It’s Budget Day!!!

I am actually excited about Budget Day.  At the end of each month I find a free evening when I can sit down with my Spendee app, bank accounts, personal Excel spreadsheet and a big ol’ glass of wine, to reconcile that month’s budget and make a budget for the upcoming month.  Sounds fun, eh?

Okay, I’ll admit it can be a little scary.  I used to think that budgeting would only show me lack, only make me aware of how little I have (in financial terms).  I thought, there are all these things I want and need, and this will show me that I cannot have them.  Once I bit the bullet and really committed to doing a monthly budget, I realized that it has the opposite effect.  It is actually pretty reassuring.  In fact, I find the whole process calming.

I do what is called a Zero Sum Budget.  That means I calculate, to the best of my ability, what my income will be for the month ahead, and then I account for every penny in my budget.  I know where every cent should be going.  In order to do this, it’s important to know what your concrete expenses are.  These are the expenses that don’t waver, such as rent and utilities.  Put your money there first.  Then you can spread what remains over the incidentals.   It can be helpful to look at your previous months’ spending to see where your money goes.  If you spend a certain amount every month on gas, you can work off that number in your budget.  This will also help you to pinpoint any areas in which you overspend.

It’s very useful to use a template.  Some people love or other online budgeting services.  I made an Excel spreadsheet based on Dave Ramsey’s budget template, which I am attaching here–feel free to download, personalize and test it out yourself!  I’ve included basic instructions and inserted  comments where you might like to make changes.  I like Excel because I can manipulate the data any way I want and I can make updates each month based on what I’ve learned.  I can also make lists and leave notes for myself, as you can see in my examples.

Budget Template | Whisper & Howl

Click to download!

Budgeting has helped me a lot both mentally and financially.  There are a lot of things I’m still working on.  If you download my budget template, you may notice that I tend to overspend on certain categories (food, for instance), and that I’m not great at saving.  I’ll delve deeper into my issues as I work on ways to improve.  Until then, happy budgeting!

Have any questions about my template, my journey or budgeting in general?  Ask away in the comments section!

Baby’s First Capsule Wardrobe

You may be wondering, what is a capsule wardrobe?  Unless, of course, we’re friends IRL, in which case you’ve definitely heard me talking about this, one of my new favorite things.

I first heard of the capsule wardrobe in the book Lessons From Madame Chic (interesting but not amazing).  The author studied abroad in France and learned many lessons about life and style from her very chic French host family, including the benefits of a minimalist wardrobe.  This family valued quality over quantity, owning just a few tops, bottoms, dresses of a simple and luxurious nature.  I read this and thought, that’s nice but not for me.  However, the idea of having fewer, better things in my wardrobe did stick, and sparked The Great Discard of December 31, 2014.  

Later, in sewing class, my friend Kelly brought up the idea of having a capsule wardrobe.  I went home and scoured the internet for ideas and finally found the Un-Fancy blog, written by Caroline Joy Rector.  There are many other bloggers who are trying out a capsule or who have been committed to the lifestyle for years (Project 333 is one of the first and best), but I really liked Caroline’s style.  She’s one of those bloggers I’m convinced I’d be friends with in real life, and I am inspired by her fashion, too.  After reading her blog and it’s comprehensive posts about creating a capsule wardrobe including not just how but why to do this, I decided to give it a whirl.

I started this past Spring, debuting my carefully curated selection on March 21st.  I LOVED it.  Having a limited amount of choices made it so much easier to get dressed, and because I had shopped and curated with intention, I felt good in everything I put on.  I had more than 37 items (I found it really hard to limit my shoes and accessories to fit that number, although I did curate them) but I felt that sticking to someone else’s number would have impeded my own process.  I think I had around 35 pieces of clothing and 9 pairs of shoes.  Everything was coordinated, and I felt that I was discovering a new personal style that fit my lifestyle better than ever before.  (Incidentally, my only issue with Un-Fancy is that we have different lifestyles–I work in an office which, although relaxed, does require me to have more separation between casual and work clothes than Caroline has–and I want to know what she’d wear to my office!)

But then, summer struck.  Technically it was late Spring, but still.  My capsule was really meant for a 3-month Spring, and here in North Carolina we get about 6 weeks of what feels like Spring before transitioning into Summer.  Around the middle of May, my wardrobe no longer worked.  I dug through my bin of Summer clothes from years past and pulled out a few dresses to help get me through.  I certainly don’t feel like I failed, but I learned something that I can apply for next year.  However, the wardobe zen I felt in April is gone.  I’m frustrated.  I miss the calm confidence that I felt each morning as I reached for my clothes and throughout the day as I lived in them.

Since then, I’ve been struggling a bit with what to do for Summer.  Planning the wardrobe I want was easy, but finding pieces has been difficult.  I also haven’t had time to go to the stores so I’ve been ordering things online and returning almost all of them.  I need a day to go through what I have, find some outfits, figure out what I want to add and then go shopping.  Maybe 2 days.  Oof. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m into minimalism.



Not that I’m a minimalist right now, but it’s something I’m slowly working toward.  See, it all started when I moved to Bloomington, IN a few years ago for grad school.  I brought EVERYTHING.  I filled a decent-sized Budget moving truck with all of my furniture (couch, loveseat, chair, ottoman, dining set, mattress, dresser, entertainment shelf thing, bookshelf, vanity…probably things I’m forgetting), art, clothes, books, records…EVERYTHING.  I packed my Camry full of stuff.  I had a whole, furnished house worth of STUFF.

I did this because neither of my new housemates had any furniture and I thought it would be easier and cheaper to carry the trappings of my 28 years of life across several state lines, and it was fine.  We had a nicely furnished, comfortable home with lots of kitchen equipment and gardening tools and knick knacks.  And all through that year, I bought more stuff.  I bought clothes for a new lifestyle.  I bought shoes.  I filled the house with more and more things.

And then disaster struck.  Relative disaster.  We had to move.  I found a small 1-bedroom apartment that a lot of my furniture wouldn’t fit it.  I had a storage unit for the summer, but it was double-booked so I was left with a truck full of my stuff, a limited time to move it all, and 1 friend who could help.  I was screwed.  I called my friend Alexa, who was in Germany, to beg her to let me use her tiny basement storage area for my things.  I grabbed her hidden extra key and I crammed as much stuff as I could into her basement room, shoved my mattress behind her wardrobe, loaned her my coffee table and patio furniture for the summer…but I had to donate the rest of my furniture to the ReStore.  I gave my couches to another friend (they came to me for free so I felt this was probably a good karmic decision) and said goodbye to everything except what I could fit at Alexa’s, and drove my packed Camry to Richmond, VA for a summer internship.

Flash forward to August, when I went to retrieve my things from the basement and discovered a bunch of mildewed clothes and moldy leather accessories.  Everything stunk.  I spent weeks trying to clean Frye boots and my great-grandmother’s scarves, hanging them outside my small apartment to dry in the sun.  I had been forced to downgrade, but I still had SO MUCH STUFF.

My Mom and sister drove Mom’s hatchback to Bloomington for my graduation and to help me move back to North Carolina.  I hadn’t done much packing (I’d been too busy with exams and grading undergraduate papers to do anything else) and I was sure we could get it all done in one night, but I was oh so wrong.  They stayed an extra day to help me go through all of my stuff, which I now think of as my crap.  I loaded a friend’s truck up for 2 separate Goodwill trips.  I sold books and furniture on Facebook and gave away the rest.  At the last minute, I ditched an entire laundry basket worth of shoes (there was another basket), making snap decisions.  It felt good.

My neighbor, an older man, walked by and looked at my car in amazement.  He went to college, he said, with a single suitcase.  I felt ashamed then, looking at all my stuff.

We loaded my Mom’s and my car with everything that would possibly fit, leaving a little space for my sweet cat, Devo, to ride atop a pile of stuff in my car (she likes to sit up high and look out the windows on car rides).  I loaded everything in my parents’ basement for the next 9 months while I lived at home, finished up some school projects and hunted for a job.  I didn’t touch most of my stuff.

In September last year I moved into an apartment with a friend.  I brought all the stuff from the basement plus my clothes and some of my sister’s kitchen things.  I realized over the next couple of months that even though I had so many items of clothing, I had very little that I actually wanted to wear.  Many things no longer fit my lifestyle; others were in less-than-perfect condition, hadn’t been worn in over a year, or didn’t fit quite right.  I decided that I deserved to feel awesome in my clothes and to only have things that make me feel great.  I deserve to have clean, well-fitting clothes with no holes, clothes that make me feel great and look great.  I decided to throw out everything that didn’t fit that model, to make space for things that did.  I stood at the top of the stairs and threw clothes down, releasing them from my life.  It felt AMAZING.  I ended up with several garbage bags of clothes that I was able to donate to Goodwill so that someone else could enjoy them.

Since then I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter in my life and to make space for joy.  A lot of this has to do with my wardrobe.  I have always loved fashion and consider my clothes a source of creative expression.  What I wear matters to me, and I love that I can shape the way I’m perceived through my wardrobe.  I like things that make me feel comfortable and confident.  My style has changed a lot since I moved to Bloomington and back.  My job and the weather require different types of clothing.  My body has changed a little and my ideas about who I am and what I like have changed a lot.  I’m still developing my style, and I’m still discarding old things and shopping much, much less.  I recently went full konmari on my wardrobe and donated 4 more bags of clothing and shoes, and I’m ready to go through books and papers the next time I get a free day.  I am attempting a second capsule wardrobe (more on that later).  Becoming more minimalist and intentional with my wardrobe, figuring out my personal style, and exploring a capsule wardrobe are key factors in my personal life this year.  I’m going to be sharing more about this as I go along.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be a fashion blogger, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in capsule wardrobes, check out this (now defunct) blog by photographer and writer Caroline Joy Rector.  I really responded to her style when I was searching for information on a capsule wardrobe, and I found her wardrobe planning document really useful.  If you’re considering a capsule, I highly recommend checking her out.



This is Devo.

Devo the minimalist cat

On Faith and the Blahs

Ask and you shall receive.

Jump, and the net will appear.

But how does one know what to ask for?  How do we know which way to jump?

Jump Off Cliff by Flickr user Steven | Alan

Photo by Flickr user Steven | Alan

Lately I feel like I’m being drawn down a really positive, dynamic path, moving in the direction of my dreams, but also it’s SLOW.  There are roadblocks.  There is unhappiness.  I am not a patient person.

This makes me moody.  I’m often grouchy during the day, when my energy is expended on activities that don’t fulfill me, in a space that drains me.  I want to focus on positive messaging: mantras, “thinking the opposite,” finding something nice to say about everyone.  I try to stay busy so I don’t fall into a hole of discontent.  This week I find myself with little work to do, feeling tired and grumpy, hot and unhappy.  I’m bummed.  I have major unexpected expenses but no increase in income. I have groceries but no time to cook.  I have homework but no time to read.  I have rituals of self-care but no energy to perform them.

I want answers.  I want to know with absolute certainty that another  opportunity is on its way, that the money to fix my car will fall into my lap, that my insurance will cancel my waiting period so I can get medically necessary dental care!  I want to know that through my pursuit of yoga, my creative explorations, the numberless incredible and uplifting conversations I have with friends and fellow yogis, that by actively pursuing a fulfilling and spiritual life my day-to-day will improve.  Sometimes I know what to do.  This week, I do not.

Yesterday when I started this post, I was feeling really distressed by the way my mood has changed regarding the situation I’m in.  The week before last I was strongly moved by a righteous anger, the slap-in-the-face realization that something must change IMMEDIATELY.  I got through that with positivity, a sense of gratefulness and hope and faith that as I create space for change, it has to happen.  Last week, I carried that feeling over to a sense of general well-being, taking good care of myself, with enough work to do that I could stay busy.

But this week, I am BUMMED.  I can’t get in touch with my guides.  I have a major case of the blahs and possibly a head-cold or a touch of the chronic respiratory symptoms I’ve developed since starting this job.  I’ve had very low energy.  I can’t seem to focus on anything, including affirmations, guidance, mantra.  I don’t know what to do.  All I can think is, I don’t know what to do.  And yet…

As I write this I am thinking about faith.  Can faith be enough?  Can the belief that all I have to do is keep walking and the road will rise up to meet me, be enough?  Even when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed?  Is it enough to have faith that I’m choosing the right path, or that the right path has chosen me, or that I’m being led down the best path regardless of whether I falter?  I hope so.

I wanted this post to be about requesting clarification when seeking guidance.  I have so many things to talk about that it’s difficult to choose a topic.  I’m new here.  I’ve decided it’s best to just sit down and write, and let the words shape themselves into a post.  I trust that they will find a path and flow from beginning to end on the best possible course to completion.

Can I believe that of myself?  Can that be enough?

the blahs

the blahs

Private Hikes

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy balance lately.  It’s definitely the focus of my life right now, and I’m making it my Birthday Resolution for 2015.  The thing that has really brought this up for me is being in a situation I find really draining, but that I can’t leave right now.  I started searching for ways to feel better when I’m not in the thick of it, which happens to make me feel better when I am.

I have been walking to and from work, which gives me time to let my body get used to the idea of being there, and to unwind a bit on the way home, so that when I get here I can make choices that will make me feel good.  I have been selecting my Most Important Things, which helps me to focus on what is, well, the most important thing each day. I try to choose 3 and they may include chores, always include my sadhana, and something else that is pleasant.  I have to recharge with positive, affirming, joyful activities.  Sometimes that does mean I lie in bed and watch Supernatural!  Sometimes it means going on a konmari binge and getting rid of things that no longer serve me, keeping only things that spark joy.  Sometimes it means snuggling Devo, or going swimming, writing a letter, or painting!  Last weekend, I took myself on a solo hike to the top of a (small) mountain, where I sat and meditated/soaked up the sun, listened to nature, enjoyed the breeze and tuned in to my inner voice.   I got some Vitamin D and some insights into life and happiness…but that’s a tale for another time.

I suppose this is what is meant by self-care.  I have spent a lot of time trying to determine what that means to me, and this is helping me to get there.  Instead of focusing on the negative or draining things in my life, I concentrate on the things that bring me joy and make me feel energized.  For the past week, I’ve been doing these things in the evening or even throughout the day, but I would like to have more time in the morning to start my day off with an important thing, or even setting the things for the the day.  Right now, I set those things the night before, or when I get to work, or as I’m brushing my teeth, but I’d like to be more intentional about it.  Other than my sadhana (my practice, which involves at least 7 minutes of vinyasa yoga, 7 minutes of study and 7 minutes of another practice, which for me generally means meditation or doing a Tarot reading), my most important things are choices.  In the midst of a truly exhausting and unhappy situation that takes up half my waking hours, I am choosing toward love, light and life.  I am choosing to stay as positive as possible.  That requires a lot of energy, but this kind of energy is regenerative.  If like breeds like, I want my efforts at joy and harmony to create joy and harmony.

In the meantime, I definitely need more nature walks in my life.

Do you have any daily practices that help you recharge?