Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Kitchen Shelf!

As I showed you last week, my dad is pretty handy with tools. Not only did he help me hang pictures, but he also installed a shelf in my kitchen for me! I don't have much cupboard space, and it was annoying me that my wine glasses were taking up a whole shelf in one of my cupboards. How could I free up this valuable space? Answer: Install a mounted shelf on the kitchen wall, attach stemware holders, and move the wine glasses out of the cupboard.

Let's refresh. Here is what the space looked like before the shelf:

Now here it is with the shelf and the stemware holders:

A closer look:

A view with the bedroom in the background:

I decided to stay with the clean, white look in the kitchen as well. I think it contributes to the cohesiveness of the entire apartment and allows me to play with color (something I'm afraid of) without making huge commitments.

In case you are curious, the shelf is from Lowe's and the stemware holders are from The Container Store.

I'm really happy to have a space in my cupboard now for food AND I got the added bonus of filling that empty wall space with something functional!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Pillow Quest

I've finally decided on a color combination for the bedroom area of my studio - navy blue and emerald green! I will probably want to throw a third color in there, but I've discovered that with color I have to see things as they are before I can decide on what to add. I also have a really hard time choosing colors and patterns, which is why I need your help! Here is how my bedroom area looks right now:

Here is a collage I made of a few emerald green throw pillow ideas:

Ikea Duvet / Etsy-JillianReneDecor / Etsy-MacAndLexie / Etsy-MotifPillows / Etsy-poshstreetpillows / Etsy-EdenBlvd / / Etsy-JillianReneDecor 

I sort of like the idea of two solid green pillows and one patterned pillow. And then maybe navy blue pillows to go behind the polka-dot ones?

Which pillows do you think would look best?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 1/25/13 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: Holy cow, a cooking blog that features simple recipes of 10 ingredients or less? Yes please! Check out the Minimalist Baker.

Best Financial: Ugh, Five Cent Nickel tackles the ugly truth that women still make less than men. There is also other interesting data about education level and employment sectors with regards to salaries.

Best DIY: One of my favorite DC blogs, Sanity Fair, gives readers a tutorial on how to make a roller shade. I really love this and think it could actually make a great "door" between my kitchen and bedroom.
Best Before & After: This crib-turned-shelf is the coolest repurposing of furniture I have seen in a long time. I would have never thought to turn a crib into a shelf! From Apartment Therapy.

Best Random: These lifehacks from Twisted Sifter went around Facebook this week and are good enough to repost here. Before reading this I had never thought of putting ice cream in the Nutella jar to finish it off. Life changing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Papa and the Pictures

Even though I try to do as much DIY projects as possible myself, I would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to use the expertise of my dad, the carpenter, when he volunteers his services. And that is how it came to be that I have some pictures now framed and hung in my living room - yay!

My dad came to DC for the inauguration weekend and we spent a lot of our time working on things in my apartment. And by we, I really mean he...I just directed the operation! Especially when we went to the Washington Framers' Workroom in Tenleytown. He quickly took over when I was struggling with all of the things he does on a daily basis. He is at home among wire cutters, pliers, and fractions...whereas I take triple the amount of time to use these things and compute numbers. I get there eventually, just not as fast.

And now I present the results of this project. Two of the photos (8x8 and 16x20) were hand-cut and mounted at the Framers' Workroom, three (8x10s) were standard frames and mattes from Michael’s. The photographs are all mine.

Let's take a look back at what the wall looked like before:

And with the new pictures:

Now for some close-ups:

I'm happy I finally have some art on my walls, but there is still a lot of white space left! Love it or hate it?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Updated 2013 Budget

Unless you have been living in a cave, you have probably heard that taxes went up in the U.S. in 2013. My tax increases were mainly in my contributions to social security. Last year I paid $746.14 per month in taxes, this year I will be paying $814.72 a month in taxes, an increase of $68.58 per month, or $822.96 per year. For the first time in my life, I calculated how much I will pay in taxes for an entire year - a whopping $9,776.64!

So what does this really mean for me? It means I have to tweak my budget a bit to account for the loss of $70 per month. Not a huge deal, but that is still $70 that was mine last month but not this month.

So, here is my budget for 2013. Keep in mind that I never account for my waitressing income in my budget, because all of my wages from that job go towards my debt.
2013 Budget

Some other changes:

Laundry - My new apartment building laundromat uses a card system, which means I now have to put money on it in order to do laundry. I previously never budgeted for laundry because my mom always gave me quarters (nice, huh?). Now that won’t work. I’ve budgeted in $15/month for laundry. We’ll see if that will be enough!

Additional Loan Payment - I have finished saving for my trip to Europe next summer, which means I now have $150 a month that I can use elsewhere. After thinking about it for a while, I couldn’t really come up with anything else I need to save for at the moment. But I do want to get out of debt faster, so I’m putting an additional $150 to my debt every month for a while until I decide I want to save for something else. Keep that snowball going!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Debt Milestone!

I've hit a major milestone in paying off my debt. I am now below $20,000 total in what I owe on my student loans. When my latest payment cleared this morning, my debt total became $19,845.31. I'm also really close to paying off my final graduate school loan. With less than $3,000 left to pay, I predict that I will have this debt gone by March or April of this year. Woo hoo! 

*Pats myself on the back*

Best of the Blogosphere: 01/18/13 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: Zenhabits has a short tutorial on doing less. What I got out of this was do more of what matters TO YOU and less that doesn't. A good way to live regret-free, no?

Best Financial: Get Rich Slowly reviews a new online tool for paying off student loans: This tool might be helpful for those of us that have multiple student loans.

Best DIY: Casey's DIY bookends are fantastic! Read about the process at her blog Waffling.
Best Before & After: By now you probably know I hate clutter. Therefore, I always love a good decluttering project. Check out Rochelle's pantry before and after - part of Apartment Therapy's January Cure.

Best Random: I mentioned the possible usefulness of above. If the online tool isn't for you, at least check out their awesome blog.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kitchen Buffet Facelift

I've had a few projects in progress the last few weeks, and I'm only now getting around to posting one that I finished! I'm calling this the "kitchen buffet facelift" because the original way I had everything situated was just u-g-l-y. Here is a before shot: much clutter!
Here is a closer view:

The best thing about this pic are the Trader Joe's cookies on the top shelf!

As you can see, the shelves need a bit of organizing:

Enter these helpful items from TJ Maxx:

Canisters and a little re-arranging did wonders:

A few more tweaks and the buffet went from this:

To this!

What do you think? Better?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tri-Annual Credit Report: Experian

A year ago or so, I read somewhere (blog, PF book, can’t exactly remember) that the three major credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, offer an annual free credit report. I decided that I should take advantage of this and start checking my credit regularly. I put reminders in my calendar for the following schedule:

Experian - January
Equifax - June
TransUnion - September

Then I totally forgot about it! But the marvel that is Google Calendar popped up at me the other day telling me it was time to check my credit. Thank you, Google!

I’ve had a chance to review my credit report and so far it all looks good! No surprises, thankfully.

To check your credit report, go to and fill out the information. Select all three consumer credit reporting companies or split them up like I do and check your credit for free three times a year.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 01/11/13 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: An easy, natural way to clean your computer keyboard via Apartment Therapy. I already have the ingredients in my apartment - winning!

Best Financial: Get Rich Slowly staff writer Lisa just started a column on investing for dummies. Investing is really hard for me to wrap my head around, so I look forward to reading her posts and hopefully learning a thing or two.

Best DIY: One of Apartment Therapy's reader questions really caught my eye - How to make space for DIY in a small apartment?
Best Before & After: This one made the list because the before is so ugly. I can't believe chairs like that were actually in style! Via In the Chou's Nest.

Best Random: An excellent post from Design Sponge: building your cleaning arsenal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

War on Clutter!

Today I had an interesting exchange with my mom over email. She asked me about a few larger items in their home that she wanted to get rid of and asked if I wanted them. Then she went on to say that she just doesn’t know what to do with all of the stuff in her house. She asked me the question “What should I get rid of?”

My first thought: CLUTTER!

What bothers me about so many homes is the sheer amount of small items a person can accumulate. The problem is rarely the big items. That heirloom piece of furniture? Keep it! The 20 bottles of hairspray? NO. One does not need so much of one thing, even if it is an item you will use. Perhaps what happens is once you get a larger space you think you should buy things to have “just in case.” Like lotion, soap, or non-perishable food. Pretty soon, though, you forget you even bought the item. Until one day you decide to tackle your “junk room” or that kitchen cupboard you can never reach and realize you have so much wrapping paper, box macaroni and cheese, or bandaids you don’t know what to do with it all!

I decided a long time ago that clutter was not for me. Knick-knacks? Use sporadically. Lotion/Shampoo/Other bathroom supplies? Have no more than one extra of each. This drastically cuts down the amount of closet and shelf space that one needs, plus it means you buy what you actually need, not what you think you might need later.

I’ve trained myself to avoid clutter, but for the rest of you it might not be so easy. Maybe this little flowchart will help:

This chart might not make the ilovecharts tumblr page, but it gets my point across! What do you think about clutter?

Monday, January 7, 2013

If at First You Don't Succeed...(aka Bathroom Vanity Organization)

In my recent Fifty Deco segment, I blogged about the two cabinet shelves I bought at the Container Store. When I got home with my new purchases, I was ready to put the shelves to use in my kitchen. I was hoping to make room for more food by moving around the dishes. was not to of the shelves was too big! I was really frustrated that only one fit. But have no fear, ever the resourceful person, I knew I could put the shelf to use somewhere else. And then I thought of just the place - the bathroom!

The vanity cabinet does not have shelves, and my attempt to organize consisted of throwing stuff into two small containers I already had. With no shelves to stack items, vertical space is completely wasted here:

Toilet paper mayhem!
Enter cabinet shelf! What a difference this little item makes in this space:

My blow dryer even has its own special spot.
I finished this little project by re-organizing the containers so that everything fit. In the end, much improved!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 01/04/13 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: I should have read this post before I made my goals list for 2013. How to be minimal with your New Year's resolutions via The Everyday Minimalist.

Best Financial: Simple Family Finance provides a good list of what you can put your extra money towards when you get a raise. Hint: don't increase your expenses!

Best DIY: If only I could do this to my closet in my rental apartment: Take the Side Street's amazing closet renovation. Done all by herself and for only $100!
Best Before & After: Not an actual before and after, but a list of resources and tools from Design Sponge on how to begin projects and makeovers.

Best Random: A really cool guide on how to choose your design color palette via Emily Henderson.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fifty Deco: December 2012 Recap

It’s time for the December installment of Fifty Deco. In this segment I feature the item(s) I purchased the previous month (on a $50 budget) for apartment decoration, organization, and miscellaneous DIY. I’ll tell you why I bought what I did, where I got it, and what I paid for it. I’ll also showcase the items in future blog posts so you can see the item(s) in use.

December Finds:

  • Small cabinet shelf, Container Store = $4.99
  • Medium double cabinet shelf, Container Store = $8.49
  • Tag blue and white cotton rug, TabletopDC = $32.00

Total = $48.21 (including tax)
Leftover = $1.79

A close-up picture of the rug can be found here. I'm using the rug in my entryway and the shelves have been put to use in the kitchen and bathroom. More on that in a future post!

My favorite part about shopping in December was buying the rug from a local business, TabletopDC. Located in Dupont Circle, TabletopDC has a mixed of modern and eclectic products for adults and children. Perfect place to grab a last-minute gift for that wedding or baby shower!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013 Goals

Eat, drink, and be merry...then get sick!

That is the theme of this holiday season, unfortunately. After spending a week with family and friends, I caught a nasty cold that forced me away from parties on New Year’s Eve. But, being sick allowed me to catch up on some writing for this blog, so here is the first installment for 2013: Goals for the new year!

Financial Goals
My current debt is around $21,000. This is a HUGE reduction from this time last year, when I had approximately $42,000 in student loan debt. I’ve reduced my debt in half in only one year!

2012 saw a lot of financial changes. I landed a full-time job right out of graduate school, took a second job as a waitress, sold items I didn’t need, and implemented a budget. These are all financial pluses. The one minus is that I’ve moved into a more expensive apartment. But this was a decision I made that was not only healthy for me emotionally, but one I could afford to make after paying off a loan and generating more income. So what are my 2013 goals?

1. Pay off remaining graduate school debt. The current balance is just over $4,000. I’m definitely going to pay this off in 2013, it is just a matter of when. My goal is to have it gone by May. Think I can do it?

2. Reduce my remaining undergraduate loan to $10,000 by year’s end. The current balance is just short of $17,500. After I pay off the $4,000 loan mentioned above, I can start tackling this one with more intensity. If I can get my undergraduate student loan debt to around $10,000 by the end of 2013, then I will likely be able to pay off the entire loan by the end of 2014. I might be debt free in two years! Yeehaw!

Health Goals
Aside from eating well, I’ve really neglected my health this year. I used to be addicted to sports and exercise, but like anything you do too often, you get tired of it. This year, I need to pay more attention to taking care of my body. Here are my 2013 health goals:

1. Run a Warrior Dash. A friend of mine peer-pressured me (yes, this still exists in your 20s!) to sign up for the Maryland Warrior Dash in May. This was a good use of peer pressure, because I really need a reason to be in better shape. The race requires me to be able to run a 3.5 mile obstacle course. Thankfully, there are trails near my apartment that require me to jump over logs and such while running, so I should be able to prepare in time. I’m going to start training for this in March. In the meantime, I have two other exercise-related goals from now until March....

2. Do yoga twice a week. This doesn’t sound all that difficult, but when you work two jobs, it is.

3. Use the gym in my apartment building at least once a week. How can I not do this? The gym is right in my building. No more excuses.

Random Goals
1. Improve my guitar skills

2. Continue to decorate and take on DIY projects for my apartment

3. Do not slack off on blogging!

What are your goals for 2013?