The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a Purpose

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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!

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!
42818p    eiffel-tower-gray-bwmachupicchubnw

It’s Here! The Apple Watch 2

So, I am not a technologist, but I wish I was. I appreciate technology. To think about the creativity and logic that goes into creating a new application or piece of hardware blows me away. I don’t understand the hardware side as much, but I love the user experience side. This likely explains why I am a huge Apple fan – but who knows, maybe my interest in Apple lead to my appreciation. I’ve been an Apple fan since high school yearbook in the early 2000s when I worked closely with the color iMac.

Yes, it’s early…

So I am posting this because I woke up early to pre-order the Apple Watch 2. I know it’s crazy, but that hype always gets me going. I woke up to pre-order my rose gold iPhone 6s, Kate and Will’s wedding, and I prefer early morning flights. Oh well. I don’t think they will sell out of the Watch 2, but I’ve been waiting for the second edition since the first one was released a year and a half ago.  Even though I’ve been waiting for a long time, I don’t make them lightly. I made my (probably) fifth visit to the Apple store this evening to confirm the color and size watch I wanted. My iPad purchase was equally bad; at least I had 1.5 years to think about it. I don’t take decisions likely.

Why I’m Excited

In 2013, I bought an UP Band and loved its. Unfortunately, it disappeared after a night of drinking in Tampa. As a less expensive alternative, I bought a Fitbit. Fitbit was okay. I liked

My final decision. Such a hard decision, but I decided the silver 38 mm sport version with a white band will be the most versatile.

My final decision. Such a hard decision, but I decided the silver 38 mm sport version with a white band will be the most versatile.

how many people had it to share information, but it wasn’t as reliable as the UP Band. A year ago, my Fitbit stopped charging, and I couldn’t fix it. My cheap, stubborn self decided to wait for the Apple Watch – and viola! Here we are! These are my main reasons I can’t wait!

  • I want a running watch. I feel the Apple Watch 2 (with GPS) is even better than a running watch because you can wear it all the time and do lots of things.
  • I miss tracking my steps/activity level
  • I’m not good at texting and paying attention to my phone (only millennial with this problem), but I hope I’ll be more alert to messages and action items.
  • Time travel – basically, I can see my schedule on my wrist. Since I live for my calendar, this would make things a lot easier
  • Geeking out my house – one of my big projects I’m researching is figuring out how to make my house “smarter.” I’ll share my findings in my blog, but the watch is another option for controlling the house.

Get ready! I’ll let you know how I like it starting next Friday (September 16). In the meantime, all Apple users, mark your calendar for Tuesday, September 13, to download the free upgrade to iOS 10. If you enjoy texting, you’ll love its enhancements.

#tbt – Labor Day

With Labor Day weekend upon us, I figured I should highlight a Labor Day outing for this week’s Travel Back Thursday (#tbt). This year, I’m heading to a wedding in Cincinnati, OH, for a high school friend. Labor Day the last several years has been consumed with weddings, which doesn’t make for a great #tbt tip. I mean, everyone’s been to a wedding. The last good Labor Day weekend was spent at Topsail Beach.

THE WEEKEND

My college friends rented a large house on the inter-coastal across the street from the beach on Topsil. It was basically a weekend of hanging out, playing, and drinking adult beverages. We did this the first two years out of college, and to this day, they top the list. We all lived in different cities, so it was a chance to all hang-out and pretend we were back at school. There were about 20 of us in one 3-story house.

TIPS for PLANNING

If you haven’t done a large group trip with your friends, then put that on your must do list and plan immediately! There is nothing better than just relaxing and having fun with your friends. Topsail Island is off the coast of NC. There is a small town with a few restaurants, but we didn’t go to them. It’s more fun to just stay at home. When doing a group trip, keep the following in mind:

  • Rent with a reputable company and make sure to pay attention to: security deposits, cleaning fees, check in/out times, and what is required for you to do at checkout. Keep in mind you are renting someone’s home. Keep it nice and make sure to clean up after yourself or expect to pay a hefty fee!
  • Everyone likes different things. Keep it open and fun. Keep planned activities to a minimum so you can take in the day and the weather.
  • Bring footballs, beach chairs, books, and other fun items. Board games are fun for any age and can always be adapted to increase competition or even a drinking game!
  • Depending on your kind of trip, meals can be important, but they may not be the most important. When my friends and I beached it, it was more about having fun and spending time with each other. We had dinner, but it was always easy so clean up was minimal and it didn’t take hours to prep. Assign meals to people to everyone has responsibility. Don’t forget to ask anyone in the party about their dietary restrictions! Coming from a “simple” eater – nothing is worse than being hungry. At least give a heads up to people of what dinner will be. I don’t want people to adapt to my eating habits, but I would want to bring my own food on hamburger night!
  • That being said, experience the local. On a different beach trip, we visited a local seafood market then came home and cooked up a feast! It was amazing – everything from crab to fish to shrimp. Best of all, it was FRESH!

BOTTOM LINE

Have fun! You’re on vacation – the most important thing to do is to relax and not take things too seriously. Pack your fun hat and leave the drama at home!

Happy Wanderings and Happy Labor Day!

Plated – another box of meals!

Another meal box down, and funny enough, this was the first box I had ever heard about. I love the TV show Shark Tank. If you don’t know what it is, please research it and watch a few episodes. The show has been on for several years, and I think has done a lot to promote entrepreneurialism and the American dream. I love this show and what is represents. Anyway, the first time I heard about meal subscription boxes was when Plated was pitched on Season 5 (early 2014). I thought it sounded really cool, but sure enough, a lot of competitors have come up since their invention.

ORDERING AND PACKAGING

IMG_1448Since Plated is what got me interested in these boxes, I couldn’t wait to try it. Unfortunately, this is also a very expensive box, so I prioritized other brands who also had a bigger, first box discount. Plated meals cost $12/person. A box for two people with three meals costs $72/week, which I think is a bit pricey. Their initial offer is two free meals per week.

The website is very easy to use and meals are posted 5 weeks in advance, which is very friendly if you plan on using this service regularly. The overall brand and pictures are also the more “trendy” compared to competitors. It makes the company look cool and friendly.

I ended up buying two weeks of boxes since the recipes seemed interesting. The first box I received was a bit damaged, but all of the food was included. It made me nervous since it’s hot here in NC and the food needs to stay cold. Luckily, it was okay.

THE MEALS

I made 6 meals in total. Some were really good, some I wasn’t a fan of. This is probably the first box I ordered that there were recipes I truly didn’t enjoy, but there were some I liked a lot. The ingredients were also very fresh and seemed of high quality.

  • Barbecue Salmon Burgers with Fingerling Potato Salad
  • Moo Shu Chicken with Pancakes
  • Grilled Vodka Sauce Pizza with Goat Cheese and Grilled Vegetables
  • Charred Eggplant with Quinoa Tabbouleh and Creamy Tahini
  • Chicken Shawarma
  • Garlic Shrimp Spaghetti

The Barbecue Salmon Burgers were one of the best dishes I made as part of this experiment. They were easy to make and very delicious. I am also not a fan of potato salad, but this was made with Chobani yogurt, mustard, lemon, and olive oil. It was so good, and I IMG_1546hope to make this again soon.

IMG_1560My other two favorites were the pizza and charred eggplant. The pizza was easy enough to make on your own. I never thought to use those ingredients on a pizza, but it was really good. This was the first time I ever made eggplant. I think eggplant is the funniest looking vegetable; there is no way you can look at it and not laugh. This was also my first time eating and making quinoa. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. I liked it even more as leftovers. It was also incredibly simple to make after you cut up everything.

This was the first time I ever made eggplant. I think eggplant is the funniest looking vegetable; there is no way you can look at it and not laugh. This was also my first time eating and making quinoa. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. I liked it even more as leftovers. It was also incredibly simple to make after you cut up everything. All you have to do is make the quinoa, cut the eggplant and put it in the oven with salt and cayenne pepper (I used too much for me). Then you make the tahini dressing and viola! dinner.

The other dishes weren’t my favorites. I was sad about the Garlic Shrimp Spaghetti because I’ve made similar dishes in the past, but this one lacked flavor.  Something about the sauce wasn’t rich enough for such a basic dish.

 IMG_1576IMG_1605

OVERALL RECOMMENDATION

Overall, Plated was fun. I love Plated’s brand. I think it does a lot to sell the company and make it cool. However, if I was to choose a meal subscription box to use regularly, I wouldn’t choose Plated. The price point is out of my budget, and many of the meals weren’t my favorite. If I ate pork/beef, it may be better since the salmon burgers were delicious.

I also like how they engaged on social media. They would like and comment on my Instagram posts about their meals. I think that goes into the brand and being “cool.” Nice touch!

Wanna Get Away?

Have you ever just wanted to get away? I know it’s #tbt, but this Thursday I am going to dream forward. Maybe it’s because I haven’t traveled recently, I had to cancel my trip to Chicago this weekend, or I am simply in the mood to relax and take in life, but I am itching to go somewhere. Unfortunately, because of prior commitments and work, I am unable to get to a beach and just be. That doesn’t help sooth the soul.

What to do instead? Looks like I will need to recreate a vacation experience at home. I feel pretty confident I have the recipe for what makes a good beach weekend…

  1. Sunshine. Get outside. It may be close to 100 degrees this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you should stay inside. I have a few runs planned to help soak up vitamin D; I also plan on dining al fresco. It’s summer so live like it is – no matter where you are!
  2. Music. I love Kenny Chesney. Something about his music helps me to relax, so blast the speakers! Everyone has their thing and Kenny is mine!
  3. Read a book. When I go to the beach, I read. Even when you’re on vacation, reading can take you to another place. A chance to experience someone else’s life, so it’s the ultimate vacation on a vacation. Well, I will continue “reading” my audiobooks while I run, but I am going to find some type of fiction to read. Any suggestions, let me know! I need something light and funny.
  4. Break a sweat. Nothing releases stress like exercise. I just started back up at Pure Barre, so I’ll be there a few times this weekend, in addition to running. Wearing your body out is good for your mind.
  5. A good drink. My friend and I are going to Le Meridien’s rooftop bar on Saturday to try their popular popsicle drinks and watch the sunset. #winning

Well, that’s my plan this weekend. Hopefully, I’ll fool myself into thinking I’m away. Maybe I’ll purchase a baby pool for the patio while I’m at it…Happy Wanderings!

PS – In the spirit on #tbt, I’ll post some of my favorite beach pictures from my previous travels. Dreaming this is where I was today!

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

Emerald Isle, NC

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

Mexico

Mexico

Ocean Sunset

Cruise Stop

Grand Cayman again

Badin Lake

Badin Lake – Home Sweet Home

 

Morrissey’s Home Sweet Home

Tonight I dropped Morrissey off to his new home. I was so happy that he found a place that could love him and is going to take care of him. His mom even bought him a stuffed animal, which he found before she could give it to him. He was so excited to have it. He carried it around her house showing it off.

Even though I am happy he found a wonderful home, I was surprised how sad I was for him to leave.  I didn’t think I was going to be sad because he always had a lot of energy. Now that he’s not here, it’s quite. The relationship dogs develop with their humans is amazing, but it’s even more amazing how we develop relationships with dogs. They each have their own personality and quirks. Once you get to know them, it’s hard not to see it. Morrissey was a playful little guy. The way he would stand on his back legs and walk around (sometimes crying) always made me laugh. IMG_1715Today, he even turned into a cat and sat on the couch. Such a spunky guy who has his whole life ahead of him. I know he’s going to live a long, happy life with his new family. And for that, I am very grateful that God found him his family.

Just a quick thought. Tonight put me in a very reflective mood. We’re going to take a short break from fostering so Schatzi and Amie can have their life back.  Until then…happy wandering!

Foster Pup – Morrissey

IMG_1504Two weeks ago today, Morrissey joined our family as our second foster pup. Needless to say, this has been more interruptive than snuggle bug Becky (now my sister Shadow). We (I? I think Schatzi mentioned this being a bad idea) should have known it would be more work, but the post requesting his foster tugged at my heartstrings, so here we are. Morrissey is an 8 month old Yorkie mix. This means he is full-fledged puppy, and regardless of how tough his life was, you apparently can’t take away the non-stop energy a puppy has.

IMG_1506We don’t know his backstory, but you can tell from his appearance he was neglected. Morrissey is a bag of bones. His legs grew in a bowed backwards because of poor nutrition. He is skinny as can be. You could feel his ribs and see his hips on the first day. It was heartbreaking. I just don’t understand how someone can treat an animal this way. Not to mention he has a horrible haircut. I think someone wanted him to look like a lion or something since he has a mane. The first day having a foster dog is really hard. The dog is terrified; he/she just spent a few days at the pound with other dogs. They don’t know where their home is, who you are, where they are going, or what is going to happen to them. Therefore, it is hard to judge their personality at this time. My first day with Morrissey was crazy. My dogs went to my parents house, so we could try to acclimate him to his new life. I slept on the couch for the first week because he wouldn’t stop crying when we went to bed. He has to sleep in his kennel, and he would rather not do this. My main goal was to get him food to beef him up and some sleep, since who wouldn’t be cranky when they are tired and hungry.

IMG_1548Two weeks into his new life, we have a routine. He still doesn’t like being alone, but he doesn’t cry as long when you leave him or go to bed. I think it’s really funny (somewhat cruel to him), but he stands up and cries when he wants something. Not only does he stand up, but he walks around for a really long time while doing it with his hands straight down. Since he’s so skinny and long, he looks like a crazy old man! I tried to take a picture of it, but he moves around too much. He isn’t the most photogenic pup out there, but it’s so funny. I put him in the kitchen when I’m eating, and he stands up and walks around most of the time I’m eating. We are working on crate training, and I think this will come overtime. He’s much better than the first week, but still has a long way to go.

IMG_1570Last night, however, I found Morris’s kryptonite! My neighbor invited me to go to the dog park with her and her dog. Schatzi and Amie would find the dog park hell on earth, but I hoped to wear off some of Morris’s energy, and did it ever! Morris LOVES the grass. He loves to lay in it, roll in it, walk in it, you name it. The dog park is a big field of grass where he can run off his leash. I hadn’t seen him so happy. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but he followed his new friend around. They chased each other, he talked to big dogs through the gate, and tried to follow a ball (he had no clue what to do!). By the end of the night, he kept trying run, but looked forward to resting when his friend did. We finally took them home. IMG_1574When I got inside, he spent most of the evening crying at the front door. He missed his new friend! He’s such a little Romeo. They will go back soon. He even laid down for a bit – just showing how tired he really was. Who knew life could be so much fun! He’ll be going back to the park again soon, since I think it’s good for him to socialize, learn manners, and run out that puppy energy!

Something I appreciate about Morrissey (and dogs) is how appreciative they are of life even though things were rough beforehand. They don’t dwell on it. They take advantage of each day and moment. They move forward and keep going. A lesson all of us can learn from rescue pups. All they need is love and attention – someone to keep them safe!

If you’re interested in adopting this lively puppy, please visit his profile on Petfinder.com. You will need to complete an application through the Charlotte SPCA. He is looking for a safe home that can provide him a lot of love – and grass if you have a yard!

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