Barcelona On A Budget

BarcelonaEveryone who knows me well knows I love to travel. I take every chance I get to get out of Dallas and visit a new place. They also know how frugal I am. I managed to spend two weeks in Barcelona, Spain spending less than $3,000 for the entire trip ( flight & everything). In this post I want to share with you some tips on how a frugal girl like me travels, so you can expand your horizons and travel more.

Bring Down The Accommodation Costs

I was lucky to have an opportunity to stay with friends which cost me $20 or less per night. If you don’t know anyone you can stay with, ¬†you need to make new friends ūüėČ But seriously, the next best thing is Airbnb and hostels. ¬†As I have written in my previous posts, it’s a great way to save money on accommodations and make new friends along the way. In Barcelona, I particularly love Jam Hostel. I met some great people from that one. If you are going to go with a hotel, don’t forget to check out Hotel Tonight that has some great last-minute deals on hotels. You can always find a place to stay in Barcelona, so it’s not something you have to book way in advance.

Barcelona guideChose Excursions Wisely.

Going into every single museum could turn out to be costly as a lot of them can be around $30 dollars or more. For me personally, given how ADHD I am, it would also be torturous.  I would suggest picking a few based on your particular areas of interest and foregoing the rest. I love architecture and music so I made sure I visited  Sagrada de Familia and Palau De La Musica. Both of those were definitely worth the cost to me.  Another thing to be on the look out for is the free museum day on first Sunday of each month. If you happen to be there on that day definitely worth taking advantage of.

Take Advantage Of  Public Transportation

Barcelona has an amazing and super easy to use¬†public transportation system. Their subway and bus systems are connected and you only need one ticket to use both. I suggest taking advantage of the T10 pass which gives you 10 rides on either a bus or metro for just 10 euros. This could significantly lower your transportation costs as compared to using a taxi. The train ride from the airport to my friend’s house cost me less than 5 euros compared to $35 minimum a taxi would have cost. Don’t be scared, look up the public transportation options when you visit a new city, download the public transit app to google maps and ride on.

Eat Out Less And Cook More

Trying local food is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. And luckily in Barcelona, it’s very affordable due to the nature of tapas. But if you’re trying to stick to a budget try limiting how often you sit down for a meal. Even if it’s just breakfast or lunch that you cook yourself. Barcelona has some amazing farmer’s markets. The most famous one is Mercat De Santa Caterina off¬†Rambla street. If I were you I’d skim through Rambla street (huge tourist trap) and head straight for the market. There you will find an abundance of meats, cheeses, olives, seafood, fruits, and veggies. And of course, my rule of thumb is to stay away from restaurants at or near major landmarks, aka Rambla street. Those tend to be overpriced and mediocre at best when it comes to quality.

Go With Friends

One of the greatest things from traveling with friends, apart from their amazing company, of course, is the cost savings that come from splitting everything across multiple people. I have time and time again noticed how much less expensive dinners and activities become when we share them with friends. My accommodation point is a perfect example. Even if you’re set and stone on renting a hotel room, sharing it with a friend brings down the cost in half. ¬†It’s a no-brainer f.or me and a lot more fun.

Don’t try to see EVERYTHING in one visit.

This is a continuation of my second point about activities. There is no way I could have been able to experience everything ¬†Barcelona, as well as surrounding areas, have to offer during my two weeks there. But I sure did explore a whole lot of¬†the city by foot,¬†got to see how the locals live, experienced their culture and norms, and got a feel for what the city is like. I know there’s still so much more and that is why I didn’t try to see it all in one visit. I always love leaving some things out so I have a reason to come back.

Barcelona Sunset

Take Advantage Of The Freebies

Last but not least walking is still free, and there’s a lot to learn by walking the city streets. Another option is the walking tours which are almost free (you tip at the end of the tour). Those could be hit or miss, but usually fun. One of my personal favorite ways to get to know the city is to wander around, making a few stops at a whole in the wall places, meeting people and seeing the sunset on the beach.There are always ways to enjoy experiences in a new city without breaking the bank. We just have to¬†do a little research and get creative.

Hope you find this useful and please don’t wait to travel until you’re 60.

Yours truly,

OliaTheMoneyGirl

Investing With Little Capital: How To Start

The more I live the more I realize that building wealth comes from owning shit not so much from working harder or longer. Sure making more money is great, but with that comes more taxes and a lot less write-offs and benefits. Whether it’s owning¬†real estate,¬†stocks, mutual funds, ¬†start-up companies or ¬†having equity in anything ¬†else that has ¬†long-lasting value,¬†making money work for us¬†is key. Well that sounds easy, right?

We just need a bunch of cash, no big deal. ¬†After all money does make money. What if you don’t have a lot of extra cash? Perhaps you have student loans, medical bills, young kids or other responsibilities. It’s actually not a deal breaker. Yes it’s true that certain type of investments require a lot of capital. However, time is extremely important when it comes to investing in the stock market. The sooner we start the better. All of this is due to the magic of compound interest. ¬†But don’t just take my word for it. See proof¬†here. And it’s possible to start with a lot less capital than we might think. Here are some ways ¬†to ¬†start investing with very little capital:

Maximize your 401K

The best way to start investing is to take advantage of what’s already out there from your employer. Unless your employer is a super small company, or you’re self-employed (read here¬†if you are) then you can start investing by taking advantage of employer’s matching program which is essentially¬†free money.

Track your spending for a month to find “spending leaks” and stop wasting money

If you do this, ¬†just like me, you’ll be shocked at how much we spend on stupid stuff that could be invested otherwise. Next time you think about spending $5-$10¬†on a coffee or a drink as yourself: ” Is this worth the amount I have to pay that I could otherwise make money from?” ¬†When I did this I quickly realized that I can forego lattes, weekly manicure, fast food lunches and find $50 a week to start investing. ¬†If you need help finding ways to save read¬†this. This $50/week¬†can turn into $35,000 if investing continued for 10 years. ¬†Check out this¬†investment calculator. I used 7% as an average rate of return.

Open an account with someone like Vanguard

Most platforms require ¬†at least $1,000 to open an investment account. If you’re not there yet, read my next section. I like Vanguard because their¬†expense ratios¬†are much lower than industry averages, and the company is perfect for someone like me who doesn’t¬†actively trade¬†. I just want to keep investing regularly and not have to worry about it more than once or twice a year. They also have really good educational tools to take advantage of.

Download an investing an app like Acorns

This app helps you invest without even thinking about it. It works like the round-up saving options that some bank accounts offer. Every purchase you make is rounded up and that money is then invested in a portfolio of your choice.¬†Keep in mind that to minimize the fees Acorn charges it’s best to invest at least a $100/month. Read more about this¬†here.¬†Although you definitely won’t make a million dollars using this app, its good way to start investing until you get to the $1,000 minimum that some larger firms require to start. ¬†You’ll also be surprised at how quickly a few dollars add up.

Whatever you do, don’t let a lack of ¬†large capital stop you from starting investing.¬†Passive income¬†is a great way to start¬†building¬†wealth. The earlier we start the more time works for us. Saving more and spending less is the best way to find money to start investing and a few dollars really do add up over time. As always I hope you find this helpful and I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Yours truly,

OMG

5 Ways Not To Shop On Black Friday

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As we are all getting over the food coma from last night’s Thanksgiving feast, I wanted to write a few words about Black Friday. ¬†As someone who ¬†spent over five years working in retail, I have had the “pleasure” of working on this awful shopping day at least five times. I remember all the planning and meetings we’ve had weeks before the ‘Big’ day talking about goals, quotas, merchandising, promotions, etc. All of this taught me the importance of holiday season to retail.¬†Up to 40% of ¬†annual profits¬†are made¬†during the holiday season. Shoppers ¬†will spend over a trillion dollars this holiday season according to¬†NRF. That’s mind-blowing. That’s enough to put¬†8.33 million people¬†through all four years of college. Yet we choose to buy a whole bunch of crap that we don’t really need and most likely will never use.

Below is five ways you can spend Black Friday and avoid the shopping frenzy:

Do Green Friday Instead of Black Friday

Instead of fighting  mall crowds on Black Friday, head outside for some peace and quiet, as well as quality outdoor time. No purchase necessary to redeem this deal. All parks are free today. Just head to Texas Parks & Wildlife to find a park near you.

Go Through Your Closet And Find Items To Donate

Instead of adding more possessions, use this day to go through the closet and find some items you no longer wear. Donating them to those in need is a great way to free up some space in your house, simplify your life and help someone this holiday season.  You can always take them to a Goodwill, Salvation Army or any other non-profit.

Watch Holiday Movies With The Family

Instead of shopping  for holiday stuff, get into the holiday spirit by watching some holiday movies with family or friends. Nothing like cuddling up with blankets, hot cocoa, and spending time together watching movies together.

Invite Friends Over For Thanksgiving Leftovers

To me holidays are all about spending quality time with family and friends. Let’s be honest there is no way all of the leftovers will be eaten in time. Instead of wasting food invite some friends over and enjoy a meal together.

Get Creative

While other people are either fighting the crowds at the mall or are still in their turkey coma, let your inner artist come out. Try making something like¬†jewelry,¬†photo magnets,¬†wine bottle vases¬†or anything else you can give away to friends and family for the holidays. ¬†My personal favorites are magnets and wine vases. I’m going to try the jewelry this year.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that holidays are to be spent with those you love. Love is not to be bought, and more stuff does not bring more happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Olia_TheMoneyGirl

Holiday Survival Guide

holiday-survival-3The magical holiday season is upon us. A season full of joy, happiness, surprises and good times. But let’s face it: holidays can bring a lot of stress¬†as well. ¬†Family dynamics, traffic, airport lines, mall crowds can all bring ¬†anxiety and put a strain on our emotional and financial health. I used to get very stressed out during the holidays. Shopping for gifts was especially stressful. I would go out of my way just to get a lot of stuff for my family and friends and would sometimes hurt myself financially because I used my credit cards ¬†to buy gifts. I thought I was being a good friend and family member by doing this. At some point ¬†I realized that love is not defined by how much we spend on a gift, or how many gifts we have under the tree but instead by our actions towards one another on a daily basis all year-long. Gifts are nice¬†but they do not make up for a lack of ¬†trust, respect, passion and connection.

Now I have a very different¬†approach to the holiday season. If something is causing me stress or anxiety I don’t take part in it. I choose the people I spend my holidays with. If someone is full of negativity, drama, bad attitude ¬†I don’t spend the holidays with them, even if they are family. I also don’t stress over gifts anymore. I will have a separate post about gift giving soon. Here’s a guide I put together to help you guys survive the holiday season that I use:

Remember What The Holidays Are About

In our world of consumerism¬†it is easy to get carried away with the commercial version of the holidays. It’s all about spending a lot of money throughout the entire season on food, stuff and activities. Black Friday and After-Christmas Sales exist for a reason. Instead of living the commercial version of ¬†the holidays we should instead focus¬†on the true meaning that is behind them: spending quality time with those we love the most. If ¬†eating dinner and watching football is something you love doing with your family or friends by any means do it. But just because there are traditional ways of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas it doesn’t mean we have to follow them. This year I’m headed to Spain for Christmas for a change and I’m really excited.

Be Grateful

Being grateful for everything we have is one of the most wonderful things and can help experience true joy and happiness during the holidays. Instead of worrying about mall and grocery store lines, parking, airport security lines, we should take a moment and say thanks for all the amazing things we have in our lives. It’s amazing how our moods can change when we go from complaining to gratefulness. ¬†It might also show us how ¬†fortunate we are to have those problems compared to the rest of the world, where people are grateful when they have a meal or a drink of water. ¬†This brings me to my next point.

Make Time To Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to connect with family and friends and to give back. When we realize how fortunate we are, we can do something about the less fortunate. There are plenty of ways to help someone in need during the holidays from wrapping and delivering gifts, to making greeting cards. I try to make time to do at least one volunteering activity. This year I’m participating in the Salvation Army angel tree program as a sponsor and gift sorter. It’s a truly rewarding experience. Visit¬†Voly.org¬†to learn about volunteering opportunities ¬†in DFW this holiday season.

Plan Ahead

There is nothing more stressful than trying to figure out your holiday schedule last-minute. Planning ahead on how you are going to spend your time in advance can help avoid feeling overwhelmed or obligated to do something. It can also help avoid paying for last-minute decisions and help you financially. We all know that last-minute holiday travel can get really expensive really fast. The best thing to do is plan your travel at least 3 months in advance and plan local events a month in advance so that you don’t over book yourself. Talk to your friends, family and significant others. Communicate to them your plans so that they can also plan accordingly.

Create A Budget

You can create a budget for the entire holiday season, which includes gifts, food and other activities. This can help you prepare financially and get rid of anxiety. This will also help you stay on track with your financial goals. Microsoft Office and other programs have holiday budget templates to help with the process. I found the one I liked in google docs.

Use Stress Relievers

Find time during the hectic holiday season to do the things that make you happy and help you relax. Whether it’s ¬†yoga, running, meditation, reading or anything else don’t forget to make time for these activities and for yourself. Some of us have very big families and we¬†can get exhausted spending all the time with them. Sneaking in a few minutes for ourselves can help manage the stress level.

No matter  how much we plan, prepare, and budget, there are always situations that are out of control. The key to a less stressful and a more enjoyable holiday season is to remember to have fun, be grateful and  keep a positive attitude.

Yours Truly,

Olia_TheMoneyGirl

The Three Financial Questions We Should All Ask Ourselves

the-three-financial-questions-we-should-all-ask-ourselves

Personal financial management can be overwhelming, and is a subject of ¬†a wide range of monetary concerns. ¬†I know I have felt overwhelmed many times. No matter the age, job title or status, we all face concerns when it comes to managing money. And though we all face similar concerns, at one time or another, personal finance is a highly individualized responsibility. ¬†A lot of our financial decisions are shaped by our goals, values, and personal ambitions. Moreover, some of us have greater access to resources than others. This is why our daily financial concerns are unique to each one of us. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to financial success. In a larger economic sense, we are all in it together, yet daily concerns are unique to each one of us.

With each person committed to distinct financial goals, the best path to financial success may not be the same, in each case.  The key to finding your fast track to fulfillment is identifying financial priorities and establishing a focused plan for achieving those goals. Below are the three financial questions I believe we should all ask ourselves:

How important is home ownership to me?

Owning a home ¬†has always been the essence of financial success and ‘The American Dream‘. And it’s true¬†there are a¬†number of benefits associated with ownership, versus renting a home. Still, home ownership isn’t for everyone. For starters, real estate is not a passive investment – buying, maintaining, and improve property is hard work. Condos, flats and apartments, however, are administered by landlords, drastically reducing the amount of time residents spend addressing domestic duties. This is why I still choose to rent.¬†I would like to have a larger¬†emergency fund before I jump into home ownership.
Identifying a preference enables us to plot a course in the desired direction, satisfying our expectations in the most reasonable, timely ways possible. If ownership is a closely held priority, several steps will set you on the right path:

Save for a down payment РEstablishing a designated account for building a home down payment can help you set-aside resources faster than pulling cash from your regular household cash flow. Depending upon the programs for which you qualify, your credit strength, and other factors; a down payment of twenty-percent may be required to initiate financing.

Study the local real estate market РReal estate markets ebb and flow, responding to demand and other economic forces. To make the most of your investment, study trends ahead of your home purchase, giving you the tools needed to make informed, cost-conscious buying dictions.

Explore financing options РPurchase price is an important concern for home buyers, but it is not the only financial matter would-be buyers must reconcile. The cost of financing represents a substantial share of the final cost of your home, so landing the best available terms can save tens-of-thousands in interest payments, over the life a mortgage.

Where do I see myself in five years?

This classic job interview question has forever thrown us- young people off course, challenging us to think ahead, on the spot. Applying the same question to our financial life helps illuminate priorities Рregardless of where we are in our financial progression.

For best results,  it helps to account for major milestones first. Are  you planning to go back to college, get married or have kids in the next five years?  Do you expect to incur child care or moving expenses? Is self-employment in your future, requiring entrepreneurial capital? Answers to these important questions give us near-term benchmarks to pursue, and a five-year plan provides a realistic time frame for adequate financial planning.

Are my retirement needs covered?

It is never too early to start planning and making financial moves in preparation for retirement. I started saving for retirement in my early twenties before I even understood what it was. My coworker told me that a 401K is something I should participate in. She said that ¬†I would save some money and then I would get “free money” from our company to match that. I did my research and found that to be true, so I enrolled immediately . Although each person’s financial circumstances are unique, advisors promote savings and retirement thresholds consumers can use to guide investment decisions –¬†how money should be allocated¬†at a particular age, how to evaluate risk tolerance, etc. As you assess preparedness, use these strategies to make the most of your retirement resources.

Maximize employer benefits РRetirement benefits are part of your compensation package, so it is essential to make the most of employer contributions. Maximize matching programs such as your 401K, for example, to make your money grow faster; and take advantage of any stock purchase and profit-sharing plans offered at work.

Educate yourself about financial products РRetirement and savings accounts are not the only ways to put-aside retirement resources. Educate yourself about different investment options and financial products. The more you learn about investing and economics, as well as fees associated with the more control you have over your financial destiny. I will be writing a post about those soon.

Seek professional help¬†– Some investment advisors sell mutual funds and other investments, so they are biased, to a point. As a rule, consult with more than one financial professional, before making long-term commitments. And once you’ve bought-in to retirement investments, check performance and periodically review your account with your financial representative.

The most successful financial planning efforts start with well-defined goals. By identifying priorities and answering a few questions about our financial ambitions, we can succeed faster and feel empowered along the way.

Yours truly,

Olia_TheMoneyGirl

 

Guest Post: Parenting 101: How to Teach Kids to Be Money-Savvy

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It is most parents’ dilemma to talk to children about money. Oftentimes, they are not sure when to discuss budgeting tips, savings and other financial matters to their kids. But it is important for moms and dads to realize and understand that teaching children early about money is important in raising financially wise and responsible adults.

Check out these tips on raising money-savvy kids.

  • Be a good role model.

As they say, actions speak louder than words. So, if you want to raise your children to be financially responsible, you should make it a point to be careful with your actions. Remember that you are spending cash right in front of your kids. That is why it’s important that you show them that you are making wise money decisions. Before you pick up a product, explain to them why you are choosing it over other brands. Tell them the factors that go into your decision, like price, convenience, quality, etc.

  • Do away with negative statements.

For one, experts say that telling your children that you can’t afford a particular item would suggest that your family is struggling, which could worry your kids. You can, however, explain to them why you are not spending your money that way.

It’s also wrong to blame kids for buying something of low quality. Show them how to make comparisons when it comes to quality.

  • Take them shopping.

Start teaching kids about budgeting tips, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. As you go through each household item, explain to them about savings, planning and finding the best value for your money. This helps them realize that every dollar you spend is crucial to your family’s finances.

  • Create a reward system at home.

Many people say that rewarding kids with money for every good deed they do is the simplest form of teaching them how to work hard for every dollar they earn. Assign tasks to each of your children and tell them they will get a prize for finishing them.

  • Show them the significance of saving money.

Aside from budgeting tips, you should also teach the younger ones about saving the money they earn. Tell them that if they keep their money for a while, they will have more and they can buy stuff with it. That way, they’ll be more eager to work for it. Plus, they’ll realize the importance of setting cash aside.

  • Talk some business sense into their young minds.

Experts advise that it’s a mistake to ask children to put all their money in a bank account. Let them think of ways on how they can earn more cash. Selling lemonade in summer or exchanging stuff for money could teach them how to properly manage their finances even at a young age.

  • Take your children to the bank with you.

It is recommended by financial experts for parents to bring their children with them to a physical bank. Make sure, though, they are old enough to understand about money matters. Open a savings account for them and explain how banks work. Also, make sure to entertain questions and answer them as honestly as possible.

It is also essential for parents to be transparent with their children about family finances. This helps them understand what makes up your weekly or monthly budget, what your expenses are and why it is important to know all of these budgeting tips.

Birthday Freebies around DFW

Birthday Freebies

My birthday was this past weekend and I celebrated¬†the last year of my twenties in beautiful Sonoma Valley with my boyfriend and his family. I am looking forward to another year of¬†my ¬†life and plan to make it the best year of my twenties. ūüôā As it was getting closer to my birthday I started receiving postcards and emails from different businesses with free stuff on my birthday. One of the goals for this blog is to share my tips and tricks¬†on saving money and being smart with it. I ¬†decided to share the¬†top 10¬†of my favorite freebies I got for my birthday this year. They are also pretty¬†healthy if you ask me.

  1. We Yogis¬†is one of my favorite yoga studios in Dallas. They ¬†give you a free yoga class on your birthday, and you don’t have to use it the same day.
  2. Corepower yoga sends you a free yoga class on your birthday as well! These two yoga gifts were a great way for me to stay healthy and grounded around my birthday weekend.
  3. Exhale Dallas sent me a 50% off coupon for a therapy. I love massages but they are expensive, so it’s not something I do regularly. This was a¬†great opportunity to treat myself to some relaxation time without breaking the bank.¬†My boyfriend was ¬†so sweet ¬†and got my massage for me with this promo so I got extra lucky.
  4. Sephora’s beauty inside members get a free gift on their birthdays. I couldn’t pass a little makeup gift, since I don’t buy ¬†a lot of makeup so I’m a beauty insider.
  5. I love good food! So I was super excited to get an email from True Food Kitchen¬†with a free dessert on my birthday (with a purchase of an entr√©e). I love their food! They have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options locally sourced.¬†The food is so healthy that I don’t even feel bad about having a dessert, especially since it’s free.
  6. I also have a sweet tooth in general. What could be better ¬†to satisfy it than a FREE Sprinkles cupcake. They don’t use anything artificial and now have a vegan cupcake ūüôā
  7. Starbucks is my last resort coffee shop choice at this point since I prefer small local coffee shops. However,I still like the freebie birthday drink or treat I get every year since I have signed up for their rewards program a long time ago.
  8. Benihana¬†gives you a $30 certificate during the month of your birthday after signing up for their rewards.¬†I mean who doesn’t like their ¬†teppanyaki food prepared right in front of them with $30 off their bill?
  9. Red Mango. If you like frozen yogurt this is a great healthy snack you can get free on your birthday.
  10. Zoes kitchen has plenty of healthy lunch options and has my favorite cole slaw in town. You get a free entrée on your birthday. Woo Hooooo!

Keep in mind that to get these birthday freebies you must sign up for the rewards program with these companies. I usually have a special email address for this kind of stuff since marketing emails throughout the year are inevitable. For a full list of Birthday food freebies around DFW visit Favorite Candle. For an even more extensive list of food places offering free birthday gifts visit Hey,It’s Free.¬†If you want to find out about birthday freebies that are not food related, I found this great¬†list at All You.

If you have cool promotions you received on your birthday feel free to share in the comments sections. Those who know me, know that I love free stuff.

Yours truly,

Olia_theMoneyGirl