Home Tech ‘I was offering great advice but I wasn’t following it’: the personal finance guru who spiralled into debt

‘I was offering great advice but I wasn’t following it’: the personal finance guru who spiralled into debt

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‘I was offering great advice but I wasn’t following it’: the personal finance guru who spiralled into debt

“I used to be known as the coupon lady,” says Lauren Cobello, 43, who earned $5,000 per YouTube video as a personal finance influencer. “I was regularly appearing on the Today show and Good Morning America, blogging and working with newspapers. I had no financial background, but I had gotten my family out of $40,000 in debt through couponing and budgeting, and people wanted to know how I did it.

Friends invited her to church groups and seminars to share her financial wisdom. From there she was invited to local TV, and influencing followed. In 2016, she was a mother of four and posting several times a day; she employed two staff members, had written three books under her married name, Lauren Greutman, and launched a podcast on family budgeting with her then-husband, Mark.

“Life revolved around it. I was engrossed. The last Sunday of every month was “budget night,” where I shared everything I spent in a Facebook Live. It also became a family affair. The kids were in my YouTube videos, I made family finance videos, and I laid out all my groceries on the table, took a picture, and listed the costs. My children thought that was normal. It became my image, who I was, and it was very difficult to break away from it.”

Lauren Cobello struggles with budgets on Instagram. Photo: Instagram/@lauren_cobello

When her marriage fell apart in 2017, her financial outlook changed. “Our divorce felt quite public, but after our divorce and financial settlement, I was so in debt that I didn’t want to talk about my finances anymore,” she says. “I was giving all this great advice, but behind the scenes I wasn’t heeding it. I was a single mother taking care of four children. Everything was falling apart and I felt trapped. I was tired of budgeting and talking about it, and I didn’t want to do another TikTok because I didn’t care anymore.

She continued posting to her more than 350,000 social media followers until she made the decision last September at a personal finance conference to change direction and go public with her debts. “I talked about what happened behind the scenes and people were crying. I told them that I honestly wanted to kill myself, but the only thing I was good at was being an influencer, being on TV and playing a role.

Earlier this year, she also cleaned up on Instagram. “It was very difficult to post that video. I got a lot of great responses from people who had been following me for a while. After all, I had given great advice, but I no longer wanted to be the one to give it. I was afraid to hang up that hat, but I wasn’t afraid of what people would say or think about me.”

She announced that her content would focus on her new company, a PR agency for authors, which would post about her clients rather than herself. “My followers were surprised, but I didn’t lose them,” she says from New York. Offline, she no longer has debt, but she no longer makes a budget.

“I am a completely different person than I was five years ago,” she says. “I don’t even set a budget. I’m breaking all the ‘rules’. I sold my house and am going to rent, because it finally got me out of debt. I lease a car because I’m a single mother and don’t want to fix anything. I have groceries delivered, have someone do my laundry, and have a housekeeper, all of which would have made me feel guilty. I live within my means and have a good idea of ​​what I spend, but I can breathe. And I spend money on things that make me happy, like getting my nails done and going away with my children.”

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Before she switched, Cobello earned $1,500 for an Instagram role and $2,500 per YouTube video. Now she runs a company that employs five people. “I felt like I was stuck in this frugal mother role, like there were two Laurens, and this past year has been about bringing them back together. To this day, people come to me asking how they can do something with their budget. The truth is, I don’t care what money you spend. That is no longer my identity.”

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