$how Me The Money.

Budgeting sucks. If only we could all live like multibillionaires and fling our money away on every desire and whim and never have to stress about making ends meet. If money only grew on trees as the saying goes. That would be the life. Sadly, most of us are not billionaires and money does not grow on trees. My fiddle fig leaf is just a regular tree, so I have to prioritize what I spend. This means a budget. If I choose not to budget and spend more than I make then it means: debt.

Debt is nearly synonymous with the “American Dream”. The mentality of “you can have it all”. Just open a credit card (or a few) and you can “afford” the dream car, dream house, dream gadgets, dream wardrobe, and also get yourself some Starbucks every single day. You can also take out $100,000 of school loans for a degree in dance and make it all back and more once you graduate…. or so it is portrayed. One does not even need to sign up to get credit card offers in the mail. They come pouring in like Harry’s Hogwarts letters at the Dursley’s (anything I can do to include a HP reference). It is so easy to go into debt and this is why we do. The media drowns us with ads screaming: “you deserve it!” and “treat yo self!” and it is hard not to listen.

Our friends and neighbors are able to have new cars, well-curated homes, wear the latest trends, go on vacation multiple times a year, and eat out every night so why can’t we? But, if we take a deeper look into people’s lives and budgets we may notice not all of them can actually afford their lifestyles. According to TheBalance.com, the average credit card debt in a United States household was $8,339 as of April 2019. That is just credit card debt, so no car payments, student loans, or mortgages included. I am incredibly lucky to have managed to pay off my school loans and to not have credit card debt, but Paul and I still have car payments, a mortgage, and other financial struggles. We are currently trying to pay for him to do post Bachelor classes so he can be accepted into a Physician Assistant program. This means he is working less and we are paying for courses therefore, we have less disposable income.

This is why we decided to come up with a budget. Each month we set aside money for the essentials: food, mortgage, bills, charity, etc. Then with the leftovers, we decide on how much “fun money” we are going to allow ourselves to have. The “fun money” is for us to do with what we want without the other having a say. This includes clothing, eating/drinking out, gadgets, movies, concerts, classes, etc. For us, we decided on $150 each. This amount may seem exorbitant to some and minuscule to others. It sounded doable to me at first until I realized my bad habits and just how much money I spend a month. Last month Paul and I started our budget and also went 30 days without buying unnecessary items and we ended up saving $800. EIGHT-HUNDRED DOLLARS! HOLY SHIT! That is an insane amount of money for this middle class lady. Think of all the things someone could do with that amount of money. Think of all the dogs I could adopt with that money…

Love him or hate him, the hair sniffing Joe Biden said it right when he stated “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” I cannot even name the amount of times I have tried to tell myself I want to go on a trip because travel is what I value, but then end up ordering junk off Amazon instead. This seems to be a common theme. I overhear coworkers complain about being “broke” and how they want to have money to do something and then watch them go get coffee every morning and then go out to lunch every work day afternoon. As a collective society we kind of suck at budgeting and living within our means. I am speaking from the middle class. I realize there are a lot of people who are lower income and/or people who do live within their means and still do not have enough. It feels we get swept up in the advertisements and competition with one another that we forget what we actually value and want for ourselves.

Like I said, budgeting sucks and I am not very good at it. I am learning and failing and then learning some more. All I can say is I am better today than I was before. The budget has been a tough adjustment, but my eyes are now finally open to the amount of money I waste and now I have learned to prioritize. The American money guru Dave Ramsey, says “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Instead of spending my money on things I do not need, I am now spending it on what I value like saving for an upcoming trip with my friend or experiences with people I love. Budgeting can sometimes feel like a punishment, but with it is reward. A reward of delayed gratification, future possibilities, and overall financial peace. It sucks in the meantime, but is worth it in the end.

Toxic.

Less than two weeks into the new year and I am still going strong on my resolutions to:

  1. Be kinder and
  2. Take steps to create a more purposeful life.

In order to have a more meaningful life sometimes you add things to it and sometimes you take things away. This includes: people. You can still love and care about someone, even if they are toxic. Just because someone hurt you or does not add value to your life, does not mean you cannot care about what happens to them. In order to grow we need to let go of what is stunting us. Some relationships fill us up and some drain us. In the recent years for me, letting go of toxic relationships has pertained to friendships.

In all honesty, there are times I have been the toxic friend. The friend that is super negative, co-dependent, or too self-involved, even the friend that ditches out on their friends when they get into a romantic relationship. I have been the bad friend, the one who did not really listen when my friend needed me or did not stand up for them when I should have or even talked badly about them behind their backs. I wish I could say that I have never been a bad friend, but that would be a lie.

People have kicked me out of their lives, and rightfully so. I have gone through many phases in my almost thirty years on the planet and not all of them were good ones. The way I learned how to be a good friend was when I lost nearly all of them in High School and did not have any for a time. I learned to build friendships from the ground up. I have had many years to reflect and learn how to be a good friend as well as when to recognize when someone is not being one.

More recently, I had the unfortunate task of telling a friend that I was distancing myself from them because I felt their actions were hurtful, inappropriate, and overall toxic. As a lot of women I am sure, I was taught to “be nice”; To “play along”, “not make waves”, and not hurt people’s feelings- even if meant they trampled all over mine. This was grilled into my brain from a young age and is still ingrained into American society. Society sees a woman who stands up for herself as a bitch. When really standing up for yourself and others is the opposite of being a bitch, it is being kind. The truth can be hard to speak, but when we are honest with ourselves and honest with others it lifts this invisible weight from our shoulders.

As much as I love the idea of honesty, I hate the idea of confrontation. Confrontation is like a pap smear: really uncomfortable, but necessary. Also, once it is over it gives you a peace of mind. There is nothing I worry more about than hurting people I love, which is why I do not want to have to tell them the things they are doing are affecting me negatively. On the flip side, if I was hurting my friend and I did not know because they did not tell me then I would feel worse.

Being vulnerable and bringing up uncomfortable topics is hard. Staying quiet and being treated poorly is also hard. Sometimes we have to make a choice of which hard we are going to deal with. We should always be honest, but let us not interchange being honest with being cruel.

There is never an excuse to be cruel, even if the person “deserves it”. When opting out of a relationship that is depleting, telling a person how you feel should be well-intended. Nothing is more hurtful when someone says a cruel comment and then follows it up with “I am just being honest.” The person you may be revealing your feelings to may not even know that what they are doing is affecting you, so why be a dick about it? If you are a good friend then you should be able to reveal your feelings from a place of love. Being able to say honestly what and why something is bothering you with intention instead of frustration will clear the way for either a relationship to be mended or for a clean break. If the response to your heartfelt feelings is silence, defensiveness, or continued bad behavior then it is your cue to walk away and move on without that person.

I am done apologizing or making excuses for people’s poor behavior. The fear of toxic relationships in my life outweighs my fear of confrontation. If someone is doing something to harm me or others, I am going to speak up. If nothing comes from me revealing my feelings in a heartfelt way then I do not need to feel guilty for not bringing that person into the next chapter of my life. There is the cliche saying that “Life is too short.” Well it is. It is too short, too wild, and too damn precious to waste on someone who drains the joy out of it.

Sometimes working on the relationship is what is best and sometimes letting go is. Minimalism is about rigorously selecting what we take into our future to create a better life. This includes shedding the things and people who create a negative environment instead of a supportive one. Friends are of the few choices in life we get to make, so let us choose wisely.


New Year, Who Dis?

Year 2019 has began, meaning that 2018 is a fading memory. The new year brings with it hope and resolutions for the future. Vows to get in shape, travel, volunteer, change careers, meet someone or leave someone, learn a new skill, etc. are made as promises to ourselves that this is the year will be different and we will become our best selves.

I try not to make any sweeping declarations of what I intend to change for the upcoming year. Usually when I do, I end up failing halfway through the first day of January. Example is telling myself I am going to stop eating junk food and workout, but then end up spending the day on the couch, nursing a hangover with a burrito the size of an infant.

In this moment it feels as though nothing in my life has changed the past year, but when I pause and really think about where I was January 1st, 2018 I realize so much has. I quit my dead-end job and opted for one that is pushing (and sometimes shoving) me out of my comfort zone. I nourished relationships with acquaintances this past year and those people are now some of my closest friends. I have also started being more honest and setting boundaries, telling people if/when they hurt me and separating myself from those who do not care that they do. I have also challenged myself to try new things and have stuck with those challenges and pressed on, even if it was hard (ahem, hiking to Everest base camp for example).

In 2018 I chose to forgo social media for 30 days. In this short span I noticed changes in my attitude and mental health stemming from cutting the excess that was making me feel inadequate. After discussing what I learned with a friend over brunch, she encouraged me to try to add or eliminate more things from my life for 30 days at a time. She even agreed to join me on the journey. So this year, I will do multiple challenges for 30 days at a time to either introduce things into my life that will add value or take away things that weigh it down. These challenges are meant to be (baby) steps into creating habits that will enhance my well-being and aid in curating the life I want.

The month of January I will be doing yoga every day for 30 days straight. There is a Youtube channel I subscribe to that does “Yoganuary” for the past two years in January. The instructor releases a new video every day for the month of January with yoga power, flow, or even just meditation sessions.. This allows me to do yoga in my living room where only my dog can judge me. There will also be some classes in my community that I will join throughout the month so I can experience yoga with live instructors and other humans. I just completed today’s Youtube session in my living room and am looking forward to the next 29 days of yoga. For this month I can honestly tell people that I do yoga instead of just pretending I do yoga but really just wearing yoga pants while watching Netflix on my couch.

So cheers to the new year and all the victories (and spectacular failures) it will hold. May you be taking steps, big or small, towards curating a more meaningful life this year. Please follow me as I stumble and fall flat on my bum, attempting to live this year with purpose. There are bound to be many incidents, but nevertheless I (and I hope you as well) will get back up and keep moving forward. Cheers to 2019!

30 Days Social Media Free

socialmedia

For the whole month of November, 2018 I took a hiatus from social media. For the past year it has become increasingly obvious that I had a problem with overusing social media apps and they in turn, wreaking havoc on my mental health. The moment I opened my eyes in the morning I would reach for my phone and just start scrolling. I put off chores, workouts, and other obligations in lieu of watching people post pictures of their breakfast or post about their 5th pregnancy. At night, I would turn the lights off and stick my head under the covers (so my husband would not see the light from my screen) and keep scrolling until I passed out (phone still in hand). I constantly woke up feeling tired, unrefreshed, and my mood and self-esteem were consistently low.

I did not make the connection that the reason for my fatigue and mental “fog” was due to my overuse. The blue-light screen plus hours of viewing other people’s lives instead of living my own is a potent combination. The weekend would come and I would have plans to clean, take the dog to the park, or have brunch with friends and instead would get sucked into my phone and then half the day would be gone. I would also find myself in despair after seeing all the exciting things people posted about their lives, homes, travels, and then I would feel inadequate about my own. Instead of getting off the couch and feeling inspired to create a life that I wanted, I would feel discouraged and spend the rest of the day moping around thinking “My life is never going to be that good, so why even try?”

The most memorable comparison I recall was being in Shanghai, China and was scrolling through social media and saw someone was in Patagonia, Chile and I thought to myself: “Wow, I wish I was there.” I was in the arguably the most vibrant, exciting city in the world and yet I was longing to be somewhere else just because someone posted how incredible their trip was going. Not to mention I was spending my trip on social media instead of soaking in the present city. I had to scold myself when I realized I was jealous of a person I barely knew’s trip when I was on a trip some people will only ever dream of.

That is when I decided I had enough. I decided to put a stop to feeding my spirit with things that were causing more harm than benefit. I decided for 30 days I was going to end the cycle of abuse I created for myself. I decided for the month of November to delete all my social media apps (including Pinterest and Poshmark, both of which I spent hours mindlessly scrolling through) off my phone and to not use them at all for 30 days.

The first week was the hardest for me. At night I wanted to come home from work and escape with social media. I went on a trip to Seattle the second week and had to stop myself from putting the photos I took on my feed. In the first two weeks, I constantly felt “the itch”. The itch was the feeling of need to reach for my phone and click onto my apps, which occurred multiple times a day. My hand felt almost naked without a phone in it (however, my thumb pain from scrolling improved). It was a habit I created that did not want to die.

Finally, around week two, I started noticing the benefits. I was sleeping better and waking up more refreshed, because previously I was up odd hours of the night on my phone. I started to feel less despondent about my life and more grateful. I really did not have a lot to compare it to so the choices I made or the things I experienced were not influenced by what the rest of the world was doing. I was more present with my husband and friends because I was not too busy playing on my phone. By the last week, I did not even miss being on social media. There are still apps I currently have not logged into since I deleted them.

Social Media, like most things, has its perks and flaws. Its perks are that is allows us to stay connected with the people we love, to market businesses, to share art, to meet new people, etc. Its flaws are that it keeps us from enjoying the present, distracts us from getting things done, encourages us to compare ourselves to others, to buy more things, and it promotes FOMO (fear of missing out) when we see with one click what everyone else is doing at that exact moment and wish we were there instead of here.

Life is not always sitting on a beach in Cancun, drinking margaritas topless. Sometimes it is standing in the messy kitchen, wishing for a nap, but instead yelling at your dog to stop barking, threatening that if he does it one more time you are going to throw him in the street. Sometimes it is sitting in your cubicle at work all day, trying to get through the hours so you can go home, flop on the couch and scroll through Netflix. Life is not always glamorous. For the most part it is not social media worthy. So why do we make it seem like it is?

Seems to be so much effort to make it look like life is a constant orgasm. We buy things we cannot afford to make it seems like our lives are more luxurious than they are. We travel places only to take pictures to show others that we went there and to make them jealous that they are not. We spend our time editing, brightening, styling, and cropping our lives so that they fit in a tiny square photo waiting to get approval from others by the amount of “likes” received

It is okay that sometimes I spend Friday nights watching television with my husband on the couch while other people are out at concerts, dancing and drinking with their friends. It is okay that I am not always #livingmybestlife and am riddled with anxiety and my house is a mess and I have a pimple the size of Texas on my chin while at the same time other people are in Spain on a yacht, making love to a buff guy named Enrique. It is okay because it is my life- real life. Sometimes real life is just okay, and that’s okay. Frankly, I am just glad to finally be living it.