Explore Chicago!

The Art of Love & Money Explore Chicago

If you are lucky enough to be attending Forefront in Chicago this weekend, know this:

I am jealous.

I hope to be there one day. 

I will make a plan to be there one day.

Totally a Big Dream list item…I applied for a volunteer position, but didn’t make the cut.  I’m sure the competition was steep, and I totally respect that.  I did use the Briefcase Technique  in my interview pitch, outlining some cool things to explore in Chicago, because planning fun excursions is my super power – so please enjoy these handouts, whether you are lucky enough to be there this weekend, or save them for the next time you go to The Windy City.

Even though the Briefcase Technique  didn’t seal the deal for me this time, it has in the past – and even when it doesn’t land you the gig – it does stretch you to new heights and give you a practice run testing out your skill sets, so give it a go.

I used the Briefcase Technique  to land a spot on So Money as a guest co-host to Farnoosh Torabi.  Listen to that episode here.

Chicago is not my hometown, but it is the nearest BIG city, so here are some fun explorations I hope you take advantage of.

The pdf includes some hometown favorites and also some great coffee shops, unique spas and nightlife.

Enjoy Gretchen Rubin and Ramit Sethi.

ACTIONABLE STEP:  Check out Ramit Sethi’s Briefcase Technique  video and then go apply it somewhere in your life immediately.  It will work if you do.

Explore & Live a Rich Life,





Plan for Irregular Expenses

Last week we looked at the bills we pay monthly – both auto-pay and manually. I hope you are feeling good and accomplished now that you have all that done.   The week before that, we set up our budget categories and looked into budgeting software options.  If you are just joining me – Welcome!  …and be sure to go back and check out those posts as well.


This week – we will plan for irregular expenses.  Make a list of all the unexpected or irregular expenses you could run into throughout the year.

Turns out Christmas is December 25th every, single year.

You can download the FREE Irregular Expenses Worksheet here.

Estimate how much you spend on Christmas gifts.  Divide that by 12 and put that much aside every month for Christmas.

Same goes for all other irregular, but inevitable expenses.  Here are some examples:

  • Home Owner’s Insurance (if not in escrow)
  • Property Tax (if not in escrow)
  • Car Repairs/ Maintenance
  • All the smaller Holidays – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween.
  • Back to School
  • Road trips
  • Birthday Accounts – List all of the people in your life that you buy gifts for, or that you would like to eventually buy a gift for.  Assign each person a gift amount.  Add them all up and divide by 12.  Put that amount aside monthly and you will have the money ready when it is time.  Fill out the Monthly Birthday Calendar and you will not only have the money, but you will be prepared, too!
The Art of Love & Money Irregular Expenses
The Art of Love & Money Irregular Expenses

The easiest way I have found to handle these irregular expenses is in YNAB budgeting software.

You can also use an envelope system or plain old yellow pad and pencil, but it will be more hands-on work.  The benefit of the envelope system is the money is hands-off, not readily available in the checking account when you are fighting the urge to overspend.  When you find the perfect red heels that you have been searching for, even though you have no particular place to wear them to, you would have to physically go home and take the money out of your sister’s birthday envelope, and that just makes you feel like a jerk. 😉

I used to keep the irregular expenses in my ING savings buckets, but that made for a lot of little buckets and transfers back and forth, which I didn’t mind because it did help me to stay within budget and goals, but using the YNAB budget categories is so much simpler and is more systematic, which gives me time in my day to handle all of the other financial matters and other areas of my life, or to just read a book or take a painting class, or binge watch Netflix.  My choice.

Now, don’t go getting overwhelmed by all of this.  Fill out the worksheet even if money is tight and you can’t fit it into the budget right now.  Especially if money is tight.

You don’t have to pay for it all now, you just have to list it.

You will want to be caught up to date and current on all bills before you start funding these categories.  It’s a bit of an advanced function of the budget, but it is important for their to be space.  That way, when there is a windfall in your budget you don’t know what to do with – You’ll know where it should go.

I mean, I’d rather blow my windfall in the moment, but in the face of car repairs and property taxes due and by the way, kiddo’s birthday is next month, I’ll be glad I allocated based on my priorities instead.

This is key to getting out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle.  And if you get paid bi-weekly?  That is the perfect opportunity to bank the bonus third paycheck of the month twice per year.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

ACTIONABLE STEP: List all of the irregular expenses that need to be accounted for throughout the year.  Apply a dollar amount to each category and work the irregular expenses into your budget.

Want tozoom meet up for a coffee chat via Zoom and talk about irregular expenses?  Shoot me an email at artofloveandmoney@gmail.com & let’s do it!


Monday Motivation

The Art of Love & Money A Million Different Colors

Go on, and get that paint pallet ready – dip into the azure, take a bit of that coral and use the emerald, too.  Don’t reserve the marigold for a special occasion.  While you are at it take some of the tangerine and the cobalt and don’t forget the fuchsia.

I came across this quote and it stirred something inside of me.  I don’t know what it will bring, or what it may lead me to do, but I hope that it inspires and stirs something inside you as well.

Don’t be a shade of gray.  Don’t be so stark as black and white.  Be Bold.  Be Beautiful. Ce Colorful.  Let your light shine.  Paint with all the colors in your pallet.  Dust off that old Crayola crayon box.  Color outside the lines.


Give Someone a Compliment

Give someone a compliment today.  You never know what it may mean to them.

From a friendly smile and “Hello” on the sidewalk to say “I like your dress”, or a nod in the coffee shop to say “Your hair is beautiful.”

While these are friendly gestures of acknowledgement, the best compliments are deeper, a little more meaning.  My mother came to my husband’s grandma’s visitation service.  My mom introduced herself to his Grandfather as my mother, and he smiled at her and said “She is one of the best parts of our family.”

That’s high praise.

And it meant the world to me.

Take Note of Your Bills

The Art of Love & Money - Take Note of Your Bills

This step is simplistic, to the point that a lot of people skip it entirely.  But, just trust me on this one.

Get out a pen and paper and write down all of the bills that you pay monthly and the amount that you pay.

Analyze these bills.  Do you love the service?  Can you get a better price?

Write them all down and then take a day or a week to focus on researching each bill, calling around for a better rate, or even a better service for the same rate, and finally analyzing whether or not you even want to keep that service.

Think minimalism – in that if you don’t love it, and it isn’t a required necessity, or you don’t use it – let it go.  You can always go out and get more bills if you change your mind.

The Art of Love & Money Manual Bill Pay
The Art of Love & Money Manual Bill Pay

Download FREE Manual Bill Pay Sheet here.

Set Your Bills to AutoPay.

Take the list of each bill that you pay and set up an auto pay plan for each of those bills.

Contact the company and set up the bill pay through your checking account.

Mark the bill for auto pay on a schedule on paper and set a reminder in your phone.

The Art of Love & Money Automatic Drafts
The Art of Love & Money Automatic Drafts

Download FREE Automatic Draft Sheet here.

Create a manila folder for auto pay and put a hard copy of all of the auto pay agreements in there.  File this paper in your Financial File Box.

Place a copy of both of these sheets in your Personal Planner.

Return to your budget software.

Fill in auto payments in your budget.

This can be time consuming, so don’t get frustrated or use it as an excuse to procrastinate.  Get a weekly planner sheet out and block out times to set up the payments, make a folder, print and assign the agreements, fill out the auto pay schedule, fill in your budget.  Break it down or do it all at once.  It is up to you, but this is a big step in systematizing your finances so celebrate when you are finished!

Get it done and then do something fun.

Tip:  If you use YNAB, putting these amounts into your budget is fairly simple.

Side Note:  If you are really, really behind on your bills, or your balance is very low, I don’t recommend auto payments until you get caught up and have enough money in your checking account to handle it smoothly.  Don’t use that as a crutch, though!  Sit down and figure out how you can get caught up on the bills and get at least a $500 minimum balance in your checking account.  One mind game I used when I was starting out was to use $500 as my $0.  If I had $540 in my checking account, my paper register read $40.  It helped me to stop spending way before I got to the point of emergency.  You could also use $1,000 as your Zero if you have more expenses. When you get really advanced, use the buffer – one prior month’s spending or income as your Zero.  There are hundreds of mind tricks you can use, and I say use every last one of them that you can think of.  Money is a game, so play it by your rules and make it work for you.

ACTIONABLE STEP: Open up your bank statement or login to your checking account.  Sit with a pencil and paper and track all of the bills that are paid EVERY MONTH.

Download the Automatic Drafts & Manual Bill Pay spreadsheets and fill them out.

Research each bill for a better service at the same or more competitive price!


We Lost a Good One Today

We lost a good one today.

My husband’s grandmother passed away this morning.  We lost her at 5:13 a.m.  She slipped away peacefully with loved ones by her bedside.  They kept vigil over her through the night.

She was moved to a hospice house last week after she stopped eating and drinking.  She was unresponsive.  Her family visited every day.

On Friday night, her breathing began to decline.  We were told she may be gone by morning, or it could be another week or even three weeks.  Everyone was called.  Some came, some were not able, but on Friday night we had a full on sleep over.  Four of us in a pull out sofa bed, 2 in reclining chairs, four in  parson’s chairs, and her 90 year old husband in a parson’s chair with his hand in hers, and his head resting on a pillow by her side.

The next day we were told her health was not declining as rapidly as we had thought and that we should preserve our strength, get some rest. The groups still gathered throughout the day, coming and going through the weekend. We took turns stroking her arm, or holding her hand as she rested.  A smaller group stayed on night watch.

Grandma held on until Monday morning at 5:13 a.m.

We were not all there, but she had four dedicated family members standing watch over her.  She went peacefully, just not drawing her next breath.

She was our matriarch.

She had eight of them.  Eight children, one who passed before her.  Seven remaining who loved her dearly and will have to bare the grief of her loss.

She was from the greatest generation to have ever lived.  Born in 1926.  Married in 1946.  Married for 70 years to the love of her life.

They tried to keep them apart, but it was clearly meant to be.  She was raised an orphan after her mother passed away when she was a lovely young woman of just 15 years old.  He, after all, was a Mexican, growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in the Boxcar Community.  Did you catch that?  His family lived in a train cart on the side of the railroad tracks, set up like an apartment complex for their workforce. To keep their feet warm at night, his mama would heat bricks over the fireplace and wrap them in blankets, set them at the foot of the bed.  Any left over scrap of fabric that couldn’t be reused as hand-me-downs were twisted and then shoved into the 1/4″ gaps of the wooden planks open to the outdoors.

The Catholic nuns cared for her daily needs and gave her an education, and a faith that was strong and unwavering.

She was a Saint.

As close to a Saint that you will ever meet on Earth.  She refused to curse, did not care for drinking or smoking.  And yet, she continued to love those around her who did drink and smoke and curse – she loved them fiercely. She insisted on treating people with kindness and respect.  She was unwavering in her love.  She knew what she expected of you, and you could bare to give her no less than that.

When the homeless man came to the door to ask if they had any bottles to turn in for a small cash sum, she responded “Wait here.”  She then hurried into the house to make him a sandwich and donate their recyclables to him, even though, they could have used the spare change themselves…what with eight mouths to feed and her husband working two full time jobs.

When family was in need, she took them in, raising more than just her 8, at a count of near about twenty last we checked.  Not to mention her grandchildren when their parents needed help.

When her sweetheart left for the Navy, the Nuns intercepted the letters and discarded them.  He found her when he returned home.

They married shorty after that on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Their kids lived a happy childhood, the kind where love was plenty and best friends were siblings and neighborhood kids playing until the street lights came on.  They had freedom and independence to play all day as long as they looked out for one another and lived by the Golden Rule.

Their grand-kids grew to cherish them.  Holidays and weekend filled with food and games and fun and laughter.  Get togethers were the norm, not the exception.  If someone needed something, you stepped in and helped them out.

Any day to stop by was an occasion to play Upwords, Rummikub, Farkle, Uno, you name it.  The games cabinet was full to overflowing with good times, an invitation to pull up a chair to the Walnut dining room table with claw feet and chat over a friendly competition.

Their door was always open.  Any given Sunday you could stop by for a visit.  The house may have been full or empty, but either way, you would likely stay long past your expected departure time.  Many times we stopped by after Sunday brunch, only to leave the house after dark and a supper of popped popcorn and good time stories.  Their house was the kind of home where their great grand-kids would notice that we were crossing the bridge, and holler out “Hey, Can we go to Great Grandma & Grandpa’s house today?”

The success that they had in the loving family department outshines even their climb up from an orphan and a box car kid.  They may have started life out that way, but they lived through the Great Depression, a World War, and ended up in a large four square home an a hilltop with a wrap around porch.

That porch is perfect for Porch Sitting.  Drive by on a Saturday and you can honk and wave as we all spend the day laughing and telling stories, catching up with each other.

All your children will come and gather around you.  You will wear them as jewelry, with pride.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, If you were born a Rodriguez, you are among the most blessed people on Earth.  If you weren’t that lucky, I hope you got to marry one.

I did.

Conquering Overwhelm!

Some days are so overwhelming!  Even that exclamation point has me feeling anxious and, well, overwhelmed.  Certain times in our lives can just seem like too much.  Too much to do, too much to get done, too much mess, too much stuff, too much clutter, too much noise, too much outside pressure, just too much.

This is how I conquer overwhelm in my own life.

I clean.

I will set a timer and clean up my environment for about 15 minutes.  Clear away the clutter. If the clutter is not there, I will scrub, mop, and dust.  It is proven that clutter and a disorganized environment causes stress levels to rise in both men and women, although more so for women, and women are more in-tune to the feeling that the stress is caused by chaos in the environment.

I thank.

I get a list and I physically sit down and write all of the things that I am thankful for, I take note of all of the joyful moments in my day.  The red geraniums on the drive to work, the way the sunset lit up the sky as I turned the corner walking the dog, the she greets me as I walk in the door, all of the things that I have but take for granted, all of the things I have already accomplished and now behind me, crossed off of the list of things to do.  I give thanks.  I send thank you messages to others – thanks for doing the dishes, thanks for taking me to dinner last night, thanks for always being there when I need a friend.  If the occasion calls for it, I will a physical, hand written note, if not a text will do.

I prioritize.

I lay out all of the things that must be done, then I determine what must be done first based on deadlines or timelines.  If I have a whole page of to-do’s – I pick out what must be done first chronologically and do the top 3.  Only 3.  Those go on a separate list.  I try to clear my mind of all the rest and put all of my energy into those top 3.  I do them as if they are the only 3 things that need to be done.  I cross them off with a big, black squeaky sharpie.

I rest.

Again, with the 15 minute timer.  I rest for 15 minutes.  In this 15 minutes I rest as if there is nothing else to be done.  Sometimes I will make a list of what I will do for my rest.  Daydream in the sunshine, read a book, have a cup of tea, doodle, a small artsy project that doesn’t require a mess, journal.  What is not restful?  Scrolling through social media.  Even watching Netflix can feel more of a drain on my energy than just connecting with my self, being alone in my thoughts, taking a break.

I repeat.

Back to the to-do list with the 3 next most important things, than back to rest once those items are finished.

I detox.

When overwhelm strikes, social media and screens are not your friends.  The best, most restful weekend I have had lately include setting my phone in a drawer and not reaching for my phone for a dopamine hit whenever I have a free moment.  If you love the socials, you can still set aside time to use your phone, but set a timer, and a list of things you really want to check while you’re on there, and then put it away again.  Somewhere just odd enough that you don’t automatically reach for it in your spare time.

I chose.

I spend any free time I have with myself or with those who give me energy.  I really pay attention to how I feel around others.  Certain people drain your energy – negative, toxic, passive aggressive, and overly narcissistic people will have to wait.  Unfortunately, these people can be family, where you may not want to completely eliminate the relationship,  but you can est a boundary for the time you will spend with them – and it shouldn’t be when you are struggling to hold yourself together.  Instead, spend time with people who lift you up.  It’s worth reaching out to friends for a long lunch, a night out, a long phone call, a quick text message.  Try this: reach out and tell people what you love about them.  See how much better it makes you feel to make someone’s day when you are in overwhelm.

I focus.

I try to focus on only what needs to be done for the moment, and put the rest aside for another time.  If I am really stressed about a particular deadline, I’ll put everything into terms of doing really well on that one accomplishment, and use that date as my horizon line.  Anything that comes after the horizon gets put on the back burner.

Now I want to hear from you.  What are your best overwhelm tips?  What do you do to conquer overwhelm?

Set up Your Budget Categories

The Art of Love & Money Setup Your Budget Categories

I thought I had a budget before.  It was a sad appropriation of ‘CAN NOT’  in my head.  It was a round about number, it was a cursed word that said “No.  Not it the budget.”

Let me tell you what a budget really is.

First of all, every month is different.  How  could it not be?  Every month is different and brings its own challenges and celebrations.

And your income is maybe not exact every month.  If you are not on a salary, your pay may fluctuate. If you had a rough month, do you have a plan in place to duck and weave?  You can’t keep spending the same in a tight month as you do in a banner month.

If you get a bonus, be sure you are using it appropriately to fund YOUR goals, YOUR life’s plans and purposes.

Secondly, your budget can say “Yes”, as well.  Set up your Budget to pay yourself first.

List your income

Subtract from the very top pay yourself first.

This could mean

  • Retirement automatic withdraws
  • Funding your dream list savings
  • Paying off your debt

This is what I refer to as reverse budgeting.  I hit these goals first.  Then I do my best to stay within my budgeted dollar amount categories.  If I spend too much on eating out, it may mean less grocery or spending next month, but it won’t mean that I don’t do what I have decided is the most important to me.  I prioritize my income.

This takes some finessing and you will suck at it at first.  That’s okay.  Just do it again next month.

First things first, set up your budgeting categories.  I have ours set up to put the goals first (reverse budgeting), then the NEEDS, then I filter into the other categories.  Most of the things in the budget are needs, or they at least FEEL like essentials, but I try to list them in a priority order.  My order will be different than your priority order and that’s how it should be.  Our life is not the same, our priorities may not be the same.  My debt is paid off, but when I was rolling my snowball, DEBT would have been the goal at the top of the page, instead of my dream list savings.

The Art of Love & Money Monthly Cash Flow
The Art of Love & Money Budget Categories

Next, find a software system you can deal with.  I love YNAB.  The classic version.  I don’t love the monthly subscription fee of the new version, but many people do because of the phone app.

My credit union also has a budgeting feature, so does Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar.  You can check out Mint.com,  there’s literally hundreds of options to choose from.

What I love about YNAB, and why I will always lean to them for recommendations first, this software will actually teach you sound budgeting techniques as you go.  There is a built in overflow category that will help you get one month ahead of your bills if you use it properly. They have a very active community, a prolific blog, and owner/founder Jesse does weekly whiteboard Wednesdays to teach you a thing or two.  There are live web sessions you can sign up for to teach you how to use the software fully, and the  transactions can be automatically categorized and downloaded for you.  Sometimes the best option is the one that you know you will actually use on a continued basis, so keep that in mind as you get set up.

Take advantage of the free trial versions of the different options available as you get setup.  If you bump into a non-negotiable, take your categories and what you have learned from one budgeting software and bring it with you to the next one!  This budgeting thing is going to be a journey, so pack you bags for the long haul.

My goal is to teach you how to do it in 15 minutes or less, weekly, so that it is painless and you see major progress in your cash flow.

Sound good?

Let’s Go,



Set up Budget categories.  Get started with this FREE download. BudgetCategories-AofLM

Choose a budgeting software to get started with.


Email me with any questions.  I’d love to hop on a skype coffee session with you to get you started!  My goal is to help 10 people this month set up a new budget system that works for them, let that be YOU.


Monday Motivation

Word to the wise:  Don’t spend your time worrying.

It doesn’t help.

Spend your time preparing, fixing, planning, or sleeping.  Worrying never solved a damn thing – just left me drained and exhausted.  And also, resentful.

Let me save you some sleepless nights – Don’t Worry – DO.

And if there is nothing that you can DO, then do not worry – it’s not for you.

I first came across this scripture about ten years ago.  It hit me in the soul.  Like a gut check.


Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34




I was at my height of obsessive worrying.  It never solved anything, in fact, I often made matters worse obsessing and meddling where I did not belong, making mountains out of mole hills, creating issues where there were only my own insecurities.

It was ridiculous, but it fed my ego.

Oh, such an important mother you are, worrying and stressing over everyone and everything.  Clearly everyone needs for you to handle their problems for them.

You poor, exhausted soul.

Only, they didn’t.  And I set the worries aside, and oftentimes, the next day there were – lo and behold – no longer issues that needed to be solved, and there were new things to do and fill my time.  And I was productive because I wasn’t so expended from trying to solve fake problems.

It’s hilarious, really.  Unless you are still stuck there.  So, if that’s where you are, just let me reach out my hand to you and offer you a view from this hilltop, looking over the valley.  Because there are definite valleys coming, but there will be a hilltop on the other side.  And just knowing that helps me enjoy the ride.

Come enjoy the view,


ACTIONABLE STEP:  Think about your worries.  If there is something that can be done about them, roll up your sleeves, and stop procrastinating.  Start doing.  Start Planning.  Break it into small steps.  One a day.  By the end of the week, you’ll be so much closer to handling the thing that had you worried, and your worry will begin, slowly, to dissolve.



Final Days of Summer

The Art of Love & Money Summer Countdown

Summer is quickly slipping through our fingers – what have you done to celebrate your summer?

Do you still have plans to go somewhere or have summer list items to secure?  Take some time this weekend to do something fun and summery.  We haven’t kayaked not a once this summer!

It is getting quite chilly here.  We have had a very mild summer, and it has felt like fall is on its way for quite sometime.  It’s lovely weather, but not quite pool lounging weather or sweltering heat to like drips off of an ice cream cone before it melts down your arm weather.

This is your last call for summer!  Summa Time!

Pull out your summer list and check off any last minute fun items before the first day of Fall – coming soon to a locale near you – September 22.

I did:

I have yet to:

  • Kayak anywhere, let alone the Snake River.  When we went to Indy it was not good kayak weather and we were quite busy with the farmer’s market, an art show, and the State Fair.
  • Create an original artwork on a large canvas

ACTIONABLE STEP: Review your summer list.  If you don’t have one – make one!  If you did make a list and/or you went on a trip or did something you are excited about, please share it with me or comment below!  I love to get new ideas and I love to live vicariously through YOU!