We all know that travel can be a little expensive. Despite the fact that there are tons of tools out there to help you find the most affordable flight options and places to stay when traveling, it's always helpful to set aside a travel fund so you can book at the drop of a dime when you see an amazing flight deal. They say if you stay ready, you never have to get ready!
Here are some tips I've found most helpful to save for travel:
Travel savings account
The most traditional way to save for travel is creating a separate bank account that you contribute to on a regular basis. Check with your employer, there might be an opportunity to split your direct deposit so a certain percentage of each paycheck is sent directly to your travel savings account. If you're comfortable with it, you might want to consider not having a debit card linked your savings account so you physically have to go to the bank to remove the funds, making it more difficult to spend on an ongoing basis when you should be saving.
Apps & tools
There are lots of financial tools available to help you sort out your finances. MINT is a tool that digests your bank and credit activity and makes your spending habits clear as day via charts and graphs. You'll identify where you might be spending way more than you expected and get your life in order.
Another great app is DIGIT, which also digests your bank activity monthly and based on your spending habits and needs and takes a small amount of money out every few days to put in your DIGIT bank account. At the end of the month you'll find that from these small amounts withdrawn from your checking account that you didn't even recognize, you now have $300 saved! They give you around-the-clock access to your DIGIT bank account and can transfer money back into your checking account whenever you need it.
Keep it old school
Create an at-home savings bank DIY-style that you contribute to every payday. Find a close-able jar, jug or box to use as your bank. Whether it's $50 per pay period or $350 per pay period, create a realistic plan based on your budget and income and stick to it! Find a partner to start this savings plan and keep each other accountable so you don't miss a payday. Create a tally sheet to physically post on your new at-home bank:
Column 1 should have your pay dates
Column 2 should have your contributions per pay date that you determine at the beginning of your 12-months savings plan
Column 3 should be the total amount in your bank, including your last deposit from your most recent payday
These are three ways I've saved for my travel. What are some of your tips?
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We all want to travel the world, but let's face it, we're also trying to do it on a budget. NEWSFLASH: there's never been a more affordable time to travel than right now. I use the tips below to ball out on a budget around the globe.
Get to know the best discount websites
People ask me all the time how I can afford to travel so often. I'm far from rich and everyone who knows me knows that. My answer: I basically ONLY book travel around flight deals. Why pay full price when you can get the same flight on the low if you're plugged in and plan accordingly? These websites share flight deals every single day:
NOTE: these flight deals go quickly! If you see a sale, it might not be there in an hour. This is an instance where impulse shopping is OK!
Get into Google Flights
If you’re more specific about the destinations you want to visit, you better get into Google Flights. Here you can search from destination to destination with a calendar tool that shows you the cheapest option for all flights, by airline, date and more. Don't be intimidated by the system, it's really super easy once you get the hang of it. Plug in your destinations and potential dates, and voila!
Google Flights can show you in calendar view the difference in cost if you shifted your flight schedule a day, a week, or a few weeks before or after you had originally planned. You might find that if you go to your destination a week after you originally planned, you could save hundreds of dollars. That's efficiency at its best. Also, Google Flights includes some international airlines that don’t appear in some of the go-to flight search engines, giving you even more options.
Hotels and resorts are cool but...
Home and apartment rental sites such as Airbnb and Home Away have changed the way we book travel. Whether you like the countryside or want to be in the heart of the city, there are options for home rentals that will allow you to experience your destination like a local. If you're nervous about it, start off by renting your house domestically. You'll realize the benefits right away, especially if you're traveling with a large group. Most recently, I rented a home in Martha's Vineyard. The family and I were able to cut costs, have a pool party and even barbecue in the back.
What are some of your budget travel tips? Let them in the comments below!
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“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
The summer before my 30th birthday, I decided that if I did nothing else, I was going to Europe. I sent out a mass email to a bunch of my friends the December before my proposed trip, not really caring whether anyone was bold enough to embark on a journey across four countries with me. I was going, even if I had to go alone. This was my dream trip before turning 30. And if you know me, you know that once I put my mind to something, I make it happen. So I did. From London to Paris to Venice to Florence to Rome to Mykonos to Crete to Athens to Santorini.
Initially, I contacted my trusty travel agent, but after reading her calculations, I knew that either I was going to have to find a cheaper route or a stripper pole... But like I said, I was going to Europe by any means necessary. So I sat down and mapped out my trip, the same way I've done for the past ten years. In college, my roommates and I discovered that I had a niche for travel planning. While I had never planned a trip this extensive, I sat down and figured it out. Thank God I had two traveling companions that trusted my judgment and didn't question my lead. Somehow, it all worked out. Below are the steps I took to plan my dream vacation:
1. Choose your destination (s), and if you are going to multiple places, pull out a map and check the feasibility of your trip. You want to go from Paris to Russia on a budget? Oh ok, let me know how that works out for you. Be reasonable.
2. After you've chosen your destinations and have your start and end points, take a look at the price of your round-trip flight. Note that I said check the price of your "round trip" flight. When pricing international flights that are coming to and leaving from different locations, single trip tickets can be more expensive. For example, when pricing a one-way ticket from Greece, it was about $1,200. However, my entire fare to London and back from Greece was only $1,440. You do the math. Pricing your flights when you are at the beginning of planning also lets you know whether your trip is within your budget. The last thing you want to do is plan a trip all the way through and then realize it was never affordable anyway. The app Momondo and sites like Kayak are great tools to help find the best prices. When paying for a flight of this magnitude, either save in advance or use part of your income tax check. Don't wait until too close to your travel date and risk paying an enormous fare.
3. So, you know where you want to go and have an idea of how much it costs to get there. Now you start the really tedious parts. Determine the best modes of transportation to get from city to city based on the trip that you mapped out. For traveling through Europe, most of your traveling will be done via train, and if going to Greece, via ferry. Use sites such as Rail Europe to get an idea of costs. Although our train ticket via the chunnel from London to Paris was $138, our tickets through Italy were fairly cheap, less than $25 to get from city to city. Mapping out your trip also lets you know which cities are feasible. I really wanted to see the black sand beaches of Sicily, but unfortunately, it didn't fit easily into the travel plan. Also, decide whether certain cities can be done via a day trip through a tour company. For instance, we didn't need to spend the whole day in Cognac, France, so we took the early morning train there and came back on the last train that night. However, sometimes you have to accept that you won't be able to see and do everything, but I will come back to that point a little later.
4. After you've decided the easiest transit forms to get from place to place on your trip, you can now start looking into your lodging options. Airbnb was my best friend. However, I have some tips to give you based on our experiences to help you through yours:
5. Remember, reviews are your best friend. Try to stay away from properties with minimal reviews and/or unfavorable ones.
6. Make sure that your selections have Wi-Fi, central air and/or heat, and any other amenities that are important to you being able to lodge comfortably while traveling.
7. Research the area where your lodgings are located. Make sure that the area is safe and near a train or bus station for easy commuting.
8. Although Airbnb was my best friend, I did have to use hotels.com for areas with limited options, such as the Mykonos. Airbnb is a good resource, but not the end all, be all. And be sure that if you have to use a site like hotels.com, verify that you are getting the lowest price by also checking the hotel's website and other discount sites such as Expedia, Kayak, etc.
9. Feel free to contact either the hotel and/or Airbnb property owner with any questions before booking. Most of them are pretty helpful, and if they're not, you dodged a bullet anyway.
10. Paying for lodging options all at once can be super expensive. In order to maximize our teacher budgets, we decided to pay for our trip one country at a time. We paid for London in February, Paris in March, Italy w/transit in April, and so forth. I created this schedule way in advance so that everyone traveling had an idea of when we would be making our payment for that location. And because I had researched lodging options while putting the trip together, I was able to give estimates before people agreed to come, so that everyone had an idea of how much they would need to budget for each country. Transportation via train, ferry, etc., was paid with the corresponding country. Because I was traveling in a group, each month I sent out three lodging choices for each city and went with majority vote.
11. Flights, lodging, inner-city travel... The last thing to do is to decide what activities you want to do in each city. This can be tedious. Here I come back to my point that you might not be able to do everything this trip. Don't crowd your itinerary so much that you don't have time to just enjoy the scenery and immerse yourself in the culture. Use popular tour sites such as Viator, Google, or consult with either your hotel or Airbnb hosts to decide the best sightseeing options. Almost every major city has a hop-on, hop off bus to see the most popular tourists sites, and depending on what you want to see, that might be a viable option.
I’ve been blessed enough for travel to be a fixture of my lifestyle, but this trip was by far the one that tested my capacity and longevity and whether or not I was really true to this travel life. This trip was full of valuable lessons that I’ve listed below, but all in all, it was an experience filled with beautiful moments that will last a lifetime:
1. Pack wisely. It's not fun lugging a 50 lb. bag across four countries. I always over pack, and it had never been a problem, but I have also never spent 18 days traveling Europe and having to pack that over-packed bag onto every train, ferry, water bus, down cobblestone streets and everywhere else we had to go.
2. Live. You don't spend this kind of money to spend most of your time worrying about things and people still in America or staying immersed in social media (unless that's part of your job). Let your social media time be late at night when your excitement keeps you from falling asleep.
3. Try new things and meet new people. Leave your inhibitions at home. I was nervous that I would starve to death in Greece because their staples are my least favorite, but I opened my mind and ate a hearty meal everyday.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
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Things are heating up between Baltimore's city council and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. In a move that has upset several people, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has proposed budget cuts that will impact city services. The mayor is recommending a $2.64 billion dollar city budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
In an initial attempt to solve Baltimore's $60 million dollar budget deficit, the following was proposals were offered:
City property tax would be reduced by a penny
$4 million dollars would be cut for after school programs
225 vacant positions in the Baltimore City Police Department would not be filled
4 percent increase at city-owned parking garages
6 million dollars would go towards police body cameras
City employees would get a 2 percent raise
Potential cuts to code enforcement, graffiti removal, tree maintenance, merit pay and grant management
Increased spending on the school system by $10 million
$20 million dollar cut from the police department
The biggest point of contention between city council and the mayor is the after school program funding. With the new fiscal year starting July 1st, city council threatened a government shut down if the mayor did not make cuts to pay for after school programs. On Monday, in an attempt to compromise Rawlings-Blake announced additional cuts to public health services, libraries, and housing inspections.
Despite this compromise, city council and the mayor are continuing to battle it out.
In response Rawlings-Blake said, "Clearly there is little willingness on the part of the City Council leadership to enter into good faith negotiations to get things done. Instead they have relied on pointless rhetoric versus meeting their fiscal obligations to the City.The City needs a balanced budget. Not grandstanding. That is what we are elected to do."
Hopefully, the city council and mayor can come up with a solution that benefits the city in a balanced way. If not, as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake leaves office in December, she may be leaving a mess in the hands of her successor.
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There is nothing I love more in this life than traveling. Absorbing different cultures, eating the foods, taking in sites, and more. Travel centers me, broadens my perspective and exposes me to the expansive beauty and diversity of humanity.
Unfortunately, my travel budget this year is wholly and altogether dismissive of my passports longing for more stamps. If you are also suffering from a case of hopeless wanderlust inhibited by a restrictive budget, join me in my vicarious travel adventures through my favorite YouTube travel vlogger, Oneika the Traveller.
Check out this composite of the amazing travel experiences Oneika racked up in 2015 and follow her YouTube channel for her more recent adventures.
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In my mind, I'm a jet-setter. I travel the world on a frequent basis, collecting amazing experiences and memories and meeting fantastic people. My pockets and knowledge don't support that yet, though. Sound familiar? Traveling can be challenging to steadily integrate into your life, from the cost (a huge detail) to maintaining a healthy food regimen (a smaller detail). Here are some essential black-owned travel businesses that will bring your inner traveler from imagination to fruition:
I always dread looking for plane tickets. How will I find a cheap ticket without sitting in the middle seat at the back of the plane? Why don't those random $99 deals happen when I'm going somewhere? Will I ever be able to afford first class? If I'm traveling abroad, how will I survive a flight time in the double digits sitting in coach? Well, there's an app for that. When I found out about this service, I literally yelled, "WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS?!" Airfordable allows you to pay 1/3 of your airfare up front and then set up payments based on your budget to finish paying off the cost of your plane ticket. You can lock in the cheapest fare for the duration of your payments, and payments can be on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
Fit & Fun Living
Who wants to gain 15 pounds on vacation? Not me. I also don't want to ruin my vacation with exercises that I don't enjoy. That's where Fit & Fun Living comes in. This show illustrates how to make your workouts more fun, thereby encouraging you to be consistent with your workout. Their mission is "to help our audience easily understand how fitness affects the way they live, and have fun while they’re at it." One of my favorite episodes is "Workout While You Twerk-Out."
One of the hosts of Fit & Fun Living TV, RyanNicole, is developing her own series and app for your on-the-go needs. FitTrip is a developing television streaming service and app that will help support you through maintaining your health while on the go. As the site states, "The FitTrip travel show will connect travelers with a hip and fit-focused tour guide, rating the most fit hotels, providing access to popular and cutting-edge location specific workouts and locating yummy nutrition options while on the road." The app will rate hotels based on how accessible workouts and healthy foods are, and provide geographical help on how to find the best food and fitness around the user.
Black Trade Lines
This is a comprehensive app that allows you to search black businesses based on your geographical location. By visiting the main site, you can also sign up if you're a black-owned business to add yourself to the directory. The site quotes Marcus Garvey, a historical figure who was a proponent of cooperative economics, and also boasts the ability to connect businesses and users directly with social media. With black spending power now estimated at over one trillion dollars, imagine if we intentionally and consistently circulated our dollars among ourselves by our constant support of black businesses! Although this app isn't necessarily designed for traveling purposes, it does solve the challenge of knowing where black businesses are when in unfamiliar territory.
Henderson Travel Service
Around since 1955, HTS says it's "the first fully appointed African-American owned travel agency in the U.S." One of its current tours is taking travelers back to Africa (specifically, Banjul, Gambia). The agency has accumulated several awards over the years, including the 2013 African Diaspora World Tourism Award and the 2013 African Diaspora Tourism Cultural Heritage Tour Operator of Distinction Award.
African American Travel Conference
This is for the traveler who has a business idea who wants to meet with other professionals to network and gain knowledge around the industry. Anyone is welcome to register for the conference as an individual, but AATC also offers a membership for just under $400/year. Members receive discounts for conference attendance, will have their business listed in an exclusive directory made available to travel planners, and have a listing in The Group Travel magazine. Next year's conference is scheduled over three days and will include seminars around how to position one's business in the marketplace, sightseeing with other attendees, and "one-on-one discussions for potential business opportunities."
What's the most challenging element of traveling for you? Are there black own travel businesses you support? Sound off in the comments!
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If you've ever seen the show POWER, you've seen an interesting example of financial empowerment. Don't believe me? Ghost and Tommy grew up in the gutter. They knew that if they wanted to make something of themselves, they were going to need money to do so. Then came along Kanan.
He took both of them under his wing and schooled them not only on the drug game, but on how to hustle and handle business as well. Although unorthodox (and illegal), their methods for building an empire were calculated and lucrative.
Now, I'm by no means supporting drug trafficking, but I do believe in free enterprise and becoming empowered financially. And with season three of POWER upon us in mid-July, it's the perfect time to discuss five steps to take to become financially empowered through lessons learned from watching the show.
Step 1: Go from nothing to something
See, we all want to build an enterprise for us and our families. Whether you come from the streets in New York City like Ghost, Tasha and Tommy; or from Bel-Air like Hillary, Carlton and Ashley Banks, we all want something to call our own. So to build your legacy, you have to know how to go from nothing to something.
Maybe you want to sell clothes or start a brand consulting business. Better yet, you have the next phone app that's going to change the way people share life experiences. No matter what it is, you have to start at ground zero and work your way to greatness.
To do that, you'll first want to check out these "10 Steps to Launch and Grow Your Business." Even if your business is already in the beginning stages, there are still great tips within those 10 steps to help you flourish.
Another way to start from nothing is to make a budget and develop a financial plan to help save, pay off debt and invest so your financial future will become more secure. If you start directing your dollars with purpose, then you'll know how to establish wealth goals.
Step 2: Once you get right, stay 'clean'
As Ghost and Tommy turn nothing into something, Ghost is trying to leave the drug game and become 100 percent legit through other business ventures, mainly nightclubs. Neither Tommy nor his wife Tasha are feeling it and love living the dangerous life of luxury. However, Ghost sees the bigger picture.
Whenever you're trying to get your money right or oversee business operations, you want to make sure your actions are on the straight and narrow. There's nothing wrong with trying to get your money right quickly or have your business excel ahead of schedule, but you have to make sure you’re doing everything correctly and legally.
This means paying your debts on time, saving according to your budget allocations, investing in financial markets and real estate while paying the taxes you owe, etc. Keep your actions and books in order if you plan to achieve financial empowerment.
Step 3 - Be careful who you take advice from
As you continue to build to your money chest and become 'cleaner' in your actions, there are going to be plenty of times that outside influences will try tell you what to do with your finances and business ventures. The key is to be knowledgeable enough in that you know which advice is good and which isn't.
Ghost is constantly torn between the advice he is given throughout the show. His wife Tasha wants him to think about the family business more than being legit and Tommy consistently lets Ghost know that he's getting soft when it comes to their illegal endeavors. Angela warns Ghost about associating with Tommy as she gets deeper into the case against Felipe Lobos. And let's not forget about Simon Sterns input about how to run a successful club empire.
When it's all said and done, Ghost trusts his instincts and the knowledge he's gained along the way. He doesn't always make the most ethical decisions (see Step 2), but he doesn't just take advice as truth without some due diligence.
I have 6 tips for sticking to your budget as well 7 keys to your investment budget and I am interested to know your thoughts on the advice given in both.
Step 4 - Spread your money around
Now that you've cleaned up your finances and have a successful business up and running, you've learned how to make the right moves, even with all the expert advice thrown your way. But you begin to feel you're becoming stagnant in your money moves and want to really grow your bank account and portfolio. That's a natural feeling because now you know it's time to start speeding your money around in different areas.
Ghost and Tommy have been spreading their money around since season one between banks and businesses.
A bank will only insure each account type (e.g. checking, certificate of deposit, business, etc.) up to $250,000 according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). That means putting $1 million in a single bank account is neither lucrative nor safe. Ghost and Tasha keep money in banks, in their home, in businesses, luxurious items like jewelry, and the list goes on. Diversification is key.
To help your spread our money around, here are 5 ways to save for investing and be sure to revisit these 7 keys to your investment budget.
Step 5 - Make sure your money is secure
As you seal your mark on financial empowerment, the last step you must take is securing your finances for today and the future.
Yes, the FDIC is one way as mentioned in Step 4, but there are other ways to as well. These ways include life insurance, trusts and wills, which all fall under the general category of estate planning.
As Ghost steps out on his wife Tasha for his high school sweetheart Angela, Tasha catches on begins to plan for her future and her children. Not only is she worried about her marriage, but also Ghost getting caught up with jail time, which could have a direct effect in the money they have. Although not testimonial estate planning, Tasha takes action to secure her future.
For more information on estate planning, check out this article on money lessons learned from Empire.
As you can see, financial empowerment is extremely important, but doesn't take many steps to get there. Turn your finances into something of substance and make sure your records are on the up and up. Be careful of advice you take and make sure to spread your money around by diversifying your portfolio. Lastly, secure your finances today as well as in the future. After all, this is a big, rich town. You not getting your part is nonsense.
What are your favorite financial tips? Let us know in the comments below!
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Several months ago, I embarked on a journey to transition to a Paleo diet. It seemed simple – stop eating carbs and dairy to help with making healthier food choices. However, I ever-so-slowly realized that this primal diet wasn’t quite as easy for me as I thought it would be.
Don’t get me wrong, primal eating is simple, and there are so many resources out there to help with going Paleo thanks to the power of the Internet. But it’s a difficult diet to follow if you’re lacking one major resource – money. There are a plethora of substitutes that can be used to replace carbs and dairy in your diet, but those replacements aren’t exactly cost-friendly. As someone who was unemployed and living entirely off the graciousness of my parents, I wasn’t in a position to be purchasing costly natural, gluten-free and dairy-free products.
So I struggled for a while, searching for snacks that wouldn’t cost me big bucks. I was often mildly hungry, but it was okay because I didn’t have to stay focused all day long the way you do when you’re working.
Then I got a job! I was thanking God and the universe for removing me from my misery. But that also meant I needed to eat filling, balanced meals so I could be alert and ready to work. Because I was still struggling with money and there wasn’t anything else to eat, I resorted to cheating on the primal lifestyle. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to cheat, it was that I had to eat what was available. And fancy flour wasn’t it.
I loved being paleo, and I’m excited for a time when I’ll be able to afford posh substitutes and shop entirely at Whole Foods if I so choose. But for now, I’m back to a regular diet filled with carbs and cheese.
Have you been trying a new healthy lifestyle? Tell us how it’s going by commenting below!
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It's that time of year again — tax season. The U.S. government graciously gave us an extra weekend to toil over those receipts, W2s and 1099s this year and April 18th is now behind us. But in front of us are refund checks! Some people owe money to Uncle Sam, but to those who don't, "Me and my friends we got money to spend."
In two to three weeks when you peer into your bank account for the 46th time looking for that refund, you will finally see it, the money that you earned in the previous year that they were kind enough to give back to you. So what to do with that money? Go somewhere! Here are some suggestions for where to travel with your tax refund based on how much you’re getting back.
$500 or less
So you have a little bit of money, but not that much. With a couple hundred dollars, it might not be possible to venture too far from home, but if you're diligent and you find a flight deal, you can certainly make the great escape. You’ve got a few options:
Use the money to start your travel saving fund. This might be the exact start that you need to really begin planning for your one big vacation this year. Here are a few tips for how to add to this fund.
Have a staycation. Sometimes a vacation is just about getting away from your everyday life. Hop on Hotwire.com or Airbnb to find a hotel or beautiful home to stay in for the weekend. Whether it's a girl's weekend, a bae-staycation or a solo travel moment, staying within 100 miles of your home can be that reset button you need. Think beautiful cabin in the mountains, visiting a small historic American town, making your way into the big city, or going to a resort/spa combo for some pampering.
Do a quick four day, three night getaway to the Caribbean. Sites such as Orbitz and Expedia can help you find deals that include airport and hotel, some that come in just under $500.
$500 - $1,000
Alright, so you have a little more money to play with... grab your passport! The cost of travel has really gone down in recent years and the rise of flight deals has made traveling very, very affordable. Last year, a few friends and I went to the United Arab Emirates, I paid $218 for a nonstop flight from DC to Abu Dhabi on one of the world’s best airlines. Here are two options for those in this refund range:
Put your money in a savings account and sign up for some flight deals. When you see the deal you want, pull that money out of savings and buy that flight! This article will tell you exactly how to save money on travel. A few countries have been on sale recently including Colombia, Belize, Martinique and Guadeloupe, so book your flight, download Duolingo and brush up on some Spanish or French. The cheapest accommodations are most often found using Airbnb, but if that isn’t your thing, hotwire.com and hotels.com are good for deals on hotels.
Staying relatively close to the U.S. will be your best bet in terms of saving on flights, so think South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Also heading to countries where the dollar is strong against the local currency will make that tax refund go even further.
$1,000 - $3,000
This refund range could allow for a luxury vacation to a Caribbean island or even will allow you to travel further to places as far away as Thailand and Cambodia or even South Africa or Zanzibar.
If you decide to head to the Caribbean to lay on a picturesque beach to sip tropical drinks, try Curacao, Turks and Caicos or St. Bart’s for life in the lap of luxury. It will leave you feeling better than any Louis Vuitton bag ever could! Flights to these islands should be less than $600 as long as you book in advance. Be sure to sign up for travel alerts on Airfarewatchdog.com to ensure that you don't miss a flight deal to your dream destination.
Flights to Asia and Africa could run you around $1,000 depending on which U.S. airport you’re leaving from and the time of year. For those at the higher end of the budget, that leaves you with $2,000 for hotel and spending money, which is more than enough should you choose to explore southeast Asia or an African nation. If heading to Zanzibar, check out Taste Makers Africa's list of the best Airbnbs.
$3,000 - $5,000
This budget could allow you to experience once-in-a-lifetime trips, whether that be heading to the bottom of the globe and going on an expedition to Antarctica or spending an afternoon with a family of mountain gorillas, of which less than 1,000 remain on the planet. East African safaris are some of the best in the world and Uganda and Rwanda have something unique to offer in particular — chance encounters with mountain gorillas.
Can I have a dollar? With this budget, you have two options: Maximize your travel or BALL OUT. The choice really depends on your travel goals and how much free time you have to travel. A few options:
Plan three different international trips. You can very easily do three trips for $2,000 to maximize your money. This will allow you to take a few different vacations throughout the year.
You could buy an around-the-world ticket, take a hiatus from your job and set out on a two-month adventure. The major airline groups, i.e. SkyTeam, One World and Star Alliance offer around-the-world tickets.
You could go to the Maldives, Bora Bora or the Seychelles, each vacation spots of the rich and fabulous. With a budget of more than $5,000, you could certainly do some damage!
So what will you do with YOUR refund check? Let us know in the comments below.
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noun ꘡ tax re·turn
the disproportionate amount of money the government gives back to you after chipping away at your paychecks from the previous year
verb ꘡ flex
to stunt or show off
January 1st through April 15th marks tax season in the United States — the time of year when individuals prepare the previous year's financial statements and reports. As a young adult in her early 20s, tax season comes with a mixed bag of emotions ranging from, “OMG I have no idea if my TurboTax report is correct so I hope the feds don’t come after me,” to “How the hell is it legal for the government to take so much of my money?!” and the inevitable 'save this money vs. treat yo self' debate.
It’s the second week of March and I get a reminder from my Google Calendar app that reads “LOG INTO TURBOTAX AND GET WHAT’S YOURS!” followed by a series of dollar bill and dancing lady emojis. As I combed through my W-2 form, I shook my head just thinking about how much of that hard-earned money I’ll never see. As I hit the 'e-file' button and submitted my 2015 filings, I stopped and reflected on my financial journey over the last five years, which lead to some thoughts around this idea of the tax return flex.
For many, the precursor to the tax return flex is the college refund check flex.
If you’re unfamiliar with the college refund check process, it’s the early Christmas present some college students receive after schools deduct tuition and other academic fees from available financial aid. The leftover cash is refunded to students, thus resulting in a college refund check. People always knew when the refund checks dropped too — folks sprang for name brand food items at the grocery store (no more generic Kroger fruit snacks!), made celebratory trips to the mall, and maybe even planned random weekend getaways.
But things were different in college. The vast majority of us remained shielded from the painstaking responsibilities that come with adulthood and could still rely on our guardians for varying degrees of financial support. Didn’t want to subject yourself to the food offerings in the cafeteria? No problem! Call up Papa John’s and get a pizza sent to your room. And if you really wanted to flex, you’d add on an order of cinnamon sticks — no ramen and hot sauce for you tonight. Spring break coming up and your family isn’t willing to support your drunken debauchery? Don’t sweat it! You have a few extra dollars lying around to help secure your spot in the two-bed hotel room that you and your eight closest friends will share for an entire week. The list goes on and on...
Fast forward to post-grad living, and the picture isn’t as pretty. The stress of rent, bills, groceries (not including the shameful amount you spend on eating out and liquor), student loans, personal grooming (men dare not complain about this expense in the presence of a woman), trips to see friends (since you’re no longer down the hall from one another and experience separation anxiety more often than you’d like to admit) and everything else you now have to pay for and never knew you needed, dangles over your head with every swipe of your debit card. And this is when you’re single! I haven’t even scratched the surface of expenses accrued by young adults who are married or have kids.
There’s a turning point in every young adult’s life when the flex begins to take on a different form.
You commit to making choices that better your financial health and cherish the sacred 'treat-yo-self' moment that happens every so often. You start saving more and declare two or three months out of the year 'frugal month,' better known as “don’t ask me to go out, cause I’m at home eating frozen Trader Joe’s meals and binge-watching Netflix to avoid blowing my entire paycheck on drinks at the bar.” And you might even set some new financial goals, whether it’s cutting your monthly Uber bill in half or putting away a few dollars each week to contribute to your international travel fund.
The long-term satisfaction of paying off your credit card bill begins to replace the instant gratification you feel when slipping on that new pair of overpriced shoes. You step up your financial literacy game and actually start paying attention to things like 401Ks, Roth IRAs, the stock market and the rising cost of living. You take a step back and consider putting your money toward more intangible experiences that push you to learn something new and yield memories to last a lifetime, and you understand that establishing good financial health now will benefit you in the future.
Money and this idea of the haves and have-nots are the root of so many challenges we face in today’s society. Finances aren’t something people talk about openly, but it’s vital that we, especially as young adults, take care of our financial health. And although tax returns encompass a very small portion of one’s monetary resources, it’s never too early to take that small step forward and upgrade your tax return flex.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever used your tax return for? Share in the comment section below.
Oakland, CA native. Black woman in tech. Lover of all things food and wine. Strange obsession with Polaroid photos. Professional ghost writer finding her own voice.
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Since I've been in college, saving money and using my resources have been essential to survival. For many, college can be stressful because money is so tight. Therefore, every way that you can save money, you should. With the help of the internet, especially YouTube, I have found a number of ways to save my coins. One way is by doing it myself, in other words, by mastering DIYs. Here are seven reasons why doing it yourself might be your best option:
1. It saves money
The great thing about DIYs is that they usually require tools that you already have in your home. I love to create DIY recipes for my hair. Not only is it fun to try out, but I get to use the household items I already have and try out different recipes on my hair without breaking the bank. What's not to like about that?
2. It's fun to experiment
Doing it yourself is a creative experience. You can get as experimental as you want with whatever you're making. There are no boundaries and that's what makes it so fun. For example, I plan to do a DIY recipe for a body sugar scrub. Though the recipes for most scrubs are the same, I can use oils that work better for my skin as opposed to the ones I found in the original recipe.
3. It's a learning experience
DIYs are a learning experience and they're all about trial and error. For example, there are many hair techniques that I've wanted to try or have tried. Some were a complete success, but others were a complete fail. Either way, I've learned from my experiences and I know what to do/not to do next time around.
4. It's a way to broaden your horizons
You know the saying, "Don't knock it until you try it?" It truly reflects how I feel about my DIY experiments. Before I began doing DIYs for hair recipes, I never even thought about owning a container of Shea butter or coconut oil. But by doing these recipes and seeing what they can do for my hair, I've grown to love these products and use them for other hair or skin care regimens. Doing it yourself is a process where you not only learn about what you're making, but you also open yourself to learning more about you and what you like.
5. You're creating an endless supply
This is an interesting way to look at it, but it's true. Whenever you run out of your favorite DIY recipe, you have no need to stress. You can always reproduce it at your command with no hassle. It's pretty awesome.
6. It can relieve stress
For myself personally, it's fun to get creative and engage in new experiences. Anytime I'm stressing and just need a clear head, making things really helps. Doing DIY projects helps me focus my attention on something more positive.
7. It's the ultimate gratification
Creating a great DIY recipe or having success with your first hairstyle attempt is a gratifying experience, to say the least. You truly learn about yourself and what you're making and you will feel so proud of the work you've done.
What are some of your favorite DIY recipes or tutorials? Comment below!
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If you're trying to cut down on expenses or tired of not knowing what's really going into your hair, DIY natural hair products might be for you. Here are 11 quick and easy-to-make natural hair products that will help you reach your reduced budget goals and a more conscious hair care regimen:
This moisturizing deep conditioner
A pre-poo treatment that will moisturize your dry hair
An overnight hot oil treatment for ultra-soft coils
A strengthening and growing hair mask
Or, this Holy Grail mask that will help any issue your hair is facing
This all-natural protein treatment made from items you can find in your kitchen
An okra gel if you're tired of alcohol drying out your strands or you just want to try something new
Or, this flax seed gel if you're not too fond of okra
This edge control to that will help regrow and tame your edges
A natural shampoo if you're tired of chemicals stripping your hair
A simple to make leave-in conditioner that will keep your hair protected
Because who doesn't want hair as luxurious as Egyptian cotton?
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