How to Save Money at College | Sponsored by Regions Bank

College is stressful enough.  Leaving home for the first time, surrounded by smart peers, missing your family and friends.  Just typing this is practically causing me to hyperventilate from the memories.  On top of all of that is the worry about money.  Money before, during and after.  So when Regions Bank approached me to write this article, I was thrilled to discuss the money matters I wish I’d known back when I was a broke college student.

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The syllabus and course outline are passed out at every student orientation or first class, but there’s almost no discussion about budgets and hidden costs.  Everything I knew I picked up in the hallways like some sort of illicit conversation. Regions Bank has you covered with advice so that you don’t find yourself relying on the equally clueless in your classes.  Here’s an outline for students out there:

1. Make a budget.  Seems basic, but how many of us actually wrote out a budget before college?  Sure we learned Excel spreadsheets, but I thought of those as a way to keep track of my outfit options and as a way to keep track of who was coming to parties and what everyone was bringing.

2. Get creative when it comes to vacations. Welcome to college and the real world where getting creative is more than learning Adobe and Instagram filters. For example, Regions Bank is always looking for great ways to help with finances and even has some really interesting thoughts on low budget vacation ideas. Hostels are traditional, but there’s also Couchsurfing.com and staying with your new college friends. Facebook is a great way to look for friends of friends who might let you stay with them for a short while. I have a friend who recently travelled across the United States, just by reaching out via Facebook to see who had a friend in the next town that she could crash with. It doesn’t cost anything (except a small thank-you gift to your host(s)) and you meet new people.

3. Look for scholarships. You’d be surprised by how many random, narrow-focused scholarships there are out there that few people know or qualify for. I’ll bet there’s even one for left-handed, red-headed, ferret-loving women under 5’. My cousin applied for and got so many scholarships that he ended up making money during college. And don’t just look for scholarships your first year, keep looking. Sometimes a student drops out and their scholarship opens up, and some are just for sophomores or juniors. No need to stop looking for free money.

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4. Get into habits you’ll maintain the rest of your life. And no, I don’t mean “beer on Fridays.” I mean learn to:

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I’d love to hear anyone else’s tips – I’m sure I could still use some, and I know college kids who should be all ears. Regions Bank has more ideas than the above and you can find them all on their site here.

Now I’ve gotten to thinking about all the other things I wish I’d known before college. Such as how to get coffee stains out of denim, the best alarm clock, how to deal with obnoxious housemates, when fabric softener goes in the laundry, and am I ever going to use what I learned in “Introduction To Gothic Literature.”

Success in Stilettos: Bianca Torres Wong

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The Ambitionista is proud to feature Bianca Torres Wong, Assistant Vice President and Legal Executive at Nestle Philippines by Day, Vinyasa Yoga Teacher at Bliss Yoga Manila by Night.

Know what it’s like to pursue your passion and career simultaneously through Bianca’s life as a corporate lawyer and a certified yoga teacher.

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Describe who you are and what you do in 1- 2 sentences

“I’m half a corporate lawyer and half a wandering yogini. 🙂 I worked full time as a corporate lawyer for around 5 years before deciding I needed to do something more with my life, so I took time off and signed up for a 200 hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training. Now I happily get to practice both law (for the leading nutrition, health and wellness company in the world, Nestle) and yoga in my soul space, Bliss Yoga Manila.”

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What do you do when you first wake up?

“I reach over to look for my husband. 🙂 I just recently got married, so it’s still a bit surreal.”

What’s one activity that you do everyday without fail?

“I try to meditate a few minutes everyday. Sitting at my desk, or in traffic, or walking to work – sneaking in a few seconds of mindfulness always lifts my mood.”

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If you are not working you would be … ?

“Practicing more yoga. I absolutely love that deliriously happy post-yoga high. I’m always in a good mood after I practice.”

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

“The Philippines is known for its notoriously beautiful beaches so I would still have to choose Boracay, because it’s also where I met my hubby. 🙂 “

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If you really want to dress to impress, what do you do?

“The combination of a classic DVF wrap dress with a good pair of heels has always worked well for me in power meetings. It’s pretty quick to put together too, vs. a full suit and less high-maintenance. If it’s a more formal event, I’d complete the look with a sharp blazer and some accessories.”

What’s your favorite everyday beauty brands/products?

“MAC Mineralize SkinFinish and MAC Velvet Teddy Matte Lipstick, I just recently discovered this and I used up an entire stick in 2 months 🙂 “

Do you exercice? If yes, what type and how often?

“I like to mix it up. I make sure I practice yoga regularly but I try to sneak in a few Barre3 classes and some cardio at the Gym.”

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How do you stay sane and on top of it?

“I surround myself with good and positive energy. Years of yoga practice have taught me that energy is contagious. You can always choose the space around you, the people you surround yourself with and the battles you need to face. I now know I can take a step back, to extract myself from anything or anyone that doesn’t serve me. In this way, I guard my peace and I don’t drain myself. I devote my time tending to situations and engaging with people in my life who are worth it.”

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What do you splurge on? Fashion / Beauty / Travel :

“I’m a guilty shopaholic with a bad case of wanderlust. Shopping is so much more fun when you’re on vacation! I love travelling to different places, or visiting a few favourite places over and over again.”

Which women do you admire in your life?

“I’ve always gravitated towards strong and independent women. Feminine strength is subtle and sexy.”

If you could meet a younger you from 10 years ago, what would you have told her?

“Trust the universe. Be patient. Everything beautiful unfolds in God’s good time.”

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Favorite Quote: Dream like a Bohemian, Work like a Boss.
Photos c/o Kip Aguirre


Success in Stilettos : Shirley Yang

The Ambitionista is proud to feature Shirley Yang, Vice President of Social Strategy at StyleHaul​ Founder of SOFFICI, a fashion for philanthropy brand among our #SuccessInStilettos Series. Get some insights on a day in the life of a certified girl boss, pursuing her passions with her new line of luxury bag accessories while running strategy for one of the leading Style networks.

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What Is Your Work Wear Go To?

“I like to wear dresses, a form fitting dress, preferably black. The material is key. Winter time I add a fur vest, summer time I wear a light blazer outside of the dress.”

How do you stay sane and on top of it? 

“Deep breaths and good bedtime reading.”

Which women do you admire in your life? 

“Too many. I admire women who are brave, kind, and authentic.”

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What ​are​ your Everyday Favorite Beauty Products?

“My regular routine is good moisturizer. I also LOVE jojoba oil for good hair.”

What do you splurge on? 

“Good shoes and good food.”

What did you want to do when you grow up? 

“Inspire as many people as I can. Leave the world a better place – that’s the Millennial in me talking.”

What was the biggest obstacle you have faced that in the end helped you?

“I’ve had people try to put me down in the past, it definitely made me stronger. It is very true what they say, I want to look back and thank them.”

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What does success mean to you?

Success means balancing the Science of Achievement and the Art of Fulfilment. It’s when I do things larger than self and and inspire others to also be successful.”

If you could meet a younger you from 10 years ago, what would you have told her? 

“Don’t worry so much, get more sleep.”

What Is One Activity That You do Everyday without fail?

“Hug and kiss my little chihuahua.” 

What Is Your Favorite Quote?

“Chance favors the prepared mind, the more you practice, the luckier you become”

– Richard Branson

How To Find The Perfect Apartment

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Let’s be honest, searching for a new apartment can be exciting, but it can also be just as stressful. Trust me, I know. But taking the time and resources to locate the best place for you definitely worth it. There a many different facets to apartment hunting that need to be considered while looking for the perfect place. Not only is price a major factor in the decision making process, but one has to consider any additional fees, amenities, location and much more. Luckily for you, I have the necessary elements one must consider to find the perfect apartment!

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Interior Features

First, you need to know what you want. Make a list of things that are negotiable and non-negotiable. Decide what is important for you to have in your next home. How many bedrooms do you want? What is your minimum and maximum square footage? How much closet space do you need? Washer and Dryer? Figuring out everything you want in an apartment before your begin hunt will help you stay organized and on track with your search.

Location

Location is very important! Not only do you want your apartment to be in a safe location, it’s ideal for it to be not to far from the freeway and shopping centers (groceries, retail, etc). Its also important for it to be close to your place of work; you don’t want your commute to be too far from where you live.

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Amenities

What amenities are important to you for your new place? Gym, pool, spa multipurpose room? These amenities can prove to be very beneficial for many reasons. Having a gym membership can be costly, with prices ranging from $30 to around $120 a month. Having a gym on-site is a huge plus if you think you utilize a fitness center in your building. A pool or spa is definitely a great amenity that can help you unwind and relax whenever you want. Whatever amenities you determine are necessary for your new complex/ building, make sure to include them on your list of ‘must-haves’ for your search.

Do Your Research

For each place you’re interested in, make sure to do thorough research on each place. For instance, you might want to find out whether there is designated parking for each tenant. This is important considering you don’t want to have to have to circle your complex over and over to find a parking space. Also, its a better safety precaution to have a designated space- preferably one that is close to your building. Don’t get trapped by hidden expenses either. Ask who is responsible to pay for electricity, heat, Cable TV, and water? Also for your safety, ask what security features and fire protection features do they have?


I hope this mini-guide helps make a seamless search for your new place. Happy apartment hunting!


Stress-Free Tax Season Tips

It’s that time of the year again: tax season. While the fateful day can be cause for fits of anxiety and stress, I’ve learned that being organized helps to make April 15th less “Week of Total Chaos” and more “Week of Mild Annoyance.”

So, how can you, my dear Ambitionista, no longer be at the mercy of a few pages of paper?

I thought you’d never ask.

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1. Know Your Tax Status

Life happens. Did you get married this year? (Or, divorced?) Kids enter the picture? Dad move in to live with the family? Did all this happen this year? These might be situations that affect your tax status and make you eligible for more than one. Before you file your return, think about the past life events and any exemptions you may have.

2. Designate a place to keep your documents.

Half the battle of tax season is sifting through all the messy paperwork. So, gather all your receipts, expense forms, sources of income (1098, W-2 or 1099 forms), deductions such as receipts, property tax documents, etc. and records of any investments.

Having one place for all these important documents will save you time and that migraine that seems to hit as April looms closer.

I recommend these apps to help you with organizing:

Expensify: a quick solution to capturing cash expenses, mileage, reimbursements, etc. and importing all card transactions.

Shoeboxed: a ridiculously simple way receipts and create expense reports

IDonatedIt: an app that keeps track of non-cash donations

3. DIY or Hire a Professional?

Are you going to be filing your own taxes this year? If so, it’s especially important to be aware of changing tax laws and to double check information you include — putting in the wrong social security number can delay the process and even cause you to file your papers late.

If you’ll be hiring a tax professional to do your papers, make sure you contact them at least a month ahead of the deadline. Tax season is huge for them and they get swamped with people who wait until the last minute. So don’t try to call an accountant three days before the 15th — chances are they’ll tell you to get in line. How to get a good tax accountant? Look for someone who seems like she’s got her s**t together < cough cough> and ask for a recommendation. You can go on Yelp (no seriously) or Google and look up 3-4 potential candidates. The best tax accountant is someone who has experience working with people in your profession. So, if you own a restaurant, for example, look for an accountant with a lot of restaurateur clients. Mainly because they can give you all kinds of advice on how to manage your finances based on similar experience.

FYI: While trying to file your own taxes may save you money upfront, a tax professional who does this for a living might save you a lot more money in the long run. If you’re a small business, a contractor or own several properties, you’ll be spending a lot of time sweating the small stuff. A pro, however, gets paid to do these tedious tasks and can help you pay less in taxes or maximize deductions.

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4. You Waited Until the Last Minute. Don’t Panic.

When filing online, the return won’t be considered on time until the IRS formally accepts it for processing. So, make sure you file at least two days before the deadline. If you’re going the snail mail route, there’s a list of IRS-designated private delivery services to meet the “timely mailing as timely filing/paying” rule for tax returns and payments. These include:

Federal Express (FedEx):

FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First.

United Parcel Service (UPS):
UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

For tax returns to be considered on time, the papers must be postmarked by April 15, 2015. If it comes down to the day-of and there’s no possible way you can get your returns in on time, then file for an extension. The penalty for not filing or getting an extension by the deadline is harsh — 5 percent to a max 25 percent per month of the amount due on the late return.


We’d love to hear your own tips for making tax season easier. Let us know in the comments!