What I spent: March 2017


Although I'm a little behind on this update, staying accountable is helping me to stick to my monthly personal allowance budget. So, here's what I spent in March:

$6.46 - Trolls soundtrack for the boys. Sadly, they weren't as into this as I had hoped so it didn't feel like money well spent.

$9.65 - Treated a visiting friend to lunch at Uprooted Kitchen with the help of a gift card. 

$17.05 - Girls' night out with friends. Although I'm frustrated with myself because I realized after we had left that I was over-charged by about $5. I meant to call and rectify it but never did, which is my fault.

$44.27 - a Blurb photo book of our wedding, which I fiiiiianally made all these years later and gave to Chris for our anniversary! This would have been more expensive but Blurb had a 40% off promotion, which was part of my motivation to finally do this. It feels so good to check that off my list, and to have a beautiful keepsake of our wedding. 

$4.70 - new nail polish color and $5 off because I had Walgreens points to use

$2.11 - cup of coffee at Starbucks while on a work day

$15 - an embroidery pattern from Sarah K. Benning. She released a pattern I had been thinking of for months so I decided to buy it. It's my first time to embroider and I'm having so much fun! 

$2.11 - cup of coffee at Starbucks while at work. As I write this the second time I'm annoyed at how expensive a cup of coffee seems. Wasn't it $1.65 just yesterday? Back in my day...

Total spent: $101.35 out of $100 budgeted. First month over budget! But at least not by much. 

In February 2017: $78.57 of $100 budgeted

In January 2017: $126.25 of $150 budgeted



April catch up


When I set my word of CHOOSE for 2017 I was interested to see how I would manifest it in my life. I said that above all else I want to CHOOSE family and writing this year, the two things that are most important to me.

At the time I had a very full plate: working full time, parenting two little boys, co-running a household, co-hosting and producing two podcasts, co-owning Copper Quail Style, working part time as a freelance writer, exercising regularly, being active in a book club and trying to write for myself on this blog. On top of all that maintaining friendships and relationships with family, not to mention Chris!, which I want to add since that does require time and energy as well. WHEW.

I've realized that essentially since Dashiell was born - four years ago! - I've been filling my plate, heaping it ever more full. I've tried to be intentional about how I spend my time. And, indeed, when I surveyed all the things I was doing I saw relationships and pursuits that I loved. However, I was at a point where I was spending most days and nights working. I've had the energy to work post-bedtime since Dash was a baby because my creative work brings me fulfillment. But sometime in the past few months I started packing my days too full and wasn't giving myself enough time when I could not accomplish something. It made my full time work and creative work much less fulfilling and even stressful.

So, I did a lot of thinking. I decided to step away from Copper Quail Style, which was just launched last summer. I'm so proud of what my friend Becky and I created. Along the way I learned so much, which was one of my main goals with the venture. I am happy that it will continue in the capable hands of my friend. I also turned over the editing of Matrimoney to Chris, which gives me back a weeknight about every other week. I've also been intentional about not making many plans for the weekends and only trying to commit to things I really want to do (if they aren't required). 

What I have left on my plate feels much more manageable. I no longer have a stress knot in my stomach. Hooray! Taking things off my plate is so satisfying and has made a big difference for me already. I can already point to the following things that I've been able to do because I've made the room:

+ spend two or more weeknights reading and going to bed early

+ traveling to Austin to be with family with less than 24 hours notice and staying for five days after my grandmother passed away in early April

+ Making last minute plans to meet a friend for a Saturday morning park play date

+ Have one or more weekends per month with NO plans and having time for spontaneous family adventures

+ Working in the yard, which is something I love to do

+ Going for a long walk around our neighborhood after bedtime 

Reading The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck recently was great timing and emphasizes the importance of taking stock of what really brings you fulfillment and how you spend your time. In my case I don't think there are too many things that I don't care about taking up my time (I'm grateful for that and have worked to make that the case!) but I still just had too many things going on.

Taking a couple things off my plate has me thinking about how to get back even more unstructured time that I can spend with my family, writing and on other things. For example, I've been wanting to take better advantage of the amazing museums and cultural resources near us. I'm so excited to go to the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit in the next few months!  

It's good to shake things up every now and then, to take stock of values and compare that to how I'm spending my time. And look! Time to write a blog post, hurrah!

What I spent: February 2017

What I spent in February 2017 | RISING*SHINING

After Chris and I both did a great job in January of staying within our personal allowance budgets we decreased our budgets. Chris decreased his from $150 to $80 and we decreased mine from $150 to $100. Note that we also have a joint personal allowance budget each month of $150 which covers any date nights plus babysitting and family outings including eating out.

In February I continued my new habit of tracking every purchase in Mint and making sure it was appropriately categorized. I'm even going to far to split transactions if needed and allocate to different budgets. 

I used to track things in Mint in waves. I'd be really into it for a while but fall out of the habit. Cleaning up all our Mint budgets and making sure we have the right budgets set at the right amounts has helped get me back into the tracking habit. And I'm sticking with it in a way I never have. The more Chris and I track our spending the more we are sticking to our budgets, which is so satisfying, and reinforcing the tracking behavior.

Personal allowance spending for February 2017:

$5 - one box of Thin Mints, which because I'm a moderator I will make last all year! I know this is ridiculous but I stash them in my drawer at work. I'll eat a sleeve when I finish my crazy report season in August and another sometime this fall.

$18 - two-year renewal of Sunset Magazine

$2.96 - coffee at Starbucks while I worked and killed some time before volunteering at preschool.

$3.50 - a protein shake as part of Chris's Valentine's gift

$2.96  - coffee at Liberty Market by myself when we had run out of coffee. I just sat for 10 minutes with no book or phone. Such a minor-seeming thing but I remember it being so calming.

$7.34 - breakfast with book club gals at a favorite spot

$10 - a get well gift for a friend

$11.50 - tsoynami date to treat my amazing co-worker who is moving to Boston. Sad face.

$17.31 - happy hour + snacks with my book club

Total spent: $78.57 of $100 budgeted

+ + +

In January 2017: $126.25 of $150 budgeted


Goals - March 2017

Goals - March 2017 | RISING*SHINING

The year is trucking along and it feels like a good time to check in on my 2017 goals and recommit to them. At the beginning of the year I was reminding myself of CHOOSE on a daily basis and reflecting on gratitude often. February ended up feeling so full and I fell out of the practice.  March is a perfect time to recommit to choosing family and writing, gratitude, and action.

Big things happening in March:

+ St. Patrick's Day. Not usually a big deal for us but we love to make any holiday a little special for the boys. We're thinking of having either family or friends over for an Irish themed dinner that night. 

+ Family and friend birthdays. There are three this month!

In March I choose to...

+ Plan Dashiell's birthday party. Oh my heart - FOUR!

+ Create a photo book using our wedding photos. I have digital versions of photos from our 2010 wedding but have never made a book. Hoping to have this finished by our 7th anniversary!

+ Buy some new plants for our front yard. 

+ Not make many weekend plans. Last weekend we had a gloriously unplanned weekend and it was so good for my soul. I loved being together as a family and going with the flow of where the weekend took us. I'd love to try to create more of that in our life. 

+ Launch two new Neighborly Advice classes with The Girl Next Door Podcast. We'll be retiring the first two classes at the end of the month in case you are interested but haven't purchased yet. 

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Spend 15 minutes each day on creative writing. This is any writing that's just for me. It could be blogging, writing in the boys' memory journal or working on an essay.

Update: Still not getting to this every day but I love having it as something I'm striving to do every day.

+ Make Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings for work and leave Thursday and Friday open. As part of CHOOSING family and writing I want to get my work done for my podcasts and Copper Quail Style early in the week so that evenings later in the week are free. It's easy to put this work off to another night since timing is flexible but getting it done earlier will mean I can relax sooner.

Update: Trying to get back on track with this after a full February and having weeks where I worked nearly every night.

+ Check Mint at least once each week. To CHOOSE savings I need to be mindful of every transaction and stick to my monthly personal allowance budget.

Update: Yes! Still keeping this up and I love how in tune with our finances we are. As a result of both Chris and I checking Mint more often we are staying on budget better than we ever have before. 


Happy March!


For the love of finishing things

For the love of finishing things | RISING*SHINING

Last year I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and I still think of it often.  Erica and I even discussed it in a Girl Next Door Book Club

In the book, Rubin outlines four habit tendencies - Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, Obliger - which describe how a person responds to internal and external expectations. (You can take the quiz here to find out your tendency.) I'm an upholder and respond equally to internal and external expectations. In other words, I love goals and enjoy meeting them. Surprise!! I had so many lightbulb moments while reading about my own personality and having it articulated in new ways. Plus, what is more fascinating than learning about yourself?

After describing the four tendencies Rubin covers lots of other traits we should consider when trying to make or break a habit. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Are you a moderator (a little at a time) or an abstainer (all or nothing)? Are you an opener or a finisher?

Lately I've been thinking about this last one: opener or finisher. When Erica and I chatted about the book on The Girl Next Door Book Club I thought I was an opener. I have so many things going on! So I must love to start things. 

But one morning as I was grabbing my lunch and coffee, about to head out the door, a little collection on the counter caught my eye. It was a squeezed and nearly empty bottle of Aquaphor, a Burt's Bees so near the end that the internal tube of chapstick will pop out and an upturned bottle of Trader Joe's white pine lotion (an attempt to use every last bit). Later at work I found that I had another bottle of upturned Trader Joe's lotion.

Then I thought of the way I have a hard time buying new deodorant until I have nearly none left (still obsessed with this by the way). And also how I'm still wearing casual shoes that I love even though they have a hole in the toe and running shoes I've been wearing for nearly 4 years (it's a miracle I don't have chronic shin splints). I love to wear things until they wear out and since these are still functioning it's hard for me to buy new.

It's not just material things. At work I find so much more energy and satisfaction in finishing a project than starting a new one.  

And so it dawned on me that maybe, in fact, I am a finisher. I love to follow-through and complete something that I said I would do. I am an upholder, after all. Being a finisher definitely supports my somewhat frugal sensibilities and definitely my minimalist sensibilities. I do not have interest in trying lots of different shampoos, eye shadows, shoes or accessories for example. Maybe my finisher nature is why! I used to follow a blogger who shared a favorite beauty product round up each month. I realized that it actually really stressed me out to think of having 7 - 10 NEW products every month. There's no way I would ever use all of that! Or want to store it all.

But my finisher nature doesn't apply to all things. I abandon books if I don't at least enjoy them somewhat.  I also don't mind getting rid of things if I'm not using them at all as opposed to feeling that I must "use it up."  I've never been a pack rat but especially after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I don't like to hold on to something because maybe I'll use it. Or maybe it's that I can't stand not making progress on finishing something so I'd rather just get rid of it.

I was chatting with Chris about this and he also thinks he's a finisher. In fact he said, "Yeah, didn't you notice how I put some water in the body wash to make it last longer?" He wants to use every last drop of that body wash. I actually did draw the line at overly-diluted body wash and cracked open the new bottle. 

I've been trying to think of how this insight about being a finisher should apply to my life. Part of the power of getting insight into my own personality is recognizing the person I am and not fighting against it. Maybe it will even bolster my commitment to having less and buying fewer things. By having fewer things I can enjoy finishing them or using them up. For the most part I can't think of habits or practices that I need to change but it's interesting to see some of my habits in light of finisher tendencies. 

What about you - do you think you're an opener or a finisher, and how does that affect you?