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Set Yourself Up for Crazy Fun Summer with No Money Stress: Part 2

We are setting ourselves up for a crazy fun summer with no money stress! Last week we figured out what we wanted this summer as well as our longer-term goals. We put numbers to those dreams which is often the missing piece we need to turn them into a reality.

Onto the next step of our journey! You are probably pretty darn excited about these goals you’re saving for. You should be! Now we have to figure out how to work this saving into our lifestyle while still doing and having everything that we really want. That might sound impossible but I have a secret weapon – values.

Once we know what our values are, or what’s most important to us, we can use them as a road map for our lives. Our values can guide all of our decisions, including those having to do with where we spend our money. Have you ever thought about maximizing your happiness per dollar spent? We often spend our money out of habit or because other people are doing it and don’t even realize that we are wasting it on things that don’t even bring us much joy.

I used to shop because I thought I was supposed to enjoy it. I would walk around stores, find things I had to have but didn’t know existed ten minutes ago, purchase a bunch of items and feel pretty guilty about it. That doesn’t really sound like the ideal afternoon, does it? When we get clear on what’s most important, it’s really easy to see where we are spending our time and money that isn’t in line with those values. Instead of restricting our spending, the unimportant stuff really just falls away. It doesn’t have to be hard!

Think about what makes you tick. Looking back on your life when you are at the end of it, what would your life have looked like for you to look back and say “wow, that was a great life!” It’s time to start living that way. To live that way, we have to start spending that way. We can only spend each dollar once. Let’s truly treat ourselves to what’s most important. If family is one of your values but you never spending time with them or money on seeing them, you’re not putting your money where your heart is.

Here’s what to do:

1. Choose 5-10 words that really resonate with you and what’s most important in your life. Here are some ideas but the list goes on and on: love, growth, courage, intimacy, intuition, laughter, peace, happiness, joy, religion, family, friendship, determination, giving, hard work and charity.

2. Put the words you chose into a statement. How will those words actually manifest in your life? Mine is: I approach each day full of compassion, gratitude, unconditional love and laughter, prioritizing my family and friends as well as my path of exploration and growth. This statement can evolve and change as you get more clarity on it. Just try to get something down on paper as a starting point for your values work.

3. Think about all of your spending. Are there any expenses that can fall away now that you realize they aren’t important? I have a feeling the answer is yes!

If you want help with your values-based spending, we cover this and much more during week #3 of the 30 Day Money Cleanse, starting May 4th.

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Fiscal Femme Fridays – April 24th Edition

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Happy Friday! Welcome to the second installment of Fiscal Femme Fridays. Please share, pin, tweet, etc. whatever moves you. We are creating a community that inspires and supports a new language around money and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

5-MINUTE FINANCIAL BLISS TIP:  Want to know a secret? The fastest way to increase your credit score is to remedy an error on your credit report. Your credit score is determined using the information from your credit report and if that information is incorrect, it could be hurting your score. There could be a delinquent loan on your report that’s not even yours! You have the right to pull your credit report for free once a year. Check it closely for errors and if you find something is wrong, each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax accept disputes online. Schedule 5 minutes into your calendar to download and read through your credit report this week.

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FABULOUSLY FRUGAL: Fabulously frugal means one of three things: 1) Living more fabulously for the same cost, 2) living just as fabulously for less cost or 3) the best scenario where you live more fabulously for less cost. This weekend we’re heading to the Florida Keys with my family and I believe we achieved #3, more fabulousness for less cost. Instead of staying at a hotel, we rented a house. Why is that more fabulous? We will have the intimacy of being at home, away. We’ll have lots of space, a great view, our own pool, the pups are welcome and it’s just easier for us all to spend time together. Why will it cost less? It’s going to be six of us (three couples) which would mean 3 hotel rooms for 3 nights. Let’s say with fees we could find a hotel that allowed the dogs for $200 per night per room. That’s already $1,800 for the weekend and you can find gorgeous houses for less than $500 a night.  Win win!

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LESSON LEARNED: An article came out this week, Most 20-Somethings Can’t Answer These 3 Financial Questions, and of course, I am excited to talk about it. First, check it out to see if you can answer the questions correctly. According to the San Diego State University study, the average score on the test was a 1.8 out of 3 and only 25% of participants got all three answers correct.

If you can’t answer these questions or they sound like complete gibberish to you, it actually makes complete sense! Where do we learn about financial literacy? Unless you have a parent or mentor who taught you or sought it out on your own, this is not information we learn. I was a finance major and I didn’t even learn about it!   

While it may sometimes feel like you are starting from scratch when it comes to your financial wellness, I’d like to point out some silver lining! Knowing that we didn’t learn about this stuff growing up, realizing that money is taboo and often not even talked about and seeing how emotionally charged  the topic can be helps us find some compassion for ourselves for where we are right now in our money lives. It’s no wonder we aren’t saving as much as we’d like, have accumulated some credit card debt or generally feel kind of lost when it comes to money. Just know that where you are right now is the perfect place to start. Forgive yourself and really get that given what you were working with, you did the best you could to get where you are. Once we do that and get back on our own team (vs. beating ourselves up) we are ready to move forward and take the first real step toward financial well-being! I’d be honored to take that step with you.

MONEY INSPIRATION: I met Elana Lyn Gross in a fabulous women’s group and I knew right then that I had to introduce you to her. Elana runs a beautiful site with the mission of creating a supportive space that inspires and motivates fellow driven, passionate young women. Elana, I look forward to some Central Park play dates with our pooches! I hope you enjoy my interview with this fab woman who lives by the mantra “say yes and figure it out later!

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What’s your #1 Frugal Joy?
I absolutely love taking long walks or bike rides in Central Park. In the spring and summer, I like to walk or bike to the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir to watch the sunrise. It’s so beautiful and peaceful in the morning!

Do You have a ‘Money Motto?’
I’ve heard LearnVest CEO, Alexa Von Tobel speak a few times, and think she’s brilliant. One thing that really resonated with me was the importance of an emergency fund. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the future, but this makes me feel more financially secure.

Best money advice you ever got?
My dad has given me a lot of great financial advice! When I got my first job, he stressed the importance of saving for retirement early. I opened up a 401-K and Roth IRA as soon as I could! The future me will hopefully be happily retired in Florida sipping piña coladas on beach.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
Spending the evening laughing with close friends. 

What are you most excited about right now?
One of my favorite series on my blog is my Career Profile series. I feature the stories of women whose careers I admire. I’m featuring some fantastic women this spring and summer!

How can people connect with you?
First and foremost on my blog, Elana Lyn. You can also find me on TwitterPinterestInstagram, and LinkedIn!

DON’T MISS: Next week, I’m excited to be co-hosting the final run of Finance Your Dream Life with fellow panelists, Danielle Mercurio and Jill Ozovek. The event will be moderated by the amazing women of Be Moxie and sponsored by AlleyNYC in their awesome space. It’s really a dream team and will be such a fun event! The happy hour / mingle portion starts at 6:30 PM. You can find more information on the event here.

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Also, next Monday, May 4th, kicks off the 30 Day Money Cleanse! I can’t think of a better way to start off your summer than to set yourself up for unlimited joy in the sunshine without the stress and guilt. It’s going to be an amazing group and I can’t wait to dive into this journey with you.

While many of the past Money Cleansers enjoy hopping back on for another 30 Day Money Cleanse, they also asked me “what’s next?” I’ve answered with the Savvy Investor course that launches September 8th. I’m offering a very special discount and package for those who want to do the May 30 Day Money Cleanse and the Savvy Investor course for a financial wellness double whammy. Just send me an email at ashley@knowingyourworth.com for the details.

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Credit Card Perks You Might Not Even Know You Have

One of the benefits of having a credit card is the perks you get. You might be able to trade in your points for cash, flights or room upgrades. The crazy part is, there are probably perks you don’t know you even have! If that’s the case, you are leaving free money on the table each year you don’t use them. While every card is different, here are some of the lesser known perks of having a credit card. Make sure to check with your credit card company and even more specifically, with your credit card to know which benefits are available to you.

Extended Warranty – Extends the warranty on eligible purchases when you use your card (usually up to one year)

Return Protection – Offers product satisfaction on orders purchased with your card. If a retailer refuses to take something back but the item was not what you ordered, damaged, etc. the credit card company will reimburse you

Car Rental Insurance – Provides protection against car rental damage 

 Trip-Cancellation Insurance – Reimburses cardholders for non-refundable costs if a trip is cancelled or interrupted due to specific events (defined by the credit card company)

 No Currency Conversion Fees – Eliminates / reimburses transaction fees from all credit card purchases made outside the United States

 Price Protection – Refunds cardholders if an item bought with that credit card drops in price within a specified time period (usually within 30 or 60 days)

 Roadside Assistance – Provides assistance in cases of various types of car trouble (i.e. flat tire, engine issues, etc.)

 Baggage Insurance – Provides protection against lost, stolen or damaged baggage while traveling

 Concierge Services – Provides early access to entertainment, help finding tickets, getting reservations, etc. 

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Set Yourself Up for Crazy Fun Summer with No Money Stress: Part 1

Summer is around the corner. It’s a time of sunshine, celebration, travel and often, spending way too much money! My goal for all of us this summer is to have and experience all the wonderful things we want, without the stress and guilt and the sabotage of our longer-term goals that many times comes along with it. You might be thinking… “Ashley, that sounds great but I doubt that’s even possible?!” Over the next three weeks, I’m going to show you how to put together a plan that will set you up for a crazy fun summer with no money stress.

The first and very critical step in this process is to figure out what you want for yourself this summer and beyond. Why are both so important? Not only do we want you to have a crazy fun summer, but we also want to keep making progress on our longer-term goals we have for ourselves. Maybe you have been working hard to pay off your student loans and/or credit card debt, really want to save up a fund to start your own business or plan to max out your 401-K to set yourself up for financial freedom.

First, write down your long-term savings goals, whatever they are, and check in with how much you are contributing to them each pay-check, month and year. At this rate, how long will it take you to reach your goals? Once you have that information, you can decide if that works for you or not. There are no wrong answers here. We are just taking an honest look at where our money is going so we can decide if the current system works for us.

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Then, we get to think more short-term. Beyond your day-to-day lifestyle (we’ll get to that next week), are there any bigger expenses you are saving for this summer? Are you planning a vacation, a few weekend trips or any celebrations that you will need to put money aside for? Maybe you have a big vacation planned for the winter but know you want to be saving now. Write down these short-term savings goals and check-in with how much they are going to cost you. How much will you want to put aside each paycheck or month to make them happen by the time you need to buy the plane ticket, book the hotel or buy the gift?

That’s it! That’s step one. Before we move on to step two next week, here’s your homework.

1. Write down your longer-term savings goals.
2. How much are you contributing to each goal per paycheck, each month & each year?
3. At this rate, how long will it take you to reach your goals? Does that work for you?
4. Write down your shorter-term summer savings goals.
5. How much will each of them cost?
6. How much will you want to put aside each paycheck / month to save up in time?

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If this process completely overwhelms you, you’re not alone! Remember one of my favorite quotes from Barbara Stanny:

“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, the more you’ve been avoiding this and the more difficult this is for you, the more you have to gain on the other side of conquering it! That’s very exciting! If you want help setting yourself up for a crazy fun summer with no money stress, sign up for the 30 Day Money Cleanse starting May 4th. I’d love to help you put together your plan!

Fiscal Femme Fridays – April 17th Edition

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Welcome to the first installment of Fiscal Femme Fridays. I hope you enjoy! Please share, pin, tweet, etc. whatever moves you. We are creating a community that inspires and supports a new language around money and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

5-MINUTE FINANCIAL BLISS TIP: I know we all are busy living our wonderful lives but who doesn’t have 5 minutes to spare for something that will bring them one step closer to financial bliss? Each week I’m going to share one tip that only takes 5 minutes that will greatly improve your financial wellness! This week, we are going to set up automatic payments on all of our bills and credit cards. Not only does this free up space in your mind because you don’t have to remember to pay your bills, it also protects you from missing a payment and hurting your credit score. Remember, 35% of your credit score is determined by your payment history. That means your late payments and takes into account how late, how often and how much. You can set up automatic payments on most bills including credit cards, student loans, mortgages and utilities. If there is no option to set up an automatic payment, set it up through your bank so that a check goes out on at a certain day each month. Make life easy on yourself! For bills that change month-to-month, you’ll typically receive a statement with details on your bill before your automatic payments goes through. That way, you can can make sure everything is copacetic before the money leaves your account. Schedule 5 minutes today in your calendar to automate all of your monthly payments, where possible. 

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FRUGAL JOY: As you know, I love the idea of increasing our happiness and the meaning we get from our spending by finding frugal joys, things that cost very little or are free that make us really really happy. Each of us will find different things that make us really happy but it’s fun to share ideas as well as our gratitude! In this space I’ll be sharing a frugal joy or way I’ve found to be fabulously frugal. Being fabulously frugal is a game with the objective of increasing or maintaining your current level of fabulousness for the same or lower cost. Fun right?

I’m watching the weather map this week, hoping that by Saturday or Sunday I can take part in one of my favorite springtime frugal joys – Central Park! I absolutely love meeting friends in the park for an afternoon of sunshine, joyful conversation and maybe some bubbly.

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LESSON LEARNED: All of us will forever be on a money journey, whether we acknowledge it or not. There will always be ways to increase our financial wellness, abundance and joy. Each week, I’m going to share something I learn that’s shaped my money journey. This week Justin and I took an inventory of our utility bills to see if there was anything we could do to maximize these expenses. We realized that we no longer watch cable and called Time Warner to remove cable from our package. While the savings isn’t huge,~$25 / month, that’s still $300 a year that we can use for something else!

We also took a look at our electric bill. Seeing such high numbers, I hear my Dad’s voice in the back of my head saying “when not in use, save the juice” and “you left all the lights on!” I got a little curious… how much does it actually cost to leave a light on over night? According to the Energy Collective, leaving one regular light bulb on overnight costs 0.75 cents an hour for about 8 hours which is 6 cents. If there are 5 bulbs in the kitchen, that’s 30 cents a night. If you do that all year, that’s almost $110. Check out the full article ‘What Do Our Bad Energy Habits Cost Us?‘ for more ways you can decrease your bill. Is it worth it for you to change your habits? That’s for you to decide!

MONEY INSPIRATION: I’m constantly learning and inspired by those around me. In this section I’ll be sharing an interview with someone awesome or the wisdom of a savvy spender. This week, I’m excited to introduce you to Sherita Rankins, founder of Busy Wife Busy Life, where she inspires women to stay stylish, eat well and save money and time in their lives. I had the pleasure of meeting Sherita at one of our ‘Finance Your Dream Life‘ events and am excited to share what she’s creating. Stay tuned for our interview next week!

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DON’T MISS: There are a ton of great resources and events out there that I’m excited to share in this section.

This coming Tuesday I’m on a ‘Personal Finance for Your Personal Life‘ panel hosted by High Water Women, which focuses on the economic empowerment of women and youth.

I’m also hosting a #NewlywedMoney twitter chat with GoGirl Finance next Thursday, April 23rd at 8:30 PM EST. If you haven’t checked out GoGirl Finance yet, I highly recommend you do! GoGirl is all about helping women gain confidence when dealing with money and is an incredible personal finance resource. If you are newly engaged or married and want to get your finance questions asked, join us next week on twitter!

How to Increase Your Credit Score in 3 Easy Steps: Step 3

You’ve made it to step three! You know where you stand and what determines your credit score. Now for the fun part… Here are some actionable steps you can take today to increase your credit score. Each of these tips correlates to one area or more that makes up your credit score. See how it all comes together?

1. Set up automatic payments and never make a late payment again. 

You might almost always remember to pay your credit card but why leave it up to chance? Set up automatic payments each month and you’ll never miss a payment again. Remember that payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Worried about fraud or mistakes? Many credit card companies will send you your statement in advance of the payment date so you can check it over for errors. 

2. When you make a mistake, pick up the phone.

If you made a late payment before reading this blog series, pick up the phone and call the credit card company. First, confirm if the late payment is going to impact your credit score or not. If it is out of the ordinary for you, they typically will be happy to remove the late fee, extra interest charge and most importantly for your credit, the late payment on your credit report.

3. Negotiate up your credit limits. 

30% of your credit score is determined by “amounts owed” which is determined by your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of debt you have outstanding on your credit cards at the highest point of each month (no matter if you pay off the entire balance in full or not), divided by your total credit limits. The lower the better. If an increase in your credit limit will not affect your spending, you can negotiate your credit limits up to decrease your credit utilization ratio. That being said, if you think a higher credit limit will encourage you to spend more, ignore this step!

4. Open a new credit card.

Ignore this suggestion if you have debt, know this will increase your debt, have a short credit history (because this will decrease your average account age) or already have 2-3 credit cards. Otherwise, having more credit increases your credit utilization ratio and shows that companies believe you are creditworthy. In general, someone with no credit cards is viewed as a higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.

While the improved credit utilization ratio will increase your score over the long-term, when you open a credit card there will be a hard inquiry into your credit score which may negatively affect your score for a period of time.

5. Don’t close credit card accounts. 

Closing your credit cards can negatively affect your credit score for a couple of reasons. Closing an account decreases the amount of available credit you have, which affects your credit utilization ratio. It can also decrease the average age of your accounts which can negatively effect your score. The older the account you close, the more it effects the average age of your accounts. It is typically not a good idea to close an account unless you know that having it open will cause you to spend more or increase your debt balance.

How to Increase Your Credit Score in 3 Easy Steps

The New & Improved Fiscal Femme

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on how to make the Fiscal Femme more valuable, relevant and fun for my amazing readers. After hearing your wonderful feedback (thank you and keep it coming!), I’ve decided to launch new and improved Friday posts that will pack a lot of punch! The posts will include a tip of the week, a featured frugal joy or way to be fabulously frugal, money inspiration, updates on the latest and greatest going on here at the Fiscal Femme and much more.

In addition to the Friday posts, the blog will still have feature posts on topics that are important to you throughout the week, like our ‘How to Increase Your Credit Score in 3 Easy Steps‘ that we launched this month.

I’d love to hear from you. What would you like to read about on the Fiscal Femme? Just comment below or email me at ashley@knowingyourworth.com to send along any of your questions and recommendations.

If you haven’t already, just enter your email to subscribe and you’ll receive the Fiscal Femme posts right in your mailbox.

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Meet Jaime Petkanics: She’ll get your career back on track!

I’m very excited to introduce you to Jaime Petkanics. She’s a rockstar career consultant and founder of the Prepary where she shares job search advice in a reliable, relatable, and straightforward way. I had the wonderful pleasure of sitting down with her for lunch last week and guess what?! We had so much to talk about that we forgot to have lunch! Hope you enjoy this interview!

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What’s your #1 Frugal Joy?
My 60 cent cup of coffee every morning that comes from my Keurig. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to have caffeine!

Do You have a ‘Money Motto?’
“Buy less, choose well.” I always try to remind myself of this, especially in New York City where space is tight.

Best money advice you ever got?
Don’t be wasteful. This is something that’s been ingrained in me ever since I started making my own spending decisions. This means never paying an unnecessary ATM fee, not backing out of gym classes and paying cancellation fees (ha), checking sites like retailmenot.com for coupons before making an online purchase, and other small easy changes. These things are so easy to do and the savings add up over time.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
Ideally eating a delicious meal and having a glass (or 2!) of wine.

What are you most excited about right now?
Growing my business, The Prepary and then spending any free time hanging out with family and friends. I’m also excited that this cold weather is almost behind us!

How can people connect with you?
Check out my job search advice on The Prepary and email me at jaime@prepary.com. Also, TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest!

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How to Increase Your Credit Score in 3 Easy Steps: Step 2

In step 1 of How to Increase Your Credit Score, you figured out where you stand. You’ve now pulled your free annual credit report and have checked it for errors. You also know what your credit score is. Woot!

The next step to increase your credit to score is to understand what the credit agencies actually use to determine what your score is. Why is this important? Once you understand what goes into your score you can then take steps to increase your credit worthiness in each of those areas.

According to MyFICO.com, your credit score is determined by the following factors:

Credit Score Breakdown

Your Credit Score Breakdown

Payment History 35%: Have you had any late payments? If so, how late were they, how much were they for and how many have you had?

Amounts Owed 30%: This is determined by your credit utilization ratio. That’s a fancy way of saying the amount of debt you have outstanding divided by your credit limits. The lower this number is the better. The outstanding debt is calculated by the highest point your credit card gets each month – even if you pay it off in full each month.

Length of Credit History 15%: Looks at how long you have had credit (a longer history increases your score).

New Credit 10%: This examines how many new accounts you have by type. When lenders make requests for your credit report it’s called an inquiry. An inquiry will impact your score negatively for twelve months but checking your own score will not affect your credit score.

Types of Credit in Use 10%: This considers your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans. More diversification is generally better.

How are you doing in each of these areas? Are you new to credit or maybe had some late payments? Next week I’ll take you through how to use this information to increase your score.

5 Signs You Are In Need of Some Financial Wellness

I believe financial wellness is an important part of overall wellness. How are you supposed to be the best person you can be if you are worrying about money? How can you experience complete happiness and joy when you feel shame and guilt in your financial life? You may not need an article of funny gifs to figure out that you need some money lovin’ in your life.

Just like with every area of your life, wellness doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. Think about fitness. You can exercise on your own for free by planking in your room or going for a run outside. If you want some direction you can sign up for group classes and for the most individualized help you’d sign up for a personal trainer.

The same goes for your money life. You can up your financial wellness on your own by reading some articles online or getting a book and applying what you learn to your life on your own. If you want more accountability and direction, you can sign up for a workshop and for the most individualized help you’d sign up for coaching. You can play at any level and increase your financial wellness – the first step is up to you!

Here are five signs you are in need of some financial wellness. Thank you Giphy.com for the great gifs!

1. You see your bank account and think… “what do you mean? How did I already spend my paycheck?” You have no idea where all your money is going!

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2. You get all stressed when your friends talk about maxing out their 401-Ks. 

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3. You feel like this kid when you see your credit card statement at the end of the month.

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4. It’s a viscous cycle. You over-think, over-worry and over-stress about money. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 5 Signs You Are in Need of Some Financial Wellness

5. You swear off spending money for the rest of your life but find yourself with a new wardrobe. You think.. “why does budgeting never work for me?!”

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