‘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.

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

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

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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!

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Me and Michael on Kailua Beach, Oahu

Budget Update (June 2017)

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Long time, no blog!  It’s been a while since I posted on my blog, but I wanted to let you know that the system I put in place at the beginning of the year is working well!

I wanted to be one month ahead in all my bills– that is, the paychecks I earn in June will cover all my expenses for July.  Last year, I was still allocating a certain amount to cover a range of non-monthly expenses (such as Christmas gifts and club dues that are only paid twice a year), but I didn’t physically move that money into another account as savings.  It just stayed in my main account and theoretically I’d have enough in there to cover any non-monthly expense that popped up.  The trouble was, these expenses aren’t all on the same schedule, and paying for my professional certification maintenance or cat’s medical expenses wouldn’t happen all at the end of the calendar year, so it wasn’t certain that I’d have enough saved when each of them needed to be paid.

So, starting after Christmas I would transfer that amount, along with regular savings toward an emergency fund, into a separate account.  The money in that savings account is for both non-monthly expenses as well as emergencies.  Currently, that account has enough money to cover three months’ worth of my regular living expenses (not counting any personal savings contributions, but still including life insurance and retirement contributions).

This month we’ve got one cat’s annual checkup and vaccine booster, and we need to stock up on the monthly drops we put on our two cats so they don’t get fleas/ear mites/other nasty bugs.  So if that amount is more than my monthly contribution to the non-monthly expenses (which is $107), then I’ll transfer the difference from my savings account back into my regular account to cover it.  This system of being one month ahead on bills, and non-monthly expenses transferred to a separate account so they don’t comingle with my regular balance, makes a lot of sense for me!

How is your budget working out for you? Let me know if you have any questions about budgeting in the comments below and I’ll be glad to chime in! 😀

Personal Budget 2.0

I posted a Youtube video a while back which outlined how I budget.

Since then, I realized that the assumptions I was making in executing my budget weren’t working for me.  The ‘non-monthly’ expenses that I saved for each month weren’t all on the same schedule, and I wasn’t actually moving the money each month into a dedicated place for those expenses.  Theoretically, after a year the non-monthly expenses such as credit card fees ($89) and membership dues for Toastmasters ($80) and a professional certification ($400+) would be covered by the money in my main account.  In actuality, it wasn’t that easy to track or ensure I’d have enough in the main account to cover each non-monthly expense when it would pop up.

So I decided to include the non-monthly expense total each month (now $107) as a transfer to a separate account that I make each month.  Then, when one of those expenses comes along, I can transfer the needed amount back into my main account from my savings.

That’s another thing worth mentioning– I used to have two separate accounts, one for emergencies and one for travel.  After we returned from our big trip to Europe last year, I wanted to simplify my finances and decided to close one of the accounts and just have one general savings account.  Emergency funds, money available for using to cover non-monthly expenses, and money to devote to travel are all co-mingled in that one account.  My goal is to maintain a hefty, healthy balance and pad it whenever possible.

In order to ensure my financial peace of mind, I decided to use what I had in my old emergency fund to pay off bills and expenses one month early.  Then I started building up my savings again, but this time it was with actual money that can be saved, not money that could have paid off my credit card expenses for the month.  I never carry a balance on my credit cards, but this way, each paycheck is devoted partly to paying off the next month’s expenses, partly to savings.  Being a month ahead gives me assurance that I’ll have enough in my main account to cover everything.

Thinking about moving abroad? Read this!

Ever since the presidential election in America picked up steam, many people have joked about moving to Canada if the ‘wrong’ person gets elected.

But seriously, have you thought about living in another country?

For many Americans, a brief vacation overseas or a semester abroad during college is the extent of their time spent outside their native country. As a thirty-something who has lived abroad in Europe and Asia for a total of 6 years, I know what’s necessary to successfully work, study, make friends, and learn to live in a foreign country.  The benefits of living abroad are many and far-reaching, and I want to help others explore the idea of living abroad. We can act as informal ambassadors of our country, building bridges across languages, religions, and cultures.

Last week I published my Guide to Living Abroad on Amazon, which helps you approach living abroad in a holistic way, preparing you to reach your goals and have an enriching time.  The e-book takes you from when you first have the idea, all the way through your return home with useful worksheets and flowcharts as well as anecdotes from my own time abroad.  Some of the ideas covered in the book include:

  • Is moving abroad the right idea for you?  What can you do to prepare?
  • What should you take care of before departing?
  • What things will help ease the transition to your new home?
  • What can you do to align your daily life abroad to your bigger picture goals?
  • How can you ease your transition when you head home?

My e-book is available both for purchase and as a loan through Kindle Unlimited.

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Why not try a new way of life abroad? (Venice, Italy 2016)

 

Thankful for What I Got: November’s Capsule Wardrobe Challenge

Are you a fan of the simplicity/minimalism movement?

Me too.

Are you successful in all your minimalist habits?  I know I still struggle to know what’s worth adding to my closet or home, and what’s not worth purchasing.  But I’m working on keeping my wardrobe to a small, but effective, size.  I’ve been trying to do so for the past few years.  Right now, I believe I have around 35 items in my work wardrobe.

As we celebrate Halloween and don our costumes that we probably won’t wear again, I think this is the perfect time to address the clothing that I have in my normal closet.  Wouldn’t it be great to wear everything I own before re-wearing anything?  This would make my closet an equal opportunity employer.

So my idea is to document each day, starting tomorrow, what I wear and keep track in my closet of what I haven’t worn yet.  As I wear each item, I can make a note of what I think works and what doesn’t anymore, and brainstorm ideas for future item purchases that might be versatile and work with many of the items I already own.

Do you have a capsule wardrobe?  Or do you struggle to find something to wear even though your closet is overflowing?  Maybe a simplified closet would help you to keep only your best clothing and get rid of the rest!

Check out this YouTube video that inspired me to tackle this challenge:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foqfxo7nMLE  She’s got a different ‘Shop Your Closet’ challenge than me for November, but I think her idea is a great one– use and be grateful for what we already have!