Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Book Review: You Need a Budget

Synopsis:

Discover four simple rules to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster! The You Need A Budget (YNAB) Method has helped tens of thousands of people to turn their financial lives around. It can certainly help you! Whether you’re looking to right an apparently sinking ship, or you just want to implement a system that will require less time “managing” your money, YNAB will most definitely work for you

My review: 4 stars.

I’ve seen the You Need a Budget system (YNAB) on various financial blogs before, but I’m a classic paper and pen gal when it comes to organizing life, and that includes budget, so I’ve never looked into the software that Jesse Mecham developed. I liked this book because it goes in-depth with real life examples of the 4 tenets of the YNAB system:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Embrace true expenses
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Age your money

A lot of these things I already do, especially #1 and #3. I am a saver and planner by nature and I think my budget reflects that. I keep a pretty tight system- I bring lunch everyday, I contribute to my 401k, but some in savings, have eliminated credit card debt. But what I like about Mecham’s system is that he sees money not just as a numbers system to be conquered, but that the money has to reflect priorities for life. Essentially, we should all ask ourselves: what do I want my money to do for me?

For me, I want to live debt-free. I want to have enough dollars to cover my expenses so that I can live a meaningful life doing work that is fulfilling and challenging, without having to worry about my bottom line and bills every month. This book made me realize I need to be more on top of where the actual dollars are going and pay attention to that. For example, I looked through my spending after reading the book and realized that 2017 had way too much shopping in it.

I really appreciated Mecham’s chapter on budgeting as a couple. Q and I have very different methods for managing our money, especially since Q is almost entirely a cash only guy. It’s taken us awhile to get our act together as a couple financially and to find a system that works for us. Mecham suggests monthly budget dates to go over spending and priorities. I think this is something I’ll try with us, though we’re pretty open about money and spending after 5 years together.

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re trying to move forward with financial goals and figuring out a system that works well for you and your family. I appreciate that Mecham and the book isn’t a big advertisement for his software ( which has a free trial period, but after there is a usage fee), and that he uses the book as an opportunity to educate about the principles of budgeting in an easy to understand and useable way. I think there are so many complicated budgeting ideas out there it can often feel like you need to be an economist to understand them, but Mecham’s approach makes sense to even the most mathematically challenged like me!

Buy the book!

 

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

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2018: Trust

2018- the year of trust.

Trust myself and my abilities, in my partner, our family, and that the future we desire can and will happen.

Trust that I will move forward in my career.

Trust that I am taking action every day to build the the life I want.

Trust that I can be honest with myself and people in my life about what I want.

Trust that all the questions and unknowns will unfold and present themselves if I believe in myself and hope for the things I want and need.

Trust the process of life and live the questions everyday.

 

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

2017 in Review

Like the rest of the Universe it seems, 2017 was a rough year. I set my sights on change for 2017 and used “wellness” as my word of the year to guide and focus me.

I visited 2 new states ( Missouri & Kansas).

I lost weight and changed my eating habits in positive ways, eliminating a lot of sugar and red meat from my diet. I paid down debt, tackled nagging house projects, read a lot, and fell in love with podcasts.

I definitely had less “busy” time- I prioritized time with Q and family. I stopped running errands and gained time back by using Amazon to deliver things like cleaning supplies and coffee. I stopped going to the bad grocery store that only frustrated me.

I rid my closet of items I didn’t love, stopped buying clothes out of boredom or because they were on sale, and eliminated a lot of emails and junk mail I received.

Perhaps the biggest change for me in 2017 was giving to more causes that were important to me than ever before. As the chaos of the world seemed to grow around me, I realized that using my dollars to support efforts of organizations who were making a difference was important to me. ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Red Cross, hurricane relief efforts, and so many other organizations received dollars from me because I believe in their mission and goals.

The death of Q’s brother-in-law in June re-defined a lot of things for both of us. While the death of my father 4 years ago really brought a lot of priorities into focus for us, the death of his brother-in-law was completely shocking. It left everyone feeling stunned and we spent a lot of our summer trying to grapple with feelings, support his sister and niece, and work through a lot as a family. This, on top of some issues with Q’s ex-wife that are effecting our ability to see Little Man, has definitely been a strain.

In all honesty, 2017 didn’t go as I thought and hoped it would. I thought by the end of this year I would have a new job, possibly be living in a new place, and maybe have expanded our family. None of those things happened, but despite my disappointment in at least 2 of those areas, I don’t feel despair about the year, though I am happy to start fresh for 2018.

 

 

Friday Finds December 2017

As a long time lover of purple, I’m very excited for Pantone’s 2018 color of the year- ultraviolet!

I don’t think you can make a great grilled cheese without it, but what the heck is really in American cheese?

In praise of Anne of Green Gables  (and girls who ask too many questions, of which I am proudly in that category). I recently listened to the book on my commute and was reminded all over again why I love it.

I love all things related to the Muppets, including Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, which turns 40 this year!

My mother’s side has lots of Dutch farmers and many of the older generation still wore wooden clogs to do work on their farms, so this article about 19th century Dutch farmers ruining their feet from clogs was intriguing!

Our family gave up giving gifts to each other about 3 years ago and it was the best decision we ever made. I enjoyed reading this author’s perspective on no-gift Christmas too and this one on the joy of a simple Christmas.

Dressing fashionably while protesting.

 

 

Book Review: Just Sit

Synopsis:

Written for the many, many people whose schedule or skepticism has kept them from trying meditation, Just Sit is an approachable and visually engaging beginner’s guide. Assuaging fears, answering questions, and providing real-world information to demystify the process, Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz provide a hands-on look at what meditation really is, what is does, and how to do it. The authors make clear that meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or follow a specific protocol. The most important part, to “just sit,” can lead to a lifelong practice, tailored to anyone’s lifestyle.

A perfect blend of information and instruction, Just Sit covers everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask. Sukey and Elizabeth address meditation myths and realities, offer advice on how to combat awkwardness, extoll the physical and emotional benefits of meditation, show readers how to find those precious minutes to meditate every day, and more. They also include an eight-week plan to get help readers kick start—and stay with—their own daily practice.

My review:  4 stars.

One of my 2018 goals is to integrate meditation into my everyday life. I meditate as part of my yoga practice, but haven’t succeeded in making it happen on other days. Several times I signed up for the Oprah/Deepak Chopra 21-day free guided meditation apps, but haven’t ever successfully done more than a few days of it. So when this book came my way, I was interested.

The title pretty much speaks to me directly-  “a meditation guidebook for people who know they should but don’t.” That’s actually pretty much a bumper sticker for so much of my life!

The book has lots of great illustrations,infographics, and helpful tidbits. It’s super readable and usable as an actual meditation tool, making it easy to flip to the sections you need and find what you want. I know it’s something I’ll refer back to in years to come, especially with some of the later chapters like preparing/packing for meditation retreats ( I’d like to do a yoga/meditation retreat at some point), mantras, and different meditation techniques.

I appreciated the very logical way the authors present their case for meditation- why it’s good, what it can do for you, and easy ways to get started. It was surprisingly “hard” to sit for three minutes! Also, it was quite laughable with this the first week I was trying to meditate because I scheduled it into my phone and set an alert so I wouldn’t forget. When it went off, I was in the middle of the grocery store with no zen in sight! This book contains an 8-week plan that I re-started this week– 2 days down and so far so good!

I know the most difficult thing for me is going to be finding the time, but like exercise, I know I must make it part of life because work is stressful and I need to find some mental focus to get myself to what I want in life. The writers say pretty early in the book: “Once you learn how to do it[meditation], and do it daily, suddenly all sorts of positive changes tend to come, and come faster and easier than ever. Meditation is the best tool for change that we know of.”

Who can argue with that?

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

2017 in Books

I read 79 books. This includes audio and physical books. I originally set a goal for 60 books at the beginning of the year, but by September, I was about to meet that goal, so I pushed it to 75. I thought I was going to get to 80, but the flurry of holiday movies and plans the past few weeks kept me from reading as feverishly as past months.

The longest was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at a whopping 734 pages.

The shortest was 161 pages- The Crossroads of Should and Must.

The best audio book was Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, a memoir of her friendship with poet Lucy Greeley. I also enjoyed Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner and Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos. Interesting to note these were all read by the authors– narrators make a huge difference in audio books.

I “re-read” (though as an audio book) Anne of Green Gables. I haven’t done a lot of re-reading because there are so many  books on my to- read list ( currently at 467- time to cull it again).

This year I stretched myself outside of my normal reading genres to include more fantasy, romance, and YA.

My 5 star books (in random order):

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston ( sort of like a graphic novel, except it’s like reading a diary/scrapbook- visually pleasing and interesting story).

Overseas by Beatriz Williams: As a longtime Williams fan, I wanted to read her entire backlist. Even though many reviews of this book weren’t amazing, I devoured this book in a few days. It’s a romance with time travel, both of which are not things I normally enjoy, but this captivated me when I read it back in February.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

 

 

 

Secret Santa Mug Swap 2017

Thanks to the organizing efforts of San, there was another successful year of the Secret Santa Mug Swap!

 

Here’s the mug & a few goodies I sent to my Secret Santa, Stefanie

 

And here is the lovely tea mug and delightful teas I received from Erin!

It’s the perfect cozy size for a cup of tea!

Currently: December

Reading: Lots! All of my library holds came in at the same time, so I’ve got 4 titles in the stack at moment, though I haven’t started any yet since I just picked them up last night. I will likely read The Rosie Effect this weekend ( I finished The Rosie Project last weekend). Both are technically romance, but I wouldn’t categorize them in that way as I think they’re more comedic and heartwarming. Other titles going right now: Just Sit ( review to come!), War Bride’s Scrapbook, The Alice Network, and Hammer Head. Last weekend I read one of Debbie Macomber’s Christmas books to get into the season– The Christmas Letter.

Watching: Lots of movies, Christmas and otherwise. We watched Scrooged the other night and last night watched the Kingsmen sequel, The Golden Circle. It was just OK. I also watched  a bunch of episodes of the newest season of The Crown last week, and likely will finish the series in the next week or so.

Loving: Having four-day work weeks. I took last Friday off to do some errands ( and watch The Crown), and am off tomorrow for the same. Q and I both took off Friday the 22nd and are planning to go see the newest Star Wars. The next two weeks after are short with the holiday. I’ll then have one week of 5 days before another short week with the MLK holiday.

Thinking: A lot about my Dad as the four year anniversary of his death is Saturday.

Anticipating: The Nutcracker! After years of wanting to go and never getting organized enough to get tickets, I’m going Saturday night to Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker at PPAC in Providence with my Mom and my coworker Liz. I haven’t seen the ballet since I was a little kid ( I went with my Brownie Girl Scout troop to the Boston Ballet’s version) and the Nutcracker music is required holiday listening for me.

Image via here

November in Review, December Preview

The two things I’m most proud of from November:

  • Speaking my mind at a work all staff meeting about something I felt was important
  • Giving myself time to relax and do nothing on a few weekends and vacation
  • And a third! Working with a career coach to evaluate what my next steps might be

The two things I’m most grateful for from November:

  • Family
  • Supportive work colleagues that make the day better even when things aren’t going great

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from November: I am not my job ( I feel like I have to remind myself of this a lot).

My intention for December: Enjoyment.

One thing I aim to do everyday in December is: thank people in my life for what they mean to me- everyone from thanking the mailman who brings a ridiculous amount of packages to our door to online friends who bring bits of joy to life.

Because I am brave, here are 2 new things I will do in December:

  • Informational interviews for people who have jobs/careers that I find interesting to learn more
  • It’ll happen at the end of December, but one of my closest friends, who I happen to work with, is leaving at the end of the month to undertake a new career. I feel like it’s going to take a lot of bravery for me to not breakdown when this happens, as she’s a bright spot in an often gloomy day. January is going to have a lot of adjusting for me.

The one book I definitely want to read in December is: Harry Potter #5

Something I want to experiment with in December is: Can I get up in time and dressed to get to church on Sunday mornings?

Just for fun, I will: watch as many Christmas movies as I want, even the cheesy Hallmark ones!

As an act of intentional kindness, I will: Donate food, toys, and toiletries to the various drives going on this month.

 

Hosting Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday- food, family, and fun without the pressure of gift giving. As the holiday has changed over the years with people coming and going from our table, it still remains as one of my favorite days of the entire year. This year was extra special as it was my first time hosting and it’s something I looked forward to for the past few months.

Q and I both ended up taking the entire week off of work and I’m so glad we did because we were able to relax and prep the house instead of being tired and cranky getting ready after work. Q even did a few house projects in the early part of the week, which I will admit I was not too happy about when he mentioned wanting to do that, but in the end, worked out amazingly.

We had 8 people and 2 dogs for dinner. In full disclosure, I was merely the host spot for Thanksgiving and the sous chef to my mother. Her years of Thanksgiving cooking mastery are a thing of beauty and organization, I merely just support her and set the table.

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is the traditions- old and new. I like that each year we use the same electric carving knife that my parents received when they were married in 1978. I use the same pans, old-fashioned crank chopper, and Pyrex casserole dish for the stuffing as my grandmother did. We still buy a Marie Callendar’s Dutch Apple pie as one of the desserts because it was my father’s favorite. Even though each year has brought different circumstances and people to the Thanksgiving table, each year it’s a time to put aside all the noise of life and just enjoy being together.

 

The dishes aftermath! Honestly, I like the cleaning up after, especially this year when I did it after everyone left while drinking wine and listening to a podcast.

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