Tiffany Aliche, better known as “The Budgetnista,” is a financial educator who teaches basic financial tenants like budgeting, credit, debt, and beginning investing through her online community, books, and speaking engagements. She’s combined her love of teaching and her experience in managing personal finances to create a thriving, lucrative business.
Gerri Detweiler, Nav’s head of market education, has been impressed with Aliche’s perseverance through adversity. “Not only is she helping tens of thousands of people, she’s a great example of what being an entrepreneur is all about. She’s got drive, passion, and she makes things happen,” said Detweiler.
Why did you start your business?
I went to school for business and hated all my internships because they were so boring. I always loved kids. My senior year in college, I didn’t want to switch majors, so I finished up my degree and decided I wanted to teach after college. I didn’t have my teaching degree, so I could only teach preschool. I thought I would teach preschool for 9 months and then get certified, but I ended up teaching preschool for 10 years.
I grew up in a family where finances were always discussed. My father was a CFO and an accountant. We would have money classes at home once a week and family meetings where we talked about the budget. Learning about personal finance was completely normal for me. My roommate in college had a debt collector calling our room, and that made me realize that not everybody was raised this way. I started explaining things to my friends like budgeting and how to make the stipend their parents’ gave them for the week last past Monday. I started getting more interested in personal finance, so I started taking classes, reading books, and tapping into my father’s knowledge.
I eventually got my Master’s in education and thought that maybe I’d be a principal. Then I realized being a principal was nothing like being a teacher. Here I was, this preschool teacher with a Master’s degree! I worked in a school district in Newark, New Jersey, that was economically depressed. People were really struggling financially. The parents would come to me with their financial struggles. I found myself giving them advice. I started inviting them to come by when the kids were napping for a “Parent University” where I would teach them and help them create a budget. I ended up writing my first book then in a notebook because some parents couldn’t come in because they needed to work. I would send the book home with their kids so they could do their own financial “homework.”
In 2009, I lost my job when the recession hit really bad. My school lost its funding. For two years, I lived off unemployment and tried to figure out what to do with my life by volunteering. I volunteered everywhere and always ended up teaching and helping nonprofits develop their financial education programs. People started asking for me specifically, because I knew how to write curriculum, I knew how to teach, and I knew about money. One of the nonprofits asked me to become their program director. I did that for two months, and then I decided to take a leap and do this independently because other nonprofits started asking me to come onboard.
How did you get the funds to get going?
When I first started, I didn’t have any money. My ex-boyfriend knew this was my aspiration, and we were still friends, so he loaned me $250 to buy a netbook. It was like a mini-laptop, but super cheap and jenky! For two years, that was my main computer. That was my startup cost!
Have you heard of business credit?
Yes. I got a business credit card because I had a friend who owned a laundromat business tell me that I should do that in case I needed it later on. I didn’t think I would need it at first, but now I use it to buy books. I’ve written three books, and I use my business credit card to buy copies of the books, and then I pay it off right away to build a credit history. Now, I know that if I need a line of credit to get an office or expand the brand, I can get it because I can show years of history of using credit responsibly.
Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
Time management. I’m always working. Balance is the hardest thing for me.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
I have a bookkeeper, and I wish I had done that earlier in the business, because it’s way less expensive than I thought. My bookkeeper keeps track of what I’ve spent a month, and I keep track of what I’ve made a month. Working for myself, the money fluctuates often. Keeping track of things this way helps me to make sure I’m setting aside money for retirement, taxes, and business savings. I know in my slower months, I’m going to have to live off of the savings. I’ve now learned how to manage that flow – I call it “being like the squirrel.” I do the most work and store the away the most when business is abundant. When my financial winter comes, I can live off what I made before.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
No, I don’t have credit with any of my vendors.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on?
I undervalued myself. I was just happy that people wanted to work with me. And I should have gotten help sooner. I burned myself out.
Also, I’m sensitive by nature. I would rethink my whole business strategy if, out of my email list with 100,000 people, one person wrote me back complaining about something. Now, I’ve learned not to take things so personally.
What’s the smartest thing you did in your first year?
The smartest thing I did was to use social media for business. I didn’t have any marketing money when I started, so I would post a “Tip of the Day” on Facebook. I changed my name on Facebook to “Tiffany ‘The Budgetnista’ Aliche,” so I started branding myself and using Facebook as a free marketing tool.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
Just doing it. I feel like a minute ago I was sleeping on my sister’s couch, and this year my company will gross just over $1 million. I still drive a 1999 Toyota Camry – I can’t wrap my head around having a $1 million business! We’re helping tens of thousands of people worldwide. I’m not just making money, but doing something good.
What does the future look like for your business?
I have a big project on the horizon that will take my business from $200,000 a year to $1.2 million a year. In March, I’ll be launching my Live Richer Academy. It’s my first membership site, so I’m excited about that. I’ll also be releasing my first children’s book.
I have a yearly challenge called the Live Richer Challenge. There are nearly 100,000 people doing it now. My goal is to have about half a million people working on their finances together by the end of the year.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
Get started now. Stop waiting for things to be perfect. You’re going to fall. The sooner you fall, the quicker you can get back up and do better. Fail fast, succeed faster.
About the Author — Ashley Sweren is a freelance marketing writer and editor. She owns her own small business, Firework Writing, located in San Jose, California.