Remember how we were planning to do ‘No Spend April?’ That was a great idea. Remember how we bought a house? Funny story: when you have a house you’re also responsible for the property.
We don’t have a lawnmower.
Now we are debating gas v. electric and determining what needs to be done outside while it’s nice enough to be out.
While our plans for April have changed, we are still looking forward to the new season.We have some projects that will be hopefully taking place soon (next month– I’m still going to ATTEMPT to keep myself under control during April), and I’ll be finally planting a garden this year! Keep an eye out for updates.
I’m not sure how you spent your last week, but most of mine was spent with this guy:
Ed Sheeran‘s newest- ‘Divide’- came out last Friday. I’m not too proud to tell you it’s been on repeat since.
Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. Or 83. And get ready to cry and call your mom after ‘Supermarket Flowers.’
The other thing I’ve been focused on this week is the budget.
Last year, I managed to pay off around $8000 of debt (in full).This year I want to up that to an even $10k. There are several ways I’m planning on making that goal a reality.
The Snowball is growing. If you’ve ever even heard of Dave Ramsey, then you’ve probably heard of the debt snowball. My snowball is finally getting to a point that it’s making more of an impact. This is great news for driving down those outstanding balances.
No Spend April. No Spend 2016 was a huge success, and I’m repeating it in 2017. I’ll explain more on how I structure my budget and my month for a month with no spending in a future post.
Utilizing our credit card rewards. This may seem counterproductive– use a credit card to reduce debt? But with my Discover card, I get 5% cash back on items we use anyway. Q1 we are getting that 5% on gas. Instead of using our debit cards, we use the Discover and use the cash from the back end for other essential purchases. It’s a great system, if you can get it to work for you.
DImYself. I’m doing my best to do more and more things in house. Up on the docket for this year: home improvements and repairs, homemade cleaning supplies and finally learning how to do my own manicure (something I cut from the budget a few years ago, and have been systematically ignoring that mess ever since – NO more). This will build on other things that I’ve already worked on — mainly brown bagging my lunches and bringing coffee from home. That brings me to the last item:
Continuing good habits. We have a pretty strict grocery budget, so we’re sticking to Aldi, and we try to limit our dining out to once a month. I’ve become good friends with Groupon, and gotten well acquainted with our library. We’ve become fans of dinners in with friends, and look forward to continuing that trend this summer. We will be making some investments in our home, but as our budget is a top priority, we will be choosing our projects wisely. Plus, we are still saving religiously for future planned (and unforeseen!) changes.
Sure, this isn’t perfect, but all these are steps to being debt free, which is the ultimate goal.
Until we’re there I’ll just keep recalculating with the help of Ed. Apparently he’s good at math– +, x, divide? That man is on a mission to educate!
I love it. It tastes like joy, and smells like freedom.
And yet, as my family is prone to point out, it’s also basically rat poison in a can.
You know, minor details.
But after the turn of the year, I realized HOW MUCH I was really drinking and spending on that dark brown elixir. (Spoiler alert: way too much.) So I decided that I would cut back. I went to drinking one per day, which was hard. Even harder was when I decided to go to 3 per week.
Tomorrow, however, starts the real test. I’m giving up Diet Coke for lent.
So back in Part I, I realized I had a problem. I wish I could say that I immediately realized it, and snapped out of it. I wish, I wish.
Instead, I was in a state of shock and suspended reality for a couple of days. I knew I had to change, but it seemed that everything had gotten out of control, and I didn’t know where to start. And then the people I had turned to when things went south, well, turns out they weren’t nearly as friendly as they appeared. So I went on a cleanse. I gave up several social media platforms, I stopped immersing myself in the same things and I started making lists.
At some point, I’ll post about the long lost art form of the list, but suffice it to say that lists are my happy place.
First up on the list was a doctor’s appointment. I scheduled one ASAP and went to talk to her about my depression and my bouts of anxiety. After some discussion, she referred me to an excellent family counselor, and recommended that if things didn’t change that I come back and see her about a prescription.
I added making an appointment with the counselor to my list. Spoiler alert: if you think the moral to this story is ‘A has her shit together and she’s in therapy,’ you’ve come to the wrong place. There’s a reason this is called *amateur* adulthood. If I was good at this, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. That item is still on my list. I haven’t called the counselor, nor have I revisited my doctor. I know. I know.
However, I did do the next several things on my list.
First, I started calling my parents regularly. This can be hard for me, because my parents and I don’t always see eye to eye (re: election anxiety), and also because getting information from my mother is like trying to get honey from a beehive. She’s a tough nut. But setting aside time every week to talk to them lessened my guilt and also gave all of us a place to air our lingering feelings that are hard to discuss with people outside the family.
Second, I started journaling again. I wrote down everything I felt. Dumping it was a relief. I wrote and wrote without impunity. Then a funny thing happened. A couple weeks in to journaling, my husband asked me what I was writing, and I told him. It may not seem like a big deal, but I had been ignoring the fact that I had a life partner to share things with, and once I started trusting myself to share them, he started helping me work through the plethora of things that were constantly running through my head.
Thirdly, and probably most oddly, I gave myself tasks. Small tasks. Like-unpack the spare bathroom. Or buy two Christmas gifts. And let’s be real, sometimes it was shower and go downstairs. I started actually accomplishing things in my everyday life, instead of burying myself in work and pretending that I was too busy to do the simple stuff. As I started to take time to do those things, I started realizing how much I had been missing.
I’d like to say the fog has been completely lifted, but as always, some days are better than others. There are still days where I wake up feeling guilty, or anxious, or even sad. But instead of supressing those feelings, I talk about them. I don’t let them dictate my day. I talk to people instead of closing up. While this absolutely won’t work for everyone, it’s working for me.
So why am I taking the time to write it out on this blog that no one has used in over a year? Well, because my husband reminded me that I had started that 30 for 30 list so long ago. So I revisited the site to look at my list, and I missed this idea. I missed sharing my thoughts publicly. I missed V.
2016 wasn’t a great year for me. Some really good things happened, but some truly terrible ones did too. And guess what? That’s probably how 2017 will be as well. But in 2017 I’m choosing to not stop.
It was incredibly unexpected and extremely difficult. Sure, he was aging, but he never seemed old.
He wasn’t the first person I had lost unexpectedly, my uncle died my junior year of college, which was an incredibly tragic loss. And almost exactly a year prior to my maternal grandfather passing, my paternal grandfather lost his battle with a long term illness.
But after my Grampa died last March, I found myself struggling in a way I never really had before. I was sad, because I was missing this man who had meant so much to me. I was guilty, because I hadn’t felt like this when Grandfather passed away. I was apologetic because I didn’t think my grief was important. I was anxious because people would ask me how my mom or Gramma were doing and I really didn’t have an answer, I had been steadfastly avoiding the topic. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I sure as hell didn’t want to deal with it.
So I stopped. I stopped talking to the people I loved. I stopped doing the things that reminded me of Grampa. I avoided my hometown, my voicemail, the boxes in storage at my in-laws. I threw myself in to hobbies that were inconsequential and I started talking to people who had no idea what my family was like. (Some of those people have been amazing, others turned out to be less so.) I worked. A LOT.
As you can probably guess, none of this made my grief disappear. In fact, if you put together that I was fairly depressed, then you’re a lot smarter than I, dear reader. My husband, god bless him, tried. He asked me to work out with him (I didn’t, I ate chips). He asked me about this blog (I’d give a half hearted attempt at making a draft and then give up fairly quickly). He even encouraged me to SPEND MONEY (this is unheard of, and I didn’t even want to buy shoes [the very first time ever]). I kept assuring everyone that I was fine.
Then a few months ago, we bought a house. I love our house, it’s awesome. We couldn’t be happier. But there is this janky path from our gate to our deck. And after we moved in, we were exploring (like you do), and we realized just how janky the path really is. My husband turned to me and said, ‘You know who could fix this? Grampa.’ At which point I promptly burst in to tears.
All of my bluster and denial had done nothing to help me process the grief I was feeling. Ignoring my parents, who were both struggling with the loss of their fathers wasn’t helping anyone. Avoiding people who were trying to be there for me was only sowing resentment on both sides of the fence. Basically, I was doing everything wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it. Oh, and did I mention we were coming up to the holidays? Also the people I thought were ‘helping’ turned out to cause more problems? Plus, change (even the good kind) always causes me anxiety? And that doesn’t even include the election.
This was the bottom. I was trying to put a good face on things, but it wasn’t working. It was time to change how I was handling my shit.
A few years ago, at a party, an acquaintance talked to my husband about her experience turning 30 (he was about 6 months away from his 30th birthday). “It was the worstday of my life.” That’s all she could say (she had emptied 3 bottles of wine at this point) – so she said it over and over.
He turned 30, and it wasn’t the worst day of his life.
But aging is different for me. As a dancer, my body is my instrument and my voice. I know that after 30, my metabolism will take a hit and I’ll start to have the feelings of being too old to dance full-out with my advanced students. I’ll need to just describe the turning leap landing on the floor instead of showing it. I’ll have to think about putting away the pointe shoes for good.
Anyway, since 30 is a big deal and can seem overwhelming or depressing, I have my own 30×30 list of things I hope to accomplish by the time I reach that birthday. Then, instead of focusing on the cons of growing older, I’ll have a new list of goals (40×40?) to tackle.
A and I have a few in common, but I have no desire to go a whole month without buying anything or to play Risk enough times to beat my husband.
Find some system to keep track of important dates for family and friends (anniversaries, birthdays), and consistently mail the cards and gifts so they arrive before that date.
Become a member in a service-oriented group, and volunteer for something I care about regularly.
Buy a respectable, nice car that I can keep for a long time and be proud of.
Visit NYC – maybe for a conference, or just to see shows/take classes/etc – but get to the city for at least one week.
Write regularly (this blog should help!)
Watch and cheer on our favorite college football team in a major bowl game.
Take a two-week vacation to Europe. No working of any kind while away.
Establish a morning routine.
Start seriously saving for retirement – and set some goals for that retirement with my husband.
Update my wardrobe with quality pieces… and update how I shop – instead of buying whatever I like on clearance at Target, decide what I need, and shop around (at stores other than Target) until I find exactly what I want.
Purchase a real, matching bedroom set.
Grow my own vegetable garden and use what it grows.
Learn how to play Poker.
Do something major for both my in-laws and my parents. Maybe cover a vacation all together, cover lawn care/snow removal for a year, something big for their house… but something big as a thank-you.
Have regular get-togethers with friends. I have a few really good friends that work schedules prevent me from seeing regularly. Fix the work situation and make some regular time with those friends!
Complete the books-I-should-have-read list. (will come later – probably with A’s help)
Same as ^ with movies.
Stop buying clothes from the girl’s section. In fact, stop even looking for clothes for myself in the girl’s section.
Learn/re-learn to sew enough to repair clothes or make curtains/tablecloths/etc.
Create a system to handle all of the paper that we have to deal with (business and at home) – and the habit of sticking to it.
Revisit the resort we stayed in for our honeymoon. Stay there for a week-ish, no phones.
Contribute an article or column to a trade magazine/journal/etc in my field.
Develop a kick-ass cocktail that is unique and always have the ingredients on hand to make for guests.
Host an awesome dinner party – complete with decor, 3-5 course meal, and #23’s cocktail.
Systemize my business. Take the time to write training manuals, detailed curriculum notes, policies, etc.
Develop a scholarship program for a few talented and hard-working kids who need some help to afford dance classes.
Learn how to drive a boat. (I know it isn’t hard, but my family does lake vacations in the summer and I want to feel like a capable driver when we need someone who can pull a skier!)
Have one day off every other week – truly take it OFF. No email, no planning, nothing.
Learn more about wine (not that I need to get snobby) and collect the appropriate shaped glasses for kinds we have regularly.
Accept that growing older and aging is not a bad thing – and do something unique to celebrate the big 3-0.
Thirty. It’s a scary word for women in their twenties.
30 is when everything starts to fall apart.
You’re almost 30? Isn’t your biological clock ticking?
Yikes, 30?! Better get a good eye cream, you’re going to need it.
I’m not terrified of 30. I’m not necessarily excited about it, but aging is a part of life that I’m more than willing to look forward to. Why? Because aging is a luxury. One that I plan on enjoying.
In making sure that I’m enjoying life to the fullest, I’ve stumbled upon a kind-of, sort-of bucket list for us 20-somethings. The 30 by 30. Thirty items that you’d like to accomplish by your thirtieth birthday. As today is my half birthday, I’ve only got 18 months until I get to check a new age box, so I guess I better get started.
Run a 10k (from start to finish).
Visit at least one national park.
Reduce my personal debt (student loans) by 25%.
Learn to roast a whole chicken (and use all the leftover parts!).
Brush up on my French. I was once fairly fluent, and I’d like to have that back.
Donate my hair.
Go an entire month without buying anything.
Host an actual dinner party.
Buy a house that my husband and I both can agree on.
Become a proficient photographer.
Research and begin continuing education for my profession.
Take a trip with my girlfriends.
Learn how to change the oil in my car.
Create my wedding album.
Finish Rory Gilmore’s reading list.
Figure out a regular fitness plan/routine that actually works for me.
Reduce my dependence on caffeine.
Road trip with my husband to a major sporting event.
Firmly establish a morning and evening routine.
Knit a blanket.
Reconnect with a friend who I’ve lost touch with.
Get a bikini wax to see what the fuss is about.
Update my wardrobe with quality pieces. Donate what is no longer worn. Ruthlessly slash my shoe collection to make way for others.
Find a cause I am truly passionate about in my community. Donate time, effort and money to something deeply important.
Replace our terrible dining room table.
Re-evaluate our retirement plan and savings. Ensure we’re making good decisions and investments.
Beat my husband at Risk.
Earn a commendation for my work at my place of employment.
Invest in an original art piece.
Grow my own vegetable garden (and create my own compost for it).
You may have noticed some pretty major stuff missing from this list. I’m not aiming for any weight loss goals. I’m not convinced I need to get promoted. I’m not focused on babies. Sorry Mom.
It’s not that I don’t want babies. Or to be skinnier. Or even that I wouldn’t accept a promotion that I’m offered. It’s not even that I’m opposed to all these things before 30. It’s that I’m not putting a timeline on that process. I’m not going to create unrealistic and unattainable goals for myself. These goals have an overall theme of making a happier and healthier lifestyle for long term success. Is everything on here essential to that overall goal? Probably not. Is it stuff that I find to be interesting and important? Absolutely.
That being said… Voila! This is the stuff I’m going to be focused on for the next 18 months. None of this will be exceptionally easy, but I think it’s pretty important to have goals and to make those goals challenging enough to matter.
As I complete a goal, or start working toward completing a goal, I’m going to write about it. As that happens, I’ll update this post with the successes or failures I’ve encountered… as soon as I learn to link things.