Your Personal Finance Pro http://yourpfpro.com Personal Finance for Young Professionals Tue, 18 Dec 2018 23:54:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 31591919 7 Different Ways to Invest in Yourself http://yourpfpro.com/7-different-ways-to-invest-in-yourself/ http://yourpfpro.com/7-different-ways-to-invest-in-yourself/#comments Mon, 11 Sep 2017 11:00:17 +0000 http://yourpfpro.com/?p=7346 From time to time I think everyone goes through a period of self-reflection. Recently, I had a milestone birthday and it made me think about my past and where I’m headed in the future. Like everyone else, I’ve made some mistakes in the preceding years, but I’ve made a lot of good decisions too. Something […]

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Invest in YourselfFrom time to time I think everyone goes through a period of self-reflection. Recently, I had a milestone birthday and it made me think about my past and where I’m headed in the future.

Like everyone else, I’ve made some mistakes in the preceding years, but I’ve made a lot of good decisions too. Something else I’ve discovered is that anytime I work on self-improvement I’ve never regretted it.

I would say I am continually investing in myself and my future. In fact, I believe there are at least 7 different ways to invest in yourself.

1. Buy Insurance

Nobody likes to think about all of the bad things that could happen to you throughout your lifetime. However, the reality is that things sometimes don’t go as you plan. That’s one of the reasons you should have insurance.

There are many different kinds of insurance from homeowner’s insurance to pet insurance and many others in between. Obviously, having insurance can’t prevent all of the undesirable events from happening. But investing in it can give you peace of mind and protection from financial ruin.

2. Start a Side Hustle

Another one of the different ways to invest in yourself is to start a side hustle. I started my own side hustle about a year and a half ago. It has now grown to the point that I will soon be turning it into my full time career and leaving my regular job.

Understandably, not everyone would want to follow my example. Self-employment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

If you need a creative outlet or a little extra income, though, a side hustle is a great way to get both. Additionally, you may learn some new skills you can apply elsewhere in your future.

3. Read

Reading books, blogs, magazines, and other material may not seem like an investment to some people. I disagree, however.

For example, my change in career paths is leading me to use many of the different things I have read about in the past. I am also using pieces of just about every job I have ever had.

You never know when something you read will help you in the future. That’s why reading about a variety of topics and experiences is never a waste of time.

4. Go Back to School

One of the other ways to invest in yourself is to go back to school. Although I’ve not chosen to go down this path, many do and have found it to be a good investment.

Going back to college will require a monetary investment. Nevertheless, the end result could be a much higher salary and a larger nest egg come retirement time.

5. Invest

Choosing to simply invest is another of the ways to invest in yourself that you could choose. No matter what your income or level of expertise there are many different ways to do it.

Rental properties, 401K plans, Roth IRA’s, and stock are just a few things you could invest in. There are many others and lots of information on the internet to help you start.

The sooner you invest for your future goals, including retirement, the more likely you are to reach them.

6. Learn a New Language

Something I have always wanted to do is learn a new language. So far, the furthest I have gotten is to learn a dozen or so Spanish words, but not enough to converse fluently.

My reasons for wanting to learn Spanish are two-fold. For one, I want to help the patients that I interact with on a daily basis. The other reason is merely because I think the language is beautiful.

No matter my reasons, I have always felt that learning a new language is an investment in yourself. That is especially true if you will be in an environment to use it often.

7. Take Care of Yourself

None of the other ways to invest in yourself can be accomplished if you do not take good care of yourself. I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to this at the moment, I will admit. But I expect to fix that in the near future, however.

Nobody can sacrifice taking care of themselves for the long term. You must eat the right kinds of foods if you expect to get good results. Garbage in equals garbage out, as they say.

Invest in yourself by eating right, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water, and exercising. Personally, I can’t wait to get back on track with these things and take better care of myself. My future kind of depends on it.

Every day is a new chance to try to improve myself and become the best “me” I can be. I hope you use these 7 different ways to invest in yourself to be the best “you” you can be too.

What are some of the different ways you invest in yourself?

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Beat the Average: Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions http://yourpfpro.com/define-your-why/ http://yourpfpro.com/define-your-why/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 00:31:38 +0000 http://yourpfpro.com/?p=6919 Happy 2017, readers! It might sound crazy, but I’m looking forward to 2017. I’m entering a new decade of my life, which is always interesting, and there are a lot of necessary changes coming up professionally. Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen, but whether you like it or not: 2017 is here! […]

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Happy 2017, readers! It might sound crazy, but I’m looking forward to 2017. I’m entering a new decade of my life, which is always interesting, and there are a lot of necessary changes coming up professionally. Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen, but whether you like it or not: 2017 is here!

So what are your New Year’s goals? Did you make any resolutions? I hope your answer is “no!”

Wait, what? Why would a personal finance blogger not want you to make any resolutions? Am I crazy? Maybe, but that’s beside the point. I don’t want you to set any 2017 goals without doing one thing first: defining your why.

Let’s face it: setting goals in the new year just to set them sets you up for failure. Already, a vast majority of people don’t achieve their New Year’s goals, and without a concrete “why”, you’ll never beat these odds. So do you actually want to change something about yourself? Here’s how to beat the average and achieve your New Year’s resolutions.

Why Are You Setting This Goal?

If your goal is to lose weight or increase your savings, why are you doing it? I’m going to get real here: you need to think worse case scenario. Why do you seriously want to lose weight? Do you fear you won’t get to watch your kids grow up? Are you tired of expensive pills when diet and exercise can help you get off the pills? Are you afraid you won’t have enough money to get you through the month and you want to escape that feeling?

Feel something about your goal. Fear is a good motivator, but happiness, accomplishment, and/or pride all work just as well. Want to strive for a promotion by graduating from college? Want to make your spouse proud by saving up for a new vehicle? Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s something you feel and sincerely want to accomplish.

Pick One or Two and Pursue Relentlessly

None of us are Superman or Superwoman. We can’t lose weight, get a new job, find a new partner, buy a new house, start a business, get out of debt, have a 6 months emergency savings fund, and hike the Himalayas all in one year. If you can, stop reading this and be my friend.

But if you’re like 80% of us, you can realistically only accomplish one or two big goals. If you’re trying to shed 30 pounds or save up $5,000 in case of a job loss, it’s really hard to change all of your habits in a few months.

Willpower is a muscle: you have to constantly work it out. You will lose weight, but you have to focus on that one goal almost exclusively. Don’t get stressed out by also thinking you have to accomplish goals B, C, and D too.

If you’ve accomplished Goal A by July, by all means pursue Goal B! But don’t try to pursue all of your resolutions at once: you’ll just get frustrated and more likely to fail in sticking to your resolutions.

Focus On You

Even if you want to accomplish your resolution for someone else (spouse, kids, a doctor, etc.), in the end, you’re doing this for yourself. We all think of peer pressure as something teenagers succumb to, but the truth is, it affects adults too.

If you start losing weight or your startup business begins to gain traction, you might get friends and family who mean to sabotage you. When my husband started losing weight last year, his family (who are all, for the most part, overweight) started giving him a hard time about “wasting away” and needing to “eat more.” When your family is the one peer pressuring you to fail at your resolution, how do you think that’s going to affect you?

That’s why, in the end, it comes down to you. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “no one controls my life but me.” Is your family paying your bills, medical expenses, or paying for your lifestyle? If the answer is “no” then, sorry, they don’t get a say in how you accomplish your goals. Starting a business might not be for everyone, but if it is for you, it’s within your rights to pursue your goal.

It may seem that achieving New Year’s resolutions is impossible, and for many people, it is. But readers of Your PF Pro: we know that living a budgeted, safe, happy and healthy life is important. Being debt-free is important. Having an emergency fund is important. Being able to support yourself and your family is important. Make it a priority, and you’ll beat the average! C

Cheers to a great start to 2017! What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2017?

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The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ Re-Written http://yourpfpro.com/the-chainsmokers-closer-re-written/ http://yourpfpro.com/the-chainsmokers-closer-re-written/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 05:42:13 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6777 As you may already know by now, I listen to a lot of pop music, partly because it’s fun to listen to and partly because I have a 2 hour commute and can only handle talk radio and podcasts so long before I just need background noise. So it should come as no surprise that […]

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As you may already know by now, I listen to a lot of pop music, partly because it’s fun to listen to and partly because I have a 2 hour commute and can only handle talk radio and podcasts so long before I just need background noise.

So it should come as no surprise that I’ve taken another song with financial-related lyrics and decided to write about it! However, unlike Sia’s Cheap Thrills, where she told us that she doesn’t need money to have fun, I’m a little more critical of the Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ ft. Halsey. There’s a lot of problematic financial behavior outlined in this song, so I’ve critiqued and updated it for those of us who are trying to or continuing to keep our financial feet on the ground.

Before we move forward, I’m going to make the following assumptions:
  • The main audience for this song is people in their early- to mid-twenties
  • The main audience has gone to college
  • The main audience is okay with casual theft
With those things in mind, let’s get to this crazy and unfortunately catchy song!
I know it breaks your heart
Moved to the city in a broke down car
It seems very irresponsible to move to a new city in a broke down car. Everyone knows you should get your car checked out before you move, whether or not it’s a new city. Do you really want to have car bills when you’re moving? Moving is expensive.
Maybe they planned on abandoning their car when they got there. Maybe it’s a commuter-friendly city. Yes, let’s go with that. Still not super responsible, but not the worst thing you could do.
And four years, no calls
Now you’re looking pretty in a hotel bar
And I, I, I, I, I can’t stop
No, I, I, I, I, I can’t stop
Four years, no calls? Really? Did you unfriend each other on Facebook? It must have been a big break up to unfriend one another on Facebook.
Hotel bar? Okay, assuming this person is around 26 years old, that would probably mean she or he is at a conference. Why else would someone that age be at a hotel bar?
Okay, so a work conference. That’s a great sign! That means someone in this song has a job, which means they probably have fixed their car. Sounds like they’re getting back on track in the life department. High five! Or, as the younger people say nowadays, #adulting?
So baby pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover
That I know you can’t afford
Wait, what? You’ve presumably bought a new car because your other one broke down and a) it’s a Range Rover? Or maybe a Land Rover. That should be a little cheaper.
Either way, it doesn’t matter because you can’t afford it! Why are you buying a car with such high monthly payments? You better keep that job. Maybe pick up a side hustle.
Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
Maybe lay off on the tattoos. Unless you’re getting a free tattoo from a dude who “wants to practice” (not recommended!!!), your payments should probably go to getting out of debt or getting a more affordable car. Come on.
Pull the sheets right off the corner
Of the mattress that you stole
From your roommate back in Boulder
Seriously?? You stole a mattress from your roommate? Setting aside the financial depravity of theft, stealing mattresses from roommates is gross! Do you know what could have happened on that mattress? How do you know that mattress isn’t covered in bed bugs?
Also, stealing from your roommate in Boulder? That’s just rude. Although it’s pretty hard to steal a mattress – they’re heavy and bulky. Did you “steal” it as in you asked and you joke that you “stole” it? Or did you really steal it in the middle of the night while your roommate was out of town? I’m concerned about the adult decisions you’re making.
We ain’t ever getting older
We ain’t ever getting older
We ain’t ever getting older
You may not be acting like it, but you’re definitely getting older. You are definitely getting older. You are DEFINITELY getting older.
All critiques aside, I do find this song really catchy and even sing along to it in the car. Face it: most of us are not taking financial advice from songs, which is generally a really good thing! In fact, most songs you should take the opposite advice of. If you want to have a job and get raises, you should not party like a rockstar, steal from people, sell illicit substances, and most of the other things singers sing about.
Do you like pop music and do you listen to it, and what do you think about some of the questionable financial advice given by pop or other music stars?

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You Bought WHAT? Handling Money Fights with Your Spouse http://yourpfpro.com/you-bought-what-handling-money-fights-with-your-spouse/ http://yourpfpro.com/you-bought-what-handling-money-fights-with-your-spouse/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2016 01:09:53 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6769 According to surveys, money is one of the leading causes of stress in relationships. While getting a divorce might not be directly attributed to financial stress, it can certainly make an incompatible relationship even worse. After all, money touches all aspects of our lives. No matter how many “free ways to date your spouse!” Pinterest […]

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According to surveys, money is one of the leading causes of stress in relationships. While getting a divorce might not be directly attributed to financial stress, it can certainly make an incompatible relationship even worse. After all, money touches all aspects of our lives. No matter how many “free ways to date your spouse!” Pinterest articles you may read, eventually one of you is going to shout “ENOUGH with the outside dates or staying on the couch! Can we please get a real adult-person date dinner?!”
You may be asking why a recently married person would be bringing up “the d word”, and you may be concerned. Don’t be! Almost every married couple goes through some type of strife, and arguing can be a good way to hash out problems to get to better understanding.
Since buying our new house and encountering a ton of unexpected and expensive surprises, my husband and I have been stressed out about finances and have, unfortunately, taken it out on each other a few times. Recognizing it’s not healthy, we’ve readjusted and things are getting better. Based on this experience plus talking to others in our situation, here are 4 things to keep in mind when handling money fights with your spouse.

Don’t Be Petty

When you first start fighting with your spouse about money, it might be tempting to bring up every time you’ve paid for something, or paid more for one bill than they have. Don’t do this! If you’ve set up your budget together, you probably know who pays what and why someone pays more (if you don’t split everything down the middle).
My husband and my fighting got so bad, we were arguing about a $5 jar of spaghetti sauce. In hindsight, how ridiculous is that? The reason we were arguing about $5 is because everything else had boiled to the surface and we let the little things overtake us.
Look at the long term when figuring out money fights with your spouse: is that $5 jar, or one bill you pay more on, worth it to fight about? Or can you pay it and focus on the bigger problem? You’re likely not mad about the small things, it’s the bigger things (like a family budget that’s out of control) that you need to sit down and address.

Avoid Escalating the Fight

When arguing with your spouse, it’s so tempting to go for the low blows and past mistakes they’ve made. Trust me when I say: don’t do this! Why in the world do you want to make a fight worse by bringing up something they’ve done last year?
Bringing in past arguments to escalate your money fight is not worth it and won’t help you solve the problem. If anything, it’s going to make your spouse not listen to you even more, which will prolong your fight. Escalating an argument doesn’t solve anything, so be an adult and focus on the big problem at hand: fixing your budget and ending your money fights.

Remember the Love

You love your spouse. You LOVE your spouse. Repeat it with me: YOU LOVE YOUR SPOUSE. If this doesn’t help, think about why you loved them in the first place. Are they kind, caring, positive, make you feel good, do nice things for you? Are they smart, do they push you, are they a great parent?
You’re a team and you’re going to be together for (hopefully) a long time. There’s no reason money fights should tear you apart if the only reason you’re fighting is finances. Finances can be fixed. Finding someone you love as much as your spouse is a lot harder.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Once you’ve calmed down and stopped letting petty things escalate your problem, and once you’ve gotten that loving feeling back (to a degree), ask yourself: what in the world is your budget problem?!
Is your budget problem:
  • a lack of income?
  • too many expenses?
  • unexpected expenses?
  • debt?
Once you’ve determined why you’re so stressed, tackle it! Come up with a game plan to either raise your income (side hustle!), reduce expenses (cut cable, TV, home phone, cut your phone bill down, eat out less), shore up your emergency fund, or figure out how to consolidate and address your debt.
In many money situations, there’s always something you can do to improve your finances. With today’s on-demand economy, you could literally go out and drive for Uber and get paid by the end of the week. You could post stuff for sale on Craigslist. You could contact your debt servicers and try to negotiate lower interest rates.
With a little research (you and your spouse!) you can tackle your money problems like a team and stop your money fights in their tracks.
If you really love your spouse, you won’t let money fights doom your relationship. Sure, there are a lot of relationships that can’t be salvaged, but rarely is money the ONLY reason it’s not going to work out. When handling money fights with your spouse, avoid being petty, bringing in other things you don’t like about your spouse, and remember why you love them in the first place. Also, there’s probably a light at the end of the tunnel.
After sitting down with our budget, my husband and I determined we’ll be out of the red by December, and back in black by January. That’s a great start to 2017 and, in the end, the house and everything we’ve done to it has been totally worth it. If we needed to, he could pick up another job or I could ramp up my side business, but we’re actually doing fine the way we are now. As long as you keep in mind the long term picture, you and your spouse can survive many money fights.
Have you fought with a spouse or loved one about money, and how do you address money fights in your family?

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Should You Move Into Your Parents’ House to Save Money? http://yourpfpro.com/move-parents-house-save-money/ http://yourpfpro.com/move-parents-house-save-money/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2016 05:57:37 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6763 Young Americans are more likely to live with their parents, with 32% of people ages 18-34 living in their parents’ houses, according to the Pew Research Center. This is partly because of the Great Recession, but also because wages are stagnating or falling, leaving more people under- or unemployed. It’s clear that moving into Mom […]

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Young Americans are more likely to live with their parents, with 32% of people ages 18-34 living in their parents’ houses, according to the Pew Research Center. This is partly because of the Great Recession, but also because wages are stagnating or falling, leaving more people under- or unemployed.

It’s clear that moving into Mom and Dad’s makes a lot of sense if you’re trying to save money and get on your feet, but depending on your relationship with your parents, it may not be the wisest choice. Before you think moving back home is the only way to save a lot of money, consider these pros and cons and alternative options for saving money on living expenses.

Pros: Saving a Lot of Money

In many cases, you can save a significant amount of money moving in with your parents (or parent). Your parents are likelier to live in a nicer area than you’re able to afford, and they may not charge you market-rate prices to live at home (if they charge you anything!)

In addition, you’re able to save a lot of money on household items and home upkeep, since your parents probably are paying for that themselves.

Cons: Spending Money on Things You Don’t Want or Need

In some situations, your parents may expect you to chip in for household items. Remember how I mentioned you’ll be able to save on home upkeep and household items? If your parents are charging you rent to live with them, they may also request you chip in for household goods and home maintenance, like a landscaper or pool maintenance person.

If your parents have better taste than you and buy more expensive home products, yet expect you to chip in, you may end up paying as much or more for things you wouldn’t have typically purchased.

Pros: Always Having Someone at Home

It can be really nice to come home from work and interact with people you know and love. It’s also reassuring to know someone is (probably) always at home, which means your mail will be picked up, your place is less likely to be robbed, and someone is home if you have to go out of town for work.

Even if you’re still the one going home and making dinner, it can be nice to have people there to talk to while you cook, or have someone to sit next to and watch a fun TV show with.

Cons: Always Having Someone At Home

You knew this was coming! Sometimes it’s great to have someone at home, but sometimes family members know just the right buttons to push to drive you crazy. Living at home means having to interact with family members regularly, and if yours drive you crazy, you may regret living at home sooner rather than later.

Pros: Getting to Spend Quality Time with Family

In all likelihood, living at home is a temporary situation, one which you’re not likely to ever do again. Unless it’s part of your culture to remain at home even after marriage, most people (married or not) save up money to buy their own place or live in an apartment, moving out of Mom and Dads’.

By living with your parents while you’re younger, you’ll get to spend quality time with them while you’re both young and can do a lot more together. It may be annoying to come home to Mom watching another sappy TV show, or Dad yelling at the TV, but just think: they won’t be around forever, and you’ll remember the time you lived at home with them as a young adult (hopefully) fondly.

Cons: Lack of Privacy

Depending on how your parents are, you might lack a certain amount of privacy living at home. Someone may always be asking what you’re doing, where you’re going, and when you’re going to get a higher paying job. It’s easy to either give in and give up your privacy, or get annoyed and try to leave the house at every opportunity.

Either one of these coping mechanisms (complacency or fleeing) isn’t conducive to creating a side business or working on your resumes. When you live at home, it can be hard to have several hours to focus in silence on a side business, whereas living in an apartment by yourself or even with another working roommate might work out better.

Moving in with your parents isn’t your only resort if you’re looking to save money. When I graduated college, I couldn’t move in with my parents because of where they lived, so I had to find a way to make my meager salary stretch. Instead of moving in with your parents, consider:

  • Moving in with friends – yes, multiple friends. While a bigger apartment may look like it costs more, with 2-3 friends, you’re likely to cut your costs down significantly.
  • Move farther out from your city – or closer in. Depending on where real estate is least expensive, you might consider moving to a cheaper part of town to save money.
  • Live closer to work to cut down on commuting costs.

Have you ever moved in with your parents to save money, and if so, what pros and cons do you have for someone thinking of moving in with Mom and Dad?

Save

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How to Handle Multiple Emergency Expenses http://yourpfpro.com/how-to-handle-multiple-emergency-expenses/ http://yourpfpro.com/how-to-handle-multiple-emergency-expenses/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 05:46:45 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6751 Life has a funny way of kicking you when you’re down sometimes. As you’ll know from my previous posts, my husband and I recently bought a house, and it’s been expensive. We knew that going in, but several more emergencies have popped up since we bought the home and began some light remodeling. On that […]

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Life has a funny way of kicking you when you’re down sometimes. As you’ll know from my previous posts, my husband and I recently bought a house, and it’s been expensive. We knew that going in, but several more emergencies have popped up since we bought the home and began some light remodeling.

On that list? Our air conditioner recently broke down… in 115 degree heat, in the middle of summer, in Phoenix, AZ. Do you know how hot it gets here? People literally die on the streets here in the summer. Our cats got sick and, while I drove them to the vet, they got sick again… all over my car… and not from the mouth.

Do you know how bad cat urine smells? Do you know how bad it smells in 115 degree heat? So new conditioner + vet emergency + interior detailing bill (because cat urine… all over a car I need for work…)

Saying it’s been a “rough two weeks” would be an understatement, but the worst part of it all is it’s killed our emergency savings. Our emergency savings after buying a house, dealing with unexpected expenses, and then serious emergencies that couldn’t wait, is pretty much decimated.

So what are you supposed to do when your emergency savings is destroyed because of multiple emergency expenses? There are a few ways to handle multiple emergencies without going into debt. Share your thoughts (and good wishes!) in the comments 🙂

Rely On Your Emergency Fund

You do have an emergency fund, right? Hopefully you’ve saved at least 3 months worth of expenses, if not 6 months to a year. When you’re hit with multiple emergencies, it’s time to completely drain that emergency fund. After all, your emergency fund is designed to pay for the entire emergency, so it’s okay (if unpleasant) to spend it all.

Our biggest mistake was drawing down our emergency fund to pay for some of the unexpected house expenses. We brought our emergency savings down to only $2,000 after those unexpected house expenses and, in hindsight, those expenses were “wants”, not needs. While building your emergency fund, don’t look at it as a place to store your money and use when something seems urgent. If it’s not a serious emergency (health related especially!), really think hard about whether or not you want to raid your emergency fund.

See if There’s Anything You Can Sell at Home

Need to build up your emergency fund quickly? Start looking around your house! If you need emergency funds, it’s time to get creative and think about what’s in your house that you’re not using. Is there something you’ve been wanting to get rid of but put off? Visit OfferUp, go on Craigslist, or even create a Facebook post offering things you want to sell off quickly.

Try to Pick Up a Quick Side Hustle

Do you have a skill or free time you can monetize? If you’re looking to pay for multiple emergency expenses or rebuild your emergency fund, try to pick up a side hustle that can make you some quick money. A few ideas for getting started quickly and get paid relatively quickly include:

  • Driving for Uber or Lyft (and using Daily Pay, if it’s offered, to cash out daily)
  • Sell skills on Fiverr
  • Do tasks for people around your city on TaskRabbit

Seek Out Long Term Plans

No one expects to have multiple emergencies, and no one expects to need more than a year’s worth of emergency savings. After all, emergencies don’t happen regularly (or they shouldn’t, unless you’re exceptionally unlucky). And keeping large sums of money in the bank just for an emergency isn’t the best way to use your money. So what’s the best way to handle multiple emergency expenses? Long-term planning.

If you find yourself hit by an emergency and can’t cover it all with your emergency savings, it’s time to think about how to build up a sustainable emergency fund. Do you need to pursue a raise, or do you just need to adjust your definition of an emergency fund? Maybe you thought a 3 month savings is sufficient, but one emergency sets you back 6 months.

Again, no one is expecting to be hit by multiple emergencies at once, but it may be wise to double the size of your emergency fund just in case.

Reduce Expenses Long Term to Build Up a Reserve

Overall, it might be wise to reduce any unnecessary expenses to build up your emergency savings. When my husband and I were dealing with our multiple emergency expenses, we sat down with our finances and realized we had some subscriptions we could cancel and save roughly $60 a month. $60 a month of savings, deposited directly into our emergency fund doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but it will add up and one day be a great buffer for us again.

Using a personal finance tracker like Personal Capital will help you figure out where your money is going every month and help you determine what can be cut out and funneled to your emergency fund in the case of multiple emergency expenses.

Have you ever dealt with multiple emergency expenses, and how did you handle the expenses without going into debt?

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15 Financial Moves to Make Before 30 http://yourpfpro.com/30-financial-moves-to-make-before-30/ http://yourpfpro.com/30-financial-moves-to-make-before-30/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 05:17:42 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6702 Turning 30 is a pretty big milestone – by 30, you’ve probably had a job(s), maybe moved once or twice, had a credit card, maybe even bought a house! If you haven’t yet turned 30, there are a lot of things you should try to have figured out before turning 30. Already 30 and up? […]

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Turning 30 is a pretty big milestone – by 30, you’ve probably had a job(s), maybe moved once or twice, had a credit card, maybe even bought a house! If you haven’t yet turned 30, there are a lot of things you should try to have figured out before turning 30. Already 30 and up? I’d love your feedback on this list of 30 financial moves to make before 30!

1. Establish an emergency fund

2. Create a budget

3. Determine your financial priorities – what do you want to do in the future? Save up for a wedding, house, epic travel?

4. Contribute to your retirement account – compounding interest!

5. Pay off your highest interest debt

6. Improve your credit score

7. Try a side hustle

8. Create a financial plan – where do you want to be in 2 years, 5 years, and 10 years? Even if you don’t have it completely decided, it’s a good idea to at least have some idea of where you want to be. A 2 year plan is a good start!

9. Wisely use your credit cards – it is possible!

10. Track your investments and look into diversification

11. Continue improving your skills – just because college is over doesn’t mean learning is. Always keep learning and improving your skills.

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your finances

13. Consider moving for a job – moving while you’re young is easier to do than when you have a family and a house, so consider moving before you hit 30!

14. Stick to your budget! Remember #2, create a budget? Creating a budget is just the start – you have to stick to it!

15. Take care of yourself – taking care of yourself and your health may seem inexpensive and easy to do now, but spending a little bit more time on eating healthy most of the time and exercising regularly will save you so much money in the future.

Now that we have 15 things you should do before you’re 30, share what you think people should know before they turn 30!

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Is Following Your Dreams Good Advice? http://yourpfpro.com/is-following-your-dreams-good-advice/ http://yourpfpro.com/is-following-your-dreams-good-advice/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:30:28 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6170 Last week I attended my niece’s high school graduation. While sweating to death in a giant stadium, my fiance and I listened to the class valedictorians’ inside jokes and their hopes for the future. For the most part, their speeches were fun and uplifting, highlighting all the emotions graduating high school seniors should be feeling. […]

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Last week I attended my niece’s high school graduation. While sweating to death in a giant stadium, my fiance and I listened to the class valedictorians’ inside jokes and their hopes for the future.

For the most part, their speeches were fun and uplifting, highlighting all the emotions graduating high school seniors should be feeling. However, a few things they said did jump out at me, mostly about following your dreams “whatever they may be.”

Given the global recession, stagnant wages, and general difficult time getting jobs for graduates, is following your dreams really good advice for the graduating class of high school seniors? Or am I just being a grumpy old curmudgeon, trying to crush young folks’ hopes and dreams?

Pros to Following Your Dream

Others Have Done it Successfully

Beyond the famous people who followed their passions (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, David Karp), many other people have followed their interests to great success. You don’t necessarily need a business degree to be successful, as long as you have some common sense and a strong work ethic.

Who’s to Say You’re Not a Success?

Depending on how you define success, maybe making enough to survive doing what you love is success. After all, not everyone aspires to live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house working a 9-to-5 job. That artist living in a studio apartment in a “bad” part of town may be perfectly happy with his unconventional life. They work to live, not live to work.

Having an Adventurous Life is Enough

Many people travel or live an active lifestyle and never have a conventional life. For them, living an adventurous life is all they’ve ever wanted, and they make their finances work around their passions. Even if it’s hard for a boring person like me to understand, there is an element to it that looks pretty appealing!

Cons to Following Your Dream

Pay Off Debt

Unless these future college graduates get enough scholarships or have generous parents, college graduates may have a hard time paying off their student loans.

Certain degrees (and subsequent jobs in those majors, like education or health care) will help you to pay off your student loans faster, but unless you choose a high-paying field, it may take several years to pay off debt. Paying off debt may also stymie your goals of owning a business or living a more bohemian lifestyle.

Interests Change

Depending on how well your high school counselor or parents worked with you, did you go into college knowing exactly what you wanted to be? Many kids have competing interests. For me, I love writing but also have an aptitude for math, which is why I now work in finance. Others love art but are also talented at biology.

Perhaps the focus should be on two paths – a major in biology and a minor in art, for instance. Others may want to investigate a degree in computer engineering but take elective classes in other topics they also enjoy.

This is when internships come in handy. The sooner college students are able to try out internships in different fields, the better perspective they will have on their major.

Priorities Change

As someone approaching 30, many of my wild friends (and the not-so-wild ones too) are starting to settle down. They have amazing stories and pictures for their future kids, but they’re struggling with debt and finding a satisfying career.

Several have gone back to school for an entirely new degree, while others have gone back for a few courses to make themselves more marketable. Beyond taking on more debt to pay for this, they’re now also worrying about paying for a house and childcare. If you’re under the same circumstances, perhaps you can look into other ways to get that degree, with online resources now accessible, you can take up a variety of courses, like an msn fnp online and be able to work while simultaneously learning new skills.

Your thoughts and priorities, unless you’re a very mature 18 year old, are bound to change dramatically by the time you’re 30. Do we owe it to the graduating seniors to help them consider their future selves? While I think it’s a noble goal, I’m not entirely sure 18-year-olds are going to listen to us. After all, how receptive were you to practical advice as an 18-year-old?

All that said, it may be a moot point for this and future graduating classes. Perhaps I’m not giving them enough credit for paying attention to the last five years. When I asked my niece what she wanted to study in college, she replied “medicine.” Knowing that’s not her first passion, I asked why. Her response? “Baby boomers currently need and will continue to need quality health care. I’ll never be out of a job!”

What advice would you give to graduating high school seniors: pursue dreams or practicality? Do you think you have to sacrifice one for the other?

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Leaving the Bank of Mom & Dad http://yourpfpro.com/leaving-the-bank-of-mom-dad/ http://yourpfpro.com/leaving-the-bank-of-mom-dad/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 13:30:39 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=6141 The Millennial generation often gets a bad reputation for being unmotivated, over-confident in their abilities, and a host of other hyperbolic stereotypes. Often overlooked are those millennials, like those in other generations, that work hard, save their money, and spend responsibly. However, when more than one-third of adult millennials receive regular financial support from their […]

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The Millennial generation often gets a bad reputation for being unmotivated, over-confident in their abilities, and a host of other hyperbolic stereotypes. Often overlooked are those millennials, like those in other generations, that work hard, save their money, and spend responsibly.

However, when more than one-third of adult millennials receive regular financial support from their parents, according to a November 2014 survey by Bank of America, you do start to wonder what exactly is going on with Generation Y. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about millennials born between 1980-1995 (which may or may not encompass all millennials, depending on how you define the generation). Many Millennials are still living off their parents money - is it our fault or our parents?

At age 20 or above, when does parental support become too much, and when do millennials have an obligation to try to survive on our own? The answer may surprise you, depending on how you feel about receiving support from your parents or how you were raised!

The Recession Didn’t Help Millennials

Let’s face it: unemployment among millennials is pretty darn high. The unemployment rate for college graduates ages 20-24 as of August 2014 was 10.8 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for those with a Bachelor’s degree, the number was 10.6 percent. Even for those who graduated with a degree struggle to find a job, and those are the lucky ones who graduated at all.

Without stable employment after graduation, it makes sense that more millennials are asking parents for help. Combine lack of steady employment with rent costs (not to mention groceries, healthcare, etc.), and it’s no wonder that millennials still rely on their parents for incidentals – or more.

To put it into perspective, here is a short list of things parents are helping their children pay for:

  • 50 percent are providing a place to live
  • 48 percent are helping with living expenses
  • 41 percent are helping with transportation
  • 35 percent are helping with health insurance
  • 29 percent are providing spending money

Is It The Parents – Or Us?

As an older(ish) millennial, closer to 30 than to 20, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to see how parents and children’s money relationships work. In college, many people received assistance from their parents. For some, parents provided gas money, whereas others had tuition and anything else they wanted paid for.

After graduation, some people still relied on parents. I was admittedly one of those people – my parents helped pay for my apartment (which I shared) when I went to graduate school. Others traveled or volunteered abroad, and some others couldn’t find full-time work.

Approaching 30, most of my peers don’t receive help from their parents any longer. Most also have full-time jobs, and more than half have spouses. At this point, most are self-sufficient – or should be. Unfortunately, I still know some people who rely on their parents for everything, from car insurance to rent to clothes.

As Bloomberg News reported, one couple gives “their 22-year-old daughter tens of thousands of dollars each year to supplement the $30,000 she earns as a writer at a beauty website.” This money covers her “share of the rent on a Brooklyn apartment, her frequent use of Uber car services, clothing purchases, and regular manicures and pedicures.”

At that point, are parents really helping or hurting? It’s a tough question to answer, because parents’ relationships with children are not often logical. Also, some parents really do have the financial ability to lavish money on their children, having already taken care of their own retirements. On the other hand – money for manicures? Come on now!

Financial Ability

One of the very first things to consider, whether you’re a Millennial asking for help or a parent offering, is whether or not parents have a financial capability to help out. In many cases, parents are likely not in a position to help their children.

According to Bloomberg News, couples ages 55 to 64 had just $111,000 in savings for retirement in 2013 (the median balance in 401(k) and IRA plans). That amounts to a little more than $4,000 a year in retirement, assuming an annual 4 percent withdrawal rate.

Taking this a step further, are you prepared to help out your parents in the future if they need it? One thing I’ve always considered, as an only child, is my ability to help out my parents in their retirement years if they need it. Obviously, we all want our parents to take care of themselves in retirement, but reality doesn’t always work out that way.

While many millennials didn’t graduate at an optimum time, we still have to be aware of our financial relationships with our parents. There’s no one “right” financial relationship to have with one’s parents, but if you’re still relying on Mom and/or Dad to survive, you may want to consider taking on a side hustle to set yourself on a financially stable path.
What type of agreement did you have with your parents when receiving financial assistance, either in college or at another time? Did you have an agreement to pay your parents back, or was it considered a gift?

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What We Can All Feel Grateful for This Thanksgiving http://yourpfpro.com/feel-grateful-this-thanksgiving/ http://yourpfpro.com/feel-grateful-this-thanksgiving/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:45:51 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=5694 I have a lot to be thankful for this year but today, PF Pro contributor, Kali Hawlk shares what we can all feel grateful for! Happy day-before Thanksgiving! In honor of the holiday, I thought it was only appropriate to spend some time thinking about gratitude and expressing appreciation for the good stuff. But instead […]

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feel gratefulI have a lot to be thankful for this year but today, PF Pro contributor, Kali Hawlk shares what we can all feel grateful for!

Happy day-before Thanksgiving! In honor of the holiday, I thought it was only appropriate to spend some time thinking about gratitude and expressing appreciation for the good stuff.

But instead of telling you what I’m grateful for, I wanted to share what we can all be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

A Wealth of Resources

If you participate in the personal finance blogosphere — whether as a writer, reader, or both — you have access to a wealth of resources, information, and crowd-sourced knowledge about money. And all for free!

As bloggers or blog readers, we can tap into countless personal stories and experiences to help us navigate our own financial decisions, problems, and emergencies. This is no small thing, even though we may sometimes take it for granted. After all, we don’t think of blogging as terribly serious most of the time.

But with no formal personal financial education requirements in the US, it’s important we have somewhere to turn to get information and advice. Blogs, while still informal, are an excellent place to start when we have questions and want to find the answers.

Knowledge is power. Be thankful you have so much of it from various sources right at your fingers.

A Strong Community

On a similar note, if you’re part of the blogosphere you’re a member of a big, cuddly community. Okay, maybe not cuddly, but certainly friendly, warm, and welcoming.

My favorite thing about being a financial writer is that I’m surrounded by intelligent people who are always willing to help others, provide answers to questions, and engage in thoughtful conversation.

Again, it’s something that we may take for granted. But it’s something to feel grateful for if you don’t have family members you feel bringing a financial problem to, or friends who don’t have the patience or interest to get nerdy about money.

You know you can always come here to engage and chat about problems, questions, or just topics that interest you. That support is a wonderful thing!

The Motivation to Keep Going

It can be hard to feel grateful around personal finance if you’re in the progress stage of a goal right now — and not at the end of the journey, at the “success” stage. But just the fact that you’re still here, still working towards your financial goals, still working to create good money management habits, is something to feel grateful about.

Be thankful that you have the drive and motivation to set goals and then work to achieve them. That’s huge, and not everyone shares your determination and dedication.

Don’t discount the steps you have to take in your efforts to get out of debt, create diverse streams of income, and establish financial independence. Every challenge you overcome is a lesson learned that can help you continue to better your financial situation.

It may sound fluffy, but it’s true. These experiences will change you in a good way. Appreciate them — and if you can’t now, make a note to look back in the future and appreciate them then.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving — and what are you grateful and thankful for this year?

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What’s In Your Wallet? http://yourpfpro.com/whats-wallet/ http://yourpfpro.com/whats-wallet/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:24:40 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=5547 No this article isn’t about a Capital One Commercial, although I’m not gonna lie, any commercial featuring Samuel L. Jackson has got to be good!  Instead, today we’re going to dissect exactly what is and isn’t in my wallet.  I’ve been on this weird semi-minimalist kick over the past few months where I’m trying to […]

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No this article isn’t about a Capital One Commercial, although I’m not gonna lie, any commercial featuring Samuel L. Jackson has got to be good!  Instead, today we’re going to dissect exactly what is and isn’t in my wallet.  I’ve been on this weird semi-minimalist kick over the past few months where I’m trying to make my life more efficient by removing everything that I don’t use.  And even though it might not seem like a big deal, most people’s wallets carry a lot of un-needed junk.

In fact, my minimalist streak isn’t limited to material things either.  I’ve turned off all push notifications on my phone (E-mail, FB, etc) in an attempt to be more efficient and I try to only check e-mail a few times a day now.  I can’t tell you how many times I used to look at my phone just to look at it.  Wait, so where was I?  Right, back to my wallet!

No Costanza Wallet For Me

I actually used to sport a pretty large wallet with all sorts of loyalty cards, coupons, receipts, cash and credit cards.  But a few years ago I switched to a smaller wallet and loved it.  I even experimented for a while with a hair band wrapped around my cards and cash.  It worked ok but I ended up wanting something a little bit nicer.

While browsing for a gift for my brother’s birthday (he wanted a wallet) I ended up finding a half wallet/half money clip that would end up suiting me perfectly.  It was only $10 on Amazon and after a couple months of use it has now become my favorite wallet ever.  So let’s take a look and see what’s inside of it.

One Credit Card

Right now, I’m taking a little break from churning cards because frankly I’ve gotten so good at it I can’t spend the points fast enough.  I’ve spent almost 600,000 points (got about $15,000 in value out of them) in the last year alone and my aggregate account balance according to Award Wallet is still over seven figures.  Obviously, this is a good problem to have but it also means that I get to go back to spending on just one credit card for now instead of trying to hit a bunch of minimum spends on new cards.

The one card I keep in my wallet right now though is my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  It gets me 2x points on travel and dining and 1x on pretty much everything else.  I have a few cards that could get me a little higher cash back on certain items like gas and groceries but for me it just isn’t worth the hassle of carrying around an extra card.  Remember, I’m trying to become a more minimalist-simple-efficient person.  And the cash back pales in comparison to the rewards I can get from just one sign-up bonus.

By the way, if you’re interested in signing up for the CSP card you can get a 40,000 point bonus when I send you a referral link.  I’ll receive a small commission so it’s a great way to support the site.  E-mail me for details.

One ATM Card

I will never ever understand why anyone would pay an ATM or checking fee when there are so many banks that offer these services for free.  I haven’t paid an ATM fee in over 5 years and that’s why I carry my Ally ATM card with me everywhere I go.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends tell me, “Dude, we need to find a Chase ATM”.  Don’t let ATM’s control your life, get a good ATM card from an online bank like Ally or Chuck Schwab.

Driver’s License

My wallet/money clip has a nice little ID card holder that faces outwards so most of the time I don’t even have to take my driver’s license out of the wallet if someone wants to see it.  See how efficient that is.  There’s not much else to say about this one.

4 Business Cards

Since I’m always networking and talking to people about my online businesses it’s imperative that I have at least a few business cards on me at all times.  I try to keep two cards for my finance blog and two cards for my rideshare site on me at all times.  I would keep more but my wallet wouldn’t really be able to handle them.  I do keep spares in my car, at work and at home though just in case I run out.

$61

I rarely have cash but since I just got back from Vegas I had a lot at the time.  And since this wallet has a really cool magnetic money clip, it’s easy to keep it in place.  Most of the time though, I normally only carry $20 or less in small bills.  If I really need more than that, I can stop by any ATM or pay someone with Venmo 🙂

So those are all the things that I carry in my wallet.  Were you surprised at how little junk/clutter there is and what would you say about your own wallet if you had to do an audit?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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How Much Does It Cost To Go To FinCon? (And My Biggest Takeaway From The Conference) http://yourpfpro.com/much-cost-go-fincon-biggest-takeaway-conference/ http://yourpfpro.com/much-cost-go-fincon-biggest-takeaway-conference/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 17:09:24 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=5445 One of the coolest parts about being a personal finance blogger is the community that I get to engage with on a daily basis.  I started blogging three years ago as a way to really just jot down all my thoughts on personal finance.  A lot of times when I can’t remember why I’m investing […]

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One of the coolest parts about being a personal finance blogger is the community that I get to engage with on a daily basis.  I started blogging three years ago as a way to really just jot down all my thoughts on personal finance.  A lot of times when I can’t remember why I’m investing my HSA a certain way or what the process was like applying for my latest credit card, I can simply look back and read one of my old articles.

The thing that’s surprised me most though during my blogging tenure is how awesome and friendly other bloggers have been.  Unlike most industries, PF bloggers are one big family and they’re all pretty much willing to help each other out(as long as you approach it the right way of course).  Over the years, I’ve e-mailed back and forth with countless bloggers but I have never met any of them in person.  That all changed with this year’s FinCon though.

FinCon in New Orleans

FinCon is a conference held annually where members of the money media community get together for a few days of learning, fun and networking (that is adult speak for drinking fyi).  I’ve always had some excuse why I couldn’t go to FinCon in the past but when I found out this year’s event was going to be in New Orleans that pretty much sealed the deal for me.  It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit and I actually thought about having my bachelor party there at one point but the flights ended up being just too expensive.

Everything seemed to align this year though, so there was no way I could say no!  I’ve heard great things about New Orleans: awesome food, beautiful architecture, great night life, amazing live music so what better way to visit than for a business trip where I would also get to deduct all of my expenses.

I also felt like now was the perfect time to go because I’ve e-met a large number of people through blogging but never even met any of them in the flesh.  There are a handful of bloggers who I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with for years but all I’ve ever seen of them is a tiny little profile picture.

How Much Does FinCon Cost?

You might think that at a personal finance conference you wouldn’t spend much money but I was actually surprised at how care-free everyone was.  No one really complained about where we were going to eat or how much this or that cost, everyone was pretty cool and laid-back about things.

I don’t think you need to spend a ton of money to enjoy yourself when you travel but at the same time I’m not going to buy a Subway sandwich when I’m in New Orleans to save a couple bucks, I’m gonna go get an awesome Po’Boy and live it up!  It does help though if you have a knack for finding deals that will save you some cash.

So here’s what my budget looked like for the trip:

Cost My Cost
Flights $740 $11
Exit Row Upgrade $78 $39
Airport Transportation $129 $69
Hotel $488 $408
Food $143 $143
Drinks $173 $173
Taxi $24 $24
Miscellaneous $38 $20
Conference Cost $205 $205
Total $2,018 $1,093

Flights

One of the reasons why we ended up going to San Francisco instead of New Orleans for my bachelor party was the insane cost of flights.  Even flying off-peak, New Orleans (MSY) was still pretty expensive.  And if you want to fly direct, it’s even more ridiculous.  Direct flights were in the $500-$750 range from Los Angeles when I looked them up a few months ago.

I found some reasonably priced flights on Southwest for $300-$400 but they all included a stop over.  Normally, I would have been ok with this but I found a decent option on Delta for 42,500 points.  Delta is known for being among the worst airlines when it comes to redeeming miles but I guess I got lucky.  I’ve had 14,000 miles sitting in my Delta frequent flyer account for years and this was the first time I’ve ever even been inclined to redeem them.  There’s a reason why Delta’s Sky Miles have been dubbed ‘Sky Pesos’ in the miles and points industry.

I ended up booking a roundtrip non-stop flight out on a Wednesday (12,500 pts) and back on Sunday (30,000 pts!) evening for 42,500 points.  I used the 14,000 points in my account and transferred in 29,000 more from my Amex Membership Rewards account (Delta is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex).  The flight would have cost me over $700 if I paid cash so it was actually a pretty decent redemption value.  Although, I will admit I’d probably take Southwest and a layover for $350 before I’d ever pay $700+ for a non stop flight on Delta.

I ended up paying $11 in taxes and 42,000 points for a $700+ flight.

Exit Row Upgrade

Delta gives you the option to upgrade your seat 24 hours before the flight.  You can try to upgrade for free on the day of but since I get 24 hour check-in reminders from Tripit Pro I logged on to see what they could offer.  An upgrade to economy comfort was $79 while an upgrade to the exit row was only $39.  Despite being 6’3″ I can normally handle anything under 4 hours in economy no problem.  But it is nice to be able to stretch out a bit, leave your bag under the seat in front of you and actually be able to work on your laptop without being too confined.

According to Seat Guru, the exit row seats actually had more leg room than economy comfort so for me it was a no brainer to spend the extra $39.  On the way back, I actually used my brand new Ritz Carlton Rewards card to pay for the upgrade so that leg was free. The RC card reimburses you for up to $300 in airline incidental purchase each calendar year.

I ended up paying $39 for $78 worth of upgrades.

Airport Transportation to/from LAX

I live about 45 minutes away from LAX and since my flight was pretty early I figured my best option was to take an Uber to/from the airport.  I used whatsthefare.com to approximate the fare and found out it would cost around $60-$65 for a ride.  Since I have a bunch of $30 free ride coupons from referring new passengers, the ride was essentially half off both ways.

Related Article: How to Get Picked Up By Uber at Major Airports Like LAX

If you haven’t tried out Uber yet, you can actually still get your first ride free up to $30 (and Lyft is also giving away $25 free for new riders).  There’s nothing better than free rides!

I ended up paying $69 for $129 in rides from Uber.

Hotel

The hotel for the conference was the downtown Marriott on Canal St. It was in a great location right in the heart of the city and just a few minutes walk to Bourbon St. and about 10 minutes from Jackson Square and 15 minutes to Frenchmen St.  The hotel itself was pretty nice but the rooms were a little dated compared to other Marriotts I’ve stayed at in the past.  My only real complaint though was that I felt like I was in a room built for hobbits.  When I walked into the bathroom, the mirror only came up to my chest and the ceilings were also very low.  I’m not sure if it was just my room or what, but I kept joking with everyone that I felt like I was a giant in my room 🙂

I could have used points to stay at a hotel nearby but I think there is a lot of benefit to staying at the same hotel where the conference is being held.  For one, it’s great for taking naps since your room is right upstairs and it’s a lot easier to meet people, re-convene, have drinks at the bar, etc.  This is one area of the trip where I’m glad I didn’t cheap out on and stay somewhere else to save money.

I did manage to find a way to save a little money though on the hotel stay using my Amex cards.  Right now, Amex has a Twitter sync deal where you can link your card to your Twitter account and activate certain promotions.  One of the promotions I found was $20 off $100 spent at Courtyard Marriotts.  So on Sunday before I checked out, I hopped over to the Courtyard down the street and bought 4 x $100 gift cards with four separate Amex cards.  Since Courtyard gift cards can be used at any Marriott property, I was able to pay for part of my room and save $80!

I ended up paying $408 for about $488 in hotel expenses.

Food

Food is always a huge part of my trips, I’ve even been known to stopover in certain cities just to sample the local fare (ahem, Istanbul!).  I love experiencing new cuisines, trying new things and eating foods that I don’t get to see on a regular basis.  Obviously New Orleans is world famous for their seafood so I was pretty excited to try all that the city had to offer.  I actually didn’t eat out as much as I thought I would though since the conference did a great job providing us catered lunches and free food at events like the Betterment Happy Hour.

My favorite meal came at a small restaurant in the Marigny/Treme area off of Esplanade St. at a place called Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant.  This was actually my first meal of the trip and I split a red fish po’boy with a friend.  It was very simple but the fish was so tender and juicy and cooked to perfection.  What a great first meal in New Orleans!

My second favorite meal of the trip came at a small local creperie called Deville right near Jackson Square.  I walked right by Cafe Du Monde to get to this place and I’m glad I did.  In my experience, touristy places like that are always over-hyped, over-priced and underwhelming.  You want to eat where the locals eat!  At Deville, I had a really good iced coffee and an amazing Chicken Florentine crepe!

The last memorable meal of the trip came with my buddy Sam on the day after the conference.  A little hungover, a little tired and a little exhausted, we headed out for one final showdown with the muggy streets of New Orleans.  We went to a place called Port of Call off of Esplanade St (by far my favorite street in all of New Orleans: lots of saloon style balconies, old school converted mansions and big trees).  It’s an old sailor themed bar that serves some of the best burgers in NOLA, plus they give you a loaded baked potato with your meal.  The burger was pretty solid, not the best I’ve ever had but definitely a good final meal in New Orleans 🙂

Altogether, I spent $143 on some pretty solid food over 5 days!

Drinks

Even though I managed to secure copious amounts of free drink tickets, this was still by far one of the biggest budget items of my trip.  I’ve never been the type of person to wait around for someone to buy me a drink so I’m usually one of the first ones at the bar.  So if I bought you a drink, you’re welcome!  I probably spent a lot more on drinks than the average attendee but it was well worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Ignoring all the free drink coupons that PT and countless others gave me, I managed to spend $173 on drinks over 4 nights – now that’s impressive.

Taxi

I was able to get a ride from the airport to downtown with a friend when I arrived in New Orleans and during the conference I only took one cab for $7.  I split a cab three ways on the way back to the airport and that cost $17 each.

I hate paying for taxis so I was pretty happy that I only spent $24 on cabs while in NOLA despite it being hot and humid the entire time.

Miscellaneous

Outside of the main categories, I really didn’t spend much on anything else.  Didn’t buy any coffee, snacks or souvenirs – just a whole lot of drinks.  I did have to take out some cash here and there to pay for certain meals so I ended up racking up $18 in ATM fees but since I used my Ally debit card, all of those fees will be re-imbursed.

I ended up paying $20 for $38 worth of ‘miscellaneous expenses’.

Conference Cost & Wrap-Up

The cost of the conference had to be by far the biggest steal of the trip.  PT (the founder of FinCon) does an awesome job and it is definitely the best one I’ve ever been to.  There were so many engaging speakers, sessions and a wide variety of sponsors.  There were a ton of networking events outside the conference too and I felt like I must have gotten over $200 in free drink tickets alone!  I probably would have been happy to pay double that amount but at the end of the day, there are some really great sponsors that help defray a lot of the costs for us bloggers.  I actually already bought my ticket for next year at a reduced price of just $149!

My biggest takeaway from the conference was that there are some amazing things people are doing right now to make a full time living working online.  And I’m not talking about just barely getting by either, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people out there making an absolute killing in the personal finance niche doing what they love, working for themselves and living that entrepreneurial dream.

For me, personal finance blogging has always been more of a hobby but I do make a decent amount of money off the site.  Attending the conference really reinforced my belief that if I wanted to go full time working online and was willing to put in 8-10 hours a day on my site I would definitely be able to succeed.  But at that point, I don’t think it would be nearly as fun.

As it stands now, I spend about 10 hours a week writing and producing content for this blog and it’s extremely enjoyable.  I’d have to spend about 4-5x that to equal my day job salary though.  It definitely wouldn’t be a bad way to make a living but I’m also fortunate to have a day job that I don’t hate.  I go in to work every day, get my sh$t done and walk out with a paycheck.  It’s not the most challenging or exciting job ever but it definitely pays the bills, lets me max out ALL of my retirement accounts and allows me to save a couple bucks here and there too.

I already know that my time in engineering is limited, it’s not something I want to do or something I’m going to do for the rest of my life.  But right now, it just doesn’t make sense to leave my job when I’m still able to do what I love on the side.  Since I won’t ever put in more than 15-20 hours a week on this site, I don’t think my personal finance blog alone will ever be enough to let me quit my day job but it will definitely be a part of the equation.  My goal since day one has been to replace my day job income with multiple sources of income and every day I’m getting closer using things like: blogging income, freelance income, rental income, rideshare driving, coaching volleyball, etc.

The last thing that I kind of already knew, but attending the conference really reinforced, was that if you want to really make it working online and be one of the top dogs in your industry you have to really carve out a niche for yourself.  You can’t just do what everyone else is doing and expect to be super successful.  I think my blog has some great content but to be perfectly honest, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.  There are hundreds of sites out there just like mine with unique ideas, great content and engaging authors.  What makes the best ones stand out is that they appeal to a very specific niche.

I’m definitely going to keep writing and producing content for this blog for years to come but I don’t expect it to ever make me insane amounts of money.  Personal finance is a highly saturated niche and that means the odds are really stacked against you to make it to the top.  If I would have gotten in 5-10 years ago it would be a different story, but I didn’t and I’m ok with that.

Ultimately, I’m going to take everything that I’ve learned from the PF niche and apply it to a new industry/niche when the timing is right.  During the conference, I talked to a lot of people about my new rideshare site because I think that’s the perfect opportunity for me to really become an industry leader online.

I was able to get in on the ground floor of a niche that is currently exploding, highly lucrative and doesn’t have much content out there yet.  I’m producing the same level of great content for that site but since there’s less competition it’s easier for me to stand out.  My site appeals to a very specific niche group of people but my goal is to be the authoritative source for the entire industry one day.

So my advice is simple: find a niche that you can really dominate.  At this point, if you start a blog that talks about investing you’re going to have a minute chance of ultra-success.  There are still plenty of niches out there in personal finance (just look at MMM with ultra savers or WCI with doctors) but there is also a ton of competition.  Find an industry or niche that you have an interest in, has potential and go dominate it.

For those who weren’t able to attend or have no idea WTF FinCon is, here’s a great video that was produced by Matt of Listen Money Matters that sums things up in a nut shell.  Warning: this song is super catchy and I’m not gonna lie I’ve already added it to my music collection! (If you’re reading this via e-mail, please visit the article on my site to view the video)

So I’d love to hear what other FinCon’ers thought about their experience?  What was your biggest takeaway from the conference and did you stay within your budget or even have one in the first place?  For you regular readers, what do you think about the conference experience?  Can you believe that over 600 bloggers and money media professionals met up for one crazy weekend in New Orleans?  Does it make you want to start a blog or what?!

-Harry @ PF Pro

The post How Much Does It Cost To Go To FinCon? (And My Biggest Takeaway From The Conference) appeared first on Your Personal Finance Pro.

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