#TheBestOf2017

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Oh, 2017. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema. This year may have been a rough one for some but in 2017, the world of pop culture dominated (hello, #MeToo movement).  Listed below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

Hello gentlemen…

MOVIES   Please note that I haven’t seen “Get Out” (I know, know…), “The Big Sick,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “The Shape of Water” and so many other future (hopefully) Oscar nominated films. And can we reminiscence about one of my favorite moments of the year- the Oscar fiasco (Go”Moonlight!”)?

Trainspotting 2:” Hands down, my favorite movie of the year (and not just because I’ve had a massive crush on Ewan McGregor for most of my life). Sequels usually don’t hold but man, this movie… “T2” wraps up loose ends in a neat, plaid bow and has a lot of fun doing so. Also, THE SOUNDTRACK  (take a gander at “Silk” by Wolf Alice). Also, SCOTLAND (take me back to the U.K….).

Dunkirk:” The sound. “Dunkirk” must win Best Sound Editing at the Oscars next year. It is deafening (in the best way, of course). Christopher Nolan knows how to make a movie- TEACH ME YOUR WAYS! The stakes are high and he plays with the timeline of war in an interesting way. (My only compliant is there wasn’t enough of Tom Hardy’s lips.)

Girls Trip:” Sometimes you need something stupid to watch and this is it (okay, stupid is the wrong word). The female friendship woven throughout the movie is heartwarming and feels real. I first saw “Girls Trip” at the theater when I was having an off day- I left with a cramp in my side from laughing so much. Tiffany Haddish absolutely kills in this movie and the other actresses play well off of each other so well.

Wonder Woman:” Finally. Finally, finally, finally. We HAVE “WONDER WOMAN!” Gal Gadot is bad ass yet adorable. Patty Jenkins is a bad ass and a genius. This movie was sweet. It was fun. It was funny. And there wasn’t any cheap shot of certain female anatomy (that is important! Take note, male filmmakers!). This movie inspired me to start writing screenplays again- 2018, you better watch out for ME!

TELEVISION  Please note that there was simply too much good television made this year- “Big Little Lies,” “The Deuce,” “GLOW,”  “The Crown,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…”  But I’m finally watching “Game of Thrones” and am finally caught up with “The Great British Bakeoff!”

Master of None:” Give it up for brown people. In the middle of the new season of “Master of None“, there is this beautiful love letter to New York City and its residents. It’s refreshing to see stories about the little guy- the elevator operator, the girl who works at the corner bodega, your taxi driver. The entire season is fantastic (the Thanksgiving episode!) but this episode proves to the world that there’s no one like New Yorkers. (Netflix)

The Handmaid’s Tale:” I love this show even though it hurts to watch. The United States no longer exists. The majority of the world’s women can no longer get pregnant. Those who can are raped and force to to bare children to term. With everything politically that happened this year, I watch this show and wondering if the premise of “The Handmaid’s Tale” could eventually become our reality.  Nevertheless, the show is compelling and leaves you wanting more. I can’t go enough of this show and am I so excited for the next season. (Hulu)

Stranger Things:” I waited all year for the new season of “Stranger Things” and binged it within two days. With the exception of the seventh episode (you know which one I’m talking about, this season was perfect. Give me anything with Samwise Gamgee and cute guys named Steve. Bitchin’. (Netflix)

This Is Us:” The feels. Ugly cry. This show. It’s so, so good. (NBC)

James Corden also killed with his “Carpool Karaoke” segments this year. They are always so much fun to watch. (CBS and iTunes)

MUSIC Yes, yes… I still need to listen to DAMN.

(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by Sampha:  It was a cold day in the beginning of February when I first heard this song. I was drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop when the barista played this song over and over again on the loudspeaker. I was hooked. Sampha wrote this beautiful tribute to his mother and their East London home  right after she passed away from cancer. You can feel the emotion seeping from his pores as he sings about childhood memories. This is my favorite song of the year.

Praying” by Kesha: I have to admit something awful. Despite my fondness for glitter, for the longest time I hated Kesha’s music. I was never a massive EDM fan and the bass in her songs would give me headaches. Flash forward to this summer. I intensely followed her legal battles against Dr. Luke and was curious to about her new album, especially when she still had ties to him. The first time I heard “Praying,” I cried. It has real power. Raw power. It is intense with filled with grace.  There is a kindness in it that I don’t think I could ever give anyone if I was in Kesha’s shoes. This song has taught me about forgiveness and finding the strength in yourself.

Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles: My friends know me as a die hard One Direction fan (I wouldn’t sing anything else at karaoke). OD went on a hiatus this year and each member branched out, moving and shaking with their solo careers. While his bandmates followed the pop route, Harry Styles took another direction (haha… puns) and made a record that, when I first listened to it, thought was a David Bowie album. “Sign of the Times” has this gorgeous sweeping chorus, with beautiful vocals and drums. I want to live in this song and in its music video.

Despactio” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. How can you not love this song?! Okay, it took me a while to fall in love with it but after hearing it for the millionth time, the song stole my heart (and makes me want to live on a Puerto Rican beach in a teeny bikini). Props for being the most YouTube video of all time and helping to raise Puerto Rican’s tourist interest.

One More Light” by Linkin Park. 2017 was a sad year for rock and roll. The suicide of Chris Cornell was tough to process but Chester Bennington’s death felt like a repeated punch to the stomach. Linkin Park was a staple in my music rotation during my formative years, a band that I literally grew up with. Reading about Bennington’s suicide this July brought up some unsettling memories. The band released the video for “One More Light” a few months after Bennington’s death in memoriam. It’s with footage of a smiling Bennington interacting with fans- both the video and song just hauntingly gorgeous.

Rest in peace, Chester

WRITING  One of my resolutions for 2017 was to read more books. Despite my weekly visit to the local library, I would spend more time on Buzzfeed rather than flipping tangible pages. Quite frankly, I can’t remember the majority of things I read this year but I do remember this piece of journalism. The photos alone tell a heartbreaking story but dive deeper into the text and learn how the Syrian people  continue on despite the war around them. The music flows over the ruins of Aleppo and through the crevices of our hearts.

What are your favorites of 2017, dear reader?

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#DACA

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Earlier today, President Trump announced his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows for thousands of young undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

DACA was formed through an executive order by President Obama back in 2012. It allows certain people (the Dreamers) who came to the United States illegally as minors to be protected from immediate deportation. Recipients are able to request “consideration of deferred action” for a period of two years (which is then subject to renewal). Congress now has up to six months to find a legislative alternative after it was announced that new applications will no longer be accepted.  For those currently in the program, their legal status and other DACA related permits (i.e. work permits) will begin expiring in March 2018.

Dreamers are able to request DACA status if 1) they were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012; 2) they came to the State before turning sixteen; and 3) have continuously lived in the country since 2007. Dreamers must also have a high school diploma or their GED, been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school.

There are an estimated 800,000 Dreamers in the United States. Most Dreamers are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; with the largest numbers living in California, Texas, Florida and New York. They currently range in age from 15 to 36 years of age, according to the White House.

With this new executive order, Dreamers will all lose their status by March 2020. As their statuses lapse, they could be deported and sent back to countries of birth many have no familiarity with. Trump has referred to DACA as “illegal amnesty,” arguing that those in the country illegally are lawbreakers who hurt native Americans by taking their jobs and increasing crime.

We know better.

Dreamers are our friends and loved ones. They are leaders in our communities. They work hard. They’re good people. They deserve to be here- after all, that’s what their parents wanted for them. A better life- and Dreamers deserve to live such lives here in the United States.

I encourage you, dear reader, to contact your senator and demand that they fight for Dreamers. On the local level, discover if your city is a Safe Haven for Dreamers and find ways to help (hit the streets and start volunteering!). Together, we stand with DACA and will show the world that we are a nation who comes together instead of being forced apart.

#EveryoneHasAStory

For the last couple of years, I’ve sat on the idea of creating a web series, gathering snippets of people’s lives and telling their story. Honestly, I’ve wanted to do this since my early 20s- I just never really believed in myself and thought I could create quality and compelling work. But a switch recently happened and I realized that this is something I really want to do.

Skyping with Saffeya

Saffeya is a jill-of-all-trades. An official Brooklynite, she’s worked in various positions ranging from healthcare to real estate to software coding. Saffeya explains how a certain career setback brought her closer to her mother.

“I was working two jobs. I started to notice very quickly that I was burning out. I was working about 60 hours a week, to the point where one day, I just missed work. I lost my job. I felt bad. I felt dirty. It was the first time I failed at something. I started to lose my way and I gave up on myself; I just gave up. I sat down with my mom and told her that I didn’t want to try anymore. She gave me money to cover my bills. I don’t know what I would have done without a supportive mother. I love my mom.

It took someone else believing in me. We all go through similar life cycles. I’m glad I had those experiences because I learned a lot about myself. We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. We need hardships; we need to make mistakes.”

As I figure out software and find people to interview (volunteers, please!), stayed tune, dear reader, for future video posts.

#DifficultRealities (Part II)

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After reading my last post to my therapist, she recommended that I counteract all the negative things I wrote about myself with a love letter. I do have a lot of good truths in my life and about my personality that I choose to overlook. Even though I spend 24/7/365 with myself, I spend little time actually taking time to build that positive relationship with the  inner me- you have to make that attempt, she and everyone else say.

Well, here goes nothing…

Dearest Andrea,

I seldom tell you how much I love you. How much I admire you. How beautiful and caring, intelligent and strong you are. That you are my hero.

I took you for granted and dishonored you. I said you’re not enough. That you will never be enough. That if you were only a better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better writer, a better lover- then, I would love you. If you were smarter, more confident, prettier, more social, skinnier, more assertive, nicer- then, I would respect you.

You are brave. You’re a babe. You are a badass. You just forget that some of the time.

I love your courage- courage to cry, to leap, to give, to receive. When your heart breaks, you allow it to open you. When you heal- and you always heal- your heart grows bigger and stronger.

Thank you for trusting your heart over your head even when it means taking a risk, stepping into the unknown and embracing uncertainty.

I catch you dreaming for hours about a better world. You’re always reading, always searching for more knowledge, always expanding your skills, always longing for more awareness. There’s always something going on in your mind: this mixture of hopes, dreams and ideas that no one knows about. It’s a secret garden only I know the entrance to and this garden is magical.

I love that you like to be funny and that nothing fulfills you more than making people laugh. You’re empathetic and feel people’s pain before they need to tell you anything. I love that you feel the world’s pain as your own and how hopeless it makes you feel sometimes.

I love that you’re an open book and share your fears and dreams with the world. I love you even when you shut down. You will sit with it, let yourself cry and just be there. You are beginning to be more conscious of your thoughts and your words, learning to fill them with kindness rather than hurt. You are taking the time to learn more about yourself and are recognizing the importance of it.

You know that you’re not perfect- you will never be and that’s okay. What you need to remember is that you’re loved and appreciated. Being so is far better than being perfect.

You have “Be Your Own Hero” written on a Post-It above your bed. Looking back at that, hell yes- you are your own hero. You are my hero.

No one will ever be as happy that you exist more than I do.

Keep fighting the good fight. You are worth it. Your life is worth it.

Love you for eternity,
Andrea

(And dear reader, when’s the last time that you wrote yourself a love letter?)

#WhoRunsTheWorld (Or #NowWhat)

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“Who runs the world?” -Beyonce (Women do, duh.)

Saturday’s global Women’s Marches scattered expectations, supporting various causes that included women’s rights, immigration reform, health care reform, environment protection, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, workers’ rights and to give Donald Trump the finger. A reported 673 marches took place worldwide, and in my hometown of Reno, over 10,000 men women and children took to the main street with signs and chants, positivity and hope.

So,now what?

My biggest fear is this movement will slowly fade as the year progresses. Where do we go from here? Despite my admiration for the high turn out of this weekend’s protests, what will be most impressive is what we do by putting our words and feelings into actions. Movements are not just about dramatic marches- they’re everyday acts of resistance, creating the positive change and seeing growth with issues we marched for.

First off, VOTE! Vote in your upcoming city, county and state elections! That is the biggest way to have your voice be heard. Support who and what what you believe in. Call, write and email your city’s and state’s representatives about the issues that you are concerned about the most.

Start by donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, the ACLU and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Also, support media outlets like NPR that provide the public with reliable journalism.

I also understand if you’re broke (you and I both!). One of the simplest thing you can do is not be a passive observer if you see someone being mistreated. Stand up when you see someone being teased or harassed. Tell the abuser that they are wrong. One of the best way to support women, people of color, the LGBTQ, etc, is to stand up for them and never be complacent on something you believe will advance their position in society, as well as their happiness and safety.

If you are more community orientated, volunteer at one your local non-profits. Organize a toiletry drive for a local women’s shelter (shelters often need sanitary napkins and tampons the most). Spend some time at your local animal shelter- kitties and puppies need love, too. Get involved with political and advocacy groups in your area. Get off your couch, step out of your comfort zone, meet some cool people and make plans to change the world!

Remember that the resistance doesn’t stop with the march- we need to keep the drumbeat going and the pressure on from all sides and state. There is no “right” way to get involved- you simply need to get out there. Figure out what works for you. Then do it. JUST DO IT. Fight on, dear reader!

#HowToBeHappy

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Mid-month, I joined this support group because, quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. After being unemployed for a good chunk of the year and having an incredibly stressful summer, I finally had enough of it. I’ve always struggled with my happiness, thinking why can I never be like the people around me. They must be living better lives. They have the ideal boyfriend or husband. They have the perfect jobs. They’re making vaults filled with money with such perfect jobs. They get to travel and experience amazing things and events. It wasn’t until now I realized that these thoughts of mine were bullshit.

I’ve read a decent amount of self-help books and blogs over the last several years, hoping that some magical answer would appear like a magician’s bunny getting pulled from its hat. What a load of crap and a big waste of my time. I used to believe that happiness was a light switch. Something flicks on. You get an overwhelming sensation. It hits you like a bag of bricks. Nope. WRONG. My therapist the other day told me this simple statement and I’ve let it resonate throughout thoughts:

Happiness is a choice.

You can choose to be happy. (You have to.)

She compared happiness to love. Like love, happiness is a series of choices. Love is about making a choice every single day, to either to be or not love. That’s it. It’s that simple. Either to continue the process or not. We don’t love our partners or our friends every day. They do thing that hurt and piss us off. I have done terrible things to my friends and my partner but despite all that, they continue to love me. We choose to forgive. We choose to love. We need to give ourselves that same love.

So, I’m choosing to be happy. Most of the days lately, I don’t know exactly what that choice looks or feels like. It can be fucking hard to do sometimes, making that choice. I want to crawl back into my cave of despair (some day, I want to so badly). The same things don’t make me happy all the time- even my darling cat (who I think is the best thing in the world- well, other than cheese) pisses me off from time to time. Even cheese, an inanimate object with no movement nor feelings, can upset me. I still fume at the world. And I do need help reminding myself to chose happiness (I believe in a great therapist and medication if you do need it. I even write on my hand so I can remember my choice throughout the day).

I know I’m making the right choice. I’ve spend the last couple years miserable out of my mind. I constantly compared myself to other and dreamed of a life that I felt like I could never have. Stress is my abusive spouse. When things weren’t absolutely perfect, I had a meltdown. I often thought about how others’ lives would be better if I was no longer around. But I chose to turn those miserable feelings around. I’m not saying that I wiped away all my jealousy- it’s still there. There are some days where my envy is the only light shining in the room- this bright green beam that burns your retinas. There are moments when I get depressed and just want to cry, sleep and repeat. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy. I’m learning that happiness isn’t feeling joyous every second of the day. I’m learning how to be okay with all of the good and bad in my life. I’m working on myself. I know that I deserve to be happy and I’m determine to reach its maximum potential.

I hope that you’re happy, dear reader. However, if you’re not, I hope that you will take the steps to get there. I don’t know what the right steps are for you but if I can get there (especially being so miserable for the longest time), you can get there, too.

All of my happiness to you.

A Love Letter to the Passing Year

Dear 2015,

The last year of my twenties. I mourned you more than I should have. I thought, nothing really happened to me this year. Blah blah blah.

But then I realized that I was wrong. A lot has happened.

First, I graduated from college. I never thought in a million years that would happen. One of my former professors hugged me during the ceremony and exclaimed, “Holy shit, you graduated!” Hey, you and I are both surprised, buddy. But it freaking happened. FINALLY. I think about all the times I struggled in school, with math and trying to complete the perfect essay. I constantly dreamed about reaching the finish line. This year, I did it. It took eleven years, blood, sweat, tears and the unwavering support of my loved ones but I DID IT. I can’t wait to receive my diploma in the mail and hang it on the wall.

My boyfriend and I moved in with each other. We moved into the third place we looked at and made it our home. We adopted our fur baby, Hova, in July- who fortunately likes me more than she likes Steve (sorry, baby). Our house filled with crazy art and we have the most obnoxious neighbor living next door but hey, it’s our place. Our home. I’m happy to being living with someone I can have random dance parties with while cooking dinner or brushing my teeth. I am lucky.

I helped my mom bury my grandmother. I made friends (hi, Ashley! His Idris! Hi Annikki!) and I lost friends. I quit a job that gave me no satifiscation. I acted in a play (which was the hardest thing I’ve done this year. I give the Hollywood elite so much more credit now). I saw my little sister get married. I started running. I learned to like whiskey. I went to Burning Man, crossing off yet another item off of my bucket list.

I keep on thinking about next year. I wonder if I’ll accomplish as much. I turn 30; will no longer be a twenty-something. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor an hour before my 29th birthday party sobbing, crying about getting older. I have no idea what 2016 hold and honestly, I’m terrified. But I also have faith. I read that your 30s are the best decade of your life. That is something that I’m hoping to be true. I will make it true. I will be braver, more loyal; make smarter decisions and love more ferociously.

2015- you taught me a lot. And I wouldn’t forget these lessons. I promise. Thanks for everything. I have loved you dearly.
Andrea

Just F**king Do It

Last night, the manfriend and I hiked in the mountains. We made a poor time keeping decision, starting our hike later than we should’ve and we ended up hiking our way back to the car in the dark (thank you, Apple, for putting flashlights on your iPhones). There’s nothing like walking through the wilderness in complete blackness. I was terrified- I saw five scorpions and then fell, opening up an old running wound- so I was fiercely determined to get back to the car. It was a slow climb back down the mountain but I used the thoughts of the Jeep’s safety and comfort to help me conquer the decent. When Steve and I reached the parking lot, I threw my hands up into the air. WE DID IT!

I woke up this morning thinking about last night’s hike. On the way up the mountain, my legs started to hurt. I could feel my runner’s knee coming back. I ran out of water. I got dusty and unbelievably sweaty. But I continued to push forward. At the end of six miles uphill, there was this beautiful waterfall. That was my goal. I wanted to see that damn waterfall. Sometimes, I wish all the goals in my life were that tangible and easy to obtain. For a while, I thought they were. But as my hike taught me yesterday, nothing great is achieved without a lot of hard work.

Me and the manfriend at the top of the Hunter Creek trail- WE MADE IT!

At the top of the Hunter Creek trail- WE MADE IT!

I have this list of all the things I want to accomplish- Get better at running. Play the violin beautifully. Finally start that investigative blog I wanted to start for years. Sing a band. Wear more poufy dresses. Get my driver’s license… I only started seriously asking myself why I haven’t started this projects. I came up with this list:

I haven’t started these fun, possibly life changing projects because:

  • I’m afraid of embarrassing myself and looking stupid.
  • I’m afraid of asking for help.
  • I’m DEATHLY afraid of failing.
  • Sometimes, there just isn’t enough hours in a day.
  • I’m lazy and rather spend my day avoiding hard work (procrastination, baby!)

So now, I know what is holding me back from accomplishing the things I really want to do and from living the life I always wanted to live. I think once you have such a list established, you can start breaking down each goal into accomplish-able pieces. Take my blog idea: I have already developed my webpage for it and created a domain name. For it, I have to search for local stories and interview people. Despite being social and a journalist, I’m still get incredibly nervous about interviewing people. I feel like I’m always going to ask the wrong question or receive an answer that I can’t use. Right there, I can see that I’m scared of embarrassing myself and scared of asking for help but these are hurdles that I need to jump over. I know that I conquer these stressors- I just need to try and don’t overthink about the fear and embarrassment.

Richard Branson of Virgin said, There’s no other way to find out whether or not you will be successful other than just doing it. In other words– screw it, let’s do it. You’ll never know what would have happened if you don’t give it a go. And he’s right. There is no better time than right now to make your life great and start something wonderful. We all have fears that we need to slay. If the promise of greatness and self-satisfactory is in the distance, why shouldn’t we risk everything and just go out there and do it?

What are you absolutely dying to do, dear reader? And why haven’t you done it yet?

You can do it! YOU CAN FUCKING DO IT!

A Slice of Courage: Anthony Bourdain

“People are telling you a story when they serve you food.” -Anthony Bourdain

Food, traveling, an over abundance of curse words… Man, do I love Anthony Bourdain. What do you say about a man who will always be far cooler than you’ll ever be, a person that you desperately want as your dining and adventure companion (seriously, how do you sign up to be his assistant?)? Over the long weekend, I binged on his CNN show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and savored the images and sound clips of the places he explored and the meals he ate. From the Congo to Myanmar to downtown LA, Bourdain shows his audiences that the world is really connected by food and the adoration people have for those who prepare it.

Being Financially Responsible

Note: If you know me, you know that I have a bad Ebay habit (I just love bidding). I’m not a banker nor a financial wiz kid. I just know what I know and have done my research.

moneyroll

I have a lot I need to save for this year. There’s Burning Man, a rental deposit for the new place my boyfriend and I haven’t picked out yet, my graduation party, wedding gifts and an autumn trip to NYC. For the longest time, I was that person living from paycheck to paycheck- I love buying new clothes and eating out often. But I do know the costs of not minding your money- you run out of it quick.

I started cooking at home (making a shopping list before I go to the SaveMart, not Whole Foods) and learned to not care about wearing the same pants twice a week. But that still doesn’t make a complete dent into the amount of saving that I wish to achieve. So, I came up with a small list to help me along my being financially smart and responsible journey. Below are some steps I took into to save money and get some funds into my savings account…

1.) I highly recommend meeting with a banker at your local bank. This is definitely the first step to saving. Your banker can explain your options and suggest new ones. I met with Wells Fargo financial planner who suggested a Roth IRA to my closed savings account and also recommended that I finally get a credit card in order to build credit (love her- my banker is a genius!). Also research, research, RESEARCH! There are a lot of great websites out there that will break down complicated banking options into manageable pieces that you can understand. I had no idea what an IRA- but now, I do. Once you explore, you can narrow down your options to fit what is best for you.

2.) Prioritizing your needs. Do you need this? Do you need that? I think about how chilly it has been this winter and how much I love heat. So, I have dedicated some of my paycheck towards that versus a new pair of heels.

3.) Picking cheap hobbies. Doing stuff can be expensive and as much as I love having an adventure or two every week, I know that I need to scale back and not spend a $100 on skydiving every weekend (wouldn’t that be great, though)? Instead, I read a lot- I still check out books from the library- and I sew. I’ve been working on a quilt for the last year made from worn shirts. It’s something cheap to do on nights where I’m especially bored and I have something beautiful when I’m done.

4.) Budget. Budget. Budget. Budgeting is something I’m still working on. I hate looking at my account on the Wells Fargo website every day but it is helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out trends in your spending.

5.) Looking for sales. If I absolutely need to have a new outfit, I research and try to find a deal. Example: All season, I wanted a pair of suede booties but could never find an inexpensive pair that I liked. When I found a pair on H&M, I noticed that you could get 25% off when you signed up for their email list. BAM- I signed up for their list, got the discount (I just made sure that all my H&M emails are marked as spam now).

6.) Piggy banks. Yes, that’s right. Piggy Banks. I put all my change into one. When I was a sweet treat, I don’t pull out my debit card. Instead, I use all that spare change. If I don’t have the money, I don’t buy the candy. Saves me on both the charge and the calories.

How do you save your money, dear reader? Any tips and tricks?