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.