Monday, July 29, 2013

It's time for the monthly Money Matters post. This time its about savings. 

I think each of us knows we should save money. In this economy, you never know what tomorrow may bring. I told you my story in the first Money Matters post. Rebuilding our savings account is still in process but we’re almost there after about 3 years (which is pretty good considering it took twice that amount of time to build it in the first place).  To get there has taken some sacrifice but it has been well worth it. Here’s some of what we did:

Have money come directly out of your paycheck. If money never hits your main checking account, you won’t miss it as much. Select an amount to come out each month and put it in a savings account or investment account. We do this on top of the automatic deduction that goes into my 401(k). Make sure it's one with a good interest rate. I also have a savings account linked to my debit card. Every time I make a purchase using the card, $1 goes into my savings account. You can also designate a lump sum (as low as $5) to transfer into the savings account at the beginning of each month. 

Review your utilities and see what costs you can cut. I made the biggest cuts on our landline. I can’t remember the last time we used it. We’re always on our cells or communicating with other people by text. I wanted to scrap it all together but in the end we decided to keep it for emergencies but push it down to the basics. We don’t even have call waiting. The phone bill went from $150/month to $15/month. For the electric bill, we try to open windows and use fans in the summer (unless it is over 78 degrees). We also signed up for the equal payment plan, which means our bill is the same each month. We know exactly what to expect and if we save with less usage during the year, we get a credit back at the end of the year. We kept our cable package because we’re TV junkies but we’re thinking of changing that with all the new stuff available through Hulu Plus and Netflix.

Bank your coins. I inevitably find loose change in my bags at the change of every season. Ash finds change in the car ashtray and console. We started banking them (putting them in a jar) and cashing them in for bills once the jar is full.

Create a realistic entertainment budget. Cutting entertainment out of our schedule is out of the question. We set a budget for every two week period and keep our date nights within that allotment. It changes from time to time based on what we have planned (higher allotment for a weekend trip to visit friends out of town vs. dinner at a new restaurant in town). We have a cap and give ourselves freedom within that. We treat vacations of a week or more separately and save up for those well in advance. We also find deals wherever we can.

Pick up extra income from your hobbies. We started making jewelry and selling it on Etsy a couple of years ago. We’ve now started doing it on our own as orders come in. We don’t have a high volume of orders right now but have some plans to grow the business. It helps to have a little extra income coming in—no matter how small.

Sell stuff before buying new stuff. We have some ideas for redecorating our house and that means getting rid of some things. We donate a lot but for things that are in good condition, we turn to online resources like eBay and Craigslist. Garage sales are also an option if your community allows them.

Invest. You can start with a 401(k) if it’s an option for you. Generally, they are the steadiest and safest way to invest. That’s how I started. Ash has his own business so he doesn’t have that option. Our goal is to carve out a small portion of our savings by the end of the year to do a little more investing using an online tool like eTrade.

Use coupons. They’re available everywhere. If you shop online, sign up e-mails from your favorite stores. They’ll send coupon codes all the time. You can do the same for restaurants, groceries, stores and travel. You can also sign up for discount shopping sites or download apps where you can get great deals for a limited time (Brad’s Deals, One Kings Lane, Open Sky, and Scoutmob for example). Every store has an app these days. Take advantage of all the deals you can!

What do you do to save money? Share your tips in the comments section. 

Monday Quotable

I love being outside (in warm weather) but I wouldn't consider myself a nature girl...or at least not until this year. I now find that I am most at peace when outside observing just how vast the world is. I'm not talking skyscrapers and mansions. I am talking about mountains, giant sand dunes, grassy meadows, the ocean, etc. Lately, it is easiest for me to meditate outside with the wind gently blowing through my hair and the birds chirping. That is where I feel most connected to the moment and to God. Are you happiest outside? If not, where's your peaceful place? Happy Monday!!

*I took today's photo at Jockey's Ridge State Park in the OBX. Last year, because of health problems, I could only make it to the base of the first dune. This year, I made it to the top of one of the tallest. At the top, I was so grateful for the improvements in my health and for the beauty all around me. This photo was taken on the way down in a less crowded area so the sand hadn't been trampled by everyone's feet. The wind made her own lovely wavy pattern and I had to snap a pic. Forgive the quality. All I had was my iPhone. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Playlist

This week's playlist is all about the mashup. Enjoy and Happy Friday!! 

Feel Good Fridays

I may be late to the cuteness that is Trotter but better late than never--especially for something this joy inducing. You can find Trotter on Instagram (@trotterpup) and follow his parents as well (@sonyayu and @zacklara). Enjoy and Happy Friday!! 

What I'm Reading: Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

I know, I know….I am woefully behind on keeping What I’m Reading up to date. Sorry peeps. It’s been that kind of summer. BUT, I have been reading. I’m currently reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn but let’s travel back in time for the other two book reviews I owe you.

In May, I read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. Lawson is pretty famous on the web (with over 2 million page views a month) but I was in the dark about her until I saw a review of her book and decided to pick it up. A chapter in, I was wondering how the hell I missed her.  By the end…well, you know how you feel when summer camp is over and you have to say good bye to your friends? You barely knew them a month before but now the thought of not talking to them every day crushes you? Yeah, that pretty much describes it. I was stoked for the bonus chapter at the end of the book and then it was over. What’s a girl to do? Find The Bloggess and start reading, of course, which I guess is sort of the point.

The book is a collection of “mostly true” stories highlighting momentous times (whether good or shockingly horrible) in Lawson’s life. The early stories in the book recount her childhood in “violently rural” Wall, Texas.  I laughed my way through stories of her father’s antics with animals (both alive and dead), her and her sister’s matching bread bag shoes and that Mutherf’er Jenkins. Then, the stories, while still hilarious, took a serious turn. Lawson peels back the layers and invites you into her battles with anorexia, anxiety, pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis. Though funny, the deeply personal bent of the stories really struck a cord—especially those about her RA given my own struggle with lupus.  She also takes you behind the curtain and into her marriage. Most people walk away saying her husband is a saint. I’d have to agree based on some of the stories but I think he’s also pretty lucky. It is clear she loves him like crazy.

The book is a crazy ride through a beautiful and twisted mind. You will laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh all in the space of a few pages. This is the book that makes you want to share the stories with friends. “Did I tell you about the time she fell into a deer carcass?” “What about the Halloween fiasco?”

Ok—I will stop giving away the book and just say I highly recommend Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).  It’s so good, you’ll want to rush out and buy Jenny Lawson a taxidermied critter in a tuxedo and top hat. Sound crazy? It is. Now stop judging and go get the book. In case you missed it above, you can find Jenny Lawson's blog here

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's time for another new feature. It's simple. Here is what I'm inspired by (or just loving) this week:

Extremely varied, right? I just go with what speaks to me. No rhyme or reason...just a few favorites from the week. What are your favorites this week?

1. I was researching different detox programs after a particularly indulgent vacation and came across the CLEAN program. I was interested but it is a bit pricey. I started thinking about what other (less drastic) measures I could take to get "clean." In doing so, I found the Clean Blog (owned by the same company). There are tons of recipes for clean eating. Having been vegan, I've tried a few of them before but there is a good selection if you're interested.

2. A frame full of hearts. Just what your inner girly girl needs at a shower or wedding. Guest books have largely become a thing of the past. I've been to weddings where I wrote blessings and our names on rocks that later became decoration at the base of a tree in the couple's front yard. I've signed large matted pictures, posters, decorated onesies, etc. There are plenty of ways to let the celebrated people in your life know you were there for an important milestone. This frame with it's drop in hearts appeal to my love of Plinko and my joy for all things LOVE.

3. Candy Crush is an addiction. I don't need to say anything more. For some, it may be on borrowed time but I feel pretty challenged at this point.

4. I've been obsessed with grilled corn with cotija cheese since having it at a food fair years ago. Recently, I started trying to perfect my own version. This is the next recipe I am going to try.

5. The stain and the reference to Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree on this cutting board had me at hello.

6. Google Chromecast allows you to stream Netflix, among other things, on your TV. Just plug it in the HDMI portal and control it with your smartphone. I am not a big techie but this is pretty cool AND reasonably priced.

7. I've done all of Oprah and Deepak Chopra's joint meditation series. A new one focused on relationships starts on August 5th. So hum.

8. I've been wanting to do a statement wall in one of the rooms in my house for a while. What will be on it is where I get stuck. I saw this project months ago on A Beautiful Mess and loved it. Who knows? Maybe this will be the one.

9. Who doesn't need a flash drive? I use them to store pictures, documents, etc. There are a million quirky options out there but this one appealed to me. It's sleek and matches my existing jewelry.

10. I saw a really great review on the Zoku Slush Maker and had to try one. If it works, it will be with me on every beach trip from now on. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Quotable

I'm back from vacation and in a sunny state of mind. I had a moment this morning when I felt someone else's bad energy/bad attitude. Rather than knocking my glow down a bit, I decided to smile and walk away. Less than ten seconds later, I was out of the "haze" and back in a peaceful mood. Everyone has something going on. Let them deal and be there for them if you can but don't let it steal your sunshine. Happy Monday!!

Photo was taken while walking out to the beach in the OBX. Missing the sand between my toes already!! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vacation Time. Happy Friday friends!! Be back soon.

Friday Playlist

I told you earlier in the week that my grandmother passed away. Normally, in sad moments, I would put up a playlist filled with songs about loss and working through it. This time, I am going to pull from a previous list...and it is not about loss or sadness. It is about celebrating life. It is clear that our purpose in this life--or at least one of them--is to LIVE the life we've been given. Truly live in every moment. Life is short. Do yourself a favor and celebrate your time. That's what I'll be doing. Happy Friday. Grandma Rosa, I see you dancing!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Monday Quotable

The loss of a person you love shifts the balance of your life. It is easy to focus on the loss and get stuck in the muck of grief. My family suffered a great loss this week and this quote helped me  realize that the strength and inspiration I got from my loved one in life can continue to come to me in other ways despite her being gone. Not only can I look at her drive as an example to press on through hardship, I can internalize that and be the same type of example for others. God bless, Rosa. We will miss your presence but won't forget your light.

Sorry I'm a little late with this week's quote. Happy Wednesday. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Playlist

Today's playlist is a mixture--a mish mosh if you will. If you up "mish mosh" in the dictionary, you'll see if means a confused mess. That is sort of what this week has been (more on that later). Until then, here is a collection of songs I've been gathering over the last couple of weeks. They were meant to go into more organized lists but, happens. Happy Friday!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Quotable

Sorry for the radio silence that started in the middle of last week. I'm working on some new projects that took me away from the blog and despite my best intentions, I didn't get around to posting. I will make up for it this week. Ash is on a health kick so we are experimenting in the kitchen and planning our 4th of July menu. I've also been busy working on some new (and simple) accessories. Stay tuned to the food and style pages for updates! I also owe you a couple of book reviews. The one for Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened (I LOVE THIS BOOK!!) will be up by tomorrow. I should be finishing Maria Semple's Where'd You Go Bernadette? sometime this week. Sheesh! I've got a lot to do. For now, here's your Monday Quotable. 

Today's "quote" is actually the chorus from Break the Shell by India Arie. I heard the song for the first time this weekend and fell in love with it. The song speaks to me in so many ways. I love it for its reminder that there is a lesson in everything--especially in pain. It is also a reminder that you have to let down your guard (break the shell) and step outside of your box to stand in your truth and really soar. Let's fly! Happy Monday!!

If you want to hear the full song, check out India's performance of it on Super Soul Sunday here.

*Photo is of the sunrise as Ash and I arrived home after a fun (but long) night out.