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Archive of ‘Healthy Money Habits’ 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 to track all of my spending and make a budget. Though after discovering Dave Ramsey, I decided to start using his free 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!


Minimalism. I’m embracing it… you in?

“Get your stuff down to what you can carry on your back.”

This is the message my dad used to tell me and my sisters growing up. What he meant was get rid of everything in your life that is non-essential and only own a handful of important things. Apparently my dad is a bit nomadic, (and perhaps a tad on the radical side) though I realize that this is helpful training for a minimalist life; a tool for freedom and happiness.

Despite Instagram showing you that everyone is buying everything, minimalism is gaining in popularity for many Millennials. Joshua Fields Millburn one of the co-founders of the highly popular site (which receives 4 million hits per month), recently shared some knowledge bombs in an interview with lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes:

I found this interview to be incredibly inspiring to the point that I took action right after watching it. A few of the key ‘aha’ moments I discovered was how Joshua had an amazing job and made great money, though he kept buying expensive things to try to fill some kind of void in his life. Despite looking like he ‘had it all’ he was secretly struggling. He soon found himself $500,000 in debt and had to figure out how to get out of it. This is when he started to learn about minimalism and started his site with his good friend. On the site they share that  “minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.” It’s about embracing a desire to own less and doesn’t have to be incredibly drastic.

Here are a few ways they share on their website how minimalism helped them create more freedom:

  • Reclaim our time
  • Live in the moment
  • Pursue our passions
  • Discover our missions
  • Experience real freedom
  • Create more, consume less
  • Focus on our health
  • Grow as individuals
  • Contribute beyond ourselves
  • Rid ourselves of excess stuff
  • Discover purpose in our lives

Overall, I felt sold on the big idea of lasting happiness. So often it feels like happiness is something you can buy, when in reality, I know that it is something that you must feel.

The one big change he made that shocked me was cancelling his home Internet access. My first reaction to this was I thought he was absolutely nuts. How could an online entrepreneur cancel his Internet? What the heck do people do without the Internet to keep them busy? Then he mentioned he used the Internet at his home office, though had to be creative to have fun at home. He picked up old books, had more dinner parties, actually went outside, exercised more, and overall got better sleep. As someone who has fallen into a routine of staying up too late trying to read everything created on the internet, I was intrigued by this idea.

As I live in downtown Toronto, I figured it was worth a shot to cancel the Internet for a month to try it and see if I can do it while avoiding going insane from boredom ;). I am also taking this challenge on for my December 2016 monthly challenge.

If you want to get started on owning less, I also highly recommend reading tidying guru Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book and watch a few videos where she teaches you her game-changing tidy methods:

I find it fun to try something new and switch things up in life. Are you interested in trying out the minimalist lifestyle? Or perhaps uncluttering a part of your life? It definitely starts to get addicting in a good way! If you are, tweet us or email us to share your story!


Starting To Slack

Being smart with your money is all about developing healthy money habits. Such as creating a rainy day fund, putting part of your paycheque into said fund. Things like outlining budgets, managing your (student) debt; all that good (yet boring) stuff takes time to turn into a healthy habit.


I’m currently trying to save money for our famjam’s trip to Kenya to see super sib #2, Monique. This means I should be spending less and my rainy day fund should be growing. Unfortunately, this is not the case.


I’ve been mad stressed at work lately due to a very big film festival that has taken up all of my time. When I’m stressed I sometimes forget to focus on an important aspect of my life, namely healthy eating habits.


That means a pizza here, some fries over there, oh and all of the chocolate you could possibly imagine. What makes this whole situation worse is that the food I’m eating is being delivered to me.


This is costing me so much unnecessary money that could be going towards a doctor’s visit or buying essentials (SO. MUCH. SUNSCREEN) for the trip.


I started out with treating myself at the end of the week, but soon it turned into an almost everyday thing. Plus, I would meet up with peeps on the weekend and we would go out to eat as well. While I was gorging myself on chocolate chip pancakes for the third time in a week, my wallet had begun to look pretty thin.


To combat this unhealthy money habit I’m going to take a page from my own book and use what I learned during my January Challenge. I found that when I wrote down what I ate during the day I was less inclined to buy something quick and easy and made the habit of making my food.


I’m sad that I stopped because it was a good habit to keep, especially if you are like me and sometimes forget to eat and then think it’s okay to treat yourself to stuffed crust pizza the next day.


Hopefully this will form new healthy habits for me and help me stick to my Kenya budget!