Budgets & Cats: How To Save Money On College Expenses

I spent a lot of money on my college experience and now I'm in debt to prove it. Learn from my mistakes as I share tips to save big, cat lady style. #budget #budgets #personalfinance #savingmoney #money

I remember happily, but very naively, skipping down to the financial aid office my first semester of school. Why yes, I DO need extra money and will take out the maximum amount for my student loan. As someone who had only been making minimum wage, the idea of excess cash excited me. It was gone soon, don’t worry, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I was consistently trying to save money on college expenses.

Forbes has reported that the average college graduate belonging to the Class of 2016 has an estimated $37,172 of student loans. That’s pretty extreme but seeing how I just left Arizona State University, easily believable. Without books or any other expenses, my tuition was over $5,000 a semester. When my tuition increased, I knew it was time to see how I could save money on college expenses, anyway I realistically could. My cat was, of course, along for the ride so here are some tips we’ve collected to share with you.

Figure Out Tuition Basics

The top way to stay on top of being in the least amount of debt possible upon graduation is to figure out how your tuition works and how you can maximize it as much as possible. For instance, some colleges and universities have a flat semester fee if you take an x amount of credits. Let’s take Arizona State University for example. My tuition costs tapped out at $5,000 a semester, which was 9 credit hours.  This included free access to the technology labs, the student center, the gym, library including online periodical articles needed for research papers more.

But because my tuition was already tapped out, they couldn’t charge me any more for any additional credit hours I chose to take. This meant I was able to take up to 15 college credits a semester without paying any additional tuition and cut a semester off my timeline towards graduation. I was able to save $5,000 this way. I also highly recommend passing your classes.

Books, Books, Books

My first piece of advice when looking to save money on college expenses its to research what books your professor has listed on your syllabus. Sometimes, the book that is listed isn’t even required but instead, recommended reading. Recommend reading is to help you understand the class material but I’m a firm believer in Google. If the book is required, you have options.

First, find the ISBN located on the barcode on the book. Then check the first few pages inside the book to see what edition is listed.  Copy it into Google and see what options the search engine has provided. Nine out of ten times, the textbook is going to be cheaper on Amazon. Fellow students are looking to push their textbooks on someone else to help recoup some of their costs as well as declutter. Who really needs a copy of “The Pattern Of Flight For Eagles”? I mean, unless eagles really are your thing. Then go for it! Don’t forget to look at search engines and used book store websites.

Buying books secondhand is not only great for your pocketbook but better for the environment. I don’t mind secondhand books unless they have entire pages highlighted or the book is in horrible condition but I’ve had pretty good luck. The only time I would recommend using your college bookstore is if the professor has added material which can only be found there or if you can break even by renting. I’ve done this a few times because not even making a guaranteed $5 on Amazon at the end of the day was worth my time when I had finals.

Say No To The Parking Pass

Colleges will push you to pay for a parking pass. Don’t be afraid to say no, do research and then see if it may still apply. Chances are, you need to pay for parking. That’s a no brainer. But we’re trying to save money on college, so let’s evaluate this. Say your parking pass is $500 (yes, that’s a cheap one.) That allows you to park in a certain parking lot, as much as possible. But what if you aren’t attending class everyday? What if you were able to somehow park for $2 a day and you only attend class twice a week? Doesn’t paying $64 over the course of 16 weeks sound much better to you?

I’m not saying it will be this cheap all of the time but really evaluate your options before handing over your cold hard cash. You can always take public transportation, park off campus is it’s safe for both you and your car, or just pay by the hour. The parking pass may truly be your best option but you don’t know until you try.

Really Consider If Dorm Living Is For You

I never got to live in a dorm which is the one thing I regret about my college experience. And for some of us, we have no choice due to moving out of state to attend school. But, consider if living in the dorm is the cheapest option for your current stay. It can be up to several thousand dollars to live in a dorm while you share a bathroom with several other people and it might not even include a meal plan.

Look into alternative living arrangements like living with a roommate, getting an off site apartment or perhaps even attending school locally to still live at home. Sure, you may regret that living on your own experience (which I do) but you might not be like me and just be happy to not be paying a arm and a leg. You’ll have time to live on your own later in life without it causing you to take out loans.

Pay Attention To Small Details

Another hot tip to save money on college expenses? Pay attention to small details or what some call money leaks. I took a break from getting my associates degree and my bachelors, which required me to get into a new routine. This was especially true since during my first degree I only worked part-time. Not only did I start to treat myself to Starbucks more often because I was sleep deprived, I was also pulling through a drive through window 3-4 times a week for dinner. No wonder I started feeling so crummy.

Start packing coffee or your energy drinks (bought in bulk of course!) to class instead of rolling through Starbucks. Pack yourself plenty of snacks to help stay full throughout the day. And pack your own water bottle instead of relying on the vending machine. You’ll stay hydrated, full of energy and can concentrate on that lecture since you won’t be hangry.

Take Advantage Of Anything Free!

My last tip I want to share is to take advantage of anything free. Well, within reason. You don’t need to help yourself to a million pens. But there is a ton of stuff at your convenience to help lessen your costs.

Student unions and clubs offer free meals and give advance notice of when it will be taking place. Save on a dinner or lunch and check it out. Perfect your resume and practice your interview skills with your school’s job placement center. Visit career fairs even if you’re not looking and collect swag while seeing what opportunities may pop up. Score free entertainment from the library or attend free film and show viewings.

Some Final Thoughts

College is expensive, there is no doubt about it. But the investment in your education will pay off in spades later. No one can ever take away your education and along with it, your earning potential. And while you may not be able to escape free and clear, there are ways to save money on college. Keep this guide on hand and reference when needed!

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to cut costs on college? Share below!

The Latina’s Guide To Self Care

Self care is important for everyone but espcially important for Latinas. Take a break while I share with you what got me through a hard time or two. #selfcare #latina #mentalhealth #latinx

Last week, I sat in on  a suicide prevention training. People from all walks of life sat with me as we learned warning signs, questions to ask and approaches to make it easier on both parties involved. None of it really preached on self care but it was definitely hinted at. A few people I know personally didn’t care for the training and I could see why. For them, suicide was more personal. They’ve lost someone. While I myself haven’t lost anyone to suicide, I sadly know what it’s like to be so down in the depths of darkness, you wouldn’t care to wake up the next day.

The Stats Are Shocking

July has officially been declared Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. With one look at the statistics, it’s no wonder why. People of color are less likely to receive access to mental health services and quality care, yet more likely to use emergency medical attention when dealing with an episode. 25% of adolescents with a major depressive episode were Latino/ Hispanic and Latinos in grades 9-12 are more likely to attempt and actually die by suicide than other minorities and non-Hispanic whites. This is major, especially for a community who may not have access to the help they need, for whatever reason. Self-care, or whatever you want to call it, is often not something considered when you are trying to just make it.

So Why Share?

As someone with a mood disorder who only recently figured out the right med combo, I’ve spent plenty of nights feeling helpless or numb. I’ve lost days of my life to sleeping and have slipped into psychosis. I’ve spent money I didn’t have, let my apartment go to shit and did things I quickly hated myself for the next day. Despite my behavior, it was hard for me to be taken seriously by a health provider. Deemed high functioning by more than one, it took several tries before I found my current doctor who was able to help me. And I’m not alone.

I wanted to take a minute to not only share some stats but to share ways I’ve coped on my own mental health journey. These are not all but a few of the self-care tips I’ve practiced when I was having a rough day or as a way to keep the rough days at bay.  I’m not perfect, and I’m definitely not a therapist. I still have bad days. And by no means am I licensed to give any kind of advice. But, I’m sharing regardless because I know what it’s like to feel down and out. It’s okay to not be okay. And you’re not alone.

Learn How To Self Soothe

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had learn was how to self soothe. Self-soothing could be self-regulation (when you learn how to relax in the moment before you react) or it could be something as simple as telling yourself you’re okay. As a matter of fact, that’s my go to. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I cry out of frustration. While crying, I remind myself I’m okay and that I’m safe. As a sufferer from PTSD, I usually go into a fight or flight complex instead of actually dealing with a situation. Only recently have I learned to let myself feel what I’m feeling and remind myself it’s okay to do so.

Write It Out

I joke that doing therapy online was a way for me to not pay someone to watch me cry in person. And that is absolutely true. When I did therapy in person, I spent a god awful amount of time having someone watch me cry. A friend who’s a counselor said sometimes it could be a good thing but for me, it was the opposite. I also prefer therapy online is because I love writing it out.

You don’t need to be doing therapy online to write out your thoughts. Grab a notebook or open a Google word doc and start writing whatever comes to mind. Find a list of writing prompts, talk about what you had for lunch or if you’re feeling particularly angry at someone. Lately, I’ve tried to write out my frustration via venting to someone else through text or just simply writing it out on a piece of paper if I don’t have my journal right in front of me. I would be careful to grab that and put it somewhere safe though as you don’t need anyone reading your private thoughts if you don’t want them to.

Writing can be therapeutic and help you realize certain things about yourself or about others. Case in point, today alone I thought I was mad at something someone said to me but in reality, I was mad about how I perceived a situation. Writing can help you analyze what you are really feeling and why.

Read About It

A friend and I joke one can never have too many books. We also know that when we don’t understand something or want to learn more, we can find a book to read about it. There are a ton of books on self-care and self-development which can be accessed for free through your local library. The reason there are so many books on self-help and personal development is that many are consistently trying to improve themselves for the better. Some people argue about what personal development is or isn’t needed but at the end of the day, who cares? People are unhappy in their lives and feel threatened when others take action. If you are reading this, chances are you are the one taking action so pay them no mind. Easier said than done, trust me, but it’s worth it.

By reading self-development books, you may realize why you do certain things, feel a certain way or acknowledge how you feel to be totally okay. A few of the self-help books I’ve found value in are CoDependency No More by Pia Melody, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and most recently, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. My boss actually recommended 7 Habits to me after I received a promotion and I can’t stop raving about it, months later. And whenever I have a bad day, I read a page by Pia Melody.

But I also love reading just to read. It’s calming and allows you to focus on something else for a minute that isn’t, well, you. Two of the most difficult times in my life were both the slow death of my mom who was terminally ill and my cancer treatment. Both required hospital stays and long hours where I simply didn’t feel good, was anxious or needed to escape my mind if even for a second. Reading, especially books by my favorite author, is what got me through it.

Learn Something New

A great way to feel empowered and in control of your situation is to learn something new. When I haven’t felt in control of my life or feelings, I’ve often tried to control others who are close to me. This is unhealthy. But what I can control is learning something new and then trying to implement it. It’s empowering to learn a new skill or more about a new subject, let’s you be more well rounded as a person and gives you confidence.

If there is a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, now might be the time to do so. Join a knitting circle, a book club or a running group. Pick up a guitar or some needlepoint. Try out coding. Get your brain moving.

Talk To A Friend

The best support network I have is my friends. I’ve been so insanely blessed in the friend department and I’m not oblivious of that. Between having friends all over the country to having my own tight-knit circle in Phoenix, I’m blessed. And I know I have quite a few that I can open up and talk to if I need it.

It’s way too easy to feel like you are a burden or someone doesn’t really care. I don’t really have that problem (I’m a chronic over sharer) but I get it. Take that person up on the cup of coffee or phone call. Make a date to get out of the house and go to a movie. Ask someone to meet for a hike or walk. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to. But you’ll probably feel better by default, just by getting some fresh air and friend time in.

Use An App

I swear by therapy online. But there are a ton of free apps to get started or help you if you aren’t there.

  • Headspace & Calm: Both apps are free to download and readily available with content to get started on meditation. Since I’m not an expert on it, I don’t feel like I can fully write about it but both of these apps have helped me with breathing and managing to get out of my head. Premier content including 30 day challenges, workshops and more meditations are available for a monthly or yearly membership. (The yearly memberships have significant savings so if those apps end up being your thing, I would highly recommend the yearly purchase to get the most bang for your buck.)
  • SuperBetter Are games more your speed? I know they’re mine, especially with how busy my mind tends to be with my anxiety and personality style. SupperBetter is a game styled app to help you with your personal growth as well as be able to cope better with challenges you may face. I love playing games on my phone so why not play games and overcome a challenge in your life at the same time?
  • Happify Maybe meditation seems to woo-woo for you and games seem not as likely to help you. Happify, which is a science based created app maybe just your speed instead. This app states that through CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) proven concepts, you can break negative patterns in your life and start to move forward with new results. I love CBT therapy so I may have to check this one out myself. Designed by actual experts in the field of psychology, psychiatry and self development, it may be worth giving a shot.

Some Final Thoughts

None of the tips I’ve spoken about above can replace therapy or medication. If you feel you are going to hurt yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. This is just what has helped me in my own personal journey and I felt called to share it with others. It may not replace therapy or medication but it may help keep the clouds at bay, if just for another day.

 

Sending You Light,

Athena

Mid Year Check In Or, When I Admit Defeat (Not Really)

Sooooo. One thing you will never have to worry about with me is honesty. I wasn’t always this honest, but I’m not really good hiding my emotions either. I am, however, really good at saying whats on my mind, being blunt and telling it like it is. In my opinion, anyway. I’m trying to be better about being empathetic and taking what I dish out, but I’m a work in progress. I can however, very honestly, tell you that my goals for the year are not going the way I want them to, and it’s my own fault.

What Had Happened Was…

In January, I sat down and made myself a list of what I felt were very adventurous yet doable goals. Maybe it was too much drinking during the holidays, but I really felt like I had it together. I was ready for some life changes! I needed to accomplish x,y and z. I was going to do it all! And honestly, I probably could have done a good chunk of it, had I focused and did the work. But that was exactly my problem and still is. I’m not doing the work. And I can honestly and fully admit it now. I probably wasn’t ready to, not even a week ago, when I had originally sat down to write this post. But now I’m ready to be raw and share the parts of myself that aren’t the best.

Self Sabotage

I’m a very codependent person by nature. I love people and I love spending time with others. I value my relationships. But I also hate being alone and I have an irrational fear of being abandoned. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. If I text you and don’t hear back, I will automatically think you are ignoring me and hate me. My anxiety will kick in and then I wonder what I did, etc. Sometimes, it’s not always this way. I think it depends on who you are and what I perceive our level of friendship to be. But also, I use my codependency, and my focus on other people, as a way to procrastinate and not deal with myself.

I’m quite the yes man. Yeah, I’ll hangout! Yeah, I’ll go on that trip. Yeah, let’s do that concert. Yeah, let’s do whatever you want! Now, in my friend’s defense, no one will honestly be mad if I tell them no to something. No one expects anything from me. They wouldn’t because I have great friends! That’s the beauty about being in your thirties. Most of those superficial relationships, if not all of them, are gone! You have more important things to attend to, like babies! Or drinking! It’s way easier to go party with your friends because you genuinely love them and suffer from FOMO. It’s also way easier when you don’t want to focus on what you’re feeling, why you don’t work on that business or anything else you said you were going to do.

Gallbladders & Such

I’d like to point on, not to be a victim or make excuses, but I am also chronically ill. And if you’ve ever been chronically ill, you know it’s truly a shit storm. Every month, I spend hundreds of dollars between doctor visits, therapy,  prescription medications, insurance and other random things needed, such as supplements or over the counter medications. My lack of a thyroid doesn’t do me any favors and neither does my any of my other random auto-immune issues, lack of sleep, and chronic back pain due to my spine turning in and osteoarthritis. I didn’t even mention my mood disorder yet, which leaves me feeling highs and lows a lot stronger than others. When I get going, watch out!

I’ve felt 1,000,000 times better since my gallbladder came out in May. My chronic pain and flare ups sincerely haven’t been too bad. But being chronically ill is a time suck. When you don’t feel good or are in pain, it’s hard to focus. It’s easier to mindlessly check out then it is to be productive. Like write on your blog. Or pretty much do anything else.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Now that I’ve made enough excuses, I’ll share my wake up moment.

As much as I haven’t worked on my business and finances, I have worked on some other goals. For instance, I’ve been actually able to lose weight and keep it off for the first time in years. I can’t even share how good it feels to have people I see all the time notice my weight loss. The summer heat hasn’t hit me as bad as it usually does because I’m staying hydrated. And as much as I can mention my mood disorder, my medication has been working and I’ve been ableto actually put into practice what my therapist says. That alone is such a major accomplishment! As well as being able to stay focused at your day job! As a result, I was promoted the week after I came back from gallbladder surgery. But, I still had to have an ugly talk with myself and it started after listening to a Joel Osteen podcast.

I love Joel Osteen. I know a lot of people can’t stand him but that’s not the point of this blog post. The point is I love him and I listen to his podcast every week in my car during my commute. One of his more recent episodes was called “How Bad Do You Want It?” The whole message behind his sermon was to ask yourself how hard you were really working towards your goals and if your words matched your actions.  He gave the example of a man who wanted to live in New York City and decided to write letters to a chain store to ask if they were hiring. Obviously, this was in the days of pre-internet.

The man crafted a letter to express his intention to move to New York City post his high school graduation for college and wanted to inquire about any potential job opportunities. Once he acquired the list of stores, he started mailing the letters one by one, to multiple locations. No one responded yet he continued to send. He assumed since there were so many locations in New York City, one would be bound to write him back eventually. Every day, until he moved, he sent a letter, for the entire summer.

Once he had arrived in New York City, he had decided to follow up with a few of his applications. A manager referred him to their corporate office where they did the official hiring and after requesting an interview, a hiring manager asked him to come on back off.  They opened their office drawer to dig out a file and in the file were dozens of his inquiry letters, which had been forwarded by the store managers to the HR. “We knew you’d eventually be here,” he explained, “and we wanted to share with you that your letters had indeed been received.” Needless to say, he was hired.

Commitment. It’s A Thing.

I firmly believe God does not show you things until you’re ready to hear it. For me, so many times in my life, this has rang true. It may not always be the case, but eventually, you realize something that you once had blinders on about. Listening to this podcast made me question myself, my intentions and my quality of work, in all aspects of my life.

It’s hard to be on and 110% in all areas of life. It’s impossible because something always has to give in order to allow you to work on something else. And I can honestly say I have not been giving my all to my business or my finances. And that’s why I’m not farther in my goals in regards to these two areas. I let everything come before these things and then make excuses as to why I can’t do something and then go goof off instead. In good conscious, I can’t ask myself why don’t I make money like other bloggers because I don’t work like a lot of other bloggers. I say I want my brand and story to grow, I want to help others, and then I let something else take my attention away. And that’s not on anyone else, that’s on me. That’s me being reactive and not proactive, in my own life. Enough is enough. I need to stop standing in my own damn way.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I’m not entirely sure where to go from here, to be perfectly honest. There are six months left in the year. I could keep trying to rehash the same old stuff every month and then come up short. It’s not a great way to stay motivated, that’s for sure. Or I could take my current goals and divide them in half. I’m not entirely sure, as I’m still not making a ton of extra income and the majority of my financial goals were based on that. I know, that’s my fault.

So, there you have it. Please don’t stone me too bad. I’m going to try harder and I am working on a solid plan, beginning with baby steps and by trying to keep the end in mind. Because that’s how I’ve been able to keep the weight off as well as do other things in my life. I think I just need to be nice to myself and stay committed.

What do you think? How do you practice commitment and follow through?

 

2018 Goals Check In- April Edition

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

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

Business (And Professional)

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

Health

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

Finances

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

Fun & Relationships

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

Business & Professional Summary

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

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

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

Health

Me at the Hilton of hospitals!

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

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

Finances

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

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

Fun & Relationships

Yay, we did it!

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

Come to me David!

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

Closing Remarks

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

How did your month go?

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 Café 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. 🙁

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!