7 Things You Didn’t Know Before Today

First, I apologize for the lack of original content recently. You can blame a combination of weddings, work trips, paid work taking priority and of course Peach now living in NYC.

Second, I know this is a fluffy way to put some fresh content up. But I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by my P.I.C Lauren of LBee and the Money Tree. Thanks, Lauren! Basically, the challenge is to reveal 7 things your readers and friends may not know about you. While my close friends know quite a few of these, I know my readers likely don’t and I’m not sure how many friends regularly read this blog. (Just kidding, Hi Mary.)

LBee

Cheers to the lovely LBee

1. I can relate anything in life back to a TV show scenario. Seriously. Not only do I love television, but my Mom often accuses me of thinking about TV characters as real people. And she might be right. When a friend recently made a comment about how dating for four years usually leads to an engagement, I retorted that Marshall and Lily (of How I Met Your Mother) dated for nine years before getting married. She replied, “Erin, they aren’t real.”

And Lily keeps her name after marriage – a woman after my own heart.

2. I can’t sleep at night without noise. And not normal noise, like a fan blowing or a white noise machine. It has to be a TV show. Typically either The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation or if I can tolerate a laugh track that night, “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother”. The need to listen to something to fall asleep is so bad that I always travel with an iPod so I can plug into a show at night.

3. I’ve never met a sports movie I disliked. Even if it’s about a sport I can’t stand including: hockey, baseball, wrestling, car racing (even though I dispute NASCAR being a sport).

I don’t care if it’s cliche. Who doesn’t love Remember the Titans?! And if you don’t, then keep your terrible opinions to yourself.

4. My favorite word is Mochiron. It’s Japanese for “of course.” I can’t explain why. I just like the way it sounds and rolls off the tongue. (If you didn’t know from previous blogs, I spent five years of my childhood living in Japan.)

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Top of Mt. Fuji with my parents circa 2002.

5. I already have my first dog’s name picked out. I’m not sure when I’ll finally be in a position to get a dog, but I’m ready with the name. The main character in my favorite movie, The 25th Hour, rescues a dog in the opening scene and names him Doyle. I decided at 14 that would be my first dog’s name. Funnily enough, the dorm I lived in for two years in college was Doyle Hall.

Click here for the scene that inspired my future dog’s name. Be warned, the dog is abandoned on the side of the road and not in great shape when Monty finds him. Monty nurses him back to health and is rarely seen without the dog at his side for the rest of the movie. Also, the language isn’t PG.

6. I was apparently born a feminist. From a very young age I always leaned towards consuming content where women characters were portrayed as powerful, independent and self-sufficient. Pocahontas was my favorite Disney movie. I went through a phase of  only reading books about any historical woman in power. I remember flipping through a book of saints with some other girls in my fourth grade class debating the merits of which name we would pick upon confirmation. While most girls went with the prettiest names, I knew I wanted Joan of Arc as my patron saint because of her story.

7. I’m religious. You’re probably not surprised after that last fact, but I am indeed a church-goer.

When I did get confirmed, I took Joan of Arc as my patron saint. But the bishop who confirmed me was from Indonesia, didn’t speak great English and pronounced it Jo-Ann. It was a bit of a bummer at the time.

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Yes, I did wear a kimono.

 

So, that’s it!

I’m kicking this over to….
Kate (formerly Addison) at Cashville Skyline
Shannon at Financially Blonde
Mel at Broke Girl Rich

Sorry, if any of you already did this and I missed it!

HIMYM gif and Remember the Titans gif taken from GIPHY.

Posted in Random Tagged with:

Ally Bank Rejected Me and I’m a Little Confused

For those who read Part I of this saga (What Happened When I Tried to Open an Ally Bank Savings Account), I bring you the next installment. And no, this quest isn’t over!

Rejected - Ally Savings Large copyA few weeks ago, I attempted to ditch my current savings account and switch to an Ally Bank savings account. My current bank offers 0.20 percent on savings accounts with $10,000 or more. While this is still 0.10 percent more than many other banks offer, I wanted my $10,000+ emergency fund to be living up to its full potential.

Ally Bank currently offers 0.90 percent on their savings account. This isn’t the highest in the market right now. GE Capital Bank and Synchrony Bank are both offering 0.95 percent on their savings accounts.

That 0.05 percent could be a $10 difference (or higher) over the course of two years. However, I’ve heard wonderful things about Ally and their customer service, which was enough to compel me to pick them, and lose $5 a year.

Unfortunately, when I tried to open my Ally Bank savings account I got a screen prompting me to call Ally’s 24/7 customer service line.

As I wrote in my last piece, the polite customer service representative informed me that sometimes they need a bit more information to confirm a person’s identity. She couldn’t complete the process on the call and instead I needed to wait two to seven business days for either a phone call or a letter in the mail.

About five days letter the news came in the mail: REJECTED.

Read on to find out why and what’s next over at MagnifyMoney.com.

Posted in MagnifyMoney Tagged with: ,

Why You Should Still Save When in Debt

Tin Can

Don’t actually save your money in a tin can.

The shackles of debt seem to be a bonding force for many millennials around the country, but it isn’t just Gen Y that is attempting to pay off lenders. Debt is a national problem spanning all generations. To many, it may feel nonsensical to save money while in debt, but it’s an important part of everyone’s financial health strategy.

You Still Need an Emergency Fund

Debt doesn’t preclude anyone from experiencing emergencies. Murphy’s law would suggest those already in the hole should expect more pain to pile on.

In fact, $1,000 surprises happen so regularly that Shannon McLay, a financial planner and author of “Train Your Way to Financial Fitness,” doesn’t even think people should consider them a surprise. The only twist is the type of emergency the money goes toward – perhaps your car, health care or education.

Personal finance experts differ on how much those in debt should have saved in an emergency fund, but they almost unanimously agree some disposable cash is a necessity.

Read the rest on US News’ My Money Blog

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Is Convenience When Paying Your Tuition Worth a 2.62% Fee?

diplomasPeople using credit cards to pay for college tuition should expect to pay an average 2.62 percent convenience fee, a recent CreditCards.com survey concludes. These convenience fees likely trump any reward points –- especially because credit card companies never throw college tuition into their rotating 5 percent cash-back categories.

Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, charge the highest convenience fees at 2.99 percent. So paying the $40,420 annual tuitionat St. Joseph’s with a credit card would add $1,209 to your bill.

Why Do Colleges Charge Convenience Fees

Merchants pay interchange fees to credit card companies — averaging 2 percent — for every swipe.

Read on at DailyFinance to find out why colleges charge convenience fees and when it makes sense to pay with a credit card.

Posted in Credit Cards, DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

6 Out of 10 Millennials Really Need to Get a Credit Card

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Are millennials really focused on cash (or debit cards)?

Almost two-thirds of millennials don’t have a credit card, according to a recent study from Bankrate.com, but only 35 percent of adults over 30 shy away from plastic. When the figures were revealed, cheers went up from the Dave Ramsey loyalists who believe credit cards are the financial equivalent to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. But other (perhaps more practical) personal finance experts point to the potential pitfalls of avoiding credit cards.

Can That Really Be True?

When I first read the above stat, I thought it must be grossly inaccurate. As a millennial, I started to poll random friends and only found one who shied away from owning plastic. Then it dawned on me that the study identifies millennials as 18 to 29. This means college-aged millennials are the anchors, dragging down the overall number.

Read the rest on DailyFinance

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Frugal Find Friday: Groupon (and Happy Anniversary Peach)

If anyone is clicking on this post because he or she doesn’t know what Groupon is, then it’s nice to meet someone who is more of a late adopter than myself! Thanks for being here!

Being a frugal person, I’ve naturally heard of Groupon before, but I’d never used it until this week.

Today is my four-year (dating, not marriage) anniversary to Peach. It’s the longest relationship either of us have ever been in (and NO we are not planning to get engaged anytime soon).

Peach and I spent the last three years of our relationship long distance, and he recently moved to New York City for three months to do the student teaching component of his master’s degree. It’s an unpaid position, so he’s on a very tight budget and I only have so much available in my “sugar mama” fund.

10547708_10152365576876137_7387312402087983774_nI asked him to set an amount he’d be comfortable spending on our anniversary and I’d match the amount, then we’d make plans. We also put a ban on presents and prefer to put all of our money towards an experience.

Our contributions to the anniversary experience totaled to $80 and at first I struggled to come up with a plan. Everything I kept thinking about started to creep us towards the $150 mark (mostly due to my desire to see It’s Only a Play on Broadway).

Then I changed gears. I wanted us to do that didn’t exhaust our limited funds so we could do more than one activity.

After a day of asking friends for some suggestions, one finally told me to just get on Groupon and look for activities in NYC.

It didn’t even take me 10 minutes to find about 20 different deals I wanted to buy (therein lies the danger of Groupon!).

I aggregated a list of 10 choices and sent them along to Peach to have him narrow them down. I pointed out which ones could be combined to fit within our budget and which ones meant we could only do one activity.

Ultimately, we’ve opted for a two-part date. Tonight, we’ll be going to a wine bar/restaurant for a wine tasting (something we both love to do) which comes with three glasses of red, three of white and then one appetizer, two entrées and a bottle of wine. It was a $49 deal that’s said to be a $179 value. Then I ended up with a Groupon discount and got the deal for $39. I’m adding $30-$35 on for a tip though, because you should tip at retail price not on the discounted price.

Later this weekend, we’ll be going to the Museum of Gangsters. May sound like an odd option, but our first date was watching The Godfather, followed by another date watching Gangs of New York and we’ve watched all of The Sopranos together and the one-season-only Black Donnellys. Notice a trend? He’s Italian, I’m Irish and we like to debate, which has a superior mob.

We got a $20 Groupon deal for admission for two plus a tour. Unlike other NYC museums, this one doesn’t have a donation option.

Before the tip on our dinner, we’re at $59 spent on the anniversary.

After the tip, we’ll likely be $10 over budget, but I’m willing to bust our budget a little bit.

Using Groupon was an incredibly easy experience. You register for a profile, click on the item you want, input your credit card information and the deal shows up in your email moments later. You can print out the voucher or download the app and present the coupon in your app when you want to redeem the deal.

Perhaps I’ll need to update this after actually using the Groupon deals, but thus far, it’s been a frugal and worthwhile find.

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Our height difference and my refusal to wear heels longer than 30 minutes makes dancing a little tricky. And yes, I’m on my tip-toes.

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

How to Set Your Rates as a Freelancer

The following post comes from Danielle of ThisQuarterLife.com. I know a lot of bloggers (and even non-bloggers) indulge in the fine side hustle of freelancing, but we all deal with one awful question: how do you set your rates as a freelancer? Danielle offers some advice, and a nice mathematical equation, for our problem.

Whether you’ve freelanced before, or you’re just starting out, establishing a rate at which you agree to work for can be a difficult thing to decipher. According to career expert Jill Jacinto, a major shift has begun toward a freelance economy. “Many people with full-time jobs still have passions that they want to pursue,” Jill says, “and one of the ways to do that is to hone those skills through freelancing.”

If you’re making the jump for the first time, or want to make sure you’re on the right track with what you’ve been charging, read Jill’s advice for establishing your rate as a freelancer.

1) Get in touch with the industry

Before you speak with any potential clients, find out what the industry norms are for freelancers in your region, and for your particular skillset. Visit LinkedIn, take a look at the groups they have for your field of work, and see if you can connect with someone who is established in the line of freelancing that you’re interested in, and could speak to you about hourly rates for that field. Searching sites like Elance or TaskRabbit will give you a good feel for what number would make sense for you to charge.

2) Follow the equation

Full-time freelancers can use an equation to figure out what to charge their clients per hour.

You’ll need to know:

Annual salary: The salary you were making when you were employed full-time (or a comparable full-time salary to what someone at your experience level would make in the industry you are freelancing in).

Annual profits: Which should be 10% to 15% of your annual salary.

Annual billable hours: Meaning, the hours that you work per year. Take 365 days, minus vacation and sick days, weekends off, and the time that you’d spend doing administrative tasks (such as billing) and then multiply that by the number of hours you would work per day.

Annual expenses: Things that are not provided to you by a company anymore now that you’re a freelancer, such as internet and health insurance costs.

Then follow this equation: Your annual salary + your annual expenses + annual profits / by annual billable work hours = basic hourly rate

3) Weigh the pros and cons of charging hourly vs. charging per project

When you’re deciding whether or not you should charge an hourly rate, or if you should ask for a flat price for the project, look at the pros and cons. Working hourly may be great because there is no ceiling, but if you can’t finish the project in time, it’s going to reflect poorly on you. However, charging a flat rate could mean that you end up doing much more work than you had anticipated. Be realistic about the time that it’s going to take you to complete a project before you choose whether to charge hourly or per project.

4) Don’t undervalue your work

You need to think about what a livable wage is for you, especially if you’re freelancing full-time. Your rates are going to be different depending on the size and caliber of the company you’re working for (ex: an article you write for the New York Times won’t pay the same as an article for a smaller publication), but that doesn’t mean that you should just accept any rate your client offers you. When you’re setting your rate, think of yourself as a business, evaluate how much your time is worth, and how much of your time is going to be spent on your assignment. Based on that information, come up with a smart number to ask from your client.

Note from Erin: For those of you looking to find freelance gigs, go check out this post about Asking For the Order! Or if you want to hear me talk about the financial ramifications of a quarter life crisis, click here.

The Quarter LifeAbout ThisQuarterLife: Does your Google search history include phrases like “tricks to assembling Ikea furniture,” “the right time to ask for a raise,” or “how to tell if something is microwaveable?” Then visit us at ThisisQuarterlife.com — we’re here to help you navigate all the hard parts of this awkward phase of pseudo-adulthood.

Gifs taken from GIPHY

Posted in Freelance Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: Venmo

“Lucas Likes to Dance” “Lucas Does Laundry” “Lucas Rides the Subway”

New York City dwellers probably know where I’m going with this (assuming you actually do take the subway, but if you can afford cabs everywhere then you probably aren’t reading this blog).

An odd ad started popping up all over New York City transportation in early 2014. These simple posters featured a declarative sentence, a mid-twenties Asian man (apparently named Lucas) with the shadow of a goatee,  giving a dead-pan look at the camera and in tiny writing on the lower left hand corner the cryptic word, “Venmo.”

HUH?!

Like most New Yorkers, I found the ads strange, then annoying and, eventually, borderline enraging when I stepped into a car completely plastered with Lucas‘ face. That was, until I started using Venmo.

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Getting on the Venmo train

My younger sister (who, at the time was still in college) introduced me to the world of Venmo. She owed me money for our parents’ Christmas presents and didn’t want to deal with going to an ATM.

“Can you just download Venmo?” she dramatically sighed in that way only a younger sibling can.

“What’s Venmo?” I inquired, always the technological Luddite (totally just got snapchat last week).

“It’s an app that you link your bank account to and then you can transfer someone money,” she explained. [Think of it as Chase Quickpay, but it doesn’t matter which bank you have.

“Um, I don’t really like the sound of linking my bank account to some app,” I retorted.

[Insert eye roll here]

“Fine. But it makes it way easier to pay people back or get paid,” she fired the final shot before we changed the subject.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I started seeing Lucas and Venmo’s ads everywhere. I finally caved and did some research.

How to use Venmo

From the mouth of Venmo (or fingers of the people who write copy on their website): “Venmo uses bank-grade security systems and data encryption to protect you and prevent against any unauthorized transactions or access to your personal or financial information.”

You download the app, or signup via their website. You can link a bank account, debit card or credit card to your account in order to make transactions. Most Venmo transactions are free. Those linked to your bank account or using your existing Venmo balance are free. Most debit cards (unsure which ones aren’t) are free, but there is a 3% fee for using a credit card.

Once you’re in the app, you can pay or request payment from friends. The app will access your contacts (made me a bit uneasy at first) and assess who already has Venmo. It will make it easy for you to type in a contact’s name and pay via Venmo. You can also pay to an email address.

Once you’re paid, you can “cash out” so the money is sent to your bank account. Or you can just leave the money there to use on future Venmo transactions.

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One (sort of) flaw

My only worry about Venmo is small a security issue, which you never want to have when you’re talking about protecting your finances. I trust the app and feel it’s just as secure as using the app associated with my bank. My concern is what happens if my phone is ever compromised.  Transactions don’t require a password, and your app will constantly stay logged on (unless you log out). So, if someone were to ever steal my phone and get by my passcode, he could theoretically send a significant amount of money from my checking account to any account he wanted (but it seems that would make a petty thief pretty easy to track). Now, I could log out of Venmo and need to log in each time I use it to appease my concerns. The company also addresses these concerns on their site stating:

“Venmo uses bank-grade security systems and data encryption to protect you and prevent against any unauthorized transactions or access to your personal or financial information. Furthermore, we guarantee all user funds against any unauthorized transactions.” And “If you have lost your phone, or feel that someone besides you is using your account, Venmo allows you to disable a device from accessing your Venmo account. By revoking access, your account will be logged off of that device. Access revocation can be found under ‘Passwords & Authorizations’ here.”

IMG_0086As an iPhone user, I could also remotely wipe my phone and clear all the data off it, so a thief wouldn’t have access to any of my personal information.

I also find it annoying that people can see your transactions on their homepage, unless you change that setting in privacy. People tend to make snarky remarks about what they’re paying friends for, so the homepage is populated with things like “Players gonna play play play play” or “Xanax & Rangas”. This part can be amusing, but I’m too private to want people to be able to see my information.

Ultimately, I’m a huge fan

Tiny security concern aside, that’s mostly chalked up to me being hyper-paranoid, I’m a huge fan of Venmo. These days, so few people carry cash (I feel like I’m a dying breed), that it makes splitting bills insanely easy. It also makes it hard for your friends to avoid paying you back with the, “oh man, totally forgot to bring your money” excuse. For roommates, it’s also a quick way to pay each other for split bills, in my case that’s the utilities. So, I’m going to continue to sing their praises, until there is a major breach of Venmo data (which could be accompanied by a PayPal breach because PayPal owns Venmo).

What other apps do you use to make your financial life easier?

Posted in Frugal Find Friday

4 Strategies for Handling Consumer Debt

Debt: it’s an ugly four-letter word.

According to a study by MagnifyMoney.com, almost half of Americans carry credit card debt with an average of $10,000.  $10,000 of credit card debt can cost thousands and thousands of additional dollars in interest. But, instead of simply throwing away money in the form of interest payments to the credit card lender, there are repayment strategies available to help those carrying debt slash the interest. Here are four empowering strategies:

1. Request a reduction of your interest rate

Many personal finance experts recommend giving your lender a call to negotiate the interest on your credit card debt. As banks hold most of the power in your financial relationship they aren’t likely to give you much wiggle room when it comes to reducing interest rates on debt.  Banks are always on the hunt to acquire new customers, so the best deals are given to the “acquisitions.” In order to compensate for giving great deals to the new clients, banks will raise prices on existing customers.

So, the worst case is that they’ll do nothing. That being said, the best-case scenario is that your bank might drop your interest rate by two percent.

Read the rest on GoGirlFinance

Image from Giphy

Posted in GoGirlFinance Tagged with: ,