Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hello, December 26th! I have been waiting for you.

Now that Christmas is 365 days away, my job will be a little more clear cut. I've been waiting for this since early November. All I can say is, "hatchachacha!"

Now, onto Christmas past. This year Jared and I attended dinner at the Koehn's Friday night and lunch at my aunt and uncle's Saturday. Both events went over well, but I preferred Jared's gathering to mine. Not because I am choosing favorites, but because there are twice as many adults at my family's celebrations, and I become anxious in groups. I attribute this to basic paranoia multiplied in intensity from close familial proximity. Meaning, generally groups don't bother me, because I don't care what strangers nor acquaintances think; however, because I'm tied to these particular people and will be seeing them year after year, I care. I'm not afraid of making a bad impression. Instead, I get the sense that I already have and am currently in the process of living that down. And, no I have no idea what event/reputation I'm speaking about. It wouldn't be paranoia if it had grounds.

The other problem I have is not meant to insult my mother. I want to have that on record, because this isn't a problem with her it's a problem with me. My mother is a character. She displays herself with gusto using wide hand gestures and colorful language. She strains her face to contort to whatever mood she is trying to project. She is also loud. Personally, I see this as her way of dealing with the above paranoia that we both suffer from. Unfortunately, my way of dealing involves turning myself inward, buttoning my lip and waiting for time to move. Which means my mother attracting large amounts of attention to herself... makes me cringe inside. It's not that I'm embarrassed of my mother, because my mother is awesome. I just hate. hate. attention --- especially when I'm as anxious as large family gatherings make me.

The cliched truth that I'm digging at is that holidays are stressful. I have decided that hosting a large gathering is too much trouble, and I will forever be a guest in other people's celebrations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 5: 2010 Events

Vacation at the Cabin
From the first year I was born until the summer I turned thirteen, my father and I would travel to Slidell, LA and visit Haphazard, our family's summer cabin. Here I made happy childhood memories and felt like I had a family. Those two weeks every year were the few extended periods of my young life where I didn't feel controlled or subservient. When we stopped going, my summers dragged into falls which really helped to blur my grade school years into a long streak of suck.

But, that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the two weeks this summer I spent at Jared's parent's cabin. Not only did I get some much needed time in the sun, I was reminded of those sun-filled days in Louisiana. Something about a mixture of nostalgia, family and vitamin-D has made this experience possibly the best I've had in Wisconsin. It also gave me some insight into Jared's family dynamic. Which is excellent, because until then I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. Spending a week at the cabin with his family told me a lot more than a few hours over a turkey/ham in a formal dining room ever could.

I also spent a week out at the cabin with Brandon and Ciera. Spending that much time close quarters with another couple makes you appreciate your spouse in a whole new way.

Brittany's Tattoo
This is going to sound ridiculous, but watching Brittany get a tattoo is going to be something I never live down.

It went something like this: Brittany's tattoo is outlined, then Brit turns a little green. Tim (Tattoo Guy) runs for ice, water and glucose tablets. I watch Brit turn green, I watch Tim get the supplies... then I get light headed and clammy. Tim has to make a second trip.

Not a big deal right? That is the worst vasovagal response I've ever had. I think Brittany's paling face and my sudden lightheaded-ness will always come to mind when I think about tattoos... or Brittany... or glucose tablets.

Laceye's Bachelorette Party
Because of a free weekend, a need to get out of Platteville and friend who needed accompaniment, I was fortunate enough to meet Laceye and Theresa. These two are a cousin duo that bring out the best in each other. They are adventurous, mischievous, energetic and influential.

Laceye's bachelorette party. was a two day event: Shopping and dinner one day, on the town that night and breakfast the morning after. Ciera stayed to shop and dine, but had to work in the morning. I was invited to stay, and Laceye offered to drive me home in the morning. I had no where to be and saw this as an opportunity to let loose for once. We spent a good time dolling ourselves up. Theresa did my hair and Laceye did my makeup. I do understand that I am female and have had female friends, but no one has encouraged me to dress like an woman before. I felt self-assured and sexy. Laceye even had me in a mini-skort, which meant I didn't feel scared to sit the way I normally do... which is my main issue with above the knee skirts.

The night aside, that experience with those girls inspired me to buy a hair straightener, gel and hairspray. I even want to grow my hair out past my shoulders, which hasn't reached that point in a near decade. This may seem superficial, but when they gave a complement, I believed it. Besides height and curly hair, sincerity runs in that family.

College Graduation

Last year was my fourth year at UW-Platteville. I want to open by saying that I didn't have senioritis. I did my homework and showed up for as many classes as usual. However, at this point I no longer valued my education. I wanted out of Platteville. I wanted my piece of paper and my freedom. I felt like my education was not adding to my ability to increase my income. I also felt annoyed and superior to a lot of the freshmen I was taking classes with.

Now that that is on record, I also want to say "College Graduation" is included on this list out of obligation. I felt obligated to go to college. Now, I feel obligated to include graduation on this list of memories.
However, graduation wasn't that awesome. I walked across a stage. I took my diploma holder. I walked away. I understood that statistically speaking, a four year degree should make me happier.

The four years of college were worth it though. I learned a lot about myself and gained independence. That's priceless.

Moving in with Jared
My relationship with Jared is a large part of my life. I'm ready to have my own family of two with Jared, and living together is solidifying "us." Plus, with our work schedules we would never see each other if we didn't live together. We cook meals together, clean together, go grocery shopping and are learning to communicate better with one another. We're a work in progress, but growing together means always being in progress.

Honorable Mentions:
Summerfest, Irishfest, Ann Arbor Trip, Chicago Vacation

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shopping Style and Flash Sales

I've recently decided it would be best if I did not buy clothing for a year. I have far more clothing than I need but for now am done narrowing down my closet. By not buying clothing I will be able to focus on what I already have and (to use a hackneyed phrase) shop my closet.

Through a little self examination, I've come to the conclusion that I tend to shop as a way to treasure hunt. I don't channel my inner pirate and map my way across the department store, but instead I spend hours of my time filtering every sale rack, every aisle of a thrift store... turning over every knickknack and examining every clothing item. I search for items that strike my fancy in a particular, long-lasting way but also meet my standard in price vs. retail value.

Becoming self-aware of my reason for shopping has made not shopping a little easier. Right now, I've decided that if I need something, I need something. Which means I should buy this item and only this item.
Example: My winter coat is a black, wool pea coat made by Calvin Klein. Last year, it fit like a glove... but now the top button stays open. I went to the mall this Saturday with a friend from work and tried on five similar coat from the same designer and have decided that my waist is too small for a 10 and my chest is too large for an 8 for this season's Calvin Klein coat line. However, I still need a winter coat that zip/buttons to the top. This is the frozen tundra of the Midwest that I live in. I chose to purchase a Columbia medium weight coat in a Medium. Which fits perfectly, I want to add.

Then, I got the hell out of there.

I'm making a point in all future purchases to only use store cards when a discount is provided for store card users. I paid for this purchase on my everyday credit card which has an interest rate much lower than a store card's.

Which brings me to section two of this blog entry. I am closing all store cards that I do not use. I am keeping my Younker's card (for use that in Wisconsin), my Macy's card (for all future Minnesota, Mall of America shopping), and my Old Navy Card (for all basic clothing purchases). This might seem like a lot of store cards to keep but I've closed four accounts this weekend and am calling Maurice's in the morning. It shouldn't hurt my credit too horribly, because all of these accounts have been inactive for over six months.

Finally, I recently read an article published by Jezebel on Flash Sales. This article has reinforced my belief that "limited time" offers are scams. Without fail, I recoil at any sales pitch that is offered "for the next 48 hours" or "until close today." Mostly, because I watch a lot of TV and have seen make-believe con artists fool their marks into rushed decision making. Outside of treasure hunting... I don't fall prey to flash sales or BOGO offers or even coupons. If you're offered $10 off a $50 purchase... that's 20%. That is not a sale. If it isn't 50% off... it isn't a sale. If you didn't even want it... you aren't saving money.

My dad always would correct someone who would deliver a sales pitch claiming to "save" you money if you buy an item for $40 that is normally $50. "You aren't saving money; you just aren't spending as much money." If you want to save money you just take $10 and stick it in a savings account. Now, you have saved $10... and come to think of it you could just not buy anything and put away $50.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Always Planning

I have been thinking about finances way too often this week.

I've been reading blogs on finance and frugal living. This is what I've learned so far from these blogs: I make next to nothing; I'm 5 or so years younger than any exemplary young person in debt; my debt (i.e., school loans) is not that bad; I've been practicing these frugal living ideas that are exalted by these websites for years as a way of providing for myself while poor; There isn't too much fat to cut from my budget. Because my budget is already low-fat... I've decided to go fat free.

Here is my working plan for financial savings:
I will not buy clothing -- at all -- for at least six months. If I can manage that, I'll make it another six months etc. (I am going to make an exception when I visit Aunt Leigh in San Francisco.)
I will not purchase home items until we have moved and have jobs.
I will cut down on eating out to once a week or less.

That's my budget's fat.

Oh, and I froze my credit.
I also want to plastic and weather strip our windows and the back room. This way we can keep the heat at 67 or 65 without paying $130 a month.

When my hours start cutting down I'm going to clean out the upstairs closets. I don't want to be one of those people that wear 20-30% of their closet. But, that's for another post.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

February 2012

Today, I made a point of telling one of my supervisors that I will be available to work throughout the next year into next peak season.
I did this for two reasons:
1. Jared will most likely need a full year's experience to get a job in a Chemistry position in the future.
2. I want to make myself available for any future promotion.

This revelation depresses me. Actually no... it doesn't make me depressed; it just makes me sad. I'm sad that we won't be moving someplace new and exciting. I'm sad that my life has grown stagnate. I'm sad that my earning potential will remain where it is now or possibly decrease. I'm sad that I'll continue seeing Jared only on weekends. I'm also afraid. I'm afraid that a temporary home and a temporary job will become a permanent situation.

But, I am reminded of what I will be gaining. I have a job. I have a home. I have an income. I have health care. I have a possible future.

Part of me feels like, at 22, I should be grabbing the bull by the horns or spitting into the wind --- doing something, anything reckless.

Right now, I need to save money. I need a foundation to stand on.

Let's see how long I can hold on to this plan.

Stop spending.
Keep earning.
Maximize saving.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Money, It's a Drag

I am not the best at saving money. I've never had much of it, and when I do manage to scrape an income, my spending inflates. I've been trying to make a point of having positive cash flow over the past two months. This has allowed me to pay off $700.00 in credit card debt that I accrued from three months of unemployment and about $300.00 or so dollars in-store credit card debt. I also have saved over $500.00. I did this in two months while paying bills on time and well... living.

I'm also working for under $10 an hour at a job with part-time hours.

My big goal is $2500.00 by late March. I figure that if I don't allow myself to shop for new stuff, sell my old stuff and work weekends, then I will be golden.

This is a lot harder than it sounds. I love shopping, and temptation is everywhere. And, by everywhere, I mean on my lap with a wireless connection.

Holley's plan to save for her move:
1. Freeze my Younkers Card. In ice.
2. Tape an adorable photo of a Corgi to my credit card over the numbers. This way I'll have to stare into it's adorable face, reminding me what I'm postponing for that humorous t-shirt, shiny tennis shoe or cute gingerbread earrings.
3. Watch my bank account like a HAWK.
4. Put my entire paycheck into my savings account, then move money into my checking account only as I need to pay bills.
5. Never step foot into Dubuque or Madison.
6. Develop a love of penny pinching. Maybe I can trade the thrill of shopping for the thrill of saving. Pause for the laugh.

Here are some great links on frugality, money saving and DIY, respectively:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Personal Style

Here is a small confession:
I didn't pick out or buy my own clothes until I was 16.

Over the past 6 years I've found out several things about myself and my personal style.

1. There is really one pair of jeans that I like, so I now buy the same style in different colors. I also do this with underwear and tank tops.

2. I like black, but not enough to wear multiple pieces in the somber tone. Plus in winter my skin washes out, and I look really dowdy.

3. No matter how many cute scarves I buy... I will never wear them as much as the scarf Gram gave me 5 years ago.

4. I don't like glitter... or glam... or large jewelry. Shiny is good for shoes not faces.

5. I buy way too many hoodies and fleeces. I wear all of them and like all of them. This makes downsizing my closet really difficult.

6. Everything I try on is tolerable... sometimes everything is cute. These are not good reasons to buy clothes.

7. I love dresses. I did not wear dresses in high school. It wasn't until summer of freshman year where I lived in a place that had no A/C that I started wearing dresses to survive.

8. I do agree with one thing that my mother's boyfriend outlined in the house dress code... logos are awful. I could go on a rant about The Man using your body for product placement... but really I don't like having wording across my chest. 

9. Cardigans go with everything. Everything.

10. Lastly, I don't need to wear makeup. I'm way too young to look like a raccoon, clown or cougar.

Personally, I'm into a hipster/granny/librarian style. Humor t-shirts, cardigans, knee length skirts and excellent lapel pins. My basic 15 minute shopping quick trip involves looking through purse sale racks for Fossil handbags and skimming the very on sale racks for looking at fabric first, fit second and utility last. I do this based on what is fastest to judge. This way I'm not trying on a 100% wool size 0 romper. (Also, I hate rompers.)

Which leads me to the point I intend to make. The best way to avoid accumulating tons of clothing is a two step process.
Step 1: Figure out the following:
What you wear most often and if you really need more of that.
What you never wear but continue to buy for the wrong reasons: obligation, trend following, hoping for a tomorrow that might never come.
Step 2: Stop buying stuff. 
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