7/16/18

Reader Success Story: How Becca saved $1,000 In $5 Bills!

7/16/2018
Almost exactly a year ago, Christian published Unconventional Ways to Save Money to help combat the mental toll that working to save serious cash can take. One of Christian's tips was to pick a bill to save every time you get your hands on one. This tip along with a boatload of willpower and determination ignited Becca Mutchler onto a journey toward financial success.



Becca told me shortly after she read the post that she would begin saving all of her $5 bills. This may be a modest undertaking for some people who don't often handle cash, but I knew immediately this would make a serious impact on Becca's life if she were able to stick to it.

This Took Serious Dedication!

Depending on your line of work, you may not come into contact with a whole lot of cash on a daily basis. But Becca is a cosmetologist (an outstanding one at that -- the only time my hair looks bad is because I'm too lazy to call regularly), so a solid proportion of her income comes in the form of cash tips.

Becca started grinding away last July which wasn't exactly easy at first. Becca didn't have a full schedule when she started working at Kennedy Layne Salon (the subject of our first Entrepreneurship Conversation), so saving every $5 she received amounted to quite a large percentage of her income.

"My initial goal was just to see if I could make it a year with saving all of my five dollar bills. I thought if people on Twitter and Instagram could do it, why couldn't I? At the end though my goal was just $1,000. When I averaged out my first few months and did the math to see about how much I would make in one year, I came short of $1,000. I then decided that I wanted to try to reach $1,000 in one year."

Becca was tempted to quite several times, but she kept herself focused by introducing accountability into her system through conversations with friends and family. She also surrounded herself with positive influence by keeping up to date on the Smart Money Seed content!

(Becca has no reason to kiss ass to 3 washed up money nerds with that comment, so I actually believe we were somewhat of an influence for her.)

As Becca started building her clientele and income, saving the $5s wasn't such a big deal. Becca mentioned, "It got easier once I started gaining more clients at the salon. It sounds crazy, but then I started receiving more cash tips and more fives, but also other amounts, so throwing a five dollar bill to the side didn't seem that bad."

Becca even saved her $5 bills as she received them as change from her purchases with just one slight exception. "It got hard when I had a lot of cash though. For example, I put money aside for Cole and I's vacation. When we left I had a set amount of cash to use for it, but once I started using it, it seemed like half of what I spent I was getting back in fives. SO I actually stopped saving them on vacation because I thought I would be broke in two days if I continued to put them away."


That is an outstanding example of being reasonable and adaptable with your financial goals. Personal finance isn't necessary always about setting rigid rules about your spending. Sometimes it's okay to lighten up for a minute as long as you're able to keep your eye on the ultimate prize -- which is exactly what Becca did!

Are You Considering A Major Savings Goal? Follow In Becca's Footsteps!

If you're thinking about attempting a savings goal, Becca has some advice for you.

"Just don't give up. I remember when I was first saving, and I only had $30 in fives, and how I wanted to spend it so badly because it was so easy to spend. Once I got past $100 it was easier and became kind of a game."

"I would also say let other people know you're doing it. I loved telling people about it and sharing my wild journey with them. It was fun because I would have some family members that would pay for something with a five so they knew it would be saved. I also had some guests at the salon tip me with a five so they could kind of contribute to my goal. It also kept me accountable, and it was fun sharing my progress."

Becca doesn't exactly have an end goal in mind for her money, but she's continuing to save her fives sporadically. And she's grateful for the lessons she's learned along the way.

"I am not totally sure what I am going to do with the money I saved. Doing this definitely helped me realize it's easy to save, and you don't have to put aside a lot at one time.

If you're interested in following along for updates on her savings journey, cosmetology, or life in general, check out her Instagram!

7/12/18

Why I Started An Internet Business & You Should Too!

7/12/2018

This post is brought to you by Josh at Money Life Wax. Thanks for the awesome content, Josh!

When I was 28 it hit me like a ton of bricks - I was pretty much at the pinnacle of my career as far as growth went. 

At 27, I was hired as an Assistant Athletic Director - the youngest in my 10,000+ employee school district. My life long goal of being an AD had finally been reached - just five years into my career. 

I actually really enjoyed my career as an assistant athletic director. Really, the next step was just a pay raise and a title change by losing the word assistant. However, I just felt something pulling me. 

My wife had quite the student loan balance and working an average of 50 hours a week for the next 30+ years just wasn’t appealing. 

And so one day I emailed my old school and asked to become a teacher again. I decided on a whim that I wanted to focus on some entrepreneurial activities outside of work and teaching would allow me the flexibility to do so. 

Like that, one step away from my lifelong goal, I decided to walk away… and I don’t ever plan on looking back!

Go For It!

If you want to read about how I started a personal finance blog with the most random name ever you can read about it here

Money Life Wax is actually not that random, but if you know me, it fits perfectly. I am one of the most impulsive people you might ever come across. 

In the entrepreneurial world it can be an asset and a liability at the same time. I will do just about anything to make money, mostly out of sheer curiosity. 

From painting shutters, mowing grass, selling stuff, hustlin t-shirts, you name it - I have always had that entrepreneurial personality. 

I am the type of person that changes what they do every two years - just like most millennials. However, all my chore type side hustles are, just that … side hustles. And while I respect the hustle, (I actually still cut my neighbors yard) owning a company is where it is at. 

And here is my biggest piece of advice… do it now why you are 22, dont wait to be 30 like me! Oh and like Smart Money Seed talks about taxes in this post…. Business ownership is still the way to go when it comes to tax code. 

Online Business 101

I will let you in on a secret, the key to starting an internet based business is actually using the internet to your advantage… that and some people skills. But sometimes you don’t even need those. 

August 2017 - I had no internet based business skills. I had dabbled with other companies outside of the internet and had some relative success. However, by my impulsive nature, I started a blog. 

This led me down a path of research and exploration that led me to some different opportunities. One thing led to another and I quickly realized that doing stuff one my time was awesome. I joined a few Facebook groups, followed a few people on Twitter and tinkered with my website. 

By January 2018, after growing my blog, I decided it was time to start a digital marketing company - Spark Marketing & Advertising.



Small business owners need help with their online presence. If they are a smart business person, they will realize that having a mobile friendly site, well managed social media, and quality content that ranks is key to scaling their business. 

With minimal capital, (My LLC was like $100, my domain and  hosting was $220) I started an online business. I should add I took one course that was really helpful - Millennial Money Man’s course on digital marketing

It actually ended up being a game changer for just my overall skill set but also for my blog! 
I landed a client through my sphere of influence, saved him money, and now I have a nice little thing going. In all honesty it wasn’t that hard and just about anyone can do what I did. 

Here are just a few recommendations I have before you get started:

1. Be patient. 

Do not expect to be the best at something overnight. My impulsivity gets the best of me because I am not afraid to start anything. But I used to have the bad habit of not sticking to anything. This is a huge no no in the entrepreneurial world. Patience is huge. 

2. Realize there is never a good time. 

Personal rant, but I really am thrown off by the timing excuse. Honestly, when is there ever a good time to do anything? If you are waiting to make a cross country trip until all the lights are green you will never get started. 

Just get in the action mode. Don’t overwhelm yourself, just carve out 5 hours a week to start where you can dedicate yourself. 

At age 22-26 you will have more free time than any other time other then age 7. Take advantage of it now. 

3. Don’t worry about screwing up. 

As a teacher I know it all to well. We are conditioned not to make mistakes. At work if we make mistakes we get in trouble. When you are business owner and you make mistakes - you learn. 

Weird how that works right?

The quicker you can get over screwing up the quicker you will move on with whatever you decide to do. 

4. Invest in YOU.

I am sure you hear this all the time. But it is real. Invest in yourself. Any good company or business requires a bit of expertise. I personally believe in reading at least a book every two weeks and listening to something other than radio when I drive. 

Typically those two will cover it. I would also recommend just finding a few people in your field you enjoy and really learn as much as you can from them. Networking is huge!

And lastly, but not least. Maybe the most important…

5. Don’t Compare Yourself. 

People are attracted to people who are convicted. And they may not admit it, but people can relate when you are honest and wide open. 

But my biggest recommendation for new internet business owners is this: Do not get caught up in comparing yourself to others. 

Personally, I would look at what all my friends are doing on social media while I am sitting here working on a project or saving money to pay off student loans and it made me feel not so good. 

It is really easy to be tempted to put something like a small start-up on the back burner to go chase something really fun. 

My biggest recommendation and area to avoid is comparison. Seperating yourself from the masses is hard as it is. Throw in social media and all the distractions life entails and it can be surprisingly easy to let things go by the wayside. 

Avoid comparison and know why you are starting a business and you will do great!

Hope you enjoy and thanks again for letting my share Smart Money Seed!

7/10/18

3 Essential Steps Before Buying A House

7/10/2018
We typically focus on personal finance & travel-related content around here, but I’ve got some house fever! Kayleigh & I recently purchased our first home and after moving all of our stuff last weekend, I’ve got nothing but home on the brain. Luckily for you guys (or not), that means I get to share my homebuying experience with you! I think we had a very atypical experience in buying our first house, namely because we only saw two homes & had our first offer accepted at listing price.
 
Two Happy Homeowners!
I’ll go more into the details of my specific experience in a later post. For today, I want to focus in on three imperative things you need to do when going through the homebuying process. There are certainly PLENTY of additional tips & tricks we can add to the list, but for now, I’m going to focus on what I believe to be towards the top of the list. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what you need to do when looking at buying a home.

1)    Find Out What You Like…No Home Is Perfect!

One of the most common misconceptions when buying a home is that “the perfect home” exists. You could build the image of your ideal living space: 4 bedrooms/3 baths/finished basement/vaulted ceilings/bar space…the list goes on and on. However, reality kicks in at one point. Unless you are incredibly wealthy (and let’s be honest, most Smart Money Seed readers aren’t), you most likely are not finding a house with EVERYTHING you want on the market for the price that you budgeted for.

This is why it’s very important to shop around & make a list of what you are looking for in a home. For Kayleigh & I, we knew we needed three bedrooms and at least two full bathrooms for our first home. We were looking for updated appliances, a nice kitchen space, high ceilings & much more. When looking, a house fell into our lap that had MOST of what we were looking for, plus it was well within our budget.
5994 Trumhall Ave, AKA the new crib

If you can find something that checks most of your list off, I’m fully in the camp of jumping on that opportunity. We are thrilled to have many of the amenities that we were looking for in a starter home, plus we can always work on renovations to incorporate some of the aspects the home may lack. Just remember that renovations cost money-so don’t buy a home that will need updates taking you out of your price range! I’m still here to promote financial wellness and overspending on a home is one of the worst mistakes a person can make.

The lesson to take from this: make a list of what you would want in an ideal home, get out and see some homes & make the decision knowing you’ll never have your “perfect home”. Once you take that mindset, the buying process become much easier.

2)    Shop For Your Mortgage

Another trap initial homebuyers fall into is simply taking the first mortgage proposal that they see to “speed the process” up.  We had a great realtor that recommended multiple lenders to us, so we had initial options when looking at prospective financiers. You don’t need to just use the list that your realtor provides, though; there are a bevy of options available to you when looking at buying a home.

If you are a first-time homebuyer, I’d also look into eligibility for special programs that provide discounts/incentives for your first home purchase. For Ohio readers, My Ohio Home is the sponsoring site that matches your income/credit to the appropriate program. These programs range from down payment assistance/forgiveness to lower mortgage rates and are available at a wide range of mortgage lenders across the state.

Unfortunately, Kayleigh & I were disqualified from these programs due to income limits & thus, we took to the mortgage lender circuit. Aside from the usual suspects (big-name banks like Chase, Huntington, etc.), you can find competitive mortgage rates at:
  •          Credit Unions
  •          Online Lenders (think Rocket Mortgage)
  •          Private Lending Companies/Brokers

In our case, we shopped at all three before arriving at our current lender, one of the lenders our realtor recommended. He was great at talking us through all the available products & what we qualified for, while maintaining a competitive rate within the industry (shoutout David Arocho & Prime Lending)! Plus, he had old-school Pacman, Asteroids and some cornhole in his office suite. Needless to say, he had me sold.

It’s important to shop your mortgages & ask the lender if they can match rates across the market. Ultimately, this is one of the biggest purchases you will make in your life. It’s important to make sure you are getting the BEST deal you can! If I’m truly being honest, we should have shopped our mortgage even more. That’s a lesson I’ll take into my next home purchase and one I hope you take to heart when looking at financing your home.

3)    Monitor Your Credit

Our last tip is one that I stress to people regardless if you’re thinking of buying a home: MONITOR YOUR CREDIT! When you are looking at mortgages, the lender is going to take a magnifying glass to your credit report. They’ll be looking for anything they can to ensure that you are a trustworthy client while deciding what rates you qualify for. And while our credit system in the U.S. may not be the best indicator of whether a person can pay their mortgage on time, it’s what the mortgage system uses today.

If you were showing up to a job interview, would you show up looking messy, not knowing your talking points, etc.? NO-that’s not the Smart Money Seed way, and we can apply that same principle to your credit. When buying a house, you really should not open any new credit accounts for at least 6 months. That will ensure less “new” credit on your report, keeping your average age of credit higher & ultimately make you a more appealing customer for the lender.

In addition, make sure you have all credit card debt cleared off your account before applying for mortgages! This was a BONEHEAD move by me when we applied-I had simply let my credit card statement post & hadn’t paid the statement before the credit report had been pulled. Because of this, I showed outstanding debt and my debt-to income ratio was altered, thus altering our mortgage rate we were offered across the board.

ROOKIE MISTAKE by me & one that I’ll rue as I look at my amortization calendar. Everybody makes mistakes, even people that try to give financial advice on a blog! It was an expensive lesson for me to learn and one I can fix through a future refinance…but not an issue you want to deal with when making the biggest purchase of your life! Be smart, clear all of your “debt” before applying for a mortgage-your future self will be applauding your financial tidiness.

The lesson here: stay on top of your credit. There are many free credit reporting tools out there (Credit Karma, Credit Sesame & Mint, to name a few) that can help you get an idea of where you sit. Polish that credit report like you would your resume-you’ll qualify for better rates and save THOUSANDS of dollars in the process.

Summary

In closing (if you’ll pardon the pun), make sure you are well-versed in the language of the homebuying process before embarking on that journey. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars and get the most bang for your buck, which is ultimately the goal of buying a house! Just remember:
  1.          Find Out What You Want In A Home
  2.          Shop Around For The Best Mortgage
  3.          Clean Up Your Credit (Like A Resume!)

There’s plenty more advice to give (I’m still learning myself) but for now, these tips should have you well on your way to making the right home purchase. Good luck!


7/6/18

How To Use The New Hyatt Card To Take A Luxury Vacation

7/06/2018

Kayleigh & I at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, Feb. 2017

Happy Friday! Hope everybody had a great week & is looking forward to continuing the 4th of July festivities this weekend. I know I sure did-the annual Red, White & Henze festivities were a blast (per usual) & I didn’t even have to propose this time to make the night a success. With the lack of proposal this year, I had time to write a small post about something I’m also passionate about…new credit cards!

All kidding aside, there was a new credit card launched by Chase last month that has caught my eye. It’s the World of Hyatt credit card, a new version of a previously existing Hyatt card that offers a sizeable sign-up bonus & many perks on top of that. Let’s dig into why I think you need to add this card to your wishlist…and what I’m planning to do with the card once I *hopefully* am approved!

The World of Hyatt CC Stats

Before I try to sway you to get this card, let’s look at some of the offerings:
  • 40,000 point signup bonus after $3,000 in spend in the first 3 months from account opening
  • An additional 20,000 points after $6,000 in spend in the first 6 months from account opening
  • One free night every calendar year at a Category 1-4 Hyatt Hotel (more to come on categories)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Hyatt Discoverist status (10% bonus points on stays, complimentary upgrades to preferred rooms, premium internet, free late checkout, elite reservation line)
  • 4x points on all Hyatt purchases; 2x points on restaurants, airline tickets purchased w/airline, local transit & fitness memberships
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee, not waived first year

While the other amenities of this card are nice, I narrowed in on the sign-up bonus & one free night every year. This last August, Kayleigh & I were able to use our Hyatt night at the downtown Hyatt in Columbus (a rather weak redemption, to be honest) after a summer beerfest. What’s better than being able to walk minutes to a hotel after large consumption of beer? Beats the 25 minute Uber ride back to the suburbs, plus we were able to let loose a little more than normal.

Even without the free night every year, I’d be inclined to pick this card up merely for the sign-up bonus. 60,000 Hyatt points after $6,000 in spend is admittedly a high spend requirement; however, you could use one of the Smart Money Seed methods outlined in one of our previous posts to help meet some minimum spend.  This card also does not currently fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning you can feel free to apply without being automatically denied for the card. To be eligible for the bonus, you simply need to have not earned a Hyatt credit card bonus within the last 24 months. Kayleigh & I fall are eligible on that stipulation and we plan to take advantage!

Taking Advantage of the Hyatt Award Chart


At minimum, the 60,000 Hyatt points are worth TWELVE nights at tier 1 Hyatt properties. While this isn’t going to be your luxury Hyatt resort by any means (think of the Hyatt you’d see on the highway while en route to a larger city/airport hotel), you can still find plenty of value.
For me, I’m not so much interested in value. I’d like to use the points to have an awesome redemption at a top-of-the-line resort, which is why I look to tier 7/All-Inclusive resorts for my purposes.
A Tier 7 redemption will run you 30k points a night, getting you two free nights at luxurious hotels like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Park Hyatt Seattle or Hyatt Residence Club Maui, among others. These are BEAUTIFUL resorts that can go for upwards of $1000/night, getting you thousands of dollars in value for a credit card bonus. Not bad!

I’ll be using the points to book our honeymoon to Jamaica, where we’ll be revisiting the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall resort for 25k points/night. This was a fantastic trip we took last year, where we feasted on jerk chicken & had as many poolside drinks as we wanted before snoozing on the beach. Needless to say, once this credit card was released, Kayleigh & I were all over it.

We’ll both end up getting this card to bank the points and take two awesome vacations. The best part about Hyatt points? You can use Chase UR points to transfer 1:1 to Hyatt, meaning we’ll have our entire balance of Chase points to combine with the 120,000 Hyatt points we’ll earn with this credit card.

Final Summary

If you’re like me and love travelling for free, this card is a no-brainer. 66,000 Hyatt points after meeting the minimum spend is a haul in the points & miles world. This bonus may not stick around forever, so I’d recommend jumping on this card ASAP if you are interested.

If you have any questions about the card, reach out to me on here or through our social media. We’re happy to help with any reservations you may have about the card & I may even help you plan an awesome redemption.

With that, cheers to the weekend, Smart Money Squad!


-Ty

7/3/18

Be Principled With Your Money For Outrageous Financial Success

7/03/2018


A popular piece of personal finance advice is the simple yet powerful phrase spend on what you value. Well, I value a whole lot of stuff. I value Starbucks coffee, going to sporting events, eating out (read: not cooking), new clothes, drinking beer, investing in myself, and even being charitable every now and again. And I'm betting most of you value many of those things and more as well.

So maybe spending on what you value isn't exactly a magical key to financial success. Maybe we need to dig a little deeper. 

How about spend on what you value most? So I'm supposed to go to every Ohio State football game all year and never buy Starbucks or buy a new shirt again? That doesn't quite work either.

The key to taking steps toward financial success goes a little deeper:

Prepare to be principled in your financial decision making and management.

In essence, you need to think first about what you value. Then you need to analyze your financial situation and set short and long term goals. Once you know how much you need to earn and save, you can determine how much you can spend on the extras that you do value. But that spending has to be done from a matter of principle.

Our Principles Drive Our Decisions and Actions

Let's walk through a real example of this related to fitness in my life.

I've never really had much principle driving my health and fitness decisions and actions. I was in pretty decent shape during high school, but that was because I played sports all year. Sports' exit from and beer's entrance into my life has not exactly been the healthiest equation for me.

Even when I was in good shape, I wouldn't make healthy choices out of principle. My brother Max, on the other hand, was always more apt to make a healthy choice. During my high school years, I spent a lot of time outside of practice playing video games. During his 3 years later, he spent a lot of his time in the weight room.

When we needed a snack, I was reaching for the potato chips while he would grab a piece of fruit or maybe splurge on some pretzels. Even during college when we would drink together he would have a Miller Lite while I guzzled a Fat Tire.

The driving factor behind Max's decisions was his principle. He valued his health and fitness, so he planned ahead and lived by principle which drove his decisions and actions. Going to the weight room or passing on the fried chicken wasn't really any easier for Max, but he knew those decisions would support the overall healthy life he wanted for himself. 

I've begun building principle into my health and fitness which is certainly a process.

  • I look at my calendar on Sunday night to figure out how many times I might eat out during the upcoming week and plan the meals I'll eat at home accordingly (more eating out = healthier meals at home).
  • I also like to read menus before I go out to eat so I can find something healthier to eat rather than sticking with my impulse go-to buffalo chicken sandwich.
  • I lay my workout clothes beside my bed so I'm more prepared to decide to get up and go to the gym. 
  • I joined a TRX workout class style gym to build accountability into my workout schedule.
Not the highest quality photos but here are a couple examples of my healthier meals I've been making:

Vegetarian sweet potato, avocado tacos!
Buddha bowl with Chicken, brown rice, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and thai peanut sauce!

As I repeat these actions over and over, they become repeatable habits which then train my brain to treat them as matters of principle. Instead of looking for the food that will taste the best, my brain begins to look for the food that feels the best. Don't get me wrong, I still definitely notice the tasty food. But my principle tells me to value the healthy feeling over the tasty food.

Let's Get Back to Money

The most important way to make positive money management decisions on a repeatable basis is to wire them in your brain as principle. 

I wanted to buy some navy pants for several months which I knew would bring me a lot of value because Amanda would stop nagging me to get new pants and stop wearing my current pants which she endearingly refers to as the color chocolate milk. I shopped around for a while, found the pants I wanted that brought the most perceived value for the money, and purchased them on Black Friday for over 50% off.

I also wanted a new mattress and the new Call of Duty, but even though I value a good night's sleep and playing video games, my principle told me that I didn't exactly need those things right now, so I should save the money instead.

I'm not perfectly disciplined in my money management, and my occasional splurging actually helps me regain my focus and motivation in my money management system.

The key is to take some time to reflect on your needs, wants, values, and income and to create a principled money management system that will encourage you to make positive financial decisions. Once you have that down, financial success will become second nature!


6/29/18

Oh, the places I can go. . . (with my companion!)

6/29/2018
I don't normally brag, but if bragging means I might be able to motivate you to go out and get a companion pass, then I'm going to brag! I've already shared how I went about earning the pass, but now I'm going to show you how I plan on using it!

The Investment

First things first, let's talk about the initial investment. Earning the companion pass isn't free, so I want to be fair and recap the costs I've incurred.

  • Card fees - both the Southwest Plus card and the Southwest Business card come with annual fees ($69 and $99) that can't be avoided. The natural instinct is to avoid credit cards with annual fees, but I think you'll soon see the value that these cards bring.
  • Gift card fees - each gift card used for the manufactured spending comes with $4.95 activation fee. I ended up needing 10 cards (4 @ $500 for the Plus card and 6 @ $500 for the Business card), so the total fees tally up to $49.50.
  • Money order fees - I purchased my money orders at Giant Eagle for $0.79 each, totaling $7.90.
This brings me to a grand total of a $225.40 investment - certainly a little bit of cash to spend! But don't worry, you can get a pretty nice ROI on this investment.

The Reward

Let's recap what this $225.40 investment got me.

  • Southwest Points - Meeting the minimum spend gave me bonus' of 50,000 and 60,000 points, plus I earned 1 point for every dollar spent. For simplicities sake lets call it 115,000 (the bonus' plus the $5,000 I spent on gift cards).
  • The Companion Pass - by now we all know what this is. It's a pass that allows me to take a designated companion on any flight I take for free!

The ROI

Now comes the fun part. Let's talk about how I plan on utilizing this perk see how it stacks up versus the investment.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. . . including all of Fields' money!

Vegas
As I shared last week the first trip I'm taking is to Las Vegas. I'm headed out for a friends bachelor party, but I decided to go a couple days earlier and fly my friend Jordan out with me. I purchased my roundtrip tickets by using a little over 20,000 of my Southwest points and a whopping $11.20 ($5.60 each way) for a security fee that cannot be waived. I added Fields as my companion for the trip out for another $5.60. Current flights from Columbus are about $220 each way, and since I got 3 flights (roundtrip for me and one way for Fields), that's a $660 value. It doesn't take a financial analyst to see that the investment is quickly paying for itself!

Note: SMS is not factoring any money that I lose in Vegas into this equation!


I'm ready for some drinks on the beach!

Aruba
We don't have it set in stone, but Rosie and I are seriously considering Aruba as potential honeymoon destination. We only have two main criteria that need to be met:

1. Nice beaches for lounging
2. A place we haven't been before

I think Aruba definitely checks the box for both of those! A roundtrip flight will be somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 Southwest Points and will have about $90 in fees per person. Yes, that means we can get roundtrip flights for only $180 out of pocket! Typically roundtrip flights from Columbus are $500-800 (depending on seasonality) per person. That's a lot of cash.

Let's recap where we're at after those trips. I'm getting somewhere near a $1,660 value ($660 for Vegas, $500x2 for Aruba) and only spending $400-500! And oh by the way, I'll still have roughly 45,000 Southwest points to use.

Oh, the places I can go. . .

Let's Talk Travel

So now I now I need your help! Where else should I go with my Companion Pass? Should Rosie and I go to Aruba for our honeymoon? What other honeymoon destinations should we consider? Let me know what the Smart Money Squad thinks!




6/26/18

The Current State of Cryptocurrency

6/26/2018

How’s everybody doing, Smart Money Squad? It’s been a while since I last checked in on the world of cryptocurrency, so I figured I’d give you all my thoughts on where the market currently sits. When we last gave you guys the SMS Ultimate Guide to Bitcoin, this is where bitcoin (the biggest cryptocurrency) was trending:



HOLY CRAP, that was fun, wasn’t it? I could sit on my high horse and talk about my crypto gains, why I entered the bitcoin market at $800 and why I thought we were heading for the moon. As many of you know, though, cryptocurrency & bitcoin has taken a tumble since this day (12/13/17).
Here’s bitcoin’s current value, as of 6/25/2018:



Not ideal. Time to eat some crow-even though my initial investment is still worth more than my initial investment (nearly 8x profit), I’ve given back $11,000 worth of value/bitcoin in the span of six months. That’s not an insignificant amount of money by any means & a number that certainly jumps off the page. Although my losses over the last six months may sting at the moment, I wanted to write this post to clearly state one thing: Cryptocurrency/Bitcoin is a LONG-TERM INVESTMENT, not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Be a Smart Investor, Not A Gambler
When I first got involved in the world of cryptocurrency, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to sell for 5 years, regardless of the market action. I’ve seen bitcoin rise from $800 all the way to $20,000 & back, with peaks and valleys along the way. I’m an early adopter of Litecoin (first coin purchased at $12-hit $387 this year). Regardless of how much money I’ve made or lost over my cryptocurrency investments, one thing remains constant: I hold & don’t sell.
Those that know me know that I enjoy to gamble from time to time (side note: currently counting down the days until my Vegas bachelor party!). And while you may find me betting on 12-year-olds over/under on pitch speed at a Cleveland Indians game, you won’t find me treating investments as a bet. If I told you that your 401k was down 20% this year, would you immediately be tempted to take all your money out? NO WAY (if you are a loyal SMS reader)-and that’s because it’s a long-term investment. Treat cryptocurrency not as an immediate cash cow but as an investment in the currency of tomorrow.
As long as you don’t have an itchy trigger finger, I believe that cryptocurrency will bounce back even stronger than where it sat in December 2017. I’ve been fortunate enough to go through many of these “catastrophic” drops over the course of my investment, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: CRYPTOCURRENCY IS VOLATILE. One Donald Trump tweet can affect the value of Bitcoin by $600.

 Is that fair? No.  But as I look at a 10 years chart and see steady upward growth akin to that of the DOW & NASDAQ, I’m comforted. Be a smart investor, not a gambler; the future you will thank you immensely.
Real-Life Use of My Cryptocurrency
I also wanted to write this post to explain some of the ways I’ve been utilizing cryptocurrency to pay for some personal expenses. For those that don’t know, Kayleigh & I are new homeowners as of this month! Obviously, buying a house comes with 10,000 signatures & plenty of costs along the way. With my initial investment in Litecoin, I was able to pay our closing costs on the house & still hold over 50% of my initial investment. While I’m still very committed to holding the cryptocurrency I do have, I was excited to realize some gains I’ve made and ultimately was able to pay for one of life’s biggest purchases with a cryptocurrency investment. Pretty neat!
When I decided to withdraw Litecoin, the process was extremely smooth. I transferred Litecoin to GDAX (an online exchange) and traded Litecoin-USD at a $124 rate. From there, I simply withdrew to my bank account & I had the money same-day, faster than a bank-to-bank transfer would take 99% of the time. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the process.
Another cool purchase I got to make with cryptocurrency was one of my newfound vices: bourbon! I’ve committed to try more bourbon in 2018 but the selection around central Ohio is not great. Luckily for me, a Reddit post alerted me to an awesome new online liquor store called Blockchain Bottle. The owner of the site, James, also runs a liquor store in New Jersey & saw the opportunity to take cryptocurrency as a payment option online. He also had bottles that I have trouble finding anywhere in Central Ohio, including my personal favorite, Blanton’s! 

I splurged a little & bought 5 bottles of bourbon, using one of them as an excuse to get my dad a kick-ass Father’s Day gift. This was the first time I was able to buy product with cryptocurrency & it was a breeze. You could pay with Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin (I chose Litecoin) and the payment went through immediately.  It was nearly identical to paying with a credit card & the owner of the store quickly confirmed my order through email. Here’s a quick picture of my haul:


He’ll have a repeat customer in me, that’s for sure.
Final Thoughts
In the world of cryptocurrency, you have to be prepared for peaks and valleys. Although we are in a valley right now, I’m confident the market will bounce back better than ever. This latest valley was yet another reminder that cryptocurrency is volatile & should be treated as such-don’t put any money you can’t afford to lose in an investment!
I’m going to relax on HODL (hold on for dear life) island & hopefully get to deliver a glowing update on cryptocurrency in a few months. Until then, be well, Smart Money Squad!
-Ty