Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is quickly becoming America’s favorite, personal financial educator. The Budgetnista is founder of the LIVE RICHER Challenge. Since 2008, The Budgetnista has specialized in the delivery of financial education that includes seminars, workshops, curricula and trainings.
Tiffany is the bestselling author of the books, The One Week Budget and Live Richer Challenge (#1 Amazon / budgeting), and she and her financial advice have been featured on: the TODAY show, PBS, TIME, The New York Times, Reuters, ESSENCE Magazine, FORBES, Fox Business, MSNBC and CBS MoneyWatch. She also blogs about personal finance for The Huffington Post and U.S. News and World Report.
Q: Fly Duos: Do you forecast your travel? Do you advise couples to save for one big trip?
A: Budgetnista: I let price dictate where I go. I ask my boyfriend what places he has in mind that he wants to travel to. We will name a few places we want to travel to (ie Caribbean). We have a joint savings account for travel purposes, as well as a travel credit card with points. I look on groupon, the flight deal, and travel groups on Facebook. When deals come up within those groups I see if they are the places we put on our list to go. If the deals are within alignment with where we want to go I communicate with him on when we can go. Since I have my own business I ask him if he has days and what would be the best time for him to travel. A lot of planning and flexibility involved.
Q: Fly Duos: Currently I use Amex to rack up travel points, are there any cards you recommend using for travel?
A: Budgetnista: Currently I use Bank of America, they have a travel card that I use. Capital One Venture card that’s actually really good and you earn points as well. What I like about Bank of America is when you use it for travel, you rack up even more points. For example, I was asked to speak in Barbados in December and they paid for an adjoining hotel and told me I could bring a guest with me and they will pay for their hotel and food, but they had to pay for their own flight, but my boyfriend had enough points on his card for a free flight so we didn’t have to pay for anything. It was a totally free trip for me and a free trip for him.
Q: Fly Duos: I have two questions for couples thinking of getting married. What are the top two questions couples should ask themselves before getting married?
A: Budgetnista: I’m not sure if its really a question but more of sitting down and working out things like, what are your financial goals? That is critical! Are you and your spouse on the same page financially? Are you both in alignment together as far as what you want out of life? And you don’t have to be the same as far as how you spend, that’s a big misconception. For example me and my boyfriend don’t spend money the same, he’s definitely not as tight as I am spending wise but we both have the same long term goals. Before I would try and work with him as to how he was spending like most women do pretty much nagging him but said that’s not working, so I had to figure out “how do I get him on board?” But I came to the conclusion to find out what are his long term goals? So once we figured it out I helped him come up with a budget for all his expenses (ie retirement, daughters college fund, joint travel savings etc) that would be automatically drawn out of his account and whatever money was left over, he could do what he wants with. I figured I cant really say anything to him about spending if all of his responsibilities financially were taken care of. What do I care if he does something extra with his money. That was a great lesson that if you establish a goal and put systems in place to make sure those goals are accomplished let everything else go.
Q: Fly Duos: So going into marriage do you think couples should combine all of their money into one account, or is it a not one size fits all situation?
A: Budgetnista: Definitely not a one size fit all situation. Me and my boyfriend are actually talking about getting married this year and how I feel comfortable is we will probably have a joint checking account for bills and we both put in our money into the account, and I will probably be the one to pay the bills from that account. My parents do it this way. And also we have a joint savings account for whatever we are saving for, then we will have our own individual checking and savings accounts for our own personal goals. I won’t say that’s necessarily the best way but what’s best is what fits best for you as a couple. There’s no one way to do things its all what best works for you as a couple.
Q: Fly Duos: In your experience has there been a common problem regarding couples and money management?
A: Budgetnista: Definitely. I think not enough couples talk about it. It is an uncomfortable subject for many people and especially if it was an uncomfortable situation growing up in your home. I was fortunate in that my father was a CFO as well as an accountant and my mom was like a master negotiator and we would have family meetings about finances. Just like we would talk about me and my sisters homework, we would discuss finances. So as a kid I feel what your parents make normal is normal as you get older so we would include that in regular discussions so I find it easy to discuss in my household. For most people its not natural but you have to practice and work at it when your talking about finances with your partner. Try not to talk in a tense environment like over dinner, and try to include it in regular everyday conversations to break down that barrier. A lot of couples have a problem talking about money just because they didn’t grow up talking about money, but it doesn’t mean you can’t change that.
Q: Fly Duos: We had a discussion with friends recently about some kids only seeing their parents live check to check growing up. For those people who weren’t fortunate enough to be able to learn how to save money properly, or are not the Budgetnista, how could someone with that knowledge help out the couple that is unsure of how to do it?
A: Budgetnista: Honestly, the first thing you have to do is self educate yourself. You have to learn somehow! I would say starting with one of my favorite books, “The Richest Man In Babylon”, you can find a free pdf online by simply typing in the title of the book. It’s a quick easy book filled with 8 short stories, and the format its written in it’s a story so its not like you’re reading a money book, you’re reading a story book. But the premise of this book whether you are 19 or 99 that book was written so many years ago and it still holds true today. It’s the basic laws of money, so I would start with that book for sure. I read it for the first time when I was 18 and I read it every few years just to remind myself. Also you can take my financial challenge, its called the ‘Live Richer Challenge’, it’s free and that’s what its there for because I know it’s so many people overwhelmed with what to do or where to start. It’s basically a 22 day challenge and every day I inbox you exactly what to do each day and it’s stuff you can do within 24hrs and you don’t need to know any financial information. Also ask questions, if you know of a couple that can help you succeed at a business for example that they are doing that could possibly help you, have them mentor you. Mentorship is important and can help you gain insight from people going through the same things that you may be currently having issues with.
Q: Now going into Travel, what percentage of your income should be allocated to things such as travel or fun?
A: Budgetnista: It all depends on what your financial situation is. Obviously, couple’s that are financially in a good space tend to be able to put more away than a couple that doesn’t bring in as much. You don’t want to spend half of your total earnings on travel or fun if you don’t really have it. Personally I spend about 5% of my earnings on travel, but that is what works for me, your number might be different. And if you are in debt of any kind you should really focus on that opposed to trying to take trips or worry about spending on fun things or activities.
Q: Fly Duos: Going back to you saying your father would discuss money with the family, about what was left over after bills being paid and putting money into savings, how should you apply your left over money for trips/fun activities?
A: Budgetnista: With me being an entrepreneur, my money fluctuates so I have to focus on spending a percentage of my money as opposed to a dollar amount because I never know what my income is going to be. But if you have a regular job and you know what you will make and have left over each month, then you can make that a line item and allocate a specific amount to your travel/fun account each month. Make it a bill, so add it to your budget and pay on it as if it is a bill. So if glitch fares pop up or a great deal comes up you don’t have to worry about “do I have the money?”, because you allocate money to travel each month so you know you have it.
Q: Fly Duos: Now that brings me to a trip you say you booked on Groupon and you said at first you saw the deal for like $199 then you shopped around and it went up to $250. And I didn’t know that the websites track our movement and increase the prices of the tickets. And you mentioned something about searching in an “incognito” window in your browser options, can you tell us a little bit about that?
A: Budgetnista: Yes! A lot of people don’t realize that websites track our movement. For example, you go to Amazon and you look or something like a mechanical toothbrush, and all of the sudden you go to Facebook and you see an ad on the side of your screen for a mechanical toothbrush. You’re probably thinking, wow that’s a coincidence!? No! What’s happening is that Amazon has put a code on you so that when you’re moving from site to site they will keep advertising things that you’re interested in. Advertisers know that the more times you see things the more likely you are to buy. That’s why they show you commercials over and over again because they know sometimes you need to see something 10, 20 or 50 times before you make the decision to buy. Same thing with travel sites, they put that same code on you. Seeing that you’ve been to multiple sites looking for deals triggers that code if you are looking for deals around the same time so they know it’s not an if, its when you will buy. So the only way to avoid that is by going to Google Chrome and search in that incognito window, so it allows you to search from site to site without them putting that code on you. Or if you find a good price, keep that window open and open up another browser to continue your search.
Q: Fly Duos: Ok, I also read that you have traveled to 14 different countries in the last 2 for under $6k, can you tell us some of the tips and ways you were able to stay under budget?
A: Budgetnista: Sure. I might hit up 3 different countries in one trip. For example I went to Costa Rica to volunteer and because of that it was way cheaper. So while traveling to Costa Rica my friend that I was volunteering with said, “hey let’s go to Panama it’s only a $100 flight from Panama to Costa Rica.” So what we did was get off in Panama on our layover and spent 2-3 days there. Then we flew to Costa Rica and volunteered and spent our time there. So what you can do to maximize your trip is find a way to make your layover a mini vacation. If you’re going make a stop in a certain city you want to see anyway, why not stay a couple days? Like if you’re going to India you might end up having a stop in Paris, so why not stay in Paris a few days and make almost two vacations in one. Another way to stay under budget is doing things like Air BnB or hostels. More and more people are opening up to these types of stays to maximize their dollar. I know everyone wants to stay in 5 star hotels but you are going to pay 5 star prices so be more open to things such as hostels, especially if you are traveling alone. Hostels are a great way to meet people from all over the world and it gives you a feeling of not really traveling alone. I actually stayed at a hostel in San Francisco and met a jazz player from Berlin and became Facebook friends with her. She told me if I was ever to come out that way that I could stay with her so if I’m ever in Berlin I have a place to stay which is cool. So just be open to things like that. Do your research as well to see if the final destination of your trip has a layover in a city you want to go to and actually break up the flight. It is totally worth it if you have to spend a little extra money to purchase an additional flight from a nearby city or country.
Q: Fly Duos: That makes a lot of sense. Just a few more questions. For those that freelance, are digital nomads or just don’t have a traditional 9-5, what is the best way for them to save for retirement?
A: Budgetnista: The best way is to take a percentage, which should be at minimum 10%. I originally didn’t start off at 10%, I started off at zero. When you initially start a business you have no extra room for anything extra. Once you start to gain a little breathing room you can start to set aside 1% every month and continue to build after that to 5, 10 and even 20%, but get a financial advisor to help you put your money somewhere. If you are digital entrepreneur you really want to try and put aside 20%, because you don’t have the luxuries of putting money into things like retirement and social security etc like when you work for a company. I put 10% into retirement and 10% goes to investing and with the more you make the more you need to set aside.
Q: Fly Duo: In regards to putting money aside for investments can you tell us some good ways couples can invest their money? Are stocks and bonds still relevant as they once were, or what are some other ways couples can invest their money?
A: Budgetnista: Yes I feel stocks will always be relevant and good to invest in, even when they’re bad they’re good. For example if stocks crash that gives you an opportunity to buy low and once the market bounces back you are able to financially gain from it. But with everything new you need to first educate yourself. There is a book called ‘The Neatest Little Book of Stock Market Investments.’ There is a great Facebook group I’m a part of called Girls On The Money taught by this young woman by the name of Maribell that is a Financial Analyst, she’s got both her Bachelors and Masters degree in Economics and Finance. She will actually be teaching my stock market investment class in my monthly membership academy called the ‘Live Richer Academy.’ But stocks are not the only way to invest of course, you also can do Real Estate, or invest in yourself or your own business. Investing in yourself is great because it is all you. You don’t have to worry about what’s going on with your investment, you are you own sure thing. You know that if you put in the time and effort into yourself and your business you will make that money back no problem, that worked for me!
Thanks Tiffany for providing so many gems to us and our Fly Duos readers. We greatly appreciate your insight!