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Knowing when to live fully

 

First things first, happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there! I hope to be a mom one day too but this year I am not. Mothers do so much for their children, keep them alive, let them grow, watch out for them, nurture their dreams, and are our biggest fans throughout our entire life. My mother has done so much for me and still is. She gave up a lot for my sister and I, and pushed through many challenges to give us the best life possible.

Of course, ever since I’ve been married I also now have a mother-in-law! She’s the one who brought up my hubs to be the way he is and taught him so much. This morning we went to her house to make her a sushi lunch to celebrate today. My mother lives across the country so I couldn’t do as much but made sure to give her a phone call. Also sent some spa items but they didn’t arrive in time.

The biggest common thing between my mom and mother-in-law? They’re both super super frugal, yet generous when it’s meaningful. They save everything to the point where I wonder if they are borderline hoarders (or hoarders), but it’s these habits that have allowed them to save money to reach their goals. Goals that included giving their children the best life possible. Both of them are retired and have started taking more vacations! Road trips across the country, cruises, and sometimes vacations out of the country on fun tours.

As for me, it’s sometimes hard to be frugal yet take the time to enjoy life. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s not about hoarding money, it’s about hoarding it for goals I want to achieve. All the same, I wouldn’t want to only enjoy life only when I’m retired. I would like to enjoy it now also. With some family medical issues that have happened in the last year, this has become even more important to me.

The fun part is that the older generation (my parents) are more of a frugal mindset where even on vacations they can just eat peanut and butter sandwiches day in and day out. I’m not saying they enjoy it, but they worked so hard all their lives to save money that it’s just second nature to them! As they get older though their views are changing and instead of telling me to save money, they’re starting to tell me to not worry about it so much and enjoy life. They’re the ones who taught me to be frugal and gave me a good base for starting! Now as they let loose in their retirement they’re telling me different things.

Even my infinitely wise self is telling me to listen. That’s sarcasm there.

So now the question is, how do I balance saving for the future with living life now? I’m not going to spend all my money on whatever I want, guess I’ll have to save smartly and use that money when I think it’s worth it:P

What’s your frugal life philosophy?

 

Busting through the pay gap in 2018

Will the next generation get equal pay regardless of gender and race?

My day job is being a Senior Art Director in the advertising industry. An industry run mostly by white males and filled with stereotypes, overt bias, and hidden bias, that have made my career not boring to say the least. It’s been a tough 10+ plus years working to bust through to the top and to retain my self of sense. Sadly enough, my industry isn’t the only place where this happens. This happens worldwide! All across America, and even worse across other countries that are still punishing women by death. Trying to achieve my goal of being financially independent and to become a millionaire, is hard enough already, but made even harder by the fact that there is an unequal pay gap between women and men. To add even more hurdles in my way, I am also Chinese. Minority women are even further behind in the unequal pay gap. How is it in 2018 that women get paid less than a man for doing the same job?

The 3% Movement
https://www.3percentmovement.com
Last week I was so fortunate to be able to attend the 3% Minicon held here in Los Angeles. What is it you say? When the 3% Movement started only 3% of the creative directors in the industry were women, with less being minorities. Since then the numbers have risen to 11% but they won’t stop until it’s at 50%! Their mission is to bring inclusion for all genders and all races. I spent an entire day listening to speakers from top positions from well known agencies speak up. There was even a 13 year old girl there who spoke so eloquently about the issues and was extremely passionate! All of us, or a majority of us, definitely were so inspired by the next generation. We’re fighting for us now, but we’re also fighting to make the future brighter for generations after us. The minicon was overrun with women with a sprinkling of men everywhere. I would have liked to see more men there too!

From the company I work at, 8 women attended. I very much would have liked a few men to attend as they also need to know these issues. It’s harder for people to know what the issues are if they are not confronted with it day by day. Doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the solution, but hearing the speakers inspired us all so greatly. Our next steps are to consolidate our learnings and action steps together so that we can share it with the rest of our company. From there we can take our next steps and push the movement forward!

The facts
Women are half the population is this world and we’re hampering our entire world by limiting that growth. Women live longer than men, yet have less in their retirement funds due to unequal pay gaps. Women also tend to invest into their children and community on a higher rate. Women minorities are even more likely to earn less for the same job. Maternity and paternity pay, as well as family leave, aren’t as widespread as it should be in the US, and mostly hampers women as they take time to take care of their families.

Look at the CEO’s of the biggest companies in the country and they are most likely men. Look at our government, how many white males are there vs women?

My dreams vs my reality
It would be great to be evaluated based on what I can do and what I know. Regardless of my gender or skin color. That everyone start on equal ground.

My reality is that I am judged every single day by how I look. I am a petite Chinese woman who looks young for my age. On first sight people assume I am much much younger than I am and don’t realize my age until they talk to me. The smarter people take that time to know me before making a judgement. The not so smart people judge instantly and think that I am in a lower position and don’t know much. I remember these people.

Not just diversity, inclusion
No more tokens! No more including one of each type of person for diversity purposes. It’s not a checkbox that you have one female in the group, one black person, one asian person, and one male. Not only do we need to have all types of gender and races together, but we all need to give them the power to have an equal voice. In my industry it’ll make our work more powerful to have all voices together than just from one view. Our world could use that same power.

 

So what can we do about it? Not just for people in my industry but everywhere.

Become a mentor
I am forever grateful to the women and men who have stepped up throughout my life and career to take the time to help me. These people weren’t officially labeled my mentors, but they took my under their wing for a short time to teach me. They took time out of their day to help someone along. They’ve taught me so much and gave me a great example to follow. It takes time to be a good mentor (notice I included good) but it’s well worth it. Not only do you help someone grow, you yourself as a person grows too and gain a new perspective.

Stand up for what’s right
If you see something happening that is wrong, correct it. No matter who you are. Doing nothing is also a choice you make. It is allowing the status quo to keep on as is.

Challenge your inner bias 
Everyone has bias already. I know I do and I’m constantly trying to adjust to stamp it out as much as possible.

Know your worth – negotiate your pay
There are plenty of sites that post salaries. Look it up and see what your worth and ask for it and more! This goes for everyone.

Equal pay studies
See if your company has an equal pay study or a pledge for one. Some companies have already done those studies and have implemented policies to change unequal pay. Others may have done it but not published it.

Paid maternity, paternity and family leave
Push for maternity, paternity and family leave. My company doesn’t currently have policies in place but I’ve been pushing for it and will continue to do so. My husband has 3 weeks paternity leave. Which is great since men also need leave for their children.

Let our voices be heard
Don’t interrupt women when speaking. Studies have shown that women are more interrupted than men when in a group setting. Our voices are literally being spoken over! If you see it happening, say something. Don’t do it, and bring the issue to light. Most people most likely aren’t doing it on purpose. Also support the person interrupted by bringing the conversation back round to them. Allow their voice to be heard.

It’ll take everyone to step up, women, men, everyone, to change things
Yes everyone, absolutely everyone, will need to step up in order for things to change. Women, men, the people in power, the people not in power banding together to create one large voice, it will take everyone to change. This is everyone’s problem. Everyone has a mother, a friend, an acquaintance that is a woman. Possibly a daughter, a niece, cousins who are women. Even if you think it doesn’t affect you yourself, it’s affecting someone close to you.

 

This is obviously something very close to me as I just wrote a long article about this. I could’ve written even more! I’m doing my best to fix this in my industry and in the world. Let’s do it together!

Finding Small Businesses to Frequent

Photo Credit: Tangled Bank Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Tangled Bank Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Something I’ve been trying to do in the last year is to find more small businesses that I can support instead of just going to a big box retail store. The only problem with small businesses is that sometimes the price of the goods is so much more than at a big box store that can get better discounts on everything! It’s pretty hard to compare a place like Costco to a small business in terms of buying power. The sheet amount of buying power that Costco has is enormous! I have a place in my heart for Costco, but I really want to support the small businesses too. Places run by a small group of people with usually great customer service and a lot of heart.

There’s a huge fight of small vs big right now and all too often the big wins out. It is definitely easier for me to hop on over to Costco and target and basically get everything I will ever need all in just one stop. But then there’s the small mom and pop store around the corner that’s been there for years and is a cornerstone of the community. In order to survive, they need loyal customers to go there and spend their money! At the end of the day it’s all about where the money goes.

Finding the right places
Last year I was lucky to find a local natural health goods market in the neighborhood that wasn’t too crazily priced. This was at a point when I was trying to clean up my health and personal care items to be less chemical laden and better for my health. I loved the little store and the people who owned the place. It was this small cute place that had a decent variety of items. Today I just visited a small market with higher quality meats! I don’t know if it’s going to me go to meat market place but so far I bought something to try it out. It’s all going to be a big search and find until I find the right places that fit my lifestyle and budget. A lot of smaller businesses in LA also tend to be in trendier higher end neighborhoods and the price of the goods just is too high for me.

Sacrificing convenience
All these smaller places definitely don’t have everything I need in one stop, but the workers are more invested in their goods and definitely care about what goods they have. Each one will have a different set of goods that they feel fits their store the best but might not necessarily always be what I’m looking for. Target indeed does have the widest variety of say for example, shampoos. But the small store will have the best of the best shampoos that they think re worth it rather than everything possible. If I trust the store, then it’s a much quicker way for me to find an item than trying to wade through 30 types of one item.

A local toy store I was able to find is now my intended go to place for any gifts for kids, babies, and maybe adults too. I love the curation they did with the different eco-friendly and educational toys. I’ve even found the prices of some items to be lower than what I could find online!

Actually going there
I was extremely saddened to realize that the natural health market I loved had gone out of business near the end of last year! I always thought of it, but I never went there enough. Yes, myself alone probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the store closing, but if ten of me had gone there more often then that wouldn’t helped! Making the effort (and kicking myself in the butt to not be lazy) to go frequent these places is what I need to do.

It’s just a way better experience
Big box stores honestly can be extremely stressful to get in and out of in LA. There’s a ton of people in the big city and since I work normal weekday hours I have to run all my errands on the weekend when everyone else is out too. Holidays especially are hard times for me to go out because of the crowds. I’m a Midwest girl at heart and crowds are just not my thing. Being able to stop into a smaller place that’s not crowded elbow to elbow is just a much nicer shopping experience. Also being able to easily talk to someone who works there for advice or help. It’s a lot friendlier environment and everyone in the store isn’t super stressed out trying to get out of there!

 

The best part about being careful with my money is that I have more control about what I can do with it! It’s a nice luxury that I have now that I don’t live paycheck to paycheck and instead get to choose to make my money count. Supporting smaller businesses is definitely something I think is worth doing. Maybe one day I’ll have a small business myself! Who knows right?

Do you have a small business that you love supporting?

Visiting National Parks

yosemitefalls_smallIt’s the first year that I actually have Memorial Day off since I work for a smaller business. My husband got Friday off too though so I decided to take my floating personal day (cause no one has to work on their birthday) early and have a 4 day weekend too! What better way to celebrate than to check out some national parks?

Admittedly I haven’t really visited a lot of national parks. From LA I am within a day’s drive of quite a few of them actually. Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Zion are just a few examples. This weekend wasn’t the best time to go as it was busy everywhere, but what’s a working woman to do? I don’t have a lot of 3 day weekends! It’s also not the best time to try to be budget friendly as we didn’t plan this vacation far enough in advance and it wouldn’t matter because everything is pricier. I still tried my best though!

The Plan
I had 4 days to go wherever I want. Of course I want to maximize my time but relax at the same time. We headed out Friday morning to Yosemite first since it’s farther away. Then on Saturday afternoon we headed down to Sequoia. Monday we headed home in the afternoon after one leisurely late breakfast. We did our due diligence by researching things we want to do, and also buying any tickets we needed before we go. Yosemite was absolutely insane and Sequoia was pretty busy too. We lucked out on finding parking spots before they closed off the lots but it was still tough getting through all the people. Apparently there was one distraught woman who was hitting the shuttle bus at Yosemite because the bus driver wouldn’t let her get on the crowded bus.

Food Stuffs
Grand Canyon was such a beautiful place to visit, but the food was pretty horrible. It’s pretty much the same thing for all of these places. It was crowded, touristy, overpriced food all around. Instead of stocking up at an overpriced last stop shop at the parks, we did some grocery shopping and hauled it there. This saved us when we didn’t have time to go find food at Sequoia when we were trying to make a cave tour reservation. It wasn’t real food, but it was something to fill our tummies until we could get somewhere else.

Places to Sleep
This could’ve been the biggest money saver. We could’ve camped at Yosemite for $12 a night. Well, we stayed in hotels. Definitely more than I would like to spend but it’s worth it for me! After running around all day I definitely appreciated my comforts even more. A good night of rest was essential to keep my energy up through the busy weekend. For three nights of hotel stay we’re at about $450 because of the holiday weekend. It’s pretty cold in Yosemite and Sequoia at lows of 30 degrees though so there’s no way I would even consider camping. The hotel at Yosemite is much pricier though so we decided to only stay one night there at least. At both parks we ended up staying about an hour outside of the parks to save a bit of mula too. It was insanely expensive closer to the park! That meant we had to drive quite a bit to get to where we wanted to go though.

Year Pass for all National Parks
It’s $30 per park for a pass that’s valid for 7 days. For 2 parks that’s $60 already. Luckily my husband went on an all guys road trip to Zion a week ago and had the foresight to spring for the $80 year pass! It’s unlimited to any national park whereas the week pass is only to that specific park. His friends chipped in $20 so the price of this pass is already at $60 for us. Of course to take full advantage of this we’re going to try to use it at other parks too.

 

Overall this was a decently pricey trip because of the hotel accommodations. It was pretty insane at Yosemite and it kinda felt like home with crazy drivers there! You’d think on a national holiday like Memorial weekend that people would be nicer, but alas no. I still had a great time though and we made the best of it. Today we were debating on going back to Sequoia in the morning but with the crazy winding roads and how tired we are of crazy people, we just took our time to get home. It’s good to be home for sure!

What did you do for this Memorial Weekend?

I’m a sucker for…

7468313382_01dca95e64When it comes to pointing out who is the most frugal in the relationship, it’s a no brainer that it’s me and not my husband! My brain is always constantly searching for ways I can greenify life and save money at the same time. I introduced budget sheets into our relationship (yowza maybe that’s why he married me?) and I wouldn’t spring for the extra $300 to get the pearlescent white paint for the Prius. He recycles now because of me too hehe. I still have my weak points though…I’m such a sucker for personal stories.

Mostly what gets me lately is local goods. Striving to make a bigger difference with my money by buying local face-to-face with the people who grew the food or made the goods opened up the floodgates a bit to spend more if it’s locally based. When I find someone who is trying to do something good I also can’t resist wanting to help them too!

The reel in: I can’t resist an earnest face as they tell me their personal story
Just today I was walking through a festival area with lots of little shops. I snagged a free lemonade (yay!) and then happened upon a stand selling handmade soaps. There was a father standing there with his little girl. He told me his story of how he started making soaps for his daughter because she couldn’t use commercial soaps due to psoriasis. It didn’t help that his wife was also there. It was a family business! The soaps smelled really quite nice made from essential oils but they were pricier than I would normally ever buy soap for. The most I had ever spent on soap bars were $5 and these were $8 apiece. I got sucked in first through that little story.

Pushing me over the edge: I can’t resist helping if it’s charitable
Already more than halfway there I then found out that they donate 15% of their profits to charity! They sponsor kids in third world countries and actually go to visit them too! So not only would I be helping out this family if I bought something, I would also be helping out these kids who need it too. That definitely put my over the edge and I was definitely buying something at this point. A company that tries to do good by using fair trade and natural ingredients is awesome, but if they give back then even better! It’s how Tom’s got so big with their buy one give one concept. They certainly weren’t the first to do that but it made Tom’s look really good.

The kicker: Appeal to my money saving side
Still my frugal side was pretty strong. These soap bars were pretty pricey so I was thinking of maybe just buying one at least. That’s when I noticed the sampler packs! Four smaller sized bars for $18. Perfect! Bundling items always makes people feel like they’re getting a better deal. Ding ding! I was sold. If only I had ice encasing my heart…instead I walked away with some new soap and a pouch loofah.

 

Either this family was really just a good ole family trying to do something right and make some money, or they are master salespersons! They certainly sucked me in and I felt good about buying something from them! Haha. I definitely don’t regret it at all though.

And if anyone else wants to buy some soap check it out here: Morning Blossom Studio

What are you a sucker for?