Money, New Year’s Resolutions, and Financial Freedom

I know a lot of people are making finance-related new year’s resolutions this week, so I thought I would share some of the savings/investment tools that have really made a difference for me in the past year. And if you’re reading this after the new year–well hey, it’s never too late to make moves toward financial freedom!
My newest favorite (as of April 2017) is Wealthsimple, which is where I hold my Roth IRA. They let you invest in socially responsible companies and they manage your first $5,000 free. In addition, if you sign up through someone else’s referral, you each get an additional $10,000 managed free for another year. My  link is here: Wealthsimple-Smart Investing.
Update: since Digit is going to start charging $2.99/month for their services starting in July, I’ve decided to stop using them by that time. That may be okay for some people…but I’m cheap enough that that was a deal-breaker for me. =) Just leaving this here for the sake of information.
I started using the (free) Digit savings app in the middle of 2016 (while making very little extra money at the time, by the way) and was able to save about an extra $1000 just through the app. Basically, it transfers very small amounts of money that you won’t miss from your checking account into a savings account. You can withdraw it whenever, but it’s a really great way to save for a large purchase or trip, to finance an emergency fund, pay down debt at a faster rate, etc.
 
I also started using Acorns, which is a lot like Digit but for investments. If you want to invest in a diversified portfolio but don’t have lots of extra money or extra time (or if you just aren’t a seasoned investor), this is a great way to go. It lets you invest amounts as small as $5 at a time and takes the “round-ups” from all of your purchases and turns them into investments. I’m super nerdy about it, but I check the app pretty much every day to see how much I’ve “made” as of that day/month/quarter/etc. I’m still always excited to see the dividends added to my account, even though it’s still a bit surreal to me that I can make money from investing such small amounts at a time.
For those of you who are interested, using my link starts you off with a free $10 in your account ($10 through April and on several other months; otherwise, it starts you with a free $5 instead). Acorns also recently became completely free for college students, so I highly recommend this to those of you still in school. For everyone else, it’s a dollar per month (unless you’ve invested like $50K in which case it’s more like 0.25% or so). My referral link: Acorns.
For people more interested in just cutting daily expenses, I also use Ibotta for grocery savings, which thus far is my favorite of all of the grocery apps I’ve used. I’m pretty frugal anyway, but I was still able to get a couple hundred dollars in grocery rebates back from Ibotta. If you’re interested in signing up, this link will start you with $10 after you claim your first rebate: Ibotta Grocery Coupons.
As someone who grew up stressing about where every penny went and devising ways to make money or cut costs as far back as I can remember, it has honestly been life-changing to have a healthy emergency fund, no credit card debt, and to have started saving for retirement already. I don’t think people really understand the difference unless they have personally been through legitimate financial hardship, but every aspect of life is so, so, so much easier when you are financially stable.

Self-confidence Sunday #6

It can be really empowering for other people to believe in you, but it’s even more important to believe in yourself. As wonderful as it is to have people reassure me of my capabilities when I doubt myself–which I did a lot of in 2015–I also am aware that all the reassurance in the world will not restore my tenacity and fire unless I truly believe what is being said.

When those times do happen and I feel down on myself for whatever reason, I resolve to repeat, “You are more powerful than you can even imagine,” and believe it! This week, I want to step out of my comfort zone and begin to change my life in ways of which I’ve previously only dreamed. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…it looks like it’s time to take that first step rather than fretting about possible forks in the road. After all…What What Beyonce Do?

Self-confidence Sunday #5

This past week, I have really struggled with feeling as though I am not “enough.” Not in terms of my relationship to anyone else, but rather not enough for myself, like I am sub-par according to my own expectations. I feel as though I am not accomplishing as much as I should be, that I am not as dedicated or tough or focused or disciplines as I used to be, and that perhaps I’m wasting my time, my potential. This meme was really helpful for me, and I am going to print it off and look at it every morning as I visualize the “best version of me.” I am determined to accomplish great things in 2016; I want to be proud of myself and who I am, and I never want another year filled with so much doubt and confusion.

When I picture the best version of me, my ideal self, I see a woman who is strong, confident, and capable. She is dedicated to her work, her health, her community, and her family. She is fulfilled through her work and believes she is making a difference, and she makes time to write and run and lift and volunteer and compete in…well, something physical (but she hasn’t quite worked that out for sure yet). She confronts her fear of failure. She is a good friend. She loves hard, and she has finally learned how to clean her damn room and keep it clean.

(That last part may be a bit of a stretch…but perhaps speaking it into existence will do the trick!)

Self-Confidence Sunday #4

As I’ve previously written, my fear of failure has caused me to avoid trying new or intimidating things at various points in my life; thus, this quote really struck a chord with me. Though I often was “the best” at many of the pursuits I did undertake, this quote gave me a new view on those triumphs. I often rose to the top through a mix of natural ability and dogged practice, but it frequently seemed as though winning did not take as much effort for me in comparison, and perhaps not nearly as much effort as it should have. In those instances when I played it safe and took the route most likely to lead to “success,” did I really succeed if I did not learn along my way to gathering trophies? What was really gained by avoiding the scary possibility of failure in favor of the safer guaranteed success? Indeed, I now wish that I had stepped outside my comfort zone more often.

As I continue along my quest of learning to fail–and fail gracefully–this quote gives me the confidence to view those learning experiences as valuable, worthwhile victories. Giving myself permission to fail, to learn from those failures, and to count the resultant learning as success simultaneously gives me permission not to be ashamed of those attempts. I am looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone more often in order to lead a fuller life than I previously would allow.

Self-confidence Sunday #3

Although I am flexible naturally (particularly in my legs), positions such as this take some consistent work to get into comfortably–or as comfortably as as possible, anyway. 😉 I took this photo after coaching a couple Saturday tumbling classes last year, several months before my knee surgeries. I would like to get to this point again, as my oversplits are not this good currently. To do so, I commit to stretching every day (aside from what I get in during coaching) this week to start building that into my daily routine again.

Self-Confidence Sunday #2

Masterpiece Work in Progress

Although I am posting this on a Tuesday rather than Sunday, I am allowing myself to do so (without feeling “guilty” for missing my own deadline) due to the very nature of the quote I am posting. I feel that all too often, we expect perfection from ourselves–and sometimes, without logical reason. This was a wonderful reminder for me that my having areas for improvement does not negate my ability to simultaneously be a masterpiece. Indeed, I plan to enhance my competencies (and…well, those that aren’t competencies yet!) for the duration of my life; is that decision not, in and of itself, the very making of a masterpiece? This week, I plan to use this quote as a reminder to be kind to myself, perfect or not.

Mission: Failure–Challenge Accepted

Nothing Will Ruin Your 20sAs I ponder how to approach the current crossroads in my life, which includes milestones such as completing graduate school, moving back to my home state for the first time since high school (yes, I’m “one of those obnoxious Texans”), and breaking into a new industry, I have begun to focus on what fulfillment means for me personally: What gives meaning to my life? When am I happiest? What do I value most? Which hobbies and lines of work lead to late nights and early mornings, all for the sake of passion about the pursuit? Who do I want to be in five and fifteen years, and how will I want to have made a difference? What do I wish I’d done differently in life thus far, and how will I avoid making similar choices in the future?

A Vanderbilt grad, and perfectionist as far back as I can remember (which–in my ripe old age–I no longer necessarily consider a functional approach to life), I previously spent most of my time doing, achieving, leading, overcoming, winning, learning (fast!), persevering, accomplishing, practicing, competing, drinking a whole lot of coffee during an equal number of sleepless nights…and not nearly enough time celebrating my strengths, traveling, discovering new passions, creating and appreciating quiet moments and (gasp!) spare time, or most importantly: failing. On the contrary, I can recall a number of occasions on which my fear of failure prevented me from trying something new, performing something “old” and well within my ability, or enjoying an experience in its own right rather than approaching it as I would an evaluation–and let’s be real: everything was an evaluation.

If there is anything this blog can and should be about at its core, I hope that it will serve to document my journey toward making peace with the inevitability–and importance–of failure as I work toward building a life filled with meaning and purpose. Only through being willing to fall on my face (literally and figuratively), look a little (or a lot) foolish, risk rejection, and be just plain old fashioned bad at something, will I be able to face my fears, explore what life has to offer, and discover more about myself and my potential than I likely even imagine possible at this moment in time. Thank you, dear readers, for virtually embarking on this journey with me. Enjoy the ride, and keep the wine glass handy: things are sure to get a little bumpy along the way!