Get The Most Out of Travel On A Budget

Enjoy this guest post on travel savings from longtime member and financial independence champion, Diania Merriam. 

I absolutely love to travel, and after many months of staying home during the pandemic, I’m sure you’re itching to get out and explore as much as I am.  While traveling might seem like a luxury, there are many ways you can be resourceful and creative in keeping your travel costs as low as possible.  Read on for some of my favorite tips when it comes to budget travel. 

Utilize Credit Card Rewards Points: I really can’t remember the last time I paid for a flight with cash, because I almost always utilize credit card rewards points.  While some  criticize rewards points because they can lead to overspending on credit cards, when used strategically, they are game-changing.  My discretionary spending is very low, so it’s not really possible for me to accumulate any meaningful amount of points through my regular spending. 

The key for me has been to open new credit cards that offer large signing bonuses at a time when I’m about to make a large purchase.  Many cards will offer bonus points if you spend a certain amount in the first few months, so I only open cards when I have a big purchase I need to make.  So for example, one of the most popular cards for travel rewards points is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Right now, they are offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.  It would take me forever to earn 60,000 points from my regular spending, and I would struggle to spend $4,000 in discretionary spending over 3 months.  But a few times each year, I will have some kind of a larger expense, which prompts me to do research on the best credit card signing bonus offers.  Next thing you know, I’ve got thousands of points at my disposal without much time or effort on my part!       

Find a local host: Many times when I know I will find myself in a new city, I will post on social media and ask my network if they have friends that might want to host me.  While some might find this distasteful and prefer to simply pay for a hotel room, the benefits of staying with a local extend far beyond any money you’ll save.  Some of my most memorable trips were when I stayed with someone I barely knew, usually a friend of a friend who was available to spend some time with me and share what they love about their city.  I myself have hosted many friends of friends and have always appreciated the spontaneity of the experience!  And if you’re really wild, you could also explore staying with a total stranger through couchsurfing.com.  I have done this a few times, and had some great times! 

The grocery store is your friend: We all know that eating out can blow our budget, and while traveling, it’s very easy to eat out for every meal.  I make sure to pack healthy food and snacks for my travel days.  Yes, this saves money, but I mostly do this because I find it very challenging to find healthy food in airports and while on long road trips.  Usually, when I get to my destination, the first thing I do is find a good grocery store where I can stock up on simple foods that I can eat for breakfast and lunch.  Since many of my vacations include activities like hiking and walking around sightseeing, carrying my food with me adds an element of convenience in addition to cost savings.  And then I can splurge on dinner guilt-free! 

Download your favorite shows while on WiFi: While I am a podcast host (you can listen to me every day on Optimal Finance Daily!), I’m also a podcast listener.  Listening to my favorite shows is a great way to pass the time on flights or during road trips.  One way I save here is that I always download the episodes while I’m on WiFi.  I made the mistake once of not downloading content, and I will never make it again!  I burned through my data without realizing it during one trip.  Luckily Republic Wireless offers extra GB for only $5 when I need them, but I can avoid the extra expense with better planning! 

If you’re looking to add a trip to your calendar, track news about The EconoMe Conference which just finished up year 2 on November 13th & 14th.  This event is rooted in the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) and it features incredible mainstage speakers that will guide us in questioning our assumptions about happiness, freedom, and prosperity through the lens of personal finance.  But we also have many breakout sessions that are designed to facilitate discussions between attendees that can be the start of beautiful friendships.  You’ve already optimized your phone expenses with Republic Wireless, but there is so much more you could be doing on your path to financial independence.  

 

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Budgeting for Financial Independence

Enjoy this guest post from longtime member and founder of the EconoMe conference, Diania Merriam. Diania provides wisdom on budgeting to meet your financial goals and how Republic Wireless can help you stick to your budget.

“A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”       John Maxwell

The word “budget” often makes people squirm.  For many, it brings up feelings of deprivation and restriction.  But if you’re pursuing financial independence, your budget can feel more like a close friend cheering you on towards your financial goals.

I like to think of my budget as a simple act of awareness around my money.  I started by tracking every expense to gain clarity on where my money was going.  From that position of clairty, I could then identify areas where I could cut back or where I could be more intentional about my spending.  The key for me is not just in developing a budget, but also continually engaging with it.  Every month, I evaluate how I actually spent against my spending plan and I decide if I need to make any adjustments to my budget.  I think the big reason why people get frustrated with budgeting is that they create a plan that is unrealistic. Then when they go over budget, it can be disappointing.  Evaluating spending against a budget often can help identify the areas where one is being unrealistic, and provide an opportunity to adjust accordingly.

One of the things I love about the FIRE movement is it provides a really clear target on how much you need to save to reach financial independence: 25x your yearly expenses.  Budgeting comes into the equation, because it helps you get really clear about what your expenses actually are, and thus determine the FI number you’re working towards.

That FI number, however, is only as good as the assumptions behind the number.  You need to be able to estimate your future yearly expenses, which is pretty difficult especially if you plan to retire young.  When you’re budgeting and tracking your expenses, you are able to look back at your historical spending over many years and changing circumstances.  This will allow you to come up with a better estimate on future spending.  For example, when I quit my job earlier this year, I looked back at my actual spending over the last 2 years to come up with a realistic budget.  This gave me confidence that I could take a big bet on myself and pursue self employment, because I could clearly see that I had a 2 year runway in liquid savings.  Having an intimate understanding of how I spend money, gave me clarity on how much money is actually enough for me.

Since my Republic Wireless phone is always on me, it has become a great tool for budgeting!  I use a free app called Spending Tracker, where I log every expense at the time I’m making a purchase.  This allows me to quickly look at how much I’ve spent in each category at any given time.  Then I can make informed purchasing decisions and ensure I don’t go over budget.  I also track my net worth on a free app called Personal Capital.  I’m literally able to look at my full financial picture at any time right on my phone, it’s very convenient!

Budgeting is a great way to help you understand your behaviors and preferences, and you can experiment with different levels of spending that will allow you to enjoy today, but also save for tomorrow.  If you find budgeting to be a painful exercise or a source of shame, this could be an indication that the gap between your income and expenses isn’t large enough.  In this case, it would serve you well to look at increasing income or take a hard look at spending behaviors.

Finally, a key benefit to careful budgeting is the opportunity to identify ways to reduce expenses.  And this can create what is known as a “double whammy” effect in your pursuit of FIRE.  Reducing expenses allows for more money that you can put towards investments now. But it also means that your FI number (25x annual expenses), is lower and therefore you’ll be able to reach your target faster.  When we first start engaging with a budget, we’ll find a ton of ways to optimize.  Perhaps we’ll find a cheaper place to live, save money by cooking more and eating out less, find cheaper home or car insurance, and change our phone plan to Republic Wireless (I did all of these things!).  But it’s easy to go on autopilot after that initial phase of optimization.  I would encourage us all, whether we started budgeting years ago or just yesterday, to continue to look for ways we can optimize expenses.  If we keep upgrading to more affordable ways to get our needs met, we’ll reach financial independence that much easier!

If you want to learn more about the FIRE movement, check out the The EconoMe Conference which is an event I created.  We just completed year 2 on November 13th and 14th at The University of Cincinnati. Stay tuned for news of upcoming events.

 

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How Many Towels Do You Need? (And How Much Data?)

Guest post from Republic member and Minimalism expert Rose Lounsbury on decluttering your life, including your cell phone service and data use.

How many towels do you need? This was the surprisingly life-changing question I faced on a Saturday afternoon in early 2012, as I scrutinized my linen cupboard. 

I had just started on a minimalist journey, inspired by my 1,500 square foot house that could no longer comfortably contain the possessions of me, my husband, and our three 2-year-olds (yes, you read that right… triplets).

A few weeks earlier, we’d returned from visiting out-of-state relatives for Christmas with a van absolutely packed full of presents. As I walked into my house and assessed our already stuffed surroundings, a slow, frightening realization came upon me…

We didn’t have room for the things we already owned. Where was I going to put this new stuff? 

I felt defeated and overwhelmed. I knew the gifts had been given in love. I knew they were supposed to make me and my children happy. But more than anything, they added stress to my already stressful full-time-working-mom-of-triplets life.

Luckily, though, a change was coming.

About a week after Christmas I had lunch with a good friend, and I explained my problem. I thought the solution was to either buy a bigger house or allow no one to buy my kids Christmas presents again, ever

But my friend casually suggested another idea, “Or… you could just become a minimalist.”

I immediately thought of monks living in a cave or college students traversing Europe with all their possessions on their backs or black-clad hipsters lounging on white couches in apartments that doubled as art galleries. None of that sounded like my real life in the Ohio suburbs with three kids, two cars, and a mortgage.

But my friend reassured me that minimalism was just a philosophy, a less-is-more approach to living, and that any modern American could adopt it. Skeptical but intrigued, I went home and started reading. I was hooked.

Which brought me, a few weeks later, to January of 2012, when I went to put away some towels in my linen cupboard and asked myself the aforementioned life-changing question.

This wasn’t the first time I’d asked myself questions about my stuff. I’d actually been asking myself questions about my stuff my entire life (and you probably have, too) but those questions sounded different. They sounded more like…

“Rose, how much stuff could you AFFORD to buy?” I was a dedicated closeout, clearance, and coupon shopper, always scouring the racks for the best “deal” I could find. 

Another favorite: “Rose, how much stuff could you FIT in here?” I used every spare inch in my snug home to cram in as much as possible, often resorting to space saver bags and bins stacked precariously high in my attic. 

And, finally, the Big Daddy of them all, the question I continually asked every night as I spent hours putting away toys, shoes, sippy cups, and errant paper: Rose, how could you better ORGANIZE this stuff?” 

I thought organizing was the answer, the Holy Grail, the thing that–if I could just master it and buy the right bins with the right labels–would solve my problem. I’d finally have the home in the magazines. I’d finally stop feeling like every day was a continual battle between me and the chaos.

But that Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t asking myself any of those questions. That day, fresh in my nascent minimalist awakening, I was asking myself a very different question:

Rose, how many towels do you NEED? 

That’s the kind of question that just might change your life.

The answer was surprisingly clear: two per person. Which immediately felt wrong, because by the power of math that’s only 10 towels for a family of five. That certainly wasn’t the number of towels I’d registered for on my Bed, Bath, and Beyond wedding gift registry.

So I did something I rarely do. I entered the sanctum of my husband’s man cave on a Saturday afternoon (aka prime sports-watching time) to ask him a very serious question, “Honey, is it okay if we have just 10 towels?”

Josh paused and looked at me for a long time, while he pondered the critical issue of the towel supply. He eventually responded, “Yeah, I guess. I mean, that sounds about right.”

That settled it. Ten towels.

Now remember… that was almost TEN YEARS ago. In that time, I have not increased our number of towels and everyone in our family has been dry when they needed to be dry.

This early venture into minimalism taught me two very clear things:

  • I can live with a lot less than I think I can. 
  • I can definitely live with a lot less than society tells me I should. 

 

My towels are just one example of minimalist thinking. After I decluttered my towel cupboard, I went through the rest of my house, asking different variations of that original question:

Rose, how many coffee cups do you need? 

Rose, how many pairs of shoes do you need? 

Rose, how many boxes of holiday decorations do you really need? 

And slowly, over a period of almost one year, my home transformed. My cluttered corners turned into open spaces. My formerly crammed cupboards had room to breathe. My now unstuffed drawers opened and closed easily.

Yes, my home looked neat and tidy, but that wasn’t the point. That wasn’t why I kept doing what I was doing. The reason I kept doing it was because of how I felt. I felt free. I felt at peace. I started to find myself, at the ends of my long days, relaxing on my couch instead of frantically picking up my stuff.

So today I want to encourage you… ask yourself a life-changing question. 

Insert any word you like (towels, sweaters, hammers, wine glasses, etc.) into the blank space:

How many _______________ do you need? 

You can also use this question for the “non-stuff stuff” in your life, like volunteer commitments, email subscriptions, and cellular data.

A personal example… I used to believe that I needed unlimited data for my phone. (Ya know, just in case I had a video streaming emergency.) As a result, my phone bill was about $100/month. I considered it normal to pay that much for the supposed “security” of unlimited data.

But then I asked myself… How much data do I really need? 

The answer? About 2 gigs per month.

As a result, last year I switched to Republic Wireless with a 2 gigabyte plan and I now pay $25/month. (In just one year, this has saved me almost $1,000!)

So I urge you, ask yourself, How much ______________ do you need? 

You’ll be amazed at how this simple question can open up so many possibilities and create more freedom in your life.

 

Author bio:

Republic member Rose Lounsbury is a keynote speaker, coach, and Amazon bestselling author who helps people live happier lives by owning less stuff. After blogging about her personal journey toward a simpler lifestyle, Rose was inspired to leave her classroom teaching job and help others create more meaningful lives through simplicity. Her popular TEDx Talk has almost 500,000 views. 

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Enroll Your Community to Reach Your Goals

This is a guest post on Community from Republic Wireless member and founder of EconoMe LLC, Diania. 

If you look at your inner circle and you’re not inspired, then you don’t have a circle, you have a cage” -Anonymous on Community

As I write this post, I’m about halfway through the 75 Hard, which is a mental toughness challenge for 75 days straight.  Everyday I do two 45 minute workouts (much of the time it’s just walking, everyone calm down!), drink 1 gallon of water, read 10 pages of a personal development book, take a progress picture, and adhere to a diet that includes no alcohol (I chose intermittent fasting).  Completing this challenge has been on my bucket list for a while because it completely intimidates me.  I imagined I would be so proud of myself if I could actually do it.  So when I was writing my goals for 2021, completing the 75 Hard was at the top of the list.

I spent the first quarter of 2021 “training” for it. I figured if I could get used to drinking the water, and do at least 1 workout a day, it wouldn’t be such a shock to the system when I officially started the challenge.  I set my start date for Monday April 19th, the Monday after returning from an epic vacation.  And then I did one last thing that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it’s the only reason I’ve made it this far: I called in reinforcements.  I let my Facebook friends know that I was doing this, and I invited them to join me.

I ended up with a group of 4 people who I check in with every day over a video app called Marco Polo.  On the days that I just don’t feel like doing another work out, I think about the time that Heather got home at 11pm from a trip and still did her second workout even when she was tired.  Or how Lynn had a really painful ear infection, and she still managed to stick with it.  Or how Autumn has 3 kids, and she’s a nurse with changing work hours, and has rental properties that she manages.  Everyday, we all share resources that are helping us, and often reflect on things we are learning about ourselves and what we are getting out of this challenge.  This group inspires me to no end, and they’ve added a richness to this experience in ways that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own.

Community matters… a lot actually.  There is an easy sense of comradery that builds between people headed towards a common goal that can make the whole journey feel so much lighter and more fun.  Finding a community with common goals can also help form a sense of identity, which makes it easier to generate the focus and build the habits you need to reach those goals.  For example, if you want to run a marathon, it would benefit you to identify as a runner, not someone who is “trying” to run.  You will get up in the morning and run, because that’s just what runners do… and because your training group is waiting for you downstairs so you better giddy up.  Surround yourself with the right people to hold you accountable, do the hard work beside you, celebrate your wins with you, and soften the blows of your losses.

The idea of community is powerful for any type of goal, even for financial goals.  This is a big reason why I identify as part of the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) which is a lifestyle movement with the goal of financial freedom.  Since I started reading various blogs on the topic and going to different meetups and events, I noticed over time that my entire circle of influence are now people who are pursuing financial independence.  All of my closest friends today are either financially independent or well on their way.  While money tends to be a taboo topic that many people are uncomfortable discussing, there is an openness and transparency in the FIRE movement that can be really eye opening.  As I scroll through my social media feeds, most of what I see are people discussing topics surrounding personal finance, sharing tips, asking for advice, or celebrating milestones.  I find myself surrounded by people doing incredible things with their finances and this has really helped me expand my understanding of what’s possible. While my finances are still my responsibility, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if they’ve improved somewhat from osmosis!

The power of community is a big reason why I created The EconoMe Conference which is an event rooted in the FIRE movement.  We have incredible main stage speakers that guide us in questioning our assumptions about happiness, freedom, and prosperity through the lens of personal finance.  But we also have many breakout sessions that are designed to facilitate discussions between attendees that can be the start of beautiful friendships.  You’ve already optimized your phone expenses with Republic Wireless, but there is so much more you could be doing on your path to financial independence.  

Republic Wireless also believes in the power of community. The Republic Member Community serves Republic Wireless members who share an interest in enjoying technology affordably. It is the best place to find the latest Republic news, get to know other members, and learn or share new tips on using technology

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Dump Debt Together for Financial Independence

Guest post by Elle Martinez, Republic member, host of the Simplify and Enjoy podcast and financial independence advisor with Couple Money.

headshot of elle martinez, financial independence advisor

Like many married couples, my husband Rob and I started off with two completely different views when it came to money.

Married with $30K+ of Debt

When we got engaged, he was a newly minted college grad, and I was wrapping up my senior year while working part-time at a paid internship. 

 On the plus side, we were both great at finding cheap eats and usually hung out at low cost and free events around town. On the down side was the debt we carried. 

I had two credit cards and a car loan. Both of us had student loans. 

One night after we got engaged we decided to share our ‘numbers’. It was a bit of an awkward experience, but we’re grateful to have laid it all on the table. 

After that chat, I was motivated to pay off my credit cards before the wedding. It felt wonderful to have that win.

Paying Off Debt Together

Once we got back from our honeymoon, it was time for us to figure out a budget that we were both happy with. It also meant syncing up with what goals we wanted to achieve. 

Looking back on those first years, we made some key decisions that had a huge impact on our finances and marriage. 

Live on One Income (Even as Dual Earners)

This choice was initially out of necessity. With my internship, we were taking it semester by semester. 

We kept all of our essential expenses under his income while my internship pay was used to pay down the debts, build our savings, and work toward other goals.

As you can imagine, we weren’t rolling in money when we first started, but even then, with this system we were making progress and enjoying ourselves. 

Go for the Big Wins on Bills

Another key decision we made was focusing our energy on big wins when it came to bills. Yes, there’s value in looking at your entire budget, but when prioritizing time and energy, we prefer to look at the three big expenses first – housing, food, and transportation. 

As I get into in my book Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money, it took real effort and honest discussion honing on what we really wanted. However it’s been worth it. 

Keeping your expenses on target in those areas can move the needle when it comes to your goals. 

Another area where we saved significantly (and many families can relate!) is with our smartphones. 

As I was hunting around for options, I discovered Republic Wireless. With their plan I could cut my phone bill in half. It was too tempting an offer, so I took the leap. 

Nine years later, I’m still a Republic Wireless member. Why? It’s all about the value. Not only were their prices really affordable, but they had some fantastic phone options. 

I quickly fell in love with durable and flexible Motorolas. 

That’s something we learned while paying our debt and saving – focus on value, not just on price. 

Monthly Expenses = Essentials + Things We Love

With some in the personal finance space, spending is bad. I’ve read some crazy stories of the extremes people go to reduce spending to the absolute minimum. 

We take a more nuanced approach. For us, we try to avoid unconscious or mindless spending. We’re okay with spending on the people and things we truly enjoy. 

Take our food spending. We do save quite a bit cooking at home, but we’re also spending on better quality produce and meats. We also are willing to host cookouts at our home for several friends. 

Traveling is also something we enjoy, whether it’s day trips, weekend getaways, or big family vacations. 

Whether it’s food, spending, or tech we do like hunting for deals, but we also see money as a tool and not the end goal. 

Enjoying the Financial Independence Journey (Not Just the Destination)

As we were paying off our debts and sharing our wins and lessons learned, I began to hear about the financial independence movement. 

While the FIRE gets much attention with the media, because of the goal of retiring early,  we were intrigued with more flexibility that comes with FI.

As parents with two kids under ten, we want to enjoy this special time with them. 

As I share on Couple Money and my podcast Simplify and Enjoy, SlowFI and CoastFI are two wonderful options for families wanting to carve out their path that fits their needs and timeline.  

Charting Our Own Path

By paying off our debts, saving, and investing, we’ve opened up options with work and have more flexibility with our schedules.

This past year has certainly had its challenges and not sure how this year will go, but learning to work together on our finances and goals makes me eager to see what’s ahead! 

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Defining “Fi-lexible” with Diania of EconoMe

Are You Fi-lexible?

This is a guest post from Republic Wireless member and founder of EconoMe LLC, Diania. 

The path to financial independence, similar to the stock market or life in general, can be a long journey of highs and lows.  

I’ve certainly enjoyed the highs: getting out of $30k of debt in 11 months, receiving raises and promotions at work, buying a house, and walking 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago all became possible by prioritizing my financial health.  There have been lows as well: a salary reduction due to COVID, my property tax bill tripling over the last year, an unexpected battle with depression, and my passion project, The EconoMe Conference, resulted in a $40k loss in its first year (don’t worry, I have a plan to make it up in the coming years)! 

The safety net we build for ourselves by keeping our expenses low and living below our means helps us navigate what life throws at us.  It also puts us in the position to seize opportunities that present themselves, ones we couldn’t imagine when we’re developing our financial goals.  

While it’s important to have goals … it’s also important to be able to adjust when the unexpected (positive or negative) inevitably happens.  One of my big goals is to reach financial independence by the time I’m 40, but for a number of reasons, I’m being “fi-lexible” about this time frame.  

What is “Fi-lexibility”?

The Merriam Webster* dictionary defines it as: 

  1. A mindset of adaptation amid the obstacles and opportunities that present themselves on the path to financial independence
  2. A concept I made up to make myself feel better about not being financially independent
    *this isn’t true but I’ve taken liberties since my last name is Merriam


Why be Fi-lexible? 

This mindset allows you to prioritize the journey over the destination.  I’m not sure that becoming financially independent is even the best part of the pursuit.  I’m finding that the journey itself offers many gifts along the way and the opportunity to learn about myself.  

Financial independence opens up the option for early retirement or just more freedom to pursue the things we want in life.  Here’s the thing… what if we don’t know what we want? Many people pursue FI with a very clear understanding of what they want: to start a business, travel the world, stay home with their kids, or move out to a homestead, etc.  I find myself envious of these people because over the years, I’ve discovered that perhaps I’m wrong about what I think I want.  My path to FI is not just about saving and investing my money, it’s also about testing my assumptions about what I think I want to do with my time. 

Here are some things I used to think I wanted (spoiler alert: I was wrong)

  • Be the highest paid female CEO : this one is embarrassing to admit, but it captures my young naive ideas about success.  It didn’t matter the work I was doing, or the contribution I was making, I just cared about prestige, status, and a high income.  After glimpsing what is at the top of the corporate ladder, it’s safe to say this isn’t for me.  
  • Pursue a career in stand up comedy : I absolutely love to make people laugh, so the idea of doing that as a job was thrilling to me.  After 2 years of refining my material at countless open mics in New York City and Cincinnati, I ultimately decided to hang up the mic.  Creative expression is vital for me, but when it starts to feel like work, the pressure thwarts my creativity.  
  • Play in a brass band : Music was a big part of my daily life growing up.  I played baritone horn in a school concert and jazz band for many years.  I missed it and so found an alumni drum and bugle corps that I played with from 2014-2016.  It was a group of grumpy retired old men between 60-80 years old and I absolutely loved them.  Ultimately, I found the time commitment to be a bit too much so ended up leaving the group, but I’m so much better for the experience and learned a lot from those grandpas.   
  • Sing in a band : While walking the Camino for 38 days, I found myself singing a lot to pass the time on the trail.  Singing might be a strong word, it was more like wailing but it was very cathartic.  When a School of Rock opened near my house it felt like a sign.  I joined the adult program and trained for 4 months, every day, to ultimately sing about 7 songs in front of a 100 people.  I’m so proud of myself for trying, but when the show was over I felt more relieved than excited to do it again.  
  • Become a digital nomad :  Travel seems so glamorous and I’ve certainly done my fair share of it.  However, after sleeping in a different bed every night while walking across Spain, I realized how much I enjoy having a home base.  I bought my house when I got back from that trip! 

My current experiment with what I think I want is to be an entrepreneur.  I spent 20 months building The EconoMe Conference and it’s the hardest and most gratifying work I’ve ever done.  It originated as something I would want to do with my time if I didn’t need to work for money.  But I’m hella glad I didn’t wait to reach FI to try this.  Having an income while working on this passion project allowed me to take more risks and created a cushion for all the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  

Maybe I don’t really know what I want… but I’m in a great financial position to experiment with what I think I want on my path to FI.  

How to be Fi-lexible

Try stuff, experiment, don’t wait until FI to figure out what you want.  Perhaps like me, you’re wrong about what you think you want.  Better to figure that out while you still have an income, rather than retire early to something that isn’t as enjoyable as you thought it would be.  

Consider mini retirements/sabbaticals.  Before you fully pull the plug on your career, giving yourself a few months to a year to take a break from work and knock something off your bucket list can be really eye opening.  You will gain some clarity that will serve you well in the long run and avoid burnout during your working years.   

Continuously innovate for self discovery, and test your assumptions.  Want to walk the Appalachian trail in retirement?  Perhaps try a shorter day or week long hike and see what you learn from the experience.  Want to go back to school and earn another degree?  Maybe first find some free courses online to make sure the subject matter can hold your interest over time.  

Write down your goals/bucket list.  I find that everything has a season, even ideas for your bucket list.  By writing down your dreams and goals in the moment that you’re most excited about them, you harness their power even if you can’t take action on them right away.  It can be incredibly fun to look back on the things you thought you wanted with the satisfaction of having experienced them, the clarity of knowing they aren’t for you, or the excitement of figuring out how to tackle them next.    

And finally, give yourself the fi-lexibilty to change your mind!

Did you know that Republic Wireless offers you fi-lexibilty in your phone plan? There are great options to change your plan as your plans change! Long gone are the days of being locked down to the same plan for long periods of time, or paying more than you need to. With Republic Wireless, you have the freedom to pay for what you need, and not a penny more. 

Learn more about Republic Wireless and how their service can be part of setting you up for financial success and freedom. Your phone plan can play a larger role in reaching financial independence than you think.

For more information about The EconoMe Conference, access to the 2020 speaker videos and to be entered into a monthly drawing for a free t-shirt, sign up for EconoMe’s mailing list here.

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Republic Wireless Is #1 In The World!

Republic has been rated #1 in the world – yes, IN THE WORLDout of the top 1,000 telecoms for quality of customer support through email. Republic was recognized by support platform Netomi as reported by Email Insider. We took the gold with a near perfect 99.8 out of 100, well ahead of the silver and bronze medal winners from Indonesia and Malaysia.  This was based on personalization, response time, thoroughness of the answer, as well as showing we care.

(Source: Customer Service Benchmark report by Netomi)

 

Unfortunately, our fellow American telecoms did not represent the good old USA so well.  They averaged only 49.9, and most of them charge a lot more for their service than Republic’s average $20 per month. Republic just works harder to treat our members right.


Email support across the globe was pretty dismal. Only 53% of the 1,000 telecom firms had an email that was easy to find, and, of those, 66% ignored the email request. Only 28% responded about opening a new account, as if they did not want your new business.

Despite the overall performance in this category, email is used by over 4 billion people in the world with over 300 million emails sent per day (The Radicati Group). When it comes to marketing and sales, more people prefer Websites, Phone, and Video. As for customer support, Email has become the preferred form of communication.

When it is done well, email support is superior for many reasons. It works on your time and, therefore, is more convenient. You can send an email, get up and do something else, and check back for a response when it works for you. No one likes to wait on hold for a customer service agent who may or may not have the information you need, and many do not like holding a real-time conversation which can drop or get interrupted. Unlike a call or many live chat platforms, email keeps a record that can be referenced later to save time or verify important information. 

At Republic we look at 99.8 and say, “We can do better.” We obsess over treating our members right. That’s why we keep measuring, surveying and listening to our members about how we can improve. 80% of our member support requests are solved with one or two emails, and these resolutions get a 93% satisfaction rating in our member surveys. According to the research from Netomi, only 6% of telecoms cared enough about their email communications to survey their customers’ satisfaction with their efforts. 

If you’re currently a Republic member, always let us know how we’re doing, and please join our community. We will continue to obsess about improving our member support, and we’ll continue innovating new ways for you to save money for better things in life than your cell phone service. Our average member pays only $20 per month, and all plans include the award-winning customer support you just read about in this study. You deserve to be treated better than you probably are now and to save a few bucks while you’re at it. 

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4 Unexpected Ways To Save On Your Expenses Each Month

Let’s face it – everyone would be perfectly fine with shaving a few pennies here and there from their monthly expenses. From grocery bills to your utilities, there’s plenty of opportunities for you to save – you just have to find them. If you’re looking to save some money on your monthly expenses each month, try some of these tips to keep your spending on track and your bank account in the green.

Go Grocery Shopping

Did you know that the average person spends more than five times more per month when they order out instead of doing their own grocery shopping? Eating at home is an effective and fairly easy approach to shaving your expenses. There are even some helpful tips to approach grocery shopping where you can save even more.

Using manufacturer’s coupons in weekly advertisements is a great way to curb costs when hitting the checkout line. Or, try ordering online using curbside pickup rather than wandering the store and potentially buying things you don’t actually need.

Buying in bulk is another great way to free up your discretionary spending a bit. You’ll save on the price per unit and benefit from fewer trips to the store. Then, simply freeze the leftovers to use at any given time for quick and easy access as opposed to hitting up your go-to food delivery restaurant when hunger strikes.

Take A Closer Look At Your Subscriptions

How many times have you glanced at your bank statement only to notice you were charged for a service you barely use? If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a closer look at your subscriptions.

Subscription-style billing is meant to fly under the radar so you keep paying each month without having to take an action. Luckily, many budgeting apps will notify you when you’re charged for subscriptions, allowing you to reconsider whether or not you still find that service useful. On top of that, staying organized and keeping track of what you sign up for will help you avoid unnecessary spending in the long run. Make sure to keep an eye out for the chance to bundle. Many companies have begun partnering to increase exposure so you can reap the benefits of a lower rate.

Buy A Home

This may sound like a big expense at first, but paying rent each month can actually be a huge money sucker compared to owning your own home. This is especially true when mortgage rates are low. Sure, you might pay more upfront in the short term, but if you’ve got enough stockpiled for a down payment and closing costs, buying a home may be the way to go.

A good way to estimate your monthly cost is to do a home search in your local area. Many real estate listing sites give you ample information on things like price per square foot, approximate mortgage payment, property taxes and home insurance costs. You can actually save up to $200 on your monthly living expenses by owning a home versus renting. Instead of throwing cash at something you’ll see no financial return on, you can start building equity you can cash in on at a later date.

Furthermore, you can cut back on your monthly utilities by installing energy-saving appliances throughout your residence once you’ve purchased your home. From ovens and stoves to lightbulbs and windows, the possibilities to be more economical at home are endless.

Get An Affordable Phone Plan

Of course, we had to throw this one in here! While having a cell phone is considered a luxury for many, we believe staying connected to others is a necessity. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a reliable, affordable phone plan. By avoiding hidden fees and overcomplicated contracts, your savings can really add up depending on your specific cellular needs without compromising on service.

Some other tips for reducing your phone bill include connecting to WiFi frequently, and limiting your background data use whenever you can. Here at Republic Wireless, we’ll never charge you overage fees for data usage. We give you the freedom to add one time data whenever it’s needed, therefore keeping costs where it’s best for your expenses. 

Remember, your spending will fluctuate month to month, so there will be times when you should be more restrictive with your spending habits and others when you’re able to indulge a bit more. Fortunately, incorporating these easy tips into your budgeting plan is sure to provide some relief during difficult months and will pad your bank account during economic success.

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Budgeting Q&A with Republic Member & Blogger – The Teacher’s Wife

Say hello to Republic Wireless member and Blogger, Sarah! Sarah’s blog, The Teacher’s Wife, focuses on all things related to sticking to a family oriented budget. From tips on financial planning and organization, to more personal notes, Sarah offers a variety of relatable and inspiring content.

We recently sat down with Sarah to catch up on her budgeting styles. Specifically how that plays out with her family and everyday household expenses. She shared the best budgeting advice she has received. We learned how that’s carried into her and her Husband’s monthly and daily financial decisions. Take a look at the great budgeting tips and tricks she shared!

What are you doing to stabilize things in your family budget during this time of uncertainty?

Our budgeting process hasn’t changed a whole lot during this time of uncertainty. After a lot of effort over the years, we are in a good rhythm when it comes to creating and tracking our family budget.

However, we have been even more intentional with our spending.  We are more committed than ever to sticking to our budget in these times of uncertainty.  We already keep our expenses as low as possible (we don’t have cable and we are Republic Wireless customers), but we have made some slight adjustments such as pausing our gym membership.

Thankfully, we have 6 months of expenses saved in a money market account for emergencies and we do not have debt other than our home.  This brings us a lot of peace in the uncertainty.

What is your process for monthly budgeting?

Within our household, I’m the “budget nerd.”  I like to crunch the numbers and create a plan, so I’ve always been very interested in budgeting.  I used to do this on an old Excel spreadsheet, but this became frustrating to my husband over the years.  He never had real-time access to the spreadsheet, so we weren’t on the same page as the month would unfold.

About a year ago, we started using the EveryDollar app and it has transformed the way we communicate about our budget.  I still crunch the numbers and create a preliminary budget based on the monthly income and bills.  Then, my husband and I sit down together to review, adjust, and agree to the final numbers before any bills are paid.

As the month unfolds, we each enter transactions into the app so we know at all times where we stand.  Each week, we sit down together for a few minutes to see where we are, so that we stay on track and make any needed course corrections.

What are some small everyday changes that someone can start making to ease into their budgeting goals?

If you are new to budgeting, be patient with yourself as you learn.  It can take a good 3 months before you feel more confident in your ability to budget.  You will make mistakes as you learn, but don’t give up!

As you begin, start slowly.  Pick one specific category where you will focus your efforts.  This could be anything – but I recommend your grocery or restaurant budget.  Either way, pick 1 category and focus on it for 30 days.  Set a reasonable budget for the category and STICK TO IT.  Once the money you’ve allocated has been spent, then STOP SPENDING.  If you habitually struggle with overspending, you might consider using cash only (yes, dollar bills!) for that category.

How often do you find yourself needing to revisit or shift around your budget, and for what reasons? 

We do our best to create a reasonable budget at the beginning of the month, but things come up that we didn’t foresee.  My husband and I touch base once a week for a “budget meeting” so that we can see how things are going and make any tweaks.  One category that we recently started was a miscellaneous budget.  This category helps for those random expenses that you can’t always predict – things like yearbooks, field trips, etc.

We also have separate savings account (that we call sinking funds) for things like home repairs, car repairs, and medical expenses.  Often things like a plumbing leak that needs to be repaired will come out of this account if we don’t have the wiggle room or ability to adjust in our monthly budget to cover the expense.

What is some of the best financial advice you’ve received that has always stuck with you?

The best financial advice I’ve ever received is very, very basic – if you can’t pay cash for it, then you can’t afford it.  In a world that operates on credit, this concept is archaic, but it’s so true.  If we don’t have the money to pay for something in cash (or from our checking account), then we don’t buy it.

This advice, and our commitment to avoid debt, has helped us to keep our spending in check.  This allows us to give to others, save for the future and also enjoy some of our money – stress free.

Have you found success in teaching the art of budgeting to your kids? If so, what tools have you used for teaching simple budgeting skills and ideas to different ages?

Most of our discussions about budgeting have been on the fly as we go about our day-to-day life.  The kids observe us talking about and handling money, so they sometimes ask questions about it.  They’ve also seen us give them a budget for things like birthday gifts for their friends.  Up until this point, most of what they’ve learned has been through normal, everyday life situations.

We have just begun to be more intentional with teaching our kids about budgeting, so we are very new to it.  We recently purchased a teaching tool that we’ve been using a little bit.  We’ve begun to work through the material and the kids love earning a little bit of commission if they do their extra weekly chores.  This has been very helpful in teaching them financial responsibility.  They are learning how to give, save, and spend their own money, even if it’s only a couple of dollars per week.



Sarah is one of many Republic Wireless members who have gone on their own personal journey to financial wellness. We’re encouraged and taking our own notes after our conversation together! Make sure to hop on over to
The Teacher’s Wife for a variety of topics on household budgeting and organization.

Do you have some budgeting insights of your own to share alongside Sarah? Perhaps there is something you do similarly in your own personal budget. We’d love to hear about it. Reply below in our Member Community and share any financial knowledge you find beneficial!

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A Look Inside Our Member Community

The Republic Wireless Member Community provides member-to-member support with fast, accurate answers to questions about Republic Wireless phones, service, and policies. No matter whether you are already a Republic Wireless member, or think you might one day become a member, our Community is a great place to talk to experienced Republic Wireless phone owners.

Community post example
Before I became a Republic Wireless member, I started reading questions and answers being posted in the Community as I tried to decide if I wanted my next phone to be a Republic Wireless phone. I started participating, learning as much as I could about what was then a very new company, and answering questions whenever I could.  Now, as Community Manager, my job is to make sure you get the answers you need by maintaining a friendly, safe space where you’ll know you are welcome and appreciated.

My job is made easy with the help of our Republic Wireless Community Ambassadors. These Republic Wireless members give their time to help their fellow members. They keep the Community in good shape with light moderation tasks like flagging forum SPAM and marking correct answers. Our Ambassadors live up to their diplomatic name; their role is not to “sell” you on Republic Wireless, but to make sure you have the information you need to make informed decisions about your phone and service.

Community Ambassadors

Our Member Community isn’t all questions and answers, though. Other Community activities include:

- Interesting discussions

- Product reviews

- Tips and Tricks to help you get the most out of your phone

- Opportunities to test products before they are available to the public

- Monthly challenges for fun prizes

- Opportunities to offer feedback and stories about being a Republic Wireless member, sometimes for a chance to win.

Our Member Community also provides a unique gathering place where our company and our members can interact. We don’t view the Community as a stage from which Republic can broadcast information to an “audience” of members. Instead we think of it as a true Community, where the company and the members can come together to hear each other’s voices.

Community Post Example

If you have questions about using your Republic Wireless phone, or if you think you can help someone who does, why not visit our Member Community and join a discussion? If you’ve found an app that whitens your teeth, makes the perfect cup of coffee, and removes stubborn stains, come tell your fellow Republic Wireless members about it. Drop in once a month and enter our Community Challenge for your chance to win a prize. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know your fellow Republic Wireless members, and we look forward to getting to know you!

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Here’s How Multi-Factor Authentication Will Save Your Skin

Keeping track of multiple, strong passwords can be a real chore – especially if you have several emails, bank accounts, and other services to access on a daily basis. It’s not surprising that adding two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) can feel like an extra annoyance, regardless of whether you’re protecting sensitive files.

But you know what’s worse than a nuisance that lasts a few seconds? Well, we’ve actually rounded up several of them. First off, let’s look at the sheer number of ways hackers can steal your password(s).

Password Theft Is Evolving

Sure, 80% of passwords are still terrible according to a Verizon data breach report. The fact that people use weak passwords or re-use the same one across multiple accounts certainly helps make the job easier for hackers.

But besides that, computing power has also accelerated exponentially, making brute force attacks much stronger than even a few years ago. And when service providers have brute force protections in place, there’s always the following:

  • Keylogging – the victim’s device is usually compromised by malware that logs and sends keystrokes back to the cyber criminals, who inevitably find password and login information among the data they collect. Hardware keyloggers are also available; usually fitted to public computers, waiting for someone to log in real quick
  • Phishing – hackers create pages that mimic legitimate services (banks, PayPal, etc.), then use email and other means to convince users that they need to “log in to update some information,” or similar trickery. Unwary victims end up handing over their account data on a silver platter 
  • Pharming – phishing on a wider scale, and without requiring a lure in the form of an email, SMS, and so on. Involves the use of malware to send victims to those fake websites instead

Data Breaches Happen More Often

It seems like you can’t wake up these days without hearing about some data breach affecting a major company – or an entire government. It’s estimated that over 4 billion records were exposed in the first half of 2019 alone.

The fact of the matter is that more companies and institutions than ever work with your personal data. It’s no longer a question of “if” but “when” yours gets out there as well. And unlike the methods described in the previous section, you don’t have much control over data breaches.

So now that you’ve seen just a few ways hackers can gain access to your accounts – what headaches can MFA help you avoid?

Rush to Reset

Let’s be honest here. Having to reset ALL your passwords because your email’s been compromised is probably the worst way you could spend your day. Even when the exposed account is something inessential (like this MyFitnessPal case) – if you happen to re-use passwords, hackers will use that to their advantage.

Of course, sitting around for hours, resetting passwords across services is actually a best case scenario. If you don’t manage to react in time, you end up in the following cases.

Waiting on Banks and Credit Companies

Have you ever had to deal with bank or credit card company paperwork? Employees passing you on to someone else, being put on hold multiple times – to many of you, this bureaucratic inefficiency will sound familiar.

Now, imagine you’re racing against the clock. A hacker managed to get a hold of your home banking info and your money’s all gone. You call your bank to report this activity, but you’re just met with a robotic voice telling you to wait, “someone will be with you shortly.”

Unfortunately, this happens more often than you’d think. In the UK, for example, seven out of the top 12 online banking services don’t even offer 2FA to their users – leaving them stuck in situations such as the one above.

Avoid Identity Theft

What’s worse than having all your money stolen? Cybercriminals using your personal information to commit fraud – tax, medical insurance, you name it. Not only can they leave you penniless, but also deal great damage to your credit scores and record in general.

That and getting the authorities involved (if recovery is still possible at that point) will leave you wasting time, money, and brain cells on something easily avoidable.

What You Can Do

We mentioned in the beginning that maintaining so many passwords for daily use can be a nightmare. According to a report, the average business employee has to keep track of a whopping 191 passwords. Any one of those can be the weakest link to find out the rest of them.

Fortunately, that process doesn’t need to be a pain. You can create and store strong, randomized passwords offline using KeePass – the gold standard for password managers.

The software is free and open-source (FOSS), meaning anybody online can take a peek at the code and see if it delivers on its promises of security. Tech experts can also provide feedback to patch up any vulnerability as soon as possible. Passwords are stored on your device in an encrypted form and kept away from online cloud storage as this would create another data breach point.

Is SMS 2FA Enough?

Now, the other thing you can do (if it wasn’t obvious already) is to enable text-based authentication on your main accounts, at the very least. The thing is, SMS 2FA is also vulnerable to certain attacks. For example, phone porting – criminals impersonating you and switching your phone number to another carrier. Any authentication tokens you’d get are instead received by the criminal’s phone.

Still, it’s much better than no 2FA at all. A stronger method would be to use an authenticator app (such as Google Authenticator, Authy, etc.) that generates authentication codes on your phone instead of relying on texts.

If you want to go even further, there are hardware tokens that you can insert in your USB port (or tap it against your phone) as a literal “authentication key.” A great way to secure your data and feel like James Bond doing it.

We hope you find this information helpful, and have started your plan for protecting your information. We recommend setting aside time to strategically organize your passwords and authentication methods – no need to frantically try to address all of this information, or you may miss something important. Take your time doing so, and you will be set up for success. For more in depth information, and the best reads out there about reviews, tips and suggestions on online security feel free to visit ProPrivacy.

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Accessibility for All: Tips & Tricks for a Better Cell Phone Experience

While specifics may differ by cell phone, accessibility settings can help you create a better cell phone experience. Simple things – like increasing your font size, softening your backlight, or tweaking your screen’s touch sensitivity – will customize your phone and help resolve small frustrations. Everyone has different needs. Here are a few of our favorite tricks!

Increase Your Font 

Small fonts can be challenging. Instead of straining to read the fine print, try changing your phone’s default font to a larger size. Increasing font size leads to less eye strain and a better overall reading experience. Plus, changing your default setting ensures you don’t need to fiddle with your phone every time a new article pops up. Another quick tip? Snap a photo of a hard to read document and use your phone as a magnifying glass!

Tweak Your Screen Sensitivity

Whether you’ve had your screen replaced, you need an adjustment to accommodate touch, or your phone is just not as responsive as it used to be, increasing your screen’s sensitivity is an easy first step. Test different sensitivity levels to find which setting you prefer for increased responsiveness. For Samsung users, the “Universal Switch” allows you to control your phone with custom switches and the “Assistant” menu allows you to utilize functions for assisted dexterity. For Motorola users – read more about how to change the Touch Delay feature.

Change Your Display 

While increasing your font size makes your text documents larger, increasing your display size makes everything larger. Display settings change the overall scale of your phone. Similar to adjusting the resolution on your computer screen, altering this accessibility setting will magnify the size of what you see on your screen. 

Protect Your Eyes

Frequent phone use and screen time can cause eye strain, and can even impact the quality of your sleep. Changing your phone’s backlight settings softens the day-to-day impact on your eyes and reduces eye fatigue. Additional steps can be found in your accessibility settings for Dark Mode. Dark Mode inverts the colors of your screen, changing the background from white to black. This color shift makes certain texts easier to read in brighter lights. For Android users, simply select the “Invert Colors” in your phone’s display settings. For Samsung users, this setting is labeled “Negative Colors.” Motorola user? Deselect “Automatic Brightness” to set a new screen level. 

Customize Your Captions

Apps are another way to contribute to your phone’s accessibility functions. Google’s Live Transcribe captions conversations in live time. Whether you’re having a chat in a room with lots of ambient noise, or listening to a presentation you can’t quite hear, apps like these provide helpful closed captioning in noisy environments. 

Additional questions on accessibility features and How To’s? Check out our help list here!

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