If You Were Starting from Scratch What Would You Buy Again?

boxes

My husband and I talk a lot about moving out of our current home. We live in a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood, but the school system here is absolutely abysmal.

As I see it we have two options. We will either need to enroll our children in private school or move to a new home with a better school district.

My oldest won’t attend kindergarten until 2017, so we have a little bit of time to formulate a plan. The middle and high schools have extremely low ratings, but the local elementary school would probably support my son’s needs for the first few years, which means we could stay in this house for another four or five years if absolutely necessary.

As we sat at the dining room table discussing the possibility of a big move I began to panic a little. I started to picture myself packing up the kitchen and dining room. How many boxes would I need to gather up all of our plates, Pyrex containers, pots and pans.

How many of them would I really want to move? If I were starting over how many of these items would I buy again?

I learned a lot from the basement remodeling project we finished last year. We purged and streamlined our belongings with so many trips to the donation center that I lost count. Despite all those boxes and bags leaving the house I look around each room and realize we still own a lot more than we use or need.

Here’s an example. I own three sets of glass candlesticks, but haven’t lit a single taper candle in the fourteen years since we bought this house. I also own sixteen wine glasses, but never drink and rarely have more than two or three people in the house at any given time that might use them. These are all wedding gifts that are now really nothing more than pretty dust collectors.

Do I really want to box these up and move them to another place? How about the dessert cups that we never use? They would look beautiful with hot fudge sundaes inside of them, but we never reach for them after dinner. Instead we use the same bowls we eat cereal out of each morning. It’s time to change our mindset. It’s time to make use of them or get rid of them.

We made a significant dent in the number of unused items in our home, but we clearly have a long way to go. From now on I intend to think carefully about the objects around us and ask myself three questions about each one.

First, how often do we use this item or how long has it been since the last time we used it? Second, would I want to expend energy boxing and moving these items into a new home? Third, if I had to start over entirely from scratch would I buy this particular item again?

If I cannot say “yes we use it,” “yes I’d move it” and “yes I’d buy it again” then I think it’s time to find it a new home.

June 24, 2015 at 1:29 PM 4 comments

Book Review: How to Blog a Book

How to Blog a Book
Book Description:

Transform Your Blog into a Book!

The world of blogging is rapidly changing, but it remains one of the most efficient ways to write and share your work with an eager audience. But how do you purposefully hone your blog content into a uniquely positioned book that will be noticed by an agent or a publisher?

How to Blog a Book Revised and Expanded Edition is a completely updated guide to writing and publishing a saleable book based on a blog. Expert author and blogger Nina Amir guides you through the process of developing targeted blog content that will increase your chances of publication and maximize your visibility as an author.

In this revised edition you’ll find:

• The latest information on how to set up, maintain, and optimize a blog
• Steps for writing a book easily from scratch using blog posts
• Advice on how to write blog posts
• Tips on gaining visibility and promoting your work both online and off
• Current tools for driving traffic to your blog
• Extensive information on how to monetize your existing blog content into a book or other products
• Profiles with authors who received blog-to-book deals, including four new “from blog to book” success stories

My Thoughts:

I’ve always wanted to write a book. It started in elementary school. Each first grade student was assigned a fifth grade partner. The fifth grader asked us lots of questions like “do you own a pet,” “what is your favorite food” and “who is your best friend.” They gathered all of the information and helped us create a story using the answers we provided.

We were each given ten sheets of paper and a sentence or two was written carefully at the top of each page. Then we drew a picture depicting the details of that sentence. The teacher created a fancy cover sheet for each of us and used string to bind the ten pages together. It was my first book and I showed it to everyone that was willing to read it with me!

I would still love to write a book and one day I still hope to do so. I’ve toyed with numerous topics over the years, but I’ve never taken the time to create an outline. Instead I started a blog over nine years ago. It’s much easier to write a few paragraphs about a variety of topics then to streamline everything into one book.

But Nina Amir’s book teaches readers how to convert blog posts into the content required for a book. Perhaps the words on my blog can be gathered, edited, reordered and expanded upon. Perhaps I can create a book from my blog. There are certainly a lot of best sellers that started out that way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It focuses on how to create a solid blog with substantial followers as well as how to grow the ideas from that blog into a book. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to finishing that novel, but this book has inspired me to find the time to focus on it.

Author’s Bio:
 
Nina Amir, the bestselling author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, is a speaker, a blogger, and an author, book, and blog-to-book coach. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she helps creative people combine their passion and purpose so they move from idea to inspired action and positively and meaningfully impact the world as writers, bloggers, authorpreneurs, and blogpreneurs. Some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. As a hybrid author she has published 15 books and had as many as four books on the Amazon Top 100 list at the same time.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~   Facebook

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June 19, 2015 at 1:25 PM 5 comments

Book Review: Life Outside the Box

Life Outside the Box Book Description:

Real Stories about Real People to Entertain, Inspire and Challenge You. Get inspired to step out of your box and into a world full of potential. From the corporate world, to the arts, to working with the disenfranchised – the message is clear. There is no such thing as a normal way to live your life and no one right solution to any problem. Selected from amongst over 100 interviews, the stories shared here open a window on the journeys of seven women and three men who have charted their own path, including Ruthie Davis – top U.S. luxury shoe designer and the winner of the 2014 AAFA Footwear Designer of the Year award – and Geir Ness whose perfume is a staple in Nordstrom, Disney World and on Disney Cruise Lines. Enjoy a glimpse behind the scenes into the unique ways these individuals chose to deal with life’s challenges and how they define success in their careers.

My Thoughts:

This book tells the stories of ten unique individuals who have gained success and notoriety in their careers. They work in a variety of industries including but not limited to photographers, artists, shoe designers and creators of top selling perfumes. Reading this book felt like reading a chronological journal of sorts. The author steps readers through the moments and events that led each individual to the pinnacle of their career. Some individuals are successful with each step of the journey while others falter before hitting their stride. While I expected this book to be all about success within the structured work environment I was most pleased to see how often interviewees focused on success outside of their careers.  This book may have been about the unique journey that led each individual to the top of their industry, but in many instances the subjects of each story talked about their children and family as the most important accomplishment in their lives. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that focus on life outside of work:

“Happy family, good kids, being a good mum – that’s more important to me than anything.” “My son is my angel. He made me really look at myself so I could become a better mother and a better person. I had to learn new ways to take care of myself. The one thing in my life that I really want to know I have succeeded at is that I’ve raised a respectful man.” “We get so caught up in the dollar value of things that that becomes more important than where your heart is.” “Even in the face of challenge, it’s important to find the courage to live a life of purpose. When you live a life of purpose and share it with the world, it awakens and inspires others to do the same.”

As a personal finance blogger it is easy to get caught up in the ways and means to earn an income. It is important to remember that life is not about saving every penny and swimming in your sea of gold like Scrooge McDuck. The goal is to keep an eye on the important things in life. To focus on friends, family and the relationships that bind us to one another. I particularly like this quote:

“I measure success by how I feel in the morning. If I’m happy, looking forward to the day, pain free, injury free, healthy, my family happy – then I am WAY successful. “

I feel the exact same way!

Author’s Bio:

Marilyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for interviewing. It all began in 2006 when the she answered a Craigslist ad from a NY magazine asking for story submissions. Two were accepted. The first live interview was life changing and Wilson has never looked back. With over 150 interviews now behind her, the love of interviewing is still as strong as ever. Whether through a random encounter on the New York subway or via a “one-on-one” interview with an internationally recognized artist, the goal is the same—to share the unique journeys of inspiring individuals. In 2007, this goal led the author to co-launch a successful, innovative magazine focused on professionals working in the fashion industry, paired with photography and illustrations by local artists. Now on staff at Raine Magazine (NY/Miami/LA), as well as freelancing for other publications, Wilson has taken her passion to a new audience with the release of her first book.

Connect with Marilyn: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

June 19, 2015 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

Averting Bridesmaid Disaster + A Giveaway

flower girl

My future sister-in-law asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. “Are you sure?” I asked, “I won’t be insulted if there is someone else you’d rather have standing beside you.”  “No,” she said, “I’m certain.”

After waiting over a year and a half to conceive I hadn’t told anyone in the family I was pregnant. I wanted to wait until a few weeks into my second trimester. “I’ll wait until I have to tell them,” I told my husband. “I’ll wait until my belly is about to give me away.”

I was nervous about being a bridesmaid. I didn’t have an exact date yet, but I knew dress shopping would take place before I was ready to reveal my pregnancy.

Sure enough a date was scheduled weeks before the second trimester. My sister-in-law spent weeks scouring the internet for dress options on websites like TopWedding. After narrowing down the options all of the bridesmaids gathered together to try a few on. We ventured into a number of dress stores including David’s Bridal and visited a few smaller shops selling Allurebridals

Each time I entered the store my nerves flared. As I stood in the dress shop the other bridesmaids selected tight fighting gowns with little give in the stomach area. Would I have to try on a dress that might reveal my tiny baby bump?

I suggested everyone else try on the dresses first. Thankfully someone disliked each of those options before I had to try on a dress that might reveal my tiny baby bump.

I nudged them towards a few with empire waists and by some grace of God they all settled on one that would work with my blossoming belly.

Weeks passed between the time the dress arrived and the time I told the bride-to-be I was pregnant. I ordered a dress that was a few sizes bigger than my current size, but weeks before the wedding it was clear it would be too small. I visited a local shop where a kind gentlemen took pity on my situation and readjusted the seams to give me more room.

I picked up the dress a few days later, but it still didn’t fit. I hadn’t gained a ton of weight during that pregnancy, but my baby bump was high and it pulled the dress in odd directions.

With absolutely no chance of wearing the dress and breathing at the same time I made a crazy decision to remove as many seams as possible. The dress was constructed of two layers. A sheer material on top and a thicker layer underneath that served as a slip of sorts. I began chopping away at every seam and sewing them back up, (by hand), on the very edge of material. I hoped there was enough material that no one would notice the changes I made.

My due date was a month away from the date of that wedding and it seemed my belly grew a bit each day, but by some miracle on the day of the big event the dress fit. If anyone could tell I altered the dress no one mentioned it.

TopWedding is helping one reader avert bridal party disaster by giving away a beautiful flower girl dress (http://www.topwedding.com/flower-girl-dresses). To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below (it might take a second to load).

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June 16, 2015 at 9:41 AM 1 comment

Crying Baby = Panicked Mom

It started innocently enough. “Can I take a ten minute shower?” I asked my husband. “Sure,” he answered, “no problem.”

When I walked upstairs the three month old was asleep in the cradle. A few minutes later I emerged from the shower and immediately heard the baby crying.

This child rarely cries. For the first three months of his life he really only cried when hungry or gassy. This cry sounded similar to the one I heard when he received his two month vaccinations.

He was screaming like something hurt. I pulled off all of his clothes, checked his fingers and toes and other extremities and found nothing wrong. I didn’t hear any gas emerging and his belly wasn’t bubbling or rumbling.

My husband tried to quiet him but couldn’t. I tried to quiet him and continuously failed. I was worried he was in pain.

I’m terrible about medical issues and tend to panic. I blame my craziness on the terrible experience I had with medical professionals ten years ago.

After two hours I rocked the baby to sleep, but a few minutes later he woke screaming like he was in pain again. Usually sleep seems to reset the clock with babies. If you can get them to fall asleep they usually wake happy. I began to panic even more.

I asked my husband for advice. He suggested driving to the hospital. We put the baby in the car and he immediately quieted. It was the darnedest thing,. The minute I snapped him in he fell silent. We drove around for thirty minutes and he didn’t make another peep. He didn’t fall asleep, just sat in the seat sucking on his hands quietly.

As my second child you’d think I would have tried something like that before panicking, but when a baby who never cries ends up wailing for two and a half hours I found myself completely overwhelmed.

My older son cried much more than this one does, but even he never hit the sound level or intensity of this one.

I still have no idea what happened that night. He was fine when we brought him home and hasn’t cried like that since.

June 15, 2015 at 6:28 PM 2 comments

Would You Share Your Financial Information With a Friend?

Cash

A lot of personal finance bloggers openly write about money. They place their pretty little pictures in the sidebars and include their real names. I am not one of them.

Despite maintaining this blog for nine years and openly writing about many personal aspects of my life I’ve never revealed my identity.

A few very close friends know about this blog, but I don’t think they subscribe to it or keep up to date on the things I write about.

I’m not worried about the general population seeing into my bank accounts, but there are certain family members I would prefer to keep out of my business.

How about you? Would you be willing to share financial information with your friends or family members? Would you let them see inside your bank accounts and wallet? Would you tell them how much you earned and how much you spent each month?

I’m surprised by the number of people who seem open to sharing their finances with me. When a good friend wanted to buy a beach house she provided me with a run down of all of her finances. When another friend wanted to refinance his house and figure out how to save more money each month he was more than willing to share his financial outline with me.

In both cases my friends didn’t think twice about talking to me about the specifics of their financial situations.

How about you? Would you be open to sharing your financial information? Would you share everything or are there certain aspects you’d prefer to keep secret?

I share most details with those who ask, but I am always hesitant to share my net worth. Ask me anything else and I’ll give you an honest answer.

June 12, 2015 at 4:31 PM 22 comments

Celebrating Great Moments

foot

It took my husband and I over a year and a half to conceive our first child. Any birth is worth celebrating, but I felt especially grateful and happy on the day he joined our family. I’ll never forget the day we left the hospital, as I pulled that tiny white onesie over his head I could hardly see through the wall of tears dripping from my eyes. I couldn’t believe he was ours.

I was overcome with joy. I wanted to shout about his arrival from the rooftops. I wanted to climb to the highest mountain to tell the world about him. Since I couldn’t do either of those things I settled on mailing birth announcements. I chose two of my favorite photographs and selected a simple but elegant design. I had a hard time narrowing down my favorite photo and ultimately settled on two different images I loved. I randomly selected the photo card each friend and family member would receive.

Three and a half years later I was blessed by the birth of our second child. As my husband drove away from the hospital the day after his arrival I was once again overcome by emotion. After struggling to conceive a second time I couldn’t believe the bundle in the back seat turned our little family of three into a slightly larger family of four.

Once again I’ve decided to create a photographic birth announcement to introduce the newest addition to the world. My photography skills have improved so much in the last three years and within weeks I had hundreds of photographs to choose from.

birth announcmentI believe a baby’s photographs speaks for itself and in the case of birth announcements I prefer the simplest designs.

In fact, I prefer all of my stationary and cards to look simple. I chose a design similar to the one pictured below for my Christmas card last year

joy

and a plain black and white wedding invitation, similar to this one from minted, over ten years ago.

wedding

I believe every great moment in life should be celebrated. Those include the big events like birth and marriage, but also the smaller successes like finishing the first year of preschool or even eating dinner without any fuss. Maybe we should have announcements for those events too!

June 11, 2015 at 4:30 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: Kika The Upside-Down Girl

Kika the Upside Down Girl
Book Description:

Kika always seems to accomplish things differently than others and tends to get into trouble for it. She reminds us that choosing to be different is more than okay, and finding others to join in her upside down adventures makes her heart feel huge – especially when it involves somersaults, vaults, flips and kips! Join Kika, a girl who loves living upside down in a right side up world, on her unique journey to a fliptastic world! Kika reminds us that choosing to be different is more than okay, and finding others to join in her upside down adventures feels fliptastic – especially when it involves somersaults, vaults, flips and kips in the Gymnastics Emporium!

My Thoughts:

I love any book that encourages children to appreciate their differences. Let’s face it, we all live in a world where we feel the societal pressures to conform to those around us. The desire to be like everyone else is particularly prevalent in young children who feel the need to belong. We may not feel this as very small children, but as time passes and we grow into early adolescence we certainly don’t want our differences to exclude us from making friends and feeling like part of the pack. Kika is a little girl who likes to view the world upside down. Her heart feels HUGE when she stands on her hands, but at some point she’s told to act like everyone else. “Kika, can you PLEASE be more like other kids and stay right side up?” But Kika doesn’t want to view the world right-side up. She doesn’t want to act like everyone else. She wants to explore the world in her own unique way and she just knows there are other children out there that feel the same way she does. Although this book focuses on a young girl who wishes to flip, somersault and generally live her life upside-down, it can be expanded to teach children that they can always find someone out there who thinks and feels the same way they do. It’s important for children to find friends who have the same interests and passions, whether that’s gymnastics, science, reading, art or anything else they can dream of! You don’t necessarily need to conform to the pack. You just need to find a pack that thinks like you do. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author’s Bio:

Olympic gymnast turned author, motivational speaker and experiential educator Jessica Tudos (JessicaTudos.com) is on a mission to empower kids, youth and adults to develop the confidence and resiliency required to lead active, healthy and creative lives. In organizations around the world, Jessica empowers audiences through engaging stories, insights & reflections drawn from her upside down life, including her Olympic gymnastics adventures. Jessica is a sought after speaker, facilitator and professor in experiential education, physical literacy, leadership & elite sports.

Connect with Jessica: Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

June 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM 3 comments

My Beach House: An Owner for Ten Years

hand with sand

Ten years ago this week I spotted a cute, little, yellow beach house and made an offer on it. My husband and I spent a day weighing the decision and ultimately decided it made a whole lot of sense to purchase a second property. If I could go back in time I would definitely buy our beach house all over again. No-doubt-about-it!

The house has brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined. It is the place where my sons first swam in the pool, felt the warm sand and touched the ocean for the very first time. It will be the place where they learn to surf, ride boogie boards and sail.

It is the place where our tiny family of four gathers together with extended relatives; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. In this house we eat dinner together, share stories and watch young children play.

Did it make great financial sense. I’m not sure yet. I paid $620,000 for a house that is probably worth less than $500,000 today. But I have no need to sell it in the near future so it’s always possible the price will rise again.

My family spends roughly 3 weeks at the beach per year. Some of this time is spent fixing up the house, but we also carve out a fair amount of time for play each day too. Our house currently rents for $2500 a week, which means I may have spent $7500 per year on comparable rentals. Over the course of 10 years that adds up to $75,000 worth of rental money I didn’t need to pay.

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, not all decisions are purely financial. Whether or not we make money on this property I have loved just about every minute of owning it.

As I sat on the beach today I reflected on all that has happened since I first looked at this little yellow house. At the time I ran every calculation possible to ensure we could afford it. Now we pay the mortgage with ease.

Ten years ago I was in a very different place. I am grateful beyond belief for the place I stand now.

May 29, 2015 at 4:14 PM 8 comments

Perspective

ground

I consider myself a lucky person. I typically focus on the positive over the negative and I wonder how that impacts my overall experiences in life. Do good things happen because I push aside the negative in favor of happy thoughts?

Here’s an example: It took my husband and I two and a half years to conceive two children. The good news: we have two children. I believe my struggle with infertility makes me appreciate their existence that much more.

Here’s another one: I suffered from not one but two fairly significant medical traumas over the past ten years. The good news: it could have been worse. I could have suffered from more serious problems or even died. Those medical issues have changed my outlook on life and in some strange way I am grateful for the wakeup call they created. I was lucky enough to have a husband who stayed with me, (WITHOUT WAVERING), throughout my medical crises.

And another: I was laid off days after giving birth to my first child. The good news: I had a high paying job that allowed me to save a significant amount of money during the twelve years that I worked. I made smart financial moves in those early years and had a healthy financial cushion in place to catch my fall. So healthy in fact that I decided to remain out of the workforce after my son was born.

There have certainly been negative things in my life, but I prefer to focus on the positive. A family member recently asked about my son waking in the night. I told her, “I am not sour at the idea of losing sleep. I am grateful that I have a child to tend to.” Of course, I crave more sleep, but looking at the bright side certainly helps me through those early morning hours.

Life seems too short to focus on the negative. There are so many amazing things to feel grateful for!

May 22, 2015 at 2:51 PM 1 comment

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