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Jan 24

January 24th, 2017 at 08:27 pm

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

Adulting Day

January 22nd, 2017 at 09:52 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

Good and Bad News

January 19th, 2017 at 04:41 pm

At work yesterday our boss let us know that the store is no longer going to be open on Sundays - we extended our hours about 3 months ago, but the sales that day are so horribly low it doesn't even cover the cost of our being there. So it makes sense. I work for a non-profit, and it's no use burning up money that could be funding programs to employ us when there are no customers in the store. I'm obviously a bit sad to lose the hours - but at the same time I'm thankful to have a bit more time now that my photography is starting to pick up. It's a matter of losing about 5 hours a week. If I can use those hours productively, it'll balance out for the better in the end.

Also, I'm excited to have my Sundays back. As things have picked up, I'm finding myself needing to adjust again. When I was just running my business I had my flow. But cutting 15-20 hours out of my work-week, working on my feet on concrete has not only messed with my flow, but also my energy levels. Turns out I'm not as young as I used to be Wink

***

Filled up my tank yesterday. Shouldn't be doing any spending today. Had my BNI presentation this morning, and it went pretty well. Finished up a proposal for a fellow member who wants me to build her a website. Would be a great project. Have two shoots in the works for the next couple of weeks and 3 one-on-one meetings scheduled. So networking is going well.

Had a meeting with another member earlier this week - a banker. He's planning to schedule a shoot as well, and I started talking with him about my student loan situation. After sending over some information, it looks like I might have some options! I have about $40k in student loans, with interests rates sitting around 9%. He said we should be able to refinance somewhere in the range of 5-7%, so that's exceptionally encouraging. Fixed rate, a balance that actually goes down every month? Pretty exciting to think about. So I'm having him run some numbers and we'll see what happens. The only thing I'm a bit worried about is the fact that when I do refinance, my "student loans" I assume turn into mere "bank loans." I'm not sure how lenders look at that, and I'm curious if that affects anything moving forward. Either way, however, it feels like cutting my interest in almost half, if possible, is the only logical decision to make there.

The conversation about my debt with DH is always a strained one, for obvious reasons. I know he's willing to cosign, etc. But he has no debt outside of an auto loan, and I don't think either of us is naive enough to dismiss the (minute) possibility of the "D-word" at some point. Obviously, neither of us wants that - but we're also realistic and understand that we just don't know what the future holds. It's really strange managing money as a married couple. I feel like it's getting better, but it's just so emotional and complicated. I have faith, though, that we'll arrive at a place that makes sense and allows us both to feel comfortable in the decision.

***

No other news except that DH did finally transfer the money from his HSA to cover his dental appointment last month. So that's taken care of. Just need to start attacking some of the other items on my to-do list! Time to get to work!

Meal Planning and Groceries

January 15th, 2017 at 06:50 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jan 8

January 8th, 2017 at 05:25 pm

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

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

Meals for this week:

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

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

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

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

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

Great start to the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 03:03 pm

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

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

***

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

This week's meals:

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

Dec 20

December 20th, 2016 at 05:35 pm

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Dec 16

December 16th, 2016 at 04:21 pm

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

Week Recap

December 5th, 2016 at 02:31 pm

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

Christmas Spending

December 3rd, 2016 at 07:20 pm

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

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

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

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

So. We're looking at:

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

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

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

Total: $389 - Amazon Gift Cards = $264

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

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

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

Hope everyone's holiday season is progressing nicely!

April 2016 Recap

April 30th, 2016 at 01:15 pm

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



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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Meal Plan

April 24th, 2016 at 01:04 pm

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

So meals on the list this week:

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

April 22

April 22nd, 2016 at 03:57 pm

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

April 19

April 19th, 2016 at 06:55 pm

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

The joys of being a business owner

April 7th, 2016 at 02:49 pm

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

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

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

Sigh. Rant over now.

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Back in the swing of things

April 4th, 2016 at 09:42 pm

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

Getting Ready for our Trip

February 17th, 2016 at 05:02 pm

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

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

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

Total: $5,768

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Feb 12

February 12th, 2016 at 04:12 pm

So I finally went and did my shopping yesterday. I was able to return my stuff to AE, and they put the total value of the reimbursement on my card, which was nice - given that I had paid for $50 in gift cards. Still waiting for that to hit the account. They had very little in swim in the store, so I ended up going to Victoria's Secret and found a suit I loved. A bit more expensive, but it'll last for a few years. So that saga is over.

Also did a little shopping for warm weather wear. I found two tops at a good price. I don't usually shop at Banana Republic because it's so expensive, but I got a skirt and a top for under $30. Great date night or work outfit, and now I finally own a skirt. That's been on my radar for some time now. The other top is a comfy solid black shirt that can be dressed up or down. Everything followed my palette, and I'll be getting rid of another top that I never wear, so I'm keeping things pared down.

Looked at the budget and I'm still going to be under once that reimbursement hits - so we're doing alright. One of my Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks hit, waiting for the bigger one so I can snag my hiking shoes for vacation.

Today I need to get in touch with our travel agent to get flight details for Peru. We need to book our flights to and from NYC still, and decide if we want to do 1 or 2 nights in the city on our way back. As well as where we want to stay. Neither of us have really spent any time in NYC, so it's fun that we get to add that on to the end of the honeymoon - it'll be quite the contrast coming from Cusco!

Ended up going out with a friend last night. Spent $20 between the cover and drinks, but it was a hilarious comedy show and a really good time. Money well spent, I'd say.

DH also worked from home yesterday, so we hit the Indian lunch buffet (delicious). Had leftovers for dinner. Tonight I'll be making the poached eggs with asparagus and toast, which means I'm baking bread today as well. Don't have any plans for tonight, which hopefully means we'll be staying in - I've went out the last two nights, and I'm craving some quiet time in. I'm sure my budget will appreciate that as well!

Hope you all enjoy your Friday and have a fantastic weekend!

Feb 10

February 10th, 2016 at 01:34 pm

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 01:24 pm

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

January 2016 Recap

February 1st, 2016 at 02:08 am

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!

Progress + Groceries

January 28th, 2016 at 08:52 pm

Went through and switched all of my autopay bills to the joint account, and paid off the last $200 of my PNC credit card. So now all I have to do is withdraw all of the money from my checking and savings accounts and put them in my business account for taxes. Then I can close those. Still haven't decided if I'm going to close my PNC CC or just put it in a box and keep it just in case of emergencies. It's my longest standing CC to date, and it'll keep my credit score a bit higher theoretically just having a higher credit allowance overall. For now, it goes in the box. But I do still need to call and close that silly Toyota credit card that I never wanted in the first place.

I'll be saving approx. $40/month now that I've switched over to a 0% interest rate, and I added 11 months worth of savings to my spreadsheet where I'm keeping track of these things.

***

Also went grocery shopping today - and sad to report that it put me over my $200 limit. I could have waited until Monday to buy a lot of the items I got, but rather than making two trips, I figured it made more sense to just buy everything for next week this week. So honestly, I think I'm just going to start this trip for February's budget and just not going again until the week after (which is entirely do-able). So I retract my previous statement. I did make it under $200 for January Wink

Spent $34.78 at Aldi - and stuck to my grocery list. My second stop was at Target, where I spent $40.76. But that included some considerable savings. We weren't really in need of cat food or litter yet, but they were having a great deal on our brands, which included sales prices, a $5 gift card for purchasing, two coupons I printed, Cartwheel coupons, and my 5% off for using my Target RED Debit Card. So I essentially spent $17.67 on a huge bag of food and a 35lb. container of cat litter. We'll be stocked for a long while, and in total it was way cheaper than I had priced it via Prime Pantry. So I count it a win! Everything else I purchased was on my list and I had coupons for as well. We shouldn't have to buy personal care products for quite some time either.

On the menu for this weekend/next week:

- Thai Chicken Stir-fry
- Pork Chops w/ Roasted Carrots and Cabbage
- Mexican Pizza
- Baked Chicken Drumsticks w/ Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- BBQ Chicken w/ Cheddar Pancakes

Glad to be home

January 27th, 2016 at 05:12 pm

After about 2 hours in the car this morning, I finally made it home. Staying at mom's wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated, but I'm happy to be back with my kitties - and excited to see DH when he gets home from work. Sleeping in my own bed is going to be glorious.

Didn't end up doing laser tag yesterday - as it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead, went back to the house with my sister, played a board game, and then went out to dinner at Bob Evan's. She seemed in much better spirits, so hopefully my time there was able to cheer her up a bit. Either way, this conversation with mom is going to be a rough one when she gets home. Not sure exactly when it's going to happen - but it'll have to be within the next few weeks. Preferably sooner than later, her birthday is just in a couple of weeks and I know she's stressed about turning 50. But I'm not sure there will ever be a "good" time to have that conversation. Sigh.

***

Sales tax payment went through today, so that's been taken care of. Also saw that my local Q4 taxes hit my account. So much money out for taxes, and I've still got so much more to go... sigh.

My American Eagle gift cards finally hit from Swagbucks... so I went to purchase the swimsuit I had planned (my reward for hitting my Dietbet goal) and of course they sold out of my size. That's the second suit I found that I loved and sold out a few days after I decided on it. It's been a frustrating experience. I found 2 other tops that I liked, and decided to order both for now in case I didn't end up liking one and the other was sold out (as it will most definitely be, given the trend). So once they arrive I'll decide between them and return the other.

Speaking of my Dietbet, my first game finalized, and I won a profit of $9.63 - not a ton, but I also got my money back. So that's good. And, you know, lost weight Wink Second game finishes in a couple of days.

That's about it for news. Hope you are all having a lovely week!

Mid-January Update

January 15th, 2016 at 12:45 pm

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!

NYE is Here!

December 31st, 2015 at 04:14 pm

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

2015 was a big year. My look back:

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead…

2016 will also bring with it some big items:

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s the idea for January!

***

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

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

Hope you all have a lovely NYE!!!

Another Update

December 28th, 2015 at 06:42 pm

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

Hope you all are having a lovely Monday!

Wrapping Up... ;)

December 23rd, 2015 at 03:01 pm

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

The last few things to wrap up today:

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

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

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

Made a Couple Sales!

December 14th, 2015 at 09:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update + Crisis Averted!

December 11th, 2015 at 02:04 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They saved Christmas Smile

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

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

Hope you all enjoy your Friday and weekend!!

Christmas Shopping Progress

December 8th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

But at least we're making progress!

***

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

Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday!


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