I Played The Mins Game. Here’s How I Did.

When I first moved into my apartment, all my belongings fit into eight boxes. “Sorry I have so much stuff!” I yelled at friends while running up and down the stairs. My friends were confused, trying to figure out why I needed five people to help me move. Coming off a year and a half of living with a roommate, I had kept my personal belongings to a minimum. My old shopping addiction had been semi-sorted out and I was trying not to go back.  But old ways have a way of returning when you least expect it. That’s what I realized after living in the same apartment for four years.

After deciding to renew my lease for another year, I decided some organizing and redecorating may be in order to keep my place looking fresh. While looking for inspiration, I came across the Mins Game. It seems easy enough to play and you end up eliminating 465 items out of your home, by donating as many items to to corespond with the day of the game. It sounds daunting but seeing how the average house in America has over 300,000 items in it, that’s hardly a drop in the bucket. Sure, my home isn’t huge by any standards but it could still have a ton of crap in it. So I decided to play for the month of November. And as I write this on the last day, I’ve successfully completed it! (Thanks competitive nature.)

So, what did I learn?

My House Was Aggravating My Mental Health

Now that I’ve been on a proper treatment plan for my mental health, I know that I don’t suffer from anxiety or depression. Instead, these are symptoms of a mood disorder and ADHD, which I’m now being properly treated for. It’s been such a relief to have the right team in place. In a lot of ways, 2018 was a growing year and taking responsibility for me. In taking responsibility, I will admit to the world I am not the greatest housekeeper.

Being chronically ill with several autoimmune issues, you have to be picky where your energy goes. My energy goes towards my career so as a trade-off, my house suffers. Since I just live with my number one man aka my cat, I usually get away with it. But this year? The common breaking point for meltdowns has been my house. Sure, there were underlying issues, but the state of my home is what would do me in. I can count at least three people I cried to about my house

Since September, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up on my apartment. But decluttering for the past month has really made me have an appreciation of clean counters, dusted bookshelves and a place for things.

I Fed Into the Ideal Version Of Me

The ideal version of your is something I’ve seen on a few self-development blogs but I didn’t realize I was participating in it until this past month. If you haven’t heard of the concept before, it’s pretty simple. You have an imaginary ideal version of yourself and you buy into it by purchasing items you don’t need because one day you will. The ideal version of yourself is usually someone who you aspire to become but may not necessarily even want to. For example, Ideal Athena is going to eat kale chips so she buys a food dehydrator. Current Athena hates kale so she will never even use the dehydrator in the first place. But ideal Athena will, one day, so I’m going to buy it. Pretty silly, right?

Yet, here I was, getting things for the ideal me. Ideal me has a few shelves of books she’s going to read one day. She’s also going to be really into doing her hair., wears scarves as statement pieces and wedges. And because one day ideal me will eventually be here, I’m going to hold on to all this shit.

I think it’s funny, for myself at least, how I imagine physical items are going to magically transform me, without me having to do any of work to transform. That’s why diet pills and stuff like It Works wraps are so hot. People don’t want to do the work. It’s hard. We’re tired. We’re scared. Or in my case, I don’t really want to do it but I still think I should. And I’ve spent money. So why not save it? I’ll get there some day, right?

I Buy Stuff Just Buy Stuff

When I was younger, I had a shopping problem. It was nothing for me to go on spending sprees when I wasn’t properly medicated for my mood disorder. Instead of dealing with my emotions, I ran from one codependent relationship to another. And when those relationships failed me, I partied and shopped.  I remember dancing at a club on the strip with DJ AM playing the hits while drinking a Malibu & Pineapple. Dealing with life was for losers.

I was obsessed with buying designer names, collecting items, anything I could do to make myself feel better about, well, myself. I got high off shopping. And when the high went away, I was trying to figure out what other destructive things I could do to distract myself. Needless to say, getting involved in the PF community, therapy and meds have helped tremendously. But I’m still human and old habits die hard. And a lot of the shit I’ve thrown away is a result of it.

While on a work trip, I caught myself falling into this bad habit again. I love souvenirs as I feel they are a way to enjoy your trip a little bit longer. I love them for myself and I love to give them to others. But on the last day of my trip, I was going hard at a museum. Maybe I should get a patch, I told myself. No, jewelry! I need this book! OMG, this print! I grabbed everything in my arms and walked around, looking for the next thing I could buy to remember this day just a bit longer.

Luckily, I caught myself before I had spent a hundred plus dollars shopping on stuff I was just going to get rid of anyways. I was exhausted from traveling and my coping mechanism of shopping was just trying to get me through the day.

I Will Be Playing The Mins Game Again

For the month of December, I will be doing another round of the MinsGame. I’ve only made it through part of my living room and kitchen, which leaves so much of my apartment left to declutter and organize. I want every spot in my home to be a place that serves a purpose, makes me happy and rejuvenates me. It’s important now for me to be organized and comfortable and I feel my home is the best place to start. 33, new me, right?

Tell me. Have you ever played the Mins Game? Do you declutter? Has your stuff left you feeling down? And if you’re a minimalist, do you have any tips for me?

How To Be Financially Responsible With Your Online Habits

The following has been provided by an online contact.


Most people are at least vaguely aware that its a bad idea to spend too much money online. Shopping is one thing, and sometimes necessary, but when it comes to games, subscriptions, rentals, and even things like betting or fantasy sports, a lot of people can easily get carried away. Its simply getting easier and easier to spend money digitally, through fingerprint confirmation on a mobile phone, one-click PayPal authorization at internet sites, etc. Keeping this under consideration, I wanted to do a brief look at a few ways to be financially responsible without simply surrendering these online habits.

Don’t Overlap Your Streaming

Most everyone who uses the internet regularly these days is subscribed to some kind of steaming service or other. In some cases this may even mean an app or online program that comes with a cable subscription. However, live TV streaming options for cord-cutters and services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that are packed with films are also extraordinarily popular. Even if its necessary in your life to have a few of these services however, its worthwhile to take some time to make sure you’re not overlapping the content you need. For instance, a lot of the shows you can watch on Hulu are available on Netflix as well, and it might behoove you to choose which service better suits your needs. Many of us are essentially wasting between $10 and $50 per month on streaming services that are largely redundant.

Keep A List Of Subscriptions

Both from streaming services and other apps and online sites, digital subscriptions can pile up in a hurry. Its extraordinarily easy (because they make it that way) to forget that you’ve subscribed to Audible to gain access to audiobooks, for instance, or that you never cancelled a recurring fee to play a given mobile game. This can quickly lead to fairly significant losses, but the solution is simple. Keep a list, on your phone or computer, and record every subscription the moment you agree to it. Without such a list, you’re liable to forget about some of your obligations and overpay for something you stop using or no longer need.

Set An Upper Limit For Online Games

A lot of online and mobile games are fairly straightforward financially. They’re either free to play, free to download, or cost a one-time fee (typically something like $3.99-$7.99 for a quality mobile game). However, there are other types of mobile and online games for which you need to be more careful. Casino games for instance are very popular, and clearly cost money; however, many don’t realize that plenty of popular games can be found for free online. Mobile games with in-game payments are also wildly common by this point, but some fail to recognize that the games can be enjoyed in full without any of these purchases being made. It’s simply a matter of being aware of your options and making sure you’re not spending where you don’t need to.

Don’t Bet; Predict!

Some people simply enjoy betting on things, and if that’s the case and it’s a hobby you’re comfortable paying for, have at it. Just remember that the risk to lose money is always greater than the possibility to gain it, or betting problems wouldn’t remain in business! However, if you’d rather participate in similar activities without any risk, look into prediction games and markets that don’t cost you anything. This could mean fantasy sports, for instance, where even daily fantasy sites that deal with millions of dollars a day offer free contests for those who want simpler games. It could also mean various prediction-style games available at popular sports sites like ESPN. Or it might mean a separate market altogether, such as the PredictIt service that allows people to “bet” on political events by buying shares of stock in an outcome for fractions of a dollar. Whatever your particular interests, there’s likely to be a way to play games revolving around predictions without putting money on the line.

Time Your Rentals & Purchases

To put it bluntly, many things you can buy or rent digitally come down in price after being available for a short time. A newly released book might cost $20 to download, but will be $12.99 in a matter of months. A brand new film might only be available for a permanent purchase at something like $14.99. It will likely be available to rent for $4.99 a month later. Sometimes you just can’t wait, and that’s understandable. But try to avoid paying the early fees out of pure impatience. You can always find something else to watch or read, and come back to the original idea once its more affordable.

Unbanked & Underserved- FinX w/ CFSI

FinX, which is brought to FinCon by the Center For Financial Services Innovation or otherwise known as CFSI, is an event that strives to open consumers eyes to issues that unbanked and underserved populations face when it comes to managing their money. CFSI is an organization that strives to help bring to light on areas where traditional banking, and the finance sector, are lacking. Which is relatively important to know when someone is writing, or teaching, about personal finance. When I realized I was able to finally participate this year, I quickly signed up and prepared to go all in.

I was excited, yet still hesitant, to be participating in FinX. Excitement filled me because it was something I had always wanted to do and my schedule finally allowed it. Hesitant because as a non-profit professional, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it. I won’t say I know it all but as a non-profit professional, I do know quite a lot.

However, this event knocked me on my ass and reminded me of my humble beginnings. Money Smart Latina, who? I quickly remembered what it was like to be unbanked and underserved and it’s a place I don’t wish to ever be again. Unfortunately, it’s a reality for many who can’t break the cycle due to no fault of their own.

What’s Unbanked & Underserved Anyway?

Unbanked is just as it sounds- it means a person who doesn’t have access or chooses not to have a checking or savings account in their name. It sounds ludicrous in today’s online world but the reality is you can get away with not having a debit or credit card. I know first hand because when I was younger, I was unbanked. It sounds scary and stressful because it is. Not only do you have to look for alternatives to access your paycheck, but you also have to look for alternatives period. Without a checking account, you are locked out of traditional lines of credit, financing and many other financial products. Think about all the things you currently use your debit card for and now imagine not being able to secure one. How different, not to mention difficult, would your life be?

Underserved is a bit trickier. How does one who has access to financial institutions and products still struggle? Glad you asked! Millions of people who are underserved are denied access to prime financial products due to their non-prime lending status. Your income level, credit score, and credit report can all work against you.  So when it comes to asking for financial institutions to trust you, with any type of credit or loan? The odds are not in your favor. Banks are like a bad ex-boyfriend. Sometimes, they’ll never talk to you again. And the ones that will? They’ll try to swindle you out of every last penny and nickel.

Bottom line? If you belong to either of these, it’s going to be expensive for you to access your cash.

The Rules

After the presentation given by the CFSI team, we were then split into teams to do the group activity out in the field. Our task? Complete a list of errands using tools that people frequent when they don’t have regular access to a checking account or other financial services. Seemed easy enough, right? It was until they let us know the following two things:

  1. You must complete all of your tasks and get back to camp, all within two hours.
  2. Our team must also stay together through all of it.

I’m competitive and a school teacher by nature so I grabbed the packed to read to my team. I swear, they had some patience for my teacher’s voice. Justine from Debt Free Millennials and Chris from Popcorn Finance, I owe you a drink for being the absolute best.

The Competition Heats Up

After we jumped in an Uber, we began to strategize what companies we would try our luck at first. We had two checks to cash (a payroll and a personal) with both funds tied up in Chase accounts so we thought it would be our best bet to start there first. We ran into a few of our opponents from another team, and they expressed extreme frustration before we had even started our transactions.

Trying to stay focused, we worked as fast as possible to accomplish what we could. Justine was able to cash her check for free (it was a personal check for $15) while Chris had to pay a fee on his payroll check ($8 fee). Both checks were being cashed against Chase accounts but we couldn’t get the fee waived. While they were cashing checks, I asked how hard would it be to get a checking or savings account using an  Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and not a social.

The answer? Pretty hard. Chase, and the few other banks plus a credit union we spoke with refused unless we had a social. The same went for getting a loan at ACE financial. They wanted a valid checking account and a social security number from you. Well, this was promising. If we didn’t have a social for any of this, we were screwed. Despite being able to work in the U.S and pay taxes. (Note, this is not all financial institutions, just the ones we spoke with)

Speaking of fees, it seemed that’s all we did. Get hit with excess fees. If we so much looked at something it was a fee. Almost $30 of our $85 we originally started with was ate up by fees. We ended up almost paying 30% of our own money to access it. All because we lacked a checking account.

Revelations

By the time FinX was over, and my team sadly did not win (But I’m pretty sure we were second place!), I was exhausted and angry. I already knew I was going to be angry but I didn’t realize how damn exhausted I would be from this activity. I was so exhausted that while running back to the meeting room, my legs gave out. Thankfully, I didn’t fall. But best believe I was sucking down my puffer while going over our numbers.

My two biggest takeaways were:

  • It’s expensive being poor.
  • It’s exhausting.

How the hell can people legally charge people so much to access their own money? Not only do they charge outrageous fees because they can, they also target people to spend even more! Do you think people in good financial shape would be cashing their paychecks at the grocery store? Probably not. But let’s throw lottery tickets all over the counter so they can spend money they don’t have in hopes they’ll win big.

Also, I’m sure people who live in poverty don’t have health conditions because they are in said poverty. I’m pretty sure it’s stress related. Because having to run all these errands in a time frame right when you get paid before the money runs out? Trying to find the place that will charge you the least amount to access your own damn money or pay a bill? It’s exhausting. I almost got hit by a truck by not paying attention. You know why I wasn’t paying attention? I HAD TO FIGURE OUT HOW WESTERN UNION WORKED.

The Reality

The sad reality of this whole afternoon reminded me why I started Money Smart Latina in the first place. I remember dozens of young Latinas who looked just like me who couldn’t understand how I bought food without food stamps. They weren’t trying to game the system or brag about welfare, like so many people claim those who receive assistance do. They honestly just thought it was the currency to buy food. It was all they had ever known in their neighborhood.

The truth is, if this is all you know, this is all you know. If you don’t know how a checking account or any financial service works, you aren’t going to know unless someone sits you down and explains it to you. What if all of your life your parents told you not to trust banks? What if no one ever spoke to you about loans or credit, because they paid for everything in cash? Is it a big surprise that a lot of people lose access to traditional banking services or screw their credit up before they even have a chance?

This is peoples everyday. I was reminded of that  while I sat at a Western Union portal and overheard another woman crying. Here I am, first world problem-ing it up, not being able to type on a screen. Here she is, telling customer service she lost her entire paycheck to wire fraud. She sent her paycheck as a deposit for a loan and everything was gone. She was sobbing and asking how she was going to pay her rent.

My heart broke. This was her reality. She’s doing the best she can given her circumstances. How dare I or someone else tell her to pull herself up by her bootstraps if she’s literally just trying to survive?

A Call To Latina Action

As I walked away from FinX, and the FinCon conference in general, I realized something about myself. I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been doing wrong to the people I wanted to help the most. You. Me. The next generation of Latinas, who look just like us.

I got so caught up in writing about saving money, and living frugally, I forgot something I realized at dinner one night at FinCon.

 “I can’t save what I don’t earn.”

It’s true and it hurts. As a Latina. I statistically earn 53 cents to every dollar a White, Non-Hispanic male makes. According to Labor Council for Latino American Advancement, we suffer the most from the gender pay gap. Can you believed it? Our vibrant, full of life souls aren’t earning what we should still, in 2018. Our mamis did not save and scrimp for us to be here. And neither did we.

My new mission with Money Smart Latina going forward will be to help the Latinas be “money smart.”How? By acquiring wealth ASAP. Along with earning more, I’m going to start talking about investing & helping you make smarter choices for the future while still living life like the chingona you are. I truly believe in order to be financially healthy, we can’t forget about our emotional, mental and physical well begin as well. We are such passionate people, our souls radiate with passion and touch everything we do. We must be healthy in all areas so we can kick ass.

As Cardi B says, “I be in and out them banks so much, I know they’re tired of me.” Let’s get it Latinas.

FinCon 18- My Best Yet!

This past week, I went and hung out with a bunch of money nerds. Two thousand of them, to be exact.

FinCon, created by Phillip Taylor, is a conference that started as a way for the personal finance media (mainly bloggers and independent outlets) to get together and converse. It’s hard being a money nerd online, imagine how much harder it is in person! The conference has substantially grown over the years and is now the place where media and finance meet. Not only are big names now keynotes (Chris Hogan & Rachel Cruze this year alone) but major financial players are now sponsors and exhibitors in the expo hall. To quote one of my fellow personal finance nerds Eric Rosenberg, “It’s kind of a big deal.”

Now, a lot of people argue whether they should, or shouldn’t, go to FinCon. I’ve gone every year since 2012, only missing the very first one. It wasn’t financially feasible for me to do so but I go, if only for a few days. I’ve gone when I wasn’t that serious about blogging and I’ve gone when I’ve felt really motivated, like this year. I’m going to happily share my recap along with points why I think you should go, even if it’s only a hobby for you at this time.

The Relationships

Seeing how it’s my 7th FinCon, it would be obvious that I know some people at this conference. But, some of these people I’ve met at this conference are now some of my good friends.  I even met my BF at FinCon.

I hate the saying you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, I do agree with the saying that birds of a feather flock together and like attracts like. Some of my friends from this conference aren’t only my colleagues and partners on certain projects but they are successful on their own terms. I learn from them and I’m inspired by them daily. They are good people who I hang out with outside of the conference. That’s amazing.

It’s important to have people understand you in all stages and areas of your life. The really important part of that is to recognize they won’t always be the same people. Just like some of my friends can’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher, some aren’t going to be able to understand how excited I get over learning SEO. Some aren’t going to understand why after my day job I go home and run my business for an additional three hours. And that’s okay. Because I have a support group of others who will pick up where someone else leaves off.

The Professional Opportunity

I go back and forth on what I want to do professionally, like so many others in their thirties. I love that I got my degree in criminal justice and criminology. I love my career in the non-profit sector. But like so many others in my age bracket, I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. And I wish my career alone covered everything I want to do during my time here on Earth. I also suffer from several autoimmune disorders so let me tell you, it’s expensive being sick.

So, I’m happy FinCon allows me the chance to combine my passion for helping others with a passion I learn about daily, personal finance. I’ve found like-minded people to collaborate with. I’ve found brands to work with who actually want to help the consumer and not take advantage of them. And I’ve also found clients who help me achieve the goals I’ve set for myself and help cover some of my living expenses when I’ve needed it.

One of the greatest things about FinCon is knowing that I have the possibility to make a living online if the day comes where I can’t physically go into the office every day. And that’s freeing.

The Growth

When I attended my first FinCon, my intention was to just meet my online friends in real life.  And sure, sometimes I’m more focused than others but the majority of my time has been sightseeing and catching up with friends. This past FinCon, it was about making money. What changed?

I can’t save what I don’t earn. 

And quite frankly, I’m tired of being broke. According to the National Partnership For Women and Families, Latinas make 54 cents for every dollar a White Non-Hispanic male makes. This isn’t okay, on so many levels that as a Money Smart Latina I don’t even have to get into. But my real takeaway, and what I want you to remember, is this:

“You can’t save what you don’t earn.”

It’s mathematically impossible and one of my biggest gripes that I can’t even get into right now but definitely will soon enough. But no matter how many times I pack a lunch, I can’t save it if I’m not earning it. And I took advantage of earning it this year, at FinCon. I met with as many brands as I possibly could. If someone offered to make a connection or introduction, I took them up on it. I talked to almost every table at the expo this year and walked away with a few client offers.

I set the intention to have a positive attitude and make money. And sometimes it is right, your attitude will determine your direction. It certainly did for me in this case. Now I have a new perspective on what I hope to accomplish for myself, for my brand and how I want to serve you, the readers.  And I have FinCon to thank for that.

The Community

I already raved about the relationships I’ve been blessed with because of FinCon. But right now, I’m going to take the opportunity to rave about something else directly related to this- the community.

The majority of people in the personal finance community are so giving. I say the majority because you know, not everyone is perfect and it’s not everyone’s passion or job. And quite frankly, that’s okay. It’s not everyone’s job to serve or help you. But in my personal experience, I find that the more giving and helpful I am, the more my cup seems to be filled. And I love that I can connect with so many others at this level at this conference.

Along with a community service project sponsored by NEFE, there is also philanthropy at every corner. This year, I had the opportunity to meet with the Center For The New Middle Class. What amazed me more was when I stopped by their booth to play trivia. Not only was an Amazon GC up for grabs but so was the chance to pick out someone’s loan to be paid in full on their behalf. I’m highly competitive (just ask my FinX team!), so I was happily surprised and proud when I won. But, I invited all of the other bloggers playing trivia to help me pick out who’s loan to forgive. It was a meaningful experience for me and aligned perfectly with my mission to help others.

Another way the community is supportive is through the Plutus Awards and the Plutus Foundation, both founded by Harlan Landes. With full disclosure, I do help with the Plutus Awards and I’m close to several members on the team. But in all honesty, I love when the community can come together and acknowledge people who work hard on their websites, brands and serving others. My heart was especially full when my friend Crystal over at Sophisticated Spender was given the Plutus Foundation Service Award. She owns a boutique called Sip and Sew Old Town and took it upon herself to make over 100 cloth bags full of supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Maria. Talk about someone with a big heart!

And I can’t end this part of the community without talking about another project which is quickly becoming near and dear to my hear, the Elevate Financial Influencer Conference. I met the founder, Sandy Smith, years ago at FinCon and she’s not only become a mentor but also a friend. We were able to meet with more members of our mastermind and break bread while discussing what we want the next year to look like leading up to our conference and how we can strategize to best help the communities we serve. Definitely stay tuned for this Latinas!

To Experience Something New

The last reason I would highly suggest coming to Fincon is to experience something new. Attending this conference has helped me in more ways than one and all of it comes from trying something new!

Before FinCon, I had only been to two conferences for my career and had never attended a networking event. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when introducing myself and was winging it for the most part. I have a hard time with change sometimes so when I find myself comfortable, I tend to stay. My level of comfort stunted me professionally but I had no idea because when something is all you ever know, it’s all you ever know.

By going to this conference, I was taken out of my professional bubble and given new opportunities that have advanced me professionally. I learned how to properly network with others and utilize it to my advantage. People actually refer to me as knowing everyone or “will know someone who…” and it amazes me that I’ve grown so much. I’ve mastered my pitch and while I love storytelling, I can get to the point if needed. I’m a better writer which has helped me academically and professionally. And I’ve traveled all over the U.S, all thanks to FinCon!

In Closing

This has definitely been my most successful FinCon to date! I had a blast, took time to relax when I needed it and networked my butt off. I hung out with friends old and new, and I also spent time with my BF for a few days afterward in a nearby city. This was definitely needed seeing how I had to hit the ground running when my plane touched down in Phoenix.

I definitely have a lot more to share about a few of my experiences this year, which warrant their own individual posts. I’m also going to be pivoting my direction with my website and what resources and information I start providing here. Sure, I want people to save pennies but again, we can’t save what we don’t earn.  So, Mondays will be related to money (earning, investing, manifestos, some frugal living since I don’t like spending money I don’t have to) and then Thursdays will be related to life aka thriving (relationships, travel, life hacks, etc.). I feel good about this direction and about partnerships and products I’ll be sharing here.

Did you go to FinCon? If so, how was it for you? And if not, what’s stopping you?

 

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?