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Archive for December, 2016

2017 Outlook

December 30th, 2016 at 06:00 pm

This year was a pricey one. Moving from the glorious land of low-property values to Nashville (a booming market with a constant influx of people) meant doubling our rent payments halfway through the year. Our utilities were pretty consistent with Ohio, but moving to a new city means getting out and exploring our new home... and spending a whole lot of money eating at new restaurants, visiting new bars, etc. Combined with the fact that we just weren't really watching our spending and I was unemployed for my first 3 months here (with no network to build my business on), it was a bit rough for sure.

But we're starting to right ourselves and plan for the future, now that our lives have a clear trajectory, as DH was accepted into his PhD program.

So. Many new changes on the horizon. And many big questions: When will DH officially quit his job? When will I find one? What will our expenses be like once we do move? How much money will I be making? What will our benefits look like?

The move will happen the last week in May, which really only gives us 5 months to answer those questions, plan our strategy, and execute. That's not a whole lot of time at all. I feel like the last 3 years have included big events we've had to plan for - the wedding, the move to Nashville, and now the move to Louisville. Thankfully, his program is 3 years. So we'll get two that should be "business as usual." Unless a baby sneaks its way in. But as of right now, that's not in the game plan.

All that being said, the focus right now is on saving money to account for some of those question marks. What we DO know is that we will definitely be moving when our lease is up, by the end of May. DH wont start classes in the fall, and thus he likely wont be getting a stipend until then (and we're still waiting to hear back that he's getting one for sure). We expect the stipend to be between $18-20k/year. I also know that DH doesn't want to continue on with his job past our move. So we'll be losing a big chunk of income then. All that basically means that it's imperative for me to find a full-time job as soon as possible - and we need to plan for the just-in-case it takes longer.

We do have some money saved up, but I'd rather not touch it if possible, of course. And there are some things that I think we'd like to do prior to the move - just in case it's harder to do after. Things like funding our IRAs for 2017 (if possible), making any doctor's appointments that need to be made, etc. We've talked about making one last big trip, too. But after a conversation this morning, it just seems like putting it off to the winter makes more sense. I think we're going to do a trip for xmas next year instead of trying to fit one in the middle of such a big transition. We may be taking a trip out to California for his cousin's wedding, but even that is a bit up in the air right now. We priced tickets, and it'll run us up like $1,000. They came to our wedding, but their parents paid for the tickets. It's also about a week before we move, and not great timing. We're not actually close to them, either (I met his two cousins at our wedding last year). So we're going to wait that out a bit and see what the best course of action is.

The nice thing is, once we move we'll be cutting our rent in half. We've started looking at apartments in Louisville, and it seems that we'll be able to find something great within our price range. And I think we're both ready to make some sacrifices there, given that we'll both be working out of the house. Having a lot of room was important to us here - but we both work from home.

I worked out what expected monthly expenses will be in Louisville, and it comes out to be roughly $3,500/month. If I can get a job making at least $40k/year, that should allow us to cover our expenses and put away a bit along with DH's stipend. And I'll be doing photography as a side gig, so potentially we could put away even more. But we'll see. I'm *hoping* I can find a job making at least that much. At this point there are no guarantees.

So we've got some goals in mind for 2017:

[ ] Adhere to monthly budget, continuously
[ ] File taxes by March 1
[ ] Ideally, save an additional $5,000 prior to June 1
[ ] Find an apartment in Louisville for $1,000 or under
[ ] Find a full-time job at $40k +
[ ] Take a trip for xmas (probably Thailand)
[ ] Fully fund IRAs for the year
[ ] Consolidate student loans

And some goals for January:

[ ] Uber Frugal Challenge
[ ] Change phone plan
[ ] Consolidate/put into forbearance gov't loans
[ ] Get HSA stuff figured out
[ ] Start GIS training (for resume building)
[ ] Research networking opportunities in Louisville
[ ] Start putting together planning portfolio

DH and I went through and set up our budget for January. I cancelled Hulu and we'll be doing the same for Netflix. We have Prime and HBO already, so it seems like opting out of these two for a month will be an easy way to save about $20. We're also going to shoot for eating at a restaurant only one time this month. We're going to see the symphony play on the 12th, so that'll be our fancy date night. Otherwise, we're cooking at home. Nobody is visiting this month, and we're not taking any trips - so it should be pretty simple.

I also set our grocery budget to $300. Our "grocery" budget includes toiletries, cat food, and cleaning supplies, etc. So it'll be tight for sure. We just need to get creative. My mom was the master of inexpensive meals growing up. I've learned from the best. And I love a challenge.

***

As for personal goals, they're the same as they are pretty much every year. Live healthier, embrace my passions, work on myself and my marriage. This past year I didn't do a list of resolutions and instead decided to keep track of the things that I did during the year that I particularly loved or was proud of. It's a pretty amazing list for 2016. I have a feeling it will be the same next year. Photography will take a smaller space in my life, but I see it as an opportunity to focus more on what I love about it. My acting and writing are just getting started, and I'm excited to see where they take me moving forward.

There's a lot to look forward to - and so much to do!

It's Done!

December 27th, 2016 at 02:46 pm

Finally - the holidays are over! Such a relief. This year was particularly lacking in spirit here in our house, and all of the travel was a lot. DH and I decided halfway through our visit home that we'll be staying home for the holidays next year. Oddly, it was his suggestion and not mine. This was our first xmas living away from our home state, and an 8 hour drive followed by lots of running around was just not ideal. Given my strange relationship with my family, it wasn't all that enjoyable even once I got there. Visiting with his family was nice for the most part - they're having their own share of drama at the moment. But I got to finally meet his cousin's new baby, and see his grandma, who had a nasty fall a few months ago, but is thankfully doing much better. I think once we have kids, we'll make a real effort to have the holiday be exciting and family-oriented, but until then we're fine with it being low-key and relaxing.

Beyond the stress, our trips home tend to be pricey, hitting restaurants and stopping along the way (and of course gas). Took a look at the budget when we got home last night. We're over budget in quite a few areas. January will be easier to be rather stringent. I'm looking forward to that. No trips planned. Nobody visiting. It'll be nice to have things just feeling like normal. In fact, this will be the first time since we moved that we'll be going a whole month without a trip back home. I'm elated!
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This is also one of my favorite times of the year: the end/beginning of the next. I love reflecting and goal setting, and I'm pretty excited to get into it. This year I didn't really have any resolutions set. Instead, I decided to keep a list of things that I loved or was proud of as they happened. It was a rather eventful 2016 for sure. Lots of change. And much to come - so I feel it will be a good practice. At the beginning of this year I did a 30-day journaling challenge. I plan to do that again this year.

Also, DH has the whole week off of work, which is really nice. He's been miserable at his job, and it'll be great for him to get a break and relax. Today we need to go pick his car up at the shop and do some grocery shopping. He's running bar trivia tonight and I have no plans outside of making dinner tonight. Started on my list. Need to get that finished up. Trying to keep it inexpensive given that we're already over the grocery budget (our "grocery" budget includes anything bought at the grocery store and OTC medications, cleaning supplies, etc). I think I'll be adjusting that a bit for January - but our restaurant budget is going to be *way* lower.

We're going to a small get-together on Saturday for the New Year. Not doing anything crazy, just spending time with some new friends from my acting class. So that should be a good time (and inexpensive).

Hope you all enjoyed your holiday and are looking forward to the new year!

Dec 20

December 20th, 2016 at 05:35 pm

So for the very first time in a long time I have no editing to be done! Just finished up my last wedding of the year and a portrait session from last week, so there are no outstanding tasks for my business. Feels good to zero out Smile

So right now all tasks now are mostly related to getting ready for the holiday - baking cookies, getting cards written, presents wrapped, etc. Need to have all of it done by tomorrow afternoon. Then I go to work, and Thursday morning we leave for Ohio. It's going to be a very busy week, but I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends. And I'll be getting a lot of time with my SIL, who also happens to be my bestie. So I'm thrilled.

***

Had a busy but productive day yesterday, also with a little break to go see Rogue One Big Grin I thought that by going at 10:45am that we would get some sort of matinee pricing, but it still ended up being over $10/ticket. And we did splurge on a medium popcorn and drink. For me, the popcorn is half the reason I go, and I absolutely adore going to the movies. I just wish it were cheaper. Friends ended up inviting me to see La La Land in the evening, but I had to pass. The sting was enough the first time around. DH wanted to go do bar trivia last night, but I suggested we just play our Xbox Jeopardy game and have a couple of beers at home. So that's what we did.

Hit Target yesterday to grab a few things for treat bags and printer ink. Had to send out a gift card to a client in time for xmas. Shot out all of my mailed xmas cards today along with that.

***

Moved some $ around today, because I got two client checks in the mail. I'm all paid up for the year now as well. Things are falling into place Smile My income this month is going to exceed my goal by quite a bit, and I'm pretty excited about that. Not all of it was generated from new business, but still.

***

Took a look at the budget this morning, and we're actually looking really good. There are a few areas that have went over - but also several that are leaving us with excess, so I'm interested to see what the final totals for the month will look like. With the trip back home coming up, our spending will definitely see a spike. But we're at least keeping an eye on it.

That's it for now! Hope you all have a great holiday!

Dec 16

December 16th, 2016 at 04:21 pm

Been a good week so far. Did my grocery shopping the other day, and we're doing well cooking dinner. Made lemon butter chicken last night and it was pretty fantastic! It's been a while since I've tried a new recipe or made anything "fancy" (DH's word for anything that isn't a one-pot, crock pot, or convenience meal. lol). It was fun to get back into it. I really do love to cook. I've just been struggling with the energy to do so since starting the PT job. It's taken me a few months to adjust, but juggling the job, the business, and my newly budding acting career is starting to get into a rhythm. The home life has fallen by the wayside, but I feel like I'm starting to strike a balance.

***

Met with the student loan consultant, and was met with good and bad news. The bad news is that apparently refinancing private student loans is rather difficult - even with a cosigner. And because I've been self employed/only work PT, it will be difficult to do so. However, he said the good news is that "I don't have that much" (apparently $40k is bush league in his industry. lol) and once I start working FT, it will be much easier. I'm planning to get a FT job once we move anyway, so he said to wait until about 6 months after I secure that and try to start the process.

He also suggested some options for consolidating my Stafford loans, which could allow me to put them into forbearance for a few years - so I could focus more heavily on the private loans (which have almost double the interest rates). So I'll be looking into that.

The consultation was free, and everything he suggested I can do on my own, so overall I think it was a worthwhile inquiry.

***

Spending otherwise is going fine. I did end up buying a few things at Target this week - finishing up DH's xmas shopping, replacing a pair of black pants that ripped a couple of weeks ago :/ , and buying a new top for my headshots on Monday. I do need to return a few things, which is weirdly exciting. haha.

Our income expectations were exceeded across the board, which is fantastic. I've had several more inquiries for headshots, which feel so good. In fact, one of my clients I shot last week loved her photos so much, she purchased two extra - so an extra $100! That feels pretty amazing.

***

I got my headshots back and loved a handful of them (I'm THE pickiest person when it comes to photos of myself - a fun combination of being a photographer and super critical of my face. haha). And I attended an improv class for the first time. It was free, and an absolute blast. So much fun.

Hope to start talking to a talent agent soon. It would be great to start actually auditioning soon. ha.

That's it for me! Hope you all are staying warm.

Almost Halfway Through December!

December 13th, 2016 at 02:57 pm

I don't think I'll ever get used to the time flying by so quickly. Sigh. Nonetheless...

Things have been a little nuts this last week. DH went back to Ohio for the weekend. I had a friend in from out of town stay over for a night. So it was definitely a bit spendy. That being said, we're still within the limits of our budget.

Made some headway on the xmas spending. My giftcards from Swagbucks finally came through - so I bought my mom a pressure cooker and my sister a video game. My brother called yesterday to discuss, and he actually went half in on the pressure cooker, which was nice. It was a bigger ticket item than I had planned on getting - and she gets something that she wants and will certainly use. He asked what I wanted, I suggested a GC. I asked him, he said a GC. In the end, we decided to each just keep the $25 we would spend on each other and call it a day. lol.

Bought her BF a giftcard, got DH's last gift. And it appears that we're not actually wrapping ours... lol. So I'll probably be returning some wrapping stuff back to Target. I do need to fill out my xmas cards for family not receiving gifts (we opted to not do an exchange) and find small gifts for two friends back home. But that's about it.

***

My meeting with my financial planner friend was really good. Because we're moving, he knows that we're not going to become clients - but he was really generous with his time and was able to connect me with a consultant that works specifically with student loans. He hasn't worked with this man personally, but other colleagues in his office have with good experience. So I've got a meeting Wednesday to see what he might be able to help with. $600/month in payments just isn't where we want to be, and will likely be unsustainable moving forward. Also, 10% interest rates are absurd. I was in undergrad, with no credit, no co-signer, and unmarried when I originated those loans. I feel like there has to be a solution that will improve the situation now that all of that I'm in a much more financially secure situation.

***

As far as the rest of my short-term goals, we are within the limits of our budget. Have not made it out to T-Mobile yet. I dread interacting with phone companies, but I need to just bite the bullet. Hit my $1k goal for the month. Just need to move some cash around so it's in our joint account.

***

Today I'm getting coffee with a friend, then hitting the grocery store. Made my list/meal plan last night. Tonight I have acting class, then will likely get a drink after class. But I'm going to limit it to one. It's just been a few weeks since we socialized after class. I'm missing it.

Overall, I'm feeling good about our budget/spending. When we actually keep an eye on it, we do so well. We just need to stick with it.

At any rate, I hope y'all have a great day!

DH was Accepted :)

December 7th, 2016 at 02:21 pm

We found out yesterday that DH was accepted to the PhD program he applied to! It was his first choice, and we're incredibly excited. It means a lot of changes ahead, but mostly it means that he gets to dive into something he's truly passionate about, and leave the job that has been eating away at his soul for a couple of years now.

Also, it means that we can stop speaking in hypotheticals and start planning in earnest, which is an absolute relief.

That planning will involve me starting the process of finding a job, researching our new city (2 hours away) and planning our move that will happen in June when our lease ends, and trying to wrangle our financial future once that happens. He'll have an assistantship with the university, which means a stipend income of about $20k per year, but there are a lot of question marks where my job is concerned.

It's cause for a bit of anxiety, but I'm trying to focus on the positives.

In just a couple of hours I have a meeting with the financial planner from my networking group to go over my student loans and see if there are any options out there for reworking the situation to make it better. I'm paying over $500/month and not making much headway because my interest rates are through the roof. The loans originated back when I was an undergrad, with little to no credit, no cosigner, and before I was married. So I feel like things can only improve. I'm hoping, anyway.

Let's hope this meeting will yield more good news!

Hope you all have a great day!

Week Recap

December 5th, 2016 at 02:31 pm

This past week was pretty fantastic, spending-wise. We made a meal list for the week, spent $50 on groceries, and cooked every night. Last night we made enough food to have leftovers, so those will be lunch today. Tonight we have an xmas party to attend, so we're doing dinner at the restaurant where it'll be held. Then heading to a bar after. Tomorrow, we have one meal left that will also likely render some leftovers, so actually, we're probably covered until Wednesday.

Did hit Target to get wrapping supplies, cat food, and some clorox wipes. Yesterday I met up with a classmate at a coffee shop to rehearse, so I spent about $14 on breakfast and a fancy coffee. I could have gone with better planning there and eaten beforehand, but hindsight...

We have a hold on our xmas spending - just waiting for my Swagbucks GCs to process.

***

This coming week will be pricier - DH booked his flight back to Ohio yesterday (took the cost out of his savings). But obviously, he'll be out at restaurants and bars with his friends for two nights, so there will be a bump in the spending there as well. We did account for that, though. I also have a girlfriend coming into town on Saturday night, so I will be out and about as well.

A week from today I have a photo shoot - but this time, with me as the subject... which is a bit more intimidating for me. haha. I've been in acting classes for about 6 months now, and want to look for representation, so it's about time. I struck a deal with another photographer, who is giving me a discounted rate in exchange for some guidance on getting into the wedding business. So that's nice. But I'm admittedly pretty nervous. I don't feel super confident about my weight, and plan to spend the week being good - which should actually help me wrangle in the spending on alcohol as well. Those are calories I certainly don't need.

***

DH's interview with the university is this afternoon, which is really exciting. We spent last night going over some questions they might ask him. I'm incredibly confident that it's going to happen for him, but I know we're both ready to put the anxiety of "IF he gets in" aside and operate on the concept that we will be heading there in just 6 short months. It'll make planning that much easier, anyway.

I have been starting to look at job postings, just to get a sense of what's available, and the type of planning community and institutions that are there. Also starting to come up with a strategy for beefing up my resume. Because I've been out of school for a few years and not working in that industry, I should really become more familiar with what has changed since then, new trends, and perhaps do some training in GIS - which I never actually studied in school, but I've come to find from friends who did that it's pretty much a necessity for any jobs out there (too bad our program didn't stress that). Luckily, a new licensing option for the industry standard software is only $100 for personal use, with online education included. So it'll be far less expensive than expected.

So that's that! Just need to keep my eye on the prize, and we should end up within budget.

Hope y'all enjoyed your weekend and have a great week ahead of you!

Christmas Spending

December 3rd, 2016 at 07:20 pm

So I sat down and laid out a gameplan for my xmas shopping this morning. We had already budgeted, based on our expectations - $350 for everything. We had set a general amount of $75 for each other. His family decided we're not doing gifts this year, which was nice. I plan to write out nice cards for everyone, and maybe make some goodies. But no wrapped presents. For my family, I only really plan to buy for my mom, mom's boyfriend, and my sister.

Talked to mom about their lists (both on Amazon) and what figure we're shooting for. Which wasn't super clear, but it all worked out in the end. I think we're going to get her a pressure cooker as a joint gift from us both, a game for my sister as a joint gift, and then a gift card for her bf.

I had about 18,000 Swagbucks from booking vacations earlier in the year, so I've redeemed them for $125 in Amazon gift cards. I'll use those to buy gifts for my mom and sister. I'll end up spending a bit more than I anticipated, but given that it's not coming out of the bank account, that's fine. They're gifts they'll actually enjoy - and ones that I think will be good for the family. I'll make a point to remind my mom to use the pressure cooker next time we visit. And the game is something we can play as a family while we're there.

My family relationship is really stressed and awkward, so I'm trying to bridge some gaps and strengthen where I can. My brother and dad will get a nice card.

So. We're looking at:

DH:
- Hoodie (ordered today): $56
- Belt (need to get): Hopefully around $20
- Shot Glass (his silly little surprise gift, ordered today): $16

Me:
- Clothes (from where I work, so I get an employee discount and we have a $5 off coupon): $35
- Mascara (been meaning to get it, so I asked instead): $26
- Some little surprise gift (no idea, so...): Hopefully not more than like $20

Mom (joint gift): Pressure cooker, $89
Sister (joint gift): Game, $47
BF (joint gift): Gift Card, $25
Friends (need to order): Family Cookbooks, 7 all together, including shipping: $55

Total: $389 - Amazon Gift Cards = $264

So that gives us a pretty nice cushion of $86. Which will also be used toward gift wrap, cards, supplies for baking, etc. And I have a bit more Swagbucks that I could use for a $25 Target giftcard to offset that as well. So we're looking pretty good there.

We also got two sets of Duplo blocks for a 3 year old foster child that my acting studio sponsored (along with several other kids). Those were under last month's spending, but I love that we were able to do something charitable.

So that's that. I just need to get things ordered and packaged, and those cookbooks designed so I can get them printed and shipped in time. As soon as my gift cards come in, I'll get the family gifts and we should be good to go.

Hope everyone's holiday season is progressing nicely!

That time flies

December 1st, 2016 at 06:25 pm

So it's been a whirlwind. The last time I wrote here was in April, and how things have changed. Financially, of course, for the negative... because that's what happens when I stay away from SA for too long! Wink

Not to say that we're in a dire situation. There's just so much to be said for the power of tracking things.

SO. Turned 30 in May (woo!). We moved to Nashville in June. Things have been going well for the most part. The transition was difficult, at least more difficult than I expected it to be. We've learned a lot and made a few mistakes, but overall our life here is pleasant and we like the people we've met. It's been an interesting change.

Running my business here has been challenging. Starting from square 1 is never easy, but I realized that I needed to get a part-time job to supplement my income - so I did that. I'm working 15-20 hours a week, and business is finally starting to pick up a bit. That being said, our living expenses are MUCH higher than they were in Ohio, and things are a bit stressed. Particularly because we've just kind of been willy-nilly with the spending. That has to stop because...

DH is planning to go back to school next year. All of his application materials are in, we're just waiting to hear back. I'm very confident it's all going to work out, but we're not counting chickens quite yet.

That being said, he also desperately wants to quit his (well-paying) job. In fact, he's desperately wanted to quit for a couple of years now. It's getting to the point where it's more of a need than a want, though. We have a decent chunk in savings, but we're looking at ways to make that possible for him - so it will stop having the negative effect it's having on both his own well-being and our marriage... Some creative thinking is in progress.

Him going back to school means another move in 6 months, so I'm trying to wrap my head around that and figure out what my next move is, professionally. Using that master's degree seems the logical way to go - so I'm doing some research and investigation while we're waiting to hear back on his (hopefully) acceptance.

Also, we've been doing a lot of traveling back to Ohio, out to Denver, and a few other places. Things are finally going to start leveling out after the first of the year, and we'll for the most part stay put. Which will do wonders for both our sanity and budget.

So yeah! Lots of change, and more to come. It's been super challenging trying to wrap my head around it, but we're getting to a place where the vision is at least somewhat formulated. Which makes me far less anxious.

While we're in this waiting period, though, we need to get really focused on putting away as much as we can. Last night we sat down and went over our budget (nonexistent for a few months). We're scheduling doctor's visits in the event that he does leave his job. And he'll start applying for jobs as soon as we get the green light on his schooling.

So that's that. We did manage to start me a Roth IRA, so we've both got retirement accounts now. I'm talking with the financial planner in my networking group about some student loan consolidation. So things are at least in progress. It feels good to have a clear picture and set of goals. We just need to get focused on meeting them!

More to come, then. Excited to get things under control! And consistently under control...

Missed y'all! (I can say that now, I think?) Smile