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planaweddingonabudget (1)Growing up, I never really pictured what my wedding would be like. I never thought about my dress. I never made a list of people I’d invite. I never thought about the music I wanted to play. So years later, it was interesting to find myself in a bakery, deciding on a two- or three-tiered wedding cake.

If you really want to plan a wedding on a budget, skip the wedding and elope, because a “budget wedding” will still run you several thousand dollars on the low end. My fiance and I are projected to spend about $14,000. That’s expensive, but it’s a lot less than the $40k+ average for our area. The more we dig into the planning, the more attractive eloping seems. Here are some things we’ve done to plan a wedding on a budget.  Keep reading…

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travelingalonesafelyIn 2009, my student loan was paid off, I had $4,000 saved, and I’d just broken up with a guy who refused to call me his girlfriend because he didn’t like labels. It was a perfect time to go on the cliche, mid-twenties “find myself” Eurotrip.

I’m not sure I found myself, but I did spend a lot of time alone. And it made me forever a fan of solo travel.

It’s not that traveling with someone else is a bad thing–some of my best travel memories have been with friends and my partner. However, traveling alone has some awesome perks you just can’t get when you’re with someone else.   Keep reading…

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dealing with depressionThe alarm clock blinked, and it was 7:45: fifteen minutes past my usual wake up time, but all I could do was stare. I felt meaningless and directionless, like I should just keep sleeping, maybe forever. That sounded nice. It was the only thing that sounded nice, if I was being honest.  I am a morning person, dammit. I am a work hound. I work all day, like a beast, because I love it and because it’s what I want to do. But not today. Today I just stared at my alarm clock and felt empty.

I’ve only recently understood what depression means, which makes it really difficult to learn how to work through it. Where I come from, you’re supposed to push past that stuff, not let it get to you. You’re supposed to “man up and move on.” Unfortunately, that means ignoring your depression, which, ironically, only allows it to take over and consume you. 

Work is especially difficult when you’re depressed, even when you love your work. Depression is a taboo topic accompanied by a handful of judgments and stereotypes, so I wanted to put this out there. I work hard, I’m happy and optimistic, and I manage depression. It’s not something I talk about openly, and it’s not an easy thing to admit in general, but the truth is it’s a frustrating battle I deal with every so often. I can only speak from my own experience, but a few things help me cope and get the job done until I feel like myself again.  Keep reading…

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Internal-Locus-of-Control
In first grade, I won a raffle. It was just a sticker, but I was in shock. Seconds before my teacher pulled the paper out of the hat, I envisioned my name being called. Immediately after that vision, my name was called.

It was my first coincidence, but in my naive, six-year-old mind, I thought I willed it to happen. For a while, I was convinced I could control every aspect of my life, from stickers to the weather.

Of course, that feeling would wear off over the years, and sometimes, I would feel utterly powerless, like the Universe worked against me. Overall, though, I’ve always had a strong (maybe too strong) sense of control. I’ve always felt that if I do the right things and work hard, I can manipulate the course of my life just the way I want it. That’s why I took it so hard when I was laid off a few years ago–but more on that later.

Psychologists have a name for this: an internal locus of control.

I had never heard this term before. Then I cracked open Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter, Faster, Better, and read about people who believe they can “influence their destiny through the choices they made.” Recently, I had a chance to talk to Duhigg about this concept, what influences it, and how to build it if you don’t have it.  Keep reading…

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how to manage your money1

This is part three in a series on using money as a tool, not a goal. Read Part One here and Part Two here.

Once you know your values, it’s pretty easy to establish your financial goals. If family is important to you, your goal might be to provide your kids with a college fund. If you value your career, your goal might be to save up money so you can pursue a certain career path. Of course, you can have multiple values and multiple goals, too.

Giving your money a purpose is the fun part, though. After that, it’s time for the legwork. Once you figure out what to use your money for, you have to learn how to use it. Here are a few things that have helped me most in using money to reach my goals and keep my spending in check. Think of it as a mini user’s manual.   Keep reading…

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