Friday, March 29, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 3/29/13 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: It is that time of year to simplify your closet. Take a few pointers from Get Rich Slowly.

Best Financial: Another reminder why saving for retirement is essential: NPR's story on the state of Americans' retirement savings (or lack thereof).

Best DIY: Some cool DIY examples for adding pattern to your rental from Apartment Therapy.
Best Before & After: A great "raising of the roof" before and after via Young House Love. I want to go to there.

Best Random: A list of tips for renters in one neat post. Via AT again.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Operation Debt Destruction

Dori is right. 
I’ve decided to be bold, go big or go home, go all in, take the plunge. 

I’m embarking on Operation Debt Destruction.
By December 31, 2013, I will be debt free. That’s right, I will pay off the remaining $15,437.28 by next Christmas.

There, I’ve said it. I’m ready to be debt free THIS year. Not by the time I’m 30 in 2014 like I had originally planned.
So what is my plan to accomplish this? Being a badass, basically. (See Mr. Money Mustache to learn about badassity).

I’m going to continue working two jobs until this debt is gone. I’m going to continue to try and find ways to lower my expenses, like walking to work on nice days, for example. I’m going to continue to update you on my debt pay-down via this blog to keep me focused.

I will be debt free by the end of 2013. It is happening

Monday, March 25, 2013

Entryway/Landing Strip Inspiration

I had a pretty busy weekend, and as a result, didn't get around to writing any blog entries. I had intended to take pictures of my bedroom with my brand new pillows and write a blog entry about it, but that didn't happen!

So for now, let's feast our eyes on some great "landing strip" inspiration that I've saved. I need to do something about the area next to my front door, but I just don't know what to do yet!

Via The Everygirl
Via acupofmai
Via Honeybee
Via The Handmade Home
As you can see from the photos, I obviously like the console + mirror combo. I want a floor-length mirror somewhere in my apartment, so I might modify these looks to include that instead when I start working on my own entryway.

If you are thinking about ways to spruce up your entryway area, definitely check out these handy guides from  Apartment Therapy: 6 Components to a Well-Functioning Landing Strip and Tips for Dealing with a No-Entryway Entryway.

Do you have a functional entryway? Share your ideas in the comments!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 3/22/13 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'm a big proponent of eliminating waste. I especially hate excessive packaging. Check out Disappearing Package and you'll wonder why no one came up with this before.

Best Financial: Lately I've been thinking about how I need to educate myself on investing. Get Rich Slowly must have been reading my mind. They posted a list of investing resources to sink my teeth into!

Best DIY: Another case of perfect timing: this week I had a half of an avocado that I didn't know what to do with. Well, Crunchy Betty solved that for me with this awesome homemade avocado hand scrub!
Best Before & After: I never get tired of bathroom renovations! I hate ugly bathrooms. Via Design Sponge.

Best Random: I know we don't like to think of ourselves as mortal, but seriously, Get Your Shit Together! Your relatives will thank you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Saving on Haircuts: AKA, Why Have I Been an Idiot?

I was taking a look over my budget today and realized that I am spending $200/year on haircuts. That’s not much compared to some people, but I have something going for me that most others don’t.  MY MOM IS A HAIR STYLIST. That’s right, I’ve been paying for haircuts when I could be getting them for free. What have I been thinking? Why would I EVER get a haircut from anyone else? My dad hasn’t paid for a haircut in 35 years, why should I?
Now, I don’t live near my mom, but I do see her enough times a year for her to give me a haircut. This is a no-brainer. My mom is cutting my hair from now-on.
But I had to ask myself, why have I been getting haircuts from salons since high school? I came up with two reasons - one is my fault, the other is my mother’s.
Since this is my blog, I’m blaming my mom first :) She didn’t want to cut my hair in high school because she was afraid that if I didn’t like it I would be mad at her. Well, that is just dumb reasoning now! I know I won’t hate it, because she is good at her job. And I trust her. I probably didn’t trust her when I was 15, so my guess is that was the real reason she didn’t cut my hair. Not cutting my hair was the trade-off for preserving the delicate mother-teenage daughter relationship.
Reason number two is entirely my fault. I didn’t want to get haircuts based on when I saw my mom. I wanted to have the convenience of going to a salon wherever I was living and not have to wait. Impatience, I tell you! I’ve seen the light now and will be having my mom cut, color, and condition my hair when I go home for Easter and will never set foot in another salon as long as my mother is on this planet! Here’s to saving another $200 this year!
I do love my stylist in DC, so it isn’t without reservation that I give up the hair salon. But come on...$200 is a lot of money that I can invest elsewhere!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Map of My Heart

The framed photo, available on Etsy.
A few weeks ago I got a surprise package in the mail from my best friend. I normally hate surprises, but this was a great one! I don't think she knew that I have been working on a globe collection for the top of my bookshelf, but she unwittingly got me the perfect addition to the growing collection anyway. A framed map of our home state with an "I love you" heart on Iowa City, where we went to college and were roommates!

I added the framed picture of the map to the top of my book shelf/room divider, which now gives me the inspiration to add more map-themed artwork up there along with the globes.

Check out this awesome gift on display:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 3/15/13 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: Unclutterer's latest post is about cookbooks. How many do you really need? Read their take here.

Best Financial: Should the US government forgive student loan debt? This editor from News Observer thinks so. While I don't think that all student loan debt should just be forgiven, I don't understand why student loan debt is the only kind of debt not eligible for discharge when filing for bankruptcy.

Best DIY: For my friend who loves bookbinding - a tutorial on Japanese four-hole binding from Design Sponge. You know who you are, peanut :)
Best Before & After: I am seriously impressed by this bathroom makeover from Addicted2Decorating. For under $1,000 this is amazing!

Best Random: I wish I had a patio or balcony to garden in! Apartment Therapy has tips on gardening without an actual garden.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yoga on the Cheap

I’ve discussed before how I like taking yoga classes, but that paying for exercise is one of the things I’ve given up for now in the interest of paying down debt.

After I decided to forego yoga classes, I tried some yoga podcasts. It took me awhile to get used to doing yoga on my own, but it has grown on me lately. I have started running again, which means that my leg muscles are extremely tight these days. What better way to stretch after a run than doing a quick 20-25 minute yoga session? For this I use podcasts from Yoga Download, which are free on iTunes. What is cheaper than free? Nothing!

Here’s a list of some free yoga sources that I've used on the interwebs:

1. Yoga Download - mentioned above

2. Yoga Journal - another source of free podcasts available for download on iTunes

3. Yoga Today - their YouTube account features videos that focus on a different area of the body, perfect for when you have tension in a specific area. 

What free exercise sources do you use?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Welcome to the Real World: Introduction to the US Tax Code

I've been an adult for quite a while now (10 years or so), but I only recently started paying attention to things like taxes and personal finance. It is a steep learning curve.

Yes, Chandler, really. Via.
Today I discovered something new about student loan interest deductions. This whole year I have been thinking "Great! The more interest I pay on my student loans the less I'll owe the tax man!" WRONG. When I received my completed tax form from my accountant (yep, not comfortable with doing my own taxes yet), I discovered that he only put down $2,500 as the total amount of student loan interest paid. I double checked my 1098-E forms and saw that I had paid a total of $3,400 in interest on my student loans in 2012. I expected to see that reflected in my filing form.

NOPE. A little googling led me to the IRS site that explains you can only take a maximum of $2,500 in deductions for student loan interest during any given tax year. Seriously? Grrr. I've been paying more on my loans in the hope of getting rid of my debt only to find out that the tax benefit has its limits. I wouldn't change my approach, however. I still want that debt gone. It just sucks a bit that I don't get more of a benefit.

Lesson learned for next year: don't expect a bigger deduction than $2,500 for student loan interest.

In other tax news, I owe the federal government $132, but the District of Columbia owes me $103. So net loss this tax season = $29. Not bad! Quite the change from the past few years where I have received $500-1,000 back from the IRS. But hey, at least this year I didn't let them have any of my money interest-free!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 3/8/13 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 hate typical household cleaners. They give me a headache and are full of toxins. Here is a simple way to make homemade citrus cleaner from Apartment Therapy using ingredients you already have at home!

Best Financial: Joan at Man vs. Debt touches on an interesting dilemma. Do you stop contributing to retirement to pay off your loans? I don't, because I have a great employer match program.

Best DIY: Are you ready for spring? Learn how to hang a potted plant! Via Design Sponge.
Best Before & After: Apartment Therapy led me to this fabulous before and after from LinexShapexColour. All I can say is WANT!

Best Random: If you are a language geek like me you'll love this. Regional vocab smackdown!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guessing Game - Bedroom Accent Pillows

Good news! I finally got around to selecting accent pillows for my bed. As you may recall, I displayed a few ideas for throw pillows a few months ago.

Lo and behold, I went with none of the ones I listed! I did stay with the emerald green theme, though. The pillows I decided to purchase came from

I thought it would be more fun to give you a few scenarios and have you guess which combination I picked. There are four options to choose from:
Which option do you think I chose? What is your favorite combo?
I'll show you a picture of my bedroom when the new pillows arrive!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

I'm one step closer to being debt free. With a final payment of $256.31 I have forever eliminated my debt from graduate school!!!

I'm so happy I really don't know what to say here. It is just very rewarding when you see all of your hard work pay off. Now I can concentrate on my one remaining debt from undergrad. And by using the debt snowball/snowflake method I will eliminate this remaining debt even faster!

What does paying off this debt mean for me? Here's a top ten list:

10. My monthly payment towards my remaining loan increases to $275

9. All of my waitressing income goes to the remaining loan

8. By paying off my high-interest rate loan first, I have paid less interest over the life of the loan

7. The ROI of my graduate degree just went up!

6. I now have one less account that I have to monitor

5. The federal government doesn't get any extra money from me

4. Setting goals and working the plan gives results

3. I'll be able to quit my second job sooner

2. I'm on track to being debt-free by age 30

1.  I am happy!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 03/01/13 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: A reminder from The Everyday Minimalist why more stuff won't bring you happiness.

Best Financial: Leave it to Ninja at Punch Debt in the Face to point out some of my biggest pet-peeves as well. #3 and #7 are my favorite. Bonus points to Ninja for always making me laugh.

Best DIY: An app for DIY projects? I guess there is an app for everything, now! Via Apartment Therapy.
Best Before & After: Someone, somewhere has an outdoor kitchen? Who are they, what do they do, and how can I get in on this!? Via Apartment Therapy.

Best Random: Reading why Mr. Money Mustache is hitting it out of the park on this thing we call life. This could have gone under the financial section as well, but I already filled that with Ninja's awesomeness.