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?

Busy Is Not Better

One of the things I’ve noticed with everyone at home is that people seem to feel guilty if they are not ‘busy.’  It apparently has become a cultural expectation that you are ‘busy’ all the time.  The busier you are, the more successful you must be.

The internet is filled these days with things you can do/learn/bake/read/create/draw/make/paint/etc. to make sure that you’re staying busy. You’re made to feel guilty if you aren’t using this ‘time off’ (hah) to somehow improve yourself – whether it’s by learning a new skill, working on your fitness, or whatever.

I find this strange on several levels.

If you look at people who are very wealthy, they’re not generally very busy.  Some are, of course, but most aren’t.  “Deals get made on the golf course,” you’ll hear.  As if the deal they are supposedly working on somehow cancels out the fact that they are golfing, not working. 

I think we can all agree that meetings are some of the least productive things you can do with your time.  But again, wealthy people (like CEOs) expect you to believe that they are busy (and thus important) because their days are filled with meetings.

Also, busy does not equal productive.  You can be very busy and accomplish nothing.  You can be less busy and still be productive.  Here’s a little secret:

It’s okay if you aren’t busy every minute of every day.

The world won’t end.  It just means that you need to slow down sometimes and recharge.  Vacations are a thing for a reason.

Although, now that I think about it, most people are encouraged NOT to take vacations (at least in my experience).  You need to be busy, busy, busy and putting your time and effort in at your job.  (This may not be true everywhere – I happen to live the US, and that is very much the culture here.)  In fact, most people only get two weeks of vacation a year, and that’s if you have a very good job.  In today’s gig economy, most jobs don’t offer benefits like vacation.  You can take a vacation, but then you don’t get paid – something a lot of people can’t afford.

I have made a conscious effort to keep myself occupied, because depression can sneak up on me if I don’t.  But it’s okay if some days you just want to lay on the couch and read.  Or lay on the couch and do nothing.  All the things on your to-do list will still be there later.  It’s okay to not be busy.

Sticker Tetris

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Credit: Pixabay

I’m still working on my sticker templates for my sticker business.  I’ve designed monthly kits for both the Happy Planner (mini, classic, and big sizes) and the Erin Condren Life Planner.

Now that the templates are done, I can simply fill them in with designs and then sell the themed kits.  Designing the templates, however, was an experience.

First I had to acquire each planner so I could measure for sizes.  I did try just looking up the sizes on the internet, but every site had slightly different sizes, so I decided to measure them myself.  Also, most of the measurements I found were in inches, and they weren’t easy measurements.  For example, some of the monthly boxes were listed as 1.56″.  That’s a weird measurement when you’re working in inches.

So I decided to try metric.  You remember metric? That system they had us learn in the 70’s because the US was going to start using it?  The one where everything is in multiples of 10?  Yeah, that one. 🙂

Amazingly, using millimeters to measure, I ended up with easy to remember numbers.  40mm X 40mm.  40mm X 20mm.  And so on.  No weird decimals to deal with.

So once I had all the sizes I need for the various stickers that go in a kit, I had to try and fit them into a small sheet.  I have to mail the sheets, so I wanted to keep the sheets small to save on postage.  Somewhere around 7″x5″ is pretty typical for the kits.

But trying to fit all the stickers into that 7″X5″ area is like playing a game of Tetris.  You think you have everything placed perfectly, and then realize you forgot a sticker.  Or you want to try and fit in just one more sticker, and that means rearranging everything else.

I persevered, and the templates are done.  Now I can move on to the next job.  😀

Progress

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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!

5 Things I Hate About Blogging

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Image Source: Pixabay

I love blogging, I really do.  Sometimes just the process of getting my jumbled thoughts out of my brain onto the screen is all it takes to make my day better.  But there are some things I don’t like about blogging. Some are just annoyances, but some are things that make me want to avoid blogging all together.  I guess my ego is bigger than my dislike, since I’m here.  😀  Right, on with the list!

#5.  Dealing with the technology

I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I am by no means a tech person.  I liken it to driving a car – I know how to operate it; I can fix simple things – gas, flat tire, blown fuse, etc., but some things are beyond my skills – broken engine mounts (which aren’t apparently as terrible as they sound), broken shifter linkage, suspension issues, and the like.  Same with tech – I can operate my blog and fix simple things, but sometimes things break and I have no idea how to fix them.

One of the reasons I have my blog set up the way I do is that I didn’t want to be responsible for security and other tech issues.  Maybe someday I’ll feel that confident, but not yet.  Technology is great – as long as it works.  😛

#4.  Finding people to follow and interact with

This is a big one for me.  I’m naturally an introvert, and I spend a lot of my time alone – some by necessity, some by need. I like to people watch and observe – interaction is difficult for me and not something I feel adept at.  So just hopping over to someone’s blog and commenting does not come naturally.  I’m constantly afraid I will come off as rude, condescending, or at worst, ignorant.

Has anyone ever made me feel that way?  No, of course not.  Have I ever felt that way about anyone who interacts or comments on my blog?  Nope, never.  Just my own demons following me into the digital realm.

I also apparently suck at searching for other like-minded blogs to follow.  I have a wide range of interests, but it can be difficult to find blogs to follow even then.  Like everyone else, I’m looking for good content, but also consistency.  I’ve found some great blogs, but then discover that the owner hasn’t posted anything in months.

#3.  Blogger’s block

I suffer from this a lot, mostly because I have that little voice in my brain that says that no one will care about what I have to say.  Plus, as mentioned in #2, I think consistency is important, so I try to stick to my posting schedule.  The pressure to post regularly can lead to brain drain, and I have trouble finding a topic I think is relevant that I want to post about.

These days to combat blogger’s block, I either go draw or I go for a walk.  It’s amazing what a little exercise can do to get my neurons firing.  Even if I don’t end up finding a topic, I can at least get myself out of that negative headspace you get into when you are blocked creatively.

#2.  Bragging about yourself

I don’t think most people start a blog thinking, “Hey, I need a forum to brag about myself.”  That said, a lot of the time, that’s what it feels like I’m doing.  Ultimately, I’m trying to get people to listen to me, follow me, and hopefully, spend some money on things I’ve created.

But that darn imposter syndrome is always there, lurking behind me.  There’s always going to be somebody who is better than you at whatever it is you’re doing.  I think we’ve become so conditioned to compare ourselves to others that it can be extremely hard to recognize when you’re doing it.  In the same way, we’ve been conditioned not to brag about ourselves and I find it hard to do.  (Though now that I think about it, social media is mostly that, so maybe it’s just me?)

#1.  Stat tracking

This is my absolute least favorite thing about blogging.  I want to grow my audience and attract followers, but keeping track of all the stats just gives me a headache.  Again, I understand the basics, but drilling down too far makes me want to scream.  Numbers are not my thing – words are.

Plus, I am never sure what stats are more important.  Visits? Views? Comments? Number of followers?  Keywords?  Ugh, I’m making myself tired just writing about all of this.

 

While there are things I don’t like about blogging, what I do get out of it more than makes up for it.  It’s work, for sure, but I enjoy the process, even if I don’t think I’m good at it sometimes.  But that was the point behind this blog – to be public about my successes and my failures.  Now, if I could just figure out how to clone myself so I have time for everything I want to do!

Reading for the Win!

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Image Source: Pixabay

For the last couple of years, I’ve set reading goals for myself.  I used to read all the time when I was younger, and then as life got busier, reading fell by the wayside.

When I was lamenting this fact, my husband thoughtfully gifted me a Kindle Unlimited subscription for Christmas one year.  Now, I know lots of people don’t like KU, but I have to say, I love it.

I read lots of books I probably would never have tried and have found lots of authors I truly enjoy and would never have discovered without KU.

Last year I set a goal of reading 300 books.  I actually didn’t set the goal until about halfway through the year, but I still made it.  I use a Goodreads account to keep track of what I read, because KU doesn’t.

I started out this year with a goal of 500 books.  Pretty ambitious, I thought.  I met that in June, so I upped the challenge to 600.  I met that in August, so I upped it to 700.

Today, I finished my 700th book this year!!!

Now, of course I’m going to up the challenge to 800.  And, technically, some of the books on the list are novellas rather than novels, but I’m still counting them.

I taught myself to speed-read when I was in high school, and I still tend to read pretty quickly.  Most of what I read is purely for enjoyment, not heavy reading classics, though I might throw a couple of those in here and there.  I only work part-time at the moment, so I have afternoons where I will curl up with my iPad and read.

We also do a lot of traveling since my youngest plays sports.  Reading is a great way to pass the time while my husband drives.

Still, it’s a goal that I set, and achieved, so – win!!

I Saw the Light

I’m not sure whether to call this a win or a fail, so I guess I’ll call it a tie. I posted before about my frustrations trying to take a picture of one of my mandalas that I had colored.

Creating the mandalas, both the ones for this blog and the ones I’m designing for my (someday) online store, has been a huge creative outlet for me. When I started doing them for this blog, it was more to have something creative to do and share. It also let me learn how to use my iPad, Apple Pencil, and Procreate app better.

In just a short few weeks, I have experimented with all kinds of elements and designs and have felt comfortable enough to move on to experimenting with new brushes and effects and such in Procreate. It has made a huge difference to how I create the coloring mandalas – I am much happier with what I am creating now.

Since the ultimate goal is to create mandalas that people can color, I wanted to try some of my designs and see how they worked. The coloring part went great. The getting photos part – not so much.

After several weeks of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, I saw someone on social media talking about DIY light boxes that would help you take better photos. I don’t have a good place in my home to take a photo, so I thought, well, I’ll just make my own light box.

So I watched a few videos about how to do that and then decided that by the time I gathered all the materials and put in the time to make one, I could probably just order one. Amazon, here I come!

I found an inexpensive light box for around $25, which was less than I would have spent on materials and time to make it myself. It came with a little tripod to hold my phone, the box, and 4 different colored backdrops. It’s made to refold and travel, but I’ve just left it set up. It has 2 LED light strips that I run off a portable battery charger and it has a hole in the top that I use to take the photos from above.

Image from Gyazo
Photo from Amazon.com

There are a ton of them online and some are even cheaper, though the quality will probably differ as well. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and I was able to set it up quickly and take the photos I wanted all in about 15 minutes.

So, I’m calling this a win because I did manage to get the photos I wanted of the colored mandalas. However, I feel like I kinda cheated because I ordered the light box in order to do it.

Sitting here writing about it, though, I’ve decided I’m being too hard on myself. Professional photographers use lights all the time and no one considers it cheating, right? So – win!

Stay tuned for posts with the actual photos of the colored mandalas. 😀

Success!

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Credit: Pixabay

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself today.  For the last 9 years or so, it’s been a project of mine to scan in all our old family photos.

All of them.  :/

It started out with a small box and then the pile just kept getting bigger.  And the bigger the pile got, the further the project moved down on my to-do list.  I mean, some of the photos are so old I don’t even know who the people are in them.  So unless there are names on the back, I haven’t got a clue.

While I was off this summer, I made a list of projects I wanted to try and complete.  The photo scanning was one of them.  I started off with the most recent ones – the ones that were me and my kids, and then worked my way backwards in time.

And I’m done!

I have a pile of photos for each of my siblings (all extras of the scanned photos) and the rest are stored away in photo albums after scanning.  Why store them after scanning?  I don’t know.  I mean, that was the original intention – scan them so that I could have a digital copy rather than a physical one.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy them.  Trashing photos of my kids or family members seemed wrong.  So, I have both – a digital and physical copy.  But now they’re not sitting around in a box in the floor of my closet, so I’m calling it a success!

I Am Not A Niche

Created with Quozio

I know all the advice out there says you should ‘niche’ your blog. I’m still not sure I understand why. I mean, I get wanting to be seen as an expert in your field. But I am interested in people, not in niches. When I think about it in that light, it makes me wonder about the other advice you always hear on social media – be authentic, be real. But authentic and real people are complex and multi-dimensional, not a single ‘niche’ idea, right?

As an introvert, people usually assume that I hate people. I don’t. I love watching people, observing their behavior, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Interacting with people is a completely different thing, though. Because I’m an introvert, I’m socially awkward. I mean, I can handle being in social situations, but I don’t generally enjoy them. Mostly because I don’t understand them. If you don’t really care how I am, why are you asking? I want to talk about deep and meaningful things, but most social conversation is completely superficial.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked, sorry. This post is about why this blog likely won’t fit into a neat little niche. The purpose behind it is not to present myself as an expert about anything, but rather to (hopefully) show people that with success comes a lot of failure. I think that people are so afraid these days to fail at anything that they prefer to do nothing. But you don’t learn if you don’t fail. I think that’s a lesson that so many people miss. We’re so focused on success that we forget it is driven by failure.

I decided to start a business, and as is usual with me, I jumped right in with both feet. But after spending a week or so researching and doing some paperwork, that darn imposter syndrome showed its ugly face. Suddenly, the whole prospect seemed incredibly daunting. I have no idea what I’m doing; what was I thinking?

Then I started to really head down the rabbit hole. I don’t even really use social media – I have no ‘following’ to promote this business to, so how in the world am I going to get sales? Then I started researching selling online and all the new tax and privacy laws in the US and elsewhere and it really started to get overwhelming. How am I ever going to make this a success?

Then one day, in the midst of all my angst, I thought, why the hell am I worrying about all this? When I originally decided to start the business, I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about failing. If I did fail, then at least I would have learned something. If I fail, I’ll have lost some money and some time, but at least I will have tried. I’d regret not trying more than I’d regret failing. So, here I am.

If you’re expecting this to be a blog about only things relating to an online business venture, you might be disappointed. I will write about that, but other things interest me, and since this is, after all, my blog, I will probably write about them too.

I’m opening at Etsy shop selling planner stickers and vinyl decals. Topics you may encounter in this blog: starting an online home business, cutting machines (like the Silhouette Cameo), stickers, planners, vinyl, decals, sales tax, using Etsy, etc. I may also write about things like fonts, software, blogging, writing, creating, art, being an introvert (and sometimes a hermit), my tinfoil hat theories (shh, don’t tell anyone about these), and you may encounter my snark/sarcasm.

If any of those don’t strike your fancy, no problem. The internet is a big place, and this is just one tiny corner of it. If you’re interested in watching me fail (or succeed), then slap the follow button and let’s go!