The anti-lazy bum playlist

First, I got crazy busy balancing 4 jobs. Then I felt like acting my age this past week and went out to bars and ate pizza like it was my job. No regrets because it turns out Pizza Luce is amazing, BUT I know it will catch up to me at some point and I’d rather not kick off summer feeling pudgy.

Thanks to dog sitting out-of-town, it’s been weeks since I’ve seen the inside of my gym. Fortunately, I end my month-long dog sitting spree tomorrow and I have some pretty serious intentions of getting back to core classes, yoga, and seeing Kelly at Zumba! Additionally, since the weather no longer makes me hate life, I can go on a run outside!

Having a specific goal really motivates me to tie up my laces so I plan to run a 5K the weekend of my birthday (June 24th) and plank for at least a minute a day.

So what’s going to help me get back to working out? Music of course!

Here’s what’s pumping me up these days:

workout playlistBut I need your help since this list is pretty short. New, old, popular or original – lay it on me! Tell me what’s making you work lately!

 

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Setbacks

When I first started aggressively paying off debt, I expected to have my first student loan paid off by Halloween. As I continued to work harder and harder, I realized I was actually going to pay it off by June. Although it is great progress to be nearly 5 months ahead of schedule, I wanted to challenge myself to pay it off by May 31st.

At one point, it was looking like I would complete this challenge and I was pretty excited. But life happened and I have to be ok with a June payoff date.

I lined up 3 dog sitting jobs throughout May, which brings in a few hundred dollars each job. The first payment went straight to loans. I got a $215 doctor bill so 2/3 of my income from my second job will go towards that bill instead of loans. Lastly, the third job is far away and does not include a grocery allowance so 1/2 my income will be spent on gas and food that I didn’t budget for.

I can’t forget to mention the time I recently bought a dress and got my hair done, which was another $200.

Additionally, I have started paying my parents a monthly bill to cover more of my expenses. When I first moved home they wanted to contribute to my loans by letting money I would pay them for my phone and car insurance bills to go towards debt. I know that as much as it helps to pay off debt, I need to factor in regular expenses as I work towards moving out. That’s another $120 a month that will no longer be going towards loans. I’ve been fortunate to not pay these expenses the past few months but I decided I needed to take on that responsibility again.

Lastly, I’m heading to NYC in a few weeks and I know I’ll need a decent chunk of spending money. I plan on using 1 paycheck’s worth of credit card payments and savings to fund this trip.

All this will add up to an end of June payoff date. It took me a while to come to terms with it, but I’ve accepted that a) life doesn’t stop for you to get out of debt and b) I’ve obviously made choices to spend my money elsewhere so I have no reason to complain.

I’m still happy to be 5 months ahead of my predicted schedule and to snowball into my next loan. The next loan is quite a bit bigger and I will need all the extra income and patience I can get to keep my motivation up.

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I could go to Europe for free??

It has been two months since the beautiful balance of $0.00 first appeared on my credit card bill. It has felt great and there has been no looking back. Honestly, my relationship with my credit card changed back when I cut it up and started aggressively paying it off so I feel confident there will be no more credit card debt in my future.

So where do I go from here?

To maintain and improve my credit, I have not closed my credit card account because it is my longest form of credit. But staying at $0 isn’t helping my credit either. So to continue improving my credit, I will be getting myself a new card and applying it to my Netflix and Hulu bills each month. I will set up automatic payments so it never has to be worried about but it continues to show that I can use and handle credit responsibly. Then I will cut up the new card and be done with it.

However, after a lot of consideration and research, I know that I trust myself with credit. Now I am responsible about spending what I have and honestly the idea of spending excessively just to spend is unappealing. I was inspired by I Heart Budgets to finally make a credit card work for me for once by taking advantage of credit card rewards!

Now, I know that’s risky for someone who is so recently out of credit card debt but I’ve learned my lesson and know that this strategy will actually save me money. My sister and new brother-in-law are living in England for the next 2.5 years and I want to visit them (they will not be coming home at all during that time). I estimate a ticket will cost me roughly $1,000 plus costs during travel, and the Euro is almost 2:1 to the dollar. That will be a big chunk out of my savings, which although I will have, I’d rather use it more intelligently.

So here’s my plan:

I recently signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which offers a generous sign up bonus (40,000 miles if you spend $1000 in the first 3 months = nearly $400 in airline tickets) and 2 miles for every $1 spent. The points are flexible for any airline, no blackout dates and the annual $89 fee is waived for the first 12 months. 0% interest for the first year is also included but that has no significance because I will never carry a balance!

This card will purely be used for expenses I already have that are regularly budgeted for. For example, it turns out my recent medical bill, which I fully have the money for can go on my card to get the points and then I can pay it off right away. I guess there is a silver lining to those darn bills! I will also usually put our groceries on this card since I usually do the shopping anyway. Although I don’t spend a lot these days, I am confident I can get the sign on bonus and eventually earn enough points to fly to Europe next year for FREE!! And since this card does not represent my credit history, I can close the account when I’m finished with my trip – if that’s what I decide. Travel is important to me so getting occasional free flights might be worth keeping the card.

Conveniently, my girlfriend Lenka (from our Dallas trip) has enough frequent flyer miles to travel to Europe and wants to join me on a little Euro trip when I visit my sister! We will start in England and then my sister will join us and we’ll go to Amsterdam and Oslo, since Lenka has Norwegian heritage and has always wanted to go. Since traveling Europe will certainly cost more than simply visiting my sister, I’m adding to my credit card reward plan.

I will eventually be signing up for the Hyatt Credit Card, which rewards you with 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel worldwide after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. We can stay with my sister in England for free, I can cover a free Hyatt hotel in Amsterdam and Lenka happens to have a lot of credit card points stored away to cover a free hotel in Oslo! That will leave the remaining expenses to come from my savings without causing as big of a dent, while giving us the trip of a lifetime! Then when I come home I can close the account and go on my merry way!

Since I’m still actively working to pay off student loans, I will constantly be reminded of the consequences if I don’t manage my credit well. I’m so happy to experience a whole new relationship with money, where I make it work for me instead of being a slave to it. Here’s to a new chapter and affordable travel!

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Be Positive

I’ve done a lot of complaining this week. Sure, life can be frustrating at times, but instead I want to take a minute and turn some of those complaints into thanks.

I’m thankful for doctor bills because it means I was cared for and alive to pay them.

I’m thankful for dog sitting because it means I have extra income to pay for unexpected bills and some debt without worry.

I’m thankful for asthma because it reminds me not to take exercise for granted.

I’m thankful for being swamped with work because it means I’ve been blessed with skills to support myself.

I’m thankful for yoga pants because I can eat comfort food when I’m busy and overwhelmed.

I’m thankful for allergies because it means it is no longer winter.

I’m thankful for debt because it taught me a lifelong lesson of how to manage money.

I’m thankful for my yawns this morning because I loved working on customers’ resumes last night so much that I had to remind myself to go to bed!

Matt’s brother died of Leukemia and because his blood type was B+, his family created a motto “Be Positive”. It’s the reason I have a smiley face tattoo on my foot. Sometimes I need to look at that smile a little more often to remind myself how lucky I truly am.

Your turn – how can you turn your complaints into thanks?

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Three Years

Three years ago I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Journalism. And on that day, I swapped my cap and gown for my pajamas as I helped Matt’s family write his brother’s obituary. His 19-year-old brother lost his fight to cancer the night before, making for the most difficult night of our lives. An event that certainly changed all of our lives forever.

Three years isn’t that long. Being three years out of college still makes me a youngin’ but when I look back at how much living I’ve squeezed into those short years, it just blows my mind. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane while living back home with my parents but this post is to remind myself how much I’m capable of and how much living there is still left to do.

Relationships

Matt and I broke up after college. I kissed a few frogs while he chased me. Matt and I did long distance, got engaged, I moved to WI to be with him, and six months later we broke up again. It’s been a really difficult year for us. However, Matt just moved to MN for a new job and we’re able to keep each other as good friends and support system, which I am incredibly thankful for. Now I’m adjusting to single life and getting to know myself better, which is supposedly the most important relationship to develop, after all.

Places I’ve Lived

Minneapolis, MN / Charlotte, NC / Rock Hill, SC / Charlotte, NC / Chappaqua, NY / NYC / Stevens Point, WI / Lakeville, MN

Travel

Albuquerque, NM / Columbus, Ohio / Miami, FL / Toronto, Canada / Chicago, IL / Orlando, FL / Madison, WI / Dallas, TX / Milwaukee, WI / White Pigeon, MI / Columbia, SC / Myrtle Beach, SC / Denver, CO / Boston, MA / Ridgewood, NJ / maybe more but I can’t remember 😦

Jobs

Marketing Assistant/Associate for a social media company, a publishing company, and a check scanning company / Resume Reviewer for an educational non-profit / Babysitter for countless families / Retail worker at Express / Editorial Assistant for a small newspaper / Owner of Katie Pelton Resumes / Dog Sitter / Hostess at a restaurant (only time I’ve ever been fired!) / Waitress

Accomplishments

Ran my first full mile / Ran the NYC Half Marathon / Raised over $3000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of Matt’s brother / Became credit card debt free / Sold my first car all by myself / Changed my relationship with money / Learned that the grass is green where you water it (stop comparing!!) / Shed one hurtful friendship but maintained 5 best friendships long distance / Was a bridesmaid x 2 / Increased my habit of reading for fun / Learned to love vegetables and cooking / taught myself how to start my own side businesses / Refreshed my blog and became a more dedicated blogger / Started yoga / Started Zumba / Gained and Lost 20 lbs (temporarily) / Discovered my love of crafting / Figured out my relationship with God

Whew! If three years ago taught me anything, it’s that life is short so make the most of it. Whenever possible, get out there and try something new! Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way! And when life is difficult at times, still be thankful because life is a privilege denied to many. Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, go do it!

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Gifts and donations when paying off debt

I’m at an age where the majority of my peers are getting engaged, married and/or pregnant. Also, thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to promote the latest cause you’re raising money for. It is really fun to have so much to celebrate and have so many do-gooders out there but it can get really expensive!

I’ve done my fair share of events to raise money for charity and my friends and family are always generous. I love being able to do the same for them. Additionally, I love thinking of, ordering or making gifts for my loved ones for nearly every occasion I can think of! For example, I just gave these adorable pillows to my BFF as an engagement present since their relationship started by playing Scrabble on Facebook.

Scrabble Pillows, set of three

But…

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 9.01.16 PM this month so far I’ve spent $89 on gifts and donations, which made me wonder if that’s normal for someone trying to aggressively get out of debt.

When I referenced the experts, here’s what I found:

In his list of 33 ways to reduce personal debt, Becoming Minimalist says,

**Many wonder about Number 33 (Give) because it seem counter intuitive to most of us. One thing we never stopped doing – even in the worst of times – was giving. We always gave money to our church, our favorite charities, and foundations that we believe in. It’s easy to say “I can’t give. It’s not in my budget.” But if we’re looking for a lifetime of success and influence – not just the latest gadget or status symbol – how can we afford not to give? Giving reminds us that we can live for a purpose greater than this world and all the temporary treasures it offers. It helps keep everything else in perspective. So pick and choose from our list above – do one or two or everything on the list – but don’t leave out number 33. We can attest from firsthand experience, it will radically transform your life!

However, Anna at And Then We Saved listed her wants vs. needs to determine her spending fast. Donations didn’t make either list and here’s what she says about gifts,

Gifts (sorry friends and family… homemade crafts or re-gifting will be happening. Hopefully you all like macaroni magnets.)

When I see $89, knowing that it will be closer to $100 by the end of May, part of me thinks it would be an extra $89 to go towards debt. But honestly, after consideration, I don’t think I will reduce my giving in favor of debt, as badly as I want to be debt free. When it comes down to it, my loved ones are more important than my finances. Without their support I would not be able to pay down debt so quickly so to me, it works. I know that my relationships would still be in tact if I didn’t give and donate but I truly enjoy finding ways to show how much I care. Whenever possible, I do use coupons or find affordable ways to show my love because I can’t be excessive with donations and gifts, but it’s a habit that I don’t plan to quit.

If you are or have gotten out of debt, what was your stance on gifts and donations?

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My Successful DIY Mother’s Day Project

About a month ago I saw an ad for Canvas People* for a “free” 8 x 10 canvas portrait – just had to pay shipping. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, and with recently receiving pictures from my sister’s wedding, I got really excited about this “deal”. I went to their website and placed an order for 3 canvases but when I went to pay shipping, my cost was $45! So much for “free!” To be fair, without the discount I would have had to pay $165 for 3 canvases and shipping. Either way, with a bi-weekly allowance of $100, I can’t be spending nearly half of it on presents for others, as much as I love the people in my life.

So with a quick scroll through Google, I realized I could use some good old DIY for a lot cheaper!

DIY Canvas PortraitMaterials:

Canvases – I had a 20% off coupon to JoAnn Fabric, where I found individual canvases with no price listed. At the register they were $5.99 a piece! I headed over to Michael’s where I found a 10 pack for $19.99 BUT I pulled up a 40% off one item coupon on my phone and voila – $12! Each canvas was $1.20 and I have materials to make more later!

Modge Podge – JoAnn Fabric’s coupon was for an entire purchase so I got a 16 oz (smallest they had!) for $8. It will last a LONG time!

Prints – Matte prints work the best with Modge Podge so I went to Walgreens.com, uploaded the pictures I wanted, and selected 8 x 10 matte prints. Matte is only available by mail so I paid $1 for shipping. I found a 25% off coupon so prints were $3.50 each.

Sponge Brushes – These also came from JoAnn’s and were $.31 with the coupon.

Scrapbook Paper (Optional) – One sheet of paper will make for a colorful or artistic border. These usually cost $.50-$1 but I happened to have one on hand.

Scrap Newspaper or Wax Paper – Keeps your surface from getting messy and makes for easy clean up!

1. Liberally apply Modge Podge with the sponge brush to a blank canvas and the back of a print. HINT – doubled-up cupcake wrappers make great containers to use a little bit of Modge Podge for your individual project. See picture below.

2. Stick the print evenly on the canvas.

3. Cut measured strips of scrapbook paper and stick them on the border of your Modge Podge’d canvas.

4. Let dry – 20 minutes max.

5. Liberally apply Modge Podge over the entire canvas and border. It will look milky and you might get concerned that it’s not going to be pretty. Don’t worry, it dries clear!

photo(32)6. Let it dry completely and BOOM! You have an easy, affordable, and heartfelt gift or home decoration.

photo(33)By using coupons and shopping around, the canvases turned out to be $5.80/each. Despite spending $30 on materials, it’s a partial investment to make 10 canvases total – easily used for future gifts. Through Canvas People it would cost $650 to make all 10 canvases!!

My mom was near tears when she opened it, making it a Mother’s Day success!

*And this post is not meant negatively towards Canvas People and is merely an example of the MANY professional sites out there that make beautiful canvas portraits. I’m sure they do a great job but this post is for the more frugal or crafty minded 🙂
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Creating & Managing a Budget While Starting a Business

As I briefly mentioned yesterday – starting your own side business is a wonderful way to be a side hustler. However, it takes a lot of marketing and accounting skills as well. Thankfully, Al Krulick from Debt.org is here today to talk about important tips when it comes to creating and managing a budget for your new business!

budget

 

Congratulations! You have decided to roll the dice and start your own business. The good news is that you are now working for yourself. All of your productivity, intelligence and hard work no longer belong to anyone else. You get to decide how much you can earn, when you can arrive and leave the workplace, and who will labor beside you. The bad news is you are on the hook for every penny. If things don’t pan out the way you hoped, there is no one else to blame.

Of course, you have begun your new business based upon a solid business plan. Unless you have your own unlimited resources, without the plan it would have been impossible for you to raise your start-up funds, either in the form of a loan or loans, or equity from investors who believe that you will succeed and eventually return their investments along with a healthy profit.

Your Budget Must be Realistic and Flexible

Key to your plan should have been a realistic budget divided into two parts: your capital expenditure budget as it relates to the initial costs incurred for real property, equipment and materials needed; and your operating budget as it relates to your normal day-to-day outlays such as payroll, taxes, supplies and miscellaneous costs. Your operating budget is further divided into two parts: revenue and expenses. Your expense component should also be divided into fixed and variable costs.

Many new entrepreneurs make the mistake of not seeking expert advice in the areas where they are less knowledgeable. While focusing on your core competencies — developing and refining the business’s products or services – you may want to consider hiring a qualified accountant to handle budgeting chores. Any task that can be done better, and ultimately more cost-effectively by a competent professional, should be contracted out.

In any case, managing your budget is not something you can do on the fly. You need to set up an accounting system and construct a spreadsheet itemizing every category of expense as precisely as possible. But remember, when you’re just starting out, these numbers are just your best estimates. It is unlikely that you won’t experience some frustrating surprises as things get going. So be sure to factor in some slack, and make sure you’ve got enough money in reserves to meet any unforeseen situations.

Also, it is important to understand that your budget is not static. You should review it every month or two, at first, and make all the necessary adjustments based upon your revenue assumptions versus your real income stream, and your budgeted amounts versus your actual expenses.

While making sure that you are paying all your bills, you also want to factor in how you intend to grow the business. A budget should always be, in some regard, a roadmap for future expansion.

Keep Your Business Budget Separate

Try to resist the temptation to mix your business budget with your personal one. While most new start-ups generally get some of their initial funds from their owners, it is generally a poor practice to mingle the two accounts. It’s bad when a business fails. It’s doubly bad if you have put your own financial wherewithal on the line, so that your family finances fail along with the company.

Finally, it’s important to remember that budgeting is not just a necessary chore, but a valuable tool that will help you achieve your business goals and ensure its future success.

Al Krulick is an award-winning journalist with dozens of years of writing experience. He writes and blogs for Debt.org an Organization that strives to help consumers with their credit.

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The art of “side hustle”

The more I read personal finance blogs, the more I realize I’m not the only one always on the look out for more job opportunities. We “side hustlers” typically have a full-time job and then work an addition 1-5 side jobs to earn extra money. Personally, I use this money to pay off debt as fast as possible but obviously there are endless needs for extra cash.

Currently, when people ask me what I do for a living, it looks like this:

Multiple Jobs

Marketing/Inside sales full-time, babysitting, dog sitting, and running my own resume business – whew!

I am incredibly thankful I am able to market so many skills into extra income. I am lucky to live in an area that is in need of these services at reasonable rates and it certainly has been helping to pay off debt.

That being said, I give a lot of credit to anyone who works more than one job. The balancing act can be exhausting, especially on the days I try to do it all. Yes, I have had days where I feed the dogs and let them out bright and early, work remotely from the house that I’m dog sitting at; then after work I go babysit and when the baby eventually goes to sleep I edit a resume for a client.

As I juggle as many opportunities I can get, my days often look like this:

Multiple Jobs 1

It takes a lot of dedication, energy and time to give your best efforts to so many people but it is certainly rewarding most of the time! It has certainly contributed significantly to paying off nearly $5,000 worth of debt since January! The best part is that you can nearly pick and chose the amount you want to work that best fits your needs.

If you’re up for this highly caffeinated and organized lifestyle, here are some potential options for side hustle:

Sitting – Pets, babies, houses, you name it – but not on your bum! It probably will have busy owners at some point and who better to step in? This is one of my favorite gigs because I truly enjoy dogs and babies and it’s completely different work than my full-time job. Sittercity.com, Care.com and word of mouth are the best resources I’ve found.

Market your own skills – Are you good at gardening, singing, typing, graphic design, playing the harp, crafting? Make your own side business and bring your talents alive! Now, this definitely sounds easier said than done because it also includes learning to market yourself and be your own accountant. Katie Pelton Resumes has definitely been an adventure in learning so many entrepreneurial skills in addition to my current resume and cover letter talents. But the additional work will only help me expand my abilities!

Tutor – There are tons of students out there that might need a little extra help on a certain subject or two. If you can brush up on your education, you can definitely earn some extra cash. I have not taken this route (yet) but I have heard tutor.com is a helpful resource to get started.

Blog or write about what you know – Obviously I blog but it has never been for money. I have not pursued this route (yet) but with my background in journalism and big pile of debt I think it would be fun. There are great resources for turning your blog into a profitable project, without having to be phony and post solely about products “you just have to try!” Making Sense of Cents and Dollars and Roses are my favorite blogging tutorials but again, I have yet to use them for myself.

Teach a skill – Look into teaching your own community education class! Charge a small fee per person and help others learn the skills you have!

I’m in the middle of a very long week of juggling multiple side jobs so excuse my short list. I know there are so many more was to hustle (legally 😉 )! What side jobs have you had?

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I drive a totaled car

**Looking for my MN Bucket List? It looks like Pinterest brought you to my blog’s home page but I’ve made a tab for it right up there in my header. Thanks for stopping by!**

A few years ago my dad’s 2002 Saturn was rear-ended and deemed totaled, despite the damage being fairly minor. His mechanic buddy fixed it up and the car was as good as new so he continued to drive it. When I moved to Wisconsin, my parents were in the market for a new car so they gave me the “totaled” Saturn for their new Honda CRV. The thing about totaled cars is that they cannot be sold so it was a win-win for us.

There are two interesting things about driving a totaled car. It is perfectly legal as long as you have liability insurance (covers you if you’re at fault). However, you don’t pay casualty insurance, which is bittersweet. It makes your insurance costs much lower, but if you’re in an accident and the other party is at fault, their insurance won’t cover it. This is a risky move but it does buy you some time to save if you don’t have money for a car right away.

Two weeks ago I was rear-ended in rush hour traffic on my way to babysitting (don’t tailgate people!). Fortunately, neither of us were hurt and the damage was minimal, minus a small ding on my bumper. The man who hit me preferred to not go through insurance (understandably since it will hike up his rates etc) so he settled with me for $250 in cash for cosmetic purposes – a number he deemed appropriate. Honestly, more than necessary on an 11-year-old car that I don’t plan to fix. But he was happy it wasn’t worse damage and he was happy I agreed to not use his insurance – he didn’t know that wasn’t an option for me.

You can bet that money went straight towards debt (with an exception of two small donations to charity events) and it’s also safe to bet I was relieved it wasn’t worse! If the damage had been worse I’d be out of a car and on my own to pay for a new one. Fortunately, I can afford to if I need to but I’d much rather that money goes towards debt for as long as possible.

Since I can’t sell my car even if I eventually wanted to, I plan to drive it until it’s very last mile. I will take great care of it and make this financial advantage work for me for as long as possible. When the day comes and it finally dies, I will be in a much better financial situation to either buy an older car outright or make a monthly car payment on something with more longevity.

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