Monday, December 31, 2012

December Summary ... And Beyond!

Holy moly, it’s HERE!  My final post!  The end of December summary AND final savings tally!

Let’s start with my December summary.

It’s not pretty.  This is partly because I missed a few of my after-school teaching engagements in November (due to our family trip to Hawaii), plus I did spend money on Christmas gifts.  After paying all my usual bills, I was left over with a wimpy $198.97.

I would do the usual breakdown, but to be honest, I’m overly anxious to reveal my year-long savings… and I’m guessing you’re curious about that, as well.

After 366 days (darn you, leap year!) of abstaining from all unnecessary purchases, I managed to save an impressive amount of money.  Note that the word “saved” may be misleading.  I didn’t technically put the money into savings, but rather applied it directly toward debt.

Perhaps you already cheated and added up all my month-end summaries, but if you didn’t, rest assured that I’ve done the math for you.

Are you ready?

I mean, are you really ready?

Really, really, REALLY ready?

OK, then!

My grand total of money saved this year is………


A little insane, right?!  I know that number looks huge, but keep in mind that I did have minimum payments due on credit cards, so it wasn’t like that entire chunk was devoted to paying off core debt.  However, I would estimate, aside from minimum payments, I probably paid off about $7000 of core debt.

Friends, this is the part where you cheer, whoop, and holler for me!  $7000 is kind of awesome!

The other day, I was talking to my mom and she said that she was proud of me.  We’re a pretty tight-lipped family when it comes to superfluous praise, and although I’m sure my mom has been proud of me on many occasions, it never occurred to me that she would be proud of me for this.

Maybe it’s my “pleaser” tendencies, but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than making my parents proud.  I’ve lived most of my adult life feeling like I’ve disappointed them (in a variety of ways).  And although these feelings are rooted in my own insecurity, it still brought tears to my eyes to hear my mother say she was proud…mostly because I don’t feel that I deserve it.

Yes, I’ve gone a full year without any unnecessary purchases.  Yes, I’ve paid off a substantial chunk of debt.  Yes, I’ve posted a whopping 301 blog entries.  But the fact remains, I’m still deeply in debt.

You see, the closure of 2012 was bittersweet.  Sweet because I made progress, but bitter because I didn’t make enough progress.  I know that some of you are looking at my savings total and thinking, “Exactly how much did this girl owe?!”

In short, I owed a lot. 

And I still do owe a lot.

I wanted so badly to share with everyone that I had paid off all my debt; that my sacrifices this year were worth it.  But it just didn’t happen.  I still owe money.  In fact, I owe so much money that I am pursuing yet another supplemental job in 2013, most likely as a server.  This is part of the reason that I just cannot continue blogging next year.  Teaching during the day and serving tables at night isn’t going to leave much time for leisurely pursuits (…if one can call blogging “leisurely”). 

I confess I’ve been indulging in a bit of a pity-party lately.  It seems like no matter what I do, it’s never enough and I’m always behind.  I watch each year pass and realize that the opportunity to achieve some of my life-long goals are passing me by.  We will probably never move.  We will probably never have children.  We will probably never travel the world.  And all of this is painfully difficult to accept.  Although my bleak future is a direct result of my own irresponsible spending, it still frustrates me that I can’t seem to reverse the damage I’ve done, no matter how hard I try.

Buuuuut, I’ve always been someone who dares to dream of a better future...and I'm not about to give up now!  I make wishes on shooting stars and toss pennies into wishing wells.  I pride myself on trying to make the best of every situation because there really is more to the world than myself.  But most importantly, I have a strong work ethic which I know will help me to eventually achieve my financial goals.  Truly, in the grand scheme of things, I have SO much to be thankful for.

It is my intention to be debt-free by 40 years old.  40 used to feel like a lifetime away, but in reality, I’ve got five years to go.  That means I only have five more years of working multiple jobs and trying to live reasonably within my means…all while continuing to pay down debt.  I can do this.

Readers, it has been a pleasure to share my life with you this past year.  Each positive comment and email encouraged me and motivated me to stay committed to my challenge.  Thank you.

A part of me is disappointed that this project is coming to a close, as I feel like I’ve built up a supportive blog community and I know I’m certain to miss it.  However, I need to invest my energy in other things this upcoming year, and I need to be realistic about how much I put on my metaphorical plate.

It feels impossible to say good-bye, so instead I’ll just reiterate my genuine gratitude and say, thank you.  I wish you all the best.

Much love,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hooray.  It's New Year's Eve...which is also known as the most over-hyped holiday of the entire year.  Can you sense my enthusiasm? 
Brian and I had a quiet NYE all by ourselves. 
We cracked some cheap champagne...
Blew our noise-makers...
And smooched at midnight... 
It was actually one of the only years I can recall staying up until midnight on NYE!  Even Harmon stayed up late with us!  (But he did not like his hat very much.)
The next day, we headed to my parents' house for New Year's Day dinner (per our usual tradition).  The extended family was present, so there were lots of cute little kids running around.  In a rare moment of solitude, we glanced their direction and saw all three of them "reading" quietly on the couch!
This picture is sweet because Freyja looks like she is reading aloud and the boys are hanging on her every word.
And I also like this one because my nephew Cameron (on the right) looks so pleased with himself for holding his big boy book!
Speaking of "holding"... I spent lots of time holding this sweet baby boy.  Magnus is the newest wee one and he is just darling. 
Although I'm not a huge fan of the New Year's Eve hype, I do like the start of a fresh year.  It's no secret that I'm a project-oriented person and the promise of a new year never fails to invigorate me.  I'm especially excited for 2013...not because I plan on shopping to my heart's content, but because I'm hoping to finally establish a sense of balance with my spending/saving.
Tomorrow will be my final post.  I cannot believe an entire year has already passed.  It's like the saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short.  So true.  Cheers to a new year and another opportunity for self-improvement!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

State Of The Garden: December

There is not much going on in the gardening world this month....which is a good thing since December is already frantic enough as it is!

I did spend a little time cleaning and sharpening all my tools.

Also, all the new gardening catalogs came!!!  Best week ever!!!  I looooove looking through each catalog, marking new vegetables I want to try, looking at all the bright and beautiful produce.  Even though it's cold and gray outside, the gardening catalogs remind me that spring is on its way. 

Steph and I are going to split some orders (just like we did last winter).  This saves money because what in the world am I supposed to do with 1200 carrot seeds?!  Typically, we'll go through the catalogs together and figure out what similar seeds/plants we want to purchase.  Then we just split things up. 

Naturally, we aren't placing any orders quite yet, but I like to get organized during Winter Break when I have the time.

Of course, Harmon just HAD to be in on the action.  I think he was trying to make me jealous by snuggling up with Stephanie.  Oh, he might look innocent, but he plays mind games like that.

Outside, things are glum in the garden.  And also scary.  Just look at all those weeds!  Ugh!

And even worse?  We have MOLES!!!!!  We've never had these critters before, but I already despise them.  They are ripping up all my spring bulbs!  I'm not sure how to get rid of the moles.  Please advise.

I'm shocked at how many bulbs are already peeking out.  It's only late it seems a bit premature for bulbs.  We've had a pretty mild winter (so far!), but I'm worried we're going to get some snow and my baby bulbs won't survive.



And look!  The crocuses are actually BLOOMING!  I assure you, this is not normal for these parts.

"State of the Garden: December" wraps up all 12 months of documenting my gardening endeavors.  The other day, my friend Leah was looking through my 2012 Project Life album.  She commented that she was surprised I had so many garden-based layouts.  To be honest, I'm surprised too.  I don't know if I ever imagined myself loving the dirt so much...but I do!  Gardening is probably my favorite hobby, and I'm so glad I documented a full year of it. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stitch Fix #1 (January)

OK, so this post is obviously out of chronological order.  Really, my Stitch Fix box arrived on January 2, but I've decided that I'm not going to continue my blog after my final 2012 post, I figured I'd better slide this Stitch Fix review in.

Many of you have asked me about my Stitch Fix here you go!

(Note:  If you're unfamiliar with Stitch Fix, take a moment to click HERE to read my original post about the concept and process.) 

Friends, I was soooo excited to receive my first shipment!  It was like a surprise present to myself
Everything was wrapped in tissue when I opened it.
They provided me with an invoice with the name/description of each piece and the price.
Because I love you all so much (but mostly because I'm a total dork), I set up my tripod and took photos of myself in each outfit.
Item 1:  Green Apple Blouse
Here's a close-up of the sweet apple pattern and button detailing...
I have a suspicion that they included this in the box because I mentioned I was a teacher when filling out my Stitch Fix style profile. 
One thing I really appreciate about Stitch Fix are the outfit cards.  Every item comes with a card attached showing you different ways to wear each piece.  This is very helpful to me because I'm not creative when it comes to styling outfits.
On the backside of each card is a description of the garment.
OK, moving on to the much-anticipated fashion show... 
Here I am wearing the Green Apple Blouse:
I liked the I wanted to like the shirt, too.  Unfortunately, I just felt it was a little too large and well, maternity-ish looking.
Item #2: Gray Gauzy Knit Top
Pulling this out of the box, I instantly knew I wouldn't like this piece.  The fabric was super soft, but it had a strange sheerness to it.  Trying it on only confirmed my initial reservations.  The cut was horrendous on my figure and despite the smile you see on my face, I pretty much hated it.
Please note, I am not pointing at my booty here, but rather trying to (poorly) illustrate how the back of the shirt is longer than the front.
Item #3:  Green Patterned Dress
Oh my goodness, I wanted to like this dress.  I really, really did.  Just look at the gorgeous pattern!
And the name of the item (I kid you not!) was the "Harmon" dress, made by a brand called 19 Cooper!  That's just plain crazy!  Does my Stitch Fix stylist read my blog???
The back of the dress was longer than the front...
It had pockets (I'm a sucker for pockets)...
But in the end, it was just too big on me.  The Dolman-style sleeves looked droopy and I felt like I had wings.  
I was bummed because this dress had so many things going for it.  But in the end, if it's too big, it's too big.  But did I mention how much I wanted to like it??? 
 Item #4:  Yellow Embroidered Cardigan
 Here's an close-up of the intricate embroidery detail:
Yep, we have a winner!   
Naturally, this sweater was the most expensive item in the entire box (isn't that always the way?), but with my $20 stylist/shipping fee already added in, it made the sweater feel more affordable.
Item #5:  Green Dangle Earrings
The green is pretty, but I'm a bit of a jewelry snob.  At almost $40, I felt that these earrings were waaaaay overpriced for the quality (or lack of). 
So, in the end, I only kept the yellow sweater.  Everything else went back into the pre-paid shipping bag Stitch Fix included...and I just dropped it off into one of those big, blue mailboxes.  Ta da!  No post-office visits or mystery postage guessing!

After each Stitch Fix delivery, you can go online and fill out an extensive review of each item.  This step is optional, but I think it's helpful for your stylist to know exactly what you did and did not like...especially if you plan on utilizing Stitch Fix again.  I wrote a ton of comments and it will be interesting to see if she incorporates my feedback into my next "fix."

Personally, I feel like they really do pay attention to special requests because before my January "fix" arrived, I specified that I wanted some items with emerald green (Pantone's 2013 color of the year!).  And as you can see, many of the garments in my box were green.

After this shipment, I also went back to my Stitch Fix profile and made a few adjustments.  I asked them to focus on clothing items (not jewelry) and lowered my price points in general.

If you have any questions about my Stitch Fix experience, feel free to send me an email or leave me a comment.
If you think Stitch Fix is something you would like to try, click on this link to sign up:

I receive a Stitch Fix credit every time someone signs up through my link, so it would be awesome to have some money to apply toward my next "fix."  And hey, after you sign up through ME, you can talk your own friends/family into signing up through YOU!  That way, it's a win-win for us both! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas: Take 2

Merry Christmas...again!
We had a belated "Christmas" morning with Cooper this year.  I don't know how other divorced families do it, but we usually alternate holidays between his mom's house and ours.  Since we had him for Thanksgiving, she had him for Christmas.  Next year, our holidays will likely be flip-flopped...unless they're not.  (We all try to stay flexible about this stuff.)
Cooper must have been good this year because he woke up to plenty of presents under the tree... 
Stockings were hung...
Dogs were festooned in appropriate holiday apparel...
OK, more on the dog...  I can't resist taking his photo!  Not only is Harmon my most willing subject, but dare I say he is my most photogenic subject, as well?
Well, in all fairness, I must say that Cooper is pretty photogenic, as well. 
Brian and I?  Not so much...  
You know how on Christmas you have to get at least one shot of your child holding a gift, looking at the camera, appearing exuberant?  Check!

A new Lord of the Rings Lego set! 

We take turns opening gifts so we can fully admire and appreciate each person's present (...and extend the gift-opening process!).

Cooper made Brian this tile out of clay in one of his classes.  Very cool!
Uncle Brother (I sounds weird, but it is what it is) sent Cooper a card from New York.
Cooper was excited until he noticed the gold seal on the back.  He said it looked like the seal in the Hunger Games and worried he was being selected!
Cooper's favorite gift was a fancy-schmancy watch.  Let me be clear:  I think Cooper is too young for a watch of this caliber.  However, Brian disagreed and purchased Cooper this time piece despite my concerns.   For the record, I hope Coop proves me wrong and is still wearing this watch when he heads off to college in six years.  (But if he loses it/breaks it/showers with it/trades it for a holographic Pokemon card in the next few months, I will try my hardest to avoid giving Brian the wifely "I told you so" look.)
Sorry, Cooper...the watch does have lots of innovative features, but shooting Spidey web is not one of them.
Wow!  Thanks, Nana and Haha!
One of our favorite family presents was the blanket we received from Brian's mom (aka: Nana).  She made it special for us, using WSU colors, and mailed it from Arizona.  I told Brian to hold the blanket up for a photo and this is what I got:
Is he nursing an infant under there or what?!
After opening gifts, we moved on to stockings.  Well, stocking (not plural), as Brian and I don't do stockings for each other.
Cooper was impressed with his new polar bear Pez dispenser because it looked exactly like Harmon!
For the past 5-6 years, I've been having Cooper pose with his loot each Christmas.  I think it will be fun for him to look back on these photos and reminisce about the toys he used to be interested in. 
My favorite gift had to be the gray and white polka-dot pants from Anthropologie!  Yes, "THE" gray and white polka-dot pants that I OBSESSED over.  Brian ordered them for me shortly after I got back from San Francisco.  Granted, they weren't exactly a surprise, but it was hard to wait until Christmas to finally get them!
Brian made a Christmas breakfast for us - cinnamon rolls, eggs, and sausage.
We even busted out a bottle of sparkling cider for the occasion.
Cooper immediately got himself set up in the basement, building his Lego sets.  Cheers!
A few days later, my parents came over with their gift for Cooper.  What's that in Coop's hand, you ask?  Oh, just a homemade Justin Bieber card!
Inside the card, my mom wrote a message from Cooper's "special friend," Justin.
I feel obligated to state (on Cooper's behalf), he does not like Justin Bieber. Of course, we all know this...and that's what makes the card so dang funny!  (This is actually the second year in a row that Cooper has received Justin-themed wrapping paper.)
Cooper was much more excited about what was underneath Justin...
(Um, that above sentence didn't sound quite right, but I think you get what I mean!)
We had a fun Christmas together.  Almost everything I got was polka-dotted!  This was just fine with me because as I've stated before, polka-dot is my favorite color.
My mom gave me these knives.  According to her, locating these knives required a pilgrimage across Western Washington.  I appreciate all the work she put into finding them because they are CUTE!
Kimmy (who had my name in the family gift exchange) got me this yellow polka-dot blouse...
...and these red polka-dot Tom's.  I've never owned Tom's before, so I'm excited to have my first pair.
I felt so spoiled this Christmas.  Although the best things in life are free (blah, blah, blah), it really is SO much fun to get something new!  I'm also glad that I went ahead and bought Brian and Cooper a few gifts.  I didn't go overboard (I spent about $75 on Brian and $50 on Cooper), but it just felt right to contribute.  Brian and Cooper have put up with my Stopping Spree business all year - they are definitely on my "nice" list!