{Reader Success Story} A Shockingly Easy Way to Save Money for Fun

In my posts on this site, I share my progress toward financial freedom sort of like a diary to the world.   Sometimes the stories reveal  my failures and the things I learned from the experience so you don’t make the same mistakes.  More often than not, my stories are transparent accounts of gained confidence in regards to my financial literacy.    Every week, I have diligently crossed off numbers on the 52 Week BINGO Money Sheet and I update you on how those funds are being used. As of week 15, I have saved $590.00 extra dollars that I have put toward my credit card debt.  I am proud of myself but I am equally proud to know I haven’t been on this journey by myself. This week, I wanted to shift the focus off me and begin to  share the stories of other smart women who are kicking debt’s butt and redefining the “fab life” for themselves.  Our very first reader’s profile is from Alysa T., a 28 year Marketing and Communications Manager out of Washington, D.C.  A friend referred Alysa to shemakescents.com about 3 years ago and interestingly enough, the BINGO Money Challenge was the first article that she read.Alysa copy

When asked why she decided to join the challenge, Alysa explained, ” It’s a very simple and kind of fun way to put aside a little extra money each year! I think checking off all the boxes appeals to my organizational side too.  This year I’m putting [my savings] towards a vacation.  I am recently SCUBA certified and want to explore the underwater world more! It is awesome to know that she is using the money saved for things that (if you follow the blog, you already know what I am going to say) FEED-HER-SOUL!   Over the past few years, Alysa has become more than a loyal reader.  She is my Twitter pen-pal/accountability partner who sometimes sends me her progress updates before I have the chance to check-in.  I  LOVE THAT!  I love knowing that we are on this journey together.  “In past years”, Alysa reveals,  “I used it for a new computer and a down payment on a car”.  

SMC Reader- Alysa T copyThe journey towards financial freedom isn’t a easy one…if it was, no one would have debt and everyone would be building wealth.  Alysa’s  biggest financial goal is to get her emergency fund to a healthy level so she can put more savings towards fun things.  I’d say with a savings of $515.00 year to date, she is well on her way.cropped-logo-twitter2014.jpg

How Much Have You Saved on the BINGO Money Challenge?  Share Below


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{Week 11 Recap} 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge

Happy Friday Lovelies! For whatever reason, this week has seemed to drift by slowly. I thought it was Friday at least twice this week (#epicfail). Now that Friday is actually here, it’s time to kickoff the weekend and share progress for the 52 Week BINGO Challenge. After scheduling bill payments and doing my zero-based budget for the next two weeks, I decided to cross off $11.00 this week. It was more important to me to focus my money toward savings, so I upped my savings contribution and lowered the amount I decided to save for this challenge this week.

Related Post: What is a Zero-Based Budget?

Weekend Headline TGIF

Thus far in the challenge, I have saved a total of $432.00 and my credit card balance is down to $2800.00.  I hate that I even got myself back into credit card debt with charges from the wedding and car repairs that happened months apart.  But, hey, you live and you learn.   I learned that even if you hit your goal, like I did when I got my credit card balance down to zero the first time, it is very easy to relapse into old habits or make poor decisions that get you right back to where you started.  It happens.  On the bright side, I have never been more focused on my financial goals as I am now and taking this step backward has inspired a new and focused momentum.  What number did you cross off this week?

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{Financial Cents} A Quick Tip to Help You Pay Down Debt

Happy Hump Day Lovelies!  I wanted to give you a quick tip that I am using to help me pay down my credit card debt.  If you can, I would recommend you plan your payments on debt such as your mortgage and credit cards to bi-weekly payments.  Since there are two months out of the year that have five weeks, you end up with an extra month’s payment at the end of the year.  Those payments can be applied directly to the principal, which I recommend, or give you the opportunity to have these loans paid one month in advanced.

stylefinest.co (1).pngPROS

  • It helps you pay off debt faster
  • Reduces the amount of interest you have to pay back over the life of the loan

CONS

  • All lenders and credit card companies do not allow you to split your payments. If this is the case, you can create a money envelope for that extra payment you will have at the end of the year and use it to pay on top of your monthly minimum. It’s not a true “con” on the pros and cons list, but it does require an extra step and discipline to not spend that money

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{Friday Fashion} Smart Investments in Style- One Dress 5 Ways

I was cleaning out my closet the other day. You know that seasonal purge of clothes that no longer fits my style, clothes I have outgrown, and fads that frankly may be tipping the scales of age appropriateness. As Denia, a SMC contributing writer would put it, “I’m approaching the stage in life where shopping at trendy places like Forever21 should feel…well…awkward”. Don’t get me wrong, I never miss a chance to stop in a Forever21, but I wouldn’t build a wardrobe around it.  While I consider trendy clothing essential to an eclectic closet like mine, I know it is better to have a foundation of well-made classics as opposed to a closet full of cheap and cheerful pieces that constantly needs replacing.
Sure, every stylish woman’s closet should include staples such as the LBD and a classic trench; however, I am here to introduce you to a versatile piece of clothing that has become my favorite new investment piece – the Nikki 5-Way Dress. When I first tried on this convertible dress, by designer Abi Ferrin, I have to admit that I had a “get it girl” moment in the mirror, similar to how I felt in my first DVF wrap dress back in the day. This multi-functional dress flatters in five different ways; as a one-shoulder Grecian style (my favorite, by the way), as a one-shoulder with a peplum accent, as an asymmetrical tunic, tied to the side, or crossed tied for a belt effect. My favorite thing about the versatility of this dress is that it is good to my wallet because you can get five distinctively timeless looks for the price of one dress.

Check Out All FIVE looks!

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There isn’t a SINGLE reason white this signature Nikki dress belongs in every jetsetters, power-players, party girl, and busy bee’s wardrobe, but FIVE reasons. Starting at $155.00, that’s only $31.00 per look, you can’t afford not to add this to the list of foundational must-haves of well-made classics. Cha Ching… that’s the sound of me investing in quality and quantity at the same time.  Want to invest in your style?   Check out Ferrin’s others style staples on her site.  

Thank you to the sponsors of this post, Brandstyle Communications on behalf of Abi Ferrin. 

Which Look is Your Favorite?

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{Shopping Confession} I Spent More Because It Was On Sale

So Good…It’s a Steal

It was last Wednesday, the hottest day of the year thus far in   Atlanta. I had just completed FREE yoga in the park with some of my girlfriends from work when I decided to see if H&M still had a swimsuit I saw just two weeks ago. I walked in and didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, before I could even get to the swimsuits, I walked pass a rack of collar shirts in the front of the store, that would be perfect for summer. I picked up three. They are on sale for $7.00 a pop… that’s a steal, I thought to myself. Then I proceeded to the middle of the store where I was flooded…no… completely overwhelmed with red sale signs. My cousin, who witnessed this too, saw me transform from She Makes Cents… back to Danielle who gets a high from shopping. Sometimes I forget we are one and the same. Thirty minutes and fourteen hangers worth of clothes later, I was on the way to the dressing room. For so long, I have done such a great job controlling my spending that I forgot just how good it felt to shop.
Thank goodness for bad fits and wrong sizes because I ended up putting back practically everything, except two pairs of flats and a white sequin blazer. I got to the checkout, opening my wallet knowing that this purchase would max out last week’s shopping/entertainment category for my envelope system, and I swiped my debit card anyway. It’s okay….I thought to myself…I saved money because I decided against all those other outfits I tried on.

The Morning After

I woke up the next morning with a major hangover…a shopping hangover, that is. You know, when you are hit with the remembrance of last night’s out of control shopping escapade. All of the warm and fuzzies have worn off and I am left trying to recall what exactly I spent my money on. Things became clearer in the light of day and I realized that left ballet flat was a size 6 (my size) and the right flat was a size 8 (not my size). Not so cute anymore, huh?   And how about that blazer?  I was forced to ask myself the same question that my cousin asked me in the midst of my excitement the night before. Where in the hell are you going to wear a white sequin blazer? That night I swore I would wear it in Vegas, but in reality, it will be over 110° when I am there. Yes, outside of the pink iridescent ballet flats that remind me of my old pointe shoes, my trip to H&M was an epic fail. They didn’t even have the bikini I walked in there for.

Can You Relate? 

Tell Me About YOUR last “Hangover”.

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How Your “Lean In” Might Make You More Money


Money Talk At Work. Yay or Nay?

For months, I have been researching and preparing myself to have series of what I can only call uncomfortable conversations. Surprisingly enough, I found it uncomfortable to bring up the topic of money and compensation in the workplace. Talking about money management for women of all ages and women’s right to be whatever they like… be it the boss, the fashionista, Suzie homemaker, or a combination of it all, is what I LOVE to do! While some view the conversation of money as uncomfortable and impolite, I have always been unapologetic about the topic because I recognize that the benefits of the conversation outweigh the discomfort. Over the maturation of this site and of my development into “real” adulthood, a sort of financial confidence on the subject of debt management has come over me. During that same time, I have realized that while the benefit of the conversation outweighs the stress it may cause, starting and engaging in conversations about my career path and the appropriate compensation has brought up a new feeling of uneasiness and forced me to become a human pendulum of leaning in and leaning back.

What does “Lean In” truly mean?

The phrase “lean in” comes from Sheryl Sandberg, author of the book Lean In, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and now contributing writer for Cosmo (which I LOVE). It is a phrase used to encourage women to achieve one’s goals and tighten the gap of inequalities in the workplace. The book, which I just started, challenges women to change the conservation from what we can’t do, to what we can.  I believe my lean in started when I polled a number of women on the She Makes Cents fan page and asked the question, Have You Ever Asked for a Raise? That one question commenced my research of women in business, gender/minority inequality in the workplace, and what has surprisingly become my platform of choice, the pay gap between men and women in the workplace. My research confirmed some things I already knew. On average, a woman makes less than a man for doing the same job. This is a fact and for many reasons, but one I had never considered was that women are statistically less likely than men to ask for a raise. Learning this forced me to sit up, dust my fear off, “lean in” and take responsibility in deciding that NOW was the time for my talent, career path, and financial compensation to fall in line. I invite you to stay tuned as I dive into topics such as understanding the best time to ask for a raise, networking tips, work/life balance, leadership skills and personal branding.

Tell Us About Your Last “Lean In”!

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{Financial Cents} What Your Wallet Say About You?

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What’s In Your Wallet?

I’ve heard it said that you can tell a lot about a women based on the style of purse she carries and the contents within. Is she well taken care of? Polished? Neat? Messy? High maintenance? Laid back? I want to take this a step further and look at the center of money- the wallet. A women’s purse may reveal a lot about her, but her wallet sheds light on what she finds important and how she spends her hard earned money. Parents my keep photographers of their children.  Entrepreneurs may carry business cards.  Me, I carry a mix of business and pleasure. Below is my emerald green Cynthia Rowley leather wallet that I bought myself for Christmas and some of the contents within.  wallets

What does your wallet say about YOU?

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{Chasing the Saturdays} How I Saved $500+ Before Breakfast!

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I woke up in a weird mood this past Saturday. I was torn between excited to tackle my never-ending to-do list and not wanting to leave the warmth of the bed. So what did I do?- A little of both. I grabbed the laptop and started to audit my flow of income and in doing so, I noticed I was missing opportunities to save more money. Before breakfast, I saved a little under $100 a year by canceling my cell phone insurance. It was one of those things that I should have done months ago, but never really got around to doing it. The two times that I actually thought about filing an insurance claim, the deductible was so expensive that it was better to just get a new phone and not having to worry about whether I would receive a new or refurbished phone from my carrier.
My first savings of the day energized me, so much so, that I called my dad to follow-up on his savings audit I did for him last year. Even when I showed my dad how he could save $1600, he actually never followed through.  It was time for me to take matters into my own hands. I started with my parents’ home phone and internet bundle and I canceled every service that they don’t use and wouldn’t miss. I reduced their monthly bill by $40 per month equalling to about $480 a year!

Are you overpaying for services you no longer use? 

Take a little time to review your statements from your service providers.  Remove extra services that you no longer use, are outdated, or that qualify as a luxury you could live without.  I did this a few months ago when I realized my cable bill included a football package.  It made NO sense/cents for me to pay for an added luxury that I didn’t even use.  Now, I am enjoying the savings more than missing the extra channels that I didn’t event know about.  If by chance, you have already eliminated every extra fee, then you should consider calling your service provider to see if there are any other discounts that can be applied to your account.   It may take a little time to get through your audit, but remember it’s better to spend some time to save some money!She Makes Cents logo

What Services Can You Remove From Your Bill to Save?
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{Financial Cents} Say No Social and Yes to Finances!

During the infancy of She Makes Cents, I started reading Shoo…Jimmy Choo by Catey Hill. This, I admit, was another book I picked up because I like the title.  In it, Hill goes beyond the standard advice to create a spending chart and record everything you spend your money on in it. She adds the recommendation to also include additional information such as who was with you and the motivation behind your purchase. I did this for about two months and learned that I often spent extra money when I was with one particularly close friend. I usually spent money on expensive lunches and after reviewing the spending chart, my motivation behind my spending was purely emotional. I didn’t realize that was I was spending a great deal of money simply because I missed hanging out with her like I did when I was in college. Fast forward almost two years later where I started repeating the pattern of emotional and socially inspired spending. With my current job, I got back into the habit of frequently going out to lunch with the girls. I didn’t want to miss the great conversations but most importantly, I didn’t want to appear anti-social.

She Makes Cents money saving blog for women

At the start of the year, something clicked for the Mr and me. Our view on how we spend money as a couple and individually has narrowed. We have become super serious about saving and making better decisions on how we spend our money. Does that mean no lunches with the girls? Absolutely not! It does mean that I won’t be going with them EVERY DAY for lunch or drinks after work, though. Instead, I am cooking more at home and packing more lunches. As much as I hate to decline a social invitation, I would hate it more if the collective whole of my socially motivated financial decisions were the reason I wasn’t truly living a fabulous debt free life. I am proud of myself. I find that I’m eating better and cleaner. I also becoming a better cook, which is always a plus, but more importantly, I have learned to say no to social and yes to finances!

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{Financial Cents} 4 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

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 Have you ever gotten your tax refund and thought to yourself, it’s time to go shopping? I have. Growing up, my mom would take a large part of her refund and she and I would go on a shopping spree…even if it meant driving from mall to mall to find a wider selection or hanging out on a school night. That is how I grew up thinking about refund checks… like some sort of magical windfall of new shoes, purses, and dresses. Now fast forward to the present, I now know it’s better to try to break even than to get a fat refund. In reality, if you are receiving a large refund then you are paying too much in taxes throughout the year.

Divide and Conquer Your Money

If you are like me and you know you will be getting a refund of some sort, it is important to find a better way to spend your money than blowing it on a  new tv or handbag. Before you even receive your refund, you should already have an idea of what you may be getting back. Take this time to divide your money, so when you actually received it, you will be less likely to blow it recklessly because you have already decided where it is going. For some, this will take some serious financial discipline, but in the end, it’s worth it! I plan to make my money work for me by using these four categories below to get me started.

        • Fund your funds. If you don’t have an emergency fund of at least $1000, now is the time to start paying yourself.  You should think of this fund like those Chinese finger traps that kids used to pay with- it’s easy to put stuff in and difficult to take things out!  If you already have at least a $1000 Emergency fund, then you should take a percentage of your refund and put aside for your savings account.

        • Pay Down Debt.  This is the time to give your “snowball” effect an extra boost. Putting a portion of your refund toward your debt with the lowest APR (annual percentage rate) or lowest balance will help you pay get out of debt faster and feel good about your accomplishments.  Remember, you don’t have to have thousands of dollars all at once to start getting out of debt. Every payment above the minimum helps you get closer to your goal.

        • Take Care of Things You Have Been Putting Off.  If you have been meaning to call the plumber over to fix that leak you can’t find (raises hands) or get the brakes on your car checked out (raises hands) or even get the shoes with that weird heel repaired (raises hands) then take this time and money to do it.  These are things that people put off because they don’t have the money or time.  You now have the money, so make the time.

        • Prioritize Fun.  When budgeting your money, you have to remember to prioritize for things that bring you JOY.  Set a goal and when you accomplish it, tap into this category and unleash your fun fund.  This could mean buying those shoes you have had your eye on, a spa day, or planning that impromptu weekend with your loved one(s), girlfriends, or even by yourself!  It doesn’t have to be big, but it does help if it is something that brings happiness and drives you to work toward your goal. 

How Do You Divide Your Refund?

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