Saturday, January 17, 2015

Procrastination Leads to Tress-full Consequences

How is the new year shaking out for all of you?

For whatever reason, I have some sort of mental block when it comes to getting a haircut in a somewhat timely manner, which often leads to badly grown out haircuts. There's always something "better" to do with the time or the money, you know? I also have insanely thick hair, so getting a good haircut can be something of a gamble and I haven't had a really good hairstylist in a few years.

When Gone Girl came out last fall, I fell in love with Rosamund Pike's adorable bob. The secret to avoiding that weird mushroom thing that happens with thick hair is apparently an undercut. Genius. I bought a Groupon and took myself off to a new hairdresser who did an AMAZING job on my hair. I loved it. J loved it. 

However, it's a haircut that requires some upkeep...and I really should have gone in for a trim before Christmas. I didn't. And this week it was driving me crazy, so I called for an appointment but the awesome hairstylist wasn't available. I booked in with someone else.

To quote Vivian from Pretty Woman...


Instead of a trim of my cute bob...

I ended up with this.

Yeah, Susan, I'm dreaming of a day when my hair didn't suck so bad.

Being in the chair was like watching an accident in slow motion. My hair completely stumped the poor woman, who was really trying to give me what I wanted. She chopped, she thinned, she tried new was helmet hair, it was newscaster hair, it was everything but what I wanted my hair to be. Honestly, I should have stopped her way before we got to the tragic bangs. There's nothing to do at this point but let it grow. In a month or so I'll let Awesome Stylist back at it.

Lesson learned? Don't put off getting trims, and it's worth waiting for someone who knows how to cut your hair.

The GOOD thing about today? As I left the salon-not in tears but definitely shaken-I spotted a little antique shop along the way, and decided to walk through to calm my shattered nerves.

That's when I spotted this.

That's right, a bright red enameled Le Creuset dutch-or french-oven. I looked at the tag. It said "Red Pot for Food Cooking" and had a price of ten dollars. I swear, I don't think anyone ever cooked in it. It's pristine, and I've wanted a good dutch oven forever. I'm so excited. And as a genius friend pointed out, long after this horrid haircut is but a memory I'll still have and love my beautiful new dutch oven. 

It also plays nicely into a goal I have been doing really well with-cooking and eating at home. We've only had one emergency takeout all month, and that was on a night when I was hours late leaving work. I'll take it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best Money I've Ever Spent

Money is so freaking difficult to talk about in a real, meaningful way. It feels impolite and boastful and shameful and wrong somehow. Maybe it's just me? God knows J's been known to share arcane details of our financial lives with perfect strangers {side note-certain buttons on my laptop like the exclamation point aren't working. Ugh. I neeeeeed my exclamation points.}

Heading into last year our financial situation was looking up. We had good health insurance, which with J's condition was an absolute godsend. I had an awesome, full-time job. This blog was still bringing in a smidge of money, and I still freelanced from time to time.

We do have debt. Luckily, not consumer {i.e. credit card} debt. My student loans. We started making inroads there, and I will take openly in painful detail about that later. We just weren't getting as ahead as I wanted us to be.

I'd been using Mint for awhile, so I knew where we went wrong with our spending, but it felt like shutting the barn door after your favorite horse has bolted. I needed to get out in front of the issues instead of tracking them.

So one day I was browsing a fashion blog {maybe Corporette?}  and a commenter mentioned You Need A Budget. I went to the website, downloaded it, looked at it, and shut my computer in horror.

With Mint you hook up your bank accounts and it tells you how much money you have, where you are spending it, what you are spending it on. It requires no effort on your part. You just receive the data.

YNAB could NOT be more different. When I opened it, instead of a web app that would do the work for me I see what looks like an excel spreadsheet on steroids. I was expected to set up endless categories, manually input transactions...everything. Why, in the twenty-first century, would I want to do this?

I read some YNAB success stories and decided I should at least try it. I spent a rainy summer Saturday taking their online classes-which are awesome, by the way-and it started to make sense. I needed to manually run YNAB because I needed to take back control of our money.

This is how YNAB works. You budget the money you currently have. For example, I was paid on the thirtieth. I'll be paid again on the fifteenth. What do I need the money I currently have to do? Well, rent, our utilities, and my phone are all due before I'm paid again. We'd also like to eat and put gas in the car {although my next check really covers our discretionary spending}. So I open YNAB and assign my paycheck dollars to those categories until I have no more money. That's it.

There are apps for your android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle. The apps let you record transactions. Did you fill up at the gas station? You enter the amount spent and the category {gas}, and what account you used {checking debit? Visa?}.

The gamechanger about YNAB is that you spend by category instead of bank balance. Out of money in your dining out category? Better start the water for pasta, because you are eating in tonight, sister. That is what's revolutionized our monetary situation. It lets us easily draw the line between "yes, we have the money but no, we don't have the money for that." It also helps plan for irregular expenses, map out your saving strategy, and point out spending black holes {again, for us, eating out}.

I've been spoiled by "free" apps and websites, so I really searched for a free or cheaper alternative. I tried making a spreadsheet. I tried some cheaper alternatives. In the end, I decided sometimes you have to spend money. It really was money well spent.

I'll stop now, but I really encourage anyone who'd like stronger control over their finances to check it out. It seems like it goes on sale pretty regularly; check out the YNAB forums {they are also full of awesome money talk}, someone always posts the sales. A Steam sale {that I posted on Facebook} offered YNAB at seventy-five percent off. I bought it during an AppSumo sale for around half off. However, if you want to buy it and there's not a current sale you can use my affiliate link which saves you six dollars and makes me six dollars.

other than the off-chance someone might use my affiliate code, I haven't been paid, perked, or anything else for this post


Thursday, January 1, 2015


How very, very basic of me. Here it is, New Years Day 2015, and I'm about to publish a list of goals for the year. Which-let's be honest-is basically just a trick of wording to deny I'm making New Years resolutions.

Certain people are awesome, ready made adults. I was never one of these people. I swear I was better at adulthood at fifteen than I am now. It's depressing. And it can feel impossible to really fix your broken disaster of a life. But that's exactly what I've spent the last couple of years doing-fixing my broken life. It's never to late to get it together.

Some of these goals are carryovers from last year and some specific things I've been working on steadily over the last few months. Knowing I've been able to make and sustain these changes gives me confidence I'll be able to attack more areas of my life. And it seemed right to start documenting my attempts at being a real, functioning adult {way, way late in the game} because as I was starting the process of getting it together I kept looking for a blog detailing a similar journey. I didn't really find it {although I do love Adulting}. So why not chronicle my experiences?

These are the fifteen in fifteen I'll be working on this year. These aren't in any order of importance, by the way.

  1. Read more. Everyone who knows me in real-life just laughed out loud. I'm a voracious reader. The last year, though, I've really struggled with finishing books. Part of it is a time crunch, part of it is I'm just distracted. So I'm setting a goal of reading twenty-five books this year, which sounds doable {I'm trying not to overwhelm myself}. You can follow along and make fun of my book choices at Goodreads.
  2. Socialize. This is basically my life. I get up, go to work, come home, hang out with J and the furs {which I love}, go to bed, do it again. For many reasons I severely pulled back from the world but it's time to rejoin fully. My own lameness keeps me from lots of fun social things-last night my best friend texted me to come to her party, but I was already passed out at ten o'clock. On New Years Eve. Must work on this. I've joined a book club and the first meeting is in a few weeks {and a book club will also help me work on goal one. Yay for efficiency}.
  3. Money, Money, Money. This is one of the goals I've already started working on. I'll do a big post soon. 
  4. Cook. I love cooking. I've written before about struggling to kick the take out habit. It's time to take my own advice and reboot my kitchen habits. Eating at home will also support my money {i.e. have more of it} goal.
  5. Do one new thing with J each month. Maybe it's playing a new board game, checking out a museum, trying a new cuisine, making something rules, other than doing something new together monthly. 
  6. Walk. Here's another area of my life where I've gotten lazy. Here's an area with a simple fix available. At least three times a week I'm going to put Emily on her leash and walk around our {wonderfully walkable and scenic} neighborhood. I want to get into better shape without making a big deal about it. This will help.
  7. Drink Water at Work. I can have coffee when I get to work, but I'm giving up keeping a two-liter of Coke under my desk. Water, water, water. I'm not going to say I'm giving up soda all together, but not drinking it at work will help keep it under control. 
  8. Keep on keeping on at work. I love my job. I feel lucky to have it. I actually thinking working on my other goals will help me be better at work.
  9. Calendar my life. This one of those areas I'm already working on. I found a system that really works well for me. Now I need to consistently work the system throughout the year.
  10. Blog weekly. This is part of the accountability factor of working on my goals, but also I actually enjoy writing and blogging and have missed it. 
  11. Unf?ck our habitat. We've lived here for four years. It's amazing the amount of sheer nonsense you can accumulate in four years. Weirdly, this is one of those areas where working on our money helped our house. I'll explain more later. I've been decluttering, organizing, and scrubbing all week.
  12. Make home home. Again, we've lived here four years. We're going to live here at least another year. Time to really make it work for us, and to invest in things that will work for us no matter where we live. A great kitchen cart. Matching plates. Eventually a new sofa. 
  13. My poor car. I love my car, so why do I let it deteriorate into a trash heap? Yes, I have a long commute. That's not a good enough excuse. 
  14. Use my degree. Yes, I love my job but I miss working on genealogy and historic preservation projects. There's a chance I might get some freelance work this year in these fields, but even if I don't I need to plan and work on some projects.
  15. Remember why I'm doing this.
This is what I've learned over the last couple of years. Start where you are. Is your whole life one big mess? You can't fix it all at once. I found a great job. My self-confidence started to increase. I had more disposable income. I started working on really getting on top of my money situation. Etc. 

My life isn't perfect and even if I work hard at all these goals all year it still won't be perfect. It will be better, and it will be better for J and our beloved furs.

So. What are you working on this year?


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