WeVerb14 – Day 12: Savor

Day 12: savor

What was your favorite food item/ingredient in 2013? What do you want to eat more and less of in 2014?

I’ve got one (overused) word for you…no, I’ve got a song for you:


Bacon.

Oh how do I love thee, Bacon. Let me count the ways. You make everything amazing. Cheeseburgers. Potatoes. Pancakes. Macaroni and cheese. Brussels sprouts. Ice cream. Is there anything you can’t do? I know bacon has been the ingredient du jour this past year but it is just simply delicious. If there’s bacon in it, I’ll want to eat it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about bacon right now.

Because I am.

Something I want to eat more of in 2014 is more vegetables. I don’t hate vegetables, I just don’t go out of my way to eat them. If they’re there I’ll probably eat a little bit of them, but I’m perfectly happy eating a plate full of proteins, starches, and carbs with an itty bitty amount of vegetables. Maybe. Basically I’m disinterested in vegetables even though I enjoy them roasted or grilled. And I’ll eat salads. I’m just really kind of weird about the whole thing. But I’m hoping this year I can start turning my overall disinterest into mild, simmering interest.

Maybe I should add bacon.

WeVerb14: Day 5 – Sing

Sing: What song or lyrics will be forever tied to 2013 in your mind? What songs are you excited to keep with you through 2014?

There were two songs that will forever tie my mind to 2013, both of which, incidentally featured Pharrell (was 2013 the Year of Pharrell or something?): Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and Pharrell’s Happy.

I don’t really listen to the radio anymore, outside of the 70s and 80s station I occasionally listen to but these two songs managed to reach me. I’ve been a fan of Daft Punk for a while now and have been looking forward to their latest album and I came across ‘Happy’ through Despicable Me 2. Both songs just make me ridiculously…happy and want to dance. Even in the car. Which I’ve done. I know they were definitely “songs of the moment” with plenty of radio airplay but when a song makes you smile, dance, and sing along then it’s a good song despite the conditions.

At the moment, I’ll probably carry both those songs with me into 2014. They still make me smile and dancey whenever I hear them and I do look forward to having them played at our wedding because they make me happy.

WeVerb 14: Day 1 – Compose

 

Creating new habits can be tedious but rewarding (unless they’re bad habits; then they are easy and not really rewarding). And while I’ve treated my blog like a neglected new year’s resolution, the desire to write is still present so I’m hoping that through encouragement, I can get myself back in that writer’s saddle. In another effort to restart my writing, I’m going to participate in WeVerb14 this year.

The first prompt is: Compose. Here are my haiku for 2013 and 2014:

2013

Now after 8 years

The distance finally bridged

He’s here by my side

2014

A new year is here

We become husband and wife

May will soon be here

 

Renewing My Financial Outlook

congressional budget

Since my YNAB reboot earlier this year to get my finances under control, I’m here to report that I’m still trying to get my budget under control.

This is not a failing of YNAB, but simply poor planning on my end. When the mister moved out here in March, I had to get his room ready; I had to purchase a new bedding set, a lamp and a few other items. I was on a time crunch so I charged everything before having the money saved up to pay for them, which is what YNAB tries to get us to do. Also, instead of moving money around to cover the unexpected expenses, I just kept trucking along, quietly digging myself into a financial hole. It took a couple of months to dig myself out of that hole and only after nearly draining my savings account, which in retrospect was a BAD idea.

After that, I continued to spend without reallocating my budgeted dollars. Now that the mister was here, we started to go out a lot more than I was used to doing (read: rarely). We would go to the movies, pick up dinner, or I would purchase items that I hadn’t anticipated buying nor adjusted the budget for and the debt snowballed. It didn’t help that I had started thinking being flexible with the budget was okay; it is but not the way I was flexing. Budgets are a living, breathing thing but they’re not going to be helpful if you continue to overspend and not make any adjustments to cover those expenses.

Whomp, whomp.

So here I am back to working my way out of another monetary hole but I have a clearer plan for escaping and not returning. I’m putting money towards my debt and am starting to see the numbers go down (yes, I have added to it in the mean time but it’s all getting paid!). And while I try to not spend on unbudgeted items, I don’t make myself a prisoner to my budget and have simply reallocated money when necessary. Adding to this was a series of blog post on the YNAB blog this past week discussing savings goals and that encouraged to me actually come up with some tangible goals to work towards that actually has me excited about budgeting again:

Short Term Goals:

  1. Pay down all credit card debt. I’m currently have just over $1,500 worth of credit card debt over two cards. While it’s probably the most I’ve had on a credit card since my internship year in San Jose, I’m already well on my way to paying off one of my cards completely (that will probably be paid off by the end of September). I’m shooting to have this debt paid off by December.
  2. Build a one-month buffer. This is the main goal of YNAB (and rule number 4), living off last month’s income. I haven’t been able to get there just yet but I’m determined to make it happen before the end of year. I plan on setting aside some money (even if it’s just $10) with each paycheck to help me get to this goal.
  3. Save for the wedding. Yes, a wedding is happening sooner than later (more details to follow) and while we have a very nice cushion to start, we still need a few more dollars to meet our new budget. Plus, I’d like to go on a nice honeymoon, all of which cost money.
  4. Save for our apartment. While we’re currently staying with my mom, I know we can’t stay with her forever (though she wouldn’t mind). Once the mister lands his job, we’ll be on the hunt for our first place so we’ll need the funds for the deposit, moving costs, and furniture.

Medium Term Goals:

  1. Create an emergency fund. I started saving for my emergency fund last year but ran into some difficulty but I’m ready to start again. I’d like to have at least $6,000 for emergencies.

Long Term Goals:

  1. Pay off student loans. This is going to take some time but I’m hopeful that I will be able to get these paid off in 10 years. Wow, 10 years sounds like a really long time.
  2. Save for retirement. I’m in my 30s so this is a great time  I really need to get going with this. I already have a Roth IRA set up and have rolled over my 401k from my old job so we’ve got something going. I would like to increase my contributions though and while I won’t benefit from the tax breaks, at least I know I’ll be able to withdraw my cash tax-free later in life.
  3. Save for down payment. While home ownership in the Bay Area isn’t impossible, it definitely isn’t as easy as it could be in just about any other place. I’m sure we’ll be able to find a house we both love in the area that will fit our needs but we will need a down payment. 20% is the gold standard so we’ll see how we do.

While I know this isn’t going to be some quick fix, I’m looking for a sustainable transition and a healthier financial outlook. I know there will be times when I see something I just must have that I hadn’t budgeted for, but I won’t feel constrained by my budget. If it’s important, then I’ll be willing to move the money around so I can get it. If I’m not willing to do that, then on the shelf it shall stay until I’m willing to make those adjustments. I’m simply trying to set myself up for a stronger financial life, not only for myself, but also for my family. If I can create healthy money habits now, it’ll be easier to teach my kids to follow in my footsteps in the future.

Don’t tell me when I had enough!

justify-social-media-addictionI’m addicted to my iPhone.

I’m constantly scrolling through my phone checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, looking at the latest updates even if I just checked it five minutes ago. Because five minutes is practically an eon in Internet-time.

It’s a real sickness and I hadn’t realized how bad it was until the mister started ‘phone-shaming‘ whenever he caught me looking at my phone or even the times he’d pop his head into my room to say good night and see me laying in bed, in the dark, peering at Pinterest with my glasses off.

Folks, it was bad.

Not only that, but I would end up staying up at least half an hour later (or more) just looking at my phone. Because you know how checking your phone ‘just for a second’ turns into an hour of pinning recipes you’ll never make and clothes you’ll never buy and YouTubing old Reading Rainbow episodes.

My reliance on my phone is sickening. It’s the first thing I grab in the morning (yes, even before my glasses!) and the last thing I put away at night (yes, even after my glasses). And so I decided to do something about it and force myself to reach for my phone less each day. It was time for a ‘tech timeout.’

There was no way I’d be able to quit this cold turkey so I’m attacking this in smaller chunks, mainly by forcing myself to wait until a specified time before checking my phone. If I’m out at church or somewhere, I wait until I get home before checking my phone instead of checking it immediately after exiting the building. If I’m hanging out with the mister, I wait until we’ve called it a night. And the kicker: I stand up while checking my phone before bed. This keeps me from wandering through the Internet for a half hour or so because I’ll get tired from standing. Genius.

So far it’s working. The playful shaming from the mister is also helpful (though I admit to sneaking peeks at my phone when he goes to the bathroom or upstairs) and I have been going to bed a lot earlier than usual. I do allow myself to lay in bed with my phone on nights when I don’t have to be up at a specific time in the morning. But all in all, it’s been quite freeing not to be constantly connected.

Anyone else feel like they’ve had to have a technology intervention?

Turning Stuff into stuff

ellie and carl

Confession: Sometimes when reality is too heavy for me to deal with, I cry in the shower. I sit, wallow, and waste all the hot water (sorry Mom) and while crying never actually fixes a problem, it certainly helps me clear my head.

We’re having some landscaping done at the house and my mom recently informed me that she is considering bartering my Dad’s truck for part of the payment (our landscaper has been eyeing this truck since he first came over). Rationally and logically this idea is an amazing deal (I don’t know where my mom finds these people. We had a mechanic we used to pay in sandwiches for minor work) especially since we haven’t used the truck in months and there are spiderwebs on the side-view mirror. Plus, it helps cut the cost for the landscaping project, and it’s kind of a big project.

But we all know Rational Mind isn’t always driving the bus. When she told me the idea, I felt a little pang. Then she continued and said that bit by bit, there’s not much of Dad left and Irrational Mind hijacked the bus and I just.could.not.deal.

I cried.

My nephew had pilfered my dad’s weight bench the day before, and now the most visible reminder of my dad, his truck, was potentially on its way out and I just couldn’t handle it. It’s such a sad realization when a loved one is gone. They leave behind reminders of their former life and it’s hard not to cling onto those in lieu of them. I know letting go of my dad’s stuff doesn’t mean I’m going to forget about him, but when you no longer have that person, having something tangible that was theirs becomes kind of a big deal.

While I know that these things are just objects and I’ll always have my memories of him even if we got rid of all of his remaining belongings, it’s still a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto something because it once belonged to someone I love if it’s just collecting dust and languishing from disuse. Especially if that item could help someone else. The mister, taking advantage of us having watched Up that weekend, reminded me of Carl and how after everything he did to hold onto the house and Ellie, he realized it was time for him to let go and move forward.

Thanks for the life lessons, Pixar.

And so I’m letting go and moving forward as well. It’s time for that truck to actually be of use to someone other than sitting in front of the house because it makes me feel better. Just because I’m giving up his truck doesn’t mean I’m giving up Dad.

After all, it’s time for new adventures.

On a scale of 1 to try again…

Survey2

A couple of weeks ago I received a survey from the School of Kinesiology at Michigan. Go Blue! (It’s a habit). Now, I LOVE filling out surveys. I have no idea where I picked up that habit but I love doing them. If you give me a survey, there’s a good chance I’ll fill it out.

Since taking some market research classes, I’ve become critical about surveys. I’ll read a survey and then silently critique it in my head. So I get this survey from my school and they were asking for prospective students and alumni to fill it out. A lot of the questions were related to how the school is now, which is in a completely different space than where it was while I was attending, 14 years ago (what?! Lies!) and it’s been 15 years (WHAT?! SHENANIGANS!) since I applied to the University so everything has changed. While I was in school, Kines was still considered a ‘Division’ despite the fact that we were the third largest school after LS&A and Engineering and you applied to the school/division directly as a freshman and that was it. Now they have a secondary admissions process for its upper level Athletic Training, Physical Education, and Sports Management programs (and apparently SM students can pursue a dual degree with the Ross School of Business). That’s some pretty serious stuff.

But I digress, I had a problem with the phrasing of some of the questions so after I finished, I emailed the person who sent the survey and relayed my issues. And yes, as I was writing the email, I couldn’t believe I was THAT person. But I have very valid critiques.

Here’s the issue: you’re reading the questions and a lot of them were “How do you think your study of Kinesiology prepared you for your career path?” and being the literal thinker that I am, I can’t answer that because I didn’t study Kinesiology; I studied Sport Management and Communication. I know you’re sending this survey out to a wide swatch of alumni, but at least phrase the question, “How do you think your study in the School of Kinesiology prepared you for your career path?” and so the semantics issue has been eliminated. Because technically, I can’t answer these questions because I didn’t study that. So you have a flawed survey and suspect data.

Yes, I was being nitpicky, but if you’re in market research you need to have your stuff down. And if you’re letting questions like this go through, then really? I’m supposed to take this seriously? Because I won’t.

So moral of the story? Don’t send me a survey unless you’re positive your questions are air-tight.

Because you’ll hear ALL about it.

Show me your bibs!

Thanks to my racing habit, I now have a nice collection of race medals and bibs. I had been looking for the best way to display them because for a time the racing bibs sat in a file folder in a cabinet and my medals were in a box on my bookshelf. Except for my very first medal, which I placed in a safe space so I wouldn’t lose it and it’s in such a safe place that I now can’t find it. So it’s super safe wherever it’s at. But I digress. What’s the use of having all these medals if I’m just going to put them in a box and forget about them until I get another medal that will end up in the box to be forgotten?

So I searched the Internet to see what was out there. I’ve seen the metal medal (ha) holders but even at $20-something dollars, it was more than I wanted to spend. I also wanted to display my bibs and even though I’d love to plaster them on the wall like wallpaper, I don’t think anyone would like that but me. My friend Kim shared a great idea that I loved and pinned on Pinterest (follow me on Pinterest!). She framed the medal she received from her first half marathon and I thought that was a great idea. So I bought a picture frame and some matting that I could cut myself since I wanted to display my bib along with the medal and mocked one up. I loved the way it looked but then wondered if I was really going to hang so many pictures on the wall. I figure I have a few more years of racing ahead of me and that would be one massive wall of frames.

Then I ran my half marathon and received this medal. Do you see this medal? Do you see that it’s a cork stopper? That would require a shadowbox frame and I didn’t really want to get one. Since I plan on doing this race a several more times, there will be several more potential cork stopper medals so I had to look for another option.

I restarted my search following my Turkey Trot (which I didn’t write about, but it was Thanksgiving morning – a great way to make room for the feast) and came across Running on the Wall and found my inspiration. A couple of trips to Michael’s and Home Depot later, I had my very own bib holder.

race bib display

While it’s not as polished as the ones at Running on the Wall, for less than 10 bucks (I’m guessing; I don’t have the receipts anymore), I have a fantastic place to display all of my bibs in one place. I’m still on the hunt for medal displays (I’m not sure if I want to make one myself or just buy one from them) so if you have any ideas or pins, let me know. Tag me in the pin or link it to this post. I’d love to see how you display your medals.

On the set: Randy to the Rescue

Confession: one of my favorite things to do on Friday nights is coming home, changing into my pajamas, and watching Say Yes to the Dress. Yup, we’re living large and doing big things at the Talda house, folks.

Side bar: I remember when I was practically dying to go out clubbing on a Friday night or just out hanging with friends. Never would I have thought being in my pajamas and in bed at 9:30 as a great evening. But it’s the best.

Anywho, one of my favorite things about SYTTD, besides watching people try on wedding dresses, is Randy. I absolutely adore him and if I could have him help me shop for my wedding dress, I would be in heaven. So imagine my surprise, and joy, when I received a call from a friend to come with her to attend a taping of “Randy to the Rescue” as she went dress shopping.

Me? Help you dress shop? AND I get to see Randy? What the what what?! Naturally I accepted and had to warn her not to get offended if I’m more excited to see Randy. Just being honest and managing expectations.

Randy to the Rescue set at Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

We showed up to the Fairmont Hotel not quite sure what to expect but looking forward to dress shopping. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (which you totally should. It’s a private account but if you send a request, I’ll accept. Just let me know and I’ll give you my handle), you would have seen one of the confections that caught my eye:

IMG_0309


I want to put this dress on and twirl until I fall down.

Thankfully, the cameras did not follow us around the entire appointment. They had a mini camera attached to the top of the mirror to capture our conversations as she tried on dresses but it kind of made us hyper aware that it was there, but we eventually forgot about it. We didn’t make for very compelling television though. Between dresses we were either messing with our phones, chatting in whispered tones, or one of us (usually me) would wander away to look for more dresses. And Randy. But mostly dresses.

And Randy.

randy of randy to the rescue


Randy Fenoli is just as charming in real life as on the television.

After a handful of dresses, the bridal consultant, Kim (if you’re shopping for a wedding dress, go see Kim Storms at Bridal Galleria in San Francisco. She was really helpful and amazing!) pulled out what turned out to be the winner for the night. Once my friend decided she was going to buy the dress, things got a little exciting and the cameras appeared around our station to film the exchange with Randy.

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What? Cameras aren’t a usual thing at dress shopping excursions?

We had to wait until they were finished taping the runway portion with the cast bride, but then Randy came over. A funny thing happened the moment we started filming: we shut up. It got really awkward really quickly. No one knew what to say and no one really directed us. Her other friend and I both looked at each other as if we expected the other to give some hint as to what we were supposed to be doing. Do we share our opinions on the dress? Do we fluff the dress? Do we just sit here and look awkward? That last one? Okay! I can do that!

I wanted to laugh at the absurdity but then Randy appeared and charmed us out of our shoes (he is super nice and has a fantastic handshake. I really appreciate a good handshake), laughed, and then bled on the dress. Yes. He bled on the dress. He was smoothing down the skirt of the dress and was pricked by the straight pins they used on the dress and accidentally wiped it on the dress. Whoops.

We ended up having to film the “Say yes to this dress?” question twice and it was kind of awkward feigning suspense and excitement when we already knew the answer. So while I highly doubt we’ll make the final cut (though I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself playing “Where’s Talda” since I was wandering around so much) it was a fun experience and my friend is going to make an absolutely stunning bride.

Staying on right side of the fiscal cliff

budgeting-out-of-debt

One of my goals this year was to get my finances into fighting shape. My budget program of choice, You Need A Budget (or YNAB – I wrote about it before) has been helpful to get me to think more in terms of staying on budget, however, I noticed that I was still struggling a bit between paychecks and unable to make any contributions to my savings accounts. So I decided to take the time to take advantage of the many webinars, video tutorials, and fairly active forum YNAB makes available to learn how to use this awesome program. What’s the point of having a sword if you don’t know how to wield it?

I signed up for one of the introductory webinars and, you guys, I learned to much! I can’t believe I didn’t take one sooner. I was content with just reading the how-to’s and tutorials but that obviously wasn’t working. Sometimes you just need additional help. During the webinar, I realized my problems had stemmed from an incorrectly designated budget account. I made my savings account and “on-budget” account, meaning that that money was being counted as spendable, but I was only spending money from my checking account. You can see where the issue lies.

Now that I’m properly educated on how to use YNAB, I’m excited to get going again. I reorganized my budget categories, correctly assigned my accounts, and instead of budgeting for the whole month, I’m now budgeting with each paycheck so I can make sure each dollar is being distributed. I have a few aggressive savings goals for this year that pretty much hinges on getting my finances correct. I have benchmarks for an emergency savings fund, my everyday savings, our wedding fund, our apartment fund, and I need to set aside some money for my life insurance that I want to set up and start making a real dent into my student loans. Look at how grown up and responsible I am.

Even though I just started on the new regime, I’m really excited. I keep checking my YNAB app as if there were some changes since I last added transactions (of course, there hasn’t) and I look forward to payday just so I can fiddle with my budget again. It’s nice to know that I’m taking the first steps towards being in control of my finances and to stop being controlled by them.

What are your financial goals this year? What are you doing to reach them?