Wow! Where has the time gone?! I know you missed me so lets get into the groove.

2020 absolutely SUCKED, we survived. I got pretty close with some new neighbors and gained some new friends, lost some friend and even lost a job since my last post.  

One of the highlights for 2020 included a new home purchase. In February 2020 I purchased a new home and my first home became a rental. That rental income was super nice as it alleviated some anxiety around what would happen with my employment. I purchased a new home and the next month, BOOOMMM, lock down here. . . .lock down there. . . . everywhere a LOCKDOWN! The stock market should’ve been nicked name after the YouTube sensation Scarlett, because it definitely took a tumble. Of course, everything worked out. I savings grew (mostly because I couldn’t bar hop on the weekends) and I had some really cool opportunities to travel to places like Puerto Rico, Miami, and some other really cool spots.  

Fast forward to December, the week before Christmas, I tested positive or Covid. . . I made it all the way to December then got hit with the nasty. Thanks to Jesus for bringing me through. At first it just felt like I was tired, I went home on a Wednesday afternoon, felt super sleepy and laid down. Then I got the chills and I woke up with extreme body aches, then I got . . . .the runs. . . to put it nicely LOL. Never ran a fever, and on day 4 I started coughing . . . I got some mucus relief from a neighbor and that helped dodge the chest congestion that could’ve led to pneumonia or other complications. All of my symptoms were cleared right at day 13.  

But wait! To add to the drama, I got notice that my entire team was on the chopping block and our roles were being moved to an offshore company. Was I shocked? Nope. . . I’d already noticed the unusual requests for additional documentation for processes and lots of eerie messages coming from leadership, regarding significant staffing changes. So, I was prepared, and luckily, we had 3 months to make a move. 

I actually started looking for new roles in September 2019 but things seemed to be moving slow getting an offer, but I’m glad I started early because it gave me much needed interview practice, and that practice helped me receive an offer in the middle of February 2020! I was able to start a new role without having a gap in paychecks! 

So that’s our quick catch up through Q1 2021. More updates coming! 

I got flued out of 2019 and into 2020; not “flewed out,” like Young Miami’s 2019 coined phrase meaning to get an expense-paid trip for miscellaneous shenanigans, but FLUed out. How on Earth did I manage to get the flu FOUR DAYS before the new year? It came pretty suddenly on Saturday, complete with aches and high fever, and today I’m still trying to get through this cough.

Here’s a funny: I drove to the doctor on Monday morning, expecting the office to be empty. This was a reasonable expectation since this medical center is only available to employees where I work. Well, I arrive around 9:40a and ask the receptionist for the first available appointment. Imagine my surprise when she said the first open was 12:20. I just accepted the time and went to sit down in the waiting area.

I figured with my sneezing and coughing, the staff would hear and try to hurry me out of the office. About 10 minutes passed with me sitting in a chair, then I just laid across the lobby floor. In 3 minutes, they were picking me up off of the floor and putting me into a room to see the doctor. I didn’t realize my temperature was back at 103. The doctor prescribed some Tamiflu and sent me on my sick way, back to bed.

On the bright side, It didn’t have to pay anything for the urgent visit and medication since I’d already met my medical insurance deductible and out-of-pocket max for 2019. 2019 was a tough year for me medically, but careful thought of doctor visits kept my actual healthcare budget low. For example, I didn’t have my first doctor visit until after my first month of prescriptions were filled, and those prescriptions are expensive. Those expensive drugs helped me meet my deductible in the second week of 2019. I only paid $20 out of pocket because I used coupons and co-pay cards. . . Yes, there are coupons for medication.

I’m super thankful that I didn’t have to go for overnight visits to the hospital – I wouldn’t have cared if it was two weeks sooner. For this case of flu, I would have been in the hospital during the new year, which means a reset deductible limit.

Have a spectacular new year and stay healthy; Medical care can get expensive!

Thanksgiving at my house was flawless and only took a few hours with the help of my electric pressure cooker. I hosted a few folks, and it only cost about $140 for the meal between groceries, serving dishes, and to-go boxes. Keep an eye out for my YouTube video, where I break down the cost of food for a Thanksgiving meal.
I want to be sure to hype up my electric pressure cooker: I used that thing to cook the entire turkey (13lbs), the collard greens, candied yams, and sweet potatoes for the sweet potato pie. I’ve been telling everybody about how the turkey fit in my pot, with ease, and was very tender and moist. It took about an hour 10minutes and was more than enough for the turkey dressing and main meat. I prepared all of the food in the photo. Everything was so good that mom has volun-TOLD me to cook Thanksgiving dinner moving forward.
Let’s count up the savings.
It cost me $100, but I was able to send my guests home with a few to-go boxes, and each box was at least two meals, and let’s say a person usually spends $8 at a fast-food restaurant like Wendy’s. I sent about six boxes away – my guests had the potential of saving $48.
I ate off of leftovers for three days straight, AFTER Thanksgiving, and I usually spend $20/day on food – I saved $60 by eating leftovers. I had so much food that I ended up freezing my favorite dishes (Mac n Cheese and Dressing), and I was able to eat off of those another four meals. . . .I think the time and financial investment paid off.
Atlanta was unseasonably warm for Thanksgiving, so we were able to walk off some of the food at the park and enjoy some sunshine. Afterward, I baked my sweet potato pies and watched Netflix. Overall, I had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day! I’m excited about hosting again next year.

I proudly declare, last week, I went 6 straight days without purchasing dinner; I even took my breakfast to work 2 days. My justification for eating normally goes like this:

  • It takes time to cook, and my hourly rate to prep, cook, then clean, is a negative payoff
  • Its challenging to cook small portions for a single person. . .it’s not like ground beef comes in 1/4lb packages
  • I get tired of eating the same thing after the third time, so the money saved by buying groceries and cooking is sunken when I ultimately end up throwing food away because it’s going bad.

At the mark of a new season, it’s time for me to take a break from the restaurants and eating out so that I can re-calibrate. . . and work on loosing these 10lbs I gained last month from using prednisone. (Prednisone is a medication I was prescribed to give my lungs some assistance since I was having difficulty breathing). Sure, I’ll have to spend a more time in the kitchen, but I think my budget will benefit from the few extra dollars for the next month or so.

Now that I think about it, I don’t mind cooking now that the weather is cooler. 95 degree heat and a hot house was Another deterrent from cooking. I also didn’t want my air conditioner running over time trying to cool down a house that’s getting even hotter as I cook. Tonight, I cooked stuffed bell peppers I wasn’t too overwhelmed because the house stayed cool! Made them with butterball ground turkey that was on sale for $1.99/pound. . . normally about $4/ pound. I knew the recipe would make a lot, so I invited a neighbor over so that I wouldn’t be wasting food.

 I’m also in the cooking mood because the holidays are approaching. I’ve already started planning my Thanksgiving meal and I’m super excited about this year’s meal because I have a new electric pressure cooker! no, it’s not the Instant Pot; it’s a similar device made by GoWise, it has the same functionality, but this one was “free” from the job. I used my employee recognition points to get this $120 pot for free and it’s much larger than most instant pots at a whooping 12quarts. I’m totally going to try putting my turkey in that bad boy. LOL

Here’s something fun to know, I have telecommuting privileges in my role, but I choose to work in the office because there are conveniences such as the printer, gym, campus activities in addition to not having to run my own air-condition. 😀 

Everyday right around 3:00pm I go downstairs to the “Market” to get a cookie. Why 3:00pm? Because that’s when the cookies were half off. ROFL. I would get either an oatmeal cookie or a sugar cookie for $0.42 and devour it before making it back to the elevator, but the sugar would help me finish out the day.

Well, why did the “Market” decide to suspend the discounted cookies after 3:00pm? Maybe the store managers noticed that there was more traffic after 3:00pm, for the cookies, so they wanted to take advantage of the transactions at the regular price. . .

NOT ON MY WATCH! *In my best Iyanla voice*

Cookie time is an integral part of my workday, so much that even my manager sometimes brings me a snack right at cookie time. It just doesn’t feel right paying the normal price for something when I’ve been getting it for half price for so long! So here’s how I save myself a few cents… *BOOM* I started buying the 2-dozen pack of cookies from the Publix bakery. 24 delicious cookies for just $3.99. I sort the cookies into sandwich baggies with 4 cookies each, and that’s enough to last me two weeks. (pro tip: refrigerate the cookies so that they don’t get stale.) With this new method of indulging in cookie time, I save 47% by bringing 4 Publix cookies and not paying full price for the single cookie from “Market.”

*The screaming emoji goes here* LEARNING MOMENT:

I calculated cost savings through a simple calculation; I took the new cost of cookies, subtracted the old cost of cookies, and got a total. I took that total and divided it by the old cost of cookies. . . GREAT! Now, you too know how to calculate percentage cost savings 😀

Take a minute and think about something in your daily routine that you can substitute and leave a comment about it in the section below! I want to hear from you. 😊

I went perusing through the mall for deeply discounted items, right after the new year started. It’s commonly known that retail stores eliminate inventory and old styles after people have spent excessive amounts of money on holiday gifts. I was lucky enough to get two pairs of jeans BOGO for $18, but the real savings started after I completed my purchase. 

I walked out of the store (not naming since they aren’t paying for space on this site) and a gentleman stopped me, advertising for a commonly known timeshare company. The guy was able to lure me in with the promise of a free cruise and $75 in cash. In exchange, I would agree to pay $25 in taxes for a 2-night hotel stay in Orlando and attend a 2-hr. sales presentation. I already planned to take another cruise this year, so I delightfully agreed to the terms of the deal so that I could get my cruise certificate. I just began to practice saying “no,” in response to the inevitable sales pitch. 

Pause. A timeshare is the purchase of shared ownership to resort-style vacation properties. Owners pay anywhere from $8,000 to $75,000 for a set of travel points or a specific number of travel days in a year that renews annually. After the package is purchased or paid-off(financing) the points reset every year without additional expenses, but you’re still required to pay annual maintenance fees. A maintenance fee is pretty similar to a Homeowners Association (HOA ) fee. 

I arrived at the preview center for the timeshare and braced myself for a boring sales presentation and an aggressive salesperson. To my surprise, the presentation was engaging and the presenter, a former America’s Got Talen contestant, made me laugh a few times. In truth, I learned and agreed with how the savings could stack-up for families. After about an hour, my “coordinator” greeted me for a tour of two model rooms. 

We returned to the preview center, and I was approached by a sales lead – I’ll call him Homer. I explain to Homer that I’m single with no kids and only travel once a year. (SN: Traveling is a lot of work for me. The packing, planning and last-minute expenses annoy me. Plus, I live in Atlanta, there’s plenty of things for me to do during a STAYcation.) I also told Homer that I needed to see a fee schedule before I could make a decision.  Homer talked for a little bit longer, before fetching a fee schedule that presented 20,000 points at a retail price of $75,000. Ummm no. He pointed to a “first-timer discount” that sold the same 20,000 points at $48,000. Still no, and Homer already knew I wasn’t going to fly with that. After all, I just came to get my “free” cruise. Homer then came back with a good deal, 3,000 points for $8,000 + $650 annual maintenance fee.

So, I don’t enjoy going to random cities and just exploring the city. I prefer cruising because cruises provide a one-stop-shop experience and fee; cruise to a spot, explore and come back to the ship with other vacationing people. My “No” became a, “Actually, that’s an excellent deal” because this company offers an opportunity for owners to use their points for cruises and 3,000 points could equate up to 3 cruises per year. I was a signature away from being a new time-share owner until I stopped to “count up the cost”. Realistically, I wouldn’t be able to take three cruises in a year based on my vacation time restrictions, and I frequently don’t feel like leaving Atlanta. I would be wasting all of my savings if I purchased this timeshare, even though it was a fantastic deal because I wouldn’t maximize the number of cruises I could take. 

Would I recommend a timeshare to other people?. . It depends. Our lifestyles, family dynamics, and cash flows differ so much that it’s inappropriate to “cookie-cutter” this vacation solution to anyone, but I believe that there is value for families of 3 or more who vacation at least twice a year. Here are some questions to ask yourself before exploring timeshare purchases. 

o    How often do you like to vacation?

o    Can you afford to pay for travel (flights or driving) that many times per year?

o    Can you afford the misc expenses that aren’t covered? i.e., Food, park tickets, entertainment, etc.? 

o    Are you able to afford maintenance fees & membership dues for the rest of your life?

o    Will you still have to pay out of pocket to travel during “prime” travel seasons?

o    Do you and your partner or family have the work flexibility to schedule vacation time together?

o    Would you be willing to sell unused points/vacation time?

“Incoming” describes our arrival to a new year, and it also illustrates how our income can impact how we enjoy the year. 

I had the pleasure of working with some Certified Financial Planners, during a college internship, and during my year working with them, I saw a variety of financial situations and their approach to meeting the client’s needs with a financial plan. Some cases included large amounts of debt with little income making it tough to determine how much money should be saved or invested based on the client’s risk tolerance. It was during those times, I heard, “I’m good, but not a magician” and that meant, that more money was needed to be successful in the plan and in our goal to be In The Black, more money typically won’t hurt, except in certain tax situations – we’ll discuss some of those later. 

Income is defined as the cash provided in exchange for services or products; that money helps obtain food, shelter, healthcare, and entertainment. The amount of money sets the cadence for the quality of those things, and as a result, I’m faced with the daily question of “how can I increase my income?” For most people, the primary income source is from W-2 employment such as working full-time job, where time and productivity are exchanged for a regularly scheduled paycheck from an employer. 

I have tasked myself with providing other services or products to generate additional sources of income including investments in the stock market, rental income, and even producing this blog. I enjoy talking about personal finances, so maybe I’ll grow to a point where the blog gets so great, that advertisers pay for blog space. We should initiate a “Sidehustle Saturday” or something similar this year; a time allocated for an income producing side hustle. Some federal employees have been forced to be innovative during the ongoing government shutdown. For example, Jaqi Wright and Nikki Howard, her sister, have been making cheesecake to bring in money they can’t get from their employer. Think about things that give you a thrill. You’ll be able to increase your disposable income and have fun if you work on something you enjoy. By the way, disposable income is the money available to save or spend, after paying Uncle Sam and all the bills. Check back, soon, and I’ll have some ideas on how to allocate some of your extra income. 

Happy New Year and thank you for your patience as I organize the blog and curate content that’s worth reading.

This weekend I went grocery shopping, at Publix, and it was a real shopping pleasure. I began my trip by searching through the weekly online ad. Usually, I only get a few things, at a time, but I was excited to see that there was a promotion to purchase a $50 gas card for only $40, after spending $50 on groceries. I had no other option, but to take advantage of the offer.

I built my grocery list by searching through the Ad for Buy One Get One (BOGO) items first. Luckily, Airwick scented oils were BOGO. I was sure to pick up a few because those refills are a bit pricey and I use them regularly. Canned soups were also BOGO; I decided that these were good, for this particular shopping trip, because they’re non-perishable and make for great lunch items or emergency food. 

Next, I picked up one of Publix’s famous deli subs. Boar’s Head turkey was on sale, and the sandwich sizes are perfect for lunch and dinner. Recently, I’ve been limiting my caloric intake, and I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t need to eat a lot to satisfy my hunger. The turkey sandwich helped my calorie count, and only averaged $3 for lunch and $3 for dinner, and it was delicious!

Frozen veggies and fresh fruit were the last items I picked up. I remember seeing something on Instagram that asked, “What’s something your parents didn’t teach you?” and the most popular response was, “Fresh fruit and veggies go bad quickly when your parents aren’t buying them. It’s such an accurate observation! In a perfect world, I would love to keep fresh vegetables, but they spoil or mold too quickly for my eating habits. I usually get canned veggies, but Mom always fusses about the sodium content of canned veggies so this time, I opted for frozen vegetables because they won’t perish like fresh veggies, and they don’t have the high sodium content like their canned counterparts. Strawberries and blueberries were on sale, but I only purchased one box of each. I trusted that I would be able to consume just one container of each before they evolved into science experiments in the refrigerator. At Publix, you don’t have to buy multiples, of a sale item, to get the discount. If strawberries are 2 for $5, buying one box will still give you the $2.50 price. The berries served as my healthy breakfast for three days. 

Finally, I spent a few moments to determine which gas card to get. There were four options, and I decided to go with the QT gas card since QT has the lowest prices for premium gas in the area. I trust the gas quality, and I like the cleanliness of their fuel stations. 

I saved a lot of money by spending just 5 minutes of planning before shopping, and I made sure that I wasn’t HANGRY. You’ve heard it before, “don’t go grocery shopping while hungry or you’ll buy the whole store.” I also capitalized on credit card rewards by using the credit card that gave the most significant cash back percentage. Grocery shopping may look a little different for you depending on your preferences, access to individual grocery stores, and family size. But check out the sales papers and notice trends in sale dates, for example, I never pay full price for Airwick oil refills because I know they’re BOGO every month.

I’m new to blogging and I decided to proceed with the website after encouragement from a few friends and my Mother. Yes, Mother has a capital M because that’s her name LOL.

I’m calling this blog “In the Black” as a  double entendre; Black is my last name, and “In the Black”, in financial terms, typically refers to an organization’s profitability whereas, in the red would refer to negative earnings or debt. I haven’t heard a person say “I want to be financially stressed,” so let’s take a trip to the black side of scale. The word “Black” also emphasizes my intent to promote financial literacy to people of color.

I’ll be sharing stories about why I decided to purchase generic vs name-brand and basic financial literacy tips that everyone should know. “My people suffer for a lack of knowledge” so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to bridge the gap for someone. If one person benefits from this blog, then my mission is accomplished.

I’m new to managing a website, so please be patient with me and send me feedback on how to improve things such as formatting. I also welcome topics that you’d like me to comment on and I’ll start a podcast if this blog is successful.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton