Luna Llena

Mi Historia- Money Novela Part 1

Hola. Mi nombre es Nathalia, and I am the in-house Financial Educator for Saint Lunita Magazine. By day I fight for indigent clients who are adversely affected by the criminal system, and by night I am a MONEY COACH. I am also: a wife to a loving and supportive husband, and a mother to a sassy and intelligent 4-year-old girl.

I was born in Guatemala City and came to the United States when I was 4 years old. My ancestral roots in Guatemala go back generations. According to my DNA test, I am 53.7% Native American. I recently found out that I am a Pisces with a Capricorn moon and Aries rising. I have been slowly dipping my foot into connecting with my spirit and my ancestral roots.

I offer my expertise to the readers of Saint Lunita Magazine because I want to merge my newfound passion for financial education with my interest in understanding the influence of capitalism, patriarchy and colonization on our money decisions. When I shed my social constructs, I am a free spirit that craves adventure, loves the peacefulness of nature, and flows with life. I feel like my true self when I am in a cabin, hiking, sitting outside reading, reflecting, and traveling the world.

Throughout most of my life, I fell in line with what our society told me to do. I went to college right out of high school, I got a full-time job right out of college and I have been working a 9-5 job for 15 years now. What no one ever taught me in school, at home or at work was how to manage money properly. Money was a taboo subject in my home, unless we were discussing my responsibility to work and contribute financially the second I turned 16. At 18 years old, I got my first credit card and thus began my downward spiral into credit card debt. I always had money because I always worked, sometimes multiple jobs. But nowhere along the line was I taught how much credit card debt would actually cost me, not to mention the 22k in student loans I graduated with in 2010. When I met and married my husband, I made it clear that my debt was mine and I would pay it off because I felt like it was my responsibility.

In 2016 we found out I was pregnant, *cue panic*- this was NOT the plan. But we decided we could do it. We saved aggressively while still heavily in debt. We managed to be able to fund my leave from work with savings. My job only paid me 6 weeks and the rest of the 5.5 months I was off were funded by my personal vacation and then 3 months unpaid. Capitalism is a bitch for working mothers in the U.S.

Then came the hard part. We, like many families, had to choose if we would pay someone to take care of her or if my husband would become a stay at home dad. We did the math and decided that it wouldn’t be worth it to pay someone else to care for our daughter because my husbands entire check would basically go to fund a babysitter or daycare. He hated his job and I made more money, so it made sense. My husband became a stay at home dad in 2017. Thus, the financial responsibility was passed over to me.

I finally decided I had enough of living in debt in 2018 and consolidated my $18,312.27 of credit card debt into a personal loan. I am $3,500 away from being done paying that off today. 2020 really pushed my financial education into overdrive. At the end of 2019, I made a real budget and I started seeing success. I decided to teach all of my friends about this amazing new thing I found, A BUDGET! In Feb of 2020, I invited 6 friends over for a budget and wine party. I helped them build budgets while we drank wine. Right away people were sharing their success with me. One attendee paid off all her credit card debt in a few months. Others began to text me about their budgets and how they were saving for this or that. I was hooked!

Like any good novela, I can’t give you all of the story at once. But know that this story comes with benefits to you. Budgeting changed the game for me and many of my friends and clients, so my advice for you in this issue is focused on budgeting.

A budget starts with writing down your income and all of your monthly expenses. This includes expenses like food and gas, which tend to vary from month to month.

  1. Write down your income.
  2. Write down your expenses.
  3. Subtract total monthly expenses from total monthly income.
  4. Check in on how you are doing.

Are you in the negative? Then it might be time to look at where all your money is going vs. where it SHOULD/COULD be going. In the positive? Give your money a job. Go through my financial health check list and see how you can make your money work for you in a high yield savings account or in your retirement account? See the list for ideas of where your money can work for you. If you don’t know how much you spend a month on food, gas or bills, go into your bank account and download your spending in excel form. Go line by line and see where all your money is going. This part might hurt a little, but it’s necessary. You NEED to know where your money is going in order to create a budget that will work for you.

There are different ways to budget.

  1. Zero based budget. With this type of budget you start with income on top, then list your expenses one by one and subtract each item until you reach zero.
  2. Paycheck by paycheck budgeting. (This is how I work my budget) For each check you create a budget and give your money a job. This one worked well for me because I get paid on the 15/30, so I split my bills accordingly.
  3. Cash envelopes. Using only cash for variable expenses like grocery/food, gas, fun etc., this is a great way to get your spending under control if that is an issue. You create envelopes for each budget item, take out the cash and use the cash through the budget period. Once the cash runs out, that’s it for that budget item for the month.
  4. 50/30/20 budget method. You allocate 50% of your income for needs like housing, transportation and food, 30% for wants like the gym, Starbucks and Netflix, and 20% of your income should be going to savings/debt repayment. If you live in a high cost area like LA County this might not be the best method for you.
  5. Pay yourself first method. You prioritize savings, debt repayment and or investing. You put a specific number aside automatically every month toward one of those 3, or all 3, and then whatever is left you can use as you wish. This eliminates the need to track your spending and puts your savings and goals on autopilot.

You can try different methods and see what works best for you. But it all starts with knowing where your money is going and checking in with your financial goals. Create your budget around those goals.

My best suggestion for the budget is BUDGET INCOME LOW AND EXPENSES HIGH. What this means is budget your income only on what you will absolutely get- not any income you hope/expect to get (like overtime). Budget expenses high so you are not surprised when your electricity bill is $150 vs. $100 one month.

I believe that when we empower ourselves to create our financial plans we can find true freedom and liberation from the grind of capitalism. For me, financial freedom means the freedom to live my life the way I want to live it, to not be bound by debt and to be intentional with how I spend my money. I believe financial freedom gives you the ability to have fun, live for yourself and not your 9-5 job. But I also believe that a budget should NOT be about deprivation. A budget doesn’t mean you can’t live your life. A GOOD BUDGET will help you reach your goals AND provide you with the things that make you happy. So yes you can spend money, you can eat out, you can buy that purse, you can buy that coffee while you pay off debt, while you invest and while you save. YES IT IS POSSIBLE.

On my personal journey I feel like I am not only stepping into financial security and freedom, but I am living proof of what our ancestors wanted for us. An immigrant woman educating herself and sharing financial information to uplift herself and her community. But also, re-investing in my community. My financial education has been provided by women in finance, women of color and I am very intentional about this.

Our little family is breaking stereotypes with my husband being the stay at home partner, while I am earning and managing our money. Living proof that we don’t have to follow the machista mentality that has plagued our communities for generations.

Our ancestors envisioned better lives for us. I now have the opportunity to live that life and create generational wealth for my own little Chapina/ Chicana baby. I want to empower all of you to do the same. As part of this column, feel free to submit questions. I cannot give you personal financial advice because finances are not black and white, they are very personal and there are various factors to consider. However, I can provide you information and perspective so you can make the best decision to fit your needs.

If you are ready to start your journey toward financial freedom write in to Las Doctoras or find me on Instagram @mom_money_boss. I offer workshops every month on various topics, and I also offer Money Empowerment Circles and free resources on my page.


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