Monday, December 30, 2013

The Long List of Goals...

This past year there was tons of ups and downs and unexpected events. But with that, there were a lot of great moments and memories made. There were quite a few things that I had expected to have been done by the end of this year, and yet the world hasn't fallen apart. That means there might still be some time!

My previous goal of making a new dish every week didn't last too long with working 6 days a week eventually. However, we did focus on trying new foods and sometimes adding a bit of panash to the usual whatever it was we were making that night. So we will call that a half win.

As for the job search, even though I did not find a job within my field, I did find a job. Which makes me feel super lucky everyday (well, somewhat). Not only did I meet great people there, but the skills I've learned I can use for the rest of my life! As an extra plus, my boss has asked me to take on a trainer role, which really surprised me because there are lots of people who have been there much much longer.

Now, that I've kind of checked off my goals from last year, I can set some more goals that will be half done come next December!

My FEW (aka quite a few) goals for the next year:

  • Find a job in my field or at least a career mobile position. This is almost a definite must due to the fact that my skills are growing weaker by the day now. I've opened myself up a lot and I'm hoping that within the next couple months something does come through!

  • Get driver's license. Enough said. Must be done!

  • Continue experimenting with cooking! The past few months we've stuck to a list of the usual, so we will try some new spices and some new dishes that are easy enough to be made under 30 minutes. And maybe a culinary masterpiece or two. 

  • Bring student loans under 20k. This is a goal that can easily be done if I continue on my double payments throughout the next year. I'd rather set it a bit higher just in case, and be super happy once I pass it. 

  • Read 100 books this year. It does seem like a lot, but reading is actual one of my favorite frugal activities to get lost in (besides dollar store puzzle books). But I also want to explore other genres I have left behind such as biographies, science fiction and personal development. I hope to read a minimum of 5 from each of these three categories to broaden my horizon and make me feel more learned (or something like that). 

  • Blog at least 3 times a week. This goal is not only about consistency and keeping up with the blog but finding new ways to expand it. It's been fun writing and sharing my experiences while hearing about those of others. 

  • Run/work out 4 times a week. Even though my job gives me a workout already, it would be even better to take classes that would work out my upper body and give me a bit more definition. Just because I'm running around constantly doesn't mean I'm super healthy. 

  • Run a 5k and a 10k. Since I started getting into running, I want to see how far I can go. I'm not a natural born runner, and probably won't win anything or get a great time, but it'd be great to try and do something I never thought possible. 

  • Knit/crochet two blankets. I've already started one, but the other one I'm planning on giving away as a gift. These are super major projects that will require me to pace myself and make me focus on the task at hand. Along with these two, there are a few smaller craft projects that I have in mind to do. 

  • Work on doing things in the moment. I have found this past year that I'll be given a task and I'll set it aside, never to be done or taken care of til way too late. It must be the lack of consistency and deadlines that college always provided me. But I'm hoping to get back to my structured self with a few more lists and reminders! 

  • Play board games with the bf at least twice a week. We enjoy playing Scrabble and sometimes we find we come home from work and turn on the TV and get lost in it's mesmerizing glare because it's just that much easier. We are looking to purchase a few more cheap games and hopefully that will give us more options than the two we have and will look forward to it more. 

  • Have one relaxing day a week. This past holiday season taught me that when you work hard, you have to allow your body to rest and recuperate. In college, I was always go, go, go and thought that I could always live my life that way. But then, having a day that I did absolutely nothing but read and drink tea made me realize that having one day like that is absolutely amazing. So, here's to making sure that one day out of the week for the next 52 weeks is spent on enjoying life and not working my butt off. 

How about you? What are your goals for 2014 that you will set to not fail at?!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

Hoping that all of you are having a wonderful day and night with your loved ones and enjoying some down time. Remember that this is the time of the year for family and friends, so let go of the computer. It'll be good for you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh The Differences...

There are days where everything is perfect, rainbows and butterflies all over the place. Like this:

And then there are days where the rains just keep pouring down. Like so:

Many of us are lucky to say we have found someone that cheers us up and makes our days full of sunshine and happiness. But what happens when that other is not as financially savvy as the other. Well, there might be a lot of rainy days in the future!

It's something that I've only now come to fully understand, and realize what a life long adventure this will be. Being able to understand how and why your partner spends money is so important, not only for monthly expenses, but for far off goals. I definitely fell in love for the bf for who he was, and once we moved in together, we realized that our spending patterns were radically different. It was my mission to turn him into the super saver that was buried within that consumerist person.

To start off, my childhood was full of frugality including lots of meals at home, clothes drying on the line, and clipping coupons to save on groceries. It was definitely the life of saving every penny there was to be saved. But being able to look at it from a grown perspective, it makes me appreciative of the sacrifices my mom made but also, how she taught me so many valuable skills.

On the other hand, the bf was raised in a decent home and with respectable parents, and even though they pinched pennies, they were not taught these lessons. Fast forward to day, and you'll find that he isn't the best with money. Not that he lives a lavish lifestyle, but he doesn't have anything saved.

So here is where we start, and we have both learned from each other's habits and lifestyle.

He has learned from your financially savvy blogger that saving money is super duper uber important. He now has his savings automatically taken out from his account and set away, and same for his retirement accounts. Along with that, that savings are everywhere. He definitely was one to just pick up the first thing he saw, out of convinience, and not think about the price and where to find it cheaper. Now, he does his research, compares and will even discuss with me the options that are at hand. And can we say we might have found a Coupon King (or prince, he's still working on it!).

As for me, he has definitely taught me to stop living for tomorrow. We are definitely in a great place and we have little to worry about. There are times where I will actively deny myself something because I feel it will wreck my budget, and he'll come to the rescue and say $5 isn't a budget wrecker on a bad day. That it's okay to buy something really cool every now and then and of course, within limits. That self-deprivation most of your life is not the way to live, and life is meant to be experienced. Because of this, we've definitely gone to more restaurants (something that was always a no-no for my mom) and have tried some amazing new food.

Life is definitely a journey, and being able to have a partner who is willing to learn with you is probably one of the most wonderful things.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Show Me the Money!!!

That's what I usually say to my stressed out self at the end of the month. It's not that I don't try and budget myself, it's the life that gets in between the budgeting! The best way for us to deal with the unexpected is to cut the costs of the necessities as much as possible. And how is that done? Well, with a few tips and tricks!

Coupons! They are truly the best! And now you don't even need to buy the newspaper to get them on a weekly basis. There are many sites out there devoted towards collecting them all in one spot and you can print them in the convience of your own home. Best of all is when you use websites like Krazy Koupon Lady to compare prices and coupon match for the lowest possible price on tons of everyday objects.

Deals: Retail Me Not, Ibotta, Cartwheel, these are all great apps that can be installed into your phone and help you save on the go! If you unexpectedly find yourself needing something in a store you didn't expect to be at (but how could this ever happen?) Retail Me Not will search for coupons for that store. How useful is that?!

Meal planning: It doesn't have to be as extreme as spending a whole day to cook a month's worth of meals. It can just be making a list for your next trip to the grocery store, sticking to it and making predetermined meals for the week. Some people are really into freezing meals if they lead a busy life, but setting aside a bagged lunch the night before can really save a considerable as those days turn into years.

Surveys: There are a few websites out there, such as Valued Opinions, that allow you to do surveys where they pay you in gift cards after reaching a certain amount of earned money or credit. This is probably one of the most enjoyable things I've tried to date. There are times I'll be able to get a few done while sitting down for a cup of tea. I've been able to gift cards for both Amazon and iTunes, which make for really nice gifts or to put towards needed items!

Happy Hour! Due to the fact that me and my friends are working retail or food service at this point in our lives, we usually work the hours that most people consider time for fun. This leaves us lots of free time in the morning, which really isn't the most appropriate drinking time. Yet, if we are looking to go out, we'll scout out happy hour and find ourselves entertained with cheap drinks and food. Be sure to check your favorite bar if you are looking to go out what they do offer during happy hour.

Coupon books: These books are usually released on a yearly basis and have coupons for nearby businesses of all sorts. They vary in price between 20 to 30 dollars, but man are they well worth it. In our household, we barely have gotten through half of the book, but we estimate we have saved over $100 on things we normally would have had to spend money on.

Tracking your Spending: Last but not least, the best way to know what's going out is to know exactly where all the money is going. I've made it a habit to record all my income and expenses so I have a really good picture of how the month is going and see how it might turn out. I try to align the dates in my notebook so as to make sure on a daily basis I'm not spending more than I earn, but also, on a monthly basis, checking to make sure recurring bills are in line.

Any more tips to add?! Also, all apps and websites are ones I have found useful these past couple months. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is it that you REALLY want?

The Christmas season is fun and all, but then you find you have to give a gift to THAT person. Whomever that person is for you, they are the ones that make gift giving hard. It might not be their fault at all, but they are impossible to shop for, wherever you go.

Said person for me is the bf. Luckily, I picked up something that he nonchalantly stated he really, really liked, but it really wasn't necessary so he didn't buy it. It worked out this year, but what about next year?

He's definitely a minimalist at heart, and he is content with even the smallest of things, which makes him so wonderful. But when it comes to giving him something, I've realized, you wonder for a second whether he will actually use it or not.

The same goes for me too, which is why we work so well together! And when I was tasked with making a Christmas list so that others in his family could get me things, it made me wonder, what is it that I really want this Christmas?

It was actually one of the hardest things I've done this year. It's interesting to come to the point where you realize that there are few things in life that will increase your level of happiness. When you have found contentment. It also made me sad to think about those who have the need to reaffirmed by things. Is that what you really want, or is it that you really want a new job because the one you have is crappy and makes you buy stuff to make you seem happier at the end of the day? Or perhaps you buy all those wonderful books to surround yourself with lively characters because you want to socialize and hang out with people who share your same interests and views.

It's not hard to define your needs, but it definitely takes a bit of time to discern your wants that are not just worldly goods. Perhaps we just all need to take some time out of our day and figure out what are those wants that money can't buy this holiday season and put them under the fitness goal for the new year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I'm Supposed To Be SAVING???!!!


Yes, that's how the holidays feel for me. The official list for those to whom we are giving gifts this year keeps on getting longer and longer. It seems every day there is someone else we completely forgot about. Thank goodness I'm working all these extra hours or I wouldn't be able to afford all these small trinkets!

The bf and I are trying to act as a unit, however, with opposite schedules, it's coming out to be one person does the shopping for a few people and then we regroup at night and decide on the next batch for the next day. We are definitely trying to come up with practical gifts that everyone will use and not just throw away two days later.

So, with all that in mind, how is anyone supposed to save and while shopping for those they love (or kind of like) these next few weeks? We've been trying to keep to a few simple rules which include:

1. Finding all the coupons!!! We are literally combing over all the newspapers and spend nights on the internet for any coupon or deal that will fit

2. Sticking to a budget for each person. We kind of know what each person is getting and what that should amount to. If we go over by a small amount, that's fine, but too much means we will likely have to rethink their gift.

3. Practicality. As stated above, we don't want to hear that the gifts ended up in the trash two days later. So we are trying to find brands that are well-known and reliable, which usually stores post good deals on.

4. Waiting. As Christmas gets closer, the deals will be even better, so that does mean leaving some of the bigger items til the last minute. This can either go really well or really poorly. Let's hope for the former!

5. Splitting gift costs with someone else. Because we are a couple it is more appropriate, but you can always do this with a relative or friend and pooling your money together can help get the person the gift they would really enjoy!

It's definitely a tough battle, but I know that we will pull through, as always. And even though the savings rate for this month might drop a bit, it won't be from lack of trying!

What are some of your strategies for trying to cut down on holiday gift giving expenses and keep your savings rate as normal?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The First Sunday of Advent

It was a wonderful Sunday with me and the bf and I was allowed the luxury to take a midday nap and watch a few too many Christmas movies. These won't be happening too often for the next few weeks, so we will appreciate them as they come.

As the title states, the first Sunday of Advent is upon us and with the air turning chillier and snow becoming a more frequent guest, it definitely feels like the holiday season. It's a great time for everyone not only because of the food and gifts, but being able to share time with family we might not get to see too often. Everywhere you go there is something magical in the air! 

So enjoy this first week of Advent and please remember the importance of the holidays! I've encountered way too many frustrated people these past few days at work. The gifts and things aren't all that important to get angry with the person behind the register or your server. They are people too and are probably required to work all these hours for your convenience. 

The best thing is I get to do all my holiday shopping during off hours this season! Yay for no lines! My hope is with all these hours I'm working, an extra payment or two on my student loans can be made. Talk about the perks of early mornings and late nights!!!

Another thing about the first week of Advent is thinking about the new year and what is to come. Mainly, thinking about new goals I hope to accomplish. It's almost like giving myself a head start. Not only do I want to keep up my goal on trying new recipes, but also my want to improve on my foreign languages. One of my goals was to learn seven languages by the time I'm old (like 70 or 80 old). With only 3/7 accomplished, I better get some work in! 

So here's to a wonderful ending and new beginning!