Personally, I don't know any billionaires. Do you? (I know, right?) So, since our monthly—or if we're lucky, bi-weekly—paychecks seem to come and go so freakin' quickly, I'm assuming that it's a fairly safe assumption that we're all trying to figure out how to make our money stretch. And voila—here it is. While there are probably a million times 10 ways for you to save money, I put together 10 hacks that are pretty easy to implement and can definitely help your bank account from going into overdraft.
Are you ready to save some extra dollars for a rainy day—or, at the very least, not go into (further) debt?
1. Set Long-Term Goals
I'm someone who grew up going to yard sales and thrift stores. It wasn't because we couldn't afford to buy the "new-new ish", it was that my mom enjoyed finding rare items at a good price. The influence definitely rubbed off on me, so I tend to lean towards the same kind of shopping experiences. The challenge is, when you already know that you're getting a great deal, you can find yourself buying so much stuff that you don't really need, which ultimately still means that you could be destroying your budget. Something that helped me to break this habit was to set long-term goals. For instance, rather than getting 15 outfits from a thrift store or 20 tees on Etsy (Etsy has some dope black culture stuff), I would tell myself that I'd rather remodel my living room or save up for a plane ticket to see my godchildren.
Setting long-term goals is a great way to encourage yourself to be a responsible spender while also preventing you from spending money, that you don't really need to, on all sorts of —let's be real, shall we?—randomness.
2. Eat Out Less
Did you know that the average American spends a whopping $3,000 a year, just on eating out? Geeze. Matter of fact, I've got a friend whose accountant scolds him on the regular. Why? It's because he easily spends double that amount because he never (ever) cooks at home. As someone who enjoys preparing my own meals and also going to restaurants, I can vouch for the fact that when I choose to only eat out 3-4 times a month (max), my expenses drop significantly. So, if you're looking for a way to keep an extra $250 a month in your pocket (because 3,000 divided by 12 is $250), eat at home sometimes. It's cost-effective and actually much healthier for you too (since you know exactly what is going into your food and who is preparing it).
3. Create a Shopping List and Food Calendar
I'm pretty sure you've heard somewhere that you should never go grocery shopping when you are hungry and that would absolutely be correct. When you already want to eat, suddenly everything looks good in just about every aisle. That's one reason why it's always wise to go grocery shopping with an already made out list in tow. Another reason is so you'll actually remember what you need (I can't tell y'all how many times I've bought paper towels over and over…and over again). Along with a list, you know what else can come in handy? A food calendar. If you're not familiar with those, they can help you to plan out your meals for the week, so that you shop based on what the calendar says that you are going to make. This can save you money because, if you like to eat a lot of produce, you won't get more than you actually need; that way, your fresh fruits and veggies won't spoil. As a bonus, a food calendar can save you time while you're in the store (if you're someone who actually hates to grocery shop) too because you'll know exactly what you need, so you can get in and get right out. You can get tips on how to use your Google calendar to implement this lil' hack here.
4. Make Your Place More “Green”
Are you sick and tired of your utility bills being totally off the chain? When's the last time you "green-erized" your home? That's not actually a word, but I made it up because it fits in this instance. Sealing your windows can reduce the drafts that cause you to change the temperature on your thermostat a lot. Getting a low-flow showerhead can help you to use as much as 60 percent less water (whenever you shower) each month. Make sure that your light bulbs are LED ones; not only are they cheaper than incandescent bulbs but many last for as much as 50,000 hours (there are approximately 8760 hours in any given calendar year, so you do the math). Defrost your refrigerator and freezer before around 1/4 inch of ice builds up so that they'll both run more efficiently. Stop opening your oven while you're cooking; every time you do, that causes the stove to drop 25 degrees which results in the oven needing more time to heat up again.
Unplug whatever you aren't actually using; you're wasting around a dollar of electricity for each day you've got something in an outlet that doesn't actually need it (this includes your cell phone. Let it charge up before going to bed and then disconnect it from the charger). The power grid that you're on is probably running at its peak between the hours of 4-6pm. So, try and make it a practice to turn on your dishwasher before turning in at night. It will put less strain on the grid and can actually cool down your house in the process. During the summer, try and keep your thermostat at around 75 degrees (turning on your ceiling fan can drop the temp about four more degrees) and 69 degrees during the winter season; it will save energy costs between 4-6 percent (besides, setting your thermostat lower doesn't make your home cool down any faster). Make sure your thermostat is electronic too; that can easily save you between 10-30 percent on your energy bills. Replace your HVAC filter every 90 days, without fail. That will keep it from working harder than it needs to.
5. Ditch Your Cable (Watch the Streaming Services Too)
I'm an ambivert. So yeah, I've got cable in my home (if you're an ambivert or introvert, I'm pretty sure you're able to connect the dots). That doesn't mean that I don't have a conversation with myself, shoot, at least once a month, when I'm like, "Girl, you could save so much money if you let this cable go." My package is around $150 a month, and a part of what comes in that package, I don't even use, so that soft inner voice is spot-on. I'm honestly just lazy when it comes to switching over to loading all of the streaming packages vs. using a remote control. Plus, there are some Black cable stations that I dig. But the thorn in my side has absolutely nothing to do with y'all. $150 times 12 is $1,800. That's a nice chunk of change. So, if you want to put a down payment on a car or something, disconnecting your cable can definitely put you onto the path.
Oh, and watch out for the streaming services too. Yes, Netflix is (currently) between $13-15 a month, Hulu is (currently) between $6-12 a month and UMC is (currently) $50 a year—but if you've got all of these (and more), you're still spending a small mint. Choose wisely.
6. Bundle Your Insurance Polices
Insurance companies. Y'all, that's a Twitter thread all by itself. But the reality is they are a "necessary evil" and a business—and businesses like to offer deals. Another way to keep a little extra money in your pocket is to bundle your insurance policies. For instance, if you bundle your home and auto insurance packages, you can easily save as much as 16 percent on your overall insurance costs each month. Hmph. I'm thinking that you could probably save even more. It's all about hitting up your insurance company and doing a little negotiating. Most of them are open. If they're not, remember that there are always others who will gladly take your hard earned cash. You can check out some of the best home/car insurance bundles for 2020 here.
7. Always Use Coupons and Promo Codes
Something that I have downloaded on my browser is Honey. Basically, it's an app that, whenever you shop online, it tries to find any savings that might be relevant to it. Matter of fact, it works so well that PayPal purchased it for four billion dollars last fall. If, for some reason, the thought of an app "reading" all of your sites freaks you out (you might wanna get off of Al Gore's internet, for one), then use a site like RetailMeNot to check out the promo codes on there. Over time, I've saved a mint, using both. Oh, and don't forget about downloading coupons from your phone when you're at the grocery and drug store too. You ain't never too young to clip (and scan) coupons. If you'd like a few coupon hacks and tips, the Krazy Coupon Lady totally has your back. Go here to start perusing.
8. Avoid Using Autofill on Your PC
On the heels of what I just stated, let me just put it right on out there and say that I absolutely do not do what I am about to recommend. I think it's because I'm not an online shopaholic. But if you happen to be one, something else that can save you some money over time is to remove the autofill feature on your PC. If you use Gmail, click on the Google apps option on the far right, then click on "account" and "payment & subscriptions" and delete any of the credit or debit cards that you've got there. That way, if something that catches your eye, you won't make an impulsive move whenever the autofill info comes up on the payment screen. You'll actually have to get up and find your cards first, which could prevent you from buying the item in the first place.
9. Implement a 48-Hour Rule
Speaking of removing autofill, how about taking things up a notch and disciplining yourself to not purchase anything online that interests you until you've waited a full 48 hours later? I'm willing to bet that a good 6 times out of 10, you'll come to realize that you don't need or even want it as much as you initially thought that you did. Or, you'll come to the conclusion that you should wait until it makes more financial sense to buy it or until it comes on sale.
10. Put Your “Fun Money” in an Envelope
The definition of the word "tithe" is one-tenth of something. Just like many Christians tithe to their church, I'm a firm believer that you should also tithe to yourself; literally set aside one-tenth of your income that can go strictly to whatever you want to spend it on. But just to make sure that you don't tip over into your money that's set aside for other things, consider pulling that tenth out of your account and putting the cash into an envelope. There is something about seeing cash and breaking bills that can psychologically make us want to be more cautious with our spending. Plus, once that's gone, it's gone until the next payday, which can also keep you from overspending. Be good to your coins, y'all. They are so much better to you when you are.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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