The Best Business Tools for Success

Becoming an entrepreneur has never been an easier, or more of a common, road to travel. As there is a wide range of new business cropping up across a multitude of industries every day, it is important to find and make use of the necessary tools to assist the success of your business. There is a wide range of business-centered platforms, services, software and technological advancements which are incredibly useful in boosting the efficiency of small businesses. To help you find the right tools for you, here is a list of some of the best business tools to aid your company’s success.

Within team communication

There are multiple products available to make management more effective and increase team communication. For example, the XCD software has revolutionized human resources, allowing for less time spent on administration, and providing employees with an easy self-service system to utilize. Additionally, applications such as Slack allow you to streamline all of your communications into one easy to use the system. This technology offers you the choice to divide different lines of communication up into ‘Channels’ which can be accessed by distinctive team members depending on who is relevant to that channel of communication. This is an incredibly useful tool for managing specific projects, while the use of the ‘Threads’ keeps the conversations on the topic.

Customer communication

Additionally, it is not only within house communication which needs to be considered, but also your ability to communicate with your customers. Customers like to know that their opinions are valued, and will favor a company which puts their needs, concerns and desires as a top priority; therefore, the more you can understand what it is that your customer wants, the better you can tailor your services and products accordingly. Sites such as Survey Monkey allow you to easily communicate with both potential and past clients to find out what it is they are looking for from products and services on the market, as well as to gain an honest insight into their experiences with your company so that you can make any necessary improvements.

Customer services

The more user-friendly your business is, the more satisfied your customers are going to be. Thankfully, there are a range of products, software and services which can help you to improve upon your customer relations. For example, providing a dedicated line of communication between your team and customers is important for customer trust, and for ensuring that any complaints are handled swiftly and concisely. If you don’t have the time and resources to do this yourself, then digital call-centers services are available for outsourced work. Moreover, there are also dedicated support applications which can offer online customer service support.

Social networks

Social networking platforms are among the most commonly visited sites around the world, and are utilized every day at varying times of the day. These types of sites offer the perfect outlet for you to reach out and connect with your customers, through one to one communication, business updates, and social media advertisement. Among the most popular and well-utilized forms of advertisement nowadays are also facilitated by social media, and come in the form of partnerships with social influencers who have wide followings and can market your products and services to those who interact and engage with their platforms on a regular basis.

Provided by an online contact. 

My Mental Health Journey

Last month I shot a video for Mental Health Awareness Month, which I wanted to share here as well. As you can tell, mental health is a huge part of my life. Transparency, both in mental health and personal finance, are something we don’t have a lot of. People have stigmas about both topics but one of my main goals is to bring awareness of both issues to the Latina community. So many of us have mental health struggles but a lot of our families do not talk about this issue with us due to cultural bias. The data backs it up so with that being said, I want to help as many Latinas as I can and will be doing a lot for Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July.

The Beginnings Of My Journey

During junior high, my parents decided it was best for both of them to separate to work on themselves. I was already being bullied in junior high and dealing with other anxiety issues so my mother took me to a psychiatrist to help figure get to the bottom of it. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder.

If you read any description of borderline personality disorder, it sounds like you’re describing every teenage girl on the planet. Irrational thinking, unstable relationships, and identity crisis are all huge symptoms of borderline personality disorder, along with self-harm and inability to regulate emotions. Well, not every person self-harms but a lot of the other characteristics sounds like someone going through hormonal changes and will eventually even out. That’s the problem with borderline personality disorder. You are perpetually stuck in this way of thinking and can’t break free of it, even if you want to. It’s your way of coping and you can’t stop.

My mom didn’t agree with the diagnosis and took me to another psychiatrist for a diagnosis she felt more comfortable with, which was anxiety. Along with having enough to deal with, my mom became terminally ill my 8th-grade year and ended up passing away when I was a freshman in high school. My high school years ended up being very chaotic and even resulted in me being homeless my sophomore and junior year. I didn’t know to communicate what was going on to a teacher or anyone else at school so I just kept everything bottled in.

My Twenties

As a young adult, I decided to seek treatment again for my mental health. I was having chaotic relationships and was being self-destructive in various areas of my life. I was constantly anxious and terrified of being alone for any amount of time. I missed my mom an unhealthy amount and couldn’t grieve properly.

Again, I left the doctor with an anxiety diagnosis and was sent to go conquer the world. You’re fine, the doctor told me, even when I complained about not sleeping at night and my self harming behaviors. I powered through and worked as a youth specialist and nanny. I went to school full-time and earned an associates degree. I seemed efficient and with it and was doing everything right until 2012.

In 2012 I broke up with my ex-fiancee of six years. Looking back on it, I can now say we both had issues and it was for the best. But at the time, you couldn’t tell me that. I was obsessed with being single than became obsessed with wanting him back. I was obsessed with thinking he was perfect and I had done everything wrong. All I could do was sob and beg for him to even talk to me. I stopped eating and sleeping. I stopped going to work. I couldn’t even get out of bed and knew I needed to seek help. A psychiatrist soon diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and put me on a proper treatment plan which included meds and a therapist.

No Way You’re Bipolar

Mental health alone has a huge stigma but bipolar disorder is sometimes on a whole new level. People legitimately associate bipolar disorder with being crazy. All the time, you hear people call someone bipolar as an insult when someone else can’t make up their mind on something or have mood swings. It’s not a joke and millions of people, including myself, have to live with it every day.  

As a result, when I moved to Phoenix I was taken off my current treatment plan by a new physician. “No way are you bipolar,” is what I was told. You know why? I was deemed “too high functioning.” I had a full-time job and a college degree. I didn’t exhibit any of the “symptoms.” It was too much and I was really just an “anxious” person. I did exhibit many of the symptoms of being bipolar, specifically mania. When so many people tell you so many different things, you get tired of fighting and just give in. I took my new prescription and left the office.

In 2015, I had another breakdown. I was both going to school and working full-time and having problems in my relationships as well as high anxiety. A new therapist (who is still one of my current ones!) diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and codependency. After receiving this diagnosis, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. So much of my relationships in all areas of my life could be explained and my role in what they were. Everything from work to school to personal relationships was affected and for once, I could proactively work on getting better. Sure, it wasn’t a miracle but I at least felt like I knew what was going on.

Okay, Maybe You Are Bipolar

In 2017, I was tired all of the time. I had just finished my thyroid cancer treatment, including radiation and was under considerable amounts of stress. One day, I seemed to have snapped. In less than 24 hours, I tried to break up with my boyfriend, almost quit my job and tried to turn a friend against me. Everyone was out to get me and I wasn’t having any of it. Soon, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD, in addition to being borderline and codependent.

Anxiety and depression were never diagnoses I really had, instead, they were symptoms of me being bipolar and codependent. They were me not having proper coping skills. Being deemed too “high functioning” to be bipolar was not true at all. There are tons of people who are bipolar and very successful, such as Frances Ford Coppola, Winston Churchill, Richard Dreyfuss, and Frank Sinatra. There are also people who have lost their lives to the disease like Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. 

When Robin Williams took his own life, everyone seemed shocked that someone so joyful could have suffered from bipolar disorder. He was so funny! No way! How did he kill himself?! Well, a lot of people who are bipolar are funny. You don’t KNOW they are bipolar. I’m funny! I’m not saying that to be stuck on myself but I am. I also work full-time and run my own successful online business. Some people, however, can’t get out of bed. It looks different for everyone and that’s the point.

Not to say I haven’t struggled. There are days where I can’t get out of bed and eat cereal for every meal. I literally have to look at my cat and remember I have to buy cat food and drag myself out of bed. I consider myself to be very lucky to have a supportive network of friends and family who don’t let me fall and remind me to take care of myself when I need to. I also rely heavily on my faith and other tactics and healthy habits I’ve built up over the years.

The Moral Of The Story

Mental health looks different for everyone. At age 33, and two months before my 34th birthday, I can proudly say I am the most productive and successful I’ve ever been in my life. I’m actually thriving and not just surviving, which is scary for me since I’m not used to it. I know that sounds weird but I’m just keeping it real. I think I’m doing a really kick ass job lately and I’m proud of myself!

Recently a coworker’s husband told me I’m living my best authentic life and that made me smile. I try to so hard to be true to myself and an open book to others. I wanted you to know what mental health looks like. I wanted you to know you’re not alone. I wanted you to know that having a bipolar diagnosis does not make you any less of a person. You’re still beautiful and you’re still loved.

 

Summer Bucket List

Inspired by Rose Colored Water, and also in an effort to write more personable stuff on my blog once in a while, I thought I would share a summer bucket list.

Tbh, my goals for the year have been a little lackluster. I can make all the excuses in the world as to why I haven’t completed them yet but this past month, I’ve been better about practicing resiliency and its made a world of difference. Now, I don’t say that to jinx myself but sort of as a reminder that I am more than my mental health and that a bad day or week doesn’t have to turn into a bad month. Also, one day at a time, especially now while dealing with some additional health issues.

So anyway, my summer bucket list consists of fun, finances, and fitness. I see an unintentional theme so I’m just going to roll with it and hopefully, it won’t turn into me saying fuck it. My summer is pretty much going to be prepping me for fall and winter, which consists of a ton of travel and just general busyness so it’s important I continue to work on my health now and always. I also want to have systems in place to help with my business and be ready for FinCon in September. So, on with the show!

Fun

Go on a quick weekend trip

In preparation for this fall when I’ll be gone for five weeks, I’m saving my energy and spoons. But my dad and I are at a good spot in our relationship and I want to take advantage of it and go visit him for Father’s Day weekend. I also want to make sure I am spending more time with my niece as she gets older.

Go swimming 5x

Read 12 books

Think of something fun to do for my 34th birthday and actually do it.

Birthdays are such a big deal in the Athena household. I love everything birthday and proudly celebrate my birthday month. I’m just not entirely sure what I want to do. I briefly spoke with the BF about taking a weekend trip somewhere out on the east coast. He lives outside of Philly so we are totally open to ideas of a cute and fun place to go in August.

Allow myself to use workout incentive money to buy fun things, like stuff for hobbies and redecorating.

I suck at buying things that aren’t related to coffee, food or experiences with friends like concerts. I probably idealize Marie Kondo too much and hate excess material items. I don’t need anything (I really don’t!) But… I want stuff.

I want a new comforter for my room. I want a new Kindle. I want gardening supplies. I want a printer for my photos so I can actually start my travel scrapbook. I want things. And if I earn them with fun money I put aside by working out (more below), maybe I won’t beat myself up too much.

See Lion King with my best friend.

Not entirely sure who is traveling to see who but this will be happening!

Finance (Business)

Average extra daily income of 50 per day.

Get two additional writing clients

Check out my hire me page for more info of what we could partner on.

Film 12 videos

Did you know I have a youtube channel? Now you do!

Create a workbook and actually sell it.

Launch a coaching program.

(Will be announcing more info as well as waiting list soon!)

Design and announce MSL store!

Write an e-book

Fitness

Figure out WTF is wrong with me.

I’ve had nonstop digestive issues since the end of April. At first, I thought it was stress due to our major work event of the year for 900 people. Once the event was over, however, nothing seemed to be relieved and I just continued to feel worse. I’ve had antibiotics, muscle relaxers, nausea meds, acid reflux meds. Symptoms will be relieved but nothing is every fixed and something happens at least once a day. I’ve also been exhausted.

Being pretty much fucking over it, I have a doctor appointment for next week to get a pelvic exam and go from there. I’m also going to start to work with a few other things, like collagen and dry brushing to help with my autoimmune issues.

Workout 4x a week

Put $5 aside for fun money every time I work out or lose a lb.

Clean up my diet and work on inflammation

I already stated above I have digestive issues at the moment so I plan on cleaning up my diet and seeing if I can even get a referral to a nutritionist.

Try to destress every day (workouts, coloring, bubble baths, gardening, reading, massages)

When I stress less, I feel better. I want to feel better and I want to not be stressed out for my cat. Cats (and any animal) feed off your energy. Since Harrison still has urinary issues, it’s important to keep his environment as calm as possible. That includes me.

I’m gonna be sooooo busy. But that’s okay. I have goals and I need to step it up!

That One Time When My Students Thought Everyone Got Food Stamps

 

Life is funny and our path to success is never direct. Which is probably why became a teacher in my late twenties and ended up going into education. I never pictured myself being a teacher, especially a junior high one. Despite never seeing myself as a teacher, I was actually very good at it. I still miss it so anytime I get to go into a classroom, my cup gets full.

As part of the curriculum I was teaching, I was ecstatic to see a personal finance section. I had already been blogging off and on about my own finances for years at this point, so I was pumped to show my kids what was up with a budget. When we were doing that unit’s pretest, my kids stumped me. My 8th graders who were 14 at the time, I might add.

One of the questions gave a list of scenarios and then asked the student to identify which one was false. I don’t remember what the answer was but I remember one of the statements being “food is taxable” and my students asking me about it. As I was trying to come up with an easy to understand explanation in my head (prepared food is taxed in AZ, unprepared food isn’t), my student yelled, “NEVER MIND!” “Great! How did you come up with the answer?!” I asked my student. They were a bright cookie, especially thinking of it a lot quicker than I could on the spot. “Miss Lent,” they answered, “you don’t pay tax with your EBT card.”

An Electronic Benefits Transfer card or “EBT” is how SNAP benefits are commonly distributed for those who receive government assistance to purchase food. While every state has different requirements for eligibility, SNAP benefits are the most common type of assistance received, by individuals and families alike. Since our school had a 93% below poverty rate for their students, EBT cards seemed to be common knowledge.

“I don’t get food stamps. Do I still pay tax on food?” I asked my student. My student looked at me confused and then asked, “Miss, how do you buy food?” Startled, I replied quickly, “With my debit card. I make too much money for food stamps.” Several of my students turned around to join what later turned into a classroom discussion about how Miss Lent bought food.

My students were honestly blown away by the fact I didn’t buy food with food stamps. They asked me repeatedly if I had to shop at a special store to use my debit card.  They inquired if I had always used a debit card to buy food. They told me I didn’t get food stamps because I didn’t have a baby. They really just wanted to know why all of them had one and I did not. Because they truly believed EBT cards were the only currency you could use when purchasing food.

It was because of this interaction I started Money Smart Latina. I was tired of there not being a lot of personal finance bloggers who looked like me and more tired of a lot of people not understanding where underserved communities came from, both mentally, physically and emotionally. There are people who for some reason make it their personal mission statement to be offended by people who are poor. Who yell about bootstraps. Who can’t believe there was an entire classroom of fourteen-year-olds who thought everyone bought food with EBT cards and was worried about their teacher not eating.

I think Financial Literacy Month is a great time promote financial literacy and education, which is why I’m happy to partner with the Plutus Foundation this year for their Plutus Voices event, Inspiring Action in Underserved Communities. I’ll be speaking about financial resiliency and how to speak to your audience, not talk down to them.

I don’t want another classroom of eighth graders who look like me to think that everyone buys food with food stamps. I want them to know that their demographics do not determine their destiny and they can get out. That their parents are trying, so take advantage of all the opportunities they have through their education. I want them simply that they just “can.”

One reason financial literacy isn't just important one month, it's important everyday. | poverty | underserved | unbanked | money mindset | community | resources | financial literacy | https://moneysmartlatina.com/that-one-time-when-my-students-thought-everyone-got-food-stamps/

How To Tell If You’re… In A Toxic Relationship

Wondering if your relationship is it? I have a few questions to ask yourself to see if it's true love or a toxic relationship.

Wondering if your relationship is it? I have a few questions to ask yourself to see if it’s true love or a toxic relationship.

Up until a few years ago, I consistently found myself in some bad relationships. Bad relationships with family members, boyfriends, friends, bosses, etc. It felt like I was a magnet for people who wanted to be mean. Want to walk on a doormat? Call me, I’m here 24/7! But I’ll be the first person to tell you when I see others are taking advantage of you. It was one of those “Do as I say, not as I do,” life situations.

When I was 28 and finally started taking some personal responsibility for my life, mainly my relationships, I realized through therapy I was a codependent. Never having heard the term before, it was the clouds parting from my eyes as I checked off all of the characteristics. Poor at setting boundaries? Check! Dependent on controlling others for my own happiness? Check check. Consistent fear of being abandoned? Grab me that red marker. A lot of people pleasers are actually codependent, out of fear of abandonment. 

Tons of therapy and years later, I’m happy to say I’m now more than ever in positive and healthy relationships. I have such a close knit of friends that I’m forever grateful for. My dad and I can actually talk without screaming at each other. And my boyfriend and I can actually go a few days without talking now! I’m not perfect by any means. My relationship with my cat is full on serious and I can be self-focused at times without realizing it. I have a hard time listening. But I’m working on it and I’m working on letting people know not to talk to me or if I don’t want to do something.

I tell you all this dear reader because as women, and especially Latinas, we carry the world on our shoulders We run our households thinking we must say yes to everything and be the rock, just like our mamis. The reality check is,

'We will never be everything to everyone and if we try, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.' @accordingathena Click To Tweet It’s up to us to decide who is on our team and to let the others go. But we don’t know who to let go because half of the time, we don’t even realize it’s toxic. That’s why I want to share the following questions with you to help you decide just that.

How does this person make you feel?

First things first, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. This includes you (I know, don’t cry.) There are days where I’m snappy and I need to give myself a time out. But for the most part, I try to be kind, listen and be my fun-loving self. This is the same for everyone.

In the book “Every day Is A Friday” by Joel Osteen, he shares that you must have a wide support system because we can’t always be there for others. As someone who used to be all about other people, and never about myself, I was consistently let down by others until I learned that it’s impossible for one single person to always be there for you.

On the flip side of this, if someone is never there, or makes you feel like shit 95% of the time, why bother having them in your life at all? You don’t need anyone being rude to you or taking out their own issues on you for whatever reason. You deserve to surround yourself with people who are happy and make you feel the same.

Are there things you don’t tell this person?

I remember having lunch one day with my friend and expressing my anger over a friend who gave me her unsolicited opinion about a relationship in my life.

My friend, chewing on her salad, swallowed and said, “Athena, don’t talk to her anymore about your relationship. There are certain people who you talk to about certain things and others you don’t.” As a chronic oversharer, I nodded and really thought about what she said. And then I decided that I wasn’t going to share anything else with that person about that area of my life.

I was hurt more than anything in the situation up mentioned above but I learned that other people can project their issues onto you and can make you feel like shit. What I learned, even more, was life’s too short to have to walk on eggshells around people who are supposed to be your friends and watch what you talk to them about out of fear they’ll be nasty to you.

Do you catch yourself lying to them?

I don’t like the outdoors. I don’t like renaissance fairs. And I don’t like watching sports UNLESS it’s a Notre Dame or Dallas Cowboys football game. There, I said it. But for the longest time, I’d pretend to like everything someone else did too out of fear they’d leave me. Now, I happily tell people my hobbies include hanging out with my cat, drag queens and serial killers. I also enjoy drinking at my local dive bar and taking over the jukebox.

The point is, we lie to ourselves and we lie to others. We’ll lie about stuff we shouldn’t lie about, such as our wants and likes, because we’re afraid. We lie about our opinions out of fear people will talk shit to us. We lie to protect ourselves and we lie to keep the peace so the toxicity stays in. Guess what soul sister? There’s no band-aid big enough for that.

Is this person judging you or are they supportive?

Everyone has a different approach to how they think they should interact with others, especially those they care about. For me, I joke with you if I like you because I feel comfortable. If I really care about you, I’ll call you out but I would never intentionally be spiteful. And if I hurt feelings, I always am sure to apologize.

So, how do others make you feel when they talk to you? Are they really motivating or hurtful? Do they say spiteful things to make you feel bad? When you confront them, do they make excuses for their behavior or try to deflect? Not everyone communicates the same way and that’s fine, we are all different. But what’s not fine is someone in your life talking down to you and making you feel worthless.

Relationships are a two-way street. No one is ever going to be 50/50 in a relationship either. People go through things and sometimes, that person may take up more of the relationship. But a relationship should never be one-sided and equal effort must be on both sides.

You should always strive for relationships that help you feel secure, calm and inspired. Don’t be with others who make you feel less than. People need you to wake up and be your best self. And you owe it to yourself to do the same.

A Pretend Minimalist Or, How I’m Practicing Minimalism

As a rookie to minimalism, I’m not perfect. But, trying to practice minimalism in all areas of my life has been helpful and I hope my examples can help you too.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve made an active attempt to practice minimalism in my life. I’ve always been a regular dabbler, but since one of my New Year Resolutions was to be a more mindful consumer, it’s been a lot more deliberate. I’ve continued to declutter my personal belongings (now at 205/3000 for my Project 3000). My hoarder stash of beauty products and candles is slowly dwindling (good bye hand soap collection from 2017!). I’ve also been more mindful when shopping and bringing new things into my home (sorry Target).

Since practicing minimalism can be in all areas of your life, I’ve recently decided to see what can go and what can stay. Despite having my non-profit career, my growing online business and a jam packed life, I crave being home with my cat drinking tea and reading a book. I know, I’m really 80 instead of 33 but if I can mainstream my life to allow me more time to pursue what I love, it’s a win. So here’s how I’ve been doing it.

Friendships

Last year I realized I lost a friend. Being chronically ill, I cancel. Depending on what’s going on, sometimes a lot. It’s hard to determine how I’m going to feel the day of. Also, I’m bad at attending multiple events in one day. I just don’t have the energy I used to and I know this about myself so I will decline. This has led to me no longer being invited to events because I’m “flakey.’ Taking a step back, it might seem that way. But I’ve expressed it’s not intentional.

I know it sounds cocky, and maybe I say this to feel better about myself, but I decided I’m okay losing a friend I’m not that close to. Now that I’m older, I know stuff happens and people grow apart. I also now realize people are in your life for a season. So with that in mind, I’m learning to be okay. I have a ton of friends and the people who accept me and my limitations are the ones I want to keep. By allowing certain friendships go, I can continue to nurture my friendships that are already strong, and keep them that way.

Work

Maybe it’s because I’m finally more confident in other areas of my life but for some reason, my fear of abandonment and being left out now happens here. This isn’t good for someone who’s trying to mainstream their life. But now, when I perceive situations of being passed up for opportunities, I’m learning to stay in my lane.

My bosses know what I excel and don’t excel in. They play to my strengths. If I feel truly left out or looked over I can say something. But the feeling usually passes and then I focus on what I’m already doing. And by accepting this, I can make it home at a reasonable hour to spend time on Money Smart Latina.

Food

I contribute my success with weight loss last year to incorporating smoothies into my diet. I’ve loved smoothies since I was little but making a conscious effort to have one every morning for breakfast I think helped. It also frees up brain power because I’m making less decisions. (Decision fatigue is real. I’ve also decided to start eating salad for lunch the days I’ll be in the office all day. Bagged salad comes with toppings and I can buy a bag of frozen chicken strips to throw for protein.

I know not everyone can eat the same thing every day but it I can so I figure I might as well. It makes life easier on me and saves my evenings for other projects or time with friends instead of additional meal prepping.

Money

I’ve been regularly tracking my spending again which is nice because I know exactly where my money is going. It also sucks because I know exactly where my money is going. I can’t do anything about my extravagant health expenses (being chronically ill is EXPENSIVE), but I can do something about all the money I spend on eating out during the workweek and drinking with friends on the weekend.

Swiping my card makes my spending mindless so I decided to start doing cash envelopes again. Once it’s gone, it’s soup for me. I don’t have to track down receipts to see how much I spent in the categories mentioned above because what I can spend will literally be in my hands.

Besides cash enveloping my biggest money wasters, I’m also focusing more on earning more instead of cutting back an already stretched out budget. Due to health expenses and COL going up in the general Phoenix area, I just can’t cut much more. Earning more also allows me to do more of the things that bring me joy such as traveling and saving for the future.

There you have it. Minimalism isn’t something that has to do with your physical space. You can practice focusing on what truly matters in all areas of your life so you can turn off the noise that doesn’t.

Tell me, do you practice minimalism in any areas of your life? Are you liking your results?

As a rookie to minimalism, I'm not perfect. But, trying to practice minimalism in all areas of my life has been helpful and I hope my examples can help you too.

How To Go On A Date With Your Dinero

Does your dinero make you feel yucky inside? Mine did too until I started I went on a money date! I’m going to share what a money date is so you can go on one too and make your dinero your boo!

When I first started taking my dinero seriously, I didn’t realize how emotional it really made me.

I had originally used my money as a tool to “feel better” in the form of shopping, collecting crap around my casa and partying. Since my ways of trying to feel better about myself were failing, I assumed it was my money’s fault and not on my own.

I never had enough of it and making more seemed like a pipe dream. Where would I even start? What if something happened and I couldn’t make it anymore? When I started taking my money seriously in the form of learning how to budget, cutting costs and actually working on fixing what I needed to fix, aka me, I learned my money wasn’t the malo I had made it out to be.

One of the ways I’ve been able to become comfortable in my relationship with money, and not be emotional about it, is by going on a “money date” with myself. Once a week, I light candles and pull up some spreadsheets. It probably sounds goofy but I really enjoy this time in my week to focus on myself and my finances so I can be the independent Latina I want to be. I’m here to share with you today a few reasons why this can work for you and then some tips on how to get the mood right for you and your MCM, money.

Dates aren’t just for your friends and boyfriends/ They are for your new boo, money, too!

Why go on a money date?

The number one reason why I recommend going on a date or spending time with your money is simple. It’s to get rid of any negative energy or feeling towards it. I know it sounds counter productive, spending time with something that makes you feel bad but hear me out.

Money is an inanimate object yet we project a lot of emotion into it. And no, this isn’t our fault. From the time you were a baby in your mommy’s belly, you were being conditioned to believe a money script by all the people around you. It’s no one’s fault, but you have probably taken on the beliefs of your friends and parents, whether those beliefs are good or bad.

For example, one common belief I heard growing up was “when money’s gone, it’s gone.” Umm, okay. Where did it go and why is it not coming back?! No one ever explained to me that you can always earn more money so until recently, I’ve been trying to cut back on my already cut back expenses. This belief I had taken, by no one’s initial fault, really roots itself in scarcity so it never occurred to me to ever earn more. And so, I was always upset I couldn’t save what I wanted.

Do you see how easy it is to make money become emotional?

Anytime you feel a certain way about your money, or anything in general, you’ve given away your power.Click To Tweet
Money isn’t a person, it’s just an object. And you are giving it more money and energy then you need to. In order to break away from this nasty cycle, it’s important to spend time getting to know it and build a healthy relationship with it.

You need to just get to a place where you feel comfortable with your money so you can feel empowered, not stressed. So, how do we get started?

Step 1- Pick A Day 

Pick a day and time where you can’t be interrupted. For example, my money date day and time is Thursday evening. I have no outstanding appointments. It’s also the day before payday so I can make a list of financial to dos such as throwing extra towards debt or schedule my online bill pay.

By picking a set day and sticking to it, it also helps you build a routine. It’s easier to stick to something when it’s a habit and becomes less intimidating too.

Step 2- Set The Mood

Anytime you are doing something you don’t want to do but know you need to, make the environment safe and comfortable. This will keep you from being overstimulated in general and relaxed during task. Not only is this a good rule of thumb for your money date, it also works in a lot of situations.

Grab a glass of wine or hot tea, light a candle and put on some comfy pajamas. II also put on a television show which doesn’t need a lot of attention for background noise. I’m currently working through reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race (Team Shangela 4 EVA).  You’re going to be taking care of business so you might as well get comfy and relax as much as you can.

Step 3- Sit and think . Set the intention.

It’s time to now ask yourself a hard question.

“How do you want your money to make you feel?”

Do you want to feel excited about your money? Do you want to feel accomplished? It may be hard to answer at first and the answer may change. Once you’ve realized how you want your money to feel, what are some steps you can think of to help move yourself there? For example, maybe you need to make more money. Think of some ways you can earn more and get a to do list started. Maybe it’s an annoying expense that keeps making you crazy? Come up with an action plan to take care of some business!

Step 4- It’s Business Time

 

Anyone else a Flight of the Conchords fan?

Even though you may have an actionable plan to get where you want to be, you still have a current situation that needs to be dealt with. Make sure bills are caught up.  Reevaluate your current spending. Update the budget. Then start on your actionable plan to get to where you want to be with your boo money.

You want to get to the place where you have no overwhelming emotion when it comes to your money. It’s something we can find again and again. It is a renewable resource and is indefinite. Turn the noise off in your head Latina and go get it.

Does your dinero make you feel yucky inside? Mine did too until I started I went on a money date! I'm going to share what a money date is so you can go on one too and make your dinero your boo! | money date | latina money | money anxiety | financial anxiety | money mindset | https://moneysmartlatina.com/moneydate/

4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Paying Down Debt

Trying to get out of debt but need a plan? I got you Latina with these four easy questions. 

I first acquired debt when I was 19. Between student loans and needing a new car, a monthly debt payment quickly became my new reality.

Fast forward many years later (hey, I’m old but not THAT old), I’m still paying down my debt. Going back to school, multiple operations and another new car means I’m still in debt, unfortunately. However, I refuse to think of myself or my debt as bad, because it helped me when I needed assistance. My student loans have allowed me to earn a bachelor’s degree that has tripled my income. I needed surgery for my cancer treatment, now I’m cancer-free. And a new car after driving the same one for the past 10 years means I now have reliable transportation.

With all that being said, I’ve been following a simple plan to pay back my debt based on the questions below. The less brain power I’m exerting in any area of my life means the more energy I have to pursue projects and self-care. My life has definitely been a lot easier thanks to having a plan in place. I hope the questions below can help you too!

Why should you pay down your debt?

Debt is a time and money suck. Yeah, I said it. I know I have debt and it doesn’t make me a bad person, but I’m going to call it as I see it. Every month when I put $1,000 towards my debt, I get a little sad.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m trying to figure out enough income streams so I’m not worried about working full time. I have a lot of autoimmune disorders that make crawling out of bed hard sometimes. I’m also dreaming about owning a ranch home or bungalow, for me and the cat. That $1,000 could go towards some of these goals so yeah, it does sting a bit.

Besides being a money suck, it takes mental capacity to keep track of your debt. And if you’re behind on your payments? You better be good at screening your calls. (I’ve been here a few times so I know how truly shitty it feels) With all of this being said, you can see why it’s important to kick debt to the curb!

Question 1: How Much Do You Owe?

Before you get overwhelmed with your adding up your debt, take time to put on some comfy pants and grab a glass of wine. Now that you’re settled, start adding up all debts you have. What’s considered a debt?

  • Car loans
  • Credit cards
  • Student loans
  • Medical bills
  • Collection notices from overdue or closed accounts.
  • Loans from family and friends.
  • 401 K Loans
  • Anyone else you rightfully owe money to.

For me, I have a mix from a few of the above, including a car note, student loans and a credit card I’ve used to help with some medical expenses. I also have a few medical bills leftover from my gallbladder surgery last year and some dental work I recently finished.

Once you’ve gathered all information, create a spreadsheet in Google Docs or MS Excel so you can enter the following information:

  • Creditor
  • Type of debt
  • Reason debt occurred
  • Amount currently owed
  • Payment amount if arrangement has been made
  • Due date
  • Interest rate

For for example, let’s take a look at my hypothetical car loan:

Creditor: Ally Financial

Debt: Auto loan

Reason: 2018 Mustang (I don’t drive a mustang but you get it)

Amount Owed: $16,542

Payment arrangement: $350 per month

Due date: 15th of every month until loan is paid in full.

Interest rate: 5%

With a spreadsheet organized like this, I’m able to see exactly how much I owe and to who. I can also see, with interest rates and due dates, what may be the priority when focusing on future debt repayment. I know a lot of people may disagree but I am a firm believer in always paying back people you know first, despite it not have an interest rate. A lot of relationships end because of money and this is something that can be avoided with clear communication and expectations.

I’ve had to borrow money before and it hurt my dignity to even ask since I felt at the time I shouldn’t need to “ask” for help. As someone who has been scrappy since high school, it’s hard to admit that you don’t have it figured out all of the time but hey, shit happens. Make an arrangement, stay in good standing and once the loan has been finished, write a heartfelt note of how much their gift helped you out.

Question 2: What’s Your Method Aka Plan For Paying Down Your Debt?

After you’ve calculated how much you owe, you need to come up with a plan to pay it down. There are two famous debt repayment methods that I would like to share with you today, the snowball method and the avalanche method.

The snowball method, made famous by Dave Ramsay, is when you make a minimum payment on all of your debt, then throw extra money at the smallest amount. By making an effort to pay the smallest debt off first, you are going to see one less line item in your debt payment plan faster than you would if you had spread out extra money among all of your debts. When you see one less line item, you get excited then move on to the next smallest debt to keep the “snowball” rolling.

The debt avalanche method, made popular by Harlan Landes during his Consumerism Commentary days, is when after you make your minimum debt repayment,  you put any extra money towards the debt with the highest interest rate, despite the debt amount.

Interest can be a real money suck so by paying down your debt according to the highest interest rate, you realistically save the most money.

Now, which one is for you? That’s really up to you to decide but I suggest the method that will keep you motivated. Debt is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like any other marathon, you need continuous motivation and focus. Some people are motivated by paying down their debt in a snowball and some are motivated by owing the least amount of interest possible.

I do a mixture of both at the moment. Right now, my focus is to pay off a dental procedure I had completed last month. It’s not the smallest debt I owe nor is it  the one with the highest interest rate, but I plan on getting more work done soon. With that in mind, I want to free up that line of credit.

Question 3: How Much Can You Put Towards Your Debt?

The number way one way to become discouraged in life is to set yourself up for failure. Trust me, I know. As an overachiever and chronic goal setter, I have some lofty ambitions in my life. But you know what I fail to do when setting up my goals? I fail to be realistic about my circumstances.

When starting out on your debt repayment journey, you need to be realistic about how much you can put towards your debt each month. The worst thing you can do is give yourself a date of being debt free in a year when you owe thousands and only bring home hundreds. Catch my drift?

Make a budget and see what you’re working with after all expenses are paid for. I like to divide my budget  into fixed and unfixed expenses. Fixed expenses are something I know will never change, such as rent. Unfixed expenses are things I have more control over, like groceries. By making a budget and assessing your spending, it’s easy to see what can go in order to make room for that debt snowball. (I’m looking at you eyelash extensions.)

Be realistic with your spending and what you can cut. Again, don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t give yourself $50 a month for groceries because you know you aren’t going to eat ramen everyday. Same goes with allowing yourself a buffer of a few hundred dollars, because stuff is going to happen. I guarantee it.

Question 4: How Can You Earn More To Put Towards Debt?

The last question I want you to ask yourself is how can you pay more towards your debt. I know, I said earlier debt was a time and energy suck. It is. But once you start feeling better of your financial situation, you realize you’re in control. When you are in control, it feels great. And you want to keep feeling great.

I am a firm believer of earning more. You can only cut so much from your budget before you run out of stuff to cut. You can’t save what you don’t earn or in this case, use it to pay off debt! Some ways you can more money?

  • Sell stuff on ebay- My friend Jason does a phenomenal job walking you through becoming a high seller on eBay in his course.
  • Write e-books- If you are a random pool of knowledge, writing e-books may be right up your alley. One of my other friends Michelle from Michelle Is Money Hungry has a course that helps you finally get all that knowledge on to paper so you can get paid. Check that out here.
  • Walk dogs- A fun way to earn cash and get in shape is by signing up for a website like Rover.com. People are always looking for pet sitters and they make pretty good money too!
  • Take surveys- If you have a few minutes here or there, like waiting in line at the grocery store, be productive and take a survey. Websites like Swag Bucks and Inbox Dollars are cool ways to earn cash while killing time unlike Facebook.
  • New skills- I’m a firm believer in expanding your skill set, especially in an ever changing economy. A few years ago I decided to work on a few new skills, such as freelance writing and virtual assistant work. I then pitched myself to a few other bloggers and overtime, I’ve been able to build my own business! Consider learning a new skill such as freelance writing or making crafts and beauty products to sell. You can always learn a new skill and once you do, it’s really empowering.

By clearing up your debt, it’s easier to have more wiggle room in your budget and more energy to things that bring you joy. I hope the tips I’ve shared above can help you do just that.

Being in debt is such a major time and money suck. I should know, I've totally been there. Ask yourself these four easy questions to help kick durb to the curb, once and for all. | debt | debt free | get out of debt | https://moneysmartlatina.com/payingdowndebt/

3 Ways To Declutter In The New Year

While I’ve been working on decluttering and spending consistently less since starting my PF journey, I don’t think I’ve really thought about the consumerism part of it until last year. I was a wasting a lot of  food and in return, money. Since I was decluttering my kitchen, I decided to take a look around and see what else needed some sprucing up.

In doing this, I realized how much crap I had laying around my 600 sq ft apartment. Yes, I do regularly declutter and drop stuff off at Goodwill. I’m always consistently  finding items to give away. But somehow, my stuff still feels like it’s multiplying. So this year, I’ve decided to be a lot more mindful and see how I can conquer my clutter once and for all. Today, I’m sharing three ways that you can help beat the clutter too!

The KonMari Method

Last fall, I had the chance to read the book by Marie Kondo called “The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up.” Yes, I have been living under a rock and also yes, I can receive mail here. All jokes aside, I’m glad I was able to finally read the book before her television show dropped on Netflix, because I was able to enjoy it from another point of view. Mainly, looking at the results instead of questioning her process.

Kondo breaks down organizing into steps known as the KonMari method. By dividing your home into different item categories (not areas), you’re then able to pick items up one by one and ask yourself if they spark joy. If the answer if yes, you can find a new home for it. If the answer is no, it’s time to part with it. By starting with clothes, you should able to deal with the harder stuff such as mementos and photos last.

While not all items spark joy in my home (and I don’t think all items truly do as much as they serve a purpose), I really like the fact that Kondo helps people see that stuff carries an emotional attachment. For instance, she talks about presents. I know a lot of people (myself included!) tend to hold onto items because they were gifts instead of using them or (shocker!) get rid of them. How many times have you heard someone say “Oh I couldn’t do that, it’s a gift.”

Stuff that also has an emotional attachment, such as belongings of a loved one who’s passed on, are especially hard to part with. I know this first hand as I carried my mom’s belongings from house to house starting when I was 21. It wasn’t until I was 27 that it truly felt “okay” to let her things go to a new home. I appreciate this method acknowledging how hard it is and being able to give tips to process the grief associated.


 

The Minimalist Game

The Minimalist Game, created by the Minimalists duo Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, seems easy enough . For everyday of the challenge, you get rid the same amount of items from your home. So for day one, you part with one item. Day two, two items. This continues on until you get to day 30 and have successfully gotten rid of 465 items in your home.

I played this game last November and I barely got through my living room and Christmas decorations. It was so mind blowing to me that I had barely scratched the surface in my home and didn’t make a dent in my “things.” It’s estimated that the average home has over 300,000 items in it and I wasn’t a believer until I participated in this challenge myself. Even looking around my living room at this very moment, I see more things I can get rid of!

The Minimalists also have a podcast, books and a film along with their website. After playing this game, I’ve really become a fan. They talk ways to be a minimalist in all areas of your life and not just your physical space, which is what I really like. Last December, listening to their podcast was a real help when going through an extremely stressful time in my life. I’ll now associate the Minimalists with getting me through hard times just like I do with books by Stephen King.

Project 3000

Project 3000, coined by The Tidy Life Project’s Claire Bernie, is a challenge to get rid of 3,000 items in your home. Yup, 3,000 items. I know, my jaw fell on the floor when I first saw that too but after completing the Minimalist game described up above, I knew that was going to be my project in 2019.

What I love about this project is that it has a huge community on Instagram (Do you follow me yet?). So many people are striving to become minimalists but it may not feel like it if you just look around at people in your personal life. For instance, I know a few people who are pretty much minimalists but those people are ones I’ve met through blogging. The majority of people in my everyday life I interact with are definitely not minimalists.

Again, the average home has over 300,000 items in it so 3,000 is hardly a drop in the bucket if you think about it. Thinking about how much paper I have alone along with all the junk in my closet is really motivating me to participate in Project 3000 for my own home. At first, I was trying to have place way too many stipulations on myself but I decided if it’s leaving my house, it’s getting counted (with the exception of regular trash).

There you have it. Three ways to declutter your home in the new year and maybe even use for spring cleaning! Have you tried any of these methods? I’d love to know!

 

Try A Spending Fast

Holidays causing you to feel stuffed? Try a different type of detox, a spending fast. And save some money while you’re at it too!

Holidays got you feeling full? If you’re anything like me, my leggings are tight and I can’t remember what day it is. I’ve spent a good majority of the past month away from home and I’m desperate to eat a vegetable again. I’m also desperate to get back into my routine. As a self-proclaimed creature of habit, my days are regulated by my planner and to do lists.

Besides physically, another way I feel sluggish is with my bank account. A family emergency along with Christmas has my funds sitting lower than they have in years. I’m actively trying to double my income but I’m also trying to be a more mindful consumer. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go on a spending fast to help me kick off 2019 right!

What’s a spending fast?

A spending fast or “shopping ban” is as follows: you can’t buy any unnecessary shit for a set amount of time. That’s it. You determine what you can and cannot buy and for how long you can’t buy it for. Some people do it for a week, some people do it for a year. It’s completely up to you and what works for your lifestyle.

I’ve participated in several shopping bans since tipping my toes into the waters of the personal finance community. I can’t say all were a success but I can say that all were a learning experience regarding my mindset and consumerism habits.

How does it work?

As stated above, it’s completely up to you. You make the rules and you get to decide what you can and can’t spend money on and for how long it goes for.

A spending fast, made popular by Anna Newell Jones, is when you don’t spend money on anything not necessary to your survival, in order to free up funds to put towards other areas of your life, such as debt or savings. Jones made a list of wants and needs and spent appropriately. If something was a want, she went without or tried to make it work with as least resources as possible. Some of her needs were rent and utilities, while she also allowed herself to have the opportunity to do photography exhibits if the pricing was right. Her wants included random household decor, makeup, and coffee. By using this method, she was able to pay off all of her debt, in less than two years.

A shopping ban, made popular most recently by Cait Flanders, is when you don’t buy any physical items that are unnecessary. With a shopping ban, you can still eat out or spend on entertainment, so the wants area is a bit more flexible and grey. Flanders did allow herself to purchase items off of an approved shopping list (for example, clothes that needed to be replaced and a new bed), but said no to her biggest vice, coffee houses. As a fellow caffeine addict, I know first hand the struggle is real. She also shared she was spending over $100 a month on coffee alone. I also know first hand that it’s pretty easy to do.

What are the benefits?

Two of the most obvious benefits of a spending fast or shopping ban?

  • A: start to find money in your budget and
  • B: Stop buying junk.

By allowing yourself to only purchase necessities, you put a constraint on your consumerism habits. Since you aren’t shopping for the hell of it, or because something catches your eye, you’re spending less. When you aren’t shopping, you aren’t purchasing. You stop bringing junk into your home

Since we’re talking about junk, you’ll also start to realize what you really have in your home. The average home has 300,000 items in it. 300,000! That’s a lot of stuff and a good deal of it is probably stuff you don’t use. When you continuously aren’t chasing shiny new items, you can focus on using what you already have on hand. These items can either be used up or tossed. You’ll feel refreshed when your space is decluttered and you’ll be able to actually focus on what you want to do instead.

Resourceful will become your new middle name. You’ll have more time on your hands to enjoy new or already existing hobbies. When you can’t spend money, you look into borrowing items from friends or the library. You make do with what you already have on hand, which cuts down on environmental waste. 

The last benefit I want to share, which may seem like a con to some of you, is that you realize things about yourself you may not want to. When I first started dabbling in the personal finance realm, it was because I had no money. It wasn’t until I participated in a shopping ban that I realized I had no money because I had a shopping problem. It’s hard to say but in my twenties, I spent a lot of time hating myself. I was insecure about everything in my life and instead of dealing with it, I shopped. When I couldn’t spend money, I became even more irate. It’s hard to work on yourself, even if it is worth it. A shopping ban made me own up to it. 

How can I get started?

The number one way to start something is to just do it! Decide a date and commit to not shopping. Make a list of your wants and needs, then make another list to see if your needs really are wants. Depending on the period of time, you may decide to allow yourself certain exceptions, such as Anna and Cait did. Then start!

Currently, I’m not participating in a shopping ban or a spending fast, but I am working towards being a more mindful consumer as one of my goals in 2019. For me, this means bringing fewer items into my home, using stuff I already have and watching my waste, in both regards to time and food. I can’t wait to see where 2019 takes me but I know participating in shopping bans has helped me get here. I can’t wait to see where a shopping ban gets you!