On Beauty Pt. 2

On Beauty Pt. 2

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this blog should be. Mercury has been in retrograde, which for me is a very powerful time of revisiting and revising ideas and projects, and it this particular project has been swirling around in my mind. Maybe I got caught up in wanting to draw readers in with hooks like numbered lists and expert advice, but that’s not really my style. I’m not an expert on anything, really, just a soul in a body moving through this problematic world, learning what works and doesn’t work for me and my loved ones, hopefully gaining insight that can one day be described as “wisdom.” With that in mind, I thought I would just share some thoughts and feelings I have about beauty and acceptance and being a fucking radical badass woman, which is basically my life goal.

My friend and colleague recently described herself as a “recovering perfectionist.” I love this phrase. It brings to mind addiction and how recovery is actually a lifetime of work and maintenance. I have been talking about this a lot with my friends in terms of chronic anxiety and depression that so many of us deal with, about how depression is a disease which, like diabetes, requires constant attention and care. I am definitely a perfectionist (it goes along with the anxiety and depression, for sure). It’s the “not good enough” thing I’ve mentioned before. It’s the “but my life isn’t bad enough to even feel this way” thing. It’s the whole concept of “enough” and self-worth and living up to standards that are unattainable because they are constructed by society or the poor, fragile ego, to keep us down.

For me, this manifests most obviously as the “not pretty enough” construct. At some point in my life (probably from a very young age–I mean, I had ~75 Barbies!), bought into the unrealistic, oppressive standards of beauty, especially what “men” find “attractive” (using quotes here because I believe that real live men find all kinds of people beautiful, and because I have problems with the word “attractive”). These standards are forced on our culture by an oppressive, restrictive patriarchal system that actually encourages and commodifies our feelings of worthlessness. The system wants us to waste time and energy feeling shitty so that we’ll waste more time and energy and especially money on trying to correct our perceived flaws by primping and exercising and buying diet books and viewing ourselves as projects, not people. Imagine what we women (and men) could accomplish if we accepted ourselves as beautiful, flawed, dynamic creatures and focused our energy and resources on creating a better world, for instance, or upending the status quo!

By buying into this garbage, I have turned myself into a work-in-progress that will never meet accepted American cultural standards of beauty. Most of us won’t. They are unhealthy, unrealistic, and extremely limiting ideals. How much energy have I wasted on feeling ugly and unlovable because I’m bloated or I have a soft and delicate (read: weak) jawline, or I’m breaking out or my jeans are uncomfortably tight? How often do I feel bad about my neck, or get bummed out because I don’t look like all the women on American TV (thin, gorgeous, great damn hair, makeup on even in bed)? How much time have I spent obsessing about my blackheads, imperceptible to anyone but me as I get up really close to the mirror and enter a fugue state wherein I attempt to extract them all with my fingernails (which by the way, not great for either skin or posture)? So. Much. Time.

Another question, then: What could I accomplish if this energy was rerouted into feeling fucking fantastic? Beautiful, powerful, amazing? Helping others? Writing my children’s book? Doing yoga? Think of the possibilities!

Mostly, I’d like to not think about “being pretty” anymore. I’d like to be non-obsessive about my looks. I’d love to stop worrying over whether men find me attractive.

Now, let me unpack my baggage about the word “attractive,” because I have a lot of issues around this word. I am a very verbal person and the meaning of words is important to me. This one totally bums me out. The word “attractive” has become associated (in my mind, at least) with purely visual attraction. It is melded inextricably with the above-stated beauty standards. It brings to mine commodification, an “attractive deal,” a selling-point.  It makes my anxiety bust out full force. Am I attractive? I’m not attractive! No one is attracted to me! Bahhhhhhhh! How can I be more attractive?!?! Well…fuck that.

How about this: I want to be “magnetic.” I want people to be drawn to me because of my spirit, talent, kindness, warmth, personality. If that sounds like a brag, then…I’m okay with that. I think about my incredible coven of women-friends, who are all magical, magnetic humans. I want to be around them all the time because of attributes like those, because they are wise, friendly, positive, gifted, radiant beings. They are all gorgeous to me, and almost none of them fit the typical standard of beauty. I want to be that. I probably am that, since they want to hang out with me, too, but I want to believe that about myself.

I have come to an understanding that the path to self-love is through self-acceptance. I am throwing off the burden of being “attractive” and allowing myself to just BE. How radical is that?! I will not conform! I will just BE. A human person with thoughts and feelings and a body that does wonderful things for me, living in this tough, beautiful world, collecting insights that might one day be called wisdom.

That’s all. <3

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!

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? 

 

Adventures in Austerity: This is Happening!

Spending Fast Guidelines | Whisper & Howl

Not Spending = Saving, right?

This is happening! I embarked on an Adventure in Austerity (not to be confused with a Spending Fast, which is a trademarked phrase created by the brilliant Anna Newell Jones of And Then We Saved)!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to reexamine my spending habits and jump-start my savings. I struggled with the decision to freeze my discretionary spending, because it’s hard. It means spending money only on essentials and exercising a lot of restraint. I realized it would be easier to start if I took a month to prepare by making a list of things I wanted (like new Chelsea boots and a harmonium) and upcoming expenses throughout the year (yoga insurance renewal, contacts). I evaluated the “wants” and chose a few things to purchase, and I planned out the upcoming expenses so I’d remember to budget for them. I think this really helped, and not just because I now have a nice pair of boots that I wear almost every day and a harmonium I play every night. The process of prioritizing and scheduling things out was useful.

Because I’ve been living partially on savings and my (very low interest) credit card for the last 5 months, my bank accounts are basically down to $0. I’m starting from scratch here, but that’s okay. I just got my first paycheck from my new full time job and I am so excited to put a big chunk of it into savings!

It also helped to set goals.

My Savings Goals

  1. Get my Emergency Savings back to $1000. It has pained me to watch this dwindle. I had to dip into it for essentials each month that I was underemployed, and at this point it is down to the minimum account balance requirement: $25. Ouch.
  2. Pay off credit card debt. At the moment, this is at an all-time, scary high of $2100. I didn’t touch the thing in February (another reason my Emergency Savings is gone). In the interest of full disclosure, I might make one final purchase on it before laying it to rest for the next 6 months: $200 plane tickets to Iceland. Which brings me to my next goal…
  3. Save up for birthday trip to Iceland. Yes, my priorities could be better. No, I am not going to reconsider. This, also, is happening.
  4. Build 3-6 months of Emergency Savings. This is 3-6 months of what I would need to live off of if I had absolutely no income. I’m estimating that 3 months would be about $4500.
  5. Build General Savings, or save up for more specific goals (buy a house?! Is that crazy?!).

My PLan

  1. Don’t increase spending just because income has increased. In order to save money, I have to stick only to planned purchases. This means budgeting based on my anticipated needs rather than leaving in extra “just in case” cushioning. Living on less these last few months has helped me to trim some fat from my budget. For instance, I’ve reduced my food budget by nearly half since this time last year. I’ve also cut way back on miscellaneous personal items like toiletries, and I rarely buy clothes or home-goods. Now I have a better idea of what I need to budget for based on my needs, not my desires, and on m
  2. Set saving priorities–and get excited about them! See above for goals.
  3. Set spending priorities. Determine needs v. wants. I use the word “needs” loosely to define things I am not willing to part with, such as sewing club, acupuncture, and Netflix.
  4. Shop with intention. Have a plan! Make lists! Stay on task!
  5. Think before purchasing. Take a moment. Count to 10. Breathe deeply.
  6. Don’t shop when hungry or stressed
  7. Make do and mend, reuse creatively, make things, use what you already have, borrow from friends, and find free things to do!
  8. Think of this as an ADVENTURE!

THIS IS HAPPENING! I started March 1st. I have paid for gas and my sewing classes (needs) but have refrained from buying some fantastic rayon-cotton blend jersey fabric that is on sale and would look gorgeous as a tee shirt dress, but that is categorically not a need. I have plenty of sewing projects lined up to keep me busy for months, and I already own the fabric! It’s the little victories, you guys.

How do you feel about saving? Is it easy or difficult, or have you never considered the fact that you’re 31 and have $40 in your Simple IRA account?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

I am Trying to Save Money and It is Hard

Spending Fast | Whisper  Howl  #spendingfast #saving #whisperandhowl #bujo #bulletjournal

In the last couple of years, I’ve realized the utter necessity of saving money. I have kept up a budget for nearly 2 years; have maintained an Emergency Savings fund at around $1000; and I’ve finally got an IRA. These things are all very empowering and have definitely reduced some money-stress. A good witch should be in control of her finances! However, I have not  been able to increase my general savings or save up for any items or experiences I crave, such as an overseas trip or a harmonium. Since my position (and hours, and pay) was reduced to part time in October, I’ve been trying to earn a few extra bucks here and there while searching for full time work in my field. I’ve also been using my credit card much more often than I’d like–I’d love to never use it at all–and utilizing my Emergency Savings fund for Important Things like rent and utilities, when needed.

In December it occurred to me that I should cut way down on my spending, which to be fair was already moderate, and work on building my savings and setting money aside for goals like travel. To that end, I’ve been attempting a Spending Fast. I say attempting because so far, I’m not great at it. Actually, I’m not doing a Spending Fast so much as I am trying to live within my significantly reduced means.

Enter the Spending Fast, created by Anna from And Then We Saved, which as you can imagine is a blog about saving money. She used the system to pay off debt. I just need to get through. I do think, though, that it’s easier to save with a plan (saying “I’m on a Spending Fast!” feels nicer than “I’m broke.”) and that if I can do this then I actually could pay off this new credit card debt and possibly (gasp!) save some money.

The system is simple:

Don’t spend money on anything that you don’t categorize as a Need. If you look at her list, you can see that she used fantastic resolve in eliminating “wants.” My list, however, includes such “needs” as sewing classes, which I love more than anything and refuse to give up (plus I’d lose my spot, which I waited to get for a whole year!) and Netflix (justifiable since it saves me money on going out, I SWEAR). I’m also not giving up acupuncture. Nope.

See why I’m not great at this?

Some things are harder to give up than others. “Specialty food items” could be like, half my grocery budget if you consider my dietary restrictions and my penchant for expensive pickles. Fortunately, I developed a taste for kitchari last summer and lentils are cheap. It’s tough for me to avoid buying art supplies and fabric, but I stocked up on fabrics in advance and people have been giving me their old stashes (thank you!).

I’m basically coming in at the exact amount I’m making without adding anything to my normal budget categories such as “Mad Money” (for miscellaneous things), “Entertainment” and “Miscellaneous Personal” (for cosmetics, toiletries, candles, etc). I’m trying really hard not to buy “Books and Magazines” and to make all my “Gifts” from materials I already have (like that fabric stash). I am really interested, though, in trying to keep to this very low budget once I do find that elusive full time job, or more part time work. When my resources increase, can I apply that extra cash to my debt and savings?

I did an okay job of Fasting in December, but January was harder. I did not do well. I spent a lot of money on eating out and going to bars, which I don’t usually do. I got a new job (!) and bought myself some presents to celebrate (oops). For February, I should make a little more money because of my tax return and some extra babysitting gigs, but I also have a work trip to NYC and I went ahead and budgeted for dining out, which is inevitable, and added a little money to my Entertainment and Mad Money categories. I’d rather be realistic than pretend I’m Fasting and end up way over budget.

My plan now is to really, truly start paying off my credit card debt and building my savings from March 1st onward. I set some goals, which will help. It seems like my astrological forecast for this year has a lot to do with money and resources, too. I’m excited to finally save some money (and maybe take a big trip!). I’m going to buckle down, I swear. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Becoming a Morning Person: The Hard Choice

Becoming a Morning Person | Whisper & Howl | #whisper&howl #morning #sadhana #habits #willpower

Oh, is that what sunrise is?

I think it’s time to revisit my quest to become a Morning Person. It seems that my problem lies not in establishing a routine, having the right alarm clock, or lack of desire. My issue, which is applies to so many more things that this particular trial, is in making a choice.

I had a really good stretch of waking up at 7:30 and doing some ayurvedic cleansing practices, cooking breakfast, doing yoga and mantra, showering etc etc. It felt really nice to have this extra time to myself and I felt prepared for my day, relaxed and easy rather than already behind schedule, frantic and stressed. Those feelings were nice. I like them. I’d like to have that again.

Then, my Dad died. It has been much harder to get out of bed. This is not because I feel depressed or am overcome by sobbing (although the sobbing and anxiety has definitely popped up and I have taken a few mental health days here and there). I haven’t really analyzed what is driving me to hit the snooze alarm until now.

I spent this past weekend in Advanced Yoga Teacher Training studying the Bhagavad Gita. This is a text about karma, which means action. We discussed (and will continue to discuss, intensively) sadhana, or practice. Sadhana consists of the wonderful things we do in our daily yoga practice, including asana (the physical movement), mantra, self-study, meditation, and more. In order to develop a steady sadhana, one has to do it every day. This is…hard.

It’s hard to do something every day! It’s easy to get excited about a practice, especially one like asana that makes you feel fantastic. It’s tempting to dive into a practice whole-heartedly and with commitment. It is much, much harder to sustain a practice. It gets old. It gets stale, Excuses are made, alternative acts performed. We skip days. The practice falls away.

This is what I see happening time and again with my morning routine (and my sadhana, but that’s a different story). It’s not that I have grand plans for what to do with the extra time each morning. I don’t know if it would help to have a plan. What is hard for me is making the hard decision every day.

I love lazing in bed. I think my bed is divine. It’s soft, cozy, comfortable, and safe. I feel safe and nurtured and warm when I’m in bed. When I leave bed, I feel the rush of time, the pressure of commitments, the weight of emotions. I need nurturing, safety, support and comfort in my life. It is difficult to make the choice to climb out of the sweet womb of my bed into the chilly, harsh world–even on days when I wake up feeling great. Even when I am excited to go wherever it is I have to be. Even when it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

So, how do I make that choice? What will help me?

Here’s what I’m thinking.

1. Just do it

Oh, gods, that sounds terrible.

We talked this weekend about developing will. I’d never really thought of will as something to be developed. I thought, you either have it or you don’t. My willpower is weak, I thought. I’m just not born with the sort of willpower that creates successful, Type A, morning people.

This is not actually true. What I happen to be weaker in is will development, which I may have just made up. Now I’m thinking that I lack the willpower to develop will. That’s just a rabbit hole of thoughts that I am not trying to climb down right now.

Anyway, how do you develop will? By doing the thing you need to do. By doing it every day. By making the hard choice even though it is hard. By making the hard choice because it is hard. The things that are the best for us aren’t always the easiest. I’ve been told these things become easier with the doing. You get used to making the choice and to the wonderful consequences of making that choice. That’s what they say, anyway (“they” being my teachers and maybe also Lord Krishna).

2. find alternative ways to satisfy needs

I was just typing “making a plan doesn’t work for me,” but I think that’s a little lie. Making a plan may very well work wonders for me if I can just make the hard choice. I don’t, however, think that the plan will help me make the choice. I can review my lovely plans for morning time in my head for many minutes while I lie under my comforter and still choose to snooze for 10 minutes (6 times in a row, which really is not very healthy). But…it could also be that I’ve been going about this the wrong way.

Making a plan has been about finding things that I think would be great to do in the morning, like go for a run, do sadhana, and journal. These are, of course, totally great things, but are there better things?

Let’s look at my list of needs: comfort, support, safety, and nurturing. I also need order and relaxation (as opposed to being rushed, scattered and stressed). Some of those needs are satisfied by lounging as long as possible in the morning, but that behavior also helps to create the feelings of rushing and stress and scattered brain which I do not like at all. Are there alternative practices I can do in the morning that make me feel the way I want to (warm, comforted, rested, and safe)? Am I willing to find out if there are, and to create a lovely morning routine that would fulfill my needs? Could I use these practices as further incentive to make the hard choice, knowing that I can continue to feel lovely outside of my down-filled heaven?

I think so. I hope so. I’m going to try.

Do you have habits that required consistent practice in making a hard choice? Is there one in particular that you feel gave you strength to make more hard choices?