New Year, New You: Part 2

Here I am, back with Part 2. In case you missed Part 1, please note my disclaimer that I by no means think I’m perfect. But since I consider most New Year’s resolutions as mini-self improvement plans and I personally love reading about what other people do to improve their lives, I want to share some things I do.

FINANCES

Understanding my finances and having a plan really makes me feel in control of my life. There was a time when I didn’t do a budget and was unclear on where I stood with money and it was very frustrating. I made an effort to change that and keep on top of things and that made a huge difference. I know it’s uncomfortable for some people to discuss money so if you are one of those people, maybe skip this section. But I also know there are some people who could use guidance–I was and still am one of them–so I’m passing on what I have learned.

For My Golden Years. As a self-employed person, I am responsible for saving for my own retirement. I have some real estate investments that will help with that and am now in the process of starting an actual retirement fund. If you’re not self employed, you might not have to worry about this. But I think it’s a good thing to do–and something I should have started a while back–for those of us who are our own bosses.

What Now, AmEx?!?! I’ve been working on paying off credit card and student loan debt for the past two years. I have only one out of three credit cards and one out of three school loans left to pay off. The amounts I owe aren’t huge and I should be able to be debt-free by the end of 2016, which will be an awesome feeling. In terms of what to pay off first, I initially went after the credit card that had the highest interest rate (which also happened to be the credit card with the highest balance). After that, I attacked a student loan because the remaining amount was so small I knew I could knock it out in one payment. That psychologically helped me feel better about my debt before I went on to conquer the next highest interest rate credit card. When all my debt is gone, my monthly expenses will have decreased significantly and my credit score will go up. 

Get Rewarded. I have a credit card that gives me airline mile rewards, which I love. I put all of my monthly business expenses on that card (making sure to keep track of that amount and consider it in my monthly budget) and I pay the card off in full each month. I have more than enough miles for a free flight anywhere in the continental US right now, and I’m building good credit. This year, I plan on taking some time to better understand the perks my credit cards offer and take advantage of the ones that make sense for me.

AND EVERYTHING ELSE

There are a few other things I do that make my life better. They don’t fall into any of the other categories so they’re going here.

Lost Without You. Google Calendar is my saving grace. It gives me peace of mind knowing I won’t miss appointments, tax bill due dates, dinner plans, etc. With everything that goes on with my business and my personal life, there is no way I could remember everything. Not only do I put every appointment in my calendar, but reminders to do regular business tasks (i.e. confirm appointments one week out, update my Mileage Log, send invoices, etc.). They pop up on my screen and get emailed to me so there is no ignoring them. I learned about Google Calendar from my boss at my last job outside of the beauty industry and I can’t thank him enough for that.  

Baby, I Can Be Your Motivation. When I have an idea of something I want to do to improve my life, I dig into it full force. For example, once I decided I’m at the point in my career where I can finally live somewhere warmer during the winter, I immersed myself in that plan. I researched weather, housing and the job market in areas I wanted to move to. I made connections in those places, followed Facebook pages of area attractions and read novels set in the city/towns I was eyeing. Doing all of this got me psyched up to arrange my life so that a snowbird move is possible. That and the final rap battle scene from 8 Mile get me mega-motivated.

Material Girl.  I keep a list of long term things I want for my house, my personal makeup bag and my future library. I know they are just “things” and won’t make my life better, but I like making my apartment look the way I want it to, I like splurging on the occasional expensive beauty product for my own use and I am a bookworm who reads book several times so I would love a library someday. I don’t get myself these types of gifts very often, but it’s nice to chip away at the list a few times a year.

A Serene Space. As a child, I had many dream jobs.  “Professional Organizer” was one of them.  Although I love the look of an organized space and I think labels and storage areas are important, what I’m really big on is getting rid of clutter. If I don’t use or wear something and it doesn’t have true sentimental value or make my house look nicer,  I donate it, pass it onto a friend or toss/recycle it. I absolutely believe that if you walk into your home and are greeted by clutter, you are going to feel frazzled and overwhelmed. I’m also into the Feng Shui principle that says getting rid of clutter will bring more positivity and peace into your home. The theory is that objects hold onto negative energy (emotions, situations and conversations you had around those objects do it) so getting rid of what you can part with will take some of that negativity out of your palace. If that sounds too crazy for you, I think you can at least agree that walking into a room that is clutter-free is more likely to make you feel calm than a room full of crap, which sometimes makes life feel more chaotic than it is.

Maybe some of my self/life improvement plans will resonate with you, or maybe you’ve got way better ideas. I’d love to hear what other people do so feel free to comment.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

New Year, New You: Part 1

Hello, 2016! I hope everyone’s year is off to a fabulous start. It’s New Year’s Resolutions month. So much hope! Tabula rasa! A new you! I assume you are reading this on the treadmill at the gym after making a list of places you want to travel to in 2016.

Some people make what I call external resolutions–to start volunteering, spend more time with family, meet new people, etc. I’ve made two external resolutions in recent years: 1) Donate to a different charity every month (2012 but kept it going) and 2) Send a snail mail birthday card to all of my friends (2015). This isn’t a humble brag–I wasn’t donating huge amounts and I missed a friend or two this past year–but examples of what I see as external resolutions. Things that hopefully help or make someone else feel good, but I think the feeling you get from doing those kinds of things also makes you feel good. A win-win.

Internal New Year’s Resolutions, or what I consider mini-self improvement plans, are more common. Exercise regularly, eat cleaner, get out of debt, etc. Things that make you healthier, improve your quality of life or reduce stress. Fantastic! I’m a big proponent of self improvement not just because you are the only person you are guaranteed to spend your entire life with but because I think you can give more to your family, friends and career if you have your shit together and you physically feel good. So I want to talk about some things I have been doing to try to improve my life.

Let me preface this saying I am very, very, very, very far from perfect. I’m impatient. I’m an inconsistent flosser. I give input to friends without being asked. I have re-dated many past flames (fool me once…). I only make my bed about 50% of the time. I send stupidly long texts. I don’t like the person I am behind the wheel. And that’s just a tiny part of the list. But I do regularly put effort into improving myself and different areas of my life. I consider it to be helping out Future Allison.

None of these are groundbreaking ideas, but maybe reading about mine will bring up something you used to do or want to start doing.

BEAUTY

Let’s start here, since this is a beauty blog and you might want to stop reading after this section.

Freezing My Face in Time. This is not new for me, but it’s important enough to mention again. Using retinol is probably what helps the most with my anti-aging gameplan (what’s up, Future Allison?). Rather than go over it here, check out this post. https://allisonbarberamakeup.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/forever-young-my-retinol-journey/  Then come back.

Protect Yourself. I blowdry my hair straight every 4-6 days and I often using a curling iron on Day 3. (That gives me different curls than I naturally have, so yes, it does make sense.) I trained myself to use a heat protectant spray pre-blowout a while back, but because the Day 3 curling is newer, I was forgetting to use it pre-curl. My ends started looking damaged, so my hair stylist, Jennie Kay Plumb, reminded me to use the spray before curling too. What a difference that made! If you are heat styling at all, a heat protectant spray is a must. I like Moroccan Oil Heat Protection and Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence.

Slow Lotion For Ya. I am consistent with putting moisturizer on my face, but sometimes I neglect my body. But especially in the colder months, it is important to use body lotion. It takes what, three minutes? More like “fast lotion,” but I wanted to fit in a Juvenile reference. I like Palmer’s Cocoa Butter and anything that smells like coconuts or the beach, but there are a million out there to choose from depending on your needs and preferences.

Sleep Right. I am, by nature, a side sleeper. Fetal position 4 lyfe. But because of the whole gravity thing, sleeping on one side–because most side sleepers do have a favorite side–can eventually cause sagging on that side of your face. It can also contribute to undereye puffyness on the chosen side. So I have been putting in a real effort to sleep on my back, which has not been easy. But when I wake up on my back in the morning, I feel pretty proud of myself knowing Future Allison will look a little bit better.

It’s No Snake Oil. I have been using oil cleansers for a few years and I can’t imagine going back to any other formulation. In my humble opinion, nothing removes makeup like oil. And oil cleansers leave my skin feeling way softer than milky, gel or cream cleansers. So when Jess at Jennie Kay a Beauty Parlour recommended that I use a hair oil twice a day, I was sold. I have been using Sachajuan Intensive Hair Oil for a few weeks and my hair started looking better almost immediately. Hair oil has become an important part of my daily beauty routine.

HEALTH

Taking care of my health is huge to me. I spent many years of my life feeling sick and fatigued and it wasn’t until I went to a naturopath nine years ago that I started to address that. He figured out everything that was wrong with me–from minor things to issues that were close to becoming very serious–and together we addressed and fixed everything. Here’s what I do to stay healthy:

Body Awareness. I am super aware of my body and how I feel. I know right away if something is off, and if I can’t “trace it back” to something I did recently, I know it’s time to get it checked out. For example, if my knee hurts after I’ve done a few consecutive days of longer-than-usual runs, I figure it’s due to that. So I take a few days off from running and see if it feels better. But if I wasn’t doing anything different or the problem persists, I make a chiropractor appointment. I think in many cases, body awareness is part of early detection of major illnesses, issues or disorders, so paying attention to and addressing changes can help in the long run. If something feels or looks different to me, I get it checked out.

Eating Right. I know, super obvious. But how many people actually do it? I am a big believer that some foods can cause sickness and other foods can help heal. I have a hard time understanding how you could put a bunch of junk in your body and think that will have no negative impact on your health down the road. The foods that will make you feel your best and keep you healthiest may be different from the foods that do that for someone else, so I think it’s worth going to see a doctor or nutritionist for guidance if you are serious about this.

Lying to Myself & The Little Things. I try to fit in a good 30-60 minute workout every day because I know that won’t happen. Hear me out. If I aim for 7 days a week and then I get one 14 hour shoot, that day is gone. Down to 6. Then maybe another day, I plan on going for a run but it rains all day and my stupid computer won’t play any of my workout DVDs and I lose motivation. Now we are at 5. See how that works?

I also try to walk to as many errands as I can. This is possible for me because of where I live and how my city is laid out–one of the big reasons I choose to live here. I have a P.O. Box–1.7 mile round trip walk to the post office–and I am constantly back and forth to my studio two blocks from my house, so I usually get in 2 miles of walking if weather permits. There are a lot of stairs at both my house and my studio and I am up and down them more than I need to be because I frequently forget something after I have already reached the bottom of the stairs (I definitely don’t swear and stomp back up the stairs when that happens). This daily stuff is not an effective weight-loss workout but it’s a solid heart-healthy amount of exercise, and at least I get some movement in on my non-workout days.

But What Can I Do Now? Like I said, I make an appointment to get checked out if something is off. I also grill my doctors, dentist and chiropractor about what I should be doing proactively to prevent certain problems. They have that info, but sometimes you have to ask for it. This is me really looking out for Future Allison.

Me & Mr. Sandman. There is nothing that helps my skin, mood and energy more than a good night’s sleep. I aim for 7 hours a night. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I like to have goals. I’ve been trying to avoid looking at my phone and computer for an hour before I go to bed, because I do believe the screen lights make it harder for me to fall asleep. I’m going to put extra effort into that this year because sleep does make a big impact on several areas of my life.

Peep This. I am nearsighted, and not just a little bit. I didn’t have contacts in college, which means I had glasses that I decided to only wear in class and while driving. My vision is bad enough that when I was out with friends at a bar–so most nights senior year–if one of them told me a guy across the room was cute, I would say “Describe him to me.” Seriously. Because all I could see was a blurry face and hopefully not hair with frosted tips (this was 2003/2004, after all). As bad as my distance vision is, my up close game is on point. Every eye doctor I have ever gone to has told me to not wear my contacts for reading if I can help it. So I wait as long as possible to put them in in the morning and I take them out as early as possible in the evening. I do a lot of computer work the first few hours and last few hours of the day so not having my contacts in during those times works well. And guess what? It really works. My vision has improved at each of my last two eye exams.

In the interest of your eyesight, I am going to end this post now. I’ll be back with Part 2 soon.

Have a beautiful day 🙂