Preparing for the Resumption of Student Loan Payments

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

I don’t pretend to know what anyone’s financial situation is like. I know that our stories are different, and depending on where we lie on our path, the story changes with time. I have already written about what one should be doing with their federal student loans at this time, but the advice is not finite. I find that the best mode of action, historically, has been to share with others what I myself am personally doing with my student loans, and letting others walk away with what they’d like to keep for themselves. So here it is. A little update on me, preparing for the resumption of student loan repayment once the 0% interest resumes at the latter part of 2021.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

For the past year, I have been holding onto my usually aggressive student loan repayment sums for multiple reasons. Firstly, the uncertainty of the economic and social situation due to the pandemic. Mike spent 10 out of the 12 months last year not working. I honed in on only working part-time at one of my offices so as not to spread disease among different population groups. Family members lost jobs and we didn’t know who would need our support. Siblings moved back into parent’s homes, parents themselves moved, and a majority of our immediate families went without work or school for most of 2020. So I paid my minimum payment (in order to avoid forbearance just in case it affected the terms of the loan in the long-run) and took the rest of the income and invested it into a High Yield Savings Account.

Meanwhile, to compensate for Mike not working, I maxed out my 401K for the first time ever, and dabbled into a brokerage account. But for the most part, we enjoyed the relaxed vibe of staying at home and doing nothing for the most part of 2020. I wasn’t as tight on finances as I should have been. I have financial independence to thank for that – and you can read how pursuing financial independence has actually benefitted us during times of COVID.

Regardless, I am starting to feel that the end of an era is near. With the available vaccinations increasing in Southern California, I am anticipating the reopening of most of our economy, which will also signal the end of the student loan forbearance (currently scheduled for September 2020). So, like any Spring bird preparing for what’s ahead, I am gathering my resources like figments of a bird’s nest, and preparing for the return of my aggressive student loan repayments.

THE GAME PLAN

Because my loan was huge ($575,000), we initially stayed with a student loan forgiveness program instead of refinancing back in 2017, in case something unexpected came our way (oh, sayyy COIVD?). However, now that the loan amount is dwindling, we are starting to see the light. The OG plan was always to refinance once the loan reached under $300,000. Why this number? I have found that this number is the threshhold for many student loan refinancers. Many of them won’t even consider a refinance if the loan amount is more than $300,000. It is also the threshold that transitions one from a high interest rate (ours is 6.8%!!) to a lower interest rate (around 3%).

Luckily, under the REPAYE plan, the interest rate was half-subsidized by REPAYE, which meant we were able to stay in the student loan forgiveness program while paying interest fees around what we would have paid if we had refinanced. This is why it is important to understand your loan repayment options, which you can definitely learn more about here. This subsidy ends after three years, and we reached that mark during COVID (November 2020). Luckily, due to the 0% interest rate in effect right now as part of the COVID relief program, we have not jumped into the 6.8% interest rate bracket. However, our goal is to be under $300k by the time the 0% ends and refinance to an interest rate that is hopefully lower than 3%. I do not recommend refinancing your loan before the deferment period ends, but I do recommend preparing for it by planning to pay off the largest chunk you possibly can and then refinancing to a better rate to make the going easier for you in the future. Think of it as a snowball method.

OUR PREPARATION

We are doing a few things to prepare for Fall. None of these things are out of the ordinary for us. They are actions that I’ve been advocating for years. Although I must say that we’ve loosened the reigns a bit recently. Our frugal muscles have become droopy, and it’s time to exercise. Here is what I plan to do in the upcoming months.

  • Tightening up the Master Budget. Since we eliminated a majority of our spending due to the lock-down, I have found that over the past year, I have loosened significantly the reigns on spending buckets that would usually have tightly closed lids. The savings we received from cancelling subscriptions, gym memberships, and most importantly, international travel trips has given me a lot of leeway with home and lifestyle improvements. Now, it is time to tighten the purse strings once more. If you need a refresher on mastering a budget, you can refer to my free course here. Don’t let any stone go unturned. You can create monthly frugal challenges to make the saving more fun. Here’s a few of mine.
  • Resume Side Hustles. In order to protect my family and my patients, I had decided to stop my dog-sitting and my bakery last March. I also decided that it would be best to only work at one dental office at a time. But now that things are opening up again, I have started to resume my side hustles. I have returned to the bakery where I once worked as an early morning baker and have started the position of Wholesale Director in March. I love being back with the Rye Goods crew, and truly enjoy my alternative work life. I also have continued to write for this blog, as well as guest write for Bogobrush. If you wish to grow your income, too, check out my ever growing list of ways to earn extra money here.
  • Research Refinance Options. If, like us, you plan to finagle your way down to the smallest loan amount possible with the hopes to refinance for the lowest rate possible in order to snowball your way to student debt freedom, then I highly suggest starting the research on refinance options today. There will be different companies vying for your attention. It would be best if, when the time comes, you are well-versed enough to be able to refinance in a jiff. The worst possible scenario is choosing a refinance company that won’t give you the best deal, or waiting so long that you will be stuck paying the high interest fees when loan repayments resume. A few things to note. Do not apply to them if they pull your credit. You want to maintain your good credit score for when the actual time comes. Also, the smaller your debt, the better your rate. So save, save, save! Lastly, make sure you have budgeted out enough emergency funds to cover your monthly payments after exiting from your student loan forgiveness program in case of job loss or an emergency. Preparation is key before pulling the trigger. Here are a few refinance options that I’ve been recommending to colleagues.
  • Speak to Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner. Still don’t know what to do? Speak to Travis and his team at Student Loan Planner. They are knowledgable and give great advice. I highly recommend their services for those who do not know what to do with their loans. I send all of my closest friends and family members to him because I trust his team and know that they are up to date with the finest details regarding student loans.

I feel like a warrior getting dressed for battle. It has been a long year of nothingness. I must admit that it was lovely and nice, but I am ready to get on my horse and face the challenges of loan repayment once again. Instead of our usual yearly update (because there is nothing to update you on), I hope that this post suffices. I will write a lengthy one as September draws near, as well as after our planned refinance.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

A New Ritual, with Ritual Vitamins

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

This blog post is sponsored by Ritual, a new multi-vitamin company dedicatedly supporting the metabolic processes of humans in all walks of life, transparently and simply.

I have come to learn that the successful completion of my goals are a direct result of doing the microsteps needed to, by a sliver of a percentage, get ahead each day. To the untrained eye, I am may not look like I am making progress. But what I’ve come to learn through slow living is that certain acts that our society deems as unproductive are actually beneficial to our being.

Take sleep, for example. Many of my colleagues look down on sleep, writing it off as a waste of their time. I, on the other hand, have started to schedule in 30 minute naps, five days a week. That’s on top of sleeping for 8-9 hours a night. Why? Because I know that my brain works better and I get more done after allowing myself to do nothing. I do the same with meditation, cleaning the home, saving a dollar here and there – little things that most would scoff at and call negligible. You can read, here, why I don’t believe in the word negligible.

So why is it that we refuse to do the things that get us to where we want to go?

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Two things.

Firstly, it has been ingrained in our culture that the measurability of progress is what matters, not the efficacy. We value the busy bees over the ones that put in little work, even if they reach the same end goal. We like to SEE differences, as proof to ourselves and to others that we are contributing to the group. We haven’t been taught to trust the process, trust each other, or trust ourselves.

Secondly, the daily microsteps require certain characteristics that we have not had much practice with in recent years; such as grit, patience, consistency, and hard-work. We live in an age of immediate gratification. “What do you mean I need to first limit my spending in order to grow my wealth?” Don’t we all dream of creating an invention that would eliminate the need to work altogether? Or, like my father, to win the lottery?

Both of these things contribute to the difficulty in doing the little things TODAY, that add up to achieving our end goals TOMORROW. However, this is exactly what has worked for me. I apply small wins to all aspects of my life, from finance to health. I call my microsteps habits, which I then use to create daily rituals. A habit is a task that I repeat every day to ingrain it into my life, thus making it easier to do. Rituals are habits that I cherish and complete with intention, with a purpose outside of the act itself. Rituals are the foundations of my greatest achievements.

Which brings me to Ritual, the new multi-vitamin that sets future Debtist up for success. Vitamins is one of those things that people know are good for you, but they don’t regularly take. My studies of the food industry coupled with my knowledge about human physiology has really turned me upon the importance of taking our vitamins. Mass production and irresponsible farming methods have left our soils depleted, and our produce nutrient deficient. Our WFH lifestyles prevent us from being exposed to sunlight or the natural healing contributions of trees and oceans. Likewise, our obsession with sanitation prevents us from being exposed to the microbiome that actually upkeeps our inflammatory response to infection and disease. Taking vitamins is the modern ritual we need.

Ritual has created a multi-vitamin whose purpose is clear. To provide traceable, vegan-friendly, gluten-free and major-allergy-free, non-GMO pills to groups of individuals depending on their needs. They have a multi-vitamin for men, women 18+, women 50+ kids, and post or pre-natal vitamins. I personally take this one. The engineering of delayed capsules meant to release the ingredients in the small intestine is great, because this is where the nutrients are better absorbed. And there are no artificial colorants or synthetic fillers. See for yourself!

They have transparency over where each ingredient comes from, as well as the pharmacy that provides each ingredient. Plant-based alternatives are included for animal lovers of the world. Most importantly, I love their communications regarding the functions of each component, written in lay man’s terms so that everyone can actually understand what it is they are taking and why.

Need extra motivation, or a discount? Bundle your order to buy vitamins for everyone in your home, or your friend group and save $10 when you buy in bulk. You get to save money, as well as create a supportive community that reminds each member to take their vitamins. My secret to getting the job done? Find a way to make vitamins fun! My motivation is through my Unbound planner, which has a daily check-box indicator for taking my vitamin, next to the 8 glasses of water and daily exercise. Since I get such glee from checking things off a to-do list, this system works for me. Hold yourself (or a buddy) accountable, and bundle up to save.

In an effort to help others create their own ritual around vitamin-taking, Ritual has made ordering a piece of cake. Set a start date and cancel whenever. Automatic shipping is available for replenishing your bottles, and it’s FREE. Bad with creating habits and worried you won’t keep up with shipping? The bottle has an indicator of where you should be if you follow the daily ritual to a tee. Tiny reminders make microsteps easier. Place the bottle somewhere you’ll see each day – next to a toothbrush maybe. On top of your toothpaste, behind the floss. (This is your reminder to floss today). Lastly, they provide a 30-day money back guarantee.

Let me know how you like it!

Play Pretend: Spring Refresh

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

I view Springtime as a marker for starting anew. I rally my energy to refresh our home in preparation for the warm months ahead, and to shed behind the winter blues. Not that California has much of that to begin with. Like a sprightly elf, I tick away at my ultimate cleaning list with renewed fervor, even though the New Year was not too far gone. I lovingly make our home airy and light, which is to say, I declutter, shuffle, and rearrange to my heart’s content, and then some.

When I say Spring refresh, I do not mean shopping for a doozy of new decor, such as pastel wreaths and cheeky doormats. Rather, I perform a list of simple things using what I already have to spruce up the home and make it feel and look revitalized, without actually a fresh load of stuff. I throw away the unwanted things, tidy the clutter into hidden boxes, wipe down every surface, and fluff the cushions. I wash the pillows, flip the mattress, throw open the curtains (and the windows with it) and water all the plants I’ve already collected. I imagine that everything is new, by making them feel new. This is a play pretend series, after all. Of course, all of this with the help of some of my favorite things.

+My favorite cleaning appliance, zooming along.
+An eco-conscious all purpose cleaner, my reusable spray bottle and a pile of white rags.
+Our crisp and buttery duvet set in muted ivory, flipped over from the winter sage green.
+Pillows that take you straight to Dreamland, freshly washed once a year.
+A floral scent to set the mood, lit in the afternoon before meal preps.
+A fruit bowl to decorate the farm table with, piled high with citrus picked from the parent’s neighborhood.
+A natural jute rug for bare feet, and painted toe nails.
+Bringing the outdoors in, on a monthly basis.
+A purifier to clear the air, and allergies.
+A flower vase to accentuate a shelf, or something similar that also happens to hold fruit-infused water.

If you’d like to make your house feel anew, without spending money to do so, I would highly recommend rallying friends and family, or your inner gusto, and completing this ultimate cleaning list that I wrote for neatniks out there. It is seriously the best.

Care to see more play pretends? Right this way.

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How I Made $535.13 in March 2021 Blogging From Home

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

March was a very slow month for the blog. I spent the first week of March traveling and then worked many dentistry days plus built the bakery significantly. Despite creating only a handful of blog posts, I was still proud to earn over $500 via the blog. In March 2021, I earned $535.13 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.

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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 March 2021, I made $535.13 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $74 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 TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($161.13) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.
  • For the first time ever, I also earned $300 writing for another blog.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,954!!

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: April 2021

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

Sometimes, I get in these moods wherein I question my productiveness. I worry about having done enough, and I focus on the change I have still yet to make. The first three months of the year was spent on tending to my mental health and creating space for all the living I have still yet to do. I spent many hours reconnecting with friends and family, meditating, and spending time outdoors. Now that we’ve come to the end of the first quarter of 2021, I suddenly started to semi-panic about what I have (or haven’t) accomplished in the year thus far.

I look ahead at the upcoming month and think to myself, “Where did March go?”, as well as, “Where will I find the time?”. I start to dwell on my lack of progress and avidly plan for the future. I franticly scribble down notes of things to do, places to be, people to call…. I know that this is a result of my up-bringing and the ingrained notion that in order to succeed, you need to always be in motion. My immediate reaction to sitting still for too long is to itch for change. I know it is reactionary, and also, subconscious, and I have to put in work to bring these thoughts into my conscious mind.

In most cases, my bouts of uncertainty are caused by asking the wrong questions.

The better questions would be:

  • What relationships have I fostered recently?
  • How is my health and mental state?
  • Where is my community?
  • How close am I to my purpose?
  • Am I receiving satisfaction?
  • Are these tasks necessary to my goals?
  • What can I delegate to others?
  • What can be omitted?

I’ve taken the liberty to postpone the posting of my April goals for a few days, because I was undergoing one of those mild, anxiety attacks about how much I’ve done, worrying about “enoughness” rather than reflecting on the being rather than the doing. Since then, I’ve set the compass straight. I feel relaxed again after answering the better questions, which I trust sets me up for productivity in the future. Often times, all it takes is a step back, a calm breath, and a thoughtful guide.


This month, I have had the absolute pleasure and joy to try out a new planner by Unbound. It is, by far, the most well-rounded planner I have ever tried. It combines productivity with mindfulness. They sell an undated version and a 2021 planner. Personally, I prefer the 2021 planner and even though it’s now April, I would still recommend the dated planner over the undated version. There are only a few differences between the two, but I think they make all the difference. Plus the 2021 dated planner is currently on sale for a better price. I love the Unbound planner so much. I would go so far as to say that it is the best planner I have ever tried. And I’m a planner addict, so I don’t say this lightly.

The Unbound planners start with self-reflection pages. These are crucial to anyone who wants to succeed with their goals. You need to know who you are first before making plans for the future. Knowing what motivates you, what challenges you, what your core values are, and what your talents and strengths are will help align your goals with where you truly want to go. It will also focus you towards the tasks that you would be good at, and perhaps the tasks that you can delegate to someone with a better suited personality. I like to integrate what I love to do into my work life, limit the things that deplete me, use my talents and strengths to move forward, and delegate the things that I struggle with to other people. The self-reflection pages also has the user rate where they currently are in certain aspects of life. This will give the person an idea on where they should focus their energy. All of this self-discovery should set you up nicely for making a 2021 vision board.

The next section is for writing down your goals for the year ahead – both big and small. You want to first identify your themes, such as family, health, or finance. Based on your themes, create goals and break them down into specific, actionable tasks. For example, “be healthy” is not a good goal. It is not specific enough and doesn’t give any information as to what you actually want to accomplish. Better goals would be “going to the gym 4 times a week” or “running up to a half-marathon by June 1, 2020”. Think SPECIFIC.

Once you have all your goals listed, you want to organize them into a timeline. The Goal Timeline breaks down goals into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Now if the goal is very specific, such as “Organize digital photos by June 1, 2020”, then you can place it on the yearly goal chart and cross out the month you hope to accomplish that goal by. This section is important when you do your weekly and daily planning. Continually look back and reference this section to verify that you are hitting your goals. It’s also a great way to visualize which goals need to be written down on the weekly and daily pages.

There is also a 2021 overview wherein you can write down reminders for big events that are to happen in the months ahead. Ideas to write down would be doctor appointment reminders, birthdays, parties, weddings, and holidays to name a few. The year at a glance is great for habit tracking or mood tracking, since you have a designated space for each day of the year. I haven’t decided what to use the space for yet myself, but I was thinking of using it as a way to schedule time off for myself, since that seems to be what I need most in life.

Once goals are all set, you can start listing things to do. A pages contain checkable bullet points separated into the four seasons. There is also an entire page to keep a running list of tasks to do. I think this is great when a task pops into your mind without a goal category. Just jot it down in the season you wish to accomplish the task, or on the running to-do list. I would check these pages occasionally, and enter them into the appropriate days or weeks.

Onto my favorite pages: Project Planning and Goal Breakdown. I use project planning to break down my work and any creative endeavors I have. I have a diverse set of jobs. I am trying to grow a blog, trying to grow a bakery, and creating a dental home, all while learning new hobbies and skills. For example, my husband and I are working on building a robotic pour-over machine for fun. I am trying to learn piano while also trying to run farther and faster. These are all projects that I have and the pages in the planner help me to visualize as well as break down each project into steps that I can take to get to the end result. This type of planning is really how I get so much done. I will repeatedly re-assess if the tasks I’ve written are worth doing. Each task is prioritized based on its efficacy and importance.

So how does April look? Busy. With opportunity to practice creating space for rest.

This planner is really good about promoting balance in one’s life. At the beginning of the month, the planner prompts you to write your top 3 priorities. It have a space for monthly goals and tasks, as well as space for gifts and occasions of loved ones. There is space to list ideas that will help you be creative and learn, to be healthy, to take care of yourself, to give and help others, to be connected, and to have fun and relax. These boxes are gentle reminders for me to take care of myself. There is also opportunity to overcome challenges as well as to work on positive change.

On the weekly pages, there are reminders at the top of the page to review the goals and place them into the plan. I keep a running to do list as well as track my habits on the weekly pages. More importantly, I jot down acts of kindness and ways to self-care. I use the blank space to reflect on my previous week. I write down what drained my energy, where I can improve as a person, and what the highlights were.

On the daily pages, there is space to monitor water intake, exercise, and supplements. There’s a box for all the things I cannot afford to forget, as well as a meal prep section. It makes my week way easier when I already have my meals planned ahead of time. Prepping them ahead of time is another story.

At the bottom of the page there is a space for Gratitude Journaling. I write three things I am grateful for each morning. At the top of the page are my top 3 daily priorities. The calendar section is just used to time block my day. I don’t write my tasks in the middle section, but rather, reference my weekly pages and my weekly to-do list.

Now you’ve probably been reading this and thinking to yourself, “Goodness, how overwhelming.” But it actually is not. In fact, this planner takes a lot of stress out of my life. It organizes so well that I reduce the amount of decisions I need to make per day, which then saves my mental strength and avoids decision fatigue. It refocuses my mind on the important things in life, and isn’t only about the daily grind. At the same time, it keeps me productive.

I have tried many planners in my life, but this is the best one yet. I love it so much that I may stick with Unbound for the rest of the year and beyond!

Without further ado, my April Goals.

Personal:

  • Wake up early every morning and utilize the wee hours for my T.I.M.E. ritual: T- Thankfulness Practice by Gratitude Journaling, I- Insight by listening to podcasts, writing, or reading, M- Meditate using the TIDE app, and E – Exercise whether that’s running or hiking.
  • Put phone away one hour before bed and limit Instagram use to 30 minutes per day.
  • Create continuation between days by preparing the night before for the next morning’s most important tasks.
  • Have a digital sabbath one day per week.
  • Learn how to use my new Microsoft surface pen.
  • Let myself take an afternoon nap every weekday that I am off.
  • Start piano lessons and teach Mike what I learn.
  • Set aside time in the schedule to do something relaxing each day.
  • Volunteer once a week.
  • Spend one hour this month doing NOTHING.

Health:

  • Exercise 5 days a week. Go to boxing class 3 times a week, life weights 3 times a week, run 3 times a week, hike a trail once a week.
  • Get 30 minutes of outdoor time 5 days a week.
  • Use Magnesium Spray to boost energy, lift mood, calm the mind, and relax the muscles.
  • Take vitamins and collagen powder daily.
  • Clean eating for 30 days.

Work:

  • Grow the bakery by $3k this month.
  • Create genuine, meaningful relationships with patients by spending an extra five minutes each appointment learning one new thing about their social life.
  • Publish 20 blog posts.
  • Top last month’s 7.4K Pinterest views.
  • Top last month’s blogging income.
  • Learn how to self-publish a book by taking courses online.

Home:

  • Put away things daily.
  • Do a pantry clean out and organization.
  • Declutter paper and digital files and email.
  • Declutter the home and garage.
  • Complete the cleaning list.

Finance:

  • Save $7k next month to ramp up for whenever student loan repayment resumes – invest 20% of it and place 80% in our Marcus High Yield Saving’s Account.
  • Close on a second refinance of our home, hopefully sealing the interest rate at 2.875%.
  • Complete 5 CE courses.

This post was sponsored by Unbound Planner, the most productive planner I have tried to date (and I am not just saying that!). I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes productivity with mindfulness reminders sprinkled throughout their day! As always, thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.

Travel: Day Hike from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach

The first weekend of March, we did the 10-mile hike from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach. It was a Friday and the woods was absolutely empty. You have to reserve a parking spot ahead of time and pay for two entrance fees into Muir Woods. The entrance fees were $15 per person and the parking lot fee was another $8.50. You can absolutely do 90% of this hike if you start at Stinson Beach, but just know that you cannot enter Muir Woods without a pass (or well, you risk being stopped and checked for a ticket). To be honest, no one stopped us on the day that we went, but then again, no one was there. It was magical. If you ask me if the fee was worth it, I would give a resounding 100% YES, but only because we literally had the park to ourselves. We arrived at the parking lot and stopped by the restrooms before heading into the woods. The first part of the hike is easy. I recommend taking a left turn at the first bridge and hiking above the woods to begin. You can hike the bottom half of the woods when you return.

If you take my suggestion to start hiking up after the first bridge, you would be up in the treetops walking above the quiet trails below. You’ll reach a dead end eventually, at which point you make a left to continue onto the trail. If you chose to stick to the forest floor, make a left at the fourth bridge and you will end up on the same spot.

The first half of the hike takes you steadily along a wide dirt path underneath the shade of magnificent Redwood trees. The trail is well-maintained and well demarcated. There are some steps, but nothing stressful on the way to Stinson. I must warn you that the way back is much more difficult, as you’d have to climb many consecutive steps returning from the beach. If you aren’t an avid hiker, perhaps doing a one-way trip and catching a lift back to the parking lot is best. We were just fine, but my thighs were a bit sore the next day. Then again, they weren’t sore enough to stop us from going on a 7-mile hike. Enjoy the shade of the trees, the silence underneath the canopies, the soft Earth underneath your boots, the smell of sap and the occasional breeze. Eventually, you will pop up on the hillside and if you’re lucky, it’ll be a charmingly sunny afternoon with blades of green grass lining the hills.

The views from the top of the mountainside are beautiful on a clear day. You can see the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco, as well as Marin County. You’ll see mountaintops peeking over the ocean. I saw a couple, far out in the distance, hand-in-hand frolicking quite literally down the hillside. I must say, I felt the same way.

Eventually, you will re-enter the trees again, but the second half is different. Less moist, less coverage, more sunlight. Plus, this portion is all down-hill. Don’t let that deceive you though, as the rough part lies in the return journey. But for now, enjoy the branches and tree trunks. They’re kind of fun to look at whether they be stick straight or wavy.

Eventually, you’ll come to a clearing which is the first time you’ll see Stinson Beach. You are almost there! Perhaps another mile to go at this point.

You can hear the cars on a nearby road passing by. It made us turn around and Mike spotted two deer. The next series of photographs shows the two deer looking at us as we were looking at them. They ambled over for a second, until the sounds of other walkers shooed them away. See if you can spot their curious selves trying to discreetly peer at us from the bushes.

Of course, the deer wasn’t the only cool wildlife present. We saw hawks circling above us in search of bunny rabbits, or so I gander. A banana slug or two made me jump in surprise. A few colorful mushrooms popped out of the forest floor, and even a beautiful lone flower said hello on our walk home.

Once in a while, do look back. This is a photograph I snatched after realizing that behind me lay a bundle of rocks hidden in the hills. We finally arrived at Stinson Beach after 2.5 hours of walking. To be frank, we were going at a relaxed pace, stopping every so often to snap photographs and observe the wildlife. At Stinson, we ate at Parkside Cafe, which I would highly recommend. We walked to the beach and stepped into a few tiny shops before heading back.

On the way back, I would cross the 4th bridge back into Muir Woods and walk the wooden boardwalks within the park. If your legs have it in them, I would recommend some of the side paths to the east of the park. Please do take note, if you are trying to catch the gift shop, they close earlier than the park does and I would recommend getting back by 3pm to check out the souvenirs by the entrance. We were hoping to snag one for Mike’s mom’s birthday but we returned to the entrance a little after 4pm, which is right when the gift shop closed. You can always return to the eastern trails (which are fairly short) until the park closes (around 5pm).

Overall, this was one of our top five day hikes that we have ever done. There’s a lot to see and experience, and the terrain had a good mixture of everything. Now that we’ve walked Muir Woods though, I would skip the entrance fees and the parking fees next time and start on the trails elsewhere. I feel like everything in the park can be seen in one day. There are many other trailheads that have free parking and that land you in similar areas. Just make sure to arrive early enough to snag a parking spot along scenic highway!

If you liked this post, you may like the other hikes I’ve written about.

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World Water Day with Pact

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

World Water Day is an annual day of observance by the UN which highlights the importance of fresh water. The lack of available fresh water has been apparent to me since birth, since I was born in a third world country that depends heavily on plastic bottled water as the main source of clean drinking water. Of course, not many people in the country had access to it at the time. This was in the late 1980’s, but even when I returned as a dental missionary in 2015, I found that the people still largely had limited access to clean water. In fact, soda and juice was cheaper to buy at restaurants and stores, which resulted in a high proportion of dental caries (cavities) in the anterior region (front teeth) -a location of tooth decay that is uncommon in other nations.

It might horrify you to learn that the cleanest water they hope to drink is fresh rainwater from the sky collected in buckets during rainy season. It might surprise you to hear that toilet paper is not used in public bathrooms, but rather, a murky tub of communal water is splashed onto dirty bottoms. Nearly 5 million people in my home country, The Philippines, rely on unsafe and un-sanitized water. Additionally, over 9 million people live in places of unimproved sanitation which increases the risk of water-borne illnesses and disease. The few that do have access to clean water are contributing to the massive pollution of the islands’ surrounding ocean with plastic bottles while also littering the land. So when Pact reached out to me to be an advocate for World Water Day, I decided to take on the challenge.

Pact produces clothing and home textiles using organic cotton. Organic cotton uses 91% less water than traditional cotton. Globally, only .93% of cotton grown is organic, and farms can save 58 billion liters of water in a single year from growing with these standards versus conventional cotton. Not only is water saved, but the water is then reusable and not polluted. Cotton farming consumes 16% of the world’s pesticides and only utilizes 2.5% of cultivated land. Lastly, the fashion industry currently uses 4% of all fresh water. Those are percentages that should make anyone stop in their tracts.

I have been an advocate for Pact for a long time and have talked about their undergarments as well as their towels on this blog and social media. My husband loves his Pact boxers and I absolutely love their sports bras. Additionally, Pact’s beautiful waffle towels are the only ones we use. I am excited to share that in 2020, Pact consumers saved 35+ million gallons of water by choosing to shop Pact over other companies that use traditional cotton. Pact believes whole-heartedly in water conservation. In fact, they share their company’s conservation efforts on product pages, at checkout, within brand content, and through emails. So next time you need to buy clothing, underwear, bedsheets, and towels, consider Pact.

In an effort to promote Pact, TheDebtist readers can use the following code at checkout to receive 25% OFF of any order from March 19 to 25: thedebtist20. Of course, the best solution and practice is to buy less and use more. But shall you choose to buy, choose wisely what companies you support. I am an advocate for mitigating environmental damage by creating the smallest carbon footprint in living a minimalist life.

In case you’d like to make a difference through action, here are a few easy ways to reduce water waste in general.

  1. Take shorter showers. When I was young, my mom grilled into our heads to take only five minute showers so as not to waste water and time. She also had us turn on the shower to get wet, then turn off the shower to shampoo our hair and soap our bodies. Then we turn on the water to rinse and that is it. Whenever we took too long in the shower, she would start timing it and come in to tell us when shower time was over.
  2. Turn off water whenever possible. My mom was also very adamant about turning off the water when we washed dishes. We would rinse dishes on one side of the sink, then turn off the water while we scrubbed and soaped the dishes in another part of the sink. Only after we’ve scrubbed and soaped ALL the dishes did we rinse them in one go. It was not only water efficient, it was efficient overall. This doesn’t only apply to washing dishes, however. We turned off water to brush our teeth as well. You can also do the same when washing your hands.
  3. Wear clothes more than once. My mom disliked it when we wore our clothes only once and then threw them in the hamper. She wanted us to wear shirts, pajamas, and pants multiple times. Of course, if we ever wore clothes to school or out, we would wash them. But clothes worn at home should be worn a full week. I know that seems dramatic, but she was obviously very water conscious.
  4. Use a dishwasher. Studies have shown that green dishwashers waste less water when they are filled with dirty dishes than handwashing does. I first learned this volunteering at a regenerative farm in South Orange County. Treehugger posted a very good post explaining what it would take to make hand-washing more efficient than dishwashing here. What you want to avoid is running a dishwasher that isn’t full of dirty dishes. In a two-three person household, this may mean not running the dishwasher every night. Of course, using less utensils overall will help as well.
  5. Consider xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is a way of landscaping your backyards and front yards with plants that require very little water. Green lawns are pretty to look at but they use a lot of water to maintain. Desert plants such as cacti are more water efficient and look good, too.

There you have it! Ways to celebrate World Water Day every day.

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Morning Coffee with Fellow

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

We have been big fans of Fellow for a long time. Our favorite stove-top kettle has been their matte black Stagg Kettle for many years, and we aren’t about the change that anytime soon. Fellow has since then launched their own line of products that allow for an all-Fellow pour-over set-up. The pour-over set includes Fellow-specific filters, a grinder, coffee containers, and even drinking vessels. They’ve also upped their kettle kettle game to an electric version that is efficient in heating water. Luckily, our friends have the entire Fellow line-up and I wanted to share what the experience was like in this honest review.

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Electric Stagg Kettle

One of the biggest upgrades Fellow has made is to provide an electric option for its famous Stagg Kettle. A benefit of an electric kettle is the quick temperature increase as well as accurate temperature setting. This is imperative for coffee lovers everywhere as the temperature of the water affects the quality of the cup of coffee. I am here to attest that the electric version heats up way quicker than the stove-top, taking less than half the time! There is also an option to hold the temperature consistently for up to 60 minutes. You want the water to be consistently at the same temperature during the entire pour-process. And for the more technical coffee drinkers, there is also a stopwatch that allows one to time the pour, which is another important factor for creating the optimal cup of Joe. Nerdier than that? The EKG+ also has Bluetooth connectivity to the Acaia Brewbar Tablet App! Lastly, the electric version is easier to maintain in top-notch condition, as the bottom isn’t exposed to constant scraping against the grates of a stove. Our traditional Stagg kettle has been well-loved and its daily use has resulted in the peeling of the black film on the bottom, exposing the metal silver color. It still works well, but the aesthetics isn’t so great. When the time comes for us to retire Ole Faithful, we may opt for the electric version.

Ode Brew Grinder

In addition to the electric Stagg, Fellow has released its own grinder called the Ode Brew Grinder. The grinder works well for a pour-over, but it isn’t the ideal grinder if you also own an espresso machine. It has a limited range of coarseness when it comes to grinding and it’s finest setting isn’t really that fine. Typically, pour-overs have a coarser setting than an espresso machine and unfortunately, Fellow has created a grinder specifically for pour-overs. However, if you are strictly a drip coffee kind of person, then the Fellow machine delivers! It gets bonus points for it’s matte-black, minimalist aesthetic and simple-to-use dial. One must note that it cannot hold more than a pour’s worth of beans. Unlike other grinders which allow you to dump an entire bag of whole beans into its funnel, Fellow has eliminated the large hopper, likely for improved aesthetics and reduced wasted space. Sadly, their hopper only holds about 40 grams of coffee beans. The grinder also comes with a magnetically aligned catch that would be perfect if not for the rim, which actually causes a good amount of fly-away coffee grinds. At least the built-in knocker reduces coffee retention. A positive note for parents out there: the grinder does display significant noise reduction and is much quieter than the coffee grinder we own.

Pour-Over Set

Fellow has created a pour over set to compete with companies such as Chemex, Kalita Wave, and Hario’s V-60. Let’s start with the dripper itself. Just by looking at it, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of quality to be honest – but I was pleasantly surprised! The dripper has a flat bottom like the Kalita Wave and a very tall column-like shape. I thought that this structure would affect the taste of the pour-over since a majority of the coffee would be sitting at the bottom of the dripper and the column-like shape would keep the grounds stagnant. However, I was amazed at the brightness of the cups of coffee this pour over set made! It may be due to the holes at the bottom of the dripper, which are many and angled at different directions. The dripper works very quickly, moving the water through the coffee and into the glass carafe in half the time that a Chemex would. Perhaps this reduced contact with the coffee and the aeration resulting from the quickly moving, angled drip is what causes the coffee to taste bright. It’s actually a great dripper for novices who aren’t much into the intricacies of creating the perfect cup. This allows for easier, faster brewing with less effort. A great design for the masses! Plus it comes in two sizes. I favor the taller size, so that I could make coffee for all my friends, too!

I am also in love with the 20-ounce double-wall, hand blown, borosilicate glass carafe. It retains heat very well, and there is no condensation at all in the glass. The carafe is cool on the outside and comfortable to hold. Additionally, the lip makes pouring the coffee from carafe to mug quite enjoyable! There is no handle, but the neck is slim enough for my tiny hands. And if you like to sip your coffee, there is a silicone lid included which keeps your “pot” of coffee hot while you enjoy portions throughout the day! It is truly a well-crafted piece.

The only thing I do not like about the pour-over system is their highly specific filters. Since the dripper looks nothing like the other drippers on the market, you essentially have to buy Fellow coffee filters to use this pour-over set. The filters have wide folds, which means when water is poured in a circular motion, some water may be poured outside of the filter. My recommendation is to pour in a zig zag motion, since the circular motion is less relevant with a column-shaped dripper. The set pack includes 30 filters. It may also concern frugalists that the pour-over set is at a higher price point, costing $99.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would recommend Fellow’s entire line-ups for novice coffee drinkers who primarily drink drip coffee, value aesthetics and can afford the higher price point. It really does make for a beautiful set up in a minimalist kitchen, and you can feel the quality of each product. I can see Fellow’s products lasting and they have a timeless look about them, too. If you’d like to drink great tasting coffee effortlessly, I would recommend starting with this Social Kit, which includes the electric kettle and the pour-over set with the larger sized dripper. Since I do not love the grinder, I am grateful that this set does not include it. You can always buy the Fellow grinder if you want it to match the Social Kit, but I would recommend going with a different one if you have an espresso machine at home. Speaking of espressos, Fellow has wonderful drinking vessels. These stackable Monty Milk Art Cups are so sleek in black and come in three variable sizes for all your favorite espresso-based drinks.