Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Reflections

As I was driving home from the city tonight, I was reflecting on my life this year. I know the year isn't quite over. There are probably plenty of things that could happen to me in the next 5 days before the new year starts. But, I still have things that I'd like to acknowledge. Some are things that you may already know about, some are things you may not. Either way, I think it's healthy to take a step back and look at what one has accomplished and learned. So here it goes: 

Living: I moved once this year (yahoo!). I like my neighborhood, me and the roommate are just as good if not better friends than when I moved in. I'd say that since I moved here, I eat a lot more Portillo's and yummy pizza than I should. 

Work: I'm on my 3rd job. I started at the salon, moved here to work retail, now am doing business development. I'm so happy I worked retail for the last year. Being a manager and working my way up in the fashion world was fun - but my personal life felt very lacking. Luckily, my great networking and sales skills landed me an interview for my current position. I started in September and am very much looking forward to what 2011 will bring. 

Financial: With a new job came a nice pay increase. Since I started in September, I now have 1/3 less debt than when I started. I'd like to pat myself on the back for that one. :) 

Health: My cholesterol was tested recently: 182 - yes! I told the nurse she was my favorite person. I also lost about 15 pounds over the course of the last year. I did it unintentionally - the joys of running around in 3-inch heels for 8 hours a day combined with having time to eat half a salad and a handful of pita chips for lunch. But I'll take it! 

Friends: One of my best friends had her first child in June, and I'm a happy Auntie Mer. It's so exciting seeing him growing up. One of my other bff's is expecting her first child in March. It's been great catching up with old friends, Purdue friends, and my roomie and I try to have fun whenever we can. I get to see so many of my favorite people on a regular basis - how lucky am I? 

Family: Seeing my family more regularly has been awesome. They live about 2 hours away, so I've been able to see them at least once a month. We had some loss this year - a cousin in Florida who was nothing but wonderful to me when I lived there. And one of our family dogs - any of you animal lovers will understand that it's like losing a family member. I saw my family a few days after, which was good to see them after the tough week they had at home. After living in Florida for a year, I'm grateful that I'm able to be driving distance instead of flying distance. 

Love: Yep, this will make the list for 2010. We'll call him Mr. L. We met at the end of May and we've enjoyed every moment since then. He's my partner and I can go to him with anything. I feel loved and laugh every day - both at him and with him. He supports me in ways I didn't think I needed anyone to, and I'm so happy he's become such an important part of my life.

Miscellaneous: As the year wraps up, I've been able to take part in a yoga class and I started volunteering with Junior Achievement again. My schedule now allows me to take a little bit of time for myself to help kids and do what I need to do to re-center. In fact, traveling to Boston and Naples would fall into that category. I visited friends in Boston. Mr. L and I went to FL for 5 days to soak up some sunshine before the holiday madness. So this is what it's like to feel like a normal human being, eh? 

I think that's basically my year in a nutshell. I have some things to be proud of, some things I may have done differently, but overall - I'd say 2010 was successful. Lots of learning, lots of love, and lots of fun - I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, August 2, 2010

10 months.

That's how long I have before my living situation could change. It could potentially run longer than that, but with roommate graduating from grad school and finding employment who knows where, I could very well need a new place to live in that time. And right now, I can't afford it. 

Sticking to a budget has proved to be difficult for me. But with the help of family and friends, I will be held accountable for any extraneous shopping I feel I should be able to do. I think I don't make enough money, but the reality is that I can pay my bills. Choosing to purchase X, Y, and Z for $100 each is my poor choice. So, instead of shopping, I'll be watching my credit card bill get smaller while my savings account gets bigger. 

How much more do I need anyway? I have plenty of shoes. My work wardrobe is taken care of. I always think I need new jeans, but I never wear jeans. "When have you seen me wear jeans?" - me to manfriend. His response: "Um....never." Exactly. I have dresses, sweatshirts, tshirts, and running shoes that are old, but fine since it's not like I run marathons. 

Working retail, you tell everyone every day that they NEED these new items - it's like nothing they've ever seen before! I love everything we sell at work and wish I could have it all. But why do I need it? It's time to start ignoring what I tell other people. Just because the stuff I have isn't the newest, doesn't mean it's not sufficient for what I need it to do. There's a lot to be said for living more simply. 

Yesterday I played kickball with manfriend and friends (pause for WTF?! moment. I actually enjoyed it and was not horrible at it). I didn't miss shopping one bit and I didn't even care that I was in a tshirt and basketball shorts in public. It was free, it was a beautiful day to be outside, and I met some new people who just like to have fun together. Those days of real human interaction seem so few and far between for me. It was nice to just worry about who's turn it was to kick instead of worrying about what people thought of my outfit. 

I think of myself as a material girl, but maybe material girls need a break from their material world sometimes too. And if breaking from that materialism will get me what I want (a place downtown no matter how tiny) in 10 months, that seems worth it to me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Land of Opportunity

What happens when opportunity knocks at the door you're not you want to open?

I have the best problem to have: potential new jobs while having a job. And the job I have, I like it for the most part. The honeymoon period is over and the last few weeks have really tested me, but I like the basic job function and the people I work with. I feel like I'm coming to a sort of crossroads in my career (whatever it is I think I'm doing). Do I want to stay in the industry I have a love/hate relationship with, or do I venture back home to try something that may or may not lead to bigger and better later?

Financially, especially long-term, I would probably be better off leaving. At this point that's the only thing that sounds like a good enough reason to pick up and go (again). The problem is that I'm getting some resemblance of a life here. Plans every week with different people, roommate shenanigans, enjoying days off in the city, a new boo (yes, but that's all you get for now). My point is that my network of Chicagoans is growing and I don't know if I'm ready to leave them. As much as my schedule is not 9-5, having a day off during the week means I can get downtown and relax while everyone else is at work. Working evenings til 9pm means I'm not sitting in front of the TV and I still get home by 10 at the latest. And Saturdays in retail fly by when you're working. It is now weird to me when I have a Saturday off. I never thought that would happen.

Yes, vacation time is tricky and I still get phone calls from the store on my days off. But the calls are fewer now and I trust they'll keep dwindling. And the reality is that I make my own schedule. If I want to take a long weekend, it's easier to just schedule it in so I don't have to take vacation time. That kinda rocks.

Say I left for something a little more "normal": i.e. regular Monday through Friday, flexible vacation time, weekends off. This opportunity is not in Chicago, so does that mean I spend every weekend in the city? Driving two hours every once in awhile is not a big deal, but every weekend? That could get old real quick. Would the money be worth being away from my new network of peeps I'm growing accustomed to? Sure, a few friends are back home and family is obviously there. But I can't help but remember that living there, all I wanted was to be here. Now that I'm living here, I don't have the same yearning to live there.

While I think it's important to love what you do 40 hours a week, I also think it's important to love where you're living. If I'm not hating what I'm doing, maybe my love for Chicago will trump whatever comes up elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


My birthday has come and gone and I couldn't ask for better friends and family who love and support me. I had a blast this weekend and worked yesterday. Today I had the day off and was able to take care of some things, including my credit card!

As I was reading a health magazine today, I came across some interesting financial things, too. It not only inspired me, but allowed me to research some more about paying off credit card debt. I'm a girl who loves a quick fix and thinks that paying off X amount should take no time at all. Ha.

Turns out my giant credit card bill could take longer than I'd anticipated. But, given my research, this is nothing to be discouraged by. I think I needed the reality check to understand that this is actually a bigger undertaking than I thought. Kind of like eating horribly and not exercising means it takes no time to gain weight, spending ridiculously adds up really quickly. The catch is that you can't just drop the pounds immediately and the same goes for your bills. Just because you spend more doesn't mean you magically start making more.

So today marks the beginning of a new journey: responsible spending. This is a new concept for me. I've always felt that if I want something, I'm entitled to have it and should therefore purchase it for myself. My expensive taste has led to purchases I love, but it's time to get real. What can I actually afford?

With budget in hand (aka, easily accessible on my computer for frequent reference), I am ready to go into the world and find affordable things to buy and do. Some ideas I have already:

1. Work. I get a discount and can afford to buy one (maybe two depending on the price) item a month and still have money left to have fun with. I don't really need to buy clothes every week, so this should be reasonable.
2. Target. Great for basics, especially summer clothes that I'll wear for three months and then put away again. No need to feel like I need designer stuff that I can't even wear all the time!
3. Outlets, TJMaxx, Nordstrom Rack, etc. For the designer love in me, these places all offer great items at affordable prices. It may take some rummaging (which I've loathed in the past), but getting a good deal that I can pay cash for comfortably is well worth it.

I can still have a fashion-forward summer wardrobe, I just don't need to into debt to have things I'll wear for three months. A few basic tops, basic dresses, a new pair of sandals and I'm good to go. Of course, after May 31st. (I grounded myself from shopping the rest of the month, remember?)

As I go, I'll probably post my purchases on here to keep myself accountable for what I'm buying. By writing it down for you to see, it will force me to be aware of what I'm spending.

I'm excited to make some real progress!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Year of the Tiger

Those who know me well know I have a birthday coming up. It's my golden birthday (the date is the same as the year I'm turning) and I've always looked forward to my golden birthday. When I was in grade school, I always imagined what I would be like when my golden birthday came. The hope was that I'd be a fabulous adult living in an awesome place downtown with an awesome job, driving a really nice car with life totally figured out. Guess again!

Mind you, I'm happy where I am and enjoy my wheels, but the whole figuring-out-life thing is definitely a life-long process you don't realize when you're in grade school. One thing I still have yet to figure out, and this a biggie: money.

Remember a couple posts ago when I was asking how much is enough? Well according to my budget, I have plenty to live. Living expenses, car expenses, and even some money is thrown into my budget. And guess what else needs to stay in my budget right now? My credit card bill.

My store credits are paid in-full with every bill I get, which is why I rarely put things on store credit. But my major credit card, that's a different story. And it's a sad one at that.

I have a plan. In my budget, I allot for credit card bills. Great! That's a step in the right direction - that means I can pay it off, right? Ideally, yes. For me, probably not.

So here's my birthday gift to myself, to celebrate my golden year: No using the credit card until it's paid off. My living expenses are good and I still have fun money. There's virtually no actual reason to use my credit card. It's time to buckle-down and save like normal people for things. I always like to think I'll pay back my credit card right away, but it's so much easier to forget about it and just pay the minimum payment when it comes. So this year's the year.

Disclaimer - I'm giving myself until my actual birthday to start this challenge for myself. But to be safe, I've grounded myself from shopping for the rest of the month.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ask and you shall Receive...

Today I felt like myself again. After months of soul-searching, moving, waiting, and not shopping, I felt rejuvenated.

I ventured downtown tonight to scope out the art district. It's galleried streets offer window art ready for you to take in, green tea frappucino in-hand. It was also home to a style event that showcased Chicago designers selling and talking about what they love: the living art of fashion.

It was wickedly hot inside, but the complementary cocktails and sushi helped. It also helped being surrounded by so much creativity. Jewelry, bags, dresses, get the picture. I even ran into a designer who graduated from Purdue! I, of course, purchased a lovely dress for summer from her. I looked at it as my way of supporting local arts. It was a fantastic evening of food, new friends, and our love of fashion. Being able to talk to the people who worked so hard to present these pieces was awesome. It's like any other artist, really. They have these brilliant thoughts and things to say. They just don't verbalize their thoughts, they instead create them for the world to enjoy and interpret. It was nice to be able to compliment the person who fabricated the garment you'll wear this summer. Despite the drive into and out of the city (Chicago construction is awesome!), I'd do this every day if I could.

It's important to have these days sometimes, to remind us of what we truly enjoy. It refreshes you, keeps you on your toes. Or luckily, for me, motivates me even more to continue on the path that I'm on.

Speaking of which, the last time I posted I mentioned waiting for opportunities. My opportunity came the day after, and I interviewed and officially accepted a new position. Funny how things work out, huh?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's Enough?

I left my full-time salary-with-benefits-job to pursue a career in the industry that truly interests me. This particular industry is a blast to work in; I have fun almost every day. The hours are all over the place. The clients are interesting. And I get to dress people in fabulous clothing and accessories - pretty sweet!

Since I moved back to the Midwest, money has been a huge concern for me. Living in FL, I was starting on the path of financial hope - hope that my bills could get paid, I could money in savings, and my debt would be finished. My job was steady, so it was completely feasible to accomplish all of these things. However, I love to shop, eat, go out for the occasional beer/cocktail, and travel. So saving real amounts of money was difficult for me. Then I moved home for 6 months with no living expenses, a car to pay for, and a credit card and apartment fees to pay on less than half my previous income. Totally capable of taking care of myself financially in the comfort of my parents' house, yet it still didn't happen. So, moving to a new, steadier job seemed like the logical thing to do next. Living at home with no living expenses wasn't deterring me from spending on silly things, so living on my own working my way up in a company made sense.

Now I'm here. And it still doesn't feel like enough. I work hard, things are progressing well. I tell myself weekly that financially, I should be good to go within a year. Once I'm making more money, my concerns for finance will cease. My credit card will be taken care of, I'll have money in savings, I'll even make enough to live in my own place again. But I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm going to be poor forever. (Ok, that was dramatic, maybe not forever). When does this feeling go away? How much money does it take to not feel poor? Is it a specific number? Maybe when my credit card is paid off, will that mean I can relax a little? And will I really be able to do it in a year?

Perhaps it's time to make myself truly accountable by using the internet to budget for myself. By sharing my credit card progress, maybe I can keep motivating myself to keep up on my finances better instead of just paying bills because they're there. I try to tell myself that I don't need to go out all the time because I'm still paying off probably 2 years of fun on my credit card. Shouldn't that be enough motivation?

Maybe there's never enough. Enough money, time, motivation, energy...maybe it's all about doing the best you can with what you have. Maybe that's the question I should start asking myself: am I truly doing the best I can with what I have? If we ask ourselves this question regularly, I wonder what kind of answers (and excuses) we can come with...

Friday, March 12, 2010


New job. New place. New roommate. New diet?

I've been recently inspired to research more in-depth about natural and organic eating. I buy a lot of healthy food, but am a sucker for snacks that aren't so healthy and if there's ice cream in the freezer, forget about it. What would happen if I took the extra time and invested in buying and cooking all-natural, all the time?

Supposedly we can get all our nutrients from food, right? By researching "power foods", I'm finding that by incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your daily diet, your body can look and feel better. I'm all about exercise to do this too, but eating to look better? Who woulda thunk it?

So now I'm doing an experiment, and it's basically starting right now. I'm going to load up on greens (not just romaine), whole grain everything, fruits, and legumes. I'll start cooking them the way our bodies are meant to absorb them. Then see what the results are. Benefits I read about include maintaining a healthy weight, better skin, improved digestive tract, and just overall healthy glow. Well, I wanna glow too.

I labeled this post Life-changing because it's one of my favorite phrases when describing food. For example, life-changing coconut shrimp, key lime pie, and other assorted cholesterol-unfriendly items. In an effort to help my cholesterol and overall well-being, I plan to make healthy food life-changing because it really can be. I expect some slip ups along the way, but I'll try to keep remembering this phrase adapted from a friend: "There is no food that tastes as good as healthy feels."