Back To Basics- Cash Challenge

One of the things I appreciate about personal finance is there are so many different budgeting techniques, it’s not a one size fits all type of thing. Which, I really appreciate given my Latina heritage. Does anyone else have the larger bottom thing going on?

Anyhoo, with my upcoming trip to Israel this summer, I’m back to bleeding cash left and right! Earlier this year it was buying everything needed for an apartment that was 100% mine and now it’s buying everything needed for a study abroad program in a country where it’s really hot yet women can’t show much skin. Did I mention we’re spending a good amount of time walking everywhere?

From having to buy outlet converters for my electronics to buying a Camelbak, traveling is certainly not cheap. However, it’s the trip and opportunity of a lifetime so I can’t complain. But, while struggling to pay for an expensive study abroad program, I still need to be able to hold the fort down at home. With this in mind,  I am going back to budgeting basics ala Dave Ramsay even though he once called me a moron on a social media channel. I forgive you Dave!

Dave Ramsay and all of his followers are very big on something known as the “envelope system.” The envelope system is basically pulling cash out for the week or month and putting it in envelopes labeled for specific items, such as gas, groceries, etc. Each month you can decide the amount of money to stick inside your envelope and use it when purchasing your items.  After you have spent your allotted amount in that envelope, it’s gone. Finished. Finito. And you can’t spend any more and will have to figure out how to make do. Of course, you could just pull out your debit or credit card but that fully defeats the purpose of the envelopes. Stick to your envelopes people!

Some people prefer different variations of this system and some people don’t like this at all. I myself usually prefer to use a debit card since I feel I have a pretty good feel for my budget and this way can’t lose or misplace cash. However, I have been pretty swipey lately and haven’t been a good steward of using things up, mainly groceries. I still don’t eat out as much as I used to back in the day but I have been almost lately. I blame summer. The amount of food waste is alarming for someone with just a cat so I wanted to work on this as well as asking myself if I really truly need an item or can find a cheaper way to amuse myself.

I will be pulling $150 out for the week until I leave for Israel later this summer to live off of. This amount will be covering my groceries, gas, misc items and fun. Misc items in my budget are usually things I don’t buy too often such as household, hygiene and beauty products. My prescriptions will not be included in this amount even though I just dropped $300 on asthma medicine today (#affordablecaremybooty). Fun is hanging out with friends, such as movies, bottles of wine ( mmm wine), going out to eat and anything of entertainment value, like buying books or renting a film. I won’t be including my Netflix subscription or Spotify since those are monthly. I don’t even pay for cable people or own a television so don’t throw stones!

As of writing this Sunday evening, I can already say leaving the house with $150 was definitely challenging. I came across a hair care product I love on clearance and walked around the store and eventually put it back. I couldn’t find it in myself to spend $25 when I still had some left at home, although after further inspection not a lot. Also put back on the shelf was lemonade. I haven’t bought juice in a long time and was really craving some at the grocery store. However, I put it back since I would rather use that $4 towards a margarita with friends during happy hour. Trade offs people!

Wish me luck. Are you on a strict budget too?


#TheRoad To Financial Wellness Is A Journey But Worth It

The following blog post is part of the The Road to Financial Wellness Blog Tour. Over a period of 30 days, the Phroogal team will go to 30 locations to raise awareness about financial empowerment. Today they will be in Phoenix! Our goal is to help people learn about money by starting the conversation. We understand that local conversations can help bring about national awareness.

When I starting blogging almost seven years ago, I had no idea the changes that would be made in my life or the opportunities I’d have because of it. I only started blogging because I had stumbled upon personal finance blogs and was desperate to climb out of the hole I was in, only after hitting rock bottom twice in one year. Hitting rock bottom sucked so badly but I’m glad it happened to me. I’ve had plenty of bad things happen since then ( a failed engagement, a job becoming toxic, a car accident that left me needing cortisone shots, etc.) but it’s when those things happen that remind me financial wellness is a journey but so worth it.

I originally had the odds stacked against me. I was orphaned at 15 after living in a house hold that went from middle class to living paycheck to paycheck to a single mother who was in the hospital dying slowly over the course of a few years. I bounced from relative to relative, who used me for a social security check, until I was 19 or so, and finally decided to live with my step father who had his own issues. I moved out officially when I was 21, after dropping out of school, losing my job, my best friend in a nasty car accident and my car, all within in a month. I moved in with my boyfriend at the time and found a part time job that got me by until I found a more current one and started saving for a new car again.

Since then, I’ve come extremely far. I re-enrolled in school and became the first in my family to graduate with an AA.  I have two semesters left until I walk with the stage with my bachelors but I currently have a 3.73 cumulative GPA and I’m studying abroad in Israel this summer.  I also have continued my career in non-profits, currently running a program in Phoenix, AZ where I live, in a cute apartment with a cat with six toes in a fun neighborhood with a retro feel and diverse population. I own my own car and I’m getting my braces off next week, something that has costs me over $6,000 but was well needed and so worth it.

But, all of those good things have come after all of my hardships. Because I was all over the place when I was younger, I craved stability in the wrong way and usually was in the way of living with a boyfriend playing house. Because I never found stability, I self destructed in other ways and never really though about the future until I was reminded over and over in bad experiences. Failed engagement & break ups, toxic work environments, extended breaks from school, clutter and never having enough in my checking account were the wake up calls I received over and over.

On my current road to financial wellness, I’m doing well. I make sure I follow a budget and track my spending and make tweaks as needed. I try to pay all of my bills in advance and live beyond my means, usually by cooking all of my own meals, not shopping for stuff and finding low cost ways to have fun help extremely. I talk to a therapist about my anxiety and depression and all of past that has shaped it and I work on healthy coping strategies. But I’m still not perfect. I need to start saving for a new car, work on my emergency fund and I’m way behind for my retirement.

But, if the road of financial wellness has taught me anything, it’s a journey. You are going to have extreme lows and extreme highs. That’s part of what being a grown up is. You are going to pay for things that aren’t your fault but have happened to you regardless. You are going to have good things happen to you that make others wistful. And sometimes, you are going to look up and wonder what exactly you are doing. But the journey is well worth it and all you can do is keep trying. Don’t give up.

June Goals!

Whew! I took this past month off from life and apparently we’re in June so I thought I’d get back in the saddle ;).

Even though my goal for May was to relax, it was more like playing catch up with everything I had put on the back burner so I could focus on school. I’m caught up now in some areas of my life, including projects, yet so far behind in others 🙁 . I thought making goals would be a great way to stay on task for this month since I have a lot going on next month, including my study abroad program and the first day of the new school year at work!

1. Finish big Plutus Awards project. I have two big things I need to plan this month ( one also needs to be executed!) and one is this! It’s been a lot of phone calls ( it’s hard calling people back and forth across country and following leads!)  but I finally found someone great to work with and this should be done soon, fingers crossed. If you don’t know what the Plutus Awards are, please click here. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved for the past few years, via event planning and social media management, and have recently been named the Program & Grants Manager for the Plutus Foundation. It’s a good time to be a Plutus team member!

2. Help plan a great #TheRoad event! Besides a Plutus Awards, I am also involved with a great financial literacy startup named Phroogal. Besides writing for their blog, The Smile Lifestyle, I’ve also been recently tasked with helping plan an event for their stop in Phoenix, AZ as part of their Road To Financial Wellness tour. Please click here to learn more!

3. Finish everything for my study abroad program, including the whole study part. I am leaving soon to take part in a study abroad program with my university and I still have so much left to do. I finally bought my plane ticket, got my passport and secured all of the funds, but I still have loose ends to tie up. I need to make a Dr. appt ( so I can bring my prescriptions through customs), take the study abroad quiz, oh and I don’t know, maybe read the textbook that has been sitting on my makeshift coffee table.

4. Stick to a routine Monday-Thursday. Since classes ended for the semester and I’ve only been working, I haven’t been in a routine that much but it’s time to get back into one. Routines really help with my anxiety and not feeling all over the place, which is one of my complaints when I am having a rough day or week. A routine helps keep me productive but in reality, it helps keep me sane and able to focus on my goals. I have more time to relax Friday-Sunday so my crunch time is usually Monday-Thursday. I’d like to accomplish working out in the mornings before work and at least spend two hours in the evenings to grow my online business. That leads me to my next goal.

5. Hit 10% of eventual freelance goal. Although I have been blogging for almost several years, which is a long time in blog land, I’ve never built an empire or business for myself since it’s been more of a hobby for me than a money maker or livelihood. However, it might be about to change starting next year.

When I went back to school last year to obtain my bachelors, it was a future investment in myself and my future career. I knew there was really no way I could ever obtain a director’s position in a non-profit without one. And, I only wanted to be in school for another two years because it was manageable. And let me tell you, I barely exist working and attending school full-time. It’s hard balancing everything.

But, something changed this past year when I went back to school and really focused on myself. I’ve been presented with some amazing opportunities like my study abroad program I’m partaking in next month. And, I was also invited to join a program for masters recruiting because of my 3.73 cumulative GPA. I never in my life considered going to graduate school but, if I can receive a stipend to do research while furthering my education, I think I’m going to go for it. And, utilize my online business to help balance the budget if I decide to. This gives me a year or so to get to a good place. A goal is a dream with a deadline, right?

What do you have on the docket this month?



Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind

Recently, I picked up a book from the library ( what do you expect?) called “The Distraction Addiction” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. I’m only on page 24 but since I feel like I already know where this is going, I’ll clue you in too. He talks about visit an island where you can go into a natural park and it’s filled with monkeys. And the monkeys have full blown ADHD like me and can’t keep attention for more than five seconds on anything and then run off with your snacks. I draw the line when people mess with my food in general but tourists usually think they are very cute and take pictures.

I feel like the monkeys mentioned in the book, besides the whole stealing snack thing although I do love snacks. I also like to think the monkeys would understand how happy I am that I have successfully just finished my junior year at ASU and will be anxiously awaiting my grades to finish being posted. In addition to going to school, I still maintained my full-time job and any side jobs I could snag for extra income to help with expenses I’ve occured over the year, mainly moving into my new apartment and before that, traveling. I’ve tried to maintain my relationships the best I have been able to and although I’m doing better, it’s still not top notch.

But I am so happy with my new found freedom! I want to read and watch Netflix and see what’s going on with Don Draper. I want to see my boyfriend more ( our schedules have been insane) and travel! I’ll be traveling this summer to the middle east which means I am officially leaving the country for the first time ever. I am excited and scared all at the same time and still have so much to do regarding my trip. I want to start working out again and writing more. I want to lay out by my pool I’ve only seen three times and take a nap.

I basically am just glad to not have 15 hour days and somewhere to always be. Grateful to have everything in my life but also ready to live it.

This Old Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be

I’ve been reading this a lot on the blogosphere lately but March went by fast. At the beginning of the month, I went on my first family vacation in years and celebrated my boyfriend and his brother’s birthday in California. Yes, they are born five years and one day apart, which cracks me up because one of my best friend’s has a similar situation with her two children. After our family vacation, H went back to New Jersey to find an apartment for the summer and I’ve basically been nonstop balancing everything here in Phoenix. I’ve had some health issues though this past month and I think it’s because I’ve been so stressed out between work and school.

I’ve been a chronic asthmatic for as long as I remember starting shortly after birth according to my parents. My mother actually died from complications with her asthma at age 39 so I’m really no stranger to asthma and health related issues. Along with my asthma, I suffer from allergies ( shocker), scoliosis, anxiety and depression. Anxiety and scoliosis are very common for asthmatics and I’ve suffered from depression since being orphaned off and on but lately it’s been worse. I’ve been in therapy consistently since last spring along with taking meds and I still have overwhelmingly rough days. Although I am highly functioning and okay most of them time, when it hits me, it hits me hard. 

Going to school full-time while working full-time has easily been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I am always tired and exhausted and I feel crummy because my relationships have suffered with everyone. I can’t hang out as much with friends because if I’m not in class, I’m doing homework or writing a paper. If I’m not working on my education, I’m trying to balance two freelancing projects I am currently overseeing. And if I’m not doing any of those things, I’m usually catching up on sleep, doing chores to keep myself functioning or trying to catch my breath.

I am not complaining. I’m actually grateful that I can go to school. I’m grateful I have a career that allows for personal growth and development and has made accommodations so I can work from home when needed and come in late to attend classes in the mornings. I’m grateful that the people in my life know I’m trying to better myself and are so supportive of me and my education. I’m grateful for my cute new apartment and my cat with mittens. I guess when I get frustrated, I just need to remember I only have two semesters left and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to go back to school and I wanted to improve my earning power. I wanted this. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fucking hard.


Budget Basics- How To Create Your Budget

how to create your budget

I recently hit my emergency fund goal for the year thanks to a couple of windfalls I received, including an education tax credit. Thanks to my trusty budget, I knew that all the money I was about to receive could be tucked towards my goal instead of wondering where my money stood. I celebrated by purchasing a textbook for a class this week and making an appointment to get some work done on my car. Hey. Murphy’s Law, right?

A few years ago when I had first started my personal finance journey, I would not have been able to do this with my tax refund. I would have been busily paying off something I owed on or playing catch up with my bills. But that’s probably wishful thinking because what I honestly would have done was go on a shopping spree. Nothing beat that high purchasing something new and shiny until I had figured out exactly why I was buying things to make myself feel better about my life.

Creating a budget for myself, reading personal finance blogs and sticking to my guns helped me get on track and today I want to share with you the steps I followed to creating my first budget.

  • Step One- Track Your Spending ( Or tally it up) The first step in any successful budget is to see what you are indeed spending your money on. Do you like to make it rain at Starbucks like me? Or perhaps you are more of a make it rain type of person while buying clothes or treating yourself to expensive dinners during a night out. I’ve purchased both of these things when I shouldn’t have and maybe your doing the same thing.  You need to see where your money is currently going before you can redirect it. When tallying up your spending, you should include everything that you spend your money on including bills. Our budget includes variable and fixed expenses so don’t forget. What’s a variable and fixed expense? So glad you asked because that leads us into our next step.
  • Step Two- List fixed and variable expenses with amounts needed per month. A fixed expense is something you pay every month and it is usually around the same. An example of this could be rent, internet, utilities, car payment, etc. A variable expense is usually a want item such as entertainment, clothing, eating out, etc. This is why it’s important to go through your previous spending and round out the average you have been paying each month to live the life of You & Co. ( That’s you!)
  • Step Three- Add up your regular take home pay. Next, add up how much money you take home after taxes and deductions such as health insurance are taken out of your paycheck. A good way to figure this out would be examining your paycheck stub and looking for the amount listed next to “net income”. Net means after taxes and deductions have been taken out and your pay is adjusted. If it’s less than what you were told you’d be making a year, that sounds about right. Usually employers tell you what your annual gross salary would be at the time of the hiring process. Double check and make sure if it seems extremely low.
  • Step Four- Compare your take home pay to see amount needed per month for your expenses to see how you fair. Now it’s time to line up the amount of money you bring home against the amount of money you are spending. This is also referred to in vs out. You should always have more money coming in then going out! If this isn’t the case, then you need to either do one of two things or both if you are a over achiever such as myself.- A. Make more money or B. Spend less. There are two sides to this argument but I can see the positive in both although making money could be earning potential could be unlimited.
  • Step Five- Write out a money plan and tell those dollars where to go! A money plan is assigning your dollars where to go in regards to your spending. A good rule of thumb for budgeting is to the 50/30/20 rule. 50% of your take home pay is for essentials or fixed expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation and groceries. 30% is for wants or variable expenses  and the remaining 20% is for financial commitments, such as debt and savings. You can definitely play around with the amounts but this is what is recommended and what I would suggest. If you don’t need the full 50% or 30% for fixed and variable expenses, add more to your financial commitments!  Don’t spend too much in one category just because you have it. Once you spend the assigned amounts in your variable expenses, don’t spend more! Remember, you are saving your money towards other financial commitments like savings, not a shoe collection that rivals Carrie Bradshaw.
  • Step Six- Observe for the next month to see how you do and if adjustments need to be made. Like any well executed plan of action, budgets also need to be observed and tinkered with. Perhaps you realized you are not making enough to cover your expenses and you are looking for ways to cut your spending. Maybe you under estimated groceries and gas. Or perhaps, you had a rent increase you forgot about. Things happen and that’s why budgets are adjustable. You may also gleefully realize you like saving money and cut back on Target runs. Also, you may need to adjust your budget monthly for items that may pop up to accommodate once a year events, such as car registration or gifts.

Now sit and watch your money grow! Be able to tell yourself where extra money can go! Or how much you spent on cat food. Either or, once the budget is made, stick to it for continual financial success.


Weekly $ Checkup

photo (1)

Vacation last weekend…Take me back!

I originally saw this idea on Budget or Fudgets blog ( so glad she’s back!) and since I was playing with the idea of doing weekly reviews to keep myself accountable, as well as share what’s going on in my life more, so here’s my first ( of possibly many) weekly $ checkups!

  1. The most I’ve spent this last week was – Gas, surprisingly!
  2. Today I am thankful that I got to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday with him and that I was able to successfully launch my GoFundMe campaign! As of writing this, I am almost to $1,000 towards my goal!
  3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was hanging out with my boyfriend on the couch and watching Breaking Bad. Sure, I pay for internet but I’ll still consider this free. Also, is anyone else addicted to Walter White going down mayday?
  4. I will consider this week a success if I hit $1,00 officially towards my goal and finish two papers that are due next week.
  5. If I had today off I would spring clean my apartment! I haven’t had anytime and traveled last week so I’ve been dying to get it together.

This past week has been busy! My boyfriend and I spent the past weekend with his family in California for their annual family vacation. I had such a great time and loved getting to know them even more. I also was able to spend my birthdays boyfriend with him which made me happy. It’s hard getting to celebrate all the holidays and special days when in a long distance relationship so I’m happy we got to spend it together.

This weekend I’ll be laying low and staying in. I plan on spring cleaning my apartment, finishing two papers that are due next week for school and cuddling with my cat. If you have a minute, please check out my GoFundMe campaign, it would mean a lot to me if you could donate and share. Every little bit helps!

Please Help Me Raise Money To Study In Israel!

israel photo


Many of you know that I am planning on studying abroad this summer in Israel with Arizona State University. But, studying abroad is not covered in our financial aid packages, even though I will be receiving summer tuition credits! In order to help see my dream of studying counter terrorism in a foreign country, while pursuing my passion for serving inner city youth, I am fundraising to help with my travel costs and education!

Today, I would like to share with you excerpts from my GoFundMe campaign in hopes that you could donate and share with your social networks to help spread the word and help me accomplish my dreams!

Although many of you may know me from my involvement with the personal finance blogging community, specifically my involvement with the Plutus Awards for the past three years, many of you may not know that I was orphaned at age 15. My mother passed away two days before Christmas during my freshman year of high school. After being through a traumatic experience, I was passed away from relative to relative, basically for my social security benefits, until I was old enough to move out and support myself on my own.

These circumstances have left a lasting impression on me, and as a result I am passionate about working with inner city youth. While going back to school full time to finish my dual bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, I work full time for a non-profit in a junior high school in urban Phoenix helping youth prepare for college and life.

Since being on my own as a teenager meant being responsible for my own education I haven’t had the traditional college experience.  I’ve always had to work full-time while going to school.

While working full time, I was able to graduate with an associate’s degree, and I was the first in my family to graduate college with any degree. Now I’m in my second semester back in school for my bachelor’s.

Last semester, I made the Dean’s List, was invtied to join the honors society,and was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in pursut of my degree. I will earn 6 college credits over the summer and finish my degree on time even while working full time. The program in Israel will give me valuable experience for my aspirations to help others.

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and because my life experiences have pushed me in the direction of and have given me a passion for working with troubled inner-city youth through non-profit work, I am asking for financial assistance before the opportunity passes me by,

By donating to my GoFundMe campaign, you will give me the opportunity to focus on my education and my passion for helping kids overcome barriers that are similar to mine. Any money raised will go directly to my tuition, and my travel expenses, and will go far in helping me achieve my dreams.

Thank you!

Setting Goals, Part Two


Back in January, I shared how to set S.M.A.R.T goals and today I am here to share a few more of my goal setting tips!

Figure out your “big” thing
Between being a full time student at a major university and a full time employee, plus friend, girlfriend, blogger, etc. , my hands are pretty full with life. Without setting goals and breaking them down into steps every month, I wouldn’t be able to get as much done as I’d like and I’d feel like I was floating. Even though I do feel anxious and overwhelmed at times with life, I always can reflect on what my goals are and what needs to be done to accomplish them. How am I able to do this without being a hot mess most of the time?

I focus on the “big” thing that needs to be accomplished before anything else. My “big” thing at the moment is my education and trying my hardest to get good grades. So, whenever I feel overwhelmed with my huge list, I do what absolutely needs to be done to ensure my big thing is accomplished. Remember what is the most important to you and make sure you don’t lose focus on that. Sure, I’m not always fun when I lock myself in my room to study or take test but I know it’s my “big” thing and treasure it.

If goals are overwhelming, try a power word.
Last year, I was in a weird place. I had just broken up with my ex boyfriend at the time and moved in with a new roommate. I was in a city that although I had made friends, I only had two good ones which left me feeling isolated. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to work on or where to even start so I focused on a power word for the year, mindfulness. Everyday I tried to focus on the situation on hand and just be positive and open to new opportunities.

I can easily say 2014 was one of my greatest years. I went back to school, won a national award, saved up enough money to get my own apartment, traveled all over the U.S and met someone who has been pretty awesome for this season in my life.  I worked on myself and while working on myself is a continuous process, remembering my power word really helped me. Sometimes a big list of goals when we’re not sure what we want is fluff but focusing on a word you resonate with can help tremendously.

To Do List & Baby Steps Are Key
I get overwhelmed and anxious way more than the average person sometimes. When I feel this way, working on my goals is the last thing I can even imagine doing sometimes. Who wants to write a paper when their brain is fried after teaching all day? Instead of cracking out a full 5 page paper, I’ll start an outline or do research and then save the next step for another day. Instead of studying 5+ hours for a mid-term, I’ll do a chapter a night leading up to it for a week prior. It’s hard to do everything at once but by breaking it up and keeping a running to do list, it’s easier to accomplish and not as intimidating.

What do you do to accomplish your goals with ease?

March Goals


Harrison George, aka Kitty Bae.

The weather has been sooo nice lately in Phoenix lately that I am scared to jinx it and hope we’re able to get at least two more months without soaring high temps. Summer will be here before we know it and I’m not too excited since our summer is everyone else’s winter. As in, I’m not leaving the house and hate life. However, I do have a pool now and can walk around with no pants in my apartment, so, plus!

  • Get my apartment ready for my guests! My best friends are coming into town for Gay Pride and I am super excited to have them staying with me in my new apartment! I want to finish getting it ready for guests. I am completely unpacked but I don’t have anything on my walls and I have a pile of things to run to Goodwill. My dining room has been the catchall spot and I want nothing in it.
  •  Turn in all reimbursements, invoices and balancing out my spending. I have been bleeding money since the middle of January between buying things for my apartment, being sick for a few weeks and having too much fun with friends since I had put myself on a spending ban for awhile. I also buy items for my program at work that I am able to get reimbursed for however, I happen to be bad at turning in receipts. I also need to invoice a social media client, my work mileage, some writing, etc. I hope to get everything settled so I can see how close I am to reaching my goals!
  • Launch Israel crowdfunder! Since I didn’t receive my scholarship, I plan on fundraising my way to Israel! I’ve never fund raised anything before personally so I’m a little nervous. I plan on reading a book, shooting my video and launching next week. I’ll be sharing here as well as some other channels.
  • Continue to balance work and school.  It’s always a balancing act but I think for the most part I am doing well. I need to continue doing this and also taking more time for myself to do NOTHING. My cut off time from school and work will be 9pm every evening. I can read, watch Netflix or go to sleep like a little old lady.
  • Lose 5 more lbs!  I’ve been averaging a five lbs weight loss for the past two months and I’d like to lose another five lbs.  My 30th birthday is in a few months and I would like to be fit for the next decade in my life! Also, I want to look good in a romper 😉
  • Deal with the big thing. I have something big and ugly that has been hanging over me and is stressing me out. I have faith things will be resolved but it depends on some phone calls I have to make but avoid because it makes me anxious. I’ll be taking time everyday to deal with this until I can walk away from it.

That’s more than enough to keep me busy. What about you guys?