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That Blasted Thing Called “Mall”

31 May

Financial dry spells are the worst. Particularly when self-confidence takes a dip. Oftentimes, the easiest fix to a damaged self image manifests with the name “Mocha Frappuccino” (in my case, a light mocha frappuccino, half-caff, soy. Picky, much?) or a trip to the mall for a bottle of pretty, bright nail polish or a new sundress. But on a tight budget, any attempt to repair the damage is a bit difficult. During a financial dry spell, it’s even laughable.

In a mood for a fun, bright, new, juicy, fresh, crisp (all adjectives that were making my mouth water) blouse or shift, I persuaded J to “walk around the mall” with me. Translation: “I so desperately would love to treat myself to a new wardrobe piece or two, and I want to go look at all the forbidden buttons and zippers, collars, and perfectly color blocked purses in the windows. I know I can’t buy anything, and yes, I will be fine!” Needless to say, a trip like this will most likely end in a pity party of discontentment. Did I think that the money was going to show up magically, with price tags falling off the dresses with my name on them? No, of course not. But for some reason, that never matters. I still subject myself to the torture of perusing what I cannot have.

Childish desire for immediate gratification replaces a mature fiscal standpoint when I decide to put myself in a situation destined to disappoint. And worse still, this attempt to gratify a perfectly innocent but impossible “want” or even ill-timed “need” creates a psychological/emotional war between my will power and my feelings. The fact that I have no money no longer means anything, because the dress I love will fit perfectly, and “I have been working so hard, and deserve to feel beautiful.” No longer do my values of saving or my goals for much bigger dreams in life matter. In that moment of self-subjected torture, I will do just about anything to “fix” the impossible dilemma and inconveniently unaffordable price tag.

Have you ever looked at your bank account on the last day of the month, and wondered, “where did all my money go”?! You won’t often find a big chunk of money missing or account for it all in a large transaction. You will, however, find little crumb-like traces of emotional sludge all over your bank statement. Rather than looking at your finances from a fiscal perspective, be realistic and look at each transaction the way you so often handle your spending-emotionally. The $40 of Starbucks charges, for example. Can you remember what was going on that day? How you felt? Our daily emotional struggles tend to govern our purchasing habits and ultimately, impact our future financial freedom.

Someday I will be able to go buy a pretty dress and surprise J with a new “jaw-dropping worthy” outfit. I will enjoy building my closet around pieces that give me confidence and reflect what I find beautiful. But every time I decide to pretend that day is now, I reduce the chances of it ever happening at all.

Two questions to ponder:

1. What does my bank account look like from an emotional standpoint? What triggers my destructive behaviors, further delaying my dreams towards financial freedom?

2. Do I have healthy alternatives that I can implement when the desire for immediate pleasure surfaces?

Rather than hitting the mall when a case of the “wants” creeps up, focus on something “lasting”. Invest your time and emotions into relationships, hobbies, goals- anything that brings you real joy. Curb your appetite toward emotional spending and free up some space on your bank statement. You will definitely experience real progress towards securing your financial future.

Eeek!!!

25 May

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3522 Posts on Pinterest. 0 Tried.

My name is Katie and I am a inspiration junkie.

Geesh!

 

What do Spanish lessons and watching episodes of The Bachelorette have in common? Also, how I become a world-renowned master chef.

25 May

Okay so, first, don’t judge me. Yes I have watched “The Bachelorette” once or twice, and will probably continue to do so every great once in a while. I greatly enjoy making fun of the hopeless (really, hopeless) romantics as they try to prove their love and more or less perfectness to each other. I mercilessly laugh at the crying and kissing, occasionally getting some great (or not-so-great) fashion ideas to boot.

However, check out all the things I want to do below!!!!

-I would LOVE to learn how to dance!

-I’ve always wanted to set a goal to read a new book every month.

-Someday I WILL get really really really good at cooking and baking (staying super slim and trim all the while of course!). I’m determined.

-Taking Spanish is a must, it will open up greater job opportunities for me!

-I would love, in the next few months ten years (note sarcasm) to finish school, so that I can get a rockin’ job and pay off our depressingly heavy student loans.

-We WILL Travel! Anywhere! Everywhere!

-I would really like to learn some basic graphic design skills- I want to design my own notecards… I can never seem to find any that I love when I am out and about.

I could go on if I sat on my noodle for a while, but all of the above is a pretty good start.

What do these things and “The Bachelorette” have in common?

My time.

All of the little of it.

My very most favorite finance website, “LearnVest“, recently posted this great article, on real reasons for ditching your tv for good. Here is a great excerpt:

“By age 65, the average American watches two million commercials–commercials that are designed to make your life seem dull in comparison to those of the shiny, happy people cruising around in Lexuses. U.S. companies invest $70 billion each year in television advertising and they must be getting their money’s worth. If you’ve ever found yourself craving a cheeseburger with a cold soda, perhaps you might consider removing commercials—and the craving for said cheeseburger– from your life.”

Personally, J and I don’t really want to get rid of our television or stop watching TV all together, sometimes we need to really relax, and snuggling up on the couch and laughing at “Psych” or cleaning the house while I watch my favorite chick flick can really help me (us) de-stress. Heck, we might even get cable someday when we are dirty rich so that I can watch the Home and Garden channel and Food Network all day!

But I DO need to make some small changes.

When the television goes on, I need to be working on something. Cleaning, folding laundry, doing dishes, going through receipts, BUDGETING, paying bills, etc. TV is simply and truthfully the BIGGEST time-sucker (barely, thanks to Zuckerberg and Facebook), but it is simple to learn how to incorporate my tube time into the things that I already need to do with my day, to maybe even make them a tad more enjoyable.

Another idea I want to implement is to use TV as a tool rather than a vice. For example J and I have both Netflix and HuluPlus, since we try to not spend money on movie tickets and it is a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy movie night. But what if I where to actually take a step further and make an effort to blend the things on my “want-to-do-someday-my dreams will come true-I will be awesome-totally-sweet!” list (yes, that is the AWESOME name of my list) with what I decide to watch on TV. For example, watch a movie in Spanish (you can roll your eyes, especially if this takes you back to your high-school Spanish class- you learned SO much!). Did I mention Food Network? I learn SO much when I watch The Barefoot Contessa etc. Chef Katie, here she comes! Also, Netflix has a huge array of documentaries, of which I (call me nerdy) LOVE to watch.

Sometimes a girl needs to sit on the couch in her fat pants and take a spoon to a whole tub of cookie dough iceream relaxing to a good Jane Austen movie or a funny chick flick. Or make fun of rich, tanned, fake let’s-get-together Barbies and Kens making fools of themselves (and thank God for what a great man I have!). But this should be something that is rare, and a backup plan to healthier alternatives such as getting out the door and exercising, chatting up a friend or a super cool mom at a coffee shop, or even reading in a quiet little cozy space.

My mom always used to make sure that when summer kicked in, and school was done, the TV watching didn’t increase. She taught us to enjoy being outside, crafting, and reading (a lot!). As a bonus, we got to see our friends way more often too (outside of the school environment, of course). Yes, the friends we forget to call now that we are all so cool and grown up. Summer is here, and I’m listening to mom once again. After all, she DOES know best!

My untouched to-read books on their dusty shelf are calling my name. While I get around to reading those, YOU should totally check out the full article mentioned above, here, and learn how less TV time (or getting rid of it altogether!) can make your life simpler, and save you lots of money!!!

In Five Years I Will Be On A Plane To Paris…

18 May

Motivation is impossible without vision, and this is no different when it comes to money. Whether it is a lack of spending control, lack of work satisfaction, or complete ineptitude regarding money management, money struggles stem not from financial incompetence or lack of self control necessarily, but rather a want for motivation and ultimately, a need for vision. Stronger vision equals control.

For example, where do you want to be in one year? In two? In five? How about in ten years? By painting a picture for ourselves of what our future could look like, we get a better idea of what we should be deliberately doing with our money now.

In one year, you may want to have a fully funded emergency fund with six months worth of living expenses, or you may want to have all your credit card debt paid off.

Two years from now, it could be a trip that you have always wanted to take, or saving up for a car or even a family.

In five years, you may set a goal to start investing more heavily into a retirement fund, and set up a college fund for each kid. It may be time to save up for a down payment on a house too.

In ten years, maybe you want to increase your giving, or start actively seeking out new ventures and investments to build up your portfolio and increase your net worth.

Everyone’s vision and goals will be different, and just as I wrote regarding personal economy, factors such as lifestyle, status, work, and relationships will all be big components that shape what is important to you specifically as you draw up a financial timeline.

One of the coolest benefits of drawing up a financial timeline is that it can FLEXIBLE! How great is that?! If your plans change, if you lose your job or score your big dream job, you can continually adjust your plan to meet your fluctuating needs and goals.

Once you have your own version of your financial timeline (vague, detailed, exciting, boring, grand, modest, WHATEVER!), you are on your way to figuring out just what it is that you need to do NOW, to make those financial dreams become a reality.

Next Time You “Feel Fat”, Think About This

17 May

This post should disturb you. I have edited this post closely regarding the photographic and verbal content, because I want EVERYONE to read this.

Whatever your view on the disturbing images that populate the web of starving children in Africa, most individuals agree that world hunger is devastatingly tragic. In my last post I mentioned that my husband and I are really committed to someday being able to give freely to help organizations such as those that work to end hunger. However, what you read below, may be even more tragic. Thanks to the objectifying of women, especially in Europe and North America, as well as the alarmingly growing rate of broken families and homes, eating disorders- the deliberate choosing of starvation and/or purging- have become mainstream and have lost their shock factor. In today’s world, eating disorders hit close to home for everyone.

“Beauty of Bones.”

“I Will Be Perfect Eventually.”

“Tastelessss.”

“The Shrinking Game.”

“Make me Tiny.”

“Feather Light and Rail Thin.”

“Skin and Bone Chic.”

“Skinny Pretty Starving.”

All of the above are Tumblr account names for a “Thinspo” or “Thinspiration” site. These girls (and a few guys) post pictures and words of “encouragement”  to inspire themselves to lose weight, get skinny, and attain their version of  a dream body.

The majority of account holders seem to be girls in their late teens all the way to women in their late twenties. Many of them seem to be normal “good girls”, others are struggling with other vices such as suicide and cutting.

Most of the posts look somewhat like this:

Tumblr attempted to ban these kinds of posts at the beginning of 2011, and Pinterest recently banned “Thinspo” pictures as well. Obviously, these attempts haven’t done much of anything.

Pro-ana. Yes, it is what you think it is. Pro anorexia. A movement fast gaining followers, believing that anorexia is a lifestyle choice, not a mental illness or disorder. Pro-ana websites are springing up quickly, and range in everything from helping readers deal with the complications of bulimia and over using laxatives, to forums and places where pro-anas can post “Thinspo” pics. Some hardcore Pro-anas even believe in praying to the “god of anorexia” to make them thinner and more beautiful.

Disturbing, yes. In all my research, I started thinking about what I might have done to make this worse. Is it really encouraging to rave about how a friend has lost weight, and is looking more-than-usually good looking? I think about the way girls are treated, and the way boys have grown up learning from their friends or their fathers, that a good girl is even better if she is a “pretty and skinny” girl too. I think about parents who have defined for their children a standard of unattainable perfection. Society as a whole, myself included, has made a rather large monster out of the outward appearance struggle.

Money or no money, no matter where you are financially, you may not be able to fix world hunger, but you can stop encouraging people to deprive themselves from a healthy thriving lifestyle by the things you say and do here at home.

I think I will start taking words I use for myself such as “fat” and “gross” much more seriously. And next time I look in the mirror, I think I will look at myself a bit more kindly.

Correction:

Pinterest has actually been able to remove a majority of the “Thinspo” pictures on their site, and when you type “Thinspo” or something similar into the Pinterest search bar, Pinterest now posts this at the top of the page:

Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening.

For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Way to go Pinterest!!!

A Personal Economy

17 May

Fidelity has launched a new commercial with the theme, “take control of your own personal economy.” I’m fascinated by this idea of a personal economy. A personal economy gives no room for excuses and lack of control. In a personal economy, MY personal economy, I get to choose what happens with my finances, no matter what is going on in the big picture. In my personal economy, I can:

 

Control my cash flow, where my money goes, and where it comes from

Control what I earn, and how I earn it

Dream up goals, and I can construct practical plans to achieve them

Set myself up for success the short and long term future

 

What does my personal economy look like? What does your personal economy look like? How does the larger economy affect my personal economy, and what can I do to achieve a better financial outlook?

My purpose in writing MoneyLovely is to share my journey towards complete financial control, and ultimately, financial freedom. A  little snapshot of my personal economy:

 

I am 23, married for two years, and a full time student until November 2012

 

My husband just landed a fantastic entry-level graphic design job at a local design firm, and I plan to start my own business post college graduation.

 

We have no credit card debt, but we have over $30,000 in student loans, and almost $1000 in bad debt. We don’t have a car payment, but we don’t own our own house either.

 

We only have $500 in our emergency savings, $1000 in retirement, and absolutely no worthwhile assets (unless our dog counts).

 

We are big dreamers- we want to travel someday, and be able to give freely to the world wide community monetarily and socially.

 

All these factors make up a personal economy- priorities, life stage, job satisfaction, and past financial decisions. If your are satisfied with your financial present and future, great! If your personal economy looks somewhat like mine, or even if you have loads of credit card debt, guess what? You ARE in control, whether it feels like it or not.

Take a minute to sum up your personal economy. Are you happy with where you are, or do you need to make some drastic changes?