Travel: City Guide to Phoenix Arizona

We had the pleasure of having my brother and his girlfriend as city guides on our recent travel to Phoenix, Arizona this past weekend. They live in Glendale, which is just a stone’s throw away. Our lovely weekend was spent visiting a mixture of their favorite spots and a few new ones, too. We were not disappointed with what the area had to offer. While it is fresh in my mind, here is a travel guide for a weekend getaway in Phoenix, Arizona.

Not worth the time.

Good, but ordinary.

Great. Worth a visit.

Exceptional. A must-do experience.

Frugal friendly



Fourtillfour Coffee

7105 E 1st Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Fourtillfour Coffee is a car-themed coffee shop housed in a garage space in Scottsdale, Arizona. An industrial roll-up door welcomes guests into a tiny shop housing merchandise and toy cars. Meanwhile, the coffee beans are packaged in containers that mimic vintage gas tanks, and the merchandise also imbibes a retro Grease-like vibe. Every Saturday, they host car meet-ups with different themes, which I think is pretty cool. People were gathering under the trees on tables and benches in the front lawn. I love that dogs were welcome, and there was a homey feel to the space.

Unfortunately, the coffee itself was more traditional in taste. I believe the beans were blends and not single-origin, so the drip isn’t exactly something out of this world. However, I think the traditionality of the coffee matches the vintage vibe of the shop, and I don’t necessarily consider the coffee bad. So I rate it good, but ordinary in terms of coffee. Regardless, it is still a really cool meet-up and hang-out spot, and you’re sure to see a few awesome cars parked on the street!

The Herb Box

The Herb Box Chicken Sando
The Herb Box

7051 E 5th Ave J, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

We had brunch at The Herb Box in Scottsdale, Arizona. The expansive patio has plenty of shaded seating. The indoor space is quite large as well. Good quality ingredients make up a wide array of brunch fare. They allowed us to bring our outside coffee in, which was pretty nice. And the service was excellent. Other than that, it was just a regular brunch on a regular Saturday.

Snakes and Lattes

20 W 6th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

We love board-games! So it may be biased to say that we loved this space. That being said, any game nerd who is going to travel to Phoenix, Arizona needs to stop at this place. Snakes and Lattes offers a great selection of food, alcohol, coffee, and coffee-alcohol (another plus). Their selection of games is incredible as well! And they have a board-game guru standing by the games, walking around, and teaching people how to play. He was great! Not all board-game cafes have a guru but now I am thinking they should.

The service was amazing and the play time is unlimited. It only costs $6 per person to play. The indoor space is large and there’s also an outdoor patio if you want to get some sun. We stayed a total of 4 hours and my brother has been there multiple times with groups as small as four people and as big as fourteen. We ordered beers and cocktails. Pro-tip: Happy Hour is from 2-4pm!

The Yard

The Yard Ping Pong Table

5640 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014

In order to kill time between board-games and dinner, we swung by The Yard to grab a few beers and play ping-pong and cornhole. It has been a while since I had that much fun! The Yard is a great place to watch sports games on their many TV screens while eating eclectic bar bites and drinking cocktails or beer. It is situated in a college town, and a majority of the patrons there were in their 20’s and 30’s. There is an open space where one can play shuffleboard, ping-pong, and cornhole. It just takes an ID to rent the supplies. But don’t forget to get a stamp on your wrist if you give up your ID, so that you can still order drinks as you play. We surely worked up an appetite before going to dinner.

Ramen Dozo

Ramen Dozo

Suite #107, 3415 S McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85282

‘Welcome to Ramen Dozo, where the ramen is good, the broth is traditional, and the service isn’t so great.’ That was the introduction our server gave, which wasn’t completely far from the truth. The Ramen was good, but the space wasn’t ambient and the service was a bit off-kilter. Still, I really liked our waiter. Not because we got into a long conversation about our new Bitcoin card, but because he was honest, had a sarcastic humor, and was really trying his best to serve us as quickly as possible. The poor guy looked like he was waiting all the tables in the restaurant!

However, the ramen was really good. I ordered my typical tonkotsu ramen and it came with decent pork portions. I also ordered a side of extra noodles but I think the serving was big enough that I didn’t really need to. In fact, I didn’t finish them which NEVER happens. Mike got the spicy miso ramen and really liked his ramen as well! The price was awesome, coming in at around $10 a bowl. We are used to California $15-$20 ramens, so I was super happy with this one. I gave it a frugal rating! Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. They do close early, though, so plan to eat by 7pm.

Provisions Coffee

4501 N 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85018

Great space to match great 3rd wave coffee! This spot is actually serving coffee by day and cocktails and beer by night! They have two bars – one lined with espresso machines and the other lined with draft beer handles. They serve bread and pastry with your coffee, as well as house a number of great coffee merch items! In the evenings, they have a pizza menu to go with your beer. I really liked this coffee spot, and my brother already has plans to return for weekend study sessions! There is ample room in the air-conditioned indoors, as well as a patio with a number of tables and benches. And it seems the dogs love it, too! PS: If you live in OC, California like I do, Bad Coffee sells Provision coffee beans. So there isn’t necessarily a need to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to try them out.

Taco Chelo

501 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

If anyone ever tells you there are no good taco places in Arizona, they’d be lying. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, coming from Southern California. But the tacos at Taco Chelo really blew me away. It was after hiking Piestewa Peak and Freedom Loop Trail, a 4.5 mile endeavor in Arizona sun that had me questioning our visit. The peak portion of the trail was amazing, but by the time we started the loop, I was very tired and exhausted. Nothing that tacos can’t fix! I would highly recommend going here. The serving is decent, as I got full after two tacos and splitting an order of chips. The others ate 3-4 tacos, which was quite impressive. The green salsa that came with the chips was so delicious, I added it to everything. And the service was fast! Exactly what we needed as we were starving post-hike.

CiBo Pizzeria

603 N 5th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003

They really did save the best for last, as this was my favorite spot for the entire weekend. The restaurant is actually a home with a large front yard lined by a white picket fence and covered by mature trees. String lights create the perfect ambience as we dined al fresco. A few musicians were stationed in the corner of the lawn singing and playing string instruments. The vibe was laid-back, family style, but also, romantic enough for young couples on their first date.

The wine selection was decent but the pizza was amazing! I finished an entire pizza by myself, which is a great sign. Sourdough bakers always say that a dough is made right when you can eat an entire loaf by yourself in one sitting. Same goes for pizza! I ordered the Diavola (Tomato sauce – mozzarella and spicy salame) and Mikey ordered the Dolce Vita (Burrata – spek – arugula and balsamic glaze). Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you. This is just how pizzas were meant to be. Next time we travel to Phoenix, Arizona, we will be back at this joint!

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How I Made $233.48 in September 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

September was a slow month, both in the blog space and the dental office. Schools resumed, summer ended, and even the Memorial holiday proved sleepy. But I am happy to report that the blog still made money, regardless. In September 2021, I earned $233.48 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

Related Posts:

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In September 2021, I made $233.48 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $98 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include TokoDesign.
  • The rest of the income ($135.48) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog which continually earn me commission for every successful sale. It is the best method of passive income for bloggers, as it connects your audience with valuable products and services that you recommend, while paying you for your work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $5,391.87!! Of that, $3,094.48 was earned in 2021.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Monthly Goals: October 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

October has arrived in California, marked by gloomy mornings, cool evenings, and the darkened petals of my favorite tree outside our bedroom window. It’s unmistakable, the turn of the season. Within my own body, I feel an inward shift of my mental state, as I start to yearn for the smell of comfort foods, the soft glow of reading lamps, and the softness of cozy rugs and blanket forts.

There is still a bit of left-over unrest from the summer days – pent-up energy that is manifesting as anxiety. Anxiety worth sharing, in case you feel it too – over the upcoming resumption of student loans, over the holiday season around the bend, over the general lack of progress or feeling of stagnation now that we’ve finished our international travels for the year… I chalk the blend of emotions up to the changing of seasons.

I have noticed that my goals this month are extremely ambitious, with a number of productive goals intertwined with tasks to keep me creative, learning, and relaxing too. Sometimes, it can all seem a bit much, but I do tend to shoot for the stars, so that even if I fall short, I’ll still be somewhere up there. I know that it’s dangerous to pen so many expectations, but if I don’t, I wouldn’t necessarily feel like myself. I recognize that I fall to the cadence of cycles, with periods of lull and burnout, but I’ve come to accept my ways rather than resist of be ashamed of the roller coaster ride I call life.

Here is what I’ve got to look forward to in October.

Ways to Improve the Blog

  • Apply to 20 affiliates.
  • Publish 20 blog posts.
  • Make 50 Pinterest posts.
  • Add excerpts for past posts.
  • Internally link related posts.
  • Reach out to 10 collaborations and secure a few partnerships.
  • Review Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (my favorite course).

Ways to Improve My Finances

Ways to Continue Learning

Ways to Have Fun and Relax

  • Commit to one digital sabbath a week.
  • Limit social media time to 30 minutes a day.
  • Practice turning off my phone wholly, whenever possible.
  • Enjoy our two trips this month – to Arizona and Norcal.
  • Bake a new recipe each week (four total) including participating in the PIEOMETRY challenge in our Bake Club.
  • Be more connected with Mikey by listening to the same podcasts, reading the same books, and learning new hobbies.
  • Time block relaxing activities every single day.

Ways to Stay Healthy

  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • Less dairy, less processed foods.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night.

This photograph was taken by the amazing Chadwick Gantes! The scrubs are from Figs, and the shoes are from Clove.

How to Set Up Your Living Trust at Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I was super excited to finally have our living trust notarized last weekend in the presence of two friends who kindly gave up a Saturday morning to be our witnesses. Now that the living trust is behind us, I finally have the bandwidth to jot down a few comments on the process as a whole, plus share a few tips and answer a few questions on how to do-it-yourself in the comfort of your home. Or in my case, whilst wearing pajamas.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is a form of estate planning that allows you to control your assets while you are alive but have your money or properties distributed to people of your choosing once you pass. It is comprised of documents written in a standardized way that outlines what happens to all the assets you’ve worked hard for after your death. It is important because it ensures that your property and money goes to people who you want it to go to.

Is a living trust the same as a will?

A living trust is not the same as a will. A will is something that you can write and simply keep or give to someone you trust. It is not a formal document. In a will, you can outline who you want your assets to go to in the event of your passing. However, once you do pass, your assets do not immediately go to the people or organizations that you’ve outlined in your will. It goes to the state (in my case, California) who will take it upon itself to divvy your assets as dictated in your will. In the case of a living trust, your assets go directly to your Trustee (someone you name as the controller of your assets) who will then divvy up the rest of your property as dictated in your living trust.

The main difference is that at the time of your death, your property will either go to the state for dispersal or to the Trustee that you name.

Why do I need a living trust?

You want a living trust over a will because the state of California is very busy and will not disperse your assets without a fee. And a nominal one at that. They will first use your assets to pay off any debts or fees that are in your name. Then they will take a cut for the distribution of assets, usually a percentage of the asset price. By having the state do all of your asset distribution for you, you could potentially lose a lot of your assets in fees!

Alternatively, the living trust will protect your assets and transfer them directly to your Trustee at the time of your death. The Trustee will then be responsible for distributing your assets, without having to lose any of your assets.

How Much Does a Living Trust Cost?

Most frequently, living trusts are concocted by estate planning lawyers. Research in the Orange County area of California revealed that the costs of drafting a living trust with a lawyer costs anywhere between $2,500 to $3,500. Of course, this does not include additional fees for additional assets, recording with the county, or notarization of documents. I, however, produced my living trust for a mere $329, including a living will and Power of Attorney documents.

Why the huge price difference?

Because people assume that lawyers know something we don’t know. And they do. They know that a standardized form is sufficient to drafting a living trust. I could have written my living trust from scratch, but in order to ensure that I was following the standardized structure for a living trust and using the correct verbage, I created my living trust using an online company instead of hiring a lawyer.

When we were talking with a estate planning lawyer, I noticed that she handed me print-outs written using big font. The print-outs looked like they were written in the 1980’s or 1990’s. They had fill-in-the-blanks that elementary students could fill out, given that they had the information. The fill-in blanks were things such as ‘Name’, ‘Address’, ‘Asset’, and ‘Trustee’. It was only a few pages long, and extremely simplistic.

So I asked myself, “Is this all there is to it?” After a few moments of research, I learned that it is. People pay for estate planning lawyers for peace of mind, under the assumption that a lawyer’s education makes them an expert. They pay a premium for the convenience of not having to write it themselves or to do the leg-work. Honestly, I think people pay the high fees because that’s what most people do. We’re all just lemmings following each other to the edge of the cliff.

Thankfully, the internet is chock-full of guidelines for doing your own living trust.

How did I Set Up A Living Trust at Home?

As I said previously, you can write it yourself from scratch. It doesn’t have to follow an exact format, but it does have to contain the correct information and be thorough. You’d hate to leave money on the table because you left something out of your trust. Do recall that this is one of the reasons why people choose to pay lawyers to draft their trust – the fear that they won’t do it right.

I had my own doubts about my abilities to write one from scratch, and I honestly did not want to spend a lto of time learning everything there is to know about living trusts. So I found a solution that was in the middle. I wrote my living trust using Legal Zoom. I had set up an S Corporation through the same company four years ago, and really like the customer service I received at that time. So I was quite excited to learn that they charged only $329 for an estate planning bundle.

When you purchase this bundle, you get a living trust, up to two basic wills, up to two powers of attorney and a year of attorney assist – access to an attorney who can answer all your questions about your trust. This year of attorney assist should be cancelled before the renewal one year later, to avoid the recurring fee of $120. I recommend cancelling the Attorney Assist once your trust is completed, notarized, and recorded, so there are no surprise fees one year later.

My hunch was correct in that the writing of the trust only required me to fill out my information on a template – a process that took me 15 minutes. To check out, you simply pay the fee at the end, and submit the forms. Within a day, my forms were finalized by Legal Zoom and were ready to print. A guideline on the following steps required to notarize your documents are included in your package. All-in-all, the process probably takes 39 minutes total.

How do I Notarize My Living Trust?

Notarizing a living trust is quite simple. A quick Google search of local notaries informed me of their abundance. Luckily, one of my neighbors happened to be a notary, so I emailed her and through this process, I’ve gotten to know our neighbor! Some notaries will be willing to travel to your home, but for an additional fee. I went with a notary that charges per signature, rather than a flat fee. To give you an idea, we paid $15 per signature for our notary, for a total of $150. Other notaries were charging a $200 flat-fee. We ended up saving money by walking to our notary’s office, and choosing one who charged per signature.

A way to reduce notary fees is to have witnesses. Technically, the documents don’t all have to be signed by the notary. Some parts can be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary. If you want to save money, choose to bring two witnesses to your signing. Just keep in mind that witnesses cannot be anyone with familial relationship to you (whether by blood or marriage) nor can they be a benefactor in your living trust.

Lastly, make sure to ask your notary if they have the ability to notarize living trusts and powers of attorney. Not every notary has that power, and it will save you a trip by asking ahead of time.

How Do I Transfer a Deed to My Living Trust?

Transferring a deed to your living trust takes a bit more work, and requires a different service altogether. However, you mustn’t leave your real estate behind. The process of transferring a deed to a living trust is equally simple. Legal Zoom can do a Standard Real Estate Deed Transfer for $249. Once again, you can do the transfer yourself, which will require you to write the documents as well as record the transfer with the county recorder’s office. The recording of transfer with the county has a tiny fee, which differs depending on where you live.

How Do I Transfer My Assets?

Part of your living trust package includes letters that must be sent to your asset accounts. For every asset you listed under your trust, Legal Zoom provides letters to be mailed to each account letting them know that you are transferring the ownership of your asset to the Living Trust. It was quite simple to do. I just logged into each institution, found the address designated for TDA (or Transfer of Assets) and mailed each letter to them.

What next?

After our living trust was notarized, our deed sent to the county office, and our letters send to all institutions, we made a few copies of our trusts. We keep the original copy with us, and handed another copy to our parents for safe-keeping. We are also planning on renting out a safety deposit box at a bank somewhere to hold a copy. However, I am pausing on that for now since it comes with a yearly fee – and you all know how I hate subscriptions. An alternative would be to get a fire-proof safe at home, a decision left for another day.

I know estate planning is boring stuff, but it’s really something I urge you to do. Legal Zoom made the entire process easy for us, and it really didn’t take a lot of time. Compared to paying thousands of dollars and spending hours meeting with a lawyer, creating a living trust took only an hour or so of our time and a couple hundred bucks. Plus, getting to do it all in the comfort of my home makes working with Legal Zoom one of the best decisions I have made.

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Pushcarts: A Small Space WFH Desk Solution

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Small Space Living: Tip #17: Find Versatility in Carts

I am starting to like how my work-from-home space is coming together. It’s looking so good that I can almost call it official. For a year I’ve just been a migratory worker, finding space on the dining table, on the couch, in a corner of our living room, and occasionally, escaping on the tiny balcony. It’s nice to reclaim a dedicated work-from-home space and decorate it more permanently, the way I have always wanted.

I have decided to keep my Herman Miller Aeron Chair (affiliate link) because it is such a classic and have recently upgraded my desk to String Furniture’s Work Desk (affiliate link) in Beige/White. I wrote about my excitable desk upgrade here. However, in making the transition, I did lose drawer space, exchanging it for less clutter and a slimmer desk profile. I debated about buying a minimalist filing cabinet (this one from Branch furniture was my favorite) but decided against it when my frugal side won over my need to be esthetically pleasing.

Instead, I opted for a pushcart from Ikea that was equally pleasing to me, extremely affordable ($28!), and insanely more versatile. Hence, the tip for this post. To be fair, I am partial to pushcarts, having worked as a librarian at USC while going to dental school. While my classmates were studying or relaxing at home, I spent evenings after school in the dark aisles of my favorite, Harry-Potter-esque library on campus, organizing books and tidying shelves. I was left to my own, listening to podcasts whilst I pushed my push cart around. Some nights, the library would be so deserted that I would scare myself in the silence, especially when the vents turned on or the lights of the old building flickered. To say that pushcarts lend a bit of nostalgia would be an understatement for this bookworm, who also spent 200+ volunteer hours at the local library in high-school.

The idea of using a shopping cart in lieu of a filing cabinet for a WFH space actually first came to me when I was perusing Yamazaki Home’s website. Yamazaki Home is my favorite source for all minimalist household products. They mix a Japanese esthetic with modern minimalism and use materials such as ceramic, wood, and metals. I saw this rolling kitchen island cart (affiliate link) and the rest was history! They actually have a number of cart options, all of which can be viewable here (affiliate link).

The reason why the cart was a great solution for me was because of our tiny space. There is only approximately 14 inches between the wall and the desk where I needed to squeeze a filing cabinet through. The Nissafors cart from Ikea is less than a foot wide. It has three levels, with the bottom shelf being deeper. I use an organizer that I talked about in this post to keep my camera and unsightly chargers and cords hidden on the deeper shelf. I use the top shelf to hold a candle, a jug of water, a water glass, my phone, plus other things that I am currently using for that workday. The middle shelf holds paperwork, my planner, my TBC Eyewear Blue Light blockers, and other things that I may not be using for the day but I would like to use in the near future.

I love the wheels on the cart, which took me only fifteen minutes to assemble. I sometimes push the cart to the living room when I want to collect other desk supplies that are hidden in our media console. I sometimes push the cart to the kitchen, when I want to refill my jug of water, or pick up a cup of tea or coffee. When working at my desk, I can slide the cart out slightly so that it is right next to me, like an open drawer. At the end of the day, I tuck the cart back into the nook by the wall.

Apart from being a comrade for my work station, the Nissafors cart can double as a planter stand. I can place multiple plants on its three shelves and trolley them over to the sunniest of windows. If a plant is wanting of sunlight, this cart can easily bring them there for the afternoon, and then bring them home to their resting places in the evening.

The cart also doubles as a serving tray for gloomy weekend mornings at home, when scones and coffee need to be transported to the bed or by the couch. And on days when we host dinners at home, the cart can double as a bar cart, holding bottles of wine on the bottom shelf, stocking cans on the middle tier, and serving cocktails up top. I told you this girl has a penchant for pushcarts.

Anywho, chalk this post up to a simple desk solution for small spaces. Or an absolute nerd talking up storage carts. Whatever the case may be, this is a way for me to be more frugal, minimalist, and creative in making my WFH space a bit more me. Take it or leave it, but please do leave your own solutions to small spaces, in case other readers need ideas.

Frugality: Avoiding the Call to Early Holiday Shopping

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It’s been a minute since I’ve written a post about frugality in this space. Which is ironic because it’s our number one tactic for paying back $575k of student debt aggressively. But a few days ago I was irked by an advertisement that flickered its way through my InstaStories. It already bothers me that Instagram advertises like crazy on the app., but usually I can let it go and just flip through to the Stories I actually want to see. This one, however, was special. It was so special that I interrupted my husband’s reading to show him the ad.

The ad publicized an article written by New York Times three (four?) days ago. The article called people to start their Christmas shopping now in order to beat shipping delays. “Economic experts advise getting your holiday shopping done ASAP.” Ironically, this was published the day before SPY took a turn for the worse (Monday morning). Stocks are falling, consumer consumption is an all-time low as the government’s aid and renter’s protection ends, inflation is rising … and this is their idea for boosting the economy? Get people to spend more money, ASAP by instilling fear of missing out? I’m DEAD.

Before you rush out the doors at the behest of LA Times and start spending hard-earned dollars on Christmas gifts, please stop and think. Okay, so maybe little Johnny might not get the toy of the season this year. Isn’t it too early to HAVE a toy of the season? Also, will little Johnny really care about the same toy four months away? I mean… I don’t have them, but… kids, am I right? And what are we exactly teaching younger generations here?

I recently read in a book called Influence by Cialdini that toy stores have a tactic, which is to stock their shelves short of a very specific seasonal toy on purpose during holiday season. The toy is advertised heavily pre-holiday season so that kids are clamoring to get their hands on it. The parents, of course, promise the children to get that toy for them for Christmas if they are good, only to find that the toy is sold out and they cannot get their hands on it. Because the parents have made this small commitment to their child, they feel the need to buy the toy sometime early the following year (and substitute with a different toy during Christmas time so they don’t appear empty-handed), usually in January or February when the shelves are re-stocked. Anyone who works in the toy industry knows about this tactic (apparently), as the author of the book first-hand experienced seeing his neighbor two years in a row in the toy store on a February day. His friend who works at the toy industry confessed to the tactics toy stores use.

Can we please all agree that these consumerist ploys are not beneficial to any of us, only to the larger companies who make money off of us? Can I just say that this could be a tactic used to get us to spend money to “boost the economy” aka their wealth? Or perhaps it is the companies’ way of anticipating the repercussions of aggressive money printing, debt postponement, and the end of government aid at the end of the year and in calling for early Christmas shopping, securing our dollars right now before the possible dip?

Look, I get it. You want to show loved ones you love them. I myself publish gift guides in this space. Gift-giving is actually my love language (in case you didn’t know). But there is a line I draw.

I’ve written before about my thoughts on Black Friday. I’ve written advice about how to write a holiday no-gifting letter. I wrote about getting a group together to create a new norm of saying “No” to Secret Santa Gift Exchanges. I gave consumable Christmas gift ideas as well as ten really simple gift options. And if you wish to move the needle one way, I suppose your own actions do more than words, yes?

Anywho, if you fear missing out on a very specific purchase, by all means, rush out the door. But honestly, now isn’t the time. Now is the time to save your money. Stay frugal. I, for one, am staying put. No ploy for me. If the shelves end up running dry, it’ll be bread and cookies for everyone.

Finance: A Few Words on Bitcoin

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I am, by far, no means a Bitcoin expert. Based on my historical data, you wouldn’t even think that Bitcoin falls within my financial game plan. I mean, I am the Debtist who is more interested in wiping my debt than taking the forgiveness plan in order to up my wealth accumulation game. I know I am giving up a lot of potential wealth in order to get rid of my debt. But I am not anti-wealth-accumulation altogether! I am keeping an eye on Bitcoin, and learning more as time goes on. To get to the main point of this post: I invest in Bitcoin because I think it’s a viable financial option, even for Debtists such as myself.

One of the most interesting things that has happened during the pandemic is the government’s postponement of student loan repayment. It has created the space for me to get a glimpse of what life would be like if I hadn’t chosen to pay back our debt aggressively. I got an idea of how much we are saving, and we have started to learn more about where we could be investing all that money.

I am still of the mind that paying back my debt aggressively is what I want to do. I can see how the debt accumulating in this country is leading up to the collapse of the economy. It is apparent to me that building our finances on debt can be extremely detrimental, and I use the economy at large as an example. Currently, the economy is controlled by the government, who has been inflating the value of a dollar by printing crazy amounts of money in the past few years (2020 and 2021 especially). We are printing money to cover our deficit, which even the Feds are warning against as it has been proven to be the demise of other countries in the past. But the printing hasn’t stopped, and neither has inflation. Meanwhile, the wages have not increased enough to offset the inflation rate, and the amount of goods in our economy hasn’t increased to match the money being printed. Due to the high inflation rate, it makes sense for people not to hold on to cash or an emergency fund, since the value of the dollar is declining. So people are putting their money in assets like real estate, stocks, bonds, etc – just to offset the inflation rate (and marginally!).

However, if Bitcoin becomes more prevalent as an alternative monetary system, then the way in which society deals with money will change. Bitcoin is an asset that should continue to gain value over time (as it stabilizes) because it is a limited asset. With that being the case, as more people use Bitcoin, we will switch to a society that values savings and emergency funds over putting their money in assets. A world of Bitcoin is a world in which I will do well – because I value being debt-free, having savings, having emergency funds, and owning something that increases in value.

Meanwhile, the fiat system will continue to inflate the dollar. Why? Because the fiat system is built on this foundation of debt. When we print more money without increasing the goods in the economy, we decrease the value of the dollar and cause inflation. We then create debt as people need more dollars to pay for things. At the same time, the value of bonds will decrease, which will lead to a distrust of the government. Less investors will place their money in bonds (aka lend their money to the government), which would require the government to increase interest rates. And how do you think the government will pay back the investors with such high interest rates when it comes time? When it comes time for the investors to collect their money, the government will need to print more money. Essentially, the creation of more money leads to the creation of more debt.

In a world where you have a choice between an asset that is deflating in value over an asset that is increasing in value, it can become quite obvious why people would choose Bitcoin. Now I am not a Bitcoin maximalist. I don’t think Bitcoin will completely replace the current monetary system. I don’t know if it will stay decentralized forever. I don’t think governments will sit back and allow it to completely usurp their way of life. I don’t think Bitcoin is without risk. I heard that 80% of all Bitcoin is owned by 2% of people, who have the power and ability to sway its price tremendously. I heard that 40% of Bitcoin mining happens in China, whose government has more control over their miners. I am not even so confident as to say I am betting on Bitcoin. I am not going to put 100% of my lifesavings in Bitcoin. I know there are people out there borrowing money and selling all they own to go fully into cryptocurrency. I am not about that.

BUT. I have bought Bitcoin and my husband has had the foresight to purchase and hold Bitcoin from over five years ago. I griped about it at the time since we were young and we had no money to play with. Plus Bitcoin was “new”, which is always scary. In hindsight, I am glad he did it and will never live down all that groaning. I, myself, started investing in it over this past year as insurance. If the probability of Bitcoin having a place in this market exists, wouldn’t you want to get in it? My thought is, “if Bitcoin does become a thing, I don’t really want to be the guy without any.

These are my few words on Bitcoin. Like I said, I am no expert. I am no Bitcoin maximalist. I have my doubts just like anyone. But I have my hopes too. I am not here to spread ‘facts’ about cryptocurrency (what are the facts these days?!). You can brush this off as simply musings from my desk.

However, if you wish to dabble in cryptocurrency, or like me, to insure yourself, you can easily set up a Coinbase account here (referral link!). If you use this link, you get $10 in free Bitcoin after you buy or sell your first $100 on Coinbase. If you are a student or someone who is tight on cash but hopes to be financially free one day, here is what I would do. Invest $100 in Bitcoin, and then just let it sit. Ignore the volatility that will surely exist in the coming years, but just think of it as a reserve for the just-in-case. Start there, and see where this pans out. Adjust later if you’d like. It’s not going to make you rich, but it’s a place to start with cryptocurrency. And it won’t break your bank or hinder your current plans. Then learn more about Bitcoin. Listen to podcasts or find tutorials on YouTube. I personally like the BTC episodes on The Investor’s Podcast (TIP). I recommend starting with episode 1 if you are starting from scratch. It helped me a lot to get the ball rolling.


Get free Bitcoin by signing up for a credit card that gives bitcoin for rewards! I personally use the Fold Debit Card (referral link!). For every purchase, you are granted free satoshis. I have always been a travel hacker, earning free rewards through normal spending and traveling the world for free. Well, I have since traded in my travel rewards for Bitcoin rewards. I watch my Bitcoin stash grow with every swipe. Whether you are planning for a big purchase, a big trip, or the holidays, I would definitely recommend applying for the Fold Debit Card now.

Other Recommendations

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