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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?

Money Mentality, Real Money

Money Confession: I Have a Car Loan

I’ve been blogging for over a year now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since joining the realm of ~bloggers~, it’s that it is SO EASY to lie.

Instead of explaining how you spent 90+ hours a week to grow your million dollar business, it’s easy to simply say, “Hustle hard, ya’ll!” Early retirement? No more coffee or cars. Paying off debt? “Side hustle.”

The problem with these one to two word answers is that they barely scratch the surface of what is required (and what is sacrificed) in order to accomplish big money goals.

There are A LOT of things I don’t talk about on my blog. Sometimes I leave things out because it’s not my story to tell. Other times, it’s because it is too painful to talk about. Regardless of the reason, I can assure you that my money situation is more complex and nuanced than it appears.

Which leads me to today’s confession: I have a $3,000 car loan.

When I paid off nearly $14,000 of student loans last year, I swore up and down that I would NEVER take on debt again.

Debt was my greatest enemy and I was happy to bid it farewell.

So what changed?

Me.

Throughout the past year, I’ve done a deep dive into what actually matters to me. I’ve stopped chasing happiness and started chasing meaning.

I’ve become kinder to myself and made a conscious effort to become more generous…even when it’s hard.

I’ve also tried to come to terms with the fact that life is maddeningly, absurdly short.

My mom and my step-dad

As I was on my way to a UCLA math final in 2014, I received a phone call from my sister. She was in tears as she explained that they weren’t sure if my mom was going to make it. Due to one nurse’s mistake, my mom was unexpectedly experiencing kidney failure and no one was sure if she would survive.

I was forced to think about what life would be like without my mother, but I couldn’t imagine it.

She is the glue that holds our family together and the rock upon which my sisters and I lean. She is my very best friend and my role model. With my mother in a small town in Oklahoma that was a two hour car ride from the nearest airport, and me in California, there wasn’t anything I could do as I waited for updates. My sister told me to take my final and I did. While I calculated complex probability problems, tears fell on the page.

Three years later, my mom has recovered and she is as wonderful, loving and fiercely loyal as ever.

But even though three years have passed since that horrible day, I’ll never forget it.

It was the ultimate lesson of the fleeting nature of this world and the fragility of our human lives.

Nothing is guaranteed.

My (very, very small) car loan seems unrelated to my mom and the fleeting nature of life, and maybe it is. But in many ways, I think my car loan is a sign that I’m continuing to grow into the person I hope to become.

I hope to be a person who sees manageable amounts of debt as a useful tool.

I hope to be a person who looks at the big picture and not the irrelevant details.

I hope to be a person who is not obsessed with money or trapped in the past.

I hope to be a person who contributes in meaningful ways to society.

I hope to be a person who always tells my family and best friends that I love them.

I hope to be a person who doesn’t waste my life on trivialities like saving a few dollars.

I hope to be generous with people and organizations I care about.

I hope to be gentle, kind, humble and hard-working.

I hope that when my time on earth ends, I have helped to make it a slightly better place for someone else.

 

What kind of person do you hope to be? Have you ever had a change of heart about money?

 

Money Mentality

How to Stop Being a Jealous Asshole

The more that I read about money and immerse myself in the world of personal finance, the more that it becomes clear that people are jealous assholes. From judging people who “spend too much” to shaming millennials who are genuinely just trying to survive the world of corporate greed, there are a lot of people who have a lot of opinions about other people’s money.

But one of the things that annoys me more than anything else is the judgement of people who get financial help from family members.

Trust me, I GET IT. As someone who was cut off at 20-years old midway through college, I understand that it can feel unfair. During college, I was working three part-time jobs, attending school full-time and still poor AF.

In fact, I specifically remember working as a UCLA fundraiser and what it felt like to call alumni who would donate $10,000 without missing a beat.

I felt angry. It was a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that would eventually spread through my whole body until I felt my face grow flushed.  

Even though these people were donating money (aka a kind and generous thing), I felt furious. I was furious at the injustice. Other people were comfortable and secure in their finances, while I toiled away for minimum wage and regularly cried myself to sleep from financial stress.

The truth is that the world is unfair. And I firmly believe that it shouldn’t be. I believe that we should work to build societal safety nets for our less privileged neighbors instead of destroying the few safety nets that are currently in place. I believe that healthcare is a human right and that everyone should have roof over their head. I believe in “leveling the playing field” and I believe that people with more privilege should lend a helping hand to people who have less.

You know what that’s called? Being a good human. I believe that we should all be good humans, even if it’s hard or doesn’t come naturally.

But guess what? Being a good human doesn’t involve hating other people. As someone who personally knows multiple people who get significant help from their parents in the form of gifted housing, living at home, “loans” that never have to be paid back, cars, free trips and everything in between, I can assure that people who get help are all around us. And whether or not you want to admit it, you may be one of them. But I can also assure you these people are generous, kind, hard-working individuals with a serious amount of gratitude and humility.

So if you find yourself feeling like I did as a fundraiser, here are some things you can do:

 

  1. Unless someone acquired their money through the exploitation of other humans, animals or the environment, it’s none of your business how they got it or where it is coming from. And YES, this includes people who get money from their parents. IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Be happy that a fellow human doesn’t have to experience the stress, pain and fear of living in (or near) poverty.

 

  1. Start judging people for the good that they do with their money and not how much they have or where it is coming from.

 

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN PRIVILEGE. Guess what? If you are reading this article, on the Internet, on your computer, during your leisure time, you have some serious financial privilege. Instead of judging other people, take some time to acknowledge your own privilege. Here’s a personal example: I’m white! It’s currently the biggest privilege in America and possibly the world. I was raised in a middle class family and my father is a lawyer! Even though I was cut off at 20 years old, my father still pays my phone bill! I have no idea why but I do know that it saves me at least $60/month. These are just a few examples, but I bet you can think of plenty more about me and more importantly, about yourself.

 

  1. If you still find yourself filled with rage, try using that anger to focus on actual things that matter like volunteering with local organizations that are helping people in need (like the Trevor Project or the ACLU) or getting involved with the upcoming midterm elections so sane people can reclaim Washington.

What do you think about people who receive money from their parents? Does it detract from what they have accomplished?

Money Mentality

The Power to Do Good (Even When it’s Hard)

It’s easy to see how money corrupts. From oil companies that destroy the planet to mega-million executives who exploit their workers in order to gain a bigger profit for themselves. There are endless stories of greed and pain.

And some of the stories are our own.

When my father unexpectedly cut me off in the middle of college, I learned firsthand that money can be used as a weapon.

In fact, I bet none of us would struggle to find instances of greed, fraud and destruction.

Unfortunately, it often feels more difficult to find acts of kindness.

In the face of economic injustice and destruction, it’s easy to feel powerless. In fact, it’s reassuring to feel like the problems are too big to be solved by a single person (a person like me or you) because then we are off the hook.

We are free to tune out and have other people deal with the mess. Throwing our hands up in despair while cinching our wallets in order to protect our own people is an understandable response.

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In fact, it’s been my response. After experiencing extreme hardship in college, I felt myself contract. After a taste of cruelty and poverty, my world shrunk. All that mattered was survival and the only person I felt I could trust was myself. Even after I got a full-time job and was safely middle class, I continued to hoard money and be stingy with others…and myself.

But that response—retreating into myself—is the easy way out. It’s easy cling to the past and replay the hardships we’ve endured on a never-ending loop.

It’s easy to care for the people we already love.

It’s easy to hold onto hate and fear.

It’s easy to retreat.

But it’s hard to move forward and let go of the past.

It’s hard to be generous with strangers.

It’s hard to have hope when there’s darkness.

It’s hard to forgive.

Those things are hard because they matter. Doing the hard work is how we create change.

And more importantly, it’s how we can reclaim money as a weapon for good instead of evil.

I signed up for the #GivingCards Project through the Rockstar Community Fund last month and I was surprised by what happened.

The task was simple: give away the $20 Visa gift card that was given to me (and the other participants).

But what resulted from the project was a complex inner journey that I’m slightly embarrassed to talk about.

We were asked to share what we did with the money in the forums, and this is what I wrote:

After some deliberating, I decided to use $5 to give a holiday card and Starbucks gift card to the women who cleans our building at work. She greets us every morning with a giant smile.

But on my way to work that morning, I passed a homeless man on the side of the road. He was snuggled with his dog and in that moment, I decided to do a u-turn and give him the card and gift card instead. When I handed it to him through the window, he got a huge smile on his face and said “God bless.”

While I waited at the red light, I watched him start to walk to the Starbucks on the corner. It’s funny how things work out. (I’m still planning to surprise the woman in our building with a gift card in the new year though!)

With the other $15, I bought a wool flannel to donate to our church’s clothing drive. The church is located across the street from a giant San Diego park that houses a large amount of homeless people. I donated the sweater on Christmas Eve.

It’s hard for me to talk about, but the truth is that I haven’t been as generous as I would have liked.  I lived uncomfortably close to the poverty line from 2013-2015 while finishing my college degree and I think that the feelings of fear, pain and scarcity continued to haunt me this year.

I still remember what it’s like to ashamedly take food from a food pantry and survive on pasta for months and become a shell of the person I was. Reconciling those experiences with my middle class childhood and current middle class adulthood are difficult, but the Giving Card reminded me that I don’t want to live in the past. I want to move into 2017 with generosity in my heart and help people who are experiencing hardships in whatever way I can. Thank you for the reminder, Rockstar <3

 

The Rockstar Community Fund is open to everyone who wants to be involved. From #GivingCards to the amazing #DebtDrop, there are SO MANY wonderful ways to do good this year and reclaim money as a weapon for good.

I hope to see you in the forums <3

 

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Do you think money is a weapon? Can it be used for good?