Clever Girl Finance provides women with money coaching services, financial advice, financial tips and budgeting tools to inspire them to pursue their dreams of financial independence. Follow this blog to get tips to take charge of personal finance and build real wealth.
We know Megan and Harry took the cake for the wedding of the year. There was no competition. Literally, everybody and everything was there. However, the price tag of their royal wedding does not exactly line up with the everyday reality of most Americans seeking to get married.
We want a grand experience similar to that of a royal wedding, without comprising personal finances.
Here is a list of tips to cut costs on wedding expenses and achieve the glam wedding of your dreams based on insights from Promo Codes Consumer Savings Expert, Jill Caponera who is all about teaching people to save money:
1. Negotiate for a lower price
The first step tip that might seem obvious is to negotiate price and contracts with the people you employ for your wedding. Caterers, photographers, florists, and DJs will often work with your specific budget. Don’t take their offering rate was set in stone.
Be willing to negotiate and or walk away if you cannot afford a rate being offered to you. For example, ask your caterer for sample menus and prices per person, then see which areas you can cut back on (i.e., perhaps you only need two passed hors-d'oeuvres instead of five). This will help you to go back and negotiate the price down for their services. Photographers, florists, and DJs will also usually be willing to come down on prices in order to close the deal.
2. Opt for family style service dinner
Choosing a family style dinner with shared platters that can be passed around the table can save you up to 20% off your catering cost. Although formal catering is nice, it is not always well-suited for everyone’s wedding, and the experience they would like to receive from their wedding. It can also create a warm atmosphere for people who would like to have smaller and more intimate weddings.
3. Shop for used wedding dresses
If your dream dress is out of your budget, try finding it online from second-hand wedding dress sites such as OnceWed.com or StillWhite.com. You can save up to 75% off wedding dresses that have been pre-loved, dry cleaned and preserved for their next owner.
Another alternative is renting out formal wear. You can rent a dream wedding dress instead of dropping thousands of dollars to wear it for one occasion. The same goes for the suit for the groom. Suits can also be rented and is a great way to cut costs on materials that do not have long timelines in terms of how often they will be worn.
4. DIY your wedding flower arrangements
Often times, floral arrangements can be the biggest budget-buster, but a little-known fact is that you can buy flowers, bouts, and corsages in bulk from Sam's Club and Costco, which can save you thousands when compared to working with a florist.
Figure out your wedding colors, watch a few YouTube tutorials on how to put together an arrangement, and you're all set!
5. Skip the fancy wedding cake
3-tier wedding cakes can set you back hundreds of dollars, and more often than not, guests are having too much fun to even notice if there was a cake at all. Opt for a single 6-8 inch tier cake atop a Styrofoam base, so you can still get your cake cutting photos.
You can also take the rest home with you for your one-year anniversary. If you still want to serve cake to your guests, purchase a few sheet cakes from Costco or your local bakery for about $40 a piece- your guests will never know the difference.
6. Forget the wedding linens or bring your own
If your venue has wooden tables that don't need to be covered, opt for a rustic look without linens which could save you between $500-$1,000.
If the provided tables need to be covered, buy a pretty fabric in bulk online or at your local craft store and DIY your own linens for major cost savings. There are many resources available, especially visual such as Youtube that can help you get started on customizing your own linens.
7. Ask a friend to officiate
You can save between $200-400 by asking a friend to officiate your wedding. A friend can easily get ordained online for around $50. Also, if you do not feel comfortable with asking a friend to officiate for the first time, asking someone you are close to who has had experience officiating weddings is another alternative.
Weddings are a beautiful and wonderful time for everyone involved, especially when finances are not an issue. Everyone would like to have the wedding of his or her dreams. These are just some tips to turn your dream into a reality.
Article by Ada Amadi, the content management intern for Clever Girl Finance. She is an avid budgeter and passionate about women becoming financially literate and empowered.
Your priorities are clear - Crush debt, save for retirement, and perhaps put aside some cash for your kids. Yet you have a nagging voice in your head that’s telling you to start doing more for your health (enticed by Instagram photos of ripped bodies and delicious-looking healthy foods). However, if you’re thinking that it’ll take time and money away from your financial goals, keep reading.
"This article is not a typical cliché lecture about how you need to take care of your body."
Instead, you’ll discover simple, but clear, ways to get the most out of your investment in healthy living, resulting in a healthier you (fewer sick days off work, less money spent in hospital bills, and more energy to enjoy your family even as you grind hard).
1. Get clear on your health and fitness goals
When you chose to push for your financial freedom, you got clear about what that would mean for your life: more money in your pocket, a retirement that’s filled with rich experiences, and children that are set up to have a better life than you had.
Defining what your health would look like in your new financially free life should be no different. You don’t want to wake up one day retired to find yourself dealing with lifestyle diseases that take away money from the post-retirement life you planned so carefully. . . diseases that you could have prevented by taking care of your health now.
So, as you reflect on your vision of financial freedom to help you stay motivated, visualize how you want to feel to extend the motivation you have towards earning, spending, and saving wisely to care for your health.
2. Cheap workout gear is a must
If you let social media tell it, you need to wear the latest athleisure clothing to workout. But you don’t need $90 yoga pants or a $150 jacket to exercise consistently and get the results you’re after.
These expensive aspects of a healthy lifestyle journey are optional. An old t-shirt and a comfortable pair of leggings will help you get the immune-boosting benefits of exercise without breaking the bank.
Another path to take to save money on workout gear is to get a few quality pieces that you can rotate through for a long time. Like a good capsule wardrobe, a few high-quality basics will get the job done, and they don’t have to cost a fortune.
3. Save money while shopping for groceries
You certainly don’t have to follow the latest, expensive health trends to get the vitality-giving benefits of a healthy diet. Your whole paycheck doesn’t have to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to get these benefits.
Instead, a strategic plan for getting healthy food on the table will work wonders. Some of my favorite strategies include:
Buying non-perishables in bulk: Get them when they’re on sale if possible.
Be disciplined when getting specialty items: Matcha green tea is touted as a superfood, but regular old green tea will do the trick in a pinch, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Enjoy cheaper non-meat protein sources: They have less protein, but you get a two-for-one deal because they’re high in filling fiber which will boost your digestive health.
Get fruits and veggies in season: Buy local where possible, as shipping costs are added directly into the cost of your produce.
Choose frozen fruits and veggies when you can: Frozen fruits and veggies provide you with necessary nutrition, and you can get non-seasonal produce for cheaper.
Buy store brand packaged goods when you need to: Sometimes they’re just as good as the name brand options and comparing the ingredient list and nutrition labels can help you choose what’s best.
These are a few strategies to explore when you’re working to eat healthier. As you start to see how much more energy you have (or even the pounds come off), you’ll be motivated to find more.
4. Take advantage of your insurance benefits to spend less on health care long-term
Having the right health insurance plan can reduce the financial burden of healthcare. It can help you spend less money out of pocket, which means more money in your retirement accounts or to pay down debt.
But don’t just leave it at buying health insurance. Look into benefits like:
Options for an HSA (Health Savings Account): HSA is an account you can put pre-tax dollars into to pay for healthcare expenses. This can help you reduce your tax burden and save money for future health costs as this type of health account rolls over each year. There’s a cap on how much you can contribute each year, but not how much you can have in the account. This means you can save towards your health expenses if leaving your nine to five is one of your motivations for financial freedom.
Subsidized preventive care: Preventative care can help catch any health issues early and take care of them before they become full-blown health emergencies.
These are four strategies that can help you benefit from caring for your health even as you care for your wallet. So don’t use your financial goals as an excuse to ignore your health goals.
Financial goals are a valid reason to put other areas of your life on hold, but ignoring your health could put a drain on your future earning potential and quality of life.
Channeling the title of episode 15 of the Clever Girls Podcast, when it comes to success, you either want it or you don’t. If you want to be healthy, happy and financially free, it’s time to start taking action using some of the paths I’ve shared to boosting your healthy lifestyle.
EJ Ogenyi is the author of Weight Loss for High Achievers: The Busy Woman's Guide to Losing Weight with a Healthy Lifestyle. She's a working mom of two young kids and writes about healthy living for busy women at ejogenyi.com.
So you have gotten to the point where you found that new job, graduated from school, or are going back to school, either way, you need to find an affordable place to call home-- and quick. As much as staying with mom and dad has been great as well as a smart way to save money, it is now time to flee - I mean move out.
Yet, once you start apartment hunting in your dream locations (think Miami, New York City, or Los Angeles), you realize those rent prices look like mortgages for million dollar dream homes, not 4” by 4” apartments. Nevertheless, there are still ways to save thousands of dollars on rent without breaking the bank.
1. Try out Airbnb
Airbnb is a great place to start to find cheap accommodations if you are planning on staying in a location for a couple weeks or months and do not want to sign that expensive, uptown lease. The best approach is to reach out to people on Airbnb to see if they would be willing to accommodate you for a couple of weeks or months.
There are spots on Airbnb as low as $20 a night, which is about $600 every month, much better than sky-high rents in the downtown of any city. On top of that, there is no need to pay for utilities, Wi-Fi, and cable. Many Airbnb locations allow you to use the kitchen.
"An Airbnb I had last summer offered all of these amenities, for just $500 a month in Miami."
2. Consider getting roommates to save on housing cost
Another more traditional way to cut down on the cost of rent is to find roommates to live with or live with another family member. Maybe if you cannot find kind family members who will let you live with them or a friend, you could also try looking for outside connections.
Always be safe with strangers, but Facebook groups and GroupMe are a good place to start to find at least acquaintances who would be willing to join in on an apartment with you.
3. Work in exchange for rent
I was recently looking for cheap ways to live in NYC and found the option of providing care for the elderly. It sounded too good to be true, free room and a stipend, but it actually is a legitimate problem as there is a growing elderly population in the U.S.
So in exchange for a free place to stay, all you have to do is be available at certain hours to care for the elderly person you are working for and possibly run errands. This does require additional time outside of your work week or class schedule, but it is a great way to save money for rent in cities if you don’t mind the devoting additional hours per week for elderly care.
Another way to live rent-free is by working for a program or company that offers rent in exchange for work. Certain hostels have programs that allow you to live for free, work-for-rent. Moreover, graduate programs allow graduate students to live on campus free in exchange for attending and managing the needs of undergraduate students who also live in the same dormitory.
The great part about the live-in graduate fellow accommodation is that you will also cut costs on transportation because you will be living on campus. Just like, I said before, as long as you are dedicated to spending an extra couple hours a week attending to the needs of tenants or students, this is an option that can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your stay!
4. Try subleasing your apartment to make some extra money
Lastly, subleasing is another great way to save money on rent. You can either have your place subleased when you are away for weeks or months at a time or seek out people who would like to sublet their apartments. The best place to look for literally hundreds of people subletting is on college campuses.
Many college students do not stay on campus for the summer, leaving behind empty apartments that they still desperately need to pay rent on; and the best part is they will not hesitate to lower their offering price for you. I reached out to an acquaintance who was subletting, and she was able to offer me $250 a month for her room!
It is definitely possible to find affordable living accommodations, even in a major city. It just requires a good amount of time, patience, and a little perseverance.
Article by Ada Amadi, the content management intern for Clever Girl Finance. She is an avid budgeter and passionate about women becoming financially literate and empowered.
When my daughters were just toddlers, I made a commitment to raise them to be economically independent and empowered to make their own financial decisions. I wanted them to become financially secure, self-reliant women; this is a skill that is taught.
"As parents, we can educate our children to be financially independent so that they learn how to protect themselves from the vulnerability of economic insecurity."
Here are 7 impactful ways to raise financially empowered young women:
1. Open a saving account for your child
What better way for kids to understand money than to have and manage their own? I gave my girls an allowance starting at age five and committed to paying it weekly through college as long as they invested half of it into their personal savings accounts.
Parents can make a household rule that savings—money from allowance and other income including gifts—stay untouched until it affords its owner a valuable opportunity. Your kids will one day be amazed at the doors that their saving will open for them.
2. Advocate the importance of education
Every day at the Women’s Business Development Council, I witness the empowerment that education offers. Simply put, knowledge is power, and it will give your daughters the opportunity to make choices and follow dreams.
Put education at the top of your parenting priorities by setting expectations and celebrating educational success. Set up a college savings account as soon as possible, research scholarships and take advantage of low-cost after-school enrichment and tutoring programs that allow your daughters to explore interests and get extra help to build confidence.
3. Increase perspective-taking in children
Show your girls the world that is waiting at their door. When my children were young, we didn’t let our meager budget get in the way of creating excitement around travel. We’d pack our bags and drive to Grandma’s house, which was on the way to an international airport.
We’d detour through the airport, giddy with anticipation of all the places planes would one day take us. Find ways to bring the world to you, too. Our family hosted young women from around the globe in our home as exchange students and au pairs. Their cultures and perspectives broadened my daughters’ views of the world and made them excited to leave their mark on it.
4. Challenge gender stereotypes
Traditionally, girls are encouraged to take on roles to care for others, an emphasis placed on their nurturing capabilities rather than on their earning potential. Help girls become more comfortable with pursuing their ambitions and unabashed about their desire to make money.
Teach them to be in control and effect change. Help them understand that they can care for others with their own wealth, using it to invest in their families, communities, and in causes they support.
5. Teach your daughters to be strong
While the completion of chores wasn’t linked to my kids’ allowance, household tasks played an important role in teaching them independence and responsibility. Each child was responsible for making her bed, keeping her bedroom clean, setting the dinner table, and putting her laundry away at the end of the night.
Keeping the cracks in our long driveway free from weeds—a task I felt encouraged a strong work ethic and was definitely not appreciated by them – was also on the list! At summer camp they were required to clean toilets, wash clothes or do dishes. While they often grumbled about the work, they later thanked me for giving them the skills necessary to live on their own.
6. Don't underestimate the importance of mentoring
Opportunities are often left untapped when there isn’t a supportive mentor to share them, make an introduction or show you the ropes. Business success is often attributed to the support and mentorship of others who are willing to give their time and pass along skills.
When our family was young, my daughters experienced the satisfaction of helping others, for instance seeing our au pair explore her veterinary career ambition through an internship we helped her land at our local vet.
Today, my girls are early in their careers—one a lawyer and the other a social worker—and see mentorship as critical to their success. Knowing its power, they are also quick to offer support to others.
7. It takes a village to raise a child
This last strategy is for you. Raising children is hard work and it’s not meant to be done alone. Create a reliable support system of committed individuals and organizations to help you achieve the goals you have for your children.
My village was a lovingly cobbled together mix of savvy female friends who shared with me their professional acumen (to help me start a business to support my family and others), offered parenting advice, and gave me access to their nannies and babysitters to care for my kids while I worked. My girls benefited from their support and perspectives as much as I did.
Economic self-sufficiency is one of the most important and perpetuating lessons you can teach your daughters. With education and know-how, broader perspectives and the support of others, your children will be able to better explore their dreams, get to know their world, and help to forge change that will empower and inspire others to do the same.
My daughters’ financial savvy and their childhood savings accounts eventually grew to offer opportunities they could have otherwise not afforded—study abroad, extensive international travel, and a year of income while holding out for a dream job in a new city.
They are empowered by the confidence they have in themselves to make good choices because their personal savings served as a source of independence.
Fran Pastore is the founder and CEO of the Women's Business Development Council (www.ctwbdc.org), a leading organization for championing female entrepreneurship.
Smart people make poor career decisions and not-so-smart people make poor career decisions- so what's the difference between them?
That’s a trick question. There is no difference.
It doesn’t matter if you made good grades in college or if you excelled in sports or the arts. It doesn't even matter if at work you became the go-to person on the team in no time and have always been able to thrive in social settings. Even if you’re the Albert Einstein of your department, you have most likely made at least one opposite-of-genius move at some point in your professional past (or present).
Look, I get it: no one intentionally makes bad career decisions.
Decisions that make you question if you know what you’re doing when it comes to your professional life. Decisions that leave you paralyzed with regret and defeat as the sound of the alarm on your cell breaks through your subconscious every single morning. Decisions that force you to ask yourself:
What was I thinking? How did I get here? What do I really want to do?
Do any of the following career scenarios sound familiar?
Ever move on to a new opportunity without giving serious thought to whether that move makes sense for your ultimate career goals, and once you’re in your new job you realize you’ve made a huge mistake that may take years to undo?
Ever agree to join a side project at work even though your plate is already filled to capacity with other tasks, so you can’t give the project your full attention — which makes you look like a slacker?
Ever convince yourself to just “keep your head down and do your job” even though your eyes glaze over from boredom every time you think about what you do for a living, which leaves you unable to operate at the level you know you’re capable of?
So, why do smart people — people who solve complex problems, people who think things through logically — people like you — totally miss the mark when deciding how to navigate their career?
The reasons may surprise you.
The truth behind why we make the career decisions that we make
You probably think most people make decisions based on what they truly want. That they always do what’s in the best interest of themselves and their career.
But actually, that’s not true.
For the most part, our career decisions are based on what we think other people want.
You apply for a job at that big company because your best friend convinced you that bigger is better — even though you feel most comfortable in smaller work environments.
You raise your hand to be considered for promotion because all your colleagues raised theirs and you don’t want to be left behind — never mind the fact you have no desire to do anything listed in the higher profile job description.
You quit your job to become an entrepreneur because everyone else is doing it and you think if you’re not your own boss then something’s wrong with you and you’ve somehow settled for a mediocre life.
The painfully bad career advice everyone follows
Because most people are making choices aligned with others’ professional desires (and not their own), they’re more susceptible to using the well-meaning, but incorrect, anecdotes as reasons to make silly decisions.
- Just follow your gut
There are times it is OK — expected even — to use your gut to make a major decision (like when it comes to relationships, buying a home or your health), but deciding your next career move doesn’t have to be one of these times. Instead, give serious and objective thought to which option gets you closer to your ultimate career goals. You should be clear on how and why your decision is the best choice for where you’re trying to go professionally.
- You need to figure it all out by (insert milestone age)
Newsflash: you will not self-destruct if you haven’t found your career groove by 35, 45, or even 65. That means you should slow down. The most successful (and fulfilling) career journeys are those treated like a marathon, not a sprint. Experiment with your interests and weigh your options before taking any big risks.
- Focus on the future, forget about the past
Part of what makes high performing athletes so great is the habit of reviewing game film. No, you shouldn’t beat yourself up or be critical of every wrong move you’ve made, but you should figure out the lesson behind every mistake. Questions like: what could I have done differently and what have I learned are important to ask after each setback.
- You need to stay on the right track
The worst thing you can do is force yourself into a box, afraid to explore your interests. Take that class on a topic unrelated to your day job. Apply for that position in an entirely different industry. Don’t feel pressured to do things in the “logical order” predetermined by someone else. There is more than one path to success.
- Always ask for advice from others
The most valuable advice I’ve ever received was, don’t seek counsel from anyone you wouldn’t trade places with. Outside of my mentor and my career coach, I don’t rely on many people to inform my career decisions. Who better to steer your career in the right direction than you. Trust in your own knowledge and experiences when thinking about making your next move. Ultimately you are responsible for your decisions.
- Just follow your heart
Let me be clear: I agree that you should take the time to figure out your professional purpose and spend your days doing work that excites and energizes you. But the idea of simply doing what you love is oversimplified.
Ask anyone who has found work they’re passionate about and they’ll tell you their journey was a series of little decisions that compounded on top of one another. Finding work you love is definitely the goal, but you shouldn’t avoid making decisions just because you’re not passionate about your options.
- What you've got to do now that you know better
While there is an argument to be made for embracing career mistakes and learning from every decision you make, why put yourself through the emotional and professional stress that comes with trying to course correct after the fact if you don’t have to?
Admit it. You’ve made silly career decisions that left you in a space you didn’t want to be in — one that threw you off track with your professional goals. You probably even clearly remember the exact moment (or series of moments) that led you to that point.
Remember how you felt when you realized those ill-advised choices you were making — which maybe even seemed like the right thing to do at the time — were actually the opposite of what you should have done? The embarrassment? The uncertainty about what would happen next?
Hopefully, you succeeded in turning your professional life around since then, but maybe you didn’t. Maybe as you look forward to where you want your career to go in the future, you’re unsure of what your next step should be.
"The good news is it’s never too late to get back on track and learn the tools you need to make the best choices going forward."
You’re smart and perfectly capable. It’s time to make sure your career decisions are as well.
Article by Dorianne St. Fleur is a HR expert, career coach and the creator of Your Career Girl, where she teaches women the strategies they need to increase their income, have more impact and do the work they love.
Starting out your new life as newlyweds mean blending your worlds together - and that includes your finances. Talking about your finances may not be the most romantic topic of conversation, but it is an important one to have. Even if you already lived together before getting married, how you manage your money will change after you become legal partners.
"As soon as you get engaged, it's a good idea to decide how you'll spend, save, and pay down your debts as a couple."
These money matters may be awkward to talk about at first but doing so will improve your communication skills and prevent any money misunderstandings in the future. Don't let your money matters put a damper on your big day. Here are 8 pieces of marriage advice to keep your finances in order after you tie the knot.
1. Talk About Your Family Financial History
A 2017 survey found that, of the 3,010 participants, 68% claimed they would rather tell their spouse how much they weigh than reveal the dollar amount in their savings account. If nothing else, this survey proves that talking about money is awkward, even with someone you love.
Talking about your family's history with money is a great way to open up the conversation about your marriage finances. Revealing how your parents handled money, what you learned from their financial resume, and how they taught you to save or spend can be helpful information for couples.
2. Decide on a Separate or Joint Bank Account
Some marriage advice to consider regarding your financial management is whether or not you will have shared or separate bank accounts. There are pros and cons to both. If you choose to keep your bank accounts separate, you will have to pay special attention to budgeting and separating bills between the two of you. Otherwise, your financial management will continue on as normal.
Choosing to have a shared bank account means both of you will have access to and contribute to one bank account. This makes life easier when it comes to becoming homeowners and paying bills. It's also simpler to keep track of spending when you're working with one account. Disadvantages of a shared account occur when one spouse is less careful than the other about making purchases or frequently overspends.
3. Create a Budget
Once you are married and living together you will need to create a monthly household budget. Determine your shared monthly income. Next, make a list of your expenses such as monthly bills, entertainment, mortgage, insurance, as well as loans and other debts. Once you have studied this list, cut out non-essential expenses.
Having a budget will give you both a better understanding of how much you need to bring in monthly and will help you tackle debts and avoid overspending.
4. Discuss Finances Regularly
Your marriage finances should not be swept under the rug. Circumstances are bound to change at various points in your married life. Make it a habit to review your finances on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to ensure you are staying true to your household budget.
5. Be Honest About Debts
One piece of marriage advice that works for all aspects of your relationship is this: be honest with your spouse. This is especially true when it comes to talking about money. You wouldn't want to exaggerate your income, nor would you want to lie about the amount of debt you have.
Many find debt embarrassing, but the truth is that most people have debt at some point in their lives. This might be student loans, credit card debt, a mortgage, or a car loan. Whatever the case, let your partner know about any money you owe prior to getting married.
Once you have openly discussed any debts you may have, make it your goal to settle them as a couple. You may not feel like it is your responsibility to pay off debt that your spouse accumulated before you were a couple.
However, their debt may make it harder for you to get a loan or buy a home together. Furthermore, once they are connected to your bank account, you officially become liable for any debt they incur in the marriage. You can reduce debt faster if you do it together.
6. Start an Emergency Fund
You will never regret starting an emergency fund after marriage. This locked savings account is a great way to put cash aside for emergencies or unexpected occasions. For example: if you lose your job, if you are suddenly expecting a baby, if the roof leaks, the car breaks down, and the list goes on.
Set up a savings account in both of your names and either set up an automatic transfer through your online bank app or take turns putting money into the account on a monthly basis. An emergency fund will slowly grow over time and give you peace of mind, should any unexpected problem arise.
Overspending can rack up debt, cause mistrust between partners and shows a lack of respect within the marriage. Avoid these relationship issues by consulting your partner before making big purchases and being open and honest about your spending habits.
8. Plan for Retirement
Retirement is going to be a big part of your marriage. This is the time where you relax, kick up your feet, and start spending some real quality time together. You can plan for retirement by putting money away into a savings account on a monthly basis.
You can also talk to your bank about investing your money or contributing to an RRSP. Limiting unnecessary spending and budgeting accordingly throughout your working life are also great suggestions for retirement planning.
Some of the best marriage advice you can follow is to always be honest about your debts, income, and budgeting history. Marriage finances are a tricky topic, but it’s important that you discuss them regularly with your partner.
Rachael Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.
Cash back and travel reward credit cards all sound the same, but they aren’t. If you're in the market for a credit card or looking for one that will get you the best “benefits”, the better choice depends on many factors.
These factors include your spending habits, short & long term goals and most importantly your credit history. For example, frequent travelers tend to go for rewards cards to receive travel bonuses and other perks while others who like other attractive options opt for the cash back.
"Keep in mind that rewards and cash back cards encourage spending and are only beneficial if you pay off your balance full each month."
What's the difference? Let’s get into it, shall we? By the end of this blog post, you will understand the difference between cash back and travel reward credit cards.
Cash back credit cards
Without a doubt, I'm sure you receive many emails or mail credit card offers that promise you 5% cash back at your local grocery store, coffee shops, movie theaters, retail stores and gas stations. If you receive credit card offers along those lines, know that it is a cash back credit card.
Cash back credit cards essentially work like store loyalty and rewards such as DSW shoes or CVS Pharmacy. As a customer, you are rewarded for charging purchases on that specific card. Each company offers different options with retailers and percentages, but for the most part, it's usually a small percentage ranging from 1-5%.
For example, if during the course of a billing statement month you made $100 in purchases, with 5% cash back you would receive $5 towards your bill or in your cash back “bank” where you can cash out over time. While some companies offer a variety of percentages, each does offer extra cash back depending on what promotion they are offering during a given period.
Travel rewards credit cards
If you see a credit card company advertising bonus airline miles for signing up or points and discounts at hotels, it’s most likely a travel rewards card. One of the main things you’ll notice when you read the fine print is that interest rates are much higher than other cards because of the benefits, of course.
Besides the high-interest rates, there’s so much to love about travel rewards cards. These benefits include complimentary lounge access in airports, exclusive events including concerts, upgrades at resorts and luxury hotels, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight refreshments and snacks, flight upgrades and more. The list can go on.
When deciding which travel rewards card is right for you it's important for you to put in the time and effort to understand what the companies are offering. You should see if the card aligns with your spending activity habits and your goals. For example, if you are a frequent flyer and often find yourself on JetBlue almost always, take the time to research cards that provide you with JetBlue and partnering airline benefits.
Enticing perks right? Yes and no. When it comes to credit cards you should always read all of the fine print. Companies always get you with the awesome sign-on bonuses, which is when you will find yourself struggling to gain the same benefits the following year.
Other key things to look out for with cash back cards are when companies offer cash back off of points instead of the standard rebate based off of your purchases. Basically, you receive the points and it’s up to you to redeem the points to get the cash back.
For travel rewards cards you need to pay attention to the annual fees ranging from $90 to $500+ a year. If you don’t travel that much, consider finding cards with no annual fee.
Rewards and cash back cards encourage spending and, frankly, don’t care if you mess up your credit. These cards are only beneficial if you pay off your balance full each month. Otherwise, you will find yourself like many people drowning in credit card debt with zero rewards.
If you’re searching for the top cash back or travel rewards cards one of the best places to help you get started with your search is NerdWallet. It provides you with all the details you need to know about the different credit card and also lets you compare and contrast different card options based on your credit score.
Article by Felicia Blaise, a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), Travel Strategist, and the Chief Budget Balancer. She helps millennials change they way they think about money so they can experience the world, not financial limits. Visit her website here.
If you are reading this blog post, there a high chance you found out about Clever Girl Finance from watching a YouTube video on the Clever Girl Finance YouTube Channel. YouTube has been an incredible platform for creating brand awareness for Clever Girl Finance and for connecting with my incredible audience.
I've learnt a lot so far from being on YouTube and I wanted to write this blog post to share some of that because I get asked all the time about how I was able to grow my YouTube channel.
"In my first year on YouTube, my channel grew from 0 to 26,000+ subscribers."
In my first year on YouTube, my channel grew from 0 to 26,000+ subscribers and there were a few key things I did that contributed to this. So below are my tips and suggestions in no specific order:
1. Create and upload videos on a consistent basis
I think one of the barriers to entry when it comes to creating video is that people think that their videos need fancy editing or require super fancy equipment but to be honest, my videos were (and still are) super basic and I used (and still use) the free editing software that came with my Mac - iMovie - to edit them.
Initially, I recorded my videos using my built-in computer camera and by placing my laptop on some stacked books (yup, I improvised) but then I upgraded to the following equipment that all together come in well under $100:
In time, I will plan to upgrade my editing software and camera equipment (perhaps I'll purchase final cut pro and I'll get a DSLR camera with video capability) but until I decide, I'll keep making my videos with what I have now.
If you've been on the fence about making a video because of your equipment (or lack thereof) my advice to you is to just use what you have now, even if it's your phone's camera - the key is to make sure you have good lighting!
2. Find a video accountability partner
I got a friend to be my video accountability partner and we each set a goal to record a video for our businesses once a week. I recorded videos specific for YouTube but on the weeks when I couldn't, I would just upload a video I had made for Instagram or FB live. The goal was to keep consistent content going because when it comes to content creation for platforms like YouTube, consistency is key and YouTube loves that.
I also uploaded the audio of my podcast for people who listen to audio on YouTube and organized them into different playlists. In my experience, I've found that my YouTube videos do well when they are 5 to 15 mins long. This might vary depending on topic though - I speak mostly on personal finance and mindset and this works well for me.
3. Use good titles, keywords and tags with your videos
It's all about making it easy for people to find your content when they search for your topic on YouTube and that means using good titles based on keywords and searchable tags. Tube Buddy is a free browser extension and a pretty cool tool that can help you find good keywords to use in your titles and can help you find relevant tags to add to your videos. Also since Google owns YouTube, the Google Keyword Planner Tool works great too. I highly recommend signing up for and exploring both tools so you get a sense of how they work.
4. Sharing your videos everywhere = more views + more subscribers
Sharing your videos as much as you can will drive more views and will also drive more subscribers to your channel (as well as drive your chances of going viral - more on that below). Share your videos with your email list or newsletter, on your blog, on IG, on FB, on Twitter etc. The more views your videos get the more inclined (I believe and have read) the YouTube algorithm is to promote it.
Also, going back to point one, the more video you create, the more content you have to share, the more views you can get. Note: Don't be spammy, be consistent. Once a week (or on a schedule people expect) is good.
5. Aim to go viral
While there are no guarantees of getting a video to go viral, having a viral video can have a big impact on the growth of your YouTube channel. This was one of my goals and when it happened it contributed immensely to my subscriber growth. It helped me gain 11,000 subscribers in a two month period. How did I do this? I picked my most popular blog post at the time and made a video of it (Using keywords, tags and also sharing it as much as I could).
Another idea is to determine what's popular on YouTube in your content category by doing a search for different topics and looking at the most popular videos, to get ideas for content to create and variations of titles to test out as well.
6. Get to know your YouTube Dashboard
A key part of succeeding with YouTube is understanding your metrics and also understanding how to use the dashboard available to you with your YouTube account. There are a ton of useful insights on your dashboard that will show you just how your videos are performing and there are some very useful features that can help your videos perform even better.
Some of my favorite features are the end cards and annotations where you can embed notes, polls and even showcase your other videos as your viewers watch your current videos keeping them engaged with your channel for longer. Not sure how to use the features on your dashboard or need some extra help? Do a search for a video tutorial on YouTube :)
Also as soon as your account is eligible, turn on monetization - over time and as your account grows, it will be a great way to earn passive income.
7. Engage with your audience
Just like with other social media platforms people will comment and ask questions. You should respond, like etc - it all helps. Plus engaging with your audience will help them get to know you better and will give you ideas for content to create that they want to see from you that will, in turn, help you grow your channel.
In addition, take advantage of your YouTube community page. It's another way to engage with your audience. You can recycle your IG and FB images, post text there and have conversations with your community.
8. Have patience
YouTube takes time to grow and while it's a slow and steady pace of growth, the results can be amazing! Plus your videos will return as results on Google searches (yay) and you'll also be building a community on YouTube that will help grow your business platform so be patient. It's well worth it.
Accessibility, organization and easy to use tools are key components to financial success.
If you are able to manage and view your finances at your convenience on devices that you use often, you're more likely to stay on track with your money goals.
Here are three key type of phone apps and tools every Clever Girl needs in order to win with her money:
1. A budgeting app
Having a budget or a spending plan is key to managing your daily finances. When you're able to actively see and keep track of your money, you become more aware and intentional about how you spend it. Once you have developed a budget, the next step is to actively manage it.
My go-to budget app is YNAB (You Need A Budget). It allows you to create a monthly budget and track your spending on the go. You can also access it from anywhere, computer or phone and it’s updated in real-time. Budget with your partner or spouse? You can both access the budget through the app and keep up to date on your spending habits.
2. Net worth / finance tracking app
Your net worth is an essential number to know. Net worth is essentially your assets minus your liabilities. It’s what’s left over after you add up all your assets and possessions you own and deduct all of the debts you owe. Having this information in the form of an app is a great way to manage how you are doing over time in growing your net worth.
I like using the Personal Capital app as a way to track my net worth. It allows you to connect your investment accounts, retirement accounts and bank accounts which update automatically with real-time numbers. It helps give you a complete picture of your financial life and best of all it's free.
3. A bank app
It’s important to have your bank account and credit card related apps on your phone so that you can keep track of your accounts. Most if not all bank have apps for your smartphone. Through these apps you will be able to check your account balances, deposit checks, pay bills and check credit charges on the go. You can also put alerts on your accounts to send you notifications of account activities. This allows you to be proactive and keep up to date with your bank and credit card accounts.
By using these apps, you'll feel a lot more organized and will find it easy to check up on your finances at the simple touch of a screen. What are you waiting for? Click on that app store!
Jamila is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), blogger, money coach and founder of Journey To Launch where she blogs about her journey to reach Financial Freedom. she helps brave Journeyers; gain clarity around their finances and create an actionable plan to reach their goals.
Not too long a long ago, I logged into my bill payment checking account to find a negative balance staring back at me. Yup, I had overdrawn my account and had been charged a $38 dollar overdraft fee. It's not funny but I just had to laugh at myself because "really $!&*"....So here's what happened.
"Yup, I had overdrawn my account and had been charged a $38 dollar overdraft fee."
I have a number of different bank accounts for different purposes (I discuss them in this blog post) and one of them is a bill payment account that I use to pay all my bills (including my automated bills) and also to pay for my day to day expenses like groceries and gas. I typically track this account very closely and budget it down to the last dollar because I know exactly what expenses are coming through it and when those expenses are coming through.
How I overdrew my account
Well in this particular instance, I had gotten really busy and I wasn't as on top of tracking my budget as I typically would be. There were a couple of days where I did not log in to my bank account and I didn't reconcile my transactions against my budget instead I was making mental notes of my transactions as they were happening.
If I had actually taken the 5 minutes to log in and reconcile things, I would have realized that I made an unplanned transaction for an expense that I could have easily adjusted for and all would have been well in the world but I didn't - I was taking mental notes instead.
Luckily, I never let more than a couple days go by without checking my account so I caught this overdraft on the day it happened.
Getting the overdraft fee refunded
As soon as I realized what had happened, I got into recovery mode. First of all, I reconciled my budget and reviewed my upcoming transactions. I also reviewed and adjusted the reminders on my phone to alert me to check in on my budget and spending (whether I felt like it or not) and then I called my bank and put on my sweetest voice to beg and plead for the $38 dollar overdraft fee to be refunded.
While the bank was under no obligation to give me back this money, they did issue me a refund because over drafting my account was not my normal behavior - I was very grateful and it definitely reminded me why I needed to stay on top of things. All of that being said, there are a couple take aways I'd like to review from this experience.
Take away #1: "Set it and forget it" does not apply to budgeting
Budgeting is an on-going work in progress and despite the fact that I got really busy, I still needed to check in with my budget. Case in point - It only took a couple days for things to get messed up.
Of course there's no budget that is perfect every single time because sometimes life happens but it's all about adjusting as you go along and creating a new budget in advance of every month since no two months are the same AND very importantly checking in and reconciling your actual spending against your budget frequently throughout the month.
When it comes to your budget and building wealth, your money doesn't care how busy or how lazy you get. If you don't tell it what to do, it will do whatever it pleases and you don't want that because that can get really expensive.
Take away #2: Mental calculations don't work
Yeah -those mental notes I was making were a waste of my time and I knew better. All I needed to do was take the five minutes to check in with my accounts and with my budget and get it right. As opposed to running mental calculations, just take the 5 or 10 minutes or even the half hour to review your finances and adjust things as needed - it's worth it!
Put some re-occurring time on your calendar once a week to sit down and really go over your budget and your transactions in detail and also, spend a couple minutes once a day just checking in on your most use bank account.
So there you have it, another money mistake but another lesson learned :)
Bola Sokunbi is the founder of Clever Girl Finance and she's passionate about helping women take control of their money so they can live life on their own terms.