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Fiscal Femme Fridays – July 31st Edition

The New & Improved Fiscal Femme_04.11.15

Happy Fiscal Femme Friday! We’re out to demystify the world of money and personal finance for YOU. Please share, pin, tweet, etc. whatever moves you so that we can inspire and support a new conversation and language around money together. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

5 MINUTE FINANCIAL BLISS TIP: When we first start saving it’s important to build up a rainy day or emergency fund. This is money that you put aside in case of an emergency or unexpected expense and protects you from having to take out expensive credit card debt. The first step to building up a rainy day fund is to figure out how much you want to put aside. Think through a couple of situations where you would use your emergency fund. How many months of expenses would make your feel comfortable? Don’t forget, your spending will most likely look pretty different in the case of an emergency. You’ll just want to make sure you have your fixed expenses, bills and food covered. Take 5 minutes today and figure out how much you would like to have in your rainy day fund. While you might not have that much stowed away yet, you can now make a plan to get there.

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FABULOUSLY FRUGAL: I recently started running to my gym classes and realized that this is an amazing fabulously frugal win-win situation because 1) I save $5 by not taking the subway both ways each day, 2) I get my cardio in, 3) I am warmed up and actually have a better workout once I’m in class, 4) it saves time and 5) it’s so fun to run through the city! How fabulous and frugal?! $5 a day might not sound like much, but if I work out 5x a week and run to the gym 2/3 of the year (when the weather is nice) that’s $25 per week x 35 weeks. That’s a total of $875 that I can use for something much more meaningful.

LESSON LEARNED: So you know a couple of weeks ago when I talked about conquering fear and our ever-expanding comfort zones? The lesson continues! Last week I spent three days creating videos, had so much fun and was so excited to see the finished product. When we went to edit the video we realized that the audio echoed and the footage looked pretty dark. Sounds pretty obvious but just because I did it, doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect the first try. While I felt pretty bummed at first, we researched equipment and redid the shoot on Monday with new lighting and a professional mic. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see our video, check it out! It came out great (if I do say so myself!). If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! New lesson? Plan, do and repeat until you’re happy with the result.

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First try…

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Second try. Click to watch our first video!

MONEY INSPIRATION: I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Bozhanka, the Co-Founder of Yunus&Youth, where she helps exceptional young people build impactful social businesses, anywhere in the world. The program currently has 31 fellows from 22 different countries! I have had the honor to work with them and it’s truly a spectacular group of entrepreneurs. I hope you enjoy getting to know Bozhanka!

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What’s your #1 Frugal Joy?
Summer Yoga Series in the park.

Do You have a ‘Money Motto?
Don’t spend money you don’t have.

Best money advice you ever got?
Budget and keep track of your expenses. It’s so easy to get carried away and I have my impulse buying moments, so this helps me stay on course.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
Hmm it really varies. I like going away for the weekend whenever possible, so sipping a drink at a bar near the beach is my optimal scenario :) Other than that, I’d usually be just spending some time with friends. I have some work-Saturday nights, it can be a pretty productive period as there are no distractions around.

What are you most excited about right now?
We have just started two new programs at Yunus&Youth and I get to work with some brilliant young people. I am really excited to see how they continue developing and creating impact in the upcoming months. Also, my best friend is getting married in August and I am her maid of honor. I am flying back to Europe soon and can’t wait to see her and my family back home.

How can people connect with you?
Email is the best: bozhanka@yunusandyouth.com.

DON’T MISS: The video launch of the 30 Day Money Cleanse is this Monday! Sign up to reserve your seat. It’s going to be incredible! You will save much more than the cost of the program in the 30 days and your savings over the long-term will be tremendous!

I’m offering Fiscal Femme readers two ways to save big up front on either program or both programs – which is what I call the financial wellness double whammy!

1. Sign up with friends. For each friend that signs up for either program, both you and your friend will receive $20 back after signing up. Everything is better with friends and if you have enough friends sign up, the program will be completely FREE. More friends = more $$$.

2. Sign up for the Savvy Investor Course. If you sign up for the Savvy Investor course you will receive the 30 Day Money Cleanse for FREE.

The one thing you need before you can start investing

If I have you excited and ready to start investing but you aren’t sure exactly where or how to buy these so called investments, you have come to the right place.

The one thing you need before you can start to actually invest is a brokerage account. At its simplest, a brokerage account is a site that lets you buy and sell investments as you please. You open an account with the company of your choosing, you transfer over the money you’d like to invest and voila! You are ready to start investing.

There are a bunch of brokerage companies out there. Here are some important factors to consider before you choose one:

Fees / Commissions: While these types of sites make our investing lives a breeze, they aren’t only doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. There are various fees associated with investing. Different sites have different fee structures. Some might charge a monthly fee for maintaining the account and in addition, others charge a percentage or dollar amount per trade (each time you buy or sell an investment) depending on the investment type. For example, Fidelity charges $7 per trade. If you are investing a large amount of money, $7 might be no big deal, but if you are investing $100 a month, that’s 7% of your investment going toward fees right off the bat. Vanguard offers fee-free trading for index funds (we’ll get to what these are later) but if you decide to invest primarily in index funds like I do, that’s a great deal!

Account Minimums: Some accounts will have a minimum requirement amount and anytime you go below that, you will be charged a fee. If you are just getting started and aren’t ready to put that much money in the market, there are plenty of options that have no minimum requirement.

Account Features: If you are going to be spending time on the site, you’ll want it to be straight forward and easy to use. You can also look into additional features that are offered. Are there helpful resources, can you utilize online banking, and how is the customer service?

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Side note: While a brokerage account is needed to buy and sell investments as you choose, you technically can also go directly to a specific company or mutual fund to buy their shares or bonds. 

Investments 101: The Building Blocks

Before we get started investing, you probably want to know what those wonderful investments might be. Lucky for you, all investments can be broken down into the following three categories: cash, bonds and stocks. Understand these and you have the building blocks to every investment out there! Not bad right?

CASH: Cash is well, cash or anything that can be converted to cash, including your savings and checking accounts, money market accounts and cash that you have in your wallet or under your mattress. Cash is money that you have access to right now. An investment in cash is not risky because unless you spend it, your amount of cash will not decrease. That being said, the amount of cash you have won’t increase very much either!

BOND: A bond is basically an I.O.U. When you buy a bond, you are lending money to a government, corporation or other entity known as the issuer. A corporation may need money to expand into new markets or grow its current business and the government needs money for everything from infrastructure to social programs. Through the public market, thousands of investors can each lend a portion of that capital through bonds.

In return for that money, the issuer pays a specified rate of interest (also known as the coupon) over the life of the bond and repays the face value of the bond (amount you lent / the principal) when it matures, or comes due. This is why bonds are called fixed income securities – you know the exact amount of cash you’ll get back if you hold it to maturity.

Bonds can be also called bills, notes, debt securities, or debt obligations.

STOCK / EQUITY: At some point, companies need to raise money to grow, expand and fund new projects. They typically have two choices for raising money:

1) They can borrow (see bonds above)
2) They can sell shares of the company to investors (essentially an ownership percentage)

When you own a share of stock, you are a part owner of the company and you have a claim (most likely a small claim) on all assets and earnings. As company’s earnings improve, or are expected to improve, investors are willing to pay more for that stock so it increases in value. Stocks are traded on exchanges all over the world such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ. They are identified by their ticker symbol. For example, Apple is identified as AAPL.

You make money from stock investments through capital appreciation which is an increase in share price as well as through dividends which are a portion of corporate profits paid to investors.


How much money do you really need to start investing?

When it comes to investing, I’ve noticed that one of the most common reasons people say that they can’t start is because they don’t have enough money. The world of investing may make you think of Wall Street, stock brokers in fancy suits and piles of cash that you don’t have but I’m here to tell you that those images couldn’t be further from the truth. Technically, you could start investing with as little as a penny! Crazy right?

We are going to talk about risk in more detail a bit later but all investments come with some degree of risk. That means that when you invest in something, you can’t know for sure what amount of money you can sell it for at any given point in time. For this reason, I recommend keeping your rainy day fund or emergency fund in a high interest savings account, which is essentially cash so that you can access it in its entirety at any given point in time.

How much money you decide to invest is completely personal. It will depend on your risk personality which means how you feel about taking on risk. Are you risk averse or risk tolerant? It will also depend on when you plan to use your money. You can afford to take on more risk for money you plan to use fifty years from now than money that you plan to use in the next five years.

That being said, we learn by doing. You can learn a lot by putting aside a small amount of money to invest as a learning tool. That way, you can experience what it is like to open up a brokerage account, buy an investment and track its progress. Like I mentioned earlier, your learning bucket does not have to be that big. For example, you can buy one share of the Vanguard 500 Index Fund for $194 (as of July 18th). When you invest in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, you are investing in the 500 largest companies in the United States. Think Apple, Microsoft, Google and many companies you recognize and use products of every day. If you owned one share of that fund, you own a piece, albeit a small one, of the largest 500 companies in the US.  All for $194. That’s pretty cool!

How much money do you need to start investing_Money Coach_Knowing Your Worth_the Fiscal Femme

My #1 Investing Tip

This month I’m out to demystify the world of investing. Why?! Because I know how important it is for you to get your earn on. Why it is important, you say? Great question!

Don’t you want your money to grow while you sleep, travel and have fun? If you thought investing was only for the rich and super money savvy, think again. You don’t need much at all to start investing, but I’ll tell you more about that in a later post.

If I had you at ‘money growth,’ you are probably ready for my #1 investing tip. It’s quite simple actually – just get started! Your money can’t work for you if you’re only thinking about investing, you have to actually start for it to work!

If you’ve known you should be investing but something has been keeping you from getting started, I don’t blame you! This is not something we learn about in school and if you’ve ever tried to research it yourself, you probably experienced information overload. No wonder we are so scared of making a mistake.

When it comes to our money (and life), we often want to feel 100% prepared and ready before we get going on something. Guess what? You can always know more and prepare more so at some point you just have to take action. Get started today by committing to join me on an investing journey this month. I’ll be posting on Mondays and Wednesdays, breaking down the basics so you can get your earn on! I hope you join me.

My #1 Investing Tip_Get Started_Knowing Your Worth_the Fiscal Femme_Money Coach

Fiscal Femme Fridays – July 17th Edition

The New & Improved Fiscal Femme_04.11.15

Happy Fiscal Femme Friday! We’re so excited to be back to demystifying the world of money and personal finance for YOU. Please share, pin, tweet, etc. whatever moves you so that we can inspire and support a new conversation and language around money together. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

5-MINUTE FINANCIAL BLISS TIP: Face the numbers! Is there something in your money life that you’ve been avoiding because you are terrified of what you might find? Maybe it’s taking a look at a certain credit card statement, checking your credit score or even writing down what you spend in a money journal. While avoiding the numbers might feel easier, would you believe me if I told you that it’s actually causing you a tremendous amount of stress? Even more, what if you found that the numbers were a whole lot less terrifying than what you’ve imagined? Facing the numbers is just about gathering information. Without them, you’re completely powerless to take any positive action. Take 5 minutes today and face whatever number you’ve been avoiding. Once you know what’s going on, you’ll be armed with the information to make a plan and move forward. Remember my favorite Barbara Stanny quote – “Our degree of resistance around money is proportional to the degree of power available to us on the other side of that resistance.” The good news is that the more you’ve been avoiding it, the more you have to gain from it!

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FABULOUSLY FRUGAL: Being fabulously frugal doesn’t only apply to the day-to-day. We can be fabulously frugal when it comes to our summer travel too! If you missed it, check out my post on how to Save Big with 10 Fabulously Frugal Travel Tips. One that might surprise you is to share whatever special occasion you are celebrating with hotels and restaurants. C’mon, you are most likely celebrating something! If it’s your anniversary, birthday, bestie, or promotion trip, make sure to share it so hotels and restaurants can celebrate with you!

LESSON LEARNED: When it comes to our money and our lives in general, I have learned that what you are most scared of is exactly what you should be doing. I know… probably not what you want to hear from me today. Just like facing the number you’ve been most avoiding, will bring you the most financial bliss, doing what you have most avoided doing will bring about the most positive impact in your life. For me, the thing I’ve been avoiding like the plague is video. Clients, friends, mentors, and every article I seem to pick up say that video is so important for connecting with people, providing effective content and growing your business. As I was completely terrified of being on video, I naturally came up with every excuse in the book to put this off.

Before we left for our honeymoon, I finally had had enough with the excuses, committed to conquering this fear and decided to take my business to the next level. Conveniently, this fear conquering would have to take place in a month when we got back from our trip. The far off date got closer and closer and this week, some amazing coach buddies came over to shoot the video version of our ‘Finance Your Dream Life’ and ‘Snag Your Dream Job workshops.’ I am excited to report that my first video experience was not nearly as scary as I had imagined and we actually had a ton of fun filming! What I had feared most turned out to be a blast, opened up wonderful opportunity for me and my business and no longer haunts my dreams! We will be creating video again today and that nagging fear is completely gone. It’s incredible how our comfort zone expands so quickly!

Lesson Learned_Fiscal Femme FridaysDanielle, Jill and I having some fun while filming.

MONEY INSPIRATION: I’m so excited to introduce you to my wonderful, beautiful, generous and talented friend, Stephanie Abrams. Steph is a woman to watch. She co-founded Social Fly, a social media marketing and PR agency and in what spare time she has is planning her upcoming wedding. Not only is Steph super business savvy, she’s money savvy as well! Get some of her best tips in our interview below.

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What’s your #1 Frugal Joy?
Nothing makes me happier than the smell of sun screen and fresh air. Now that it’s summer, I appreciate every moment I get to spend outside.  There is something about the smell of sunscreen that makes me feel so alive and excited.

Do You have a ‘Money Motto?
Always look for the deal! Rarely will I ever buy anything full price.

Best money advice you ever got?
Start saving for a downpayment on a house or apartment now.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
Now that it’s warm out, you can find me out and about on a Saturday night (finally)!  My fiancé and I typically go to Long Island on the weekend to spend time with family and friends.

What are you most excited about right now? 
I am most excited about planning my wedding and I get excited every time I book a vendor and get a great deal!

Fiscal Femme Fridays_Steph Abrams Engagement_Money Inspiration

How can people connect with you?
You can follow me on instagram and twitter @StephJillAbrams or email me any time Steph@socialflyny.com.

DON’T MISS: Learn how writer and founder of 30-Nothings, Jessie Rosen, used my money principles to save up for her dream vacation. Even better, find out what she calls the easiest vacation money saving tip in the world!

I’m really excited to announce that the new and improved VIDEO version of the 30 Day Money Cleanse will launch August 3rd and that the BRAND NEW Savvy Investor Course will launch September 8th. I’m offering Fiscal Femme readers two ways to save big on either program or both programs – which is what I call the financial wellness double whammy!

1. Sign up with friends. For each friend that signs up for either program, both you and your friend will receive $20 back after signing up. Everything is better with friends and if you have enough friends sign up, the program will be completely FREE.

2. Sign up for the Savvy Investor Course. If you sign up for the Savvy Investor course before July 31st, you will receive the 30 Day Money Cleanse for FREE.

And we’re back!

Justin and I are back from our honeymoon extravaganza and we brought back lots of amazing memories and stories. I practiced my meditation on gratitude throughout the trip which was absolutely wonderful and both Justin and I both kept a daily gratitude journal where we’d share three things that we were thankful for each day. Sometimes we surprised each other, sometimes we made each other laugh but it was always a really fun question that I looked forward to everyday day.

As our honeymoon progressed, I noticed that we both became a little bit more relaxed and happy each day. By the end, none of life’s little stresses were able to shake us. Late train? No problem. Waiter no where to be found? That’s ok, we’ll just hang and enjoy. We just were happy happy happy.

Getting off of our return flight at Newark feeling so in love and completely blissful, I decided that this is something that I plan on keeping as we transition back to our day-to-day life in New York.

When I thought more about it, I really got present to the cost that stress and fear play in our everyday lives. They affect our relationships, our happiness and even our health. All for what? Nothing that I can think of! How silly!

While I’m sure it will be a challenge (probably even a multiple times a day challenge!), I’ve decided to let go of stress and fear in my life. I want to enjoy life each day as much as I do when I’m on vacation. When you think about it, most of us spend a whole lot more of our life in the day-to-day than we do on vacation. Why waste it?

And we're back_Knowing Your Worth_the Fiscal Femme_Emerald Grotto

Save Big with these 10 Fabulously Frugal Travel Tips

As Justin and I traveled around for our honeymoon, the money coach in me couldn’t help but pick up on some great fabulously frugal travel tips. We incorporated many of the items on this list into our travels but a few of them were epic fails. Don’t worry, I’ll share all about that too!

Now remember, fabulously frugal means that you are either maintaining or increasing the fabulousness of your trip but for less cost. It’s a fun game that you can play in every area of your life, including travel. With the money you save, you can extend your trip, add something fun to the agenda or save up for something else.

I hope this list of 10 fabulously frugal travel tips helps you save big!

1. Use those points! 
If you don’t ever use your points, you’ve probably racked up a good amount of them by now.  While points are not free money because you’ve paid for them and they have value, they are a great way to pay for flights, hotels or fun upgrades cash-free. All points are not created equal. Definitely do some research to see where your points will best serve you. For example, with flights, points will vary based on date and which airports you fly to and from. Treat it like a game where the goal is to get the most value for your points.

2. Share your special occasion.
Justin and I told everyone we were on our honeymoon. We got lots of wine and champagne, chocolates, room upgrades and special treatment. While you might not be on your honeymoon, there is most likely some type of special occasion you are celebrating. Is it a birthday, anniversary or even career celebration trip? Definitely share that with restaurants and hotels so that they can celebrate with you!

Save Big with these 10 Fabulously Frugal Travel Tips_Celebrate_Money Coach

3. Use those frugal joys.
Remember your frugal joys? The things that make you really happy but are inexpensive or free? They still work while you are on vacation. Everything that you do on your vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. If you love nature at home, I bet you’d love it while traveling too. Make sure to use those frugal joys to maximize your happiness per dollar.

Save Big with these 10 Fabulously Frugal Travel Tips_Frugal Joy_Money Coach

4. Look for free perks.
Look for hotels that offer free perks that you know you will use. Think free wi-fi, free breakfast and even free transfers from the airport. Those are items that you would otherwise be paying for that you now get for the price of your hotel room. If you are torn between two hotels go with the one that has more items included!

5. Stay in funky places.
While it’s wonderful to stay in luxurious hotel, depending on where you are, you may be able to find fun and different places to stay for much less. While in Piedmont, Justin and I spent a few nights at one of the vineyards we were visiting. The family who ran the winery made it feel like home, a delicious homemade breakfast was included, we had a huge room, free wifi, free wine and their beautiful vineyards were at our doorstep all for ~$90 per night. We also met many travelers on the trip who used and raved about Airbnb. They were able to stay in beautiful homes with a washer / dryer, kitchen and plenty of space for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

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6. Get a foreign transaction fee free credit card.
Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee. This means that you get charged a fee for every purchase made on your credit card while in a different country. Rates vary but regardless, a fee for every purchase can really add up! There are many credit cards available that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Once you have one, you can use that exclusively as your travel credit card. Something to note: While there are American Express cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee, we found that most places we traveled did not accept American Express.

7. Research, research, research.
Research takes time but it’s so worth it! Instead of clicking on the most famous and well-known tour in the area, with a little digging around you might find one that’s even more fabulous for one third of the cost. It’s easy to find the most expensive restaurants in any given town but it takes some time and research to find the place with the unbelievable food that is really inexpensive.

Research also helps you decide where you want to be spend more and where you want to be spending less. If you can find restaurants or hotels that look amazing and are cheap at your first stop but not at your second stop, you now know that you will probably want to plan to spend more in the second place. If you plan to do any shopping research is also really helpful. You can find out which shops are selling things that are actually homemade and which are jacking up the price for tourists.

8. Consider booking through a travel agent to get free stuff.
Sometimes travel agents get better prices and offer great freebies if you go through them to book a flight, hotel or in our case, a cruise. Not only did we get a much better rate than if we had booked the cruise on our own, we also got a substantial on-board credit that we used for some glorious massages and they gave us a nice bottle of wine and a few desserts along the way. Definitely check out what options are available through an agent and compare their offers with what you could get on your own.

9. Pack light!
This is one area that we COMPLETELY failed. Not only did we start out with wayyy too much luggage, it continued to expand and expand as we shopped. Too much luggage might sound like more of a nuisance than a cost factor but take it from me, it will cost you everywhere! First and most obvious are flights. If you are over the baggage limit due to weight or number of items, it’s going to cost you. Second, if you have so much luggage that you can’t handle it on your own, you will have to tip people or pay people to move it every time you change locations. Third, it takes away some of your flexibility which can also increase the cost of travel. Justin and I took the train a couple of times and it was quite rigorous to get our luggage to the platform, up the stairs and then to the correct car of the train. While most of the trip we rented a car, we opted out of the train a few times for more expensive options so that we didn’t have to go through the strain again!

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Fun side note: people laughed at us all the time for our luggage. Justin got in the habit of telling them we were only away for the weekend which got even more laughs and made us a few new friends.

10. Follow the reviews rather than the star ratings.
During our trip we stayed at fabulous two star hotels as well as incredible five star hotels. The one thing all the great hotels had in common were great reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. Higher star ratings typically meant more expensive hotels but the low stars ratings with great reviews were also great hotels but a whole lot cheaper. If you are looking to save on hotels, follow the reviews rather than the stars. You can find some wonderful hotels that are very reasonably priced. If you’re looking for the highest level of luxury, follow both!

Protect Yourself: Everything You Need to Know About Auto Insurance

Protect Yourself_Everything You Need to Know About Auto Insurance_Knowing Your Worth_Fiscal Femme

This month we are demystifying the world of insurance and will tell you all that you need  to know about the different types of insurance so that you know what they are, how they work and can decide if they make sense for you, specifically.

Lets talk auto insurance! Auto insurance protects people in the case of an accident or damage to their or others’ vehicles. The policyholder pays premiums or payments to the auto insurance company and in exchange the insurance company covers any damages so that the policyholder doesn’t have to pay out of pocket.

Premium amounts or the amount you have to pay the insurance company for coverage varies depending age, gender, driving record and many other factors. Many states require that you have a minimum amount of insurance coverage but many people opt to purchase more.

Here are a couple helpful terms:

Deductible: Just like with other types of insurance, the deductible on auto insurance is the amount you pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. Policies with lower deductibles typically are more expensive but before you opt for a high deductible policy to save money, make sure you can afford the deductible if something should happen.

Minimums: The minimum amount of auto insurance you are required to have by law. This will vary by state.

Another important thing to note is that auto insurance is often made up of several components, including:

Liability coverage: Protects the insured if there are claims made for medical care or damage.

Collision coverage: Covers damages to an insured vehicle in the case of a collision.

Medical payments coverage: Provides coverage for medical payments in the case of an accident or collision.

Uninsured or under insured motorist coverage: This covers losses incurred by the insured if there are injuries or damages from someone who is not insured or under insured.

Other-than-collision coverage: Covers losses that are associated with anything other than a collision such as fire, theft, falling objects, etc.)

Make sure to factor in your state’s minimum requirements, the various components of coverage, deductibles and a premium amount that you are comfortable with in order to find the auto insurance policy that makes the most sense for you.

Protect Yourself_Everything You Need to Know About Auto Insurance

And we’re off!

Justin and I took off on our honeymoon Monday night and will be traveling through Greece and Italy for the next month. Ah! I could not be more excited and promise to share lots of pictures and stories!

I’m going to be starting a new practice while we’re away where I’ll meditate on gratitude for 10 minutes each day. After, I’ll write down three things I’m grateful for and will take note of the experience. I think it’s going to feel pretty spectacular but I’ll let you know what I find. If you’re interested, feel free to join me in this new abundant practice!

On a related note, I’m also going to be posting frugal joys of ours and those we meet through out our travels. Don’t forget to join the frugal joy campaign where we’re celebrating things that are free or inexpensive that make us really happy. Just post your photos and videos with the tag #FrugalJoy to share! I can’t wait to hear your ideas!


And we're off! Knowing Your Worth_Fiscal Femme__Honeymoon