Financial Advice for Young People in their 20’s

I find that financial literacy is quite low for people in their early 20’s and 30’s. This is not a fault of their own but rather, a cultural failure that presents us all with opportunity for improvement. As a society, we do not openly embrace talk about money. In our educational institutions, we do not teach young children about finance. Within our media channels, we promote a consumerist lifestyle. Culturally speaking, we value hard work, status symbols and the physical earning of money over the actual growth of financial wealth.

I was once young too. I was financially illiterate. I obliterated my savings, worked multiple jobs, and took out more than half a million dollars in debt trying to chase the American dream. Only now, in my early thirties, am I realizing that the short-comings of my financial education is the cause of my financial mistakes. We learn these things later than we should.

The success of young people greatly depend on our ability to talk about money. So I am now talking about it.

In order to combat this information gap, I wanted to share five finance tips with our young population.

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Top 5 Things Young People Should Do To Get Ahead in Finance

Master Budgeting Skills. It doesn’t matter how much money you make if you don’t know how to budget. You could make a million dollars but if you spend a million dollars, you aren’t any richer. In my opinion, knowing how to control the outflow of money is more important than increasing income. Mastering a budget is the first step to financial independence because you learn how to manage your cash flow. Without this control, everything else is irrelevant. Budgeting requires an awareness of your spending. It’s like losing weight. The first step to being healthier is knowing how many calories are being eaten and burned. Without monitoring what goes in and out, there is no chance for improvement. Mastering a budget is mastering your self-discipline around spending. But it takes a lot of practice and work. So start early and make the habit stick! I wrote an entire course on How to Master a Budget and published it for FREE to help others get started.

Learn how to flex those frugal muscles. Being financially savvy requires the same diligence and work as being physically strong. Just like real muscles, frugal muscles can grow – with practice. Learn how to be frugal. Realize that not everything needs to be bought. There are many alternatives to spending! For example, try skipping the spin or yoga class and run outdoors or go on a hike. Instead of dining out, try cooking a new recipe. Want to read a book? Look for it at the library. Be creative in finding ways to get what you want for free. Try making things instead of buying them. Learn the art of the trade. And when all else fails, find the beauty in living without. Remember, everything you think you need you were once without, and you were just fine. It all comes down to understanding that every clutter you own used to be money and every dollar you spend used to be free time. Here are a few frugal challenges to get the ball rolling.

Choose a social circle that will uplift you financially. Sometimes, when we tell others that we want to opt out of brunch or happy hour because we are trying to save money, we get a negative reaction. People can get defensive when you turn them down in favor of saving yourself a couple bucks. Trust me, I have been there. However, there is a saying that I love to preach. You are only as good as the five people that you spend the most time with. You will have an easier time on your financial journey if you have like-minded people around you to celebrate your wins. These are people who will motivate you to save, as well as support you when times get tough. If you have difficulty setting boundaries, perhaps this is a good place to start.

Invest in yourself before anything else. I am not entirely against spending. I believe that spending on things that add value to your life is important. However, you want to make sure you invest in yourself before anything else. When I refer to investments, I am not referring to a car or a home. I am referring to investing in things such as continuing education, management skills, mental health, physical health, relationships and personal time. After you’ve invested in yourself, you may see that informational wealth and good health can lead to financial growth. And THEN you can think about investing in other things.

Start planning for retirement now. It is best to start planning for retirement as soon as possible. Due to the exponential potential of retirement funds, early starters will have an advantage over those who wait until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. If possible, maximize your 401k and get your company match. If you have extra money, I would recommend funding a ROTH IRA on top of that. If you have additional income, you can invest it in the market, get into real estate, or for the most conservative, keep it in a high yield savings account to earn interest. Make money work for you, instead of working for your money. Those who act now will go through the difficult parts in their youth but will have an easier time as they age. And vice versa. The unwillingness to act could lead to a very difficult financial future. If you are in your 30’s or 40’s, there is no use crying over spilled milk and lost time. It is not too late for you, but start TODAY.

These are just the basics but all of these things will help create a strong foundation for the decades to come. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask, be willing to listen, keep an open mind, and constantly seek information. That, in itself, is another level of wealth.

How to Guarantee a Successful Craigslist Sale

My experience in avid de-cluttering has led me to a solution that deals with the stockpile of items that no longer add value to my life, while making money from them. HOW? I now re-sell everything I de-clutter so that instead of feeling a sense of loss, I make a financial profit. It is seriously a great motivator to get rid of stuff and allows you to say goodbye to things with a positive note. Additionally, it prolongs the life of your used and unwanted goods, keeping them out of landfills for a while longer. Lastly, I am sure that others who buy your gently used goods at a discount appreciate the financial help you provide them. With all of the good the act of re-selling does to both you, your environment, and others, I wanted to share how I guarantee a successful sale on one of my favorite platforms – Craigslist – in the hopes that some people may begin to do the same!

Where I Started

Initially, when I started the de-cluttering process, the amount of stuff that I decided I didn’t need was over-whelming. It was SO MUCH STUFF that even hauling it to the Goodwill Store was a hassle. When I realized that Goodwill wasn’t exactly making good use of my things, I started to bring it to my parent’s house so that they may be shipped to my home country. However, a few months later, I visited my parents only to find my stuff still sitting in the garage for “just-in-case”. So then there was the debacle between my parents and I and the dilemma I faced about burdening them with even more things.

Where I Am At Now

Thankfully, I eventually reached a point where I simply didn’t own much. My de-cluttering feats now result in only a handful of items at a time, which make them much easier to find homes for. These days, everything I de-clutter, I sell, sometimes on Poshmark and OfferUp, but mostly on Craigslist. I have yet to have an item that I cannot successfully sell. Over the past year, we made over $1,500 selling our stuff on Craigslist. Usually, we use that money to buy our next item, thereby essentially creating a cycle wherein we adopt new things without spending more money.

It isn’t rocket science, and I can assume most people have dealt with Craigslist by now, but here are a few of my own tips on how to have great success with this platform!

  • Start with things that hold value. We are minimalists. Which means what we buy holds value, and in my recent years, I have made an effort to buy things that retain their value, too. There are certain brands that people want. Brands such as Restoration Hardware are coveted and people are willing to pay good money for them. I once sold a broken lamp from Restoration Hardware at 50% of the buying price, which was amazing because I had originally bought it at 50% OFF whilst using a gift card someone had given us for our wedding. So in that scenario, we made money. Another example was Mike’s desk, which was also Restoration Hardware. We resold it at $1k, and used it to pay for a Herman Miller Sit-Stand Nevi Desk when it was on sale at DesignWithinReach for under $1k. We made money with that, too. Our East Fork Pottery which I rave about constantly is a product that actually gains value. Try googling East Fork on Ebay or Poshmark and see how much they sell. I bet you’d be surprised. Each item resells around $65-85! Likewise, Elizabeth Suzann clothing is ethical clothing that gains value and most people pay more for these them used than new. Both of these brands resell well because they are made in limited quantities. Both are decent buys under my book, if you really do need pottery or clothes. If you start with a good buy, you’ll end with a good sale. Regardless…
  • Clean all items you wish to sell. Making the item appear as clean and new as possible will really help your chances of selling the item. People want things that are in good condition and working order. If someone comes across two identical products, they will 100% choose the newer-looking one, not necessarily the newer one. So do take time to polish and shine, no matter how old your item is.
  • Take good photos. I know this sounds silly, but a picture is worth a thousand words and I cannot tell you how many times I quickly dismiss an item because it isn’t photographed esthetically. You may call me vain but if I am doing it, then other people are too. All the things I post are photographed in good natural lighting with a camera (not a phone). Most of the time, they are staged. I can attest to the fact that the best photographed sell the fastest. Take the time to create good photos that will sell your stuff for you. At the same time, be honest with your photography. Acknowledging the flaws of your piece will save you time (and time IS money!) because you will only attract buyers who knowingly wants your item, flaws and all. If an item has scuff marks or an article of clothing has pilling, I take photos of the defects with a note to the buyer.
  • Determine Pricing. This is the hardest part. I have discovered that most owners, myself included, tend to over-value their stuff. They remember its original cost and don’t want to be at a loss. Unfortunately, the hard truth of the matter is that once an item is used, it depreciates in value significantly. If you wish to sell on Craigslist, you need to keep an open mind on the price. A way you can combat this is to decide on a price that you wish to sell at. Then list the item at an even higher-price to increase the perceived value of the item to potential buyers. Most Craigslist buyers will haggle, so this will account for that. Do not be afraid to haggle back. Explain to them why your item is worth more. Be a salesperson and try to show them how worthy your piece is. And if all else fails…
  • Be open to reducing the price. Typically, I will hold out for at least a month before entertaining a price that is below my asking. For those who make offers below, I tell them that I will reach back out to them in the future if it doesn’t sell at my asking price. Most times, one of them will still be interested after a month. Being open to reducing the price allows you to still make the sale, which is better than holding on to something you don’t plan on using again anyway. One way I make peace with reducing the price is by using logical reasoning. Currently, my item isn’t being used and I am not making money from it. A little bit of money now is better than nothing, especially since I can invest that money in something and watch it grow. An item sitting in the back of my closet could never make money for me. Plus, I like to think that I am helping someone else by giving them the discount they are seeking. If they reached out to me, then it’s obvious they want my stuff more than I do. What’s the point of being selfish? It would just be a lose-lose scenario.
  • Categorize the item properly. The category you choose is important because it draws the correct audience. I have found that some categories sell better than others. For example, furniture and home goods sell really well on Craigslist. For clothing, I tend to sell at Poshmark instead, which is also a great resource for home accessories. Either way, if you fail to categorize correctly, you will miss out on potential buyers.
  • Use text that will attract the correct people. I always add the following in my text: the brand, the name of the product, the original price, the current price, the size (if applicable) and a description. I also write what I like about the product and why we are selling. I note its condition as honestly as possible and lastly, I use SEO words such as “vintage”, “industrial”, and “mid-century modern” to hone in on the audience that I want. The text really makes a difference. Lazy one-liner descriptions will not do well.
  • Repost, repost, repost. When you post your item, Craigslist will send an email with a link that allows you to edit or delete your posting. When you click on this link, there will be another option to repost. I repost once a week, which continually puts my listing at the top. Also, for the best results, repost on a Thursday night or Friday morning. This is when shoppers lurk Craigslist for a weekend pick-up. Time and time again, I will get a few offers after a reposting on a Friday. After the sale, make sure to delete your posting to avoid additional buyers contacting you, thus saving you from wasted time with these unwanted emails (did I mention time is money?)
  • Make the Sale. Most people are afraid to use Craigslist because of the meeting up part. I am a petite gal and I have never had trouble making a sale. A few things that help. I always tell someone when I am meeting a random stranger to sell something. If I am able to bring someone along, I will. Lastly, I make sure to only accept cash or Venmo payments, never checks. When I do get cash, I use my skills from cashiering in retail to quickly check if the bill is fake or not. Hold the bill up to the light, and look for an invisible face on the bottom left corner that is the same as the face on the bill. I have never had an issue with counterfeit money, or with anyone paying for that matter.

While this all sounds elementary at best, I hope it has provided at least one insight. As more people accumulate more things, the need to be skillful in marketing and re-selling your stuff increases. I am all for “trading-up”. Lastly, I will leave you with the following thoughts:

  • Newly bought things depreciate in value INSTANTLY.
  • All the clutter around you used to be MONEY.
  • The TIME you spend de-cluttering is more valuable than money.

It helps me to think about that the next time I wish to spend money on things. And finally, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Use this to your advantage two ways.

Sell your trash to buy your treasure, which could be another man’s trash, preventing you from wasting time and money.

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Curating Closets: Sustainable and Frugal Second-hand Shopping with Poshmark

It is no secret that I am a proponent of sustainable products and ethical consumerism. When it comes to choosing companies worth promoting in this humble space, I am definite about which ones make the cut. I am aware of the fact that doing so alienates a majority of the population because most items of the eco-conscious and socially impactful variety have a higher cost.

However, we must remember that this cost we refer to is only monetary. If we compare the true costs of alternative “cheaper” options in terms of environmental and social impact, then I would argue that the monetary number is worthwhile.

Naturally the best option, always, is to consume less in order to have the most impact. After all, the most sustainable clothing are the ones already in your closet.

Additionally, less shopping means we will be spending less of our money on cheap goods and collecting our hard-earned dollars for a few things that actually hold value.

Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that there IS a gap.
I speak with privilege.
Especially during this trying time, my promotion of certain companies could border insensitive.
I promise this is not my intention.

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Luckily, frugal sustainable options lie in second-hand shopping, made available by companies such as Poshmark. By choosing to shop used, we reduce our environmental footprint. In buying second-hand, those who cannot normally support companies doing good, can. Used products have a lower price range, which means clothing made of higher-quality materials in safe and ethical factories are more attainable to a larger population.

Additionally, by sending dollars to those wishing to de-clutter ethical goods, we are also giving money to those who have the ability to further support slow fashion. I would like to think that someone who made a conscious decision about a particular company would continue to do so next time. I would therefore be willing to support their future purchases in the slow fashion industry.

For those who are just naturally frugal, buying second-hand is a wonderful opportunity. Deals and steals can continually be found through Poshmark. Plus, the platform is free to all users. Also, the “Like” button allows shoppers to bookmark clothes while they think about their purchases (does anyone follow the 30-day rule?).

Lastly, Poshmark promotes collaboration between buyer and seller. Finding a price that works for both parties is simple. The “offer” button allows the buyer to name their price, while giving the seller the option of accepting or replying with a different fee. Likewise, the seller can create a “bundle” of items from their shop and offer a discount to the buyer for buying multiple items at one time.

Shipping is made easy, with the buyer having to pay for the shipping fee. Once the sale goes through, Poshmark e-mails the seller a shipping label, and all the seller has to do is package the product and drop it off at the nearest USPS.

I myself am a seller at Poshmark (find me @cordeliabyrant), and I have high confidence in the platform after one occasion wherein my mailed package was deemed lost. Poshmark still paid me for the product AND refunded the buyer their money. That kind of guarantee allows me to continue using Poshmark with peace of mind.

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I am frequently asked the question, “How could you write about frugality while also writing about expensively ethical products?”

I am still a frugal person. I find ways to get products that hold value using alternative ways. Below are five frugal life hacks.

  1. I have a running wish-list which I refer to during birthdays and holidays. For larger purchases, I ask multiple family members to pitch in for a single gift. This also helps me be a minimalist while solving the problem of receiving unnecessary stuff from others.
  2. I receive many products to review through this space, which is essentially part of my job. I count products as part of my income on my monthly income reports. Combined, life hack #1 and #2 make a majority of my stuff #gifted.
  3. I buy second-hand through companies such as Poshmark and Craigslist to try to close the loop. I mean, even our couch is from Craigslist! Likewise, I sell my used items on these sites too, which keeps them out of the land-fill (hopefully).
  4. I borrow my way through life. My mom is the opposite of me. She is sentimental about things, so she keeps a lot of them. I rummage through the boxes in my parents’ garage first, in search of any buried gems.
  5. Only when I’ve exhausted all my options do I buy directly from the company. If I ever buy from a company myself, I wait for a sale or discount. I avoid paying full-price for brand new items at all costs.

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45 Quarantine Activities That Save Energy AND Earn Money

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

Just a few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about a side hustle gig that allows Californians to earn money while saving energy. OhmConnect is a third party that will partner with PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to track your particular household’s electricity usage. During their one-hour events, you are prompted to reduce your energy spending at times when average energy usage runs high. They return the favor by paying you. Yes, REAL money. In an effort to not sound redundant, I will simply link the previous post here in case you missed it.

Our house has participated in a few of these events and I want to say that it actually works! And we’ve had a ton of fun trying to brainstorm a slew of alternative activities. It’s a chance of a lifetime to go off-the-grid without really going anywhere. The challenge lies in the fact that, still in California, there is a semi-shut-down. Movie theatres and shopping malls are still closed, the schools are out, and the restaurants are to-go or outdoor seating only. So… what do we do?

Here, I collected a list of quarantine-friendly activities that do not require electricity. Some may require a phone or laptop, but you can plan ahead for those. It doesn’t say zero electronics, only zero electricity. Charge away!

  1. Learn a language with Duolingo.
  2. Do a yoga routine with Adriene.
  3. Pick up a book and catch up on your reading.
  4. Budget with YNAB.
  5. Already have a budget? Learn to master it.
  6. Plan the dream vacation.
  7. Start earning credit card points so you can travel for FREE. I would begin with Southwest.
  8. Get ahead on goal-setting with Smitten On Paper.
  9. Open a high yield savings account to start earning money passively.
  10. Go on a run outdoors using the Nike Run App.
  11. Take the kids to the park or…
  12. Release the sprinklers in the front yard.
  13. Deep clean the home.
  14. Start that renovation project you keep talking about.
  15. Have a candle-lit dinner.
  16. Soak in a bath with relaxing bath salts.
  17. De-clutter the closet.
  18. De-clutter the pantry and fridge.
  19. Watch the sunset on the porch or balcony.
  20. Write poetry.
  21. Take the dog on a walk, or earn money walking dogs on Rover.
  22. Drive a scenic route.
  23. Call your parents.
  24. Write a letter (to actually mail). Perhaps a birthday card?
  25. Drink coffee without distraction.
  26. Take a nap (A favorite!)
  27. Get a massage (from your child or a spouse).
  28. Play a boardgame.
  29. Start a puzzle.
  30. Meditate with Headspace.
  31. Get food delivered via Dashpass or make money on Dashpass.
  32. Learn a new skill or hobby on Skillshare.
  33. Learn how to monetize a blog.
  34. Make a plan to go zero-waste.
  35. Organize your paperwork and bills. Make a pile for when you can turn on that paper-shredder.
  36. Take care of the plants.
  37. Paint or draw.
  38. Sit and do nothing (also a favorite!)
  39. Build legos.
  40. Give the pet a bath.
  41. Hand wash the car.
  42. Hand wash the clothes. And dishes while you’re at it.
  43. Cuddle with the cat.
  44. Have a bonfire (on the beach or backyard).
  45. Listen to a podcast.

Doesn’t all this sound great? And you get paid to do these things. If anything, I consider these OhmEvents forced mini-stay-cations. If you use my referral link here, you will automatically get $10 credit into your account, just for your good intention. Also, if you live elsewhere, don’t think that you can’t participate. Cutting down on electricity usage also cuts down the bill.

Frugality: Celebrating Quarantine Birthdays with Freebies

Remember in March when we circulated memes about those who had to celebrate their birthdays under social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions? Joke’s on us, we who thought we would escape from such circumstances. By now a third of the population has probably experienced celebrating quarantined.

Characteristics may include gatherings of less than ten, standing awkwardly six feet apart, something that gets in the way of the hugs and kisses more than masks do. Candles on a cake anti-climactically put out by a clapping of hands – as if a child saying “ta-da” after making a wish. Also, gifts running belated as shipping companies struggle to continue working in a safe environment despite an influx of online orders.

I myself had to celebrate a restricted birthday, although how happy was I when restaurants opened up for dine-in during that week? Back to normalcy we go – I was sure of it!

So when I asked my husband a month out what he wanted to do for his July birthday, I was quite surprised when he said he wanted to sign up for rewards programs and run around town picking up freebies.

I thought to myself, “Sounds lame.”

His birthday landed prior to a four day weekend which I happened to have off from work and I was imagining a trip somewhere (local, of course). Or at least a sort of beach activity or party. Perhaps a restaurant reservation with our closest friends?

Lo and behold, when it came to the week of his birthday, all of my would-be plans went straight out the window as California was called to partially shut down once again. Due to the rising numbers of COVID positive patients and upcoming holiday, all beaches were shut down, along with dine-in options at restaurants, movie theatres, and family entertainment options. Turns out, his request to get birthday freebies proved to be the only solidly COVID-proof idea.

I thought to myself, “My husband’s a genius.”

To be honest, it turned out pretty nice. It was a sunny Friday, and we started the morning with free bagels (to-go) and coffee, which we ate at home with my brother and roomie for a late morning breakfast. We all were recovering from hiking Mt. Baldy the day before, so it was one of those restful mornings wherein one rolls around in bed, drags feet across the floor, with nary an obligation to rush you towards the next to-do. You know those mornings that feel like you’re on vacation instead of just sitting at home? Speaking of vacation, I need one of those soon.

For lunch, we headed over to a shopping center that had Jersey Mike’s and The Habit. Jersey Mike’s was giving away whatever free sub you wanted plus a 22 oz. drink, which we took away lidless and straw-less to reduce plastic waste. It is, after all, Plastic-Free July.  The Habit was giving birthday celebrants a free burger. Both were wrapped in paper. In the shopping center, there was an outdoor seating area with tables perched ‘neath umbrellas. The tables were spaced out more than six feet apart, with no more than a pair of seats at each table. We plopped ourselves down on cool metal chairs and ate our wins with the first official signs of summer.

In the evening, we had a number of friends meet us at a local park to eat pizza as we sat in a circle on lawn chairs social distancing by household, with an imaginary bonfire in our midst. Excited Santa Anians were shooting fireworks a day early, as mosquitoes bit our legs in the setting sun. It was the first time since February that we’ve seen these faces and it was nice to hear familiar laughs dangling in the night sky. When dusk settled, we packed up our lawn chairs like a bunch of soccer moms and waved our cheerful goodbyes, grabbing left-over pizza boxes and stuffing them in reusable grocery bags.

What’s amazing about the freebies is that they can all be taken to-go and the majority of them last for the rest of the month.

On paper, all of this probably sounds lame. But I can tell you that it was actually extremely fun. I just might do the same next year for the month of June.

For COVID in particular, it was a fool-proof plan to celebrating. If you’ve got a birthday coming up in the next few months, why don’t you try it? Take out and delivery have stood the test of virus and according to a Harvard study, we need to all be prepared to social distance until the end of 2021.

In order to prep for the big day, you should check out a list of Birthday Freebies and sign up for their Rewards program. On your day of birth, each place will email you a coupon or offer with the requirements and the expiring dates.

Below are a few of Mike’s favorites:

  • Denny’s – Free Grand Slam on the birthday month
  • Chili’s – Free dessert for the birthday week
  • Red Robin – Free burger
  • Sprinkles – Free cupcake, redeemable until the month after your birthday
  • Auntie Annie’s – Free pretzel, redeemable until two months after your birthday
  • Wetzel’s Pretzel’s – Free pretzel for downloading the app, and another free pretzel on your birthday
  • Baja Fresh – Free Burrito (with purchase of beverage) , valid until the month after your birthday
  • The Habit – Free Charburger, valid for two weeks
  • Jersey Mike’s – Free Sub and 22 oz. drink
  • Baskin Robbins – Free ice cream scoop
  • Ben N Jerry – Free ice cream scoop
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – Free birthday wings valid until end of the month
  • BJs – Free Pizookie for signing up for rewards and also for your birthday
  • Breugger’s Bagels – Free bagel with cream cheese for signing up and also on your birthday
  • Einstein Bagels – Free bagel egg sandwich with purchase on your birthday
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet valid for one week

It may not be much to celebrate, these free wins, but it sure is a silver lining. There are some things they still haven’t taken away.

Frugality: For Certain Professionals During COVID-19

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

This post is catered towards a small niche of professionals which include medical doctors, first responders, military personnel and nurses. If you are within these fields, then you have a huge opportunity to practice your frugal muscles during this time! This is largely due to the fact that these professions get extreme discounts, benefits, and, well, FREE STUFF, as a thank you for the work you are doing during COVID-19.

It seems highly unfair that these professionals are all considered “essential” workers who have (for the most part) kept their jobs, and on top of all that, they get additional benefits, too. I am one of those professionals (dentist) and feel a bit guilty about how much “help” we’ve personally gotten out of this situation. Considering that our need is not as large as those of lower income families, it seems unjust that we get even more discounts than they, as well as a higher EDD payout for my husband. It’s true that in the most trying times, the rich get richer. The system isn’t fair, but at the same time, I’m not one to let opportunities pass by. In all honesty, I feel very guilty of trying to make the most financial benefit out of this situation, but I continue to do so in the hopes of digging myself further out of the financial rut – which is my half-a-million dollars of student debt.

I’m writing about this because it was only recently that I discovered how far the benefits go. I learned just yesterday that there was a time where you can order up to 5 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for free, get McDonalds meals for free, and even get Starbucks drinks for free. While those food deals are gone, other deals last until the end of the year, such as 20% off of Sonos, $60 AllBirds, 50% off Nike, 40% off Adidas, and more. On top of retail discounts, phone servicers are giving free monthly subscriptions, apps like Headspace are providing free usage until the end of the year, and even car dealerships are giving discounts on new car purchases or future services. Also, until the end of May, you’ve probably heard that many hotels are providing free lodging across the nation for healthcare professionals. Other than the latter, it remains unclear how the rest of these help with the COVID-19 situation except for the fact that it does provide alleviation for people in the aforementioned fields which is a sign of gratitude that I am grateful for.

So why is this a post about frugality?

Because if you are like me, paying back $575k worth of student debt due to a medical profession of your choosing, then perhaps this could help catapult you financially forward. We’ve done things like get FREE tacos from TacoBell four Tuesdays in a row. We’ve saved our EDD payments and are considering buying a rental property. I think it would behoove a few of us trying to pay loans aggressively to cut out the cell phone bill for at least three months. Of course, we shouldn’t be buying new cars or going shopping exuberantly. Although we are guilty of a bit of that, too…

With the 0% interest rate for student loans, grads trying to aggressively pay back their debt are in a very good situation. Make use of every perk available. To avoid taking credit where it’s due, I would suggest just google searching the list of healthcare discounts available due to COVID-19.

Like I said, I didn’t know of this yesterday. If I had, I would have definitely gotten a McDonalds meal every day and brought my co-workers doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. I am just sharing this here in case you haven’t heard it, too.

Frugality: Self-Care

When I first set out to write a piece re: self-care (yet again), my initial though was to create a curated list of small businesses to support, and let support. In the spirit of being helpful to those who may need it most, I then concluded that perhaps doing so would make a thing as vital as breathing itself unattainable for many, especially at this time.

To commoditize caring for the self as it has been by consumer industries seems suddenly wrong and unaligned with what it was originally created to be – that is, a movement that promoted the under-privileged to care for themselves because… who else would, if not them? Which now, knowing the provenance of the term, makes me quite uncomfortable with turning self-care into something that benefits consumer culture.

In an effort to respectably recognize it’s humble intention, I am now sitting down to write of self-care with a different lens. Self-care doesn’t have to be pampering yourself, as defined by most millennials. It doesn’t require spending money buying things or paying for services. As much as the cosmetic industry would like to make us think that our pores and skin are working against us, or the fashion industry  wants us to believe that everything can be cured by a shopping spree, trust me when I say that neither is true and both are baloney.

It’s quite easy to convince someone that happiness lies on the other side of a credit card swipe (especially when that someone is mentally exhausted or extremely stressed from say, oh, work … or a pandemic!) but come on, we’ve all felt it. That uncertainty afterwards that lingers in the back of our mind. A feeling of guilt that our hard-earned dollars went into someone else’s pocket. Or the regret of not choosing to spend “free-time” in our PJs on the couch, rather than going out to treat ourselves to food and drink. Face it – anything that makes you feel like crap afterwards is NOT self-care. It’s an easy hide-under-the-rug kind of care. An avoidance of care, if we are truly being honest. Another thing to add to the to-do list in order to not-do anything about important things.

Well, you get the gist.

So here we go. A tribute to what self-care was originally meant to be.

  • Make your bed – and other ways to tend to a home (here and here). Something as simple as washing and changing the sheets can be as therapeutic as buying a new bed set, I guarantee, without the stresses of deciding on a new color, where to put the old one, and which of the two you’ll use.
  • Work on your finances. Taking care of your future self in the form of budgeting and saving is an OG approach to self-care.
  • Turn off the phone. Set some boundaries.
  • Take a long bath – no need for bath bombs or richly sensuous oils. Just turn on the water, sit in the dark, light a candle, listen to music with no words. Easy does it. I personally dislike baths, but I do like to clean the bath tub as a way to show care.
  • Nap without guilt – to which my roommates laughed because apparently, some people are able to do just that. I always feel guilt and unrest after waking up from a nap – as if I’d wasted precious time. But I am trying to re-learn that sleep is productive in its own right.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you want to fancify it, add lemon slices or mint sprigs. A mixology fact- tapping a stem of mint leaves on the back of your hand makes it more aromatic. Add ice, if it’s all you got.
  • Write a list of ten things you love about yourself – or what you want to accomplish, or who you care about, etc.
  • Practice breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Alternatively, stretch a few times throughout the day. Body movement is the best way to combat aging. Avoid static postures. Dance, if you must. Like no one’s watching, too – it’s a real mood booster.
  • Reduce your social media follows. Curate your feed. Much of how you feel is dependent on what you see and who you follow. If you follow athletic people to motivate you to lose weight, but they also make you feel bad about yourself, maybe they aren’t the best follow? Same goes for aesthetic spaces, models, clothing companies – everything that makes you feel like worthiness requires something better, or more.
  • Do absolutely nothing. For me, this is the ultimate form of self-care. An activity that takes me a while to get into, it is so much better than any solution you can immediately achieve.

I am sure there are plenty more, none of which requires spending. I’d enthusiastically promote the tabulating of your own personally gratifying self-care activities, and to carry that in your back pocket like arsenal. Because if not you, then who? And if not now, then when?

Financial Advice to Battle COVID-19

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

I think it has become apparent to all that the up-hill battle which we face against COVID-19 has only just begun and will not go away any time soon. When whispers of a lock-down first spread two weeks ago, I truly believed that it was a wave we were all going to ride out, and normalcy will once again return within a week, maybe two. But the summit still has not been reached, so I believe it is time to talk about planning for the long haul.

I originally published my Mastering a Budget course here for free when I first heard of people halting work in order to protect the majority. That course will continue to remain free, but apart from budgeting, there are a few other financial topics to be discussed. Advice, if you will.

As always, take it or leave it as it pertains to your particular situation. I do not claim to be a financial guru, neither do I believe in one solid path. However, for the general public, these are my thoughts.

Financial Advice to Battle COVID-19

  • Start saving, if possible. For some of you, this is beyond what’s possible. Many people have filed for unemployment insurance with the EDD(which I highly recommend if you have suddenly found yourself temporarily or permanently laid-off), and saving is a ship that has long sailed. I understand that. For those who are still fortunate enough to work, I would highly recommend saving every penny possible. Now is not the time to go on an online shopping spree. These are volatile days, and no one really knows what tomorrow holds. For those who are without work, you still can save the dollars you have. Just because you have more time doesn’t mean you should be scouring the internet for sales (there will be many, I would presume). And this advice doesn’t apply to saving just dollars. Start saving pantry items, start saving worn-out clothes, learn to mend your way through. My favorite blogger who writes about working with what you have is Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. Work with what you have, and save what you can. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Reduce spending. I am a strong advocate for frugality, and if there was ever a time to practice frugal muscles, well, now would be it. I have published a plethora of frugal challenges, as well as an Ever-growing List of Things I Have Given Up In the Name of Frugality (which happens to be my most viewed post!). Reducing spending is easy, once you get used to it. Like I said above, this is not the time to spend your days-off browsing the internet for sales and new clothes. This isn’t even the time to order delivery for fancy dinners at night. I know you already aren’t paying your cleaners (in the name of social distancing), and hopefully you stopped paying for gas and transportation now that you’re working from home. The stay-at-home mandate actually makes it easier to reduce spending if you are wise about it. Cut where you can, and put what you would normally spend into your savings.
  • Stop extra debt payments. This advice is what kills me most to say, but it is actually the smart thing to do if you are without work or find yourself with less income. If you continue to work like normal and earn the same amount as before the pandemic, maybe you can maintain extra debt payments. However, be sure you have enough in your savings first! You never know if tomorrow you will be so lucky to have the same job as today. Perhaps you will be without work, regretting spending what you thought was “extra money” on paying down debt that didn’t need to be paid. As many of you may well know, I derived my nickname “TheDebtist” after graduating with an astounding student debt – $575,000 to be exact – and deciding to pay it down aggressively. I am here to say that even I have decided to pause extra debt payments during this time of uncertainty. Currently, the President has mandated that federal student loans be waived their interest fee for the next sixty days after March 13, 2020. Therefore, deciding not to pay down the debt right now is a good move because I store that money as liquid cash, available for emergencies. We do not lose anything because the interest is waived and therefore the loan amount isn’t growing. When this is all over and the interest resumes, I can pay that lump sum that I haven’t been paying now towards loans and not prolong my trajectory towards freedom. This isn’t to say, “Don’t pay off debt and spend the money instead”, by the way. Overall, to me, stopping extra debt payments make sense. Now, this is different from not paying down credit cards in full every month. Barring severe emergencies or a shortage of funds, I think that credit card payments are not considered “extra” payments. They are actually the reflection of what you already spent. If cash is tight or if there is no interest rate, then I get it. But if possible, do pay off credit cards in full, otherwise you will simply be accruing debt and make life harder for your future self. Other areas where you may be aggressively paying down debt include but are not limited to: home mortgages, auto payments, and medical debt.
  • Use time wisely. I know, I know. I have been saying this past week that this time off is a much needed gift, something the world has been craving for ages. This is the time we need to take for ourselves. However, this does NOT mean “use this time to turn into a vegetable as you watch Netflix on the couch, scroll through Reddit or Instagram, constantly chat with your friends on Zoom or Skype, create dance videos on TikTok (twenty times over until it’s just right)”, et cetera. This time is meant to be used wisely. A time for self-discovery and introspection no doubt, but also, a time for growth. I shared an ability for my readers to access Skillshare for FREE for two months so that they could learn something new. Some of the skills on there can create a new job for you. If you are recently jobless, it would behoove you to discover what skills you have to share with the world. Create a business walking dogs on Rover. Or make money blogging (here’s how). Read plenty of books, some self-help to inspire you to create a new job position, some fiction to inspire creativity itself. Organize your home, thus organizing your mind, priorities, and the self. Take care of the paperwork you’ve been neglecting, or set yourself up for financial or professional success. Update your resume, or look into refinancing your home to get a lower rate. The world is yours for the taking.


  • Don’t touch long term investments. I cannot say this enough. Do NOT, DO NOT touch long term investments such as a 401K. Try all avenues before even thinking about doing this. The effects of touching these long-term investments are grand. It would make imaginary losses a reality. It would hurt any financial goals you’ve worked on building. Please, if you can, do not pull money out of these investments at all!
  • Create a budget. Off course, with the extra time on your hands, you can FINALLY sort out your budget. If you don’t have one, then I suggest making one ASAP. I personally use YNAB to budget (get your first 34 days FREE here), but if you take my free Mastering a Budget course, you will learn multiple other ways to budget without having to sign up for an online budgeting tool.
  • Stay Calm. Lastly, stay calm. Panic will lead you to rash decisions and regrets. Do not sell all your stocks at once. Do not hoard stuff because you are afraid. Do not sell the house or the car. Just. Stay. Calm. Think about the life you want after all of this is over. Then work backwards and think of how to make that happen using what you have today. Get help, if you must. I am here, for anyone who wants to talk.

Don’t know what in the world to do with student loans? Get help! Student Loan Planner is my number one recommendation for student loan help. Although this is an affiliate link, I am honest when I say that I would not recommend ANYTHING that I do not personally love or have not tried. Travis Hornsby saved us thousands of dollars! Scheduling a call today would be a very smart move. The financial frontier is daily changing, and you definitely need someone with the most up-to-date expertise to navigate through these waters.