Placing my order for my cap and gown for graduation from undergrad, I was optimistic. I couldn't wait to experience the world that I'd heard countless stories about. I'd taken the liberty of planning out the next five years of my life.
Year one, I'd start in an entry-level position. By year three, I'd have a promotion, and by year five, I'd have a healthy salary that would permit me to become a homeowner, and I'd no longer have to rent an apartment.
Well, unfortunately, the year that I graduated, the job market crashed. Entry level jobs were scarce. People were losing their jobs left and right and the entry level positions were being filled by those with decades of experience who were fighting for jobs as well, leaving very few options to apply for something in my field of study. As a result, I began to apply for any and all entry-level positions. I even found myself applying to be a waitress and hostess for minimum wage.
All I knew was I needed a job to pay the bills.
The Truth Is, Life Just Happens.
Luckily, three months after graduating, I snagged a job. It wasn't in my field, but it was a consistent check. The pay was $12,000 less than what I was told I should be making at entry-level before leaving college. The unsettling truth was that, in a matter of months, there would be student loans to pay back and I needed a job, and I needed one fast. At 22, I wasn't privy to negotiating a salary. I was too afraid to muster up the courage to ask for more. Thinking that my counter offer would be rejected and that it would cause them to withdraw their offer, I swallowed my pride and verbally accepted the job.
For the next six years, I found myself paying bill after bill and feeling as though the loan balances and car note wasn't getting lower quick enough. Between the interest rates and "life happens" moments that tugged at my bank account, I felt as though I wasn't moving ahead progressively. I still saw thousands of dollars that needed to be paid off.
Looking at my bank account, my spending wasn't out of control. I hadn't taken a vacation in over six years, my shopping expenses were moderate, and I didn't go out much.
The truth was, I wasn't making enough money to be financially comfortable.
Don't Just Complain About It, Do Something About It.
Sitting on the couch and looking at my bank account, I knew something needed to change. Since the amount of debt wasn't going to change, I knew I needed to. Without hesitation, I started looking for part-time jobs near the area in which I lived. If I was going to get a second job, I didn't want it to cost me even more to travel there. I completed a few applications and said a prayer, "God, if this is for me, please let me get it," and with that, I submitted the applications.
Within a few days, I received an email asking if I would be willing to come in for an interview at a local business. Days after that, I found out I got the job! From there, I started working 15-25 hours a week at the part-time job. When it was time for me to leave my first job at the end of the day, I'd drive directly to my next job and punch in.
Trust me, I was tired. I was working nearly 70 hours a week but the feeling of being bound by debt plagued me more.
Working a second job came with sacrifices. My weekends consisted of me going to work with little time for leisure activities. Sometimes that meant that I worked seven days a week. My social life was scaled back tremendously. I didn't charge anything on credit cards, I only used cash or debit. And I vowed not to make any huge expenses unless it was deemed necessary (car maintenance or repairs). Sometimes that means you'll have to settle for home-brewed coffee instead of Starbucks and you may need to reluctantly pass on getting a 4 for $4 on lunch break and pack a lunch.
Don't Live Above Your Means or At Them, Learn To Live Below Them.
I learned how to live below my means. We often hear not to live above them, but truth be told, living below your means helps you to save a lot more money. However, I knew that it wasn't going to be easy and I didn't expect it to be. As I normally would, I used my 9 to 5 check to pay my bills and fund the necessities.
Once I got paid from the second gig, I used that check to pay extra on my outstanding bills, such as student loans and my car note. Sometimes, I would make double payments on my car note and student loans. Before I knew it, my bills were only three digits and some change. Then, a few months after turning 30, POOF! My car note was paid off a year early. My student loans were nonexistent! I felt free.
I wasn't looking for something or someone to bail me out. I wasn't looking to hit the lottery, have a relative tell me they'd help pay it off, nor was I wishing for bill collectors to miraculously forgive my debt.
Getting out of debt taught me a new level of discipline.
Do you need that new pair of shoes? Probably not.
Can you skip the nail salon and buy a bottle of nail polish and manicure them yourself while making it into a girls' night in with friends, wine, and snacks? More than likely.
Do you really need to pick up a gourmet coffee, fast food for lunch, or eat at an establishment four times during the week? Of course not.
I dare you to look at your billing statement to see how much you spend a month on fast food and entertainment. It may just shock you, I know it was a shock to me. The little things add up. The extra money you no longer spend on luxuries could very well help chip away at your debt.
Look at your finances and ask yourself, "Where can I start saving?" Coupons and discount codes are your friends, use them! Being financially responsible became a priority to me. And because it did, I no longer roll my eyes in agony expecting a cascade of mailing envelopes to pour out of my mailbox onto the ground. Trust me, there's no feeling like being free.
My question for you is, "Do you have the self-discipline to get to a place of financial freedom?"
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CB Nicole is a millennial whose passion to live a God-led life has inspired her to use her life lessons and messes to inspire others. Each unpredictable day makes for a new unpredictable journey that she's ready to conquer.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
[Video] How Cassandra Freeman's Personal Life Relates To Aunt Viv On 'Bel-Air'
If there is one thing that Bel-Air gets right about the reboot, it's their ability to capture the essence of our adoration for Aunt Viv. Played by Janet Hubert and Daphne Maxwell Reid in the original series, and now Cassandra Freeman in the reboot, the fact that her character translates so beautifully is one of the best features of the show.
This is largely due in part to who Aunt Viv was when brought to life by Hubert or Maxwell Reid, just as much as it has to do with who she has evolved into as Freeman. All of which have been a joy to watch.
While preparing for the role, Freeman pulled inspiration for her character from personal experiences – in Freeman’s case, it was remembering how her aunt, who is a prominent art collector, and uncle remained grounded among their elite circle of friends. She also pulled inspiration for her role from other women in the industry who shared this same set of values, including Jada Pinkett Smith, Michelle Obama, and Pauletta Washington--all high-profile women and mothers navigating society as gatekeepers to their families.
“There are a lot of women I’ve met in my career who have that feeling … they’re very much grounded in where they’re from, even though they’re surrounded by such opulence."
The actress discussed all the above in an IG Live exclusive with xoNecole, ultimately dropping gems along the way, specifically how being a working mom influences her approach to her portrayal of Aunt Viv in the series. "I think we're in a time where feminine energy is rising all over the culture right now, and it's also penetrating men's energy as well. I think there's a battle happening in the culture right now and what do we do with this feminine rising energy?"
How Cassandra Freeman's Personal Life Relates to Aunt Viv on "Bel-Air"www.youtube.com
She continued, "It's so hard to be a woman today still because statistically, it still states that women, even if they are the breadwinner, even if they are making the most money, they are still doing the cooking and cleaning and washing and nurturing. It's a heavy load and burnout is a real thing. I always tell people when I get a moment of peace, I don't know in that peace if I should take a nap but if I take a nap then I might feel guilty that maybe I should be playing with my son but maybe I should go get a pedicure or maybe I should be planning my next doctor's visit...Like how am I supposed to get everything in alignment?"
"They're just now admitting that when women have a baby, their brains change and they become like a different person so I think because we don't have any traditions to help lead women into this new life because we don't have that, it's very easy to get lost in this being my only job. It's the highest calling to be a mother, but the greatest calling is to be able to do both."
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Featured image by Unique Nicole/WireImage