2018 - Smart Money Seed

9/27/18

Do You Really Think Elon Musk Is Stupid?

9/27/2018


Okay I know we don't usually get too in-depth on investment talk, but I argue that this is more about having good sense and business in general rather than investing advice -- although yes it is an analysis of an investment option.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, possibly the brightest mind in the universe, tweeted on August 7th that he was considering taking Tesla private.

Shortly thereafter, Elon was under a great deal of scrutiny for smoking weed and drinking whiskey on Joe Rogan's podcast which depleted Tesla's value by about 10%.

Now Elon has been charged with fraud and sued by the SEC for his tweet. And yes, you guessed it, Tesla shares are down another 13%.

Assuming Elon still intends to take Tesla private, he's depleted about 25% of Tesla's value. Doesn't that destroy a huge chunk of Elon's $20 BILLION net worth? Yep, he's lost about $1 billion.

But let's step back for a second and think about how this all started. Elon is an inventor and an innovator, not a particularly savvy or passionate businessman. This is complete speculation, but I would imagine Elon doesn't like having to constantly rationalize his decisions and actions to a board and investors.

So maybe he was actually telling the truth about his intention to take Tesla private. And what have his actions done to the chances of that actually happening? HE'S LOST $1 BILLION, SO HE CAN'T POSSIBLY AFFORD TO TAKE TESLA PRIVATE, RIGHT??!?!?!!

Tesla has 170,593,000 shares outstanding according to NASDAQ. Elon destroyed $100 per share in value with two very simple actions.

Elon just saved himself $17.0593 BILLION on the purchase price of his own company assuming he sticks with the initial 20% premium.

So do we really think Elon Musk is stupid? Or do we think this man just saved himself $16 billion on a decision to make himself happier by ridding his life of annoying shareholders and board members?

But the media continues to portray Elon's actions as catastrophic to Tesla's overall well-being, and Elon plays their game with his statements about how he's "deeply saddened and disappointed."

On the inside, I believe Elon doesn't give a shit about what you think or about what the media thinks. He just saved $16 billion, and my man is laughing all the way to the bank.

Cutthroat, don't give a shit attitudes and actions like this are why the world has billionaires and then the rest of us, who wouldn't even consider going to such great lengths to build or preserve wealth, dreaming about the lives these people actually live.

Keep getting your money, Elon. You can count me as one of the few rooting for you.

DISCLAIMER: This is completely based on a theory I made up in my own head and is probably not factually true in any way. Plus, Elon may have just been on acid this whole time which pretty much just throws my theory out the window.


9/11/18

What Does Money Mean To You?

9/11/2018
Money isn't the key to happiness. Money itself isn't even a factor in happiness.

I do believe that the absence of money can cause extreme stress which can cause happiness to be much harder to come by. But making, saving, and generally having money doesn't directly correlate with higher happiness levels.

Money's meaning in our lives can certainly vary person to person. The most important value money brings to my life is freedom.

Money = Freedom To Live On My Terms

I'm working hard nearly everyday (still need to step it up a notch) to save so I can increase my net worth and most importantly to build multiple streams of income so I can start living completely on my own terms.

I've had several vacations packed in from the end of July through last weekend. I'm not saying I want to live my life like one giant vacation (I don't think traditional retirement will ever be for me). The part of vacation I want to take into my everyday life is the ability to spend time exactly how I want and with exactly whom I want.

I don't need to be on the beach every day.
But having the opportunity to spend more
time with Amanda & the rest of my friends & family
is something I'm working relentlessly toward.

I've talked to other entrepreneurs who cite one of their biggest motivational factors is to be able to make a real impact on the world with the people they care about the most.

This is not meant at all to be a slight on my coworkers. I really enjoy my coworkers and am blessed to have the job I have. But we all spend time together on Marathon's terms, and most of us would never have even met if it weren't for Marathon bringing us together. Again, I'm happy to know them, but we're not exactly motivated to band together to make serious change in the world.

I spend a lot of time recruiting my friends into working toward their own entrepreneurial dreams. I haven't even had a small taste of success yet, but I know it's coming. And when it does come, I want to have already surrounded myself with the supporting cast and collaborators I want and need to keep the train rolling.

Taking a step back a bit, saving money and becoming debt free has allowed me the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want in my life today. An important caveat here is that I don't have lavish and lofty desires for my lifestyle. But if Ty or Christian call me tomorrow and want to plan a trip to the beach, Vegas, or to watch the Browns in the Super Bowl, I have the freedom to take advantage of that opportunity if I want.

Everybody Is Different. What's Your Motivating Factor?

Based on my observations, there's a tendency in the personal finance space to being frugal or saving a pile of cash that allows people to retire at 30 instead of 65. But that's not very motivating to me. And I'd bet plenty of you are in that same boat.

If you're not motivated to go buy a tiny house and hunt for your dinner every night to save a few bucks, what are you motivated by? Maybe you don't even have a great answer for that right now. That's 100% normal and okay.

Help Us Help You!

Take a moment to think about your answer and let us know in the Facebook comments. Surrounding yourself with like minded people to motivate you and hold you accountable is one of the most effective ways to reach your goals. Ty, Christian, the Smart Money Squad, and I want to help you.

We'd be honored if you let us!

9/6/18

Green Shopping: 7 Strategies To Save Your Wallet & The Environment

9/06/2018

Hey, Squad. Alex here. This week's post comes from my amazingly intelligent and beautiful fiancé, Amanda! Amanda is currently finishing up her Master's degree in fashion and retail studies with focuses in body image and sustainability, so if I'd say it's a pretty good idea for us to all listen up!

Amanda included some referral links for the awesome money saving platforms she wrote about. If you want to give them a shot, use her links so she gets a little extra bonus from each company! Trust me, it won't negatively affect you in the slightest.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics American households spend around $1800 per year on clothing items and accessories. I’m sure for some of you that number is even more. Not only are we spending a significant chunk of our income buying clothes, we’re also creating a huge amount of waste getting rid of them.

On average, Americans throw away around 70 lbs of textiles, including clothing, shoes, and accessories, every year! We’re buying clothing just to throw it away, which doesn’t make sense (or cents.. I’m funny right? Right. Moving on). This pattern doesn’t just hurt your wallet, it hurts the environment.

So what can you do to solve these problems? Follow these tips I’ve come up with to help save your wallet and the earth!

1. Use coupons in stores and online.

Gone are the days of spending time pouring through mailers and newspapers clipping coupons that you end up stashing away in a folder and never actually remember to use (Be sure to recycle those, by the way!). Most retailers now offer digital coupons or promo codes, which make it easy to store your coupons on your phone or computer.

The convenience doesn’t stop there, though! There are plenty of online platforms that actually do the coupon searching for you! Some of my favorites include Honey, RetailMenot, and UNiDAYS. I’ll go a little more in depth with each one.

Honey: Honey is a browsing extension that you can download for free. Once you download the extension and sign up for an account, Honey searches the web for coupons and promo codes that it automatically adds to your online purchases if applicable! They’re affiliated with over 30,000 retailers, so there are plenty of opportunities to save some money when using Honey.

They even offer Honey Gold, which is like their own “cashback” system. When they’re given commission for a purchase made through their extension, they share the love and give you points which eventually translate into free online gift cards to use with some of their larger affiliated retailers – think Nordstrom, Target, and Amazon.

If you want to sign up, you can use my referral link here.

Click the button to save some money with Honey!
Isn't their mascot the CUTEST????
RetailMeNot: If you’re online shopping and want to double check if the retailer you’re shopping at has any available coupon codes, check yourself on RetailMeNot! Simply type the retailer into their search engine and see what deals pop up. I personally think their best deals are their gift card deals. They list retailers who are offering discounts on their gift cards, which means you could end up paying less than $20 for a $25 gift card to your favorite store and then use even more discount codes once you get the gift card - double savings!

RetailMeNot also offers an app, so you can easily browse and get notifications for the latest deals on your phone. They offer in-store only printable coupons, as well, for those of you not interested in online shopping!

Sign up here.

UNiDAYS: This platform is perfect for broke college students like me! Like the other two platforms, UNiDAYS also lists retailer coupon codes and special discounts that can be applied to purchases. However, what makes them so special is that they specifically target college students and collaborate with tons of brands that you love for exclusive discount offers that you can’t find anywhere else!

After signing up with a university email account, you can begin to explore their thousands of deals from brands like Adidas, Levi’s, and MissGuided and apply them yourself while you’re online shopping.

Sign up using my referral link here.

2. Don’t be afraid to give your email away.

If you’re checking out an online store for the first time, look to see if they have a first-time buyer discount! Most stores from Forever 21 to Levi’s to Tobi offer either a percentage or dollar amount off of your first order if you give them your email.

Don’t let this scare you away! If you think you’ll shop at this retailer again and don’t want to be spammed with a ton of emails, I suggest creating an email account specifically for email offers! Many retailers offer email exclusive deals and early discounts for their subscribed shoppers, so it’s a good idea to stay on their email lists.

On the other hand, if you decide you’re not totally into their style, simply opt out of their emails after you’ve already made your first purchase and saved your money. You’re not really creating any junk here except junk mail (GUYS. I know. I’ll stop), so feel free to sign up for all of the email subscriptions you want without worrying about the environment!

3. Shop at off-price stores.

Stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Sierra Trading Post are great ways to save some money and the environment! Yes, these are all owned by the same company, but I absolutely love their business model.

There are a few different ways that these stores buy including the following: they buy clothing from deals between stores and manufacturers that fell through or were cancelled, they buy overstock when manufacturers produce too much, and they purchase end-of-season merchandise from other retailers. This is good for your wallet because these off-price stores are able to purchase their product cheaply and sell it to you for much less than traditional retail price.

Even better, this is good for the environment because these stores are purchasing clothing that could otherwise be thrown away or burned, and they’re producing less waste in the long run by purchasing only pre-produced items! Be sure to use a reusable shopping bag to cut down on your environmental impact, as well.

4. Buy used.

When it comes to clothes shopping, I see this is the absolute best option to save money and the earth! Check out thrift stores, consignment stores, or anywhere else they sell used clothing. At these stores, you can buy used and sometimes new clothing for a fraction of traditional retail price.

Current fashion trends include vintage Levi’s jeans, denim jackets, and oversized t-shirts, and you can find all of these items at thrift stores, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I’ve personally found vintage Levi’s jeans for $3 a pair! Most used clothing stores offer special discount days, too, such as 10% off all items with yellow tickets, and they tend to offer student discounts with a valid ID.

If you’re more interested in current clothing, shop at stores like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange. When you buy used, you’re ultimately helping to reduce your carbon footprint, pollution, and waste!

5. Rent clothing, or borrow it!

Many people abide by the unspoken rule that you can’t wear a dress twice. Please, BREAK THAT RULE for the sake of your wallet and the environment! But if you just can’t bring yourself to wear something more than once, consider renting it instead of purchasing it.

One of my favorite rental sites is Rent The Runway, which allows you to rent moderately priced clothing and even designer gowns for cheap. Rental periods start at 4 days, so you have plenty of time to receive your rental and return it. Rentals include a garment in two sizes AND a backup selection in case things don’t work out with your first choice.
See, you can rent this $398 Kate Spade dress for $60!
They’ve now begun offering monthly rental subscriptions, so you can rent your favorite pieces and swap them out for a fresh wardrobe at the end of the month. If you’re not interested in renting clothing, ask your friends or family to borrow something of theirs instead!

6. Shop a sale or clearance.

Sales are clearly a great way to save some money while shopping, but you shouldn’t go overboard. Let me explain.

Retailers spend their money to buy clothing, increase the price, and sell it to you for more to make a profit. For instance, your favorite clothing store buys a t-shirt that costs $5 to produce, which means that the t-shirt is ultimately worth $5. They have to increase the price to get the shirt to you and make some money, so they sell the shirt for $12. The markup retail price of $12 allows room for customers to make returns and for the retailer to hold sales throughout the year.

They mark the price up knowing that they will still make enough money off of it at sale price! This is why you should wait for a sale if you can and why I rarely buy anything at full price.

I should leave you with an even more important piece of advice, though. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale! Sometimes we get into the spirit of bargain hunting and take it a little too far, buying things that we don’t need and likely won’t wear just because it’s cheaper than normal. Don’t give into that mindset! Buy only what you truly like and need because sale prices add up, and so does the pile of unworn clothing in your closet - that you’re going to recycle or donate. Really drilling this saving the environment thing in your head.

7. Most importantly, stop buying so much!

It’s as simple as that. Sorry to be harsh, but over shopping is absolutely horrible for the environment and your wallet. Here’s how to start!

I suggest looking through your closet to get a sense of your personal style. If you don’t like anything you own, turn to Pinterest for some style inspiration. Once you’ve decided on how you want to dress, your second step is to decide what it is you need to buy to create that personal style and the look you want.Write down a list of items you want to buy to complete your look. List in hand, go ahead and do some shopping.

Be mindful of what you’re buying, though! Sometimes, a $200 dress is a better deal than a $25 dress. If you want a staple black dress that you can wear more than just a couple of times, consider practicing investment dressing. Spending more can be worth it because the more expensive, classic option is likely to be higher quality and will stay in style for much longer. A $25 dress worn 2 times puts you at $12.50 per wear, but a $200 dress worn 25 times puts you at $8 per wear. It becomes the more affordable option!

After you’ve developed a staple wardrobe, simply buy a few trendier items per season to keep it up-to-date. Investment dressing significantly reduces the amount of clothing waste you create, so can look great and feel great about your environmental impact!

I hope that you’re able to incorporate one or two or maybe even all of these tips into your shopping! If you have any other tips, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you save money while you’re shopping because, as mentioned above, I am a poor college student who needs all the help she can get!

One tip Amanda forgot to include is to always bring
your pack mule when shopping. You can accessorize
pack mules with any clothing and bags you'd like, and
they'll even usually put away the clothes you don't want!
*Disclaimer - I haven't always lived a green lifestyle
(plastic bags, fast fashion, etc.), but I'm doing my
 best to live that way now! Baby steps, people! - Amanda*

In all seriousness, I know this blog is focused on saving you some coin, but I’m focused on saving the earth. So even if you don’t follow my tips for green shopping to save money, please please PLEASE start to think about how your everyday actions, like using a reusable shopping bag vs. a plastic bag or donating/recycling an old pair of shoes vs. throwing it away, can positively impact the environment!



8/21/18

Side Hustle: Make $1200+ Annually By Maximizing Quarterly Spend

8/21/2018
If you've read our Discover IT & Chase Freedom posts, you'll know that there is tons of money to be made in maximizing your category spend every quarter. Every three months, companies like Discover & Chase offer credit cards with a category spend bonus, meaning that for those three months, you'll earn 5% cashback on spending rather than 1%! If you play your cards right, that's $600 per card, per year...meaning you could walk away with a whopping $1200 in extra cashback if you maximize spend.

For me, $1200 can go a LONG way in impacting my financial wellness. I'd be able to:


  • Make an extra payment on my mortgage (and get closer to removing PMI!)
  • Pay off 1/5th of the remainder of my car loan
  • Buy 1,200 Steel Reserves at our local gas station (KIDDING...or am I?)
We could use the cashback to pay extra on our new mortgage!

Regardless on how you use it, $1200 extra dollars a year us nothing to scoff at. Since we're in the business of making you money, I've put together a list of the category spend for the Discover It card & how I'd go about meeting the maximum spend in each quarter. There is overlap with Chase & Discover's categories, so feel free to use the Discover category advice and apply it to your Chase spending! There are lots of creative ways to maximize your category spending, so please keep that in mind & comment any suggestions/methods you've used to earn that extra cashback!




Maximizing Your Cash Back Earnings

It wouldn't be a Smart Money Seed article unless we dove into how I'd maximize the potential earnings from this card. Let's get the quick math portion out of the way:
  • Q1: $1,500 at gas stations/wholesale clubs x 5% (category bonus) x 2 (Discover match)=$150
  • Q2: $1,500 at grocery stores x 5% (category bonus) x 2 (Discover match)=$150
  • Q3: $1,500 at restaurants x 5% (category bonus) x 2 (Discover match)=$150
  • Q4: $1,500 on Amazon x 5% (category bonus) x 2 (Discover match)=$150

Total Category Earnings: $600 CASH

Meeting Minimum Spend Requirements

As you can see, you'd clear $600 cash on just the category spending alone if you were able to meet the max spend in each category quarterly. $1,500 in three months may seem daunting to you guys, so let me give you a few tips on how to meet minimum spend in these categories:
  • Gas Stations/Wholesale Clubs: While ensuring you pay for your own gas with the Discover IT, offer to pay for your friends' gas in exchange for cash/Venmo/Paypal. If you live with roommates and need to stock up at Costco, offer to pay the whole bill and have your friends pay you back. These trips (especially for my 8-person college house) could exceed $400 quick-combine these methods and you'll be well on your way to $1,500!
  • Grocery Stores: As outlined in our "Vacation Like a Baller" post, there are methods beyond simply buying groceries that will allow you to meet minimum spends quickly. Check out Visa Variable gift cards if you need to meet minimum spends quickly-and reach out to Smart Money Seed if you need help understanding our minimum spend strategies!
  • Restaurants: This is probably my favorite category-offer to take the whole bill every time you go out to eat with family or friends! It makes the server's job much easier having one bill, while all of your friends are happy to pay you back through their preferred online method/cash. Win-win...and you get to eat delicious food in the meantime!
  • Amazon/Wholesale: I've always found this to be the toughest category. You can definitely get an extra boost for your holiday shopping with this category-but even I know that $1,500 may not be realistic on shopping for gifts. Continue to shop for the whole apartment/house at Costco & Sam's Club...and know you can be a bit more generous with gifts when you're getting 10% cash back!

    APPLY HERE: Discover It Application Link 



    Summary
    Maximizing category spend can be some of the easiest money you'll make this year. Go into each quarter with a plan on how you'll maximize your spending and make sure to remember to pay with the correct card.! With this mindset, you'll be well on your way to earning some side hustle cash for that extra car payment/bar tab/whatever you want to spend it on, we don't judge at Smart Money Seed! 

    We'd love to hear your success stories-how are you hustling to get ahead in life? Let us know if you have a story you'd like to share-we love to feature you guys on the blog!

    8/15/18

    Start Building Credit Early: Why You Need The Discover It

    8/15/2018

    *Disclaimer* This article contains affiliate links, meaning if you choose to utilize our link to sign up for a credit card, we will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

    Hello, Smart Money Squad! For those of you new to the points & miles game, we've got an article today that I think you'll enjoy. I tend to write articles about the highest-earning points cards in the industry because I find the most value in those cards. However, when it comes to getting approved for these cards, it can be a mixed bag for our readers. Banks have become more stingy in approving prospective customers due to credit thresholds-one of the MANY reasons it's imperative to start building your credit at a young age.

    As many of you loyal Smart Money Seed readers are just starting out in your financial journey, it stands to reason that your credit may not be built to the level needed to be approved for these cards. Therefore, I've decided to do a deep dive on one of the most popular entry-level cards on the market today: the Discover It/Discover It Miles!

    First Look: Discover IT




    If you are a college student or just graduated, odds are you have received a mailer from Discover about their Discover It card. There's good reason for that-Discover tends to have a high approval rate for users with limited credit history & offer a generous first-year welcome bonus. Let's take a look at what the Discover IT has to offer:

    • Rotating 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly 
      • Q1: Gas Stations/Wholesale Clubs 
      • Q2: Grocery Stores 
      • Q3: Restaurants 
      • Q4: Amazon/Wholesale Clubs
    • All other purchases earn 1% unlimited cashback-Cashback NEVER EXPIRES!
    • Discover matches 100% of the cash back you earn for your first year-doubling your potential earnings!
    • Free monthly FICO credit score updates.
    • No annual fee & 0% APR for 14 months on purchases/balance transfers.
    Discover's free FICO scorecard-a tool I use monthly!


    While this card doesn't offer many of the direct travelling benefits you usually hear me talk about on Smart Money Seed, there's still a lot of value to be had when applying for this card. For starters, the rotating 5% cash back (10% cash back when factoring in the first-year 100% match by Discover) provides an immediate benefit to category spending. I'm confident in saying that no card on the market provides 10% cash back on gas or grocery spending-you'll only find that with the Discover IT!
    For those of you that are in need of a first credit card to establish your credit or simply want to make some extra cash on the side, the Discover It is the card for you. It's got everything you would need in a no-hassle credit card: NO annual fee, 10% cash back on select categories for your first year & 2% cashback on EVERYTHING for your first year. 

    The Discover It resembles a great opportunity to dip your toes into the credit card market without stress. It's a card you can keep for the rest of your life, building your annual age of credit while earning you cash back on the side. With free FICO score updates monthly & no annual fee, it's a card I'd recommend to anybody that's interested in getting started with building credit.

    If you have any questions about the Discover IT or credit cards in general, feel free to reach out to Smart Money Seed through social media or in the comments below. We love helping our readers-and want to help you get on the fast track to financial success!

    Until next time, let us know if you'd like to hear us write about a certain topic! We're open to all suggestions & want to hear what you guys want from us.

    Cheers!


    8/8/18

    The Real Reason Why I Stopped Maximizing My Income

    8/08/2018
    As you probably know by now, I graduated college, moved back in with my parents, mowed lawns, and delivered ice some Sundays and holidays. My salary at the time was plenty to cover my $0 rent and other expenses (mainly beer), but I was focused on my goal to pay off my student loans ASAP.

    I paid off my loans in a year and a half, moved out of the basement, and stopped the side jobs. Doesn't that go against what a personal finance influencer is supposed to advocate for? 😨 Aren't I supposed to squeeze every penny out of every single day and tell you how mowing lawns and delivering ice can change your life?


    The fact of the matter is that mowing lawns and delivering ice can definitely change people's lives. It can if you're in some serious debt or struggling to make ends meet or just fired up about getting some extra cash. I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to have those jobs which allowed me to pay off my loans so quickly and have a little fun along the way.

    But at this point, I have the luxury to thing bigger picture. Sure, I wouldn't mind a few extra bucks here and there, but I would honestly probably just end up mostly spending it on more beer which would render my healthy lifestyle improvements useless.

    Almost every minute I spent on the ice truck or behind the mower when I wasn't listening to the Tribe (and sometimes zoning out of even the Tribe game), I was thinking about building businesses.

    It's something I talked about my whole life and something I had even begun to work toward with Smart Money Seed and 9vnow. Ideas would come and go for new businesses, ways to improve the projects I was working on, and what my next move should be. The inability to take immediate action on my thoughts drove me crazy.

    Losing time out of my week chasing a few bucks that I could've spent learning about and building businesses to maximize my progress on my long term goal of becoming an entrepreneur just didn't seem to make sense anymore.


    The reason I stopped maximizing my income is the same exact reason why I started. I wanted to go all in on my goals. Just like I was all in on my goal of paying off my student loans. And I needed to tailor my life to allow myself to completely buy in to my vision just like I did when I moved back home.

    I'm not certain if I've made the correct decision. I likely won't know that for many years. I do know that I enjoy the hell out of building Smart Money Seed and all the highs and even the lows that come with it. I love interacting with entrepreneurs through our interviews and now dabbling in helping them with Facebook marketing.

    I'm incredibly grateful to be able to focus on my long term goals and working toward my dream life that I hope to live in the next 5 years and not just the next 5 months. Not everybody has that luxury. I intend to take advantage of the opportunity in front of me to set myself up for levels of success I currently can only dream of.

    If you could see some life changing benefits with a few extra bucks, check out my post 4 Ways To Beef Up Your Income, And How I've Used All 4.

    If you're in a position to be able to focus more on your long-term goals, I want to hear from you. Leave us a comment or message us on Facebook and tell us what you're working toward and how you're designing your life to go all-in on your goals.

    Maybe the Smart Money Squad will be able to hold you accountable and give you that extra push you need to get fired up about achieving exactly what you want.

    7/26/18

    How To Earn $530 In Travel Credit With The Capital One Venture

    7/26/2018
    *Disclaimer* This article contains affiliate links, meaning if you choose to utilize our link to sign up for a credit card, we will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

    Hello Smart Money Squad! We're back at it again with another credit card aimed at saving you some cash on your next travel adventure. This week, we're going to take a look at one of my favorite cards, the Capital One Venture.

    This was one of the first cards I ever applied for when I initially got started earning points & miles. The reason why: the sign-up bonus is amazing! You can earn $500 on travel credit (50,000 Capital One points) that can be used to directly offset any travel purchase you make. That's right-ANY travel purchase. Those late-night Ubers home from the bar? Covered. Prefer booking a quick flight from Columbus-Chicago for $150? The Capital One Venture bonus covers that too.

    The flexibility this card provides in redemption across all travel channels makes it a no-brainer to throw in my wallet. If my initial pitch hasn't convinced you to sign-up for the card, let's take a look under-the-covers & unlock why you need to add this card to your portfolio today.

    Apply for the Capital One Venture 

    Capital One Venture Specs



    The Capital One Venture offers a wide variety of perks upon sign-up, including:

    • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
    • Unlimited 2x miles/dollar on every purchase (2% cash-back, redeemable on travel)
    • No foreign transaction fees!
    • Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit ($100 rebate when you signup using the card)
    • $95 annual fee, waived the first year
    Let's break that down. The sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles + your $3,000 in spend gets you to $530 in redeemable travel miles. You can redeem these miles through the Capital One travel eraser feature, which is available on the Capital One website once you login. I don't know about you but $530 is motivation enough to hop on this offer. Add in the fact that I can use this towards ANY travel, not just a specific airline/hotel program, and I'm over the moon.

    The effective 2% cashback makes this card a higher-earning card than many of the mainstream offerings on the market, including the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Amex Cash Magnet, etc. While I'd argue that you could maximize your spending across categories with separate cards, 2% is nothing to scoff at.

    If you've traveled abroad, you know the importance of having a card with zero foreign transaction fees. Who wants to get nickeled and dimed at every turn, simply for spending YOUR OWN MONEY? Not me-and the Capital One Venture enables us to simply spend our own money, charging the effective exchange rate in US dollars on your purchases.

    An exciting addition to the Venture's perks is the Global Entry/TSA Precheck $100 credit. I, like many of you, cannot stand waiting in the massive security lines at the airport. TSA Precheck has alleviated much of that pain for me. My time in line has evaporated, I'm not showing the airport my feet & my electronics stay in their bag. I plan on applying for Global Entry & utilizing this credit shortly, as I have a few international trips coming up. Skipping the LONG customs lines & breezing through the border is something I can look forward to, all for free with the Capital One Venture.

    Last but not least, it's FREE for one year! Your annual fee is $95 normally but is waived for the first year, making the card a no-risk proposition (assuming you are a responsible cardholder that pays their bills on time). You've got no excuse now. Try this card out-I promise you won't be disappointed.
    Final Thoughts

    The Capital One Venture consistently shows up on top credit card lists because of its earning potential & large sign-up bonus. Not having to spend money on an annual fee while receiving $530 in value is rare in the points and miles game, which is why you should JUMP on this offer while you can. We are seeing a higher offer for this card (50,000 points) than what is typically offered. With the addition of the TSA Precheck/Global Entry credit, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you plan on travelling at any point in the next 5 years.

    Check this card out, and if you do, please use our link to apply. We utilize the revenue earned from these links to continue providing financial & travel advice for you guys, so anything you can do to help us out is greatly appreciated!


    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!

    EDIT: Approved! Apply via our link here:

    Earn up to 60,000 bonus points with the World of Hyatt  Credit Card. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn More.

    https://www.referyourchasecard.com/205/IS5L9SMTZR


    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