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.


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 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.


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:


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.”

Attorney Bianca Shoot-17

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 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.



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.


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.


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!

New Kid in the Boardroom

One of the many wise things my dad told me when I started my first job was to never forget that as the new hire, you are constantly being assessed.

In fact, according to bestselling author Michael D. Watkins, the first 90 days at a new job means everything. So if you’re the new kid in the boardroom, don’t even think about hitting cruise control before the 3-month mark. (In general, don’t hit cruise control ever unless you’re on vacation.) To paraphrase Watkins in his book The First 90 Days:

Research shows that what you do early on during a job transition is what matters most. Your colleagues and your boss form opinions about you based on limited information, and those opinions are sticky—it’s hard to change their minds. So shape their impressions of you to the best of your ability.


So, what exactly should you do to make your first 90 days count?


Because I have been on both sides of the equation—I  have quite a few people working for me in addition to clients that I report to—I’ve found that making sure all parties understand what is wanted/needed from each other is key to favorable first impressions. The best way to achieve this? Put everything in writing. This could mean deciphering your boss’ rambling emails into 3 bullet points of things that you need to achieve by end of this week, sharing a Google spreadsheet with everyone clarifying individual responsibilities or acknowledging a client’s email with a “I read your email below, and will get back to you by next Tuesday” response. Putting things down in writing not only helps eliminate any misunderstandings or vagueness, but it also creates the impression that you have it together. Both things are crucial when forming a great first impression.


I know this sounds like a cliche but just like most cliches, it does have some basis in truth. Besides, since you’re a newbie, there’s a lot you need to catch up on when starting out. Perhaps you’re an ambidextrous speed-reader blessed with photographic memory who can do the job of 3 people. Clock out at 5 sharp later. For now, arrive early and stay back at least until your boss leaves. Use the time to either complete work way before its due date, come up with ideas that will benefit the company (see No. 4 below) or read up on work-related materials that will impress your boss/colleagues when appropriate. Because a “Last week, WSJ did a piece on how a chat-based customer service system is about 40% more efficient and twice as user-friendly compared to a phone-based system. I’ll send you the article if you like” is a million times better than a “Yeah, um, improving our phone customer service sucks. Hope you can figure it out” sympathetic yet empty response.


When it comes to getting to know the people you work with, put in an honest effort to create a strong relationship with your team. You don’t have to make everyone your work BFF, but do remember everyone’s names and listen when they talk about themselves. Getting to know your team members helps you see things from their point of view. When I was first promoted to lead a diverse group of junior investment bankers years ago, knowing my  team’s personalities and understanding office politics helped me immensely when I started to delegate tasks. Getting to know your colleagues can be as easy as going out to lunch with them 2-3 times a week or sending a friend request on Facebook.


Be proactive at work. Just completing the tasks you are assigned on time is fine, but it won’t get you anywhere. To really shine, you need to adopt the mindset of “What can I do to help the company/my boss/the team/the client?” For example, a few months ago, I was hired as a fashion copywriter. It was supposed to be temporary and was a great little side gig where I was paid a good hourly rate to do something I really love and I secretly wanted to do it on a more permanent basis. Immediately after starting the job, I noticed that the company did not have a manual that would explain the Do’s and Don’ts that would help everyone on the team create uniform copy. So I created one without being asked and on my own time. It was 10 pages long and took me about 5 hours. Once I presented this to the client, she was quite pleased and offered me a permanent role as their main copywriter. Constantly think of ways to do things better/easier/cheaper and you’ll soon be considered an asset to the company.


To get promoted/get paid more/evolve you need to constantly improve by trying new things and accepting new challenges. As a fashion blogger, I find that more and more, I’m being asked to host fashion events. At first, I was deathly afraid of public speaking, but I knew I had to conquer this fear if I wanted my blog to evolve. So I joined the local Toastmasters and started inviting 8-10 blogger friends to my apartment to talk about what we do. This was more than a year ago. Since then, I’ve gotten the chance to speak in front of a crowd of 200 people and host high-profile events with dozens of cameras pointed right at me. If I had let my fear of public speaking get the better of me, I’d still be hiding behind my Miu Miu purse.

PS: I still get a bit nervous right before speaking in public.
Photo by Umberto Barone for Vogue

The 5 Golden Rules to Office Romance

Years ago, I walked down a hallway for a client meeting and bumped into the most handsome man I’d ever seen.  Somehow I kept walking and met with said clients and didn’t come across as a blithering idiot in heat, and I got the job. I was so excited, not only because I desperately wanted this gig, but also because that meant I’d eventually be introduced to this man-god.  Long-story short, I’d bump into Mr. Adonis  on and off for a couple of years, and he was always nice but distant with me and later I learnt was batting for the other side.

My heartbreak aside,  let’s be honest – with the 40-hour business week becoming a thing of the past, it’s natural for most of the new people we meet to be through work.  But before you dive headfirst, let me give you a few tips I learned the hard way:


Photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue

Golden Rule #1: Know the company policy about dating coworkers

There can be serious conflicts of interest.  (Where I worked, there was a very strict one that seniors are not to date juniors without disclosing the fact to HR. If both parties are in a direct supervisor-supervised relationship, one of them would have to be reassigned to someone else, which was usually the more junior party.)

Golden Rule #3: Be careful to not misinterpret someone’s flirty nature 

You don’t want to misread a situation and then make a good working relationship filled with awkward silences and avoiding each other.

Golden Rule #3: If you really can’t help yourself, go slowly.

That means don’t get physical immediately.  Make sure this relationship has true legs before ending up being the butt of office innuendos around the water cooler.

Golden Rule #4: Of course all love lasts… but in case it doesn’t, be prepared.

Beware the break-up dangers that can ensue. You don’t want drama affecting how productive you are at work.

Golden Rule #5: Even in a best-case scenario, don’t forget that the butterflies will fade

Do you really want to spend all day in the office with your partner, and then go home to them as well?  Can you really take orders (or give them) at work and then expect to fight fair at home over the remote control? As much as I love my boyfriend, one of the things I relish about our relationship is reuniting at the end of the day to dish about each other’s work-day experience.