Purchase that daily latte, advises financial expert Nicole Lapin. Surprised? That’s not her only unusual advice.
“It’s not your momma’s finance lesson,” Lapin says in describing her new book, Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together… Finally. Throughout the book, she shares personal anecdotes and examples, such as how she painlessly eliminated a $5,000 credit-card balance.
Lapin wants to take the mystery out of finance. She avoids off-putting conventional terms and empowers women to take control of their financial affairs. Lapin says that the word Bitch in her new book’s title shouldn’t be considered bad and that it really just means a woman who stands up for herself, while Rich alludes to a fulfilling life. A former CNBC and CNN news anchor who has been called a “money guru for millennials,” Lapin, 31, reported at the forefront of the Great Recession.
“There is a new normal. It’s not the American Dream anymore. This is your dream and your destiny. It’s about taking it into your own hands,” Lapin says. “You don’t need a man or the right schooling or to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” You do need a plan, though — and here are six tips from her 12-step plan:
1. Go ahead and buy coffee from a barista.
Ignore the traditional advice that makes you feel guilty or stupid for not making your own coffee. Sure, there are online “coffee savings calculators” that show how much you’d save if you skipped the $3.50 once-a-day habit in favor of 25-cents-a-cup homemade java ($1,138, says DollarTimes.com’s calculator). But Lapin blasts latte vilification as a goofy scare tactic that depresses your mood and makes you want to binge on something else later. Her approach: Think of yourself as someone who has billable hours, like a lawyer, because your time is valuable. If you waste several minutes fussing with the coffeemaker each morning, then it might be cost-effective to buy your brew.
“The idea that you need to deprive yourself in order to reach financial freedom or Shangri-La is silly. I hope people rethink conventional financial wisdom,” Lapin says. “Start thinking for yourself and investing in yourself because that’s going to pay the most dividends later.” Besides, she figures the lattes might put a little spring in your step at work and motivate you to try to land a raise that trumps the $1,100 you’d save on the lattes.
2. Ask for a raise and get it.
Find out what people with your experience earn in your industry by going to websites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com to come up with a raise request that’s on the high end, Lapin advises in her book. Arm yourself with key examples of your great performance, including how you’ve helped the company. Timing is everything, so she suggests asking for a raise after a fantastic job review or a client sings your praises.
3. Write down your goals and turn them into an elevator pitch.
To live the life you want, you need to know what it is. Distill them into a few seconds of spoken words you’ll remember. Studies show that women who can clearly craft a narrative for themselves — and mentally embrace it — have a better chance of reaching those goals, Lapin says. Create three lists: one for family, another for finances and another for fun. State your goal for the current year, in the near future (years three and five), and further out (years seven and 10). Example: Lapin’s current fun list includes going out for drinks with girlfriends every week. In year five, she hopes to get new furniture and move into a bigger apartment. In year 10, she wants to take a first-class vacation.
So it’s about creating your own story and speaking your goals aloud, which makes it much easier to stay focused on them. “Becoming a Rich Bitch is not about deprivation. It’s not about clipping coupons. It’s not about nickel-and-diming yourself or buying stale bread,” Lapin says. You can enjoy small indulgences and still reach your money goals, but the first step is to have goals. “While some people think they do have goals, they’ll be very surprised when they sit down to actually put pen to paper.”
4. Negotiate your bills and purchases.
Lapin likes to negotiate and once bought a floor-model couch for about 70 percent off. Department stores typically will discount 10 to 15 percent for a fabric snag or other minor imperfection, she says. Lapin makes it a habit to negotiate with cable and phone companies. “When you remember that everything is negotiable and it’s ultimately your money, it becomes not only empowering but really fun at the same time to see how much you can get off.”
5. Behold the new LBD.
Instead of a little black dress, it’s a “little budget diary.” Yes, you can indulge in little luxuries that make you happy, but you still need to track them. Keep tabs on small expenditures throughout your day so you can see where the money goes. You can use a notepad or diary, but Lapin minds her spending via her CASH Smartwatch, a wearable device she invented to track every toll and snack, just like other gadgets count steps or monitor sleep.
6. Get rid of a $5,000 credit card balance.
Aghast when she owed $5,000, Lapin acknowledged the problem by affixing a sticky note that read “$5,000” to the top of her computer screen. She gave herself two years to pay it off, $208 each month (almost $7 a day). She set up a monthly automatic payment of $208 from her checking account. “Because I didn’t ever see that money, I found that I didn’t really miss it.”
“I have many confessions throughout the book to show other women that they’re not alone,” Lapin says. Even though she reported for business news networks, “I was once clueless. I never learned about personal finance in school. And we don’t really like talking about it with friends, as women. I figured it out through the school of hard knocks, which is the best school, in my opinion.”
Lapin hopes to impress on women that they must take charge of their money to achieve financial security and fulfill their dreams. Along the way, they should celebrate small victories to stay motivated.
Lapin knew that she had made it when she could buy as many pricey avocados as she wanted. What is your motivator? “It can be as big as a house or as small as an avocado,” Lapin writes. Once there, “cherish the moment and don’t forget the struggle.”
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