Paradox of Change

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

If this year has taught us anything, it’s how to be adaptable to change – whether we wanted to or not. In addition to rolling with the punches from 2020, I’ve been trying to make smaller changes in my life.

Being debt-free is a large goal, but I also have smaller ones. I’ve been trying to get healthier – eat less, exercise more, eat cleaner, that type of thing. What I have discovered while trying to make these changes is that there is what I’m calling the ‘paradox of change.’

The paradox is that if you want to be successful at making changes, you need to stick to a routine. Which is paradoxical, right? Whatever change you’re trying to make isn’t a part of your routine, which is why it’s a change. The trick is to make the change part of your routine, so it becomes something automatic – something you just do without even thinking about it anymore.

Sticking to a routine is hard, but so beneficial. Most people crave the structure of a routine – we are comfortable when things go as expected. And having a routine that fills most of your life means that when something unexpected happens, it’s easier to deal with it. (Although 2020 is sure testing that theory for me!)

As we get closer to the end of the year, I thought things would start to calm down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As things continue to escalate, my job has gone remote. Which is good, but also challenging. Figuring out how to effectively deliver instruction to preschoolers virtually is a challenge – we’ll see how it goes and how well we all (students and teachers) adapt to this new change.

In the meantime, I plan to continue to keep working on the small goals in my life and incorporating them into my daily routine. Here’s hoping I can overcome the paradox of change! 😀

Planning Ahead

Even though I use a planner and I like to think of myself as organized, I often find myself making my monthly sticker kit for my planner at the last minute. Sometimes the new month has begun before I start making the kit.

I wanted to get a jump on the next couple of months for a couple of reasons. One, because making both the kits for November and December puts me ahead. Two, because it means I can cross two things off my to-do list. 😀

I could buy sticker kits on Etsy for my planner, and I have before, but I like to make my own. I’ve shown you several of them before, but I don’t think I’ve shared them for a couple of months. Eventually I plan to sell them myself on Etsy, but until then, I have fun making them for my own planner.

For November, I wanted a nice, soft, autumn theme – not the usual turkeys and Thanksgiving theme. So I made this:

Ignore the payday and bill due stickers – I don’t generally use those myself, so I don’t bother changing the colors on them when I make my own kits. And it wasn’t until after I had printed it, cut it, and went to apply it that I realized I forgot to change the name of the month to November. Gah!

I do like the way it turned out, and I love that I can hop over to Pixabay and find all kinds of free art there. So I spent some time finding things to use on my December layout as well. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, so I found all kinds of goodies to use.

I really like how the December stickers turned out. I love the colors and I couldn’t resist the cute little plaid reindeer. The maple leaf is a nod to my Canadian husband. 😀 This kit was a little frustrating, because my cutting machine was being a jerk and not aligning properly when cutting. I printed and cut the stickers three times before finally deciding to close the software program and restart it. Voila! Suddenly it cut perfectly.

At least now those two months are done and I can move on to working on other things – like my budget planner. I do also need to order new planner to use for next year. The budget planner I use is undated and I accidentally ordered two the last time I needed one, so I’m set there. For my personal planning, I use a big Happy Planner. I’ve tried several different sizes, but I like the big one the best.

I’ve tried using the Erin Condren planner, and while I love the way the paper feels, the spiral binding makes it too difficult to add and remove pages for me. It’s so much easier to move things around with the Happy Planner disc system.

Now, on to the next project! 😀

Debt Payoff Update

Credit: Pixabay

Even in these uncertain times, my husband and I are still trying to pay off our debt. Having less to pay in bills each month means more of our income can go where WE want it to.

We were focusing heavily on paying off debt, and while we are still doing that, we have scaled back a bit on how much we are paying. If you remember, we refinanced our house a while ago, which lowered both our interest rate and our payment, as well as putting a nice cushion in our savings account.

All of those things have made it easier not to panic financially. My husband, while considered an essential worker, has still had his hours cut at work. Not the end of the world, certainly, but that is money we aren’t getting now. In addition, I am off for the summer, so I don’t receive a paycheck. I’m still not sure that my job will open up again in the fall, but we shall see.

In spite of all that, we have been able to continue making additional payments on our mortgage and to pay off another credit card! I wanted to keep making the same mortgage payments we were before, even though our payment went down, because that means we are paying towards the principal of the loan every month. And since it’s the amount we’ve been paying for years, we don’t miss it.

When I first started trying out the snowball debt payment method, we had our mortgage, a car loan, a bank loan, and 4 credit cards. In the last six months, we’ve paid off the bank loan and one of the credit cards. Today, I paid off a second card! It feels so good to see that zero balance. 😀

We still have a ways to go, but we are slowly getting there. Since I am off for the summer (sort of), I am working on creating new side hustles and income streams for us. I talked previously about launching my Etsy shop (it still needs work!) and I am planning to start a YouTube channel where I will be posting videos of the mandalas I draw. Once I have the channel up and running, I’ll post more about it here.

Both of those projects have taken more work than I initially thought, but I am determined to see them both through. Any extra income I can bring in can go towards paying down our debt, so that we are in a better financial position if anything thing else crazy happens this year.

Success!

Credit: Pixabay

It’s been a crazy few days, eh?

I’m trying to focus on the positive and things that I can actually control. One of those is my job. I posted before about applying for a new position at my current job.

I had an interview via Zoom – a strange experience, but I watched some Zoom tutorials before the meeting, so I knew what to expect. It went pretty smoothly – I even managed to screen share some of the work I had prepared. And it all worked out – I got the job!

It’s going to mean more work, but it’s also more pay, so. . . 😀

I’m also still working on completing other personal projects – like my miniature painting, my writing here, my Etsy shop, my mandalas, etc. It’s going well – I like being able to jump around to whatever project seems most appealing at the time. I spent yesterday painting minis and experimenting more with the contrast paints. Made mistakes, but I’m learning.

Today I’m meeting with my boss to discuss plans for next year – we’re going to have to make a lot of assumptions about what the world looks like 3 months from now, so we’ll see how it goes.

For the last week or so, I’ve been using the new block editor here on WordPress. I’m still not sold, but I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make a decision. There are some features that I like, but some are just annoying.

We planted some new seeds for our container garden. My youngest made me a raised container bed and we bought several other containers from the local garden store. So far, everything is green and growing, but we’ll see what happens. I have a definite black thumb, which is why I don’t keep houseplants. I’m not sure if we’ll get anything edible out of the garden, but crossing my fingers that the plants know what to do, and I just need to provide food, water, and sun. 😛

Financial Progress

One of my many goals this year is to pay down our debt as much as possible.  With two kids in college come this fall, we need every spare penny!  My husband is an essential worker, so even with all the current (and probably coming) craziness in the world right now, we’ve been able to depend on his income.

However, I am definitely planning ahead and trying to make sure if more strange things happen this year (murder hornets?!) that we are prepared financially – as much as we can be, anyway.

We refinanced our house earlier this year and were able to lower both our interest rate and our payment, which has helped a lot.  Our refinance also netted us some cash, so we were able to stick that into savings.

I think the last time I posted about our budget, we had the mortgage, a car loan, a bank loan, and 4 credit cards.  Yikes!  In March, we paid off one of the credit cards. 😀  We had some expenses that I thought were going to be on that card, but we ended up being able to pay those directly, so now that card is paid off.

In addition to that, we had been putting more money towards the bank loan, because it had one of the highest interest rates.  We used part of our tax refund and put it towards this loan.  Because of that, we were able to pay off that loan this month!

I am still tracking the rest of our debts on my snowball tracker, shown here:

IH Debt Snowball Tracker PNG

My next goal is to pay off two of the credit cards.  They are big box store cards that we used to get 12/18 months no interest and we are close to paying one of them off.  I’m hoping to have the money to do that this month as well.

If I can do that, it will leave us with just 1 credit card, the mortgage, and the car loan.  Which would be AMAZING!  Our house loan is only a 15-year loan and even though the payment was lowered with our refinance, I am still paying the old loan payment amount each month.  This will help us pay it off even faster.

Doing this would also let us put more money in savings every month.  We’ll see how we manage – my husband’s hours have been cut back and I won’t be getting a paycheck while I’m off for the summer.  So paying things off may be a bit trickier, but I’m still determined to get there.

What are your financial goals?

Making Mockups

As I get closer to opening my Etsy shop, one of the things I need to do is to take product photos and/or have mockups of them so that I can show buyers what my stickers look like.

My photography skills are still not great, and even with a light box I’m getting weird shadows on product photos.  So I thought I would try using some mockups, since my products are created digitally first.  I’ve seen a million of them used on Etsy, so a quick internet search would net me some options, right?

Wrong.

Oh, sure, I found a ton of mockups available for free and for sale, but none of them were really what I needed.  I’m not selling photos or prints, and that was the majority of the mockups out there.  After an afternoon of fruitless searching, I decided I would try to make my own.

I own Photoshop CS6 (the last version you could actually purchase, rather than a subscription).  I’m no expert user by any means, but I figured I would at least try.  It turned out to be easier than I thought.

Because my monthly kits will be multiple pages, buyers will want to see what is on each page.  Also, I may offer pages for individual sales, so they will definitely want to know what they are getting in that instance.  So I needed two different mockups – one to show the entire kit, and one to show each page.

Using my limited Photoshop skills, I managed to come up with the following:

Test 3 Stack
This is the mockup for the entire kit

I’m using the kit I made for myself for February as an example.  I managed to figure out how to make each page of the kit a smart object, so now I can just replace each sheet with an image from my Silhouette software, and I’m good to go!

Here’s the mockup I made so that you can see what’s on each individual sheet of the kit, in case someone wants to purchase only certain sheets:

Test 3 Straight
Here you can see each sheet

I’m really happy with the way these turned out.  I now have an easy way to show buyers what they are getting and all the front-end work I put in will make any new images I need to create fast and easy.

Now if I can just improve my photography skills!

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.

Productive and Present

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Credit: Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s already halfway through January of 2020.  2019 flew by and there are some big things on the horizon for me in 2020.  I don’t want to miss anything, so I’m making an effort this year to be more present in the moment.  My mortality has definitely been on my mind more lately and I have things I want to do/accomplish before I shuffle of this mortal coil.

I am working hard on stickers for my sticker business.  I wanted to have 10 products ready when it launched and I’m happy to say that I have over 10 done!  Now, I have to take photographs and get them ready to list and sell.

I’ve also made more headway in paring down the number of planners I’m using.  I’m now down to only 3 – a budget planner and 2 daily planners.  I really need to just jettison my cheap daily planner and use the Happy Planner but I’m resisting that.  Sunk cost theory and all that.  I’ve given myself until next month to get rid of it as I slowly transition everything over to the Happy Planner.  I have the classic size, but I may try out the larger size next time to see if that works better for me.

I have to say, I’m actually loving the budget planner.  I feel like it’s helping me keep better control of our spending.  I’ve also been following some of the Dave Ramsey method to try and pay off our debts.  I would love to be debt free (except for our mortgage) in the next 4 years.  I created some inserts for my Happy Planner – a debt snowball tracker, a savings tracker, and a sinking funds tracker.  So far we’ve managed to pay off one car loan and we’re close to paying off the second.

I created some daily to-do lists for myself and I love how productive I’ve been lately.  I get a little thrill every time I get to check something off my list as done.  And now that I’ve got my under-desk elliptical, I’m getting way more steps in every day.  I feel like I’m off to a good start in 2020.  Now all I have to do is stay consistent.

Progress

Download Success
Credit: Pixabay

During the holidays, I tried to take advantage of my free time to create and be productive.  I made some progress.  I wanted to have 10 products ready to go, and so far I’ve gotten 4 of them done.  They all have some things I want to tweak, but I’m forcing myself to move on to another item.  If I don’t, I’ll spend all my time tweaking instead of working on new things.  I can always go back and tweak them later, once I’ve got some spare time.

I’ve also spent time learning.  I’ve been playing around with digitally coloring my mandalas, I’ve done some more exploring in iColorama, and this weekend I taught myself how to make my own SVG files to use in my Silhouette Design software.

I’ve added in social media for the business (find me on Pinterest, Ello, Twitter and Ko-Fi) and it is keeping me busy.  Not too busy to experiment, though. 😛

I decided to take Mandala 25 and color it digitally.  Here’s how it turned out:

Mandala 25 Colored

Once I was done coloring it, I decided to try out iColorama again.  I’ve watched a few videos on how to use and discovered all the amazing presets – something I somehow missed the first few times I used it.

I wanted to add some texture and depth to the image.  I shifted the colors a bit, using one of those presets, and I added some texture using a couple of different filters.  I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out:

Mandala 25 colored

It looks like a piece of printed fabric, or perhaps a needlepoint someone stitched. I’ve still got a list of things I want to try out, including using some overlays and filters in Procreate to color in some of the mandalas.  But I’m making progress, which is the important thing!