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Archive of ‘Gwen’ category

Gwen’s July Challenge: Save 50% of What I Earn (And Attack Debt with It)

What an epic month!

This past July has been one of the best months of my life. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I’ve officially been living on a plant-based diet for 60 days. I feel more healthy and vibrant than ever.
  • I said ‘I love you’ for the first time.
  • I lived within a budget I created for the first time in my life.
  • Overall, I’m appreciative of where I’m at and excited for my upcoming goals.

In July, I also discovered my new money ‘guru.’ I discovered Dave Ramsey’s teachings. Dave is a financial expert who went bankrupt in his 20s, which prompted him to dedicate the next 25 years of his life learning finances and teaching others to thrive by living within their means and paying off debt. To quote Gabrielle (the youngest Sisterpack member), “He is a (financial) savage!” Essentially his teachings make you want to eliminate your debt with ‘gazelle-like intensity’ and he’s absolutely no-nonsense when it comes to making your budget.

This leads me to my July challenge: spend 50% of my income on my debt. I’m happy to say I achieved my challenge and spent 57% of my income on debt (this even includes interest on debt as well).

So how did I do this? Here is my six step plan:

1) Face my financial reality head on.

I put all of the money I owed as well as my monthly expenses and income on an Excel doc to see where I was really at. Let’s be real: it can be scary af to be honest with yourself, realizing how much you owe and how long it will realistically take to pay off. It was definitely a wake-up call to see, though it was also inspiring to finally have concrete numbers.

2) Create a goal.

Since my goal was to spend 50% of my income on debt, it was a very black and white goal. I knew what I wanted. Surprisingly, I hadn’t done something like this in the past, which is probably why I haven’t felt like I’ve made much progress lately.

3) Do the math.

After facing my financial reality and setting the goal, my next step was to do some simple addition to figure out if I could consciously pay 50% with the lifestyle I was living. After doing the math, it turned out that 68% of my income was spoken for if I lived the same way that I did in June. So I decided to hack away at expenses. I lowered my grocery budget, restaurant and ‘miscellaneous’ budget and that got me into the right range.

4) Create a budget and use a system to track your spending.

I started the month using Mint.com to track all of my spending and make a budget. Though after discovering Dave Ramsey, I decided to start using his free EveryDollar.com site and app to track spending. I absolutely love it and am obsessed right now. I checked in almost daily to try to live within my means.

5) Tell those you trust.

It’s challenging to scale back your life and live on a budget. So I’m at a place right now that I am very open that I am attacking debt and will not be going out and spending a lot. Luckily, I have created a group of friends and my family get it and have been supportive of my goals.

6) Watch motivational and educational content whenever possible.

I mainlined Dave Ramsey’s YouTube videos. I watched examples of the joy that people felt when they paid off their loans. I learned from people’s mistakes and remembered to have compassion for myself for where I’m at. This all helped me achieve my goal.

I am SUPER proud to say that I accomplished my July challenge and am more committed than ever to pay off all debt.

My August challenge will be interesting. I’ve decided to use the ‘envelope method’ and actually carry cash and pay in cash. I will put my budgeted money in specific envelopes and only use that to pay! I haven’t used cash in a very long time, so I’m very interested to see how this will go!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Gwen

Gwen’s June Challenge: Radical Financial Transparency

I am in debt and I want out.

I’m carrying some student loan debt as well as credit card debts from investments I made in my business and travel expenses (okay… and a few impulse purchases).

The day I am debt free will be a glorious one, and I can’t wait to get there. The challenge is that I don’t have a solid plan on how to do that yet. I know it’s possible (as I’ve read so many stories and watched so many YouTube videos from people who have shed the debt), so I am really approaching this journey back into the black with curiosity and a sense of adventure.

I’ll level with ya… it hasn’t always been this way. I used to be desperately ashamed of debt. I wouldn’t talk about it and definitely wouldn’t share how much I owed.

So in an attempt to take out the shame and literally just own it, my June challenge was to be completely transparent with my financials with my sisters. I decided to give them access to my Mint account which currently links up all of my finances.

This includes how much money I make to how much interest I accumulate each month.

It felt incredibly liberating to share this. Not all of my sisters took a look, however, I’m going to keep it available to them to check out at any time. My youngest sister decided to take a look right before my eyes. I felt a bit nervous when she said, ‘Let me check it out now’ however, she approached it with a compassion and understanding and ‘It’s not that bad.’

My intention of financial transparency, also lead me to share with my boyfriend my desire to get out of debt. As he is insanely good at being thrifty (and he’s debt free), he is fully supportive of me going for it. In fact, it’ll probably make him feel better that we don’t spend as much eating out and cook more at home 🙂 I haven’t yet shared with him exactly how much I owe, though perhaps that’s a challenge for another month.

My July challenge is going to be an ambitious one. I want to save half of what I make and put it towards debt. With my rent taking up a significant chunk of cash, this is going to be a challenge worth taking on.

Thank you for reading and I wish you an awesome month!

-Gwen

 

Gwen’s May Challenge: Create a Positive Relationship with Money

My May challenge was to start creating a healthy, positive relationship with money.

The challenge was inspired by reading Jen Sincero’s #1 New York Times best-selling book: How to Be a Badass at Making Money. In the book she suggests that you write a letter to money as if it were a real person.

The idea is to get a sense of how you view money. At first, Jen had a ‘bat-shit crazy’ relationship with money! One minute she was in love, the next she felt there was not enough. It caused stress one moment, and pure joy the next. And her finances reflected the emotional ups and downs. Ultimately, this exercise helped her get clear on how she was giving money mixed signals which ultimately resulted in financial instability. In her 40’s she lived in a converted garage, dreaming of making more money. Today, she’s a millionaire who teaches millions of people how to be a badass at life and making mo’ money. Soooo I was definitely interested in taking on this challenge!

I started the challenge off strong at the beginning of May. I bought a journal specifically for the challenge and was an avid journaler for the first two weeks. I started with the initial letter to money and found my relationship was similar to Jen’s. Not a consistent feeling and a bit all over the place. I thought a good way to build the relationship would be journal daily to thank money for being there for me when I needed it and also check into my bank accounts daily. I was very consistent and excited to do this at first, though I soon found the familiar resistance popping up that lead me to completely stop the daily check in practice. I had fallen back into an old, defeating pattern.

Although I didn’t complete the challenge the way I thought I would, today (in June) I feel a renewed sense of excitement to building a positive relationship with money. I recently had the realization that I need to plan for the long-term when thinking about money, and stop looking for quick fixes. I have been subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) dreaming that a chunk of cash will fall from heaven and cure my financial debt. Since this has not happened, I think the realization has finally hit me to create a longterm plan and make it as easy as possible to follow.

This realization came as I’ve started to make real progress on another (and totally different) source of shame, stress, and insecurity I’ve experienced over the last ten years: dealing with acne. I have always been supremely self-conscious about acne. It made me feel like hiding and totally defeated on countless occasions. I have been on a quest to figure out how to cure it, and I believe I’ve finally figured it out by being persistent and not not giving up after failing multiple times on ‘diets’ and pills and creams. The key is to find a path that can be a longterm lifestyle. This new path that I’m on for my skin is taking out meat and dairy. It has been a game-changer and my skin has never looked better. It’s a gahdamn revelation.

So in the same way that I am healing acne, I am also healing debt with a long-term strategy. This leads me to my June challenge: RADICAL TRANSPARENCY. In the month of June, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I am opening up all of my finances to the Sisterpack. Through the mint.com platform I’ve added all debts, cash and credit to the platform and will be giving my sisters the password to login so they can see my money goal as well as everything I’m buying. They have access to it all. Why the hell would I do this? Well, living in secrecy and pretending everything is okay hasn’t worked. So I’m thinking the opposite may work. I want to keep it SO real and allow my sisters (whom I love and trust) to see where I’m at. I’m in a place right now where I don’t feel any shame about it, as all the money I’ve spent has lead me to where I am today… and truth be told I’m happier than ever! And I can only imagine I’ll be feeling even better, the more progress I make.

Wish me luck! 😀

-Gwen

Gwen’s April Challenge: Kickstart an Unconventional Side Hustle

At the end of last year, I felt defeated. I went from entrepreneur to employee and it was a very challenging transition. You can read all about it here. I had zero desire to ‘side hustle’ or even actually hustle at all!!

Though recently, my desire to work hard and earn dem bucks has shifted. I’m now over two months into my new job at Shopify. It is glorious and I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with smart, dedicated people every day.

One unexpected element of being an employee, is my entrepreneurial spark has been reignited. I found that once I started to feel stable again (in work and mindset) my interest to create returned.

While at Shopify, we have been challenged to start our own Shopify store. I thought it was a fun idea that I would do eventually, but didn’t have a fire lit under me to create one. However, when our growth team was encouraged to create a drop shipping store, I saw it as an exciting opportunity to perhaps kickstart a new side hustle.

Drop shipping is a retail method in which you don’t keep your own product in stock. Instead you partner with a wholesale supplier that stocks its own inventory. You choose a product (i.e. pins, stickers, floaties, shoes, etc.), choose your price and market it to the right people and apparently… cha ching!

You can watch a short video to learn more here:

The biggest benefit is you don’t have to worry about holding inventory, and you simply ship a product when a customer orders from you. You set the price, and it’s your marketing genius that sets you up for success.

Needless to say, I was very curious and excited to start. I had an idea to sell a product, and went to work creating a Shopify store. Though I realized I soon started to overthink what I was selling and question if drop shipping was ethical, and came up with a ton of roadblocks for trying it. It was all excuses, excuses, excuses.

My April challenge was to make my first sale with drop shipping. I did not reach this goal. Although I’ve picked a product and tinkered with my site, it is currently not live.

I still have a strong desire to see if I can make my first sale, so I’m going to continue to work on this challenge, though take a different approach. Going forward, I’m going to dedicate 30 minutes per day on working on getting my first sale (instead of putting pressure on myself to do it in a day). I’ve added 30 minutes to my calendar to work on the project every day of the week. There’s also a chance I will be partnering up with a colleague to create a store, so we can work on it together.

For May, I’m choosing to take on a different official challenge though and that is: create a loving relationship with money. Okay, so this may sound a bit weird, though let me explain. I’m currently reading Jen Sincero’s book: You are a Badass at Making Money. One of the exercises in there is to write a relationship to money as if it were a person. It was a really eye-opening exercise, and really made me see how I can become obsessed with money one minute, then stand-offish the next. If I want to create a healthy relationship with money, I realize I need to approach it with the same attitude as I do a romantic relationship or exercising. There is no ‘silver bullet.’ It’s about consistent check-ins and acknowledgement! I will be documenting the relationship in a journal.

Please feel free to join me in my May challenge!

-Gwen

 

Gwen’s March Challenge: A Meatless Month of March?

I’m dating a vegan.

He is quite wonderful, and often shares with me about his lifestyle and the benefits of not consuming meat products. He truly cares about what he puts in his body, and has an incredibly high level of compassion for animals.

His commitment to his lifestyle is truly inspiring. As I watched him, I thought, could I do this? Would I even want to be vegan?

The truth is… yes. In the past I have dabbled in altering my diet to be less animal-heavy. When I used to live in California a few years ago, my landlord was a hardcore vegetarian and didn’t allow meat in the house. I saw this as an opportunity and decided to go vegetarian (vegan wasn’t even on my radar back then). At the time, I had limited nutritional information. I soon realized I was eating my weight in bread, cheese (and donuts) to combat the feeling of missing something. Needless to say it was unsustainable and I ended up petering out and going back to meat. (The first thing I ate was a meat pie. OMG).

Flash forward to now… I have actively taken an interest in nutrition. I know of things like quinoa and lentils and tempeh and tofu… sources of protein that can replace meat.

So when I heard of the ‘Meatless March’ challenge on Instagram, I thought I’d try it out! Not only was I hoping to feel mo’ progress health-wise, I was also interested in saving a few bucks (as meat typically costs more than vegetarian options).

WEEK 1 & 2:

OVERALL: I gahdamn crushed it. No cravings for meat. No interest in meat. I was flying high on success.

FEELING: I realize I started a ‘diet’ at the same time I started a new job. At the end of each day, I felt quite drained, though chocked it up to the fast pace of my new lifestyle and learning so much each day that my brain needed a break. I also realized towards the end of week two, that although I wasn’t craving meat, I was eating waaaaay too many grains and my stomach kinda hurt most of the time.

WEEK 3:

OVERALL: I missed meat. I was proud of myself for giving it up, but at work (where we have catered lunches #yesiknowimlucky) I was sad to pass by the chicken and fish.

FEELING: I felt like I was missing out. I also realized I would feel hungry almost right after I ate lunch. This was a bizarre feeling. I realize I started eating more sugar, and reaching for things I never ate before like Pop Tarts and Diet Coke to fill a gap of cravings.

WEEK 4:

OVERALL: I caved this week. There was one day where I felt like complete poop. I felt sooo drained of life force energy. I tried everything. Water. Coffee. Fruit. Meditation. Walks. Nothing I could think of was helping to alleviate the drained feeling. I figured I was missing some serious nutrients (probably Vitamin B). So late in the afternoon that day, I went on a mission to get some meat. I got chicken shawarma and ate it alone, while trying to bring my body back to life.

FEELING: A little defeated, but proud of myself for doing whatever it took to feel a bit better. I don’t know if it was subconscious or what, but as soon as I ate that shawarma I started to feel life coming back into me.

WEEK 5:

OVERALL: I hadn’t succeeded in the challenge, so I ate meat once or twice this week.

FEELING: This week I suffered from a major burnout at work. On Week 4, I started to feel some serious pressure at work (all self-imposed of course) and it led to burning out this week. It kinda felt like adrenal fatigue. I couldn’t drink coffee without wanting to yack. I felt truly exhausted on every level. This doesn’t have to do with meat, I don’t think… I just believe it has to do with so many changes happening in life and me ignoring the small signs to take better care of myself.

To sum up, I was unable to successfully complete my meatless March challenge, though I’m incredibly proud of myself for living almost entirely vegan for 20 days. My hat is definitely OFF to people to live life this way. It’s definitely an adjustment and take quite a bit of self-compassion when you give into the cravings.

If this challenge interests you, I recommend starting with Meatless Monday or taking meat out of one meal a day before going alllll in!

Thank you for reading and happy eating!

-Gwen

Gwen’s February Challenge: Getting Prepared for Taxes…Take 2!

Happy March! I am so so so excited for spring. New beginnings, warmer weather and overall a feeling of relief that a new season is upon us. I’m officially ready to shake off the heaviness I’ve been feeling here and there and embrace the light, joyful energy of spring.

My February challenge was to get all of my documents in order, whip out the ol’ Google Spreadsheet and get my 2016 taxes ready to be filed at a meeting I scheduled with my financial planner. I made progress on this goal, but did not complete it this month.

Why? Well… I’m about to bring out the excuse parade, but I think it’s interesting to reflect on my reasoning, especially when in reality there was no reason other than feeling that fierce resistance to sitting down and number crunching. When I do the number crunching, the truth is in black and white. There’s no denying the wins and failures of the year before. And frankly, I’m a bit hard on myself and kinda always wish I did a bit better with organizing my expenses and earnings – so the whole process would be easier. I’m definitely working on self-compassion 😉

I will say, I made tremendous progress on organizing all of my receipts. They are now organized into one accordion folder (instead of two that also housed random things like post-it notes and some haphazard papers). My meeting with my financial planner got changed to mid-March about a week before the meeting, so I found that I also used that as an excuse in my mind to cut myself some slack and wait.

I will be meeting with her the second week of March, and know I will get it done (ideally having some fun along the way!) My plan is to book off a couple hours in the afternoon this week, grab an almond misto and take it slow – doing the number crunching for each month, possibly taking a dance break in between each month to celebrate!

For my March challenge, I’m going meatless! For the month of March, I’m taking meat out of my diet (including fish) and focusing on living off of a mostly vegan diet. Why? Well, it seems I’ve attracted a ton of vegans and vegetarians friends into my life lately, and when we talk about food, I always find myself agreeing with many of their reasons for not eating meat. I’m definitely always up for a food challenge (I’ve given up sugar, bread, and dairy in the past), and am interested to see how I feel whilst being off meat this month. A few years ago I did go vegetarian (as my landlord in Santa Monica, CA didn’t allow meat into his home), though at the time I wasn’t educated on what to eat. Instead of eating quinoa, lentils, tofu, nuts, and tempeh I lived off of bread and cheese (and all the donuts). So, I’m excited to take on this challenge to make progress in my health and perhaps save a few bucks by buying less meat at the grocery store!

<3 Gwen

Gwen’s July Challenge: Tithing 10%

Hi friends!

My July challenge was to tithe 10% of my overall earnings to one lucky startup or blogger.

In July I made more money in one month than ever before. I just tallied it up, and I had to double-check the math to confirm that I wasn’t crazy.

The reason for the spike is I launched my group coaching course for $500.00 per person to join on top of various full-time and part-time side hustles.

Unfortunately, I did a bad job of promoting that I will be tithing 10% of my income (mostly because of a weird fear of sharing this number) so no one applied to receive the funds.

So I have decided to break it up and share the $$$!

I will be buying an all-access pass to Side Hustle Week and DYPB in Toronto to give-away, and buying books to give away that have made a big difference for me. I’m still thinking on other ways to spend dat cash for a good cause. If you have ideas – message me at ge@gwenelliot.com!

I really believe the way to make mo’ money and mo’ progress is to earn and share. (Warren Buffet know this! 😉

I will definitely try this challenge again later this year.

For August my challenge is to save 10% of each deposit I make into my bank account and actually put it into my savings account. Bonus points if I actually make this automatic.

Thanks for reading and I hope you join me for this challenge!

-Gwen

 

 

GWEN’S JUNE CHALLENGE: MONEY MINDFULNESS

My money challenge in June was to schedule a weekly check in with all of my financial accounts. The idea was to make life easier for ‘Future Gwen’ during tax season next year. So I added expenses and freelance income to an Excel spreadsheet. This challenge was a ‘do-over’ from May, as I had failed miserably.

For June, I only ‘half-failed’ aka ‘half-succeed!’

I completed a money check-in three out of the four weeks in June. I again, had so much resistance to checking my accounts. It’s insane. But right after I check them, I always have the same feeling: that wasn’t that bad!

So ladies, I highly encourage you to jump on the weekly check-in bandwagon. Or better yet, could you jump on the daily check-in bandwagon?

My goal is to continue to do this challenge weekly throughout the year.

My July challenge is completely different. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is ‘tithing.’ Tithing means giving one-tenth of your earnings to a religious organization or non-profit. Yes, often when you think of tithing, you think of religion, but I want to do something a bit different.

I want to tithe 10% of my overall earnings in July to one lucky startup or blogger.

Yes, for real, no strings attached, I will be giving away 10% of my earnings to someone who I believe in (who’s not related to me) who I believe could benefit from some cash money in their blog or business.

If you want to be considered for this opportunity, apply here!
https://docs.google.com

Looking forward to hearing from you!

<3 Gwen

 

 

GWEN’S MAY CHALLENGE: WEEKLY MONEY DATE

My May Challenge was mindfulness. My goal was to schedule a weekly money date where I’d check in on all of my finances online and enter expenses in an excel chart to help prepare for taxes next year.

Truth: I couldn’t have failed harder. I did not do this once.

I paid my bills, but it was all on the fly and I wasn’t conscious about money at all. This May was likely the busiest month of my life. Every weekend, I had work. And almost everyday I worked for 10-12 hours.

I work full-time marketing tech events around the world, and on the side produce a show for the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada. For two weekends we filmed episodes of the show, and I went to Dublin/London for tech events, oh and I moved the final weekend.

But this is still not a great excuse for the #epicfail.

Like many of you reading, I suspect you also lead really intense busy lives. Being busy is great, but it’s not a good enough reason to stop being mindful about money.

I’m taking on the same challenge this month, but I’m putting some new measures in place so I can end the month with a win.

STEPS:

  1. I’m hiring my financial coach, Shannon to work with me to check in on the money goals. #accountability
  2. I’m going to schedule the money dates in my calendar.
  3. I’m not going to work EVERY single weekend. It’s so important in our connected world to create space to breath and reconnect. I may actually love to spend a Sunday completely disconnected. No phone, no laptop. I don’t think I’ve done that for one single day this year.

Please join me in this challenge!! And any tips on being mindful would be amazing! I will read all comments!

<3 Gwen

 

GWEN’S APRIL CHALLENGE: MAKE MO’ MONEY

My April challenge was to make mo’ money.

I have a side business as a media strategist, where I help entrepreneurs and startups learn how to get media attention or learn to create it themselves.

My goal was to be booked twice for my media consulting services.

I booked one media strategy session. I didn’t reach my goal, but am I disappointed? HELL NO.

April was an incredibly intense month for me. For my full-time job, I’m currently helping to plan a tech event in 6 different countries (yes, at once). And I’m producing a TV show on the side, so it’s been cray.

I am also planning a media event called ‘Show Me The Media’ which also generates a bit of side income. So it’s not an official booking, but it is generating mo’ money.

And in a bit of a twist, the person who hired me for the media strategy session, is also in talks to hire me part-time to help her build her side business.

My May challenge will be focused on mindfulness. My May challenge is to schedule a weekly Sunday Money Date. The idea is simply to look at what I spent the week before, updating a Google Doc with expenses and ensuring I know what bills are coming up for the week.

Please feel free to join me in the May Money Mindfulness challenge and schedule yourself a weekly money date!

<3 Gwen

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