Archive | January, 2016

Don’t Get Caught Without It

31 Jan

Working at a credit union taught me a lot about money. I’ve always been pretty good with money, but there I saw many people’s mistakes and learned how to avoid them. One of the things I saw a bunch of times was people who had $0 in their saving accounts. Even a minor emergency could set them back for months, because they failed to prepare. Life can take you for an unexpected at any time. Illness, injuries, job loss, and relationship problems are all reasons to have an emergency fund.

You may say, “that’ll never happen to me.” And hopefully, nothing bad ever does happen to you. But the reality is emergencies are never planned. Life might be amazing for you right now, but that won’t stop an unexpected expense from popping up.

Bottom line – we all need emergency funds. Money expert Michelle Singletary recommends having a bare minimum of 3 months of your salary set aside. Having a year of your salary saved is even better. That takes A LOT of time to build, but it’s worth it.

So, how can you save that much? Here are 5 things I did to start my emergency saving account:

  1. Set small goals. Saying you need a year’s worth of your salary saved is too large of a goal to start with. It’s actually pretty overwhelming to think of saving that much. I began by identifying how much my average pay check was. Then, I made that goal #1. Once I hit that goal, I kept going. I’m nowhere close to a year of pay set aside, but slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Even Suze Orman knows it may take years to save this much. But you’ll never get there if you don’t start.
  2. Treat savings like a bill. Make it so saving money isn’t even an option. Figure out what you can cut out of your current spending, and put that money into your savings account.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind.  Your emergency fund should be somewhere you can get to it in a real emergency, but not in a fashion emergency. So, take it out of the bank where you do your regular spending & bill pay. If you can, have your job deduct it out of your paycheck and direct deposited somewhere else. Eventually, you may forget about the money, until you need it. Use an online tool to find a savings account that has high interest (this way your savings will make you money, too).
  4. Unexpected money isn’t yours. It belongs to your savings account. If you aren’t using your tax return to pay a bill, then it needs to go to your savings. And, as tempting as it may be to spend your work bonus on yourself, the majority of the money needs to go to savings. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
  5. Don’t Quit. If you must take a break from savings, hop back on the horse quickly. Using your emergency funds for an emergency, is fine. But work quickly to replace the money you took out.
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6 Reasons to Cruise!

27 Jan

This past August, my group of friends from college and I went on a Carnival cruise🚢. We sailed from Miami, and went to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. This wasn’t my first cruise, but it was my first as an adult. I have to say, cruising may be my new favorite way to travel. Here’s why:

  1. The Food. Because food is quite unlimited, you can taste whatever you’d like. I had my very first lobster tail, snails, and alligator. I ordered a cheese plate for dessert (which is something only Vacation Courtney would do). But why try these new things? Because I could. It was already paid for, and, I knew that if I hated the crazy thing on my plate, I could replace it with chicken tenders & fries with a *snap* of my fingers. And, after all the partying I did on the ship, 24 hour pizza was a necessity.
  2. The Drinks. Ok, so the drinks and the food kind of go hand-in-hand, but I had to separate them. When I get around my friends, we tend to drink-a lot! So, again there’s a basically unlimited number of drinks to have, and bonus: no one has to worry about being the designated driver. The ship we were on had bars all over the place so I had a long island or a shot for every activity.
  3. The Activities. So pretty much everything is included in the price you pay. I failed at took Michael Jackson dance lessons, played miniature golf, saw a flash mob performance in a night club, and got to be an audience member in a Newlywed Game knock-off. The cruise ship gives you 2 options: chill & relax, or stay completely active. I love that if I want to lay in the sun and people watch, I can do that. Or, if I want to be a judge of a drag competition, I can do that too.
  4. The Excursions. The activities and the excursions probably sound a lot alike, but they’re not. The activities were things you could do on the boat. The excursions were off the boat and (unfortunately) cost a bit of extra money. But if you’re a person who likes adventure, you’ll definitely want to do one. And scaredy cats like myself can find some type of adventurous thing to do. For me an my friends, we decided to ride ATVs in a Mexican “jungle.”  This is probably something I’d be too nervous to do in my everyday life. But, Vacation Courtney was down for it. After the ATV rides, I was able to lay on a sunny, hot beach and just relax. Best of both worlds.
  5. The People. This is probably my favorite part. I got to meet and interact with people that I’d never know in any other setting. On a normal vacay, you don’t run into the same people over & over again. A cruise is the only place I can think of where you’ll have the same strangers as dining companions for many nights in a row. I’m now Facebook friends with a 50-ish Real Estate Agent from Florida. Where else could I have connected with him? No-where. That’s where.
  6. The Disconnection. This may be an anti-millennial thing for me to say, but I loved being disconnected from the world. On a cruise, you don’t have access to the internet or cell towers. So unless you want to pay a billion dollars, your smart phone turns into just a camera & mini-boombox. I loved this. Before setting sail, I called my parents to say “see ya,” and after that, I was able to focus solely on the fun. It’s actually what made #1-5 even better. And of course, after the cruise was over, my friends and I were able to flood Instagram with our cruise pictures.

So, there you have it. I’m already planning my next cruise, so I can see if there are even more reasons to go.

Real Date

25 Jan

Quick Rant:

What is so difficult about taking a girl on a real date? Going to a guy’s house, drinking and watching TV is not (!) a real date. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be taken out, and so, I won’t accept a Netflix and Chill.  I assume that if your first date is Netflix and Chill, the most you’ll get from this person is a situationship. Again, not what I want.

To be honest, I’d much rather Netflix and Chill by myself. I’d rather be in my pajamas, in my own bed, watching Bernie Mac Show reruns.

Remember, there’s a solution for most problems. So, if money is tight, just know a simple google search will lend you ideas for several cheap and free dates. And, these dates don’t require sitting on your bed or couch watching Grey’s Anatomy.

And, last point, a lot of you don’t even pay for your own Netflix. You have a password from your mother, cousin, or friend, or somebody.

Rant over.

Goal – See The States

7 Jan

I have a goal to see all 50 states. It’s important to me to see different parts of the US. Below is a list of all 50 States, and a note about if/where I’ve been in the state. I’ve got 31 more to see. Maybe I can scratch one or two off my list in 2016.

Alabama

Alaska

*Arizona – I’ve never really visited Arizona, but when I was in Nevada, I did touch the Arizona border.

Arkansas

California – My bestie lives in San Diego, which I’ve now visited twice. Still no LA.

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware – No taxes!

Florida – I’ve been here a few times. Disney and Miami. The 1st time I ever flew was to Florida.

Georgia – Savannah, ATL.

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois – Chicago once with my family

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky – When I was in Ohio, I asked some locals what they did for fun, and I was pointed to Kentucky.

Louisiana – New Orleans is my favorite city.

Maine

Maryland – 25 years of life.

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada – I spent my 21st birthday in Las Vegas. I also visited another city to see the Hoover Damn and went to a restaurant that was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

New Hampshire

New Jersey – Garden City Mall, I think.

New Mexico

New York – Seeing a play on Broadway has become an annual trip with my mom. One spring break in college was spent here as well. I love the Brooklyn Museum. I also have family in Niagara Falls, NY. I’m sure I’ve been to other cities.

North Carolina – I’ve been here a few times. Contemplated going to NCAT, so I visited during my senior year of High School.

North Dakota

Ohio – Cincinnati, had some great chili at Skyline Chili. Everything seemed to close early.

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania – I have family that lives in Pittsburgh. I also visited Drexel University with someone who was thinking about going there.

Rhode Island

South Carolina – I spent a birthday in North Myrtle Beach. I’ve also been to Hilton Head.

South Dakota

Tennessee – Had a great time at the Opryland Gaylord in Nashville! Good food is here.

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia – Aside from Maryland, the only other state I’ve lived in. College years. Also, I live in the DMV, so to find myself in Northern VA isn’t hard to do.

Washington

West Virginia – I drove to a casino in West VA to see Dru Hill perform. They can still saaanngggg. lol

Wisconsin

Wyoming

2016!

1 Jan

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 7.09.56 PMI won’t exactly call the following “resolutions.” Some of these things I’ve already been doing, and I just want to continue and improve in the coming year. And while some of these are new, I’m taking a new approach to how I go about reaching my goals. Therefore, I’ll call these “Areas of Focus.” Here goes:

  1. Focus on going back to school – For me this is important in developing myself as a career focused woman. I’ve decided to get my MBA (possibly with a focus in marketing.) The reason for an MBA, is that business is important in any career path I may choose, and I think having the knowledge that comes with an MBA will be super important as I grow in my career.
    • Study for and take the GRE
    • Find suitable programs
    • Develop a personal statement
    • Apply for schools
  2. Focus on helping your community – This is important for obvious reasons. I want to make an impact on others, especially others who may not have the resources to help themselves. For me, it’ll be important to use my skill set and interests to help out. So, maybe manual labor won’t be my thing, but fundraising, and organizing are definitely up my alley.
  3. Focus on becoming more interesting – I often feel like I should be doing more, but what is that exactly. In 2016, I plan to find out, by:
    • Getting into wedding planning. This is something I’ve always been interested in, and now I just need focus on doing it.
    • Writing more. (Hence this post and the ones to come.) I’ll be using my website a lot more in 2016!
    • Travel more. My goal to see all 50 states isn’t complete, so maybe I can scratch off another state this year.
  4. Focus on creating a healthy lifestyle – I won’t make this a typical resolution by saying “lose X amount of pounds,” but it’s critical that I become more healthy.
    • Cook more. When it comes to being healthy, cooking and eating in your house beats eating out like 99% of the time. (Made up fact. lol)
    • Create a food routine. It’s not a cheat day if I do it all the time. Packing my breakfasts and lunches and only eating out once a week is the goal for me.
    • Be active. Obviously this is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. I have a gym membership that could get used a whole lot more. Walking and getting fresh air is also good for your body.
  5. Focus of being more fiscally responsible – I’ve got #HouseGoals (March 2017). So, I’m saving for a down payment. But, I know that buying a house is more than just having a down payment. I need to have emergency funds saved, as well as money for furniture, and bills. Ideally, I’d like to have my auto loan and credit card bills all down to $0 before buying a house, so that’s also a big 2016 focus for me. Learning to tell myself no is also a part of my focus on finances. Being fiscally responsible and constant impulse buys just don’t work together.