30 Day Writing Challenge

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Read Part 1: Jorge

George

George drove up McArthur Blvd at lighting speed. He had to get home before breakfast or he would never hear the end of it. His wife Melissa talked his ear off yesterday, complaining about him working too much and his lack of respect for family time. Melissa was usually more laid back, but ever since having baby Rylan, she’s all about family time now. They used to be so carefree and spontaneous, where did the times go?

George clicks the remote on his keys to open the gate into his garage. He looks at his watch—shoot, he thinks, I’m 20 minutes late. “You’re late,” announces Melissa, before he fully steps into the house. George offers her a wiry smile, “I’m sorry, there was alot of traffic.” He gives her a kiss on the cheek and grabs baby Rylan from his playpen. Melissa gives him the side eye and heads over to the kitchen.

“I made you some breakfast, George,” she says. Still playing with Rylan, George nods in acknowledgment. In his head, he is secretly cursing himself. Melissa hates the kitchen and it hates her. It wasn’t a problem before but now with the baby, she’s taken up cooking as her new hobby— to George’s dismay. He hasn’t eaten decent food in 3 days!


After breakfast, Melissa is off to drop baby Rylan at his sitter’s. George, who’s a writer by day and a security guard by night, goes to his office to get some work done. Now the real fun begins, he thinks to himself. They can only afford a sitter for a few hours, so George has to make the most out of his peace and quiet before heading out to pick up the baby. He is currently working on a novel, A Tale of Two Sons, about these two brothers who fall in love with the same woman and don’t know it. The story is based off George’s life, sort of.

He’s hoping this book will be the answer to all his prayers. Finances have not been his friend since baby Rylan came on the seen. It’s safe to say, George has bitten off more than he can chew these days.


Baby Rylan and George are back home from the sitter’s around 3pm. He walks over to the kitchen and puts Rylan in his high chair. He is so distracted by all he has to do before heading out in an hour— feed Rylan, clean the litter box, shower, get ready— that he doesn’t notice the blue handbag sitting on the kitchen table. George runs to the fridge to grab Rylan’s finger food, puts it on his high top table and runs upstairs.

In his bedroom he checks the baby monitor is on and working before frantically taking off his clothes to hop in the shower. Five minutes later, George hurries out of the shower and starts getting dressed. Looking at his watch, he shakes his head wondering how 45 minutes have past already.

Jolting down the stairs, he doesn’t hear the back door opening as Melissa and her new friend she met at yoga a few weeks ago, step into the kitchen. George hears Melissa’s voice in the kitchen talking to someone and decides to head straight for the door, better to apology later for running off without goodbyes than to be late, he thinks.

Read Part 3: Skeletons

30 Day Writing Challenge

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Jorge

Jorge drives down McArthur Blvd at lightning speed. He has to get home before dinner time or he will never hear the end of it. His wife Valentina talked his ear off last night, complaining about his late nights “at the office” and his lack of respect for family time. Valentina is a stickler for rules. She’s the glue that holds the family together, but at just 5’2, she can also be a vicious little women, intimidating even the toughest macho man.

Jorge abruptly parks his car in front of the house with 2 minutes to spare. The way he was swerving cars left and right, it was a miracle he made it home at all. Inside the house, Valentina is almost done setting the table, she looks up and smiles at Jorge as he walks through the door. “Mi amor, right on time!” she exclaims. Jorge smiles at his wife, and at the feast laid out on the table. He began to salivate as he thought of what was to come. He hadn’t eaten quality food in 3 days!

Before he can take his place at the table, Jorge is startled by the sound of four little feet stomping towards him. “Papi, papi!” they scream. Julio, 4, and Marco, 3, run towards Jorge with full force. Jorge kneels down with his arms wide open to catch the little balls of energy before they knock down the table and everything on it. It felt good to see his boys! Since coming home late these past few days, he’d only seen them fast asleep.


After dinner, the family sits on the couch to watch Jane the Virgin on Netflix. Valentina snuggles close to Jorge as he puts his arm around her. This is the good life, he thinks to himself. The kids love Jane the Virgin, it’s the only show that will get them to stop fidgeting. They make it through two episodes before bedtime and the kids protest and plead for one more episode. Valentina does not budge— the boys look to Jorge for help, he laughs and shrugs his shoulders, “Sorry, mi hijos, you know the rules,” he says.


Once the boys are tucked in, Valentina and Jorge head to bed. Jorge stares up at the ceiling as he takes a deep breath. Valentina gives him a side eye and lets out an exaggerated sigh, “What is it now Jorge? Let me guess, another work trip? You are going to need a new job, you can’t leave me and the boys all the time. This is not what I signed up for when we got married.” Oh boy, how did she know, thinks Jorge. “Oh mi amor, don’t get like that. You know I have to work. They assign me leads and I have to take them, it’s part of the job.

“They assign me leads and I have to take them,” Valentina mimics under her breath. Jorge can cut the tension with a knife. He knows the lifestyle he’s been leading is not sustainable, but how does he get out now when he’s in so deep?

Read Part 2: George

Day 23: Easy DIY Sugar Coffee Scrub and Face Mask

30 Day Writing Challenge

DIY face masks and face/body scrubs have got to be some of the easiest skin care products to make at home! I’m actually offended when I see commercial face masks just because of how easy it is to make one at my house. Seriously, it’s sooo easy. It’s only 3 ingredients, unless you want to get fancy. It’s also so, so, so, good for your skin and body, you just can’t go wrong with this recipe.

What You Need

A base- I’ve used coconut oil, which is amazing for your skin, and I’ve also used olive oil. You can use pretty much any carrier oil for the base just depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Ground coffee- You can use the coffee grounds from your last freshly brewed cup (you know: reuse, reduce, recycle!) or unused grounds.

Sugar- Any granulated sugar will do.

Prep Work

Pour a spoon full of coffee, and a spoon full of sugar into your container, then add your base until all the coffee and sugar are saturated. Voila! Your done. It took me longer to write this post than it will for you to make the mask/scrub.

How to use

I use this as both a mask and a scrub. To use as a mask, take some product and apply to your skin, let sit for about 10-15 minutes, and wash off. To use as a scrub, apply some product to skin and gently exfoliate skin in circular motions. Our you can do both!

Bonus

Add lemon juice to help brighten dark or uneven areas. You can also add essential oils that are good for your skin, such as, tea tree oil or geranium oil.

Important note about Storage

When it comes to DIY beauty, I am a bit overly caution, especially since these products do not have preservatives which protect us from fungus and unwanted bacteria. With that said, I LOVE homemade, diy skincare products because they are fresh, have simple ingredients, and are so, so, so good for you! All you have to do is follow simple safety instructions and you will be good to go!

Now that I’ve premised this, I would not recommend storing this in your bathroom. As a matter of face, just keep away from water all together to avoid the potential of bacteria and fungus ( Learn more about safety from Thank Your Body’s Six Tips for Safer Homemade Beauty Products).

The best place to store DIY beauty that has real food in it (i.e coffee, lemon juice, etc) is in your refrigerator. It will keep it fresh and cold, which adds a nice touch to the mask/scrub. Plus it is the safest bet! Better safe than sorry.

The Bottom Line

Your body will thank you for taking 2 minutes to create this small patch of heaven. It will likely last you 2-3 weeks if you use it sparingly, and the best part, you can make it again in another 2 minutes! And lastly, is it obvious that this will cost you nothing? Because that’s the real winner in my book!

Day 22: Save your Soul

30 Day Writing Challenge

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When someone says mind, body, and soul, what do you think of? I thought I knew what that trio meant until I really sat down to think about it and realized I only knew what mind and body meant! What is a soul? Do I have one? Is it real? I did a quick google search (as I often do in these situations, THANK YOU INTERNET GODS!), and found a really thorough and interesting article by the Daily Beast, titled Where in your Body is your Soul? While the article digs deep into the science of located a physical soul, it did introduce what I thought was the soul, before I could put it into words.

intangible, incorporeal essence

Pluto

Your soul is the symbolic representation of who you are as a person. Huh? Let’s try again: your soul is defined by who you are, such as, are you a nice person; are you kind; are you generous; are you greedy; are you compassionate? You get the gist…

Consider the phrase, “I sold my soul to the Devil”—what are you really saying? You’re saying you did something evil, something unkind, something backstabbing, or for your own benefit at the expense of others. Likewise, the expression “a gentle soul,” refers to someone kind, caring, amicable.

So really, your soul is nothing more than a manifestation of your character. If you are religious or spiritual, you want to preserve your soul by being of good character. Taking a different angle, if we consider the evolutionary lens, which categorizes humans as social beings, we can make the argument that we are all innately “gentle souls.”

In fact, according to Psychology Today, “Human beings are social animals, and the tenor of someone’s social life is one of the most important influences on mental and physical health.” So not only is being a good neighbor an innate quality in us, it is essential to the healthy living trifecta-mind, body and soul.

The Bottom Line

The message here is really about being kind, well meaning people. We are all busy and wrapped up in our own little worlds day in and day out. Sometimes it’s very difficult to mind our manners or project positivity when we are going through a bad day or have 300 million things on our mind. The thing is, spreading a little joy can really feed your soul, reflect off the walls, and bring you joy right back.

Day 21: Don’t Give Up.

Some #MondayMotivation to get your week going.

30 Day Writing Challenge

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When I was younger I had so much fire in me. I was the youngest of 5 and somewhat of a golden child. My parents, my teachers, my friends— they all thought I would be something in life. I was known as the “smart one” in my circle of friends.

I soaked that shit up.

It was a time in my life when I truly, deeply believed in myself. Talk about positive reinforcement. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be someone great! Someone inspiring and well spoken, funny and charismatic, beautiful, successful and wealthy! I had high expectations for myself.

I did accomplish alot!

These days when I’m feeling down or being hard on myself, I have to remind myself that I have accomplished alot! I was the first in my family to graduate from college and get a Bachlor’s degree. I went to grad school and received a Master’s degree. I landed my first job. At the time I was making 40K a year, and let me tell you, I thought that was a-whole-latta money!

In retrospect it really was. My mom had never made 40K a year, my sister never made that much, nor my aunts, or any close female relative. I was breaking records in my family! I was moving on up. I was fulfilling my destiny as the family savior.


Now, let’s fast forward a few years. I’ve secured a job where I make a comfortable living. I’m a typical millennial who shops a Trader Joe’s and overpays for coffee. The question is, will I look back in 20 years and be satisfied with the life I’m living? Where is the fire from my younger self?

No, I’m not still making 40K a year, but also not making that much more…I had dreams of being a BOSS. I envisioned a life of financial freedom. I envisioned myself helping others accomplish their goals and becoming a role model kids growing up like I did. But my comfy little desk job and mediocre salary have gotten in the way.

My complacency makes me feel like a failure!

Somehow being stuck in this stage of my life makes me feel like everything I’ve accomplished up till now means nothing. It’s a dreadful feeling that can easily take you down the rabbit hole of self pity and self doubt.

Although I had been feeling down on myself for a while, when I finally decided to take action, it was truly life changing. Here are some things I did.

How to Pick Yourself Up Again

Make a list of your goals. What is it that you want to accomplish? For me those goals were:

  1. Become financially free
  2. Do something I find meaningful
    • And with that, use my time more productively
  3. Inspire others

Next you need to come up with a plan to reach these goals.

To have goals is to have a vision, to complete your goals is to take action.

My biggest problem was not having goals, it was taking action! I was lazy and in my comfort zone. I didn’t have the same fire I had when I didn’t have anything and wanted something. Now I have something and want more. I think this crucial distinction is what separates the greats for the okays.

I took the following actions to achieve my goals:

  1. Started this blog.
  2. Started working out, waking up early and eating healthier.
  3. Started educating myself on financial literacy and how to become financially free.

Finally, don’t give up. I find myself getting discouraged at times and feeling like I haven’t accomplished my goals fast enough. I have to constantly remind myself that it took me 4 years to graduate college and 2 more years for a masters! Greatness does not happen overnight.

The Bottom Line

Whenever you feel like giving up, or like you aren’t good enough, or that you will never reach your goals, do this simple exercise: name three things you’ve done in your life that you are extremely proud of. If you can’t think of three then start with one. Then name three things you are looking forward to accomplishing in the future. Again, if you can’t think of three then start with one. Keep meditating on these two lists until you can come up with three solid answers. Once you start to believe in yourself, you’ll be half way there.

Day 20: The Truth about Side Hustles…

How to really make money from a side hustle.

30 Day Writing Challenge

The Infamous Side Hustle.

I just watched an 18 minute Youtube video on side hustles. It is one of countless Youtube videos and blog posts that I’ve seen or read detailing the many side hustles at your disposal. What many of these videos and posts don’t tell you, is just how hard it is to actually make money from the “gig” industry. They also neglect to mention that they started their “side hustles” while in college or as stay at home moms or while working part-time to make more income.

It’s not just “here is a list of side hustles, do all of them and make money.”

Many of the commonly suggested side hustles take a significant amount of time and effort before you start making any real money. Take Youtube, for example—you need a pretty substantial following on the platform before you can start making money off ads and subscribers. The blog Sellfy does a great job at explaining how to make money on Youtube—for starters, you need 1,000 subscribers. That is to say, it aint happening overnight.

The other thing to consider is the fierce amount of competition out there. I once considered selling homemade lotions and body butters on Etsy, which I like to make on my spare time, but after a quick inventory of what was already selling, I realized the retail value would be less than the cost to make them! Not to mention the amount of time and effort that goes into crafting, building a brand and, marketing your products.

What To Do

The matter of the fact is that side hustles CAN make you good money. Some people have even turned their side hustles into their main hustles. It’s also a great financial practice to diversify your income streams. So how do you do it? Here are some things I’ve learned from my many side hustle experiments.

Start with just One.

First thing’s first; master one side hustle at a time. I started dog sitting about 2 years ago and it has taken me until now to really get it doing. First I worked for a company, which helped me gain experience that I was able to promote when I went solo. After a few good reviews, I started to get more requests and book more gigs.

Master it.

The key to “mastering” a side hustle is studying what works and what doesn’t work, then executing for optimal results. For example, I read tons of articles on how to make money as a dog sitter and what makes a good dog sitter, resulting in 5 star reviews and repeat customers.

Nurture it.

Another essential part of growing your side hustle is to treat it as a high paying job, even if it’s not yet. Whenever I receive a dog sitting request, I reply within the hour—good customer service goes a long way! Whether it’s a $50 job or a $300 job, I make sure the pet owner feels their dog is my top priority. Usually the outcome is a repeat costumer, resulting in continued cash flow.

And Repeat.

I’ve made pretty good money dog sitting, although I know the potential to grow is still huge! At the same time, now that I’ve mastered the general principles of making money through dog sitting, I can start venturing into other money making hustles.

The Bottom Line

Like I said, side hustles can definitely make you good money, but you really need to hone in and focus on one at a time for it to reach its full potential. If you dedicated 5 hours a week to taking surveys online, you’d probably make much more money than if you took one survey a month.

Dabbling here and there will not make you as much money as mastering and nurturing one side hustle. The logic is simple; you might be good at many things but without practice and dedication, you will never be great, and if you aren’t great, you’ll be side swept by the competition!

So really the message is, let’s all be great.

Day 19: One of the Most Important Success Habits…

30 Day Writing Challenge

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Reading.

Some of the most influential people in the world claim to read a book a week or if you’re Warren Buffet, 500 pages of financial documents. In case it isn’t obvious, reading is one of the easiest- and most affordable ways of learning. You can walk into your local library right now and pick up a book on literally anything.

I think Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said it really well,

Everything [he’d] read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it.

It was not so long ago that the former statement was false. Books—and education in general—were reserved for the wealthy and privileged. The rest of society received the bare minimum and were more encouraged to work than to learn.

In the age of technology, learning has reaching a turning point. Now it holds true that mostly anyone can buy a book or magazine, and better yet, they can read a book or magazine without purchasing anything, thanks to the public library systems. This is not even taking into account the endless free information available online.

If you were motivated to learn how to play piano or how to code or cook or draw or learn quickbooks, you could guaranteed find a book for that. There are books on How to become a Dominatrix, The Art of Ice Cream, Astrophysics, and How to become a social media influencer. Sure, there are other forms of knowledge acquisition, like video sharing and streaming platforms, or podcasts, as examples, but it’s kind of like when a book gets converted into a Hollywood movie—many of the details get cut out.

If you truly want to be great, you need to be detail oriented and there are few places that have more details than books. From starting your own Dominatrix dungeon to learning astrophysics, books have got you covered.


Okay great, you get it, reading is good for you. But what should you be reading? Can you read trashy tabloid magazines and still get the same benefit as reading A Streetcar Named Desire?

Not exactly.

I find in order for you to get the most out of books you need to have a strategy. In building that strategy, consider these questions:

  1. What is your end goal?
    • This is the #1 question because it will really help you define what kinds of books you should be reading. I have a friend who’s a graffiti and mural artist, when you walk into his apartment you will find rows and rows of books all about graffiti and street art. I never even considered there were so many books about graffiti, but here we are!
  2. How much time can you realistically dedicate to reading?
    • Not all of us have the time to read 6 books a week! At the same time, where there is a will, there is a way! I find commuting to be the absolute best time to get some reading done. If you live near public transportation, you may want to give it a go—being able to sit there and just read can make your commute feel much shorter, and it’s using up that time productively!
  3. Do you like ebooks or hard copies?
    • This is a more logistical question but important nonetheless. If you are like me who loves the feel of a “real” book in your hands, than traditional hard copies are the way to go. On the flip side, a small, lightweight e-reader that can hold thousands upon thousands of books is a pretty worthwhile investment in my view.

Books I’ve recently read

1. MADDADDAM TRILOGY by Margaret Atwood
2.The Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman
3. Food Rules, AN Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
4. Well that Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey

I love reading, but I must admit, I am a very slow reader. It takes me anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to finish one book! I read the 9 books mentioned above (2 of them are series!) in 4 years or so. The good news is that I read several books at any given point and I also read shorter pieces, such as, blogs, stories, and news articles daily.

I read alot of dystopian novels because I love how authors use fantasy to depict real world issues of racism, classism, inequality, sexism, and so much more. I also like to read memoirs and personal stories about overcoming obstacles and being better for it. And I love “self-improvement” books, especially those that touch on wellness and mental health. What all of these books have in common is that they feed my “end goal” to become a healthy, positive people who lives life with intentionality.

I would love to say it really doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read, but that’s just not the case. The age of technology is a double edge sword that increases access to information and the possibility of misinformation. What the internet, in particular, as also accomplished, is allowed many more people to self publish books, blogs, and other information sharing platforms. That’s why it’s so important to consider what you are reading, paying close attention to who wrote it, and where you found it.

The Bottom Line

Reading is another form of brain food; the more you know, the more you grow. You don’t need to spend hours and hours a day reading, or even finish reading anything within a certain time frame. Just allowing yourself enough time to self-care with a daily dose of knowledge goes a long way.

Day 18: A Short Story

30 Day Writing Challenge

After years of living elsewhere, she walks the streets of her hometown in amazement.

Where there was once concert, there are now patches of green.

She use to drive 20 minutes and a few towns over to get to the dog park, now there’s one around the corner.

She sees the developments and the bike lanes – is this gentrification? Then where are the white people? Maybe they come last, when the city is ready for them.

Right now though, she still sees the Blacks and Browns. It’s still home now.

Day 17: Culture Wars—Mom why are you like that?!

30 Day Writing Challenge

The other day I went to visit my friend in NYC for a comedy show and dinner. I showered, put on some clothes, did my hair and walked out the door.

Long story short, when I came back to my mother’s house in NJ, where I was staying, I scrolled through instagram and saw my friend posted a picture of us earlier that night.

I leaned over in the bed I was sharing with my mom and showed her the picture. Her exact words were, “You went to NYC like that? How will you ever find a husband looking like that?”

“You went to NYC like that? How will you ever find a husband looking like that?”

Knowing my mother, I tried to laugh it off and said, “If my ‘husband’ can’t love me at my worst, he can’t have my at my best.” She looked at me with a disturbed expression and said, “What’s that suppose to mean?” Here we go, I thought.

My mother was born and raised on a farm in the Dominican Republic. She was raised to learn how to do a bunch of cool things, like farm and harvest rice, churn butter, wash clothes in the river. It was a hard life but a simple life. She’s always telling me stories about growing chickens and riding horses in the country side.

On the flip side, she was also raised in a culture that believes women are set on this earth to be wives and mothers. Women should always look their best in public and “take care of themselves.” The old saying goes, primero muerta que sencilla. Women, like the one’s my mother thinks we should all be, never leave the house without hair and makeup laid. That’s what she was referring to when she looked at the picture— I wasn’t wearing any makeup and my hair was in a simple topknot. I wasn’t “husband ready.”

Despite having been born and raised by my mother, we are two birds of different feathers. She taught be to be a “lady,” I’ve just rejected it. Who made up the rules here? Why should I live my life in the hopes of “landing a husband” as if I was landing my dream job? Why is my self-worth tied to being married and having children?

It’s not that I feel somehow I’m better than my mother because her self-worth is tied to the patriarchy and mine isn’t. In fact, we are both products of a patriarchal society, whereby the former accepts and abides by the rules and the latter rejects and denounces the rules.

Coming full circle to the start of this story, I don’t believe my mother is wrong. There is beauty and love and resilience in building and maintaining a family. There is pride and joy in seeing your children grow and flourish into different versions of yourself. This is not what I’m speaking out against.

The thing that bothers me is that we are all different, even mothers and daughters, and yet, we feel the need to force our own beliefs and values onto others. Isn’t that what wars are build on? Isn’t that what partisanship is build on? What I don’t understand is why we can’t respect each other’s differences? Why can’t my mother respect that I may not take the same path as her? Is there any hope that one day we will be able to have a decent conversation with someone who thinks differently from us without anger and bias? I don’t have the answer, only questions….

Day 16: Life Lesson #98 You’re BROKE because you act rich…except rich people don’t act like that.

30 Day Writing Challenge

I’ve seen so many variations of the image below, it’s not even funny anymore. Anyone who’s ever read literally ANYTHING on how to build wealth has heard that the riches people are extremely frugal. Warren Buffet? Frugal. Mark Zuckerberg? Frugal.  Robert Kiyosaki? Frugal. The list is exhaustive and it’s not even a secret, business insider has an entire article on 8 extremely wealthy people’s frugal habits.

The first time I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, I was surprisingly underwhelmed. He doesn’t give any groundbreaking advice on wealth creation, or secrets to the road to riches—instead he offers basic, sound advice that should really be common sense if you think about it. He says things like, don’t spend money you don’t have, and never consider yourself a poor person.

Kiyosaki is not the first person to say this, nor the last, suggesting that there actually is no real secret to wealth creation. So why aren’t we all rich?

“there is no real secret to wealth creation”

Simply put, it’s because we are lazy. We want to be wealthy without putting in the work to build wealth and so we take shortcuts—flexing like we have money when we really don’t.

What I’ve gathered from reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos is that wealth creation is all about adopting and sustaining healthy and productive habits. These habits are simple concepts that are hard to maintain. Here are a few habits that I’ve learned on my journey.

But first, what NOT to do

Stop living your life to impress others

One of the biggest things holding us back is what everyone else thinks. Society and modern American culture (which is built on capitalism, you know) has ingrained in us that we need to have the latest xyz phone, the latest tablet, the latest you name it. Everyone wants a Tesla because it’s more environmentally friendly, right? Or is it because it’s the new, cool, hot thing to do? Because in fact, keeping and maintaining your current car is more environmentally friendly than buying a brand new car.

Stop treating yo self

Marketing companies are overjoyed when some unsuspecting internet user, or Drake in the case of Yolo, gives them a cleaver hashtag to fuel their campaigns. Do you realize that ordering pizza on Wednesday night or splurging on a $5 coffee at Starbucks is NOT treating yourself? Apart from the former being all calories and the latter being calories and sugar, they are just enablers of bad habits. It’s so easy to say, eh, don’t feel like cooking today. But it’s also really easy to buy a couple of frozen pizzas for literally 1/3 of the price at your local supermarket.

Stop Rationalizing

I hate to be the one to break this to you—when you buy a completely unnecessary 3-piece robe set with the slippers and an eye mask, you didn’t save $10, you actually spent $30. Often times there is a huge different between what we want and what we need and alot of those times, we like to rationalize what we want as a need. Well I have a robe at home, but it’s on sale so I’m saving money. Sorry sis, you’re wasting money.

Now, what to do

Cut down on unnecessary spending habits.

Repeat after me: necessary, unnecessary, necessary, unnecessary. Example, it is unnecessary to buy a $5+ coffee every morning because you can make coffee at your house for 1/2 the price according to The Simple Dollar.

It is also unnecessary to buy the latest of any electronic/techy product. Technology is so rapid and competition is so fierce that buying a product that is 2, even 3 “generations” old will still get you a really great product.

To this point, I walked into the Apple store in 2015 to replace my 2009 (bought used) macbook. I asked the techy guy helping me to tell me the truth, what was the difference between the new 2015 macbook and the one before it (2013)? He looked me in the eyes and said, well there’s this and that and this and that, blah blah, but truthfully, you probably won’t even notice. Fast forward 4 years later, my 2013 macbook is in “like new” condition.

Even more to this point, my roommate recently bought a 2019 macbook and I can’t tell you what the difference in performance is. Sure it’s nice and sleek looking. And I’m sure it has some updated features, but unless you are a graphic designer or someone who knows enough about technology to appreciate the difference, does it really matter?

Remember; necessary, unnecessary, necessary, unnecessary.

Live a healthy lifestyle.

“Live a healthy lifestlye” sounds a bit nebulous but it all comes back full circle. If you eat high quality, home cooked meals, you will buy less food (because it’s expensive) and also eat less (because it’s nutritious and therefore more filling). Hence, you are saving money.

The same applies to working out; when you work out, you tend to change your eating and drinking habits because you want to see results. In this case, maybe you stop drinking soda, stop snacking, start intermittent fasting. The decision to workout, then, creates a snowball effect of moneysaving habits.

Live mindfully

This ties into living a healthy lifestyle and also goes deeper than that. Consider when you go to target meaning to buy a pack of underwear and walk out with $300 worth of stuff—my roommate refers to this as “blacking out.” That’s because there’s an adrenaline rush when you add things to your cart (whether online or in person).

If you take time to consider everything you have in your cart before getting into the cash register line, you can analyze what’s necessary and what’s unnecessary.

Another thing that I do often is put things in my cart then either leave them there for next time (if it’s online) or leave them at the store for next time. This trick eliminates the rush you get from instant gratification and it will help you determine if it’s something you really should get or not. For example, I finally bought some chair cushions for my dinning table which have been in my cart for months now.

Bottom Line

Very wealthy people have used a series of healthy and productive habits to build wealth—frugality being one of them. And just to be clear, being frugal and being cheap are NOT the same thing. I think the contributor Stefanie O’Connell said it perfectly in her article, 5 Major Differences Between Cheap and Frugal, “Frugality is about assessing the bigger picture and having the patience to cash in on the simple savings strategies.”

“Frugality is about assessing the bigger picture and having the patience to cash in on the simple savings strategies.”

The big picture when it comes to wealth creation is how you analyzing your priorities. What’s it going to be? A Mercedes today and big debt tomorrow or frugality today and financial freedom tomorrow?

Also read: How to save money like an impulse shopper.

Day 15: WAKE UP! You’re wasting time. Why I wake up at 5am daily.

30 Day Writing Challenge

Productivity is the name of the game.

Waking up early has been a game changer for me. I actually learned the benefits of waking up early by accident. It began when I started going to the gym, but found myself so sluggish and tired after work. I also felt that going to the gym after work took up all my time. This is when I made the decision to go in the mornings instead.

After a while I’d wake up early even on non-gym days. I’d lay in bed starring at my phone or I’d try to go back to sleep, until one day, I picked up the book on the desk next to me.

If I am already up, why not be productive? I find myself getting so much done in the mornings, and having more energy at night to get even more done. It’s a crazy cycle of productivity.

On a typical 5am wake up day, I do some variation of the following:

5am- Wake Up

5:05am- Walk my dog

5:15am- Make coffee, feed my dog

5:20am- Read a book

5:45am- Get ready for exercise class

6:15-7am- Exercise class

7-7:40am- Get ready for work

7:45am- Off to work

And just like that, I’ve checked off at least 3-4 things on my want to do list before most have gotten out of bed. I think for the majority of us the “Getting stuff done” argument is not enough to convince us waking up so early is worthwhile. In light of this, here are some specifics:

1. Getting IMPORTANT things done.

How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I had time to learn how to code or knit or (insert something you really want to do)? There’s always the unspoken excuse that you will do it someday when you have more time. But what really happens when you have more time? You’re so tired/jaded/unmotivated from having to deal with your day-to-day that you rather Netflix and chill, or grab Happy Hour with friends or do anything that does not require effort and your undivided attention.

Waking up at 5am will not only give you that extra time that you need, but it will definitely motivate you to get things DONE—because who wants to wake up at 5am for no good reason? It will also solve that feeling of, “I’ve been working all day and just don’t want to do anything,” since this is a pre-work activity.

2. Having more time for fun things.

The magical thing about me going to the gym in the mornings was that I got my afternoons back! I was able to go out with friends after work or attend a cool event without feeling guilty about skipping the gym. It was a win-win situation. I finish my days feeling like I’ve accomplished important things and had a little me time all while working my 9-5. It’s a really great feeling!

3. Improving your sleep cycle.

Sleeping is an art. It really is! It’s a balancing act that takes time and practice to perfect. If you don’t get enough sleep, you feel tired all day and if you get too much sleep you feel tired all day! Believe it or not, once I started waking up earlier, I started to feel more energized and awake. The science is as follows; the average adult needs between 6-8 hours of sleep per 24 hour cycle, right? So if you sleep less than that amount, you are obviously tired, but if you sleep more than that amount, you tend to feel sleepiness and grogginess throughout the day. Oversleeping is also associated with most of the same illnesses and disorders as not sleeping enough.

The bottom line is that waking up at 5am will keep you energized throughout the day while limiting your sleep time to about 6-8 hours a night— just the right amount of sleep to do it all over again and feel great!

STOP with the excuses!

I think I’ve debunked the biggest excuse— waking up early will cause you to be tired. But there are several other excuses people tell themselves, including but not limited to:

  1. I’m more of a “night owl”
  2. I sleep through my alarm
  3. My kids keep me up at night
  4. I’m not tired until 2am
  5. My job’s too demanding, I’m always tired
  6. ETC
  7. ETC
  8. ETC

Honestly, my moto has always been, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The matter of the fact is that I don’t always wake up at exactly 5am, but I try and when I don’t succeed I try again. I just keep trying until it becomes second nature and I don’t give myself the luxury of excuses.

It’s also really hard to understand the benefits of something that you haven’t tried yourself. Try it. Give it 100% effort for at least 60 days (about the amount of time it takes to form a habit) and see where it takes you.

Day 14: Tangled Part 2

30 Day Writing Challenge

Coral steps into the short man’s apartment in amazement. His walls are floor to ceiling bookshelves full of everything from books, magazines, trinkets, globes, action figures, on and on. As you move through the living room into the dining room and towards the kitchen, you realize each room has a different theme, starting with a rosy love themed living room to a Moroccan inspired kitchen.

“My name is Giuseppe, by the way,” says the short man as he sets the tea kettle on the stove. Cora is mesmerized by the colorful tile design of the kitchen backsplash. She doesn’t even realize he’s talking, “My real name is actually Giovanni, but I decided to permanently change it to Giuseppe because I thought it had a better ring to it, you know, if I was going to be famous and all. Now I like Giovanni, but still Giuseppe has more zeal.” Still distracted by the mosaic patterns, Cora is only half listening to the man, “Oh Giuseppe, that’s a great name! You know the editor in chief of the magazine OH SNAP is named Giuseppe, well his name is Giovanni but he legally changed it to Giuseppe when he was first starting out. ”

Giuseppe looks up from the tea kettle at Cora and starts to chuckle. The chuckle becomes a laugh. The laugh becomes a hysterical—can’t breath—kind of laugh. This finally breaks Cora’s gaze and she looks towards him. “Oh my,” she starts, “I’m so sorry, I was starring at your tiles, totally distracted….actually I was thinking of a cool new story I might write later inspired by this tile. I’m a wrier, sort of. I’m….I’m sorry, I missed what you were laughing about.” She looks awkwardly at her hands and fidgets in her stool.

Giuseppe studies Cora for a second longer before he replies, “Oh a writer. I see. I know a few writers myself, they can be spacey.” He chuckles again and asked, “What do you write? Anything good?” Cora blushes as she lowers her gaze even further and continued to look at her hands. She’s always been shy about her work. “Shy huh?” Giuseppe takes the kettle off of the stove and pours Cora and himself a cup, then seeps the earl grey tea as he signals them towards the “love lounge” as he calls it.

“I write stories,” says Cora. “I write short stories about little snippets of my life that inspire me,” She starts, “For example, the tiles in your kitchen remind me of a time I fell in love with this moppy looking dog in Egypt while I was on a trip with my mom and dad. I wanted the dog so much, but my mom said we couldn’t have a dog because we travelled too much and who would take care of the dog? And I was so sad, and I’d never see a dog like that. But then I saw this other family looking at the dog, and I talked to the little girl whose family was going to buy the dog and she told me her parents travel alot too but she isn’t allowed to go because she has to go to school so she stays with her nanny. She told me her parents are getting her a dog so she won’t be lonely because dogs are a man’s best friend and it could love her and be her best friend too. I felt really bad for her because she didn’t get to see her parents often and I was lucky because my parents homeschooled me so I got to travel everywhere with them and see cool things while she was stuck home alone…”

Cora realizes she’s babbling on. She looks up at Giuseppe who is sitting in the seat next to her with his legs crossed, elbow on his knee, leaning forward as he listens in. He nods his head for her to continue.

“Well anyways, I felt really happy that Emily was getting a dog, Emily is the little girl, and the coolest thing is that we kept in touch all these years, we used to write letters, then emails, then text messages. She actually moved here last year so we are roommates. I thought that might be a cool story, I don’t know.”

Skipper starts wagging his tail and Cora looks down at him for the first time. She almost forgot he was there. She looks at her watch and realized she’s 30 minutes late to drop off Skipper. Oh well, she thinks, a longer “walk” is never un-welcomed. She starts to get up and realizes Giuseppe is still looking at her. She offers him a wry smile as she puts Skipper’s leash on.

“I like that story. You should submit it to the OH SNAP magazine.”

Cora smiles apologetically and replies, “Thank you. I submit all my stories to OH SNAP. Maybe one day they will get published, who knows. They receive millions of stories of course, but maybe one day.”

Giuseppe smiles and sits up proudly, “Oh my child, haven’t you ever heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Click. Click. Click. It finally clicks in Cora’s head. Giuseppe. Giuseppe is Giuseppe.

“Oh my GOD! You aren’t Giuseppe De Santis? Thee Giuseppe De Santis, Editor in Chief of OH SNAP? Oh my GOD! Oh my GOD! I can’t believe it.”

Giuseppe is still smiling as he nods his head slowly. Cora is in disbelief. Up until just 15 minutes ago, her life was a tangled mess. But now, just now in this moment, the tangles unravel to reveal a hidden treasure. The unassuming short man, Editor in Chief.

Read Part 1 of Tangled here.