Still Obsessed

I’ve posted before about my newfound obsession with diamond painting.

After 6-7 months, I feel like I’ve settled into the hobby and, at the same time, still feel in many ways like a complete newbie. As with every hobby, especially a crafting one, there are tons of groups to join, companies to try, and hordes of accessories that every ‘serious’ diamond painter needs. 😛

I started off slow, promising myself that I wouldn’t jump in with both feet until I was sure it was something I liked.

I’m sure. 😀

I’ve completed over 16 projects, and I’m still just as enamored with it now as I was when I started. Of course, I now have added all kinds of accessories, including this beauty:

After hogging the dining room table for months, I finally decided to break down and get a drafting table. It’s so much easier on my back and neck, with the added bonus of not having to worry about dragging projects around or putting them away every night.

Now, whatever I’m working on can live on the drafting table until it’s done. Some of my projects are still going to be too large for the surface, but that’s okay. I now have a dedicated space for them. 🙂

I’ve even done several projects for others, including this wacky giraffe:

One of the most fun things I’ve discovered while doing this hobby is mystery diamond paintings. You get a kit with the canvas and diamonds, but there is no picture or colors printed on it, just the symbols in black and white. So you don’t know what the picture is of until you complete it. I’ve done two already and have a third waiting to be completed. The most recent mystery one I did was claimed by my oldest after she saw it finished:

I love how it turned out and it is now framed and waiting for her to decide where to hang it. 😀

Someday I’ll get around to finally painting some of those D&D minis I’ve got laying around, but right now I’d rather be diamond painting – just like these awesome stickers my husband made me say:

Have you picked up any new hobbies due to the pandemic?

Budgeting and Financial Independence

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

My husband and I are well on our way to financial independence. In the last year, we’ve paid off 3 credit cards, a bank loan, and a car loan. We’ve been very lucky that my husband maintained his regular income even during the COVID lockdown and with a bit of discipline (and some unexpected windfalls) we made real progress on our goals.

One of the first things I did was to set up a budget planner for myself. In it, I track all of our expenses and income. It’s really helpful just to see where all your money goes during the month. Before the pandemic hit, we ate out quite a bit – so cutting down that expense (especially since lots of places weren’t open) was helpful. We also made a concerted effort to cut down on our Amazon spending. It’s so easy to just go to Amazon, pick out what we want, and then two days later it’s on our doorstep.

However, we were buying things we didn’t really need, so we cut that spending down. I also tackled our smallest debt first, which at the time was the balance of a car loan. It felt amazing to walk into the bank and plonk down the cash to pay it off! After that, we had some store credit cards we’d used to purchase some appliances, so I focused on those next. We continued to pay on our other bills as well, of course. Once the store credit cards were paid off, we focused on the bank loan.

At the beginning of this year, we were down to just one credit card, a car loan, and our mortgage. We refinanced our mortgage two years ago in preparation for my youngest entering college. We were able to get some equity out of our house and into our bank account as well as lowering our mortgage payment due to the super low interest rates at the time.

Our remaining credit card has been a source of frustration for me, because we have had it paid off before, but whenever we travel to Canada to visit my husband’s family, the balance creeps right back up. This year, since we haven’t been able to travel, we’ve had more time to get it paid off, as well as getting some help in the form of our tax refund and our stimulus money.

But – a win is a win, and I’ll take it! The last credit card is paid off – though I do have some small monthly subs that will get charged and then paid off immediately. Because of course, if you don’t use your credit cards, your credit score goes down. How and why everything is tied to your credit score is a source of constant frustration and irritation to me, but that’s a whole ‘nother post! 😛

So, we have one car loan and our mortgage left. And we will be using a chunk of our stimulus money to pay down the balance on the car loan significantly. All this means that we can (finally!) start putting money that was used to pay debts to work for us – in savings, in investments, in retirement accounts. We’ve been able to purchase additional large ticket items – like a new smartphone and a new dishwasher – in cash, rather than putting them on a credit card. Yes, it means a little delayed gratification sometimes while we wait to have the cash in hand, but the feeling of paying for each item in full at purchase has been more than worth the wait.

I’m still using my budget planner every month (with my cute stickers that I made!) to track all our purchases. Our Amazon spending has crept back up, so we need to be more careful with that, but otherwise we’ve pretty much stuck to the plan and are saving and investing as much as we can each month. Now we’re able to talk about what we want our lives to look like when we do finally move. We’d both like to work less and have more time to spend with each other and our family. More time to do those things that we want – like traveling, or just spending leisure time at home and with each other. My husband works long hours and it sometimes feels like we barely see each other – like we spend all of our time working to afford this house that we’re barely in except to sleep.

Looking back on all we’ve accomplished in the last year or so feels really good. We’ve got decent savings in the event of an emergency, we’re saving up to pay tuition, we pay our regular bills, and we still have money to set aside for investments for the future. I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve this year!

Feeling Good

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It’s been a good couple of weeks for me. I’ve been trying to make some pretty big changes in my life, including trying to be more fit and healthy. Of course, that goal also involves losing weight, but I’m trying (and learning) to not make it all about the number on the scale.

I signed up for Noom about a month ago, and it’s going okay. I’m not over the moon about the program, but I have seen results from the effort I’m putting in. My disappointment is that the effort from others, particularly the ‘support coach’ they have assigned me, is pretty lacking. The ‘cohort group’ they put me in doesn’t appear to have been made with any thought other than our date of sign up.

After I voiced my concerns to my coach, she asked how she could help – and then promptly went on vacation for 2 weeks. :/ So it’s been a bit disheartening to not have all the support that was promised when I signed up. However, I am going to see the program through (and not just because they’ve already hit my bank account for the fee). I do genuinely want to make changes in my lifestyle so that I can get where I want to be.

So far I’m exercising more, eating less, and feeling more energetic. Which is good, because I have a lot of plates spinning in the air right now. I have this blog, my Etsy shop, my YouTube channel, as well as my ‘real life’ tasks, like work and taking care of my home and family. I’ve also launched a second YouTube channel for my diamond painting addiction, and I am knee-deep in everything diamond painting whenever I have a spare moment. 😀

The school year is almost over, which means that hopefully I can devote more time to my other projects, including the last batch of miniatures I have left to paint. I’m looking forward to the summer and hopefully a move north sometime in the near future!

Planner Peek

It’s that time again – time to plan the sticker layouts for my daily planner. I use the Big Happy Planner, both because I like the large size and because I like the disc system. The large size gives me enough room to write my daily to-do’s, and the discs allow me to remove pages and replace them without worrying about damaging them.

I wanted to get both April and May set up because I seem to have better luck staying on top of the layouts if I do them two at a time. April’s layout is not that cohesive, but I picked the patterns and pics because I liked them and it’s my planner, so why not?

For April I wanted something fun and bright, but also wanted to give a nod to those traditional ‘April showers.’ So I have happy sunflowers and clouds and fun and bright umbrellas.

For May, I knew I didn’t want flowers everywhere – I’m not a huge flower fan anyway. So I decided to go with a butterfly theme and stick with purples and yellows. I headed over to Pixabay and started looking through their files. Sure enough, I found plenty of pretty butterflies in purples and yellows.

A few minutes later (now that I’m no longer fighting with my cutting machine!) and I had both layouts printed and cut. I’m really pleased with how May’s layout turned out.

It was fun putting these together and it made the end of the school year feel that much closer, so yay!

Spring Cleaning

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Last week I was on Spring Break and I spent a good chunk of it working on projects – including cleaning/organizing various things. I am generally a neat and tidy person, but we never realize how much junk we’ve collected until we have to clean it. 😛

I cleaned out closets, drawers, and cabinets. I reorganized my craft room/office (again), trying to make room for all the new things I’ve accumulated. I’ve started some new projects related to my diamond painting, as well as working on other tasks, like my shiny new YouTube mandala channel. Learning new things has been fun, albeit frustrating sometimes.

Work has been going well, though I am surely looking forward to my summer break. While I enjoy lesson planning, being the sole person responsible for the lessons all year has been stressful, to say the least. I only have 5 weeks left, though, so the end is near!

I also managed to snag myself an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the fact that I work in a preschool. I go back for the second dose in a few weeks and then half my household will be vaccinated. We’re still waiting for the next ‘phase’ of vaccinations for the rest of the household to be eligible for one.

Sadly, I didn’t get around to painting any of the remaining miniatures I have sitting around. They’ve been on my to-do list for months, but have taken a back seat to other things. Hopefully I will be able to finish them in the next couple of months – and then all my miniatures will be painted! That hasn’t happened in – well, forever. 😀

I also spent some time cleaning up my blog reader list. It seems I somehow managed to follow a lot of blogs that I don’t actually read, and they were just cluttering up my feed. I’ve slimmed it down a good bit, so maybe now I can find some new ones to follow.

A final happy event from my break – we were surprised to discover that we received the promised stimulus money, in a rather larger quantity than we had hoped. So we are going to use some our unexpected windfall to pay down a chunk of those final debts. Our journey to financial freedom is ever closer. 😀

If you got a Spring Break, I hope you enjoyed it. I need to get back to work – those to-do lists don’t finish themselves, unfortunately!