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Best Practices for Redeeming Your Credit Card Points

So you’ve racked up some credit card points and are wondering WTF you should spend them on. Is it best to save them up and spend them all at once on a vacation? Or should you use them up every month to pay off lots of little things? Is the answer the same if you have a card that earns you points vs one that earns you cashback? 

These are just a few of the questions you probably ask yourself about your credit card because, well, credit cards are CONFUSING! There are endless options to select from when choosing your credit card and once you’ve finally decided on one, then you have to keep track of spending categories, payment dates, balances, and manage your perks. It’s exhausting. 

But it’s also well worth it because the perks can be absolutely amazing! The most well-known perk offered by credit cards is cashback or points and once you’ve figured out the best way to accumulate them, you have to figure out the best way to spend them. Here’s how to do that.

Earning Cash Back vs Points

Before we break down how to spend your credit card rewards, you need to understand the difference between earning points and earning cashback. Although they’re similar, they do have some key differences.

Cash Back Credit Cards

Cashback credit cards give you cashback on your purchases. It works like this. Let’s say your credit card offers 1% cashback. When you use your credit card to buy something, you pay full price for the item and after that, your credit card company pays you cashback on 1% of your purchase’s value. This essentially gives you a 1% refund on your purchases. 

The great thing about cashback is that its value is in dollars, so 1% cashback means you earn $.01 back for every dollar you spend. Since you’re earning cash at cash value, you spend it the same way you would spend the money in your checking account. 

Points Credit Cards

Points accumulate similarly to cashback where you receive a certain portion of your purchase amount back in the form of points. This is usually stated differently to you than cashback is, though. Your credit card will say something like you’ll get 2 points for every dollar you spend. 

The major difference between earning points vs cashback is that the value of your points will vary based on how you spend them. For example, travel cards often offer you more value for your points when you use them to book flights or hotels than when you use them in other categories. In this case, the value of your points may be $.01 each if you use them to book a flight, but only work $.005 each if you use them to shop for a new couch online. To get the most bang for your buck, you have to spend your points in the categories that value them the highest.

When to Redeem Your Credit Card Rewards

The Best Time to Redeem Your Credit Card Rewards… Technically

The question you’ve been waiting for. Is it better to redeem your points on small purchases consistently or save them up and spend them in bulk? 

Technically, it’s better to redeem your points or cashback regularly, thanks to inflation.

Inflation eats away at the value of your credit card rewards the same way it eats away at your cash and savings. If you’re getting cash back from your credit card, your cashback is being devalued by inflation the same way the cash in your savings is. If you’re getting points for your purchases and prices are rising due to inflation, you’ll need more and more points to cover those purchases. Either way, inflation is eating away at your credit card rewards.

To get the most out of them, spend them asap. Use them to cover purchases every month and lower your bill. 

Using Your Credit Card Rewards for Big Purchases

While technically it’s better to redeem your credit card points as soon as possible, it’s also really not a big deal if you don’t.

Let’s say that you want to take a trip to Europe, so you open a high yield savings account and start saving the several thousand dollars you’ll need for your trip. The entire time you’re saving up for your vacation, inflation will be devaluing the money in your savings account. Whether you’re saving cash in a savings account or saving up your credit card rewards to spend on a large purchase doesn’t matter. The cash in your savings and your credit card rewards are both being affected by inflation. 

So don’t waste your time and energy trying to find the best time to spend your credit card rewards. If you prefer to use them monthly to lower your bill, do it! If you like to save them to use for large purchases, do that! The difference is negligible and it’s definitely not worth agonizing over. 

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3 Simple Ways to Protect Your Money from Inflation

hands protecting money in a piggy bank from inflation

This week the Fed announced that it would be leaving interest rates near 0% until 2023 in hopes that cheap borrowing will incentivize companies to expand and create jobs, and get more Americans back to work. But the announcement also stoked the fire fueling the rising fear of inflation. Cheap borrowing, stimmies, increased unemployment benefits, and city reopenings have created a spending frenzy and the biggest rise in consumer prices in nearly 13 years.

According to the Fed, inflation is projected to be at 3.4% this year instead of the 2% annual inflation rate we’re used to. While prices in 2021 are rising faster than usual, inflation is nothing new. Once it dips back down to a more normal level it’s still going to continue to eat away at the value of your money. The good news is that you can protect your money by doing just a few simple things. These are the three best ways to protect your money from inflation. 

Use a High Yield Savings Account

Your emergency savings is the foundation for healthy finances, but any cash you hold is constantly being gobbled up by inflation. To protect the purchasing power of the money in your emergency savings, you should put it in a high yield savings account. 

High yield savings accounts, or HYSAs, pay you a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts for keeping your money in them. In some cases, HYSA rates are a staggering 25x higher than traditional savings rates. That 25x higher interest rate is what will help combat the effect inflation is having on the purchasing power of the money in your savings. 

To help you choose the best HYSA for you, here are some things you should consider during your search. 

  • It’s FDIC insured – if your bank fails and doesn’t have the money to pay back all of the money you deposited with them plus the interest you’ve earned, the FDIC will make sure you’re compensated in full. 
  • Transfer times – many HYSAs are offered by online banks separate from your checking account. That means it can take several days for the money in your HYSA to transfer to your checking account if you need it. It also means that you may not be able to access your money at an ATM or be issued a card for your account. Make sure you’re comfortable with the limitations of your provider.
  • Account functionality – different accounts provide different functionality. For example, some let you segment your money into multiple buckets to save for different goals while others only let you keep one lump sum. It’s more important to choose an account with functionality that you like rather than the account with the highest interest rate. The interest rate of your account will fluctuate and sometimes it will be higher than the competition and other times it will be lower, but you’ll always be stuck with the same functionality.

Invest Your Money

Once you’ve hit your emergency savings goal, it’s time to invest. When deciding what to invest in to combat inflation, you need to pick investments with average rates of return that are higher than the rate of inflation. 

The stock market and real estate are two popular investments that average higher returns than inflation. The average return on the S&P 500 is 10% per year and the average home appreciation is 4% annually not including rental income. With rental income included, the return on an investment property would be higher than 4%. 

If the returns on your investments are higher than the rate of inflation, you’ll be preserving your purchasing power and building additional wealth. 

Ask for a Raise

This is one of the most overlooked strategies for preserving your purchasing power. Most people don’t think about the fact that if you make the same salary for several years while prices increase at a rate of 2%+ each year, you’re actually getting poorer. To prevent that, you’ll need to at minimum get a cost of living raise equal to the rate of inflation each year. To make sure you can, at minimum, maintain your lifestyle, here are some pointers on how to ask for a raise if you aren’t offered one. 

Prepping for Your Raise

  • Keep a list of your accomplishments – This is critical if you really want to shine in front of your manager because of something called the recency bias. This is a bias people have toward giving more importance to recent events than historic ones. That means your manager could be evaluating your entire year of performance-based only on your achievements over the last month or two. It also means that you’re prone to forget about everything you achieved 6, 9, or 12 months ago also. By keeping an ongoing list of your achievements, you can refresh your memory and your bosses about the larger impact you’ve had over the year.
  • Use numbers – Improving efficiency is a great accomplishment, but if you can say you improved efficiency by 25%, that’s even better. When evaluating your performance, do your best to track measurable results. Oftentimes you’re going to need to do extra digging to find out how much of an impact you’ve actually made, but it will be worth it come evaluation time. And as a bonus, these numbers look great on a resume.

Making Sure Your Raise is Adequate

  • Calculate your raise as a percentage – to maintain your lifestyle, you need to get a raise that’s equal to the rate of inflation. If you’re told your raise as a salary number, calculate what your percentage raise is to make sure it’s adequate. For example, if the Fed is correct about 3.4% inflation this year and you started the year making $50,000, you’ll need to make $51,700 in 2022 to cover the cost of inflation. (50,000 x 1.034 = 51,700)
  • Make sure your performance raise is really a performance raise – If you wowed your boss with all of your accomplishments over the last year and you’re getting a performance raise it’s going to need to be higher than the rate of inflation. If it’s not, I hate to break it to you, but you’re actually only getting a cost of living raise.

Inflation, whether rising or “normal”, is never your friend. It is constantly making it harder for you to afford the same lifestyle and making it even harder for you to build wealth. By taking these few small steps to fight the effect inflation is having on your money, you’ll be able to preserve your wealth and make it easier to build more, no matter what the Fed’s report says about inflation. 

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6 Ways to Kickstart Your Financial Journey

cup of coffee with money bag foam to kickstart your financial journey

Where the f**k do I start? That’s the million-dollar question when you finally come to the realization that you need to get your financial shit together. And it’s hard to figure out because there is so much contradictory information out there about whether you should pay off debt or invest, what the best investments are, how to budget, and so much more. Trying to sift through everything and decide who’s right is overwhelming and exhausting.

Because of the information overload, many people grasp onto the low-hanging fruit, like budgeting. But saving $3 here and there isn’t going to have much of an impact on your financial future, and it definitely isn’t going to help you weather the next recession. So what should you do instead? Focus on making big financial wins and building your financial scaffolding. 

By building a solid financial foundation and structure, you’ll be able to better navigate financial hardships in the future, and by reducing a few extremely costly fees you can save hundreds of thousands in the long run instead of $3 every grocery trip. Even better is that all of these things require much less time and effort than penny-pinching.

Here are the 6 things you should do when starting your finance journey to create big financial wins and build your financial foundation.

1. Take your financial inventory

Taking your financial inventory will give you a snapshot of your current financial situation. This is probably the scariest step to take because once you have a clear picture of your financial situation, it’s hard to ignore it. It’s also impossible to change your situation without understanding what you’re working with, so taking a financial inventory is step number one.

To do it, list out all of your savings, debts, and investments, and how much you have of each. Then calculate your net worth using this formula. Don’t feel bad if your net worth is negative! Many people, including me, had negative net worths when we started out. Now your job is to use the next 5 steps to turn that number positive.

2. Start saving

Once you have your financial snapshot, the next thing you need to do is start building your foundation. The best way to do that is to start an emergency savings. 

Your emergency savings goal should be to have 3-6 months of expenses saved in a high-interest savings account. You can use my free savings amount calculator to get an idea of where you should fall within that range. 

Once you know how many months of savings you’re shooting for, you need to calculate your monthly expenses. To do that, list out all of your bills, loan payments, subscriptions, insurance payments, grocery costs, etc. Then add all of your expenses up and add a 25% buffer to your total. Multiply that number by the number of months you’re planning to save and you have your savings goal.

Your next step is to open a high-interest savings account with an FDIC-insured bank and set up automatic contributions into it. Once you’ve done that, you’re well on your way to building your financial foundation.

3. Do an expense overhaul

Expense overhauls are the easiest way to save money without having to budget. The first thing you should do is go through all of your expenses and cancel any subscriptions you don’t use. 

Step two is to call your providers and negotiate your bills. This works for things like your insurance, cell phone bills, and some streaming services. You can ask them if they have any promotional offers, and threaten to cancel if they don’t lower your bill. These companies also frequently change their policies, so sometimes you’ll find out that you’re paying a high price for one of their old plans and can easily pay less by switching to one of their newer offers.

While this process can be tedious and intimidating, you can get it all done in a couple of hours and could end up saving several hundred dollars each month. When my husband did this last year, we ended up saving over $200/month with just a few hours of work. Once you’ve negotiated your savings, you can reap the rewards for an entire year before having to do it all over again.

4. Pay off your credit card

If you haven’t been paying off your credit card in full every month, it’s time to start. Credit card debt is one of the worst types of debt you can have because it’s sooooo expensive. The average interest rate on a credit card is 18%. That means you pay 18% extra per year for everything you buy on your credit card but don’t pay off.

Since the average credit card interest rate is higher than the average return on the stock market, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to invest your money and receive a higher return than 18% to offset your losses. So when deciding whether or not to invest or pay off credit card debt, the answer is to pay off your debt.

Since you’ve already taken your financial inventory, you know exactly how much credit card debt you need to pay off, and now you need to set up a plan to do it. Credit card interest is added daily, so make your payments as frequently as possible. The easiest way to do that is to set up automatic payments on days when you know you’ll have money to cover them, like payday. You can also call your credit card company and try to negotiate your interest rate down. This will reduce your interest expense while you’re paying off your balance. 

5. Start investing

When it comes to investing, the earlier you start, the better. That’s because of compound interest. Compound interest grows your wealth exponentially over time, but to really reap the benefits, you have to wait decades. 

If you invest $450 every month for 30 years and receive a 10% return, you’ll end up with over $1 million, but only $162,100 of it will have been contributed by you. You can thank compound interest for the other $865,882. 

To make that much money from compound interest, though, you have to give it time to work. It took 30 years for that much money to accumulate in our example. If you shorten your investment period down to 15 years, you’ll only have $188,531 in total. That means over 80% of your $1 million earnings are made in the second half of your investment years. The more time you can leave your money invested, the more it will grow for you, which is why it’s so important to start investing today!

6. Check your fees and get them waived

Fees are your enemy when it comes to all things finance because they take away your hard-earned money. The good news is that you can get a lot of fees waived. 

When it comes to account fees, there’s often an easy way to get your fee waived, like by signing up for paperless statements. If you can’t find information online on how to get your account fee waived, call your provider and ask if there’s a way you can do it. If you’re ever charged a fee for over-drafting your account or not maintaining the minimum required balance, you can also contact your provider and ask them to waive the fee.

Another type of fee you need to look out for when investing is called an expense ratio. These are the management fees funds charge so they can cover the expense of operating the fund. In general, actively managed funds have higher fees than passively managed funds, and they usually don’t perform well enough to compensate for the extra fee you pay. Choosing to invest in funds with higher fees can end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars more than you would have paid if you had invested in a fund with lower fees. When choosing funds to invest in, select the ones with expense ratios under .5%. If they’re under .2%, that’s even better. 

By focusing on these 6 areas of your finances, you can make significant financial gains without constantly stressing about every dollar you spend. There’s no need to bargain shop and penny-pinch if you’re making larger financial wins and building a solid financial structure. That’s how you set yourself up to weather financial hardships and have a fantastic financial future.

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Six-Figure Mistakes You’re Making with Your Money

woman stressed about money mistakes

There are an endless number of mistakes you can make with your finances. Some are small like forgetting to put in your discount code at the grocery and paying full price for items you could have gotten at a discount. Others are big. Like hundreds of thousands of dollars, big. These are the ones that will make or break your financial future. If you can skip making these, you’ll end up with, well, hundreds of thousands more dollars over your lifetime. 

To keep you from falling into a giant money pit, here are the biggest financial killers and how to avoid them.

Debt Mistakes

Getting Into Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is the absolute worst type of debt you can have because credit cards charge you outrageously high interest rates when you hold a balance on them. The average credit card APR or annual percentage rate is about 18%, but many run into the upper 20s or even low 30s. That means you’re paying 18% more every year for anything you buy on your credit card and don’t pay off. For comparison, the average interest rate on a mortgage in the US is around 3%, which is 15% less than the average credit card. 

On top of their extremely high rates, credit cards charge interest to your balance daily, unlike a mortgage that charges you monthly. That means every day you’re charged more interest on your initial balance plus any interest you’ve already accumulated. The act of charging interest on previous interest charges is called compounding, and it increases the amount of interest you end up paying. To minimize compounding’s effect on your balance, you should make payments on your credit card as often as you can. And by as often as you can, I mean more than once a month.

The amount of money you’ll lose to credit card interest will vary based on your balance, interest rate, and how long it takes you to pay it off, but it’s easy to get yourself into six-figure debt by holding a balance on your credit card and only making your minimum payments. To avoid getting yourself into this situation, make sure to pay your credit card balance off in full every month. If you already have a balance on your card, make a plan to pay it off in full and make payments as frequently as possible. 

Having a Bad Credit Score

You may have heard the debt myth that keeping a balance on your credit card helps your credit score. This is just plain wrong. As I detailed in-depth above, keeping a balance on your credit card is one of the worst things you can do for your finances. 

Now that we’ve busted that myth, let’s discuss what does affect your credit score. Making your payments on time has the biggest effect on your credit score. The second biggest factor that’s considered when calculating your credit score is your credit utilization. In simple terms, your credit utilization is the percentage of your available credit you’ve used. If you’re close to maxing out your credit card, you’ll have a high credit utilization which will negatively impact your overall score and vice versa. The remaining three things that impact your score are your length of credit history, the type of debt you have, and how many new inquiries have been made into your credit history.

Credit scores range from 300-850 and you should strive to keep your credit score at least above 640 because anything below that is considered subprime and borrowers in that category get charged the highest interest rates. A person with a credit score near 620 will end up paying $65K more on a $200K mortgage than a person with a credit score over 760. Scores over 700 are considered good and these borrowers are often offered lower interest rates, and borrowers with scores of 800 or higher are considered excellent and are offered the lowest rates.

Having a low credit score means you’ll be charged the highest rates on your loans and end up paying tens of thousands of dollars more in interest. On top of the interest charges on your loans, your credit score is also factored into your utility charges and affects what housing is available to you. With all of these factors, over your lifetime, a poor or mediocre credit score can cost you over $100,000.

To keep your credit score up, make sure you make all of your minimum payments on time every month. This includes your credit cards, loans, utilities, rent, etc. Also, keep your credit utilization as low as possible. If you want to improve your credit utilization you can open a new credit card, but I don’t recommend this unless you’re already paying off your credit card in full every month. Lastly, keep your old credit cards open even if you don’t use them anymore. This will keep all of your old credit history intact.

Investing Mistakes

Investing in High Fee Mutual Funds

Compound interest from your debt may be enemy number one, but investing fees are a close second, and mutual funds are notorious for having super-high fees.

The reason many mutual funds charge high fees, or expense ratios, is because many of them are actively managed. That means their fund manager tries to pick the stocks they think are going to outperform index funds that track the market. The fund manager charges you more for all of the time it takes them to research stocks and find the top performers.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that after you factor in their fees, most actively managed funds underperform compared to the market. In 2019, 71% of large-cap US actively managed funds underperformed the S&P 500, and 81% have underperformed their target over the last 5 years. So while these funds promise larger fortunes in exchange for their higher fees, they rarely hold up their end of the deal, which can cost you hundreds of thousands.

Passively managed funds, on the other hand, have much lower expense ratios than actively managed funds and on average charge .2%. Investing in a fund that charges .2% will end up costing you $37,964 in fees over 30 years if you invest $450 per month and receive a 10% annual return. If you instead invest the same amount into an actively managed fund with an expense ratio of 1%, you’ll end up paying a whopping $174,788 in fees. That’s $136,824 more you’ll pay in fees with a slim chance that you’ll see higher returns. So the moral of this story is to skip the high fee funds.

Not Investing

There are lots of reasons people put off investing. It’s way less fun than splurging on your favorite things. The messaging about investing makes it super intimidating. Or maybe you think you need to pay off all of your debt before you even think about starting to invest. The problem with allowing any of these scenarios to hold you back from investing is that compound interest needs a lot of time to work on building your wealth, so the sooner you start, the better.

While compound interest is your nemesis when it comes to debt, it is your savior when it comes to investing. Over several decades compound interest will grow your wealth exponentially. If you invest $450 every month for 30 years and receive a 10% return, you’ll end up with over $1 million, but only $162,100 of it will have been contributed by you. You can thank compound interest for the other $865,882.

To make that much money from compound interest, though, you have to give it time to work. It took 30 years for that much money to accumulate in our example. If you shorten the investment period down to 15 years, you’ll only have $188,531 in total. That means over 80% of your $1 million earnings are made in the second half of your investment years. The more time you can leave your money invested, the more it will grow for you, which is why it’s so important to start investing today!

So while we tend to sweat the little things, it’s really a few smart choices that can make the biggest impact on our financial future. By staying out of credit card debt, maintaining a good credit history, and investing ASAP into low fee funds, we can end up with hundreds of thousands more dollars in our pockets over our lifetime. 

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Do You Have Too Much Saved In Your Emergency Fund?

During the pandemic, saving money has been a hot topic. This is no surprise considering the staggering job losses that affected millions of Americans in early 2020, and the unprecedented number of women dropping out of the workforce due to the stress of juggling work and household duties 24/7. With all of this suffering and uncertainty, Americans turned to their emergency funds for stability, and from March to April of 2020, the US savings more than doubled from 12.7% to 32.2%

This jump in the savings rate of Americans was well overdue considering most Americans would have had trouble covering an unexpected $400 purchase pre-pandemic, and having an emergency fund is the best way to create financial stability. However, the pandemic has also caused many personal finance experts to change their recommendation for emergency savings amounts from 3-6 months of expenses saved, to 6-12 months of expenses saved, which is just too much. 

While saving too much might sound like an oxymoron, it is actually possible and can harm your financial health. Here’s why you need an emergency fund, but should ditch the new savings recommendation and only stash 3-6 months of expenses in it.

Why You Need An Emergency Fund

One word, liquidity. In fancy terms, liquidity means how quickly you can convert an asset into cash at its fair market value. In layman’s terms, it means how quickly you can sell something you own for what it’s actually worth. 

Let’s take your house, for example. If you own your home, you can sell it whenever you want, but you’ll have to jump through some hoops before you can get it listed for sale and find a buyer. On top of that, other market conditions will determine how quickly you’re able to attract a buyer. If you need cash ASAP, selling your house at a discount might be the only way to get it. All of these hurdles between the time you decide to sell your house and when you actually receive the cash for it make your house fairly illiquid. 

Stocks on the other hand are much easier to sell and are therefore more liquid. There are billions of shares traded on stock exchanges each day, so if you need to sell your stocks, you can usually do it almost immediately. This quick turnaround from when you decide to sell your stocks to when the cash gets into your pocket makes stocks liquid assets.

Since cash is, well, already cash, it is the most liquid asset. Your emergency fund is extremely liquid because it’s full of a bunch of cash. If you need money in a pinch due to a job loss or an unexpected expense, your emergency fund will give you immediate access to the cash you need. This financial cushion is what makes your emergency fund so important. It is your protection against having to jump through hoops to find cash or sell your assets at a loss in an emergency situation. 

Why You Shouldn’t Save Too Much

Two words this time. Inflation and opportunity cost. 

Inflation

In fancy terms, inflation is a loss of purchasing power due to a general increase in prices. In layman’s terms, prices increase overall in the US by around 2% every year, which means you can buy less with the same amount of money every year. 

Because inflation causes your money to decrease in value, the more of it you have lying around, in this case, in your emergency fund, the more you’ll be impacted by it. This is why saving up to 12 months of expenses is a bad idea. If you saved $60k to cover a full year of expenses in 2020, by 2030, you’ll only be able to buy 70-80% of what you were before and need over $77k to cover the same amount of expenses.

To protect your money from losing its value to inflation, you need to receive a return on your savings that is greater than the rate of inflation. Unfortunately, that’s impossible right now with interest rates being so low, but saving in a high yield savings account (HYSA) is your best option. These offer higher returns than traditional savings accounts and will protect you more from inflation. 

Opportunity Cost

On top of inflation eating away at your savings, there is also the opportunity cost of what you could have earned if you had invested that extra 6 months of savings instead. Investing $30k (6 months of expenses based on our earlier example) into an index fund like the S&P 500 would be worth over $81k after 10 years, assuming you receive the average return on the stock market of 10%. By investing that extra $30k instead of saving it, you could earn over $50k instead of losing 2% every year. Since the opportunity cost of saving an extra 6 months of expenses is so high, it’s best to save 3-6 months and invest the rest.

How to Determine Your Savings Goal

Now that you’re convinced you only need 3-6 months of expenses saved, you need to figure out where you fall within that range. To do that, take a look at the variables affecting your cash flow, as well as your risk tolerance. 

Cashflow

As a general rule, the more responsibilities and expenses you have, the more you should save, and the more variable your income or cash inflows are, the more you should save. For example, a person with a mortgage and kids should save more than a renter with no kids, and someone who is paid on commission should save more than someone earning a salary.

For a recommendation on how many months you should have saved based on your cash inflows and outflows, download this Savings Amount Calculator.

Risk Tolerance

While the Savings Amount Calculator can quickly give you a savings target, you should also factor in your risk tolerance when deciding how much to save. If your recommended savings amount is 3 months of expenses but only saving that much makes you uneasy, you can always increase your savings goal. In general, the lower your risk tolerance, the more you should save, and the higher your risk tolerance, the less you should save.

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Should You Combine Finances After Marriage?

So you’ve tied the knot, or you’re about to, and you’re thinking about what needs to get done after the wedding. On your post-nuptials to-do list is changing your last name, combining finances, and moving in together… or maybe none of those things.

While traditionally American couples do all of that stuff after marriage, that isn’t the case for many millennials tying the knot these days. Women are keeping their maiden names, living in sin with their lover pre-wedding, and wondering whether they should combine all of their money with their spouse or not. But no matter what your situation is, to have a successful marriage, you’ll need to get on the same page with your partner about finances at some point. 

What you may be surprised to hear from this finance fanatic is that I don’t think there is a “correct” way to do that. That’s because we all have what I’ll call, money shit. These are habits, thoughts, and expectations about our money that are based on the money lessons, or lack thereof, we were taught during our childhood, how our gender has affected our pay, how we view monetary gender roles, and what our socioeconomic status was growing up. 

With so many factors contributing to our individual perceptions of money, expecting that there’s one solution for every couple is a recipe for disaster. And don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at the data. Depending on the source, finances are either the number one or number two cause for divorce in the United States, so the idea that there is a one size fits all solution to this is ludicrous. 

To help you navigate one of the toughest topics in your marriage, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of the three financial strategies you can use to handle your finances as a couple.

Keep Everything Separate

With this strategy, you both will just keep doing what you’re doing. All of your money will still get deposited into a bank account in your name, and all of your partner’s money will get deposited into their bank account. 

This strategy can be really helpful for couples who think they’ll have arguments if they become aware of their partner’s personal spending habits. For example, if you’re a makeup lover and spend hundreds of dollars every few months buying new products at Sephora, your partner may be alarmed when they see this and think it’s a poor use of your money. In every couple, there is at least one thing the other person buys that you’ll think is a total waste of money. That doesn’t mean they should stop buying it, though. 

As long as you aren’t lying about your spending and you’re paying your portion of the shared expenses, you should be able to spend your money on personal items that make you happy. By keeping separate accounts, this “frivolous” spending isn’t as noticeable to your partner, which can reduce the number of arguments it causes.

While disputes about personal spending may be less frequent if you decide to use separate accounts, figuring out how to cover unexpected expenses may do the opposite. To avoid these confrontations, you’ll need to have open and honest dialogues about how each of you will contribute to all shared and unexpected expenses. Will you split all of the bills evenly? Will one of you pay for certain expenses, and the other cover different ones? Will you have separate emergency funds, and how much will each of you keep in them? When emergencies happen, who pays for what? Ironing this stuff out upfront will help you avoid arguments later when unexpected expenses come up or your goals change. 

Pros

  • Don’t have to open new accounts
  • Personal spending is more private which may minimize arguments
  • Maintaining control over your own finances may give you a sense of stability

Cons

  • Unexpected expenses may be more difficult to sort through
  • More upfront discussion about the expectation of each person’s contribution to shared expenses is required
  • Less transparency of the other person’s financials can create anxiety

Combine Everything

The complete opposite of the first strategy is to combine everything. That means all of your money will get deposited into the same checking account, all of your bills will be paid from the same account, all of your savings will be shared, etc. 

The great thing about this strategy is that it is highly transparent so both people can see the current financial situation at all times. While initially joining everything will be a pain, once your joint accounts are set up, you can automate all of your bills, savings, and investments to come out of the same place. This means you can skip the conversations about who will pay for what and what the fair portion is for each of you based on your salaries, which brings me to my next point.

Many couples are in a situation where one person makes significantly more money than the other person. Before joining your finances, the breadwinner may have covered more of your joint expenses, like date nights, but they also may have just had more money to spend on themselves. When you join accounts, conversations about how you’ll handle personal spending will inevitably come up.

Like in my earlier example, your $300 Sephora purchase may alarm your partner. To avoid arguments every time someone buys something for themselves, you can determine a dollar amount that requires discussion. For example, if you decide as a couple that all purchases over $200 have to be discussed, you would need to agree on the $300 Sephora purchase before making it, or spend less than $200 on your shopping trip. 

Another way to handle this is to set a budget for each person to spend on themselves every month and a separate budget for your joint discretionary spending. When determining your budget, it’s best to start with your joint spending first. Determine how much you want to spend on things like date nights, dinners, and anything else you do together. Then take the balance of your discretionary income and divide it up for each of you to spend individually. The amount doesn’t need to be equal, but both partners should be happy and in agreement on the amount each person is getting.

Pros

  • Highly transparent view of your overall financial situation for both partners
  • No need to discuss who will pay for each bill because they all get paid from the same account
  • Having the full picture of your financial situation can reduce anxiety

Cons

  • Personal discretionary spending could lead to arguments
  • You have to go through the tedious process of setting up a joint account, transferring funds, and setting up new automatic bill payments
  • May feel like you’re giving up some control of your finances

Hybrid Approach

The last option is a hybrid approach, where you combine some parts of your finances and leave others separate.

A common way to do this is to create a joint account for shared expenses, like bills and savings, and keep everything else separate. This can be a great way to make paying bills easier and can help minimize arguments about personal spending. 

If you decide on this approach, it’s still important to discuss how much each person will contribute to your joint account. If one person makes 2 or 3 times as much as the other, you may decide that they will contribute more to your joint account than the person making less. There’s no perfect solution, but you should be in agreement on whatever you decide.

Setting up additional joint accounts for your emergency savings or to reach a future goal, like buying a house, can also help create transparency and allow you to work as a team to reach your goals. Again, it’s important to discuss the amount each person will contribute to these accounts and be in agreement on whatever you decide.

Pros

  • Minimize arguments about personal spending habits
  • Easily pay bills from a single account
  • Setting up joint savings and investment accounts gives more transparency to both partners

Cons

  • Have to go through setting up a joint account and automatic contributions into that account
  • Need to have more discussions about how much each person will contribute to joint accounts
  • Every time a new account is open, a discussion should be had on whether the account will be joint or separate and how contributions and withdrawals will be handled

Key Takeaways

No matter what you hear, there is no one size fits all approach to handling finances as a couple. The most important things you can do as a couple to be successful with money in your relationship are

  • Discuss your money honestly and often. Each person should have a clear understanding of the other person’s financial situation. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This article will help you with your initial financial setup, but you should have frequent money conversations going forward.
  • Don’t lie or hide money. Many people secretly put money into a separate account or run up credit card debt and don’t tell their partner. If this is you, this habit can be incredibly destructive and can also indicate bigger issues in your relationship.
  • Set realistic expectations. Your partner will not see eye to eye with you on everything financially, and that’s ok. Designate money duties for each of you that aligns with your goals and money management style. (Check out my earlier post on how to set these roles up.)
  • Know that your partner is going to spend money on “dumb shit”, but so are you. Agree on a max spend amount to avoid getting upset with every personal purchase your partner makes.
  • NEVER SAY YOU AGREE TO IT IF YOU DON’T! If you have an issue with how you and your partner handle your finances, it’s your job to bring that up and work to find a better solution. If the other person is left in the dark about your true feelings, they can’t work with you to fix the situation.

While money is the number two cause of divorce, by developing a financial strategy that works well for your relationship you can create an environment where you can thrive financially and achieve huge life goals together. Whichever strategy you choose, the most important thing to remember is that if it works well for you and your partner, it doesn’t matter what everyone else says.

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Fuck, Marry, Kill: Capital One Venture Card vs Amex Blue Cash Preferred vs Chase Freedom Credit Card

capital one venture card vs amex blue cash preferred vs chase freedom credit card

As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. This expression isn’t only true of romantic partners but also of credit cards. The options are endless, they all have different qualities, and you aren’t sure if they have your best intentions at heart when you first meet. 

In the endless sea of credit card choices, I’ve ended up dating these 3: the Capital One Venture Card, Amex Blue Cash Preferred, and the Chase Freedom Credit Card. Like my romantic partners, each one of these credit cards has served a different purpose in my life. They all had some wonderful qualities, other not-so-great ones, and out of all of them, there’s one that stands out far above the rest. 

If you’re looking to start a relationship with a new credit card and are finding it hard to navigate the sea of possibilities, this article will help narrow your focus. In it, I’m going to tell you why I got into a relationship with each card, the pros and cons I experienced during each of these relationships, and rank each card by which I would fuck, marry, and kill.

Capital One Venture Card

You know that electrifying feeling you get when you walk into a room and see a smokin’ hot person across it? How you try to focus on everything else but can’t fight the urge to look over in their direction every 30 seconds, even though they’ve already caught you staring several times? That’s what finding the Capital One Venture Card was like for me. Only in this case, it wasn’t the good looks that got me, it was the sign-up bonus. 60,000 points right off the bat! I was smitten at first glance.

I kept toying with the idea of whether or not I should go up to the Venture Card and get to know it better. I was nervous about starting a relationship with another credit card and wasn’t sure if he would like my credit score. It was above average, but so are lots of other people’s. But I just couldn’t stop staring, so I got up the courage and went over to him. 

That’s when I found out how easy going he was. With him, I would get 2 points for every dollar I spent, no matter what I bought. There were no special categories to remember or extra savings to activate each month. My ex (more on him later) used to make me sign up to get extra cashback in certain spending categories and only offered 1 point for every dollar I spent on items outside of those “special” categories. The thought of earning more points with less effort gave me butterflies.

The only downside to the Capital One Venture Card was the $95 annual fee. I wasn’t excited at all about the prospect of paying for some parts of our relationship. But being the understanding and easy going guy that the Venture Card is, he decided to waive my annual fee for the first year. After he did that, I decided to sign up.

It’s been over 5 years, and I’m happy to report that we’re still going strong! I gladly pay the $95 annual fee these days because the benefits I’ve experienced being in a relationship with this card far outweigh the cost. 

Pre Covid, this card and I traveled the world together. The best part about having him as my travel companion was that he never made me pay any foreign transaction fees. This saved me loads of money. He also fully reimbursed me for getting my Global Entry Pass, so now I get special TSA and customs treatment when we travel. 

I can say without a doubt that the Capital One Venture Card is definitely the best credit card to ever happen to me. My Prince Charming. To summarize why it’s so great, here are its best qualities.

  • It’s super easy to use because you don’t have to monitor deals and “special” spending categories
  • You get 2 points for every dollar you spend
  • There are no foreign transaction fees
  • It offers periodic additional perks like reimbursing for Global Entry Passes
  • It has a low annual fee of $95

Verdict: Marry

Amex Blue Cash Preferred

While the Capital One Venture Card and I have had a strong relationship from the start, I did get a wandering eye a couple of years ago. That’s when I met the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card.

He was nothing like my Capital One Card. He had a long list of spending categories with different earnings for each of them and a low sign-on bonus. He was complicated and kind of stingy, but as soon as I saw that he offered 6% cash back at supermarkets, I lusted after him. 

I spent a lot of time calculating whether it was worth having an affair with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card. He offered more than 2 points in 4 spending categories: supermarkets, streaming subscriptions, transportation, and gas, but he would definitely complicate my life. I couldn’t stop fantasizing about him, though. These are all categories that I have a relatively high amount of spending in, so even though it complicated things, I started having the affair.

I now use my Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card in these four spending categories and use my Capital One Card on all other purchases. The additional savings I get by using my Amex only amount to several hundred dollars a year after factoring in the $95 annual fee, but I think it’s worth it.

Like is often the case with affairs, the complication of having one pales in comparison to the excitement. Having to remember to use my Amex instead of my Capital One Card is of little consequence compared to the exhilaration of saving even more money. So while my Amex definitely isn’t as amazing a credit card as my Venture Card is, I’m not planning on ending our relationship any time soon.

Verdict: Fuck

Chase Freedom Credit Card

The Chase Freedom Card is the one that took my credit card virginity. We never really had that great of a relationship because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and he never had the best intentions. Nonetheless, he was still a significant part of my life. 

The first thing I noticed about him was his $0 annual fee. Talk about sexy! But it didn’t take me long to get annoyed with some of his other qualities. He only offered me 1 point for every dollar I spent and would make me chase after his savings by requiring the 5% cashback categories to be manually activated every quarter. 

Despite all of the negatives, I was in love, so I let him sneak into my parent’s basement one night and take my V-card. While this experience wasn’t the romantic encounter I envisioned, I continued our complicated relationship for several more years until I met the Capital One Venture Card

I don’t ever use my Freedom Card anymore, but I do still keep the account open. The length of your credit history is considered when your credit score is calculated and the longer your history is, the better. Since he was my first, my Freedom Card gets to stay open. 

Even though we’ve gone our separate ways, I totally understand why this is one of the most popular credit cards and think it’s a great entry-level one. It gave me a couple hundred dollar sign-up bonus, a limited balance so I couldn’t get myself into too much trouble, and taught me A LOT about how important it is to build a healthy relationship with credit. So while the Chase Freedom Credit Card and I are not together anymore, I wish him all the best.

Verdict: Kill

While I 100% recommend the Venture Card for pretty much everyone because of its ease of use, low annual fee, and great rewards program, you may not be ready to swipe right on that card just yet. If you’re looking to compare cards, NerdWallet is like Tinder for credit cards. You can take quizzes to help NerdWallet figure out what you’re looking for, and they’ll come back with the profiles for your potential matches. 

If you decide to swipe right and start dating one of them, it’s important to take steps to keep your relationship from becoming toxic. It’s great if your card trusts you enough to give you a credit limit well above your spending, but only if you pay your balance off in full every month. If you don’t, your credit card company will charge you an astronomical rate of interest. All credit card companies turn into fuck boys the moment you don’t pay your balance off in full, and fuck boys should be avoided at all costs.

As long as you’re paying your card off in full and getting great rewards, you’ll have a healthy relationship with whatever credit card you choose. It’s true that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but by narrowing your search using my recommendations and apps like NerdWallet, you’ll be able to find one that makes your life easier and you can’t live without. You may even decide you like it so much you want to marry it. 

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Passive Income Ideas to Make Money like Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has made an absolute killing since the pandemic started. She released not 1, but 2 entire albums while many of us were struggling to get through our days. But it’s 2021 now and the vaccine has shown us the light shining at the end of the quarantine tunnel. There’s finally some hope that 2021 could be a great year.

With our renewed optimism, many of us have set goals that include increasing our income in 2021. Even if you didn’t explicitly set a goal to make more money this year, I’m sure you’d be totally cool with doing it. To help you out, I’m going to tell you how you can use Taylor Swift’s 2020 revenue strategy to start making more money for yourself.

And don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to work harder or be more productive. Quite the opposite, actually. I think we could all use a little less stress right now, so I’m going to tell you how to apply what Taylor did in quarantine to make more money with less effort in 2021. AKA some great ways to generate passive income. 

What is Passive Income?

First, let’s define what passive income is. Passive income is income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain. This blog post is a great example of how passive income works. I take time to research a topic, write a post about it, edit it, make the graphics, and then post it. After that, I just let it hang out on the internet and hope people (like you) read it and enjoy it. If enough of you do, I can make money through ad revenue, affiliate links (some of which are included in this post FYI), and by getting people to sign up for my courses. After doing the work on the front end, this post can continue to generate income for me for years to come with minimal work to maintain it in the future. That’s how you make passive income. Work on the front end, then income generation on the back end.

Passive Income Ideas

Now that you know what passive income is, here are some easy ways to start making it using examples from Taylor Swift’s quarantine experience.

Monetize Your Talents

Taylor’s Example

Covid screwed up Taylor’s plans for 2020 just like it did for the rest of us. She had to postpone her Lover tour, which probably would have made up a significant portion of her earnings in 2020. Many musicians make the bulk of their earnings from touring, so I’m sure this dealt quite a blow to Taylor’s income projections. This didn’t stop her from making a killing last year though. She found a way to use her talents in quarantine to maximize her profits.

I’m not a die-hard fan of Taylor’s music, but she is an incredible businesswoman. Her ability to seize an opportunity and capitalize on her talents is unparalleled. Like I mentioned earlier, Taylor released not 1, but 2 albums in 2020 after her tour was canceled. The first of these albums, Folklore, became the first album to sell over one million copies in the US last year. In fact, it was the only album to do that in 2020. 

Even though Taylor’s tour was canceled, she leveraged her talents to still achieve incredible success. She has always been heavily involved in the production of her music, so instead of calling the tour cancelation a loss, she went full force with her talents and produced and sold a ton of music during quarantine. 

How to Apply It

We all have talents that we can share with the world, and get paid for. If you can’t come up with one of your talents off the top of your head, take a second to think about what people are always complimenting you on, or asking you for advice with. Is it your outfits? Cooking? Professional advice? Whatever it is, you’re probably the go-to person in your friend group for at least one thing. That thing could be your moneymaker!

If you’re an incredible cook, maybe you start a blog and post your favorite recipes, or offer a cooking class on a site like Teachable. If you’re dominating the corporate world, you could start a blog or YouTube Channel with tips on interviewing, meeting techniques, and how to set yourself up for advancement opportunities or negotiate raises. The list of possibilities is endless.

Once you have a website, course, blog, or YouTube channel set up, there are lots of different ways you can make money with your content. You can run ads, do affiliate marketing, and create and sell your own products. All of these allow you to do some heavy lifting on the front end by writing posts or creating courses and then sit back while the money flows in.

Don’t forget the key to this is to start generating passive income though. If you’re a great artist, you may be thinking, YES! I’m finally going to start offering custom art on Etsy! But slow down. Offering custom art means that you have to actively make a new piece of art for every customer. This will generate additional income for you, but it will be active income because you have to do a lot of work to maintain your revenues. Instead of offering custom artwork, you could offer prints of some of your favorite pieces. This way, you can spend time creating one piece of art, and rather than selling it once, you can continue generating revenue on it by selling additional prints. That’s how you turn your talent from active income to passive income.

House Hack

Taylor’s Example

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Taylor isn’t listing any of the extra rooms in her mansion on Airbnb. What she is doing though, is using what she already has (her house) to make more money (hacking).

If you’re not already impressed enough with Taylor’s album Folklore’s success, here’s another reason you should be. Taylor didn’t just release her album normally. She took that shit to the next level. She released Folklore to streaming services, and as a CD, vinyl record, and cassette tape. And that’s not all. She released her CDs and vinyls with 8 different covers. Some fans literally bought 8 of her CDs or vinyl records so they could get every cover. There are no bonus tracks, or extras on the albums either. They all have the exact same songs on them. Mind. Blown. If that’s not incredible consumer hacking, I don’t know what is. 

How to Apply It

Taylor took something she already had, her album, and got fans to buy the same album 8 times. One thing you already have that you can use to make more money is your house. 

Many of us have extra bedrooms in our houses. Maybe we have a guest room for when friends and family come to visit, a future kid’s room, an extra office, or a basement with a separate entrance. Most of the time these rooms are sitting empty, so why not put them to good use?! List them on Airbnb or VRBO and turn them into money-making machines. (If you don’t own your home, check with your landlord about this first.) 

Most of your work will be done on the front end when setting up your listing. Then you just need to manage the bookings and watch the money roll in. If you want to do even less work, you can hire someone else to do all of the room cleaning for you or even to manage the entire process if you want to be totally hands-free.

If you really want to increase your passive income from there, you can consider buying an investment property. The hardest part about buying your first investment property is that you must put down 20% unless you live in one of the units for at least a year. House hacking by living on your property for a year makes it an owner-occupied property, so you can put down less than 20%. The ability to put down less money upfront can get you started with your first investment property much more quickly.

One of my goals for 2021 is to buy my first investment property, and the book Hold has been absolutely phenomenal in helping me understand how to get started. It takes you step-by-step through how to build your team (accountants, realtors, etc.), narrow your search area, and determine if a property will provide you with a positive return on day 1. If you’re interested in making passive income by buying an investment property, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Passive Income Ideas to Avoid

Now that we’ve discussed some ways to make passive income, here are some popular passive income ideas out on the internet, and why you should avoid them.

Investing in Dividend Stocks

Unless you have a shit load of money to invest, you’re not going to make much from dividends. Technically yes, dividends do provide passive income, but with an average dividend payout of around 2.5%, you’re not going to make much unless you have a lot of money invested. For reference, if you have $100,000 invested, you’ll only make $2,500 a year with a dividend yield of 2.5%. That’s not much.

On top of only making small potatoes in passive income from dividend stocks, using your dividend payments as passive income will significantly reduce your future returns. Dividend stocks tend to increase in price less than growth stocks, but the best way to see significant growth in your dividend stocks is to reinvest your dividends. If you’re using your dividend payouts as income, you’ll be stuck with the limited growth dividend stocks typically provide.

Getting Cash Back and Points On Purchases

Let’s just get this out of the way. Saving money on purchases is NOT passive income. I see this advice on so many passive income suggestion lists and it’s absolutely ridiculous. 

It’s a great idea to earn points by using credit cards or to get cash back on purchases by using Rakuten, but these are ways you can save money, not make more of it. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and thought, “OMG these beans are $1 off! I just made passive income!”?

I doubt it. Because you didn’t. You saved $1. Credit card points and Rakuten do the same thing. They’re great ways to easily save a few bucks, but don’t let the internet fool you into thinking you’re making passive income. When you use your credit card or Rakuten your income stays the same, you just spend less.

Finding ways to make passive income is one of the best ways to level up financially. The most amazing part about passive income is that you already have a lot of what you need to make it. The 2010’s Artist of the Decade, T Swift, has this concept down. By monetizing your talents and hacking what you already have, you can quickly and easily start generating passive income. Just remember, if it requires you to put in consistent effort it’s not passive income it’s active income, dividend payments are tiny, and saving money isn’t the same as making money. Oh, and never buy 8 of the same album in different colors.

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The Regifting Bible: Budget Friendly Christmas Gift Ideas

woman coming up with christmas regifting ideas after she opens a gift she hates

Picture this. You’re at another gift exchange and unwrapping the box you’ve chosen in front of a large circle of people. You really hope the box is from someone with who comes up with dope Christmas gift ideas, but disappointment sets in when the box’s contents are revealed. It’s another thing you’ll never use.

This is the feeling I used to get every time I sat through a gift exchange. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I only need to buy one $20 gift instead of spending 10x that to get something for everyone. The problem with the proliferation of exchanges is that you usually end up getting something you don’t want because the people participating have different tastes, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to come up with good Christmas gift ideas that are gender-neutral and universally pleasing for only $20. 

Gift exchanges aren’t the only way we end up accumulating a bunch of useless junk over the holidays though. Maybe your mother-in-law gets you something for the house every year that you would never ever display, or your grandma always buys you jewelry that’s not your style. The common thread in all of these scenarios is you ending up with a gift that you feel bad throwing away but will never use.

Getting all of these useless gifts over the years was super frustrating until I realized I could save them and regift them later! This was one of the best Christmas gift ideas I’ve ever had because regifting your unwanted holiday presents has numerous benefits. It saves you money on future gifts, it’s environmentally friendly, and it saves you shopping time. Not to mention that you can put together the most adorable gifts for any exchange because a $20 limit doesn’t matter when you don’t have to buy anything!

To help you save money and actually enjoy getting gifts you don’t want this holiday season, I’m breaking down my regifting process so you can use your unwanted items to put together the perfect gift for any occasion and avoid making regifting faux pas.

How to Regift Like a Pro

Build Your Inventory

Step one is to start accumulating items to regift. The most lucrative time for this will be around the holidays, but don’t limit yourself to collecting only at the end of the year! We get gifts on lots of other occasions like our birthdays and at showers too. These are all great opportunities to add items to your gift arsenal. 

Some of your most fruitful regifting inventory hauls will come from gift baskets. A lot of these have a combination of items you like and others that you don’t. Don’t be afraid to open those suckers up and take what you want out of them and save the rest! Let’s say you get a coffee mug with a cute saying on it and some coffee beans to go along with it. You don’t need another coffee mug, but you want to keep the beans. Open up the package, take the beans, and add the mug to your regifting inventory.

Some great items to pull from gift baskets are

  • Barware 
  • Candles you don’t like the scent of
  • Lotions and soaps you won’t use
  • Liquor/wine you won’t drink
  • Servingware like cutting boards, coasters, spreaders
  • Knick knacks and household items you won’t display
  • Jewelry that isn’t your style
  • Kitchen gadgets

Some of the gifts you’ll get will be downright terrible though. I mean, what are you supposed to do with a shake weight or a burrito blanket? Save these wacky gifts too! You’ll probably find yourself in a gift exchange with some goofballs at some point, and these make hilarious gifts. (Pro tip: Elaborately wrap your gag gifts so they look beautiful and expensive. People will get super excited to unwrap the nicest looking box, and then be extra surprised when they find a gag gift inside. The look on their face is always priceless! Just like your gift. See what I did there.)

For ease, I also suggest keeping all of your inventory in the same place. If you keep your unwanted items where they “belong”, like kitchen items in the kitchen or toiletries in the bathroom, you’ll forget what goodies you have. That will leave you holding on to your unwanted items for longer than necessary, and make it harder to mix and match them to put together amazing gift baskets! This brings me to the second step in regifting.

Make Christmas Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are my favorite way to regift because they’re super easy and make great presents for any gift exchange. 

To make your basket, pull together several items from your inventory. Remember that mug you didn’t want? Pair that with some tea and other kitchen items to bring to an ugly sweater party. Headed to a bachelorette party? Mix it with some toiletries and a candle to create a marriage relaxation spa package. 

The first time I put together a fully regifted Christmas gift basket was a couple of years ago. I took several items from my inventory, which included a drink shaker set, candles I didn’t like the smell of, a mini cheese board, and several other things, and put them all into a gift bag to take to my work Christmas party the next day. Boy was my gift a hit! The gift basket I put together using my unwanted items ended up being one of the most stolen gifts of the entire exchange! It was amazing to be able to spend zero dollars, and still put together one of the most sought after gifts that year.

Christmas isn’t the only occasion you can build great gift baskets for though. Other prime regifting opportunities are

  • Bachelorette parties
  • Baby showers
  • Birthdays
  • Galentine’s Day
  • Hostess gifts for other holidays

Regift Randomly to Your Family and Friends

What’s even more awesome than getting gifts on Christmas or your birthday? Getting random gifts!

Regifting isn’t just one of the best gift ideas for Christmas and other holidays, but an excellent strategy to use to celebrate our other accomplishments as well. Did your friend just buy a house? Regift them that candle and cheese board as a random house warming gift! Not only do you get to recycle those unwanted gifts, but you also get to support your friend’s latest milestone.

Random regifting is great for the not so celebrated milestones in life like these:

  • Buying a house
  • Graduating
  • Getting promoted
  • Starting a new job
  • Opening a business
  • Paying off debt

Regifting Mistakes to Avoid

While regifting is a great money saver and waste reducer, it can be problematic if you don’t take the proper precautions. These are the two biggest regifting mistakes you can make and how to avoid them.

Regifting to the Original Gifter

I literally can’t think of anything worse than this. By far, the biggest mistake you can make when regifting is to accidentally regift something to the person who originally gifted it to you! The second biggest mistake is to regift it to someone else in the same circle. You do not want to be in the middle of an exchange and hear, “isn’t that my gift from last year,” when your gift is opened.

To avoid making this mistake, label every gift in your regifting inventory with who the original giver was and the occasion at which you received it. This way, you can give gifts from friends to family and vice versa, nobody gets their feelings hurt, and your regifting remains a secret.

Leaving Evidence that Your Item is Regifted

Nobody wants your old stuff as a gift. The trick to expert regifting is to make sure that the receiver doesn’t know you’re doing it. Remove all remaining evidence from the original gift exchange. This includes bits of wrapping paper or tape, tags with your name on them, and other notes from the original giver.

Another dead giveaway that’s usually an afterthought is the list of items in a gift set. If you remove some items from a gift basket like in the earlier coffee mug example, make sure to remove any lists of the kit’s contents. These lists are usually found on the external packaging or on a paper insert. If some of the list’s items are missing from your gift, that’s a dead give away that you’ve snatched them up!

Regifting gets a bad rep, but it’s one of the best budget friendly Christmas gift ideas because it gets already purchased items into the hands of someone who will actually use them. By strategically building your inventory, you’ll be able to give gifts that are sure to wow, and avoid getting outed as a regifter. That makes regifting a win for your wallet, the future recipient, and the environment! Now go clear out a space to stash all of your regifting inventory!

To get my FREE 3 Step Guide to Mastering Your Finances click here.

*Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through some links in this post.

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3 Personal Development Books that Will Transform Your Fucked Up Views on Money

girl reading personal development books

How do you feel when you think about your money? 

Confident, secure, and happy? Or anxious, insecure, and worried? 

I’m guessing the latter because a staggering 77% of Americans feel anxious about their financial situations. For something that affects every single aspect of our lives, we sure do have some serious issues with it. But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

I mean, even I have negative feelings about my money sometimes, and I’m a finance expert. On paper, I should be super confident about money. I have a Bachelor of Science in Finance, an MBA, and a fascination for money and economics that has enabled me to sit through pretty much every documentary on money ever made. Some more than once. But what my financial resume doesn’t tell you is that I’ve spent the last 12 years fascinated by money because of my fucked up views about it.

A few years ago, I recognized that I was obsessed with learning about money because I was absolutely terrified that I’d be plagued by struggles with it. Coming to this realization wasn’t a light bulb moment for me. I didn’t have some great epiphany in a therapy session or anything. It was a gradual awareness I came to when I began fully supporting myself after college. I had started my first “real” job, was being paid a salary, and could finally grasp the gravity of the financial struggles my parents had gone through during my childhood. I had come to the realization that I was obsessed with money because I would do whatever it took to avoid those same struggles in my adult life. 

Three personal development books, in particular, helped me completely shift my mindset on money. The principles they teach built my confidence so I could double my net worth in under two years and get on track to becoming a millionaire by 40. But it was a long road to get there.

The Origin of My Limiting Beliefs

Just to clear the air, I’m not including this section to host my own pity party. I decided to tell you the fucked up money stories of my childhood to help others overcome their anxiety about money. No matter what you’ve faced in the past you can change your future. We all have strong feelings about our money, and these usually stem from our childhood, so I’m telling you about mine. If you DGAF about my life, skip to the numbered headings to read about the books I recommend. If you want to learn about the catalyst for my mindset transformation, here goes.

I was born in Kentucky, and my parents moved to Los Angeles, California when I was 1. The first 6ish years we lived there were pretty stable. The next 4 were a rollercoaster. We moved into 3 different houses, lived with a relative twice, and lived in a hotel. I distinctly remember my friends and I playing on a dusty hill behind the hotel parking lot because there was nowhere else for us to play.

While we were fortunate enough to never have to sleep on the street or in a homeless shelter, we were existing in a category called hidden homelessness. This is when you don’t have a home but aren’t counted in the homeless statistics because you stay on the couches of friends and family or in unstable dwellings like hotels. After several years of living as a hidden homeless family, we moved back to Kentucky. 

When we got to Kentucky, we again lived with a relative until we could afford our own place. After that, we moved into our own apartment and finally into our own house, where we lived until I graduated high school.

The really wild part about my childhood struggles is that while all of the chaos was happening, we pretended as though none of it was going on. The relatives we stayed with in LA lived in a house that was probably worth over a million dollars. I attended catered parties at family friend’s multi-million dollar houses that overlooked the ocean. And when we moved to Kentucky, we lived in an affluent neighborhood, where I went to school with the children of NFL players. It was a total mind fuck.

So when I graduated high school, went off to college, and figured out that I could study how to make money, I was hooked. At the time, I was only 19 and hadn’t connected the dots about why I was so intrigued by money, but my personal money issues surfaced later when I started saving and investing on my own. 

I became obsessed with saving every penny I could and felt guilty buying anything that wasn’t “necessary”. This is what’s called a scarcity mindset. When you think there are limited resources, in this case, money, so you need to do everything you can to avoid losing the money you have.

After telling you about my childhood, it’s no wonder I had this mindset. The problem with this thinking is that you can only save so much money. You can cancel all of your subscriptions, live in a shoebox, and only buy things on sale so you can save every penny possible, but do you know what that causes? Stress and anxiety. Not happiness. Not security. Just misery.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. I see finance “advice” that perpetuates this guilt around money EVERYWHERE. No spend days. Shows on extreme couponing. Black Friday frenzies. Stop buying lattes. Pay off all of your debt before investing. This is all terrible advice that perpetuates the guilt and burden of a scarcity mindset.

You know who doesn’t think this way? Wealthy people. They have an abundance mindset. They think that there is a lot of money out in the world, and they need to find ways to bring more of it to themselves. That is the mindset I actively work to have and now preach. To cultivate this mindset, I was guided by the principles in following three personal development books, and it absolutely changed my life. These three books allowed me to double my net worth in under 2 years, got me on track to become a millionaire by 40, and I was able to do all of that without sacrificing the things that I love. If you want to start feeling confident about money, stop feeling miserable when you spend money on things you enjoy, and start earning more money, these three personal development books will help you do it!

Step 1 – Get Honest With Yourself About Your Money Goals

The first mindset shift I made was getting honest with myself about my money goals. I want to be able to spend hundreds of dollars in one night on dinner and feel zero guilt. Not worry about spend $10,000 traveling around Europe for 2 weeks. I want vacation homes. I want to be a millionaire! The trouble I used to have was actually admitting this to myself.

Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art helped me overcome this. The book focuses on creative endeavors, but its principles can be applied in all areas of life. It discusses the differences between the life we see in our heads vs the life we live. We often have daydream about what our life would be like if we had a million dollars, a higher salary, or a bigger house. Where we often fail is in trying to realize those dreams that are in our heads. The fear of what we need to do or give up to achieve our goal keeps us from living the life we truly want. The War of Art discusses how to break down the barrier between the life in your head and your real life.

After reading the book, I admitted to myself that I wanted to be rich. I stopped feeling like I shouldn’t be so focused on money as a woman. I realized I wasn’t greedy or unsympathetic because I aspired to get rich even though there are people who are less fortunate than me. Wanting more money no longer made me feel like I wasn’t grateful for what I had.

This belief that if we strive for more it means we’re ungrateful and taking from those less fortunate is bullshit. Money is power and women don’t have enough of it. The more money I make, the more I can help other women make more money too. So stop feeling guilty for wanting to make more money, start admitting how much money you want, and don’t apologize for it.

Step 2 – Find Your Money Making Method

Once I had admitted to myself that I wanted to be rich, I had to figure out how to do it. Quite shockingly, my finance degree didn’t prepare me well to make more money for myself. It mostly taught me how to make money for corporations. 

To make up for my knowledge gap, I started reading personal finance books like crazy. The problem was that they all focused on pinching pennies until eventually, you become a millionaire. A quarter of the way through my first few books, I knew I would never stick to what they were telling me to do, so I stopped reading.

Then I found the book, I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi. This book changed my life completely. Ramit’s method tells you to prioritize spending on the things you love and to spend extravagantly on those things. Then cut your expenses down as much as humanly possible in all other areas. This method was something I could get down with!

Once you know what your money goals are, step two is to find someone with a method that will help you get there. Ramit’s book, I Will Teach You to be Rich was my method. I knew that what worked for him would also work for me. Finding a plan that I could stick with to achieve my goals was a complete game-changer. 

While I hope Ramit’s method will resonate with you too, the reality is that it might not. Maybe real estate investing is more your thing than stock market investing. That’s cool too. To find the method that works best for you, read books, listen to podcasts, follow blogs and money influencers on Instagram and YouTube, whatever you have to do. When you’re going through their material it should inspire you to take action. If instead, you’re thinking ‘that’ll never work’, or ‘how dumb is that’, then their method is not your method. Achieving your money goals is a lot like achieving your fitness goals. You’ll never get your dream body by trying to stick to a plan you hate because you’ll end up quitting. The same goes for your finances.

Step 3 – Motion vs Action

Once you find your method for reaching your goals, you’re going to feel inspired! You will finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll probably start consuming more material on the subjects you’re interested in, and feel like you’re becoming an expert on the subject. You’ll think you’re finally beginning to achieve your goal.

Only you’re not. Being a money expert doesn’t make you rich. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is just the first part of your journey. Now you actually have to make the climb to get to the light. 

I learned about this dichotomy of feeling like you’re achieving something but not actually achieving anything in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. He calls this concept motion vs action. This concept is what motivated me to start taking action on all of the lessons I learned in Ramit’s book. 

Becoming more knowledgeable about personal finance and the things you can do to change your situation is going to make you feel empowered and like you’re one step away from achieving financial freedom. But this could not be further from the truth. To actually achieve your dream life, you’re going to need to implement the principles you’re learning consistently and probably for a very long time. 

It can be disheartening to learn that you won’t achieve your goal for 10, 20, or 30 years. But you can give up and never get rich, or you can start taking baby steps toward achieving your goal so one day you will actually be rich. Atomic Habits will get you psyched about taking these tiny baby steps and will paint a picture for you about how those minuscule changes will lead to astronomical results.

These three personal development books absolutely changed my outlook on life and what is possible for me. They gave me the confidence, a method, and the drive to start working toward achieving my money goals. After implementing the principles I learned in these books, I doubled my net worth in less than 2 years, will become a millionaire by 40, and I’m able to do all of this without sacrificing the things I love. No matter what your current limiting beliefs are or where they came from, these books can help you make dramatic shifts in your life and put you in the fast lane on the path to becoming a rich bitch.

To get my FREE 3 Step Guide to Mastering Your Finances click here.

*Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through some links in this post.