Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Budgeting Happiness

money Credit: Images of Money


I have a confession. I like to spend money.

I like to treat myself to a coffee each morning from a local café or coffee shop because it kick starts my day. I like to take the East River Ferry every once in a while because the fresh crisp air in the morning sets my spirits higher than they would be if I was crunched into an overly packed subway cart. And I like to try new— sometimes-expensive activities—because trying new things brings a sense of balance to my life.

Okay, you got me. I don’t like to spend money. I love to spend money. But I didn’t always love spending. I’ve definitely spent money a lot, but I used to look at my bank account the day after a purchase—or the morning after a night at the bar—and regret my monetary choices. I used to HATE spending money, because many times spending money wasn’t bringing me happiness or joy.

Spending money is kind of like dieting. The more you tell yourself to eat less, the more time you spend thinking about food. The more you focus on how you should really spend less, the more you want to shell out the dough.

I’m not here to tell you to spend less. How much you spend is up to you. But I do want to talk about how you feel when you spend money – because this is up to you too. Take a moment to think about what you bought in the last week: Maybe it’s a new shirt, maybe it’s a movie ticket, maybe it’s lunch—I don’t know what it is. But take a moment to think about whatever it is that you bought and ask yourself these questions: “How did I feel after I made that purchase? Did that purchase bring me happiness—or regret for spending money?”

We’ve all heard the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” I only partly agree with this. I don’t think happiness has a price tag, but I do believe that the ways we spend money and what we spend our money on contribute to our overall happiness.

One of the questions I have been asked most often throughout the hobby year has been: “How do you afford all the hobbies?”

Which really leads to a bigger question:

“How can we afford the happy and balanced life that we are seeking?”

For each of us there are certain expenses each month that we just can’t avoid:
In my case it’s rent, utilities, food, and a monthly train ticket. For others it might be a mortgage on the house, car insurance, and dependents.

The aforementioned are necessary expenses.

BUT much like cleaning out our closets from the clothes that we no longer want to wear, we can clean out the unnecessary expenses on our bank statements—the activities or outings or items that aren’t truly extending our happiness—that aren’t satisfying the lifestyle we are hoping to live.

When I moved to NYC in January of 2010, I very quickly realized how easily I could blow $50-$60 in just one night by going to an amateur comedy night on the Upper East Side. With a two-drink minimum as standard, a handful of bills could disappear at dinner alone. And the next morning? I hated myself for spending that money. But why?

As the money in my wallet began to dwindle, I had an epiphany, I realized that the glass of wine or the shot of Bacardi wasn’t satisfying me—that I was wasting money on something I didn’t ACTUALLY enjoy putting into my body. So I stopped drinking. Within weeks, I began to see an incredible difference in my money saved vs. money spent.

Once I gave up alcohol, I began to realize that there were other expenses on my bank account that likely also weren’t satisfying me or bringing me happiness.

Rather than eating out at lunch each day, I began packing my lunch for work; rather than going out to eat for dinner often, I began to cook my own dinners; and rather than buying new workout clothes, I began bringing my old field hockey shirts from high school and college back to New York City with me.

I realized that many times I was going out to eat at lunch because of feelings of laziness in the morning before work. This would actually in turn cost me three-four times the amount of money it would cost me to brown bag it.

This realization was one that made me hate spending money.

So rather than spending money on things that in turn caused me to be upset, I began saving and spending money on activities and things that I felt were helping me to balance and embrace the life that I wanted to live.

I don’t intend to suggest everyone should give up alcoholic beverages, stop buying new clothes, ignore the latest movie releases, or turn the oven on every night—unless you are an amazing cook, in which case, please do turn your oven on every night (and invite me over)!

I also don’t want to suggest that you should stand in front of an item at the store and do a cost/benefit analysis every time you are going to make a purchase.

What I am suggesting is that recognizing patterns in the types of spending that bring you happiness—and the types of things you regret spending money on in the minutes, hours, or days after you make a transaction—can help you to refocus your energy on achieving goals you’re not quite sure how to reach otherwise. The items I listed above just happen to be a few of the sacrifices I’ve been able to make for myself.

I became incredibly passionate about trying new hobbies this past year because of the joy each new hobby brought me , and because of the lessons each new hobby taught me. And because I recognized how much I was benefiting on a personal level and a physical level from each of the new things, I realized just how important it was that I budget, save, and sacrifice to contribute to the happiness I was seeking. If I’m going to spend money, I want to LOVE to spend money—and I want to love what I’m spending on.

IMG_3146

If there’s something you are looking to try, a class you’d really like to take, a trip you are looking to go on, try to start here:

Make a list of what you are spending your money on—then go over that list and eliminate just one thing that isn’t contributing to your health, your happiness, or your balance. Then use this money to help you achieve your goal.

Who knows? You might just fall in love with spending money, too.

Five other ways to save money:

Piggy Bank
 Credit: 401 (k) 2013

1. Invest in a piggy bank—Really. Every time you find coins—save them. Those pennies add up.

2. Look out for deals. If there’s a fitness class you’ve been looking for, a getaway you’re not sure you can afford, or a class you’re looking to take, see if Groupon, Living Social, Zozi, or Yipit has it.

3. Go through your closet and donate the clothes you no longer want to a registered charity. When you make charitable donations, you can receive tax deductions. You may not see the benefit of this immediately, but next tax season you’ll have something to smile about.

4. Piggy Backing on #3: For the holidays, see if you and your family would be willing to go in on a deal to donate the money or you would have spent on gifts or a capped amount of money to a registered charity. This way you’re doing good and receiving a tax deduction in the future.

5. Each week, or even each day, set aside 5-10 dollars. At the end of the month you’ll have your own personal pay check!

Advertisements

The Sweet Life

Posted on

“It’s great that you’re doing more than one hobby a week–it means it’s a lifestyle,” – Kimberly Manley 

When I was growing up, my mom told me I was allergic to chocolate–okay, not necessarily chocolate–but caffeine. I spent birthday parties on the sidelines with the gold Diet Coke can, as opposed to the red regular Coke can. I sat on the sidelines, desperately, as children dove into ice cream cakes that had chocolate crumbles, and I indulged in Swedish Fish–instead of Hershey bars. Even still, I watched Willy Wonka religiously, dreaming that I might, one day, swim, like Augustus in a pool of delicious melted chocolate.

By the time I was 10, I had gone through my fair share of red bumpy breakouts from cheating on my caffeine allergy. I was concerned that I’d never be able to indulge in the sweet satisfaction of a Snickers–but as I now understand, we can outgrow our childhood allergies–and somehow and some way I broke free from my sad, unsweetened childhood, and right into a sweet lifelong addiction–of chocolate.

Someone once asked me if there was a type of chocolate I didn’t like–and I said, “Are you crazy? I don’t discriminate against chocolate. That would be silly. You can set me  up on a blind date with whichever, and I’ll be quite content. Add peanut butter to any of it–and I’ll be in heaven.”

It’s amazing that I reached the age of 24, without ever having made chocolate myself. Post half-marathon 2012, my friends all came over, melted chocolate and covered an assortment of goodies for me as a treat for completing my half-marathon–as well as for having gone three months without chocolate to aid in my training. While they took care of the chocolateering, I went off and bought everyone coffee. I’m not much of a baker, so  I left it to my friends, who seemed much more capable of not burning down the house.

But then, as the hobby year continued, I decided it was time I learned to make chocolate–besides I had learned to brew beer this year–and I don’t even drink…so it was probably time I learned the process of chocolate-making. A couple months back, my co-worker sent me a link to a New York Times article that featured a chocolate shop in the Lower East Side. I forwarded the piece along to my other co-workers, and we planned to organize a time to visit.

But on a rainy day in New York City, I had no other choice but to dig into my emails of hobby suggestions, for something fun to do–regardless of already having two other hobbies scheduled for the week.

A good friend had asked me if I wanted to hang out and told me she was really excited for whatever adventure we found!

Originally, I had planned to just pick out a museum or a movie, but my insides growled at me, and my heart seemed to be trying to make out words between each beat. “Don’t be ridiculous-beat-Libby. You know you’d rather-beat-try something new-beat-than-beat-go-beat-back-beat-to-beat-the MOMA.” And my heart was right–I’d rather try something new than see the same exhibits I’d seen before, so I visited the chocolate shop’s website, listed in the article, and booked a lesson for two.  (Don’t worry my co-worker friends–I am still in to return and make more chocolate!!!)

By 3:45pm, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, my friend and I found ourselves hands deep in melted chocolate. I could smell the sweet scents of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate all around us. As Aditi Malhotra, our knowledgeable instructor, and the owner of Tache Chocolate,  took us on a quick tour of her own Chocolate Factory, she showed us one of the machines that continues to produce melted chocolate all day and night long, I could feel my taste-buds jumping. Suddenly, my dreams of swimming in a pool of chocolate seemed more realistic.

We then started making everything from chocolate covered Rice Krispy bundles to sparkling milk chocolate sea shells.

“If I don’t walk out of here with chocolate all over my face, I want my money back,” I joked. But not before long I had chocolate smudges on my hands, my arms, and even a tiny part of my sweater. –And at the end of the day, I had a pound of chocolate to take home–and plenty of new chocolate loving friends.

And while I’m not quite sure that I am ready to open my own chocolate business yet, I am pretty sure it’s now officially the time that I can promote my project as a lifestyle–rather than just a project.

And that’s what I call a sweet, sweet success.

________________________________________________________________________________

Tache Chocolate
http://www.tachechocolate.com

Bruises Really do Make for Better Conversation: Downhill Mountain Biking

Posted on

Disclaimer: Title of this blog post is based on song “Bruises” by Train.

Ski mountains have always been a bit terrifying for me. The first time I tried to go down something other than the bunny hill, in 6th grade, I fell so hard that my skis popped off. I decided that this was the moment that instead of going down the hill–I’d walk back up it and straight into the lodge. After a dinner full of persuasion, my best friend had me back out on the mountain in no time.

A year later, my brother broke his arm and leg skiing.

And the following year, I took a tumble down a black diamond that had all my co-skiiers questioning how I’d ever survived the fall without breaking my neck. I laughed and said, “Let’s do it again.”

Even still, ski mountains are kryptonite to me. Smiling, I can take on any hill, but inside all my organs are twisting.

When I signed up for downhill mountain biking–I really didn’t know what I was getting in to. A Twitter follower had suggested it–and had suggested the perfect place as well. I reached out to Mountain Creek Bike Park and they were ecstatic about having me come out for a trial lesson and run on the mountain.

When I told my friend what I’d be doing, his response was:  “Oh that’s awesome! You know it’s like a ski mountain right?!”

HUH?

“Like a bunny hill though, right?”

“No–a ski slope.”

Oh…Right…I’ll be fine.
As I approached Mountain Creek Park on Sunday afternoon, I could feel myself bubbling with both anxiety and excitement.

I suited up, met my instructor Jon–and headed outside for a quick tutorial on the basics. Following our flat ground lesson, Jon took me to the lift–and said it was time to head up to the top of the mountain. Again, my insides bubbled. I remained calm and continued to talk to Jon along our ride.

We pulled our bikes off the lift-hopped on and headed toward the green hill. As we approached, I smiled and said to myself “Libs, you got this.” And then we were off. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself. After a few turns, a couple of stops, some high fives, and a short  glance at a double – black diamond- that Jon has taken a ride down before–we took off for our next couple turns.

“Oh god. Oh Jesus. Oh God. Oh Jesus” (that was the most the holy man had heard from me in a long time). With each bump, my “oh Gods” became more frequent. As I came around a turn I began to lose control, my feet came off the pedals, and I came off the side of the bike as it fell to the ground. ‘Deep breath,’ I thought to myself as Jon asked me “what happened?”

“I hit the breaks too hard and I panicked.” That was the easy answer. But within moments, I was back on the bike, ready to take on the next challenging turns…I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

And then it hit me–no not a lightning bolt–but instead my own bike.

As I went over a rocky area, I lost control of the bike, and took a turn persay–without taking a turn, sending me off track. As I tried to stop myself I felt my butt fall behind the seat–and as the breaks eventually caught, I felt the bike seat jam directly back into my groin muscle and–babymaker–aka pelvic bone. Pain immediately swelled over the lower half of my body. Jon came over and helped me to get out of this unpleasant situation….and I attempted to walk it off.

Realizing I couldn’t really lift my leg–I began to tear behind my helmet. “Just give me a moment. I got this…” But I didn’t. The pain didn’t subside, and the movement in my leg, due to the crushed muscle, was limited–My bike ride was over.

Jon understood. But my disappointment level was high. I do a really good job of laughing and smiling about things–even when I am experiencing multiple levels of pain-and frustration–but really I just wanted to curl up in a ball. The thought of physically not being able to get back up was just as painful as the bruised pelvic bone I’d have for the rest of the day.

Even still, there is a lesson in this. We’re not invincible–I’m not invincible. And it’s these falls–and these bruises that teach us about our pain tolerance–both mentally–and physically. It’s these falls and these bruises that teach us about the risk–in taking risks. And most of all, it’s these fells and bruises that give us something to go back and conquer later. This won’t be my last time at Mountain Creek Bike Park. I still have unfinished business to attend to.

____________________________________________________________

Mountain Creek Bike Park

bikepark.mountaincreek.com

What the professionals look like doing it:

%d bloggers like this: