Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"Body Liberation"

(Jessica Ramaker Photography)

I came across two posts(#1 and #2) on Ander Wilson's Instagram account about Body Liberation and Postpartum Depression. I'm not postpartum but I do battle with depression and anxiety. Her words grabbed at me and I haven't been able to stop thinking about them.

Ander talks about a period of empowerment and "body liberation" that she experienced after she gave birth to her first child. Things like fussing about her clothes, makeup, and hair became less worthy of her energy and power as her focus shifted to being a mother. At the same time, she was also experiencing postpartum depression. As she was working through this, she started to become more aware of her body image again. This made her stop and wonder if this "wokeness" she had experienced was truly growth or a symptom of her postpartum depression. 

I think the distinguishing detail has to do with what she describes at the beginning of the second post, "What I do know is this: I had lost interest in things that I enjoyed, and instead of recognizing this as a symptom of depression, I interpreted it as being woke, as having "done the work" to the point where there was no work left to do."

The last two to three years I have experienced something similar to what Ander describes as "Body Liberation." I haven't been on any kind of fad diet in years. I track my food but I have no intentions of hitting macros, caloric intake, etc. I essentially do not limit any foods and eat whatever the f*ck I want. I go bare-faced every single day even with all the ridiculous acne and scarring that has surfaced in the last few years. I rarely put makeup on unless I want to for a special occasion. I wear that as a badge of honor, but should I? I don't fret over putting together outfits anymore. I've pared down my wardrobe to "boring" basics. I need function and comfort and anything beyond that is more effort than I care to put forth. I wash my hair twice a week and can't be bothered to put any time into styling it. A few (generous) pumps of Moroccan Oil and I'm out the door. No hot tools, no brushes, no extra product. I'm proud and unapologetic of my natural and sometimes wild, frizzy curls. I've often struggled and wondered if it truly is growth that I have experienced or if it is a manifestation of feeling insecure or bad about myself. 

Here's the thing...the icky, raw, vulnerable, embarrassing stuff that I don't want to write about but I'm going to because maybe you've been there too...Sometimes, I feel less than a woman because of this. Sometimes, when I go out with my friends, I feel like a schmuck. I want to make myself small and insignificant so that nobody will notice me and therefore cannot compare me to the people or person I am with. I project my insecurities onto my friends, too! I start assuming that they are judging me just like I assume everyone around us is. Or I think things like "She just invites me to tag along as wing-woman because she's prettier than me..." I project this bullshit onto my partner and it makes me not want to go to events with him because I'm afraid people will think that he's "dating down." I sometimes wonder if people who know me well "pity" me because they knew who I was before I was "this." But this isn't all the time. I have plenty of days where thoughts like this don't cross my mind at all.

There's part of me that is genuinely stoked that I don't have to spend time doing shit I don't want to do, like doing my hair! I spent five or six years of my life working in the beauty industry and I loved every single morning that I woke up early to spend an hour or two getting ready. I loved playing with products, playing with outfits, and playing with my hair. Nowadays, that's just not realistic. Getting dolled up is still fun for me but only in small doses. Other things have taken priority for me like sleep. I don't have the same amount of energy now that I did then either. I'm also not out in the dating scene and my partner prefers me fresh-faced and au natural - bless his heart. 

I go back and forth between, "This is a bunch of bullshit blah blah blah screw conforming to societal standards blah blah blah..." and "I hate feeling like the ugly duckling." 

I don't know if it comes from a place of "wokeness." 

I don't know if it comes from a place of insecurity.

Maybe it's both. 

I don't really know the answer to any of this or that an explanation is necessary but it's something I've been struggling with mentally and I felt inspired to put myself out there. 

The older I get, the more I realize I am not alone. My experiences are not that "unique" and I find comfort in connecting with content that makes me feel that way. I am so grateful to Ander for being willing to be vulnerable with her audience and share her thought process and experience with this. If you have experienced something like this or are trekking through it right now, please reach out and share it with me. I don't want to walk alone. 
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Monday, October 29, 2018

Three Years Debt Free! Financial Update


It has been three years since I’ve paid off my $9,000 mound of credit card debt in October of 2015. I haven’t posted about anything related to money since then but I’m proud to say that I am still credit-card debt free! A lot has happened. I paid off the rest of my car loan (around $5,000) eight months later. I accumulated $5,500 in emergency savings by the end of 2016. I have paid down my student loans by over $20,000. Another $6,000 and I’ll be completely debt-free! 

Money Management

The way I manage my money has evolved now that I’m not in a situation where I’m living paycheck to paycheck to pay my bills. The Matt Budget helped me manage every dollar on a micro-level which was completely necessary at the time. Now that I’m (mostly) out of the red, I have more freedom and flexibility. My current system sets me up for “automated growth;” it’s the same system Luke uses for managing his money. I’m growing very, very slowly at the moment because I’m focused on eliminating the rest of my student loan debt. More on that later. 

Credit Cards

I had about eight or nine credit cards when I started this journey. I am now down to four cards as a result of banks closing them due to inactivity or because I made the decision to close those cards. What I will say for now is that I don’t think anybodyneeds more than one or two credit cards and that in certain circumstances, closing cards really won’t affect your score that much. I will make a separate post about credit scores and the factors that affect them at another time. 

As far as credit card usage goes, I didn’t use any of them for a very long time. Now, I use only one card for very specific purchases. I do not carry this card with me on the regular. Some might say it’s a slippery slope (Luke does not approve) but so far, it’s working for me. I do not swipe that card unless I know I have the cash in my bank account to immediately pay it off. 

Work in Progress

It would be dishonest of me to sit here and tell you that I never make any money mistakes anymore. I still have a spending problem that I am working on. In the system I use now, I have a set amount of money each paycheck that is specifically for “fun” spending and I run it into the ground before the next paycheck arrives. It’s about $272 every two weeks. I know that my unnecessary spending usually comes from the need to fill some kind of void. I’m still doing a lot of mental/personal work on this. I’ve also become very conscious of the amount of waste I create, which has been a big help in curbing the urge to spend money on material items. The majority of my fun spending goes to restaurants, skincare, and gifts.

When I run my fun spending into the ground, I don’t have the freedom to say “yes” to experiences when they come up. I also don’t have the ability to “splurge” on something special for myself when I come across it. It comes down to making short-term sacrifices to give myself more choices in the future. 


I am currently focused on the elimination of my student loans which is just under $6,000. At the rate I’m paying them off – about $700 a month – they should be gone within the next nine months or less. Once that is taken care of, I’m eager to start building up my emergency fund a bit more and shifting my focus to investing.

I am so grateful for how far I have come, what I have conquered and accomplished, the challenges ahead, and the direction my life is moving in. Life is so different when you choose to believe that you have control instead of choosing to believe that you are helpless. 

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

HealthyWholeBeautiful Financial Post Throwback

The following post was written back in December of 2015, shortly after I had paid off my credit card debt. I'm not sure why I didn't post it but I think it's important to share where my mind and life was at that point in time instead of jumping into an update post three years later. My perspective has shifted on many things I touch on in this post but I hope you find some value in my thoughts from 2015!

My Debt is Gone. What Now? 

Recently, I came across a finance article on the Mr. Every Day Dollar blog about something called "Lifestyle Inflation." He defines Lifestyle Inflation as the behavior of increasing your spending as a result of an increase in your income. I have always been guilty of this but I had no idea because I wasn't mindful of what it was until now.  

Obviously for the last few years up until October of 2015, the only spending that ever increased was the amount I was going to put towards my credit card payment to clear my debt. I haven't had a raise since I started this job but once that credit card debt was gone, I suddenly had $1000 a month that was now free for spending! It certainly felt like I had given myself a raise. Where was all that money going to go now? I could go shopping and buy many of the things I've wanted to buy but put off to reach my goal of paying off my credit cards. I could start throwing more into my retirement savings or investing it in some other way. What do you think sounds more appealing to me, the Shopaholic? 

Without a plan and without discipline, my spending habits get out of control. I haven't been perfect since I paid off my credit card debt. I splurged $200+ on some fancy workout clothes right off the bat and spent more than I would have liked to on dining out in that first month. But for the most part, I've stuck to the spending habits that I've had for the past year that aligned with my goal. Here is a list of some of the things I'm still not spending my money on: 

  • Booze
  • Manicures & pedicures
  • Clothing (with the exception of my early splurge)
  • Coffee (I’m making it at home)
  • Makeup (Quality over quantity)
  • Cinema (I never liked going to the movies to begin with)
  • Cable
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Backup products (I only buy things right before I run out)
  • Shaving Cream 
  • Junk Food

Once I gave up or cut down on these things, I found I didn't really miss them all that much. They are things I might splurge on every once in a while, but I won't be spending money on them regularly. So, what am I doing with that extra $1000 a month? 

Groceries. I've beefed up my grocery budget significantly. One of the hardest things I had chosen to give up spending money on was organic, locally grown/raised, grass-fed, etc. foods. I switched to conventional to keep my food costs low. Now, I don't have to do that. I can feed my body with things I feel better about. 

Dining Out. Food is my “thing.” Anyone who knows me well enough understands this. I rarely go to concerts, bars, movies, or watch TV. I’m willing to splurge here because sharing a great restaurant experience with my friends and family is gives me more joy than any of those things. 

Personal Care. I'm spending a little extra money on personal care like skincare products and facials. It’s how I pamper myself without feeling like I’m being frivolous because I’m just taking better care of myself. All that has changed is that I now get a facial every few months and I use two or three extra products that I had given up while I was stashing cash for paying off the credit cards. It’s like a trade-off for not spending much money on makeup. 

Charity. I significantly reduced what I was giving to charity. "You have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else," was certainly logical to apply while paying down my debt.  

Savings. I don't have an emergency fund so setting a good chunk of money aside is a no-brainer. I want to feel confident that if my car were to need repairs or a replacement or if my living situation were to change, I could walk out of that without sweating the money. When life happens and money isn’t an issue because you’ve made smart choices, it’s easier to take better care of your mental/emotional self.  

What about retirement? I always forget to bring attention to this because I have my IRA through my employer and already have contributions set up. Until I have a good emergency savings established, I don't see any reason to beef up my retirement savings. 

With time, my spending will change as my life situation changes. There isn’t some secret formula that I used to decide what I “should” spend my money on and what I “shouldn’t.” There is no “one size fits all” either. It really comes down to my personal priorities. These are the things I’m prioritizing right now they will likely change as I’m adjusting to my new "available income.”  

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