Show Me The Money 3

Good morning, Dear Reader. As we close out January, I wanted to follow up on our discussion on Bad Money Habits. If you remember, we are talking about “things we should let go of in 2022,” and Bad Money Habits made this list. I’ve already set the stage with this blog post and this one, too, so today, we close with a word about budgets.

Here’s the deal with budgets: They only work if your income matches or exceeds your expenses. So – you will either have to lower your costs, increase your income, or do both. For example, I make a pretty decent wage and can pay all my bills on my income from my full-time job. But even I will admit that if I wanted to increase my 401(K), pay off my debt early, or live a more lavish lifestyle, I’d need a side hustle. My side hustle in 2021 brought in about $7,000, and I used that to travel more and get my credit score in good shape. Now and then, I think of picking up a side hustle back in massage therapy just to move the needle in getting my car paid off early. Again, you do you. If reducing streaming services and reducing the number of meals eaten out gets you where you need to go, then great.

So today, I will share with you my experiences with budgets, finish up the series, and then send you off into the world to fend for yourself. I’m moving on to another topic on the list starting in February.

Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s talk budgets. Here are my three favorite systems:

1) The Minimalist Budget. This budget type, also known as the 50/20/30 budget, is one of the easiest if you like things to be simple. 50% of your income is used on “Essentials”, 20% is for “Savings” and 30% is for “Personal Spending”. I modified mine a bit when using this because food is, technically, ‘essential’ but I moved that into my ‘personal spending’ category instead. I don’t really know why I decided to do that; I just did. So mine was more like a 40/20/40 budget, but you get it. You can read more about the Minimalist Budget system here if you are really interested.

2) Simple Budget. This budget is probably the one we are all most familiar with. It’s where we put things into categories and then spend accordingly from the budget. It can get really granular if you let it – think narrowing your categories down to ‘sub levels’ – instead of just “Housing”, you decide to also set up categories fo ‘utilities’ and ‘maintenance’, etc., etc. Again, you do you, but that took too much time out of my month to reconcile my budget and drove me crazy. Now I have six categories: Housing, Auto, Debt, Emergency Fund, Short Term Savings, Personal Spending. (I lump all streaming services into housing because, well, I can.) Read more about a simple budget here.

3) Zero-Based Budget. This is most common in the business world but you can use it, too. It’s just as it sounds. If you bring in $2000 a month, you spend $2000 a month. The concept around this is that you don’t deprive yourself of the things you need for the sake of hoarding money. You break your budget into categories using either of the two methods above (or even one more complicated) – but you spend everything in every category (except savings, of course) by the end of the month (hence ‘zero’) where you start over again the next month. Pretty snazzy concept, especially if you want that new perfume, right? Read more about ZBBs here.

So, what do I use? A combination of all three. First, my savings equal 20%, but I break that into Long Term savings (retirement and a down payment on a house), Short Term savings (travel, car maintenance, new TV), and Emergency Savings. Yes – even though I have an emergency account of that recommended $1000, I still put 2% of my take-home pay into that fund each month because I’m trying to build up 3-6 months of living expenses just in case something goes terribly awry (This is put into a mutual fund. Some days are good. Some days are not. Lately, not so much. Anyway!) My long-term savings is pre-tax and taken right out of my paycheck (with a match from my employer, btw). So that’s even better. Also, if I get a bonus or ‘found’ money I use that for fun. Period. Pure, unadulterated fun. Life is too short, kids. #YOLO. Except for child support. My child support is actually his college fund. So, hopefully, you can get to the point you are not actually dependent on this to pay your day-to-day bills. My child support, if it ever actually shows up, goes directly into a custodial investment account. That way no one can ever say I spent it on manicures.

Next, I should mention a bit about that zero-based budget thing. If you have money left in your categories at the end of the month, the idea is that you spend it – preferably in that category. Example: You have $10 left in your ‘housing’ category. Reduce your housing debt by making an additional payment of $10. I, however, do it a tad bit differently (have you caught on that I don’t like to follow someone else’s rules 100% of the time? It’s why I can never complete #75Hard. I hate rules.) Anyway, here’s what I do: I pool all the money I have left in each category into one place. I use 50% to reduce debt. I use the other 50% for fun. You gotta have some fun, kids. Ain’t even gonna lie: I’m a sucker for day spas, good wine, and road trips. I sometimes will buy ‘things’ but as a minimalist, I really like experiences more. This is why I don’t buy a lot of clothes and shit. I could buy a big-ass TV…but frankly, I sit on my ass all day. I don’t need another reason to continue that after 5 pm.

One thing I also recommend: Bank at a Credit Union. At most CUs, you can make sub-accounts for all these categories (and even name them! How fun!). My paycheck is direct-deposited into my main account. I’ve set up auto-transfers the day after each pay period, and POOF! – money is magically dispersed in the categories. I pay my bills out of my checking or with my credit card and then transfer the funds from the category to cover the expenses. That’s also beneficial because it forces me to look at my accounts daily to make sure some imaginary man didn’t spend it on a new guitar or porn without my knowledge. (Nothing at all against guitars…or porn, for that matter…I just like to be the one to buy them, you know?)

So, there you have it, kids. I’m happy to sit down with you and help you sort this out if you are local. I’ll pretty much do anything for a free cup of coffee. If you are not local – check with your local credit union to see if they have someone fancy there, like a financial wellness specialist, who can help you.

Even though there is nothing earth-shattering today, I want to leave you with this song I dug up from the vault. Has absolutely zero to do with today’s post, but it reminds me of Webster County summers where’d I’d play this on repeat FROM MY CASSETTE DECK as I cruised through Sonic for my Diet Cherry Limeaid. If you don’t know what that is – I’m sad for you. Very, very sad.

Road trips, bridges, and love.

Good morning, Dear Reader. I’m closing out a big weekend of self-care like I haven’t had in a very long time. Friday night started with indulging in Season 3 of the Netflix hit, You. And Saturday, as I promised in my last post, I hit the road about 8 am Saturday in 16-degree temps to start completing one of my 2022 bucket list items: See all four of the covered bridges in Missouri. Today is Sunday, and I’m closing the weekend with a pedicure, a massage, and (fingers crossed) hugs from two of my favorite humans.

Thanks, “What The Forecast” app.

The road trip kicked off perfectly. After dropping $50 worth of petro into the subbie, I set out with my thermos of coffee with cream, road atlas, ice scraper, and a small cooler of snacks. This trip did not disappoint in many ways.

Sadly, not a Milk Dud in sight.

First, no one was out – except about a dozen of Missouri’s Highway Patrol Officers. The sky was clear, and although it was cold, the weather was great.

Secondly, Dollar General’s were not in short supply, and we all know how much I loves me sum DG. I hit two of them just for the sheer fun of it.

Lastly, breakfast was terrific. Road trip breakfast rules really need their own post, but suffice it to say, I was all set after a bit of ‘the Trucker’s skillet’ in Mountain Grove. My belly was full and I wasn’t planning on any more significant stops.

I headed east from my hometown and braved Hwy 60 E to Hwy 34 N. That was “fun”. Hwy 34 is the kind of road most definitely designed by a drunk toddler and is littered with tiny country homes proudly displaying the confederate flag. In addition, the inhabitants of these rural counties clearly have not received the memo (or TPS reports or whatever) stating that Trump lost the last election, as witnessed by the tremendous amount of Trump/Pence 2020 signs still present in just about every single yard. In other words, it was the kind of trip that made me a bit uneasy without a former law enforcement officer and his 9 mm Glock 19 as I drove around in my little liberal-hippie foreign car, if you know what I mean. Oh well. It wasn’t like I was planning to buy a home there. I was just off to see a bridge. And I did. And it was lovely. And I have three more to go.

Of course, you didn’t come here to read about my little road trip, but it is a nice little setup for today because, for the journey, I prepared a bunch of new playlists. And that windshield time and those tunes brought up so much emotion that I couldn’t help but form multiple blog posts in my brain as I listened to the likes of Ben Rector, Depeche Mode, Taylor Swift, and the Drive-By Truckers. Yes – my taste in music is a bit eclectic, but that’s what keeps y’all guessin’, now dudn’t it? (Take that accent, Shannon County.)

So what were you thinking about? you ask. Well, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m about to share.

The topic today is LOVE. More specifically…falling and being…in it.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

–Maya Angelou

Yes, I know. I know. I had sworn this topic (and feeling) off in August 2020. But it just keeps gnawing at me, and here’s a little secret: I’m a bit of a romantic (despite my hostility toward Valentine’s Day.) Plus, over three days, I’ve had three conversations with three different people who have, well, been a little square with me about my fear of falling in love again. I pondered the take-aways from each conversation and thought maybe we could rest here on the topic together today. Is that okay? (I hope you nodded your head ‘cuz I’m going there.) Ready? Got that drink? Here’s the advice I’ve received lately. I hope it helps you today, Dear Reader.

1) Might as well be all in. If I must cite my source, I have Amanda to thank for this one. Her point was: If you are all in, you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. If you are going to be in love, then love unabashedly! If you commit to being ALL IN, you might be surprised by how much the Universe responds to that. And by ‘you,’ I mean ‘me .’ But it might apply to you—[Shrug].

2) Stop thinking in terms of the ‘Worse case scenario.’ This one comes from a friend who has experience in the area of failed relationships, and yet remains positive. This dude isn’t a stranger to the ‘love gone wrong’ scene. He simply doesn’t dwell on it as I do. I don’t remember his exact words, per se, but I do remember he said, “You’re kinda jaded…” blah, blah, blah. I took a deep breath (as I tend to do when people call me on my shit….) but instead of getting defensive…I agreed with him. I also asked him to replace ‘jaded’ with ‘cautiously optimistic’ and promised to stop quoting Taylor Swift (“It’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames .”)

3) Red is bad. Green is good. Thank Miranda for this nugget. And we are talking about flags here with the red and green references. To be clear: flaws and imperfection are entirely different from red flags. But I’ve spent so much time in therapy making sure I know how to recognize red flags that I haven’t paid enough attention to the green flags right in front of me. What are green flags? In my recent experience, green flags = chairs that get pulled out, coats that get held when you are slipping them on, doors held open, texts to let you know he’s home safely, inclusion in decisions, out-of-the-blue calls to remind you that you are beautiful…I could go on. The world is enveloped in a mist of green these days. And it is so fucking refreshing.

4) Don’t be around anyone who makes you believe you are hard to love. In August, my therapist said this, and it’s just now sinking in. I was with someone for years who constantly asked me, “What is wrong with you?” (enunciating each word while dramatically rolling his eyes). The sad part is, I started to believe that there must be so many things wrong with me or he wouldn’t be asking me that all the time. Right? Wrong. If someone ever does this to you, please take my advice based on the hundreds of dollars I spent on therapy. Put on your shoes. Walk out. Call an Uber if you have to, but get the fuck out of there. It. Does. Not. Get. Better.

5) The key to long-lasting love is finding someone whose crazy matches your crazy. I used ‘crazy’ lightly here. I have a son on the autism spectrum, and I’ve become tolerant of particular quirks. This tolerance has proven to be a great trait in a mother and as a dating woman. So what if, when you pack an overnight bag, you pack everything in threes? Okay [Shrug]. You only like a specific type of bacon. Okay. You only buy black underwear. Okay. You have one side of the couch that is your favorite, and I can see you twitch a little when I sit there. Okay. It’s an oversized couch. I can sit in another spot. Trust me…you haven’t even scraped the surface for me on ‘weird quirks’. Again, after all the money spent in therapy, I would hope that I’ve learned the difference between quirky and fucking batshit crazy. Batshit crazy is leaving bullets on a washing machine while sending text messages about shots to the brain and placing recording devices around the home while secretly putting location tracking apps on cells phones. So, yeah, no. Check the locks three times, and wash your laundry daily. Your quirks aren’t crazy to me. In fact…your quirks don’t even phase me. I find them endearing.

So, bringing it back to love and the point of all of this. You can live your life afraid of falling back in love – all the while missing out on some great people & experiences- or you can be all in. Hey! Here’s a novel idea for you: You can be both afraid and open simultaneously. After all, to quote Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the movie Bounce, “It’s not brave if you aren’t scared“. So…jump in with both feet or get off the damn diving board. Ain’t nobody got time for your wishy-washy bullshit. (Again…by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’.)

I’m leaving you today with another Taylor Swift song. (Trust me, no one wants me out of the phase more than I). BUT I heard it today, and admittedly, it was the platform of today’s post. It’s one of those songs that spoke to me, and I remember thinking, “My God. That’s me in that song.” (“I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break…burn…and end…”) Except for me…it wasn’t a cafe on a Wednesday…more like a bar & grill on a Saturday…but you’ll catch the reference if you try hard enough.

Peace out, Dear Reader. I leave you with a few questions to ponder: Was ‘the one who got away’ actually a blessing in disguise? Are you ready for the past to be in the past? Are you prepared to step out of your comfort zone and be all in? Do tell. I really want you to know I’m rooting for you.

And remember, if you liked this blog and think others might, too, then share the love on social media. Please and thank you!

Cold Weather, Melancholia, and Taylor Swift

It’s finally cold, Dear Reader, here in the Ozarks. I mean, not cold by the standards of some. I receive updates via text message from my friends in Massachusetts and upper Illinois and trust me, they are freezing their asses off up there. But for me…for SOMO…it is cold. Very. Very. Cold.

I’m not crazy about the cold. Truth is, I’m not crazy about the heat, either. Where can I live so that I’m within a temperature range of 45-75 degrees all year long? Riddle me that, Dear Reader.

I get cranky when I can’t get outside. About three months ago, I turned my bedroom walk-in closet into my work-from-home office, displacing all my clothing and shoes. And while I do love having my little dedicated ‘space’, I’m, literally, in one room of my house for two-thirds of the day on most days. It can be a bit stifling – especially when I can’t get out of the house because it’s freakin’ cold.

I keep thinking about a post I made a few months back about changing our perspective and how even the slightest change can make a big difference. I’ve been in a funk for almost two solid days, and I’m trying to determine how I can drag myself out of it, or at a bare minimum, stop swearing under my breath each time an email comes in, or a text from my ex is received. As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m not an expert on this stuff – I’m merely a semi-infamous blogger – but I do wonder about those who seem happy all the time. I mean…what the fuck is wrong with them?

I’m kidding, of course. I like happy people. I just want them happy…over there…when I’m cranky. And, I am truly grumpy today. I thought we were getting over this pandemic thing, little by little, and then they shut down the schools yesterday. My investment accounts are trending in the wrong direction, and I’m gaining weight. I’m kinda over this COVID thing. How about you?

Anyway, I feel I need to offer you some advice – especially if you feel like I’m feeling and you’ve read this far into the post.

So. Grab a drink. Settle in. Together, we will climb the wall of crabbiness to find our bliss on the other side. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to try the following:

1) Embrace the funk. Shit happens, right? This era of toxic positivity drives me bonkers. Transparently, I question the integrity of those who are peppy all the time. I mean, I’m not going to pack my bags and move into Funkville, but I will embrace it and practice some self-care whilst in its midst. Warm tea, Riopy YouTube channel, maybe a few Milkduds, and a hot bath tonight. I am not going to drink alcohol, watch anything starring Jake Gyllenhall, nor am I going to log into my investment accounts today.

2) Get out of a rut. I’m in my bedroom/office 80% of my day and night, as I mentioned. I have the weekend sans child, and therefore, I’m going on a road trip. My 2022 bucket list includes seeing all the covered bridges in Missouri. I plan to pack a little cooler, put on my gifted blue Make-A-Wish stocking cap and mittens, load up on coffee and sour cream & onion Pringles, and get out of the house this weekend – despite the temps – to find one of them. I’m amazed at how little I’ve seen of the state I’ve called ‘home’ for nearly 40 years of my life. I’ve lived in some beautiful places – western Mass being right up there at the top – but Missouri is also beautiful. And I have the time, so I should use it.

3) Move more. I have got to get my body moving. I hate the gym, so once the temperature reaches 45 today, I will bundle up and get out of here for 20 minutes. I’ll stretch tonight after I meditate – after that hot bath.

4) Manage exposure to social media and news. I was already tipping the edge of pissiness yesterday when I received the email about my son’s school closing for the remainder of the week due to the surge in pandemic-related illness. I joked with a friend that I was getting out of my bad mood by watching a documentary about serial killers. Whatever, right? You do you, but I’m not taking the bait and clicking that link to the article on Linkedin. And I am not watching the news.

5) Create something. I’m a nerd and have started painting rocks. It’s a real-life cult thing to do. I also took an introductory embroidery class last weekend at my favorite little local store owned by one of my favorite humans, The Local Bevy, so there’s an option. I also ordered a Paint By Numbers canvas that arrived last week. My point is: I plan to stay away from spreadsheets and books about analytics. I plan to stop reading books on how to be a better writer, mother, and friend. My brain is tired, and even though I’m not the most creative person on the planet, my soul craves simplicity and quietness. I plan to honor this.

So, how about you, Dear Reader? What are your tips for thwarting melancholia? How do you get out of a funk? Do tell….because I’m this sly [ ] of taking a Xanax and crawling back into bed today. The good news? Most funks are short-lived. A couple bad days here and there is really nothing to be too concerned about. When the bad days or negative feelings seem to be lasting longer and longer I hope you’ll reach out. I’m not an expert on depression or seasonal affective disorder, but I do understand them and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and listen.

I’m going against my nature here and giving you a not-so-very upbeat song. I cannot explain my infatuation with this song – which I find sad and haunting both simultaneously. I really can’t decide if I love it or hate it, but I can tell you this: I listen to it a lot. Truth time? It kinda breaks my heart. There is something heartbreaking about it, and I can’t put my finger on it. I’m overly worried about her scarf, and I wish the bastard would just give it back already. If I dig deep…it probably is a bit triggering. I mean, why did he have to tear her down and be mean when really all he needed to do is own the fact that he just didn’t want to be in a relationship with her anymore? Who knows. Maybe I’m overthinking this. It is a Taylor Swift song, after all. How deep can it really be?

PS…if you’re new here and want to know why I included a song at the end of this post, it’s a thing I do. You can read about it here.

PSS…if you are a fan of social media and you liked this post, feel free to share it with any of your friends who aren’t offended by the word “F*ck”.

Dance A Blue Streak In The Living Room

Oh my goodness, Dear Reader. What a 12-hour period of emotional challenges I’ve experienced. My son has had a runny nose and cough for a few days. No fever, eating like a typical nine-year-old, lots of energy despite his congestion, blah, blah, blah. I sent him to school and told him to wear his mask because…well…his ‘cold’. Last night through a series of my ‘investigative journalism’ skills, I realized he might have been exposed to COVID as early as Monday. I reach out to the school nurse and yes…he had been. We weren’t notified (by no fault of hers, I add) until last night. It’s funny what emotions can be called up during a time like this: Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Empathy. Guilt. You know, all the makings of a sleepless night.

I quickly canceled a coffee date with a girlfriend who, consequently, mentioned she had an extra home test if I needed it. Now, it’s important to mention this to set up today’s post. Because just one year ago I would have declined. I would have said “Ah. Thanks, that’s okay. I’m fine. It’s fine. We’re all fine.” even though I had just spent the last hour trying to find a testing center in the area that could get him in faster than next Monday. Even though I had called nearly every CVS in town to learn each store was out of home tests. Even though my anxiety levels were rising on the inside while I’m trying to calm my kid who is freaking the fuck out with his own anxiety. Even, despite all of that, I would have declined the help.

This time? I inhaled and surrendered to the absolute lack of control I had at that moment. I sighed and said, “You know, Steph? That would be so fucking fantastic.” (Even though she is a radio personality for the local Christian radio station she ignored my flavorful vernacular and said “I’m on it!”).

And this, folks, is where we find ourselves today. We find ourselves in a sea of self-awareness. We are swimming in the power of self-growth that can occur once you decide you no longer want to continue living in a manner that no longer supports you.

So, Folks. Grab a drink. Settle in. I’m going to share with you how I get out of a funk. Turns out it’s rather simple.

Music.

Every once in a while I’ll get asked why I include a song at the end of my posts. First of all, because I want to. But here’s a little back story on me: I majored in radio broadcasting because I wanted to be a famous Disc Jockey. Yup. I wanted to be the female version of Casey Kasem. I was going to slay “American Top 40” like no other female radio personality could and people from all over were going to ask for my autograph. I was going to be so good at my job that John Cusack was going to call me and ask me to be the music supervisor for every film he was in. (For the record [puns are fun!] I am, still, to this day the “Queen of the Mixtape”. Do not challenge me on this.)

However, thanks to a sourpuss Director of Programming at the college radio station who would not let me play Belinda Carlisle repeatedly and a follow-up, well-timed internship at a local station, I found out that most folks working in radio are cranky, practically starving and, working eight jobs to keep their utilities on in an apartment they shared with three other people. I figured I could accomplish that as an unknown writer, so I quickly changed my major to business and bought a journal. Nonetheless, I never have underestimated how influential and powerful a piece of music can be.

Case in point: This morning I was still extremely stressed over the events of the previous COVID-positive-maybe evening. I didn’t sleep well and had already popped half a Xanax by 5:30 am. Within a few minutes of grabbing my first cup of coffee, I received a text with a link to a playlist on Spotify. First song out of the gate…I was already in a better place. Who knew Duran Duran had so much power?

In December 2020 – after Spotify recapped my historic sad state of affairs by providing my ‘most played songs of 2020’ – I decided I would not listen to one single sad song in 2021. Nope. I put a moratorium on any song that reminded me of my ex (ironically…a musician)…our divorce…my anger and resentment toward him…none of that. That meant hardly any of Taylor Swift’s “Red” album, Pink or Jason Isabell for me in 2021. {Sad face}. I had a new rule: Only happy and empowering songs. I kicked off 2021 with this song and decided to compile a playlist for the year. You can find it here if you want to follow it. Happily, I report to you that my ‘most played songs of 2021’ recap was a lot more positive. I’m looking forward to 2022.

As we close today, you and I both know a lot of this blog is dedicated to discussing self-care. It practically was the entire theme of 2021. But I want to remind you this weekend that self-care is not only massages and chocolate cake (although, I do love me some chocolate cake…). Self-care is also about what you will and will not allow into your life. It’s identifying what you will and will not tolerate any longer. It’s about owning your power and committing to self-discovery and personal awareness. As I mentioned in this post, I’ve worked extremely hard over the last twelve months to overcome the trauma of my past and come back into my strength. I’ve realized what I deserve in my life and know that settling, to me, is akin to just giving up. In other words, I refuse to settle. I simply will not do it. And…I know you can do this, too. I absolutely believe in you, Dear Reader.

Now…with that said…I am going to leave you with this song. You’re going to click that link and think to yourself “What the f*ck?”. So here’s the story: When my son was a baby I worked from home and every Friday I’d ‘wear’ him in one of those baby hugging wrap-around thingys. He was, literally, ‘on my person’ all day long. At 5 pm, I’d unplug my headset, look down, and say “You ready for the weekend, baby boy?” and I’d click the link. To this day when that riff kicks off in my playlist, I see him look up from his tablet and wink at me. (He wanted me to include the link to this song today.)

Gotcha. You just got Rickrolled. I sure do love that kid.

Have a great weekend, my dear friends. And remember: No sad songs. Chin up. Tits out. You got this.

Drop me a link in the comments to your favorite fun song. Maybe I’ll start us a playlist. (Dang…I sure do miss those blank 90-minute cassettes, don’t you?)

And, for those of you reading this far, according to Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card home-test, the kiddo is negative for COVID. I can stop day drinking now.

Show Me The Money 2

Good evening, Dear Reader. And it is…a good evening, right? You slept in a bed under a roof. You could have had breakfast, or maybe you actually did. You put on clean clothes – maybe. You picked up your phone or logged into some device to read this. In other words, you had choices, and that’s my point. If you have a job that pays (in the U.S.A.) $17+ an hour, you are making a living wage. If you have a running vehicle, a place to live, and food in your belly, you have more than 80% of the 7+Billion people on the planet. Stop being such a sourpuss.

We are continuing our Things To Let Go Of series, kicking off the new year with Bad Money Habits. If you want to go back to the beginning, click here. We started off with hitting on debt reduction and honestly, to recap, reducing debt (in theory) is simple. Reduce expenses, increase revenue. Don’t accumulate any more debt until you comfortably can pay for it. I say it is simple in theory because it really is nothing more than basic math. But, most of us got into debt or can’t save effectively because of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding money in the first place. I don’t have time to address that today – the entire first part of my blogging back in 2011-2015 was about getting out of the consumer mindset. You can go back to those, or really…watch this documentary and start reading my favorite blogger, Joshua Becker from start to present. I, literally, can not thank this man enough for getting me on my road to rational minimalism.

Managing money is easy. Managing our emotions about money is…well…a bit more complicated.

But. As promised…I’m moving into my ‘how to’ guide for raising your credit score. Grab a drink and settle in. I’m going to tell you how I raised mine from 480 to 720 in a little over 2 years.

  1. Get your reports. You are entitled to one free credit report from all three agencies one time a year. To monitor for identity theft or weird things on my credit, I don’t get all three of mine at once. I order TransUnion in January, Experian in April, and Equifax in November. That way, if something odd happens to appear, I’m not waiting an entire year to find out. I also subscribe to Credit Karma (and I look at that thing once a day, sometimes two because I’m a bit retentive.) Go on…put it on your calendar with a yearly reminder. Then mosey on over to this site and get your free report. Once you have your report, you’ll be able to list all your debt and decide what debt storm to use as I mentioned here to pay it off. You will also look for things that do not belong to you. I found a collection from Go Daddy on mine and I was able to dispute it (you can easily do this yourself, do not pay someone to do it for you) and start working with your creditors to move payment dates or to lower your interest. I recommend checking out this site for more detailed information.
  2. On-time, every time. I mentioned this in my last post, but I can not stress this enough. Late payments are a detriment to your score. A late payment on your mortgage can put a ding there that leaves quite a scar for a bit. If your payments fall in odd places (like three payments due on the 13th, but you don’t get paid until the 15th), then call your creditors and ask them if they will move your payment to another day (like the 16th, in this example). Some of them will. If they won’t, then sell a bunch of crap you no longer need or get a second job and put a month’s worth of living expenses into your account so, essentially, you are ‘ahead’ in the math game.
  3. Join a credit union with a ‘credit builder’ program. If you are local to SW Missouri (417-Land) I recommend this one or this one. Why a credit union (CU)? CUs are nonprofit organizations and many of them have financial literacy (financial wellness) programs to help people restore their credit. If yours does, then get on a first-name basis with the person in charge of that program. Use every resource and every piece of advice they give you. I mean, I like Dave Ramsey – I’ve seen him live and I agree with a lot of his methods – but I don’t idolize him. And I don’t follow 80% of his advice. So, if you drink his kool-aid…then you’re not gonna like the rest of what I’m going to tell you. 
  4. Get a ‘Secured Credit Card’ (SCC). Remember my ’emergency fund’ I mentioned last time? I took my emergency fund and applied for an SCC with it. An SCC is just that…secured. This means you have to give them YOUR money to ‘secure’ that card. I don’t have space to explain it, but you can read about it here. So. I got my SCC with my $1500 and it DOES function as my emergency fund 99.9% of the time. The other part of the time? I use it wisely to play a game. I use it to buy gas and pay for anything I buy online. NOW…I don’t buy things I don’t already have the money for – I just use the SCC because it is more secure for online purchases than using a debit card. Anything I would normally buy anyway (Netflix, gas, Spotify, toilet paper, dishsoap) is set up to be ‘charged’ on my card. Then I…
  5. Play the game. I pay for some of the expenses that hit every week. So, if my Netflix ($12) and Spotify ($10) hit my SCC on Tuesday, and I buy TP and Dawn at Walmart.com, I pay those charges on Friday so a payment is hitting my card every single week (Newsflash: You can pay your credit card bills more than once a month). Now…here’s where the game comes into play. Find out when your actual payment is due (Let’s say it’s due on the 20th), figure out what 30% of your credit limit is (Let’s say it is $300), and find out when the Credit Union is going to report to the credit agencies (Let’s say they report on the 24th). Armed with this information…make the MINIMUM payment due on or right before the due date (In our scenario – the 20th). Make sure you have JUST UNDER the 30% left on the day they report to the credit agency (I’ll usually pay my Verizon bill on the 21st and get gas so that I’m right under BUT NOT OVER that 30% of credit limit threshold). Then, on the first of the month, I pay the balance in full and start the clock for the next month. That seems complicated now that I type it out, so I recommend the video on this page.
  6. Diversify your debt. You’re about to see why I go off the rails when it comes to Dave Ramsey’s advice. I use debt and credit to my advantage and I use it wisely. I do not subscribe to the ‘have no debt’ and we may not agree here. You do you. But, back to my point on diversified debt. You’ll need an installment loan (i.e. Car loan, student loans, etc.), a revolving credit line (I have my SCC, a store card, and a credit card for a home improvement store – which comes in handy when remodeling), and finally, a mortgage loan THAT YOU CAN AFFORD. I know my credit score will most likely not increase much more than where it is now until I add a mortgage to my list of creditors. I am okay with this. A note if you are renting: See if you can talk your rental agency/landlord into using a service that reports to the credit bureaus. (Word of caution: Now you’ll be on the hook to pay rent on time so DO THAT!). Lastly, Experian will do a ‘boost’ a few times a year and bring in things like your cell phone company and some utility agencies. I share a home with a relative. The mortgage loan is in her name, but my name is on all the other expenses (Cable, utilities, etc.). I use the Experian boost (It’s free!) once a year. This is only effective if you pay those bills on time. You don’t want bad stuff hitting your credit reports.

    So yeah. That’s it really. I think I mentioned that I am working on getting my student loan debt down to 50% of what is owed over the next ten years. Why just 50%? Because I’ve worked with my loan company to get on a specific repayment plan that allows for student loan forgiveness after on-time payments over so many years. To be transparent, I wouldn’t be mad if Biden and his administration got their shit together to forgive student loan debt BUT I do understand that I made the decision to go to school and I made the decision to take on debt related to that endeavor. I own all of that responsibility. But, since most of what would be left would be interest anyway so I can sleep at night knowing I paid what I borrowed. In other words…I don’t feel guilty about using the tools at my disposal when it comes to paying down that debt.

    Notice we still haven’t talked about budgets. We’ll do that next time. Want a head start? Okay, then. Stop buying shit you don’t need and start paying for the shit you already bought. That doesn’t seem too hard to understand, but then again, I’m an INTJ so I can be a bit abbrasive. You want someone nicer to hold your hand through all of that? Then go on down to that Credit Union. They’ll even give you a lolipop. Ain’t that sweet?


    That’s all I’ve got today. I don’t even have a really good song that ties into this post at all, so how about I just leave you with this one: Wind & SkyBrandon Moore is a local singer/songwriter in my hometown and just a f*cking good human. You can’t help but smile in his presence. Wind & Sky is one of my absolute favorite songs on the planet. I want it played on loop at my funeral, I like it that much. You’re welcome.

Live Your Best Life

Good morning, Dear Readers. The last 48 hours have been challenging for me; how about you? I was irritated by the weather and being forced inside by cold temperatures was frustrating. I wanted to be outside throwing rocks in Pomme De Terre lake or at a bare minimum, simply walking the trails of Lake Springfield. In other words, I have been a tad bit crabby for two days because I was forced to be a grown-up when I just wanted to play in my new car. My son is at his dad’s this weekend, and I usually try to stay super busy on those days, but the cold weather wasn’t conducive to car camping and only led to too much wine consumption and Ben Affleck movies. Ben Affleck. Man. A tortured soul with too much talent. I can relate – wink, wink.

Anyway, we take a quick break today from the Bad Money Habits series to check in about authenticity. Today, I attended an online event hosted by some friends out of Kansas City about being more authentic in relationships. Halfway through, it struck me that the number one fear I have in ALL my relationships stems from my hesitation to be 100% authentic. I learned today I’m not alone. It seemed as though most of the folks in a class were afraid of this very thing, too. Most shared that by being authentic, they had been hurt. I can see that. Me, too. But, at the end of the day, isn’t being inauthentic more hurtful? After all, who are we really lying to when we aren’t our true selves? Them? Nope. Ourselves. Those other people can’t help it if they fall for, and consequently, end up hurting, a version of us that really doesn’t exist. Right? It struck me, as others shared, just how much we all desire to be recognized and loved for our authentic self…but have been so (and this word is a bit extreme but…) abused by others when we try to be just that. Do you know what my takeaway was from today, Dear Reader?

Fuck it. Yep. Fuck it.

Time to show up and be real. Time to live your best life, Friends. Life is short. Seize the day. I was so inauthentic for so long that I attracted into my life people who can’t be authentic one tiny little bit. It’s safe to say that my inability to be true to myself brought people of like mind to me, and I am absolutely done with all of that bullshit. It’s time to tell you an ugly truth…

Yes. I like this Taylor Swift song and listen to it multiple times a day. There. I said it out loud.

I also like cheeseburgers, and dive bars a crap-ton more than putting on pantyhose to please the masses at the fancy restaurants. I prefer cotton pajama pants and a men’s XXL t-shirt to lace and thongs, and I damn sure like expensive whiskey more than expensive wine. I like living on the edge more than living in comfort. I like trusting other people and knowing they have my back more than trusting myself and hoping I don’t chicken out. I am free to admit I’m scared and I’ve stopped being concerned with who will laugh at me. And I am both fierce and soft every minute of every day.

This leads us here today, Dear Reader. A blog post that formed during a conversation with my best friend when I asked, “How soon did you know that Bill was the one?” (For those of you unaware of Bill…you can get up to speed here.) Like most conversations about Bill, this one induced tears. I just cannot, even after six months, keep myself together when we talk about him.

Some background: Bill was a remarkable human being. I can only hope that when I no longer walk this Earth people talk about me the way they talk about Bill. He was amazing to so many people, but here’s who Bill was to me:

He was both a father figure and the ‘perfect guy’. As my girl friend says “He was not perfect but he was perfect to me.” I believe her. After he passed away, I wanted nothing more than to find someone like him and find the kind of love he and my friend shared. He was a man who would say, to my face, “What the fuck were you thinking?” and immediately follow it up with something like “You are so much better than this.” He was both a cheerleader and an offensive coach. He was a soldier and a guardian simultaneously. Disappointing Bill was disappointing to me.

Dang. I miss him.

So today, after a tough emotional day, I called his wife, my best friend. And I cried. I said, “I know he was your husband and I feel weird even saying this but…fuck, I miss him. I am so angry that he didn’t get to see me get my shit together.”

She replied, “He sees you. Rest in that.” I have weird beliefs around the paranormal so, yeah, I believe he sees me…but it would be nice to see him wink at me and give me a thumbs up when I show him the results of my target practice at the shooting range. I went recently and when my ‘instructor’ wasn’t listening I whispered “Hey, Bill…turns out I’m a pretty good at this.” I’m almost certain I heard him reply “I knew you would be, Silly.” The day just got better and better after that.

So, as we set our intentions today – our minds off of our ridiculous lousy money habits – can we agree to focus on the kick-ass hero Bill was in all of our lives? Trust me. Even if you didn’t know Bill Culley…he was rooting for you. I promise.

Today, can we agree to live our best lives as I imagine Bill did every day?

Okay then. Grab a drink and settle in. Let us all channel my dear friend Bill Culley and decide to live in ways of which he would be proud. After all, the man fought in several wars to enjoy this freedom of speech we have. And, after talking tonight with his widow, I think I have an idea of what Bill would do. He’d kick some fucking ass – he wouldn’t mope around all day.

So. Got that drink? Good. Here we go.

1) Know that you are your only competition. I can compete against others at work, and I can compete against others in the blog-o-sphere. The truth is, I am my only competition. No one is living this life that you are living. No one else has experienced loss the way you have. No one has experienced fear and powered through the way you have. Everyone’s experiences are a tad bit different. You only need to be concerned with being a better version of yourself than the one who showed up yesterday. Did you fuck up yesterday? Okay then. Do better today. Bill didn’t dwell on the past. He lived in the present.

2) Avoid negative people. Life is too fucking short to spend it with people who criticize you regularly. You need to act like the cheerleading squad of your life lost its funding. You are your own cheerleader. If other people can’t at least raise a pom-pom once in a while, cut them from the squad. I have one person in my life who loves – absolutely loves – it when my life is not operating at 100%. Do you know the phrase “Misery loves company”? That’s her. So, my advice? Stop. Going. To. The. Circus.

3) Go after what you want. If you don’t go after what you want, you will definitely never get it. Additionally, if you don’t even know what you want, you will be on the edge of disappointment every second of every day. Until recently I couldn’t figure out why the men I dated were all so disappointing. It turns out…it wasn’t them. It was me. I was dating people that didn’t check any of the boxes. Make a list of what you want (This is true for anything, really. A job, a home, a relationship, in yourself) and STOP. FUCKING. SETTLING. Who is to blame here? Them? NO. You are to blame. Make a list. When presented with new opportunities, see if the boxes are being checked. End of story.

4) Don’t fear failure. People, people, people…(sigh)…If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Please, for the love of all things good and holy, stop seeing failure as an end. Yes, it’s okay to say “I quit,” but it isn’t an option to simply give up. Quitting and giving up are two completely different things. Quitting means, essentially, ‘to leave’. Giving up means that you’ve stopped trying.

5) Our habits decide our future. I recently decided to do a 30-day detox and let some folks know that I wanted them to NOT offer me any wine for a while. (I do this occasionally to clear my head and show my liver a little love.) I mean, nothin’ against wine or alcoholic beverages in the least. I want to be the captain of my ship, and I get to decide my future. Do I drink when I’m alone…or do I write? Do I drink wine, or do I go to the gym? You might be better at the “Just say no” lifestyle. Me? Wine begets slothfulness and frankly, both are pretty enticing. You get to choose how the day goes, despite how the past week has been. Your habits define your future. So…Ice cream or broccoli? Another episode of Yellowstone or another chapter of that motivational book? (The correct answer is…YELLOWSTONE!) Another night of meaningless sex…or waiting for the Universe to give you the one person who checks all the boxes? Shrug. (I have no attachment to the outcome of your life. I’m just a blogger.) Wink

Am I rambling? Maybe. It’s been a day of non-stop Taylor Swift songs (I’m really worried about her scarf. Damn, Jake, give it back for Pete’s sake.) and I haven’t stayed busy enough to keep the thoughts from swirling. And I’m okay admitting to you: I merely occupied space on the planet today. I contributed 0% to the greater good. (Wait. I took my glass to recycle, though. Redeemable?) I wanted to be/do more today, but I wasn’t/didn’t and I’m okay telling you that…because I’m fucking authentic. Wink.

Nonetheless, all that said, I think my friend – Mr. William Culley – is looking down at all of us and saying, “Hey, dumbass…get your shit together.” I, for one, don’t want to let him down. How about you?

Here’s your song today, Dear Reader. (Don’t worry…it’s not T.S.) Go on and live your best life. Be authentic. Do the best you can 100% of the time – even if you aren’t doing a thing. I do not doubt that you can get up. You can dust off. You can move on. Remember our motto this year, Love: Chin up. Tits out. You got this.

Show Me The Money

You remember that quote, right? Please, for the love of all things good and holy do not tell me I’m so old that you don’t remember that quote, Dear Reader. I’ve been searching YouTube for ideas to share with you on this snowy day and I have to admit…I’m a bit overwhelmed. There is SO MUCH to tell you that I’m SO HAPPY this is a ‘series’ because this post would be a million words long if I tried to cram it into one piece. It reminds me, though, of my journalism days – researching theories and stories, finding sources to back up my words. All that jazz. The cool thing is though…this isn’t a journalism story so I can be as biased and opinionated as I want. And you know that rings my bell – Amiright?

Anyway, we are kicking 2022 off with the list I mentioned here, starting with Bad Money Habits. I beg your pardon? I remember specifically telling you that we would not cover the list in any particular order, so that’s where we are going to start. My blog. My rules.

I must begin by being super transparent, though. First, even as a rational minimalist, I would never call myself ‘cheap’. I like nice things just like anyone else, but since I embraced this lifestyle about ten years ago, I would describe myself as more of a quality over quantity kind of gal. In fact, embarrassingly, I spend a huge chunk of my “entertainment budget” on massage therapy and expensive facial products. I recently spent more money on a bottle of perfume than I’ve spent on perfume entirely in the last decade. I traded my Buick for a Subaru. I mean, I have upgraded considerably, but I don’t feel like I overspend or waste money. Every expense comes out of a line item on the budget. No money? No buying.

Secondly, just two short years ago my credit score was 480. Yup. I kinda take responsibility for that. I mean, you have to work really hard to NOT pay your bills to sink that low. However, let me also put this out there: I trusted someone else to pay the bills. In other words, I was the paycheck, he was the ‘money manager’ – and well, he sucked at it. It was until the “money manager” walked out on me did I realize just what a mess he’d made. I was broke. I was jobless. I was fucked. But I take full responsibility for my part of this problem.

Lastly, I’m well-educated and I have white privilege going for me. I do not take this for granted and never have at any point in my life. As long as you keep that in mind, we will be better able to understand one another. The best thing that ever happened to me was having the opportunity to take a position with a local nonprofit where my fancy title was “Director of Financial Stability”. In this role, I taught people about managing money and working with a personal budget. Funny thing, though? The salary wasn’t even a living wage. I was, literally, employed and teaching other people about managing money while my child was enrolled in the free lunch program at school and we were getting all his clothes free from the PTA clothing bank. Ironic how the Universe works, huh? With all the grit and gratitude I could muster, I decided that was bullshit. I got up, dusted off, and moved on – making significant changes as I did it.

So, together, we are letting go of many things this year as I wrote about here. We are starting with my financial story and how I got myself out of a big mess. This transparency and advice will hopefully enable you to let go of Bad Money Habits. Don’t worry. This topic is a big animal. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Keep that in mind.

We are going to start with the basics today. So. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let me share with you my fuck ups and my comebacks in hopes you can use my example to let go of your bad habits.

  1. Mind your money. That image above really says it all. Right now you may feel out of control because of where you are financially. But minding your money involves several steps, and the most important of all of them is Do. Not. Let. Anyone. Else. Have. Complete. Control. Over. Your. Finances. In other words, Your money, your responsibilty. Since the majority of you, Dear Readers, are women, I recommend a book by Suze Orman (love her or hate her, doesn’t matter) called “Women & Money”. Find it used. Buy it new. Get it from the library. Listen to the audiobook. I have no attachment to how you get ahold of it – just get it. Men, same goes for you. You can’t bitch about the fact that your wife spends spends spends if you don’t know where the money is going. I also recommend watching videos or reading books about money every day (I’ll post some of my favorites at the end of this series). As Stephen Covey said “Begin with the end in mind”. By reading or watching videos about managing money and debt, it keeps your thoughts in the end zone.
  2. Set up an emergency fund. After you decide to take control of your finances, this is THE first step. I don’t care what anyone else says to you…this is your first step. According to Forbes, the U.S. poverty rate nationally is 13.4%. This means that 13.4% of the national population lives below the poverty line. Over 70% of Americans would be financially devasted if faced with a $400 or more emergency (Like, um, a refrigerator dropping dead or having to buy two new tires for the only car used to get you to and from work). Ideally, your emergency fund should equal $1,000 for the first person in your home and an additional $500 for any others. So, for me and my son that would be $1,500. I saved $2,000 first and squirrelled it away in our emergency fund (Sorta…more to come on that). Again, emergencies are new tires, new car batteries, a new refrigerator when the other one breaks down, etc. etc. Emergencies are not that trip to Disneyland, kayaks or skis, roller skates, a down payment on a boat, etc. You get that, right? To be brutual…not having an emergency fund makes you prime prey for predatory lenders. Let’s not feed them anymore. (I love this organization. Check it out.)
  3. Choose your storm and attack your debt. List out all of your debts (include those in collections). List them by columns: Creditor name, total owed, monthly payment, and interest rate. Choose a Debt Reduction Storm: Either the Snowball method or the Avalanche method attack the debt. Compare them. (Here’s a new one for you: The Debt Tornado. Hmmm.) I personally used the Snowball method because I needed instant satisfaction and enpowering feelings of crossing the debt off the list, but in hindsight, I personally think the Avalanche method is more effective and smarter. With that method you spend less on interest even though it takes longer to cross the debt off the list as paid. (Those purple words lead you to links to explain those methods in depth.) In terms of those accounts in collections…well…we will touch on those in another post. If that makes you nervous, maybe this will help: Those accounts have already fucked with your credit score. They can’t hurt you anymore now so we will worry about them later. (One elephant. Tiny bites. Got it?) *Side note…I’m using the Avalanche method now with my student loans – which is the only debt I really have.
  4. Pay on time, every time. Remember, we are on a journey that includes reducing debt AND raising your credit score (not one then the other…). With your debts listed and a pay-down storm-of-choice method chosen, I can’t stress paying your bills on time, every time enough. This is the number one way to get that credit score moving in the positive direction and even though it will take some time to move the needle, it’s the ONLY way to move the needle at the moment. Credit cards are the most damaging to your budget and to your credit score, so make sure you pay them first, then your vehicles, then your cell phone (right?? who knew) then your mortgage/rent. This is a game and the game is won by the first person who beats everyone else to the finish line. In this case, credit card companies are used to people like you and so are cell phone companies (Fuck you, Verizon. Really). They are used to people not paying so they have incredibly high late payment fees and interest. They also report to credit bureaus faster than any other creditors. They know how to win by taking your money and charging you more for the priviledge of paying late, so beat them at their own game. Pay the minimum payments on all your debt FOR NOW until you build up your emergency fund…but pay that ON TIME. Mortgage and vehicles come next. Rent…well…it takes three months for them to evict you and even though there is a late payment fee most likely…it’s low AND eviction is costly for the rental company. In fact, most of rental agencies do not report to the credit bureaus unless you go into collection. My advice? Communicate and negotiate with all your creditors. Play by their rules – afterall, you agreed to them – but get better at the game. Again, always pay credit cards first. Period. Also…about those cards…do not close them (we will get to that later) but also, do not use them anymore for now. (We will discuss responsible use of credit much later in the series). When it comes to paying your bills on time, I don’t recommend automation (auto bill pay) unless you are just forgetful as hell. I think you need to LOOK at your finances every month (I look at mine Every. Single. Day – sometimes more than once. Yes, OCD. So? That’s how I caught two charges for Wal-Mart around Christmas that I didn’t make, so there). If the payments all fall around the same time each month, and it is difficult for you financially, try asking the creditor if they’ll move the payment. For example, I get paid on the 15th and the 30th of the month. I have half my bills due on the 1st and the other half on the 16th. That way I’m not hit with a huge group of expenses all at once and it helps with my forcasting (see…no words on budgeting just yet…). This video explains the game. Watch it.
  5. Make more, spend less. You notice I STILL haven’t even mentioned a budget yet, right? That’s because budgets don’t work if your expenses are more than your income. My favorite Dave Ramsey quote is “You can’t outearn foolishness.” Your days of spending more than you earn are over. Remember that rather expensive MBA degree I have? It comes in handy sometimes. In business when things are tight, the first things companies do: Decrease overhead (fire people, sell assets, etc) or they increase revenue (get more clients, sell more to people). Successful companies do both at the same time. I worked for a nationally recognized nonprofit when COVID first hit. Sadly, in July of 2020, 23 of my favorite people lost their jobs due to a ‘reduction in force’ AND the organization sold its main headquarter’s building going to a ‘Virtual First Workforce’ plan (which is just a fancy way of saying everyone is working from home now). BUT, they also dumped a ton of money into digital marketing which grossed 48 MILLION that year – the best year ever in fundraising revenue and it was during a global pandemic. Smart. Very smart. You need to do the same thing. Decrease expenses AND increase revenue. So, yeah. You’ll need another job – I recommend a side hustle. I was fortunate that I had been a licensed massage therapist before I got my MBA. So, I relicensed and went to work a few evenings and weekends a month making about $30 (pay+gratuities) an hour. Also…here’s where I piss you off…you can only make it so far with canceling cable and cutting out lattes. Your biggest expenses are: Housing (2800+ square foot homes for three people? Hmmm), Big Person toys (campers, beach front condos or timeshares, boats, four wheelers, etc.) and Vehicles ($50,000 Suburbans? You know there are people in who under bridges, right?). That said, I didn’t go without wine or streaming services during the leanest of times. Yeah, I may have purchased cheaper wine…and only had one streaming service, but come on. If HBOMax is your only source of entertainment (because you aren’t going to the movies right now…) then don’t cut it. I also don’t mess around with people’s cigarette/drinking habits or tithing – because I know it’s not an argument I’m going to win. My point is: No one wants you to be a grouchy asshole because you have nothing pleasureable in your life. But that boat? You aren’t going to have time to use it or maintain it because of your second job – so sell it. Buy one later if you can afford it, but for now…nope. FB Marketplace the shit out of it and any thing else you no longer need. There will always be another day to rent a kayak. My favorite minimalist quote is “You don’t have to organize the things you don’t own.”

I have so much more to tell you and to recommend to you, but it will all come with time. Remember, we’ve got a game plan, and this month’s plan is to help you let go of BAD MONEY HABITS. These first few tips will get you started.

In closing, I want to emphasize this: Money can be scary for some of you. The scarcity mentality is a real thing and shame around money doesn’t lend itself (puns are fun!) to getting you into a mindset of success. Face that fear. Everyone on the planet has made a mistake they are ashamed of (poor financial decisions, marriages, that last donut…) so get up, dust off, move on. Remember our 2022 motto?

Chin up, tits out. You got this.

Oh! I almost forgot your song. But I didn’t. I can almost visualize the pole dancers every time I hear this song. And I’m doing this for you, Dear Reader, because I can’t tell you how much I loathe Pink Floyd. You’re welcome.

The Pluviophile in Me

You’re wondering what a “Pluviophile” is, aren’t you? No worries. It’s not bad. A pluviophile (n) is a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days. And that’s not just a random opening sentence for this post. It’s part of the subject matter. Let’s carry on, shall we?

But, Dear Reader. before we get started, I just have to say: I don’t know which one of you sent this freezing cold weather down my way, but you can take it back now. Two days of temps in the low 20s is enough. I can’t get my steps in and that’s wreaking havoc on my HSA bonus money. So. Enough already.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot these days. You’ve been writing in and telling me I’m making a difference. I’m meeting new people who are saying “Hey – you’re that blogger! I love your blog!” and I’ve been pleased to see you are clicking the links I provide – even if my taste in music isn’t all that great! I reached over 12K visits on this site last week and while I may not be as popular as some, I am grateful that you are here with me. I’m a quality over quantity kind of gal anyway, so thank you. Thank you for being here with me on this journey.

As I stated a few posts back, my journey started in 2011 when I made my first post. The process all started when I read a blog by Josh Becker and then started following the likes of Courtney Carver and Adam Baker. And, for Heaven’s sake, let’s not forget Joshua, Ryan and Leo. In 2015 I took a break from writing. To be honest, my life was falling apart and I just didn’t feel like being chipper, if you know what I mean. I felt I didn’t have anything to offer you anyway since I was such a shitshow and therefore, I “disappeared”.

Me, launching my blog in 2011

I reemerged in 2020 as the shitstorm was beginning to dissipate. I found my focus on simplicity to be a bit different than before, though. Life’s experiences had given me several “opportunities” to let go – sometimes with the kicking of legs and gnashing of teeth. While my life was still about keeping material possessions at a minimum, I’d come out of my cocoon with ideas about how to release mental and emotional clutter (which I think adds to the ‘physical’ clutter) and I wanted to share that story.

As I looked over the posts of the last twelve months, I noticed some themes. First, I noticed there was really no theme at all. HA! I just wrote to clear my head. My ‘creepy online diary’ was a saving grace through so many life events – breakups, reunions, more breakups, death of beloved friends, job changes. I also noticed statistical trends (that’s the data analyst in me) and paid attention to the posts that received the most likes, shares, etc. Even when I deleted my personal Facebook account, the numbers grew – proving that the Universe and my friends were on board with what I was doing.

Today’s post isn’t so much about what I have to share, but more about what you can expect from me in 2022. Don’t worry – I’ll still be your foul-mouthed little friend from small-town Missouri, but I think I’ll be less bitter about it. I recently connected with someone from my past and he’s helped me to realize that small-town life isn’t so bad and the collective experiences of both our lives led us to this very moment – which frankly, is quite delightful. Last night I was surrounded by a few of my very favorite humans, talking smack and tasting bourbon…and I was so completely overwhelmed by how loved I felt in that moment that I broke down in tears when I was finally back at home alone. I can’t believe I have come this far in such a relatively short amount of time, but as I’ve said before…I’ve got grit. The last month has given me a huge sense of pride when I think of all I’ve survived the last five years – even when I felt I couldn’t face another day – because I get to stand in the moments now with people who truly love and support me. And while I love the rain…I am so very grateful I made it through the storm.

So, to bring this all around, I just want to tell you what you can expect from me – mostly so you can hold me accountable but also so you can plan ahead. There may be a random post here and there when my brain won’t shut off and those might be completely unrelated to the monthly theme – but we, together, are going to cover (in no particular order…)

Ten Things To Let Go Of In 2022

  1. The Illusion of Control
  2. Fear Of The Future
  3. The Need For “More”
  4. “Clutter” In All Forms
  5. Guilt About Letting Go
  6. “Frogs” You Haven’t Eaten
  7. Bad Money Habits
  8. Toxic Relationships
  9. Saying “Yes” To Everything
  10. Last Year’s Goals

I’m doing this so that I can be more organized with my thoughts and posts but also because I really, really, really (too many reallys?) want to work on my novel. Maybe with a little organization and planning for this blog, I can do just that.

So, before we launch into all of this, can I ask you to do me a few favors, please? I have some assignments for you. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s get to work.

Assignment 1: Define “F*ck Budget”. We are going to be spending a lot of time talking about our F*ck Budget this year. A F*ck Budget includes anything that requires your time, money, or energy. Please take 15 minutes of your week and watch this TedTalk so that you understand where I’m coming from when I mention your “F*ck Budget”. It’s important.

Assignment 2: Make A Vision Board. Back in August, I started working with a Life Coach and my first assignment was to make a list of all the important things I wanted for my life. That became a ‘Wish List’ and then grew into a vision board. If you don’t know how to create a vision board – or even what that is – here’s a link that explains it. To be clear – it does not have to be fancy or overwhelming. Mine isn’t.

Assignment 3: Watch “I’m Fine, Thanks!” – This is a short one-hour documentary that I watch EVERY YEAR in January. I got a sneak peek during its launch phase in 2011 when I donated to their Kickstarter campaign. Now, it’s on Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, and possibly Apple iTunes. A quick little search located free versions on PlutoTV and Tubi. It may be on other platforms, so if you can find it – please watch it. It will help set the pace for us as we enter this year.

Assignment 4: Send me your ideas. You can put them in the comments below, or post them on my FB page. What do you want to let go of in 2022? Material stuff? Anger? Scarcity mentality? What? I’m all ‘ears’ and I’m here to help. (I’m not a therapist – I’m just a blogger – but I feel like this blog has turned into a place where we can all open up and be real with each other.) Aren’t you tired of the bullshit life has convinced you to put up with? I know I am.

And I feel like I owe you a special THANKS. As much as I loathe social media, y’all are doing a fantastic job getting the word out for me. I really appreciate it and please feel free to continue doing it. Share my posts unabashedly!

As always, I’m leaving you with a song. It’s old and cheesy, and you’re welcome. Have a great week, Dear Reader. I’ll see you over the weekend.

Stop Going To The Circus

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I hope my shouting didn’t affect that hangover of yours. If it did, well, you must have enjoyed the evening, and that’s all that matters. Me? I don’t deal with amateurs and value my life, so I cuddled up on the couch with John Cusack (“Serendipity”) and good wine. I expanded my mixology knowledge a bit by experimenting with expensive whiskey. I learned how to make a damn good Old Fashioned (Hint: Simple syrup and good bourbon. Do. Not. I repeat: Do not skimp.).

I also found a way to make “handcrafted” Amaretto, which I intend to make a dessert out of this weekend. But, alas, you don’t come here for cooking advice and drink recipes – although my mixed drinks are pretty damn good at times – so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

The new year is here. The slate is clean if you want it to be. This is the time of year when folks decide to make resolutions and set goals, only to break or discard them a few months down the road. So, if that’s the way it always goes, how about we turn the tradition upside down for a change. Yes, instead of ADDING to our life (more gym time, more activities, more stuff), why don’t we SUBTRACT from it? I ended 2021 with this post and encouraged you to do just that, right?

So, what shall we get rid of, you say. Well, I’m sure you aren’t surprised that I happen to have some advice for you on that. So, grab a drink. Settle in. I have one main point today to get you started.

Got that drink? Great.

Put a cease and desist order on any toxic relationships. Toxic people are really nothing more than insecure, self-loathing individuals. And here’s a shocker for you: Every single one of us has the potential to be toxic. Our odds double if we are in a relationship with another toxic person. Newsflash: you can’t control the other person’s unhealthy behaviors, but you damn sure can control yours. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

1) Admit that you might be part of the problem. Oooo. Ouch. But, as ‘they’ say: The first part of solving a problem is admitting there is one. Even if you grew up in a loving home, never do drugs, get adequate rest and eat your veggies, everyone can be toxic at times. How do you know if you’re toxic? People will finally get sick of you, put on their shoes, and walk out the door. Simple as that.

2) Learn to like yourself. Yeah, let’s not even fast-forward to ‘love yourself’. Let’s take baby steps, and begin with simply liking yourself. Get some therapy – no, really, get in treatment – to get you over yourself. ‘Tis the season (as it gets colder and darker) to get a grip on this stuff. Waiting until April, when it is warmer and there is more daylight, to be a nice person again is unacceptable.

3) Let go of your resentments. Hey, I’m a Virgo, so I fully understand that this is no easy task. Virgos can hold grudges like no other sun sign, and we can even dream of ways to hide bodies if we are furious. I was so resentful for so long that I missed out on dating a great man a few years ago. He told me on our first – and only – date that “Maybe you should get over being so angry at your ex before you date anyone”. Hmmm. Ya think? Don’t tell him this, but he was right. What happened after that date? I kept dating other people with issues that compounded my own until I couldn’t do it anymore. One day I realized that being resentful was affecting most areas of my life. So, I got up, dusted off, and moved on. Best advice I ever got? Don’t blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus. Dang, that was good. (Oh, and that first date guy? After stalking my blog, he realized I’m fun now and finally asked me out again four years later. And bonus: He even likes expensive whiskey. Insert “Yay” gif of your choice.)


4) Act like a plant. Get more sunlight, drink enough water, talk nicely to yourself and you will grow. I’m not much of a gardener. I wrote about my black thumb here, but funny thing…the better I got at loving myself, the better off my plants have faired. Vow to save a life today – namely, yours – but also that sad-looking vine-thing you call a decoration.

5) Find some hobbies and volunteer to help others. The best advice my therapist gave me was to find three hobbies that would help me from being so self-centered: One to stoke my creative fire, one that got me moving, and one that made me money. She encouraged me to volunteer with children, so I stepped up more at my son’s school. If you help others and see that you are making a difference, you’ll feel better. It’s really hard to feel sorry for yourself when you see a child who has duct-taped his shoes together. Your so-called sorry-assed life is put into perspective really, really quickly.

6) Read a minimum of ten pages from a motivational book every day. You might read the Bible, but I encourage you to expand your reach. I personally love “The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F***”, but you do you (Not ready to read? Watch her TedTalk). Other great books to get your started are listed here. (Not a single Brene Brown book on the list. You’re welcome.)

The bottom line is that you need to recognize when you have headed down the slippery toxic slope. Here’s a great article that may help you figure out the problem. Here’s another one that may help you realize if, indeed, your relationship is toxic.

Sticking with my tradition from 2021, I leave you with a song today. If you click that link and you really do feel unwell, even though I make light of a lot of things in this blog, mental unwellness is not one of them. Please believe me when I tell you I understand depression, anxiety, and all those things bring to the table. So, I urge you to reach out and get some help. There’s power in doing that and you will get through this. {Chin up, tits out.} Claim 2022 as the year you stop going to the circus.

If you have any ideas for blogs in 2022, let me know. I’m putting together one that tells you how I raised my credit score from 480 (Do. Not. Judge. Me.) to 720 in a little under 24 months. It was all very empowering, and I never did have to give up wine or cut out Netflix in the process. Hint: It’s not magic. It’s a puzzle. You like puzzles, right? Good. Stay tuned.

Moving On and Cleaning Up

Well, Dear Reader, we are about to let 2021 close its door (Hallelujah!) and, without a doubt, I am ready. I get giddy at the thought of a blank canvas and wiping the slate clean. I’ve reinvented myself so many times in my life and faced so many setbacks that I could be bitter and angry. And, truthfully, I was for a long while. Sometimes, making the effort to live differently after living one way for so long can feel like it takes too much energy. I’ve been there. Trust me. You labored to build that wall of protection. You struggled to ignore the loneliness so you could keep others at arm’s length. You battled against yourself and your needs for so long – trying to convince yourself and others that you are better off alone. Man. I know that feeling. But, how exhausting, right?

As we shut the front door on 2021, I could end the year off by telling you how to prepare to clean up and declutter your house. It’s really what I do best. In fact, last year, I did just that. In January 2021, I encouraged folks to do this old challenge with me. I posted pictures of the items I was discarding every day on Facebook (Day 1: One item. Day 2: Two Items. Day 3: Three Items, etc.) until I had pitched over 500 items from my home. I could write about how to declutter your closet, but I already did here. I could tell you how to organize your spice rack – again, been there, done that. I could even ask you to sell all your shit and start all over again. But wait. I’ve done that too.

Let’s be honest here. I’ve evolved since I launched this blog in 2011 with this post (I know, right??) with the idea of helping you to simplify by discarding all the things you no longer need. I think my heart is still in that simplifying space, after taking a five-year break from writing and then posting this piece, it seems that now I want to help you discard outdated ideas and limiting beliefs, not just physical stuff. We tend to make everything so complicated. (Does he like me? How will I know when he likes me? How many dates do we have to have before I tell him how much I really like him? Good God, woman. Have a drink, enjoy the company. Fucking relax a little.)

However, in the same vein of telling you how to get rid of any tangible item that no longer brings you joy – I am going to ‘suggest’ ways you can let go of ‘stuff’ that no longer serves you. After all, I’m a bit bossy – but I also am walking this walk right alongside you. I’m no expert at having my shit together, but I sure am trying.

Wanna try with me? Okay, then. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s work this out.

Simplifying your mental space can be as simple as discarding clothes that no longer fit. But I posit that it will be a tad bit harder. Time and time again I saw people rationalize keeping something because it cost them so much. I get it. When you spend a lot of money on something, it’s hard to get rid of it. The same thing goes for your mental space. When you’ve lived with specific ideas and beliefs for so long, they’ve attached themselves to you as though they are your identity. I’m not telling you it will be easy to change these things. I’m simply asking you to consider a new set of ideas. Ready? Here we go.

1) Declutter your home. I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to tell you to do this. But I’m not talking about getting rid of half-used candles, broken items, and socks with holes in them (but, yeah, of course, get rid of those). I’m talking about items that hold energy you no longer need—pictures, letters, ticket stubs from concerts with old boyfriends, etc. You don’t need a bunch of stagnant energy hanging around. (Disclaimer: If you’ve experienced a death of a loved one recently, I’m not talking to you. Take all the time you need to grieve.) You other people? Build a fire. Burn it all. You don’t need to look at it anymore because it no longer serves your greater good. (Hey! A bonus song!)

2) Get rid of bad mental habits. My son has recently started saying, “I’m so stupid!” after making a mistake. This deflating self-talk is unacceptable behavior, so I make him say two nice things about himself when I hear him utter a disparaging statement. The same thing goes for you. Stop saying you’re fat. Stop feeling guilty for taking a much-needed nap. Stop apologizing for wearing ‘Mom Clothes’ around the house. Stop feeling sorry for yourself because your husband cheated on you. Wash your face; get out of the house. Make a list of all the things that make you absolutely fucking wonderful, and read the shit out of that list every time you try to tell yourself otherwise.

3) Cut out toxic people. If someone dares to tell you, to your face, that they don’t like you, then put your shoes on and walk out the door. Do not look back. Accept any apology, of course, but apologies do not have to equal reconciliation. Here’s why: You can aspire to be the most mentally healthy person on the planet, but everyone – every-fucking-one – has the potential to become toxic when they are in a toxic relationship. Get the heck out of there before the shit from their high-horsed position runs downhill and gets all over you.

4) Take charge of your money. Money is energy. It doesn’t matter if you make $12 an hour or $120; if you aren’t taking control of your financial situation, someone else is taking charge of it for you. That negativity will occupy too much space in your life and drag you down. Create a budget, set clear goals, and your financial decisions will become much more straightforward. The day I decided I wanted to build a home was when it became easier to say no to things I really didn’t need. Er, um, except this perfume. I really did need this perfume.

5) Remember that time is currency. When the pandemic first hit, I worked full time and had my massage therapy practice on the side. As a massage therapist, I wasn’t considered ‘essential’ in the first wave of COVID, so I couldn’t see clients. One night, my son commented that he liked spending time with me after school as we were coloring. We had been finding ways to spend our evening together since I wasn’t seeing clients. I closed my office right away – not because of the pandemic – but because time with my son was more important. Start getting rid of the activities that no longer bring you joy and spend that time doing something that brings greater meaning to you. When you make room for better things, better things will come. (Albeit, a bit ‘Field of Dreams’ – ish, but true nonetheless).

In summary, we often think that we should be adding to our lives for it to be better. I disagree and strongly recommend that you start subtracting. Life is complicated enough without you adding more to it. The less you own, the less clutter you have, and the less time you invest into things you don’t want to do, the simpler life becomes. When you spend time with people that drain your energy, you are not giving the Universe time to expand your trusting connections. Are you ready? I damn sure am.

In closing, here’s your song, Dear Reader. Aren’t you tired of trying to fill a void with the wrong things/people/ideas? I am, for sure. What are you getting rid of in 2022? Pounds? Clothes? A job you hate? That dumb boat? A relationship that sucks the life out of you? I’m curious. Drop me a line in the comments below.

PS…Numbers for last week’s post blew the rest of them out of the water. Thank you to whoever shared the post. If you like this post and think others might like it too, feel free to share it on social media. Hugs! See you next year!