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ON MONEY: FINANCIAL PLANNING DURING A PANDEMIC

Well, this is a post I never thought I’d write. But I’ve seen a lot of “quarantine shopping lists” from bloggers lately and I can’t imagine that’s the type of content that anyone really needs right now. So I wanted to contribute something to a topic that hopefully felt more relevant and helpful.

Money. It’s the thing that’s come up in every single conversation I’ve had with friends, family members and fellow New Yorkers. After a fear of the virus itself – everyone I’ve spoken with has expressed some level of concern over money. And sadly, I think we’re just scraping the surface of those concerns. I’m obviously not an expert financial planner, but I do think there a few things that all of us could be doing right now to help ease our anxiety. Since we were all in very different financial situations before this even started, I’m breaking these suggestions down into 3 different scenarios that you might be finding yourself in right now.

If You Are Experiencing Major Financial Panic Right Now:

First of all, I’m sorry. There are SO many that fall into this category. From those that own a small business to those that were just laid off. I think the hardest thing is not knowing how long you’ll be in this situation, so it’s important to plan really carefully.

To begin, I’d write out every single non negotiable expense you have (rent/mortgage, insurance, groceries), every negotiable expense (netflix, gym membership) and where you’re at with any remaining income + savings. Cut every single negotiable expense and then run the numbers on how long you can last? If it’s one month or ten – at least you’ve got a deadline. Now, look again at those “non-negotiables”. Can you ask for a delayed rent payment in the meantime? Maybe you’ve got landlords who would be willing to help. Think you need to spend $300 a week on food? Here is a grocery list for 2 people that only costs $50 a week. My point is you’re going to need to get really creative here and take your expenses as close to rock bottom as you can.

Beyond that, there are a wealth of resources being shared right now about federal and state level funding for individuals put out of work or small businesses affected. I know they can feel overwhelming to sift through, but the sooner you look at what options might be available to you, the sooner you can feel a glimmer of relief. And don’t forget to think through what side hustle skills – like babysitting – could be of real use to others right now and could generate some extra income for you.

If You Are Feeling Unsure of How to Handle Your Finances Right Now:

I think the majority of us likely fall into this category. Maybe your spouse has lost their job but you still have yours. Or you are employed now but are worried you could be laid off down the line. Regardless of the circumstances, now is the time to reassess your budget and savings.

Look carefully at your monthly spending. This is not a normal month, so you can’t go with your normal budget. Adam and I just reviewed the monthly budget we use and quickly realized how much has changed. For instance, he is working from home which means he’s spending $0 in gas and tolls. Our grocery bill skyrocketed as we planned to cook 3 meals a day at home for both of us, but our discretionary budget for things like going to the movies or grabbing a drink has flatlined. Take time to adjust your budget to your new normal. That may either be more or less expensive than what you’re used to.

If there’s anything extra, I suggest bulking up any savings you have right now. 58% of millenials have less than $5,000 in savings – and if you live in an expensive place like New York, that isn’t going to last you all that long. We’re currently in the exact scenario of why you want to have an emergency fund. Start building it up any way you can.

If You Want to Manage Your Money Wisely Right Now:

First of all count yourself lucky. If you fall in this category it means you likely have a stable job that you know can weather this storm and a comfortable amount of savings.

I’d suggest being cautious with investments and spending – but if your discretionary budget still exists then please, please, please use it for the following. Supporting small businesses or giving back to those desperately in need right now. Below, a list of suggestions. And thank you in advance.

Small Businesses:

You may not receive your order right away, but every dollar means a lot to small businesses right now, and you can always consider a gift card too. Lulu Frost (the one I work for goes without saying – we’re a team of 7 based in NYC and female owned), Brooklyn Candle Studio, NYDJ (they’re giving a portion of proceeds back to charity as well) and McNally Jackson bookstores to name just a few.

Charities:

No Kid Hungry is supporting kids who are going hungry now that they’re out of schools, Heart to Heart is helping provide medical supplies and on a local level, here is a list of funds being raised for many of New York’s beloved bars and restaurants. These are just a short list of where I’ll be contributing, but do your research and help anywhere you can.

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10 THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR TIME AT HOME

Since my post last week it’s almost difficult to wrap my head around how much has changed about our daily lives. We’re working from home, we’re removed from friends, family and strangers, we’re only going out for short walks and to the grocery stores. It’s a wild time to be alive. I don’t have much more to add to the conversation surrounding the global climate right now other than to hope you’re all staying safe – but I do have ways that I’m staying sane. And I figured I’d share. Below: the 10 things I’m planning on doing with my newfound spare time indoors.

1.Start my ukulele lessons. I’ve been swearing I’d make time for this since Christmas and truly haven’t had the time. Today Adam got it all tuned up so I’m armed and ready to finally dive in.

2. Organize kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Last weekend we tackled this by throwing out anything old/expired, wiped down all the insides and then re-organized everything inside. It felt great.

3. Video calls with friends & family. I’ve got a session scheduled with two of my best girlfriends from college on Friday and I want to get in some quality facetime with my niece and nephew too. Staying connected and seeing their faces in real time feels so important right now.

4. Work-out at least 5x per week. I’m grateful that I started doing more and more at-home video workouts starting last year. I’ll be ramping those up and getting out for walks and runs whenever possible. Plus, I’ve convinced Adam to do yoga with me 1x per week.

5. Bake banana bread. I typically never have time to spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen but these days we’ve been cooking healthy meals 3x a day at home. I want to step up my game and bake something delicious while we’re at it.

6. Closet spring cleaning. I want to start to pack away sweaters and heavier coats plus gather things to donate once charity shops have re-opened.

7. Work on my book. It’s still in such a fledgling state but I figure if ever there is a time to get the creative juices flowing and do some writing, it’s now.

8. Read, read, read. And if I’m not writing, I’ll be reading. A good book feels like such a welcome escape right now. If you want to see the list of what’s on my shelf right now – it’s here.

9. Game night with Adam. We plan to dust off the scrabble board, turn off the TV and have a good old-fashioned game night.

10. Send notes to grandparents. A hand-written note to those of us who really can’t get out much these days would go a long way.

Hang in there friends.

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STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger: If you’re a fan of Big Little Lies, you’ll like this drama-filled dynamic in this story. Focused on a group of parents and children in an idyllic Colorado town as parental pressures to succeed, children’s attempts to define themselves and long-held secrets start to unravel a group of old friends. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga: This book got a ton of buzz but it was a tough one for me. I don’t mind a dark story – in fact I often really love them – but I don’t know that I ever truly was able to connect to the characters. Also, this was originally written in Polish and then translated, and despite thinking it’s super important to read writing from other points of view and cultures, I do think that a little bit of the finesse of the native tongue always gets lost in translation. So.. buyer beware? (2.5 out of 5 stars)

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine: Like a love letter to language itself, this is a quick read about the lives of two twin sisters with an affinity for grammar and a healthy amount of sibling rivalry. I loved the quick-quipped writing and the way the sisters lives intertwined. (4 out of 5 stars)

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner: From 1950s through present day this story follows two sisters and their search to find themselves as they understand and define their relationship with each other, their mother and the women closest to them. While I didn’t think this book was perfect I thought it was a great example of how much, and how little, has changed for women since mid-century. (4 out of 5 stars)

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith: A coming of age story told through the strangest and darkest scenario, set in rural Pennsylvania. There’s plenty of heartbreak in this story but it’s so beautifully written you find yourself wanting more of it. One of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. (5 out of 5 stars)

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: Already honestly one of my all time favorite books. I wanted to live inside this story and certainly want to read it again. Centered on the relationship between siblings Danny and Maeve and the house that raised them, broke them and largely defined them. I can’t say enough good things here – just please go read it. (5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP MY BOOK CLUB PICKS:

I’ve been reading more than ever this year thanks to the extra push of starting a new #bookstagram IG account with my best friend from college Claire (you can follow along here) – so I’m already through several of these and can’t wait to share what I think with you all!

My stack includes: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur, Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller.

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ESCAPING INTO SPRING STYLE

Last week – when the world still felt like you could escape it all – Adam and I did just that and popped down to St Pete Beach, Florida for a few days in the sun.

We stayed at the Don Cesar Hotel (which I’ll tell you more about but suffice to say it was lovely) and between the endless blue skies, white sand beaches, and gorgeous pink facade – the whole thing really did feel like a getaway from reality.

Now of course, I’m firmly back in the strange reality that is New York right now – but at least there are true hints of spring weather and at least I still have this dress which is the perfect transition piece. One that I can already picture a million ways I’ll wear it. Which of course, I realize are frivolous at a time like this… but sometimes you’ve got to find your own sunshine.

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ON RELATIONSHIPS: CHANGING YOUR LAST NAME

Would you change your last name if you got married? Or did you? I’ve always found this to be a topic that gets people fired up for whatever reason. I suppose wanting to defend their stance as the “right way”. And while I have an opinion here – I don’t really think there’s one right or wrong way. Just that it’s interesting to consider the options.

I’ve personally always, from the time I was a kid, felt really strongly that I would never change my name. Aside from having a last name that I love (and now a denim jacket emblazoned with it), I just couldn’t imagine taking on someone else’s last name. On top of that, my grandparents had 3 boys, all of which had all girls. All of whom – aside from me – are married and took their husband’s names. Which makes me the last one to carry it on. So aside from wanting to keep it, I want my children to have it too.

Along the way, there have been men that have scoffed at this.. some of which I’ve regrettably been dating. And there have been plenty of people that have suggested I hyphenate. Or at least give the kids his name. But I’m just skeptical about the whole thing.

I’ve often wondered why so many families were carrying on the legacy of the names of bad men. Why in some of those cases didn’t the family think – Dad went out for cigarettes in 1956 and never came back while Mom was really the backbone of this whole thing – shouldn’t we all carry on her name? A few years back one of my best friend’s got married and her and her husband – neither of which felt a strong familial connection – chose an entirely new last name and both changed their names to that. I’ve always thought it was such a beautiful sentiment.

So take his name if you want. Or hyphenate. Or take hers. Or create a new one all together. Or swap every 10 years for all I care. Let’s just consider the options, shall we?

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*Jacket was a gift from Wrangler and personalized at Nordstrom.

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