A fun, visual way to help you pay off your loans

An introduction to our 2-year goal to become debt free! Who wants to join me on the challenge?

Y’all, I’m not going to lie to you: money has been tight this year!

Between an unexpected job loss, a couple scary months of unemployment, finding a great new job (HALLELUJAH!), moving to a new city, and preparing for the birth of our second baby, it feels like we’ve been playing the catch-up game for MONTHS when it comes to our budget.


The really cool thing is, God has stepped in and caught us in SO many mysterious ways, when our bank account was nearly $0. A few times it was through friends or family offering support when they didn’t even know it was needed, a couple times it was a paycheck that arrived a few days early right when a bill needed to be paid – all I know is, He’s provided through a really tough few months and for that I am insanely grateful and amazed!

Now that we’re finally getting back on top of our finances, we’re creating some long-term goals to set us up for financial success in the future.

A huge thing this entails is PAYING. OFF. LOANS.


Our goal is to spend the next 1-2 years paying off as many of our debts as we possibly can, to allow us to then spend the next 1-2 years simply putting away money to buy a house.

And because I’m a super visual person, I decided to create some visual loan trackers to help!

(Not going to lie, it’s SCARY to share personal money information like this. Some people might shudder that I’m sharing real, actual dollar amounts from my real, actual life. BUT: I believe in honesty and transparency. The devil wants us to hold our secrets tight to our chest where they can turn into shame, regret, and anxiety. Well not today, Satan. If sharing my financial reality can encourage just ONE other person to take a step in a positive direction, then I’m here for it 100%). Okay, disclaimer over!

Here are the original designs, created using a free website called Canva:

This is kind-of a cool story: Earlier this spring we applied for a Southwest credit card to use for car expenses. THEN came the unexpected job loss, unemployment, and new job/new city. Some people might see this as a curse (UGH I HAVE SO MUCH CREDIT CARD DEBT) but without this credit card, my husband wouldn’t have been able to pay for the hotel rooms in our new city, which allowed him to accept the new job immediately while we were still searching for a new apartment. Another way I feel like God was looking out for us!


Yes, I owe my parents money. LAY OFF ME OKAY


This is a hefty one: the bill from my miscarriage D&C from last summer. Had I known the bill would be so high (or that I had a choice at all), I would have opted to wait and let my body do its thing. But that’s a WHOLE different story for a WHOLE different blog post.


Remember that one semester I went to Musical Theater school in Chicago and hated every second of it?! Me too! Especially when I get my student loan bill every month! YAY!!!

Long story short, each of these visuals is designed in a way that I can simply color in a letter (or half a letter) depending on how much of the loan I pay off that month.

We’ll start with our smallest loans, pay as much as we possibly can each month (while paying the minimum balances on the larger loans) – this way, we can start to gain momentum and confidence as we pay off loan after loan.

I decided to include the FULL amounts (even for loans that I had already paid partly), so that I could go ahead and color some letters in and feel better about myself (are you really surprised, coming from the same girl who retroactively adds things to her to-do list just so she can cross them off?).

Here are some pictures of the final product, attached to my office wall right by my desk:






I used the website CanvaΒ to create my visual loan trackers. Simply:

  1. Add text in the name of your loan (go for a bold font)
  2. Toggle the text’s transparency to make it gray (so you can color it in, but still see what it says)
  3. Assign a dollar amount to each letter, corresponding to your total loan amount (want the fancy math? Total loan amount divided by the # of letters. That’s about how much $$$ each letter should be worth. Don’t worry too much about being a perfectionist – the whole point here is just to have a visual and show yourself you’re making progress!)
  4. Add fun art like arrows. Be sure to BOLD the total amount, so you know exactly what you’re working toward!
  5. aaaaand print. πŸ™‚

Keep in mind, there are a million ways to get creative with this! You could hand-draw something, make it simple like a thermometer you fill in $50 at a time, or even just squares representing different dollar amounts.

I, of course, had to get crazy with it. #noshameinmygame

Fellow indebted visual-types: let’s pay off our loans and take over the world!


If you make something similar to this, I’d love to see the result. πŸ™‚ Scroll up and click “contact me,” or just comment below – I’d love to know if this method helps you!



6 Tips for Waking Up Early and Not Feeling Like Garbage

I’ve been waking up early for most of my life, and I’ve FINALLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO NOT FEEL LIKE HOT GARBAGE EVERY MORNING! HUZZAH! #adulthood

A few weeks ago, I started a new job that requires me to wake up early.

Like, early early.

Like, 5 a.m. early.

I know, I know… for some of you, this is old news (I’m lookin’ at you, farmers). But for me, the earliest I’ve ever had to regularly wake up for a job (or school) was 6 a.m. – and even THAT was really difficult for me (you know the drill. Wake up. Hit snooze. Wake up. Hit snooze. Wake up. Debate hitting snooze one more time. Hit snooze. Wake up 30 minutes before you need to leave. Panic. Splash your face with water. Toss on your yoga pants. Sprint out the door, smoothie in hand, regretting every decision that led up to this moment).

Not a great start to the day… right?

Since this new job requires me to be high-energy early in the morning, I needed to find a way to wake up (and REALLY wake up) earlier, consistently.

Two weeks into the process, here are my best tips:

6 Tips for Waking Up Early and Not Feeling Like Garbage:


Yeah, I know, I know. This one should be obvious. But how many of us actually do this consistently?? I swear, if I could go back in time and slap myself across the face for continuously going to bed at midnight and waking up at 6 for my nannying job, I would. HELLO SISTER, YOU’RE TIRED BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP. DUH. WHY ARE YOU NOT GETTING THIS. SIX HOURS IS NOT ENOUGH. YOU’RE A HUMAN BEING, NOT A FRUIT BAT. GO TO BED EARLIER, YA DINGALING.

But seriously: shoot for 7-8 hours of sleep. Any less or more on a regular basis, and you’ll probably feel like poo. Of course, this number is different for every person – find the amount of sleep YOU need, and get it – regularly. You deserve to not feel like a zombie. Also, the people around you deserve a you who doesn’t feel and act like a zombie. Amirite?

Oh, and if you’re one of those people who really struggles with getting to bed on time (I’m looking at me here), set an alarm on your phone for 30 minutes before you need to be asleep. When this alarm goes off, DROP WHAT YOU’RE DOING (I know. It’s hard. Just do it.), and start getting ready for bed. Your morning self will thank you for it!

Side note: Melatonin also rocks. On nights I need to get to bed earlier (especially after going to bed later for a couple nights – like weekends), I’ll pop a 3 milligram Melatonin before getting ready for bed. By the time my teeth are brushed, I’m ZONKED. Works like a charm! (There are also higher doses, for those of you who might be resistant). You can find this magical stuff over the counter at basically any grocery or drug store.

Tip #2: Break up with your snooze button, for good.

Breakups are always hard. Trust me on this one. But your snooze button? It doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Your snooze button wants you to stay in bed alllllllll day. Your snooze button wants you to start your day with the worst possible decision: “Eh, I think I’ll just go back to bed.” I mean, really?! THAT’S going to be your first decision of the day?!! No thanks. Just, no.

Here’s what happened when I stopped hitting snooze: it became so. much. easier. to. wake. up. early.

I mean, think about it: what’s the actual worst part of waking up?! It’s the initial moment when your alarm goes off and your brain is all “NO. NONONONONO. NOPE. NOOOOOO WAY. NOPE. SORRY. NOT HAPPENING. NUH-UH. NO THANKS. NAMASTE IN BED, BITCHES.”

And what does hitting the snooze button do?


RIGHT?! So counter-productive. No thanks, SB. We’re DUNZOS.

One and done, guys. Turn your alarm off, get out of bed ASAP, and get on with your day. You’re too important and amazing to be snoozin’ the day away!

Tip #3: Drink water RIGHT AWAY.

Okay this one is simple too, but it actually blew my mind.

I used to wake up and get ready first thing, which would leave me feeling really sluggish and sometimes with a baller headache (yay, dehydration!).

Nowadays, when my alarm goes off (and I don’t hit snooze πŸ˜‰ ), I get out of bed, grab my water bottle (which I put on my nightstand the night before), and head for the bathroom. Then, the FIRST THING I DO (okay… maybe I pee first, but you get the idea), is drink 8-12 ounces of room temperature water, before getting ready for my day.

(Why room temperature? Cold water is a little too shocking to your system first thing in the morning. Most experts recommend room temperature or warm liquids first thing in the morning. That’s why I fill my water bottle BEFORE bed, and place it on my nightstand – by morning it’s room temperature. Perfect!).

If you don’t think this will make a difference, just try it for a week. Seriously. You’ll be amazed how quickly your entire body wakes up just by getting a little H2O first thing.

Tip #4: Get better sleep.

Okay – so we know we need roughly 7-8 hours of sleep per night… but what if you get enough sleep, but still wake up feeling drugged?? SO FRUSTRATING.

The culprit could be your actual quality of sleep.

If this sounds like you, try these things:

  • Start sleeping in complete, 100% darkness. No night lights. A little light from the moon is okay, but most importantly, no artificial light! If you need to, buy an eye mask. I use this one from Amazon and it’s AMAZING. Blocks out ALL light, even when my hubby is up late watching movies on his tablet. πŸ˜‰
  • Buy a white noise machine. My husband & I didn’t use one until we co-slept with our daughter for a year, and now, we’re hooked. We sleep SO MUCH MORE DEEPLY with white noise in the background. First of all, it blocks out tons of noises that would normally wake us up – cars honking, thunder, the occasional yelling hooligan – we are HUGE fans. Secondly, it becomes a sort of Pavlovian response – when I turn on the white noise machine, I immediately get sleepy because my body associates it with sleep. Some nights I don’t even need to take Melatonin, because I can just turn my noise machine on 30 minutes ahead of time and – boom – my body is tricked into getting sleepy. Boss! We use this one, and LOVE it. You can adjust the level and quality of noise to your comfort. It’s pricey, but so worth it.
  • Exercise 2-3 times a week. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, exercise needs to be your new best friend. Whether it’s yoga, walking, jogging, or weightlifting (really – ANYTHING), you’ll find that just a few short workout sessions a week will konk you out at bedtime. Your quality of sleep will improve majorly. Don’t believe me? Try it. Certainly can’t hurt anything!

Tip #5: Listen to music.

Remember above, when I mentioned that I grab my water bottle and head straight for the bathroom to get ready? At this point, I also turn on my favorite “feel good” playlist (quietly, because my husband is still asleep). Nothing wakes me up faster than my favorite music. πŸ™‚ So go ahead and grab your phone and start making a wake up playlist – make sure it’s full of upbeat, positive songs, so you’ll start your day feeling optimistic and ALIVE!

A few of my fave wake-up-early songs:

  • “Ain’t No Man” by The Avett Brothers
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
  • “Love Myself” by Hailee Steinfeld
  • “Brand New” by Ben Rector, and
  • Chocolate” by The 1975

and finally…

Tip #6: Ditch the pre-bedtime screens.

Biologically speaking, our bodies are wired to wake up when faced with light. Think about it: our ancestors didn’t have artificial light – for the most part, they would go to sleep and wake up along with the sun’s falling and rising.

When you spend 30 minutes or an hour staring at a bright screen before bed, and then wonder why you can’t fall asleep – it’s because your body is WIRED! (Pun intended?).

Ditch the screens at LEAST 30 minutes before bedtime (an hour would be even better). Get ready for bed. Read a book (yes, an actual paper book! What?! You heard me. PAPER. OLD SCHOOL, SON). This tip, combined with all the others (especially Melatonin & a white noise machine), will BLOW YOUR MIND. You’ll be asleep faster than you can say “Wow I can’t believe how sleepy I a-.” See what I mean?

And you’ll wake up ready to start your day, feeling as bright & bushy-tailed as those “morning people” you usually want to choke to death.

You might even (dare I say it?) BECOME one of those morning people.


Do you have any more tips for waking up early? Comment below, I’d love to hear them!

Now I just need to work on waking up earlier on the weekends… someone help! I am SO bad at this! Does anyone else sleep in during the weekends and end up feeling super gross and messed up?? Please tell me I’m not the only one! Haha.

Until next time!



The Pros & Cons of Teaching with VIPKID

Thoughts after my first week of teaching ESL online with VIPKID!

Hey friends!

This week, I started a new job: teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for a company called VIPKID.

For those of you who have never heard of this company, here’s the gist: VIPKID, created in 2013, is an online platform that allows Chinese grade schoolers (aged 5 to 12) to take 30-minute ESL lessons from an english-speaking VIPKID teacher. The CEO, Cindy Mi, created the company to provide more opportunities to Chinese children to learn english accessibly in a fun, low-pressure way.

Since I just finished my first week of teaching (I taught a total of 12 classes, or 6 hours), I thought I’d make a Pros & Cons list about teaching for VIPKID. Here we go!

Cons of teaching for VIPKID:

You have to have a bachelor’s degree.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I wish it wasn’t the case, but that’s their one stipulation – so there it is! I figured I’d better put it at the top for anyone who doesn’t want to read any further!

The hours are a little funky.

Considering that I live in the U.S. midwest and all my students live in China, there is a 13-hour time difference. That means my “peak hours” (the hours that are most likely to be booked if I open them), fall between 6 and 8 in the morning. I can also wake up earlier, or teach as late as 9 a.m., but for the most part, early morning is the best way to get booked consistently. On weekends, when the kiddos don’t have school, I can also work evenings – starting at 8 p.m. So basically it’s morning and evening, if you live in the U.S.! For me, this is also something of a pro – because it allows me to work while my toddler is asleep. However, getting used to waking up at 5 a.m. this week was really difficult! Hallelujah for Melatonin, which helped me fall asleep earlier than normal.

The slots you open may not always be filled.

This week, I opened up a total of 16 slots, and only 12 were filled. However, as the week went along and I started gaining good feedback from parents (they rate us from 1 to 5 apples), more of my slots started getting filled. A note on this: you’re also more likely to be booked if you turn on the “24 Hour Booking” function, which allows students to book you less than 24 hours in advance. I personally will probably wait a couple more weeks to use this function regularly, once I have more of a handle on the material.

Technology Issues!!

I only had two technology issues my first week – one class was cut short when I was randomly booted off the VIPKID website and unable to get back on for a few minutes. The other was when a student’s webcam wasn’t working, so we simply did our best and went on with class anyway! Obviously, technology issues are just part of the game with a job like this. My best advice is not to freak out, and give yourself grace when things go wrong (and also, if you have access to Google Fiber… use that!! Faster internet will make everything better!).

Taxes, taxes, taxes.

*insert eye roll* TAXES. They’re the worst no matter what. But as a VIPKID Teacher, you’re technically considered an “independent contractor.” That means that at the end of the year, you’ll be responsible for paying taxes on all your paychecks. I’ve been told by other teachers to simply set aside 20% from each paycheck, the MOMENT I receive it. I’ll probably put that 20% in savings until tax season, so it’ll at least be accruing some interest. This definitely isn’t the worst thing in the world, considering that the pay is so good (we’ll talk more about that later), but it’s certainly something to be aware of!

Now let’s move on to the pros!

Pros of teaching for VIPKID:

You get to make your own schedule!

This is my favorite part!! Each week, you simply go into your schedule and open up slots for the upcoming weeks. If you have an appointment or go out of town, simply don’t open up any slots for those days (although you could take your job with you!). This week, for example, I had to drive my mom to an appointment – it was so relieving to know I could simply not open my 7:30 slot, ensuring I’d have enough time to take her without rushing. SO CONVENIENT.

The pay. is so. GOOD.

Okay guys let me be honest here, this is one of my favorite parts of this whole job. Basically, when you apply and go through the interview process, you are given a “base pay,” which is your pay per 30-minute class. I believe this base pay can range anywhere from 7 to 11 dollars (if that’s wrong, please correct me in the comments!), based on your experience and how you do in your interview. For example, my base pay is 8 dollars per class, or $16/hour (pretty good, right?). BUT IT GETS BETTER. You can earn an extra $1 per class, JUST FOR SHOWING UP ON TIME. Um yeah VIPKID, rad. I can do that. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. You can also earn an extra $1 per class for teaching at least 45 classes a month, which breaks down to about 12 classes per week, or 6 hours. Again: very doable! BUT WAIT, I’M NOT DONE. Remember that “24 Hour Booking” function we talked about before? Any major course class that is booked using that function, earns you an extra $2.

AAAAAAAAND: you also get $$$ in the bank every time someone signs up and puts you as their referral. And I’m not talking about chump change, either. It’s anywhere from $50 to $100 for each successful referral (meaning your referral makes it through all the stages and gets hired on). You get extra bonuses too, if they teach a certain number of classes their first week, sign their contract within a certain number of days, etc. etc. etc. Basically it’s #perksperksperks.

So let me break that down: Let’s say your base pay is $8 per class. Counting all the bonuses above, you could feasibly be earning $12 per class, or $24 per hour (not even including your referral bonuses!). Talk about rad!!

It’s FUN!

Basically, your job as a VIPKID teacher is to keep your students entertained – essentially, trick them into learning without them realizing it! Things I’ve done include singing with puppets, using princess magnets as rewards, making ridiculous faces, jumping around like a monkey, and putting on a fake mustache. And that was just my first week! Starting my day with two hours of pure silliness puts me in such a good mood for the whole day. And seeing my students grasp new concepts is the icing on the cake! Which brings me to my next pro…

No lesson planning!!

Can I get an “amen” from all the teachers in the room?! VIPKID provides all the lesson plans for you. Essentially, there is a specific curriculum that VIPKID students follow. They start at different points, depending on their English abilities when they sign up. Within 24 hours before teaching a class, you simply log in, view the PowerPoint you’ll be going through with them, and make sure you understand what the focus of each slide is (at this point, I usually lay out the props I’ll be using as well – things like puppets, flash cards, and my white board). As if that’s not easy enough, at the bottom of each slide you’ll find “teacher instructions,” telling you exactly how to present the slide to your student.

Preparing for each 30-minute class takes me between 5 and 10 minutes, but according to my cousin-in-law (who has been teaching with VIPKID for over 2 years), this time decreases as you continue teaching, because you’ll often be revisiting the same PowerPoints continually.

It allows you to work from home, even as a full-time parent!

This is easily my favorite part of being a VIPKID teacher. Even as a full-time mom to a wild toddler, I can put a couple hours of “work” in per day, and make a very reasonable income. It feels really good to have my own side hustle – especially one that provides a consistent inflow of money and puts a smile on my face. πŸ™‚ Considering the price of childcare, I have felt so overwhelmed at the prospect of even finding a job that would allow me to do more than “break even” at the end of the week. This way, I don’t have to find a sitter, but I can still make some extra money by just waking up a couple hours earlier. Worth it, in my book!

All in all, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind working early mornings or weekend evenings, can handle being goofy on the job, is responsible enough to set aside money for taxes, and wants to make a genuine difference in the life of many children – then this might just be the job for you!

Me in my “classroom” πŸ™‚

If you want to apply to become a VIPKID teacher, click HERE, and then email me at kelsiewilhoit@gmail.com so I can coach you through the application and interview process. Your success on those two stages will determine your base pay – so don’t hesitate to ask for help! It’s what I’m here for! πŸ™‚