Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Hi, my name is Tori Dunlap, and I’m a financial speaker and educator who doesn’t own a single debit card. No, I don’t use cash, either –– instead, I only use credit cards. This news is usually met with gasps from the audience or, at the very least, some very strongly worded emails about the dangers of credit cards.

Don’t get me wrong, debt is not something I preach, and when it comes to credit cards, most people don’t associate them with anything but debt. There are understandable reasons for this –– mainly because most of us aren’t taught how to use credit cards effectively and without going into debt. Rest assured, it can be done –– and with great success and perks.

The good news is that even if you’ve had a negative experience with credit cards or have been too scared to try using one, I’m walking you through how to take advantage of all the benefits without the pitfalls.

Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K

Before we begin: Go at your own pace

If you’re a runner, you’ll know the truth of this –– everyone’s pace is different. When it comes to credit cards, many have had negative experiences and feel anxious about the idea of using them again or may have habits of overspending they need to adjust first.

I always preface my credit card advice with this –– if you’re struggling with debt and overspending, a credit card may not be the best thing for you right now. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use one! It may be worth it to get your debts paid down and take some time working with a regular debit card and a well-structured budget for a while to help you build new behavior and spending patterns. There is absolutely no shame in that. If you need some additional help with debt, check out my blog on the best and worst advice for paying off debt.

It might be that you aren’t ready to put every expense on a credit card. It’s OK to start slow and small by using Paceline’s new fitness-focused credit card to purchase a tank of gas once a month or groceries to help you build up more rewards! Just like everyone’s pace is their own, your financial journey is, too. 

The perks of credit cards over debit cards

Most people start with a debit card when they’re young and eventually apply for a credit card. Getting a debit card is as simple as opening a checking account. A credit card, on the other hand, takes an application process. So why do I recommend a credit card over a debit card?

First up, credit cards have better security and fraud protection than debit cards. You’re able to dispute charges if your card is lost or stolen without having your accounts frozen, which is a pretty big deal considering so many people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to suddenly lose access to their accounts.

Secondly, credit cards offer perks that debit cards just… don’t. With my favorite cards, I get cash back on purchases, travel points that turn into free flights or hotel stays, and discounts on some of my favorite services like Doordash, Peloton memberships, and more. Paceline’s new credit card rewards you for spending and working out –– double win! Each credit card offer will be a little different, but overall, most cards offer some kind of cash back or reward point system that you can utilize.

Finally, credit cards help you build a healthy credit score –– an absolute necessity in this day and age. Credit cards, when used well, will help you build scores that can help you get better rates on mortgages, car loans and more.


How I avoid overspending

My first rule of spending with a credit card is this: I never pay for anything with a credit card that I could not pay for in cash. I keep an eye on my budget and make sure that I’m not overspending and putting myself in jeopardy of going into debt.

This means that every single month, I pay off the entire balance of my credit card—no minimums, the whole shebang. A perk to this is that I can easily print my statement balance and run a report to see where I may be spending more than I want to in one area. It’s a great way to ensure I stay on budget (and make sure I’m not being double charged or using subscriptions I forgot to cancel).

Before you decide to open a credit card, make sure you have some kind of plan for your budget.

Busting the credit myths

Myth #1: People who use credit cards are using them to pay for things they can’t afford in cash

Of course, this is true for some, but for many, credit cards are strategic. A general rule of thumb is to never use your credit card for more than you could just as easily afford to pay in cash. Using a credit card as a payday loan or a cash advance can be costly. 

Myth #2: You have to keep a balance on your credit card to have a good score

This one is a straight-up myth. You do not need to keep a balance on your card to build your credit score or keep your account open. As long as you’re making regular purchases and paying them off every month, your card should stay open, and your credit utilization will stay low, which is a positive factor in how your score is determined.

Myth #3: Credit cards are good for emergencies

Please, as much as possible, try not to use credit cards for emergencies. Before opening your first account, I’d consider an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of savings in an HYSA (High Yield Savings Account). This ensures that you won’t be tempted to pull out the plastic when you get a flat tire or your water heater calls it quits. 

Choose cards that align with your values

When you’re looking for a new credit card, it’s important to consider the things you value spending money on. For example, if you hate traveling, a travel credit card may not be the one for you. On the other hand, if you spend a lot of money on food and dining out, a cash back card that gives more for groceries and dining? Right up your alley!

Most card companies offer “new customer” promotions where you’ll receive a bonus for spending a certain amount of money in the first few months. This is where applying for cards strategically can come in handy.

I often recommend applying for a card with bonuses close to big purchases you were already saving for in cash –– aka weddings, vacations, etc. For example, if a card offers a $1,000 bonus when you spend $7,000 in the first three months, it can be hard to do that with your regular purchases. If you’re spending money (that you already have budgeted) on flights, honeymoons, weddings, parties, etc.? You’re going to get to that threshold a lot faster!



So, take stock of what’s coming up in your life and budget and see if a strategically chosen credit card may help you along the way!

Credit cards are a huge part of building a better financial future when used properly. Remember, only you can know what’s best for you and your finances. Find your pace, and you’ll be on your way. And don’t forget to check out Paceline’s newest credit card offering coming soon!

How Barre Makes Me a Better Business Owner

Our guest author today is Tori Dunlap, the owner and founder behind Her First $100K – a company dedicated to empowering and educating women on how to become financially independent.

How physical activity can improve your professional life
Tori Dunlap of Her First $100K

Growing up,  I often performed in our local theatre and in college, chose to double-major in Theatre and Communications. Suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time dancing and moving. I loved theatre and dancing on stage because it was so expressive, fun, and communal.

After college, I realized that I didn’t have built-in tap (my absolute favorite) or jazz classes in my schedule, and for a while, I struggled with how to find a new workout routine for myself as a post-grad. I tried yoga and spinning to various successes, but there was always something missing.

Then along came Barre –– a Pilates-based workout built on the foundations of ballet. I headed into my first class expecting for it to be a breeze, and when I tell you I have never been that sore in my life, please know I am not making any exaggerations. In my theatre major mind, I thought I’d get a nice workout and have a little fun –– what really happened was that I got a killer workout and had a blast.

I hopped into a Barre workout class whenever I could and felt my strength, poise, and flexibility begin to grow. Naturally, I was devastated when the pandemic hit and my Barre studio closed for classes.

Being away from my favorite form of physical exercise gave me some space to really miss it. I realized that Barre didn’t just act as a way to move my body –– it kept me sane and made me a better business owner. 


I was already a small business owner and working full time when I started taking Barre, but even I couldn’t pass up a good deal. I was able to work at the front desk in exchange for free classes –– which was both fun from an “extroverted-meeting-people” perspective and from a financial one! 

One of the things I loved when I checked into a Barre class or ran the front desk was building relationships with the instructors and other clients in the room. I loved seeing the same people and getting to know them and connect with them in something that was totally outside of my usual. I spend a lot of time around other business owners and personal finance people –– and it was great to walk into a class where I could meet, chat, and sweat it out with people I might not meet otherwise.

This is meaningful for anyone looking to grow their networks, but even more so for small business owners. Being a part of a community that has nothing to do with your business opens you up to new perspectives and opportunities to grow in new ways. I loved this part of showing up to Barre class. You never know who you could meet –– a business partner or contact, potential customer, or even just a new friend!

I didn’t go to class expecting to meet these people, I just enjoyed being there and connecting with others. The rest happens organically.

Replenishing My Energy

My company, Her First $100K, employs a fully remote team. I love offering this benefit to my employees, but each of us struggles with portions of remote work, especially in a year where we spent so much time at home. As things have been opening up again, I’ve made my way back to Barre class and I have noticed a HUGE difference in my energy levels.

I feel more energetic not just on days when I’m in class but for several days after. When I work out, my mind is clearer, my body is calmer, and I’m in a much better mood overall. This especially helps during long days full of press interviews when mental endurance is a necessity.

Hitting up my Barre class is so much less about burning calories –– it’s about moving my body in a way that gives me joy and makes me feel more confident when I’m taking on the day ahead. Thanks, endorphins!

A Stress Savior

In the same vein, running a business where I’m a public figure with an audience of over 2 million can be incredibly stressful. I love my community, and I put in the work to bring them the best information and education I can, but there are downsides. 

Last year, I went negative viral (aka, I had a TikTok gain traction for the wrong reasons) and was slammed with hate comments, nasty emails, and even death threats. It was one of the hardest months of my life. On top of it all, it was right in the middle of the pandemic and my Barre classes were not happening. 

I realized, especially at that moment, how important those classes were to me. They were a safe space to freely express myself physically and even emotionally. The determination it takes to get through a good Barre workout is an act of mental fortitude in and of itself, and I needed it more than ever. The old saying is true –– you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I didn’t know how much I needed that Barre class until I didn’t have it.

Fortunately, things eventually blew over and life got quieter again.

This spring, I was finally able to go back to class and I almost cried. I didn’t even care that I couldn’t walk for two days after –– Barre was back. My happy place, my endorphin escape, was back.


Building your (financial) muscle

In my Navigating the Negotiation course, where I teach people how to negotiate their salaries and get paid their worth, I use Barre as an illustration of building confidence when negotiating. I see negotiation and many financial principles, like budgeting or saving, as muscles we need to regularly flex and keep strong.

In the course, I tell the story of my first ever Barre class. I could not move the next day. I literally could not move a single bit. There was a moment, laying in bed where I said, “I'm never doing this again.”

And now, I do it three or four times a week. It's not easy –– it’s still really hard sometimes. My legs still shake and my arms are still numb, but it's slightly easier because I've done it enough times where it feels comfortable in my body.

That’s what it’s like negotiating. That’s what it’s like to save money from each paycheck. That’s what it’s like to start investing. It’s a muscle that you build and strengthen until you’re not even thinking about it anymore –– just getting stronger and stronger every day.

Do you have to take a Barre class to be a good business owner? Heck no. But could taking a workout class regularly or even joining an adult sports team help you build a better business, social life, and even financial success? Oh heck yes, it can.

Plus, you can wear your fitness tracker and get all sorts of incredible bonuses with Paceline. Rocking a workout high, saving money, and building your business all at the same time?

Count me in.

Values-based spending can help you budget more effectively!

Healthy Living on a Budget with Values-Based Spending

Founder of Her First $100K and Paceline guest blogger, Tori Dunlap.

Healthy living can be expensive. Between gym memberships, fitness trackers, clothing, shoes, food, equipment, personal trainers, etc., etc., etc. – fitness can begin to feel like a forest fire burning a hole in your wallet. 

We know that caring for our bodies is an important part of maintaining both our physical and emotional health. Still, with the rising costs of almost everything, it can be easy to let your health costs slip into the void of “maybe when I have more money,” or “when I’m not in debt anymore, then I can afford to take care of myself.”

Here’s the great news – it doesn’t have to be this way. Your health is so incredibly important, and there is a way to stay healthy and still get out of debt, save money, invest, and more.

As an internationally recognized money coach and owner of Her First $100K – a money and career education platform – I’ve talked to just about every type of budgeter you can imagine. From big spenders to frugal savers and everything in between. And guess what? We’re not all that different. Each of us has a list of values that we care deeply about. Mine are food, travel, and a good houseplant. Since you’re with me here at Paceline, I’m assuming that one of your values is health and fitness.

So, how exactly do you maintain a healthy lifestyle AND stay in control of your money at the same time?? I’d like to introduce you to the mindset that has changed my life and thousands of others – value-based spending.

What is value-based spending?

Value-based spending is exactly what it sounds like –– it’s the idea of spending in alignment with the things you value. Above, I mentioned a few of my value-based spending categories (travel, good food, and plants). These three categories of spending are inherently built into my monthly budget, and I feel absolutely zero guilt for spending money on my newest green baby, a nice dinner out with a friend, or a round-trip flight to a fun destination.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still limitations here. The idea is that I have a portion of my budget segmented for these exact categories.

For you, these categories may be the same or completely different. Even the breakdown within categories might not look the same to others. For example, you and someone else may both have fitness as your category, but they spend freely on group classes what you might spend on a personal trainer or a membership at a nicer gym.

That’s the great thing about spending based on your values – they are inherently your own. Because – SPOILER – personal finance is personal! 

Why deprivation doesn’t work

“Ok, Tori – this all sounds great, but I’m in debt, and I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be spending any money on things outside of my absolute necessities until I’m out of debt.”

One of the most frustrating pieces of financial advice I hear is the idea of depriving yourself of even the smallest of joys in the relentless pursuit of a financial goal. Most of the time, you only end up resenting your job and even the money you make because you’re all work and absolutely zero play. We were not meant to live joyless lives, and we don’t have to just because one person says it’s the only way to do it.

You’re still working within boundaries when you’re using values-based spending. It isn’t just a free pass to drop cash you don’t have. Instead, it’s a space in your budget that allows you to enjoy the things you want to enjoy without the guilt and thus maintaining a healthy financial lifestyle. 

How to figure your values out and budget accordingly

There are several kinds of budgets out there, and I always recommend that you pick whichever one is best for you. If that’s a highly detailed spreadsheet broken down into several categories, rock on! If it’s an app that does it for you, you’re crushing it, too! I’m going to break down a really common budgeting method called the 50/30/20 method.

In the 50/30/20 method, you spend 50% of your budget on essentials (rent, utilities, groceries, etc.), 30% of your budget on non-essentials, and 20% of your budget on debt and savings.

In this system, your values-based spending is factored into your second category or the 30%. Once you’ve got that number calculated, you’ll be able to start working on your values budget. As a bonus, you can build these out as sinking funds (aka, savings a little every month that eventually adds up) for bigger one-time purchases, like at-home gym equipment.

During the first few months, it might feel strange to allow yourself to buy the things you love, especially if you’ve spent the majority of your life in a restrictive or scarcity mindset. Remember – you’ve budgeted for this! You can enjoy the things in life you love without ruining your finances or long-term financial goals. This is the heart of healthy living!

Examples of values-based spending categories

Having a hard time figuring out what matters to you? Here’s a helpful list to get started:

  • Travel
  • Family time
  • Vacations
  • Fitness classes
  • Personal trainer
  • Gym memberships
  • At-home gym equipment
  • Clothing (yes, workout clothes included)
  • Organic food
  • Fine dining
  • Date nights
  • Experiences (think concerts, theme parks, etc.)
  • Gifting
  • Donating to charity
  • Family activities

There are hundreds of categories to choose from, and the great thing about values-based spending is that it can change as you change. You may love spending money on the newest Lululemon collection one year and be perfectly happy with thrifting your workout gear the next. This system is built for the natural ebb and flow of your interests as you grow.

One of the things I love about Paceline is that it awards you financially for your healthy habits –– so you can spend even less on the things you value just by getting your heart rate up.

DOWNLOAD THE APP TODAY to start saving!