6 Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble

Most financial challenges aren’t solely due to unfortunate events. They usually have a foundation of poor, consistent financial habits. With effective habits, most financial challenges can be handled. However, with improper financial habits, even the smallest unexpected expense can be devastating.

While there are many negative financial habits one could be guilty of committing, there are a few that are especially damaging, and the key is to recognize them and do something about it before it’s too late.

Here are 6 signs your finances are in trouble (and some ways you can fix it):

1. You can’t save consistently

People that are consistently free of financial challenges have a consistent saving habit. There’s always money available to handle the inevitable financial emergencies if you save part of your paycheck each time you get paid.

Make a promise to yourself that you’ll save a certain percentage of each paycheck. Getting on a written budget that prioritizes saving can help. If you’re on a tight budget, look at cutting back or eliminating things you don’t really need.

2. You spend excessively

The more you spend, the less you have to save. It’s that simple. Spending too much money makes you vulnerable and more likely to have financial challenges. Very excessive spending leads to accumulating debt, which is the ultimate financial curse…trust me…I know!

Look for other ways to amuse yourself other than spending money you don’t really have on things you don’t really need. I provide 30 things to do instead of spending money in this Instagram post.

3. You excessively use credit cards or other forms of debt

Debt is a major obstacle to financial health and stability. Debt can be such a burden and most debt comes with expensive terms that makes debt a costly way to spend money and that can make getting out of debt nearly impossible.

Beware of debt. Budget for essential items and save for emergencies and big purchases. If you have to use debt to purchase something, especially something non-essential, it’s a good bet that you can’t afford it.

4. You ignore bills when you get them

No one likes to pay bills. However, bills have a way of piling up and eventually have to be paid. During that time, you’re still spending money that should be going toward your bills. This is a huge mistake.

Make looking a your bills a ritual you perform one day a week. Spending just a few minutes at the beginning of each week looking at what bills are coming due can help you make sure your money is being allocated to what you need.

5. You’re constantly paying penalties, fees, and excessive interest

Did you know that credit card companies earn more money from late fees than they do from interest? ATM penalties are steep and those interest-free loans have huge interest penalties if you don’t pay them off on time.

Paying your bills on time can help you avoid late fees. If you know you need to pay a bill late, call or go online to make a payment arrangement, if possible. Use ATMs that don’t require a fee and/or budget for the cash you need for the week and take it out all at once. This will lessen the chances that you’ll run to an ATM for cash without a plan.

6. You’re raiding your savings, investments, and retirement accounts

There may be times that dipping into your savings or other accounts might be justified but it should be for a good reason. Cashing out part of your 401(k) for a trip to Disney World doesn’t qualify as a good reason. Wiping out your savings because you spent more money than you had to spend at Target probably isn’t a great idea either.

Savings accounts are for saving. Investment and retirement accounts are for saving and building wealth for your future self. Don’t rob your future self.

Check out this related post:

8 Ways to Curb Overspending

8 Ways to Curb Overspending

Overspending is a big challenge for many of us. Our eyes get a little big for our wallets, and we give in to impulse. It’s actually like overeating. It’s the result of short-term thinking without giving the consequences full consideration before making the decision to do it. And if you think about it, spending money is kinda like a drug…a quick way to feel better.

I know firsthand how challenging getting in control of your overspending can be, so I’ve rounded up 8 ways to help you keep your unnecessary spending in check:

1. Spend According to Your Budget

You do have a budget right? Right?! Make a budget and set a limit for the amount of money you can spend. If you get the urge to purchase something, whip out your budget and make a responsible decision based on the what your budget is telling you.

2. Remember Short-Term Pleasure Leads to Long-Term Pain

If it’s pleasurable in the short-term, you’re going to suffer in the long-term. The opposite is also true. Working out every day isn’t always fun fun in the moment, but the rewards are great and can be long lasting. A $300 Ivy Park outfit might be satisfying today, but what about three months from now when it’s too hot to wear it?

3. Give Yourself Space Before Making a Decision

Like other habits, overspending lacks thought. It’s automatic. You’ve learned to receive pleasure by giving in to the impulse to spend. Stop for a moment, breathe and disengage your mind from the path that it’s on. Try spending 30 minutes doing something else and see if you still want to buy it.

4. Consider What Your Overspending is Actually Costing You

Too much debt can make it impossible to get a mortgage or a car loan. You might not get to take that vacation and if you do, coming back to a mountain of debt will quickly wipe away all the relaxing vacation feels. There may even come a time where you can’t purchase the things you need to live. Not to mention, you might also get stuck working well beyond the age you desire because you spent the money on unnecessary things.

5. Avoid Opportunities to Overspend

When are you most likely to overspend? Is it while visiting your favorite store or website? Just stay away. Avoid the temptation altogether. Make a list of your favorite places to spend money and remind yourself of the consequences.

6. Note How You Feel Before and After You Purchase

Do you spend when you’re not having a good day? What emotions trigger the urge to buy something? How do you feel afterwards? Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you need the item or if you’re just making yourself feel better. If you’re just making yourself feel better, don’t buy it, and if you can, find another…more beneficial way to feel better.

7. Feel and Express Gratitude

Ask yourself what you’re grateful for before overspending. Studies have shown that feelings of gratitude increase willpower leading to reduced spending. Gratitude can increase resistance to instant gratification because you end up feeling content with the things you already have. Give it a try. Also keep in mind that stress and anxiety lower willpower, significantly.

8. Track Every Penny You Spend

When all else fails, review how much you’ve spent. Keep a running total and sure to include everything, no matter how small. You’ve spent a fortune on small items over your lifetime. Track it all and see how you feel once you’ve totaled it up.

Avoid spending money on things you don’t need. Overspending is a dangerous financial habit. Replacing your savings always takes longer than you think it will. Relying on debt is even worse. If you currently overspend, give this issue the time and effort it deserves because overspending is the fastest way to destroy your finances.

5 Money-Saving Gift Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is an occasion to show others that you care by giving gifts from the heart. I mean who wouldn’t want to give their loved one everything their heart desires? However, that’s just not feasible or necessary, and many store-bought gifts costs way too much, especially if you’re on a tight budget. The good news is you can have a great Valentine’s Day without spending a lot of money! Here are 5 money-saving gift ideas for Valentine’s Day:

1. Celebrate Early

There’s no rule that says you can’t celebrate early. Valentine’s Day might officially fall on February 14th, but why not consider celebrating in the days before or after. Restaurants, flowers, and cards are all significantly less expensive. But if you still want to celebrate on the 14th and want to get out of the house, consider a breakfast date. It’s the most important meal of the day and the least expensive. Lunch is another less expensive option.

2. Plan an Experience at Home

It’s a pandemic! Rather than taking your significant other out for a night on the town, consider a quiet day or evening at home. Plan an indoor picnic on the living room floor, cook a delicious meal for your loved one or chef it up in the kitchen together, queue up something to watch on Netflix, give each other a massage, listen to music and just be with your partner. Good conversation and company are free.

3. Make it Yourself

At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. There’s no need to spend $4.99+ on a greeting card that will get thrown in the trash, so opt to make a card this year that they’ll remember forever. You could also write a poem or love letter and frame it, make a scrapbook, make a list of everything you love about your partner, or grab a gift basket and fill it with small items your partner would enjoy and use.

4. Knock Out Something on Their To-Do List

My to-do list is constantly growing and a little assist would go a long way. If your significant other has a lot on his or her plate, consider creating coupons for tasks they mention they have to do (or complain about) often or just jump in to help lift the load. I promise this act of service will go a long way.

5. Skip the Day Altogether

You don’t need the calendar to tell you when to express your love for someone plus some of us just got finished celebrating Christmas. Consider skipping the day altogether especially if you give gifts throughout the year, just make sure your partner is okay with it first. And if you’re at this stage in your relationship, make a plan together for how you’ll spend the money you saved by skipping the holiday.


Roses cost a small fortune on Valentine’s Day so find another flower your significant other loves. Also, florists are more expensive than the grocery store or the farmer’s market. Grab a bouquet and deliver them yourself!

No matter what you decide to do this Valentine’s Day just remember that love doesn’t require money. A fun and memorable Valentine’s Day can be enjoyed on a budget.

My Review of How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER

This post contains affiliate links.

The How Money Works team reached out to me a couple of months ago about checking out their book How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER. I had never heard of this book before and was looking for a new personal finance book to read but what can I say, it was the title for me. The title definitely sold it.

I started reading it shortly after it arrived and the first thing I noticed was the community of characters introduced at the beginning. I found these characters to be like you and me or people we know which helped to set a relatable tone that’s carried throughout the book, which is important because when teaching a topic like financial literacy, books can be really stuffy and can lose a reader’s interest when it’s too formal and technical.

The authors waste no time in giving us the (needed) reality check that financial literacy is a global economic crisis and that most of us are suckers because we really don’t know how money works. Now some people may find that offensive but you know that I am all about telling the truth so I didn’t mind it at all. Unfortunately, the truth is many of us are suckers. We’re suckers because we haven’t taken the time to learn how money works yet somehow we’re just supposed to miraculously become wealthy. We’re also suckers because we’ve relied on these big banks and credit card companies to have our best interest in mind, *spoiler alert* they don’t. Without basic financial literacy we really are, as I like to call it, hustling backwards and the consequences can be severe.

I love the amount of time and attention the authors give to explaining the concepts of compound interest, time value of money, and the Rule of 72. They also provide examples to help you understand how these concepts can be applied. But the rule of 72 is a GAME CHANGER. It’s a rule that helps you determine how long it takes for your money to double given a fixed interest rate and it’s not always talked about. But once your eyes have been opened to the Rule of 72, you cannot close them. Get it? It’s an eye opener. For example, many of us have money saved in High-Yield Savings Accounts (HYSAs). Pre-pandemic, let’s say the interest rate was at 1%. Using the Rule of 72, it would take 72 years for our money to double…SEVENTY TWO YEARS!

Oh the Rule of 72 doesn’t just apply to how your money grows in savings. You can use the Rule of 72 to determine how long it takes for your money to double for someone else. Yep…like credit card companies. Say you have a credit card with an interest rate of 15% well based on the Rule of 72, it will take 4.8 years for your money to double for them. Do you know what they do with the income they make from charging you interest? They invest it to make even more money. They also pay out bonuses and also take company vacations with YOUR money.

I told you…eye opener! This is also why getting out of debt should be a priority so that you have more of your money and can put it to work for YOU.

Now that our eyes are open to how money really works, the book takes us through 7 Money Milestones or steps we need to take in order to achieve financial security and independence. You’ll find #4 a no-brainer!

Also in between lessons there are short knowledge checks and exercises to help you know where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be financially. There are also “Sucker Mindset vs Wealthy Mindset” examples through the book that I really appreciated because having the right mindset is so important to achieving success on any journey.

How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER was an informative yet easy read; about 110 pages of text with a 2-page worksheet to help get you started on your path to no longer being a sucker. I definitely know more about money after reading it and I highly recommend that you and everyone you know give this a read…you won’t be disappointed. You can grab How Money Works on Amazon and anywhere else books are sold.

Household Swaps That Are Good for Your Pockets & the Environment

This post contains affiliate links.

Lately, I’ve been concerned (and frankly disappointed) with the amount of waste I’ve been generating. Specifically, my paper towel use during this time of increased hand washing and sanitizing pretty much everything. I use paper towels to dry my hands and sanitize surfaces in the house, but I also use them when eating, to wipe up spills, to rest things on instead of the bare counter, etc. One day I thought, well if I was using that many paper towels and subsequently generating that much waste, how much waste was actually being disposed of in my neighborhood, or the country.

So I started to look for ways to minimize my overall waste and took inventory of some of the swaps I had already. You know what I realized? Not only was I saving money by purchasing things I could reuse but I was also, in my own small but impactful way, helping the environment.

Here are a few household swaps I’ve made that have saved money and happen to be better for the environment:

Reusable Coffee Filter

We all know that eliminating Starbucks completely won’t make us rich, but making coffee at home does have its benefits. Actually, I’ve found brewing my own coffee to be a pleasant part of my morning routine. But while I was saving some money by cutting back on my trips to Starbucks, I would be inconvenienced when I would forget to grab coffee filters at the store and would run out. Not to mention I was throwing away coffee filters after each pot. So I looked for a reusable option and found this reusable coffee filter and I haven’t looked back since! Just fill it with your favorite ground coffee to brew and dump the leftover grounds when you’re done or save them for a DIY body scrub!

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap

Where do I even begin with this magical liquid? Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap is hands down the most versatile soap and now I know why they call it an 18-in-1 soap. With just a few drops and a dilution of water, this soap can be used as an all-body cleanser, dish and laundry detergent, an multi-purpose cleaner, shave cream, floor cleaner, fruit and vegetable washer, and bug deterrent for houseplants or the garden, and so much more! My favorite scent is lavender, but it also comes in almond, peppermint, unscented, citrus, eucalyptus, rose, and tea tree! Plus one 32 ounce bottle goes a loooooong way!

Cloth Napkins

Switching to these cloth napkins was the inspiration for this post and really lit the fire in me to be more conscious and want to do better when it comes to reducing my waste. I started small with the paper towels I use to clean my hands and wipe my mouth when eating. I found these cloth napkins on Amazon and so far I’ve enjoyed using them and the pop of color! I’m already noticing a difference and how long it’s taking for my trash can to get full with paper towels.

Washable Sponges

I don’t know how late I am to this party but sponges that you can use around the house, for various things, that you can just throw in the laundry then reuse?! OMG! I love not having to add sponges to my shopping list, worrying about properly disposing of them or the plastic they come in. These washable sponges are made of terry cloth, have a rough side for tough spots, and come in super cute and fun colors/patterns. When they get too dirty, just throw them in the wash with the rest of your stuff. I even bought some for my boyfriend and he’s hooked!

Reusable Grocery Bags

Seriously everything on this list is a game changer, but these grocery bags change the grocery bag game for sure! They are sturdy and are basically a box with handles. So I can place them in the car without having to worry about the bags rolling around and items falling out. They also easily fit inside of shopping carts to keep your items organized and visible, AND they collapse for easy storage. Boom!

Glass Meal Prep/Food Containers

If you’ve browsed my Meal Prep highlight on Instagram for me, you’ve seen these before. I’ve been using these glass containers by Prep Naturals to portion out my meals for a few years now. Although more expensive than plastic, these glass containers are more environmentally-friendly, eliminate plastic leaching into your food and body, and maybe it’s just me but they make food look and taste better!

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list. These are just some of my favorites but there are so many swaps you can make to lower your household costs and have a better impact on the environment.

What are some household swaps you’ve made that have really paid off for you and made the environment a little better?

My Grocery Shopping Budget Hack

This post contains affiliate links.

Whether you’re a household of 1 or 5, one can easily get carried away when shopping in the grocery store, which can make sticking to your grocery budget a challenge.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend an average of $7,700 on groceries every year, and an average of 41 minutes in the grocery store each visit.

There are many ways to save time and money when it comes to grocery shopping, like shopping your pantry first, being on a cash budget, and ultimately sticking to a list of things you actually need. However, we’re human and it can take grabbing just one extra thing to put you over your grocery budget.

Allow me to introduce you to the gadget that changed the game for my grocery shopping budget:

It’s a tally counter!

A tally counter is a handheld device used to count things like people and animals, or to keep track of things that are coming and going like people at an event.

Here’s how I use a tally counter to stay within my grocery budget while shopping:

How It Works

  • To begin, turn the dial to set the tracker to “OOOO”. Then, for every dollar an item costs that I add to my basket/cart, I add one click to the tally counter by pressing the lever.

For example, this cashew yogurt costs $1.69.

  • So I add 2 clicks to tally counter.

There’s no tax on this item so 2 clicks sufficed but if there was applicable tax, I’d add one more click.

I continue to add clicks to the tally counter as I move through the store, grabbing the items on my grocery list.

At the end of my shopping, the tally counter read “85” which meant my grocery bill would come to an estimated $85 at the register, so I was still under my $100 budget.

Are you dying to know what my actual today at the register was?

That’s right…$79.54!

I told you…GAME CHANGER!

Why It Works

Each click added to the counter represents a whole dollar so it’s rounding up for you. So as long as you remember to add the right number of clicks as you shop, your actual total when you get to the register will always be less than your tally counter total…helping to keep you well within your grocery budget.

You can also keep an eye on your total as you move throughout the grocery store, without the risk of accidentally erasing it like many of us have done when using the calculator app on our phones.

Which means there’s also no toggling back and forth a grocery list and app on your phone shaving time off the average grocery store visit

My tally counter along with my Becta Design Cash Envelopes, help to keep me under my grocery budget EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Try it out! You can grab your tally counter here! I promise, it’ll be a game changer for you too!

Related: My Review of Becta Design Cash Envelopes

Mercari vs Facebook Marketplace

Updated July 18, 2020

Selling items you no longer need can be a great way to make extra money to help you reach your financial goals. Last year, I started selling some of my unwanted items on Facebook Marketplace for extra money to throw towards my debt. However, when COVID-19 became a global pandemic and caused us to shelter-in-place in order to avoid unnecessary human contact, my online selling behavior changed.

I remembered someone on Instagram recommending the Mercari selling app and with more time at home and a pile of unwanted items growing, I decided to give it a try!

Mercari and Facebook Marketplace have some similarities and some key differences, and here I compare them head-to-head!

Listing Your Items

Mercari: Listing your items on Mercari is easy. Mercari provides prompts for entering details about your item such as the item category, brand, condition, and color. These prompts are predictive and can auto-populate information based on the photos uploaded and what you begin to type. There is also a free text box to provide additional information that can help buyers understand exactly what the are getting. You can add up to 12 photos per listing and 3 hashtags.

Facebook Marketplace: Listing items on Marketplace is also easy, but without the bells and whistles. Prompts are provided to tell buyers what you’re selling, the price, category, and location. There’s also a free text box to describe your item and you can add up to 10 photos.

Listing and Seller Fees

Mercari: There is no fee to list items. However, Mecari charges a 10% selling fee which includes the cost of processing the payment from the buyer. So your net earnings would be the listing prices minus the selling and any shipping fees (see below). This fee is charged when the sale has been completed. Additionally, if you cannot fulfill the order, a cancellation fee of 5% of the item price (maximum of $25) may be imposed when an order is cancelled to cover the cost of the transaction fees and/or shipping labels.

Facebook Marketplace: There is no fee to list items. However, for each item sold and shipped using Facebook Shipping (see below), Facebook charges a 5% selling fee to cover the cost of payment processing, customer support, and purchase protection.

Pricing Your Items

Mercari: On Mercari, you set your own price but you cannot sell items for less than $5 and for no more than $2000. The app also has a cool pricing feature that can help take the guesswork out of setting a price. This feature uses the information provided in the listing to compare the price of similar items that have recently sold. It also has a Smart Pricing feature, which boosts or promotes your item. All you have to do is choose the listing price and floor (lowest) price, then Mercari adjusts the price within that range based on demand, but never lower than the floor price. Mercari will even promote the price drop to people who have shown interest in your item.

Facebook Marketplace: There doesn’t appear to be a limit to pricing your items on Marketplace. You are responsible for setting your own price and you can even list items for free.


Mercari: Interested buyers can make offers on your items. Offers expire after 24 hours. You can either decline, accept, or counter the offer. You can also promote your listings to those that have liked your item or to the public on Mercari. When you promote to those who have liked your item, the price is reduced by 10% or more for 24 hours. When you promote to the public, the price is reduced by 5%. Price drops can occur every 24 hours when promoting to the public, but only every 3 days when promoting to likers of your item.

Facebook Marketplace: Marketplace isn’t as structured when it comes to negotiating prices, so it could feel a bit like haggling. At this time, Facebook doesn’t offer a boost in listings unless you are operating a business page, but you pay for this like you would an ad.

Completing the Sale

Mercari: All transactions take place in the app. Unless a buyer makes an offer, the sale is immediately completed when the buyer presses the ‘Buy Now’ button.

Facebook Marketplace: Facebook encourages the buyer to contact the seller to purchase items. Buyers and sellers have to agree on the price, then coordinate when and how the buyer will get the item.

Delivering the Goods

Mercari: Shipping is the only way to deliver items on Mercari and at this time, you can only ship within the U.S. Mercari offers multiple shipping options and ways to pay for shipping. As the seller, you can choose to have the buyer pay for shipping or you can offer free shipping, which will certainly entice potential buyers. If you do decide to offer free shipping, I recommend getting an estimated cost for shipping and supplies first, so you know how that factors into your profit. Mercari offers shipping via: FedEx, USPS, and UPS. Items should ship within 3 business days using a valid tracking number from the date of the sale.

Facebook Marketplace: Marketplace sales are typically local and require coordination between the buyer and seller for when and where to pick up the item. When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, this was one of the reasons I switched to Mercari. However, Facebook now has a local delivery service through one of its partners, but it’s only available in certain cities and for select items. Facebook also implemented a direct-to-buyer shipping option. Like Mercari, discounted prepaid shipping labels can be purchased but in this case, the cost is passed onto the buyer. You’re encouraged to ship your items within 3 business days from the date of the sale. Customers can cancel orders within 30 minutes of purchase if the order isn’t marked as shipped yet. Facebook will also cancel any orders that fail to ship within 30 days.

Seller Protections and Refunds

Mercari: Mercari offers sellers payment guarantee and shipping protection up to $200, when using its prepaid shipping labels. Buyers can cancel a sale if the item doesn’t ship on time. Buyers can request a refund within 3 days of confirmed delivery if the item received isn’t as described, potentially counterfeit, damaged, defective, or the wrong item was received.

Facebook: Facebook doesn’t offer seller protections and all sales are typically final. Under Purchase Protection, buyers can request refunds on certain orders, if they didn’t receive the item, the item arrived damaged, defective, or wasn’t as described. Purchases must be made using Facebook Buy to be eligible.

Getting Paid

Mercari: Your payment is guaranteed when the item gets delivered (unless the buyer requests a refund). Once the buyer rates you as the seller, you then rate the buyer and then funds are added to your Mercari balance. You can use those funds to purchase items on Mercari or transfer them to your bank account. Direct deposit into your bank account is free and usually takes 2-5 business days. You can also get paid in 30 minutes or less with Instant Pay however, there is a $2 charge for this.

Facebook: Since most people shopping on Marketplace are interested in local pickup/drop off, you can determine how you want to get paid. Most people use person-to-person payment methods like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, and even cash to get paid. If you decide to use Facebook Buy, your money will be deposited into your bank account within 15-30 days of marking the item shipped and entering a valid tracking number.

Goal Tracking

Mercari: Mercari has a new feature! You can now set and track your selling goal within the app! It’s super easy to create too! All you do is set the type of goal it is (i.e., declutter, vacation, gift, treat yourself) then set how much you want to earn. This feature will provide selling tips and will keep track of your progress and tell you how much more you have to earn to reach your goal…right on your dashboard!

Facebook: …I’ll wait.

And the Winner is…

Mercari! Even with its slightly higher selling fee and shipping requirements, Mercari offers more functionality and choices than Facebook Marketplace. Not to mention, listing on Mercari puts your items in front of more people, which increases the likelihood of actually selling your items. Mercari wins when it comes to safety as well, eliminating the need to meet up with complete strangers, since all transactions are done in the app.

If you’d like to give Mercari a try, you’re welcome to use my referral link to sign up! You’ll get $10 off your first order and another $20 when you make your first $100 selling on Mercari! Plus, when you refer your friends, you’ll get $10 when they make their first purchase and another $40 when they make their first $100!

Well there it is folks! I’ve laid out some important features for both Mercari and Facebook Marketplace. But no matter which platform you choose, here are a few tips and resources that can help you be a successful seller:

  • Communication is the key to great customer service. Be proactive and upfront when communicating with buyers, especially if you may experience a delay in shipping and delivery.
  • The US Postal Service provides free shipping boxes. Just stop by your local post office or go online at USPS.com to order the boxes you need.
  • Check out the Mercari Help Center for additional information on how to sell on Mercari.
  • Check out the Facebook Marketplace Help Center for additional information on how to sell on Facebook.
  • For more pro tips for selling on Facebook Marketplace check out my 5 Tips for Selling on Facebook Marketplace!

If you have additional selling tips, comments, or questions…drop them below!

My Biggest Money Regret: Student Loans

As my mother’s oldest child and my grandparent’s oldest granddaughter, I was going to be a first to go to college.

Before me, my grandmother had been the only formally educated one and she was my motivation. She grew up during the times of segregation and was the only one of her siblings to finish high school and went on to become a nurse. She had such a huge impact on her community and I knew I wanted to to do the same.

I went back and forth between wanting to become a doctor, dentist, and even a marine biologist (science is my jam) and I knew college was the way to get there.

No one in my family really applied the pressure for me to go to college, it’s just what I thought I had to do so I assumed the responsibility. But from as early as my sophomore year in high school, everyone had an interest.

Everyone had an interest but no one could truly afford to pay for college, so student loans were thought to be my only ticket at the time. You know, that “good debt”.

I remember going to speak with my guidance counselor about my college picks. I was eyeing a few in-state schools but I had my heart set on Hampton University, a private historically black school in Hampton, VA. I applied for and earned a few local scholarships but only enough to pay for a couple of books. I really had no way of paying for college but I got accepted and knowing my family had no way of helping me pay for the tuition, I took out student loans…the maximum amount.

That was the beginning of the financial damage I would do to my future self.

My first semester at Hampton was everything I had seen on a show called A Different World and more! I was making new friends, learning from professors that looked like me, getting good grades, and embracing my newfound independence and that included getting my first credit card. Although student loans had covered most of my living expenses, my mom would deposit money into my bank account every time she got paid for miscellaneous stuff.

But after one semester my 18 year old life changed abruptly. My step father left and my family’s structure and financial landscape changed dramatically. So I went back home to Annapolis to live with my mom and little brother to help my mom pick up the pieces.

Being back home when I felt like I should be in college like my friends was a tough pill to swallow. I felt cheated and behind. But I needed to get a job to help out and carry my own weight.

I got a job at The Home Depot and financed my first car, with the help of my grandmother who co-signed on the loan. Now that I was out of school student loan payments came due but didn’t fit in the budget I didn’t have. So I would apply for forbearance to avoid making monthly payments and kept doing it. To be honest I’d get the outstanding interest statements but would only focus in on the part that said “THIS IS NOT A BILL”.

I worked for about 2 years before I had enough. By this time I was working full time as a receptionist at a dental office. I worked for the best dentist! He understood my desire to go back to school, taught me most of what I know about dentistry, and supported my decision to apply to Bowie State University and drop to working part time at the office.

I was accepted and determined to finish my degree. My financial situation hadn’t changed so I took out loans…again…and maxed them out again. Using the refund check from the “surplus” on unnecessary shit.

I took out student loans semester after semester, taking the max out each time.

I graduated from Bowie State with a BS in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry. I was proud of myself but still I felt like I needed to play catch up to my friends who graduated a few years before. So I immediately applied to grad school at Johns Hopkins and took out the max amount allowed to receive another refund check.

I moved into my own apartment, financed another car, and spent money on a guy I shouldn’t have been dating with money that didn’t belong to me. It gets worse. While in grad school, my grandparents passed away, I ended up losing my job, my car almost got repossessed, and there was one month I actually faced eviction!

Despite all of that, I cash-flowed my last semester at Hopkins (only because I wasn’t taking enough credits to quality for student loans) and graduated with a MS in Biotechnology.

After a few more piss-poor money decisions after that, I started my #debtfreejourney.

Today I owe $134.1k in student loans, those loans accrue $25.15 in interest EVERYDAY,

I’ve completely exhausted the option for forbearance, and I’m currently enrolled in the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program without any guarantee that the program will continue to be around or that my loans will actually be forgiven.

I look at my degrees and it brings me to tears sometimes knowing that I’m still paying for them…long past the celebrations. I don’t regret my education but I do regret mortgaging my future to achieve them. I graduated years ago. The debt lingers and the feeling of achievement is long gone.

This is why student loans are my biggest money regret and I will continue to share my journey to deter others from going down the same path.

5 Time and Money Saving Meal Prep Tips

“A Sunday well spend, brings a week of content.” – Unknown

Every Sunday I take a few hours to meal prep enough meals to last me until Friday. This helps to save both money and my waistline. However, when I first started meal prepping, it would take me FOREVER. The day would go by so fast and I’d be so tired by the end of the day from being in the kitchen all day.

Over time and with practices, I’ve found that a little planning ahead goes a long way. Here are 5 tips to help you save time and money on meal prep:

#1 Plan Ahead

Whether it’s a month or a week ahead, start getting ideas together for what kind of meals you and/or your family would want. Thinking of favorite foods, flavors, and recipes is always a good place to start. Don’t forget to keep in mind allergies or your nutritional goals too!

#2 Take Inventory

Take inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Sometimes you can create a meal using what you already have. Either way, knowing what you already have on hand reduces the likelihood that you’ll buy something you already have. And who hasn’t done that before?!

#3 Make a List

Now that you know what you have, make a list of what you need. A list gives you a plan of attack at the grocery store, reducing your time there and the chance of buying on impulse, and will hopefully help you stay within budget.

#4 Keep It Simple

To save money on your groceries and time in the kitchen,  keep recipes and ingredients as simple as possible. Prep, cook time, and costs usually increase with the complexity of the recipe.

#5 Multi-Task

One-pot, one-skillet, and one-pan meals are great when it comes to saving time. When using your oven, consider foods that can be cooked at the same temperature and/or at staggered times. Also, don’t forget your microwave! It’s a great way to steam vegetables while you’re busy cooking other things.

Bonus Tips:

  • Glass containers, like the ones I use from PrepNaturals, makes everything look and taste better! Although more expensive than plastic, glass containers are more environmentally-friendly and eliminate plastic leaching into your food and body!
  • Don’t think you can eat the same thing all week long? Try meal prep every 2-3 days or use a base and create multiple meals around it. For example: chicken tacos, chicken salad, chicken pad thai, or chicken, rice, and veggies.
  • If you’re still struggling with time, consider using short cuts like pre-chopped vegetables, salad mixes, or pre-cooked meats. Although more expensive, these short cuts can save you time in the kitchen.

My Review of the Becta Design Cash Envelopes

This post contains affiliate links.

For some people, spending cash is harder to do than using a debit/credit card. I’m definitely one of those people so I budget cash to use for categories that I tend to overspend in or want to control such as eating out, gas, groceries, and clothes.

Usually, I would just keep my cash organized with gold paper clips (because I’m fancy) and post its because then the cash could still fit in my everyday wallet. I needed something that didn’t require a special kind of wallet or binder. However, when I was contacted about trying the Becta Design Cash Envelopes and after looking into them a little more, my interest was piqued and I thought maybe it was time to give cash envelopes a chance.

They arrived pretty quickly and I was first surprised at receiving TWELVE adorable cash envelopes with fun designs like mountains, pineapples, clouds, hearts, and even llamas. Most of the cash envelopes I’ve seen for sale are sold in sets of 5 or 6.

The envelopes are made from a plastic that’s pretty durable, resistant to tear, are waterproof…oh and they SNAP closed! Plus, because they are made from plastic, they can be hole punched to fit any cash envelope wallet or organizer, without apart or your cash falling out.

Each cash envelope came with a double-sided budget sheet to keep track of your transactions and running balances for each category and a label to stick on the outside of the envelope to identify the budget category.

They were easy to use and are the perfect size (6.5 inches x 3.3 inches) to store cash and receipts. I was very pleased when I realized I could actually fit a few in my wallet at one time without it being hard to close or becoming bulky.

But what I really liked about these cash envelopes, and what I think makes them even more unique, was that inside each cash envelope was a coordinating coin pouch…a COIN POUCH! A coin pouch that also snapped closed to keep all the coins safe!

Before I would just place all of the change I received in the zippered part of my wallet, but the coin pouch made it easy to keep the coins for each category together so I have exactly what my budget sheet for the envelope says.

I love them and recommend them if you’ve been wanting to try cash envelopes or are looking for a more heavy duty option.

Because I loved them so much Becta Design is offering a 20% off discount to my friends in the Debt Free Community! So if you want to give the Becta Cash Envelopes a try, just use promo code DFCGET20 to save 20%!

This is not an ad or a sponsored post. This review reflects my personal experience and genuine opinion of the Becta Design Cash Envelopes.