Vamanos! Traveling on a Budget


My sister, Emma, lives in Madrid, Spain where she teaches a bunch of loco Spanish kids English.  She spends her weekends gallivanting around Europe on a tight budget.  I somehow convinced her to take a beat from all said gallivanting to enlighten us on how she is able to pull this off.

#livingthelife.  Yes, thats a selfie stick.

#livingthelife.  Yes, thats a selfie stick.


Want to travel but think you don’t have the means? Luckily traveling has never been cheaper.  Here are some tips to explore and experience outside of your realm on a budget.

1. Transportation: 

Tess got to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua for only $75 by keeping up with frequent flyer miles.

Tess got to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua for only $75 by keeping up with frequent flyer miles.

If you are flying to your destination, always, always, always attach your frequent flyer miles to your flight reservation.

Even if you don’t travel a lot, you can still take advantage of frequent flyer programs, especially if you stick with one airline. The miles you earn are generally based on the miles you travel.  Redeeming the miles isn’t so straightforward, and basically the airline makes up how much your miles are actually worth.  However, trust me, you can earn a free flight (plus taxes and fees) if you just stick with it and fly at least every 18 months to keep your account active (the time interval depends on the terms of the particular airline).  My amazing sister, Tess, rarely travels for work and sometimes travels for fun but was able to get a free flight to Nicaragua and only had to pay about $75 for taxes and fees.

Google Flights is addicting.

Google Flights is addicting.

If you are in the planning phase and haven't decided on your destination, use Google Flight

Google Flights is AMAZING.  You can use it to look up the cheapest flights from the airport you are flying out of.

Always take public transportation           

When figuring out how to get to your place to stay or just traveling around a city, take a look at how to travel there via public transportation.  Don’t rely on taxis! In big cities, especially in Europe, the public transportation systems are reliable, efficient, and typically very cheap.  If you’re not experienced with public transportation, don’t fret. Part of experiencing new places is becoming familiar with the way people get around.  If you get lost (which you probably will, not matter how seasoned of a traveler you are)- treat it as a learning experience and good story!

Walk!

Walking everywhere is a perfect way to see a new city.  Not only is it fo free, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with an area.

 

2.  Shelter:

3 words: Hostels.  Are. Fun.  Some of my best memories while traveling have been in hostels.  They’re a great way to meet interesting and fun people and also don’t break the bank.  Yes, you have to become comfortable with sharing rooms with strangers, but meeting new people can make a trip even more unforgettable.  Also, if your only knowledge of hostels is the movie “Hostel,” this is a misconception.  There are many, many hostels now that are comfortable, clean, accommodating, trendy, and most importantly safe.

Air bnb or (similar companies).  This type of accommodation is also sometimes a cheaper alternative to hotels.  You’ll hear about my tips for saving money by going to the grocery store and most apartments you can rent have kitchens- perfecto.

3. Nourishment

Go to the grocery store

Really taking the whole "eat like a local" thing to heart...

Really taking the whole "eat like a local" thing to heart...

One of the best ways to experience new cultures is through your stomach.  Trying new and local food is important.  However, buying food adds up and if you’re not careful, eating could be your most expensive activity.  Frequenting the grocery store to buy bread, cheese, meats, pasta, rice, raw veggies, fruit for picnics and/or cooking quickly in the hostel or apartment kitchen is a smart way to save dough.  Like I said, eating is one of the reasons for traveling, so I’d recommend going to a restaurant for a big meal about once a day.

Eat like a local & avoid touristy areas

Per my recommendation, your one meal at a restaurant needs to be a good one.  Avoiding touristy areas to eat gives you cheaper restaurants and also just better food.  Finding hole in the wall local joints away from the Eiffel Tower or Puerta del Sol will provide delicious meals at a steal.

Bring/reuse water bottles

Not only is this trick good for the environment, it can seriously save you money.  A lot of places outside of the U.S. charge you for water, even if its from the tap! No gracias.

If youre not stay in a hostel or airbnb, find a hotel that offers a free breakfast

Lots of hotels offer a free continental breakfast.  Take advantage of this offering and load up! Also, a lot of times these spreads will include fruit and things you can take with you to eat as a snack later in the day.

Buen viaje! 

Spring is here! Do some #adulting and take on a weekend project to spruce up your space.


Step 1: Go to Lowe’s and gather your supplies.  You are going to need the following:

     $0.78 - Pot

     $0.78 - Saucer 

     $3.13 each - 3 paint samples.  All you have to do is go pick out the paint colors from the color wall at Lowe's and then ask for samples in each color.

     $3.98 -Plants.  I chose to use succulents because I wanted this to spruce up the interior of my apartment.  However, you could use whatever plants you like.  I did a            similar project with impatiens.

     $3.58 Valspar Project Perfect Clear Fade Resistant Spray Paint

     $3.93 - Painters Tape (optional):

     $0.99Paint Brush

     Free – Dirt (go dig some up from the backyard J)

    TOTAL - $23.43 total with plenty of paint left over for more projects!

 

Step 2:  Use the painter’s tape to create your designs.  Make sure the tape is pressed all the way down so you don’t have any paint running under the tape.

 

Step 3:  Paint!

Step 4: Remove painter’s tape and complete design.  You may need to use a smaller paintbrush to touch up any wonky areas.

 

Step 5: Once your paint dries, use the topcoat spray to seal your design

 

Step 6: Dig up some dirt and plant your plants!

 

Step 7: Enjoy the pop of spring and feeling like an accomplished adult while staying on a budget!

 

 

Skin Care on a Budget: Part 3


Products!

Stop wasting money on nonsense skin care products.  Stick with these affordable solutions and you are sure to look like a million bucks (get it?...because you'll save money...?)

 

1.    Do not purchase pro-activ.  Buy benzoyl peroxide products over the counter!

Benzoyl peroxide is used to treat mild to moderate acne by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria and by causing the skin to dry and peel.

It can come in the form of face wash ($14) or cream ($6) versus Proactiv which is about $60.

 

2.    Clean your makeup brushes with baby shampoo

Lets face it-your makeup brushes get gross.  Bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells build up over time causing blackheads and breakouts.  Also, neglecting to wash them can cause them to become scratchy and will irritate sensitive skin.

You can buy baby shampoo for $5.

 

3.    Take 5000mcg of biotin every day. 

Taking biotin regularly will give you the nutrients to support beautiful hair, healthy nails and vibrant skin.

You can buy biotin supplements for $5.

 

4.    Take Zinc to treat acne

It turns out that some people are zinc deficient, which can cause acne.  Taking zinc will help balance hormones and carries vitamin A to your skin.  Vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk for zinc deficiencies.

You can buy zinc supplements for $4.

 

5.    Some acids are friendly acids:

The word acid in the context of skin care originally freaked me out, but there are a lot of friendly OTC acids out there!

  • Salicylic acid: Treatment of mild to moderate acne

You can buy salicylic acid cream for $6.

  • Glycolic acid: Exfoliation improvement of skin texture

You can buy glycolic acid cream for $18.

  • Lactic acid: Exfoliation for people with sensitive skin or rosacea

You can buy lactic acid cream for $23.

  • Hyaluronic acid: Ultra moisturization.

You can buy hyaluronic acid cream for $14.

 

6.    Go to the drug store and get a Queen Helene Masque Mint Julep

This super affordable mask will help to dry up acne, shrink pores, rinse away blackheads and leave your skin feeling clean, refreshed and smooth.

You can buy this mask for $4

 

7.    Lastly, the wave of the future:  Microneedling

It sounds terrifying, I know.  However, experts say that it is the wave of the future for skin care.  Microneedling creates tiny punctures in the skins top layer, which stimulates collagen and elastin creation rejuvenating your skin.  Beauty is pain…right?  Just kidding…it doesn’t hurt…badly.

You can buy a dermaroller for $17.

 

 

 

Skin Care on a Budget: Part 2


Food, Beverage & Your Skin

There are lots of things that you can both put in your refrigerator and pantry as well as take out that can help keep that youthful, millennial glow

 

·      Drink LOTS of water.  It clears toxins and improves blood flow

 

·      Check out your pantry for supplies.  Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to your favorite cleanser to turn it into an exfoliator

 

·      Now check out your refrigerator. Use bananas and sugar as an exfoliator, oranges or other citrus fruits as toner and use avocado as moisturizer.   

 

·      Give yourself a weekly steam facial.  This will increase circulation, unplug pores and soothe skin with herbs

 

·      Eat more fish.  The coQ10 in salmon and tuna decrease free radicals, which essentially make you look old, and the omega 3 fatty acids moisturize your skin.

 

·      Eat more fruits and veggies.  The antioxidants fight free radical damage and thus fight aging skin.

Skin Care on a Budget: Part 1


Lifestyle Changes

 

I am very fortunate to have Dr Bobbi Brady as one of my bffs from college because 1. She’s awesome and 2. She’s a Dermatology Resident.  With her help, I am working on a three part series about how to keep your skin beautiful without breaking the bank.  The following lifestyle changes will keep your skin looking fierce:

 

·      Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.  Rain, shine, or snow, sunscreen is ALWAYS a must.

·      Stay OUT of the sun.  Leathered skin is not a good look.

·      Get enough sleep.  Getting enough sleep promotes collagen restoration, better blood flow which brings nutrients to your hair and skin and reduces the look of baggy eyes

·      Sleep on your back.  Sleep wrinkles from your sheets become real wrinkles!

·      Sleep on pillows.  This will keep your head elevated, which reduce the look of puffy eyes

·      Avoid squinting at all costs.  Make sure you wear sunglasses and eye glasses to avoid giving yourself wrinkles

·      Do not over wash your face.  Moisture is very important!

·      This may sound obvious, but DON’T SMOKE

·      Always rinse your skin with cold water after washing

 

 

 

 

Valentines Day Dates on a Budget: Because financial responsibility is hot.

The average person spends $143.21 on Valentine’s Day.  That seems a little ridiculous, am I right?  Here are some ideas that won’t ruin your significant other’s credit score:

 

1.     Bike, Picnic, Movie: 

Step 1:  Food. Nothing is easier and more delicious than a great charcuterie board.  Pack it up in a picnic box (or some of those grocery bags you probably have stuffed in a drawer in your kitchen)

Step 2: Download a movie to your Ipad or laptop

Step 3: Rent bikes.  I know in Charlotte you can rent a bike from Charlotte B-Cycle for as low as $8 for 24 hours!

Step 4: Find a park

Step 5: Enjoy the fruits of your labor in step 1 & 2


2.     At home spa day: 

Step 1: Pull out all those nice/good-smelling lotions lying around that you never actually use. 

Step 2: Like most everything, you can even learn to give a good back massage on YouTube.  Educate yourself.

Step 3:  Get to work



3.     Beer, pizza, cuddle puddle:

Step 1:  Go to Total Wine and buy a hand full of single beers you’ve wanted to try.

Step 2:  Order a pizza

Step 3:  Create a cuddle puddle out of pillows and blankets (its exactly what it sounds like)

Step 4:  Taste each beer, eat pizza and cuddle in your puddle


4.     Valentine’s Day Treasure Hunt:

Step 1:  Buy 3-5 small treats for your sig other

Step 2:  Hide them around your apartment

Step 3:  Write clues on little pieces of paper as to where your sig other can find them

Step 4:  Watch them try and figure you out


2 Things in Life are Certain: Death & Taxes…

…so why don’t I know anything about how taxes work?

Its that time of year again!  When we somehow figure out how to get our taxes done and then keep our fingers crossed we get a fat check!  As I was preparing to “do my taxes” (aka answer some questions on TurboTax), it got me thinking: I have no idea how this works.

So I did a little research and here is what I found:

Your employer withholds money from your paycheck to pay your taxes.  Your tax return is the difference between how much was withheld and how much you actually owe.  It was always really your money; Uncle Sam is just giving it back.

 

Where do I get my taxes done? 

In this day and age and at this point in our lives, filing online with websites like TurboTax and H&R Block is so insanely easy and cheap.  However, if you make less than $62,000, the IRS offers a free filing system that you can find here.

 

What are tax deductions? 

Tax deductions essentially reduce the amount of your taxable income.  For example, if you make $50,000 and have $5,000 worth of deductions, the government views your taxable income as $45,000.  Some of the most common tax deductions are:

  • Interest paid on mortgage
  • Interest paid on student loans
  • Charitable donations
  • Medical expenses associated with a diagnosis

Standard Vs. Itemized Deductions:

For 29 years, I had no idea what this meant until I consulted Google.  Depending on what your situation and marital status is (thanks for the added pressure, IRS…), the government offers a standard deduction

For example, as a single person, my standard deduction is $6,300.  There are a few exceptions in terms of people who aren’t eligible for the standard deduction:

  • You are married, but filing separately and your spouse itemizes deduction
  • You were considered a nonresident alien or dual-citizen

Itemized deductions involve adding up all those deductions listed above.  If you don’t have any loans and donated like $20 last year, it’s probably in your best interest to go with the standardized deduction.  However, if you’re like really grown, itemized might be your best approach.  Essentially, if your deductions add up to be more than your standardized deduction, go for itemized.  Make sense?

 

"Get your money back, America!"  Or whatever that guy in that commercial says...

Your old clothes and makeup can get you new clothes and makeup...

Did you know there are several retailers who will give you discounts or free stuff if you donate your old stuff to them?  I sure didn’t until I did a little digging.  This is what I found…

H&M:  

I can't wait to turn these old clothes into new ones!

I can't wait to turn these old clothes into new ones!

Turn in a bag of clothes and get a coupon for H&M! (Limit 2 bags per day).  My local H&M offers a 15% discount on your next purchase! Not too shabby…

M·A·C:

By returning six M·A·C primary packaging containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, you can get a free M·A·C lipstick of your choice!  I mean I still have purple M·A·C eye shadow from high school hanging around that probably is not as useful as new lipstick…

 

Madewell: 

You can donate any old pair of jeans to a Madewell store and get $20 off your next pair.  They have so many cute pairs of jeans on their website that I think I’m going to have to take them up on this… 

American Eagle: 

Like Madewell, if you bring in any old denim, you’ll get 20% discount on a new pair of jeans! 

Levi’s:

Bring any clean, dry item of clothing or pair of shoes from any brand into a Levi’s store and get a coupon for 20% off your purchase of any regularly priced, in-store item. 

 

 

You will throw away 1 out of every 4 things you buy at the grocery store

Wait, what?!  A study done by the National Resources Defense Council (who knew there was such a thing?) says that American throw away about 25% of the food and beverages they purchase.  Personally, that means I threw $815 away in 2015 (and I am only responsible for feeding myself and Squirrelina).  Okay that’s painful…

 

Here are 3 tricks to help you cut down on grocery store waste:

Seriously May Design books will change your life

Seriously May Design books will change your life

 

1.     Get a May Design Meal Planner Book.  Like ASAP. 

This thing will far and above pay for itself and will take you like 10 minutes a week.  You can plan out your meals on one side and make your grocery list on the other.  This allows you to know exactly how many tomatoes you need for the week instead of just buying tomatoes, cucumbers, and arugula because you’re trying to be healthy.

 

2.     Take a regular inventory of your pantry. 

I generally try to do this about every other week to look through what I already have in my pantry and try to plan meals accordingly.  I promise there are all sorts of meals hiding in your pantry or in the back of your fridge.

 

3.     Don’t choose recipes that require 1/8 of a teaspoon of fresh parsley. 

Freaking fresh parsley is the worse.  Like all fresh herbs, you never need a ton of it but it comes in big bundles.  Make smarter decisions about which recipes you chose, and I promise you’ll find yourself throwing less away.

 

I literally threw away $815 last year.  Sorry, its just taking me a minute to recover...

 

Crock Pot Tex Mex Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This recipe really meets all the requirements for recipe selection:

  1. Its healthy

  2. Its delicious

  3. Its so easy

  4. Its ultra cheap

 


Ingredients: 

  $8.93:1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast

+$0.99: 1.5 tbsp taco seasoning

+$0.27: 1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

+$2.39: 1 16oz jar of salsa

+$0.55: 1 yellow onion, chopped:

+$2.69: Bibb lettuce

+$0.99: 1 avocado

=$16.81 for 6 servings or $2.80 per serving!

 


Tools:

  • Crock Pot (if you don’t already have one, trust me, its worth the money)
  • Knife

 


Directions:

1.     Cover chicken in taco seasoning and place in bottom of crock pot

2.     Chop up onions and slice jalapeno.  Place on top of chicken.

3.     Pour salsa on top.

4.     Put lid on crock pot and cook for 4-5 hours on low.

5.     After 4-5 hours, take out chicken and shred with 2 forks.  You know chicken is done when it easily shreds.

6.     Wrap chicken up in bibb lettuce, top with avocado and enjoy!


3 Steps to Pay Down Your Credit Card Balance

All you need is a cup and some water to be on your way to freedom from credit card debt...

All you need is a cup and some water to be on your way to freedom from credit card debt...

1.     Freeze your credit card. 

 

Literally.  Continuing to use it will only make it worse.  Holler at that debit card.  You can unfreeze it when your relationship is in a better place…

 

2.     Identify where you are over spending

 

You have a high credit card balance because you are living beyond your means. 

Are you shopping at Saks instead of Target?

Are you eating Panera for lunch every day instead of PB&J?

Did you have a big unexpected expense that your savings account couldn’t cover?

 

Are you doing all of thee above?  Stop.

 

3.     Setup a payment plan.

There are online tools that will help you figure out how to pay off your credit card balance like at bankrate.com (http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/credit-cards/credit-card-payoff-calculator.aspx)

While the news will be depressing, paying $2,500 a year in interest is definitely more depressing.

 

I promise you can do this!  You really don't have a choice so that makes it a little easier because credit card debt is financially crippling.  It will just take a little planning and self discipline (starting with #1…)  

Save over $500/year by changing this about your beauty routine

Essie's "Buy Me a Cameo" with Essie's "Rock at the Top" sparkles!  YES.  I did this myself.

Essie's "Buy Me a Cameo" with Essie's "Rock at the Top" sparkles!  YES.  I did this myself.

Are you ready for this?  It might be earthshattering.  Wait for it….

STOP GETTING YOUR NAILS DONE

Assuming you get a mani/pedi only once a month at about $40 total, you are spending almost $500 a year on your nails.  That is a straight up weekend vacation Miami.

Pistol Polish's "Fight Like a Girl."  Don't you love the name?

Pistol Polish's "Fight Like a Girl."  Don't you love the name?

My secret weapon to making my nails look great are Nicole by OPI's drying drops.  Just a drop on each nail quickly dries your polish and gives your nails that “professionally done” shine.

It’s also important to get good polish.  You are saving money by DIYing so splurge a little beyond your standard Wet N Wild polish...

I love the Charlotte based nail polish company Pistol Polish, which is only $7.50 per bottle and comes with an extra kick of girl power.  I’m also a sucker for Essie at around $8.50 per bottle.

 

You would have to buy like 60 bottles of nail polish per year to break even…

 

 

Top 5 Ways to Stick with Your New Years Resolution

Is your New Year’s resolution to save money?  If not, it should be.  Here are the top 5 ways I recommend sticking with it.

 

Your future self on vacation with all the money you saved in 2016.

Your future self on vacation with all the money you saved in 2016.

1.     Track your spending.  If you don’t know how much you are currently spending and don’t know what you’re spending money on, there’s no way you can correct your behavior.

2.     Automatic savings contribution.  The best is when your employer allows you to put a certain amount of your paycheck in your savings account every month.  Otherwise, do it yourself and always on payday.

3.     Learn to cook.  Even if its spaghetti, cooking at home is a great way to save money.  According to a study done by Visa, the average woman who goes out for lunch spends $14/day.  Assuming you’re not going out to lunch during your 2 weeks of vacation, that’s about $3,500/year!  Girl bye!

4.     Pay off your credit cards.  Credit card debt WILL kill you.  The average credit card holder pays $2,630 in INTEREST per year.  Again, girl bye!  The sort term of paying it off will result in a long term gain.  Imagine what you could do with $2,630! (a la NerdWallet.com) 

5.    Stop paying for cable.   The average cable bill is around $120.  The average Internet bill is around $50.  Unless you watch sports, I have heard of no other legitimate reason to have cable.  Cut the cable cord (see what I did there?) and save $840 a year!

 

Did we just save you $7,000 in 2016?!

Your Dad was right. Why, how and when you actually do need to change your oil.

Girl, bye.  Change your oil to avoid this.  (Photo cred: heroicstoic.com)

Girl, bye.  Change your oil to avoid this.  (Photo cred: heroicstoic.com)

So today I changed my oil at the appropriate mileage and was super impressed with my responsibility.  My dad always told me to change my oil, but I really had no idea why or how or when until my 29th year of life and my 13th year of driving (God that makes me feel old).  I thought you guys would benefit from a general overview:

WHY:  Oil in your car allows the metal parts to rub up against each other without damage.  Without oil, the parts will literally cause so much friction that they will WELD themselves together.  Your car will clearly no longer function, and you will be out BIG bucks. 

Basically you need to keep your oil on fleek (aka change it) so you car will function.

HOW:  Getting your oil changed is like insanely easy these days.  You just go to one of those instant oil change places where you don’t even have to get out of your car.  I have been going to Valvoline Instant Oil Change, and its awesome.

I find that the dudes at the oil change place rattle off different oil options but its pretty easy to just Google which is best for your car, and if you keep going to the same place, they will use the same one every time.

WHEN:  This really depends on your car type.  It was super easy to Google how often I should change my oil.   I have to change the oil in my Subey Sube (aka my 2015 Subaru Crosstrek) every 6,000 miles OR every six months, whichever occurs first.

 

In conclusion, paying like $50 every 6 months is > being force to buy a new car.  You would have to get oil changes for 250 years to equal the bill of a $25,000 car….

Ball (but on a budget, please...)

Please excuse my language, but this really just sums it all up.

Please excuse my language, but this really just sums it all up.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of balling on a budget.  Having an achievable but reasonable budget is crucial to financial freedom.

I love, love, love the 50/20/30 rule of budgeting, which is as follows:

 

50%:  Essential Stuff

This means anything that does not change month-to-month including but not limited to:

o   Rent (or mortgage if you are more of a grownup than me)

o   Utility Bill

o   Car Payment

o   Cable Bill (Stop paying for cable.  There’s this thing called the internet now)

o   Health Insurance

                         o   Gym Membership

 

A lot of people say that your household expense (i.e: rent/mortgage and utility bills) should be 30-35% of your paycheck.  This tidbit will help you figure out what monthly rent you can afford.

 

20%: Responsible Stuff

This is basically future self stuff; "Financial Goals," if you will.  Contribute 20% of your paycheck to being responsible and doing this like paying off credit card debt, saving for retirement and developing an emergency fund.

 

30%: Fun Stuff

This is everything else like going out to eat, beer, and clothes for you and/or your cat.

 

And remember, Rule #1 of financial freedom is being fully aware of your financial situation and not sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich however painful that may be so track your spending!!

 

(Seriously I will send you my template if you email me at moneyandthemillennial@gmail.com)

Rule 1: Pay your bills on time. How your credit score is determined

Photo Cred: MyFico.com

Photo Cred: MyFico.com

1. Pay your bills on time (yes, all of them on time). 

This is the most important habit in order to ensure a high credit score as it makes up 35% of your credit score calculation.  I am a huge fan of the paper calendar to help stay on track or signing up for automatic payment.


2. High balances and maxing out your credit WILL hurt your credit score. 

How much you currently owe makes up 30% of your credit score calculation.  You never want your balance to exceed 30% of your total credit limit.  So if your credit card has a limit of $6,000, you never want your balance to be higher than $1,800.  It’s also super embarrassing when your card gets declined when it’s maxed out (not that I know this from personal experience or anything…)


3. Start building credit early.

The length of your credit history makes up 15% of your credit score calculation.  This means you need to start using credit early even if it’s by opening a credit card with a low limit.


4. Have a mix of accounts.

The type of loan or credit accounts you have makes up 10% of your credit score.  This means its best to have a mix like a car loan (that you pay on time) and a credit card (that you also pay on time.  Do you see a trend?)


5. Don’t try and get a lot of lines of credit all at once.

Otherwise your credit score will suffer as these actions might suggest that you are in desperate need of money.



This is the easiest thing ever.

Blanket scarves are super cute, SUPER easy to make and super inexpensive.  Spoiler Alert: I’m pretty much planning on giving every friend/family member one of these for Christmas (whether male or female).

Required Materials:

1.     1.5 yards of fabric.  Fabric.com is a great site for shopping for fabric (shocker).  I bought flannel fabric and it cost me about $14 but I’m pretty sure you can get it for less.

2.     A pair of scissors

3.     Optional: Cat

Follow this link to figure out how to cut the fabric (its SUPER difficult………..)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B9seB4PhT0

And here are a couple examples of the finished product!  Super cute, super warm, super easy.

Emma is a waste of money and electricity.

When my little sister was born, I was 5 and had previously been told I would always be the baby in the family.  She was a “miracle” and needless to say I was #pissed.  My parents used to harp on turning lights off to save electricity; however, they kept a light on in Emma’s room so that they could change her or feed her in the middle of the night.  I took it upon myself to inform my dad that my sister was a “waste of money and electricity,” and honestly, I still stand by that statement (sorry, Emma).

Apparently once she got tall enough to turn off her lights, I was okay with her.  Please excuse my Dr Quinn Medicine Woman hairstyle

Apparently once she got tall enough to turn off her lights, I was okay with her.  Please excuse my Dr Quinn Medicine Woman hairstyle

Managing your household electricity is an easy way to save money, and clearly I have been committed to the cause for a long time.  It’s really like a game every month to see how low I can get my bill.  Here are a few tricks I use to win the game:

1.     Your heating and air bill makes up almost 50% of your monthly electric bill.  ALWAYS turn the temperature down in the winter or up in the summer when you aren’t home.  It will make a huge difference.

2.     Turn everything off before you go to bed or leave the house.  If you really want to win the game, unplug appliances that aren’t in use.

3.     Close your blinds when you aren’t home to help with insulation.  It will keep the heat out in the summer or in during the winter.  My apartment has those really crappy vertical blinds but even those make a big difference.

4.     Cold water gets clothes just as clean as hot water and doesn’t require any additional energy.  Wash all clothes with cold water!

I promise that doing these really simple things will help you win.  I swear it’s a super fun game.

Credit scores are super freaking important and here's why

Getting my finances in order and thus improving my credit score allowed me to purchase my amazing new Subaru at an interest rate of 1.74%!

Getting my finances in order and thus improving my credit score allowed me to purchase my amazing new Subaru at an interest rate of 1.74%!

1.      It determines your interest rate on loans

Interest rate is basically just a nice way of saying how much you are going to have to pay in order to get a loan.  The worse your credit score is, the higher your interest rate will be and the more money you will pay out over the course of your loan.  For example, if you buy a $300K house with a 15 year mortgage using the current average mortgage rate (about 3.89%) you will pay $23,000 more over the course of your loan than someone with a 3.00% rate.  Imagine what you could do with $23,000.

 

2.     Your credit score is like your reputation

Like a bad reputation, it’s pretty hard to turn around a bad credit score so avoid damaging your score at all costs (no pun intended).

 

3.     People will judge you by your credit score 

This thing follows you around everywhere.  Whether it’s your job, your romantic partner, your landlord or your bank, all of these entities will judge your financial responsibility based on your credit score.

Your future self will thank you for building credit now.

As I previously stated in my entry about how your credit score is calculated, I mentioned that 10% of your credit score comes from the length of your credit history.  The following are ways you can start to build credit:

 

1.     Open up a secured credit card

 Basically with a secured credit card, you will have to give the bank a deposit that is equal to your limit.  So if you get a secured credit card with a $500 limit, the bank will require you to give them in a check for $500, sort of like paying a security deposit on an apartment.  A secured credit card’s purpose is pretty much solely for building credit.

 

2.     Beg your parents to be a cosigner on a credit card

In this case, your cosigner (aka your parents) will act as your security deposit.  This might give you a little more motivation to be financially responsible because if you don’t make your payments on time or max out the card, your parents credit will suffer (aka you will suffer)

 

3.     Apply for a Discover credit card

Discover tends to be more lenient about approving people with little to no credit history.  The limit might be low (like $1,000), but you have to start somewhere.  If you are responsible with that card, Discover will most likely increase your limit after three months of the account being opened.

 

4.     Become an authorized user on someone else’s (aka your parent’s) credit card 

You will be able to use the credit card, and (in most cases) you will be able to build credit by doing so.  Before setting this up, make sure that the issuer of the card gives you credit for the use of the card; otherwise, this will be pointless.