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5.29.2014

10 Best // Jewelry Organization Options


1. if only i were talented enough to diy this converted dresser option.  oh well, i can dream, right?  you could also use ceramic egg crates in a shallow dresser drawer for the same effect.

2. use a hanging option in your closet to keep everything together.  with just one set of earrings in each pouch or one necklace on each hook, it's easy to see and wear all your options.

3. try a decorative stand for easy access to your most worn pieces.

4. or an adorable a personalized acrylic tray.

5. if you don't want it on display, or maybe want to protect fancier pieces, hide them!

6. i certainly couldn't manage this on my own, so i'd have to buy it, but you could build an entire display shelf for jewelry, sunglasses, etc.

7. if you have the space, use a full length mirror with jewelry storage inside.

8. use stackable trays like steph for earrings and other small pieces.  it keeps them separated and easy to locate, while protecting against tarnishing.

9. if you have a lot of pieces, set it up as if it were a collection at a store like lauren using a shelving unit and cute decorative bowls and boxes to keep everything you have on display.

10. or try my system, which is to hang everything on a cork board with clear pushpins. it's like artwork on my otherwise bare walls.


how do you keep your jewelry in order?

5.27.2014

Why Are Planners So Expensive?

'why are planners so expensive' - always one of the leading searches that gets you to this blog.  undoubtedly because i talk about planners and organization a lot, but probably also because i gripe about the price while still paying it because i do, in fact, think the high cost of planners can be worth it.  for everyone?  obviously not.  don't go by a $60 colorful paperweight, that's silly.  but for some people, like myself, the planner is one of the most useful purchases i make all year.  (and yes, i limit myself to one each year.  i know it's tempting to buy one around this time and one at the new year, since planner companies make big pushes at both of those times to fit with the academic school year and the new year, but just pick one and stick with it.)

let's just get this out of the way now: this is not a discussion of paper planner over digital.  i've tried many a time to go digital with a mix of google calendar, evernote, etc etc and while i do use those things, i cannot exclusively use digital means because it's easier for me to ignore and lose track.  i don't fault anyone who goes digital, i realize it's better and safer and whatever else but it's simply not me.  a part of me will always be a fan of putting pen to paper as well as the physical crossing out of completed tasks.

so that said, this is instead a discussion of how much you should spend on your yearly paper planner.  we clear?  good.  now, as you might know, i'm debt free and i budget like crazy every month.  this was not always the case.  i adore shopping but in getting debt free (bye bye credit card and over $65k in student loan debt) you have to make cuts.  shoes got cut, starbucks got cut, eating out got cut.  but the yearly planner still hangs in there.  a splurge you might call it, since i now refuse to pay more than $5 for pretty much anything.  but $60+ on a planner?  i barely hesitate.

so why are planners so expensive?  and is it worth it for you to drop the cash?

paper, printing, handcrafting time. duh.  365 days to the year = a lot of pages.  you add in note pages, birthday pages, it's simply a lot of materials.  printing at home isn't always cheaper once you factor in paper, ink, binding, your time.


the extras.  the idea here is simple - are you an extras person?  will you actually use it?  yes, with an erin condren you are paying a steeper price for things like stickers, a plastic page marker, personalization, the pocket in the back.  if you're not ever going to use the stickers or keep things in the back pocket, don't pay for it.  there's an uncountable number of planners out there, with varying degrees of 'extras.'  don't pay for one that isn't you.

the fact that it's done.  i am not a diy-er by any stretch of the imagination.  some people love combining their planners just so and take the time to decorate them and do their own personalization.  but i don't have the skill or patience and i'll pay a premium just to have the damn thing done.  are you artistic?  then buy a generic planner at target and fancy it up yourself!

and here's where i'm going to be real honest with you.  the fact that i spent the money on it makes me use it.  really.  i don't use it for a few days then i'm suddenly sitting there calculating the per day cost of that sucker and willing myself to open it again.  because i'm a cheapskate at heart.

and a couple notes from fellow planner lovers:

betsy: "if you're really trying to commit to organizing splurging on something fun with bells and whistles you will enjoy makes the entire process more fun."


steph: "I think if you use something 260 days a year (mostly weekdays), you are talking about just under $7 a month to stay totally organized.  If you're like me and use it for work stuff, blog stuff, and personal stuff, you're touching that thing every day. At least that's my experience since I got my Erin Condren at the end of June of last year. The only time I don't have it with me is if I'm in a tropical location and I can't get it into my bag. So for me using it 340 days a year, I'm paying basically $5.30 a month to stay totally organized.  When you break it down into a monthly cost, there's simply no argument. Most people piss away $7 a month, they can surely earmark it for a planner if it's worth it to them."  and another point worth noting - steph has a giveaway coming this friday for $50 to erin condren.  you know you want it.

what about you?  paper planner for life or all digital?  pay the price or do it yourself?

and speaking of planners... ok, not speaking of planners.  speaking of planning.  john and i have it in our heads that we're taking a tropical, outside the u.s., all inclusive vacation next winter.  (despite the fact that we're both terrified of flying.  cross that bridge later.)  even though i adore snow, he doesn't and wants something beachy and i'm obviously in for 4+ days of unlimited cocktails.  any ideas where we should go?

5.22.2014

10 Best // Ways To Avoid People


well it's memorial day weekend here in the states, so you probably won't just be staying in.  i am, at least for friday and saturday, with john and hawkeye, because the sunday/monday family party time is just a little too much family for me and i need to mentally prepare myself.  if you're taking a day or two this weekend for yourself, might i suggest:

netflix: netflix is always on this list.  i'm currently watching house.  i've never seen it before, but i'm really liking it!  i heard it gets too crazy at the end but that's a long ways away.  what are you watching?  ever seen house?  (i'm only 7 episodes in, don't spoil it for me!)

read: catch up on your awareness and slightly restore your faith in humanity.  look at all that purple!!

bake: mmm peanut butter.  try thumbprint cookies.  or be like me and add chocolate to the mix.

challenge yourself: is it just me, or do you accomplish more when there's a challenge and a prize? go on, try it, and get all those books checked off your never-tackled 'to be read' list. 

look up: your search keywords.  you're in for a laugh, i'm sure.

make: gifts in a jar.  you know, if you're actually seeing anyone you like at those memorial day parties.

learn: what your phobia is classified as.  what's your biggest fear?  mine is lawn gnomes.  i have no idea what category that falls under.  i'm a conundrum.  but, lawn gnomes come alive in the dark and kill you in your sleep, so maybe they deserve a category all their own.

more avoidance: need more ideas?  try aukele's list.

and if all that falls, go win $200 to lululemon.  if you're reading this, you probably already have an entry or two.  and then....

go celebrate 'merica.  happy weekend!

5.20.2014

Very Me

do you ever hear that?  that something is 'very you.'  i hear it a lot - 'that is so stephanie' or 'yup, that ___ (top, cocktail, movie) is very you.'  and it's close cousin 'oh you would like that.'

is that a good thing or a bad thing?  if everyone can peg if something is 'very stephanie' does that mean i'm stuck in a rut or set in my ways?  well, i look at it as a good thing.  i'm halfway through age 29, 6 months away from turning 30.  today, actually, is my half birthday and yes i always celebrated as a kid and my mom even made cupcakes so i will forever know when my half birthday is.  and while there's always room for growing and changing in life, i still think you should have a good sense of self by age 30.  i know what i like and yes, i'm stubborn and don't change and my favorite movie in 1997 is still my favorite movie in 2014.  ditto on favorite song.  and band.  and color.  i'm unswayed from my love of country music even though john hates it.  i still love snow more than any other weather even though we just lived through the polar vortex.

my mom calls this 'unwilling to accept change.'  i call this 'confidence in myself and my choices.'  i like what i like, what's wrong with that?  i was laughing about this fact with betsy because i went to my pinterest page and clicked on 'pins' which shows, in order, everything i've been pinning lately.  as in, not categorized by board.  and everything falls into 3 categories - humor, cocktails, and organization.  which is essentially my life in a nutshell.  and this blog.  (likewise, betsy's latest pins are all disney, blog related, and recipes, which is essentially her life in a nutshell.)  i guess we like to pretend we have wide and varying interests more than we actually do.


i'm not sure anyone is as out there and adventurous as they like to think they are.  for every person i know, i can think of at least one thing that would be very them.  a color, a flower, a signature drink, clothes preferences, a favorite sports team.  there's always something that no one will ever talk you out of loving.  i'm closer to the sheldon side of the scale in my love of things - there's a lot, and i'm not willing to give any of them up.  but hey, it makes my life easier because no one ever has to ask what i want to eat or drink or watch on tv (nachos, bourbon, dance moms.)  i embrace my predictability.

what side are you on?  love what you love or always trying new things?

5.19.2014

A Universal Remote

ridiculous adam sandler movies aside, i really do wish i had a remote control for life.  if you were offered one, would you take it?  i would.  not to go back and drastically alter my life or anything - just to make it easier each day.  i think the top 5 buttons on my universal remote would be:

mute.  don't even pretend for one minute like you wouldn't want the ability to mute people.  that would be the best power ever.  in the adam sandler movie, the remote memorizes that he hits fast forward so much that it starts fast forwarding all the time.  if that was the end result of me hitting mute all the time, trust me when i say that, for most people, i would not be disappointed.  not sorry.


split screen.  would solve the inability to be in two places at once problem, wouldn't it?  on nice sunny days, i could be at the beach while also still getting paid and keeping my job.  i wouldn't have to choose between a wedding and a birthday (an upcoming dilemma in september when my dad will be turning 75 on the same day one of my best friends is getting married.)  and most important - i'd never have to leave hawkeye because i could always still be at home with her!

fast forward.  i feel bad if i rsvp 'no' to things like bridal showers and baby showers (for people i actually like.)  but i have no patience and those things slowly crush my soul.  i'd like to be able to show up, put my gift in the pile, and drink mimosas while i fast forward through all the small talk and game playing bullshit.  this would also be applicable to gym time, family parties, and doctor's appointments.  and any time i get sick.


rewind.  or pause.  i don't like to think before i say things.  i probably should.  and also, how nice would it be to rewind to the moment where you agreed to 'just one more' shot of jameson and make better decisions?!  i'm looking at you, post-bar exam 13 shots of jameson night circa 2010.  or that moment on saturday where megan and i decided that one trenta cup of vodka orange juice each was not enough and we should go get refills even though she had work at 9 a.m.  oh right, and of course rewind and replay all the good stuff like the rascal flatts song says.  but mostly the jameson thing.

tv guide.  right?  a list of everything going on in your life or town at that moment.  and things like birthdays and anniversaries.  i'd never need a planner again.  i'd also never forget to visit the dentist because i'd be as on top of it as i am a new episode of scandal.  especially if i could also set up reminders and auto-tune.

what buttons would be on your universal remote?

5.15.2014

10 Best // Life Lately

1. i feel a bit guilty that i haven't posted in a week.  but, not really.  i've been sick and also super busy with work.  and just totally unmotivated.  i had lots of posts scheduled but i honestly didn't want to edit them or respond to comments or do any work so i just embraced the break.  it was glorious.  it did mean my bloglovin reader got all the way up to 400 unread posts.... so i just hit 'mark as read' on all of them.  it happens.

2. anniversary dinner last month.  we've been (officially) dating for a year.  to most people it feels longer since i've known john for like 15 years but to me it feels much shorter.  but anyway, 1 year = dinner at my favorite restaurant and the prettiest flowers ever.  don't you love them?



3. my friend from high school, katie (you might remember her from her wedding here), started a job in the building directly across the street from me.  i'm so excited to have someone to drag to happy hour again when the weather gets nicer, since my normal buddy julie moved across town.

4. i'm debt free!  student loans are all done (over $65k) plus no more credit card debt.  everything is totally paid off and up to date.

5. free money.  if you're not earning swagbucks yet, i don't know what you're waiting for.  i'm totally done with christmas gifts for my friends because i've earned $200 in gift cards since april 10.  i'm now working on the money i'll need for gifts for my family and hawkeye but seriously - i'll be done in like 2 months.  free christmas, done 5 months early.

6. i told my 3 best friends from law school (including natalie) to keep a weekend in november open for my 30th in nashville.  to which caitlin responded "i'm turning 30 in july."  natalie and i both said 'damn we thought your 30th was july 2015, not this year!' ... caitlin: "oh wait shit it is. lol...i just *feel that old. reunion either way. yay for only being 29!"  i'm still laughing over this.  i've had those days too, caitlin.

7. shopping with my mom.  we keep going grocery shopping on sundays and making food for the week, it's awesome.  and she also took me clothes shopping.  and paid.  you can't have her, she's mine!

8. cover your bases bar crawl!  with john and his brother eric.  eric and i are like kids on christmas at these things, poor john has to babysit us.



9. 101 in 1001 list progress - obviously, celebrating 1 year of dating, that was a secret goal.  i also got all my other debts paid off and started a savings account.  and of course, planned another themed party - a doggie birthday, which also checked off bringing hawkeye to a hotel.  i'm at 65/101 things checked off!

10. hawkeye, the birthday girl.  i couldn't pick just one favorite photo this month, so you vote - 'i give up on life' or 'face deep in a cup of queso dip'?



happy friday!

5.07.2014

YNAB (You Need A Budget) Review and Giveaway


let's start with the important thing - i did not get anything free for doing this review.  i bought ynab (you need a budget) months ago, when kym talked about it.  i've been using it successfully ever since, it's the one financial/budget thing i can stick with.  i think it's a huge part of why i'm now debt free.  i've talked about it before but i decided to do a whole post on it in case you wanted to try it to.  then i contacted the ynab people and asked for a copy of the software to giveaway, which they were kind enough to provide.  but this review was coming regardless of the giveaway - you just get a special treat!  and second housekeeping thing - you can get a 34 day free trial here and if you want to purchase, you can get $6 off using this referral link.

what is ynab?  ynab is budgeting software.  (once you buy it it, you can get it on any computer and your phone, it all syncs together via dropbox.)  like a fancy excel spreadsheet.  the math stuff is already built in so when you enter transactions, you don't have to add or subtract or carry it over to the next month.  the best way to get a feel for this really is downloading the free trial and testing it out.


how does it work?  you enter in your available funds.  each time you get paid, enter that in as available income.  then budget it!  you set up the categories.  some of mine include groceries, rent, pet supplies, as well as savings goals (birthday in nashville!) and 'rainy day funds' like unexpected vet bills.  you decide how much goes into each category.  the first couple of months may be trial and error while you figure out just how much you spend on groceries, etc. but that's the benefit of the software.  you just roll with it, if you over spend in one category, you move around the money in the other categories to make it work.  if you can't make it work, you know you're spending outside your means and you need to cut back.


as you can see here, you enter each transaction in as you spend, just like that check register you never used.  get the phone app, that makes this part easy.  you enter in where you spent the money and what category it's coming out of.

why is it better than free apps?  i've used mint and learnvest and various other budgeting apps.  the problem i ran into is that those are very backwards looking - you link your accounts, then it's very passive.  you just log in and look at where your money went.  ynab is active, and forward looking.  it does not sync with your accounts (i mean you can import old data, but you won't need to.)  you enter in your paychecks and then you tell your money where to go, which category it goes in.  every single dollar is accounted for and you can see that it's earmarked for a special purpose - like if you get paid on the 15th but you don't get your electric bill until the 28th.  no guessing game.  the free apps work great, if you can be diligent.  but if you're reading a review on budgeting software, you're probably in the same boat as me.  not diligent.

what else?  they offer free online classes.  and also transcripts of those classes in case you can't make it.  they tell you all the basics and tell you how to work through more complicated things like paying off credit card debt and dealing with different pay cycles.  definitely take all the classes!

i love it.  there's no way i'm writing out a budget on paper each month, there's just not.  this software actually makes it fun - the best $54 i've spent all year.  worth every penny.  what else do you want to know about it?  i'm here to answer all your questions!

oh right, and now, win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5.06.2014

Liz Lemon Knows My Life









i was going to type words but i just don't think this post needs them.  lemon out.

5.02.2014

Swagbucks Saturday



no, i won't post about it every saturday... i'm a little lazy for that.  but after this post, i got a lot of questions about swagbucks.  currently, i stand at $100 to amazon earned in 20 days.  so yeah, that's pretty cool.  i plan on using that money for christmas gifts (uhhh sorry friends who read, pretend to be surprised when you get your amazon gift card, k, thanks) so i have 6 christmas gifts totally done.  is it crazy to start planning for christmas in april?  i suppose, but crazy and debt free?  i'll take it, any day!

a lot of people have asked how i get my points each day.  (be aware, referral links follow!)  first of all, sign up using this link and enter the promo code NotPerfect and you'll get 70 points just to get started.  once you finish filling out your initial profile, you get 30 more.  so that's 100 points right there. (450 points is a $5 amazon card, other $5 cards are 500 points.)  here's 10 ways i earn each day:

1. swagbucks is essentially a search engine.  you get anywhere from 6 to 20 points when you search.  it's random when you get rewarded, i say i do about 15 to 20 searches and then get awarded 7 points, sometimes 12, twice or three times a day.  fridays are extra point days, i got 49 points once off one search on a friday.

2. the swagbucks tv mobile app.  you can play short videos on your phone (make sure you do it over wi-fi so you don't eat up your data plan) for 50 points a day.  it's by far the easiest and quickest way to get 50 points each day.  if you did nothing else, you'd get a $5 amazon card in 9 days.

3. watching videos online.  you can get up to 150 points a day doing this.  you get 3 points every 10 videos, there's a tracker on top that let's you know how far along you are.  getting to the 150 takes some effort, as you need to watch at least 30 seconds (usually the ad in the beginning) of each video before you can move on.  that's a lot of time, so you probably won't reach 150 every day.  but i play them while i do things like pay bills and sort the mail.  multitasking, baby.

4. do the daily tasks.  you'll see those on the left hand side.  take the daily poll (takes 10 seconds) and you get 1 point, so 30 points each month easy.  there's also the noso (no obligation special offers) to click through, just click skip if you don't like anything, enter the code at the end, get 2 points.  maybe 20 or 30 seconds.  so yeah, that's 90 points each month for 45 seconds of your time.  if you install the toolbar or the google chrome extension, it's another 1 point each day.

5. play the games.  it's stuff like memory, nothing complicated.  you get 2 points awarded every 2 games, up to 10 points.  you don't have to be any good - there's one where you make your dinosaur jump gaps so he doesn't fall off the cliff.  my keyboard got stuck so my dino died instantly.  i still got the points!

6. shopping.  you can get points back on a ton of online shopping, including amazon, walmart, macys.  i mean, don't buy things just to get points!  but if you're already shopping, might as well get rewarded, right?  there's also special shopping deals when you can earn extra points.  like, if you're planning on ordering flowers for your mom for mother's day, do it through swagbucks and get 750 points.  ($7.50, essentially)

7. surveys.  there's a survey dashboard, so you can fill out your info and hopefully get surveys you qualify for.  but even if you don't qualify, you can get 5 points a day just getting disqualified.  it's pretty funny!  i say i end up qualifying for and taking 1 out of every 10 to 15 surveys i try for. (i always try for the ones that are at least 100 points!)

8. swag codes.  they post codes for points every day, at least worth 2 points, sometimes more.  always 1 per day, sometimes more and 4 on thursdays with trivia on twitter.  if you have the toolbar/chrome extension installed, it alerts you when there's a new code.  swagbucks has a blog, a facebook, and a twitter, that's where the codes get posted.  this coming monday is a 'swagbucks extravaganza' which means there's going to be a ton of codes all day and extra prizes and such so it's a good time to sign up!

9. encrave.  similar to watching the videos, encrave is either little clips or articles and you vote 'like it' or 'not for me' on each one.  points for clicking around the internet, usually entertainment/celeb news type stuff.

10. special offers and coupons.  first of all, if you're a couponer, you can get 10 points for each coupon you print and use.  it's the same coupons you'd find at coupons.com.  second, the front page and also under the special offers tab are all sorts of little things that you could get extra points for.  some are huge - like 800 points for ordering a free julep maven box.  there's a lot of other smaller ones too, like trying a game on facebook or downloading and trying (free) phone apps.

obviously, you can see that you can spend however much time makes it worth it for you.  some days i only have the time to do quick searches, other days i'm home watching tv for an hour and i can click through some videos or take a survey.  so, are you on swagbucks yet?  what do you do to earn points?

5.01.2014

April Wallet Watch - How'd I Do?


the spending freeze is over.  if you remember, i marked april as a no-spend month.  you can read my initial rules about it here but essentially, there was to be absolutely no spending this month outside of basic groceries and 4 pre-planned events.  this post is where i recap exactly how i did in my projected spending for my planned events and groceries as well as where i failed in my spending on all the unnecessary things.

(not listed: monthly bills - rent, health insurance, electric, etc.)

april 2 - small fail: i had to get hawkeye groomed.  she hadn't been in forever because after the vet stuff i just wanted to give her a break.  but her nails and fur on her paws (which bugs her) grew fast and we really couldn't put it off until may.  this is impossible to do myself and just a part of the cost of pet ownership, so it's an essential.  i don't count this as a fail.  i forgot to budget it, but it was not a 'want' nor frivolous. -$80 (yes, i pay $80 to get my dog groomed every two months.  worth it.)

april 6 - budgeted outing with natalie.  to talk blog and eat things, the usual.  i budgeted $40.  spent $11. +$29

april 7 - i won my march madness bracket by a landslide.  +$200

april 9 - john's brother gave me all the change out of his coat pockets.  it was over $7 and i totally bought a raspberry latte with dimes and pennies.  no shame when it's spending freeze month.  nothing to do with my total, but it's funny.

april 10 - movie date night, thanks to a $25 amc gift card.  $0 spent.

april 14 - stayed in with john watching dexter, decided at 8 pm to get ice cream.  i literally snuck across to the grocery while he was in the shower.  that's how much i wanted ice cream, and how much i knew he'd be all 'no, spending freeze!'  -$10

april 16 - impromptu lunch with katie when she started her new job across the street from my office.  i couldn't resist!  -$12

april 17 - john's and my anniversary.  aww so cute.  his gift was charged to my credit card back in march and i already had a card and champagne.  but i budgeted for anything cutesy i might add and to possibly pay for dinner/cab rides but who was i kidding with that, he never lets me pay.  budgeted $100.  paid for one cab, $10.  +$90

april 19 - bunny rock 5k race my mother registered us all for.  my dad pays me $100 if i beat him in races, yes still at age 29 as he did at age 9.  is it fair to still beat him when he's 74?  whatever, we're a competitive family.  +$100

april 19 - budgeted outing for betsy's birthday.  she ended up not feeling well, so money saved for when she's up for it.  $0

april 25 - picked up last minute taco bell taco meat and cheese to make a birthday cake for hawkeye.  -$5

april 26 - hawkeye's birthday party!  judge away.  the hotel got charged to my card way back in february and i knew they had free happy hour, so i just budgeted getting room service for hawkeye, myself, john, and john's pug thor, dinner and breakfast, at $100.  only got dinner, we had stuff early on sunday and had to leave.  spent $60.  +$40

total in cabs: -$40.  see below.


all in all, a few fails, but definitely came out ahead.  so my goal in all of this was to pay off my credit card and therefore finally be debt free.  accomplished!  i'm totally debt free for the first time since moving out of my parents house 10 years ago.  crazy.

struggles: i pass 4 chipotles on my way home from the office.  4.  pure torture.  and a taco bell.  and a billion other great chicago places, so it takes a lot of focus and a lot of leaving my money at home.  it was also damn near impossible not to take cabs when it was sideways raining, but i settled for the train on those days.  my cta pass is already loaded and i never use it so it has enough money for 5 more spending freeze months.  i hate the cta.

things that saved me: (1) gift cards.  i had one to amc theaters, a restaurant, and starbucks.  (2) john.  even though i kept the outings to a minimum, he paid for a couple date night cabs and wrestlemania, and the food we ordered during wrestlemania.  that's probably cheating, but it's not like i would have done those things without him! (3) my mom.  i had budgeted for groceries, those were to be a planned expense.  she bought my groceries and cooked all my meals for me every sunday this month.  best mommy ever!  this meant that i brought all my lunches to work for the whole week, and thus took cabs monday mornings when i carried everything in.  but one $10 cab a week is cheaper than groceries or buying lunch every day!

i think it was a wildly successful no spend month, especially since i didn't go out and buy anything the minute it was over.  all my money is even budgeted for may with ynab, i made $100 in 20 days with swagbucks (all of which will go to christmas gifts, more on that tomorrow), and i read approximately 472 frugal living blogs, like my always favorite michelle and my new favorite shannyn, so i think it kicked off a nice slow down in spending lifestyle change.  we shall see!
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