You Need a Budget

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I first heard about YNAB, personal budget software from YouNeedABudget.com, just a few weeks after Caleb and I got married. (The timing on that one really couldn’t have been better, right?!) I downloaded the free trial right away and was instantly hooked.

YNAB makes it simple to track every penny of inflow and outflow, and one of my favorite things about it is that there is a mobile app (that automatically syncs with the desktop program) that you can use to enter a receipt as soon as you receive it — it only takes a few seconds. This really helps to keep the pile-up of receipts and checks to record from getting overwhelming! In addition, it’s possible to download transaction history from your credit card sites in order to mass-enter transactions quite quickly.

It’s easy to keep track of different accounts (checking, savings, and credit cards), yet see an overview of all at a glance. The software also comes with some great reporting capabilities that allow you to gauge your spending habits over the past month, year, etc.

While Caleb and I currently don’t necessarily stick to a super-strict budget with each category, it’s still helpful to be able to see exactly where all our money is going and try to put caps on certain categories. I also love that we have history of nearly every income and expense amount we’ve ever had in our 2.5 years of marriage so far, and can use the search tool to quickly locate any given transaction for reference.

So if you could use some help in the budgeting department, or aren’t satisfied with your current method (or lack thereof) of expense tracking, give this software a try! (If you use my referral link there, you’ll save $6 and I’ll get rewarded $6 as well!)

The Art of Discipline

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This statement is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Since I stumbled across it, I’ve started thinking about the choices I make, concerning what to do with a free minute, extra hour, or cherished day at home, in a whole new light.

I mentioned previously that I’m currently enjoying The Lively Show, a podcast by Jess Lively featuring interviews with various entrepreneurs, authors, and world-changers that aims to inspire people to “add intention to their everyday.” Hence the word intention has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think that intention and discipline, if not completely synonymous, go hand-in-hand.

One of the tangible things that’s resulted from this thought process so far is my time management plan, which has, though not perfected yet, vastly revolutionized my ability to budget hours and prioritize the tasks that I most want completed. I’m not following it to a “T” quite yet, but I’m definitely getting more accomplished in a week’s time. Having a visible schedule to look at eliminates the tendency for me to waste time + helps me avoid burn-out.

Asking myself whether I want something now or whether I want it most has also been an aid in empowering myself to make smart choices pertaining to diet, fitness, finances, relationships, and more. Reminding myself that…

  • while I may want to eat that cupcake now, what I want most is to feel energized and to have a flat stomach 🙂 …
  • though staying up to accomplish a semi-clean house is something I want badly, what I want even more is to get enough sleep to be able to perform well at work the next day…
  • while staying in bed a few extra minutes feels like the best thing in this moment, what I really want is to be able to come home to a made bed this evening…
  • though Netflix on the couch on a Sunday afternoon seems a viable choice, a bike ride would solicit more benefits + valuable results…

…really does dissipate the struggle.

A pretty life-changing little question, if you ask me. What do you think?

The Time Management Plan | Market Day

IMG_7005Anyone remember my [quite idealistic] time management plan from one of my very first posts here at The Realization of Good? Here’s an update on how that’s working out for me so far: I’m LOVING it! 🙂 Sure, I don’t get all the things done every day (and I didn’t expect to, at first). But I am certainly making baby steps in the right direction and am getting closer and closer to my goal of being at the point where I actually am getting all those tasks completed each week.

Today was my market day! There’s a great farmer’s market grocery store near the retail job I work on Tuesdays, so I head there once I close the store. I don’t know why I didn’t form the habit of getting groceries on the same day each week long ago. It makes meal planning and kitchen organization so much easier!

My shopping list is about 75% produce these days. And that works out great, because hanging out in those lush, color-filled fruit and vegetable aisles is not an unpleasant experience whatsoever. I’m not one of those people who lives for summer (I love snow, and winter is full of so much cozy), but I do love all the wonderful earth-food that’s in season right now. More of those delicious + nutritious smoothies, coming right up! 🙂

My Beauty Routine

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I love when a single product serves multiple purposes. This All-In-One Healing Skin Cream is the best thing in my bathroom cabinet right now. This is my daily moisturizer + lip balm + cut & burn soother (including sunburn!) + itch & rash relief…that’s a lot of uses! What’s more, the ingredient list is super clean. This is a product I can feel really good about smearing all over myself + my (future) babies…what’s not to love? I rub a tiny bit (the consistency is Vaseline-like and doesn’t absorb like lotion, so you don’t want to overshoot) onto my face after cleansing morning and night.

I use essential oils as part of my face care regimen as well — more to come on that in a future post.

I don’t wear much makeup, and my look doesn’t change a lot from day to night or from everyday to special occasion…I keep it pretty natural all the time. But I have spent years experimenting with different products and finally am at the place where I really love every one of my go-to products. I got rid of everything else, and it’s pretty great having only these six things in my make-up bag! I love the minimalist feel to my morning routine + bathroom storage, not to mention how much time I save by knowing exactly which products to use + where to find them.

  1. Mary Kay® TimeWise® Matte-Wear® Liquid Foundation
  2. Mary Kay® Liquid Foundation Brush
  3. Maybelline Brow Pencil
  4. Mary Kay® Mineral Cheek Color Duo in Juicy Guava
  5. Maybelline Eye Shadow Quads
  6. Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant Mascara

Obviously I don’t exclusively buy organic/natural/clean makeup, although I have been gradually making that transition in many other areas of my life over the last year or so. Once I get to that step, I’m sure you’ll hear about it!

Speaking of clean ingredients, I discovered the (free!) Think Dirty app and am loving the easy access to ingredient knowledge I’ve found in it. If you have any interest or curiosity about what goes into the things you feed your skin/hair/etc. but don’t have hours to spend scouring the internet for reliable info/studies, definitely check it out!

I’ve been using a Mary Kay eye makeup remover for a couple years, but once my bottle is empty (it’s lasted forever!) I plan to try this alternative.

I am still in the process of finding and switching to a good clean-ingredient facial cleanser. I’m considering trying this one from Kiss My Face next. Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear about it if you have one you recommend!

The Real Reason Why I Believe in Making the Bed

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According to Psychology Today, in a Hunch.com survey of over 60,000 people, “71 percent of bed makers consider themselves happy; while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admit to being unhappy.”

There is a whole chorus of voices on the internet these days proclaiming the good in making your bed first thing, every morning. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? click here, here, and here for just a few examples.)

They say that people who make their beds every morning lead happier, more productive lives. The reasons are endless: making the bed daily is an exercise in good habit-forming, it keeps the bed cleaner and healthier, it can lead to better quality sleep, and it gives us a feeling of accomplishment.

I certainly can relate to and agree with U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McCraven’s statement that “if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

But the real reason I make bed-making a priority upon rising each morning is that a made bed creates a welcoming atmosphere, a haven of rest for my husband and me to come home to in the evening. Even after a crammed, hurried, stressful day, when the rest of our house is reminiscent of the aftermath of a hurricane, we have a visually appealing and restful place to retreat to at day’s end.

I can exhibit a good deal of OCD when it comes to keeping my home tidy, but there are days when exhaustion cries louder than perfectionism. When I’ve taken those 2-3 minutes in the morning, while fresh and energized, to prepare the bedroom for our return, I can close the door to the rest of the mess and relax in the simple, clean order of our little haven.

Do you make your bed every day? If so, it is merely out of habit, or do you have similar intention-filled motives for this menial task?

Capsule Wardrobe | How Mine Works

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Yesterday I talked about the start of my capsule wardrobe project; today I plan to go into a little more detail on what “capsule wardrobe” means to me and the structure that I use. I’m still using Caroline’s model for the most part, but I’ve made a few tweaks to make it personal and practical for my life.

I build a capsule for each of the four seasons: winter (January-March), spring (April-June), summer (July-September), and fall (October-December). When I started working on my first one, I thought that I’d rearrange the structure, because in my mind, winter was more like December through February, spring March to May, and so on. But I’ve realized that, for the climate I live in (southeastern Pennsylvania), winter really isn’t over yet in March, and September is just as hot as July and August.

Side note: that schedule still isn’t perfect…for instance, on the first of April this year, I definitely wasn’t thinking about wearing shorts or sandals anytime soon — we had some 30-degree temps even in the last week of April! — but now, with a couple weeks left before I officially switch my wardrobe from spring to summer on July 1st, I’m certainly not wearing any of the sweaters that I was wearing all the time two months ago. So yes, the in-between seasons are a little trickier. I simply swapped some of my “spring” things out for “summer” things once the weather turned hot. My closet sometimes changes as the season progresses, but I try to keep the number of items in it the same.

The number 37 seems to be perfect for me. (But if you’re considering creating your own capsule wardrobe, feel free to choose a smaller or larger amount that feels right to you!) My 37 pieces include tops and bottoms as well as shoes and outerwear. That number does not include the things I wear to sleep or to work out or to go with my husband to work (he is a farrier, and working with horses is inevitably dirty and smelly). It also does not include underwear (camis, leggings) or accessories (hats, scarves, jewelry). I like to break the 37 down into categories when I’m working on forming my capsule for the next season, and this is the base model that I work off of.    {printable copy}UntitledAnother side note: I’m not a super strict budgeter…I might have 5 or 7 pairs of shoes in a given capsule, for example, but then I’ll shift the other numbers around in order to bring the total back to 37.

I’ve had a blast learning to think outside the box and put together outfits in creative ways in an effort to utilize those 12 bottoms and 15 tops (or whatever the numbers may be) in balanced measures and various combinations. In the process, I’ve begun to notice the colors, prints, and styles that I gravitate towards and that are the most versatile. (See a few such pieces in yesterday’s post.) These observations serve to help me make clothing purchases that are “worth their salt.” It didn’t take Caleb long to notice that I was spending a lot less money on clothes, as a result. 🙂

The Un-fancy Capsule Wardrobe Planner, a free tool from Caroline Rector, helps me choose pieces for each season that will serve both my preferences and my lifestyle well. I use it as a guide for deciding which pieces fit my capsule and what to keep an eye open for as I shop.

Speaking of shopping, I don’t limit myself to the two weeks before a new season begins. I don’t enjoy shopping very much, and I especially dislike it when I’m under pressure to find something specific. So, it works much better for me to watch for things I want over a period of time, and buy it when I find it.

For the curious ones, you can sneak peeks at my Winter and Spring capsules on Pinterest. (And while you’re over there, by the way, check out my The Realization of Good board for easy access to my posts which you can repin for future reference or share with friends!)

In a future post, I’ll talk about the app I use in conjunction with my Capsule Wardrobe and the part it’s played in helping me figure out my style and make the most of my budget.

Have questions? Ask away!

My Time Management Plan

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Is there anyone out there who doesn’t ever wish for more hours in their day? If I’m not racing the clock trying to get everything checked off my to-do list, I’m feeling guilty about my lack of motivation — and I don’t consider either feeling ideal.

My best friend is one of the most disciplined people on the planet; I think if I woke up one day with half of her self-motivation, I’d feel like Superwoman. She’s that girl who wakes up hours before I do, even on vacation, to go for a run or work out. Also, she works a full-time office job and stays on top of housework as much or more than I do (I’m currently working away three days a week). But what awes me the most is her knack for routine. Every time I get inside her clean, clean car I think, “why don’t have a ‘clean-the-car-out day?'” So this week I finally came up with a plan. (Thanks for the inspiration, Michelle.)

I started with a list of things that I do wish I did every week — the basics: vacuuming, laundry; then some extras: cleaning the car, washing windows. I added a few “fun” things, too — online shopping, sending mail to a friend. Then I whipped up a quick spreadsheet using the days of the week and my “working” hours, and started filling in the slots.

Most of the time allowances are pretty generous (it doesn’t take an entire hour to dust my whole house), and there were still empty slots after I’d worked through my entire list. I’m still trying to figure out how I can’t seem to get everything done in a week’s time if I had all those empty spaces before I made up some things to fill them in. Maybe I go away or sleep in or browse Facebook more than I thought? At any rate, I’m about to turn over a new leaf. This little beauty has “life-changing” written all over it.

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I work two part-time jobs, one on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other on Tuesdays, so I have three days away, then four days at home. Once I wrap up my Monday/Wednesday job later this summer, I’ll do some reworking, but for now, I’m eager to give this a try. I’m a couple days in and so far it’s pretty great, but ask me how it’s going in a couple weeks.

Want to create your own chart? Click here to download my template!

The nitty-gritty, for the curious ones:

  • Weekend recovery on Mondays is for unpacking if we were out of town, or straightening the guest room if we had overnight guests, or moving furniture around if we were painting the living room (which hasn’t happened yet, but, you know…)
  • My husband, Caleb, is self-employed as a farrier, so that’s where the invoicing and scheduling comes in. I love being a part of his business world!
  • I do NOT love to shop, so I’m a huge fan of ordering everything that’s not food online. I figure that online shopping slot will come in handy for actually hitting the check out process on all the random shopping baskets I add items to throughout the week.
  • I got bit by the capsule wardrobe bug last fall (more on that in a future post), so I tend to think about/work on that as I do laundry. If you’ve been around me much lately, you’ve probably heard me rave about it, and I’m pretty excited about detailing some of that here.
  • I’m so excited about my “make something” Thursday afternoons! Some of my initial plans for that slot are laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, and wall art for our office. This’ll also be my time for canning and freezing local produce this summer.
  • Interior design…the label makes me sound so much more proficient than I am. I do love to decorate, though, and am learning all the time! I often end up moving things around as I dust, so those two projects will go together well.
  • Any other church bulletin makers out there? I enjoy this task and Saturday afternoon is when I need to be finishing that up.

I’d love to hear from you…do you designate certain days of the week for specific chores or projects? What have you found works well for you (or doesn’t)? What am I missing on my chart?