Monday, August 20, 2018

My Personal Finance Journey | Finance 101

Over the past six months, I've started feeling more confident with my personal finances. I've been thinking about starting a series on personal finances. Honestly I was thinking about starting this series a year ago - when I was really struggling. There is no perfect time to share my experiences and what I've learned so why not start now? I think it's important we start out with my story.

My journey with my own finances has been rocky, to say the least. I've struggled with managing my own money for years. As a child, my parents taught me the value of money. I had an allowance and neighborhood pet care jobs. My parents were cautious but never stressed by money. Luckily they have always been comfortable. I did grow up around a lot of wealth [outside of my family] and always thought we weren't well off, as a result. While my parents taught me about budgeting and having my own money, it was never really reinforced. If I ran out of money, my parents always gave me more. I didn't really understand the consequences of living beyond my means. 

In college, my parents paid my tuition and gave me money for my living expenses each month. They sat down with me [via Skype or phone] to create a monthly budget. I somehow always came up with unexpected expenses and had to ask for more money during the month. They were always there so I never stressed about not affording groceries or textbooks. 

After college, I moved home. I got my first full time job 20 minutes from my parents. I knew I wanted to go to grad school so living at home made the most sense. I started saving chunks of each paycheck. Luckily I managed to save close to $30,000 before I left for grad school two years later. My original plan was to pay for grad school myself but then I got accepted into New York University. NYU is a private school and extremely expensive. My parents had the money and offered to pay my tuition. Once again, I didn't have to stress about debt. I moved to New York City and paid my own living expenses for the first eight months. Then I ran out of money. My parents didn't pressure me to get a job and wanted me to focus on school. I did have several part time jobs during grad school. None of them paid well or were permanent. 

After I graduated, I started job hunting. I actually decided to switch fields - that's a whole other story. I took the first job I was offered. It wasn't permeant and it paid pennies. Joe and I moved to New Jersey and I was able to scrape by. I learned a lot about managing my personal finances and goal setting. Six months ago, I got a new job, which put me in a better financial spot and allowed me to save more money. While things are headed in a good direction, I still have a lot of learn. 

This is just a peak in my background but context is key, right?

My goal with this series is to share my financial journey - what I'm learning, how I'm managing my money, and my goals. If there are specific posts you want to see, please leave them in the comments! 

Finally, I really don't think this needs to be stated but here it is: I am not a financial expert [obviously]  and I am sharing what works for me, which may not work for you or your situation. 

Look out for this posts every Monday!

Friday, August 17, 2018

4 Fall Backyard Activities

This is a sponsored guest post by Alex Berger, but all opinions are her own!

The summer is slowly coming to an end and that means that fall will be here before we know it! Fall seems to be just about everyone’s favorite season - the weather is cool and crisp, pumpkin recipes are the stars of the show, and the holidays are just around the corner. Just thinking about it makes me so excited for the next six months! One of my favorite parts of fall is the fact that everyone takes advantage of the nice weather and everyone gets together for fun fall activities like pumpkin patches, apple picking, and hayrides. While all of those options sound like a blast, today I want to talk about fall activities that you can do in your backyard! Backyard activities for fall weather is the best, in my opinion. There are so many things to do and you get to stay in the comfort of your own home. Here are my favorite ideas:

Grill Out
Grilling out is one of my favorite fall activities. I know that a lot of people associate grilling with summer weather, but in my opinion, fall is just better. Jim Shahin agrees with me saying, “Barbecuers need a Declaration of Independence. That famous document, although written in summer, knows no season. And neither should barbecuing. Fall is my favorite time to grill. Unlike summer’s searing temperatures, fall’s mild weather makes standing before a hot fire a pleasure. But the practicality of temperate days, fine though it is, is secondary to their poetry. The smoke carries differently on fall’s crisp air. The vapors perfume the neighborhood, bracing and seductive, hinting of nostalgia. In brutish summer, smoke practically congeals above the grill in its thick torpor. It presents a false choice, really. Can’t a barbecuer like both? Of course. But if I have to choose, I pick fall as my favorite season for grilling.” Some of my favorite fall grilling recipes are grilled cauliflower, BBQ chicken, grilled lamb, and even grilled sweet potato.

Backyard Camping
Fall is the best for backyard camping because it’s not too hot anymore and not too cold yet. Set up a tent, cook some s’mores, and have a good time with your friends and family! To make your tent more comfortable, follow these few easy steps:

1. Choose a spot in the grass without any rocks, sticks, etc.

2. Fill your tent with tons of blankets to add softness or choose to put an air mattress inside your tent.

3. Opt for a spot in your yard where electricity can reach. You can use this to blow up your air mattress, run a fan, or turn on your white noise to sleep, if needed.

4. Make sure you zip your tent up every time you leave and enter. You don’t want any creepy bugs crawling on you in the middle of the night!

5. Last but not least, make sure all of the trees above you are healthy. The one thing that would definitely ruin a fun backyard camping experience is by having a tree fall on or near you. If you are not sure about the health of your trees, feel free to reach out to the local NJ company, Frontier Tree & Turf. They have over 30 years of experience in the tree service industry and have NJ Certified Tree Experts on staff. After their visit, your trees should look healthier, but more importantly, you will not risk having a tree fall on you during your camping adventure. Monmouth County towns such as Rumson, Fair Haven, and Little Silver, which is where Frontier Tree & Turf is based out of are home to many different tree specimens. Because of this, you need a team with the knowledge and expertise to properly diagnosis issues, and then improve and maintain the tree’s health. This is why you need to choose a reliable company such as family-owned and operated company, Frontier Tree & Turf.

Pumpkin Carving
Pumpkin carving is one of the most fun, traditional home activities and for good reason, too - you need a pumpkin for Halloween! Don’t worry though, if you are not the Halloween type, there are so many great perks you can get from carving a pumpkin such as pumpkin pie, toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, and more.

Spend Time With Loved Ones
When it comes down to it, the best part of backyard activities for fall weather is the fact that you get to spend time with the ones that are important to you. Grab a few chairs, enjoy the weather, and sit outside and just talk, eat, drink, and have time. Ultimately, this is what life is all about, right?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New York Anniversary | Biggest Lessons Learned

Today is my three year anniversary with New York! *Cue the confetti* I seriously can't believe that three years ago, I boarded a plane for a unknown new home. I cried at the airport as I hugged Joe goodbye. My mom and I landed in New York in the mid afternoon. We took a car to our motel in Long Island City. We dropped off our luggage and jumped on the subway, headed to Grand Central station. I showed my mom around some of parts I'd seen on my one and only trip to New York two years prior. 

We barely slept the first night. We were so excited to meet up with the broker and find my New York apartment. Our first day was a whirlwind. We saw five apartments and the last was, by the far, the best option. We jumped on the unit and I was able to take it off the market. We celebrated with acai bowls in my new neighborhood. This time in my life has been the most exciting, scary, fun, and life-changing. The list of changes/life events would make this post way too long.

Even with all the highs and lows, I've never once regretted moving here. I've become a completely different person and have learned a ton. While boarding that plane three years ago feels like it was yesterday, I also can't even relate to that girl who moved across the country. I'm really proud of the person I've become. I finally feel like a true adult [although I still have a lot of learn!]

In honor of my three year New York anniversary, I'm sharing the three biggest lessons I've learned while living here.

Closed Mouthes Don't Get Fed: My wise friend and coworker, Rana, said this and it's so true! She was born and raised in Brooklyn and has been working hard her entire life. She taught me to speak up and ask for what I want. I've become more vocal about my goals and aspirations. They are slowly but surely coming true - partially through hard work and partially because I'm finally asking for what I want and deserve.

Say Yes: Let me preface this by saying: I don't believe in burning yourself out or forcing yourself to say yes because you have a fear of missing out. I do believe in saying yes to new adventures. I believe in breaking out of your comfort zone. I believe in pushing yourself when great opportunities arise. I've said yes to blogging events that have allowed me to meet amazing people. I've networked and taken opportunities that have led my to my current job. I've made travel happen, even when it meant sleepy Mondays and a messy apartment. I try to keep my life balanced and don't take up every opportunity that comes my way but I do try my best to live my fullest life. 

Have Fun: While it's important to be conscious about the future, you also need to live in the moment and have fun. I'm always trying to seize the moment - whether it's trying a new restaurant or watching breath-taking sunset. Have fun and enjoy every moment.

Happy Three Years, New York!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Curvy Fashion Finds: Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

 ONE // TWO // THREE // FOUR // FIVE // SIX 

I was debating even writing this post because the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is ending (August 5th is the last day to shop). I picked up some great plus size pieces and couldn't resist sharing. My order just arrived a couple days ago and I already love all of my purchases. I re-ordered some of my favorites from last year - these leggings are one of the best high waisted leggings I own. I made sure to order this tee in white and pink. I picked it up last year in white but (of course) promptly stained it.

One of the best items I picked up was these jeans. They come in standard and plus sizes. I already wore them to work on Friday. They are high waisted with a little stretch. I love that they maintain their shape throughout the day but don't dig in. I also adore dark wash jeans so these are perfect for me. I'm really glad that I got them while they were 33% off!

I always take advantage of this sale for good quality pieces. I grabbed this long sleeve tee in black for only $19! I can throw a scarf or vest over it in the fall for an easy work look. I also picked up a couple non-fashion items. I grabbed this lip set - I couldn't resist three luxury lip products for $60. I found several cute home decor items. I snagged this marble toothbrush holder for only $11! 

With the sale ending, I hope you were/are able to grab some great pieces for fall. Let me know your favorite finds in the comments!


Monday, July 30, 2018

4 Ways to Keep Your Spine Healthy

This is a sponsored guest post by Alex Berger, but all opinions are her own!

We run through the daily motions of life so quickly nowadays that we forget to take care of ourselves and this can lead to health issues, including the very common health issue of back pain. It seems like most Americans deal with some sort of back pain now and I believe that we need to focus on it more because if you are in pain, it can limit the activities that you are able to do. Life is all about living to the fullest and if you are not able to do so because of your pain, something needs to change.

Focus on posture
The Alternative Daily says, “Spinal problems can begin as early as the late twenties, and some unfortunately have problems even earlier due to sport injuries or bad posture.” “We have all been told by our parents to stand up straight, but many of us don’t do so regularly, and as a result suffer with back pain or stiffness from time to time. Eventually these problems can become permanent and develop into further strain and injury. Practicing good posture isn’t something you do only when standing. Many of us sit for long periods of time hunched over our desks. This isn’t good for our backs either.” Most people now do have poor posture and it is very hard to improve, but if you try to focus on it each day, it is possible. There are many ways to improve posture. For example, you can tuck your chin in, tuck your tailbone under, stand with your feet slightly apart, put weight in the balls of your feet, etc. but, these tips will not help you if you do not make the effort to actually work on your posture, so make sure you are actually focusing on it throughout the day.

Add yoga to your lifestyle
If you do not want to do a structured yoga class, that is okay, but the simple stretches of yoga can really help your spine. There is this saying that you are only as young as your spine is flexible and yoga or simple stretches will definitely help you take your spine through a full range of movement, increasing flexibility and ability to do things with ease.

Get adjusted
Chiropractic services are becoming increasingly popular as the general population seems to be dealing more and more with spine-related issues. Chiropractic services is a form of medicine that is widely known as “a science of healing without drugs,” which is always good, in my opinion. There are many benefits from getting adjusted such as, headache relief, reduced back pain and muscle tension, improved posture, and more. If you are in the New Jersey area, AllCure Spine & Sports Medicine is one of the best chiropractors in the Monroe Township (Middlesex County) New Jersey area and they specialize in not only chiropractic care, but all around pain relief and wellness. Other than chiropractic services, they also offer physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and more. Dr. Alfieri is a chiropractor committed to providing pain relief for many symptoms and conditions so that you can have a higher quality of life. He implements a formula that has proven to be immensely effective in alleviating all types of pain, by using a multidisciplinary approach all under one roof, which is not only convenient and time saving for you, but it will allow you to feel better a lot faster.

Know what you are eating
Spine-Health says, “Eating a balanced diet with the right amount and variety of vitamins and nutrients can reduce back problems by nourishing the bones, muscles, discs and other structures in the spine. While a healthy diet calls for many vitamins and nutrients, this partial list highlights a number of healthy choices that can be directly beneficial for back pain patients.” Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin K2, Vitamin C, Protein, Vitamin B12, Iron, and Vitamin D3 are all essential when it comes to a healthy spine, so think about adding things like kale, Salmon, almonds, oranges, eggs, avocados, yogurt, bananas, lentils, beans, and more into your diet.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New York City Summer Guide

There is so much to do in the summer in New York City. I've already shared my summer bucket list and I wanted to follow up with some of my favorite activities. 

Today I shared a travel guide video with some of my recommendations. As per my video, I'm including a few more ideas here!

MOVIES IN THE PARK: Several parks in the city show movies on summer nights. The most well known is Bryant Park, offering movies every Monday through August. The NYC Parks Department lists all the options here.

ICE CREAM SHOPS: My summer guide video could have easily become a ice cream recommendations video so I decided to not share any options in the video but include them all here! My favorite ice cream shops (in no particular order) are Emack & Bolio's [two blocks from my old apartment on the UES!],  Milk & Cereal BarGelato & CoForty Carrots [froyo], and Chloe's Soft Serve [fruit based/non-dairy option].

YOGA: Bryant Park offers free yoga on Tuesday mornings and Thursday nights all summer. Mats included as long as you sign up!

ROOFTOP BARS: There are a plethora of rooftop options. I love 230 Fifth and Loopy Doopy [they serve prosecco with popsicles!]

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK: Joe and I finally got to attend one of these shows last summer. It was phenomenal! You can enter the lottery through TodayTix or wait in line at the park. Tickets are free for all!

PICNICS: Picnics in Central Park, Bryant Park and Prospect Park are one of my favorite ways to spend a summer evening.

Make sure to watch my summer guide video:

More fun summer ideas to share? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Summer 2018 Reading List

Last week I received an email in my [work] inbox sharing how important reading is. The e-mail referenced several different great minds and how much they regularly read. Did you know that Bill Gates reads 50 books every year?!

They challenged us to commit to reading 10, 11, or 12 books this quarter. I took the pledge and opted for 10 books. I love to read and listen to audiobooks [which totally counts for this goal!] but I struggle to make the time. I am   slowly incorporating more books in my commute, which is helping a lot.



I've already started a couple of these books and I'm excited to dive into the others. If you have any book recommendations and/or want to join my reading challenge, please leave me a comment!

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