2018 Goals Check In- April Edition

Every month I’ll be recapping my 2018 goals for accountability. This is 3 or 4 of a monthly installment. I say 3 or 4 because I forget. Enjoy! ūüôā¬†

I don’t think I’ve officially checked in since February or March and since I’m all about accountability in these parts, I wanted to start checking in monthly again. Things were pretty ridiculous this month between working 50+ hours a week at my day job alone, running a 5k and then my body going kaput. I can say with faith at least my body knows when it’s okay to quit. ūüėČ

Business (And Professional)

  • Regularly¬†post on Money Smart Latina to bring resources and opportunities to help young women live their best lives. (All year) (Needs work. 2/12)
  • Match half of my day job income through my freelancing and blog. (All year) (Needs work but will still give credit. 2/12)
  • Create three freebies & two products (one e-book, one on Teachable). (Both completed by 9/15/2018) (Needs work 0/12)
  • Grow social media channels and newsletter subscribers to 4,000. (All year) (Needs work 0/12) Site redesign (Completed by June 2018) (N/A)
  • Present at a national conference¬†¬† (change of plan)
  • Continue growing in my current role (All year). (Yes! 4/12)

Health

  • Run a 5K (Completed by April 2018). (Done! 4/7/18)
  • Lose 40 lbs (10 lbs each by March 31st, June 30th, September 30th and December 31st). (2/4 done!)
  • Attend therapy 1x a week (All year). (Yes! 4/12)
  • Workout regularly 3x per week (All year). (Needs work 1/12)
  • Only drink alcohol on the weekends (All year). (Needs work, 2/12)
  • Successfully work towards completing thyroid cancer treatment (All year). (YES, Done 1/31/2018)
  • Pray every day. (All year) (Needs work, 2/12)

Finances

  • Pay $3,600 towards my student loans. (2/12)
  • Pay $6,000 of medical debt. (3/12)
  • Save $3,000 for a downpayment on a new car. (Needs work 0/12)
  • Save $3,000 towards dental work. (Needs work 0/12)
  • Move up retirement contributions by 2%. (Needs work 0/12)

Fun & Relationships

  • Attend all the weddings and graduations (Wedding 1- Feb, Graduation- May, Wedding 2- June)
  • Attend gay pride in Castro. (Completed by June 2018) (Stretch Goal) (canceled)
  • Attend National Seminar in New Orleans. (Completed by July 2018)¬†(canceled)
  • Attend FinCon in September.
  • Italy in October w/ H. (canceled)
  • Christmas Family Vacation (Completed by December 2018).
  • Read 36 books. (Almost on track- 13/36)

Business & Professional Summary

What freelancing at the Money Smart Latina headquarters really looks like.

Business & professional goals are going pretty well. Since I’ve been blogging consistently and put more time and effort, I’ve been getting partnerships to share with my community. I love working with partners to help bring resources to people, and I was especially proud of being picked to help talk taxes with Latino Financial expert Louis Barajas. Finances are so important and it’s been my goal to help share this knowledge with people who look like me. I’m happy to say I’m starting to get there but I know after talking to a few people, I should at least be putting a certain amount of time into my blog and I’m not currently there. I’m getting there though, which is what matter and my work is starting to show.

After speaking with my boss and getting a new opportunity at work, I’ve declined to go to New Orleans. It would have been a blast and great to present at a national level again but I’m okay with this decision. I need to spend time here making sure my new commitment is on solid footing and put my time and energy there. My boss also mentioned she would like me to look into getting a certain certificate so I should definitely look into doing that before I forget.

Health

Me at the Hilton of hospitals!

SO, I haven’t talked a lot about my health and it’s mainly because I didn’t know what was going on then got depressed about it. January and February went really well and I was feeling great. Then, I started getting these weird attacks. No one could figure out what was wrong with me because my blood work did not match up with my symptoms. I missed a lot of work, would have to go cry in my office on breaks from pain and overall just felt exhausted. I started sleeping a lot again and my overall quality of life just slowly started to go downhill.

After being diagnosed with two different incorrect conditions, I hit my rock bottom on April 28th and admitted myself to the hospital after a terrible night being ill. I prayed to God to heal me and then stopped breathing correctly.¬† One look at me and the admitting ER physician was finally able to tell me what was wrong. Of all things, it was my gallbladder. Yup, you heard that right. My gallbladder was so inflamed for so long, it was pushing my ribs out on a regular basis and causing back pain. I had gallstones piling up in my pancreas and couldn’t eat for close to 48 hours just for the swelling to go down. I’m so happy and blessed that almost a month later, I feel a lot better. Just today my surgeon lifted me off restrictions and while I know not to act crazy, I’m relieved.

Finances

Finance is an area that definitely needs some work. I had expected to be earning more by now to help with my goals listed up above and I’m not, which is disheartening. You can’t always count on blog income and it takes some people a long time to earn significant money online. I want my business model to be one that is sustainable and not burn out city like it was last year so I’m going to stay true to my values and keep trucking.

This month, I’ve really mainstreamed my budget and will be trying again to live off cash. My first week so far has been going pretty well so I’m excited to see how the next three weeks play out with these cash envelopes!

Fun & Relationships

Yay, we did it!

Let’s see, I had a few birthday parties, a 5K, a roller derby tournament and dinner with friends. I also attended a concert I’ve been pretty much waiting on for months, not to mention my whole life, David Byrne. It was in my top three of shows I’ve seen, he was that good of a performer. It was him and a 14 piece band that had no shoes and they didn’t need any special effects or props. Although a lot of my trips this year have been canceled, I am still going to Vegas later this month! Excited to see my family and watch my niece graduate from high school with 40+ college credits.

Come to me David!

I am slowly on track to meet my reading goal and I’m currently at 13 of 36. I have faith I can make it this year and I’ve definitely been trying to get into my old habit of reading an hour before bed every day. Telling myself no phone after 9 pm definitely helps.

Closing Remarks

I feel good about my health, my day job, and relationships but not so great about my finances and my business. This is totally on me but it hurts to see that we are almost halfway through the year and I haven’t made any progress on these. That will be my main focus from now until the end of summer along with my health.

How did your month go?

How To Spring Clean Like Your Abeula

Growing up in a half-Latino household meant there was no time for dust. From sun up to sun down, my Abuela spent every minute being productive. Whether it was driving me to school, dressing up her Pomeranian, or cleaning, my Abuela wasted no time. While my mom and dad worked,  Abuela was the taking care of the business in our household. Fabuloso was as much as a staple in our house as much as Lady of Guadalupe and Vicks.

As much as I wish I was as put together as my Abuela, with her matching blouses and earrings, I like to think there are somethings that I have inherited. I love knick-knacks, doilies, Pomeranians and I’m not afraid to get down and dirty to make my casa sparkle. If you want to make your¬†Abuela proud, light a candle and get to work by following these tips.

First, Set The Mood

I am a firm believer that mind over matter, well, matters. Mindset influences everything, which is why so many people advocate being positive over being negative and bitter. Sooo easier said than done sometimes! But by setting the right intention and mindset, you can really get a lot done.

Let in as much natural light as you can when you are getting ready to clean and if that’s still not enough, don’t hesitate to turn on some lights. Put on the kind of music that pumps you up, so you feel full of energy. Beyonce always gets me going or some catchy 80’s pop. Gather all essential cleaning supplies and if you need any, be sure to purchase some from the local dollar store. And don’t hesitate to make yourself a cup of¬†Caf√© con leche¬†to get some extra pep in your step.

Go Room By Room & Get Rid Of Junk

After the coffee kicks in, decide what room to start your spring cleaning in. Grab a trash bag, a box, and a laundry basket to bring into the room with you and take a look around. Anything in this room that is trash throw it away. This could be random pieces of trash you’ve been meaning to toss out anyways, old newspapers, magazines, mailing inserts, etc. If you are in your bathroom or kitchen, it could be expired products and food. If it’s trash, it’s time to get it out of here.

Next, put anything that doesn’t belong in this room into the laundry basket. Maybe it’s your shoes that go in your bedroom or a random glass. Put it in the laundry basket so you can put it away when you enter that room for cleaning. Anything that doesn’t belong in this room GOES IN THE BASKET. If you do have items laying around that do belong in that area of your home, put them back in the proper place. By picking up your home alone, it will look a hundred times better. You know your abuela had a place for everything and everything in its place!

If there is something that doesn’t have a place and you’ve been meaning to get rid of it, put it in the box. This box you can easily drop off to Goodwill for a tax write-off,¬† sold on Poshmark or listed on Amazon. I’m all about making extra money while I declutter, as efficiently as possible. A great way to get rid of junk and have fun with your amigas at the same time is to host a yard sale. I made over $30 selling makeup I received for free so it’s always worth a try!

Top To Bottom

Now that all unnecessary objects are out of the room, carry in all cleaning supplies. Work your way from top to bottom in an orderly fashion so dust falls to the bottom of the floor and you can vacuum or sweep it up last. Dust the top of ceiling fans, bookshelves, and any surfaces you have in your home. Don’t be afraid to wipe down any electronics or appliances you use on a regular basis. If there is something you’re not utilizing, see if there is any proper storage that can hold these items. I find the less I put on countertops, the more spacious my place feels.

Once you’ve wiped down all surfaces from top to bottom, don’t forget your floors. I have a gato so I prefer to sprinkle down carpet freshener to help trap all hair and dirt he may leave. You don’t have to have a pet to use carpet freshener as I highly recommend it for a fresh feeling! Make sure you sweep as well as you can and then mop with Fabuloso or any other cleaner of your choice to get your floors to shine. Pay attention to baseboards and corners of the floor too, as this is where dust bunnies can collect. You can have a clean floor but it can still look crummy if your baseboards are dirty.

Don’t Forget Random Nooks And Crannies

While it’s easy to focus on items you can easily see, don’t forget places that aren’t as visible to the naked eye. Make a list of items you can easily forget and make a concrete effort to tackle those as you go from room to room.

The refrigerator, my kitchen sink, and cupboards are items you don’t think to clean or organize and this would be a great time to do it along with your junk drawer. I’ve already mentioned baseboards and corners but don’t forget walls, doorknobs and light switches which can all change color due to layers of everyday dirt. You could also take this time to soak your shower head in a vinegar solution to dissolve any calcium that may have been building up from hard water.

All of these things add up and can make your home look even nicer and fresher. No one wants to see a spotless room with a dirty light switch. If anything, a clean room will make these things stand out more! So spend an extra five minutes with a magic eraser and wipe the wall.

Wash All Linen

The second to last tip I have is to wash all of the linen in your home. Most people think just your bedding is considered linen but not so. All linen that is used every day is up for grabs this time!

Bathroom and smaller rugs can be cleaned in the washing machine on cold than hung to dry outside or placed in the dryer on a light cycle. Towels that are used frequently can also be thrown into the washer along with certain types of curtains (check the label!), especially the one hanging in your shower. Don’t forget any blankets that are kept on the couch and any other fabric surfaces that could use a good vacuum and spot cleaning.

If you’re feeling super adventurous, you could rewash any extra bedding guest may use, your animals beds and pillows. This will definitely help dust creep and take care of any extra allergens you may have in your home.

Invest In Some Finishing Touches

You know the main thing your abuela had going on was making her house feel like an actual home. Not only did she have Chocolate Caliente ready with the novellas, she also had family photos, splashes of color, the saints and everything else that made you feel warm.

If it’s in the budget, take time to pick out a few things to help your place feel like a home. Pick up some fresh flowers, a candle or some new pillows to help tie the place together. Hang up some art you’ve been meaning to or pay respects to a loved one by making a small altar. One thing I’m making an effort to do in my own place is to add more color and fewer knick-knacks. But as any Latina knows, that’s easier said than done! I also plan on keeping true to my Latina roots by hanging up a few crosses and rosaries from different family occasions that I’ve been meaning to.

Closing Remarks

Spring cleaning like your abuela doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating! As you probably know, you regretted having to spend the weekend doing chores or getting hit with the broom if you said you were bored. But, your abuela was obviously onto something and that was making the house a home. Grab a dustpan and make her proud.

New Phone, Who Dis? A Money Smart Latina Cricket Wireless Review

As a Money Smart Latina, I’m constantly looking for ways to spend less. Seriously, the other day when I heard my friend was going to Costco I asked her to price compare supplements, then paid her via Venmo to grab them for me. She also grabbed snacks and meat for me, but I digress. I’m always looking for ways to spend less and cut expenses and nothing is off the table. I once negotiated my rent in a nice neighborhood in Las Vegas.

When Cricket Wireless asked me if I would like to review a phone, I jumped at the chance. Not only are they an affordable cell phone service provider, it came at a perfect time. My cell phone contract is up for renewal and now is the time to consider my options!

First Of All, What Do I Look For In A Phone Plan?

Phone plans and options have definitely changed since I bought my first phone in high school. My first phone was a Nokia offered by (of all providers) Cricket! Cricket didn’t have the best service at the time only working in Metro Phoenix, but it was perfect for me. I needed a reliable phone because I was never home and my family was able to reach me at any time. I could also text and call my BF as much as I wanted to, and friends, since my plan was unlimited for both texts and minutes. This was something that used to be unheard of, especially at an affordable price.

Now that I’m older, I look for a plan that’s reliable, meets my needs for my lifestyle and is within my budget. I travel a lot, both for fun and business, so it’s important to have a phone I can relay in should something happen, such as a flat tire or getting sick. When I’m not traveling, I’m capturing memories with friends to share on social media.¬† I also run a successful business online and need to be able to access social media channels, files and projects should be clients need something when I’m away from a laptop. So, finding a phone and data plan within my price range can definitely be a little tricky.

That’s Nice, But What Should I Look For?

Before you look for anything, really think about what you need and what you want. For example, you need water but you don’t need soda. So, what are things that may be of importance?

  • Data: Data is the internet that goes with your phone plan. It’s also the internet you use for everything, from checking your SnapChat to listening to the new releases on Spotify. If you are consistently on your phone, you are probably plowing through your data like crazy if you aren’t accessing available wi-fi.
  • Network: The network is the coverage provided by the service towers by your phone company. As long as your phone is within the service area, you will be able to make and receive calls and texts. You should also be able to access your data.
  • Contract: Cell phone providers will try to get you to sign a commitment, which locks you into an agreement with them sometimes for two or three years in exchange for a discounted phone. Since it’s an immediate saving, most consumers take this option, despite paying more money in the long run with services fees and not being able to custom tailor their plan to fit their needs.
  • Pricing: Self-explanatory, everyone plan comes with a price, based on your needs. An unlimited minute and text plan will also be more, along with a higher package of data. Sometimes, you can find a discount through an employee or organization you belong to but saving $5 or $10 on a $150 bill might not provide much relief.
  • Phone: What do you need in a phone? Do you need access to apps to help you run a business on the go? A decent camera to capture memories? Or maybe just an extensive space to keep track of everything. All of these should be considered, especially if your phone needs to last you a few years. I try to buy a phone that is within my budget but still of high quality. This is to avoid me replacing it every other year.

More Coverage, Now More Than Ever

Will my BF answer? Can he indeed, really hear me now?

Cricket has definitely improved their network and service since I was in high school and even more so than when I had them for a year after college in Las Vegas. In high school, my service only pertained to the Phoenix area since they were still relatively new, like Metro PCS. This meant if I went outside of Phoenix by even five or ten miles, I’d have absolutely nothing, which was frustrating. This meant day trips to the lake were not really something I could do since my family couldn’t get ahold of me. I also couldn’t keep my service after moving up north to a more remote, rural area. I broke down and ended up getting a Sprint phone I kept until I was twenty-one.

After a few years without one, I signed back up for Cricket Wireless. It was nice to finally have a cell phone again and be able to be back on my feet after a rough time in my life. While it was reliable service in Las Vegas, it was hard to get service in college. It was especially hard when traveling to Michigan for Christmas with my ex a few times. Frustrated, I ended up sharing a family phone plan with a good friend and ended my relationship with Cricket.

Cricket has since then been acquired by AT&T and runs off of their network. Anyone with AT&T, including myself, can tell you the network is pretty efficient and rarely with dead zones. I’ve been an AT&T customer for the past nine years and I’m quite happy with the coverage AT&T provides. I’m even more interested to know that Cricket now has the same network across the country. I’m sad to say I’ve held onto the belief based on my past experiences that coverage wasn’t that wide but now it looks like times have definitely changed.

For Half The Price

Success! And he can hear me now!

Despite acquired by AT&T, Cricket has stayed true to their pricing model and continues to have affordable cell phone plans for both individuals and families. Their plans start as low as $25 for just talk and text, which would be great for someone who just needs one in case of emergencies. For people like me, and many other millennials, their UNLIMITED MAX HIGH-SPEED DATA PLAN IS $60 A MONTH! Sorry, I’m just in shock that this is an unlimited plan for such a low price. I consider myself a bargain shopper but I’m paying more than that and my data ends at 5Gs before overage fees apply. ūüôĀ

Cricket also offers smartphones just like other major cell phone providers for reasonable prices. I was provided an Alcatel PULSEMIX for my consideration and while it wasn’t my iPhone, I was impressed to see what an Andriod could do, even one that wasn’t a Samsung. My BF actually made fun of me because he saw an Apple nerd browsing through a Driod. Oops.

So, What Do I Think?

Honestly, I think Cricket is a great option for a lot of reasons. Cricket does not do credit checks to obtain service so if you are just starting out with no credit score, or have a low one due to past choices, you will still be approved. It’s hard to be approved for other providers if this pertains to you so the fact that you can be approved and served by an affordable, reliable cell phone provider is great.

I also love the fact that it is affordable, which I briefly mentioned up above, with no contract required. While not everything in life comes with as much freedom and flexibility, having a phone plan that does is awesome. You can not only cancel service but you can downgrade or upgrade based on your budget. Since I’m all about a budget, this is a great option and proves that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to take care of business.

Thanks Cricket Wireless for sharing the wealth with me and all the other Money Smart Latinas out there!

(Phone was provided by Cricket Wireless but all opinions are my own and will always be honest as I strive to provide integrity for all readers.) 

How Cancer Helped Me Come To Terms With My Student Debt

My longest relationship started on August 3rd, 2004 when I picked up a pen. I looked at the financial aid officer smugly in the eye as I signed on the dotted line and smiled. Take that, I thought, mainly to myself because what did they care. They weren’t the one who just accepted student loans to go to a community college. My father had never been able to save for education but was willing to let me live rent-free if I went. I took him up on the offer and took out student loans to pay for it. Okay, and maybe I also took them out to help fund my new lifestyle. I’ll pay it back, I promised myself on spring break. I’m only in college once!

Well, I wasn’t only in college once, I was in college a total of three times. Most recently, I graduated in 2016 from Arizona State University paying what is considered cheap tuition for a university. While I don’t think paying $11,000 a year is a steal, not including parking or books, Google says otherwise. And while I’m not too angry with myself for finishing my two degrees no matter what, I was really angry for taking too long and taking too many breaks when life felt difficult.

With a reported 44 million other Americans dealing with student loan debt, I know I’m not alone but it’s still hard. Because of my student loan payment, I didn’t feel comfortable taking on other financial commitments or maxing out retirement. I still dealt with a scarcity mindset and I was consistently afraid the other shoe would drop. In November of 2016, the other shoe did drop. My doctor found a lump in my throat.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, all of it. I remember finding the lump and calling my boyfriend on the way home from the doctor. I remember all of the tests and my friends holding my hands. I remember getting the diagnosis and meeting with the surgeon. I remember the night before surgery going out to dinner with his mom and my dad. I also remember pleading with my boyfriend that if anything happened to me to please take my cat. I couldn’t imagine him wondering why I never came back after leaving one day.

After surgery, I woke up. The nurse gave my apple juice, my boyfriend spent the night with me watching Game of Thrones and my cat insisted on being a night nurse. The world didn’t end. I was still there. It wasn’t my time yet. The other shoe had dropped and I made it out okay.

It’s now been almost 16 months since I woke up from surgery. This past January, I received the good news I had been waiting over a year to hear. For the first time, no cancer is showing up in my bloodwork and my hormone levels are healthy. I’m finally feeling better, good even, and I’ve lost 17lbs. I still have health problems but I’ll make it through. The other shoe dropped and I’m okay.

Cancer has taught me that life is abundant, not scarce. I don’t have to be scared of paying down my debt while still living my life if I am responsible. I can contribute more to retirement, go on trips and pay down my debt as much as I can because there will always be more where that comes from.

Fin Health, especially when it comes to student loan debt, is important. If you aren’t financially healthy or have the proper mindset, it can really hinder you from completing your goals. It’s way too easy to become obsessed with paying down debt and feeling that you are just that. You’re debt. I think that’s what had me stuck in a scarcity mindset before rather than abundance. It’s easy to think you’re just debt or cancer, but then you realize how lucky and full your life really is. And then you can see yourself clearly again. Like, who you were before this even happened.

Today, I’m back to feeling like my scrappy self. I still have my career, stronger than ever, advocating for youth who need someone in their corner. My cat still meows loudly when I’m on the phone doing an interview. I still drink coffee, watch reality tv and read a book a week. My business is booming and my budget is rocking. Those student loans are coming down. The other shoe dropped and I’m okay. You’ll be okay too.

This post is being entered for the CFSI #FinHealthMatters competition. Wish me luck! 

 

 

Unbanked & Underserved: #FinHealthMatters 2018 w/Jason Vitug!

When I was in high school, I had no idea what my career path would look like after high school. I barely graduated on time, if at all, due to being a hot mess most of my high school career. A career with a high-income potential sounded great so I found myself bouncing around majors within the medical field while working part-time at a non-profit.  Nothing ever stuck which is how I found myself in a criminal justice class. An ex-boyfriend had suggested it since I loved watching forensic files so much. Since I needed an elective anyways, I sat in the class waiting to see what it held. And I am so glad I did.

Taking that criminal justice class was the best thing that came out of that relationship, and one of the best things in life I could have done for myself.  A passion I never knew existed awoke inside me as I started devouring my classes one by one. Although I had known the true crime side of things alone with forensics, social polices were new to me. Rehabilitation, or lack thereof, and the actual cause of crime itself were also new and fascinating. I went on to complete associates in criminal justice,  a dual bachelors in criminal justice and criminology and a minor in LGBT studies. I also spent time in Israel completing a counterterrorism program.

Throughout my academic career, I never stopped wanting to help people. Through I dabbled here and there with trying to work in policing, I never continuously¬†pursued it. I loved advocating for youth so much that I am now going on my fifteenth year in the non-profit sector. It’s through my major of criminal justice and career of advocating for kids who look like me that I realized how unbanked and underserved low-income communities really were and still are.

One reason I feel so passionate about connecting people with resources and knowledge is to help break the cycle. Cycles of poverty and crime plague so many communities in a country that prides itself on opportunity. Where you are born should never determine your life yet it does every day. We need to make a change.

I am so honored that my colleague and friend Jason Vitug has invited me to speak during #FinHealthMatters 2018 on April 25th, 2018. The live event starts at 7am EST and I’ll be going on at 8am EST to discuss how we can better assist communities who are unbanked and under-served. I’ll be sharing my journey along with some surprising¬†facts as well as resources and actionable steps to help others. Jason is a real powerhouse going until 11:30pm¬†EST and I’m excited to see the other presenters share topics they are passionate about to help promote #finhealth! Many of these people I know on a personal level so I can easily say Jason is bringing the best. Catch the live stream on Facebook using this link and let me know what you think. I look forward to sharing my work and passion with so many of you.

And if you happen to be the one needing assistance? I’ll be sharing some gems for you too. I’ll also be updating¬†my website to include resources which should be available by the end of May. Your income or social status does not determine your potential. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

2018 Goals Check In Pt 1

Happy Friday! I can’t believe we are already done with the first month in 2018! I wanted to report back on my goals for the year and keep myself accountable for my progress. Here’s the first of many updates!

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. 0/12)
  • Match half of my day job income through my freelancing and blog. (All year) (Needs work but will still give credit. 1/12)
  • 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 (Completed by July 2018). (N/A)
  • Continue growing in my current role (All year). (Yes! 1/12)

Health

  • Run a 5K (Completed by April 2018). (N/A)
  • Lose 40 lbs (10 lbs each by March 31st, June 30th, September 30th and December 31st). (1/4 done!)
  • Attend therapy 1x a week (All year). (Yes! 1/12)
  • Workout regularly 3x per week (All year). (Needs work 0/12)
  • Only drink alcohol on the weekends (All year). (Yes! 1/12)
  • Successfully work towards completing thyroid cancer treatment (All year). (YES, Done 1/31/2018)
  • Pray every day. (All year) (Yes! 1/12)

Finances

  • Pay $3,600 towards my student loans. (1/12)
  • Pay $6,000 of medical debt. (2/12)
  • 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)
  • Attend FinCon in September.
  • Italy in October w/ H. (canceled)
  • Christmas Family Vacation (Completed by December 2018).
  • Read 36 books. (Ahead of schedule! 2/12)

Business & Professional Summary

This area needs a lot of work. Quite honestly, I haven’t practiced good time management this month. I was zoning out a lot for the first half of it when I wasn’t freelancing and wasted a lot of time. Most of it was spent mindlessly scrolling through social media on my phone in bed. It’s okay every once in awhile to check out mentally, but I can do it for hours, which isn’t a good thing.

However, the second half of the month was much better. I got all of my freelancing done on time, invoiced before the end of the month, attended a webinar my friend Latisha put on and worked on some accountability goals. But, after rounding up my spending, I really need to focus on my business so I can grow my income to help with some of my financial goals. Even if I drastically cut my spending, I still wouldn’t be able to make some of them. Time to hustle!

Health

Health is going pretty well! I’ve been regularly attending yoga, going to the chiropractor and I’ve lost 10lbs. I wasn’t expecting to lose 10lbs until at least March so I will take it as a win! I also made all of my checkups this month which will explain why my health category was so damn high, in regards to spending.

The biggest win this month was that my endocrinologist called and told me that THERE ARE NO CANCER MARKERS IN MY BLOOD. This means that I am now testing negative for cancer in my bloodwork, which is great news! I am not cancer free but I do not have to go back to the endocrinologist until 6-12mths. Such a blessing. God is good!

Although I’ve had such good progress on a few goals, I have stalled in some. I get carried away and don’t practice balance. So while my eating has been great, I’ve been slacking off on taking my supplements and working out. I need to figure out a consistent way to balance it all.

Finances

Finance is an area that definitely needs some work. This is the first time I have tracked my spending for a full month in probably years. Now I know I definitely need to get back to it. What gets tracked gets measured, eh? My spending is in percentages as followed. This doesn’t include any money I have in my emergency fund, put towards retirement or other benefits through work.

  • Rent/ Utilities 28.29%
  • Health 20.23%
  • Debt 15%
  • Groceries 7.73%
  • Transportation 6.70%
  • Entertainment 6.80%
  • Resturants 6.18%
  • Harrison 3.78%
  • Business 1.71%
  • Beauty/ Hygiene 1.58%
  • Home .72%
  • Travel .69%

I honestly thought being home this month would free up room in my budget and I now know that was a lie. As a natural spender and extrovert, I always want to go out and do fun things with my friends. And since I have a lot of friends, it’s not hard finding someone to go out with.¬† I stay home on Fridays too!

I also spent a ton of money on my health this month. Checkups, prescriptions and ongoing management add up. But, I need to be proactive now so my health stays steady and does not get worse. Once you have one¬†autoimmune disorder, they start racking up so it’s important to be as proactive as possible.

My goal next month was to try to cut my spending by at least 10% but my body laughed at me. It could definitely be worse though and I’ll get into that in next months update. I’m happy my living expenses are still under 30% despite my rent increase and I was able to pay 15% of my take-home pay towards debt!

Fun & Relationships

As indicated above, I am having a grand ole time in this department.

This month, I’ve gone to a Backstreet Boys vs N’Sync Dance Off Party, attended my friends roller-derby game (she’s a beast), checked out a new bar by my house I always wanted to and got together for dinner with a few others. Everyone probably says this, but I am truly blessed with the support system that I have. What I lack in family, God has given me in friends and I recognize that is a significant blessing. It’s been nice to finally be in town for a longer than a week and catch up with so many.

I’ve also been taking time to catch up on my reading. So far this year, I’ve read six books.

  • The Fall (The Strain Trilogy #2) by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
  • The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy #3) by Guillmero Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
  • Make Every Man Want You by Marie Forleo
  • In Full Color by Rachel Dolezal
  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King
  • A Sick Life by Tionne “T-Boz” Wakins

A few years ago, I became a huge fan of the TV show “The Strain.” I don’t watch TV very often but I do have a few shows I enjoy. Although the TV show was based on a trilogy, I had never picked it up until this past Christmas. I immediate became hooked and finished the trilogy in a matter of days. If you are a fan of horror and advance vampire scenarios, I highly recommend it. The writing was done beautifully and actually left me spooked. H’s pipes were making a sound and I made him investigate because I was certain someone was in a wall, LOL. Another but less spooky book I finally read was Sleeping Beauties. Not as gory as other Stephen King books but will still keep you on your toes.

The rest¬†of the books I read were memoirs and one self-help book. Rachel Dolezal is very interesting and I won’t really say a lot on her book or her actions of cultural appropriation but I enjoyed to see how she rationalized her actions. I also enjoyed “A Sick Life.” I’ve always been a huge TLC fan and it was interesting to see her take on her chronic illness. As someone in her early thirties, it can be really discouraging to have so many autoimmune disorders but this book reminded me I’m not alone in my fight.

And as for travel, a few of my trips I planned to take this year have been canceled. Timing was for a few of them and one was the political climate. This is not a politics blog but travel for Americans isn’t what it used to be. But then again, was it ever?

Closing Remarks

I’m happy with this month’s progress. I feel really good about some areas in my life and recognize I need more balance so I can spend some time on others. I am considering make changes in my schedule so I can spend more time on my business and will be hopefully reporting back next month on a positive note.

How did your month go?

The Latina’s Guide To Traveling

As I have mentioned before, I used to dream of traveling. Being so broke in my 20s didn’t allow me a lot of extras. After a canceled trip with friends,¬† I decided to finally make my dream into a reality in 2013 by booking a plane ticket to New York City. I had a friend who (still) lives in Brooklyn, so she not only hosted me but also played tour guide (thanks, Leslie!).¬† I unlocked a love that I had no idea even existed and ran with it. Soon after, I broke up with my ex-boyfriend and started renting a room from a friend. Renting a room, and now being smart with my current apartment setup, has allowed me the flexibility, both financially and physically, to travel.

Even though I have an insane passion for traveling, I have decided to scale back my trips this year to work on my goals, mainly my business and health. It’s hard for me to fully commit to these two things if I am not in a consistent environment. But even with scaling back, I’ll still be spending time in the friendly skies. And I want to share my travel tips to help you can enjoy your vacation too!

Set The Intent For Your Trip

As much as I love a good plan, I’ve realized you need to be honest with yourself. So, before you plan any trip, ask yourself two questions:

  • What is the purpose of my trip?
  • What kind of traveler do I want to be?

Over the years, I’ve realized no two trips are the same, even if it’s the same destination. I’ve been to Orlando twice for work and each time I had a different experience, because of what traveler I had decided to be. One trip felt frazzled because I insisted on cramming everything in and one trip felt relaxing because I stayed in more, ate on site and got more quality sleep.

By asking yourself the questions above, you can be more precise about how you would like to plan your trip. If your trip is to sightsee and you want to be relaxed, maybe only schedule one thing a day instead of cramming five. There is no right or wrong way to travel; it’s about following the intent you set and having fun.

Do your research

Once you have set your intent for your trip, start doing some research! Look up your destination on your phone and see what there is to do. Make a list of everything that seems excited, then look further into logistics and pricing. Once you have a list of possible sights, start stacking them up against the intent of your trip and timeline.

It’s important to note hours of location and days it will¬†be closed. Check to see if it’s accessible via your mode of transportation and if they take cash or credit. It’s assumed that everyone accepts a card these days, but that’s not always the case. In fact, plenty of vendors do not want to pay a transaction fee so they will happily accept only cash or provide an onsite ATM that charges you even more money.

It’s also essential to research possible admission and wait times. Last year when I went to San Francisco, Alcatraz Island was sold out for weeks in advance. Alcatraz Island is also very time consuming and if I hadn’t known that in advance, I would have attempted to squeeze in another activity.

Save Adequately

After you’ve set the intent for your trip and a general plan, be sure to save adequately. I can’t stress this enough for so many reasons. Stuff happens in life so you can expect it to happen when traveling.

While traveling, I’ve needed medical care, lost items that needed to be replaced, broken things by accident and have had to figure out alternative transportation. I’ve also decided that I was¬†going to have that extra Malibu & Pineapple drink, eat that dessert or buy that cute trinket I didn’t need.

It’s important to not only save for what you plan on doing but to save a bit extra just in case. Nobody likes to feel stressed out when traveling. Money doesn’t make you a happier person but it can definitely make things easier.¬† A good rule of thumb I follow is to save an additional fifty dollars per day I’m away. I almost always bring home extra cash that just goes towards my next adventure!

Keep a bag of essentials on you when traveling

While I pack as much as I can in the suitcase I check (I have a bad back), there are some items I refuse to part with when traveling and keep them in my backpack at all times. Think about it. Are there some items that you would have a hard time replacing or are irreplaceable? Yeah, don’t check them. While the worst thing that happened to me was someone had gone through my luggage at the Philadelphia Airport baggage claim, I consider myself lucky. I’ve heard worse experiences such as people’s items get stolen or their entire bag goes missing. Someone in my study abroad program didn’t have his suitcase for five days.

My carry on consists of everything I need to keep me going for a few days in case something happened to my luggage. Any electronics with their respectable chargers are kept in my bag along with headphones, a book and any other source of entertainment. I also keep my makeup bag with a few toiletries and all of my prescription meds on hand. Where you are traveling to may not have your pharmacy, or your copays may just be outrageous like mine. As a bonus, I keep a sweater, snacks, an eye mask and earplugs for some additional comforts. I can’t nap very often on planes anymore, but I do enjoy resting while listening to a podcast. And snacks ensure I am never hungry when traveling due to being a Celiac.

Be realistic & safe

Traveling is exciting and is also full of unknowns. No one expects to be caught in an uncomfortable situation or get sick. But things happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially as female travelers.

If you are traveling alone or with a group of friends, make sure someone knows of your location at all times. Human trafficking is real and so is rape. To help prevent this, do not leave your drink unattended for any amount of time. If someone offers to buy you a drink, ask the bartender if you can watch them make it. Do not get into a strangers car if they offer you a ride or offer to go to their hotel room if you have just met them. I know I probably sound like a buzz kill if you are intent on having fun, but I’m okay with that. As a criminal justice major, and social justice warrior, I’ve heard horror stories, especially involving women of color.

It’s also important when traveling to have emergency contact information ready to go in case something happens to you or you get sick. When studying abroad in Israel, the stomach flu ran through our class like wildfire. Two people were¬†hospitalized and one didn’t have any emergency contact information. You may not get the flu but there are other accidents and ailments that could harm you. Make sure your emergency contacts are accessible and ready to go. If you have a serious health condition, it may be worth it to invest in a medical I.D bracelet.

Enjoy The Present

The last piece of advice I’ll share is to try to enjoy the present. In today’s world, it’s so easy to be glued to your phone checking in everywhere and taking photos. I am so guilty of this myself! I now try to make a conscious effort to put my phone away and enjoy my experience. I’m not perfect, and my phone comes out way more than it should, but I’m trying.

Two things I’ve done to help me enjoy the present is to journal at night for a few minutes and accept that my day will not 100% go as planned. By journaling, I’m taking time to write things down that¬† I would like to remember as well as time to reflect. I love visiting museums when I’m traveling, and sometimes, the material is deep. Journaling helps me process any residual feelings I may have.

Accepting my day for what it is has helped me be in the present by relieving frustration. I have a lot of health issues and I get frustrated when I can’t do any activity It’s usually because I need to rest or my body just can’t physically handle it. When I feel anguish, my coping mechanism is to usually cry. Now, I try to be kind to myself and instead, look for things to be grateful for. Last December, my back went out while visiting my boyfriend.¬† I literally laid on his bed and cried.

But being kind allowed me to not dwell on this setback and instead, be grateful. The previous day I walked all over New York City and even saw Hamilton on Broadway with absolutely no pain. Yes, I was currently in a lot of pain but I could take this time to just be. And because I didn’t stress and make my back worse, I felt ready to go the next day!

Closing Remarks

Traveling as a Latina, or anyone can be a lot of fun! Every time I travel, I am filled with excitement and wonder. Even if it’s someplace I’ve been to a dozen times, like New York City, there is always something that makes me happy to be there.

I hope by sharing my tips above, I have inspired you to go on your own journey. By setting an intention for your trip and doing your research, you will be able to save adequately. Having a great flight can help you feel refreshed when you arrive at your destination and ready to go when you land. Have fun Latinas!

The Importance Of A Spending Fast

For much of my life, I have not wanted to deal with my feelings. Growing up as an only child, I really didn’t have to. While my dad balanced two jobs most of the time (he used to be a workaholic), my mom stayed at home due to her ailing health. I had my mom all to myself and she was my best friend. Whenever I had an issue or a problem or was just being a jerk, my mom was there to listen and fix it. It’s no wonder that after her death I found myself so lost.

I’m not a special snowflake but I feel things more than the general population due to a few mental health disorders I battle on a daily basis. For most of my life, up until recent years, I wasn’t medicated or in therapy. I dealt with things on my own or rather, didn’t. I became codependent, wanting to be obsessed with my partner. I gained weight because I loved food or more like I ate until I was numb. And I gave in to a shopping addiction because stuff was gonna make me a better person. I remember threatening to leave in a fight with my ex-fiancee and he threatened to take away my Tiffany & Co jewelry because he knew it would make me stay. Yeah, I’m embarrassed too.

I’m happy to report that while I can still be codependent, I am now in a loving and healthy relationship with a man I adore and who adores me too. While I gained an excessive amount of weight due to a thyroid issue, I don’t eat my feelings anymore. And while I still enjoy nice jewelry and things, I would never stay in a situation because of them. But lately, I keep wanting more.

Revalation

I want to buy all the things lately. It started with a shopping bender at Bath & Body Works. Next, I added a bunch of Halloween decorations to my cart that I didn’t need.¬† Then, I bought a ton of Stephen King books. Granted, I never pay full price for a book but did I really need so many? Fast food started showing up on my bank statement and so did extra pounds on the scale. I stocked up on snacks like they were going out of style. Last but not least, I caught myself trying to dress up my office wardrobe. I could use a few new things, mainly black flats and black cigarette pants, but I didn’t need all of the items I was ready to buy. It was until last week that I realized I was miserable.

I can’t get into all of the details about my revelation but maybe one day I can. All I know is that I was spending money and buying things to make me happy when that wasn’t going to do the trick. Isn’t that why a lot of us buy crap we don’t need or even necessarily want? Because one day it’s going to magically make us happy? All I ever want is to be happy and healthy and that really means dealing with what’s bothering me.

Am I Spending On My Happy?

I knew I needed to participate in a spending fast like Anna from And Then We Saved talks about on her blog because I needed to plug some money leaks. While plugging a money leak is like a band-aid, it gives me time to figure out what is really going on with the plumbing and why I am leaking in the first place.

This is why evaluating your spending is so important. Every time you swipe your debit card, you are voting with your dollars what matters to you. Is it living in a nice safe place? Or driving an expensive car? Does eating out help you feel better? Or does shopping at Target every week?

I am not saying spending money is a bad thing. Instead, I am a firm believer that you should put your money where your happy is like Sarah from Yes & Yes (one of the best blogs ever) preaches. But if you are spending money because you don’t want to deal with something, you won’t truly be happy. And if you aren’t truly happy, what’s the point of just spending money on stuff?

Sangria with the boyfriend makes me happy.

I’ll be continuing on my spending fast until the end of the month and then I’ll re-evaluate to see how I feel about my money leaks. So far, so good, but I know this weekend will be rough. My friends are all going to a taco festival and I’ll probably suffer from a slight case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Instead of wallowing, I plan on cleaning my house, decorating for Halloween and just taking it easy. I won’t be home the next two weekends so I plan on taking it easy while I can!

How do you determine what your spending leaks are? Have you ever participated in a spending fast?

Athena

 

Taking Care Of Yourself Is Not Selfish

This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

There have been numerous times in my life I have felt like I hit rock bottom. Or had really shitty years. One of my coping mechanisms in my life, when I am overwhelmed, is to self-destruct. And believe me, I am really good at self-destructing. I have lost jobs, romantic relationships, friendships and money. Lots of money.

But, I have also seemingly kept it together for the most part. I was able to graduate twice from college with a double major in criminology and criminal justice, a minor in LGBT studies and a study abroad program in Israel studying counter-terrorism. I’ve been promoted several times at work in the past four years. I’ve built a successful online business. I¬†have my¬†own apartment with my cat in a hip and fun neighborhood. And I travel. A lot.

But no one sees the days I struggle getting out of bed. The nights I mindlessly hit refresh on my Facebook app because I can’t be bothered to deal with anything else. Days when I’ve only had three hours of sleep. How dirty my house gets. My anxiety attacks when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and what I feel is my failing health. The constant worry of being abandoned. Or how trying to find the silver lining in shitty situations is what gets me through them.

Mental illness looks different on everyone. Just because someone seems like they are functioning doesn’t mean they are. And it’s not weak to admit you need help. I couldn’t do what I do without my amazing team of doctors who work with me to help me find balance and relief. I couldn’t do it without friends that are loving and understanding, even when I have faults. And I couldn’t do it without my amazing partner of four years who has seen me at my worst and still holds my hand.

If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. I’m here to cheer you on. And so are others.

September Goals

Ahh, fall is here. Or, if you live in Arizona like me, the idea of fall is here. I’m okay with that though, temperatures are supposed to be dropping next week by ten degrees and that alone will be bringing some much-needed relief.

Since my birthday, things have been pretty quiet except on the health front. I’ve been in and out of the hospital and doctor offices for radiation damage done to my salivary glands. I’ve been under going treatment for thyroid cancer since January and while my radiation was in March, I am now suffering from severe radiation damage. It’s very common with the radiation¬†I had but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Basically, my ducts are swollen shut due to inflammation and a softball size lump can appear in five minutes.

I’m hopeful though. My doctors are amazing, my support system is amazing and my job is amazing. All have allowed me to focus on my health during this time and have respected my new boundaries I’ve been putting in place by valuing myself and my time. Keeping this in mind, I’ve set the following goals for the month.

  1. Continue working on my health. I have a lot of doctor appointments including my six-month scan. I have also taken steps to further cut the crap out of my diet and would like to continue on this path. I would love to be eating 80/20 by the end of the year.
  2. Deep clean my apartment. Since I declared my year of value, I have been cleaning out a lot of clutter from my home. I would like to finish and then do a deep clean.
  3. Enjoy time with my family and boyfriend.¬†Being in a long distance relationship is hard but it’s helpful my boyfriend works from home and has a flexible schedule outside of the summer. He will be here for a few weeks so I’m excited to soak in time with him and both of our families while he’s out here. My niece is turning one and she is the absolute¬†cutest.
  4. Read two books. In the middle of two books and would like to get back into my reading routine at night.
  5. Track all spending. ¬†Financial blogger confession- I just got back on the “tracking your train” and boy, it’s been eye opening. I’ve become participated in lifestyle inflation this year and while I thought I was saving adequately and paying off debt, I could still be doing much more. It’s so easy to get caught up even though you’ve been working on good financial habits for years.

Hope everyone has a good September! Does anyone have anything fun planned?