Alisa Ahlstone Lewis is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sweet Peas & Stilettos, the Modern Mommy Guide. She sat down with LearnVest to answer 12 Proust Questionnaire-inspired questions about her financial experiences, her website, and her thoughts for the rest of us!
1. Best financial advice you ever got?
“If you can’t pay for it at the end of the month, you can’t buy it.” This is exactly what my parents told me when I got my first credit card. I learned to save up before I made any big purchase. It was great advice because I have paid off all of my credit card bills in full every month ever since. I never want to owe anybody a dime.
2. If you could change one thing about your finances what would it be?
My mortgage. My husband and I bought a home in a beautiful area and I love it. In buying the property we knew we would both need to work full time to comfortably afford the house and maintain our lifestyle. I often wish I could cut my mortgage in half so I could have more flexibility in my work options.
3. Biggest financial mistake you made?
Living in Silicon Valley during the tech boom and bust, I had many friends and co-workers telling me about this great stock or this hot IPO. I made investments without real knowledge. I wish I had just kept my money in the bank.
4. Biggest financial mistakes other people make?
I see a lot of people who live way beyond their means and buy things they can’t truly afford. I see young girls who spend all of their money on Chanel sunglasses and Louis Vuitton handbags when they haven’t saved any money at all and can barely pay their rent. They assume these designer accessories will bring them great happiness, but I know they will be so sad when their credit card bills arrive at the end of the month.
5. What is your greatest extravagance?
I love to travel. In particular, I love going places where most people don’t typically go on vacation. I’ve been all over the world from Kenya and Vietnam to Estonia, Croatia and Paraguay and over 50 other countries. I am always saving up for my next big adventure to somewhere far far away. I want my son to see the world too so I have to keep on stocking money away into our family travel fund.
6. What is your most treasured possession?
My greatest treasure is my little sweet pea, Carl. My son is my world. I am also incredibly sentimental. I have jewelry from my grandmothers that I cherish. I also have a 1965 IWC watch that my father gave to my grandfather as a gift 45 years ago. He later gave it to me for my 30th birthday. I would have to say my engagement ring too. It is about 100 years old and full of history. I often daydream—wondering about the women who wore it before me.
7. What is your motto when it comes to money?
Make your own money so you are not dependent on anyone else. I was always very practical when it came to my education and career. I knew from an early age I wanted to get my MBA because I knew it would help me make more money and get ahead. I wanted to be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted and to travel all over the world. I never wanted anyone else telling me what I could and could not buy. I knew the sure way to make this happen was to study and work really hard. I knew that creating my own financial security would be one of the best gifts I could give myself.
8. What is your greatest financial fear?
Not being able to completely pay off my mortgage one day and having to continue working for a very very long time.
9. Who is your financial role model?
My grandfather was the Chairman and CEO of a major corporation but he was never one to live lavishly. He bought one really cool car, a 1967 Camaro convertible and drove it every day for over 25 years. I like the idea of buying fewer, high quality items and having them forever, rather than wasting money regularly on little things that I will tire of quickly and always feeling like I have to have the latest, new thing.
My parents have also been great role models for me. They told me from a very young age that they would pay for all of my education. It was their gift to me to ensure I had the tools I needed to be successful. After 25 years of private school it was an expensive commitment on their part. I was fortunate to be able to start my career without any student loans. I plan to do the same for my son. Education is the greatest gift we can give our children.
10. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A peaceful afternoon in Carmel-by-the-Sea, sitting in a comfortable chair, my feet in the sand, watching my three-year-old son Carl build sand castles and play with his dump trucks at the beach.
11. What should people know about your site?
Sweet Peas & Stilettos is a well organized guide to the best online resources for chic modern moms (actually you don’t have to be a mom to find a lot of useful products and information). You'll find eco-friendly products for your family & home, designer baby & nursery essentials, baby planners, luxury family travel ideas, stylish family organizers, cute modern stationery, home decorating ideas, cool iPhone apps for women, the best deals on designer handbags and shoes, cupcakes galore & a whole lot more.
12. What do you like best about LearnVest?
LearnVest’s financial basics are definitely my favorite. There are so many topics and concepts covered. Sometimes you think you know what a particular term or concept means but aren’t 100% sure, or you are afraid to ask how something really works. Everyone needs to know the basics so they have a solid foundation from which to grow. LearnVest has a knack for making information simple and accessible.