Happy Fiscal Femme Friday! We are 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: I’m a big believer of having a monthly money practice. Just a scheduled time each month where you take a look at your money life to see where you stand and what, if anything you want to adjust for next month. While your monthly practice can grow and change to fit what works best for you, I have something that you can try that will only take 5 minutes. Print out your most recent credit card or debit card statement (whichever you do most of your spending on) and look through each item. First, it’s great to check the statement for errors or reminders of charges you meant to cancel or negotiate away. Second, you can see how each expense sits with you. Which make your stomach turn? Which make you feel happy and abundant? Which do you regret? Which were worth it? You can mark different categories with different colors. Take 5 minutes today to print out your most recent credit card statement and go through it line by line. You will be surprised by what you uncover!
FABULOUSLY FRUGAL: I’m always looking for more ways to increase my lifestyle or fabulous-ness for the same or less cost. Almost a year ago, I discovered a company that helps me do that by offering private in-home dining with great chefs for less than it would cost me to go out to eat in New York City. The chef brings the ingredients, cooks the food and cleans up. The best part is that when you eat at home, you get to enjoy nicer wine for less. It’s fabulously frugal x 2. Kitchensurfing had a huge part in making my bachelorette fabulously frugal. We were able to have the entire weekend catered for less than $85 / person and the food was phenomenal. Not too shabby!
LESSON LEARNED: With the sad news that B.B. King, the king of blues, passed away I was reminded of a pretty epic story where my Dad taught me a hugely important life lesson. Way back when, my Dad took me on a trip to look at colleges. When we were driving from school to school, a B.B. King song came on the radio and they announced he was performing at a sold out concert that night in Richmond which happened to be our next stop. My Dad said, “do you know who B.B. King is? He’s a legend. The king of blues. We have to go to that concert.” I honestly had no idea who he was but I got excited because my Dad was so excited! When we got to our hotel, the Jefferson, there was B.B. King’s giant tour bus. He was staying our hotel! My Dad asked the receptionist about tickets and she pointed us to a man who was walking through the lobby, which turned out to be B.B.’s manager. He said there were no tickets left, that the show was completely sold out and then scurried away in a hurry.
Later that night, we were sitting in the beautiful hotel bar (I was drinking a soda of course!) and B.B.s manager walked past us to head out of the hotel. My Dad looked up, waved and looked back to me. Then something incredible happened…. The manager walked over and said, “there will be tickets waiting for you at will call.” What?! My Dad didn’t want to get my hopes up too much so he warned that it might not be real and who knows, maybe the man wasn’t even B.B.’s manager. When we got to will call at the theater, the woman at the counter shuffled around a bit and then pull out a white envelope. In it were two tickets for seats front and center and also backstage passes to meet B.B. King. After the incredible show, where B.B. had people dancing and screaming in the aisles, my Dad and I were of the lucky few who got to go hang out with B.B. in his tour bus. I got to hold Lucille, his guitar, sat by his side and we chatted about life.
What I learned from my Dad on that trip has been one of the most valuable lessons of my life. Always ask. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe they’ll say no. So what? More often than you may think, you’ll get a big huge YES and will find yourself sitting on a tour bus next to the king of blues himself.
MONEY INSPIRATION: This week I’m excited to share a very inspirational savvy spender with you. She teaches how to pay ourselves first, shares some fabulous travel tips and is an incredible example of how prioritizing our spending works to maximize our happiness and reach our goals. I hope you learn as much from her as I did! Here’s our interview.
Overall spending motto: I try to be balanced in everything I do. So, I spend, but not frivolously, and save, but not obsessively. Extremes have no place in my life. I also believe in the power of small rewards, and have built in ways to reward myself in life by staying in budget.
Frugal joys: Finding less expensive ways to live my existing life make me very happy. For example, I’m very social and used to meet up for drinks with friends nearly every night of the week, unless I was working late. A few months ago, instead of going out for drinks on a Friday night, a few friends and I decided to go to my house instead. Now, a small group of friends comes over to my place every Friday – we enjoy a few bottles of wine that are nicer and less expensive than what we’d have at a bar and decompress in a more relaxed environment. I owe my sanity to those Friday evenings. I also really like cooking – I find it relaxing. So I cook for myself often instead of eating out and ordering in.
Dining / groceries: Monthly spend, approximately $500. I cook a lot and I buy my groceries from Whole Foods, Fresh Direct and the local farmer’s market not too far away when I get a chance. I find that buying local and in-season helps me stay in budget and, if I do, I treat myself to cheese and a bottle of wine.
Drinks: Monthly spend, included in dining. If I’m drinking, I’m likely also eating. When I lived in Switzerland, I drank wine instead of ordering cocktails. I enjoyed the taste more, thought it was healthier and saved money because wine was a fraction of the price of cocktails. I’m not sure that I save money in New York drinking wine instead of cocktails
Beauty: Monthly spend, approximately $300. My biggest beauty extravagance is a $99 biweekly blow out at John Barrett Salon. Otherwise, I keep beauty spending to a minimum. I’ve recently become very cautious about spending money on beauty products because I seem to throw out a box-full of expired beauty products every time I move. Now, I go to the dermatologist for facials, buy my face products at my dermatologist and use coconut oil for just about everything.
Shopping: Monthly spend, unknown. I feel as though I’m constantly (window) shopping – I suppose that’s the gift and curse of living in New York. Years ago, I was very worried that I was a spendthrift and would spend all of the money I’ve ever earned on a collection of clothing and have no savings for retirement. I try to be thoughtful when I shop instead of restricting myself too much. I implemented a 24-hour rule on expensive items and edit my closet, either giving away or selling clothing (via Material Wrld or ebay) I no longer want. Recently, I’ve started purchasing art. I work with my sister, an art dealer, to research and get the best prices on good investment pieces and, per her advice, I only buy things I absolutely love. It can be expensive but it makes me happy.
Gym: Monthly spend approximately $100. I used to have an Equinox membership but forced myself to cancel it when I didn’t go for two weeks in a row. Instead, I use the gym in my apartment building, go to a local yoga/pilates studio for classes and I treat myself by taking evening dance classes at Alvin Ailey.
Transit: Monthly spend approximately $250. I have an unlimited monthly metro card that I pay for pre-tax through my firm. When it comes to cabs, I try to take them only late at night and never to/from work. It’s harder in the winter. I luckily have an amazing family that lives close by so I often get rides to/from the airport – after spending nearly $100 to get to Newark from my house (on a flight that was only $50 cheaper than a flight from JFK), I’ve been booking nearly all of my flights to leave from JFK and have asked a family member to drive me to/from the airport.
Travel: Yearly spend, unknown – maybe $10,000? Maybe more? I spend a lot of money on travel and the amount changes every year. Traveling makes me so happy – I get to see friends, make new ones, experience different cultures, marvel at things. It pulls me out of my routine, which can get very mundane to me very quickly and it keeps me sane. Also, I do some travel writing and with my best friend have a travel company called Wanderlust Simply. So, I excuse my travel spending by mentioning that I have a business interest in traveling often. There are a million ways I stay in budget when I travel and travel luxuriously for less – too many to list here. A few quick ones: (1) If I am traveling to visit friends, I stay with friends as a house guest. It allows me spend more time with them and to save on accommodations. (2) For each trip, I come up with a comprehensive budget that I discuss in advance with my travel companion in advance. It requires research but I realize once I put the work in before the trip, it is easy to stay in budget on the trip. (3) I am loyal to Delta Airlines, and my loyalty has been rewarded by first class upgrades, complimentary meals and drinks, companion tickets (two tickets for the price of one) and free flights. Within the last twelve months, I’ve flown first class to Mexico City, Colombo, Puerto Rico Los Angeles and many other domestic destinations. Yet, I haven’t paid for a first class ticket in years.
Apartment: Monthly spend approximately $200. I don’t have cable; I watch my favorite shows via HBOGo and Hulu. I monitor my electric/gas bill very closely and try to make changes so that utilities don’t get out of control. We have floor to ceiling length windows in our living room and don’t use curtains, so heating and cooling the apartment can get expensive.
Savings: Monthly spend, approximately $5500. My saving motto is to “pay myself first,” so I contribute to my 401k pre-tax and the amount I want to save monthly is deposited directly into my money market account. I learned early on that was the only way for me to save money. It’s somehow impossible for me to transfer money from my checking to my savings accounts, and if it’s in my checking account, I will spend it.
Debt: Monthly spend, approximately $1500. I’m paying off my law school loans on an expedited schedule. For the last few years, I’ve used my tax refund to pay off my loans. It helped me pay down some of the principle and now I’m seeing significant progress towards repayment. My goal is to have them paid off within six years.
DON’T MISS: On Tuesday June 2nd, the Young Professionals Committee of Ellevate will be hosting ‘Money Demystified: Personal finance made clear, simple and relevant. I’ll be taking everyone through an interactive workshop that gets to the bottom of what you need to know to create a spending plan that works with your lifestyle, doesn’t feel restricting and puts you on track to achieve your most coveted goals. Join us at the beautiful District Cowork for this special event. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served.
Don’t forget join the #frugaljoy campaign where we’re celebrating the things that make you really happy that are free or inexpensive. Just post your photos and videos with the tag #frugaljoy and check out what others are posting. Here’s a #frugaljoy from last week’s money inspiration, Lauren Cecchi: