No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars

ASOS jacket; J Brand jeggings; Wilfred scarf; Babaton beanie; L.L.Bean bag; Converse shoes

2014 was a year of major financial changes. First, Jon took a paycut to work at Telus, followed by me quitting my job and being unemployed for four months. There were grand expenses like Europe and grad school, and there were a lot of cost cutting measures, which I’d like to share more with you guys.

We paid for Europe in cash with the money we saved for about a year. That money could have been used to carry us through my unemployment phase, but that’s neither here nor there. My first year of grad school is also paid for with my RRSP (thanks to the Lifelong Learning Plan) and moving forward, we’re hoping to pay for the rest of my program in cash. I don’t know how, but that’s the hope because I really don’t want to take out another student loan.

Because Jon is making less and my salary is cut in half, we had to find ways to reduce our spending. As such, I started taking transit, and since Jon is able to walk/bike to work, we decided to get rid of one of our cars. This saves us money on car insurance, registration, maintenance, and gas. Alternatively, Jon will take car2go if I have the car and he needs to go somewhere.

Jon’s discount with Telus saves us a lot of money on our phone and internet bill. We got rid of our storage unit, which was costing us $109/month. We cancelled our gym and yoga memberships. Our monthly bank fee is now $4 instead of $14 thanks to my student discount. I’m also not making any student loan repayments since I’m back in school full-time. Yes, I still have student loans from my undergrad degree because my parents didn’t pay for my education and I lived away from home. I also could have put more towards my student loans if we didn’t have a lavish wedding that we paid for ourselves, but no regrets there.

Anyways, we reduced our monthly spending by almost $1000. Crazy, right? We’re spending less on gas, phone, and internet. We’re also tithing less because we’re making less, but still tithing 10%. There are no student loan repayments. However, rent, electricity, groceries, various subscriptions, and annual expenses remain the same. While it’s tough to do any saving with what little money we make, we do try and set aside some money for things like retirement, trips, and gifts, e.g. Vietnamese New Year, weddings, birthdays. But for the most part, we’re breaking even with our current cash flow and monthly/annual expenses.

It’s been a huge lifestyle change, but I’m proud of us for reducing our expenses in order to live within our means as much as possible. We may not make a lot of money yet we still feel incredibly rich and happy with what we have.


Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in

- John Mayer, Stop This Train

Wilfred Free sweater; TNA leggings; Coach bag; Converse shoes

When I applied for grad school, my three year plan was to continue working full-time at my previous job while going to school part-time so that our income would remain the same and we could continue to pay for life as per usual. Instead, I quit my job before even starting school, and then school turned out to be a lot more demanding than I anticipated. As such, I settled for a desk job that pays HALF of what I was making before.

The decrease in salary has been tough on our finances (will elaborate more in my next post), but even more so on my ego. I hate not getting paid what I’m worth. That being said, I recently interviewed for a job and although it pays double what I’m making now, I decided to turn it down simply because it would not accommodate my school schedule and, looking ahead, my summer plans. It sucks, but I feel at peace with the decision.

Even though it didn’t work out, I’m glad I tried because not trying is what you keeps you wondering and ultimately unhappy. The experience reinforced that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. It’s not perfect, but all things considered, I have it pretty good where I am. Some days I feel stressed and annoyed, but most days, all I do is school work, which was my primary reason for taking this job in the first place.

We all have to make compromises. For some students, they’ve had to cut down to one course a semester while working full-time, thus extending their program to six years. Those who work full-time while taking two courses are crazy, and I don’t know how they do it. For me, I had to compromise income by taking an easy job so that I can still have balance in my life while taking two courses in order to finish in three years.

Anyways, Stop This Train always brings me back to second year, and it’s a reminder that life is constantly moving. Sometimes we’re meant to move with it. Other times, we’re meant to stay exactly where we are. My heart at 19 wanted to be in a million different places, and this song was what anchored me to stay put and finish my degree. The lyrics still resonates with me today.


Off Duty

TNA shirt & beanie; Joe Fresh pants & jacket; L.L.Bean bag; Converse shoes

So there are five weeks left in the semester, but it seriously feels like I haven’t even started yet. Winter semester has notoriously been the worst for me. I feel tired, unmotivated, and I can’t stop daydreaming about spring.

I try not to watch anything too addictive while in school, hence why I haven’t seen season three of House of Cards. Nobody spoil it for me. However, I did allow myself to watch season one of Transparent because each episode is only thirty minutes in length and the season is relatively short with only ten episodes. In other words, I finished it in two nights. It is provocative in some respects, but it has to be in order to tell each character’s story with depth and honesty. It has stretched my heart with greater compassion and empathy for those who endeavor to be their true, authentic selves. The show is a touching reminder of what it means to be human.

When it comes to seeing friends, I usually have to plan weeks in advance. But these days, I appreciate the ease of seeing friends spontaneously because they live in close proximity to us. For this reason, we see our friend Jackson more than anyone since he only lives a few blocks from us. I mean, it’s just so easy to drop by his place after church on Saturday night for beers and board games, and getting home is a quick five minute drive or $10 cab ride. This is why we can never live in the ‘burbs. Anyways, we had Cassie and Jackson over this past weekend for wine and cheese. We don’t like to play favourites, but we heart these two to death.

Thanks to daylight savings, I can finally take #ootd pictures again. Back in the day, I would get all dolled up for outfit pictures. But nowadays, I just get Jon to take a picture of whatever I’m wearing using the iPhone. Then I select the best picture, edit it right on my phone, and share. I can’t be bothered with anything that slows my life down, like bronchitis.


Best Friends

Sonny and I have a very special friendship. What most people don’t know is we actually went to high school together but never really spoke. Then one day, about three weeks into first year of university, we ran into each other, and we’ve been attached since.

We lived together the last two years of school, and after graduating the same year, I moved home to Calgary and he moved out East to pursue his Masters and now Doctorate. He returned home for an extended period of time recently, so we got together a few times to just hang, which typically involves food, TV, and obnoxious laughing.

It’s hard to explain our friendship to people who have never seen or observed our interaction in real life. Admittedly, he pokes fun at me more than anyone yet he knows me the best out of all my friends. He’s the kind of best friend that gets me to the very core of my being. With him, there’s no façade, no pretending, no bullshit. To find such a friend is so incredibly rare and special. For this reason, out of all the guests at our wedding, it meant the most to me that he was there, and some of you may remember my outpouring of love and gratitude to him in our ‘thank you’ speech.

Before Sonny left, his family, who is basically my second family, invited me and Jon over for a going-away dinner. While I should have been working on my paper, it was nice to take the evening off and just enjoy homemade Indian food and bottles of wine with smart and witty company.


Party girls don’t get hurt

- Sia, Chandelier

Wilfred sweater & scarf; 7 For All Mankind jeans; Gucci bag; Vince boots

I just finished writing a big paper today, so I have a little bit of time to spare before I have to start my next assignment.

Last month, we were pretty busy with travel. There was Winter Camp over the Family Day long weekend. I didn’t participate much this year. Mostly showed up for meals and did homework. Two weekends ago, we were in Whitefish, Montana for Jackson’s birthday. Most people went boarding and skiing while Jon and I just chilled. We love any reason to escape to the mountains even though we’re not into winter sports, and splitting accommodation costs with friends is also a plus. Met some cool Seattleites who seemed surprised by how hard Canadians party. Let’s say we left an impression. Then last weekend, Jon was in Dead Man’s Flats for Koby’s birthday while I caught up with my best friend, Sonny.

If you haven’t already gathered, Jon and I take frequent weekend trips out of town. Hence the need for a good weekend bag. Jon bought me the North Face Base Camp duffle bag (in yellow, of course) for Christmas because I was getting tired of using several medium-size bags to pack everything I needed. Especially during the winter when we visited Edmonton, I had to pack all my winter gear because it actually feels like the North Pole there compared to Calgary. I know how to pack light though. I survived three weeks in Europe with just a carry-on. However, when traveling by car where there’s unlimited packing space, I like to just throw everything in and go.

Anyways, we’re gonna stay put for a while. Some exciting opportunities have come our way recently, so we’re kind of preoccupied with that at the moment. It is supposed to be nice this weekend, so we’re going to take our bikes out tomorrow and enjoy the early spring weather.


Whitefish, Montana