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Archive for September 2014

How I Paid Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

After a couple months of dating, Sam and I started talking about our future together. I figured that this was the moment to tell him about the state of my fiances. I took a deep breath and just blurted it out, "I have credit card debt."
Sam asked me, "How much debt?"
"Umm, a lot?" I responded embarrassingly
"What's a lot?"
"$10,000."
I probably covered my hands over my face at this point because I had never admitted this to another person. Ever. I was mortified.

We talked for a few minutes about how I got into this situation (emotional shopping after my first engagement ended) and then Sam uttered the words that finally lit a fire under my mountain of debt, "I would feel better about moving forward with our future and getting engaged if you start paying off your debt."

So I did it. I paid off $10,000. Here's how I did it:


1. Get motivated. I had tried halfheartedly to pay off my debt before, but never had much success because I wasn't motivated. Getting engaged was a really significant motivation factor for me! Sam also pointed out to me that having debt would affect our ability to buy a house in the future. Figure out what your motivation is; maybe it's buying a house or starting a family. Always keep this goal in the forefront of your mind to help motivate you to keep going.

2. Write down your goal. I've read several times that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. One study suggests that writing down your goals makes you 42% more likely to accomplish them. Another statistic claims an 80% success rate if you write down your goals.

3. Tell another person your goal. After Sam and I had the initial discussion, he was so encouraging and helpful. Sam introduced me to Mint.com, which really helped illuminate my spending problems (see Step #6)., and he helped me come up with a plan to pay off my debt. He would periodically ask me how I was doing me and encouraged me every month my debt shrunk.

4. Come up with a plan. You need to figure out a plan to throw money at your debt. Some people do really drastic things to get out of debt, like moving to a cheaper area, or taking on three jobs, or selling their belongings. My plan was very simple: stop spending.

5. Stop accruing more debt. Everyone gets into debt the same way: by borrowing money. You have to stop using the credit cards. Stop financing new furniture. Stop buying the latest cell phones. Stop buying things you can't afford. This part is really hard! Hello, that's how I got into debt in the first place! In order to dig myself out of this hole, I had to change my lifestyle. To accomplish this, I took my credit card out of my wallet and hid it in a box in my craft cabinet. From this point forward, I only used cash to pay for things.

6. Track your spending. Most people don't know where their money goes, so it's hard to spend less if you don't even know what you're spending money on. By simply tracking my expenses, I spent less. I can't really explain this phenomenon, but that's what happened with me. I read recently that 60% of American adults don't have budget! That was so shocking to me! I use Mint for my budgeting, but I've also heard great things about YNAB. By tracking my expenses, I was able to figure out what my triggers were and adjust my behavior.


7. Identify your triggers. For me it was buying clothes, home decor, and books. Once I realized what my weaknesses were, I stopped putting myself into situations where I would be tempted. I stopped going to my favorite clothing stores. I stopped buying books on Amazon. I stopped going to HomeGoods. Again, this is HARD! I think it helps to tell other people about your goals (Step #3) so they can encourage you. I told one of my co-workers that I was trying to stop buying clothes. She told me she was trying to stop buying shoes. Together we encouraged each other to stick with these goals.

8. Give yourself a timeline. It's not very realistic for the long term to just stop spending money, so I gave myself a timeline for my spending diet. I decided to go for three months without spending any money on extras. My plan was to only spend money on bills, groceries, and gas. After those three months I would occasionally buy a book or buy clothes at a consignment store, but I only spent cash (see Step 5).

9. Start paying it off. By this point you should have cut way back on your spending, and now you can apply this extra money towards your debt. My plan was to pay a minimum of $1000 a month toward my debt. I only had one source of debt and only one credit card, but I know other people have multiple cards. Dave Ramsey's snowball plan is a great method to use if you are trying to pay off multiple cards.

10. Stick with it. Whenever you feel like giving up, think about your motivation (Step #1), confide in a friend and ask for encouragement (Step #3), and DON'T GIVE UP! You can do it!

I'm so glad I paid off my debt before we got married! I feel like I entered marriage with a clean slate, and through this debt process I've actually become really good at budgeting and saving. Thankfully I have not fallen back into the cycle of credit card debt. I do occasionally use my credit card, but it gets paid off every month.  We were also able to have a beautiful wedding and European honeymoon without going into debt. Neither of us have car loans, so our only debt at the moment are my student loans, which will be paid off in December 2015 (4 years early).


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Linking up with That's Fresh Friday


Currently Vol 4

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thinking about: This past weekend we went to a Civil War reenactment in Pilot Knob, Missouri. It was my first time attending a reenactment, but Sam has been participating in reenactments with his dad since he was 12. He started out as a drummer boy and at this reenactment he was a 1st Sgt.


I'm not really sure what I expected, but I was pretty surprised by how many women were wearing period costumes. I love the idea of dressing up, so now I'm searching for costumes on eBay.

Thankful For: The time with family over the weekend. Sam's sister and her family, and Sam's mom and I all stayed at a hotel together for the reenactment. It's rare that we're all together.


Loving: Nephew Nathaniel! He's 20 months and at such a fun age now! He's starting to talk and his personality is just so sweet! Watching him and Finn play together was the cutest thing ever! Occasionally he would give Finn kisses!
Nathaniel was fascinated with the photos inside of my locket.

Wearing: I've seen several bloggers talking about the new Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polish, so I decided to give it a try. Here it is after 1 week and 2 days:
 
Favorite photos:
Top left: we went to the Celebration Dinner Series at The Marketplace Cafe. This month's ingredient was peaches. Sam and I were already full after the salad course - we didn't pace ourselves very well. We'll have to do better next time! Next month is pumpkin, so of course we're going to that one!
Top right: I baked a lot for a work luncheon: salted caramel pecan pie, pumpkin streusel pie, and pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake.
Bottom Left: Finn had so much fun at day care!
Bottom Right: On Friday, we went to Elephant Rocks State Park in Graniteville, MO, with Sam's family before Sam and his dad headed off to the reenactment.
 
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Guest Post - Latte Everyday

Friday, September 26, 2014

 I am out of town today, on my way to Sam's Civil War Reenactment in Missouri. I asked Megan from Latte Everyday to guest post today because 1. I love her blog and 2. I know her in real life! Megan and I went to Interior Design school together and I love reading all about her decorating tips on her blog.

I am obsessed with gallery walls and have them on practically every wall in my apartment! Megan's guest post is all about how to create your own gallery wall. Take it away Megan.

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creating a gallery wall around the t.v.
I am really old school when it comes to decorating around the television. I think they should be covered. I know that rule went away at least ten years ago, and it really only still stands in very traditional rooms. A t.v. is just harsh and a dark black hole on a wall, and I never want it to be the focal point in my room. My husband on the other hand, completely disagrees. He was always annoyed in our original living room design by constantly opening and closing the armoire doors and couldn't wait to get a media console with no top half. He eventually won the battle, and now we have this monstrosity out on display. The worst part is that I am kinda loving it! That is, now that I have added this lovely gallery wall around it to help soften the black hole. If you are planning to create one of your own, here are a few tips:
gallery wall initials
  1. Incorporate pieces that have a story. These collage walls have become a huge trend, and I have seen several posts about putting one together for $2o or in 20 minutes with items from the thrift store, dollar store etc. You can also flip through any Pottery Barn, West Elm or Crate and Barrel catalog and in minutes order all of the components of a gorgeous gallery wall. Those ideas great and have value in certain homes or spaces like a temporary apartment that you just want decorated quickly or a small area above a desk that you change often. In a prominent place like your living room, around your t.v., it is important to build a collection that is meaningful and will still make sense after the trend has died down because there are special items on display.
gallery wall objects with a story
  2. Use three dimensional objects instead of only prints and photos. This is so important to add dimension to your wall. This is especially true if your t.v. is standing on a console like mine rather than mounted to the wall. My wall has a large pair of antique iron scissors and a couple of P's made from wood and cardboard. Some other things that work well are baskets, metal trays and sconces.
gallery wall objects with dimension
  3. Add texture. In addition to 3-d objects, some of your flat items should have visual texture. I incorporated two carved wooden plaques that I bought at an antique store in one of my favorite towns years ago. Plates, flat pottery, rattan placemats, anything along those lines would work well too.
gallery wall
  5. Let it evolve. The final and most important tip I have for creating a gallery wall in your living space is not to rush it. Take your time, collect items that mean something to you and that you really love to look at. It's okay to start without all the pieces. I have left holes in my layout because I haven't found the perfect thing yet, under the iron scissors and under the two wooden plaques. I would really like to fill those with special pieces, so I am just living with the negative space until I find the perfect things. That's okay. A comfortable, lived in home with distinct style takes time to create. It is always better to have things unfinished than to have a room that looks like you just bought everything from the showroom vignette.

Check out my post on adding personality to your space for more tips on choosing the right items to add to your home.

I would love to hear any tips you have! Have you created a gallery wall? What did you include? Are you still loving it months or years down the road?

Follow Megan here:

Photography for Beginners - Metering

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When I was trying to teach myself how to shoot in manual, I read tutorial after tutorial online. Shooting in manual was a bit intimidating, so I started off shooting in aperture priority as a way to build up to manual mode. Aperture priority should look something like this on your camera:

In AV (or A on a Nikon) Mode, the photographer adjusts the aperture and the camera adjusts the shutter speed to properly expose the photo. But the camera can't read your mind, so the camera may expose the photo in a way that you don't want. This article is a great example of what the same photo looks like in aperture priority vs manual.

After shooting in aperture priority mode for several months, I had a really good grasp on how to set the ISO and aperture, but setting the shutter speed was very confusing to me. I would guess just about every time. Then I took a photography class in February and finally everything clicked! The instructor, Jan (from the newborn dog photo shoot that went viral) explained metering to the class and setting the shutter speed finally made sense to me.
If you look through your viewfinder or camera display, you should see what looks like this. ^^
Try this experiment: turn on your camera, put it M (manual) mode and look through the viewfinder. You should see a red bar with a tick that moves around. Point your camera at something light colored (the wall) and then point your camera at something dark colored (like furniture). You should still be looking through the viewfinder, and you may have noticed that the tick on the red bar moves around depending on what your looking at. This is how the camera reads the light.

The tick mark should be in the center of the bar for a properly exposed photo. If the tick moves to the left, your photo will turn out too dark. If the tick moves to the right, you photo will be too bright and washed out.
How does this apply to shutter speed?
If you're anything like me and have a good grasp on how to set ISO and aperture, but are confused about shutter speed, you can use the camera's meter to tell you how to set the shutter speed.
I'm going to walk through how I took this photo to explain this in more detail. This may be a good time to re-review exposure from last week's photography tutorial.
1. Set ISO.
Whenever I'm taking a photo indoors, I usually start the ISO around 400. I took this photo indoors and at night, so I knew I would need a higher ISO to get enough light into the camera. I set the ISO at 1600. (Last week's photography tutorial has a great chart that can help you set the ISO.)
2. Set aperture.
I knew I wanted the paws to be in focus and wanted to have a blurry background, so I set my aperture on the lowest number that the lens goes, which is f/1.8 on my nifty fifty lens. If you're using a kit lens, your aperture will not go this low.
3. Shutter Speed?
I set the shutter speed by looking though my viewfinder at the meter. (The meter will occasionally disappear. If this happens, halfway press the shutter button and it will come back.) The meter is telling me that the photo will be very dark, so I know that I need to move the tick mark to the right. I can adjust the tick mark by rotating the main dial. On my Canon camera, the main dial is on the top of the camera.

I keep rotating the main dial until the camera's meter shows the image is properly exposed (the tick mark should be in the center). For this particular photo, the shutter speed ended up being 1/15

I snapped the photo after it was properly exposed and ended up with this image of Finn's paws:

Once you understand how to use your in-camera meter, you no longer need to guess about whether or not your photo is exposed properly because your camera meter will tell you. When your photo is exposed properly in-camera and not in Photoshop, you will spend less time editing your photos.
In June I got Lightroom and have been teaching it to myself. I'm certainly not an expert at it after only a few months! However, the combination of correctly exposed photos and using Lightroom has led me to drastically cut my editing time. I'm currently spending about 10-30 minutes culling and editing 200 photos.

Do you currently shoot photos in Manual? If not, did this post help explain how to adjust your settings? Let me know in the comments section if there are any other photography techniques you need help with.

If you're new here, please check out my other photography posts:
Improve composition
Basic of exposure
How to change focus points and focus modes
Taking sharper photos
Get out of Auto Mode & When to use aperture priority

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Wedding Wednesday - Portraits with Finnegan

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sam really wanted to get wedding photos with Finn. I was a little uncertain because Finn gets really excited when he sees me and likes to jump on me. I wasn't sure how that would work with me wearing a wedding dress. I also wasn't sure logistically how Finn would get to our venue because it's not like we could just stick him in the car while we were getting ready. A friend volunteered to bring Finn for photos and then take him home, so that part all worked out great! As far as the jumping goes, Sam just tried to prevent Finn from getting too excited. I'm so glad we have these photos with our dog child, because they ended up being our favorites from the day!
 
Our photographer commented how well behaved Finn was, and I think it's because there were lots of treats involved. That's also why he's looking so intently at the camera. What you can't see is our friend was standing behind the camera waving treats in the air.
 



 
In order to get a treat, Finn has to sit, then shake, and then he gets his treat. I just love that our photographer was able to capture Finn's "treat face". He gets a very excited expression when he's about to get a treat.
 


 
My favorites! The photo on the right is our Christmas card photo.
 

Our little family! Sam, Rebecca, and Finnegan Petersen!
 
All photos in this post were taken by White Rabbit Studios in Mooresville.

Other Wedding Wednesday posts:
Linking-up with: 
Wedding Wednesday

Showered With Design

Wedding Wednesday

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Lauren's House Tour

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My co-worker, Lauren, was recently featured on The EveryGirl. She's also an interior designer and has a stunning home full of eclectic treasures. You can check out the entire gallery and interview here.

Lauren travels all over the world and recently started a business called The Department of Agra where she will curating and selling the treasures she finds on her trips.

She was asked a couple questions about our job and I think she gave perfect answers!

"What are your job responsibilities for the United States Army Corps of Engineers? How has your position changed over the years?The question I usually get when people find out I’m an interior designer for the Army is, “Do you use a lot of camouflage and army green?” It always makes me laugh. In reality, I rarely get to aesthetically design anything. I am a technical expert on commercial furniture, and spend most of my time reviewing bid packages for furniture.

I’m just a small part of a team that manages projects when new furniture is required for an Army facility anywhere in the world. Based on a series of review criteria, our team decides who will manufacture, manage, and install required furniture. When I first started, I was focused on administrative facilities, but about three and half years ago I was moved to our medical team. So now I support Army healthcare projects to ensure that they get the equipment and furniture they need. Over the years, I have also been given project management roles where I have more responsibility with multi-million dollar acquisitions. It’s very rewarding to be a part of a team that supports the lives and healthcare functions of our military and their families. From construction through occupancy, I love seeing how people interact and are affected by the products they receive."

Read the rest of the interview here!


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Office building project

Monday, September 22, 2014

A few housekeeping things first: I finally got around to creating my own domain name, thanks to Kristyn from Chits and Giggles! You should automatically be redirected to renovatingrebecca.com, but just in case you might want to re-follow me.

The links in my sidebar have also been updated. 
Also, I finally created a Twitter! 
Follow me @Renovatereb 

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I recently completed an office interiors project for work, and I really enjoyed it! It was such a nice break from my typical work. We presented the customer with two color scheme options.

Cool scheme:

And a warm scheme:
The customer is just a dream to work with! I asked which option they liked best, and he told me to pick! He said he doesn't know anything about colors, so he would let the experts decide. My favorite was the warm color scheme, so that's what they with.
 The orange fabric is what I liked best about these boards. I loved this fabric so much that I used it in both schemes, so that I could be guaranteed that it would end up in the final selection! It's a newer fabric from Arc Com called Facet and it comes in 11 colorways.
If I could have this fabric in my own home, I would pick Kiwi:
Before I met with the actual clients, I presented the boards to two more experienced designers. They suggested that I bring back-up fabrics with me. The other designers really liked my selections, but they thought the patterns might freak out the customer (because normally male engineers get nervous with color and pattern). Thankfully, I didn't have to reach in to my stash of no pattern, boring neutrals at all!
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Currently Vol 3

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thinking About: Comparison has been a struggle for this week. Normally this isn't a big issue for me, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Sam and I spent nearly our entire eating out budget by the 6th of this month, when the month had barely even started! We've been doing really well with eating at home since then, but it seems like everyone on Facebook is eating out and posting loads of photos and then I get jealous. Partly I'm mad at myself for spending so much money in a short period of time, but the other part of me is looking at all these photos and wondering how people can afford to eat out so much. Sam has pointed out to me that we don't know what other people's lives are really like. They could be thousands of dollars of debt for all I know. I keep trying to remind myself of this, and not get caught up in the comparison game.





Reading: Earlier this week I read Taken by Tuesday. I've read the other books in the series and this was a quick and fun read.

I also read What Alice Forgot, and I loved it!


Currently reading Big Little Lies



Listening To: Sam playing the guitar.



Loving: Everything pumpkin! I mentioned last week all the pumpkin recipes we had planned, and I made them all! Yesterday, we had pumpkin french toast for breakfast and pumpkin quesadillas for dinner. It was a perfect pumpkin day! I went to Aldi's to stock up on pumpkin. I bought 12 cans. Sam seems to think that was an unreasonable amount. I disagree.


Thankful For: Modern medicine! I've had a migraine on and off since Sunday last week and it's been just awful! I told Sam on Thursday that if I had another migraine then I would go to my Dr for migraine shots. I really don't like shots or needles, so obviously the pain was bad for me to willingly ask for shots! On Friday I went to bed at 8:00 pm and didn't wake up until 11:00 am. Finn is always super cuddly when I'm not feeling well, and Friday was no exception.


Eating: We had so many delicious recipes this week! Sam and I both loved Arugula Bacon Pizza, loosely based off this Barefoot Contessa recipe.


Wearing: Nail polish! I go through phases of wearing nail polish and then not wearing it. Shades of green and orange/coral are my go-to colors.


Photographing: My sweet Finn, my favorite subject!


Linking up with:
A Mama Collective
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