My Learnvest Adventure, part 1: The One Number Strategy

***I have not received any sort of compensation from Learnvest (or anyone), nor did they solicit a review.  This is my actual experience as a real human woman trying to figure out how to be not broke.***

I have used to manage my money since 2007.  I think it is a superb tool for getting a snapshot of all your assets and debts in one place, it’s secure, and best of all, it’s free.  But I have felt that I could use more guidance about my money.

I found Learnvest soon after it was created, and I love the idea of it–it’s like Mint, but geared toward women in their 20s and 30s, and they offer unlimited email access to an unbiased financial advisor.  The only problem: the 5 Year Planner program (the most applicable to my life) was $349 to start, and $19 a month after that.  So I held out and used the free version for a couple of years, just as a supplement to Mint.  But then I started receiving coupons to sign up for a program.  They would sometimes send $50, sometimes $75, and then I FINALLY got one for $150 off the set-up fee and the first month free.  So I bit.  I paid the $199 (compare that to the fees of other financial advisors, and it’s basically pennies), and set up a phone appointment with my new financial planner.  Then I filled out a GIANT form about every aspect of my financial life, my future goals (short and long term), and attitudes about money.  Then I waited a month for my phone appointment (so that’s why the first month is free…).  Little did I know that this wait would ultimately lead to me changing how I think about money completely.

We took an hour to talk through the information I had provided, he asked some more in depth questions about my budget and goals, and what I feel like I’m struggling with.  It was a good conversation, and I never once felt uncomfortable or like I was being pressured.  THIS is why fee-based, unbiased financial planners are the way to go.  They get paid either way, so they just want to help you.  There’s no commission encouraging them to make a sales pitch and lay on the pressure.  When that was done, we set up a phone appointment for a couple of weeks later to talk through my plan, and he sent me some articles to read and tasks to complete to get ready to work on my plan.

By the time he created my plan and we had our conversation to talk through how it all works, I already felt like I had been going on it.  Through the little bite-sized tasks that took about 5-10 minutes each, I had set up my Learnvest online tool to be infinitely more effective than it had been for two years.  I also had my head in the right place from reading articles and watching videos.

My favorite part about the Learnvest program that I thought I would hate is the One Number Strategy.  Basically, you add up your fixed expenses and savings for the month, and divide the leftover by 4.3 to give you your weekly flexible spending budget.  This covers everything that is not accounted for in your fixed expenses, such as groceries, beer, shopping, prescriptions, eating out, fun money, whatever.  If you spend over your flexible spending budget one week, you reign it in the next.  If you have money left over, you can move it to your savings or save it for another week when you know you’ll have more expenses.

The best part of the One Number Strategy is there is no guilt like with other budgets.  I get perpetually caught in the cycle of, “Oh well, I screwed up by eating out too much,” and then I just do it more because I feel like I already screwed up.  Now I keep a running list in Evernote of how much I spent and where, and how much is left for the week, and there is no guilt.  If I want a kombucha or want to eat out for lunch, then I don’t buy a book or I make dinner from the cupboards and freezer instead of buying more groceries.  I have been so much more successful with this than my old monthly budget that made me feel like I was screwing up every time I went shopping, or ate at a restaurant, or even bought a $10 bottle of wine instead of the $5 bottle, even though the $10 is so much better and doesn’t give me a headache after a glass.  There’s no need to punish yourself for living and enjoying life, as long as you’re achieving your other goals.

In the next post on my Learnvest adventure, I’ll talk about how the program overhauled my bank account system and saving strategy, and how I managed to save more in 3 months than I had in the previous year.





The Purge Continues (Endlessly)

Somehow I am STILL purging unwanted items from our house, but now I am managing to make some pretty good money off of it.  I switched up my selling game from strictly Craigslist and local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups, with a fall-back plan of consignment, and tried my hand at eBay.  Let me just say that I am still very much an eBay novice, but I have sold things for way more than I could have gotten from any of the other ways I’ve tried.

I probably would have gotten maybe 10 bucks for these boots at Plato’s Closet or around $20 or so selling on Craigslist or Facebook.

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But I sold them on eBay for $60!!!!!!!!  That’s double what I paid when I bought them new.  Turns out that Naughty Monkey leather boots are not in high demand in FoCo, but are everywhere else.

My other big eBay win is selling this Carhartt vest.  2014-12-09 17.18.03 CGCHWV001_-00_carhartt-brown_front_Womens-Carhartt-Sandstone-Mock-Neck-Vest-Sherpa-Lined_23

I bought this in Steamboat for around $20 about 7 years ago because I guess I felt like I needed some workwear???  Who knows…  I wore it approximately twice for things like riding in a car and sitting in a chair (hard work).  I went straight to eBay with this when I noticed it still hanging in the closet (not sure how it survived so many purges).  While my favorite discount gear store had it for sale in pink and purple for $37.50, the MSRP is $79.99, and Carhartt Brown is almost impossible to come by in women’s vests…except on eBay.  In under a day, I sold it for $60.

I am certainly not just selling things like crazy on eBay.  It all comes down to pictures, keywords, and timing.  It took me two listings to sell a silk J. Crew dress that I wore to my first black tie optional event while working for CSU Events, and I think I ended up selling it for $15 (half of what I paid, so I got my money’s worth).  I am also trying to unload a pair of Steve Madden boots and a couple of Moosejaw jackets, but I haven’t had any bites yet.  I’ve gotten some views, though, so I think I need to take some better pictures.

However, I can’t sell everything on eBay and I lucked out yesterday by leaving a post up in the Fort Collins Trade Swap  group on Facebook.  (Pro-tip: if you are looking to sell things in Fort Collins, this is the place to do it because the 6700 members all get real-time notifications of what’s for sale in their newsfeed).  I have been trying to sell this gem of a bike since this summer:

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This picture does not do the ridiculousness justice…it has huge rearview mirrors, a giant bell, the back tire is super fat, and the seat has a velvet checkerboard pattern.

Lo and behold, my Christmas present came early and a guy found the post from August, offered me $150, and gave me the money before he ever looked at the bike.  It was somehow exactly what he had been looking for all over Northern Colorado.  Goodbye, chopper bike!  I told the boy that we are now a 6-bicycle household, and then it felt like all the purging progress went out the window.

Moral of the story: when you’re selling things you no longer want, figure out where you’re going to get the best deal.  If it’s a brand name and easily shippable, try eBay.  You don’t pay anything until you sell, the listing fees are reasonable, and it’s SO EASY.  You’ll get way more money than if you consign it or take it to a place that buys on the spot.  Definitely read up on selling tips to make sure you’re reaching potential buyers.  If you can’t easily ship it, check out a local facebook buy and sell group.  The Fort Collins group is very active and everything shows up in the newsfeeds of your potential buyers.

When you’ve made some extra cash, sock most of it away in your emergency fund or put it toward paying off a debt, and use some to have a little fun.  I hear there is a new trampoline park that is awesome and on Tuesdays, 2 can jump for the price of 1.  I haven’t been there yet, but it sounds ridiculously fun (and like a broken spine waiting to happen).

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, so I thought I’d share some worthy causes in Fort Collins.

Rams Against Hunger

Rams Against Hunger is a fund to help provide meals to food-insecure students at Colorado State University.  More than 2800 students at CSU are food-insecure, meaning they aren’t able to afford food or they don’t know where their next meal will come from.  A gift of $130 could feed a student for a month.  Even a small gift of $6.50 will provide an all-you-can-eat (and hopefully slyly take some for later) meal in one of the dining halls.  That is less than a burrito at Chipotle.  You can sacrifice one burrito to help someone who doesn’t even have the option of going to Chipotle.

I’ve mentioned them before, but the Murphy Center for Hope is doing amazing things to help the homeless population in Fort Collins.  From their website (linked above):

Services available at the center include:

  • Employment resources
  • Housing assistance
  • Financial counseling
  • Transportation assistance
  • Job training and educational opportunities
  • Mental health and substance abuse counseling
  • Phone and computer access for employment contacts
  • Medical and dental health assistance
  • Washer/dryer, kitchen, showers, and storage facilities
  • Play areas for children

Your gift helps the Murphy Center provide these resources to help these people get out of the cycle of homelessness.

Animal House Rescue and Grooming is another cause near and dear to my heart because they rescued this weirdo from a high-kill shelter:



He was slated to be put down after being found as a stray when he was nine months old.  Two women from Animal House drove to Kansas to rescue him the day before he was supposed to be put down.  Because he is so cute (until he sticks his tongue in your mouth, which he will), they recognized him at Bark and Bluegrass and told me that story and how much they loved him.  He was clearly well taken care of up and trained up until he ended up in the high-kill shelter, so we aren’t sure what happened, but I’m very grateful to Animal House for saving his life so he could drive me crazy and lick me to death later.  You can donate through their ColoradoGives page.  If you can’t donate, considering fostering so they can rescue more animals.

What are some other great causes in Fort Collins?  Share the love in the comments.