Summer Bucket List

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

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

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

Fun

Go on a quick weekend trip

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

Go swimming 5x

Read 12 books

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

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

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

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

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

See Lion King with my best friend.

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

Finance (Business)

Average extra daily income of 50 per day.

Get two additional writing clients

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

Film 12 videos

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

Create a workbook and actually sell it.

Launch a coaching program.

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

Design and announce MSL store!

Write an e-book

Fitness

Figure out WTF is wrong with me.

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

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

Workout 4x a week

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

Clean up my diet and work on inflammation

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

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

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

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

That One Time When My Students Thought Everyone Got Food Stamps

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this person make you feel?

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

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

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

Are there things you don’t tell this person?

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

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

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

Do you catch yourself lying to them?

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

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

Is this person judging you or are they supportive?

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

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

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

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

A Pretend Minimalist Or, How I’m Practicing Minimalism

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

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

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

Friendships

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

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

Work

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

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

Food

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

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

Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Ways To Declutter In The New Year

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

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

The KonMari Method

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

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

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

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


 

The Minimalist Game

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

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

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

Project 3000

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

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

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

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

 

Try A Spending Fast

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

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

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

What’s a spending fast?

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

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

How does it work?

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

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

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

What are the benefits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I get started?

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

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

 

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

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

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

So, what did I learn?

My House Was Aggravating My Mental Health

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

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

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

I Fed Into the Ideal Version Of Me

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

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

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

I Buy Stuff Just Buy Stuff

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

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

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

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

I Will Be Playing The Mins Game Again

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

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

How To Be Financially Responsible With Your Online Habits

The following has been provided by an online contact.


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

Don’t Overlap Your Streaming

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

Keep A List Of Subscriptions

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

Set An Upper Limit For Online Games

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

Don’t Bet; Predict!

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

Time Your Rentals & Purchases

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

Unbanked & Underserved- FinX w/ CFSI

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

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

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

What’s Unbanked & Underserved Anyway?

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

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

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

The Rules

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

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

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

The Competition Heats Up

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

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

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

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

Revelations

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

My two biggest takeaways were:

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

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

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

The Reality

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

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

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

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

A Call To Latina Action

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

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

 “I can’t save what I don’t earn.”

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

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

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

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!