2017 Goal: Financial Freedom

One of my main goals for 2017 is to continue our journey toward financial freedom. We’re not trying to get completely debt-free this year; that’s too big of a bite to try to take in a year’s time so following this year’s theme of “progress, not perfection” we broke down our financial goal into smaller tidbits. After discussing what we’d like to do this year, we ultimately decided that we want to become better prepared for routine expenses and emergencies, establish our savings and start working towards living off last month’s income.

What does success for this goal look like? Here’s our task list:

  • Pay back my mom (about 75% there!)
  • Pay off student loan #3
  • Commit to funding buffer (living off last’s month income)
  • Fully-fund car maintenance category (goal: $2,000)
  • Save $1,000 for starter emergency fund
  • Save for Christmas gifts (we did this last year and it was SO helpful)
  • Start Down Payment Fund

This is where using You Need a Budget (YNAB) to budget and manage our finances has been extremely helpful and gratifying. YNAB has helped me to create a budgeting lifestyle that I can actually live with and made making those infrequent (or surprising) larger purchases not as scary as they once were.

While we’re not completely living off last month’s income just yet (or not buying things we haven’t properly budgeted for – ahem, me), we started making small steps towards reaching that goal. We’re a month ahead on a couple of our reoccurring bills (like rent, retirement contributions, and car insurance) and have been steadily building a cash reserve for our car registration and maintenance and Christmas gifts.

Seeing our financial goals written down makes them feel more tangible and achievable versus just saying we want to get our finances in order (which I’ve said before. Several times). I’m actually optimistic about our chances to accomplishing most, if not all, of our task list for this year, unlike in previous years. I’ll be sure to check in through out the year to give you a progress report!

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New Year. Same Me. But a little better.

This year I’m trying something a little different. I’m still not making any resolutions for the new year but I did great a few goals that I’ll be focusing on this year. In the past, resolutions haven’t worked (aside from my all-time favorite resolution to make this year better than the previous year) and unsurprisingly, large general goals haven’t worked either.

I’m usually so focused on the end game goal (say, lose 20 pounds) that I lose sight of the smaller gains I did make in the year and so when I don’t meet that goal, I’m disappointed even though I may have made a ton of smaller strides.

That’s why this year I named the game: Progress; not perfection.

Inspired by the Passion Planner, I created my own system to help define my personal goals for this year. I liked the idea of their planners but honestly, I didn’t want to feel like I had to sit and do a monthly self-reflection and write those down. So instead of shelling out the money for their planner, I purchased a Sugar Paper planner at Target (mine is black with gold dots) and created a vision board on Trello.


My Trello board is broken down into my main goals for the year (Finances, Healthy Living, Brush Lettering, Writing, and Ballet) and then smaller progress goals that will help me gauge how I’m doing in terms of achieving the main goal. This will hopefully help me to stay focused on all the steps I did accomplish en route to the main goal. If you’re interested, here’s more information on how I set up my board.

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Since I’m a visual person, setting my goals in a Trello board is really making me excited, plus I can make updates on my iPad with the Trello app. The basic plan is free so I highly recommend trying it out to see if it’ll work for you!

I’m excited by my vision board this year and plan on discussing each goal in a little more detail in future posts and give you progress updates throughout the year. 2017 may not be the best in some aspects outside of my control (like, politically. Ugh) but at least I can make it great personally.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing this year? What tools are you using to accomplish your goals?

Jawboned: Why I’m Giving Up My Up Move

For the past 2 years, I have been dutifully tracking my steps with a Jawbone tracker, first the UP24 and then UP Move.

As much as I liked my Jawbone, I had a lot of technical issues with it: within a few months, the mode button fell off so Jawbone sent me a new tracker. A few months after that, while clipping the end cap on, something happened and it was no longer staying on. Jawbone sent over a new end cap. Then a few months after that, the mode button fell off my replacement tracker but since they were transitioning away from the UP24, I was given a credit towards the purchase of a new tracker. I picked the UP Move and was really happy with it until the hook closure on the strap broke over the weekend. Sigh.

The quality of the trackers has not lived up to my expectations, especially considering the price. For something I wear EVERYDAY, I expected the equipment to be more durable. Seeing how it wasn’t, I had to decide if it was worth investing more money in a new strap just for this to happen again (based on historical data, the likelihood of it happening again was very high).

In the end, I decided to quit Jawbone and step tracking completely.

I loved seeing how many steps I took (I killed my goals while on vacation in Las Vegas and Hawaii and on travel days to Michigan) and how many hours I actually slept. I dutifully logged every workout and nap but then I started obsessing over it; going as far as to wandering around the house just to get those last few steps to reach my goal and, because I wore it on my wrist, I made sure to have it free so I could swing it while walking to get my steps counted.

Don’t get me started on those days when I knew I would have reached my goal but somehow came short. All those wasted steps!

And we’ve found the crux: the fitness tracker is supposed to encourage me to get active but I was acting as if my activity didn’t count if it wasn’t counted. That’s a huge disconnect.

After deciding to ditch the trackers, I feel more relaxed. Sure I don’t know how many steps I’ve taken or how many hours of deep sleep I got last night, but I also don’t worry about it either. The pressure to care and not care about my step counts is gone. Plus, I can wear my bracelets now! Life is better without the tracker.

I don’t need technology to validate me.



Letting Kauai Happen

In October, the Mister and I went to Hawaii for our second honeymoon. And it was GLORIOUS.

After researching our trip to within an inch of its life (as I’m wont to do), we settled on visiting Kauai since all I wanted to do was sit on the beach and just relax. Kauai worked perfectly since there’s just enough to do but not worry about missing out if all you DID want to do was sit on the beach and just relax.

We went for a week and while it was the perfect amount of time to do most of the things we wanted, it wasn’t long enough because who wants their vacation to end?

We rented a condo in Poipu on the South Shore that was probably a 5 minute walk to Poipu State Beach and offered a great view of the ocean from the lanai.


Here’s all the fun we got into:

Tuesday: Tuesday was our travel day. After a harried arrival at Oakland International (we’re working on leaving earlier for the airport), we just made our flight by a couple of minutes (mahalo to the Hawaiian Airlines staff for working hard to get us through check-in and security!). Thankfully the rest of the trip was delightfully uneventful but the service on Hawaiian was great; they even serve food on the first leg to the Islands! AND once you reach Hawaiian airspace, they gave us a free rum punch. Yes, we were definitely on vacation. Once on Kauai, we geeked out over our first wild chicken sighting at the airport (they are EVERYWHERE), had lunch at Tortilla Republic and lunch dessert at Lappert’s (because vacation) and then settled into our condo.

Wednesday: We woke up early and walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise, saw a monk seal napping on the beach, went hunting for Wailua Falls (my first real waterfall sighting!) and enjoyed the Farmers’ Market at the Shops at Kukui’ula where I sampled some of the most divine lilikoi curd ever.

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Thursday: Our big adventure for the day was ziplining! We ziplined with Skyline Zipline and were treated to a fantastic view of the South Shore while we zipped along 8 different lines. It was a little nerve-wrecking in the beginning knowing that we were pretty high up but the thrill of gliding through the air was amazing. Our guides recommended doing a running start and that certainly amped up the thrills! That night we had dinner at the Dolphin and was treated to a great sunset view and a little begging from a very polite stray cat who sit next to you after you were served your meal. Then I tasted nirvana: it takes of shave ice (I’d go on to have shave ice several more times during the week).

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Friday: We started the day checking out Spouting Horn and then part of the afternoon at Kiahuna Beach. The Mister hung out and read while I swam in the ocean. I didn’t have any snorkeling gear but I still was able to see a blue tang swim by! That evening we headed inland to go to Smith’s Family Luau for our traditional luau experience. I enjoyed the show and even figured out that I like poi! It’s pretty good on pulled pork.

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Saturday: Saturday was our big adventure: a helicopter tour! While we had to sell our figurative soul by going to a timeshare presentation, we did enjoy the discounted tour that we otherwise wouldn’t have taken. It was a great opportunity to see the ENTIRE island – though if you go, try to get a seat on the right side of the copter. I was on the left and except for our spin through Waimea Canyon, I had a fantastic view of the ocean.

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After our tour, we made our way to visit the North Shore and Hanalei Pier but it was kind of rainy and overcast so our trip was cut a bit short. That night we had a delightful dinner at Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House and more shave ice.

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Sunday: After surviving the timeshare presentation (which we are not allowed to do ever again), we had brunch at La Spezia to fuel up for our trek up Waimea Canyon. While we did see the Canyon during our tour the day before (as the Mister so generously reminded me several times), it was still a treat to drive and pull off at almost every possible lookout point (much to the chagrin of the Mister) to see the Canyon from a different perspective. It was definitely worth the drive up! We push through to the literal end of the road for an amazing view of the ocean and part of the Na Pali coast.

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Monday: Monday was our final full day and since we had done all the bigger adventures, we kept it casual, with a morning trip to Poipu Beach (really? Swimming in the ocean on a Monday morning? Be still my heart), followed by lunch at Merriman’s Fish House (it’s so weird to be having lunch while listening to Monday Night Football), then dinner and free hula show at the Poipu Shopping Village and our final sunset in paradise.

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In all, it was an amazing trip and I’m so glad we were able to make it happen. It was a great way to celebrate a second honeymoon and it was such a treat to get away with the Mister. I’m looking forward to coming back and discovering a new island (though Kauai will always be my favorite). Maui, you’re next!

Aloha Kauai. Until we meet again.

Beautiful – even somewhere in the middle

After spending the winter break in Michigan with my in-laws (without snow! In December! I felt kind of ripped off), the husband and I headed back home in a new-to-us car. That’s right; we DROVE from Michigan to California.

3 days, 2,363 miles and 8 states later, we made it home in one piece AND still married. It was quite the feat.

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While this wasn’t my first cross-country trip (that occurred way earlier in life when my family moved from Georgia to California), I had a lot more appreciation for the views along I-80, especially coupled with the small portion of the Oregon Trail we travelled along (why else would anyone be excited (or even know about) stopping in Laramie? Or seeing a roadside sign for Chimney Rock?

There were ‘fording the river’ jokes a plenty.

America is beautiful. From the farm lands in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska to the snowy mountains of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Northern California, there was so much to see and enjoy; views that I normally fly over so it was a joy to be able to actually see them this time. While I took a lot of photos (follow me on Instagram to check them out at #thehalifeCATrail) there were so many more sights I didn’t capture and instead, just enjoyed in the moment.

We were blessed with clear weather after waiting out Winter Storm Goliath the entire way through, which was a major concern given the time of year. While it was interesting to sleep in a different state each night of the trip, boy are we glad to be home in our own bed without the threat of another 6-9 hour drive ahead of us.

That said, I’d totally be up for another road trip; the husband…not so much. But maybe I can start small and work things up. There’s always a mini roadtrip up (or down) the PCH!