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Posted on Jan 30, 2014 in Dear Diary | 15 comments

Investing in Me

I have never been what most would call “frugal.” I am not thrifty, I am not a couponer, I am not a price-comparison shopper, I am not a budgeter. I am, to the endless annoyance and bewilderment of my far more financially responsible sister, one of those people that just buys stuff.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be tacky or insensitive or bragging about my privilege or anything like that, I’m just being honest. I recognize that I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I can buy most of the stuff that I want without having to plan for it — and, of course, I’m not talking about impulse-buying $1000 handbags or giant plasma screens or any huge ticket items like that. I’m just talking about things like the sushi dog plushie I ordered off of Etsy, or my Stitch Fix (and BirchBox… and Julep…) subscription, or the two pairs of Seychelles shoes that I purchased off Amazon last night.

So, yes, I am very fortunate to be in a place right now where, between my full-time job, my book sales, my blog income, and various other projects (like the occasional photo gig or shooting weddings with Ben), I do have a bit of disposable income. And while it has been important for me to have that buffer, not so that I can shower myself with gifts but so I can afford things like Daxter’s most recent trip to the emergency vet, I’ve recently (or, rather, finally) come to the conclusion that my money could most definitely be better well-spent.

I’m not much of an investor. I mean, I have my 401(k), and I have a Roth IRA set up, and now that I work for Yelp I have some stock option stuff that I still don’t fully understand, but I’ve never devoted too much of my time to figuring out where to invest my money. Most of my extra money ends up going into my savings account, and I’ve always been fine with the 0.004% dividend or whatever I get from that every month, haha. And while, as I get older, I’m sure that being financially-savvy and investing my money wisely will become more of a priority for me, at this specific time in my life, there’s really only one thing that I think I need to concentrate my investments in: myself.

The past year has included a lot of awesome stuff in the life department. I landed a true dream job, I wrote a book that, at least according to the Amazon reviews thus far, isn’t terrible, I’m in a great relationship, I have an awesome family that I am obnoxiously close to, fabulous friends… life’s pretty good. So, unlike the first time I started on this health and weight loss journey, when a lot of those other things were pretty much at their lowest, I’m in a pretty amazing place. Which is why concentrating on my weight loss, concentrating on breaking those terrible habits, instituting some good ones, and generally finding that balance I so desperately crave, is finally a priority again.

I’ve always been a big talker. I talk a lot about all the things I want to be do, the experiences I want to have, and the ways I want to improve myself, but I’ve never been particularly great at follow-through. Like, I want to go hot air ballooning and I want to visit Japan outside of Narida airport and I want to finally eat at Toki Underground, but I never make plans to actually do any of those things. And so, beyond what I’m doing to improve my health and lose weight, I’m in a place where I also want to do all the other things for myself I always talked about doing. And so, for once, I am.

Which is why I finally bit the bullet, and decided to get LASIK back in October.

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And is also why two days ago I got lingual braces.

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You’re welcome for that extremely flattering shot of the inside of my mouth.

I actually had braces back when I was 12/13, but once I got to college stopped wearing my retainer (sorry mom and dad!) and, well, you know how it goes. And while my teeth are not in the worst condition, my top teeth have always bothered me. Some people may be quick to say that I don’t “need” braces, and while that’s technically true because it’s not like my teeth don’t work, it’s something I’ve been wanting to fix for a very long time:

EYEphone Outtake

Ignoring the rest of the bizarre photo (don’t ask), this is a good example showing the off-kilterness of my teeth. So I got lingual (behind the teeth) braces, just on top. My bottom teeth are also kind of messed up, but the orthodontist wanted me to get a tooth extracted and all sorts of craziness, plus you can’t even see them when I smile and I totally admit that this is primarily a vanity thing soooooo… yeah. And my teeth hurt crazy bad and my tongue is super pissed at me for putting metal all up in my mouth, but on the bright side, eating is extremely difficult right now so this should be awesome for my diet. #silverlining

But here’s where my original point about money comes full-circle — finally! — because obviously when you’re talking about stuff like metal brackets in your mouth and laser eye surgery, you’re not talking nickels and dimes. You’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars. But, as I said before, it’s not like I had really been spending most of my money on particularly significant things (Daxter emergencies aside, of course). And this kind of stuff? It is significant, at least to me. Because it is spending money ON me.

Getting LASIK is already the BEST money I could have possibly spent on myself. I know I owe you a thorough post about what getting LASIK was like, but for now I’ll just say that it was totally, completely, 100% worth it. If you’re feeling impatient, you can check out my Yelp review of The Eye Center for a more detailed look at the actual process, but I promise I will update you all here soon.

And there it is! As my sister pointed out when I was speaking with her, I got my LASIK in 2013, and I’m doing my braces in 2014, so let’s start taking bets now on what ridiculously expensive thing I do for myself in 2015, eh? Personally, I’m gunning for a week-long trip back to Harry Potter World (the Diagon Alley expansion opens this summer!!!) or… something else. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In what ways have you invested/are you investing in yourself? It doesn’t have to be monetarily, that’s just the direction I took this post in. Could be money, could be time, could be effort… After all, the things I’m doing to improve my eating habits, exercise habits (kind of…), and overall health are big investments in myself as well!

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Posted on Aug 4, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Pup Posts | 18 comments

Healthy Eating on the Cheap

You know, temporary unemployment really puts your budget in perspective. Who knew that I’d be paying such close attention to my own advice when it comes to food and finances so soon? After Monday’s pizza pity party, I’ve made it my goal not to spend money on food until the weekend. So all week long, we’re going to be playing my favorite game: pantry roulette!

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Start with an on-its-last-legs zuke from the fridge (purloined from your sister’s CSA share), add a kajillion knife cuts (I really need a mandolin) and some fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and set aside.

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Meanwhile, cook up some whole wheat pasta and stare longingly at the beautiful label on the newest kind of spaghetti sauce you’re trying from Trader Joe’s.

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Add in zucchini “noodles”, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, whatever, and shake it all about.

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Garnish with a random cherry tomato you found at the bottom of the produce drawer and some fresh basil from the plant that you still can’t believe hasn’t died on your windowsill. Eat.

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Another way to save the cash monies when you’re trying to scrimp and save? Eat dinner at the parentals’ house! ๐Ÿ˜€

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My mom and I made a decadent and delicious meal together for the fam that consisted of creamy mushroom risotto (O.M.G.), chicken, salad, and whole wheat bread for EVOO dippage.

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And fruit for dessert! Crazy exotic fruit, that is.

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Papaya and “dragon eyes” (related to lychees). Mmm.

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The only not-so-economical part of my day? Paying for the mutts to be transformed from their previously shaggy selves into this:

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Worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted on Mar 1, 2011 in Dear Diary | 7 comments

Money, Money, Money

Guess what my evening last night involved? Hehe. Yup, doing my taxes. O, the joy. Well, honestly, I can’t say that it’s really that bad for me at this point. I mean, I’m pretty simple when it comes to taxes. I’m not self-employed, I’m not diligent enough to keep all my receipts (well, this is probably a bad thing) and I’m not generous enough to make lots and lots of charitable donations (though I did pull out my li’l donation to DonorsChoose.org for this year’s return. Whatup DC public school reading programs!)

So all this tax-doing and return-getting (w00t!) and whatnot has made me think really hard about how I spend my money. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not super great about budgeting my money (well, that’s probably not true. I’m sure my sister would be the first one to tell you that, haha!) I really love to shop, and I have an amazing but accursed Amazon Prime membership that makes it entirely too easy to just click-click-buy. But one of the things that I’m trying to do this year is manage my money better so that I can make some significant purchases in the future, like a new car:

I currently have my little eyes set on test-driving the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, and Toyota Yaris when the time comes. I know that I want an ittybitty car (the better to park you with, my dear!) but something that comes with a hatchback is a definite must (for the doggies!), with back seats that can fold all the way down and I’d also prefer 4-door. Luckily for me, my very first car was a stick shift that I inherited from my brother so I can save a few pesos on manual transmission. Regardless, with the price range I’m looking at, I know that I’m going to need to save up about $4,000 for the down payment I’d want to put down, so I really have to start kicking my financial booty into gear.

I recognize that this particular post might not seem specifically weight-loss related, but I argue that it is. After all, cleaning up your diet, buying whole foods (and shopping at Whole Foods), registering for races, buying running gear, and so on can all start to take a serious toll on your wallet! Inspired by Julie’s post yesterday, I decided to think about what I would really do with my money if I budgeted it better (i.e. fewer impulse buys at Nordstrom, haha.) I do know that one thing I would definitely do is start buying completely fully organic produce instead of having to make decisions about the “Dirty Dozen” vs. the “Clean Fifteen” like I do now.

As a sidenote, if you’re looking to start cleaning up your produce (literally), FitSugar.com has posted a freakin’ adorable chart to help you decide which fruits & veggies should be bought organic versus what you can get away with buying conventionally:

I mean, seriously. How cute is this!?!

I think today’s Question of the Day is pretty obvious: What are your personal financial tips? Do you have a budget? If so, do you stick to that budget? How do you guys save money when you’re working toward a big purchase?

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