Rachel Discovers Happiness

my life and road to happiness

Archive for the tag “Saving”

Happiness Project: Status Update: January

Wow, I have been epically failing on my schedule to post on at least one of my blogs every day. So, that means that I haven’t been doing well on at least one of my resolutions.

It doesn’t get better from there.

In January I was supposed to focus on my finances – making sure I didn’t spend frivolously, save money, etc. Welp, that didn’t quite happen.

Sorry Mr. Hamilton (image via: DreamsTime.com)

I did manage to save some money, but not as much as I’d hoped. Since I am entering into the work-world, I have had to drastically improve my business-professional clothing collection. It doesn’t help that I loooooove business-professional clothing and that every time I see a cute blazer, pencil skirt or pair of heels my wallet just jumps out of my purse, my credit card swipes itself on the little machine, and I can’t control my hand as it picks up the pen to sign my name on the receipt. It is completely out of my control!

Okay, so I might have a problem. But at least it’s a fun one!

In any case, as you can probably tell, January did not go the way it was supposed to.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t done well on some of my other goals. If you are a regular reader of my blog (as you should be, hehe) you know that I have taken a picture every single day of January and plan to continue that for the rest of the year. (You should value my dedication to this. It is an even bigger commitment than it would have been last year. Not only do you get to see 365 photos as you would any other year, you actually get 366 photos because it’s a leap year. Lucky you!)

Other things that I have succeeded in are as follows:

  • Eating healthier and spending less money at restaurants than I did before – this is made easier by living at home with my parents who do most to all of my grocery shopping, cooking, paying when we are out, etc.
  • Applying for a job/internship and setting up informational interviews with people who are in positions that I would like to be in some day
  • Spending more time with my parents and attempting to talk to my sisters as often as possible (I could probably do better on the sisters part)
  • Focusing on my friendships with my girl friends rather than getting wrapped up in boy drama (the year started out a little bit rocky, some minor frustrations, but that’s about it thus far)
  • Apartment searching
  • Not biting my nails – I am doing soooooo well on this. It has been something that I have had a problem with for my entire life – you wouldn’t have wanted to see how short my nails were. It was one of my nervous habits, and since I get stressed/anxious really easily, I was always biting my nails. It wasn’t just biting either, I would pick at them as well. Not a good habit. I have not bitten my nails in so long, I keep them painted, I have nail growth stuff, etc.
  • I have started taking vitamins on a regular basis (a multi-vitamin, biotin – for nails and hair, vitamin D and calcium)
  • I have put together a schedule for myself which has helped me manage stress, anxiety, and worry

Even though I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked thus far, I am really looking forward to the rest of 2012. Normally I start a new year with low expectations – it is just part of my nature. In my attempt to be more optimistic and think more positively, I came into 2012 forcing myself to believe that this year would be better than the rest. So far, I’ve been right. Although it is difficult to change who I am and how I feel about certain things, I am trying my hardest and I think I will be a better person for it.

How ’bout you? What progress have you made with your resolutions and goals? Has your 2012 started out well? What are you looking to improve on this year?

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An Apology to Leftovers

Dear Leftovers,

I am so sorry that I complained about you in the years past. I’m sorry that every time I asked my mom what we were having for dinner and she said “leftovers” I argued and said I wanted her to make something else – pasta, chicken, soup – anything that I hadn’t been served within the last 72 hours. I was young and naive and didn’t fully comprehend the amazingness that is you.

You see, back then I didn’t prepare my own food. My parents made my lunches and dinner for me. They were delicious, but because I was such a brat, I became demanding about the delicious food they prepared for me.

It wasn’t until I left for college that I really began to grasp how exhausting it is to prepare a new meal every night. Not only do you work/go to class all day, but then you also have to go home and cook dinner every single night? Did I mention the dishes that then had to be done after all the preparation and eating?! No thank you. Not gonna happen. On the bright side, when you are only cooking for one or two (such as myself and a roommate), it was almost impossible to make the exact right amount… that meant there was, heaven forbid, leftovers.

That is when my life changed.

My fridge - look at all those leftovers! (taken January 19, 2012)

I began to appreciate the leftover pizza that was in the fridge for two days. The Americanized Chinese food* in its white little boxes. The chicken bits that Christine and I like to call “nibs.” And the spaghetti, oh the spaghetti! So delicious. And the best part? That none of those things have to be heated up in order to be delicious the next day! (Of course you could heat them in the microwave if you wanted to, but it wasn’t a necessary step.)

By senior year of college – after only having cooked for myself for three years – I was done making a new dish every night. No more coming home exhausted and then slaving over a hot stove! No more trying to figure out whether or not I have the right ingredients for a specific recipe! No more cooking, eating, and then cleaning everything! I was done!

It was liberating.

Christine and I started making entire boxes of spaghetti for the two of us – that would last us for three days (lunch and dinner) before we finally ran out. We started grabbing sandwiches from our favorite deli just so we would have leftovers, eating half of them at lunch and then saving the rest for dinner. When I graduated from college and had my entire family over for dinner after the ceremony we had a ridiculous amount of Mexican food that was leftover. It wasn’t a problem though. That food sustained us and we loved it.

Oh, and the monetary impact that eating leftovers has had on my life! Instead of leaving the leftover pasta on my plate at the restaurant, I take it home with me. Mashed potatoes and broccoli that I didn’t eat? Pack it up! It’s like getting two meals for the price of one. What a concept!

As I sit here and eat my reheated shrimp fried rice, chicken chow fun, and General Tso’s chicken, I can’t help but think back on the darker times in my life. The times when I refused to eat the leftover pasta. Wouldn’t touch the takeout box sitting in the fridge the next morning. Those were sad, sad times.

So you see leftovers, people can change. I have changed.

I thank you for sustaining me throughout my four years of college and now, as I enter the “real world” and start my career, I will depend on you often after a long day at work. My co-workers might hate me for having my Tupperware in the communal fridge for a few days, but I won’t care! I won’t care because I will have my leftovers and they will save me time and money.

So thank you. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you. You are a wonderful part of my life and I’m sorry it took me so many years to realize it.

Sincerely,

Rachel

*I’ve been to China and real Chinese food is very different than what we call Chinese food.

A Sincere Letter to Cash-Only Businesses

Dear Businesses that Don’t Accept Credit/Debit Cards (yup, I’m talking to you Little Sandwich Place on Union St. in San Francisco),

I want to begin this heart felt letter by saying that, although I understand your side of things, I still feel as though you really suck.

Okay, never mind, I take that back, I don’t understand your side of things. What century do you think you’re in? This isn’t the 18- or 19- hundreds anymore! It is the 21st century!!

I get that having a credit card swiper thing in your place of work means that you have to pay a little bit more when somebody chooses to use that form of payment, but can’t you just raise your prices by a tiny bit? Like, an extra quarter per sandwich? Instead, as your customer, when I can’t pay because I only have cards with me, I have to walk two blocks in order to find an ATM which then, in turn, charges me $2.50 to withdraw my $40. That charge is a 20% increase in the price of my purchase!

As somebody who is trying to follow her 2012 resolutions, I have started using my debit card a lot more because it is easier to track expenses that way. I don’t have to take receipts (which are not environmentally friendly in the first place) because my bank records all my transactions for me.* I don’t have to worry about change – paper or metal. I’m not concerned about my $20 bills blowing away or my change spilling everywhere as I’m crossing the street causing me to have to stop in the middle of the road, block traffic, risk my life, and pick up my measly 63¢. Or what to do with the pennies that are piling up in my car’s center console because a) I don’t have enough space in my wallet to carry all of them b) I can’t use them anywhere – including gumball machines like I could when I was little and c) it bothers me that the penny is bigger than the dime even though it is worth less. But I digress.

Don’t you see how big of an inconvenience this is to all of us? Now, I promise you, the 21st century isn’t as scary as we thought it was going to be a little over 12 years ago. Remember Y2K? When we all thought computers wouldn’t know how to handle the year code (’00 vs. ’99)? Or when we thought, for sure, there was going to be some huge, astronomical change when the clock hit midnight (even though we are on the West Coast of the United States and just about everybody else on earth had already made it safely into the 2000’s), but then it didn’t?

I promise, when you choose to join the rest of us in the world of technology and those small, rectangular, plastic things we all call credit cards, the world will not collapse around you. Yes, the world as you know it will be no more, but I promise, it will be better. It will be a place that doesn’t force people, such as myself, to spend a whole bunch of extra money on things such as sandwiches. The rest of us, who are already in the second decade of the new millenium, will gladly welcome you with open arms (and wallets).

I sincerely hope you take this letter to heart.

Regards,

Rachel

*Please spare me the lecture on how I shouldn’t count on my bank as a means of tracking my finances. I’ve heard it all before. It’s just so easy that way! And i’m not spending/making enough money for there to be any big discrepancy right now. I promise I will start to keep closer tabs on my ATM/credit card purchases in the future.

Splurges

This weekend I drove down to San Luis Obispo for my friend Stephanie’s 23rd birthday. Weekends like that always end up costing more money than fit into my budget. Normally I don’t think about how much money I want to spend while I’m down there, but this time I did. I was so proud of myself! I didn’t spend more than $50, and that included meals, bars, taxis, and shopping. How did I do it? I have no idea, but it was amazing.

I have been budgeting, paying attention to my finances, figuring out how to organize my receipts, and working with my online banking/accounts to get myself organized and keep myself on track. It also helps that GOOD does their “30 Days of Good” and this month they are targeting finances.

But this post is more about what I AM going to spend money on, than how I’m organizing my finances. I’ve decided that there are some things that are worth spending money on. Like BufferApp – the application I use to schedule my Tweets. Or a stand and an external keyboard and mouse for my laptop so that I can be more comfortable as I work – ergonomics aren’t a joke! My back has been killing me!

Oh, and I’m also willing to spend money on clothes… because I  love clothes. And I have to build my professional wardrobe. And my every day wardrobe. And my shoe collection. And jewelry. And things for the apartment in San Francisco that I will move into in the semi-near future.

But you know, those are the only splurges I’ll make 🙂

Finances – Step 1

Hello again! How are your 2012 resolutions coming along? Mine are okay, although I haven’t really had a chance to focus on finances because I haven’t gone anywhere that have had to spend money.

Celebrating 2012 with friends (and a weird guy behind us...)

I have, however, started to figure out how much money I want to spend on each category each month. I’m so glad that my friend Christine introduced me to Mint – an online financial tracking system that helps you stick to your budget. There is also an app for your smart phone. It develops a budget for you, but you can also change the amount of money in each category. My categories include Movies & DVDs, Alcohol & Bars, Coffee Shops, Fast Food, Restaurants, Groceries, Gas & Fuel, and Clothing.

I won’t get into the details of it because honestly, it would probably bore you (and me) but I will tell you that I have taken to using Mint, as well as Excel in order to organize my cash flow. I’m hoping to save at least 30% of every pay check I receive, which is pretty easy now because I’m living at home, but once I move out I’m expecting it to get a lot more difficult.

As for my other, more fun resolutions, I’m doing pretty well! I’ve taken a photograph every day (although last night I forgot until I got into bed, so I took one of my reading material). I’ve updated my 5 year blog every day. I have been reading. I have been eating healthier and tracking my food intake (not calories, just intake). I have been trying to relax more. I even started exercising.

I’ve been organized, productive, social, and happy. I’ve been reading books, magazines, blogs, and articles. I even went job searching today! I’ve been (mostly) following the schedule I developed last week. It’s pretty packed, but sticking to a schedule helps me get things done and feel more accomplished.

my weekly schedule

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, congratulations,” as you roll your eyes. “You’ve made it a grand total of five days. I’m sooooo proud of you. Not.” But seriously, five days is a great start! Think on the positive side – five days is five days of forming a habit. That leaves only 361 days left to make my resolutions habit and complete my goals. (Yes, 361 days – 2012 is a Leap Year!*)

I’m excited to get even more organized and figure out other ways in which I can work towards my resolution to make myself happier. Thus far, 2012 has started out well – I’ve had a smile on my face every day!

How are your 2012 resolutions coming along? What are they? Do you have goals for each month?

*Quick Fact: Everybody in my immediate family on my mom’s side was born in a Leap Year. That includes: me, my little sister, my two older step-brothers, my mom, my step-dad, and my niece. Pretty cool, huh?

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