Money Challenge Half Year Review

There are times when you are working toward a goal and it is hard to see the progress of your work.  This, my friends, is not one of those stories.  Since January of this year, the #SMCmoneytribe and I have used the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge that I created to save towards each of our money goals.  Many members of the SMC Money Tribe are saving for a dream vacation and it makes me proud that because of their planning and saving, their dream to see the world can happen without disrupting their long-term money goals.  I, on the other hand, am saving money to use as extra payments toward my student loan debt.  This process is known as a debt snowball.  Snowballing your debts helps you pay them off much faster and can save thousands of dollars in interest.  In my case, my student loans are keeping me from progressing to Baby Step 3 from financial guru Dave Ramsey because they are the last of my debts, not including my mortgage. 

Top Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents, shares her story on how she is tackling her debt using her money challenge and Dave Ramsey Baby Steps

JUNE RECAP

Last month was the first time I can remember actually seeing progress to reduce my student debt and this month blew last month’s money recap out of the water.  For the month of June, I saved more money than any of the previous months and the last four months combined.  I sent two major snowballs to my student loan provider to pay down the balance instead of pushing back my next due date.  This lets your money work for you and not the other way around.  I also saved $326.00 for the month and hit the $700.00 YTD mark for this challenge.  With a contribution from the Mr., we have saved a combined $1,575.00 that we could have easily spent on frivolous things.  Thanks, babe!  Teamwork makes the dream work.

MONEY GOAL TRACKING

At the beginning of the year, I wrote out my money goals and one of them were to pay off my credit card debt, which I did.  The second one was to have my student loans at or under $15,000.00 by the end of the year.  Around April of this year, I upped that goal date to October and then again, in May, I thought I would push myself further and make it a goal to have the balance at $15,000.00 by the end of my birthday month, August.  I did this because a goal date of the end of the year ensured that I would hit the goal, but with such a long time to work toward the goal, it took away the hustle for it.  By pushing the date up to August, it really forces me to review how I am spending and saving money and keeps me motivated to the short-term goal at hand.

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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


Monday Motivation | Cultivate Better Habits

Not too long ago I read this quote from the top financial expert, Dave Ramsey, and I knew it was too good not to share.  “You can’t get out of debt while keeping the same lifestyle”.  Often times we want results for our lives that’s different from our current situation.  The thing is, you have got to change your habits if you desire a different outcome.  If your goal is to upgrade your financial situation, you have to upgrade the effort you put into your goals to see the results.  Increase your income + reduce your spending = the start to a great plan.  Last Friday, I had a three-week profit from our BINGO Money Challenge of $383.00 that could have easily paid for a pair of shoes.  Instead of living the lifestyle that is keeping me in a stagnant financial situation, I snowballed that $383.00 and threw it directly at my student loans.  The gratification I get from a new pair of shoes is nothing compared to the natural high I get from getting closer to my debt free goal.  

Money Quotes from Dave Ramsey on Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents

Today, I encourage you to use this week as a week of self-reflection.  What habits do you want to cultivate?  What habits do you want to quit?  We know what each of our end goals are but we often are blind to the things we do to ourselves that sabotage those goals    Start thinking about the things you do every day and how they affect your money goals.  Yes, you can upgrade your financial situation, but you have to upgrade your actions first because your actions become habits… good or bad.

How Much is Student Loan Interest Really Costing You?

The rising student loan debt is one of the greatest financial problems plaguing millennials, especially millennial women.  As of 2014, women account for 55 % of students enrolled in four-year colleges in the United States, according to the Federal Education Department and the figures continue to lean in favor of higher educated women.  With the average student loan debt at a little over $30,000 and growing, how are we ever going to eliminate student loan debt at all? The answer lies first in understanding the numbers.

How To Calculate Your Real Student Loan Interest from Top Millennial Finance Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

By definition, a loan is something that is borrowed that is expected to be paid back with interest.  The operative word in that definition is “interest”.  When you borrowed money from the government or your loan provider, you were given this money with the expectation that they will get their money back from you.  In fact, they expect you to take your take, defer, and get off track because their business is in the interest and not the actual repayment of the original loan.  Let me say that again for you.  They make their money on the interest because you are expected to pay back what you originally borrowed.  Student loan interest accrues daily once you are in your repayment period, which usually begins 6 months after your graduation date.  So what does that mean exactly?

How Does Student Loan Interest Add Up?

I will use my student loan numbers to help you visualize why interest will keep you in debt if you don’t start to get aggressive.  The exact math on this chilling realization is why millennials have a record amount of debt and a lower amount of home ownership.  I have two loans that were consolidated for a collective original loan amount of $24,422.77 back in 2007.  As of today, I have paid $21,189.89, which means that if this were an interest-free loan, I would only be $3232.88 away from having the loan paid off completely.  However, because of interest, I still owe $16,738.90.    How’s that you ask? Well, in the 10 years that have had this loan, interest has accrued daily. If you have studied your loan, you will notice that your daily accrual rate will change over the life of the loan.  If you are paying down your debt, your daily rate will eventually reduce as a result of the reducing current balance.  However, if you are one of those out of sight out of mind people who knows you have student loan debt that you have ignored, paying a reduced payment when you really can afford to pay more, or continually delaying your payment period, your daily rate is increasing…well, daily.

How To Beat Your Student Loan Debt

Currently, my student loan interest in accumulating at $3.09 per day/ $1127.85 per year, which is the lowest it has ever been.  To beat the system, you must pay your debt down at a faster rate than it is growing.  At $3.09 per day/ $92.70 per month, my snowball must be more than the monthly interest to make a difference.  Now that you have seen my numbers, it is time to look at yours.  To calculate your daily interest rate you must have the following numbers ready: your current balance and your interest rate.How To Calculate Your Real Student Loan Interest from Top Millennial Finance Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

In the past two months, I have watched my current balance drop at a faster rate than usual. That is because I have started making my regular monthly payment as well as an extra payment of money saved from the 52 Week BINGO money challenge. I was motivated to get a little more aggressive with paying down this loan when I set a  micro goal for myself to have my loan under the $15,000 mark by the end of my birthday month (August).  Coming up with a plan to beat your student loan debt first starts with the numbers.  If you don’t already know your numbers, I urge you to look up your current balance and interest rate, calculate much your interest accrues daily,  and as soon as you can, start making an extra payment above your monthly interest rate to get your debt moving in the right direction.  Instead of focusing on just how much you have left to pay, pat yourself on the back for how far you have come on this debt journey.  You can do it!  You have to do it so you may as well do it as quickly as possible so you can put that money saved toward your next baby step toward financial freedom.

shemakescents.com - OOTD | Student Loan Interest

Reader Profile: The SMC Money Tribe

At the beginning of the year, I announced a new resource offered to She Makes Cents readers who were participating in our 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge.  I was inspired to create a “tribe” of like-minded women to make sure that no one feels alone on their financial journey.  Members of the SMCmoneytribe have become each other’s best accountability partners and not only celebrate each other’s successes but also inspire better saving habits among women.  We believe that we can reach our money goals while breaking the glass ceiling in our careers and living the life we always imagined because we have an entire TRIBE of people cheering us on!

Calling the SMCmoneytribe

She Makes Cents Money Tribe Reader Profiles

Are you a member of the SMCmoneytribe?   We want to the world to meet the inspiring community of women who make up our tribe, to hear your stories, see what inspires you, and feature your progress.  One of our mantras here at SMC is the idea that “empowered women empower women” and we can’t wait for the world to be inspired by our tribe of women who are breaking down financial barriers and engaging in money discussions.  Submit your reader profile here and you could be featured on shemakescents.com!  

 

 

SMC Giveaway | Travel Bag for Your Next Island Adventure

Wheels up and I am and off to the first trip of 5 trips every woman should take every year.  First up…. the couple’s trip to St. Lucia where the plan is a mix of relaxation by the beach and excursions through the rain forest.  As a reformed over-packer, I had to review my go-to tips for packing light to ensure I wouldn’t be a victim of extra fees for heavy checked luggage.  Coming in at exactly 38lbs in my is my pink DVF luggage. Mission accomplished and money saved!Travel Bad for Adventure Excursions from She Makes Cents

I received a free bag from Mato Naturals in exchange for sharing it with She Makes Cents readers like you.

Travel Bag For My Island Excursion

When I was packing, I was inspired by all of the vibrant colors of the island so I packed colorful accessories that correspond to the activities that we have planned.  Sneak Peek Alert: Follow @shemakescents and @sheslivingthefablife on Instagram for OOTD, travel hacks, and behind the scenes videos.  For the off non-resort activities like a rainforest ATV tour, I knew I needed durable crossbody that would survive my extreme tourist behaviors but I knew I wanted something with a pop of color or print. That’s where the Mato Boho Crossbody from Mato Natural comes in handy.  This handmade bag is made from eco-friendly canvas and unique handwoven Aztec patterns by local women from Nepal.  It features every island color that I was looking for AND it’s the right size to ensure that I am not taking unnecessary items off of the resort, although it is smaller than I expected.  Mato Natural is a sustainable lifestyle brand founded with the main goal to make available Eco- friendly products at very affordable prices so it is right with me!

Product Review from She Makes Cents: Mato Boho Black Cross body Purse with Bohemian Tribal Aztec Pattern

She Makes Cents Giveaway

To kick off summer, She Makes Cents is hosting a giveaway to one lucky reader from the United States.  To enter, follow @shemakescents and @sheslivingthefablife on Instagram and leave a comment with the hashtag #SMCtravelcontest.  Entries will be accepted until July 15, 2017 at noon (EST).  The winner will be announced via a Instagram story on the She Makes Cent Instagram page.  Retail value $49.99.

Product Review from She Makes Cents: Mato Boho Black Cross body Purse with Bohemian Tribal Aztec Pattern

52 Week BINGO Money Challenge | May Recap

Hello lovelies and welcome to a 3-day weekend! Congrats to everyone who is going strong on the She Makes Cents BINGO Money Challenge.  It makes me so happy when members of the #SMCmoneytribe share their progress and uplift each other.  I also love hearing how so many of you are making the challenge work best for you and your lifestyle.  For example, Angela from Australia wanted to maximize her savings for an anniversary trip to the United States, so I created a custom double version for her and her husband.  As of May 1st, they have already saved $1032.00 and that money is constantly growing for them!!!!  Some are saving a fixed amount every month (hey Kechia) but all in all, the majority of you are tackling this challenge the good ole’ fashion way…one week at a time with your trusty money card sheet.  Regardless of where you are in your progress, you are already winning at the habit of saving.  There is a quote that I really like from Roger Crawford that says, “Being challenged in life is inevitable, but being defeated is optional”.  Every person who has accepted this money challenge is refusing to allow their money or lack of it defeat them.  Every dollar you save is getting you that much closer to your dream vacation, it’s getting you that much closer to paying off debt, or that much closer to building your emergency fund.  While everyone’s goals are different, just know that you can do it and that you have an entire tribe of women behind you to help cheer you on along the way.“Being challenged in life is inevitable, but being defeated is optional”. | Quotes on She Makes Cents

My Growth on the Money Challenge

My progress on the money challenge is much different this year than years past.  My sources of income have changed and I no longer get paid on a consistent schedule, but rather on a client by client basis.  Ugh…entrepreneurial life at its greatest!    At this point in the challenge, I am usually hundreds of dollars ahead of my current progress.  For half of a second that bothered me because I am always trying to be better than I was before.  The beautiful thing is, this challenge is made to support the one’s financial changes and in the end that numbers are the same if you complete the challenge.  As long as I complete every box, I will end up in the same savings range as the years before.  What difference does it really make if I am crossing out low to mid numbers during the first part of the year and higher numbers toward the end of the year?  It actually makes no real difference at all.  In the effort to save more money this year than any of the previous years, I must focus on the four bonus boxes that are still empty on my money card.

Sharing Money Goals

Do you remember when I announced that the Mr. would be joining me in the challenge?  Well, he just started last month.  For him, doing the weekly version of the SMC money challenge was another thing added to his “honey-do” list that he never got around to.  That is one of the reasons it took him four months to join in.  He later suggested, instead of doing a dollar for dollar match, that he might try contributing a fixed amount every paycheck toward the challenge.  So far his YTD contribution has been $500.00!  From a financial standpoint, the numbers at the end of the year will be higher doing it this way than if he were doing a dollar for dollar match, because $250.00 per month translates into about $62.00+ per week and $62.00 will always be higher than $52.00, our highest (non-bonus) box on the money card.  It’s easy for him, it works for me, and it gets us closer to our debt free money goals.

Related Article: How to Win on the She Makes Cents Money Challenge

May Recap 

For the month of May, I saved $89.00 which puts me at a YTD of $376.00 by myself and $876.00 when combined with the Mr.   Every dollar saved on this challenge is helping me pay off my student loans.  Outside of our mortgages, this is the only debt we are carrying because we work hard to pay off any credit card debt that we rack up before each billing cycle.  At the end of April, I made my first lump sum payment of $679.00 toward the principle and I had originally planned to make a lump sum payment every quarter.  However, after seeing my payment drop a new passion for hitting certain milestones was reignited.  Now, I plan to make a lump sum payment every time the balance in the money challenge is over the $225.00 mark.  At the beginning of the year, my main money goal was to have my student loans under the $15K mark by the end of the year, but I decided to up the ante and push that goal date to the end of August (my birthday month).

I can’t wait to hear your progress on this challenge.  Please feel free to tweet me @shemakescents, email me, or stop by our Facebook page to say hello.  I love hearing from you and I love to hear your progress, motivation, struggles, and suggestions.  Until then, happy saving to you and yours.

Want to join the challenge?  Click here for your FREE money card download.

HOW WOULD YOUR LIFE CHANGE IF YOU ACCOMPLISHED YOUR MONEY GOALS?

 

 

 

Lyft Riders Now Earn FREE Delta SkyMiles

Earning SkyMiles has gotten easier if you are a Lyft rider.  This week, Delta and Lyft announced their partnership that will reward their customers who are loyal to both companies.  Now, every time you request a ride through Lyft, you earn SkyMiles, to travel to over 1,000 global destinations or even pay for upgraded access to the Sky Club when you are traveling.  Trust me, this is a great upgrade option if you don’t already have this access, to keep in your back pocket when your flight has been delayed and you want to wait in style.How to Earn SkyMiles Through Lyft from Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

How to Earn SkyMiles Through Lyft

According to Delta, “it’s as simple as linking SkyMiles and Lyft accounts, and requesting a ride. All SkyMiles members are eligible. Customers who are not already enrolled in the SkyMiles program can sign up for free through at delta.com/enroll to become eligible”.   Even though I am not a current Lyft customer, I love the idea of the collaboration.  By requesting a ride, something I already do on a weekly basis, I can start earning miles that will help get me to one of the trips that every girl should take every year.  You earn one mile per dollar spent with unlimited earning potential and that never expire.  To make your experience sweeter, for a limited time, you can earn triple SkyMiles for rides to and from participating airports.

How to Use Art To Blend His & Her Styles at Home

Sponsored: This post contains affiliate links.

The Mr. and I have been married for almost two years now and we have just started to decorate our home in a way that reflects both of our styles. The goal is a little less bachelor pad and a little more like something that reflects both of us. My style used to be eclectic but I am leaning more traditional with pops of accent colors. The Mr., well his style is clean modern lines and about four fewer pillows than I prefer. In addition to blending our furniture preferences, we have been working to blend our varying art styles. I left my 30”x30” canvas print of Audrey Hepburn at my old house for my niece to enjoy. I’m sure the Mr. appreciated that. The same way I took down some of his posters. To blend our two aesthetics, I came up with a design plan that reflects our joint loves, hobbies, and experiences. I believe people should walk in one’s home and think, oh, this is so them.

How to Blend His & Her Styles At Home

One thing that unmistakably represents us both is our love for the city of Atlanta. Although we are from two very different areas, we are both Atlanta natives. We are fluent in Southside, Eastside, and Buckhead, he can recite every Outkast lyric, and I am the queen of the Beltline. These are things we wanted our space together to represent- our love for music, our love for Atlanta, and our love for each other. During our first year of marriage, I bought a 45”x30” Boom Box canvas painting that represents our joint music interest. I then started a gallery wall of wedding pictures to represent our love for each other. The only thing that is missing is something Atlanta. We wanted our home to have a fun Atlanta flair by including iconic elements in the design for our home. What better than an art map of the city?  I started looking for a map that fit the style of our home when Modern Map Art contacted me to see if I would consider one of their maps in exchange for telling she makes cents readers about the experience.  They come in a range of cities and colors, including Aruba where we spent our honeymoon, but of course, we only had one city in mind.  

We decided on the black print because we both love the crisp contrast.  After we narrowed down the best color option for our home, the print arrived about 3 days later.  We both were pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t a traditional poster print.  The paper has a velvet-like finish that looks even better in person.   I am really into is oversize artwork so I requested the largest print size of 24″x36″ with the plan to have it matted and framed.  In my opinion, oversize art makes everything look more expensive and special, results my wallet and hubby can both appreciate.  One thing to keep in mind, though, when considering large-scale art for your home is framing.  I wanted to frame this print with a 4″ mat, which means I am now moving into custom framing which can be expensive.  To save money, I gave up the matted background.  The Mr. and I found a simple frame at our local Target and added the print in it the moment we got home.  Seriously, don’t you just love the scale of this? The Mr. modeled the print for me because I looked naked trying to take a similar picture in a dress.She Makes Cents- Modern Atlanta City Map PrintShe Makes Cents- Modern Atlanta City Map PrintWe are so proud of our growing art collection!  We keep trying out our new Atlanta print from Modern Map Art in different locations to find the best location in our home.  For now, it lives right next to our beloved Boom Box painting.  To grab your very own print to remember your hometown, the place you fell in love, or the best vacay ever, click here.  Insider Tip: Follow them on Instagram for 10% off your purchase  (code: INSTA10).

Things To Do This Month: She Makes Cents May Sneak Peek

Things To Do This Month from She Makes CentsWant a little taste of what the month of May will bring to She Makes Cents readers?  Well, we are back with our newest series, “The IT  List” that gives readers a preview of some of the lifestyle topics that will be covered this month on the blog.  Last month we started planning one of the trips that every girl should take this year and we will reveal that trip and destination this month.  Stay tuned to see what’s on my travel “lust list” for a fabulous beach vacay.  I plan on starting the SMC Book Club Selection: The Girl Code today, so grab your copy and join us!  There are so many exciting things happening and I can’t wait to share.  MONEY+ CAREER + LIFESTYLE.

Things To Do This Month from She Makes Cents