Tag Archives: Fun with finances

Happy Halloween!

Winner of the pumpkin carving contest at my work! Copyright 2015 - Sweet Doll Designs
Winner of the pumpkin carving contest at my work!
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

As you go off on your Halloween adventure with your witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls, stop and reflect on past Halloweens.  Do you have a favorite costume?  Was it purchased at the store or did you toil for hours to make it?  Do you have any memories of money traditions around Halloween?

I was all sorts of things for Halloween growing up: bunny, pumpkin, panda, space cat, Frankenstein, witch, one half of a pair of dice, math wizard, the universe, sailor, Boo from Monster’s Inc., cat burglar, and a 20’s flapper, to name a few.  My costumes were always homemade.  It was always so fun to plan out all the elements needed for each costume!

My childhood neighborhood was nearby a bunch of other neighborhoods, so my candy haul was always pretty significant.  And of course you know where to find the best candy.  Some houses gave away the king size candy bars (like mine!) and some gave away the “fun” size (though whoever thought that size was fun was crazy).  Then there were the people who handed out healthy “treats” like raisins and apples.  But there was one guy who always saved his pocket change and came to the door with a huge bowl full of change and a small spoon.  Probably not surprisingly, I loved this house because it gave me more pennies and nickels to roll with the rest of my change!

Share your fun Halloween memories in the comments below.  Have fun and be safe this Halloween!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: Total Halloween spending (costumes, decorations, candy, cards, etc.) is expected to reach $6.9 billion in America for 2015! (Source: https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/nrf-157-million-americans-will-celebrate-halloween-this-year)


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: http://www.katenorthrup.com/its-not-going-to-turn-out-the-way-you-thought/

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: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_498_23-mind-blowing-true-facts-about-money_p3/)

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

Budgeting 101 – tweak your attitude

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

How do you feel when you hear the word “budget”?  Does it feel limiting and no fun?  Do you want to tap into your inner child and say “budget, don’t tell me what to do!”…and then you defiantly visit Amazon.com and buy 3 CDs you didn’t need, just because you can?  Do you think you can just kinda “wing it” instead of really looking at the numbers on paper?  Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but perhaps it feels a little scary?

If you’re nodding “yes” to any of these descriptions, consider this quote I recently found:

“When I made the shift from seeing decreasing my expenses as deprivation to seeing it as keeping money for myself and taking great care of myself, everything changed.”  ~Kate Northrop

When I read that quote, I thought: oh my goodness, she’s totally right!  A budget isn’t supposed to be some sort of straight jacket, there to make your life unpleasant…it’s just the opposite!  A budget will free you to live a fuller, more expansive life!

So what do you think about trying out this new tweak in attitude?  Take it out for a spin and see how you like it!

A big part of this process is to think of the overall picture.  What do you want your money to help you achieve?  You work hard to earn this money, so make it work hard for you.

Consider your hopes and dreams.  Budgeting is a way of funneling your money into things that matter to you – a way to make your hopes and dreams come true.  For instance, you may want to save up for a beautiful new house, bringing a baby into the world, excellent educations for your kids, travel to lovely and relaxing destinations with your family, comfortable retirement, or whatever else you daydream about.  Remember to work saving for these occasions into your budget.  In this way, your money can help you live the life of your dreams.

Here’s a place to start: instead of thinking of a budget as this big, intimidating project, commit to keeping your receipts for one month.  Either as you go along or at the end of the month, enter the amount of each receipt in the general category where it belongs in the resource I’ve created for you (request it using the form below).  Then take a step back and evaluate what you see.

You may be surprised to find that you eat out a lot more often than you thought.  For example, if you find that you’re spending $60 each week in eating out and you think you should only be spending $40, make $40 your spending goal for next week and see how you do.  Or maybe you’re not spending enough in the “FUN!” category.  Regardless of what you find, take note and tweak where necessary.

It make take a few tries, but I’ll bet you know what’s reasonable to expect that you spend in each category.  Keep in mind that “reasonable” may end up between what you’re actually spending and what you’d ideally like to spend.  For example, you may prefer to only spend $20 each week in gas, but the reality is your commute is really long, so it’s more realistic to expect to spend $40.  That’s a bummer, but not the end of the world.

So, try tweaking your attitude about budgeting to focus on how it will help you live the life of your dreams.  Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: Did you know that paper currency can be folded back & forth 4,000 before it wears out?  (Source: http://www.cnbc.com/2011/02/01/10-Things-You-Probably-Dont-Know-About-Money.html?slide=6)

Lessons from my cat – be playful, curious, and stress-free

As you can probably imagine, I eagerly follow the stats on my blog page, excited every time I see that someone has viewed a post, and ecstatic when they “like” it!  Since sharing my blog on Facebook, I’ve gotten a lot more traffic on my blog page (thanks everyone!).  I’ve been paying attention to which posts seem to be most popular so that I can determine what people are interested in reading about.  I’m equally as interested to see which topics aren’t quite as popular.

Surprisingly, the posts I’ve written on having fun with your money, the very same posts that I have so much fun writing, seem to not be as popular as the other posts I’ve written.  I’ve been asking myself why that could be, and had an inspiration from my cat this afternoon!

Two years ago, my husband and I adopted an adorable black kitten, Oliver.  He was found by my coworker in an abandoned parking lot when he was 4 months old, and we were thrilled to adopt him and make him part of our family.  He has quite the spunky personality – he is not a typical lazy lap cat.  He is always exploring and playing.

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

I took him outside on our porch this afternoon to play.  It’s a gorgeous fall day and he was enjoying chasing the leaves and munching on a few.  As I watched him play, I realized that we should all be more like our pets.  By that, I mean we should all be more playful, curious, and stress-free!

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

That got me to thinking about the fun with money posts I’ve written.  I think people are used to thinking of money as a super serious topic.  It is, there is no question about it – without money, life could be a lot harder.  However, it’s not a bad thing, and actually a great thing, to be more playful, curious, and certainly less stressed about our money.

Think about other things you have fun doing.  For example, most of us cook for ourselves.  It’s fine to follow a recipe exactly, and that’s probably what we all do the first time we make it.  But isn’t it more fun to experiment with the recipe the next time you make it?  You might play with the spices, ingredients, and side dishes.  Do you find that you learn more about the recipe when you play with it?  I do!

What if you applied the same concept to your money?  Go ahead and buy a state quarter map (read more here) or a National Park quarter map (read more here).  Mark your money and track it on the Where’s George website (read more here).  Pay more attention to all aspects of your money, including the designs on our paper currency (read more here)!  Let go of your tendency to be so serious about your money, if only for a few minutes.

You might be surprised what you learn when you play with your money!  How do you have fun with your money?

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

What lessons have you learned from your pets?  How can you apply those lessons to your money?  Comment below!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – In 2013, Americans spent $55.7 billion (yes, with a B!!) on their pets.  It is expected that number will reach $60 billion in 2014! (Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-spent-a-record-56-billion-on-pets-last-year/)

Fun with Money – the back of your bills!

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

This week, I read a great article that taught me to be mindful about my money in a slightly different way.

Brendan McKeon, the author of the article, is from Seattle and traveled to Washington, DC for work.  As he was walking through the monuments in DC, he realized that they looked familiar – they are many of the buildings featured on the backs of our bills!

He then took the time to line up the bills he had in his pocket with the actual buildings and took some pretty amazing photos!  You can find those photos and his article by clicking here.

I think I’m pretty mindful about my money.  However, I had never spent much time contemplating the backs of the bills in my wallet until I read this article.

The thing I find so profound about my realization is that this translates into everyday life.  Perhaps you’re experiencing a problem and you’re currently struggling to find a suitable solution.  Consider then taking that same problem and thinking of it a different way – perhaps even “backwards”.

Does looking at the difficulty from a different angle help you solve the problem?   You might be surprised that it will!

For example, say you’ve just had your hours cut at work.  Your first thought might be – what are my unnecessary expenses?  Let me reduce those and hunker down to wait for better times.  That’s a great place to start.  However, what about thinking of other ways to make more money?  This doesn’t mean that you have to get several part-time jobs.  Perhaps you can find someone who will pay you to make freezer meals for them.  You’re already cooking for yourself and your family, so doubling the recipe wouldn’t be too much trouble.   Or perhaps you can run errands for someone for a fee – you already have your errands to run, possibly to the same stores!  You could create a poster of services that you’re willing to do for people for a fee and post it on community boards in your area as well as on Craigslist.

So, next time you’re having a problem, be it with your job, budget, school work, office work, home, car, relationships…try thinking of things from a different angle to come up with a creative solution.  Also, be sure to be mindful about your surroundings and everything else in your life.

Making an important discovery might be as simple as taking something that you’ve seen a million times in your life and simply turning it over!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – The buildings featured on the backs of the U.S. dollar bills are:

  • $1 bill – a pyramid, though not a specific one that I can tell through my research
  • $5 bill – Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC)
  • $10 bill – U.S. Treasury (Washington, DC)
  • $20 bill – The White House (Washington, DC)
  • $50 bill – U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC)
  • $100 bill – Independence Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

Bonus fun fact – Since I live nearby the great city of Washington, DC, I have taken many pictures of the beautiful monuments around the city.  Below, I’m sharing my favorite pictures I’ve taken of buildings featured on the backs of bills.  Ironically, the only picture I can’t find that I’ve taken is one of the U.S. Treasury.  Haha – I’ll have to fix that soon!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Lincoln Memorial Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Lincoln Memorial
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
The White House Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
The White House
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Money saving tip – Soap

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

As you know, soap is an important part of our lives.  Using it frequently helps us to stay clean and healthy.

I have a quick money saving tip for you about soap.  Consider buying shampoo when it goes on sale for really cheap – for example, sometimes V05 goes on sale for less than $1.  Soap is soap, so you can use this shampoo in your soap dispensers around the house.  You will still get clean and you’ll have even more scents to choose from!

If you’re using foaming soap dispensers in your house, you can still use this trick.  Make your own special foaming soap by cutting it with water.  I use a ratio of 1/2 water to 1/2 soap, which works beautifully!

You can also use this inexpensive shampoo as body wash, dish soap, and other household cleaning soap.  The sky is the limit!

I hope you find this money saving tip to be helpful!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – There is more Monopoly money printed in the US each year than actual US currency.  In 2013, there was $30 Billion of Monopoly money printed, as compared to $974 Million of actual US currency (Source: http://www.cnbc.com/id/41375422/page/5)

Fun with money – National Parks Quarters

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

Hi everyone!

I recently purchased a map in which to display the new specialty quarters.  It’s similar to the State Quarters map (shown in this post).  However, this time, it’s for the National Parks Quarters (see the picture above).

Each time I’ve received a new National Park quarter, I’ve put it to the side.  Now I’m excited to be able to place the quarters I’ve collected so far in my new map!

If you like the look of this map, you can purchase it from Amazon.  Click here to be taken to the site (note: this is not an affiliate link).

See how much fun you can have playing with your money?!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – The first United States paper money was printed in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents (Source: http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0774850.html).