3 Reasons Why Your First House Should be an Investment Property.

Today’s feature comes from Michael Moore @MooreThanRealEstate (Instagram). His first real estate property was a multi-family home–a duplex. Here he tells you why your first house should be an investment property.

Today’s feature comes from Michael Moore @MooreThanRealEstate (Instagram). His first real estate property was a multi-family home–a duplex. Here he tells you why your first house should be an investment property.   

The process of buying a home can feel like a big scary rollercoaster ride. Once you get to the end, you realize how rewarding and thrilling it can be.  After purchasing my first multi-family home, I can definitely advise you to do the same. There are three reasons why you should consider investment properties as your first property:  

1. Low Down-Payment/Low Start-Up Cost: You will be able to utilize FHA financing to buy your home as a first-time home buyer. This allows you to put a minimum down payment of 3.5% of the cost of the home. FHA financing allows you to buy a property with 1 to 4 units. You can potentially live in one unit and rent out the other 3 units. Tip: I found out after my wife and I purchased our first investment property that we should have each purchased an investment property separately before getting married. This will allow each of you to take advantage of the low down-payment cost and double your investment potential. For example, instead of 1 to 4 units to rent combined, you could have 1 to 4 units each!  

2. Income Generator-Gateway to Financial Freedom. The top two most expensive items most of us will purchase in our lives are houses and vehicles. Not everyone needs a car but no matter what you do in life, you will need a place to live! By purchasing a multi-family house, you’re not only making one of the most expensive purchases in your life but you are also generating additional income. For example, a property with two units rents each unit at $750, with a total of $1,500 monthly rental income. This property has homeownership expenses of $1,095 monthly (i.e. insurance, mortgage payments, and property taxes which are typically made as one monthly payment).  In this scenario you will have a $405 profit/cash flow monthly ($1,500-$1,095). This translates into a yearly passive income of $4,860 ($405 x 12 months) from one property. More properties will allow you to multiply your profit/cash flow which can lead you to your financial freedom!

3. Quality Of Life. My sole purpose to purchase income properties is to improve my family’s quality of life. The more properties I purchase, the higher my passive income. This will allow me to retire early and enjoy life even more. Most people in America spend more time at work than they do with their families or doing what they enjoy. I love spending time with my family and I will do what I can to make sure I spend more time with them than at work. Investing in real estate and owning rental properties will help you generate positive cash flow.  If you are looking for a way to live a better life with your family, assess the risks you are willing to take and if you can, invest! 

20 Things I Wish I Knew In My 20’s.

Your twenties are to be enjoyed, to make mistakes and to start figuring out your future.

Your twenties are to be enjoyed, to make mistakes and to start figuring out your future. Here is just my personal list of things I wish I knew sooner or I wish I would have practiced a bit more in my 20’s.

  1. If you can only get one personal finance book, get The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I prefer the audio version.
  2. If you live with your parents still (I know many who still do–thanks Salliemae), try to pay off as much debt as you can and or save as much as possible.
  3. Ride out that hooptie car until you can’t any more and if you can, avoid a car payment all together. “Act your wage.”
  4. You don’t have to attend every event you are invited to just because a friend or a close acquaintance asks. “No” is a full sentence.
  5. Sis, you don’t need a new dress for every time you go out, who do we think we are? Focus on less material purchases and more experiences.
  6. Only get a master’s degree if it’s going to move you to next the step in your career. Forget the letters, if there is no concrete benefit, skip it.
  7. Read as much as you can. Never stop learning.
  8. Try more hobbies, learn a new skill.
  9. Stop being so hard on yourself.
  10. Say yes to the things you are afraid of.
  11. Apply for that job you think you are not qualified.
  12. You do not need to keep relationships just because of the length you know people.
  13. Remove yourself from toxic people, family included. Anything that costs your peace is too expensive.
  14. Stop comparing yourself with your friends’ accomplishments, God knows your timing. A grateful mentality will take you far.
  15. Keep your personal business to yourself and your therapist, specially when speaking negatively about significant others during a fight. You might forgive but your friends and family won’t.
  16. Don’t just vacation but travel as well, learn something new about a different culture and share your own with them.
  17. Stop doing things you think you like for the gram. If you are more focused on capturing the moment, you are not enjoying the actual moment.
  18. Give back, even if it’s just with your time.
  19. Be conscious of your privilege whether in education, career, upbringing, big or small, and check yourself whenever you have to.
  20. When you learn something new and useful, share your knowledge, resources, and even your network with others. You are not the gatekeeper of useful information and connections.

Student Loans, Investment or Downfall?

Here I am, happy AF I just paid off all my private student loans! In your face Sallimae|Navient| NaviRefi. Glad those suckers are gone…

Here I am, happy AF I just paid off all my private student loans! In your face Sallimae|Navient| NaviRefi. Glad those suckers are gone and although I’m not done paying off my federal loans, this has given me a great sense of achievement.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated with my bachelor’s and almost 8 years since I graduated with my Master’s and like many of you, I’m still here paying on this investment that allowed me to attend college.

Investment is a word I often heard when people referred to having a college education–and I get it, I really do. All education, whether formal or not, is a great investment, but at what cost? The people who preached to us that loans were just a minor investment into our better future forgot to tell us that graduating with a degree did not guarantee a high paying job right after college. They forgot to mention that employers will want a degree but will also require extensive experience to bypass mediocre entry-level jobs. They forgot to mention there was a high probability that your first job out of college would not provide enough of a salary to afford all your bills with one income; forcing you to choose between paying your loans or staying at home to afford the other. They also forgot to say that most likely you will have to have a roommate or have a second gig to be able to split your regular expenses. They forgot to tell us that eventually we will have to come to the realization that we will want to buy a home and in order to afford the down payment, many other sacrifices will be made.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am in a better position due to my education and for that I’m grateful. I knew that nothing was going to be handed to me and hard work was necessary but I wish someone told me more details as to what I should expect after graduation so I could have made a more conscious decision.

I mean, I don’t know how much an 18 year old would listen but I know I would have really considered community college as an option before attending a 4-year institution, I would have applied for more scholarships than the ones I did, I would not have taken the little bit of extra money I received as a refund check, I would have applied to resident assistant positions all 4 years. I would also have probably worked more rather than participate in multiple extra-curricular activities, and I probably would have studied abroad during the semester rather than summer so some grants would have applied.

Those 4 years were some of the best years ever and although I now say I would have made some tweaks if I knew better, I don’t regret the experiences I enjoyed. But as I lived them, I genuinely believed I was going to be able to pay them off very quickly as soon as I got my first job after graduating. Little did I know, life was going to happen. Priorities shifted and although I could have been able to pay off all my loans way sooner if I stayed at home with my parents, I reached a point where I had to leave and renting did not become an option. Saving enough for a down payment and still balancing life while not depriving myself were the ways I chose to live and no regrets on that either.

Would I consider student loans a downfall? Well, no–they allowed me to attain a university education that seems to be a commodity nowadays, it allowed me to make my parents proud and fulfill a dream they were not able to accomplish but fought really hard for all their kids to have. They left a country and their lives for a better opportunity for us and this was just a small price (with interest) that we had to pay. I just still hope that some reform will happen that would allow more young adults to gain the opportunity to finish college without accumulating massive amounts of debt. Tuition continues to rise, universities continue to expand, buildings become more modern, technology continues to update but I don’t really see the education or salaries across professions getting much better. Many say get government out of the student loan business and that would alleviate this crisis we are in, but those same federal or direct loans were the ones that gave me a chance at a better life, so for now all the advice I can leave you with are the ones below.

3 tips to attack your student loans:

  • Check into Public Service Loan Forgiveness Plans. Here is the application if you qualify. Read details here. After making 120 payments (10 years) under a qualified repayment plan, your balance is forgiven. You must work full-time for certain non-profits or government agencies. This is for Direct Loans.
  • Make extra payments when you can, even if you are in an income based plan and the minimum payment is 0, interest accumulates and eventually you still have to pay it off.
  • If you have private loans, make sure you are checking if your rates are variable or fixed, don’t get surprised and check your balances, rates and terms. I suggest a quarterly check-in with your student loans. Get a journal and don’t be afraid to call your service provider with any questions. By doing this, I noticed my best option was to refinance my private loans, for a better fixed rate, shorter term and lower payment, which did not matter at the end because I made it my goal to pay them off in one year after refinancing.

Hope this info was somehow helpful, we will have to deal with these suckers for a while so let’s make sure we have a plan. Hasta la proxima (until next time).

10 Ways to Save: Holidays are Approaching!

With only 10 weeks before Christmas and other holidays, I decided to prepare earlier this year rather than to just wait until the week of. Every year I realize I get overwhelmed with shopping and more often than I want to, I have to dig into my main savings account. This year I made a simple plan…

With only 10 weeks before Christmas and other holidays, I decided to prepare early this year rather than wait until the week of to purchase gifts. Every year I realize I get overwhelmed with shopping and more often than I want to, I have to dig into my main savings account.

This year I made a simple plan, I budgeted about 4 months in advance, you can still try to do this in 10 weeks. Here is how:

  1. Set a Definite Goal|Make a Plan|Set a Time-Frame: Let’s say you want to save $500 for Christmas gifts. Set the goal and stick to it but make a plan with a time-frame. For example since there are 10 weeks left until Christmas, that means saving $50 weekly. Work around your pay period and if you get paid every two weeks, double the amount to $100. Make sure as soon as you get the direct deposit, you are withdrawing the cash and putting it in an envelope dedicated for this only. You can use this same technique for larger savings. Let’s say I want to save $5,000 in one year. I get 26 paychecks, therefore I need $192.40 saved from each paycheck. $5,000 / 26=$192.40.
  2. Insurance: See if you can have your primary health insurance be your primary medical portion for car insurance to save on premiums. In NJ, a big portion of your car insurance is the medical part. I was told to contact my health insurance first to see if they cover car accidents and they did. I called back my car insurance and asked them to have my health insurance be my primary in case of a car accident. Disclaimer: I am no expert in this area, and thanks to God I have not been involved in any car accidents and hope I never do. I cannot tell you more details about the exact process if a claim went through, all I know is my health insurance is pretty amazing. Before making any decisions consult with an expert.
  3. Ask for Discounts: Call your homeowners insurance or car insurance for discounts in bundling or if there are other offers. I recently increased my homeowners insurance to their suggested coverage amount and by doing so they gave a discount which resulted in my premium going down while my coverage went up. Thank you NJM Insurance.
  4. Check if your Health Insurance Offers Rewards Programs:  I get $250 for just going to my doctors, getting an annual physical and getting a flu shot along with other online short activities. NJ Well is the program I am enrolled in.
  5. Cable: Call to see if there are current promotions running that can help lower your bill. Also, see if buying a modem can save you money in the long run since you pay a rental fee for using their modem (Comcast). You could also get rid of the extra cable box from a guest room you really don’t use.
  6. Meal Preparation instead of Eating Out:  This is my weakness but I have cut down a lot. Make sure to have a grocery list and a menu list for the week. Being prepared will really help you avoid eating out or buying takeout.  Here is a freebie for you. Meal Planner Menu & Grocery List.
  7. Side Jobs: I came across this article for 50 Ways to Make Money in 2018. Hope there’s something creative you may like in there.
  8. Subscriptions: Analyze your expenses, especially subscriptions and see what you need and what you don’t and cancel those immediately.
  9. Take Advantage of Free Trial Periods: to get free shipping or free audio books, from Amazon Prime, Pandora, Apple Music, etc. Just make sure you set multiple reminders to cancel them prior to the free trial period. If you are forgetful, just throw away this tip all together.
  10. Skip Extended Warranties: Now, I always say no whenever I’m asked to purchase extended warranties and I only rely on the free manufacturer’s warranty that may last 1 or 2 years. I’ve noticed that if something is going to go wrong with a product, it may be during the first year anyway. I have contacted companies for replacements for a portable heater and Nikon’s wireless adapter and they have sent me a new one by submitting a claim–again without any extended warranty. However, I have to tell you a story, the only time we bought an extended warranty was for a huge TV (the warranty was paid by someone else as a gift) and it just so happens that this year the TV was damaged by a thunderstorm and thanks to the extended warranty we were able to get a new one. I don’t know if this warranty jinxed it or saved it but this is just my opinion, you buy whatever gives you peace of mind I guess.

Hope this helps. As always, please share your tips with us and don’t forget to follow and subscribe!

“THE BEST TIME TO SAVE MONEY IS WHEN YOU HAVE SOME.”

10 Tips to Improve your Credit.

The best way to predict your future is to create it. Here are 10 tips to improve your credit score.

Majority of us will need good credit for a multitude of reasons, to get competitive rates on a car loan, private student loans, to get a rental property and to eventually buy a home. By any means, if you have enough cash on hand why get in debt; just pay up front in cash. To the rest of us, we need to be savvy enough to make good decisions to keep and to better our credit.

Facts: Just so you know, there are many items that will remain in your credit report for 7 years according to Experian, items such as late payments, bankruptcy (chapter 13) and civil judgments.
Bankruptcy (Chapter 7) will stay in your history for 10 years. Tax liens, depending if paid or not, will stay either 7 or 10 years from date of filing.

Even if we have made bad decisions in the past we can still move forward and work on the present and future. We first have to have an idea what determines our credit score.

There are 5 factors determining our credit score and they are:

  1. Payment History (35%)
  2. Total Debt compared to Limits or Amount Owed (30%)
  3. Length of Credit History (15%)
  4. New Credit Open (10%)
  5. Types of Credit Lines Used (10%)
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I have almost a perfect score and I don’t say this to brag but simply to tell you it’s possible with discipline and you can have it as well. I have followed many tips and I have helped others with the same advice. Here are 10 tips for you to start improving your Credit Score:

  1. Don’t Close Credit Card Accounts: These accounts will show the length of your credit history. Even if you are not using them and don’t want to be tempted, just put them away in a safe place.
  2. Don’t Max Out Your Cards and Do Not Go Above 30% Of Your Limit: For example if you have a $1,000 limit, do not charge or carry a balance over $300 dollars. Your utilization is a big factor in your score. If you have 2 cards, 1 with a $1000 limit and the other with a $2000 limit, now your overall limit is $3000. 30% of $3000 is $900(.3*3000=$900), so you should not have over $900 charged in those two cards combined.
  3. Pay On Time, Pay On Time, Pay On Time: This is the most important factor here. If you were late before, get caught up. If you can get a separate checking account for bills only and set automatic payments, do that so you won’t forget again and you won’t ever make a late payment. To date, the only bills that are not in auto-pay are my gas, electric and mortgage. Either because they fluctuate based on the season and because my mortgage is the largest payment and we get a 15 day grace period to pay depending on our pay date.
  4. Pay Off Delinquent Accounts: Remember that utility bill you stopped paying for at an old apartment? That urgent care bill or copay you forgot and went to collection?–yes–all of them, pay them off. Even if they stay on your report, showing it has been paid off is a plus for you and the clock will start, so it can be erased down the line. This will not help you increase your credit fast, the fastest way may be submitting a claim to all credit bureaus so they can ask the collection company for validation of debt.
  5. Reduce Your Overall Debt: First, know your debt to income ratio. The lower it is the better because it shows a good balance between your debt and your income. Whenever you are applying for any loan or even to rent, your debt to income ratio will be a factor. Add up all your monthly debts (mortgage, car loan, student loans, credit cards). Then add your monthly gross (before taxes) income. For example, let’s say your mortgage is $1,000, car loan is $300, student loans are $300 and credit cards are $200 with a total of $1,800. For this example, let’s say your total monthly gross income is $5,000, therefore you would divide your total monthly debt payments by your total monthly gross income.
    Total Monthly Debt Payments/ Total Monthly Gross Income= Debt to Income Ratio.
    $1800 /$5000=36% debt to income ratio.
  6. Check Credit History Report and Remove Errors If Any: Do an overall review of your report and make sure there aren’t any open accounts that you have not opened, if an account has been paid and the report does not reflect it, make sure to dispute them with each credit bureau. I found this article that discusses this tip in more detail, How to Dispute Credit Report Errors in 3 Steps. Don’t forget to access your free report Here.
  7. Get a Lower Interest Personal Loan: If you have a large balance on high interest credit cards but your credit is still good, you may qualify for a lower interest rate on an unsecured personal loan that you can use to pay off your cards. These loans will have a fixed term, meaning an established number of years for you to pay off the loan, so your payments will most likely be higher than the minimum payments you were paying on your cards. You will save money in the long run with this because the rate will be lower and you will pay it off sooner. When getting a loan ask for the rate (make sure it’s fixed), term, if there are any prepayment penalties and see if by enrolling in auto-pay you can get your interest rate lowered.

  8. 0% Interest Credit Cards: Again, if you have a large balance on high interest credit cards but your credit is still good, you may qualify for 0% interest credit cards. Keep in mind these 0% cards only have a short promotional period ranging from 6 months to 18 months give or take. Also, almost every time you transfer a balance to these cards, you usually pay a transfer fee which could be 3% or more of the total amount transferred. So let’s say you want to transfer $3,000 from a high interest credit card to a 0% card, if you transfer this amount now, your new balance, with a 3% transfer fee, will be  $3,090 ($3,000*1.03%). Now, let’s go a step farther, and let’s assume this card has a 12 month promotional period for 0% interest, this means after 12 months the card’s interest will sky rocket to God knows what-(well you will know, they have to tell you). I only recommend a transfer if you can pay off the full balance during the promotional period. In this case, you will have to pay $257.50 monthly ($3,090/12) assuming you will not charge one additional penny on this card just because you think “well it’s interest free.” Remember, this is a way to pay off debt faster not accumulate debt faster. Disclaimer: I only recommend the 0% interest and personal loans to people who have a plan and know they will stick with it. You have to be intentional with your financial goals and this is not a matter of just moving debt around. You have to be disciplined or you are just going to be in a non-ending debt cycle.

  9. Don’t Open Cards Just To Open Them: Remember 10% of your credit score is attributed to new credit lines opened. Going around opening every department store credit card just to save 10% on your new pair of shoes is not smart, in reality it’s costing you 10% of your credit score; do the math.
  10. Get A Secured Credit Card: I have no experience with this one but I have been told that you could go to some banks or online and get a secured credit card to start helping you build credit. With these cards, you have to put money down to be able to use it, kind of like a debit card but debit cards don’t help you with your credit. I think this is good for young adults trying to establish and build credit responsibly and for adults who may not qualify for major credit cards. I came across this post about some secured cards, but again I cannot personally recommend one so do your research and ask around or please drop a comment below if you have experience with a good one.

Additional Tip: Become An Authorized User: This tip didn’t make it to my list above due to its riskiness but it could help you if done right. If you have someone who is financially sound and you trust completely and they are willing to add you as an authorized user, do it. Pretty much the credit card company will issue a card with your name on it on your friend’s limit and already existing credit card. Now, the person responsible for this account is someone you trust, so I am not saying go ahead and go on a shopping spree on their name. I’m actually encouraging you to not even touch the card, but let this person just continue to use it so it helps you with building credit. This can backfire on you though if your friend stops making payments or is late on any payments. Think this tip thoroughly because it can also lower your credit.

“THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT.”

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3 Tips For First Time Homebuyers.

Today, I will be giving you three tips you should highly consider prior to starting the home-buying process and a free worksheet I use to keep track of my credit score and credit report history.

Looking back to when I was house hunting for my first house, I remember the million questions I had, but I also remember the trustworthy people along the journey that helped me through this process.

Today, I will be giving you 3 tips you should highly consider prior to starting the home-buying process. Also, don’t forget to check out my Real Estate website. 

  1. Check your Credit History and Credit Score: Scores run from 300 to 850 and of course the highest your score the better your mortgage rates may be. You are entitled to 1 report annually for free and you can get it here. Also, if you have a credit card, many offer credit scores for free as a cardholder benefit, if not look into sites like Credit Karma. Some of the things you can start to enhance your credit is pay down debt, credit card debt, pay off delinquent accounts and remove paid debts or errors that appear in your credit history report. This can take a while so it’s always a good idea to start now. Here is a free worksheet I use when I review my score and report annually.
  2. Get a mortgage Pre-Approval: Would you ever go to the grocery store with a list without knowing how much cash you have in your wallet or how much you have in your bank account? No, right? So this concept applies here as well. Doing this step is essential to know exactly how much mortgage and property taxes you can afford. Be mindful that mortgage lenders are different but some of the typical requirements for a pre-approval include tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements. You can shop around for a lender or you can also ask a trusted Real Estate Agent for a lender recommendation.
  3. Save your Pennies|Down Payment|Closing Costs & Other Expenses: The sooner you start saving the better you will be. Needing 20% as a down payment is a myth, nowadays you can buy a home with as little as 3% or 5% down depending on your mortgage lender. However, keep in mind that if you can’t put 20% down, you have to pay a monthly payment towards Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), this is protection for the lenders. But don’t let this stop you either. Although I am not a mortgage lender and do not know the factors they use for their underwriting and to figure out this payment, I’ve seen some PMIs at around $30 monthly, which is still better than paying hundreds towards a rent and you see nothing in return at the end of the lease.  Keep in mind you will also need funds towards closing costs which can be some thousands of dollars; make sure to ask your future lender all these questions.
    As a homeowner having an emergency fund is necessary to prepare for unanticipated repairs, maintenance and or renovations. You will no longer have a landlord to run to when a problem arises but it’s a beautiful feeling knowing something is yours.

“DON’T WAIT TO BUY REAL ESTATE, BUY REAL ESTATE AND WAIT.”

Money Saving Tips while Shopping

As women, we like to look good and enjoy the feeling of getting glammed up and putting a new outfit on to impress our damn selves, not anyone else. Today, I’m sharing 13 tips I practice to shop a little smarter and I hope they can help you a bit!

Look Fabulous Without Breaking Bank.

I personally think people should not spend a large amount of their money to look good at all. Save your money for things you need and will eventually help you like getting out of debt, a down payment, an emergency fund, a trip or 10, etc.

Nonetheless, as women, we still like to look good and enjoy the feeling of getting glammed up and putting a new outfit on to impress our damn selves, not anyone else. Today, I’m sharing 13 tips I practice to shop a little smarter and I hope they can help you a bit!

  1. Clearance is for you. If you can’t give up clothes and shoes shopping, like me, buy items that will beat flash trends in the clearance section. No shame in my game. There are items that you will use over and over again and you will need as your staple pieces i.e. a nice blazer, a light jacket, interchangeable blouses, work dresses, etc. I’m not talking about items like bell bottoms, velvet dresses, fanny packs (ugh who let them come back). Those trends last too short and not worth the hype. Shop for quality staple pieces and you will have a greater and longer use for them.
  2. Shop at the end of season. Know your clearance seasons at your favorite stores. I love this local retail store called Boscovs in South Jersey and I have learned that if I want to buy winter boots or winter clothes I probably have to go late April or May to find up to 90% off markdowns. I got my favorite over the knee high heel boots for $10! I still shop name brands, I just don’t ever pay retail price for them.
  3. Go thrifting. I only do this a few times a year but I found a few great pieces. I still can’t get used to the smell lol and I get a bit overwhelmed. Plus, I often find great deals on sales events that even the thrift store can’t beat.
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  4. Only Buy if you Love it. Don’t buy any item unless you love it. Literally ask yourself “can I live without this?” If you really can’t decide, then just put it down and forget about it or put it on hold and if you really want it, you will go back and get it. This really helps impulse shopping.
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  5. Ask for a Discount. If there’s a minor defect that you know you can fix yourself, ask for a discount always. Just remember most likely it will be a final sale, make sure to love it.
  6. Budget ahead for Shopping. If you try to deprive yourself from shopping, and you are someone like me, it won’t work for too long. Giving yourself a strict budget is more realistic and it will force you to get into the habit of browsing more for what you really want or need. At one point, I gave myself a $10 dollar budget for a week (I know, “she is nuts!”) but I would end up browsing a lot and ended up with pieces I really loved, even if it was as small as a quality nail polish, the little things can make you happy too.
  7. Forget the labels. Name brands don’t always mean better quality. I often get asked what brand are my purses because they look expensive or just because they are different and stylish to which I proudly tell them they are no pricey bag or no name brand bag. I’ll let you spend hundreds while I walk around with a $40 dollar bag that will likely last me as long as yours. If your bags are worth more than your savings, you have a problem sis, sorry not sorry; knowing there is a problem is a step.
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  8. Clothes swap. Now, this is not a tip for shopping but to get creative while getting new clothes; well new clothes to you. Just ask your friends to come over and bring the clothes that they no longer wear and you bring yours. Free to you and free to them. I get excited when I have a new piece of clothing and I honestly don’t care if it has a tag or not–it’s just a new piece to my ever changing recyclable collection.
  9. Sell everything you no longer love or have a use for. That size two dress you wore 5 years ago and keep for inspiration, that velour sweatsuit that should be burned but you still keep for memories, and everything else that is just taking valuable space in your closet needs to go.  All the clothes you swear you will one day fit into or will come back into style, they won’t, sorry. But why not make a few bucks for them. I’ve used a few sites like OfferUp and Mercari but none compare to Poshmark. I’ve been selling my gently used wardrobe on Poshmark for almost a year now and I absolutely love it. It’s simple, they get a small fee of 2.99 or a percentage if below a price and the buyer pays for shipping. All you do is mail the item out after someone buys it and Poshmark emails you the shipping label. Recently, I’ve been trying to shop only when I sell something so I’m not spending additional money from my budget. Check out my Poshmark closet and use my code susu_hj to sign up and get a $5 credit!
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  10. Save your receipts. Have you ever bought something and never wore it? Yes, we all do it, buyer’s remorse happens too often. Save those receipts and don’t take the tags off the clothes until you wear them. I keep all my receipts and after a month or more I just try to return anything I have not worn unless it was bought for a special occasion or as Christmas gifts (I do my shopping early). Even if it’s past due the return date, get the store credit and buy something that you will actually use.
  11. Online Shopping. Read reviews extensively when shopping online and wait for coupons to not pay for shipping. If I have to pay for shipping, I usually don’t buy it. Most online stores usually run specials during July 4, Memorial Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and any other holiday you can think of.  Same as with shopping in a brick and mortar store, check out the clearance section and shop during the end of a season for garments to be used the following year. My two favorite online stores are Shein and Lulu’s. For Shein, you really have to check the reviews like a detective to make sure you get the right size. Also, you must be patient with Shein’s shipping, although they have gotten better recently and I love the no shipping regardless of price.
  12. Buy versatile clothing. Items you can wear out and in the office (assuming you have an office job). I can’t express enough the importance of this. We have all spent too much money on going out dresses and only worn them once, it’s just wasteful. I have legit wore a club dress as a top and put on a sweater or blazer on top to the office. Look for dresses that can be dressed up and down to be worn at dinners, functions, work, family events, etc.  Shop purposely.
  13. Have a Shopping Spree with others’ money. Is your birthday coming up? Make a list with links to the items and send them to whoever buys you gifts during your birthday or a special holiday. This is usually when I splurge with others’ money and since it’s a thought out process (kinda), we all win. I get exactly what I want like name brand make up, outfits, purses, etc. and they don’t have to worry about what I want or what I may or may not like. I hate getting cash as I end up spending it on items like gas or lunch, I mean we all need gas but who WANTS gas for their birthday. I can finance my own needs, buy me my weaknesses, thank you.Some of my favorite physical stores are Boscovs, Macy’s Burlington, Ross, H&M, TJMaxx and boutiques. Most of these stores also sell online but I just have to shop and browse in person; maybe it’s just their websites I dislike.

    Hope this was insightful in some way. I believe in balance and while I am a semi-strict budgeter, I have a love for clothes that I know I won’t give up, at least for now. It’s just a matter of finding ways to shop a little smarter. Please share some of your favorite online stores below and any shopping tips!

Make Credit Cards Work for You.

Credit cards can be your friend but also one of your biggest enemies…

First things first, credit cards can be your friend but also one of your biggest enemies. While I have been able to make credit cards work for me by using their rewards and even booking trips for free, I cannot recommend this to everyone. I practice huge self control and I have never carried over a balance since I got my first credit card when I was 18 years old. I’m proud to say my credit score is at is highest right now at 821!

Let’s face it, in the words of Ye, we have a problem of spending before we get it, and thanks to these plastic little cards we can just swipe and maintain this illusion of grandeur. But credit cards are essential, as they will probably be the first source to help you build credit. I got my first card from Sears and then from a whole bunch of retail stores. I currently only use two to three cards out of at least 10. I always wonder why companies don’t just close my account for inactivity but somehow that has not happened to me yet (with the exception of Walmart and Target).  Today, I want to share a few do’s and don’ts to make credit cards work for you.

Do’s

  1. Set up automatic payment as soon as you open any card to pay the balance in full every month. If you cannot do this in fear that you may overdraft your bank account, then maybe you have no business in getting cards in the first place. Retail credit card rates can start anywhere from 14% to 29% so unless you are paying everything in full or paying big chunks monthly, you are pretty much getting robbed; don’t let them fool you!
  2. Take advantage of their rewards especially the ones that give you miles or cash back. Now, this is a new concept for me but so far it has worked. I got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card during one of their promotions and after I spent $4,000 in a three month period, they gave me around 40,000 miles plus additional miles when I added an authorized user. I did this knowing I was going to have some large expenses during those months and I ended up cashing out and flying to Madrid, Spain, round trip, for free; I saved over $700!
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    But, this card had an annual fee and I don’t do those. I am too frugal to pay to have a card, so I called Chase prior to reaching the year and I switched my card for one without an annual fee called Freedom Unlimited. I really miss my Chase Preferred card because of the no foreign transaction fees and the best customer service I have had with any card company hands down. So, I am considering getting it again in the near future. I did the same thing with my Delta Skymiles card but I had to spend less, 2,000 in three months. I haven’t cashed out yet but I have over 52,000 miles right now and I hope it is as good as my Chase card.
    Disclaimer: Don’t just spend extra money to obtain the rewards. I am very anal.  I prepared myself to accomplish the above. I wrote down every expense I was going to incur in those upcoming months, I changed my phone bill, car insurance and cable’s payment card to add these cards to make sure I met their spending requirement for the reward points. Unfortunately, I could not pay my mortgage with a credit card but I got creative by paying a full six months of car insurance up front and we know Jersey’s car insurance is absurd compared to other states.
  3. Make your payments on time. Even if you can’t set your payments on automatic payment, make sure you are not late or you will get late fees and who wants those? If you are late and it’s your first time, call the card company and see if they can waive the late fee.
  4. Check your Credit score. Most credit card companies now offer you to see your credit score for free just for having an account with them. Make sure you are not paying for something you can get for free. If your cards do not offer this benefit, check out credit karma, I have friends and relatives who love it. While we are on this topic, don’t forget to get your credit reports, for free, at Annual Credit Report. You can get one report every 12 months from each credit reporting company: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

“YOU MUST GAIN CONTROL OVER YOUR MONEY OR THE LACK OF IT WILL FOREVER CONTROL YOU.”~ DAVE RAMSEY

Dont’ s

  1. Do not just open a card to get a 10% discount on a retail store. It takes a lot to keep up with cards’ bills and if you are not organized or do not pay the full balance each month, this could really affect you negatively over a tiny initial discount.
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  2. Do not just use cards to get additional discounts. If you already failed at the suggestion above, it’s okay, I’ve been there too. But remember that shopping only to get an additional discount does not benefit you. The interest will probably be more than the discount itself in the long run. It’s like buying things that are on sale just because of the sale and ultimately not needing them or just buying out of impulse thinking you are somehow saving.
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  3. Do not carry your cards with you. I know, what is she talking about? They are for emergencies; well, ask yourself when is the last time you had such an emergency that you were so thankful you had a credit card on you. Yeah, it doesn’t happen often but what happens often is temptation. I love clothes and whenever I know it’s outside of my monthly budget, I tell myself “it can go on my card and I will account for it next month,” well for people who cannot pay in full monthly, this is detrimental and you end up accumulating large debts by shopping little by little. So, out of sight,out of mind; if it’s not on you, you cannot use it as often as you would.
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Again, credit cards can work for you if you are disciplined and consistent. And even if you are not as obsessive as I am when it comes to paying balances, you can always practice better habits to improve what was taught or not taught to you.

Pay on time and pay in full is my only motto for credit cards. And, if you are in a mess and don’t know what to do to get out of debt, don’t let it put you down and please ask someone you trust, who is financially sound, to assist. Speaking about finances can be such a taboo at times but know that it is okay to seek advice. You won’t believe how many people are in the same place and stay there by not creating a plan.

Please share your tips, in the comment section below, about how you make credit cards work for you.

Don’t forget to subscribe, I’ll be discussing how to pay and attack student loans with the snowball effect soon! 

“TOO MANY PEOPLE SPEND THE MONEY THEY HAVEN’T EARNED TO BUY THINGS THEY DON’T WANT TO IMPRESS PEOPLE THEY DON’T LIKE.” ~WILL ROGERS.

Make Your Money Count.

I am a semi-strict budgeter who does not like to live in deprivation. Just like many women, I like to look good, I love new home decor and I enjoy traveling. I believe in balance and I am still able to indulge but I do it with great moderation. So, today, we will talk about the first 2 steps to financial wisdom.

It’s not about how much you make but how much you spend.

The fear of being financially ignorant was ingrained in me since I can remember. I grew up in a very poor household in Lima-Peru, a beautiful developing country.  Disposable income in our home was non-existent, going out to eat meant going to a Chinese buffet once a year and shopping meant checking out the Salvation Army. Don’t get me wrong, I never missed a meal or any necessities and for that I am grateful to both of my parents.

Living through foreclosures and bankruptcies at a young age pushed me to be more curious about personal finances. I majored in Finance in college and have attended numerous financial management seminars, but Life has really been my biggest teacher, even above a higher education institution.  I’d like to think of myself as a wise financial person who is making the best with a modest income. I am a semi-strict budgeter who does not like to live in deprivation. Just like many women, I like to look good, I love new home decor and I enjoy traveling. I believe in balance and I am still able to indulge but I do it with great moderation. So, today, we will talk about the first 2 steps to financial wisdom.

  • Budget: Live life on your terms: I am including a free document here Budget Doc, so you can see how I budget my expenses. I am a fan of Google Sheets but there are tons of apps and some just prefer good old paper; whatever works for you.
    • First, write down how much money (after taxes) you are bringing in monthly from all incomes.
    • Then, make a list of all your monthly expenses. Start with your fixed expenses aka non-negotiables (i.e. savings, rent/mortgage, student loans, cellphone, car insurance, car payment, credit cards, etc).
    • Then continue with a list of your variable expenses aka determined by use (i.e. utility bills, groceries, copays, gas, etc).
    • Finally, finish up your list and include all your other expenses (i.e. restaurants, makeup, clothing & shoes, hair salon, nail salon, gym membership, cable, games, movies, books, etc.). Add all your expenses and subtract it from your monthly income (Total Monthly Income-Total Monthly Expenses). If you have a positive number, we have disposable income and more opportunities. If we have a negative number, it’s time to figure out a plan and really decide what is essential from the other expenses list, this is where we can cut down unnecessary expenses so we can either save more or pay down debt faster.

Tips: Budget for at least three months, it will become a habit. Review it biweekly or monthly and make readjustments. Consistency is key. Be realistic and really understand what expenses are essential. I personally cannot give up my gym membership and workout at home instead because paying a monthly fee actually motivates me to go. I gave up buying coffee, not coffee itself, but my K-Cups cost 30 cents now compared to $2 (I was never a Starbucks girl). Giving up buying lunches was hard, I love take out and Wawa! (an amazing convenience chain store). It took time and preparation but now I tell myself I am not eating my money away. I was spending at least 200 monthly, just in lunches, and now I have cut that in half or more just by buying groceries.   

  • Pay yourself first, before you spend it on someone else: You may be asking why I consider savings to be a fixed expense as mentioned before. Well, I am a huge believer of paying yourself first while building an emergency fund; this should be a habit that will essentially create a foundation that can be passed down. I have read different articles saying you have to save from 5% to 15% of your take home income.
    • I say, if all you can save is $20 per paycheck, do that, but be consistent and realistic. Look at the list above and be honest with yourself; if you are spending over $100 a month in recreational expenses and saving $20, chances are  that if an emergency arises, you will most likely swipe the plastic (credit cards) and then you will accumulate high interests, pay only the minimum payment, and put yourself in more debt.
    • So, pay yourself first as soon as the direct deposit hits and preferably put it in a separate savings account. I personally set up an automatic transfer from my checking to savings on every payday. I have my savings in the same bank as my checking but I practice a lot of self control. If you are afraid you will just access the savings when you are tempted to do some shopping therapy, then try to get a separate online savings account. This will prevent you from having immediate access to cash and hopefully the urge will disappear.
    • Using a separate checking account for my bills has really helped me see where I am spending the most outside of my necessities. This helps me buckle down when I need to save extra to travel or buy an expensive item.                             

~DO NOT SAVE WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SPENDING, BUT SPEND WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SAVING~ WARREN BUFFETT.