#PFSunday: Giving

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Personal Finance Sundays: Taking Control of Your Money

When we think about giving, we often think about billionaires or millionaires who give in such a lot way. Or we think about some big charitable donation. Or some heart warming story. All these are good examples of giving. But if giving scares you because you feel like you can’t make a grand gesture, there are ways to give in bits and pieces. There is no wrong form of giving.

As a child, one of the rituals that my mother built into our journey to school was giving. At the Festac gate, when traffic would trap us, she would extend her hands out and give to the beggars on the street. In my family, quite a few people are known for carrying spare change that is specifically for giving alms. Now as an adult, that is a habit that I am trying to cultivate. A habit of giving not in extraordinary circumstances or quantity but just as an habitual thing that I don’t think about. I have built a margin of giving into my budget.

For me, I have found that one of the easier ways to give is through my pay check. My company supports a charitable foundation whose goals are aligned with my ideals, so I simply have always chosen the option to donate a fixed portion of my paycheck. The other avenue that comes for giving is through tipping. Yes, there are times when I refuse to tip generously because of bad service. However, there are certain services that I have committed a certain level of tips for such as my taxi ride home. There are days when I want to give less but I have learned to give regardless of my circumstances at the moment. I have found that when I give, I never lack; and for that I am thankful.

Giving for is an act of self gratitude. It is a way of recognizing and appreciating my privileges. In the past, I have tried to give through specific organization like Kiva that allow me to give money as a loan and recycle the money. This something that I would like to return to in the future when I can make larger commitments. In the meantime, I intend to keep giving in bits and pieces here and there

How have you cultivated a habit of giving? Tell me in the comment section


#PFSundays: Practice Spending

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Personal Finance Sundays: Taking Control of Your Money

In the past couple of years, I have pretty much maintained the same financial commitments. I have lived in the same house. Taken public transportation work. Used the same phone plan, etc. Lately though I have been thinking to myself that I want to move closer to the city or at least buy a car. Then I sit down and do the financial maths. I think I can afford to do this. However, there are days when I get scared and I tell myself to thread carefully. What about all of the other savings goals that I have set for myself?

So I have decided that the best way to ascertain if I can actually afford to increase my financial commitment is to act as if I have those commitments already. A few years ago, I was watching a talk show and I think it was Suze Orman who advised a couple to determine if they could afford a bigger house and a bigger mortgage by pretending like they had made the leap. The trial phase helps to figure out how much of a strain making the increased financial commitment would be on a day-to-day basis. It is always easy to make a budget on paper. You cut a little bit of this and a little bit of that. However in real life, your daily happiness quota might just hang on being able to afford that extra manicure every month. Or knowing that you can see a movie on a whim without breaking the bank.

Financial planning, I am learning everyday, should not be about living a miserable life now to reach some happy place later. Financial planning has to balance current needs and WANTS with future needs and WANTS! This is why I think practicing increasing my financial load will help me determine if I am ready or not. Practicing would mean figuring how much extra moving into a new house or buying a new car would cost me monthly. The extra is then deposited into my savings account. In about 3-6 months, I will be able to determine if the extra commitment is livable. At the end of the trail period, I am rewarded with more money in my savings account that I can use to cover short term expenses of either buying a car or moving house.

Do you have any goals that you need to practice for? Tell me in the comment section.

Me and My Mother’s Daughter

And the speaker, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, says in this TED speech that “These women lived in the ‘and.’ You could be fierce and feminine.” As I listened to this TED talk about a band of female soldiers who served on the frontline of Afghanistan even as there was a ban of female soldiers on the frontline, I thought about the many ways women have to live a dichotomous lives. Women live in the ‘and’ everyday in the choices that we make. Sometimes the ‘and’ is a function of cultural of expectations of what womanhood is. To be soft AND firm. To elegant AND strong. To be quiet AND heard. To navigate a tightrope between womanhood and the desires to be more than the prescribed bounds of woamnhood.

For me, the ‘and’ is something that I have struggled with all my life. I was thinking back to my teenage years earlier today before watching this TED talk. One of the things I am trying to come to terms with is  the abuse that I inflicted on my body via an eating disorder. Surviving an eating disorder is something that has shaped my view of my self, body and my place within the world. I have come to realize that there are times when I try to make myself smaller because I feel ashamed to take up space. When I was in secondary school in Lagos, I remember that one of the pleasures of having an eating disorder was the eating less. Being less at something gave me lots of pride. The look of surprise from classmates when they realized I was eating just a small portion of food. The ability to be more with less. The surprising part of the less obsession was I couldn’t see myself shrinking. Even in my memories of myself in that phase, I still see myself as being large. It is only when I see pictures of myself that I realize that I was shrinking.

This many years later, I can say that I am past the worst of my eating disorder. I think of myself in the terms of a drug addict. I am always going to be in recovery. It is this acknowledgement of my continuous struggle with my body  that allows me to be conscious of myself. I am able to look at my approach to life and reel myself in when I am about to make crazy extreme decisions. In the past decade, I have been unable to maintain a stable weight. I have been big and I have been small. I am, and I have been, on a journey to understand what it means to exist within my body.

I am learning that it is possible to be a lot of things in one body. I can be fat and graceful. I can be skinny and love food. I can be sad and happy. The sadness and the happiness is one that took me a long time to learn. I can be strong and I can be weak. I am somewhere in the spectrum of being an introvert and an extrovert although I identify more with being an introvert. Wanting a different life that my mother imagined for me does not make me less of my mother’s daughter. I can be some of who she wants me to be and I can be somewhat different that she imagined I would be.

I can be pure AND own my sexuality. One of the things I struggled with through my early adulthood was that idea that it was okay to be desired and to desire others. I was one of those girls who reached puberty really early physically but mentally I was still a child. Having older men lust openly after my body and make insinuating comments to me made me feel ashamed. In a lot of ways, I wanted to shrink and disappear. Also growing up in a society in which women who appeared to be sexual desirable where considered cheap and tainted made me feel ashamed of my body. I hid myself from the rites of adulthood by being oblivious to appropriate advances and making myself unavailable for the dating rites.

When I started choosing to live in the ‘and’, I gave myself permission to live a life that is authentic. This is why I relate to those soldiers’ lives. In the story that Ms. Lemmon tells, there runs a line of authenticity. A line where being a soldier on the frontline does not mean giving up the feminine. By occupying a space that is considered masculine in a way that celebrates the ‘and’ these women where able to create authentic roles for themselves and many other young women.

In what ways are you living in the ‘and’? Let me know in the comment section.

#PFSundays: Reviewing Subscriptions

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Personal Finance Sundays: Taking Control of Your Money

You may have seen one of those lists that get around on Facebook everyone is a while asking you for random facts about yourself. Or you may have filled quite a few online dating profiles where you have to create an image of yourself that is extraordinary enough to catch someone’s eye, but simple enough not to scare them off. One of the random facts that I always list is my love of the New York Times. I started reading NYTimes when I was 17/18 and living in California. I have read NYTime through my travels and changes in life. I was broke, unemployed and depressed when the NYTimes paywall went up in 2011. I remember being elated when I discovered that Chrysler email offering me a year-long subscription. Then that year was over and I had to find all kinds of cunning ways to read the NYTimes because I  just could not afford to pay the subscription fees.

In December 2013, about 3 months after I started my current job, I finally subscribed to the NYTimes. I cried when I paid it. For me, being able to make that commitment to auto-pay for a subscription was a sign of financial stability. Yes, making a commitment to pay less than 20 dollars a month was a dream come true because it was one of the benchmarks of financial success for me. Since I made that commitment to the NYTimes, I have subscribed to other services ranging from gym services with Boston Sport Club to make-up sample delivery service with Ipsy to Netflix, even Skillshare, an online learning platform.

Recently though I had to take a step back and assess my commitments. Were they worth the money I was paying? In the short term, I can justify paying out 10 dollars a month. But in the long term, 120 dolllars a month is 120 dollars plus accrued interest that is missing from my savings account or my 401K plan. So I started canceling subscriptions. I cancelled my gym membership for the summer simply because I realized I was not going. Instead, I started doing fitness videos at home and walking around my neighborhood. I cancelled Skillshare because I never used it.

In the end I was able to make small monthly savings by focusing on the subscription services that added value to my life. I look forward every month to my new make-up from Ipsy and I use to the samples regularly. Also Netflix is something that has filled the void of not owning a television. Now, I am also more discerning in what I choose to pay for. I think I am more likely to do one time payments now than monthly payments simply because I like knowing that payment is finite.

Tell me in the comment sections if you have any subscriptions that you maybe should be canceling. Also, does anyone else have a moment when they realized they had a reached some measure of financial stability? Share it with me in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!

#PFSundays: Off the Budgetary Wagon

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Living a cash only life

I fell off the wagon. It is week 4 of my living on a cash budget lifestyle and I fell off the wagon. I got bored and I started shopping. Before I knew it I had spent 50 dollars on clothes. Earlier in the week, I had also indulged by ordering out. I feel really guilty. However, I am glad it happened.

Yes, I said “glad”. The reason I am glad it happened is because I expect that as I walk towards securing my future financially, there would be detours. There are going to be times when my impulses are stronger than my control. At this point, the important thing is not whether I got off my cash budget. The important thing is what I intend to do after.

For me, that has meant logging into my bank account and taking stock of the damage that my impulse buying has caused. With knowledge of this damage, I am figuring out ways that I can correct the issue. Is it possible to return some of the stuff I bought? Probably. So that means that I am able to recover some of the damage.

The other thing I did that helped was confess to my sister immediately that I had fallen off the wagon. My sister is the person that I share my goals with. She is the person that I am comfortable breaking down my bank account to because I know she is supportive of my goals. There are times when I am really broke and we figure out a way for me to move cash around. There are times when I having money and she talks me down from the high of wanting to spend all my money.

As I go towards week 5 of this cash budget thing, I am focusing on recognizing my impulses and how to abate them. This week I bought because I was bored. I had the day off and I had nothing to do so I went to Downtown Boston and started shopping. The reason why I am able to spot the impetus behind my behavior is because I hate shopping in stores. When I do my regular shopping that is planned, it is almost always online with weeks of planning and waiting for sales. The fact that I casually walked in and shopped means that I need to find other ways to occupy my time outside of work.

Are there any financial goals that you are working towards? How are you doing with your goals? Please share in the comment section.

Self-care And The Seduction of Self


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”

-Audre Lorde

I recently read this quote somewhere random and it stuck in my head all of this past week. Self-care is something that I sometimes neglect. My lack of self-care is not a reflection of my self-esteem. For me, my lack of self-care is reflection of the importance I place on my own agenda in lot of ways. There are basic things that make me happy. I like the way my face looks with make-up on. I do much better when I am physically active. I blossom when I make myself a healthy meal.

Somehow, even though I know what makes me happy, I find myself cheating myself out of my self-care routine. A few weeks ago, I started massaging my feet and my joints before going to bed. A couple of weeks after starting this soothing routine, I stopped. I just do not enough place emphasis on my own self-care.

This past week, I started wearing make-up to work, again. Instead of placing emphasis on getting to work extremely early, I chose to place the emphasis on looking as I desired. Putting on make-up for me is a seduction of self. It is a moment of vanity when I look at my face and touch my face. I acknowledge my own beauty and allow myself the creativity of choosing who I want to be for the dance of the day. A bright red lipstick to make my lips look full. A girly pink for my feminine days. A smokey eye for the days when I want to catch the gaze.

Putting on make-up is one of the few times when I get to look at my body. I generally don’t dress with a mirror. I actually haven’t owned a full-length mirror in a long time. I find that I like to avoid my body in some ways. I love getting dressed in the morning. I love putting things together and playing with shapes, textures and patterns. I can tell if an outfit fits by the way my body feels in it. To look at my body however is to ask too much of my fragile self. I have learnt to engage with my body in a way that is not threatening to me. Looking at my face is one of the joys I get from a mirror though.

I was thinking about this self-care quote tonight when I decided to play around with my face. I sometimes miss the days when I used to wear a lot of color on my face to work. These days, I am firmly in the nude/brown palette phase. I am enjoying the brown/bronze/black look alot. I tend to concentrate lots of drama on my lips with bright reds and pinks in the summer. This past fall/winter I was really into plums and wines. Tonight though, I sought out my gold dust and played fairy on my face. It is a bit of a wild look but there was so much joy in playing with that face. So much joy!

Do you have a self-care routine that makes you feel your best? Let me know in the comment section.

The Dating Game

dating game

Sometimes I wish life was simpler. I wish I could be as bold as I was when I was much younger; probably in college days. I grew up an extremely shy girl. Then something happened towards the end of high/secondary school and for all of college that made me really bold.  I was still shy; but I took many risks. And then some years after college, I did a 360 back to the shy girl I used to be.

The dating game is really just that; a game.  It was so much easier in college. Or maybe it wasn’t. But it’s even more complicated now. You meet a guy. You think there was a connection. You exchange numbers. And then the waiting begins. Day 1, 2, 3…. At this point you’re wondering if you should call him. You talk to your friend and she says, ‘Don’t call him. Don’t let him think you’re desperate.’ So you keep waiting. And wait forever. But sometimes I wonder if the guy also needs a push. Maybe he’s not sure whether you like him or not. Maybe he’s wondering if he was the only one that felt the connection. Maybe….a million and one maybes. And you’d never know if you don’t make that call. But we never make that call.

Why can’t life be simpler? Why can’t women be bolder? Why can’t I like a guy and call him up and straight up ask if he likes me too? Why waste all that precious time, when you can find out immediately and start to build something good OR move on and close that door?

Being single is fun. You only have yourself to think about. You can go wherever, do whatever; without thinking about someone else. You don’t need a man to define you. You shouldn’t plan your entire life around a man. Yes, I know all that. However, let’s be honest. It’s also pretty lonely. It’s my theory that after a certain point (different ages for different people), you are supposed to be with someone. And the absence of that someone messes up your balance and throws you off completely. And until you find that someone, you can’t find your balance. No matter how happy you are, there’s that nagging question at the back of your head….”Where is he?”

My two pennies.