Why Small Steps Matter

The other day I was talking finances with a childhood friend. We love geeking out to our finances and putting on our nerd glasses. She was telling me that while she has paid off a ton of debt over the last year it’s been a struggle to find the motivation each month to continue making payments.

This got me thinking. Why is it that we can make good financial decisions day after day and month after month but that it gets harder and harder to find the motivation to continue making them?

I think the answer lies in the fact that we don’t always look at the big picture. When we get so focused on saving extra pennies and investing a few hundred dollars here or there it can be easy to feel like we’re missing out on life. Instead of focusing on the big picture like becoming debt-free or retiring early, or paying cash for a luxurious vacation we tend to focus on the day-to-day monotony of being frugal. It can be so easy to get bogged down by frugality, after all, it doesn’t have the best connotation. But in order to stay on the frugal course, we need to have the bigger picture, the bigger goal in mind.

When my friend said to me that although she sometimes feels like she’s not doing enough day-to-day when she looks at how much debt she’s been able to pay off over the last year it amazes her. It amazed me too. When I look at my own finances, making frugal decisions has been challenging for me lately. But when I look what I’ve accomplished over the last few years I’m quite proud of what I’ve been able to do.

My challenge to all of my fellow frugal millennials out there who have been struggling to say the course is to really think about the reason you saving and investing. Have your goal in mind as you continue to make the right (but sometimes difficult) decisions.

Stay Frugal. Stay Feisty.

How My Emergency Fund Helped Me Land My Dream Job

How an Emergency Fund Helped Me Get Dream Job

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Amen to that, Forrest Gump. Life is crazy, beautiful, and often times unpredictable. Let me tell you how one of the hardest, scariest times of my life turned out to be the biggest blessing in disguise. How having an Emergency Fund helped me land my dream job.

Getting Laid Off

I vividly remember sitting in the CEO’s office and having the difficult conversation: I was going to be laid off, effective immediately. You see, I worked for a Silicon Valley startup. Joining a startup is risky. The company may take off, it may go under, or it may get acquired. While I knew the CEO’s hands were tied, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of panic. I left the office, cashed my final check, and a flood of concerns ran through my mind. What was I going to do? How was I going to survive? When would I find another job? Shocked and scared I drove home.

How Was I Going to Survive?

Once I got home and had some time to digest what had happened, I decided I needed to take control of the situation. My first step was to answer the question: How was I going to survive?

I needed to get my finances in order. So, I sat down, looked at my bank account and felt an immediate sense of relief. Before joining the startup I had built a 6-month Emergency Fund. My Emergency Fund had already come in handy many times over the last few years. When my car was flooded, my MacBook was stolen, and when I got laid off—I was always surprised—but having an Emergency Fund meant I was financially prepared.

I honestly can’t tell you how much of a relief it is during times of crisis and uncertainty to know that you’re going to be okay. In this case having a fully funded Emergency Fund allowed me the freedom to dream. Sure, I didn’t have a job and I had no clue what was next. But having that Emergency Fund meant I didn’t have to take just any job. It allowed me to take the time to figure out the next best step for me.

What Was I Going to Do?

I’m a firm believer that life is what you make of it. Sure, it would have been easy to complain to my friends and family that I was dealt an unfair hand. But what would that accomplish? I decided to take life by the proverbial horns and make the most of my newfound free time. I suddenly had an extra 8 hours a day to do whatever I wanted. I decided to focus most of my energy on doing what I love: providing financial tips to millennials.

Every day during my unemployment I woke up at 8:00 AM, worked out, and headed to the public library. I edited YouTube videos, wrote blog posts, created an ebook, and read countless personal finance books. It would have been easy for me to sleep in, watch reality TV shows, and eat junk food all day. But I knew those habits weren’t going to make me feel good. Doing what I loved, putting all of my energy into something that would help people feel confident and secure, that was how I was going to turn a bad situation into a blessing.

Gaining Momentum

A couple of weeks into my unemployment I received an email from a writer for Grow, the Acorns blog. Taylor had discovered my YouTube channel and wanted to interview me on how I was able to save a large portion of my income. I was ecstatic. After working tirelessly to provide great content, someone had noticed and wanted to learn more. I was channeling my passion and it was well received. I wholeheartedly believe this was the universe rewarding my moxie.

Would I Find Another Job?

A few months after getting laid off I received another intriguing email. Jeff discovered my article on Acorns and wanted to chat about personal finance. We met and had a fantastic conversation. We shared many of the same viewpoints and he mentioned he worked for a company working to help people take control of their finances. I left our meeting feeling invigorated and wanted to learn more about the company. I was excited to talk more about where the company was going, what the culture was like, and ultimately what the company believed in.

It turns out Jeff left the conversation with an equally positive experience. He ended up introducing me to his colleagues, and one meeting led to another. Before I knew it I was in a boardroom presenting to the CEO and getting offered a position at BrightPlan.

Turning Tables

Fast forward a few months and today I can confidently say I have my dream job. Before, when people would talk about how much they loved going to work I would secretly roll my eyes. I didn’t believe that people could honestly enjoy their jobs. I knew you could like your job but to love your job was a bit excessive.

Now I am proud to say that I am one of those people who loves their job. You see, I believe that anyone can be wealthy, it just takes time, planning, and a lot of patience. Today I find myself stepping into the office, lucky enough to work with a talented team who share that same belief. I have the opportunity to work with a group of people who are just as passionate as me about helping others achieve their financial goals.

Life Has a Way of Surprising You

Life is funny. One minute you may be living your best life and the next day life decides to knock you over the head with a 2×4, just to see what you’re made of. We can’t always control what happens to us but we can control how we react. We hear financial experts telling us why an Emergency Fund is crucial. We know it’s important but don’t always realize just how valuable an Emergency Fund can be. Take it from someone who has been knocked down once or twice: having an Emergency Fund was one of the best things I could have done for myself.

You never know what tomorrow brings but you can plan and prepare. That way, when something unexpected and scary does happen it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. And who knows? Maybe, it could end up being a blessing in disguise.

This post was originally published on The BrightSide.

credit cards

Credit Cards: How I’m Winning

If you’ve followed my story, you probably know that I’ve been very anti-credit cards for the past 5 years. I’ve been following Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball to pay off my student loans, build an emergency fund, save for retirement, and prepare for a downpayment on a house. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the name Dave Ramsey is synonymous with being anti-credit and anti-debt. While following Dave Ramsey has been a great way for me to get ahold of my finances and set myself up for success, a few months ago something changed. I decided if I wanted to buy a house someday with an affordable interest rate, I was going to have to play the credit game.

I knew the two fastest and easiest ways to build a credit were (1) taking out an auto loan or (2) applying for a credit card. Since my 2006 car is still alive and kicking, knock on wood! I decided the best route for me to build my credit was to apply for a credit card. While the average American has $6,375 in credit card debt, I’ve been able to avoid going into debt, and instead reap the cashback rewards. By combining basic human psychology with a little trial and error, I’ve been able to win the credit card game, here’s how I’m doing it.

Choosing the Right Credit Card

Before I opened my first credit card, I did a lot of research. I knew I was going to avoid store credit cards at all cost. In college, I worked for Gap and I know how useless it is to have a store credit card. Store cards offer the best deals and rewards for shopping that particular brand. Store credit cards charge a lot of interest for carrying a balance. Plus, they subconsciously encourage you to overspend with a particular store brand in order to reap the rewards.

Being the Frugal Millennial, I try to be brand agnostic. That’s not to say I don’t favor certain brands and stores, but rather than forcing myself to shop at one particular store all the time, I always do my research to make sure I am getting the best deal. I know myself well enough that if I had a store credit card I would be tempted to shop at that store more often, even if I wasn’t getting the best deal. With this in mind, any store-specific credit card was not an option for me, sorry Amazon.

No Annual Fees

In order to choose the best credit card for me, I headed to Nerd Wallet’s website. My number one requirement was that it didn’t have an annual fee. Call me old-fashioned, but I was not about to pay an annual fee to carry around a piece of plastic. To pay $99 or even $69 per year to swipe a magnetic piece of plastic is ridiculous.

I know some of you out there are going to tell me there are amazing credit cards that carry annual fees. I’m sure there are, but those cards are not for me. I spend very little. In fact, I calculated what my annual rewards would be if I kept my normal spending habits. Any rewards that I would earn would be offset by the annual fee. In order for me to maximize my rewards, I needed to find a card that did not have an annual fee.


After I filtered through cards without annual fees, I looked for credit cards that offered cashback. I wanted to be in charge of how I earned and used my rewards. I didn’t want to be limited to airline miles which often expire and are tied to one airline. In essence, I wanted straight cashback on every purchase.

Beyond that, I didn’t want the cashback to be determined by rotating categories. I know myself and basic human psychology. If I chose a card that used rotating categories to reward my spending, I would alter my spending habits to fit within those categories so that I could earn more cashback. I needed to find a credit card that fit into my lifestyle, not the other way around.

My Favorite Credit Cards

After doing hours of research, I narrowed my top choices to the following list. Keep in mind, all of these cards offered cashback and $0 annual fees.

My top choice was the Citi Double Cash Card. This card offers 1% cashback on all purchases and an additional 1% cashback when you pay the bill, for a total 2% cashback. Plus, it was a nice incentive to pay the card off in full every month and earn the additional 1% cashback right away. If you’re a regular Frugal Millennial follower, you know that I applied for and was rejected from the Citi Double Cash Card.

My second choice was the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card. I liked this card because it offered an unlimited 2% cashback on every purchase with no annual fee. Even more, your cashback could be added to your existing Fidelity investment account. Check out how much more you would earn over time by investing your cashback rewards.

My third option was the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. With this card, I would earn 1.5% cashback on each purchase. While the cashback amount isn’t as high as the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Rewards Signature Visa, in the grand scheme of things 0.5% was going to be a difference of an extra few dollars a year.

Winning with Credit Cards

Create a Budget

I talk about the benefits of budgeting constantly on my blog. If you want to win with money you need to create, and stick to, a written monthly budget. I’ve had roughly the same monthly budget for the last 3 years. I know exactly how much money I can spend each month in order to have fun and build wealth. When I opened my first credit card I didn’t change my spending habits. As I mentioned, my spending habits are so consistent that before I even opened my credit card, I calculated how much I would earn annually in cashback rewards. That way, I wouldn’t be tempted by the allure of earning more cashback by spending more than I normally would.

Being frugal doesn’t have to be boring. As long as you save and budget, you can afford anything.

By sticking to my regular monthly budget and not altering my spending habits, I have not only been able to pay off my credit card in full, every month. But I have also been able to continue to build wealth. I’ve been able to avoid the credit card trap that so many Americans fall into and it started by creating and sticking to a written monthly budget.

Use One Card

You know the saying, “keep it simple, stupid”? That’s how I try to keep my finances. The more you complicate things, the more likely you are to make errors. I only have one credit card and put all of my purchases on it. I don’t worry about using a specific card for travel purchases, another card for gas, and yet another for groceries. It’s too complicated to remember which card to use for what and even more complex to remember which card needs to be paid when.

If really stop to think about how much more cashback you would earn by using multiple cards it’s probably marginal. Unless you’re a big spender, it’s probably not going to be worth the time and hassle to use multiple cards.

The Credit Card Game in a Nutshell

I consider managing finances like playing a game. At the end of the day, there are winners and losers. If I’m able to spend wisely and budget accordingly, I consider myself a winner. On the other hand, the months when I let myself spend frivolously and overspend (yes, I am human), I consider myself a loser. By sticking to a written monthly budget and choosing a credit card that fit into my existing lifestyle, I have been able to avoid credit card debt and instead reap the rewards. In essence, I have been able to win with credit cards.

Stay Frugal. Stay Fiesty.


Did I Save Half My Income in 2017?

Budget to Save Half Your Income

Last year I was featured in a Grow by Acorns article that highlighted millennials saving half their income. Over the course of 2017, I created and (mostly) stuck to my monthly budget. There were times that I would overspend if I went on vacations or had to replenish my emergency fund. But at the end of the year, I hadn’t saved as much as I had hoped. If I’m being honest, I didn’t save exactly half. Don’t get me wrong, I was very close (40%) but didn’t quite reach that 50% mark. That was a disappointing realization, here I am preaching about saving half your income, and I didn’t quite do it myself.

As with anything, saving money takes time and practice. We don’t always hit a bullseye with the first dart. When we stop, take a breath, and reflect, that’s when we start to grow. This year in an effort to grow, I’m creating and sticking to not just one budget…I’m holding myself accountable to three budgets.

1. My Monthly Budget

A budget is a written plan for your money. As Dave Ramsey says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  In order to succeed with money, you need to tell your money where to go every month, not the other way around. If you don’t spend your money intentionally, you aren’t going to be able to save half your income. I’ve talked extensively about how I create a monthly budget, check out my 7 category budget to see how I divvy up my monthly expenses.

This year, I am being more intentional about not going over my monthly budget. There were many months that I would spend a majority of my miscellaneous money within the first two weeks of the month. That made for some tough choices. Would I say no to all social events the second half of the month? Or, would I overspend by a few hundred dollars to make up the difference? I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

We’re almost 3 months (25%) into 2018 and so far I can say with complete confidence, that I have stuck with my monthly budget each month so far. Part of that is because I have been more diligent about planning out my spending to make my miscellaneous budget stretch throughout the entire month. The other part is because I have created and utilized new budget categories. (See below)

My Monthly Budget

2. Travel Budget

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that life is all about balance. A big part of saving money is getting comfortable saying no. Over the past 4 years, I’ve said no to a lot of things. I’ve missed brunches, nights out with friends, and even trips with friends because I was so focused on getting out of debt and saving for my future. Last year I realized I needed to start saying yes. I was turning 25 and had spent most of my time in my 20s saying no. I didn’t want to look back on this decade and think, “man, I wish I had just lived a little.” Thus, the idea of the “year of fun” was born. So, I decided I was going to try and find a better balance between saving money and having fun.

Boy did I knock this goal out of the park–2017 was definitely a year to remember. I went to Cancun to swim with whale sharks, caught a 7-foot fish deep sea fishing, met Major Lazer in Las Vegas, and had the best 25th birthday surrounded by friends and family in San Diego. I can easily say, hands down that 2017 was a year of fun.Budget for Travel

My 2018 Travel Budget

As with everything, that fun came at a cost. While I wouldn’t trade any of my amazing vacations for anything, I do wish I would have budgeted for them accordingly. Because I was so used to saying no to trips with friend and family the thought to create an annual travel budget had never crossed my mind. This year, I’ve decided to set aside $3,000 in a travel budget. I can do anything I want with that money. I can spend it on day trips, or a luxury vacation on the other side of the world. Every time I spend money on a plane ticket or hotel room, I deduct it from my travel budget. While I’m giving myself a lot of flexibility here, one thing’s for sure: once the money is gone, it’s gone.

3. Additional Miscellaneous Budget

Another area that would often cause me to overspend was gifts and unexpected expenses. As I type this, I’m cringing that I didn’t think about it earlier, but things are going to happen. Last year, I had some pretty heavy car expenses due to freak accidents. On one occasion my car flooded–I got into my car after work one rainy Tuesday evening to find a 2-inch puddle of water on the floor of my car. After an initial freak out moment, I calmly called my insurance company and fortunately, I only had to pay a $500 deductible, but the total damage was over $3,000!

On another occasion, I was stopping by the grocery store on my way home from work and after I came out, I found my car window had been smashed and my new MacBook gone. This time, my car insurance wasn’t able to cover that incident and that was a very hard (and expensive) lesson to learn. Not to self: never leave anything valuable in the car, even if it is hidden.

Car Break In

Extra Padding

Budgeting is a lot like dieting. It takes discipline and hard work, especially in a world full of temptations. Last year, some of my budgeting setbacks would cause me to temporarily throw in the towel. After all, if I’m going to not keep my budget this month, why not just buy a new outfit while I’m at it. I’m learning to give myself more flexibility to make mistakes and not let them set me back.

Because I didn’t have a freak accident cushion built into my budget, I just had to swallow those expenses. This year, I’ve built an extra $1,500 cushion into my budget. That way, when things happen, like freak accidents, or if I happen to go over my budget one or two months out of the year, I have it covered. An added expense doesn’t need to trigger me to go off the deep end. Having extra padding in my budget that I can dip into in times of need, has given me peace of mind.

Budgeting for Success

I used to think budgeting was black and white. And in some respect I still do. But if there’s one thing 2017 taught me it’s that life is many different shades of gray. Unexpected things happen, that’s life. You can’t always control what is going to happen to you on any given day. Some days life gives you lemons and other days you just have to roll with the punches. By allowing myself more flexibility with my budget I am less stressed and am more on track to reach my goals this year.

Stay Frugal. Stay Fiesty.

Save Half of Your Income

Why I Save Half My Income

Ever since my story was posted on the Acorns blog I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I save half my income. While it’s been overwhelming to answer each person individually, I wanted to provide as many answers as possible to all of your questions. That’s why I created my free ebook download as a guide to help you begin your journey. But I also wanted to give you more background on my personal journey of saving half. So, without further ado, I present you with my journey of saving half my income.

What prompted you to save half of your salary? Was there an “aha moment”?

I don’t think there was an “aha moment.” My journey started right after I had graduated college. I graduated with about $15,000 in student loans, which for me was overwhelming. A few months after graduating I secured my first job and started tackling my student loans. I wanted to pay off my loans as quickly as possible so I created a really tight budget and put all of my extra money towards paying off my loans. In those early days, I wasn’t necessarily trying to save half of my income, per say. It just kind of happened. I wanted to knock out my student loan debt as quickly as possible and with my extremely frugal budget, I was able to save half my income and eliminate my student loans within a year or graduating.

Once my student loans were paid off I decided to build an emergency fund and start saving for retirement. Each time I check off another item on my “Financial To-Do List” or get a promotion at work, I keep moving forward to save more and more.

What steps did you take to begin saving half? Did you start small and build the percentage? Cut back on expenses?

I’ve always tried to save as much as possible. The one thing that really made the difference for me, was not increasing my spending when my income increased. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to raise the ranks professionally and have actually doubled my income in the last few years. Instead of buying a new car, or going on weekly shopping sprees, I live (almost) as frugally as I did in those early years when I first graduated college.

Did you have to make sacrifices to achieve this goal?

I’ve had to turn down trips with friends, happy hours, and Sunday morning brunches. I give myself a little more wiggle room now but when I was first getting started, I lived ridiculously frugally. In fact, I still laugh at my 21-year-old self, I refused to pay for food and entertainment.

Free Entertainment

My first apartment was a studio apartment and I refused to splurge on internet and TV. I relied heavily on the public library–I would rent DVDs and books to keep myself entertained. Every Saturday morning I would wake up and head over to the public library. I would sit in the computer lab surrounded by kids and homeless people and use their free internet. Before I left I would check out a stack of books and DVDs so that I could stay entertained until the library opened back up on Monday.

Free Food

I also work in the tech industry which means fully stocked kitchens at work. So that first year I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work. As boring as my life sounded a few years ago it really set me up for success. Not only was I saving a ton of money on entertainment and groceries, it really helped me grow in my career. I was spending long hours at work–and during my free time I was reading and learning new skills to help me advance my career.

What advice do you have for people who are starting where you were and would like to achieve something similar?

I think it’s important to understand why you want to save half of your income. For me, the peace of mind that comes with living frugally and saving a lot of my money is worth missing the occasional happy hour or brunch. Once you understand why you want to save half of your income, start tracking your expenses. I was spending a lot of money on mindless things that weren’t making me happy. In fact, to this day I can’t walk into a Target without filling up my entire shopping cart. Start with small changes and build from there.

What has been the best part of saving half?

The peace of mind and freedom it has given me. I’ve set myself up for success in a way that if I wanted to stop saving and just spend every penny of my paycheck, I could still retire with plenty of money. I also know that if something terrible happened in my life, I would be able to recover financially. Saving half my income has reduced a lot of stress.

How is life different now that your savings rate is so high?

I mentioned that saving half of my income has reduced my stress which has been the biggest benefit. A few months ago I was laid off from my job and didn’t stress about it. I knew that I had developed the frugal habits and emergency fund to be okay until I was able to find another job I loved. I ended up being unemployed for about a month and a half and was able to enjoy my funemployment. I took the time to really work on my blog and YouTube channel to provide all of you with more content. As I’m sure you can imagine, I also spent a lot of time at the library soaking up as much knowledge as I could during my free time. A lot of people don’t have that luxury and immediately go into a panic when they lose their income. The peace of mind it has given me has been the greatest blessing.

What is your next financial goal?

Purchasing a condo. I live in Silicon Valley where the housing market is out of control. The average condo costs $500,000+ so it will take me a while to be able to afford one. But once I do, it will be a major financial accomplishment.

What would you say to someone who says that what you’ve accomplished is “impossible”?

I think we all prioritize what is important to us. For some people spending time with friends is a priority, for others traveling, for me, it’s being financially secure. That’s not to say I don’t love traveling and hanging out with my friends! But once you make saving a priority and really start to focus on it, you can save half of your income too! In today’s day and age, you can learn anything from the internet. There are plenty of blogs and YouTube videos with people sharing their tips for living frugally and saving money. Set a goal, arm yourself with the knowledge and tools to accomplish it, and don’t be surprised when you’re saving half of your income a year from now.

What are practical tips for someone looking to save 50% or more of their income?

  1. Create a budget. I would not have been able to accomplish my goal without creating a budget and tracking every single expense. I highly recommend creating a monthly budget and tracking it with an app like Mint or EveryDollar.
  2. Learn that it’s okay to say no. Your friends will understand if you can’t make it to this week’s girls dinner. Your boyfriend will understand if you would prefer to cook dinner instead of going out to eat. You probably don’t need that candy bar you picked up from the CVS checkout line. Know that it’s okay to say no to yourself and others.
  3. Get creative! Just because you’re budgeting and saving money doesn’t mean you have to live the most boring life, ever. Learn to cook, explore your city, or get outside and go for a hike. I promise you, the more creative (and budget-friendly) I’ve gotten when planning things to do with my friends and boyfriend, the more fun we’ve had.
www.frugalmillennia.com 5 Dollar Tree Finds Infographic

5 Things I Only Buy at Dollar Tree

As a frugal millennial, I would be doing you a disservice if I never posted about Dollar Tree. When I lived in Arizona and was working to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible, I relied heavily on the dollar store. Dollar Tree was my first stop when I needed to purchase anything. When you’re working on a tight budget, every extra dollar you can save is going to make a difference. Over the last few years, and many trips to the dollar store, I’ve developed a pretty good sense of what to buy and what to skip at the Dollar Tree.

What to Buy at Dollar Tree

www.frugalmillennia.com 5 Dollar Tree Finds Infographic


Birthday Cards

I think birthday cards are overrated. Most of the time people scan them quickly before ripping open their gift. Then, the card gets thrown away and boom! You just spent $3-$4 on a card that was barely read or appreciated. Having said that, my friends and family rarely receive birthday cards from me. When I do splurge for a card, I ALWAYS buy it from the dollar store.

At Dollar Tree, each greeting card costs $0.50. You can get 2 birthday cards for $1.00. What a steal! That is way more affordable than the $3-$4 you would spend at Walgreens or Target.

Shaving Cream and Razors

Stop spending $20 on a razor! It’s absurd how costly it can be to keep your body hair free. My local Dollar Tree has a 2 pack of 5-blade razors for, you guessed it, $1.00. That’s right, I spend $0.50 on a 5-blade razor. Now, it’s not a brand name razor, but it works just as well. The Dollar Tree is the number one place I purchase razors.

On that note, I also only buy shaving cream from the dollar store. To me, all shaving cream is created equal. I don’t need to splurge on a brand name shaving cream. A large can from the dollar store is a great addition to my daily routine.

Before you buy another razor, check out my post on how to make your razors last longer.

Cooking Utensils

My kitchen in Arizona was completely furnished thanks to Walmart and the Dollar Tree. I had affordable pots and pans from WalMart and dishes/cooking utensils from the Dollar Tree. The dollar store is going to become your favorite place to shop if you need kitchen utensils but have very little extra cash. I had multiple plates, cups, even silverware from the Dollar Tree. I bought whisks, spatulas, oven mitts, and ice cube trays from Dollar Tree. You’d be surprised how easy and affordable it is to furnish your kitchen from the dollar store.

Now, mind you, your kitchen won’t be featured in the next Pottery Barn magazine. But, if you’re just looking for functionality and not style, head over to the Dollar Tree the next time you need a plastic cutting board.

Holiday Decorations

If you love decorating your house (or desk at work) for each holiday, you need to check out your local Dollar Tree. The dollar store is my first stop when I need holiday decorations. They have a wide array of decorations for every (major and minor) holiday. There’s no need to drop $100 on holiday decorations that you’ll use for just a few weeks. Save your money and head to your local Dollar Tree. You can decorate your entire house for under $20.

Keep in mind, you’ll want to prepare in advance. Decorations at the dollar store are a holiday ahead. Which means you don’t want to shop for Valentine’s Day decorations on February 10th. By the time February hits, the dollar store is already selling Easter decorations. Catch my drift? Prepare in advance and you’ll score major deals on holiday decorations at Dollar Tree.

Picture Frames

There are two places I regularly buy picture frames: Goodwill and Dollar Tree. The dollar store is a great place if you’re looking for simple 4×6 or 8×10 picture frames. Most of their frames are either black plastic or wood. Which is great if you’re looking for simple designs. Decorating your house with pictures of loved ones doesn’t have to break the bank. By heading to your local Dollar Tree you can save a lot of money on picture frames.

Have you checked out your local dollar store lately? What are your go-to Dollar Tree items? Comment below, I want to hear!


Stop Overspending

Stop Overspending

Do you find yourself constantly overspending? Do you have a hard time sticking to your budget? A few months ago I had an epiphany. I realized there was a reason behind my overspending. I had certain spending triggers that were causing me to constantly overspend.

Check Yourself

I’m just going come right out and say it, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Yes, I did just reference an Ice Cube song. 🙈 But hear me out. There are a number of stores that I personally avoid just because I know I’m going to overspend. Every time I walk into a Target I don’t come out with just one thing. I come out with an entire cart of things. And just like that my budget is just blown. In one hour I can easily blow my entire spending budget for the week.

What Are Your Triggers?

I know that I can’t go to Target unless I’m ready to spend at least $100. Most of the time, I don’t want a one-hour target trip to ruin my entire weekly or monthly budget. I also know that if I’m waiting in a long line to check out at CVS, I’m going to be staring at the candy bars along the checkout aisle. Which means I’m likely going to want to grab one and put it in my cart.

After spending the last 25 years on Earth, I know that there are certain stores and items that cause me to overspend.

Resist Temptations

If you know that there are certain stores or things that causing you to overspend, just cut them out of your life. I actually haven’t been to a Target in 6 months because I know I’m going to overspend. I have #financialgoals that I want to accomplish and I’m not going to let a Target shopping trip get in the way of me and my goals.

Learn to Say No

I’ve also learned that it’s okay to say no. It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no. Saying no to yourself and others makes you responsible. I’ve learned to say no to myself at the checkout line. Although spending a dollar on a candy bar isn’t going to break my budget, it’s an unnecessary expense that isn’t going to lead me towards my #financialgoals.

Spending my weekly shopping allowance on an hour-long Target trip isn’t going to make me happy long-term, either. Like the candy bar, I’m going to feel happy and excited for a few hours after my Target shopping spree. But eventually, the guilt will start to sink in.

Now that I’ve learned to say no and cut out spending triggers, I feel a sense of freedom. I’m not tied down to spending money on things that don’t actually make me happy. Sticking within my budget has given me a newfound sense of contentment. Check out the video below to see how I’ve learned to check myself before I wreck myself.

www.frugalmillennia.com Weekly Meal Plan 10-30-17

Weekly Meal Plan 10/30/17

Hello, my fellow frugal millennials! It’s Thursday which means I spent about a half hour yesterday scouring the Sprouts Weekly Ad Deals and planning my weekly meal plan for the week. Here’s a breakdown of my methodology.

Looking at Weekly Ad Deals

Before I even started thinking about what I wanted to eat I looked at Sprouts Weekly Ad Deals. Here’s what I noticed:

  • Black grapes are a good deal. I will typically buy grapes if they are less than $1 per pound. They typically range from $1.99-$0.88 per pound. The fact that they are as low as $0.77 per pound is a great deal. I’m going to grab a bag of black grapes to snack on throughout the week.
  • Italian squash is a good deal. Italian squash typically cost about $1.50 per pound so the fact that they are on sale for $0.48 per pounds is another good deal. Because this is the best vegetable deal of the week, I’m going to focus one of my meals around Italian squash.
  • Artisan lettuce is another fantastic deal! This type of lettuce typically costs $2.99-$3.99 per pack. It’s on sale for $0.98 which is an AWESOME deal. I’m going to figure out how to incorporate this into my meal prep.
  • Mild cheddar cheese is a good deal. I try to pick up whatever cheese is on sale that week and use it in scrambled eggs and maybe lunch or dinner.
  • There really aren’t very great meat deals this week. Which means I’m going to have a pretty veggie week.

Creating a Meal Plan

After considering the deals, I know an easy meal would be tacos. I can use the lettuce cups as shells, the cheddar cheese that is on sale, and extra lean ground beef is on sale for $4.99 lb. Not the greatest ground beef deal, but it’s the only meat I’m going to eat this week so I’ll splurge.

I’m not too familiar with cooking with Italian squash so I had to head over to Budget Bytes to look at recipes. There’s a recipe for Zucchini Pizza Boats that looks simple enough so I’ll try that.

For breakfast, I’ll alternate between scrambled eggs, pancakes, and protein shakes. These are my typical go-to breakfasts. Plus, I already have all of the ingredients on hand that I need to use up.

You’ll notice that I have a few blank squares on my weekly meal plan. Those are the days I’m planning on eating out. I know that one Wednesday I’m going to grab lunch with a friend. Friday and Saturday I typically eat out. Sunday I’ll probably sleep in and eat a late brunch which means I won’t need to eat lunch.

www.frugalmillennia.com Weekly Meal Plan 10-30-17

Creating a Shopping List

After looking through my refrigerator, I have a fair amount of ingredients leftover from previous weeks. Here’s what I’ll need to buy this week:

  • 1 Red onion $0.69/lb
  • 1lb bulk mushrooms $2.99/lb
  • 6 Italian Squash $0.48/lb
  • 1 can tomato sauce $0.99
  • 1 can black olives (price unknown, probably $1.99)
  • 1 artisan lettuce $0.98
  • 1 lb ground beef $4.99/lb
  • 1 lb mild cheddar cheese $2.99/lb
  • 2.5 lb Grapes $0.77/lb
  • 1 bag baby carrots $0.98

Total estimated cost: These ingredients will cost around $21.50. I’ll also probably grab a bag of chips and maybe some chocolate because I am human after all! But I would expect my total cost to be less than $30 which is a great start to the month. I always like to start the month under budget. That means I can try out more exciting recipes as the month goes on. Or I can grab a few extra treats later in the month.

If you want to learn more about how I meal prep, check out my post on grocery shopping on a budget. 

Grocery Shopping

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

I hate to admit it, but I have a dirty little secret. I secretly love watching Extreme Couponers on TLC. The fact that people can load up entire grocery carts full of food and toiletries and pay next to nothing is crazy to me. How is this even legal? As I’m typing this it sounds as if those people are robbing the grocery stores. And while I get an adrenalin rush while watching the show, I know that I, myself, will never be an extreme couponer. I just don’t have the time or the cajones to dig through dumpsters. So where does that leave me? I could throw in the towel and just spend whatever on groceries. Or, I could use a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years to save as much money as possible grocery shopping.

Step 1: Create a Grocery Budget

If you’re like me, you’re probably a single millennial working to live on a budget. Your grocery budget is going to look different from mine. I don’t have any dietary restrictions (other than the fact that I don’t like seafood). I’m not vegan, Gluten Free, or Paleo. Which means, everything in the grocery store is up for grabs. My grocery budget is $125-$150 per month which breaks down to about $31.25-$37.50 per week.

If you’re used to spending $50-$100 per week on groceries, trimming your budget is going to be a bit of a shock. But stick with me.

Step 2: Check the Ads

Now that you have your budget in place, you need to check the ads. So stop throwing away your junk mail! That weekly packet of flyers you get on Wednesdays is going to be key to saving you tons of money. If you go to the grocery store without a plan it is way too easy to overspend. By knowing what is on sale you can begin to search for recipes with those ingredients.

When you’re looking at the ad, stick with the front page. The front page is going to have the best deals of the week. Grocery stores try and lure you in with those front page deals. But if you’re a frugal millennial, you’ll know that if you try and stick to just those front page deals, you’re going to score major savings.

Step 3: Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Now that you know what ingredients are on sale, it’s time to create a weekly meal plan. I try and eat 80% of my meals at home, it saves a lot of money, and quite frankly, it’s better for my waistline. With that in mind, create a spreadsheet (or download and print the one I use here) and write down your meal plan. www.frugalmillennia.com Weekly Meal Plan

If you have no idea where to begin when it comes to meal planning, worry not! A few years ago when I was just starting meal planning I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to cook or grocery shop, but over the years I’ve practiced every week and have become pretty good. My favorite recipe website is called Budget Bytes. It has really great recipes that are easy to follow and they use ingredients that I (almost) always have on hand. If I see that chicken, spinach, and red bell peppers are on sale this week, I head over to Budget Bytes to see what recipes have those ingredients.

Channel Your Inner Julia Child

I highly recommend you avoid processed food as much as possible. Not only will your waistline thank you, but your wallet will too. I’m not going to lie, I love to splurge on an occasional prepackaged meal and treat, but I don’t focus my weekly meal plan around process foods. Processed foods are really marked up and you are paying for the convenience. Unless chips, cookies, or frozen pizza is on sale, I don’t buy it. When it is on sale, I allow myself to pick up a package or two and spread it out throughout the week.

If you want to see what I’m eating and how I grocery shop, check out my weekly meal plans.

Step 4: Create a Grocery Shopping List

Now that you know what you’re going to eat for the week, it’s time to go get those ingredients! First, take note of what you already have on hand. Americans waste more food than any other nation. So, let’s save the earth and your pocketbook and check to see what you already have hiding in your refrigerator. After seeing what you already have on hand, add the ingredients that you need to buy to your grocery shopping list.

I crate my shopping list on the notes app on my iPhone. That way, I’m always carrying it with me and never have to worry about forgetting it at home. I mean think about it, when was the last time you went anywhere without your phone? As I walk through the store I delete items off of my grocery shopping list as I put them in my cart.

Step 5: Go Grocery Shopping

It’s go time! I played sports growing up, in fact, I was involved in everything from soccer to basketball to volleyball to track and field. Sometimes my inner athlete comes out and it’s easier for me to think in terms of sports analogies. I like to think of everything before hitting the store as practice. Checking the ads, creating a weekly meal plan, and grocery list are all prepared for the big game, hitting the grocery store. Now that you are fully prepared, let’s head the field.

Resist Temptations

As with any game you play, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles in order to get the outcome you want. When you’re at the grocery store, you’re going to be tempted to purchase things other than what’s on your shopping list. Try to resist. The more items you put in your cart that aren’t on your list, the more likely you are to overspend.

While overspending a few dollars won’t totally kill your budget, it will add up. The way I look at it, the more I spend on groceries, the less I can spend on other things. You see, if I go over my grocery budget, I have to take it out of my miscellaneous budget. That means fewer girls nights out, brunches, and shopping sprees. When I put it in perspective, it’s not worth it to me to add extra goodies to my shopping cart.

Grocery Shopping in a Nutshell

If you’re new to budgeting and trimming your grocery budget, this can be a lot to take in. To be honest, I don’t do everything on this list in one day. I spread out the task over 2-3 days. That helps me feel less overwhelmed.

On Wednesdays, my favorite grocery store, Sprouts, publishes its weekly ad. I head over to the website to check out the deals. After sifting through the online ad, I start to develop my weekly meal plan.

On Saturdays, I head over to Sprouts with my grocery shopping list on my iPhone. I scoop up all of my groceries and put them in the refrigerator.

On Sundays, I meal prep and make most of my lunches and dinners for the week. If my meals are prepped throughout the week I’m less likely to fall into temptation after a long workday. I’m less likely to go out to lunch with coworkers. I’m also not tempted to stop by Chipotle after work because I’m too lazy to cook. If all I have to do is pop my Tupperware in the microwave, I have no reason to eat out.

Breaking up my meal prepping and grocery shopping tasks throughout the week keeps me on track and prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. Try it out, and see what works best for you. The more you practice, the better you will be–I promise!

My MoviePass Experience

My MoviePass Experience

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the Netflix of movie theaters, a company called MoviePass. If you haven’t heard of it you
need to jump on the bandwagon!

What is MoviePass?

Like I mentioned MoviePass is the Netflix of going to the actual movie theater. For $9.95 a month you can see unlimited movies in the movie theater. You can see one movie at the movie theater every 24 hours. So, for just under $10 bucks a month you can see up to 30 movies a month. That’s a crazy good deal! I don’t even think there are that many movies that come out every month. It’s a ridiculously cheap way to go to the movies if you live in an expensive area where going to the movies cost more than $10.

Ordering a MoviePass Card

Don’t worry, fellow frugal millennials, I actually take my own advice. I decided to try out MoviePass so that I could accurately tell you about my experience. About a month ago I went to the MoviePass website and applied for the card.  They actually give you a physical card, like a debit card. In fact, the card actually says Debit MasterCard on it, which I thought was strange. After reading the fine print, I did see that all of the funds on the card belong to MoviePass. So, at this point, you can’t use the card as a real debit card. You can only use it to pay for movies.

After waiting about 3 weeks for my card to arrive, I recently received it in the mail. The company said it would take about 3 weeks for the card to arrive and it arrived exactly 3 weeks after I had ordered it. So, although that seems like a very long time to wait for a card, in this day and age. MoviePass did deliver within the timeframe they had quoted me.

On a side note: they do charge you your first $9.95 when you place your order for the card.

My MoviePass Experience

A couple days ago I actually went to the movie theater to test out my new card and see how it worked.  I found a movie I wanted to see (Happy Death Day). I walked into the movie theater with my card. Told the cashier which movie I wanted to see, swiped my MoviePass card and it got declined! I was bummed, to say the least. I mean I haven’t even used the card ever, how could it have gotten declined? Luckily the cashier at AMC was super helpful and helped me figure out how to resolve the issue.

How to Use MoviePass

First, you need to add your card to the MoviePass app. Once you do that you can head to the movie theater. Make sure you choose a theater that accepts MoviePass. You can see approved theaters near you in the “Theaters” section of your app.

MoviePass Step 1: Choose your an approved movie theater
MoviePass Step 1: Choose your an approved movie theater


Step 2: Once you’re within 100 feet of the movie theater, select the movie and showtime you would like to see.

MoviePass Step 2: Once you're within 100 feet of the movie theater, select the movie and showtime you would like to see
MoviePass Step 2: Once you’re within 100 feet of the movie theater, select the movie and showtime you would like to see

Step 3: Check into the movie you are going to see before you swipe your card to pay for the movie.

MoviePass Step 3: Check into the movie you are going to see before you swipe your card to pay for the movie
MoviePass Step 3: Check into the movie you are going to see before you swipe your card to pay for the movie

Why My MoviePass Card Was Declined

I wasn’t aware that you had to check-in to the movie in order to use your card. I figured, as long as I had my card in hand, I would be able to swipe it to pay for the movie. Wrong! I’m sure those smart folks at MoviePass make you check-in to the movie so that you can’t just give your card to your friends.

The nice AMC cahier taught me how to check-in to the movie. I swiped my card again and it was approved! And with that, I was off to see Happy Death Day.

Is MoviePass Worth It?

I highly recommend my fellow frugal millennials try it out. For less than $10 a month it’s a really great way to see a movie. It’s an especially good deal for me because where I live movies cost 13 to 15 dollars each. As long as I go see one movie a month I am saving money by using MoviePass. Plus, the best benefit of it is that it’s month-to-month. Which means you don’t have to sign a contract–you can decide to cancel at any time. So if you are sick of seeing the movies you
can just cancel and start back up again the next month.

Check out the video below to hear more about my first MoviePass experience.