Tokyo, Japan

Last November, right before Thailand, B’s family and I went to Japan.  Since it’s fairly expensive and Thailand is way cheaper, we only stayed for a few days.  The women in Japan definitely knew how to dress – it was rainy and cold, but they would still rock the skirts, tights, and super cute knee-high boots…. I think my head swiveled just as much as B’s, though I was mostly ogling all the cute boot styles.  Everyone was really nice and hospitable, and despite it being fairly crowded, the sites were pretty cool to see in Tokyo:

To be honest, I’m glad I experienced Japan, but I don’t think I would ever go back.  I’m not much of a city girl, and the meal portions are so tiny for the price.  We stayed at a hotel that had a really good international breakfast buffet, so we would load up on that and mostly snack until dinner time.  B’s family isn’t very adventurous when it comes to cuisine, so we mostly stuck to American foods (though they did try out a noodle house upon my request, where they had the American food options there haha).  I did like all the efficient aspects of Japan – as soon as I stepped in the shower, the water was instantaneously the temperature I wanted it to be, and if you required anything from the waitress, you can just press a button rather than have to flag her down.  Overall it was a great experience!

Becoming a Minimalist Step 1 – Letting Go (duh)

Last year, I was able to sell about $2k-3k worth of stuff I owned (half went to my debt, the other half I used to buy more stuff since I don’t learn from my mistakes) which mostly fell under these categories:

1) Camping gear – GPS with altimeter, watch with barometer, ultra light accessories and clothing, etc.

2) Clothes – some with tags, some gently used that I’ve outgrown

3) Duplicate furniture or items I didn’t need when I moved in with B – desk, computer monitor, TV, dining table set, some appliances, etc.

For the most part, I was okay with selling the items above.  I bought the gear to go on camping trips with my super hardcore of a hiker/camper ex-boyfriend right before B – I love hiking, but didn’t particularly like these adventures since we would go over a week without a shower, we would fight a lot since he would always go way ahead without me (and we’re in the middle of nowhere), and I mostly did it so we can hang since he was always away for a month-long excursion.  Though these adventure pics were awesome, once we broke up, it was easy to part with these items since I know I’m mostly just sticking with basic camping or hiking on well-defined trails, and it in a way brought closure to our break-up.

Clothes were also a no-brainer – I was super idiotic in my addiction to flash sale sites last year, and a lot of the clothes that I thought would look awesome definitely did not.  But, I didn’t want to pay for return shipping (nor ship it for free so I would get store credit, which would mean feeding that addiction some more), so I would sell them on Ebay for either the same price or way less than what I paid (dumb!).  I also didn’t have a problem with selling gently used items that I knew I wouldn’t wear anymore since long are the days I’ll ever be a size 0 again, and I also managed to sell pricey gowns and bridesmaid dresses (because no matter how much brides insist you can wear it to other events, 1) they still totally look like bridesmaid dresses and 2) they’ll always be bridesmaid dresses to you).

The furniture I had no problem selling since I didn’t want to move them, nor pay storage in order to keep them.

Since I had some luck with selling items I no longer needed (and felt pretty good about since owning less stuff made me feel lighter in a sense), and being influenced with GMD’s recent post about selling stuff, I figured I would take inventory of my current stuff and sell more items, i.e., the things I haven’t used in a year or more.  And while I have plenty of these, for some reason I have some emotional attachments to some (like “Hoarders” light), which I’m working on letting go so I can sell them.  I don’t know where this stems from, really, other than feeling like I need them “just in case” (which I never do) or “I might go back into that hobby” (which I never have).

1) Rock climbing gear – I don’t have a lot, chalk bag, a couple of shoes, and harness.  I think my biggest hesitation about this is the liability aspect – the harness is in great condition, but “what if” something happens and the buyer ends up blaming me (since a good rule of thumb is to never trust a used harness, so much so that I heard REI usually shreds up any returned harnesses).  It’s still in great condition, though, so I’d hate to just throw it away, which then leads to me keeping all items because if I keep the harness then I might as well keep everything else just in case I go back into climbing.  The conversation becomes cyclical in my head.

2) Shoes – I’m not the type to spend $200 or more on shoes, but I do have some fairly nice and rarely used ones by Enzo Angiolini, Bagdley Mischka, Guess, Franco Sarto, etc.  I love the aesthetics of these shoes, but the practicality is definitely something else since my Fred Flintstone feet hate them and gravitate towards the Nine West, Athena Alexander, and Kenneth Cole varieties (read: comfortable, flat, lots of cushion).  I know it’s best for me to try and sell them because they’re just sitting boxed up and taking room in my closet and perhaps someone else might be able to enjoy them, but the slight girly-girl in me has a really hard time letting go of these since it would make my shoe collection drab, neutral, and practical.

3) Clothes that I bought because I’m a label wh0re – hey, I’m being honest.  Sometimes, I like things because of the brand names (nothing crazy, but I do like BCBG, Guess, True Religion, Hudson, etc.), and just like #2, the girly-girl in me doesn’t want to part with these items since they add ‘the pretty’ in my collection.

Rationally and logically, I know it’s silly to have emotional ties to things and I will let go and sell them eventually (like, it will be this weekend’s project).  Without getting into too much navel gazing (um, too late), I know it probably stems from my mom’s shopaholic ways that I’ve learned, and because I’m fairly emotional in nature.  But I’m more motivated in getting rid of the debt, so I figure I just have to let this motivation rule more than my silly emotions that ties me to these things.  I’d love to hear any strategies from anyone that might of had to deal with this (though I know it’s really “just do it.”)

Seal Pupping Season at La Jolla Cove and February-ish Debt Update

Is it just me, or are we having a moment?

Is it just me, or are we having a moment?

It’s pupping season at La Jolla Cove, and the mama and baby seals are hanging out in droves!  I’ve never seen an actual live birth, but I have seen some pup seals that are so tiny they look like little fishies flailing about to catch up to mama seal.  Unfortunately, there’s been some riff raff activity since the local news caught some people disturbing the seals at night with the seal cam recently installed (karma stink eye to them), but for the most part visitors are polite and it’s so cute to witness the mother-pup bonding:

Since the next pay cycle is going towards March expenses, I figured I’d already do a February debt update (if it changes, I’ll update accordingly). Though I splurged on running shoes and numerous boxes of Girl Scout cookies (it’s hard to say no to the little cherub-faced girl I’ve known since she was two, and at least it kills two birds with one stone because I then give them to people I don’t typically see like the custodial staff, mail and UPS delivery peeps, etc.), I managed to get rid of $1982 from my debt, bringing the balance to $9647.  This month was an anomaly, since I did this by 1) my regular debt payoff amount, 2) tax returns, 3) February is a short month, and 4) I ate (and still have plans to eat) out a lot on other people’s dime.  I still attribute putting this much debt payoff because of this blog, though, since I think publicly shaming myself reporting it puts a fire under me since I was chipping away at it before for years, but was never really motivated to get rid of it once and for all.  I’m looking for ways to pay this debt off even quicker, and hope some of it pans out.

I actually could have reduced it by a few more hundred dollars from my tax return (and yes, I’ve changed my withholdings so hopefully I’ll break even next round), but I wanted to start dabbling in investing so I started putting money into that project.  Perhaps I should have waited a bit until all my debt was completely paid off, but I was eager to stick my big toe into the investment pool since there’s a lot of PF blogs that talk a great deal about investing.  I suppose it was impulsive, but it’s better than impulsively shopping, at least!

The equivalent of telling people they have broccoli in their teeth, and Week 8 spending

So I’m usually at the gym every morning except Friday, when I sleep in and rest for a long run on Saturday.  I’m not the most awake person on Friday morning, and today I did my usual routine of shower, get dressed and put make-up on, make our breakfasts, etc.  Around 10 this morning, after a couple of hours at work, I went to the rest room and when I looked in the mirror, noticed three dots of concealer underneath each eye that I didn’t rub in earlier!

Let’s break down who I’ve seen since putting my make-up on (~6:30 a.m.) to 10 a.m.:

1) The local store clerk where I got some ingredients for this weekend’s activities, whom I regularly interact with (I know she’s a new grandmother, so we chat often).

2) My boss.

3) The coffee cart guy where I get my scone from (um, it’s carb-loading for my run, honest), that I talk to every Friday.

4) B!!!!  Whom I kissed before we went to our separate cars this morning so you know homie was close to my face (plus, he’s pretty observant).

Maybe they thought I was trying some new trend, like a less weird version of the (caution: don’t check if you’re easily creeped out) bagel head?  But B will for sure get a stern talking to tonight if he saw it and thought it would be funny to let me run with it (granted, it was pretty funny and we’re always playing practical jokes on each other… but it’s just less funny when it happens to me! ;)).

So this week I’m within means in food/going out/gas – $533.49/$600, but I’m out of control with personal care at $247.81/$100 (this also includes baby shower gifts, though, since I didn’t include a gifts for others line item in my budget that I’ll fix next month).  I still managed to pay down my debt fairly nicely this month, though, which I’ll report about next week.  Enjoy the weekend!

J-Tree (Joshua Tree), California

Joshua Tree is a U2 album national park in southeast California known for the Joshua trees prevalent in the area, unique rock formations, and majestic boulders.  It’s popular amongst my hiker, climber, and camper friends, and I try to go at least once a year.  I’m not very good at climbing since the elegant route theoretically designed in my head never seems to match my actual physical abilities once I try to implement it, but I love the picturesque landscapes and amazing scenery.  You can car camp for the most part, and one of my favorite times to go is during Halloween since the camping area was festive and it was hilarious to see Spidermen, monkeys, and other assorted costumes climb these routes (no pics of Halloween unfortunately, but here’s some of my fave shots):

I think the best times to go are probably Fall and early Spring, since Winter can get rather chilly and it gets uncomfortably hot in the Summer.  It’s an easy 3 hour drive since I’m in SD, and it’s a good introduction to camping since you’ll still need to bring camping supplies, but still offers some creature comforts like port-a-potties.  What I thought were really cool were the mice there – they kind of hop along and have a more rotund shape to them.  I wish I took a pic but those little rascals are fast, so here’s a link of them.

The climbing routes are definitely challenging, and I prefer the sport climbs (and bigger hand holds) in Big Bear more which I’ll talk about some other time.  I really love the serenity of J-Tree, though, and look forward to going again in the near future.

Revolutions Around the Sun

Pretty soon, I’ll be marking my anniversary of another revolution around the sun, a.k.a. bday.  I first greeted my 30’s by doing this:

Is that a pencil in your pocket or are you just happy to jump with me?

Is that a pencil in your pocket or are you just happy to jump with me?

But now I’m just celebrating this revolution by staying home and knitting.  Ha, just kidding – yarn is costly and I lack hand-eye coordination.

A month back, I read this post from Budget and the Beach’s archives, and thought it was a great way to look back and ponder life’s lessons.  I’m pretty sure I would just be copying a lot of what she said and pawning it off as my own, so I figured I would mix in some random stuff about me.  This also reveals my age, which is a bit hard for me considering I have that debt stuff still going on.  But, I have nothing but faith and determination that I’ll get it done by the next revolution, and overall life is awesome so I’m excited at what else it will throw at me:

1) 98% of the time, it really isn’t about you, so don’t be so self-conscious.

2) When things are beyond your control, I go by the quote “be like water, and flow.”

3) When things are within your control, seize the opportunity and run with it!

4) When I was 4, I cut off the right side of my bangs (like 2 inches worth or however long my forehead was at the time) and when my mom cried in horror what I did, I pretended to not know what she meant.  Looking back, I think the real question is how did I get access to scissors??

5) Travel lots and talk to as many locals as you can.

6) Keep it simple.

7) I think a positive and optimistic attitude is important to cultivate.

8) My 8 costly kryptonites are designer jeans, Shiseido products, craft beer, restaurant dining, travel, running events, salon shampoo/conditioner, and camping gear.

9) When a guy tells you he doesn’t want marriage and kids (or doesn’t want them for awhile) – get over the urge to change him and believe him!!  You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and years.

10) Try to make an effort to outreach to loved ones as much as possible, even when it feels like you’re mostly making the effort. The true friends will reciprocate over time.

11) I was 11 when I went to my first concert – Debbie Gibson.  And yes, I had the hat.

12) My 12 favorite movies are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, El Secreto de sus Ojos, Memento, Dial M for Murder, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, American Psycho, Habla con Ella, Love Actually, Kill Bill, When Harry Met Sally, and Amores Perros.

13) One of my favorite quotes that I try to live by is “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

14) Another life motto I strive for is “Smile and the world smiles with you!”

15) My 15 favorite authors are Dosteovsky, Vonnegut, Neitzche, Sedaris, Kerouac, Nabokov, Austen, Bulgakov, Hagedorn, Lawson (Erik), Voltaire, The Dalai Lama, Hosseini, King, and Capote.

16) My 16 favorite shows are Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, Battlestar Galactica, New Girl, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Anderson Cooper, Dateline, Tosh.0, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, RHOBH, Jeopardy, Happy Endings, The Brady Bunch, and Sex and the City.

17) Yet another inspiring quote I like to strive for is “Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”

18) Vote!  And not just every 4 years.

19) I was 19 when I had my first alcoholic beverage – it was two wine coolers and all I remember was tripping over the wires of the outdoor concert, though I’m pretty sure that would have occurred sober, anyway.

20) My 20 favorite musicians are Shakira, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Tupac, Eminem, Yo-Yo Ma, Mana, Julieta Venegas, Prince, Django Reinhardt, Beyonce, Disturbed, Rodrigo y Gabriela, John Coltraine, Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, The Ramones, Janet Jackson, and The Roots.

21) I’m obsessed with true crime and forensic psychology books and shows.  Whenever people ask why I like them so much, I respond “to learn from their mistakes.”  People don’t seem to laugh at that, at least boyfriends.

22) I went to Burning Man when I was 22, and it opened my eyes and mind to the power of art, loving and free spirited people, and Buddhism.

23) I think politeness and manners go a long way, and is a lost art form these days.

24) I ran my first marathon when I was 24, and have been addicted to running ever since.

25) I was 25 when I first got laid off… it’s not a fun situation, and probably why I’ve stuck with a “safe(r)” route in regard to employment.

26) Stating “You’re right” to a person who really is, diffuses a situation rather quickly.

27) Not everyone is good and kind, and if you are then just steer clear from them.

28) Keep your health a main priority, and don’t skimp on preventative actions you can take now.

29) My mom is Catholic, stepdad that I call dad is Jewish, bro and sis-in-law are Born Again, B is Catholic, and I identify both Catholic and Buddhist.  I think if we all walk into a bar, a bad joke will ensue.

30) Use sunscreen, at minimum SPF 30.

31) I have a few friends who have been trying to conceive for one or more years, and this is fast becoming one of my fears.

32) I’m thankful that a personal finance community exists online to learn from, give and get support from, and discuss this subject that’s fairly taboo in my circle of loved ones.

33) I met B when I was 33 and I honestly feel I lucked out with him, so much so that it made all my bad relationships worth it (though I recognize in those relationships the common denominator was me).

34) I’m now switching from “Work Hard, Play Hard” to “Work Hard, Play Moderately, Save/Invest Lots!”

35) Try to live each day with an open heart and mind.

If there’s other pearls of wisdom, I’d love to hear them!

Seattle, Washington

Last August, we visited B’s family in Washington.  It was my first time there and since we went during the best month to go, I asked him, “Why on earth would you ever leave this place??”  Everything was a gorgeous green – like Wizard of Oz Technicolor green – and I really liked the people and scenery.  Well, when we came back in Thanksgiving during the rainy season, I could then see why he left. 😉  We still talk about whether we would move up there to settle, though, mostly since you get more land for your money, the people seem more down-to-earth, and I would love to raise prospective offspring in a more mountainous/outdoorsy setting.  I guess time will tell!

When we were there, we managed to visit the Space Needle, where we had lunch at the top as it rotates so you get a panoramic view.  I also requested a visit to Mt. Rainier, where we were able to hike around its surroundings and take some cool shots.  This was also my first time meeting B’s family, so it was great to get to know them and for B to spend some quality time with them.

People have to pay to go up the Observation Deck of the Space Needle, but I would suggest to just eat at the restaurant since going up to the Observation Deck is free when you eat there (just be sure to book reservations since people were getting turned down when we went).  I think any outdoorsy person would pay homage to Mt. Rainier – it’s absolutely gorgeous in the summer time!  Washington is a really cool place, and I’m sure I’ll be back some more to experience more of its restaurants and sites.