How to Recover From the Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner and you may already feel a bit of burnout creeping in. Every day I am asking my patients what their plans are, and “nothing” seems to be the favorite answer. We may already be burned out from the rest of the year. Every day I am asking myself what my soul needs in the new year to flourish. Others may be asking themselves what they need just to get by. Whatever the case may be, don’t forgo making plans to recover after the holiday season. The tendency may be to jump head first into 2022. Perhaps it’s better to pause, take a break, and breathe? Here are a few of my favorite ideas to recover from the holidays.

Take time off of work.

You might feel like working full-speed in order to pay for the holiday spending is what you need to do. But I love taking time off of work to recover, even for just a day. I am lucky enough to not work a 9-5 job five days a week and to have flexible schedules. However, if I did work a traditional schedule, I would certainly request time off after my busier days. This time off isn’t for completing tasks, organizing the home, or socializing. This is a chance to reset, evaluate, and prepare. Activities that are perfect for this include getting out in nature, meditating, taking a yoga class, going to a coffee shop to write, or even getting away.

Take a vacation.

Sometimes, a separation of schedule isn’t enough to take the mind off a to-do list. For me, it also usually requires a separation of space. Taking a vacation or going away from home is a great way to recover from the holidays. My choice stay is GetAway! Stationed nationally in nature, these tiny cabins are the perfect way to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the earth or whatever grounds you. I would even recommend going without your significant other. It’ll do wonders. You can read my review of the GetAway experience here. Make your first booking with my referral link and receive $25 OFF your first stay (minimum two nights required).

Declutter the Home

We accumulate a lot of things over the holidays. I look at the things we received as gifts and consider what they are replacing in our space. We try not to keep two of anything so that’s an easy way to declutter. I also try to really consider the function of things. I get rid of a lot of stuff at the end of the year. Part of that is my natural response to the frenzy that is the holiday season. I declutter to alleviate myself of the overwhelm. But the other part of it is this: I am preparing my space for an intentional life.

Clean and Organize

I don’t know about everyone else but my house tends to look as scattered as my brain after the holidays. I usually need a day to reorganize and clean. Some of the things I do is clear out the fridge and store the leftovers, which are plenty. I put the gifts away and remove the decor, which are few. I clean the kitchen, wash sheets and towels, and sweep the floors. Throughout the year, I use this cleaning list that I wrote. It is saved on my Iphone under ‘Notes’ with checkmarks next to each task. I do a weekly cleaning time block each weekend and address the tasks little by little. It’s a simple way for me to get things done.

Give back to yourself.

In the name of giving to others over the holidays, we tend to forget about ourselves. There are many self-care strategies that you can implement to give back to yourself again. This includes getting into an exercise routine, laying off the sweets, lessening the alcohol and coffee, and being openly grateful.

I know that this list is short and sweet, but these are my favorite ways to recover from the holidays. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, nor does it have to be expensive. Just make sure you are doing something for yourself to recover. The holidays is a stressful time for everyone. Don’t feel bad if you need to tell loved ones you need a break, or more space, or less time with them. We need to say no, in order to say a bigger “YES!”. That’s a good mantra to have in 2022.

Holiday Gift Guide for Her

Last week, I posted a holiday gift guide for him. Today, I am posting one for her, with the caveat that the ‘her’ I am envisioning is a person similar to me. This may lead to disappointment, especially if you are looking to astound with diamond rings and glittery gowns, or if you are looking for the latest clothing or shoe recommendations. However, I have hope that there is something useful here for the modern femme in your life; that leading lady, boss chic, super heroine, extremely active go-getter, et cetera.

Other Gift Guides for Her

Holiday Gift Guide for Her

  • I have been dying for this digital notepad for years. The Remarkable 2.0 looks amazing. I love to write but my minimalist tendencies has gotten me to throw away countless notepads over the past few years. This notepad looks super sleek and seems to have a good paper-feel to it. I heard great things about the pen and the accuracy when translating from notepad to other devices. The slim profile looks quite modern and I can see myself writing more each day with this notepad around. It is on sale right now, for that really special someone. $300.
  • As much as I have been dying to get the Remarkable 2.0, I have made the conscious decision to buy a Surface Pro Pen to go with my Surface Pro instead. I have owned a Surface Pro for more than five years and really love it! It is a great option for minimalists who primarily use their computer for basic blogging and web-surfing. Buying a Surface Pro Pen was more cost-efficient, even though the feel is just not the same. I found I haven’t been reaching for it as much as a pen and paper, because the pen writing on the Surface pad still feels too digital. But the pen did provide me that happy medium between keeping notebooks around and buying the Remarkable 2.0. $99
  • No matter what, I keep a physical daily planner with me 100% of the time. It’s the only paper source I can’t shake. This daily planner by Unbound is the best planner I have ever used! If you have a gal who loves to plan, gift her this planner for 2022. She will love it! If you want another option, I wrote a list of Top 5 Planners here. $52
  • All of my friends have recently gotten into smart watches. This Fit Bit Inspire 2 with the white band looks so chic and does the job in a minimal way. A watch like this can really help someone hit their wellness and fitness goals. All my gal pals are stoked about their Fit Bit watches. $70
  • Alternatively, give the gift of relaxation and flexibility with this Manduka yoga strap. It takes up small real estate in the home but gets the job done. $16
  • This bag is just right for the shy vocalist in your life. Some people want to spread a message without having to get behind a speaker or mic. And why not get them the matching sock, too? $18-28
  • Give the gift of a strong boy brow. This brow stick from Glossier is my favorite make-up item in my minimalist arsenal. It was game-changer, and the perfect anti-dote to when I’m feeling glum. $16
  • Ocean lovers and cat lovers will equally love this phone case from Pela, plus other beige cases this way. $54
  • This is the perfect knife set for a gal who loves to cook. It’s minimalist, modern, and just stunning! The wood display comes in a few colors, but the trio would look just as nice on a steel magnetic plate. I am always on the lookout for simple solutions and these three are really all you need in your knife block. $125
  • And for the non-cooks, this Beast Blender is revolutionizing mornings for women everywhere. Make a healthy smoothie, throw in some collagen powder and protein, and top off with a to-go lid. (W+P Design has a few cute insulated bottles that I’ve been curious to try.) My friend got this blender and has all good things to say. Her husband is also using it on the daily now. This is the perfect no-fuss solution for those who love to sleep in a little extra, or leave home a little early. And it cleans up well! $185
  • Rather, you could just gift her the most amazing collagen ever! I love Thrive Market’s collagen. I can really feel and see the effects. I have also tried the Vital Proteins Collagen and I must say that Thrive Market’s is wayyy better. I throw this into my smoothie bowls and bone broth to keep my skin, hair and nails looking happy and healthy. $25

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

Holiday Gift Guide for Him

I am definitely a gift giver and there’s nothing I like more than shopping for someone else. This is especially true for my husband. I never have trouble finding gifts and I enjoy imagining what a guy would want to receive. Of course, it usually ends up being things that I want, too! Convenient, huh? Haha. Luckily, my significant other is extremely easy-going. I know that we are coming upon the holidays soon, so here is a last-minute holiday gift guide for him! Some of these items are actually on Mike’s wishlist this year. Then again, about half are things I would like for myself, as well. I also tried to include frugal alternatives to the more wildly expensive stuff. Since when did things cost so much?

Alternatively, a more simple holiday:

Holiday Gift Guide for Him

  • A water carbonator that’s easy on the eyes. Mike never drinks enough water. But water carbonators can make drinking water a real joy, rather than a chore. Help your guy create the habit of staying hydrated by sprucing up his drink. Moreover, this carbonator from Aarke is so pretty to look at, it totally solves the issue of putting it away every time versus keeping it out. Technically, this makes it a gift for me, too! Haha. There are seven colors to choose from. I personally love this beautiful ‘Sand’ color! Yuppie water, here he comes. $249
  • Of course, sometimes it’s the little things that makes all the difference. I fortified my water-drinking habit by buying one of these Ikea pitchers with a lid. I have it on my desk with a glass every day, and refill as needed. It makes water within arms reach and constantly accessible, without breaking the piggy bank. Plus, it is such a joy to pour from, and the lid keeps all the dust bunnies out! $4
  • This toaster seriously deserves all the hype. We have owned this Balmuda toaster for many months now and we use it almost daily. My husband cannot get enough bread, and Balmuda has revolutionized the way toasters reheat our gluten-full foods. We’ve been dishing out some perfect toasts and life couldn’t be any better. Just like the Aarke, it comes in multiple colors, which allows you to match your appliances (again, a pro for me!). $300
  • If you don’t want to drop $300 on the Balmuda, this beautiful toaster by Hay Design runs at a cheaper price point. It’s for toast and sliced bread only, but sometimes, that’s all your kitchen needs! $95
  • My guy is a coffee guy. Therefore, coffee gear is always being upgraded at our house. We have owned the Fellow Stagg stovetop kettle for years, but decided to upgrade to the Balmuda Electric Kettle when we upgraded our toaster and I haven’t gone back since! This kettle is petite and beautiful to hold in my tiny hands. The weight is ergonomically balanced and I don’t experience severe forward tipping like I do with the Fellow Kettle. Additionally, the indicator light at the end of the handle has a moody orange glow to it, which really makes my gloomy mornings. And it heats up way quicker than the stovetop kettles! We have this in white and use it almost daily. We are now Balmuda people, what can I say? $150
  • When Mike heard I was publishing a ‘Gift Guide for Him’ post, he told me that I needed to add Miir mugs to the list. He got a free 12 oz. camp mug from his company and uses it every day for his coffee. That surprised me because the internal is metal and ideally you want a glass vessel for coffee. But he swears by it and loves that it keeps his drink warm. So I guess there you have it! From the coffee lover, himself. $25
  • Mike and my brother have both gotten into training for marathons recently. They’ve also both gotten a watch to help improve their running. Mike got this Coros Pace 2 Watch and has been loving it! The watch is extremely light-weight and minimalist. My brother purchased a more intense Garmin watch that includes GPS tracking since he goes on multi-day hikes in national parks as well. Both have enjoyed not carrying their cell phones around when they are out in nature. Mike loves that the Coros Pace 2 has no music capabilities, which allows him to think on his long runs. I haven’t seen him enjoy a product this much in a long time. $200
  • If your guy is more like me and has no intention of running a marathon, but wants to get into shape, this Fit Bit Inspire 2 has really been inspiring me these days. And they’re going for only $65 a pop!
  • One of Mike’s best guy friends defines air-frying as cooking. I swear, everything he makes for dinner requires an air-fryer. If yours is the same, maybe getting a nice one this year would be a good idea. The best part – this one is dishwasher safe! Simplifying life in 2022, yeah? $90
  • What guy doesn’t love pizza? This Ooni pizza oven is a year-round gift, perfect for pizzas in the park, as well as cozy winter pizza parties! This has a minimal profile that would fit inside a tiny home. It is portable and having one in your friend group can be quite useful. Pool party, anyone? I would prefer one of these on our balcony over a grill. That would be a dream! $400
  • If you can’t quite stomach buying an entire oven, I’ve personally got my eyes set on this pizza stone by Emile Henry. It will work just as well in a kitchen oven! $55
  • My husband is really into the crypto-world. He had asked for, and received, a Nano Ledger last year. Now that crypto is becoming more relevant, perhaps this epic drive would be a great gift. Store coins off the web in this hard wallet. The security is well worth it at only $60.
  • This Theragun Mini is perfect for guys who like to go to the gym. Muscle relaxation is just as important as exercise! $199
  • Mikey himself opted for a cheaper alternative on his wishlist, which is a foam roller. This Lululemon roller has gotten a lot of attention for it’s dual capabilities. It is also available in a mini version, designed for people on the move! I would definitely carry this roller to the gym, yoga class, or dental office! Plus, it’s got this great marble print, making it approved to be left out in an inconspicuous corner of the living room. $58 for the regular, $38 for the mini.
  • Here is another gift on Mikey’s wishlist this year: a cocktail smoker top/smoke stack. A perfect gift for your personal mixologist, or the next Manhattan lover. $60

I really hope you found this holiday gift guide for him useful. As always, feel free to share what you got your significant other! Crowd-sourcing is the absolute best.

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

10 Minimalist Humidifiers for Winter 2021

In this space, I talk a lot about skin care routines and hydration. If you’ve been here long enough, you would know that both qualify as forms of intentional living and self-care in my book. However, as the winter season approaches, we must consider the air quality in our homes, too. I have written before about improving air quality with Molekule’s Air Purifier, but I have yet to address humidifiers. Well, today’s the day I reveal 10 minimalist humidifiers for this winter!

Related Posts:

Why Get A Humidifier?

In general, I have trouble justifying the need for home appliances. My upbringing has always been of the minimalist variety, in a bear-it, tough-skin kind of way. The AC was never on. The heater was an even worse contraption. Put on a sweater and socks if you must. Dry noses and cracked lips meant I wasn’t drinking enough water. And sniffly noses were a sure-fire sign that we weren’t taking care of our health. But never was it the environment’s fault.

Perhaps as I’ve aged, I’ve become a bit weak. I find myself less resistant to summer’s heat. I find my hair starting to fray in the Fall. Regardless, I have also become more aware and knowledgeable. I know that air humidity plays a big role in the health and well-being of our skin as well as our airways. I know that we have the means to create the correct environment that allows us to thrive. And I’ve become more accepting of appliances.

The turn of Fall and our recent move to the mountainside has really had a negative effect on my skin. I decided to round-up minimalist humidifiers that would work with any home. Since I would want my humidifier to run all season long, I am requiring that the humidifier be esthetically pleasing and not an eye-sore. In my case, this requires that it also be white. Call me a Scandinavian-styled-snob, but the white color will allow my appliance to blend into my space. Even my Balmuda toaster and kettle are white! This list includes a fairly wide range of prices, and shapes. Never did I realize before how many shape options we had to choose from. Alas, there’s got to be one for you here somewhere.

Ten Options for A Minimalist Humidifier

  • FridaBaby – I’ve personally used the FridaBaby humidifier years ago and it worked fairly well for small spaces. I wasn’t completely in love with the shape but it was quiet! It also has a nightlight function which would work well in a kid’s or baby’s room. Mothers seem to love this and you can find it in major stores such as Target, BuyBuyBaby, and Pottery Barn Kids.
  • Stadler – This is one of the more expensive options but it is also the most practical looking. I love the square shape and stand. I can see this positioned on the floor next to my desk or living room couch. This one in particular has received many positive reviews. I heard that it sees less build-up compared to other humidifiers! To avoid build-up, I use only distilled water, but for those who just don’t have it on hand, this is a great option.
  • Vava – This is a very affordable option. Online, reviewers say that this one is silent. My favorite feature of the Vava is that you fill it with water from the top. Most humidifiers require you to fill a giant tub, and then somehow invert it onto a platform without spilling any water. Well-known secret: I always spill water. It isn’t the biggest deal, but I love the ease of this one! Plus, I love that it looks as clean as a modern speaker or Molekule Air Purifier.
  • InnoGear – This humidifier is a great option for the frugal, as it is the cheapest on this list. It isn’t very big, but I can see it sitting on a work desk. It will certainly add to your work-from-home space. I can also see this on a nightstand next to the bed. It’s small size makes it ideal for portable use. What a perfect little travel companion!
  • Roolen – Roolen is an eco-friendly operating system that automatically adjusts output based on the current environment. It senses what the air humidity is and maintains the air at the ideal 40-60% range. Roolen is a smart humidifier, and if you’re a techy one, this might be the answer for you. It does lie on the pricier side of the spectrum.
  • Objecto – I added this Objecto humidifier for it’s unique shape. Although it isn’t necessarily my style, a lot of home decor stores really favor this one. Its glossy appearance makes it look more like a work of art than a humidifier.
  • Crane – Crane was the humidifier with the most reviews. It seems everyone chooses Crane. It is nice to look at, but the orange decal really bothers me. I just want something less … obviously branded? If that doesn’t bother you, then this may be a decent option as many people have purchased and liked it.
  • Canopy – I like to look for options that speak to millennials and the younger generation. Canopy really fits the bill for college students. It has a cute look to it, and a fairly large tank. My favorite part is the dish-washer feature of its components. I mean, who knows what lies in a dorm room? Who has the time to clean a humidifier? The solution: Live free of mold by dishwashing this beauty once a week. Just a great invention!

Of course, this wouldn’t be a complete round-up without opening the door for your recommendations. If you have a humidifier you absolutely enjoy, please leave it in the comments below!

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

How I Made $99.87 in November 2021 NOT Blogging From Home

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

In this post, I go through how I made $99.87 in extra income NOT blogging from home. I know what you’re thinking. The title looks a bit different this time. That’s because November was a whirlwind of a month that required me to spend 100% of my attention on my personal life. Which meant I did not have the time to reach out to companies and create collaborations.

We returned from a vacation on November 2nd, closed escrow on a new townhome on November 5th, moved our stuff on the 6th so that we could close our escrow on our old place on the 9th. I spent the next two weeks unpacking, tidying, ordering things, and doing minor repairs. A renovation to install lighting happened at the end of week 2. I spent all of week three baking 9 pies, housing guests for a week, dogsitting, and preparing for three Thanksgiving meals, two of which we hosted in our new home. And just like that, it’s December.

So how did I make money NOT blogging in November? Well, that’s the great thing about blogs and why I continue to run one. Blogs are a source of passive income. It provides for others as it does for me. Blogs are a great side hustle because it does not require active work to make money (see all of my side hustles here). Eventually, blogs can run on their own. As long as it provides value for someone in the community, it is valid.

In November 2021, I earned $99.87 NOT blogging from home. The main way I earn extra income is through affiliate marketing. 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 November 2021, I made $99.87 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • 100% of this month’s income comes from affiliate links. I did not do any collaborations with companies this month. All the money I earned was from referral links to products that I have found helpful. Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn money without having to do additional work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $5,952.69!! Of that, $3,655.30 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.

How Home Ownership Sped Up My $575,000 Student Loan Repayment

Now that we have moved into our new space, I have a moment to write down a few words on home ownership as a tool to facilitate student loan repayment. If you haven’t been following along on my journey thus far, first, welcome to my little pocket on the internet!

My name is Sam and I graduated dental school at 26 years old with $575,000 of student debt. You can listen to my story in this interview. It was a crippling number and instead of waiting 25 years for loan forgiveness (which would put me at slightly over 50 years old), I decided to pay it back as fast as I can. I experimented with non-traditional ways of living, which included small space living, finding a roommate to live with my married husband and I, scrounging for hand-me-downs, living a minimalist life, and delving into side-hustles. However, one of the more traditional decisions we made was to buy a home. And it paid us back tremendously!

Why We Decided to Buy a Home

We live in Southern California, which is a fairly expensive place to call home. When we first rented a space, it was costing us $2,800 a month to live in a 1500 square foot live/work loft. Even after we negotiated with the landlord to lower the lease to $2,600 a month, we still felt like it was a big chunk to throw into someone else’s pocket. We decided it would be better to funnel that money into equity of our own. That way, we would be paying the same amount of money to put a roof over our head, but still be growing our wealth.

After a year of renting, we knew the next move would be to buy a home. I advise any young person to get their foot into real estate as soon as they can. Even if it is the tiniest home. If you can afford to pay the mortgage, put that renter’s money back into your own pocket.

How We Bought Our First Home with $575,000 of Student Debt

The first thing we did was negotiate with our current landlord a lower monthly fee. The second thing we did was get a roommate, to further reduce the monthly rent. The extra money we saved went directly into a savings account. I recommend a Marcus High Yield Savings Account to hold short-term savings. Meanwhile, we implemented the strategies of frugality (here is a list of Frugal life hacks) to save even more. We shopped for a good deal on a mortgage loan and within six months, we were signing documents for a live/work loft of our own. This was early on in my loan repayment journey, before I delved into side hustles. I probably could have sped up the process by earning more income with side hustles (here is my list of side-hustles).

How to Find a Deal on a Home

We chose a live/work loft that was similar to the one we were currently living in. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 stories, a 2 car garage and 1500 square feet of space. It was built in 2004. As a live/work loft, the property was commercially zoned, and the downstairs faced the heart of downtown. The exact same loft in the community we were renting from was going for $650,000. We found one that was in a more central location, listed at $499,000. In California, that is a steal.

My first tip is to be patient. Look for a long time and don’t jump on the very first opportunity. To be honest, I scoured the listing for 6 months while we were saving money. 6 months is a very long time if you already have the funds, but the best deals come to those who wait.

My second tip is to keep the search well-focused. I limited my search to live/work lofts because of the lifestyle we wanted. I knew I wanted two bedrooms because we wanted to keep our roommate (which we ended up having for 3 years). Having a roommate was great because it helped us pay for our mortgage. At the same time, we knew we wanted a minimalist space. A small space meant we could spend less to own a home. If I wasn’t this focused on what I wanted, I could have easily gotten carried away with buying a bigger, more expensive home. I made sure that the home fit our needs, and nothing more.

My third tip is to not let emotions get the better of you. Buy with your head, not your heart. Society sells us the idea of a dream home. But a dream home won’t make you free from student loans. A dream home will end up being a money pit. And dreams change. I mean, we sold our live/work loft and moved to a ranch community, and it has only been three years. I just remind myself, having a dream house is not my goal. It is a means to reach an end. You can read more about my thoughts on why property ownership is not about finding your dream home here.

How Much It Cost to Buy Our Home

You may be wondering how much it cost to get one’s foot in the real-estate-door. That depends on a whole bunch of factors, such as where you live, or what you are willing to live in. Our first home cost us $499,000. We put down 5%, which was $25,000. Added to that would be closing costs which was an additional $10,000. Total, we needed $36,000 to close the deal on our home.

We chose an online lending company that gave us better deals than a well-known bank could. I would definitely do some shopping around! At first, we thought the Doctor Loan would be the best move. But after doing the math (which you should always do!), we found that the Doctor Loan had a higher interest rate than a conventional loan, which made the monthly payments pretty high. It ended up being cheaper to do a conventional loan with 5% down (which is available for first-time home buyers) plus the added PMI. Moral of the story: do price comparisons.

How Much It Cost to Own a Home

Our monthly mortgage was about $3,000 a month. We had HOA fees that cost $222 per month. Utilities cost about $175 per month. We had a roommate that we charged $700 a month to have her own bedroom and full bathroom. Our total portion per month without utilities was $2,522, which is cheaper than when we were renting under a negotiated price. After two years, we refinanced and brought the monthly mortgage down to $2,500. After another five months, I refinanced a second time and got the monthly mortgage payment down to $1,900! I did the back-to-back refinancing because we were losing our roommate. It was all about bringing that monthly number down as much as possible. However, we ended up pivoting when the market took a turn for the better.

How Much Value The Home Accrued

To our lovely surprise, 2020 and 2021 ended up being pivotal years for us home owners. 2021 alone saw a 20% increase in home value in Southern California. To put it into perspective, in March of 2020, the value of our home was around $510,000. By October 2021, we were able to sell our home at $660,000. We had bought our loft in September of 2018. In three years, the value of our home increased by $160,000!

Why We Sold Our Home and Bought A Second One

We decided to sell our live/work loft and realize the earnings while the market was hot. So as not to miss out on the possibility of continual market increase, we purchased a townhome with half of the revenue from the first loft, and are funneling the other half of the revenue into student loans come February. Our townhome is newer (2018) and is five minutes from my job which nixes my commute. It is also in a much nicer community, down the street from my parent’s house, and within 5 miles of where I grew up. Since we lost our roommate, we bought a townhome that is smaller, but still has 2 bedroom, 2 and a half baths, 2 stories and a 2 car garage. We are using the second bedroom as Mike’s office now that he is WFH.

With the revenue we received, we were able to put 10% down into a $670,000 home. That’s right! We traded our first home for one with the same value. Both homes increased the same amount over the last two years. We gave up 200 square feet of space for a nicer neighborhood and no commute. And with 10% down, we placed more initial equity in this home ($67,000) than our initial home ($25,000). This is without us having to save money or anything. This is just half of what we earned from our daily living expense of putting a roof over our head. For this reason alone, I would definitely recommend buying a home.

How Home Ownership Sped Up My $575,000 Student Loan Repayment

Back to the original title of this post: How did home ownership help with my loans? It gave us an extra $75,000 to funnel into my student loans come February. (The discrepancy between the $160k earned and the amount used for the home and loans is attributed to the closing costs of the sale and the purchase of a home.) This additional $75k towards student loans reduces my student loan repayment timeline by one whole year! And to think, this money would have just gone into some other person’s pocket if we continued to rent.

The Moral of the Story

My advice for young people who are broke but want to own a home is to do what it takes to save the money. Buy the smallest home possible for yourself to start. Consider the possibility of having a roommate for the first few years. Stay determined to live frugally, and reap the benefits a few years down the road. Good things come to those who are patient and wait.

Photo by MinuteKEY on Unsplash

Top 5 Planners for A Productive 2022

It’s that time of year again! Time to start scouring the web for the best 2022 planner. If you are an avid planner like myself, you probably get joy from looking for the most productive planner possible. I live and die by a physical day planner. I always have. Without one, I am pretty much useless. I owe all of my successes to maintaining a well organized and structured life. For some reason, the digital planners don’t do it for me. I like the tactical aspect of writing stuff down. Of course, the definition of success can differ from person to person. Regardless of what success looks like to you, there will be a planner out there to help create your ideal lifestyle. Without further ado, here are my top 2022 planner!

Mal Paper

Mal Paper is a 90-day planner focused around goal setting. It works really well for list-lovers such as myself. The daily pages have no scheduler, but rather, has a list of tasks to check off. I have difficulty boxing out my time because my mind tends to jump from one task to another. As bad as it sounds, I do have a tendency to multi-task. This is why lists are usually what I live off of. This planner is quite simple and uncomplicated. It is great for entrepreneurs who have multiple projects going on at the same time. The introductory pages give great advice on how to break down goals into smaller goals, which are then used to create tasks that ultimately get the job done. You can read more about my review of this planner here.

Monk Manual

This is the right planner for living an intentional life. Just like the first planner, this is a 90-day planner. I can attest to it being the most calm, yet productive, 90 days of your life. This planner combines being with doing. When being and doing are not in balance, we feel over-whelmed and stressed. Every day, the planner helps you focus on the top three priorities. It has a gratitude section, a timeline, and a place to write down what you look forward to. My favorite part is the area to list ways in which I can give. Living my life around giving really improved my life. There is also space for daily reflection. Each week, I can reminisce on the meaningful moments, as well as prepare for ways to improve in the future. Lastly, the monthly section not only focuses on accomplishments, but also relationships and a check-in with yourself. You can read more about my experience with Monk Manual here.

Unbound 2022 Planner

In my most humble opinion, this is my #1 choice for a 2022 planner! This planner worked really well for me. It is perfect for very detail-oriented people who are juggling multiple things and need to be very organized. Some people might find this planner over-whelming, but it fit my lifestyle like a glove. This planner helped me make the most out of 2021. In fact, I would say that I have had the most productive year of my life thanks to this planner. There are so many great things to say. It’s ideal for project planning, goal making, creating timelines, meal prepping, gratitude journaling and habit tracking. This really is the ultimate productivity planner! You can read more about my review of Unbound Planner here.

Smitten on Paper

Smitten on Paper is my go-to source for notepads and weekly agendas. I have had the honor of trying this weekly agenda which is an open-dated planner. The habit tracker is perfect for someone who is motivated by rewards. The weekly schedule has a water tracker, an open space for scheduling, a task list area, and a box for prioritizing tasks. If you are more of a notepad person, I would recommend this daily notepad or this bigger version. You can read all my thoughts here.

Sugar Paper 2022 Planner

I used Sugar Paper’s spiral planners back in dental school. It helped me stay task-organized, but without all the complicated stuff. I think it’s great for students who are focused on school, or for a person who is using their planner for their personal day-to-day life. This means there is no space for project planning or for creating long-term-timelines. Entrepreneurs will most likely want a more structured scheduler. And this is definitely not for micro-managers. However, it is a good planner for big-picture, task-oriented folk. I love that this planner has a dedicated space for goal making each month. The goals focus on personal, health, finance and work/school. This means there’s opportunity for self-improvement. The weekly spread is task-oriented and in to-do list form. There is room for notes, don’t forget reminders, and daily sections. I loved using this planner throughout the entire school year!

Photo by Covene on Unsplash

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Gift Guide: Housewarming

In my opinion, the perfect housewarming gifts come in the form of consumables. My preferred list include a bottle of red wine or bubbly for celebrating, a bundle of palo santo for clearing the air, or a few boxes of to-go food for the movers and the newly moved. I have also baked pastries, brought candles, and gifted bath soaps and lotions. Something simple goes a long way. Suffice it to say, I bring housewarming gifts meant to be used and discarded, for fear of cluttering someone else’s new abode. I avoid burdening others with gifts that they may eventually outgrow, or worse yet, dislike from the get-go. So, I play it safe, sticking to my guns with the whole consumables thing.

But what of my own home? Well, that’s a different story. In line with the literal meaning of the word ‘housewarming’, I look for pieces that would add warmth to my space. I like tiny touches or useful gadgets that make the living-in more pleasurable. This is all aligned with my belief that things should be both functional and beautiful. I use new things to create the intentional life I envision for me and my family.

With the recent move into our new townhome, I have been sourcing a few brands that I think would really add a nice touch to our space. Below are a few items I have my eyes on.

Housewarming Gift Guide

For additional gift guides, right this way.

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