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? 

 

My Favorite Smoothies

From the Nutribullet cookbook

I’ve really stepped up my smoothie game since I got a NutriBullet for Christmas. Not only is it the best thing since sliced gluten free vegan bread, it comes with a cookbook packed with delicious smoothie recipes. They’re not paying me to write this, I just love it a lot. (If they’re reading this and want to pay me, I’m on board.)

The cookbook is hilarious. It’s full of photos of smiling, active, elderly, white, straight couples enjoying life. It’s divided into sections based on medical or health conditions, with recipes designed to be nutritive and healing. My favorites are the anti-inflammation, digestion and detox sections, since I am plagued by tummy troubles and inflammation (damn you, leaky gut syndrome!).

Below are recipes for 3 of my favorite smoothies (or “blasts,” as NutriBullet calls them). Just add all the ingredients to your blending machine of choice and pulverize them into delicious health food beverages. I didn’t include amounts of liquid. If you want thicker smoothies, use less liquid, and vice versa. I usually drink mine in the car on the way to work and prefer them to be less viscous, so I add max liquid. Enjoy!

Pink Detox Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & HowlPink Detox Blast

Beets and celery are great for a gently detoxing the digestive system, the avocado adds healthy fats and creaminess, and coconut oil is great for your gut. The apple gives you a nice dose of fiber and strawberries are healthy and delicious. This drink’s gorgeous pink color puts a smile on my face, making this my current favorite smoothie. 

1/4 Medium Avocado

1 Stalk Celery

1/2 Strawberries (Cherries are also great)

1/2 Beet

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil

1/2 Apple (Granny Smith is my favorite)

3 Ice Cubes

Coconut Water (I often use water instead)

Belly Bloat Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & Howl

Belly Bloat Blast

The bromelain in pineapple and curcumin in turmeric help to fight inflammation, while the celery and ginger aid in digestion. This “blast” is light and bright and wakes me right up. 

1 Handful Kale (or Spinach)

1 Cup Pineapple

1/2 Inch Ginger

1/2 Stalk Celery

1/2 Lemon, juiced

1/2 Inch Turmeric (dried also works but fresh tastes better!)

Coconut Water (again, I almost always use water)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & Howl

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (or Cherries) Blast

This one is delicious and feels like having dessert for breakfast. Instead of the protein blend in the recipe, I use Orgain Chocolate Protein Powder. 

1 Handful Spinach

6 Strawberries (or cherries)

2 teaspoons Raw Cacao Powder (or nibs)

1/4 Beet

1 Tablespoon SuperFood Protein Blend

1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Almond Milk

 

You can find a ton of recipes on the NutriLiving website…or wait for me to pare it down for you. 😉

 

 

Spring (Capsule) is Here!

The last weeks of winter were unseasonably warm, with temperatures climbing into the 80s. This had me nervous about what spring would be like this year. Should I put all my mid-temp clothes away or keep the lightweight sweaters and jeans out? Do I just skip straight to my summer clothes?

In the end, I decided to take my own advice and make my Spring Capsule basically a long transition into Summer Capsule. I pulled a lot of summer clothes in addition to lighter shirts and sweaters (lighter in weight and color). I’ve kept in all my jeans and added the very pale blue ones, which will only be worn if I can squeeze into them! I stored my heavy and dark-colored sweaters, flannel-lined leggings, thicker dresses and shirts, and put away my knee-high boots. I’m left with more clothes than I’d like (48 pieces shown below!), including some I haven’t worn in over a year but haven’t gotten rid of yet; this is their last chance at getting worn before I ditch them. My plan is to continue to store clothes as the weather gets hotter, and add in the few summer pieces I’ve kept out. Here’s what I’ve got:
Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Light Sweaters | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Light Sweaters | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Outfits | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Dresses | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Bottoms | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Handmade | Whisper & Howl

These 2 are handmade by me!

There are a few pieces I’d like to add. However, I’m dedicated to making my clothes this year rather than purchasing them, with the exception of magical thrift store finds. On my sewing/thrifting list:

  • Palazzo pants
  • Shorts (sewn or cut off from thrifted jeans)
  • T shirts (Grainline’s Lark pattern is my jam, and I also love their Scout and Hemlock shirts)
  • 2 sundresses
  • 2+ Inari Tee Shirt Dresses (a Named Clothing pattern)
  • A light-weight Laurel dress

I know, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s most likely that I will have 2-3 of these things done before the Summer Solstice, but I have plenty of things to wear (too much, really) and can be patient.

Stay tuned for how I incorporate sewing into my capsule planning.

If you have a capsule, I’d love to know more about it!

3 Ways to Ring in Spring!

Happy Spring Equinox!

I’m 6 months into my Full Witch year, and it is going great. I’ve deepened my understanding and love of yoga and have discovered tantra and bhakti, gone wild for chanting, and finally found a translation of the Bhagavad Gita that I totally get. I’ve been learning more about astrology, which is also a huge part of the yogic tradition, and getting in touch with cycles, seasons, nature and the weather.

I’m learning more about rituals and celebrations in other pagan traditions, too, and while I’m still not into any organized religions, it is lovely to mark the changing of seasons knowing that across the world others are doing the same thing. Nature is something that unifies us all and reminds us that we are part of something greater and more powerful than all of the little moving pieces in our lives lead us to falsely believe.

So, to remind us of our inter-connectedness with each other and the world around and inside of us–call it the Universe, Goddess, God, Ostara, Nature, Spirit, whatever you feel–here are 3 simple things you can do to remember the end of Winter and beginning of SPRING!!!

Prepare Your Garden

It’s been unseasonably warm in North Carolina the past couple of weeks but with a hard frost this weekend, I’ve been holding off on starting my garden. Of course, this is about more than just prepping a garden bed. Spring Equinox holidays celebrate rebirth and renewal! As you prepare the soil, consider that you are making a bed in which seeds will sprout and grow, providing beauty, food, scent, color and joy for months to come. If you are ready to plant, say a little prayer to bless each seed. Garden with intention! Consider planting medicinal herbs and flowers such as lavender, calendula and chamomile.

PREPARE YOUR GARDEN, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

 

Make Pickles

All Winter long we roast and stew our vegetables until they are soft (and delicious). Are you ready for a little crunch? Try making refrigerator pickles! You can really pickle almost anything, with daring blends of herbs and spices. The color and bite will wake up your mouth, revitalizing your senses. Here are 4 recipes to try (links below the pictures):

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

  • Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles from The Kitchn

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

 

Dance Naked

Dance Naked, 3 Ways To Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Right?!

 

**Fun Fact: Did you know that the Vernal (Spring) Equinox marks the time when the Earth’s equator is at a 90 degree angle to the Sun, not when day and night are equal? I didn’t! That event occurs a few days before the Equinox (The Equinox Isn’t What You Think It Is).  The 2016 Spring Equinox is on Sunday, March 20th in the Northern Hemisphere.**

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!

 

 

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board Pt. 1

Curating Colors for a CApsule Wardrobe

I promised to document my process for creating a capsule wardrobe, so here goes! My process has evolved over the last year and I’ve collected elements from several different blogs that I incorporate as I plan what I will be wearing for 3 month chunks. Now, I like to start by creating a mood board for the upcoming season. I use Pinterest for this but if you prefer analog an actual bulletin board, sketchbook or journal would be a lovely way to collect images that illustrate your capsule’s mood.

I started by culling images from my Art and/or Craft board. I chose images that just felt right. It was an intuitive process and as you can see below, a particular color story and design elements naturally coalesced.

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Artwork by Tracie Cheng, Anne Siems, and Ann Moore

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Art by Sam Kalda, Gustav Klimt, and Mateja Kovac

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Collage by Geninne, Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl, Laila Duran photo

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Francoise Hardy, Greige Design, unknown print

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Moroccan ceramics, Beth Nicholas painting, unknown print

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Art by Babeth Lafon, Svabhu Kohli, Stella Hultburg

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Lorraine Lawson painting, photographs unknown

Spring Capsule Planning: Mood Board, on Whisper & Howl

Romy Northover ceramics, photograph unknown

I like creating a mood board because it helps me to figure out what I like by noticing what I am drawn to. You can see from the images that I am drawn to the colors of stormy seas and spring flowers, faded dreamy afternoons and ripe, juicy fruits. I love deep greens, blues and reds; washed out versions of those same colors; sweet peaches and yellows; black and white, pink and purple. These are the colors I am naturally drawn to at this moment in my life, when I think about spring. These are the colors I will use in my capsule wardrobe as I shop through my own closet and plan out my sewing projects.

Next time I’ll share the other elements of my mood board: silhouette and style.

What speaks of spring to you? Are there any quintessential spring images, colors or moods for you?

 

Capsule Wardrobe Tips

One Year later…

Capsule Wardrobe Tips

Looking busy and important at work in my Laurel Tunic (handmade by me!)

It’s been a year since I learned about capsule wardrobes. My first capsule wardrobe was Spring 2015, and I still love doing it. I enjoy the seasonal ritual of planning a wardrobe, switching out my clothes, and having a new look. In honor of my anniversary, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned that can help you in creating capsule wardrobes that you love.

Capsule Tip #1: Know your climate

It’s all well and good to plan a wardrobe to last a whole 3-month season, but what if that season has drastically varying temperatures? I was about halfway through spring last year when I realized that it was getting HOT. I actually kept at it until the Summer Solstice, but I was very uncomfortable for several weeks. This year, I will have to put more thought into planning a wardrobe with pieces that can carry me from chilly March through scorching June. I’m thinking of versatile pieces that can be layered and worn with or without tights, leggings, jackets, and sweatshirts, as well as including some items like shorts that I won’t wear for the first half of the season, but will need later on.

Capsule Tip #2: transition slowly

Along the same lines, in December I learned that a slow transition in the Winter Capsule was more comfortable than switching everything out immediately. December is mild in North Carolina, much more like fall than winter. I spent a few weeks switching lighter items out for warmer ones as the weather cooled off. We have actually had a pretty mild winter here and I could probably have gotten away with my Fall Capsule plus warm socks and layers, but I was ready for an aesthetic change, too.

Capsule Tip #3: Utilize versatile pieces and accessories

I don’t at all mind wearing the same dress once a week now that I have a more cohesive wardrobe. I can mix it up by wearing different tights/leggings/shoes/jewelry and layering pieces and make a whole new outfit. Having layering pieces, basics and accessories really extends a wardrobe. For instance, I sewed up a cropped sweatshirt to go over my dresses and suddenly it’s like I have 4 new skirts! I can also wear a cardigan or blazer over the same dresses, which creates new looks that have different vibes (work or weekend, for example). Of course, I mostly just wear jeans and sweaters but the options are there!

I’m starting to think about my Spring 2016 capsule now and will be sharing more about my process in the next few weeks. Have you started a capsule? Does it seem daunting, or wonderful? What would you like help with?

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?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

Give Your Leather Some Love

How to Clean and Polish leather shoes

As an aspiring minimalist, poor-ish person and collector of boots, I have learned to take care of my leather shoes. Otherwise, they will fall apart. Think about it: leather is skin, too. It needs to be cleaned, moisturized and protected in order to stay supple and flexible and to retain its luster. Without regular care, shoes will dry out and crack. I’ve brought dusty, dull shooties back to life with a flannel cloth and some Kiwi soap. I’ve rescued Frye boots from eBay and made them shine with clear polish, and extended their life with a trip to the cobbler. I intend to extend the life of my favorite ankle boots until I can afford an upgrade, and I’d love to show you how.

Before

Before – The clogs wanted some nurturing and the booties were in dire shape.

YOu will need:

  • A soft cloth
  • Kiwi saddle soap
  • A shoe brush (optional)
  • Clear shoe polish (optional)
  • Weatherproofing spray (optional)

instructions:

  1. Clean shoes with a damp cloth.
  2. Pop open the Kiwi soap. Rub the surface of the soap with a wet cloth to create a lather.
  3. Rub this delightful rich later all over your shoes with the cloth. The leather will get darker since it’s wet. Don’t worry, it will lighten back up as it dries. Of course, if the leather is dried out then it will take on a deeper, richer color due to the moisturizing agents in the soap.
  4. Let shoes dry. Repeat the above if you’d like.
  5. Buff dry shoes with a dry, soft cloth. They will start to look buttery and have a delightful sheen.
  6. Optional: protect shoes with weatherproofing spray and/or polish them up. I like to use a clear polish.
  7. Enjoy your beautiful “new” shoes!
Give Your Leather Some Love! How to take care of your shoes to extend their life and make them glow | Whisper & Howl #leather #kiwisoap #saddle #whisperandhowl #whisper&howl #cleaning #shoes

After – Can you tell how much better the clogs look? The booties didn’t really change but the oiled nubuck of the clogs is so much richer! I also scraped off the labels, which had shifted and left sticky residue under my heels.

This process can be done on any of your leather goods. My favorite bag desperately needs some attention.

Do you have any tips for taking care of clothing?