Friday, September 26, 2014

Finding the Bliss Amongst the Stress

The past couple of weeks have been extremely stressful for me. It just seemed like one thing after another came up on the heels of the last one and it didn't seem to be ending anytime soon. I'm not one to aim to avoid stress, it can actually be a very good thing for me, but it was just building up so much that I was definitely wishing it away.

I was downtown yesterday afternoon for an interview and afterwards I got myself a cup of coffee and let myself just enjoy the extremely beautiful fall (but more like summer) weather that Saskatoon has been experiencing lately. I wandered down to the river and sat down on a bench, taking in the sunshine mixed with the crunchy yellow and red leaves. I breathed in, I breathed out. I remembered just how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful city, and to have the opportunities I have. Maybe I have been stressed, but everything was still working out. The interview I had just been at went really well, I had the afternoon to do as I pleased, I ran into an old colleague on my way to the river, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to make a stressful situation a whole lot better very soon. I left the river feeling so much better, and ready to jump right back in to everything going on in my life right now. Sometimes you simply need to change your perspective and everything will turn out just fine.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blogging Tips Roundup

I've been seeing lots of posts about tips for blogging and, while I'm definitely not an authority on the subject myself, I thought I'd share some of these links with you.  You can find a huge amount of blogging tips out there, I just like seeing tips from the blogs I read because they are clearly doing something that I like already.

The College Prepster shared a guest post by Maxie McCoy about first year blogging tips. I liked reading about this topic on this blog because Carly's been blogging for quite awhile now, while Maxie is relatively new.

There are a bunch of tips from A Beautiful Mess and I could spend hours reading through their posts - old and new alike. Some of my favourite blog tip posts are Starting Your Blog With a BangBlog Layout Tips, and Planning Blog Posts.

Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo recently shared a post about Blogging As A Career. I really enjoyed how she gave a backstory to where she is now with her blog. It's good to hear how other people start out and to know that successful blogging rarely happens overnight.

Megan's recent post on Honey We're Home about 10 Steps to Better Blog Posts is a nice breakdown of the steps she follows when creating a post for her blog.

Finally, Tips for Blogging by Lauren at A Touch of Southern Grace goes over things that might seem like common sense, but it actually can take awhile to see the impact and importance of following these simple concepts.

How about you? Any blogging tips you would like to share? Anything blogging related is totally welcome! There are so many areas that I definitely need to grow in, so don't hold back! I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

City Walks

On Saturday I went down to River Landing to check out Saskatoon's first ever food truck festival. We're a little a lot behind on the food truck scene, but this year saw quite a few trucks pop up and take over the streets and Instagrams of Saskatoon. I didn't end up getting any food because I went right at 6 pm and the lines were crazy long and I just wasn't really all that hungry.

I had went alone because, well, I like doing things alone. Since I had no one else that I needed to work around, I just let my feet lead me and I found myself wandering along the river, still close to downtown. The sun was getting low and the water was like glass, making for some beautiful sights. The sky was absolutely stunning too.

I found a little path that led from the walkway to right along the waterfront. From that vantage point I had even better views of my beautiful city. The photo above is of our Broadway Bridge, one of 8 now, I believe. We aren't called the city of bridges for nothing.

What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Money Management: My Favourite Methods That Actually Work

I am by no means a financial advisor, but I have always loved tracking my income and spending ever since earning my first Loonie ($1) for allowance when I was six years old. In the past few years I have been pretty good about creating and (somewhat) sticking to a budget, but it has been during the past year that I have really gotten into it and tried different methods until I found something that works great for me and my pretty simple financial life.

The two concepts that I have found to really work for me and that have actually stuck are Flex Money and Dynamic Budgets.

Flex Money – I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes find budgets pretty daunting. Calculating down to the dollar for a bunch of different categories just isn’t really necessary for my lifestyle. I have tried it out and every single time I end up dropping it sooner than the last time I tried. I find it disheartening to go a dollar or two over in one budget category, even if overall I’m still far below my budgeted amount. Enter Flex Money. You divide your income up into four different categories – Fixed costs (housing, fixed bills, Netflix, transportation/car loan, etc.), financial goals (paying down debt, emergency fund, retirement, other savings), non-monthly expenses (quarterly payments, gifts, donations, tuition – anything that you’re committed to paying, but not necessarily on a monthly basis), and flexible spending. Flexible spending encompasses all other spending: groceries, eating out, shopping, personal care items, entertainment, fuel, parking – whatever you typically (or not-so-typically) spend your money on. One of the most appealing things to me about flex spending is that you have a large dollar amount that covers all of these categories and it can be broken down however you want, or however it ends up being divided. So if you end up eating out more often one month and therefore do not have to purchase as many groceries, instead of being way over budget for restaurants and dining and under budget for groceries, you’re simply taking them from the same pool and only need to track your spending in relation to the one dollar amount you have allotted for flex spending. This also assists in being able to keep a figure in your mind while spending; I have found that when I have a bunch of different budgeted amounts, I’m more prone to forgetting the exact dollar value I assigned to a certain category. With flex spending, however, I can keep one dollar amount in my mind and it is way less likely to be forgotten between budget check-ins.

For more info about Flex Spending, I would recommend this article from the LearnVest Blog.

Dynamic Budgets – To me, there are two parts to a dynamic budget: 1. Every month does not have to be the same, and 2. It can change during the month.
Even though I am a fan of flex money, I still like to keep a budget to keep an eye on where my money is going. Instead of having a rigid budget set out at the beginning of the month, however, I like to create a budget based on the previous few months, but then alter it as the month progresses. I use to track my spending and link all of my accounts in one convenient place and it is there that I keep an eye on where my money is going. I still keep my flex spending number in my head while I’m out spending my money, but I check in at least once a week to see how I’m doing. Sometimes I have been a little too crazy with my debit card or unexpected expenses come up and I’m only halfway through the month, so I’ll take a look and see where I can move things around a bit. For example, if an unexpected gift or donation pops up then I can move some allotted funds from my flex spending (decreasing my number for the month) and up my non-monthly expenses so that I’m still on-budget in both categories. Less stress, but still in control of my finances. It’s great :)

In addition to these two concepts, some things that I like to do to keep my finances in order through the month are:
-  weekly (at minimum) budget check-ins (but sometimes I check it almost daily)
-  non-electronic tracking of my spending – I keep a little notebook in my purse to track my spending through cards and cheques to both help me have an accurate idea of where I’m at with my flex spending amount as well as have a record to check my online statements against. I don’t track cash spending because I budget for a certain amount of cash to be taken out each month and that’s my “fun money” that I can go for coffee with, buy treats, or that I can save up for a few months to buy a “want” from my wish list.
-  Automatic transfers for fixed costs (where possible)

Have you tried out either of these methods? Do you have other tips that you think would incorporate well? Please let me know! I’m always looking for new ways to tweak my financial tracking and goal-setting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pink and Blue

While reading a recent post on A Beautiful Mess, I learned a new piece of information that I found intriguing, in a simple sort of way: 

Pink used to be considered a male colour while blue was more feminine. 

Laura linked to this post that explains it a little more. It's an interesting bit of information, and speaks to the effect that society and culture has on individual preferences, or at least the way in which they are manifested. I totally love the colour pink, and I would consider myself a girly girl - but I don't necessarily consider those two facts linked, now that's even more so. 

What are your thoughts?!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weekend Adventures - September 5 - 7, 2014

This weekend was full of lovely little adventures around my beautiful city of Saskatoon. After my love letter on Friday it just seems fitting that I would get to enjoy what may have been the last warm weekend we will have this season while taking in some of the wonderful things Saskatoon has to offer.

On Friday I got up as usual but instead of heading to work I had my day off, so I drove my roommate to work on campus then went shopping for the morning before heading home to wait for the delivery of my couch. I had to be home for noon, but I had a little time on my way, so I stopped in at Starbucks (I’m trying to only treat myself to Starbucks on my EDOs, to be a little more frugal) before heading home. My favourite drink is the Salted Caramel Mocha and it is back!

I got home and started moving a few pieces of furniture to make room for my couch, and the delivery guys arrived right away. I have been so spoiled with every single delivery or scheduled visit during this move and setting up this place... The longest I have had to wait after the start of the time frame given to me was fifteen minutes, so instead of having to stick around my house for 3-6 hours, they were all over and done with in less than an hour.  

After the delivery guys left, I spent the afternoon getting the living room set up and cleaning a little bit and then I just sat on my couch and read – something I haven’t been able to do all summer. It’s one of those little luxuries for me. Later in the evening my parents stopped by (on their 27th Wedding Anniversary!) to drop off a dresser my dad had painted for me to use as our TV stand. Our living room is finally starting to resemble a living room; there are a few things I’d like to get (a tray for the ottoman to make it double as a coffee table, a little table for under the window, a basket for blankets), but it’s absolutely functional exactly as is, and I am more than happy with how it has come together.

Saturday morning (nearly afternoon) found us at The Local Coffee Bar on 3rd Ave, where we ended up each having one of their fancy grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch in addition to our intended coffee and latte, before wandering around downtown and along the river. It was one of those perfectly adventurous while still relaxing afternoons. On Sunday we were back downtown for Mass at the Co-Cathedral with some friends before wandering along the river again and then heading to Hudson’s for lunch. The weather was perfectly beautiful for a September day, with the warm sun shining from a clear blue sky.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Love Letter to Saskatoon

I had the day off today and as I drove across the University Bridge I realized that I have fallen in love with my city. It wasn't a quick thing, rather a slow, gradual process. I have always had an attitude of gratitude towards Saskatoon, but I never really loved it. I was always thinking about where to go next, and while I still enjoy traveling and look forward to my next big adventure, I finally know that this is absolutely the place for me. It wasn't an instant love, like the love that I have for Rome or Halifax, but a slowly building, deeply rooted love of my city.

My heart has a softness for the sights along the river, the new coffee shops popping up constantly, the unique restaurants that could seriously rival those of much larger cities, and the wonderful abundance of sun. While we certainly experience extremes in our weather, especially in the winter, we do not experience any shortage in sun. Even when it's -30 degrees Celsius, you can find our city drenched in sunlight.

There is much, much more that draws me in about Saskatoon, but I'll share about that another time. Right now I want to hear about your cities! What do you love about the place that you call home?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Currently Reading (And Listening!)

I tend to read more than one book at a time. Sometimes it's because I start one book and get bored so I start another, but I wasn't actually bored enough to completely ditch the first book, so I read them both until I am so engrossed in each story that I cannot choose one to commit to so I just don't choose. Phew! All that being said, sometimes it's because I like to have different styles for different moods, or sometimes it's different types of books. Right now I am reading a physical book and listening to a different audiobook. The audiobook is what I read (listen to) while cooking, tidying, or painting my nails, while the physical book is what I read in bed right before turning out the light. Different forms for different circumstances.

The book I am reading before bed right now is Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger. Andy Sachs is back in the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada and even though it's almost ten years after her time at Runway magazine, she just can't seem to get Miranda Priestly out of her life completely. I'm about a third of the way through this book and I am really enjoying it. The Devil Wears Prada was an enjoyable book and I really like the movie too, so I'm hoping this sequel turns out to be just as great.

My audiobook of the moment is Tina Fey's Bossypants. I'm enjoying the humour, but I'm finding nothing can make me laugh quite as much as Mindy Kaling's audiobook. Nonetheless, I am realizing I really like audiobooks in place of music at times. If you have any suggestions for future books to listen to, please let me know!

What are you reading right now? I love learning about new books, so please share.

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