to be your only source of income. It was such a rough adjustment, trying to make everything fit into a set monthly amount, in addition to being fully out on my own for the first time. If I had built a side hustle, that extra income – no matter how small! – would have been unbelievably helpful.


How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?


I will say, it made me really committed to living within my means! I figure if I can stay away from the Credit Card Debt Monster on a new grad salary, there is just no excuse under the sun to ever get into it now, on a much more comfortable salary with a few years’ experience.


It also prompted me to start making the kind of resources that I wish I had back then, like my One-Minute Budget spreadsheet. If anyone had told me about how to break down a budget by percentages, it would have given me a much more balanced look at my money – instead of just the “save as much as you humanly can” approach I took!


Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?

Half Banked

Oh, totally! There’s always a next level in terms of money management, right? (Sorry folks, that is kind of the truth.) My latest win was starting to invest – freaking finally – when I found out about the whole roboadvisor thing! It’s perfect for what I like to call Goldilocks investors like me: people who think bank mutual fund fees are wayyy too high, but find the low-cost ETFs super-intimidating. Roboadvisors hit a happy medium, which is why I’m such a big fan of them, and a huge advocate. I’ve even written about how to choose the right one for you, if you’re looking to find one!


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?



Subscribing to email newsletters for my favourite online shopping sites! They always get me with the coupons, but trust me – I don’t need weekly reminders that the dress I was looking at is “only $10 today!” Sure, it’s only $10, but you know I’m going to buy $50 of stuff to get the free shipping. I don’t even need any new clothes!


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


This is going to be a weird one, but I’d give myself a pass on saving 30% of my income right off of the bat. I would have scaled it down to 20%, and here’s why: I can remember so many times when a small thing, like a tear in my jeans, would send me into a total tailspin. I felt like my budget was so tight that there was no way I could handle replacing a $40 pair of pants, and it was one of the most stressful periods of my life. Had I just relaxed a little bit on my savings rate and realized that yes, this was temporary and I could catch up when my salary went up a bit, I’d have been so much happier – and 20% is a totally fine savings rate! That extra 10% wasn’t really worth the mega-tons of stress it caused me.


What is your proudest money accomplishment?


Waiting until I was really ready to add a dog to my life.


I’ve wanted a dog since I could use words to say “I want a dog.” Seriously, I bugged my mom for yeaaarrrrssss about it, and no dog. During my pauper new grad years, I thought about getting a dog often, but I knew I wanted needed to have a few things in place first. I knew I needed a car to get the dog to and from the vet and the various places I wanted to take it, and I knew I needed an air conditioned apartment, so the dog didn’t overheat. (I also would have liked not to overheat, haha.) Those were big asks on my salary at the time, so I held off.


When we finally picked up The Dog from the humane society, I had a car and air conditioning and the means to support The Dog every month, and I’m so glad I waited. Six weeks after we got him, he sliced his paw open at the dog park, and required $700 in stitches and medication at the vet. Had that happened earlier in my new-grad days? YIKES.


It’s a proud money accomplishment for me because I held off on doing something I really, desperately wanted to do until I could comfortably afford to do it – instead of diving in and living with the consequences afterwards. It’s an approach I’ve taken before, and I think it’s had a huge positive impact on my finances!


And PS, if you want to know how much my dog costs me every month? It’s a shocking number (I’m not joking either, I was literally shocked when I sat down and ran the numbers.)


Who is your money hero?


My mom, hands down! She raised me as a single parent, built her own business from the ground up and managed her money like a total boss the whole time. She was mortgage-free in a ridiculously short time, built up an amazing nest egg for herself, and – if I’m being perfectly honest – maybe spoiled me a bit! She is just a shining example of being phenomenal with money and still having a wonderful life filled with joy. And the occasional splurge like a vacation to Italy to celebrate my university graduation, haha.


What was your worst money mistake?


Saving too much on my first salary! I know, I know, that’s a weird thing to say, and I keep saying it, but I was sooooo stressed out for those first two years after I graduated, because I was totally convinced I had to be saving aggressively. I mean, do I regret it? No, but would my life have been easier had I scaled back my savings from 30% of my teeny salary to 20%? Yes!


Honourable mention goes to my ultra-spendy semester abroad in Australia. There were ways to be frugal about it, and did I do any of them? Ahahahaha no. I was Spendy McSpenderson-pants. I bought a lululemon hoodie in 40 degree (Celsius!) weather because I was homesick, let’s put it that way.


What was your first money lesson?


Probably having an allowance as a kid! And then realizing just how quickly it went on Bonne Bell Lipsmackers and sparkly nail polish, haha. I kid you not, I could blow through money like nobody’s business on lip gloss and candy!


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


Equating spending money with other things. I hate that I still do it, and I’m more aware of it now, but it still happens from time to time!


What I mean by this is a specific kind of purchase – like buying a new top because I’m not feeling confident about attending a specific event. In my mind, the right top will make the event go smoothly and make me feel confident, but almost every time, guess what? It’s still just a top, and the event would have gone just as smoothly without it. Same goes for kitchen gear – I’m going to be Martha Stewart! – and all sorts of other little things.


Reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up helped me let go of a lot of this type of spending, but hey – I’m human and it still definitely happens!


Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?


Can I be a spaver? Spendy saver? Hahaha if I had to choose I’d say saver, but don’t get me wrong – I am all about setting a fun budget for guilt-free spending! As long as you’re putting your major financial goals first, and taking care of your needs, I don’t see any reason not to spend on things that add joy to your life.


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

I haaaaaate to say this but probably The Wealthy Barber, if only because it was the first personal finance book I read in high school! More recent, great, impactful reads would be I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi and Stop Overthinking Your Money by Preet Banerjee!



Ok now for some non-money questions. Let’s give our readers a glimpse of what makes you who you really are. These are optional but I really, really, really want to know.


Give me a list of your top 5 foods?


Salty carbs. No, seriously, all five of them fall into that category.


  1. Salt and vinegar potato chips
  2. Pasta with butter and salt and tomatoes
  3. Rice with soya sauce
  4. Hamburgers
  5. Tortilla chips and guacamole


It’s a really bad thing for me that I try to eat low-carb all the time, eh?


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


Craft beer! I am a total beer snob. I’m the person who walks up to the bar, asks if they have anything local and is disappointed when they don’t. I know, I know, I’m awful.


What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?


I always take the dog for a walk first thing in the morning, before doing anything else! I’m very much a morning person, but very much not a just-woke-up person, if that makes any sense – getting forced out of bed and out for a walk helps me wake up, otherwise I’d be a lump of a human!


Also, coffee. Coffee is a daily habit around here.

Which group do you fall into:


Apple of Samsung? Samsung! I live in a very dedicated Android household, haha.


Coke or Pepsi? Neither, I don’t drink soda!


Coffee or Tea? COFFEE. This is a strongly held opinion, haha.


Night owl or morning bird? Morning bird! But like, mid-morning, not right when I wake up, haha.




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


I pretty much haven’t listened to anything else since Lemonade came out! I’m very much a listen-to-it-until-I-get-sick-of-it person.

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


Secondhand Lions! It is seriously underrated and not enough people have heard of it. Go watch it!

What book are you reading right now?


No shame, re-reading the Harry Potter series from start to finish!

Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind


I would rather lift weights, than do cardio.


Do you have a favorite quote?


Trust that the universe is taking care of you. (It’s a little more woo-woo than I usually get but it’s one of my all-time faves.)


Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you? (Think social media accounts)


I’m on Twitter, and Facebook, and I Instagram my dog a whole lot if you’re into that! I also send out a once-a-week email with exclusive content to my email list, which you can get on by downloading the (super-helpful!) One-Minute Budget spreadsheet here.

Wasn’t that an awesome interview!? Now head over to Half Banked and check out that spreadsheet she has waiting for you. 

Trust that the universe is taking care of you.


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