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Frugal Joys – My TRIBE & My New Productivity Routine

My close friend and founder of Bird & Stone, Elana and I met at an event about a year ago. We connected immediately and since have spent hours and hours brainstorming and dreaming over hot tea and Thai food. What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? One thing we found that many successful entrepreneurs have in common is a group of fellow entrepreneurs to turn to who experience or have experienced similar struggles, successes and setbacks. A group of people who really “gets it” and can support you through thick and thin. From this concept, we created the TRIBE, which is a group of incredible entrepreneurs from all different industries that meets monthly. We share, ask for / give advice and promote one another.

Elana shared an article with me recently that has enhanced my productivity life crazy! She knew from TRIBE that I was really working on how to best manage and budget my time. I was experiencing the futility of a never-ending to-do list and feeling like I had so much left to accomplish after a long day of work.

This article, The Most Important 20 Minutes of the Day talks about taking 20 minutes each morning to write a to-do list of the 6 most important things you want to accomplish in your business and the 2 most important things you want to accomplish in your personal life that day. On the weekend he switches it to 6 things to accomplish in your personal life and 2 things to accomplish in your business.

This system has absolutely changed my life! I now wake up, let the puppy out, make a cup of coffee and then sit down to read my business charter, which is similar to my mission or what I’m about and up to with Knowing Your Worth. From there, I create my list of the most important needle-moving things I can do for my business and personal life that day. It’s been completely freeing, superbly productive and very exciting to see all the success coming from it!

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Save Animals with Every Step: ResQ Walk

When it comes to helping others, we often make the choice between donating our time, our money or some combination of both. When a friend told me about ResQ Walk, I fell in love with the concept because you can be doing good for organizations you believe in while doing what you already have to do – walk around!

How it works

Each week, a pool of money is donated to the app. You can see the total each week on the app’s main screen.

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You can then choose from many animal rescue organizations and earn them money from that pool with each step you take. The more you walk, the more money they receive.

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The app will actually track how far and long you walked for so you don’t have to do any of the work.

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I would love to see apps like this for every type of charitable organization!

The Surprising Way to Save Money on Clothes

When I sat down with stylist Rachel Levin, I had no idea I’d be writing about her on the Fiscal Femme. I mean… she helps clients looks fabulous and takes them shopping. Shopping is something many of my clients want to be doing less of! After speaking with her and learning more about how she works her magic, I saw that she can really help clients be fabulously frugal while discovering and dressing for their most confident self. I was inspired! Here is my interview with the talented, warm and all around wonderful Rachel Levin.

What does it look like to work with you? I.e. what can a client expect?

My goal with every client is to make shopping and styling yourself each day easy, efficient, and enjoyable. Every Rachel Levin Style appointment begins with a free consultation where we discuss your needs and goals, select the best services to accomplish your objectives, and develop an action plan which includes a time estimate. That’s where the fun begins – every appointment is personalized, whether it involves shopping in stores that fit your budget or in your closet! Imagine walking into a beautiful room with all outfits pulled in your sizes to choose from, having items delivered and picked up by courier services, and leaving with the confidence that each day you will wear something beautiful and suited to the occasion, whatever it may be!

Why is it fiscally savvy to use a stylist?

There are two main reasons – I save clients time and money. Closets, like most other things in life, follow the 80/20 rule – most clients wear only 20% regularly and the remaining 80% is well loved, no longer current, or you wish you knew how to style. Working with a stylist, you can weed out the pieces that no longer work for you, learn different ways to style the 20% that you already love, and learn new ways to style the remainder of 80% you wish you wore! My goal is to teach every client personalizes styling tips and strategic investments, so the next time you are out browsing and looking for something to catch your eye, you can keep in mind the pieces that will be useful additions to your wardrobe. Your time is money, and you can save hours wasted on explaining to countless associates in different boutiques or on different floors of department stores who you are and what you need by working with one independent stylist that can help you with everything. You can spend the time you save on the people who are important in your life – including you!

Can you share an example how you have saved a client money in the past?

Absolutely – my goal is to save clients money every day by making sure they invest only in pieces that are useful. A longtime client called me to do her fall updates. We made an action plan to visit some of her favorite stores where I knew we would find basics for her downtown style – which was what she had asked to be the focus of the appointment. As we worked through the appointment, I helped her make strategic choices to fill in holes in her wardrobe. For example, I guided her towards selecting fun sneakers, going out tops and dresses for date nights, and cold weather accessories – none of which were in her current closet. She left with pieces she loved AND filled gaps in her wardrobe – instead of leaving with armloads of the new seasons take on her go to blazer and getting home only to have the same challenges styling herself each day. And then buying more. Breaking that cycle is what saves clients money!

What is your favorite part of your job?

My clients!! I have the privilege of working with awesome people who are doing amazing things – like you!! I truly believe that when what you wear fits you beautifully inside and out, opportunities knock. Watching clients getting married, grow their families, or achieve their career goals is the best part of what I do!!

How can clients connect with you?

As long as I am by my phone I am always available! You can reach me via text or phone at 917.588.4450, email appointments@rachellevinstyle.com, or through my website www.rachellevinstyle.com. I love pictures and questions!

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The Good & Bad of Dollarbird: Personal Finance App Review

This week, the third week on my quest for the best personal finance app, I downloaded Dollarbird. It was free and has 3.5 / 5 stars on 67 reviews on the current version and 3.5 / 5 stars on 216 reviews for all versions.

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When I first opened up the app I thought, “this isn’t a budgeting app… it’s a calendar for managing cash flow and expenses.” But really they are very related. Dollarbird has a beautiful clean interface for tracking expenses and bills on your daily calendar. You can enter them by category and choose between many pretty colors to suit your fancy.

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I don’t see an area for creating budgets or spending goals other than not spending beyond what money you have in your accounts. There are some tracking charts which are helpful to see what you spend on a daily basis and then in each category. You can adjust the charts to show different time periods as well.

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There are also helpful settings that allow you to customize how your app works. You can have the calendar show Sunday or Monday as the first day of the week, you can turn on a pin for security protection and you can choose if you’d like to see decimals or not.

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All in all it’s an easy to use and clean looking app for those looking to manually track their actual expenses and perfect the timing. If I could change anything, I’d add in some push notifications to remind users to enter in their data daily (or however often they want to) and personally. While they don’t claim to be anything more than a calendar app, I’d love to see some budgeting aspects included to even further enhance the experience for the user.

True Freedom – Weekly Update on Project ‘Get Abs & Save Money’

This week has brought some big learning experiences for me as far as ‘Get Abs & Save Money.’ I have had a lot of success over the last two months with my new eating plan. Not only have I made some big strides toward my goal of getting abs, I’ve also saved money and felt much healthier, happier and energetic.

As those who have worked with me or taken my 30 Day Money Cleanse know, I don’t believe true financial freedom comes from staying in every night or hiding out just to save money. That’s not free, that’s not fun and that’s no way to live! The same goes for our eating. Yes, it’s much easier to eat healthy and according to my nutritionist Samantha’s guidelines when I’m home cooking or putting together meals for myself, but what happens when I have a week full of wonderful dinner plans? How can I make this new way of eating work with a fun-filled social life? While this was a challenge, I think figuring out this balance is the key to long-lasting health and happiness. And the same goes for our money lives!

When Samantha saw my food journal this week, she could tell I was working through something. A couple of days I REALLY missed the mark but this is to be expected. We sometimes have to try and fail before we figure it out. We aren’t born knowing how to walk. So what helped me achieve this balance?

Planning ahead. I tell this to my clients all the time. Don’t wait and make decisions in the moment. They are often less intentional and conscious. Planning ahead can work wonders. For me, this meant looking at a restaurant menu in advance and planning what I was going to eat and how much. I also plugged this dinner plan into MyFitnessPal app to see what it would look like and how I should eat earlier in the day to make it work. For example, maybe I needed to have a more protein filled lunch to make up for a light protein dinner. The same goes for our money. If you know dinner out is going to be a little more expensive than usual, you can make up for it by having coffee at home that morning instead of a latte, making lunch instead of eating out or choosing a less expensive dinner alternative the night before. Planning allows us to best allocate our money to work with what we want most.

Set the intention. For me, these wonderful dinners with friends are all about spending time with the people I love while enjoying amazing food and wine. It’s not about stuffing my face and not feeling good the next day. Really cherishing time with my friends, sampling and enjoying a variety of wines and foods, and feeling good in the process is my ultimate goal. It’s a win win with my nutrition goals. Before going out to do something, set your intention for the experience or purchase. What do you really want to get out of it? What’s the ultimate goal? What does sticking within your spending guidelines really get you? This will keep you in the moment and acting in line with what you are really about. Setting the intention allows you to create whatever experience you want.

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Thank you to all the coaches out there!

I have an incredible coach. I can’t say enough wonderful things about her and how much working with her has changed my life. You might ask… why does a coach need a coach? Everyone needs a coach, even coaches. Ever notice how you see things so easily in others but have a harder time figuring them out for yourself? We all do! Maybe you have something in your way that is stopping you from reaching your biggest goals but you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is. We all run into these types of blind spots. A great coach can help help us find them and face them and this is transformative to our success and happiness.

Thank you to all the coaches out there who are improving people’s lives everyday!

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How Does This Whole Retirement Thing Work?

We hear that we need to be saving for retirement and many of us even contribute to a retirement savings account like a 401-K or an IRA on a regular basis, but what actually happens when we retire and how do we know if we are on track?

Retirement may seem far off for many of us and even a impossibility for others but the fun part is that the sooner we start saving, the more time compound interest has to grow our money. No amount is too small to make a difference. If you are 30 now, you will be able to take money distributions (or payments) from your 401-K or IRA in 37 years when you are 67. If you only have $15,000 in your account and it grows at 5% for 37 years, you will have over $91,000. Maybe you have $50,000 saved up by age 30. At 5%, that will turn into over $300,000. Time is on our side!

I remember calculating that I would need $2.5 million to retire in the way I wanted. I thought.. “I should quit now!” My 401-K contribution isn’t even going to make a dent in that number. I was wrong! If I maxed out my 401-K (which is $17,500 a year) until retirement, assuming a 6% rate of return, over the long-term, I would reach my goal.

There are handy online calculators available to help you decide what your retirement savings goals should be at any given point in time. I recommend looking at a couple because assumptions can vary and change the numbers. These calculations will change as you make more money, your needs change, etc. but you make best decisions for yourself now with the information you have and at the very least just get started!

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Ready to Find a Job You Love? Here’s how with Suzanne Grossman

I was lucky enough to sit down with Suzanne Grossman, Brooklyn-based writer, job search coach, women’s leadership specialist and founder of Love Your Job (LYJ) Search, a series of classes that support women in achieving fulfilling work at the compensation they deserve. Sounds great right? Right up my alley! Suzanne is amazing and was able to share her secrets and tips for finding and getting a job you love! I hope you get as much out of this as I did.

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How do you find a job you love?

This is something that most of the people I know struggle with and want. They want to do something they love but also want to make a living and support their lives too so they settle.

Where should people start? What are some first steps they can take to get started? 

Great question! There’s a certain amount of self-assessment you can do for clues to what’s next. Think of it like a research project or puzzle to solve. Many people focus energy on what they don’t like about their current situation and neglect spending time with the question of what is it they enjoy. Ask yourself: What do you like about your current or most recent job, and what do you not like? What skills do you enjoy using? What skills do you wish you were using more of? I also suggest doing some reflection on values. For example, what’s most important to you at this stage of your career and overall life? What do you personally need to feel satisfied? Answers to these questions can reveal a great deal.

I have participants in my classes draft a “dream job description” as a step toward clarity on where to focus their job search energy. There’s an example on the Love Your Job blog. Most people can fill out aspects of an ideal scenario. Even if all of the pieces are not there yet, it’s a good place to start as you continue exploring your interests, skills, and values.

Once there is clarity, or at least a two or three ideas to explore, then you can start actively doing more of the job search activities such as reaching out to people for informational interviews, researching companies and updating your resume.

Where do people typically go wrong with this?

Going it alone is one way that people get stuck in the process. There’s an element of drudgery associated with job searching and career changes. I started leading small coaching groups for women in NYC to make the process less lonely and more enjoyable.

Also, a variety of fears frequently come up during a career change or job switch. These fears range from “I’ll never figure out what I love to do” to “I don’t have the skills necessary to make a change” or “This area will never make enough money so why bother exploring it.” We often need help sorting through our fears and feedback on what seems like “truth” to us.

It’s important to create a support system to keep the momentum going. If you surround yourself with positive individuals who can help you stay on course, you’re more likely to stay with the process. Perseverance is such a big part of job seeking.

If you know you don’t love what you are doing now but aren’t sure what you love, what are some ways you can discover work you love?

Here’s an exercise I use which provides people with useful information: Make a list of “enjoyable accomplishments” from different stages of your life. These are times when you felt you did something well that you also enjoyed doing. It could be paid or unpaid work, from college, childhood or recent experiences. All that matters is you felt happy doing whatever it was, thought you did it well, and experienced a sense of accomplishment. You can carry around a piece of paper for a week as you jot down ideas. After you have 15 to 20 items on your list, try to analyze what comes up. (You may need to talk this through with someone.) Are there certain skills use seem to enjoy using? Were you working alone or with others? Are their topic areas that inspired your energy and enthusiasm? There are usually ideas that emerge from this exercise which start pointing you in a direction to explore.

I wanted to offer a note about money and doing work you love: No one can tell you what “enough” means to you but you. Do you have a clear and thoughtful answer to that question? There are certain professions that no matter what you do, they are never going to pay a six figure salary. On the flip side, we all know money is only one piece of greater career fulfillment. How do we reconcile this for ourselves? It’s not an easy answer. I do know that doing what you love is more than simply about financial reward. I encourage you to ask about salary ranges as you do informational interviews, figure out where money fits into your overall life goals, and make sure you are valuing yourself (using Ashley’s wonderful resources!) as part of the process. This does not mean giving up on your dream of doing fulfilling work, but it could mean being creative, patient, and open-minded about how you get there.

The Good & Bad of HomeBudget: Personal Finance App Review

This week, continuing my quest for the best personal finance app, I downloaded HomeBudget with Sync. It costs $4.99 and has 4.0 / 5 stars on 77 reviews on the current version and 3.5 / 5 stars on 2814 reviews for all versions.

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This app is great for those looking to get a bit more detailed with their personal finance tracking. I was shocked by how much you can do on it. First, I loved that you could budget and set goals over many different time periods. This is great if you want to track per pay period, per week or even per day.

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There are buckets and sub-buckets for each spending area that you get to create. So you might choose ‘Food & Drink’ as a main bucket and then separate that into sub-buckets like ‘Dining Out,’ ‘Grocery Shopping,’ ‘Coffee,’ etc. I love that it shows you how much you spent and how much you have left over in each bucket and then as a whole at the bottom of the screen (or in a pie chart on the home screen).

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I like that there is a search function. I often have to refer back to old expenses and can easily search through the entire app for these records. I also love that the app allows you to store photos of receipts with each expense entry. It’s great for record keeping and wonderful for entrepreneurs who need to keep copies of receipts for cash purchases. For my clients, I love that HomeBudget separates expenses into essential and non-essential categories. I call this ‘want’ vs. ‘need’ or ‘frivolous’ vs. ‘need’ spending. The idea is that you can track how many of your expenses are within your control for that month.

I do wish there was more comprehensive reporting available on the app. As of now you can look at the current period or any previous period to see income, expenses and the balance as well as expenses broken out as fixed, variable and discretionary. You can see these reports in a chart or as actual numbers which is great for those who prefer to see things in a certain way.

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I also love the quick summary and forecasting screens available from the home screen. While the app doesn’t sync with credit cards, there is the capability to sync with other phones so that families can track spending together! Great for family budgeting.

Another app review to come next week!

Why I Love My Job

Last week was the start of the November 30 Day Money Cleanse and let me tell you, this group is absolutely phenomenal. Not only are these women committed to achieving their biggest financial goals and improving their financial wellness, they are also sharing their wins, struggles and ideas and bringing the whole group up along side with them. It’s been such a team effort and I can already tell that the results are going to be unreal. You just wait! I’m so inspired by their generosity, support for each other and their creativity as they take on this Money Cleanse and go after their dreams.

Not only do I love my job because I get to share this wonderful world of financial wellness with others, but I am also learning and growing from my clients each and everyday. Every call or meeting I have and every email I receive, I learn something new about myself, my business and really life in general. All the while getting amazing ideas to make my life even more fabulously frugal! With everything I learn, I work to improve, fine tune and hone my work as a money coach so that I can maximize the results of my clients and reach more and more people. What could be better? I really am the luckiest!

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