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December Goals

December 3rd, 2017 at 10:28 pm

This week went by in a flash, but it was a good one. Worked out every day - can't say I've done that recently. But I've been feeling better, slightly less sluggish. A little less focused, though, too - oddly. I really do need to schedule a doctor's appointment soon and get my meds refilled. It's starting to feel a bit more necessary.

It was a good day, relaxing. Planned out my grocery list, had a shoot this morning (putting me at $150 towards my $200 goal for additional income this month). Then went to yoga, then hit Aldi before coming home. Spent about $50 for the week - and that included a $7.50 frozen cheesecake we're taking to an xmas party this week. I thought of making something, but all told once I bought the ingredients I would have spent about the same. And I saved myself quite a bit of time. So I feel good about that.

Meals for this week:

Crock pot Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Pineapple Chicken with Rice
Brats with Butternut Squash Risotto
Fried Rice
Emergency Pizza (always on hand)

Thinking that we'll have at least one of these meals roll over into next week.

In other spending, did hit up the consignment shop yesterday and grabbed a couple of sweaters and a dress. All work clothes, all will get a lot of wear and love. Was $40 for the 3 pieces. Also had my swimsuit delivered today, so I'll be adding swimming laps to my workout routine. Suit only cost me $20 on Amazon. Was a little skeptical it would be quality, but it's actually fairly nice. Will definitely work for my purposes.

Set my goals for the month. A few were holdovers from November (adhere to budget, finish webseries). Increased my goal to working out 3x per week, and added tweaking my HSA contributions and investigating student loan consolidation. I need to sit down and figure out what I'll likely be spending on medical expenses so I can adjust my (now $10/pay period) contribution to my HSA. I'd rather get the money pre-tax if I can. And now that I have a steady full-time job, it's much more likely I'll be able to find refinancing options. So I want to at least see what the options are and get more aggressive about paying those puppies down.

Also need to add "Finish Xmas Shopping" to the list. We don't have much left to do, but I want it off my plate well ahead of time.

Thinking I might put up our tree tonight, since we don't have much in the way of plans. All I've done since getting home from the store is read my book from the library - which has been delightful. After traveling so much in the last few weeks it's been awesome to just relax at home.

Hope y'all are having a great Sunday!!

Back to Normal after the Holiday

November 28th, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Whew! What a weekend. It was a really nice time, but very long. We clocked about 14 hours in the car total, visited 3 different cities, and ate 3 different Thanksgiving meals. I gained roughly 6 pounds over the course of it all. haha.

Trying to get back to feeling normal. All of the traveling (and eating, and drinking) had me exhausted all day yesterday. We didn't get home til 5pm on Sunday, and the only thing I had the energy to do was throw some pasta in a pan and heat up sauce. I think I went to bed at 8:30.

Yesterday at work was alright despite the tiredness. It's going to be a busy week - which I don't mind so much. I went to the wellness center after I got off, and worked out for about 1.5 hours all told. I've been really enjoying one of the pre-programmed courses on the elliptical, and it's an hour long. At the end of that hour it says I've burned almost 700 calories, so I'm really good with that. haha. Then I got on the rowing machine for 2000 meters. After working out I swung by Aldi. Managed to stay under $50 - which puts me right at my $250 budget for the month. Would have been slightly less, but we had to buy some things for our "Friendsgiving" contribution when we were out of town - and those foil pans at the grocery store are ridiculously expensive. Had I realized I would have found a Dollar Tree or something. A 12-pack was also included in that, so the total there was close to $40.

I suggested to a friend of mine we get together this week because his birthday was over the weekend. When he asked where I'd want to go out, I suggested he come over and I cook, so that's what we're doing! I'm making chicken paprikas tonight, which has been sounding so good lately with the chilly weather. Bought a bigger bird than usual so I could use part of it for a soup I'm making later in the week. I've been saving all of my vegetable scraps to make broth. Want to add chicken to it for even more flavor (and the meat for the soup itself). I've never made broth at home, but when I saw the idea to keep the ends of carrots, celery, onions, etc. I loved the idea of not letting them go to waste. So I started a bag in the freezer to keep the odds and ends. And then the same with chicken. When I trim meat, I end up just throwing little bits in the trash. Saving them in the freezer made sense to me so I could add them to the broth. Less waste is always welcome in my house.

Meals this week are:

- Chicken Paprikas w Egg Noodles
- Sweet potato and black bean burrito bowls (DH made this last night and it was great)
- Hawaiian Chicken with Rice
- Sausage and White Bean Soup
- Emergency Pizza

I'm expecting leftovers with a few of these, so it should cover us through the week. Maybe more, we'll see!

Started my little bit of xmas shopping. Hoping to finish it all by the 10th or so - then ship the box out to my mom's. Clarified with DH's family that we will not be doing gifts again this year. Did grab DH a pair of socks. Will be picking him up just a couple more little things. Putting my tree up at some point this week!

Just hoping to ride out the rest of November here without spending too much. It was an expensive month with all the travel. December may be pricier than I expected it to be, as it looks like we'll have a few visitors over the course of the month, and DH is taking another trip back to Ohio (I have my opinions on this). But I'm going to do my best to minimize all spending otherwise.

That's about it for now! Hope you all have a lovely week!

Screenplay Reading and Gearing up for the Weekend

November 22nd, 2017 at 12:17 pm

My screenplay reading last weekend went great, despite some nasty weather that I'm sure kept some people home. It's always such a gift to hear my work brought to life, and my actors were fantastic. I'm very lucky. I got so many positive comments from attendees. Many asked what the next steps were, if there are any plans to put it into development because they'd actually like to see it as a movie. That's what we're aiming for, so it's good to hear the story is resonating with people. It bodes well Smile

My producer thinks the script has about one or two more passes before sending it on to the distributor. Once we do that we're hoping for some buy-in and leverage to gain funding (this distributor works with big name studios as well as indie companies). He's the money guy. I've got not connections in the biz. But he seems confident this could actually happen. I'm trying to not let my imagination run away with itself.

Submitted the script to two film festivals. I'll hear back in February and March on both of those. The first draft went to the semifinal round in a screenplay contest earlier this year, so I'm hopeful that they will be accepted in its current (better) state now. Acceptance or a win would be great leverage for pitching the movie as well, so crossing my fingers!

---

This week has just been flying by! It's exciting to have tomorrow and Friday off work, but I always feel the push to get completely caught up before a long weekend like this. Luckily, I've been fairly productive.

As far as spending goes, only spent about $33 at the grocery store over the weekend. We had dinners left over from last week, and we'll be out of town for the holiday - so it was mostly breakfast food, lunch fare, etc. Though I did pick up a pack of country style pork ribs for a little over $3 and cooked them in the crock pot with a bunch of leftover veggies and cream of celery soup. Yum. Will be adding that one to the rotation.

Got an oil change last night. Used a $10 coupon from the mail. It was still expensive, but we have a 5-hour drive back home coming up and it's been a little overdue.

It's going to be really nice to get to spend time with everyone. I'm glad we're not doing all 3 cities in one day like we typically do. Instead, we're doing a day per city. I'm hoping that will make it far less exhausting and allow us to really enjoy our time with each family/group. We'll be with family tomorrow and Friday, so I'm hoping it wont be a super expensive trip. Really, it should just be lunch a couple of times and of course extra gas.

Not doing any Black Friday shopping. I don't do crowds. I may hop online to see if there's anything worthwhile to grab. I'm still not sure what the story is with DH's family or whether we're doing gifts this year, so I've been holding off on planning for the moment. I'm sure we'll figure it out when we see them tomorrow, though.

Today will be finishing up work (and possibly staying late at work, depending on how productive I am), working out after, and getting ready for the journey. I hope you all have such a lovely Thanksgiving!

Groceries + Xmas Planning

November 12th, 2017 at 01:20 pm

It's been a nice last few days. Did my meal planning and grocery shopping yesterday. Spent about $71 - which is slightly higher than I wanted to, but we have the means to make 8 different meals, and I'm hoping I get at least two nights out of a couple of them. So it'll likely bleed into next week, offsetting the spending there.

Talked to mom last night for a few hours. It was good to catch up, and we had to discuss the holidays. I let her know we're not coming back for xmas this year, and she took it better than I expected her to. For Thanksgiving, I gave her the option of taking a share of our time on Thursday (we visit DH's family as well), or getting us for the whole day/night on Friday... and it looks like we're doing Friday. I'm happy about that, as the running around on the day of leaves us exhausted and frankly unable to enjoy the festivities fully. But also because DH and I can spend actual quality time with her on Friday - "The Circus," as my mom calls it (my crazy family) will be at her house Thanksgiving, and it's hard to really be present with her when I'm trying to make small talk with people whom I have strained and/or nonexistent relationships with. Needless to say, I'm not close with my family. So it's much better for my mom and I if we can all hang out without distractions and such.

We discussed xmas presents as well. We're scaling back, thankfully. My mom lives for shopping and gift-giving, so they'll never go away. But she's more focusing on one small gift per person - which is great. I think I'll get her something like that as well, but also put together something a little more personal to go with it and mail ahead of time. Then it'll be a matter of grabbing something for my sister and something small for my mom's boyfriend and I think that'll be it. Not sure what the plan is with DH's family. Still not sure if he's even told his mom we're not coming home. Last year we all decided to not exchange gifts, and it was nice.

I hope I don't come off as a scrooge - it's not that I don't enjoy giving gifts. It's just so strange to me to end up purchasing generic things people typically don't need because I don't have a close enough relationship with them to understand what they really enjoy. If I literally only see and/or talk to someone 1-2 days a year, a gift seems more like something I'm doing because it feels like I should.

That being said, DH and I aren't going hard on gifts either this year. haha. Last year we didn't do gifts at all. That being said, last year we didn't have "Our" Christmas - which we typically have on xmas eve. Because we were traveling. This year, I actually plan to put up the tree and perhaps do a bit of decorating. I know we'll make a really nice dinner. Lounge around and watch movies. I think one really small gift will still be nice, or I might suggest we get a game or something we can play together as a "joint" gift to ourselves.

I'd just so much rather focus on the spirit of the holiday than the stress of the "stuff." There's so much expectation and pressure built around it. Down with the pressure, I say!

Nov 8

November 9th, 2017 at 12:18 am

It's been a low-spend week thus far. Only spent about $50 at the grocery store, and picked a couple of meals that are really lasting. I made brats with sauerkraut and a huge bowl of mashed potatoes on Friday, which lasted through the weekend (including lunches) and yesterday tried my hand at some slow-cooker rice and beans. Well, made the bean portion in the crock pot anyway. I think ours runs hot and they were more than a little overcooked, but it made an enormous batch. We may end up freezing some of it and still eating it for a couple more days.

I hopped on Mint this morning to check the situation. DH went out of town this weekend back to visit. Any time either of us goes back it's expensive - restaurant meals and such. So we're already over budget in that category. Trying to keep the rest of the month really low-key. It's difficult to manage DH in that regard. He's so used to being able to go out whenever he likes and buy whatever he wants. But now, anything above and beyond our budget comes out of savings. We're lucky to have a decent amount tucked away, but that wont last long if we're not careful.

Worked out again today. I've been great on my schedule. Twice a week (three times last week!). It helps that I work at a fitness facility. And have coworkers that are happy to jump in with me. It's been really nice starting to feel stronger. My boxing class was cancelled, which was a bummer - but at least I'll be getting a refund (it was a specialty class).

Still waiting to hear on a potential photography job. And we sent out the proofs for our school photos - one of the parents was so impressed with my work for her preschooler that she reached out about potentially scheduling a session for her other kid. So that was really positive! It was a huge project at work that I was really stressed out about, so it's nice to know that parents are happy with the images.

That's really all I've got. Going to spend the night in, (hopefully) getting some work done. Finished the script for a short film this morning, so I was pretty excited about that. My habit of waking up early and writing has been going strong for a good month now! It's really exciting.

Hope everyone is having such a great week!

Jan 24

January 24th, 2017 at 08:27 pm

So - heard back from my banker friend, and it turns out that his company can't really get me a better interest rate on my loan. My credit score is fantastic (770!) and he said my debt-to-income is great too. But apparently being self-employed hurts my chances, at least with his company. However, he did give me contact info for a former coworker at another (bigger) bank, and said that I'll probably be able to get 6-7% through them. So there's hope yet for pulling things down. Though I might just wait until I secure a full-time job. I'm going to talk to her and see what she thinks. If it wont make a difference, then it makes sense to just do it now. But if it will, waiting might be worth it.

***

Went ahead and booked the AirBnB in Kentucky for the weekend after next. Requested the day off of work, which my boss said was fine. She hadn't actually finished the schedule, so it may not make a big difference in terms of my income regardless. One night in the AirBnB is only $50 after taxes, and we're splitting it. So it's the matter of gas, $25 for the room, and whatever I spend on food/drinks for 24 hours. For a much-needed getaway with the bestie I would say that's a steal. I'm super excited about it Smile

***

Had lunch meetings yesterday and today - though today I just had a cup of soup at Panera. All came out of my business expense account, so there's that. Brought enough leftovers home yesterday so that DH could enjoy them today.

Will possibly get a drink at the bar after class tonight. We'll see how everyone is feeling. DH and I have had a rough go of the last few days, but thankfully last night we came to a resolution and things feel good again. Other than just being exhausted (emotionally and physically). So I may not feel up for socializing. We shall see.

Making enchilada casserole for dinner tonight before I head out, which should last us a couple of days at least. Tomorrow I have a shoot, so I hope the weather holds out. The rest of the week will be a balance of work and friends coming in from out of town. Not sure what the plan is there, but I'm sure we'll find something enjoyable to do.

That's about it for today. Hope you're all enjoying your week!

Adulting Day

January 22nd, 2017 at 09:52 pm

That's pretty much what it's has become for me now that the boutique is closed Sundays - meal planning, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning. Feels good to get it done, and I usually work on Saturday, so it's nice to get it done.

Hit up Aldi, and I think was only a dollar or so over my budget. Spent $48.48. I think that's partially because we didn't end up cooking two of the meals from last week's menu... so they're on this week's. In the works:

- Chicken Lo Mein (I'll be making this tonight)
- Enchilada Casserole
- Chicken Alfredo w/ Linguine
- Steakburgers w/ Roasted Carrots
- Chicken Tenders w/ Tots
- Brats in a Blanket w/ Green Beans

I'm hoping the casserole will feed us 2-3 nights, actually - and we'll do leftovers and/or use the brats for lunch.

Tomorrow I'm taking a fellow BNI member out to lunch (because I forgot I needed to provide a "door prize" during my presentation this week). It'll be Mexican, so hopefully cheap. Also, we have friends that are in town for a wedding this weekend - which I forgot will likely alter our eating schedule. My guess is that we'll hit a restaurant at least once. But hopefully not more than that. We rarely get visitors, so it'll be really nice to see them. Just going to have to make the best of it.

Despite all of my best efforts to only eat at a restaurant once this month, it seems we're not getting away with it. DH has already gone out twice to grab stuff for lunch :/ And socializing makes it difficult. Sigh.

***

Talked to DH and let my banker friend know to start my loan application without DH's information - better to at least see what the picture looks like without before adding it in there. The fact that we got into a huge fight the other night (not about anything financial) helps me think logically about the whole thing. You never know.

He said I should hear back early this week, so hopefully it'll be news of decent interest rates. I'm only looking to do the $25k at this point - the process is easier and I'd rather not touch my government loans, just in case (though I wouldn't bank on it) there are options for forgiveness in the future.

***

One of my best friends from back home called and proposed we get together the first week of February - meeting in the middle, 4 hours away. Which I reeeeeally could use in my life right now. Waiting for her to send over the cabins/AirBnBs she's researched to see what the cost is. And I have to get in touch with my boss to see if I can get that Saturday off. Overall, not the best financial decision. So I'm feeling a bit guilty about it. At the same time, though, I think we could make it happen fairly cheaply. Split the cost of a room, bring our own food. I think all in all it would be fantastic.

I don't love that it's so soon, but with her babies and our schedule in March, it might be the only opportunity. So I'm still thinking that through.

***

Finished the Hobbit! Now to read the two books I've got from the library... Think that's about it for news!

Jan 17

January 17th, 2017 at 02:33 pm

No-spend day yesterday. Had a really productive day off, and made chicken paprikas for dinner. We have a TON of leftovers, so we'll have it for lunch/dinner today, and perhaps dinner tomorrow. I think the rest I'll freeze. Certainly don't want it to go bad!

I have a meeting with a potential client here in about an hour, then a possible shoot this afternoon (we're going to see what the weather is like later today). Acting class tonight, and I'll probably head to the brewery after - purchase one beer. Still within the budget. I just need to make sure to bring snacks to class. That worked really well last week.

Had an invite from a friend this morning - to possibly go out dancing this Saturday. Not sure what I want to do. Kind of hoping that it ends up getting pushed off to February. I think I'll decline if not. I have a shoot Saturday morning, then work in the afternoon. I'l probably be pretty tired.

That's about it for financial updates. Just trying to tackle these to-do list items! Hope you are all having a lovely week!

Meal Planning and Groceries

January 15th, 2017 at 06:50 pm

So the last couple of days have gone okay, financially speaking. Yesterday I managed to have all of my meals at home - which was nice. I had expected to need to stop and use the McDonald's gift card I have in between work and helping a friend with a project, but I had to run home and just ate some ramen. Then we got done earlier than expected and had a snack at home before heading out to see my friend perform. I did spend $5 on one beer for that (budgeted), though DH ran out and got Five Guys instead of eating at home. Busted. I was a bit peeved. We do have some money in the budget, but I was really shooting for ONE restaurant meal this month (date night), like we had agreed... Nothing to do about it now, though.

Meal planned and grocery shopped today. Was over the weekly budget by $1.76. I'll just have to adjust for next week. The menu for the week is as follows:

- Quiche (making that tonight)
- Tacos
- Chicken Paprikas
- Chicken Lo Mein
- Steakburgers w/ Roasted Carrots
- Chicken Linguine

I'm thinking that we'll have plenty of leftovers at least two of those nights - and I got stuff to make PB&Js for lunch. Instead of purchasing cottage cheese, I'm going to work on eating the oatmeal we had at home. Would have been under the budget, but I forgot we needed laundry detergent and I picked up a couple extra things - though nothing crazy or impulse-tastic. I've just been craving juice for weeks. And we're out of pickles (I like them on my burgers).

Other than groceries, today should be a no-spend. I've got the day off, and I think we're just going to relax around the house. I think I'll take a nice bath at some point. I started feeling like I was getting sick last night. A nasty cough started up. But I ran my essential oil diffuser all night next to my bed and I think it helped a lot. Maybe it was the placebo effect - I don't know, but I'm counting my blessings today. I have the world's worse immune system, and the weather has been so whacky that it's a miracle I haven't gotten sick yet.

Hoping to finish reading the Hobbit this week. Have another book waiting for me at the library. I've only got one shoot in the works for this week, so I should have enough time. It feels good to have today and tomorrow free of any obligations. I feel like I needed a couple of days to recharge after a really busy week.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jan 13

January 13th, 2017 at 03:38 pm

It's been a busy week. Had a shoot on Tuesday and THREE yesterday. Which is fabulous. I'll definitely be hitting higher than my target income from my business this month! Woo!

Which is good, because we had a couple of unexpected things pop up this month. The router has been taken care of and is still going well. But I got an email from our fantasy football commissioner... and I forgot that I had to pay everyone (I'm the treasurer, and they all paid me at the beginning. Now is time for pay outs). At first I was really dismayed because I hadn't really tucked any of that money away. But it turns out I had tucked at least half of it unintentionally in my Paypal account. So not too much out of the bank account. Neither of us won. Not sure I'll be playing next year. It made more sense when we were in town and actually watching games with our friends in the league (and by watching, I mean they watched and I ate food and socialized). Away from Ohio, I just kind of look at it once a week and stress when things aren't going well. So...

***

Our budget is still going well. Took a look at it this morning - and the only place we're over is in DH's discretionary budget. We each had $50 this month. The router was split between. He ordered a book and bought a ticket to a soccer game next month, so he's over by about $25. I'm sitting at $5 under. I paid $10 for parking downtown last night - we had a date night and went to see the symphony Smile

That being said, our Uber Frugal Challenge has been a bit of a challenge. We did budget for the date night, and we're still within our spending limits. The Frugalwoods don't actually budget - at this point, we need to babystep it. I work well with structure. Though, I was talking with DH last night at dinner about how I really enjoy the fact that we decided to do just one restaurant night - and did it up, so we really enjoyed it. Rather spending twice what we did on several smaller takeout trips or random nights out. I guess I'm approaching it as more of an "Intentional Frugal Challenge" than an Uber one, but we're still on course to hit our net gain. Even with the unexpected expenses popping up, we got an unexpected $250 this month (DH's trivia earnings that I hadn't accounted for and a check from dad for xmas) AND it looks like our income across the board will be more than expected, so I'm still hopeful.

***

Date night last night was fantastic. Things with DH and I have been really great since the start of the new year. We've been communicating so much more effectively, and the few little kerfluffles and disagreements that we have encountered were handled so much better than they have in the past. That first year of marriage was tough. But it's nice to see that we've learned a trick or two and that things are improving.

***

Not getting through my sidebar list nearly fast enough. Need to light a fire under myself. The time is flying by so much quicker than it used to...

That being said, off to get some things done! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Jan 8

January 8th, 2017 at 05:25 pm

We survived our first Tennessee "Snowpocalypse," which was a bit humorous for us northerners. I could still see the grass through the snow, and the store was shut down... haha. I enjoyed my unexpected day off. I'm sure I'll be missing the income, but ah well.

Did our grocery shopping yesterday - only spent $50 at Aldi, which was fantastic. If we can do the same next week we'll be in good shape, as we ordered our cat litter yesterday - $50 on Amazon. It was the cheapest option, but will last us 6 months. Did I mention we LOVE the Breeze system? No litter all over the place. It works out really well for us. Particularly because our litter box is tucked in the bottom of a small closet in our super small bathroom. I was worried that the large expense in this month would throw off our grocery budget, but we're left with $60/week for the next couple of weeks, and that's totally do-able.

Meals for this week:

- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Chicken Fajita Bowls
- Steakburgers w/ Broccoli
- Pork Loin Roast
- Pork Ramen w/ veggies & Egg
- Brinner (Omelettes)

On Thursday night we're getting dinner out and going to see the orchestra. That was our one restaurant trip budgeted for this month. Purchased the tickets last month, so we should be set there.

In good news, we got our new router - the one on the cheaper side - and it works like a *charm*. So hopefully DH's work days will be MUCH less stressful with less dropped calls and shoddy conference meetings.

Finished my first book of 2017! First Lord of the Rings. Will be returning it to the library today, picking up the movie I have on hold, and starting the Hobbit - backtracking, I know, but it was available for free borrowing on Amazon for a limited time. So why not. I'll put the second LOTR on hold here so it will hopefully be in by the time I finish the Hobbit. Our library system is fantastic. I don't know why more people don't use it.

At any rate, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! Off to work here shortly, so I'm out!

Jan 5

January 5th, 2017 at 04:49 pm

It's been a rather busy week already, and next week is shaping up to be a big photography week. I think I'm going to have 4 shoots on Thursday now (!) Which of course is awesome! One of those came from a referral from my BNI group this morning. Which is nice. My client from last week also purchased and extra photo - so that was another $50. Always very affirming when people love the photos so much that they purchase more than the originally paid for.

***

Following BNI I had another dentist's appointment. It had been (embarrassingly) several years since going, and I finally broke down a couple of months ago. Had to have a "deep clean" and today was a follow-up and light cleaning. I'll go one more time in April for a maintenance cleaning, and then hopefully my gum disease will be under control. But we're talking now about orthodontics. Turns out I have a cross-bite, which can lead to some nasty stuff down the road. They gave me a bunch of information and pricing on Invisiline today. I need to talk to DH about it. Even with insurance it's a hefty bill. And the man who had gone even longer than I had without seeing the dentist may have a hard time digesting something like that. He just doesn't value healthcare quite as much. That being said, I think he's got quite a bit in the HSA that hasn't been used and with him leaving his job within the next six months, it may be an option. We'll just have to see. Because he may need some additional work done as well. We really need to schedule some additional medical appointments before our insurance situation changes.

***

Techs from the cable company came out yesterday and it turns out they shouldn't have in the first place. It was really quite silly. They just had us hook into ethernet and see if the connection speed was where it needed to be. When it was, the diagnosis was pretty simple. Our modem is fine, the router just isn't working properly. Why they didn't suggest us doing that over the phone is beyond me. I feel a bit silly that we hadn't thought of that ourselves. But you know... I'm thinking about calling Comcast and asking them to refund the cost of the tech visit. They did nothing we couldn't have done ourselves, after all. Either way, we'll need a new router. DH priced a couple on Amazon, and they're not terribly expensive. We're going to try the cheaper option, and see if it solves the problem. It'll come out of our discretionary budget for the month.

***

Paid my remaining bills yesterday, but no spending outside of that. Will be the same today. I'll eat lunch before heading to work, then I'll cook tonight. And for the next few nights as well. I don't have any actual plans for the weekend outside of working, so the Uber Frugal Challenge should go pretty smoothly still. And give me some time to tackle some of the items on my January goal list.

***

That's it for me! I hope you're all having a great start to the new year!

Great start to the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 03:03 pm

So our NYE was pretty uneventful. We were supposed to go to a party, but it turns out we're both pretty lame. haha. We decided to stay in and relax. I didn't know the people at the party very well and it saved us the trouble of driving - or taking Uber, which would have cost us money. Also, we would have needed to buy something to drink ($10) and bring some kind of shareable snack ($10). So financially, it was the right move to make. We had our kiss early when we went to bed at 11:30. I think this is the first alcohol-free NYE I've had since I graduated high school. 30 really is making me boring Wink

DH and I went through our January budget and solidified it. So far so good. Paid a few bills - student loans, cell phone. Cancelled Hulu. Cancelled Netflix, but I think our friend is taking over the payments (he shares it with us). Need to pay my car payment still and a few other things. Will do that today.

***

Went to Kroger on the 1st to get food to cook that night (the pork roast I had bought had a really funky smell when I opened it. I don't think it was sealed properly, so we threw it out). So we bought dinner for the night, pork and cabbage. And a few odds and ends and made our list for Aldi - which I hit yesterday. And then Kroger again because I needed stout beer to make the Irish stew I had planned. So our total grocery spending for the week is $76. Which is right on track.

This week's meals:

- Pork & Cabbage (made)
- Irish Stew w/ Mashed Potatoes (made, delicious)
- Steakburgers w/ Broccoli & Cheese (MIL bought us a bunch of steaks/steakburgers for the holiday)
- Chicken Tikka Masala (got a sauce from Aldi last week)
- Perogies & Brats
- Chicken Tenders w/ Sweet Potato Fries (our "emergency" junk food)

Had quite a bit of leftovers from the stew last night. So we'll either eat that for lunches or not cook tonight. I try to include a mix of easier, convenient meals that DH can cook with more complex meals that I enjoy cooking. And always include one "emergency" frozen convenience meal that holds us over if we're craving takeout. Like a pizza or orange chicken from Trader Joe's. This week we went with breaded chicken tenders and sweet potato fries. Not healthy. And not always the cheapest -but realistic and WAY healthier/cheaper than what we would get with takeout.

***

We are doing the "Uber Frugal Month," and I have been reading along and doing the exercises. But I'm still making some minor tweaks. Like, we went to Starbucks yesterday, to sit and read, because DH wanted to and because we have gift cards from a year ago that we were able to use. DH has been more cooperative than usual in all of this frugality, and I like to embrace frugality as intention. Keeping it balanced.We still each have $50 of discretionary spending budgeted in, just in case. Hoping to keep that mostly unspent, though.

***

Speaking of coffee, though, I think our Keurig might be biting the dust. We don't actually use k-cups, but use the refillable one for regular coffee (well, my favorite Trader Joe's fair trade shade grown Ethiopian coffee. I've done the math. Still cheaper and better for the environment). But in the last couple of weeks it's been getting strangely weak. I bought some k-cups at Aldi yesterday to see if maybe it's the reusable k-cup pod, but it's still weak. Better, but weak. I've tried all of the Googling. Cleaning out needles, etc. But it looks like I may have to call them up. Not sure it's in warranty or not. We've only had it a couple of years. Hopefully they'll be able to do something for us. Not sure what our alternative will be.

In other things not working well, we're having a tech come out from our internet provider. We've been paying for a certain level of speed, but when we do the checks we're only getting maybe a 1/4th of what we're paying for. Which would just be annoying for me, but because DH works from home and has conference calls on the regular, it's been negatively affecting his day. Nobody can hear him, or it's completely spotty. It's a mess. The cable company was trying to get us to upgrade... but that hardly seems the problem if we're not getting what we're already paying for. So hopefully that will be sorted out. And the cost of the visit (while partially credited by the cable company) has been factored into our budget.

***

Today my plans are pretty chill. Have some editing to do from a session last week. Tonight I'm photographing a friend's performance. He wont be paying me much, but it's something. My alternative would have been going to see DH at trivia, which would have meant buying at least one drink. I want to support him while he's hosting (it's out of his general comfort zone), and I do so love trivia. But I also don't want to go by myself and never got around to wrangling people to go with. So it looks like making money trumps spending.

***

All in all, I'm thinking it's been a great start to the New Year! Relaxing, for sure. And proactive. Hope y'all are having a similar experience!

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

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!

Back from the Honeymoon!

March 28th, 2016 at 07:08 pm

I can't believe how long it's been since I've updated, but leaving the country meant wrapping things up and lots of prep before the trip, and we've been back for about a week now. So there was quite a bit of catching up as well Smile

When we were on vacation we definitely were a bit liberal with the spending. Thankfully, Peru is rather inexpensive to begin with and we really didn't do much going out in NYC at all. All of the touristy things we did were free, and I think we ate at Shake Shack twice. haha.

All that being said, we had an AMAZING honeymoon. It was by no means a relaxing vacation - it was constant go and a lot of really early wakeups, but we saw so much and it was such a great experience. I can't wait to finish editing the photos so we can post them. For now, here's one Smile



Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list for a long time, and it's one I'm now able to say I've done.

Happy to get back into the swing of things. More financially-oriented updates to come!

Getting Ready for our Trip

February 17th, 2016 at 05:02 pm

So we finally booked our flights to NYC, which were necessary to get us to Peru (our Groupon deal flew out of NY). And we booked our hotel room for the additional 3 nights we'll be staying in the city at the tail end of our trip.

Our honeymoon is going to be quite amazing, but we're definitely racking it up. So far:

$3,998 - Groupon Deal to Peru (including flights + hotel)
$280 - Optional Tours that we added
$528 - Our flights to NYC
$746 - Hotel stay for 3 nights in NYC
$216 - Hiking shoes for both of us, daypack, mosquito repellant, rain jacket (used $125 Amazon GC for part of this)

Total: $5,768

That's for two people, 11 nights, international and domestic flights, and an amazing experience. All things considered, I think we did pretty well - and our honeymoon donations (wedding gifts) cover above and beyond that. Also, we're getting quite a bit of swagbucks out of it - the $125 in GCs I mentioned happened because we went through Swagbucks to purchase the Groupon deal. When DH and I went to Micronesia back in 2010 to visit his sister, we spent about $4k in flight tickets alone.

We will obviously do a bit more spending once we're on the trip. Thankfully, it seems all transportation has been arranged to/from the airport and any tours included in our itinerary. Breakfast is provided the whole time we're in Peru, as well as a few other meals. We'll want to pick up some souvenirs.

In NYC we'll obviously be on our own. We have a handful of tourist stops we want to make - though several of them will be free: Statue of Liberty (just see it, not go up in it), the Highline, Times Square, etc. I've already done the Empire State Building, so we're opting out of that. I'm sure we'll do one nice dinner while we're there, and we also want to catch the NY Red Bulls match going on that weekend (DH is crazy about soccer, and we've tried to attend a match almost every trip we've taken. haha).

I think we've purchased most everything we want/need for the trip. We may both grab one other outfit for hiking, but we'll see. I'm just making sure everything we're purchasing can/will actually be used after the trip. I also need to get a feel for how NYC's weather is going to be at the time. It's hard to tell right now.

All I know is that I'm absolutely pumped for it to be here!! We drug our feet quite a bit planning the honeymoon, but now that everything is booked it's not so stressful... just something really exciting to look forward to!

***

In other news, because we just dropped so much money, we're definitely looking to spend a bit less. I'm heading to Aldi today to do a bit of grocery shopping - made my stop at Target last night to get a few other things they don't offer. A friend wanted to go out to dinner tonight, but I convinced her to come over for dinner instead, so that was a good financial choice.

Spent some time in Quickbooks today documenting payments and depositing checks. Had a shoot last night that went really well, so that was great. I've also been doing a lot of soul searching these past few weeks re: my business, and I'm starting to feel really good about turning it around, rather than giving up on it (which was where it was headed not too long ago). It's just not been terribly fulfilling for me lately. A really heavy wedding season burnt me out entirely, and to be honest... I don't love shooting them to begin with. There's a reason we charge the big bucks for them. Weddings are an exhausting line of work, and it's not for everyone. I think I'm one of those people. I can do it well, but it pretty much sucks the life out of me. So if I have to get a part time job to boost my income while I focus my business on portraiture and actually be happy with it, that's something I'm more than happy to do. Then, maybe, I'll get to a point where I CAN support the family on my photography. Who knows.

So that's that. All of my updates, for the most part. I hope you all are having a great week!


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