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Archive for December, 2015

NYE is Here!

December 31st, 2015 at 04:14 pm

I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE New Years. Not so much for the partying (though I don't hate that part. haha). It's just exciting to take a look back, learn from my experiences, and look ahead to the possibilities of the future.

2015 was a big year. My look back:

- I shot 16 weddings this year, which is 6 more than the previous. I learned that this volume is a bit too much for me, as I got incredibly burnt out. In 2016 I'll be limiting that number to 10 and focusing my work more on portraiture.
- This is the first year that I didn't work a part time job at all, and focused my time entirely on my business. Which is a huge (and wonderful) change. I'm hoping that I can maintain that in 2016, but we shall see.
- DH turned 30. This was kind of a fun milestone, and we had a really nice celebration.
- DH and I took a trip to Cincinnati to visit with friends and a trip to Nashville to scout out neighborhoods to move to.
- I alone took a trip to Denver to see my dad and visit friends, and then a trip to Montreal and Lake Placid to shoot a wedding, just a week before...
- We got married!

Financially, I can't say I ended the year *much* better than I started it. Because I worked solely at my business and because I wasn't great about putting aside money for taxes, I'm in saving mode to make sure I can cover them without having to dip into our joint account.

We're also now in my slow season, so my income levels wont quite be as high as usual. A lot of my focus in 2016 (after hitting my tax savings goal) will be on organizing my business finances better, so I don't run into this struggle at the end of the year.

One big victory that I made this year, though, is getting into the habit of regularly posting on this blog. I can't describe how much help it is. I keep myself in check much better that way. I’ve added to my morning routine checking my bank accounts (and mint) to see where I am on the budget.

Looking ahead…

2016 will also bring with it some big items:

- In March, we are taking our 10-day honeymoon to Peru
- In April, we are moving to Nashville!
- In May, we are very possibly taking a weekend, all-inclusive trip to Mexico for my 30TH BIRTHDAY!
- DH also wants to take a trip to Denver at some point to visit my dad
- I anticipate quite a few weekend trips after we move, given that we’ll be close to a lot of new cities
- This will also be the first full year that we are married, and handling our finances together (though we still haven’t really jumped in all the way. We need to do that.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, my theme for the year is “Making Space.” I wont have concrete financial goals put together until DH and I sit down and work through them, but I think every month I’m going to have mini goals/challenges of sorts to help me save/earn more. Some examples:

- No Spend Month (outside of essentials)
- Grocery Challenges (cook all dinners under $3/meal)
- Snowflakes (more surveys, Swagbucks, etc.) and being more creative with them (using my Amazon GCs for grocery products, etc.)
- Restaurant Challenge (don’t eat at restaurants at all, only x number of times)
- Make all beauty/cleaning products myself

In January for sure I am going to attempt the no-spend month. This is the time of year that I NEED to be saving as much as possible, and honestly, I just want to learn to make do with what I have. I live in complete abundance. There’s really no reason I need more clothes, books, house stuff, beauty products, etc. The only thing I’m going to rush to pay for before midnight is the acting class that I really want to take in February. It’s only $120, and isn’t “stuff.” I’ve been trying hard to reconnect with my creativity, and DH is entirely supportive. So it’s coming out of our joint account. I’m incredibly excited!!

I was thinking of adding an unlimited Zumba package to that (I went with my SIL last night, and loved it), but for a month I can either just do them online or drive over to where my SIL lives… her classes are free ☺ That is a want, not a need. And I save $30 for the month.

So that’s the idea for January!

***

Tonight we’ll be hosting a NYE party – of like 10 people, so nothing crazy. But I am cooking, and DH is making some fancy cocktails. We spent a little more than I would have liked on stuff for the party, but I still thought it was better than going out and spending a ton on a big dinner or party, and I don’t enjoy crowds. All in all, it was still less than I thought it would be. We’ll have a really great time tonight, our last NYE in town for a while! I’m going to enjoy the not so healthy food today. After midnight, I need to focus on my dietbet and ridding myself of those 7 lbs.

Speaking of unhealthy food – I also gave up fast food in 2015! Today I’ll be heading to McDonald’s for a Big Mac and fries, and then it’s no fast food again until the end of 2016. I’ve gotta say, I’m more than a little excited for that burger.

Hope you all have a lovely NYE!!!

Another Update

December 28th, 2015 at 06:42 pm

So yesterday I did some shopping and exchanging. My mom had bought both DH and I pairs of pajama pants from Kohl's - his were too small, and mine weren't even close to something I would wear these days (my mom's understanding of the things I like froze about 10 years ago). She didn't give us gift receipts, and I wouldn't have known where she got them had the price tag not been left on one of them. But I figured I'd stop and see. I was able to exchange his for the smaller size, and I got a $7 store credit for mine. It was busy and I didn't feel like searching for too long, so I found a pair of Lauren Conrad leggings on a rack that said $9.99. When I brought them up she said it would be $8 after the credit. ugh. Despite saying it was on a rack with other pairs, I just decided to pay the extra and get out of there. In the end, I really love them and they're super comfortable. So no big deal.

Also hit Trader Joe's for a few items. Some frozen veggie and gnocci dishes, and coffee. I decided to give the reusable k-cup thing a try and see if purchasing the delicious Ethiopian blend that I grind there will be cheaper per cup than buying the regular cups from Aldi. I know the coffee is better, and not throwing the cups away is better for the environment. If it's actually cheaper, then it'll be a no brainer. I'll be putting a tally on the can for each cup I use.

The reusable k-cup I also purchased yesterday, from Target, for $15. As well as my Moleskine notebook that I'll use as my journal for 2016. They have always and forever been my favorite. And a $5 phone case. Mine had broken.

Made chicken paprikas for dinner. Delicious, and we'll have leftovers for days. Tonight and tomorrow we'll be eating dinner with friends out of the house. I do need to hit Aldi today or tomorrow to get a few ingredients for dinners the rest of the week, as well as food to prepare for NYE. We will be hosting, and I'm really excited to have our small group over.

***

Got my new debit card in the mail for our joint account. So I can start using that. We do still need to start funneling money into it, though. DH will switch his automatic deposit and I'll have to link my business account to the new one so I can start transferring my income that way - though most of my income from now until April will go toward that tax bill, so it may be a while...

Also got a $50 check in the mail from USPS, an insurance claim payout. They had damaged a lens I sold. I'm a little surprised and impressed with how quickly they resolved that. The camera I sold is on its way back to me - the woman that purchased it (as I sort of expected) decided she didn't like it, and wanted a refund. Ugh. I agreed to refund minus the cost of the shipping I spent. But now I have to go through the process of selling it again. It looks like I have an interested buyer through Craigslist, so I might try and go that route once I get it back. Sigh.

***

In other financial-ish news, I joined a Dietbet for the next month, so I'm looking forward to (hopefully) losing some weight and if so making a little bit of money from it. Goodness knows I need *something* to motivate me. Why not extra cash? Smile

***

Tonight is our gift exchange within our little friends group. We decided to do a Secret Santa this time around, and it should be a fun time. I'm excited to see everyone. It's always nice when we all get together. I call them my Lakewood family, because they really are like family (the way I like to think of family), and we all live in the same city. I'm not sure that will ever happen again in our lifetime, with little ones coming into the picture in 2016 and people dispersing a bit. But we really enjoy the proximity and the relationships we've built. It almost feels like the end of an era.

Hope you all are having a lovely Monday!

Christmas + 2016's Theme

December 27th, 2015 at 04:42 pm

I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone. I feel like I've been saying this for years now, but it just didn't really feel like Christmas this year. I'm thinking maybe it's just because I'm getting older. I'm hoping once we have kids that it feel magical again. But either way, it was enjoyable.

DH and I had our lovely Christmas Eve. We exchanged our gifts earlier in the day so we could play with them. I got him the Amazon Echo, and we both love it. He got me a Fitbit. I'm hoping it will help me shed some unwanted pounds and generally live a bit healthier. We exchanged a few other smaller gifts as well - but tried to keep it simple. He did include a spa package for me, which was unexpected and very nice Smile He really is a keeper.

Christmas itself was a lot of running around. We went to my mom's in the morning for breakfast and presents. It went over fine. I have a very odd relationship with my family, and the holidays tend to be very stressful for me. But all things considered, things went well. Mom seemed to enjoy the purse I got her (which is a relief. It's always so hard to pick things like that for people, even with general guidelines). I didn't get much of a reaction out of my siblings, but that's usual.

After my mom's we went to DH's parent's for presents. I think my MIL lives for giving presents. Gift Giving is definitely her love language. I came away from it very appreciative, and also a bit guilty that we didn't get her a bit more. It's always such an awkward experience trying to figure out what is "appropriate." I think that's why my SIL made everyone agree to do no gift exchange with her. But my MIL got her a bunch of stuff anyway. I think it made her feel really uncomfortable. Not sure how that is going to be handled next year.

After his parents we go and do his extended family party. Which is always kind of a hoot. Never a boring moment with his aunts there. Very loud, boisterous ladies, supplying much fodder for his cousins, who poke and prod them all night. haha. Beyond the fun, though, it seemed like tensions ran a bit higher than normal this year. We did end up staying reeeally late, engrossed in a religious discussion with his aunt's that was a bit more than a little awkward for me, but still very interesting. Oh, family...

I think in 2016 I'm going to try and somehow improve my relationship with my family. It's the single biggest point of stress in my life, and it's saddening that I constantly dread any interaction with my mom. A lot of it I know will be on my part - working harder to practice empathy and not let the things she says/does get to me so much. But at some point I need to be a bit more honest with her about those things. I bite my tongue in fear of hurting her feelings. But the more I think about it, if I had a daughter that felt the way I do right now, I'd want her to say something. And I know my mom would love to have a closer relationship with me. Sigh.

***

Speaking of the New Year, I'm really excited for it. I love fresh starts and the energy that comes with setting goals. We have a really eventful year coming up - our honeymoon in March and moving out of state in April. Then all of the fun and challenge that comes along with acclimating and building a new life in a new place.

I generally pick one "theme" to focus on every year. 2015 was the year of mindfulness. And I think that idea helped me establish some great new habits and let go of the past, bringing my attention more to the present - and practicing gratitude for all of the wonderful things I have in my life.

For 2016, I think I've landed on the idea of "Making Space." Certainly in a physical sense - finishing my Marie Kondo journey, getting rid of more stuff and creating a home that really speaks to the person I am today. But also making space in a less tangible way - letting go of my negativity to make space for more empathy and compassion. Spending less time on social media to make space for activities that recharge me instead of distracting me (like reading or crocheting). Reducing the junk food in the house to make space for healthier, delicious options. Stop spending money on stuff I don't really need to make space for working toward my financial goals that matter. Generally making space to cook more food from scratch, spend more quality time with DH, to focus on those important projects that get caught in the whirlwind of everyday, unimportant tasks.

I constantly gripe about being busy and not having enough time, but I know that's not entirely true. My time management could be 1,000 x better than it is, and if my priorities are true priorities, the things I want to do in my life will get done. I just have to let go of the garbage time. And truly focus on enjoying every aspect of the things I choose to replace that time with.

So there you have it! We will be setting some more specific financial (and general) goals for the year, but that's the framework.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Wrapping Up... ;)

December 23rd, 2015 at 03:01 pm

Who can resist a good xmas pun?? In fact, I had all of my gifts purchased and wrapped a couple of days ago. Grabbed a couple more last minute things for DH, mom, and my grandfather (who I kind of forgot about until then). Spent more than I would have liked to this year, but what do you do? I think maybe next year I'll have conversations with friends and family prior to the season starting - I'm sure there are others in my life who wouldn't mind spending a little less. This year I dropped about $600 all together. In my world, that's quite a chunk of change :/

***

Now that shopping has been done for a couple of days, I've been trying to wrap up all of my home projects prior to the holiday. DH is off work until after the new year, so I've been trying to take advantage. Yesterday I organized the attic. I can't believe how much room is up there now! Every time I move something out of the house I'm reminded of how much easier it's going to be to move in April... and now I have another whole carful of stuff to take to Goodwill. And a lot of stuff fits in my Honda Fit.

I've also got a few things that I need to sell - my army stuff, largely (I guess that's more than a few things. More like 4 bags worth), as well as a ring an ex boyfriend purchased for me. I think it's time to let that one go. lol. Pretty ring! I hope I can get a little bit of money out of it.

***

Yesterday DH and I finally added me to the (now) joint bank account. Now we just need to actually start using it. We paid for the new chair and the honeymoon booking out of it, and it's now only at about $2k. Not too bad given the only money we've put into it was from wedding gifts!

Now we have to start feeding money into it, and changing our bills to come out of that account. Which, I think, will be a project for the new year. At that point, I'll set up a new Mint account so we can readjust the budget to include everything.

***

Last night I went to see "Sisters" with my SIL. I feel like I've gone to the movies more in the last 2 months than I have in the last two years. lol. Our tickets were only $5.60 each, though! I forget how much cheaper it is to go during the week. Those weren't even matinee tickets... The movie, by the way, was HILARIOUS. Perfect for us two gals Smile I'm so lucky that the two of us get along so well. I do have a (blood related) sister, but she's 8 years younger than me and incredibly socially awkward (mild special needs), so I never had the kind of relationship with her that you see in the movies. My SIL, however, is the same age and we have the same sense of humor. Over the last couple of years she's become one of my best friends. It's been something I've missed, and something I cherish greatly.

Speaking of relationships with women in the family, I just finished reading "Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan - an older read, but so very good. It's been on my shelf for a couple of years now. Just got around to it. Just a great read. Now that we've scaled back our books to one bookcase (from about 6), I'm going to attempt to read everything we own! That's a challenge that will keep me from purchasing more books for sure! Now I'm riding the Chinese theme and started "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck. A couple chapters in, and so far so good!

***

The last few things to wrap up today:

- Visit the butcher to get meat for tomorrow's dinner
- Laundry
- Make trip to Goodwill
- Clean carpets (borrowing mom's upright cleaner)
- Do some editing

Christmas Eve is DH and I's day to just sit around, watch movies, relax, and make a really lovely dinner for just the two of us. We usually exchange our gifts over the course of the day. So I'm very much looking forward to that. It's nice to have some quality down time before we run all over kingdom come on Christmas day.

Probably wont update again until after the holiday, so everyone have a Christmas full of joy, love, and gratitude Big Grin

Honeymoon Progress! And Swagbucks.

December 20th, 2015 at 01:37 pm

So though DH and I got married in September, we still haven't gone on (or planned) our honeymoon. I think all of the planning for the wedding burnt us out, and we didn't want to deal with it. Our plan has been to go to Argentina.

Months ago, we found a Groupon deal that hit both Argentina and Brazil, but DH wanted to wait it out for a trip that hit exactly what he wanted to see (including Patagonia), and they stopped offering it after a while.

So yesterday I started poking around, and found a few vacation packages that sounded fantastic. None of them were in Argentina, unfortunately. When I looked for trips there it was either incredibly expensive, or just flights/hotels, and we didn't really want to have to plan much - so we focused on the pre-planned packages with tours and such.

It was up in the air between going to Peru or Japan, and Peru won out - they were both around $2k/person (including flights), and Peru was 2 days longer. Also, I get to cross Machu Picchu off my bucket list! I purchased the Groupon yesterday, and we'll be booking the trip first thing Monday when I can get a hold of the travel agency. If everything goes according to plan, we'll be taking our honeymoon for 10 days in March!

I'm so excited Smile

Even better - I have the Swagbucks button on my browser, so when I went to purchase I clicked the thing to enable my Groupon purchase to add up the points and add it to my account. At 7 SB per dollar spent, I'm earning 27,986 SB. Which seems so hilarious to me for whatever reason. I'll be able to redeem that for at least two $100 gift cards. So even better!

So good news. $2k/person seems so insanely cheap to me - we paid almost that for just our flights to Europe last year. It'll end up being slightly more, because we have to get to JFK to fly out first, but still... for everything included, it seems like a fantastic way to travel.

At any rate, on my way to mom's to bake cookies! Hope you all have a great day Smile

Mid-December Update

December 18th, 2015 at 02:09 pm

Thanks to everyone who posted such lovely comments on my last post. You all are always so wonderful Smile Today is the 3 month anniversary of that beautiful day! Which means...

We've passed the midpoint of the month - and it's been a rough one over here.

In GOOD news:

- I sold another piece of equipment, and after Amazon fees, I'll be getting about $465. That will of course go straight into my tax savings.
- Worked with a friend who is an insurance agent, and restructured DH and my auto insurance (as well as my renter's policy) into one account. My policy premium dropped from almost $80 down to $55/month... which is even less than I was paying before the rate hiked for me. They also reimbursed part of the month I already paid.
- I caught up on my invoicing, and have almost $5k due right now. I'm not in a *huge* hurry to collect it all right away, mostly because if my clients drag their feet til after the new year I can consider it 2016 income, so it wont count toward taxes for this year. Which would be nice. heh.
- I went to a holiday party for a previous employer/current client. I'm designing their new website, but because of wedding season and election season (they are political consultants), things went on hold. Once the new year kicks in, that's a $6k project that will be completed.
- I've still got a considerable chunk leftover in my restaurant and fuel categories, so I guess tiny wins there?
- Pretty much completely done xmas shopping. The only thing I have left to do is design our "Family Cookbook" for our group of friends. I'll be printing them through Blurb - the high end magazines. So that'll be an additional $50 or so, but that literally wraps up all of my shopping.

In some less than good news:

- Over budget in my "Shopping/Misc" category, though, it's a late fee, a parking ticket, shipping charges for sold items, and just one purchase at Victoria's Secret. A girl needs a new bra every now and then. lol. So at least it's not rampant impulse spending...
- Not much left in the grocery category. And we've gone out to eat more than I'd like this month. Granted, DH paid for that most of the time, but I'd rather just establish the habit a bit better.
- Our internet payment hits in a couple of days and is going to be $30 more than I expected. We need to re-evaluate our plan. ugh.
- Another local tax payment due. Just paid Q3 (albeit quite late).
- We still haven't printed or mailed our xmas cards. heh. Needless to say, that has been a bit of a trainwreck, and now I just want it done. Tried to get them finished, and my design program kept crashing. Which is ominous for many reasons. But it needs done. We still haven't sent out those thank you cards from the wedding :/

***

In completely non-financial related news, the new Star Wars movie was AMAZING. We saw it last night, and it was everything I could have ever hoped for. Seriously.

***

Cancelled Hulu yesterday - the shows I follow there have all ended for the season. I brought up the idea of leap frogging services with DH. We don't have cable, but we do have Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime... and it seems silly to have them all at once when we can do one per month (with the exception of Prime - we pay for that a year at a time, so that would always be around). Seems like a fun challenge. Just need to get him onboard entirely. Would only be a savings of about $25-30 per month, but that's still $300 over the course of a year we could put toward another goal.

At any rate, I hope you all enjoy your Friday!!! The weekend is almost here!

Saving on Weddings (and photos!)

December 16th, 2015 at 03:03 pm

Alright, since I don't have anything terribly exciting to update and the photos are working again, I figured I would upload some wedding photos and talk about some ways we saved some $$$ while planning this year! Also how we saved some headache on the day of.


DH and I - isn't he handsome?!


1. We kept the guest list low.



Both DH and I are a bit lucky that we don't have huge families, and I don't really talk to most of my family - so we were able to keep it reigned in pretty easily. I know that's not the case for most people, but having a guest list under 100 people eases the budget significantly. We also found it important to only invite people that we are truly friends with. Our parents didn't invite their friends, there were no third cousins we've only met twice. We paid for it all, and we called the shots. It was really nice, though, because we were able to actually spend quality time with the people we truly care about.

2. I bought a pre-owned dress.


This photo makes me look like a Disney princess Smile


The dress thing was a bit of an evolution - I had planned to go very casual, and bought a dress that was very pretty, for $30 online. After a few months, I started second guessing myself and shopping around a little more. I found the dress I ended up wearing (an Adrianna Papell) on a site called Tradesy.com - and bought it for $160. I spent another $80 to have it altered last minute (I bought it about 2 weeks before the wedding! haha). But I loooooooved it. I understand that the dress is such a huge part of a girl's wedding day, but I couldn't bring myself to spend an arm and a leg for something I would only wear once in my life. There are so many great options out there, and pre-owned is a great one.

Similarly, my bridesmaids dresses came from Modcloth - and were about $40 each.



3. We had a stock the bar party.

This was a friend's idea, and was GENIUS. Instead of having a traditional bridal shower, DH and I threw a stock the bar party. We got very few traditional gifts, and instead everyone brought a bottle of liquor. We didn't have to purchase any for the wedding, and the mixer package we purchased from our bartenders was incredibly affordable. We still have so much left over, too. haha. It definitely cut out a great bit of the expense - but we also had a venue where we brought in all of the vendors.

4. We DIY-ed most of the decorations.

We rented table cloths, but everything else was brought in. I purchased bulk lace and cut the runners myself. My MIL brought the jars with the simple white carnations. The photo frames are filled with vintage maps or illustrations of places DH and I have traveled to - or are special to us. I bought the frames over time from Pat Catan's and TJ Maxx. The prints of the maps came from my printer at home. We borrowed many of the other jars from friends who got married a few months before us, and the pie stands were borrowed as well.




Our guest book was an old Atlas - we asked people to sign a message near a place that was important to them.


I hand-lettered this chalkboard I got from Pat Catan's. Very proud of that one Smile


5. We kept it casual.

Our wedding took place at a barn, so the rustic atmosphere definitely justified using disposable plates, silverware, and napkins. The rental place was going to charge us $0.25/fork - and I don't have the stomach for that, even with under 100 guests. haha. We also did BBQ for dinner, which ended up being about $16/plate. The very few bites I had were delicious. haha.

As far as flowers - I think we spent just over $300 at the florist - for my bouquet, 3 bridesmaids bouquets, the boutonnieres (6 all together), and 2 corsages for the moms. My florist was AMAZING, and though the bouquets are filled mostly with what they would consider "filler," they did them so tastefully. When she asked if I was "okay with hydrangeas," I thought of course I am! I requested some freesia be put in - but the rest was up to them. Natural and lovely. All of the flowers at the actual reception were just white carnations purchased in bulk by my MIL.





6. We spent where it was important to us.

Because we saved quite a bit elsewhere, we were able to spend a bit more where it was important. We didn't really do favors (MIL brought mints in little boxes, so that was that) - but we did spend an extra $100 for the venue to have a bonfire. We only spent $70 on desserts (pie is my fave!), but we made sure we had a great DJ (still very economical) so that our guests would enjoy the night. Our rings weren't expensive at all - mine was around $700 and DH's was under $200. But we were able to get a venue that was gorgeous all around, and rent extra time to prep the barn and take photos, so we had a piece of mind.







7. We had everything all in once place. On a Friday.

As a wedding photographer, I can tell you that there's nothing better than having the whole shebang in one beautiful place. We were able to get photos done quickly - and only hired our photographer for 6 hours, to catch the important parts (getting ready, formals, ceremony, highlights of the reception), our DJ covered our ceremony and reception, and cost the same as it would for a traditional reception. That, and our buffet opened right after the ceremony ended at 5pm - so we could forego appetizers during cocktail hour and get the party started quicker! We also swung by our local burger place and picked up 50 hamburgers on the way to the hotel so there was an afterparty meal as well. That is when I actually ended up eating. haha.


Right after the ceremony. We're both so happy Smile


Having the wedding on a Friday wasn't what we intended to do originally, but ended up being the only day we could find a venue we liked. But it was fantastic. The ceremony started at 4:30pm, and it was a lovely, relaxed day. Our venue didn't give us a discount for a Friday event, but I know many do.

All in all, we spent under $15k. Still a big chunk of change, but it was exactly what we wanted. And an absolute blast. Our goal with the wedding was to make it personal and throw an amazing party that people really enjoyed. And if I say so myself, we absolutely killed it.



Hope you guys enjoyed the photos Smile

Made a Couple Sales!

December 14th, 2015 at 09:14 pm

Since my last post, I've sold a couple of items. A portable DVD writer for $30 on Facebook, and a lens for $50 on Amazon. Nothing earth shattering, but it's nice to see things leaving and getting some kind of return on them. I'm also talking with two potential buyers of my extra camera - which would be an extra $500 in pocket. Nothing to shake a stick at! Crossing my fingers.

In less happy news, I got my internet bill for the month - $90! That is far higher than what I'm used to paying, and it's because we went over our data limit. I didn't even know that was a thing until a couple of months ago, and it's never been this high. So I need to talk to DH and see what we need to do to get that lower. Either upgrade or readjust what we're doing. That's just absurd.

Went to Aldi and grabbed groceries today. Spent about $40 - not too bad. We had a couple of meals left over from last week, and we're not going to be doing a ton of cooking this week either. Largely stuck to my list. Didn't get milk because they didn't have the organic 2% this week - after drinking it for so long, I can't handle non-organic milk. It just doesn't taste right to me. Did grab my $3.99 bundle of flowers this week - the last bunch lasted 2 weeks! I couldn't believe it. And these were incredibly fresh and gorgeous. Very much enjoying them already!

Tonight I've got a holiday party. Tomorrow, a meet up for my BNI group (still haven't decided 100% if we're going). But we'll be cooking Wednesday night for sure. Thursday is Star Wars!!! Shout out to another SA member that lent me the first 6 movies so I could watch them all before Thursday Smile

Friday, we'll be having friends over for dinner - and making home made crunch wraps! yummm. The weekend is a bit up in the air, but Sunday I'll heading to my mom's to do holiday baking in the morning. So I may or may not be sticking around for dinner that night. We shall see.

Either way, shouldn't be a *terribly* spendy week. My xmas shopping is pretty much done, so it's back to normal (for the most part). I can't believe how much it all adds up to. It definitely set me back a bit on my goals, and I'm looking forward to finding new ways to make up for that... let's hope.

At any rate, I hope you all have a fantastic week! And yay for all of the great fixes we've seen on the site!! Smile

Update + Crisis Averted!

December 11th, 2015 at 02:04 pm

It's not quite the middle of the month yet, but I'm already feeling a bit discouraged on the budget. It's not terrible, but there were a few unexpected (and stupid) costs I didn't anticipate.

$169/300 in Groceries, so I need to reign it in for the rest of the month for sure.

$0/150 in Restaurants. Woooo! I'll prob spend a little on Sunday, but beyond that we've been doing really great.

$130/100 in Shopping/Misc. This is my catch-all, and it included a $35 late fee on my CC (stupid, and really no good reason that I paid it late) and a $37 parking ticket from a couple of months ago that got lost in a pile... it was $25 originally, so again. Stupid. I did purchase a small purse yesterday - I've been searching for one to replace mine, so that it matches my wardrobe. I found one for $20 at Target. I also purchased a new bra at VS. I have a hard time finding ones that fit me correctly (and unfortunately not because they're too big. haha). But I had a coupon for $10 off and it's really quite a need at this point. Still went with an inexpensive one, so I ended up spending about $30.

$17/80 in Fuel. I'm so thankful that I don't drive a ton for work. Most days I work from home, and when I do drive it's quite a bit of distance, but I've been averaging about $60/month for my tiny Honda.

$79/65 in Car Insurance. I have one of those devices that tracks my driving patterns, and apparently they think my driving hasn't been going as well for the last 6 months because it jumped :/ Upon investigating, the reasoning doesn't make much sense - and DH and I are going to have a friend switch our policy so that the two vehicles and our renters insurance are all together. That should reduce our payments by at least a bit. I was a bit miffed about that for sure.

Christmas shopping is still under budget. And almost complete! Which gets us to our crisis...

DH asked for a new Brown's t-shirt (die hard, and ever-hardened Cleveland fan he is). I decided to design him one custom and ordered it a few weeks back. It was $50 for one screen-printed shirt, which is a lot. But I trust the company (have used them in the past), I chose the more expensive t-shirt with the fabric DH likes, and the print quality is great. When I received the shirt yesterday, I realized I had made a big (rather, tiny) mistake - the stuff printed on the shirt was waaaay too small. I hadn't planned it correctly, and it looked rather ridiculous.

I immediately called them and explained my situation. It is certainly my fault that the dimensions weren't correct. But I also uploaded a proof so they could see what the shirt was intended to look like. If anyone actually checked it for QC, they would have noticed the discrepancy right away (because they see these every single day).

They were so very helpful - not only ran the shirt again for free, but upgraded my account to get better pricing and then on top of it ran another shirt for me using their other (cheaper) printing process so I could see the difference. They expedited the order so it would get to me before xmas, and I was left in awe at having such a great experience with them. I'm sure I'll end up doing additional t-shirts in the future, and I'll definitely be going with Scalable Press.

They saved Christmas Smile

I guess I'm just not used to that level of service and I appreciate it so much when I do encounter it. It definitely inspires me to want to create that kind of environment for my own clients.

So that's that. Busy weekend coming up - shooting an event tonight and a proposal tomorrow evening, which should be a lot of fun Smile Then Sunday will (thankfully) be relaxing and fun, hanging out with my SIL.

Hope you all enjoy your Friday and weekend!!

Christmas Shopping Progress

December 8th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

Things are moving along - yesterday was a bit spendy. $6 for lunch at Panera (I had to meet with my second shooter to pay her and get her files). $200 for her payment (which is honestly too little, but unfortunately I can't afford to pay her more, and she seems to be okay with it).

Talked with DH and got a couple of ideas for the last of his gifts - which I ordered last night. So he is completely done. There wont be a whole lot of surprise, except for the one gift. He asked for a Brown's t-shirt, and rather than purchasing one, I designed a custom shirt for him and had it printed. I'm hoping he loves it. The couple of his friends I got opinions from said they thought it was great.

I freaked out a bit the other day talking to a friend. I usually get him and the other person in our "trifecta" a gift for the holiday - but the last couple of years neither of them have given me anything, so I felt comfortable forgoing it this year. Of course, he made mention that he had a few more things he needed to get together for our gifts so.... apparently we are exchanging. lol. But I figured out a no-cost solution.

We have SO much alcohol left over from the wedding. A bottle of gin each and a fun print (that I can create at home) in a frame (of which we have several from the wedding) and I'm going to call it a day. Also gets some more liquor out of our house. Not that we don't like it, but it'll take us years to get through it all, and I don't want to move it all out of state in April.

All of the rest of the gifts I'm doing are for the most part DIY or something I'm designing, so I need to get that stuff taken care of. It's coming up quick.

But at least we're making progress!

***

In other news, I booked the yearly Republican dinner again (this Friday), so I have another shoot this month. I'm not a republican (I'm independent), but it's always so interesting to meet and hear what their speakers have to say. Last year, it was Ben Carson (at the time I had no idea I would see him all over the news). This year, it'll be Karl Rove. It's always such a funny, "How did I end up here?" moment when I'm walking around. But always so fascinating.

Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday!

Big Conversations

December 7th, 2015 at 02:38 pm

So DH and I had the "big talk" as far as money goes. It was exhausting and upsetting, but I think ended just as it needed to. I think we both had a much better understanding of how the other feels, and there was a bit of soul searching that needed to happen on both of our parts.

Money is awkward. And tied up in so many emotions. My primary thought is that I want to handle our finances (such a large part of our life) as a team and not compartmentalize and treat things as "his" money and "my" money - an easier position to take given I make drastically less money than he does. So his aversion to paying everything out of our joint account came off to me like he's not in it, or doesn't trust me, or several other hurtful messages (not that I think he intended any of that). What I hadn't really realized is that he felt very unappreciated for the amount of support that he's given me up to this point. There's no doubt whatsoever that my being able to run my business rather than working a more traditional job (and enjoy a rather amazing quality of life) is because he is willing to cover a greater share.

What I didn't realize is that I do a pretty poor job of voicing my appreciation of that fact - so in the end, I'm not really recognizing his contribution to the "team" as well as I should. So no wonder he's entirely comfortable. There's work to be done on both sides. But, of course, that's marriage.

It's going to take a LOT of transition and getting used to. But we did agree to put all of our money into the one account and use that to funnel it out toward expenses. I'm not sure if we'll end up keeping our separate accounts open or not - I suppose I'd like to in case we want to buy gifts or a surprise or something, but I guess we can do that on our credit cards as well.

So that conversation also came with a breakdown of our total expenses and I'm going to end up setting up some sort of a budgeting system. I don't think he really "believes" in budgeting, but after taking a look at what we'll have going out and what our savings goals are, I think he could do with being convinced Wink That exercise is also going to bring to light what I need to make to hit our goals - and will motivate me to do what it takes, even if I have to start a part time job or find some other way to generate income. Particularly now that my business is slowing down. This isn't just me anymore. And I told him that if he feels that I'm not making enough and thinks I should pursue a more traditional job, that's an opinion he's allowed to have and something that we'll decide on together.

He also doesn't really "believe" in savings accounts. He just lets the money sit in his checking account - which is fine, I suppose. He doesn't spend it. But for tracking purposes I tend to like having a way to see the progress a bit more clearly. I guess in that way, I do like a bit of compartmentalization. heh.

So - that's that. I think in the beginning, there's going to need to be a lot of trust built for him to be comfortable. But I know we can do it and get to a point where we are both comfortable and happy with the direction things are moving in.

***

In other news, I've booked two shoots for this week (both proposals), and invoiced a couple of clients that still have outstanding payments. Also went to Trader Joe's and Aldi yesterday to pick up a few things, and made fresh baked bread - which I've been craving for the last week or so. That was really nice

Groceries + Meal Plan

December 2nd, 2015 at 02:11 pm

Yesterday I finally sat down and mapped out our meal plan for the week and went shopping. I ended up spending $58 in total. $11 of that was at Walgreens for face wash and dry shampoo, which I use quite regularly but only have to replace every other month or so. I went to Walgreens instead of Target thinking that it would reign in some off the cuff spending. And it did.

The only item I purchased outside of my list was a small bouquet of flowers from Aldi. Every week I look at them, and every week I talk myself out of it. But for $3.99, they have brought a lot of joy already. This morning I even changed the water - something I'm terrible about doing and the reason my DH refuses to buy them for me anymore. haha. I'm hoping my appreciation and care for these might inspire him to change his mind about that in the future Wink

But ANYWAY. Here is the meal list for the week:

- Gruyere Pasta w/ Chicken
- Honey Sesame Chicken w/ Egg Rolls
- Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets w/ Risotto
- Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Emergency Pizza

"Emergency Pizza" in our house means a frozen pizza we throw in the oven when we're craving junk food and don't want to cook. A $3 pizza keeps us from dropping $20, so we keep one on hand for those "emergencies." We try to save it if possible, though!

Made the pasta last night - I had bought some smoked gruyere last week from Aldi to snack on, and we used up most of it in the pasta. Kind of like a pasta/mac & cheese. Turned out great, despite it being one of those completely thrown together meals.

***

Today I've got a deadline to meet, so it's going to be a busy one! Hope you all are enjoying your week!

December is Here!

December 1st, 2015 at 02:57 pm

Though not *exactly* a point of excitement, I can't believe that we're here. Sigh.

I sat down and created my budget today - finally going through what I should expect coming in this month. I really need to go through and get a hold on my accounting. I got Quickbooks for my business back in May, but I haven't backlogged everything yet, so I'm not entirely sure what my tax situation is going to look like. That's a big priority for the month.

I also mapped out what I plan on doing for xmas, and that is looking pretty grim. I need to scale back a bit. We don't have a ton of people to buy for, but it all adds up... That being said, I finally got out of my mom what she wanted, and I picked up a purse for her on Nordstrom Rack yesterday. No crazy Cyber Monday deals, but it was already marked down almost 50% and at least shipping was free for the holiday.

DH and I mentioned the joint account again yesterday and resolved to figure out how we're going to really use it. Hopefully that conversation will come soon. We still have to put me on the account as well. We also acknowledged that our honeymoon will probably not be taken right after xmas, as we still haven't planned any of it. Which is fine by me. We'll figure it out. We're just not really in the mindset to plan a vacation. I'm sure once the weather starts to get chilly that will change quickly Wink

***

As for today, I'll be heading to the grocery store and then having a marathon work session. We have pretty much nothing in the house at the moment... but beyond that there should be no spending!

So that's that. I hope you all enjoy the day!