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Confessions of an Excel Nerd: How I Manage My New ClassPass

As part of my plan to ‘Get Abs & Save Money,’ I switched out my membership to Equinox which is $193 per month for a ClassPass membership that is $99 per month. While this an amazing deal for unlimited boutique classes all over NYC, there is some organization and logistics planning involved because…

1) You can only go to each studio 3x per month
2) The classes are all over NYC
3) To get the best classes you have to be on top of registering

To complicate matters a bit more, based on what I’m looking to accomplish, my nutritionist recommended I do mostly Pilates and then maybe a cardio or yoga class here and there. My first day on the Classpass site my head was spinning… so many studios, so much information… what’s a girl to do? I decided to turn to my dear friend, excel.

I first looked up all the studios in my area because I don’t want to spend that much time travelling around and then I typed out the studios that offered Pilates. I then got recommendations for the best Pilates studios regardless of location for when I happen to be in the neighborhood. Due to the 3x per studio limit, I would have to find numerous Pilates studios. If I want to do Pilates 15x a month, I’d need to find 5 studios that are convenient and good. I then wanted an easy system for tracking how many classes I had left at each studio per month. I thought the traffic system would be easiest – green for 3 left, yellow for 2 left and red for 1 left. I would always know where I stand. To book classes on time, I create short Google calendar appointments so I get reminders to sign up. Here’s how it looks…

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Weekly Update on ‘Feel good, Save Money and Lose Flab’

Happy Monday! Project ‘Get Abs & Save Money‘ is going strong! Last week I talked about being realistic with your lifestyle to boost your chances of success, the idea of forming habits like peeling away layers of an onion and remembering we improve our health because we love ourselves! Here’s what I learned this week.

Confront the numbers and make a plan

This week I checked in with with Samantha on how my nutrition has been going over the last couples of weeks. I was eager to see how I did because I’ve really been trying my best to nourish myself in the ways we discussed. Taking a closer look at my numbers we noticed an area that needs improvement – my protein. We then broke down my daily protein goal into a per meal goal which made it much easier to swallow (pun intended) and easier to plan for. We also came up with a list of foods that I can start including in my meals and snacks to boost protein. A lot of my meals didn’t change but we were able to sub in a more protein-filled version of the same foods to beef up my numbers.

Going through this experience I immediately thought of my clients. Many of them hate and despise keeping a money journal initially. I challenge them to work through it because facing the numbers is such a powerful exercise. It gives us the power to do something about it. We now have something to work with. It doesn’t matter if you spend too much in one area or don’t eat enough protein or fat, don’t judge or beat yourself up. You now have the information you need to make a plan to get those numbers wherever you want!

Change is good!

I had a funny experience one night last week when I ordered butternut squash soup on a chilly evening. The soup tasted sickly sweet to me. I couldn’t even eat it! It might as well have been butternut squash soup mixed with a cup of sugar. I looked at the ingredients and saw it had a some honey in it. After speaking to Samantha I learned that my palette has probably changed over the last three weeks of eating nutrient filled foods and no sugar. I was shocked. This kind of relativity exists in our financial lives as well. Some might think it’s obscene to spend $2,000 a month on rent while others might think it’s completely normal or even cheap. Whatever you have decided is “normal” for your spending doesn’t have to be the reality, especially if it doesn’t work with your goals. We get to create our reality with money and get to choose what’s normal for us. It’s all relative.

The numbers

This week I didn’t spend any money on Amazon, spent $156.44 for groceries, and $36.39 on eating out which totals to $192.94. This is over what I’ve budgeted per week and I think it’s realistic of what I’ll be spending so I adjusted my budget (or happiness allocation).With the revised numbers I’m saving $32 a week which will total to $1,648 a year. After the initial consult and 3 sessions with Samantha, I’ve will have paid $685 which leaves me with $963 of savings from this project. Not too shabby! It’s always important to check in with any savings goals and your happiness allocation after ~2-3 weeks of testing it out.

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Justin has also been eating most meals with me which has been a big surprise! It’s been fun to share this with him and I’m excited he enjoys the food I’m eating.

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Savvy Spender, Profile #39

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Overall Spending Motto: ”I am happiest when I spend less, collect less, and focus on fun experiences.”

Frugal Joys: Loves Salvation Army for clothing and just got an unworn wool J.Crew jacket. She also enjoys cooking from scratch– says it’s “delicious, healthy, cheap, fun, not as time consuming as you think.”

Transit: Walks around campus and friends will drive her when necessary. If they do, she splits gas with them.

Food: Loves making fresh meals with delicious ingredients and dines out on weekends for 2 meals ($100 total a week). Thinks farmers markets are great and if you shop around the different booths, you’ll find vegetables and meats that are reasonably priced.

Drinks: “I usually don’t drink.”

Shopping: Shops for necessities at Target, CVS and the local health food store. Buys most clothing at Salvation Army these days because she lives by a nice one full of designer pieces. This savvy spender also loves shopping in her own closet. Sound familiar?

Gym: For her, the school gym membership is the only option and it costs $145 a year. She advises others to pick a gym that’s close to home or work.

Apartment: Doesn’t have cable – says “people still use that?” Ha! Cleans her apartment with basic cleaning products and pays for internet.

Travel: Uses Hipmunk.com to book flights. Due to the flexibility in her schedule she enjoys big cost savings. Also recommends AirBnB for travelling well while feeling like a local without paying a huge price.

Saving / Retirement Saving: Has a Roth IRA and will max out her 401-K match when she starts her new job. Loves her Roth IRA for the great future benefits. “I pay the tax now on my income while I am in a low tax bracket and will take all of that principal and compound interest out tax-free when I retire! I also pay special attention to my tax returns to make sure I get as much as possible.”

Debt: Tries to minimize debt and save as much as possible at this point in her life. For a credit card she has the Bank of America Travel Rewards card because she already has accounts with BofA and found their online portal and ease of use to be a big plus. This card also has no transaction or conversion fees abroad which was great for her Study Abroad last semester. She only uses this card for small purchases so that her utilization rate stays low so she can build credit. Amazing!

Other: “I believe that spending money on valuable experiences is really worth it. This could mean attending a concert, buying a new book, taking ballroom dancing classes, or a booking a flight to see friends/family.  I find that I get much more out of a $25 concert than a new shirt.”

How Much You Need to be Saving for Children

My clients plan ahead for the future. Like I learned with my plan to ‘Get Abs and Save Money,’ planning is a huge component of overall wellness and success. Many of my clients are saving for big life items such as buying their first home, paying for a wedding or saving for children.

Saving for children is a new hot topic for many. Children are a significant expense and with tax advantaged accounts like a 529 plan, it makes a lot of sense to start saving for rising college tuition costs as soon as possible. While college tuition could be a big ticket item you will give your child, there is also the cost of any other tuition, summer camp, and the cost of supporting a child in everyday life. You might need a bigger home or apartment, need to buy more food and clothes, and will be responsible for their health and medical costs. While we can’t predict exactly what we will be spending on our future children, we can do some calculations to get an idea of what we should be saving now to prepare.

I like to break expenses up into chunks and timelines. For example, if you plan to have a baby in one year, you will probably start incurring additional expenses pretty soon. What will your lifestyle look like? Will you need a new apartment? What will change in your everyday budget? Can you afford these additional expenses with your current income or will you be using savings?

For large expenses like tuition and camp, you can start saving now. If you plan to have a child in 2 years, you have 20 years to save for college tuition. Starting early makes the savings per month a lot more manageable. If you want to be able to afford for your child to go to private school, and we assume that it will cost $40,000 a year for tuition and board for four years, you will need to have $160,000 saved. 20 years in advance, assuming your returns cancel out inflation and nothing more (which is very conservative), you will have to save $667 a month or $153 a week. You can adjust as you get more information and know more accurately what you will need to have saved.

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The Money Perks of a New Move

We moved apartments on Friday and while it can be a hassle to pack up your life and change all your information, it is also a great opportunity to increase your money savvy. Here are a couple of the ways I was able to upgrade my money life. Any other money perk ideas are very welcome!

Negotiate cable and internet

Remember one of my favorite mantras? Everything is negotiable! If you didn’t get a chance to negotiate your current cable provider, now is your chance. It helps if your building or home can be serviced by more than one provider but it’s not necessary. Also make sure to ask for any coupons or discount packages they have available. I noticed my clients’ cable and internet bills can start to get really high after living in one place for a while. Time Warner Cable, for example, adds $20 a month for the second year of certain packages. That can get pretty pricey over a few years! Starting over isn’t always bad.

Upgrade banks 

When you change locations you are often closer to different banks. If you aren’t loving the services, amenities or FEES (blah!) of your current bank, now is the time to change. The truth is… we don’t even really need to be near our banks anymore so you can change it up whenever you want! With a list of things you’d like to be different from your current banking situation, you will be armed to go in and negotiate with your potential new bank. Don’t underestimate how much they want you as a new client!

Some ideas to reduce the cost of your move

Moving can be really expensive but luckily there are some ways we can cut down on the cost. One of the biggest savings you can get is coordinating your new lease and old lease so you don’t have to pay for double the rent at any given point in time. There are also a variety of moving companies with different levels of service. Depending on your moving budget, it might make more sense for you to pack up your own items and start moving small things on your own. You can rent a U-haul for $20 a day and save the big difficult to move furniture for the pros. You can also save big by using old boxes. Stop by your local grocery or liquor store to see what they have leftover. Make sure to do this in advance just in case they don’t have boxes available at that moment. Boxes can cost $2-10 a pop brand new so depending on the number of boxes you need, this can be a huge savings.

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Weekly Update on Project ‘Productivity, Money Savings & Getting Abs’

Here’s a weekly update of my quest for ‘Getting Abs and Saving Money.’ Last week I felt an increase in productivity, energy and focus from my new eating habits. I also experienced the power of accountability, the beauty of planning ahead and why it’s important to measure success. Here’s what I learned this week.

Be Realistic With Your Lifestyle

During my 30 Day Money Cleanse I work with my clients on making budgets that fit with their lifestyle. I don’t want reaching your financial goals to cramp your style and make you miserable! Not only is it no fun but it’s also not sustainable. The same goes with our eating habits. If your diet is so strict you have to cook for yourself every night, it will probably feel too restricting and impossible. What happens when you go out? We have to have realistic plans for our money and our eating. That’s one of the things I’ve absolutely loved about my eating plan. I can do it anywhere no problem. I have guidelines I can turn to when I am at a restaurant or event so that I can stick with my plan regardless of what I’m doing. Being able to live your life and still stick with your healthy spending and eating habits is the goal! That’s real freedom.

Peel Away the Layers of the Onion

Being money or food savvy isn’t binary. We aren’t perfect or terrible. We don’t have to do it all at once and most of the time, if we try to adopt 100 new healthy habits, they won’t stick. I work with my clients on this all of the time. We have to peel away layers of the onion. We can start by adopting one or two new healthy habits into our daily life and then can go from there. The fun part is that the new habits often feel so great that the next habits come quickly and easily. You might not be ready to give up your daily latte but you are more than ready to cut your shopping habit. Or you might be ready to cut most desserts from your diet but aren’t ready to give up one of your favorite candies. Whatever they are, celebrate the new habits you have adopted. Don’t focus on the $5 you are spending a day on your latte, but rather, on the $300 you are saving each month by not going shopping. That’s huge! And who knows… the latte might be the next layer of the onion you get to peel off.

Love yourself!

At the end of the day, we take care of our physical, mental, and financial health because we love ourselves and want to take care of ourselves. With everything we have going on we can often lose sight of that. We feel like our biggest opponent to our healthy life habits but in reality we are the biggest beneficiary. This is all to take care of us!

The Numbers

I spent $25.64 and $12.22 on Amazon for a pack of 12 Zing protein bars and hemp seeds.  I didn’t have to go grocery shopping again but spent $56.89 on dining out and ordering in. That totals to $94.75 which was below my goal of ~$185 a week!

Update on Project Productivity, Money Saving, and Abs

Savvy Spender, Profile #38

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Overall Spending Motto: “Don’t spend money on things you don’t need or things that won’t significantly make your day better.”

Frugal Joys: Loves having a nice meal, snack or dessert.

Transit: Takes cabs only if necessary when going out, but ties to take public transportation whenever she can.

Food: Always looks for deals.

Drinks: Tries not to buy drinks out.

Shopping: Has a rule that she only shops when she is home on a break from school.

Gym: Uses the school gym for the best deal.

Travel: Loves Groupon.

Saving / Retirement Saving: Doesn’t have a saving strategy yet but is excited to start when she graduates.

Debt: Says she’s very concerned about paying student loans.

Be the Type of Person that Saves Each Month

Why not pick a wonderful new fiscal habit to try on this week? How about automatic saving!?

If you don’t have an online savings account, read – Why I Love High Yield Savings Accounts. Once you have one, you can have money automatically transferred from your checking account each month (or even every two weeks). You can use the Savvy budget we created here (savvy budgeting – putting it all together) to determine how much you have available to save. If you are nervous about it, start small and you can gradually increase as you get a better idea of your saving capacity. Also, if you are comfortable with what’s in your savings account, most brokerage firms provide automatic investing into index funds which is also a great option!

Happy saving!

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Plan the Perfect Bachelorette Party with TheBach.com!

You have probably been to a bachelorette party or two and even might have helped plan one (here’s how I planned mine!). They come in all different shapes and sizes and at a wide range of price points. To make the planning process easier and a whole lot more fun from start to finish, Joanne Barken started the Bach, which is a free online resource that provides classy bachelorette party ideas, curated venue recommendations and the tools necessary to simplify the planning process. Yes please!

I had the honor of sitting down with Joanne to hear more about her inspiration and business. She was as amazing and wonderful as I had imagined! I hope you enjoy!

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How did you come up with the idea for The Bach?

While in law school I was a bridesmaid several times and helped plan multiple bachelorette parties. I was incredibly busy with schoolwork, so organizing events for big groups was extra stressful. I was shocked to find that there wasn’t already an existing website designed to help bridesmaids. Eventually I decided to take matters into my own hands!

What is your favorite part of the site? 

I love the functionality of the itinerary tool. I think it’s great for the planner to get a visual of how the event will flow. It’s also helpful to guests because they get to view the itinerary as an invitation, so they know what they are committing to when they RSVP.

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What do you think is the most helpful part of the site for brides and bridesmaids?

I think the itinerary tool and all of the venue recommendations are really helpful for streamlining the process. In addition, I am finding that many users are benefiting from our Real Bachelorettes section of the site. Brides and bridesmaids are finding it helpful to see what other groups have done. This part of The Bach really helps to get those creative juices flowing!

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What do you think is the most important part of a bachelorette party? 

Quality girl time! People are getting very creative with their bachelorette parties these days and are doing so much more than just hitting the bars. I love seeing so many brides and bridesmaids searching for unique activities that foster female bonding. Ensuring that the bride gets to spend time with her closest friends and celebrate the big leap she is taking is what really matters.

If you could give one piece of advice to those planning a bachelorette party, what would it be? 

Don’t wait until the last minute! People’s schedules book up fast so picking a date early on will help guarantee that the majority of the bride’s friends can attend. Planning in advance will also allow you to snag better travel deals and give you plenty of time to locate the perfect activities.

My Fabulously Frugal Dining Secret

A good friend and author of the Next Great Meal (a forum for those who appreciate food, dining and are looking for their next great meal) told me about the company Kitchensurfing and it honestly sounded too good be true. For great prices you can have a private chef come to your home with all the necessary ingredients, cook AND clean for you?! Really?!

I used one of their chefs, Elyse Bekins for my bachelorette party and she absolutely blew me away. She whipped up some phenomenal meals that I got to help plan and left the kitchen spotless. I’m now a believer and will be using this company as often as possible going forward.

You can put in your desired cuisine type, number of guests and budget, can then look through a variety of menus from different chefs and choose your favorite! I love having friends and family over for dinner and when I don’t have time to cook, this is a great option! You can have a great dining experience, share time with friends and stay within your budget – win win! The company is now in 8 cities.

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