Christmas survey

School released yesterday afternoon at 2:30 and after giving my classroom and desk area a good cleaning, I was free!  I have 17 days off (well 16 counting today) ahead of me to see friends & family, relax and enjoy the holidays.  My schedule is looking fuller and I’m certainly excited for everything in store!  In light of the holidays, I found a fun little Christmas survey.  Feel free to fill it out yourself or answer one of the questions in the comments!

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Egg Nog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate is my go to cold weather drink. I’m still trying to perfect my own hot chocolate as my mom still makes it the best!

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
They’re wrapped or bagged.

Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I go back and forth between the two, depending on my mood. 60% of the time I opt for white lights on my tree.

Do you hang mistletoe?
No and I don’t think I ever have.

When do you hang your decorations up?
I hang mine up on December 1st every year.

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
My grandmothers homemade rolls or green bean casserole.

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Favorite holiday memory as a child?
This is a tough one.  I have very fond church memories and those have impacted me the most since it’s the reason I celebrate Christmas, but also sitting around the Christmas tree with family.

What is on your Christmas wish-list?

Nothing material based…I just want time to spend with family and friends :)

Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve?

No, though my parents have done that once or twice with us.  When I was really young (before my brother) we opened gifts at my aunts house and had dinner at her house.  Maybe that’s another favorite holiday memory!

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
I just decorate my tree (usually-skipped this year) with ornaments that have a memory associated with it or show something I care about.

Snow? Love it or dread it?
I like snow when it gets me out of school and I do think its beautiful.  If I have to go out in it, not so much.

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Real tree or fake tree?
Fake tree.  I watched too many cartoons as a kid with personified trees.  Not only that, I find it silly we chop down a tree for a couple days then throw it out.

Do you remember your favorite gift?
My super Nintendo or the afghan my grandmother made me.

What’s the most important things about Christmas for you?
God, family and helping out one another.

What is your favourite holiday dessert?
This is a tricky one!  It varies year to year, but I am a fan of coconut cream pie!

What is your favorite tradition?

My favorite tradition is our post Christmas morning at my parents house.  Sure we unwrap gifts, but at around 11am, family starts to come over and we all work together to make Christmas lunch.  I love being able to spend a big chunk of time with my whole family and it means the world to me :)

What tops your tree?
I didn’t do a tree this year, but I usually put an angel on top of my tree.

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Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Definitely the giving part. I start shopping early for the perfect gift and I actually feel awkward saying what I want.

What is your favorite Christmas song?
It varies depending on my mood.  I love “Rock around the Christmas tree”, “O little town of Bethlehem” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.

Candy canes, yuck or yum?
Yuck.  I don’t like hard candy or anything in the mint family

Favorite Christmas Movie?
Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life

What do you leave for Santa?
Nothing

Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
Not really since us kids are adults now.  We usually wake up around 6-7 and open presents.

Do you prefer to shop online or at the mall?
I shop online for around half my gifts, then either make or buy the others.

Christmas letter or Christmas card?
I’ve never received a Christmas letter aside from a letter from ‘Santa’ when I was a kid.  I really like giving or receiving Christmas cards.

Final fantasy Christmas/holiday Showdown (via pinterest)

Merry Christmas!!

Five things I plan on doing when my student loans are paid off

In light of starting to pay off my student loans a year ago last month, I’ve reflected on the things I could’ve spent the money on.  That’s not a healthy way of thinking and I’ve attempted to block it when the thought crosses my mind.  To combat it I’ve been thinking of the things I’ve accomplished both monetary and life progresses and successes.  It did get me excited about how different my life will be in five years or less when they’re gone for good.

 

1. Throw a party

l do plan on throwing a party once my student loans are gone.  I have no idea what it’ll look like, but I’m throwing confetti and giving myself a pat on the back.

 

Lady of Catan shirt (source: CatanShop)

2. Clothes shopping trip

I’ve often had to forego clothing purchases that I’d like because of money (either in debt or as a poor college student).  One of the things I’ll do once my debts are paid off is go on a good shopping trip to a mall I really like and give myself a $500 window.  It may not seem like much to some, but to someone who gets nervous spending more than $50 on clothes a month, it’ll be something else.

 

Leeds Castle, Kent, UK view from  Hot Air Balloon by Samantha Lacy, via Flickr, one of the most beautiful castles ever (Leeds Castle, source: Flickr)

3. Travel

One of my biggest goals in life is to travel.  It means traveling out of town, out of state and out of the country.  While I’ve done some traveling so far, I haven’t been out of the country yet, which is depressing to think.  Once my student loans are paid off, I plan on traveling to the UK for two weeks to celebrate.

 

4. Replacements

I have a couple things that are looking a little worse for wear or I’d like to replace.  Due to being focused on student loans, I’m holding off on those things until my debts are paid off.  I feel that, being frugal, I hold onto some things longer than I should.  I finally talked myself into recycling an old pair of jeans, that I loved before they got holes in them.  There’s no point in having two pairs of ‘painting and outdoor work’ jeans, especially when one has holes and rips!

 

Never underestimate your ability to make someone else's life better. Even if you never know it.

5. Donate, donate!

Over the years I’ve done a lot of volunteer work and donated money to various organizations, even leading a few programs with other board members.  I’ve had to step back in the last two years because of time and in some ways, money.  Once my student loans are paid off, I look forward to using my time not spent on part-time freelancing and ‘extra’ money towards donating my time and energy.

 

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Sadly I’m still another four years out before I can celebrate my student loans being gone at my current rate.  I’m due for a raise in a few months, but I’m hoping for a promotion or something similar before then.  Having always been under the banner of ‘poor college student’ or ‘in debt college graduate’ it’ll be strange, but exciting!

 

What do you plan on doing when your debts are gone (if you have them)?  If yours are paid off, what did you do to celebrate?

November 2014 Goal Update

November was a pretty solid month, albeit one that I was barely at home.  During the final week in November, I was only home to sleep, for instance, and I was out of town every other weekend this month.  Despite this, I made headway on a couple goals, leaving me to finish off the remaining components this month.  I plan on staying put until Christmas break in 18 days, so that should help knock out my remaining goals.

Christmas tree. This is our dogs idea of the best Christmas Tree. All of her favorite foods. Lol

Read 100 books (88/100)

After finding out a book is defined as being over 43 pages, I’ve decided to count manga as part of my goal for the year.  Several other readers who set reading goals every year count thme as well.  Offhand I’ve read over 19, but I’m only counting the ones I’ve read in the last two months.  This brings my total up to 88.  Reading 12 books shouldn’t be a problem!

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Pay off $10,000 of student loans ($8741.20/$10,000)

This is the only goal I’m concerned about, despite being in the $9,000 range.  I’ve worked very hard to pay extra every month, but when you’re on a teaching salary that’s less than $30,000 and live by yourself, it’s not easy to pay as much as others.  Hopefully this changes next year…

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Try 40 new recipes (32/40)

It’s officially baking season and I plan on finishing this goal off in the next week or two.  In November I made Chocolate cream pie, a lentil loaf and baklava.

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Beat 10 video games (9/10)

I’m around ten hours away from beating Persona 4 and I recently got Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.  Alpha Sapphire is currently eating all my time, but I plan on journeying back to the world of Persona 4 this weekend.  I have 3 weeks to beat it before I travel for the holidays (meaning no PS2 time).

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire's Hoenn Region Map.

Clothing goal

I did some minor clothes shopping in November and finally acquired a coat!  I plan on getting a few more things over break to finalize my wardrobe, then I’ll be on hiatus from buying until spring wear comes out.

 

Volunteer or donate to/for 10 causes (8/10)

With the Christmas season here, it’s easy to find causes that need help or donations.  I plan on contributing to a couple in the next month.  Next year, I would like to volunteer regularly somewhere, but with a move hopefully happening in the next few months, this goal may have to be postponed a bit longer.

Yes!

I’m nearly there and I’ll be working extra hard this month to finally finish off my 2014 goals.  I’m working on a list for 2015 which follows my 101 goals to complete by 30.  I got this!

 

How was your November?

One year later

way too accurate... (via pinterest)

A year ago I put a decision into action, that action being paying off my student loans.  Although I graduated in 2011, I wasn’t in a place where I could pay off my student loans and do well with it (plus I was contemplating going for my masters, glad I didn’t).  I enrolled as a part-time student and worked three part-time jobs.  A year after graduation, I was able to quit all three and began working as a full time teacher.  The following Spring, I was finally settled (in my current apartment) and in a good place, so I finished off my classes, let go of the idea of pursuing my masters and prepared to start paying my student loans off.  This was last November (2013).

One Year Later

Fast forward to a year later and I just finished my last student loan payment for the year.  Sometimes it has been very draining, but I went in knowing that the first year would be the hardest.  Some of it was trial and error, but I’ve found what works best for me in terms of when to pay and how often.  Paying extra every month and making extra payments here and there have made a big difference.  When I total what I started off with, I’m happy to say that I’ve paid off  over $9000.  It may not seem like much to some, but considering I’m a teacher and bought a new car paid in full this year, I think that’s pretty good.  Two loans were paid off this year and I plan on paying off another small one in the next few months.  It’s going down!

YUS

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Spending changes

I’ve always been frugal and my student loan debt is the only mistake I can really fault myself on.  I’ve done an excellent job tracking everything (I have the really organized binders and records to prove it) and I’ve been mindful of ways I can save money.  In the coming year, I plan on searching for a better car insurance company (well, cheaper than my current one and one who doesn’t LIE) and finding more small ways to save.

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Extra money

I’ve also done a pretty good job of finding ways to earn extra money (side hustling).  Websites like bubblews, perktv, swagbucks and mypoints have helped me get things without spending money out of pocket or gone directly to my student loans.  I’ve also had a stellar online selling year, though this month things have capped off.  I was bringing in $100-300 a month, which isn’t too bad.  I’ll get an automatic raise in six months and maybe other promotions to increase my salary.

Inspirational Pillow.

November 2015

Where do I hope to be in a year as far as finances go?

  • Find more side hustles (I have a goal to earn $2000 extra next year, I met that this year!)
  • Pay off $10,000 or more on my student loans
  • Get a raise, promotion or a better paying position
  • Build up by savings
  • Contribute more to retirement

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I’ll have my goal update for November up by the end of the week.  I haven’t done too bad this month, but I need to book it on some goals to finish everything!

October 2014 goal update: I haven’t forgotten!

This post is coming a lot later than normal (it’s almost December Alexis), but it’s been a crazy month.  Things will be slowing down in the next month since I’ll be on vacation and I’ll have more to post at that time.  In the meantime, here’s another quick update.  I’m only updating the goals that I haven’t completed.

snowman wood craft Go Ahead & Craft (via pinterest)

Note:  I had to amend one goal because I’ve realized I set the bar too high.  I’m doing 10 crafts this year, not 20.

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Read 100 books (63/100)

I read 6 books in the month of October which leaves me with another 37 to read in order to complete the goal.  Being that it’s almost the end of November, I’m kind of feeling unsure about this goal.  I’ve read another six this month which means I better start reading more if I want to meet this goal.  This is my fifth year trying to do it and by golly I will!

Persona 4 - sooo in love with this game :D (via pinterest)

Beat 10 video games (9/10)

I started playing Persona 4 again and at this moment I’m around 3/4ths of the way through.  I plan on beating it sometime in the next two weeks, though the fact I just got Pokemon Alpha Sapphire may make it take a little longer…

 

Complete 10 crafts (9/10)

I finished an Onigiri plush this month and started on my first plush doll.  Sadly I haven’t done any work on it in two weeks!  Books, friends, Persona 4 and life keep getting in the way.

 

Volunteer or donate for 10 causes (8/10)

Sadly I didn’t do much in the way of volunteering or donating this month.  I did make a donation to the local food pantry earlier in the month though.  However, with Christmas coming up I know I’ll be meeting my goal soon.

I want nothing more than to pay off my student loan debt so that I can live simply & travel extensively. (via pinterest)

Pay off $10,000 on debt principal   ($7,911.40/$10,000)

I’m slightly worried about this goal because as of now I’m still over a $1000 away from my goal.  I’ve done the most I can on my poor teaching salary and side hustles.

Clothing goal (replace and add)

I didn’t buy any clothes in October since I was trying to save money.  I’m planning on using some Christmas money and saved up money to finish this goal off either this month or next month.

Try 40 new recipes and update recipe book (30/40)

I’ll easily meet this goal come December.  I do most of my baking then and look forward to doing more cooking as well.

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I will be posting my November update sometime early next week as I have another post coming related to goals and such.

September goal update

What a month it was.  I didn’t make as much progress on my goals as I would’ve liked to, but it’s a new month meaning it’s time to really buckle down on goals, especially as the end of the year draws near.  Since my goals are winding down, I’ll only be reporting on the ones still in progress.  You can view the complete list under “2014 goals”;

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Read 100 books in a year (55/100)

Goodreads has let me know that I’m 21 books behind schedule.  That means this girl needs to read a good 45 books in order to meet her goal, which is a lot of books.  I love reading and do it as often as I can, but sometimes squeezing in a couple chapters is challenging.

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Beat 10 video games (9/10)

I beat Pokemon X last month and completed a good chunk of sidequests.  I have lost some interest with it and currently I’m multitasking between Earthbound and The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past.  One of those games will be beat by the end of the year!

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Complete 9 crafts

I’m sad to say I’ve barely given any love to this goal.  I can’t even remember the last time I worked on a craft…

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Volunteer or donate to ten organizations and causes (other than church tithe) 7/10

I donated an item to a silent auction and raised a good bit of money for the organization.

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Pay $10,000 off student loans

I was up to $6,645.40 as of September 30th and it’s since gone up a few hundred dollars.  I do have a student loan around $700 that I plan on paying off next month in full to get rid of it.  That’ll definately make the number spike up and help the interest rates out a little bit

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Try 40 new recipes (28/40)

We’re entering into fall and winter baking season, meaning this list is going to spike in the next month.  I may actually finish it off by the end of the month, provided I get enough time in the kitchen (which I should).  This month I tried making hashbrowns, found a winning pumpkin waffle recipe and made asparagus shrimp risotto (made it again already too).

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This update is pretty brief (apologies), but part of that is because this blog will be moving in the near future.  More on that later.