Sunday, November 2, 2014

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

Two reasons for the post title:
1. I was Janis Joplin for Halloween this weekend.(See below)
2. I've decided to challenge myself to "No Spend November" this month. 

Freeing Myself of Debt

As a recent college graduate supporting myself in an apartment with one roommate, I am no stranger to financial struggle. I make enough to cover those essentials (rent, utilities, internet, groceries) but I find myself with little left over, and zero available to save. I also opened two credit cards (both with $1,000 limits) within the past year. I got the first one to help pay for a summer course I needed to graduate, and then opened another because I still didn't have enough during my transition between graduating and beginning my first full-time job. 

I planned to pay them both off and revert back to my debit card once I began working. The problem is, that still hasn't happened. 

I don't consider my lifestyle plush or frivolous, but there are areas where I need to cut back. Those $8-10 lunches at work add up, as do the concert tickets, beers, and random splurges at Target (even IF they're from the sales rack, which mine often are.) I spend a lot on gas and groceries, and need a structured budget to keep my cashflow in check. I want to free myself from the need of excess things

As Chuck Palahniuk tells us in Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.”

So I've decided to participate in No Spend November, a challenge to freeze spending on non-essentials during the month of November, when holiday purchases and consumerism typically runs rampant. For me, it's more about giving myself a head start to permanently changing my budget and spending habits. I figure if I can go an entire month without unnecessary spending, I'll be in a better place for saving and spending responsibly for the rest of the year. This is going to become especially important when February rolls around, marking the end of my student loan grace period. 

As part of this challenge, I'll be writing down every penny that I do spend, and using that information to create a sustainable budget and savings plan for months to come.

Allowable Expenses:
+ Utilities (Typically around $40 for my share)
+ Internet ($20)
+ Gas
+ Groceries
+ Gym membership ($30)
+ Netflix ($7.99)
+ Tom's birthday Nov. 17 (modest spending)

+ Pay off one of my credit cards entirely.
+ Set up a savings account and begin adding to it. 
+ Create a sustainable budget to stick to year-round

If anyone else plans to participate in this challenge, let me know! 

Weekly Tidbits
Vernon, being the cutest and angriest pumpkin EVER. 
One of my favorite murals in town, captured during my first bike ride here.
Piglets at Tom's agriculture school! We brought them our leftover pizza :).
Cleaning up my community garden plot for the season - loved this space.
Hope you're all enjoying the fun festivities and beauty of autumn! Until next time, I'll be pinching my pennies and crossing my fingers that my debt will start to deflate. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Back to Blogging, Back with Purpose.

It's been quite some time. 

I feel like I say something like this every time that I blog. I preface each post with an apology, because I know it's been forever since I sat down and wrote for this blog. It's never because I don't like to blog, I love to blog. It's just been a struggle to find the time to write posts I felt were worth reading. 

But I'm back now, and I honestly think I'll be back for good. I've missed having this in my life, a place to write for myself, while also being open to thoughts and feedback from others. Blogging made me a better writer, and a more mindful person, which is something I'd like to get back to. 

So.. what have I been doing for all of this time? If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know. 

For starters, I graduated college. Four years and one online summer-class later, I did it. I walked away with a Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, in Communications. 

I got a full-time job with a digital marketing agency. And not just any marketing agency, the one I always had my eye on during college, and thought would be a cool place to work. I landed an internship there last spring, and everything fell into place. A few weeks after classes ended, I was joining the marketing world!

It's crazy how things happen, and happen so fast. 

I moved into a new apartment with my best friend. I adopted a handsome, quirky shelter cat named Vernon. I joined a community garden. I went to music festivals and shows, farmers markets, the ocean (once), and various hikes. I discovered that my favorite drink is a watermelon margarita (specifically when made by Tom), and I've learned to *somewhat* cook for myself. Still working on that one.

Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

My best friend Amanda and me at Hampton Beach for my birthday

Little baby cherry tomatoes in my community garden plot!

My love.

Rival Galaxies at RestFest 2014

Our new kitty, King Vernon.

The new apartment.

But when life happens fast, we often don't reflect, we react. We roll with the punches, or freak out. Thankfully, I've been doing the former. I've been immersed in my new job, learning a lot about copywriting, content planning, scriptwriting, managing social accounts, and more! I've even been fortunate enough to write several blog posts for the company and our accounts. Needless to say, all of this blogging on the job has made me miss writing on here.

My hope and plan is with my new-found knowledge and (somewhat) improved time-management, I'll actually be able to keep up with it. I might make an editorial calendar, and play around with some different ideas of what to write about.

I want this blog to have more purpose beyond a retelling of my day-to-day life. I want to challenge myself to try new things and take adventures that you, the reader, would want to follow along with. I want to improve myself, and document how I get to where I want to be. I also want a place to just write my shit. To not worry---to much---about how good it is, or if the voice is right. This is me, and this is my voice, so it has to be right. Right? (That thought process does not apply to businesses, by the way ;))

So yes, stay tuned. I'll be back soon.

PS. Anyone still reading this who followed me from before -- you are amazing. The kindness and loyalty of the blogging world never ceases to amaze me :).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And so it begins.

My final (planned) semester of college has begun. 
Utter craziness. 

I'm lucky to only be taking three classes though, and one internship for credit. Which is good, because I also work 20 hours a week M-F at my main job, and I'm starting my wine festival weekend job again at the end of this month. So I plan on being busy, but that's how I like it.

I really loved both of the classes I went to today. One was "Community Development and Neighborhood Planning" in the Urban Planning Department. It's not part of my major, but I became interested in the field once I began working at my current job, which does a lot to create healthy communities where I live. I've learned a lot about urban issues, food deserts and food justice from this job -- all things that are hard to ignore once you understand that the problems exist. I've actually considered blogging on this subject, but the idea never made it from brain to pen, or keyboard. My other class today was a "Communications Campaign Practicum." We'll be working with a real client all semester to plan and execute a communication plan to increase engagement from their target audiences. At the finish, we're supposed to have a nice portfolio to walk away with. I plan on going above and beyond in that class, being my last communications class, and my final opportunity to walk away with something tangible to prove what I've learned. I won't get to go to my third class until next Tuesday, but I'm hoping it's good. It's an introductory Public Affairs class, so we'll see.

The only complaint I really have from my educational experience (I went to an inexpensive state school, and loved it) was the lack of graphic design in the Communications program. They only make graphic arts available to people taking classes in the Art department, which isn't me. Meanwhile, all of the jobs for "Communications Specialist" or "Marketing Coordinator," or basically any of the job titles I've researched all want Photoshop and InDesign experience. Meanwhile, my school acts like they're totally divorced. It's frustrating, and will probably result in me taking a couple of digital design courses at the nearby Arts Center this late spring/summer to build my skill-set. Hopefully I'll be bilingual after this summer, too! I started my Rosetta Stone program and loved it. I did it until I fell asleep last night, and I'll probably do the same tomorrow.

Tom's move to college was a success. He travels so light, it makes me feel like a pack-mule or something. He and I moved all of his stuff in with two trips to his truck, that's it. It was strange being on someone else's campus, someone else's dorm. But it was cool, and I'm so happy he made the decision to do this :). He's still trying to feel out the roommate situation. The guy is nice and all, he's been there for a semester already. But his girlfriend, who lives with her parents off-campus some commutable distance away, lives in his dorm. It was so bad that when we arrived and no one was there, I was actually nervous that they mistakenly put Tom into a female's room. The roommate's bed was donned with a big white, flowery comforter, throw pillows and several jewelry boxes and miscellaneous girly crap. Later on we met them, and since his previous roommate left early, they had been living together in the dorm. And it appears that they have no real plans of changing that arrangement. The first night, while I was still there, the roommate offhandedly said, "And my girlfriend's going to stay over tonight, if that's cool." I guess that might have been Tom's moment to speak up and draw the line, but it was awkward. He just met the guy and was trying to get along with him. But is it me, or is that completely insane to spend every night of your first week with a new roommate with your girlfriend with you in your bed? Talk about uncomfortable.. I didn't even have to work the day after Tom moved in, but staying over in his dorm didn't even cross my mind. I just feel bad that he's stuck third-wheeling it, and doesn't get much privacy between the two of them. At first, it was made to seem pretty temporary, but now Tom isn't so sure. He's always so easy-going and relaxed, so it's hard for him to have to confront this kid. I'm debating on telling him to make an excuse that it makes me uncomfortable that he's living with a girl, hahah, even though I'm not so much uncomfortable as I'm annoyed for Tom. I'm not the least bit threatened, but it's not an ideal situation and I'm pissed he has to deal with it.They both seemed nice, but in my opinion it's totally disrespecting Tom's privacy, and the fact he's paying for this teensy-tiny space and this girl is not. Have you guys encountered similar problems, or have any advice for handling this sticky situation?

Hope everyone's having a great week & staying warm!