Where We Are At With Our $575,000+ Student Loan: An Update

Hi there! If you are new to the space, welcome! As you may or may not know, my name is Samantha Tillapaugh and I am known as The Debtist. I graduated from dental school at 26 years old in 2016 with more than $575,000 of student debt. Upon graduation, I was told by multiple financial professionals that the smart thing to do was to wait 20-25 years for student loan forgiveness (see options here). But the decision didn’t sit well with me. The debt was a psychological burden that caused me a lot of angst, anxiety, and made me depressed. I searched for a financial planner until I found one that listened to my desire to pay back debt and supported my decision. Since then, I have never turned back. Here is my personal student loan update.

Where We Started

In 2018, I first shared my personal story with Choose FI. I then learned that there were others who struggled with the psychology of having debt. So I dedicated my spare time writing about shifting mindsets around finance, and using lifestyle choices to reach financial independence. I surprised myself in 2020 when I reached independence BEFORE I paid back my loan. At the time, I quit a job that I struggled with, even when my husband was also without work during a pandemic which we knew nothing about. But for the first time in my life, money did not dictate what I did. I followed what I knew in my gut to be right, and it was the most liberating feeling I have ever felt.

My Money Story

Money psychology is deeply rooted in the narratives around money that we were told growing up. A lot of my fear of debt came from financial traumas as a youth. In choosing to face that fear head on and tackle the debt that I was afraid of, I gained not only financial literacy, but also a confidence and understanding of money that allowed me to have more control of it. Instead of being reactive to money, I know view money as a tool to get to where we want to go financially.

An Update on Student Loan Repayment

Today, I wanted to give you my student loan update and talk about where we are at with my student loans. I just released a second podcast episode with ChooseFI which details some of the things we have done since 2018. The Ever Growing List of Things I Have Done to Get Out of a Student Debt can be found here. We started at over $575,000 when I graduated from dental school. When the pandemic hit, I stopped making my aggressive payments since we didn’t know what would happen! My husband was without a job for the rest of 2020, and I quit my job November 2020 using the FU money we saved. At the time, we were somewhere between $430,00 to $440,000. Instead of spending the money, I continued to set it aside as if we were still making payments to our debt. Student loan repayment is set to resume January 1, 2023. At that time, we plan to make one lump sum payment that would bring our debt down to $200,000!

How We Got Here

To be honest, the first step was finding a financial planner who supports your loan repayment strategy, whatever you choose. I recommend Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner, not just for his expertise but also because he was one of the people who paid back a massive student loan aggressively. He had to deal with student debt personally, and can speak from experience and knowledge. My consultation with him saved me thousands of dollars, just by helping us choose the appropriate repayment plan. (We were on the wrong one!)

The second thing we did was cut our spending. Raising earning is fine and all, but lifestyle inflation is real. We learned how to use a budget for the first time with YNAB. To this day, my husband and I have budgeting dates and use YNAB to keep track of where our money goes. I highly recommend the YNAB app to all new budgeters because it is intuitive and easy! This step was so crucial to our journey that I even wrote an entire course on How to Master a Budget. It’s free and available on my blog.

Third, I changed my mindset to a positive one! I first found gratitude towards my debt and money story. This is a debt that is my privilege to own. I then approached life with a growth mindset. After realizing I had a lot of learning to do around money, I poured over books and binged podcasts. I also tried to find ways to make money doing the things I love. This led me down a rabbit hole of side-hustles which include being an early morning baker, opening my own bakery, being a wholesale director, creating a dog-sitting business, monetizing the blog, and more. My love for learning hasn’t stopped. Currently I am taking a teacher training course at CorePower Yoga to get my yoga teacher license.

Our ultimate goal was this:

To be free from student loan debt enslavement by facing my fear around money head-on without allowing money to dictate our life’s happiness. We wanted to focus on our goal of financial independence, while maintaining autonomy over the present moment. We wanted to built a life around freedom, both from debt but also from job dependency. At it’s core, we wanted to be free to do what made us both happy.

My only hope with sharing my story is to help others do the same.

Thank you for being here.


The Debtist

How We Made $2k Pet Sitting Last Month: Grow Your Clientele

Here again, talking about pet sitting ad nauseum. But I must share, how we made $2k last month pet sitting! This was after consistently hitting $1k since May 2022. Our dog-sitting venture first started with Rover in 2019 but did not become this successful until I started my own business called RMV Tail & Paws. Today, I wanted to share with you how to grow a clientele for your business so that you, too, could make money doing what you love to do!

But first, if you haven’t yet, make sure to check out my top 5 tools for growing a small business. This is a round-up of my favorites and includes everything from website, social media, email marketing, and accounting.

How to Grow Clientele for Small Businesses

I have one golden rule when it comes to growing your clientele: Be genuinely invested in their best interest. Care about your clients like you do about your friends and family. Trust me, wanting to help others is the best way to earn their trust, and their business. This is first and foremost my mission when it comes to gaining new clients. Money, referrals, and reviews come after taking care of the person’s needs.

Beyond that tid-bit of advice, here is a more step-wise actionable guideline to growing a clientele.

  • Communicate clearly. Have a website with a list of services, products and pricing. In this day and age, transparency is key. Be clear about what you have to offer, and what it costs. Make it easily accessible via a website. I use WordPress for all my website needs.
  • Honesty is the best policy, and I am very honest with my clients. I communicate with them from the get-go what I can offer them and what I can’t. Sometimes, clients have special requests that are outside of what I can provide. Or they ask for more than I can give. I am direct and honest when what they ask for does not align with my values or my business. Most of the time, they are grateful for my honesty, and if they have to look elsewhere, it’s in the best interest of both parties.
  • Use social media. It’s free marketing. I received some of my first clients through social media. I posted on a Facebook group for our neighborhood my services. I also use Tailwind to manage Instagram posts. On top of that, our neighborhood has an online bulletin on which I shared my website.
  • Promote your business in person. Be an open book. I constantly talk to others about the things I am doing. Not as a form of bragging, but as a way of saying, “Hey, how can I help you?” It all goes back to genuinely wanting to take care of others. Trust me, people can FEEL your intentions. I got into the habit of mentioning that I dog sit to my patients, my co-workers, my workout buddies, the farmers I volunteer with, and our friends. When I learn that someone has a dog, I always offer to watch them when they are away. And I carry my business cards while I dog-walk. I have run into multiple people who learn that I am a dog-walker/dog-sitter and book appointments on the spot!
  • Place business cards in other businesses. I have my business cards at a local coffee shop in our neighborhood. I also have them ever ready at the dental office. It’s a great way to grow! Simply ask neighboring businesses if they would promote you.
  • Actively ask for reviews. This is a biggie. After ensuring that my clients have a STELLAR experience, I go out on a limb and ask them for a review. I go so far as to send my clients the link to my review page. Every single one has been more than happy to do it for me, which is also validation that I am doing good work! YAY!
  • Take lots of photos. A picture says a thousand words. At least, for visual people like myself. I take photos of happy pups, pet cuddles, dog walks, and adventures. I post them on both social media and the website. If others can see how happy the pets are, they are more likely to choose my business over a pet spa or a pet hotel, where the pets don’t get individualized care, love, or attention.

If you want to start a pet-sitting business, you can check out this how-to guide I created. It goes through the 5 steps to creating a pet-sitting business.

You, too, can start earning morning doing what you love.

How Enneagram Type Relates to Finances

I am a big fan of the Enneagram. I have read about and taken multiple personality tests and to me, this was the most accurate of them all. Learning my enneagram type was similar to being wholly seen for the first time, even by me. At the same time, I better understand the people closest to me. It gave me a framework for relating to their motivations, their deepest fears, and their innate reactions. I wholly recommend learning about the Enneagram and then learning which type people around you are. It changed my life by allowing me to interact with others at a deeper, more personal level. It also gave me more empathy, a greater ability to help support others, and more confidence in where I fit in other people’s lives. Today, we will be talking about how your Enneagram type relates to your money habits.

There are 9 Enneagram Types

There are 9 Enneagram types. Each type has a title, a main motivator, an innate emotional reaction to failure, and a core way of processing the world. For each enneagram type, I will list these characteristics, followed by their money tendencies. So as not to peg people inside a box, it is important to append with the acknowledgement that we are all on a personal journey from our base enneagram type to a more evolved version of ourselves. When people work on themselves, they transcend their Enneagram type’s limitations and become a higher-self version of their Enneagram. I’ll avoid minute specifics for now, but I do recommend you read Enneagram books in order to learn more.

Type 1. The Reformer

  • Main Motivator: Moral Perfection
  • Reaction: Anger
  • Processing: Instinctive/Gut

Type 1 focuses on moral perfection, justice, doing what is right and being a good person. More often than not, they have a voice in their head that is constantly talking to them like an angel or devil on a shoulder would. I can affirm this as I am a type one. Constantly, a voice tells me “bad, wrong, not good enough, be better, work harder, try more.” Self-criticism is a big thing with Type 1s, and so is judgement of others.

Just as they seek moral perfection, they also aim at perfecting their budgets. They are great at creating budgets and keeping track of their money. Their strength is that whenever they make a rule, they follow through with it to the end. They restrict pleasure quite easily, so they can push through hardships.

Sometimes, it’s difficult for them to start facing their finances, especially if they suffer from perfectionist procrastination. For example, some type 1’s will first need to assure themselves that the stock market is a morally right place, or that being rich is does not make one morally bad. But once they form an idea, they fall behind it almost religiously.

Unfortunately, they often fail to celebrate successes. They feel a lot of guilt with spending money, especially on themselves. They also question, “Do I deserve this?”. Most often times, it goes back to moral perfection. I personally keep thinking, “How could I buy all these things when others in my country barely have food to eat?”. This may be why my love language is receiving gifts. I rely on people around me to gift me things that I can’t give myself. Type 1s sit well with what others would consider deprivation, especially when they have a finance goal in mind. With type 1’s there is no stopping them until they get to what they view as the right destination.

Ways in which type 1’s can transcend their finances:

  • Let go of the All-Or-Nothing thinking and embrace the middle ground. You can save money and spend on yourself too.
  • If you think the stock market is a bad place because it supports morally wrong companies, perhaps the best strategy is to pick and choose companies that are morally right to you. For example, if you don’t want to invest in SPY because it includes oil companies, maybe pick one or two companies you believe in and invest in them instead. I also like the idea of not investing in companies but rather, investing in yourself. Your education, your small business ideas, and your family and friends.
  • Set aside a small amount of money each week dedicated to yourself. If you budget it as ‘Fun Money’, it is accounted for and you will feel less guilt when you buy something for yourself. Although, I can’t guarantee the guilt goes away completely 😉

Type 2. The Helper

  • Main Motivator: Being Loved or Liked
  • Reaction: Shame
  • Processing: Feelings/Heart

Type 2s main motivator is being loved or liked by others. They are interesting when it comes to money because they can be both altruistic and hedonistic. They are altruistic because they earn the love they seek through flattery and being helpful to others. This could mean giving their time to do favors for other people, dishing out words of affirmation, or buying people gifts and experiences. Because type 2’s struggle with feeling enough, worthy and lovable, they tend to buy their love from others. Often times, type 2s are the ones supporting their families.

Part of the heart triad, type 2s are considered emotional spenders. They overspend on others and are the least likely type to ask for help. At their worst, they use money as a way to fill a void within themselves. They end up hurting themselves financially. It is important to recognize that their spending on others is not as sustainable as it is honorable.

There are some 2s who prefer to give their time to others. However, they feel that financial stability is what will allow them to give up their time. ‘If I am financially stable, I would be able to work less and spend more time with people I love.’ Ironically, because of this, type 2’s work extra hard so they can make more money to have enough resources for others. Work can end up taking up most of their time.

Sometimes, they work so hard in an unselfish way that they forget to self-care. This is where the hedonism comes in. Type 2s tend to burn out because they are so self-less. When this happens, spending goes out the window and they become self-indulgent. They throw money at the problem in bursts of quick fixes, whether that’s a day at the spa, a quick get-away trip, or massages and shopping sprees. They don’t care how much money they spend because they are so fatigued and exhausted.

A strength that type 2s can use in finance is their ability to read others. Because they are constantly seeking love, they tend to know what their bosses and co-workers want from them, and they can use that to get promotions. That combined with being a hard-working employee, type 2s can definitely move up the ladder and make more money quicker.

Ways in which Type 2s can transcend their finances:

  • Balance is key. Dedicate one way to show self-care every day in order to avoid burn-out. That could be taking a walk, taking a bubble bath, or reading a book.
  • Budget money for spending on others. For example, we have a ‘Gifts and Donations’ category in our budget. Another great title for this category is “Love Language Money”
  • Limit the amount of hours you spend at work. When you are off, spend time on yourself instead of with others.
  • Prioritize yourself when it comes to finances. Understand that spending too much on others can be hurting you. If being loved and liked is your motivator, reframe. Think of how not being financially savvy can make others feel. The people you love don’t want you to hurt. Let those around you motivate you to improve your finances.
  • Get an accountability partner! 2s are motivated by others and some have reported that it helps to do the weekly budget with a spouse via a ‘date night’. Set challenges and share your goals and successes with each other.

Type 3. The Achiever

  • Main motivator: Success
  • Reaction: Shame
  • Processing: Feelings/Heart

Type 3s main goal is to achieve success, or more importantly, to appear successful to others. They have big dreams, big goals, and big spending habits. Let’s talk first about their strengths. Type 3s are constantly thinking to themselves “I am worthless and I need to earn my worth through doing and achieving.” They are strongly tied to money. Type 3s tend to be high-income earners. Their wish to do and achieve also makes them hard-workers.

When it comes to budgeting, they are good at it when they want to be. They are at their best when they can track progress and see their outcomes. They are goal-oriented and work hard to reach their money goals. Just like type 1s, they stick with the rules they make.

Their weakness lies in their need to appear successful. Technically, they are emotional spenders. Type 3s tend to keep up with the Joneses. They accumulate debt. Type 3s spend money on things that look good instead of feel good in an effort to be recognized. To them, money is a measure of success as well as a status symbol. Wealth to 3s is more about doing what they want when they want rather than having money sit in a bank account. Unlike Type 1s, money is a reward for their hard hustle. ‘Work hard, play hard’ is probably something they live by.

Ways in which Type 3s can transcend their finances:

  • When feeling compelled to spend, ask yourself your true intentions. Is it to impress others or keep up with a trend? The clearer you are on your priorities, the better you are at feeding your inner happiness.
  • Define financial success by how much you save as well as how much you earn. This will keep a balance between earning and spending. There is no point in earning more if you go into debt because you spend a lot.
  • Since type 3s are external-facing, start a blog on saving money or publish your savings goals. If you don’t want to be so public, verbally announce to friends and family what you wish to accomplish. For example, if you want to pay your student debt down by a certain date, inform your social circle. Then you will feel the pressure of success to get it done. And starting blogs CAN increase your income too.

Type 4. The Individualists

  • Main Motivator: To be unique and original
  • Reaction: Shame
  • Processing: Feeling/Heart

Type 4s are most concerned about being seen in the fullness of who they are and liked to be viewed as original. Their greatest fear is that they will have no identity or significance to the world, and they long to find themselves and remain authentic to who they believe themselves to be. This is an Enneagram type that is not really motivated by money.

Like type 2s and 3s, type 4s value the way they are viewed by others in the sense that they have to be seen as unique. So they emotionally spend money in order to be perceived a certain way. However unlike type 2s and 3s, they do not live up to other people’s standards. They live by their own rules.

Type 4s can be big spenders. They like to spend money on very nice things so that they can live up to their standards. They will buy rare items, one-offs, and very outlandish costumes in order to stand out. Because unique items tend to cost more, they tend to spend more to be original.

They also spend money on becoming who they want to be. For example, if they decide they want to pursue a hobby or passion like snowboarding, they will buy the nicest gear, and ALL of it. They think that doing so will make it more likely that they achieve that title. They are romantics are heart, so they approach everything they do from a sense of grandeur.

Type 4s hate mediocrity. If they feel like they can’t reach high levels of success, they’d rather be doomed to failure and not try. This is bad for finances. Type 4s tend to avoid budgeting if they think they will fail. They have very high standards and can be like type 1s in their all-or-nothing approach. They also tend to keep things to themselves because they don’t want others to know they are failing. If they fall short of their own standards, they pretend like they didn’t try at all in order to avoid the shame they feel.

The strength in 4s lies in their ability to romanticize everything. If they so choose, they can make something as mundane as money super cool!

Ways in which Type 4s can transcend their finances:

Type 5. The Investigator

  • Main motivator: To be Informed
  • Reaction: Fear
  • Processing: Thinking/Head

Type 5s are the researchers and the intellectuals. They are the people who usually start the conversation with, “Actually, did you know…”. Their biggest fear is being useless or incapable. In terms of finances, they fear depletion. Because of this, they hoard their resources. They do that with everything, actually. They hold back on affirmations, they reserve energy, they save time.

Type 5s are incredible savers. They actually don’t want to spend their money. They limit what they ask for and buy because they can mostly do without. Unfortunately, this also means they don’t do much with money for fear of approaching it incorrectly. They don’t invest their money and typically prefer to let it sit in a savings account. If that is the case, a Marcus High Yield Savings Account would probably make type 5s comfortable. If you open an account using my referral link, you can receive an additional 1% APY for the first three months.

Ways in which Type 5s can transcend their finances:

  • Introverted type 5s tend to spend money on information. Use your research skills to learn about finances. Create graphs and charts that will point you towards the right direction in terms of investments. Trust the information you gain and invest your money. Remember this statistic: Historically, the market always goes up.
  • Gamify your finances! Type 5s spend most of their money on music, streaming, and games. They love YOUTUBE. Make a game out of your finances. Optimize your credit cards for free flights or maximize rewards! Find ways to get free stuff.
  • Just like type 1s, create a ‘Fun Money’ category in your budget! It’s okay to spend on yourself once in a while.

Type 6. The Loyalist

  • Main Motivator: Security
  • Reaction: Fear
  • Processing: Thinking/Head

Type 6s value safety, security and certainty. They want answers for everything. They care a lot about money because they want to ensure they have enough of it. This can sometimes lead to fear of losing money. Type 6s may avoid investing if they view the risk as a great one. However, they should reframe investing in the market as the only sure way to secure a future wherein their wealth grows.

Type 6s are called loyalists because they are loyal to their friends and family. Sometimes this can become an issue. When it comes to money, they will spend on the people they care about. They tend to rescue others. Sometimes, those people can take advantage of 6s. They know that 6s are prepared enough to have the money and may rely on them for money.

In terms of career, 6s tend to stay with a stable job for a long time. They don’t like to be in charge, so they avoid promotions. This can limit their earning potential. They also stay in jobs that may not be promoting them or have a toxic environment, simply because they are comfortable with their role. They are the ones who most likely will keep a stable job and pay down their home ASAP. This can be good but it can also limit their wealth growing potential.

Type 6s struggle to use their savings for a free and happy life. They worry a lot about money. In the same boat as type 1s and 5s, type 6s are most likely to stress about having money in the future. This makes them very good savers. They are most likely to have an emergency fund. They are considered the most responsible Enneagram type, and should lean into High Yield Savings Accounts, long-term investment accounts like Roth IRAs, and set-to-forget apps.

Ways in which Type 6s can transcend their finances:

  • When 6s treat themselves, they tend to spend the most money on the ‘essentials’ like clothing or dining. It is important for 6s to also spend on self-care.
  • Type 6s are uncomfortable with promotions and career changes. However, they are typically great at what they do. Have the courage to ask for a promotion. Reframe it as ensuring finance security and wealth in the future. Use financial security as a motivator to earn more.
  • Type 6s tend to worry about not having enough for retirement or their kid’s college. Perhaps looking into how I Bonds can help with paying for both would calm a 6s nerves.
  • Don’t let fear overcome your finances. Try a set-it-and-forget it strategy with investing and budgeting. Then avoid checking in every single day.

Type 7. The Enthusiast

  • Main motivator: Being Happy/Satisfied
  • Reaction: Fear
  • Processing: Thinking/Head

Type 7s are adventurers who want to experience life to the fullest. Their main motivator is being happy and seeking pleasure. Their fear is to be trapped in emotional pain. Type 7s don’t want to be limited and like to keep their options open. Because of this, commitment is rough, budgeting is even rougher. Having to structure spending is stressful for them.

Type 7s tend to spend money. They like new experiences and are good at convincing themselves that there are no consequences to their spending. When they feel limited or trapped, they look for escapes in forms of hobbies or travel. They tend to fudge the numbers in order to justify themselves. Most often, they tell themselves ‘Everything is possible.’

Type 7s tend to fall into the hamster wheel of life. They have to work their tails off in order to work back the money they spend. Often times, they spread themselves thin and have a hard time following through.

They are great with idea creation. Unfortunately, they also tend to overestimate their love for something. They might spend money upfront on a hobby that they will later give up. Often times, they get a bad rap for being flaky but they really aren’t. It’s more like they want to experience it all and jump from one hobby to the next in their zeal. They spend freely on what they love. And they are open to financial risks, but do not want money to limit their life.

Ways in which Type 7s can transcend their finances:

  • Type 7s should create frugal challenges. View these challenges as fun adventures. For example, Don’t Buy Technology Brand New.
  • Use their creativity and idea creation to find ways to get what they want without spending money.
  • 7s sometimes suffer from impulse buys. Perhaps create a rule to wait 24 hours before buying something. Sleep on it. Or find ways to borrow items from someone or buy used.

Type 8. The Challengers

  • Main Motivator: Being strong
  • Reaction: Anger
  • Processing: Instinctive/Gut

Type 8s are the challengers. They are strong, decisive, and protective. Some might see them as aggressive types, but they will defend themselves and their loved ones whole heartedly. Their biggest fear is weakness. They don’t want to ever be controlled or undermined. They view the world as a dog-eat-dog place and feel the need to be strong to survive. In this sense, they are highly motivated by earning money.

There’s a running joke that the only person an 8 will listen to is themself. So when they set a budget, they will stick to it. They have a ‘Go Big or Go Home’ mindset which could work for or against their favor. They want to earn a lot of money because money is a social status symbol that tells others they are on top. But they also don’t mind spending money with their ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. At their worst, they are stubborn and even delusional with their financial habits.

The good thing about 8s is how they protect their loved ones. They will do the hard things to care for others. Sometimes, this makes them prone to burn out. Physical illness befalls type 8s often. They will financially support their family members the best they can.

Ways in which Type 8s can transcend their finances:

  • Fierce 8s are good negotiators. You should use this to their advantage. Type 8s would make great salespeople or could negotiate a better salary for themselves at their current job. No one is going to rip them off and get away with it.
  • Listen to other people’s money stories. It isn’t the easiest thing for 8s to do, as they are programmed to think theirs is the best way, but learning from others could pay out in the end.
  • Sometimes 8s spend money to feel in control. Notice when you are doing that. Instead, reframe it as your money controlling you. To be better in control of money, focus on a budget.

Type 9. The Peacekeepers

  • Main motivator: Easy to get along with
  • Reaction: Anger
  • Processing: Instinctive/Gut

Type 9s think they need to be easy to get along with. Think of them as the gentle and creative devil’s advocates in the Enneagram world. Their biggest fear is conflict and separation from the people they care about. Type 9s struggle with numbness to self and numbless to life. Some sources call them sloth-like and indolent. They do only what they need to get by. Likewise in terms of finances, they only want to earn enough to live their life. Type 9s are not very motivated by money. In fact, a statistic shows that type 9s are the least likely Enneagram type to make over $150k per year. Only 4% of the people in this salary bracket at type 9s.

Type 9s also struggle with prioritization. They are thoughtful and considerate with their outcomes and options. Unfortunately, they also get overwhelmed easily. They often don’t know what’s most important and where to go next. This leads to procrastination. Type 9s get overwhelmed by money too. They hardly want to create the systems that will help them with money. However, once it is done for them by someone more proactive, they can follow systems quite well. They are of the set-it and forget-it types, because peacemakers TRULY WILL forget it.

Their strengths lie in the fact that they don’t need a lot and are not big spenders. They are happiest with ‘useful’ purchases and prefer to spend on hobbies over status symbols. 56% of peacekeepers define being wealthy as having what they need. However, because they are so kind and agreeable, they may get pulled into trips, movies and outings they wouldn’t attend on their own.

Ways in which Type 9s can transcend their finances:

  • Create a vision board of your wants in life. This may spark interest and inspire action. Type 9s are actually very creative people which is why vision boards are a great thing to do. They don’t always have the right words to explain what they want, but they can cut out pictures or images of what they hope for.
  • Like type 2s, type 9s will benefit from having a friend hold their hand. Budgeting dates work best for a type 9. Creating finance goals and having an accountability partner is helpful too. Pick someone who is more go-getter than you, not another peacemaker. My husband is actually a Type 9 through and through. It works out really well for us. He lets me (a type 1) formulate the budget, and then he goes through and adds and subtracts from it as needed. I am crucial to getting the job started, but I need him to curate it for me in an intentional way.
  • These self-less creatures name gifts as an expenditure that gives them joy. Create a ‘fun money’ category in your budget.
  • Definitely budget! 9s seek inner peace and having a budget set every month actually calms them down since there is a plan set out for them.

As I said in the very beginning, enneagrams are meant as a framework for understanding the people around you but it is by no means set in stone. If anything, I hope you found this fun. Enneagrams have changed my life and have improved the way I interact with people. I actually have a specific person in my life for each enneagram type. These are the ways in which I give to them financially.

  • Type 1: Give them a gift, just-because.
  • Type 2: Constantly tell them they don’t have to buy anything or do anything for me. I schedule self-care-centered dates, such as coffee, hiking, or beach days for my type 2s.
  • Type 3: Tell them they are successful enough.
  • Type 4: Gift the most random/unique item I can find to gift them, usually from my travels.
  • Type 5: Remind them to spend on themselves.
  • Type 6: Buy them gift-cards to restaurants or essentials.
  • Type 7: Gift them experiences over things.
  • Type 8: Thank them for their hard work.
  • Type 9: Set up systems for their finances.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Financial Self-Care

Here we are, back again on this topic of self-care. It is a recurring theme in this space, and appropriately so. The concept of self-care is a crucial tool for people of color, women, poor communities, and the LGBTQ movement as they work to dismantle the systems working tirelessly to keep them down. It was created with the following question in mind: “If I don’t take care of myself, who will?” Self-care and FIRE (financial independence, early retirement) are similar in a way. Both require taking into one’s hands the situations presented to them and navigating around a system that would otherwise keep us on the hamster wheel called life. So what does financial self-care look like?

For starters, self-care does not mean self-soothe.

Like everything else, self-care as of late has become a commercialized term. Self-care is marketed to young generations as buying products to ‘take care of themselves’. Yes, some products can help with self-care. I wrote a list when I turned thirty of my own products. But more often that not, the products fall short. That’s because self-care does not mean self-soothe.

Self-care isn’t buying things to make yourself feel better about your situation. Throwing money at something won’t make it go away. If anything, spending money on ‘self-care products’ could be hurting you in the long run, at least financially. It will make you feel better for a short while. Perhaps enough to deal with the situation, sure. But self-care products will never take away the cause of the problem. One day, you wake up back at square one.

Here are 10 Ways to Practice Self-Care Without Spending Money

Self-Care is Doing the Hard Bits

I could have said something else instead of ‘Bits’ but I didn’t. You know what I mean. Most often, it is really about doing the hardest things in life. Here are a few examples.

  • Showing up one more day, when you just want to give up.
  • Working that extra shift to save enough money to buy your financial freedom.
  • Not eating that slice of cake in order to be a healthier person.
  • Waking up at 5:30am in the morning so you can hit the gym before work.
  • Staying up late at night getting the household chores done because you spent your day-time hours with the kids.
  • Resisting to keep up with the Joneses because you know it hurts you financially.
  • Standing up to your boss, colleague or partner who is taking advantage of you.
  • Quitting a job that is not aligned with your values.

Self-care is about showing up for yourself. That means doing the hard things in order to better your life. It’s taking care of yourself at the core, ensuring the future you want for yourself, TODAY. Usually, that means resisting buying all the self-care products. Ironic, isn’t it?

Financial Self-Care

If I am going to be brutally honest, financial self-care not about rewarding yourself for your hard work with a shopping spree. It’s not about treating yourself to dinner after a long day. Skipping your workout because work was exhausting is not taking care of yourself. Scrolling for hours or watching mind-numbing TV isn’t the way to fix a mentally tiring day. All of this is self-soothing, not self-caring.

Self-care is pushing through the hard work and continuing on. Because the goal is to get through the hard stuff in order to reach your destination. Erase the “I deserve it” mentality. What we all deserve is a reality check. Self-care as its sold today only sets you back.

Contrary to deprivation, TRUE financial self-care is fueling your life energy into whatever gets you to financial freedom. Some people attack this belief with accusations of deprivation. If you asked me, deprivation could be viewed the other way. By buying into consumerist culture, you are depriving yourself of true freedom from the grind.

Here are a few examples of financial self-care:

  • Budgeting every dollar that you earn.
  • Investing your money instead of spending it.
  • Cutting out certain relationships with people concerned about the Joneses.
  • Saying no to societal norms and expectations.
  • Having tough conversations with friends and family about what it means to spend money.
  • Dissociating from the idea that ‘more expensive’ means ‘better’.

Look out for yourself.

Corporations want you to spend your hard-earned dollars on products. And there’s no better time to convince you of doing so than when you are most exhausted, fatigued, stressed, and burnt out. That’s why companies hang onto the term, promising to fix all your problems if you just buy this ONE item. They manipulate the term’s original intention. ’Take care of yourself’ they say, pretending to care about the real you. But just remember, Who will this really help in the long run? Wouldn’t paying for self-care services and products keep you working day in and day out? Doesn’t that keep you away from time off, time with family, and time to take a break?

Let’s not get it twisted. As the founders of the term self-care thought to themselves, “Who will take care of us if not ourselves?” They couldn’t rely on systems that worked to keep them in their place. Financial self-care is about financial freedom. That’s all it is.

Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash

Top 5 Small Business Tools

I recently realized my favorite part about being a creative is starting small businesses. In the past few years, I have started multiple small businesses. This list includes a blog, a micro-bakery, and a dog-sitting business. In my ventures, I get the most excitement from beginnings. However, when I am doing the actual work on the daily, I get this negative feeling inside. Is it boredom? After some self-discovery, I realized that my favorite parts are in growing the business. Creating a business idea, creating websites, working on marketing, optimizing financials, and brainstorming for new ways to grow are my favorite things to do. Once business becomes stagnant, I lose interest. I see now that growth is my motivator in life, both in business and personal. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you my top 5 small business tools that will help a small business grow!

Top 5 Small Business Tools

  1. WordPress. A website is very important to growing your brand. Actually, even if you don’t own a small business, I think you should still have a website for yourself. As we progress into the digital space, each individual should embrace a brand that represents them in the professional world. No matter what that looks like, it should be expressed on a website that is easily found online. Like a resume, it should include a brief bio, your mission statement, and what you’ve been up to in the past few years. WordPress is a user-friendly platform that costs very little to start. You can use my referral link here to get $25 off your first purchase – this could cover your custom domain.
  2. Tailwind. Social media presence is crucial these days. It is not only a social platform, but a place to sell your products and services as well. Twitter sells your brand, Pinterest sells your site, Instagram sells your products and services. The most important thing about social media is consistency. Posting and engaging every day is important. If you don’t have someone managing your social media then you have to do it yourself. Tailwind helps streamline the process by scheduling future posts at ideal times. You can time-block your schedule and set aside one hour to schedule all the posts for the week. Everything from there runs on auto. You can try Tailwind for free at first to see how you like it, but eventually you’ll want to post often enough to do a subscription of some sort. It really changed my life and freed up my time and to-do list! I love time-blocking so this app really worked for me!
  3. Flodesk. Growing an email list is very important to your business. Your email list should consist of subscribers who are interested in your product or services. Engagement is key as that boosts interest. And emails help alert people when you release a new product or service. This will then increase conversion rates. Sending out emails even once a month makes a big difference! I used to use ConvertKit but switched to Flodesk recently. This post explains why I made the switch. Since moving to Flodesk, I have had more fun creating emails, and they’re a breeze too. I genuinely believe people can tell when you are having fun doing your work, because I have also seen an increase in subscribers! Flodesk is great for email marketing beginners. Sign up for a Flodesk account to start growing your mailing list today. There’s no time like the present!
  4. Moo. People may say business cards are a thing of the past, but I don’t think that’s true. When I was growing my bakery, people took my business cards at Farmer’s Markets and I left my business cards at restaurants and coffee shops where I dropped off bread samples. For the dog-sitting business, I left my business cards at the local coffee shop and about half of my clients are from there! People will be drawn to your business if you have great cards. That’s why I recommend Moo. They’ve got easy-to-use templates, great quality cards, made in modern prints and sizes. My most popular cards are those in a square shape with a gloss print.
  5. YouNeedABudget. I am always promoting YNAB for personal finance but it is useful for small businesses too. Proper accounting of your expenses and income will drive future growth with the business. You need to know what the profits are, and where you are bleeding money. Analyzing the finances of small businesses is really fun for me. It challenges me to find creative ways to save, as well as new ways to make more profit. If you have a small business just starting out, YNAB could be a good option for now. Eventually, you will grow to a point where you could outsource the accounting and taxes to a professional. I highly recommend Prescott Tax and Wealth Management for my local peeps. Until then, sign up for YNAB and try to do things on your own while starting out.

There are many business tools out there, but these happen to be my top 5 tools for small businesses.

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

Thoughts: On Work

Earlier this week, I came home from working a day of dentistry. It was Monday, which is a day I am usually off. I was covering for a friend who went on vacation to Korea for a month. I pulled into my driveway as my neighbor was putting away the groceries. She saw me wearing my Figs scrubs (the only brand I wear for work) and cocked her head to the side. “What else do you do besides taking care of dogs?” A funny question, as the dog business is my side-hustle. But here in my neighborhood, I’m known as a dog caretaker, not a dentist. So I told her I work as a dentist and she appeared even more confused. “But if you’re a dentist, why do you bother taking care of pets?” she asked.

Now it was my turn to get a quizzical look on my face. This happens a lot in my life. A sort of disconnect between myself and others who follow the formulaic status quo. I could tell right away that she didn’t understand the point of working if it wasn’t for pay. It was also obvious that she viewed work as a job that one must do, whereas I viewed work as fun things I like to do. She is a stay-at-home mom and might be proud of the fact that she didn’t have to work. It’s also possible she was insinuating the question, “Do you not make enough as a dentist that you have to do more side-hustles?”

So I answered her as truthfully as I can.

“I take care of pets because I like to. It’s fun for me, and I fall in love with them and treat them like my kids. I started out watching just one or two here and there, but now I get requests all the time. Since I have a lot of time on my hands, I accommodate as many as I can. This way, our neighbors can go on their vacations with peaceful minds, knowing who is taking care of their pet family members.

I actually do a lot of things! They are all fun for me and give me joy. On top of taking care of pets, I am helping a bakery grow and I write a blog to help new grads, moms, and people in debt live minimalist lives in order to get closer to financial freedom. I also volunteer at the farm down the street. You should join me sometime!”

Her son came out of the house at that point. A saving grace for both of us. ‘Ah, okay’ as she backed away. I hope I didn’t freak her out. But it’s true. I can’t say at what point during the pandemic I actually became financially free – in the sense that I am not tied to my money, and I stopped working for pay alone.

Perhaps it was when I had enough FU money to quit the job that I hated. More likely it was the healing time period when I learned that I could create any position for myself. Or maybe it was after people reached out to me to help them. Did you know that I never asked to work at either of the two dental offices I currently work at? Actually, I was expecting to never work in dentistry again! I also did not apply to be a wholesale director of the bakery. In all three cases, they came to me and asked if I could help at times when they had no one.

I do my work because it entails helping others. That’s what I like to do. Not because of the money anymore. If my jobs were taken away from me today, I wouldn’t be sad, mad, upset, or worried. I would probably just shrug my shoulders and keep contributing myself to this life, keep showing up for people I’ve gotten to know. Not much would change, except maybe a pivotal shift on where I spend my energy most.

When I think about work, I don’t think of it in the traditional sense of a job. I just think of it as another day where I go and help a few people out. That’s all. I am not dependent on a specific company or career. I am only dependent on myself. I’ve focused on building myself up rather than building a career. (That’s advice I would give any college student!)

My neighbor was probably thinking to herself, “Poor gal. She has to work so hard to be able to live.” I’m over here thinking, “How do I get this neighbor out of her box to join me in this thing called life?” Hopefully we become fast friends. Bringing over banana bread might do it.

Do what you love, and call it work. Some say it can’t be done, but I’m trying my darndest to prove them wrong.

The Ever-Growing List of Things I’ve Done to Get Out of Student Debt

I graduated from dental school at 26 years old with $575,000 of student debt. That fact alone was mind-blowing enough to land me a podcast interview on Choose FI back in 2018. I then became the first interview with Travis Hornsby on Student Loan Planner Podcast. Since then, I have partnered with Student Loan Planner and Student Loan Advice to help young grads tackle their debt. Because the shocking reality is that big debt exists for almost every new-grad out there. Which is why this blog was originally born. I wanted to share my path towards financial freedom in the hopes of helping others maneuver past their student loans. I really hope it has helped thus far. Today, I decided to write a round-up post on everything I have done to get out of student debt. I’m sorry it has taken this long.

But before we get to it, you might be interested in The Ever-Growing List of Ways to Earn Extra Income, The Ever Growing List of Things I’ve Given Up in the Name of Frugality, and The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Given Up in the Name of Creating Less Waste. You may also want to read my interviews with other bloggers. The UnOrthoDoc shares how I am paying back my student debt in 7 years. I talk about the effects of our heritage on personal finance in an interview for the series Blood Debts. And Making Sense of Cents shared how I used side-hustles to catapult debt repayment.

The Ever-Growing List of Things I Have Done to Get Out of Student Debt

  • I worked three jobs during under-grad to support myself financially and to take as little debt as possible. This work ethic is what got me to start side-hustling my way to financial freedom. Check out these posts for ideas: 15 Early Morning Jobs To Jump-Start Your Day and 3 Early Morning Jobs I’ve Done to Earn Extra Money.
  • I chose a college that I could commute to for Undergrad. Even though I got into more prestigious schools, staying local was an intentional choice. I lived at home with my parents in order to save money on rent and food.
  • I finished Undergrad in 3 years. I was able to do this by taking more than 10 AP classes in high-school. These credited as college credits. My college classmates suggested I stay the fourth year to ‘get the full college experience’. I chose to graduate in three years so I could save on tuition and work full-time in my ‘fourth year’.
  • I moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband and two guy friends in order to save on rent during dental school. I lived near campus the first two years and was paying $1200 per month in rent. I asked to live with the boys in a city 30 minutes away to save money. My rent went down to $375 per month. After calculating in the gas, I ended up saving $600 per month the last two years of dental school. This equated to over $14,000!
  • I hired a financial planner who ended up saving my life. I spent my first paycheck to pay for his services. He listened to my needs and wants, and made a plan that worked for my goals. I owe all of my financial success to him. I always recommend interviewing a few options before choosing the planner that’s right for you. A few options are Travis Hornsby’s Team from the Student Loan Planner or Andrew Paulson’s team from Student Loan Advice backed by White Coat Investor.
  • We mastered our budget. I think budgeting is the most important life skill for financial well-being. It doesn’t matter how much you make, if you don’t know how to control spending. That’s why I wrote a Free Course on Mastering a Budget. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB) for our budgeting tool. It is my absolute favorite. I call YNAB our secret weapon. I recommend people create a budgeting tool that works for their needs. You can always try YNAB for free for 34 days.
  • I paid off all credit card debt within six months of graduating from dental school. If you have trouble paying off your credit card debts, you can always try The Credit Pros. They will help identify the most damaging and most helpful credit items, as well as provide advice and educational tools.
  • My husband and I got a roommate for the first five years of our marriage. Getting a roommate is the best way to save money on rent. In California, housing expenses are very high. By getting a roommate, we were able to save money to buy a home. Learn more about co-housing here.
  • We bought a home which gained equity. We then sold the home in 2021 to buy a better home. We took the equity and saved it for loan repayment. Find out How We Made Our Home Cash Flow Positive and How Home Ownership Sped Up My $575,000 Student Loan Repayment.
  • We travel-hack in order to see the world. One of our top life priorities is to travel. We spent the first five years of our marriage traveling to 10 countries and over 10 states. We did that without paying for air-fare. Learn how to TRAVEL FOR FREE in this post.
  • I worked midnight shifts as an early morning baker. It eventually led me to open my own bakery. When that shut-down in 2020, I became the wholesale director of the previous bakery. I had no experience as a baker, shop owner, or salesperson. But I ended up doing those things simply because I asked to learn.
  • I opened a dog-sitting business. I now earn over $1.5k a month taking care of other people’s pets. If you want to set up a dog-business, sign up below to receive my guide in your inbox. It walks you through the steps I took in order to set up my business and thrive within 6 months!
  • We placed all of our savings in a High Yield Savings Account with Marcus. A HYSA gives a higher interest rate than a savings account at a bank. When the pandemic caused a pause in student loan repayment, we held on to our money ‘in case of emergencies’ and stored it in a HYSA. It has grown with interest while the student loans are at 0% interest. It really catapulted our loan repayment journey forward! Sign up with my referral link to receive an additional 1.0% APY bump on the current listed APY for the first three months.
  • We invested money in I Bonds in order to beat inflation. On top of putting our savings in Marcus, we recently invested the maximum amount possible in I Bonds. Due to high inflation rates, I Bonds are currently at 9.6% APY until October 2022. This rate of return is unbeatable especially at a time when stocks are down. I really recommend I Bonds as a hedge against inflation. Learn more about it in this free email course.

  • I decluttered all my stuff and embraced minimalism in order to reduce spending. Here is a list of 100 things to declutter if you want to get started!
  • I try my best to resist the attention economy. I try to avoid a consumerist lifestyle. Instead, I engage in free activities that bring me joy and vitality.
  • I started this blog! I learned a lot about blogging and how to turn my writing hobby into a side-hustle. It all started with taking the course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I learned how to make passive income through my writing. I really love this course and have taken it over and over again. It’s a one time fee for life-time access. It is the most life-changing course I have ever taken and definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to start a blog.
  • I’ve done everything on this list to save as much money as possible. All the money I saved, I put towards my student loans!
  • I’ve done everything on this list to make money. Saving only gets one so far, so making money is also key.
  • I invest in personal growth and learning. I read at least two books a month. There is variety in the topics I choose. I never assume I know everything about a topic. Plus I have embraced fiction as a way to learn more about the self. You can check out the recent books I have read on GoodReads.

Photo by Adam Bartoszewicz on Unsplash

Why I Switched My Email Marketing from ConvertKit to Flodesk

This summer, I switched my email platform for the blog from ConvertKit to Flodesk. I have been loving creating emails ever since! What once was a chore is now a fun activity for me. I look forward to creating pretty emails for my readers, without the stresses or hassle of complicated platforms. There are many pros to switching to Flodesk, and today I will share with you why I ultimately made the switch! I did it, and personally, I never want to go back.

But before we jump into email automation systems, perhaps you are just starting out your blog? Or you are considering whether blogging is for you? If that’s the case, check out these popular posts on my blog.

Flodesk Made Emails EASY

I am not a techy person and I did not get a degree in marketing. To be honest, when I started to create emails, I signed up for ConvertKit because it was recommended by another blogger. But I never got around to creating content. The ConvertKit platform was too technical for me. It was boring, designed mostly with code, and had complicated automation workflows that had me feeling lost. I spent a ton of time trying to figure it out, and never getting anywhere.

This year, I came across Flodesk. After being frustrated with my email experience, I decided to take a chance on Flodesk. I now love it! Flodesk took out the complicated stuff and made email creation easy. Pre-designed templates provide me with inspiring ideas. Customization is as easy as swapping out text and photographs. And making emails from scratch is also a breeze with the blocks that Flodesk provide.

Workflows Are Clear

Flodesk is a very visual platform. Workflows are clearly outlined by trigger labels. Each subscriber can be automatically assigned to an existing workflow. At the end of the series, they can then be subscribed to the next workflow. Automation is wonderful. All I have to do is select the number of days between each email drop. And on Flodesk, you can see the flow easily! In ConvertKit, I was always wondering where my subscribers were going and how to get them to the next email. Now I can focus on the CONTENT and send out beautiful emails without the headache of figuring out automation systems and workflows.

Flodesk is Cheaper

At the end of the day, Flodesk saved me money. To subscribe to Flodesk is only $39 a month (although it is $19 a month with my affiliate link here!) Unlike other platforms, Flodesk does not charge based on the number of subscribers you have. You can have an unlimited number of subscribers and still be charged the same fee. While ConvertKit is only $9 a month for a Creator Subscription, they charge $25 a month once you hit 1,000 subscribers. And the price only goes up from there.

Flodesk is a fairly new company, so of course, they are still growing and figuring a few kinks out. It is not as advanced as a more established platform such as ConvertKit, but to be honest, that’s what I like about it! It is simple and easy to use. Those with more experience may find Flodesk to be too elementary, and that’s totally okay! As always, I recommend choosing what works for you.

Personally, I have been enjoying using Flodesk, and I just wanted to share it with others who may be hoping to start a blog or an email list for their small business or company. I seriously think that Flodesk is the best email marketing platform for beginner bloggers who don’t know much about the technical side of marketing. You can always do a free trial to see how you like it.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I only share about companies that I truly believe in.

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash