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In Budgeting on
November 20, 2017

A newbie’s guide to getting the best Black Friday deals

Black Friday is approaching, who’s ready? Are you one of those ‘get up at 4am to be the first in line at the store’ kinda girl or are you the, ‘umm no way- I’ll pass’ kinda girl? I think I fall in the middle. I’m always interested in what the hot sales are, but would rather sleep in the day after Thanksgiving- I’ll blame it on the turkey 😉

If you decide that this year you are ready to tackle the lines and start your holiday shopping early, than I have compiled a guide to help you get the best bang for your buck.

  1. Do your research– Get prepared for the madness! Compare ad prices with different stores selling similar products. Use the amazon app to compare prices and see if you are actually getting a good deal. To your surprise, some stores will actually price match products. Bring your research with you. Take a copy of the ad with the best price to the stores you are shopping at, so that you can get the item you want for cheaper. Also, be careful. Don’t assume because something is listed as a ‘door-buster deal’, that you are actually getting a good deal. Black Friday deals can be misleading and ads can leave out important details, such as – the first 100 people in line will receive this or that. Take the time to educate yourself on the deals before heading out to the store (super) early.
  2. Shop with a purpose– Have a shopping goal in mind. Don’t be fooled into spending more than you wanted to, or can afford to pay for! Make a list and shop intentionally. Most importantly, shop within your budget.
  3. Know your timing– Find out when the best time is to buy. You may think that you are getting a great bargain on Black Friday, but Cyber Monday deals may be better. Sometimes even waiting until a week or two before Christmas can be the best time to shop. Stores will offer free shipping codes and list items at the cheapest costs, in hope of making last minute sales. Be patient. If you miss one deal, there will be another. I promise. This all times back to ‘do your research.’
  4. Pretend to shop– You are probably wondering what I mean by this. I have actually read that if you do your online shopping about a week before Black Friday, and then abandon your online cart, stores likely to email you a coupon or discount code, in hopes of getting you to buy. It is worth trying out, especially if you can save on shipping costs or get a special discount.
  5. Save extra bucks– One of my favorite money-saving apps is one called Raise. Raise is an app that let’s you purchase used gift cards at discounted prices. If you plan to spend let’s say, $100 at Dick’s Sporting Goods,  you may be able to buy a $100 gift card for only $94 on Raise. Prices of cards depend on the sell-back rates on the app and vary from shop to shop. If at the end of the day you can save extra money just by buying these gift cards and using them when you shop. My only personal suggestion when using the app is to check if the GC you want to buy is available by mobile or mail. I recommend buying the mobile gift cards because you can use in the store at time of purchase. If you order a ‘mailed’ gift card, that is fine, however you will receive it from the seller a week or two later. Download the app ahead of time and take a look at any gift cards that may work in your favor. By using apps like this, you are becoming a smart shopper and saving some extra money!


Have any tips other tips for getting the best Black Friday deals? Be sure to leave a comment below! Happy shopping everyone + be safe!

In Budgeting on
October 18, 2017

Age-Based Investment Strategies That Will Put You On The Path Toward Financial Success

Am I the only person who from time to time, googles how much money should I have in my 401k by age X?

I honestly wish there was someone to tell me the answer to how much money I should be investing by a certain age. But truthfully, there is no answer- everyone is different, every situation is different. There is no “secret number” as to how much you should have in your bank every time you turn a year older. I do believe however that there are simple strategies that we can take to set ourselves up for financial success at each stage of life and the earlier that we start, the better.

In your teenage years, lets be honest, you are not thinking about saving for your future. Your current worries are about what car to buy or where you are going to grab your next bite to eat. You have all the time in the world to save, so why start now? I am sure that this is what 90% of teenagers nowadays are thinking (and can you blame them?) I wish someone had sat me down at the age of 18 and told me what the importance of saving early really meant. It could be the difference between tens of thousands of dollars in your bank account. A little investment at this age can add up (with compound interest) to a WHOLE LOT of money later. Do not hesitate to start a secret stash- you will be way head of the game later if you have this mindset now.

Aged-Based Investing:

If you are a 20 something, like me, you are most likely focusing on school, your career and possibly marriage. At this age, I would encourage you to avoid debt at all costs. Try to pay in cash and only buy things that you need. Of course, have a little fun here and there- but keep your end goal in mind! I also would highly recommend starting to pay off your student loan debt NOW, if you can afford to do so. Don’t let the interest accrue daily to the point where you owe double the amount of where you started (yes, I know some people with this problem). You may also find yourself at the point in your life where you are considering moving out of your parents house and renting and/or purchasing a condo/house of your own. If you can set aside $200 a month from age 20 to age 30, you will have saved $24,000. This is a great start toward a great down payment. Lastly, open up a 401k- put aside whatever money that you are comfortable with. If your employer offers a match, take it (it’s free money!)

Now… fast forward- you just turned thirty. You are now shifting gear from focusing on yourself to the possibly of starting a family. It is important to try putting a little extra money aside each month towards an emergency fund. I would recommend having a safety net of around $10,000-$15,000 set aside in case of emergency. Hopefully at this point you have a place of your own or are looking into home ownership. Try to put down as much of a down payment as you can (while still keeping your Emergency Fund intact). The more money you can put down, the higher the chances of avoiding fees such as PMI. Believe me, I know it is hard to come up with a 20% down payment (I am with you). Try to think outside of the box. Is there someone who may be willing to help out financially? It will save you a lot of money in the long run if you can come up with more money now. 

If you are reading this and you are in your forties, you already know that it’s time to buckle down. You are at the peak of your career; your kids are growing up and now is the time to start thinking about college costs. Have you set aside some money for them? Consider opening a 529 savings fund, if you haven’t already. Being that you have been saving for a while now, you should have a little bit more of a cushion in your bank account. Now is a good time to open a good growth stock mutual fund or Roth IRA. Try to contribute 10-15% of your household income into it. Retirement should be at the forefront of all financial decisions that you make from this point forward. My husband and I started on this step early. We opened our first Roth at age 25- again, the sooner the better! 

Speed ahead. You are now fifty. Keep focused! Hopefully now you are investing the full 15% into your 401k and maxing out your Roth per year. You may be tempted to dip into your retirement savings, but hold off if you can- let that compound interest keep working for you. Now is the time to focus on paying off your mortgage faster.

60 onward. This is your time to relax, travel and enjoy all of what life has to offer. Hopefully you have saved up a large enough goose egg that you do not have to live paycheck to paycheck and can actually afford to give back. Have a little fun with your money, you earned itliterally. At this point, you might also consider purchasing long term care insurance. Prepare now for the care that you may need down the road.

You made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me. I hope that this article has helped provide you with a working guideline on how to be saving at different points in your life. Remember, the heart of investing is all about your attitude. No matter your age, it is never too late to start saving. The time is now and your future depends on it!

This post was written by Jess but first seen on at Ashlee & BinderFor valuable financial advice from Ashlee, be sure to check out her blog, Ashlee & Binder. Tell her I sent you!

In Budgeting on
September 27, 2017

How to build, raise, and maintain your credit score

We have always been told to build and keep good credit. But what does that really mean? The problem is that the “financial experts” never explain how to build or raise your credit, or the meaning behind their advice. It gets frustrating.

Well, good news is that I have done the research for you. I have searched the Internet and flipped through numerous financial books to dig up this secret information (well not really- but it sure feels like it).

A good credit reputation begins with paying your monthly bills on time, and in full. I know that this task may be hard for some, but it is so important. Establishing good credit can be done through many different ways- including keeping credit charges within your credit limits, maintaining a steady job, keeping debt low and allowing time to accrue a credit history. 

Your FICO score, better known as your credit score, is another measure of how financially responsible you are. Do you know what your magical number is? The FICO score is a measure that banks use to determine if you quality for credit. It is a three-digit number that reflects your credit report. Your credit report is a detailed report containing your personal history with handling and borrowing money. 

FICO scores range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better your chance at qualifying for loans, credit, or lower interest rates. On average, scores are graded as follows:

Excellent = 750+

Good = 700-749

Fair = 650-699

Poor = 600-649

Bad = Less than 600

Now that you know what these scores actually mean, you may be wondering- where can I check my score? Well, to be honest, I have always been skeptical about websites that may ask for a payment or end up costing me money, however the site (is reputable and free!) allows you to check your score within minutes, after entering in some key personal information. You can also obtain your full credit report, which allows you to access an overview of your personal financial information. 

Let me ask you a question. Do you know what actually goes into determining your score? There are a few things that are taken into account when calculating your FICO score. 

1. Payment history 

Do you pay your bills on time?

2. Credit utilization rate

How much available credit do you have out and how much are you using?

*It is recommended to not exceed 30% of your credit line at a time. 

Example: If your credit line for one card is $1,000- you should not exceed more than $300 a month. If you do, it will count against you on your credit score.

3. Length of history

How long have you had each card and how actively do you use it?

4. Amount of new credit

What % of accounts  have been opened and how many inquires were made on your account recently.

5. How many types of credit

Credit should be varied. Example: student loan debt, car loans, as well as credit cards. You don’t want to have all of one kind.


I am sorry if your head is now spinning with numbers and all sorts of information, but I want to congratulate you for getting through this post in its entirety. By doing so, you are helping to get your finances in order and become even more financially responsible than you were before you read this! Now I already know that my readers are very wise and intelligent, but the more information we know, the better off we will be! Right?


I am going to conclude this post by sharing some helpful tips with you all so you will be able to build and maintain a great credit score.

Tip #1: Minimize debt; Only charge what you can afford and pay off balances monthly and in full.

Tip #2: Be aware that closing your accounts can hurt you; Do not close more than one account per year or cancel multiple cards at once. Also avoid closing your longest account, which holds your longest credit history.

Tip #3: Choose credit cards carefully; Make sure you know all the facts before applying for a credit card and most importantly, know what the interest rates are.

Tip #4: Only apply for credit when necessary; Have one or two major credit cards and a few store credit cards, but I do not recommend having over five cards at a time. Do not apply to every credit card that comes in the mail. I know it can be tempting but just throw them out!

Tip #5: Take some time to look through your credit report. It will allow you to see how much credit that you have out at the moment and check if there are any “flags” that Credit Karma suggests you can improve. 


I hope that you found all of this information to be helpful and a great resource for you to look back on. Remember: Your credit score matters. Take your score seriously, and work on ways to improve it. Aim high!


This post was written by Jess but first found on Society Letters here.