Blog

personal finance

Betterment vs. Wealthfront – What’s the better option?

In January of 2016, I decided to open a Betterment and Wealthfront account.  I wanted to see which robo advisor better fit my needs.  I also wanted to see which account would grow faster due to different fees associated with the accounts.  To standardize my experiment I put $500 into each account and then started to contribute $100 a month.

Since I was using automatic deposits with both accounts I could have initially opened the Betterment account with $0 down and $100 a month, but I wanted to keep the experiment fair.  Back when I opened the account in 2016, Betterment had a scaled fee based on how much money you invested.  Now, it is just 0.25% annually, which is a significant savings.  They also now offer Plus and Premium for accounts larger than $100,000 and $250,000.  I’m not there now, but in the future that could be an interesting tool to look into using.  You can also get up to a year free of Betterment by using this link (it also helps me because I’ll get a year too!)

Wealthfront is very similar to Betterment, except your first $10,000 is managed for free.  I like this feature for newer investors and people who aren’t starting out with a large amount of money.  That being said, you need at least $500 to initially open an account.  The fees after $10,000 are also 0.25% annually.  Signing up through this referral link will give you an additional $5,000 managed for free.  A new feature for Wealthfront is Path.  Path helps you look at your financial accounts to see if you are on track for the future.  This could mean looking ahead at retirement, saving for a house, or even saving for a fun family vacation.  I haven’t spent a ton of time using Path yet because I don’t have all of my other bank accounts linked to Wealthfront.  I use Personal Capital instead to manage all of my money.

If I was only opening up one account right now it would be with Wealthfront.  Though the intial $500 is steep for a newbie the free management up to $15,000 (with the referral code) would make it worth it for me.  I’ll update my progress towards the end of the year, but right now both accounts have done very similarly.  Betterment and Wealthfront are both aggressive investment accounts (90% stock/10% bond) and have made 10.3% and 14.7%.  I got both of these directly from the website, but in reality the interest I received through both accounts is about $180.  As a novice, I would stick to Wealthfront for now.

There are lots of new features coming soon, so I’ll continue to look into them to see what other robo advisors are out there!

Do you use Betterment or Wealthfront?

travel

Joshua Tree Weekend

I recently returned from a weekend up at Joshua Tree National Park.  I initially went searching for beautiful landscapes and fun hikes.  I not only got that, but also discovered off-roading trails for my Jeep and bouldering on rock faces.  It made me feel like a little kid again.

Joshua Tree is a great local escape for people who live in the SoCal area.  We were able to go on a last minute trip during the high season (October to May) with some careful planning.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to leave earlier than noon on Friday so we booked our first night through recreation.gov.  We would have booked both nights online, but the 4 campsites in Joshua Tree that allow online reservations were completely full for Saturday.  We booked Friday at Black Rock Campground at $20 a night.  This campsite was on the north end of the park outside of the normal entrance.  It had running water and bathrooms.  There was also a 4.4 mile West Loop trail right next to our campsite.  Since we arrived at sunset we walked that trail for a few minutes before turning back to the campsite.

Black Rock Campground had a fire pit and table at each campsite.  We could have bought hot dogs and burgers at the local Walmart, but we had some left over food from our Zion trip that we decided to cook on our MSR Whisperlite Stove.  This stove is mainly used for backcountry camping, but was still useful in this vicinity.  

The next day we went into the actual park and went off roading and bouldering.  Before we started the fun activities we went to find a campsite to use.  We left Black Rock around 830 am and went to the Jumbo Rock Campground.  We figured that would be our best bet with over 100 camp grounds.  There is no running water in this part of the park so make sure to bring plenty.  There is some water at the entrance visitor center if you are desperate for water.  

We found a campsite in the very back and put our first come, first serve pass on it.  These are the yellow tags that you can get when entering these campsites.  The night cost $15.

From there we moved over to Geology Trail Road for an off roading adventure that all go into more details about later.  The rest of our activities we found my looking at articles on pinterest and the newspaper that we got from the visitors center.  There was more than enough to see and do in weekend, and I’ll definitely go back to hike more trails at a future date.

The two nights of camping only cost us $35 which is less than what a dinner out would cost.  At this point we have a nice selection of camping gear because of our Zion Christmas trip, but if you owned no camping gear it could be expensive.

If you have ever been to Joshua Tree, what were your favorite parts?

personal finance

How to Start a House Buying Fund

I have looked all over the internet for information on buying a house.  It has become a dream of mine to own a house.  I don’t know when I began to think it was something I wanted to accomplish in my twenties, but it was probably during high school. Of course, life got in the way.  I have moved all over the country since college and haven’t found a place to “grow my roots”.  I hadn’t even started saving for a house until recently.

Luckily, between Pinterest and blogs there is a ton of information.  I have found so many tips on saving for a down payment and buying when the time is right.  What I haven’t been able to find is where exactly I should put the money for a down payment.  Without being able to figure that out, I didn’t start saving for a house. I could have started almost 3 years ago and I haven’t begun.  That could have been a couple thousand dollars if I had been diligent.  

I looked into putting it into a Betterment or Wealthfront account with safe balance of stocks and bonds, but decided against it.  I want to use that money for a deposit within the next 3 years, and it’s risky to invest. I decided on using Ally savings account.  There are no fees for what I use the account for and I earn 1% interest.  

What I learned was the best way to start a house fund, was to JUST START. I opened my fifth Ally savings account and titled it house fund.  I cancelled some subscription services (see my last article) and put my first $35.  Right now I’m only contributing $35 a month, but as I cut back on my budget it’s going to grow exponentially.

personal finance

Subscriptions I’m Cancelling: Money Saving

I’ve been watching a ton of YouTube videos lately on minimalism and saving money. One of the largest things I noticed was that everyone says to cut subscriptions and subscription boxes.  I never had cable so I felt pretty good, until I started adding up all of the other subscriptions I have.  Right now every month I’m paying for internet (definitely a necessity), Netflix, Amazon Prime (that’s paid for annually), Beachbody on Demand (also annually), Texture, Audible, and Ipsy.  I realized total that was about $100 a month going to subscriptions.  Some of these I really love and utilize, but I’m making a change to cancel other ones.

1. Ipsy

I have loved getting makeup every month, but not everything I get works for me. I’ve gotten the wrong shade before, and it’s starting to take up a lot of space in my make up drawer.  For only $10, it’s been so much fun to get to try new products, especially skin care, but after a year of having Ipsy I’m cancelling it for now.

2. Texture

Texture is a magazine app, which I totally thought was worth it because it had Money Magazine.  I wound up getting a free trial for a year of Money magazine in print so I no longer need the app. Now I can just use my local libary Zinio app to get magazines.  That’s another $10 savings.  Make sure to check out your library for programs like Zinio.

3. Audible

Audible is much like Texture for me.  I wanted to listen to books at a discounted price while I cleaned my apartment.  I actually bought these affordable headphones from Amazon that have made a huge difference in my routine.  I connect them via bluetooth and then can clean my apartment while listening to books, podcasts, and music.  For $20 I couldn’t pass on the headphones, and would definitely repurchase them.  The $15 a month for Audible I can definitely pass on.  My library offers the app Overdrive.  This way I can check up to 5 books and audiobooks out at a time.

Overall, these small changes will save me $35 a month.  That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes a difference at $420 a year.  For a comparison, that’s how much I spend a year on my cell phone and I really like my cell phone plan.  

What changes have you made this year? Are you moving towards minimalism?  Let me know!

travel

Temecula in a Day

     temecula-in-a-day-coverTemecula in a Day, I suppose is somewhat of a misnomer.  To date, I have been to Temecula three times now. The first, I was the designated driver.  The second, a very willing drinker, and most recently, on a private tour.  I am by no means an expert on Temecula Valley, and am excited to come back and go to more wineries, but as of now here are some of my recommendations for a first timer.

 

 

Hart Winery

Hart Winery was the first winery we went to.  They charge $12 for 6 tastings, which is very reasonable.  I really liked that they had an outside tasting area and an indoor facility. Like many other places in Temecula, when you pay for your tastings you are given a card with 6 tear away sheets (1 per tasting).  Once we would receive a pour we were able to walk around and look at all of the vineyards outside which was really nice.  They offered large pours, and were very friendly.  Check them out at www.hartfamilywinery.com.

img_1341

Baily Winery

Baily Winery was empty when we went Saturday morning, and we were not complaining.  The people who worked there were awesome and allowed us to try tastes of a few other wines besides our standard pours.  This tasting I believe was between $10-15 (I can’t remember) and included a free wine glass.  There is also a restaurant right next door which looked lovely.  The building was a simple stone building, but it was beautiful inside.  Check them out at www.bailywinery.com.

Europa Winery

We got to Europa Winery before it was really open, so we wandered around the gardens.  It is absolutely beautiful, and looks as if it is set right in Italy. I have not been to Italy (though I’ll be sure to go one day), but from the pictures I’ve seen it’s spot on. They were slightly more expensive than the other places we tasted at $15 for 6 during the week and $20 for 6 on the weekends, but they were very attentive.  Even when a large group came in on a tour, someone stayed back and talked to us.  Check them out at www.europavillage.com.

img_1342

Falkner Winery

I cannot speak to the regular tastings at Falkner since we did a private tour here, butimg_1345 it was absolutely splendid.  The private tour included 6 tastings for $35 with a cheese platter (shown below). We were allowed additional taste samples to before just being poured what was “next on the list”.  At the end we got to try the Hot Lips, which is a mulled wine. I didn’t even realize that existed, and they showed us the process of how the wine is made.  Check them out at www.falknerwinery.com.
img_1348img_1344

$35 is much more than many of the other wineries, but for a private tasting it wasimg_1350 well worth it.  I spent a little time in Napa when visiting my boyfriends family, and found the prices to be much higher. Starting in the $20-30 range for 3-4 tastings.  I should be heading back to Napa in the next few weeks, so I’m sure I’ll do a review.  I think that Temecula is a great place to visit.  You will certainly be “feeling” how much you drank after 3-4 wineries so pace yourself and stop into the town or at a place to eat.  

I only spent a few minutes in the town on the way out, but next time I’ll stay longer. They had adorable shops and restaurants all decked out for Christmas.  It’s funny to see Christmas decorations when its 80 degrees in Sunny SoCal.img_1351

If you live in the SoCal area, or are visiting over the holidays. I highly recommend taking a day to check out Temecula.  To be honest you could make an entire weekend of it, but if you don’t have that kind of time, a day is plenty!img_1349

Let me know the next place you’d like me to review. Have you been to Temecula? Any tips for next time?

personal finance

#1 Way To Start Saving Money

1waytostartsaving

People ask me all the time why and how I decided to get really into saving money.  To be honest, this is a fairly complex question.  The why is fairly simple, I wanted independence.  Not being in debt gives the freedom to do what you want.  The age old expression that time is money is extremely accurate.  Everything you own you worked for with your own time to gain money.  I wanted to be in control of my life, thus I started saving.

How to start saving can be a little difficult.  There are so many different websites and programs you can use.  We now live in a world, where you can literally use an app to start saving money, a website, or walk into a brick and mortar bank.  

If this is the beginning of saving for you, don’t stress so much about which place is the best right away, just start SAVING!

Do a quick Google search for the best interest rate available, do a little research, and open an account.  The #1 way to start saving money is to just start.  It can be $10 a week, $50 a week, or $500 a month.  As long as you start you’ll be setting yourself up well.  

I’m personally trying to save 6 months of pay, so I have more than enough to cover myself in an emergency situation.  This initially may seem like a lofty goal, so I recommend starting with trying to save $500.  If you open an account and start depositing $10 a week, you’ll reach that goal in just under a year.

It may not seem like a lot now, but this healthy habit will be contagious and you’ll continue saving more and more.

personal finance

The Best Way to Groupon

groupon-earnings

I originally wanted to call this post, Groupon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, but I realize that title would be a bit unfair.  Groupon is a great website to get awesome deals and discounts.  

To be honest, Groupon is just one example of a discount website.  I’m talking about Living Social, Rue La La, The Clymb, etc.  There are so many amazing discount websites to score deals on.

And you know I’m all about deals…

Here are my Top 5 ways to score the best deals on Groupon.

1. Ask yourself, am I actually going to use it?

2. Always search for coupon codes before buying.

3. Share, share, share with your friends ($10 referral codes)

4. Double check the fine print.

5. Check travel deals if your dates are flexible.

1. Ask yourself, am I actually going to use it?

Before you buy a Groupon, make sure you know you’ll use.  When I moved to California I bought two Groupons almost immediately. The first one was for a haircut and shampoo, and the second one was for a juice cleanse.  I didn’t wind up redeeming either.  Luckily Groupon sometimes will allow you to either extend you redemption period or take a discounted Groupon.  After allowing the extension to expire as well I decided to take the discounted Groupon.  I had paid $25 for the haircut and had a 24 hour period to redeem a $20 Groupon voucher. (I do not know if Groupon always allows that, so don’t rely on it).  I decide to redeem it for a date night and set a specific date.  That way I knew it would actually be used.

My rule of thumb now is to only buy Groupons that I’ll redeem that day or make the reservation that day.  This way you don’t wind up losing money on expired Groupons.

2. Always search for coupon codes before buying.

If you get Groupon emails, they’ll frequently have 20% off codes.  Always check them before you buy. I also recommend going on Google and searching “Groupon coupons”.  There are numerous websites that have great discounts.

Finally, before I buy anything I go through Ebates or Swagbucks (depending which has the better cash back.)  I can normally get between 7-13% back through Ebates.  That covers the tax and then some.    I’ll do a more thorough review of Ebates and Swagbucks later, but if you’d like to get a free Swagbucks or a $10 giftcard from Ebates use these referral links. (Ebates.com and Swagbucks.com)

3. Share, share, share with your friends ($10 referral codes)

If you love Groupon and you think your friends would to, tell them about it.  Once you’ve signed up you can earn a $10 referral code.  That means free Groupon cash for you! Free Groupon cash allows you to try new activities that maybe you would never have thought to try.  Just make sure that you’ll actually use it!  If you don’t have a friend using Groupon and want to sign up through me here is the link.  (Don’t forget to tell your friends about Ebates and Swagbucks too)

I know some people feel strange about asking your friends to go through referral links, but it’s a great way for you both to save money.  It’s part of the reason I was able to get my Cricket Wireless phone so inexpensively.  You can find about more about that here.

4. Double check the fine print.

This applies with rule #1, am I going to use it?  Read the fine print to find out when it expires and what’s included.  A lot of beverage shipments don’t include shipping. You may thinking getting 12 bottles of wine for $75 is a great deal, but add $29 for shipping and it’s a totally different ball game.  You can still get the deal if you want it, just be cautious when it comes to the fine print.  When in doubt, call or email the seller before purchase. 

5. Check travel deals if your dates are flexible.

I have not been able to use this service yet because my travel dates never are flexible.  That being said, there are tons of wonderful trips at major discounts.  If you live by a large airport then you should consider looking into it.  

This was specified towards Groupon because it’s largely popular and the discount site I use the most, but it can be applied to numerous websites.  Moral of the story, be smart about your online purchases, and make sure they fit your budget.  

If you follow these 5 guidelines Groupon can be a great way to save money, try new things, and have a great time!

personal finance, Uncategorized

How to Get a Brand New IPhone for $50 (No Contract)

iphone pic

I came across an awesome deal and want to show you how you can get a brand new IPhone for $50.  I got my new IPhone 5S (16 GB) for $50 after a couple of easy steps.  My Phone is now on Cricket Wireless’ network (thru AT&T).

If you want to know more about my recent experience with Cricket Wireless, please read my article The CHEAP Cell Phone Plan You NEED NOW!

  1.  Check out CricketWireless.com and see the $150 IPhone 5S on sale. Also check that the $50 bill credit for transferring your number is still available.
  2. Get $25 through a referral link before actually purchasing this IPhone.  Here is my referral link.  If you have a friend’s link, feel free to use that.
  3. Port your number from another carrier, and after 30 days receive a $50 credit.
  4. Finally, join Cricket’s reward program.  You can join via my link or a friend’s link.  This will give you 50,000 mPlus points (this will allow you to redeem the points for a $25 gift card).

If you don’t like Cricket’s network I believe you can use the IPhone on a different network after 6 months. That being said, I have so far loved Cricket and highly recommend you check it out.

So your grand total is:

$150 IPhone

– $25 Refer a Friend Credit

– $50 Activation Credit

-$25 Cricket Rewards redeemed Gift Card

=$50 IPhone 5S 16 GB

Plans start at $35 on Auto Pay.

Enjoy the deal!

 

personal finance, Uncategorized

The CHEAP Cell Phone Plan You NEED NOW!

Now a days, there are so many cell phone plans it’s hard to find the best one for you.  There is the big 4 companies (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) and then dozens of smaller companies. Most of these companies offer both contract and non-contract plans.

titleband

I have not been on a contract in the last 6 years, I used to have T-mobiles Walmart plan for $30 (plus tax I believe) for unlimited internet and texting plus 100 minutes.  When I moved, the signal sucked so I switched to a non-contract Verizon phone.  I got the phone for $100 (it was a modest Android about two years behind the times) and unlimited text and talk with 2 GB.  That plan was $45 plus $3.33 in tax.

After my recent move, I was sick of paying that much. I wanted to get away from the big 4 carriers and find a better deal.

cricketpeople

ENTER CRICKET WIRELESS

I checked the reliability of service in my area and it looked great. Cricket is under AT&T and my friend who has AT&T and I have been comparing service in different places. It is virtually the same.  I now only pay $35 a month (that INCLUDES tax) for unlimited text and talk and 2.5 GB.  What’s even better, I was able to upgrade to a brand new IPhone 5S for only $50 (after all of my rebates). I’ll show you how in this post here.  That’s a crazy deal. In only 5 months, it will be cheaper for me to have this new IPhone than to keep the old dying Verizon Phone.

They have numerous plans starting at $35 on autopay up to an unlimited plan for $65 with autopay. If you decide to have more lines, you’ll get more discounts.

To make it more fun, there’s also a rewards app. You get points that can be used for gift cards, by referring people, taking surveys, and checking in. So far I have gotten a $25 gift card which I can use for future monthly service.

To get $25 for joining you can click here (I get $25 to so thanks 🙂 )

What’s your phone service?

personal finance, Uncategorized

Smartly Saving and $20 GIVEAWAY

Since this is my first blog post, I feel it’s good to show how I save for individual goals.  I’ve always found online that people will tell you to save for an emergency fund, a house down payment, etc but then never show you where to save that money.  Right now, my emergency fund is pretty much just my savings account.  I haven’t bothered to sub divide that account into other accounts, but for everything else I started breaking up my goals into individual accounts.  These are all of my smaller goals, but they’re still important in my overall financial journey.  This way I could keep track of each individual goal I had.  I deposit between $20 and $100 to each goal once or twice a month.  This way I can slowly reach my money goals.  The website I have been using is SmartyPig (don’t worry, this isn’t sponsored, they don’t know I exist, besides the fact I’ve had an account the last few years).  I like SmartyPig because the interest on there accounts is a lot higher than other savings accounts.  I make 0.75% interest on the account which is better than the 0.1% most banks give.  That being said, when I originally started I was earning 1% so it definitely has been better.   I hope one day it’ll go back up to 1%, but we’ll see.

Right now on SmartyPig, I’m saving for my dog’s emergency fund, Christmas gifts, and a vacation.  I’m hoping to soon also save for a house down payment, but haven’t decided if I want to do it through SmartyPig or not.  Because, like I said, this is for my SMALL goals.  Don’t worry, I’ll post about it when I decide.

To create the goals you put down a small initial deposit (I normally do $10) and then SmartyPig gives you the estimated monthly, bi-montly, etc amount of money you need to reach your goal. For example, I want to have $600 saved for Christmas, so that’s about $50 a month or $25 a paycheck.  Then, I’ll end the goal in December and use that money to pay for gifts.  Avoiding the dreaded Christmas debt!

If you know someone wants a giftcard, you can redeem giftcards and get cash back, but I have yet to use that feature…I like the cash 🙂

Another thing I have yet to try, but should eventually is there debit card.  It’s a great way to keep accountable for money if you have problems with credit cards.  That being said I love using a credit card for the rewards, so I’ll talk all about that soon.

Having all of my small goals in one place shows me how much more I need to save to get where I want to be.  It also helps me budget which is great.  When I know where my money’s going I always feel better.  You should always be trying to save about 10% of your paycheck for the future. Start small, and that money will grow!

Have you tried SmartyPig?

If you want to be entered into the $20 SmartyPig Giveaway to start saving.  Simply leave a comment about what you are saving for now!  I will use random.org to make a drawing on May 31st 10PM PST.  Good luck to all that enter 🙂