Good For You

Five Things I’ve Learned From Metropolitan Home

Some people don't subscribe to fashion magazines because they make normal looking folks feel bad about themselves. You could apply this same philosophy to a decorating magazine whose pages don't even feature prices and profile a couple going through a living room redecorating project with the help of an upholsterer, an interior designer, and a "project manager".

Metrohomecover I won a subscription to Metropolitan Home about a month ago and at first, I too was depressed by the sleek modern house-scapes I will never have…until I realized the same thing I realized about fashion magazines awhile back. These photos are taken in the best circumstances and are not real life. The ideal display is designed to make you think "If my life is displayed this exact way, it would be ideal."

Here is how these magazines are helpful, besides being something to peruse: go through the pages attempting to be inspired by a general idea. Yes, you like the whole page but what is it you like? The clock on the wall? Or the paint color? After you isolate what you like, it can then be changed to fit your life. Here are five things I've learned from Metropolitan Home that are helpful to me. (Because if you can't learn even a little something, why bother?):

1) A room with less stuff in it looks better. Clutter should be contained and if it can't be, it's time to streamline.

2) Painting something black, white, or some kind of metallic makes it instantly more modern. Think glossy for higher drama but less glossy if the surface is a little rough. There are some great painting tips I never even thought of in this article from Metro Home.

Metrohomeinside 3) Too match-y is creep-y. Mixing patterns, fabrics, colors, and styles makes things much more interesting and much less uptight. The chairs around a table don't need to match but painted all the same color, they can still go together.

4) Don't work against your environment, work with it. For example, I love the sleek modern look I see in lofts but I live in a ranch style house. Since this house would look stupid with industrial accessories, there is a subtle nod to modernity with graphic prints and sleek wall colors but the wood furniture and homemade pillows keep things back at the ranch. Take a cue from your neighborhood and house architecture. One guy profiled in the magazine built a  house in Wisconsin but the metal siding on the house gave it a similar look to barns in the area.

5) Bring the outdoors in. Every great looking room in a glossy magazine has ginormous windows overlooking beautiful vistas. It's natural that people want to be outdoors but living a glass house isn't the only way to achieve that. Even a spider plant on a desk can help make things  a little more earthy. If you are not great at caring for plants like myself, you can try incorporating wood, stone, and other natural materials into an existing space.

In short, the free offers you get in life may not be exactly what you want but there is no reason you can't enjoy them and learn a little something you didn't even realize you wanted to know. Because the key to enjoying life and living within your means is the ability to be flexible with what you want. If you are, who knows what will come your way.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Five Things I've Learned From Metropolitan Home

Some people don’t subscribe to fashion magazines because they make normal looking folks feel bad about themselves. You could apply this same philosophy to a decorating magazine whose pages don’t even feature prices and profile a couple going through a living room redecorating project with the help of an upholsterer, an interior designer, and a “project manager”.

Metrohomecover I won a subscription to Metropolitan Home about a month ago and at first, I too was depressed by the sleek modern house-scapes I will never have…until I realized the same thing I realized about fashion magazines awhile back. These photos are taken in the best circumstances and are not real life. The ideal display is designed to make you think “If my life is displayed this exact way, it would be ideal.”

Here is how these magazines are helpful, besides being something to peruse: go through the pages attempting to be inspired by a general idea. Yes, you like the whole page but what is it you like? The clock on the wall? Or the paint color? After you isolate what you like, it can then be changed to fit your life. Here are five things I’ve learned from Metropolitan Home that are helpful to me. (Because if you can’t learn even a little something, why bother?):

1) A room with less stuff in it looks better. Clutter should be contained and if it can’t be, it’s time to streamline.

2) Painting something black, white, or some kind of metallic makes it instantly more modern. Think glossy for higher drama but less glossy if the surface is a little rough. There are some great painting tips I never even thought of in this article from Metro Home.

Metrohomeinside 3) Too match-y is creep-y. Mixing patterns, fabrics, colors, and styles makes things much more interesting and much less uptight. The chairs around a table don’t need to match but painted all the same color, they can still go together.

4) Don’t work against your environment, work with it. For example, I love the sleek modern look I see in lofts but I live in a ranch style house. Since this house would look stupid with industrial accessories, there is a subtle nod to modernity with graphic prints and sleek wall colors but the wood furniture and homemade pillows keep things back at the ranch. Take a cue from your neighborhood and house architecture. One guy profiled in the magazine built a  house in Wisconsin but the metal siding on the house gave it a similar look to barns in the area.

5) Bring the outdoors in. Every great looking room in a glossy magazine has ginormous windows overlooking beautiful vistas. It’s natural that people want to be outdoors but living a glass house isn’t the only way to achieve that. Even a spider plant on a desk can help make things  a little more earthy. If you are not great at caring for plants like myself, you can try incorporating wood, stone, and other natural materials into an existing space.

In short, the free offers you get in life may not be exactly what you want but there is no reason you can’t enjoy them and learn a little something you didn’t even realize you wanted to know. Because the key to enjoying life and living within your means is the ability to be flexible with what you want. If you are, who knows what will come your way.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: Financial Infidelity

A few months ago, I was contacted by the PR person for a new book that had just come out. Could she send me a copy for me to review? It was my first request and since it made me feel kind of important and also involved a free gift, I agreed.

Financialinfidelity That being said, you know the kinds of self help books you may read secretly but would never want anyone to catch you reading? A few examples. I have secretly read "He's Just Not That Into You" and passed it onto a friend as soon as I was done, as much to help her as to get the book off my shelf. I also secretly read "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" when I was 15. I publicly said it was a load of crap but then used the information on my future boyfriends with quite effective results.

I can almost tell what some of you are thinking: "But you just seem so together! Why do you need a self help book?" In truth, we'd all like to think that we don't need to read books, get therapy, or join programs/groups to navigate our lives. But I think a lot of us buy these books in hurried exchanges at our local bookstore (or even more anonomously order them online) because it is very human to want to be better people. And knowing more is helpful because we can't all go to school forever to become doctors, therapists, personal trainers, financial consultants, or life coaches. We do have time though to read a 250 page book over the course of a couple months.

The name of my newest secretly-consumed self-help book: Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker. The bright blue cover (with the heart graphic made up of dollar signs) made this unreadable in public without a paper bag cover. So I read most of it sprawled on my back deck in my little bikini, safe from the eyes of judgement (on multiple levels :^)).

So a few numbers: 40% of adults lie to their partners about spending habits. 82% hide purchases from their partners. (Harris Poll) 47% of couples do not discuss money before getting married. 51% of people said when they do talk about money, they end up in power struggles.

The book sets up the reasons why people are financially unfaithful and gives steps (including sample dialogues and exercises) that couples can do to communicate better about money. There are case studies punctuated with facts and figures and it is broken up into readable chunks.

This book allowed Sean and I to have some honest conversations about money. He has seen my retirement account statements, I know how his morgage works. I think we both hesitated to "combine" our money because we aren't married yet but in not talking about it at all, we weren't setting ourselves up for success. Example from our life: A few months ago when I had been wondering why we hadn't been going out lately, he had just spent a few thousand dollars for his morgage paperwork to be reworked so he'd be paying a lower interest rate.

So all in all, a great book with great information (though it's taken me months to read it because it is a little dense). What's the negative?

Well the title can put your partner on the defensive. "What's that?" Sean asked when he saw my hardcover book with the word "infidelity" on the front. When I told him I was reviewing it for the blog, he visibly relaxed. For better or for worse, the title is a little striking.

I also with there was a way to get men to read these kind of books more often. I don't know what Sean would say if I asked him to read this book but since I still haven't even read Flatland yet (his favorite book which he gave me a copy of over a year ago), I shouldn't expect him to eagerly devour this one.

But even having it on the coffee table has made this book worth having if only because it serves as a reason for discussion. And having at least one person read it is helpful, just like my having read "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" helped my dialogue with high school boys way back when.

I think of a whole secret population reading self-help books with the simple take home messages of "Assume best intentions" and "Take the time to communicate". And if this book can help you think that way about your existing or potential romantic relationship in even the smallest of ways, it will have done its job.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: All Your Worth

My friend Sarah sent me this book a few months ago. I saw the cover and thought the whole thing was a little cheezy (no offense Sarah!). But the way I figured it, books don't become New York Times Bestsellers by being terrible (if they are, at least there is probably a good steamy scene or two in them). Based on the book jacket photo though, I knew that Elizabeth Warren or Amelia Warren Tyagi (mother-daughter team) would not be getting down and dirty in this book. The content had to be solid.

Allyourworth Since I had lots of time to stroll around HospitalTown last week, I thought I would finish the book once and for all (among a few other things) while Sean napped. (A bulk of this was read in the ER and the fact that I still got a lot out of it is testament to how good the book is.)

So the basic idea is a simple formula: 50% of your money should go towards your needs (food, shelter, insurance, and transportation), 20% should be spent on savings, and 30% should be spent on all your wants. Sounds easy, but it does involve doing a little math initially.

I'm a sucker for a book with exercises in it so while Sean watched baseball, I did some math with the included worksheets to see if my spending was in balance. My prediction was that I spent most of my income on my needs. I'm not an extravagant person yet I seem to be saving very little compared to what I want to be. The money must be going to things beyond my control…

I was quite surprised when my needs came out at 50%, even with my increased gas budget and factoring in a regular copayment for doctors visits. I've been saving 9% of my income, which doing the math means I'm spending 41% on my wants. Yikes! Where is it going? (The book has you calculate your needs and savings and subtract them to determine what you're spending on wants. Talk about making you fess up!)

A few things to consider.Wants Technically, my dog is  a want for example, though sometimes I wonder about that. Gifts are also wants. But when I started listing my inevitable wants, I began to understand how much power over these funds I did have.

I see that my current budget with all its small categories makes it easier for me to lose track of small amounts of money. (Though I will say keeping an exact budget for six months helped me really understand my incoming versus outgoing funds in an amount of detail that was really helpful.) Now that I know how much things cost (in terms of dollars and in percent of my income) this simpler 50/20/30 method makes things much easier.

According to my calculations, I have $400 a month to freely spend on my wants. That sounds like a lot. So if I take out $100 a week from the bank and only spend that, I am on track. It may mean that Sadie gets the cheaper dog food once in awhile, and it may mean that I use $80 this week to get a massage. I like the freedom this money allows me and the accountability of the cash in my wallet.

Don't think you can cut anything from your budget? These ladies have an answer for every excuse I could think of. They've empowered me to shop for the best auto insurance rate and negotiate my medical bill. They give you the tools to succeed and punctuate the sometimes not-so-entralling text  with actual case studies of people they've worked with.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and because of it, I'm throwing out my detailed budget I've kept monthly for an entire year. While my budget has really allowed me to show growth but I don't need it anymore. I've got my typical expenses then $100 for everything unexpected that comes my way in a given week. Maybe I will book that massage after all…

Don't believe me about the fabulousness of this book? Here are some other reviews:
Get Rich Slowly
It's Your Money
The Simple Dollar
Out And About

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

A Wall Of Inspiration

Update: Sean’s back home from surgery but it will be at least a month before he’s close to fully recovered. I’m back to the blog, sporting my sexy wrist brace and awaiting diagnosis. Thanks to everyone for your notes and continued reading.


Aroomofonesownquote When I moved in with Sean into the house where he had been living over a year, I had two demands:


1) wireless high speed internet.
2) a room of my own.


A slight variation of Virginia Wolff but a similar goal: my own space to be creative in a house owned by someone else.


When the moving process was finished, this original idea had changed. Sean was so open in letting me make the house my own. (Though now he says of the first few months how freaked out he secretly was when I took over the kitchen.) Moving our bedroom to the back of the house and away from the street made sense and making the big master bedroom (which is painted a not-so-sleepy shade of yellow) into a big office for the both of us.


Many configurations of the room were considered and ultimately, my desk made the most sense on a wall without a window.


To inspire me to work at this desk (where I am much more productive), I needed inspiration. And so begun my wall of inspiration.


Awallofinspiration The wall has been reconfigured a few times (it actually moved with me from Vinalhaven). Occasionally new things are added and older things are either thrown out or filed (FYI I always keep things that are complimentary of me). The wall is both functional (calendar, phone numbers, shortcut keys for French accents) as well as creative (paint swatches, quotes from Borealis cards). When the wall is in balance, visually and informationally, so am I.


I keep things on the wall of inspiration that I think are cool. It doesn’t matter if someone looks at it and thinks my paint swatches are weird or wonders why I don’t have a photo of them displayed. The wall of inspiration is for me and no one else.


There are still things I want to add to the wall (believe it or not, not everything is unpacked from the great move) but even in its current form, the wall of inspiration is just that. It is my corner of the world, and with high speed internet here I am, I’m ready to churn out some moving literary works, or at the very least, a blog that a few people like to read.


Image from www.aroom.org.


Read Virginia Wolff’s essay “A Room Of One’s Own”…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Coping With Emergencies

Note from Nicole: I’ve asked a couple of my favorite bloggers to guest post while I’m gone to keep my blog going for a few days. Right after sending out an email to my blogger friends about my wrist, Sean was admitted into the hospital. He had ’emergency’ surgery and is doing fine but he’ll be in the hospital for a little while. Because people have stepped in to help, Breaking Even has kept going and I’ve spent the time in the hopsital with Sean without giving the blog a second thought. Thanks for continuing to read. I’ll be back soon.

I’m Kelly and I write Almost Frugal, a blog about frugality and personal finance in France. Nicole and I found each other through the French speaking community (although we’re both Americans) and I’m happy to be guest posting for her, although not for why she needs a guest post!

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it? One day you’re trucking along nicely, minding your own business and the next day BOOM. Your car dies, or your basement floods, or your wrist starts hurting after too much time spent pecking at the keyboard.

We’ve all heard the expression “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” and it sounds kind of trite to be sure. But if you think about it, successfully coping with an emergency does depend on making a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade instead of complaining (ahem) bitterly about the bushel of lemons that just fell into your lap. Here are three rules that can help you get over the hump.

+ Read More

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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