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! ūüôā¬†

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. ūüėČ

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¬†Caf√© 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. ūüôĀ

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.)