No Spend January: Day 12 Update

Since I’m sure you are all just dying to know how I have been handling a month of no spending (see previous post for more deets!) I thought I would provide a quick update.

Honestly? So far so good! Although I have not been perfect (SHOCKER!) I am still feeling really positive about the challenge and am finding it surprisingly…easy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There have definitely been some challenging moments and I have had to be more mindful about where I go and what I do, but overall I feel really…empowered. Stick with me here! I know it sounds cheesy but it’s TRUE. This whole thing is taking nonsensical spending off the table and making me actually STOP and think more about where my money is going. Because believe me, when you can’t spend it, you analyze the hell out of it. Instead of spending MONEY, I’ve been spending a lot of TIME researching and working to create a realistic plan that will help me reach my ultimate goal of saving $4,000 in 2016. Because while this challenge is about maximizing savings in January, the true point of it all is to set me up for a successful year of saving!

Getting back to the part where I haven’t been perfect… 😦 Overall, I am really proud of how I have done for the first third of the month and am truly looking forward to finishing strong. That said, I HAVE spent money on a couple things outside the realm of “necessities”:

  • I used a Groupon to get Starbucks one morning (I purchased said Groupon last month before I decided to do the challenge, so it’s debatable that this is actually cheating, but I do feel a bit guilty about it nonetheless so it’s going on the list.)
  • I bought a lotto ticket. Ugh. Okay, fine, you got me. I bought TWO lottery tickets! Not super proud of this but Powerball is insane right now ($1.5 Billion!) and even though I’m smart enough to know the odds are completely against me on this one, there’s still that “somebody’s gotta win!” part of me that wouldn’t shut up. YOLO?
  • I didn’t cancel Ipsy in time, so that was a $10 charge that went through that is definitely not a necessity. I did pause Hulu so I won’t be charged this month. However, the pause doesn’t start for a few more days so we’ll see how “easy” I think this whole No Spend January thing is once I can’t binge watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians until I can’t see straight. What?

 

So, that’s the damage. If you count the Starbucks, I’ve spent $20 unnecessarily. Again, not perfect, but it’s way less money than I would have spent were I not doing the challenge so I’m still really proud of myself!

I’m excited that the No Spend challenge will help me manage impulse shopping going into the rest of the year. Sure, I could make a list of all the things I wanted to buy this month and then just buy them next month once the challenge is over, but honestly, I haven’t really felt deprived. Anything that might normally have piqued my interest (e.g. $10 Sale on 3-wick candles at Bath and Body Works!) doesn’t seem like such an awesome deal when you a) forget about it b) notice you already have 17 other candles and c) realize that life went on without you catching the biggest bargain of the century and now you are that much richer!

How are your 2016 goals shaping up so far?

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Wait ‘Til I Get My Money Right

Happy 2016, folks! January 1 is such a good feeling, isn’t it? So promising. Tis the season for resolutions! I know a lot of people are against making resolutions and a lot of people also make a lot of resolutions that they don’t end up keeping. (Myself included.)

 

This one should be easy!

 

Despite the bad rap resolutions get, I enjoy making lists and I think it’s smart to evaluate your choices/lifestyle/character and be honest with yourself about what you would like to improve. I don’t think you have to wait until a new year to do it, but it’s as good a time as any and I support anyone who wants to challenge themselves to be or do better.

I’ve pinpointed several things I want to work on this year, but my absolute NUMBER ONE goal for 2016 is to get my money right. I’m awful when it comes to finances! Yes, my bills are always paid on time, often even early! But the embarrassing truth is I have nothing in savings and I’m bleeding hundreds of dollars a month.

TRUTHBOMB!

I did the math and the numbers don’t lie. After I pay for everything I need to pay for in a month – all bills, loans, rent, gas and groceries – there is a nice little chunk essentially unaccounted for.

Money that could be used to:

  • Pay off my car YEARS early or
  • Put THOUSANDS of dollars in savings or
  • Go on a cool trip or
  • All of the above, eventually!

Money that is actually going to:

  • Idk
  • Coffee
  • TJ Maxx? Target?
  • Brunch
  • Idk
  • Pedicures
  • iTunes
  • Protein bars
  • SERIOUSLY, IDK!

I believe that life should be enjoyed and that it’s a-okay to treat yo’self sometimes! But I also know that I need to be realistic about the kind of sacrifices that are necessary if I want to save money for an emergency, travel, or a house someday. My goal this year is to figure out where that line is and find a happy spot where I’m not depriving myself of anything but also being smart about saving to achieve some short- and long-term goals. It will definitely be an ongoing process.

My first step is a No-Spend-January. I’m challenging myself to ONLY pay for necessities for the entire month. Again, that’s bills, loans, rent, gas and groceries. I’m hoping this will act as a “reset” and help me build some good habits to take into the rest of the year! I’m a little scared, to be honest, but I know it will help me realize how much mindless spending I’m doing and what I can and can’t cut back on.

There are a few exceptions. (Duh.)

Things I already had planned for the month that I will not be canceling:

  • Dinner with a friend I haven’t seen since I switched jobs
  • Bday gift for my sister
  • Gym membership, healthy food, doggy daycare for Herb if we’ll be gone all day or overnight (Things that may seem “extra” but that I deem “necessities” – I think it’s important to be honest about these and know what I just have to work into my budget!)

I have really been looking forward to Kansas City Restaurant week, which is this month, but I know if I want to be serious about this challenge, I have to skip it. I’ve also paused my Ipsy and Hulu for the month. I mean business!

I think the hardest thing for me will be eliminating my morning coffee stops. I usually stop by Dunkin or Starbucks a couple of times a week! I know it adds up like crazy and I’m hoping that once I see how much I can save it’ll be easier to resist.

Good luck to all my other resolution setters out there. You can do it! If you have any tips for saving, please let me know… I need all the help I can get. 🙂

Brow-gress

A couple of years ago I realized that skinny brows were no longer in. (Were they ever? I wouldn’t know…no one ever taught me wrong from right when it came to this very important very face-affecting matter. LOOKING AT YOU MOM.)

Anyway, this was an issue, because by this point I had been plucking my brows into very skinny, shapeless squiggles for about ten years. I made the decision to let them fill in, thinking it would be a matter of mere months before I would have the bold brows of Cara Delevingne, or at least, you know, not look like a tweezers-happy 90s chick.

This was not the case. It turns out if you’ve been plucking your brows into the same shape (or in my case, lack of shape) for a long time, it’s possible that hair will never grow back in. EVER. The internet told me so. It was looking pretty bleak.

Had I killed my arch forever? I was determined to find out. The first order of business was throwing out the tweezers. OK, that’s a lie. I didn’t throw them away because a unibrow is not cute on anyone and I also suffer from a rogue black hair that sprouts up on my chin from time to time (don’t lie- you’ve got one too). SO, the tweezers stayed. But I did commit to myself and those around me that I was NOT going to tweeze a single eyebrow hair for a month. (Pro tip: if you want to stick to something, tell everyone you know you’re going to do it. They will not care at all but it’s always fun to talk about yourself and this will help to create an illusion of accountability.)

Like I said, I initially expected that this No-Tweeze-WhateverMonthItWas was going to end with me being a heavy-browed-mega-babe. What actually happened was nothing. One month turned into two which turned into three and although my brows started looking a bit scragglier, they were still as thin as ever. To spare you more long drawn out details, it ended up taking about two years of not plucking at all before I could confidently consider my brows to be fuller. This was two years of them becoming gradually scragglier and scragglier until finally they started to actually fill in (still scraggly…). About two years into this process I started getting them professionally waxed but I still do not touch them myself. I can’t be trusted! To this day there are still spots that haven’t filled in and maybe never will, but I do feel that the difference is dramatic and the sparse spots are nothing a bit of brow powder won’t help!

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Top: How my brows looked from about 2004-2013. Middle: Now, natural. Bottom: Now, filled in with powder.

All of that said, if you’re looking to fill in over plucked brows, the best thing you can do is drop the tweezers and be patient. A couple of other things that I did/used along the way that may or may not have had any effect but probably didn’t hurt:

  • Brow razors – Used in lieu of plucking to somewhat manage unruliness while they grew
  • Brow brush –  I like to think that this stimulated growth or something but in actuality it probably did not. In any case, brushing up (at least in my case) helps to create a fuller look.
  • Hair, Skin and Nails vitamins (Biotin)
  • Brow powder
  • Find an esthetician who listens to you and understands what you want (S/O to Haylan at Orchard Corners Beauty Brands – you da real MVP!)
  • Remember that your brows are sisters, not twins. There is just no making them identical and that’s okay!

The moral of this story? There isn’t one … PSYCH! There’s three!

1) I, like any other vain Millennial, just enjoy boasting my accomplishments. (Yes, I consider this an accomplishment!)

2) If you’re trying to fill in your brows, be patient. It will take a hell of a lot longer than you would probably guess.

3) If you are the mother of a girl, please do not let her near a pair of tweezers. Take her to a salon where she can get those puppies properly shaped. Start ‘em young, ladies, start ‘em young.

Bunny Bait Recipe

Happy (almost) Easter, friends!

I have a confession to make. I have bought five (FIVE!) bags of Bunny Bait Trail Mix in the last month. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, run, don’t walk, to the nearest Target and GET SOME WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

You see, this stuff is really just about as good as it gets. Crunchy, salty and somehow outrageously sweet without being too sweet.

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Swoon.

But this isn’t a love letter about Target trail mix. This is my recipe for making your own Bunny Bait snack mix at home. With all the good stuff and not too many pretzels and lots of chocolate but not too much chocolate and plenty of salty to balance and cute little bunny graham cookies and … oh, am I rambling?

If there is anything I love more than finding a new treat at the grocery store, it’s making my own version at home. I also love an excuse to make treats, so I like to make things that I can share. I made a huge batch and brought it to work, bagged some up for the neighbors, and plan to take some to Easter festivities this weekend.

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The great thing about this “recipe” is that you can use whatever you want or whatever you have on hand to make however much you want. There are lots of recipes on Pinterest that are great inspiration for ideas, but it’s really a no-brainer: pick a couple snacky things, a couple candies and something for volume. Douse it all in white chocolate. BOOM baby!

I recommend:

  • popcorn
  • pretzels
  • cereal
  • peanuts
  • bunny grahams
  • m&ms
  • white chocolate
  • sprinkles

First things first, pop your popcorn.

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Poppity pop pop.

In a large container, mix together all ingredients except white chocolate and sprinkles. Ratios are up to you. I like to turn the container to mix it, but you can shake it gently or use your hands.

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If you splurge on anything, get the peanut butter m&ms! They don’t go as far as plain m&ms but they are infinitely superior. 🙂
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Hoppity hop hop.
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Whole grains for your health! I hereby declare this an acceptable breakfast food. 

When everything is mixed thoroughly, pour melted white chocolate over the top. (Candiquik comes in a microwaveable tray and melts quickly.) Mix again.

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Make sure everything is coated evenly! Add the sprinkles. Don’t be shy! Mix well.

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Enjoy!

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Have a fun add-in idea? I would love to hear it. Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Don’t Forget to Look Up

Last weekend I went back to Manhattan to visit an old friend who is getting married soon.

We went bridesmaid dress shopping and kicked it old school. It was great catching up, and on my way out of town, I stopped at the Konza Prairie Trails for a hike before the drive back to Kansas City.

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The Konza is one of my favorite places. I discovered my love for hiking there. As a child my family vacations were camping trips. We camped, we hiked, I hated it. It wasn’t until college that I started hiking on my own, for enjoyment and clarity.

There were many times back then that I sought clarity and peace and found it on the prairie. (Me! The-girl-who-hated-hiking!) There is just something about being alone in nature, sun on your skin and only your thoughts to keep you company that really makes you face whatever is on your mind. As an added bonus, the endorphins from getting your heart rate up are a total mood booster. To this day, hiking is one of my favorite activities – alone or with friends!

Whether you need to clear your head, focus on a thought, or just want to enjoy the great outdoors and burn some calories, a hike is always a good choice. I have several favorite trails in Kansas City, but I have missed the Konza and was thrilled the weather was so agreeable. I hit the six-mile loop and soaked up the sun.

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Lately I have made it a goal to look up, on hikes but also in life. It’s easy to miss what you are really looking for if you are too busy focusing on not tripping.

Do you have a favorite trail? Where do you like to go to clear your head?