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Our finance columnist has five fab saving ideas to jumpstart your summertime vacation fund!

 

If you have not thought about where your family will go this summer for vacation, I know you have not thought about how you were going to pay for it either. There are so many fun and creative ways to save for vacation. Many of these techniques can be incorporated into your daily lifestyle and do not cause much thought or effort on your part. I am very aware saving can be a chore, but my goal is to take the chore out of saving and make it fun. Good habits are formed out of consistently and saving is nothing but good habit, if you treat it like a bill, you will always have a saving. Let’s get into these tips!

To ensure I give strategies for everyone, I will include both manual and automatic techniques, as well as some cash based strategies. Here are my top creative saving strategies:

#1 The 5 Dollar Bill Challenge
If you use cash more than a debit or credit card, please search the house for a large jar or even an empty cereal box. As you spend cash, hold onto you 5 dollar bills and placed them into you storage container of choice.

#2 Qapital
Qapital is a mobile app that allows you to set a goal, such as a ‘trip to Colorado’. You set the cost of the goal and then Qapital automatically takes money from your checking account and holds it within an account. Once you reach your goal, you can withdraw the funds to your checking account and use them towards your goal. Don’t worry, the mobile app will never overdraw your bank account.

#3 The Word of the Week Challenge
This is a hit with families. Pick a common word, it has to be so common that you forget to avoid the word in every day conversations. Whoever in the family uses the word has to put a dollar in the storage container of choice. Watch your words because it will cost you.

#4 The Bad Habit Challenge
We all have a bad habit that we want to get rid of, right? Well, pick that habit and every time you correct it, put a dollar into a jar. For instance, if you find yourself biting your nails and then you stop, you owe yourself a dollar.

#5 Clarity
Clarity combines budgeting and automatic saving! It is a mobile app that links to your debit card and tracks your transactions. It also analyzes your transactions and anything that appears to be a subscription, it will cancel them for you. Additionally, you can categorize by merchant and determined how much you have spent over the course of a month. It may help to see what you are spending money on so that can make cut backs, if necessary.

I believe combining some mix of automatic and manual saving challenge will be beneficial to any budget and goal, whether it is vacation or a new pair of shoes. Saving can be as fun as you make it. If you have a negative attitude towards it, it will drain all your energy. However, if you have a positive attitude, it will become easier to do. I love saving, it makes me feel good for the future of my family, it makes me not worry about those ‘life happens’ moments, it makes me feel free. What are some fun and creative ways you save money?

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Our financial guru suggests nine local spots where you can have fun on a budget with your girlfriends for night out.

 

I promised my loyal Cincy Chic-ers in my previous article that I would write a captivating piece on fun, frugal activities to do with your girlfriends for a Girls Night Out Adventure. These tips will be great for a weekend gathering or a celebration of the sorts. Cincinnati and its surrounding areas have some of the most awesome spas, restaurants, bars, and fun activities to participate in for an enjoyable night on the town with your favorite gals!

I am the master of finding the best and most exciting things to do for the least amount of money so let’s dive right into my list of awesomeness.

If you and your girls love to paint and drink wine, try Positive Vibe Studio located in Pendleton Art Center Middletown, hosted by the awesome Ryan Combs. You can design any creation, drink all the free wine you like, and enjoy the smells of aromatherapy oil infused paints for only $20. After painting, let your masterpiece dry in the car and walk across to the street to West Central Wine to enjoy a great casual atmosphere and their fully loaded bar. Additionally, their signature meat and cheese tray is delicious.

If you and your girls want to relax, get pampered, or be made pretty, try Pure Beauty Bar Cincinnati located in Pleasant Ridge. Sylvia, the owner, offers both waxing and skin care services for reasonable prices ranging from $18 to $70. Additionally, her awesome staff of highly qualified cosmetologists will cut, blow dry, and style your hair. If you want to change your look even more, she offers hair extensions.

If you and your girls enjoy dining out, try Teller’s of Hyde Park located in Hyde Park. Not only does this place have an awesome happy hour special with both food and drinks starting at $6, it also has tasty dinner options at a reasonable price. Did you know Findlay Market has been hosting some awesome cooking classes from sushi to Thai to cheese? Learning how to make your favorite foods with your girlfriends is awesome. Additionally, The Celestial Steakhouse located in Downtown Cincinnati offers a Lady’s Night every Wednesday!

If you and your girls want to shake a tail feather, try Ivy Lounge located in Downtown Cincinnati offers a Ladies Night every Thursday, which is combined with tons of top-shelf drink specials starting at $3. Great music plus great spirits plus your gals equals fun times.

If you and you girls like working with your hands, try The Candle Lab OTR located in Over-the-Rhine. You can make your own candle from scratch. You pick the size, the scent, the color, and you craft your own candle to make your home smell awesome for around $17.  They have some unusual scents that you will not find anywhere else, as well. This place is a great bonding experience for a group of friends wanting to try something different.

If you and your girls like fitness and getting into shape, try CycleBar located in Norwood. These indoor cycling classes are for the lovers of all things fitness. If the intensive workout is not enough, the insane music selection will get you and your crew pumped for the night.

I hope I have successfully included all activities for the multifaceted woman of 2017. Remember when you are enjoying your night out with your girls, be creative and use your resources. Groupon and Yelp are exciting sources to build an awesome Girls Night Out Adventure from start to finish. I know my girls break away from the normal activities. Don’t be afraid to try something new, there are a ton of interesting things to do and see in Cincinnati and its surrounding areas.

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We tell our girlfriends everything, right? Almost. Our life coach columnist explains the five ways you can leverage friendships to get your finances on track.

Initially, as I began to write this article, I wanted to discuss fun, frugal activities for a girl’s night out! However, more than I want us to come together and have a good time, I want us to come together and support each other through our life experiences. I will write about girl’s night out another time because I have a wealth of information to share there. Today, I want to discuss why more women are not having an honest discussion about money with their girlfriends.

My girlfriends and I are very honest when it comes to money management and investments. We share when we have developed extra streams of income and when we can’t go out to dinner because our money has already been extended. We are not embarrassed by it because it happens to everyone at different points in our life.

We talk about money and use it as a way to grow our money. The conversation is the same as my girlfriends calling me and dishing about a guy or a date, we call each other and say, “I just spent entirely too much money this weekend?” or “I want to do this as an additional stream of income, how can I incorporate it?”

There is so much to learn from your girlfriends if we just open up and share. If your friends don’t know your struggles, you may never get the help or encouragement you need to progress, and you could eventually dig yourself into a greater hole by faking it until you make it with people who truly care about you.

People, in general, are very tight lipped about their personal finances, but you don’t know what you don’t know and there is no shame in that. Information comes in many forms and some of that information is in your closest circles.

I want to share some money talk approaches that have worked.

1. Getting Naked
As a woman, you may have changed a shirt or pants in front of your friends once or twice. Get undressed (not physically but metaphorically) and tell your friends about your money struggles. Your friends won’t know how to help you if they don’t know you need help. Do it over wine.

2. Stop Faking It
In so many areas of our lives, we have to act like we have it all together. We have to be the best mom, the best wife, the best cookie baker, in general, the best caregiver to everyone else. If you can tell your friends about an embarrassing moment, you can certainly tell your friends you can’t go to dinner this week and the real why. We are not made perfectly, so why do we feel the pressure to appear perfect. Repeat after me, “I don’t always have it together, but I do the best I can.” Don’t let society make you think everyone is out here in the world oozing perfection.

3. Open Discussion
We read articles on money, investments, real estate and we think we have no one to discuss these topics with besides a man. Men don’t know everything about money and get it wrong too. According to many studies, more women control the household budget then men do. It is important for a woman to know where the money is coming from, where it is going, how to invest, what is being invested, how to secure the family in the event of an emergency, etc. If you don’t you may be financially hurt in the future. Ask the questions because the only stupid question is an unasked one.

4. Hire A Professional
I said it once, I’ll say it twice. If you invite a stranger into your bikini area, you can invite a stranger into your banking accounts. People instantly feel judged when they talk about the mistakes they made with money. Everyone has made these same mistakes. If they hadn’t the national average credit score wouldn’t have been 640. Just like a doctor that has studied the heart, finance professionals have studied money. Finding the right one is like finding the perfect bikini waxer. The relationship is golden.

5. Have A Money Circle
People would like to keep money and friendships separate just in case something goes bad you won’t lose a friend over money. I’m not saying go into business with your friends but learn from them. If you have a friend that owns a big house, drives a luxury car, and dresses nicely ask her what financial strategies has she taken with her money. Learn from people who are doing what you want to do. Many people fear rejection and awkward situations, but the worst thing you could ever hear is NO, it won’t be the last time you will hear it either. So get over it already. Don’t let fear stop you from acquiring valuable knowledge.

Until next time frugal friends

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Our financial expert explains how to create a vision now that’ll help you achieve your financial goals in the future.

It’s almost the end of 2016, can you believe it? I don’t know about you, but I am so excited. Whether 2016 has been good, bad, overwhelming, or trying, it is all right to celebrate because you made it this far and you made it through.

Every day is a GREAT day to work on being the best version of you, financially. Often times, as it is human nature, we create doubt in ourselves by over-emphasizing our bad habits or constantly comparing our lack of achievements to our peers on Facebook. BUT…your financial journey is YOURS and it should be tackled on your own terms.

As I emphasis in my brand new eBook, Vision. Future. Reality: How to Budget Like a Boss, you are your only competition and your financial goals belong to you. It is important to remember that your own personal goals, habits, and concerns should be your guide for reaching your financial greatness, not Facebook, news stories, or other’s success.

I don’t know what your big financial goals may be, it may to be debt free, it may be to pay down your student loans, it may be saving for a down payment on a home, and it may be to reduce your shopping habit by half. Whatever your goals are, I am here to tell you, you can achieve it with a well-thought out plan.

By now, you have been adulting long enough to know New Year’s Resolutions do NOT work. We give up and revert back to whatever habit we were trying to break initially. I share with you this quote, “If you don’t have a goal, something you want to accomplish, something you want to do, you could really get lost in the darkness of the journey. THERE HAS TO BE A VISION.” You have to visualize living in your new goal, whether it is being debt free, owning a home, or mastering your boss budget. Whatever you want your life to look like once that goal is accomplished, that is the life you need to visualize daily.

This vision will push you towards your goal. Moreover, everything you need to accomplish your goals is within you already; you just have to activate your goals with a vision. You have the power to live your life out loud, to the fullest. There isn’t a need to wait until the beginning of the year to start because every new day can be a fresh start, financially.

I’ll be your accountability partner and challenge you to see it through to the end. I believe Vision + Accountability + Solid Plan = Success! Let’s do it together, because we all have goals that we want to make happen.

Let’s increase our minds, increase our bank accounts, and increase our lives. Say this aloud: I am going to be better me today because my greatness depends on it.

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Our financial guru explains how three different acts of gratitude can have a positive impact on your personal finances.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time where we spend time with friends and family and reflect on the many things we are grateful for within our lives. A good healthy dose of gratitude can impact your personal finances in a positive way. Being more grateful can increase your happy endorphins and decrease your need to spend money.

Here are three ways being more grateful will positively impact your budget:

1. Less likely to shop for things we do not need.

When we do an inventory of the all things we are grateful for, we will begin to realize all the great things we already have. We will see that we don’t need to go shopping for one more striped shirt or pair of heels.

2. Less likely to do impulsive shopping.

Impulsive shopping is based on our emotions, both good and bad. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, and to never go to the mall when you are sad. Reflecting on your gratitude balances you out. You find peace and are able to make better decisions; therefore, you won’t buy something you may regret in the future.

3. More likely to give.

When we are thankful, we tend to think outside of ourselves. We want to bless others so that they feel the same way we do. Giving does not have to be monetary; it could simply be your time. If you are really good at a particular skill, you could volunteer your services to an organization in need.

While scrolling through my timeline on Instagram, I found a quote, ‘Gratitude is Medicine”. I believe this is true. Whatever is stressing you, whether it’s your job, your family situation, or your personal finances, remember it could be worse. For instance, if you have a large sum of debt, you may be thinking there no way out of it, but be grateful for the small things, as it will bring order to the chaos. You may not be where you want to be financially; however, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope for your growth.

I also found this really cool quote about gratitude from Marelisa Fabrega, “Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given.”

Very powerful quote about life and blessings to reflect on today. There are so many things that go wrong, but there are so many more things that go right, too. Be more grateful, create more memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our financial guru shares the top 10 travel hotspots to visit this winter, and the best hacks that’ll save you money getting there.

During a conversation with a kindred spirit, I was asked, “If my income was doubled, where would I spend the extra money?” Without thinking I said, “Traveling.” If you are anything like me, you enjoy visiting iconic, historical structures, dining on native cuisine, and just being away from your everyday surroundings. Each year, top magazines publish their top ten lists of the best trips for that season. According to US News, the top ten vacations for this winter season are:

#1 Belize

#2 San Diego

#3 Santo Domingo

#4 New Orleans

#5 Tulum

#6 Quebec City

#7 Puerto Rico

#8 Vancouver

#9 Jackson Hole

#10 Costa Rica

Here are a few travel hacks to saving some money while planning your next vacation to one of the above locations:

1. Fly.com
Fly gives you a full month calendar view of airfare prices across several airlines. It allows you to book the cheapest airfare to your destination and you can choose the days to receive the lowest round trip prices. Using this site, I was able to book an $88 round trip ticket to Miami, FL on Delta Airlines.

2. Kayak
Kayak allows you to set and monitor airfare prices to anywhere in the world. Alerts are sent directly to your email. My husband and I planned a trip to Brussels, Belgium by monitoring airfare prices from Chicago, IL. For international trips, we have found success traveling to a nearby major city to reduce costs. Most of our international trips have been booked from Chicago, as Cincinnati does not always have the cheapest international airfare prices.

3. TheFlightDeal.com
The Flight Deal offers specific airfare deals between major cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia to cities aboard. These fares are not available for long, so you must act quickly with these deals. The site also focuses on ensuring you receive the most airfare mileage points.

4. Megabus
Airplane travel can be expensive because of simple supply and demand outside of our control. Remember trains and buses are great alternative methods. For instance, for a girl’s weekend trip to Chicago, I purchased a round trip ticket for $3 on Megabus! Megabus is clean, comfortable, and there is free Wi-Fi.

5. Credit Card Rewards
If you rack up enough rewards from using your credit card, you can purchase airfare, car rentals, and hotels. I was able to save my points and purchase 3 airfare tickets to Charlotte, NC, Memphis, TN, and Houston, TX on major airlines. There are a few credit cards out there that are better for racking up mileage points such as Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card, and Capital One Venture Rewards Card. Most of these cards have an annual fee that is waived in the first year; but this fee pays for itself when a trip is redeemed.

6. Airbnb
I am sure you have all heard of Airbnb. Not only have I used these services in Miami, but also in Negril, Jamaica. It has saved me tons of money, by not staying in overpriced hotels. My accommodations were clean and my host was friendly.

7. Airline Rewards Membership
Who said you are only allowed to become a dedicated member of one airline? Join them all and maximize your benefits; therefore, whichever airline has the cheaper rate at that time, you can book it and rack up mileage points. You do not have to be exclusive; dating around is a good thing in this instance.

8. Digit
This is new app that is good for savings. I use this whenever I am saving for a vacation in the future. It takes the chore out of saving because the app does it for you automatically. It’s a free app that checks your spending habits and removes money from your checking account, but it will not overdraft your account at any time.

9. Groupon Getaways
Groupon outdid itself when it created travel deals through its site. I use Groupon in two ways; the first way is to see the traveling deals out there and then I compare them to other traveling sites to ensure I am actually receiving a great deal. I booked my trip to Italy and traveled to 3 cities. The deal included travel, food and accommodations in three cities. Secondly, I use Groupon to locate fun activities to do while I am traveling to various cities. In Dubai, my husband and I were able to visit the Dubai Aquarium where I was able to swim with exotic fishes and even a few baby sharks.

Those are my top 9 hacks that I have personally used to plan a trip. Now you have all the sites, apps, and tools to book your next trip and save some money doing it. Traveling can be both affordable and fulfilling, but it does require patience and flexibility. I have always valued my experiences traveling more so than any material item I possess. Create experiences, not debt. Start saving today, be consistent and live your life out loud.

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Learn our finance guru’s top recommendations for staying out of credit card debt and keeping your credit card balances low.

 
Our finance columnist shares tips on trimming down troublesome credit card debt.
Our finance columnist shares tips on trimming down troublesome credit card debt.
The top question I receive in my email inbox or consultations meetings is around the horrible dreaded credit card debt. I usually work with people who have anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 of debt over various credit cards. It usually has taken no time to acquire, but trust me it will take time and patience to pay them all off. As a financial coach, I would like to share two things: methods for avoiding these large amounts of credit card debt, as well as methods to begin to pay down your balances. I’ll start with the latter first.
 
Paying down balances can seem like a daunting task. Negative thoughts like thinking you will never pay off the balances won’t help. I want to share with you my top strategies that has helped or worked best for my clients that are women. First, I always recommend that you cut up your card, also known as, stop using your card or remove it from your wallet. Do not acquire more debt. Secondly, take inventory of all your credit card, including interest rates, due dates, minimum balances, and current balances. Thirdly, pick one card and pay it off aggressively, but only pay the minimum on the others. Once that credit card is paid off, rinse and repeat with the others.
 
Credit cards should be used as a money management tool, not a replacement of money that is not within a checking or savings account. You have to assess your stage of responsibility with money before you start charging services and products to a credit card. Some people can handle 11 credit cards and pay everything in full each month, while others can only handle 1 credit card. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either situation, but you have to remember credit cards are tools and require a great amount of self-control.
 
With holiday spending around the corner, it’s easy to put all your purchases on a credit card and pay it off over the year, only to have the same strategy again next year. Plan ahead and don’t over extend yourself. Remember interest fees add up; it’s like giving away money to the financing company, but there is no tax deduction for your charitable contribution. If you are buying gifts this year for loved ones, buy a gift or two a week using your discretionary income (fun, no strings attachment money) if you have not already allocated a portion of your savings to holiday shopping. Stay within budget and do not accumulate excess debt that you cannot afford.
 
Lastly, a rule a thumb for credit card usage, after expenses and saving, you should have an allotted amount of discretionary money, your credit card current balance should not exceed that amount in a given month.
 
Now that’s my basic advice in a nutshell without knowing special circumstances or personal stories. Credit cards help build our purchasing power for large purchases like cars and homes. If you remember not one word, remember this key statement, “credit cards are tools or instruments to be used with discretion, not a replacement of money that does not exist in the first place.”

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The best thing about fall is its fashion, but that retail therapy can also take a toll on your budget. Our finance expert offers tricks to avoid pitfalls while still enjoying a fashionable fall treat.

Shop for fall fashion without busting your budget.
Shop for fall fashion without busting your budget.

I was at lunch with my friend the other day, and of course we could not help but talk about the all the new fall fashion trends.

Each year top fashion magazine release what’s cool this season rather it’s whimsical colors, flare bottom jeans, or chunky collared sweaters. We as consumers are convinced that somehow we have to be cool and trendy, spending our money on these new clothing items. Not true!

For the record, as a self-declared fashionista, I love shopping. I’m weird in a sense because I love touching the fabrics, the smell of new clothes, and sifting through racks of clothing to find that unbelievable deal. The clearance rack is my favorite, of course. So I definitely understand the urge to shop until you drop on the latest trends, but I would recommend only buying one trendy piece this season. As a frugal fashionista, you do not want to get in the habit of spending a lot of money for pieces you will only wear once or twice.

When looking for these trendy pieces, it is easy to go out to an expensive retailer, but let’s start the search at Forever21, H&M, or Macy’s (as they are always having a sale). No one will know that you did not spend an arm and a leg for your piece. I often wait for the end of the season sale to pick up my statement pieces. Season end sales are deeply discounted to at least 65 percent off.

This brings me to my next point of using price points while shopping. Don’t use a sale as an excuse to splurge outside of your budget. Having a spending limit will help with this endeavor. Combining price points with spending limits will definitely ensure your bank account is happy. This real-life concept is used by home buyers when selecting a home. A good realtor will not show you a home that is more than your pre-approval amount; therefore, as a frugal shopper you should not shop outside of your budget.

My plan of attack this fall season is to find the perfect pair of thigh high, suede, high-heeled boots. However, I am only willing to spend $50 for a pair. By setting this price point, I will not get distracted by anything outside of that price range. It will not be easy, but it will be worth when I have extra money for holiday shopping or trip planning.

Trust me you can do it, changing your habits and your priorities is the start to becoming a successful saver. Price pointing and spending limits will be second nature and your bank account will remain intact. It takes patience, but don’t let retailers take you out of the saving game; instead make better decisions when it comes to shopping. This way you will win every time.

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