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December Goals

December 3rd, 2017 at 02:28 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!!

Finally an accurate picture

November 18th, 2017 at 06:29 am

So though I've been budgeting with Mint for the last month or two - I had found some errors and needed to clarify a couple of things with DH about how things were being paid (he set up autopay for a lot of our accounts), and how often the university pays him. I adjusted my numbers and the situation isn't quite as dire as I had initially understood it to be - we can at least live off our full-time income without having to stress that one spare dollar over the budget is cutting into our savings. And if we're frugal about it, we could even sock some away in our savings. Which will be useful during the summer months when DH wont be working. His income is supposed to increase by a bit come next semester when he starts teaching, so that will also help. We can't quite sustain with just my income. Sadly, he makes about as much as I do as a PhD grad student as I do working full-time.

So with that accurate picture, I feel much more comfortable setting some goals for the next year or so. Now that I do have a full-time job, I'd love to revisit the idea of consolidating (at least my private) student loans to get those interest rates down. And I really love the idea of throwing any extra income that way so I can hopefully get rid of them some day... I'm already paying $640/month in my minimums. But it will remain like that if I don't get super aggressive.

Thankfully, I am seeing some business stirring. That last possible photography job did not end up happening, but I have another smaller gig in the works and a potential design project as well... so the networking has been paying off. This kind of work is so dependent on word of mouth. It's nice to see things picking up finally.

This week has been (and will continue to be) a pricey one. Just a lot of socializing - which means drinks, dinner. A friend of mine came through town earlier in the week. Another had a birthday. Today we're driving to Nashville for the taped table read of my screenplay (woooo!), but that also means food/drinks. Next week we're going back to Ohio for the holiday, which again... Thankfully we'll be with family a lot of that time, but not the entirety. And our gas budget is definitely blown.

I guess on the good news, I'm killing it with the grocery budget, and even with a couple small purchases my "misc" spending hasn't even kicked in because of the refund I got from my cancelled class.

Speaking of which, I got a GREAT deal the other day using Victoria Secret coupons from the mail. 20% off any item and 2 free pairs of undies with any purchase. I've been putting off buying another "everyday" kind of bra. I'm the type that wears the same one day in and day out most of the time. Which isn't good, and wears them out quite quickly. $30 for a VS bra and a couple pairs of undies was an incredible value.

Need to get a jump on my xmas shopping. Still need to get word from DH's family if we're going to do any gifts. But I for sure am going to buy something small for my mom, sister, and mom's BF to send to their place before xmas hits. And I think DH and I decided to exchange a couple small things. So there is some spending in the works.

I'm actually excited about xmas for the first time in a really long time, it just being DH and me. Our plan is to have a Die Hard marathon at home, lounging in our PJs, exchange gifts, make delicious food, and all around relax. I'm looking forward to putting up our tree. I'm looking forward to no stress. I'm looking forward to the holiday feeling like an actual holiday. It's an almost foreign feeling for me, but I can get used to it.

At any rate, time for me to get some things done before we whisk out of town for a really exciting event tonight! I hope you all are having such a great week.

Catching Up (Again)

November 4th, 2017 at 07:08 am

I've been around SA since 2006, but I'm not sure I've consistently blogged for more than a few months at a time. And when I stop, things tend to go by the wayside. So I'm committing myself to doing better. Once again.

The last time I wrote was back in March, and MUCH has changed since then. DH and I made our move up to Louisville at the end of May. I spent three months in a very painful and stress-inducing job hunt. Then finally got a full-time job and started working mid September.


My goals for the year looked like this:

[ ] Adhere to monthly budget, continuously - NOPE.

When we don't really pay attention or plan, this is the case.

[ ] File taxes by March 1

Finally got done, but it was a NIGHTMARE. Will not be using that accountant again. We did get a bit of a return, so that was nice.

[ ] Ideally, save an additional $5,000 prior to June 1 - NOPE.

[ ] Find an apartment in Louisville for

Feb 1

February 1st, 2017 at 06:43 am

We're already one month into 2017. How did that happen?? Sigh. So I paid all of my monthly bills this morning and set out our budget. It'll be slightly less lenient than last month, but not too much so. Adjusted the gas budget to reflect the unexpected increase last month. Added a couple of things we know are coming up (Amazon Prime membership, a gift for his cousin who just had a baby). Adjusted the restaurant/bar budget - we're still only planning to eat out when we have company or are traveling, but we're both going to be out of town this weekend and we have friends visiting later this month. So the budget reflects that.

We decided that we're not doing gifts for Valentine's Day. We're going to make a nice dinner in - with the steaks my MIL bought us for xmas. And I'm going to make this whipped feta recipe. When we went to dinner this past month on our one date night we tried it, and it was delicious. So I'm attempting to recreate at home.

Also adjusted DH's and my misc spending money (essentially our allowances). DH mentioned wanting a little more freedom to get out of the house and go to a coffee shop, etc. He works from home and doesn't really have any friends here (as much as I've tried to introduce him to people), so he ends up cooped up most of the time. I am hoping to host a board game night sometime this month to get him a bit more social. And I think we'll be attending an Oscars party at the end of them month. It'll be good for him.

Updated my goals for February - most are holdovers from last month. It ended up being a really busy month and I while I didn't accomplish everything I set out to, I'm happy with what I did. And I'm just happy that I've been consistent in updating, because honestly it's the only thing I've found that keeps me accountable. So grateful to have you all here to motivate me!!

So that's that! Hope y'all had a great January and are looking forward to a productive February!

January Recap

January 29th, 2017 at 10:54 am

So here we are already. Just a couple of days left in the month! Sat down and looked over our budget and spending with DH, and overall we're pretty happy with how we did. We were over in a few areas, but there were also several things we hadn't accounted for at the beginning of the month - needing to get a new router, friends coming into town this weekend, needing to buy $50 worth of cat litter... you know. Our gas bill was also much higher than usual. Which is surprising. It wasn't even *that* cold this month. We'll see how it goes in February.

Took a look at my goals for January:

Net Gain of $1,750 in account - Actually, even with the unexpected spending, we're ending up with a surplus of $2,377!! Which is super exciting! We underestimated our income and had a couple of unexpected additions (HSA reimbursement, DH's trivia pay). So overall, really great progress there.CHECK.

Uber Frugal Challenge - I can't say this was entirely great, but we definitely cracked down on a lot of spending and were MUCH more intentional about it. This is particularly applicable to restaurant spending. It wasn't zero. But 95% of the month we cooked and ate at home. We had one date night, and the rest of our restaurant spending happened in the last two days because we had friends in town. There were some extras purchased, no doubt. DH bought a ticket to a soccer game, I bought some clothes from work yesterday ($28 for two dresses, a blazer, a pair of earrings, and a necklace) because it was our 50% off sale - and they're items I've been eyeing for months. Also, the AirBnB room for Lexington next weekend. So maybe not as "Uber Frugal" as Ms. Frugalwoods would have it, but I'm really proud of how calculated we were. So I'm calling it a win. CHECK.

Change phone plan - Nope. We really just need to get it done. Been procrastinating it forever.

Consolidate/put into forbearance gov't loans - Made some really great progress here, though it's not quite there.

Get HSA stuff figured out - CHECK.

Start GIS training (for resume building) - Not yet. Realized I had some technical issues, so I need to sit down and figure out how to install the software. Forthcoming.

Research networking opportunities in Louisville - CHECK.

Start putting together planning portfolio - Started compiling info, but haven't started actually building it out.

Edit screenplay - Still have a couple of days left in the month, and I'm hoping to get this done. Haven't quite started, but I did write an episode for a web series that a group of us is planning to shoot in the next month! So certainly haven't been idle.


So it was a pretty productive month! Even better - DH and I have been communicating much better about our finances. Which has been helping SO MUCH. He was really shocked (and happy) to see that we had such a high net increase for the month. He's on board with limiting our spending as much as possible again and only eating at restaurants when we have company. I'll have to rework the budget for February to include a few things we have coming up, but it shouldn't be too different.

Hope you all had a wonderful month!!

2017 Outlook

December 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

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!

April 2016 Recap

April 30th, 2016 at 06:15 am

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

CCs Paid Off!

April 26th, 2016 at 06:35 am

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

April 22

April 22nd, 2016 at 08:57 am

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 11:55 am

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!

Back in the swing of things

April 4th, 2016 at 02:42 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!

Getting Ready for our Trip

February 17th, 2016 at 09:02 am

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!

Feb 10

February 10th, 2016 at 05:34 am

It's been 5 days since my last update. Whew! Thankfully, my absence was not accompanied by a ridiculous spending binge (5 days may not seem like a lot, but you would be surprised at how much I gain from this platform in accountability!).

Not sure I have much exciting news to report. Replaced my elliptical for $82 - it arrived yesterday, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to breaking it in today Smile Since my Dietbets ended, I've slipped up on my workouts/eating well. I'm telling you, with me it's all about accountability. ha.

Still waiting for my Swagbucks giftcards to hit so I can make my purchases for the trip. Today I'll be heading out to return the swimsuit I bought (and hopefully find a replacement), as well as taking a look at a couple of stores to find a couple of warm weather articles.

Also hitting Trader Joe's and Aldi for a few items. The last couple of days we've been working through leftovers from our superbowl get together, and had dinner at a friend's last night.

We did get some groceries Sunday in preparation for said party, and made a trip to Walgreens for a couple of things DH needed. I armed myself with a couple coupons - I had been meaning to stop there to pick up a few things as well. DH was impressed with my couponing. Saved an additional $7 on items that were already on sale. And I stocked up on a few of my essentials: Dove soap, our St. Ives face wash (that DH loves an insists on), as well as dry shampoo for me.

I kept our meals light this week, so I only had to purchase a few items at the store:

- BBQ Chicken w/ mac & cheese (chicken I bought last week and the mac is leftover from Sunday)
- Hot Dogs (also leftover)
- Thai Chicken Soup
- Poached Eggs w/ asparagus, toast & bacon
- Meatloaf w/ mashed sweet potatoes

Only need some veggies for the soup, and the meatloaf will be our "fancy" dinner for V-day. Can't say it's really that fancy... but nothing says romance like loaves of meat. haha. We wont be exchanging gifts. I'll prob make him a silly card like I always do, but beyond that we'll just spend some quality time, probably watching movies or something.

I'm going to bake bread, probably tomorrow or Friday - for the toast. DH was insistent on bacon this week. I've been trying not to buy it because it's expensive and not good for us (albeit delicious). But he'll probably make breakfast this weekend, and it's a holiday. Guess bacon says romance, too...

Tonight I'm meeting another member of my BNI group for happy hour. Drinks are $3, so I'm not expecting to spend more than $8 all together, with tip. So definitely not a no-spend day, but all planned spending.

In terms of goals, I'm not doing terribly great. My writing challenge has been kept up with, but I still need to get on updating my quickbooks so I can get all that info to my accountant and get our taxes in order. And then open and close all the accounts I need to have everything in order. Talking to my friend at Huntington about opening a business savings - that way I can transfer a percentage for taxes and not end up like I am now, scrambling to save up for them. Still need to close my old checking and savings accounts and deposit that money in my business account for that tax payment.

And, of course, I need to get back on track with my weight loss goal. Or at least just back on track with my workouts.

So that's that. I hope you are all having a lovely week!

Feb 5

February 5th, 2016 at 05:24 am

It's been a relatively low-spend week, though I feel like that is going to change soon :/

I'm at about $90 of my grocery budget. I'll need to reign that in, but we did a good amount of cooking this week. We did go out to dinner last night, and we'll likely eat leftovers tonight. Tomorrow is my mom's birthday party, so dinner will be taken care of, I believe (or at least some food will be there). We've got one meal left to cook. I'll probably go to the store on Sunday. Still trying to keep my grocery budget under $200.

In terms of upcoming spending...

My little elliptical machine broke Frown Had my engineer friend over the other day and we busted it open to try and fix it. It's a lost cause, unfortunately. It'll be about $80 to replace it. Which isn't terrible, all things considered (less than a gym membership for a year for sure), but it's annoying. I am, however, looking forward to having it back. My workouts have been suffering a bit.

We leave for Peru in about a month, and we're starting to look at what we will want/need to bring. I think we're both going to buy a pair of good hiking shoes. March is the tail end of rainy season there, and we're going to be doing a lot of hiking. Waterproof and sturdy is going to be key. Also, getting the hardcore mosquito repellent will be a necessity with all that Zika virus hullabaloo going on. We're not planning to get pregnant for a few years, and at this point it looks like Peru isn't seeing too much of the virus, thankfully - but my mother in law is freaking out a bit, and I'd of course rather be safe than sorry. Also might snag a lightweight hiking daypack with a waterproof cover. I'll have my camera with me, and I don't want it getting damaged. Lastly, I may pick up some odds and ends in the way of clothes. May want one more pair of good workout leggings for the trip, and maybe a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. Again, thinking of the mosquitoes. As far as "Nice" clothes go, I think I'm covered. I just want to make sure I'm comfortable and safe while we're out and about. Also, we're planning to do a lot of hiking once we move down south - so we'll get a lot of use out of anything we purchase. I may redeem some of my Swagbucks for giftcards to cover those purchases.

In savings:

Mom's birthday party is, as I mentioned, this weekend. We're going to regift a restaurant gift card we got at the wedding. We don't spend much time at Darden restaurants, but she loves Olive Garden. I'll write a nice card, and that will be that.

We don't do anything for Valentine's Day, thank goodness. Might make a nice dinner, but no gifts. No restaurants.


I can't believe how soon we'll be moving - and we're starting to think about how we're going to arrange all of it. We need to schedule a weekend to go down to Nashville and see apartments (and hopefully that weekend put in applications), as well as figure the logistics. DH wants to price movers, but in the end I think it's going to be MUCH cheaper if we just rent a U-HAUL and do it ourselves, probably even if we have a friend drive down with us and then fly them back... but we'll see.

Admittedly, I'm starting to get *really* antsy for moving time to be here. Makes me feel a bit guilty, because we should be focused on enjoying our time with our friends here - and we are, for sure. But I think I'm ready for a change. Big time.

I think that's it for me today! I hope you are all having a great week! Enjoy your weekend! a

Results of my Coffee Experiment

February 2nd, 2016 at 05:06 am

February already?! Sheesh...

Things are going relatively well this week - I had a shoot rescheduled from yesterday, which was perfect. Because I was going to have to miss half of my acting class that started last night, but the client was unable to do it. So I got to go to the whole thing! And it went really well Smile

Yesterday was a no spend day. I'm on day 3 of my writing challenge, and it's going fantastically.

Added my debt to my mint account this morning - so far I had only linked our joint account and set up our budgets. But now there's a bit more of an accurate assessment of things. Just need to get DH to link his CC and investment accounts so we can get a crystal clear picture. And close my PNC account.


I finished out the coffee I had bought from Trader Joe's, so I have an accurate understanding of the cost savings. I went through and made a little spreadsheet to make some comparisons.

So the Aldi K-cups are what we've been using since we replaced our Keurig machine. This experiment was originally intended to see if I made any cost savings by getting the reusable cup and filling it with the delicious Trader Joe's coffee that I grind in the store. So all of the cost savings comparisons are to the Aldi K-cups (in the first column). Ct for the ground coffee is based on the volume I used over the course of the experiment. Savings per year is per cup x 365 days. Per month divides that by 12. At 2 cups a day doubles those figures, and would be what we would save if DH and I both made the change.

Some observations:

- I don't save *much* by going with the Trader Joe's coffee, but it is about $0.11 a cup better, so that's something. Not bad for the coffee being much more delicious and using the reusable cup is better for the environment.
- We would save considerably more by switching to the preground Dunkin Donuts coffee (DH's fave) or Folgers (which wouldn't be my first choice, but it's good to see a comparison). Both would be purchased in larger bags online.
- I included the DD K-cups and the Keurig Brand Donut K-cups to basically see how much I'm saving by getting them at Aldi. It's amazing to see how much more expensive it is - even making the coffee at home!
- The Vue cup comparison shows how much we're saving now that we switched from the Vue machine (which was purchased for us as a gift) to the newer model that takes regular sized k-cups. That $300 we save over a year more than pays for the new machine!

So basically, I'm not saving thousands by any means, but when every little bit helps, it's interesting to see. I think I am going to buy that big bag of Dunkin coffee - because DH might actually take the effort to use it. I may also keep drinking my Ethiopian coffee as well, at least keep it around for the days I want to have something a little more special.

I'm also going to add $4.62 to my savings/snowflakes to reflect the $0.11 per cup I saved by making the switch this time Smile

Hope you guys found my nerdy exercise to be as interesting as I did! haha.

January 2016 Recap

January 31st, 2016 at 06:08 pm

I can't believe that the month went by so fast. Just seems to be more and more so the case the older I get... ah well. Hopped onto Mint and took a look at my spending for the month. Things are a little off for a few reasons, but here's the snapshot:

My CC payment bar is off because of my balance transfer. But I actually paid off the remaining $200 after the transfer and then the minimum payment on my Amazon Visa.

Given that I've counted all grocery purchases made at the end of this week for this coming one, they didn't apply to the January grocery budget. Also, I filled up the car twice - I just started using the joint account a bit more at the end of the month, so that isn't accounted for here.

I was just under on the restaurant budget, which was a bit frustrating. Still not awful, but I would have preferred to eat out less. There were a few other times that DH paid from his account, too. I'm hoping to do less dining out in February. Internet has been over every month for the last 6 months. I may have to reassess there - but paying $10 more still seems like a better deal than increasing our plan most likely. Will have to look into options.

The "business expense" overage was due to filing my sales tax, and the "Everything Else" at the bottom was my Q4 local tax. I had forgotten that both of those hit in January.

"Shopping" also included a $20 pair of slippers that I paid from the other account. My feet have been suffering this winter, despite it being relatively mild. DH bought a pair to replace his go-to pair that began falling apart. I didn't own a single pair, and when I tried his on I realized that was the solution to my frigid toe problem. 2 pairs of socks hasn't worked, but these things are like magic.

So all that being said, my "No Non-Essential Spending Month" wasn't entirely successful. But I have been practicing more mindfulness with my spending - thinking through purchases rather than just impulse buying. And I didn't go hideously over budget. I'm just going to continue on that trend.

February will also be the first month we're operating mainly out of the joint account. I'll be closing my PNC account here shortly, and DH will do the same. So we'll get a much clearer picture of where we're both spending. Which I'm sure will be enlightening!

I think that's it for me now. Hope you all had a successful January!

Spendy Weekend

January 18th, 2016 at 07:49 am

Well, relatively spendy, anyway. We were out and about quite a bit. Dinner out Friday night (DH paid), Saturday we hit the store and bought snacks on our way out of town (DH paid again), then had dinner out that night as well (again, DH paid).

So yesterday when we got breakfast out, I footed the bill. About $20. Needless to say, I'm happy that we'll be eating at home the rest of the week. My stomach will be grateful. And even though DH paid, I'd like to be spending less together as well.

He's going to be switching his direct deposit over to the joint account today, so that will be good. I'm still waiting for the balance transfer to go through on my CC. It was supposed to hit today, but with the bank holiday I'm assuming it will be tomorrow? Hoping, anyway. Then my savings will be transferred to my Ally account for tax savings.

My non-essential spending didn't work out so well this week. I've been using swagbucks and ebates a lot lately, and I see deals and think it makes sense to take advantage of them. Nothing too crazy - but I purchased a $25 Sephora gift card to get the extra points. I'm going to have to buy new mascara here soon, and that's where I get it. Specific kind, the kind I like and feel good splurging on. Then in order to get my $10 Target gift card and the 4% cash back at Ebates, I spent $27 on a pair of leggings on sale at Athleta (the heavier performance ones for working out). The ones I wear the most are starting to rip at the crotch. lol. I reeeeally like the ones I picked out, and I generally buy them at around the same pricepoint at Marshall's or TJMaxx.

So that goal is a bust, but at least I'm taking the time to think through my purchases and not impulse shopping. Both of those would have been purchases I would make this year. And I'm still under budget for the month in all categories. Baby steps, I suppose.


Speaking of work out wear, I'm on schedule to win both of my Dietbet games next week - only a half a pound to go! That means I'm down 6.2 pounds now and I'll be getting back my $45 + winnings, if I make that goal. It feels really great Smile

It's going to be a busy week, so I should get back to work. Hope you all enjoyed your weekends, and those of you who have the day off, enjoy that as well Big Grin

Mid-January Update

January 15th, 2016 at 04:45 am

I can't believe it's already Friday! What a week. Things are feeling better in terms of the uncertainty mentioned in my last post. I've been starting to think through options, and that helps. I feel less out of control in the situation.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store - spent $48.45 at Aldi and $53.81 at Target, which seems like a lot, but I got enough to pretty much cover us through the rest of the month. And I still have $25 left in my budget to still stay under $200 for the month. The Target run included purchasing 2 bottles of vitamins - which was pricey, but were needed, and also got me a $5 gift card. I also got another 5 Lean Cuisines, as they were still on sale for $2 each, and I had a coupon off of 5. It's nice to have them around just in case, and I doubt I'll find a better price. Used my coupons again, as well as Cartwheel for the first time. Still waiting for my Target RED debit card to come in the mail so I can start using that. But the Chase card came. I'm just waiting for the balance transfer to go through - which should be on the 18th.

Last night I had a meeting with someone I met photographing an event a few months back. I sent him a photo I took of him meeting the former mayor, and he promised me a drink - the first I've had since New Year's. It was nice, and it turns out he has contacts in Nashville - both in the photography and urban planning worlds (that's what my degree is in), so it's encouraging that he's offered to put me in touch. I need all the help I can get.

Because it's the 15th and photos work again, here's where I'm at:

The internet is autopay, and doesn't come out until the 20th. The credit cards I've actually paid on this month - not sure why that's not up there. And the car payment should post today (I dropped it off yesterday).

But most important observations: Only $12 in shopping! "Shopping" includes anything other than what's included in the other categories, so it's also my misc. Also $0 in gas this month. I think I only spent $40 last month, with it being so very cheap and my not leaving the house much these days. haha. It's nice to not be running all over the place. Business expense really shouldn't even be on there - I need to switch those autopay accounts to my Huntington.

Next month there wont be a finance charge category, theoretically Smile

I'm thinking I'm going to look into consolidating my student loans - at least my private ones with Sallie Mae. My interest rates are through the roof (I'm talking like 9.5%), and it would at least be worth it to try so I can start making a bit more progress on them - or at least not losing a crapton of money every month.

So that's that. Halfway through January, and making a bit of progress! Here's to an equally (if not more) successful second half!

Jan 11

January 11th, 2016 at 05:55 am

Things are still moving along. Making some changes to maximize my savings. Non-essential spending month is going okay. Did have to buy a new Brita pitcher the other day, but used a gift card we got from the wedding to purchase. Added $19.99 to my snowflakes (I'm adding them as I use them). Our previous is an off brand we've had for years, and it's still functional. DH said he wanted to get a bigger one, but I was going to hold out. Until I bought a new filter for it at Target. Turns out they've changed the size of their "universal" filters. They don't fit our generic one, and I'm not sure I'm going to find ones that do fit. So looks like DH got his way after all :/

Also decided to look into some ways to save at Target, given it's my secondary grocery store. I usually buy what I can at Aldi, then head there. I signed up for a Target RED debit Card. It basically links with your already-existing checking account, but then you get 5% off every purchase, and a few other nice little perks. Given how much money I tend to spend there, it seems like a worthwhile thing to have. I also downloaded the Target Cartwheel app to my phone, and I've started looking at their online store coupons. Printed out a handful the other day and used a couple for things that we needed already - Magic Erasers, with the discounts, were cheaper than the Target brand. Also picked up 5 lean cuisines for lunches. They were on sale for $2/each, and I had a coupon. A lunch for under $2 seems like a worthwhile investment to me, and I really do enjoy them. They also work well as "emergency" dinners if I don't feel like cooking.

Progress on the rest of my goals is fairly stagnant. I've spent $52/$200 of my grocery budget. The list of other financial stuff will likely be done in a day. I just need to get a day to power through it all.

I've still got 3 lbs more to go on my Dietbet - and 2 weeks to accomplish it. Starting to get a little nervous, but I know I can manage it if I'm diligent. I'm definitely feeling/looking better. Ordinarily I wouldn't focus on the number on the scale so much, but I have to in order to win the challenge and get my money back so... Wink

Need to continue my video series as well. I've just been so wrapped up in this TV show I'm loving that I've been watching that on the elliptical instead. Need to get back in gear!

As for savings goals, I really need to do some collecting from clients. I've got about $3k in open invoices, and would love to have that money to put in my savings for taxes. It's been difficult to save much at all when I don't have much coming in.

In good news, though, I have a shoot today! Booked last week, with another one later in the month. So at least I'm working. Things are still managing to be busy.

At any rate, hope you all have a great day!

Jan 7

January 7th, 2016 at 08:00 am

Alrighty. Things are going well as can be. Applied and was approved for the Chase Slate CC this morning. Hopefully the balance transfer will go through. The limit I got was lower than on my other - so I'll transfer $2k and then pay off the remaining $220 to zero out that card, then begin on the Chase Slate - which wont increase because, you know, 0% APR for 15 months! Woo!

There will be a bit of spending today. My mom gave us a really nice humidifier, and I've been meaning to get filters for it so we can start using it. This awful cold I can't seem to shake has motivated me to get it done. Spent some time researching this morning, and there don't seem to be any places nearby to pick them up, so I ordered them on Amazon - free shipping with Prime, and I used my $6.67 I've accumulated with my Amazon Points Visa and offset the cost. Three filters for $5 isn't bad! Hopefully they'll help :/ At this point, I'm calling them "essential."

And because I'm starting to track my savings and snowflakes for the year:

Switching Fit's Car Insurance - $173.58
Cancelled Click Subscription - $18.00
Cancelled ClickinMoms Subscription - $60.00
Amazon Rewards points toward humidifier filter - $6.67

Total: $258.25 for the year

Not too shabby! Once the CC balance transfer goes through, I'll calculate out the savings and add them to the list.

Tonight I'm going across town to do a (free) yoga class with my SIL. Then we're going to get a healthy dinner somewhere. Hoping to do something cheap, and very light. I had a heavy burger last night and got rather queasy. I guess all this healthy eating has been working on me!

That's about it for today. Hope you are all having a great week!

Jan 6

January 6th, 2016 at 05:40 am

Nothing of note to report - believe I'll be opening the Chase Slate CC and transferring my balance, but that's old news. I just went over it with DH yesterday to get his feedback, and now it's a go.

Yesterday went to the grocery store for a handful of things (toilet paper, tissues, feminine stuff, olive oil, garlic, chicken). Only got a few things beyond my list - these delicious (and very healthy!) lentil chips from Aldi, a jar of marinara (I meant to put this on the list and forgot), and a tub of cottage cheese for breakfast this coming week. I struggle with what to eat for breakfast when I'm trying to lose weight. And I'm attempting to limit my carbs, so oatmeal is out. This seemed like a good way to go.

All together, I spent $26.

Made fajitas last night. Turned out pretty fantastic. Have enough leftovers for at least one meal. Tonight I'm heading to a friend's to make dinner with him. He decided to try that Blue Apron service. I personally think it's too expensive - if I'm spending $10/portion, someone else is making my food! But I'm still happy to come over and see what the fuss is all about Smile

As for goal updates:

- Still doing good on the non-essential spending
- I thought $26 was a good grocery run. My have to stop back again later this week, but maybe not, even. We have a lot of stuff to make.
- I'm down 2 lbs. from my original starting Dietbet weight! Woo!
- Watched a Sue Bryce video yesterday - one day closer to 28!

Today will be a heavy editing day. And a light(er) work out day. My legs were so sore this morning that I'm pretty sure they were the ones that woke me up. haha. Going to focus on stretching and maybe do some arms.

Hope you all have a lovely day!

Day 5 No Non-Essential Spend Month

January 5th, 2016 at 06:31 am

Things are looking good in that department so far. I'm sure it helps that I haven't left the house in a few days. haha. Today I will be getting out a bit - and doing some spending (obviously not on non-essentials). I have to hit the post office to get a few things out that I've been procrastinating on. It's just been so hard to motivate myself to go anywhere now that it's actually cold. haha. I also spent yesterday catching up on some editing, and that is a big priority right now.

I also need to head to the grocery store for a few key items - toilet paper and tissues, mainly. Still sick. *Really* hoping it will let up soon. It's been over a week now. When I get ill, it's difficult for me to shake. Never horribly severe, usually, just lengthy.


A couple of frustrating/weird things happened in the last couple of days. I had a rather unpleasant experience selling my camera on Amazon - long story short, the buyer didn't have any familiarity with my old-model camera, expected it to perform like a new one, and requested a return saying that it was damaged and/or not in the condition listed (which is not true). All of my previous selling on Amazon has gone smoothly, so I didn't have much familiarity with their returns policies. So I sent several messages back and forth after she filed an "A-to-Z Guarantee Claim." I didn't realize, while I was conversing with her about it, that I had to appeal the claim. So instead of getting the partial refund we agreed to (to cover my shipping), she received the full amount (Amazon automatically transferred the money) AND I have this nasty performance ding on my account for selling "damaged or dysfunctional equipment" (which it's not - I tested the camera after she returned it to me).

Ugh. Out $20 in shipping and still have to get rid of this stupid camera. I know there are people out there that love selling things online, but I have no patience for it. Hoping someone on Craigslist will pull through for me. May just drop the price substantially so I can be done with it.

In other news, we got our reimbursement checks from State Farm - opened new policies, and our good driving discounts don't get added until after it goes through underwriting, I guess? But then a couple days later we got an invoice. After calling our friend/insurance agent, turns out they overpaid our reimbursement and then invoiced us for the difference? lol. Good to know the method behind the madness, but it seems like a really inefficient way of doing business for them.

Either way, I'm saving about $170 this year with the switch, just for my car. I forgot to ask DH what he was paying before. Also - I'm starting to log our savings/snowflakes, partially because I'm a numbers junkie and partially because I like to have stuff to show DH when we talk finances. Maybe it will inspire him Smile


Also made a decision on the CC conundrum, I think. I found another card that is 0% APR for 15 months, with no balance transfer fee OR annual fee. I'm going to transfer the balance from one CC there, close the one that I don't want/use, and then see how it affects my credit score. Then I'll make a decision on the remaining CC. I'll either close it, or just leave it in a drawer for an emergency (that's what I do with the one that I don't want/need now).

That's enough for now! Lots to do today. Hope you all have a good one!

Happy New Year!

January 2nd, 2016 at 09:35 am

Our NYE party was a hit - only about 10 people all together, but I still made a nice spread: hot sandwich roll, honey glazed smokies, and caprese skewers. As well as some hummus, salsa, chips, etc. DH handled the bartending for the night. We had made up homemade sour mix the day before and if how I felt yesterday was any indication of how much I enjoyed them, well...

Thankfully, we do have quite a bit of food left. A lot of lunchmeat and some ciabatta rolls, so we'll do sandwiches a couple of times this week. Tons of leftover drink fixins as well, but I think I'm going to take a break there. haha. I've been sick for the last week or so. Drinking as much as I did NYE was probably a mistake, but it's a holiday... Now I'm focused on getting better ASAP. It's starting to get rather miserable.

I don't have much to report on the financial front. Yesterday was a NSD. Today will be much of the same. I do need to go through and pay bills, but I decided that January will be a no-spend month. At least outside of the essentials. So far so good! Yesterday DH and I literally laid around all day, hungover. We watched a couple movies - Interstellar and the Lego Movie. Both were incredibly good. Then the rest of the day I finished the book I was working on, "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck. Another good find. Not terribly exciting in the plot department, but a nice calming read that speaks to how peoples' attitudes change as they encounter abundance. Interesting stuff.

After finishing, I made myself some tea and started another in bed. Decided to tackle "Walden." It's one I've never read, but you hear a lot about. And I think it's perfectly tied into my theme of Making Space. I opted out of sitting on social media for hours this morning and got a good chunk of pages this morning read as well Smile


I sat down and thought through some of my goals for the year, and usually I write out a list of 10-20 things I want to accomplish. And usually they sit in that list all year without much accomplishment. I decided to do things differently this time around. I'm going to set basic monthly goals, but other than that I'll just stick to making good daily decisions (a la "Making Space") and record my accomplishments as I meet them. I'd rather celebrate the things I'm proud of than be perpetually reminded of the things that have no longer become priorities.

Not to say that I don't still have goals Smile It's just hard to tell at the beginning of the year if something like NaNoWriMo will still be a priority in November. Things change, and I like to stay flexible. So instead, I'll tuck things like that away in my mind, and re-evaluate when the time comes.

For January, my goals are:

- No spend month, outside of essentials (no clothes, home items, beauty products, entertainment, etc)
- Cut grocery budget to under $200
- Win Dietbets (lose 6.7 lbs by Jan 25)
- Finish 28 Days with Sue Bryce Program (I purchased this last year and never went through it)
- Go through pricing course with photog friend

As for overarching financial/budget goals with DH, I've decided to not even have that conversation. haha. We went over our basic goals when we had the original (stressful) conversation, so until we really know what this is going to look like, I'm holding off. Instead, my goals will be to get things actually set up! In January, I would like to:

- Set up Mint for Joint Account
- Switch DH's direct deposit to Joint Account
- Switch all autopay bills to Joint Account
- Figure out account structure and open/close necessary accounts (personal and business)
- Enter all of my backlogged income and expenses into Quickbooks so I have an accurate look at what I'll owe in taxes

So I will add these January Goals to my sidebar, and hopefully we'll see some progress!

Wishing you all a lovely New Year!

NYE is Here!

December 31st, 2015 at 08:14 am

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

2015 was a big year. My look back:

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead…

2016 will also bring with it some big items:

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s the idea for January!


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

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

Hope you all have a lovely NYE!!!

Christmas + 2016's Theme

December 27th, 2015 at 08:42 am

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Big Conversations

December 7th, 2015 at 06:38 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Business Planning

April 29th, 2015 at 09:58 am

When I first started my photography business, it came about as a "maybe I could do this for money" experiment. Now it's something a bit more, but I've noticed that the important elements of my business - brand, client management, administration and accounting, and marketing - have all kind of evolved ad hoc.

Now, I'm trying to do the work of formalizing everything and planning to go from where I am to where I really want to be. Income for the most part is steady, but I'd like to focus more on transitioning to a boutique model - taking on less clients, but focusing on giving them an amazing experience.

So for the last week I've been really trying to nail down who my ideal client is, what sorts of products I'd really like to be focusing on, and how I should be shaping those important elements of the business.

Needless to say, it's been a busy week! Throw in a wedding this past weekend, and one coming up... I'm going to be out of steam before long!

Nonetheless, it's got me really excited about where things can go, and I feel a lot more secure about transitioning the brand (and my physical location!) with a plan in place. I have a hard time narrowing my focus - I tend to want to do everything, and be everything to everyone. But I'm comfortable with where I'm headed, and right now I'm feeling a lot of momentum. I just have to figure out the details of how the transition will take place, what timing makes sense, and how I can lessen the blow of a rebranding effort. Thankfully, I'm not several years in - so I think it'll be pretty easy. Restructuring my website and building out a customer database that's optimal will be the real work of it. Oh, and hiring an accountant. That needs to happen soon.

So that's that.


As for spending, things have been pretty good. I paid all of the May bills I could. No real spending on things I don't need.

I transferred $1,000 to A to start my repayment of my tax money, so that's some progress.

Also collected some client payments this week, and got another booking for 2016! So I'll have a deposit coming in on top of that.

I have to say I'm ready to be leaving April. This was a pretty crazy month for me financially, with taxes due and my ill preparedness. But things are looking up! I'm feeling ready for the fresh start of the spring - and ready for it to start actually feeling like spring. Bring on the warm weather!

Playing Catchup

April 21st, 2015 at 05:09 am

Now that things have settled down on the tax front, and business has started picking up... it's time to play catchup! Time to start tackling those goals:

[ ] Pay A back for taxes ($4,800)
[ ] Save for EF ($2,000)
[ ] Pay down CCs (approx. $5,000)
[ ] Pay down Sallie Mae Loan (It's at $10,300ish right now. A constant battle...)

I also need to set up my estimated tax payments. So I don't end up with this problem next year.

That being said, I got a $1,400 payment in the mail yesterday (woo!) and have another about the same before the end of the week (woo again!). Right now I have about $2,645 to work with, and that second payment will bring me up to almost $4,000.

So now comes the matter of allocating money.

I'll pay my bills first, of course. Then I'll set aside the $1,656 I'll need for my Q1 estimated tax payment, and anything left goes to A. Next month I should be able to pay off the remainder of the tax money I owe - as I'll be *hopefully* finishing up a project that has a $7,000 value. My plan is also to put money into my savings next month. I don't have enough booked out for June and July to cover my expenses yet.


In other news, I got an email from the readiness NCO at my former unit - my army contract ended back in November, and we're still trying to get my student loan payments in order. She sent me forms to fill out and I was confused, as I had just filled them out last year and hadn't seen a payment posted yet.

She said the new forms are for my final payment. So I'm going in there next week to finish up the final steps and get some timeframe for when the payments will be made. My contract included $18k in student loan repayment, which will eliminate about 30% of my debt. Not bad. Unfortunately, it will likely only cover my non-private loans (which are the ones without astronomical interest rates). But I'm certainly not going to complain. That's $18k I wouldn't have had otherwise! I just hope we finally get it in motion. I was in the military for 6 years, and that paperwork is such craziness that it hasn't been until now that we're starting to get it right. ugh.


I think that's it for me now. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Sunday Funday

April 12th, 2015 at 07:32 am

And by that I mean, I'm cleaning and working out. haha. The fiance's parents and sister are coming up to have dinner for his birthday, which was earlier in the week. It'll be a nice day Smile

Spending this week was a little more than expected with his B-day. I got him an e-cigarette as a gift, as he's quitting smoking. We also had a really nice steak dinner that was almost $100. I have a separate budget for his birthday stuff this month, so I'm still not exceeding anything on my usual budgets.

Next weekend we'll be doing our "big" celebration, and I'll be spending quite a bit. Thankfully, I've taken on a couple more projects this week, and I'm getting paid for a big one soon. I'd feel guilty for the spending, but honestly he's helped me so much financially in the past few years. His 30th deserves to be big.

Speaking of his helping me, we transferred $4,800 to my account yesterday so I can finish filing my taxes. The payback period will begin as soon as I have this month all figured out.

The only other expense I had this week were the save the dates for the wedding - I designed them myself and the printing was pretty cheap. We spent under $50. Now it's time to collect those addresses!

Coming up this week, I need to make my car payment, take care of the cable bill, and grab some more groceries (though that should be no more than $30).

It's going to be a fairly busy week - I've got a prospective client meeting tomorrow morning. Thursday I'm going to this BNI networking meeting - to check it out, and evaluate whether or not the dues are worth the referrals I would get. I don't mind paying a few hundred dollars if it actually pays off. And I feel like the corporate side of my business is something that is expanding quickly, and really well suited to my background in marketing. Saturday I've got a baby session in the morning and then I'm photographing an event in the evening - then going directly to dinner with friends, and then to the hotel room to party for the fiance's party.

It'll go quickly, but I've still got so much planning to do!

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your Sunday Smile

February Recap

February 27th, 2015 at 05:50 am

What. A. Week.

Things started out rough, but they've increasingly gotten better the closer to the weekend we've gotten. Go figure Smile

I hopped on Mint and took a look at my monthly budget and spending to see the damage, as February will be coming to a close in a measly 2 days. Seriously, how fast is time moving this year. Amirite?

Income *---

Income this month was pretty much alarming. I budgeted for $3,250. I actually only made $1,422. Part of the difference is about $1k in outstanding invoices that my clients haven't paid. But still my budget was supposed to be a conservative number - in reality I expected to book another wedding or two (particularly because my bookings were so poor in January).

In good news, though, I did have a contract signed this week, ending my painful dry spell. And I've met and/or talked with a handful of prospective clients this week - and feel confident that at least two of them will be booking with me for 2015.

Still no 2016 dates on my calendar. I'm not sure if people are just procrastinating more this year, but ah well. We're planning on moving out of state in May 2016 - so it's probably not terrible that my calendar isn't full of weddings in Ohio.

Spending *---

I've got to say I'm a bit proud of myself. Most months my budget is awash with red come the end of the month. This month? I only went over in two categories: Business Expenses and Credit Card Payments. Clearly I'm not upset to be paying more on my CC.

I have a really hard time staying within my budget for my business. Most of the time, they are necessary purchases - printer ink cartridges, parking downtown so I can work my big project, prints for clients, etc.

I was $150 over my budget. The only "extra" I purchased this month was an online class for $50 that was worth every penny. The $50 in printer cartridges was unexpected as well. I also spent $190 in client prints - which are included in their packages, so they're non-optional. I guess I kind of forget how much it all adds up.

Nonetheless, I'm very proud of myself for not going over in any other category. I did have some purchases that I'm sure were non-essential - clothing purchases (all work clothes), some nail polish that was definitely more "my day has been crap so I'm going to treat myself" than a necessity. I did buy lunch a couple of days, and I'm going to keep that to a minimum going forward. We didn't really go out much this month, though. So our entertainment spending was record-breaking low.

I didn't use even half my budget for restaurants, and I used zero of it for bars/alcohol. I also managed to only spend $16 on gas this entire month. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'll take it!

Rest of the Year Outlook *---

Looking at my bookings for the year, I've got $30k total income so far. My goal for the year was to hit $42k - so I've got $12k to book still.

I looked over my model to readjust my goals:

- 2 more weddings in 2015
- 7 portrait sessions
- 5 event/commercial
- 10 weddings for 2016

If I can make those targets, I'll meet my goal. I think that's entirely doable, and I hope I'm right. Well, I hope I go above and beyond my goal really - because my expenses are going to be way above my predictions (particularly in the case of my business), and I want to make sure I'm not struggling. Running a business is just frickin' expensive. But honestly, it's everything to me.

Anyhoo, I hope you all had a great February, and will have a successful March! Bring on the nice(r) weather!

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