Jana Says

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Tag Archive: finances

Affordable ways to destress

It’s time once again for a round of someone was wrong on the internet and I must fix it! This time it’s not about parenting or even politics (we’ll address that on Friday for a special version of my Friday six-pack) but rather a topic that’s near to me this month…money. You know. Because of the spending freeze

Anyway, I somehow came across this post about cheap ways to destress. I totally get his sentiment and the point he’s attempting to make but I’m not quite sure he understands what he’s saying. For instance, have you ever replaced a shower head? First of all, if you want one that’s halfway decent, it’s not going to be cheap (well, I mean, maybe it is depending on your definition of “cheap” which, admittedly, is pretty subjective) and also not fun to install. Especially if you’re short like I am. It winds up being the EXACT definition of stress rather than a way to destress. However, you know what IS a cheap way to destress? TAKING A SHOWER. Or a bath, if you’re into that. (I am not. Taking a bath is the equivalent of marinating in your own dirt. NO THANK YOU).

Or how about hiring someone to clean your house or apartment? Maybe as a one-off but on a regular basis that shit adds up. Same with subscription services and grocery delivery and massages and mani/pedis and pretty much everything on his list. Yes, as a temporary relief, these are great choices provided you have the extra money laying around to spend on these little luxuries. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not.

And, if I’m being honest, the list he gave shows his privilege.  Particularly the phrase “Enjoy the knowledge that your upgraded standard of living is actually saving you money.”  It’s such a loaded sentence I legit don’t even know where to begin picking it apart. I’m not even sure I want to for fear I won’t be able to stop. But I will say this: the danger of lists like this one is that it doesn’t advocate doing things you can afford; it merely advocates buying smaller things to prevent a larger, more expensive purchase. Some people might read it as justification to put a massage on a credit card or use money designated for savings to throw a party instead. That opens up a Pandora’s box of bad choices and financial missteps that can cause even more problems. 

Because upgrading your standard of living does not automatically mean a relief of stress. In many instances, and for many people, it actually brings more because one upgrade snowballs into two then into three and so on. And the little things can, after awhile, add up to the cost of the one item you were trying to avoid. It becomes self-defeating (and debt inducing). So, maybe, if you want the big thing, get the big thing and stay away from the little ones. It’s sort of like when you have a craving for a donut. You don’t want to eat the donut because, although delicious, donuts are calorie laden. So instead of eating the donut, you eat 45 other foods that leave you unsatisfied and still craving a donut and you’ve consumed about 34 times more calories than if you had just eaten the donut.

Sometimes, JUST EAT THE FUCKING DONUT. It’ll be better for you in the long run. 

Now, I’m not saying run out and buy a new car if you can’t afford your rent but if you need a car to get to work so you can keep your apartment and the car is causing you stress and you’re spending more money in repairs than if you would just get a new car, then get a new to you car. Set a budget. Comparison shop. And get a new car. That will help destress your life. Maybe it’s not the cheapest way but have you ever dealt with car stress? It sucks and can absolutely impact your quality of life, particularly if you live somewhere (like I do) that doesn’t have reliable or accessible public transportation and you need to get around. 

I 100% guarantee that sometimes and in certain situation getting a new car eliminates stress more than a latte. 

That said, let’s bring it back around to his initial idea of cheap ways to destress which, as we’ve covered, are not necessarily cheap. I mentioned one alternative to his ideas: taking a bath or shower. 

Here are a few other ACTUALLY cheap ideas to destress: 

  1. READ. Obviously this is my first choice. 
  2. Get outside. Too cold to go out? Watch a sunrise or sunset or a snowfall or listen to the rain. Nature is relaxing. 
  3. Talk to someone who makes you laugh. I love my friends who make me laugh and somehow they know exactly when I need them. See also: catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. 
  4. Pet an animal. There’s all kinds of studies that show animals lower blood pressure and keep you calm and are good for your mental health. So, if you can (and you’re not afraid or allergic), pet a dog or cat or guinea pig or whatever. 
  5. Take a day off. Stop hustling, stop working, stop thinking, stop doing anything that is causing you stress. Disconnect from everything for a day and do whatever the fuck you want. 
  6. Nap.
  7. Make time for something that relaxes you that you rarely make the time to do. Knit, bake cookies, scrapbook, color, watch your favorite movie, play a board game, throw a football…whatever. The possibilities are endless.
  8. Get something to take care of. Specifically, a plant or fish or a hermit crab or something else cheap and small and easy to maintain. Maybe this is more for mental health (as in, having something to take care of gives you purpose and helps get you through the day) but it still works. 
  9. Light candles, drink coffee or tea, and sit still, without electronics, for 15 minutes.
  10. Listen to music. Music is cathartic. It allows you to feel all the emotions. You can have angry songs or dancing songs or songs that make you happy or sad songs. Music can match your mood and sometimes, it understands exactly what you need more than anything.

This is not a comprehensive list or all-inclusive or even original. It’s mostly common sense but I guess we all sometimes need a reminder that you don’t have to spend money to alleviate stress in your life. 

How do you guys destress?

 

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30 Day Challenge #1: Spending Freeze

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a fun night, doing whatever you did. Me? I went to a party, sans husband who was home with a fever, for a few hours. Fun fact: it was a costume party and I, who never dresses in costume, dressed up. I went as Janeane Garofalo’s character from the movie Mystery Men. Never heard of it? If it helps, neither have most people and absolutely no one knew who I was. So that was fun. Also, I couldn’t drink because no designated driver. So that was fun, too. 

But now that’s over and we’re getting down to the business of the year. And while I have no goals or resolutions, I am choosing to focus on improvement and habit changes. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach this and then I thought: 30 DAY CHALLENGES! I love the idea of 30 day challenges because I really can’t think of anything I can’t do for a month. Hell, I made it, successfully, through a Whole30. If I can do that, I can do anything. 

I haven’t fully mapped out all the 30 day challenges for the year (I am taking suggestions if you have them), although I do have January and February planned. I’ll keep you in suspense for February. As for January, well, that’s what we’re going to talk about now. 

Given the hemorrhaging of money that happens in December, and the fact that I have become completely oblivious and unintentional as to how I spend my money and what I spend it on, I’ve decided I’m doing a 30 day spending freeze for January. I’m not doing it save or pay down debt or any reason other than I need to start paying attention again. I have had it with haphazardly buying random crap and wondering a) why I have it and b) where all my money went. The moment that made me realize this is how I needed to start the new year? I recently cleaned out all my makeup and assorted other products and realized how many duplicates–unnecessary duplicates–I have and it’s all as a result of mindless spending (you know how it goes. Walk into Bath and Body to buy one thing, smell all the scents, buy 27 bottles of antibacterial soap instead of the thing you meant to buy). Apparently, that’s where my money goes (also to Wawa or Amazon or Walgreen’s. Seriously. I added it up. It’s disgusting and I have no idea what I bought most of the time).

So in an effort to use what I have, regain purpose and intention in how I use my money, and stop wasting it, I’m pushing pause on my spending. I have bigger plans for my income. I want to do that stuff instead.

My rules for my freeze are simple:

  1. Don’t spend money on unplanned expenses
  2. Gift cards are cheating
  3. Stuff other people buy me is not (ex., husband bringing me coffee)

Easy enough to follow. I think. I mean, they’re not difficult nor are they expansive or unreasonable or too restrictive. I guess that’s what happens when you make rules for yourself. 

I’m confident I picked a shit month to do this. I mean, is there really ever a good month to do a spending freeze because, you know, life, but this month is extra bad. We have 2 cheer competitions, one of them a 2 day one in Atlantic City, NJ (please, don’t be jealous of my trip to Atlantic City in the middle of January. I know it sounds incredibly appealing), and my dad’s birthday. I can plan as much as possible for these events, and I’m perfectly capable of saying no, but sometimes it’s exponentially easier to say yes. And while my bank account won’t necessarily suffer from saying yes, it’ll definitely be a setback in mindset. But if I know it’s a setback, and I choose to do it anyway, do I still learn from it? 

I feel this is a chicken and egg discussion and I think I’ll stop now. 

So that’s it for my January challenge. I’ll report back at the end of the month to let you know how I did. 

Have you guys ever done a spending freeze? How’d it go for you?

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January Frugality Challenge recap

You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly you know you’re supposed to be friends with them? 

That’s what happened to me when I was in Charlotte last year. I met this crazy awesome fun lady named Brynn (a name I love, by the way) who happens to run a blog, Femme Frugality, and we’ve kept in touch through email a bit and our blogs and that’s how I found out about her Frugality Challenge. She started it on Twitter and then, when she moved it to a Facebook group, I decided to go ahead and participate. She works so hard keeping track and putting it all together, plus I really needed to check myself after the spending orgy of December, and January seemed like a good time to reset my wallet because no joke, the end of December has me feeling likealaddin

 

So my need to feel not broke and my love of Brynn coerced me into participating.

The rules of her challenge are fairly simple but also complex. I know. Fortunately, she gives you a whole document full of all the ways you can earn points in the challenge. 

I should probably back up. 

The way it works is this: you get points for doing things that are financially savvy. Making all your own meals, forgoing a purchase, putting money in savings and retirement, doing a DIY project, finding free entertainment, having a budget, shopping with coupons…stuff like that. What I liked the most was that she does not encourage no spend days since she feels they encourage post-no spend spending binges but she does recognize that no spend days happen and you should get credit for them. 

Each week, or day, or whatever you want, you check in with the group on FB detailing your victories and adding up your points. Whoever amasses the most amount of points in a month wins a prize ($25 gift card to Target!) so that’s a nice perk. Plus, it’s a competitive yet supportive group and that’s fun to have as well. 

While I didn’t win last month’s challenge, I definitely did some things that made me happy. For instance:

  • I went 3 straight weeks with cooking every single meal at home. Not one meal out until my daughter asked if we could and we had a gift card to Panera so off we went.
  • I bought Weezer tickets with a Groupon! Save some decent money there which was nice coming off the expense of Pearl Jam tickets.
  • DIY’d a couple of projects: homemade candy jar with an upcycled Yankee Candle jar, homemade sugar foot scrub
  • Set a budget for my daughter’s cheer competition and stuck to it
  • Got some sweet deals on Keurig pods thanks to combining coupons
  • Took advantage of Showtime’s free trial weekend
  • Had several no spend days (planned and unplanned)

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how I did. It wound up being a good thing, too, because we just had a huge house repair bill, completely unexpected, happen this week and had we been blowing all our money on crap, we’d be seriously fucked right now. But we’re not and that’s nice. 

While this isn’t something I’ll do every single month (I just can’t be that compulsively diligent), I’m glad I did it because it got me back to a place where I’m happy with our financial situation and was able to regroup from December. We’re back on a budget that allows for some discretionary spending without feeling too restricted and that’s comforting, too because I actually like being on a budget. 

on a budget

If you want to participate in the challenge, join the Facebook group or post about it or tweet about it or just do it in your own quiet way and then, at the end of the month, when temptation comes your way, you’ll be all 

frugal

 

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Life Skills 101: The shit you really need

I saw this picture on Facebook the other day (before I continue, let me give a plug to my friend Tanya who wrote this great post on why she quit Facebook which, if I’m being honest, should also be on this upcoming list because FB):

We can debate the merits of this list all day long and why some of them make no sense being compared to each other. For instance, the cost of having a baby vs. cost of having an education? Um, they’re not mutually exclusive. You can do both (unless they’re targeting this list at high schoolers who are considering or accidentally having a baby in which case maybe we need to add something like “how to properly use birth control” or “how to properly care for an infant’ to this list which, let’s face it, should also apply to adults). How about “do your taxes”? Great! If they’re simple. If not, “how to find an accountant that won’t screw you and knows what she’s doing” should be on that list. “Change your own oil”? How about jump start a dead battery? Or check your fluids levels? I feel like that’s more practical because it’s not that hard to find someone to change your oil for you and also, if you don’t have the tools or the space, or even a car, then why the fuck do you need that skill? 

So I decided to tweak the list a bit. Just for fun. And also practical reasons because kids, here’s what you really need: 

  • Doing your own laundry. It’s easier than you think, even if it’s a pain.
  • Having food with friends and putting your phone away. It’s really possible.
  • Hiding a hangover from your boss. It’s also possible.
  • Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and events without Facebook.
  • Reading a map. Seriously, your phone might not always work. You might get lost. Maps help.
  • Job searching using traditional means and social media (and how to behave and dress for an interview). See also: conducting yourself properly at a job, picking health insurance
  • Finding free food (and books and entertainment) because if you’re balancing your checkbook, you’ll be saddened by your budget and finding free shit is the best skill you’ll have. See also: using coupons
  • Time management. Also known as fitting in side hustling, showering, exercising, reading, binge watching, working, and sleeping all in one day
  • Navigating a parking lot (or Walmart) without uttering the words “fuck you, asshole”
  • Negotiating anything–salary, a date, a traffic ticket because you’ll actually need to do all of these
  • A DIY manicure that doesn’t look DIY. See also: pedicure, smoky eye, curling your hair. Guys, you might not need these skills but you never know.
  • Napping anywhere at any time
  • Maximizing Netflix, Hulu and Amazon memberships. 

We’ll stop there.

So my list is half serious, half not serious (but mostly serious). But the original list, as opposed to most of mine, serves a purpose. And that purpose is to educate kids with the life skills they need, beyond the academic skills, to be functioning, independent adults. It bothers me that many of the kids today are not being taught these essential skills, either in school or by their parents. 

Because, and here’s the rant part of your day, it is not fully the job of schools to give kids these skills. Parents have to own up to their responsibility in forming independent adults. And to expect and require schools to do it places undue pressure on schools and teachers and while it’s easier to put the blame outside ourselves when our kids can’t do these things, it’s just unfair to place all the failings on the schools. Yes, schools should help. Programs like banking in school or home ec or even a “Life Skills 101” class would benefit the kids immensely but to have the schools shoulder all the burden is nonsense. That education needs to come from all sides. 

Now, I get that not all parents are capable of teaching this stuff to their kids. And I am fully sympathetic to that which is why I agree that there needs to be some sort of life skills curriculum in schools. And maybe it needs to be a graduation requirement. But it should not at all be a substitute for the parents who can and are fully able to teach their kids basic adulting skills. So if the people who are advocating for this type of class are doing so to work in concert with the schools, or on behalf of the kids who aren’t getting it at home, then good for them. But if they’re doing it to benefit their own laziness, well, that’s just bullshit. /rant

What am I missing from my Life101 curriculum? 

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This week in…: 2016, second edition

this week

  • Not much in the way of reading this week. Two books for work (for my Whole30/Paleo/healthy living/grain free friends, you might want to check out one of them, The Perfect Human Diet by CJ Hunt. There’s also a documentary with the same name and I think you can still rent it for $.99 on iTunes), still reading A Prayer for Owen Meany and Fortune Smiles, and I picked up Crank, Skippy Dies, and The Woman Whole Stole My Life. Thanks to everyone who joined us for Show Us Your Books and the next one is February 9.
  • Didn’t really watch anything except The State of the Union and The Golden Globes. I still need to finish Narcos and Master of None and catch up on some DVR’d stuff. 
  • Speaking of The Golden Globes, what a strange week for entertainment news. First David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, and then the Oscar nominations were announced. With respect to Bowie, I was never a huge fan of his music but man, did I respect what he created. I loved his unapologetic individuality, being weird before people like Madonna and Lady Gaga made it trendy. And the fact that The Breakfast Club quotes one of his songs (“Changes”) in the beginning is pretty freaking cool. When I think of a music pioneer, I think of Bowie on that list. With respect to Rickman, he was just such a fabulous actor that it’s a shame we won’t get more of his movies. And with respect to the Oscars, MATT DAMON GOT A NOMINATION (you all know how I feel about him and also, can we talk about how funny it was, him trying to choke back laughter at Ricky Gervais’s joke at the expense of his BFF? This is only a small reason why I’ve been obsessed with him for 20+ years), and Room, The Martian, and The Big Short all got a bunch. Props to the authors that wrote those books because the authors never quite get the kudos they deserve. I think it’s also a testament to the fact that movie adaptations are getting better BUT the book is still (almost) always better than the movie.
  • Cooked some more delicious dishes. My favorite one (and my husband’s favorite, too, to which he said “we never need to bring in Chinese food ever again”) was this recipe for chicken with cashew nuts. I didn’t have some of the Paleo friendly ingredients so it was kind of a hybrid and I left out the tomato paste because I didn’t feel like opening the can but it was still amazing. 
  • Can I brag about my sweet ass deal on K-Cups? I got a Keurig for Christmas from the in-laws and, as a result of registering the product, I got a coupon for buy two boxes, get two boxes free. Pretty good deal just on that, right? Well, I also had a coupon for $2 off each box so that was an additional $4 off. Which means on what should have been a $65-ish order, I spent $26. And I got free shipping. #frugalwin
  • Some sweet internet reads not about Making a Murderer (the list was small): Buzzfeed’s list of 25 things every adult should have (kudos to me for having most of them. I’M A REAL ADULT NOW BECAUSE BUZZFEED SAYS SO). My Dean Strang groupies might enjoy this Publishers Weekly interview with him (he writes books, too!). This insightful piece from Rolling Stone on the relevance of Westerns in today’s world. And, for my fellow parents of daughters, this one from Mashable on 7 skills to teach your daughter before she turns 13.
  • Funnies pulled from various internet and IG places and my texts because my friend Angie sends me all kinds of hilarious shit:

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Three day weekend approaching. We’ll be on Long Island on Saturday for an early celebration of my dad and my nephew’s birthdays (and visiting my grandmother!) and then no plans for the remainder. I think I’ll enjoy that the most. Happy weekend! See you on Tuesday!

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