I've got a to-do list that's a mile long (actually, it's several index cards long). There's always a list of things I want to write. Novels, short stories, non-fiction e-books, blog-posts, emails, etc.
And lately, I've stumbled onto something that I think a lot of people have already figured out, but as usual I'm slow to learn the rules to any game.
Basically, re-use your content.
On my editing website, I have a small blog where I talk about basic grammar mistakes that I notice scientists often make in their manuscripts. I write these posts because I'm interested in grammar, but I also use them to market my business to some degree. So for example, I wrote a post about the difference between the abbreviations "e.g." and "i.e." and then I posted that link on Facebook. That link brought people who were interested in learning how to use those abbreviations to my editing website, and now maybe they'll use my editing service at some point in the future. Basic web 2.0 marketing.
So that's great, but it's certainly time consuming. Writing those blog-posts sometimes keeps me from writing fiction or non-fiction at the end of the day because I'm exhausted. I feel like my brain gets used up.
But then I realized that I can kill two birds with one stone. Because I'm also trying to write an e-book for scientists on how to become better writers by learning some simple rules and tricks. Maybe you're already seeing the connection...
So now when I write these grammar-focused blog-posts, I just copy and paste them into my working draft of the science writing e-book. I'll revise it later to fit into the appropriate chapter. So I turned one post into two uses. Win win!
Here's another example. The other day I was reading All & Sundry's blog-post about meditation, which inspired me to write this long and detailed comment because I'm really interested in that topic. Well I wound up adapting that comment into a blog-post here. I figured, hey, I spent a lot of time writing that comment, why not expand it?
I'm calling this BOGO writing, buy one get one free. Obviously, you have to be careful not to overdo it (I think a lot of bloggers who have written "books" make this error by repackaging old blog-posts, which just ends up pissing off their readers). But if you've written good content once, why can't it be used in a different context when there's virtually no overlap between the readership?
I guess it's an example of working hard AND smart, something I've always struggled to do. I can work like a dog, but dogs aren't that smart...
Do you ever BOGO write? Is it a no go or a yes go?
I think a lot of people take stock of their lives around this time of year. Maybe you're in the middle of trying to figure out what you really want or what you want to do with the rest of your life. Maybe you're debating whether or not to go back to school. But what degree? And at what cost?
When I was growing up, there were two competing messages:
But they're both bull shit.
Do what you love? Yeah, have fun figuring out how you're going to pay $200k in student loans with a fine arts degree. I almost did that. I got into NYU and for about a week, I was so sure I was going to go to film school. I would have loved doing that - but it just wasn't a good idea, and I'm so glad I didn't. Can you imagine? $200K to probably never make a movie? I can never make a movie for free.
Do what makes money? I have a lot of friends and some family that have done this, and they seem to be uniformly miserable. How do I know this? They freely admit it. They make tons of money, but they never to get to use it. Plus, they seem stuck. Like they know what they're doing sucks, but they can't bear the idea of making less money, so they have to keep going. No thank you.
So if those two options are no good, how the heck do you figure out what do with yourself?
I'm only 30 years old, but if I had any advice to give it would be to do what you're good at.
What's the one thing you can do better than anyone else? Don't get judgemental, just be honest. What do people complement you for? What have they offered to pay you to do?
For me, it was editing. Starting in the 5th grade, my teachers would have me help other students with their writing. Friends asked me to edit their college essays. In graduate school, editing was practically my second job.
But it took me 30 years before I figured out that I should probably take this talent a step further and turn it into a career. And once I did, everything kind of worked out. I made just as much money freelance editing this year as I had at my old full-time job, and I was able to do that because I'm good at it (although please excuse any typos in this post, I'm writing quickly).
It wasn't what I wanted to be good at. I wanted to be a cartoonist, but I think I correctly concluded that my drawing skills weren't ever going to be strong enough. Then I wanted to be a scientist, but I was never that good at asking the right questions, and I think that's because I was never curious enough. I liked using my brain analytically, but I didn't read about science in free time. It didn't interest me as much as it should have if I wanted to make a life-long career of it. But I did it because it was challenging , it helped other people, the money wasn't terrible (it was never that great, though), and it was certainly socially acceptable. To be honest, that last reason was a big factor in my decision to get a Ph.D.
But I wasn't that great at science. I mean I was ok. I got results, I published, but it was always a struggle.
Editing doesn't feel like a struggle. It's hard, but it feels natural. That should have been my hint that editing was a good career track for me. But nobody taught me to think that way.
I wish somebody had. Then I would have spent less time trying to force myself into a role and a career that was never going to be a great long-term fit. I wasn't thinking about what career I would be really good at. I was worried about what other people thought of me and the sort job I should have to make them proud, comfortable, even envious.
Fuck all of that. Who cares what other people think. It's your life. Do the thing you're good at, work hard, and success will follow. I really believe this.
It sucks if what you're good at isn't the thing you love, but at least it will provide support so you can do the thing you love in your free time. Also, do you really want to turn your favorite activity into work? That would kind of suck.
Anyway, just my two cents, as always. Do what you're good at.
Today is August 31, the last official day of summer (or at least, that's how I see it).
I was taking a walk with my dog the other day, enjoying the heat, the blue-blue skies, and the sound of cicadas in the trees, and I wondered why it was summer made me feel so alive and happy. I know a lot of people hate summer, usually because of the heat, and they'll almost always say fall is their favorite season instead. But I hate fall.
I love summer because it's so hot, I can actually feel the heat pushing into my body, which is cooler by comparison. I like the sun and the insects. A mosquito here and there never hurt anyone. I like watching the snakes sun-bathe, and then slither off into the grass when we get too close. I like sitting by the pool and reading, looking up every now and then to enjoy that aqua color of the water.
But I realized that what I really love about summer is that it's the only time where I'm really myself.
I'm a first-born child, and a girl at that, therefore it was practically mandated I would be a people-pleaser. When you make other people's expectations a priority, it can have a lot of advantages. You tend to get good grades in school. You're valued at work for being organized and dependable. Deadlines are your friend.
But the downside is you tend not to make your own expectations and goals a priority. During the school year, I always felt like I was running around trying to make everyone else happy (playing sports, performing in recitals, endlessly studying to get good grades). I never had enough time to do the things I really wanted to do, which was basically to read, write, draw, and play outside by myself.
Summer was the reprieve from school and all those outer-expectations. It was the only time of year that my family and my teachers left me alone. My brother and I spent most of our summers at our babysitter's house, sitting in her basement, which sounds awful, but really it was heaven. We spent hours of time playing video games, reading, and watching tv. Then we'd be sent off to my grandparents house, where it was even better, because then we could run around outside and swim all day. No one asked us to do anything except our chores.
It was really only then that I was myself, or rather, escaping into various fantasies and stories in which I really felt like myself. I wasn't the "good-student" or the "good girl" during the summer. Everyone finally left me alone, and stopped asking me to do so much crap for them. That was happiness.
Occasionally, my dad would try and butt in with some obnoxious math workbook, but I typically fought back over that. Summer was my time. I didn't need more school (God, the last thing I needed was more school work). It was kind of ironic even, because my dad's descriptions of his own childhood were almost entirely about how he shirked school to work on his own projects, doing things like rebuilding cars, sailing dingies, and playing in rock-and-roll bands. Basically, doing the things he wanted to do. And frankly, it worked. He's a brilliant scientist and engineer, he's the best sailor I know, and he's a wonderful musician. Did he learn how to do all those things from math workbooks? No, he learned how from playing around on his own time. That's all I ever wanted, and I only ever got it during the summer.
But of course, August 31 always rolled around and suddenly it was time to buy school supplies and new shoes again. I still get depressed watching back-to-school commercials for this reason, even if I've been technically out of school for several years now (though I'm still employed by academics, so maybe that's why my internal calendar is still so school-centric).
So goodbye summer. It's been a great one. I started working full-time on my own editing business. I wrote and published my own books on Amazon Kindle Direct. I hung out at the pool with my own friends almost every weekend. It was my summer, and it was amazing.
My goal now, as an adult and a reforming people-pleaser, is to take that summer freedom and apply it to the rest of the year. There's no reason I can't love fall. There aren't anymore teachers or parents to tell me what to do. I'm 30 years old and I finally feel like I belong to myself.
But then again, I'm going to miss that heat. Goodbye summer. Until next year.
A few things I've noticed since I started working from home these past two weeks:
-My old job is already receding into memory. All the problems I had, the times I felt really angry about my situation - it's all melted away. I have no reason to care about any of it anymore. It's such a relief to be able to let all that go.
-It took me about a week to get out of the habit of monitoring my old work email. Eventually I realized it's just not my problem anymore.
-I've completely lost track of time. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had to edit these past few weekends (playing catch-up), so I haven't had a good sense of weekdays and weekends. I've solved this issue by keeping a journal of my daily work activity (I think it's important to keep track of how many hours I'm working on different projects) and noting the day on top of each page.
-I've started eating a lot better. This seems counter intuitive since working from home seems to be code for "I graze from the kitchen all day long." But the truth is, I keep much healthier food at home. There's all kinds of junk food temptation when I leave the house. I once counted that I passed two Taco Bells, two McDonalds, and probably half-a-dozen gas stations on my commute to my old job. Gas stations were my Achilles heel because I would always stop and buy big bags of popcorn to self-medicate myself on the long drive home. Now that's not an issue anymore, and I find myself reaching for salad, fruit, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. Physically, I'm feeling much better.
-I've stopped browsing on the internet and snacking. I realize I spent a lot of time at my old job finding ways to avoid doing work, by either eating or reading my twitter news feed, because I hated what I did for a living. Now my work is aligned with my personal and professional goals, so there's no reason to avoid any of it. Time I don't spend working on my projects or editing jobs is just wasted time that ultimately hurts me and this opportunity I have. Funny how productive you can be when you're working on your own ideas, rather than somebody else's.
-Rather than snacking or goofing around on my phone, I have this tendency to get drawn into chores as a form of distraction. Not sure if this is really a problem though. I guess it just depends on whether I'm getting my work goals finished each day.
-The biggest issue I've had is not making enough time for my own writing, and that has to change. I've been so wrapped up in finding more clients and finishing editing jobs that I've kept pushing off writing, which is bad because I quit my old job specifically so I could write more. Funny that I made more time for writing when I was working at that job, probably because it was my escape. Oh well, just something I have to change. I've been experimenting with my schedule these last two weeks and just haven't decided on the time that will ultimately be devoted to my daily writing, editing, and publishing activities. I will though.
That said, I did manage to write and edit a 3500 word short story over the course of about two days this week, which is light speed faster compared to my previous rate (it used to take me 1-2 months to finish one). So while I'm struggling to reinstate my daily writing habit, I'm at least writing faster.
Anyway, just a few thoughts from the work-at-home trenches. It's such a weird and new experience for me. I'm enjoying it so much, but I also keep waiting for the other foot to drop. Like, is it really going to be this awesome...forever?
Let's see how I feel when I pay myself at the end of the month.
Yesterday was the last day of my post-doc! I am officially out of academia! As one of my coworkers put it: "You've escaped!"
Phew. And boy was it a rough final two weeks. Thanks for bearing with me and the lack of posting around here.
On top of finishing my post-doc, I also had my best editing month ever. I must be doing something right, because I've never booked so many jobs before. I'll be writing a post on exactly how I've been marketing my business to achieve that milestone in case it's of any help to you. It's the sort of thing I wish someone had just told me, rather than stumbling around for a few months before I figured it out.
Anyway, I couldn't feel more relieved right now. I managed to get out of the job that was making me so miserable, and without burning any bridges too!
We had a nice group lunch to say goodbye, and while I'll miss some of my coworkers, I'm just so happy to be able to commit myself full time to editing and writing. I don't think I could have handled juggling editing and research for much longer. I was going a little bonkers last week - 3 editing jobs all due within two days of each other while I was also working at my University job full-time. I didn't have a moment to spare.
But now everything will be different. The hours in my day now all belong to me.
One of my goals before leaving my post-doc was to book one more editing job so I would have some momentum in my business extending past my last day in research. Well, I was so busy this past week that I had almost no time to market my business, so I didn't think it was going to happen. But then last night, I snagged another job at 9 pm. Just under the wire!
Anyway, sorry if this is a little incoherent. I am so tired. I worked literally all weekend on an editing job, went to work on Monday to clean up my lab space and throw out my samples, and then finished putting together a research poster this morning and turned it in to my now ex-boss. It was the last thing he asked me to do, and boy did it feel good to check that off my list.
It's almost here! The last day of my job is June 27!
Which means soon I'll be working full-time on my editing business. From home! The picture above is my newly organized home work-space. Aren't the bookcases cool? My Dad built them for me as a 30th birthday present. Isn't he talented? They're made from solid pieces of cherry wood and hand-finished. Both the chair and the desk were road-side finds from back when we lived in Maryland. I still need to hang a few more pictures and actually put some books in my new bookcases, but I think the space is coming along nicely.
I needed to do a little writing from home the other day (my last research paper), and it was so nice to work at that desk with all that room. Plus, it was great to finally get some quiet writing time. Normally, I work in a cubicle and my office is really loud with people coming in and out, discussing research, or worst of all - eating with their mouths open (damn you headphones, no one can hear themselves chewing anymore!). I get so much more writing and editing done when I'm working from home.
It's funny, though, my husband feels just the opposite. He says he's much less productive at home, and maybe other people feel the same way. So here's my work-from-home method in case it's of any help to you:
Step 1) I wake up early to get my fiction writing/editing done. When I don't have to commute to work, I try to write for at least two hours early in the morning, starting ~5 am. This is my daily writing routine, and I like to stick to it as much as possible.
Step 2) Get dressed. While it might be comfortable to wear a bathrobe all day, I know I'm more productive when I act as professionally at home as I would at the office. I just can't take myself that seriously when I'm still in my pajamas, and I think it shows in the quality of my work. So I get dressed, brush my teeth, etc., while my husband is also getting ready for work. I think getting ready together is the key to actually making it happen.
Step 3) I put out all the food I want to eat that day on the kitchen counter, if only to remind myself that's what I was planning on eating. No snacking from the cupboards. If you're like me and need a morning and afternoon snack, again, I just leave them out on the counter. I don't know what it is, but if I remind myself what healthy food I planned on eating, then I eat it. If I don't make a plan, I end up snacking endlessly on whatever I can find.
Step 4) On a piece of paper, I write down a list of things I want to accomplish in the approximate order I'd like to do them. I start with the first item on the list, finish it, mark it off, and move on to the next. I know, it seems obvious, but the lists keeps me organized and on-track. Whatever I don't finish on the list that day gets copied down onto the next day's list.
Step 5) I turn off the internet. Well, to be fair, the internet is always off in our house, but I do shut down the data plan on my cell phone to keep me from browsing The Washington Post all day.
Step 6) I use my watch to measure how long I'm in the "zone" (i.e., really focused) and I stay in it for at least 30 min. If I find myself getting frustrated or distracted, I check my watch, and if I haven't been working for a least a half hour, then I force myself to refocus on the writing again. However, if a half-hour has passed, then I give myself a mini-break (get a glass of water), and then return back to work again. If I've been working hard for over an hour, then I go on a mini-break regardless. I've just noticed that I need little breaks through the day and that after an hour of solid work, I start to become less productive anyway. So I get up, stretch my legs, and do something else for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 7) I try to use those 10-15 minute breaks to do something productive, like unload the dishwasher, clean a toilet, or do my strength training routine. I figure if I'm working from home, then I should use that to my advantage to get little chores out of the way so my family and I can have more fun in the evenings or on the weekends.
Step 8) I take a short midday walk with my dog after lunch. Exercise is important and it helps me think straighter and write/edit better.
Step 9) I finish up my work around 5 or 6 and then take the dog for her long evening walk. I aim to get 15,000 steps a day, which is hard when I'm working from home, but I still try. At the very least, I try to get 10,000 steps. There's no doubt I'm more sedentary when I'm working from home. The house has a way of confining me more than my workplace does, so I have to make a concerted effort to document my exercise to make sure I'm not sitting around all day (I use my Fitbit Charge hr and I love it).
Anyway, just a few thoughts and I hope some of them may be helpful. Bear in mind, though, I don't have kids, which is probably what makes a lot of these tips work. I don't know how you work-from-home Moms and Dads do it, but I salute you.
Do you have any working from home tips?
I have just about 40 days left in my post-doc. Here are a few things I both am and am not looking forward to once I finally leave academia to expand my editing business.
-I can write more. So much more writing.
-I won't have to commute in my car for 2.5 hours a day.
-I won't have to work on a frustrating project that I don't believe will ever be of much value to the scientific community.
-I won't have to grin and bear the continuous snarky comments from some of my lab-mates, who are more interested in getting a laugh than being nice.
-I won't have to deal with comments that are borderline, or often straight sexual harassment. (To name just once instance, on my second week of work, some coworkers asked me to name my favorite sex shop...)
-I won't have to wear closed toe shoes and long jeans every single work day (I work in a lab. It's a safety thing.)
-I can wear a skirt or a dress on a Monday for the heck of it!
-I can do more art!
-I'll be my own boss. I can make my own decisions about time off and what jobs to take.
-I can choose my own projects and decide how important they should be.
-I won't have to pack a lunch every day. If I want an egg sandwich for lunch, I can cook myself an egg sandwich. (I don't know why this one excites me so much. Maybe I'm just really sick of eating cold food or reheated leftovers every day.)
-I can work wherever I can bring my computer: outside on my back patio; in a different city, etc.
-I can try different things to make money, like pitch and write science news stories, sell some paintings, work at an organic farm, however I feel like filling my time in between editing jobs.
-I won't have a steady paycheck, regardless of how productive I was or was not that month.
-I won't have a nice group of work friends to socialize with each day.
-I won't have paid vacation or sick days. A day I don't work is a day I don't get paid.
-I may make a lot less money. That remains to be seen.
-I may lose some professional respect. (I care about this one less and less every day)
-My parents aren't 100% supportive and I'm getting tired of defending my decision. (More on this another time.)
Even the cons make me happy right now, because they're the consequence of choosing my own life and not just accepting what's handed to me. We'll see how I feel when I'm actually experiencing them.
Hello stranger, sorry things went radio silent around here. I finished my last dissertation editing job on Friday to cap off one of the more intense two and a half weeks of my life, and then spent the weekend catching up on some sleep and non-writing related activity (i.e. planting the garden).
The editing itself was fine. The problem was trying to do two full-time jobs at once. I still had to go to the lab and do research. And then on top of that I spent 20 hours editing student's honor's thesis (MLA format, which is simple and lovely), plus another 50 hours editing an APA format doctoral thesis in a partially overlapping interval of time. 50 hours! APA format is no joke! And then there were a smattering of smaller jobs, which were much easier, but they complicated my deadlines.
Anyway, now that's done and I'm glad it's over.
The semester is basically finished for college students, so there won't be any more dissertation jobs for a while, which is good. I need to spend my time building more working relationships with research professors. The problem with editing dissertations is that it's one and done. That person is probably not going to hire me again since they're unlikely to be writing more academic documents in the future. Research professors, however, publish a few papers a year and submit a couple of proposals as well. That's the clientele I need to target if I want to establish a good repeat customer-base. Plus, I think I'll die if I have to put any more 200 page dissertations into APA format again. My hat's off to social scientists. In the physical sciences, we just pretend there's no such thing as style guidelines or formatting beyond the reference list.
Outside of the academic editing, I also need to edit my practice novel. The first draft is complete, but I'd like to finish a second draft before May. Once I feel like it's not a total embarrassment, I'll look for someone to help me proof-read it and then hopefully I can get in onto Amazon kindle direct by June. Does that sound like a crazy plan? I have no idea. We'll see.
And finally, I need to outline some story ideas I've been kicking around for a while. One thing I'm going to try is handwriting them instead of using the computer. I have this theory that I tend to overwrite and get too descriptive because it's physically very easy to type all that b.s. on a keyboard. I can only hand write for so long and for so many words. I'm curious to see if this will help me adapt my prose into something a little cleaner and more direct. That's the kind of writing I like to read. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do it myself.
So that's the plan, Stan: network with research professors to build my clientele base; edit/publish my practice novel; and write out my more serious book in long form. Should be fun :)
I got my haircut the other day. I've been trying to save money lately, so I just went to the local Great Clips and asked for my usual blunt bob. But then the hairdresser cut off about twice as much off as I had asked. Instead of my usual above the shoulder length, I suddenly had hair that didn't even reach my chin. Don't you hate that?
I didn't say anything. I figured, hell, this is what I get for trying to save money on a haircut.
But then a funny thing happened. I went home, washed my hair (to get that weird post-haircut look out) and discovered that it actually looked kind of cute. I've been getting my hair cut shorter for a few years now, but I'd never got this short before. I kind of liked it.
I went to work the next day, dreading it a little because I hate when co-workers feel bizarrely compelled to point out that I've gotten my hair cut (as if I hadn't noticed). I don't like being the center of attention. I hate it so much that I stopped having birthday parties starting in the third grade.
But instead of the usual awkward commentary, I received more complements about my hair in the course of a week than I think I've received in my entire life. People I've walked by in the halls for years without exchanging a word actually stopped and told me they liked my hair.
"Thanks!" I said each time, because here's a tip: when someone complements you, just say thank you and move on. You'll exude confidence even if you're silently questioning everything.
Anyway, the point of all this is only to say it's funny how good things can happen even when mistakes are made or surprises happen. I'd never have asked to get my hair cut this short, but it turns out it's a great length on me.
I can be rigidly controlling. I hate surprises. And I've designed a lot of my life to avoid any kind of uncertainty. It's low risk, but it's also low reward.
Lately, I've been feeling some anxiety about my upcoming job change, from secure academia to self-employment, but I keep reminding myself that the direction I was going wasn't getting me anywhere that great. If I want good things to happen, I have to take a risk for once. I took a chance on a budget haircut and it payed off. Maybe my new job will be like the haircut, and maybe it won't, but it's worth trying just to see if there's any payoff.
So it's no secret that I've decided to quit my job this summer. It's all part of a larger theme going on in my life, to reassess the things I really want to do and then take actions to make those things happen. Right now, I want more time to focus on writing and publishing, so working from home on my editing business seems like a good way to make that happen.
But let's get real, from a financial perspective, quitting a job is scary. When you're going from a sure paycheck each month to a totally unknown income, it forces you to take another look at your finances.
Right now, my husband and I are re-accessing our expenses and making an effort to save more money in anticipation of the first few months of the job transition when our total income will in all likelihood be lower than before. It's been an interesting experiment.
Putting a hard-stop on spending makes me realize just how much money we were essentially throwing out the window, with little to nothing to show for it. The pressure to buy things, particularly to fix small nagging problems, is omnipresent. Here are just a few things I've thought about buying in the last few weeks:
1) Tickets to Deadpool.
2) Kongs for my dog. (She takes hers outside when I'm not looking and loses them in the woods somewhere)
3) A butter dish. (Ours broke)
4) An umbrella. (Broke)
5) An ironing board (I've never owned one)
6) Micellar face wash (I blame reading fashion blogs for putting this idea in my head)
7) A black pair of shoes. (I don't have a casual pair of black shoes)
8) EATING OUT
Individually, these are little things, but they add up, especially when it would be so much easier to order a new umbrella from Amazon with one-click purchasing. And yes, I can afford a new umbrella, but I don't need to. It turned out that I already had an extra umbrella lying around. I just had to think about it and then find it, which showed me that what I really need is to be more aware of my possessions. Ultimately, I guess I'd rather switch jobs, or take a vacation with my husband, or save up for a down payment, than own a superfluous umbrella.
One of the ways my husband and I are trying to be more aware of these types of purchases is by keeping a record of everything we do buy using a good old-fashioned pen and paper system. We now keep this notebook on the kitchen table.
At the end of the day, my husband and I look at our bank account and see what purchases we made during the day. Dog food. Beer. Car registration fee. Stuff like that. And we write it down.
I think it's the double-whammy of both looking at our checking account every day and then writing those purchases down which has helped us be more aware of how we're spending our money. It makes us double-think any purchase, knowing it's a tangible expense that will have to be accounted for at the end of the day. It's the non-budget budget.
That means for every one of those eight items I listed above, I've had to ask myself, is this something I really need or want?
A little play-by-play:
1) Deadpool: Is this a movie I wouldn't mind waiting for until it comes out on video? Yes.
2) Kongs: We still have one kong left that's perfectly serviceable.
3) Butter dish: I've gone five years without one since the last one broke. Clearly, this is a low priority in my life.
4) Umbrella: Already had one hidden away in the closet.
5) Ironing Board: Neither my husband nor I wear clothes that need to be ironed.
6) Face Wash: I already have lots of beauty products. When they run out, I'll reassess whether this is something I really want.
7) Black shoes: If I'm working from home, will anyone care that I'm wearing brown shoes with a black sweater? Nope.
8) Eating out: This is the hardest one by far. All I can do is try and buy good food from the grocery store that we like cooking and eating. Always a struggle though.
What's funny is that this exercise has solved a little money mystery for us. At the beginning of each month, I would put $X.00 away into savings, but by the end of the month I'd routinely have to take out $Y.00 from savings and put it back into checking. Yes, it looked like I was trying to save too much. Except, if I did the math on our expenses, it was in theory possible to save $X.00. I just didn't know where the extra $Y.00 was being spent.
Turns out $Y.00 was being spent on garbage like I listed above. Buying junk we didn't need and eating an excessive amount of food at restaurants. Now I understand why, growing up, my parents never allowed us to eat out. All that money they saved? They used it to pay off their mortgage in just 16 years.
So yay! Now we have $Y.00 extra each month to help with the upcoming job transition. Which means more writing! Which has a thousand-fold greater worth to me than a new pair of shoes. Pretty neat.
Have you ever tried a new budgeting system? What worked for you?