Knowing how interested I am in most things personal finance, Shantrelle suggested that I connect with her girl, Tiffany ” The Budgetnista ” Aliche, a fellow Nigerian, whose mission is to help individuals achieve their financial goals. I was impressed by the fact that she has created a successful business that helps so many people.
I was also impressed by all of the positive press she’s been receiving recently (shout out to her publicist Dreena Whitfield). I spoke to Tiffany in depth and got an inside perspective on her backstory, road to success and a few tips that will help our readers improve their financial situation.
SHOPPE BLACK: Congratulations on all of your recent success! We wanted to introduce you to all the people in the ShoppeBlack community that want to get their financial situations in order, build successful businesses, and teach their children about the tools that create generational wealth. Please tell us a little bit about your background and how your journey started.
THE BUDGETNISTA: My father was an accountant and CFO for a non-profit organization in New Jersey. In African households, you rely on the men to look after women in certain ways. Even though my mother made more money, my father was the organizer who took care of the family finances. Honestly, it was a blessing that we did not have any brothers because I would not have learned a lot of the lessons that he would have traditionally saved for a son, if he had one.
SHOPPE BLACK: What money lessons did you learn from your parents?
THE BUDGETNISTA: My parents had different teaching styles. My dad was more strategic about our financial education while my mom was more hands-on. She would take my siblings and I shopping, and like a true Nigerian, she haggled and negotiated prices at department stores.
We would be at a grocery store and my mother would be negotiating like it was a marketplace! I did not know that people didn’t do that. I just figured, okay this is how you buy groceries; this is how you get the best price. This was everyday life and how I began to learn about personal finances.
SHOPPE BLACK: I heard you mention in past interviews that people used to consider you cheap. Would you say that about yourself?
THE BUDGETNISTA: In the past, some may have thought I was cheap, but really I was just always mindful of my spending. I may have been cheap when I was younger because I did not have a balance. I saved everything, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. When I was younger, I was a person of extremes.
I saved everything and by time I was twenty-three or twenty-four, I had about $40,000 saved in cash on top of $10,000 to $15,000 in my retirement account. I bought my car in cash, I never bought clothes, never went out and never traveled because I didn’t know how to manage outside of saving. I was too frugal.
It really wasn’t until my early twenties that my parents sat me down and said that they were glad that I had learned how to save, but it’s ok to spend also. Being a person of extremes, I then began to enjoy my money too much and got into over $30,000 of credit card debt. I spent everything and then lost everything. Now, at 36, I have a nice balance – setting money aside and spending.
SHOPPE BLACK: Children often learn their money habits from their parents. What are some good tips for parents to pass on early to their children?
THE BUDGETNISTA: From the beginning you have to let children know that there are three main categories when it comes to money. Money for spending, saving and giving. I tell parents to start kids off at three or four. At that age, language for a child changes from “can you give me…?” to “can you buy me…?”
That means a child has already made the connection between money and things. So, now that they understand there’s an exchange, you have to teach them the best way to make that exchange possible. For example, when I go to Staples, my boyfriend’s daughter who loves Staples would ask me to buy her stuff and I would say no.
We eventually created a chore list on a free website called Choremonster where she can earn money. So now when we go and I ask her what her budget is, she knows that she has to pull from her spending bucket, not the savings or giving bucket. She can also decide how much. Now, she feels in control because she decides what she’s gonna do. It teaches them so many lessons including self control and math.
SHOPPE BLACK: That’s awesome. My fifteen-year old son is really good when it comes to managing money. Your last anecdote reminds me of the story about when you went to Target with your boyfriend’s daughter and she walked in and grabbed a toy and you were like “Ummm, what did I miss? Did she get a great report card or something? Why is she getting a toy?” That is so Nigerian, by the way.
THE BUDGETNISTA: Right! I couldn’t understand it and I wasn’t even trying to be funny. First, it was like “Oh, Tiffany is so strict!” At nine-years old, it’s easy to feed her appetite for “stuff.” But what happens when she’s sixteen and the things she wants are three to four hundred dollars? And you going to tell her no and then she’s upset? Her being upset won’t be her fault because you have trained her to expect something for nothing.
We were at the store earlier today and she wanted a snack and she didn’t have any money. So, I said okay, I will front you some money and she was looking like “Hmmm this snack is $2 this is other one is $4”. She would never have had those conversations before. Funny enough, kids don’t mind. What’s normal in your house is normal to them. So the sooner you make it the new normal, the better.
SHOPPE BLACK: Clearly your expertise is highly valued. Your books have a lot to do with that. Tell us about them.
THE BUDGETNISTA: I have three books. The One Week Budget, my first book, is an Amazon #1 bestseller. It really just teaches people how to create and automate their own money management system. I literally say, take a pen and pencil to write things down to having an automated financial system for yourself.
I wrote it because I knew so many people had no idea. And because I used to be a preschool teacher, I can break it down so that a three or four-year old can understand it. That’s what I did and that’s why the book has done so well.
I also have two Live Richer Challenge books. The first one started in January 2015. My goal was to have 10,000 women master their money collectively. I thought, what if I take what I do and make it a virtual challenge where women sign up and once they sign up, the same day, we all get the same email telling us what to do? Open up a bank account. The next day, put some money in it… just a step by step guide?
We did so well that we got 20,000 women, in 50 states, 65 countries. We saved $4 million dollars and paid off a half million dollars worth of debt. Then I said I want to do it again, so here we are, at the end of the second Live Richer Challenge.
This one is the savings edition and we have 60,000 women in 80 different countries in all 50 states and we are collectively saving together. I cannot wait to see how much we end up saving in comparison to last year! It’s just a movement of women, especially women of color.
SHOPPE BLACK: Is your Live Richer Challenge only for women?
THE BUDGETNISTA: Men can definitely join. I always tell people, I don’t turn anyone away but my intention was to specifically speak to women of color because we are at least likely to be approached by financial professionals. Even now with this huge movement that I have, I reached out to a large financial institution for sponsorship.
If this was any other group they would jump on it, but once they realized it was women of color, they were skeptical. 60,000 women and you’re not interested in sponsoring??? It’s only because I’m talking about money, instead of giving away weaves and shoes or talking about hair and nails.
They think women of color aren’t interested or don’t have the wealth to support their products or services. And they are wrong. It’s unfortunate but they will learn.
SHOPPE BLACK: That says a lot about these brands too. Anyone who is aware of consumer trends knows that Black women are among the most educated and savvy consumers out there and that’s the demographic you want to target if you want to make money.
THE BUDGETNISTA: Exactly, it’s like when people didn’t believe that digital music would be a thing. Now Apple, a computer company, is the biggest music seller in the world. You can be foolish and be Sam Goody or Tower Records and think “Oh no, no one’s going to want digital music” but now kids are like “Tower records? What’s that?” You can either be ahead of the trend or you can be left behind. Some of these companies will be obsolete and I’m okay with that.
SHOPPE BLACK: What impressed me about the 2015 challenge was how many lives you impacted. I heard that one lady thanked you because for the first time in her adult life, she is now paying her bills on time. What are some examples of how your work has impacted others?
THE BUDGETNISTA: One story that was touching was a homeless woman who took the challenge. After a year she was able to purchase her first home. That was incredible! I’ve had women who are in abusive relationships who told me that they were able to save money and finally leave.
Financial abuse is one of the ways that women suffer in relationships. By [their partners] withholding money, they have no choice to stay because they have kids and they feel trapped. Money is just a medium that I’m using to make the world better.
SHOPPE BLACK: Even though I’m not a woman, I’m going to be doing the challenge along with Shantrelle.
THE BUDGETNISTA: (laughs) Yes! Of course do it! I always tell people to do it along with their partner, their man, their husband etc.
SHOPPE BLACK: Teamwork makes the dream work, right?
THE BUDGETNISTA: For sure, especially if you are going to grow a lot together you both have to be on the same page financially. That is critical. Money is the number one cause of divorce. Everybody is different. Some people are spenders, some people savers. You should have clear spending and savings goals.
My boyfriend and I have different styles. You don’t have to have the same spending style or financial style. We write down the goals we want to achieve. So, sometimes we try one way and it may not be my style but if the end goal is something that we both are looking to accomplish, there are many ways to get it done.
SHOPPE BLACK: It’s obvious you are passionate about healthy finances and it’s obviously your calling. I think it’s beautiful when you can find something you really like to do, change the world and make money at the same time. To me, that’s the definition of social entrepreneurship. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
THE BUDGETNISTA: I definitely do consider myself a social entrepreneur. I remember when I first started “The Budgetnista”, I wanted to make it a non-profit but I’ve worked for nonprofits and I don’t want that. I want a business that maneuvers like a non-profit but pays like a profit (laughs).
SHOPPE BLACK: It makes a lot of sense, helping people and making money. Why would you want to do one or the other when you can do both? Where do you personally invest your money?
THE BUDGETNISTA: I believe that you should invest in what you understand, so I’m going back to real estate investment. But, I also invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. That is something that I work with my financial advisor on to decide what is best for me, but my biggest investment is something that I understand more than anyone else — my business.
People don’t realize that having a business is also an investment. People have come to me to invest. You know, put money in to get money. So yeah, that’s my biggest investment, my own business.
SHOPPE BLACK: Speaking of investing in your own business, everyone has a business card that says they’re a CEO. What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
THE BUDGETNISTA: You can either look like a business or you can be a business. That’s a problem with a lot of up-and-coming entrepreneurs, they focus so much on looking like a business that they never get a chance to be a business and they run out of money.
I always tell people that there is a little girl down the block who is getting paid for braiding hair. She has a business. You my friend, do not. That’s what a business is: a product or service that somebody wants to purchase and does purchase.
SHOPPE BLACK: So where do you see your business and brand ten years from now?
THE BUDGETNISTA: Honestly, I see my brand becoming something like a Nike or another brand that is widely known. One thing I want to do is certify brands.
For example, if you go to a store and are trying to decide between two hairdryers and one has my logo on it saying it is “Budgetnista Certified”, you know you are getting a product of value. I am also writing a children’s book now.
SHOPPE BLACK: Lastly, what does money mean to you?
THE BUDGETNISTA: You know Africans always speak in metaphors (laughs). My father would say that money is like a hammer. You can use it to build a house but you can also use that same hammer to destroy the house. Money is the same.
It’s a tool that you can use to build up your life or you can use money to destroy your life. If you use money correctly, it makes life better, but if you use it incorrectly, it can make life miserable. It’s merely one of the tools you can use to build a better life.
If you’re just learning about the Live Richer Challenge, no worries! You can sign up now and start getting emails immediately to start your own journey to financial freedom. Just go to www.livericherchallenge.net.