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.

 

She Makes Cents Blog Named in the Top 40 Women Financial Blogs on the Web

The future is FEMALE and that future is NOW!  In the past year, I have seen an increase of women taking the reigns over their money and careers with a never seen gusto…at least since I have been an adult.  Women are investing in themselves, their money, their careers and their lifestyles and are encouraging other like-minded women to do the same.   Last week we learned that She Makes Cents, the premier money and career blog for goal-setting millennial women, was selected by  Feedspot as one of the Top 40 Women Financial Blogs on the web. The list, which was announced early January of 2018, features a mix of content producers who share similar goals- bringing personal finance to a female audience. She Makes Cents Founder, Danielle YB Vason shared her experience with her #SMCmoneytribe. “I am thrilled to be recognized amongst the list of well-known financial influencers and brands that I both follow and admire,” Vason admits. “As a blogger, it is easy to feel like you are talking to yourself out there on the web, so when you have your hard work recognized, it’s a very humbling feeling”. So where did She Makes Cents rank? Well, we are pleased to announce that She Makes Cents the blog came in the top 20 ranking at #19.

She Makes Cents Blog Named in the Top 40 Women Financial Blogs on the Web

Other bloggers included on the list were some of our favorite reads such as City Girl Savings, My Fab Finance, and the brand Daily Worth, which topped the list at number one.  According to Feedspot, “This is the most comprehensive list of best Women Financial blogs on the internet” and the blogs that made the list were reviewed under these criteria of Google reputation/search ranking, influence on social media, quality of posts, and Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.

A word from our founder

I am so thankful for the SMC Money Tribe for joining me on a shared financial journey.  Your stories and questions have helped to shape the content that is created for this blog.  When I created She Makes Cents, my goal was to help millennial women become more financially literate.  I wanted to inform and inspire readers to use their “cents” to live the fab life.  I wanted to encourage the community of goal setting women to define what the fab life means to them. I hope that I have done that and I will continue to do just that… inform, inspire, and encourage.  Congratulations to the SMC Money Tribe because this recognition is a reflection of your debt free journey too.  

MLK Quote to Inspire You to Keep Moving Forward Through Any Situation

Sometimes unexpected things happen…the past two years have been proof of that.  The thing is, we cannot give anything the power to paralyze us in a state of anger, fear, grief, complacency, etc.  Today I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I like this quote because it reminds us that there will be things in life that will attempt to block your path to greatness.  Sometimes we can even block our own blessings.  Instead of giving up when there is a roadblock find another way to get to your goals.  

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If you can’t fly then don’t shrug your shoulders and throw in the towel.  It’s so much easier to give up after the first roadblock (See  “How To Come Back from A Setback”).  Lace up your favorite pair of sneakers and get to running, girlfriend.  You might not get to your greatness quickly, but as long as you keep moving forward you are taking the necessary moves to get you one step closer than you were when you realized that flying was not an option.

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SMC Book Club | How To Get the Most Out of Your Power Word of the Year

On the first day of the year, I asked readers to share their 2018 power word that reflects their goals and visions for themselves. The response to that one question, which was posed to all of our social media networks, was both inspiring and eye-opening. It occurred to me that in place of resolutions people are looking to find a purpose that flows into multiple areas of their lives. As people responded with words like happiness, growth, self-care, and consistency, I couldn’t help but think of books I would recommend to inspire people based on their chosen word. The power of choosing a word that you hope will define your year is that it forces you to reflect on areas of your life that you want to be better or that deserve your focus. Once a word is selected and claimed in advance, you prepare yourself to receive all of the good things that come with that word. My inspiration for the next SMC Book Club read comes from the idea of one taking an active step toward applying one’s own word to one’s life.

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February Book Selection

This is the year to do better and be better and I resolve for our group to be great, supportive, consistent, and a place for goal setting women to come together. The energy in the SMC Book Club during our last book, Boss Women Pray, was so amazing and I want to build on that and I want to inspire you to be successful with your power word or else it will lose all power over your life. For the month of February, we are going to do something a little different. Instead of reading the same book together, let’s take the month of February to read a book that is inspired by the word of the year that you chose yourself. My hope is that each of you follows through and make the time to find a book that relates to YOUR word; a book that inspires you toward your self-mandated purpose to you have selected to help guide you this year. According to U.S. News, 80% of people give up on their resolutions and New Year goals by February. Let’s be the 20% together by starting our new book on February 1, 2018.

How Our Book Club Works

Every other month, we select a new book from a mix of editor and reader’s suggestions. For reader suggestions, we ask that selections embrace subjects such as power women, money, career, and lifestyle that informs and inspires us. We then announce the book selection here on shemakescents.com before the start of the month to give you time to opt-in and get your copy of the book from the She Makes Cents store on Amazon. Discussions for the book take place in our weekly book chats in the SMC Book Club group on Facebook as well as the She Makes Cents Instagram page. Trust me, the dialogue in the group is LIFE!

Since everyone will be reading different books for February, the book chats will be tailored to this unconventional reading experience. If you would like book suggestions based on your power word, let me know. I can be found on social media at the @shemakescents handle.

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Monday Motivation | What ONE Power Word Reflects Your Vision for 2018?

It’s the first day….better yet, the first Monday of the new year and I couldn’t think of a better time to urge you to choose a power word to reflect your goal of self-improvement for the new year. Around this time, people reflect on the past year and envision the promise for greatness to come. The most successful people write down their goals, thoughts, and ideas to manifest the power of the law of attraction. Oprah explains, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe”. Back in 2013, I asked readers of She Makes Cents to share one word to reflect their personal goals/resolutions/vision for the year ahead and the response I got was inspiring. Since this, I have asked the same questions to readers every year on the first day of the New Year. With every 365 days that go by, we evolve and our needs, wants, and aspirations change.  That being said, it is important to create a foundational vision with a “power word” to help guide the path ahead. Looking back at my earlier words, I remember where I was in my life, what was important, and what I needed to work on.  In 2013 my word was balance.  Then came focus (2014), passion (2015), bravery (2016), and intention (2017).  Power Word of 2018 | Word of the Year from Money, Career, Lifestyle Blog, She Makes CentsFor 2018, I chose “Declutter” as my power word. By definition, the act of decluttering requires one to simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, and complications. It also requires you to organize and prioritize your commitments and material possessions. The word “declutter” is one that I will apply to every area of my life in a mental, physical, and spiritual sense. I will take this year as an opportunity to declutter my finances, organize my career goals and execute those ideas, and rid my space of disorder. Back in 2011, researchers from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute studied what happens how the brain processes clutter.

When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.

I have never been so excited to apply a power word to my year and this one is all-encompassing to severals areas of my life.  I know many people do not do resolutions anymore, but I still do.  Now that I have my word of the year, I can create resolutions where I can clarify my goals and visions while ridding and mess and disorder that may negatively impact my money, career, or lifestyle.shemakescents.com

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