All posts by Emily

Emily Hunter owns three websites which are all part of the same motivational coin. These are Three Motivational Quotes, Million Ways to Save, and Eleven Minute Awesome She is a freelance writer, having written over a thousand articles for ghost writing sites like Textbroker, The Content Authority, and iWriter. Currently, she is pursuing more writing opportunities. If you need a guest post, SEO articles, or web pages written, contact Emily at justyammer@gmail.com

The Money Conversation

There was a point that I was debt free and at absolute zero.

I had no mortgage because I was renting.
I had no car payment because it was paid off.
I had no credit cards.

The only bills that I had were rent and the revolving bills. I happily lived from paycheck to paycheck with not a care in the world.

Rent got raised for the umpteenth time. I wanted to break out. The car was still good, but I knew that it would fail. Buying a house, taxes, and simple life led me to where I am now.

I owe $77,000 in a mortgage.
I owe $22,000 in a credit card.
I owe $13,000 for a car.

And being in this much debt drives me nuts.

Here are our monthly expenses (rounded):

$60 Internet
$150 Power
$200 My Health Insurance
$200 His Health Insurance
$25 His dental insurance
$200 Car Insurance
$250 Car Payment
$650 Mortgage (fixed interest)
$100 Gas
$500 Food and Miscellaneous (average)
$50 Phone

$2385 Total

Here is our estimated monthly income. The numbers are rounded because I hate to deal with pennies.

$900 Regular Client A
$900 Regular Client B
$70 Regular Client C
$100 Regular Client D
$100 Regular Client E
$250 Future Regular Clients

$2320 Total

As you can see, we’re slightly underwater when it comes to expenses vs. income. You can only imagine how much this situation chafes the hell out of me. I’m not content to run blindly ahead because while it’s slow, I’m still digging a hole like those dwarves.

There it is. I’m not the know-it-all financial guru.

I’m just like my friends and neighbors.

But I can change. I’m restarting the money conversation. The good ol’ fashioned money conversation. And I want to show you how I’m doing this, every step of the way.

Lessons from Cinnamon Hard Candy

The lime hard candy had a mediocre result. I didn’t want to let it just lie there, so I decided that I’d make some cinnamon hard candy. We had the oil and the equipment available – might as well, right?

If the lime candy experiment produced mediocre results, then the cinnamon hard candy experiment was an abject failure. I wanted to perfect the technique but didn’t – though I (re)learned some valuable things in the process. I know what I did wrong, and don’t plan on doing it again even though this taught me several things.

Patience. It’s not just for doctors anymore

You remember those folks who will tell you that patience is a virtue? It’s a virtue because stuff tends to turn out a LOT better if you exercise it. My cinnamon hard candy recipe had ts flavorings and oils added too quickly, and as a result turned out poorly.

Experience is the best way to learn science

I had no idea. Really. I had no idea that the sugar that was dissolved in the water would go back into its granulated form after a while. I thought that it would be a goopy sort of sugar syrupy mess, but that’s not what happened at all. When in doubt, try it out! You’ve not got much to lose, and who knows, it may work!

Research makes things better

If I’d done my research, I would have found out that adding spicing and flavoring to hard candy before its time was probably not a good idea, and I would have found out what the results were going to be. I’m of two minds on this one, of course – because the story of this particular ‘failure’ is fun.

More is not always better

I would have found this out through the research. Using 2 tsp of cinnamon oil to the mixture was way too much. The house smells good as a result. Even the day after, there’s still some pretty awesome smells, but the candy is completely and totally shot. It’s kinda neat and crumbly looking, but it’s definitely not hard candy. (Man, I wish I had pictures!)

Here’s the recipe for how NOT to make cinnamon hard candies.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tsp cinnamon oil
3/4 tsp ground pepper

Dissolve sugar in the water and wait for it to boil. This forms a simple sugar syrup, and what you’re waiting for is some of the water to be boiled off so that the temperature rises. Wait until the temperature rises to 230 or so, put in both the oil and the pepper.

Watch as the heat rises, and something else happens. Where the sugar was in a liquid form, the stuff will boil and gradually turn its way back to sugar. Apparently, there’s something with the oil and pepper that makes it boil more and not like it.

Realize that your experiment isn’t going to make hard candy, remove from heat at around 270, pour it into the lightly sugared pyrex, and start writing about it because you don’t have hard candy. You’ve got this … well, it looks like a landscape for a Warhammer game.

Write about it.

No matter you’re involved in, the best thing to do is experiment. I think that I’m like a lot of people who don’t actually do enough research before pressing the ‘go’ button. You know what? There’s sometimes a thrill in not knowing absolutely for sure how something will turn out.

Financial Lessons Learned From Lime Hard Candy

As we’re immersed in life, we’re also immersed in the lessons which life teaches us. We are amazing creatures, capable of making even the most spurious correlations and connections – our ability to synthesize, when compared to other mammals, is top-of-the-line. What better way to talk and teach about finance than to make lime hard candy?

Lemon candies are everywhere. You can find lemonheads, lemon drops, lemon cough drops, lemon this, and lemon that. Lime? Not so much. Limes taste better, they’re more exotic, and they were the perfect candidate for making candies because of this perceived rarity.

Choose Your End Goal

Now, your finances aren’t the same as creating lime candies. After all, if you put the same ingredients into the mix, you can end up with a lot more things than just a pile of moey at the end. YOu can end up with a trip to Jamaica or your house paid off, or countless jubilant people singing your praises because you gave them some cash. You need to choose the end goal that you seek when it comes to your money situation, else you’ll have a giant goop of materials and nothing done.

Have the Right Tools

After deciding that I was making lime candy, I had to get a baking pan, a sauce pan, the candy thermometer, something to stir with, and the other materials together. What I found was that having a wide pot doesn’t work as well as a smaller saucepan because the candy thermometer isn’t totally immersed. I couldn’t get an accurate reading of the temperature.

Different tools work for different people. With making candies, there’s a specific way that has been tried so many times that it’s been crowdsourced to be the best. With finances, there are a number of tools out there. I like having all of my information in front of me – and as such, I’m really starting to get into the use of Manilla. Think of it like supercharged organization software for real folks.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Confectioner’s sugar goes everywhere, if you let it. My shirt is still covered in the white powder, and I somehow get the feeling that I’m going to be covered in it for a long time – even after doing laundry. I’m very happy that it’s not glitter (called ‘craft herpes’ by some), but it’s still pretty pervading. And a little bit goes a LONG way.

We are incredibly resourceful as individuals, and we can find ways to entertain ourselves and not spend a dime. Not only do we have a lot of tools at our disposal, but there’s a lot of awesome imagination flowing here, too. A little bit of cash can go a long log way if you’re thinking about how little you can spend.

Timing is Essential

There is a point where you have to take the mixture off of the stove and pour it onto your baking sheet. Once the candy has been poured, you need to wait about a minute or two before starting to cut the candy into squares. Too early, and you’re using the knife to lift everything up with it – making a goopy mess. Too late, and the candy itself has hardened to the point where you can’t do anything other than break off a piece.

There are several reasons to time out your finances well. One, you need to make sure that you’re getting the maximum for your dollar – some places don’t allow you to carry over a credit. For many, money is hard to get a hold of, so might as well spend it as effectively as possible. That timing can give a little bit of leeway or feel like it’s being wasted. Your choice.

Looks like Crap, Still Tastes Good

No, there are no pictures of this lime candy. It’s not pretty, though. There’s confectioner’s sugar everywhere, candy has the great ability to shatter into a ton of pieces, and those pieces are not wrapped up all nicenice for other people’s consumption. It’s quite rough, but extremely functional as far as candy goes. Actually, I plan on making more of this for later.

The diference between being a dreamer and being a doer is that a doer will put whatever they’re doing out there and then try to make it better later. The dreamer will try to perfect whatever it is before they put it out, running the risk of never getting it out there. You don’t have to have a perfect budgeting plan, you just need to have a plan.

Here’s the recipe for lime candy:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsp essential lime oil
1/2 to 1 cup confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Equipment needed:
Saucepan
Candy thermometer
Baking sheet
Wax paper
Dull knife

Before starting, take your baking sheet, cover it with wax paper, then dust the whole thing with confectioners sugar. Don’t go crazy with the dusting – just enough to cover the whole thing.

The wax paper keeps everything from sticking to the baking sheet. The confectioners sugar keeps your mixture from sticking to the wax paper.

Attach the candy thermometer to the pot, making sure that the bulb doesn’t directly touch the bottom. Turn on the heat and start stirring. Stir until the sugar is dissolved in the water and it starts boiling.

Keep working at it until the temperature reaches 300-310 degrees (hard crack stage). It will take around 10 minutes, and you have to keep an eye on it.

When the temp reaches 300-310, turn off the heat and add the flavoring, giving it a slight stir so it permeates the entire mixture. Pour the mix onto the baking sheet, making sure that it’s evenly spread.

The mix will start cooling immediately. After a minute or two, test to see if you can cut the newly poured mixture without it lifting everything else with it. When you’re able to do that, start cutting the sheet to get the candy into pieces.

Run your knife down, then across, making little squares. Keep doing it until you’re not able to separate the pieces anymore. After it’s cooled slightly, you’ve got candy! Awesome, awesome lime candy.

What is YOUR theme for 2013?

New Year’s Resolutions are simply SMART goals which haven’t been made into DUMB goals. For me, 2013 is the year of Renewal. What is your theme for 2013?

Why have a theme?

Themes Provide Focus

It’s the nature of life to be scatterbrained. We’re faced with information overload on a daily basis – information that may or may not be related to the last bit of information which we received. Look at Facebook, for example – when you’re looking at your friend’s list, they are talking about everything under the sun. Having a theme for the year provides a focus – a tree for you to hang everything on.

Themes Are Mantras

Mantra, according to Wikipedia, is a sound, syllable, or group of words capable of creating transformation. I consider the theme of the year to be a neat package representing all of the goals, thoughts, and ideas that I have for the coming year. Renewal is an abbreviation for the year long task.

Themes Are Meaningful

One might say that creating a theme for the year is like adding your own personal interpretation to the language. You know how there are some words which are more charged than others? Creating a theme out of it is personally charging and transforming a word into (sometimes) something greater than it entails.

Themes Are Easily Remembered

Remember that lack of focus? I figure, though, that I can remember a single word. I can remember a single word which has been infused with all types of ideas, and through the remembrance of that word and those ideas, the whole thing will be reinforced. Life is a journey and there are several things which I wish to accomplish. I can remember the word ‘renewal’ when it may not be so easy to remember to do all of the DUMB goals surrounding it.

Examples of Themes

Renewal

To me, renewal means focusing on things which were dormant or in hibernation. I have many friends and acquaintances that I haven’t talked to in a while – whether it be through Facebook, the MUCKs, or in other places.

I am looking at my businesses, as well. You see, I am an idea person. I come up with ideas all the time, and don’t seem to have time to follow through on them. Just because I had the ideas in the past does not mean that the ideas aren’t valid. This means that instead of coming up with new business models and ideas, I will stick with the old ones and see them through.

When it comes to my love relationship, there were certain aspects of my personality that he fell in love with. I smiled a lot more when our relationship first began. I was a lot more content with the world. It was another time with different circumstances, but I want to renew that joie de vivre that I once had.

Redemption

We’ve all made mistakes in life. There are some who have made more mistakes than others over the years and they have cultivated a bad reputation, bad karma, and have generally worked themselves into a bad situation. The redemption theme would focus on making it right, correcting all of those past mistakes and doing your best not to make those mistakes again. This coming year provides a chance to prove to yourself that you can do it and that you can make it happen the way that it *should* be.

Wealth

Your activities for this year will be focused on wealth and wealth creation. You might have had troubles with your money situation or it may be a case of your not having enough. This is going to be the year that you correct that, the year that you become financially stable and you plan to sieze the day when it comes to wealth generation opportunities. All of your goals for this year center around that.

Health

You have seen that you’re not as healthy as you used to be, and you need to change that. You might have noticed that you can’t see as well, or that you’re getting a bit larger around the tummy or that you’re getting weaker. Health is often more important than wealth, because while you can live without money, the quality of your life really sucks without having health. Your goals for this year might center around that.

Love

Perhaps you haven’t had the love that you want to have in life. This is the year that you look outward and make those social connections and find that person who makes your world soar. Maybe, you want to learn to love yourself a little bit more. It could be something broader a love of the world or the people around you.

Selflessness

You love the surge that you get from giving, the feeling of helping other people out in their time of need. You might not have capitalized on all of the opportunities to help people, and you might want to give more of you to the rest of the world. Selflessness is an admirable trait, one which few people have and espouse. These goals would revolve around charity, giving, and other thoughts.

Your theme might be different. You might have something on your list that I haven’t thought of, and that’s fine. You can achieve anything that you wish to achieve if you put your mind to it.

I’d love to hear about your goals and your theme for 2013.

What Matters in Life

When we become adults, we are charged with figuring out what the heck to do with our time. Up until then, we are saddled with obligations that others have placed upon us, and we’re not given the full keys to the castle. I know that I spent my first few adult years hiding under the warm, welcoming eaves of college. I didn’t start to live until I’d gotten out of college and started to figure things out on my own.

There are some people who are blessed with the knowledge of their internal direction. They simply wake up one morning and KNOW what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives, hunker down, and just do it. Those people don’t have to turn to sites like mine because they have a plan for what they’re doing with their money, their careers, and their lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong. These people have trials and challenges just like the rest of us. The have to figure out what they’re going to be doing on any given day toward their goal. When you don’t have goals or ideals that really fit what you’re doing, it can get awfully confusing. Most of the things that I’ve doen until now have been to discover what I don’t want to do, rather than what I should be doing.

Doers do. Dreamers dream about it.

Image matters

This is one that I wrestled with a long time. I tried to distance myself from those who were trying to enhance their image and the image of their company. I wanted to push myself away from the ‘look’ of a salesperson or a ‘writer’ or whatever, because I just wanted to be myself. Images, however, serve the purpose of being easily identifiable buckets of traits.

Money matters

No matter what we do to deny it, the amount of money that’s in the bank account has an emotional effect. There were some great times and some sad times while I was just getting started, and a lot of those times had to do with money. I was able to afford to go to X or Y, or I was able to pay rent – this directly revolves around money.

Character matters

Honestly, this one took a long time to be able to put into words. The character that you have contributes to how people will react to you. If you are able to create a reasonable image and back that up with positive character traits, whether in person or through writing, you will go further than just the image alone. It’s essentially walking the walk along with talking the talk.

Hope matters

Hope represents that which we want to have in the future. It’s a goal or an idea, and what we strive for is absolutely paramount to determining who we are within this great big world. If we can take those hopes and dreams and coordinate them into action, we succeed more than those who are rolling naround in circles, reinventing the wheel.

Motivation matters

Just because we have the hope does not mean that it is automatically pushed forward every day. If we do nothing to press forward, if we do nothing to strive for those hopes and dreams in small actionable steps, we are still no closer to achieving them. Motivation requires that you wake up in the morning and push for those goals more often than not.

You can dream all day about being something that you’re not right now. If you put no emphasis toward that dream, you are taking the infinite monkeys approach. Yes, an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters could potentially write Shakespeare, but the time it would take to do so is extravagantly long – taking an infinite amount of time.

That’s where it comes back to being a doer. Doers do. Dreamers dream about it. If you do something toward your goal every single day, you will get there faster than if you did nothing. If you do something, project the right image, possess character and hope, as well as motivation, you will get there even faster. You are in charge of crafting your own life. It is your responsibility.

I have DUMB goals

I am officially declaring 2013 to be the year of renewal for the Fat Lady Household.  This will be the year where I gather all of the dharmic post-it notes together and apply the information toward myself and those around me.  Resolutions be damned, I’m going to pay attention to what matters – DOING instead of writing about my plans. Actually, let’s trade out some words here.  Instead of resolutions, I’m going to call them ‘goals’ because that is what they are.  The term ‘resolution’ is used in legal terms and at the beginning of the New Year.  Goals can be pursued and gain merit at any time of the year. 
You’ve most likely heard about SMART goals.  You might have even used SMART goals in the past, hopefully accomplishing them in the process.  Let’s take a closer look at SMART goals.

SMART goals are:
Specific – Goals that answer who, what, when, where, and why
Measurable – Goals which create specific criteria for success or failure
Attainable – Goals which are important, that you’re passionate about.
Realistic – Goals which you’re ready, willing, and able to complete.
Timely – Goals which are centered on a specific time frame.
These types of goals are extremely good with painting the larger picture.  They help you establish strategies and general direction.  Where these goals failed for me was in the small details. 
For instance, a SMART goal is, “I will weigh 150 pounds by December 31, 2013. I will do this by eating two servings of vegetables a day, exercising twice a week, and avoiding all refined sugars.  I want to complete this goal because I am tired of the way that my body feels, and I wish to change that.” 
SMART goals place arbitrary pressure on a person to complete that goal.  Making your strategy bound by time has never been effective for me, because it makes me realize that I have time and it gives me the opportunity to slack off on the overall direction because I think, “I have 100 days.  I can afford to eat this giant pizza and still make my goal.”  Conversely, that time constraint devalues the objective – if you become a Nobel Prize winner in 2014 instead of 2013, does that make the Nobel Prize any less valuable?
I’m tired of being smart. Instead of SMART goals, I’m looking at DUMB goals.

DUMB goals are:
Doable – The goal itself must not violate any laws of nature.  For instance, no matter how hard I work on it, I’m not able to levitate. 
Unique – The goal must be singular, or a unique instance.  This does not mean that you cannot have the same goal which someone else has, it just means that within your field of goals, this one is unique.  
Meaningful – The goal must be meaningful to you and you alone.  You have a lower likelihood of actually doing something if there’s no power and passion behind doing the activity.
Bite-Sized – You can accomplish the goal within 24 hours.
Why do this? It’s the difference between strategy and tactics. A strategy is the ultimate end which you wish to accomplish.  A tactic is the baby step along the way which is used to achieve the overall strategy.  For example, your strategy is to grow your client base by 4000%.  Your tactic would be to send a thank you note to every customer.
I’m suggesting that around a SMART goal, you should develop a lot of little DUMB goals.  The day-to-day tactics are what matter.  These are what will get you closer to the overall goal of weighing 150 pounds.  Successfully completing one of the DUMB goals will get you closer to the SMART goal.  DUMB goals pave the path for my general direction.  DUMB goals are actionable and immediate.  I need that.  I need to know what I can do right NOW, because having some pie-in-the-sky SMART goal doesn’t inspire me.
When you use the two together, you can achieve amazing things because you have both pieces of the puzzle in place.  You might wish to be SMART, but I’ll choose DUMB every time.  What do you think?
As a note, this post is crossposted over at Million Ways to Save