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Authors Posts by Emerald Sparks

Emerald Sparks

Emerald Sparks
Emerald Sparks is a Financial Strategist and Founder of Emerald Sparks Ltd, a personal finance consulting company where she teaches and motivates professionals and business owners to solve the misconceptions about money. She has curated personalized financial strategies based on individual’s goals, obstacles, and habits. In 2016, she authored a short-read eBook entitled Vision. Future. Reality: How to Budget like a Boss to help educate and illustrate the importance of vision budgeting. She can be contacted at or

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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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Celebrating the holidays can add up quickly. Our new finance columnist shares some helpful spending hacks for the holiday season that’ll prevent surprise attacks to your budget this year.

Our finance columnist helps break down your budget for the holidays.
Our finance columnist helps break down your budget for the holidays.

Fall is here. Not only does that mean the leaves are the beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and red, the air is crisp, and the new perfect ensemble is now a sweater dress and riding boots, but also fall, October, specifically, marks the beginning of the Holiday Season.

Big dollars are going to be spent at grocery stores and online retailers for Halloween costumes and candies, Thanksgiving turkeys and parties, Black Friday shopping mall sales, as well as Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah gift giving. Oh and we cannot forget New Year’s Eve parties, decorations, and all the airline tickets to be with family for the Holidays.

These fall Holidays alone can disrupt anyone’s normal budget far worse than daily trips to Starbucks and your favorite lunch café. Some people spend thousands of dollars over the course of these three awesome months than in any other month of the year. I am here to give you a few spending hacks to keep your budget and your wallets happier during this time of the year. If we plan for the Holiday season throughout the year, we place ourselves in a better position. Luckily, these dates happen the same time every year, so that should eliminate the surprise a bit.

Here are my top spending hacks for the holiday season:

· Beginning with Halloween, families can save tons of money using materials around the house and a bit of creativity.
Utilizing old clothing that can be cut, glued, and dyed will eliminate wasting money on costumes that will only be worn once. If your family passes out delightful treats, candies can be purchased in bulk at Sam’s Club, Costco, or Dollar Tree (everything here is $1).

· Make Thanksgiving dinner and parties potluck style.
Family members can combine their resources to buy food; therefore, the responsibility does not fall onto one or two family members. Uncle John can bring the cranberries, while Aunt Judy brings the potato salad. Remember John and Judy did not have to cook it, but at least they can contribute by purchasing the ingredients.

· Black Friday is only for deals on electronics.
The best sale for retailers such as department stores, is the week before Black Friday. Simple.

· For Holiday gift giving, create an additional savings account where you contribute $50 every week to Holiday spending. If you start Week 1, by Week 47 (the week before Black Friday), you would have saved $2,350.

Those are a few spending hacks that should keep you on the right track with your budget. Remember it is important to be in charge of your budget and spending at all times of the year. Seasonal events can be less of a burden is planning throughout the year is a priority. Happy savings!

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September is National Literacy Month, so our new finance columnist explains how to celebrate the magic of a good book while saving a few bucks!

Cincy Chic's new finance columnist Emerald Athena Tucker. Photo: Lawrence Tucker
Cincy Chic’s new finance columnist Emerald Athena Sparks. Photo: Lawrence Tucker

With September being National Literacy Month, it is hard not to talk about books. For more than 50 years, book lovers have come together to share their passion of reading. The month has turned into a global movement to end illiteracy and expand learning opportunities for children and adults all over the world.

In true budget-friendly fashion, let’s explore how to buy that new found bestseller or “gotta have it” novel for the fraction of the cost. Below are some tips to buying books for a lower price.

If you are an avid library card holder, you know that the local branch may or may not have every book that hits Amazon’s Best Seller or Best Books of the Year So Far listing; therefore, the library is not always a dollar saver, but is a good place to start. Check out your neighborhood library and its reservation system. This is a huge database containing many, many books for free.

If a library is not close, there are online retailers. Usually, Amazon offers four formats to purchase a novel, Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, and Audible. More than likely, the Kindle version is your cheapest choice, even beating the Used book price plus shipping charges. Additionally, don’t forget to peruse through the Today’s Deals section of Amazon, you could score a book for $0.99.

Also, and are both great sites for scoring top name books for $0.99. Each site offers coupons and flash deals to further rack up the savings on your beloved novels. At, teachers and educators receive a 15% discount.

As an alternative to the great online retailers, avid readers can opt into playing it closer to home. A great way to expand your reading list is to swap books with friends. Our friends are often an untapped resource. Friends belong to book clubs, get exclusive offers through their network, and work at really great places with awesome perks. Your friend could have access to that book you have been dying to read. Just ask around and treat your friends like the library. Trading books with one another is a great way to save money on book purchases.

If all else fails, check out secondhand booksellers and give yourself a budget. Start with a spending limit of $25 and spend no more than that in a given month for books. If it would help, bring a friend to keep you accountable. Sticking to spending limits can be difficult if you are not accustomed to the behavior. Having a trusty accountability partner can help until the natural willpower kicks in.

From library cards to secondhand bookstores, celebrating National Literacy Month can still be fun and friendly to your bank account!