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Frugal Joys – Chillin’ like a villain

I have to relearn this lesson many times but there is nothing more wonderful, more happiness inducing and more productive than taking a good rest. It can be as long as a vacation or as short as a nap but it’s so important for me to take some time to recharge and regroup. This is one of the many lessons I’m learning from my puppy who takes time to recharge every two hours.

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The 6 Things I Wish I Knew About Money When I Was in College

I started Knowing Your Worth to demystify the world of money and personal finance and thought what better way to do that than to share what I wish I knew when I was in college. Here are the 6 things I wish I knew about money when I was in college.

#1 Start Now

When in college and even many years after it can seem like we don’t have enough money to save. What’s the point?  It feels like it won’t make a difference. Due to the 8th wonder of the world, compound interest, even small amounts of savings and investments can add up and multiply! Also, understanding our personal finances and getting in the habit of saving and budgeting will be SUPER helpful once you graduate and have your own salary and expenses.

#2 Save for a Rainy Day

It’s so important to have a buffer for unexpected expenses and emergencies. If something happens and we don’t have money saved up, we will have to take out credit card debt which is very expensive (I’ll get into this in #5).  Not sure where to start when it comes to a rainy day fundHere’s how to set one up.

#3 Budget Are Our Friends!

Budgets get a very bad rep but they are one of the most powerful financial tools you can master. Budgets are really just a way of understanding what’s coming in and what’s going out so you can allocate the money you have in the ways that will make you the happiest. It’s all about planning so you can do and have everything you truly want.

#4 Build Credit Early

We aren’t born with a perfect credit score. We have to build it up and the sooner we start, the better off we are! If you are able to open a credit card (read #5!) before doing so. This is a great way to build your credit if you can manage it effectively. If you aren’t able to open a credit card, you can get a secured credit card, put your name as a user on your parents account (just make sure they pay their bills on time), or put your name on a utility bill. Being the account holder on a utility bill (if you pay your bills on time) is a great way to build credit!

#5 Be Weary of Credit Cards

If you don’t pay your credit card balance in full each month, credit cards are the most expensive debt out there. In order to hold a balance, you have to pay interest to the credit card companies, which can be as high as 20-30%. That’s pricey! Think of interest on credit card debt as wasted money. If you aren’t able to pay the interest, that just builds your balance and it can spiral out of control. Credit cards are not free money.

#6 Know Your Worth & Ask for It! 

I remember when I got my first internship and then job. I felt so lucky that someone would want to hire me. There was no way I was going to try to negotiate my salary. Looking back, I wish I had at least tried! The worst that can happen is that they say no. I’ve never heard of anyone losing a job offer because they tried to negotiate. Negotiating early in your career is very important because of #1 on my list. Salary increases and bonuses are often calculated as a percentage of your current base salary. A salary of $500 more doesn’t seem like a lot but compounded with raises and bonuses it can make a huge difference!

Gamma Phi Beta_St. Johns University

My Quest to be a Lazy Chef

With my new plan to ‘Get Abs and Save Money,’ I do more grocery shopping than eating out. The two positives of this plan – saving money and eating healthy. The negative, time. I was worried with this new plan that I would be spending a lot more time in the kitchen and a lot less time having fun and working on my business. I had to come up with some ideas. How could I make this new lifestyle user friendly for a lazy chef?

To start, I decided to order my groceries for delivery which would save me the time of travelling to the grocery store, walking through the aisles, carrying the groceries back and unpacking them. With FreshDirect delivery (or whichever service you choose), I now just have to order the groceries and unpack them. Saved an hour there!

Enter Samantha, my amazing nutritionist, with a website that allows you to import recipes, create menus and turn them into shopping lists – Pepperplate. If you do prefer to go to the grocery store, the site breaks up your shopping list by section of the grocery store which saves a lot of time. The part I love is that I no longer have to consolidate the recipes I want to make into one shopping list. For example, if I need 2 eggs for recipe A and 3 eggs for recipe B but am doubling it, I will need 8 eggs. Yes, that’s just some simple math but Pepperplate takes care of all of that for you, saving extra time when ordering or going to the grocery store.

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Samantha shared another tip for saving time that sounds like a no brainer but I always forget to do it! Whenever you cook, make extra. Leftovers are a beautiful thing. I now will double or triple recipes so I get a dinner and lunch for a couple of days out of it. You can always doctor it up differently or throw it on a salad to change it up.

Any ideas or secret tricks you have for being a lazy chef? I’d love to hear them!

Quinoa bean salad for days... I might have made too much.

Quinoa bean salad for days! 

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…

Confessions of an Excel Nerd_How I Manage My New ClassPass_Money Coach_The Fiscal Femme_10.20.14_v2

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.

My Plan to Get Abs & Sav Money_Charts_Fiscal Femme_Money Coach_10.20.14


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

Savvy Spender Profile #39_Fiscal Femme_Money Coach_10.16.14

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.

What Do You Need to Save to Have Children_Money Coach_Fiscal Femme_10.14.14

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.

Money Perks of a Move_Money Coach_the Fiscal Femme_10.14.14

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

Savvy Spender Profile #38_Fiscal Femme_Money Coach_10.06.14

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.