You have value.

twenty dollars

I saw this recently and wanted to share it:

“A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you — but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the 20 dollar note up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “what if I do this?” He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE.

You are special — don’t ever forget it.”

-Author unknown

Bucket List Item Completed: Triathlon

complete a triathlon

Awhile back, I posted about signing up for a race, and today was the day! I hadn’t completed a triathlon before and it has been on my bucket list, so I decided to finally go for it. Training didn’t go as well as I’d like, since I’ve been busy preparing for a new job (starting Monday) and packing for a big move, so I ended up mostly just winging it. It was a sprint triathlon (this one had a 250m swim, 17-mile bike ride, and 5k run), so it was a good beginner race. I am a runner, so I wasn’t too worried about that portion, but only practiced swimming once (oops!) and don’t have the right kind of bike (mine is a hybrid and I didn’t feel like purchasing a road bike just for this, since it was more of a practice; I’ll definitely invest in better equipment for my next one), so I didn’t feel extremely prepared but my goal was just to finish it.

I made sure to arrive very early, since this was my first time. The transition area wasn’t too intimidating and I was able to get assistance from several other participants nearby, who were extremely helpful in making me to feel more comfortable. The swimming part was in open water in a lake, which was a bit of a challenge for me, but I didn’t stop at all, so I was happy about that. The biking portion was terrible for me because of my lack of appropriate bike. Participants were encouraging me along the way though and acknowledging my difficult bike. The run was the easiest part for me. Overall, it was a fun experience and I’m definitely glad that I did it. I’m looking forward to do another one at some point soon!

Consider Living at Home or Getting Roommates

housing

For most people, housing is their biggest expense. While rent costs vary by region, you will almost always save money by living with others or living at home. According to the U.S. Housing Department and several other sources, Americans spend around 25-30% of their income on rent. With housing comprising such a high percentage of income, finding a way to cut back on housing costs should be one of the first ways that you look into saving money. While some people value a nice-looking or conveniently-located place or would rather live alone than deal with roommates or living at home, I personally would rather cutback on lodging in any way that I could (while I’m young and single) so that I could use that money for other things that I enjoy. And though living at home isn’t feasible for some who have moved away from their hometown, the savings do wonders for your bank account (even if putting up with relatives doesn’t sound that appealing — for some, no amount of savings could get them to live at home!).

When I first moved down to North Carolina and was researching places to live, I toyed around with the idea of renting a one-bedroom place for myself. I had arranged meetings with several potential roommates (from yes, Craigslist; I was new to the area and didn’t know anyone at all) and really liked a couple of them, but the one-bedroom place was absolutely gorgeous and within walking distance to my new job. However, it had a hefty price tag at $900 a month excluding utilities and it was unfurnished. Both of the places that I looked at with roommates were further away and were nice but not as beautiful as the other place, but were $400 per month including utilities. Estimating an extra $100 for utilities if I were to live by myself, that was a decision of $1000/month or $400/month. For a savings of $7200 a year, it was a no-brainer. Plus, because I was new to the area, I thought that having roommates would actually be a better choice, since they could potentially show me around and provide me with some companionship. I’m so grateful that I made that decision two years ago. Not only did I save $14,400 in two years (looking back on it, there’s no way that I could have afforded the one-bedroom place unless I completely removed any fun activities and travel from my life), I made several amazing friends (along with some cat companions that one of my roommates had!). Granted, I probably could have found other one-bedroom options cheaper than the $900/month apartment — that was just one place that I happened to stumble upon when I was visiting the area. None of my other options would have beaten $400 a month though. Even a savings of $100 a month on rent adds up to an extra $1200 per year. Another way that I cut down on housing expenses was by taking the smallest of the rooms, since the cost of the rooms in our 3-bedroom townhouse are pro-rated. The size difference of the room wasn’t substantial and I was able to save $300 per year, or $600 in total since I’ve been living down here. Again, it doesn’t sound like much, but those savings are more than enough to buy a ticket to somewhere within the U.S. or pay for a hotel and gas for a couple weekend getaways nearby!

Air Dry Hair When Possible

wethair

Blow drying your hair frequently can lead to dry, damaged hair and can fade your hair color more quickly. Hair that is chemically treated is especially prone to hair dryer damage, since the health of the hair has already been compromised. While air drying may take longer, the benefits are definitely worth it if you can find the time. Air drying is easy as it requires no special tools or time. You can multitask while waiting for your hair to dry; I typically apply my makeup as my hair is drying, for example. If you are still somewhat pressed for time, consider air drying your hair for most of the time and then finishing it with a blow dryer. If you do continue to blow dry your hair, be sure to apply a thermal protective spray before using any heating tools and consider keeping the hair dryer on a cooler setting.

Air drying is also more environmentally friendly and can save you money on your electricity bill (especially if you use multiple tools such as a blow dryer, straightener, and/or curling iron). According to a poll (summarized here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2250701/How-time-really-spend-doing-hair-ladies-Answer-Ten-days-year.html), women spent about 15 minutes blow drying their hair each day and another 15 minutes styling the hair. For blow drying alone, that is 5475 minutes per year, or about 91 hours (3.8 days). In addition to saving money on electricity, you might also save money by making fewer visits to the salon by improving the health of your hair (less blow drying = fewer split ends = fewer trims).

I used to blow dry and straighten my hair every day when I was in high school, and the health of my hair definitely suffered from it. In college, I decided that I enjoyed having the extra 15-30 minutes of sleep or study time and typically resorted to air drying my hair on my way to class. Now, I usually shower at night and let my hair dry overnight in a satin head cap. Sometimes I end up with really nice waves in my hair when I wake up by doing it that way!

Once a Year, Go Someplace You’ve Never Been Before

DSC_0144

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” -Dalai Lama

It doesn’t have to be to another country, or even another state, but try to explore someplace new each year! It can be as simple as driving an hour or two away to explore that lake or mountain that you’ve been wanting to see for a weekend getaway.

Work Out With a Friend

workout friend

Working out alone is great, but if you find yourself lacking motivation or getting bored, consider inviting a friend! Having someone that you’re meeting up with for a workout increases the likelihood that you’ll do it (you don’t want to cancel on your friend!). According to a research study of 1,000 women (summarized here:¬†http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2263099/Looking-fitness-boost-Workout-friend–research-shows-women-train-harder-exercise-partner.html), women burn more calories, work out longer, and spend more time at the gym when accompanied by a friend. This varies by person, however; I found that I tend to work out longer and harder when I’m by myself, for example. Working out with a friend can also bring out your competitive side, which may improve your results. When you’re ready to give up, a quick glance over to your friend pounding away on the treadmill may be just the boost that you need. And let’s face it, it’s more fun to work out with someone! If you are hoping to catch up with someone anyway, consider going for a hike or a comfortable run or bike ride with them at a conversational pace.

Consider Adding a Second Job

part time job

Two incomes are better than one, right? If you find that you are actively saving money, but still do not seem to have as much as you’d like, consider picking up a part-time job. If you work a regular 9-5 during the week, consider finding something for one day over the weekend and/or a few shifts at night during the week. Do not over-commit yourself, however, and be sure to determine the amount of time that works best with your schedule. Also, be careful to not let your second job interfere with your primary job and do not let it take over your life in that you do not have time to spend with you family and friends or do the things that you find fulfilling. Balance is important.

Having a second job not only provides you with extra income, it will also provide you with an additional set of skills as well as potential contacts and references for the future. It also provides some income security in case you lose your primary job for whatever reason, or it could lead to a new job entirely if you decide to take it on full-time. A second job may also open up your social life or allow you to enjoy more of a favorite hobby, if you start a job doing something that you already enjoy doing. For example, I work part-time as a scuba divemaster on top of my regular 9-5 job. I typically help out with about one class a month, which equals about 4-5 evenings per month. It’s not much, but it’s something that I enjoy doing anyway, since scuba diving is my favorite hobby, and it has allowed me to meet a variety of new people, including new friends and dive buddies. Plus most of the money that I’ve made for the classes I’ve put toward maintaining my scuba gear (costs that I’d have to incur anyway), since I also get a discount for working for the dive shop. It has also given me plenty of experiences that I’ve been able to talk about in an interview for a new job that I received, since my primary job is not a people-oriented position (and the new job that I received is).

If you are hoping to save up for a certain goal or vacation, pay off some of your debt, or simply  put away more money than you are currently putting away, consider getting a part-time job for a few hours a week. It may not sound like may, but will definitely add up!