February 2019 IWSG

December Goals
Finish any last minute planning I have for Paris/Egypt/Berlin.
  - You can always do more planning.
Finish Christmas shopping and wrapping.
– Pack and prep for travel. (Including cleaning before we leave and blog prep.)
  - Missed the January IWSG post. :(
  - Also missed my New Years resolution post. (It was half written but not scheduled until we got back.)
  + wrote reviews for finances, books read, and year.
  - Didn't finish making store returns before leaving.
Review my year.

Additional Successes
  + Work party for Justin. (And somehow managed to pull together an outfit last minute!)
  + Getting together with friends before traveling. (But hey! There was pizza, gelato, and wine. Being social is pretty good when you include those things!)
  + Spending all day with my sister-in-law on Christmas eve despite needing to clean, plan, and pack.
  + Hosting the family Christmas eve dinner. While packing and planning.
  + Then being existent right before our flight for a family Christmas breakfast.
  + A loud wedding in Egypt with people I don't know very well.
  + Then three days of tours, two with people I was suppose to "know" and get along with, one with a group of people I will never see again.
  + A tour of Berlin with friends after a week of traveling … when I was tired, stressed, and feeling like I was not able to keep up with the group mentally or physically.
• But then there were those moments when I was able to add incite to a political or philosophical conversation. (Does photoshop really alter the reality of a photograph? Is the use of the word "girl" when speaking of a woman condescending across different cultures? Or, alternatively, does "mådschen" auf Deutsch have the same meaning as the word "girl" in English? … Does racism exist outside of the United States? Is it an issue we need to conquer globally rather than just locally?)
• Getting French Christmas lights to put on our Christmas tree for Christmas 2019! (It's been a goal for a couple of years.)
• Trying Mexican food in Germany… 😳
• Getting a flight to Sharm-el-Sheikh after weeks and weeks of trying and failing. AND getting to pay in Egyptian pounds so we saved $$.
• Paying off the car. YAY!
• Finding a hat that is cute and will keep my head warm. (Harder than it sounds in a typically warm climate.)
• Hiding my chest/neck in Egypt while not being too hot. And coming across as Egyptian in some circumstances! (I'm pretty conservative for American standards, but I never really worry about whether my neck or the insinuation of cleavage is covered, like when wearing a V-neck top.)
• Getting most of my image files transferred to my new DROBO.
• Learning how to haggle in Egyptian markets. We were still taken advantage of, but it gives you a totally new perspective on the "worth" of an item and how not to get emotionally involved.
• Translating a LONG Christmas card with help from google translate and writing a response auf Deutsch.

February Goals
– Plan and prep for April A-Z.
– Write a financial monthly review post.
– Finish with the DROBO back up. And talk to Justin about how to access files from outside the home.
– List one more item on Poshmark.

IWSG Question –– Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

PHOTOGRAPHY! I love challenging myself to get better. I feel like a good image can enhance the words I share on my blog.

I've experimented with drawing, sculpting, singing (2 years), and playing an instrument (the cello, 3 years). 

I keep going back to the written word because there are so many nuances to it. I can say the same word and add an exclamation point to give it a different meaning. Or I can italicize it. Bold it. Use different words around that one word. If I sing a cuss word, maybe it will sound less harsh? And then there is the complication of translating the word so that it is easier for speakers of other languages to understand. If I say "Achoo!" in text, you might think I have sneezed, but perhaps I am just describing something that sounds like a sneeze? Or maybe, to someone who speaks another first language, the sound is similar to something they are familiar with that I may not be as familiar with?

And the challenge with photographer is getting the image right. How do you capture the scene exactly as you remember it? How do you get the colors just so? And what about all of those power lines? Light coming from underneath might look scary while outdoor lighting is very different from indoor lighting. And then trying to tell a story without words? How do you compel a viewer to look at your image for longer than a few seconds?

While having many creative outlets gives me new and interesting challenges, I do wonder if it prevents me from perfecting myself in any one area? Perhaps if I focused all of my time and energy on writing, specifically, I could be a better writer? Or maybe photography is where my focus needs to be? … And how do creatives feel about life influencing your creative outlets? Maybe if you weren't exposed to a foreign language, you wouldn't be as thoughtful about the words you were using in your stories?

Anyway, creativity is complicated.

Your Turn

What creative outlets do you have? Do you think giving yourself the flexibility to focus creative energy in many areas helps you? Or does it keep you from perfecting your ability in one specific area? Are non-creative aspects of life helpful in expanding your creativity?

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Monthly Financial Update: January 2019

In December, when reviewing my finances for 2018, I mentioned my desire to look at them on a monthly basis in 2019. Justin and I spent a little too much in 2018 and let our finances get the best of us. Maybe by looking at our finances monthly (and letting you guys/gals keep me in check), we will do better this year. That's the goal anyway.

So, here we go …


green - this year; yellow - last year

Where We Spent Our Money:

Top 10 Locations
1. Marriott - 6 nights + food/drinks + souvenirs/stamps
2. Progressive - 6 months car insurance
3. Hyatt - 2 nights + entertainment + food/drink
4. Sheraton - 2 nights + food/drink
5. DHL - 2 shipments to the US
6. Chase Card Membership - Sapphire Reserve
7. Nile Airlines - flight from Sharm-El-Sheikh to Cairo
8. Kroger - groceries
9. Egypt Group Tour - with wedding party
10. Electricity

Top 10 Categories
1. Travel - hotels, taxis, flight, checked luggage
2. Food and dining
3. Auto & transport - car wash, public transportation, gas, floor mats, batteries for the fob, car insurance
4. Shopping - books, clothes, gifts, souveniers
5. Bills & Utilities - engineering dues, electricity, cell phone, email
6. Entertainment - museums, tours
7. DHL shipping
8. Fees & Charges - interest, transfer fees
9. Uncategorized - haven't figured it out yet!
10. Personal Care - dry cleaning, hair cuts
11. Financial - life insurance

(compared to last year)

Here's where I think we can improve:
• Obviously we won't be traveling in February (that I know of), so spending will decrease there.
• As a result of not traveling, food/dining, shopping, shipping (business services), and gifts should also decrease.
• Auto care might go up, because we need to get Justin's tires looked at and change the oil.
• I've gotten everything dry cleaned that needed to be after our trip, so the next time that will come up will be at the end of winter (April, May, June).

February is usually our least expensive month. We will see if that holds true this year. We are pretty motivated to get back on track with paying down debts at this time of year. The only unexpected expense I foresee is taxes.

Net Income:

It's a bit of a shocker to me that we haven't spent more than we made this month yet.


Our interest and transfer fees, as well as overall credit card debt, is up. We just paid for six months of car insurance, so I'm hoping this is just a fluke and that I will see a decrease next month. But that's why I'm tracking my debt here. Ideally, if it is not a fluke, I will see that it isn't and be able to work to correct it.

Luckily, student loan debt and our car loan are both down. And actually the car loan is paid off!! WOOT! Just before the car hit 100,000 miles. The student loan payoff date (according to Mint) is 11/1/22, one month earlier than it was last month. (It's my opinion that Mint is wrong based on what I've seen on the student loan websites, but I'm willing to give Mint the benefit of the doubt on this one. Please be correct Mint!!!)

* Loan Payoff Date 11/1/22
* Emergency Funds: $8936
* Credit Scores: 764 (Justin), 781 (me)
* Car loan paid off! YAY!!!
* Investments at -60.28% (Only slightly worse at .04% than a month ago.)

Overview of the Biggest Impacts This Month
1. Travel to Europe and Egypt
2. Car insurance
3. Bonuses!
4. Paying off car.
5. Transfer fees.

What went wrong this month?
1. Buying winter clothing because it was on sale.
2. Buying souvenirs and gifts. And then having to pay extra to ship them home … or for checking them at the airport.
3. Not sharing meals while overseas. Food costs were high this month!
4. Trying to use an expiring gift card on Amazon that ended up not going through, so they used our credit card instead. :(
5. Transfer fees. If we didn't have debt, this wouldn't be a problem.

What went right this month?
1. Paying off the car!!
2. Spending extra time looking at our finances and working out some goals for 2019.
3. Spending time with friends we otherwise might not have seen this year. Even if it cost us more.
4. Buying winter clothes on sale, because ideally I won't need to buy them at full price next time I travel somewhere in the winter.
5. Buying hard-to-get goods in other countries, because who knows when I will be back?

Financial plans/goals for next month?
1. Spend less on food.
2. Decide which clothes I want to return and do so.
3. Look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred and see if it is a card we can cancel.
4. Purchase Starbucks giftcards from Wal Greens using Chase Freedom to get 5% back and save on our morning Starbucks tea/coffee (and beat traffic into the city).
5. Try to spend less in February than we did in January and less than we did last February '18.

Anyway, that's where we stand. Will you be tracking your finances monthly? Will you help me stay on track this year? I'd love it if you would!