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Are you excited about your tax return? Here is why a tax return is really hurting your pocket…

It is tax season and that can be an exciting time for some people. However, it shouldn’t be. I know, getting money back from the government seems like a sweet deal, but what it means is that you overpaid throughout the year. What??? Yes my friend, you overpaid. I know what you’re going to say, “I am aware that I overpaid, but I did it on purpose so I can get the return at the end of the year.” That sounds like a great idea, but it really isn’t. Before you say anything I’ll get to it and explain this to you.

First you need to understand what the return is. The tax return is money you have let the government borrow from you at no interest for a year. To understand what this means, I urge you to walk into a bank and ask them to let you borrow money for a year at no interest rate. Can you guess what they’re going to say? Exactly.

There are three things you can do with the money instead of letting the government borrow it at zero percent interest. One is you can use it to pay off your debt. This way, you reduce the interest you are paying. Two is you can add it to your budget in order to be able to cover your expenses and not get into debt. Three, if you have no debt, you can invest it and earn interest on it or use it to go on vacation. My point is do whatever your heart desires, but don’t give it to the government for free!

You may be thinking, this all sounds great, but how do I do this without having to pay at the end of the year? For that my friend, you need a good Certified Public Accountant (CPA). My post from last week shows you how to hire a CPA. You can read that here: How to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) What questions to ask: CPAs are really knowledgeable and can help you plan your year ahead so you pay the least amount of taxes possible. This is really important because if you don’t, you can make a mistake and will have to pay taxes at the end of the year.

How to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) What questions to ask:

It is tax season and an accountant is one of the most valuable people you can have in your life. If you are like me, any time you need to hire someone you go on Google and let them do the work for you. An Accountant is a lot more serious than that. This person can save you thousands of dollars on taxes and other expenses through the years. Not only that, but they can give you advice and help you plan your future in such a way that you always end up winning.

For years, we did our taxes with people who were not qualified to do the job in order to “save money”, but it ended up costing us money instead. One day, I was reading a book about finance and read about the importance of having a good accountant working with you. This book and our experience completely opened our eyes on the subject. Today I want to tell you what we learned about how to hire a good accountant.

Here are some tips to find a good Certified Public Accountant:

1- Find the CPAs in your area with the best reviews.

2- Prepare a list of questions to ask your Accountant the day you meet.

Here are the questions you should ask the Certified Public Accountant before hiring him:

1- Will you be able to help me maximize my tax savings?

2- Will you be able to give me advice on how to plan my future in order to pay the least amount of taxes possible?

3- Will you be available throughout the year if I have questions for you? Will that be at an additional cost?

4- Will you be able to give me advice on investments in order to minimize tax costs, more specifically real estate investments?

5- Are you willing to team up with my financial advisor and attorney in order to better assess my situation when necessary?

These are some important questions to ask your accountant. I know sometimes CPAs can seem costly, but the truth is I’d much rather have someone who knows what they’re doing, than someone who doesn’t. In the long run, it will cost you a lot more to have someone working for you who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

10 Signs You Are Not Good With Money:

If you are not sure whether you are good or bad with money. Here are ten signs that you need to change your spending habits and be on your way to money success:

1- You have a negative relationship with money

You feel bitter when talking about money. You always feel like there is a lack of it in your life and there was never enough of it. You feel hopeless.

2- You are always blaming the entire world for not having money.

You blame your parents, your spouse, the government, your boss, your kids school, your life’s circumstances and so on… It is never your fault and you feel completely out of control when it comes to money.

3- You await for your tax return with excitement

Oh! This is a big one! How many people do you know that await for their tax return money or have you ever done it yourself? What you are doing my friends is letting the government borrow your money at ZERO interest!!!! Yup, that is what you are doing. Try going to the bank and asking to borrow money at zero interest. Spoiler alert, it won’t happen. If you are getting money during tax season, you need to do two things, fire your accountant and get a new one. You should be getting zero tax return because that is money you should be getting on your paycheck. You can use this money to pay down your debt, which will reduce the money you are paying on interest in a year or, if you don’t have any debt, you can invest it and earn interest instead of lending it to the government.

4-You live paycheck to paycheck

What more to say on this? If this is happening, you need to shift your mindset and rethink your budgeting skills. Good think I made posts about that already here, Shifting your mindset when it comes to debt- What you think vs. What you should think 🤔and here, Debt Payoff- How to Budget. You’re welcome!

5- You use credit cards for everything and then use your paychecks to pay the minimum payment each month

Yikes! Even saying that hurts. Ouch. What to do about that? Create a tight budget and start paying off your debt. If you need to, increase your income by getting a part time job until you get back on your feet.

6- You are over 18 years old and still ask your parents/other family members/friends for money

This one just comes down to maturity. You need to be mature enough to realize what a burden you are putting on the people you love most and how selfish that is. Once you realize that, also realize that you are falling behind by doing this because you are owing money constantly and it will take you forever to get out of that cycle. As tempting as it is, don’t do it.

7- You use credit cards to go on vacations

What is the point of enjoying a nice vacation for a week or two if you have to spend months or years of your life paying for it? It makes no sense does it? You need to stay put until you can go somewhere when you can really afford it. Not having the pressure to make all these credit card payment makes your entire life a vacation. Imagine the freedom you will experience!

8- You took out a loan to buy a new car

Worst. Idea. Ever. Just don’t do it. Your car will never be worth what you bought it for again. A year from now you’ll be paying for a car that is nowhere near worth what you are paying for it. It just hurts. Don’t go there, at least until you made investments and your passive income is covering your payments.

9- Your favorite activity is shopping and your favorite therapy is retail therapy

If this is you, then you have a serious problem. The good news is you can fix it! Try changing money spending activities like going to the mall, for free ones like going to the beach or the park. Having a game night with friends. I am boring and don’t have many more ideas, but you get the point!

10-Your rent/mortgage is more than 1/3 of your income

Oh this one is what has America broke! It does sound nice to live in a great town with easy access to transportation, a walkable downtown area, great schools, a nice library. However, you know what doesn’t sound nice? Being house poor. Being stressed about making those mortgage/rent payments every month on top of the credit cards, on top of the cars, on top of the vacations. All of this is creating unnecessary stress in your life. Just remember that you are not forced to living like this. You can make a choice to get out of the situation you are in. Yes, some people may judge you and some of your “friends” might criticize you, but these people are most likely in worse situations than you and are not your friends to begin with.

I hope you find this helpful in realizing how these things can affect your growth and success with money. Comment below and let me know, which one are you most guilty of?

Why You Should Not Aspire To Grow Your Income

You must be thinking, okay, this lady has either gone kookoo or she is a total hypocrite. After all, Alex and I did go to school for all those years and multiplied our income by nine times. I went to school for finance for God’s sake! We all know why people go to school for finance (although we can argue that it might also be to lose flexibility in your life and work your a** off)

Hear me out though, this is no secret. Although it sounds sweet, you should not aspire to grow your income. Everybody thinks about growing their income, but most people never think about spending less or even better, doing both! Instead of exchanging your freedom, freedom from the stress and pressure that working towards more money can create, you should aspire to live below your means. Yes, I know. You’ve heard this before. But have you really sat there and thought about this? Living below your means. It sounds so simple, but the majority of people have no idea how to do this or think that for them it’s impossible.

I’m here to tell you it is not impossible. I have done it for the past 2 years while paying off my debt and still continue to do it today. Even after paying my debt off, I am planning to continue to live below my means. I don’t charge anything on credit cards anymore. If I don’t have the money for it, I don’t buy it. It really is that simple.

It is imperative for you to learn to live below your means before you decide to grow your income. The reason why is because most people think more money=more happiness and more freedom, and that is true only if you know how to manage your money. Otherwise, you will be right back where you started before you had money to spend.

You can always spend more, but you can’t always earn more. At least it isn’t as easy to earn more money as it is to spend it. Think about it this way, even the people who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars are drowning in debt. Why do you think that is? It’s because they were always focused on earning more, but they were never disciplined enough to spend less.

Please don’t think I am just privileged and talking out of my butt. I’ve experienced poverty. When Alex and I first got married, we were making $20,000 a year combined! We were POOR, but even then, we did not have a credit card. We budgeted our food like crazy. I used to make one week worth of food out of two peppers, an onion, a garlic, a few proteins (chicken and ground beef) and packaged pasta or rice. Our “going out” was Alex and I sharing a Chick Fil A meal on Wednesdays and Valentina getting a free kids meal with our purchase.

We were lucky enough to live in a basement for free the first year. After that, we made $10k more a year, which we used to rent our first apartment. My first car cost us $450. It was a surprise gift from Alex and it got us places! (Funny story: after the car died 3 years later, we sold it to a junk yard for $500. Yup, we made $50 out of our beater!!! No car loan needed 😂).

I am glad we lived like that. It taught us so much. Although we did not stick to the “no credit card needed” rule forever, hence our debt free story here- Lifestyle, we learned a huge lesson about living below our means and we were able to use that in our future to pay off our debt.

So hear me when I say, don’t aspire so much to grow your income, instead aspire to spend less. That is what will truly set you free.

Homeschooling- The Importance of a Mission Statement

When we first started homeschooling, the main ideas we had in mind were that we wanted Valentina to be naturally curious, have a passion for learning, be independent, and most of all be free. These ideas guided our days and what we would teach to her. We felt that as long as we had those values present when planning a lesson, we would be okay.

This was the foundation of our homeschool mission. I believe every parent and especially those who homeschool, should have a clear mission statement and clear values. This will make life so much simpler and it will help you stay in focus when your mind is shifting, when you feel like you are not doing enough, or when society tries to make you feel inadequate. We always come back to our mission statement and our values and realize we are doing just fine.

Putting your mission statement together can feel overwhelming, but it all comes back to a few simple questions:

1: What are yours and your family’s values?

2: What do you expect to get out of homeschooling?

3: What goals align with your mission?

Another question we asked ourselves was, what are the things we feel we must absolutely include in the curriculum or we want our daughters to learn?

One of the reasons I loved homeschooling from the beginning was that the possibilities were endless. Every possibility that I believed was there for my children, truly was there. My children could learn anything I want them to at any age. This does not mean I would force them to learn what I wanted them to learn, instead, it means that if I thought having an interest in biology was important, then I could start introducing them to it and if they showed interest, I could go in depth on the subject without limitations. This is a HUGE deal.

In our case, all of our teachings are based on instilling a passion for learning in our daughters. We want them to be curious and feel happy about learning. We want them to feel free to have their own interests and to have the tools to comprehend these subjects. These tools are in the form of reading comprehension, being quick on their feet when doing math calculations, being able to maintain focus and attention, being obedient, etc. This way, if they are reading a science book for instance, they have no problem understanding the concepts.

Everything we teach has a clear purpose that is aligned with our family values. Nothing is done just to be aligned with other people’s expectations of what education should be. Or based on grade level. Although we do count the years by grades, we go at our own pace, for example in Fifth grade, Valentina was on math book #4 and she had been taking chemistry for the 3rd year (something she’d be learning in high school if she was in school) but that is the point, to go at whatever pace you wish and to never limit your child.

Homeschooling is amazing. You get to teach your children based on your values and not someone else’s. Now that Valentina is eleven years old, her interests are more clear than ever before. I can see the results of years of homeschooling. It is amazing to see her confidence, her love for learning, her passion for defending what is right, and her interest for certain subjects. There is not one subject she hates. She has her preferences, but overall, she is able to study anything. I think instilling curiosity has worked in her favor and I believe it will do the same for Julie.

What is yours and your family’s mission?

Debt Payoff- How to Budget

You would think the first step you need to make to pay off your debt should be budgeting. That is a logical assumption, but the real first step is not budgeting. It is shifting your mindset. For that, go to my post here Shifting your mindset when it comes to debt- What you think vs. What you should think 🤔

The second step is to create a budget. There are a few things you need to do to create your budget. First, be true to yourself. Don’t make a budget you will hate to follow or that will make you upset. That’s not going to work. Instead, be realistic and choose amounts that will be okay for you and your family.

Second, list your monthly household income at the top regardless of being paid weekly, by weekly or monthly. It is important to list the monthly amount so you can see the big picture and the real impact saving on expenses can make. Make sure to continue by listing all the expense items in your budget, list the things you cannot live without first. In my case, that is my mortgage, utilities, car insurance, gasoline, cell phone, and groceries. Then, list out absolutely everything else, including the extra trip to the grocery store, the morning coffee on your way to work, etc. It is imperative for you to list everything so you can tweak things later on.

After you list everything, go through each expense and see how much you can save on the expense items. Big savings for us were, appealing our property taxes, which saved us $4000 a year, changing our home and car insurance policy, this takes time as you need to get quotes from as many insurance companies as possible, but it’s worth it.

Simple things we do to save money are making sure to turn off the lights any time we leave a room. Many times, we use candlelight instead since we love it anyway. We got rid of cable and wifi in the house. My parents live on the second floor apartment of our two-family home. After a while, they started to share theirs with us. That was nice of them, but even if they did not, we would still not have it as we lived without it for two years and were fine with that. We only do all the laundry once a week to save on our water bill. Believe it or not, this saved us a ton on utilities. Sometimes it saves us $100- $150 a month, which makes a huge difference when you are budgeting. Another area we save on is groceries. We do this by meal planning and sticking to what is on our list. The girls snack on fruit, sea weed, raisins, and applesauce. This tends to be cheaper than buying individually packed snacks, which tend to be unhealthy anyways.

For the less important things, we tweak to make it work for us. Going out less or choosing to be out in nature instead of malls for example. Having a strict budget for Target helps us stay focused and not go crazy spending ridiculous amounts of money on things we didn’t need. We buy clothes for the girls only at the beginning of each season, meaning four times a year. This prevents us from impulse buying every time we walk into a mall. I have a rule that I will not buy any cosmetics, unless it is to replace an empty bottle. Makeup can get so expensive. In the past, I would go into Sephora and spend $250 in one shot. I know, crazy!

After you make your budget and save on whatever you can. You have to make sure that everything you save goes to your initial emergency fund. For this, we used Dave Ramsey’s advice and saved $1000 in case the car broke or something like that. After that money is saved, you can start putting everything towards your debt. More on that later…

Comment below and let us know, what are some areas you have saved on by budgeting?

Dealing with Emotions in the Face of Autoimmune Diseases

Negative feelings are so common when dealing with an autoimmune disease. You can easily become depressed and lose hope. Just knowing that you have an incurable disease can put you down, but being constantly reminded of it when feeling pain, weakness, or fatigue makes it a thousand times worse.

It always comes down to your mindset. However, the mind can be very stubborn sometimes and it is not as easy to be optimistic as some may think.

Here are some things that have helped me and I hope you can find helpful as well.

1- Put yourself first

This one seems so obvious, yet most people don’t do it. I was so used to always putting everyone else first, but unfortunately, when you are feeling as bad as I have felt for the past year you learn to be selfish. As bad as that sounds, it is the only way to feel better. Put yourself and your health as your number one priority. I realized I cannot give my 100% if I am not feeling well and I will not feel well unless I focus on myself fully.

2- Have compassion for yourself

It’s incredible the amount of times we want to neglect ourselves and live in denial. I got to a point I was pushing my pain away so much I was constantly uncomfortable, irritable, upset, but I could not pinpoint where it hurt. As weird as it sounds, think about where you feel uncomfortable? What hurts? What is making you upset? Angry? Sad? Acknowledge it. Ask yourself, what do I need at this moment? what will make me feel better? Tell yourself it will be okay. No matter how sick your body is, how angry it makes you at times, love it. Love your body and accept it for what it is.

3- Allow yourself to take a break

This is so important and one of the most difficult things for a lot of people, including me, to do. Take those vacation days if you need to. Ask your doctor for a note. Take that nap. Sit on the couch and let the world crumble around you. Do it. Your health comes first. You will not be able to help others if you don’t have the energy to do so.

4- Don’t focus on what you can’t heal, instead put your focus on what you can heal

This one has to do with fear. The fear of becoming disabled, of having to stay in the hospital one more time, of being useless, of having to quit everything you ever loved, of dying. Having an incurable disease can make you feel hopeless. However, if you focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t, your life gets a whole different meaning. What can you heal? Can you heal your allergies? Your gut health? Your past wounds? Focus on those things. Put all your focus on loving and healing yourself.

5- Pamper yourself

Again, love yourself. Yes, our bodies are not perfect, but we need to accept them for what they are. Make it a habit to pamper yourself, at least once a week. Our bodies are sick and they need extra attention. One of the things I love to do is soaking my feet in hot water with epsom salt when I get back from work. I also like to do masks on Sundays, dry brush, take long hot showers in the morning and night to decrease the pain, and relax.

6-Go out in nature any time you get a chance

Going out in nature will clear your mind. It will humble you. I work full time and don’t have time to do this every day, but I make it a point to do it at least once a week. Nothing relaxes me more than being in nature. Seeing my little girls enjoy the outdoors instantly gives me a boost of happiness and a feeling of pure freedom.

7- Eat healing foods

Every single thing you put in your mouth has an effect in your body. Every-single-thing. It is hard to eat healthy, but we are lucky. Our autoimmune disease constantly reminds us that we need to eat healthy. Otherwise, we feel the consequences afterwards. In that way, I always felt like my disease was a blessing rather than a curse. I see so many people putting horrible things in their bodies and not being able to tell the effect that has on their health, but we can tell and most of the time, we can tell immediately.

8- Do the things that you love

Choose to do things that you love as much as you can. Doing things we don’t like puts so much unnecessary stress on our bodies. Our life is hard as it is, constantly feeling symptoms that remind us we are not okay. Don’t make it harder by doing things you don’t like to do. Always choose freedom. It is more than okay to say no. I dare you to say “no“ more often. Tell me how it goes… I can tell you already it will feel amazing!

9- Write your feelings down

This one is so therapeutic. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the thoughts of wanting to feel better, being able to handle my daily activities, being a mom, etc. Writing my thoughts down helps me get them off my mind and onto paper. For some reason, I tend to always end up on a positive note. Try it!

10-Meditate

Kind of obvious isn’t it? Most people think they can’t do it or are unable to get into the habit. I recommend for you to start by meditating 2-3 minutes a day if you feel like you can’t sit for long. I started with five, now I am up to 20 minutes a day. It has helped me so much. I even used the techniques on airplanes, which totally freak me out and was smiling the whole time. I use a guided meditation app called Headspace which you can get here: https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app, but there are also guided meditations on Youtube. This will seriously change your life.

What are some of the things you do to put you in a positive mindset? Comment below.

Shifting your mindset when it comes to debt- What you think vs. What you should think 🤔

Throughout the years, Alex and I have talked to many people about debt and we have told them about our journey. These are some of the replies we would get from people who were drowning in debt, but somehow would keep thinking they can’t or shouldn’t get out of it. We put together this list and hope it can help you get on your way to your debt free life. Mindset shift is the first step to a life of happiness and freedom.

1- I cannot pay off my debt. You don’t understand! I don’t make enough and I have too much debt to pay.

Yes you can! There are ways to make extra income. There are things in your house you can sell on E-bay or Facebook groups. You can do garage sales. You don’t have to start paying off thousands of dollars to feel like you are making some progress. Give yourself a break and start slowly. Every dollar counts. Just start. Soon enough the snow ball effect will take care of the rest.

2- I will never finish paying it off.

That is simply not true. It may feel like it will take forever, but you will pay it soon enough. Take it one step at a time.

3- I am living paycheck to paycheck. I simply cannot afford to pay off my debt.

I get this one, but as I said above, every dollar, every penny counts. Try to save little by little until you have an emergency fund. In this case, I recommend not only saving as much as you can on your expenses, but also trying to find a way to increase your income. There are a few things you can do part time to increase your income. If you have old enough kids, get them involved, teach them to help the family by having a part time job and covering their own expenses or even helping out by taking care of some of the bills.

4- I am good with money, but my husband/wife is not.

You are in this together! Whatever you spend affects your spouse’s life and vice versa. Once you are married, the finances should be handled together. It should not be separate. One thing that can help is to visualize what you both want your future together to look like and set your financial goals based on that vision.

5- What is the point? I need to live now/enjoy now (YOLO)

The Snoopy meme comes to mind with this one, “wrong, you only die once, you live every day” Would you rather live every day of your life with that weight on your shoulders? You would rather buy that now, so you can worry about it for years later? or would you rather be free for the rest of your life? It seems painful, but trust me, the feeling of paying one more credit card off, one more loan, one more bill is a lot better than charging that one thing on your credit card once again.

6- Waiting for the right moment

Let me get that raise first. Let me go on vacation first, or buy that ring first, etc. That will just give you extra years of your life to be paying off interest and feeling trapped. It is never worth it.

7- I work so hard. I deserve to use my credit cards and get that extra satisfaction on the weekends.

If you want to keep working this hard for the rest of your life, then by all means keep using your credit cards every weekend to buy things you don’t need, but the alternative is much better. Having control of your finances is one of the best feelings. It gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with your life.

8-You need to build your credit. You are nothing in this country without credit.

I’ve heard this one so many times and it is a touchy subject. Let’s be real, my FICO credit score is 830. Do you know what that means? It means I have been great at getting and staying in debt! Yay!!!! (NOT) Having a great credit score helps you stay in debt and that is definitely something you should not aspire to. The best way to build wealth is to invest your money. Having no payments=having more income to use towards your investments. This is a huge reason to get out of debt!

9- I need a good reliable car, so I have to get a loan

Car loans are so common these days. Getting a new car is one of the worst investments you can make as a car decreases value the moment you drive it out of the dealership. Does that mean you should never get a new car? Of course not, but when you do, you should pay for the car with cash. This means you can afford the car you are buying. Otherwise, you simply can’t. Just because a car is not zero miles, it doesn’t mean it’s not reliable.

10- I need to go to school, so I have to get into debt

Oh boy! This was me seven years ago. I get it, it’s true. Sometimes we go to school in order to grow our income and. We feel the need to get into debt, but there are a few things to keep in mind before getting into school debt. You don’t need that brand new laptop, the most expensive supplies, or the new car to get to school. You don’t need to dorm. You don’t need to go to school out of state when going to school in state is much cheaper. You don’t need to go to a private university. Most of the time, public universities are just as good if not better than private ones in certain fields. There are scholarships you can take advantage of. Also, one of the most important things, before you get into a field, be 100% sure it’s what you want to do, do research in order to find out the probability that you will get hired after graduation and how much you will earn. This is one of the most important steps and it is also one that most people fail to do. Do not get into debt because your parents or uncle or brother, etc. told you it was the best for you. You will end up in a ton of debt that these well-intentioned people will not pay for.