Financial Planning For Free

financial planning

As I have mentioned in a few posts now, I am on a break from my credit cards and am working diligently on paying down my consumer debt.  No fun – let me tell you!  The best thing I can say is that the sooner I knock out the debt, the sooner I can get back to my favorite hobby – shopping.  In this vein, I have decided to take a more formal approach to my personal financial planning.  I am embarrassed to admit this.  Not the fact that I racked up an egregious amount of debt mind you.  I had a good time and quite frankly don’t have many regrets.  What I am embarrassed to admit is that I have not taken a formal approach to my personal financial planning. Pretty sad considering I have spent most of my professional career doing planning and forecasting for corporations.  I could spend this entire post telling you how I have been playing fast and loose with my finances.  It would be an entertaining story I can assure you.  Instead, I thought I might pass along a pretty cool tool I uncovered.  Not nearly as entertaining as my typical post, but valuable nonetheless.

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2013 Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone!  Like many of you, I like to put together a little list of things I would like to accomplish in the New Year.  My New Year’s resolutions if you will.  In the interest of accountability, I thought I might share my list with the blogosphere.  I am hopeful that if nothing else, sharing this list will shame me into accomplishing at least half of my goals, which would be a record high for me.  So here goes….

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A Day of Silence for Sandy Hook

Dear Television Executives, Stop Canceling My Damn Television Shows


Dear Television Executives,

Stop canceling my damn television shows!  So here we are a few months into the new season, and you are already giving up on your new round of bright-eyed freshmen shows.  Look, this is really starting to piss me off.  I am a huge fan of zoning out to the alpha waves – relaxing on my couch each evening – but you are starting to make it difficult to enjoy good TV.  It has gotten to the point where I won’t even start watching a new show until after a few months, just to see what the buzz is.  I have gotten burned too many times in the past.  But this year, I will admit, you got me.  I did not watch a single new show until early November, but since my DVR was filling up so fast, I checked out what the so-called “critics” were saying and decided to watch Last Resort.  (Also 666 Park Avenue, but let’s be honest, even I could tell that show was a brick.)

I watched the first episode of Last Resort the first weekend of November, and I was hooked.  I caught up on all the episodes I had missed over that weekend.  Guess what, November 16 you issue a press release saying that the show has been cancelled.  WTF?  I hear you will air the 13 episodes filmed, and then what?  We can play a guessing game as to what happens next.  I tell you what happens next:  Next year, I won’t watch a damn single new show until after season one, when I know the show will be picked up for season two.  Screw you Mr. Network Executive!  If you are too chicken shit to commit to a whole season with a beginning and end, then count me out.  I am sticking my money in Hulu, Netflix and itunes, and I am betting I am not alone.  It’s gotten so bad that there’s even a website to tell you if your show has been canceled.  How proud you must be!
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The Great Cookie Debacle of 2012

I sat down tonight in an attempt to write this week’s post, and I found myself in a battle of wills.  No doubt my writer’s block was a contributing factor.  I sat down on the couch – TV on as always – and literally had nothing to write about.  This is not particularly unusual, although to the reader, I’m sure my shit seems well thought out and all that.

So tonight, as I stared into space looking for inspiration, my eyes happened upon a tub of cookies.  Now, I’m not talking about some average run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies.  No, chocolate chip cookies would not even have registered on my radar.  I am talking about a tub of waffle crisps topped with white chocolate and peppermint chips.  Hello!!

Last week, we had the crisps with the milk chocolate.  In fact, I think there are still some in the kitchen.  They were good, but two or three a night were sufficient.  The white chocolate chip crisps, now that’s another story.  These things are amazing and truly delicious.  We have had them in the house since Sunday, and every time I see them sitting on the kitchen counter, I try every escape technique to not grab a handful.  Ugh!  In general, I try to watch what I eat, especially during the holiday season.  I am usually pretty good, but it appears tonight, I was in a bit of trouble with these damn crisps!
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Oprah’s Lifeclass: I Think I Got Schooled

I Got Schooled At Oprah's Lifeclass!My mom called me a few weeks ago to tell me that Oprah was coming to Houston to film a few episodes of her popular series, Oprah’s Lifeclass. Despite the fact that I have never been a huge fan of Oprah, I fulfilled my mom’s request of sending in an email to try to get tickets to the show.  It’s not that I dislike her (Oprah) or anything.  I just don’t ever watch her show.  My mom, my aunt, and I all sent in for tickets, hoping that one of us would get an email confirmation.  A week later we all got emails saying that we were not picked to receive tickets.  I thought that was the last of it, until a few weeks later when I received an email saying that a few more tickets has been released and two had been allocated to me.  I forwarded the email to my mom with a note that read, “I guess we are going.”

I am not going to deny the fact that I was not overly excited about going to the filming.  It was scheduled on a Friday, and we were required to be there for about 3 1/2 hours.  Also, I wasn’t too jazzed about the guest scheduled to be on the show – Pastor Rick Warren.  I wasn’t exactly sure who he was, but not being a religious person, I figured I was in for a long day.  I probably would have given my ticket to someone else, but since the tickets were in my name, I had to attend.

Traffic was amazingly bad as the mass of Oprah fans descended on the Hobby Center.  Our intention was to arrive around 2:30pm, but between the traffic and parking debacle, we entered around 3:15pm.  We didn’t have time to do anything other than head to our seats, which were on the third row of the mezzanine level.  Our seats were in the center – pretty nice actually.  I immediately started snarking on Twitter.  A good friend of mine responded that Pastor Rick Warren was more of a motivational speaker than anything else.  Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
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My Visit With the Kevyn Aucoin Cosmetics Team

A few weeks before my recent trip to Nordstrom Trend Show, I received a call from Margie, the fabulous makeup artist I work with at Nordstrom.  She told me the national makeup artists from Kevyn Aucoin were coming for Trend Show and insisted they be the ones to do my makeup.  It seems Nordstrom just added the line to some of their stores, Houston being one of them.

I always find that when I learn about something new, it pops up in other areas of life.  A few days after booking my appointment, the latest issue of Allure magazine arrived in my mailbox.  Lo and behold, there was a multi-page spread on how Kevyn Aucoin “single-handedly changed the world of makeup,” and his continued relevance 10 years after his death!  If you get the chance, the article is a fascinating read.  The article is a compilation of thoughts of various models and celebrities who were fortunate enough to have known Kevyn.  The upshot is that everyone mentioned, from Cindy Crawford to Liza Minnelli, believed Kevyn Aucoin always made them look like the best version of themselves.  Count me in!

So naturally, I went online to find out more.  Kevyn Aucoin wrote several books on makeup as an art, with a how-to feel.  He used shading to create shape and depth, without using a ton of color.  The result was dramatic and somehow natural at the same time.  Pretty cool stuff.  I was excited to see what his team would do for Trend Show.
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10 Tips For Your Trip to the Cosmetics Counter

Okay, so it’s like this:  I MIGHT be a cosmetics junkie.  Signs:  1) my makeup drawer might look like a refugee camp for wayward products and 2) I may have more products in my giveaway pile than most people have in their entire rotation.  Fine, I am a hoarder of fine cosmetics and skin care products.   Don’t judge!

I tell you this to help you understand why someone like me, who tries to avoid events that require being in the vicinity of a shit ton of other people – especially crazy women – never misses the annual Nordstrom Cosmetics Trend Show.

Trend Show starts a few hours before the store opens, with women swarming outside waiting for the doors to open.  Once they open, these women push and shove to get in the door and haul ass upstairs to get a seat in the front row for the fashion show.  (Personally I’ll have none of it, showing up at the last possible minute and taking a seat with my friends in the back row.)  I have a love-hate relationship with Trend Show.

After the fashion show, this same horde of women moves downstairs to the cosmetics department, where all of the prestige lines have their national artists ready to show off the cosmetic trends of the season.  Inevitably, there are some first-timers making asses of themselves, complaining that all the appointments are booked up.  (These appointments were booked weeks ago lady, so just walk away!  The sales girl you are berating can do nothing for you.)
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Has Facebook Killed the High School Reunion?

High school ranks as my least favorite life experience, particularly because I was not a huge fan of high school me. The education system at my school itself was a complete joke.  A few years ago, it was reported on the news that my school rated academically unacceptable in the latest rankings.  No surprise there. During my senior year, we started reading George Orwell’s 1984 and had to change books half way through because the majority of the class couldn’t understand it.

 I wasn’t what you would call a “joiner,” which is not meant to imply I was anti-social.  If there was a good party on the weekend, you could definitely count me in. It just means that I was more likely to mock organized student activities than be a part of them.  Which is why it is still entirely unclear to me how I ended up on the planning committee for my recent high school reunion?

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Bloggy Boot Camp – My First Blogger Conference

As I’m sure you have ascertained, I have only been doing the blog thing for a short time.  Longer than my few posts would imply, there was a lot of planning to get the site up and running, after all, I am a planner at heart.  If your goal is to launch a blog that does not look like everyone else’s, you’ve got some work to do and some money to spend.  You will also spend some quality time with Google trying to figure out why the electronic universe is against you and every seemingly simple application, plugin, and widget doesn’t seem to work right out of the launch.

I don’t really know any other bloggers to look to for advice, and while I am pretty resourceful, I will tell you it was difficult process on my own.  Early into my research I found a women’s blog conference, Bloggy Boot Camp (BBC), was scheduled for September in Dallas.  BBC is the brainchild of Tiffany Romero and Francesca Banducci; bloggers, social media experts and moms.  It is a one-day conference billed as a way to grow your relationships with other members of the online community in person, and get an increased understanding of blogging and social media.  I have to tell you the idea of networking with people who weren’t entirely clueless like myself made me pretty giddy.  Even though I hadn’t launched my blog yet, I picked up a ticket.  What the hell, a couple hundred dollars and a 3 ½ hour drive, not much to loose.

A month before the conference, I finalized my blog design and launched my site.  In addition to learning more about the art of blogging, one of the things I hoped to get out of the conference was how to drive traffic to my blog.  For me, it’s not about making money.  It’s just, while I love that my mom and sister read my blog (Hi Mom! Hi Heather!), I would love to be able to reach more readers.  I know that networking and connecting with people is the best way to achieve this.  So, I had what I believe to be some pretty fantastic business cards printed with my logo, hoping it would help them stand out from the many other cards people would be receiving.

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