Category Archives: Meaning of money

Twists and Turns – My Journey

Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

I read a wonderful article today by Kate Northrop.  It’s all about how life might not turn out the way you expect.  I could identify with life throwing some twists and turns my way.  Read the article and see if it rings true for you, too:

I especially love the hopeful ending to the article, suggesting that anything is possible if you keep putting one foot in front of the other toward your dreams.  Even though it may seem scary, go ahead and follow life’s twists and turns.  This new direction may not have been in your 29 point life plan, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.  It could be a completely awesome thing!

Dare to dream, my friends, and enjoy the ride! =)

In the spirit of this article, I thought it might be interesting to share with you how I began writing these posts.  See if you can spot the twists and turns.

I studied at Colgate University and earned my BA in Astrogeophysics with a minor in Geology.  While I was in school, I thought I wanted to be a planetary volcanologist.  But once I graduated, I thought – holy cow, what do I do now?!  I didn’t want to be a professor, I didn’t want to work out in the field, and I didn’t want to work in the lab.  Where did that leave me?  I knew I would need further education, but since I wasn’t clear on my life’s direction, I elected to take some time off to decide what to do.

I stayed at Colgate for six months after I graduated to work full time as the gallery assistant in the art gallery on campus.  I enjoyed that so much that I considered museum studies, but decided that wasn’t quite right, so I kept searching.  A friend from college told me she needed a roommate and asked me if I’d consider moving.  So I picked up and took off for a city six hours from where I grew up where I knew no one and, after interviewing for all sorts of jobs (including one as a ballroom dance instructor), I got a summer internship at the American Association of Museums and a part time job as a bookkeeper.

After that summer, I went full time at my bookkeeping job and I realized I really liked it.  It may seem like a stretch from my degree, but if you think about it, math was a big part of my undergraduate studies and math is a big part of the finance world, too.

I eventually changed companies and met an amazing boss.  She recognized my talent, but told me that if I wanted to get anywhere in the field, I would need to get a degree, and probably even earn my CPA.  Since I did very much enjoy working with numbers, I took her advice to heart and enrolled in evening classes at University of Virginia.  After four years, I earned my Accounting degree.  Now I’m studying for my CPA.

Along the way, I interviewed at a company where I really wanted to work.  I had done a bunch of research before the interview and found they had a financial literacy program.  I had never heard of financial literacy, but it sounded interesting.  I mentioned it in my interview, only to find out that they were phasing out the program.

I didn’t get that job and it broke my heart at the time.  However, that one idea lit a fire inside me – a passion for financial literacy.  I dream of one day teaching kids of all ages about financial literacy.  I want to help the next generation start off on the right foot, financially speaking.

This blog is my first step toward achieving that dream!  I’d like to take this moment and thank each of you for reading my blog and for all your support.  It means so much to me and helps keep me going.

I hope you enjoy Kate’s article and my own personal journey of how the twists and turns in my own life brought this blog post to your computer, tablet, phone…or maybe even your watch?!

Remember, dare to dream and enjoy the twists and turns that make the ride better than you imagined!

I’d love to hear about some of your life twists and turns in the comments below!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: All 50 states are listed above the Lincoln Memorial on the back of a $5 bill (Source:

Author’s note: This post is dedicated in loving memory of my Grandpa, Stan (January 26, 1927 – October 18, 2014).  He was one of my biggest supporters.  He was kind, funny, smart, and a great listener.  He had an incredible interest in life and would talk to me for hours about my experiences and adventures and share his own.  He gave amazing advice and even better hugs.  On a particularly beautiful day, he would remark at the wonderful show Mother Nature was putting on for us.  He encouraged me to always seek learning opportunities, maintain an awe and wonder in the world around me, talk to people everywhere I go, and have fun!  He was graceful, distinguished, and thoughtful.  He was proud of his wife, my Nanny, for her financial skills which she passed along to her children and me.  He was my dance partner at many family weddings, thankfully also including my own.  He was all the things that make up a perfect Grandpa and more.  I am so grateful to have had this much time with him on this Earth.  I love you bunches, Grandpa! xoxo

Dancing with Grandpa at my wedding Photo credit: Axente Productions Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
Dancing with Grandpa at my wedding
Photo credit: Axente Productions
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

Practicing what I preach – don’t panic about job loss!

Copyright 2015 Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2015 Sweet Doll Designs

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, I went in to work as I did every day.  I’d been working in the finance department of this company for almost 10 years and the routine was comfortable.  The CFO from the California office was unexpectedly in the Maryland office for the day and asked to meet with our department around 11am.  Dreading the meeting, I went to it and found my fears were true – our department was to be relocated to California.  In two months, we in Maryland would no longer receive a paycheck.

I remember my emotions that day: shock, disbelief…and panic.  How could this be happening?  How would I support myself?  I’d been casually looking for a job and hadn’t found anything – would I actually find something?  When? Would I like the job I found?  I didn’t want to be desperate about it, but I didn’t have much time to spare – my paycheck is pretty important to our family.

Then I remembered the blog post I wrote last year: Regrouping after a job loss – Don’t Panic!  I decided to practice what I preached.

After a few days, the shock started to wear off and I was able to sit down and assess my situation.  This is what I found:

  1. I did have two months to find a new job, though I still had to go in to work every day during that period.
  2. Thankfully, I’ve always been a good saver, so I had enough money in savings to tide us over for several months, if necessary.
  3. My husband was still working and bringing home a paycheck.

Knowing that I would be fine financially for several months and reminding myself that there was no need to panic, I set to work on creating a clear set of goals for my next position. Not only did I define the responsibilities that I wanted, I also determined where I wanted to work, narrowed down the titles I was searching for, and made a goal for my salary range.

These are the steps I decided to take with my finances:

  1. We had saved up for a new bed and were preparing to buy it when I got this news. We put that large purchase on hold because, even though I hoped it wouldn’t take that long to find a new job, I knew the landlord wouldn’t take a piece of the new mattress as rent payment!
  2. I had been considering buying a new car, but since mine was still in great shape, I was able to put that purchase on hold as well.
  3. I was contributing 12% of my paycheck to my 401k account. I decided to drop that percentage back down to 5% in order to still take advantage of the full company match, and put the extra money in my paycheck in a savings account earmarked as money to contribute to my IRA (to learn more about a 401k company match, visit this post).  This action increased my readily available funds, and if I didn’t have to use them, I would then move the money I’d saved to my IRA account as planned.
  4. I paid very close attention to how I was spending my money and made sure that I didn’t spend more than was absolutely necessary. No luxury items, no impulse purchases – ultimately, no money going out of my wallet for anything that wasn’t absolutely essential.
  5. I realized this was my chance to find a job that really made me happy! Truth be told, I wasn’t happy in my position anymore and was in need of a change.  But you know how that goes– it can sometimes seem easier to stay with the devil you know than take a chance on the devil you don’t know.

I spent hours on the phone and in person, speaking with recruiters and discussing with each of them what I was looking for in my next position.  The potential opportunities were exciting, but the process was exhausting at times.  On top of that, not everyone was enthusiastic about the goals I had set for myself – some said I would never be able to get the titles I aspired to, others said I’d never be able to find a job in the area I wanted, and still others said I’d never earn the salary I wanted.  When that happened, I thanked them and moved on, because I realized that I needed to work with people who believed in me!

It took me a month, but I’m happy to say that I found a job that’s perfect for me – I now have more responsibility, I’m closer to home, and I got the salary that I asked for!  An added bonus: the environment of my new company is wonderful and my coworkers are fantastic!

Now that I’ve been in my new position for four months, I can look back and sincerely say that I’m glad I was forced to look for a new job.  I am so much happier now and I’m learning a lot!  Events perhaps didn’t start the way I’d expected, but they ended up better than I’d hoped.

We also purchased our new bed and we’re getting a better night’s sleep – thank goodness!  And I’m restarting my search for the perfect new car for me.

The moral of the story is – don’t panic when you lose your job!  Take stock of where you are and know that right here and now, in this moment, you are fine.  Organize your thoughts, have a clear set of goals in mind, and then go for it!  Things often work out better than you can imagine!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: The Department of Treasury first issued paper currency in 1862 to make up for the shortage of coins after the Civil War.  The first denominations of paper currency printed were 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents.  Source:

Financial Goals

First of all, let me thank you for your patience in my absence from writing this blog.  My beloved grandfather passed away the same day I posted my last entry, October 18th.  I found that I needed to take a break from posting for a while, and I appreciate your understanding.

Now, I’d like to talk about your Financial Goals for 2015.  When the clock turned over to 1/1/15, perhaps you made some resolutions – eat healthier, go to the gym, or get a new job.  Did you make any financial resolutions or goals, too?

A few examples of financial goals could be: get out of debt, increase your emergency fund, pay off your car or school loans, or create a realistic budget that you’ll stick to this year.  Of course there are many other financial goals you could choose, but it’s important to choose at least one.  You might even consider choosing two – one short term goal that can be achieved within the year, and one long term goal that may take a year or more to achieve.  As in other areas in your life, having financial goals will help you focus your energy.

My husband and I have gotten into the habit of saving a little bit each month toward our financial goals.  This year, our short term goal is saving for a new bed, and our long term goal is saving for a down payment on our first home.  We will easily save enough money to buy a new bed long before we have enough money saved for a down payment on a home.  But it’s important to recognize that saving a little money each month toward your financial goals is very helpful, no matter how big or small the goals may be.

What are your financial goals for 2015?  Please share them in the comment section below!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – “You can hold a Ferris wheel in the palm of your hand.  How?  It’s easier than you might think.  So is turning cartwheels with your fingers.  Both “Ferris wheel” and “cartwheel” are nicknames for silver dollars!” (Source:

PS I know I usually post on Saturdays, but I decided to post today in honor of Grandpa’s birthday, when he would’ve turned 88.  Happy Birthday, Grandpa!  Thanks for all the wonderful advice on money and life you gave me throughout the years.  I love you!

Photo credit: Axente Productions, LLC Nanny & Grandpa performing the Flower Girl honors at my wedding: August 17, 2013
Photo credit: Axente Productions, LLC
Nanny & Grandpa performing the Flower Girl honors at my wedding: August 17, 2013

Financial Independence

In honor of July 4th, my great country’s Independence Day, I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply that to finances.  Then I thought of it – Financial Independence.

You’ve probably heard people say it (and maybe even said it yourself) – “I need to be financially independent (or independently wealthy) in order to do ­­­___________ (fill in the blank)”.

It’s fine to have financial independence as a goal, but as with any goal, you need to have a plan if you’re serious about achieving it.  This is the perfect time for you to sit down and really think about how you want your future to look.  Does it include traveling all around the country and even the world?  Does it include a big house and fancy cars?  Or is the size of your bank account what matters to you?  Does it mean sending your kids to the best schools available in the country?  Owning a vacation home or two?  All of the above?

How ever you picture your perfect life, it is important that you have plenty of money so that you can follow your dreams.  That is sometimes easier said than done.  How do we get from here to there?

First, it’s vitally important to be doing something for a living that you love.  I mean, really LOVE.  It makes life so much easier when the way you earn your money makes your heart sing.

Next, take a close look at your finances.  Decide if all your current expenses are really necessary.  Ask yourself – does this expense make me happy?  Will it help me to achieve my goals?  Is this really something I want to be spending my money on?  If you answer no to any of these questions, cut that expense out.  Now I know you’ll likely say no when you examine taxes, let’s say, but there’s not much you can do about that!

Once you have an overall picture of your future, take a piece of that picture and break it down into little parts.  This makes working toward your goals more manageable.

For example, if driving a Corvette is part of your dream life, first determine how much they cost.  With that information, you can look at your monthly savings and determine how much of it to allocate to buying your new ‘Vette.  Then you can figure out how long it will take until you are behind the wheel of your brand new car!

Finally, now that you’ve decided on an idea of what you want your future to look like, set about getting yourself there.  Keep these goals in the front of your mind each day.  In order to do that, consider building a vision board.  Cut out pictures and phrases from magazines that remind you of your goals and paste them on a board that you keep in plain sight.  Make it into something fun!

In the Corvette example, I’d certainly cut out a picture of the Corvette I have my eye on.  I’d also find a large logo, and maybe even a picture of the steering wheel to add to my poster.  Then I’d add pictures of the kind of house I want, places I want to visit, and so on.

Really get into your visualization of your dream life.  Wait expectantly for it to come to fruition.  This doesn’t mean to sit around and wait for it to show up.  This means that you’re working toward your goals in a logical manner and you expect that you’re following the right path that will lead you to your dream life.

What is most important is that you commit to your goals and always work toward them.  If you decide in the future that you need to tweak your goals, that’s no big deal – tweak away!  There is no shame in realizing that you actually don’t want that goal after all.  Feel free to make a complete 180 degree turn and go for a goal that is totally different.

As long as you work toward what you think will make you happy, you’re doing the right thing.

I recently found a great blog.  The woman who writes it is passionate about cheering you on toward your goals, whatever they may be.  If you need a pick-me-up, or just to feel like someone is on your side, cheering you forward, check out the blog:  You will be happy that you did!

I wish you success on your road to your own financial independence.  I am happy that you have chosen me to help you along the way.

I’m proud to be an American!  Happy 4th of July!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – In 2011, the US imported a total of $232.5 million of fireworks – that’s a lot of fodder for great celebrations! (Source:

Meaning of money

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

When my husband read the post I wrote about respecting your money last week, he said when he heard the topic of the post, he thought I would go in a different direction.  When I asked him to explain what he meant, he told me that when he thinks about respect for money, he’s not thinking about respecting the actual physical dollar bills and how to organize them.  He thinks about respect for the money, finances, in your life.

He makes an excellent point – that is the overall big picture of the meaning of money.  That’s what I’d like to discuss today.

I find it difficult to have a good grasp on money and my spending when I use a credit card.  It is too easy to forget that you’re spending money when you use it.  After all, it’s just a piece of plastic that you pulled out of your wallet.  However, when the credit card bill comes in the mail, you’ll really see how much you spent.  Often, you’ve spent much more than you anticipated, likely because you lost touch with the connection of the credit card to your bank account when using it.

It is for this reason that I use cash for most of my daily transactions.  There are some things that make sense to use a credit card for – gas, car repairs, and large purchases (hopefully planned).  But for entertainment and groceries, I use cash.

It is much easier for me to keep my spending in check when I use cash.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I take the same amount of cash out of my bank account each week for my allowance.  When the cash is gone, it’s gone – there is no overspending.  Of course, I always have the option to take out my credit card to pay for something when I’ve run out of cash, but I definitely pause and consider what I’m doing at that point.

I ask myself: Do I really need this item?  Can I wait until next week when I have more cash to purchase it?  Is there a cheaper option?

Working with cash really does teach you to respect money and understand its value.  When kids are learning about money, it is best to teach them using cash.  Consider switching to a cash system yourself to model the money management skills you want to teach your kids.

Even if you use a debit card for your transactions instead of a credit card, it still doesn’t seem like real money, and you can still overspend.  If you are very averse to carrying cash for some reason, another option is to get a prepaid debit card.  When the money on there is gone, it’s gone.  Same concept as using cash, and you’ll have to keep track of your purchases.

Take the time to go to your bank and take out a steady allowance for yourself each week and use cash.  You may even find that you save money when you do this – you might not realize that you’re overspending now and by how much.

Give cash a try and post in the comments below about your experiences.

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – Martha Washington is the only woman to have appeared on US Currency.  Her portrait was pictured on the $1 Silver Certificate in 1886 and 1891.  (Source:


So far, we’ve talked about tax filing statuses, painless ways to save, and fun with money, among other topics.  Today, I want to talk about Respect.  Specifically, respecting your money.

Now, I know that we talked in a previous post about money being a tool in your life, so you may be wondering what I mean by respecting your money.

Have you heard Aretha Franklin’s famous song “Respect”?  Some of the lyrics go “R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Find out what it means to me”.  That’s what you’re about to do!  (The song is pretty catchy, too…I’ve been humming it the whole time I’ve been writing this post!)

Ok, so just think about it for a moment.  Let’s say you gave me money for my birthday.  What would you think if I thanked you for it, then wadded it up and stuck it in my pocket or threw it in the bottom of my pocket book?  Would that inspire you to give me more money?  Would it make you think that I truly appreciated your gift?  Probably not.

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

That’s what I imagine is going on when the Universe gives me money.  Not just when I find money on the sidewalk, but each week when I take my allowance out of my bank account.  I am careful to be respectful to my money.

Being respectful to my money means that I put it neatly away in my wallet, each bill in its proper compartment (see last week’s post to learn more about my cash allocation system).  I also make sure all the bills are facing the same direction and are oriented the same way, all right-side up.  All the $1 bills are together and go first, then the $5 bills, then $10s, and $20s.

Taking the time to make sure my money is neatly organized is important to me.  It also doesn’t take much time to do.  Plus, with everything so organized, I am able to see quickly and easily how much money I have in my wallet.

Now, imagine again that you gave me money for my birthday and I thanked you and neatly organized it in my wallet.  Would you feel that I appreciated your gift?  Would you feel that I had respect for my money?  I think you would!

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Going forward, when handling your money, take a few extra moments to make sure it’s neat and organized.  I know it’s sometimes hard to do this when you’re in the checkout line of the grocery store and there are several people behind you.  You can either step to the side to organize and file your change, or you can take a moment when you get to your car to do so.

However it works for you, take the time to organize your money and treat it with respect.  I think you’ll find that you’ll feel more confident with your money and in your money management skills.  And you may even find yourself with a little extra cash – a bonus, if you will, from the Universe!  Hey, it could happen!

Post in the comments what respecting your money means to you.

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – Most of our paper currency features former US Presidents on the front of each bill.  Why, then, is Benjamin Franklin on the front of the $100 bill?  Well, first, he was one of America’s Founding Fathers.  Also, he used his experience as a newspaper editor (and probably some printing experience) to help print the first US currency.  Finally, he believed that hard work was the path to true wealth, an idea that is one of the foundations of the American Dream! (Source:

“People first, then money, then things”

Suze Orman
Suze Orman

This week, I want to talk about money’s place in our lives.

At the end of every one of her shows, Suze Orman sums it up best by reminding her viewers: “People first, then money, then things.”

This is a really powerful and important message to remember.  People should come first in our lives.  I know that work can get busy and it seems like staying late and missing your child’s softball game is the right thing to do at the time.  But if you think about it, children are only children for a very short time, but the work will always be there tomorrow.  It is said that when people look back on their lives, they never wish they were at work more often.

It is important to take time out of our busy days to spend time with those we love.

Money can also play an important part in our lives.  Money can be a source of happiness and excitement, as well as a source of stress and arguments.  However, money doesn’t define us.  Money is a tool that we can use to enrich our lives by going on fun and educational vacations with our family, providing a nice place to live and delicious food to eat, and fashionable clothes to wear.  But it is not the end-all, be-all in life.

Things come last because, while they can also enrich our lives, they are only things, after all.  Though your grandparents may have given you that couch, they are not that couch, so if you get rid of it, you are not getting rid of them.

It can sometimes be difficult to keep life in perspective, but it is so important to remind ourselves to do so.  Take some time today to tell your family how much you love them and that you are glad to have them in your life.  Your money will support you by earning interest in the bank.  It will be there tomorrow.

What does money mean to you?

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – Piggy banks originated in the Middle Ages.  The orange clay used to make vessels back then was referred to as “pygg”.  The name eventually changed to “piggy bank” and these containers were used to store money.  The funny thing is, there was no hole in the bottom of the containers, so they had to be smashed in order to get the money out.  Thank goodness we have solved that problem with today’s piggy banks! (Source: