In a world where financial challenges are numerous and uncertainties abound, achieving financial wellness and stability is a goal many aspire to. But amid skyrocketing inflation and unpredictable economic fluctuations, working toward that particular goal is often easier said than done. Success stories from people who have achieved financial stability can offer motivation for anyone looking to follow a similar path.

One woman’s journey to financial fulfillment

A first-generation American and daughter of Mexican immigrants, Giovanna Gonzalez’s journey is an inspiring example of how strategic choices and financial education can lead to financial freedom and personal fulfillment. Now a full-time content creator, financial educator, and speaker, Giovanna studied economics in college, but gaining financial stability early on in adulthood was difficult. “As the first in my family to attend college, I didn’t have much guidance and struggled to balance my schoolwork, my part-time job, and internships,” she tells Credello.

Her first job in the auto insurance industry had a starting salary of $45,000. Three and a half years and a $7,000 salary increase later, Giovanna pivoted to investment management. Though her first role in the new-to-her industry paid less than her first job, she worked her way up to a $70,000 salary over 10 years. During that time, she honed in on financial literacy and used her free time to volunteer as a financial literacy teacher for other women of color.

“Eventually, I began sharing those same financial tips on TikTok and soon after my account went viral,” she says. The substantial following allowed her to quit corporate life and take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship, which now makes her between $80,000-$90,000 annually.

“I believe the reason I was able to generate substantial income at this point in my life is because of my willingness to pivot and pursue new opportunities,” she explains. “From the time I left my insurance job for investment management, to most recently leaving my investment management career to be an entrepreneur. I also credit educating myself on how money works and creating life goals to keep me motivated to grow my income.”

6 things Giovanna doesn’t spend money on anymore

Giovanna’s financial transformation started with reevaluating her spending habits. Some of the surprising shifts she made in her spending habits highlight how even small changes can help bolster a positive money mindset.

Below are six things she no longer spends money on as she paves her way toward a brighter financial future.

1. Lavish Brunches: It’s no secret that small adjustments in lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on our wallets and overall well-being. Once Giovanna started to evaluate her spending, common indulgences took a back seat.

“I spent way too much money having frequent brunch outings with friends eating at restaurants I couldn’t afford to dine at,” she says. “I’d charge the expense on a credit card with no real understanding that it was outside of my budget. Now, I treat myself to the occasional brunch and use the extra money to fund my life goals.”

2. Holiday Gifts for Extended Family: Giovanna reconsidered her approach to holiday gifting to reduce the financial strain around overspending. “I’d also spend over a thousand dollars on Christmas gifts for my family. I used to feel that I had to buy my extended family gifts to demonstrate my love,” she explains.

Of course, generosity is admirable, but shifting focus from material gifts to meaningful gestures can help both your heart and your wallet. “After doing some reflecting, I realized I grew up watching people overspend on Christmas and thought it was normal,” she says. “Now, I only give a handful of my family members a Christmas gift, and the rest will receive a Christmas text from me.”

3. Wedding Party Participation: In her 20s, Giovanna says she would spend “thousands of dollars” to be included in bridal parties. “The cost of bridal showers, bachelorette parties, travel, bridesmaid dresses, and gifts would all quickly add up,” she explains. Anyone who has ever taken part in a big wedding understands that the related costs can be a great burden — and also that you’ll wind up with a closet full of dresses never to be worn again.

“After getting more serious with my financial goals, I realized I didn’t value spending my money that way, and rather support them in a smaller capacity by attending the wedding with a gift,” she explains. Now, she has a strict “no bridal party rule” and her friends know she’s no longer available for that.

4. An individual cell phone plan: Giovanna’s strategic approach to spending extended to her phone plan. Instead of paying a higher cost for a solo plan, she explored cost-saving options like family or group plans to split the costs. “I’m on a family plan with my brothers and extended family and save a ton on cell phone costs,” she says. “My cell phone bill used to be $80 a month, now it’s $35 with the same coverage!”

5. Home supplies not sold in bulk: Buying household supplies in bulk might seem like a small change, but it can make a big difference in your budget, so Giovanna made the switch. “I bulk shop at Costco to save on the cost of home essentials, like cleaning supplies and toilet paper,” she says. One study from MagnifyMoney shows that buying common products in bulk like batteries, dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, toothpaste, and more can save an average of 25% compared to purchases of smaller quantities.

6. Too much takeout: “I’m more aware of how much money I spend on dining out. I’m a big foodie and noticed frequent takeout was hurting my savings ability and adding pounds to my waistline” Giovanna says. “I’ve cut back and only eat out once during the workweek and make most of my lunches at home. It’s healthier and I save my coins this way!” The convenience of ordering out or grabbing fast food is hard to deny, but the dent it makes in your bank account might make you think twice once you know what you’re spending.

Prioritizing financial wellness with meaningful spending

“Now, I practice intentional spending, and spend unapologetically on things or experiences that truly enrich my life,” she explains. Instead of spending money on the six things above, Giovanna is investing in international travel, live concerts, and other experiences that add meaningful value and energy to her life. “I also prioritize spending money on my mental health and seeing a therapist regularly. I’ve realized I can’t be my best if I don’t feel mentally and emotionally well, and make the time and financial investment to see my therapist once a week.”

Giovanna’s journey is a testament to her willingness to evaluate her circumstances and adapt accordingly. To stay consistent and continue to elevate her financial wellness, she sets time aside to examine her finances periodically.

“Every six months, I hold a money date with my spouse,” she explains. “We grab dinner at a casual spot, check in on how our finances are doing, and talk about our future life goals.” Those goals at this point include saving for early retirement, maxing out their health savings account (HSA) for future medical expenses, and building a stash of cash to put toward yet-to-be-determined objectives. “We’re also building cash savings to have more options in the future. We either want to move abroad to experience life as expats or save up money for a down payment on a rental property.”

A path toward cutting out frivolous spending and focusing on meaningful expenses like Giovanna has may mean tackling debts that are holding you back. If you encounter debt on your journey toward financial wellness, Credello’s debt payoff calculator can help you learn about different debt repayment methods to know how long you’ll be paying on those debts before you can start putting money aside for future goals.

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Bottom line

Spurred by education and purposeful choices, Giovanna’s ability to make lasting changes, coupled with a commitment to financial literacy has helped propel her success — in work, life, and finances. Now, she is on a mission to help others do the same.

“I’m rooting for anybody who wants to take charge of their financial journey. Especially when financial stress disproportionately affects women of color, who have higher unmet financial needs, more student debt, and are more likely to struggle financially while in school,” she says. Her top advice? Master your budget. “Create a plan for your money and spend according to that plan,” she says.

Giovanna recently partnered with Secret Deodorant as part of their financial empowerment initiative for young women and is offering free access to her Budgeting Basics for Women course through their program.

“I wish I’d understood the power of budgeting sooner. Before I created money goals and a budget, I was mindlessly spending money on things that didn’t matter,” she says. “Now I’m clear on what I want my money to do for me, and feel confident that I’m making progress towards my financial goals — without sacrificing my quality of life. I’m thrilled to be working with a brand I grew up with to deliver this resource completely free to our next generation!”