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Book Report: Summer Reads Round 1

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Growing up, I was a complete bookworm. I would read non-stop, all the time, no matter where I was. The older I’ve gotten, the less I find myself reading, but lately I have really been on a reading spree. In about two weeks this summer, I’ve already gobbled up three books and hope to keep going at that rate because reading keeps me out of trouble (read: keeps me from shopping!). Here’s a brief book report on the novels I’ve finished already this summer and some ideas to keep costs down if you’re also devoting the summer to reading!

The Second Assistant: A Tale from the Bottom of the Hollywood Ladder was the first book I finished this summer, after it languished at the bottom of my pool bag last year after a summer spent crying at the hands of John Green and Cory Monteith. The story of a Hollywood agent’s second assistant trying to survive in LA after growing up in DC had me glued and even though I wasn’t 100% in love with the ending, I found out that there’s a sequel! Overall I enjoyed the book, she ends up with the guy I wanted her to end up with, and even though it didn’t feel like true Hollywood to me (not enough backstabbing,) it made me want to move to California even more.

Confessions of a Shopaholic was next on my plan of attack. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to, because I was horribly excited to pick it up last summer. From a PF standpoint, I was really excited to read this one… and then I spent about 300 pages of the book being horribly annoyed by the main character and wanting to scream at her to take her ostrich head out of the sand. I liked it enough to want to see the movie and maybe read a few more of the books in the series.

Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans, another Brit lit book, was about an overweight girl (although it was horribly obvious that the author has probably never been over a size 8 in her life – if you’re 5’7″ and 220 pounds, you are not incapable of sitting comfortably in chairs as happens to this character over and over) who reinvents herself for a man she meets online. The book was completely dated (written in 1999) but it was still a pretty cute read. And it doesn’t hurt that she flies to LA to meet the guy.

I was able to snag all these books for a grand total of $0 – and if I’m going to keep reading so voraciously this summer, I need to keep the total that low. Here are a few ways I’m going to save and still feed my reawakened bookworm!

Read more…

June 20, 2014

4 Ways Running A Marathon & Paying Down Debt Are The Same {money monday}

Posted in Money, Work Out by

Admittedly, I haven’t trained for a full marathon yet. I’ve trained for (and run) several halfs, though, and read a lot about going the full 26.2. And I have been working on paying down my student loans (thankfully the only debt I have) for longer than I care to think about. The two processes feel very similar. Here are a few examples of how.

  1. Training – to run nearly 27 miles, you have to put in the work. Not only does your body need to build endurance and muscle to run for that long, your brain needs to learn how to push through barriers and shut down the part of you that says “I can’t.” Paying down debt is the same way – no matter how much or how little, there’s always a part in your head full of doubt. Retraining your mind to think you can conquer your big goals – student loan payoff, running a marathon, or anything else that seems insurmountable can be accomplished if you get your mind right.
  2. It sucks – I can’t think of any runner who hasn’t thought this at least once. On a less than stellar run, during speed work or hill repeats, or even during Couch to 5k, we’ve all been there. Throwing money at debt also sucks – you have to make sacrifices and skip out on things you might want right now, and there’s nothing fun about that.
  3. It’s expensive – I’ve covered the costs associated with running before, and that barely begins to cover marathon entry fees for some of the bigger races. (Go on, Google it – I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the ground.) There are costs associated with paying off loans, too – interest rates and late fees can increase already high monthly payments.
  4. Research – everyone’s an expert on the internet, but for running and finance, this can be a good thing. Not every method works for every person, but if you read enough blogs and magazines, you’re sure to find a running method and payoff strategy that suits your style. And while sometimes it’s daunting to look at payoff success stories and feel like you’ll never be able to match their success, it’s also empowering to see that it is possible.

What big goals have you accomplished? Do you think paying off debt and running a marathon are comparable?

April 14, 2014

Everything Old is New Again {money monday}

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I have been on this spending kick again lately. I want to buy ALL THE THINGS! But then I also stop, think about it, and realize that I want to move, and then I stop wanting to shop. Sort of.

I’m trying to allow myself one “fun purchase” per pay period (this time it was a sweet little dress from Altar’d State, a store with perfect clothes but a message I don’t love) and it’s working well, sort of, but I want more. Like this tumbler! And earrings. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before – it really never ends.

Since that post on conscious spending, I think I’ve done a good job at it. I’ve made choices to eat at home and pack lunches (or bring leftovers) for work, except for special occasions. Instead of mindlessly wandering the malls, I’m in a routine of hitting the gym for classes, cleaning, and grocery shopping on weekends.

During my cleaning jag this weekend, I found a way to make it feel like I was getting new things – I started cleaning out my car.


I live fully by this motto, but my car has gotten out of control. This weekend I took a bag upstairs that was full of things I’d packed up at work last …. (summer) and started going through it. Lo and behold, two of my favorite tumblers and my lost suit blazer. While roaming Kroger earlier in the day,  I had found myself wanting a fun new tumbler (even though I have no reason to get one.) Finding new/old cups satiated my need though, and made me stop browsing around.

With summer coming around, I’ll get to switch out my winter wardrobe for summer clothes (plus, with a trip back to the mitten coming soon, get to dig through my “extended storage” still at my parents house.) Maybe this will make me feel like I’m getting a new summer wardrobe, when really I just haven’t seen the clothes for awhile.

In other “everything old is new again” news, we went for a day trip and stopped into an antique store over the weekend. The Walkman I had as a kid was next to a shelf of vintage cameras! How did this happen?!

Do you shop your closets or cabinets for new finds? What’s your most horrifying antique store find?

Stay in touch! twitter@anortherngirls

March 10, 2014

January Spending Freeze

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Yuck… December’s money ended so ugly that I don’t even want to talk about it. (Not even because I splurged on other people. I traveled a lot and treated myself. I deserve it?) In order to recover, I’m joining this spending freeze!

I like that it’s flexible and leaves room for each participant to set their own rules. My rules:

  1. Disney Doesn’t Count. I have my Disney account fully funded (I hope! :|) and have pre-purchased a lot of things like park tickets and such. (And obviously my flight/race/hotel/rental have all been taken care of.) Anything left in the account post-Disney will stay there for my next trip.
  2. $20 MAX per week on food. I’m trying to eat through my pantry (remember last January’s pantry challenge? there are even stranger things in there this year) and this will be for both groceries and restaurants. One thing I have learned is that I really enjoy eating out, and I really enjoy my Starbucks treats, and it’s more worth it for me to cut back elsewhere than to be upset about not getting these treats. Plus, since it’s my birthday month, I should be getting lots of freebies!
  3. No. New. Workout. Clothes. (With one exception, if the lululemon Speed Tights or Pace Setter Skirt go back to markdown. I have been coveting those bad.) And really, I can survive the month without any extra clothes/entertainment spending. Hopefully Disney will sate me for the whole month!
  4. Race registrations are okay. I have two to register for this month, and they are planned expenses.
  5. Instead of impulse shopping, adopt impulse student loan payments. I am really looking forward to knocking my next smallest loan dead this year.
  6. Be smart with my gym money – some of you might know that I won a six month membership to the gym I already attend (and love sooooo much!) at my company holiday party. Originally I saw that extra $78 as workout clothes money, but I really need to direct it elsewhere.

So that’s really less of a “freeze,” I guess, but gives me some guidelines for more mindful spending. Like I said, I plan to knock out at least one of my student loans this year, and I want to get my emergency fund re-fully funded after the car and phone fiascos from last year. While I don’t have specific resolutions for the year (too much pressure,) those are definitely two goals I am committing to.

Are you embarking on any spending challenges in January or for all of 2014?

January 2, 2014

Savings & Debt Payment check-in {money monday}

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Today I logged in to my Capital One 360 account to flip some money from my birthday savings to the checking account to buy my plane ticket for Los Angeles and was super pumped to see this:


Having set up the automated savings last month has really made it easy, and I didn’t even realize I had that much socked away. It hurts a little to not have that almost-$700 sitting in my 3% interest earning checking account, but this way it’s much easier for me to spend it specifically on LA vacation details. In addition to the automatic savings that comes out of my paycheck, I dump extra windfall money here as well – ATM fee reimbursements, interest earned in my regular checking account, eBates cashback, GymPact earnings, secret shopping payments, things like that. If you’re looking for a “special occasion” savings account, Capital One 360 has been really easy and convenient for me and since I don’t carry this debit card around with me, it’s very out of sight, out of mind money. (Plus I like the graphs.) I would love to have all of my money pooling up in my 3% interest checking account to just accrue, but psychologically, that isn’t working for me right now. I need dividing lines.

Beyond saving for Disney, I’m still trucking away at these stupid student loans. I discovered Student Loan Hero via Stephanie at Empowered Dollar, which is a tool that lets you add all your student loans (and even syncs with the NSLDS and Fannie Mae) and displays all of them in an easy to read format. The only thing I don’t like about it so far is that you can’t change your loan priority.

This fall I am really trying to refocus on paying down my debts. On the 14th, I made the last payment on my dental work (thank God) so that’s another $40 I am getting back in my budget. Here’s my pretty, up-to-date, and sad year-to-date graphic:

debt update 10/18/13

Sad because I have some big expenses coming up and I know I won’t be able to hit the debt payment goal I had hoped to. I will need new running shoes before Disney (and probably won’t have enough Swagbucks to buy them,) plus holiday trips to see family in Cincinnati and Gatlinburg, I need new brakes AND tires, and I’m still replacing tings in my wardrobe since things are so ill-fitting.

Little by little. I’m getting there. Adulthood is expensive.

What is your best money hack?

October 21, 2013