Monday, January 15, 2018

Money Matters in 2018

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As I talked about in my last post, 2018 is going to be a year dedicated to really taking care of and bettering myself. A big part of that self-care is being smart about how I save and spend my money.

Looking at my bank account is often a very nerve-wracking task, but it can be especially painful immediately after the holidays. I know I can't be the only one out here, right?

One of the things that has really bothered me in the time between graduating college and starting my first job is the depletion of the savings account that I had be saving essentially since birth. The big reason for that was not having a solid job before my student loans repayments kicked in. But having been in my new position for about a year and moving into my new place and developing and understanding of my budget month-to-month, I feel more comfortable putting away money from each paycheck into a savings account to build that back up.

I also want to improve my budgeting to ensure that moving that bit of money over to my savings is not as painful as it would have been when I initially started out. I rely on apps like Mint to let me know when I am spending too much in a certain area, like entertainment or eating out (which I need to cut back substantially on!) I'm also looking at certain products I can spend less on.

Pro tip: TJ Maxx has a great selection of products like shampoo/conditioner in large salon pump bottles that will take you a bit further than the products in the drug stores. Plus, it's just so much fun to browse through the unique brands and products that they carry each time I walk into the store.

I have doubled down on making my coffee at home each morning before I leave for work. I use a French press, so it's an actual process to make it, but the end product is just so much better than anything I get at Starbs.

As I mentioned before, eating lunch out is a huge weakness of mine. It's hard to find soup or a salad appetizing after sitting through a two hour long meeting that ends right in the neighborhood of lunchtime. But the sandwiches from the conveniently located Mediterranean restaurant downstairs are no more (or at least they will be significantly reduced!) I've started making large pots of soup to take for lunch during the week. And if I do say so myself, I've produced some very yummy dishes!

I've also started using more budget-friendly products, like Harry's razors, which can be found at Target. They are less price-y than many women's razors (that pink tax, amirite?) and tbh provides a better shave. For the first time in a long time, buying razor refills doesn't stress me out because the refill pack I usually get is less than $10!

Cutting down on spending doesn't mean you are cutting out the enjoyable, luxurious things. You can find luxury without dropping a good portion of your paycheck in one shopping trip. Look around and find those things that work wonders for you. You might be surprised at how much it DOESN'T cost you.


How will you make a point of saving in 2018?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Happy New Year

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The east coast is currently experiencing some Canada-like cold temps this weekend after getting visited by the "bomb cyclone." Welcome to 2018.

D.C. didn't really see too much snow – mostly just wind and generally feeling like a tundra. I will not be leaving the house at all this weekend. But sending good vibes to comrades in New England who got slammed with the snow. I also saw an alert as I was leaving the office the other day that said every state in the country was essentially freezing or near freezing. Crazy, right?

But hopefully this year comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.

When I was with my friends Sunday night to ring in the new year, someone brought up resolutions and I realized that I totally forgot to even think about mine.

I always end up doing the typical: work out more, drink more water, eat healthier.

Since those are the go-to they become pretty mundane for me around March (I'm being generous here!) So, this year I decided to actually not get specific. I'm keeping my resolution broad this time around as an experiment: will I keep at it better than I do when I lay out specific goals?

For 2018, I'm just aiming for general betterment of my life. I know the 2017 baseline that I'm coming from. When I make food, fitness, financial, professional, even social moves this year, I want the voice in my head to say "Okay, but is this better or is it keeping me at the baseline?"

All those little goals end up pointing to that big, overarching goal anyway, right?

<3 Ashley

What is your 2018 promise?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Healthy Tech

I'm sure there are plenty of you scoffing at that title. Is any tech healthy? Well...that depends on how
you use it and your dependence on it.

Funny enough, this post is coming to you at a moment I am using technology to be lazy and unhealthy — I've been watching Drunk History for a solid eight hours. I do want to point out thatI did get up several times to do laundry and make food. So I wasn't totally stationary ... That's what Sunday is for though, right?

In defense of myself, I do use the tech at my finger tips to facilitate healthier behavior as well.

One of my favorite apps is Aaptiv. I discovered the fitness/personal trainer app awhile back. I enjoy running — it's like the one physical activity I can perform successfully — but sometimes it can be very dull to sustain for more than 30 minutes. With Aaptiv, I select whatever workout appeals to me that day. I remember last year there was a Halloween workout set to songs for the holiday ... it's pretty great to run to the Monster Mash. In your hear, you've got a great running playlist and the encouragement of the trainer. Honestly, it makes the workout go a lot faster than my typical running playlist, and even ends with a cool down yoga sesh. Disclaimer: it is $9.99/mo. for a subscription.

For mental health, I turn to Headspace. Now, I admit that this doesn't get used as regularly as my other apps. I used it more in college when I had more time in the morning before class. Headspace is basically a guided meditation app. For three minutes each morning, I close my else and practice some measured breathing with the help of the most soothing English accent probably ever.

I have also dabbled a bit in My Fitness Pal. This app helps track both workouts and food consumption. I will admit that I have only ever used it to plan workouts. The app will be honest with me and be like "Girl, you have GOT to get some weights up in here at some point." Spoiler: I don't do weights. Oops. I tried the food tracker/calorie counter at the beginning, and it was very easy and comprehensive to use. However, I'm not one for counting calories ... that's just not how I prefer to enjoy food. But it's great for whatever aspect you want to track.

New apps are always in development to help facilitate health and wellness in a sometimes more accessible ways. For instance, Warby Parker has recently developed a prescription check app for those who wear eyeglasses. This app (just for iPhones at the moment) allows you to have your refraction checked for a lower price than you would if you had it done in conjunction with your eye health exam with your eye doctor. After the exam, a doctor will review your results, and if nothing has changed, will write you another year's prescription for your lenses. Please note, this does not apply to contacts - only eyeglasses.

- Ashley

What are your favorite health apps?

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Digs: A Work in Progress

I was very happy to close a weekend of moving with not moving in my bed :)

Hello, hello!

I come to you live from a new chapter in my life. I have moved out of my family's place that I've been staying at for the past few months as I get used to being an adult with a job, and have found a lovely group of roommates in one of the cutest little brick houses in the DMV.

Words cannot describe the excitement of making the big push into being more independent. Of course, I'm sure that excitement will fade after the first electric bill comes through my mailbox – what is this new tenant deposit and why is it so much?

This weekend was the big move and my body is still feeling it. That's how you know you need to hit the gym right? When arms scream in agony and you vow to hire movers for every move in the future?

As of now, the master bedroom I inhabit is very sparse on furniture and very abundant in space. It makes me nervous to see so much open space. I would make a bad minimalist. I like a room to be full, home-y, and cozy. I like it to look like someone lives there. Give me a few weeks ... there will be more than just a bed and a dresser in there.

I am thrilled to be back in a larger kitchen and even more thrilled to see a cleaning schedule on the wall next to the stove. Context: Roommate chores in college were annoying to coordinate and I cleaned the kitchen more than 1 of 4 roommates should.

Additionally, this is the first time I am living with cats. I consider this to be a huge adventure as an AVID dog person. But these are very sweet cats who just want love and to sit on my bed. If it wasn't for the white bedding I might allow it ;P

- Ashley

What did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mix and Bite

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With summer entering into its end phase — sorry kids, time to start thinking about school — this is the time I really enjoy time outside. July is always so hot and unbearable, but August and early September are so pleasant, particularly the evenings. 

Question: Is there anything better than spending a summer night on the porch or an impromptu picnic with your friends absentmindedly biting at yummy snacks and sipping on delicious mixed drinks? Answer: No. There is nothing better. Throw in some music in the background and thrilling conversation, you've got a pretty solid setting. 

Please note that I am not talk about hardcore chowing down. While I am totally behind al fresco dining, I am talking about some proper midday-late night adult snacking. Easy access snacks like pretzels and popcorn are honestly the best, and they aren't LOADED with calories so you can snack guilt-free. Though, I always snack guilt-free ... Own your snacking!

But snacking is only truly great when it's paired with the best beverage, and summer offers such a great menu of cocktails. SkinnyPop has sportingly provided a handy guide for your snacking/drinking needs. Just the thought of indulging in a blueberry mojito with some salt and pepper popcorn has me wanting to call off work to initiate an early happy hour.

Honestly, as my week stands, nothing sounds better than a margarita (make it a size large!) and a bowl of pepper jack popcorn.

 - Ashley

What is your perfect summer snack/drink pairing? 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lessons Learned

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I've mentioned casually (read: I slide it into every conversation) that after 10 months of job searching, I finally hooked one.

If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know I am from the great, majestic state of Pennsylvania. Having gone to college in Pittsburgh and absolutely falling in love with the city, I wanted to stay and work. After graduation, I went back home and kept submitting applications for jobs in PGH. But, I never made it past the in-person interviews—if I made it that far. So I expanded my search. I applied up and down the northeast. Ya'll, I applied to a job in Binghamton, NY ... I'm still not quite sure where that is.

Eventually, I found myself deep in the interview processes for two jobs: one at home, one in Washington, DC. One day, I was cooking lunch and my phone went off. It was a job offer in DC. I cried immediately after hanging up. After, I (sort of) pulled myself together, I called everyone. One call was made to my uncle who lives in Maryland and works in DC. He was my saving grace.

I was a girl who was operating on a retail paycheck. I was a girl who was NOT going to be able to afford housing in DC right off the bat. It's a great city, but like all great cities it is not very budget friendly, especially if you're right out of college.

All of the great support I got through my transition into the next phase of my life was from my family. I could not have remained sane without my crazy family. :)

My uncle has opened up his home to me, which has made saving my money so much easier. My mother gave me a short course in budgeting before I became a responsible, salaried employee. My dad answers literally every money question I have regarding what would be smart for me to do in the long run.

With all of these great people in my corner, offering up the warranted (and admittedly sometimes unwarranted) advice, I made some great adult strides: I got a credit card, I bought my cell phone up front to keep monthly payments lower and not be tied down by a contract, I've acknowledged a consistent weekly budget for things like groceries, I've made larger payments toward my student loan to lessen the duration even by just a little bit.

All this responsibility, and the experiences I hear about from my friends, really has me thinking about all sorts of potential moves down the road. I have friends who have had to take out loans to afford rent; those who have research student loan refinancing; friends who have explored ways of making payments easier for them. One of my co-workers mentioned I name I knew when we were talking about finance, Earnest. You may recognize them from a previous post. She spoke more directly to their student loan refinance options, but they also boast low-interest personal loan options to make life a little easier if you are looking at loans.

As scary as the prospect of all the financial decision making was when I was younger, I actually am enjoying the real life education I am getting along the way. I've looked to not only my family, but also resources like Earnest which have provided great explanations of the various options that we all have, but may not be so quick to think about.

- Ashley

How was your transition out on your own for the first time? What was the best advice you received?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I Woke Up Like This

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You know those articles that pop up all over the web? Those articles that make you feel like a lazy slug because of your morning routine? I know you have seen them...they are everywhere.

Now, I don't want to totally tear them apart. I understand and appreciate what they are trying to convey. We have to work hard to maintain healthy and balanced lifestyles, I get it. However, can we please acknowledge reality for a second?

Are these kinds of morning schedules truly attainable? Not for all of us.

I applaud the women who find the strength within them to wake up with enough time before work to get in a workout, eat the healthiest breakfast you've ever heard of, do some light reading, catching up on the news, and finishing their first cup of coffee (whaaaat?)

I'm gonna be real. I do not wake up energized. I wake up tired. I wish I could be one of those people who just wakes up a morning person; one of my roommates in college was that person. Unfortunately, my timing still isn't great on matching up my alarm with my REM cycle, but I'm working on it. Note: that's sarcasm. I'm not working on it. I have other things to do.

I would love to get in a morning run. It's nice and cool in the morning, a great time to clear my head and begin the day. However, that would mean getting up at 5 am — considering I would need time for a quick shower. Also, I can't say I would feel totally safe running before the sun is up. But I do try and get a morning run in when I am working from home or on the weekends.

But I do try to make my morning a good one, because I do believe that it does set the precedent for the day. I can't have a long leisurely morning and stroll out calmly for work; I would get lazy. So I wake up, giving myself between 1-1.5 hours before I have to walk out to catch the train.

The night before I will have thought about making my lunch, but I will not have made my lunch, so I will throw a salad together while the kettle boils for my coffee. In the four minutes that it takes the coffee to do it's thing in the press, I put together my breakfast: yogurt and berries, Cheerios (always the OG) and berries, or a breakfast sandwich.

I allow myself to catch up on my late night show clips and any breaking news from the night since I do my reading on the train (great way to get through the 45 minute commute!)

Compared to the morning routines in these articles, mine certainly probably seems a bit lazy, but IRL it works for me. I don't feel sluggish during the day. Sure, I get kinda tired around 2 pm, but then I get up and take a walk down to the riverfront to breathe in the fresh air for 15 minutes before I head back to finish the day.

Morning routines aren't one-size-fits-all. Never let one person's productive morning make you feel like you aren't doing's quite possible you are.

- Ashley

How do you spend your morning?