Pay Yourself First

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I’ve written before about my financial goals and my journey to be debt-free. It’s still slow going, but any progress is good, especially when it comes to debt.

Lately it has felt a bit like we were stuck – not making any big purchases to add to debt, but not making any huge payments to make a dent in the debt, either. As we headed into 2021, we sat down and had a discussion about what our financial goals were.

I don’t think either of us had ever actually sat down and had a discussion about what financial goals were important to us. It was extremely helpful – both for us to see what goals were most important to the other person, as well as to discuss whether we agreed with those goals and then how to reach them.

With two kids in college, tuition is a big goal. I want both my kids to graduate debt-free, as I did. My oldest should graduate in May, and I just made the last tuition payment for her. So yay! That goal is met for her, now I just have to concentrate on my youngest. I’m so glad that we only had one year of paying tuition for both of them – I have no idea how people do it.

Of course, we’re continuing with our previous goals – to pay off as much debt as possible. We’re down to one car payment, our mortgage, and one credit card. The mortgage will be gone when we move, so for now I’m ignoring it, though we do pay extra every month to get it paid off faster. The less we owe, the more we’ll have in equity when we do move.

The car payment also gets a bit extra added to it every month, but for now I am focusing on the credit card and trying to get it paid off. My husband was in agreement with all those goals, but also wanted to start saving for a vacation – something we haven’t had in a while (and we wouldn’t have been able to travel, even if we’d had the money, with the current state of affairs). As we talked, something I’d heard somewhere stuck with me – ‘Pay yourself first.’

I don’t remember where I heard it, but the gist was to make sure that you were paying yourself – by saving some money each paycheck, even if it was a small amount. After all, you work hard for your money, so you should get to enjoy it too, right?

So we decided that we would put a small amount aside each paycheck for a vacation fund. It’s not a ton of money, but if we put money in it consistently, it won’t take long to build up. I’ve been doing it since the first of the year, and honestly, it’s felt really good to see the balance growing.

I know that most financial advisors would tell us to use that money to pay off debt faster, and I get that. But psychologically, watching that small bit of money grow each month is more motivating to me than using it on our debt. It’s small enough that it wouldn’t make much of difference to the debt, and it’s worth more to me for the motivation factor in the vacation fund.

Who knows, we might decide at the end of the year to use the money for debt rather than a vacation, but until then, watching it grow is financially motivating. In the meantime, we’ll keep plugging along, working day jobs and trying to grow side hustles (like Etsy and YouTube). Maybe one day we’ll get lucky and one of those lottery tickets my husband buys every week will pay out. Okay, probably not, but we can dream, right? 😀

More Dots!

In addition to the regular Monday Mandalas I draw, I also like to play around with dotted mandalas.

I first saw this technique on a YouTube channel, and she uses physical paints rather than making digital designs. However, the concepts are the same, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing around in Procreate with them.

I like the color palette of this one, though the middle of it does remind me of an old rotary phone dial. 😀 Using Procreate for these makes it really easy to make the dots all a uniform size – I’m sure there’s much more of a learning curve when doing these with paint.

It is relaxing to just play around with the colors and sizes and patterns when making these. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of reminiscent of diamond painting. Or maybe I just have diamond painting on the brain. 😛

It’s always amazing to me how differently these all turn out. This color palette reminds me of Dippin’ Dots – you know, that ice cream treat that’s made out of various flavors of dots mixed together? Not sure what flavor this would be – Neopolitan, maybe? In any case, it’s fun and relaxing to sit down and just doodle some of these into existence.

Burnt Out

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In addition to my many other hobbies (see my previous post), I also play Dungeons and Dragons every week. For the past two years or so, I’ve been the DM for our group. We started out playing in-person and then moved online when the pandemic hit.

For a while, I was also the DM of several play-by-post games on DNDBeyond. One lasted for almost a year, which I am tickled about. I learned a lot, and it was a lot of fun. But eventually it ended, so I am down to just our regular weekly online game.

We use Roll20 and Discord and have played several adventures over the course of the last few years. We started out playing Tomb of Annihilation in-person and then switched to Roll20 when we could no longer meet. It was going well, but then a couple of players had to drop out and the game just kind of fizzled. They had made it almost to the end tomb, but didn’t want to continue on.

So we found another player to round out the group and they decided to play the Icespire Peak adventure. We made our way through that, including all the add-ons. I did have a small respite for one or two sessions while someone else DM’d, but then he returned to college, so he didn’t have the time anymore.

We opted to play Waterdeep: Dragon Heist next, and we are almost done with it. They have located the vault and the keys, so it’s really just the last bit of the dungeon next session and we will likely be done with this adventure.

I’m torn about what to do next. I am severely burnt out being the DM. It would be nice to just show up and play without spending hours of prep before each session. I enjoy it, but I’m ready for someone else to do it for a while. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of my players stepping up to DM if I don’t. So now I’m torn between continuing to DM even when I am burnt out, or likely having the group split up because no one else wants to DM.

Personally, I’d like to try some new games, including the new Burn Bryte space game, as well as Humblewood, a game that uses D&D rules but has a new setting and player races. None of my current players are interested in any of those, however, so I don’t know what to do.

Actually, after thinking and writing about it, perhaps I’m not burnt out from DMing, I’m burnt out from managing players – dealing with issues such as late arrivals, last-minute cancellations and the like. Which is a whole different problem – and one that’s pretty easy to fix. So I’ll continue to DM this adventure to its conclusion, and then after that, I’m going to let my group know that I will be taking a break as DM. Perhaps one of them will surprise me and step up – though I’m not holding my breath. If so, great. If not, then I am free to find another group to play with, whether as a DM or player.

I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed using Roll20 to play online. Even though I love playing in person with miniatures, the process of drawing maps and such was a huge hassle. It’s so much easier in Roll20 to set things up, even though I’m usually extra lazy and just purchase modules that are already all set up for me. It also makes it a bit easier to find players, since playing online removes a lot of the scheduling stumbling blocks you encounter when playing in person. I may even try playing an asynchronous game in Roll20 if I’m feeling really adventurous.

We’ll see what happens when this current adventure ends. In the meantime, I have lots of other projects to keep me busy. 😛

Too Many Hobbies? Nah.

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I’m starting to think I have too many hobbies.

I have so many projects I want to do I don’t know where to start.

There’s my diamond painting obsession, of course. I’m currently working on a large canvas, though the end of it is now in sight. After three weeks of work, I think I’ll be done with it by the end of this week. Which means I can move on to other diamond painting projects, so yay! 😀

I’ve opened my last batch of unpainted miniatures – the ones from the Critical Role Kickstarter that I got probably over a year ago. After they are done, I will have no more unpainted minis. I’m anxious to see how well they turn out, both because they are 3D printed and because I’m impatient and probably primed them when it was too cold outside. So I’m not sure how well the primer will work – I’ll find out after I’m done painting them.

I want to reorganize my craft/office area. I currently have projects spread out all over the house, and I’d like to contain most of it to one area so that the rest of house isn’t quite so messy. I’ve been fighting with my cutting machine, so I want to move it so that it is wired directly to my PC rather than using Bluetooth. Moving things around will also hopefully let me set up my painting area in the office, so that I can leave it out rather than cleaning up all the time in between paint sessions.

I’d also like to have an area set up for filming for my YouTube videos. I did spring for a fancy light so that my videos will have better lighting than they do currently. I’ve figured out the filming equipment issues, but again, having a dedicated space that I don’t have to set up and tear down each time would be much easier. Speaking of, if you haven’t hopped over to YouTube to check out my mandala videos, could you take a minute and do it now? Follow the link here and if you like what you see, like and subscribe to the channel. 🙂

My diamond painting will probably be done outside the craft area, simply because most of the paintings I have are too large for me to work on comfortably in a smaller area. I don’t like having to roll up my paintings while I’m working on them – I’d rather have them spread out so I can see what I’m doing. I do need better lighting for that as well, so I’m probably going to get a light pad for that. (My birthday is coming up, so I’m waiting to see if I get one as a gift before I purchase one.) The smaller diamond paintings I can do easily anywhere, and I like to diamond paint while my husband watches TV. He works a lot, so it’s nice to at least be in the same room for a small part of the day, even if we are doing different things.

I’ve set myself another reading goal for this year. For the past two years I’ve done this and I’ve managed to beat the goals each year by quite a bit. This year, even though I lowered my goal, I’m already behind, because my other hobbies have taken over a lot of my reading time. That’s okay, though, since I’m enjoying all of my projects, even if I don’t have as much time to read as I want.

We are also back to in-person mode at work, so that is taking up more of my time now than it used to. I have to admit, I prefer the remote option, even though it was less hours and less income. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to work, but with two kids in college, saving up for tuition is a priority. My oldest will graduate this year, so that will take a bit of the stress off.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to work on alternative sources of income, like my Etsy shop and now the YouTube channel. The listings on Etsy got a bit of a revamp to include a jpg and png in addition to the PDF. That way buyers can put the jpg or png into a coloring program like Procreate if they wish. The YouTube channel will likely be slow going, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. Now I just have to add ‘learn marketing’ to my to-do list!

Introverted Hermit on YouTube

Getting a YouTube channel up and running has been a goal for a while now. However, I just never seemed to get it done. So instead of dreaming about this fictional channel and all the fancy (translation: expensive) equipment I’d need to do it, I decided to just get it done.

I sat down and filmed myself drawing with what I had – my phone, my iPad, and some ok lighting. Am I making mistakes?

Oh, yeah.

But I’m learning from them. And that’s the point, right? For instance, I’ve already learned that you can’t upload a video longer than 15 minutes unless you have ‘verified’ your YouTube account. I’m not sure why I have to do that, since really all they want is a phone number, which Google already has.

In any event, I haven’t taken that step. It doesn’t generally take me longer than 15 minutes to draw a mandala, so I don’t need to – yet. I have taken the step of ordering a soft box light to help with my lighting issues. I can’t seem to find a good/comfortable place to draw that doesn’t result in some kind of glare or reflection from the light.

I’ve also learned that dealing with music on YouTube is a pain. I don’t want my videos to be silent, but music ain’t cheap. I’ve looked at a couple of options for *gasp* subscription services for this, but I decided I want to wait for a bit. YouTube has free music options, although they are admittedly not great. But they are free. 😀

So right now I film, use iMovie to edit/remove the audio and then upload to YouTube. Then, I find free music to use and add it. Then I wait a million years for YouTube to process the videos with the added music. THEN I can schedule/post the video.

Finding songs longer than 2-3 minutes also took some searching. And, while I’m not thrilled with the music I found, it’s free and I don’t have to worry about downloading the same song EVERY TIME I want to use it with a video. (Some of the subscription services make you do this – which, to me, misses the whole point. I didn’t want to download a file every time I made a video, so for now, I’m making do with what I have – access to YouTube’s free (albeit not great) music library.)

Filming with my phone has also been an experience. I have an older phone, so there isn’t a lot of space on it for filming videos. I can film one video at a time – then I have to delete it before I can film another one. And then I had to learn how to really delete the videos, because Apple. :/

Luckily, my husband gifted me his old phone. The screen is cracked, but since I’m just using it to film, it doesn’t matter. And since no one is using it as a phone, there’s nothing on it, so there’s lots of storage space. 😀

Now I can film several videos at once when the creative mood strikes, rather than being forced to do everything one step at a time.

I’ve gotten several done and uploaded to YouTube, so if you want to head over and check them out, click here. These are different mandalas than the ones I do for Mandala Monday, so they won’t be repeats of what you see here.

I am debating whether I want to add the mandalas from the videos to my Etsy shop. They are not necessarily drawn with coloring in mind, but I think many of them would work nicely. Something to think about while I revamp my Etsy listings. 🙂

If you like what you see in the videos, don’t forget to like and subscribe!

Planning for February

It probably seems crazy to already be planning for February, but I am trying to work ahead this year with my planning. Last year I always seemed to be creating things at the last minute and so I was never really happy with how some of my monthly stickers turned out.

I got January 2021 set up near the end of December last year, so I turned my attention to February. February is one of my favorite months – both because it’s short and because it’s my birthday month. 😀

I usually avoid heart-themed things for February, but this year I decided to embrace the hearts while still keeping it relatively simple. I find most of my photos and backgrounds on Pixabay, since everything is free to use (even commercial use!) with no attribution required. So I went heart hunting and found all the reds.

I like how it turned out, even though all the red is not usually my favorite. My cutting machine, however, did not like it and threw a complete fit when I tried to cut the stickers. I must have printed and cut the sheet at least 10 times, and every time it was cutting crooked, ruining the stickers.

I ran my printer out of red ink, I had to reprint it so many times. Eventually, after much cleaning, swearing, and repositioning of the light, it worked and cut the stickers correctly. So they are now in place in my planner and I can look ahead to March and figure out what I want to do for that month.

Last year I went with a Celtic/landscape theme for March, rather than the traditional shamrocks and leprechauns. I don’t know if I want to do either of those or something completely different. We’ll see what inspires me when I go image searching.