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.) 

Latinas, Jump Start Your Finances For Summer With These Five Easy Steps

Summer is right around the corner! Whether you have time off during the summer or you’re like me working the 9-5, it’s the perfect season for fun. BBQs, laying out by the pool, vacations, your finances and lazy days are all calling your name.

Yes, I said finances. This season is recognized to be a time of play and rightfully so. The heat makes paying attention to anything, especially your bills, something you’re likely to do. I completely agree because I myself love a lazy nap.

But the summer is the perfect time to do a financial check in and make sure you are on track to meet your goals for the year. It’s also the perfect time to see if you have extra money to splurge on that concert or last-minute gateway with friends. Keep reading for more tips to jump-start your finances faster than you can say bikini!

Do A Budget Once Over

I tend to do a zero-sum budget per bi-weekly paycheck so every dollar has a job. But I also like to see what exactly I’m paying for and why. For instance, recently I canceled a subscription box I thought I had time for (Hunt A Killer) and software I was using for my business (Co -Schedule). I sincerely love Co-Schedule because it makes everything so easy but I know I am not utilizing it to its full capacity. Between both, I was able to shave $70 off of my monthly expenses and I’ll be putting that towards my health.

Look at everything you are currently forking out money for and see if there is something you’re not currently utilizing. Maybe it’s that gym membership you can put on hold so you can run outside or take one of those classes at the Parks N Rec center you’ve been meaning to. Or maybe your Ipsy package just hasn’t been bringing it lately. Think realistically about what you’re spending money on and if it’s truly serving you. And remember, you can sign up for software that tracks your spending such as Mint or Personal Capital to plug any spending leaks.

Check To Make Sure Paycheck Deductions Are Correct

For some companies, tis’ the seasons of open enrollment.  Since you’re already in your employee portal anyways, take time to go through all deductions, both pre and post tax, to make sure your paycheck looks correct. Account for all deductions such as FSA and retirement, different types of insurance you may have and taxes you are paying, like federal and state. I always owe state taxes so if you’re like me, it may be a good time to increase your withholding.

By doing a paycheck audit, you can be sure you are getting every last benefit and dollar you are entitled to. The worst thing you can do is leave money on the table that is rightfully yours and can be used better served elsewhere, such as debt or a savings goal you may have.

Review Policies & Slash Slash Slash

Along with questioning your deductions on your paycheck, take time to glance over policies you may have such as auto insurance or a phone bill. Maybe you are paying for a certain type of coverage that may be incidental now and can easily go. I didn’t realize until years had gone by (bad personal finance blogger!) that I was paying a fee for some type of coverage I didn’t need.

It’s also important to make sure you are carrying the right type of coverage just in case your car has depreciated or you have had a change in your living situation. I had forgotten I needed renters until my boyfriend’s apartment flooded. He would have been screwed if he hadn’t had coverage and it reminded me to get my butt in gear.

Make Sure Your Checking Account Is Working For You

Once upon a time, I paid checking account fees. I was young and didn’t realize that if I had a certain amount of money direct deposited from my paycheck, I could get the fee waived. I also had to pay a fee of $10 when I was stupid and had overdrawn my checking account which resulted in getting a second chance checking account for a year.

You don’t need to pay a checking account fee because now, there are plenty of alternatives to traditional checking. Radius Bank, for an example, is a great alternative for those looking for free checking that can be accessed anywhere and everywhere. With no monthly fees and free access to ATMS, Radius Bank is a free checking account that you can access anywhere online. They also offer a hybrid checking account that allows you to collect interest on your checking account. That’s pretty much unheard of and a slamming deal at 0.85% with the minimum balance.

One of the hesitations with online banking is that you can’t go into a brick and mortar branch but honestly? These are a thing of the past and will soon enough be limited themselves. You can do everything a traditional banker can do with your cell phone and the Radius Bank app, such as deposit checks and pay your bills online. You can save yourself time and be on your way.

Take Advantage Of All The Free To Little Cost Fun

The last tip I would like to leave for you is to remember all the free fun summer has to offer and take advantage of it.  Movies in the park, outside festivals, art walks and the pool are all free this summer. Your library also has cool summer reading programs (even for adults! With prizes!) and culture passes you can check out for free admission to local museums and attractions.

This summer, I am also taking the advantage of the longer days and going on a few weekend trips with friends. Between the four of us, gas, an Airbnb, and food in Mexico will cost about $75 each. And our Airbnb is on the beach with kayaks!

In Conclusion

There are so many ways to jump-start your finances this summer. From looking into alternative checking accounts to finding free fun, the sky is the limit Latinas!

“This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Radius Bank. Radius Bank has not directed my content or my views.”

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.

Latinas, Make Smarter Tax Decisions w/ Louis Barajas & Cricket Wireless

Editor Note: I am so happy to be sharing my first interview with a recognized Latino money expert, Louis Barajas. Special thanks to Cricket Wireless for reaching out to help out to connect millennials and Latinos with the personal finance knowledge they need to make this tax season pop. -AL

Cricket Wireless, Spearheading The Way Towards Financial Wellness

Cricket Wireless wants to help people like its customers, who are value conscious by need and by choice, be savvy with their tax refund this season. Why? Because smart money skills matter to those on a budget.

This is why Cricket has partnered with nationally recognized financial author and expert Louis Barajas. Barajas has dedicated his life to helping people achieve financial wellness by addressing the cultural and psychological barriers that prevent them from making the most use of their financial resources.  Cricket brought Barajas to the Association of Latino Professionals for America Anaheim and Miami college symposiums to help millennials establishing their careers learn about the importance of fiscal responsibility in their professional and personal lives and how each drives the other’s ascension.

The Facts

Louis Barajas speaks about money through the lens of building a good life, not just dollars and cents. By Cricket bringing him to the community, people can be inspired by his words and life experiences and set off on a journey to financial greatness. Some things to note about Latinas, millennials and spending habits: 

  • In 2018, millennials have a new story to tell about themselves. They are the money conscious generation that prioritizes their financial health.
  • 43 percent of millennials intend to pay down debt with their tax refund versus 31 percent of the general population.

This is not a surprise Latinas. As millennials, we have grown up in the recession era. We’ve experienced hard times in our careers and watched our parents live through tough times as well. We’ve been molded by difficult economic periods and became financially savvy, and scrappy, because of it. Let’s just say we know to stretch our pesos. 

That’s why today I am happy to share an exclusive interview with Louis to discuss how Latinas can do their own taxes for free, say no to a forced savings plan (Adios Uncle Sam’s free loan!) and why this  Latino became his own boss.

Money Smart Latina Interview w/ Louis Barajas

Louis Barajas, named by Mutual Funds Magazine and Money Magazine as one of America’s top financial advisors, speaks about money through the lens of life, not just bank accounts. The author of books such as The Latino Journey to Financial Greatness,  My Street Money; Overworked, Overwhelmed and Underpaid; and Small Business, Big Life, Louis makes complex and daunting money issues easy to understand and relatable to the common person.

Athena Lent: A lot of my readers are Latinas who have parents that don’t do their own taxes. I would really like them to know how to do them efficiently. When is it okay to pay someone to do your taxes vs doing them themselves?

Louis Barajas: If you don’t own rental property or a business, you shouldn’t pay anyone to do your taxes. United Way Worldwide and Cricket Wireless recently joined forces to offer access to United Way’s FREE tax filing service, MyFreeTaxes.com, at select Cricket authorized retail stores across the country, or you can access the site from your home computer. For those that do own a business or a rental property, they absolutely need an accountant. I would hire a good CPA, because they will know way more than the average individual about tax deductions. 

AL: I just made my first appointment with mine after realizing I needed help with my taxes this year by being self-employed and setting up a new 401K through work.

Speaking of 401Ks, can you share tips for millennials saving for retirement? What should they be keeping in mind?

LB: Don’t put yourself in a “forced” savings plan. Tax season is a great time to think about adjusting your W4s so that your employer withholds more or less federal income tax from your pay. The more allowances you claim the less is withheld. A lot of people like to do the opposite so that they can get a bigger tax refund. Many people view their refund as money the government is giving them versus a return of their hard-earned dollars. Uncle Sam holds your money at zero percent interest. Withhold less money and stream those funds to an account that generates interest, like an Individual Retirement Account. Make sure your money is working for you, not sitting still.

AL: There is nothing quite like the power of compound interest and you definitely can’t get that with Uncle Sam! 

Can you also share about saving more in retirement so millennials have less taxable income and a less of a “forced” savings plan? I’m actually insanely proud that my refund this year was $1! 

LB: For millennials, it is important to think about retirement because many of them want to become entrepreneurial – so they need to be very intentional about their future. Sixty-seven percent of employed millennials want to leave the traditional work structure and become self-employed. Self-employed individuals and anyone for that matter can fund their own retirement while lowering their taxable income. They can put money into a SEP-IRA (Simplified Employee Pension-Individual Retirement Account), which is a method to contribute toward their retirement savings and ultimately gives them an additional tax deduction. The great news is you have until the October 15th tax extension to put money away for retirement and save on your 2017 taxes. For those who are not self-employed, contributory IRAs are a way to lower your taxable income and save for retirement, but those must be done by the April tax deadline.

AL: I love that we are started to see more diversity in personal finance.

Louis, what motivated you to lead one of the only Latino-owned financial firms?

LB: I had some life changing events happen to me while I was managing the money of some of the wealthiest people in the world inside one of the big financial firms. When those things happen, you tend to want to make a big change and live your truth. So I returned home to East LA in 1991 to form a wealth and business management firm and help hard-working men and women, who because of a lack of information or understanding, often made bad choices with money. I created a special financial framework to help people create wealth and use their money to live a better life.

AL: One of my life passions is connecting readers to actual resources they can use. Could you share what your inspiration was behind writing some of your books, such as “My Street Money”? 

People were fed up with financial experts going on and on about the woes and winds of Wall Street and Main Street. But no one was talking about their street—about how to take care of their family and provide for their future. Oftentimes, families never get the attention they deserve.  I wanted to give them a common sense, down-to-earth guide to using money to help create the secure and happy life they want. MY STREET Money is “street-wise” book that talks about real people’s real financial goals, dreams, and challenges.

AL: Louis, thank you for taking time to share your wisdom to help Latinas and Millenials alike gain the knowledge they need to help make empowering financial decisions! And special thanks to your partnership with the Cricket Wireless Millenial Tax Campaign. 

Does anyone have any questions for Louis? Did you do your taxes yet? Let us know in the comments!

 

Budgets & Cats- Finding Wiggle Room In The Budget

Budgets & Cats- Because You’re Going To Die Alone Anyways, is a new budget series found exclusively on Money Smart Latina. Since a man isn’t a retirement plan around these cat lady parts, we need an ample amount of savings and personal finance knowledge. And if our cat decides to let someone else share the bed, it’s all gravy anyway. Hope you enjoy! 


 

Two years ago I came home to a house full of cat vomit. Fellow cat ladies, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all fun and games until the cat eats too much and pukes on the carpet. Except, Harrison had never thrown up before. Sure, a random hairball every few months (is he supposed to have more?!) but not actually throw up. Concerned, I decided to keep an eye on him which only lasted for a few minutes because then he threw up again. So off to the vet we went.

$1,300 later (thank you emergency fund!), we had a new diagnosis of FIV, a cool cone to keep us company and a prescription for an anti-viral. Oh yes, I now had a new expense I needed to make room for. He is also susceptible to a variety of secondary infections that have us in the vet now quite a few times a year.

If this has ever happened to you (unexpected expenses, not FIV), fear not fellow cat ladies. I got the tips and tricks to keep you covered!

Do A Budget Analysis

The first thing I would recommend to anyone who is looking to find extra room in their budget is to complete a budget analysis. A budget analysis is when you compare where you think your money is going to where it’s actually going after you’ve tracked your spending. Most people recommend doing this for a month to get the most accurate picture. I would second that a month would be most accurate but have been able to notice spending habits sooner. For myself, I can notice in as early as two weeks.

Tracking your spending can be as easy or as hard as you want to be but I suggest grouping similar items into a budget category and using a free tool when just getting started. There are so many free tools such as software like Mint or Personal Capital, spreadsheets such as Google sheets or just a regular pen and piece of paper. Find what works for you and track everything you can for at least a month to see where your money is really going. For myself, I know I eat out a lot but it’s always more shocking when I see the grand total of what I really spend versus what I think I spend.

See What Can Go

Once you have seen where your money is actually going, see what exactly can go out of your monthly budget. Stuff that can often go for me in my budget is any subscription boxes I have signed up for. In the past, I have participated in subscription boxes like Birchbox and Hunt A Killer. I loved getting treats in the mail as well as trying something new. But eventually, with Birchbox, I started getting junk instead of items I would actually use. I never received junk with Hunt A Killer but I ended up not having enough time as I thought I did to keep up with the monthly tasks.

Along with subscription boxes, see if there are any memberships you aren’t taking advantage of such as one to a gym, class or food co-op, but no longer need. Other memberships or subscriptions you may not be using could be something entertainment related such as Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Really look at your budget to see where your money is going and if you are paying to use something that is no longer bringing you joy or just collecting dust. But don’t worry, you can keep Catster magazine, I give you full permission.

Chop Chop Chop

After you have weeded at any subscriptions, memberships or bills you have decided you no longer need, it’s time to start trying to make the bills you do have lower.

Gather all bills and start analyzing what exactly it is you are paying for. For instance, are you paying a fee for insurance on a credit card? Or something like a new internet modem you never received anyways? It’s important to make sure all fees and expenses you are being billed for are not only accurate but correct as well. You could be paying a significant amount in fees without even realizing it.

Next, see if there is anything you can call and negotiate for a lower rate with your provider. I have my cable company on speed dial and know that I need to call the loyalty department once a year to ask for a promo code that I am entitled to. I’m also currently stacking a few discounts on my cell phone bill that I was eligible for by doing research, such as looking into my ADP employer portal. Discounts and lower rates are everywhere so don’t be afraid to do research and ask.

And if you are in a desperate time calling for a desperate measure, don’t be afraid to walk away from a current provider and seek an alternative one who’s cheaper. It may be harder in a smaller town but in a major city, there are always alternative providers to the one you currently have. In Phoenix, for instance, we can pick between at least two providers for any type of service, including utilities. Anything is up for grabs, even rent if you are renewing your lease!

Figure Out The Cheapest Way To Buy Something You Need

One of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve ever heard was from my boyfriend. We were talking about spending or rather lack thereof, on certain things. To be honest, I was probably willing to spend more than him on something because I’m the one that usually thinks I’m a baller, not him. He simply replied, “Just because you have money, you don’t have to spend it.” This motto has been seriously part of my MO while shopping and looking for the most frugal ways to do something, especially when creating wiggle room in my budget.

When looking to buy items you need, ask yourself how you can get them for as cheap as possible. A lot of household items you may need can be purchased at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar. You can also purchase snacks, spices, and a few other items there like trash bags or Ziplocs. You can even get cheap supplies for your cats, such as toys, bowls, and bedding!

Groceries can easily be saved on by purchasing whats in season, using coupons and buying items when on sale. You can even get gift cards and promo codes at Target as well as using in-store coupon apps. By building this frugality muscle, you can even use these habits to save even more without thinking about it. And for cat supplies, such as meds and cat litter, I have found Amazon to be surprisingly cost effective.

Look For Alternatives

I believe challenges, such as Whole 30 and No-Spend Months can really help us jumpstart our goals, in terms of fitness and finance. I’m also a firm believe that moderation is key to having long-term results and maintenance.

When cutting something out of your budget to make room for something new, make sure it’s sustainable and that you have a backup plan in place. For instance, I am a caffeine freak. There is no way cutting Starbucks out of my budget was going to allow me to also give up coffee nor did I want to. Instead, I now drink coffee mostly at the office when I get in and now on days I’m in the field or having meetings, I remember to pack my thermos. But by allowing Starbucks to be a treat, I am no longer spending $30 a week there like I was. $25 of that is now being redirected towards something else.

If there is an item you like or prefer, take time to see if you can get it cheaper at a different store or utilize a friend’s warehouse discount. If you are giving up Netflix or cable, see what you can find at the library for cheap. Consider a movie night in with friends instead of going out to the bar. There are a ton of frugal alternatives to things you already do, you just have to be creative.

Keep The End Goal In Mind

One of the things that help me when cutting back on my spending, and trying to find extra wiggle room in the budget, is to remember why I am doing this in the first place.

Being a social butterfly and living in a big city makes it very easy for me to always find something to do. As much as I love hanging out with my cat reading a book from the library, I also love going to concerts and trying new restaurants and bars. And I love everyone in my life. So, it’s hard for me to not want to go out and spend money with the best of them.

Remembering why I’m doing this in the first place is what really helps as well as trying to find the bright side. When you remember why you are cutting back for that wiggle room and spending less will help you when the times get tough. Sure, you could go out to eat three times a week or you could save like you had planned to go skiing instead. Or maybe it’s medication you really need to prioritize and self-care, like me. Whatever it is, it’s important to remind yourself this is your why.

Practicing gratitude is also a great way to remember your why. You, like many other people, may have more than you really need. That’s great that you have been so blessed! So it may be a great time to remind yourself of what you already have and what you don’t need to pay for. Maybe you have some crafting items collecting dust or books that you’ve been meaning to read. Give thanks for the stuff you already have and keep yourself busy at home. Your cat will also be grateful that you’ll be home more.

Closing Remarks

Finding wiggle room in the budget may be hard at first. Even figuring out items you can cut and do without is really a privilege on its own since others are not so lucky. But if you are, it’s good practice to see what you can do without so that you can free up some extra money for whatever the next step in your life may be. For you and your cat!

The Latina’s Guide To Long Distance Love

Long distance love. As much as I wish this didn’t describe my current relationship sometimes, it does. H & I met at a personal finance blogger conference in 2012 but started dating towards the end of 2013-beginning of 2014. A perk of meeting at a blogger conference? Someone with similar interests as you! You have things to talk about and know a lot of the same people. Cool! Not so perk? They probably live in a different state than you, as was my experience.

H currently resides on the East Coast while I am in the Southwest. We actually live 3,000+ miles apart if anyone is counting. While we didn’t intend to be in a long distance relationship, you can’t help who you fall in love with sometimes. And I wouldn’t change a thing. After being together four years, we have been pretty successful when navigating the long-distance hiccups. So while we can’t wait until we are eventually under the same roof, we’re happy.

A lot of people will discourage you from trying to be in a long-distance relationship. I have found many of these people don’t do so out of spite, but perhaps out of concern. Maybe their friends or family members haven’t been so successful in a long distance relationship department. Or maybe they themselves have had doubts, which led to them not pursuing a relationship, long distance or otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be. If you happen to find yourself in a similar relationship Latinas, I have a few pointers for you when the times get rough.

Realize It’s Going To Be Hard

I’m a blunt person so I will be getting first things first out of the way. If you are going to be pursuing a long distance relationship with someone, for whatever reason, realize it’s going to be hard AF. Yes, I went there and it’s better to know now so you can prepare yourself. It’s not impossible, which some may lead you to believe, but it is hard.

Dating someone who lives in town is one thing, but dating someone who lives hours away, by car or airplane, is another. You can’t see each other as often as you’d like or do random things like catch a movie just because you felt like it. You may feel insecure because you aren’t a regular part of their life or meet all of the people in it. Isolation Island might feel like a real place.

It’s okay to feel like this. If you didn’t experience feelings of doubt and loneliness at least once in awhile, you aren’t human in my opinion. As humans, we are social creatures by nature and spend a lot of time with others. The same goes for relationships of the romantic pursuit. When you can’t see the one you love on a regular basis, it’s hard. But knowing this going in will help save you from frustration when the going gets tough.

Communication Is Everything

Just like any other relationship, communication is key Latinas. It might even be more important in a long distance relationship since you can’t physically see each other.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a great communicator. Sure, I’m a great talker but not a communicator. I still don’t fully believe I am but I am definitely more self-aware than I used to be. Often, I assumed my partner would know what I was thinking and why I would get so upset over certain things. He’s my partner, right? Doesn’t he know me?!?! Not only was my way of thinking flawed, it didn’t help that my boyfriend is a whole generation older than me. Being older doesn’t always equate to being more mature but he definitely is in this situation. We also communicate more efficiently through different mediums, such as by phone or text.

Take time to really learn each others communication style and if it’s different than yours, be flexible. My partner hates texting but will text me because he knows it means a lot to me. I assume he knows what I am thinking and will often run with something but now I know I need to slow down. And when my feelings get hurt, I know I need to take a timeout to really assess what is bothering me before I call him and lose it. Even if you are about to lose it, or you’re lonely, talk about these feelings with your partner so you can make it through.

Meet Each Other Half Way

No relationship is 50/50 and this is especially true when in long distance love. Because you don’t live by each other or see each other often, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to gather whatever breadcrumbs you can to make it work. You may think your partner should talk to you for a certain amount of time every day because you do. Or insert 25 other things you think your partner should be doing just because, especially if you are in a long-distance relationship.

I’m not saying you should do all of the heavy lifting in a relationship or make all of the effort, but it’s a great idea to meet your partner halfway. Discuss strengths and weaknesses with each other and figure out a way to play off of them. My partner hates doing things he feels are minute but still important, such as picking out a gift or planning a vacay. However, my partner can afford to travel more frequently to me than I can to him, so I happily make the tradeoff.

Think Outside The Box When Traveling

Since you are usually traveling somewhere anyways, try to think outside of the box!

Instead of always visiting each other in our cities, we will pick out a different one to try instead. When we had first started dating, we spent almost an entire week in Boston and it’s still one of my favorite trips to this date. When you are both in a new city for the first time, you get to enjoy each other’s company in a new light. Nothing makes relationships grow Latinas such as trying new and different things to make memories later on.

Decide what new city you would like to explore and plan a trip there instead of your honey’s town. Since you’ll be paying for traveling expenses anyways, save up a little bit more to help with accommodations when you arrive at your destination. Plan a fun new activity such as a cooking class and make sure to remember downtime, such as relaxing in the hot tub. Take time to explore a new city with the one you love. And if an expensive trip isn’t in the picture, try a small day trip to someplace new, even if it’s just a drive for a change of scenery.

Utilize Technology

Twenty years ago, people probably assumed we’d be in flying cars by now. We’re not quite there yet, (I’m looking at you self-driving cars), but technology has still come a long way. Pretty much everyone has access to a smartphone or a laptop with a video & camera option. The point is, our options for communicating aren’t limited to what they used to be.

Utilize technology to your advantage in a long distance relationship. Try to Skype or Facetime your loved one at least once a week to see their face and check in with them. Text each other cute photos throughout the day to share your life or send funny memes to let them know you are thinking of them. Send quick emails or share links to articles you think they would enjoy. One way I love utilizing technology is by sending my BF something quick off of Amazon for special events or surprising him with some groceries. My BF’s love language is a toss up between touch and acts of service, so anytime he doesn’t have to step into a grocery store, it’s appreciated.

Take Time To Do You

Chances are, you will not be in a long distance relationship forever. Some people are in one for a year or two while others, like myself, are in them for much longer. There is no right or wrong timeline, just like in any other relationship even though it might feel like it due to distance. But, instead of waiting around for the “future” to start when you are both in the same place, try your best living your life in the now.

It’s tempting to save all the new experiences in your life for your partner, even if you see them frequently. While it might make sense in nature, it’s not healthy. You and your partner are not the same person and will have different interests and preferences. Plus, putting a lot of pressure on someone to make your happy in all areas of your life is a great way to become single or develop some unhealthy relationship beliefs.

Instead of waiting for that prince or princess to visit, take advantage of all that time you may have and channel it into something productive. Put in those extra hours at work or learn a new skill. Run a marathon. Read all of the books that have been piling up on your bookshelf. Take a cooking class. And then share your full life with someone you love.

Closing Remarks

Relationships can be hard and at times, long distance relationships can be even harder. I can’t tell you how many times someone has mentioned that I’m the only person they know who has actually been successful at long distance dating. Although it makes me sad, I’m not surprised. Relationships take time, effort and remembering why you are doing this in the first place, no matter where your partner lives.

But long-distance love is not impossible. I hope by sharing the tips above and what has worked for me will inspire you to give it a go. By utilizing technology and practicing open communication you can maximize the time you spend, both with and without each other. Because who wants to spend the weekend arguing when you could be cuddling instead?

No One Is Going To Save You… Except You

Did you know that 1 in 3 women live below the poverty line? This is article is part of the #WomenRockMoney Movement collaboration. The #WomenRockMoney movement is to help inspire women, just like you, to own your power. For more badass women and money tips, click here


After setting down my last box, my ex-boyfriend looked me in the eye then shook his head. I sighed. I didn’t ask him to help move me out of his apartment. Nor did I ask him for a free bed he insisted I take because “it was collecting dust,” in his parent’s garage. And I really didn’t ask him for his opinion on what was going on with me.

All I knew was that I had just found myself in the same position I was a year prior. A different man, a different state. Definitely the same story though. “When will this end?” I asked myself as I set about unpacking my bedding. When will I find a man who loves me no matter what and will be there when I need him? I’m there for everyone else and they just don’t love me, I thought bitterly as I stuffed my pillows into their cases.

What Was I Doing Wrong?

A few months later, I was in my groove. I was working out every day, I finally felt confident in the classroom as a first-year teacher, and was just accepted into Arizona State University for the fall semester. I was the healthiest I’ve ever been, was traveling and met a great guy. Who cared if he lived across the country? I moved in with my boyfriends anyways. And I set about my business.

My cloud nine lasted about three months. Due to my unhealthy coping mechanisms and thoughts about how relationships would be, my relationship with my significant other, and myself, wasn’t always the way it should be. My partner was, and still continues to be, great but I didn’t know at the time how destructive my way of thinking was until I found myself in therapy a few years later. I was desperate to find out why I kept repeating the same old patterns, in all areas of my life. After a particularly rough time, I remember bawling at my dad’s ranch disappointed and miserable. Why can I just be normal I wondered?

I Finally Get An Answer

Thanks to a great therapist, and okay, myself for going, I realized I was codependent. Codependency can be described in a variety of different ways and situations but in laments term, it’s when you sacrifice yourself in hopes that someone will recognize you and love you. It basically when you have a martyr complex so you can manipulate others and control the situation in hopes that they won’t leave you. It sounds harsh and it is when you first hear it, but it’s true. And it’s no wonder you repeat the same patterns with different people, hoping that one day they will stay.

Codependency is not the same for everyone and can be expressed in a variety of different ways, with different relationships you may have. For me, being codependent means if I sacrifice myself enough for someone, they will never leave me. And what I really thought was a man would one day love me so much, he would save me. Only then, would I have the life I wanted. I just needed to live with him so I could feel secure enough to get started.

Instead Of A Man Saving Me, I Needed To Save Myself

When you have a breakthrough in therapy, you realize a lot. And sometimes, what you realize is how much you depend on other people to make you feel good about yourself and how much time you’ve wasted doing that. While I’ve always somewhat maintained a sense of identity in my relationships, I didn’t really know how to focus if I didn’t have someone around 24/7 to make me feel better and tell me what to do. I had never lived on my own, did things by myself, cared about my environment or focused on my future and providing for myself. For the first time, I asked myself, what if I actually end up alone? What if, at the end of the day, it really is just me? It was then I realized, I needed to save myself.

No man was going to come and love me so hard all my broken pieces were going to magically go back together, despite what a meme on Facebook told me. No man was going to make me forget about my tumultuous teenage past and no man was ever going to replace what I felt was really missing in my life. I needed to get my shit together on my own.

The Force Awakens

After Operation Get My Shit Together On My Own commenced, I started to make some moves. I figured out how living on my own worked and got my first apartment by myself. Staying true to my personal finance blogger peeps, I found an apartment with all utilities included for around 30% of my net income in a cute neighborhood in Phoenix. Sure, Phoenix Metro is always looking for someone in the middle of the night in their helicopter, and my living walls are three different types, but hey, who’s keeping score? I’m a hop and skip from downtown without paying for the zip code.

I started my own family by myself with the adoption of my fur baby Harrison. He’s a polydactyl feline who ended up being FIV positive. But that’s okay. His expensive hospital bill helped me prove to myself I could live on my own, establish an emergency fund, use it, and be okay. Don’t get too crazy universe though, I still have to eat.

My first son!

I went back to school and finally finished my bachelor’s degree, something I had always wanted to do for myself. Lots of tears went into that piece of paper but the saying is right. No one will ever take that away from me. Along with getting my fancy piece of paper, I also got a pay raise, which now lets me contribute regularly to retirement and an FSA which I really needed when being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Oh yeah, I beat that too.

It’s Just Me, My Cat & I

As women, there is so much hubbub about relationships and what purpose they serve in your life. When all you want is to be loved, or saved, there is certainly a movie, a song or a meme that will lead you to believe this is definitely possible. Which is sad because some of us wait for these men, who may or may not come, for our lives to truly start. I was one of those women and I still have to fight myself sometimes not to be.

We need to stop doing this. As feminists throughout the years, and now, have fought for our rights, we need to act on them and quit waiting for a man to save us. We need to save ourselves!

Live on your own. Get the cat. Fund your retirement. Take that trip. Stack that cash. Dabble in all of those hobbies. And attract the best possible partner to support you when times get rough, but only if you want to. After all, you can save yourself.

 

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?