Fashion // June 16, 2014

As a personal stylist, clients often ask me what my budget is for updating my wardrobe. Honestly, not much. And I don’t shop for myself very often. Why? Because I have a closet full of clothes I love. I wear everything in my closet and am constantly clearing it out as I find pieces that have either lived a good life or just aren’t me anymore.

As you evolve as a person, so does your style. Your style is an outward reflection of your inner self. I usually buy pieces one at a time as I realize a need or a strong desire and I already have a few outfit ideas for the new piece. If you’re going on a shopping spree with a friend and impulsively buying new pieces, I guarantee you are wasting money on your wardrobe. How many items in your closet still have the price tags on? Why aren’t you wearing them? What is holding you back?

There are two possible scenarios:
1)    You were drawn to a piece for its color/print/style, but you just don’t know how to create an outfit around it. All you need are the right tools and an expert to guide you.
2)    You were forcing it to work because you were trying to fit a trend or a mold. It doesn’t fit quite right and/or the print/color are a bit off.

During a style session with a client, often some of my favorite finds and the most exciting new outfits are created with the pieces from scenario one. Figuring out what works is even more fun because it’s the first step for a client to evolve and define her style. She sees herself more clearly.
Now, how to stop wasting money on your wardrobe:

  • Assess The Situation. Ask yourself what do you have versus what is missing? This is the number one way U*styled helps clients – literally merchandising your closet so that it starts to feel like shopping in the best boutique each morning.
  • Create A Wardrobe you Love Action Plan (WYLAP). Create a list of items that would really maximize your wardrobe and allow for lots of fun mixing + matching. Prioritize that list. Identify designers and stores that will have great options for you in your price point.
  • Set A Budget. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself a monthly clothing allowance and start checking off your WYLAP list every month or every other month.
  • Stop Buying In Bulk. Aim for 3-5 new items with each shopping trip. Even with Boutique Box, we are mindful of the client’s budget and needs. To maximize value, we’ll go up to eight items or so, but that is with expert help. Pace yourself. You have a lifetime to build a wardrobe you love.

Have you already created a WYLAP? I would love to know what is next on your shopping list! Leave me a comment below.

Published in Fashion
Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:30

Travel | Chic Travel on a Budget

Lifestyle // February 23, 2014

So, you want to plan a trip with friends and family but no one in your entourage is ‘rolling’ yet? If you add up the cost of flights, resort fees, food, activities, and rental cars, trips can get pretty costly.  Oh, and then there are all these destination weddings you are getting invited to this year… I mean come on. The invitation is flattering but, when you get down to it, you have to figure out where you’re going to get $1,000 of disposable income.  If you wait until you’ve stacked up cash, you may never get to spend a fun, relaxing weekend with loved ones. Life is made up of a series of wonderful moments - here are tips to plan a memorable getaway without breaking the aqua bank.

1. Pick a vacation destination central to the majority of your party. Consider where your friends and family are coming from. If you’re lucky, they’re all in the same general area, so picking somewhere convenient to travel to together will be easy. But if you’re like me, they’ll all be spread out. In this case, try selecting a location convenient for the most folks, or for those whose budgets are less flexible. It’s the nice thing to do…

2. Pack light! With the exorbitant fees for checked baggage these days, you can save yourself upwards of $100 by only taking a carry-on. If you are going away for just a weekend you should be able to pull this off… Just say no to that third pair of stilettos!  

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3. Keep an eye on flash deals! One of the keys to cheap and chic travel will be to remain flexible. You never know when deals will become available. I have found fantastic opportunities via resources like Gilt City, Jetsetter, Groupon, Travelzoo and Vacationist. The one caveat is, you have to be ready to pull the trigger. So, if you want to welcome adventure, flash deals could be the right move!

4. Take advantage of the off-season. Some of my best vacations have been during the off-season. Prices are way more reasonable and there are crazy deals. No snow on the slopes? Try Lake Tahoe. A little warmer than usual, check out Miami. This past Fourth of July, some friends and I visited Palm Springs. Sure, it was 107 degrees at its peak, but we spent the majority of the time in the pool or inside our wonderfully air-conditioned house, which brings me to suggestion #5…

5. Find home and vacation rentals. I wanted to get a big group of friends and family together for the 4th of July. We were all on a budget, so it was important that this be a quick, cheap, and easy getaway. Given that we had eight people, I searched for home rentals via:,, Eight people contributing to the rental widened our net. Suddenly, we were able to afford a three bedroom three bathroom house, with a pool and gourmet kitchen (see picture above). I was really nervous about renting through a website. I worried that someone might run away with my money, or that the home wouldn’t be as advertised.* Fortunately, it turned out better than expected! Having a kitchen allowed us to cook for ourselves and save money on dining out. In preparation, I planned out our meals for the two-day stay and got just the right amount of supplies from Costco and Whole Foods. Once there, we happily chilled at the house, swimming, cooking, drinking, talking, and playing games. Our two-day Palm Springs vacay worked out to under $140 per person!

*TIP: Read reviews and customer advice before purchasing. Obviously, the more positive reviews the better, but don’t just look at the number of stars, be sure to read the text. Other vacationers will help you determine if the house will fit your vacation needs.

If you’re jonesing for time away with friends, try something a little non-traditional. Even if it doesn’t turn out like one of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s fabulous vacations, at least it will be an adventure.

Published in Travel
Sunday, 22 September 2013 21:18

Business I Start-Up Spotlight: SmarterBucks

Business // September 23, 2013 

Debt. It just doesn’t seem to go away. Whether we’ve racked up credit card bills during the summer wedding season or had to give in and get a new car, many of us have some form of debt to our name. More than likely, however, most of us have debt in the form of the good ol’ student loan. According to American Student Assistance, today in the U.S. there is approximately $902 billion to $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

Fortunately there are programs out there that help students and recent graduates pay off their loans more quickly and efficiently. One such program is SmarterBucks – a website dedicated to helping reduce student loan debt (and don’t worry, it’s legit. SmarterBucks is an FDIC member).

A website that promises to help pay off student loans faster? Sign me up! As a woman who is more-than-eager to pay off her grad school loan, I eagerlyaccepted the invitation to check out SmarterBucks and explore how the service could help me out. After all, that hefty monthly payment would be much more useful in my savings account, or for charity, or …perhaps the occasional extra pair of shoes.

The Gist

Through using a special debit card issued by SmarterBanks or simply making purchases through preferred vendors, SmarterBucks will give users up to 10% back in rewards to help pay down student loans. Users can also invite family and friends to contribute to their account.

SmarterBucks offers great tips and resources for debt management, as well as exclusive discounts and deals for users.

The User Experience

Signing up for the SmarterBucks account and inputting all of your information is easy. In order to actually pay down a loan, users will have to link their SmarterBucks account to their student loan account so that SmarterBucks can track it. The site seems really secure, so this shouldn’t be a concern.

The actual process of earning rewards and paying debt down has been a bit of a challenge for me thus far. Since I don’t necessarily need to make purchases from vendors within the SmarterBucks marketplace, I have yet to actually earn any rewards to go toward my loans. Still, for the diligent buyer who is determined to pay off her loans, the process is simple and each dollar will add up quickly.

My advice is to sign up for the SmarterBank debit card. This is the fastest way to make qualifying purchases that will help erase that debt. It works like any rewards Visa where you earn points or cash back for everyday purchases, except you get SmarterBucks back instead – and those go toward your designated student loan. It’s a win-win!

If you have student loans to pay off, you should definitely give SmarterBucks a test drive to see if it will work for you. Every dollar toward those loans helps, and soon (okay, maybe a few years from now) the debt will disappear.

Published in Entrepreneurship

May 21, 2012 

So you just graduated! Yay! You have your cap and gown...and a mountain of student loan debt!! Wait. OK, so there is more to this whole graduating thing than you expected. But you can simplify your loans and pay them off more rapidly. Here’s how: 

  1. Consolidate your loans for simplicity – You may not get a lower interest rate but you will get the convenience of having just one payment to make. Cutting down on managing multiple accounts makes it easier to avoid late fees and keep up with due dates. For more information check out
  2. Check to see if you qualify for the Obama Special Direct consolidation program – This new program started in January 2012 and is available through June 2012. If you qualify, you can consolidate your loans and get a 0.25% reduction in interest rate. You can become eligible for another 0.25% interest rate reduction if the loan is repaid through an automatic debit system. For more information on the program and to see if your loans qualify visit this site.
  3. Make additional payments – By making additional debt payments every month you may be able to pay off your student loan a lot faster.  For example, if your student loan balance is $10,000 with an interest rate of 6.8% and minimum payment of $115 per month, it will take you 10 years to pay off the loan.  If you add another $100 to your monthly payment for a total of $215 per month it will take 4.6 years to pay off the loan.  Also, by paying $215.00 per month instead of the calculated payment of $115.08, you save $2,169.12 in interest charges.
  4. Get someone else to pay – I like this one. There a lot of occupations now offering to pay off your student loans as a recruiting tool. Programs such as AmeriCorps or Teach for America also offer grants to help you pay off your loans. Teaching in a low-income school may also qualify you for loan forgiveness.
  5. And don't forget: If you meet income requirements, you can deduct up to $2,500 per year in interest on any loans used for higher education.

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When dealing with debt, the best thing you can do is educate yourself about your options. Do your research and then work on paying your student loans down step by step. Soon you’ll be able to pay them off and focus on the bright future ahead of you. 

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Published in Personal Finance

May 7, 2012

You have worked hard to establish a great career--no small feat during an economic recession--and now you are ready to put your money to work for you. But where to begin? Should you hire a financial broker, or become an independent investor? Play it safe with bonds, or play the stock market?  Before you resort to stuffing cash under a mattress, take these five steps toward investing…straight to the bank. 

1. Get Financially Literate. Some investment terms you should know include:

Stock/ Equities - If you own a stock, you own part of the company. A stock is evidenced by a paper certificate.

Securities - Includes stocks, bonds, and bank deposits. 

Bond - A bond is a debt investment in which an investor loans money to a corporate or government entity that borrows the money for a defined period of time at a fixed interest rate. The main categories of bonds are corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and U.S. Treasury bonds.

Market Capitalization - Also known as “market cap.” It is calculated by multiplying the current price per share of a stock with the number of shares outstanding.

Mutual Fund - An investment company that combines the money from a large group of investors to buy stocks and other investments.

Dividends - A portion of a company's profits that is paid out to shareholders on a quarterly or annual basis. 

These are the most commonly used terms in investment and knowing what they mean will help you understand stock roundups in The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and Dow Jones. When I first tried to calculate a company’s market cap it took me two hours, simply because I didn’t know what it meant. Now that I know the lingo, I can look at an analyst report and easily follow the progress of a stock. I’m no expert, but I know enough to play the game. 

Photobucket  Photobucket  Photobucket

After brushing up on your fiscal vocabulary, read Lois P. Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make with Money.  I love the advice she offers women about diving into investment and not waiting on “Prince Charming” to take care of their finances. Use the workbooks and self-evaluations in the book to establish and monitor your progress toward financial goals. 

Another great read is Douglas R. Andrew’s Millionaire by Thirty: The Quickest Path to Early Financial Independence. Andrew claims that young professionals can achieve financial independence at an early age by investing. He suggests alternatives to the traditional 401k to make the dream of early retirement a reality.

The Richest Man in Babylon uses parables and layman terms to deliver investment basics and emphasize the importance of growing your money. My dad gave it to me when I was only seven and I often revisit the principals outlined in this book. The common sense advice helps keep me in check when I’m tempted to splurge during a sale at H&M.

Also, get in the habit of scanning Investors Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Finance for the latest news and market trends.

2. Do Your Research. Before you invest in anything, do your homework. Publicly traded companies want your money, so they make it easy to find pertinent information. Check out their websites to find earnings reports, mergers and acquisitions news and stock quotes. Knowing everything you can about a potential investment is crucial to making a wise decision. Supplement your research with facts from Hoover's Company Profiles. This is an invaluable web resource that offers additional material about company management and executive profiles. 

3. Stay Connected. Once you have done your research and decided which companies you want to invest in, it is smart to stay in touch with an online financial community. Social media is a great tool for networking with investment pros and getting the inside scoop on smart buys. Try Stocktwit, a social networking platform where you can “share ideas and learn from passionate investors and traders.”

4. Don’t Invest What You Should be Saving. Investments should be a part of your overall financial strategy; however, it is important to establish good saving habits first. Create an emergency fund, open a retirement savings account and pay off outstanding credit card debt before playing the stock market. Pay yourself first and you should have extra money to invest in no time. 

5. Diversify Your Portfolio. Once you have savings and understand your investment options, it is important not to place all your eggs in one basket. Diversification is the practice of spreading money among different investments to reduce risk. A well balanced portfolio of investments is more likely to withstand fluctuations in the volatile financial market. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers great advice on steps you can take to diversify your investments for maximum returns. 

Investing is key to financial independence. You want the freedom to travel, buy a home or retire early, but savings alone won’t get you there. The average annual percentage gain for a high-yield savings account is one percent. Compare this to the average 10 percent earned on stocks. When you save, your money doesn’t work for you and you will only have as much money as you set aside from your salary. When you invest, your money grows by earning interest. So, determine your financial goals, study up and take your first steps toward a wealthy future.

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 23 April 2012 09:10

Are You Covered? Insurance Review

April 23, 2012 

Insurance is used as a way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the things we own against unexpected events that happen in life.  It would be lovely if you could set it up and forget about it, but as you work on building your financial foundation, your insurance coverage just becomes another area that you should review on a regular basis.  

While there are many types of insurances you may need as you progress through different life stages, here are a few you need to know about now: 

1. Disability Insurance

Simply stated, disability insurance protects your income.  According to the Social Security Administration, just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67!1 And 67% of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance.  Most people think of disability insurance as a waste of money because they think nothing bad will happen to them to keep them out of work but the reality is…it happens. You go skiing and break your leg or (God forbid) you get seriously sick. What happens then? 

As you move toward financial independence it is crucial that you protect one of your most significant financial assets: YOU! Your ability to earn an income is what funds your life and allows you to save for your goals.  Without it, you may lose everything you have worked so hard to build and save. Disability insurance is what pays you an income if you become too sick or injured to go to work.  In general, disability insurance policies usually replace about 60 percent of your annual earnings for a specific period of time (2 years, 5 years, to age 65).  If you are lucky, you may have an employer that offers a group disability insurance coverage as a benefit.  If not, you should look into individual disability insurance, which on average should cost between 1 and 3 percent of your annual income.

2. Life Insurance

My motto: If you love someone or owe someone, you need life insurance.  Why?  Because your debts don’t die when you do and you’re going to want to make sure your loved ones are taken care of financially should something happen to you.  It makes sense to review your life insurance needs on a regular basis to ensure that you are adequately covered for your current financial situation and goals you’re saving for.  Usually you will want to get enough in life insurance to leave your family with enough money to cover the bills and replace your income if you were no longer here.  If you have kids or other dependents, life insurance will provide your survivors with an income stream or lump sum to replace your income.  

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Parents who stay home and care for the children also need life insurance.  If something happens to you, who is going to stay home and take care of the kids?  Your surviving spouse can stop working to care for the kids or hire childcare.  Both require money.  Since there are many types of life insurance out there, it is wise to do your homework and understand the basics of the different types of life insurance.   For more information on the different types of life insurance, check out this article on Investopedia, Intro to Insurance: Types of Life Insurance.2

3. Long term care insurance

In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it's almost 20 years.1   With life expectancies rising, more and more people will find themselves needing some sort of long term care.  Long term care insurance provides assistance to people who are in need of either in-home care or a long term care facility. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home facility in California for 2011 is about $91,250 per year!3 With the costs of long term care increasing at about 7% annually, you can see why individuals of all ages are starting to heavily consider this type of insurance.  Keep in mind that while some think Medicare covers long term care costs, Medicare only pays a portion of the first 100 in a skilled nursing home, the rest is paid by you.  For more information on Medicare, visit their website at If you have parents who are in their 50s and 60s, you may want to look into long-term care insurance with them. If they need care later in life, you may be the one who has to care for them.  This is an emotional, physical and financial responsibility.

Financially Wise Women Quick Tip:

Here are some quick tips to help you get some of your insurance needs in shape:

1. Review your insurance coverage today.  Protection planning is a key part of your financial plan, as you want to protect yourself against unexpected events.  Buying insurance helps shift some of the risk to an insurance company and helps protect your financial foundation.

2. Make sure to take advantage of the insurances offered through your employer.  These are usually easier to qualify for and cheaper to you since the policies underwrite a large group of people, helping the insurance company minimize its risk and therefore keep the cost down.

3. Make sure you understand the types of insurance policies you currently have and what your insurance needs are.  Work with an insurance professional to identify any gaps in your insurance policies.

4. Review your insurance policies regularly. just like any financial strategy, you’ll want to make sure you review on a regular basis and make any necessary changes or amendments to your coverage as you progress through life stages.

For further information I invite you to check out my blog or email directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Sources and Links:

  1. Social Security Administration-Basic Fact Sheet- May 17, 2011
Published in Business

April 9, 2012

We all see them. The graphic images on Pinterest and Facebook like this one. Food porn. They lure you in and trick you into thinking you really can squeeze a gourmet lunch or breakfast everyday into your budget. But when was the last time you actually calculated the cost of your breakfast?  I calculated the cost of mine the other day just out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised that it was only a whopping $1.96 every day!

Breakfast Breakdown 

  • Bananas- I buy a bunch of bananas every week and usually can get 6 for $1.29, 1 banana = $.215
  • Oatmeal- I eat two individual packets of regular oatmeal, 6 packets to a box, box cost $2.50, 2.50/6= $.42 x 2 packets= $.84
  • Coffee- I buy Starbucks coffee and I brew it at home- One pound cost $9.95 and can last me 14 days = $.71 per day
  • Soymilk- I buy a carton that last about 10 days- one carton cost $1.99= $.199 per day

Grand total= $1.96

Not too bad right?  Great way to start the morning and not bad on my wallet either.

Now if you know me, you will know I am a creature of habit when it comes to food and don’t mind eating the same thing every day.  My breakfast is the same every morning; oatmeal, a banana, and coffee with soy milk. As routine as this may sound, I plan my meals like this mainly because I want to eat something healthy and filling in the morning. Because I stay so busy, I also appreciate not having to think about what to eat every morning– which saves me lots of time and money.

Get Control

When working with clients on their cash flow, I usually see their food costs as the expenses that can really get out of control.  They save and skimp in other areas but often times dining out is the one place where money falls through the cracks.  A lunch here, a dinner there, drinks here… and there– all of these things really add up. Planning ahead and prepping your meals for the week can ultimately become a more cost efficient route. Think of it as portion control for your finances.

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Iron Lady Chef 

As tempting as it may be to call up your girl friends for a fancy dinner out, a good way to keep your food costs in control is simply by eating at home. I try to go grocery shopping every weekend to stock up for the week ahead.  Yes, there are occasions where I do eat out during the week (i.e. business meetings, client meetings/events or to celebrate a special occasion), but for the most part I usually eat my prepared, planned out meals and it frees up some time and spending cash.  Get a jump on breakfast this week and cook a batch of these. Your tastes buds and your wallet will thank you. 

One Bite At A Time 

Another tip (one I learned from my parents), is to save money by not buying drinks while eating out. Think about it. You’ll end up drinking more water, saving cash, and possibly losing a few pounds by cutting back on sodas. I still follow this same philosophy today.  If you have to have your diet Coke with dinner maybe skip the appetizers and/or dessert. Life without dessert may seem extreme, but deciding ahead of time what to cut will help you stay in control.

Now, I know what you may be thinking.  Going out to eat is part of what you enjoy most and part of your social life too.  I completely understand this. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I still see my friends, family, attend networking events and go out for social gatherings all the time and usually do all while sticking to my food budget.  Instead of business lunch meetings, I opt for coffee meetings (saves time and money). Instead of always going out to eat with friends, we opt for potlucks at someone’s house.  We love this idea because everyone can bring their favorite signature dish to share, which is usually a great conversation starter and a less expensive route too.

If you just simply enjoy going out to eat and don’t want to give it up– don’t.  Instead, make sure you adjust your spending plan accordingly to ensure you are still in control of your food costs. Remember, financial planning is not about cutting the fun out of your life.  Rather, it is simply planning how you want to use your money to support your current lifestyle, while being able to save for your future one.

For further information I invite you to check out my blog or email directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 26 March 2012 01:11

Women's History Month | Women & Money

March 26, 2012 

You go to work, spend your money how you see fit, and live your life each day never thinking about how all that came to be. Not so long ago, women in this country couldn’t enjoy the financial freedom we take for granted today. The story of women and money is an interesting one and it is only when you take a look at the big picture that you can begin to appreciate how far we’ve come. In honor of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some cool facts about women both to celebrate our successes thus far and make sure we continue to work on our own financial future.

  1. As of 2010, women control 60% of the wealth in America.1
  2. Over 40% of Americans with assets of over $600,000 are women.2
  3. Women are earning over $1 trillion dollars in wages and salaries, however women still earn on average $.78 of each dollar earned by a man.3
  4. Women account for over 50% of the workforce and hold about half of the management positions in corporate America.3
  5. Women make 83% of the household purchasing decisions.4
  6. 48% of women versus 38% of men do not feel confident about investing.5
  7. Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of their male counterparts.4
  8. Over 10 million businesses are owned by women.6  1.9 million firms are majority-owned (51% or more) by women of color in the U.S. These firms employ 1.2 million people and generate $165 billion in revenues annually.
  9. Women live on average 7 years longer than men and need 20% more for retirement.8
  10. At some point in their lives, 90%  of women in the U.S. will be managing money on their own because they’ve been divorced or widowed or have never married.9

We spend, save, and earn money differently than men. Looking at these facts makes it clear that we need financial plans tailored to us and our habits. For more information on how to do this visit my website, Happy Women’s History month!

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


  1. “The Guru of Retirement,” Wealth Manager, February 2007. 
  2.  Fara, Warner, The Power of the Purse: How smart businesses are adapting to the world’s most important consumer-Women, Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006.
  3. U.S Census Bureau, Facts for features: Women’s History Month, January 2, 2008. 
  4. Passi, Delia, Winning the Toughest Customer, The Essential Guide to Selling to Women, p.XXIV, Kaplan Publishing, 2006. 
  5. Study by FINRA. 
  7. National Foundation of Women Business Owners. 
  8.  U.S. Department of Labor, Women and Retirement Savings, December 2007. 
  9. Bodnar, Janet, Money Smart Women, Kaplan Publishing, 2006.

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 27 February 2012 08:03

Business | When Someone Owes You Money

February 27, 2012 

Relationships can be hard enough to manage without the added stress of the almighty dollar. So, what do you do when someone you care about owes you money? Siblings drift apart, best friends become enemies and working relationships become hostile if borrowing money isn’t handled properly. Here we examine three ways to talk to your friends, family, and even coworkers about cash in a respectful way. 

Scenario: Your Little Sister Becomes a Big Freeloader

Most of us have either lent or borrowed money from a family member before. It’s natural to want to help those who are closest to us, but when does loaning money go from being helpful to harmful to your relationship? For example, there’s nothing wrong with loaning your little sister who’s in college some cash to buy books for next semester. But what happens when she’s hitting you up when she wants a new dress for homecoming, a plane ticket for spring break, or for you to pay her phone bill? 

How to deal: 

In situations like this, loaning out money is actually harmful…to your sister. Instead of learning to manage her funds wisely--which is part of becoming a responsible adult--little sis’ is being careless with her money and expecting you to foot the bill. It’s best to have a frank conversation that goes something like, “I love you and I don’t mind helping you with the occasional school expense. However, I want you to be independent and learn how to manage your money responsibly. Why don’t we sit down next week and create a budget that works for you?” 

This lets her know that you care about her and want to help, but that you are drawing boundaries in your relationship. She’ll thank you for it in the long run and you eliminate an unhealthy pattern of co-dependence that can lead to resentment in the future. 

Scenario: Your B.F.F. thinks you are a B.A.N.K.

It’s easy to lose track of money with friends in a social setting. Spotting someone at the movies and picking up the tab at dinner are part of reciprocally altruistic relationships. But what happens when you always pay for dinner, buy the concert tickets, and loan cash without ever being paid back? How do you approach the situation without coming off as a penny pinching miser? 

How to deal: 

I’ve found one of the best ways to deal with this situation is to establish boundaries in a fun way. One option is to take turns treating each other when you go out. That way there’s no awkward conversation about who owes who money. So the next time your mooching friend asks you to pick up the tab, try saying, “Sure. This one’s on me. Next time, it’s your treat.” If you keep it light and smile, you’ll establish a boundary without embarrassing your friend, who might not even realize she’s taking you for granted. 

Scenario: Mixing Business with Money

The same approach can also work well in a professional situation as well. However, it’s best to avoid borrowing and lending cash to co-workers altogether. You don’t want to go from being best buddies with Becky in accounting to thinking, “B*&%! better have my money!” every time you pass her desk. If you can’t afford to give it without them paying you back, then you really can’t afford to help.       

“Bank of You” User Agreement

When someone hits you up for some cash, it’s best to talk about it, set boundaries, and avoid large sums. My experience has taught me that it’s best to avoid lending money altogether, but if you must here are a few tips I recommend to keep your relationship intact:

1.  Make sure you can afford it! If you can give the loan from extra money you have saved up, that would be best. The last thing you want to do is go into debt trying to help someone else.

2.  Evaluate the relationship. Make sure that you—and your relationship with this person—will be just fine if you are never repaid one penny. 

3.  Make it legal. For only $8, you can download a promissory note from and have your friend or relative agree to sign a simple loan document. It should detail the amount borrowed, when repayment will start, and the interest you will be paid. 

True friends will understand and respect your financial boundaries. If not, then they probably are not great friends to begin with. #LoanDenied 

Published in Business
Friday, 03 February 2012 17:47

Day 3: Personal Finance For A Better Future

February 3, 2012

Have you been struggling with your finances lately? Come on, be honest… Are you ready to make a change in your personal financial situation in 2012? Well, the good news is you are not alone. If you are like most people, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your finances in order and finally take control of your financial life.  And we applaud you. As a woman, it is really important that you start becoming more focused on your personal finances to help you plan for a more secure financial future. Here are some tips to help you manage your personal finances in the New Year:

1. Understand some basic financial planning principles

As tedious as it may sound, much of financial planning is staying disciplined and practicing the same financial habits over and over: spending less than you earn, saving for the future, paying off your credit cards each month, etc. Straightforward stuff. And while we know it usually comes down to remembering the basics, most of us still get so overwhelmed with all that we want to achieve financially that we often end up doing nothing at all toward achieving our goals. Call it “sticking-your-head-in-sand syndrome.” The important thing to remember is that these basic financial planning principles actually do work over time and the best thing you can do to ensure your future success is understand them and follow them throughout your financial life.

2. Visualize where you want to be financially on December 31, 2012

Let’s get down to business. Start by listing out all areas of your financial life, including your income, savings, debt, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc. Then write down where you currently stand within each of these areas and where you would like stand by the end of 2012. (It will be here before you know it.) Be as specific as possible and aim for realistic yet high goals. For example, let’s say you currently have $5,000 in savings and want to have $10,000 in savings by December 31, 2012. This means you have to save $600 per month. After reviewing your cash flow you decide that this is a doable goal, but it will require a game plan to ensure you are saving the amount needed every month. You can do it! 

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3. Create a Game Plan

Once you map out where you would like to be financially by December 31, 2012, develop a specific game plan to help you get there. In the example above, if you know you need to save $600 a month, setting up an automatic contribution to your savings account every month is a good idea. If this requires you to cut back on shopping or going out to eat, make sure you calculate how much money you can actually spend in these areas without jeopardizing your goal. 

4. Just Do It

Seems basic enough, yet many women get so overwhelmed by their finances that they end up disregarding the game plan they set out for themselves.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Maybe this means scheduling an hour a week to make sure you are on track. Just take action on the game plan and start working toward your financial goals.  Whatever the action is, any action is better than none.

5. Check back in on your goals every month

As you work toward the December 31, 2012 vision you have for yourself financially, remember to check back in on your game plan every month to track your progress toward your goals. This will help you stay motivated and adjust the game plan as needed. Going back to the example above, if one month you are unable to save the $600, you need to decide on a new game plan to get back on track toward the goal. Tracking your goals may not be that fun or sexy but it is a necessary step in helping you reach them.
Remember, no one is in charge of your financial future other than you, so take the time to understand and manage your personal finances to help you plan for a better financial future! 

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Personal Finance
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