How I Cut Back One Week Each Month and Saved an Extra $1000 This Quarter

August 16, 2017

Money is one of the hardest things to open up and talk about for most adults. It's something many people shy away from because we've been taught that it's impolite to discuss. Most of us know only our own salaries and possibly the income of our spouse, and maybe our parents or close friends if they've chosen to be open about it, but it's not rare to be completely unaware of those around you and their relationships with money. In the US, at least, money and the way we spend it seems to be kept on the down-low. While it's probably easier to discuss fiscal investments than, say, credit card debt at the dinner table, most people box money away with dreaded topics like politics and religion, and leave it at that. That's fine, of course because I personally wouldn't prefer to discuss my take-home pay on a first date or with a complete stranger, but since most people aren't used to talking about money on the regular, it can be hard to dive deep into information about budgets and 401ks and the like.

When discussing things like this with my peers, most of them say something along the lines of "I wish we'd been taught more about taxes and retirement in school, rather than having to memorize the periodic table" and though I totally agree that I'd wished I'd learned more about saving for my future than the chemical makeup of chlorine gas, I think our society's relationship with money is partially to blame.

Most young people haven't been taught to navigate things like benefits, investments, money market accounts, when and when you can't pull out of the stock market, insurance premiums, auditing, and wtf is inheritance tax? It's enough to make anyone's head spin.

But when it comes to saving money, there's really not much to it. Here's how I do it:

Make a Budget
Be it through a mobile app (I use Mint) or a traditional excel sheet, the key to creating a budget that works is to keep things realistic and reasonable for your life. Even if you want to, remember that nobody can change all their habits overnight, so when you're first starting out make sure your new plan reflects the way you'd live unbudgeted, just with a few more guidelines. What works for me is keeping the "categories" relatively vague. I feel as though if I budgeted down to the last dime, I'd go way over my "Starbucks" fund in a panic. To keep it simple, I've separated my budget into 8 Categories:
  • Auto & Transport (including Gas, general car expenses, and things like Uber and metro)
  • Bills (including phone, internet, credit card payments, etc.)
  • Entertainment (Netflix, Hulu, going to the movies, random activity expenses)
  • Food (including groceries, going out, and the occasional Taco Bell run)
  • Home (including rent and home necessities)
  • Personal Care (haircuts, skin and beauty products, mani-pedis, etc.)
  • Gifts & Donations
  • Shopping (clothes, shoes, etc.)
Of course your categories may vary greatly from mine - the important thing is that you make a budget that works for you! If I go under budget in any of these categories throughout the month, I transfer those funds to savings or tuck them away for vacation.

Implement a Monthly "No Spend Week"
One of the biggest money savers for me has been choosing one week out of the month to reduce spending to all but the necessities. I use this as a time to use up what's in my pantry, finish almost empty bottles of shampoo, and make do with what I have. I call this a "No Spend Week," and it usually lasts Monday through Friday, but will occasionally stretch it into the weekend. Consider this like a little reset to your spending habits, rather than just putting yourself on an all out spending ban. Not only does this give you the chance to forget about the impulse purchases you have sitting in various online carts, it teaches you what is actually important to you and what you'd like to do with your money when it comes to longer-term goals. Taking a break from spending gives your bank account a minute to breathe, but doesn't deprive you and end in binge-shopping like an all out ban could.

Set a Goal
I was terrible with New Years resolutions back in January, but around the mid-year mark I set a quantitative goal for how much I wanted to have in my savings account by the end of the year, and if everything goes according to plan I'll likely accomplish that. When I'm fawning over a $400 Gucci belt, a $250 cast iron pan, or even $4 at a frozen yogurt shop, I think about my end-of-year goal and it snaps me right back out of it.

Find Resources, Give Yourself Incentives, and Make it Fun
I started watching a YouTube channel called The Financial Diet a few months back that inspired me to keep a better eye on my coin. I liked their simple but reasonable approach to finances, and I found myself learning new things with each one of their videos and blog posts. As for incentives, I've got my big financial goal, but I'm also planning a few smaller scale purchases that won't hurt my goals. It's important to reward yourself every once in a while, even if that spending might seem "counterproductive." Be it a dinner out with each goal you reach, a new dress when you hit a milestone, or putting away a few dollars here and there for a new computer or vacation, find a REASON other than "I'll need to save this for when I'm old." Make sure you have funding for fun!

What are your tricks and tips to saving extra money?

How to Find Anthropologie Style on a Forever21 Budget

August 11, 2017

If you're anything like me, you love that rustic-yet-romantic, effortless, bohemian look that stores like Anthropologie and Free People proudly display. Strolling around these stores are like a whimsical wonderland until, of course, you pick up an item and glance at the price tag.

Being a working girl in my early twenties, I know the value of a dollar. I know just how much I'm willing to spend on any particular category of item. While I have no problem saving up to buy a treat-yo-self item at a higher price, I've been in the shopping game a while, so I know that high price doesn't always guarantee high quality. (I'm looking at you, Urban Outfitters - and anyone that's read my blog for a bit knows how I feel about them.)

Yet, there are ways to achieve that flowy Anthropologie vibe without making your bank account shudder in fear. Plus, by looking elsewhere for these items you run less of a risk of owning all the same things as constant Anthro / Free People shoppers (no shade!) and can curate a look that is totally your own at a fraction of the cost.

Now here's where to look:

Thrift Stores, Antique Shops, and Flea Markets
Ahh, your friendly neighborhood thrift store. Usually badly lit and a bit dingy, but still a wonderful place for treasure hunting. I've found oil paintings with gilded frames, tiki barware, marble coasters, vintage cooking and baking sets, funky glassware, and high end leather goods all for amazing values.

Of course I couldn't write a list about finding stylish things without including my favorite place - Etsy. Etsy, of course, is a magical whirlwind of handmade items of every variety and style you can imagine. Support artists and designers directly, and you could score awesome one of a kind items that could elevate your style and home, often at extremely reasonable prices.

The Boutique Brands
The cool thing about these little boutique brands that you'll find in Anthropologie and Free People is that they're recognizable. I've seen Mario Badescu (also at Ulta Beauty) and Rosebud Perfume Co (which is local to me, who knew?!) to name a few, not to mention Herbivore Botanicals, RMS Beauty, Voluspa, and Capri Blue candles. All of these can be purchased at other retailers or even from their distributors themselves. Shop around before you buy and I'm sure you can find some crazy good deals.

Handcraft Festivals
I bet if you look right now there is at least one craft festival happening in your area this month. Craft festivals are the wild untapped resource for handmade, LOCAL, awesome gifts for yourself and others. You can find handmade ceramics, candles, baskets, jewelry, you name it, at these festivals and the best part is you're often buying directly from the artist and you can talk with them about their craft. It's also often more eco-friendly and ethical than shopping online or at a big box store. Plus, you're stimulating your local economy and supporting a person rather than a corporation. How cool is that?

Craft Stores
That intricate wall hanging? Make it yourself with some macrame string and a YouTube tutorial. That adorably embroidered denim jacket? Hello, iron on some cute patches! When you use your own hands and creativity to make something, it's totally one of a kind AND you get to be extra proud of yourself when you get compliments!

Find Dupes at Better Prices with Simple Keywords
In most cases, it's easy to find an almost identical item at a way cheaper price from another retailer. If there's a top you love that's a bit too pricey, consider its style, material, pattern and color, and search for items with similar characteristics. I recently fell in love with this Anthropologie dress, and with just a simple google search I was able to find this extremely similar dress at Modcloth for a fraction of the price. Not identical, but still just as cute, and comes in a larger variety of sizes as well!

A few stores that carry similar bohemian styles for home and/or fashion are World Market, HomeGoods, TjMaxx, WestElm, Overstock, Amazon, and many more. You just have to look! Macy's and Nordstrom carry Free People brands and always seem to have sales going on!

What are your shopping tips?

It's Okay To... vol. 5

August 07, 2017

It's been a few years since I wrote a post like this, so I figure it's long overdue. It's part of the human condition to have those moments when we're a bit too hard on ourselves, get too wrapped up in work or school, get down in the doldrums for one reason or another, or get in a mood that seems unshakable. It happens sometimes, and there aren't always ways around it and that's okay. So if you'd like a walk down memory lane, I'm here to revisit one of my older post features, a little series I like to call "It's Okay" (as a refresher: here are volumes one, two, three, and four.)

It's okay to...
  • spend time and money on how you look.
  • spend time and money on how you feel.
  • spend time and money on your relationships.
  • cut back on spending in any of those categories when appropriate.
  • make a wishlist of things you'll probably never buy.
  • be someone who hasn't found their LaCroix flavor yet.
  • take a while getting ready, learning a new skill, or finding out what your purpose is.
  • to spend your whole life trying to find out what your purpose is.
  • be the first one to leave the party. We can't all stay forever, plus, someone might be waiting to be the 2nd person to leave, and you could help them out.
  • be afraid of handling the big stuff life will throw at you
  • be afraid of the little stuff sometimes too
  • not know how much to pay into your 401k yet
  • not know what a 401k even is yet (here's a lil info to help)
  • finish the food in your pantry before deciding on a "lifestyle change"
  • try out a lifestyle change and not stick to it permanently (it happens)
  • try out a lifestyle change and commit to it fully, even if it feels unlike you at first.
  • stick to the same drink every happy hour because it's what you know
  • cry when you're happy, angry, or sad.
  • sometimes feel a mix of of those emotions at once.
  • admit you're overwhelmed
  • admit you're underwhelmed (if you're nice about it)
  • spend your night in pajamas watching House Hunters on the couch
  • dislike something that the rest of the general population seems to love
  • not feel or want to be particularly minimalist, "millennial", bohemian, or whatever other buzzword is swirling around at any given moment
  • turn down an opportunity that isn't right for you
  • feel like you've been turned down for an opportunity that seemed perfect
  • feel sad about it
  • or relieved
  • shamelessly avoid making weekend plans so you can bingewatch Shameless
  • take a minute
  • work on yourself
  • enjoy the process

What are your favorite ways to take it easy?

Chicago Day 2 // The Bean, Vegan Milkshakes + Sears Tower

August 04, 2017

Our day in reverse: 

The Bean at night // The view from Willis (Sears) Tower // milkshakes at Bombobar - the matcha one is vegan, and it was extraordinary!! // some lovely architecture // the best eggs benedict EVER for breakfast at Wldberry // The Bean at 7:50 AM

Where have you been traveling lately?
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