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Archive for April, 2016

April 2016 Recap

April 30th, 2016 at 01:15 pm

So here's a recap of our budget/spending:



We're in the red in a lot of categories, but overall we're under budget. I think that's partially because of the credit card thing - still not 100% sure how Mint handles those payments (it's wonky), but starting next month, we wont have a CC payment to worry about. So problem solved.

For most of the categories in the red, it's not by much. But I still want to be more diligent next month. A couple of unexpected things came up: one of my student loans became current again, so I had to start contributing to it again. Another came out of forebearance, so it'll be even higher next month. A goal for May is going to be consolidating at least my private student debt so I can try and secure a lower interest rate. I took a look and my biggest loan at the moment has a 10% rate. That's ridiculous. At this rate, I'll be paying them off forever.

Our "Misc" budgets (basically our individual allowances) were both over. DH decided to do a couple of online courses to get ready for his PhD program and opted to do the certificate tracks - $128 out of pocket. And I ordered new glasses - $102. Decided to try out another online retailer, and that $100 got me two pairs (I'm guessing one of them will go back). I usually spend about $160 for one pair, so it seemed worth it to try. Haven't had a new pair since 2013 and the screw is coming loose on one hinge. They've been on my "to buy" list for months. It's time.

Our restaurant budget was over by almost $30, and that's something I'd like to again be more diligent about. Though for the last couple of weeks we've been cooking almost every day...

***

May is going to be an interesting month. We've got a trip to Nashville planned to go look at apartments, which means extra gas, restaurant meals while we're down there. Both my sister and DH's sister are graduating, so there will be a couple of gifts. We've got our trip to Mexico at the end of the month. That shouldn't have too much extra cost associated, as it's an all-inclusive resort. I know DH wants to do a tour one day, but I do not. lol. I want to relax for 3 days.

It's also my birthday at the end of the month, so there will be some kind of gift or celebration there, I'm sure. We're doing dinner for my buddy's birthday at a fancy restaurant as well.

So with all of that extra stuff, the work will be trying to minimize everything else. Making sure our grocery budget is stretching and we're not eating at restaurants otherwise. I'll sit down tomorrow to actually map out the budget, but it's good to anticipate some things in the meantime.

***

Today is my first wedding of the year - one of only 6, and I'm happy to start getting them done. It's going to be a long day, and I'm hoping it goes by quickly.

***

Dietbet is going really well. I'm far past my bet goal weight, and nearing my actual goal weight of 155lbs. I've reached a number I haven't seen in a couple of years, and it's really exciting to see the progress. Hoping I can hit this goal before my birthday!!

That's about it for now. Hope you all have a great weekend!

CCs Paid Off!

April 26th, 2016 at 01:35 pm

It feels good to have no CC debt anymore! Just made the payments. I've got to say that dropping $4,263 on anything that isn't a vacation is a bit rough... but it's certainly freeing.

In total, I was able to contribute $6,172 from my tax savings to our personal funds, so there was even an excess of $2k after paying the cards off. And now things are back to square one. I think that's the best part. I'm saving about $40/month in interest payments, and I generally was paying $200/month in payments. That's money that we can either put toward our savings goals or to pay extra on my student loans. And my credit score will definitely see a nice uptick.

***

Finally went and closed my PNC accounts the other day, so now I'm just operating out of our joint account. I want to go in with DH and open a savings account soon, and he said he's fine with that idea. We may as well be earning a bit of interest on our savings. We'll get one of the higher-tier accounts with US Bank because I'm a prior service member (a fun perk that I wasn't aware of until we opened our account).

The only other account that I need to close is that stupid Toyota credit card that I never actually signed up for years ago. I've had it around for emergencies, but it seems silly to have 4. I'd like to close the PNC CC as well, and still might, but it's my longest standing line of credit... so I'm a bit hesitant. But at this point, again, we're not really looking to get loans any time soon. So it's probably not that big of a deal. For the sake of simplicity, I think I'd rather just have my 2 Chase cards.

***

Yesterday had a field day with my nightmare client, but by the end of it she was singing my praises and her invoice has been sent. Needless to say, I will not be working with her again. Headache.

Decided to jump on Freelancer.com and bid on a couple of projects. I got one, and so I've got a nice little design project to do and a couple hundred more coming in. It's going to be a busy week. I'm also doing some pro bono work for the local chapter of a national nonprofit that I really support. They'll be giving me some advertising exposure in kind, but I'm just excited to be doing something for a cause I'm passionate about.

***

Dietbet is going really well. I'm now at 158.8, and just a few pounds away from my (actual) goal weight! We did break down and get takeout from a lebanese place nearby last night - a friend came over and we didn't really have enough for everyone if I cooked. I was also exhausted after our workout. So womp womp. I only got some chicken lentil soup, though - so at least it was good for my diet.

***

That's it for now. I hope you are all having a lovely week!

Meal Plan

April 24th, 2016 at 01:04 pm

I can't believe the month is almost over! It really has flown. Today is already such a beautiful day, and I'm going to take advantage of it by walking to the library and doing a tiny bit of grocery shopping. When I sat down to do my meal planning this morning I realized that we have almost everything in the house we need to make dinners this week! So the grocery run will be pretty tame. This is good, because we've only got $38 left in the grocery budget.

So meals on the list this week:

- Grilled Salmon & Broccoli Tots
- Scrambled Eggs with Veggies
- Roasted Carrot Salad (leftovers we still need to finish)
- Chicken Stir Fry
- Apple Cheddar Salad with Soup

Breakfasts for me will waver between a hard boiled egg and oatmeal. Lunches will be leftovers or veggie burgers with a side of veggies.

I'll be out two nights this week (networking meeting and shooting a wedding on Saturday), so I'm also going to pick up a few lean cuisines for DH, just in case. I like just having them in the freezer in case we don't feel like cooking anyway. Going to hop online and see if I can't find any coupons for them.

***

Yesterday had my date with the SIL - two movies and dinner. She paid for dinner and the second movie, mostly because she was 30 min late to the first one and felt terrible. I tried to protest (it wasn't a huge deal), but in the end I was appreciative. I only spent $7 on the one movie ticket and I filled my car's tank as well. We saw the new Huntsman movie (which was not all that great) and The Boss (which was really funny). Had lebanese food, and did indulge in splitting one small popcorn with her. But overall the eating is still going well. I just need to get back on the workout train. This walk today should help!

***

Have a shoot this evening, which will bring in about $500. I also spent some time yesterday on Freelancer.com looking at some opportunities, and it seems one person is interested in hiring me for a project, so there could be some additional income there. We shall see.

That's about it for financial news. Hope you are all enjoying your weekend!

April 22

April 22nd, 2016 at 03:57 pm

Got my invoice from the accountant - $650. That's $300 for filing our taxes, $100 for paying sales tax for my business throughout the year, and another $250 for my Quickbooks and consultations throughout the year (I met with them 3 times). All in all, I would say it was money well-spent. Not the cheapest, I'm sure - but at least it's also an expense I can write off. And I know it's getting done right.

Now that all that is done and the checks are all written, I have an accurate view of what's going on. Today I'll be going to the bank to close my personal checking account (moving the last little bit of money to our joint account). Then going to the other bank to deposit that money + some cash that I've been meaning to put in... namely, xmas $ (it's just been sitting in a drawer) and the $ I collected from friends to put towards DH's bday party, a total $423 deposit.

Also slipping the check in the mail for my accountant and making our local tax payment. We have returns coming to the tune of $609 total.

Deposited a couple of payments from clients today and moved 35% of each amount to the savings account where I hold tax payments for 2016.

***

Now that I have an accurate view of where we are at, it's time to have that conversation with DH about our goals. When we first sat down to take a look at the budget, we made some rough savings goals: vacation, kids, kids education, emergency fund, retirement, house. We even put general numbers to them, but I'd like to be a little more organized and intentional about actually doing that. I'd like to open a joint savings account so we can see the progress there rather than just having a number raising in the checking (which is how DH tends to do things, but doesn't really work for me).

Lately, money has been a rough subject to talk about, so I want to explore some different ways to approach the discussion. I've got some ideas up my sleeve, and I'm excited to give them a go.

***

Scheduled a shoot for the weekend, which was unexpected but nice. Have a couple of sessions to finish editing and wrap up. Still job hunting, and am starting to get really excited about the possibilities Smile

***

Dietbet is going well - did great with my eating yesterday, though I was way hungrier than usual. Went on a 3.5 mile run Wednesday night and that drained me. Didn't workout yesterday as a result. We were both pretty exhausted. Today will definitely be working out, and so far my eating has been great.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax, berries, and peanut butter
Lunch: Veggie burger with leftover ratatouille, avocado
Dinner: Roasted Carrot Salad
Snacks: (none yet! that oatmeal was filling) Almonds, string cheese

No plans tonight other than working out. Think DH wants to do some Kenpo after work. We'll see after that! Tomorrow I have a double feature movie date with my SIL. We'll also be grabbing dinner while we're out, but I'm going to do my best to keep it inexpensive and healthy. No movie popcorn Frown

Sunday I've got that shoot at noon and an empty slate otherwise. Weather should be nice, so I'm hoping to get outside!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

April 19

April 19th, 2016 at 06:55 pm

Alrighty, taxes are filed and things are back to normal! Woo! We got sizeable return from state (about $700), owe about $200 to city, and will be getting a small $200 refund from the fed. All in all, a completely successful tax season! Particularly considering that I thought I was going to be $8k out of pocket... sheesh! Now I just need the invoice from my accountant to know exactly how things pan out, and I'll start to use those funds I've been saving (about $6k right now).

I think I want to pay off at least one of my CCs with the funds, the one that isn't 0% interest for the next 10 months. Then we'll save an additional $37 every month on top of that. Things are looking good! After that, only one more to pay off and I can start laser focusing on my student loans. Hooray!

So looking at my long-term goals, I no longer need to save for taxes (I'm already setting aside a percentage of income in a savings account for 2016). We have far more than $1k in the bank that we could use for an emergency, though I'd like to start talking with DH about setting specific savings goals...

And now that we have a few months' worth of financial data in our mint account, we can look more closely at what we'd like to change in terms of our spending and saving. It's a great place to be!

***

In other financial news, DH and I both signed up for Dietbets - he did 2 games, and I'm signed up for 3. So we're $150 in. I think we'll both have little problem making our goal weights, so hopefully that will yield a nice gain. And we'll both be a bit closer to where we should be on the scale! Win-win.

***

The budget right now is looking okay... We're past the halfway point in the month, and definitely coming close to maxing out most of what we've allotted. We were about $40 under on our heating bill, so we'll adjust for next month. Our discretionary spending is close to maxed, but I'm confident that we can pull through. Groceries might be problematic now that we're trying to eat healthy... but I'm going to try and be smart about it and get a little creative so I don't go over. We're doing a lot of cooking this week.

At any rate, that's where things stand now! Hope you are all having a lovely week!

DH's Birthday Weekend

April 11th, 2016 at 02:31 pm

Everything was a huge success. A lot of eating at restaurants - but a few where friends paid, which was really nice of them. On Saturday (his actual birthday), I made peanut butter chocolate chip pancakes drizzled in peanut butter and topped with whipped cream from scratch. That was the first time I had ever made it, and I'll say... I'm never buying whipped cream from a can again. So good!

We got lunch with a friend, and then that evening we went to an entertainment complex where I had reserved a birthday party for 12 people. We were definitely the only group of adults there without children, but we had so much fun! We each got 10 arcade tokens, but the real fun was in the laser tag, skating rink, bumper cars, rock climbing wall, euro bungy, and this crazy laser maze you had to climb through. Everything was unlimited for 4 hours and the party package came with pizza and pop. All for about $300! I broke it down and each of our friends that came also pitched in, so it probably only ran me about $75 total. So very worth it.

I also baked a cake that we brought with us to the party. My first go at a 2-layered cake, and what I would consider a real Pinterest win:



By far the fanciest cake I've ever made, but DH loves Reese's and it was a blast to make (albeit a loooong process).

Yesterday we went to DH's hometown to spend the day with his family, which was really nice. We were so sore from the previous night's festivities (our older bodies handle all of those physical games so much harder than those kids running around). So it was really relaxing to hang out and just talk. Got Mexican for dinner and I think I fell asleep all but 20 minutes after we got home.

This week I've got a couple of shoots, which I'm fairly excited about. Also want to catch up on some tasks I've been procrastinating for a while. I'm feeling really motivated today, which is a good sign.

Tonight I'm making a pork loin in the crock pot, and trying my best not to stuff myself with leftover cake :/ We left with about half of it, but I'm sure we'll give a decent amount away. We do have one more dinner that we do every year for his birthday, which we'll go out for either tomorrow or Wednesday night. After that, the celebrating will come to a much needed close. I've gained so much weight in the last week. heh.

Speaking of which, DH agreed to do a Dietbet with me starting next week! A great 28 day challenge to shed those extra pounds before our Mexico vacation next month. He's never done one with me, and I'm excited to be in it together. We can definitely both benefit from some healthier decisions... And I am adamant to be in great shape before my 30th Birthday (which will happen while we're on said trip).

Shouldn't have too much spending this week aside from that last dinner. We've got 2 meals left over from last week's groceries, and shouldn't have to spend too much more to round out a few other random things I bought at the store. Tonight I'm making a pork loin in the crock pot, and we are determined to not leave the house tonight. All the festivities have worn us out, I'm afraid.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

The joys of being a business owner

April 7th, 2016 at 02:49 pm

I absolutely love running my own business, but of course there are some hiccups. Today I'm feeling one of them. I had an acquaintance I used to work with contact me about taking headshots for her office, which was great! Until I sent an estimate and she realized I charge a bit more than she expected. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - I'm not in everyone's price range. That being said, my rates are far from astronomical, and the group rate that I offered originally is more than reasonable.

She asked for a discount because they are a small business, and I reluctantly agreed to it - mostly because she referred me to another client that has generated quite a bit of income for me, and I wanted to make sure that relationship stays strong. She owns a PR firm with a handful of employees, and the job seemed straightforward. But then she seemed to pile additional expectations on and has been the highest maintenance client I've ever had...

Needless to say, I of course am appreciative of the income, but I'm really regretting taking the job because it's going to be far more work than it's worth. I've been trying to reign in her expectations as nicely as I can, but I just want to ask her how she would feel if someone approached her to do work, immediately asked her for a discount, and then piled on additional work outside of the purview of the original scope of the project. It feels really disrespectful and insulting to me, particularly because I'm also a small business owner. A much smaller business at that.

Sigh. Rant over now.

In positive news, though, another client (a member of my BNI chapter) posted the photos from his shoot last week (that he paid full price for) and got a lot of attention on his social media channels - to the point where a few people even asked him for my contact information Smile It's nice to feel like my work is valued and appreciated.

***

In other interesting news, I applied for a part time job in Nashville. I know we're still a few of months out from the move, but some places take a while to hire and I figured there was nothing to lose. May as well start poking around and seeing what's out there. I'm feeling good about changing things up in my professional world, and part-time will still give me the space to get out and grow my business in that market as well.

***

Re: the budget, things are looking fairly okay... This week we've been doing fabulously with cooking every night. Last week pretty much entirely killed our restaurant and bar budgets for the entire month. DH went out for the home opening game and it would seem went a bit crazy. lol. My student loan payments went up this month - one fell out of forebearance, and another is finally caught up with payments I made ahead, so it's kicking in monthly again.

I did break down and buy a couple of pieces of clothing the other day, too. That still keeps me well within budget - they were preowned, and one was fairly planned anyway. I've been looking out for a dressier tank top for months. The dress I bought was a great deal and difficult to pass up. But again, well within budget. So I can't beat myself up *too* badly.

Other than that, all things are normal. Made my car payment today. Went to Aldi to get a couple of things I had forgotten the other day (k-cups, olive oil, toilet paper).

Tonight I'm cooking white chicken chili and bringing some over to our friends that just had their baby. We'll probably spend a little time hanging out over there. This weekend is going to be action-packed, it being DH's birthday. All of his gifts are purchased for the most part, save a few photo frames for the posters I had printed. I'm also going to make a cake to bring to the party. I do need to collect money from the other guests to pay for the remaining costs of the party, and should get on that soon...

That's about it for now. Hope you're all having a lovely day!

Back in the swing of things

April 4th, 2016 at 09:42 pm

Alright, things are finally starting to feel normal again. We've been back from vacation for a couple of weeks, and my routine is
settling in again.

Didn't do much this past weekend. Our friends had their baby on Friday (April Fools! But really, they did. lol). Went to the hospital to see the little one, then went out and did karaoke. Saturday I spent cleaning the apartment and doing laundry, which literally took all day. Between being gone for almost 2 weeks and the slump we've been in since we've been home, there was much to be done. After all that, though, we ordered takeout and I fell asleep on the couch around 9:30. heh. Yesterday I went to a baby shower, then we kind of bummed around all evening.

DH and I sat down and looked at our spending for March, and it wasn't pretty - mostly due to spending on vacation, but also because we basically ate at restaurants for the whole time we've been back. That was a bit rough to see on the statement.

That being said, I took the time to do some meal planning and went to the grocery store today. We're covered on dinners for probably a week now. It was German week at Aldi, so I got a few extras that we can use for meals next week also. Tonight I'm trying out a new recipe for a roasted carrot salad, and I just put a loaf of bread in the oven. Also tried a recipe for compound butter - delicious fresh honey butter on that fresh baked bread is going to be heavenly. Having a couple of friends over, so I figured why not do something a bit special?

DH's birthday is on Saturday, and I already got his gifts. GRE study materials and poster prints he's been wanting for a while. We're also having a party at this entertainment complex with laser tag and a skating rink and a bunch of other stuff. A 31st Birthday celebration fit for a 12 year old! ha. Should be fun for sure. Sunday we're hanging out with his family. So the rest of this week is going to be incredibly low-key.

***

Got all of my tax information to my accountant, and got some really great news. I was expecting to have to pay around $8k, but after some rough estimates she said worst case scenario would be around $2k! I've been saving every penny I make for a few months, so it'll be nice to be able to use those funds. And I've already opened a savings account and started transferring 35% of my income since the start of 2016, so there will be no crazy stress around taxes next year, thankfully. It was INCREDIBLE news to receive. Turns out filing jointly as a married couple is going to work in our favor after all Smile

***

Had a shoot this past week that went really well, and have booked a couple more since we've been home. Which is comforting, coming out of the slow season. It'll be nice to actually be able to contribute to the family income as well. Got a client check in the mail today that I need to put into my system.

***

Need to re-evaluate my goals and get started on a path to meeting them, including updating my sidebar. Haven't done any journaling in about a month and that's a habit I want to rekindle as well. Reconnecting with my gratitude practice also. I'm slipping back into laziness, and that's when I start forgetting how much abundance I have in my life and lose track of what's important. My 2 hour stint online window shopping last night is an indication that I'm falling off the horse.

***

So that's that for now! Hope you are all having a great Monday!