Saturday, March 8, 2014
As aforementioned, I'll be in Laguna Beach this weekend with B in order to celebrate our one year anniversary, my pregnancy and this other piece of big news. Therefore, you'll see a lack of posts over the next week, but every blog hiatus is for a good cause. I'll have plenty of stories and photos to share when I get back, but in the meantime, feel free to follow me on Instagram and Twitter; my phone never leaves my side these days, even on vacation. It's a terrible habit. See you soon!
*Photo found here, text added by moi.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
A couple weeks ago I shared my favorite makeup and beauty products, so now it's time to move on to the rest of the body. There's nothing I love more than a long, hot shower and some sweet-smelling suds to pamper myself with. Today I'm going to walk you through my pre-makeup bathroom routine (so I guess we're going backwards here, but whatevs). These items can all be found at your local Target or drugstore, but I've provided links as well in case you want to pick 'em up online. Alright, let's do this!
1. Mane 'n Tail Deep Moisturizing Shampoo ($4). First off, a disclaimer -- I normally don't like to wash my hair with anything under $10. From my experience, the cheaper the product, the cheaper the ingredients are inside the product and the more damaging it can be to my locks. For example, Suave and Pantene Pro-V both make my hair feel like straw. On the other hand, Redken All Soft is my all-time favorite, but can be upwards of $20 per bottle. Fortunately, I was recently turned on to Mane 'n Tail by my co-worker Zhana who was always coming in with soft, shiny hair. I always thought it was a joke that this shampoo could work for both horses and people, but it really does.
2. L'Oreal EverStrong Sulfate-Free Conditioner ($6). I once read a magazine article that stated your hair should be really wet before shampooing, but before conditioning, you should ring it out. You want to lock in moisture, but not too much, as it can make your hair frizzy. I bounce back and forth between this and TRESemme Flawless Curls Curl Hydrating Conditioner. My hair used to not be so dry, but after years of living in Los Angeles and dying it multiple times, it's pretty damaged. I always leave my conditioner on for a few minutes while I'm shaving my legs, and then rinse with cool water.
3. Neutrogena Deep Clean Long-Last Shine Control Cleanser/Mask ($6). I absolutely love this mask. It cools my skin while it's on, leaving it smooth, soft and clean afterwards. If I don't have time to leave it on as a mask, I simply use it as a cleanser. Genius, right? The product is a crisp blue color and smells like I'm at a professional spa.
4. St. Ives Blemish & Blackhead Control Apricot Scrub ($3). Right now I'm obviously using the off-brand version of this, but it's pretty much the same thing. So, there. Anyway, on days when my face is feeling extra yucky, I use this scrub to dig deep into my pores, either after the mask or without. I've been using apricot scrubs for years and they're great, but I try not to scrub too often as it can dry out my combination skin.
5. St. Ives Body Wash Creamy Coconut Triple Butters ($4). Mmm, this wash is a dream. I love anything coconut flavored or scented (though I don't really like to eat it -- it's a texture thing). I also love that this stuff comes in a big bottle and lasts forever. I dump a big glob of it on a loofa and go to town.
6. Summer's Eve Delicate Blossom Cleansing Wash ($5). I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm prone to infections down under, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Now that I'm pregnant, my body is producing weird new hormones and bacterias, so I've been even more concerned. Fortunately, I found Summer's Eve, and it works like a charm. I use this stuff between my legs and don't have to worry about any burning, itching or discomfort. Hooray!
7. Pond's Dry Skin Cream ($4). The boyf and I both live and die for this stuff. It's the best face cream I've come across, ever. It's so thick and lush but soaks in easily. My skin is left feeling super soft and hydrated with a light, powdery scent. I put it on after showers, before bed, before putting on makeup, after taking off makeup, etc etc. We're actually totally out because we use it so often. My favorite product on this list.
8. Garnier Fructis Hydra Recharge Moisture Whip Leave-In Treatment for Dry Hair ($5). According to my hair guy, Angel, you should only wash your hair a couple times a week. I usually do so every 2-3 days. Therefore, I try not to use too many products. Dirty, greasy hair ain't cute. I normally pump a few dollops of leave-in conditioner and run it through my hair, then throw it up in a messy bun or a few braids and go to sleep. I always, always let my hair air-dry. I used to wish for straight hair, but I've embraced the natural look.
9. Garnier Fructis Style Curl Shaping Spray Gel Strong ($3). If I want some extra curl as opposed to my natural messy wave, I use this gel. It smells good and goes on light. Even though the label says 'strong' it doesn't make my hair stiff or crunchy -- yuck. I'm so glad that trend's over.
10. TRESemme Climate Control Finishing Spray ($5). If you click through the link, you'll see that the price says $17. I have no idea why, to be honest. I found it for $5 at the store. Anyway, this spray is great for a hot day in LA when I want to protect my strands from sun damage. It's also great as a general hair spray if I don't have Tres Two Ultra Fine Mist handy. I don't use it daily because, as aforementioned, I don't like my hair to be heavy with product. But it's great when needed!
Feel free to tweet me your favorite products -- I'm always interested in what others are using! Mini Penny, Gala Darling and Keiko Lynn also have some great posts about their beauty regimes. A couple other items I'll be investing in soon are a stretch mark prevention oil and cream. I'll let you know how that goes!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Just a warning, this is going to be a very lengthy post full of personal experiences and opinions. So, grab a cup of tea and settle in with a notebook. You'll want to jot down a few things if you're looking to work on your own budget this year -- which, since you're reading this, I'm assuming you do. Let's get started!
First, a bit about me and my own adventures in budgeting. A few years ago, my friend Dina sat down with me and helped me create a spreadsheet that organized my budget into different categories. For each category, I entered an amount that would be my monthly goal. At the end of the column, we entered my monthly income after taxes, the total amount of my expenses, and what was left over (the difference between the two). Truth be told, this system never worked, only because I didn't open that file again for a long time. A planned, organized budget only works when you actually pay attention and try to follow it. Therefore, I racked up a lot of debt and was pretty much a shopaholic for awhile. Whoops.
Fast-forward to last summer. I was struggling to pay off said debt when I stumbled upon And Then We Saved. I decided to try out Anna's Spending Diet in August. The rules were simple enough: spend only $100 on wants, and spend the rest on your needs, debts and savings. I actually did a pretty good job, but come September when I attempted it again, I totally failed. The problem was that, unlike Dina's system, this way of budgeting wasn't specific enough. I was supposed to stop splurging on wants after $100, but that usually lasted the first week or two, and then I couldn't spend on fun the rest of the month. In hindsight, it would've been better to spread that money throughout the four weeks. Also, there wasn't a goal amount for needs, debts or savings. I would make huge payments towards my student loan, car and credit cards, but then not have anything left to save.
Finally, this year, I had an epiphany. In order to properly set financial goals, I needed to keep track of what I was already spending. You can't budget correctly if you don't know where you're already at. So in February, I decided get super detailed. I pulled out my old spreadsheet, and created two more as well. You need a small amount of Excel experience in order to do this. If you haven't become familiar with Excel yet, it's easy to use, and it'll change your life.
Here are the three spreadsheets I created at the beginning of February and used throughout:
1) Earnings. If you have multiple streams of income, like me, you will want to keep track of your earnings. I make money from my normal day job, but I also do a couple writing gigs on the side and there is, of course, this blog. I was lucky to receive a good amount from my tax return, too, so I added that. (Speaking of taxes, these spreadsheets will come in handy next year. For more on that specifically, visit ABM and G&G for two great articles.)
2) Goals. Like I described earlier, you will want to make goals for everything you spend your money on. If this is your first time budgeting, think of these as loose goals, that you may be over or underestimating, and that's okay. Your first month can be a trial run. In the A column, you should put down your categories. The B column should have your goal amounts, and you should leave the C column blank so that you can fill in what you actually spent at the end of the month. It should look something like this (feel free to change the names of your categories to fit your life):
If your earnings vary from month to month (like mine), base your goals on the bottom end of the scale. Normally, I don't make less than $2,300 per month. If I end up making more than that, I can use the extra for other columns at the end, like savings or debts. It is always better to see any extra money as a bonus, instead of anticipating that extra in advance. Try not to overestimate your earnings and you won't overspend!
3. Expenses. Over the past month, I kept track of every single cent that I spent. I kept every receipt and even printed out receipts for things purchased online. It may seem time consuming, but it didn't take nearly as much effort as I thought it would, and it was worth it in the end. I kept a notebook tucked in my planner to write down everything, and then once I got home I'd transfer that info onto the spreadsheet. Charisma does the same thing when keeping track of her tax deductions, which I think is a great idea in case your computer crashes. I also do it in case I forget something -- I can always go back and compare my spreadsheet to my notebook. At the end of the month, I also went through my Paypal account and bank account online, just in case I missed anything there. I didn't check my credit card accounts, because I'm not using them anymore until I get my debt down! I threw away any receipts I didn't need to keep (like groceries and Starbucks), tucking the rest into an expanding file. Your expenses sheet should look like this:
Keeping track of which category each item falls into is essential. I was able to sort the data this way at the end of the month and add everything up so I could see if I estimated my spending correctly. I realized I was spending less on gas and groceries than I thought, but more on my blog (yes, a new design is coming!) and eating out. Since I was able to see how I spent my money for a whole month, I was able to properly adjust my goals and could start anew in March.
Some extra budgeting tips:
* If you can't stop using credit cards, throw them away! I plugged in my shredder over the weekend and finally got rid of mine for good. They were always maxed out because after making a payment on one, I'd just use it again. Totally pointless, right? Take control and destroy the little suckers. It'll feel SO good, trust me.
* Be honest with your friends about your budget, and make some new frugal-friendly ones too. Lots of people are struggling out there, but for some reason it's so taboo to talk about. If you think you're alone in your broke-ness, you're not. A lot of your friends are probably living on the cheap as well, and you can help each other out! Chances are, your pals will be inspired by your budgeting skills and want to try the same thing. Don't be ashamed.
* Think about EVERY purchase ahead of time -- even the little ones. A $5 coffee drink doesn't sound like much, but do that every day and you'll spend $150/month on espresso! Consider your budget when making plans with friends, too. Study the menu before meeting up at that restaurant, or look up how much movie tickets will be before you get there. Feel free to suggest carpooling to save on gas or splitting the cost of parking.
* Bring your lunch to work as much as possible, along with coffee and water from home too. There's really no point in spending money on water. I'm trying to get out of this habit. Water bottles are a waste for the earth too!
* Repurpose your clothes by cutting the sleeves off your autumn shirts or cutting your pants into shorts. New summer wardrobe! If you're bored with what you have, host a clothing swap with friends. If that's not an option or you want something even easier, sign up for Twice and send them your clothes so you can trade for something new.
* Click here for my previously published tips for traveling on a budget, and search Airbnb for cheap lodging.
These are the things that have worked for me, and I hope they work for you. Feel free to tweet me about your own adventures in budgeting. I'd love to get your tips too! Happy saving!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Sweater (similar) - TJ Maxx
Shorts (similar) - thrifted, Twice
Tights (similar) - Incognito
Shoes (similar) - Marshalls
Katy Perry 3D glasses (similar) - c/o random guy working at record store
March is here and I couldn't be more excited. I have tons of plans and projects up my sleeves and I can't wait to reveal all. As for the photos, they may look bright and sunny, but this past weekend was anything but. We had some major rain around these parts, causing flash floods everywhere and crazy accidents. After driving home from work in a foot of water on Friday night, I've tried to stay indoors as much as possible. I'd like to think I'm a pro at maneuvering in harsh weather conditions thanks to my Michigan roots, but these streets weren't made for torrential downpours. It's a blessing, though -- after experiencing a massive drought over the winter, we certainly needed the moisture.
Hope you're all staying safe, warm and dry. Now, it's time for me to get back to the grind. Happy Monday!