Thursday, October 31, 2013

Debt Update

Time for another debt update! Last time I tackled this topic on here I was suffering from some major loan payoff fatigue. This time, my progress is extremely positive, and I have that boost of energy to finally finish off this mo-fo for good!

After the payments I made yesterday and today clear, I’ll be below $3,000 owed. This means I have exactly two months to pay off the remaining debt to reach my goal of being debt free before 2014.

One of the best parts about seeing this debt get so low is looking back at where I started. Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a minute. Back in May 2012, I had approximately $41,000 in student loan debt. In July of that year I started blogging: 

July 10, 2012 - First blog post on debt. According to this post I was slated to pay off my first graduate loan by early 2013. 

September 15, 2012 - Paid off first graduate loan. Well in advance of 2013. 

November 30, 2012 - Realized that by the end of 2012, I will have paid off $19,000 in debt in only one year. 

January 18, 2013 - Went below $20,000 owed on my student loans. 

February 13, 2013 - Went under $1,000 owed on my remaining graduate loan.

March 4, 2013 - Paid off remaining graduate loan. Adios, 6.8% interest! 

March 27, 2013 - Embarked on Operation Debt Destruction: become debt free by the end of 2013. 

July 22, 2013 - Went below $10,000 owed on my remaining (undergraduate) student loan. 

September 2, 2013 - Went below $7,000 owed on student loan. 

TODAY - Went below $3,000 owed on student loan!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Little Things

It’s the little things in life that make you happy, they say. I don’t always feel that way, but that’s the statement that is flowing through my brain today. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few “little things” that I’ve done or experienced that have been extremely rewarding. 

1. Donating Stuff
A church right across the street had a sign up saying they were accepting donations for their Christmas Bazaar. Upon seeing this, I went home to grab the box of stuff I had leftover from the community yard sale I participated in a few weeks ago. I took it right over to the church and handed it to a kind woman taking the donations. She was so happy to receive these items, and chatted me up a bit. Not about joining the church or anything, but just about the bazaar and what the funds go to. I really enjoyed being able to help out a local church provide for its families and in particular, their elderly members. 

2. Exercising for Free
I recently discovered a free indoor pool that allows anyone in the community access, provided you have a valid ID showing you live in the city. I was so excited to start swimming AND not pay a dime that I’ve gone twice in the last three days. Pay for a gym membership? Never!

3. Using the Library
I love books. I don’t like spending money. Hello, library, you have made these two desires compatible! I am in a book club with some friends and I always try to suggest books that we can easily get from the library. I’ve bought one book in the last year for book club, so most of my efforts to encourage library use have been successful.. If I want to read a book and the library doesn’t have it, I just wait until it does. Patience - we can always use more practice with it.

4. Completing Projects
I’ve been making several things lately for Christmas and birthday gifts. I’ve not features them here because some of my friends/family would see and know exactly what they are getting this year! I’m mentioning it now, though, because I love looking at a project when it is finished and realizing I made it. It is a thing that exists now because I created it, which is just an amazing feat, when you really think about it!

Have you noticed that none of the things that have made me really happy lately involve much, if any, money? Sure, I spent a bit acquiring the supplies needed to complete my projects. But it was minimal compared to what I could have spent just buying things and I wouldn’t have had the joy of making the items, either. 

What “little things” do you do in your life that make you happy? Share them with me - bonus points if they cost little to nothing :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 10/26/13 Edition

Every Saturday 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: What an amazing small space feature on Unclutterer. The bed folds down from the ceiling!

Best Financial: Here in DC the word "networking" is part of the normal vocabulary. Man vs. Debt offers ways to avoid spending tons of money on it.

Best DIY: The obligatory "it is almost Halloween so here are the DIY's" post! Via Apartment Therapy.

Best Before & After: I've been quite taken with wall gardens lately. Here's a cool example from Better After.

Best Random: I laughed a billion times reading this.The history of the world according to Facebook news feed. Via College Humor.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hanging Herb Garden

In my last post, I introduced the latest project that I've been throwing around, which is to decorate the wall in my dining area with more of my own photography.

While I'm still thinking the wall will contain some of my own photos, I'm now leaning towards a way to make the wall more functional. Since I am in a small space, functionality is essential! And thus begins a new idea.

I've been wanting to grow my own herbs for a while, but I wasn't sure how to go about this indoors. Then, thanks to Pinterest, it hit me: grow herbs in pots on walls! Or something to that effect....
Sweet Paul Magazine
Camille Styles

Another reason to do this project now: I mentioned my dad is a great carpenter and that he'll be visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday. He is certainly willing to just hang pictures, but I can obviously do that myself. A project like installing the above herb gardens is definitely more involved and it is one I may not do well on by myself. Enter: Dad!

Do you grow herbs or other edible plants indoors? Tell me how in the comments!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Photography Preview - More Wall Art

I have many side hobbies (this blog, for one), but another one I don't often talk about is photography. I have framed photos hanging on the wall in the living room, all of them taken by me. Since taking a trip abroad last summer, I have a new set of photos that I've been meaning to frame and hang. This time, I'm going to tackle the wall in the dining area, which is quite bare right now.

I have a few ideas for the photos I should frame here, keeping with the "international" theme going on in other areas of the apartment. Here are a few I'm thinking about framing:

Hamburg, Germany

Cologne, Germany

Dingle, Ireland

Dingle, Ireland

Dingle, Ireland
One motivation for getting these things framed soon is because my parents will be visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday, and that means I'll have a master carpenter available to hang and fix things to my heart's content!

What do you think of the photos? How about the photos in relation to the colors in the room?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I'm going to be MIA for this week - work has really picked up! I'll even be out of town for a conference later this week.

While I'm away, take a look at these awesome "larger" tiny homes from The Bungalow Company. I could look at these for hours!

That's all - have a nice week everyone!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 10/12/13 Edition

Every Saturday 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: Mr. Money Mustache makes the argument for limiting your circle of concern. As a result of this article I've also now put The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on my list of to-read books.

Best Financial: Still avoiding your student loans? Stop. You can do it. Check out's five strategies for paying off student loans for help.

Best DIY: I love seeing other bloggers demonstrate their travel-themed designs! I have globes and photos taken from my various trips - Casey over at Waffling has framed maps of places she's been.
Best Before & After: I love bathroom makeovers! Especially when a builder-grade bathroom gets an upgrade. Via Better After.

Best Random: For those who live alone, do you ever think about what would happen if you fell and broke your neck? How long would it take for someone to find you? This article sort of has me freaking out a bit....Via Unclutterer.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Old Cardboard Box = Pretty Desk Organizer

A few weekends ago, I decided it was high time I did something about my desk. You may remember that the final product of this included a cute little black and white patterned box

I had the idea that I should have some sort of catch-all space on my desk, it being without drawers and all. I had a small cardboard box and a about 2 feet of excess fabric on my hands. Perfect for this little project!

Here is my quick tutorial. You’ll need:

  • Cardboard box
  • Fabric - enough to cover the box (I used 1.5 - 2 feet)
  • Tape
  • Hot glue gun + glue sticks
  • Newspaper

Step One:
Prepare your fabric by first ironing it, then cutting out the appropriate amount. I didn’t need to cut mine since the length and width of my fabric was perfect. Lay newspaper to cover your work surface. The glue gets messy!

Step Two: 
“Wrap” the box with your fabric. I actually wrapped this like I would a present, tape and all. This allowed me to see how the box would look with the fabric on it before I started gluing. I taped everything where I wanted, then started in with the glue gun.

Step Three: 
Remove the tape on one of the long sides and glue. Repeat on the other long side.

Step Four: 
Remove the tape on one of the short sides and glue. Repeat on the other short side. 

Step Five: 
Trim any loose ends off the fabric inside the box and put any final touches of glue in loose areas. Let sit for a good hour or more to let the glue harden and cool. 

And there you have it! A much more colorful box and it cost me nothing as I had all of the pieces of this project already! 

Make up any projects out of the blue lately? I’d love to hear about them. Or better yet, feature one on your blog and point me to it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cost Breakdown: Homemade Deodorant

Over the weekend I experimented with making some homemade products again! This time, I tried homemade deodorant. I used a recipe found on the Honey & Huckleberries blog. I picked this recipe for its simplicity and for some of the rave reviews the blog post got from other people who tried it themselves.

Making the deodorant was super-easy. It took all of 5 minutes to mix all the ingredients together, nuke them in the microwave, and set in a jar to cool. And because I added some orange essential oil, it smelled good too!

I had hoped this would be a cost-saving measure as well as a healthier alternative. It is definitely the latter, but cost-wise I come close to the cost of conventional deodorant. Here is the cost breakdown for each ingredient:

Liquid Vitamin E - 1 oz = $3.62
Shea butter - 16 oz = $19.99 
Arrowroot powder 20 oz.= $6.49
Cocoa butter - 4 oz = $7.99 
Tea tree oil = $7.99
Essential oil = $4.99
Baking soda = $0 (already had)

That brings the total spent to $51.07. I figure I can get about 10 batches, perhaps only 9. That would make the cost-per-batch at around $5.25. The price of most major deodorant brands. I think making my own is worth my time and investment for more than one reason:

  • I've learned how to make something new (and it was fun and easy!)
  • I reuse the glass container, thus saving waste from going into a landfill.
  • I don't put chemicals with weird names on my body.

I recommend trying homemade deodorant if you enjoy making and trying new things, or if you are trying to produce less waste at home. If you are aiming to get cheap deodorant, you might as well continue to buy it for less if you can. I found the cost to be the equivalent of other deodorants, and with that equal, I'll go with the healthier, less wasteful, and more fun version!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 10/5/13 Edition

Every Saturday 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: Can one actually be over-entertained? The Non Consumer Advocate poses the question. I can, if that entertainment means reading too many books!

Best Financial: There is wealth-advice that should be obvious, Mr. Money Mustache says.

Best DIY: Holy cow, I'm going to use my ratty, too-often read books and turn them into hiding places for things! Via Apartment Therapy.
Best Before & After: I love this baby's room makeover featured on A Touch of Tyrell. From dark unto light! However, babies/kids make messes. Therefore, I don't think this room will stay light for long.

Best Random: Obligatory US government shutdown link. The only stock rising: Netflix. Via The Washington Post.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Looking Ahead: 2014 Budget

I get excited about budgets. That's right - nerd alert! Or should I say financially-savvy-person alert! Budgets are fun. Say it with me - BUDGETS ARE FUN!

Mainly, creating my 2014 budget this many months before 2014 is fun for me because I will be debt free in 2014! For reference, here is my 2013 budget:

2013 Budget

And now here is my new (tentative) 2014 budget:

2014 Budget Draft

First good thing: less expenses. Second good thing: check out the leftover each month line at the bottom. $603.69!!! That's so much money! Now, having that much money leftover means I have options on what to do with it. So what should I do? That leaves a lot of questions. But first, let's name what I should NOT do with it.

1. Do not spend it on crap I don't need.

That's basically the only rule here. For reference on what I should do with the money, let's look at my financial goals. I've written about that already here and here. In summary, the following sticks out:

1. I want to build my emergency fund.
2. I want to contribute more to retirement.

So, that is exactly what I am going to do. Once my debt is gone I'll adjust my pre-tax contribution to my 403b, maximizing tax savings by contributing to this tax-deferred account. I think I'll leave my Roth alone for now. It is happily making money on its own. Then, I'll take whatever the new "leftover each month" amount is and determine how much I can put towards my emergency fund each month. I expect it to be around $150-200.

You'll notice in my budget that I decided not to quit waiting tables entirely once my debt is gone. I intend to keep a shift a week and use that income to pay for food and possibly for the occasional dinner out. $60/month is a really hard budget to stick to for restaurants and happy hour. I'll gladly spend a few hours a week waitressing (which I usually enjoy, actually) so I can have a little bit more of "fun" money when it comes to hanging out with some friends over happy hour.

How exciting that I'm actually talking about what I will do, in real terms, once my debt is gone! That means the day I am debt free is almost here!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yard Sale Success

It has been a while since my last post. I'll give you three reasons for this: work, travel, illness. Yep, I've been battling a busy schedule and a terrible cold. But in the middle of all of that, I did manage to do a pretty great thing last weekend. I made $53 selling stuff at a community yard sale!

I began the day with two suitcases and a backpack of stuff:

Four hours later, I left with one suitcase of stuff:

Was it worth it to do the yard sale? I think so. Sure, I didn't make a ton of money, but I'm still $53 richer (and $53 less in debt) and stuff I no longer needed found a good home in my community. All wins, as far as I'm concerned.

Have you ever had a garage sale/participated in a community yard sale? Was it successful?