Why you should refrain from asking “When are you getting married? When are you having kids?”

Holidays are fast approaching and with that comes gatherings and the intrusive questions. Here comes a written rant to hopefully make some of us think before we ask or make unwelcome comments. 

Holidays are fast approaching and with that comes gatherings and the typical intrusive questions. Here comes my written rant to hopefully make some of us think before we ask or make unwelcome comments.

Asking someone who has been in a long relationship when they are going to get married is almost on the same level as asking someone when they are going to have kids. First, it’s really none of your business, maybe the first question should be “do you want to get married?” and from their response you can continue to ask questions and not mind your business.

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I get it, especially in the Latino culture, it’s shocking to be in your late 20’s, early 30’s, or in a long term relationship and not be engaged, married or not have kids. Now, I have nothing against people engaged, married or with kids. I actually think it is amazing but everyone moves at their own pace. If a couple wants to get married 3 months after meeting on Tinder, hey–that’s them. If they want to get married 12 years after being together or never get married then that’s also their damn problem. It doesn’t affect your life whatsoever, it’s just that some of us are ingrained with the concept that our life cycle involves a relationship, a few years committed, ring, marriage, kids.

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Now, I am not saying I don’t want my boyfriend to be my husband, I really like how that sounds but it’s not my main priority in my relationship. I have been in a lonnng relationship and I think the fact that we have been able to work on the multiple ups and downs shows how much our love for each other is worth fighting for and no marriage license or ceremony is going to be more powerful than that. And no, I am not trying to diminish the value of this sacred communion (I’m not religious at all FYI). I think it’s great that many hold such level of value, passion and respect towards it but don’t assume everyone has to think like you, value things like you, or prioritize like you, that is where my issue lies.

I personally think the same applies to asking someone when they plan on having kids as if you are assuming they want any or they are not already trying. I know people who really are trying to get pregnant and they simply can’t at the moment and this intrusive question hits a nerve and may be hurtful.

For the ones who are not sure if they want any kids or maybe do not want any period, asking this question over and over becomes frustrating especially when you actually respond and say “at [insert age in 30’s] and they respond “oh no, you will be too old then and will not enjoy them.” So you wanted an answer, I gave you one, and now it’s not the right one–give me a break! Then, your question should have been “you are only getting older, shouldn’t you start having kids now?” to what I respond, in my head, “no the fuck I’m not” or “if it means my kids will turn out like yours, I’ll just sell my ovaries instead.”

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I think some people are getting better with this, but others insist with this question as if the creation of kids would somehow complete me, validate my existence, or make me happier.

But one of the reasons I am honestly writing this is the feeling I get when I am asked these questions. First, I don’t really care about how nosy you are, but there are times I get this feeling that I am being judged because I am not fulfilling an imaginary timing protocol. It’s like your question implies an attempt to define how my life should evolve. Or that for some reason, I am not good enough yet because I don’t have a ring on my finger, have a marriage certificate or kids. I know I have to work more on not caring what others think and work on not creating imaginary judgments passed upon me. But the people who also ask those questions should reflect a little more before asking them.

Are you asking because you genuinely care about my thoughts on my future family or are you asking to be nosy or to make a statement on how I should be planning my future and insinuating I should put more urgency in it. But urgency to what?

It’s 2018, it’s not like I am waiting to get married to lose my virginity or I have a life expectancy of 45 years–it always kills me when others say I’m too old to have kids and won’t enjoy them, what are they a piece of ice-cream? Are they going to melt as time passes?

Maybe the day will come and those who matter to the couple will know when it happens, I mean after asking such question did you expect the answer to be–well we think in 3 months but we haven’t announced it yet but thanks for asking, uh no honey, lol it’s not likely you are going to get that.

All and all, I think there are better questions to ask a person who is in a long relationship in their late 20s or 30s without assuming marriage or kids are the ultimate validation to it. Ask me how am I doing, if I’m happy, what makes me happy or ask me about my interests, my future plans and upcoming goals, that’s it. I think I make sense, right? Anyway, thanks for reading my rant, until the next post, chau!

Disclaimer: I know these questions are not always asked with bad intentions. Everyone is not intrusive and many do not speak from their preconceived stereotypes and judgments.

EMPOWERING OTHERS DOESN’T MEAN FORCING YOUR BELIEFS OF THE PERFECT LIFESTYLE UPON OTHERS OR EVEN ENCOURAGING THEM TO MIMIC THE PATH OF “THE BEST YOU.” THERE IS NO ONE WAY OF DOING THINGS.

Hello Cuba!

Cuba is more than puros (cigars), salsa and classic cars, Cuba is about its warm and happy people who are hungry for more…

5 days in Cuba-2018

I was a little worried about being able to go to Cuba with the new regulations imposed by the new administration but I was glad to find it as easy as traveling anywhere else with our privileged blue passport.

During this trip, in July 2018, I chose to travel a bit slower and not overwhelm myself with multiple cities in a short period of time. All I can pretty much share is my experience in Havana and a day trip to Viñales.

From what I experienced, Cuba is more than puros (cigars), salsa and classic cars, Cuba is about its warm and happy people who are hungry for more and are persistent in their pursuit to provide a better lifestyle for themselves and their families.

Before Going to Cuba: Visas & Research

Visa: In order to travel to Cuba, American citizens must get a visa and select 1 of the 12 traveling categories, I selected Support of the Cuban People. You can buy your visa at the airport for around 50 dollars but since I am a control freak I wanted to buy them in advance. I purchased them here for $85. They also charge a nice $25 for shipping but it was waived for us since we booked our flights with American Airlines.

Research: You can find the 12 categories on this site including a link to restricted places by the US Government. I did not have a problem with many of the restrictions since I planned to stay at airbnbs, also known as casas particulares. I personally think that’s the best way to do it. While researching I found some great articles/blogs that explain more in detail the new restrictions imposed at the end of 2017: What to Know Before you Go to Cuba and What’s the Result of New Cuba Restrictions.

Also, I read a lot about Cuba from my favorite travel blogger How Not to Travel Like a Basic Bitch, she has an entire section about it, you can check it here.

I had absolutely no problem getting into Cuba or coming back into the US, no questions were asked. I’ve heard some people have an itinerary ready in case they are questioned while they are there. No one asked me anything. I always have an itinerary regardless. The only time I was asked the reason for me going there was by the monitor when I was checking in my flight at the airport.

Besides staying at casas particulares, I also ate at paladares (privately owned restaurants), did some tours in Havana and Viñales, visited museums, and got lost in the middle of the night in Central Havana. Some of my readings said to keep receipts in case you get audited by the US government. I have yet to hear anyone getting audited for going to Cuba. I was not worried about that, I got pictures and a vague itinerary and if that’s not enough well “lo bailado nadie me lo quita” (what I have enjoyed nobody can take it away).

In Cuba

Money: Take cash, cards don’t work there, at least American cards. Well that is what every blog and person I know told me so I did not even try to use a card while there but who knows maybe things are changing; I would not risk it. I changed my dollars at my local personal bank to euros because the exchange rate is better when you go there and you have to change it to CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos). CUCs are one of the two currencies they use. This is the money you will use there. The other currency is the CUP (Cuban Peso) which is about 1 CUC= 25 CUP approximately. Just so you have an idea if it’s worth it to change your dollars to euros, here it’s an example with the rates given to me:

  • $1000 / 1.2466=802 euros. 802 euros x 1.3874=913 CUC

If I would have taken just dollars, I would have received this:

  • $1000 *.87=870 CUC

If you are scratching your head, based on the above I had about 43 more CUCs just by taking euros instead of dollars. Is it worth it? that’s on you. Take into account that exchange rates fluctuate often. I also heard from a friend, who visits Cuba often, that you can get a better rate (.90 or a bit more instead of .87) at La Moneda Cubana. I changed my money at a CADECA, casa de cambio, (money exchange house) in Obispo Street. You can also change some at the airport but their rates are a bit lower.

Just to give you an idea, I spent about 600 dollars in 5 days including souvenirs, tours, airbnbs, food, museums, etc. That does not include my flight and some of the costs were split with my boyfriend.

Where to Stay: Casas particulares (Airbnb) are definitely the place to stay, you get to mingle with local Cubans and get an idea of how they really live. This was my first international Airbnb experience sharing someone’s house and I loved it. They give you tons of tips and Cuban’s hospitality was excellent. I spent 35 CUC on average per night. You will not get luxury but a clean room with air conditioner was all we needed.

What to See: Havana has many zones but the ones most people visit or talk about are Old Havana, Central Havana and Vedado.

There is a lot to do in Old Havana (Habana Vieja), we were lucky to stay right next to Plaza Vieja, a charming old square. Some restaurants and souvenir shops are here but I would suggest to go the Almacenes for that. Obispo Street is one of their main and busiest streets for tourists that leads you all the way to Parque Central where the Capitolio, Paseo del Prado, Jose Marti’s statue, Museo de las Bella Artes and the Hot Corner are located among many main hotels, and more.

Watching the sunset at the Malecon (seawall) is a must, take some change or small bills as you will have many people approach you trying to sell you fruit, gum or simply start serenading you with some salsa, don’t just dance with them, a tip goes a long way. Not everyone there is going to solicit from you either, some people just like to know where you are from and want to have a conversation. If you can head over to The Christ of Havana Statue on La Cabaña Hill for some nice panoramic views of the city, it’s worth it.

We did the Habana Bus Tour for 10 CUC per person; it’s a hop on, hop off bus. We also did a two-hour classic tour for 70 CUC. It was actually a little over 3 hours. I am not sure if that was a good price for those tours or not but we enjoyed it.

We got lost in Central Havana our first night there, it was full of old alleyways with houses crumbling down and with people just walking or hanging outside. We kept being told that it was very safe regardless of how dark it may get in the streets at night and they were right. We also walked down the Malecon and let me tell you, on a Saturday night, that is where all the locals go. They gather in small or large groups while playing music on their phones or speakers and just hang there in the dark. You may also find some kids just twerking there lol, don’t ask, or couples engaging in some exuberant PDA– hey it’s their place not mine. It was a site to see, I wish I would have taken a picture but the simplicity of enjoying just their own company was refreshing.

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Somewhere in Havana Central
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Somewhere in Havana Central

Our last night, we rented a private studio in the Vedado area which is their more residential neighborhood. Here we had some wonderful massages for 25 CUC for one hour and an amazing facial for 12 CUC. We checked out their “mall” a galeria de tiendas that consisted of a handful of clothing stores, a large electronic store and a food market. You can also catch a little train for 1 CUC that takes you via the Malecon area from Hotel Melia Cohiba all the way to the Almacenes San Jose (huge flea market).

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Classic Car Tour

We were able to go to their local beach, Santa Maria del Mar or Playas del Este, it was about 20 to 25 minutes away from Parque Central. We took a bus for 5 CUC round trip per person. The last one runs at 6pm. There were three stops for the beaches. We got off at the last stop recommended to us for a more private area. It was a Tuesday so it was not busy at all. At first, I was going to go to Varadero but I am glad we did not thanks to my fave blogger’s suggestion. I was just as pleased with this beach. Soft white sand with clean and pristine water was all I needed; I had a great time there.

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Playas del Este
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Playas del Este

We also went to Viñales on a day trip, from 7:30am to 7:pm. The cost was 67 CUC per person which included pick up from a major hotel, lunch, a free drink (if you want to call it that, some green liquid), a tobacco tour, a cave tour and a quick stop at a mirador for some panoramic views. You can purchase the tours at major hotels or you can rent a private taxi which may be about 120 CUC or more, if you split it with more people then you are better off.

If you have time, stay in Havana 2 to 3 nights and get out the city and explore places like Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santiago, etc. I just scratched the surface but I will be back.

Food: Food was okay but it was not great and this opinion can be biased since I am used to the taste and seasoning of Caribbean American food and this may have messed up my taste palate. Keep in mind they don’t enjoy the luxury of having supermarkets with 1 million products and seasonings as we do in the States. Some of the typical dishes I enjoyed were rice and black beans (moros y cristianos), puerco asado (roasted pig) yuca, tostones and veggies. Also, their lime soda nacional is bomb.

For breakfast, we mainly ate at our hosts’ house for a small fee of 5 CUC per person which included eggs, fruit, coffee, smoothies and bread with some type of spreading.

Food was relatively cheap at restaurants depending on where you go. I loved Don Julio’s Cafeteria-Pizzaria in Plaza Vieja. We had ropa vieja (shredded or pulled stewed beef), a pizza pie and two mojitos for 14 CUC total plus live music. Besides the lady who screamed at me because I did not want to buy a rose at that moment, I think that was my favorite place to eat. Castropol had excellent views of the Malecon and decent seafood. The paella was better than the one I ate in Valencia Spain but I also only tried one paella while in Valencia so don’t pay my paella reviews too much attention.

WiFi: What they say is true, WiFi is not really at hand’s reach but you can have it if you really want it. You need to buy a WiFi card, I got mine from Etecsa their main WiFi and phone company for 1 CUC for 1 hour or 5 CUC for 5 hours. They also sell it at other places for a slight premium. You can get WiFi at different parks or near certain buildings by the Malecon. It’s very easy to spot them since you will see a lot of Cubans all on their cellphones. I was lucky one of my casa particulares hosts had a WiFi router, which later on I was told it was illegal by another Cuban; if that’s true, well you got to love the ingenuity. There and at Floridita Restaurant were the only places I used WiFi for a total of a few hours during my entire stay. Being able to unplug almost completely was beyond relaxing, I guess one does not realize how dependent we can be to our phones until the internet vanishes.

What I learned: I was told repeatedly the average monthly salary for a Cuban is between 20 to 25 CUC, while a doctor may make 40 CUC a month.

They want more. They don’t understand how they have some of the best doctors in the world and they still get paid 40 CUC a month. I mean damn, I don’t understand either.

Cubans are highly educated, all my casa particulares’ hosts were former attorneys. One of the drivers was also a former attorney and the other a recent graduate of economy. They all turned to the tourism industry, Cuba’s highest paid industry. While all the people we spoke with seemed to express their desire for more for their country as far as income and a better quality of life, I did not get the same sentiment from my hosts. I actually asked the wife of one of my host if her husband was out working another job when I did not see him at home and her response was “no, this is more than enough.” This same sentiment was shared with us by some friendly guys at the Hot Corner, it seems like there are people doing pretty well for themselves with private businesses but this is not reflective of the pueblo (all the people). Our friendly masseuse said the same; she told me she knew the deal and some will be better off than others and that is how they will prosper. It was amazing to engage in conversation with them and how willing they were to speak with you just by us asking them how was Cuba.

Cuba also gave us a reality check of the privilege we often take for granted. For a Cuban just to get a passport can cost him 100 CUC, that can mean a 4 month salary for some. That’s not counting the visas, a visa interview can cost you a little over 150 CUC just to be denied and told to come back and try next year.

One other thing I noticed was the long lines at the Spanish Embassy, a fairly new legislation now allows Cubans to apply for Spanish citizenship if they can prove their grandparents lost or gave up Spanish citizenship as a result of exile. Having a Spanish passport would allow some the ability to travel more freely.

During Obama’s administration, they said there was an invasion of Americans, they did not know what to do, their prices skyrocketed but with the new administration that stopped quickly. They don’t see American tourists too often now.

One of our drivers mentioned Facebook and how his view of Cuba has shifted. He was only 22 and said when he was a kid he thought Cuba was the best country ever. Now that he can see more via social media and how others around the world live and enjoy life, he said that regardless of how hard he may work, he knows there is more to life that he cannot attain. I tried telling him it’s not always greener on the other side but who was I to really say that. Yes, I lived in poverty in Peru until 13 but I was given the chance to have a better life with more opportunities that others may not enjoy.

Cuba was refreshing, it was warm (well hot af in July) but you know what I mean, it was eye opening. It is not your typical all inclusive island vacation. There was obvious poverty, crumbling buildings left and right, dirty alleyways and a smell you get used to while wandering some streets. There were complaints from many, even the ones who made more money by working in the tourism industry. Not everything about Havana was colorful, in every sense of the word, but it was welcoming and beautiful at the same time, and I think you should all go experience it for yourselves. Take your dollars and enjoy.

You don’t travel for others to abide by your standards, you abide by their standards when you are traveling.

Money Saving Tips while Shopping

As women, we like to look good and enjoy the feeling of getting glammed up and putting a new outfit on to impress our damn selves, not anyone else. Today, I’m sharing 13 tips I practice to shop a little smarter and I hope they can help you a bit!

Look Fabulous Without Breaking Bank.

I personally think people should not spend a large amount of their money to look good at all. Save your money for things you need and will eventually help you like getting out of debt, a down payment, an emergency fund, a trip or 10, etc.

Nonetheless, as women, we still like to look good and enjoy the feeling of getting glammed up and putting a new outfit on to impress our damn selves, not anyone else. Today, I’m sharing 13 tips I practice to shop a little smarter and I hope they can help you a bit!

  1. Clearance is for you. If you can’t give up clothes and shoes shopping, like me, buy items that will beat flash trends in the clearance section. No shame in my game. There are items that you will use over and over again and you will need as your staple pieces i.e. a nice blazer, a light jacket, interchangeable blouses, work dresses, etc. I’m not talking about items like bell bottoms, velvet dresses, fanny packs (ugh who let them come back). Those trends last too short and not worth the hype. Shop for quality staple pieces and you will have a greater and longer use for them.
  2. Shop at the end of season. Know your clearance seasons at your favorite stores. I love this local retail store called Boscovs in South Jersey and I have learned that if I want to buy winter boots or winter clothes I probably have to go late April or May to find up to 90% off markdowns. I got my favorite over the knee high heel boots for $10! I still shop name brands, I just don’t ever pay retail price for them.
  3. Go thrifting. I only do this a few times a year but I found a few great pieces. I still can’t get used to the smell lol and I get a bit overwhelmed. Plus, I often find great deals on sales events that even the thrift store can’t beat.
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  4. Only Buy if you Love it. Don’t buy any item unless you love it. Literally ask yourself “can I live without this?” If you really can’t decide, then just put it down and forget about it or put it on hold and if you really want it, you will go back and get it. This really helps impulse shopping.
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  5. Ask for a Discount. If there’s a minor defect that you know you can fix yourself, ask for a discount always. Just remember most likely it will be a final sale, make sure to love it.
  6. Budget ahead for Shopping. If you try to deprive yourself from shopping, and you are someone like me, it won’t work for too long. Giving yourself a strict budget is more realistic and it will force you to get into the habit of browsing more for what you really want or need. At one point, I gave myself a $10 dollar budget for a week (I know, “she is nuts!”) but I would end up browsing a lot and ended up with pieces I really loved, even if it was as small as a quality nail polish, the little things can make you happy too.
  7. Forget the labels. Name brands don’t always mean better quality. I often get asked what brand are my purses because they look expensive or just because they are different and stylish to which I proudly tell them they are no pricey bag or no name brand bag. I’ll let you spend hundreds while I walk around with a $40 dollar bag that will likely last me as long as yours. If your bags are worth more than your savings, you have a problem sis, sorry not sorry; knowing there is a problem is a step.
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  8. Clothes swap. Now, this is not a tip for shopping but to get creative while getting new clothes; well new clothes to you. Just ask your friends to come over and bring the clothes that they no longer wear and you bring yours. Free to you and free to them. I get excited when I have a new piece of clothing and I honestly don’t care if it has a tag or not–it’s just a new piece to my ever changing recyclable collection.
  9. Sell everything you no longer love or have a use for. That size two dress you wore 5 years ago and keep for inspiration, that velour sweatsuit that should be burned but you still keep for memories, and everything else that is just taking valuable space in your closet needs to go.  All the clothes you swear you will one day fit into or will come back into style, they won’t, sorry. But why not make a few bucks for them. I’ve used a few sites like OfferUp and Mercari but none compare to Poshmark. I’ve been selling my gently used wardrobe on Poshmark for almost a year now and I absolutely love it. It’s simple, they get a small fee of 2.99 or a percentage if below a price and the buyer pays for shipping. All you do is mail the item out after someone buys it and Poshmark emails you the shipping label. Recently, I’ve been trying to shop only when I sell something so I’m not spending additional money from my budget. Check out my Poshmark closet and use my code susu_hj to sign up and get a $5 credit!
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  10. Save your receipts. Have you ever bought something and never wore it? Yes, we all do it, buyer’s remorse happens too often. Save those receipts and don’t take the tags off the clothes until you wear them. I keep all my receipts and after a month or more I just try to return anything I have not worn unless it was bought for a special occasion or as Christmas gifts (I do my shopping early). Even if it’s past due the return date, get the store credit and buy something that you will actually use.
  11. Online Shopping. Read reviews extensively when shopping online and wait for coupons to not pay for shipping. If I have to pay for shipping, I usually don’t buy it. Most online stores usually run specials during July 4, Memorial Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and any other holiday you can think of.  Same as with shopping in a brick and mortar store, check out the clearance section and shop during the end of a season for garments to be used the following year. My two favorite online stores are Shein and Lulu’s. For Shein, you really have to check the reviews like a detective to make sure you get the right size. Also, you must be patient with Shein’s shipping, although they have gotten better recently and I love the no shipping regardless of price.
  12. Buy versatile clothing. Items you can wear out and in the office (assuming you have an office job). I can’t express enough the importance of this. We have all spent too much money on going out dresses and only worn them once, it’s just wasteful. I have legit wore a club dress as a top and put on a sweater or blazer on top to the office. Look for dresses that can be dressed up and down to be worn at dinners, functions, work, family events, etc.  Shop purposely.
  13. Have a Shopping Spree with others’ money. Is your birthday coming up? Make a list with links to the items and send them to whoever buys you gifts during your birthday or a special holiday. This is usually when I splurge with others’ money and since it’s a thought out process (kinda), we all win. I get exactly what I want like name brand make up, outfits, purses, etc. and they don’t have to worry about what I want or what I may or may not like. I hate getting cash as I end up spending it on items like gas or lunch, I mean we all need gas but who WANTS gas for their birthday. I can finance my own needs, buy me my weaknesses, thank you.Some of my favorite physical stores are Boscovs, Macy’s Burlington, Ross, H&M, TJMaxx and boutiques. Most of these stores also sell online but I just have to shop and browse in person; maybe it’s just their websites I dislike.

    Hope this was insightful in some way. I believe in balance and while I am a semi-strict budgeter, I have a love for clothes that I know I won’t give up, at least for now. It’s just a matter of finding ways to shop a little smarter. Please share some of your favorite online stores below and any shopping tips!

Make Credit Cards Work for You.

Credit cards can be your friend but also one of your biggest enemies…

First things first, credit cards can be your friend but also one of your biggest enemies. While I have been able to make credit cards work for me by using their rewards and even booking trips for free, I cannot recommend this to everyone. I practice huge self control and I have never carried over a balance since I got my first credit card when I was 18 years old. I’m proud to say my credit score is at is highest right now at 821!

Let’s face it, in the words of Ye, we have a problem of spending before we get it, and thanks to these plastic little cards we can just swipe and maintain this illusion of grandeur. But credit cards are essential, as they will probably be the first source to help you build credit. I got my first card from Sears and then from a whole bunch of retail stores. I currently only use two to three cards out of at least 10. I always wonder why companies don’t just close my account for inactivity but somehow that has not happened to me yet (with the exception of Walmart and Target).  Today, I want to share a few do’s and don’ts to make credit cards work for you.

Do’s

  1. Set up automatic payment as soon as you open any card to pay the balance in full every month. If you cannot do this in fear that you may overdraft your bank account, then maybe you have no business in getting cards in the first place. Retail credit card rates can start anywhere from 14% to 29% so unless you are paying everything in full or paying big chunks monthly, you are pretty much getting robbed; don’t let them fool you!
  2. Take advantage of their rewards especially the ones that give you miles or cash back. Now, this is a new concept for me but so far it has worked. I got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card during one of their promotions and after I spent $4,000 in a three month period, they gave me around 40,000 miles plus additional miles when I added an authorized user. I did this knowing I was going to have some large expenses during those months and I ended up cashing out and flying to Madrid, Spain, round trip, for free; I saved over $700!
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    But, this card had an annual fee and I don’t do those. I am too frugal to pay to have a card, so I called Chase prior to reaching the year and I switched my card for one without an annual fee called Freedom Unlimited. I really miss my Chase Preferred card because of the no foreign transaction fees and the best customer service I have had with any card company hands down. So, I am considering getting it again in the near future. I did the same thing with my Delta Skymiles card but I had to spend less, 2,000 in three months. I haven’t cashed out yet but I have over 52,000 miles right now and I hope it is as good as my Chase card.
    Disclaimer: Don’t just spend extra money to obtain the rewards. I am very anal.  I prepared myself to accomplish the above. I wrote down every expense I was going to incur in those upcoming months, I changed my phone bill, car insurance and cable’s payment card to add these cards to make sure I met their spending requirement for the reward points. Unfortunately, I could not pay my mortgage with a credit card but I got creative by paying a full six months of car insurance up front and we know Jersey’s car insurance is absurd compared to other states.
  3. Make your payments on time. Even if you can’t set your payments on automatic payment, make sure you are not late or you will get late fees and who wants those? If you are late and it’s your first time, call the card company and see if they can waive the late fee.
  4. Check your Credit score. Most credit card companies now offer you to see your credit score for free just for having an account with them. Make sure you are not paying for something you can get for free. If your cards do not offer this benefit, check out credit karma, I have friends and relatives who love it. While we are on this topic, don’t forget to get your credit reports, for free, at Annual Credit Report. You can get one report every 12 months from each credit reporting company: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

“YOU MUST GAIN CONTROL OVER YOUR MONEY OR THE LACK OF IT WILL FOREVER CONTROL YOU.”~ DAVE RAMSEY

Dont’ s

  1. Do not just open a card to get a 10% discount on a retail store. It takes a lot to keep up with cards’ bills and if you are not organized or do not pay the full balance each month, this could really affect you negatively over a tiny initial discount.
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  2. Do not just use cards to get additional discounts. If you already failed at the suggestion above, it’s okay, I’ve been there too. But remember that shopping only to get an additional discount does not benefit you. The interest will probably be more than the discount itself in the long run. It’s like buying things that are on sale just because of the sale and ultimately not needing them or just buying out of impulse thinking you are somehow saving.
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  3. Do not carry your cards with you. I know, what is she talking about? They are for emergencies; well, ask yourself when is the last time you had such an emergency that you were so thankful you had a credit card on you. Yeah, it doesn’t happen often but what happens often is temptation. I love clothes and whenever I know it’s outside of my monthly budget, I tell myself “it can go on my card and I will account for it next month,” well for people who cannot pay in full monthly, this is detrimental and you end up accumulating large debts by shopping little by little. So, out of sight,out of mind; if it’s not on you, you cannot use it as often as you would.
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Again, credit cards can work for you if you are disciplined and consistent. And even if you are not as obsessive as I am when it comes to paying balances, you can always practice better habits to improve what was taught or not taught to you.

Pay on time and pay in full is my only motto for credit cards. And, if you are in a mess and don’t know what to do to get out of debt, don’t let it put you down and please ask someone you trust, who is financially sound, to assist. Speaking about finances can be such a taboo at times but know that it is okay to seek advice. You won’t believe how many people are in the same place and stay there by not creating a plan.

Please share your tips, in the comment section below, about how you make credit cards work for you.

Don’t forget to subscribe, I’ll be discussing how to pay and attack student loans with the snowball effect soon! 

“TOO MANY PEOPLE SPEND THE MONEY THEY HAVEN’T EARNED TO BUY THINGS THEY DON’T WANT TO IMPRESS PEOPLE THEY DON’T LIKE.” ~WILL ROGERS.

5 Rules to Self Love

We have to divert the focus back on us and genuinely learn to love ourselves. Self love is the foundation of happiness and without it, it will be hard to give to others and make this world a bit better than before.

Self Love Takes Work.

In a world where comparison is more popular than quinoa or kombucha tea and authenticity is more scarce than tasty gluten-free pasta, we have to divert the focus back on us and genuinely learn to love ourselves. Self love is the foundation of happiness and without it, it will be hard to give to others and make this world a bit better than before. I struggle with this also but I know it’s a work in progress where we have to aim for continuous self accountability. So, here are 5 rules to consider in our journey to self love:

  1. It’s Okay to Put Yourself Before Anyone Else: Don’t let anyone make you believe you are selfish because you take care of yourself before others. Often, I see people giving their money, time and energy to others before they look out for themselves and consequently I see growing resentment in these situations. Your biggest investment should be in yourself so when you decide to devote anything to anyone else, make sure you have covered yourself already.
  2. Learn to Say No, Say No and Say it Again: I used to think saying no was easy, I am very good at saying no to invitations, causes, roles, etc. My mentality was be honest with yourself and others, if you can’t afford it, do not have the time or cannot devote enough energy to provide a quality outcome to what is requested from you, the answer is simple, “no sorry, I can’t this time.” Do not gamble with the “I’ll say yes now and figure it out later.” Remember your word is your bond and every time you take back on it, its value diminishes. Nonetheless, I find it extremely hard to say no when someone asks me for genuine help. Saying no gets better with practice. Check back to rule number 1 and remember by forcing yourself to any commitment sometimes does a disservice to both parties. You can always make more money but you can’t regain the time lost. Overall, remember that no, is a complete sentence. You owe no one explanations.
  3. Accept and Love your Flaws, or Change Them: Flaw by definition is a mark, fault, or other imperfection that mars a substance or object. So, it may seem strange to “accept” them but you must, in order to modify them. We all have walked by the mirror and thought about what we could improve. I’m not saying, “if you come to the conclusion you hate your a-cups, to go get surgery.” I mean, if by all means that is what you want, who am I to stop you. The flaws I am referring to are the ones that weaken your confidence and limit your greatness. Now, these flaws are not always physical, they can be the lack of certain attributes like the ability to take risks, fear of criticism, fear of failure, the need to please others, etc. Flaws are within us all, however, we have to come face to face with what needs to be improved and develop a plan of action. Many times we do not sit with ourselves and give ourselves the time of day. We handle many roles and rarely ever the role of “self” is prevalent. Do you even like you? If no, why? And, go from there. Take a risk and try something new, welcome failure, be yourself and take notice of who accepts you for who you are.
  4. Seek Less for Reassurance: Have you found yourself asking your significant other, friends, family or even strangers for approval about something you wore, the way you look, an idea you presented, or even input on your own opinion? Thanks to social media and our ability to interact with many of our peers simultaneously, it seems like we have shifted our focus from what we like to what others may think of what we like. There is nothing wrong with seeking advice, a second opinion or just seeing what others think, but if your decisions are going to be dependent on outsiders’ input or your mood would somehow be affected by the reaction of others, then we may need to try to self reflect a little more. Realize that at the end of the day, it’s you the one whose opinion comes first and while reassurance can boost your confidence, reassurance is also a double-edge sword. Don’t ever let outsiders have more control over you.
  5. Don’t Compare Yourself or Your Life to Others: Comparing ourselves to others is sucking the life out of life. I know, a very deep thought lol. We live in a capitalist culture where having more is equal to happiness, but is it really? We live in a world where having more degrees and titles is more important than what you do with your knowledge and education. We continuously compare our material possessions and even memories and experiences such as traveling, dining, hobbies, etc. Although it’s nice to share our experiences so easily thanks to the internet, I think many of us are losing our sense of authenticity just to portray what is acceptable or trendy to others without searching for meaning in what we do. Comparing your life to others will lead to disappointment because someone will always have less than others which will cause a cycle of dissatisfaction. We can try to avoid this by practicing gratitude daily, being thankful for what we have and what we do not have yet. Remember, we don’t need to match someone’s else perfection, we can only aim to be better than ourselves yesterday. Being content is okay, don’t let anyone tell you that your ambition must match the next person. At the end of the day, you define your own happiness.
Thank you Wilma Lebron (IG: @mixtapesnlipsticks) for your input with rule number #3!

~LOVING YOURSELF ISN’T VANITY, IT’S SANITY~KATRINA MAYER

Picture by Carpe Diem Design Studio.

Make Your Money Count.

I am a semi-strict budgeter who does not like to live in deprivation. Just like many women, I like to look good, I love new home decor and I enjoy traveling. I believe in balance and I am still able to indulge but I do it with great moderation. So, today, we will talk about the first 2 steps to financial wisdom.

It’s not about how much you make but how much you spend.

The fear of being financially ignorant was ingrained in me since I can remember. I grew up in a very poor household in Lima-Peru, a beautiful developing country.  Disposable income in our home was non-existent, going out to eat meant going to a Chinese buffet once a year and shopping meant checking out the Salvation Army. Don’t get me wrong, I never missed a meal or any necessities and for that I am grateful to both of my parents.

Living through foreclosures and bankruptcies at a young age pushed me to be more curious about personal finances. I majored in Finance in college and have attended numerous financial management seminars, but Life has really been my biggest teacher, even above a higher education institution.  I’d like to think of myself as a wise financial person who is making the best with a modest income. I am a semi-strict budgeter who does not like to live in deprivation. Just like many women, I like to look good, I love new home decor and I enjoy traveling. I believe in balance and I am still able to indulge but I do it with great moderation. So, today, we will talk about the first 2 steps to financial wisdom.

  • Budget: Live life on your terms: I am including a free document here Budget Doc, so you can see how I budget my expenses. I am a fan of Google Sheets but there are tons of apps and some just prefer good old paper; whatever works for you.
    • First, write down how much money (after taxes) you are bringing in monthly from all incomes.
    • Then, make a list of all your monthly expenses. Start with your fixed expenses aka non-negotiables (i.e. savings, rent/mortgage, student loans, cellphone, car insurance, car payment, credit cards, etc).
    • Then continue with a list of your variable expenses aka determined by use (i.e. utility bills, groceries, copays, gas, etc).
    • Finally, finish up your list and include all your other expenses (i.e. restaurants, makeup, clothing & shoes, hair salon, nail salon, gym membership, cable, games, movies, books, etc.). Add all your expenses and subtract it from your monthly income (Total Monthly Income-Total Monthly Expenses). If you have a positive number, we have disposable income and more opportunities. If we have a negative number, it’s time to figure out a plan and really decide what is essential from the other expenses list, this is where we can cut down unnecessary expenses so we can either save more or pay down debt faster.

Tips: Budget for at least three months, it will become a habit. Review it biweekly or monthly and make readjustments. Consistency is key. Be realistic and really understand what expenses are essential. I personally cannot give up my gym membership and workout at home instead because paying a monthly fee actually motivates me to go. I gave up buying coffee, not coffee itself, but my K-Cups cost 30 cents now compared to $2 (I was never a Starbucks girl). Giving up buying lunches was hard, I love take out and Wawa! (an amazing convenience chain store). It took time and preparation but now I tell myself I am not eating my money away. I was spending at least 200 monthly, just in lunches, and now I have cut that in half or more just by buying groceries.   

  • Pay yourself first, before you spend it on someone else: You may be asking why I consider savings to be a fixed expense as mentioned before. Well, I am a huge believer of paying yourself first while building an emergency fund; this should be a habit that will essentially create a foundation that can be passed down. I have read different articles saying you have to save from 5% to 15% of your take home income.
    • I say, if all you can save is $20 per paycheck, do that, but be consistent and realistic. Look at the list above and be honest with yourself; if you are spending over $100 a month in recreational expenses and saving $20, chances are  that if an emergency arises, you will most likely swipe the plastic (credit cards) and then you will accumulate high interests, pay only the minimum payment, and put yourself in more debt.
    • So, pay yourself first as soon as the direct deposit hits and preferably put it in a separate savings account. I personally set up an automatic transfer from my checking to savings on every payday. I have my savings in the same bank as my checking but I practice a lot of self control. If you are afraid you will just access the savings when you are tempted to do some shopping therapy, then try to get a separate online savings account. This will prevent you from having immediate access to cash and hopefully the urge will disappear.
    • Using a separate checking account for my bills has really helped me see where I am spending the most outside of my necessities. This helps me buckle down when I need to save extra to travel or buy an expensive item.                             

~DO NOT SAVE WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SPENDING, BUT SPEND WHAT IS LEFT AFTER SAVING~ WARREN BUFFETT.