Planning for Productivity & Fun

After years of watching planner videos on YouTube, I finally purchased my own Erin Condren Life Planner at the end of 2018 to use this year. Since then, I’ve joined the ranks of many others who film their monthly and weekly decoration with stickers and beautiful calligraphy.

They say that writing down goals is a sure way to support yourself in achieving them. The Erin Condren planner is very versatile, and can be used for work, personal and home plans, academic work, and more. I’ve found that using my weekly decoration time to look ahead for the week is very useful in keeping in mind plans and goals that I have for the week!

As someone who has been actively applying to jobs over the past few months, having a planner where I can both write my to-do’s for the day (submit application! do research on companies! follow up with mentors!) as well as record my accomplishments (had 2 phone interviews last month!) has been a helpful tool during this time of transition, stress, and hard work.

If you are interested in also using a planner, check out my video on YouTube of the unboxing of my 2019 planner. If you are wanting to purchase on for yourself, click the link below to receive a unique $10 coupon for your first purchase! They have periodic sales throughout the year, so keep an eye out! If you love planning, stickers, calligraphy, and organization, please comment below with your own Instagram, blog, or YouTube channel name so I can check out your stuff!

Erin Condren Planners
Referral Link – Save $10 off your first purchase!


Autumn Roasted Veggies

For a perfect autumn dinner, preheat your oven to 375 and chop up the following:

1 red onion

1 white onion

1 sweet potato

Handful of small yellow potatoes

1 bell pepper

Handful of brussel sprouts

I tossed mine with coconut oil, salt and pepper, then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, then roast for 20 minutes more.

Today, the first snow flurries fell in southern Minnesota and we enjoyed our roast veggies with pork chops and salad.

What are your favorite autumn meals? Leave a comment below!

‘Miracle’ Morning?

Before we left on our honeymoon in September, I purchased an e-book to read on the many flights we had over the course of the trip. It’s called The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life… (Before 8AM). I didn’t end up reading it on the trip, instead choosing to read a non-fiction paperback about the hey day of antique wines in the 1980s. Fascinating stuff!

In October and November, I was reading on and off, a bit at a time. I finally made my way through The Miracle Morning. The general gist of the book is to take some time right after waking up in the morning to devote oneself to self-development. The author lists six activities to do during this time: silence/meditation, exercise, affirmations, visualization, reading, and journaling.

I was not terribly impressed with the book itself, and found it gimmicky and lame how the author refers to his own ‘level 10’ success. His simple idea of making time for self-improvement in the morning is a good one though. I used to get up with only 45 minutes or so to get ready. After I started giving myself an hour and fifteen minutes, I felt much calmer and more prepared for the day. I didn’t need to rush through my routines, could eat breakfast and spend some time with the cats.

Perhaps the new year is a good time to again read the book Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are. I started reading its short entries (one per day) for a few months in 2016, and writing brief responses to them in my journal. Perhaps reflecting on topics such as life, love, and grief could help me live a more appreciative life. The entries in the book are super short, so reading and writing about them for 5 minutes as I enjoy my toast in the morning is doable.


Are you a morning person? Are there things you do when you wake up that make sure the day is a good one?

‘I do’… not want to spend a fortune: Planning an affordable wedding

Plenty of space for party tents, with a gorgeous, natural backdrop of the Koolau Mountains!

It’s way too easy to spend a lot on a wedding. There are plenty of ways that the industry has shaped people’s expectations and offers every type of service and product to help you celebrate. But before the wedding planning ball starts rolling too fast, try to figure out what you want most for your ceremony.  Write down a few sentences about how you want to feel, and what you value most about your ceremony and reception.

I want to get married close to home so it’s an easy drive for relatives. I want beautiful natural views in the autumn. I want a private, all-inclusive space so I can feel like royalty.

When my fiance and I started talking about getting married just about a year ago, we actually planned the honeymoon first. Since we live in Hawaii, yet have close family members scattered across many regions of the US as well as a few countries in Europe, we thought that visiting them during our honeymoon made a lot of sense. We shaped our trip around the ‘honeymoon’ part (a visit to Cape Town and wildlife safari in South Africa) and numerous stops in Minnesota, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest to see relatives.

In order to be able to afford our elaborate trip, we wanted to save money on our actual ceremony and reception here in Hawaii. Most hotels and venues offer packages in the tens of thousands of dollars, but we thought: why stay inside a ballroom when Hawaii offers so much natural beauty?

Check state parks, county parks, and other natural areas as potential venues. Since my fiance’s coworker was registered to perform weddings in the state of Hawaii, he offered to marry us for free, at a city park near Waikiki. Our parents attended, and our friends took some beautiful photos of us all (again, for free).

As for our reception, we rented a large outdoor tent from a local business and had the event catered for around 100 people. Total cost? $400 for the tent, $2,500 for the food and drinks. We set up a permit for a space at a beautiful county park on the windward side of Oahu, with plenty of parking spots for everyone. The permit was free. Our friend baked us a selection of cakes as her wedding present to us, and everyone raved about the delicious desserts she brought.  Do you know anyone with a large yard, garden, or home that might be willing to host a party? We asked my friend who has a lovely yard next to a stream if she could host us, but she said that her boyfriend had thought their own wedding could be held there at some point in the future and preferred not to host. Ask around, and maybe you’ll get lucky!

So we made the conscious choice to go for free venues and arranged for friends to help us, and that enabled us to put our money toward our month-long honeymoon. If you and your soon-to-be-spouse are on the same page about what your priorities are, then do your best to stick to your guns to ensure your wedding is what you envisioned.



How not to fall into the cookie cutter trap: Planning our wedding our way

My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, Michael, proposed to me last Christmas morning. I said yes, accepted a beautiful engagement ring, and started planning in late January.

People ask us questions about the wedding all the time these days: What are your wedding colors? Are you having a bachelorette party? Are you going to have an emcee, DJ, or band? What will your song be?

These are questions that have nothing to do with our wedding. I don’t blame people for asking us these things though; the wedding industry has shaped how Americans think a wedding should be. People have their own expectations.

Questions that do relate to our wedding include: How many cities are you visiting during your trip? Is it ok if I come to more than one celebration? What is your actual wedding date?

We’re going to have a small, private ceremony somewhere on the beach with just our parents, and going out to dinner later that evening. The following day, we’re throwing a big picnic for family, friends, and coworkers in a large park on scenic windward Oahu, complete with a tent if the weather shouldn’t cooperate and caterers serving a big buffet. Later that week, Michael and I depart on a month-long trip that includes ten days in South Africa (that’s our honeymoon), as well as stops in 4 cities in the mainland US and London to see friends and family and take them out for fancy dinners.

We decided early on in our process to focus on what we value for our wedding. We are only including what we want– a focus on delicious food! We will not need a fancy DJ or things in certain ‘colors’. Saving in some areas will enable us to celebrate in many more cities during our epic trip. Keeping it simple for us has meant drawing a line and making sure we stick to our guns.

Stay tuned for future blog posts about:

  • Selecting an affordable venue in Hawaii
  • Budgeting and matching your budget to your priorities
  • Managing others’ expectations for your wedding

If you have specific questions about our wedding planning process, leave a comment down below!

Me and Michael on Kailua Beach, Oahu

Freebie: Monthly Budget spreadsheet

I’m sharing my monthly budget spreadsheet. See below for a link!

Budget Spreadsheet Screenshot

How to use this spreadsheet:

  1. Download a copy so you have it on your own computer. Copy the blank spreadsheet so you have a blank one for the next month. Fill in the month and year on the tab at the bottom, as well as on the top row.
  2. Add your take home pay for the month in the light orange box at the top where it says ‘total incoming’.
  3. The boxes in Row C are labeled according to when I pay them during the month– the first few white boxes are paid early, the middle multi-colored boxes accrue throughout the month, and the last white boxes are paid toward the end of the month. You can change these categories to reflect your own budget needs: change mortgage/HOA to rent. If you have renters insurance or debt payments, add those in.
  4. The boxes without a zero in them can be filled in with the amounts you pay each month. For me, life insurance is $125. Fill in everything you know.
  5. The blue non-monthly savings boxes are a way to save up for expenses that only come around once a year or a few times a year. These categories can be changes to reflect your needs– birthdays, club dues, medical check up costs. How much do you expect you’ll need over the course of a year to cover each of those? Fill in that amount. For me, I try to set aside $400 by Christmas time for presents. It costs $90 each time we bring a cat for their annual checkup. As you fill in these boxes, the annual total and the monthly contribution to reach that goal will automatically update. The monthly contribution is what you should save each month to meet that annual goal.
  6. The boxes that have zeroes in them are linked to the corresponding colors in other boxes: Blue non-monthly savings are linked to those blue boxes, yellow essentials are linked to the yellow boxes below. As you fill in the light yellow, purple, and green boxes at the bottom throughout the month, the total will automatically total it up. The bottom blue boxes for ‘non-monthly expenses’ are for when you spend money in one of your non-monthly categories in that month. This might not happen each month, and it will remain zero. That will subtract from the monthly contribution you would have made to that non-monthly total, and ensure you have enough money to cover those expenses.
  7. The light orange ‘total outgoing’ at the bottom will automatically update as well, and the darker orange box will show you your potential ‘savings’, or leftover money that you will have at the end of the month. You can use that as a buffer in your account, or devote it to a savings goal, to paying off debt, or to treat yourself.

Free Monthly Budget Spreadsheet

Any questions? Ask in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them. Good luck, and happy budgeting!