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Money Mentality

13 Ways to Have a Kickass Summer for $5 or Less

I loveeeee summertime. From long sunshine filled days with friends to boogie boarding in the Pacific Ocean, there is nothing that I don’t love about the warmest months of the year. Give me a swimsuit and some sunscreen and I’m in heaven.

But I think summer can come with a side dish of guilt for many people. When the sun is shining, it’s easy to feel guilty about not being outside, not being toned, not being tanned, not be active—not being enough. It can be a difficult season for many people and I know it can also be an expensive one.

There are protein shakes that promise to help you lose weight and tanning salons that draw you in with the allure of a bronzed glow. The self-inflicted pressure of summer break can lead to expensive amusement park days, pricey international trips and overpriced fruity drinks.

So with a goal to save $20,000 by the end of August (which is um, 3 months away!) I’m committed to maximizing my frugal summer fun this year. But even beyond that, I’m committed to a summer of kindness—taking joy in the little things and letting the rest fade into the background where it belongs.

So here are some ideas to kickstart your summer joy for the bargain price of $5 or less:


  1. Move Your Lunch Break Outside

Cost: $0

Nothing says “Summertime” quite like the luxury of sitting outside in the middle of a workday. The weather is warm and the parks/beaches/benches are waiting. Grab your packed lunch and head outdoors for the next 30 or 60 minutes.


  1. Sunset Spritzers

Cost: $3-$5/person

Grab a cheap(ish) bottle of white wine, some club soda, lime and your favorite person (or two!) and you’re ready for a kickass sunset. Whether you can see the sun setting from your own backyard or decide to pour your tasty drink into a canteen so you can walk to a viewpoint, sunset spritzers are the best way to end a summer day.

  1. Summer Fruit

Cost: $1-$5

What is summer without summer fruit? Nothing, that’s what. Delicious berries, mangoes, peaches and grapes are superrrrr cheap right now. Grab a summer snack and enjoy.


  1. Lounge by the Pool

Cost: $5 (or less)

Even if you don’t have a pool in your apartment complex or house, there are SO MANY ways to lounge by the for less than $5. Your local YMCA has day passes, city pools often have a $2 entry fee and universities open their pools for a small daily fee as well. Grab your library book and head to the pool for a quintessential summer day.


  1. Infuse Your Water

Cost: $1 (or less)

Whenever I drink fruit infused water, I always feel like I’m in the lobby of a fancy tropical hotel. Luckily, you can feel that way allllllll summer. Slice up some cucumbers or strawberries and add them to your water. It tastes like instant luxury.


  1. Chalk Messages

Cost: $3

This one is on my summer-to-do list. Whenever I go running on the boardwalk, I always see the cutest messages written in chalk. Slogans like “You’re beautiful” and “Strong is powerful!” greet me as my feet pound the pavement. I plan to add my own designs to the boardwalk this summer with some good ‘ole Crayola chalk.


  1. Cook a New Meal

Cost: $2/person

The Budget Bytes website is my newest obsession. The recipes are broken down by overall cost, cost per person and the cost for each ingredient. It’s the BEST way to try new recipes for less than $2/person and every single recipe I’ve tried has been delicious. I’m especially in love with the Chipotle Portobello Oven Fajitas. Get creative, cook a delicious summer meal and throw open a window so you can hear the sounds of summer as you enjoy it.


  1. Go to the Dog Park

Cost: Free

Even though I don’t have a dog, the dog park is one of my favorite places to visit. I go with my sister and her adorable rescue dog about once a week and it’s SO FUN to watch all the dogs be insanely cute (and ridiculous). Go with a friend who has a dog or even sign up for a site like Rover and get paid to spend a few hours in the sun with a furry friend.


  1. Bike as a Form of Transportation

Cost: $0-$5

Biking as a form of transportation is a totally different experience than biking on a path for fun. If you haven’t tried it, I highly suggest you do so this summer. Pick a destination (like a coffee shop) that is 1-3 miles away and go for it. You’ll feel strong, capable and like a TOTAL BADASS.

P.S. If you already have a bike, this is totally free, but if you need to rent one, it will cost about $5 per hour.


  1. Join a Meetup

Cost: Free

This is another one that is on my personal summer list. I’ve been itching to start running with a group of people again and can’t wait to try out my first Meetup group later this month. Find something that interests you and go for it!


  1. Go to the Fair

Cost: $0-$5

My city has an annual summer fair and I love going each year. The best part? There are sooooo many ways to go for free or super cheap. Volunteer for a two to three hour shift with a non-profit who will have a booth there and earn free admission. Or go during opening day/night for a severely discounted entry fee. Once you’re inside, there are plenty of ways to spend more money (funnel cakes, YUM) But there are also many free things to do: local art contests, farm animals and even concerts. It’s the perfect way to get outside on a summer night.


  1. Picnic

Cost: $5/person

Picnics are my favorite. Pack a light lunch or pick up something pre-made from Trader Joe’s and head outside for a day in the sun. Grab a spot in the shade at the neighborhood park, spread out a towel on the beach or even go on a mini roadtrip in search of the perfect view.


  1. Ice Cream

Cost: $2-$5

Cause it wouldn’t be summer without a delicious ice cream cone.


Do you have any fun and frugal activities for summer?



Money Mentality

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings

When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad”

– The Sound of Music

When I was eight years old, my family and I went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria. I had seen the movie at least twenty times and was so excited and it was just as magical in person. The mountains were breathtaking and the landscape felt so familiar that it seemed like the Von Trapp children were about to jump down from their perch in the trees that lined the street.

At the time, I didn’t understand a lot of the movie and definitely didn’t understand the historical context of World War II. But I did know what it was like to be scared and I adored the song about “raindrops on roses and bright colored ribbons.”

As an eight-year old, I vowed in my journal that I would “always be brave” and even when “I don’t feel brave, I will try to remember my favorite things.”

As I got older, my list of favorites evolved. My American Girl doll was replaced by tetherball which was eventually replaced with running.

In times of darkness or fear, I try to remember my list. Unlike last week’s list, The Sound of Music list is a list about the little things—the things that we often overlook as we look instead towards the future and wring our hands in fear.

This list is a celebration of the present. It’s a reminder to stop, breathe and soak in the small moments that ultimately come together to create our lives. Many of the things on my list are free. Some of the things cost a small amount of money and others are things I consider a splurge. But they all have one thing in common: they make me undeniably joyful.


  1. Swimming laps
  2. Reading outside
  3. Beach days
  4. Boogie boarding in the ocean
  5. Wooden roller coasters
  6. Morning runs
  7. Candles
  8. The first cup of coffee of the day
  9. Hiking
  10. Baking
  11. Fluffy blankets
  12. Twinkle lights
  13. The dog park
  14. The library
  15. Disney movies
  16. Modern art museums
  17. Playing basketball
  18. Bike rides on the boardwalk
  19. Sunset walks
  20. Musicals
  21. Massages
  22. Fresh lattes
  23. Scrapbooking
  24. Writing
  25. Taize services


What’s on your list?

Money Mentality, Real Money

If You Had to Choose

We all have different money situations.

Some have more. Some have less.

But there’s one thing we all have in common: a finite amount.

When it comes to money, there are so many options. Whether it’s saving for retirement, spending it all on a vacation or buying the new car tires you’ve been avoiding, there’s an endless array of ways to spend your hard earned cash.

But you have to choose. Each and every day we make choices about where our money goes and how it is spent.

Choices are made, one dollar at a time.

We’ve been told that we can have it all. The career, the family, the car, the house, the vacations. The list is endless. It’s the American Dream, packaged and sold in thousands of different forms.

But the Dream is a lie. You can’t have it all.

If you’re part of the 99%, you have to choose.

Will you buy a plane ticket to visit your family or a new car? Will you take the promotion that comes with 30% more pay (and 30% more hours) or will you stay where you are and spend the extra time with your family?

Sometimes we feel like we have no choice. And that’s intentional. The barrage of information, commercials and pitches are intentionally designed to make us feel confused and stuck.

Of course I can’t decline the promotion. We need the money.

My car is a necessity. I’ll visit my parents next year.

The choices start to feel less like choices and more like facts. “I can’t afford it,” becomes less of an excuse and more of a belief.

So life happens. Without love and attention, partners become strangers. Without exercise, bodies grow weak. Without noticing, parents become elderly.

In order to choose, we have to take a break.

We have to step off the treadmill of life and stop sprinting.

It feels difficult, but there are some easy ways to get started:

  • Take in the view from your apartment balcony. Step outside into your backyard. Ground yourself in the moment and take a deep breath.
  • Dust off your journal and ask yourself some hard questions: What do I truly value?
  • Pretend that you’ve already lived once and this your redemption round. You did it wrong the first time. What will you do differently now?
  • Go on a long walk near your favorite body of water and leave your headphones at home.

Once you’ve done one (or all) of the above, it’s time to make your list.

Here’s mine:

  1. Family

  2. Health + Safety

  3. Friends

  4. Meaningful work

  5. Adventure



This list is the roadmap to your finances. It’s your guiding light when things feel hard and money feels tight.

Hold tight to your list and make sure your spending aligns with what you’ve chosen.

Because the truth is that you can afford it.

But you have to choose.

What will you choose?


The Freedom From Money Podcast

In case you couldn’t tell from my informative title, I have some big news…

I started a podcast!

Ep 1: Cause things change and I’m back in debt…

Ep 1: Cause things change and I’m back in debt…


The first three episodes are live and they feature two of my favorite people—my fiancee, Alex and my sister, Paige.

Alex and I discuss the true financial cost of moving across the world for love. We met when I was studying abroad in London nearly 5 years ago (!). After doing long distance for a year and a half, Alex moved to California so we could be together.

It was the happiest day of my life, but also one of the most stressful. The following six months were filled with financial learning curves, mistakes and a severe lack of money. We lived to tell the tale, but to find out more, you’ll have to listen to the episode:

Ep. 2 The true cost of moving across the world for love ✈️

Ep. 2 The true cost of moving across the world for love ✈️

This week, I sat down with my sister, Paige and we discussed the cost of pet ownership. She recently adopted the cutest (and goofiest) dog ever, and I was curious about the finances.

Ep. 3 The true cost of pet ownership 🐶💰

Ep. 3 The true cost of pet ownership 🐶💰

She explains how she adopted her cat when she was only 16 years old and how adding a pit bull to the mix has been expensive, but doesn’t cost as much as you might think. She breaks down the exact numbers in the episode:

Episodes will premiere every week on the Bumpers app (which is free to use and download).

Be sure to subscribe to my feed so you can get notified when a new episode goes live! I’ll also be posting them here every week as well.

Every episode will feature a REAL money story about real life—the good, the bad and the ugly.

And next week’s episode is ALLLLLL about the hidden cost of Tinder, dating and the financial perils of being single, featuring one of my best friends. It’s a fun one.


I’d love to hear what you think of the podcast! Is there anyone you want me to interview?


Real Money

It’s Time to Get Our Financial Lives Together (+ Giveaway)

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Tarah for winning a copy and thank you everyone who entered!

There’s nothing I love more than reading a good book. (I even set a goal of reading 36 books this year, and I’m already more than halfway there!) Fiction, nonfiction, YA, short stories—I’m not picky about the genre. The only requirement? That it’s good.  And Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry exceeded that.

Erin is the blogger behind and kickass millennial money expert. She founded the site because she wanted a way to talk about money with fellow millennials. (If you haven’t read it yet, Getting Financially Naked with Your Partner is my favorite article she’s written and it’s been turned into an entire chapter in the book!) She’s also an inspiring entrepreneur and set out to blaze her own trail last year. So when I found out she was writing a book, I was excited to read it.


(I was also excited because my favorite money emoji was on the cover, just sayin’)


Even though I’m a HUGE money nerd and will talk about money for hours on end, I haven’t read many money books. The few that I’ve tried to read (which will remain nameless) were super outdated and honestly didn’t feel applicable to my life.

I don’t own a house or have kids or earn a crazy high salary.

I’m a 24-year old who rents a one-bedroom apartment in a pretty expensive city. I paid off my student loans last year and am trying to save for graduate school while I continue to get used to managing my money (and earn some extra on the side). Even though I think I do a good job managing my money, the truth is that I’m still at the beginning stages of building wealth.

I don’t need an expensive advisor or a complex strategy. I need a solid foundation.

And if I, someone who reads money articles for pleasure and will happily talk about budgeting for hours, am still working on building a foundation, then I imagine the rest of my peers are too.

When I started my first job after college, I had NO IDEA how my taxes worked. I was suddenly pushed into a higher tax bracket and was losing 25% of my salary each month. It took months before I realized that I was earning the lowest possible salary to be taxed that much, and it took even longer for me to learn how to fix it.

It turns out that everything I needed to know was actually in Chapter 16 of Erin’s book (page 216 to be exact) *sigh*

I’m glad that other people won’t have to learn that lesson the hard way though.

That’s why I loved reading Broke Millennial. It’s the first financial book that felt like it was actually written for me and my friends. It covers the things we talk about in real life. Like how to evenly split the bill at dinner when all you had was a water and everyone else had two glasses of wine each (ahem) and how to navigate the finances of living at home with your parents when you’re 27.

It’s a book that mirrors the real life experiences of me and my friends. And honestly, it’s long overdue.

If you’re ready to get your hands on this book, then you’re in luck! I’m giving away a copy of Broke Millennial!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Email me and tell me why you want to read the book (

  2. OR leave a comment below

I’ll announce the winner next week! But if you’re looking to get your hands on a copy before then, you can get it on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Real Money, Women + Finances

The Privilege of Earning More

“What if you didn’t have access to the Internet?” my teacher asked the class. Most of my classmates looked at her with a mix of boredom and disbelief.

“Everyone has Internet now. It’s 2017. Why does it matter?” asked one of the men in the class.

I silently agreed. It seemed like a pointless question. I flipped open my laptop to check my work email while I waited for her to respond. 

13% of Americans do not use the Internet. 10% do not have access to a connection and even more Americans do not have a reliable Internet connection.”

Every Monday night, I sit in a classroom filled with graduate students working towards their Master’s in Education. There are a lot of things I’m learning, like how to create a learning environment that is accessible to everyone and why cultural backgrounds matter. But I’m also inadvertently learning about something else too: a specific kind of privilege.

The privilege of earning more.

When millennials complain about low wages and a chronic lack of job opportunities, they are typically met with two cheerful words: “Side hustle!”

“Side hustles” can range from driving Uber on the weekends to writing articles for a company after work. You can even get paid to stand in line and buy someone else’s groceries. The tasks are all different, but they have one thing in common.

Whether it’s an app on your (smart) phone that allows you to accept jobs or an Internet connection at home that allows you to send emails, “side hustles” all have one crucial ingredient: access to the Internet.

Throughout the past three months, I’ve been increasing my freelance workload in an effort to save $20,000 for graduate school by August 2017.

As I take on more clients and more work, I’ve often felt frustrated and tired. Freelancing on the side while working full-time and attending graduate school is hectic.

But last week I realized that having access to a side hustle is a gift. Sometimes it’s  an annoying gift that I would like to return, but it’s still a gift.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’ve been given the same gift. Here are a few tips about how to use it:

  1. Know When to Say “No”


Even though it’s wonderful to be able to earn more money on the side, it can also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. If you’re embarking on a side hustle (or three), don’t be afraid to say “no” and set some boundaries. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you always should. I’ve found it useful to think of my freelance work as if it were a job where I had to physically show up. Because I’m working full-time, I couldn’t handle a part-time job that required more than 15 hours per week. So that’s the amount of time I’m willing to work on freelance work on a weekly basis.

  1. Take it Seriously

There are SO MANY stories of people who started a project on the side and then had it turn into their full-time gig. But regardless of whether or not you dream of becoming a full-time freelancer or business owner, the fact remains that you need to take your side hustles seriously, and the most important way to do that is by tracking your payments, tax forms and invoices. If you’re earning income on the side, the IRS will want to know about it. Do yourself a favor and start tracking all of that now and not three weeks before your taxes are due.

When I got serious about freelancing in January, I decided to sign up for Xero’s Accounting Software and Online Bookkeeping and it has been a gamechanger.

Not only is it $6.30 per month for the “Starter Pack” (!!) which includes 5 invoices, 5 bills and 20 bank transactions, but it’s also so freaking easy to use.

You also get a free 30-day trial, which is awesome cause, you know, free.

Xero has pre-made emails you can send to clients if an invoice is overdue and makes the whole ~getting paid~ part of freelancing so much less awkward.

They also have so many other amazing tools, including expense reporting.

(And after my stepfather gave me a stern lecture about how important it is to track conferences and other “business expenses” for tax purposes,  I’ve never been more thankful to have a platform that makes it so easy and organized.)

  1. Kindness and Other Things

I often struggle to truly put myself in other people’s shoes. It’s so easy to simply pass judgement about someone’s spending habits or earning potential. Whether it’s at my full-time job or at my side hustles, I feel like I work hard for my money. But that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t working equally hard in their own way and using what they have access to. Not everyone can earn more money. Sometimes that’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.

P.S. If you’re interested in this topic, I HIGHLY recommend reading both Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.


What do you think? Can everyone earn more?


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