Vintage Inspired with a Minimalist Twist: My Review of J. Hannah’s Millennially Coveted Jewelry

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I’ve recently written about how much I fancy the jewelry brand, J. Hannah – the jewelry line, fashioned by a twenty-something Los Angelican, that prides itself in sustainability by using upcycled gold and refurbished stones. J. Hannah’s timeless designs mimic vintage styles from my grandmother’s era while winning the covetousness of Californian millennials, myself included. The brand encapsulates my ideals of worthy jewelry, which is an outward extension of one’s personality that defines style rather than maintain fashion. Jewelry, in my humble opinion, should not be viewed as an accessory, but instead act as a complement to what already exists. I found myself drawn to the brand after recognizing the kindred spirit within its founder and maker, since then acquiring pieces from the collection that are a form of self-extension as well as self-expression. To find out if the price is worth the value that J. Hannah brings, you only need to read below.

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Adorning a modern woman today does not mean what it did during my mother’s time. My mother views jewelry as an embellishment, as well as a suggestion of one’s status and wealth. To a modern woman, the intellect is a better marker for both of those things. This is not to say that jewelry is demoted to something less-than, but it indicates why it is less necessary to be flashy or exuberant. On the contrary, outlandish accessories have negative connotations such as insecurity or a need for attention. In today’s world, boisterous external expression can be misconstrued as a lacking of internal substance. We have the changing times to thank for that.

Jewelry, like any accessory, is best when muted, so as not to detract from the real heroine, which is the wearer themself. Jewelry should not represent beauty, but accentuate it. Likewise, bits and baubles are not meant to mask imperfection and should certainly not usurp the winning qualities of a modern gal. If anything, ostentatious jewelry could compete with more valued traits such as confidence or a winning presence.

J. Hannah understands and incorporates all of these ideals. If jewelry is a true extension of the self, then it should follow that it remain versatile, timeless, and expressive. A modern woman is an evolutionary being, not than a static representation. Jewelry, then too, should have the same capabilities – evolving in significance while fitting into whatever purpose the wearer chooses to pursue. J. Hannah is jewelry for living with, as well as living in – a style for the vintage inclined as well as the most contemporary of persons. Made for the truest of self-expressive intentions, it is jewelry that was never meant to be taken off.

For every wearer, there is a style that has one’s name emblazoned on it. I, myself, gravitated towards the Form Hoop I earrings, for their strong structure and rounded softness. Miniature at best, each classic hoop barely makes their way around the lobe of my ears. They hug so snugly that they are quite literally an extension of myself, always 100% in contact with my skin, so that I forget I am donning them and occasionally fall asleep with them on. Simple, tiny, and understated, but with a solid depth to them and a characteristic certainty, these earrings are exemplary of who I wish to be as a person.

I was also gifted the Objet Pendant necklace by Mr. Debtist, which I think is an appropriate gift from the person who knows me best. The pendant is a seemingly minimalist and simple piece that holds a secret – its complex design as a disguised box. (A similar secret exists in the Niche Ring). The diversity of the necklace comes from its ability to hold both sentimental mementos as well as practical, ordinary objects. This list includes a spare hair-tie, an Advil, a resolution, a precious stone, or a tiny tooth. The flush lid with a snap closure makes the true purpose of the container unbeknownst to everyone except the wearer, its contents made even more private by its illusory, elusive appearance. It is especially representative of my lifestyle, archetypal of both the multi-functional and the abstract, a necklace made for a Gemini.

I wear both of these pieces daily and to every occasion. Marked with the JH emblem as well as a 925 engraving that signals true silver, these pieces are durable enough to withstand boxing classes, professional enough to wear to the dental office, and delicate enough to accompany me to special occasions. Gone are the days of acquiring pieces based solely on beauty, or even value. Jewelry has now transformed into physical translations of your personal statement. On my radar are J. Hannah’s Pivot Ring I, a fidget spinner to calm the anxieties of everyday life, and the Demi Signet. The latter has a Japanese Akoya cultured pearl in lieu of the engravings traditionally centered on such rings. “Historically, pearls have signified the wisdom of experience; they are totems of protection and luck; they are symbols of balance, strength, and calm energy.” Pearls also happen to be my birthstone. The demi signet reminds me of something my grandmother would have worn, but with a smaller profile made for the pinkies of today. I imagine a woman well-versed in proper etiquette, but at the same time, able to voice the most difficult of positions.

If you wish to peruse the collection yourself, feel free to do so using this affiliate link. You may stumble upon a piece that calls your name.

Monthly Goals: April 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

April was the most balanced month I have ever had. I spent a lot of time with friends and family, including helping my mother-in-law and sister-in-law move, dog-sitting and house-sitting for my parents while they were traveling, celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday (twice!), celebrating my dad’s birthday, celebrating Easter with Mike’s family, continuing my weekly calls with my sister in Spain, hanging out with my co-workers after a long Friday work-day, and visiting our best friends in Los Angeles! I had a lot of new experiences, such as hitting a record month with blogging, as well as hosting my first virtual cooking class for a friend’s company Lunch and Learn. Financially, we are at a stand-still with our second refinance and I am putting together our living trust, both of which were the biggest challenges for the month. Meanwhile, I started taking piano lessons (I’ve always wanted to learn), spent the entire month boxing at my cousin-in-law’s gym and running a few times a week, hitting a lifetime record mile. I take care of myself by taking afternoon naps, working on a few coloring pages, and sitting on the sunny balcony with my pensive thoughts. Best of all, I started planning for a few trips in the summer months, determined to make the most out of 2021 as I promised to myself on New Year’s Eve.

April was the month that really reflected what I have been working towards since pursuing financial independence three years ago. I created a work schedule that I am not only proud of, but that also works for me. I get to enjoy the creativity of writing on my blog, a growing network in the hospitality industry while connecting bread and coffee together (two of my favorite things in life that I am passionate about), and still get to dabble in dentistry at a relaxed environment that feels more like home than a job. I go into the office two days a week which I stacked back to back so that I have five days straight of being at home if I so wish. I was pretty adamant about making blogging and wholesale directing both remote and on my own time. I know it seems like asking for much to some, but it’s actually more about asking for what will work best for your personality and lifestyle. In return for granting me jobs that are aligned with me, I think all of my co-workers and bosses can tell you that my output and return is of better quality and my outlook at work is a very positive one. I do believe that your satisfaction in work and life is visible through the energies you emit, so it is very important that work align with your dharma and being.

The most impactful thing for me is not being dependent on a job or other people. We aren’t financially free, meaning my student debt is still looming over us (although much smaller now), but we have a very strong grasp on our finances. I feel more in control of our situations and have the confidence that I needed to dissociate my dependence from others. (On a side note, being independent of others doesn’t mean you are isolated and alone. It simply means you are self-sufficient enough to be the truest version of self you can offer). You can read about how I gained enough financial independence to quit my job here. It is one of my most viewed posts in this space, which tells me that people are interested in doing the same. We were taught that doing more and earning more is the way to being rich. For us, the opposite has been true. Doing less allowed us to save money and led to me cutting my work days. Cutting my work days gave me freedom to pursue other interests, which gave me more meaning and satisfaction in life, but also, increased my connection with people and my experiences in this world. Even during the pandemic, financial independence played a positive role for us, which I wrote about here. All in all, I am getting closer to where I intended to be when I started living intentionally – which is to have separation from work, a bigger community, the ability to pursue my passions, and soon, to travel the world. With that, I hope May follows suit.


I have finally found the planner for me this year and will stick with Unbound Planner. I think it provides the best balance of mindful living and productivity. I was able to be productive and be calm, which is always tough for a go-getter like me. I also realize that as much as I try time-blocking and as productive as it is, it doesn’t give me that sense of peace. I find myself glancing at the clock to ensure that I stay within my time limits. It subconsciously adds an extra layer of stress, so I switched back to my checklist method. I prefer to keep a running checklist and to pick off one item at a time to do. I like to spend time with each task without rushing, which ultimately leads to better results.

The planner also helps relieve me of thinking about day-to-day chores. I use the meal planning section to simplify making meals at home and grocery shopping for them, too! The weekly overviews are built around plans I made for the months and years, and I can easily look back on my game plan and timeline to plan for the week. The daily indications for exercise, taking my supplements and drinking my 8 glasses of water are also helpful. Lastly, each day starts off write, with the section for gratitude journaling as well as a Top 3 Priority checklist.


Without further ado, here are a few goals for May.

Personal:

  • Practice T.I.M.E. ritual each morning: T- Thankfulness Practice by Gratitude Journaling, I- Insight by listening to podcasts, writing, or reading, M- Meditate using the TIDE app, and E – Exercise whether that’s running or hiking.
  • Put phone away when I am with people or when doing something to avoid distractions.
  • Have a digital sabbath one day per week.
  • Learn how to use my new Microsoft surface pen.
  • Let myself take an afternoon nap every weekday that I am off.
  • Learn the 195 countries’ locations and be able to fill in a blank map with their names.
  • Learn 2 modern songs on the piano.
  • Go to the beach twice with Mikey.
  • Spend one hour this month doing NOTHING.
  • Finish reading 2 books.
  • Bake 2 new recipes.

Health:

  • Be able to run 5 miles under 50 minutes.
  • Workout with weights 3x/week.
  • Go on a hike once a week.
  • Use Magnesium Spray to boost energy, lift mood, calm the mind, and relax the muscles.
  • Take vitamins and collagen powder daily.

Work:

  • Grow the bakery by $3k this month.
  • Create genuine, meaningful relationships with patients by spending an extra five minutes each appointment learning one new thing about their social life.
  • Publish 20 blog posts.
  • Top last month’s 8.8K Pinterest views.
  • Top last month’s blogging income.
  • Learn how to self-publish a book by taking courses online.

Home:

  • Put away things daily.
  • Do a pantry clean out and organization.
  • Declutter paper and digital files and email.
  • Declutter the home and garage.
  • Complete the cleaning list.

Finance:

  • Save $7k next month to ramp up for whenever student loan repayment resumes – invest 20% of it and place 80% in our Marcus High Yield Saving’s Account.
  • Close on a second refinance of our home, hopefully sealing the interest rate at 2.875%.
  • File a living trust.
  • Complete 5 CE courses.

How I Made $789.45 in April 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

April was a record month for the blog! It was the first month of ‘normalcy’ in 2021, since I no longer had to cover for traveling coworkers at the dental office, thus giving me extra time at home to focus on my other side hustles. Despite creating only 9 blog posts, I was still proud to earn over $700 via the blog. In April 2021, I earned $789.45 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

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I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In April 2021, I made $789.45 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $637 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include Balmuda USA and Clove.
  • The rest of the income ($152.45) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog which continually earn me commission for every successful sale. It is the best method of passive income for bloggers, as it connects your audience with valuable products and services that you recommend, while paying you for your work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $4,743!! Of that, $2,446 was earned in 2021.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

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Gift Guide: Moms On The Go

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

When I look at moms these days, I wonder how in the world god-send super humans came to be. Although I am not one such being, I imagine a modern day mama to be extremely well-organized, balancing society’s expectations of being a nourishing provider to their families, a hard worker who may or may not contribute financially (but should be getting paid none-the-less), a fit athlete concerned about well-being and overall health, a never-ending source of emotional support, and on top of that, a model socialite, well-informed and light-hearted – a person who never loses her cool, has time to see her friends, and holds everyone’s schedules, down to the second, together.

Of course, this is exactly the kind of perfect imagery that would be strong enough to break any warrior. I personally do not agree that the standard we hold for mothers require my writing a run-on sentence. Yet, still, I see mamas be this exact lionheart day in and day out. Which begs the question of what mamas really need to support their crusade. Sure, I would love to give all mama’s a few days of rest throughout the week, although I am sure some would be satisfied enough with a few moment’s of sleep. But what of it afterwards? They go back to being the champions of our families, and I can’t help but think that the best gifts to give would be those that support their daily activity. Because super mamas, they don’t stop. Mine didn’t, even after we’ve all left the nest. And neither did my father’s. There’s something about them that always keep them on the go. They are heroes deserving of our protection and support, and because of that, I’ve wrangled together a list of special items that my very own modern mama would use.

If you liked this and would like more ideas, you may also want to check out last year’s suggestions centered around giving mothers the rest they need.

Gift Guide: Earth Day

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

April 22 is Earth Day. While adopting Earth friendly habits on Earth Day are good, I would like to challenge this community to adopt sustainable practices every day. The reasons for doing so are quite simple, really.

First, it saves money. For those who argue that sustainable products are pricier than non-sustainable products, take it as a sign that the need to practice going without remains. Perhaps the crux lies in certain shopping habits? Most of the time, the most sustainable option is buying nothing. The second most sustainable is revamping old things into new ones. The third most sustainable is accepting hand-me-downs or asking to borrow. A fourth sustainable option is to practice minimalism, so that even the purchase of a more sustainable option is cheaper than buying ten gadgets that add up to the same functions. I find that most people, when it comes down to it, are simply not intentional enough.

Hand me down pants, and an all organic cotton shirt gifted by PACT.

On that previous note, it limits clutter. A bag of 12 rolls of paper towels can be replaced by one or two reusable rags. A case of water bottles bought from the grocery store can be replaced by a reusable water bottle. A stack of books can be replaced by library ones, a closet full of clothes can be replaced by a capsule wardrobe, a bag of rolled up plastic bags can be replaced by one or two totes, etc. All of this to say, one of the solutions to waste is summed up in the word “LESS”.

Thirdly, it creates community. Challenge friends and family to save the Earth. Celebrate by experiencing Mother Nature – go on an arduous mountain hike, or surf in the ocean before work. Share common items with each other. Give your baby’s old crib to an expecting friend. I take unwanted articles of clothing from my friends all the time. Carpool to work, and chat about your day on the way home.

These reasons, and so much more. Consider this a gift guide for yourself, and Mother Nature.

More ideas, right this way.

Elevating Morning Breakfast Rituals with Balmuda

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

To say we value our mornings here at The Debtist household would be a vast understatement. We like to take it slow at the beginning of our day, giving to ourselves before we give to the world. Mornings are a source of inspiration. It sets the tone for the rest of theday. A few things we do is feed Theo (our toothless cat), meditate in bed (or on the couch), and get exercise in (such as yoga, running, or recently for me, a boxing class). We clear the dishwasher from the previous night’s load, throw open windows to let fresh air in, and occasionally do a bit of tidying up. Always, always, we make it a point to sit down at the kitchen island and eat breakfast together. It’s only natural that a bread baker and coffee aficionado gather around the kitchen in the early hours before work prioritizing the things we truly love. Spending our time making breakfast is a ritual that we cling to.

Just recently, we’ve made an addition to our kitchen and morning routine: a modern, minimalist toaster and electric kettle from Balmuda, a Japanese company promising better mornings and achieving world-wide recognition and hype about these two products. Balmuda has brought our breakfast game to another level, and as a bread baker, those words are neither said lightly, nor often. Balmuda’s products have amplified the simplicity of our mornings, while achieving the detail and complexity that we value in something as mundane as a slice of toast and a cup of joe.

First, let me wax poetic about the toaster. Their ground-breaking technology has paved the way for serving bread in its prime state. When I bake sourdough, both at the bakery and at home, I use cast-iron combo cookers to create steam, which makes the bread rise. I remove the lids five minutes before finishing to get a well-toasted, crunchy exterior while maintaining a soft, moist, inner crumb. Balmuda’s revolutionary toaster does just that by adding 5 ccs of water at the beginning of the process and steaming the bread. This keeps the center of the bread moist, while retaining its flavor. Have you ever eaten an over-toasted piece of bread? What does it taste like? Stale, dry, and honestly, like air. Real bread has flavor, and this little toaste- that-can makes sure of that.

Additionally, the toaster has precise temperature regulation, depending on the type of pastry or bread it is cooking. Special settings for sandwich bread, artisan bread, pastry, and pizza ensure that the second-by-second regulation of temperature is ideal for every baked item, whether it be english muffins, bagels, croissants, or day-old baguettes. There is also an oven mode that allows this toaster to cook more than just bread. Think gratins, cookies, and frozen food items. This toaster has the capability of bringing life back into week-old slices from the freezer. I would go so far as to say that Balmuda has reinvented the toaster, itself.

The sleek profile and matte finish of these toasters exude elegance in the most minimalist way. Interestingly enough, its shape also reminds me of toasters of yore, circa mid-century modern times. Smeg-like in style, it’s no wonder these toasters have gotten a lot of attention and are now carried by high-end department stores such as Williams Sonoma and Nordstrom. It looks great on a wood countertop as much as it does on a cement one. Unlike other toasters, it only has two dials and the feel of them is touch-responsive. The sound of the timer is like rain on a windowpane, and the chime at the end sounds like a gentle alarm clock – way better than your typical, earth-shattering “ding!”.

Balmuda has an electric kettle that is equally as impressive. I’ve written before about how we’ve owned Fellow’s stovetop Stagg kettle for many years, but we are making over the switch to Balmuda’s electric version for multiple reasons. Our Fellow kettle shows signs of wear from being heated on the stovetop day in and day out. The grates has scratched the bottom surface so that the matte black cover has peeled off and the metal underneath shows. I am hoping the electric Balmuda kettle will avoid this type of wear, since it sits on a nice heating pad rather than the stove.

The Balmuda kettle is lighter in while and has a smaller profile. An indicator for maximum volume located inside the kettle limits the kettle to about 500 grams of water, enough for a pour-over for two. Whereas the Fellow kettle can hold more water, limiting its size was a conscious decision by the company in order to keep the kettle compact. With the advent of tiny (and tinier) homes, both the kettle and the toaster can fit perfectly in the most millennial of tiny living situations.

As far as function goes, the pour itself is almost weightless, a result of tireless research from Balmuda for the perfect ergonomic proportions. The handle fits snugly in my hand, with a flat bevel to rest my thumb, resulting in better control. The spout can pour water painstakingly slow or insanely fast, it’s up to you. And like other electric kettles, it heats quite quickly at the push of a tiny lever at the base of the kettle stand. A neon light bulb indicates whether water is heating up or when it is finished. The only downside to the kettle is the missing thermometer on the lid of Fellow kettles, which indicates the temperature of the water inside. This is compensated by the fact that, unlike Fellow kettles, the Balmuda lid can be pushed down and sealed, keeping the contents of the kettle hot, for longer.

Honestly, both the toaster and the kettle have lended our mornings with that feel-good vibe. Balmuda has somehow used two common appliances to capture the essence of slow-living in a tangible form. The beauty of Balmuda’s products are best summarized in their mission statement.

“In the past, appliances were designed to eliminate inconvenience. Today, however, with our daily lives more convenient than ever, what people look for in appliances seems to be changing.

What people demand from tools and services today is, in a word, experiences, whether surprising, moving, or joyful. At BALMUDA, we create home appliances designed to deliver a thrilling, wonderful experience. “

Balmuda CEO Gen Teraro

I couldn’t agree more.

This post is sponsored by Balmuda, a Japanese company revolutionizing the way we experience mornings. They have kindly gifted me their famous toaster and electric kettle and it has really brought our breakfast routine to another level. This blog post is an honest review as to how my experience has been elevated by Balmuda. Right now, you can get both the Balmuda Toaster and the Balmuda Kettle at 15% OFF for Mother’s Day when purchased together. It is the perfect gift for any mom who loves to spend time in the kitchen. Balmuda also partnered with Jane the Baker’s founder, Amanda Michael, and shared a recipe for Baked French Toast, in case husbands and children around the world wish to make something special to commemorate mom’s hard work. Mother’s Day is on May 9, so order early!

Spring Forward with Parachute’s Brushed Cotton Sheets

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

About a year ago, we invested in the most laid-back, beautifully wrinkled, perfectly tossed linen sheets by Parachute Home. The color was a rich Terra Cotta that never faded despite frequent washing. The linen stayed intact in the face of a forever-kneading cat whose claws I may have forgotten to trim. And there was hardly any pilling involved. We loved our linen duvet cover, but since then I have turned over a new leaf.

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I know not why, but I go through phases like the ocean tide. I will be really into the easy look and low maintenance of linen, then get attracted to the crisp, coolness of cotton. We had switched to the latter for our duvet cover last Fall, trading in our cozy orange cover on Poshmark for a bit of cash that allowed us to buy Parachute’s clean-cut, double-sided brushed cotton duvet. It has been six months and I have yet to go back.

When they advertised the duvet cover as brushed cotton, I did not realize just how soft it would be. It feels buttery to the touch, and that’s not just baker-talk. It feels akin to sleeping in an old tee. I have slept soundly since making the switch, and my husband has commented that it keeps him quite cool in the evenings, even with a fluffy cat between our heads. Like Parachute’s other products, these are made in a 100% family-owned factory in Portugal. It is OEKO TEX certified which means it does not contain harmful chemicals or synthetics.

We were able to snag the double-sided duvet cover, which is ivory on one side and a dark, sage green on the other. It is low-key still available as a sheet set and duvet cover under the ever-so-secret Last Chance section of Parachute where you can find older products at up to 40% OFF. I had it on the dark side all winter and it really muted the room in a way that supported lattes in bed and hours of sleep. For Spring, I just recently gave it a good wash (which I recommend doing every other week) and flipped it over to it’s ivory side. It’s absolutely gorgeous, especially under this mood lighting that teases me with the possibility of rain.

The difference between the linen duvet cover and this one is that the linen cover looks good messy. This does not. Which isn’t so bad since it forces me to make my bed every morning, whereas the linen cover was left alone most of the time. The esthetics were improved after throwing a bright white quilt over it during the colder months. This quilt from Parachute looks like the ticket, although ours was purchased many moons ago when Mike and I had no dollars to our name and we were walking the aisles of Target in search of something to keep us from freezing in the garage we were calling a bedroom. Never mind that our quilt was meant for a Full/Queen bed instead of the California King we now sleep on. Either way, what the brushed duvet cover lacks in careless style, it makes up for in class and comfort.

For the best effect, I would recommend mixing and matching the two fabrics. I have seen photos of the terra linen sheets partnered with the ochre brushed cotton duvet on Parachute’s website, and it is heavenly. We actually kept these linen pillowcases that were gifted to me by my mom on my last birthday, and I find it keeps the room looking less stark. Coupled with the textures of our aforementioned quilt, and the marriage between textiles is pure unicorn magic. Any minimalist could agree that the secret to a barren room is texture.

In the end, it boils down to a matter of what vibe you want in your space. The trade happened around the same time we remodeled our couch with a white linen Bemz cover. It used to be a cotton navy blue color that the Soderhamn couch was sold with. At the same time, we sold our wooden West Elm Mid-Century modern media console on Offer Up and used the proceeds towards this minimalist Ikea one, which better suited our vibe (read also as: better fit our record player). The auburn linen duvet cover that sold out twice from Parachute perfectly matched the previous couch and console, but once we made both switches, the linen cover started to feel out of place.

To be honest, I knew nothing about my home style preferences prior to last-year’s stay-at-home mandate. Initially, I thought I was a bohemian, mid-century modern, Eichler-loving gal. I chose wood pieces in walnut, bright jewel tones for my textiles, and big leafy plants. But after having to actually stay at home for many months, I started to realize that both my space and myself were more aligned with clean lines and simple shapes in the neutral colors of white, beige, gray, and black. It isn’t what I envisioned a creative’s space would look like. But perhaps I need the blank walls to inspire my creations. I guess I feel more at peace when I have a structured space to live and work in.

The best thing I could have done last year to improve my lifestyle was to invest in my home. Little upgrades made big differences, both in my productivity, as well as the quality of my work. Add to that a sense of calm and serenity that helped me relax on my days off, and you’ve got the perfect equation for a well-balanced life. I truly enjoyed my quarantine life and that isn’t because I’m introverted. I believe it has something to do with finding my niche, and when one finds that perfect space where they are most themselves, well, that qualifies as finally being truly at home.

Preparing for the Resumption of Student Loan Payments

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I don’t pretend to know what anyone’s financial situation is like. I know that our stories are different, and depending on where we lie on our path, the story changes with time. I have already written about what one should be doing with their federal student loans at this time, but the advice is not finite. I find that the best mode of action, historically, has been to share with others what I myself am personally doing with my student loans, and letting others walk away with what they’d like to keep for themselves. So here it is. A little update on me, preparing for the resumption of student loan repayment once the 0% interest resumes at the latter part of 2021.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

For the past year, I have been holding onto my usually aggressive student loan repayment sums for multiple reasons. Firstly, the uncertainty of the economic and social situation due to the pandemic. Mike spent 10 out of the 12 months last year not working. I honed in on only working part-time at one of my offices so as not to spread disease among different population groups. Family members lost jobs and we didn’t know who would need our support. Siblings moved back into parent’s homes, parents themselves moved, and a majority of our immediate families went without work or school for most of 2020. So I paid my minimum payment (in order to avoid forbearance just in case it affected the terms of the loan in the long-run) and took the rest of the income and invested it into a High Yield Savings Account.

Meanwhile, to compensate for Mike not working, I maxed out my 401K for the first time ever, and dabbled into a brokerage account. But for the most part, we enjoyed the relaxed vibe of staying at home and doing nothing for the most part of 2020. I wasn’t as tight on finances as I should have been. I have financial independence to thank for that – and you can read how pursuing financial independence has actually benefitted us during times of COVID.

Regardless, I am starting to feel that the end of an era is near. With the available vaccinations increasing in Southern California, I am anticipating the reopening of most of our economy, which will also signal the end of the student loan forbearance (currently scheduled for September 2020). So, like any Spring bird preparing for what’s ahead, I am gathering my resources like figments of a bird’s nest, and preparing for the return of my aggressive student loan repayments.

THE GAME PLAN

Because my loan was huge ($575,000), we initially stayed with a student loan forgiveness program instead of refinancing back in 2017, in case something unexpected came our way (oh, sayyy COIVD?). However, now that the loan amount is dwindling, we are starting to see the light. The OG plan was always to refinance once the loan reached under $300,000. Why this number? I have found that this number is the threshhold for many student loan refinancers. Many of them won’t even consider a refinance if the loan amount is more than $300,000. It is also the threshold that transitions one from a high interest rate (ours is 6.8%!!) to a lower interest rate (around 3%).

Luckily, under the REPAYE plan, the interest rate was half-subsidized by REPAYE, which meant we were able to stay in the student loan forgiveness program while paying interest fees around what we would have paid if we had refinanced. This is why it is important to understand your loan repayment options, which you can definitely learn more about here. This subsidy ends after three years, and we reached that mark during COVID (November 2020). Luckily, due to the 0% interest rate in effect right now as part of the COVID relief program, we have not jumped into the 6.8% interest rate bracket. However, our goal is to be under $300k by the time the 0% ends and refinance to an interest rate that is hopefully lower than 3%. I do not recommend refinancing your loan before the deferment period ends, but I do recommend preparing for it by planning to pay off the largest chunk you possibly can and then refinancing to a better rate to make the going easier for you in the future. Think of it as a snowball method.

OUR PREPARATION

We are doing a few things to prepare for Fall. None of these things are out of the ordinary for us. They are actions that I’ve been advocating for years. Although I must say that we’ve loosened the reigns a bit recently. Our frugal muscles have become droopy, and it’s time to exercise. Here is what I plan to do in the upcoming months.

  • Tightening up the Master Budget. Since we eliminated a majority of our spending due to the lock-down, I have found that over the past year, I have loosened significantly the reigns on spending buckets that would usually have tightly closed lids. The savings we received from cancelling subscriptions, gym memberships, and most importantly, international travel trips has given me a lot of leeway with home and lifestyle improvements. Now, it is time to tighten the purse strings once more. If you need a refresher on mastering a budget, you can refer to my free course here. Don’t let any stone go unturned. You can create monthly frugal challenges to make the saving more fun. Here’s a few of mine.
  • Resume Side Hustles. In order to protect my family and my patients, I had decided to stop my dog-sitting and my bakery last March. I also decided that it would be best to only work at one dental office at a time. But now that things are opening up again, I have started to resume my side hustles. I have returned to the bakery where I once worked as an early morning baker and have started the position of Wholesale Director in March. I love being back with the Rye Goods crew, and truly enjoy my alternative work life. I also have continued to write for this blog, as well as guest write for Bogobrush. If you wish to grow your income, too, check out my ever growing list of ways to earn extra money here.
  • Research Refinance Options. If, like us, you plan to finagle your way down to the smallest loan amount possible with the hopes to refinance for the lowest rate possible in order to snowball your way to student debt freedom, then I highly suggest starting the research on refinance options today. There will be different companies vying for your attention. It would be best if, when the time comes, you are well-versed enough to be able to refinance in a jiff. The worst possible scenario is choosing a refinance company that won’t give you the best deal, or waiting so long that you will be stuck paying the high interest fees when loan repayments resume. A few things to note. Do not apply to them if they pull your credit. You want to maintain your good credit score for when the actual time comes. Also, the smaller your debt, the better your rate. So save, save, save! Lastly, make sure you have budgeted out enough emergency funds to cover your monthly payments after exiting from your student loan forgiveness program in case of job loss or an emergency. Preparation is key before pulling the trigger. Here are a few refinance options that I’ve been recommending to colleagues.
  • Speak to Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner. Still don’t know what to do? Speak to Travis and his team at Student Loan Planner. They are knowledgable and give great advice. I highly recommend their services for those who do not know what to do with their loans. I send all of my closest friends and family members to him because I trust his team and know that they are up to date with the finest details regarding student loans.

I feel like a warrior getting dressed for battle. It has been a long year of nothingness. I must admit that it was lovely and nice, but I am ready to get on my horse and face the challenges of loan repayment once again. Instead of our usual yearly update (because there is nothing to update you on), I hope that this post suffices. I will write a lengthy one as September draws near, as well as after our planned refinance.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash