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In this episode, MissBeHelpful's Yanely Espinal tells us how she saved half her income while on a small teacher's salary and living in NYC. Click here to get tickets to Yanely's workshop on November 10th:

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What's up, everybody.

This is Yanely from MissBeHelpful, and I'm working with TFD to offer a live digital workshop about credit. We'll be covering how to start from scratch, rebuild your score, or boost it.

We're going to have 45 minutes just for live Q&A, so make sure to bring all your credit questions. I'm Yanely, also known as MissBeHelpful, coming at you via The Financial Diet. In this video, I'm going to talk about the strategies that I used to pay off $20,000 of credit card debt while I was on a teacher's salary, and how I continue to save half of every paycheck after I was debt-free.

After college, my first job was as an elementary school teacher. And I loved teaching kids. I taught third and fourth grade reading, math, writing.

It was so much fun. But it really was not fun to work all day long, work really, really hard, and see a paycheck that was less than $2,500 a month. The average teacher salary in the United States for the 2018-2019 school year was $61,730 a year, and only about 15 states had an average salary that was higher than that.

In New York City, where I was born and raised and where I taught, $2,500 a month is not going to go very far. It's going to make things tough for you financially. Now I'm going to start by being real honest with you, I never budgeted my entire life.

I never had a budget until I committed to getting out of debt and to saving up on emergency savings fund. So having these really big goals is actually what kept me motivated and on track every month with sitting down to go through my budget. So let's start with the big three.

Housing, food, and transportation. These are the big three items in the average person's budget that take up most of their money, and I started by tacking these three things first. After college, I ended up staying home in my parents' basement for a few months, and that helped me save a lot of money on rent, but after a while I saw a whole bunch of my girlfriends were living on their own, and I wanted to be miss independent, too.

So I decided to get my own apartment and I was paying $1,300 a month in rent. That right there was half of my monthly income, and after a few months I really couldn't manage it with all the rest of my finances and bills. So I was paycheck to paycheck again and I really got frustrated.

I ended up moving in with two other roommates later to cut the cost of my rent, and that actually freed up, like, $700 of my monthly budget that I could put towards other bills and that I could put towards getting out of debt, too. For food, I cannot emphasize this enough. People do not realize how much money you save when you meal prep.

It is a huge difference in your budget. So I would shop for groceries about once a week, and then I'd prep all my meals on Sundays. And this was a huge thing for me because before I started meal prepping, I was bringing money with me to work every single day and I was going out with other teachers in my school building to go buy lunch.

But once I started meal prepping, I just stopped bringing money because I didn't need to buy food. I stopped bringing my debit card, my credit card, I didn't carry cash. If I wanted to spend money on something, I just couldn't.

And it became the new norm for me, which is that I just didn't spend money when I didn't need to spend it. I researched every option there was for me to get around the city. Biking, taking the bus, the train, getting a car.

And luckily, in New York City, there's a pretty reliable transit system. Now I really wanted a car like my friends, but I ended up just getting a monthly MetroCard so I could have unlimited train rides and bus rides, and that saved me hundreds of dollars a month, not just because I didn't have a car payment, but also I didn't have to pay for gas, car maintenance, or car insurance. Now if I did live somewhere where I needed to have a car to get around, then I would definitely say my best bet would have been to get a certified pre-owned vehicle with cash that I had saved up.

I don't need a fancy car. Most people don't need a fancy car. It's not a statement about how much money you've got when you have a car.

It's just to get you from point A to point B. In my case, I'm so fortunate that the transit system was reliable and I was able to just refill my unlimited train pass every month, or sometimes I'll take the bus. But I was able to just do that with $116.50 for the first year or two, and then later it increased to $121, which is still a very manageable transportation budget.

When it comes to my hobbies and passions, these are things I really was not willing to cut out of my budget because otherwise I would have been super bored. So I decided, I've got to get creative. I started bartering for free fitness classes at a fitness studio in New York City at a studio that I really loved.

And I would go there two to three times a week and I would work the front desk and then that would allow me to take classes there for free. Now I'm very artistic and I like to do crafts and art things, so I started to just think about a new type of artistic outlet, and I spent $90 on a sewing machine so I could learn how to sew, and then I started sewing things and selling them on Etsy. That was a form of income that helped me bring in extra side hustle money.

I had a lot of fun sewing and selling things on Etsy, but it got really tedious, so that's when I started YouTubing. I had to learn how to make videos, how to promote them, how to edit them. I had to learn how to use Photoshop and then Canva to make my thumbnail images, and these were really just cool artistic skills that I got into.

I don't know about you guys, but for me, when I'm learning new skills or I'm taking on a new challenge, I get really hooked on it. And so that was really no way for me to focus on things that could actually later lead me to make money, too, because once I started consistently YouTubing, actually became another source of income for me, as well. So a couple of other things that I did which were a little more minor, I downgraded my phone plan and my cable, which-- actually I just cut my cable completely and I just decided to just stick with my Wi-Fi bill and that was it.

And I also cut any paid subscriptions that I had, which I didn't have that many, I think only had two, but I just stopped and I would start making YouTube playlists so that I would listen to my favorite songs and I would just skip the ads every now and then. For me, it wasn't a big deal, but I guess if it had bothered me a lot to hear ads, I probably would have just chosen one premium music service to pay for. I think the problem now is that so many people, they just have all the premium services.

They have all the streaming services, the music services, and all these other box services and delivery services. And at the end of the day, you really have to figure out what are the things you're going to sacrifice on because you can't have all those things in your budget. You could probably only have a small handful of them.

So for me, I just really cut like commercial free music, I didn't think it was such a big deal, and I moved that money to other places where I thought it would be more worth it for me. I remember at one point, I actually sat down to make a list of all the things that I was spending money on and all the ways that I was spending my time. And then I just started crossing things off both of the lists.

Things that I didn't want to do, things that I just didn't want to prioritize anymore, stuff that wasn't fun or that I just didn't enjoy. All that kind of stuff that I just really didn't want in my life anymore. Obviously I couldn't cut things that I need to do because, #adulting, I had to do them because it was the responsibilities that I was responsible for.

But if it was things that I just really didn't need to do and I also wasn't getting joy from it, then I just cut it out of my budget completely, and that ended up usually most of the time ended up saving me money. I was a shopaholic, and shopping was just such a problem for me. It was such a money suck for me all throughout my 20s, so I decided to test out not shopping at all.

Just going cold turkey. Unless I needed it to survive, like if I needed basic hygiene stuff, toiletries, detergent, stuff like that. But I stopped buying makeup.

I would just get the basics like drugstore mascara and lip balm or something like that. That was it. And I stopped shopping for name brand clothes and shoes except for a very small handful of items.

A very important thing that I stopped doing was I stopped storing my credit card information onto any websites. Now I know this is very hard to do nowadays because everything is on your phone, everything automatically saves on your computer. But the truth is, the more difficult it is for you to go through with a transaction, the more likely it is that you won't make unnecessary purchases, and you will only buy things when you really need it.

So for me, I knew I was just one click buy, one click buy way too many times, and so I just took all my credit card information off of any accounts online and that really helped me cut back on unnecessary shopping. Now a lot of people ask me about investing. When it comes to investing, I got to tell you, I did not invest any money outside of my 403(b) retirement account at work.

Again I was a teacher, so I did not get a 401(k), I got a 403(b). And that was all. That's all I did.

So no apps, no index funds, no buying, trading stocks. I didn't have even a Roth IRA account until after my emergency fund was in place, which for me was saving up three months of living expenses in a high yield online savings account. Now I know it's tempting right now to start investing because everybody is talking about it.

Everyone talks with the stock market all the time. It's trending on Twitter, it's trending on Instagram, it's all over Snapchat, it's on TikTok. But the truth is that all you need for successful investing is just basics to help you get the long term strategy that you need down.

And for me, my 403(b) retirement plan was enough. It was all I needed to just start out. And again, I didn't have a 401(k).

I just had a 403(b) because I was a teacher. But later, once I got a hold on my finances, then I kind of graduated up and I added a Roth IRA in addition to my 403(b) and then later, I graduated up to opening another account, which was just a general taxable investment account so I can add money towards other long term goals. But I really want to make it clear that you should not feel pressured to invest in stocks, invest in anything, trading, any apps.

No matter who's throwing away stock tips at you, emailing you, whatever influencers are posting affiliate links. At the end of the day, you can just ignore all of that because it worked for me to just focus on me and my money goals, and then later I started investing. And that didn't happen until I was about 25 or 26 years old, and even just from that age up to when I turned 30, I was able to really put aside almost six figures of money just in my account as my net worth from my retirement account, from my Roth IRA, on top of my workplace retirement account, and from my general taxable account altogether.

So all you have to do is to stick to that budget, stick to the goals that you set for yourself, and you kind of graduate up to the next level as you go and as you realize that you're ready for the next step. I knew that I wasn't going to be investing and I couldn't really focus on that as a way to generate money. I had to really get creative.

And as a certified teacher with my master's degree, I knew that I could probably charge a premium for tutoring and things like babysitting, as well, because parents know that they can trust you a little more, that you're not a typical babysitter, you're not a college student watching their kid. So I started tutoring and every single day after school, I would stay and either babysit or tutor kids, and in the early mornings and afternoons on the weekends, I would also babysit or tutor. And that would leave me my late afternoons and nights free on the weekends.

But that meant that I had to stop going to brunch on Saturdays and Sundays in the morning, and I was sad at first, but it actually ended up being a good thing because instead of spending $40 or $50 on bottomless brunch-- you know I did miss that-- but I stopped spending that money and that one hour or two hours of time that I would've been sitting down eating and drinking with my friends and spending money, I would actually spend that one or two hour period of time tutoring or babysitting and make three times as much money as I was going to go spend. So it definitely worked out for me in terms of that trade-off, and I was able to use that money to help pay off my credit card debt and other-- it just inspired me to kind of come up with other ways, too, to figure out ways to make money. It is really important in the 21st century that you've got to have a side hustle.

I mean, at this point if you don't have a side hustle, if you don't have other sources of income besides your main job, it is time for you to figure out what you're going to do for some extra money because at the end of the day, it is really, really hard to earn an average salary or earn an average wage and to still be able to make your payments and to get by and do all the things that you have to do. So this is to show that it's just not as easy as it used to be. So to me, having a side hustle is really not a choice anymore, and that's why the gig economy is growing so much.

And in my opinion, finding a side hustle that works for you and aligns to your skills and expertise and your interests and your talents is really probably the smartest way to go so that you don't really feel like you're working, working, working. You actually just feel like you're having fun. If you're artistic, if you're really good with kids, if you are really good with your hands, if you are really good with technology, those are all things that you can tap into to find ways to make money.

The last thing I'll say, which is really important, is that throughout the whole process, wine is something that I never cut from my budget. For me, hearing ads on YouTube is not a big deal, but imagining myself going whole month, going to work every day, coming home, going to work every day and not having wine, that was a big deal because for me, I really love red wine and so every time I run out of bottle, I would buy a new one. And I do think it's important to keep a few things in your budget that maybe don't make sense financially so much, but it makes you happy because at the end of the day, if you're miserable, just trying to make it through the days, day in and day out and you're not doing anything that you enjoy, you're just going to end up not sticking to your budget.

You're going to feel miserable, you're just going to feel like you're depriving yourself, and you're going to end up resenting the whole financial journey that you're on. So instead, I think it's always really important to keep a few things in your budget that make you really happy, that bring you joy, and just keep them in there and find a way to cut places that don't matter to you, to put money there, or to generate more income so that you can make sure to keep that item in your budget. Because it's important to feel like you're treating yourself even just a little bit, because that way you don't give up before you actually hit your savings goal or your debt-free goal.

Thank you so much for checking out this video here on The Financial Diet YouTube channel. And if you are not already subscribed, make sure you hit the Subscribe button because there's more awesome content on this channel and you want to make sure you come on back to the channel and check out other videos that are just as helpful if not more helpful than this one. That's all I have for you all, and again, my name is Yanely.

I'm also known as MissBeHelpful. Till next time. Peace.