Sunday, September 29, 2013

Efficient Living

My brother has recently further fueled my reading blogs obsession with a new blog, Mr. Money Mustache. This blog is all about a dude who was smart enough about his money and way of life to retire with his wife at age thirty. I am a firm believer in saving money as much as you can and stashing away as much as you can for a rainy day at all times (because I think knowing you have money in case you need it is much more fun than spending it), but this blog talks more than just being "cheap" - it is about how we have so many unnecessities that we aren't really living or enjoying our life. So why don't we cut out more, be smart with our money and end up being happier?

I do a budget at the beginning of every month. I take my take-home pay (after taxes) and subtract my mortgage, average utilities (power, gas and cable/internet), automatic savings (Roth IRA and high interest savings account), average gas and grocery use, any special month expenses (wedding gifts, extra property tax payments, doctors, hair, travel, ect) and then allocate the remaining to categories for fun, like entertainment, shopping, and eating out. Some months I feel super rich, other months (like in the midst of wedding season), I feel like I have absolutely no money.

I am very lucky in that in my 3+ years of full-time working, I have only had to unexpectedly dip into my savings once, and it was this past winter for unexpected car issues. Luckily, I have extra sources of income through babysitting, ticket sales, and my pool management job this summer that supplement my take-home pay. That definitely helps during wedding season!

That all being said, I also am very smart with my money. I'm very comfortable with what I make (for the most part) and usually wait until the end of each month once I know how my spending is before I buy myself any "treats," like clothes, stuff for my condo or registering for races (those are expensive!). I am a firm believer in living efficiently- i.e. not wasting money for unnecessary reasons. I think it is silly how much people spend on day to day living and so much of it is wasteful. Spending more money does not lead to more happiness! I actually feel better when I know I have spent minimal money each month.

Living efficiently involves making small changes throughout each day. I am not perfect and could learn to cut in many areas, but I have a few where I succeed.

I believe in...
  1. Making errands not a separate trip but an added few stops here and there when I am already out so as to minimize gas use and time; 
  2. Killing time between activities at a coffee shop or library so I don't have to make multiple trips;
  3. Not belonging to a gym and instead buying weights to have at home and getting outside or joining a sport for my exercise; 
  4. Walking with friends instead of going out for food or drinks; 
  5. Walking to the grocery store when I only need a few things; 
  6. Keeping my house at a more moderate temperature during the cold/hot months; 
  7. Living in a smaller space so I do not accumulate extra "stuff" I don't need (and so I can clean less!); 
  8. Not having DVR or multiple TV's with cable (thank you, internet!);
  9. Pre-paid phone plans so I only pay for what I use (and NO smartphones!);
  10. Paying in cash for a car (and never having a car payment) and only buying ones that are gas and cost efficient (cars are not for show);
  11. Waiting for movies to come to Redbox as opposed to going to the theaters (or at least a discount theater); 
  12. Buying what is on sale at the grocery story; 
  13. Cooking more meals (it is ok to just hang with friends w/o food); 
  14. Not buying soda, bottled water and/or anything that is not alcohol. Water please!;
  15. Buying all items off-brand;
  16. Not being afraid on a day when nothing is going on to spend time by myself reading or watching TV (as opposed to spending time by spending money);
  17. CHARGING all my spending to earn travel rewards and, in turn FREE MONEY;
  18. Using my extra money for EXPERIENCES and not THINGS.
I have areas I need to work on. I recently jumped on the organic/all-natural food bandwagon so I need to work on my grocery bill, and I am not good at fixing things, so I tend to pay people to do those things for me, but overall I think I am pretty decent at minimal spending. Also, I hate the term "cheap" being used to describe this lifestyle- I truly believe it is our duty to try to live on less because life and things are fleeting- experiences are what count. We waste so much time and money on things that do not bring us happiness (that "outfit" you have to have or product that will "change your life"). I made a pact with myself long ago that travel is important to me- hence why all my extra money goes to travel (and I am a pretty decent traveler in terms of saving money...sans hostels). I have less stress when I know that I am doing my part, not only for my life, but for our world.

What do you do to live efficiently?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

Some things that have made me happy this week (besides all my awesome blog reading, obvi.)

1.


I love dark chocolate. It is the only sweet thing I can eat that I really am satisfied with after one serving. As you may or may not remember, I can go to town on doughnuts, pizza, ice cream, cake, cookies, ect. It stinks because I love and crave sweet things (or pizza...just because it's awesome)! But dark chocolate, I am good after a few bites:) I try to stay as close to 75% as I can but it is hard to find- the best kind I have found is the Trader Joe's Swiss 72%. Yum. So good.

2.

I have joined a wiffleball league this fall and it is so fun. We have had two games (we always play on Thursdays) and lost them both, BUT it has been so fun to meet more people in the area that are my age and to have something to look forward to on a Thursday. We even met up early last night and went to a local brewery called Hardywood for even more socializing and...

3.

 ...FOOD TRUCKS. OMG Richmond has some great food trucks that park a different place every night- such a fun idea! I need to visit these more.


4.


Isn't this a cool looking professor? I had the chance of going to my dad's graduate level social work course this past Monday! It was wonderful to learn relevant material to my job (it is a class on the DSM-V and we went over behavioral disoroders- very relevant to high school), be in a classroom setting, discuss with other students and see my dad in action! He is a great teacher! I miss school.

5.  


Who hasn't loved this weather? Lows in the 50's and highs in the 70's. Windows open and so many walks with friends and reasons to be outside. I am in heaven.


Happy Weekend! What has made you happy this week?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blog Addict

Ok, I have a problem. I have become addicted to reading blogs. The internet to me isn't about facebook, twitter, the news or even www.people.com anymore...it is about taking part in other peoples' lives through their blogs. I am fascinated about the views, opinions, day to day life, recipes, habits, struggles, and humor that I learn from these people I have never met! I have always been a person interested in other peoples' normalcy's, and I think blogging has increased that fascination.

I also get so many good tips about health, eating, exercise, traveling, work, hobbies, ect. Like check this out from one of my new favorite blogs, Peanut Butter Fingers:

30 Minute Elliptical Workout



I can get a personalized workout plan for free! Isn't that nice?

I also get to meet bloggers really cute kids and feel like I know them. Check out this cutie, Ms. Brooke, from Hungry Runner Girl:

IMG 1609
Cutest mini-runner EVER.


\








I promise I am not a creeper. I also email/message the bloggers and felt like a celebrity when one emailed me back! And if you read the comment sections of posts, you would realize I am not the only one who feels attached to these people/their lives.

I love how blogging depicts the normal ups and downs of everyday life. Facebook and twitter only show what people want us to see, but I feel bloggers are much more real and honest about their lives. Yes, mostly what people write about is positive, but the good bloggers also incorporate stories and feelings showing all their sides, good AND bad. I try to do that on this blog too, and if I had a more widespread reading base I would do it even more (when you have to post something every day or every other day, your moods are shown much more). I definitely feel that when I look back on my posts in certain months or years, I get taken back to what I was struggling with and feeling. Facebook doesn't show you that. Blogging to me is much more real. If I had a smart phone (yup, still don't!) it would be even more real because I would probably take a gazilllion times more pictures, but it's probably good that I don't.

It is secretly my dream to be able to quit my job and make enough money from blogging. That would also mean I would have to be doing interesting enough things to warrant blogging full-time, but that is beside the point. Perhaps in my quest to fulfill this dream, I will challenge myself to do a post a day during the month of October! Do you think I can do it?! I will have to be creative and/or you will just get way too many details about my mundane life!



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Truth


Say hi to Lucy.
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Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. She's also part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y.

I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group -- I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

So Lucy's enjoying her GYPSY life, and she's very pleased to be Lucy. Only issue is this one thing:

Lucy's kind of unhappy.

To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place. It comes down to a simple formula:


2013-09-15-Geny2.jpg
It's pretty straightforward -- when the reality of someone's life is better than they had expected, they're happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they're unhappy.
To provide some context, let's start by bringing Lucy's parents into the discussion:
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Lucy's parents were born in the '50s -- they're Baby Boomers. They were raised by Lucy's grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or "the Greatest Generation," who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not GYPSYs.


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Lucy's Depression Era grandparents were obsessed with economic security and raised her parents to build practical, secure careers. They wanted her parents' careers to have greener grass than their own, and Lucy's parents were brought up to envision a prosperous and stable career for themselves. Something like this:
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They were taught that there was nothing stopping them from getting to that lush, green lawn of a career, but that they'd need to put in years of hard work to make it happen.
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After graduating from being insufferable hippies, Lucy's parents embarked on their careers. As the '70s, '80s, and '90s rolled along, the world entered a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. Lucy's parents did even better than they expected to. This left them feeling gratified and optimistic.
2013-09-15-Geny7.jpg

With a smoother, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy's parents raised Lucy with a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility. And they weren't alone. Baby Boomers all around the country and world told their Gen Y kids that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.

This left GYPSYs feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents' goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn't really do it for them. A GYPSY-worthy lawn has flowers.
2013-09-15-Geny8.jpg

This leads to our first fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Wildly Ambitious
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The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn't quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.
Cal Newport points out that "follow your passion" is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google's Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time. The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase "a secure career" has gone out of style, just as the phrase "a fulfilling career" has gotten hot.
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To be clear, GYPSYs want economic prosperity just like their parents did -- they just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn't think about as much.

But something else is happening too. While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well:
2013-09-15-Geny12.jpg

This would probably be a good time to bring in our second fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Delusional

"Sure," Lucy has been taught, "everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd." So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better --
A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn.


2013-09-15-Geny13.jpg

So why is this delusional? Because this is what all GYPSYs think, which defies the definition of special:


spe-cial | 'speSHel |
adjective
better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.
According to this definition, most people are not special -- otherwise "special" wouldn't mean anything.

Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, "Good point... but I actually am one of the few special ones" -- and this is the problem.

A second GYPSY delusion comes into play once the GYPSY enters the job market. While Lucy's parents' expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it's just a matter of time and choosing which way to go. Her pre-workforce expectations look something like this:


2013-09-15-Geny14.jpg
Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they're actually quite hard. Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build -- even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them -- and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.

But GYPSYs aren't about to just accept that.

Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has "unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback," and "an inflated view of oneself." He says that "a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren't in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting."

For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, "Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?" He says that "if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the 'why,' there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They've been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief."

And since the real world has the nerve to consider merit a factor, a few years out of college Lucy finds herself here:
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Lucy's extreme ambition, coupled with the arrogance that comes along with being a bit deluded about one's own self-worth, has left her with huge expectations for even the early years out of college. And her reality pales in comparison to those expectations, leaving her "reality - expectations" happy score coming out at a negative.

And it gets even worse. On top of all this, GYPSYs have an extra problem that applies to their whole generation:

GYPSYs Are Taunted

Sure, some people from Lucy's parents' high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did. And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn't really know what was going on in too many other peoples' careers.

Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting.

Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation. This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:
2013-09-15-Geny16.jpg

So that's why Lucy is unhappy, or at the least, feeling a bit frustrated and inadequate. In fact, she's probably started off her career perfectly well, but to her, it feels very disappointing.

Here's my advice for Lucy:

1) Stay wildly ambitious. The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success. The specific direction may be unclear, but it'll work itself out -- just dive in somewhere.

2) Stop thinking that you're special. The fact is, right now, you're not special. You're another completely inexperienced young person who doesn't have all that much to offer yet. You can become special by working really hard for a long time.

3) Ignore everyone else. Other people's grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today's image crafting world, other people's grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you'll never have any reason to envy others.


Thanks to Huffington Post for this great article! I am definitely feeling like Lucy a lot these days. Career is not what I expected it to be, and I am not quite sure what to do about it. Do I wait it out and hope it gets better or do I search for something else/make a big life change? Because of my unfulilling job, other personal issues are coming up that tend to surface when I am not happy so I am itching for something to change.

Any advice?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wahoo Wedding

Ladies and gentleman, I am only one wedding away from the end of the 2013 wedding season (yup, 8 of 9 weddings have quickly come and gone) and, if it is anything like this past weekend's wedding, it will go out with a bang!

Yesterday I watched my college friends Colleen and TJ tie the knot! (This is the same college group of friends that was at this wedding in 2010). It was a wonderful day with great friends, food, booze and dancing (duh). It took place at the Cathedral in the heart of VCU with a little break (and hotel lobby boozing) before the reception at the historic John Marshall Hotel in downtown RVA.

Don't worry, I have pictures (though I didn't document as well as I normally do).

Beautiful church!

Beautiful couple inside and out!

(Notice the orange and blue UVA theme)

Crazy Katie.

See?

OMGmynewfavoriteguyever, Spencer.

Wahoowa!

Selfy

Shannon and Whitney

RVA girls and former 2nd year roomies:)!

Big congrats to Colleen and TJ! Great party:)


(I am also officially done working at the pool- it closed today :) !!!!)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September Stuff

Hiiiiii! How are you?

I know I have been MIA from blogging for almost two weeks, so I hope you have not sunk into a deep depression. I guess I just don't have as much to post about when I am not at a wedding or traveling. Sad face:(

Welcome to the wonderful world of being back at work.

I think this is the first year that I have really not been ready to come back. Most years I am excited for the productivity that returning to work brings, but maybe due to my busy summer of traveling or the fact that I worked all summer (unlike past summers), I could have used a few extra weeks.

Oh, well.

One of the main things I always have to get back into when work starts up is a new exercise schedule and meal planning. I am babysitting Tuesday and Thursdays this year after school from 3:30-5:00 and have also joined a fall social wiffleball league that plays on either Tuesday or Thursday, so those days leave little room for a workout unless I want to go at the end of the day, which is not my favorite (especially when it is still hot and/or dark early).  Other days I am just TIRED after work and have been wanting a nap more instead of feeling energized enough for exercise. I have a neighbor that I walk with at 5 PM most every day, and sometimes that is all I have energy for. So between all of that and the fact that it is getting dark earlier, I am getting up before work around 5:30 AM to run. In the dark.

I don't absolutely HATE running in the morning, because since I am half asleep it is more like I am running in a trance than a torturous state and I do have more energy as the day goes on when I run in the AM. It is just not fun in the evenings mentally knowing I need to get to bed early enough to have enough energy for a run. I am trying to reframe my thoughts (hello counseling techniques!) and be thankful for the sleep I do get because I know many people live on a lot less than what I get most nights (7.5- 8 hours during the week).

Reframing my thoughts!
I also have been trying to work on my eating plan. I did well overall in the summer (besides weddings and vacations becauseIlovefoodatweddingsandwhenIamoutoftown- pass another cupcake please!), but I was finding as the summer was winding down that I was not feeling as satiated or energized from my meals. I have developed into much more of an eater and lifestyle liver based on how I FEEL rather than how I LOOK. I don't like the way many foods make me feel and I don't like feeling hungry all the time. I keep adapting my lifestyle from many different books I read and people I talk to, and I know am working on integrating Primal Eating into my way of life. Focusing on natural foods (including meats!) that are raised and slaughtered properly and foods (like fruits, vegetables and eggs) that provide nutritional value and fuel. I have moved a long way passed monitoring calories only, and now look more to what is IN the food I eat and how I feel when I have had it. This way of eating requires more planning and money initially, but once I get the hang of it, I think it will balance out. Am I completely abandoning being a vegetarian? No. I still won't eat meat when I don't know where it comes from, but I am ok with local, organic meats.


This won't be a 100% time program, as I will still have the occasional sweet treat and carb, but I am aiming for 80% of my eating and lifestyle to be based on this plan. My running is easily incorporated into this, and I am excited to see how my body feels. I am noticeably more focused on my body and how I feel than I used to be- I don't like late nights at all anymore because it disrupts my sleep schedule and I hate how I feel the day after a poor evening of eating. Ahhhh welcome to adulthood and healthy living I guess:)!

So that is about all that is new with me. A wedding update to come after this weekend when my college friends Colleen and TJ tie the know!

Oh, and here is the new MBK 2013-2014 counseling team! Sorry it is cut a little awkwardly...