Sunday Stories: NYC Vintage Shopping, Millennials Avoiding Credit Cards, and the Most Productive Hour of the Day

This weekend, I am back-in-the-air to do my final four back-to-school segments of the year (I am 35,000 feet over North Carolina as I write this).  That means lots of airport and airplane hours to read newspapers and the dozens of magazines devouring my iPad storage. 

A few highlights from the week - and none of them has anything to do with the presidential election (you're welcome).

  • How we feel about money is actually a reflection of our values, so financial planners and counselors use some non-traditional questions to get their clients talking.
  • A new study reveals that for many executives, 4 a.m. is the most productive hour of the day.  I am not one of those rare people who exists on four hours of sleep - I am best with six-and-a-half to seven hours.  But as a lifelong early riser, I totally relate to this.  Just don't call me after 9 p.m.

Have a lovely week!





5 Financial Tips for Starting a Business

Thinking about starting your own business?  While you may be passionate about starting your own gig as a writer, designer, baker or photographer - or you're a new grad who is freelancing while looking for that first job - the financial aspects are just as important as the work itself.  If you're considering going out on your own, here a few tips to help get your financial house in order.

Photo from  Career Girl Daily

#1 - Get Out of Debt

Without debt, you can pour your creative energy into building the business, rather than dealing with the stress of how you will make payments each month.  Paying off credit card debt and building savings (see number three) gave me the freedom to leave a salaried job and strike out on my own.

#2 - Don't Borrow Money

Just say no to people who tell you that you need to borrow money or find investors.  When I started my company more than 10 years ago, I bought a new computer and a comfy desk chair - and paid for it out of my cash flow.  I know a 19-year-old who saved up the cash to buy her own small-town barber shop.  It can be done.

#3 - Build Up Savings

Sock away at least six months of living and business expenses - even more if it will take longer for your business to generate sufficient revenue and cash flow.  If you can start your business while you still have another job - an option I did not have - even better.  Just don't quit until you are earning enough to make it.

#4 - Remember: It's a Business

Graphic design or blogging may be your passion, but being a business owner means you constantly have to tend to financial matters (marketing, invoicing, taxes, etc.).  Get organized immediately, and make this a regular part of your work flow.  You may even discover that, like me, you get just as excited about the financial side of things as you do the creative projects. 

#5 - Get Help

You may need to consult with an accountant and attorney to set things up correctly. Don't skimp on this area.  Dotting the i's and crossing the t's from the beginning will lay a solid foundation for success.

If you own your business, what financial tips would you offer?

Friday Favorites: Home Offices, Nutella Brownies and NYC Etiquette

A round-up of some of my favorite posts and articles from the last week!

Love this cheerful home office from A Beautiful Mess.  Most "home office" makeovers simply show a sleek desk with a laptop and vase of flowers, but happily, this office looks like someone actually works there.

Photo by Janae Hardy and Emma Chapman for A Beautiful Mess

Haven't tried this yet, but this 2-Ingredient Nutella brownie recipe from The Kitchn is totally going to be my next baking experiment.

When it comes to updating your spring wardrobe, these tips for smarter shopping from Cupcakes and Cashmere are spot-on.  Because sometimes, smart shopping means not buying anything at all.

This article from A Cup of Jo is actually two years old - but the messages about New York City etiquette are timeless and hilarious!

Illustration by Nathan W. Pyle, "NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette"

Have a lovely weekend!

6 Money Tips for New Grads

April arrives this Friday - which means college graduations are not far behind.

Whether you're a recent grad, doing a summer internship, getting that diploma this spring or starting a freelance business - now is the time to start laying a foundation for your financial future.  It doesn't have to be complicated. These six basic tips will help get your new life off to a solid financial start:

Photo by iodrakon/iStock / Getty Images

#1 - Live Below Your Means

That means you will have a roommate - or two or three or more.  My first post-graduation job was answering constituent mail for a congressman in Washington, DC.  I initially shared a house with four roommates - there is no way I could have afforded my own place in such a high-rent city.

#2 - Start Saving Now

Don’t wait until you "make enough money" to start saving. Not only will saving quickly become habit, but you need a small stash of cash (financial peace guru Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a $1,000 emergency fund), so you won't reach for the plastic in emergencies. 

#3 - Pay Off Debt

Get rid of it like it is the plague - it is just as infectious.  Have student loans?  Knock those out as fast as possible.  Still paying off credit card debt from your sophomore year?  You can't get ahead financially when you're paying for things from long ago.

#4 - Avoid New Debt

I graduated from college with no debt.  But then I started using credit cards to go out with friends, buy stuff for my apartment and fill my closet with clothes that I really couldn't afford. Debt kept me from saving as early as I should have - and it took several years to pay off once I finally realized it was holding me back from pursuing new career opportunities.

#5 - Pay With Cash, Not Plastic

Studies show that you spend up to 30 percent more when you pay with plastic or with a smartphone app.  Dropping $4 for a coffee doesn't sound like much when you scan your phone - but if you only have $10 in your purse, it feels like a much bigger bite.

#6 - Don't Try to "Keep Up With the Parents"

It took your parents 20 years or more to reach the standard of living they enjoy today.  Unless your starting salary is higher than most, it will take you awhile to get there.

What are you doing to prepare financially for life after graduation?  If you've been out of school for awhile, what advice worked for you?