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??