Jun 23, 2016

Spending Freeze - It Is Time!

So you know how I went from full time to part time this year, in order to focus on freelancing?  Well, despite having enough work to keep me busy, I haven't quite managed to attain my prior salary (understatement).  I'm not upset about that, because it's only natural and my client base is still building, BUT I've finally hit a troubling truth.

I gotta stop spending.  I've been completely ignoring my reduced salary and continuing to shop the way I did with a 9-5 and my bank accounts are finally making it clear that that's not a sustainable pattern.  I've also been mixing my business income and my personal money together pretty freely and it's also time for that to end.

So here's my spending freeze rules.

1. No Eating Out

For me, personally.  Totally allowable as a date night, because the joint account does what the joint account wants!

2. No Personal Shopping

Sorry, Amazon.  It looks like you and I are on a break.  Again, household purchases and things for the dogs are fine, because that's joint account money (and Ryan approves it first, obviously).  But clothes, makeup, and little optimizer things for myself are all out.

3. No Impulse Buys and Exceptions Planned

If there seems to be a legitimate reason to purchase something, put it on the "Stuff Jenn Wants" list and sit on it for a week or so, then decide.  Also, I was set to do this hard core and then realized I have at least 3 occasions when the freeze will be broken, so it'd be silly to pretend it won't.  But other than the following, I'll do my best to avoid extra expenses: 1) Concert tomorrow with a friend 2) Family vacation for the week after - I should pitch in for groceries and I'm sure there will be activities to pay for 3) NJ Blate in July

4. Business != Personal

Now that I have a business bank account, it's time to keep that money separate from my personal stuff and to save it for business purchases and taxes.  I might pay myself out of it occasionally, but only if there's surplus.  Also, keep business expenditures within the range of what that account can cover.  No more credit and then paying it with personal money.  My business might not be able to pay for all my expenses but at least it can pay for itself!

5. Re-Establish Bank Account Baseline

I'd like to get my accounts back to where they're comfortable before ending this spending freeze.  If I'm good and nothing unexpected happens, that should take 2-3 months.  Of course, there's a good chance I'll be due for 60,000 mile maintenance and life always have curveballs, so we'll see.

6. And Then Budget

Oh budgeting!  What a tumultuous history we've had.  I've tried this several times and failed, pretty consistently.  So I think I'll start this attempt by just tracking purchasing for a month, and then setting budgets based on that, rather than pulling numbers out of the air.  Undecided yet if I want to use Mint (which has a beautiful layout, but I rarely check often enough to be useful), or do it manually with Google Docs or iSpending or some other app.  Anyway, I have time for this since I need to get through the freeze first.

And that's it!  Wish me luck.

Have you done a spending freeze?  How did it go?  Do you feel like a "freeze" actually prevents you from spending money or do you tend to just wait until it's over and then buy what you wanted during the freeze?


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Jun 21, 2016

29 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me Part 1

To celebrate my 29th birthday (an age that fills me with a strange combination of "Omg, I'll be entering a new decade soon" and "Thank god I'm finally an adult.") on the 29th of June (a combination that Dani pointed out to me only happens once), I'm going to continue my oversharing ways and find 29 new things that you (Internet friends) probably don't know about me.  Since 29 is a lot of things, I'm splitting it into 2 posts, 15 things and 14 next week.  And, like the birthday itself, this really can't be repeated, as I will be out of new information after this.

Sorry, family, but you already know everything, so you can't really play this game.  For everyone else, let's go!

1. I used to be afraid of dogs

Right up until adopting Luke, actually.

2. I have an ex boyfriend who is now a woman

Actually, some of you do know this, but still crazy, right?  And I haven't said this enough, but good for her!  I don't have any bitterness anymore, but it is still confusing to think about sometimes.

3. If you eat something I've baked, chances are I have licked the spoon at some point

Sorry... but not really.  I mean, I'm pretty sure germs die at 350+ degrees!

4. I almost failed out my senior year of high school

AND I pushed the limit for total number of absences permitted.  To say I lost interest would be an understatement.

5. I was, somehow, still allowed to be a peer mentor

We worked with the special education class and it was awesome!  We basically got to play card games and teach the girls Miss Mary Mack and go bowling every other Friday afternoon instead of going to class to help the kids prepare for Special Olympics.

6. I can rarely wear mascara because I'm really bad about pulling eyelashes and it would just accentuate the gaps

Sometimes just subconsciously while I'm reading and sometimes in order to get the mascara off in the first place.  How do you guys get your mascara off?  I need a better way!

7. I have been held up at gunpoint

Honestly, we were kind of asking for it with the stupid decisions we were making at the time.

8. I used to have a fake ID

Actually it was a real ID - it just wasn't mine.  We found it in the street one day and the woman on it looked enough like me that it was usable.  She was also half a foot shorter, 60 pounds lighter, and had blue eyes, but somehow no one ever called me out on this.

9. I am just about 200 pounds

I'm tall-ish (5'9") and people rarely believe that I weigh this much, but there you have it.  I have a couple of family members who, when gossiping about heavy people, would say things like, "She's gotten so big!  She's almost 180 pounds" and the shocked tone of voice would indicate that they couldn't even imagine a weight heavier than that.  It bothered me at the time, because I was 180 pounds and what did that say about me?  But now that I've exceeded their wildest imaginings, I've made peace with it.

10. I dropped out of college and supported myself and an unable-to-hold-a-job ex for 9 months on a waitress salary

Then we went into debt and begged our parents to let us come back home.  Best decision I ever made, seeing as my parents forgave me and helped me go back to school.

11. I am not modest

Despite years of insecurity about my body, I am perfectly comfortable changing in front of friends, walking around naked (in the privacy of my own room), and even modeling for a figure drawing class (though I was admittedly nervous for that one until I got my clothes off).

12. I had a pet rock in high school

Raqueesha was one of my locker pets.  Two friends and I shared a locker and we decorated with drawings, and had a basket hanging on the coat rack with my pet rock and some tiny stuffed animals.

13. I used to have some skillz at bowling and pool

As in I have actually had a couple games with no open frames (all strikes or spares), and our pool games involved combos and different sets of rules depending on whether we were playing strangers or friends.  This is all lost to me now, along with my conversational Spanish (it was more like babytalk, but good enough to flirt!).

14. I was adamant about not having kids until...

I honestly don't know when I changed my mind about having kids.  Maybe when my friend had my goddaughter, who was the most amazing and perfect child ever and blew my 19-year-old mind.

15. I beat my class at and competed in a tournament for Math 24 in 6th grade

I've never understood people who don't like math.

Look for the rest of the list next week on the 29th!  I'll be away but I'm going to try to find ridiculous, silly things to do to celebrate this auspicious occasion, despite being on vacation.

What are some things I don't know about you?


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Jun 14, 2016

Bag o' Books

I was really good this month and read/listened to only library books (though I did buy one to read later).  And I'm glad, because how would I have known how gorgeous the covers of Inkspell and Inkdeath are if I hadn't picked up a hard copy?  I didn't read all that much, compared to some of my past months, but then again the Inkheart series is pretty long.  Looking forward to getting started with my own books!

♥♥♥♥♥ - Loved



Inkspell (paper)

I thought Inkheart was ok - a fun story but a little slow at parts.  Inkspell blew me away.  I'll admit; it almost became a do not read after trying to listen to it on audiobook, but that's my fault.  I can't listen to fiction - I have to read it for myself.  But after picking up a copy at the library, I was fascinated.  I love the world inside the book.  I love how they're able to interact with the world and change it, even though they're living inside of it.  It took a while to read (635 pages, yo), but I loved it and I am totally read to dive into the next one.



♥♥♥♥ - Liked


Inkdeath (paper)

So I'm not sure I'm being 100% fair to Inkdeath, because I got a little busier while I was reading it and had a pretty long hiatus a few chapters before the ending.  But even with all that, it was a definite 4 star, and possibly a 5 if it had had my full attention.  There were a couple things that annoyed me that hadn't bugged me in the previous one (Orpheus features pretty heavily and I can't stand him and while the emotions the characters are experiencing make sense, I didn't want to hear about them over and over and over again), but overall still a good story and very satisfying conclusion.

 

I Am America (And So Can You!)  (audiobook)

This was full of laughs and I was disappointed when it ended (it's only 3 hours long).  When I started, I was actually thinking, "I don't know about this, Colbert.  I'm not sure I'm in the mood for your shenanigans."  But it didn't take long for me to accept that it was utterly ridiculous and silly and more amusing than it probably should have been.  I'm tempted to share all the jokes here, but I'll let you discover them for yourselves.  Just keep in mind that the whole book is Colbert continuing his character from the show, in an over-the-top satire of the American conservative.


Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (audiobook)

I knew from the beginning that this would be good.  It was silly and fun and I laughed out loud.  I kind of like that NPH isn't pretending to dispense wisdom (although I LOVE what he says when he's talking about his coming out experience and being a role model.  "Show, don't tell.") - he admits that it's one of many self-serving celebrity autobiographies and then makes it totally his own with the fun formatting.  Unlike a couple of the others that I've read, I didn't feel like he was trying to make it more than what it was - a fun way to tell his story - AND he went in chronological order which was a lot easier to follow than the ones that jump around.  The parts I found most interesting: his experience as a child actor and coming to terms with his sexuality, plus dealing with the public and their insatiable nosiness.


Invasion of the Tearling (paper)

I said I wasn't going to read the rest of this series because the first book was really just kind of meh, up until the end.  But then  I did pick up the 2nd one (from the library!) and had exactly the same experience.  The main character had a lot of growth towards the end of the first book, but at the start of the second one, she's somehow overshot becoming a confident adult and went straight into becoming arrogant and cruel.  I liked her less and less throughout the story, until the very end when it seemed like maybe she realized what a douche she was becoming.  Plus there were some historical flashbacks that didn't make much sense and revolving chapters from other people's points of view that didn't feel very connected, until the end.  And then it all came together and made me want to read the last one, which, sadly, isn't out yet.  Isn't that always the way?

♥♥♥ - Ambivalent-ed

None here!

♥♥ - Mildly Disliked



Eat That Frog! (audiobook)

Meh... I think this was more targeted to people who are already on task 99% of the time and just need help prioritizing more important tasks.  It also seemed like a narrow definition of success (if it's not working toward your career, it's a waste of time!).  Overall I just wasn't feeling it and the advice didn't feel super revolutionary.  Basically don't procrastinate, and do your important tasks first.  The first chapter of that book tells you how to prioritize and then the rest is just further elaboration on a topic that probably didn't need it.  Plus he says "EAT THAT FROG" over and over to the point that it started making me wince.

 - Did Not Finish or Wanted to Burn in a Fire


And these are rare anyway, but none here.  :D

Currently...

I jumped into one of my currently owned books, Physics of the Impossible, which is about the crazy technologies in science fiction and how realistic they are compared to the laws of physics as we know them.  It is an interesting read, but my brain has to be all the way turned on for it, so I was weak and picked up another fun fantasy book to alternate (The Wise Man's Fear).  I'm also currently listening to Big Magic, which I got on audiobook from the library, and I have thoughts!  But I'll wait until I'm actually finished to talk about it with you all.

What have you been reading?  Have you read anything from my list and what did you think?  Do you use the library or buy your own?


Linking up with Steph and Jana
Life According to Steph

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Jun 9, 2016

Reeeeeeminiscin' - A Cheesy Post

When I was talking about all my favorite web comics, someone mentioned The Bloggess, and I suddenly remembered that she was my very first blog read.  Technically, I suppose, it was Hyperbole and a Half or The Oatmeal or XKCD, with varying degrees of accuracy on whether those sites constitute a "blog" but The Bloggess was the very first person I read who just put whatever words on the page she wanted to and people cared!  She was weird, and random, and funny, and made me wonder what else was out there.

I searched through Wordpress and found a couple other blogs, but mostly just stuck with The Bloggess and Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.  Then, by random chance, Sister2 sent me a link to Arkansassy's post about "real women" and I realized, "Holy crap!  There's a whole social world out there."  I hopped from sidebar to sidebar, at first only finding bloggers with so many commenters they couldn't really make real friendships (not with everyone), but eventually landing in my niche and finding a group I could really mesh with.

It's silly now, but I was so freaking nervous to leave my first ever comment.  I think it was on a post by Insert Classy Here, or maybe Avoiding Atrophy (who was so adorable - she was like my celebrity crush.  Blogger crush?  Is that a thing?), and I reformatted it like 20 times before posting.  Then I waited, refreshing the page every couple of hours to see if she would respond.  She never did, and, as I continued to comment on other, different blogs, I realized very few people did.

Finally, The Daily Tay explained to me about the whole responding by email thing, and that just blew my poor little brain.  From there, I dove completely into the "how to blog" world and learned all about things like sidebars, blogger profiles, Wordpress vs Blogger, how to make tweaks to the freebie templates, and so on.  I followed Helene in Between and Venus Trapped in Mars and soaked in every bit of blog advice I could find.  It was exciting, and not really scary anymore, and in a way I almost miss that.  Even though I was super impressionable and got caught up in the stats, and optimizing your posts for Pinterest, and all that other BS, it was just very thrilling.

Now my blog kind of feels like an old worn shoe.  I'm very comfortable in it, and I occasionally take some pride in it, but it's never getting that thrill back.  Not without some kind of drastic change, or decision to monetize.  But it's nice to remember the beginning, and I mention all the names because it's kind of fun to see the path I took, from blogs with hundreds of comments and enough pageviews that they don't need day jobs anymore, to this little niche of practical people with real lives who blog just because they like to write and make online connections.

I also read my first couple of posts.  I've deleted the ones that make me cringe, or that belong on the business blog, but even the ones that are just ok sound like a different person.  I think I was different, and I spent a lot of time looking for friends or social connections and I really didn't expect blogging to provide that, but it has and more.  When I write dumb shit like this, you guys actually read it and actually care.  We have conversations about things that I don't even want to bore my family with, and we discuss things near and dear to my heart that some IRL friends don't even know because our in-person conversations never get much deeper than the surface.

That first post ever?  It was resolutions for 2012.  I'm going to list them here:
  1. Finish all personal design projects left from preceding year; eliminate the ominous feel of projects too long left undone
  2. Find a design-related career job or way to support myself
  3. Stick to my budget (in 2011 I managed to pay off my credit card; now with additional expenses, ventures, and investments I'm hoping to keep it that way)
  4. Find time every day for work and play and exercise; make the most of each day
  5. Make new friends; expand my network and my personal horizons
  6. Find 3 ways to improve myself
  7. Complete at least one activity from my bucket list
It is almost indescribably satisfying to read these now, because I've kicked so much butt since then.  I have freelance work and I have a part time job that pays the bills.  Debt is so far behind me I barely remember what that was like, and I'm sooo much better at letting projects go when I don't want to work on them anymore.  I've made a bunch of new friends and experimented with all kinds of self improvement projects and crossed off travel goals, life goals, and adrenaline activities from that bucket list.

But I think the biggest difference is mindset.  I feel like I know what I'm doing know.  I write for you guys sometimes, my family occasionally (thought mostly I forget that they read and then blush when my grandmother mentions my profanity), and always for me.  I don't need to read how to tutorials, because I know the advice and I know whether or not I want to take it.

Of course outside of blogging, I do sometimes still feel lost.  Growing up is hard, and realizing that life doesn't always fit your expectations can be disappointing.  But for the most part I've got my ducks in a row and when I do need help, I've built up such a wonderful supply of resources and coping mechanisms to deal with it.

I don't have a great conclusion for this post.  Is it possible to feel grateful and wistful at the same time?  I appreciate my life now and I feel a great deal of gratitude for it, but there's something about a fresh new start and all the trials and tribulations that come along with that blank slate that has a certain allure for me.

Anyway, thanks guys.  You're the best.

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Jun 7, 2016

Jenn Wells's's's's of the World

I joke occasionally about what a common name I have.  I never think people will be able to find me on social media, but somehow they rarely seem to have trouble.  Be that as it may, getting my name to the front page has been just about impossible (I am on the first page for search terms "Jenn Wells Design" though, which is pretty cool and it looks like my twitter is on the first page of results for just my name, which is dumb because I rarely use it).

At one point (when I was trying to find a unique URL for my website), I became curious about these other Jenn (or Jennifer) Wells (no idea how to properly pluralize this) and what entrepreneurial shenanigans they were getting up to.  Here's what I've found.

1. Jennifer Wells - Jewelry and Metalworker

I found this Jenn Wells years and years ago because she took the url I wanted (jennwells.com) AND she doesn't even go by "Jenn" on the website (Um, rude).  But in any case, I thought metal working was pretty cool, as artsy fields go, so this was fun to look at.

2. Jennifer Wells - Art Teacher

This JW had the other URL I considered (jenniferwells.com) but appears to have moved on since I was in the market (6 years ago).  I did think it was pretty amusing that both of the URLs that were just my name were taken by other art-related fields.

3. Jenn Wells - Younique Saleswoman

Ok, cool I guess.

4. Jennifer Foehner Wells - Sci Fi Novelist!

Sooo cool.  I was really excited when I found this one.  Obviously I will have to read one of her books some time.

5. Jennifer Wells - Paranormal Mystery Author

Another writer!

6. Jenn Wells - Etsy Quilter

Interesting...

7. Jennifer Nichole Wells - Photography and Graphic Design

Whaaat?!  Another graphic designer.

8. Dr. Jennifer Wells MD - Gastroenterologist

Alright!

9. Jennifer Wells, DVM - Veterinarian

Save the animals!

10. Jennifer Wells - Public Relations Director

Another artsy one.

I could keep going, but we'll stick with the first 3 pages for each search ("Jenn Wells" and "Jennifer Wells").  How cool is it that over half of them are involved in a creative field?!  I'm going to pretend this is very portentous and that we Jenn Wells are just born with an innate creative ability.  :P

Also, I looked up Jenn Wilson Design (because Ryan and I have a running joke about why I should or should not take his last name), and that URL is taken by a web designer AND she's pretty good.  So maybe I'm better off with my current name/URL/SEO.

Do you know what your namesakes are up to?  Have you ever tried to get a unique URL and what issues did you run into?


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Jun 2, 2016

What's New Knew Gnu Nooooo

What's New(ish)


The Scary Thing

This is old but Luke had a leg spasm thing a while ago, where his whole leg was kicking for well over a minute.  My brain immediately said "Heart attack!  Seizure!" but when I called Lums Pond Animal Hospital they reassured me and told me what danger signs to watch out for.  After it was over I sat on the floor with him and cried for a good 5 minutes despite the fact that there were people downstairs - that's how scared I was.

The Adorable Thing

While she sometimes frustrates us with the ongoing house training, Toast is getting more active and more playful.  My favorite times are when I take her to my parents' house to run in the yard and she flies around in a bizarre splay-legged gallop, before throwing herself into the grass to roll around.  (I had a really cute video for this, but then I destroyed my phone and now I will be uploading nothing for a while.)

The Life Improvement Thing



After thinking about it for months, I finally took over the library/unoccupied 3rd bedroom for my home office and I love it so much!  I feel guilty about "stealing it" because there's 3 of us and the basement is the "computer room," but I think of all of us, I work at my computer the most frequently and I game loudly never, so I'll keep reminding myself of that until the guilt fades.  Every day that I use my computer I'm just awash in happy feelings about this new space.  We also just painted it AND I have a new printer (Goodbye Staples!), so the good vibes are strong.

The Social Thing



We have been seriously social lately.  Normally this much social stuff would spur me into an introverted hibernation, but working from home 3 days a week means I have less social interaction on a regular basis and more energy for other activities.  Cool stuff we've done: Disney trip with family (amazing), Party at the Pen: The Masquerade (a bit anticlimactic), MMRBQ rock concert (it rained but we stuck it out for several hours), and beach weekend!

The Injured Thing

While Disney was amazing, I did have an incident on a water slide.  The immediately alarming thing was a head injury (I slammed it against the side of the tube and lost hearing in one ear for half an hour or so), but after that subsided (and my hearing came back), I started to notice pain in my chest, high on the right side.  I ignored it for a week or so, then tried to do yoga with my mom and completely effed myself up.  Now I'm avoiding all exercise that uses chest or shoulder muscles until this pulled muscle/bruised rib/whatever it is heals itself.  When I googled the various options, they all had the same treatment, so I figure there's no point in getting it officially diagnosed, but patience is not my strong suite and I'm chafing at the prohibition of what was my only consistent exercise routine.

The Business Thing

My clientele has been fluctuating quite a bit - my bread and butter one month is nonexistent the next, BUT I've had a pretty steady workflow overall, and almost always something to work on.  I think the longest I've gone this year without any projects was 2 weeks a month or so ago.  I know I should set more ambitious goals (in order to keep my income on par with my spending), but for now I'm really enjoying my work life balance, and having projects from 3 or fewer clients per week makes it easy to keep up with the invoices.

The Exciting Thing

MY SISTER IS A DOCTOR TODAY!!!  Depending what time you're reading this, I'm either watching her graduate from medical school, or I'm helping her celebrate with family.  So so proud of the hard-working, compassionate woman she turned out to be.

The Upcoming Thing

June is my birthday month (turning 29 on the 29th).  I used to be all stodgy and try to ignore it, because birthdays as an adult tend to suck, but guess what!  They suck a lot more when I try to ignore them, so now I make a big fuss and have more fun.  This month I'll be tackling all (or most) of the happiness suggestions people have made, so I'll be alternately running around trying various exercises, and relaxing with books, art, and bubble baths.  June is also the Read My Books Challenge, and I have a few but these are the ones I've had since 2015 and desperately need to get off my to do list:

What have you been up to?


Linking up with Kristen and Gretchen

What's New With You

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Jun 1, 2016

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 - My Picks


Trying out Erin's book challenge for the first time and I'm super excited!  Especially since we're cleaning out all our old books this month, so it feels like a fresh start.  Here's what I've picked.


Erin's challenge runs on Facebook, too, so if you don't blog, you can still join in!  Challenge starts July 1st and runs until October 31st.

Have you read anything on my list?  If so, what did you think?



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