Money Matters: How I got to Paris

Up until this very moment, this very day, even…if you asked me about money matters I would have told you: “Go ask someone else…I’m very bad at money.” And it would have been true. I have been bad at money my whole life. From the day I opened a Star Wars credit card when I first moved to New York City (the rewards earned were what one might expect from a Star Wars Mastercard), to the $10,000 I quickly racked up on it because…free money to the countless times I’ve overdrawn my checking account.

If you’re about to recommend Dave Ramsey’s books to me, don’t bother. I read them in college and again in New York and again and again and again. I have done his workbooks and always kept the concept of the “debt snowball” in the back of my mind. Sometimes I chant the words “gazelle-like intensity” to myself. But it’s one thing to read about something and another to apply it.

Flash forward to August of 2017. My Granny had just passed away and had left me with, what she called “squirrel money.” Basically, a sum of money that she’d been squirreling away just for me. It was a turning point for me, because I was being given a shot and I did not want to throw it away.

Some of the squirrel money went to debt. Some went to fun. Some went to savings and some…well, that went to a special travel savings account. Something I thought my Granny would appreciate me doing with the money she gave me. (The money I used on a tattoo was something she wouldn’t have approved of, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!)

My very first trip abroad was a trip to England with my Granny. When me, my brother and my cousin all turned 16, she made it her mission to get us abroad. That was her promise to us. And as the eldest grandchild, my trip was first.

She and I went on a group tour with a pastor she had known for years. He was preaching his way across London in Minsters, Abbeys, Churches, Cathedrals…and we were to join the bus tour accompanying him. It was my first taste of the travel bug. It was my first taste of another country. And from the moment I saw the chopping block and the crown jewels in the Tower of London, I was hooked on absorbing other places and their culture.

When I first entertained the idea of going to Paris, it was on a whim. One night, in the middle of the night, I was up and unable to sleep and I started searching the internet for whatever magical treasures I could find. Something I do often when I have bouts of insomnia. Etsy treasures, Pinterest ideas, cat videos on You Tube and then I wandered over to a flight search and randomly typed in “Paris.” It’s a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting.

Talk about finding treasures…I found a flight for $175, one way to Paris on Norwegian Airlines. And that night, I bought it. I thought to myself “Even if you don’t end up making it there, $175 is a bargain price for a big dream!”

I was still bad at money. But even being bad at money, I knew a $175 one way ticket was a good idea! I also knew that Paris was a city where I’d want to have money to spare for things like sight-seeing, eating and shopping. Enter, what I thought was going to be, an uphill battle.

I read an article on the The Penny Hoarder about ways to save and came across an app called Stash. It’s basically an easy way to set up a savings account with different low risk, or high risk if that’s your bag, stock options. You buy the stocks you want. They accumulate interest or lose it as the market dictates and then when you want your money back, you sell the stock and transfer the funds back into your bank account.

Savings accounts that I’ve used in the past have not worked for me, no matter how hard I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I tried the kind where it rounds up your spending and puts that rounded up sum into a savings account. But it’s linked to your checking, so when my balance got low it was very easy to transfer those extra monies right back into ground zero.

I tried an account that charged me every time I withdrew money prematurely…yeah, I lost a lot of stupid money that year on withdrawing money prematurely.

I tried an account with a completely different bank. But as with all my other attempts, I’d watch the number rise as I watched my checking dwindle and once again it was too easy to transfer it right back into the danger zone.

I tried and I tried and I tried. So I didn’t have high hopes that Stash would make a difference in the way I handled my savings. How would it be any different? Would I just end up abusing it the way I did every other savings account?

But something changed. I didn’t abuse it. In fact, I didn’t even touch it. I started out by transferring $5 every Friday into my Stash. A small enough amount that I could spare it. A big enough amount monthly that it would mean actually creating some savings. Gradually, as I realized this was working for me, I upped the ante to $10 a week, then $15 a week and finally $20 a week.

$20 a week is not a great amount of money. It’s modest at best. But for me, it was a king’s sum. From August to December, I faithfully added to my savings. When I had extra money come in, I’d add more.

I started teaching an Art Class for Preschoolers to make extra money, my side hustle, and I put part of that money in there too. Before I knew it, I had over $1000. I have NEVER had $1000 in a savings account. I’ve rarely seen that amount in my checking account, to be honest. All of a sudden I was like…

You guys…I had done it. I changed the narrative of my relationship to money.

Days before leaving for my big trip to Paris, a trip that now seemed much more of a triumph and a celebration than it did back in August when I’d initially made the decision to dream, I was recounting how  all this had come about to my father.

I told him about the article in the Penny Hoarder, about the app Stash, about my $1000, about how I actually accomplished what I never thought I could. And I finished with “And you know how bad I am at money, dad!” He looked at me, rather intently, and said “I don’t think you can say you’re bad at money anymore.”

woah…

Woah…

WOAH!!!

Wake up call! Have you ever really had a wake up call? Do you know this feeling?

It’s amazing!

It’s life changing!

It’s a miracle!!

Not only did I afford to fly myself to Paris, but I could afford to actually stay in Paris and do everything on my bucket list and eat a fancy French meal every night and fully immerse myself in the Paris I wanted to see most. And yes…even fly home from Paris.

I have a lot of blogs coming your way in the New Year about my experiences in Paris and other things like  travel tips, how to get great photos when traveling alone, all kinds of things that came to me when the flood gates of my love for writing were opened up again because of this trip.

But none of those posts will be as important as this one right here.

No matter who you were in 2017, no matter what you thought you couldn’t do or what you think is beyond your reach…it isn’t. You can do that thing. You can change your narrative, like I did.

Guys…I’m good at money now. I’m paying off debt and starting new enterprises. I don’t have a credit card anymore because I know that I can’t trust myself with one. I have a checking account for paying off bills and a checking account for my spending and the rest, well you know where that goes! Right into my Stash for safe keeping. And I’m going the extra mile and adding Acorns to my portfolio. Another app that will help with savings. It’s always a good idea to hedge your bets!

I don’t think I’ve ever truly been this proud of myself in my whole life and it’s a great feeling! The confidence I have in my abilities, the knowledge that all it takes to climb a mountain is the proper training and the right equipment! You want Everest…you can have it. You just have to do the work. You just have to show up for your dream!

What a way to start the New Year!!

Star Wars Book Camp: Week 2

Week 2 of Star Wars Boot Camp has begun! But before I give you a sneak peek into how Week 2 is going, let’s review Week 1, shall we!

Week 1 of Star Wars Boot Camp was all about the Dark Side, but specifically: Anakin Skywalker. Jedi Padawan and Dark Apprentice. The boy walks the line for sure! And while we find Anakin teetering between the Dark and Light for a lot of the prequel trilogy and know that ultimately his end game is redemption, I’m focusing on his Dark Side this week.

My goal for Week 1 was to work out 6 out of 7 days in the week…CHECK! As well as add on a couple extra workouts here and there…CHECK, CHECK! And as far as food goes, my goal was to normalize better eating habits such as choosing un-buttered popcorn, as a snack, over McDonald’s french fries…BIG CHECK! But because we’re dealing with the Sith in Week 1, it’s important to flirt with your temptations. So, I kept dark chocolate and red wine on my list of approved foods. That will follow me into Week 2, as I’m still firmly settled in with the Dark Side of the Force.

Another distinction about Sith Apprentice Week is that I worked only with what I had available to me. You Tube videos, free weights, runs outside and exercises that utilized my own body weight.

Here’s another look at my morning routine, which I accomplished 5 days of the week and on the 6th day, I swapped my routine out for a cleansing run around my neighborhood and some weights.

Week 1:

  • 1 min of each (3 reps)
    • Jumping Jacks
    • High Knees
    • Squats
    • Butt Kickers
    • Leg Lunges
    • Jog in Place
    • Crunches
    • High Kicks
    • Plank
    • Jump Rope

As we head into Week 2: Sith Lord Week, I have to be honest…I haven’t been as motivated and my early mornings have suffered from Snooze Button Syndrome!! But instead of getting mad at myself (something I do way too regularly) I am forgiving myself and taking the opportunity to give my body a little rest. Apparently, it needed it and when your body is screaming that it needs something and you don’t give it what it needs, eventually it will take it any way it can get it! Sometimes that manifests itself in the form of illness or injury. Which we don’t want!!

So…Monday, Day 1 of Week 2 was spent frolicking at Universal Studios with my friends Courtney and Courtney! We walked 20,000+ steps and ate delicious foods and I let myself enjoy it instead of being a stickler about my Dark Side meal plan. And while I’m happy with that decision it led to…

Tuesday, Day 2 of Week 2. I definitely slept through that alarm and while I ate really well throughout the day (WIN!) and had every intention of working out when I got home from work…I didn’t do that. I put my running shoes on, sat on my bed and then woke up an hour later. The sun was gone, the hour was late and I was groggy from an ill-timed nap. That’s not what I wanted to do. But it’s what happened. And no workout was had.

Which led to Wednesday, Day 3 of Week 2 and another alarm that I slept right on through…this trend was not boding well for my “jump back on the band wagon” state of mind. It was looking more and more like I’d fallen off the band wagon. But I will not let this morning madness deter my determination!

My goal this week is to get 5 workouts in and if I have to double up…I will.

That is the goal I’ve set. That is what will happen. And since I reached my goal in Week 1, I know that this is attainable! In fact, I’m simply building on to what I started doing in Week 1. My morning routine will remain the same with 1 min of each exercise, but instead of 3 reps, I’ll do 4.

If you want to keep up to date on my progress, come on over to my Instagram where I’m letting you in on my daily wins and also my daily losses! Basically the whole thought process through all 6 weeks of Star Wars Boot Camp are right there for you to engage with in my Insta Story!!

Here’s to clearing out the cobwebs and getting back on track!!!

Star Wars Boot Camp Redo

Star WArs boot Camp fitness series

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…amiright?

The day I decided to start my brand new Boot Camp series was the day that we found out our friend Wally had died. After attempting to keep on keeping on despite the mounting grief washing through my soul, I finally came to the point where I couldn’t just keep on. I had to stop. Stop what I was doing. Stop and take stock of why I was doing it. And in the aftermath of tragedy, my body didn’t care about getting back into shape. The Dark Side had taken over.

I’d be lying if I said that the Darkness has left…it hasn’t.

But this past Monday, I decided to give my Star Wars Boot Camp a do-over. The desire to tune my body back to healthy has resurfaced and I feel extra motivated to make the best of my life. Especially remembering that there are people who don’t get one more day. It really does put your grief into perspective. It puts your fears and failures into perspective. And for me, it makes me stronger. It makes me want to fight for the best life I can have.

Enter…

Week 1: Sith Apprentice Week (Anakin Skywalker)

I’m altering the routine I had previously shared just a bit (pray I don’t alter it further.) 😉

Here’s a look at my morning routine, which I will do every morning this week:

1 min of each

  • Jumping Jacks
  • High Knees
  • Squats
  • Butt Kickers
  • Leg Lunges
  • Jog in Place
  • Crunches
  • High Kicks
  • Plank
  • Jump Rope

Arm Routine

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (4 sets, 8 reps)
  • Standing Dumbbell Curls (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Reverse Curls (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Hammer Curls (2 sets, 15 reps)
  • Tricep Press (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Upright Dumbbell Row (3 sets, 12 reps)

Here’s another look at my playlist this week:

 

Bonus Rounds

To add a little extra oomph to this week’s workouts, I’m adding some YouTube videos that will focus on some Sith skills, such as lightsaber combat, Kendo and martial arts.  I chose one of these 4 days out of the week to try. Take a look:

No guarantee that I’ll master these in a week…in fact, it’s a safe bet to say that I won’t. But that’s not really the point of Boot Camp. This Boot Camp is supposed to give me focus. Every morning, I’ll be narrowing in on what’s happening with my body. Where the pain is, where I need to push myself. And by focusing on those things, it will take my eyes off of the unhealthy habits I’ve been forming in the last month or so.

As of today, I’m 2 days into it and I’ve had successful morning and evening workouts each day since starting! Now it’s time to add on these extra bonus workouts and push more…just like a Sith Apprentice would. Channeling my inner Anakin!

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Here’s a look at some of the training Hayden Christensen did for Episode III to get you inspired!

I Know the Power of the Dark Side

Photo from TeePublic.com

I gotta tell you, after the news of not one, but three shootings in the last 2 months, as well as (and more emotionally jarring for me) the murder of a friend, I understand the power of the Dark Side. I understand the temptation to lean into that power and the strength that comes from my anger. It gives me focus…makes me stronger. (where have I heard that before…)

It’s a righteous response to hearing about a crime that strips innocence and kindness down to a headline in a newspaper. There is power in the feeling, in the emotion.

It’s why the Jedi teach peace over emotion. It’s why they teach serenity over passion.

But today I don’t want peace and I don’t want serenity! I don’t want to seek knowledge. I don’t want harmony. I don’t want to understand or forgive. I want revenge.

I do.

In my heart, in my head, down to my fingertips, in my gut I want swift justice for the men and women mowed down by yet another gunman whose story somehow gets amplified above the stories of his victims. I want swift justice for one of the kindest, most faithful men at my church who was brutally killed. That’s what I want.

The Dark Side calls in moments of high emotion.

The Dark Side seems to have all the answers.

The Dark Side beckons!

But that’s why we (I) have to take extra care to fight for the Light. We (I) have to be vigilant in times of high emotion, in times of pain because these are the times when that Darkness feels comforting. Think of your warm, safe bed. All the lights are off. It’s safe there. It’s comfortable to be wrapped up in that blanket of Darkness and block out all Light.

I’m sure that’s what the congregation of First Baptist of Sutherland Springs wants to do. I’m sure it’s what the citizens of Las Vegas wanted and probably still want to do. And the families of the people mowed down in New York City and on and on and on.

These stories aren’t going away. The world isn’t going to just heal on it’s own. And it is so damn easy to just become numb to it. That’s what the Dark Side will do. It allows numbness to filter in till you can’t feel the pain anymore. And even worse…it tells you that numbness is what you need. It tells you it’s normal.

So, yeah…I know the power of the Dark Side. I feel it, even today, coursing through me. If I could tap into the power of the Force, I’m not sure I’d use my powers for good today. To be honest…it would be a struggle.

But the Emperor hasn’t won yet…the Dark Side has not taken over! The Light is still there and it reminds me of who I am. I use this Star Wars analogy today to add lightness to the pain of these tragedies. But the truth is that these are heavy weights that our country seems to carry more and more of around our collective necks. Salvation rests in believing that we were meant for more and loving beyond our understanding.

The Darkness lets me wish the man who killed my friend would meet with “eye for an eye” justice. But the Light…the Light challenges me to find compassion for the 23 year old who took his own life in a jail cell last Friday after having committed the crime against my friend. One path is much easier…one path is swift and far less complicated. Far less messy. Last week, the Darkness won my thoughts, but today I feel the Light remind me of what is good and pure and beautiful about this world and I think I have it in me to forgive.

Star Wars Boot Camp

Well, once again I’m standing at the start of a workout series. The last one was very successful. I felt good, I felt fit and then life interjected and while I haven’t completely regressed, I have not been at the level of fitness I’d like to be. The kind of level that energizes me. The kind of level that has me feeling my muscles in the good way!

So…here we go. But this time I want to invite you all into the process. Instead of showing you the results and breaking it down after 6 weeks of hard work, you are going to be my inspiration, my accountability, my reason for staying true to my 6:30am alarm each day!!!

If you want to follow along on the whole journey, come on over to my Instagram and keep an eye out for my stories each day. I’ll show you what workouts I’ll be doing and whether or not I actually do them. As well as daily inspiration to get me going and keep me going!

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is this workout, you ask? I’m glad you did!! Cause it may just be my best idea yet. It’s a Star Wars Boot Camp!! That’s right…I said Star Wars!! The franchise that beats all other franchises IMHO!

You know my deep and abiding love for that galaxy far, far away. Now it’s turn that love into some fitness currency and put that love to work! Here’s a rough outline of week 1, but I’m leaving myself room to adjust each week as I need to.

I’ll be sharing my journey with you as I go and as usual, if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments below or email me (nerdinthecity01@gmail.com)!! I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

Week 1: Anakin Skywalker (Sith Apprentice)

Week 1 is all about Anakin’s Dark Side, his fight with the ways of the Sith. I’m following the Sith Code this week:

Peace is a lie,

There is only Passion.

Through passion, I gain Strength.

Through strength, I gain Power.

Through power, I gain Victory.

Through victory, my chains are broken.

The Force shall set me free.

This week is all about Passion, Power, Strength and Victory. And since this is Sith Apprentice week, everything I do will be at home utilizing the resources I have at my disposal. You Tube videos, apps, weights, bodyweight exercises. This week is all about quantity over quality. Reps, reps, reps! Going till I can’t go anymore. Channeling my anger and my passions into strong fitness routines that will be explosive. Just like Anakin Skywalker and his decent into the Dark Side.

Here’s my playlist for Week 1:

Let’s talk food. This week I’m going to be eating lots of protein and cutting out all those foods that weigh me down: dairy, bread, bad sugars. And replacing those things with dark greens, black beans, black berries, red raspberries, black lentils, black teas, basically anything dark, black, red, bitter, etc. Things that will keep me on the path to the Dark Side. 

Here is a look at my morning power workout. I’ll be doing this every morning and pairing it with workouts like Power Yoga, Boxing, Arm Workouts and Tumbling/ Acrobatics.

Morning Routine:

-1 min indoor jog

-1 min mountain climbers

-1 min jump rope

-1 min jumping jacks

-1 min skiers

-1 min front kicks

-1 min power skips

-1 min high knees

-1 min squats

-1 min butt kickers 

(Repeat 3 times)

Embrace your Dark Side and together…we can rule the galaxy!!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Big Finale!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31: Star Wars Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 31: Princess Leia, Han Solo & Luke Skywalker

Today is the final day of my thrift store cosplay series. I really hope you all have enjoyed my shopping adventures. I certainly had a blast doing it! And now my wardrobe is tricked out!!

I wanna hear what your favorites were and if this inspired you at any point to give your local thrift stores a try. Is there a cosplay you think I should resurrect for Halloween in October? Or a character you’d like to see me try for the next series? Let me know!!

For the big finale, I pulled out all the stops and I’m bringing you characters from my favorite movie franchise of all time. This should come as no surprise…it’s Star Wars. I chose Star Wars! A Princess, a Scoundrel and a Farm Boy!! Enjoy!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31: Star Wars Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker fashion blog post

Princess Leia:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31 grand finale Princess Leia Star Wars fashion blog post

Dress from Plato’s Closet

Shoes from OMG Thrift

Belt from Goodwill

Han Solo:

Han Solo thrift store cosplay

Vest, Pants and Belt from Goodwill

White Shirt from Plato’s Closet

Boots from my shoe closet

Luke Skywalker:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 31 grand finale Luke Skywalker Star Wars

Tunic, Pants & Shoes from Goodwill

Belt from Salvation Army

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30: Mickey Mouse styled by Disney World fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 30: Mickey Mouse

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I am a die hard Disnerd. Mickey is my ride or die Mouse!!

What would the world be with the OG Mouse? Mickey Mouse

Black Turtleneck, Red Pants and Yellow Shoes from OMG Thrift

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 30: Mickey Mouse flat lay styled by Disney fashion blog post

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Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 Lilo and Stitch Disney Style fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 29: Lilo from Lilo and Stitch

You guys!!! Thrift Store Cosplay is winding down and I only have 2 days of cosplay left to share with you. I have really enjoyed tricking out my closet with fun, whimsical and practical items. Some of which are very specifically costume-ish and others that I will definitely get some more wear out of. My closet is pretty amazing right now!! I must admit and because everything was procured at vintage, thrift, consignment and resale stores, I feel hella good about it!!

I’m gonna be taking some polls on which were your favorite characters and such from the whole August series, so keep an eye out for that!! Also I have a giveaway going on right now with JORD Watches. I hope you’ll take a minute to enter to win $100 at JORD! Use this link: woodwatches.com/g/nerdinthesand

JORD wood watches giveaway entry form nerd in the city nerd in the sand collab
Photo from JORD 

Ok…back to the cosplay. Today, I give you Lilo:

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 Lilo and Stitch Disney Style fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 29 flat lay 'Ohana Lilo and Stitch styled by Disney fashion blog post

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Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28: JEM and the Holograms rock star fashion blog post

Thrift Store Cosplay fashion blogger nerd post Instagram challenge

Day 28: JEM from JEM and the Holograms

Out of all the characters I’ve chosen to cosplay this month, JEM is the one who is nearest and dearest to my heart. I used to watch the cartoon when I was a kid and dream of the day I could have pink hair and be a rock star!

SHOWTIME SYNERGY!!!

Thrift Store Cosplay Day 28: JEM and the Holograms rock star

Dress from OMG Thrift

Star Earrings and Heels from Goodwill

Belt from Salvation Army

a-jem-and-the-holograms-live-action-movie-is-actu-2-10033-1395346643-21_dblbig.jpg

Truly Outrageous!!