Checking in on Your 2009 Goals and $10 a Day

So it’s already February, and I have to ask:  how are those New Years’ Resolutions and 2009 goals going?  Most people fall off the wagon 6 weeks into the New Year.  Don’t let it be you!

 

Most of us (me included) set goals to get financially AND physically fit this year.  It’s not as easy as it seems, is it?!  Well, I’m here to be the annoying person who gives you your February “Reality Check” to help you stay on track. 

 

I was scanning my book shelf the other day to gather ideas for this post and came across Jean Chatzky’s book, “Pay it Down,” which I purchased at the peak of my over-spending days.  The book is based around the idea that you can get out of debt on $10 a day. 

 

I’m a huge believer that debt and overspending can be traced back to psychological factors and/or personal insecurities.  So before we get to the part where we find that $10 per day, I must ask: How did you get into debt in the first place?

 

For many women, the reason is simple: we needed to fill the gap of what we make and what we need to live.  For many others, we had inadequate savings to bail us out of an emergency.  Lastly, many women have a spending problem.  Although society constantly makes jokes out of shopping too much, i.e. the new movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” it is a serious problem for many.  Retail Therapy is a topic that deserves its own post, but in the meantime consider if you may be guilty of this “disease.”  Regardless of your reason, identify it so you can stop history from repeating itself in your life!

 

Did you follow my advice and get out ALL of those icky credit card statements at the end of 2008?  What did you see?  If you haven’t done this yet, you need to.  You should know exactly how much debt you have, and how much debt you’d like to end 2009 with.  Yes, a number is required here.  You aren’t allowed to say “I want to have less debt and more savings” because that is not a clear goal that you can work towards. 

 

Back to finding an extra $10 a day.  The obvious answer is to cut lattes and going out to lunch but for many American’s, this isn’t the answer.  We like to get out of the office and we have a Starbucks addiction, fair enough.  $10 a day is about $300 per month.  I took inventory of my own spending habits and wanted to share ways that I found an extra $300 per month to put towards debt or savings:

 

  • Going out.  My biggest spending weakness.  I’m not at ALL saying don’t go out.  Live it up, have fun but just keep an eye on it and maybe limit the # of nights you go to the bars if it’s cutting into your pay check too much.
  • Books.  I can’t stop buying books on amazon.com!  I suppose this is a healthy way to spend money, but I’ll admit sometimes I buy more books before I’ve even started reading books from my last order.  Perhaps I should consider going to the library for FREE…
  • Gym Membership.  Jean Chatzky says that if you use your gym 0-1 times per week, then it may be time to cancel it because you are wasting money.  This is a matter of personal values and choice.  For me, I can’t imagine life without my gym, but if you aren’t using yours consider cutting it.
  • Travel.  Don’t go unless you can pay for your ticket in full.
  • Hair.  Platinum blonde is super expensive.
  • Manicures/Pedicures.  Do you really need them every week?

 

You get my drift.  In order to reach goals, you will need to identify your weaknesses and hang up’s.  I don’t want you to start living like a pauper who wears ugly clothes, has roots and never goes out-gross!  I don’t think that is realistic.  Find out what you value, and maybe have less of it.  If you really can’t part with being blonde, for example, find a way to spend less on being blonde, or better yet find a way to make more money (yes, part time jobs are GREAT!) so that trips to the salon are no longer a burden you need to charge on your credit card.

 

I’d love to hear more of your ideas on how you can save $10 a day (or $300 per month) because I know there must be a thousand ways to do it.  I could use the advice just as much as any other girl could.  Please share your thoughts!

 

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How Do You Stay Organized?

 By, Jessica Lawlor

As a student and future career woman, it’s extremely important to learn the fine art of organization.

Here are the three main ways I stay organized:

1. Planner– I write down everything in my planner: school assignments, meetings, appointments, weekend plans. I check each item off as I complete them. My planner is weekly, so I am able to look at the entire week ahead. I use my planner as an overview of everything I need to accomplish in a week.

2. “Everything” notebook- I have a medium sized notebook that I carry everywhere with me that I have fondly named, “my everything notebook.” Each week, I create a detailed to-do list with absolutely everything that needs to be accomplished before the week ends. I love the sense of accomplishment when I cross an item off the list. My to-do list differs from my planner in the fact that my list is more specific. I also write down possible blog ideas, story ideas, and general notes to myself in the notebook.

3. Google- I can’t even express how much Google has simplified my life. I am obsessed with my Gmail account, and use it to keep my e-mail organized. Gmail allows users to create labels for different activities or tasks. For instance, I have a label for homework, PRSSA, PRowl Public Relations, internship, and sorority. When an e-mail comes in, I tag it with a label, and if I ever need to find that e-mail again, I know exactly where to look.

I also love the ‘archive’ feature. I leave everything in my inbox, until I’ve replied or done whatever the email is asking, and once I’m finished with it I archive it. If there is something in my inbox, it means its unfinished business or I need to reply.

Also, the Google calendar feature is a heavenly application that allows you to color code activities, meetings, or events and place them on a calendar.

These are only three small methods I use to stay organized, so I took to my Twitter account to find out how some of my followers keep their lives together.

@daydreamwriter says, “A planner and a desk calendar.”

@mattsnod says, “My life exists on my iPhone. I’m so forgetful, I’d be lost without my iPhone synching my life.”

@jamielovely says, “Color coded tags in Gmail saved my life! It’s the only way my inbox stays somewhat organized.”

@courtney903 says, “There is ALWAYS a to-do list on a dry erase board in the house. That way I can erase and add and it never looks overwhelming.”

@jennips says, “I started using a DayTimer planner last year. I’ve been using it & it helps me keep track of things better so I get less sidetracked.”

@tomokeefe1 says, “Calendar, stickies, bookmarking, writing things down, and periodically cleaning everything up! Oh, and having a good memory.”

@heatherhuhman says, “Organization is all about knowing what you have to get done and by when – prioritizing is key.”

@kpricester says, “I keep a constantly updated calendar on iCal that I keep synced with my smartphone. And I plan every minute of my day, including TV.”

@jesshatchigan says, “I use Excel to track progress/action on multiple ongoing projects, and make daily to-do lists.”

What are the ways that you stay organized?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently the Director of Public Relations for PRowl Public Relations, Temple University’s first and only student-run PR firm, and serves on the executive board of Temple’s PRSSA chapter.

Follow her on Twitter: @jesslaw
Check out her blog: PRowl Public Relations blog

2009 Grammy Looks

2009-grammy-awards-best-dressed-6 One of my favorite looks of the night was Carrie Underwood’s gorgeous nude colored gown. I absolutely love her makeup and simple hair style. Her highlights and white teeth are so bright that she seems to glow. Carrie did an awesome job performing live too!

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Katy Perry. Hmm…not sure what to say here. Love her lip color, and would like to know how to get my hair to have those cool 40’s waves. The dress…well, I think it would be a better look if it was not that 80’s pink color. An off white, black or red would be better suited for such a busy ensemble. I do like the slight mermaid bottom but overall I think there is just wayy too much going on here.

I will say this odd look is better than her performance costume which consisted of green flats and a short Las Vegas show looking get-up with sequences and glimmering fruit all over it. Katy seemed to struggle with moving around the stage and singing at the same time. After seeing her fashion and live performance, I would put her into the one hit wonder category.

48_mia I have mixed feelings about performing live at the Grammy’s on your due date, but either way, go M.I.A.! There’s no doubt that MIA’s first born is one lucky baby to have such a hip Mom who had the “guts” to get up there and show the world how proud she was to be a mother. It was nice to see someone with a little meat on her bones too, by the way!

17_jordin_sparks I’m totally in love with Jordin Sparks but am breaking up with this dress. Not a good look for anyone, let alone someone who is as tall as Jordin. It looks a bit like a huge tablecloth to me. I especially don’t like the cut-out piece that comes up beyond the neckline, nor do I like that it is a full length gown. I do have to say I’m sad that “No Air” didn’t win Best Pop Collaboration. Jordin is totally deserving and talented.

12_kim_kardashian2Kim Kardashian. If dating football players and being bootylicious is enough to get you to the grammy’s then you might as well do it up. Although I have NO clue why Kim was at there, I think her Grammy’s look deserves an honorable mention. She pulls off a classy, elegant, classic movie star look. I love her glamour earrings, her pulled back Audrey Hepburn hair style, eyelashes and the gown she’s wearing.

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Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus did an awesome job on their live duet performance AND with their classic black Hollywood gowns. Miley Cyrus has been criticized for not dressing her age, but I thought her Grammy gown was perfect for her. I loved Miley’s hairstyle as it showed her fun personality and youth. I found myself checking out her hair color and highlights, and think they are a great fit for her skin. They seem to have a warm honey tone and the little bit of blonde highlights add dimension. As for Taylor, I’m getting a bit bored of her small spiral curls look but I suppose it does fit her style and “first love” type of songs. I think this dress definitely gave her a bit more credibility as someone who is here to stay. I really liked the way her eyeliner was done too. It almost changed the shape of her eye. I’m a huge fan of the “cat eyes” with simple eye shadow and understated lips. She looked more like a woman- good job girls!

2009-grammy-awards-best-dressed-15Jennifer Hudson. My favorite girl of the night, and of the last two years really, Jennifer did an unbelievable job on her live performance. She also won best R&B Artist. Her acceptance speech was short, to the point and so real. She was teary, nervous and seemed to prepare her words on the fly. I enjoyed how authentic it was. I hate saying anything even slightly negative about J-Hud, but I must say I didn’t totally understand her dress choice. I know these types of dresses are super trendy right now, but the top looked a little too napkin-esque for me. I think the dress would be ok at any event except for the Grammys. Great job Jennifer. You are an inspiration to the world and evidence that the American Dream really can come true!

Leave the Drama at Home: Personal Issues and Your Day at the Office

369014983_153e8b24e6_mOne of the biggest challenges young career women face is leaving their personal lives away from the office. Up until your first job, it’s totally normal to vent to everyone around you about the breakup you are going through with your boyfriend, the fight you are in with your best friend, or how rough you are feeling from going out last night. Unfortunately this type of talk is not well suited for most work environments if you are hoping to be seen as a leader and a professional.

It is inevitable that we are all going to go through rough patches at home or in our personal lives. The challenge is not bringing it to the office. Going through some of these things for the first time in Corporate America myself was difficult and taught me some important lessons about balancing personal issues with your job.

First, there will be good days and bad days. The bad days are REALLY bad, and you may feel like you can barely function at work. This may mean catching up on filing or organizing to stay active. Make sure you aren’t doing something that requires tons of “brain power” or attention to detail if you are having a terrible day, because chances are you are distracted and will make some big mistakes, leading to more stress later.

Second, don’t recruit your co-workers to participate in conversation about your personal drama. Women often feel healing through talking about what is bothering them. Unfortunately, this is usually not ideal while at work. Not only do you look stupid, but it’s a waste of time and eventually everyone is going to get sick of hearing the latest update of what’s going on. Soon enough your co-workers will start avoiding you like the plague, consider you immature and unfocused.

Third, as tempting as it is to email your friends and family about how you are feeling all day, you are better off closing that personal email and focusing on work. Why? Because nothing is going to change by 5pm. Also, the more you start emailing, the more you get sucked in. Time will vanish; you will be behind on your work and worse off from where you started. Before you know it, your bosses and clients are upset with you for things you forgot to do thanks to your emailing spree, and you feel even more stressed out and upset then you did to begin with.

Lastly, do nice things for your self to get through the day. For me, this means getting a manicure at lunch, stopping at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks on the way to work, or taking a walk at lunch. If you’re going through a breakup, remember to think about all the movies that feature girls who went through bad breakups and then ended up better off for it (Legally Blonde, The Holiday).

If you’re going through something personal, no one expects you to be perfect. It’s inevitable that people have bad days. Just try your best to put a smile on and stay as focused as you can. If things get really terrible, it may be best to take a day off to clear your head. The last thing you want is for your co-workers or superiors to think that you are incapable of doing a good job at what you were hired to do.

Chapter 1 of My Journey as an Entrepreneur

So rather than a career or personal finance lesson, today I’m going to share what being a budding entrepreneur has been like for me lately.  A few words that immediately come to mind: coffee, energy, passion, and time management.

3195538796_e83eb19d4f Let’s start with coffee.  Yes, I read and loved Skinny Bitch and I know coffee is not the best habit to hold. Yet without it, I’m not sure how I could manage to write blog posts, launch a new website site, maintain a partnership with “The Mindset of Wealth” in Washington D.C., in addition to working a full time job in Commercial Banking that I really enjoy, work out and sleep. I always swore I would never be a coffee drinker because my parents are completely hooked on it, and of course I never wanted to do what they did. Yet now that I’m older, I see how my Mom ran a successful company, played Mom to 3 kids, cooked fabulous dinners most nights and made sure we all had what we needed. Thank God coffee is a legal substance, because to me it is a wonder drug that helps you make the most of your day.

Caffeine isn’t enough to start the engine of an entrepreneur though. For me it has taken an incredible amount of mental energy. Energy is important for me when I don’t feel like getting on conference call number 5 over my lunch break, waking up at 6am to run before work because I know I can’t do it after, coming up with new ideas, or focusing 100% on my job while I am there. Perhaps a better word for this energy is discipline. Sometimes it’s hard to make myself connect with others to market what I’m doing, or focus on developing a project I’m working on. Yet somehow I love what I’m doing so much that my mental energy carries me through.

That leads us to passion. It hasn’t taken me long to figure out that you must be completely obsessed and in love with your entrepreneurial venture. Why? Because you will breathe, think and dream it constantly and live every moment of your day thinking about it. If you’re like me, you will talk about it while socializing at a bar with new people, you will talk about it the minute you get home from work and sometimes get up in the middle of the night to jot down a fleeting idea. Perhaps that sounds a bit crazy to some, but for me it has been crucial in getting things done.

I learned in one of my Ladies Who Launch workshops that female entrepreneurs are especially known to think of their business as their “baby.” Or even as an extension of themselves which they identify with. This is absolutely true for me. As I develop the new and improved version of this blog (which will soon be called “Ms. Career Girl”) and make it into an interactive site for women, I see my personality and things I need help with being brought to life through the new site. In addition to the blog posts, there will be tools, job postings, networking events, more personal finance information, “ask a professional career girl”, recommended reading and more.

The eight year old girl in me who talked to her friends and family about being a business woman when she grew up is coming to486569058_9b91ccc458_m life. Now I see why I played office instead of house, and preferred riding my pink BMX boys bike to playing with dolls. I see why coming downtown Chicago to visit my aunt while she was in law school excited me so much. I see why I’ve always been obsessed with Oprah and what she has done for so many women around the world. I feel less strange for wanting to read books any extra minute I get, because I see that the information I get from these books can be used to help and inspire others. It’s so weird how all my little personality traits have come together and can be reflected through my entrepreneurial venture.

Lastly, time management. I think we’ve gone over how I manage my time enough, but I do want to share something quick that I learned this weekend at another one of my Ladies Who Launch workshops. As my leader Megan McKenzie says, “time management is a myth because you can’t create time.” Therefore here’s a trick to make the most out of what you DO have.

Take a 3 x 5 index card and look at it vertically. At the top write today’s date. Under that, write your top 4 items you want to get done that day. One of those items must be for you. Draw a line beneath those four items. Any items below that line are tasks that can be pushed to tomorrow. I started using this little time management tool this week and it’s crazy how much more focus I have had. I’ve accomplished more this week than usual. Try it!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. As things get off of the ground, I’ll be sure to write Chapter 2 of my journey as I know it will be an evolving experience with many lessons. In the meantime, it’s coffee time for me! Ciao!

26 Reasons I think America is Great, Weird and Contradictory.

America is an interesting place. In the handful of times I’ve left the country, I’m always so happy to be home and so proud to be an American. Yet at the same time I also observe how odd our culture is.  Here are 26 things I find interesting about America.

1. We have access to some of the best health care in the world yet have a huge obesity rate.
2. Most Americans feel like their pay checks just aren’t enough, yet we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
3. We order Diet Cokes with Big Mac’s.
4. The average American watches about 4 hours and 35 minutes of television per day according to Nielsen Media Research.

5. Dunkin Donuts-I love it and can’t imagine life without it.
6. People can drive Escalades but can’t pay a medical bill without charging it to their credit card.
7. We love Italian food that isn’t necessarily authentic Italian, and Mexican food that isn’t necessarily authentic Mexican.
8. Going on spring break each year of college is normal and expected. (I’ve never understood where the money to fund these vacations comes from?)

 
9. Strip malls and franchises are overrunning our land.
10. Debt is socially accepted as “part of American life.”
11. Disney World is a huge craze, yet when’s the last time anyone has seen Mickey Mouse in a movie or show?
12. Most people know exactly who Paris Hilton is, but don’t know who represents their local and national government.

 
13. Many young Americans consider success getting on a reality show and having their “big break.”
14. CostCo, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
15. Generally speaking, America loves quantity not quality when it comes to clothes and shoes.
16. If your kid acts like a normal kid, he will probably be diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin.

 
17. Professional Sports games were created for the average American family, yet most Americans can no longer afford to attend games.
18. 10 year olds have iphones.
19. America is obsessed with celebrities. Perhaps this is why people overspend: are we trying to live the lives of the rich and famous on a dime?
20. High School in America: homecoming, text messaging, MTV, football games, prom and drama.

 
21. Physical appearance is a top priority and plastic surgery is becoming the norm. No wonder the diet pill industry is a multi- billion dollar industry.
22. We have a show called “My Big Red Neck Wedding” now?? hmmm…
23. We are obsessed with money and material things and therefore have a love hate relationship with money.
24. Some Americans attempt to find their soul mates on TV shows like The Bachelor. (Guilty pleasure but odd reality.)
25. It’s cool to be unique in America- whether that is your ethnicity, personality, outward appearance or talents/passions.
26. And of course, I can’t leave out American Idol!

Career Lessons from Two Great Quarterbacks

America is inevitably a bit groggy today after an absolutely fantastic Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s match up was a great one. I found myself torn between which team to root for. On one hand, I’m a Miami of Ohio alum who had the honor of seeing Ben Roethlisberger play while I attended Miami. On the other hand, I have a huge crush on Kurt Warner and his story.

I respect both quarterbacks a lot. Probably because I feel that they both overcame the odds to get to where they are today.

imagesFor example, Ben Roethlisberger did not play the quarterback position until his senior year of high school. He didn’t even know he had such talent for the position until he was 17 years old! Ben is from a small town called Findlay, Ohio, a place that could be easily passed over by recruiters. Thanks to going to a summer camp at Miami, an assistant coach spotted his talent and watched his senior season. By the time the big schools picked up on Ben, he had already signed with Miami. Although Miami is a Division 1 school, it is part of the MAC– which is not a flashy conference by any means. Yet Ben’s record and reputation quickly rose to the top and he became the youngest quarterback to ever lead a team to a Super Bowl to victory.

images-3Kurt Warner is another talented quarterback who did not start at the top. Kurt played football at the University of Northern Iowa where he wasn’t given the chance to start until his senior year. Since he couldn’t land a NFL try out after college, Kurt joined the Iowa Barnstormers, an Arena Football League team. He then played in Europe until finally playing for the NFL in 1999. Many people admire Kurt for the story of how he met his wife Brenda while working as a shelf stocker at an Iowa grocery store. Kurt is now one of the oldest quarterbacks playing in the NFL.

Learning more about each quarterback’s story points out some great observations.

• You don’t have to start at the top to end at the top.
• You don’t have to go to the best college to be the most successful.
• Your attitude, perseverance and passion for what you do will carry you through until the end.
• Your personality radiates in everything you do in your career. People are more willing to give you opportunities, and to follow your work if you are someone they admire and like to be around.
• Hard work is not always glamorous.
• Especially in the case of Kurt Warner, having a great support system is very important. When the times get tough, you remember who you are working so hard for.

So if you didn’t go to an Ivy League college, or perhaps you feel like you may be playing “the wrong position” at work these days remember that perseverance and hard work will lead you to the top, even if you started from humble beginnings.