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Your Ultimate Guide to the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge IN 2018

Today is the last weekend of 2017 and my last check-in for the She Makes Cents 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge for the year.  In fact, this past Friday marked 104 consecutive weeks of doing this money challenge successfully.  In the past two years, I have eliminated my credit card debt altogether as well as shaved YEARS off my student loan repayment term.  More importantly, I have cultivated a habit of saving money.  Personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge according to the financial writer, Dave Ramsey. To be successful doing this money challenge I had to change my behavior and put saving for my money goals above fleeting things and experiences.  That was something that took a few failed attempts to learn.  Yes, a few years ago I would start the challenge, hit a mini goal, and fall off.  Then two years ago, I realized that I had to do something different if I wanted different results… and so I did.The Ultimate Guide to the 52 Week Bingo Money Challenge- from She Makes Cents

What is the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge?

The BINGO Money Challenge is a variation of the popular 52 Week Money Challenge that I created back in 2013.  The original challenge called for people to save money according to the number of weeks of the year.  For example, on week one you would save $1.00 and on week 52 you would save $52.00.  At that time in my career, I had a base salary and I worked on commission so my checks were never consistent.  I attempted the challenge and failed. Hey, it happens.  I then thought to myself, girlfriend…. you should make a “bingo” version…  So I created my first bingo money card and started saving because the original version did not work for me. I needed something that would set me up for success.  The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you cross off $52 dollars on the 52nd week of the year, all that matters is that you cross off a box on the money card every week.  Either way, you end up saving the same amount of money and you have the ability to save more or less based off how your current financial situation for each week.  Since then, the BINGO Money Challenge has evolved into a money challenge with unlimited savings potential.

Who is the SMC Money Tribe?

The support from She Makes Cents readers started to pour in when I began sharing my progress on the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge.  At the time, my money goals were top of mind but also was the new realization that I had to report my progress to people who were invested in my success.  I started to get emails and social media shout outs from readers who started the bingo version of the challenge themselves.  Before I knew it, I had accountability partners that I have never met who shared their progress.  We supported the BIG wins and the days were all anyone could afford to save was $1.00.  We were on this money-saving journey together and friendships started.  Now, the SMC Money Tribe is an uplifting community of women from all over the world that supports each other’s financial journey and savings endeavors.  Every year people contact me for the latest version of the SMC Bingo Money Card and I found that the most successful people had one major thing in common. In fact, people were 79% more likely to complete the challenge if they are active in the SMC Money Tribe.  It makes sense when you think about it because you have accountability partners there to lift you up when the challenge gets hard to keep up with.

How to Join the 2018 SMC Money Tribe

How to Join the Best Money Saving Challenge - from Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes CentsThe new 2018 SMC Money Tribe Facebook group will serve as a “home base” for the #SMCmoneytribe.  There you will be directed to fill out a quick registration form and download the money card.   This is a space for active members and as a member of the SMCmoneytribe, you will gain exclusive content, motivation, and financial tips and tricks that will help you whether you are saving to pay down debt like me or saving to take a fabulous trip or two in the new year (also me).  This year, you will have the option to do your weekly check-ins on Friday and/or Saturday on all of our social media handles to make it easily accessible to people who are only active on certain platforms. 

Here is how you get started…

  1. Join the SMC Money Tribe Facebook Group
  2. Complete the registration form to select your weekly check-in date
  3. Follow She Makes Cents on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
  4. Pick a savings goal & get ready to save some $$$$ in the New Year


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{Money & Friendships} The Real Cost of Being a Bridesmaid

It starts with a question that leads to a ring, which ends up as a picture on Instagram, and is shared on Facebook. Yep, he asked and she said yes! Weeks later, you find a charming note in your mailbox asking you to stand beside her on the most important day of her life. You, my dear, are a chosen one… also known as a bridesmaid.The Real Cost of Being A Bridesmaid from Top Atlanta Blogger and Wedding Designer, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents Since 2010, I have been in seven weddings and I witnessed at least twenty of my girlfriends walk down the aisle toward wedded bliss. In fact, when the Mr. and I got married in 2015, we were the 13th wedding that year of our friend group.  Like many of you, I have taken off work and flown clear across the country in support of LOVE.  Too bad that the support of LOVE often comes at a hefty price tag. 

She Said Yes, But Should You?

It is truly an honor to be asked to be in someone’s wedding, but before you say “yes”, you need to understand what you are getting yourself into before you make that commitment. Just like in a romantic relationship, money can throw a major wrench into your friendship if you are not honest with yourself and the bride about your financial situation.  As a bridesmaid, I have paid for gowns, shoes, hair, mani/pedi, makeup packages, jewelry, liquor, plane tickets, hotels, car service, chipped in for engagement parties, hosted bridal showers, lingerie parties (apparently that is different from the bridal shower and the bachelorette party), oh yeah…bachelorette parties, bridal teas and even décor elements for the actual wedding. Nowadays, you have to add the matching bride tribe outfits for the bridal party photoshoot to the list of expenses you have to think about when saying yes. Did I even mention the wedding gift…eek? Once you accept the invitation to become a member of the bridal party, you are committing to this experience for richer or poorer.

I will admit, that years ago I declined the request to be in a friend’s wedding because the costs of being in the wedding would have been a strain on my finances.  That bride thankfully understood.  I often think, if we didn’t have that conversation and I participated in her bridal party, she could have very easily interpreted my reluctance to spend money as a lack of support and enthusiasm for her big day.  Not having that conversation would have cost me more than financial security, it could have cost me our friendship. 

How Much Does It Cost To Be A Bridesmaid?

Back in 2011, the Wedding Channel estimated the cost of being a bridesmaid averages around $1695.00.  Based on this estimate, I could have very well spent almost $12,000.00 on other people’s weddings.  Can you imagine what the average is now?  It always makes me wonder how Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses  could afford to be in 27 weddings, plus her own, on a personal assistant’s salary. To pay for my expenses as a bridesmaid, I used the envelope system before I even knew exactly what that meant. I set aside a certain amount of money each check for each bride.  

Brides, be nice to your bridesmaids…your “chosen ones”. They are the ones who are holding you down during one of the most beautiful and possibly stressful times of your life.  They do far more for you than you realize.  Bridesmaids, remember that your bride is a bride only once (fingers crossed) and she has a vision for her day. If you are both honest from the beginning, then you lessen the chance of unrealistic expectations from both sides.Bridal Party Costs


3 Things To Do To Advance Your Career

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  That means if you click on a link and make a purchase of a mentioned or recommended item, I make a commission.  For more information, please visit our Disclosure Page. Happy Reading!

Have you ever noticed that people often refer to the journey of career mobility in the linear sense?  Think career path and/or the illustrious career ladder. They both direct you to go forward which is interesting because sometimes the best moves for one’s career advancement is lateral and then upward?  Melissa Kirsch, author of the book The Girl’s Guide: Getting the Hang of Your Whole Complicated, Unpredictable, Impossibly Amazing Life (a must read for 20-something women) explains it in one of the most realist descriptions I’ve heard. According to Kirsch, “Your career path isn’t a one-way paved highway that you whiz down on cruise control; it’s more like a windy trail through a brambly thicket for which you might even have to buy new shoes”.  Regardless of what symbol you use to represent the odyssey of your career, there are some things and people who make trekking through the brambly thicket of vocational exploration a more intentional experience.

Find A Mentor

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A mentor is a trusted and experienced advisor that is personally invested in your success.  The operative words here are trusted and experienced.  Many people assign these roles to public figures and online influencers, but the best mentor-mentee relationships are often formed through an established relationship between two people. Forbes contributor and General Counsel for Paypal, Louise Pentland agrees, stating,  “the common thread through all of my most successful mentorships have been that my mentor and I had a friendship first. It’s difficult to ask someone to be your mentor if they don’t know who you are because a mentorship needs to be about connection, chemistry, and trust”.  When choosing a prospective mentor, be intentional, selective, and concise.

Related Post: THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN FINDING YOUR MENTOR

Very few successful people got to the top alone because they were smart enough to find someone to guide and advise them along the way.  But finding a mentor is only 1/3 of your to-do list here today. You also need someone to advocate on your behalf. This person, ladies and gentlemen, is known as a sponsor and his or her role and responsibility is very different from that of a mentor.

Identify Those Who Act As Your Sponsor & Nurture That Relationship

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I remember suggesting to a mentee of mine who was about to graduate college that she should identify someone who could be a sponsor for her, and she took that to mean that she needed to find a Sugar Daddy.  Ugh…no sis, that is NOT what I meant.   In fact, many women, in particular, do not know what a sponsor is and those that have some understanding often think that a mentor and a sponsor are one in the same.  {Sigh}  Let’s add this to another bullet point of things that widen the gender pay gap when compared to our male counterparts.  According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, she argues that “women on average have three times as many mentors as men — but men have twice as many sponsors”.  In fact, the Harvard Business Review went so far as to say “women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.”  So why is this a problem?  It is because third-party credibility is always more powerful than anything you can ever say on your own behalf.  That’s why people check Yelp and Google reviews before making a decision. Sponsorship often times leads to the influence of a decision that will affect you in a positive way.

To get ahead, you need to pay close attention to those around you who pour into your career both in your presence and when you are working away in your office.  Someone who speaks on your behalf during closed-door meetings. Someone who puts their own skin in the game and name on the line by using their connections to help advance you. Financially speaking, a sponsor can help influence decisions that help you get considered for raises, promotions, opportunities and garner career success because unlike mentors, they work at the same organization as you and understand the culture of your company and industry.

My very first sponsor was someone who was advocating for me for months before I even found out.  When I found out about how often she spoke to the higher-ups about my accomplishments and contributions, I knew it was time to nurture that relationship a bit more.  I started sharing my career goals because if she knows where I want to go, she can help me gain access to the right people. While we no longer work together, our interactions have progressed to a symbiotic relationship where I am now in a position to scratch her back like she scratched mine.

Take Control Of Your Online Presence

3af2c108-5edb-4cf2-a008-a56abba89f07-146632_1626.jpgWhat pops up when you Google yourself? (don’t worry, I’ll wait while you check that out). Did something pop up that you would be embarrassed if your boss saw it?  How about your bosses’ boss? Is there information on the web that no longer reflects your interests? Are there spring break photos from Cabo that you would DIE if your co-workers saw? Hello, itty bitty teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini. I think you get the point.  

Security Settings

Before we talk strategy, you must first accept that anything you put on the internet can be seen by anyone, despite your security settings.  It’s true. If someone really wants to find out what you are posting, they can.  But let’s not make it easy for them.  Unless you are trying to get Insta-famous, you are your own personal brand or the content that you post is industry-friendly, then you may want to consider making your page private.  

Delete, Delete, Delete

Most people will tell you it is time to clean up your online presence and I agree with “most people” in this instance.  It’s time to archive your old photos that are unflattering and frankly embarrassing, especially if you leave your social media public.  I personally do a clean sweep of my social media about 3 times a year.  

In addition to a little sprucing up of your social media, I will add that it is past time to take control of your online presence. This is important because people will naturally Google you when that want to know more about you.  It is exactly what your bosses’ boss will do when your sponsor talks about you and it is imperative that your online presence matches what your sponsor says about you.

Personal Branding

So how do you do this?  Well, the easiest way is to build a professional resume website or personal branding for yourself, assuming this does not violate any social media policies from your employer. Think of it as a mix of a professional brag book, resume, blog, and portfolio all in one that serves as a career introduction.  Here is a snippet of what is out on the web about me.

Danielle Boler Vason

How to Start a Blog for Personal Branding
  1. Pick A Domain. Start with this domain name checker to see if YOUR NAME is available to use on your new site.  If your name is taken, try adding in a location to your domain name. For example, Topher Mack is tophermackatl.com because he is located in Atlanta.  By doing this, it will be one of the first things that pops up when someone searches for you on the web.
  2. Pick a Web Host.  A web host is a type of internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible on the web.   In my 9 to 5 life, I help creatives and busy business owners fuse style and strategy to develop a clear brand identity and visual presence.  That often means I create websites that reflect their personal brand and I use SMC affiliate, Bluehost for my web hosting.  I like it because it works so well with WordPress and it is easy to use.
  3. WordPress.  I am biased when it comes to publishing platforms because She Makes Cents is run on WordPress.  It is an easy to use platform that is SEO friendly, which means that you are likely to have the content you produce to rank higher in search engines.  When anyone searches for you, they are likely to see the good content that you put out on the first page instead of page 5 of Google.  Seriously, nobody has the time or the attention span to scroll through 5 pages to see who and what you are about.
  4. Content.  CONTENT! CONTENT! CONTENT!  If you have made it this far into this post, I know you are serious about ways to gain career success.  The content that you create for your professional brag site, should include recommendations from clients & colleagues, excerpts from your portfolio, accolades, ways people can get in touch with you, awards, your resume, and a small mix of your personal interests. You can even use this site to repost from influencers in your industry that you respect which shows that you go above the status quo to immerse yourself in your industry.  Want to take it a step up, link it to your LinkedIn page.

When you are feeling stuck in your career, you can use some of these tips to breathe life and inspiration back into what you do.  Get a mentor or two.  Identify your professional allies and advocates.  Take control of your presences and personal branding visuals.  If anything, revisit your personal branding website when you need a reminder all of the great things you are doing in your career, big or small.


Cliff Notes: A sponsor advocates on your behalf to help you get a seat at the table.  A mentor’s guidance and advisement teaches what to do to keep that seat. That’s why it is important to have BOTH.  Being the smart woman who you are, I know that you know that you can’t leave your career in everybody else’s hand.  That is why taking control and creating a personal brand through a professional website is the third component of attracting positive and professional success in your career.


Money + Career + Lifestyle for Millennial Women, She Makes Cents from Danielle YB Vason

Why You Should be Talking to Your Friends About Money

Do you think “money” is still a taboo topic to discuss with friends and family?  What about complete strangers?  Seriously, I had to really ask myself, “what is it about the subject that people find uncouth, especially for women”?   For years I was plagued by these questions all the while sharing my money goals, successes, failures, and lessons with the world-wide-web so freely that Emily Post is probably clutching her pearls from the grave.  For me, the benefits outweighed any conversational manners that many of us were taught as children.    Not only am I able to measure my progress on the path to financial freedom by going back to old blog posts, I am also able to see the progress of my financial literacy and maturity.   None of which would have been possible if I avoided subjects like money, debt, and that bi-atch, Sallie Mae.

Benefits of Talking About Money with Friends from @shemakescents.According to a  study from Fidelity Investments, eight out of ten women confess they have refrained from discussing finances with those they are close to even though 92% of women want to learn more about financial planning.  The study went on to find that  65% of women are most inclined to speak to their friends about shopping tips, 44%  of women will speak to friends about issues at work, while only 25% of women are open to discussing spending habits and even less about investment ideas at 17%.  The benefits of participating in money talks and investing in one’s financial literacy overweigh the social taboo of the subject.  If you are embarrassed by your current financial status or level of financial literacy, it is time to get over it.  Repeat after me: Today is the day that I will acknowledge where I am in my financial journey and take a step and then another toward my goals.  


TWEET THIS: Tweet: Repeat after me: Today is the day that I will acknowledge where I am in my financial journey and take a step and then another toward my goals. via @shemakescents Repeat after me: Today is the day that I will acknowledge where I am in my financial journey and take a step and then another toward my goals

TWEET THIS: Tweet: 8 out of 10 women confess they have refrained from discussing finances with those they are close to even though 92% of women want to learn more about financial planning. https://ctt.ec/vcyK5+ via @shemakescents 8 out of 10 women confess they have refrained from discussing finances with those they are close to even though 92% of women want to learn more about financial planning.


The Benefits of Talking About Money With Your Inner Circle

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I remember at one point in my life when I was not so much trying to keep up with the Joneses but more so trying to keep up with my former self who would frequently pick up the check for the table.  I was trying to keep up an old lifestyle that honestly I had outgrown and instead of sharing my newly established money goals with my friends, I just slapped down a credit card and bought another round for the table.  At that time in my life, I was embarrassed to announce my relationship with the dreaded “B” word…. budget… or even more vulgar…. broke-ish.   When you bare your soul to the world, it leaves little room for the inauthentic.  At one point, I reached a high credit card balance and I no longer was willing to try to keep up with my old life.  Instead of saying yes to every social occasion and international trip, I decided to say yes to my finances, instead.  Looking back about 10 years ago, I could have saved myself some serious CA$H if I had shared my financial goals with my inner circle.  In fact, it might have open the conversation for others to share where they were on their journey, their tips, tricks, failures, and successes.  Today, that same inner circle has become a source of strength.  We keep each other honest and moving on the path we have set for ourselves.  We talk investing strategies, dominating debt, and goals of providing wealth to future generations that aren’t even born yet… all while sharing our tips on the best place to get balayage for our hair and organic nail shops.  

Money & Friendship- Why You Should be Talking to Your Friends About Your Money Goals from Personal Finance Blog, She Makes CentsLadies, we have got to start speaking up, leaning in, and getting in front of the barriers that keep us from living our best life.  I am not saying that you have to blast your business to the world like I do, but I am saying that you should talk about money with people you respect and those who will help hold you accountable.   Even though the number of women who shy away from money talks with their inner circle is frankly frightening, it is even more puzzling that women say more support would encourage them to be more engaged in their finances.   Imagine what we could do if we all took on the charge that empowered women empower women.  My accountability group members are better women for it because we have learned to accept ourselves and each other where we are in our journeys.  As we are maturing as women, so is our financial literacy and authenticity.

Join Our Financial Accountability Tribe

If you are looking for a community of goal-setting women, then the SMCmoneytribe may be the group for you.  Instead of one accountability partner, you will have access to a tribe of partners to share your story, bounce questions and ideas off of, and celebrate your milestones.   In addition to gaining personal finance tips and tricks that have worked for the people in the tribe, you will also gain confidence in speaking on the subject money with people supporting your journey to the fab life.  
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The Beginners Guide to Sinking Funds & Why YOU Need One

This year, I have vowed to be BETTER with my financial decisions.  In order to improve my behaviors and cultivate better money habits, I had to first take a look at areas where I need to focus on for improvement.  After the Mr. and I had to take $7000.00+ out of our savings to pay for a new roof and chimney repair on our rental property, I knew there had to be a better way for us to prepare for situations like this.  That 7K loss from our savings put a dent in that account and exposed a financial vulnerability that we didn’t realize existed. We were stable enough to not have to turn to credit to cover this expense, but pulling money from our savings was very scary considering that money is there to cover us in the event of job loss or a major life change.  I was an unsettling feeling and I knew that we needed to find a solution to our problem. Luckily, we came up with a plan to create a sinking fund so that we would be prepared for something like this.  It is something that will help us and I know it will help you too.

What is a Sinking Fund?

A sinking fund is an anticipatory fund that is used to save for a large future expense or the gradual repayment of a debt.  More than that, it is a proactive approach to your money. Sinking funds are very similar to the cash envelope system because it requires you to divide your income into categories and assign every dollar a job.  The main difference between the envelope system and a sinking fund is that your cash envelopes are for things you are spending on now like groceries, fuel for your car, and clothing. Your sinking fund, however, plans for future money goals.  We thought about some of the expenses that caught us off guard in the past, like emergency surgery for both of our dogs last year (that was a couple thousand dollars), or bills that are due all at once like insurance premiums. Then we came up with 10 sinking funds that we believed served our household money goals.  Check them out below.

Examples of Sinking Funds from Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents

Now it is time to create your sinking fund categories. Grab a pen and paper (yep, we are doing this old school), your significant other (if applicable) and a glass a Rose’ (because it makes the experience so much better) and let’s make a money plan. When you are creating your categories, remember that you don’t want to make too many funds because it will take longer to fully fund your categories.  Plus, anything over 10 is too many to keep up with, in my opinion.  

She Makes Cents Cares: I love hearing from readers, so once you have created your sinking fund categories, let me know via the She Makes Cents Facebook group, Instagram, or Twitter.

How Much Money Should Be In My Sinking Fund?

After you have created your sinking fund categories, now it is time to figure out how much money you need to have saved for each.  First, you need to figure out the goal date and total amount needed for each of your sinking funds to be fully funded.  For example, I have to pay around $450.00 every 6 months for my portion of the car insurance premium.  To determine how much money I need in this particular sinking fund, I take my next due date and I divide my premium by that number of months. It usually breaks down like this for me:

$450.00 \ 6 months = $75.00 per month 

I would much rather save $75.00 per month for six months than to have to come up with $450.00 once every six months.  Yes, it’s the same amount of money but creating a monthly car insurance fund makes the amount of the premium easier to digest. The example above is an easy breakdown because we know exactly how much money is needed and when exactly we will need the money for this fund.  Now let’s look at an example for a type of sinking fund where you don’t have a hard due date and you are not certain of the full price.   Hello, Car Repair…it sounds like we are talking about you.

We have all experienced this.  You are driving around minding your own business when a yellow warning light illuminates your dashboard.  You take your car to the mechanic and you are hit with a $1,200.00 bill. What do you do?  More than likely, you charge it to your credit card if you don’t already have some money set aside for this type of expense.  CREDIT CARD = BAD IDEA. This is a moment when your Car Repair sinking fund will work for you. Even if your Car Repair Fund only has $800.00, that means you only have to come up with the remaining $400.00, which is easier to digest than $1,200.00.  Yes, this may have been an unexpected expense but it is also one you were prepared to handle.

By creating sinking funds you take control of your money.  You know where YOUR money is so you never have to ask yourself where it went.  You give it a purpose.  If you create sinking funds to cover your future needs, you are less likely to be a threat to your future financial self and that is something that everyone can benefit from.

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Real Life Examples of Sinking Funds for the Smart Saver & Spender- from money and lifestyle blog, She Makes Cents

 

Money Saving Hacks- The Beginner's Guide to SINKING FUNDS from money blog, She Makes Cents

2018 February Recap | 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge

We are approaching week ten of the 2018 She Makes Cents 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge and I must say, that this year’s money tribe is the most committed tribe we have had in three years.  For those of you who may be new to this blog, the She Makes Cents Money Tribe (SMCmoneytribe) is an uplifting community of women from all over the world that supports each other’s financial journey and savings endeavors.  Every week, we share our wins, big or small and celebrate each other’s progress.  At the beginning of the year, it is easy to be motivated by the “newness” of everything, but as the year goes on, many people find it  Generally, the month of February is when most people abandon the goals and habits they resolved to attain.  In fact,  according to Business Insider,  80% of people fail their New Year Resolutions by February so the #SMCmoneytribe is going strong means that we are beating the odds with our money goals and resolutions we made for ourselves at the beginning of 2018.  WAY TO GO, TRIBE!

How To Save Real Money With This Money Challenge | February Savings/Income Report 52 Week Bingo Money Challenge from Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blog, She Makes Cents

How To Save Real Money With This Money Challenge | February Savings/Income Report 52 Week Bingo Money Challenge from Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blog, She Makes Cents


February Recap: 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge

Back in January Recap of the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge, I shared a MAJOR goal to have my student loans PAID IN FULL by October 2019.  In order for me to reach this big money goal, I have to aim for smaller milestones along the way.  For the month of February, I saved a total of $210.00 on this challenge by crossing off $45, $15, $50, $49, plus a $51 bonus.  Every week, without fail, I select a number from the She Makes Cents Money Guide and I send that amount to my student loan provider.  Additionally, since the Mr. and I are knocking out this debt together, the Mr.’s contribution of $250.00 helped us to send an extra $460.00 (in addition to the monthly payment) toward student loan debt.

This time last year, I had over $18,000.00 in student loan debt with a goal to get my student loan balance to $12,505.00.  Not only did I hit that goal, I surpassed it before the end of the year.  By January 2018, I had a balance of $12,505.00 (the extra $5 was because of the daily accruing interest) and I closed the month of February at $11,378.37.


How to Join the 2018 SMC Money Tribe

How to Join the Best Money Saving Challenge - from Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

The new 2018 SMC Money Tribe Facebook group will serve as a “home base” for the #SMCmoneytribe.  There you will be directed to fill out a quick registration form and download the money card. This is a space for active members and as a member of the SMCmoneytribe, you will gain exclusive content, motivation, and financial tips and tricks that will help you whether you are saving to pay down debt like me or saving to take a fabulous trip or two in the new year (also me).  This year, you will have the option to do your weekly check-ins on Friday and/or Saturday on all of our social media handles to make it easily accessible to people who are only active on certain platforms.

HERE IS HOW YOU CAN JOIN THE TRIBE & THE MONEY CHALLENGE…

  1. Join the SMC Money Tribe Facebook Group
  2. Complete the registration form to select your weekly check-in date
  3. Follow She Makes Cents on InstagramTwitterFacebook
  4. Pick a savings goal & get ready to save some $$$$ in 2018

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How You Can Start Making More Money With Cash Back Apps & Referrals

Long gone are the days where you sit around and cut coupons to save money. This is the time for cash back apps, digital coupons, and automatic promo codes that make the things we buy every day, more affordable. If you are not saving a little money on your everyday purchases, you are missing out. Months ago, I introduced She Makes Cents readers to the Cash Back App, Ibotta.  I shared my review of Ibotta after using it for one month because I was impressed with how easy it was to earn money quickly with minimal effort by shopping for the things I would normally buy.  Seriously, they have over 300 supported Ibotta retailers so there is no excuse not to earn money.  Since downloading the app, I have earned money back from buying groceries, clothing, Uber rides and even experiences from Groupon (I used that one as a birthday gift for the Mr. last year).  The $10.00 welcome bonus was also a great boost to add to my lifetime earnings using Ibotta.  Since then, I have learned a few ways to raise the earning potential so that everyone can get more money even faster.  

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How to Use Ibotta

How To Earn More Money With Ibotta

  1. Welcome Bonus.  Who doesn’t love FREE money?  A few people (my hubby included) missed out on the $10.00 welcome bonus because they did not know how to redeem it.  Repeat after me: “We are not leaving money on the table anymore”.  This happened to them because they didn’t  understand that after downloading the app with my promo code (tahbinu) you MUST redeem your first rebate within the first month of setting up a new account.  You will receive your special bonus AFTER you have redeemed a mobile shopping offer or an in-store offer (Any Brand and Any Item offers excluded).  Follow the link to begin earning money with Ibotta.
    **Please note: Make sure you sign up through my link on a unique mobile device that is not already associated with another Ibotta account. Also, remember to verify an offer (excludes “Any Brand” or “Any Item” offers) within the allotted time period found on your bonus.**
  2. Add Things You Are Planning to Buy to Your “My Offers” When You Find Them.   The folks from Ibotta suggest that you should save your desired offers as soon as you see them.  It is what I do especially when I am planning our household meals for the week.  I quickly scroll through to see if any of the items on my grocery list are also cash back items and when they are I add them to “My Offers” tab on the navigation bar.  I find it to be a much easier process when it is time to redeem.  
  3. Try to Redeem Offers Weekly.  Unless you are on a no spend week, I imagine that you will make a purchase from one of the 300+ retailers at some point during your week.  I say this, not to encourage you to shop and spend more but more so to make you aware that it really is easy to earn money back from things you are already spending on.  You can earn even more by redeeming weekly offers and earning bonuses with your team.  Plus when you check back weekly, it ensures that you won’t miss out on the option to opt into additional bonuses that usually have a bigger payout.  
  4. Invite Friends. Build Your Team. Earn Cash $$$ Faster.  By simply inviting friends to Ibotta and helping them redeem their first offer (excluding “Any Brand” and “Any Item” offers) you earn money and they do too.  Build your team by inviting friends. Each month, your team will be given a total earning goal. If you and your team reach the monthly goal, everyone on your team will earn a cash bonus! The more friends you have, the faster you will earn.

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SMC Book Club: The Girl Code

So far, the SMC Book Club has read books that covered some of our favorite topics- money, career, lifestyle, and female empowerment.  Well, ladies, our next book selection is slated to give us all of that.  Since the recent relaunch of the SMC Book Club, I wanted to bring back a book that may be familiar to some of my longtime readers.  This month’s She Makes Cents Book Club selection is from author and master life coach, Cara Alwill Leyba. Cara is known for encouraging women to create a ”Champagne Life” that entails living effervescently, celebrating themselves every day, and making their happiness a priority. Through loving guidance, support, and an expert perspective, Cara empowers women to challenge their fears and create a lifestyle and career that feels authentic, vibrant, and inspiring. She sounds like #shemakescents, right? 

Join Our Virtual Book Club from Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blog for Women, She Makes Cents | Girl Code

This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a little $$$  if you make a purchase through my link.  For more info, see my disclosure policy.

She Makes Cents Book Club- The Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur

The Girl Code

Every time I take a trip to my favorite bookstore, I come across this book,Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur and I tell myself that I will add it to the SMC book club reading list. Well, that time is now! This book has a rating of 5/5 on Good Reads and I can’t wait to dive in. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’m not an entrepreneur” but I am confident that the information and inspiration from this book can apply to all women at every stage of their careers.

How Our Book Club Works

This virtual book club currently “meets” weekly for mini book chats in the SMC Book Club group on Facebook.  A book will be selected every other month and then announced before the start of the month to give participants time to  order the book from the >SMC online bookstore, borrow from the library, or download >here. Selections for the books come from a mix of editor and reader suggestions. For reader suggestions, we ask that selections embrace powerful women, business cents, fictional favorites, and anything that informs and inspires us.   As you read the book, please leave your questions for the book club in the comment section below.  We will begin the book on March 1st (our Blogversary) and discussions will follow on Instagram and our Facebook group   starting Wednesday, March 14th at 7:00pm (EST).   Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents, wants to know what's the best book you have ever read?

How to Spend Your Tax Refund More Wisely

You can tell it is tax time because people are starting to get ultra fabulous on Instagram.  You wonder to yourself, how in the hell are they affording this and that?  Well, it is actually NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!  Repeat after me…. “What other people do with their money is none of my business!”  What is YOUR business is what you do with YOUR money, especially if you are one of the 31 billion Americans who get a tax refund.  According to the IRS, the 2016 average tax refund was worth $2895.00.  With that knowledge in hand, retailers hire the best of the best marketers to sell you things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know or maybe even like.  They count on you to CONSUME and not to make smart money moves.  It’s time to stop spending like we are RICH and start making money moves like the rich.  Below are 3 money ways to spend your tax refund that some form of your future self will thank you for. Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund This Year from the Millennial's Guide to Money from Top Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents

Pay Down Debt

US households with debt carry an average $15,654.00 in credit card debt, $173,995.00 in mortgage debt, $27,669.00 in car loans, and $46,596.00 in student loan debt according to NerdWallet’s 2017 Household Debt Study.  Often it isn’t even the original amount of the loan that keeps us in an indebted state, rather, the interest that accrues that can turn a $60,000.00 student loan into $120,000.00 in less than 10 years.  TRUE STORY!  Regardless of how and why you amassed debt, it is time to pay back what you borrowed. Billionaire businessman and investor, Mark Cuban, advises people to “pay debt off first.  Freedom from debt is worth more than any amount you can earn”. Every extra payment that you make to pay down debt is an extra step earned on the journey to financial freedom.  In fact, depending on the amount of debt you carry, using your tax refund to pay down or pay off what you owe creditors could have a bigger return on investment in the long run.  If I were to get a tax refund, this is exactly what I would do with the money.

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Building Your Emergency Fund

Building your emergency fund is ALWAYS a smart investment in your financial security and future peace of mind.  When the unforeseen (operative word here = unforeseen) happens, you won’t have to start at zero to pay it off.  When emergencies pop up, most people reach for credit cards to pay them and then the cycle of debt continues.  When we use credit to pay off emergencies, we are really paying for the emergency itself PLUS interest.  Dave Ramsey agrees, “The cycle of dependence on credit cards has to be broken.  A well-planned budget for anticipated things [think Christmas and car repairs] and an emergency fund for the truly unexpected can end dependence on credit cards”.

Build an Emergency Fund with Your Tax Refund

Fund Your Roth IRA

Once you have your emergency fund funded for 6 months worth of expenses and you have eliminated your debt (not including mortgage), you would consider using your tax refund to save for retirement.  A Roth IRA is a tax-sheltered retirement account for individuals to save after-tax income for retirement.  Unlike most other money moves that have to be done before December 31st of the previous year, you can continue to make contributions until the tax deadline of April 18th (2018) up to $5,500 for people under 50 years of age.  If you do this, that money will compound in your favor and when you withdraw your contributions and earnings, after age 59 ½, you will get way more money back then the refund you put in it.  Did I mention this money would be both tax-free and penalty free?

Use Tax Refund to Fund Your Roth IRA from Millennial Finance Blog for Women, She Makes Centsshemakescents.com (35)

Monday Motivation | How to Navigate the Road to Success with a Simple Self Check

It’s a new week. You made it through the Super Bowl, but more importantly, you actually went to work instead of calling in for bereavement leave for Jack Pearson after lasts nights’ episode of This Is Us. Congrats, that is a mini win by itself. As we all begin a new week full of promise and progress, I want to urge you to take a deep look at things we unconsciously do as a form of self-sabotage. If we can self-correct these things that we are all guilty of, from time to time, we will be better with how we handle our money, careers, relationships, and lifestyle goals. In order to do better, we must know better and to know better, we must make self-reflection something that we do often. The smart, beautiful, diverse and encouraging financial accountability community affectionately known as the SMC Money Tribe inspired this post and I hope that it inspires a bit of self-love to some really dope women.

Monday Motivation | How to Navigate the Road to Success from Money, Career, and Lifestyle Blog for Goal Setting Millennial Women, She Makes Cents

Every week, tribe members are encouraged to take part in financial check-ins where they share their weekly wins and progress on the She Makes Cents 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge. In that space, women are not afraid to toot their own horns by celebrating their big and small wins. I’ve noticed though that many of the tribe members have been a little hard on themselves lately and embarrassed by their smaller strides. Maybe you are not as far in your debt free journey as you thought you would be. Or maybe, you haven’t actually started yet. Either way, it is time for a mindset shift toward positivity and abundance. One day or day one? Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Stay in Your Lane

Stay In Your Lane | 5 Ways to Overcome Self-Sabotage in Your Money. Career, and Lifestyle Goals from Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of the blog She Makes Cents

We all remember this moment when the swimmer, Chad le Clos, took his eyes off the prize to see what Michael Phelps was doing. If only he stayed in his lane and stayed focus. How often do we get caught up in what other people are doing? We focus on other people’s money, their careers, their relationships, and whatever else they are doing for the Gram.  Instead, we should invest that energy in our own money, career, and relationships.  When you take your eyes off the prize to see what other people are doing, you are wasting time that can be spent cultivating better habits for yourself.  Le Clos wasted his time and lost. Let that be a lesson to you. What other people do is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!!  When you stay in your lane, there is nothing to distract you from the target in sight.

Evaluate How You Measure Your Own Progress

Progress Over Perfection | Ways to Defeat Self Sabotage from Top Millennial Blog, She Makes Cents

I have noticed lately that members of the SMC Money Tribe get embarrassed when they are crossing off a lower number on the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge, especially when other members of the community are crossing off higher numbers for the week. That is because they are measuring their progress against the progress of someone else. I spoke a little about this on the She Makes Cents Instagram page, but I want to go a little deeper here. Instead of measuring your progress by how far you have left to go, instead, celebrate how much progress you have already made. Think about to your starting point and know that you are in a better place than where you first began. I created the BINGO version of the 52 Week Money Challenge was because I knew that there would be weeks where I could not afford to save a lot of money and in those weeks I could select a lower amount to cross off of the money card.  I would rather save a small amount than nothing at all and that fact that the SMC Money Tribe and I save money EVERY WEEK and put it toward our money goals is something worth celebrating by itself.  Also, if you wait until you have saved a significant amount of money or are in a place to make a lump sum payment

For this week and moving forward, I charge you to check how you measure your own progress and how you focus you are on your goals at hand.  Write your top money, career, and lifestyle goals on a piece of paper and put it up somewhere where you will see it all the time.  Stay focus on your goals.  Create a strategy to reach your goals and don’t’ be afraid to celebrate your wins, big or small.  Have a great week!

Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA | Which is Better for You?

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a savings account where money grows tax-free. Any individual, regardless of age, who has earned income, can contribute to an IRA and the earlier one is able to do so, the better compound interest works in one’s favor. The money used to fund an IRA must come from taxable income, which the IRA explains, “can encompass more than just one’s annual salary. Taxable income can include profits from stocks or real estate sales, winnings from the lottery, betting the dogs or horses, and winnings from any casino (domestic or abroad). Even the cash value of bartered items is considered taxable income”. As of 2017, the maximum individual contribution for an IRA was capped at $5,550.00. However, people 50 years or older, are allowed to save an additional $1,000.00 for a maximum contribution of $6,500.00 as a sort of catch-up contribution since they are closer to retirement age.Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA: Which One is Better for You? from Millennial Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents | #budget #invest

The Difference Between Traditional & Roth IRAs

IRAs fall into one of two categories, a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA, and the opportunity for your money to grow tax-free is one of the most appealing benefits of this type of retirement account.  Even with the benefits, Uncle Sam still requires his cut. The most distinct difference between the two types of IRAs, Roth and Traditional, is when you pays taxes on the money. With a Roth IRA, you pay the taxes up front and with a Traditional IRA, you pay the taxes at the time of withdrawal. Regardless of the type of IRA one chooses, a person can access one’s money once they hit 59 ½ years old, without being hit with a 10% tax penalty for early deduction.

Even though Traditional and Roth IRA play by different rules, those differences allow you to select the best account type for you that helps your money grow tax-free until you reach your retirement years. Once you understand the differences between both types of IRAs, it will be easier to understand which account is best for you.  Check out this Roth vs. Traditonal IRA infographic from Business Insider that breaks it all down.

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2018 January Recap | 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge

Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  Both tortoise and the hare had the same goal…to get to the finish line; although, the strategy for getting there was vastly different.  The hare was quick, took a few shortcuts and thrived in moments of instant gratification.  He prided himself in how quickly the finish line came into sight, so much so, that he gave himself a moment to stop, even briefly, when he was on the brink of success.  But enough about him for now.  Let’s chat about the tortoise. 

Even though his pace is much slower than the hare, he is consistent .  Step by step, no matter how big or small that step is, he kept moving toward his goal. This folks, is where the lesson “slow and steady wins the race” originates.  While the hare was sleeping, the tortoise slowly passed him by and reached the finish line first.She Makes Cents | 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge January Recap

In my personal financial journey I have been both the tortoise and the hare.  Years ago, I took half of my emergency fund and applied it to my credit card balance because I was impatient and wanted the instance gratification of a zero balance. In that moment, like the hare, that finish line was in sight...literally I had about $600.00 balance that I owed.  Instead of paying at the pace that was working for me, I stopped, departed from my financial plan,  deviated from Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps  and I cashed out.  A week later an actual emergency happened and I couldn’t take care of it in cash.  So that very credit card balance that I risked it all to get to a zero balance instantly increased because I had to pay for the emergency on credit.  There are times when we know what the best course of action is and we take the “easy” way out.  I risked my financial stability and I lost money and time.  One thing I did gain, though, was the hard lesson… “slow and steady wins the race”.

Since then, I have taken a tortoise stride to becoming debt free.  I set my pace to put money toward my money goal EVERY week using the She Makes Cents 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge.  In January of 2017 my balance on my student loans was $19,000K+ and by December 31st the balance was $12,500.00.  This part year I saw the largest decrease in the loan balance in the 10 years I have been .  This partly because I figured out exactly how my interest accrues.  Once I understood that, I was able to break my larger goal down into micro goals.

January Recap: 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge

This year I set an “paid in full” date of October 2019.  To reach that I have set a new goal to get my balance down to $10,000.00 by May 1st.  With the help of the Mr. we are knocking out debt together.  Every week I select a number on the bingo money card and I send that amount to my student loan providers.  The pace may seem slow to some people, but it is a pace that ensures that I continue to maintain the habit on constant saving.  I started at the year off with a $12,505.00 balance (that extra $5 is because of interest) and I am closing out January at $11,945.62.  Based on all of the awesome progress that member  of the SMC Money Tribe are sharing in our group, they are also cultivating great habit with an encouraging community of like minded-women.