Shopping During My No-Spend Challenge

Apr 9, 2020

Last week, I talked about what I learned during The Contentment Challenge. Hosted by Nancy Ray, it's a three-month commitment to give up shopping for "stuff." It officially took place from January - March 2020, but you could do it anytime! Since one of my goals for the year relates to growing my financial knowledge, I thought this challenge would be a great opportunity to both save and evaluate my spending. Nancy has shared her own guidelines for the challenge, but I specifically focused on the money I spent on myself.

Throughout the challenge, I kept track of any money that I spent. Some purchases didn't "count" since they were birthday gifts for friends, for example. Additionally, Kelly and I had previously decided that we wanted to buy at least one book per month from somewhere other than Amazon (ideally from an indie bookstore) so that was one exception I planned to allow myself. Now, that being said, I did buy a few things over the three months and thought I'd share those items here today! Next week, I'm going to talk about my post-challenge wishlist.

1. One Book Per Month (~$20/month)
As I mentioned, Kelly and I made a goal of buying one book per month from anywhere other than Amazon before I decided to participate in the challenge. So, that was an "approved" exception! I bought Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, Open Book by Jessica Simpson, and House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas.

I make my own printables for a Happy Planner that I use as a variation on a bookish bullet journal. I need a heavier weight paper to make the pages more durable, and I ran out of it early in January. I let myself order another pack since I'd actually run out and use it regularly. I figured it wasn't cheating since it was a "need."

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm addicted to jeans and am willing to spend more to get the fit and length I want/need. Madewell denim is my favorite, especially because many come in longer lengths. When I found this pair in my size AND in Taller for only $30, I hit Place Order faster than you can even imagine. And I have no regrets!

After seeing this pattern on Instagram and thinking about it for weeks, I messaged the shop owner on Etsy to ask if she'd ever have more. She told me it'd be available in her next re-stock, and that happened on March 18, before the challenge ended. I didn't need it but bought it anyway, and I feel good about supporting a small business. 

5. Starbucks Latte (~$5 per visit)
I abstained from buying "stuff" during the challenge but didn't set any limits on eating out. After looking at my spending over the three months, I definitely should have included Starbucks in the ban! Occasional visits added up quickly, which I saw more clearly when I wasn't spending money on much else. It was a lesson I needed to learn!

Although I unsubscribed from almost all marketing emails, I decided to keep Audible Daily Deals. I used several credits during the challenge but didn't count them because I paid for the entire year of credits last December. I did, however, purchase this when it was a daily deal. I loved this book and want to re-read via audio!

I have a Scotch laminator that I bought several years ago, and I use it for a variety of things. From chore charts to cleaning routines, it has come in handy. I had a handful of things to laminate in January but had run out of pouches at the end of 2019 and just forgotten to re-order before the challenge actually started. Whoops!

Technically, I used a Target gift card on these sticky notes, so I don't know if they really count. But in the spirit of sharing everything I bought during my no-spend challenge, I figured I'd include them. I used up the last of my Post-it stash, so this was another case where I just replaced something that I frequently use.

My faaaaaaavorite pens EVER! When my last two Flairs started to dry up, I immediately added this pack to my cart in the Target app. I didn't need them since I have plenty of other pens that I could pick from, but this is the only pen I use in my planner so.... I cheated on the challenge with zero guilt. Haha!

Ten Books I Bought Because...

Apr 7, 2020

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, appealed to me because I buy books for a wide variety of reasons. Rather than list ten books that I bought for the same reason, I decided to feature a variety of reasons I'll buy a book. I tried to only choose books that I actually remembered buying, not ones that I read for review and then purchased. Additionally, I only picked books that I love! I've purchased plenty of books for the reasons below and ended up wishing I hadn't. So, here are ten that I definitely recommend!


1. OF THE COVER: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
I have to be honest: I bought several Beatriz Williams books before I'd ever read my first. The covers were just so lovely and they sounded like something I'd love. Thankfully, I wasn't wrong and found a new favorite author!

2. OF A RECOMMENDATION: Happiness for Beginners
by Katherine Center
Estelle recommended this book to me, and I remember seeing it at Target not long after. On a whim, I decided to go for it. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made because this one of my favorite books of all time.

3. OF THE HOOK: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice? Of course I had to try it, even though I'd decided not to finish another book I'd tried from Sittenfeld in the past. While it won't work for everyone, I thought this was so clever.

4. OF A SALE: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
While wandering my local used bookstore, I spied a copy of this book in the wrong section. I'd planned to re-shelve it but couldn't resist the $4 price tag. I'm so glad I trusted my gut because this was an absolute delight!

5. OF A SERIES: Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
LaFever's His Fair Assassin series was such a delight, and I was thrilled when I found out she was continuing the series with a new duology. I bought myself a copy on my birthday bookstore visit last year.

6. OF THE MOVIE: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Yes, I broke the cardinal rule of many readers and saw the movie before picking up the book. But in this instance, I was so glad I did because it helped me keep track of all the characters. The next two books were even better!

7. OF THE AUTHOR: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
 by Melina Marchetta
I will read anything that Marchetta writes, whether or not the summary appeals to me. I was nervous about her trying a new genre, adult mystery, but shouldn't have been. It was just as flawless as her young adult.

8. OF A SAMPLE: The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
I still vividly remember seeing this on the shelf at Borders (RIP), sitting down to sample it, and realizing that I had to buy it immediately. The rest of the book lived up to the beginning and became a favorite (and frequent re-read).

9. OF THE HYPE: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
While on vacation two years ago, I decided to treat myself to this book at my favorite independent bookstore. Beloved on bookstagram, I was convinced it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was wrong – it's amazing!

10. OF THE TOPIC: The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne
It's a truth universally acknowledged that I cannot resist anything related to Jane Austen, and that includes non-fiction about her life. I bought this on vacation a few years ago and finally read it this January and adored it.

Have you ever bought a book for one of these reasons?

April 2020 Goals

Apr 6, 2020

March was a month for the history books – literally. I knew we'd be spending a lot of this season in our lives at home, but I couldn't have imagined this reality. In some ways, not much has changed for us. In other ways, nothing is "normal." I'm hoping to blog some thoughts on it, just as a way to record and preserve my memories of it. I was writing in my son's baby book a few days ago, and it felt so surreal to describe what life looks like right now. I'm just trying to focus on each present moment, as much as possible, instead of the uncertainty of the future.

I completed most of my March goals, probably because they were all relatively small tasks. I made them with newborn life in mind, which was fitting for this stay-at-home season, too. My list looks a little long for April, but the goals are still in that same vein. And if I accomplish none of them? That's okay, too. Productivity during a pandemic isn't entirely possible – or even my main priority right now. But for me, projects can be a good distraction!

On My Calendar:
– The baby's two-month well check
– Easter, even though it will look very different this year
– Starting to plan for my big boy's fourth birthday
– As much time outdoors at possible

Currently Obsessing Over:
– The launch of the 2020-2021 Simplified Planners! I went rogue this year and chose this Gold Dot Dapperdesk, though I'm still eyeing the Happy Floral Weekly, too. I don't need it, but it's hard to resist its beauty...
– Happy Planner recently released new bookish-themed items, and I bought this planner for my 2021 reading journal and this notebook for my next bookish bullet journal. I can't wait to use them both!
Scribd was offering a free thirty-day trial with no credit card required to activate it, so I decided to give it a try. I probably won't continue when the trial ends, but I've loved having access to even more audiobooks right now.
– After one too many sleepless nights, I bought Taking Cara Babies' Newborn Sleep Course. It's not cheap, but I wish I'd done it sooner. I'll share a review in a few weeks if I continue to have success. I love her Instagram, too!

Yearly Goals:
(These should stay the same all year, so I'll just do month-to-month progress reports!)
– Read through the Bible in one year.
– Read a devotional every morning.
– Track my spending in the Goodbudget app.
– Blog 2x per week.

March progress: 
– Pretty good! I missed a handful of days but caught back up in the end.
– This was about the same as my Bible reading. Missed a few days, but still on track.
– It's pretty easy to do this when you don't go anywhere. Nick and I will review the past quarter soon.
– I posted nine times, so I only "missed" one post. I'm very pleased with this progress!

Revisiting My March Goals:
Schedule a monthly planning session. / Yep! I completed all my review & prep work in two afternoons at home.
Start to find a new daily rhythm.  / We did start to find a flexible daily rhythm by the end of the month. It's mostly starting the day at a consistent time, watching wake windows & sleepy cues for naps, and a bedtime routine.
Find (or make) a nature scavenger hunt for my big boy to complete. / After some searching, I found this cute printable that was exactly what I had in mind. Our big boy just completed it this past weekend!
– Send baby announcements. / I should've broken this down into smaller steps. Collecting addresses and picking a design took longer than anticipated. But I ordered them at the end of the month and will mail them in April.
Complete One Month in the baby's journal. / I finished this a few days after he turned one month and remembered to take a monthly photo, too. I can't believe he's grown so much already!
– Cull, download, rename, and backup February 2020 photos. / I did some of this throughout the month of February and then finished it off in the first few days of March. Here's my routine for digital photos.
Cull the 7,000 photos currently stored on my phone. / I used the Flic app, mentioned in the post linked in the bullet point above, to get this done. I may go through one more time, but I still feel so accomplished.
Make a Spring TBR, and post it on the blog! / Here it is, and I've read (or DNF'd) 10 books already!
Write a discussion post for the blog. / I wrote two: my 12 favorite things to do at home and 8 things I learned from my no-spend challenge. This goal motivated me since I typically procrastinate writing this type of post.
Finish the Contentment Challenge, which is three months of no shopping. / Completed! See the post above for what I learned from the project. I'll probably write at least one more related post, too.

My April Goals:
– Schedule a monthly planning session.
– Research some possible activities for my preschooler.
– Ease back into the habit of meal planning and cooking.
– Organize my closet + both boys' closets and dressers.
– Complete three 20 in 2020 items, such as a backyard picnic and making a bird house.
– Complete Two Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo.
– Cull, download, rename, and backup March 2020 photos.
– Cull the 700ish videos currently stored on my phone.
– Extend my new-to-me book buying ban another month, with one exception.
– Write a blog post about life lately.
– Cull my bookshelves + Goodreads.
– Have a Q1 financial review with Nick to look at our budget, savings, etc.

Do you have any goals for April?

March 2020: Recap + On My Shelves

Apr 3, 2020

March was a month unlike anything I ever expected, as I'm sure the rest of the world will agree. I still can't believe how quickly life turned upside down. I'm trying to focus on one day at time since the future feels so uncertain.

1. Celebrating One Month Old – Our sweet baby turned one month old on March 7, which also happened to be the last time I left the house for anything other than a doctor's appointment. I'm reminding myself daily to live in the present, to soak up this short season of his life, and not let fear of the unknown steal my joy. 

2. Decorating Our Screened-In Porch – When we bought our house in September 2018, one of my favorite things about it was the screened-in porch. I'd always wanted one! Projects inside took priority, so it has remained mostly empty and unused. For my birthday this year, my mom has been helping my decorate it. I'm in love!

3. All the Afternoons Outside – Speaking of our porch, getting it fixed up has perfectly coincided with the arrival of some gorgeous weather in Georgia! Since we've been following all the guidelines about staying at home, I've been so thankful for our backyard and this beautiful porch that allows us to soak up some sun and get outside. 

Read 14 Books | Favorites:
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn

“The people you love weren’t algebra: to be calculated, subtracted,
or held at arm’s length across a decimal point.”
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

“Through love, all is possible.”
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

“That’s the point of it, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow.
It makes everything that much more precious.”
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

“When I feel overlooked or ignored, I ask God what he wants me to learn from it.
Sometimes he is humbling me. Sometimes he is giving me a heart for the rejected.
Sometimes he is helping me die to myself. And sometimes he is pruning something toxic in my soul. But if I simply wish away the heartache, I wish away redemption too.”
Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller

“When a goldsmith wants to purify gold, he heats it until the impurities are revealed
so he can skim them off. Without the heat, the impurities stay embedded in the gold.
Similarly, our circumstances turn up the heat until we see what's in our hearts.
It's not that we used to be nice, energetic people, and now (due to this transition
and things outside of our control) we're suddenly irritable and unkind.
Those changes simply expose the hidden sin that existed all along
in the ease and familiarity of our old circumstances.”
Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler

“Our everyday moments might be ordinary,
but when we accomplish them while displaying the fruit of the Spirit,
they reflect our extraordinary Savior.”
Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler

Although I didn't blog quite as often in March as I did in February, I'm still pleased that I was able to keep posting consistently. It definitely took planning and patience, however! I met my goal of blogging two times per week – with only one exception. I started the month with my February 2020 Recap, my March 2020 Goals, and then shared my February 2020 Quick Lit with mini reviews of nine books. I wrote a full-length review for Maas' House of Earth and Blood because I went through almost every stage of my rating process while reading it.

I chatted about how I organize my digital photos, which is one of my big goals for the year. I'm working on years past while implementing a routine to help me stay on top of them moving forward. I participated in two Top Ten Tuesday topics: My Spring 2020 TBR and Ten Signs You're a Book Lover. Both were fun, though the latter was definitely my favorite. I wrote about my 12 favorite things to do at home since that's where we are spending all of our time lately. And finally, I chatted about what I learned from the no-spend Contentment Challenge.

I only posted on Instagram once, which seems like this might be my new normal! In March, I celebrated the release of House of Earth and Blood and reminisced on my past trips to England with Kelly. • @soobsessedblog

Favorite Album #1: Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan
I never really listened to One Direction, but I've become a fan of much of their solo work.
I had this on repeat in March and found it so enjoyable! I need to go listen to his previous album now.

Favorite Album #2: Lady Like by Ingrid Andress
Someone I follow on Instagram has posted about Ingrid's singles over the past few months,
so I had this new release on my radar. It didn't disappoint! It's a great debut album.

Bought: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

For Review: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Gifted: Anna K by Jenny Lee

Audible: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, On Second Thought by Kristin Higgins, The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez, A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn, and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Kindle: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

NetGalley: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez, and The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan 

You Might Be a Book Lover If...

Mar 31, 2020

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is such a fun one: Top Ten Signs You're A Book Lover! As soon as I saw it on the schedule, I started brainstorming what would be on my list. I tried to think of some of my nerdiest habits – the ones that make it very evident that I'm so obsessed with books and that sometimes elicit teasing from the people who love me most. But the only thing required to be a book lover? A love of reading! All the stuff is just the icing on the cake... or the jacket on the book, as the case may be. 

1. You have books in every room of your house... and a home library, too.
My husband made me the most gorgeous built-ins from IKEA Billy bookcases. And now my finished library is my favorite room in our house! But the books don't stop there. You'll find some in every room of our house.

2. You own multiple editions of your favorite books.
You'd probably be shocked by how many books I own multiple copies of: because they have different covers, are from different countries, or because it's in a different format (like audio or e-book). The list is... extensive.

3. You own a book sleeve. Or two. Or more.
When I first heard about book sleeves, I thought they sounded dumb. Now I own and love a bunch! My favorites are from Story Time Sleeve, A Hum for HopeBook Besties UK, and a Book Beau my friend customized for me.

4. You've paid for some type of bookish subscription.
There are so many of these, and I've tried several. I loved Book of the Month for a while, though I've since canceled. My son gets a BookRoo picture book subscription. And I adore my Audible subscription. Just to name a few!

5. You discuss the texture of book covers with your bestie.
I was browsing the bookstore one day and sent Kelly a picture of a recent release. "It has a velvety texture!" I texted. "Like Jojo Moyes' books?" she asked. And then we laughed at how nerdy we sounded!

6. You design and complete a bookish March Madness bracket.
Kelly and I make a March Madness bet where the winner gets to make the loser read a book of their choice. Since this year's tournament was canceled, I made us a bookish version. A post about it is coming soon.

7. You have your library card number memorized.
I don't have my credit card number memorized, but you better believe I know my library card number by heart! I'll be in trouble if it ever changes. Bonus points if you pay to belong to another library system. Because I do that, too!

8. You buy books about books.
I don't know if you can tell from the photo in this post, but I have a stack of books about books on that side table in my library. The prettiest is Bibliophile by Jane Mount, and my favorite is I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel.

9. You have bookish journals and made custom inserts for them!
I have a reading log where I track what books I've read and what I thought about each of them. But my favorite is my bookish Happy Planner because I designed custom printables for it. I need to share the updated version of it.

10. You buy products inspired by your favorite books.
And finally, you know you're a book lover if you can't resist bookish merchandise. I have prints, t-shirts, candles, bookmarks, mugs, totes, and more that all pay homage to the books and characters I love most. Nerd alert!

Are any of these things true for you?

What would you add to my list?
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