Category: money and happiness

How To (At Least Start To) Get Your Finances Under Control

These are simple, easy baby steps most of us aren't taking to get our finances under control. Click through for five things you can do TODAY //

Gosh, but money is a touchy subject, isn’t it? When we’re not good with it, we feel embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed with but-I’m-smart-why-do-I-keep-screwing-this-up? And when we manage it wisely, we just might be the source of jealousy or even how-does-she-do-it gossip.

To make matters worse, most of us feel weird talking about it. Yes, I want to know how you can afford that shiny, new SUV. No, I’m never, ever going to ask about it.

But devotedly ignoring things rarely gets anyone anywhere. With that in mind, here are five things you can (and should!) do if you’re serious about getting your financial life in order. 

5 ways to get your finances under control

1. Make a real budget

Yes, I know. You’ve heard this a million times before. For good reason! We manage what we monitor and you’d be amazed how quickly those $4 lattes and $17 Target sweaters add up.

Your budget needn’t be anything fancy – it can just be a spreadsheet listing your monthly income and recurring bills. If you want something more involved, check out Dave Ramsey’s free forms or Once you’ve decided how much you can spend, make it easier on yourself by leaving your credit cards at home, freezing them, or covering them with a photo of something you’re saving for.

My trick? Give yourself a ‘fun allowance’ and withdraw that amount from the ATM each week. Once the cash is gone? It’s soup and library books for you, my friend.

2. Actually understand your job benefits

Back when I was working for other people my understanding of my benefits was exclusively limited to vacation time. 401k matching? What’s that? HSA? Home shopping account? Life insurance? Who caaaaares?

Be ye not so stupid as me, friends. Really, actually read through that huge binder your HR person gives you. Google what you don’t understand. Schedule a meeting with HR to go over anything that’s not clear. It’s estimated that benefits can add as much as 30% value to any job – you might as well understand them and take advantage of them!

3. Put your school loans on auto-pay

Do you have school loans? (Dur. Yes.) If you put them on autopay you a) don’t have to worry about writing a check once a month b) can save .25%. I realize that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re repaying tens of thousands of dollars, it adds up! And remember, you can deduct student loan interest from your taxes!

4. If you know you can use a credit card wisely, get one with great rewards

If you know you struggle with impulse purchases and you’ve had credit card debt in the past, take a pass on this one. But if you can manage a credit card, getting one with good rewards can make a huuuuuge difference.

I have a Capital One card because it has amazing travel rewards and I put ev.ery.thing on it – I even pay my utilities with it! I pay it off every month and I’ve already received hundreds of dollars worth of rewards this year.

5. Think about ways you can cut spending

I’m a big believer in putting your money where your happy is. If you don’t care about that painfully hip new restaurant, don’t go there. If name brand clothes don’t bring you joy, don’t buy them. If you need a three week beach trip each year, budget accordingly. It’s a lot easier to cut your spending when you know you’re saving for something important and joy-making.

You can find a million good ideas for living a good life on a budget here.

How’s your relationship with money? How do you save + manage it?

P.S. 10 ways to feel rich and How to save up for big ticket items.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash // cc

My problems aren’t your responsibility (and, ahem, probably vice versa)

For too long I expected other people to cater to my needs and whims or work around my issues. Putting our happiness or contentment in the hands of other people is an exercise in managing disappointment. Let's stop. Here's how >>
When I was 12 years old I convinced my parents to let me be a vegetarian.
I’d spent at least five years battling their two-bites-of-everything rule.  If memory serves, my mom finally caved after I theatrically gagged some summer sausage back onto my dinner plate and worked up some crocodile tears + puppy eyes.
I remember her standing in our dining room, hands on hips, and sighing “You don’t have to eat meat anymore but I’m not fixing you anything special.  There’s enough food on the table.  You’re not going to starve.”
In our current state of helicopter parenting, this might sound overly harsh, but I think it’s completely legitimate. To this day, I’ll happily pick pepperoni off the pizza my friends ordered or dig the pork out of the soup.  Being vegetarian is my deal.  Which means I’m the one who has to deal with it.
Because I’m The Most Fun, I have plenty of other deals. Want to hear them? 
  • I get really motion sick and I’ll puke if we’re driving through the mountains (even if I take Dramamine).
  • I don’t like it when people eat cocktail shrimp in my vicinity.
  • There are various exes I’d prefer not to run into.
  • I don’t like amusement parks or the State Fair.
  • Wearing cashmere or angora makes me feel like the walls are closing in.
  • I don’t like to be around large groups of drunk strangers.
  • After about four hours of conversation or group engagement, the light turns off inside me and I need to go sit in a quiet place by myself. And preferably read lady magazines or nap.
And there was a time (um, embarrassingly not-that-long-ago) when I thought it would be really, really lovely if everyone ever went out of their way to accommodate my various neuroses.

You know who likes constantly accommodating one person’s needs?  Absolutely no one. 

If I don’t like it when you eat cocktail shrimp next to me, maybe I should move.

Rather than asking you not to invite my ex to that party, maybe I should go early.  Or late.  Or go whenever I want and then not talk to them.

You’re having a birthday party at an amusement park?  How about I buy you a drink the day before?

If I feel myself reaching my social quota I can just excuse myself and go the eff home.

And nobody’s going to hold me down and make me wear angora.Of course it’s nice when the people in our lives work around our stuff!  When they take into consideration our gluten intolerance or our fear of snakes or the fact that we’re on a really tight budget!

But ultimately, I am the only person who is responsible for myself, my happiness, and dealing with my issues. And I imagine you’re in the same boat.

If reading fashion magazines makes you feel bad about your body, don’t read them.

If a specific friend always brings you down, stop hanging out with them.

If a friend invites you to a cabin weekend that you can’t afford, don’t go.

If you’re a vegetarian and your friends invite you to a steakhouse, either don’t go or go and order a baked potato and a martini.

If you’re gluten intolerant and you get invited to a potluck, bring a dish that you love so you’ll have something to eat.

If you’re having a rough, grumpy day, don’t take it out on your roommate/partner/parent.  Go to the gym, go for a walk, write in your journal is a sulky, dramatic manner.

As  harsh as it sounds, I find this approach really empowering.

Making my wellbeing someone else's responsibility is an exercise in disappointment management. Click To Tweet

When I decided that I was the only one responsible for working around my stuff, life got a lot easier and friendships became a lot more fun.

(People like you more when you’re not asking them to stop eating that shrimp so loudly.)

What issues are you working through?  How do you work around them without expecting everyone to make exceptions for you? (and have you ever been guilty of being too demanding?)

P.S. If you like this kind of stuff, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to ‘Life Advice’!

How To Save Money Without Hating Your Life

Want to know how to save money + live on a budget HAPPILY? Figure out which expenses + purchases bring you the most just - and then budget accordingly! //
Have you guys ever been broke?
Like, canned-soup, checking-out-library-DVDs, not-sure-if-you-can-afford-the-Maybelline-blush broke?
I have.  I mean, I imagine anyone who’s been 22 has been that broke.  At one point, I had a $15-a-week ‘fun budget’ that I used to cover all non-gas or grocery items.  I felt so clever when I found that $1 second-run theater!

Eventually, I started making a bit more money and had a little financial wiggle room. I started to engage in decadent things like full-priced movie tickets, non-pre-owned clothing, and living by myself. $30 sundresses from Target!  The luxury!And then I started to make even a little bit more money.  And I could drink $12 cocktails, like, once a week.

Every once in a while I’d spend more than $30 on a piece of clothing.  I HAVE ARRIVED! I AM FANCY NOW!But the funny thing was, even though I was making more money – I was saving the same amount.I fell into the trap of spending money because I “could.”

“Grown-ups with real incomes go out to eat a lot.  Maybe I’ll do that now?”

“I can afford Aveda shampoo and I want to smell like fancy dirt.  I’m going to spend $12 on that bottle.”

“It seems like expensive haircuts are better.  Are they better?  That salon is full of cute girls. I’m sure I’ll be cuter if I pay them $60 to cut my hair.”

But when I really thought about it, those $15 an entree meals and $12 shampoo and $60 haircuts weren’t particularly awesome.  Or rather, they didn’t make me happy or make my life easier, the way that some other purchases did.

I decided to actively notice which purchases that made me happiest.

I realized that:
Travel made me happy.
Mid-day pedicures with my girlfriends made me happy.
Perfectly ripe produce and amazing cheese made me happy.
Funny art prints and colorful throw pillows made me happy.
These earrings made me happy.

Name brand clothing, manicures, expensive meals, non-costume jewelry, cable, $4 coffees did not make me happy.

These things are really great and totally happy-i-fying for some people!  It just so happened that – when I really thought about it, I realized – they did nothing for me.

So I stopped spending money on things because I “could” or because I thought that’s what “adults who work hard for their money” do.

I started putting my money where my happy was.

And you know what?  Now I’m happier and my savings account is too.

Figure out what brings you joy and then buy it. Skimp on the other stuff. It's that simple! Click To Tweet

How do you budget for the things you love?  Do you ever find yourself spending more money when you’re earning more?

P.S. How to (at least start to) get your finances under control + How to pay off your soul-crushing debt

My 5-second Money Saving Trick

This one budget tip has saved me hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars! Money saving tricks don't get much easier than this! Click through and start using it today! >>


This money saving trick is possibly head-smacklingly obvious BUT I’M GOING TO TELL YOU ANYWAY. One person’s ‘obvious’ is another person’s ‘you’re blowing my mind!’

So here it is: The money-saving trick that has saved me from thousands of dollars of regrettable purchases. When you see something you want to buy but don’t necessarily need … Think about how much you'd be willing to pay for it before you look at the price tag. Click To Tweet

There are many times when I’ve thought “$7” and turned over a price tag that read “$35.”  But occasionally you’ll find things you’d pay hundreds of dollars for that only cost twenty bucks!
Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

7 Cheap Ways To Update Your Space

Want to update your space? Looking for cheap design tips and easy decor tips that make a big difference? Look no further! I swear by these 7 decor ideas - I do them once or twice a year! >>
Here’s how you know it’s time to update your space:
1. You still have framed photos of That Non-Awesome Ex
2. The dust on your artificial plants has made them appear beige

3. You find yourself spending more money on coffees and cocktails so you can hang out outside of your lack-luster space

Sound familiar? Updating your space doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. You don’t have to take time off work to repaint everything or spend $500 on a new couch. You’d be amazed at the changes you can make with $20 and  a Sunday afternoon!

7 cheap ways to update your space 

1. Swap out the prints and photos in your frames 

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had the same prints and photos in the same frames for, oh, five years. Dig through your Facebook albums and print out some funny photos, find some cool black and white pictures of your grandparents, or just have a poke around Etsy and order a few prints. It’s amazing what a difference it can make! (I love this print and this one.)

2. Level up the cozy by getting a new throw blanket for your living room

Adding a new blanket immediately makes your home warmer + snugglier and can provide a pop of color. If you’re reading this in the summer, get a light, cotton throw. This throw is cuddly and neutral enough to match any color palette.

Thrift stores are rife with grandma-style hand knitted afghans or you can usually pick one up at Target or Ikea for less than $30.

3. Upgrade your lampshades

Innocuous lamp bases are one of my best and most common thrift store purchases. But why match an innocuous base with a bland shade? You can frequently find fun patterned lamp shades at Target and Ikea (apparently the only places I shop other than thrift stores) for under $30. Look at this cool cork lampshade for  $28!

Or you can just make your own!

4. Elevate your space with new towels

Other than your shower curtain, your bath towels are pretty much the most exciting design piece in your bathroom, right? Or at least, they’re probably displayed someplace where everyone can see them?

Why not get something other than white? Or if you’re feeling really kicky, what about something other than terry cloth? Apparently cotton Turkish towels are amazing.

5. Make it smell amazing

I know this seems ridiculous but it really, really isn’t. We all know that an apartment that smells like cinnamon + cloves feels really different than an apartment that smells like gym clothes + litter box. You can make your space smell good with crackling wood wick candlesoil diffusers, or ‘stove simmers.’

6. Put something new in the middle of your dining room table

I am exactly the kind of try-hard who always has something artfully arranged in the middle of my dining room table. And by ‘something’ I mean ‘a wooden bowl of produce and a candle.’ It’s better than nothing, but it feels nice to switch it up sometimes. Here are some cute, cheap centerpiece ideas.

7. Improve your pillows by changing out (or at least washing) the shams

So easy! Unzip your old shams (and probably throw them in the wash), slide on some new ones in a different color or fabric. Done. You can frequently find pillow shams at Ikea for less than $20 or, of course, you can just make them yourself.

I probably won’t be undertaking of these but I think I’m ready to get rid of my stained dish towel and frame a few new photos.

But I want to know about you! What do you do when your space is feeling stale?

P.S. How to make your house cozy when it’s gray + horrible outside and 8 ways to show your home you love + respect it

photo by sara dorweiler //cc

13 Ways To Buy Happiness For $5 Or Less

Can you buy happiness? That's debatable. You can, however, buy 1 of these 13 things that will brighten your day/life ... for less than $5. Click through for fun ideas! >>
Can you really buy happiness? No!  Of course, not!  Buuuut, it can buy you things that will temporarily entertain, feed, and/or enlighten you.

13 ways to buy happiness (or at least brighten your day) for $5 or less

1. One of those awesome multi-colored pens
You know, the kind you had in 4th grade?  And you used to write notes to your BFF about how cute Rick Burgstaler was?  And then you wouldn’t let anyone use the pink color because you were ‘saving’ it?  You can still get one and use it to take notes in work meetings or sign your rent checks in purple ink.
2. Redbox
If you’re one of the five people left in the world who don’t have Hulu+ or Netflix (or you actually enjoy the act of holding your video rental in your hand) check out a Redbox DVD.  Get something fluffy and awful that nobody will watch with you and watch every bit of it.  Even the special features.
3. Fancy soap
TJ Maxx and Marshalls always have giant bars of soap for $3 that smell like grapefruit + clean linens + rich people.  And who doesn’t want to smell like rich people for $3?
4. Shower steamer
Shower steamers are like a bath bomb for your shower – a ball of awesome (and essential oils) that’s released in the steam of your shower.  Lovely!
5. Ice cream cone
For $5 you can get quite a nice sized cone.  Try out a new flavor – Norwegian chai, cream cheese, sweet corn or cereal milk!
6. Tacky nail polish and DIY manicure
If you’re saving your pennies for a proper manicure, you probably want to choose a color that works in multiple environments – like the office and that wedding.  But if you’re doing it yourself, why not do neon green with rainbow sparkly ring fingers?
7. Fancy chocolate bar
You know, for the antioxidants.
8. Matinee at the cheapo theater
Second-run theaters are lovely!  You can finally see that silly movie you were too embarrassed to see when it came out.
9. Download your favorite can’t-help-but-dance-to-it songs
You know the ones.  The ones where you sing along in the car while fervently slapping the steering wheel?
10. One-use face mask
Squeeze it out, smear it on, put your feet up, and read a magazine.
11. Disposable camera
Because it’s oddly awesome to find out what your pictures look like several days after you take them.  Delayed gratification!  How novel!
12. A package of  your favorite childhood candy
For me, it’s Big League Chew or Fun Dip.  Maybe you love Red Vines or Fruit-by-the-foot?
13. Sparklers
They’re awesome any time of year, but oddly more awesome outside of the traditional fireworks holidays. (Here’s a great how-to on taking long exposure photos with sparklers!)

What are your favorite five dollar (or less!) day makers?

P.S. 23 ways to treat yourself that don’t involve buying or eating anything!

Photo by Keila Hötzel on Unsplash