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    THE #GIVINGCARDS PROJECT

    I was so excited to partner with Rockstar Finance and their Giving Card Project! From the moment my card arrived I was contemplating ways to give back in my work environment. I work for a cleaning and restoration company and our guys do some of the dirtiest cleanups! And they’re usually in homes with no AC, in the scorching Texas heat! I admire our mission because we help others in times of disaster: flooding, fires and storm recovery. When I mentioned the idea of a company lunch my coworkers were quick to pitch in. So much so, that we were able to offer lunch to our employees as well as customers stopping by for supplies.

    Thank you Rockstars for brightening everyone’s day and reminding us to pay it forward!

    International Day of Happiness Q&A

    Today I was featured on The Pursuit of Happiness celebrating International Day of Happiness! I really enjoyed this Q&A and decided to document it here so I can look back on it a year from now. Thank you Wes, for allowing me to be a part of the Happiness Chronicles 🙂

    Q&A | The Budget Awakens

    Happiness means different things to different people, what does Happiness mean to you?

    To me, happiness is the level of gratitude I feel for my life, health, loved ones and nature. I believe we all can tap into an abundance of joy if we simply change the way we view our situations.

    Do you believe happiness is an emotion or more of a state of mind?

    Both! Happiness is a state of mind that generates positive emotions. To be happy is to live a life of joy, love, gratitude and inspiration. One of my favorite quotes is, “You cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time.”

    Do you consider being happy important to you? Why?

    It seems like happiness is what we are all striving for. But coming from a feeling of lack, that we need to achieve this state of mind, opens us to failure. I believe happiness is already available to us all. Right here, right now! I struggled with depression when I was younger and know how tormenting negative self-talk can be. Today, I make a conscious decision to be happy with whatever life throws my way. I look at setbacks as opportunities for growth. My life has become one big classroom and I show up every day ready to learn!

    What do you consider a fundamental barrier to Happiness in your life?

    Perfectionism. I used to put off so many of my goals and dreams because I wanted to have all the best tools and knowledge beforehand. Starting a blog, my clothing company and even youtube channel would have never happened if I waited for the perfect opportunity. Perfect doesn’t exist! And to be honest, I learn the most through action. Mistakes and embarrassment aren’t fun but they’re essential in becoming better than we were before.

    How important is wealth and money to your own happiness?

    Well, the reason I am on a financial journey is because I used to believe money bought happiness. I used to buy clothes, records, concert tickets and vacations by borrowing money that wasn’t mine. I didn’t know any better back then. Today, I am just as happy digging myself out of this hole as I was swiping credit cards.

    My purpose and desire to become debt free is so fulfilling! Connecting with this community and encouraging others on their journeys helps me stay focused and motivated. I’m excited to build wealth for my future family and housing goals. So technically I don’t have wealth in dollars yet but I am rich in love, family, friends and health. It will only get better from here 🙂

    How important is health and wellness to happiness?

    Health is incredibly important to me! I eat a plant-based, organic diet and do my best to avoid sugars. I started doing this because of digestion problems and quickly noticed the benefits it had on my mental health. I no longer get headaches or panic attacks and emotional outbursts became a thing of the past. Things like meditation are just as important as physical exercise!

    What has been the happiest moment in your life?

    The happiest moment of my life was in 2005 when my niece was born. She has taught me so much about unconditional love. I believe children are our greatest teachers and I’m so excited to have a family of my own.

    Do you have any specific goals or resolutions for 2017? If so, would you share your top two that directly relate to your own Pursuit of Happiness?

    My goal for 2017 is to reach financial freedom! Money has always weighed me down emotionally. To be free of that burden will be a dream come true! I also have a goal of posting a year of youtube videos. I am incredibly shy and this challenge has already improved my shyness. I’m hoping with more practice I will gain confidence and improve my communication skills.

    Do you consider giving to others or charity work an important part of your own Pursuit and why?

    Volunteering has always been a huge part of my life. I believe it’s important to help others less fortunate. One of the charities I help with provides shoes to low income children. It’s humbling to see the joy we bring them by gifting such a common item. Some of the children are wearing the same pair of shoes we gifted them the year before. Torn and falling apart. What’s common to us is scares in the eyes of others.

    What 2 things have you learned in your own pursuit that you would like to share with others?

    Minimalism! I became a minimalist over the last few years after learning more about how others live with less. I gave up mindless purchases and a HUGE weight was lifted from my shoulders. I am always looking for ways to reduce and donate.

    I have also learned the power of self-love. After my depression diagnosis, I had to retrain my thoughts. Things like self-doubt and negative self-talk kept me a prisoner in my own mind. I spent almost two years doing mirror work and writing love letters to myself. It was an insane process but I am an entirely different person now. I am AWAKE and living life to its fullest!

    If you could recommend only three books to anyone reading this, what would they be, and why?

    You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay – This book was extremely helpful in my recovery. I still revisit it often to remember to be kind to myself. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle – I love rereading this book! It keeps me aware and living in the present moment. I recommend this guide to everyone interested in simplifying and releasing unnecessary stress. As far as business, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill introduced me to the idea of owning my own company. We all have so much to offer and deserve to share our passions with the world.

    What is your blog/website address and theme (if you want to share) for 2017?

    I created the Budget Awakens to document my financial journey and share tips and lessons I’ve learned about minimalism and living with less. I believe having a budget will not only help you to build wealth but it will AWAKEN your lifestyle! As it did mine. Plus, I’m a big Star Wars fan and writing with a Star Wars theme is so much fun!! Thanks for the opportunity to share and I wish you all so much joy and laughter you don’t know what to do with it! 🙂

    MINIMALISM: MAJOR CLOSET CLEAN OUT

    I have considered myself a minimalist for a few years now. But the other day I noticed my closet was beginning to overflow. I took a moment to scan what was actually in there and realized a good amount of clothing had somehow sneaked its way into my wardrobe when I wasn’t looking. There were multiple items I had been gifted and outfits I purchased for events, such as weddings. I also found a few things I picked up while traveling the Pacific Coast last year.

    So even though I considered myself a minimalist… I wasn’t truly living the values of minimalism. When I made the switch to second hand shopping, I almost never said no to a cheap deal. “It’s on sale, why not?” That was the shopaholic inside of me, still clawing its way out. It takes time to change old habits and I guess I’m still working on mine.

    I recently did my first MAJOR CLOSET CLEAN OUT and filmed it here. I had no idea it would be so difficult. I clinged to some of the items, contemplating ways to rationalize keeping them. After much consideration, This is what I kept:

    5 workout tops
    4 workout pants
    7 work tops
    7 everyday tops
    7 t-shirts (I love sleeping in these!)
    7 dresses
    4 skirts
    3 work pants / 2 jeans / 1 pair of sweat pants

    It still seems like quite a lot of clothing but I’m going to monitor how often I wear what was kept and see if I can reduce even MORE! Decluttering is such an amazing feeling! There’s a sense of freedom in letting go of material possessions!

    I hope the clothes I sell and donate make their way to people in need who will truly find joy in wearing them. I believe in loving every item I own and being more mindful when making ALL purchases. Where we spend our money shows us what we value in life.

    How many items do you have in your closet?

    HOW TO START A BLOG

    This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

    Today, you will learn how to create a WordPress blog for just a few dollars a month! Blogging has been a passion of mine since I was a young girl. It has allowed me to share my personal journey with so many amazing people around the globe! Below, I have included discounted pricing with Bluehost so that you can begin your blogging adventure on a budget! You will also receive a free website domain with my link. I’m not sure how long these low prices will last so be sure to act quick!

    Click here to start a WordPress blog on a budget. Bluehost is a great web host and I personally have had an excellent experience with them. Anyone can make money with a blog. I was able to make back the money I paid for blog hosting fairly quickly. It was well worth the investment and I’m sure you will be able to make your money back as well.

    Bluehost is one of the top web hosting companies in 2016 and you can start your own blog with them for as low as $3.95 a month (this low price is through my link only)! Also, if you sign up using my link, you will receive your domain for free. I highly recommend signing up for the 12 month hosting plan with Bluehost. It’s affordable and you can save a lot of money by choosing the 12 month plan. Plus, there are no contracts and you can get a refund anytime!

    COMING SOON: FREE Email Course How To Start A Blog  and  earn your first income. Join now!

    The reason I am such a big fan of Bluehost is because I have tried so many blog platforms over the year with little success. If you are interested in ever making money from your blog or turning it into a business, then paying for your hosting is a MUST. With Bluehost you can run all of your own advertisements and affiliate links. These are features free platforms do not allow. This makes it very difficult to earn money. Most advertisers and companies prefer working with self-hosted WordPress sites. I was contacted by marketers very early in The Budget Awakens first few months. Learn how to setup your blog for sponsors to find you quickly and easily here.

    Bluehost web hosting offers technical support and they are extremely helpful! I had so many questions when first starting and they explained everything to me in detail. My domain was registered elsewhere and they helped me to transfer it smoothly without interruption.

    Bluehost is one of the best web hosting companies out there. I’m so glad I chose Bluehost to host my WordPress blog. The professional appearance and ease of setup saved me so much time and energy. Their tech support truly made me feel like I was guided the entire way.

    Click here to start the process.

    If you plan on using Bluehost to create your blog and have any questions about setting it up, choosing a plan or pricing, feel free to send me an email. I happily help you out.

     

    How to start a WordPress blog on Bluehost

    1. Register your domain name.

    Click here to purchase a domain name and create a blog.

    The first thing you will need to do is choose a domain name. Deciding on a domain name can be tricky. I would give some serious thought to this. I came up with mine by combining my love of Star Wars with my currently financial journey. I love having a Star Wars theme because it makes writing about finances fun for me. A subject I normally would shy away from.

    2. Buy hosting for your blog.

    You will have a few plans to choose from with Bluehost. The basic plan is the cheapest and has worked great for me so far. Avoid month to month if possible. It’s so much easier, and cost effective to sign up for 12 months of service. Plus you will receive your domain for free with my exclusive link.

    Follow the steps below to buy hosting for your blog.

    1. Go to Bluehost and click the “Get Started Now” button.
    2. Click on the package you are interested in.
    3. Enter your domain name you registered with earlier.
    4. Enter your personal and payment information.
    5. Next you will be asked to enter a password. Make sure it’s secure as this information is very important.

    If you already own a domain you can transfer it to Bluehost.

    3.. Install WordPress!

    Congratulations! You are on your way to creating a life changing/ money making machine.

    May the funds be with you.

    How Do You Cope With Being Unable To Attend Events With Friends?

    The last time I attempted Dave Ramsey’s baby steps I was single and my best friend lived out of town. There was little temptation to go out because my desire to become debt free was strong and in charge! This time around I’m doing my best to keep a healthy balance between work, side hustles, my boyfriend, family and seeing my best friend more than once a month.

    Today, I found myself at a loss of words. I couldn’t bring myself to tell a friend that meeting her for dinner simply wasn’t in my budget. The heaviness of shame crippling my ability to be honest. I know my financial goals are going to improve my lifestyle tremendously! I’m truly excited to tackle this pile of debt and finally gain financial freedom!

    But my ego is lurking in the shadows telling me that what I’m doing is not normal. Each time I have to turn down an outing or miss a concert/show I have to remind myself of the bigger picture. I guess I’m writing this in hopes of receiving support…

    How do you guys deal with not being able to go on normal outings with friends and family? What free alternatives do you suggest doing instead?

    Fix Your Finances in 4 Easy Steps

    Personal financial responsibilities span wide-ranging obligations, occasionally challenging individual money managers to cover all the bases.  As financial fortunes ebb and flow, it isn’t unnatural to experience cash flow challenges, but if your financial course consistently leaves you in arears; corrective moves may be required to help you find firm footing.

    The particulars are different for each individual, but a few effective finance strategies are successfully tapped by families of all sizes and earners from all walks of life, helping them stabilize cash flow and reach closely-held financial goals.  If you need a financial fix, refine your approach to money management, using the following strategies to ease financial pressure and sustain healthy financial balance.

    Ease Debt Burden

    More than other feature of your personal finances, oppressive debt is capable of undermining your financial health.  While manageable amounts of revolving debt and installment obligations are not problematic, debt you struggle to repay quickly weighs-down cash flow, reinforcing a cycle of financial instability.

    • Freeze your cards – Well-intentioned financial advisors have actually recommended disabling credit cards, by freezing them in a bowl of ice.  While such drastic measures may not be required in every case, a figurative credit freeze stops debt from growing, until you can get a handle on balances.  For the best results, carry only a single card, for dire emergencies, getting into the habit of paying cash at the point of sale.  You are less-likely to make ill-advised purchases, when paying on the spot, and if the money isn’t available, purchases must wait.
    • Consolidate high-interest debt – Depending upon the sources and scope of your personal debt, it may be possible for you to renegotiate repayment, under more affordable terms.  A consolidation loan accounts for your outstanding debt as a single unit, issuing funding to cover your outstanding balances.  In many cases, interest rates are lower than the levels tied to your existing debt – particularly when your obligations weigh heavily on high-interest credit card accounts.  By extending your repayment, and committing to periodic installments, you may also be able to lower the amount due each month, alleviating some of the pressure associated with runaway debt.
    • Refinance your mortgage – The interest rate paid on your mortgage may not reflect current mortgage conditions, creating an opportunity for you to reduce monthly debt payments. Improving your loan rate not only eases pressure in real-time, but shaving a couple interest points from your mortgage repayment terms also represents tens-of-thousands in savings, over the life of your loan.

    Balance Your Budget

    Spending restraint lies at the heart of effective budgeting.  Without balance, each month’s shortfall compounds into the next billing period, creating a cycle of increasing debt.  A balanced budget, on the other hand, ensures monthly obligations are met, leaving surplus income for building savings and investments.

    Getting started with household budgeting may require a nudge, but once you’ve identified unhealthy cash flow patterns and established workable spending routines, maintaining equilibrium is a matter of discipline and resolve.

    Add Income

    Covering ongoing expenses is an essential part of effective financial management, so spending discipline goes a long way reinforcing your financial health.  For further success achieving your financial goals, it may also be prudent to expand income opportunities.  Use these proven money-makers to boost your household income:

    • Sell unwanted possessions – Online marketplaces make it easier than ever to connect with prospective buyers, highlighting an accessible way to make money, without an employment commitment.  Safety is paramount, so in-person sales should be conducting under controlled conditions, exchanging money at the local police station or another secure spot.
    • Earn artistically – Crafts, art projects, photographic images and written content are all in-demand, serving print publications, online venues and individual buyers.  If you are artistically inclined, capable of producing professional-quality output, freelance work and direct-to-consumer art sales may present realistic money making opportunities.
    • Complete surveys/reviews – In addition to earning with your own creative content, it may also be possible for you to generate cash flow reviewing media and completing surveys.  Some jobs call for in-person visits, but many of these types of opportunities require nothing more than a computer and internet connection.
    • Take part-time seasonal work – Seasonal employment offers short-term financial relief, enabling you to earn fast cash, without a long-term commitment.  Depending upon the time of year, flexible weekend shifts may be available in retail settings, restaurants, entertainment venues, tax preparation offices and other facilities facing peak demands.

    Save More

    If one budget area suffers more than others, accumulating savings is the single important financial concern most commonly pushed to the back burner.  So much so, in fact, many mid-life money managers suffer from inadequate savings, with little time to make-up shortfalls, before leaving the workforce.  If your personal savings fall short of expectations, prioritize the practice, using these and other proven strategies to accumulate a nest egg:

    • Set savings goals and review progress
    • Use automatic withdrawals to fund savings
    • Save for emergencies, major purchases, and retirement
    • Maximize tax advantages using approved savings for education, health care, etc.

    Financial stability relies on balance and discretion, gradually building security and wealth you can count on during retirement.  When your personal finances veer off course, follow these four steps to find solid ground.

    How An Entitled Teenager Was Forced To Purchase a Car On Her Own.

    I used to think parents had it all figured out. That adults knew how to do everything right and had all the answers. I know now, we’re all just doing the best we can with the tools and knowledge we were given.

    Growing up, we didn’t have much. My mom was single, working long hours and raising three girls on her own. Buying our clothes at walmart didn’t bother me much as a child. But as I grew older, I remember feeling very self-conscious about my outfits. I started to worry about what others thought of me and my attire. Weekend visits with my dad turned into trips to the mall. He’d buy me and my sister the pricey name brands we so desperately needed to fit in. I gained a sense of entitlement and expected my parents to provide the same things my friend’s parents could afford to buy them. It makes me sick to think of how demanding I was back then. Always expecting more then we could afford.

    When I got my license my dad bought me a brand new Nissan Altima. It was an amazing feeling! To own something so big! So new! He purchased this for me with the agreement I would start helping with the car payments. I was young and stupid. Too self involved to see how much strain this extra payment was putting on his own finances.

    I never paid a penny on that car.

    He eventually sold the car leaving me in a bind I had never experienced before. How was I supposed to get to school? to work? This is when I first learned how to hustle. Things were no longer given to me and reality set in. I picked up a second job and worked day and night to earn enough money to buy my own car (or in this case to get a loan). Loans seems to be a common thing. Buying a car with cash didn’t even seem like a viable option.

    I purchased a Honda Accord. It wasn’t my favorite car but it was nice and I felt accomplished earning the money and getting a loan myself. A few years later, still feeling entitled, I thought to myself, “If I’m making payments on a car, I might as well be driving my dream car.” So I sold the Accord and got another loan. This time for an Infiniti G37. Whoa baby! Talk about buying happiness. The feeling of cruising down the highway in the car of your dreams is one of the best feelings ever! I still own this car. And it still gives me so much excitement to drive. But I also still owe money on it. So technically it’s not mine. It never was.

    I’m writing this because my next payoff goal is my car. To be completely honest, it should have been paid off years ago. But I refinanced it a few times for the sake of lowering my payments, to have more money available, to do other things. It was selfish for me to refinance when I had extra income I could have used to pay it off over the years. Instead, I spent that money on concerts and travels I couldn’t really afford. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned about the value of a dollar. And I’m thankful my parents finally said, Enough is enough. I believe we enable others by giving more than we have to give. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn at a young age but I am a better person because of it. Wiser and full of gratitude. I’m so excited to finally pay off my car and own it entirely!! If all goes as planned I’ll be back in 2 months to celebrate!

    Do you have a car payment? Have you ever purchased a car with cash?

    TRAVEL: How To Pack For Colorado On A Budget

    This February I visited Colorado for the first time ever. This was actually my first time seeing snow! Growing up in Texas there were only two instances when it snowed very lightly, never covering the ground. So obviously I didn’t own any snow gear. Since we were going snowboarding during our trip I needed to figure out a way to get my hands on a snow jacket and pants without breaking the bank.

    So what did I do?

    I called my cousin who visits Colorado pretty regularly and asked to borrow her gear. She said Yes! This alone, saved me hundreds of dollars! If you don’t live in a cold climate I would definitely recommend borrowing, when possible. Ask around…. You never know!

    As for equipment, we rented snowboards, snowshoes and helmets locally in Colorado. There’s no sense in carrying these items on the plane if you don’t have to. And you can usually get discounts if you reserve your rentals weeks in advance.

    The airline we flew on only allows one personal item on the plane. I decided to bring 1 backpack and ditch the non-essentials. This left me with the basics… LAYERS! Because I’m not used to the cold I wanted to be sure I was prepared with enough items to layer on. I brought 2 pairs of pants and a pair of fleece-lined leggings to keep me extra warm. I also brought 2 tops that could be mixed and matched with the pants.

    MINIMALIST TIP: Most of my clothes are black and gray tones. This makes packing a hundred times easier for me!

    I also brought sports bras, boy shorts, extra socks (these are the items I like to have extra of – it’s all good since they’re small and can easily be rolled up). A hat, swimsuit (in case there’s a hot tub), gloves and GOGGLES. Did I mention goggles?! If someone asked me what’s the most important thing to bring on a snowboarding trip (aside from the safety equipment) I would say goggles! I originally only brought sunglasses but they kept fogging up. Since I wear contacts so my eyes became irritated with the high winds. On top of that, it started to snow and I couldn’t see a thing! It’s extremely frustrating when you’re trying to snowboard down a mountain unable to see. Never again!

    I only brought 1 pair of shoes. Throw in some food bars, a book or magazine, toiletries and you’re all set!
    What is your number one travel essential?

    Budget: Grocery Shopping

    When I first started my financial journey, I kept hearing about beans and rice, rice and beans. I tried living strictly on the same meal over and over but I was miserable! I felt restricted and bored without enough food choices.

    Buying organic is really important to me. I do my best to fuel my body with the cleanest foods possible. So, I was thrilled to discover Costco carries organics! in bulk! I‘m now able to cut my grocery bill in half and prepare a wide variety of meals. Keep in mind I’m a single girl in her twenties. I haven’t had to feed an entire family so this is just what works for me.

    #1 Track how much you spend. First things first! In order to create a realistic budget we must first take a look at our spending patterns. Review your grocery bills from the past two months and get an idea of the amount you will need to set aside for food.

    #2 Look for ways you can reduce your grocery budget. If your bill seems a bit high try buying in bulk. There are many stores that offer wholesale pricing with membership. Want to avoid membership fees? Ask a family member if you can borrow their membership card. Heck, plan a shopping trip together and offer each other accountability. My sister and I did this last weekend and laughed the whole time! It was a fun way to spend time together, while still being productive.

    #3 Divide your grocery budget by two (I get paid twice a month). Pull out half of your food budget per paycheck. This will help avoid spending all of your allotted food money before the end of the month. I like giving myself a little cushion because fruits and veggies are necessities and I never want to feel like I’m lacking money to eat. If I ever have cash left over it simply carries into the next month’s budget.

    #4 Create a meal plan. Meal planning saves so much time and money! I love searching pinterest and choosing new recipes for the week. Because I work full-time I prefer prepping my lunch and having everything ready to go ahead of time. It’s one less thing for me to do when I’m getting ready in the morning.

    TIP: When shopping, always carry a grocery list! Having a clear intention helps me to stay focused and on a time crunch. There’s really no reason to spend hours roaming the aisles. Stores are set up to encourage spontaneous purchases and I’m not a fan of being played. Lists make the world a better place!

    Living on a budget isn’t the most exciting thing in the world but YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB!Remember to be kind to yourself and continue improving each day.

    Do you have a budgeting tip I missed? How do you budget for groceries?

    TIP: Get a Partner That Shares Your Financial Values

    Talking about money has always been a difficult subject for me. There’s all this taboo around sharing too much or too little about financial situations. Especially when dating. I just wanted it all to disappear! I was ashamed of the hole I dug myself into. So when my boyfriend at the time viewed money as plentiful- constantly splurging on anything and everything, I began to adopt his mindset. There was always more than enough to go around!

    Until there wasn’t.

    He eventually ran into financial problems of his own.

    Even though his attitude of Abundance taught me to release my fear of never having enough… it also taught me how important it is to save and invest in an emergency fund. Talking about finances with your partner is HUGE! I didn’t share my debt with him because it never felt like an issue. Everything was always going so well. And truthfully, I was embarrassed.

    I hope that posting my progress on The Budget Awakens will help me to eliminate that shame.

    I’m currently dating a partner that shares my minimalist values and we talk openly about money. It’s still very new for me to let him in on how deep my struggle is. But I will continue to fight debt with lightsaber in hand. Because each time I make a payment I grow stronger and more confident in my pursuit! 😎

    And it’s pretty sweet knowing my boyfriend has my back.