The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a Purpose

Author: therosywanderer (page 2 of 5)

Budget Motivation: 7 Tips for Getting on Track

My new budget process for Q1 is finished. I thought I was budgeting for the last nine years and just not sticking with it, but I was wrong. Everything I did was backward – I was more tracking my spending than actively budgeting. It took me three months, but in March I finally did it the way you’re supposed to! I went over in just a few of my categories, but overall, I was under. I was in control of where I spent money. On top of that, I made some additional money (sold Disney tickets I had and had an AirBnB guest), so I could have some additional money. I’m quite proud of myself and can’t wait to see how I do in April without any large expenses! Now the game is on!

My tips for budgeting:

  1. Sit down and do it!
  2. Give it time. My first month was awful, but you have to learn and stay committed
  3. Visit it often. You can’t measure your progress if you start at the beginning of the month and don’t look again until the end. I’m obsessive and look every day, but I think every 2-3 days is good.
  4. Find a tool you like
    • As I already mentioned, I’ve used Mint.com for the last 9 years.
    • Part of my new motivation and how I was able to plan in advance (obvious, I know), was using EveryDollar. This resets your budget each month since each month will be different than the previous month. Before I kept the same “budget” and tried to squeeze into this frame without accounting for different activities. Resetting each month forced me to look ahead.
  5. Goals
    • Why are you trying to save money? Is it to have money to pay off debt? To stop taking on new debt? Are you saving for an awesome trip or a new car? If you don’t know why you’re making a budget, then it is going to be hard to stick with it.
    • In addition to your big, why goal – you have to understand each of your categories and your spend goal for each of those. My biggest challenge is eating out. I used to eat out all the time, and now I am saving hundreds of dollars each month by eating at home. I didn’t think it was possible for me to save hundreds each month until I started doing that. Now I have hundreds of dollars to put at my bigger financial goals.
  6. Find ways to stay motivated. My personal way is to visit my budget often and then look at my financial goals I wrote down just as often. By reminding myself that I want to eliminate my car payment and have an emergency fund, I am more motivated to eat at home. Once I complete these two goals, I will have additional money to make some bigger purchases I want.
  7. Be intentional. Watch the little purchases – they add up quickly and it’s unbelievable. Going out for drinks is innocent enough, but soon your tab is $25. You do that a few times and all the sudden you’ve spent $100 just on drinks. I didn’t put a lot of thought into my spending before because I didn’t have a good guide. My budget is a reminder to not spend in certain areas. It’s not easy, but I have a greater awareness now, which is how I can move the ball forward.

PHOTO CRED: Pexels

Mint.com: Insight into Your Finances

Most people have heard about Mint.com, but I don’t know many people who actually use it. I started using Mint.com before I bought my first house in 2009. It took many, many months for me to figure it out, but once I did, I loved it! I recently fell into a rabbit hole (a phrase I use often) in exploring new apps and technology; therefore, I decided it may be fun to write about some of my favorite or new apps on my blog. The power of technology amazes me! As a history lover, I can’t imagine what Teddy Roosevelt’s life would be like if he had a smartphone. Some of the romance would disappear, but wow, could he have accomplished so much more!

The Overview

Mint.com is a site for people to manage their personal finances. I almost always pay with a credit card, so this is a very easy system that automatically imports your transactions and categorizes them into spending types. I use mint.com to get an understanding of how much money I am spending and where. Sound financial management is very important to me.

Tips for Using

  • Be patient and spend time with it. It takes time to understand the categories and label your spending habits. The system is decent matching expenses to categories, but it needs time to learn. It’s a good activity to do when waiting for a doctor’s appointment or a meeting to start.
  • Be consistent with labels and updates. For whatever reason, I started categorizing all of my work expenses as “Business Services.” It really doesn’t make sense to an outsider, but it does to me. When I get reimbursed from work, then I flag my reimbursement as a “Business Service” so it nets to 0. You can make up your own categories, but I wasn’t planning ahead back then.
  • Set goals. A major purpose of mint.com is to set financial goals and link accounts to show how close you are to achieving them. I did this for trips and a rainy day fund. It was so rewarding when I achieved them! There is another one for retirement to show I am still on track for my goal – too bad I’m not there yet! I wish they had a goal to pay off your house early, but maybe that will come later.
  • Free basic credit score. Each quarter, mint.com will run your credit score. Hey, it’s a good thing to make sure it’s where you think it is! (You can also visit freecreditscore.com for a free report each year from the 3 agencies.)
  • Research their recommendations. Please note that mint.com is a free service, but they get paid for advertising credit cards and other financial tools on the website. I have researched some of these things over the years, and last week (after a year of researching), I decided to get another credit card. More to come on this, but it’s part of my plan to maximize rewards points. It’s also where I found another app Acorns, which I am excited to use more!

The Final Say

So with that, take a go! I truly enjoy this app and use it daily. Understanding where you’re spending money is the first step to being able to manage it. If you haven’t started yet, do!

Personal Finance

Personal Finance is one of my favorite topics to learn about. Whether it’s reading articles or listening to podcasts, I find the topic fascinating. Since it affects a large part of my life, I’m taking it as a good thing. In no way am I a trained professional; I just like to learn and talk about it.

For the past month, I have made a bigger effort in budgeting and controlling my spending. I have a healthy income, but it’s significantly less than I use to make. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always tracked my spending, but I didn’t have to worry a lot. I set some new financial goals, so for me to achieve these, I need to save more money. My current motivation is listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts.

Most people know his name, but I’m not sure how much people know about him. I personally didn’t know his principles, but once I started listening to people’s stories about how they turned their life around, I was intrigued. Even though I don’t agree with all of the details, I love the philosophy. An example is that I wouldn’t get rid of my credit card. I am too worried about online security to use a debit card online, and I enjoy benefiting from travel / cash back perks. I pay my credit card off every month and would never consider carrying a balance. However, if you have credit card debt, and that is a weakness for you, eliminate the problem and cut up the card.

Budgeting Takeaways

I didn’t do a perfect job budgeting this month, but it opened my eyes to how much unnecessary money I spend. Food is the biggest area of change for me. Whether it’s buying a lot of food at the grocery store (unnecessary), snacks on the go, or eating out, I can change my behavior to buy less. This month was an additional challenge because I planned two trips. I packed food before I left and watched what I spent at restaurants. Even doing this, it was hard. There were so many times when I thought, “I think I’ll go buy this” until I reminded myself of my goals. This is a huge paradigm shift for me.

February will be another tough month because of my trip to Switzerland. I’m preparing my budget now. Until next time, happy wanderings!

Have a Magical Day

Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles to finally earn my Donald Duck medal. I couldn’t write about my “magical” trip to Disney World until I could say I finished the race. A group of friends and I made the decision LAST February to run the half marathon. Then, Friday night, Disney made the difficult decision to cancel the half marathon because of possible lightning.

We drove down from Charlotte on Thursday doing a midway stop in Savannah. Disney was just 4 short hours away from there. I went to Disney World as a kid and once in college, but going back as an adult was quite different.

  1. You can drink in the parks – who knew? (not that we did this, but having the option is cool)
  2. The Park Hopper pass lets you travel around the parks. Much easier to do in small groups
  3. It is still a magical experience even though you’re no longer a kid

 

Our Itinerary

  • Thursday: drive to Orlando with a stop in Savannah. Dinner at Disney Springs (you don’t need a ticket) and checking into the hotel – All Star Music.
  • Friday: breakfast in Orlando, picked up a friend at the airport, lunch at the Yacht Club with friends, wandered around The Art of Animation. This is a great hotel and wonderful for taking pictures. Once we all arrived, we checked in at the race expo. We were going to have an early bedtime for the race but…
  • Saturday: should have been race day (2:30 am wake up), but we slept in instead! After walking around Music and Movies for coffee, we left for Hollywood Studios. It would have been a great day, but we had to go to World of Sports to trade in our half marathon bibs. It took FOREVER! Afterwards, we had dinner with friends at Trail’s End, which was an area of Disney I never knew existed. It’s a buffet and on a lake – you have to take a boat to the Magic Kingdom. That’s where we ended the day and saw the most magical fireworks show over the castle.
  • Sunday: Marathon Day! My friend ran the marathon instead, so we went out to cheer him on around mile 16. After seeing him, the rest of us went to Animal Kingdom. That was my first time there, and it was awesome! Because our schedule got off on Saturday, we had a lot to fit in. We did the highlights of Animal Kingdom but then rushed to the Magic Kingdom. We tried to fit in as much as we could, but we could have spent hours more. Around sunset, we took the monorail to Epcot. We watched the fireworks show there after doing rides, walking around the world, and eating dinner.

My overall takeaways are everyone should go to Disney, no matter your age. It’s very expensive, but there a ways to watch what you spend. Run Disney puts on a great event, but I hope/think this is the LAST time they don’t have a rain plan. They canceled the race for close to 30,000. I am going to go again next year because this is a race I really, really want to do!

Welcome 2017!

The New Year is exciting because it’s a chance to look forward and see what is going to happen in life. I plan a list of goals, look at my calendar, and try to make a plan to accomplish it all. It’s also a chance to reflect to see what went well in 2016 and where you can improve.

One of my main focus areas this year is personal finance. I do a relatively good job, but I could be doing much more. The last several months, I’ve been reading about how people saved a million dollars in their 30s, retired early, and achieved strong financial independence. I want and can be one of those people.

Get Motivated

Hopefully, these will inspire those of you with a financial resolution this year. I’m also addicted to the Dave Ramsey podcast. I’ve listened to hours of it over the last week. It’s what I needed to kick myself into gear. I agree with a lot of what he says, but I can’t imagine eliminating my credit card. I always pay mine off, so in my world it’s okay. Security for online shopping and rewards points are too important for me.

This is a hard change to make – it will significantly affect two areas I enjoy – eating out and traveling. If I make the sacrifices now, I think it will have a large payback later on. I do have three major trips and events this month and February, but I’ll do what I can to get started before then. This will be a wandering all on its own.

So, cheers! Bring it on 2017! Until then, happy wandering!

Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving! Besides delicious food, this day is a great reminder of what we have to be thankful for. No matter how busy things are or how stressed you can be, Thanksgiving is a chance to slow down and reflect on what is really important in life. Of course, family and friends are at the top of the list, but the other things that I am blessed with this year are…

Puppies

The loves of my life. I love them to pieces. I am also thankful that all of my foster pups found good, loving homes.

Best Friends

The Cubbies

Go Cubs GoFinally, after 108 years, the Cubs broke the curse and are World Series CHAMPIONS!! I mean, no more needs to be said. #gocubsgo

America

Even though there is a lot of divisiveness in our country now, I hope everyone remembers what a wonderful place we call home. Our freedoms are unmatched anywhere else in the world. If we work together and do our parts, we can continue to make America the best place in the world. I am incredibly proud of my country and thankful to all of the men and women who serve to protect us.

North Carolina

My home and favorite state. I love our mild fall days. I love that the color on the trees is peaking for Thanksgiving day. Whether spending time in the city or the country, NC has so much to offer. Blue skies to make you smile for days.

Nice view for a run
Running

Can’t believe I’m saying that, but last year I was recovering from a stress fracture. This year, I completed a half marathon and just finished running a Turkey Trot. I don’t necessarily love running, but I am so grateful to be able to do it. Some people don’t have the ability to do this, so I am appreciative of being able to walk and run.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you! Enjoy the day with your friends, family, and delicious food. Also, did I forget to mention how thankful I am for pumpkin pie?! I must go get some now!

 

2016 Charlotte Marathon

I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but I do love how it feels after I run. I used to think running a half marathon would be impossible for me, but today I proved myself wrong – I finished running the 2016 Charlotte Half Marathon!

In 2010, I had my first chance to see a half/full marathon. It was my last day in Las Vegas, and my friend and I were drinking on a patio outside of Paris watching the runners. By the time we were on our way out that evening, the marathon was still finishing. My second time watching one was the NYC marathon in 2013 – talk about good runners. Something I liked about watching these events was anyone (who trained) could do it. It’s not like watching a basketball game; we can’t all play basketball. I am lucky to have a lot of friends who run, and their advice and experience persuaded me to try it out. I had gotten out of shape and was looking for something to motivate me – that’s when I signed up for my first half.

The first chance…

img_0181Savannah was my pick because it was flat. I was nervous to run it, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have added obstacles to block me from finishing. When training for this race, I made sure to do all of my long runs, but I didn’t always do my short runs. Long story short, I did a long run in NYC one weekend (one of my dreams was a long run in Central Park) where I pushed myself harder than expected AND then continued to walk around. Turns out, I developed a stress fracture in my foot. I wasn’t supposed to run the half, but I decided to walk it because my brother was running. It was a great experience.

…and the next!

But Charlotte 2016 was my chance. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick to my training plan. I ran short runs, but I just couldn’t get motivated for the long runs. As is the motivation for all procrastinators, the deadline started approaching, and I had to get serious!! Two weeks ago, I did a 10-mile long run and then again last week. I did well to mile 8, then it got tough.

half marathon bibThere were no words to describe my nervousness for the actual race. An additional 3 miles is a lot, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I woke up this morning at 5 am to each breakfast and have a little coffee. Before I run, I have a waffle with peanut butter and cinnamon. I usually put a banana on it, but I forgot to buy some. I walked my dogs and hung out before driving Uptown. Charlotte isn’t as big of a race as Savannah is, but it sure is cool being in your home city. Soon enough, the race started. It’s hard at the beginning –

Soon enough, the race started. It’s hard at the beginning – everyone is excited and full of energy. Since I’m not a strong runner, I have to watch myself because I can’t go too fast. It’s literally a marathon, not a sprint! It’s tough to have people pass you, but I just zone into my podcasts and worry about myself. I did a great job running to mile 8, that’s when things got tough. I had to run/walk the remainder of the race. My legs were like Jello!

As I went up Mint St. and could see the Panther’s stadium, I got excited. I had a pick up in my run. Then – there it was! The finish line! “Keep going, keep going,” I told myself. As I did, I started to increase my stride and sprint! Then VICTORY! I was over the finish line. 13.1 miles were conquered, and I could say I ran a half marathon. My goal was to finish in less than 2:45 – I finished in 2:35. A MAJOR accomplishment for me.

half marathon finisher medal

2016 Charlotte Half Marathon Finisher Medal

Takeaways

half marathon victoryI do enjoy these races. Disney is my next event, which will be fun because I am doing it with a group of friends. And it really isn’t impossible. If you want to run a half, you can! If I can do it, I truly believe anyone can; you just have to want to do it. Halfs are nice because you have to commit to training, but you don’t have to modify all of the details in your life.

I have a lot of respect for full marathoners, but I don’t have a desire to run one. If my finish line was the halfway point, I don’t know if I would have made it. A marathon is also different because you have to watch your diet and long runs are more than a half marathon. It’s a great goal, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll do. More halfs, on the other hand, yes, I will definitely do this!

Schatzi Resting

Such a cute face to look at when recovering

Reward Points – the start of a new adventure

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but today I finally jumped and took the plunge! I’m going to figure out how to maximize using reward points to help me travel. Since I make less money than I used to, but my desire to travel is as big as ever, I need to find a way to make it happen. When I bought my first house, I used my credit card points to buy towels, pots/pans, and other decor. It worked out nicely!

First off, this world is pretty complicated. I mean, there are probably thousands of credit cards out there. It’s not like you can sample cards and figure out which one works best. You can’t continue to open and close cards either because it can affect your credit score. Two big sites helped push me over the edge – Mint.com and The Points Guy. I’ll have a separate blog post about Mint.com, but I’ve been a fan of The Points Guy for a while. He has a beginner’s guide that I found very interesting and helpful. Stay tuned as I start to learn more, but so far I decided to take the following steps…

  1. Applied for Chase Sapphire Preferred card (crazy how fast you can get approved!) which is supposed to be great for travel. Plus, it doesn’t have foreign transaction fees which I need for my trip to Zurich in February.
  2. Made an account and started linking my reward programs to AwardWallet. It’s a free site (there is a Plus version), but essentially it tracks all reward programs (airlines, food, hotel, etc). I had tried TripIt Pro‘s program in the past, but I didn’t like it. One day in, and so far I like AwardWallet. More to come!
  3. Researching other ways to save or grow money. Currently looking at Acorns, Wallaby, Mint.com, and general budgeting techniques.

Once I start to figure things out, I’ll keep you posted. Any tips or experiences would be appreciated! I have some big goals…I can’t wait to turn these clip art pictures into my real pictures! Switzerland, Paris, and Machu Pichu – here I come! Until next time, happy wanderings!
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Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Shark Tank is one of my favorite TV shows because it promotes entrepreneurialism and small business – what America stands for! I am always very excited to try new Shark Tank products, so when I found a cookie kit at Target, I had to try it.  Scratch and Grain Baking Co. was featured in season 6 where Barbara gave them a deal. Scratch and Grain designs natural and organic baking kits for cookies, brownies, and more.

The Process

I love to bake, but I haven’t really baked in the last 3 or 4 years. Even since moving into my new house, I haven’t bought sugar and flour to bake! I was in a baking mood this weekend, so now was a great time to try.

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All of the ingredients (except butter and an egg) are included in this box. You don’t need to use measuring cups, so it makes clean up easy!

 

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All you have to do is add the ingredients in the correct order, and they are even color coded and numbered. I was able to mix everything in less than 10 minutes. A helpful hint on the box reminds the baker not to overmix the flour. A helpful hint for all baking projects. Once you have your batter, you just need to arrange the dough on the cookie sheet. They bake for 10 minutes, so this whole project takes only 20 minutes or so. Take them off the pan to cool, and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were! Had I still lived in NYC, this would be the perfect fix for when I wanted to bake!

 

Time to Enjoy

My cookies turned out perfect! I am always careful not to over bake any good since a little gooey is always better. This was such an easy process, I will definitely buy this again. I can’t wait to try some other products from their line.

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Yummy goodness!

I even packaged them for mimg_2280y friend and me to eat at the theater. If you have a chance to see First Date do it! It was hilarious. I wouldn’t suggest it for children (language and some crude humor), but great for any adult. I can’t imagine someone not enjoying it. The cookies made for a great treat. Until next time, rosy wandering!

#tbt – “Home on the Range” in South Dakota

Two years ago (wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!) my travel buddy, Irene, and I went on a long weekend to see North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It was our first time to that area of the country, and I couldn’t be more excited. There is something about the apprehension of a trip when you have no expectations. I mean, one of the best feelings! This trip surpassed anything I could have imagined.

The Itineraryscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-12-23-43-pm

  • Stay: The Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD. The Wild West come to life!
  • Saturday: Fly into Rapid City. Explored South Dakota’s Black Hills and Deadwood
  • Sunday: Roadtrip through the Badlands to Medora, ND, for lunch before heading over to Makoshika State Park in MT to look for dinosaurs
  • Monday: Visit Devil’s Tower in WY before heading back to the airport in Rapid City

A Closer Look Into South Dakota

Even upon arriving at the airport, the landscape was breathtaking. The world was open, the air was fresh, and adventure was calling. We rented a car, which was a 10-15 minutes shuttle ride away.

An interesting tip is that all car rentals from Rapid City have a fee for additional miles. You can’t rent for a flat rate in that area because there is so much space to cover. Pay attention to this for costs!

img_2897Our first planned stop was to visit Mt. Rushmore and see a buffalo. For my SD experience, I really wanted to see both of these things. I truly believe in my travel philosophy; you have to have a plan when you travel. You have to know what you want to accomplish, but you cannot be too strict. You’ll never know what could come up! Case in point, as we were driving from the airport, we saw a sign for “Red Ass Wine.” I mean, a winery in South Dakota! 1. Who would have thought and 2. how can you say no?!

The winery (Prairie Berry) was a fun stop. Red Ass Wine was a rhubarb wine. I knew of rhubarb, but I had never had it. The wine at this winery was made from a variety of berries and fruit; it wasn’t traditional grape wine. We really enjoyed it and spent a good amount of time drinking another glass with lunch. The trip was already a success.

Mt. Rushmore

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Mt. Rushmore. img_2894We saw img_2892buffalo and order rhubarb pie from Purple Pie Place on the way. (Road Food recommended them on one of my favorite podcasts Travel with Rick Steves). Seeing buffalo was amazing! I can’t imagine what it was like to be a pioneer or cowboy moving West in the mid-1800s when buffalo numbered about 35 million. Today’s number is closer to 400,000. We drove around forever trying to find them. We gave up and decided to make our way to Mt. Rushmore – that’s when we saw them! One even walked right by our car.

buffalo for miles

Look at all of them! And we weren’t even at a zoo!

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He got so close…and yes, I was scared he was going to ram into the car.

We finally arrived shortly before the sunset, and it was even more awesome than I expected that it would be! Mount Rushmore is an enormous sculpture made during the Great Depression. It features faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. As a history fanatic, it was overwhelming to see something in person I had dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. We were there through dark so we got to see it lit up, as well.

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There it is! Such an amazing feeling to actually be there.

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Irene and I with the NY state monument. We had both recently moved from the Big Apple.

Goodnight from Deadwood

img_2948Next stop was to check into the historic Bullock Hotel in Deadwood. What a cool place to stay! Gambling is legal (brothels didn’t close until the 1980s), so there is a small casino downstairs. We were exhausted after such a long day, so it was time to find some food. Based on Yelp ratings, we went to dinner at a close hotel. Let’s just put it this way,  you can’t expect much from a culinary perspective in Deadwood. After that, we decided to call it a night. We had an early morning for our Badlands road trip in the morning and prayed we wouldn’t be woken by a ghost…

More to come on the next #tbt post! Until then, rosy wanderings!

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