Category: money and happiness

Why Is It So Hard To Enjoy Our Happiness?

Do you ever find yourself rushing through happy moments? Thinking "Well, this is nice but I should really get home?" Me too. Let's stop. Here's how >> yesandyes.org 
A traveler friend once told me that she breaks down the best moments of her trips into monetary units.
That amazing, three-hour lunch under the Spanish moss with your best friends cost more than the $150 restaurant bill. It’s the four-hour, $400 flight that brought you to Savannah and the hour of faffing around at the car rental place. It’s the 30 minutes of Googling to find this gorgeous, hole-in-the-wall bistro and the $50 dress you bought for this trip.
Using her calculations that meal actually cost me $350 and two days of my life.
I’m sure I audibly gasped when I ran the numbers on some of my favorite memories. $550 for that time I hand-fed the sassy alpaca! $375 dollars for the afternoon Alex and I played board games in the park and ate hipster ice cream! $400 for real, actual tacos in Mexico, consumed on paper plates while sitting in plastic chairs on the side of the road.
I probably even whimpered “Dude! I don’t need any help feeling guilty about my travel spending!” And I promptly tried to forget all about it.
Even if my friend’s idea was more budget-based than inspirational, it had a surprisingly centering effect on me. Because I have this ridiculous, terrible habit of rushing through happiness.
I’m standing on the parade route at Dollywood, watching one of my favorite celebrities wave glamorously, and as soon as she’s past, I’m wondering where we parked. It’s the last day of a perfect cabin weekend with friends and instead of pouring myself another mimosa on the deck, I’m thinking about weekend traffic and looking for my phone charger.
Why is it so hard to sit in our happiness? Why is it so difficult to say “Be happy in this moment, this moment is your life” … and then stay in the moment? Am I the only one who recites that mantra and then immediately starts thinking about what I’ll make for dinner?
If this sounds familiar, let’s make a pact.

Let’s learn to sit in our happiness (even if it makes us a little uncomfortable.)

Let’s honor all the hard work and time and money that went into any given moment of transcendent joy. For every joy and laughter-filled dinner party, there are hours of menu planning, cooking, and clean up. For every triumphant finish-line-crossing, there are months of training and sweat and compromise.
When we rush through happiness, we’re disrespecting the hard work we put into making it happen. Click To TweetWe owe it to ourselves (and our bank accounts and calendars) to stay in those moments of joy and actually, you know, enjoy them.
Do you struggle to actually stay in your moments of happiness? Have you ever run the math on what went into making those moments happen?
photo by nainoa shizuru // cc

How To Pay Off Your Soul-Crushing Debt (A lot) Faster

Want to pay off debt faster? Need some budgeting tips you haven't head a million times? I paid off $50,000 of school debt 5 years ahead of time - without hating my life or cutting coupons. Click through to find out how >> yesandyes.orgOn an overcast day this fall, I checked a few boxes, entered a few numbers, and felt a small but significant weight lift from my shoulders.

10 years after finishing my B.A. and 7 years after turning in the final paper for my M.A., those degrees were finally paid off – five years ahead of time.

(This is how I felt about it.)
As of 2014, 70% of American college graduates have school debt. The average graduate is $33,000 in debt by the time they collect their diploma. After undergrad and graduate school, my school debt was around $50,000 – even with a little help from my parents, scholarships, and working while I was in school.
Just like everyone, I hatedhatedhated those monthly payments. I’d fantasize about how different life would be when I had an extra $350 a month with which to buy cheese and brightly colored skinny jeans.
So in the last two years, I committed to paying off those horrible loans ahead of time. The ‘tricks’ I used are hardly tricks. They’re fairly obvious, relatively well-known budgeting methods, but combined they work like magic. If you’re trying to pay down debt – school or otherwise – these will help.

1. Pay as much as you can (but not so much that you hate your life)

I know it’s incredibly tempting to lower those monthly payments when you find your dream apartment and it’s $200 a month above your budget. I totally, totally get it. But before you lower you payments, I’d encourage you to check out a loan amortization calculator.
The longer you take to pay off debt, the more money you’re giving your lenders.
Paying off $40,000 at 4% over 20 years = $58,174
Paying off $40,000 at 4% over 15 years = $53,258
That’s almost $5,000! And your monthly payment would only go up by $50! Which is, like, one Target impulse buy and one fancy cocktail, right?

2. Teach ESL in Asia

Drastic? Yes. An awesome adventure that will help you save money like whoa? Also yes.
I spent the 25th and 26th years of my life chasing kindergartners around a classroom in Nei Li, Taiwan and stuffing my face with stinky tofu. With a 10% tax rate, a great exchange rate, and a very low cost of living, I was able to save $1,000 a month without even trying! I ate out a lot (like dan bing for breakfast most days), lived in a nice apartment, and even flew home and vacationed in The Philippines, all while wiring home a grand every month.

3. When you travel, do it cheaply

I’ve nearly perfected the art of cheap travel (all my tips are here) and I’ve snuck in tons of trips while still paying down my loans every month. Travel can be surprisingly affordable if you use Airbnb or stay with friends, stick to public transport, visit cheap places (or expensive places in the off-season) and cook your own meals.
I think it’s really important to continue to live a life you actually, you know, enjoy while sticking to your budget. I call it “putting my money where my happy is.” When I make time and space for the activities that bring me joy I’m less likely to self-medicate via expensive boots.

4. Buy a used car – with cash if possible

My car is not particularly sexy or impressive. It is, however, reliable, cheap to repair, and not so fancy that anyone wants to steal it. More importantly? I bought it with cash.
Or more accurately, I put it on my credit card to get a bunch of miles and then immediately paid it off. I’ve never had a car payment! Sure, sometimes I get jealous of my friends’ heated seats and climate control but then I realize that I am not my car.
And even if I was, I’d be little and zippy which really wouldn’t be the end of the world.

5. Buy just about everything secondhand

True Story: I furnished my entire apartment (from nothing!) for about $700. Yes, even including that cute couch. Nearly everything I own came from a thrift store, Craigslist, or the Ikea as-is section. And I’d like to believe that’s not painfully obvious!
Pro tip: if you’re looking for something specific on Craigslist (“midcentury dresser St. Paul”) but you always see the postings too late, use IFTTT to send you Craigslist alerts.

6. Learn to cook

We all know eating out is expensive and unhealthy. Yes? Yes. Cooking at home is more fun, more healthy, and a jillion times cheaper than eating out. I’ve been obsessed with this cookbook lately and if you want to get really frugal, check out the Good And Cheap cookbook. It teaches you how to eat well on $4 a day!
Also (and this probably goes without saying) drinking is ridiculously expensive. Did you know that cocktails made with bottom self liquor have a 1,026% (!!!) markup? Let’s pre-game at home, shall we?

7. Cut the cable and land line

But I’m sure you already knew this, right? That’s what Hulu, Netflix, and Skype are for.

8. Use your library

For books, sure! But also magazines, cds, dvds and events. The public libraries here in the Twin Cities are always hosting movie nights, readings, and other events. All completely free!

9. Plan for a cheaper social life

It’s hard to be the friend who’s sticking to a budget when everyone else is chugging $13 cocktails and being all “Oh, let’s just split the bill three ways” when you had a Diet Coke.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to take initiative during the planning stages. When friends are talking about getting brunch, be the one to suggest the place with the $5 breakfast. When your friend wants to see a movie with you, suggest a cheap matinee or the second run theater. It’s easier to steer the initial decision than change someone’s mind.

10. Honor the ‘immediate yes’

Living on a budget means living with less. But how, pray tell, does one live with less and not come to hate their life? I’ve made peace with less by honoring the ‘immediate yes.’ The ‘immediate yes’ is that gut reaction you have when you see a dress/necklace/piece of art from the across the room, stop your conversation and drift towards it. Your vision practically narrows and you’re pretty sure you can hear the Hallelujah chorus.
When you experience this, you should probably buy that thing. Even if it’s expensive. If it doesn’t make you feel this way, maybe you should leave it on the shelf.
(It’s my experience that when you wait for the ‘immediate yes’ you buy a lot less but you’re much, much happier with what you buy.)

11. ‘Snowball’ your debt payments

When you’re paying off tens of thousands of dollars over decades it’s really easy to feel like you’re Sisyphus in ballet flats. Snowballing your debts doesn’t make a huge difference financially but it does make a big difference psychologically.
When you Snowball your debts you make minimum payments on all of the debts except the smallest one, attacking that one debt with a vengeance. Once you’ve paid off that first, small debt run around your apartment yelling “High five, self!” and then get to work Snowballing the next smallest debt.
Have you paid off significant debt? If you have, share your best tips in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

Edited to add: As with any conversation about finances, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my privilege in this situation. I’m white. I grew up in a two-income household with parents who encouraged and (slightly) financially supported my education.

If you’ve read Nickel and Dimed or this blog post, you know that it’s actually very hard to save money when you’re really, truly broke. I want to acknowledge that these tips are for those of us fortunate enough to have cable and the occasional fancy cocktail – people who do, in fact, have a bit of money to spare.

P.S. You can choose to want less + How to (at least start to) get your finances under control

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

How To Live Your Life On Purpose (or at least how I do it)

What does it mean to live life on purpose? What does intentional living look like? The answer is different for everyone. Click through for 4 things I do to make sure my life looks + feels the way I want

On more than one occasion, a well-meaning friend has told me to “let my hair down” or “loosen up” or “stop with the lists already.”

And while I appreciate their concern* I’m pretty happy with my life, thankyouverymuch.
I’m happy with my life because I carefully, conscientiously made it awesome.

Like, on purpose. With lists and journals and stuff.

How to live your life on purpose (or at least how I do it)

1. I think about how I want to feel + do things that make me feel that way

Like pretty much every other woman on the internet, I’m a big fan of The Desire MapDanielle LaPorte’s method for happiness and fulfillment. She encourages those of us who are addicted to our to-do lists and quantifiable goals (“$75K a year with a corner office”) to instead pinpoint a few core desired feelings and then do things that will create those feelings.

So instead of a 15-item to-do list, I think of three things I can do today that will make me feel proud (call my grandma, fix that wobbly chair, go to the gym) and two things I can do today that will make me feel psychologically lean (cancel the Netflix subscription I never use, clean out my junk drawer.)

2. I stopped doing things or hanging out with people who make me feel bad

I’ve never been particularly inclined towards ‘frenemies’ or self-destructive behavior, but I’ve certainly had my share of embarrassment-inducing friends and activities that I did out of obligation or a desire to be The Type Of Person Who Can Make A Souffle.

You know what? People who drag you down and activities that suck you dry are a waste of your time and energy. And who has time for that? Approximately no one.

3. I schedule time to try new things + do things that I love

Yes, I realize it’s not particularly sexy to scrawl ‘1 fun thing’ onto my Every Damn Day list, but if I don’t make Fun Things a priority? I’ll end the day feeling productive and accomplished …. and sort of bored and hateful.

That’s why every year I make a list of new things I want to try and then wrangle my incredibly patient friends into joining me. That’s why I travel three months a year. That’s why I carve time into my day for thrifting and new recipes and reading by the river.

Really, filling my life with things I love is an extremely conscious effort. It’s a daily struggle not to fall down internet hole after internet hole.

4. I plan my social + work life around my introverted nature

Did you know I’m the friendliest, chattiest introvert you’ll ever meet? I’ll introduce myself to strangers, I’m happy to attend events where I know no one, and I can make friends with your throw pillow.

But.

After three hours of social interaction, the light inside me turns off and I need to sit somewhere quiet, by myself. It took me years to realize this about myself – I wasn’t just ‘tired’ or ‘in a weird mood.’  I’m introverted.

Now that I know that, I try to make plans accordingly. I’m not really interested in more than two social obligations a day and if I’m in a big group of people for a long time? I’ll invent some sort of ‘errand’ I ‘need’ to run and then hustle off all by my lonesome for a bit.

How do you live your life on purpose? What’s one thing you could do to add a little intention to your daily life? 

*Not really. Mostly I just feel judged and slightly annoyed.

P.S. How to figure out what makes you happy so you can add more of it to your life

photo by Clem Onojeghuo // cc

22 Free (or cheap!) Fun Things To Do When You’re Broke

Looking for free things to do? Or fun ideas under $5? Look no further! Click hear to stretch your budget and get a bit outside of your comfort zone! >> yesandyes.org
Do you guys have Switzerland-sized bank accounts? Are you always complaining about the extra money that’s stuffed in your pockets, creating unflattering bulges? Do you think “Where can I go that serves $17 cocktails? I can’t think of enough places that overcharge for their drinks!”

No? Weird. Me neither.

Regardless of your income, it’s always fun to enjoy the cheaper things in life, isn’t it?

22 free* things to do when you’re broke

* or very cheap

1. Ride a bike/scooter/motorcycle

Autumn was made for bike rides along the river, filling your basket with goodies from the farmers market. Or with puppies. If you have a friend with a scooter or motorcycle, ask for a ride. Bonus points for taking it on windy roads!

2. Afternoon movie matinee

Because every movie is better if it costs $4.

3. Tuck notes of encouragement into library books

Find the books about business development and leave a note that says “Your business idea is great!” Find the diet books and leave a note that says “You’re gorgeous just the way you are.”

4. Have a picnic (indoors if necessary)

Food tastes better when it’s eaten outside, on a blanket, in the company of ants. Or in the arboretum. Pack up your favorite nibbles and head somewhere lovely and green – here are some great ideas for easy, delicious picnic food.

5. Host a potluck and games night

If you want to have some friends over, but can’t afford footing the bill for a fancy dinner, invite everyone to bring a dish, pull out your favorite old board games and play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit. Or, really, Girl Talk.

6. Host a clothing swap

Invite your favorite ladies to your place, bringing over the clothes and accessories that they’re no longer feeling to trade with each other. Borrow a few full length mirrors, put on some RuPaul, throw together some cheap appetizers and you’ve got a super cheap, really fun party.

7. Take a public transportation adventure

I have extolled the virtues of bus adventures before, but let’s belabor the point a bit, shall we? Buy a full-day pass on your city’s bus or train line, pack a lunch and your camera and head out to explore the city. Bonus points for getting off at the same time as that looker in the plaid jacket.

8. Volunteer

Improve your karma, meet cool people and do something fun? That’s a win/win/win, y’all! You’ll obviously get the most out of a volunteer opportunity that corresponds to your interests, so I’d give volunteermatch.org a try. I searched ‘writing’ and found 667 volunteer opportunities!

9. Go to a museum’s free day

It’s always fun to ogle dinosaur bones or paintings, but it’s more fun if it’s free. Check out museumfreedays.org for free days in major cities. In the Twin Cities area, The Walker is free on Thursday nights, The Minnesota Children’s Museum is free the third Sunday of every month, and The Minnesota Institute of Arts and The Weisman are always free!

10. Go to the library

Why pay $7 for the latest Vogue when you can peruse it for free at your library? Check out DVDs, language-learning CDs and Twilight (in the event that you refuse to spend money on that delicious foolishness).

11. Go to an open mic night

Whether you favor a poetry slam, comedy or some tender-hearted singer/songwriters, there’s certainly an open mic night in your city that caters to your whims. Sure, you’ll see some stinkers, but you might also spot the next Lily Allen! Here’s a collection of all the open mic nights in the Twin Cities.

12. Karaoke

I looooove karaoke. Largely because I’m (erroneously) convinced that I can rock ‘Heart of Glass’ like no other. If you’re too shy to take part, at least you can be entertained by the group of ladies yelling out ‘I Will Survive’ or the fifteen dudes who are going to sing that song about having friends in low places. Here are 10 karaoke songs for bad singers.

13. Engage in a covert, fitting room photo shoot

Dress up in your most impressive outfit and hit up those crazy expensive boutiques where you can’t even afford the socks. Pull a few great outfits off the racks, try them on in those over sized fitting rooms and document the whole thing on your digital camera. This girl has some fantastic photos from doing just that! If you can’t own the clothes, at least you can remember how you look in them.

14. Airport people watching

I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time in airports over the last few years and watching tearful, joyful reunions never, ever gets old.

15. Beauty school spa day

If you’re not afraid to let a supervised student work on you, you can get crazy, crazy cheap salon services. The Aveda Institute in Minneapolis offers $13 haircuts that include a wash, dry, head massage and makeup! For less than the cost of an entree at Applebys!

16. Real estate open houses

Barring marriage to a professional athlete, I will never be able to afford a home in the neighborhood where I currently rent an apartment. But! That doesn’t mean that I can’t stop in at the real estate open houses, check how the other 5% lives and eat a lot of free cookies.

17. Utilize some sidewalk chalk

My nine-year old neighbor is always doing this – drawing and labeling robots and, oddly, sprinklers. Draw a hop scotch on the sidewalk in front of your favorite coffee shop and see how many people will hop through it.

18. Photo scavenger hunt

It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon and an even better way to bond with a kid you’re getting to know! Here’s a list to get you started.

19. Attend a cultural events

No, not the opera. Does your city have a large immigrant or refugee community? Check out their events calender and you could find yourself at an awesome Day of the Dead party or an “Auspicious Wrist Tying Ceremony” like I attended a few years ago.

20. Watch the Wizard of Oz while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon

Seriously, that business matches up in an uncanny way. Particularly great for a rainy Sunday night.

21. Buy a Sunday paper to split with a friend, and read it while mulling over a coffee

I love doing this. It’s so much more gratifying than checking CNN repeatedly. You can be those people who say “Listen to this!” or “What’s a five letter word for ‘Egyptian king?'”

22. Get a free pass to a swanky gym

Work out, shmurk out. How about swimming a few laps in the pool, doing a bit of rock climbing and then sitting in the sauna? Yes please! Lifetime Fitness offers free 7 day passes.

What fun things do you do when funds are low? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. Did you know I host a free private Facebook group of 3,000+ awesome humans who want to add more money and more happiness to their lives? Click here to join us!

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

How To Find The Best Stuff In Any Thrift Store

Want to find the best stuff in the thrift store? Looking for thrifting tips or budgeting tips? You're in the right place! Click through for my best tips on second hand shopping!

It brings me an immeasurable amount of joy to tell people how much my belongings cost.

Like my sofa? I’ll fall all over myself to tell you that it was $90 on Craigslist.
Those brass bookends? $5 at Salvation Army.
My red velvet flats (which are, amazingly, Crocs!) I got ’em at Goodwill for $7.
One of my biggest not-so-secrets to living the proverbial champagne life on a beer budget is buying many, many of my belongings second hand.
There’s an art to thrifting but there’s also an art to finding things that you really, really love … not just stuff that’s pretty-cool-it’s-cheap-and-funny, which then gather dust and suffocate you.

Here, are my best tips for creating a gorgeous space filled with wonderful, cheap things  – but not dying under a pile of bad oil paintings.

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14 Ways To Make Your Apartment Look Great On A Budget

Want to make your apartment look great on a budget or find cheap decorating ideas? You're in the right place! After 14 apartments, here are all my favorite ways to decorate on a budget!
 
My first post-college apartment had dark, dirty 1970s cabinets, a yellow stove and a green fridge, and a full-size window directly in front of the toilet.

And I loved it.

I took so much joy in making that weird, cheap apartment cute! I scoured thrift stores and Craiglist, I repainted and disguised and replaced and I positively

After 14 rentals, here’s everything I know about how to make an apartment look great on a budget.

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