Friday, December 13, 2013

Crying on the Job

Whew, catching up after a 4 day weekend in Utah visiting one of my bests is exhausting! First world problems, am I right? A recap post is hopefully to come. Such a fun trip but I'm thankful to be home. Hibernating and not traveling until May actually sounds appealing for the first time in my life!

Anyway, while I was in Utah, of course we chatted about work. We're both in similar situations where the workload increases even when the hours in the day stay the same. When the math doesn't add up, we're simply told "make it work" rather than getting any help to find a solution. The frustration has led us both to tears on occasion. Although it was comforting to hear that I'm not the only one that has cried during work, it's appalling that corporate life can lead to that kind of stress. I chalked it up to being dramatic and emotional and irrational sometimes (yup, I fully admit it!) but when I realized that others are in my situation, it just makes me sad.

Within 3 hours back to work after my trip, I was in tears again (I swear, it happened once in the spring and then once on Tuesday - it's not daily!) over complaints in my departments that fall on me despite my efforts to prevent these issues for the past year. After chatting with a coworker, she admitted she cries practically every other day because of work! WHAT? This cannot be normal!

Thankfully, one of my best friends made an excellent point that put things into perspective and changed my attitude. He explained that no matter what the job is, janitor, bus driver, or CEO of a huge company, it's going to be difficult and you're going to have to work really hard or you'll lose your job. You can have the hardest job that doesn't pay much but without it, you're still out of a job. To keep that resource, you have to make the most of it and work your way up. The experience and tears I put in now will lead me to a career with a few less tears if I try. If I keep a bad attitude and think I'm above a job that causes tears, then I'm going to be stuck here.

I think of those who drive a bus or work in fast food who are happy as clam and show up to work happy to help their customers. They entertain and make you feel valued. It can't always be easy to earn low wages and work hard but people do it and I admire them. I am not always in control of the conditions at work but I am in control of the attitude that I bring each day. That's what makes a world of difference and might just reduce my stress and tears. 

I am also thankful to have side jobs that do not cause any tears, like babysitting and writing resumes & cover letters. It balances out the tougher days in the corporate world and helps me bridge the gap between my salary and financial goals until I can work my way up.

I am lucky to have the job I have, it beats a lot of jobs, even on the days with tears. Since my attitude check, I've even been more focused, dedicated, and even content to work overtime to ensure my job is done well. The industry itself might not be my dream job but being proud of what I bring to the table encourages me to do the best I can.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I'm a masochist

Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by my financial situation. Understandably, considering I have $60,000 in student loans and an entry level  job. Even though I've tacked on 3 side hustles and work as much as I can, I feel like I'm barely making a dent or simply spinning my wheels.

As I think about it, I sometimes like to tell myself to be patient and not to beat myself up if it feels slow. I look for any opportunity to do extra work and I've exceeded all my recent savings goals. But then sometimes I realize I'm a masochist.

I don't just mean how I woke up one morning this week and realized I scratched my nose in my sleep to the point of having an obvious scab.

I mean no matter how much I want to meet these goals, I sabotage myself and delay progress. I realized I could already be at my savings goal if I didn't deplete my savings a few months ago to reduce my credit card balance. And even after making that sacrifice, my credit card balance climbed it's way right back up.

I try to be frugal for the most part but then I splurge on things I don't need and poof, my frugal efforts are worthless. It has become a vicious cycle and I'm sick of it. I need to stop sabotaging myself. I work way too much to have so little to show for it.

This is my come to Jesus pep talk as I buckle down to wrap up the year. I want to hit $4,000 in savings and pay off some serious debt in 2014. That's not going to happen if I keep my bad financial habits.

There's a weight loss quote that says, "nothing tastes as good as healthy feels." Well that's true for debt too. Nothing I splurge on is worth staying in debt for. I won't become an extremist but I need to buckle down and make my hard work literally pay off.

Here's to changes and kicking of 2014 with a bang!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November Progress and December Goals

November was a great month, even with my shopping spree madness early on in the month. I was able to get myself back on track and I eventually exceeded my goal of saving $515.47 to reach the $3,000 mark.

My grand total was $595.93 after I set aside $150 for my travel/wedding fund. I like to have a graphic that shows my progress but my goals have changed a bit so graphics wouldn't make much sense.

Originally, I wanted to save $9,000 to include enough money for a down payment on a house (FHSA Loan), a older used car for whenever my car dies or if an accident were to happen, and $1,500 left over for an emergency fund. However, after a lot of consideration, I'm putting my house dreams on hold for now to focus on my student loans.

I have 2 loans that are currently interest only until March 2015. When that rolls around, the monthly minimum is going to be out of my reach. Home-ownership can be a great investment but there are too many risks to face with my debt as high as it is. Also, I'm very comfortable in my apartment and I'm not sure I am ready to give up the heated garage in the Minnesota winters.

So where does that leave me for December? I want to get my savings up to an even $4,000 to cover a car and an emergency fund. That way I can go bat shit crazy on my loans in 2014. But that means I would have to earn $919.54 in addition to my monthly $150 travel/wedding fund. Especially around the holidays, this isn't easy to do and I have no idea if I can pull it off.

As I look at the work I have booked already for December, it's surprising how close I could be. I certainly hope that's the case because I've been pulling 12 hour days this week, including Sunday. But as my elementary school library displayed, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it."

Monday, November 25, 2013

This Weekend I...

I swear, I have made the most of my weekends lately and it feels wonderful! Squeezing in a perfect mix of busy and couch time is my favorite way to spend my time.

Let's get to it!

...babysat Friday night for some adorable kiddos. After homemade pizza and a viewing of Monsters University, the kids went to bed and I got paid to chill out with a good book.
Seriously, I don't ever want to be too old to babysit...well I suppose one day I'll be a mom...maybe 10 years from now.

...had a morning date with my dad! We enjoyed breakfast from Perkins and went on an adventure to fix my headlight that was falling off. I am so thankful for time with him after such a tough year with his health.

...unsuccessfully cheered on the Gophers and the Vikings in a boarder battle weekend. Gophers lost big time to the Badgers and the Vikings TIED the Packers in overtime. It was painful and I might have cried. I don't want to talk about it.

...attended a Sister Calypso concert with one of my New York girlfriends who was in town! It was great to see her and meet some of her friends. The band was pretty funky but it's always fun to try something different!

...celebrated at one of my best friend's engagement party! They have been dating for 9 years and on their anniversary last week, they got engaged! One of their friends made them an adorable cupcake cake - I didn't even realize that was possible! to crochet and got my mom's blanket fixed! Random story - I will be cat sitting for a family over the holidays and during our initial meeting, the wife saw I had a crocheted blanket on my couch that was a bit frayed in one corner. She offered to fix it for me and to get me back in the swing of crocheting. My mom made the blanket for my dad as a wedding present and I got to take it with me to my new apartment. I stopped by her house Sunday night and not only did she fix the blanket easily but she taught me a few new stitches. Time to make some cozy infinity scarves!

...relaxed! A few times throughout the weekend I curled up with said blanket, my nook and coffee or wine depending on the time of day. I put Pandora and Spotify to good use and it felt wonderful to just relax. Juggling 4 jobs and a volunteer position in addition to being social keeps me very busy, so I love every second of this down time to myself.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I have a new crush

I don't plan on dating for a while still but I have been seriously crushing this week after the Joshua Radin & Matt Nathanson concert. On Sunday my friend and I were treated to some serious musical treats.
Pretend I look less confused about the flash.

Now, Joshua Radin isn't really mainstream but if you listen to Pandora...hmmm...what did Matt Nathanson describe his music as....whimpy rock? Well it's chill music, similar to Amos Lee and any of those Pandora stations will occasionally play Joshua Radin. I quickly loved every song I heard and a lot of them have been played on repeat at least a time or two.

Anyway, his music can be pretty sappy and I kind of expected him to be introverted and serious for his show but man, he was adorable! Not only does he have a great smile but he was fun and every explanation behind his songs matched exactly my interpretation. I'm pretty sure we could be BFFs with the way I was relating to the music - but ya know, that can tend to sound creepy. Whatever, I'm owning it. He claims to love Minneapolis and I'm pretty sure he should move here so we can be lovers. Or just keep playing great music. I almost had a chance to meet & greet with him but the line ended right before I got there.

Even if it was Joshua Radin concert, it would have been a great night. But then Matt Nathanson came on and he was incredible. He's probably the most sexual person I've ever seen, swirling his hips and letting us know how each song is about sex in some way or another. But he's a hoot and even though we were standing in a crowd where someone kept farting, it was wonderful!
And of course he took his nightly selfie and I was able to capture it.
As much as I loved so many of the songs the two played all night, the best part of the show was the very last song. Mr. Nathanson ended the show with an acoustic version of my favorite song of his - "Little Victories." My dying phone battery was able to catch the entire thing on video but sadly it is too large to upload. It is seriously my favorite thing on my phone these days.

I didn't do a weekend recap this week but this would have been the highlight of an already great weekend! Thankfully, Josh is coming back for a headlining tour next fall and you know I'll be there!

For Back That Azz Up Friday, I'm throwing out a few of my favorites from the concert. Happy Friday!

You Got Growin' Up to Do (feat. Patty Griffin) by Joshua Radin on Grooveshark My My Love by Joshua Radin on Grooveshark Little Victories by Matt Nathanson on Grooveshark

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

$35 Grocery List - Week 4

I mixed things up a bit this week and it was a huge success! My MN Blogger friend, Lauren, invited me to a Wildtree Freezer Meal Workshop, where you buy ingredients for 10 meals upfront, get together to prep the meals, then place the prep in a freezer bag ready to be thawed, cooked, and eaten whenever you need a quick and easy meal. The best part is these meals are healthy!

So this week I spent more upfront but I have a stocked freezer with awesome meals and it helps me stay well under $35/week going forward.
Freezer Meal produce I brought to the workshop

Additional groceries for the week

I didn't even have to double by weekly budget to come away with so much more food!

Between the cost of the workshop and the higher grocery bill, it felt like a huge cost up front. As my grocery bill reduces over the next few weeks with my freezer meals already purchased, the cost quickly evens out to be very affordable to eat healthy.

These are the spices and cooking oils from the workshop. Plenty of leftover for future meals!

I'm not normally one to get excited about organic or all-natural products, even though it's obviously a good thing. But while at the workshop I learned that a lot of the spices and seasoning packets at the grocery store contain ingredients also found in those shoe preservative packets - ya know, the kind that say "throw away. do not eat."
Stay away from my taco seasoning!
I quickly got on board with seasoning my meals with healthier options. It's not always easy to get healthier but this is a swap I can get behind! Same meals, same taste, but not apparently poisoning your body. Wildtree also uses grapeseed oil instead of olive oil for additional health benefits.

A sample of the final products!

Lemon Rosemary Pork Tenderloin ready for my crock pot!
I was so on board with the idea of Freezer Meal Workshops that I've decided to become a consultant with Wildtree and help others make these meals as well! I am not a fan of direct sales programs but this is really just getting people to eat healthier, more affordable meals at home, which I do all the time anyway. No obligations or pressure to buy products you don't want or need!

If you'd like more information or are interested in hosting a workshop, I'd love to help out! Comment, e-mail me or visit my website here.

Even if you don't live in Minnesota, I can take workshops with me when I travel or I can do virtual workshops via Skype. I'm doing an open house & workshop on December 3rd and there has already been a lot of positivity and excitement! Today is the last day to register for this workshop if you're in the area.

Not only am I excited for delicious and easy meals in my freezer but I'm excited for this fun new role! ...because I really needed a 4th job ;)

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Date with Amos

This summer I got a wild hair up my butt and made some big purchases even though I was aggressively paying down debt (noticing a nasty habit of mine??) I'm pretty sure my favorite purchase was a pair of lower-level tickets to the Amos Lee concert and I finally got to attend last week!

I came across Amos while living in South Carolina and he quickly became my absolute favorite. You might recognize his music from this commercial:

Apparently he isn't exactly mainstream though because I nearly had to beg someone to go with me to his concert! Amos who?? Thankfully my mom was up for a night out with some great music!

Well they missed out because his concert Wednesday night was seriously so much fun! We hit up Crave for happy hour before the show, which is always a good choice. The concert was at the State Theatre, which felt more like we were attending a play. Kinda funky but it worked!

Kat Edmonson opened for him and you can be sure I bought her CD the minute I got home! I hadn't heard of her before the concert but her voice is unique and jazzy with adorable lyrics. And she's a tiny little thing from Texas!

Not going to lie, the audience was a bit crazy for a Wednesday at a pretty chill concert. Maybe it was just the venue that didn't feel like a concert but people were hammered and actin a fool! They were so loud and rowdy even when the music was mellow, which made me feel bad for Kat as she warmed us up. There was a couple directly in front of me full on making out and I even had to move back when they started leaning back into me! I hate to be that girl but get a room people!! And while the whole crowd stayed seated most of the time, a few drunken attendees got up and shook their booty all by their lonesome. For a Wednesday it just felt like the weirdest crowd, which eventually just added to the fun!

Then my main man Amos took the stage and I was the happiest camper in all the land. I've seen him twice in concert before and this was by far his best performance. He was funny and played the best songs! He even shook his booty a little bit. Not only did he sing an awesome mix of his songs, including incredible remixed versions, he whipped out a few covers. The best was ending the show with Queen's Fat Bottom Girls - which my mom has never heard of!!

Sometimes you have to splurge and live life, even if it's a little more than you typically spend. It was worth every penny and I will never beat myself up over this purchase :)

I'm linking up with Whitney for Back That Azz Up Friday with some good ol' Amos.

Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight by Amos Lee on Grooveshark

Southern Girl by Amos Lee on Grooveshark

And one for Kat Edmonson since she's the newest bee's knees!

Lucky by Kat Edmonson on Grooveshark

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

$35 Grocery List - Week 3

Another easy week! I'm starting to wonder if I should challenge myself more?! But I'll admit I had some advantages. I had events that included dinner each night last week, which eliminated a lot of need for meals (thank you babysitting and business dinners!). So how did I make out again with an "easy" budget?

Salmon was on sale so I purchased a large piece to bake for lunches, combined with brown rice and green beans. Yum! More apples with peanut butter for breakfast. Then the rest was just extras for random things down the road. I completed the ingredients to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies sometime soon, mozzarella cheese because it goes on anything, brown sugar for marinades, and frozen broccoli to quickly add a veggie to meals. BOGO string cheese makes a perfect grab & go snack and there are endless uses for the eggs.

Everything was on sale and I came in under budget! The best part was that most of the sales were at one store, making this week a one-stop-shop!

Sorry it's sideways and blurry but it reads that I spent $30.71! I used the leftover to buy a cheap pizza for Monday Night Football, obviously.

Next week's grocery list has a little twist to it. It has changed the way I look at dinner and just made my life a whole lot easier! Can't wait to share it with you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Credit Card Got Posessed!

So I had a goal of saving $515.47 this month to hit the $3,000 milestone. By Friday evening after babysitting I had this goal beat. I suddenly got a little cocky and thought I could hang at the mall while waiting to get new tires Saturday morning.

Then something came over my credit card and it kept swiping itself through machines and filling my closet with so many pretty things. It was possessed, I swear! Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

It started at Express where everything was Buy One Get One 50% off. Plus, it found a coupon to save $25 off for every $75 I spent. It happened to be one of those days that everything fit well and there were several occasions for each thing I tried on, turning everything into must-haves. I swear I started the day not needing anything! I got some great deals and felt like I was nearly stealing from Express but $200 later I was in timeout.

I sat down at Caribou Coffee to read my book and brainstorm about a volunteering session earlier that morning. But after 20 minutes my credit card grew a pair of legs and ran to the Gap. It bought me two pairs of jeans at 30% off because it was worried I was getting a little frumpy in my leggings and sweatpants routines.

Finally, Tires Plus called to say my car was ready! On the way out of the mall my credit card jumped into the arms of a winter jacket. It claimed my current jacket was old, bulky, and anything but cute. It didn't want me to hate winter any more than I already do. And it was 30% off. My card refused to leave without this coat so I didn't have much choice.

To make matters worse, my tires cost more than I was quoted and had budgeted for. And then Tires Plus charged my card 4 times for my $521 bill. That was fun disputing.

Needless to say the progress I had made with saving money flew out the window. When my spending hangover wore off I came to my senses and returned 3/4ths of what I bought. I have plenty of jeans, my winter coat still works, and I didn't really need those sweaters. My credit card has been removed from my wallet and is in safe hiding. There are great advantages to having a credit card but when you can't manage it well, it's not worth it!

My priorities haven't changed and I'm disappointed I let my old shopping habits creep back in. Fortunately I still have 2/3 of the month left to sort things out at hopefully still reach the $3,000 savings mark!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I Joined the Gym

Every personal finance blogger or expert out there will tell you to quit the gym. Workout from home! Run outside! Well, I went against everything they promote and joined a gym last week. And I admit that I'm writing this post while I eat a chocolate chip cookie - so you might not even need an explanation of why I need a gym membership!

This isn't my first rodeo with a gym membership. My family has been members of Lifetime Fitness since it opened ages ago. And almost every time I've moved, I've joined a gym. When I moved back home at the beginning of the year, my parents didn't charge me rent but they did require I join Lifetime again so it would motivate my parents to workout with me. At the steep price of $75/month, it wasn't ideal but if that was my only rent I could swing it. That definitely changed the minute I moved out, though.

I'm on a tight budget with some pretty big financial goals, so I completely understand the reasons not to join a gym. But I did some research and found a more affordable option at LA Fitness and they were even willing to waive my enrollment fee when I told them I was rolling in the dough. So for $35/month, here's why I'm ok paying for the gym.

* I work remotely and live alone. Sometimes I have no reason to leave the house at all and it makes me bounce off the walls after a while. Being able to leave the house and interact with people is big. Sure, I've started volunteering and I babysit regularly but having a place to go that fits into my schedule and gives me endorphins is a very good thing.

* I live in Minnesota. I will never be one of those people that goes on a run outside in -30 degree weather with astounding windchills. Sorry, no run is ever worth it to me, especially with my asthmatic lungs. Nope, never. And thanks to asthma, running outside in the spring and fall is a crap-shoot thanks to my pollen and tree allergies. I'm a real treat.

* I like instruction. I love taking classes of all sorts to get me in shape. If left to my own devices I give up within 2 minutes for one reason or another. But listening to someone telling me what to do and how many reps to do and the peer pressure of staying for the whole class works wonders for me.

* My knees are miserable so many of the at-home workouts that include lunges are a no-go. Being able to access an elliptical, bike, pool, and many classes that are more knee-friendly are more my deal.

* Endorphins are the best. Who couldn't use a little extra happiness everyday?

* It's only $420 for a whole year. That's only 1 month of minimum payments on my student loans so it won't make a huge difference in paying off debt and my health is important. As much as I want to own a house and have my debt gone, I need to have a well-balanced life. It's an affordable activity that I can do any day of the year and debt is not important that staying healthy.

* Did I mention I'm writing this while I eat a cookie? Yeah, my pants are a little tighter these days and I'm starting to live in anything with an elastic waist. Not exactly the best way to get back into the dating scene! Plus, the more I enjoy wearing the clothes in my closet, the less I go bat shit crazy at the mall with my credit card...not that that ever happens...

So it starts tonight with Zumba & Yoga! Here goes nothing!

Also - shout out to my friend Laura - Happy Birthday love! I love that you have an 11/11 birthday and I hope you have an extra special day! xoxo

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

$35 Grocery List - Week 2

Another week of success is in the books! Dare I say, it's actually kind of easy sticking to a budget of $35/week on groceries?

A few notes before I begin:
Any meals I eat out are purchased with my allowance. When I babysit I usually get fed or can at least find a bowl of cereal. My goal to limit myself to $35/week is not a competition or by any means a way to brag. It is essential on my tiny income with the amount of debt I have. I always encourage others that it's doable but everyone has numbers that work best for them.

So how did I do it this week?

I went to three different stores over two days to get the best deals. I was able to come away with not only plenty of food for the week but a small stockpile for future weeks AND I treated myself to some Halloween cupcakes. The chicken alone will make 4 different meals with plenty of leftovers for each meal.

I made tortellini with meat sauce using ground turkey. The milk helped make Pasta Roni meals with frozen broccoli and shrimp purchased previously. The jelly helped me make PB&J with leftover sandwich bread from last week. I dressed up as a pumpkin to get $3 tacos from Chipotle on Halloween and got a $6 Papa John's pizza on a lazy Saturday. I also went to dinner with my mom one night (her treat - thanks, mom!) and babysat a few nights. I alternated scrambled eggs (from the previous week) with apples & peanut butter for breakfast. 

In total, I spent $32.75 and felt more than comfortable. I think if I spent more than $35 regularly I would be wasteful. It feels great to live within my means and focus on the financial goals that really matter to me!

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Progress & November Goals!

I have been so excited to write this post because I'm blown away at how amazing October was! I wrote earlier in the month about my grand plan for finance - one that I am actually going to stick to.

As a refresher, I only reach my goals with extra income. My regular paycheck covers my expenses exactly and then extra income through side jobs is where I can get ahead financially.

I set aside the $150 for upcoming weddings/travel right away. Easy enough.

Then I set to work on building my savings to $9,000, starting at $0. Sometimes starting from scratch is intimidating and any initial progress feels so small compared to the end goal. But the little victories and progress I made continued to motivate me to do more and that strategy certainly worked!

I can't believe these numbers but in just the first month I was able to save $2,484.53 in extra income!

This is certainly not typical, but a few extra circumstances helped this happen! Here's how I did it:
  • October was a 3-Paycheck month
  • My God-mother unnecessarily paid me for helping her recover from surgery
  • I babysat for a family in NJ that paid more than my regular job pays per hour!
  • KPR revenue
  • Selling concert tickets that I would miss while in NJ
  • Dog sitting on weekend
  • A few babysitting jobs once I was back in MN
A small sliver of me was hopelessly trying to find an extra $15.47 to make it an even $2,500 but being simply thrilled at what I have is enough for me.

So what are my goals for November? Honestly, my expectations aren't outrageous. In addition to the $150 I save off the top, my goal is to save $515.47 to make an even $3,000.

It's a much smaller number than October but I don't have nearly the same amount of opportunities for November. I have a few babysitting jobs lined up already, starting tonight in fact. I'm also working to grow my client base for my resume business. 

I'm hoping to reach my goal of $9,000 by the end of April, 2014. Cheers to a new month and more progress ahead! What are your goals for November??

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

$35 Grocery List - Week 1

As I work hard towards many financial goals on a small salary, I'm forced to keep a small grocery budget. As in $35/week.

Thankfully I'm only responsible for feeding myself, but it definitely requires a few tips and tricks!
  • I consider what I have in my cabinets/fridge/freezer and use sale items to compliment them for meals. This allows me to spend half my budget on meals for the current week and still have money to stock up on sale items that will help in future weeks.
  • Yup, you'll see I focus on sales. Each Sunday I look at the ads of 3 local grocery stores. I base my shopping list and meal plans around the sales and then use the any remaining budget to buy staples or specific ingredients a meal might need.
  • I threw brand loyalty out the window. It's not always easy since I do prefer some brands over others, but when there's a coupon or sale involved, I go for the price. I almost always get the cheapest item available, with some discretion on quality.
  • Make sure you prepare meals you really like because leftovers will become your best friend. I get 2-6 meals out of each thing I make.

So what do I buy? Here's a recap of week 1:
  • Loaf of bread
  • 1/2 lb of ham from the deli (on sale)
  • Head of lettuce
  • Salsa
  • Taco seasoning
  • Taco shells
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Old fashioned oats
  • 1 individual plain Greek yogurt (I use it as sour cream)
  • 4-pack strawberry Greek yogurt
  • 2 pasta sides
  • Coffee
  • 4 apples
I had a few bags of frozen chicken from weeks prior. I eat apples w/ peanut butter for breakfast most days. I make my own granola to go in my yogurt for snacks. I made 6 sandwiches and 5-6 meals of tacos. I supplemented other meals with food items I had slowly collected.

I'm almost positive the only way to make $35/week work is when you use some of the budget to buy items that roll over. Then you always have mix & match options or can plan ahead for meals you may not always be able to afford on a weekly basis.

Now, I absolutely know that reading someone else's grocery list is mundane and maybe even weird. These posts are really meant for the budget diva's or wanna-be's out there that want to shrink down their spending. So if cheap groceries aren't your thing - skip these weekly posts. I don't mind!

When I started realizing this budget actually works for me, it was after making my list for week 2. Sorry for lack of pics and details in this inaugural post - I swear it's going to get a little more interesting in this series!

Monday, October 28, 2013

This weekend I...

It's another Monday and I'm excited to kick ass and take names this week! But first I want to recap the weekend, especially since I got to meet the lovely link-up owner this weekend!

...did the Monster Dash with Lauren, Jess, Syndal, and Bridget! We might have froze and had 20-minute miles but it was a gorgeous fall day to people watch!

We were the Minneapolis chain of lakes - I'm pretty sure that idea wins for originality!

...babysat both Friday and Saturday night for adorable twin boys. Man, twins are a handful, proven when I arrived Saturday to find one of the boys had broken his arm that morning! The exhausted boys slept most of the nights and I had plenty of time to read - best gig ever!

...had time! My schedule stays pretty packed but I enjoyed two lazy afternoons with Legally Blonde, Property Brothers and lots of football! It felt great to set aside my to-do list and relax.

...enjoyed visiting my parents and puppy for Sunday night dinner, a load of laundry, and the Vikings/Packers game. I am so very thankful because just a month or two ago we weren't sure if days like this would exist for our family again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Grand Plan

It's no secret that I have some pretty big financial goals. Pay off student loans, buy a house, get a new car when needed (likely soon), afford to travel and participate in weddings, and have a backup savings. On an entry level salary, it's impossible to accomplish all of these goals at once, no matter how impatient I am.

I constantly flip flop on my financial priorities and then get frustrated when it feels like no visible progress has been made anywhere. At the start of the month I made an executive decision to get my priorities in line once and for all and to stick to it for a whole year! It will take longer than a year to pull of all of these goals but it gets me out of the habit of flip-flopping. I even considered the advice of close friends and family to ensure my plan is worth sticking to and easily enough, everyone was on the same page.

So I'm putting it in stone (on the blog) to solidify plans and fill you in on where I'm at. My regular paycheck covers all of my expenses without a penny to spare - and yes, this is a bare bones budget. In order to even look at financial goals, it all comes down to my side jobs and extra income.

Here's the grand plan:

Each month set aside $150 for a separate savings account for weddings and travel. Events will happen, and almost all of them are long-distance. Capping myself at $150/month will prepare me for these expenses and then let me focus on other priorities with any extra cash I can bring in.

Build my savings to $9,000. Yup, sounds like a lot. But there's a purpose for every dollar and this is my number one priority. Save $5000 for a down payment on my house by the time my lease is up. Save $2500 for an older used car. I drive a totaled car and no matter how loyal it is, if I'm in an accident, insurance won't cover it. I need to be prepared for this to happen any minute and if it takes a few years then I will just earn interest in the mean time! Save $1500 for a back up savings cushion.
Since my paycheck does not cover money for savings, I need to be ready for bigger expenses that are
bound to come up. $1500 isn't much but it's a start I'm comfortable with before I focus on loans.

Pay down credit card and manage these cards to stop wracking up balances. My card is interest free until May 2014 and I refuse to waste money on credit card interest. Balance is $2,500.

Go ape shit on my loans. Once I get a home, I hope to get a roommate or two to free up expenses for additional loan payments. I have $60,000 in student loans and I want them gone by the time I'm 30 - in 4.5 years. That might be a bit crazy but I'm determined!

Increase my savings and retirement funds.

So there you have it! It kills me to set aside my loans that are wracking up interest but I need to be prepared for regular life as well. I started at $0 and I'm already looking forward to sharing the great progress I've made in October!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crazy Eight Brain Dump

  1. As I'm here in NJ, I only brought my work computer, which is beyond outdated when it comes to the Internet, and my iPad. I've been using the Blogger app but let me tell you, it has minimal functioning. I'm no genius because I just finally realized I could use the Blogger website on the iPad.
  2. If you need a good smile, take best friend 7-year-olds to a park. They are so innocent and full of laughter and it is contagious. If you don't happen to have a pair of kids on hand, watch Too Cute on Animal Planet. It's all about baby animals that are ridiculously adorable. 
  3. I forgot to put a quarter in the meter while I stopped for a bagel and I returned to a $20 ticket. Oops! I cannot get enough of NJ bagels though, they really are the best in the nation.
  4. I think tea kettles are adorable. Too bad I won't have one in my tiny apartment for some time because instead I will use the microwave for free. 
  5. I rode a bike for the first time in ages this weekend. I was rusty at first but the expression is true - I picked back up in no time. 
  6. Life is crazy expensive on an entry-level salary and student loans. I'm working my booty off to change that though. I even want to attend FinCon14! 
  7. I finally started watching Freaks and Geeks and this cast is insane. I'm pretty sure everyone got their big break from this show! Seth Rogan, Rashida Jones, James Franco, Jason Segal, and so on!
  8. I come home on Tuesday and as much as I've loved the east coast visit, I'm looking forward to getting back to my schedule and apartment. I've lined up babysitting jobs, fun outings with new and old friends, a book club to join, and a new place to volunteer right away when I'm back! It's about time I get life somewhat back on track!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to get 2 Extra Paychecks a Year!

For those of you who are paid bi-weekly, twice a year you'll get a 3-paycheck month. Now, I know everyone budgets differently, there are nearly endless options. But if you're anything like me, you can always use a little built-savings plan or an extra boost to your income.

Here's how I make it work:
Some expenses are monthly, like rent or a cable bill. Other expenses are bi-weekly, like food or gas. Each month I split my fixed monthly expenses in half and make sure my 2 Paychecks cover those costs for the following month. Then when a third paycheck month rolls around, the portion of your paycheck that normally goes towards a monthly expense will be extra available money! 

For example, heres a normal 2-paycheck month:

October happens to be a 3-paycheck month for me. 

Payday is Oct 1, 15, and 29. Ill use the money from Paychecks 1 & 2 to cover typical costs for November. Then when the 29th rolls around rent, electricity, Internet and student loan bills will already be covered and I will only need money for a few biweekly expenses and I can save the rest. 

In my case that frees up over $500 to save or pay student loans. Or blow on a vacation....just kidding! 

I'll have a post soon about what my financial priorities are these days. But for now, I hope this strategy can be a useful budgeting tool! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Back that azz up, Friday!

It has been an awesome week for music so I'm linking up with Whitney to back that azz up today!
Yes, there's Miley. And honestly, I kind of love the whole album. For my favorites, check out Whitney's page since she's already nailed it. 

 Then there's Amos Lee's new album. I have some new favorites in my collection but mostly, I was disappointed. It's a little to folky and I would rarely listen to the whole album through. Bummer. 

 But the song of my week is "Come to Me" by the Goo Goo Dolls. If it's not the sweetest song I've ever heard, I'm not sure what is. Maybe it's just how my heart has been feeling lately but man, it's a good one. Listen to the lyrics on this one, trust me. 

 Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New York vs. Minneapolis

I grew up in a small suburb in Minnesota and by the time I graduated college, I was convinced I would leave and never come back. It was too cold, people were less active, ate too many hot dishes, and frankly I thought people were simple minded. 

When I got the chance to live in New York City, I was living my dream. I was surounded by culture, food, people WAY smarter than me, and random walks that felt like a scene from the movies. Turns out fantasy was better than reality though. It was also crowded, smelly, shallow, and most of all, outrageoulsy expensive, especially for an entry level salary with student loans. The movie scene settings were crowded with tourists, our $2000 apartment didn't even have room for a microwave, and it was exhausting doing some of the most basic things. Lugging 10lbs. of laundry down 3 flights of stairs and down the block so strangers can wash your clothes. Grocery shopping and carrying your bags up the block and up 3 flights of stairs. The quality of life was low. Not to mention, once on my commute home from work I came across two homeless people having sex on the sidewalk. 

When I moved back to Minneapolis, I realized how much the city has to offer. Yes, the weather is still miserable nearly half of the year. But Minneapolis is one of the most active cities in the country, it's much more affordable, and the people are much nicer. I even took my mom to see Wicked two weeks ago for half the price it would have cost in New York and the music scene is amazing. 

But no one writes songs about how incredible Minneapolis is. Minnesota isn't exactly the setting for some of the most famous movies, besides ya know, the Mighty Ducks trilogy and Fargo. So there's still something uncomparable to New York. And to be honest, as much as I don't want to live there again, the awe of the city will never wear away for me. I will always want to visit. 

So while I'm visitng my Godmother in New Jersey, I get the chance to hop on the train and go into the city. In fact, just last night I had dinner in Time Square with one of my New York girlfriends. It was a quitecensial New York fall evening and I couldn't help but love every second of it, even the awful smell behind a dump truck. But while I paid $14 for my glass of wine, I couldn't have been happier to have my affordable apartment back in Minnesota waiting for me. 

I've done my fair share of wandering in my early twenties and I wasn't sure I'd ever find a place that felt like home. No matter how much I love home, I will always want to explore. My dream was to find a happy place I would feel settled but could still afford to travel regularly.

It's not easy to have things figured out in your twenties. Lord knows, in most aspects I have anything but my shit together. But having the best of both worlds when it comes to location is a really good place to start.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Follow your arrow

"An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming."

Latest addition. I choose my arrow to point forward :) 

Take the leap

I moved into my apartment at the start of September after an incredibly stressful summer. Before my last box was unpacked I was asked to fly to New Jersey to help my Godmother recover from rotator cuff surgery for 3 weeks. Overwhelmed was an understatement, especially since I was given one week's notice and during that week I would already be visiting my BFF in Florida. 

I didn't know if I was ready to postpone establishing a routine. I didn't know if I was prepared to help another after giving up so much to help my dad over the past 6 months. I didn't know if I would be ok once again living away from family and friends that I had been leaning on for support. In fact, I almost didn't go. 

But my Godmother has bent over backwards for me and I love this family as my own. Having a chance to help her for once was a no brainer. So I cancelled all events on my upcoming calendar, packed my bags and took a chance. 

"If you wait until you're ready, you may never be." 

Yes, I have my moments of anxiety still but getting away from some of the major stresses of this year will do me a world of good. A new environment with people that I love and love me will help me heal from life trying to kick my ass all year. A new environment to distract me from the annoying parts of life that seem to play on repeat in my head. 

And because it's true what they say: the best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up. What better way than lending a hand after a tough surgery? 

So for the next 3 weeks I'm using this time and space as therapy. It won't cure all but it will send me back prepared for a long, sometimes lonely Minnesota winter. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finding the good

As 2013 continues on and tests my patience daily, I'm constantly reminded to stay positive and focus on the good.
  • I get to try a new happy hour tomorrow night in Minneapolis with a fun friend :)
  • I get to see Wicked with my mom on Wednesday! I splurged on tickets for her bday and the day has finally arrived! 
  • I'm off to Florida to visit my best friend for a long weekend bright and early Thursday morning! Oh and psssst, I'm getting a tattoo while I'm there :)
  • The day after I get back from Florida I'm off to NJ for 3 weeks to help out my Godmother after rotator cuff surgery. I am lucky to work remotely and have these opportunities! And I get 3 weeks with my Godsister (not a real thing but she's my Godmother's daughter who I freaking love) before she goes off to college next year! 
  • With all this travel and excitement, I'm actually looking forward to winter (GASP!! I NORMALLY FREAKING HATE MN WINTER!!). I could really use the hibernation after a year that has kinda, sorta, really kicked my ass. 
  • I just paid $234 towards my debt and put $78 into savings! It's not a lot but it bumped my savings over the $3,000 mark and I'm almost under $14,000 on the loan I'm working on. Little victories!
  • I won both of my fantasy football leagues this week :) 
  • I'm in the works of planning the most wonderful May of 2014
  • After a crazy amount of issues, Katie Pelton Resumes is finally up and running again and I can continue to grow my business (ya know, if I get spare time). 
  • The last season of HIMYM starts tonight!
  • My apartment is nearly 100% unpacked and decorated. Just in time to leave for 1 month!

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Traveling on a Budget

The majority of my family and friends live all across the country. In fact, my sister is currently living in England through the Air Force. As rewarding as my life has been to build these relationships after living in so many different places, visiting your favorite people can be really expensive.

Before I book anything, I signed up through Booking Buddy to get alerts of when airfare is on sale. This has saved me a lot of money but it has also sparked a lot of spontaneous trips when flights are just so low. You can even sign up for specific alerts for locations you are looking to fly to/from. 

Thanks to a few personal finance blogs, I discovered some serious benefits from using a credit card that provides airline miles. Personally, I use Barclay's Arrival MasterCard that offers 2 miles per $1 and it gave me an additional 40,000 miles as a bonus sign on. Even better, when you redeem these miles, the company gives you 10% of the miles you used back. However, I also learned that a credit card is a tool that should only be handled if you can manage it!

Additionally, I book my tickets through Expedia, which gives me reward points for each flight I book. This takes a while to build up but it's free so it doesn't hurt to use it! Mostly, these rewards are best redeemed for a free hotel stay because it would take so many flights to earn a free flight. Still more than worth it!

If that's not enough, I typically fly Delta so I use a Skymiles account to earn frequent flier miles. Also through Delta, you can register your credit card (any credit card) and when you eat at affiliated restaurants, you can earn additional miles.

I was originally trying to wrack up these miles to visit my sister next year. However, I found out today she's working on moving back to the states within a matter of months so that frees up a lot of miles (and ultimately money) for other travel!

I'm at that age where my friends are getting married. Next spring alone I have a bachelorette party in Vegas, a wedding reception in South Carolina and a wedding in Wisconsin. Travel will be entirely covered thanks to these rewards and the money I have been planning to set aside for these trips can now go towards savings and debt!

I also have a friend that loves to travel with me and we like to go somewhere new once a year, if possible. Myrtle Beach is on her bucket list and I'll be able to do a trip with her when I'm already in South Carolina for my friend's wedding! Even better, I'll have a $50 voucher for a hotel stay thanks to Expeida reward points.

Next week I'm off to Florida to visit my old roommate and in December I'm off to Utah to visit my old nanny friend. I wouldn't have purchased either ticket without rewards making them free! I am certainly a baller on a budget but that doesn't mean I have to stay home and not make the most out of life!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The low down on my new budget

After a week of living in my new apartment, I've created an entirely new budget that factors in living expenses that I didn't have when living with my parents. Needless to say, money is a lot tighter than it used to be. But thanks to my year of living in New York City, this is all too familiar territory and I know it's manageable.

So my full-time job covers my expenses: rent, utilities, student loan minimums, food (only $35/week!), fun (also only $35/week!), gas etc. There is not a penny left over after these expenses and it does not include any savings. My salary is very small but I'm working to grow it.

I earn extra income by babysitting, dog sitting, my resume business, working over time, and absolutely anything else I can do (within reason) to earn money. At the end of each week (roughly), I split the fund into 2 categories: 25% into savings and 75% into additional student loan payments. The faster I can pay off $60,000 in debt, the faster I can use my full-time income to my advantage.

Here's the dirt on my debt:
Student Loan 1 $14,387
Student Loan 2 $20,587
Student Loan 3 $24,783
Credit Card Balance (no interest) $3,400

Normally, I'd pay off my smallest debt first and snowball it into my next debt, but with my credit card not having any interest until May 2014, I will be focusing on the $14,387 loan as much as possible. My goal is to get this under $10,000 by the end of the year - ambitious to say the least!

I'll definitely be writing about my strategies and progress here - stay tuned!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Here I Go Again On My Own

It has been a weird year.

It kicked off with an ended engagement and me moving back to Minnesota to live in my parents' basement. A month later my younger sister announced she was getting a Minnesota...even though she lives in England (Air Force). Right after my sister's wedding, my dad announced he no longer needed his depression medication and he spiraled into months of depression and eventually discovered he has a severe case of bipolar. He was critically manic and hospitalized twice, the cops were called twice, and my mom and I did our best to stay sane. This storyline continues to unfold but I recently moved into my own apartment, which has helped my stress level drastically.

I've also been balancing four jobs in order to get to a better place financially - entry level marketing & inside sales full time, babysitting, dog sitting, and I started my own business, Katie Pelton Resumes. Although I have a mountain of student loan debt (roughly $60,000!), I was able to pay off my credit card and my smallest student loan by living at home and working as much as I could. Now that I'm back to life on my own, it's a little harder but I'm still making a dent as quickly as I can.

This same year, I tried to switch to self-hosting for both my blog and my business website. It was a total nightmare and money suck and I realized I'm happiest with the basics of Blogger. While that was happening, I also learned that someone was using my blog pictures to create fake social media and dating profiles. It's not entirely identity theft but still, I'd rather not give people that opportunity anymore.

So here I am. Fresh new blog - More to Life. There won't be a lot of pictures, at least of me and my loved ones. I'll write about getting out of debt and living on an extremely tight budget. I'll also write about learning to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. However, there's more to life than finances and fitness, so this space will remain a variety of whatever I feel like.

I've learned that no matter what comes your way, there's more to life. Life is all about experiences and no matter the good or bad, there's more to the big picture than what is happening in our small worlds. We might have a terrible experiences and feel like our whole world came crashing down, but really, just go find all the other aspects of your life that you can make great (or that already are).

There's more to life than work and goals. There's more to life than complaining or being bored. Go soak it up, whatever it may be! Go do, see, be! Follow your arrow, chase your dreams, go make shit happen. There is always more life to live and you get to choose how your story goes. This is where I'll write about mine.