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Did Travel Ruin My Sense of Fulfillment?

Did travel ruin my sense of fulfillment? Travel is an eye-opening and enriching experience. But I can't help but wonder if it helped or hurt my sense of fulfillment.I used to think my livelihood and path towards fulfillment had to come from my career. Success and fulfillment were only things that could be achieved through some job you would hear people marvel at.

A job at a top public relations agency? That was considered impressive. Working long hours juggling different client accounts? It was admirable.

Growing up in a small town with 8,000 people and three traffic lights, I had always wanted more. Like most angsty teens, I dreamed of escaping the place and going on to live in a bigger city. One that had a diverse group of people, frequent events, and strong career prospects. 

To set myself up for success, I filled up my schedule with things to do. I joined the drama group and started acting in plays, did swimming, participated in several clubs, and had a class roster of advanced placement classes.

I tried my hardest to do good, making sure my grades were staying up and vigorously preparing for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Independence and escape were important. 

Did travel ruin my sense of fulfillment? Travel is an eye-opening and enriching experience. But I can't help but wonder if it helped or hurt my sense of fulfillment.

Figuring out a career path

There was a vague idea of potential career paths in my mind as a teen. I really liked making videos. I worked on web series and skits and had a YouTube channel. Audio Video Production was one of my favorite classes in high school.

Once in university, I chose the mass communication and media program. Wanting to get better at my speaking and writing skills, I specialized in public relations.

From there, I quickly decided I wanted an illustrious career in the journalism or public relations/media relations industry. It was fascinating to watch journalists be the unsung heroes on TV and in movies. My downtime involved reading The New York Times for hard news and picking up copies of Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone for long-form profiles. I was hooked. 

I worked on my college newspaper as a news reporter and at my college radio station as an anchor. The positions got me closer to that vision of fulfillment I wanted, which was to get a media job.

Did travel ruin my sense of fulfillment? Travel is an eye-opening and enriching experience. But I can't help but wonder if it helped or hurt my sense of fulfillment.

Eventually, there was the realization of how the depiction of writers and journalists in Hollywood was a tad glamorized. Anyone who has ever read an article deconstructing Carrie Bradshaw’s spending habits from Sex and the City probably knows this. 

But, it wasn’t just Hollywood that clouded the reality. The industry also did it. It didn’t matter if you worked 60 hour weeks in a low-paying journalism job, at least it was at a well-known news organization that would yield satisfactory expressions.

Are the jobs all they’re cracked up to be?

path towards fulfillment
from GIPHY

Towards the end of my college career, I had finally gotten the position I had been pinning for: an internship at a public relations agency. The role involved assisting with client accounts, compiling information on competitors, and finding ways to get a client media coverage.

I hated it.

Something weird about the PR industry is how being overworked and stressed is seen as normal and even cool. A job as an account coordinator usually involves 50-70 hour work weeks, juggling five to seven client accounts, and having to bring your laptop home to do work on the weekends, all while earning $32,000-36,000 a year.

My idea of fulfillment up until that point had always been to get a PR job and rise through the ranks. As I worked through that internship, that idea slowly faded away.

Figuring that it was just the particular job, I brushed it off. Once I graduated, I started applying for jobs in public relations and content marketing.

A lot of the jobs were paying $30,000-35,000 a year for roles that required tons of hours, lots of tasks, and no real growth opportunity. For a while, I accepted the idea of it.

I liked working in the field and wanted that coveted job title of account coordinator. It was a ticket to the life I wanted. A sense of fulfillment. 

I never did get that job title. Numerous rejections came through, citing that while I was a good candidate, I didn’t have the two to three years of experience they wanted for the entry-level role. 

Eventually, I took a blue collar job installing internet and phone systems. The job involved climbing telephone poles in the super humid 100+ degree Fahrenheit Texas weather.

I.was. miserable.

All of the hard work I had done up to that point didn’t seem like it mattered. I just didn’t see how it could work given that all the jobs I came across paid $35,000 or under and required two to three years experience.

A Change of Direction

I’ve always been a big homebody. Give me a book and good indie movie and I can stay in the house all the time. I used to never like going out or traveling in faraway places.

It probably had to be due in part to the people in college who would come back from a five-week study abroad trip and act like they had gone through a ~~spiritual awakening~~. 

Inadvertently, I ended up sort of being one of those people. No, I’m not going to mention living abroad every five minutes like some vegan crossfitter. (which one do they mention first?!?)

But after living abroad for 19 months in Thailand and Australia, my perspective has shifted. Living in those countries and traveling to other ones, exposed me to different groups of people.

I learned the value of experimentation and being put in a place of moderate discomfort. Travel opened up a part of curiosity I never thought I had before. 

I do still desire to move to a bigger city like Chicago or New York. Although, the blind veil of willingly accepting a ‘cool’ position is lost on me now. What fun is it to have those jobs if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to do anything? 

The reality is always different

A few weeks ago, I went to New York City and visited a friend while there. She had moved to New York right after graduating college and started working the dream position she had been working towards.

She revealed how she wanted to move somewhere else for a change of pace. Living in New York and making a shockingly low salary of $30,000 was tiring after a while.

Did travel ruin my sense of fulfillment? Travel is an eye-opening and enriching experience. But I can't help but wonder if it helped or hurt my sense of fulfillment.

A few people I know ended up moving on from their PR jobs. Into more fulfilling work that better aligned with where they wanted to go.

It made me wonder about how travel has ruined my sense of fulfillment.  I got a taste of working in PR and I didn’t like it. The reality ended up being different from the expectation. Putting in the work and paying your dues is still necessary, but I now know that it doesn’t have to involve being miserable and broke all the time. 

Putting in the work and paying your dues is still necessary, but I now know that it doesn't have to involve being miserable and broke all the time. Click To Tweet

The world is diverse and rich with experiences. Travel has brought me into contact with some wonderful lessons.

The lessons are not always some blissful “Eat Pray Love” kind of lesson. Being lost in the hectic streets of Myanmar is anything but relaxing. Running out of gas on a desolate road in Koh Chang, Thailand is scary. Both of those things happened to me. While they weren’t a zen and enlighting thing to experience, they did push my perspective to different limits.

I don’t desire to be one of those constant traveling digital nomads. My days of long and constant travel are behind me, but the effect of the experiences have stayed with me.

For the longest time, I tried to make sense of what I’ve been doing these past 3+ years I’ve been out of college. It has looked a lot different than I anticipated. For the longest time, that caused me anxiety. 

I need to have a plan! Why am I not working in my field? Ahhhh. 

I thought having a set plan was the key to success. Travel showed me it didn’t have to be that way. It wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t get my dream job I’d been hoping for. 

Priorities change, but the journey can teach you lessons you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Did travel ruin my sense of fulfillment? I don’t think so. It just shifted it.

How did you find your sense of fulfillment in life? 

Student Loans Stressing You Out? Here’s What to do

Student loans stressing you out? Here's what to do.Student loan debt is now over $1.4 trillion. Yep, let that sink in. The Class of 2016 (latest data) graduated with an average of $37,000 in student loans.

Student loans stressing you out? You’re not alone.

Student loans are a big problem for many people. They contribute to the delay of many life events like travel, marriage, kids, saving for retirement, buying a house. Aside from big life events, they can also affect your day to day, robbing you of the ability to have a greater quality of life that being debt-free would entail.

There was a strong sense of relief I had when I finished paying off my student loans and became debt-free. No, it wasn’t some mega event where rockets shot out and confetti rained down on me. However, it did feel good.

After seeing the final payment go through, I finally felt like I had a little bit more control of my life. More options.

Student loans stress out a lot of people. Destroying them is a long battle filled with ups and downs. If you’re feeling like student loans are stressing you out, there are some things you can do.

Assess the Situation

You probably have a general idea of what your student loan debt is. It’s the number you see when you log in to your loan provider account.

Seeing the number is a good start, but it’s best to lay out your student loans. Lay them out to get a clear picture of where each payment is going and what the current state of them is.

  • Remaining balance
  • Interest rate
  • Monthly payment
  • When they will be gone if you keep paying the minimum monthly payment.

A great free tool I found for managing this is You sign up for an account, input your various debt amounts and interest rates, and it will tell you the projected payoff date depending on how much you put towards your debt every month. lets you follow the debt payoff plan you choose. This can either be the debt snowball (lowest balance first), debt avalanche (debt with highest interest rate first) or your own custom plan.

The tool is free to use. It can be a great way to visually see your progress as you pay off your debt. I used and loved during my own student loan payoff journey. Seeing the progress I was making is what helped me stay on track and keep from getting discouraged.

Understand Your Federal Benefits

I graduated college with $21,000 in student loans. All of that debt was in the form of subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans. For an increasing number of college students, this isn’t the case.

The gap between federal loan limits and college costs continues to grow wider. As a result, more people are taking out private student loans in addition to federal student loans.

If most or all of your student loans consist of federal loans, then you have many repayment options on your side.

Standard 10-year repayment: The most common type of repayment plan. You pay a set monthly amount for 10 years.

Graduated repayment: lower amount at the start, increase in monthly payment every two years. 10-year overall repayment term. Benefits of this can be lower payments when you’re making a low entry-level salary. As your salary increases, the monthly payment does, making it manageable for some.

Extended repayment plan: extends your repayment term to 25 years. The monthly payment is a fixed or graduated amount.

Income-driven repayment plan: monthly payment is a percentage of the total income you make.

The extended, graduated, and income-driven plans can be great if you’re struggling to make the minimum payments while on the standard plan. The downside is you pay more in interest over time.

Go through each of the plans and weight the pros and cons to find the one to best fit your situation. It’s all about what works for you and helps make the debt manageable.

See if You Can Refinance Your Student Loans

The higher the interest rate, the more you pay.

The journey to paying off student loans is often a years long process. If you have student loans with high-interest rates, consider refinancing them. Doing so could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your repayment journey.

One of the things I have wondered about my own student loan payoff journey is how much I would have saved if I had refinanced them. I didn’t have any private loans. They were all federal loans with interest rates of 4-5%. I did, however, have a big unsubsidized student loan with a 6.8% interest rate that dragged me down a lot.

I’ve stories of people being able to save up to $20,000 on their student loans by refinancing them to get a lower interest rate. This usually happens to people with a lot of private (i.e. high interest) student loans.

LendEDU is a great tool to use if you’re considering refinancing your student loans. 10 questions and three minutes is all it takes to find and compare the best interest rates from several different student loan refinancing companies.

Explore ways to pay off your student loans faster

Usually, this involves making more money. Finding ways to grow your income can be tricky at first. Start by identifying some low-hanging fruit. This can be taking surveys, using cash back credit cards, and cashback sites.

Taking surveys can be a good way to make a little bit of money in your downtime, like when you’re watching TV. You’re not going to get big bucks from them. In my personal experience and from what I’ve seen, you can probably make about $50-100 a month taking surveys.

Cashback credit cards can be really good. You probably have several regular, recurring expenses like groceries, cell phone bill, gas, rent, and auto insurance. Why not put those expenses on a cashback credit card and get rewards?

I have a Discover It Card that earns me 1% cash back and 5% in rotating categories. I also have the Ebates cash back browser extension installed so I can earn cash back on my online purchases. I’m able to redeem my cashback by sending it to my bank account or getting things like an Amazon gift card, which allows me to buy books (I love books!).

After you’ve implemented some simple ways to make a little extra cash, it’s time to step up the game. Look into how you can start and grow a side hustle that can yield you a nice little stash of side income.

Arm yourself with some knowledge to get going. Read books on side hustling to get in the growth mindset. Become a frequent visitor to freelance/side hustle focused websites. My favorites are Side Hustle Nation, The Write Life, and the And.Co blog.

Starting a blog can a great way to build your skillset and a side hustle. When I first started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing (sometimes I feel like I still don’t….haha). Along the way, I started to improve.

A blog allows you to gain experience in digital marketing topics and parlay it into different side hustles like freelance writing, social media management, virtual assistant, and digital marketing consultant. 

My first freelance writing client came about because the person read my blog, liked it, and decided to hire me to write content for their website.

Pick a Debt Payoff Plan

Debt snowball or debt avalanche? It’s a constantly debated topic about which one is better.

The debt snowball method involves paying down the debts with the lowest balances first. This allows for quicker gratification since you’re able to pay the debt off faster.

The debt avalanche involves paying off the debt with the highest interest rate off first. Mathematically, the debt avalanche saves you more in interest since you’re saving money on interest by paying off the highest interest debt first.

The answer? Whatever the heck works for you. The important thing is to get on a debt payoff plan. So many people don’t and just get by on paying the minimum. Be strategic!

Bottom line

Student loans stress a lot of people out. They suck. I’m pretty sure that’s something most people can agree on.

If your student loans are stressing you out, start mending the situation by taking some small steps. Understand your student loans, figure out their interest rates, see how they fit into your monthly budget. Take action and find different ways to destroy them.

Are student loans stressing you out? How do you manage them?

Monthly Progress Update: May 2018

The past few months have been a doozy. I've traveled, freelanced, and picked up some new tools to save my organizationWelcome to my first monthly update!

I’ve never done these before. I’ve read them on other people’s blogs and wanted to start doing them myself. I like the accountability that comes with it. Nothing like sharing details to the internet at large, amiright? Haha.

This ‘May’ update doesn’t make a ton of sense since it’s still the middle-ish of the month. Thinking about it, I wanted to talk more about what the last few months have been like.


When I made my trip to India back in January, I declared to myself that it would be my last one for a long while. Travel wrecks with me. That sounds weird coming from me since I did live in Thailand for one year, Australia for six months, and traveled to a few places in Southeast Asia.

Travel is great but I also like having a routine I can follow. Living in one place for an extended period of time is one thing. Doing short trips is another. Whenever I go on a trip somewhere, it always throws me in a loop.

I forget to do things, emails pile up, and finding focus becomes a lot more of a challenge. It’s a big reason why I don’t think I could ever become one of those digital nomads who’s hopping from place to place every few weeks.

Since the start of this year, I’ve done three travel trips.

India had such a rich culture and amazing food. A lot of the dishes there are vegetarian and they’re so good. I’d been yearning to go to India for several years, ever since reading a guidebook about the country when I was 18. The trip got pushed back multiple times but I’m glad I was finally able to travel there.

Traveling the golden triangle route and Varanasi and Bundi meant I only touched the surface of the massive country, but it was still awesome to see all that I did. The biggest negative involved getting stuck on a grueling 29-hour train ride, confined to a 6 ft by 6 ft sleeper block with five other people in my group. Yeah, just thinking about that brings back haunted memories…:)

Just last week, took a week-long visit to Chicago and Minneapolis. The trip originally started off on a low point. My flight had gotten canceled and even though I was refunded for it, I wasn’t able to get a refund for the Airbnb. So I ended up losing $123 on that. 🙁

I rebooked another flight for a few days later and it went fine. I spent four days in Chicago and three days in Minneapolis. I got to meet up with some FinConners during the trip! I had coffee with Brian Thompson in Chicago. In Minneapolis, I got to visit Erik from Mastermind Within, Gwen from Fiery Millennials and Wealth Well Done.

We had a game night and I ended up with a $3 million wealth accumulation in the game of Life. If only real life included copious interest-free loans! Haha.

Getting My Irish Citizenship

In March, I got one of the best emails ever. The Irish Consulate emailed me with confirmation that my application and documents had finally processed. I’m now an Irish citizen!


I visited Chicago for the reason of being able to submit my Irish passport application in person at the consulate. It should take a few months to process and after that, I’ll be a full Irish citizen.

Given my time abroad, people have asked me if I am going to move to Ireland. I’m not really sure but I like having options. The healthcare situation in the United States is chaos. Having an EU passport definitely gives me more options.

Last month, I got approved for the Amex Delta SkyMiles card. The signup bonus was 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 within three months of card opening. Then there are an additional 10,000 miles added after you spend another $1,000 within six months of the card opening. 60,000 bonus airline miles! I’m gonna use the miles towards a free flight to Ireland.

On Freelancing

You guys, freelancing is hard work. Wow. haha. I’m sure that is obvious on the surface level. But when you really get into it, you start to learn all the nitty gritty lessons that go along with it.

In case you didn’t know, I started doing more freelancing after leaving Australia in October 2017. I went to Fincon17 and was able to get some freelance writing clients from there. I’ve been using it to float me while I look for full-time jobs as well as decide what to do.

Freelancing has taught me a lot. There are still a lot of things I need to do better (mainly pitching and organization) but I’ve learned a lot.

Mainly stuff having to do with time management, communication, and selling. I’ve also started using some cool new tools that have helped me in organization and productivity. I’ll write a post on them soon.

Improving My Finances

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut with my personal finances for the last few months. Kinda dissatisfied with the slow progress I’ve made towards my main financial goals at the moment

  • New (to me) car fund
  • Emergency fund
  • Fun Fund (for vacations or personal development stuff)

I’m not sure I will need the “new to me car fund” since I am thinking about moving to Chicago, but I’m still actively contributing to it. One of my fantasies I’ve had for a long while has been walking into a car dealership and buying a pre-owned car in cash. When they sit me down to ask how I would like to finance the car, I would look off into the distance, put on my sunglasses, act like I’m in a movie, and say “I’ll pay with cash”

***cue the raining of hundred dollar bills***

Yeah, so clearly I’ve thought a lot about that, haha. My emergency fund is at a good place so I’m still contributing a portion to that. For my fun fund, I do want to take a trip to Ireland within the next year, so contributing to that is a big priority.

I started using a new budgeting system in February. It’s You Need a Budget! Lots of people rave about You Need a Budget (YNAB) and I used to always roll my eyes at it. It can’t be THAT good, right? I would say to myself.

I used to think You Need a Budget was the CrossFit of personal finance because anyone who uses it always seems to mention it every five minutes. Well, I did take the plunge and sign up for the free trial.

It’s a confusing thing at first. I had to use the r/YNAB subreddit to get answers to questions about several things. I think I’m slowly starting to get the hang of it and I kinda like it. It definitely beats the old traditional line item budget I had.

But good things come with a cost. YNAB costs $84 for a one-year subscription. We’ll see if I pull the trigger and pay the cost to continue using it.

How has your life and financial life been going the last few months? Let me know!

The Average American is Drowning in Debt. Here’s Your Life Preserver

Today I have a guest post from Joseph Hogue over at, talking about the scary state of debt in America, and how to overcome it. Enjoy!

how to save yourself from debtPaying off debt has become more than an individual goal, it could mean the very survival of our nation

I love the debt payoff stories you read on blogs. Following the story of how someone paid off a seemingly insurmountable amount of debt is not only hugely motivating but usually comes with some great ideas.

At the same time, reading these stories can be difficult for the millions of Americans that struggle with their debt.

Colin’s own story of paying off $21,000 in debt over 18 months relates to a long journey of changing his debt mindset, understanding his spending triggers and dealing with setbacks.

As exhausting and as frustrating as that debt payoff journey can be, it’s a journey we need to make, not only as individuals but as a country.

We talk about debt on an individual basis but it’s every individual that makes up our nation and the massive sum of that individual debt could soon affect everyone in ways we’ve yet to realize.

America Has Gone Overboard on Debt

The average American household owes more than $52,500 in debt and that doesn’t include mortgages. The average household pays a dollar of every $5 earned just to meet those monthly debt payments and people in 13 states owe more than they make in a year on average.

Debt in America has grown to Titanic-proportions and the ship is about to hit the mother of all icebergs.

You probably have a good idea of what all that debt is doing to your own life and financial goals. It leaves you little or no money to save for retirement. More than 40% of households report having less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

Not being able to save also means that you’re just one financial emergency away from having to severely cut back on spending or even a total financial collapse in bankruptcy.

Now imagine what that means collectively to the entire nation, a nation where 10,000 people reach retirement age every day but don’t have enough saved for basic expenses. It’s a nation that could soon see consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy, take a nosedive because there’s just nothing left after debt payments.

Ditching our debt addiction has become more than just a personal goal, it’s become a national necessity!

How to Save Yourself from Debt

Sometimes, it’s just that harsh wake-up that gives you the motivation to change. Realizing how much your debt is costing you and how long it will take to pay it off can be one of those wake-up calls.

I got serious about paying off my credit card debt when I used a credit card payoff calculator and saw it would take 62 months and nearly $5,400 in interest to pay off the debt. I would have been paying half again as much interest on my original purchases if I kept to my monthly $250 payments instead of really attacking my debt.

So I ask you…

  • How much interest will your current debt cost you?
  • How long will you be paying off your debt with your current payments?

If that’s not enough to shock you into getting serious about your debt, create a mental picture of your financial goals and what your life will be like once you’ve paid off your debt.

This is an activity I use with investment advisory clients and it’s critical to helping you stay on budget and saving. If you can create a real mental picture, not some vague goal of retiring on a sandy beach somewhere, your goals become real and help motivate you even when you’re tempted to outspend your income.

  • What will you be able to do with that extra money that isn’t going to interest payments? What vacations will you plan and what other plans will you make?
  • What do you want to do on a daily basis once you’ve reached your financial goals or in retirement?

Attack your debt from both sides, from expenses, and from the income side!

Too many people think of their budget only as a way to track and cut their expenses. The sorry fact is that most people don’t make much money, not enough to pay basic expenses and save enough for retirement anyway. The solution is to look for ways to earn more on the income-side so you don’t have to cut your expenses to the bone.

  • Read up on side hustles like starting a blog or self-publishing that can make hundreds a month on as little as a few hours a week
  • Don’t feel like making extra money is something you have to do forever. Set small goals like paying off your debt or building an emergency fund.

Create a strategy to pay off your debt.

There are two popular strategies for debt payoff, the avalanche, and the snowball method. Which you follow will depend on whether you need more motivation or want to save more money.

  • The debt avalanche starts with listing your debts from highest rates to lowest. You make regular payments on all but split extra payments among the debts with the highest interest rates.
  • The debt snowball starts with listing your debts from lowest amount to highest. Again, you make regular payments on all but split extra payments among the smallest balances.

The avalanche method saves you the most money because you’ll pay off those high-rate debts first. The snowball method may cost a little more but it can be incredibly motivating to see those debts fall off your list.

The word financial freedom is used pretty casually on the internet. The actual feeling is difficult to describe but it’s one of the benefits to paying off your debt and knowing you are on your way to reaching your financial goals. In our society where money is the #1 reported cause of marital arguments, not having to worry about debt or reaching those goals is an amazing change.

The secret to financial freedom is to owe yourself a debt. After you’ve paid off your debts, keep saving and investing as if you were paying a debt to yourself. Instead of paying interest on that debt, you’ll benefit from the return on your money.

I try to be an optimistic person but I’m not confident that the debt situation in America will get better before it gets worse. Fortunately, you don’t have to move the entire country to change. Changing your own mindset and turning your own finances around will help you avoid the worst of our debt-burdened future and create the financial future you deserve.

Joseph Hogue worked as an equity analyst and an economist before realizing being rich is no substitute for being happy. He now runs five websites in the personal finance and crowdfunding niche, makes more money than he ever did at a 9-to-5 job and loves building his work from home business. 

Dear Millennials, Learn How to Cook!

dear millennials, learn how to cook!Millennials and cooking. It doesn’t feel like a natural pairing.

Can you cook? Maybe some of the older millennials can, but a lot of us seem to have a serious lack of cooking ability. The best we can do is throw some stir-fry in a pan and call it a day.

To even get some cooking guidance, us millennials usually head straight to YouTube to watch the latest recipe tutorial. Cooking by heart has become a dying art. I also love a good rhyme…

This general lack of cooking knowledge usual makes us end up either eating some unhealthy processed slog or racing to the nearest fast-casual eatery. Chipotle, anyone? 

A 2015 Morgan Stanley study found that 53% of millennials say they eat at restaurants at least once a week, compared to 43% of Gen X-er’s or Baby Boomers.

Maybe it’s because it feels more convenient, maybe it’s because Chipotle is the ultimate love, or maybe it’s just to get that perfect flat lay Instagram photo. Whatever it is, a lot of millennials need to learn how to cook.

A lot of people think cooking and is a time-consuming process that involves a lot of tedious hard work. They think eating healthy on a budget is impossible. As with many things, learning to cook takes time and experimentation. While it can take some time to learn, it pays off in the long run. 

The benefits: you feel less sluggish, better mood, better energy, and you don’t have to agonize over constantly figuring out what to eat for lunch or dinner.

“But, I don’t have time!” 

“It’s too much work!”

I hear you, learning to cook isn’t some quick thing that magically happens within a few days. You probably won’t achieve Rachel Ray level skill right off the bat. Doing a few small things to start can help greatly.

Let’s go through some things to do to learn how to cook. So you can take your cooking skill level from kitchen clueless to organized prep pro.

Get Savvy With Grocery Shopping

Get a cash back app. Download a cash back app such as Ibotta, which gives you cash back for in-store and mobile purchases. Ibotta allows you to easily save money on groceries every week, without the need to clip coupons. 

How it works is you browse the app and find offers before you shop. Once you go shopping, you buy the products you selected and redeem your offers by taking a photo of your receipt. Ibotta matches the items you bought to the offers you selected and gives you cash back.

Once you reach $20 in your Ibotta account, you withdraw your cash and either send it to your Paypal or purchase a gift card through the app.

Make a list. Always be armed with a list when grocery shopping. It allows you to stay focused on what you need and limit temptations to buy extras. 

Shop at a low-cost grocery store. If you have an Aldi in your area, try shopping there for some or all of your groceries. Lots of people have mentioned the lower cost products Aldi has compared to other stores.

If you’re shopping at Target, sign up for the Target Red Card, which allows you to get 5% off purchases.

Buy more whole, unprocessed foods.

This includes proteins (ground beef, frozen chicken breast, tuna cans, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, whey)

carbs (pasta, rice, oats, potatoes, beans, apples, raisins, broccoli, spinach)

& fats (olive oil, real butter, mixed nuts).

Healthy eating on a budget. Greatist has a list of 44 healthy foods you can buy for under $1 each.

Start Meal Planning

You don’t have to be a meal planning ninja who spends all day Sunday in the kitchen whipping up 21 meals for the week. Talk about going 0 to 60 mph.

Start out by arming yourself with some knowledge about the ways to meal plan and foods to eat. This could include accounts to follow on social media, meal planning YouTube videos, and meal planning websites. Some of my favorite websites right now are Budget Bytes and The Minimalist Baker.

Budget Bytes offers tons of budget-friendly recipes and simple meal plans.

The Minimalist Baker offers a lot of meat-free recipes, which let’s be honest, is great since buying a lot of meat can end up being really expensive. Do some of the recipes even if you aren’t a vegetarian.

Great resources to meal plan:

MealPrepPro (paid, $5.99/month): This app lets you input the number of calories you need per day and gives you a big visual list of different meals you can prepare. Each meal includes the ingredients you need and how to prepare it. You can mix and match the different meals to create a full week long meal plan for you. Once you’ve done that, you can click to add all the required ingredients to be imported into your shopping list, which you can use when you go to the grocery store.

The app includes a color-coded graph that shows you what days you are preparing food and when you are reheating and eating. The prep days differ depending on how you arrange and choose which meals go into your weekly meal plan.

$5 Meal Plan (paid, $5/month): $5 Meal Plan is a weekly meal plan service focusing on meals that can be made for around $2 per serving or less. The meal plans are sent out weekly and you pay $5 per month (after a 14-day free trial). Each menu includes a shopping list of things you’ll need.

There are different symbols on each meal on the menu. The symbols indicate which items take 20 minutes to prep, which are freezer friendly, which can be made in a slow cooker, or in a pan. You can also prep and cook many of the meals on the weekend so you can reheat and eat for when you’re busy and tired on weeknights. For an additional $8 a month, you can get specialty menus for those on a vegetarian diet.

Invest in a Cookbook

Cookbooks can be a good go-to source to have when it comes to meal planning and learning to cook. You don’t always want to tap and touching your phone to look at the recipe instructions while you cook.

It may seem weird to get one nowadays since you can just easily Google a recipe. However, there is something to said for having a printed book that gives more than just the recipe. More work, effort, and description usually go into a cookbook. They usually go more into the food culture and way of life of different recipes, which can be great to read.

Some popular ones to consider:

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day

Budget Bytes: 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes

Have Go-To Meals

These are the meals you can make whenever you come home exhausted, without anything prepared, and with a strong urge for getting pricey take out.

Have a list of about five simple go-to meals you can whip up for when you think of what to eat. Meal planning takes time to get into a rhythm with. These meals can be lifesavers to your budget and help you combat excessively eating out.

Think about healthy budget-friendly things like stuff with chicken breast, rice, beans, tortillas, and pasta.

Compile Your Resources

Some nice notepads and books can go a long way in helping make the process less dull and more fun. Stock up on some notepads, ebooks, and food containers so you so your cooking adventures can run consistent and organized.


Are you a millennial? How would you rank your cooking skills? 

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