Kumiko Love’s office isn’t large or pretentious. Her workspace even could be seen as somewhat crowded and not conducive to results-driven performance.
But the desktop on her kitchen table in a humble apartment in north Spokane Valley speaks to the frugality that changed her life and the example she hopes can change that of others.
After graduating from Eastern Washington University, Love struggled with credit card debt and student loan payments.
It wasn’t until the birth of her son, James, that the 33-year-old single mother began a journey to control spending and eliminate debt.
“After my son was born, he was that life-changing moment for me,” she said. “I knew that it was no longer just a want. I had to figure it out for my son. So, I changed my mindset.”
After attempting various ways of budgeting, with minimal success, Love created the “budget by paycheck” technique, which combines the calendar, envelope and paycheck methods to eliminate more than $77,000 of debt in eight months.
Love, an accredited financial counselor, founded The Budget Mom personal finance blog to share budgeting advice with others, and the site has attracted millions of visitors. She also created a YouTube channel to share budgeting techniques in a step-by-step process and now has more than 63,000 subscribers.
Love said her appearance Thursday on “Good Morning America’s Ultimate Debt Diet: Debt Free at Any Age” segment, which features people who became debt-free at various stages in their lives, was an additional opportunity to share financial advice with others.
“I don’t want my (blog) readers to see me as some celebrity,” she said. “I want them to know I have the same struggles. I’m not perfect. I live a real life. I’m a mom and I’m just like them.”
Journey to becoming debt-free
Love, who was raised on a cattle farm in Chewelah, graduated from Eastern Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration after majoring in finance.
When Love landed a job in the finance industry in 2011, her boss suggested she create a personal budget.
“No one had ever asked me to do that. When I was a child growing up, my mom was a single mom. She worked three jobs to raise me and my sister. I saw struggle. That was my view on money,” she said. “I didn’t know about saving or being a patient spender – any of the things I know about now.
“And so I sat down, and that was where my journey really began. It’s kind of weird – I graduated with a finance degree, but I didn’t know anything about personal finance,” she added.
When Love looked at the amount of debt listed on her personal budget, she was shocked. That prompted her to devise a plan to eliminate debt and control spending through the “budget by paycheck” technique.
The “budget by paycheck” technique includes identifying expenses and listing them along with due dates and paydays on a calendar, categorizing spending based on each paycheck and dividing a set amount of cash among several envelopes labeled for groceries, gas or entertainment.
“I always tell my readers, ‘Track your spending. You cannot even create a budget until you know where your dollars are going,’ ” she said.
It was a challenge to remain motivated while paying off thousands of dollars in debt over eight months, Love said, adding she worked as a financial counselor at a local firm and wrote The Budget Mom blog while caring for her son.
“Every extra penny that I had over those eight months, I threw at my debt,” she said.
The Budget Mom
As Love embarked on her financial journey and became an accredited financial counselor, she wanted to share budgeting tips with others.
“There were so many nights when I would get off work and I would say, ‘I need to tell somebody about this.’ I almost felt like it was my duty. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops,” she said. “It would have helped me three years ago if I would have known this information. I wouldn’t have struggled the way I did and, so, I started sharing it with the world.”
In 2016, Love founded The Budget Mom, which features several articles on budgeting, frugal living, investing and meal planning.
The website also offers a “budget by paycheck” workbook for purchase to help people organize bills, pay off debt and save money as well as a free email course on how to budget using the cash envelope method along with printable worksheets.
“I didn’t start The Budget Mom to even start a business or to make money. The mission of The Budget Mom from day one is to help people,” she said. “I think that passion truly lies with me because I know how it feels. I remember the nights I was up crying and worrying about how I was going to pay the bills or take care of my son. I didn’t want any other mom or person to feel that way.”
Love also began posting daily video stories with budgeting tips to Instagram about a year and a half ago. But she wanted to make longer videos and reach more people, so she created a YouTube account two months ago that features detailed videos outlining every step of the “budget by paycheck” process.
Love left her job in the financial industry in February to focus on building The Budget Mom and help people achieve financial freedom.
“I finally got to that point where I had to make a decision where my passion truly lies, and that is to continue to reach and help as many people as possible,” she said.
Love said she wants to eventually create an online finance school and open a local office to help low-income families meet their financial goals.
“I want to be that one place where people can go to truly get life-changing help without having to pay a dime,” she said.
Teaching good financial habits
Love is teaching James, 7, about good financial habits, and started with an allowance.
He often helps Love with color-coding her budget workbook and has asked to make cash envelopes to save money.
“I see my son being so much more a part of what I’m doing. I hope to hand The Budget Mom down to him,” she said. “I see (The Budget Mom) as being something that will be here forever. That’s what we strive for, and I hope my son is part of that. I found my purpose in this life and that’s with helping people, and I hope he’ll realize that’s his purpose, too.”
Future of The Budget Mom
Love is saving up to buy her first home with cash, which she hopes to achieve within two years.
Although Love has been featured in national news segments on “Inside Edition” and “Good Morning America,” she has yet to participate in any area events.
She’s preparing for her first local speaking event Oct. 23, when she’ll share her story along with budgeting advice.
“Between all the national media, it’s the first event where I’m actually nervous,” she said.
The event, sponsored by Canopy Credit Union, will be at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. Tickets are $25 and include a free digital download of the budget by paycheck workbook. Attendees will also get to participate in a question-and-answer session with Love.
Love said she’s often recognized by people as The Budget Mom while traveling around the country, but it doesn’t happen as much in Spokane.
“I went to New York City recently and got noticed in Times Square, but it’s weird because people recognize me in other parts of the States, but not so much here,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ll have people come up to me in the grocery store and say, ‘You’re the Budget Mom. I didn’t know you lived in Spokane.’ ”
Love hopes to change that by connecting with the local community so they’ll know she’s here to help them with their finances.
“My goal is to reach more people and change more lives – one family at a time,” she said.