EXTENDED: Talking Money

"My biggest piece of advice is just to work hard, save as much as possible and build a beautiful future for your family. At the same time, keep Christ at the center of it." by Michele Katsaris
Photo by Instagram @Carolinethephotographer

Like a lot of college freshmen nowadays, Jonni Parsons didn’t know what she wanted to major in. All she knew was that she loved to write, but she felt like she was stuck in a creative box. After interning in the marketing department for Nike Sports Camp, Jonni applied what she was learning to her own Christian blog. That’s when she started to see a growth in her following and when other people started to request for her marketing assistance. This prompted Jonni to launch Sunday Morning Marketing during her senior year of college. 

With Sunday Morning Marketing becoming a growing and successful company, Jonni had to quickly learn the financial responsibilities of owning a business. Jonni recalls when she first started transitioning from college to adulthood, “Bills, credit cards, building your credit, taxes, insurance, deductibles, rent, student loans and everything in between—it was just all so overwhelming after I graduated. Even though I was really passionate about doing it the right way, I didn’t want to get myself into a ton of trouble right from the start.” Jonni shares her story about balancing financial responsibility and lessons she learned along the way.

WC: When did you start to notice growth with your personal blog? What do you think made you different from other Christian bloggers at the time?

Jonni: I think a lot of it had to do with just the transparency aspect. I realized that I was kind of the only one or one of few that were talking about just really difficult subjects. I talked about the current struggles of everyday life and I feel like that got a lot of people interested in what I was posting about. And all of my posts are pointing back to Jesus, ultimately.

WC: Something we noticed on your blog was your statement that you discuss topics that were “ignored by the church.” What are some of those topics that you discuss, and do you ever get criticism talking about those topics?

Jonni: I don’t think that these topics on sexuality or mental health are actually ignored intentionally by the church. I think that a lot of churches tend to just lean towards comfortability. It’s not always a bad thing, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for topics that involve tension. I realized that I needed to be transparent about my struggles because I what I was dealing with was a lot of purity struggles while I was dating. I was trying to look to Christian influencers or Christian authors that were really transparent and vulnerable in areas like this and that’s when I discovered that even they weren’t really posting or publicizing their own struggles. That’s when I decided I would post about my struggles and that’s when a lot of young girls were messaging me going through heartbreak, wrestling through purity, questioning their faith and fighting through this anxiety. I wanted to be that voice for them and to show them that they’re not alone at all. The logo on my website says, “There’s power in transparency,” and it’s true, it’s absolutely true. And yes, I do definitely get criticism for some posts. But that’s just because I didn’t grow up my whole life saved. People think I’m crazy for being so vulnerable and open about my relationship with Jesus online, but to be honest, most of the response has been respectful and positive.

WC: That’s interesting that most of your criticism comes from you being open about your relationship about Jesus rather than criticism for being honest about your struggles.

Jonni: Absolutely. Most Christians are very accepting about my past just because the people that have followed me or are following me have a path, too. I think that they can relate to me which is why they gravitate towards my blog.

WC: You talk about the day you were saved as being very transformative. Can you tell us about that day?

Jonni: Yes! I was saved on August 31st, 2012. It’s been about seven years and actually every year, we celebrate my salvation day as my birthday. We get balloons and a cake, and I just really relish in the fact that Jesus saved me because it’s just such a miracle. I was 16 years old when I came to Christ. I was in such a rut for so long and it was exhausting every well, I guess you can say, around me and they were just all broken cisterns. I couldn’t get any water from them. I couldn’t get satisfied by them. And Jesus was kind of my last thing to try. I finally said, “All right, I have nothing else to try.” I’ve tried the boys. I’ve tried the partying. I’ve tried the music. I’ve tried getting money. I’ve tried everything but nothing satisfied me. So, I tried Jesus and I haven’t looked back since.

WC: Wow, that’s an amazing and vulnerable story. Through all of that is when you decided to start your marketing company Sunday Morning Marketing. Starting a company is a huge financial responsibility. We see that the younger generations have a different relationship with money nowadays. What was your view of money when you started to transition to adulthood?

Jonni: I am actually super passionate about the subject of finances! I published a free e-book on my website and it’s all about finances and growing up. My husband is a CPA and he’s given me a lot of advice along the way as well. But most importantly, I came from parents that were particularly not responsible at all when it came to money. So, my family and I suffered a lot financially. As a young girl, I knew that I wanted to have a different life when I grew up. I remember saving all of my birthday money as a kid and I just loved seeing my savings grow.

Photo by Instagram @Carolinethephotographer

WC: What is some advice you’d give to people who are struggling to save their money?

Jonni: The first thing that’s really important is to just sacrifice those little things and be able to save up for the big things. For example, I never bought expensive coffee when I was in college. I would just grab the free coffee in my cafeteria. I sacrificed a bit of my time to cut coupons and cut my receipts in half. And then instead of going out with friends each weekend, I try to just lay low and do some free fun activities like go to a museum or have a lunch in a park. 

The second thing I would say is wait at least a full 48 hours before making a big purchase. I even made this mistake once or twice and I had to learn from it. I saw an influencer with a ton of makeup products and without thinking about it, I just bought them. It was over a hundred dollars’ worth of makeup and I hardly ever used it. I tell all of my friends to wait at least 48 hours. Then after the 48-hours passed, I realize I don’t even need that item.

Lastly, the third thing I would say is just to get accountability. I make sure I put enough in my savings account and I could only withdraw so much from there before I got fined from my bank. I also made sure that I was on a strict budget, because I wanted to enter adulthood with a really good amount built up. Those are kind of the three little tips that I would get somebody. To sacrifice now, wait a full 48-hours before a big purchase and then get accountability.

WC: What’s one mistake you learned while managing your finances? What’s something else that young adults should make sure they pay attention to that go hand-in-hand with financial responsibility?

Jonni: One of the hardest lessons I learned involved my credit score. I never even knew what a credit score was! I had this credit card and I would just always pay it. It was fine. Then one day I saw there was still a balance, but I thought it was a mistake. I didn’t think that I had to pay it, but I winded up being wrong and it affected my credit. Except I never checked my credit, so I didn’t know it had affected it! It made me lose my mind because I worked all my life basically to have this good credit and then just one little mistake can destroy all of that. Track your credit score. I know those two words are kind of scary, but it’s really important in adulthood.

WC: What are some of your favorite tools and apps to help manage your finances?

Jonni: My husband and I use Excel to keep our budget intact, but the other app that I love is Mint. It’s a free app that helps you set money aside for everyday expenses and if you begin to go over that amount it gives you a warning letting you know you’re spending too much. I also like the “keep the change” program that most national banks have. When you make a purchase, your bank will round up to the nearest dollar and put that extra change in a separate savings account for you. You don’t realize how quickly that extra change adds up!

WC: Do you see the younger generations contributing to charity as much as other generations? Do you think they give back in a different way?

Jonni: Yes! It’s easier nowadays than ever before to give back. I think the most important part is to just know where your money is going. Tithing to a church and donating to a charity are very different. I see tithing as a command in the Bible and I take that very seriously, but donating is strongly encouraged in the Bible and in scripture, but it’s not a command. I do believe though that if we’re running our race and trying to resemble Jesus that we’re going to give out of love for those in need. And I think donating is really all about finding a ministry or a charity that we’re passionate about and where you can see your money actually going and becoming fruitful. Social media makes it a little hard with donating to charity because it’s so clogged right now with everybody trying to ask for money and we have to be about who and what we choose to give money to. You can give back in so many different ways though. When I was younger, I knew I wanted to give back, I just didn’t know how. I started to put a little bit of money away to buy people Bibles. I was so thankful that I had found God at a point where I was so lost in the world that I wanted other people to feel that too. So, if I had to take a few dollars out of my bank account to buy them a Bible for them to get that revelation, then it was worth it to me.

Follow Jonni on Instagram and Facebook at @jonninicole.

Listen to Jonni’s Episode of the “Fight for Good” podcast.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and YouTube.

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