Open Letter to Myself on New Year’s Day, 2017

To Shelby,

You know as well as I that we(?) hate the “New year, new me” mumbo-jumbo blah-blah-blah. It’s a cliche and it’s not one that really stands, right? 2016 was by no means the worst year of your life, and it while it wasn’t always the easiest, you/I/we are feeling rather ambivalent about 2017. There’s no way to know what’s in store, and you are not a particular fan of resolutions, but here are things that I think we should work on for our own good.

DO WELL IN SCHOOL. You seriously cannot afford to not do well in grad school. If you don’t do well, even if the class is bullshit, I will find a way to kick your ass. And you will hate yourself. And you’ll cry over your student loan debt because you won’t be able to pay it off in a timely manner. Make school your priority. Please.

SAVE MONEY. You’re already pretty good at this, but you could do better. You don’t necessarily have to live like a cheapskate, because life would be no fun, but if you go every other month only spending what you have to on bills and groceries, etc., that would be great. You have insurance payments coming up and you want to make a year-end contribution to your Roth. Save as much as you can.

STOP EATING WHEN YOU’RE BORED. This one totally will not stick, but if you make it a week without bored-eating, I will… make you cookies. But seriously. There are 1000 other things you could be doing if you’re bored: go for a run, study, write a letter, ANYTHING but eating just because you’re bored. Even if you don’t completely quit eating when you’re bored, at least quit some of the time. It doesn’t even have to be 50% of the time. It can be like 15.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, STUPID. Resume running outside when the snow melts. In the meantime, do your muscle and joint exercises to build strength. Maybe give Blogilates a try or something. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Eat things that are green, orange, and purple. Don’t go crazy on the sugar. Know when to take a break. Know when your break is over.

Love,
Shelby

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Vlogmas!

Since Thanksgiving is this week, I’m going to go ahead and admit: my favorite time of year has finally arrived!

If you know me in real life, then you probably know that I am very holiday-oriented. It is truly for me the happiest time of year. I love the time spent with my family, I love the food, and I love the traditions we have–my mom and I have done Black Friday the same way every year since I was in junior high–and we love it. Black Friday is easily one of our favorite days to spend together–and we hardly ever buy anything other than poinsettias!

In addition to the excitement leading up to Christmas, I really, really love the YouTube tradition of Vlogmas, in which people record videos around their daily life from December 1 to Christmas. Being that daily vlogs are my favorite kind of video to watch, of course I am so excited to watch other people’s Vlogmas videos. And to do my own Vlogmas as well.

I’m doing Vlogmas!

Given how boring my Vlogust turned out, I’m nervous to undertake this endeavor! But dammit, I’m going to do it, and hopefully I will do it well!

I kicked off the holiday season with my annual tradition of putting my Christmas tree up for Thanksgiving!

Why Don’t More YouTube Channels Discuss Finance?

Money is an uncomfortable subject. Some of us are taught from a very young age that it’s like religion and politics: you just don’t talk about it. But the sad truth is, regardless of your discomfort with money and finance as a conversation topic, we all use it, so we all need it. Money is what the majority of the world uses in exchange for goods and services. Regardless of courtesy, I think it’s something we need to talk about, especially with regard to our spending habits, as well as social influence.

As you know, I love YouTube. I have my own channel, and I love watching the videos of other people too.

I spent a lot of time the other day wondering why people on YouTube don’t talk about money. And yes, maybe it’s because it’s a bit of a taboo topic. But there are other reasons as well, and many of them have to do with viewership.

Viewers are turned off by sponsored videos. When people share their lives or viewpoints on the Internet, it is the assumption of their viewers that they are getting authenticity on the creator’s part. When paid sponsorships get thrown into the mix, some viewers feel that the authenticity of the channel has been compromised. And when they feel like the channel or creator has become “fake,” they either stop watching or they make rude comments.

Viewers are turned off when a content creator promotes his or her side-projects. For the same reason I stated above, when a YouTuber promotes a side-project or side business, people get mean. And I think that’s really stupid and counter-productive; imagine you had a YouTube channel that had a decently-sized audience, and a side business that you were equally as proud of, if not more–why wouldn’t you promote a business you are proud of on your channel?

Viewers often believe that YouTubers make a lot more money than they actually do. Yes, AdSense gives creators an opportunity to monetize their videos. However, even with a large subscriber count, AdSense pays based on engagement with a video–usually by clicks. YouTubers don’t get rich based on ads alone, and this is a serious misconception on the part of people who don’t make videos. The amount of money someone can make on YouTube varies and is based on a multitude of factors.

Finance probably isn’t the most interesting subject to many viewers (or creators). I think many of us are interested in getting new stuff but not really how much it costs.  Many of us live in hyper-consumptive societies and as hyper-consumers, we like the gratification of getting something now–or if you watch YouTube, seeing someone talk about their new stuff. We’re not all that interested in whether or not a creator is putting money away for retirement or a college fund for their kids. We just want to see and hear about the new stuff (and maybe get some new stuff of our own).

It’s really none of our business. And it’s true: the amount of money my favorite YouTuber makes in a week, a month, a year, from AdSense, from sponsorships–whatever–is not my business. And it’s not your business either.

Is there anything you wish was discussed more on YouTube?
Take a shot every time you see me write the words “new stuff” and share your thoughts in the comments down below!

Next Steps

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About a month before I graduated from college, I panicked. I’d spent four years studying, going to class and work (3 jobs at once!), writing more papers than I could count, and then I realized–I don’t want to do this. I don’t have what it takes to succeed in this field. I don’t have the personality that potential employers are looking for in college grads.

Because I was panicking, I reached out–not to my parents, but to my adviser. Because I thought she’d have some insight. That she’d tell me what I needed to do–sad to say, but I don’t think that going to college taught me how to be a free thinker; it made me even more insecure and instilled in me a desire to be told what to do.

“I think you need more time,” she said.

She also said she didn’t think I’d be successful. In grad school, specifically, but maybe she meant in general. It felt like she meant in general. It’s hard to hear someone who you trust say that they don’t think you will be successful, whether it be academics, a professional career, or life at large.

I started crying in her office and I don’t think I’ve really stopped in the three and a half years since graduation. As I walked across the stage at the Breslin Center, I was handed a rolled-up proxy diploma. I was supposed to step up to a line, smile, and wave into the camera so all the people in attendance could see how happy I was to be a graduate of Michigan State University. I stepped up to the line, smiled quickly, then stared into the camera as my face fell. My family, with their cameras pointed at the jumbotron, laughed about it–typical Shelby.

I wasn’t happy to be graduating. People were going on and on about the world being our oyster, how the future was ours for the taking, and think now about what you can do for the world, #spartanswill. All I could think about was how I would literally be going back to my parents’ basement to look for jobs in a field I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in. I could go to graduate school, but for what? I had already devoted the majority of my life to school–and I had worked my ass off. And now I was facing an indeterminate amount of time before I could be gainfully employed and able to move on with my life.

It took forever. For every twenty jobs I applied to, I only heard back from one, and fewer than one were actually requests for a phone or in-person interview. My self-esteem and self-worth crashed horribly during this period. I took what was supposed to be a temporary job at a restaurant just because I had to do something. I was there for over a year before I was hired as a secretary somewhere else.

Over this three-year period, starting about six months after I graduated, my parents–but mom especially–started bringing up graduate school. That I should think about applying. That maybe it will help me get a better job. Don’t worry about the money. If you want to go, go.

And the whole time that was going on, I was flip-flopping on the issue myself: I want to go. I won’t be successful. I miss school. What would I even study? I want to teach writing at a community college. A Master’s degree is going to overqualify me and then I really will struggle with finding a job. I’m going to prepare my writing samples this week! I’m worried about the money and the time.

I never did go. What it came down to was the money, the time, and the fact that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a better-paying job with a graduate degree. My current employers are famous for never giving their employees a raise–how can I afford grad school? I’ve spent so much time in school already; can’t I just move on with my life?

And to be honest, I am still not sure that a Master’s degree will help me find a job that will pay me a good salary.

But I’m going.

I caved a few weeks ago and applied to a graduate program at the local business college. For a Master of Science in Finance. I got in. And furthermore, I found a program that works for me. I could have started taking classes immediately, but I decided that I will start in January.

This is my next step. I don’t know what it will bring–but just about anything is better than what I have going on in my life right now.

A Look Back at My First Cooking Challenge on YouTube

If you’re one of my 17 subscribers on YouTube, you might already know that during the month of October, in addition to my weekly video, I wanted to post a new cooking video every week, and every recipe had to feature pumpkin as a key ingredient.

Well, that’s over now and I thought I would share what I learned, both about making videos and cooking, and what I thought went well, what I want to improve on, and what’s next.

Part of my goal with creating this challenge was to create an upload schedule, and to stick to it. About that… I did not do that for my first two videos. The first week I had troubleshooting issues and the following week was the week from hell, schedule-wise. The good news is that I solved the troubleshooting problem with my voiceover, so I won’t run into that issue again… hopefully.

Furthermore, I cannot wait until Daylight Savings Time. It gets dark here so early, so I have to have every light in my kitchen on. And in my living room, there are no lights. Just a single lamp. So. Lighting at this time of year. It’s a concern for me.

What I learned:

  • Cooking videos are a lot of work. It’s one thing to have the camera pointing down towards the pot or bowl or whatever. Then you have to adjust the angle if you change the shot from tabletop to in front of the oven. And so on.

What I learned about cooking:

  • Read the recipe because sometimes you need 29 oz. of pumpkin puree and you don’t have enough because you just assumed 15 was enough
  • There are more than 2 peppers in the can

What I think went well:

  • Not to toot my own horn, but I already feel like I’ve come a long way already since starting my channel in April. With every few videos, I can see the strides I’ve made. THAT SAID, I know I still have a long way to go.
  • During my pumpkin cheesecake video, I found the best camera angle (I think) for the top of my kitchen table. It was so easy to see what I was doing and what I was mixing in the video. I used a similar angle for the videos after that.

What I want to improve on:

  • Inflection. I know I need it in my voiceovers–having a monotone is so inconvenient when you’re doing YouTube!

What’s next?

My next big project is Vlogmas, in which people on YouTube upload a video every day until Christmas. I’ve never done it before, but I want footage of at least 20 days in December and 10 videos.

I definitely want to do more cooking videos in the future, but I’m not sure when I will focus on a particular ingredient again. Expect some cooking and food-related content during Vlogmas, but I don’t have anything specific in mind.

Things I Love This Fall

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You probably already know this, but my favorite kind of video to watch on YouTube–aside from daily vlogs–are the “favorites” videos beauty and lifestyle vloggers post on a monthly basis. I can’t get enough of them, and would gladly watch them over and over given the chance. I love that people can use them to make recommendations to others, and seriously–what’s so bad about sitting around and talking about the shit you like?

HOWEVER… I live in a one-bedroom apartment by myself. I have very little space to be bringing in new products to review every month. So I’m going to be making a video and writing a blog post about these things every three months instead.

Here are the things I especially loved from August to October:

Smart Mom, Rich Mom by Kimberly Palmer — You might notice this and say, “Wait… do you even have kids, Shelby?” And no. No, I do not. But one day I might. Since moving out on my own, my interest in finance has increased, and I was intrigued when I read an article about this book in the Detroit News. What caught my eye is that it is specifically written for women AND about building wealth, whereas most financial books and magazines are written for men. It really didn’t disappoint, despite the author’s annoying overuse of the terms “mama” and “mama bear.” I like that it’s about managing and building wealth and establishing good financial habits rather than having a coupon for everything. (I even applied what I read to my own life, which I wrote about here and here!)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — I’ve had this book recommended to me on more than one occasion, and I never wanted to read it. Ever. But something changed in August–a Barnes and Noble trip on a rainy afternoon after I cried my eyes out in an academic adviser’s office at the community college–and I wanted to read it suddenly.  I followed the guidelines that come in the book, which say that to get the most out of the book, you should read each chapter twice before moving on to the next: once just reading, once with a pencil or highlighter in hand. I hate to say it, but–this book CHANGED MY LIFE. Like, holy shit. I’ve never not liked people, but I never realized how much I knew about dealing with them before reading this book–without applying that knowledge to my everyday life. Good work, Dale Carnegie!

Bible-Hi-Glider ACCU-Gel Highlighters — Let me start by saying that my PaperMate Flair pens are my favorite writing utensil EVER–but these come very, very close. I actually ended up reading every chapter of How to Win Friends and Influence People three times–once just reading, once with a pencil so I could make marks in the margins, and the final time with these babies. I got a set of three on Amazon for $8, and I’m so happy I did it. They’re safe for highlighting the thin pages of a Bible, but they also don’t bleed through on newsprint, which is why I bought them. They’re perfect.

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Best Fiends — I’m so embarrassed to admit this, but at the same time, #sorrynotsorry. This app was making its rounds on YouTube earlier this year–I want to say I saw it being most heavily promoted in April? but I was still seeing sponsored videos for it in  August?–and to be honest, I downloaded it because Tanya Burr was playing it in one of her videos. It makes me sad that so many of the paid-for advertisements for the game that I saw seem so half-assed, because I think it’s a great game. I don’t do game apps normally–never have I ever played Candy Crush–but this one is entertaining, and when I’m having a shit day, playing it somehow calms me down. I 100% am loving and playing this game every day.

Clash of Kings — Yet another game on my phone! How do I describe this game and my feelings towards it? Can I start by admitting that, as a big fan of George R.R. Martin, I was drawn in by the name? Also, my friends didn’t want to hang out this summer, and loneliness drove me to play it after I ran out of lives on Best Fiends. If you don’t know what the game is, you’re basically the lord of your own castle, and you can build your city around it up, attack monsters like griffins and centaurs, and even wage war against other lords and alliances. My alliance had its issues during its early days, but we got over that and started working more as a team. What did you do today? I attacked a Lava Giant, Level 15…. and won. Finally.

Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask — This mask though. First of all, I don’t care for the smell. Yes, it smells like pumpkin pie, but I don’t like sweet smells. If you like pumpkin pie though, you’ll love the smell–just don’t eat it. I use it once a week. It’s a very nice mask for the end of the day–just apply it to clean skin, gently massage it in, let sit for five to ten minutes, and wash it off! It’s great for exfoliating. Just be careful–don’t get overzealous with your face massage, because it will hurt after.

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Biore Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar — Charcoal soap is my favorite thing to wash my face with, and it seems like every brand has their own charcoal soap these days. I saw this product at Target and was fascinated by the shape of the bar, which is why I got it–I like things that look like smooth stones, okay? It has stayed pretty rock-shaped since I first started using it, and I’ve been using it every day since I bought it in early August. Be careful though, because the texture definitely gets rougher as you use more and more of it.

I’d love to hear what you’re loving this fall, so please comment below to tell me!

Experiments in Pennypinching: Using What I Have Already

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In my first post of this series, I talked about making breakfast food in bulk and bringing it to work rather than giving in to my bad habit of stopping at Tim Horton’s. This post features another way I’ve tried to change my spending habits and save a little bit of money.

My mother calls me a hoarder; I prefer to think of myself as a forward thinker.

I have a hard time letting go of things. Not because I am particularly sentimental about them, but because I always think “Well, what if I need that later on?” before getting rid of something.

The same thought process affects my spending habits. I’ll be at the grocery store and see that roasts are on sale, and will think, “Oh! I’ll need that when I make pot roast!” So I’ll buy it, but I won’t make that pot roast for three months. I’ll see that chicken thighs are on sale, and I’ll buy them, even though I still have a package that I bought the previous week. And if they’re cheap again the following week, I’ll probably buy more. I’ll need them for something. Eventually.

I also do this with books. I’ll get bored with a book and put it off “for later,” and then I’ll buy a different one–and potentially get bored with that one, too!

I don’t like to think of this as a waste of money, because eventually I do get around to using what I buy. But it is a waste of space. My freezer isn’t tiny, but it is by no means big. And it’s full of things I have half-forgotten about since purchasing them.

Sales are by no means a bad thing, but it’s not like roasts won’t be on sale again. I didn’t need to buy that roast if I wasn’t planning on making it any time in the near future.

So I’m trying to establish a new habit in which I use what I already have rather than stocking up.

I started by taking everything out of my freezer. I pitched the freezer-burnt items and tossed the frozen soups I made last winter (I washed and kept the containers the soups were in though because what if I need them later on?).

As I was putting everything back into the freezer, I took inventory. I wrote down all of what I have and how much. Then, I took a sheet of graph paper, wrote down the items, and then drew a bar to correspond with how much I have. It’s now taped to my refrigerator, and when I take something out, I fill in one square of that bar. I’ve used up a fair bit already, but as I’ve made or bought more, the list has expanded.

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Is there anything in particular you are bad about using before buying more? Comment below and tell me what that thing is!