Shout Out Sunday

Think I’m gonna get right down to business today, guys! Here’s my week in a nutshell:

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  1. I’m actually doing it, fam! I’m doing the Spending Fast. We’re shooting for a year, but it’s based on need. If I can pay my consumer debt down faster (I have a couple of ways I could do this, but they’re both pending/not guaranteed), we might not need to keep going until 2020, but honestly, the experience has been so empowering that I don’t think I’ll want to stop! I’m rereading Anna’s book, and Katy Goodman’s Insta stories have been super inspiring (she has a No Buy highlight). Just with little tweaks, my grocery bill has started to come down, I’m using cash for purchases, and we cancelled cable (finally!). Student loans go into repayment next month, so things will be really tight—I’m working on starting a side hustle job (more on that later). It feels so good to rid yourself of all the stuff in your life that’s weighing you down! P.S. Anna’s book (Kindle version) is on sale for $1.99 right now, so snatch it up!
  2. Catastrophe series 4 is streaming on Amazon starting March 15th and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s one of my favorite pieces of media ever made. Sharon and Rob are geniuses beyond measure. I think I’m going to cancel my Amazon Prime subscription after I watch it, which is kind of a big step for me! I’ll have to buy the season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel next year, but a one-time $12-ish purchase is better than $49-$99 a year to support a company that sucks!
  3. Since I’m not spending money right now, I’ve been bringing my own lunch to work every day. Sometimes, that means the Trader Joe’s microwave meals that we still have from before the No-Buy, but mostly it’s meant leftovers and jar salads. I stan a jar salad. They are my favorite thing on the planet. People at work think I’m nuts rolling up to the breakroom with a quart Mason jar of lettuce but they don’t even know. You can put literally anything in a jar salad. My last one was champagne-pear salad dressing, snow peas, beet sauerkraut, mixed greens, and vegan cashew parm. Delicious!
  4. I’m psyched to make this soup recipe. I make a mean tomato basil, but subbing cashews in for cream is genius! My belief about food is that, if you can make it vegan with little to no effort, do that shit.
  5. I started using the iBotta app, which gives you cash back for buying certain items and submitting your receipts. It’s like coupons, but 2019. I think apps like this can be a slippery slope and convince people to buy products they don’t need, but I go through and find only things that are already on my grocery list, and choose the most cost effective brand. For instance, there was a $1 back bonus on Health-Ade Kombucha, which made it, effectively, cheaper than even the store brand. I’ve made $13 so far, off of only 2 shopping trips.
  6. Do you read New Darlings? They’re sharing their pregnancy journey right now and it’s so sweet I could scream. I can’t wait until that’s me!
  7. Dogs aren’t actually smart. Sorry not sorry to break this to you.
  8. I saw Neko Case when I was in Tallahassee and holy fucking shit was she amazing. If you haven’t listened to her new album, shame on you.
  9. On that note, Jenny Lewis has two new songs out: “Red Bull and Hennessy” and “Heads Gonna Roll
  10. Don Cheadle’s shirt choices on SNL last night were NEXT LEVEL.
  11. Saved the best for last: RUSSIAN DOLL. RUSSIAN DOLLLLLL! You’ve gotta watch this show. Drop what you’re doing and immediately log in to Netflix. It’s only February but this is definitely the best show of the year. Natasha Lyonne is breathtaking. We just finished last night and I am already yearning for a new season. A perfect, perfect show.
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Shout Out Sunday

So, I mentioned last week that I was thinking of changing the title of the feature. I’m still playing around, but we’ll go with “Shout Out Sunday” for now.

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  1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two is sensational, but Amy Sherman-Palladino really likes to leave us on unsatisfying cliffhangers, doesn’t she?
  2. Everlane just added some amazing new styles! The button-fly jeans are everything.
  3. The No-Spend Month has been going…okay. I’ve definitely spent way less than I normally would, but I just went to Target and kind of blew it. But there were penguin-shaped catnip toys on clearance for like, $1! How can I not get that for Della? I may need to get her these, because how freaking cute are they? I mean, I also bought a Hearth & Hand wall shelf (I can’t find the link!), because self-control is hard, guys. And it matches my bathroom! When my spending freeze is over, I’m for sure getting this cactus.
  4. I just discovered this kiddo shop on Amazon and my ovaries are practically jumping out of my body.
  5. The Marie Kondo show is out! I KonMari’d years ago, but it’s so nice seeing other people catch on to what is truly the best organizational system you’ll ever try. Nothing else works. Clutter and “organized chaos” are not cute. It’s not “artsy” to be bogged down by possessions. Especially if you have a family, it’s so essential and time-saving to have a clean, organized space. Doing KonMari has literally improved my mental health and sense of peace. Try it!
  6. I’ve probably pimped this before, but this is my all-time favorite “natural” nail polish.

Short one this week. But isn’t that what self-care’s all about? Knowing your limits. See you next week!

Sunday Kind of Love xxi

Welcome back to another installment of Sunday Kind of Love! This week, I’m going to attempt to be less materialistic, since this list is usually my purchase wet dreams. With one exception everything on here is either free or personal. As I go into 2019, I want to be more mindful and creative—I want a less cluttered home and a less cluttered mind. I know everyone says this nonsense at the beginning of every year, but instead of setting firm resolutions, I want to be kinder to myself and just encourage myself to look within instead of getting external validation from purchases and other people. So, with that said, please enjoy this picture of Sam Weir, a true icon.

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pic via hello giggles
  1. I’m doing a no-buy January! Okay, so I have read Anna Newell Jones’s book already, but I think I’m going to reread it for inspiration. The idea is not to spend any money on anything except essentials and subscriptions that haven’t run their course yet, which for me are gas, groceries, car payment, car insurance, student loans (they kick in in April), Hulu, Netflix, my Oui Fresh box, and paying as much off my credit card balance as possible. I won’t be eating any meals out or buying anything new unless it completely runs out (shampoo, makeup, etc.) Katy Goodman from Vivian Girls and La Sera did a no-buy December which she talked about on her Instagram stories, and it was really inspiring to hear about her success!
  2. I finally watched the Freaks and Geeks A&E documentary and I ugly-cried the whole time. It is so inspiring and heartbreaking. Paul Feig wrote the pilot on spec, which almost never gets picked up, much less goes to series. So many people believed in that show (and also, Paul Feig is a genius). Plus, the mere existence of John Francis Daley fills me will an unimaginable amount of joy.
  3. Michael and I just rewatched the original seasons of Arrested Development and, my god, it is a perfect, perfect show.
  4. I am so excited to watch Dumplin’. I can’t even tell you.
  5. My friend bought me this for Christmas and I almost died.
  6. Okay, okay, I’ll talk about one purchase. I got this little bag for 30% at Madewell when it was first introduced and I absolutely love it.
  7. In the past week, since I’m OFFICIALLY done with school forever and ever amen, I’ve been writing more than I ever have. I’m working on a YA novel about a study abroad trip to Oxford (sound familiar), and a collection of personal essays. I wrote one this morning about the New York Times Crossword and living with bipolar, and I’m thinking of posting it here.
  8. Soup season is officially here! I’ve been making my minestrone non-stop…I have to post the recipe here! It’s a loose take on the minestrone recipe from the Thug Kitchen cookbook and I’ve never had better in my life.
  9. I’m thinking of changing the name of this weekly post. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s starting to feel weird that I just named it after a song instead of coming up with an original title. So if you notice some random new post in your inbox, don’t be alarmed! It’s just me.
  10. I’m goin’ back to Tally the first week of February! I am stoked, dude. We’re seeing Neko Case at the Moon while I’m there! I can’t wait to gorge myself on a SoDough doughnut and tacos from El Cocinero! The best part is that this time I don’t have to fly into Jacksonville and drive over because I actually found a reasonable flight to the TLH airport!

Also, just a quick plug for my DePop and Poshmark shops! I’ll be adding a ton of new stuff in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! I’m @highwaytochel on both accounts, and I always take offers if you leave me a reasonable one in the comments.

In the words of the great philosopher, Phoebe Robinson, #ByeQBye!

Dressin’

Is there an AA, but for online shopping? Sign me up. I have decided to do a no-spend month in January, but perhaps declaring that has been a bit too stressful, since I’m going completely ham on December purchases. It doesn’t help that I’m starting a new job where I can actually dress nicely every day.

A huge part of my self-care routine has to do with clothing and accessories. For the past 11-and-a-half years, I have worked in the service industry (with the exception of a few months during my grad school internship). Service industry means dress codes, some of which have been more permissive than others. Even when I was a store manager, the one who set the dress code (or, y’know, abolished it entirely), it was a coffee shop, which meant coffee spills, smells, sweat, and mop water. You’d be out of your mind to wear anything nice.

On the rare occasions I’ve gone into my various workplaces on days off, people usually ask, “Where are you going today?” because I’m (apparently) all dressed up. I get it—these people are used to seeing me in t-shirts and leggings, with little to no makeup on. But, in the immortal words of Steve Harvey, “They call me ranch, ’cause I be dressin’.” Clothing, at least in my adult years, has always been the way I express myself. I have to admit, my outfits can be a little eccentric (last night, for instance, I strolled into a family dinner wearing big hoop earrings, a pink utility jumpsuit from Madewell, a faux fur leopard coat, and leopard-print flats). PSA—the $16 ballet flats from Target are the most comfortable flats I’ve ever worn, and the cheapest. 

I know the stupid aphorism—don’t judge a book by its cover. But in my actual life, I found this to not be true at all. The way a person presents themselves says quite a lot about who they are! Just not in the way you might think. For instance, I step out into the world in lipstick (which I’ve worn every day for 12 years), a cool outfit, and styled hair because I want to project confidence, which internally, I struggle with. My house is very clean and organized because my mind isn’t. I work hard to be my aspirational self. Sometimes it fails (my professors, in particular, have seen right through the veneer) and sometimes it succeeds (my friends are often shocked when I open up about my mental health struggles). A variation of the outside-in philosophy, which was played on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for a laugh, has worked for me. Organizing my home has helped me stay on top of more quotidian tasks (like, paying my car insurance and stuff). Getting validation and support from my friends has helped me seek it within (and get into therapy!)

Okay, this is getting a bit dark and long-winded, but what I’m trying to say is that fashion is important to me. I love to buy things, wear them, donate them, and give them as gifts to friends. This holiday season has taught me how much I love giving—curating special and useful gifts for the people in my life that I love.

No-spend January is going to be tough for me. But hey, I’m up for a challenge. I’m trying to view it as an opportunity to get really creative with things I already own. So instead of my usual Sunday Kind of Love post, where I chronicle all of the things I’m lusting after on the internet, I’m turning inward. Thanks for reading!

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Okay, okay, okay. I will post one recommendation. The Schitt’s Creek Christmas Special, y’all. That show is the best thing I discovered in 2018.

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Oh, okay, one more. The Weezer sketch from last week’s SNL. I died.

Spending Not-So-Fast

Oh, boy, have I failed at this experiment. The past two months have been a downward spending spiral. Which means that, starting next week, I have to recommit.

I think it might help to reestablish my needs list. It’s a core tenant of The Fast.

Needs:

  • student loan payments
  • car payment
  • cell phone bill
  • groceries
  • gas
  • toiletries
  • Netflix & Hulu subscriptions
  • 1 “luxury item” per week (bottle of wine, etc)
  • a dress for my bridal shower

That’s pretty much it. I have basically no excuse to purchase anything else. Especially with a wedding coming up. Hopefully posting this, publicly, will help me stay on track.

The “luxury item” shouldn’t really be a need, but severe restrictions tend to lead to spending rebounds. If I have it in mind that I can buy one little thing to keep myself sane, like a takeout coffee or some wine, I think it will help me ease into financial bad-assery again.

I don’t want my in-the-moment depressive bouts to affect my future.

To the fast!

 

Can you tell I’m super enthusiastic about this? #frugallife

 

Spending Fast Update: Month 1

April 28-May 26 (cut short because of my vacation!)

So, this whole no-spending-money-on-anything thing is a lot easier and a lot harder than I expected! Finding creative ways to save has been really fun!

I started bringing coupons to the grocery store and I saved $9 the first week and $16 the second. I also actually brought the cans to the redemption center. It was only La Croixs, but I made $5. Better than nothing!

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Au revoir, fancy takeout crêpes. (@ The Skinny Pancake in Montpelier, VT)

It’s so hard not to spend on clothes and accessories (my weaknesses). I think the best feeling so far has been my newfound ability to add to cart without checking out. I still get the online shopping rush, without actually spending money.

About halfway through the month, I found myself begin to online window-shop again, so I decided to send a payment to my student loans every time I “added to cart.” It worked brilliantly! One day I sent a random $228 to my loans, instead of spending unneccessary money on Rebecca Minkoff bags or on Asos. When I completed my student loan exit counseling, I sent another $120 towards my loans just for fun.

Of course, throughout the first month, I screwed up. I’m a human being with needs! All of these amounts are rounded up:

The Shame List

drinks at the theatre, $17

drinks at the M.Ward concert, $22

NAF merch button, $3

dinner out, $27

drinks at the La Sera concert, $13

craft supplies, $24

Home Depot (plants & woodworking supplies), $57

treated Dad to dinner, $50

dry-brush, $13

doughnuts & treats with bae, $19

*weak moment* Asos, $26

treated Dad to drinks, $23

clothes, $32

total: $326

Ugh, this list makes me look like a total alcoholic! The first month taught me that (though I don’t drink at home) I’m weak when it comes to indulging when I go out. Hopefully, that will only improve from here! It’s a bummer to think that $326 went to something other than my debt, but it’s such an immense improvement from last month that I’m not letting it discourage me! Basically, it amounts to one wasted paycheck. I think the easiest plan for me is to slowly taper off (3/4, 1/2, 1/4 a paycheck…)

Without starting the Spending Fast, that extra money that I sent to my student loans would have been wasted! Hopefully I can knock a couple thousand dollars off the top before I start owing payments in 6 months. This month, my savings/emergency fund reached $1,500, which is a major milestone for me. I can pay cash to finish my degree, which is something I never thought I’d achieve. I might start auto-depositing $100/week instead of $50/week into my savings, so that come student loan time, I’ll barely even feel my monthly payments.

I went to Montréal this past weekend, so I had 4 days of a “Spending Vacation.” Luckily, the tenets of Spending-Fasting influenced my financial decision-making while abroad. We kept expenses really low, and availed ourselves of free activities. We were lucky enough to be there during Free Museum Day! Also, dat Canadian $$ exchange rate…

On a scale of 1-10, I’d consider May to be about a 4. I saved money and learned about my own spending habits, but I also spent way more than I had originally intended to.

Here’s to June being a much more massive success!

—DellaBites

Budget (Della)Bites

I did it. I finally started The Spending Fast.

If you haven’t heard of the Spending Fast, it’s the creation of blogger and photographer Anna Newell Jones. I’ve been following her blog And Then We Saved for years, and after reading her new book and forcing myself to confront the truth about my spending, I officially began my Spending Fast.


I finally went through my personal bank and credit card statements and not counting a lot of spending while on my vacation in Tallahassee, I managed to blow through $2,000 in 2 months! Holy. Shit.

Not all of it was completely reckless spending, but, let’s be honest: did I need to buy a Rebecca Minkoff handbag just because it was on sale? Is it actively improving my life? No. Is it hella cute and am I glad I have it? Of course. But c’mon: the fact that splurging on designer handbags had become so commonplace in my life should have been a red flag that I noticed a long time ago.

bag/Rebecca Minkoff, glasses/Skunkboy for Bonlook, faux furball/Topshop, bag charm/Michael Kors

Here’s what $2,000 could have been spent on:

  • paying off one of my student loans in full
  • paying for my summer course in cash
  • paying off almost half of my car loan
  • paying off 100% of my credit card debt

But nope. It went to dinners & drinks out, home décor trinkets, and clothes. When I went through my finances, I noticed that I make plenty of money to pay my bills, including my future student loan payments. The problem isn’t my job—it’s me being an absolute maniac with my money. I’m so done with that life.

I’m blogging about this publicly in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I’m going to admit every time I screw up (so far, $27 total on Chardonnay, water bottles, and breakfast/coffee at school), so I can’t deny it or hide it.

The typical Fast period is a year long, so I’ll aim for that. However, because of the unique circumstances of my 2016-2017 (a planned vacation, a wedding, and a honeymoon), the Fast year will have to include a few Fast vacations, which, in the lingo of And Then We Saved, I’ll call Spending Diets.

Here’s how it works:

You have to split all of your spending into two black & white categories, “Wants” and “Needs.”

My Needs:

  • cell phone bill
  • groceries
  • car loan payments
  • summer class & textbook
  • student loan payments (current & impending)
  • gas
  • medical co-pays (not that I ever go to the doctor)
  • Netflix & Hulu (reducing to one service soon)
  • wedding expenses (be as frugal as possible and pay cash for everything)

My Wants:

  • new clothes, accessories, & shoes
  • dining out
  • tech gear & accessories
  • cosmetics
  • haircuts (going to try to barter with my cousin/hairdresser for trims)
  • misc. online shopping, i.e. Etsy
  • home décor (will talk over all changes with my fiancé and work together to finance genuine improvements to the house)
  • music & concert tickets (we are huge music people, so this is going to be VERY tough)
  • premade & convenience food items

My Goals:

  • freedom from debt (duh!)
  • to eventually quit my job and blog/pursue passions full-time
  • to stay at home if/when I become a mother
  • to learn lasting money management skills

Some “Needs,” like groceries, can be wide open in terms of interpretation and actual dollar amount spent, so I’m narrowing it even further to exclude junk food and convenience items. My concentration will be on fresh produce and bulk grains/beans. It will require an added investment of time, but I’ll have a lot more free time once I stop internet window-shopping!

There is another component to the Spending Fast that is NOT fun to think about, but it’s an aspect that can’t be ignored: the Spending Fast and sobriety go hand-in-hand. I’m not talking about total teetotaling, but alcohol 100% of the time falls into the “Wants” rather than “Needs” category. There is never a time when one needs to drink. Therefore, apart from the bar of Chels (aka the liquor I acquired prior to the Fast, which I have to make last an entire year), no more drinking for me.

The Bar of Chels (bottle opener/Modcloth)

This is definitely a first-world problem, but I am naturally a very shy person who is easily overcome in noisy crowds (think: big family holidays), so being able to have a couple of drinks has been my emotional band-aid for years. Not great, Bob. I also suffer from depression, so it will be interesting to see if my mood lifts as a result of this major cutback. I’m hoping that this alleged sacrifice will actually turn out to be one of the most life-affirming and positive parts of the Fast.

So, wish me luck! I’m on day 5…only 360 more to go!

—DellaBites

*all photos taken with an iPhone 6 and edited with A Color Story