Update: No Spend January + Resolution Check-in

You know when you feel so confident you’re going to achieve something, and you realize that it was just maybe a little too much for you to chew? Yeah, I bit waaaaay too much off for the month of January with my “no-spend” rule. I’m pretty sure I caved in the second week when that mid-day slump happened and Starbucks was just CALLING my name.

But, there is a silver lining…January was my BEST month in terms of spending and I am calling this little challenge a success (yes, a success) because of everything I learned and became more aware of. And, I’m going to share those sweet little nuggets of wisdom with you today!

This is 100% NOT sponsored, but I wanted to share the tool that I find to be the most helpful for budgeting! I use Mint.com to keep track of my spending. It makes it so easy to visually see where your money is going, because let’s be real…how many people are actually using cash these days? I use debit/credit for essentially all of my transactions and being able to see them in one place, sorted by category or merchant, is super helpful. The other feature I love is being able to set goals! With the left over money from your budget, you can create various goals depending on your objectives.

We really wanted to start building back our rainy day/emergency fund after our wedding and our dog, Ace having surgery, as our savings took a bit of a hit. My other big goal this year is to pay off my student debt and credit card. I was able to create both of those goals on Mint AND it tells me exactly how long it will take depending on the amount that I put in each month. I found this extremely helpful. I wish that we were taught more about budgeting/finance in school. This stuff should be taught at an early age – it’s so important! But it’s okay, I learned about the Pythagorean theorem instead *insert eye-roll here*.

Here’s a little screenshot of the look and feel of the app from the budgeting perspective:

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And as you can see….I may or may not have hit a lot of red. BUT, what’s great about this is that it tells me exactly how much I overspent and that gives me an idea if it was something that was necessary or not. There are a couple of downsides to this app… I did pay my line of credit but for some reason the transaction didn’t pop up and same with the transfer for bills. What app doesn’t have it’s flaws though…It’s definitely worth it, even with these little hiccups.

Next, you can see trends in your spending. Who doesn’t love a pretty graph!?! I do wish I could change the colours though…

My mind is blown when I compare what I was spending LAST January (in the yellow) compared to THIS January (in the green). I mean, look at that shopping tab! The other graph compares the last 3 months, which turned out to be a significant decrease from November to January! Wooooohooo!
Below are my learns from this challenge and things that I will continue to take with me and improve on. Plus,  hopefully this will give you some insight for any of your goals/resolutions you’re still tackling!

1. Awareness

I was able to see where my money was going instead of blindly purchasing. I became more strategic about where I was spending my money and keeping an eye on my accounts! (Also super important in an era of online shopping + online fraud!!).

2. Value

I really started to look at the worth of what I was purchasing and began asking myself if things were going to serve me in a way that added value to my life. A coffee on a bad day, yes 100% worth it. A coffee everyday because I was too lazy in the morning to make it – not worth it.

3. Flexibility

This was a pretty big one for me. Life isn’t going to be perfect or cookie-cutter easy, it’s messy and it has to be flexible. Unexpected things come up and you just have to go with the flow. For instance – I lost my Presto Card (transit card) on my walk to the subway. Literally a 5 min walk. But that loss ended up costing me more money in January because I had to order a new one AND I had to spend more money on tokens. Even though this may have been a small amount – it’s still a cost that I had not expected to pay for. Being flexible and having an cushion is important!

4. Communication

When you’re spending or budgeting with a partner, it can be easy to just spend without consideration. Not because you’re meaning to do it or in spite of the other person, it can just be so easy to get caught up in your own wants/needs. This challenge was a great way to connect, plan and map out where we wanted our money to go and what our priorities were for the month.

February is going to be a lot different for us! Our puppy, Koda is getting spayed and we have Adam’s birthday this month, as well as some car repairs we need to take care of. All of which are fairly big expenses, so planning what needs to shift in our budget to accommodate these things is important to discuss together.

5. Acceptance

I am my own worst critic. That’s probably one of my biggest pitfalls and something I am always trying to navigate and improve. Through this process, I was getting upset and feeling guilty for spending when I knew I shouldn’t have been. I learned that it’s okay to drop the ball sometimes and that tomorrow is a new day to get back on the horse and try again. It’s completely unrealistic to expect change to happen overnight (or in one month). The most important thing to do is learn from your setbacks and keep pushing forward.

You can apply these to any resolution that you may have set in January. How are they holding up? Take a look at your resolutions and refresh for February! Maybe you need to start from the beginning or maybe your goals need to be shifted in some way? It’s never too late to refresh nor is it a bad thing!

Let me know in the comments below what you’ve learned from your resolutions progress so far!

❤️lxiv.

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#2018 Goals & Resolutions

Even though we’re already 8 days into 2018, I wanted to put my goals for 2018 into the universe. This is the first year that I’ve had the time to sit down and really think about what I want and what my goals for the year ahead will be. I have been loving having a routine and knowing my schedule every single day. I needed a full week over the holidays to just be by myself, reflect, plan, organize and sleep (so much sleep). My body had just been on the go and stressing out for so long that I forgot what it felt like to just sit, and do literally nothing.

To help visualize my goals for #2018, I got my inspiration from one of my fav. Toronto bloggers, Stephanie Sterjovski, and created a Pinterest board that highlights some images that inspire me and some quotes that I want to live by.

My Goals:

  1. Step up my online presence + social media game (Instagram, YouTube + Blog)
  2. Consistency in everything I do! Set my schedule and stick to it (CrossFit + Blogging + Healthy Eating, etc).
  3. Say “Yes” to things that scare me. But be okay (and not guilty) with saying “No” when I need ‘me’ time.
  4. Have fun and don’t take life so seriously. Learn to let go of the little things and be okay with letting people or things from the past go.
  5. Meal Prep + try new recipes and get my adventurous/comfortable cooking + fueling my body properly with nutritious whole foods.
  6. BUDGETING (see my No Spend January Post here). Every single month, Adam and I, are committing to budgeting our month based on what’s upcoming and what we want to save.
  7. Listen to more podcasts. I am LOVING podcasts since I have to take good ol’ public transportation to work everyday now.
  8. Make singing a priority again, figure out my direction and share music with others.
  9. Take time in the evening for quality time + puppy snuggles.
  10. Stop “snoozing” my alarm clock. Get enough Zzz’s so I don’t have to struggle out of bed in the mornings!

I know, 10 goals may seem like a lot, but there are some smaller goals and then some bigger goals, and many of them include a partner to keep me accountable. Now that they’re in the universe, I’m going to do my best everyday to work towards them, even if it’s small steps in the right direction! The most important part of moving forward with goals/resolutions is be nice to yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a few days (or weeks). I’m so guilty of being my own worst critic and can get really down when I know I’ve had a set back with something. Referring back to Goal #4, I’m going to do my best to let things go and know that tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. Sometimes you need to give yourself a break, and then get back on the horse the next day.

What are some of your resolutions for 2018 and your pro tips on achieving them? Let me know in the comments below!

Love,

lxiv

New Year’s Resolution: How to Budget and Actually Stick to it

It’s that time of the year again – time to make some goals and (hopefully) stick to them. I realized I have quite a few goals in mind for this year. 2017 was a huge year for me: got married, got a second puppy, left retail, started CrossFit, lost 20 pounds, posted non-singing related videos to YouTube…just to name a few highlights! I’ve felt more like “me” this year than I have in a very, very long time and it feels great. Now that I’ve had some down-time and an actual “Christmas Break”, I’ve been able to sit down and really think about what I want to accomplish this year. It is crazy how much your body needs decompression time. Time to just figure -ish out, without distractions.

While I have some lofty goals this year, one that I really want to tackle is more of a challenge. I’m going to challenge myself to have a No-Spend January and see how I do! Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave our household to go starving or without the necessities. But that’s just it – we’re only spending on things we absolutely need. Crazy, I know. Here’s some tips and strategies on how to knock this challenge out of the park!

1. Set a Budget

The most important part to this challenge is setting a budget and sticking to it. Make some ground rules for what you are willing to be flexible on and ensure (if there’s more than one of you doing this) that you both have set limits to what you can spend and on what category.

I made a list of negotiables and non-negotiables. This helped me prioritize what was actually a necessity and what was more of a luxury.

Then, I took the income that both my husband and I will be making for the month of January. We both get paid bi-weekly, so I made the budget based on what bills were due and how much money we needed to set aside for that.

Next came the groceries. Since we are both heading into the New Year with nutrition being our resolution, groceries are going to be a much easier budget to manage. I just purchased The Everything Guide to Macronutrients by Matt Dustin, that has so many great recipes. So the goal is to pick out recipes each week and only purchase the ingredients required. This is not only going to cut down on our food waste, but it’s going to keep us on track (both nutritionally and financially). This is what we are spending our money on this month:

  • Bills

  • Groceries

  • Pets (Yearly shots + food)

  • Transportation

Those are the only categories that we will be spending on this month! Scary. I know. But since we wrote down our list of priorities and we know within each other those categories how much we will be spending, we will be able to manage. Keeping the categories broad also helps to keep spending more flexible, which will be easier to stick to.

2. Eliminate Temptation

I’m the type of person that goes into the store for one thing and comes out with ten other things and forgets to get what I came into the store for in the first place. Sound familiar? I am soooo tempted by the shiny packaging or the feeling of a new piece of clothing. I will 100% convince myself that I need something – when I actually don’t. So to fight this, I’m going to be completely avoiding stores/malls all month long. Now that I’m out of retail, this is going to be easier for me than in the past.

I’m also going to go through and organize what I already own so that I have plenty of options. However, I’ve recently been ordering more and more from online and it’s so dangerous. To tackle this, I’m unsubscribing from email lists from stores that I love to shop at so that I won’t be tempted by a deal. Out of sight, out of mind kind of deal.

3. Make your own coffee

This has to be one of my worst habits. I really love lattes and fancy coffee drinks that are $$$$$$ expensive. That daily coffee adds up. Even if I switch to just regular coffee, the cost that I spend on coffee per month is embarrassing. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that has a pretty great kitchen and coffee is made every morning. If you don’t have that luxury, then grab some re-usable mugs (I purchased the Starbucks reusable cups and LOVE them – they are lightweight, and super inexpensive), brew some coffee in the morning and take it to go! Trust me, if you track how much you spend in one month on coffee, I know you’ll be shocked!

4. Bring your lunch!

There are so many amazing recipes and meal prep ideas for lunch now-a-days that there really isn’t any excuse not to bring your lunch. I realized that I was spending all of this money on groceries and then turning around and spending more money on more food. Not only were we being wasteful in spending extra money, we were being wasteful with our food, since what we didn’t eat in the fridge went straight to the garbage. Sometimes it feels weird being the only person at your work or school to bring food, but ultimately it is so much better for your wallet and for your body!

5. Cash, only.

Once you’ve set your budget, take out the cash you’ll be spending. This way you literally only have the cash that you have on you and will need to stick to your budget. For some reason, I am so much more conscious about how I am spending my money when it’s cash. The bigger the bill – the better! Anytime I would get money as gifts, it was always so much harder for me to spend larger bills, so I would ultimately just put them into a savings jar (a good habit, that I want to continue doing!).

 

It can seem really daunting not spending any money or sticking to a budget. I’m doing this because when I dug into the last 3 months of my spending – it was shocking. I was spending way too much money on things I did not need. This challenge is to really see what I can do with less and be happy with what I have right now.

What are some of your resolutions for the new year?

 

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

I had never really been a fan of Gingerbread anything (sorry!)…I always found the spice was a little too nice and it never really tasted that good. I’m realizing as I’m getting older (sigh) that my taste-buds are changing and things I never used to like, or be drawn to, I’m giving another try – and liking them! To my surprise this Christmas season, Gingerbread Cookies happened to be one of those things.

Follow along to see some snaps on making and decorating the Gingerbread Cookies! The recipe below was adapted from Gimme Some Oven. I didn’t include the icing sugar recipe, since I prefer to use the already pre-made and pre-coloured icing from the grocery store or bulk barn!

A very special thank you to @MagicInColours Photography for the great shots! You can follow her on Facebook to see more of her work or if you’re in the GTA and want some shots taken – get in touch with her there!

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Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • Icing + Sprinkles/Decorations

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and molasses, and beat on medium speed until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal portions, and form them each into a ball.  Then flatten each ball into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F.  Unwrap the dough and place it on a large, lightly-floured hard surface.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough evenly until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick.  Then use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes, re-rolling the dough as needed to cut out more.  Transfer to parchment-covered baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Once the cookies are room temperature, DECORATE!

 
Don’t have the time to whip up this recipe? Check out my fast (and easy) holiday baking favourites here!

Merry Christmas!

lxiv

Best Holiday Baking Recipes

I don’t know about you, but my sweet tooth comes out in full force during the holidays. There’s something about making homemade sweet amazingness baked goods that just puts you right in the Christmas spirit. Here in Toronto we have about a foot of snow on the ground and we’re expecting more this week, so it just feels so right when you have a cup of hot chocolate and a couple (4+) sugar cookies to snuggle up on the couch with.

This holiday I actually have the time to bake since I am no longer in the retail industry. To be honest, Christmas is WAY less stressful and I am actually able to spend quality time with the people I love and do fun and festive activities! Christmas is also way less stressful this year because both Adam and my family decided to do “secret” Santa for all of our gifts. You can probably guess why secret is in quotations…it’s never really a secret by the end of it – especially when you want to get gifts that people will actually use/like. Not only are we doing this as a money saving option, but we’re making it more about what Christmas is truly all about; spending time with people you love versus spending a ton of money on gifts!

With that being said, don’t show up to your holiday outings or quality time with friends and family empty handed! Below is a round up of my top 5 favourite (and easy) holiday recipes that you can make for your holiday gatherings. Some have a few more steps to them, and others you can whip up last minute and it will still be amazing!

1. Gingerbread Cookies.

Stay tuned for a blog post on this one soon! This recipe is SO simple and the cookies turned out amazing! Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.23.38 AM

 

2. No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

I’ve made these without the graham crackers that this recipe calls for and it still tastes amazing, so if you don’t have that ingredient handy in your cupboard, I wouldn’t sweat it!

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3. Three Ingredient Cookies and Cream Fudge

I posted this recipe last year on my blog for the #12DaysOfChristmas series. This is my ultimate favourite recipe. It takes no time at all to make. Just be sure to factor in the time it takes to place harden in the freezer!

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4. Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

The mix of shortbread cookie and chocolate is the best combo ever. Here are two different versions because I love the idea of using Hershey kisses that are pictured below,  but I don’t love the recipe that was used… cornstarch is 100% not the right ingredient for this (in my opinion). I use Martha Stewart’s version and it turns out amazing! Be sure not to over cook this recipe, I put them in the oven for the shortest time and trust me – they are done even if they don’t quite look it! PS. I’m loving the interactive elements on Martha Stewart, where you can actually check off each ingredient and steps as you go through the recipe.

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5. Sugar Cookies!

Of course, this classic make the list! Sugar cookies aren’t as difficult as you think! This recipe even shows you how to decorate your cookie like a pro! No royal icing required.

Quick tip: I use the already made icing, I found them in huge tubes at Bulk Barn and Walmart this year and they are so easy to work with. If you want to do details though, I would probably stick to the real deal, but this was easy for flooding the cookies!

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What’s your favourite holiday baking recipe? Have any that you must make every holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay connected with me on social media to get even more inspiration! 

Instagram: @stephhdavis
Twitter: @stephhdavis

Merry Christmas!
lxiv

Winter Outfit Idea

This outfit is the perfect shine meets casual look for the winter season. I love pairing blouses with denim – it’s my go-to outfit no matter the occasion! Take a look at the outfit below with our pups, Ace & Koda. You can follow their adventures on Instagram here.

Here we took the pups for a nice little stroll before it got too dark outside. This was a little time ago at the beginning of November when Koda was so much smaller! She is almost 4 months now and a lot more light in the face! She’s growing into her paws and we are so curious if those ears of hers are actually going to stand up! And not pictured here – it was 3 degrees and cold! That scarf kept me nice and toasty, but my nose was chilly by the end of it!

Special thanks to Christina Davis of Magic in Colours Photography for the mini-shoot! Check out her social pages here: Instagram and Facebook link above!

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The Outfit:

  • Coat is from Forever21 last season, find a similar one here from the Gap
  • Blouse from Anthropologie
  • Denim from the Gap, similar pair here
  • Chunky Infinity Knit Scarf from the Gap a few seasons ago, similar one here (right now under $12!!)
  • Necklace from Anthropologie, similar one here
  • Shoes from Call it Spring, similar ones here

What are some of your go-to winter outfits? Let me know in the comments below!

Love,

lxiv

Top 10 Cozy Picks for Winter

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I’ve had to update my “cozy” wardrobe recently as I just did not have the selection of warm and fuzzy pieces for winter. I thought I would share my favourite picks for this season as well as some non-apparel pieces that put me in the cozy spirit! There’s nothing better than a cozy sweater, a cup of hot chocolate and a nice warm blanket during those cold winter nights. All of the picks would also make great gifts for the holidays! Take a look at my top 10 picks, I have linked each of them below.

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1. Plunging Chenille Sweater – This sweater is SO soft. I love the fact that this sweater isn’t a crew neck and the shape of the sweater is nice because it’s not boxy!

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2. Cable-Knit Pom Pom Beanie – Okay, who doesn’t love a cute Pom Pom Beanie for winter? I am so drawn to red this season and love adding that pop of colour since my winter coat is black. Winter can be colourful too!

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3. Lace Up Textured Sweater – My go-to sweater at the moment! The lace-up detailing adds a simple and classic touch to an otherwise plain cream sweater. Perfect with denim and cute booties!

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4. Torridon Sweater – This sweater from Anthropologie is amazing because there is 0 wool in it! Don’t get me wrong, I love wool. But my skin hates it. This red sweater (yes, red again) is so thick and warm, you’d never know there wasn’t wool in it. Other than, you know, the fact that you don’t want to scratch your arms off. *insert upside smile face emoticon here*

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5. TOPSHOP Dolly Faux Flip Slippers – I do not own these, yet. But c’mon – FUZZY FLIP SLIPPERS! These look amazing and I love that they are open toe.

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6. Desert Gold & Pink Mug – I love that this mug has a unique quality to it. The shape and the colouring on the inside make it special. Perfect gift for someone on your list!

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7. Open Front Boucle Sweater – A cute and affordable layer that goes with literally anything. Yep, perfect piece to have in your winter wardrobe!

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8. Plus Size Loved Graphic Sweater – Eyelash sweaters are so on trend this season and coupled with a graphic makes this sweater so unique! I love how soft this feels. I love that this sweater is so flattering on! I sized up because I wanted a more relaxed look.

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9. Josie Maran Pure Argan Milk Intensive Hydrating Treatment – I have yet to try this product out. So if anyone has – let me know in the comments below! I love Argan Oil and know that it would be very nourishing for the winter months! Plus, it’s so multi-purpose! You can use it on your face, hair, hands and body!

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10. Faux Fur Throw – Black Bear – Last but not least, this amazing faux fur throw! I love this brown colouring. It instantly warms up any space and would look beautiful thrown over a couch for decorative purposes. Again, another great gift idea and very on trend this season!

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Hope you found some inspiration with my cozy picks for the winter season! Make sure you snag these before they are gone over Black Friday – they may not last!

What’s on your wish list this year? Are there pieces that you need to add to your wardrobe for a little refresh? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Love,

lxiv