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Karyn’s September Challenge: Failing Forward

I failed.

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What did I fail at, you may ask? I failed at even attempting to challenge myself this month.

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With everything that is going on in my life at the mo’ I’ve found that I’ve stopped almost everything that I used to call routine. I know that sometimes deviating from the usual can actually be a good thing, but in my case following a routine keeps me moving forward.

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For September I originally wanted to try to step outside of my comfort zone, but instead I stayed within it. All I did was either work or go to Krav (which is not a bad thing, but my life lacked variety). I kinda wanted to do some new and spontaneous stuff, but instead I sat around binging Netflix and just hanging out.

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I realized that after dropping my routine completely for an entire month (actually to be honest, quite a bit longer), I needed the stability of it.

I am NOT spontaneous. I like planning things, and mapping stuff out. Writing lists is my drug of choice. I like to be prepared. So after hopping on the wagon (of a “list-less” lifestyle) for waaaaaay too long, I now know that I need that stable foundation in my janky life.

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So yes, I failed September with my procrastination, laziness, and need to escape. I see this failure as a win though. I succeeded in realizing that I find purpose in plans. Now I’m going to take this knowledge and apply it to my October Challenge!

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For October my goal is to get back in the swing of things. I plan on going to the gym twice a day, five days a week. I want to up my social media output for Mo’ Money, Mo’ Progress, I want to read more and Netflix less and I want to get back to making my food instead of eating out.

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I want to get back to being me. Without failing in September I never would have know that this is how I want my life to be; full of lists, everything planned and going according to schedule.

Sounds like a dream come true!
Karyn

Gwen’s September Challenge: Put Down the iPhone

In this sometimes (very) scary and hyper-connected world, it can feel easier to numb out and crawl under the covers (physically and mentally) than engage.

I’m all for taking a mini vacay from life every once in awhile, but when it starts to become a go-to habit, it’s valuable to take a closer look at why.

The answer is always fear. This manifests for me in feeling behind, not good enough, not successful enough, blah… blah… blah.

The feeling of ‘not enough’ sucks. So I find I do whatever I can to avoid it. Over the years I’ve had different numb-out tools. From binge eating (mostly sugary things) to drankin’, apathy to isolation – I’ve had my fair share of unhealthy habits.

Though this year I’ve experienced a shift that’s helped me be committed to live my most aligned life (the full story will come out when it’s ready).

I am now a sober (13 days and counting) vegan, minimalist-type gal who has finally embraced using my emotions as a compass. My numb-out tools are slowly being kicked to the curb.

So when thinking of what my September challenge should be, it was very clear to me that I have been developing a technology addiction that I’d like to let go of.

The Problem(s):

  • I mindlessly scroll through Instagram and Facebook and watch YouTube videos daily. It always starts out fun, but I soon find myself falling down rabbit holes and wonder how I got there.
  • I stare at a screen 70% of the day at work, so staring at it while I’m at home doesn’t feel good.
  • I don’t like that when I’m with friends, family or my boyfriend, when they leave the room or there’s a lull in a conversation, I’m tempted to pick up my phone to ‘kill time’ or kill the awkward moment.  
  • I feel like being addicted to technology is stealing my time! I want to be reading books, go for walks, build my side hustle!
  • This steals my presence and after coming out of a content binge I feel almost disoriented and not as connected to people.

My September challenge was to take a break from tech by putting my phone on airplane mode from 9 p.m. onwards. For me, nothing productive happens on the internet after 9 p.m. right now.

My Experience:

For the first two weeks I was on point. I was putting my phone on airplane mode like a gahdamn boss. I was thrilled to replace my nightly Instagram habit with a newfound routine of reading ‘10% Happier’ – a book by Dan Harris. It’s such a fun read. My sister also gave me one of Mindy Kaling’s books to read and I loved it! It felt so relaxing to curl up with a book and fall asleep without a video or podcast playing in the background (I’d tell myself this is okay because it was ‘inspirational’).

Then I started to slip up. It started slow with not setting my phone to airplane mode, due to having a text chat with my bf or sisters. Then it spiraled to not doing it at all.

There are two reasons why:

#1) I was gearing up for a belt test in Krav Maga and started to get stressed. The stress actually kicked up my desire to drink a beer here and there, and I found that when I drink beer, I give no effs and do whatever I want to do.

#2) I was moving. I was getting really stressed out about moving to a new place and found that watching dumb videos helped me feel a bit better. In reflection on the month, I can see that while I benefited from that behaviour at the time, I am not interested in living like that going forward.

In Conclusion,

This was a SUPER rewarding 30 day experiment.

This challenge helped me realize that I really do want to get this habit on track, so right now I’m looking for ways to keep it going (perhaps finding an app to monitor my time on each app). It helped me realize that this is something I really care about and want to get better at doing. And, in a weird way, it also helped me get clear on how alcohol has been playing a role in my life and how I’m ready to let it go (again).

So my October challenge is: #SoberOctober (aka no alcohol for the month). I started the challenge a little bit earlier than October 1st, and I’m tracking my progress on an app. I’m excited to see how taking out alcohol will contribute to my life this month!

Thank you for reading and I am now accepting all positive vibes.
-Gwen

Gabbby’s August Challenge: Become A Morning Person

It is one of my greatest missions in life to become a morning person. Every time I try, I get a little closer to understanding why it isn’t working out for me.

Last month, my goal was to wake up at 5 a.m. at least once a week, or more, if possible. But just ONCE was the bare minimum goal.

And I succeeded exactly: once. The first day.

The whole month, I woke up to a 5 a.m. alarm. And for the whole month, I kept hitting snooze.

So what happened?

  1. I’d let it become Future Gabby’s problem. I’d tell myself, “If I miss today, there’s always tomorrow.” I would push it off and off until, next thing I knew, it was Sunday, and a new week was starting. No more chances. That’s not to say I was sleeping in until 8 a.m. all those days I hit snooze. I would wake up at 5:15, or 5:40, or 6:30, which weren’t my goal, but were still great times to be awake.
  2. I didn’t have a plan. Part of the reason I wasn’t waking up was because I knew I was going to be bored that early in the morning. Whether it’s reading a book, or working out, or going for a walk, I never had an activity to keep me busy for three hours until I left for work.
  3. I wasn’t going to bed early enough. Let’s get one thing straight: you can’t expect to be Super Woman by going to bed at 12 every night and waking up at 5 a.m. That’s a recipe for disaster and a great way to crash midday. I needed to go to bed earlier. Like 10 p.m.
  4. I wasn’t unplugging from tech. I’d be scrolling through Instagram or binging Netflix until the moment I went to bed, which really took a toll on my circadian rhythm.

This was an overall great learning experience for me! I look forward to the day when I take my own advice, haha 😉

-Gabby

Karyn’s August Challenge: Saving that Moolah by Couch Cruisin’

Well hot dang my life has taken some serious sharp turns. I had to leave my lovely apartment due to problems with the building and throw all of my stuff into storage. It was super sudden, so for the time being I’m sleeping on couches. UGH

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Now when I put it that way it sounds awful, but the plus side is that now I live rent free, don’t have to pay for parking or utilities AND I get free unlimited Internet (dat high-speed life).

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So I decided to take this seriously frustrating moment and turn it into an opportunity. How much can I save in a month while not having to pay for rent?

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To find this out I had to breakdown my expenses.

MONTHLY EXPENSES

Storage Facility: $400

Food: $200

Gym: $20

Misc. $150

Total: $770

In comparison to what I had to pay before my life flipped, turned upside down, I had to pay $1,300 just for rent. So as of right now I am saving $530 out of the gate! This is majestic!

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The main plan is to use the money I save to pay off my student debt. I know I have a long way to go, but it’s going to be suuuuuuuper worth it.

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Now I know I put $100 as miscellaneous, but for the end of August I had some last minute expenses pop up. Specifically Fan Expo.

This is my fifth year attending the con, but instead of going as a serious fangirl, I’m going to promote my workplace. That means flyers and chatting up oodles of folks. But it doesn’t mean I don’t get downtime, so I have been spending my hard-earned loot on food and geekiness.

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Surprisingly I haven’t gone over the budget of $150, but I still have a few days left at the con and you never know what might pop up and strangle my wallet.

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It’s hard not to look at a situation that I’m currently experiencing and see all of the negatives it brings. Luckily I have a great support system that has helped me see it for what a G-time this can be (plus it will be a great story later)!

My fingers are crossed for all of this to work out for the best!

Wish me luck.

-Karyn

Monique’s August Challenge: Hydration Nation

It’s September! The days are getting cooler, the air is getting fresher, and the days are starting to get shorter.

But it was only a short time ago that the air in Ottawa was muggy, the heat was intense, and I was constantly dehydrated. That’s why for my August challenge, I set out to drink three litres of water every day. To put it in perspective, that’s about an extra litre compared to the recommended eight cups per day. That’s a lot of water.

To build this habit, I broke it down:

I was to drink at least six 500 mL bottles of water per day. I have massive mugs at home, so any tea or coffee would be considered as a bottle of water. (I didn’t want to get bored with only drinking water.) This way, it was much easier to keep track, I could stash my full bottles anywhere I needed them to be – like my bedside, in my backpack or in the fridge – and I could see visible progress every day. A growing pile of empty water bottles strewn across my desk and in my bag became a common sight throughout the month.

I kept track of how many I drank throughout the day in my notebook, checking off each bottle as I downed it. At first, it was tough. I didn’t feel like drinking so much because, truth be told, I wasn’t sure I even needed so much. People are always advised to consult a doctor or health professional before making a radical dietary change… but I didn’t do that. Oops.

I dropped the habit of tracking each bottle by mid-month. I was travelling and busy and lost the discipline to keep it going. Instead, I did mental calculations to keep myself on track, which is why I’m very confident that I achieved my goal. I only wish I had kept track at the end to know for sure.

Drinking extra water is meant to boost mental clarity and alertness, flush out toxins, and clear up your skin, among other benefits. By the end of August, I was feeling bright, alert, and less hungry, despite the fact that I felt a bit bloated when I started the challenge.

I’ve been keeping up the habit of drinking more water in September. I want this to be a healthy habit I integrate into a healthier lifestyle!

Here’s to September – where healthy living is really getting a boost.

High fives and good vibes,
Monique 🙂

 

Gwen’s August Challenge: The Envelope Method for Spending

Welcome back!

My August mo’ money, mo’ progress challenge was to use ‘the envelope method’ for spending. That meant my challenge was to pay only in cash, and to budget all the money I was going to use in envelopes for the month.

Why was I doing this? There were two main reasons:

  1. It’s more painful to part with cash than to swipe a card. I’m in savage mode to pay off my debts, and I’d heard this is a great tactic to use.
  2. Curiousity. Could I actually use this simple method of spending?

As a card-carrying swiper (for all the things) I thought it would be interesting to see what it would be like to actually take out a wad of cash, put it in envelopes according to my budget and stick to it. So at the start of the month, I headed to the bank, took out the money, and sorted the dollas the best I could into envelopes.

THE RESULTS:

It worked… for about half the month.

I had about 10 envelopes and was really vigilant at the beginning with carrying almost all of the envelopes I’d need (groceries, coffee, restaurant, miscellaneous) wherever I went. I’m a very ‘go with the flow’ kinda gal, so I never knew what envelopes I’d need for the day.

I will be honest, it’s a little unnerving to carry around a couple hundred bucks wherever you go. It kind of made me want to spend it, so I wouldn’t lose it.

I also found that once I couldn’t keep up with the change (or it fell out of envelopes and all over the place), I started to resent this system.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Overall, I’m happy I took on this challenge. It is a very eye-opening exercise to actually decide how much money you’re going to spend for the month… and see it. I actually do love the idea of paying in cash for a few things, so I’m going to extend the envelope method for September for my coffee and groceries budgets! I highly recommend trying this if you’re curious.

MY SEPTEMBER CHALLENGE:

I noticed in August that I started to become addicted to technology. It was quite a busy month at work, and I’m going to be moving again soon (and was dealing with that stress), so I found that at the end of the day all I wanted to do was curl up under the covers and watch YouTube videos. There’s nothing wrong with that, though I found I also went to sleep listening to podcasts, and overall had too much technology swirling around my head before grabbing some zzz’s. So my September challenge is going to be airplane mode and laptop free at 9 p.m. This is my effort to disconnect from technology before going to sleep and get some time back to read, meditate, and reconnect with a better sense of well-being.

Thank you for reading!! <3
Gwen

 

Monique’s July Challenge: Master of My Domain

VICTORY!

My July challenge was to decide on a new name for my freelance business and register the domain name.

And I did it!

It’s such a small thing but in reality, this took forever to accomplish. For the past seven years, my freelance biz went by Monique Elliot Media. For a while, I liked it: it’s a super simple name and super clear.

At least that’s what I thought.

It’s a pretty meh name for a freelance journalist and content creator’s small business. It reminded clients of my actual name, told them that I was a one-woman shop, and… then told them virtually nothing about the services I offer. “Media” is simply too broad. And kinda boring.

I had to admit it: I was one of the 71 per cent of Canadians who knew “not much” about domain names, according to a recent research by the Canadian Internet Regulation Authority (CIRA).

Well, no mo’ of that! The work I do is anything but boring! I’ve worked for startups, scale-ups, corporations, and government departments across five industries and counting.

Fresh Ideas, Fresh Content, Fresh Start

My challenge, which I chose to accept and then push to the back burner about 12 times, was to choose a name that defines my business, will grow alongside my services and skills, and suit my personality.

The most hilarious thing was that I came up with the perfect name nine months ago – I just didn’t know it. I was building a website as a short-lived online resume for a potential employer and used the hashtag #ContentChameleon to describe my services – I can write in a variety of “voices” to suit my clients’ needs.

I was going through old projects recently (okay, okay, I was doing a digital clean up and reorganizing old files. Who actually reminisces about past projects?) and found a screenshot of the site.

The Lightbulb Moment

It’s a total cliché (and, in my opinion, totally permissible alliteration) but the lightbulb went on: ChameleonContent.ca

Now, depending on when you read this, the website may or may not be fully up and running, which is why my placeholder site is a lifesaver in the meantime.

I spent literal days trying to decide on a name – something unique, that hadn’t already been registered, and didn’t cost crazy cash to buy. The most epic solution had also been chilling in plain sight: I went to CIRA.ca to purchase my domain name with a .ca ending.

I recently edited a series of articles for CIRA through my work with non-profit Startup Canada. The series profiled Canadian small business owners (SBOs) about how a .ca suffix improved their businesses online.

While I can’t believe it took me so long to finally complete this challenge, it doesn’t have to be the same for you. Check out CIRA’s free e-book about how to choose a domain name and some basic information about how to get started.

Mo’ Progress, Mo’ Hydration!

Now, my August challenge? Mo’ hydration!

I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet but Canadian summers are HOT.

I’ve been steadily increasing my water intake all summer (a telltale sign that someone doesn’t have A/C) and August promises to be extra hot and humid in Ottawa, despite all the rain we’ve been getting. So my goal is to drink three litres (just shy of a gallon) of water every day.

Why choose drinking water for this month’s challenge? August is World Water Month! Plus, I want to see if there is an actual difference in how I feel now compared to the end of the month. I feel like I’m on the verge of big changes, and it’s important to maintain basic health and wellness while going for epic changes professionally, mentally, and (obviously) physically.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

Karyn’s July Challenge: Babies be EXPENSIVE (AKA I Learned Nothing New)

Sorry if the title is a tad misleading, but no, I ain’t no mama yet! Though one day I would like to be. This got me wondering about the cost of raising kids, and why we millennials are never really taught about those kind of expenses. Also, the majority of our generation isn’t super focused on having kids “right now”.

Many of our parents had us in their mid-twenties, while their parents had kids even younger. Starting a family used to be top priority, but today it’s seen as more of a relaxed choice.

For my June Challenge, I wanted to do a little research and find out how much it would cost to take care of a baby for just one month. I decided to focus on newborn finances instead of an older kid because that first month has probably the steepest learning curve. So here is what I found out.

DIAPERS

Did ya’ll know that those kewt, tiny babies can be serious poop machines?! They can go through 10-15 diapers a DAY for the first month!!! Good lawd!

On a trip to Walmart (cuz you all know you’ve been to one), I found a Super Pack of Swaddlers Diapers for $29.97 + tax. It contained 70 diapers, but since we know a baby can blast through 10 a day, that pack would be gone in less than a week! This means that you would at least need a minimum of four packs of these bad boys to sustain you for one month. That comes out to $119.88 + tax, JUST. FOR. POOP!!!!

CLOTHES

Many people throw baby showers and receive oodles of adorbs baby outfits as gifts. I’ve run this challenge off the idea of not having a shower, since there are people who opt out of them or just don’t have one, for various reasons.

Personally when it comes to clothes I’m probably going to frequent thrift stores since my little bundle of joy is going to grow like a weed. Since there are people who do buy their precious some sweet duds, I did a little online shopping.

I figured since I would be birthing a poop monster, they would need a onesie for every day of the week, at least two sets of PJs, four pairs of pants (did I mention they poop?!) and four shirts #minimalistlifestyle.

After shopping around on a couple of sites like Walmart, Carter’s, Old Navy and Target, I was able to keep my total to under $200 bucks. This still doesn’t take into account of the vomit, snot, and general mess that comes with a baby. So $200 for a haul of clothes that would be out of commission almost instantly is ludicrous!

FORMULA

Not everyone breastfeeds their babies. That’s just a basic fact. Not all babies can have breast milk (allergies are just one example) and not all mothers can produce it. This means that formula can be crucial to a baby’s growth.

I never realized how gosh darn complicated formula is. Depending on how much your baby weighs it can vary how much formula you give them. According to BabyCentre.com, they suggest you give your baby 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound of body weight. They also mention that it varies whether the child is hungry or not. Some days they’ll want more, some days they’ll want less.

Browsing more baby stores than I care to admit (on the interwebs, of course), I found TheITBaby.com, which did the math for me (thank gawd) using a Target brand of formula.

Consider the following:

Month 1: a 7-pounder bundle of joy, means 17.5 ounces of formula per day, which is $1.58 per day, totalling $47.89.

To be honest this isn’t too bad compared to the other expenses that have already been racked up.

I literally could go on and on regarding expenses for a newborn, but I’m going to stop here. The reason that I’m stopping is that this would pretty much become a full-fledged novel and you probably don’t have time to read it. Or you could find a million better ones in any book store.

With just these very basic items as key examples, I think you get the gist that having a baby is definitely expensive. For my challenge I wanted to become better informed on what financial expenses new parents have to face and what research is needed before I take that step.

If I do decide to have kids soon, I’m very lucky to have the internet at my fingertips. All I have to do is Google cheap kids’ clothing or go on Kijiji and find a car seat or hop on over to the Bunz Trading Zone to get a cute, secondhand pram. My parents really didn’t have that option and neither did theirs.

After doing the research I now know that saving up for a family is definitely something I want to start doing ASAP. If you are thinking about becoming a parent I HIGHLY suggest you start saving too!

Good luck!

– Karyn

Gwen’s July Challenge: Save 50% of What I Earn (And Attack Debt with It)

What an epic month!

This past July has been one of the best months of my life. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I’ve officially been living on a plant-based diet for 60 days. I feel more healthy and vibrant than ever.
  • I said ‘I love you’ for the first time.
  • I lived within a budget I created for the first time in my life.
  • Overall, I’m appreciative of where I’m at and excited for my upcoming goals.

In July, I also discovered my new money ‘guru.’ I discovered Dave Ramsey’s teachings. Dave is a financial expert who went bankrupt in his 20s, which prompted him to dedicate the next 25 years of his life learning finances and teaching others to thrive by living within their means and paying off debt. To quote Gabrielle (the youngest Sisterpack member), “He is a (financial) savage!” Essentially his teachings make you want to eliminate your debt with ‘gazelle-like intensity’ and he’s absolutely no-nonsense when it comes to making your budget.

This leads me to my July challenge: spend 50% of my income on my debt. I’m happy to say I achieved my challenge and spent 57% of my income on debt (this even includes interest on debt as well).

So how did I do this? Here is my six step plan:

1) Face my financial reality head on.

I put all of the money I owed as well as my monthly expenses and income on an Excel doc to see where I was really at. Let’s be real: it can be scary af to be honest with yourself, realizing how much you owe and how long it will realistically take to pay off. It was definitely a wake-up call to see, though it was also inspiring to finally have concrete numbers.

2) Create a goal.

Since my goal was to spend 50% of my income on debt, it was a very black and white goal. I knew what I wanted. Surprisingly, I hadn’t done something like this in the past, which is probably why I haven’t felt like I’ve made much progress lately.

3) Do the math.

After facing my financial reality and setting the goal, my next step was to do some simple addition to figure out if I could consciously pay 50% with the lifestyle I was living. After doing the math, it turned out that 68% of my income was spoken for if I lived the same way that I did in June. So I decided to hack away at expenses. I lowered my grocery budget, restaurant and ‘miscellaneous’ budget and that got me into the right range.

4) Create a budget and use a system to track your spending.

I started the month using Mint.com to track all of my spending and make a budget. Though after discovering Dave Ramsey, I decided to start using his free EveryDollar.com site and app to track spending. I absolutely love it and am obsessed right now. I checked in almost daily to try to live within my means.

5) Tell those you trust.

It’s challenging to scale back your life and live on a budget. So I’m at a place right now that I am very open that I am attacking debt and will not be going out and spending a lot. Luckily, I have created a group of friends and my family get it and have been supportive of my goals.

6) Watch motivational and educational content whenever possible.

I mainlined Dave Ramsey’s YouTube videos. I watched examples of the joy that people felt when they paid off their loans. I learned from people’s mistakes and remembered to have compassion for myself for where I’m at. This all helped me achieve my goal.

I am SUPER proud to say that I accomplished my July challenge and am more committed than ever to pay off all debt.

My August challenge will be interesting. I’ve decided to use the ‘envelope method’ and actually carry cash and pay in cash. I will put my budgeted money in specific envelopes and only use that to pay! I haven’t used cash in a very long time, so I’m very interested to see how this will go!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Gwen

Gabby’s July Challenge: Keep a Food Diary

Hey duders!

How many of you have ever kept a food diary? Well, I never have, and I thought July would be as good a time to start as any! I learned some pretty neat things about what I eat – and myself – this month. Check it outttt:

  • The notebook is everything. If you’re not looking forward to writing down everything that you’re eating, you’re probably not going to. That’s why I spent $12 on this super cute notebook from The Paper Place on Queen St. It never failed to brighten up my day. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. Don’t tell me you don’t want to write your heart out in this thing.

The most beautiful notebook of all time.

  • Being more aware of what I was eating caused me to actually observe it, rather than just scarf it down. And, I hate to admit, but it turns out the more you pay attention to what you eat, the more you’ll find things wrong with it… I’ve noticed more hair in my food than ever before this month. BARF. Well, at least I know where not to eat anymore, LOL.
  • Being able to visually see what I was eating on paper for a whole month made me realize I usually get whatever is closest to my work during lunch, or whatever is fastest to eat. I’m disgusted to admit, but I ate 106 sushi rolls this month. Like, I probably have a mild case of mercury poisoning LOL. More towards the end of the month, I was spending about $5 more for this delicious salad from Flock, filled with all sorts of healthy goodies. It’s a little further than my usual go-to food spots, but always worth the walk. I can’t even explain it. This salad made me look forward to lunch and I actually took my time eating it – probably because I spent a little extra on it. For anyone interested, I got the BOHO salad with roasted chicken. #GAMECHANGER #HIGHLYRECOMMEND
  • Shockingly, by keeping a food diary, I realized I’m actually not eating enough. And none of it is homemade! It’s pretty much coffee, lunch, dinner, and that’s it. Maybe a few snacks or a beer here and there. But most of all, it was eye-opening to see that I’m not getting nearly enough fruits and veggies into my diet. So that’s something I hope to change. Lately, I’ve been going through a sort of food-making rut at home. Cooking is something I love to do, and I haven’t done it regularly in probably three months, which makes me think: how much money am I spending on eating out?! So I’ve already started to get back in the kitchen and make my favourite salads at home 🙂

For any of you who have followed Mo’ Money for the past three years, you may have noticed that it is my dream (lol) to become a morning person. I’ve tried many times, and failed many times. And I realized that it’s probably because I’m setting these ridiculous goals for myself. Well, change doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m going to take baby steps. My August challenge is to wake up at 5 a.m. at least once per week. Bonus if it happens more often than that, or even just waking up earlier than normal.

Wish me luck!

-Gabby

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