Budgets & Cats- Finding Wiggle Room In The Budget

Budgets & Cats- Because You’re Going To Die Alone Anyways, is a new budget series found exclusively on Money Smart Latina. Since a man isn’t a retirement plan around these cat lady parts, we need an ample amount of savings and personal finance knowledge. And if our cat decides to let someone else share the bed, it’s all gravy anyway. Hope you enjoy! 


 

Two years ago I came home to a house full of cat vomit. Fellow cat ladies, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all fun and games until the cat eats too much and pukes on the carpet. Except, Harrison had never thrown up before. Sure, a random hairball every few months (is he supposed to have more?!) but not actually throw up. Concerned, I decided to keep an eye on him which only lasted for a few minutes because then he threw up again. So off to the vet we went.

$1,300 later (thank you emergency fund!), we had a new diagnosis of FIV, a cool cone to keep us company and a prescription for an anti-viral. Oh yes, I now had a new expense I needed to make room for. He is also susceptible to a variety of secondary infections that have us in the vet now quite a few times a year.

If this has ever happened to you (unexpected expenses, not FIV), fear not fellow cat ladies. I got the tips and tricks to keep you covered!

Do A Budget Analysis

The first thing I would recommend to anyone who is looking to find extra room in their budget is to complete a budget analysis. A budget analysis is when you compare where you think your money is going to where it’s actually going after you’ve tracked your spending. Most people recommend doing this for a month to get the most accurate picture. I would second that a month would be most accurate but have been able to notice spending habits sooner. For myself, I can notice in as early as two weeks.

Tracking your spending can be as easy or as hard as you want to be but I suggest grouping similar items into a budget category and using a free tool when just getting started. There are so many free tools such as software like Mint or Personal Capital, spreadsheets such as Google sheets or just a regular pen and piece of paper. Find what works for you and track everything you can for at least a month to see where your money is really going. For myself, I know I eat out a lot but it’s always more shocking when I see the grand total of what I really spend versus what I think I spend.

See What Can Go

Once you have seen where your money is actually going, see what exactly can go out of your monthly budget. Stuff that can often go for me in my budget is any subscription boxes I have signed up for. In the past, I have participated in subscription boxes like Birchbox and Hunt A Killer. I loved getting treats in the mail as well as trying something new. But eventually, with Birchbox, I started getting junk instead of items I would actually use. I never received junk with Hunt A Killer but I ended up not having enough time as I thought I did to keep up with the monthly tasks.

Along with subscription boxes, see if there are any memberships you aren’t taking advantage of such as one to a gym, class or food co-op, but no longer need. Other memberships or subscriptions you may not be using could be something entertainment related such as Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Really look at your budget to see where your money is going and if you are paying to use something that is no longer bringing you joy or just collecting dust. But don’t worry, you can keep Catster magazine, I give you full permission.

Chop Chop Chop

After you have weeded at any subscriptions, memberships or bills you have decided you no longer need, it’s time to start trying to make the bills you do have lower.

Gather all bills and start analyzing what exactly it is you are paying for. For instance, are you paying a fee for insurance on a credit card? Or something like a new internet modem you never received anyways? It’s important to make sure all fees and expenses you are being billed for are not only accurate but correct as well. You could be paying a significant amount in fees without even realizing it.

Next, see if there is anything you can call and negotiate for a lower rate with your provider. I have my cable company on speed dial and know that I need to call the loyalty department once a year to ask for a promo code that I am entitled to. I’m also currently stacking a few discounts on my cell phone bill that I was eligible for by doing research, such as looking into my ADP employer portal. Discounts and lower rates are everywhere so don’t be afraid to do research and ask.

And if you are in a desperate time calling for a desperate measure, don’t be afraid to walk away from a current provider and seek an alternative one who’s cheaper. It may be harder in a smaller town but in a major city, there are always alternative providers to the one you currently have. In Phoenix, for instance, we can pick between at least two providers for any type of service, including utilities. Anything is up for grabs, even rent if you are renewing your lease!

Figure Out The Cheapest Way To Buy Something You Need

One of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve ever heard was from my boyfriend. We were talking about spending or rather lack thereof, on certain things. To be honest, I was probably willing to spend more than him on something because I’m the one that usually thinks I’m a baller, not him. He simply replied, “Just because you have money, you don’t have to spend it.” This motto has been seriously part of my MO while shopping and looking for the most frugal ways to do something, especially when creating wiggle room in my budget.

When looking to buy items you need, ask yourself how you can get them for as cheap as possible. A lot of household items you may need can be purchased at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar. You can also purchase snacks, spices, and a few other items there like trash bags or Ziplocs. You can even get cheap supplies for your cats, such as toys, bowls, and bedding!

Groceries can easily be saved on by purchasing whats in season, using coupons and buying items when on sale. You can even get gift cards and promo codes at Target as well as using in-store coupon apps. By building this frugality muscle, you can even use these habits to save even more without thinking about it. And for cat supplies, such as meds and cat litter, I have found Amazon to be surprisingly cost effective.

Look For Alternatives

I believe challenges, such as Whole 30 and No-Spend Months can really help us jumpstart our goals, in terms of fitness and finance. I’m also a firm believe that moderation is key to having long-term results and maintenance.

When cutting something out of your budget to make room for something new, make sure it’s sustainable and that you have a backup plan in place. For instance, I am a caffeine freak. There is no way cutting Starbucks out of my budget was going to allow me to also give up coffee nor did I want to. Instead, I now drink coffee mostly at the office when I get in and now on days I’m in the field or having meetings, I remember to pack my thermos. But by allowing Starbucks to be a treat, I am no longer spending $30 a week there like I was. $25 of that is now being redirected towards something else.

If there is an item you like or prefer, take time to see if you can get it cheaper at a different store or utilize a friend’s warehouse discount. If you are giving up Netflix or cable, see what you can find at the library for cheap. Consider a movie night in with friends instead of going out to the bar. There are a ton of frugal alternatives to things you already do, you just have to be creative.

Keep The End Goal In Mind

One of the things that help me when cutting back on my spending, and trying to find extra wiggle room in the budget, is to remember why I am doing this in the first place.

Being a social butterfly and living in a big city makes it very easy for me to always find something to do. As much as I love hanging out with my cat reading a book from the library, I also love going to concerts and trying new restaurants and bars. And I love everyone in my life. So, it’s hard for me to not want to go out and spend money with the best of them.

Remembering why I’m doing this in the first place is what really helps as well as trying to find the bright side. When you remember why you are cutting back for that wiggle room and spending less will help you when the times get tough. Sure, you could go out to eat three times a week or you could save like you had planned to go skiing instead. Or maybe it’s medication you really need to prioritize and self-care, like me. Whatever it is, it’s important to remind yourself this is your why.

Practicing gratitude is also a great way to remember your why. You, like many other people, may have more than you really need. That’s great that you have been so blessed! So it may be a great time to remind yourself of what you already have and what you don’t need to pay for. Maybe you have some crafting items collecting dust or books that you’ve been meaning to read. Give thanks for the stuff you already have and keep yourself busy at home. Your cat will also be grateful that you’ll be home more.

Closing Remarks

Finding wiggle room in the budget may be hard at first. Even figuring out items you can cut and do without is really a privilege on its own since others are not so lucky. But if you are, it’s good practice to see what you can do without so that you can free up some extra money for whatever the next step in your life may be. For you and your cat!

The Latina’s Guide To Long Distance Love

Long distance love. As much as I wish this didn’t describe my current relationship sometimes, it does. H & I met at a personal finance blogger conference in 2012 but started dating towards the end of 2013-beginning of 2014. A perk of meeting at a blogger conference? Someone with similar interests as you! You have things to talk about and know a lot of the same people. Cool! Not so perk? They probably live in a different state than you, as was my experience.

H currently resides on the East Coast while I am in the Southwest. We actually live 3,000+ miles apart if anyone is counting. While we didn’t intend to be in a long distance relationship, you can’t help who you fall in love with sometimes. And I wouldn’t change a thing. After being together four years, we have been pretty successful when navigating the long-distance hiccups. So while we can’t wait until we are eventually under the same roof, we’re happy.

A lot of people will discourage you from trying to be in a long-distance relationship. I have found many of these people don’t do so out of spite, but perhaps out of concern. Maybe their friends or family members haven’t been so successful in a long distance relationship department. Or maybe they themselves have had doubts, which led to them not pursuing a relationship, long distance or otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be. If you happen to find yourself in a similar relationship Latinas, I have a few pointers for you when the times get rough.

Realize It’s Going To Be Hard

I’m a blunt person so I will be getting first things first out of the way. If you are going to be pursuing a long distance relationship with someone, for whatever reason, realize it’s going to be hard AF. Yes, I went there and it’s better to know now so you can prepare yourself. It’s not impossible, which some may lead you to believe, but it is hard.

Dating someone who lives in town is one thing, but dating someone who lives hours away, by car or airplane, is another. You can’t see each other as often as you’d like or do random things like catch a movie just because you felt like it. You may feel insecure because you aren’t a regular part of their life or meet all of the people in it. Isolation Island might feel like a real place.

It’s okay to feel like this. If you didn’t experience feelings of doubt and loneliness at least once in awhile, you aren’t human in my opinion. As humans, we are social creatures by nature and spend a lot of time with others. The same goes for relationships of the romantic pursuit. When you can’t see the one you love on a regular basis, it’s hard. But knowing this going in will help save you from frustration when the going gets tough.

Communication Is Everything

Just like any other relationship, communication is key Latinas. It might even be more important in a long distance relationship since you can’t physically see each other.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a great communicator. Sure, I’m a great talker but not a communicator. I still don’t fully believe I am but I am definitely more self-aware than I used to be. Often, I assumed my partner would know what I was thinking and why I would get so upset over certain things. He’s my partner, right? Doesn’t he know me?!?! Not only was my way of thinking flawed, it didn’t help that my boyfriend is a whole generation older than me. Being older doesn’t always equate to being more mature but he definitely is in this situation. We also communicate more efficiently through different mediums, such as by phone or text.

Take time to really learn each others communication style and if it’s different than yours, be flexible. My partner hates texting but will text me because he knows it means a lot to me. I assume he knows what I am thinking and will often run with something but now I know I need to slow down. And when my feelings get hurt, I know I need to take a timeout to really assess what is bothering me before I call him and lose it. Even if you are about to lose it, or you’re lonely, talk about these feelings with your partner so you can make it through.

Meet Each Other Half Way

No relationship is 50/50 and this is especially true when in long distance love. Because you don’t live by each other or see each other often, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to gather whatever breadcrumbs you can to make it work. You may think your partner should talk to you for a certain amount of time every day because you do. Or insert 25 other things you think your partner should be doing just because, especially if you are in a long-distance relationship.

I’m not saying you should do all of the heavy lifting in a relationship or make all of the effort, but it’s a great idea to meet your partner halfway. Discuss strengths and weaknesses with each other and figure out a way to play off of them. My partner hates doing things he feels are minute but still important, such as picking out a gift or planning a vacay. However, my partner can afford to travel more frequently to me than I can to him, so I happily make the tradeoff.

Think Outside The Box When Traveling

Since you are usually traveling somewhere anyways, try to think outside of the box!

Instead of always visiting each other in our cities, we will pick out a different one to try instead. When we had first started dating, we spent almost an entire week in Boston and it’s still one of my favorite trips to this date. When you are both in a new city for the first time, you get to enjoy each other’s company in a new light. Nothing makes relationships grow Latinas such as trying new and different things to make memories later on.

Decide what new city you would like to explore and plan a trip there instead of your honey’s town. Since you’ll be paying for traveling expenses anyways, save up a little bit more to help with accommodations when you arrive at your destination. Plan a fun new activity such as a cooking class and make sure to remember downtime, such as relaxing in the hot tub. Take time to explore a new city with the one you love. And if an expensive trip isn’t in the picture, try a small day trip to someplace new, even if it’s just a drive for a change of scenery.

Utilize Technology

Twenty years ago, people probably assumed we’d be in flying cars by now. We’re not quite there yet, (I’m looking at you self-driving cars), but technology has still come a long way. Pretty much everyone has access to a smartphone or a laptop with a video & camera option. The point is, our options for communicating aren’t limited to what they used to be.

Utilize technology to your advantage in a long distance relationship. Try to Skype or Facetime your loved one at least once a week to see their face and check in with them. Text each other cute photos throughout the day to share your life or send funny memes to let them know you are thinking of them. Send quick emails or share links to articles you think they would enjoy. One way I love utilizing technology is by sending my BF something quick off of Amazon for special events or surprising him with some groceries. My BF’s love language is a toss up between touch and acts of service, so anytime he doesn’t have to step into a grocery store, it’s appreciated.

Take Time To Do You

Chances are, you will not be in a long distance relationship forever. Some people are in one for a year or two while others, like myself, are in them for much longer. There is no right or wrong timeline, just like in any other relationship even though it might feel like it due to distance. But, instead of waiting around for the “future” to start when you are both in the same place, try your best living your life in the now.

It’s tempting to save all the new experiences in your life for your partner, even if you see them frequently. While it might make sense in nature, it’s not healthy. You and your partner are not the same person and will have different interests and preferences. Plus, putting a lot of pressure on someone to make your happy in all areas of your life is a great way to become single or develop some unhealthy relationship beliefs.

Instead of waiting for that prince or princess to visit, take advantage of all that time you may have and channel it into something productive. Put in those extra hours at work or learn a new skill. Run a marathon. Read all of the books that have been piling up on your bookshelf. Take a cooking class. And then share your full life with someone you love.

Closing Remarks

Relationships can be hard and at times, long distance relationships can be even harder. I can’t tell you how many times someone has mentioned that I’m the only person they know who has actually been successful at long distance dating. Although it makes me sad, I’m not surprised. Relationships take time, effort and remembering why you are doing this in the first place, no matter where your partner lives.

But long-distance love is not impossible. I hope by sharing the tips above and what has worked for me will inspire you to give it a go. By utilizing technology and practicing open communication you can maximize the time you spend, both with and without each other. Because who wants to spend the weekend arguing when you could be cuddling instead?

No One Is Going To Save You… Except You

Did you know that 1 in 3 women live below the poverty line? This is article is part of the #WomenRockMoney Movement collaboration. The #WomenRockMoney movement is to help inspire women, just like you, to own your power. For more badass women and money tips, click here


After setting down my last box, my ex-boyfriend looked me in the eye then shook his head. I sighed. I didn’t ask him to help move me out of his apartment. Nor did I ask him for a free bed he insisted I take because “it was collecting dust,” in his parent’s garage. And I really didn’t ask him for his opinion on what was going on with me.

All I knew was that I had just found myself in the same position I was a year prior. A different man, a different state. Definitely the same story though. “When will this end?” I asked myself as I set about unpacking my bedding. When will I find a man who loves me no matter what and will be there when I need him? I’m there for everyone else and they just don’t love me, I thought bitterly as I stuffed my pillows into their cases.

What Was I Doing Wrong?

A few months later, I was in my groove. I was working out every day, I finally felt confident in the classroom as a first-year teacher, and was just accepted into Arizona State University for the fall semester. I was the healthiest I’ve ever been, was traveling and met a great guy. Who cared if he lived across the country? I moved in with my boyfriends anyways. And I set about my business.

My cloud nine lasted about three months. Due to my unhealthy coping mechanisms and thoughts about how relationships would be, my relationship with my significant other, and myself, wasn’t always the way it should be. My partner was, and still continues to be, great but I didn’t know at the time how destructive my way of thinking was until I found myself in therapy a few years later. I was desperate to find out why I kept repeating the same old patterns, in all areas of my life. After a particularly rough time, I remember bawling at my dad’s ranch disappointed and miserable. Why can I just be normal I wondered?

I Finally Get An Answer

Thanks to a great therapist, and okay, myself for going, I realized I was codependent. Codependency can be described in a variety of different ways and situations but in laments term, it’s when you sacrifice yourself in hopes that someone will recognize you and love you. It basically when you have a martyr complex so you can manipulate others and control the situation in hopes that they won’t leave you. It sounds harsh and it is when you first hear it, but it’s true. And it’s no wonder you repeat the same patterns with different people, hoping that one day they will stay.

Codependency is not the same for everyone and can be expressed in a variety of different ways, with different relationships you may have. For me, being codependent means if I sacrifice myself enough for someone, they will never leave me. And what I really thought was a man would one day love me so much, he would save me. Only then, would I have the life I wanted. I just needed to live with him so I could feel secure enough to get started.

Instead Of A Man Saving Me, I Needed To Save Myself

When you have a breakthrough in therapy, you realize a lot. And sometimes, what you realize is how much you depend on other people to make you feel good about yourself and how much time you’ve wasted doing that. While I’ve always somewhat maintained a sense of identity in my relationships, I didn’t really know how to focus if I didn’t have someone around 24/7 to make me feel better and tell me what to do. I had never lived on my own, did things by myself, cared about my environment or focused on my future and providing for myself. For the first time, I asked myself, what if I actually end up alone? What if, at the end of the day, it really is just me? It was then I realized, I needed to save myself.

No man was going to come and love me so hard all my broken pieces were going to magically go back together, despite what a meme on Facebook told me. No man was going to make me forget about my tumultuous teenage past and no man was ever going to replace what I felt was really missing in my life. I needed to get my shit together on my own.

The Force Awakens

After Operation Get My Shit Together On My Own commenced, I started to make some moves. I figured out how living on my own worked and got my first apartment by myself. Staying true to my personal finance blogger peeps, I found an apartment with all utilities included for around 30% of my net income in a cute neighborhood in Phoenix. Sure, Phoenix Metro is always looking for someone in the middle of the night in their helicopter, and my living walls are three different types, but hey, who’s keeping score? I’m a hop and skip from downtown without paying for the zip code.

I started my own family by myself with the adoption of my fur baby Harrison. He’s a polydactyl feline who ended up being FIV positive. But that’s okay. His expensive hospital bill helped me prove to myself I could live on my own, establish an emergency fund, use it, and be okay. Don’t get too crazy universe though, I still have to eat.

My first son!

I went back to school and finally finished my bachelor’s degree, something I had always wanted to do for myself. Lots of tears went into that piece of paper but the saying is right. No one will ever take that away from me. Along with getting my fancy piece of paper, I also got a pay raise, which now lets me contribute regularly to retirement and an FSA which I really needed when being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Oh yeah, I beat that too.

It’s Just Me, My Cat & I

As women, there is so much hubbub about relationships and what purpose they serve in your life. When all you want is to be loved, or saved, there is certainly a movie, a song or a meme that will lead you to believe this is definitely possible. Which is sad because some of us wait for these men, who may or may not come, for our lives to truly start. I was one of those women and I still have to fight myself sometimes not to be.

We need to stop doing this. As feminists throughout the years, and now, have fought for our rights, we need to act on them and quit waiting for a man to save us. We need to save ourselves!

Live on your own. Get the cat. Fund your retirement. Take that trip. Stack that cash. Dabble in all of those hobbies. And attract the best possible partner to support you when times get rough, but only if you want to. After all, you can save yourself.