Three Money Habits to Cultivate That Make a Big Difference

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 
― Epictetus

Writing publicly about my relationship to money for several years now has been fascinating and helpful. Money is still such a taboo topic for people but I’m convinced that more transparency about all its facets can be extremely beneficial, whether it’s benchmarking your salary more accurately or forming better habits. I’ve benefited from talking more openly about money with friends, colleagues and coworkers, and family members, and trying to turn some behaviors from projects to habits.

There are three in particular that have fundamentally changed my relationship to money, and which I think summarize most good advice out there. Because it’s Monday and you may be looking for some motivation, here they are, in no particular order:

Check your bank account(s) everyday. It’s 2019 and while we live with risks of data breaches everyday, it’s also never been easier to keep track of your money. I still remember my dad teaching me how to physically balance my checkbook when I got my first basic account at 12 years old and while it seems pretty quaint now, the same principle applies: know the exact amount of what you have made available to yourself and proceed through life accordingly. Checking my cash budget is part of my daily routine as much as brushing my teeth: it helps set me for the day and helps me make micro-decisions for the rest of the day. Can I treat myself to a lunch out today? Why yes, because I haven’t bought lunch all week and have a nice little bit extra for a fancy soup. Huh, that number seems lower than it should–ah yes, I have to process some work expenses, let’s do that as soon as I get into the office.

Use your bank for more than just cashflow. Because I was military dependent, I have access to some banks or credit unions that were primarily designed for servicemen and women or their families, often with attendant information and services (especially if you live abroad). I opened my first account with one of these banks at 12 and I will never close my membership. This bank is not the flashiest thing in the world, but their customer service is second to none and they make processes very user friendly. When I took out auto insurance for the first time as an adult, one of the agents went out of their way to educate me when I had “dumb” questions. They also have partnerships with other organisations to include services that I would otherwise have to pay for, such as  I have frequently called them to discuss queries about my accounts and how I can make different services work better for my family, or just to get some general knowledge. Reputable and trusted banks and credit unions are gatekeepers to some pretty important aspects of our lives, often managing both our wealth and risk, so build a relationship with yours and take advantage of the services and expertise they offer you. If you haven’t talked to your bank in a hot minute, make it a priority.

Admit ignorance. If you don’t know how a process works, ask. Ask parents, ask successful friends, ask experts, read a book. Do your research, and fact check the sources of the information you find to ensure it’s sound and from a trustworthy source. Make financial education part of your rolling task list and don’t neglect it. Factor financial reading into your daily or weekly intake, or check out or download a book about a topic that either interests or intimidates you. Ignorance will cost you, in bad decisions, delayed good decisions, or lost benefits or opportunities.

In short: be proactive not passive.

A New 101/1001 List

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I hadn’t done an update in far too long but my most recent 101/1001 goal list recently came to a close. My official reckoning ended at the end May and while I nearly had my list ready to go, I had a few more goals to add that I hadn’t quite decided on. The full list is now live and I’m excited about it–I’ve already put a couple of ticks against some of them to get me started!

Comparing my successes and failures of the last list (47 goal items achieved) I realized that many of them were probably always unachievable. There is no way, for instance, that I’m ever going to go skydiving. I have examined the innermost workings of my soul, and NOPE. It’s never going to happen. Meanwhile a lot of the challenge based goals really helped me jumpstart new habits or undertake long projects that had a measurable improvement on my life (my Year of Health included).

So this time, in considering what I wanted to achieve in 1001 days, I leaned hard into smaller, trackable goals and experiences. Travel features heavily, as there are still so many places I want to see. Learning also ended up taking quite a few slots, whether this means trying new classes, foods, or skills. And clearly I’m in the mood to prioritize experiences like concerts and comedy shows, things that I’ve not always carved out time for in the past.

In some ways this list is a bit less grandly ambitious than my last one, but reading through it, I think a lot of items on it are likely to help make me feel happier and more evenly spread as a person. As I’ve written before, work has really consumed a lot of both Jeff’s and my identities and time over the last six years and while I have no intention of scaling back on career goals, I recognize a need to “divide [my] energies,” as my brilliant friend Hannah once put it. I want to make time and space for creativity and pleasure much more than I have done.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts! And as always, tell me what your Big Ideas and Goals are. I love it when we cheer one another on!

Weekend Links

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” 
― Dalai Lama XIV

Happy weekend, ducklings!

Whew, we made it. This has been a rough week for me, with spiking anxiety and attendant issues that (as usual) have little grounding in reality and (as usual) I am unable to control. Brains are weird, troublesome things. I’ve had to break down a few pride barriers and ask for help for things left and right…and the unexpected result has been that I’ve ended up on the receiving end of some staggering pieces of kindness and generosity. I’m still reeling from it and frankly a bit weepy…as I have been for most of the week.

More on that later, perhaps, I’m still processing the feelings and mostly just trying to express gratitude.

I hope you’ve received some kindness or generosity this week too; if you have, tell me about them in the comments. And then kick back and avoid your weekend chores with this batch of reading I’ve lovingly put together for you.


No, I’m still not satiated with think pieces on the Fleabag jumpsuit.

Here, have an interview with the costume designer too!

How to radicalize a young person in a few easy clicks.

Dolly Parton is perfect. She always has been.

Standing ovation bloody well deserved, but it’s horrible that he is still having to lead this fight 18 years on.

This is not a feel good story! Nine year olds going into debt for food is a sign that ours, the wealthiest society on earth, is horrifically broken!

Are we allowed to call them concentration camps yet?!

Once again the President just admitted on camera and without coercion that, hey foes, he’s up for crimes if you wanna hang! And once again,  no consequences. It’s incredible. This man should not be running a bowling alley, much less a country.

Mitch McConnell is bad, everybody. Then again, over here in the UK, the race for the next leader of the Tory party (and therefore premiership) is underway and Boris Johnson is in the lead. So truly, who am I to judge.

In Utah/Mormon news…stahp.

In more productive Mormon news, a thoughtful interview on what a patriarchal culture looks like to younger generations in the LDS Church and why they may be troubled by it, while still believing in and actively participating in the truth claims and culture. More nuanced discussions of faith and culture, please.

This is a couple of weeks old now, but I’ve just seen this article and now feel extremely dumb for not having noticed it before.

No, I’m also not done talking about the brilliance of Chernobyl. Have a lovely interview with the woman responsible for the haunting and perfect score. (Also, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?)

As a beauty addict and a marketer, this piece from The Atlantic was fascinating.

Relatedly, this piece on how brand logos have changed over the years was also very interesting!

Good riddance, useless woman.

One of the victims of a homophobic attack which went viral speaks up and shames everyone. Good. Hate crimes towards the LGBT community are on the rise and must be confronted.

We do not deserve Keanu.

This thread is quite the emotional rollercoaster, but keep going with it.

Weekend Links

“At midnight, in the month of June, I stand beneath the mystic moon.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

Happy weekend, kittens! Jeff is at a friend’s birthday abroad this weekend, and I’m cheerfully scheming of what I can get away with in his absence. In the midst of all that, I’m also getting a lot of adult tasks done like the usual household maintenance and laundry because adulthood is a never ending list of monotonous chores. Weekend Links

Procrastinate with me by enjoying this nice batch of weekend reading I’ve put together for you. I’m obviously biased, but I think this is a rather nice assemblage of pop culture, feminism, PRIDE celebration, fashion, politics, and archaeology. Why else do you people come to this dinky little site?

The uncomfortable State Visit is over, and here in the UK we’re using some pageantry in the form of Trooping the Colour as a palate cleanser, whilst my president is awkwardly stepping on his own NASA message and conflating the Moon and Mars on Twitter. Totally on par examples of the symbolic role of the state.

I never get over these stories. How do people just misplace this stuff!?

Kimberly Clark–drag queen and YouTube legend of anti-beauty-consumerism–is back!

There is a great interview with Stephen Colbert in the New York Times this week, and it will not surprise you at all to hear that I loved his thoughtful answer to why he loves Tolkien so much. He is a noted fan and, as all the best fans are (regardless of what their fandom is centered on), his reasons for his love are deep and personal. Speaking of, he also gives an excellent answer to what he sees the differences are between good and bad for you faith, interverweaving his own religious faith and life history.

I need this tattooed somewhere.

My interest in J. Crew think pieces is inexhaustible but this Vanity Fair article is pretty darn good despite the plethora of options from which to choose. “The narrowness of the world the company first opened a window to is now, thankfully, a thing of the past. There is no one way to look or dress “American.” So how do you resuscitate a brand built on this definition? And is there still room for it?”

Ooh, our next bonnet and corset drama is coming!

I agree.

Anne Helen Petersen drops her latest deep dive.

Some commentator made the point that at most other points in human history, the inability to plant or harvest an estimated 70% of ones crop might be considered something of a setback…

Step aside, Florida Man!

An excellent piece from Tom and Lorenzo about some of the history and mythology around the Stonewall Riots. Fascinating, PRIDE Month appropriate, and important.

Of wifehood and wifery.

While I’m not at all a fan of those who try to claim Shakespeare was not Shakespeare…I have to admit I liked this article at The Atlantic!

There is an unsubtle connection between misogyny and terrorism. “In 2018, a few months before Beierle stood in that studio, the Southern Poverty Law Center added a new category to its tracking list of hate movements around the country: male supremacy….While old-guard white supremacists revered women as the mothers of the race, younger bigots despise them as just one more group responsible for eroding their status.”

It’s summer. Wear sunscreen.

Rhianna is getting her money, in the literal definition of goals.

There was a fun experience going around social media and specifically Instagram this week, where some simple instructions showed users how to access the information that is used to control the ads that they see on the platform. The joke was, that almost everyone was baffled by what their data showed as their interests…it was almost always weird or wrong (if you believe people on the internet talking about themselves…but mine certainly made little sense!). The consensus opinion being that people are liars or the algorithms are not as strong or correct as we are often led to believe. I lean towards the latter. Algorithms, for all they control our world, are man-made things. Popular science YouTuber Veritasium happened to make a video about this from the YouTube perspective this week, which is worth a view if you want to understand the fraught relationship between platforms, creators, and views–as well as how sensationalism has overtaken…everything. This is true of our politics, media, and publishing worlds as well.


Babies and young children are dying in facilities in which they should not be being held in the first godamn place. If you have extra cash to spare this week, throw it at RAICES who is doing important work on the border. Our president may not be able to make up his mind whether he’s pro or against tariffs (and trying to avoid a fight with his own senate) but children are still dying.

Like everyone else in the world, I am debating whether or not I could pull off THAT Fleabag jumpsuit. I suspect not. I suspect I may buy it anyway….

Straight Pride…I can’t even. What a basket of WTFery.

Exhibit 1,403,582 why PRIDE matters (read the story):

Makeup No Buy

“Treat your makeup like jewelry for the face. Play with colors, shapes, structure – it can transform you.”
– Francois Nars

At the start of the year I gave myself a goal to not buy any new beauty or makeup products until my birthday in early June. This was partially to reset my buying habits for this, my favorite category of guilty pleasure purchases, and partially to help carve out a little extra savings by reducing or eliminating some necessary spending.

Time for some accountability reporting!

When it comes to skincare, I’ve already blogged about how my habits here are a real source of satisfaction. At 33, my skin is probably the best its ever been and my main goal is to keep it that way as long as possible. Drink water, eat healthy, exfoliate, and don’t screw it up with ingredients that muck up the delicate balance–easy! …Right?

Hm, on to makeup then. In this category I did need to make some purchases that were within the limitations of the self-challenge as I had no backups already on my shelves when they ran out. In the past few months I used up my Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and a Lancome stick foundation which doubled as a concealer for me due to the consistency of the product. I also used up a tube of Givenchy primer. All of these are excellent products that I’d easily recommend, but in the spirit of my financial challenges I wanted to see if I could find alternatives (at least for now) at lower pricepoints. With summer coming in and my skin in pretty good condition these days, I don’t need full coverage makeup and so picked up a Maybelline blurring primer from the drugstore, a skin tint from Glossier, and (the splurge) a Charlotte Tilbury concealer. All of this are working together really well so once again, I won’t be buying anything in this product category until I use them up.

So other than that, did I meet my goal of not buying new products? Well, no, I slipped up twice.

On a work trip that routed me through Heathrow Airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, the dutyfree beauty counters called to me and I wandered past Burberry in a moment of weakness. I’m not sure what’s happened to Burberry’s beauty brand, they were having a bit of a moment a few years ago under then-Creative Director Wendy Rowe, but that seems to have faded. This is too bad, because they had a lot of really good products and I wish they were easier to find these days. Alas for my self control at 4am, they ARE to be found at Heathrow and that’s how I came home with two additional lip products that I didn’t strictly need.

And then, because my brain really does exist in an all-or-nothing state, and because I had already broken my goal once, I found it easy to justify picking up a handful of beauty products whilst on holiday with X in Italy when we discovered a local brand shop and self indulged. I don’t even have the excuse of an early morning flight and sleep deprivation, it was just weak will. Beauty tourism is one of the pleasures of travelling with girlfriends and Italy is the home of many a global brand’s makeup manufacturing hub. It was always going to be a risk! In our case, we discovered the brand Wycon and I picked up a totally unnecessary highlighter, lipstick, and mascara. I also got a three-pan custom eyeshadow palette in the most shockingly basic shades…and I’m completely thrilled with it. It’s easily one of the most practical beauty purchases I’ve ever made. All of these items were at drugstore prices and, while a lapse, were not nearly on par with my infidelity with Burberry.

I atoned for both of these misdeeds by going through my arsenal to remove at least the same amount of items as I added. My sister is getting some more beauty products (that girl hasn’t had to shop for anything in years), and a few old or expired items went in the bin where they needed to be. My beauty shelves are still bigger than a lot of people’s but they are smaller than the last time I wrote about them. My love of beauty hasn’t changed but my tastes are shifting a bit, as is my knowledge as a consumer.

Most of all, my shopping habits in this area have shifted dramatically. As has been well-documented, I made the consumerist breakthrough with my clothing a long time ago that made me shop almost entirely second hand or through ethical brands with transparent production and labor information. Understanding my style preferences has also helped to shrink my wardrobe over time and shop less overall. The same is happening with my bathroom shelves.

Makeup and beauty is a bit different because they are perishable products, but the same basic premises of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” apply. This project has helped me focus on buying less, using what I already have in creative ways instead of justifying new products, and documenting what I use up (and how bloody long it takes!) before I recycle packaging. Where possible and reasonable I’ve also tried to shop from brands I’m happier to support with my dollars for their commitments to good practice, or just to support independent businesses.

Even though the project is officially ending, I think I’m going to try and keep the spirit of it going through the end of the year. While I may buy beauty items, I’ll continue to do so primarily to replace used up items and if I do buy something totally new, I will first get rid of something I already own that’s similar. I’ll also continue to do Empties blog posts (because I love them) a couple of times a year, so keep an eye out for the next one in August or so. In the meantime, watch this space for a few more posts on how my self has changed over the past couple of years, and why!

33 Random Facts

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Today’s my birthday and so I thought I’d drop a few random facts to coordinate with the number of times I’ve been around the sun. Just for kicks! If you’re a long time reader, you may already know most of these and if you’re new you may learn more than you ever wished to. Either way, hope there’s at least one surprise in here:

1. My eye color changes slightly with my mood and Jeff jokes (accurately) that he can tell how angry I am by how bright green my eyes are. Funner fact, I share this trait with my mother and sister. The women of my family come with a warning beacon!

2. I cannot wash dishes for the life of me. Something about the sensation of grimy water triggers a gag reflex in me that I have never been able to overcome and it’s clearly partially psychological because even wearing gloves doesn’t prevent the feeling. I’d rather clean a bathroom top to bottom twice than clean dishes by hand.

3. One of my favorite snacks of all time is the most basic of basic: cheese and crackers. Bliss.

4. Meanwhile my favorite candy is probably sour gummy peaches. I remember going to the movies with my dad as a kid and always bee-lining for the pick-and-mix to buy a scoop or two of these goodies and now in the last year of my early 30s, precisely nothing has changed.

5. My most consistent emotional habit has been being way too influenced by what I’m currently watching, reading, or listening to. A book can absolutely wreck my mood for a week if I’m not careful.

6. I hate having to wash and blowdry my hair. Men and women who enjoy this grooming task baffle me. If I had endless wealth I would absolutely waste a portion of it on professional blowouts so I didn’t have to do it myself.

7. I took piano lessons for 12 years and was an absolute brat about it for most of that time. I didn’t awaken to the underlying parental wisdom until my late teens and subsequently paid for my own lessons whilst in university. Mom was right…

8. (If you’re new around here) I was raised Mormon and very publicly left the faith about five years ago. However I remain deeply interested in and invested in the Mormon community and other intersections of faith, culture, and community building.

9. In the interest of total honesty, I just counted them and I own 26 lipstick or lip products. Believe it or not, this is a dramatic downgrade from previous years. It’s my favorite addiction.

10. Growing up my parents were strict about what constituted appropriate “sabbath day” activities, including TV and movies. My enduring love for PBS 100% springs from the fact that Sunday night nature documentaries and performances felt like such a treat. (Editors note: my parents massively relaxed this rule with their subsequent three children, which I am bitter about to this day.)

11. One of the traits I’m least proud of is how naturally lazy I am. I talk and focus on motivation so much because given half a chance my preference is to be horizontal and lying in a sunbeam like a cat.

12. One of the biggest items on my bucket list is making it to all seven continents: only Africa, South America, and Antarctica to go.

13. Baths are my favorite way to end the day, no matter the weather. It can be high summer and I will still want to soak in hot water to wind down before going to bed.

14. My deep, abiding, and well-documented love of lipstick notwithstanding, if I had to run out the door with only one thing “done” to my face it would be mascara. I’m dark haired but my eyelashes are weirdly and obnoxiously pale so without it, I look like an extremely unwell person.

15. I have seen the classic A&E miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice literally hundreds of times. My mom and I used to watch it together on weekends (see Fact 10) and for a few years we just planned on “P&P Sundays” as we called them. The count, therefore, is exceptionally high. I regret nothing.

16. As a toddler I called bananas “beenas,” which is now something of a family joke.

17. Other family jokes and catchphrases over the years the maxim include, “No bayoneting at the table!” Once exclaimed by a vexed parent, but still sound etiquette advice, I feel.

18. The only video games I have ever gotten into, and it is a loose definition, are Sid Meier’s Civilization and Pokemon.

19. If there is one documentary I would make everyone watch to better understand America and Americans, it’s Ken Burn’s Prohibition. I’m dead serious about this.

20. Likewise if there is one book I would make everyone ready to understand British class and wealth attitudes, it would be Snobs by Julian Fellowes. But don’t try to use it as field guide, I warn you!

21. Favorite artist: Botticelli. Nevertheless…

22. Favorite works of art: Nike of Samothrace for statuary, tie between Botticell’s Birth of Venus and Almond Blossoms by Vincent Van Gogh for painting. Sheep May Softly Graze, by J. S. Bach for pieces of music. I refuse to choose between novels, but I will defend the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its original radio broadcast form to my death as a work of high art.

23. I am just under five feet tall, my husband is over six feet, and yet I require three quarters of our bed space to sleep at night. Thems the rules.

24. We got married one month past my 23rd birthday and I still joke about being a childbride.

25. I blogged anonymously for years because once upon a time (how quaint!) there was this weird idea about anonymity on the internet which seems to have fallen mostly by the wayside. Except for the troll farms.

26. While I may be a makeup and beauty junkie I have not dyed my hair since high school and I have never once worn fake tan or lashes.

27. My favorite color in the world is green. I initially chose it out of spite as a wee tot when a classroom exercise divided children up by eye color and I was the only one with green eyes. Some teasing ensued to which I declared that I didn’t mind standing by myself because my favorite color was green, so there! This story definitely reveals something about my psyche but I’m not sure what it is.

28. I bake when I’m angry or stressed.

29. One of the things that I like least about myself is how much I rely on other people’s praise and good opinion. I’d like to be more badass and say that I don’t care what people think about me…but in my heart of hearts I do.

30. One of the things that I like best about myself is my ability to sustain and enjoy friendships that literally span decades. It’s an investment of love and delight that has paid back more in interest than I could have ever imagined.

31. I got one of those “useless” liberal arts degrees that ends in the word “studies” and mostly made up of coursework in medieval history. It has nothing to do with how my career has subsequently turned out, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d pick the same degree.

32. Until I went to university, I never lived anywhere longer than three years growing up and to this day have a hard time staying in one place (whether that’s a job, an apartment, or a country) longer than that.

33. I have looked forward to my 30s since I was a kid and thus far, the decade is not disappointing me.

Weekend Links: How the Hell is it Already June, Edition

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.”
– Al Bernstein

This was a short work week, and so I’ve mostly been head down and nose firmly to grindstone, ducklings. What did I miss?

[Scans news headlines. Screams into cushion for full five minutes. Rises and shakes self off in a supremely British manner.]

Okay. I’m caught up. Woof. Let’s just get to the weekend reading and sharing of good things, shall we? This weekend we’re brunching with friends, celebrating my birthday, soaking up the sun and yes…unfortunately doing a bit of work. C’est la vie. Share your favorite links and stories with me in the comments and tell me what nice things you are doing with friends, family, or your glorious self. Points for bragging!

First and foremost, happy Pride Month! I hope all in the community and allies are doing something absolutely joyous and fun to celebrate.

The BBC is about to do it again!

The long term effects of male-preference is going to last for a least a couple of generations, and some sociologists have shown rises in crime or military activity alongside gender ratio imbalances this great. The cost for women is inevitably huge, with rises in trafficking and worse. But the honest question I have in reading so many of these stories is one of foundational math: if you and everyone else you know are having sons, where exactly do you think your grandchildren are coming from?

What a ride this tale was!

A delightful Instagram account for your delectation.

The absolutely galling shenanigans having to do with the USS John McCain this week are embarrassing. Not least of all because the administration tried to put the genie back in the bottle and declare the whole news piece “fake,” after administration official already confirmed it. And frankly, the most generous interpretation of the situation is still pretty bad.

Congress is the only check on the executive that we have in the US system. I feel that Mr. Mueller has made it clear that this is his formal position. His actions have been as per existing law. The trouble…is Congress. And the fact that rules don’t seem to apply anymore.

The systematic changes to how the US government is tracking and publicly reporting on climate change is bad. There is a great The Daily podcast episode on this as well that’s worth a listen.

I delight that someone has studied this.

The kids are alright.

You’re either on the side of women having autonomy over their own bodies or you’re not. It’s that simple.

It’s the end of an era! Sidenote, I definitely have an old iPod with a bunch of unsynced songs somewhere. I should dig that sucker out.

The census isn’t sexy but it’s important and there is a reason that conservatives are targeting it. And they ARE targeting it. Our saving grace may yet be that a lot of bad faith actors reveal themselves to be piss poor at covering their tracks in the end.

So clearly the other side thinks that event went really well.

What is it going to take?!

My people are a proud people, our culture a vibrant culture.

Our president is an idiot or a troll, and either option is Very Bad.

And finally, you cannot convince me that this wasn’t some kind of lifetime high for several people involved: