Shaky

I wanted to try working on mandalas in Amaziograph again.  It has a lot of options that I just can’t easily replicate in Procreate.  So I spent some time fiddling around.

Amaziograph 2

Ok, weird.  Not sure why it’s cut off in the image, since it wasn’t that way in the program.  But I’ve already deleted the original, so – here it is.  😛

The inner parts are good, if kind of plain.  I was playing around with line weights, as you can see.  Unfortunately, Amaziograph doesn’t have the line smoothing like Procreate does.  So my occasional shakiness is more apparent than I’d like.

Maybe I’ll do some initial designs/drawings in Amaziograph and then push them over into Procreate and make the final images there.  That could work.

March 2020 Kit – Big Happy Planner

February just flew by, didn’t it?  I suddenly realized I hadn’t created a kit for March for my planner yet.  I have decided to move from the classic size Happy Planner to the big size – I have tons more room to write, and I can still see everything at once, without having to flip back and forth from the weekly views.

I tried using the weekly views, but having to flip back to the monthly overall just got annoying.  I guess I’m just set in my ways. 😛

Anyhoo, here’s the kit I created for March 2020 for my Big Happy Planner:

IH March 2020 Big Pg 1 JPEG

It’s a fairly simple kit – just the two top washi, two bottom washi, a couple of holiday stickers, some full boxes, and the date covers.  I printed the payday stickers, but I keep all my budget stuff in a separate planner, so I don’t really need those for my big planner.  Same for the bill due stickers.  I know a lot of people find them useful, so I included them in the kit.

Here’s what it looks like after I applied it to the pages in my planner:

March Kit HP Big

Again, my photography skills aren’t the best, but you get the idea.  I am still deciding what to do with the kits for the big Happy Planners.  Because they are so large, it takes an entire 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper just for the stickers.  Which means they will cost more to mail, so I am considering whether I should make them available for download rather than as a physical product.  We shall see.

Creating Planner Covers

One of the products I plan to offer in my shop is covers for the Happy Planners.  I’ve made several of them now, and I think I finally have the process down pat.

I made one as a test a while ago and have made several tweaks.  The first one seemed a bit flimsy, so I added in cardstock for additional weight, and I changed my laminating sheets to 5 mil rather than 3 mil.

I had already purchased a special punch specifically for use with the Happy Planner disc system.  I experimented on the first one with adding some stickers, and I have some ideas for adding other things to future creations.

With these covers in mind, I went out and purchased some scrapbook papers that I thought would work.  It takes 4 pages of 12X12 scrapbook paper (and 2 pages of regular cardstock)  to make the front and back cover for the classic size Happy Planner.  I think I can get both covers out of only 2 pages of scrapbook paper for the mini Happy Planner.  I need to figure out my cost, and then see how much shipping would be for a cover.

If it ends up being too costly for shipping, I may have to scrap the idea as a product, but I am having fun making them.

I made this cover for myself:

Galaxy Cover 1

When I bought my planner, I couldn’t find a cover that I liked, that spoke to me.  My sister had the same experience, so I’m planning on making her a custom one next.  I love the galaxy/star theme of this paper.  The stars and lines are gold foil, though that’s a bit hard to see in the photo.

The white galaxy paper on the inside covers is from the same theme pack of paper:

Galaxy Cover 3

Now that I’m looking at the photos, I may add a foil 2020 or something to the front cover.  Just something to jazz it up a bit.  All in all, though, I’m much happier with this cover than the one that came with the planner.

Tired of Drowning in Debt?

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Credit: Pixabay

When I jumped into the planner world online, I discovered lots of Etsy shop owners and YouTubers talking about the Dave Ramsey method of budgeting.  I haven’t read everything by Dave Ramsey, but since I’ve always struggled with budgeting, I decided to see what he had to say.

**NOTE: I am not a financial planner or advisor, I am simply sharing a method that has worked for me.**

Everyone dreams of being debt-free, right?  But how do you actually get there?  There are a million financial advisors who can tell you what to do to become debt-free.  It’s simple – pay off your debts and avoid buying things on credit.  But simple is rarely easy.

And when you have a mountain of debt, even when you’re throwing every extra penny at it, it can feel like you’re not even making a dent.  What I learned from Dave Ramsey was to approach my debts in a different way.

What makes the most financial sense is to start paying off whatever debt you have with the highest interest rate first – that way you save the most interest and reduce your debt faster.  However, when your highest interest rate debt is also your largest debt, even when you’re paying extra, it often doesn’t seem like you’re making any progress.  So people become discouraged and quit making the effort.

Enter psychology.

People need to feel like they’re making progress in order to motivate them to continue their behavior.  So instead of paying off the highest interest rate debt first, Ramsey’s advice is to concentrate on the smallest debt first.  Yes, it doesn’t make the most financial sense to do it this way, because your large debt will still be accruing interest while you pay off the small one.  But – you will see progress quickly, and that will motivate you to continue doing what you’re doing.

Once you have one debt paid off, put that same payment amount towards the next biggest balance until it’s paid off, then repeat.  So, for example, when you pay off your car loan and your payment was $200, then you take that $200, plus whatever minimum you were paying on the next biggest debt, add those together, and make that the new payment amount for that debt.

Following this idea, rather than concentrating on my large credit card balance, I focused on the small balance remaining on a car loan.  Within 6 months, the car loan was paid off.  And the feeling of walking into the bank and paying it off was amazing! To help me keep track of what I’m paying, I created this Debt Snowball Tracker for myself (there are a million versions of these out there, so feel free to grab this one or make one for yourself):

IH Debt Snowball Tracker PNG

I currently have four credit cards, a car loan, a bank loan, and a mortgage.  I’m ignoring our mortgage for this purpose, because we will likely move and sell the house before we pay it off anyway.  We did just refinance our mortgage and were able to get a better interest rate and lower our payment, so that will help.

Simply having a visual tracker like this helps so much when you are budgeting and paying bills.  You can see how much the amounts are reduced in a single glance, and when you see that you are getting close to paying off the balance, it helps give you that extra push to get it done.

Once I paid off the first car loan, I have been adding that payment into the bank loan (our smallest remaining debt balance), and in just a few short months, it will be paid off as well.  After that is paid off, I’ll be able to attack our credit card debt and work my way through them as well.  And while I know that this approach doesn’t make the most financial sense, it has allowed me to be successful in making progress, and that’s what matters to me.

Back on Track

Download Success
Credit: Pixabay

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a planner from way back.  I’ve been planning for as long as I can remember.  I’ve done it for so long that when I don’t, it throws off my whole schedule.  For instance, because I’ve been trying out different planners, I don’t have everything in one place like I used to.  So I completely missed the fact that I have double-booked myself for two events that I have to attend.  Which means I now get to figure out how to rearrange schedules so that I can make it to both – not the end of the world, certainly, but things would have been much easier if I had realized it from the beginning and scheduled accordingly.

In the planner sticker world, the Happy Planner Classic and the Erin Condren Life Planner are two of the most popular planners.  I finally got my hands on a cheap Erin Condren (half-off because it’s an 18 month planner, but it’s got all of 2020 in it, so win!) and I also bought the Happy Planner mini and Big sizes so that I could take measurements for my sticker kits.

I was surprised to discover that I actually really like the Erin Condren planner.  It’s good quality, it’s sturdy, and the paper is smooth.  The downside? The large spiral – it gets in the way of everything I do.  So, while I like it, I won’t be using it.

I thought I would stick with the Happy Planner Classic, because I knew I wouldn’t use the mini.  I don’t carry my planner with me – it stays on my desk and I check it periodically throughout the day.  If I worked full-time, I might want something portable, but not now.  And I’m finding that I really miss my large, cheap, big box store planner – it was large and had lots of room to write in the monthly spreads.  The monthly spread is really all I use in my planner, because I like to see everything at a glance.  I’ve been trying to use the weekly spreads in the Classic, but it gets annoying to keep flipping back and forth.

I think I’m going to move to the Big Happy Planner – I don’t need the weekly pages, but the monthly spreads are large and give me plenty of room to write everything I need to in one place.

I’ve managed to pare down from 6 planners to 2 – one scheduling planner and one budgeting.  It’s taken some getting used to, but I feel like I have a good handle on things now that I’ve pared down.  For a while there, with 6 planners, I think I spent more time copying the same thing into multiple planners than I did actually planning.

I have gotten all the templates for my monthly sticker kits made for the sizes I want to sell, and my goal now is to get demos printed and photographed so I can post them for sale. I’ve also figured out how to make covers for the Happy Planners, and I’ve already had two requests for them!

HP Classic Cover
My first cover!

It took me a couple of tries to get the dimensions just right, but I’m excited to make these.  I picked up some pretty scrapbook paper to use for them and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.

Now that my planner and organization is back on track, hopefully everything else will fall into place.  Things aren’t going as fast as I’d like, and I’ve still got some business housekeeping things to take care of as well, but I’m slowly getting there.

Am I An Artist?

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Credit: Pixabay

I love to do creative things – write, draw, paint, dance, sew, crochet, etc.  I may not be any good at some of them, but I love doing them.  The other day I was wondering where my creative need comes from, because I’ve never thought of myself as particularly artistic.

It suddenly hit me the other day that I come from a long line of creative people.  Something I knew, but never really considered until recently.  My paternal grandfather was an extremely good artist.  Unfortunately, a mental breakdown and electric shock treatment seemed to burn that creative spark out of him.  I treasure the few pieces I have of his.

My maternal grandmother was creative, too.  When I was small, she was always painting ceramics.  In the 70’s, she owned her own kiln and we would buy bisque ware, clean it, and then fire them in her kiln before we would paint them.  She was a poet.  She wrote poetry for herself, but also for other people.  She was often asked to write poems for birthdays, retirements, and obituaries. In her later years, she took up oil painting.  I still have some of her work.

My mother was also very creative.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so she sewed most of our clothes when we were little.  She could create a pattern for anything out of thin air.  She once helped me create (from scratch, no pattern) Star Trek uniforms for my brother and I to wear to a convention. (Yes, we’re those nerds.)

My mom taught me all kinds of creative skills.  She was a troop leader at one point for my sister, and they were always making something.  They had one project where they transferred designs from coloring pages onto wood, carved them out, and then painted them.

She taught me to knit, to crochet, and to latchhook. (Does anyone do latchhook anymore?)  I learned how to cross-stitch, crewel, and embroider with her.  We even did macramé at one point. (Jute plant holder, anyone?)

It’s funny how for all these years I’ve resisted labeling myself as artistic.  I was surrounded by all these creative people, which I recognized, but I never thought of myself the same way.

Over the past several years, I’ve come to realize that most people are artists – although in many different ways.  So, though I still often suffer from that dreaded imposter syndrome, these days I consider myself an artist.

Social Media & Marketing

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Credit: Pixabay

Let me just start off by saying that I have no idea what I’m doing.  Well, I suppose that’s not strictly true.  I know what I want, I’m just not sure if what I’m doing is going to get me there.

I want to get my sticker business up and running, but I’m having a hard time taking that first leap of faith.  However, I do know that I need to get eyeballs on my stuff – hence this blog and my foray into social media and marketing.

I’m still vacillating about Etsy/Amazon and the sales tax headache, but while I’m vacillating, I’ve been working on my social media presence.  I’ve joined Ello, Twitter, and Pinterest, and I’ve got a page on Ko-Fi for any kind souls who would like to buy me a coffee to fuel this introvert on her entrepreneurial journey.

I do have some experience with social media, but none with marketing and so I’m learning as I go.  You all know how I hate stat tracking, but I do understand that it is necessary to get where I want to go.

This social media stuff is hard, ya’ll.

I mean, I want to grow my audience and I want to be authentic, but it’s harder than it looks.  Each platform has its own ins and outs, and trying to learn them all is hard work.  For most platforms, it’s all about your followers.  It’s been slow going, and I know part of it is because I’ve not been consistent enough with my posting.  I’ve used Twitter in the past, and I know I’ll get traction there eventually as I get more consistent with my tweeting.  Ello is an enigma – there’s not much information about how to get noticed there, so I’m trying to just let things grow organically.

Pinterest, though, is a complete mystery.  I’ve done some research, but I still have no idea how it works.  In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from 0 reach (something that Pinterest measures) to 7.8K.  Which sounds great!  Except I have no idea what it means.  I think it means people are looking at things I pin, which is awesome.  But I pin a lot of things that aren’t mine, so I’m not sure how those figure in, if they do.

I don’t even have any followers on Pinterest and I’ve yet to figure out how to find others to follow.  Trying to find people, for me anyway, has been like following a trail of breadcrumbs and never finding the end.  I see a pin I like, so I click, but it’s just a pin of a pin of a pin of a pin of a pin of a pin . . .  and I never seem to get to where the actual pin came from.  Or if I do, it’s a website, not a person I can follow on Pinterest.

Mostly it feels like I’m just screaming into a void and hoping someone hears me.  Hello?