Financial Freedom

I Am Happy And Grateful

Thanks to a group coaching program that I joined this year, I have developed a daily gratitude practice that has me listing ten things I am happy and grateful for. Out of those ten things, three have to specifically be about me.

Although I’m pretty sure I have mentioned some things more than once already, really, I feel like there is still a lot more to be thankful for. I have been doing this now for over a hundred days and it sure is getting more and more challenging to come up with three things I particularly love about myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me! And I think I have great qualities. I guess we’re just not wired to sing ourselves praises, no? And we should. But if it’s uncomfortable to call it self-praise, let’s put it this way: I just have to love me.

We’re not being called to be boastful, only to be grateful for oneself.

What does it mean to be grateful for oneself?

It means appreciating something about you, acknowledging something about you that makes you happy (or has made you happy).

And we do it along with being generally grateful for everything else. For what’s around us, our circumstances, etcetera, etcetera.

A daily gratitude practice worked wonders for me.

I no longer feel anxious about tomorrow. And I feel a lot more positive about life in general. Now, I never was a negative type, but I also didn’t think I can be even more optimistic. And, in a way, I am.

It reminds me to not take anything for granted. To be thankful for the big things, and the small things. For the good, and the bad. It has helped me feel less envious or resentful, and to not look at others and regard them less fortunate, but understand the difference in our circumstances and yet feel genuine empathy and a yearning to reach out and find out how I can help.

This gratitude practice is teaching me to not waste time, energy, and opportunity. It has taught me to see how much abundance is out there, and how we are already living in abundance, no matter the balance in our bank accounts.

On the outside, I know it seems like it is taking me so long to get my butt moving and do something already. After all, I am 6 months into my mini-retirement (and I’m pretty sure my husband feels that way) but to me, it doesn’t feel like a waste of time or opportunity.

It was a gathering of energy and love. A (long) moment of rest and enjoyment of freedom. Of making space in my life for more. And now that I know how it feels to have so much time to do just the things I want to do (and I haven’t even done everything), I now know the importance of protecting that freedom and not be tied down to living life in somebody else’s terms.

But this post isn’t about my mini-retirement. It’s about having an attitude of gratitude.

A quick Google search for “effects of gratitude” will lead you to a lot of research on this topic. Feel free to check those out if you need to be convinced that you should develop the practice. But all I want to tell you is this,

Just start with one thing.

Find time in your day to sit down and express gratitude for one thing in or about your life.

Write it down with a pen and a notebook. Or type it on a notepad on your phone:

“I am happy and grateful _____________________________________________.”

Do it again the next day. Do it for the whole week.

Do it for another week. And another. Even if you miss a day, that’s okay. No need to double up the next day (though you’re free to do so).

When you feel like you have nothing more to say thank you for, go back and review your list. And then try again. Give thanks for just one thing.

After some time has passed, reflect on what has changed for you, or in you. Ask yourself if you want to keep going. If the answer is no, ask why not?

Try it.

As for me, and for today, here is my list of ten things:

  1. I am happy and grateful for Martine De Luna and her Be Captivating program, for many reasons, one of which is helping me cultivate this gratitude practice.
  2. I am happy and grateful for the SATS Community that I grew up in. Today is Fiesta at SATS (feast of St. Andrew the Apostle).
  3. I am happy and grateful that I have complete control of my life right now. That is both scary and exciting.
  4. I am happy and grateful that I have choices to make. That can be a disadvantage sometimes, but it is definitely a good thing for me, right now.
  5. I am happy and grateful for my Auntie Leesah, who died this day, 15 years ago. She always had my back. She was very supportive of my side hustles back then. Especially of my baking.
  6. I am happy and grateful for the TV series His Dark Materials. I love having to look forward to a new episode every week. I haven’t read all three books in the series yet but I’ve pulled them from my shelves, ready to be cracked open. Still deciding if I’ll be re-reading The Golden Compass.
  7. I am happy and grateful for people who leave product reviews on E-Commerce platforms, and also for those who blog and vlog about them. Real and honest product reviews are helpful when you’re deciding to buy something.
  8. I am happy and grateful for being able to find the right words to say at certain times and situations.
  9. I am happy and grateful for trusting people.
  10. I am happy and grateful that I have set healthy boundaries in terms of what I expect from others and my perceived role in their lives (or what I think others may expect of me). I just really don’t assume that I or my opinions are that important to anyone else.

For the past two Novembers, I’ve played along with Cathy Zielske for 30 Days of Thankful: I made a 6×8 album for 2017 and wrote a series of blog posts for 2018. This year, I intend to make another album. I know, it’s already the end of November, and I haven’t started, and that’s okay. It’s the practice that matters.

Will you join me in being grateful every day?

How I Survived A NO-SPEND Month

Stitches & Words | How I Survived a No-Spend Month

I started my year with a shopping detox, and I survived!

What is a NO-SPEND month?

A no-spend challenge is an undertaking to spend only on necessities, or to refrain from spending on specific categories, for a specified amount of time. The intention is generally to cut-back on specific types of expenses, but it could also be a means to evaluate and reframe spending habits, or taken as an opportunity to look at one’s attitude towards shopping.

In my case, I decided the whole month of January 2019 to be my no-spend month. In part, I feel like it may not have been the best time to do it because so many brands go on Clearance Sale after the holidays. On the other hand, it could also have been the ideal season to do it, because I saved a 100% on the stuff I didn’t buy – and we most likely didn’t really need them.

Having said that, perhaps it was all the sales happening online and in-stores that made me think for a second that I wasn’t going to be able to pull through. But I did!

How I Survived A Whole Month Without Shopping

To say I didn’t spend anything in the month of January 2019 would be a lie. But I can definitely state for the record that any spending I did were for our day-to-day necessities or were pre-planned expenses (like me pairs of flip-flops). For someone who does a lot of online shopping (me!) that is really tough. If you would like to do a similar challenge, here are my tips for success:

Set your WHY

This has to be the most important step – set your intentions for taking on a no-spend challenge. You must be very clear of your goals, and why you want to do it. Without the Y, you are likely going to fail.

Why I did No-Spend January – My husband and I earn a decent income. It definitely affords us a comfortable (for us) lifestyle, and funds our hobbies and interests. But believe it or not, we don’t have a lot saved up. I was not hoping to “save money” through this exercise (I had already decided to reduce my shopping budget for the year) but I did want to stand back and re-evaluate my spending habits. I want to do all the things, but I also want to be more intentional with what I spend money on, and what I make space for in my life. Staying away from any unnecessary spending for a whole month was a way for me to reflect on that.

Identify Triggers, and Stay Away

It is important to dig deep (okay, maybe not even) and find out your triggers for unnecessary, and/or impulsive shopping. For me, it’s Instagram. And I don’t mean those influencers with curated feeds, but actual online sellers with IG as their platform.

Thanks to my favorite Plus-Size seller on Instagram, I have quite a lot of clothes that fit, and that spark joy. 🙂 I ordered a lot from her last year, even when I had no plans to. My shopping style was this:

  • Seller posts new clothes up for sale
    • Is it my size? Yes. Mine!
    • Refresh feed.
    • Is it in my size? Yes. Mine!

And I follow more than one plus-size seller – so that could happen multiple times a month! And I also have a favorite book seller, a few local bag-makers, and then those lovely accessories too. If I surrounded myself with those triggers, it would be a little more difficult to say no to spending. I didn’t unfollow them but I did turn off notifications. I also stopped myself from visiting their profiles when they start popping-up on my feed with new stuff on sale.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from the mall. Out of sight, out of mind.

The hubby was due to get some new clothes and we decided to hit SM North’s 3-day sale last month and take advantage of the discounts. I didn’t think I could walk away without a personal purchase, but we made it happen. We had also done a few trips to Greenhills (his errands), and I am proud to say that I was satisfied with just looking, and not buying.

Make A List, Check It Twice

It is not uncommon to suddenly realize or remember that there is actually something that you just absolutely must have. I’d say, make a list and sleep on it. Check your list and evaluate if it’s a need or a want. Ask yourself why you need it. Sleep on it some more.

If you still feel that you neeed it after checking it twice, go ahead and buy it. No-spend month or not, if you need it, then you must have it. But be honest with yourself here.

Let The World Know

Okay, maybe the whole world doesn’t need to know, but at least let significant people in your circle know about your challenge. I didn’t tell anyone right away that I was doing this, but it helps to let people know so you could have help to keep yourself accountable.

If I didn’t tell my husband I was doing a no-spend month, he would have enabled my shopping. For sure.

My Takeaways

Just Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Should

Shopping definitely makes me happy. And we tend to do more of the stuff that fills us with joy.

I have always been plus-sized and, unfortunately, there hasn’t always been a good source of nice and affordable clothes that fit me. So when I find pieces I like in my size – I grab them and take them to the counter! I end up buying so much because I fear of missing out. Sayang naman kasi. But now there’s a lot of options out there! I can shop online, and at the mall.

But just because they’re available, and I can afford to buy stuff, it doesn’t mean that I should. Specially not when I don’t need them.

As much joy buying stuff gives me, I have to remind myself that there are also other things that do – like having an emergency fund, getting to use up my stash of scrapbooking supplies, seeing our space cleaned up and organised (no matter how brief it stays that way), traveling, hanging out with family and friends. I must keep in mind that seeing stuff pile up and not being used does not make me feel good at all.

Shopping List

I’ve done a bit of destashing prior to January, so I have a good idea of what’s in my closet. This also gave me an idea of what else I really need, like a really good pair of jeans. That goes on my running shopping list. This is a hand-written list of things I have on the back pages of my Passion Planner, and these are stuff I will allow myself to shop for, for the rest of the year. Not everything on that list will necessarily be purchased. See tip #3 above. I will check that list more than twice, and evaluate the need for each item, and set aside funds for it.

This is true also for any gadgets and items for hobbies, or for the home. It’s easy to succumb to impulse buying but if I tell myself I’d put it on the list for later consideration, it helps avoid the wasteful spending.

We already know the value of having a shopping list helps when doing groceries, there’s no reason why it won’t be a good idea for everything else.

Stop the FOMO

When you don’t hit the weekend markets, the bazaars, the sales, and even the latest zero-waste or sustainable fair, you’re not missing out.

I skipped The Good Trade fair last month despite looking forward to it for weeks, because I realized that I don’t want to turn my zero-waste efforts into just another reason to go shopping. After all, to keep amassing stuff you don’t need completely contradicts the concept of zero-waste living.

Prompted by a reminder from the good folks of The Good Trade, I looked at my list of things I thought I needed to get at the Fair and realized I didn’t really have to go.  

If course, if I were going there with friends and we can make a day of it, why not! It would have been a great way to encourage others in my circle to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But it wasn’t the case for that weekend. So I missed it, and I was okay.

Be More Intentional

Perhaps my biggest takeaway is this: being intentional in every way, including spending money, is key to a fuller life. Splurging on a few priced things every once in a while, may be a better reward than buying a few little things too often.

Of course I have done some shopping since the month ended (we’re almost through February now) but I have no guilt feelings about those purchases. I know there will be a lot less shopping in the next two to three months, at least. The best feeling though, is knowing you say no to buying something not out of budgetary considerations (that’s good too, though) but more because you know you don’t really need or want it.

Thanks for reading!

Would you consider doing a no-spend month? Or is there a specific expense category you’d like to cut-back on? I would love to hear about it!



How we saved up for Travel

This is our Travel Money Jar. Today, it is nearly empty but there is no reason to be sad. After all, this empty Travel jar means that our travel memory banks are full!

You see, it’s nearly empty because we used its former contents to fund our recent trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. And what an amazing trip that was!

We got a really good deal on airfare for this trip back in November 2017. As soon as I learned of PAL’s seat sale, I let Mom know right away so we can take the trip together. Just a couple of months prior to the trip date, I reached out to an old classmate of mine from grade school who is in the Tourism Industry in PP. She hooked me up with a local travel agent to make arrangements for the hotel and tours.

52 Weeks Money Savings Challenge

A couple years ago, the 52 Weeks Money Savings Challenge became viral.

The concept: Save an incremental amount of money weekly, and enjoy your lump sum savings at the end of the year. One can start with a small amount that increases each week (50 pesos on the first week, and increase the amount by PHP 50 increments weekly), or start with the biggest amount, and work your way down.

It’s our second year now of doing this challenge. We chose to specifically allocate the savings for our Travel fund, and physically stash cash in a repurposed jar of Mayo.

The husband and I are both doing the challenge, so we started with 50 pesos each at the very beginning. If we miss one week, we make up for it on the next. To stay on top of the challenge, we use the 52 Weeks Money Challenge App.

Both the husband and I have the app on our phones, so every week, I enter the actual amount we each deposit. If we needed to borrow cash for emergency spending in the house, we record it through the app too.

To start off, you will need to enter the following:

  • Motivation/Goal – Travel, a new TV, or Downpayment for a new house, or whatever you fancy
  • Saving Method – Start low, or start high
  • Base Unit/amount – we chose 50 pesos, to get a substantial amount for our travel goals, but you can choose a lower amount depending on your end goal and capacity.
  • Reminder Time – This is my favorite feauture because you can set a day and time at which the app reminds you to save weekly!

Every once in a while, I count the actual cash in the jar to make sure the totals tally with what the app tells us we should already have. It’s been a real good way to keep track of things and not rely on just memory – Did we put money in the Travel Jar this week?

Doing this challenge, and physically seeing the money stack up inside our Travel Jar, has really kept us on track with saving money for our travel goals – without necessarily taking away from our regular budget.

As a couple, we haven’t done that much travelling – it just wasn’t a priority in the past. But it is also something we are changing.

How do you save up for your travel goals?

Are you also doing the 52 Week Money Saving Challenge? How is your experience, so far?

Your Habits Determine Your Future

We recently changed our Cable TV subscription from having over 100 channels thru the old-school Platinum pack with the Discovery and lifestyle channels to the cheaper Dual Def 549 package. As a result, we now have the Simply Money channel where the show ‘Til Debt Do Us Part airs. A few years back, that show inspired me to build better spending and saving habits. Coupled with other concepts I’ve learned here and there, I managed to cut back on consumer credit card debt and felt so happy about it.

Unfortunately, I’ve not always maintained those good habits. Now, my credit card use is getting a little bit out of hand.

After our wedding, my husband and I agreed on a budget and we’ve pretty much stuck to it. We prioritised paying off debt, but by this time, we should already be building our emergency fund back up. Sad to say, we aren’t. We are thru paying off one loan, and will soon finish payment on another. Instead of getting rid of all but one credit card, we still have three. The third one was supposed to be the only remaining card and would be used for auto payments on bills, for gas and groceries too. It is the card we always pay off in full monthly. So far, we’ve managed to do that. But in order to keep cash flowing, I’ve made the mistake of swiping the plastic to pay for meals in restaurants, and also for other purchases. In order for my plan to work, we should stick to cash on all other expenses.

So anyway, tuning into Simply Money even for just a few days has helped knocked some sense back into my thick skull.

But no sound advise will ever be enough. John Maxwell has it when he said in his book Make Today Count that –

Your Success is Determined by Your Daily Agenda

John Maxwell IMG source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/459226493231678766/

 

Our habits do define us. And I’ve got some pretty bad habits, and so does the husband.

Change your habits

Source: http://www.mairovergara.com/aprenda-ingles-com-citacoes-10-you-will-never-change-your-life-john-c-maxwell/

We will not get our finances in order without making real changes to our daily habits. Same goes about losing weight. It is not going to happen without us changing the way we spend our days. We have taken a bold step – we have been on a calorie-controlled meal plan in the past month and I lost a little over 5 pounds already. But because we’re using a meal delivery service, we’re getting tired of the food. So we have to learn to make it on our own. This week is the start of trying portion control by ourselves on our home cooked meals. Wish us luck.

I examined how I spend my days and realise that spending over 12 hours at work was not going to help me achieve my life goals. Besides, my team’s success doesn’t rely on how long I stay in the office. I need at least 7 hours of sleep, at least that’s what Arianna Huffington says. I already know that no matter how much sleep I get, I still fall asleep at work or on the wheel. There’s a whole different health issue there and I’m going to need a sleep study, but before then I’m willing to give it another shot. I’ll start trying to sleep better. But if I were to sleep that much without changing anything else on my schedule, I wouldn’t be spending any quality time with the husband daily, and there’d be no more time for reading or crochet. I like watching TV, and going on the computer at home, how am I going to squeeze in those activities and add exercise too?

I’ve got to make changes on my daily schedule, and build new habits. Ready or not, here I come.

 

Self Survey–How Are My Finances Doing?

A few weeks ago, we talked about the first step in Personal Finance according to Verabear: Set your financial goals. I hope you’ve listed them down somewhere, if not, take a few minutes and do so, then come back.

Now that we’ve thought about our financial goals – or maybe even our life goals – we’re ready for the next step. Before we even talk about how we get from here to there, we must first determine what the here means.

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Let’s take a look at the current situation – how are you doing, financially?

Take this short survey:

– How much do I have in my bank account/s? –

An Emergency Fund is vital for success. The amount or how much this fund needs to be varies from person to person. Think of it as a cushion that will help soften your fall in case of emergency. Let’s say you find yourself cut off from your income source all of a sudden. The emergency fund is what will help you get through your day to day life without resorting to debt.

Like I mentioned, the amount that needs to be in this fund varies, but typically, it’s three to six months’ worth of expenses.

For most of us, our savings account holds the emergency fund. But an accessible savings account makes it easy and tempting to spend that money for things other than emergencies. That brand new LED SMART TV on sale might sound like an emergency, but if you dip your fingers into your EF, then it may not be so smart.

Sadly, that has been the story of my life, and my bank account’s life.  I bought my first iPad using money from my Savings account. When I’m short for the month’s expenses, I turn to my handy ATM and take from my Savings. As a result, I have an Emergency Fund that will probably only last a month if I find myself unemployed.

It’s a story I am now changing.

It makes sense to me to have a separate account for the EF, and one for short term saving. Short term saving is for big or small expenses I am saving up for. Depending on how big or small it’s going to be, it may make sense to setup separate bank accounts for each. Right now, I have my EF account, my payroll account (for my daily expenses, and short term savings too), and a Savings account for our Wedding fund.

– How much do I owe? –

Be honest. Your success depends on how honest you can be to yourself.

If you have credit cards, take at a look at your latest statement and list down how much you still owe. I do believe in credit cards being a convenient tool for financial success, but if no one tells us how to use them wisely, they end up becoming a tool that ruins us.

I have three credit cards – way too much. I will soon terminate one of them, but I’ve accumulated a shameful amount of credit card debt. Honestly, I thought that the interest rate for cards were small enough. But if you think about compound interest, and that it grows each month, you realize how important it really is to payoff your credit card bill in full, each month.

I’ll talk more about debts and repayment some other time. For now, let’s focus on inspecting our current situation.

Apart from credit card debt, do you owe anyone anything? I owed my Dad money for my car. I’ve got about 50k left to pay, but he’s allowed me to put off payments because I now also have to pay for my medical bill from last year’s back operation.

Knowing how much you owe makes it easier to plan on how much money to set aside monthly to pay them off.

– How much do I have in investments? –

Have you invested on anything at all? Do you have a life insurance policy? Do you have property, or a business, anything?

Is this something you’ve thought about a lot? Or are you not interested in making any investments?

Investments can be an additional source of income, or it may be your passport to the future. It’s been said how keeping your money in the bank doesn’t amount to much anymore. All it is, really, is a secure way to keep your money instead of stowing them away under your bed. Investments, in contrast, grow your money. How are you growing your money?

How do you want to grow your money? What’s the best investment instrument for you?

I invest in stocks. I have a life insurance policy. The company I work for pays for my health insurance, and that of my parents’ too. They also took out a group insurance company for all employees.

I was supposed to take out another life insurance policy a few months ago, with a mutual funds counterpart. It fell through so it’s on hold for now.

– What are my sources of income? –

Most of us mortals rely on a salary that we receive fortnightly. How much is my take home pay? We all know by now that 18k on the contract doesn’t really mean 18k in the bank monthly. How much do I get after all government mandated deductions?

If you have a sideline, list it down too. Do you earn from blogging? Do you have an online shop? Do you bake cakes and sell them?

List down all of the ways you make money, and how much you expect to get regularly. List down when too.

– What bills do I pay regularly, when, and how much? –

Make a list of the bills you pay, how much you usually pay, and their due dates.

I pay the following bills regularly:

  1. Electricity
  2. Mobile phone
  3. Home phone
  4. Three credit cards
  5. Cable

How much do those bills amount to? If needed, is there any way to lessen the cost?

– How much do I spend in a day/week/month? –

Unless you already regularly take note of every single expense, you will need time for this exercise. I used to write all of my spending but I stopped it. When I decided to right some wrongs in my life again last year, I turned the habit back on.

No matter how big or small the expense, record it. You don’t only need to know how much your expenses are, but what you’re spending on.

My biggest expense, after the bills, has been on food. When I did this exercise I controlled my spending so I didn’t buy any clothes or shoes. Since then, I’ve had to account for budget for those things too. In the real world, I am still building a good wardrobe, clothes and shoes for my size cost a lot.

– What are my seasonal expenses? –

These are things you don’t spend on daily or weekly, but you  know you spend on it – birthday gifts, Christmas, back to school, car maintenance, etc.

Though I don’t spend on these monthly, I need to factor them into my monthly budget so that money is set aside for the time they are needed.

I did this a few months back and realized how much is the minimum amount I need to go through one month of expenses. If I were to go into my own business, I know how much salary I will need to make in order to make ends meet. Or how much more the boyfriend needs to earn in order to support both of us.

My list may not be comprehensive. Basically, you need a very clear picture of what you have, right here, right now. Only then can you move forward with a solid plan to get to where you want to be.

How are you doing thus far? Let me know how else I can improve on this post, but rest assured another one is coming up soon! Smile

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