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Picture this: Your bestie is rich rich. Not only is she wealthy, but she’s self-made rich, and wants you to be rich as well. That’s the gist of @YourRichBFF, a.k.a. Vivian Tu, a content creator whose mission is to deliver super digestible budgeting tips for non-financial folks. From her days as a Wall Street trader to then managing big media and client partnerships at BuzzFeed, Tu knew she had to do something with her expertise when the pandemic hit and downright sketchy money info spread. So she started giving advice on TikTok, quickly going viral as Your Rich BFF.
Unlike so many, Tu believes being a good friend and talking about money are inextricably linked. “I highly recommend everybody just talk to their friends about money. I know it can feel rude. I know it can feel tacky and taboo. But the more we talk about money, the less uncomfortable it becomes,” Tu tells STYLECASTER. “And the more power we have when it comes to bargaining and negotiating, whether that be asking for a raise or getting the most competitive terms on your mortgage. Even just knowing that there’s a sale going on, like, tell your friends!”
We chatted with the social media star to get the lowdown on how to save money, say no, and not lose friendships in the process.
STYLECASTER: We all want to live a fabulous, luxurious, wondrous lifestyle, but we can’t afford everything. How should we say no, especially when saying yes would be so much fun?
Vivian Tu: It’s’s super natural to have FOMO, or have that fear of missing out. But I think honesty is the best policy. After thanking friends for the invite, say something along the lines of: “I am working towards putting X, Y, Z, towards my own financial goal, so I don’t think I’ll be able to make it this time. However, I would love to see you. Would you like to come over on Saturday for a pizza night and watch a movie?” The real big fear is missing out on time with the friend, so it’s good to provide an alternative.
What money-saving tips do you have for those nights when you do choose to go out?
I recommend paying with a credit card that’s going to really benefit your lifestyle and provide a perk to spending your money. I’m working with Citi and my Citi Double Cash Card is a perfect fit for my lifestyle because I don’t need to spend solely on travel. There are categories for all types of spending and I get to earn cash-back on everything that I buy, which feels really nice when I am spending money on a night out, or even just relaxing at home with some takeout. It doesn’t feel like I’m throwing money into a pit.
@yourrichbff How many of these steps have you done?! #money #finance #budgeting #savingmoney #investing #millionaire #credit #debit #debt #wealth #rich #personalfinance #financialliteracy #cash #lifehack ♬ Trap Money so Big (Remix) – Iqbal12
I love the idea of providing an alternative plan when it’s time to say no. But what’s your advice for weddings, bachelorettes, or more intimate, special invitations?
I actually put together a cute little script that can make these conversations feel a lot less awkward: “I am so honored that you’re asking me to be a bridesmaid! I would love to be able to do that for you and be there for you on your special day. That said, my budget for the bachelorette is X, Y, Z, and I don’t want to hold you back. I know your vision was to go on a week-long vacation to Cabo. I don’t think that I personally will be able to make that happen. That said, I’m happy to support you in a bunch of other ways or come for part of the trip.” Being honest and coming to a compromise is going to be the best way to keep your friendship intact. But also, it’s the best way to keep your budget intact, because so many people end up completely blowing up their own financial goals for everybody else’s happy moments.
What in-the-moment savings strategies do you have for when those big-cost events do come around?
What I love to do is called mullet travel—business in the front, party in the back. If you have a friend who is having a destination wedding in Scottsdale, for example, I would actually plan a vacation for yourself around that. Maybe that means flying in a few days early or flying out a few days later. But you’re going to be able to check out what Scottsdale has to offer as a vacation destination, on top of being there for your friend’s special moment.
As far as activities to do with your friends for free, or that are low cost, what are some of your favorites?
I love a spa night at home where everybody gets a glass of wine, and we put on a face mask. It’s simple. You get to do this with your girlfriends, sit on the couch, gossip, and enjoy each other’s presence, and it’s really, really nice. And then to follow up spa night, you could always order a pizza and watch a movie.
Outdoor activities are the absolute best in terms of costs. It costs so very little to go for a city bike ride through Central Park [or any park] and grab an ice cream afterwards. You get to move your body and also do something good and healthy for yourself.
How do you generally get the most bang for your buck when shopping?
First and foremost, your girl loves a sample sale. When you’re shopping online, it’s important to use a cash-back plugin—there are so many out there. Not only can you use a credit card, like the Citi Double Cash card, and earn cash, but when you use a cash-back plug in, you’ll get cash back from an affiliate network for driving that traffic anyway. So you’re getting twice the cash back, and you’re getting more bang for your buck when you’re shopping online. Also, be mindful of certain time periods and sales and waiting [to buy] if you can. If September, October, starts to roll around and you’re like, “I could really use a new vacuum,” just wait until Black Friday, right?
Travel is expensive. What’s your favorite underrated hack for saving money before going on vaca?
Try to book your flights as far out as humanly possible. Airlines are providing a lot more flexibility to change your flight. So if you’re able to book three to six months out, you’re gonna be able to save a bunch more than if you were booking the same month [you’re traveling], or only about a month ahead of time. And then in terms of getting the best hotel room, I really recommend using those credit card points wisely. Also, think about vacations during shoulder seasons. If you are someone who does not have any children and are not bound by the school system, vacation during off periods of time.
@yourrichbff What is your net worth? #money #finance #budgeting #savingmoney #investing #learning #credit #debit #debt #wealth #rich #personalfinance #financialliteracy #cash #lifehack #celebrity #millionaire #billionaire #beyonce ♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling
What’s a good strategy for saving money that you wish more people followed?
I think a lot of us feel like budgeting is the devil. Like, it’s the worst thing ever. It’s so restrictive. It’s not fun. It’s just icky. But I would prefer people reframe it. Budgeting really lets you say yes to all of the things that you really care about, and all the things you want to do. And one of the easiest strategies to use is the 50-30-20 budgeting method. Allocate 50 percent of your income to your needs—rent, groceries, all of that. Then 20 percent goes to saving and investing and paying down debt. And then 30 percent goes to things that make you happy—you don’t need them, you just want them. That’s the manicure appointment, that is drinks out with your girlfriends, that is those vacations and trips that you want to take. Using this rough outline just helps you get a pulse of if you’re on track, or if you might need to scale back a little bit.
Anything else we should keep in mind when trying to sock away money to live better?
The best piece of advice that I ever got was from my mentor. She said you can only save as much as you earn, but you can always earn more money. I didn’t quite understand what that meant. I was like, OK, I guess? And then she explained it to me this way: for you to make an extra $10,000 by cost-cutting, you are going to have to cut out every single discretionary expense that brings you an ounce of joy in your entire life.
However, making an extra $10,000 at your job? That’s not entirely insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination. That is you asking for a raise and you getting one, that is you getting a new job that pays you better, and that is something that you should really be asking for every single year. Right? If you are able to consistently increase your income through asking for raises or through making strategic job changes and getting yourself promoted, you’re gonna be living a lot better than if you’re just cutting out that Starbucks and avocado toast that everybody loves to shame millennials for. Like, that is not why we’re broke, OK? It is so important to understand the value of prioritizing your income versus just cutting out everything that makes you happy.