Coffee beans and title

How My “Bougie” Coffee Habit Saves Me Money!

When people think of Millenials (and Gen Z-ers), certain food and drink associations come to mind: avocado toast, craft beer, and fancy coffee.

People like to make a big deal about how much money the younger generations spend on these and similar items. Some claim these expenses are the reason so many young people are behind on their retirement savings.

I like to think that our generation has simply identified that if you’re going to work hard, then the little joys in life need to be really worth your time.

What’s the use of using caffeine to perk up if its delivery system is gross? Why spend money on alcohol if you aren’t drinking something interesting and different? Why eat the same boring breakfast every day when something as delicious as avocado toast is available?

I recently had an experience that really highlighted the fact that just because you’re a little picky about what you like, it doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re wasting money. In fact, sticking to your preferences can sometimes save you cash. 

Bouge It Up or Nah?

“Bougie” habits are generally NOT considered budget-friendly or financially savvy. They include buying expensive clothes and accessories, buying “fancy” food, and embracing an overall “treat yo’self” attitude.

As a result, it’s popular, and easy, to frown on “bougie” habits as poor choices that should be given up if you ever want to retire or succeed in life. (See: avocado toast).

Here’s the thing though: these “poor choices” are fun; they give people joy; and they are sometimes overall better choices than the frugal version. Beans and rice might be cheap, but a balanced diet with lots of veggies is way better for you in the long run.

I believe there’s nothing wrong with making a few bougie choices in life. The problem comes when every choice you make falls into that category.

Paula Pant over at AffordAnything.com says it best: “You can afford anything, but not everything.”

Something I’ve come to realize, though, is that some habits that people might label as bougie can actually pay off in the long run by saving you money.

Our Love Affair with Coffee

My husband and I have morphed into admitted coffee snobs over the time we’ve been together. When my roommates and I made coffee in college, I used to use tons of sweetened creamer because the coffee just never tasted that good. I loved getting coffee at a shop because it always tasted so much better. As a result, I definitely spent too much money on delicious coffee-shop concoctions.

Then I had good, fresh, home-ground coffee.

Turns out, putting in the effort to grind your beans and make your coffee fresh is actually worth it. Now, I love coffee and usually drink my morning coffee black because it’s so smooth and actually tastes good.

Lots of people have come to this conclusion over the last decade, and it’s easier than ever to find fresh, often locally-roasted coffee at farmer’s markets, local cafes, and even grocery stores.

The scary thing about making the leap to high-quality coffee is that it comes at a high-quality price. A pound of whole beans can cost anywhere from $11 to $20 depending on the type. Considering you also probably have to buy a grinder, plus the gear to actually make your coffee, you’d think that suffering through cheap coffee is actually the better choice.

The problem is, if you don’t actually like the coffee you make at home, you don’t have any incentive to make it. It’s way more pleasant to stop by Starbucks, drop $5 to have someone else make your coffee exactly the way you want it, and have the satisfaction of that warm travel coffee mug to hold as you go about your day. (Does anyone else LOVE the feeling of carrying a travel coffee cup?? It’s so cozy-feeling!)

So, now you’ve spent $3-7 on a bag of pre-ground, cheap coffee and a drip machine you rarely use, plus you’re dropping $5 several times a week on the stuff you ACTUALLY want but want to believe you don’t need.

If you buy a $5 drink three times a week, that’s $15, or the cost of an extra-fancy bag of coffee. Those bags usually last more than a week, at least for us, so it’s already cheaper to buy the fancy stuff than to grab chain-brand drinks. Plus, every time you make a pot at home, whether it’s a drip machine, a french press, or other method, you’ll probably be making more than one serving, so you get more coffee at the same price as ordering out.

I recently got to re-learn this lesson first-hand.

The Disaster

For the past five years or so, we’ve been using a drip coffee machine that was highly recommended by The Wirecutter. It’s the red version of a Bodum-brand machine. I love it and it’s worked perfectly since we bought it.

P.S. Thermal carafes are AMAZING. The coffee stays hot for hours after brewing, which is great for those who like to have a couple cups over the course of the morning.

The one gripe I have is that part of the basket for the grounds is plastic, and we’ve seen some stress cracks form over time from constant use and cleaning. Last week, I bumped this basket off the shelf where it had been drying and the handle snapped off, taking a chunk of the basket with it.

This one missing piece rendered the whole machine useless.

My husband immediately got online to look for a replacement, but Bodum has stopped making that particular machine and didn’t have any individual parts to send us. Ebay, Amazon, and the rest of the internet didn’t either.

Would we have to buy a whole new machine because of one crappy plastic piece!?

The Solution

We decided to make a last-ditch effort to fix it, so Joe bought some food-safe sealant and patched the basket up.

Today, we crossed our fingers and made our first pot of coffee in over a week, and it worked perfectly. We’ve hopefully bought ourselves at least another year of use out of our Bodum my spending a little time and money to patch it up.

The Lesson

Great, yay us, but why bother telling you this story?

During the days our coffee maker was out of commission, I bought coffee a lot more than I do during a normal week.

I’d make an Aeropress cup in the morning, but I usually take coffee to work, and I just couldn’t be bothered to go through the steps to make a small Aeropress cup again before I left. Cue a stop at Dunkin or Starbucks.

Not only were these stops more costly, but I don’t particularly like either Dunkin or Starbucks coffee black, so they also cost me more in calorie intake!

In all, we spent about $16 for less than a week of coffee out for the two of us.

Wrap Up

If I needed reminding that our $100 coffee machine and $30 grinder were worth buying, then this week was that reminder. Our “bougie” love for fresh coffee saves us probably $60-70 a month.

If you’re trying to trim your expenses, but you’re a fellow caffeine fiend, take a second look at upping your game and joining us “fancy coffee people” on the delicious, home-ground, “bougie” side.

Friends laughing with blog title

How Your Friends Can Help (or Hurt) Your Life & Money Goals

BFFs, Bros, Ride-or-Dies, Squad — whatever you call your friends, they are the ones who are always there for you, the ones you’d call for help in an emergency or to share good news, and the ones who, besides your immediate family, can make the biggest impact on your health, happiness, and habits.

There are several “types” of friends you might encounter in your journey through life. These are a few of them and their (admittedly very generalized) potential effects on your well-being. Keep an eye out for these traits in yourself and your buds.

The Party Pal

We’ve all had that friend who absolutely must go out every weekend and party like there’s no tomorrow. Except the problem is there is a tomorrow, and tomorrow-you is not going to be super thrilled at today-you for dropping $150 at the bar or club because you couldn’t say no to your party friend.

Getting and keeping your financial feet under you can be tough enough without someone else enabling you to drain your bank account.

Party royalty are fun friends to have because they generally live very in-the-moment. They jump at the chance to have fun and milk every drop of energy out of life. They meet people easily and can usually coax even the shiest of us into letting loose a little and dancing like fools.

There comes a point, though, when that kind of lifestyle is unsustainable. Heavy drinking, late nights, and paying covers to get into deafeningly loud crowded spaces take a toll on basically every aspect of your health. Partying can be good for the soul, but bad for you in every other way. Keeping your hangouts with the party king or queen limited to once a month or so can help you balance the thrills with some chill nights in. Your body and wallet will thank you.

The Homebody

The polar opposite of the Party Pal, the Homebody, never wants to leave the house or go on adventures. Clubs and parties are nightmares for this person. He or she is happy to curl up with the TV and Instagram and not interact with the world unless entirely necessary.

There’s nothing wrong with liking a quiet night in. The problems arise when this friend guilts you into staying in with them all the time and refuses to ever step outside their comfort zone.

NOTE: Anxiety and depression can be beasts, and if you believe your friend is struggling, be understanding, but know that you CANNOT be their only support. Volunteer to help them find a therapist, or refer them to the National Helpline for people suffering from these and other mental health troubles.

No real friend should ever force you to conform to what they want to do every time you hang out. At least some compromise should exist. Many of us go through homebody periods, but we also like to go out and experience what the world has to offer. Just as with the Party Pal, balance is key.

Some things are worth the time and money. Meeting new people can help you make connections that may move you forward in your career or teach you about topics you’ve never heard of. Some nights can be frugal nights in, and others you can spend on dates, out on the town, or checking out that awesome new museum exhibit.

There’s a huge world out there full of amazing people, experiences, and places. Get out there and see it while you can.

The Absolutist

In the Absolutist’s world things are either AMAZING or TERRIBLE.

This is the friend who will tell you that anyone who wants to be a success MUST go about succeeding in very specific ways and if you don’t measure up to that, you’re not a success AT ALL.

Absolutists can be great friends to have by your side if you need a lot of accountability for your goals, but this pressure can come with a dark side. If the forward progress hits a speed bump, Absolutists can become doomsayers.

Starting a new exercise regimen or creative habit? “You better do it every day or you’ve FAILED.”

Want to save $500 a month? “If you only saved $300 last month, you might as well give up.”

“If you fail once, you’re officially a failure.”

Absolutists believe it’s all or nothing. The problem is that we’re imperfect humans living in an imperfect world. In reality, ANY step toward improvement that we make is great.

Saving $300 is so much better than saving none, and maybe you’ll manage $500 next month. Or $100. Still better than zero.

Doing one pushup is better than doing none. You’ll get to ten soon enough.

Don’t let an Absolutist friend or maybe your own little Absolutist voice tell you that anything but complete success means failure. Small steps make up a mile.

The Jackrabbit

Let me tell you a little story.

When I was in middle school, I joined the track team. I was very speedy over short distances, but I’d never run a longer race. We needed to fill a spot in an 800 meter race, so my coach put me in. I shot off at the beginning of the race, feeling amazing that I was ahead of the pack. By the time I realized my mistake, I was starting my second lap of the track and was quickly losing ground. By the finish line, I was in 6th place out of seven runners and was hyperventilating so badly I threw up.

That day, I was a Jackrabbit.

Anyone who makes you feel anxious about telling them about an idea because you know they’ll immediately start running way faster with it than you’re ready for could be a Jackrabbit.

Usually, these people mean well. They are unfailingly supportive and often see possibilities in you or your ideas that you don’t. They can be so excited for you, however, that they overwhelm you before you even begin.

Jackrabbits, like Absolutists, are great people to have as resources while you work towards your goals, but make sure they don’t take over your plans.

Going to the gym every day when you haven’t exercised in years or opening an Etsy shop while you’re still learning to knit puts a lot of pressure on you very quickly.

Map out a plan of action to achieve your goal and take it one step at a time. That usually gets you to the finish line faster than exhausting yourself at the beginning.

Wrap Up

If you recognize these four types of friends in yourself or your besties, it’s ok! Everyone can be any of these people at any time. Party, stay in, shoot for 100%, and move as fast as you want. Just remember that moderation in all things is almost always healthier than any extreme.

Everyone has something valuable they can bring to a friendship and you are no different. Look for ways to encourage and help your friends as they make their own goals and journeys. It’s so much easier to eat better, save and learn about finances, exercise, and create a career you love when you have a supportive squad.

9 Ways Besides Black Friday Deals to Save Cash Over the Holidays

The holidays are rough for those of us on a budget and trying to save money. Many of us let this time of year become an excuse to break all our good habits with food, drink, and money.

patrick eating

Basically me at the holidays

I’m going to let you worry about your waistline, but as far as your wallet goes, I’ve got some tips for keeping it fat and happy this season so we can all start the new year with enough cash to sign up for those pilates classes we’re going to need.

Potluck Everything

One of the things I most enjoyed about moving out of my parents’ house was that my roommates and I could host our own parties. There’s something so cozy and happy about hosting parties, especially around the holidays. It makes you feel very adult and gives you a great excuse to clean.

Parties can be deceptively expensive, however. Food for everyone, plus drinks and decorations, can add up quickly. My friends and I quickly jumped on the potluck train. Almost every gathering we have, everyone brings food and drink to chip in. This month, we did a potluck Friendsgiving! It means no one spends way more than they would normally and the person hosting can relax a little more.

There are several other non-financial perks of the potluck method of party hosting: the host isn’t left with tons of food or pots to wash since everyone takes their own dish back, everyone gets to share favorite recipes or traditions with friends, and everyone knows there’s at least one dish or drink at the party that he or she likes!

Pro tip: If you host these types of gatherings a lot, keep a collection of take-out containers you don’t care about that people can use to take leftovers home with them. If you want a stash, Costco & Amazon sell packs of 50 plastic containers.

Warehouse stores

Speaking of Costco, I think the holidays are when warehouse stores like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club really come into their own. By stopping by your nearest warehouse giant, you could save a ton on decorations, food, drink, and of course gifts.

I LOVE the book section of Costco, and it always has a selection of cool toys and outfits for little ones. You won’t find the biggest variety ever, but what they do have is usually quality and a reasonable price. Plus, with their amazing return policy, you know you can always get something else should your gift not fit or go over well.

Coupons

When you’re buying something from an online store, don’t just skip over the coupon code box. I always do a quick search for coupon codes before checking out, just in case they’ve got something available.

Keep in mind that some companies, especially the start-up brands like Bombas, Harry’s, Blue Apron, etc. advertise on podcasts and blogs and usually offer a deal of some kind if you sign up for a trial or order using a code from that blog or podcast. If you’re buying someone a subscription or trial as a gift, this could be a great way to save some cash, and you’ll be helping to support media that you like.

If you’re bad at remembering to look for coupon codes, add a browser extension like Honey, which will automatically look for codes and coupons when you buy online.

Coupon apps like Ibotta or Ebates can also help you scrape back a little moolah from online or in-store shopping. I’m a very casual user of the Ibotta app, but I’ve still managed to get $135 back on groceries over past couple years. Buying the fancy brand of cranberry sauce for your very particular Aunt Sharon isn’t so bad when you’re getting a little cash back.

Credit Card Rewards and Deals

A bunch of credit cards have monthly deals with certain stores or brands to get you discounts or cash back. Currently, my American Express Blue Cash Everyday card is offering cash back on car rentals, restaurants, hotels, meal kits, and a TON of retail stores and brands.

The trick is that you often have to sign into your account and manually select which deals you want to add to your card. Otherwise, your purchases won’t count.

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To get these deals, you first have to punch that button on the right!

Check out what rewards or deals your credit cards might be offering. If you’re traveling or brand-shopping this season, you could see a nice bunch of cash coming back to your account.

Of course, since you have to use your credit card to pay for these items in order to get the cash back, make sure you aren’t charging more than you can pay off at the end of the month. Responsibility is the name of the game when credit cards are involved!

Stacking Deals

If you’re really looking to get crafty with the savings, look for ways to stack deals. This can be tricky, especially online, because a lot of coupons and codes are designed to only work alone. However, there are ways you can stack deals to save a few bucks on those things that make the holidays special.

By using a combination of those credit card deals I just mentioned and other available discounts, you can still effectively “stack” deals. The same credit card I mentioned above offers $10 back on $200 of Amex gift cards. If you buy the gift cards and use them yourself to buy discounted gifts, you’re saving at least $10 more than you would have, and more than that if the gifts you buy are on sale. It’s more work, but might be worth it if every dollar matters.

Warehouse stores like Costco (can you tell I love Costco?) often sell gift cards for less than they are worth, too. If you’re the kind of person who loves to gift experiences, these gift cards can be amazing, affordable solutions to gifting (especially for your far-away peeps).

Groupons

Long-distance family and friends are also great candidates for gifting a Groupon to. Groupon is always running deals on experiences like classes, workouts, dinners, tastings, and spa days. There’s nothing like having a Groupon to spur you to try out that class or restaurant you’ve been eyeing.

Check out what’s popular in whatever city your recipient is in and send him/her your gift wrapped in a lovely email. Free delivery!

Have a cash budget

If you’re worried about overspending, try setting up a cash budget. This could be as simple as writing “Holiday $$$” on an envelope and stuffing it with the amount of cash you’d feel comfortable spending over the holidays.

When possible, use that cash to buy your gifts, ingredients, and decorations. If you HAVE to buy something online, take the same amount you spent out of the envelope and put it in a savings envelope. When you run out of cash in your envelope, you know it’s time to halt the holiday spending.

Scout online, buy offline

If you’ve got a good idea of what you’re looking for, see if you can scout out the best deals and prices online first, then pick up your items in person at the store. You might save on shipping costs, and online customer service sometimes just can’t measure up to in-person conversations.

Also, buying items in person gives you the option of paying in cash, which can be safer than entering credit card data online. Handing over cash is also harder than swiping the plastic, so you’re more likely to stick to your budget if you have to pay in cash. (See the above cash envelope budget!)

If you don’t have a credit card, buying in person is DEFINITELY better than using a debit card online. Should your information be compromised, a debit card gives thieves access to your entire checking account, and you may have a fight on your hands to get that money back.

DIY

Making gifts by hand can be a fantastic way to save cash while also making sure everyone on your gift list gets a personalized, thoughtful gift. This can be super helpful if you have a long list of giftees and a limited budget.

Before you say “I’m not crafty, so I just CAN’T make a gift,” I’m not saying you have to cross-stitch, sew, paint, hammer, or anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. If that’s your jam, hop to it! If the idea of DIY makes you sweat a little, why not look at finding something that already exists to dress up or personalize?

One year, a friend of mine gave all her friends flavored oils and vinegars. She had found some decorative bottles, filled them with nice, but plain olive oil or white vinegar, and packed herbs and spices in them to infuse them with flavor. She printed labels to personalize each bottle, and voila! The gift was cute, personal, hand-made, and useful!

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Fill a bottle like this one with nice olive oil, and infuse with rosemary, garlic, or other flavors.

Whether it’s painting ornaments, designing personalized mugs, making wreaths, pouring candles, or whatever, DIY gifting is a heart-felt way to make your friends and family feel special without sacrificing your financial stability. Fire up Pinterest and get inspired!

Wrap Up

The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate your relationships with friends and family. Don’t let the financial side get too out of hand though, or pretty soon that rosy, feel-good feeling of being Santa Claus is going to give way to the sweaty, uncomfortable feeling of being broke.

The holidays mark the end of one year, but remember the beginning of the next year is just around the corner. Set yourself up for success in January by being smart about your holiday spending. Reward yourself with an extra piece of pie or glass of eggnog instead. 😉

Side Gig Summit

Hey there L$G fans!

This post contains an affiliate link. If you click on it and buy a pass, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

I’m excited to let you all know that I got the opportunity to be part of LessDebtMoreWine.com ‘s awesome Side Gig Summit, happening now!

Every day until September 4th, the fabulous Liz Stapleton will be posting videos of interviews she’s conducted with over 25 experts on different side gigs.

Each interview will focus on what a newbie can do to start making money doing that side gig. If you’ve been thinking about getting in on the gig economy, this might be the push you’ve been waiting for.

The best thing (in my totally non-biased opinion) about the summit is that yours truly is in it! My interview, in which Liz and I talk about how you can get started tutoring for money, comes out September 1st. Go check it out, along with all the other amazing hustlers’ videos.

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Already working on a side gig? These videos are still for you. My friend Katherine, AKA The Bookkeeping Artist, has an interview in which she discusses how to manage all the cash you’re pulling in from your hustle. You also might get inspired with ways to boost your income and reach. We all have room to improve, right?

These videos are free to view the day they are posted and for 24 afterwards. If you want to maintain access to rewatch your favorites in the future, you can purchase an All-Access pass, which gets you lifetime access to all the interviews.

This ends my shameless plug of the day. I’m so excited for some great stuff coming down the pipe for L$G. Next post = back to normal, I promise.

What is Insurance & When Do You Need It?

Let me just start by admitting that insurance is a HUGE topic and there’s no way I can cover it all in one post without it turning into a book. The goal in this article is to cover the basics of what insurance in general is and when it’s important for everyone to have insurance.

What is Insurance

All “insurances” are basically an agreement between you and a company. You pay the company a set amount of money, called a “premium”, and they agree to pay you a certain amount if something happens to the person or object you are insuring.

Most insurance premiums are due monthly or every six months.

Why does insurance exist?

Insurance exists because disasters are expensive. If insurance didn’t exist and you wrecked your car, you might be stuck having to pay thousands of dollars to replace it, plus possibly thousands more in medical expenses. If your house burned down and you didn’t have insurance, you would be faced with replacing the house and everything in it with your own money. Very few of us have that kind of cash lying around.

Basically, when life dumps us in the deep end, as it sometimes likes to do, insurance acts as the life vest that brings us to the surface again. Without it, we could wind up in debt or bankrupt.

 

What can be insured?

Almost anything can be insured, as long as it has value of some kind.

Home, car, boat, motorcycle, and RV insurance all exist in case something drastic happens to any of those possessions. Any vehicle you own will need insurance.

You can buy renters insurance in case your possessions are ruined while you’re renting. In fact, many landlords require their tenants to show proof of renters insurance before they are allowed to move in.

If you own any valuable art, jewelry, or collectibles, you can usually insure those.

Some people buy pet insurance which helps keep costs down if their pet becomes very ill.

Travel insurance can be a good option if you’re going on a big trip because it keeps you from being stranded if part of your plans falls through.

You can even insure yourself and your family with health, disability, and life insurance.

Psst. Don’t understand a term or phrase in your insurance documents? Check out the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’s glossary. Many insurance companies also provide glossaries of terms they use. Don’t sign until you know!

What kinds of insurance do I need?

There are a couple types of insurance that everyone should have. Which additional types you need depends heavily on your stage of life.

Everyone needs…

Health insurance:

Currently, everyone in the US is required to have health insurance or face a fee at tax time. Most of us will get this benefit through our employers, but those who don’t can buy their own through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Open enrollment only happens once a year, but if you experience a “life-changing” event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or losing a job, you can get special permission to enroll outside of that enrollment period. I know it’s expensive, but a medical emergency can destroy your savings. The last thing you want to be worried about in a medical crisis is money.

Car insurance:

You only need this type of insurance if you own a car, but most Americans do, so I figured I’d include it here. It is illegal to drive a car without insurance, and cars are expensive enough to maintain without having to pay out of pocket should it be in an accident. Most car insurance will also provide some coverage for injuries or other medical costs resulting from an accident. The same applies for any vehicle you drive, whether it’s on the road or water: insure it!

Homeowners or Renters insurance:

Everyone should have one of these, since we all either own or rent our homes. It’s obvious why you would want homeowners insurance, since a home is a massive investment and losing it to a disaster would destroy the finances of most people. A lot of renters, however, tend to skip buying renters insurance. If you’re one of those people, I would strongly recommend getting at least a little bit. You might be surprised how cheap renters insurance is and what it covers. Don’t let a burst pipe, fire, or natural disaster leave you with nothing but an empty wallet.

Some people need…

Personal property insurance:

If your homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t provide enough coverage or has exceptions for certain types of disasters or events, you might want to purchase extra personal property insurance to make sure you’re covered for all possibilities.

Valuable personal property insurance:

This kind of falls under the previous category, but it’s more focused on special, valuable items you own, like collectibles, art, jewelry, cameras, instruments etc. Usually, these items have to be worth over a certain amount to qualify for valuable personal property insurance. Otherwise, they would just fall under regular personal property insurance.

These things don’t have to be worth a million dollars to count as valuable. Many people insure their wedding or engagement rings, and remember, if you use expensive equipment like instruments or cameras to create income, those things are much more valuable to you than just their sticker prices!

Life insurance:

Most of us will need life insurance at some point. It usually pays out after the death of the insured person and is meant to help keep a family financially stable even when the breadwinner has died.

Most people buy life insurance during the years they have dependent children or when a spouse or parent is relying on their income to survive. When you’re single or in a coupled situation in which the death of one partner would not cut off the only income, life insurance is less important.

Some jobs will provide life insurance as a benefit, but even if we have to buy it ourselves, all of us with living family should at least consider having life insurance, especially if our jobs involve physical risk. Even a few thousand can make a difference to those left behind who will have to handle funeral and other estate expenses, all while grieving.

Long-term disability insurance:

This one is a little like life and health insurance combined. It will help provide income in the case that you become unable to work for long periods of time. This is especially important if you are the only source of income for your household. Long-term disability is another type of insurance that employers will sometimes offer.

Travel insurance:

Some people have never heard of travel insurance, and others never go anywhere without it. Travel insurance comes in a wide range of flavors that cover anything from canceled trips, to lost luggage, to medical emergencies abroad.

If you’re planning to go abroad, especially for several weeks or a month, it might be a good idea to look at buying some travel insurance in case something goes wrong and you find yourself stuck in a foreign country and having to replace your whole wardrobe or buy last-minute tickets to replace your canceled ferry or flight.

You can buy travel insurance from your insurance company, but some credit cards provide free or discounted travel insurance on trips booked with their cards, so check your card benefits before booking.

Pet insurance:

Of all the insurances we’ve talked about here, this one is probably the least necessary. A dog or cat of average health and life-expectancy won’t cost enough over its lifetime to make pet insurance worth the cost. However, insurance is always meant to protect against huge, catastrophic costs, which can happen with pets who develop a serious illness or need surgery.

If you get a specific breed that is known for having medical problems, you might consider getting some level of pet insurance, but remember that those breeds will cost more to insure because the insurance companies know that they are more likely to need treatment. In most situations, setting aside a little cash in “Fido’s Emergency Fund” is a better option for covering expenses than buying pet insurance.

Wrap Up

Should you decide to get some or all of these types of insurance, consider buying them all through the same insurance company. Most big companies will offer discounts for customers purchasing multiple types of insurance. Just be aware that the company might try to up-sell you on policies you don’t really need because they’re “deals”. As always, shop around for the best price, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

It can be tempting to think of insurance as a luxury. Watching money leave your account every month to pay for something that may never happen can be frustrating. Resist the urge to “save money” by dropping your insurance, though.

If a disaster does strike, you will spend far more money recovering without insurance than you would with it. Plus, there’s something to be said for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, if something should happen, the cost of recovery will be the least of your worries.

My Wedding in a Week: Lessons Learned & The Little Extras

This is the fifth and final installment of my Wedding in a Week series. To read the rest of the saga, check out the other four installments, in which I talk about how we decided to get married within a week, got our food and decorations sorted out, got ourselves ready to get married, and finally walked down the aisle!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and buy anything, regardless of whether it’s the product linked, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

After going through the receipts, I found some extra costs that I figured I should at least acknowledge in the interest of transparency.

The Marriage License

I realized I totally forgot to mention the fact that we got our marriage license at the court house on the Wednesday before our wedding. It was a quick process — we were in the court house for 11 minutes, and part of that time was just us walking around being lost — and didn’t cost much, but it still counts as a wedding expense. It was also probably the first moment I internalized what we were doing and got excited, haha.

itshappening

Oh Charlie, You’re Charming

I mentioned in the Bride & Groom post how I got several items in my bridal outfit from Charming Charlie. What I didn’t detail, however, was all the other fun little things I grabbed.

While there, I discovered the store had a section in the back full of wedding-related stuff. I bought some Bride and Bridesmaid socks and a hideous yet amazing travel mug that said “Miss to Mrs” on it. I didn’t NEED a bride mug, but since I wasn’t going to get an engagement party, bridal shower, or a big bachelorette party, I felt like a ridiculous mug was the LEAST I could gift myself.

Miss to Mrs Tumbler

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the tumbler is also iridescent. Amazing.

I also nabbed a box of props for our planned photo booth. I definitely could have found them cheaper online, but by the time we had decided to have a photo booth, there was no time! I paid for the convenience of getting them immediately.

Finally, when I was checking out, the saleswoman pitched me a tote bag filled with pampering goodies that was CC’s special deal that week. Normally I would have said nope to that nonsense; I hate being up-sold when I’m checking out. I realized, however, that I could use the pampering items as bridesmaid gifts, along with the socks, so I actually got the gold and hot pink tote. I have never felt more girly than I did leaving the store carrying that bag. It was pretty fun.

Decor Extras

Letters & Lights

In the week before the wedding, we went to Michael’s, where we bought the instant camera and film I mentioned in the Big Day post. While there, we also bought some wooden letters to represent our initials and a little string of battery-operated LEDs. Together, the letters wrapped with the lights made an adorable decoration that we now have in our home. It’s on a timer and makes me smile every time it turns on in the evening.

These are the same types of lights we used

A “Guestbook” That Wasn’t

 

I wanted some record of who was at our wedding, but neither Joe nor I was enthusiastic about a guestbook. Instead, our friend bought us a picture frame with wide matting. During the wedding, the matting was removed and put on a table to be signed by guests. We also grabbed a few archival ink pens from the craft store to make sure the signatures don’t fade over time. Now, we’ll be able to see our guests’ lovely messages all the time instead of hiding them in a book that would probably collect dust.

Archival ink pens keep signatures looking bright

The Cost

The marriage license was a quick but essential part but of the week! Cost: $30

Bridesmaid gifts: $32 for socks for 4, $50 for the tote bag with all the stuff inside. That’s $82 total, or about $27 each. If I’d had more time to prepare, I’d have gotten them something more personal, but they enjoyed the gifts anyway and everyone wore their socks while getting ready on the wedding day, which was adorable. Cost:$82

Bride mug for me! 100% unnecessary, 100% amazing. Cost: $12

The letters and lights from Michaels were a little splurge that is still giving us joy months later: Cost: $42

The frame/matting for our “guest list” was a wedding gift from one of my bridesmaids. Cost: $0

Archival pens will help our memory matting last. Cost: $10

Total wedding cost so far: $4,998

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that, with the right help, amazing things can be done in a very short amount of time. If Joe and I had put our heads together, I’m sure we could have thrown a perfectly lovely celebration, but there’s no question that the party became a real wedding because of the help we had from friends and family.

Another major takeaway from our experience was that making any choice is often better than making no choice at all. I’ve agonized over so many decisions for longer than a week, but the week of my wedding, I was forced to make every decision quickly, which eliminated any time I might have spent second-guessing myself. From colors, to decorations, to invitees, our wedding was made up of a thousand little choices that could have stressed me out, but didn’t because I just didn’t have time to fret about them.

The last lesson was the reminder that of something that we all know, but sometimes forget in the panic to throw the perfect wedding or other celebration: it’s about the PEOPLE, not the THINGS. Did the things we bought add to the wedding? Absolutely. But when we first decided to get married, we were thinking we wouldn’t have those things, and that was okay. I’m so glad we had what we did, but I was more happy that our guests could come and that I was marrying my best friend. All the rest was icing on the wedding cake.

Wrap Up

All told, our wedding cost almost exactly $5,000 to put together. Some people might argue that this was still too much to drop on one day. Others might think it’s crazy cheap. However, when choices are limited, you go for what you think will work the best with the time you have.

Everything in this post except the marriage license could have easily been cut from our budget to save some extra cash. However, none of these items were priced beyond what we might have spent on some groceries or a nice dinner out, and they provided us with memories and fun that will last longer than either of those things.

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

This is the last of my Wedding in a Week series of posts. I hope they have inspired you to challenge what you think you HAVE to spend, whether it’s on your wedding or something else. I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve done something similar, whether it’s planning a wedding or something else you’ve managed to pull off quickly and cheaply.

Keep Learning, $aving, & Growing!

My Wedding in a Week: The Big Day

Welcome to the fourth installment in my Wedding in a Week series. If you want to know more about how we made the decision to get married in a week, took care of the decorations and food, and dressed ourselves with a week’s notice, check out the prior installments.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and buy anything, regardless of whether it’s the product linked, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

After a whirlwind 6 days, it was finally time to actually do the deed and get married.

The Officiant

Our officiant, Aaron, had been recommended to us as a photographer, but it turns out he offers both services and actually specializes in elopements. We hired him to be the officiant and also take our official photos after the ceremony. He made the process so easy, and we had our finished photos just a few days after the event. If you live in Virginia and are looking to put together your own simple wedding, I’d recommend checking out Aaron’s site to see what he offers.

The Photographer

Although Aaron took our official photos, our friend Adam, who is also a photographer, offered to take some more candid and environmental shots, and I’m so glad he did. All the posed photos are lovely, but the candid ones bring a smile to my face every time I see them. There’s nothing like capturing people’s emotions in the moment. Also, if you’re the one getting married, believe me when I say that it’s such a whirlwind that you will want some shots to look back at and digest later.

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Candid first kiss photo!

The Vows

Joe and I elected to say standard vows but also add our own little twist. We each came up with something to say before the vows to personalize them to our relationship.

The Music

No wedding celebration is complete without a little goofy dancing. We didn’t really have the budget for a band or DJ, and it would have been yet another huge hurdle to jump in our limited time, so our music source had to be quick and dirty.

My now-husband and I enlisted the help of his sister and her fiancé to create a playlist of songs on Spotify for the dancing portion of the evening. We also chose songs for our entrance to and exit from the ceremony and for our first dance.

To play the music, we hooked an iPad into some speakers that Joe’s parents had in their house already, and voilà, the halls were alive with the sound of music! The only cost to all this was technically the subscription to Spotify, which we already had.

If someone who wasn’t a paying Spotify member wanted to take this approach to his or her playlist, I would recommend using a free trial of Premium during the month of the wedding, then canceling before the subscription kicks in. Free music, no ads, what’s not to love?

The Food-Wrangler Volunteers

I mentioned in the first Wedding in a Week post that we could never have pulled off the wedding without some serious help, and that is so true. The more time I have to think about it, the more I realize just how much everyone pitched in to make it happen.

From Joe’s parents offering their home as a venue, to the help from the rest of our family and friends to decorate, clothe us, and even play the music, we were surrounded by helpers. On the day of the actual wedding, however, two of the most valuable helpers were a couple of neighbors who volunteered to be the kitchen crew. My mother-in-law had made them some gorgeous cookies for another wedding not long before, so this was their way of returning the favor.

They set up the food and tables, cleared away dishes, and just generally made sure things went smoothly. That way, my mother-in-law wasn’t running around trying to feed everyone, and all of us could relax and have fun.

Many venues come with staff to help take care of these minor problems, but in this case, we didn’t have any built-in staff. It was amazing to have two extra helpers who weren’t guests but were willing to help. If they had not kindly volunteered, it would have been 100% worth it to pay people to come in and do the same work.

The Bonuses

The photo booth

Photo booths aren’t a new concept at weddings these day. We went back and forth on the idea a little bit, but when we ran by Michael’s craft store and saw they had a Fujifilm mini instant camera on sale, we went for it, and I’m so glad we did. With a box of accessories I grabbed at Charming Charlie and a few cute background decorations from Michael’s, we had a cute photo booth set up.

Having a portable camera proved to be a great choice, and luckily, I’d bought a twin-pack of extra film. Once the dancing started, we passed it around and got some great shots of our friends and family having a blast. I plan to put them in a photo album to cherish for years to come.

The hot cider bar

“Bars” of various kinds aren’t unusual at weddings either. Allowing your guests to personalize something delicious can be a great way to make sure everyone gets exactly what they want. Since all our food was taken care of already, we decided to go for a hot cider bar that was made available immediately after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour. It fit with our autumnal/Thanksgiving theme and made sure no one got too full before dinner was served. Boozy additions and orange slices were provided as options and the hot drink was so welcome as the evening temperatures dipped.

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Our hot cider bar. Photo by Adam Patterson Photography

The Cost

The officiant/photographer was super reasonable, plus the speed at which we had our photos was very impressive. Our friend offered his pictures as a wedding present, which was lovely. Cost: $600

I don’t count our Spotify subscription as a wedding expense because we would have paid for that regardless. Cost: $0

Our kitchen volunteers were invaluable, but offered their services for free, which was so sweet and much appreciated. Cost: $0 

The photo booth supplies were more costly than I would have liked, but we sacrificed a few dollars in order to buy the camera and film immediately. Had we decided to get them earlier and ordered online, they probably would have been cheaper. Cost: $120

The cider bar used a lot of items my in-laws already had. We did get some booze, fruit and cinnamon sticks, not to mention the cider itself. Cost: $50

Total wedding cost so far: $4,822

Wrap Up

For a wedding that was planned in less than a week, I think we did pretty darn well. It was truly a team effort and with some creativity and a lot of help, we got to have all the important parts of a wedding, and then some. Having a little extra time might have saved us a few bucks here and there, but it’s entirely possible that extra time would have allowed us to find other extras to spend all that money on anyway.

My Wedding in a Week: The Bride & Groom

Welcome to part 3 of our “My Wedding in a Week” series! If you haven’t read about how we decided to get married and tackled the decorations and food, I’d recommend catching up on those first, but all the parts can pretty much stand on their own. Today’s post will focus on how we, the bride and groom, prepared for our wedding!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and buy anything, regardless of whether it’s the product linked, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

The Bride

The Dress

After we’d sorted out the bigger questions about the wedding, I realized I was missing a big part of the “bride” experience — the dress.

I obviously wasn’t going to have time to go through the whole rigamarole of going to a bunch of boutiques, trying on different gowns, and getting my favorite one altered to fit me perfectly. Cue desperate online searching.

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Basically a montage of me dress-shopping

I knew I wanted one with an A-line skirt and some lace, but other than that I really wasn’t sure what I should get. I found a couple of contenders, but some wouldn’t get here in time or would be cutting it close, and others had mediocre reviews. In the end, I took a flyer on this beauty from Modcloth. I ordered a size up, as reviews suggested, and crossed my fingers.

Honestly, I probably should have ordered more than one dress to hedge my bets, but I know myself and how bad I am at returning online purchases. (They tend to sit in a “to return” pile until they are well past their return deadline.) Plus, I figured I could run out to a department store and grab something in person if it came down to that. I also ordered a gold metallic belt as a statement piece.

Luckily, my gamble paid off and the dress fit perfectly. I was thrilled I got the aesthetic I wanted at an amazing price. The belt, on the other hand, wasn’t really a look I liked, but the dress definitely needed a little something to spice it up.

The Accessories

The day after Thanksgiving, I dragged Joe to Charming Charlie. If you’ve never been to this accessories chain, let me describe the glorious ridiculousness of it: every store is filled with jewelry, scarves, shoes, purses, and random stuff like mugs all organized by color. Nothing in there is super high quality, but the prices are good for what you get, especially since it’s all stuff that’s very affected by trends. Since it was Black Friday, they were allowing visitors to spin a wheel of coupons, and I got one for 10% off! Any little bit helps, right?

There’s a bridal section at the back of the store and there I found a couple of potential, blingy sashes to replace the metallic belt that didn’t work out. One of them worked perfectly and really took the dress from beautiful to bridal.

The next day, I actually returned to this den of accessories with my bridesmaids and found earrings and a sparkly comb for my hair. I spent way more in Charming Charlie than I ever have before, but considering what I got for it and how convenient it was to find all those things in one place, I was happy.

The Face

Makeup is yet another thing a bride has to think about! I had some basics, but I’d run out of my nice foundation, so I ran over to Sephora and grabbed some Makeup Forever foundation and their matte HD finishing powder, which I had heard helps make you look great on camera. Not a cheap combo, but way cheaper than hiring a makeup artist. My sister-in-law and my Maid of Honor did my makeup on the day, using these products and some we already had, and I think it turned out fabulously.

The Shoes

The saga of my wedding shoes is a sad one. I found the perfect pair of wine-colored heels at DSW two days before my wedding. Sadly, I left them behind in the rush and they spent my wedding day at my parents’ house instead of on my feet. Luckily, my sister-in-law lent me her black heels for the ceremony and photos, and I had brought a pair of black flats for dinner and dancing anyway, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but I was still bummed. I’m counting the shoes as an expense, since I’m keeping them and I wouldn’t have bought them if the wedding hadn’t been happening.

The Groom

The Outfit

On the Wednesday of our pre-wedding week, Joe and I headed to a mall near his parents’ house to hunt down his wedding outfit. Since he works from home, he hasn’t had to wear a suit since his brother’s wedding a few years ago, and that one didn’t fit with the color scheme we were going for.

Our first stop was Nordstrom Rack, which is one of our favorite stores to find sneaky deals, but nothing there quite fit. He needs a tall, wide-shouldered fit, and most average sizes just don’t cut it. Oh well, it was worth a shot, and we did find a nice white shirt on sale that we snapped up.

Next stop, Brooks Brothers, where we met a nice salesman who helped us narrow our choices and eventually decide on a navy blue suit that would look great with the fall color scheme of the wedding. It fit really well for an off-the-rack suit, which was key because we had no time to get it altered. Plus, there was a sale going on for the holidays that brought the price down a little, and now Joe has a suit he can wear in the future.

Finally, he needed a tie to match the burgundy that was going to be our base color. We bought three that might work and returned the two that he didn’t wear.

The Ring

The last piece of the groom puzzle was his wedding ring. I was just going to use a ring I had as my wedding ring, but Joe doesn’t wear jewelry normally, so we poked around in some stores looking for a cheap ring. No one wanted to sell us anything under $125, and since we knew this probably wouldn’t be his permanent ring, we weren’t willing to spend that much.

Then I realized we had overlooked maybe the most obvious option — buying the ring online. Amazon to the rescue! We found a white tungsten ring with great reviews for less than $14.

This is the one we chose, (click on the image to see it on Amazon) and it’s been great so far:

 

The Cost

Note: I’ve rounded all the prices to the nearest dollar to make the totals easy.

I paid for fast shipping for my dress and belt, which was an extra $20. Cost: $206

Makeup from Sephora is expensive, but I know I’ll keep these items for a while and get a lot of benefit from them, so at least it was a multi-use purchase. Cost: $83

Charming Charlie accessories for days! I’ll definitely wear the earrings again, and this includes some items that I’ll talk about in my next post. Cost: $144

The shoes I got are gorgeous, so despite the debacle, I’ll keep ’em. Cost: $36

Joe’s new suit was on sale for 30% off. Cost: $317

A nice, lightly patterned white shirt with French cuffs to wear with the suit was a nice find at Nordstrom Rack. Cost: $32

A burgundy tie rounded out the groom’s outfit. Cost: $15

Once we realized online was the way to get Joe’s ring, we bought it in about five minutes on Amazon and it arrived well before the wedding. Cost: $14

Overall outfits/jewelry cost: $847

Total wedding cost so far: $4,052

Wedding Photo

The final products! Not bad, if I do say so myself. Photo by Aaron Riddle, of Virginiaelope.com

My Wedding in a Week: The Decorations & Food

Welcome back to our Wedding in a Week series! This is the second part of the series, so if you missed the first one, check out how we decided to get married and found a venue, then meet back here.

Today we’re tackling how we decorated the venue and fed our guests, all accompanied by photos by our friend, the amazing Adam Patterson.

The Decorations

My in-laws had been amazingly kind to offer their home as the venue for our wedding, but we were still going to need to make it look like a wedding, rather than a dinner party. I hadn’t really thought too much about that sort of thing before, so when my mother-in-law asked what colors I wanted, I panicked for a second before thinking “Duh, it’s Thanksgiving, go with harvest colors.” Burgundy wine became the base color, and we added blues, oranges, yellows, greens, whites, and reds to the mix. They all screamed Autumn to me and I knew they’d probably look pretty good. From there, my in-laws worked magic.

To start, they ordered some long green garland from Costco. It arrived in a couple of days and they draped it around the living room/party room and on the decks outside. It already looked amazing and I started getting really excited.

The flowers were a worry until we remembered a neighbor of my in-laws, who happens to know my mother, is a florist. She leapt at the chance to do the arrangements, so we gave her the color list and let her do her thing. I didn’t see any flowers until the wedding day, which might sound crazy to anyone who’s spent hours agonizing over bouquets for events. Remember, though, that I didn’t have much time to be picky, and I trusted that any bouquets a professional could come up with would look beautiful. Flowers tend to do that no matter what. Check them out:

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One of the altar bouquets with the garland

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A closeup of my bridal bouquet

Since we were using the same space for the ceremony and reception, we had to make sure the furniture set-up could be clean and simple. My in-laws found a place that would rent us several round tables, a bunch of nice chairs, and the linens to go with. We’d put some tea lights and mini-bouquets on the tables and call it a day.

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The reception set-up

 

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Simple but pretty centerpieces

And that was basically it for decorations, although a few extras got added as people decided to chip in. My mother-in-law drew a beautiful welcome sign on a chalk-board, my husband’s aunts made us ADORABLE favors from chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, and my sister-in-law made us a cute, stenciled sign that reads “The Adventure Begins”. Even without those, the wedding would have been beautiful, but those personal touches really made it perfect.

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Our handmade favors!

The Food

Since our venue wasn’t a restaurant, we had to come up with food for our guests. I knew I wanted it to be buffet style because it would be easier for everyone involved and I just plain love buffets anyway.

When Joe’s mother asked what I wanted, the first thing that came to mind was barbecue. It’s a favorite of my family and it generally works well as a buffet meal. As it happens, Joe’s parents live close to a new, highly rated BBQ joint. Awesome. Decision made.

When we called them up, the restaurant was swamped with pre-Thanksgiving orders, so they asked us to get back to them on Friday, which we did, and it all worked out great. Brisket, pulled pork, beans, coleslaw, cornbread — we had the works. I shied away from ribs because I tend to get a little too messy with those, and with my white dress and all…yeah, not a good idea.

One of my favorite little additions we had was a hot cider bar that we put outside on a little deck. There were toppings and rum available, and the chill was kept at bay by a standing heater that we rented and a basket of cozy wraps for cold partiers.

Hot cider bar

A cozy hot cider bar!

We did have to provide the dishes, candles, silverware, glasses, and drinks for the wedding. Everything came from Ikea with the exception of the drinks, which came from Costco. My MIL picked up dishes, water glasses, and wine glasses for 20 people and champagne and silverware for 40. We also picked up a few throws to put in a basket outside next to the hot cider bar.

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to have a bundt cake as my wedding cake. Normal wedding cakes almost never taste as good as they look, but bundt cakes are the sleepers of the cake world: they look simple and taste amazing. My mum makes an amazing Black Russian bundt, so I asked if she’d make one for wedding. We stuffed a handful of flowers in the middle and it looked adorable while also being super delicious.

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So pretty and so delicious

The Cost

The decorations were the most expensive part of the wedding, even with a “friends and family” discount from our florist. However, I am so happy we allowed a professional to work her magic. It freed us up to worry about other, more personal, aspects of the wedding and people still got to add their own DIY flavor without the pressure of providing the only decorations. Cost: $950

The garland from Costco was gorgeous and really tied the room together. Even before the flowers arrived, it all felt very bridal. If we hadn’t had a florist contact who could do the arrangements at short notice, I definitely would have considered buying the flowers at Costco, too. Cost: $424

Renting furniture was a must. Bonus points for linens being included! Cost: $511

Silverware, glasses, plates, and throws from Ikea made everything uniform and professional-looking. A few unused ones were returned afterwards, so I subtracted the return amount from the total. Cost: $504

The food was another fairly high expense, but we got it fresh, hot, and as-advertised. Everyone thought it was delicious and we didn’t have to worry about cooking anything. Cost: $720

Champagne turned out to be the only wedding-focused booze expense. Most of the other purchases were simply refreshing bottles that were open or almost empty. Cost: $96

My mother making my cake lent a personal touch to it while also making it cost nothing for us. Since she already had the ingredients, it didn’t cost her much more than a little time, which she was happy to give free of charge. Cost: $0

Overall food/decoration cost: $3,205

Total cost so far: $3,205

Wrap Up

Whew! Well, it definitely wasn’t a free wedding anymore! All of the big-ticket items were out of the way, though. We had a gorgeously decorated venue, seats for our guests, and food and drink galore.

Up Next: The Bride and Groom — the dress, rings, suit, and more!

Welcome to 2018! What’s Your New Hotness?

Hey there, welcome to the new year!

You feeling that New Year, New You vibe? Me too. I’d just like to throw out a little question to all the money nerdlings out there:

What’s the new hotness in your life?

Is it a present, a person, a pet?

This year, I want you to consider making your wealth the new hotness.

Consider that this time next year, you’ll be another year older and another year forward in your journey to where you want to go.  Imagine looking back on 2018 and saying “This year, I took steps to make sure I’ll never be broke again,” or “Because of what I saved this year, I know I’ll have enough money to retire,” or if you’re competitive, even “I took charge of my money this year and I’m now secretly wealthier than all my friends.” Wouldn’t it feel AMAZING??

Whatever your motivation is, use it to make 2018 the year you build your financial foundations. Learn what you don’t know, Save what you can, and Grow your wealth.

It’s easy to get swept up in the all the possibilities a new year brings. Maybe you’ll finally get those 6-pack abs, or that hot BF or GF, or that promotion, or that round-the-world trip. I hope you get all those things.

But in the meantime, keep Learning, $aving, and Growing. You can do it!

Love,

Elizabeth Signature