Stay Hungry

We often talk about networking and self-promoting, but it’s hard to do this continually. I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut lately and have only managed to climb out in the past few weeks. For months, I’ve been thinking long-term about my current career and where I want to be. However, it’s only recently that I’ve been proactive about doing something about those goals rather than just daydreaming.

Sometimes we need to stop marinating a topic in our heads and actually move forward. I realized that I’d been thinking about career movement for so long that I hadn’t actually been intentional about how to get there. I’ve let months slip by out of lethargy.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes, you do just need to focus on the present and do the best that you can do in the current season. There are some seasons where you need to let the ground lie fallow as you rejuvenate. However, sometimes it’s only winter, and even in the winter time, farmers are planning for the next year and buying seeds. Spring will come before you know it, then summer, then harvest time. Then you see the results of the work you put in.

So, how do we do this? It means keeping an eye out for jobs you want, even for jobs you’re not qualified for, to see for what requirements recruiters are asking. It means taking classes and attending seminars on honing the skills you need to move forward in your career. It means networking with people above you and people in the types of positions you want, always keeping your name out there.

You need to stay hungry. It’s the only way to not fall into complacency. Just like the best way to balance on one foot is to stare straight ahead, the best way to continually move forward is to continually look forward.

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5 Budget Tips for Beginners

Ah, budgeting. It’s always easier said than done. If you’re like me, you hate doing it, but you know it’s good for you — sort of like choosing carrot sticks over pizza rolls.

It’s not always easy to figure out a place to start though. We all know we should be saving for retirement, but we’re not sure how much to cut down on our spending. Here are a few tips I find helpful in budgeting my money:

1. Portion Your Paycheck

If you find yourself spending more than you ought to before paying your bills, organize it so that your paycheck is divided up before it even hits your checking account. Most payroll teams are happy to do this for you. For example, my husband and I like to have a separate account for charity money so that it’s already set aside before we even see it. Then when we want to give, we already have a pool of money ready for us. This can also ensure that the money you need for bills is portioned out early on so that it’s less tempting to overspend.

2. Sketch it Out

When you’re not sure where to begin, start at the beginning. It took a lot of work, but I created an Excel spreadsheet that categorized where the majority of my paycheck went, starting with numbers that won’t change much: mortgage, gas money, car insurance, utilities, etc. Then, I calculated the average amount left over. After that, I took my box of receipts and started figuring out where all the extra money went per month to figure out the average saved afterwards.

Bonus Tip: It’s easiest to lump this leftover money into larger categories at this stage: I usually do entertainment (movie nights, concerts, etc.), eating out, household items/clothes, and miscellaneous.

This is a great snapshot of how your financial planning looks and how much you’re truly making each month. Seeing it all laid out makes it easier to start cutting things out.

3. Change What You Can

Your rent payment probably won’t change for the better any time soon. That’s something you can count on. Gas money and groceries are similar: you can fluctuate a bit depending on how much you travel and what kind of meals you’re making, but in general, it’s a fairly steady money drain.

However, those cocktail nights with your girlfriends? That you have some power over. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life: you just need to rearrange things a bit. Maybe instead of going out for drinks next time, have everyone come over with a bottle of something, and make your own cocktails at home. It’s a cozier setting, and you’ll cut down the cost dramatically.

Bonus Tip: If you’re looking to cut down on your grocery bill and get some cash back at the same time, I would suggest looking at Sam’s Club or Costco. Both of these companies sell bulk items (e.g., we like getting a huge bag of frozen chicken instead of buying fresh cutlets each time) and offer credit cards with cashback. In our case, the cashback from the card far and away pays for the membership fee, and it’s an easy way to get free cash by simply using a credit card.

4. Create Goals

Let’s face it, it’s easier to refrain from splurging on a new swimsuit when you know that the money is needed somewhere else. College debt is higher now than it ever has been before, and most young people are in debt now beginning at age 18. Begin early with chipping away at that debt, no matter how much you want to go backpacking in Europe for two months. Look at your loans with the highest interest and attack them aggressively. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of putting our tax refunds directly into debt payment, and it’s made a big difference.

Bonus Tip: Try to increase your payment every couple months. If you can, instead of meeting the minimum payment, try adding 50 dollars more this month. Then bump it up to 100 dollars, then 200. If you have thousands of dollars in debt, it won’t seem like much at first, but you’d be amazed at how it adds up.

5. Save for Retirement

It should be a no-brainer at this point, but another part of portioning your paycheck should include retirement savings. This is where your HR department can help you. Most firms have financial advisors within the company or other online resources aimed to help their employees decide what type of retirement fund to use and how much to put into it. These services are often pre-paid by your company, so take advantage of them. This is also a good way to utilize Tip #2: have your paycheck put money into your retirement fund before you get it in your checking account. When you’re already saving for retirement, budgeting becomes second nature.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any effective tips for budgeting?

Are Pen Names Ethical?

Perhaps some of you remember the controversy over the 2015 edition of Best American Poetry (BAP). After the 75 chosen poems were announced, one of the authors stepped forward to reveal he had used a pseudonym. Instead of being “Yi-Fen Chou,” as the poem states, his name is Michael Derrick Hudson.

As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of backlash. Some felt that Hudson had been highly manipulative and that his poem should be pulled. Others applauded his actions, saying he had revealed the racial bias of the anthology that was keeping out poems based off the author’s ethnicity alone.

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6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Let’s be honest: there are fewer people out there with six-packs than Pinterest would lead us to believe. And frankly, I’m not sure if that many of us want to be totally ripped anyway. I would just like to climb up a few flights of stairs without wheezing or fit into my favorite pair of slacks without sucking in my tummy.

But how to motivate ourselves? If you’re like me, then you know that body shaming yourself into it won’t work. You may succeed for a couple weeks, but you’ll eventually give up and feel worse than ever before. Believe me: I’ve been there more times than I can count.

Our culture doesn’t exactly help. I like shopping at Victoria Secret as much as the next girl, but those models have bodies that just aren’t achievable for the average woman. So, here is a list of some items that help me motivate myself to work out and to take better care of myself when I don’t feel like it:

1. Look to Your Role Model

Something that helps motivate me is to think of my health role models. For me, it’s my mom and aunt. They’re both built very similarly to me, and while there’s a good 30 years between us, they hover around the same weight as I do (despite having two kids apiece). When we all go swimming together, it’s not that they look like 25-year-olds in bikinis — they don’t need to. They’re healthy women who have treated their bodies right their whole lives, and it shows. When I see them, it reminds me that I’m capable of taking care of myself that well too.

This can be a slippery slope because we often fall into trying to make ourselves into someone else. That’s why it’s important to pick someone who already shares traits and body types with you. If you don’t have someone in your life like this, that’s okay. However, rather than going to standard fashion magazines where everyone is photoshopped, try to look for magazines centered around women’s health instead. One company’s magazine that I really like is called Title IX. They create athletic apparel, and what I love about looking through their clothing options is that all of the models look happy, trim, and healthy — and all at weights that feel achievable for my body type.Read More »

Ad Spotlight: The Emily Program

Have you ever seen an ad that gets you right in the gut? Recently, I was driving to my parents’ house and saw the below billboard:

Emily Program Billboard
Courtesy of The Minneapolis Egotist

What Makes it Great

As someone who has known several friends battle through anorexia, I know that the lack of understanding is often the biggest hurdle. One friend who shared her story with me said that a lot of her struggle had nothing to do with losing weight at all: it was about control over her body, and therefore, some semblance of control over her life. This crucial need for understanding why is something so many people battle, not just those with eating disorders. The text’s simplicity conveys the specialists’ warm and caring attitudes; additionally, The Emily Program’s main color is the same vibrant orange. Read More »