Budgets & Cats: How To Save Money On College Expenses

I spent a lot of money on my college experience and now I'm in debt to prove it. Learn from my mistakes as I share tips to save big, cat lady style. #budget #budgets #personalfinance #savingmoney #money

I remember happily, but very naively, skipping down to the financial aid office my first semester of school. Why yes, I DO need extra money and will take out the maximum amount for my student loan. As someone who had only been making minimum wage, the idea of excess cash excited me. It was gone soon, don’t worry, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I was consistently trying to save money on college expenses.

Forbes has reported that the average college graduate belonging to the Class of 2016 has an estimated $37,172 of student loans. That’s pretty extreme but seeing how I just left Arizona State University, easily believable. Without books or any other expenses, my tuition was over $5,000 a semester. When my tuition increased, I knew it was time to see how I could save money on college expenses, anyway I realistically could. My cat was, of course, along for the ride so here are some tips we’ve collected to share with you.

Figure Out Tuition Basics

The top way to stay on top of being in the least amount of debt possible upon graduation is to figure out how your tuition works and how you can maximize it as much as possible. For instance, some colleges and universities have a flat semester fee if you take an x amount of credits. Let’s take Arizona State University for example. My tuition costs tapped out at $5,000 a semester, which was 9 credit hours.  This included free access to the technology labs, the student center, the gym, library including online periodical articles needed for research papers more.

But because my tuition was already tapped out, they couldn’t charge me any more for any additional credit hours I chose to take. This meant I was able to take up to 15 college credits a semester without paying any additional tuition and cut a semester off my timeline towards graduation. I was able to save $5,000 this way. I also highly recommend passing your classes.

Books, Books, Books

My first piece of advice when looking to save money on college expenses its to research what books your professor has listed on your syllabus. Sometimes, the book that is listed isn’t even required but instead, recommended reading. Recommend reading is to help you understand the class material but I’m a firm believer in Google. If the book is required, you have options.

First, find the ISBN located on the barcode on the book. Then check the first few pages inside the book to see what edition is listed.  Copy it into Google and see what options the search engine has provided. Nine out of ten times, the textbook is going to be cheaper on Amazon. Fellow students are looking to push their textbooks on someone else to help recoup some of their costs as well as declutter. Who really needs a copy of “The Pattern Of Flight For Eagles”? I mean, unless eagles really are your thing. Then go for it! Don’t forget to look at search engines and used book store websites.

Buying books secondhand is not only great for your pocketbook but better for the environment. I don’t mind secondhand books unless they have entire pages highlighted or the book is in horrible condition but I’ve had pretty good luck. The only time I would recommend using your college bookstore is if the professor has added material which can only be found there or if you can break even by renting. I’ve done this a few times because not even making a guaranteed $5 on Amazon at the end of the day was worth my time when I had finals.

Say No To The Parking Pass

Colleges will push you to pay for a parking pass. Don’t be afraid to say no, do research and then see if it may still apply. Chances are, you need to pay for parking. That’s a no brainer. But we’re trying to save money on college, so let’s evaluate this. Say your parking pass is $500 (yes, that’s a cheap one.) That allows you to park in a certain parking lot, as much as possible. But what if you aren’t attending class everyday? What if you were able to somehow park for $2 a day and you only attend class twice a week? Doesn’t paying $64 over the course of 16 weeks sound much better to you?

I’m not saying it will be this cheap all of the time but really evaluate your options before handing over your cold hard cash. You can always take public transportation, park off campus is it’s safe for both you and your car, or just pay by the hour. The parking pass may truly be your best option but you don’t know until you try.

Really Consider If Dorm Living Is For You

I never got to live in a dorm which is the one thing I regret about my college experience. And for some of us, we have no choice due to moving out of state to attend school. But, consider if living in the dorm is the cheapest option for your current stay. It can be up to several thousand dollars to live in a dorm while you share a bathroom with several other people and it might not even include a meal plan.

Look into alternative living arrangements like living with a roommate, getting an off site apartment or perhaps even attending school locally to still live at home. Sure, you may regret that living on your own experience (which I do) but you might not be like me and just be happy to not be paying a arm and a leg. You’ll have time to live on your own later in life without it causing you to take out loans.

Pay Attention To Small Details

Another hot tip to save money on college expenses? Pay attention to small details or what some call money leaks. I took a break from getting my associates degree and my bachelors, which required me to get into a new routine. This was especially true since during my first degree I only worked part-time. Not only did I start to treat myself to Starbucks more often because I was sleep deprived, I was also pulling through a drive through window 3-4 times a week for dinner. No wonder I started feeling so crummy.

Start packing coffee or your energy drinks (bought in bulk of course!) to class instead of rolling through Starbucks. Pack yourself plenty of snacks to help stay full throughout the day. And pack your own water bottle instead of relying on the vending machine. You’ll stay hydrated, full of energy and can concentrate on that lecture since you won’t be hangry.

Take Advantage Of Anything Free!

My last tip I want to share is to take advantage of anything free. Well, within reason. You don’t need to help yourself to a million pens. But there is a ton of stuff at your convenience to help lessen your costs.

Student unions and clubs offer free meals and give advance notice of when it will be taking place. Save on a dinner or lunch and check it out. Perfect your resume and practice your interview skills with your school’s job placement center. Visit career fairs even if you’re not looking and collect swag while seeing what opportunities may pop up. Score free entertainment from the library or attend free film and show viewings.

Some Final Thoughts

College is expensive, there is no doubt about it. But the investment in your education will pay off in spades later. No one can ever take away your education and along with it, your earning potential. And while you may not be able to escape free and clear, there are ways to save money on college. Keep this guide on hand and reference when needed!

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to cut costs on college? Share below!

The Latina’s Guide To Self Care

Self care is important for everyone but espcially important for Latinas. Take a break while I share with you what got me through a hard time or two. #selfcare #latina #mentalhealth #latinx

Last week, I sat in on  a suicide prevention training. People from all walks of life sat with me as we learned warning signs, questions to ask and approaches to make it easier on both parties involved. None of it really preached on self care but it was definitely hinted at. A few people I know personally didn’t care for the training and I could see why. For them, suicide was more personal. They’ve lost someone. While I myself haven’t lost anyone to suicide, I sadly know what it’s like to be so down in the depths of darkness, you wouldn’t care to wake up the next day.

The Stats Are Shocking

July has officially been declared Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. With one look at the statistics, it’s no wonder why. People of color are less likely to receive access to mental health services and quality care, yet more likely to use emergency medical attention when dealing with an episode. 25% of adolescents with a major depressive episode were Latino/ Hispanic and Latinos in grades 9-12 are more likely to attempt and actually die by suicide than other minorities and non-Hispanic whites. This is major, especially for a community who may not have access to the help they need, for whatever reason. Self-care, or whatever you want to call it, is often not something considered when you are trying to just make it.

So Why Share?

As someone with a mood disorder who only recently figured out the right med combo, I’ve spent plenty of nights feeling helpless or numb. I’ve lost days of my life to sleeping and have slipped into psychosis. I’ve spent money I didn’t have, let my apartment go to shit and did things I quickly hated myself for the next day. Despite my behavior, it was hard for me to be taken seriously by a health provider. Deemed high functioning by more than one, it took several tries before I found my current doctor who was able to help me. And I’m not alone.

I wanted to take a minute to not only share some stats but to share ways I’ve coped on my own mental health journey. These are not all but a few of the self-care tips I’ve practiced when I was having a rough day or as a way to keep the rough days at bay.  I’m not perfect, and I’m definitely not a therapist. I still have bad days. And by no means am I licensed to give any kind of advice. But, I’m sharing regardless because I know what it’s like to feel down and out. It’s okay to not be okay. And you’re not alone.

Learn How To Self Soothe

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had learn was how to self soothe. Self-soothing could be self-regulation (when you learn how to relax in the moment before you react) or it could be something as simple as telling yourself you’re okay. As a matter of fact, that’s my go to. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I cry out of frustration. While crying, I remind myself I’m okay and that I’m safe. As a sufferer from PTSD, I usually go into a fight or flight complex instead of actually dealing with a situation. Only recently have I learned to let myself feel what I’m feeling and remind myself it’s okay to do so.

Write It Out

I joke that doing therapy online was a way for me to not pay someone to watch me cry in person. And that is absolutely true. When I did therapy in person, I spent a god awful amount of time having someone watch me cry. A friend who’s a counselor said sometimes it could be a good thing but for me, it was the opposite. I also prefer therapy online is because I love writing it out.

You don’t need to be doing therapy online to write out your thoughts. Grab a notebook or open a Google word doc and start writing whatever comes to mind. Find a list of writing prompts, talk about what you had for lunch or if you’re feeling particularly angry at someone. Lately, I’ve tried to write out my frustration via venting to someone else through text or just simply writing it out on a piece of paper if I don’t have my journal right in front of me. I would be careful to grab that and put it somewhere safe though as you don’t need anyone reading your private thoughts if you don’t want them to.

Writing can be therapeutic and help you realize certain things about yourself or about others. Case in point, today alone I thought I was mad at something someone said to me but in reality, I was mad about how I perceived a situation. Writing can help you analyze what you are really feeling and why.

Read About It

A friend and I joke one can never have too many books. We also know that when we don’t understand something or want to learn more, we can find a book to read about it. There are a ton of books on self-care and self-development which can be accessed for free through your local library. The reason there are so many books on self-help and personal development is that many are consistently trying to improve themselves for the better. Some people argue about what personal development is or isn’t needed but at the end of the day, who cares? People are unhappy in their lives and feel threatened when others take action. If you are reading this, chances are you are the one taking action so pay them no mind. Easier said than done, trust me, but it’s worth it.

By reading self-development books, you may realize why you do certain things, feel a certain way or acknowledge how you feel to be totally okay. A few of the self-help books I’ve found value in are CoDependency No More by Pia Melody, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and most recently, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. My boss actually recommended 7 Habits to me after I received a promotion and I can’t stop raving about it, months later. And whenever I have a bad day, I read a page by Pia Melody.

But I also love reading just to read. It’s calming and allows you to focus on something else for a minute that isn’t, well, you. Two of the most difficult times in my life were both the slow death of my mom who was terminally ill and my cancer treatment. Both required hospital stays and long hours where I simply didn’t feel good, was anxious or needed to escape my mind if even for a second. Reading, especially books by my favorite author, is what got me through it.

Learn Something New

A great way to feel empowered and in control of your situation is to learn something new. When I haven’t felt in control of my life or feelings, I’ve often tried to control others who are close to me. This is unhealthy. But what I can control is learning something new and then trying to implement it. It’s empowering to learn a new skill or more about a new subject, let’s you be more well rounded as a person and gives you confidence.

If there is a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, now might be the time to do so. Join a knitting circle, a book club or a running group. Pick up a guitar or some needlepoint. Try out coding. Get your brain moving.

Talk To A Friend

The best support network I have is my friends. I’ve been so insanely blessed in the friend department and I’m not oblivious of that. Between having friends all over the country to having my own tight-knit circle in Phoenix, I’m blessed. And I know I have quite a few that I can open up and talk to if I need it.

It’s way too easy to feel like you are a burden or someone doesn’t really care. I don’t really have that problem (I’m a chronic over sharer) but I get it. Take that person up on the cup of coffee or phone call. Make a date to get out of the house and go to a movie. Ask someone to meet for a hike or walk. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to. But you’ll probably feel better by default, just by getting some fresh air and friend time in.

Use An App

I swear by therapy online. But there are a ton of free apps to get started or help you if you aren’t there.

  • Headspace & Calm: Both apps are free to download and readily available with content to get started on meditation. Since I’m not an expert on it, I don’t feel like I can fully write about it but both of these apps have helped me with breathing and managing to get out of my head. Premier content including 30 day challenges, workshops and more meditations are available for a monthly or yearly membership. (The yearly memberships have significant savings so if those apps end up being your thing, I would highly recommend the yearly purchase to get the most bang for your buck.)
  • SuperBetter Are games more your speed? I know they’re mine, especially with how busy my mind tends to be with my anxiety and personality style. SupperBetter is a game styled app to help you with your personal growth as well as be able to cope better with challenges you may face. I love playing games on my phone so why not play games and overcome a challenge in your life at the same time?
  • Happify Maybe meditation seems to woo-woo for you and games seem not as likely to help you. Happify, which is a science based created app maybe just your speed instead. This app states that through CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) proven concepts, you can break negative patterns in your life and start to move forward with new results. I love CBT therapy so I may have to check this one out myself. Designed by actual experts in the field of psychology, psychiatry and self development, it may be worth giving a shot.

Some Final Thoughts

None of the tips I’ve spoken about above can replace therapy or medication. If you feel you are going to hurt yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. This is just what has helped me in my own personal journey and I felt called to share it with others. It may not replace therapy or medication but it may help keep the clouds at bay, if just for another day.

 

Sending You Light,

Athena

Financial Independence… Is It For Me?

When I had first heard of the term FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) I was baffled. “People actually do this?!” I asked my fellow bloggers. Sure, I knew of people who had worked really hard and sold a business so they didn’t have to work. But, I had never thought of that as being financially independent even though in the grand scheme of things it technically was. My BF is FI and I remember telling him I would never pursue the idea of FIRE, when we first started dating. “Why do I want to stop working? I actually LIKE my job!,” I sneered. (I’m such a jerk sometimes.)

It’s true though. As a fellow social justice warrior, I do love my career in the non-profit sector. Sure, I don’t make a lot but I love helping others. I believe it’s my life’s mission to help youth who have or have had similar circumstances that I did growing up. As corny as that sounds, it’s what I fully believed and still do to this day. I’m happy at my day job, and unlike so many others. I don’t actually hate Mondays.

But, something in my life has shifted to where I can easily see that FIRE may actually not only be a good option for me personally, but something that may actually be needed. An,d something to actually work towards, as quickly as I can, in the next few years. And no, it’s not because all of a sudden I hate my boss or getting up early. (Scratch that, I’ve never like getting up early.) And it’s not because I all of a sudden want to work for myself or become a millionaire (although I do eventually want to do both of these things in due time. Abundance y’all!) It’s because of my health.

Back In The Day

I’m not going to say I’m this horribly sick person because in reality, I’m not. I can get up everyday and go work at my full-time job. I was able to go to college and not earn just one but two degrees in criminal justice and criminology. And I’m able to support myself and my cat. I’m just not sure how much longer my body can keep up without fully crapping out.

I was born a premie to a mother who had severe health issues herself. My mom never waived in having a daughter to raise despite her health conditions which makes her one of my role models today. She was a single mom for several years and didn’t need anyone. But my mom also died when she was 38 due to congestive heart failure and asthma related conditions. One day she was here, the next day she was told she was terminal, then she was gone. For the longest time, I had it in my head I myself was going to die early. And by the grace of God, I am going to live longer than my mother. But I don’t know exactly what my health has in store for me.

As a chronic asthma sufferer, I had strep throat, bronchitis and pneumonia like clock work every year until I was in my mid twenties. Growing up my asthma was awful so when it seemed I had outgrown it, I was joyous. Yes, I thought. No more steroids for me!  I was happy and doing great, like any other twenty year old. Sure, I didn’t treat my body the best but a lot of people in their twenties don’t. But every year, I felt healthier making the changes you make as you mature and become an adult. Then when I turned thirty, everything started to snowball.

Coming To Terms

I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine at age 30 due to an un-diagnosed case of scoliosis that just got worse overtime. It was never caught when I was younger but this isn’t unheard of in adults with spinal issues. I was also diagnosed with celiac disease and then at age 31, thyroid cancer. Cancer isn’t something you want to hear ever but you especially don’t want to hear it when you are 31.  People hate hearing this but thyroid cancer is one of the easiest ones to treat and although life without a thyroid sucks, I’m lucky I had a great team of doctors. I lost a friend to cancer only a few months after my own diagnosis and it saddened me that her light was ended so quickly.

Earlier this year, I started having severe chest pain that would leave me nauseous and drowning in sweat. Everything felt like it was compressing and I called 911 several times, twice at work. I felt I couldn’t go on and actually fainted from the pain. But everyone assumed, due to my blood work, it was either anxiety caused by stress or another auto immune issue that makes your ribs pop out. As an anxiety sufferer all of my life, I knew it wasn’t true but went along with it until one night I stopped breathing properly.

Hours later, I was admitted into the hospital with severe pancreatitis and my gall bladder was ready to burst. My blood work had came back fine repeatedly until I went to the ER. Actually, one look at me the last time and they knew immediately what was wrong. After two separate procedures and five nights in the hospital, I was ready to go home and let my BF play nurse. He did a great job but I was in pain and depressed. I had to ask myself some tough questions, which isn’t the easiest to do when you don’t feel well and are mopey. But one question has stayed in the back of my mind, haunting me.

“What If One Day, I Can’t Work Anymore?”

Chronically ill people have fears that others who are healthy don’t. Or maybe they do and aren’t as vocal about it. One of our biggest fears, from the few I’ve spoken with, is what will happen when they can’t work full-time anymore or if at all. This is something that is now starting to worry me. Sure, my health isn’t that crappy compared to a lot of other people. I can live on my own and function and go horseback riding and a bunch of other things. But I also have days where I can’t go to work because I just don’t feel well.

My quality of life has gotten substantially better post gallbladder removal. Like, I never knew something like that could make you so sick for so long. But I’m still worried that my body is running on borrowed time. What if my back gets worse or I get cancer again? What if my body comes down with a different auto immune disorder? Already this year I’ve racked up another diagnosis I didn’t even realize I had. And maybe the rest will be like that. Maybe I won’t get anymore. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get worse. And just need more days of rest in between days of work than what I’m already reasonably allowed by a full-time employer.

Maybe It Is For Me

It’s with these thoughts I’m here today, questioning if FIRE is for me. I’ll be 33 next month, which isn’t old at all but it’s leaving me time for reflection. I’ve always worked to earn more money and cut my spending just so I wouldn’t feel deprived and could make my income stretch more. And I’ve been frustrated with not being focused on my business ideas or things I’ve wanted to pursue in order to raise my income. But in reality, I might not have another chance if I don’t capitalize on it soon. You can always make money and I believe this completely. I’m just not entirely sure my body will allow it.

Any fellow spoonies here feeling the pinch? Anyone else planning for their health to fail at an early age? What precautions are you taking now so you can be safe later? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Mid Year Check In Or, When I Admit Defeat (Not Really)

Sooooo. One thing you will never have to worry about with me is honesty. I wasn’t always this honest, but I’m not really good hiding my emotions either. I am, however, really good at saying whats on my mind, being blunt and telling it like it is. In my opinion, anyway. I’m trying to be better about being empathetic and taking what I dish out, but I’m a work in progress. I can however, very honestly, tell you that my goals for the year are not going the way I want them to, and it’s my own fault.

What Had Happened Was…

In January, I sat down and made myself a list of what I felt were very adventurous yet doable goals. Maybe it was too much drinking during the holidays, but I really felt like I had it together. I was ready for some life changes! I needed to accomplish x,y and z. I was going to do it all! And honestly, I probably could have done a good chunk of it, had I focused and did the work. But that was exactly my problem and still is. I’m not doing the work. And I can honestly and fully admit it now. I probably wasn’t ready to, not even a week ago, when I had originally sat down to write this post. But now I’m ready to be raw and share the parts of myself that aren’t the best.

Self Sabotage

I’m a very codependent person by nature. I love people and I love spending time with others. I value my relationships. But I also hate being alone and I have an irrational fear of being abandoned. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. If I text you and don’t hear back, I will automatically think you are ignoring me and hate me. My anxiety will kick in and then I wonder what I did, etc. Sometimes, it’s not always this way. I think it depends on who you are and what I perceive our level of friendship to be. But also, I use my codependency, and my focus on other people, as a way to procrastinate and not deal with myself.

I’m quite the yes man. Yeah, I’ll hangout! Yeah, I’ll go on that trip. Yeah, let’s do that concert. Yeah, let’s do whatever you want! Now, in my friend’s defense, no one will honestly be mad if I tell them no to something. No one expects anything from me. They wouldn’t because I have great friends! That’s the beauty about being in your thirties. Most of those superficial relationships, if not all of them, are gone! You have more important things to attend to, like babies! Or drinking! It’s way easier to go party with your friends because you genuinely love them and suffer from FOMO. It’s also way easier when you don’t want to focus on what you’re feeling, why you don’t work on that business or anything else you said you were going to do.

Gallbladders & Such

I’d like to point on, not to be a victim or make excuses, but I am also chronically ill. And if you’ve ever been chronically ill, you know it’s truly a shit storm. Every month, I spend hundreds of dollars between doctor visits, therapy,  prescription medications, insurance and other random things needed, such as supplements or over the counter medications. My lack of a thyroid doesn’t do me any favors and neither does my any of my other random auto-immune issues, lack of sleep, and chronic back pain due to my spine turning in and osteoarthritis. I didn’t even mention my mood disorder yet, which leaves me feeling highs and lows a lot stronger than others. When I get going, watch out!

I’ve felt 1,000,000 times better since my gallbladder came out in May. My chronic pain and flare ups sincerely haven’t been too bad. But being chronically ill is a time suck. When you don’t feel good or are in pain, it’s hard to focus. It’s easier to mindlessly check out then it is to be productive. Like write on your blog. Or pretty much do anything else.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Now that I’ve made enough excuses, I’ll share my wake up moment.

As much as I haven’t worked on my business and finances, I have worked on some other goals. For instance, I’ve been actually able to lose weight and keep it off for the first time in years. I can’t even share how good it feels to have people I see all the time notice my weight loss. The summer heat hasn’t hit me as bad as it usually does because I’m staying hydrated. And as much as I can mention my mood disorder, my medication has been working and I’ve been ableto actually put into practice what my therapist says. That alone is such a major accomplishment! As well as being able to stay focused at your day job! As a result, I was promoted the week after I came back from gallbladder surgery. But, I still had to have an ugly talk with myself and it started after listening to a Joel Osteen podcast.

I love Joel Osteen. I know a lot of people can’t stand him but that’s not the point of this blog post. The point is I love him and I listen to his podcast every week in my car during my commute. One of his more recent episodes was called “How Bad Do You Want It?” The whole message behind his sermon was to ask yourself how hard you were really working towards your goals and if your words matched your actions.  He gave the example of a man who wanted to live in New York City and decided to write letters to a chain store to ask if they were hiring. Obviously, this was in the days of pre-internet.

The man crafted a letter to express his intention to move to New York City post his high school graduation for college and wanted to inquire about any potential job opportunities. Once he acquired the list of stores, he started mailing the letters one by one, to multiple locations. No one responded yet he continued to send. He assumed since there were so many locations in New York City, one would be bound to write him back eventually. Every day, until he moved, he sent a letter, for the entire summer.

Once he had arrived in New York City, he had decided to follow up with a few of his applications. A manager referred him to their corporate office where they did the official hiring and after requesting an interview, a hiring manager asked him to come on back off.  They opened their office drawer to dig out a file and in the file were dozens of his inquiry letters, which had been forwarded by the store managers to the HR. “We knew you’d eventually be here,” he explained, “and we wanted to share with you that your letters had indeed been received.” Needless to say, he was hired.

Commitment. It’s A Thing.

I firmly believe God does not show you things until you’re ready to hear it. For me, so many times in my life, this has rang true. It may not always be the case, but eventually, you realize something that you once had blinders on about. Listening to this podcast made me question myself, my intentions and my quality of work, in all aspects of my life.

It’s hard to be on and 110% in all areas of life. It’s impossible because something always has to give in order to allow you to work on something else. And I can honestly say I have not been giving my all to my business or my finances. And that’s why I’m not farther in my goals in regards to these two areas. I let everything come before these things and then make excuses as to why I can’t do something and then go goof off instead. In good conscious, I can’t ask myself why don’t I make money like other bloggers because I don’t work like a lot of other bloggers. I say I want my brand and story to grow, I want to help others, and then I let something else take my attention away. And that’s not on anyone else, that’s on me. That’s me being reactive and not proactive, in my own life. Enough is enough. I need to stop standing in my own damn way.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I’m not entirely sure where to go from here, to be perfectly honest. There are six months left in the year. I could keep trying to rehash the same old stuff every month and then come up short. It’s not a great way to stay motivated, that’s for sure. Or I could take my current goals and divide them in half. I’m not entirely sure, as I’m still not making a ton of extra income and the majority of my financial goals were based on that. I know, that’s my fault.

So, there you have it. Please don’t stone me too bad. I’m going to try harder and I am working on a solid plan, beginning with baby steps and by trying to keep the end in mind. Because that’s how I’ve been able to keep the weight off as well as do other things in my life. I think I just need to be nice to myself and stay committed.

What do you think? How do you practice commitment and follow through?

 

Things I’m Doing To Get Back On Track This Summer

Confession time! I pride myself on being real with others so I’m about to be real with you. The past few weeks I’ve been slacking. I know, I KNOW! We all have times in life when we slack. It’s hard to be on 24/7 and excel in all areas of your life. This is how burnout happens, which leads you to be less productive in the first place. If anybody knows about being burnout, it’s me.

Granted, I’ve been sort of casually floating but I’ve been using travel, work and my health as an excuse. For the past two months, to be honest. And after working on my vision board and coming up with some goals, this isn’t gonna work. As a matter of fact, I’m already declaring my birthday goal to be, if it doesn’t line up with where I’d like to see myself, I’m not doing it. Not everybody or everything deserves your time or energy. And it’s up to you (me in this case) to be protective and take it back. So, this is how I’m doing it.

Give Myself Extra Time

Gah! I am the absolute worse at estimating how much time something will take to be completed. I love assigning different hours of my day to different tasks but to be honest, I really underestimate how much is needed. And it’s not a case of done is better than perfect either. It’s legit just me underestimating things. Something that will really take a few hours is only assigned one hour by my standards. This is a set up for epic failure on my part.

Going forward, I’m going to try to give myself additional time to complete tasks. This will be everything from work projects to cleaning at home. I already live by my planner so just making sure I keep it updated with things that are due and plans I’ve already made will help. Staying organized is important when practicing good time management!

Put In The Time

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading the above. Athena, you just said that you were going to give yourself extra time to complete tasks and projects. Yeah, I said what I said. And I will continue to stand by it. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t put in as much time as I should on certain projects, primarily my website. One of the reasons I’m so behind in my goals financially is because I thought I’d be earning a lot more money by now. The two clients I work with and love don’t take up that much time yet after I finish the projects, I give myself permission to check out and run around with friends. And that’s nothing on my friends, that’s entirely on me. I love being out of my house and having a very blessed social life. But it’s reflecting on my time I allocate my business and major money making the opportunity.

In order to grow my income, I will be shifting the amount of time to grow my website substantially. It will be done in small increments to avoid being overwhelmed so I can stay focused and I will be working on completing projects I’ve been sitting on for months. My goal with this website was to be as honest as possible while helping my readers live their best lives, through personal finance and life knowledge. I’m not doing that if I can’t walk the walk myself. It’s time to check myself before I wreck myself.

Get Back To Cash Envelopes

For the past month, I’ve been playing with the idea of getting back to cash envelope method. For those of you who don’t know what the cash envelope method is, it’s pretty simple to explain and put into action. At the beginning of each pay period based upon your budget and financial goals, you allocate a certain amount of money towards variable spending categories, such as groceries or entertainment.

You then withdraw cash from your bank, write different spending categories on envelopes and place the cash into the corresponding envelope. The key to a cash envelope to being successful is you only fill it with the predetermined allocated amount. Once that amount is gone out of the envelope, it’s gone.

Cash envelopes are an amazing way to grow self-discipline, keep yourself on track and see where your money is really going. But they only work if you utilize the system and don’t cheat. Withdrawing additional money from an ATM or using your card for spending would be an example of cheating. For full information, you can check out the system from the man who created it, Dave Ramsey.

I’ve used cash envelopes three times this past month and have had success. In two of the instances, I spent everything in the cash envelope but nothing else. The last time, I came under budget! I’m going to continue to assign cash in an envelope for trips and my weekly spending of food, gas, and fun. This has been helpful and as long as I don’t go out to eat very often, I can stay on track. Eating out is a luxury that leaves me feeling crappy so it’s something I need to limit anyways.

 

Work On Personal Development

My go to coping mechanism when I get stressed is to check out,mentally. I will literally sit on my cell phone and scroll endlessly on social media sites, especially Facebook. Wasting time on social media isn’t something that will help me reach my goals faster so I need to stop. I’ll be allowing myself a few minutes in the morning and evening and after that, no more. I can deal with my stress in other, more productive ways.

One of the more productive areas I hope to start spending time in is my faith. A friend invited me to church a few weeks ago and it was just what my soul needed. When I attend church and pray regularly, I feel a lot better about life, mainly being anxious about things I have no real control over. Church and prayer also reminds me of personality traits and actions I’d like to practice such as compassion.

Along with church, I’m hoping to keep active and read more. My hospital stay last month reminded me how much I love reading every night before bed so I’ve been picking that up. I’m hoping to finish the current book I’m reading and at least eight more to help with my goal of reading 36 books this year.

I’ve also been more active consistently due to FitBit challenges between myself and friends. Every week, we compete to see who spends the most time on our feet while teasing and cheering each other along. It’s been not only fun but helpful! Some days, I don’t feel like working out due to the heat Phoenix is known for. But if I can still see that I’m active, and spending time running around during the day, I don’t feel as bad. It’s also a great reminder for me to move at work given that I have a desk job.

Keep The End In Mind

Having so many goals for myself and areas to focus in, it’s hard to stay motivated. If having a few mental illnesses that are prone to slowing some down aren’t enough,  it’s still easy to procrastinate. It’s human nature to want to sit around and take the easy way out. If it wasn’t, a lot more people would be highly effective and successful. The laziness of summer just adds to it. By keeping the end in mind, I’m hoping to stay motivated to turn it back around.

I created a vision board earlier this month to help me stay focused on my end goals. It was through completing this exercise that I was able to see the life I want and what that really looks like, to me. My vision board wasn’t entirely anything I can’t work towards and a lot of it has to do with previous steps I’ve taken in my life as well as where I’m at now. I’m really happy and proud of how far I’ve come, especially in the past five years. I’m grateful for my cute apartment, my career and everything else God has blessed me with. Now, it’s time to keep my vision in mind as I set off to the next step in my journey. By keeping the end in mind, I’m hoping to do just that.

Summer has a way of sneaking by but I’m a firm believer that change can happen any season. What about you?

 

2018 Goals Check In- April Edition

Every month I’ll be recapping my 2018 goals for accountability. This is 3 or 4 of a monthly installment. I say 3 or 4 because I forget. Enjoy! 🙂 

I don’t think I’ve officially checked in since February or March and since I’m all about accountability in these parts, I wanted to start checking in monthly again. Things were pretty ridiculous this month between working 50+ hours a week at my day job alone, running a 5k and then my body going kaput. I can say with faith at least my body knows when it’s okay to quit. 😉

Business (And Professional)

  • Regularly post on Money Smart Latina to bring resources and opportunities to help young women live their best lives. (All year) (Needs work. 2/12)
  • Match half of my day job income through my freelancing and blog. (All year) (Needs work but will still give credit. 2/12)
  • Create three freebies & two products (one e-book, one on Teachable). (Both completed by 9/15/2018) (Needs work 0/12)
  • Grow social media channels and newsletter subscribers to 4,000. (All year) (Needs work 0/12) Site redesign (Completed by June 2018) (N/A)
  • Present at a national conference   (change of plan)
  • Continue growing in my current role (All year). (Yes! 4/12)

Health

  • Run a 5K (Completed by April 2018). (Done! 4/7/18)
  • Lose 40 lbs (10 lbs each by March 31st, June 30th, September 30th and December 31st). (2/4 done!)
  • Attend therapy 1x a week (All year). (Yes! 4/12)
  • Workout regularly 3x per week (All year). (Needs work 1/12)
  • Only drink alcohol on the weekends (All year). (Needs work, 2/12)
  • Successfully work towards completing thyroid cancer treatment (All year). (YES, Done 1/31/2018)
  • Pray every day. (All year) (Needs work, 2/12)

Finances

  • Pay $3,600 towards my student loans. (2/12)
  • Pay $6,000 of medical debt. (3/12)
  • Save $3,000 for a downpayment on a new car. (Needs work 0/12)
  • Save $3,000 towards dental work. (Needs work 0/12)
  • Move up retirement contributions by 2%. (Needs work 0/12)

Fun & Relationships

  • Attend all the weddings and graduations (Wedding 1- Feb, Graduation- May, Wedding 2- June)
  • Attend gay pride in Castro. (Completed by June 2018) (Stretch Goal) (canceled)
  • Attend National Seminar in New Orleans. (Completed by July 2018) (canceled)
  • Attend FinCon in September.
  • Italy in October w/ H. (canceled)
  • Christmas Family Vacation (Completed by December 2018).
  • Read 36 books. (Almost on track- 13/36)

Business & Professional Summary

What freelancing at the Money Smart Latina headquarters really looks like.

Business & professional goals are going pretty well. Since I’ve been blogging consistently and put more time and effort, I’ve been getting partnerships to share with my community. I love working with partners to help bring resources to people, and I was especially proud of being picked to help talk taxes with Latino Financial expert Louis Barajas. Finances are so important and it’s been my goal to help share this knowledge with people who look like me. I’m happy to say I’m starting to get there but I know after talking to a few people, I should at least be putting a certain amount of time into my blog and I’m not currently there. I’m getting there though, which is what matter and my work is starting to show.

After speaking with my boss and getting a new opportunity at work, I’ve declined to go to New Orleans. It would have been a blast and great to present at a national level again but I’m okay with this decision. I need to spend time here making sure my new commitment is on solid footing and put my time and energy there. My boss also mentioned she would like me to look into getting a certain certificate so I should definitely look into doing that before I forget.

Health

Me at the Hilton of hospitals!

SO, I haven’t talked a lot about my health and it’s mainly because I didn’t know what was going on then got depressed about it. January and February went really well and I was feeling great. Then, I started getting these weird attacks. No one could figure out what was wrong with me because my blood work did not match up with my symptoms. I missed a lot of work, would have to go cry in my office on breaks from pain and overall just felt exhausted. I started sleeping a lot again and my overall quality of life just slowly started to go downhill.

After being diagnosed with two different incorrect conditions, I hit my rock bottom on April 28th and admitted myself to the hospital after a terrible night being ill. I prayed to God to heal me and then stopped breathing correctly.  One look at me and the admitting ER physician was finally able to tell me what was wrong. Of all things, it was my gallbladder. Yup, you heard that right. My gallbladder was so inflamed for so long, it was pushing my ribs out on a regular basis and causing back pain. I had gallstones piling up in my pancreas and couldn’t eat for close to 48 hours just for the swelling to go down. I’m so happy and blessed that almost a month later, I feel a lot better. Just today my surgeon lifted me off restrictions and while I know not to act crazy, I’m relieved.

Finances

Finance is an area that definitely needs some work. I had expected to be earning more by now to help with my goals listed up above and I’m not, which is disheartening. You can’t always count on blog income and it takes some people a long time to earn significant money online. I want my business model to be one that is sustainable and not burn out city like it was last year so I’m going to stay true to my values and keep trucking.

This month, I’ve really mainstreamed my budget and will be trying again to live off cash. My first week so far has been going pretty well so I’m excited to see how the next three weeks play out with these cash envelopes!

Fun & Relationships

Yay, we did it!

Let’s see, I had a few birthday parties, a 5K, a roller derby tournament and dinner with friends. I also attended a concert I’ve been pretty much waiting on for months, not to mention my whole life, David Byrne. It was in my top three of shows I’ve seen, he was that good of a performer. It was him and a 14 piece band that had no shoes and they didn’t need any special effects or props. Although a lot of my trips this year have been canceled, I am still going to Vegas later this month! Excited to see my family and watch my niece graduate from high school with 40+ college credits.

Come to me David!

I am slowly on track to meet my reading goal and I’m currently at 13 of 36. I have faith I can make it this year and I’ve definitely been trying to get into my old habit of reading an hour before bed every day. Telling myself no phone after 9 pm definitely helps.

Closing Remarks

I feel good about my health, my day job, and relationships but not so great about my finances and my business. This is totally on me but it hurts to see that we are almost halfway through the year and I haven’t made any progress on these. That will be my main focus from now until the end of summer along with my health.

How did your month go?

Budgets & Cats- Saving On Cat Purchases


Looking to not spend an arm and a leg on your new cat lady status? I’ve got you covered fellow cat lady! 

I picked up my child on Feb 4th, 2015. Although we had met two weeks prior, I asked his foster family if they could keep him until after I had moved into my new apartment.  As I came to find out later that I was his third try at a home, they were anxious to say yes. After being gifted a few free items he had been using, I put him in his carrier and drove home like I had precious cargo. I did. I had my fur baby Harrison George in the car.

Our first night home!

As I watched him inspect his new surroundings, I was giddy with excitement. I felt ready for my new responsibility and had stocked up on new cat supplies, with everything from food to bedding and toys. I sat waiting for him to lay in his new bed but he only wanted mine. I gave him toys, he broke a candle. After I had bought five kinds of wet food, I realized he just didn’t like. Yeah, I spent a ton of money on this guy and then slowly but surely, learned how to reign in my cat lady spending habits. We’re here to help you save where you can so you can spend more on the good stuff- the treats.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

Be frugal right out of the gate in your cat lady journey and adopt. Although it’s rarer for someone to purchase a professionally bred cat than a dog, it still happens quite frequently. I see people in Facebook cat groups who spend thousands on Savannahs or Persians, which seems ridiculous to me. SO many cats need homes and are filling shelters, so why pay for a specifically bred one?

Cats do not need to be designer or come with a $1,000+ price tag. Spend time researching cat behaviors and types, then go over to your local ASPCA to check them out. Trust me, even without having to pay an arm and a leg, your local shelter will have a ton of cats to chose from. This will also give you a chance to interact with the cat first to see if your behavior and mannerisms click. Before you bring any pet home, you always want to meet and interact with them in person first.

Prevention Is Key

Do you ever wonder how people can drive the same car forever? You assume they have the best luck then realize they take extremely good care of it. They regularly take their car in for routine maintenance such as oil changes and anticipate replacing items such as tires and belts. They also don’t drive like they are NASCAR drivers, make sure their tank is always full and wash their car weekly. I’m not one of these people but I really do aspire to be.

However, I am definitely this way when it comes to my cat. If he sneezes, I’m pretty much taking him to the vet. I’m overly cautious with him because of his FIV so I’m always in the vet’s office. But because I am in the business of prevention, he is one of my vet’s healthiest FIV patients. As part of being a good pet owner, and saving money, schedule the annual exams. Take advantage of low-cost vaccine clinics, spay, and neuter when applicable and make sure your pet is taking any medicine. Don’t neglect their health because this is how minor things can end up causing thousands.

You Don’t Need Everything Pinterest Says You Do

After deciding to bring home Harrison, my BF and I went shopping. I needed a couch for my new apartment anyway so we had decided to pick up additional items when out and about. My BF wanted to go to the dollar store and I laughed. What, you think he’s a peasant?!?! He’s getting some fancy bowls from Ross!

Well, what do you know? His fancy bowls from Ross rusted and I ended up buying new ones from the dollar store. He ignored his cat bed until I finally put it in front of the window. And he had no interest in my couch unless I was sitting on it and he wanted to be near me. I had spent a ton of money on a cat who wouldn’t even wear a collar or touch a toy from Petsmart. His toys of choice were my hair ties and bottle caps, both free.

I could have saved over a hundred dollars if I had gotten to know my cat first. When adopting your new companion, stick to the basics and get to know them first. Your cat could be playful or just lazy. He might think bottle caps are the bee’s knees and could care less about this ten dollar toy with feathers you thought was cute.

Try The Dollar Store

If your cat DOES like toys besides bottle caps and hair ties, huzzah! Head over to your local dollar store and behold all of the goodies you can score for your new child. Seriously, you can buy everything for your cat within reason at this place. Ceramic bowls, dry food, mats, towels, toys and collars are just a few of the items you can snag for a buck here.

Once I decided to quit being a snob at Petsmart, I stocked up at the dollar store for some goodies for Harrison. I have found the ceramic bowls here are the best and so are the toys for their value. Really, who needs to spend more than a dollar on balls with bells in them? I’ve also been able to find a container for his treats, pet pads for accidents and flea treatments. Like any other medications, I’d say be careful and do research, especially with your furry friend. They can’t communicate if something is wrong so be cautious.

Use Amazon

If you have an Amazon Prime account or easy access to one, check out the prices on cat products. This never even occurred to me until after I had owned my cat for a year so don’t be like me. Use them now.

After realizing some of my hair products were way cheaper on Amazon, I researched pet meds. Harrison is FIV positive and his main prescription costs $44 plus at the vet’s office. It’s not one I purchase monthly so signing up for a monthly pharmacy delivery seemed a bit steep to me but so did the vet. I realized I could get his medicine from a reputable seller through Amazon for less than $29. I may only buy this medicine every other month, but any money saved adds up over time.

Like anything else in life, you can purchase just about anything for your cat on Amazon. Some people even find it to be cost-effective for their food and litter. It wasn’t for me due to the next tip I’m about to mention until I bought a self-cleaning litter box. Due to my chronic health issues, it hurts to bend over sometimes. So, I thought it would be a wise investment. My friend found them extremely mark downed at Petsmart for $70 so she scooped one up for each of us. Besides saving my back, it had saved my apartment. However, the cost of those trays wasn’t saving my wallet. Lo and behold, if you buy them in bulk on Amazon, you save $5 off each one. Now, I honestly break even with my previous litter expenses. Thanks, Amazon!

Figure Out Sales & Shop Them

Do you ever go somewhere regularly and realize things tend to go on sale every few weeks? It’s true, stores like Target roll out deals in cycles. This means every six or eight weeks, certain items go on sale or have a free gift card with purchase offer attached. Not only are foods and clothing rolled out like this but so are household items and pet products.

During these sales, take time to stock up on cat essentials, such as litter and food. When you time these deals just right, you can match up coupons and get things at a much lower price versus buying them when you run out. It’s the worst anyways when it’s midnight at night and there is no more dry food.

Purchase items in bulk so you have them ready and on hand until the next sale rolls around. You don’t need to every buy anything at full price if you can absolutely help it. Save that money for the vet!

Take Time To Enjoy Your Cat

What’s the point of having a pet if you don’t take time to enjoy them? Cats get a bad wrap of being aloof and mean. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes Harrison ignores me and bites me out of nowhere. You know, normal cat behavior. But, if I am never home, I notice my cat gets anxiety and is especially aggressive towards me. Cats notice when you like them and cats notice when you’re not home. They get lonely too.

Take time to relax at home and hang out. Read a book, drink some hot tea or binge watch that show you’ve been meaning to on Netflix. Try knitting while your cat pounces on the extra string. Besides staying in and saving some money, your blood pressure and heart rate are going down just being around your feline. You can only imagine what you’re doing for his.

Closing Remarks

Being a cat lady doesn’t have to be expensive! By utilizing all of the tips we’ve provided above, your feline friend can actually be a sensible line item in the budget. Be sure to be in the act of prevention and take good care of your new fur baby. In return, they’ll take good care of you too.

How To Spring Clean Like Your Abeula

Growing up in a half-Latino household meant there was no time for dust. From sun up to sun down, my Abuela spent every minute being productive. Whether it was driving me to school, dressing up her Pomeranian, or cleaning, my Abuela wasted no time. While my mom and dad worked,  Abuela was the taking care of the business in our household. Fabuloso was as much as a staple in our house as much as Lady of Guadalupe and Vicks.

As much as I wish I was as put together as my Abuela, with her matching blouses and earrings, I like to think there are somethings that I have inherited. I love knick-knacks, doilies, Pomeranians and I’m not afraid to get down and dirty to make my casa sparkle. If you want to make your Abuela proud, light a candle and get to work by following these tips.

First, Set The Mood

I am a firm believer that mind over matter, well, matters. Mindset influences everything, which is why so many people advocate being positive over being negative and bitter. Sooo easier said than done sometimes! But by setting the right intention and mindset, you can really get a lot done.

Let in as much natural light as you can when you are getting ready to clean and if that’s still not enough, don’t hesitate to turn on some lights. Put on the kind of music that pumps you up, so you feel full of energy. Beyonce always gets me going or some catchy 80’s pop. Gather all essential cleaning supplies and if you need any, be sure to purchase some from the local dollar store. And don’t hesitate to make yourself a cup of Café con leche to get some extra pep in your step.

Go Room By Room & Get Rid Of Junk

After the coffee kicks in, decide what room to start your spring cleaning in. Grab a trash bag, a box, and a laundry basket to bring into the room with you and take a look around. Anything in this room that is trash throw it away. This could be random pieces of trash you’ve been meaning to toss out anyways, old newspapers, magazines, mailing inserts, etc. If you are in your bathroom or kitchen, it could be expired products and food. If it’s trash, it’s time to get it out of here.

Next, put anything that doesn’t belong in this room into the laundry basket. Maybe it’s your shoes that go in your bedroom or a random glass. Put it in the laundry basket so you can put it away when you enter that room for cleaning. Anything that doesn’t belong in this room GOES IN THE BASKET. If you do have items laying around that do belong in that area of your home, put them back in the proper place. By picking up your home alone, it will look a hundred times better. You know your abuela had a place for everything and everything in its place!

If there is something that doesn’t have a place and you’ve been meaning to get rid of it, put it in the box. This box you can easily drop off to Goodwill for a tax write-off,  sold on Poshmark or listed on Amazon. I’m all about making extra money while I declutter, as efficiently as possible. A great way to get rid of junk and have fun with your amigas at the same time is to host a yard sale. I made over $30 selling makeup I received for free so it’s always worth a try!

Top To Bottom

Now that all unnecessary objects are out of the room, carry in all cleaning supplies. Work your way from top to bottom in an orderly fashion so dust falls to the bottom of the floor and you can vacuum or sweep it up last. Dust the top of ceiling fans, bookshelves, and any surfaces you have in your home. Don’t be afraid to wipe down any electronics or appliances you use on a regular basis. If there is something you’re not utilizing, see if there is any proper storage that can hold these items. I find the less I put on countertops, the more spacious my place feels.

Once you’ve wiped down all surfaces from top to bottom, don’t forget your floors. I have a gato so I prefer to sprinkle down carpet freshener to help trap all hair and dirt he may leave. You don’t have to have a pet to use carpet freshener as I highly recommend it for a fresh feeling! Make sure you sweep as well as you can and then mop with Fabuloso or any other cleaner of your choice to get your floors to shine. Pay attention to baseboards and corners of the floor too, as this is where dust bunnies can collect. You can have a clean floor but it can still look crummy if your baseboards are dirty.

Don’t Forget Random Nooks And Crannies

While it’s easy to focus on items you can easily see, don’t forget places that aren’t as visible to the naked eye. Make a list of items you can easily forget and make a concrete effort to tackle those as you go from room to room.

The refrigerator, my kitchen sink, and cupboards are items you don’t think to clean or organize and this would be a great time to do it along with your junk drawer. I’ve already mentioned baseboards and corners but don’t forget walls, doorknobs and light switches which can all change color due to layers of everyday dirt. You could also take this time to soak your shower head in a vinegar solution to dissolve any calcium that may have been building up from hard water.

All of these things add up and can make your home look even nicer and fresher. No one wants to see a spotless room with a dirty light switch. If anything, a clean room will make these things stand out more! So spend an extra five minutes with a magic eraser and wipe the wall.

Wash All Linen

The second to last tip I have is to wash all of the linen in your home. Most people think just your bedding is considered linen but not so. All linen that is used every day is up for grabs this time!

Bathroom and smaller rugs can be cleaned in the washing machine on cold than hung to dry outside or placed in the dryer on a light cycle. Towels that are used frequently can also be thrown into the washer along with certain types of curtains (check the label!), especially the one hanging in your shower. Don’t forget any blankets that are kept on the couch and any other fabric surfaces that could use a good vacuum and spot cleaning.

If you’re feeling super adventurous, you could rewash any extra bedding guest may use, your animals beds and pillows. This will definitely help dust creep and take care of any extra allergens you may have in your home.

Invest In Some Finishing Touches

You know the main thing your abuela had going on was making her house feel like an actual home. Not only did she have Chocolate Caliente ready with the novellas, she also had family photos, splashes of color, the saints and everything else that made you feel warm.

If it’s in the budget, take time to pick out a few things to help your place feel like a home. Pick up some fresh flowers, a candle or some new pillows to help tie the place together. Hang up some art you’ve been meaning to or pay respects to a loved one by making a small altar. One thing I’m making an effort to do in my own place is to add more color and fewer knick-knacks. But as any Latina knows, that’s easier said than done! I also plan on keeping true to my Latina roots by hanging up a few crosses and rosaries from different family occasions that I’ve been meaning to.

Closing Remarks

Spring cleaning like your abuela doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating! As you probably know, you regretted having to spend the weekend doing chores or getting hit with the broom if you said you were bored. But, your abuela was obviously onto something and that was making the house a home. Grab a dustpan and make her proud.

New Phone, Who Dis? A Money Smart Latina Cricket Wireless Review

As a Money Smart Latina, I’m constantly looking for ways to spend less. Seriously, the other day when I heard my friend was going to Costco I asked her to price compare supplements, then paid her via Venmo to grab them for me. She also grabbed snacks and meat for me, but I digress. I’m always looking for ways to spend less and cut expenses and nothing is off the table. I once negotiated my rent in a nice neighborhood in Las Vegas.

When Cricket Wireless asked me if I would like to review a phone, I jumped at the chance. Not only are they an affordable cell phone service provider, it came at a perfect time. My cell phone contract is up for renewal and now is the time to consider my options!

First Of All, What Do I Look For In A Phone Plan?

Phone plans and options have definitely changed since I bought my first phone in high school. My first phone was a Nokia offered by (of all providers) Cricket! Cricket didn’t have the best service at the time only working in Metro Phoenix, but it was perfect for me. I needed a reliable phone because I was never home and my family was able to reach me at any time. I could also text and call my BF as much as I wanted to, and friends, since my plan was unlimited for both texts and minutes. This was something that used to be unheard of, especially at an affordable price.

Now that I’m older, I look for a plan that’s reliable, meets my needs for my lifestyle and is within my budget. I travel a lot, both for fun and business, so it’s important to have a phone I can relay in should something happen, such as a flat tire or getting sick. When I’m not traveling, I’m capturing memories with friends to share on social media.  I also run a successful business online and need to be able to access social media channels, files and projects should be clients need something when I’m away from a laptop. So, finding a phone and data plan within my price range can definitely be a little tricky.

That’s Nice, But What Should I Look For?

Before you look for anything, really think about what you need and what you want. For example, you need water but you don’t need soda. So, what are things that may be of importance?

  • Data: Data is the internet that goes with your phone plan. It’s also the internet you use for everything, from checking your SnapChat to listening to the new releases on Spotify. If you are consistently on your phone, you are probably plowing through your data like crazy if you aren’t accessing available wi-fi.
  • Network: The network is the coverage provided by the service towers by your phone company. As long as your phone is within the service area, you will be able to make and receive calls and texts. You should also be able to access your data.
  • Contract: Cell phone providers will try to get you to sign a commitment, which locks you into an agreement with them sometimes for two or three years in exchange for a discounted phone. Since it’s an immediate saving, most consumers take this option, despite paying more money in the long run with services fees and not being able to custom tailor their plan to fit their needs.
  • Pricing: Self-explanatory, everyone plan comes with a price, based on your needs. An unlimited minute and text plan will also be more, along with a higher package of data. Sometimes, you can find a discount through an employee or organization you belong to but saving $5 or $10 on a $150 bill might not provide much relief.
  • Phone: What do you need in a phone? Do you need access to apps to help you run a business on the go? A decent camera to capture memories? Or maybe just an extensive space to keep track of everything. All of these should be considered, especially if your phone needs to last you a few years. I try to buy a phone that is within my budget but still of high quality. This is to avoid me replacing it every other year.

More Coverage, Now More Than Ever

Will my BF answer? Can he indeed, really hear me now?

Cricket has definitely improved their network and service since I was in high school and even more so than when I had them for a year after college in Las Vegas. In high school, my service only pertained to the Phoenix area since they were still relatively new, like Metro PCS. This meant if I went outside of Phoenix by even five or ten miles, I’d have absolutely nothing, which was frustrating. This meant day trips to the lake were not really something I could do since my family couldn’t get ahold of me. I also couldn’t keep my service after moving up north to a more remote, rural area. I broke down and ended up getting a Sprint phone I kept until I was twenty-one.

After a few years without one, I signed back up for Cricket Wireless. It was nice to finally have a cell phone again and be able to be back on my feet after a rough time in my life. While it was reliable service in Las Vegas, it was hard to get service in college. It was especially hard when traveling to Michigan for Christmas with my ex a few times. Frustrated, I ended up sharing a family phone plan with a good friend and ended my relationship with Cricket.

Cricket has since then been acquired by AT&T and runs off of their network. Anyone with AT&T, including myself, can tell you the network is pretty efficient and rarely with dead zones. I’ve been an AT&T customer for the past nine years and I’m quite happy with the coverage AT&T provides. I’m even more interested to know that Cricket now has the same network across the country. I’m sad to say I’ve held onto the belief based on my past experiences that coverage wasn’t that wide but now it looks like times have definitely changed.

For Half The Price

Success! And he can hear me now!

Despite acquired by AT&T, Cricket has stayed true to their pricing model and continues to have affordable cell phone plans for both individuals and families. Their plans start as low as $25 for just talk and text, which would be great for someone who just needs one in case of emergencies. For people like me, and many other millennials, their UNLIMITED MAX HIGH-SPEED DATA PLAN IS $60 A MONTH! Sorry, I’m just in shock that this is an unlimited plan for such a low price. I consider myself a bargain shopper but I’m paying more than that and my data ends at 5Gs before overage fees apply. 🙁

Cricket also offers smartphones just like other major cell phone providers for reasonable prices. I was provided an Alcatel PULSEMIX for my consideration and while it wasn’t my iPhone, I was impressed to see what an Andriod could do, even one that wasn’t a Samsung. My BF actually made fun of me because he saw an Apple nerd browsing through a Driod. Oops.

So, What Do I Think?

Honestly, I think Cricket is a great option for a lot of reasons. Cricket does not do credit checks to obtain service so if you are just starting out with no credit score, or have a low one due to past choices, you will still be approved. It’s hard to be approved for other providers if this pertains to you so the fact that you can be approved and served by an affordable, reliable cell phone provider is great.

I also love the fact that it is affordable, which I briefly mentioned up above, with no contract required. While not everything in life comes with as much freedom and flexibility, having a phone plan that does is awesome. You can not only cancel service but you can downgrade or upgrade based on your budget. Since I’m all about a budget, this is a great option and proves that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to take care of business.

Thanks Cricket Wireless for sharing the wealth with me and all the other Money Smart Latinas out there!

(Phone was provided by Cricket Wireless but all opinions are my own and will always be honest as I strive to provide integrity for all readers.) 

Latinas, Jump Start Your Finances For Summer With These Five Easy Steps

Summer is right around the corner! Whether you have time off during the summer or you’re like me working the 9-5, it’s the perfect season for fun. BBQs, laying out by the pool, vacations, your finances and lazy days are all calling your name.

Yes, I said finances. This season is recognized to be a time of play and rightfully so. The heat makes paying attention to anything, especially your bills, something you’re likely to do. I completely agree because I myself love a lazy nap.

But the summer is the perfect time to do a financial check in and make sure you are on track to meet your goals for the year. It’s also the perfect time to see if you have extra money to splurge on that concert or last-minute gateway with friends. Keep reading for more tips to jump-start your finances faster than you can say bikini!

Do A Budget Once Over

I tend to do a zero-sum budget per bi-weekly paycheck so every dollar has a job. But I also like to see what exactly I’m paying for and why. For instance, recently I canceled a subscription box I thought I had time for (Hunt A Killer) and software I was using for my business (Co -Schedule). I sincerely love Co-Schedule because it makes everything so easy but I know I am not utilizing it to its full capacity. Between both, I was able to shave $70 off of my monthly expenses and I’ll be putting that towards my health.

Look at everything you are currently forking out money for and see if there is something you’re not currently utilizing. Maybe it’s that gym membership you can put on hold so you can run outside or take one of those classes at the Parks N Rec center you’ve been meaning to. Or maybe your Ipsy package just hasn’t been bringing it lately. Think realistically about what you’re spending money on and if it’s truly serving you. And remember, you can sign up for software that tracks your spending such as Mint or Personal Capital to plug any spending leaks.

Check To Make Sure Paycheck Deductions Are Correct

For some companies, tis’ the seasons of open enrollment.  Since you’re already in your employee portal anyways, take time to go through all deductions, both pre and post tax, to make sure your paycheck looks correct. Account for all deductions such as FSA and retirement, different types of insurance you may have and taxes you are paying, like federal and state. I always owe state taxes so if you’re like me, it may be a good time to increase your withholding.

By doing a paycheck audit, you can be sure you are getting every last benefit and dollar you are entitled to. The worst thing you can do is leave money on the table that is rightfully yours and can be used better served elsewhere, such as debt or a savings goal you may have.

Review Policies & Slash Slash Slash

Along with questioning your deductions on your paycheck, take time to glance over policies you may have such as auto insurance or a phone bill. Maybe you are paying for a certain type of coverage that may be incidental now and can easily go. I didn’t realize until years had gone by (bad personal finance blogger!) that I was paying a fee for some type of coverage I didn’t need.

It’s also important to make sure you are carrying the right type of coverage just in case your car has depreciated or you have had a change in your living situation. I had forgotten I needed renters until my boyfriend’s apartment flooded. He would have been screwed if he hadn’t had coverage and it reminded me to get my butt in gear.

Make Sure Your Checking Account Is Working For You

Once upon a time, I paid checking account fees. I was young and didn’t realize that if I had a certain amount of money direct deposited from my paycheck, I could get the fee waived. I also had to pay a fee of $10 when I was stupid and had overdrawn my checking account which resulted in getting a second chance checking account for a year.

You don’t need to pay a checking account fee because now, there are plenty of alternatives to traditional checking. Radius Bank, for an example, is a great alternative for those looking for free checking that can be accessed anywhere and everywhere. With no monthly fees and free access to ATMS, Radius Bank is a free checking account that you can access anywhere online. They also offer a hybrid checking account that allows you to collect interest on your checking account. That’s pretty much unheard of and a slamming deal at 0.85% with the minimum balance.

One of the hesitations with online banking is that you can’t go into a brick and mortar branch but honestly? These are a thing of the past and will soon enough be limited themselves. You can do everything a traditional banker can do with your cell phone and the Radius Bank app, such as deposit checks and pay your bills online. You can save yourself time and be on your way.

Take Advantage Of All The Free To Little Cost Fun

The last tip I would like to leave for you is to remember all the free fun summer has to offer and take advantage of it.  Movies in the park, outside festivals, art walks and the pool are all free this summer. Your library also has cool summer reading programs (even for adults! With prizes!) and culture passes you can check out for free admission to local museums and attractions.

This summer, I am also taking the advantage of the longer days and going on a few weekend trips with friends. Between the four of us, gas, an Airbnb, and food in Mexico will cost about $75 each. And our Airbnb is on the beach with kayaks!

In Conclusion

There are so many ways to jump-start your finances this summer. From looking into alternative checking accounts to finding free fun, the sky is the limit Latinas!

“This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Radius Bank. Radius Bank has not directed my content or my views.”