Getting Out of Debt – Part 3, Aug. ’16

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As the month of August wraps up and the days are finally getting a wee bit cooler I’ve been reflecting on the summer. Since beginning this “Getting Out of Debt” journey a few months ago I’ve paid off thousands in credit card debt and I feel truly, for the first time in my life, in control of my money. Let me tell you, it feels amazing!

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my debt story here and here.

As promised, this month I want to share six actions that I’ve taken to save a whole latta money this summer! These are not your typical “buy in bulk” type tricks. I find that advice doesn’t get to the root of the problem. These tips dive deeper, so grab your snorkel and goggles because here we go!

 1. Shift Your Mindset

This one will take some work. However, shifting my perspective around finances has been the most important part of this journey.

First off, I journal, a lot, in order to get clear on my financial goals. Since my financial goals extend directly from my life goals I ask myself, “What does my ideal life look like? What does my ideal life feel like?” The answer comes to me quickly. I want to be completely debt free and make more than enough money to travel the world. Specifically I want to pay off my credit cards, pay off my student loans, and develop location independent income so that I can make money as I travel. I set a time frame for each of these goals, and make a realistic plan to reach them.

Once your goals are set get excited! Like, dancing around the room excited! You are on track to living your dream life! Each time you think about buying something ask yourself, “Is this how I want to spend my money?” You are in control. For example, I almost always choose to forgo buying more clothes, no matter how great the sale is, because I’d rather use that $50 to spend a couple more days abroad!

Another big part of this mindset shift has been to accept that I have everything I need to survive, to thrive, right now. That brings me to point #2.

2. Stop Buying Stuff

When I excitedly tell my close friends how quickly I’m paying off my credit card debt they inevitably ask, “How do you do it.” My very honest answer is always, “I stopped buying stuff.” This answer is typically met with a chuckle and an eye roll. Yes, it’s stupidly simple, but that’s the beauty of it! I have just strait up stopped buying stuff. Since starting to track my finances (see point 3) I have realized that so much of my money is wasted on totally unnecessary things.

For instance, a few months ago if I walked by one of my favorite clothing stores and they were having a sale I’ll go in and buy something. Just a t-shirt, a pair of earrings, or a skirt here and there. But those little things, they add up. Quickly. Yes, I could be better dressed, but the truth was that the clothes I had were totally fine. I didn’t need new clothes, I was just seduced by the sale signs!

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements trying to convince us that what we have, what we look like, or what we do is not good enough. ALL THE TIME! Especially walking around New York City. I’ve simply stopped paying attention to these advertisements. I no longer buy magazines or watch commercials. They no longer have control over me. When I see an advertisement telling me I “must have” the latest and greatest product I think to myself, “That’s a lie,” and I walk away.

I do, of course, still buy things from time to time. Girl’s gotta eat and have her fun. But now I make informed decisions about my spending and I know exactly where my money is going. That’s where point #3 comes in.

3. Track Your Spending

Track every penny. As the saying goes, what you measure you can change. In order to save more money (or pay off debt) we have to first know exactly where our money is going. I carry around one of those little .99 cent composition notebooks in my hand bag. After every single purchase I write down the date, the amount, and the type of purchase. When I spend $1.12 on a chocolate bar from CVS I get out my pen and notebook and write down the exact amount before leaving the store. Then I review and learn from this information during my “Money Love Days!”

4. Schedule “Money Love Days”

Every two weeks (on or as close to payday as possible) I sit down with my little money tracking notebook and my online bank account summaries. I schedule these “Money Love Days” into my calendar like any other appointment. After inputting that period’s spending into a budgeting spreadsheet that I’ve created on google docs, I compare what I’ve spent to my financial goals.

Looking at my bank account used to be incredibly stressful, but now I look forward to these days! I love seeing how much money I have “left over” from each paycheck. Then, I put a pre-determined portion of my money towards savings and credit cards. Seeing that credit card balance go down every couple weeks feels so good!

5. Make it Visual

I am a very visual person, so creatively depicting my decreasing debt, and placing that visual some where prominent (on my fridge) has kept my momentum up!  I drew a fun, pretty picture with monetary milestones that I color in as I get closer and closer to paying off each portion of my debt. Just last week I paid off my second to last credit card! Coloring in the last bit of that drawing and seeing that I only have one card to go was incredibly motivating.

However, this journey is not always candy and roses. We must always remember, last but not least, point #6.

6. Be Patient with Yourself

Be endlessly patient with yourself. Shit happens. Unexpected expenses will come up. You will look at your student loan (or other debt) and feel despair from time to time. There will be moments when you’ll want to throw in the towel. But, at the end of the day I know, you know, that working hard to get out of debt is worth it. Let’s get this done.

We have dreams to follow!

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And there you have it! Six of the most important actions that have helped me to pay off thousands of dollars in credit card debt this summer. I hope you find these helpful.

I’d love to hear your money saving tips in the comments below!

Love,

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Alan Watts – Why Your Life is Not a Journey

 

I mean, wow! I love this video.

Alan Watts so perfectly describes something about our society that I have been thinking about for years.

At the ripe old age of 14, while in junior high, I remember realizing that everything I’d done since kindergarten was just a step in preparing me for the next thing. And that string of “things” I needed to prepare for seemed to be never ending.

I looked back to the past: I attended preschool to prepare me for kindergarten, kindergarten prepared me for grade school, grade school for middle school, middle school for junior high.

I looked toward the future: junior high was supposedly preparing me for high school, high school for college, college for graduate school, graduate school for my career, my career for my retirement.

It all seemed so planned, so predictable, so unexciting, so meaningless.

Life is this exact moment. This moment is all we have. This moment is where life happens.

Look around you…this moment is beautiful! Let’s experience it with our entire being.

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p.s. Thank you, David Lindberg, for sharing this video.

Free Coloring Pages!

Hey guys! In case you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve added a new page to my website called “Coloring Pages” where I’ve posted two FREE downloadable coloring pages for your coloring pleasure. I hope that you love them as much as I loved creating them!

I’d love to see your art work! Use hashtag #artaffirmationcp and tag me @theevapeterson on twitter or instagram to share!

Infinite Love,

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“Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

 

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Experiments in watercolors – Waves

Today’s experiment in watercolors comes with a quote…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… So throw off the bowlines, said away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sail.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

-Mark Twain

The ocean has always fascinated me. Growing up in the midwest, about as far as a person living in the USA can get from the ocean, I had very few opportunities to actually see it. When I did I was mesmerized.

The ocean reminds me that there is a huge world out there to be explored. Somewhere, on the other side of the blue, there are people just like me looking back. It reminds me that I am a small part of a much larger whole.

It reminds me that we are all connected. This water has been cycled and recycled throughout the earth for billions of years. The energy and carbon that make up my body, my bones, my brain are also part of that cycle.

The cycle of life.

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What Watercolors Have Taught Me in 24 Hours.

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Experiments in watercolor – Tree

Six years ago, during the second semester of my architectural graduate program, I decided to take a watercolor class. I had always admired the delicacy of watercolor paintings, and the luminosity and movement they often embodied. I imagined myself sitting outside with my pallet full of paint, effortlessly painting beautiful landscapes. 

I walked into the first day painting class full of hope and creative excitement, but by the end of the hour I had just one thought.

I. Hate. Watercolors.

You see, as long as I can remember I have been a very precise person. A perfectionist to put it nicely. A control freak to put it bluntly. So when I couldn’t control this water and paint the way I wanted to, it really frustrated me.

My desire for perfection and control runs deep, especially when it comes to academics and my career. Since childhood I have taken school very seriously. Architecture school was no joke. It was intense. We had a huge workload, and were expected to work around the clock to get it done.

For instance, one of my professors would come up to our studio around midnight a few nights a week, and if you weren’t there working he would call your cell phone and ask, “Am I not giving you enough work to do? Where are you?” We stashed cots and bean bags in our studios so we could sleep a couple hours a night without “wasting time” by going all the way home to sleep.

During those six years I spent in architecture school, I averaged about four hours of sleep a night.

I was also constantly stressed out. Not only was school extremely intense, but I had it in my mind that I must be the best. I must be at the top of my class. I wore my perfectionism like a badge of honor.

As you can imagine, all of those late nights and constant stress eventually took a tole on my body. Half way through graduate school I began to have headaches every single day, and soon suffered from chronic migraines. The migraines quickly became debilitating.

I sought medical help, but when my doctor recommended more sleep and reducing my stress I, in my infinite twenty three-year-old wisdom, made the decision that changing my lifestyle. So, she prescribed a few medications. The medications worked, kind of, they helped with my migraines but also came with a slew of side effects.

By the time I finished graduate school in 2011 my body was completely broken. Not only did I still struggle with migraines and panic attacks, but I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. Basically,  my body had been under so much stress and for so long that it could no longer properly regulate the hormones I needed to function like a normal human being.

I had accomplished my dreams, I graduated at the very top of my class and got an excellent job, but at what cost? Today, five years later, I’m still dealing with some of the health problems that I developed during that time.

A big part of finding health and balance has been to give up that perfectionist mentality that in the past I so closely identified with. Now make time relax, to let loose, and I prioritize activities that bring me joy and peace. I’ve learned to do my work, and then let it go instead of redoing it over and over until it’s “perfect.” I’ve learned to stop comparing myself with others, not worrying about who is the “best.” And, most importantly, I’ve learned to be patient and forgiving when I do inevitably overextended myself and get stressed out. I’m a work in progress.

Which brings me back to the watercolors. A couple weeks ago I got the insatiable desire to try watercolors again. I kept reminding myself how much I hated it the last time I tried. I hadn’t picked up a brush since that class, back in grad school, when I got so frustrated. And yet, the desire would not go away.

Yesterday, I finally went to the store and bought some paints. Expecting to become all frustrated and impatient again, I set up my little art space – water, paints, brushes, paper, paper towel – and I attempted to paint a simple tree.

Guys, it was so much fun! I was no longer interested in trying to control the paint. My desire for perfection was replaced with curiosity. I embraced the unpredictable nature of the water. I was patient with it. I loved it! 

That first little tree painting, the one you see above, is far from perfect. But, I had so much fun creating it that really I couldn’t care less about what the finished product looks like. 

For me, the key to happiness is enjoying the process. Because everything is in process. Everything around us is constantly changing. Trying to tightly control my work and my life almost destroyed me, but this watercolor experiment has shown me just how far I’ve come in the past few years. It’s shown me just how much I’ve grown.

Now, I treat life more like a watercolor painting. I go with flow.

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3 Must Read Books for Creative Enterpenuers

sketch_booksI recently asked one of my favorite humans, the one and only Tiffany Han, what her top book recommendations are for those of us embarking on a life of creative entrepreneurship.

If you aren’t familiar with Tiffany’s work she is the creative guru behind the amazing podcast “Raise Your Hand And Say Yes.” I have been devouring her work since hearing her interviewed on a friend’s podcast a couple months ago. (You can find a list of all my favorite podcasts here!)

So, without further adieu, Tiffany Han’s must read book list:

1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

I’ve heard Tiffany mention this book time and again on the podcast. McKeown helps the reader to declutter their life and mind by determining what is essential and eliminating everything else. I cannot wait to read this book. My type A workaholic personality is probably the authors target audience. 

2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

According to Ellen Degeneres this book has been used by creative souls all over the world to, “channel creative energy, unlock potential and overcome the fears that stop us from reaching our fullest potential. With courage, following the right formula and working hard, the book proposes that passion can be turned into purpose.” Love it!

3. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

This book is all about breaking down those nagging fears and limiting beliefs that hold us back from following our crazy, creative big ideas.

And that’s it folks! Short and sweet. As I work my way through these books I will definitely keep you updated. I’ll be posting more about my current literary obsession, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Liz Gilbert, very soon.

Do you have other recommendations? If so please let me know in the comments!

All the love,

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