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5 things I never thought I’d do to save money

For most of 2022, there’s been a lot of media coverage on inflation and the rising costs of groceries, in particular. In 2020, when we were planning for our new construction home, we accomplished some major financial goals after living on one income for 3 years as a result of my husband, Bryan’s, disability. In the last year and a half, we’ve been living very comfortably in our new home and have not been as vigilant with preserving our finances as we had in 2020. And we need to because we have other goals (we have a child who’s in her last year of high school in the house) and the costs of most things have increased so much. Just because you think you an afford something doesn’t mean you should. It’s time to reign in on our spending.

I’ve read many articles and have seen loads of videos on what to do to save money and live frugally. I’ve engaged in various strategies to save money for years, but I thought it would be fun to focus on things I’d thought I’d NEVER DO to save money. We all do things that work for us and it’s taken me some time to buy into some other activities. I started at least 3 of these activities in 2022.

  1. Buy generic or store brand items – Over the years on my blog I’ve shared my love for preparing healthy meals for myself and my family. In many areas of the country (not just in Texas), it can be expensive in up front costs to eat healthy, especially if you purchase solely organic foods. I realize it’s all in how you see it (pay for healthy foods now, or don’t, and pay in medical bills later). However, you can save money on eating healthy and one way is to reduce, or not buy unless on sale, name brand items. I’ve since learned many name brand items are made in the same factories as generic items and even have the same ingredients. Some store brands even have organic store brand items. If you aren’t sure, you can compare the labels while you’re shopping like I often do.
  2. Grocery shop at multiple stores and stop shopping at some – On my quest to find the best deals, I’ve learned I need to branch out to other stores. I’ve even stopped buying at certain stores because I’ve learned I can find a better deal elsewhere. Sorry Target, but I haven’t thought about buying groceries from you in years. Target used to be a store a frequented several days a week when my children were younger, but I’ve since branched out to save some money. Currently, I shop at about 5 different stores during the month to ensure we’re getting the best grocery deals.
  3. Freeze vegetable scraps for broth – I’ve been sharing my food on this blog for years, so it’s no surprise I make my own broths (chicken, vegetable, beef) when I can. However, I have to admit, a few years ago, I used to make broth weekly; whereas, I’ve slowed down in the past couple of years. It’s convenient to buy store bought broths at the grocery store, but have you seen those prices lately? Broth is so easy to make so there is no excuse. One thing I’ve been doing this year to not only ensure I keep broth stocked, but to also avoid wasting food, is saving the vegetable scraps in my freezer rather than throwing them away in my normal meal prep activities. I’m talking about the ends of cut onions, the tips and skins of carrots after I clean them, celery ends, and herbs on the brink of death. Now, they all just go in the freezer bag and when full, I’ll cook some nutritious and tasty broth.
  4. Shop at thrift stores – This one has to be the most surprising activity I’ve done because I’ve never been a thrifter. If it weren’t for my daughter, Elise, asking me to take her to Goodwill on day, I would never do it. I won’t go into what some may perceive as my UPPITY attitude about thrift shopping….just know I’m converted… to a degree. I know how to find great bargains at non-thrift stores. I’ve purchased sweaters for $5 dollars at a mainstream store, so why do I need used clothes and other items from stores such as Goodwill? You catch up on my blog post Shopping deals during COVID-19 to read about the epic deals I got at the beginning of the pandemic. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate at thrift stores is the variety of brands you can find.
  5. Propagate my own plants – I love plants. My home is filled with beautiful plans. I’m probably at 70+ container plants in my home and another 20+ in containers on my back patio. One thing I’ve learned is that plants are expensive. By the time I buy the plants, the pots (I refuse to leave a plant in the nursery container I purchased them in), soil, and fertilizer, it’ll cost a pretty penny (it’s EXPENSIVE!!!). So I got to thinking how can I get more plants by spending very little to zero money? I began following some plants groups on social media and I learned it’s so easy to create more plants from existing plants. It’s a DREAM COME TRUE. Not only that, since I’m a generous person, I love that I can share my love for plants with my family and friends by gifting them my plant babies when they come visit.

See below for my photos and more ideas on how to save money.

Store brand items in my pantry from different stores. Store brands have become an essential part of my grocery supply. Some store brands also have their own organic line of products like O Organics sold at Randall’s.
I made this delicious cauliflower, chicken ALFREDO with the Sprout’s brand Cavatappi pasta from the previous photo. I boiled, then pureed in my blender a head of cauliflower. I added nutritional yeast, pasta water, vegetable broth (see below photo), and lots of spices to the cauliflower in the blender to make the base of the “alfredo” sauce.
Liquid gold aka vegetable broth. Over a month or so, I would add any vegetable scraps to a freezer bag I kept in the freezer. Once I had enough vegetables to fill the bags, I loaded them in a pot with water, garlic, and other aromatics for broth. I simmered for about 8-10 hours. Another way I save money is by saving empty jars of marinara, pickled foods, mayonnaise, etc. They come in handy for my smoothies and general food storage.
I froze some of the broth in 1 cup servings in this freezer tray I purchased from Amazon in the fall 2021 for my 10-day soup challenge which you can read about here: Bring on the soups. I use it to freeze so much more than soups like broths and pureed fruits. This allows me to keep my supply longer and avoid wastes. Once frozen, I remove the cubes from the tray, wrap the individual cubes in parchment paper, place all in one freezer bag, and store back in the freezer.
I bought this cute little orange dress from Goodwill and wore it on Easter Sunday 2022 with a denim jacket I’ve had for 5+ years. This is a quality dress from the brand Maeve. I researched the brand online while in the store before I bought it because I wanted to justify the cost….it was $20 which is typically more expensive than other dresses at Goodwill.
This is another top I bought from Goodwill sometime last year. I love this color. I wore this to my medical clinic on Friday (yesterday) and received several compliments. The brand is New York and Company and I probably paid $5.
July 2022 – Babies from my gigantic spider plant. It took the larger ones in the back about 1 month for them to get to this size. To my dismay, none of the smaller babies survived. I don’t think they liked the jars. All glasses purchased from Dollar Tree.
September 2022 – These babies are growing up. Same plants as the larger ones in the previous photo. They love it outside.
This is my second batch of Sunflowers from seeds. They grew really quickly…a few weeks. I’ve become obsessed with sunflowers and want them in my landscape throughout the fall season. I have more sunflowers and gladiolus in nursery pots on the back patio.

What do you do to save money? Feel free to comment to let me know.

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Take a leap

We’ve made it to beyond the midpoint of 2022, believe it or not. If you think 2022 is going by SUPER FAST, you’re not alone. Someone I work with often jokes Christmas is around the corner. She’s been repeating that joke since January, and sure enough, Christmas will be here before you know it. So much has happened this year already. I don’t even remember what my goals were for 2022. Well, I take that back…here’s a big one: get through my surgery (January) and have a smooth recovery. Done! The gynecologist who performed my hysterectomy sent me off into the sunset with a “You’ve done great! I’ll see you next year.” And my oncologist is hopeful I won’t need to be on medications anymore, which I’ll find out about in a few weeks.

There is one huge goal I’m striving for, which I will not reveal what it is just yet. I know, I’m usually all for sharing, but at the same time, I’m a private person. The stakes are high on this goal and I don’t want to invite unknown energies into the mix. Not everyone is your cheerleader or will understand. But this post isn’t about what my goal actually is or what other people will think about my goal.

I was actively working on my goal a few months ago and then something happened that brought it to a halt. That “thing” was actually several things (i.e., family issues, work drama, beloved pet died, etc.). My goal started feeling like it was at the top of this mountain and my legs were getting heavier and heavier as I tried to walk to the top. I began doubting the timing of my goal and convinced myself to wait. The idea of this is not unreasonable, after all, timing is very important. These other things were important too, which is why they were popping up. Never mind I thought of this goal over a year ago.

So what do you do when you have a goal you really want, but your efforts begin to wane under the pressures of life? I was faced with this very scenario. Since this goal will have a significant impact to my quality of life, one thing I did was reevaluate my “why” for wanting to achieve the goal in the first place. Part of that re-evaluation included assessing whether my goal was reasonable. Yet, I knew my goal was more than reasonable because I made it a SMART goal.

Once I re-established my goal as a solid, non-negotiable goal, I began to question what about these distractions caused me to slow down. I was likely tired, mentally drained, and overwhelmed. The remedy has been amping up my self-nurturing (checking my internal dialogue, slowing down, resting more, increasing meditation, reducing stress, practicing gratitude, and more prayer). I needed to be vigilant about my “figurative” ADLs – Activities of Daily Living (eating nutritionally, exercise daily, deep breathing, meditation).

Some light lessons that popped up were: life is going to happen no matter what; there will always be distractions.; there will rarely be a time when nothing is going on; there will never be the “right” time; I have to make the time; and I have to continue to push forward until I achieve it. Although there are many uncertainties, I have to take the leap of faith it will work out in my favor.

If you find yourself wavering on an important goal that you can’t let go, try these tips to see if they help:

  1. Re-evaluate your “why”.. the reason wht you want to accomplish the goal.
  2. Make sure your goal is a SMART goal.
  3. Be kind and extra patient with yourself rather than beating yourself up for not achieving the goal.
  4. Develop some “Power Statements” to refer to often to keep you focused on your goal. (i.e., I can do this!)
  5. Restart or put more energy into activities that will help you achieve your goal.
  6. Take a leap of faith and JUST DO IT.

One of my favorite things about the cover photo I took with my smartphone is catching the little gecko as he contemplated his next move. He was so small compared to my wild foliage in the landscape at the old house. Yet, he was bold and fearless, eager to see where he might land, focused on getting to that next destination. He knew staying where he was, was not an option. I want to be that lizard (not FOR REAL, but in mindset…if that’s what he was thinking. You know what I mean!)

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Why I’m fasting social media

January is the month for setting the stage for the new year. It’s the month to decide on new habits and habits to let go. I selected the word “decide” because it is a simple decision when the emotion is taken out of it. I’ve identified some things I’m going to be intentional about in 2021 (you can read about here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021). I’ve listed my goals in one of my phone apps and am still working on my vision board (completion by the end of January). I’ve identified some pictures and decorations for my vision board. I just need to put everything together.

Every January, Pastor Randy Phillips from my church LifeAustin (https://life.family/) challenges us to set the tone for the new year by fasting for 21 days.  I’m not going to go in depth on the principles, but fasting, (i.e., giving up something you love for a set period of time) allows you to focus what God has done in your life and what you want God to do in your life. Abstaining from a thing, especially when you want it or are used to having it, causes you to reflect on why you’re sacrificing the thing. This is the simplest way I can explain it.

Truth be told, I’ve had a love/dislike relationship with social media for years. I love I am in contact with family and friends from all over the world. I likely would not know what some of them were up to if it weren’t for Facebook. I love seeing their updates. I love being creative with my page and posting what I want. I love sharing inspiring messages and pictures of myself and family. I love seeing inspiring messages, pictures, and comments. I love accessing all of my favorite magazines and following sites that interest and inspire me.

I dislike being exposed to hateful and thoughtless comments. I dislike not being able to control what comes across my newsfeed until I “unfriend” or “unfollow” the offender. I dislike the constant advertisements. I dislike the strong potential for comparing your life to someone else’s newsfeeds. I dislike certain posts which are triggering for me. I dislike messages of wanting more, being more, and doing more. If you’re like me…attempting to be content in this life, then social media can be a difficult place to be.

A few months ago, after about 11 years on Facebook, I decided to join Instagram which I still haven’t fully learned how to use. I’ve said numerous times I could only handle one social media account at a time because it can be all consuming. However, once I learned my teenage daughter had an Instagram account, I had a nagging need to join so I could keep tabs on her. It turns out that she doesn’t post that often, but still.

What I discovered, to my surprise, is that just about everybody I know on Facebook also has an Instagram account. Go figure! There are only a couple of friends/family I know on Instagram who are not on Facebook, so I’m glad I can keep up with them. Overall, Instagram is not that triggering for me like Facebook. But then again, I gravitate to Facebook more since I’m used to it.

While Pastor Randy was stating possible ideas of what to fast, a light bulb hit me when he mentioned social media. I had been annoyed by some posts lately, anyway. So, I decided to fast social media for one day a week through January. I’m also fasting meat consumption for one day a week. This is my second week.

The fast evolved to abstaining from social media five days last week instead of just one. I was encouraged after the first day to see how long I could go. I started on Monday thinking I would set a positive tone for my week. Another parameter I set for my fast was social media specifically refers to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’m not sure if my blogging site is considered social media, but I didn’t include WordPress or YouTube.

Some initial observations on the first day are: *Scrolling on social media is a habit. *Scrolling is a mindless activity for my hands. *Scrolling is a mind numbing activity that can suck hours from my day.

It was on the second day I abstained from opening the app at all. I thought I would have to uninstall the app from my phone for lack of self-control, but no need when I became conscious of my actions. Another observation was fasting from more than one thing at the same time/on the same day was too much for me. On day one, I prepared my lunch as usual and included meat out of habit. I decided to change my meat fast to Wednesday. I just realized I forgot to meat fast this past Wednesday so I’ll change it to Friday. Oh well. I’ll give myself some grace. In life, you’ve got to be flexible.

Update: My fasting also includes daily prayer and bible reading.

I’m believing God for a lot of positive things in my life this year. This makes me look forward to 2021 and all the possibilities.

What are your thoughts about social media? How does social media impact your life?

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Hindsight is 2020

What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.

2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?

I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.

If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.

You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:

  1. What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
  2. What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
  3. Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
  4. Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
  5. When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
LPC 2020 Vision Board

I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.

I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.

I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?

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Top things I’m letting go of in 2021

Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?

How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.

  1. Offense
    • I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
    • I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
  2. Stressing
    • On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”.  I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
    • I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
    • I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
    • I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
  3. Bad sleep habits
    • I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
    • I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
    • Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
  4. Underestimating myself
    • It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
    • Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
  5. Weight
    • The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
    • The mental weight of perfectionism.
    • The mental weight of anxiety.
    • The mental weight of things I can’t control.
    • I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
  6. Guilt
    • For not being the parent I think I should.
    • For not being the wife I think I should.
    • For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
    • For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
    • For taking time for myself.
    • I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
LPC’s 2020 Vision Board. I’ll start working on 2021’s next week.
This book and study guide continue to blow me away. I have a lot of growing to do. LPC

I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?

Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!

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No spend challenge: Day 6

It’s been long overdo, but I decided to see first hand what it feels like to not spend money for one week in an attempt to curb my spending addiction. You can read about the impetus for the challenge here : No spend challenge.

Not many people would probably admit publicly they spend too much money, especially if they do it to impress others and are living above their means. I’ll be the one to raise my hand admitting I spend more than I’d like to with the hope that it inspires others to take a closer look at their behaviors and how it affects their financial outlook, and life for that matter. For those that think this challenge should be easy or it’s not a challenge at all, more power to you. I challenge you to determine if anything I describe in this post resonates with you and then do something about it.

The most glaring thing I noticed from this exercise is how MUCH I think about buying things. It’s a natural occurrence in my head to be thinking about what to buy no matter how small the item. I attribute some of this to being the primary household shopper for my household. Therefore, I’m keenly aware of our household supply and when we need to restock (i.e., eggs, toilet paper, laundry detergent).

I plan the budget, input the numbers on a spreadsheet, track inventory of our supplies, type the grocery and household lists, and make the purchases. I’m constantly searching for the best deals by examining the ads from my favorite stores and timing my purchases appropriately based on sales. It’s a deliberate process that requires detail and attention in an effort to maximize our budget.

Many external forces also contribute to constantly thinking about buying. CONSUMERISM. These forces can be subliminal or overt. Keep in mind we live in a capitalist society here in the U.S. Take a look to see if you can relate to any of the items in the following list. I might be missing some.

  1. People on social media
  2. Ads on social media
  3. General internet ads (ads embedded in internet articles)
  4. Emails from your favorite stores
  5. Texts from your favorite stores
  6. Smart phone apps
  7. Magazines (lifestyle, travel, food, etc.)
  8. Kids asking for stuff or to go places (fast food, “let’s go to Dollar Tree”, etc.)
  9. TV commercials
  10. Youtube videos on shopping “hauls” (Dollar Tree, Target, Aldi, Walmart, Costco, etc.)
  11. Sales flyers
  12. Product samples
  13. Friends/family wanting you to support their business

In the first couple of days of the challenge, ideas would pop into my head of what I needed to buy and then I’d remember that I made this commitment to myself to not spend any money. I’m not going to say that by Day 6, I’m not thinking of buying anything because that’s not true. However, the act of not buying something when I want it, and knowing I can afford it, made me pause to consider how important the item really is. It made me assess needs and wants, which is the basics of budgeting and personal finance.

It’s not a foreign concept for me to substitute or make do without something because for 3 years, I was supporting our household on one income. I had no choice but to focus on our needs primarily. There was little room for wants, but not much. I tapped into my creativity in making do with what we had. Although we’re no longer in that tighter financial situation, we still have financial goals to achieve. One goal is to give more money to causes we support. We’ve done some of that this year already.

This challenge is only a week so I will spend again eventually. I honestly don’t like that thinking about buying things takes up so much space in my mind because there’s much more to life. Some of the things I’ve done to clear my mind of the bombarding messages to “BUY BUY BUY” is to avoid Youtube videos on shopping hauls. I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube and there are a lot of these types of videos. When I watch them, they give me ideas on things to buy that I don’t need. I also have unsubscribed from some email lists. I need to do the same for texts. Why do I need a text from Dressbarn and Bed Bath and Beyond? Since I also realized that some of my spending is emotional (boredom, happy, anxious), I also made a list with my husband and daughter of activities we could do that doesn’t involve spending money.

This challenge has put things in perspective. It also reminds me of how grateful I am for my loved ones, the life I get to live, and my blessings.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

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No spend challenge

You read that right. My next challenge is to not spend any money for the next 7 days. You know something is going to be hard when you DON’T want to do it. I DON’T want to do it, but I need to. The challenge starts today.

It’s long overdue too. I’ve had the sneaky suspicion for the last several months that I might be addicted to spending money. I think my whole family is addicted to spending money. I complain that we should all take a break, but who am I kidding??? It starts with ME.

Now, my husband, Bryan, and I have accomplished A LOT financially in 2020 and you can read about it here: Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In fact, we’re in the process of having our new home built.

Me standing on our lot. LPC

Making some financial strides gives me no excuse to let my guard down just cause I’m comfortable. And it’s the seemingly little purchases that can eat away at your finances. My magic number at my favorite grocery store, no matter how few items I have on my list, is $90.

I blame COVID-19 a little because remember when there was no food on the shelves??? There were plenty of vegetables, BUT no toilet paper, paper towels, milk, flour, bread, etc. Food and household items were rationed. Well, I only have to experience something like that one time for me to get on a MISSION to build a well stocked pantry and freezer. A well stocked pantry is what I have now and it spills over into the garage.

Kitchen pantry. It’s way more crammed today. LPC
Kitchen pantry door. Every cubby is filled including the row not pictured at the bottom. The glue in the top left and flashlight underneath the glue have since been replaced with FOOD. LPC

So I’m engaging in a nice dose of restraint for 7 days. It’s been painful thus far. I can probably think of at least 10 things that I could purchase today alone and then remembered the commitment I made. I told Bryan the only way I’m spending money is if it’s a medical emergency. I’m also not including line items I budgeted for in my monthly budget such as gifts. Other than that, for 7 days, I will not spend any money. I want to prove to myself I can do this and I want to break a habit. I need to continue my path of building wealth and nickel and diming myself is not going to cut it.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

How about you? Have you ever done something like this before? How did you feel afterward? Please share tips and encouragement!

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Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE

On February 17, 2020, I wrote a blog post sharing my financial goals for 2020 with an image from my 2020 Vision Board. Guess what? Despite the madness of 2020, it is possible to accomplish goals and align yourself in the appropriate path to secure a better future. My life is moving right along despite the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial unrest. I still don’t have enough time in my day to work, take care of my family, and do a little self-care because there’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve been shielding myself from media to focus on the things that matter to me the most (i.e., read the previous sentence again on what matters most to me).

I do realize there are many people struggling and have lost their jobs. I’m not typing this post with the intent of being insensitive to them. I can only speak to what I’m experiencing in my life. However, I’ve experienced my share of turmoil with financial and physical setbacks that has caused cascading effects on emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. I think every person will experience life’s tumultuous ride at some point. You can overcome it, especially with faith, support, patience, education, and action.

In full transparency, since WordPress updated it’s site features a while ago, I haven’t quite figured out how to link previous posts into my current posts. Until I figure that out, please feel free to read my post from February 17, 2020 because it will give you insight into my financial goals and why I chose them. In this post, I will provide an update on my progress with the intention that it inspires you to keep reaching (or plan) for your 2020 goals.

DEBT. Since April 2020, my husband, Bryan, and I have been aggressively tackling debt and paid off thousands of dollars. I just realized I need to tally up the figures. We each had our own debt, and as a married couple, had some combined debt. The amount we’ve paid is probably well over $15,000 (update: roughly $20,000), but I’ll get into that in another post.

In case you’re wondering how we accumulated debt (also read the 2/17/2020 post) and how we paid it, here’s an explanation. Bryan has not worked in gainful employment for over 3 years. He has had decent paying jobs over his lifetime, especially while living in Texas. He acquired a medical disability that threw that out the window and impacted our lives forever (i.e., turmoil I mentioned).

My income is the only income, albeit a decent income, that has supported our family since 2017…except for the 2 months he worked at UPS in the fall of 2018 so we could have a good Christmas (and we had a GREAT Christmas!). In case you don’t know, I have a real GEM in this man. He was approved for full disability status in March 2020.

As part of his disability determination, he received back pay for most, but not all of the time he didn’t work. Our plan all along has been to pay down debt and save money so we could buy another house. PERIOD. I type “another house” because we’ve owned before and downsized due to life circumstances (some of that turmoil I mentioned earlier). Read my posts from 2016 through 2018 for insight.

If you are familiar with financial expert, Dave Ramsey, then you’ll know his stance on debt. He abhors debt! We’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to make a pivot from his baby steps. The only substantial debt I have is student loans and I’m not going to wait until I pay those completely off before I buy a house. PERIOD. I totally agree with eliminating the consumer debt and the like. Most of our debt was medical. We were both diagnosed with chronic medical conditions in 2016. We had internal revenue service debt, very little credit card debt and no car loan, personal loan, or mortgage debt.

Lately, I’ve been following YouTubers who show there are other ways of conceptualizing and managing debt and overall personal finance. I’ve been so inspired. All in all, we’ve been crushing debt!

INCOME. I work hard. I have a demanding job. I work in public mental health. I manage a team of smart, driven people committed to serving the most vulnerable populations. I earned a raise in June 2020, which increased my salary. In August, I was promoted. I’m transitioning from manager to director. This was not in my vision board, but fruits of hard labor eventually pay off. All of this is for the benefit of our goal to buy a house and to provide a better life for our family. PERIOD. Now that Bryan receives a monthly disability check, we are in even better shape.

HOUSE. We’re in the process of purchasing a home, which will be built by the spring of 2021. We are so EXCITED!!! How fitting is my cover image which is from my 2020 Vision Board??? Is this a good time to buy, let alone build a house? It is for me & mine. PERIOD. As I tend to do when embarking on new endeavors, I’ve been consumed with learning everything I can about the home buying process and real estate market. I’ve been YouTubing myself into a coma. Bryan even asked me if I planned on pursuing another career with all this knowledge. NOPE. My goal is to be informed so I can make the best decisions.

Sure, there are predictions about a housing market crash here and there. There are so many opinions. You know what? The best time to buy a house is when YOU ARE READY. PERIOD. Will we have a down payment? YES. Will we have savings? YES. Are we able to afford a house? YES. Can we do all this and take care of our kids? YES.

If God is willing, this is our retirement home, our FINAL home. Do I think my life will change once I get the house??? To a degree, YES. Some people may not understand the big deal, so to them, I say bare with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live where I want in the surroundings that will afford me the most comfort and peace of mind. PERIOD.

What progress are you making on your financial goals? Feel free to share any tips you may have.

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Blessings abound

Even in the midst of a pandemic, blessings abound. I’m approaching my 8th week of telework already and it has been an adjustment. Yet, my stress from the work commute is zero. I’ve been meeting some work related goals such as hiring another brilliant person to my team. My family and I have been spending unprecidented amounts of time together without being at each other’s throats. My son got hired at Walmart about a month ago. I feel loved, safe, and healthy. I’m actually reluctant to return to the office whenever that is and my agency is definitely in the planning stages.

My husband, Bryan, and I have had our share of hardship over the years, but particularly since 2016. We have serious battle scars, so as I’ve indicated in previous posts, this pandemic pales in comparison to what we’ve been through. Hell, I even took the COVID-19 test and never worried about the results. We were so thrilled when we received the FABULOUS news that Bryan’s social security disability was finally approved after two years since he applied.

Bryan’s social security disability hearing with an administrative law judge was held in March… right when COVID-19 was solidifying itself as a global pandemic. I think it’s cruel for a person to be forced to wait so long (years) to get results. When I worked at an outpatient mental health clinic years ago, I saw my clients struggle with housing, food, and health issues as they waited on disability. On some level, I’m assured that the government doesn’t just grant it to whoever who asks. You have to prove you need disability. It is what it is and ours was approved during a time when many people are living through very tough financial circumstances due to COVID-19.

I’ve financially supported my household solely for almost 3 years. I would be lying if I didnt tell you it was a struggle at times, especially in the last 6 months. It did force us to be very careful about spending and stick to a budget. We’ve accumulated so many medical bills due to both of our health issues. After a while my credit score began to suffer, but I knew in January 2020 things would get a little worse before they got better. That didn’t stop me from making a plan. See my previous posts about my 2020 financial goals.

I’m so grateful to have been able to support my family and will continue to do so. Bryan’s social security disability determination puts an end to the waiting, wondering, and stressing. A huge weight has been lifted from Bryan’s shoulders more so than mine. I also find the news bitter sweet because it confirms he has a disability, but we’ve known this and are coping with it just fine. Now, Bryan gets to put this process behind him and plan what his future will be.

This past week was one of the best weeks for us in a long time because we were able to pay off some debt, add to our savings, and gift funds to our family. We did make a few purchases. The gifting was the most exciting part. We also tithed to our church. On top of that, on Thursday, my boss told me I received a raise (without asking)!!!

And the ultimate activity that almost took me over the edge on Friday was telling a few members on my team that they would be getting raises, unbeknownst to them. They were so surprised and one told me her spouse had been impacted by COVID-19, so the raise was shocking and much appreciated. I was grateful I had a window of opportunity a couple of months back to make this happen for them.

I wasn’t sure about posting this message because I never want it to seem as if I’m tooting my own horn. I struggle with embracing the good in my life with humility. If you get anything out of my message, I hope it’s that with patience, faith in God, positive action, and perseverance, you can get through just about anything. Just keep moving forward.

How have you been coping? What blessings have you seen come out of this pandemic?

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2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole

Hello world! On February 3, 2020, after a glorious January of drinking delicious green smoothies and crushing my health goals, I came down with a vicious, RELENTLESS COLD! I haven’t had a cold in like…YEARS. I honestly think I haven’t had a cold since some time before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Let me tell you, I don’t want another one again!!! I believe I picked it up from someone at work and passed it on to my husband. The rest is history. It was terrible! I’m mostly better, but I’m not 100% yet.

Despite spending the first half of February fighting a cold, I’ve set other goals related to my finances. Check out a snapshot of my vision board in the cover photo. (Ignore the weird smile.) Have you ever made up your mind about something to the point where you became obsessed??? This is me right now. I can barely think of anything else.

I’m not quite sure what clicked in my head that’s caused me to become so laser focused and determined to get out of debt, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve been reading and watching videos on YouTube daily, and mostly all day on weekends, about personal finance, getting out of debt, and building wealth.

Lucrece’s Financial reading

I’ve been toying with Dave Ramsey for years. I even bought his daughter, Rachel Cruze’s book and audio of “Love Your Life Not Theirs” (not pictured). I’ve taken on some of Dave Ramsey’s principles, many of which are from the Bible, but haven’t fully committed. For example, I’ve been doing a zero based budget for years. In my budget binder, where I track our household expenses, I can see I’ve been using the budget worksheet from one of his books since at least 2007-2008. I also have a Financial Planner I’ve recently recovered and have notes in there from 2008 (when my handwriting was much neater). What I haven’t done is save for the emergency fund and start the debt snowball yet.

For the last few years, I’ve been living in some kind of alternate reality, as best as I can describe, because I haven’t put much thought into my financial goals. Sure, I do a budget every month and pay my bills, but I haven’t planned much beyond that. Retirement and insurance are automatically withdrawn from my check. My husband hasn’t worked for a couple of years due to his health issues, so my income is all that we’re working with for this period in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things working in our favor with regard to our finances such as my salary and I’m fairly organized. However, there’s much, MUCH more work to be done. My husband is on board now too. Call it mid-life CRISIS or perimenopause, but there’s a sense of urgency in getting this part of my life together that I’ve not had before. I’d like to build wealth for my family.

Like most Americans today, a large chunk of my debt is student loan debt. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some things differently; however, I can’t go back in the past. I must move forward learning the light lessons along the way. I’m highly educated (my student loans are my receipt of this education) and am going to use the tools I already possess to reach my financial goals.

I’ve taken the time to total my debt, which I haven’t done in years and years. I think this is a sign I’m serious. I actually wrote down the numbers. The amount is mind boggling. However, I know if we (my husband and I) put our minds to it, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. You can too.

The best place to start is to: acknowledge there is a problem, decide to do something about it, decide on the best course of action, plan, and then put your plan to ACTION. Also, surround yourself with information and successful stories of people who have reached your same goals. And then often VISUALIZE yourself reaching your goal(s). IMAGINE what it feels like. How good does it feel to make that accomplishment?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What are your financial goals for 2020? How much progress have you made? Planning on getting a 2nd or 3rd job?