November Lookback

The year is quickly coming to a close, and I find myself in a completely different place mentally (and physically) than I was last year ago at this time. I guess that's part of the aging process? I've learned a lot about myself this year putting my heart on the line and trying a bunch of new things, some of which have scared me. Here's where I am now, in anticipation of what's to come in December:

Listening to:

Interstellar, Pink Panther (animation), Lady Bird, The Pink Panther (movie, 1963)

music from Henri Mancini


driving from Boston to NYC to DC to Asheville (NC) in search of leaves two years ago. It was so beautiful and I hope I will get an opportunity like that again in the future. I especially remember going to a jazz club in NYC while not feeling great and just being swept away by the music. The jazz club, Mezzrow, is now a go-to for me every time I find myself in NYC. I just love it so.


trying to figure out Christmas presents. Last year at this time I was almost done! Why am I so behind this year?

Also, travel to Scotland. Very lowkey, but still on my radar.

Anxious about: 

the holidays with family. It's my niece's first birthday, so the family is coming into town. It's looking to be a little crazy.

Interested to Know:

if I will one day go to Australia. Met an Australian online and he sent me the cutest video of kangaroos! He and I both want to see NYE fireworks over the Sydney Opera House, so I'm thinking maybe for 2021?

And at the same time, the kids I watch want to go to Quebec for carnival in 2020. They are concerned their mom won't go, so they asked me to go if they saved up enough money. I agreed. I highly doubt I will go, but I am so happy that they thought of me. And wanted me to go with them! SOOO sweet.

Keeping A Secret:

I met this guy from the UK in October and he was so nice to talk to. Last I heard, he said he would "endeavor" to make time to talk with me and I haven't heard from him since. It makes me a little sad.

And he's not the only one who has said that. I'm actually beginning to think it's a trend for UK people.

YES, let's be friends! Except not.

To be fair though, there's an American guy I've been getting to know that I thought wouldn't stick around and yet every morning without fail he greets me with a text "Good morning ladybug!" and that brings me the utmost joy. And then we chat off and on all day long. I am so grateful for his friendship and distraction. It's always nice having one more person on your side. And because he's Indian, I've been trying all of the Indian food.


Free People Lina Lace Top in black and white

• skinny black jeggings from Express


yet again, nothing.

I've been staying busy meeting new people, attending parties, watching movies, and doing research for Scotland. I find all of these things more valuable than reading a book.

However, a friend affectionately called me an "uncultured swine", so perhaps I need to get back into it?

November IWSG 2019

October Goals
Finish Christmas present.
Put summer 2020 plans into a Google map. Research.
Buy a birthday card.

Additional Successes
• Going out to dinner with a coworker (being social, trying to make friends)
• Went ice skating for the first time in months! (Was afraid to do so.)
• Survived trip to NOLA with friends. (Traveling with others can be hard.)
• Met an awesome guy. He taught me a lot about psychology and was there for me when I needed someone to talk to. <3
• Also, met an amazing woman. She's helped me with my confidence and has been a fantastic listening ear in the process.
• spent 14 hours + working on travel plans
• learning Trello and Slack. I'm the admin for the Slack group, and I don't know what I'm doing. Trello has been pretty intuitive, and it's been interesting to see the different organizational methods I and my friends take when planning travel with Trello. (I think we have different ideas about organization and it takes everything within me not to 'fix' things. lol.)
• Made it through the first session of French!
• Booked flight to Paris for summer 2020 travel
• fixed brakes on car
• Returned an item to the store on time (the little things, right?)

November Goals
– Ship 3 Christmas presents.
– Finish Christmas shopping. (11 gifts needed)
– Decide about Christmas travel, if any.
– Buy a birthday gift.

IWSG Question –– What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?

I can't think of anything strange I've ever googled when researching a story.


Just my opinion, but if you need help dealing with anxiety, I recommend checking out 7 Cups of Tea. Don't be afraid to chat with others (like I was). Some of the listeners on there are good and know a lot about psychology/neurology, others just want to help, and others should be avoided. Honestly, you never know who you will be talking to. But my husband agrees that since I've been talking to others about my problems, I've been happier and had more confidence.

One of the things I've learned since using 7 Cups is that a lot of people are dealing with so much more than you can ever be aware of – sadness, depression, loneliness, anxiety. It's heartbreaking, really.

But, if you are dealing with any of these things, it's helpful to know that you aren't alone! There are people out there, strangers even, that want to help you be your best self. There are people that care even when you think there is no real reason that they should.

Talking to strangers online is no substitute for speaking to a therapist or psychologist as needed. Please seek help from a doctor or someone trained if you are in a crisis situation. But for those of you that just need a listening ear, 7 Cups can be a great alternative.

Your Turn

Did you overcome any challenges in October? What all will you need to do to get ready for the upcoming holiday season? How do you deal with stress?

Past IWSG posts: FebruaryMarchMayJuneJulyAugSepOct

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Monthly Financial Update: October 2019

Can I pay in chocolate?

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 let you guys/gals keep me in check), we will do better this year.

That's the goal anyway.

Here's month #10:

green - this year, yellow - last year

Last Year:
• We spent more on shopping, bills & utilities, auto & transport, personal care (Dîner En Blanc), fees & charges, and entertainment (tickets to see Trevor Noah and Annie Leibowitz).
• We spent less on food & dining (travel, this year), travel (New Orleans), gifts and shopping (Christmas gifts).

In September
• We spent more on Auto & transport, travel, and personal care (husband got his hair cut),
• We spent less on food & dining, shopping (new jeans for both me and my husband, new work shirts for husband, bills & utilities (rent went up), gifts & donations (started buying Christmas gifts), fees & charges (credit card renal price), and entertainment (museum tickets in New Orleans).

Where We Spent Our Money:

Top 10 Merchants:
1. French Lessons
2. Electricity
3. Gem of France (French store in New Orleans, bought a French knife for husband)
4. Costco (groceries, Christmas gifts)
5. Advance Auto Parts (oil change, car battery, rear brakes)
6. Starbucks
7. Alamo (car rental)
8. Trader Vic's (restaurant)
9. QuickTrip (gas)
10. Commander's Palace (restaurant in New Orleans)

Top 10 Categories:
1. Food & Dining (drinks & food in New Orleans with friends)
2. Shopping (new jeans for both, new tops for me, a dress that I returned but haven't gotten my money back yet for, books, Christmas gifts, French lessons)
3. Bills & Utilities
4. Auto & Transport
5. Travel
6. Gifts & Donations
7. Personal Care
8. Fees & Charges

9. Entertainment
10. Financial (life insurance)

Gas & Fuel – over
Groceries – under
✗ Restaurants – over
Hair Appointments – over
✗ Everything Else – over

Net Income:


student loans

credit cards

How Did I Do On My Financial Goals for October?
Start purchasing Christmas gifts!
Put 1-3 items on Poshmark to sell.
Cut restaurant spending … by at least a little?
Nail down destination for summer 2020 and start looking for flights/pinning down hotels. Look at rental car prices if that is our chosen method of transportation.
Decide what, if anything, we are doing for Christmas break.

* Loan Payoff Date 12/1/22
* Emergency Funds: $13,883

• 401K $46,170.176
• Credit Scores: 745 (Justin), 805, 808 (me)

Overview of the Biggest Impacts This Month:
1. travel to New Orleans
2. French lessons
3. car repairs
4. shopping (!!!)
5. bills went up

What went wrong this month?
1. Car battery died.
2. Brakes had to be replaced.
3. Spending too much while traveling.
4. Spending too much on a Christmas present (because I wanted it to be 'unique' and thoughtful)
5. Restaurant spending and shopping went up. 😬

What went right this month?
1. We spent less on groceries!
2. We started Christmas shopping.
3. We spent time with friends in New Orleans. (Positive in that we spent time with friends, negative in that it cost us to do so.)
4. I made a few online friends. (Didn't cost a thing!)
5. Got money back from a price adjustment!

Financial plans/goals for November?
1. Continue to reduce food spending in either restaurant or grocery category.
2. Go ahead and book a rental car for summer travel. I think I have general dates and can do so without it being an issue.
3. Ship Christmas gifts.
4. Buy a few more Christmas gifts. It would be great to be halfway done. BUT watch spending.

One of the great things about looking at my budget every month is that I am often reminded of expenses that I have forgotten about. For example, my car battery died early in the month and my husband handled it like a champ fixing it before it ever became an issue for me. We also paid for French lessons pretty early in the month, so it was easy to forget about. So, now, at the end of the month, when I see that our expenses are up, I know it's not just because we bought new jeans over the weekend. I'm able to see all of the little and big expenses that went into that increase of spending. 

Looking ahead to November, I know there will be an uptick in shopping if only because Christmas is on the horizon. (What happened to 2019?!) We have gifts to finish, gifts to ship, and I have clothes I am watching and waiting to go on sale. (A sweater, a skirt, a top, and a dress.)

It's interesting to think back over your purchases and see how unnecessary some expenses feel while yet others feel unnecessary but could pay off in the future. For example French lesson: I don't live in France, but maybe one day when I visit, I will be able to converse with the French. Or alternatively, maybe by studying another language, I will be encouraged to think differently about the world. Traveling with friends was expensive and could be seen as unnecessary but it also brought us together, at least for a long weekend. I believe one should always cherish the people in their life because you never know how long you will have with them.

So was October a bust for us? Perhaps. And then again, perhaps not. Either way, we will make an effort to do better in November.

Have you ever looked at your expenses and wondered: where'd that money go? I don't remember spending it!

What are your thoughts on seemingly unnecessary expenses? Do you agree with me that some are worthwhile even while continuing to be unnecessary?

What are your plans and goals for the Christmas holidays? Do you have a budget and a checklist? Or will you be winging it?

Financial Resolution Goals 2019