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15 Steps Our Family Took To Improve Our Finances

It's never too late to turn your finances around.

Finance

Growing up, money management was nothing I was ever taught. I knew when my family had money and I knew when my family didn't. I was never taught the importance of saving, leaving your credit score untarnished, and living below your means. I am not saying that my upbringing is the sole reason for my past poor money practices, but I definitely will say that it didn't foster great money handling.

When I became an adult I got credit cards, got in debt, and lived above my means, not knowing how this would affect the future. If I had the money, I would spend it. When Rick and I got together, we were basically a hot mess express. We didn't have a clue about how to build a smart financial foundation, we didn't have great jobs, and were struggling to get by.

After a while, you just get tired of struggling, tired of being in debt, and not having that financial freedom. We were determined to make a change and get educated on how to be great stewards of our money.

If you are in a financial place you're uncomfortable with, remember that this is not a permanent situation. You can make the choice to turn your circumstance around.

This is how we did it:

1. Get educated on good money practices.

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You can't fix something if you do not know how. As a starting point, I suggest reading a book to give you the tools to become a success. I read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness and The Road to Wealth. If it is available to you, I would highly recommend taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom course. This was offered through our church and was a definite game changer. You do have to pay for this course, but think of it as an investment to your success! Or find someone that is amazing with their money and pick their brain! Tools are needed to be financially successful!

2. Change your mindset.

You can read books and take all the financial courses available, and it will all be for naught if you aren't changing your mindset. Just because you got it in your bank account doesn't mean that you have to spend it! That was something I had to understand. You have to change the way you think about money. We had to put ourselves in the driver seat for our finances. You must gain discipline, and you have to truly make the choice to want to break out of the struggle.

3. Evaluate your financial situation.

I know this is something you probably have been dreading for a while but it is a MUST in order to understand exactly your starting point. To evaluate your financial situation, that means checking and writing down all the bank account balances, pulling up your credit scores (which you can go to annualcreditreport.com to get it), and logging into all of your debt accounts. Sometimes your credit report is not currently updated so you want to get the most recent balances. Lastly, you want to write out all your expenses. All this will help give you the detailed picture of where you are at financially. In order to accurately evaluate our financial situation, we simply started an Excel spreadsheet with all this information with a monthly output tab and debt tab.

4. Set goals.

Once we knew the damage, we started putting together clear goals that we wanted to achieve. We made monthly and yearly goals to start out. Initially, we didn't put together a 5- and 10-year plan. We wanted to get out of the weeds first, and then put that together. Some of our monthly goals were to save a certain amount per paycheck. Eliminate this x amount on eating out. You want to set realistic goals that you can achieve. Setting lofty goals that are hard to hit will just discourage you. Be fair to yourself. Some of our annual goals were to have a certain amount of debt paid off, and have x amount in the savings. Before getting our house, that was also a goal of ours that we were so excited to achieve. Additionally, we regularly do check-ins on our goals to ensure we are on pace to hit them.

5. Initiate growth in your career (if applicable).

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When Rick and I first started out, part of our issues stemmed from the money we had coming in. Please note: Whatever you make, you MUST still be good stewards of your money. Even if you only have $100 coming in. With that, Rick and I knew where we wanted to be and how we wanted to live, and in order to do that, it required us to level up in our careers. To do that I started educating myself on positions I would like to be at. I started asking to shadow and gain additional skills. Once I got those skills, I started always consistently applying for jobs that were a level up. This will not be an overnight change, but definitely something for you to work towards. Again, you can make a lot of money and still be broke. So don't think that getting more income means it will solve your problems. However, when more came in, we would pour it into correcting our finances and saving.

6. Establish a budget.

Can you believe that we were operating at one point without a budget?! Yikes! We would just pay bills as we could and spend however we wanted. Big mistake! Everything should be accounted for, and bill payments should be planned out. It took some time to find a budget system that worked for us. We tried Quicken, using a friend's template, and creating our own. Ultimately, we ended up finding a free Excel budget template online. We then put it in Google sheets so we can both edit and see the updates immediately.

Budgeting has to be the core of how you operate with your money.

It allows you to account for everything. If you follow your budget, you will hit your financial goals without a doubt. Creating a budget is not the tough part, following it is the hardest (in my opinion).

7. Have family business meetings.

We learned about this at one of our church's couples conferences. This has been such a key factor to our success working together. Having your finances jointly is not easy. I handle money differently than Rick. What we have learned that one hand must always know what the other is doing, so communication is key. Family business meetings are designated times to talk about the family operations and finances. We put it on our schedule, and that allows us both to be mentally prepared for talking finances. We go through our budget, talk about any discrepancies, go through our family schedules, and check in on goals. These meetings have helped us work together effectively. You can do it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings, whichever you prefer.

8. Add a side hustle.

I have become a huge proponent of having multiple streams of income. It helps add some extra money to the bank account to pay bills off faster and to have for spending money. Plus it allows you not to be solely dependent on one income source. It can be doing contract work in a field that you are already in, doing Uber or Shipt, selling your clothes online, getting a night job, joining a MLM, starting your own business -- the options are endless! Having extra income definitely helped us hit our financial goals faster!

9. Eliminate procrastination.

This is real y'all. Some of our financial issues come into play simply because we were not proactive. My husband let me share this, but that is a huge thing my husband dealt with. Whether it was calling to set up a payment plan or putting off updating your resume. Years ago, my husband had an account close because he simply didn't call to make arrangements. Don't procrastinate paying your bills, making your budget, and/or talking to that bill collector. Be in control of your finances and stop procrastinating because it only makes financial issues worse.

10. Surround yourself with the right crew.

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This applies to more than finances. Who are the people in your circle? Are they motivating you to be better? Or are they advocating for you to charge up that card and not go after leveling up? I am not saying drop those friends, but you definitely want to also be in a community with people that motivate and inspire you to be better.

11.  Trim your expenses.

Once we established our budget, we then started looking at what we could cut out. Some of our expenses were things that could be eliminated or decreased. We decreased my shopping (insert sad face), lowered our cable package, went through those monthly subscriptions and took those out, decreased eating out, and so much more. You would be surprised with how much money you can have by simply cutting back on your expenses.

12.  Save money.

This sounds simple, and really it is. Y'all, I have suggested a lot of things in this blog but this is basically mandatory. You have to grow your savings. Whether it will be for your future, or simply to have a safety net if something were to happen. Life will happen and you need a savings account that you are prepared for just in case. We save without even thinking about it.

We take a portion of our paychecks and have our employer deposit directly into our savings accounts. If we get bonuses, we put a large portion of that into savings or tithed more. We also use the feature with our bank that does keep the change and puts it into our savings. All of that really starts to add up. When you read any of Dave Ramsey's books, you will learn about the emergency fund and best practices of how much to have in savings. I have seen fellow influencers use a variety of apps that also help you save as well.

13.  Pay off debt.

Once we made our plan to repair our finances, we got serious about being debt free. We do not want any type of debt. We use the snowball method where you pay debt off smallest to largest. This has helped us stay motivated and get some instant wins. We also have the mindset that if we can't buy it with cash, then it doesn't come home. We stopped getting store loans or charging it.

14.  Live frugally.

This will look different for everyone, but you want to live beneath your means. Just because you got approved for this car amount, DOES NOT mean that you should purchase it. Get yourself in the mindset that just because you can, doesn't me you should! This was especially important for me to remember as our salaries increased. I had to put myself in check and remember where we once were. Rick and I have cut back on a lot.

15. Be patient and stay encouraged.

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When we got fired up to really start getting serious about our finances, I was anxious for instant results. However, rebuilding your finances is not an instantaneous solution. Be patient, and know that it takes time. Keep doing the steps consistently and you will see success from it. This is a journey that you have to stay motivated. If you are married, help keep each other motivated. When my husband does something that helps us financially or takes care of something, I give him major kudos! You need to cheer each other on. If you are not married, find an accountability partner that can keep you encouraged.

Y'all, I am not a financial advisor. I am simply a person who at one point made poor financial choices, learned from my mistakes, and made a plan to recover and thrive. You can too. These tips to improve your finances are key elements that we took to fix our finances. Everyone's situation and journey will look different. I hope that you can implement even one of these tips and be successful!

Featured image courtesy of Taryn Newton

*Originally published on Glamorous Versatility

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Mj Rodriguez has been giving us all of our lives since she emerged on our screens as the ever-so-fabbbulous Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in Pose, in 2018. Since, she has captured the hearts of many all over the world, from LGBTQ advocates, to everyone in between. The beloved series officially came to a heart-wrenching end, after three seasons of tackling homelessness, sex work, the rejection that the trans community deals with on a daily basis and combined it with heart and dance to captivate millions around the world weekly.

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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