NEW Erin Condren MONTHLY Planner Review!

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I am SO excited to share the newest Erin Condren products with you all! I’m going to show you some of their latest accessories and then flip through the LONG-awaited, much anticipated MONTHLY PLANNERS!

ACCESSORIES

The product line from my favorite planner company has been expanding over the last few years, and there are some really cool new things out there now. The newest and probably biggest departure from their stationery and home decor line-up are these flair pins:photo-oct-14-10-31-45-amThe signature asterisk flair pins are $6 each, and the Stay Gold flair pin is $8. Perfect for a jacket or bag! I think I’m going to pin one on my daughter’s backpack as a reminder that I’m always with her. She started Kindergarten this fall and is still getting used to the long day, so I love the idea of having a visual reminder of home for her.

The other (long-awaited!) new product is the nail wrap line! I have seen SO many people asking for nail wraps and there are now FIVE patterns you can pick ($10 each) to match your nails to your notebook!photo-oct-14-10-43-45-amI’ve never been great at putting these on, so I’m going to try them out and will reveal them in another post 😉

I also had one of the new Luxe Gold Metallic Quote Clutches ($20) in my surprise box! The teal faux leather is very, very flexible and soft, and the gold accents are so beautiful in person. The pouch is really roomy and perfect for toting around planner accessories. photo-oct-14-10-43-02-amAnother picture, in comparison to the Deluxe Monthly Planners (original and larger size planners pictured):photo-oct-14-10-43-27-amThere’s one more accessory to share, but I’m going to show it to you as I walk you through the Monthly Planner. You’ll see why.

MONTHLY PLANNER

This planner is the answer to everyone asking for a more simple, sleek monthly planner. Even with the roll-out of the neutral color layout this past summer, folks were still asking for a planner with less decorative touches and more function. Enter the Monthly Planner.photo-oct-14-10-32-15-amThis planner is 7×9 and bound like the Erin Condren Journals with a smooth, permanent, customizable cover. You can choose from this understated canvas print with a monogram, or their collection of colorful covers.

The first spread is the 2017 year-at-a-glance. These mini month calendars are the same size as the Life Planner, so you can use the same stickers you use (*cough*Krissyanne Designs Transparent Mini Circle Stickers*cough*). I also love the wide open space at the bottom for notes.photo-oct-14-10-32-31-amThe next page is split into a holiday list and a spot for monthly notes:
photo-oct-14-10-32-40-amI love the space here for deadlines, special projects, goals or other monthly notes people like to keep:photo-oct-14-10-32-47-amThe next page is the January Monthly layout:photo-oct-14-10-32-58-amThe monthly layout features a notes sidebar along with a mini next-month calendar at the top left:photo-oct-14-10-33-10-amAs you turn the page, you jump right into the next month:photo-oct-14-10-33-21-amNo notes pages between each month means you can just get right to business. If you like continuous months, this planner is for you.

After December 2017, you can turn directly to a notes section that contains 92 notes pages:
photo-oct-14-10-33-39-amThe calendar pages are not perforated, but the notes pages are:photo-oct-14-10-33-54-amOnce you run through the notes pages, there is a 2018 year at-a-glance spread for future planning:photo-oct-14-10-34-09-amRemember that last accessory? The new Large Clear Sticky Corner Storage Pockets ($7 for a pack of 2) are a super-sturdy add-on for your planner. They’re 6″x6″ which is a GREAT height for those taller pieces you want to keep handyphoto-oct-14-10-34-37-amWhat do you think of this new planner? I can’t wait to see how people use this one!

DELUXE MONTHLY PLANNER
This is the one I’VE been waiting for!!!!!!!!!!! photo-oct-14-10-35-06-amFor the first time EVER, there are TWO size options for an Erin Condren planner. The planner on the left is the larger 8.5″x11″ option, which is the same size as the Teacher Planner and larger notebook. The planner on the left is 7″x9″ and the same size as the current LifePlanner. At the Go Wild 2016 planner conference in New Orleans, Erin Condren hinted in her keynote speech that there may soon be another size option for the LifePlanner, and this addition is definitely adding to the anticipation!

I’m going to walk you through the smaller one, which is the exact same layout as the larger one. As always, there is a removable cover with an inside whiteboard:photo-oct-14-10-35-20-amAlthough you could use a dry erase marker, I recommend either a wet erase marker (EC sells some here), or a Sharpie permanent marker (wipe off with rubbing alcohol). Always love this cover page to write your name and contact info:photo-oct-14-10-35-28-amTurn the page to their signature quotes:photo-oct-14-10-35-36-amThe next page is the year at-a-glance: photo-oct-14-10-35-41-amNext up is a 12-section open planning space. This would be great for monthly goals, tracking health or body measurements, keeping running lists, cleaning zones for your house – anything you want to divide up

photo-oct-14-10-35-48-amOnce you turn the page, you see the first notes page before January 2017:photo-oct-14-10-35-52-amTurn the page once more, and the monthly layouts begin. This layout is identical to the LifePlanner monthly layouts, so if you’re using the traditional 7″x9″ size, all of your stickers will fit perfectly!photo-oct-14-10-35-57-amI love that there are several notes pages between each month! When you turn the page from the monthly layout, you see this:photo-oct-14-10-36-02-amThe page on the left is a new format for EC. It has five sections with a check circle in the corner of each one:photo-oct-14-10-36-18-amThis would be great for big priority monthly tasks of any kind! The next page is the productivity page that we’ve seen in the option list for notebook layouts:photo-oct-14-10-36-23-amBut wait, THERE’S MORE! 😉 If you turn the page again, you get a dot grid notes page followed by another beautiful quote:
photo-oct-14-10-36-29-amAfter this one, you turn to the next monthly layout.photo-oct-14-10-36-42-amThree pages to take notes or make lists between each month, in my opinion, is a HUGE help when managing monthly tasks or tracking monthly progress. If you hate it, you could easily tear out the productivity/dot grid page and be left with just one notes page and a quote, but it won’t free up that much coil space and from my observations, people are always looking for MORE writing space.

Have you noticed yet that there aren’t any tabs? photo-oct-14-10-37-02-amThis would be my only complaint. I love having tabs to easily flip from month to month. BUT, I quickly hacked a solution using one of my Mini Snap-In Bookmarks (pack of 3 for $4 – a steal!). See it peeking out?photo-oct-14-10-37-33-amI am also keeping a magnetic page marker handy for the same reason:

photo-oct-14-10-37-56-amOnce you get through the months, you reach the 2018 year at-a-glance:photo-oct-14-10-38-33-amThe notes pages follow. The planner comes with 40 notes pages (20 sheets front and back), and for another $5, you can add another 40 pages. (Other upgrades include a rose gold, gold, or black coil for $10):photo-oct-14-10-38-49-amEach Deluxe Monthly Planner comes with two sheets of flag stickers, and a pocket:photo-oct-14-10-39-09-am photo-oct-14-10-39-21-amalong with another pocket on the back, and another whiteboard:photo-oct-14-10-39-26-amNow, onto the size comparison! The layouts are identical, but you can see the size difference here:
photo-oct-14-10-41-24-amI pulled a sticker from the back to place it in the monthly layout of the larger size. It’s so roomy!photo-oct-14-10-40-21-amIn terms of thickness, the Deluxe Monthly Planner is comparable to a notebook (notebook on top, planner on bottom):photo-oct-14-10-42-51-amAnd it’s definitely thinner than my LifePlanner:photo-oct-14-10-42-21-amPHEW! That might have been my longest post. I’ll be using the smaller Deluxe Monthly Planner to manage my budget and finances, the larger Deluxe Monthly Planner for work, and I’m still undecided on the Monthly Planner…but I’ll keep you all posted!

If you’re a first-time customer of Erin Condren and would like to save $10 off of your order, you can use this link to create your account! It will save me $10, too.

I also filmed a review for YouTube that you can find here!photo-oct-14-10-46-13-amThanks so much for reading!

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I picked my New Year’s Resolution!

Today - New Year's Resolution

I did it! It’s February 15, and I finally picked my New Year’s Resolution (yes, only one). I’ve never felt better about a resolution.

You may recall my recent post about feeling overwhelmed by making resolutions. Even after sitting down to make very small, simple goals, I tucked them away and didn’t really look at them as much as I should have. I have a better solution. And it’s been working. And it’s SO simple, anyone can do it. It spans any category of resolutions you could think of. Are you someone who is easily overwhelmed? This might be for you.

THE RESOLUTION
Just focus on making today a good day. Define “good” however you want. Health and fitness? Patience? Food? Finances? Organization? Don’t worry about the end goal. Don’t worry about having a good week. Don’t worry about a million lists. Don’t worry about how you’ll possibly find the motivation for the next 365 days. Just worry about today. Can you make small good choices today that are in line with your big goals? Anyone can.

Isn’t this Change 101? How often do we hear to take things one day at a time? There’s SO much value in that advice. In my opinion, it’s totally under-rated. We can all do something for one day. We can all make today a good day.

I did my second round of Whole30 in January and let me tell you, it was challenging. The second week in, I decided to just focus on making great choices for one day. I just had to do that 30 days in a row. By the third week, I wasn’t counting days anymore because it wasn’t as overwhelming to me as it had once been.

Waking up and reflecting on what I can do to make today a good day has been enough for me. The devil is truly in the details – what you do every single day is what determines whether or not you reach your goals. It’s just that simple.

So, friends who are feeling like your goals are so far out of reach, don’t worry about the week or the month or the year for right now. Just wake up and make today a good day. Can you do that? I think we all can.

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JenPlans.com Budgeting Series – Part Three

JenPlans Budgeting 3

Welcome to the main event! It’s time to MAKE A BUDGET! If you are just starting, you’ll need to complete Part One and Part Two before moving on to this portion.

Gather your information
□ Categories (This comes from your 12-Month Spending History you completed)
□ Known Expenses (bills, debt payments, etc)
□ Known Income (if this is variable, you’ll use the variable income budget template linked below)
□ Way to keep track of budget (excel spreadsheet, pen and paper, etc)

Pick your format
□ If you have a FIXED (or mostly fixed) income, use THIS BUDGETING FORM.
□ If you have VARIABLE income, use the form above, AND THEN THIS.

Customize AND BUILD YOUR BUDGET!
Cross-check your categories with the ones on the budget form and add the ones you have that don’t appear on the forms.
Follow the prompts on each form and start filling in your KNOWN expenses first, then plan out what you’ll budget for the rest.

Don’t get discouraged!
It usually takes at least 2-3 rounds of this process while you figure out what numbers work
and what you need to adjust before they all balance out.
This is a learning process and even if it’s frustrating,
YOU ARE NOW IN CONTROL OF YOUR MONEY! And that’s SO EXCITING!

Sinking Funds! When filling in your sinking funds, you’ll divide out your expense by the number of months until its due if it has a timeframe (for example, if your $120 car registration is due next August, you’ll divide that category by 12 and then save $10 into that “sinking fund” each month. Come August, you’ll have all $120 saved, will withdraw it to pay the fee and will start all over again. If that registration is due in February, you’ll need to amortize that money over six months instead of twelve, so you’ll save $20 each month until February, THEN reduce to $10/month from then on out). If it DOESN’T have a timeframe (furniture replacement, car repair, etc), figure out how much you’d like to have saved based on your spending over the last 12 months and turn that into a monthly expense.
Be sure to note which categories have a little envelope designation next to it to show you which categories are recommended to be CASH categories. This will prevent over-spending. You can’t spend it if you don’t have it! You can use regular envelopes or make yourself fun fancy envelopes but you just withdraw the amount, stick it in the envelope and then carry the ones you need for that day. If you’re already using cash, GREAT! If you’re not, now’s the time to try.
Make your plan. When will you withdraw cash? When will you sit down to pay bills? Schedule your weekly reviews of all of your accounts and envelopes to see how everything’s going and to tweak where necessary.

If you think this is a bunch of bologna, TRY IT.
There’s no harm in trying something new. I challenge you to try it for one month –
it doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment – just give it a shot for one month.
It will be a learning tool to teach you what you like, don’t like and how it affects your spending.
It is so important to learn about yourself in this process.

YOU’RE READY TO START! Happy Budgeting!

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JenPlans.com Budgeting Series – Part Two

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Welcome back! If you are checking in for part two in the budgeting series, read on! If you haven’t seen part one yet, start here!

Part Two is all about knowing your numbers. To properly build a complete budget, we need to know exactly where all of our money has been going. Good thing we checked shame at the door in our last part! It is NOT shameful to look at your past when you’re trying to change. It is ESSENTIAL. Take a deep breath. Most people have the hardest time with this step. I promise you – there is no hole so big you can’t get out of it. It may take some time and hard work, but ANYTHING is possible. We have to know what we’ve been doing if we want to change it. This week’s mission is getting a very precise picture of your financial situation.

There are three pieces to this puzzle: Debt, Spending, and Income

Debt
Make a list of all of your debts, smallest balance to largest balance, and interest rates.

Spending
This is the most time consuming step. A complete breakdown of the last 12 months of spending. I know it sounds overwhelming, but it took me about 2 hours altogether. You’ll have to adjust this process for the ways that you spend, but I’ll share what I did to get this picture and you can modify based on how you spend. I opened a blank excel spreadsheet (paper and pen work fine, too!) and then in my internet browser, a tab for every account I had (checking account, credit card 1, credit card 2) and then grabbed my checkbook register. I started with my least frequently used CC and went to 12 months prior, copied and pasted and then sorted out into excel by date, vendor name and amount. I added a fourth column with which credit card it was for my own reference, and then added a fifth column that I later used to categorize.

Here’s an example:

Date Vendor Amount CC Category
1/2/13 Shell $43.46 Chase Gas
1/6/13 SportsClips $22.00 Chase Health/Beauty
1/15/13 Chili’s $32.47 Chase Dining Out

I did this for every single charge for 12 months in my checking account (using my check register to supplement with check numbers) and two credit cards. It was easiest for me to alpha sort by vendor and then add a category. You’ll be able to separate by month to get your total monthly spend and also by category. You’ll know very quickly where your money went. It’s incredible and scary and empowering. Knowledge is power!

Income
Make sure you know what is income and what is reimbursement (if applicable). When you have your income listed out for each month, you can cross-check it with your monthly expenses and see how much in the hole you’ve been going (if you have been).

Homework
Homework for Week 2 is to complete all of these steps (together with your spouse/partner, if applicable)! See you next week for Part Three! I also highly recommend finding a local Financial Peace University class through this link on Dave Ramsey’s website and enrolling.

See you next week!

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JenPlans.com Budgeting Series – Part One

Budgeting Series Part One

 

DO YOU NEED HELP MAKING A BUDGET?
Join me in this JenPlans.com Budgeting Series to gain control of your finances! I’ve done this series in a few private Facebook groups but I wanted to put it on the blog (now that there IS a blog) so that anyone can have access. Part One of the series is tackling the mind game. Will you join me?

YOU’LL NEED:
1. The book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
2. Access to all of your accounts and debts
3. A way to keep track of your budget (pen and paper, spreadsheet software, etc)

There are a billion ways to do this process, and I’ve formed this series in the way that was most helpful and clear to me. General disclaimer: I’m obviously making some assumptions and that this might not exactly apply to all of you, but there should be pieces that you can take and apply to your situation. I am not a financial expert, I do not have all of the answers. My goal is just to help you take control. Let’s jump in!

This is a mind game, and you’re going to win the game. We aren’t having trouble managing our money because we can’t do math, it’s because of our mind and our behavior. I’m going to ask you to check a few things at the door as we go through this process.

Shame, guilt, and intimidation. Not all of us are here, but a lot of us are. Shame over our current situation, shame over what we may have done to get us here, shame over not pulling ourselves out sooner. Intimidation that you don’t know enough. You know what? Check it at the door. It’s hurting your financial life. I’m not discounting the feeling – it’s *very* real and it’s very impactful, which is why I want to challenge you to let go of it. It gets in the way of progress. No one became good with money overnight. No one was born with it. Just like everything else in life, we have to keep finding ways to learn about it so we get more comfortable with it and get better. Progress! To read more of my thoughts on money and shame, see this blog post.

Getting defensive. Change is tough. It means you have to own up to a lot of behavior you’d probably rather not own up to. Don’t be defensive. Don’t worry about excuses. No one is saying anyone is a bad person. There is ALWAYS more to learn, room to grow, room to get better. You don’t know everything – neither do I. Let’s commit to having the heart of a student and learning as much as we possibly can about personal finances. Owning up to the behavior that got us here is a very important part of this process.

The “keeping up” mentality. You have no idea what everyone else’s financial situation is. Let’s commit to stop paying attention to what everyone else has or gets. Commercialism is trying to teach you that you need what everyone else has – the next thing has to be yours. Consider this; if you didn’t get that thing, and then all year long you didn’t have All The Things, you’d be just fine. In fact, you’d be just fine with a bunch more money in your pocket. So take a moment, step back, and check that at the door. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have things you want, I’m saying that you shouldn’t be driven by it. We’re going to have to reprogram ourselves to be driven by other more worthy things than Things. Many of us are trying to have the lifestyle of our parents and we aren’t really understanding that for many of them, it took them 20-30 years to get there. If you’re in debt, don’t’ have an emergency savings and retirement contributions, you cannot afford your current lifestyle. You are living beyond your means. That’s a really tough pill to swallow but it will begin your change into a financially healthy person when you acknowledge it.

Anxiety over the planning/procrastinating by planning. Um, let’s just say I’m ultra-guilty of this. If the envelopes and the budget and the notebook aren’t perfect, I might as well quit! That was me for a long time.  If I can’t figure out how to categorize my target purchase, my whole budget is out the window. That was me for a long time. I have two thoughts on this: 1, In the end, it doesn’t matter how you’re doing it as long as you’re doing it, and 2, you’ll figure it out as you go along. It’s not going to be perfect the first few times. But we’re focusing on progress, not on perfection.

SELF-REFLECTION
Now that we’ve checked things at the door and settled in, it’s time to start getting to know ourselves better. Answer these questions for yourself – ON PAPER:

  1. What’s been getting in my way?
    1. For each thing, think of TWO ways you’ll nip it. One isn’t enough sometimes.
  2. What am I willing to give up for a while so that I can accomplish my goals? What behaviors can I change?
  3. When is it going to be the hardest for me to stick with a budget? How can I push through it?
  4. What am I missing out on by not having a solid budget?
    1. Now
    2. 5 years from now
    3. 20 years from now
  5. How will I feel when I have total control over my money?
  6. How much of what I have do I really need? What are ten things around my house I no longer need? Make two columns; item and what to do with it.
  7. Why do I want to do this? Why is this so important?
  8. THE BIG QUESTION: How can I be a good steward of my money? We all have such limited resources in this life and it is a big responsibility to manage them. How can I be a good steward of what I have?

HOMEWORK FOR THE NEXT SESSION
In a few weeks, we’ll move on to the next session. You’ll need these parts completed before moving on:

  1. Read Total Money Makeover, and read it with a pen in your hand to mark up parts that speak to you. If it’s overwhelming to you, make a commitment to just get through the first five chapters.
  2. If you’re married or share finances, ask your spouse complete the above questions and talk together about your answers.
  3. Get rid of the ten things in number 6 above. You need to physically clear things out of your life for two reasons; 1, to show you that you don’t need as much as you have and 2, because when we are continually getting rid of excess, we are less driven to accumulate more.
  4. Get access to all of your accounts and debts. All login information, all balances, all interest rates, all payment information.

See you next time!

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Money and shame

Money and Shame Pic

Money shame is real.

I had outlined this post when a dear friend sent me a text message. “Why do we go to the doctor when we’re sick, bring our car to the mechanic but we aren’t supposed to talk about money or ask for help when we have money questions?”

Money shame. Somewhere along the way, the notion that it is impolite to discuss finances has gone to an extreme where no one talks about money ever. Sure, it’s still impolite to ask someone how much money they make or how much something cost them, but what about the rest? What about those struggling with money? With budgeting? With debt? With savings? With retirement? Money is so complex and emotionally charged, it’s one of the top reasons for conflict in relationships and it causes stress in the lives of countless people. Its management is also critically important to your future and security. I’m going to talk money because I think financial literacy is important.

There are two MBAs living under our roof and neither of us had done a true written budget until last year. No matter how much education you have, there is very little exposure to managing your own personal finances. It’s not that we didn’t want to or that we weren’t smart enough, it was a combination of not knowing how, and for me, some shame. I read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” in three days while my husband was gone on a business trip. I opened my laptop, created our complete budget and when he came home, told him about our new plan. He was totally on board and excited (relieved?) that we had a path. I was so excited that I shared with a few close friends and family members. The responses were so interesting.

“Ohhhh, Jen. I’m so sorry. I thought you guys were doing okay . . . .”

FREEZE. Okay. This response, I will admit, sparked some shame. We WERE doing ok. We could pay all of our bills. We never worried about feeding our family. We were saving some. We were able to give gifts and have fun. We were fine. Why did a budget suddenly mean that we weren’t doing okay? Are budgets only for people who aren’t doing okay financially? “Doesn’t that feel too restrictive?” “Only poor people need to budget.” “Only people with a lot of money can budget.” “You work hard, you DESERVE to get whatever you want.” WOAH. No wonder we have money shame.

For a lot of people, money shame comes when you have to say no, when you limit, when you have to own up to your own financial behavior, when you spend money you know you don’t have, when you know you should be changing your behavior and don’t, or when you ask for help. It also prevents us from change. “I deserve,” “I earned,” “I want.” Disregarding our long-term for short-term gratification. Our focus culturally has shifted from being wise with money to materialism and the price is high. Any of this sound familiar?

I challenge you to let go of the shame. For so many reasons. The biggest is that shame weighs us down and gets in the way of happiness. It gets in the way of actually being able to help ourselves financially. Don’t let your shame rob your future. Saying no is hard, asking for help is hard, owning up to your behavior is hard, but once you do it, you’re free! You can go on the path. You can learn. You can grow. You can pay off debt, save and be financially secure. You can give. You can win.

The single best way to control your finances is to control what goes OUT. Get a written budget. “The Millionaire Next Door” teaches us that most millionaires become millionaires because they control what goes out. They don’t buy things they can’t afford. They save and invest. They are disciplined. They say no. And most of them did that from the ground up – not from inheritances or the lottery. Hard work and smart choices. They aren’t ashamed to limit themselves.

It’s something everyone can do…but you have to let go of the shame.

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