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Archive of ‘The Sisterpack’ category

Monique’s July Challenge: Master of My Domain

VICTORY!

My July challenge was to decide on a new name for my freelance business and register the domain name.

And I did it!

It’s such a small thing but in reality, this took forever to accomplish. For the past seven years, my freelance biz went by Monique Elliot Media. For a while, I liked it: it’s a super simple name and super clear.

At least that’s what I thought.

It’s a pretty meh name for a freelance journalist and content creator’s small business. It reminded clients of my actual name, told them that I was a one-woman shop, and… then told them virtually nothing about the services I offer. “Media” is simply too broad. And kinda boring.

I had to admit it: I was one of the 71 per cent of Canadians who knew “not much” about domain names, according to a recent research by the Canadian Internet Regulation Authority (CIRA).

Well, no mo’ of that! The work I do is anything but boring! I’ve worked for startups, scale-ups, corporations, and government departments across five industries and counting.

Fresh Ideas, Fresh Content, Fresh Start

My challenge, which I chose to accept and then push to the back burner about 12 times, was to choose a name that defines my business, will grow alongside my services and skills, and suit my personality.

The most hilarious thing was that I came up with the perfect name nine months ago – I just didn’t know it. I was building a website as a short-lived online resume for a potential employer and used the hashtag #ContentChameleon to describe my services – I can write in a variety of “voices” to suit my clients’ needs.

I was going through old projects recently (okay, okay, I was doing a digital clean up and reorganizing old files. Who actually reminisces about past projects?) and found a screenshot of the site.

The Lightbulb Moment

It’s a total cliché (and, in my opinion, totally permissible alliteration) but the lightbulb went on: ChameleonContent.ca

Now, depending on when you read this, the website may or may not be fully up and running, which is why my placeholder site is a lifesaver in the meantime.

I spent literal days trying to decide on a name – something unique, that hadn’t already been registered, and didn’t cost crazy cash to buy. The most epic solution had also been chilling in plain sight: I went to CIRA.ca to purchase my domain name with a .ca ending.

I recently edited a series of articles for CIRA through my work with non-profit Startup Canada. The series profiled Canadian small business owners (SBOs) about how a .ca suffix improved their businesses online.

While I can’t believe it took me so long to finally complete this challenge, it doesn’t have to be the same for you. Check out CIRA’s free e-book about how to choose a domain name and some basic information about how to get started.

Mo’ Progress, Mo’ Hydration!

Now, my August challenge? Mo’ hydration!

I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet but Canadian summers are HOT.

I’ve been steadily increasing my water intake all summer (a telltale sign that someone doesn’t have A/C) and August promises to be extra hot and humid in Ottawa, despite all the rain we’ve been getting. So my goal is to drink three litres (just shy of a gallon) of water every day.

Why choose drinking water for this month’s challenge? August is World Water Month! Plus, I want to see if there is an actual difference in how I feel now compared to the end of the month. I feel like I’m on the verge of big changes, and it’s important to maintain basic health and wellness while going for epic changes professionally, mentally, and (obviously) physically.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

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

Gabby’s July Challenge: Keep a Food Diary

Hey duders!

How many of you have ever kept a food diary? Well, I never have, and I thought July would be as good a time to start as any! I learned some pretty neat things about what I eat – and myself – this month. Check it outttt:

  • The notebook is everything. If you’re not looking forward to writing down everything that you’re eating, you’re probably not going to. That’s why I spent $12 on this super cute notebook from The Paper Place on Queen St. It never failed to brighten up my day. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. Don’t tell me you don’t want to write your heart out in this thing.

The most beautiful notebook of all time.

  • Being more aware of what I was eating caused me to actually observe it, rather than just scarf it down. And, I hate to admit, but it turns out the more you pay attention to what you eat, the more you’ll find things wrong with it… I’ve noticed more hair in my food than ever before this month. BARF. Well, at least I know where not to eat anymore, LOL.
  • Being able to visually see what I was eating on paper for a whole month made me realize I usually get whatever is closest to my work during lunch, or whatever is fastest to eat. I’m disgusted to admit, but I ate 106 sushi rolls this month. Like, I probably have a mild case of mercury poisoning LOL. More towards the end of the month, I was spending about $5 more for this delicious salad from Flock, filled with all sorts of healthy goodies. It’s a little further than my usual go-to food spots, but always worth the walk. I can’t even explain it. This salad made me look forward to lunch and I actually took my time eating it – probably because I spent a little extra on it. For anyone interested, I got the BOHO salad with roasted chicken. #GAMECHANGER #HIGHLYRECOMMEND
  • Shockingly, by keeping a food diary, I realized I’m actually not eating enough. And none of it is homemade! It’s pretty much coffee, lunch, dinner, and that’s it. Maybe a few snacks or a beer here and there. But most of all, it was eye-opening to see that I’m not getting nearly enough fruits and veggies into my diet. So that’s something I hope to change. Lately, I’ve been going through a sort of food-making rut at home. Cooking is something I love to do, and I haven’t done it regularly in probably three months, which makes me think: how much money am I spending on eating out?! So I’ve already started to get back in the kitchen and make my favourite salads at home 🙂

For any of you who have followed Mo’ Money for the past three years, you may have noticed that it is my dream (lol) to become a morning person. I’ve tried many times, and failed many times. And I realized that it’s probably because I’m setting these ridiculous goals for myself. Well, change doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m going to take baby steps. My August challenge is to wake up at 5 a.m. at least once per week. Bonus if it happens more often than that, or even just waking up earlier than normal.

Wish me luck!

-Gabby

Karyn’s April Challenge: The Taxes Terminator/Procrastinator

We all have a hate/hate relationship when it comes to tax season. No one enjoys it, and if they say that they do, they be cray! Last year I decided to get some extra help on my taxes since it was so in-depth and I was out of my league. Little did I know that I would be seriously screwed over by H&R Block.

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This year was going to be different. I planned on having a Tax Party with my super sibs and the BF and get my taxes done while having fun at the same time.

2

This DEFINITELY didn’t happen.

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I got super swamped at work and had no time for anything, let alone planning a Tax Party. When I did have a spare second to myself I just ignored the fact that my taxes were due. I was procrastinating like a gawd dang pro.

4

I kept talking about how I still hadn’t done my taxes with my manager and he suggested I use a program called StudioTax. I said I would give it a shot, but ended up forgetting all about it… until two days before taxes were due (yikes).

5

This was go-time. I had to get this done now or I could be in serious trouble, especially if my taxes turned out to be anything like last year’s fiasco.

6

Fearful of having to read so much money jargon, I downloaded the free program and go to work… and 30 minutes later I was done. 30 FREAKIN’ MINUTES!!! I was shocked. I thought I was going to be at it until the wee hours of the morning.

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Instead I ended up using a seriously user-friendly program that allowed me to instantly connect to my CRA account and instantly upload my T4s. It automatically filled in everything. IT. WAS. UH-MAZE-ING!!! The only thing I actually had to look up was what line I had to input my student loan interest. Other than that I was golden!

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Now once I was finished I had to figure out how to send it to the CRA. I originally thought I would have to download and print the forms and then mail them out. Not the case with StudioTax! I was able to easily send my finished forms electronically via NetFile, which was included in the downloaded program.

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My taxes this year were a freakin breeze!!!!

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If you still haven’t completed your taxes or are looking for an easier program for next year, I HIGHLY recommend using StudioTax. My GAWD I suggest it!

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#effyoutaxes

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<3 Karyn

 

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

 

#TheSisterpack Goes To Kenya!

You may have been wondering why #TheSisterpack went MIA for the last two weeks. Trust me, we have a good excuse.

We journeyed as a family to Kenya to celebrate Monique’s recent nuptials and to meet her husband’s famjam. And what better way to get to know your new in-laws than to jump on safari and creep on some wildlife?!

We had a blast and a half getting to know everyone, going on adventures and having some serious family bonding moments. Nothing brings people closer together than road trips!

jet lagged
Travelling for 20 hours can really wear you down.

karyn pics
Karyn can’t (and won’t) stop taking pics of all the things!

beautiful views
We’re not in the 6ix anymore!

making friends with lions
Uhmmmm is that a lion?!

LIONSSSSS
LIONNNNNSSSSS!!!!!

everything the light touches...
Everything the light touches…

the happy couple
The happy couple!

relaxing on the beach
It’s mandatory to have coconuts on the beach after a 12 hour car ride!

getting her glam on
Monique getting her glam on with Gab’s help!

new addition - honourary sisterpack
Our newest addition to #TheSisterpack!

Now that we are past the jet lag stage, we are right back into the swing of things. Stay tuned for our June Challenges, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay in touch!

-Karyn

Will It Ever Get Easier?

I’m almost 27 years old, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to know about finances.

When I hear people talk about stocks and bonds, I’m utterly confused. Saving for retirement? Haven’t even started. I’m still paying back my student loan, building a business on the side and living in a major city that ain’t cheap.

Every once in a while I feel completely defeated. This “compare and despair” mode especially comes up when I see Facebook statuses sharing, “I’m debt free!” I should be happy for them, but secretly I feel much further behind.

Why do I share this?

To recommit to being honest and open about money. Currently, I am not living life the way I want to.

This blog has been our outlet to share our adventures in making mo’ money and mo’ progress, and also a place to be brutally honest.

Even though I’ve made more money this year (with multiple streams of income) than probably in the last 2-3 years combined, I have come to the realization that I do not respect the money that comes in and have a solid plan to save and watch it grow. It seems like when I earn money, I immediately reinvest it somewhere new.

And it’s time to breathe, and respect the money that’s coming in.

Really today, I wanted to share that even though 10 years ago, I thought my almost 27-year-old self would have all the answers, I realize I am still figuring out the right questions.

Thank you so much for reading my thoughts. If you have any advice or tips to respect money, I am all ears!

-Gwen

 

Mo’ Passion, Mo’ Progress (Our Cosmopolitan Video Interview!)

We started Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress in January of 2015 as a way to publicly tackle our personal challenges with money, as well as learn how to earn more.

Over the past 11 months we’ve taken on personal financial challenges, shared tips we’ve tested that have worked, and have also shared some of the challenges we took on that didn’t work.

The spark of inspiration for this site was ignited at the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Life event in November 2014.

So it was an incredibly surreal and humbling experience to have been asked by Cosmopolitan and Maybelline to share our passion in a recent video project.

Take a look here:

This video definitely showcases the glamorous side of following your heart. What you don’t see is ‘the hustle.’ We all have multiple jobs and busy schedules, and have quite honestly had some of the biggest fights over differing views of the direction of the site and really, arguing over ‘sister stuff.’

But at the end of the day, our curiosity to create this site has become a passion that has changed our lives.

If you are curious about starting a project of your own (whether it’s a blog, podcast, event, book etc.) lean into that curiosity and GO FOR IT!

Now is the time to give yourself the gift of saying yes. And you never know who will be there to support you along the way.

Thank you so much to the Cosmopolitan and Maybelline team for the incredible opportunity!

  • Gwen

Cosmo’s #FunFearlessLife Event: The Start of Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress

You’re about to get way more than eye-candy and glamour at the Cosmo #FunFearlessLife event.

Sure, the Editor in Chief, Joanna Coles, may welcome us to the stage being carried by a gaggle of hunks, and there will be a ton of celebrities and stars talking about their latest and greatest projects, but at the core of the event is true wisdom and inspiration.

The idea to create Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress started at this event.

There was a money panel, and quite honestly I was dreading it.

“Ughhhh, why put this buzzkill panel into the event?” I literally thought this to myself. Little did I know this panel would ignite a new passion in me.

A key moment was when Alexa Von Tobel, the founder of LearnVest, asked the audience of mostly women, ‘Did you learn about money in school?”

Maybe 10% of 2,000 people raised their hands.

I got full body chills and a realization: I’m not alone and omg we have a huge problem on our hands.

Here’s the link to our video for our launch party where I explain the catalyst and you see our first event!

With easy access to credit cards, and living in a world where it’s easier than ever to buy… it’s more important than EVER to have the tools to be able to handle our money (and learn how to make more of it!)

It’s even harder for our generation as many of us come out of school thousands of dollars in debt.

Forbes recently shared that student loan debt is over $1.2 trillion dollars right now. The average student loan debt is $26,000, and one in 10 graduates will owe more than $40,000. In the US it’s not uncommon for students in certain fields to have their own personal debt totalling more than $100,000. Dear God.

In full disclosure, The Sisterpack (aka us four sisters) owed collectively $112,928.64 in student loan debts. I have been paying mine off for more than five years and cut it in half, but collectively we’ve barely made a dent and still owe nearly $90,000.

So I wanted to share this to highly encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and join me in New York on November 14th to participate in this game-changing event.

Here’s a link to who’s going to be speaking: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a45874/fun-fearless-life-event-2015/

Tickets are $199.00, and I can assure you they’re worth every penny. Gals, you gotta invest in yourself! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cosmopolitan-fun-fearless-life-tickets-17772443858

Hope to see you there!

<3 Gwen

 

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