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The Budgetnista Tiffany Aliche Reveals How Her Credit Score Went From 547 To 800+

There's one thing that we have quite mastered yet--managing our own money. That’s right, we live in a time where we spend way more than we..

Finance

As women in and out of the workforce, we have made tremendous strides. We've conquered everything from becoming our bosses to leadership roles where we've learned how to manage our own teams and work within the parameters of a company's budget. Yet, there's one thing that we have quite mastered yet--managing our own money.

That's right, we live in a time where we spend way more than we make--pushing aside bills and other necessities for that limited edition designer bag, or swiping our credit card every chance that we get, thus putting ourselves in more debt and sitting on a pathetic credit score that will do more harm than we can imagine.

Learning financial literacy is very important, and practicing good financial behavior can help you live the type of life you desire. Yet women of color and millennials typically overlook their dwindling bank accounts and do not educate themselves. It is only when we experience a financial hardship that we take a closer look at our finances and try to make improvements. Sometimes when this happens, we have dug ourselves in a low ditch, and while it is not impossible to get out of it, it is definitely harder.

I recently sat down with Tiffany Aliche, who is a financial guru and well-known as The Budgetnista to discuss how she went from having a 547 credit score to a score over 800 (she also saved $40,000 when she was only making $39,000 a year!), and her tips on saving, budgeting, and on building wealth:

You Can Easily Lose 40 Credit Score Points In Just One Week

At the age of 23, I had a credit score of over 800, which is an A+. A few years later, the recession hit. I lost my job, and I couldn't afford the mortgage or pay my bills. Since I wasn't paying my bills, my credit score dropped. People don't understand that your credit score is like your GPA for how you deal with money. When you don't pay your bills, your GPA drops. My credit score quickly dropped from 800 to 547 which is like a D-.

One thing that people don't realize is that 35% of your credit score is your payment history - so in other words it is contingent upon if you pay what you are supposed to pay. To rebuild my credit score, I worked hard to pay off credit cards in full at one time. When you do, it makes your credit score jump like Jordan. If you just pay the minimum amount on your bills, your credit score will do a slow climb. But if you want to make your credit score jump like Jordan, pay off a small amount of your credit card each month. I don't know why, but credit card companies care less about the amount you pay, and more about your habit in paying.

So if you pay off something in full, they are wowed. It doesn't matter if you have $8 on the card, if you pay it in full, it will make a difference. So when I figured this out, I put Netflix on one of my credit cards that didn't have a balance, and I paid it in full every month. Netflix would charge my card $8 bucks, and then I would pay them $8 bucks each month and I would see my score go up. So then I decided to do two cards like that. I had Netflix on one, and my gym membership for $20 bucks on the other. So every month, I was paying off 2 cards in full. And within a year and a half, I went from 547 to 750, which is a solid B/B+.

You Can Inherit Good Credit From Other People

To build good credit, you can be an authorized user on someone's card that has great credit. Basically what that means is that they can add you on their card as an authorized user, and you can inherit their good behavior because whenever they pay their bill, it will reflect positively on you. The primary credit card holder doesn't have to actually give you the card either - although as an authorized user you could get one.

Even if the primary credit card holder decides to stop paying their bill, it won't mess up your credit as an authorized user. That's the beauty in it - you only inherit the good credit, not the bad.

You Can Get A Secured Card When You're Young To Build Credit

When you are young, it is unlikely that you will be able to get a regular credit card because you probably will have no credit history. No credit history in the credit world is just like having bad credit or being considered a bad driver because you have no driving history. You haven't proven yourself.

To start building up your good reputation, go to your bank and ask if you can apply for secured card. A secured card is like a credit card with training wheels. The way it works, you give a bank anywhere from $300-$600 and they place it in a savings account for you. Then they give you a credit card that has that amount on it as your credit limit - so basically you are borrowing from yourself. So if you don't pay your credit card, it will take away the money that you have in your savings account. If you treat this card right, and you pay your bills when you should, they will take the secured card away and make it a regular credit card.

You Should Have At Least 3 Bank Accounts For Your Money

I recommend having at least three accounts - one just for your bills, another for spending, and then the third for savings. The account for spending should be attached to your debit card, and then the account for your bills and the account for your savings should not be attached to your debit card.

If you have the direct deposit option through your job, have your money automatically transferred to each account. Your employer may not tell you, but you can have more than one account connected with direct deposit.

Having An Online Bank Is A Must

I recommend having an online bank for your savings account because it makes your money inconvenient, and inconvenient money gets saved because it is not easily accessible. If you want to rate an online bank, go to magnifymoney.com and you can check out reviews and information on the bank.

I always tell people to have a regular bank for ease of use, an online bank for savings, and then a credit union. Credit unions are great because they will give you the best interest rates. Most credit unions are nonprofit, which means the interest that they ask you to pay is just to keep their lights on so the interest rates are lower than other banks.

Ask About Your 401K Day One Of The Job

On your first day at work, before you get into the swing of things, ask about 401K matching. Better yet, ask about this during the interview and see if the company offers it. For your retirement, many companies will match up to a certain percentage of your income that you deduct from your paycheck for retirement. So if you put 3% of our paycheck down for retirement, your company may match it. With some companies they tell you that you have to wait to be vested (usually 30 days or more) to reap this benefit, but you may can start it early if you ask.

In College, Stay Away From Private Loans Because They Are The Devil

If you get a private loan and miss one payment, you immediately fall into default. Default is on the same level as foreclosure or bankruptcy and we all know bankruptcy is like having a big, black F on your credit report. If you fall into default, it will prevent you from getting a car, an apartment - you name it. Also with a private loan, you will likely have to have a co-signer, so if you miss a payment and fall into default then your cosigner is also affected.

If you get a federal loan, you have to miss nine payments to get you to the default stage. One other thing about federal versus private loans is if you fall into a financial hardship, the federal loans will help you out and will be more understanding. But with a private loan, somebody could die and the money would still be due - they would just reach out to the consigner for the money.

You Can Get Paid To Shop

When you are in school, began saving early and get in the UPromise program. It is free to use! What I love most about it is that you can go online and sign up and then your register all of your debit and credit cards, and every time you use your registered debit or credit card at a partner store you will get cash back for your student loans. With UPromise, if you don't use it for your student loans, you can ask them to just cut you a check.

Also, whether or not you are in school, sign up for Ebates. Whenever you want to buy something online, type the store name in Ebates (it could be Target, Groupon, or whatever), and then Ebates will take you to their site and will record how much you buy and give you cash back.

Learn How To Live Off Less Than You Make

After you graduate from college, live a simple life. That can be getting a roommate or getting a used car, just learn how to live simply. If you don't, you will be forced to work a job you probably hate just to make enough money to afford your lifestyle.

Now that you know some of the secrets on budgeting, saving, and building wealth, implement these steps today and hold yourself accountable. An easy way to learn more financial tips and hold yourself accountable is through Tiffany's Live Richer Challenge and through her book The One Week Budget. In her book, she teaches us how to make responsible, financial decisions, while living a life that we desire. The Live Richer Challenge is a FREE, online financial challenge that can help you achieve your financial goals in just 22 days.

Tiffany created this program last year, and her goal was to have 10,000 women signed up and to help them master their money effectively and efficiently. In the end 20,000 people signed up and collectively all of the women saved 4 million dollars and were able to pay off over half a million dollars of debt together.

Women of color make up 70% of buying decisions, so it is time to change our mindset and change our financial situations. Let's start today and build a culture of wealth!

Related Post: 4 Lessons I Learned After Climbing Out Of $35,000 Debt While Making $12 An Hour

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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