Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shouldless Days of '17: January

If I ever needed a shouldless day, it was this month. So I took one on Monday since I had the day off. The pace of life has been quite hectic lately so I fully appreciated a day with no chores or obligations!

I woke up without an alarm, which is blissful in and of itself. I started off my day by getting my sweat on and enjoyed a vanilla protein smoothie with banana afterwards.

After showering, I settled in on the couch and watched a couple of episodes of Suits on Amazon Prime. I'm on Season 2 and am really enjoying this show!

Then I met my Chicago brother and nephew for a late lunch at Chipotle. They had flown in for the weekend to do some ice fishing at our lake home. I'm glad I got a little bit of time with them while they were in the area!

Then it was back home for more couch time. Phil, Oscar and I sat on the couch and watched a couple of episodes of The 80s, which is a CNN documentary. It focuses more on pop culture than historical events but has still been entertaining.

I also did quite a bit of reading. I finished a book (Love Warrior) and started another one:

And I did a little bit of wedding stuff, like ordering our guest book from Etsy and purchasing some other decor items.  More on that in my next wedding update post!

It was a blissful, relaxing, slow-paced day, which was just what I needed!

Have you had any relaxing days recently?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Virtual Coffee Date: January 2017

Hello and happy Tuesday!  Today is like a Monday for me as I had yesterday off for the MLK holiday. Oh how I love 3-day weekends.  I wish we had them once a month.  I get so much vacation time, though, that I need to do a better job of making a 3-day weekend for myself during months when we don't have any holidays!

2017 has gotten off to a bit of hectic start as I've been so busy between several work trips + wedding planning!  I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with her head cut off while trying to act like a duck.  You know, calm on the surface but paddling like mad underneath.  So I figured today was a good day for a virtual coffee date.  Grab a cup of something warm and settle in!

I'm treating myself to a vanilla latte with coconut milk as I write this post!
If we were having coffee today I'd tell you...

- I am a little burned out on traveling/being away from home. Between going to Spain in late November/early December, 2 work trips to Chicago in December, traveling for Christmas and New Years, and trips to New Jersey and Jackson, MS for work in the first half of January, I'm kind of exhausted!  Luckily, I will be home for a full week this week for the first time since the week before Thanksgiving!  I leave on Sunday for one more work trip this month (which is going to be a crazy week as I'll do meetings with 3 different people over 3 days and stay in 4 different hotels...). At least I'm racking up airline miles to use for our honeymoon!  :)

- I ordered my dress earlier this month so now I have extra motivation to tone-up between now and our wedding in May! Right now I'm doing the Core de Force program through Beach Body and am loving it!  It's all body weight (i.e. no weights required) and I can access the workouts online. It's nice to have workouts I can do without leaving my house or hotel room. Next up I'm planning to do the 21 day fix workouts.  It's nice to have some new workout programs. And in February I'll start to do some personal training sessions with a friend that is a personal trainer.

- Since our lives feel like they've been a little bit consumed with wedding planning/discussions, we decided to go on a little get-away to San Diego in mid-February.  Our plan is to take a break from all wedding talk!  We rented a cute condo in the Mission Beach area so I'm envisioning lots of walks on the beach and lots of grilling as our condo has an outdoor grill.  We can't wait to thaw out, soak in some vitamin D, and do some hiking!  If you've been to San Diego, let me know if you have suggestions for things to do!

- Speaking of travel, we've also decided to go to Maui for our honeymoon!  We are getting married on a Friday and will fly out on Sunday for Maui and spend 8 full days there. I'm really excited as we'll get to relax on the beach and snorkel but also do some hiking and other outdoorsy things. We're hoping to get it booked by the end of this month. So I'm also open to any Maui suggestions!

- This post has been pretty wedding-centric but there are other things occupying my mind and time, like working on my January Happiness Project (organizing) and reading! I've already finished 5 books this month, the best of which was "When Breath Becomes Air." That book deserves an entire post but in case I don't get around to writing one, suffice it to say that it was a heart-breaking, amazing book.

If we were having coffee today, what would you tell me?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Year in Review: 2016 Spending

While my focus is mostly set on 2017, I have one last year in review post!  I know that talking about money is such a source of discomfort for most people, especially women it seems. But I think it's important to try to find ways to talk about as we can all stand to learn something from one another. Last year I did my first spending post, so I thought I'd do it again this year as I got a positive response to it last year. 

Here's what my 2016 spending looked like:

Home and Condo Rental: This year I decided to split out the expenses of my condo rental from the home category. 2016 was a bad year for renting my condo. Between flooding in the unit that required me to replace the flooring in the kitchen to buying a new fridge to a range of other maintenance expenses, I lost money in 2016. I sincerely hope this is my last year having this rental as I would love to sell it in the fall and be done with it. On a positive note, I spent far less on housing expenses for myself as I moved in with Phil and he doesn't charge me rent!  We have an agreement that I will buy groceries and pay for things like vacations and such.  He felt it wasn't worth the effort to split the expenses evenly since we knew we would be getting married eventually and would combine finances at that time.

Wedding:  Yes, we already have spent a considerable amount of money on our wedding, even though we just got engaged on December 9th! We booked the reception venue and photographer in December so have to make deposits on both of those items.

Auto & Transport:  This is new category this year as last year my spending on this category was so small it got lumped into other. My car literally died on me in July so I had to buy a new car, hence the reason why that was my biggest expense category for the year. I didn't pay for the car in full as the financing fee was so low but my goal is to pay it off in 2 years. 

Donations:  My donations category increased this year as I identified a few new charities that I donate to on a regular basis. Since Phil and I live well below our means, I feel that giving back is a very important thing to do.  I don't want to sound like I'm up on my high horse by saying that as I recognize that finances are tight for many people and they don't have extra to give, but since I do have extra to give, it's something I try to do. 

Travel:  This category grew a bit this year since I paid for our vacations in full instead of splitting the cost with Phil. This category doesn't include our Mexico trip as we paid for that in 2015, but I feel good about the amount spending considering that it includes trips to San Francisco, Bend, Spain, and several out-of-town weekends for friends' weddings. Travel will ALWAYS find a place in our budget as it's something we both value.

Target:  Target is still a big spending area for me.  It's hard to split up this category, though, as I get a lot of groceries (non-perishable goods) and household products from Target. I know I still make some additional purchases that I could limit but it would be so much work to get a handle on what I'm spending at Target. I do expect my Target spending to decline now that we have Amazon Prime as now I rarely buy household goods from Target and instead opt to have them shipped to our house.

Shopping:  I actually feel good about the fact that my total for shopping (which includes clothes, books, Amazon, and miscellaneous other purchases). Last year, clothing was 5% of my spending so I feel good about the fact that my total spending in this category was equivalent to what I spent on clothes last year. I bought far fewer clothes this year and instead tried to rely on what I already have. I will need to add to my wardrobe this year as some of my clothes are starting to show their wear, though.

Other:  This catch all category includes things like personal care (haircuts, Arbonne products, massages, and other random expenses). 

What about savings?
I didn't include savings in the graph as I like to see how my spending breaks out. But I also focused on savings in 2016 and significantly increased the amount I have in savings. We know that we will be buying a different "forever" home in the next 1-2 years so I am saving in preparation for that.

Final Thoughts
This is always an important activity for me to do each year, and it's something I encourage others to do.  I keep a close eye on my spending throughout the year, but it's always eye-opening to look at the totals at the end of the year. I feel like I am a pretty frugal person that spends money wisely, but when I review my spending it reminds me I have opportunities to spend less.  I utilize to track my spending. It does a pretty good job of classifying my expenses, but I have to do a lot of reclassifying of expenses so that it's accurate.

Lastly, this will be my last year of sharing my spending in this manner. Phil and I will be fully merging our finances after we get married and I don't feel right about sharing our spending as a couple. But I will still talk about money and finances, especially about how we adjust to having joint finances, as that is going to be an interesting experience for us after managing our finances independently for so long!

Do you track your spending? If so, what do you use to track it?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Happiness Project: January

As I mentioned in my goal post earlier this week, this year I set fewer 'big' goals and decided to use Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. Each month I'll set a focus for the month and try to develop habits around that focus that I can carry out throughout the year.  Gretchen picks an area of focus for each month in her book. Some months I'll use her focus, some months I will come up with my own.

Gretchen's focus for January was to "boost energy" by doing things such as going to sleep earlier, exercising better, organizing their house, tackling a nagging task, and acting more energetic.  I felt like that was TOO MUCH for me to focus on for a month so I decided that my January focus will be organization. It makes sense to make organization a focus for January as the first month of the year seems like the perfect time to tackle some organization projects.  Plus it's usually an awful month, weather-wise, so it's a good time to work on indoor projects. A friend at work had recommended that I join Apartment Therapy's "January Cure" so I'll be using the daily prompts they send out to organize our house for the new year.

At the end of the month, I'll share what I accomplished and set my focus for the next month. I'm excited to see what all I get done this month!  I'm traveling quite a bit this month (I'm currently on my first of 3 January work trips right now!!), so I might have a hard time doing all the daily prompts from the January Cure but I'll do what I can!

Do you have any goals or intentions for January?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Goals + The Happiness Project

Happy New Year, everyone!  I'm excited to usher in a new year, but I have to say that 2016 was a great year for me, all in all.  Sure there were some challenges, like my hip surgery/recovery, but I ended the year engaged to a wonderful man that I'm excited to marry so I really can't complain about the year.

I love this time of year as there's something so pleasing about a fresh calendar full of possibilities. In the past I've created a somewhat lengthy list of detailed goals. However, this year I have decided to change my approach to goals and cut back a bit.  I know that the first 5 months of year will be busy with wedding planning and such so I am giving myself a bit of a break.  So here is the short list of goals I'm looking to achieve this year, none of which will really be "stretch" goals. Well, except the wedding plan one, possibly.

2017 Goals:

1. Plan a wedding and try not to lose ourselves in the process.  I know planning a wedding can be time-consuming and expensive. There's bound to be periods of stress and frustration along the way but I want to try to keep a sense of perspective through the process. The most important thing is that we'll be married on May 19th. Yes, I want a memorable, beautiful day, but I am going to try to not get too caught up/stressed out by all the details.

2. Read 52 books, including 6 physical books I already own.  A goal list isn't complete without a reading goal! I'm taking a different approach to my reading goal this year, though, and want to give myself the freedom to read whatever I want to read (i.e. no reading challenges). I included reading physical books I already own, but dropped it down to 6 books this year instead of 12 like I've done the last 2 years. I think it will be nice to have less structure to my reading.

3. One shouldless day/month.  I am keeping the goal of having a shoudless day each month as this is so good for my mental health!

Monthly Goals:  The Happiness Project

Additionally, I am going to spend the year reading the Happiness Project which has a focus for each month of the year that is meant to bring you more happiness. I have read this book before, but I didn't actually put the book into practice. This time I am going to read about the project for each month in the final week leading into that month (so last week I read about the January project).  Then each month, I'll share the focus for the month and tell you what I did to bring the focus for the month to fruition.

I'm excited that one of my goals will be a monthly focus as I feel like I'll get more out of temporary goals/areas of focus than I do out of broad goals that I work on throughout the year.

Do you have any goals for 2017?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Podcasts, Books, Workouts and Looks of December

Whew, December was excellent.  Getting engaged was certainly the highlight of the month and year for me!  Here's how December shaped up for me.


I'm Made a Huge Mistake by Terrible, Thanks for Asking - "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" is my new favorite podcast. The host is a woman that went through a string of heartbreaking things (had a miscarriage, lost her dad to cancer, lost her husband to lung cancer) all in the span of about 2 months. Her new podcast deals with the tough stuff of life and how we handle it, and acknowledges that sometimes when someone asks how you are doing, the honest and appropriate answer is, "terrible, thanks for asking."  Of the episodes she's released since the podcast started in November, my favorite is episode 2 which is about a woman that makes a big mistake at work and then punishes herself for that mistake for years.  It's about forgiving yourself and recognizing that we are far more critical of ourselves than others are of us.  It's worth a listen.


I only read 3 books in December, which was the fewest number of books I read in a month in 2016. That said, one of them was over 1,000 pages and another one was over 500 pages.  So I still read a decent amount!  My favorite book was Edge of Eternity, which made my 'best books of 2016' list! The bolded book is the one I own that counted toward my 'read 12 books I own' goal.

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett - 5 stars
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - 4 stars
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley - 3 stars


December was a chaotic month between my trip to Spain, 2 work trips to Chicago and being out of town for Christmas and NYE. I tried to fit in as many workouts as I could, but I still worked out less than I would have liked.  At the end of the month, I decided to purchase the "Core de Force" Beach Body program. A high school friend recently became a Beach Body coach and she has had great results from doing this program. I started doing the program in the final month of December and will  likely do a post about it when I finish! I love that the workouts are all body weight so are easy to do at home or in your hotel room!


My favorite look was this new dress I bought at Banana Republic at the beginning of the month during their 50% off sale.  I love that it has long sleeves and pockets!  I added the belt - at Phil's suggestion (he often suggests that I should add a belt to dresses - in this case he was right!). I wore this during a work trip to Chicago. We had our holiday party after work and this dress was perfect for both day and night.  I wish I could buy it in several colors but the other colors in my size sold out quickly!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in Review: 2016 Reading

Happy Friday!  I'm closing out this week by talking about my favorite topic - READING!!  I've been tracking my reading through Goodreads since 2007 (I was an early Goodreads user as my friend's brother went to grad school with the person that developed Goodreads so we knew about it very early!). The last couple of years, I also kept a spreadsheet of my reading so I would have even more details!  As a math major, I just LOVE stats.  :)  So here is what my 2016 reading looked like!

How many books read? 

How many pages read?

What is the breakdown of the format of the books you read?
E-books = 28%
Hardback = 34%
Paperback = 36%
Audiobooks = 1%

What is the breakdown between male and female authors?
Female = 61%
Male = 40%

How many books did you buy?

How much money did you spend on books?

Detail the genre breakdown by percentage.
Fiction = 59%
Non-Fiction = 32%
Young Adult = 8%

Where did you get your books (library, purchased, borrowed, etc)?
Library = 50%
Postal Book Club = 5%
Owned = 38% (includes books purchased in 2016 + books I've owned for years)
Borrowed from a friend = 5%
Gifted = 1%

What month did you read the most? The least?
I read the most in January (9 books) and the least in December (3 books).

Average rating?
3.3 stars.

Breakdown of ratings:
1 star = 0
2 stars = 14
3 stars = 28
4 stars = 23
5 stars = 9

Additionally, I completed the read harder challenge.  Here are the books I completed for each category!

Read a horror book: The Shining by Stephen King
Read a book out loud to someone else: The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (read to my friend's sons)
Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: Blindness by Jose Saramago
Read a book under 100 pages: Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
Read a book that is set in the Middle East: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Read a book about politics, in your country or another: Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim
Read a food memoir: A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan
Read a nonfiction book about science: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Listen to an audiobook that has won an audi award: The Age of Miracles
Read a book over 500 pages:  Winter of the World
Read a collection of essays:  Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed
Read a middle grade novel: Wonder
Read a biography: Steve Jobs
Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: Lonesome Dove
Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender: George
Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie: Shutter Island
Read the first book in a series by a person of color: Sorcerer to the Crown
Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: The Expatriates 
Read a book about religion: 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian
Read a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes: All the Single Ladies
Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: Finding Audrey

And that's a wrap for 2017 posts! Do you have any fun new years plans? We are heading to Wisconsin for a good friend's wedding on New Years Eve. Have a safe and happy new year, everyone!