Blog

Blog

My name is Katherine. I am a recent college graduate, and I created this blog to record my journey through life and the lessons I learn in the process. I intend to show people who I am and what I do in a nutshell. I intend to develop a better understanding of myself and the world around me, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.

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Getting Debt-Free by Going Waste-Free

As I learn more about money management, I can’t help wanting to learn more about life management as well. And part of living a balanced life involves being mindful of what I consume and how I consume it.

One girl I follow on social media, Lauren Singer, has been my main inspiration for transitioning to a waste-free lifestyle. What does that mean? To me, that means learning ways to produce less waste and live more naturally – not because I’m turning into a hippie, but because being mindful of my consumption is leading me to a healthier way of living.

How do I do that? I’m starting by taking baby steps. After I’m finished with my current plastic toothbrush I plan to buy bamboo toothbrushes, which break down much faster than plastic. I am also using bar soap for my face and body. Bar soap requires less packaging than body wash or other liquid soap, and can also be more beneficial for the skin if it contains natural ingredients. A third step is changing out my plastic razors for a stainless steel safety razor. That is my most recent purchase, and I have to say I’ve actually enjoyed the progress of learning how to use it.

Not all of the change is fun, however. In addition to using bar soap for my skin, I have also started using a shampoo bar for my hair. For the last six weeks, my hair has been one greasy mess as the residual silicone and chemicals from drugstore shampoo have slowly disappeared. In their place, my body is having to re-train itself on how much oil it produces to regulate my hair. One thing that has helped with this is rinsing my hair with lemon juice on occasion; it functions as a conditioner as well as a way to cut through the grease. Showering in the morning has also been very helpful, instead of going to bed with wet hair (although I’m usually a night-shower-er, so that’s really weird for me!).

The most challenging and probably most tedious next step for me will be reducing my food waste. I find it much more convenient, and often cheaper, to buy frozen vegetables in plastic packaging than buying fresh ones and cutting them up and potentially having to throw them out because I didn’t eat them quickly enough. I also don’t like cooking and meal-planning in general, so my journey with eating habits has always been a difficult one. I hope to remedy this by developing more consistent routines with meal-planning, and perhaps even utilizing the local farmers’ market more.

I still live pretty wastefully, so when I say I’m taking baby steps I mean really baby steps. I imagine it will take many months for me to transition to where I want to be, but it starts with becoming a conscious consumer and growing from there.

Debt Free Progress: Budgeting

I’ve never actually read any books by Dave Ramsey, but I would say I follow his guidelines for becoming debt free. A quick look around his website will show the baby steps to achieve financial freedom, from starting an emergency fund to paying off loans one at a time.

I’ve been budgeting for awhile. My “debt free” journey really began after I graduated college in 2015. Although I was on a 10-year plan for paying off my loans, I didn’t want to spend the next 10 years being tied down to that debt. My mindset soon became, “spend 4 years in college; spend the next 4 paying it off.”

One of the biggest things that has helped me is the app/website called Mint, which monitors and categorizes spending automatically. It also offers analytics in both circle-graph and bar-graph form to help me understand my habits and what is working or isn’t working.

As for paying off the actual loans, I did work several temp jobs the first two years post-college in addition to my regular job. Any birthday-, Christmas-, or tax return money I could spare I would put toward debt. I attacked the smallest loans first to get them out of the way, then slowly ate away at the larger ones.

The hardest part of my budgeting is food. I really don’t like to cook. Making something that tastes good cost money, and because I don’t want to spend money, the food I cook doesn’t taste very good. It’s a tricky balance to be able to eat well and spend wisely. I don’t eat well.

One final thing I tend to overlook (but that has a big impact) is the importance of surrounding myself with healthy people who uplift me. All of my most recent roommates have also been financially frugal. My friends may not be on the debt free journey the way I am, but they are working toward their own personal goals, and watching them progress helps propel me forward as well. And that’s just as valuable as any how-to guide.

 

Taking Care of Debt By Taking Care of Myself

As shared in my previous post, my goal for 2018 is to be debt free by December 1. Throughout the year I will be focusing not only on financial freedom, but also overall wellness. Taking care of myself will help me achieve my goals in a healthy way.

I am mindful of my health this year, since I want to put money toward debt rather than emergency expenses. As such, for the month of January I am working on developing routines to help keep my body healthy.

I have been doing 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene via her YouTube channel, and after January I am planning to continue a consistent yoga practice several times per week. It is not only great for improving the body’s strength and flexibility, but also for calming and focusing the mind. I don’t love working out, but yoga takes the focus away from working out and instead directs it to being well overall.

This winter, I am developing a nightly routine of making tea (it’s actually a concoction of cinnamon, honey, and hot water). These ingredients are loaded with antioxidants that help fight bacteria to keep the body healthy. I’m finding it helpful during the cold months. Plus it’s also a cozy way to end the day.

After tea, I do oil-pulling with coconut oil to enhance my dental health. Recently I began noticing some sensitivity in my gums, but the oil pulling has helped clear out any bacteria as well as eliminate the discomfort.

Before going to sleep at night, I wind down by doing a bit of reading. I’m aiming to read 15 books this year, and I keep track using the GoodReads app. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve discovered some interesting books. Reading helps keep my mind alive.

I still have trouble sleeping sometimes. I used to struggle with really bad insomnia, and I still awaken several times at night, but I am thankfully able to go back to sleep. I use a sleep-tracker app to help maintain an awareness of how I’m doing, and I will say that having a daily and nightly routine has helped tremendously.

As I start the morning, I usually drink hot water. I don’t have much desire for coffee or tea, but it is a welcome treat on occasion. I really do love the warmth of hot water in the cold weather. It helps me ease me awake as I begin working.

I’ve discovered that developing healthy routines has helped nurture a spirit of contentment in my being. And while I’m ambitious about the future, I’m also learning to become one with the moment I’m in. And it’s even okay if my plans or goals change, because I’m satisfied with the now. It’s all I’ve got, and I’m loving it.

Debt Free! and a Happy New Year

My big goal for 2018 is to be completely debt free by December 1st. I’ll still keep posting about music, wellness, and life in general, but financial freedom will be the underlying theme of my posts this year.

I have been working on paying off my debt since I graduated college, and the end is finally in sight. With only 11 months to go and the new year upon me, I’m ready to buckle down and get some work done. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I’ll be using the hashtag #debtfreebydec and I’d love for you to join the conversation.

What are your stories on becoming debt free? Or what are your goals for 2018? Share in the comments below, and have a Happy New Year 🙂

“Harp Life” – My Social Media Image

Most of my harp life is pretty boring. I play a few weddings a year, and if I’m lucky I might even participate in a recording project or two. Lately I’ve been trying to “revamp” my online image, and it’s a strange journey to say the least.

Anyone who wants to market themselves as a business online knows the importance of consistency. Depending on the nature of the business and the platform on which it is being promoted, marketing professionals will recommend posting several times a week, if not per day. This will vary across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, etc. The fun part is I enjoy making online content look pretty. The funny part is my life is not as action-packed as I promote it to be. Yet promotions are important to keep oneself relevant, talked about, noticed.

Lately I have been focused on streamlining my image to promote myself as a harpist, and I am working to become more consistent with that across my social media platforms. When I first started this blog, it was in attempt to narrow down my decision on an undergrad major. If you read my older posts, you may see an evolution of my growth, but often I feel like my thoughts are all over the place. Ultimately I have kept this blog going because I enjoy writing about life and things I’m learning or am passionate about. But consistency has always been hard for me.

Still, my efforts are a work in progress, and I’m enjoying the progress I’m making this year.

photo by Sarah Cannavino

 

Social Life After College

I’ve often reflected on humans’ basic need for community, and tried to brainstorm how I can best develop my own community of people around me.

I hear it’s easier to make friends in college than post-college because you’re going to class every day with people you have things in common with, be it age, major, etc. I can see truth in this. Personally, though, I felt pretty lonely in college because there were very few people I felt I could really connect with. Yes, several friendships I have today are ones I cultivated in college, but most of them are with people I didn’t even share classes with.

In the south where I live, the “thing” to do as an adult is join a small group or Bible study. I am definitely a fan of being active in one’s faith as well as finding like-minded people. Many times, however, a Bible study is not where one feels they can connect with people on their most personal level. I have experienced social relationships from work, game nights, or other contexts where I can reveal different sides of myself to different people. Not in the sense of being deceptive, but in the sense of being a human with multiple dimensions.

The challenge is finding a community of people where you can be your most authentic self. And that evolves over time, especially during big changes such as a job transition, moving to a different location, etc. It’s always frustrating to be in a transition time of any sort. Because transitions can coincide with a lack of depth. And lack of depth is isolating.

Harp Practice and the Art of Bullshitting

People are surprised when I tell them I don’t practice the harp a lot. Allow me to introduce you to the art of musical bullshitting.

If you have a background in classical music (or perhaps music of any sort), you know the importance of practicing your instrument to improve and grow. When I first started playing the harp I hated practicing. I still do, actually. So I guess my brain developed a way to “cheat” a little.

Because I mostly play solo for small events, I have freedom to arrange and play music the way I want to. From little on up I always preferred learning music by ear instead of reading music. I learned how to improvise, and that has allowed me to pretend I know what I’m doing even when I don’t. However, that mainly works in a non-classical music setting. Put me in an orchestra and I’m lost.

While I don’t like practicing, I do like playing. Someone I know once told me he viewed the idea of playing music like you would play a game, and that perspective is what made it fun. So I play the harp somewhat regularly, and sometimes that will turn into practice – reviewing songs in my repertoire, or challenging myself to learn a new song I heard on the radio. If I have a performance to prepare for, I will brush up on specific songs. I have become familiar enough with my harp to rely on muscle memory and my ear.

Playing over practicing is a mindset I allow myself to have as a part-time musician. It is something I can do when I come home from a stressful day at work. And it is something that doesn’t have to feel like a chore, because it puts me in a semi-meditative state. When, as a musician, I allow the music to touch me similarly to how it touches others, that’s how I know I’ve achieved a healthy level of play.

Trapped in Education

“I could just run away,” I thought to myself, “yet I’d still feel a need to finish my homework first.” -my brain between classes as I looked out a window to the campus below.

It’s amazing how different it feels walking on a school campus after graduation in comparison to before. I wander the brick pavement, taking my time, while students rush around me to class. I can finally relax because I’m on the outside looking in.

As a student, the stress of never being done gnawed away at my soul. There was always another assignment, always more reading material, always something exhausting my mental energy. There was no relishing in what I learned because I always had more to do. Even times of rest were laden with the knowledge I would have to get back to work soon. There was no clocking out until suddenly everything ended for break.

When people say school prepares you for life, I suppose they are referring to stereotypical 70-hours-per-week jobs. The ones where you wear a suit and stay late out of a need for constant busyness and endless production. I am not envious of them. People say school (college years) are the best years of your life, but I have never been more relieved to not have homework looming over my head.

Too often we trap young people in constant to-do lists that probably prohibit their growth rather than aid it. This can happen in adulthood too, but adults tend to have a little more control over it. I empathize with young people who are still bound by academic responsibilities. And while I am a huge advocate for learning and growing, I am so glad to not be in a formal school setting anymore.

In my limited life experience, I find I much prefer independent adulthood than the stress of student-hood/childhood. Going through high school and college was mentally and emotionally draining, not just because of the endless cognitive workload, but also because of the development that was happening within my own body and brain. Life is still immensely draining now, but I feel much more equipped to handle it now that I don’t have homework to worry about.

Setting an Intention with Technology

At the beginning of many yoga sessions you’ll hear the instructor prompt you to set an intention for the practice. It’s not typically a physical goal as much as a spiritual thought: “I am focused.” or “I am strong.” A few months ago I found myself needing to set an intention of a different sort: for my computer.

After a long and productive life, my laptop began to die. Slowly at first, but then with overwhelming acceleration until I decided it was time to get a new one. I needed several weeks to save up, so I would have to go without for awhile. And oh, did it refresh my appreciation for technology.

I still had my phone to check email and manage important tasks. In fact, I easily go a couple days without using my computer at all normally. But the luxury of having it available at all times was one that disappeared during those weeks.

What do I use my computer for? Often I much prefer a computer to compose emails and messages (excluding texts). I organize my thoughts better on a big screen with a keyboard having real keys. Occasionally I will edit videos to post on YouTube or create music in GarageBand or Logic. Of course I blog, and any general reading or research I do I prefer to do on a computer.

So for those unique weeks I found myself without this resource readily available. But it pushed me toward a new solution: the public library. While I love my library primarily for the books, I learned the value of checking out a laptop for an hour. With the precious time I had, I forced myself to create goals and focus on what I needed to do in that hour. I spent time responding to emails and Facebook messages. I read and wrote and researched. I even allowed myself some scroll time on Facebook. And it was glorious.

The time without my own computer felt new and different. I possess a deeper thankfulness for the one I do have now. And the focused time in the library reminded me to carry a similar intention with me in my day-to-day perspective.