3 Habits of Highly Successful Witches

Maybe you’re wondering how to be a badass, powerful, healthy, self-loving goddess-witch. Well my friends, here are a few good ways to start.

Goddess painting by Emily Balivet on Etsy

Goddess painting by Emily Balivet on Etsy

Believe in your power

First, know that you already are a Goddess. You are also a God! You are Everything. You are made of star-stuff. You are a tiny piece of this vast universe. You are connected to every other living, breathing being on this planet, created from the same atoms that make up every shining crystal, flowing river, and hunk of land. You are POWERFUL, witch.

Your power is in your connection, in knowing that you are One with the world around you. Your power is your compassion, your voice, your heart. Your power is in your fingertips, creating meals and scarves and websites. Your power is in your hugs, in your laughter, your rage, your tears. Your decisions are powerful, every one of them. They have repercussions far beyond the moment you make them. You speak with your choices. You can change yourself, if you want to. You can love yourself. You need to.

Nourish yourSelf

Eat good food. I mean healthy, organic, whole foods, but also delicious food. Eat food with family and friends. Feed yourself lovingly prepared, healthful foods that make you om nom nom and mmmmmmmm and smile. Drink lots of clean, fresh, room temperature water.

Take nature baths. Go outside and play! Hike, run, walk, roll around in the green grass. Swim! Sleep. Sit. Chill. Dig in the dirt. Gaze at the stars.

Take water baths. Soak in a hot tub with some sea salt and essential oils, rose petals and honey. Wash your face every night (EVERY NIGHT) and follow with a moisturizer or oil. Keep synthetics and petrochemicals out of your skin- and hair-care. Wear sunscreen and hats. Try this DiY Steam Facial for an at-home spa day, or Miracle Grains for a gently exfoliating wash or mask.

Move your body. Practice yoga. Dance around the kitchen in your underwear (everybody does that, right?).

Most of all, gift yourself the time to rest and recharge, however you choose to do it.

Keep a written record

There are many ways to keep records. The best ones are reminders and guides. Here are some that I find useful:

Spellbook: for your best affirmations, recipes and yes, magic spells.

Food Journal: for when you’re feeling crappy and want to figure out why. Alternatively, for when you’re feeling great and want to remember why. Very useful in becoming aware of patterns, making connections, and holding one’s self accountable.

Date Book/ Day Planner: I keep a Bullet Journal for this, but any day planner works. I use mine for daily tasks and to-do lists, but also quotes, ideas, events, appointments, etc. I have been saving my detailed planners for a decade, and I love that I can look back and recall the places I visited on my post-college trip to Ireland, the friends I had dinner with 8 years ago (who were those people? Who was I?) and what I was doing a last September. Keeping a day planner helps keep me organized but it also preserves memories.

Diary: my guides have been pushing me towards a daily journaling practice, and I can see why. Journaling is a very useful psychological tool. Like a food journal, it can lead you to discoveries about your patterns. It can help to reveal deep inner thought processes, the stories we tell ourselves, hidden mysteries and great ideas. My goal is to get back into the habit of writing “morning pages,” a method taught in the mind-blowing, life-changing book The Artist’s Way. Also helpful for writing your future memoirs.

New Moon Birthday Resolution

Going Full Witch, Part 2

Oh hi there! It’s my birthday (okay, it was yesterday)! It’s also time for the New Moon in Virgo. Coincidence? I think not. This is the perfect time to set a Birthday Resolution!

I’m way into birthdays, especially my own. I love getting together with my loved ones, throwing parties, and presents. I think of my birthday each year as a time to clear out the old and set intentions for the next year of my life. Rather than setting really specific, action-oriented goals like I might do with a New Year’s Resolution, I like to choose a theme that can motivate and guide me through the year. I usually spend several months thinking and feeling into what this theme will be. This year, though, I feel that the best choice is to extend my theme from last year, developing it into specific areas.

So for my 33rd year on this earth, here’s what I’m thinking.

Resolution Theme: Full Witch, Pt. 2

Purpose

To continue what I started last year by furthering my exploration of all things feminist, witchy, wild, and divine

To strengthen my commitment to ritual and practice

To deepen my understanding and knowledge of astrology, healing modalities, tarot and yoga

To share what I am learning 

How

Develop rituals for special times, especially New and Full Moons.

Asana and chanting every day! (My astrologer recently told me I have a lot of power with chanting and ritual, so I’m going to take advantage of that and build some serious magic.)

Spend more time studying, specifically about astrology, healing and tarot, and put my knowledge into action.

Continue to write about this process, and explore spiritual communities for motivation and support.

New Moon Birthday Resolutions on Whisper & Howl

Now, since tonight is the New Moon in Virgo, I’m going to take advantage of this special time by performing a ritual to establish my goals. I’ve been reading several works by astrologer Jan Spiller, including one called New Moon Astrology. Spiller posits that one can use the energy of each New Moon to make “wishes” to assist you on the transformative journey of this life. It’s an interesting book filled with sample wishes based on your North Node (a hugely important astrological concept that signifies your dharma, basically laying out what you will be working on in this life) and particular New Moons. There’s also a section that lists common themes such as relationships and health, with many examples.

The idea is that you make a list of carefully crafted “wishes” within 8 hours of the exact time of the New Moon, and revisit them each day until they come true. I mean, it can’t hurt, right? At the very least, it will help to clarify your goals and establish them in your mind. In the spirit of Going Full Witch, here are a few of my New Moon Birthday Wishes:

  • “I want to easily find myself joyfully practicing asana each day.”
  • “I want to easily find myself joyfully chanting each day.”
  • “I want to attract the people who will be my guides, mentors and spiritual companions.”

I have more wishes, of course. They’re more personal, but I’m sure I’ll share them in time. For now, though, I’m excited to start this new year of witchery. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Love,

Jillian

 

 

 

Austerity Adventures: June and July 2016

Bwahahaha, Or “Budget? What Budget?”

Budget? What Budget? | Austerity Adventure on Whisper & Howl blog #budget #saving #goals

Happy Fire Monkey Year! Yes, it’s late. The Chinese New Year is during the winter. And no, I don’t know anything about the Chinese astrological system, but I’ll take any explanation (excuse?) for why things are the way they are and this year, my friends, money stuff is hard. Apparently we’re in the year of the Fire Monkey (in Chinese astrology). My acupuncturist, the wonderful Colleen Cole, told me that during fire monkey times, money just flies away. So I’d like to start by placing all blame for my spending last month squarely on the shoulders of the Fire Monkey.

June was fine. I worked way too much and didn’t sew at all. I caught a virus and laid low for a week. I managed to squirrel away some money for my new increased rent and moving expenses. Nothing really important happened. I did a totally okay job with budgeting.

July, though.

It got hot. Fiery, even.

I didn’t even bother with a budget. I just re-prioritized all of my monetary goals and devoted the majority of my savings to Sky House. With all the turmoil in my life, I decided that what I most need is a tranquil oasis of a home. I bought everything I envisioned (on sale! second-hand!)for my new calm island, and I have NO REGRETS. I didn’t use my credit card. I didn’t go overboard with things I didn’t need or that didn’t fit my vision. I scoured craigslist and frequented thrift stores and discount outlets, and I paid all the bills. I am very happy with the results, and not at all ashamed that I threw my savings goal out the window. I needed this.

So, thank you to the Fire Monkey for giving me the nudge in the direction of spending.

Now, I only need to file my back taxes, get a reimbursement from my eye doctor, get some extra babysitting and shop hours, and I’ll be all set to confidently pursue those old goals: building emergency fund to $1000, paying off AYTT and my credit card, and on to the car payment! Oh, and spending a week in Iceland without using the card. Mini-goal. Easy peasey. Oof.

On Moving Pt. 2

There are 2 Big Deals in my life this week:

  1. I have a summer flu. 
  2.  My house is a wreck. 

These things are not compatible. I am home from work for the 3rd day this week, surrounded by boxes both half-full and empty, and all I can do is watch TV, read and recover. This is HARD. All I want to do is go to work at my very fun job (I missed field day!), arrange my furniture, organize my shit and hang my art. I am sick, bored and frustrated. Woe is me. I was supposed to go to the beach this weekend but have to stay home. Maybe I can get some stuff done this weekend? Anyway, here’s some stuff about me and my house. 

Problem: I bought a big hulking piece of furniture based on a dream, and in reality found it to be impractical. It’s just too damn big. My house is small. It was an impulse buy. I was coming down with the flu when I bought it. I have regrets. Now I need to get it out of my house ASAP so…Craigslist? Right? We’ll see how that goes. Until I get rid of it, I can’t really arrange my living room. I can’t finish unpacking until everything is arranged.

Success: I got a new couch! This after my old couch, which we hauled here from my former residence, wouldn’t fit in my narrow doorway. Oh we tried. We tried hard. After a half-hour of trying to configure it creatively through the door, we gave up and I trucked it over to the thrift store. It was actually kind of liberating. I wasn’t in love with that couch and it would have been huge in my space. I need small, light furniture in here. So I went back to the thrift store with some friends and found this very comfortable, mustard green couch. It’s not an ideal color but I looked up some palettes incorporating the color and I can definitely worth it. Devo LOVES it. She’s barely dismounted since it was delivered. Bonus: it was only $80. 

mustard green palette

Problem: I have an enormous pile of laundry and no washer/dryer. My plan is to do my laundry at my sisters’ house until I can afford to buy a w/d (there is a hookup here) but I moved in with a pile and haven’t had a chance to get over there so…it grows. It’s taking over. I might disappear under it.

Success: My bathroom looks  great. I decided to go for it and got the microfiber shower curtain. Whoa, I know. The bathroom is one of two rooms that are put together. It was my top priority. The other room that looks great is my front porch. It has a ceiling fan! My plants are very happy out there.

Problem: There’s an ant infestation in my house. I’m using Terro. They’re in my bed. I hate it.

Success: I painted an old cabinet I have with black chalkboard paint and now it looks very cool.

Problem: The blinds in my bedroom broke and it’s seriously impeding my nudity, which is one of my favorite things about living alone. Time to get curtains.

Success: S hooks are very handy. I’m using them in the pantry to hang pots and in the closet to hang bags. There are a lot of wire shelving units in this house.

Problem: My shower. The tub is old fiberglass, not really big enough to comfortably take a bath, chipped and I swear it’s kind of squishy like there’s water damage underneath it. I tried to tell the landlord but he blew off the water damage theory. My dream of dreams is that I am correct and they will replace the tub. It doesn’t drain well so that I am standing in ankle-deep water throughout my shower. The faucet drips, which is not cool for the environment or my water bill. Boos all around.

Success: I replaced the shower head immediately. Nothing like a great shower head.

Problem: I really want some banana pudding, but don’t eat most of the ingredients. Also too sick to go get some.

Success: Can’t think of anything else. Ugh. Oh wait! I could make a banana pudding-ish smoothie?! That would be a success. Nailing it.

 

 

On Moving

I am so stressed out about moving.

Moving is overwhelming. I remember when I moved away from Bloomington, thinking I didn’t have much stuff and could put off packing, it wouldn’t take long. I actually had a ton of stuff and packing took forever. This time I am determined not to stay up until all hours the night before my move, so I’ve already started packing. I really don’t have that much stuff now. I have more fabric than anything else. I have gotten rid of so many clothes that my closet is manageable. I still have a lot of shoes but so, so many fewer than 3 years ago in Indiana. 2.5 shelves of books, a few boxes of kitchen items, 2 boxes of art supplies. I have lots of art to transport and one big box just of blankets (I really love blankets). It’s not that bad. It’s still overwhelming though, or is it just whelming? Is it just exactly the amount of whelm that it should be? What does that even mean?

I’m stressed about packing because it’s a lot of work, it’s chaotic, and it reveals all the literal dust bunnies that have accumulated in my life. Although, it’s a good opportunity to throw shit away (or donate it. I tried to sell some stuff but that requires a lot more energy than I can muster.). Because there is a lot of work required to pack and because I have things all over this small house, I feel guilty when I’m not packing. Because I am so stressed out, I’m taking a lot of breaks to rest and to feel guilty about not packing.

It’s not just the physical acts of moving that are stressing me out. There are crazy questions storming my head all the time. What if I actually hate my new place? I was desperate to find a place when I went to see it, and it was in really bad shape. The woman who was living there had truly disgusting house-keeping habits and had a stripper pole in the living room (to be fair, she was a topless dancer and kudos to her for the professional development) and a serious Halloween theme going on. I’m pretty sure I saw the beauty of the house behind the piles of clothing and weird, giant teddy bear in the bedroom, but what if I was blinded by desperation?! I can’t remember the exact floor plan so all my preliminary mental decorating could be setting me up for a huge disappointment.

Also, what if I become a total hermit? I really enjoyed living alone for the few months I did it in Bloomington, and I’ve been dying to live alone again for years. My tendency towards staying home and reading or sewing or watching Netflix every evening, when there is absolutely no one there to talk to, could set me up for an early spinsterhood (I think, crazily). What if I fall into a terrible pattern of going to work, going home, turning the TV on, and slowly dying—alone?!

What if I hate living in Durham?!

What if the light is bad and all my houseplants die?!

What if I suddenly suck at decorating and my house is ugly?!

What if anything at all comes up and I can’t afford my new, higher rent?!

What if it’s haunted by a malicious spirit who resents my living in their corporeal home?!

WHAT?! WHAT IF?!! WHAAAAAAAA?!!!

I think I’m stressing out my cat.

Change is hard. More than one change at a time is really hard. There are at least 3 big changes I can think of in my life right now. A bunch of planets are in retrograde. I’m on my damn period.

It’s all going to be okay.

Unless there’s a ghost.

Austerity Adventures: May 2016

In which mistakes caught up to me, and I was not at all austere

This cat is totally judging me. | Adventures in Austerity: May 2016 | Whisper & Howl

This cat is totally judging me.

May, in financial terms, was a bit of a disaster.

I was riding high from April, in which I somehow managed to meet my savings goal, when I got quite a shock: $1000 had disappeared from my bank accounts. That was all $860 of my hard-won Emergency Savings, and $140 from my checking account. Shit, meet fan.

What had happened was: I found a cute little duplex in Durham, where I work, to move into in July. I applied, my application was accepted and I had 36 hours to pay the security deposit. I went to my online banking site and WHAT THE F ALL MY MONEY WAS GONE. How, you may (and I did) ask, could this happen?

Well, Apparently I did not file my state taxes in 2010 (and 2011), and the NC Department of Revenue wanted $1100, and my bank gave it all to them without warning me. Surprise! I may have cried. Fortunately I had about $400 in checks in my wallet so I was okay, and I took a cash advance on my credit card, which is crazy. Several dear friends and family members offered to loan me the money but because of timing, I did the cash advance. I will be paying a stupid interest rate on that for a while, but I got the house! Moral of story: always file your taxes. It’s likely that I will get most of the money back, but that requires some check-writing, faxing and waiting, so…it will be a nice bonus whenever it comes back to me.

On top of this craziness, I failed at keeping to my budget in 3 categories: groceries, restaurant & bar, and clothing. I spent way too much on all of these things. I did try to budget for eating out and getting a few drinks, but one fancy dinner and one night of drinking got a out of control, and hangover afternoons call for delivery. Bad decisions were made, but loads of fun was had. It’s easy for me to go over on groceries. It takes real planning and concentration to stick to my grocery budget, and I lacked both a plan and focus last month. For clothing, there were some things I need for the summer and I got them. Some will be returned, but for the most part they’re things like t-shirts, which need replacing every year, and work clothes such as shorts, sneakers, socks and a modest bathing suit. This will be my uniform as a summer camp manager, and I’m stoked about it. You can read more about my wardrobe soon.

On a brighter note, here are some things I did in May that didn’t suck at all:

  • I went to a magical hostel in the forest of coastal Georgia. It was inexpensive, freeing, fun and healing. The amazing Sarah D. was my traveling companion. We played our harmoniums, bathed in moonlight, slept outside-ish, and got devoured by gadflies.
  • My bestie came to visit for an evening and I got to see lots of old friends who live in NYC. She also gave me a gift/loan that allowed me to refill my Emergency Savings and put some money aside for moving expenses and a washer/dryer. Thanks, T!
  • I took a weekend trip to Richmond, VA to visit some friends who recently bought a gorgeous old house there. I had a chill weekend with some of my absolute favorite humans (and dog) in one of my favorite cities. I was also able to visit my favorite lingerie shop, Fiamour, where I got fitted for and bought new bras. It is amazing to have perfectly fitting bras!

For June, I have lots of plans in place to make it a more financially successful month–although, astrologically speaking, money is a tough spot for me this now, so I’m also trying to roll with the fiscal punches. My goals are to put that final $225 in my Emergency Savings, bringing it up to $1000; stash some cash in general savings for moving expenses and a washer/dryer; and stick to my budget in all categories. I also need to sell my old car.

Meet me back here next month and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Did you file your taxes?! If you skipped a year, you should go back and file them now!

What to do When You Hate Everything in Your Closet

…and you write about wardrobes.

What to do when you hate everything in your closet...and you write about wardrobes. Whisper & Howl

(Did someone say TEACHABLE MOMENT?!)

After a year of capsule wardrobe bliss, I have come to a place I hoped never to be in again. I hate everything in my closet.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. I hate most things.

The whole point of a capsule is to make me feel great all the time in all of my clothes. It’s to have a (small) wardrobe with nothing but favorites, in which everything goes together and flatters my figure and feels wonderful on my body. Last spring was pretty good. Summer was great (with the exception of the humid heat; there’s no way to dress for that). Fall was beautiful and I felt lovely in winter. But this spring, year 2 of my experiment, is blah. Blech. Ugh.

I didn’t get anything new this season, and I didn’t throw anything out. I thought I’d keep the random stuff from years past in there and see what I ended up wanting to keep v. discard. I guess in that sense, it has been a successful season. (Remember, since it gets hot in May in N.C.–it was 85 degrees last week–spring is a mini-season for capsules and summer is extra-long.) It has been unsuccessful, though, in actually being a cohesive, dreamy capsule wardrobe.

Here are some issues:

  1. A lot of the pieces I kept in are several years old and since they weren’t great quality to begin with, are falling apart. Stretching, fading, sagging and grease spots are abundant. This simply will not do.
  2. The silhouettes are wrong. They seemed right last year, but this year they are wrong. It’s not that I’m so fickle. My tastes have actually taken a step back. Last year I was really into swing cuts and those baggy shirts that look fantastic on models but make me look dumpy and shapeless. I think this is because I worked in an office that had no ventilation and I refused to wear anything that actually touched my skin. Now, I do have a couple of loose, drapey items that I love but it’s a matter of fabric weight and cut. Most of what I have simply isn’t flattering, and I’m no longer comfortable in those pieces. Instead, I’m drawn more to classic feminine cuts that flatter my curves.
  3. The quality is low. I already mentioned that, I know, but it bears repeating. My cheap shirts are stretched and pilled. The cutoffs I made last year from cheap jeans are now cheap, ill-fitting shorts. I’m coming to the realization that tshirts, like flats, just get worn out and need replacing once a year.
  4. I’m missing some staples, such as basic skirts, dresses and shorts. I have been wearing the same pair of jeans over and over again because they’re the only thing that will go with the tops I do like.

So, I’m at the point where I look at my closet and whine “I have everything” and “I have nothing to wear!”–the very thing I strive against! The only thing to do is to take my own advice and…

Cut out the shit! This is pretty easy and enjoyable for me (and something I help other people do–check out my Wardrobe Consulting Service!)  but it can be challenging, especially when money is tight. It’s hard to get rid of things when you don’t feel able to replace them. It’s hard to let go of items you see as resources, wealth, or really, things. Yes, it is hard to let go of our things.

However, I truly believe in cutting out things (or beliefs, relationships, habits) that no longer serve me in order to make way for the new. You have to weed a garden so that beautiful flowers and tomatoes can grow! To apply this to clothing, getting rid of pieces that no longer make you feel and look fantastic gives you space to only wear the things that do–whether that means buying new clothes or simply stripping it down to a uniform with simple variations, or discovering new outfit combinations. Yes, you literally make space for new clothes, but it’s not about replacing and storing up more. It’s about the quality of feeling that you get when you have fewer, better things. You deserve better than that ribbed cotton tank that was, at one point, black. You can have tights without holes in them! I do not need that favorite sailor-striped top with the breast pocket that has sagged to the point that it is basically cupping my boob! No one needs to know that I can’t eat anything greasy without getting stains! I have a waist, damn it, and I want to show it!

You get the point. I will be doing a big discard soon. I will be left with fewer things, but they will be good. And yes, I’ll buy some new (linen) tshirts to replace the gross, pilled, saggy ones. I will make sundresses fit for a foxy lady in 1960s Cambridge (I’ve been watching a lot of Grantchester). But it will be better. It will be fantastic. If not, you’ll be reading about it.

Do you have trouble deciding which clothes to discard? Do you get nervous getting rid of things even though you haven’t worn them in years or they have holes or weird saggy pockets? Tell me about it in the comments! Or, better yet, let me help!

How To Ease Money Stress

How to Ease Money Stress | Whisper & Howl

OMG have I been stressing out about money. Some unexpected expenses have come up this month on top of my new car payment. Long story short, always file your state taxes or they will take a major chunk out of your ass in oh, 6 years time. Like a surprise $1000 chunk out of your ass. Like, your entire savings. It might also happen on the day that the security deposit is due on the house you want to rent. I’m just saying, it could turn out that way. That would probably be pretty stressful. If that happened to you, you might find yourself spiraling into anxieties about having no Emergency Fund where mere days ago there was a nice $1000 balance, or how you were definitely going to have enough money saved to not use your credit card for the big trip you have planned for the fall, or how it might take years to pay off your credit debt. Your brain might jump ahead to next year, when the landlord of your new house will probably raise the rent because they “don’t do” 2-year leases, and you’ll have to move again or spend even more money on rent, money that won’t be saved up for a down payment on a house, and you won’t be able to afford to live anywhere you want anyway because gentrification. Also, you might hate all your clothes and want to buy new ones and also be thinking about needing new furniture and why didn’t you include moving expenses in your very optimistic savings plan in the first place?!

If this happens to you, there is one tactic I know of that can calm the financial fear monster. No, it’s not budgeting, because planning in this scenario sometimes leads to severely overthinking, nay, obsessing (although yes, you should be budgeting).

I’m talking about gratitude.

There’s something about making lists of things for which I am grateful that is very soothing. Maybe it’s the list-making. Maybe it’s the realization that I have everything I need at this moment, that I’m safe and comfortable and free and surrounded by good things. Maybe it’s the reassurance of the Law of Abundance, that the universe provides, that all will be well. Maybe it’s just a distraction.

I don’t know. It just works.

My recommendation, should you find yourself in this situation, is to find a quiet moment in a cozy place. Take deep breaths. Light a candle. Make it a ritual. Focus your energy on gratitude. Give thanks to the goddess, the universe, God, light, the source, your own wits and talents and strength–whatever makes you happy. Grab a beautiful journal if you’d like. I write on scraps of paper and stash the lists in my God box (a great idea from Tosha Silver).

Sometimes it’s a stretch. I start with easy things and move on from there. Sometimes they are simple things, sometimes complex. Often, they’re related to things I’m stressed about. I remember all that I have and forget all that I don’t have, or can’t see that I have; the things I think will make me happy, the things for which I’m grasping; the things I’m afraid of losing or am afraid I will never have. I keep listing things until I feel better. That’s it. It’s not a cure, but it helps.

  • I am grateful for my family.
  • I am grateful for Devo!
  • I am grateful that my hair is finally long, even though it was kind of greasy today. High ponytails make a great swish when I jog.
  • I’m grateful for the park where I jog. Or, let’s be honest, speed-walk. I’m grateful I can speed-walk.
  • I’m grateful for kombucha and to the friend who brought me SCOBYs from his restaurant even though he was studying and has a small child. That was extra generous.
  • I’m grateful that I have a job that I LOVE.
  • I’m grateful for my cute little car that doesn’t feel as though it will break down at any minute. Driving is fun again!
  • I’m grateful for the Maximum Fun podcast network, especially Jordan, Jesse, Go, which makes me laugh my ass off.
  • I am grateful that the manager at the GAP let me exchange those jeans with the broken zipper for a new pair, even though I bought them a year ago, and to the customer service person who emailed me back and told me to bring them in. The new ones are better than the old ones.
  • I am grateful for the bugs making sweet music outside my apartment.
  • I’m grateful for my teachers, even the ones who make shit really hard, like Saturn.
  • I’m grateful for this really fun book, The Name of the Wind, that I’m totally enjoying (and for the friends who lent it to me).
  • I am grateful that I am incredibly wealthy in love, friendship, and support.

See? Not so hard. I feel better already.

Adventures in Austerity: April 2016

Wherein I did an Okay Job And Also, Lots of Adulting

Austerity Adventure | Saving Money in April 2016 | Whisper & Howl

 

OMG You guys. So much stuff happened last month. So much stuff. All of it good! Some of it, expensive!

  1. I BOUGHT A CAR! After spending $100 on gas in March, I decided it was time to grow some ovaries and buy a car, something fuel-efficient that wasn’t 20+ years old and on its last legs. I got a really good deal on a 2013 Blue Raspberry Honda Fit named Uma and signed the biggest check I’ve ever written! Side win: apparently my credit is fantastic. I had no idea!
  2. I GOT A WINDFALL! This went to my down payment.
  3. I GOT A PROMOTION AND A RAISE! This happened 2 days after I bought Uma, although it must have been decided before. This just felt like the most perfect gift in so many ways, not least being that I can afford my shiny new car (payment) without cutting into my savings goals.
  4. I WENT TO BALTIMORE! Actually, I went to the Pearlstone Retreat Center outside of Baltimore, but I spent just enough time in the city to buy a couple of rings. I buy jewelry every time I travel. I should put it in as a line item in the budget. This one really doesn’t merit the all-caps, but it felt weird to end the formatting at #3.
  5. I FINISHED MY ADVANCED YOGA TEACHER TRAINING! Well, almost. I still have some makeup sessions to do. But I had a lovely little graduation ceremony, and now I have one weekend back every month! This is great since I have to work some weekends for my Big Girl Job, and since I like to make things on my time off. I still have to finish paying for the training, too.

So those are the fun things that happened in April. Here are the less fun things

Lesson #1 –

If at first you don’t succeed…you know the rest. My biggest problem this month was that once I broke the spending seal (first with Uma, then in Baltimore), money streamed out of my wallet. Instead of waiting when I saw something I wanted (sunglasses) or something needed to be replaced but not urgently (like the armband I put my phone in when I run, which is held together by the grace of duct tape), I licked BUY. What I should have done is assessed the urgency of the purchase and added it to next month’s budget. This is a practice that must be undertaken several times a day, and it can be hard. It was easier in March because I was in the habit of denying my fleeting desires. In April it was harder because I had already made purchases I wasn’t planning for.

Lesson #2 – Don’t Adjust the Budget

I spent $500 of my own money on Uma’s down payment, which meant I couldn’t save anything this month. Then I got some money as a gift and instead of putting that into savings, I adjusted my budget to justify buying rings in Baltimore. Then I used the rest of that money to buy sunglasses. THEN I found out I got a raise and adjusted it AGAIN, not thinking that it wouldn’t kick in until my paycheck on April 28th, which I will use for May. Point is, my budget got all screwed up.

Lesson #3 – Don’t Justify

If I need to justify a purchase, I probably shouldn’t make it. Sometimes things call to you, like the rings. I am wearing them all the time. I love jewelry and I like to get it when I’m traveling, and due to the nature of the windfall I received, I considered them a gift. However, things like a replacement arm band for running and sunglasses are just things that I can buy anytime. I didn’t need them and I could have put them off until May. The problem really is that once I start justifying purchases through a careless mental rearranging of budget (“I can afford that now!” or “I’ll just not spend money in this other category!”), shit gets out of control. Again, breaking the seal.

To Conclude…

Like any changes worth making, saving money requires practice and attention. Habits don’t change overnight, and curveballs are thrown all the time. Those sunglasses ended up not fitting so I returned them, which worked out great for my wallet. Cars cost a lot of money. Sometimes you get gifts, or sell paintings. Sometimes the NC Department of Revenue decides you owe them lots of money and you never got any of the notices they say they sent, which would have alerted you to this before your bank decided to send them your entire savings…but that’s a tale for May. See you then.

ADVENTURES IN AUSTERITY: MARCH 2016

First Month Success!

Okay, so this post is about 3 weeks overdue. My first month of serious budgeting, which I’m calling my Austerity Adventure, ended on March 31st. To recap, I have embarked on an adventure in saving money via making and sticking to a tight budget which all but eliminates frivolities and requires meticulous planning. I have several goals (which you can read about here), but mainly I want to build my Emergency Savings fund back to $1000, save $1000 for my trip to Iceland in September, and pay off my credit card balance. In March, that meant putting $500, 25% of my income, into savings. And guess what?

I did it!

First Month Success! Adventures in Austerity on Whisper & Howl #budget #saving #kitten

Here’s how:

  1. I stuck to my budget! I didn’t buy anything that was outside of my plans. Well, I did overspend on groceries and eating out, but I also…
  2. Sold a couple of things that I no longer needed. I sold an air filter from my old office to a coworker, and a pair of shoes to a friend of a friend. And I sold a painting!
  3. I shopped strategically. For instance, I only bought groceries that I would be using immediately (which is really tough at places like Costco, which encourage buying in bulk), compared prices across stores, and bought foods that were on sale. I also didn’t buy anything I could easily make at home for less money (hummus, almond butter, bean salad).
  4. I also spent my art supply allowance (which I consider a need) on fabric I found at the Scrap Exchange, a local reuse store. Now I have a seriously major fabric stash that includes inexpensive but beautiful fabrics I can use as wearable muslins, thereby saving more expensive fabrics for tried-and-true patterns.
  5. I decided not to renew my yoga teacher insurance for now, since I am taking a break from teaching.
  6. I finally cancelled a gym membership I hadn’t been using. This one’s a no-brainer. I had the account on hold for the last 6 months but kept putting off cancelling it until I finally got billed again! Oops.
  7. I did free things, or didn’t do not-free things.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy. I forgot to skip a CSA delivery and got into a habit of buying the same junk foods every time I went shopping, which put me over my grocery budget. My old running shoes finally gave up the ghost and I had to get new ones. Also, I had drinks one night with friends. I hadn’t had a chance to really celebrate my new job so I caved and had a really great time. If I hadn’t sold the painting and shoes, I definitely would not have met my austerity goals.

My April has been a whole other adventure, let me tell you! There hasn’t been a ton of austerity going on. I have been focusing on keeping my grocery spending within budget and doing great so far. There have been some other developments, though. I’ll get to that next time.

Until then, tell me: what do you do to save money? Make more? Spend less? Anything you refuse to cut out of your budget?