Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Simplifying My Wardrobe

In an effort to further simplify my life, I'm taking on tackling my wardrobe. If you're anything like me you find your closet littered with clothes you no longer wear, and have days where you scramble to find something to put on even though you own a buttload of stuff. Due to limited space and my frustration with this situation I've decided, no more! It's time for me to pair down and gain some sanity and closet space back. To complete this challenge I'm participating in Courtney Carver's PROJECT 33. If you haven't heard of project 33 it's an initiative that encourages people to downsize their seasonal wardrobes to 33 pieces. Here are the rules:

When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)

What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)

How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.

What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Over the course of the next 3 months I'll mix and match 33 pieces, and let you  know about my progress. I'm still deciding which items to keep, but should be finished soon. The rest I will donate, freecycle, and/or box up and put in the basement where appropriate. I'm leaving room for a few wild card items in case I want to do a little shopping to spruce up a few items I already own. This challenge should be fun! Anyone care to join me? 

"More possessions than you actually need burden you...our possessions possess us when we keep them after they are no longer useful to us." ~Peace Pilgrim

Monday, September 8, 2014

Around (Another) Town: Kensington Antiques Row

Recently a kind READER suggested I head down to Kensington, MD and explore their antiques district. Not one to pass up a new antiquing adventure, I decided to check it out during my most recent visit to the DC area. I'm truly grateful for the tip, because I'd never heard of the district before, and had an exquisite time perusing the stores. Though there are several nice stores in the area I most enjoyed Jill & Company and Sally Schaffer Antiques. The two stores are connected and specialize in country americana antiques.

 Beautiful baskets were a noticeable theme throughout. I'm a sucker for vintage baskets, anything with beauty and utility gets a gold star in my book.

There were also several gorgeous quilts. It was like being in an impressive textile museum. It was hard to pick which one I liked the most.

I was also a fan of this pair of chairs.

I thought the rooster lamp and solidly built old porch swing were nice finds too.

Beautiful folk dolls could be found scattered throughout the stores.

 This dining set made me jokingly beg the hubs for a new house so I'd have some place to put it. He suggested I start up a decorating business instead so I could put it in someone else's house. I just may take him up on that suggestion.

Well, that's all! I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Quickly Pay Off Your Student Loans

Student loans are a menace to the financial health of young adults all across the country. Many young borrowers are at a loss as to how to meaningfully chip away at their debt, and so they just give up, accepting a life of making minimum payments for the next 30 years or so. Whatever you do, don't take this route. Student loans do not have to be a semi-permanent feature in your adult life, and I promise by following the advice below you will be able to eliminate your debt in much less than 30 years.To pay your loans off quickly here are some things you can do:

1) COMMIT TO PAYING OFF LOANS ABOVE SCHEDULE. This is the first and most important step to debt reduction. That means no more thoughts like,"I'm going to be paying my loans forever!". Instead start thinking "When it comes to paying off my loans quickly, yes I can!".

2) THINK OF ALL THE BENEFITS TO PAYING OFF YOUR LOANS EARLY. Paying off your loans early leaves more money for retirement, for buying a home, for your kids (should decide to have some), for investing, and more money for giving. For more motivation read this STUDY on the impact of student loan debt on personal wealth.

3) DON'T LISTEN TO NAYSAYERS AND CRAZY SPENDERS. You may notice that some people have not come around to the wisdom of paying off loans early. This is fine, everyone becomes financially literate in their own time. Believe it or not, once upon a time I was a big spender. The key is to no longer keep up with the purchasing habits of crazy spenders.

4) DON'T LIVE ALONE. Unless you are lucky enough to find single living arrangements at the same price as a roommate situation don't live alone. Use the extra money you save by having a shared arrangement to pay extra on your loans. 

5) GET YOUR SPOUSE ON BOARD. If you are married and one or both of you have student debt make paying it off a priority. If only one of you has the debt it is not just that person's problem. It is taking money away from the entire household's pot of gold, and both partners in a secure marriage should be contributing to its elimination.

6) DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU MADE A FINANCIAL MISTAKE, AND DON'T DIG A BIGGER HOLE. Some people wakeup and realize " What the heck was I thinking paying $100,000 for a degree in art!", or "Why the heck did I choose to go to fancy private school A when I could have gone to reputable public school B for 1/3 of the price and ended up in the same job?" Don't beat yourself up when you realize you may have made a mistake. The past is the past. Now it's time to swallow your pride, admit you messed up, release any anger, and more forward in paying down your balance. Also, do not under any circumstance dig a bigger debt hole. If midway through a program you realize you picked an overly expensive school transfer. If after getting a bachelor's degree in a low paying field you think you made a mistake, don't try to fix it by buying a graduate degree in that same area. 

7) DEVELOP A BUDGET. Budgeting and tracking your spending helps you to see where your money is going, and more importantly not going...to paying down your loans. The more conscious you are of your expenditures the easier it is to control them.

8) PAY THE HIGHEST INTEREST RATE LOAN OFF FIRST. Mathematically it makes sense for you to pay your highest interest rate loans first, because this is the debt that is costing you the most. Some people advocate paying your smallest loan balance first, so you can get the psychological thrill of getting rid of a debt sooner. If you think you need that sort of motivation to keep paying down your loans, by all means use that strategy, if not, it's best to pay the highest interest rate first.

9) POSTPONE FANCY PURCHASES. Young adults are pressured into buying all sorts of fancy things, extravagant engagement rings, weddings, homes, new cars, and expensive vacations to name a few. Don't get caught in this trap. Pay your loans first, and buy fancy stuff later.

10) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DEBT NINJAS. I once tried to encourage a group of friends to start an investment club, and they weren't interested. At first I was a little bummed, but in the end things worked out just fine because I was able to connect with like-minded people on the internet. On your journey it will be important to have the support of others, as you constantly fight the cultural tide of being told that debt is good and it's OK to live beyond your means.

If you managed to read through this whole post, there's a good chance you are on your way to financial freedom. Best of luck with your journey. I promise being debt free will feel much better than accumulating showy trinkets. 

"Sometimes it's better to spend one hour thinking about money than to spend a week working for it." ~unknown

"You will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending." ~P.T. Barnum

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Simple Living: Why I Don't Follow the News

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I don't follow the news, at least not frequently. I know it's unconventional, but it has done wonders to improve my life. The primary reason I don't watch the news is because the news is depressing. It's filled with stories of shootings, wars, death, scandal, political division, and a host of other negative crap. Following it takes up time and emotional energy I just don't have to spare. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if we all stopped watching the news?  What if instead of being watchers of the news we became makers of the news.....the good news that is. It's just a thought. What about you? How much news do you consume?
"Don't let them steal your happy." ~Jennifer Pastiloff

Friday, August 22, 2014

Diary of a Hungry Pregnant Woman

Pregnancy has been an interesting journey, one filled with lots of fatigue, anticipation, indigestion, introspection, aches, nesting, and vomiting. Recently a new item has emerged, hunger! And I don't mean just any kind of hunger, I'm talkin' wild animal "I will kill you if you take away my ice cream" hunger. It seems to have appeared out of nowhere. I first noticed it the other day when the hubs made the bad move of stealing a few of my french fries. Normally this would be no big deal, but on this day it made me literally want to pummel him. After realizing that my fries were missing I immediately jumped in the air like I was Michael Jordan, to retrieve the fries before they reached the hubs' mouth. I tell ya.....Mother Nature is nothin' to play with. Sorry you have to deal with me like this honey, hopefully in a few months we can both look back and have a good laugh. Til' then, don't mess with my french fries!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Around Town: Atwater's Bakery

Every now and then I like to treat myself to an indulgence. It doesn't have to be anything super expensive, just a little somethin' somethin' to add some pizzaz to my daily routine. The other day I walked to ATWATER'S a local bakery down the street. As an added bonus my workaholic work-from-home husband decided to stop working and join me on my stroll. I love it when he does that, it makes feel on top of the world :-)

After looking at the bakery's many dessert options I decided to get the chocolate cupcake pictured above. It was scrumptious!

"She did not need much, wanted very little. A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water, a garden, kisses, books to read, sheltering arms, a cosy bed, and to love and be loved in return.”  ~Starra Neely Blade

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Get Rid of Junk Mail

If there's one thing that gets me mad it's junk mail. I hate the waste it creates, both in terms of time and materials. Just thinking of how much advertising paper I've had to dispose of over the years really gets my blood boiling. These ads feel like such an invasion to me. For once, I'd like to open my mailbox and only find useful items inside. Normally, I passively put up with my irritation with this situation as I grumble on my way to recycling bin, yet again. But not recently. No I hit a breaking point the other day, when not one but two, 17 lb. Restoration Hardware marketing packages appeared at my door step. That's right folks, 34 lbs. of garbage! I can only imagine how much these shipments cost companies, and how much of that cost is passed down to consumers.

I was incensed, and decided to take action. I signed up for CATALOG CHOICE. It's a free website that allows you to manage junk mail, and send requests to companies to remove you from their marketing lists. For those of you who are like me and wish to avoid mail advertisements, it's a great service. I feel like they've given me a small piece of my life back :-)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Around (Another) Town: Assateague Island, MD

Over the weekend  the hubs and I had the pleasure of visiting ASSATEAGUE ISLAND. The island is home to Maryland's only oceanfront STATE PARK, and is about a 3 hour drive from both Baltimore and DC. One of the main attractions is of course the beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Few things beat listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the sand between your toes. It makes an incredible backdrop for reading a good book, taking a nap, or fitting in a little yoga.

In addition, to a phenomenal beach they also have wild horses, that you can find trotting along the shore and other park grounds. It's quite the sight to see.

The location makes for both a nice romantic getaway as well as a family friendly excursion. For an entrance fee of $4 per Maryland resident and $6 per non-resident (active military get in FREE) it won't break the bank either. I feel super fortunate to have discovered it, and can't wait to go back soon!

Friday, August 8, 2014

In the Kitchen: Gourmet Grilled Cheese Recipe

Grilled cheese is one of those dishes that's super easy to make and keeps kids happy.  To kick things up a notch from the standard grilled cheese sandwich, I tried replicating a sandwich I had at UNO'S once upon a time. It was a hit, so I'm passing the recipe along to you.
  • Melt 1/2 tbsp of butter in skillet on medium heat
  • Sprinkle small amount of shredded parmesan cheese onto butter and  place a slice of fresh country bread on top (if you're local you can get great bread from ATWATER'S bakery)
  • Add a mixture of mild cheddar,  romano (optional), and aged cheddar cheeses to bread
  • Top with a second slice of bread with one side buttered
  • Cook until golden
This pairs well with marinara sauce or tomato soup.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Won't You Be My Neighbor?: 707 Hollen Road, Baltimore, MD

A newly renovated bungalow just hit the market in Lake Walker. Reconstructed by the team at JOHN YAKER HOME it boasts 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths. If you love modern finishes or the feel of a condo inside a single family detached home, then this might be the house for you. It's currently listed at $299,990. You can find the listing HERE.

The entire first floor is open concept and includes a powder room and beautifully redone kitchen.

Off the kitchen is a stairway leading to fully finished basement with a full bath, bedroom, and living space.

On the second level are three bedrooms and two full baths.

The master bedroom features a raised ceiling and very convenient en-suite.

There is a another full bath down the hall.

As an added bonus the house comes with really awesome neighbors ;-)

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

If you're interested in the property you can contact the listing agents Eric (eric@theatwoodteam.com) and Tom (tom@theatwoodteam.com). If you're interested in renovating your existing home you can contact the builder at JOHN YAKER HOMES.
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