Bills, bills, bills

I feel really old posting about finances. Ha!

a simple year‘s theme last month was money. I initially scoffed at the theme, because I generally consider myself good with finances. I could understand debt like student loans or mortgages… but I honestly couldn’t fathom how people could max out their credit cards and only make minimum payments each month by splurging on luxuries like nights out, vacations and shopping.

I wasn’t always so good with money, though. When I was an undergrad, I had a scholarship which provided me with my allowance. I remember being surprised that I had no more money left when I tried to withdraw one time. That was before online banking, and after the wake up call that spending money can be super easy and quick, I’ve been a lot more vigilant.

I’m one of those people who records each and every expense. I reconcile my accounts weekly. It gives me a better sense of where I am financially and where my money goes, as well as gives me a reality check not to throw my money away. It’s been working so far, I think! 🙂

Anyway, I realised I have to tighten my belt a bit more lately. It’s always hard to balance saving with living, isn’t it? I like how money enables me to enjoy life, but at the same time I know I have to make sacrifices for my future. Earlier this year, I was reviewing all of my utility providers and switching to cheaper options. I’ve recently switched my mortgage provider, too. (Somehow, when I was younger, I never realised that being an adult involved things like that… haha.) I’m also closing some of my subscriptions to stuff like Headspace and Smugmug and trying to find free alternatives.

It’s insane how these little things add up, and I have to be more conscious of where my money goes. I’m already pretty good with bringing lunch with me most days, and I’ve never been much for shopping. But I think I’ve been a bit lax about throwing money around lately, and being more intentional with my purchases should help with that.

At the end of the day, though… money isn’t everything. I need to remind myself that having such a close scrutiny of my spending and guilting myself when I spend a bit more than I should isn’t healthy, either. I think I need to find that balance where I am truly happy with not wanting a lot or spending a lot rather than overspending on a strict budget and beating myself up about it.

Balance, balance, it’s all about balance.

(I’ve just paid for a year’s worth of hosting and domain registration, maybe I should move to a free option next year?)

On jewelry

As part of my minimalism thang, I got rid of most of my jewelry. None of it was valuable. It was cheap, gawdy stuff I bought years ago that I didn’t see myself wearing again. The funny thing is, I’m not a jewelry person at all. I’ve got these crazy tiny wrists so most bracelets and bangles are too big, I feel awkward wearing necklaces and I usually forget to wear earrings.

The thing I noticed with getting rid of stuff is that sometimes, I end up needing to replace it! Haha! But in contrast to the past, where I would get something just because it was cheap and looked cute, I decided it was time to build up a proper collection of pieces that I would see myself using regularly (and to pass on to my future kids when it comes to that, heh).

In case someone’s curious and is also looking for nice, affordable, everyday pieces, I bought:
Gold circle studs from Ernest and Joe
Silver tough love earrings from Lucy Folk

I recently got my hands on some earrings I inherited from my grandmother. When she passed away years ago, I found out she was leaving me, her only granddaughter, all her jewelry. When I first found out about it, I was touched at the gesture, but I don’t think I really appreciated it as much back then. As I said, I wasn’t really a jewelry person.

But now… I’m more selective of the material possessions I keep around me, and more appreciative of where things come from and the story behind them. And these earrings are special. When I put them on, I imagined how she must’ve chosen those earrings and worn them. She wasn’t rich, by any means, and these wouldn’t have been a frivolous purchase.

I like things with stories. Sometimes people say all you need are memories, but memories fade. I am happy that I can have something to remind me of her everyday.

I don’t need a grand start

That’s what I’ve learned over a couple of decades of living. (I realise I have quite a number of these life learnings, now.) I remember, when I was in high school, a friend of mine told me he couldn’t join the track team yet because he wanted to start running again first. We didn’t have tryouts for the track team — anyone could just join, and as long as you were dedicated to practice you made the team. I found it bizarre. It was like saying I couldn’t join a book club because I had to read a ton of books first.

Anyway, I know I haven’t been writing here in a while, but I figured… I don’t need to make a grand re-entry back into updating this. I know I can sit and stew for weeks on the “perfect” blog post but… I’ll just go ahead and do it now. I’m writing this and it’s nearly midnight and I’ve had a long day. But I want to get into the habit of writing again… and putting this out there, no matter how raw and incoherent, is a great first step, methinks.

Which leads me into another related thing.
So my life this past year has been quite uneventful. OK, so I went on a holiday overseas (my first trip to Europe, yay!) and I’ve had a lot of great times with people around me. But things have been steady. A bit boring. Routine.

I figured it was time for change.
So I made one! And now I’m a bit worried because I don’t know how things are going to pan out. My friend told me that I should savour this time because it’s rare that we truly get periods of uncertainty. But I’m still scared.

And I realised that I’m never scared anymore. I haven’t been scared in a while. I haven’t been learning anything truly new and I haven’t ventured out of my comfort zone. For example, I still do a lot of dance. While I learn new routines and push myself in class, it’s still within my comfort zone of lyrical. So a couple of months ago, I tried a Brazilian partner dance, Forro. It was different. I stumbled a lot of times. I’ve never done a partner dance before. I don’t know if I’m sticking with it but it made me realise I’ve got a nice comfortable bubble around me. I’ve become a very predictable creature of habit.

I need to break out of this nice, comfortable, homey groove I’ve set out for myself.

On blogging/writing

I’ve been shutting down my old blogs. I’ve been saving archives, though realistically I have no idea when I’m ever going to dig them out again and read through all my adolescent drama (and then some).

It made me miss about how candidly I used to write about things, but I have to remember why I stopped.

Well, for one, I used to put too much of myself online. I got weirded out when someone approached a high school friend of mine and told him he knew him from my blog. Or people online would say we were friends and that we met in such-and-such a place but I had no idea who they were. It’s different now… everyone wants to become a social media influencer and get the most number of likes and followers. Young people! (Haha!) I can’t imagine myself talking about boyfriends and fights with parents and depressive moments as much as I used to. I cringe at the thought.

Second, the “writing for an audience” thing was getting to me. I felt like I had to write about everything… I would be out and be mentally composing my blog posts. I felt like I had this persona I had to live up to. Not really an ideal way to live.

But yeah, I miss writing. I write in my (physical) journal, but that’s mostly a gratitude journal, and I miss writing about my everyday. After going through my previous blogs, this one feels like a watered-down version of me — it’s a blog “where I talk about my minimalism journey” (oh man that word feels so pretentious) for crying out loud. But it’s a conscious decision I’ve made — I’m a lot more private now, where I only share my deepest thoughts with my closest friends.

But, as with taking photos, there is a balance somewhere.