Monthly Archives: May 2012

Laguna Beach & Aliso Canyon

As you can see, we didn’t have any fun

For all of the traveling and sight-seeing we did before we moved to Los Angeles, you’d think we’d have ventured outside our little bubble of a city and explored the beaches, landscapes and sights in our new home state. Better late than never, right? We finally made a day trip to somewhere not in a 10-mile radius of our apartment and drove an hour south to Laguna Beach.

Laguna came highly recommended (5 stars, in fact) from our friend in Hollywood, who has been super helpful in suggesting awesome restaurants and things to do in SoCal. So on Sunday, we took off around 11 AM, breezed along the freeways listening to some Bob Marley, Edgar Winter and Coldplay and found ourselves in a beautiful and quaint little beach town with half the amount of tourists as Santa Monica. It was charming, fun, hip and we wanted to move there immediately.

We arrived just after 12 PM and grabbed lunch at a sweet cafe called Goko Cafe & Deli. Not surprisingly, it was flanked by three surf shops! Only in California… Ky got the Veggie Burrito and I got the Chicken Gyro and both were awesome. We took the food to go and made our way to The Aliso Beach, a beautifully quiet stretch of beach that ended with a weathered rock formation that stretched out across the sand and into the water.

Every time the big waves collided with the rocks, it sprayed a refreshingly light mist up onto the sand. We walked down to where the ocean met the land and let the waves of the Pacific rush over our feet for the very first time – and it was FREEZING!

We spent a solid two hours laying in the sand and reading in the warm May sun.  IT WAS BLISS.

We left the beach around 2:30 PM in order to get to our 3:28 PM tee-time at the Aliso Canyon Golf Course and Resort. This place is siiiiiiick! The course and resort are located inside the Aliso Canyon, which has amazing views. Scenery-wise, this was definitely the coolest course I’ve ever played at. The course is a pretty easy, 9 hole, par 4 that had some fast greens and very lush fairways. We were paired with two great guys, Mike and Max, who only added to the enjoyment of our round. I finished the round 9 over par with four pars, 2 bogeys, 2 double bogeys and a triple bogey, but overall I think I played well.

      

We left the course around 6 PM and arrived back in Hollywood shortly after 7. I think it’s safe to say that we will definitely be revisiting Laguna again as soon as possible.

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Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Stellar Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!

We celebrated three years together the first week of May. We never chose a specific date, or officially celebrated an anniversary, but this year we really felt like we needed to acknowledge this milestone in our lives.

Austin asked me out on a date for Friday, May 4. He wouldn’t tell me what we were doing or where we were going, despite my sneaky attempts to find out (“So…where did you say we were going on Friday?” “What was the name of that place you’re taking me to?”) Come Friday evening, I was so happy to have waited for the surprise.

After he surprised me at work with a beautiful vase and gorgeous flowers, we started the evening by heading down the street to The Cat & Fiddle restaurant and bar on Sunset Boulevard. I love this place, if only for the amazingly cool courtyard outside that’s covered with trees and lights and bistro tables. During a round of dirty martinis, Austin pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. And inside was….

We were going to the show in less than an hour!

 From the moment Coldplay opened with a burst of fireworks, to the very last song (“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”) concluded with another barrage of fireworks bursting from behind the Hollywood Bowl, we agreed it was the best show we had ever seen. Every one in the audience was given a bracelet, either white, pink, orange, green or blue, to wear as part of the show and every bracelet lit up and began flashing during certain songs. It was incredible to witness this massive sea of lights, moving to the music.

The only picture at the show we managed to get was a dark, grainy photo of us in front of the Bowl stage. It looks like an old, vintage shot, but really we just didn’t have a flash.

I loved nearly every one of the 21 songs they played, but one of the highlights was Chris Martin’s tribute to the late Adam Yauch:

What an amazing start to a fantastic and special weekend. Saturday brought Cinco de Mayo celebrations, which included take-out from El Compadres in Hollywood (pretty much the best Mexican food we’ve had yet) and homemade mojitos with a few friends. Sunday was reserved for a beach and golf day…post soon to follow…

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Money Talk

Money can be a very sensitive topic. It is called personal finance after all. But there is something empowering about sharing your financial mistakes and milestones with others because, really, there is no shame in making a poor decision about money. It happens. My guess is that nearly everyone has made at least one financial decision they regret in his or her lifetime.

Over the last two years, I have become very open to the idea of sharing my story, experiences and goals with others. If at all possible, I want to help other people to avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and get on track to becoming financially organized and successful. I wouldn’t consider myself a financial wiz or anything, but I’m certainly savvier with money than I was just a few short years ago.

Money Mistake #1

I am 23 years old and only very recently did I actually start to SAVE my money. I started babysitting when I was 10 and was hired at a restaurant upon turning 16. During my teenage years, making money meant instant gratification for me, whether it was buying my first car, going out to dinner or a movie with friends or shopping online. I had a basic checking account, but never did I think to put money away into a savings account to be left untouched.

Money Mistake #2

When I went away to college, I had trouble finding a part-time job that would enable me to keep up with my course load. I ended up finding seasonal work at a restaurant and then a clothing store, but neither provided me with very much of an income. The money I did make was put toward food, textbooks and sometimes take-out dinner during stressful exams. I never even thought about trying to put what little money I was making toward paying off the interest that was rapidly accruing on my student loans. To be honest, in the first two years of college, I barely thought about the fact that I had loans. Having to repay those seemed so far away that it wasn’t really important. I’m (literally) paying for this now, by having accumulated so much interest.

Money Mistake #3

Then I did a really silly thing and took out a credit card in my name to purchase an expensive laptop for school. I knew that I would need to make monthly payments, but my balance skyrocketed because I was sitting on about $3,000 worth of debt after a year of having the card. I also charged monthly expenses to this when I was out of money (this makes me cringe just thinking about it.) I was EXTREMELY LUCKY to get a refund check in my junior year of college and wise to pay off my entire balance and then cancel the card.

Money Success! #1

It wasn’t until I was in my senior year of college that I actually began to put money aside in a savings. I was offered a paid job at school that helped me earn a steady income while working toward my journalism degree. Most of the money went to groceries, gas for my car and a few extras here and there, but I managed to have a steady $100-$200 in a savings account just for emergencies.

When I graduated, I left with one bachelors degree, $65,000 in student loan debt and zero job offers. Luckily, I found a summer job to keep me afloat, and was then hired full-time with benefits, which I was very fortunate to find. At that point, Austin and I had already moved in together and we were planning to move to California within a year – something that required a huge savings account if we were going to be able to afford it. This meant getting serious about my finances and dedicating myself to setting aside money each week from my paycheck that I would not touch.

Money Success! #2

I started to track my expenses and compare this total with my take-home pay. I finally understood the importance of living within your means, and consciously thinking about where my money was being spent. When we set a goal of saving $10,000 in one year, we started to track our savings in a Google document, and saving became a really good feeling as we watched our balance increase week after week.

Money Success! #3

Six months after graduation, my loans were entering repayment and they were hanging over my head like a swinging pendulum. I hadn’t even taken a look at what I owed to each lender, nor did I know what my monthly payments were going to be. But I finally told myself that enough was enough and I buckled down one Saturday afternoon and signed up on each lender’s website to receive my statements and payment confirmations electronically and started another Google doc to help me keep track of my balances, interest rates, payment amounts, and to see my progress in paying down my loans.

I am proud to say that I am on track to paying off my loans WAY sooner than 25 years from now. I pay the minimum balance on each of my four loans every month and sometimes more if I can afford it.

A Small Triumph

The other day while updating my loan spreadsheet, I noticed that two of my loans (the biggest and the smallest) were both close to flipping…meaning that my $22,108 loan is soon going to be in the $21,000’s and my $5,297 loan will soon have a pretty manageable “4” in front of it. This may not seem very encouraging at all, but to me it means progress; my loans are decreasing and that is a huge motivator to keep going.

My financial transformation was mainly inspired by several important and influential websites/blogs that I found while researching about debt, student loans, and personal finances. Hopefully one or more of these sites will offer some useful ideas, experiences, information and advice if you’re thinking about making some changes in your personal money habits:

Be More With Less

Get Rich Slowly

Man Vs. Debt

LearnVest

Zenhabits

Categories: Goals, Personal Finance | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hello, Strangers.

Would you look at that? It’s been exactly four months since we’ve posted on here. I know that’s not really good form for a blogger and I’ve probably left our readers in the dark, wondering what the heck Austin and I have been doing since January. In all honesty though, I think we really needed that time to figure out what we were doing in our new home of Los Angeles and try to make sense of our new lives. I don’t ever remember thinking this was going to be easy by any means; I guess I just didn’t count on it taking us this long to feel good about this life-changing decision.

So let’s recap, since it’s been so long! The first three months after we moved, things were looking pretty bleak (or at least they were to us). We had found an apartment, but finding work was another story. The jobs we managed to secure early on where infrequent and underpaying and Austin and I ended up having a very real discussion about whether or not we would be able to afford to stay in L.A. for very much longer.

By the end of January, we both had found full-time work that helped restore our energy and faith that we could indeed make it here. We focused on the positives in our lives and began to express our gratitude instead of sweating the small stuff. We started to climb out of that bottomless hole of fear and doubt and finally we can truly enjoy the place we’re in and everything it has to offer. I started volunteering with a great local animal rescue organization that coordinates dog adoption events and Austin found a pretty awesome driving range and golf course (one of his most favorite things) close by.

We’ve also found some really great things in and around Los Angeles that we just love: Runyon Canyon hiking and yoga, Black Market Yoga in Hollywood, Santa Monica and the Pier for a fun, beachy & touristy attraction, and some incredible, will-leave-you-speechless hot springs in Ojai, CA. On the weekends, we love to hike, bike and just enjoy the (almost) perpetual sunshine.

A friend gave us a travel list of places we need to visit in Southern California and we’re slowly crossing some of them off our list. This summer, we hope to visit Santa Barbara and San Diego for the first time and make a return weekend trip to Las Vegas. A little bit closer to us we have Laguna Beach, Malibu and Venice Beach to explore. We’re also starting up a savings fund again, so we can do a big travel adventure trip in the next couple of years (a week in Hawaii or a trip to Europe perhaps).

These last few months have been tough, but we’ve learned so much. We’re continuing to expand daily on our experiences, love and gratitude, and most importantly, our perspective.

Categories: Hollywood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment