Best Purchases / Worst Purchases / Freebie Fun

As I enter the back half of my twenties I'm trying to really prioritize working on my relationship with money, and that means interrogating my purchases to learn about what does and doesn't feel worth the money later. Making strong choices is also about breaking and interrogating patterns that aren't working-- and that can require a bit of extra work and introspection that can get lost in every other daily concern. I'm laying out my favorite and least favorite things I spent money on, and then throwing in something great I got or did for free that was awesome. I think this will be a super fun exercise for me to start doing since it will give me a space to really think about what I spend my money on. I hope you will enjoy these little segments that I'll try to put out in the back half of each month and invite any other bloggers to join me!

Best Purchases

Herschel Survey Backpack in Windsor Wine. My last commuter backpack finally kicked it at the tail end of February and I needed a new one. Living in New York means I don't have a car I take to get places-- which also means I've lost a lot of cargo room when it comes to having a place to stash things like an umbrella, sunglasses, groceries, etc. when I'm out and about. Having a backpack is essential in New York since you've got to be able to carry many things at once if you head to work then run errands after, or are expected to carry your laptop from place to place. This backpack is perfect from its size which is very capacious while till being relatively compact (a bonus when you are juggling multiple bags on a crowded subway) to its color which is this lovely burgundy-- just bold and colorful enough for my taste, while also being almost neutral in its ability to match with many colors. It's lightweight unlike many leather-like backpacks, and looks rather grown-up as opposed to the styles that made me feel like I looked like a college student. I feel comfortable using it as an everyday bag and it's nice enough that I can bring it to a business meeting and look professional.

Membership in She Runs It. She Runs It (formerly known as Advertising Women of New York) is a great professional organization centering women in marketing, advertising, and media. My friends in the industry have been bugging me to join for ages and I finally did it. I'm very very new, but already I'm getting involved with the events they run and am meeting new people-- which is something that is generally pretty hard for me to do. I want to be stronger at networking, which is both exhilarating and exhausting. I have a hard time remembering faces and names and I generally have a limited amount of social skills that I work hard to compensate for. In general, I prefer to socialize in a goal-directed way when dealing with a large volume of people I don't know. Joining an organization like She Runs It gives me access to other women who have similar professional interests to mine that I would have had a much harder time meeting before. I've gotten involved with volunteering at events with them and that's given me outlets to meet more people and work with them. I'm also learning a ton about the industry and women's experiences within it. If you're looking for a new way to network or met people, see if there are any good professional organizations in your area!

Papa Recipe Bombee Honey Moist Cream. This is such a great moisturizer for the summer. It's a water-type cream so it's very hydrating without feeling too thick on your skin in the hot months. I definitely will only use water-type moisturizers in the warm/humid months from here on out.

Worst Purchases 

Certain orders on Seamless. I love Seamless in terms of convenience, but getting something from Seamless can be hit or miss. For those unfamiliar, Seamless is a food delivery service (owned by GrubHub). Some places aren't great to begin with, and others have a few great menu items and a lot of mediocre to terrible ones. The area I live in is not a particularly great one in terms of abundance of restaurants, so this isn't really Seamless' fault. But when I add up the delivery fees, the order minimums, and the tip, it all adds up quickly. Now that it's getting warmer out, I think it will be less appealing to stay inside and have something delivered when I can go out and grab something myself if I don't feel up for cooking.

Free Fun

Library + Park. I had a lovely park day with my cousin on the first warm weekend we got here in New York. We hiked over to the Brooklyn Public Library and borrowed some great books on finance, job hunting, and careers. We also grabbed some food at the Farmer's Market which was not free, but is not central to this experience. We had brought some snacks from home, too. After picking up our books and out snacks, we headed back to the park and had a lovely little picnic. We sat for hours eating bread and cheese and reading our books on a blanket before walking home. It was a really great day and mostly free.

Cartoon Network Match Land. I'm having the most fun with this free game. It combines a match-3 game with battle card mechanics and inventory management fun. You can get additional lives by watching ads, and buy in-game coins / gems with real money if you want but otherwise it's totally free.

What are your latest Best Purchases / Worst Purchases & Free Fun? Let me know in the comments and I'll add your link to a list here! 

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Link up closes May 30.

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May Small Goals

It's May and a little late but I'm here for the Small Goals round-up at Feel Good Dress Better! This month I'm still job hunting but the terrible, nerve-wracking search for a new apartment is over. I'm fantasizing about new room aesthetics to help stay motivated in the job hunt. This month I'm moving so there are a lot of tasks related to that that I'm kind of looking forward to-- not because moving is fun (it's a nightmare) but because there's something fresh and new and exciting on the other side!

Last month's goals.

Raise $2500 for Sanctuary for Families. This is a big nope on the dollar amount I hoped to raise. BUT we did still raise close to $500 which is pretty amazing! In prior years I only aimed for $500 and fell closer to $300, and any money raised for life-changing services for victims of gender-based violence is fantastic. Overall, I definitely met the spirit of my goal even if I fell short the dollar amount.

Stick with MyFitnessPal every day. I totally nailed this one! I have been checking in on it every day and it really is forcing me to be better about thinking about my body as an actual body. I tend to think if it as an accessory I can knock around rather than the house that I am always in forever. This is helping me thinking through how i treat my body better.

This month's goals.

Possession purge. With the move coming up it's time to get rid of anything I don't want to go through the trouble of moving into my new place. I'm throwing stuff out, doing a thredup closet clean-out, and probably selling and giving stuff away.

Pull together an aesthetic that is more mature for my new bedroom. My aesthetics are great-- but they tend to lean very "teen" bedroom. I love cute things, cartoons, and toys. This has made my bedroom look like a 15-year-old's-- rather than a 25-year-old's. I'm going to pull together a new look for my next bedroom that is more age-appropriate.

Put out one blog post a week. I'm trying to get back on my content game. It's a lot to do considering how much I have going on between the move and the job hunt, but I think forcing myself to just do it will help me feel more confident in my ability to make the time. I used you write like 9 posts a month! Where is that Harper?

Don't forget to check out everyone else's goals at Feel Good Dress Better!

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As an avid Jane The Virgin watcher, I loved this piece on money lessons learned from the show. See also 5 rules for personal spending learned from Queer Eye (the reboot).

I recently bought this moisturizer from Papa Recipe and I love it. It's watery (rather than oily/buttery) texture is ultra light and perfect for the warmer months.

Speaking of ultra light formulas, I'm obsessed with the NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment formula.

Liz started blogging again. Send her some love!

I joined Redbox after finding out that they have a streaming rental service that includes many titles that iTunes and Amazon US stores will only allow you to buy (and obviously Netflix doesn't have, or else why would I be renting to begin with?) and I'm really enjoying it. I used it to rent Baywatch to watch with my cousin who hadn't seen it. I love watching ridiculous comedies, but so rarely feel moved to own them, you know?

I just sent someone I care about a bouquet of flowers from Bouqs. You can get $15 off your first order with this referral link. Maybe get your Mother's Day gift sorted now?

Miraculous just released their second season on Netflix. If you grew up on and still love magical girl stuff, you'll love this wholesome, over-the-top CG cartoon.

Speaking of Netflix second season releases, Into The Badlands also just released their second season to Netflix. If you like comic books and/or martial arts epics, you'll love this beautifully crafted American dystopia in a time where guns no longer exist and fighting is done hand-to-hand.

I started playing this adorable pixel mobile game and it is incredibly fun. The mechanics are simple yet complicated enough to be very interesting! It's a mix of a match-three game + battle card game + inventory-based restaurant management game.

Lastly, I'm still raising money for Sanctuary for Families! Please consider donating if you've enjoyed my content. Together we are providing life-changing and life-saving services for survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.

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30 before 30

Earlier this month, I celebrated a milestone birthday by turning 25. As with every new chapter, I enjoy reevaluating life and setting new goals. Rather than try to tack a bunch of goals onto one year, I'm going for a five-year approach (my fave kind of approach for life goals!) and doing a list of 30 things I want to do by the time I'm 30.

I find that planning things in longer time spans really decreases my anxiety about being off-track, and allows me to be better about the unpredictable nature of the future. I tried to set some concrete goals centered more on experiences I want to have as well as some more practical goals. I think if I accomplish 20 out of 30 of these things, I'll consider myself a success.

  1. Get voice lessons again.
  2. Visit a Spanish speaking country and use Spanish as much as possible there.
  3. Get a certification in something.
  4. Take an improv class.
  5. Visit Italy.
  6. Visit Japan.
  7. Find a weekly exercise class I love.
  8. Get a tattoo.
  9. Create a five-figure emergency fund.
  10. Put five-figures into investments.
  11. Write a novel.
  12. Become a Rent The Runway Unlimited subscriber.
  13. Sing in public-- as a real performer, not just for fun.
  14. Become a Playwrights Horizons donor.
  15. Read more books.
  16. Work for Disney again.
  17. Visit Los Angeles.
  18. Get a speaking engagement at my alma mater.
  19. Take a floral design class.
  20. Visit Seattle.
  21. Visit Denver.
  22. Visit London again.
  23. Create a morning routine.
  24. Pet an alpaca.
  25. Attend a gala of some kind.
  26. Host a Tony's party.
  27. Visit New Orleans.
  28. Sew something for my regular wardrobe (rather than a costume piece).
  29. Send one non-occasion related care package to my siblings per year.
  30. Visit Sweden.

I'll be keeping track of my goals here on the blog.

If you want to help my with my most immediate birthday goal, please check out my birthday fundraiser, where I'm trying to raise $2,500 by the end of April for services benefitting survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. I'm hoping people will pitch in $25-- one for each year I've been here-- to help other people survive and thrive. I am hoping to raise another $2,000 or so dollars, and every little bit helps!

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April Small Goals

It's time for another small goals round up with Nicole from Feel Good Dress Better! It's my birthday on Thursday and I'm excited but also anxious about what comes next. I'm working on contract job and looking for something more permanent and the job hunt is always nerve-wracking. I'm really hoping to get a new situation figured out soon.

Last month's goals.

Bring out my spring wardrobe and get rid of things that don't fit. Done! I sent like 30 lbs of clothes to ThredUp in one of their Closet Clean Out bags. I got like $40 in credit to spend there and the rest of the clothes were responsibly recycled into things like couch stuffing. Use this link to get $10 off your first purchase. I'm very excited to get this Tory Burch dress with my credit!

Drink more water. Not doing great with this. I recently reactivated MyFitnessPal to keep better track of my intake and also my body in general. So far I've used it every day for a week. So, not quite there yet, but on the way!

Plan goals for 25. I've thought a lot about this alongside my ongoing existential job-hunt crisis and I've decided to opt for a 30 before 30, which I think is more feasible given that without a permanent job at the moment, it's hard for me to picture the next year. I'll be posting my 30 before 30 by the end of next week.

Put out some Philadelphia Flower Show content. I did a really fun Instagram Story for the show. I haven't gone through my photos and put anything together video-wise but I don't think I have the bandwidth to do much of that now with my job hunt. I do feel great about the Instagram story though and I think microcontent is a really good outlet for me. You can follow me at @harperyi on Instagram and Twitter!

This month's goals.

Raise $2500 for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Every year for my birthday, I raise money for Sanctuary for Families, a New York based organization that provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. They work to make sure their services are inclusive and accessible for the most vulnerable populations. 94% of their clients report a household income of under $30k (and remember, we are talking NYC cost of living) and of their adult clients, 77% are immigrants. If you've enjoyed the content I produce, please consider donating $25 to my campaign. One dollar for each year I've survived on this planet, so that other people can access services that help them survive and thrive past the violence they've experienced.

Stick with MyFitnessPal every day. I tend to disassociate myself from my body, and that makes it incredibly difficult for me to keep it healthy. I'm forcing myself to be more intentional and accountable about my choices by tracking what I eat, how I exercise, and what I weigh. It's not a tool for me to judge myself on weight, but moreso an effort to get me grounded in my body and push me to make choices with an awareness of how they affect my body in terms of fitness and nutrition, rather than how they comfort me emotionally.

I feel like having just two goals feels very austere but at the same time, with my job hunt, I've got bigger fish to fry. Be sure to check out the round up and see what other bloggers are up to this month at Feel Good Dress Better.

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Desert Wonderland

I've spent a lot of the last year or so in unstable situations. Nothing has ever been dangerous, and for that I'm grateful, but for someone who works very hard to plan, strategize, and improve things constantly, instability is incredibly hard to deal with. I spend a lot of time working with the assumption that I can fix things, because in most cases, I don't really know how to move forward without that mindset. Sometimes though, you are in a situation with no real path to improving it.  Some chapters are about getting through them, not about how much you can make out of them. Some problems don't get solved, they just fade out on their own time. Some problems don't get solved because they're not problems-- they're conditions.

Learning to grow through acceptance and release is an ongoing thread for me. It is my favorite and least favorite lesson to learn. I am finite, my resources are limited, my situation is bigger than me. Not everything is in my hands.

Maybe it's my Aries sun that insists on immediate action combining with my Libra moon that constantly ponders balance and betterment. Maybe it's my anxiety disorder that demands some way to control a chaotic world. Maybe it's how incredibly fortunate I am to believe in myself and my ability to find some way to make things better. Most of the time I find solutions, but when things are truly out of my control, I have to step back from these impulses, because they only lead to frustration.

When I am faced with a difficult, long-term-- or unknowable-term-- situation, I meditate on nature. The planet is passionless and amoral. It is detached from assumption. It thrives or wastes away in exact accordance with the natural laws (when humans let it). I think about the ways in which my life mirrors nature, and how I cannot fight that, but I can find beauty in it.

Situations that are inhospitable to me are not necessarily desolate.

When this photograph was taken I was in a Botanical Garden with a friend and former colleague of mine. The things you see in the tropical room are very different than what you encounter in the desert room, but they are both teeming with their own unique forms of beauty. Each ecosystem isn't built to support everything, but they each support wonderful, different things. I've had so many reversals in the past year.

Sometimes life is a rainforest, teaming with greenery and an overwhelming amount of energy and growth all around you. And sometimes life is a hot, dry desert.

I often find myself contemplating what it means to be more like a cactus. How do I learn to store the things that give me life when it replenishes so intermittently? What spines must I grow to protect myself in difficult times? How do I create a sense of contentment in an arid situation? Where are the opportunities to find beauty and wonder in my own brittle and cracked geography? How can I learn to appreciate the strange and uncomfortable situations life can put me in, the way I appreciate this beautiful desert wonderland tucked away in Brooklyn?

I cannot control the climate of my life. At a certain point, things just are the way they are. When I cannot create anything more, when I cannot change the circumstance, when I must sit and wait for a dry season to pass, I consider the cacti. It is not always my time to thrive, but at the very least I can remind myself that nature isn't only beautiful in the lush, but also in its ability to endure.

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March Small Goals

Spring is so close and it's got me excited for the next round of small goals for Feel Good Dress Better's small goals round up! (Feel Good Dress Better was formerly known as Writes Like A Girl.) March represents my last month of being 24, and as I head toward the very exciting milestone of being 25, I'm definitely thinking about big goals, too. But for now, let's focus on small goals.

Last month's goals:

Clean out my stationery collection and bookshelves. Done. I need to reship my stationery to my friend Irais-- they got returned to me due to a change in shipping rules so now I've gotta repack them at a post office.
Send some nice letters to friends. Mission accomplished. I sent some letters to some buds for Valentine's Day. I didn't get to send all of them on time though and I really fell behind on correspondence. Hoping to catch back up in the coming months.

Drink more water. I'm going to call this one a partial loss. I had good days and bad days on this. I want to have a really good month on this.

Keep my workspace tidy. I've done much better on this this month. I've not fallen into the pattern of just dumping things on my desk and I got rid of a lot of things I'd been avoiding dealing with.

And now for this month's small goals! March is meditation and spring cleaning time for me. It's ramping up to my birthday and I'm also anticipating a move in June, so it's a great time to take stock and get rid of unnecessary things and make room for more wonderful blessings.

Bring out my spring wardrobe and get rid of things that don't fit. As a yo-yoer-- and I mean that not literally, but as someone whose weight tends to fluctuate-- I have a constant struggle with my wardrobe in that I have clothes in a wide range of sizes, because the size I am changes all the time. I think I need to make space in my wardrobe for pieces that work better for my needs.

Drink more water. I've gotta clear my skin up (and also take care of the rest of my body). That means I've gotta hydrate much better.

Plan goals for 25. I don't usually do a birthday goals thing, but turning 25 seems momentous enough that I oughta do something a little extra. What do I want to do at 25? I'm not sure yet. But I don't want to squander it.

Put out some Philadelphia Flower Show content. I go every year and this year is no different. Follow along with me on Instagram @harperyi and stay tuned for photos and maybe even a video.

Don't forget to join me and other fun bloggers at Feel Good Dress Better's small goals round up!

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If you are an absolute dork like me, you might enjoy this game that teaches you about why malls are disappearing all over America. (Why am I like this??)

One of my favorite bands, The Wombats, released their new album and I love it. Favorite tracks at the moment are Turn and Dip You in Honey.

Speaking of music, Janelle Monae's "Make Me Feel" is everything. As she says about the song and her sexuality for The Guardian, "You don't own or control me."

This profile of Donald Glover is super fascinating.

Every year I go to the Philadelphia Flower Show! I totally recommend it as a lovely little day trip.

I love this interview with fashion designer Christian Siriano, who among many other successes is a vocal supporter of fashion for all shapes and sizes.

Julia at The Gothic Library posted a really lovely round up of Black American authors who've contributed to Gothic Literature. Like many western literary forms, most people tend to think of white (often male and European) auteurs when thinking about gothic literature and in classic well-researched Julia-style (not to be confused with Julia Stiles) The Gothic Library brings to light some of the amazing Black American contributors to gothic literature!

Black Panther is absolutely incredible and you need to see it. The movie is doing so well that Disney is donating money to the Boy & Girls Club of America to open a STEM center in Compton!

This video of a father getting followed around by a confetti cannon is the funniest thing I've seen all week. (Swearing audio so opt for headphones if necessary.)

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February Small Goals

Another month another small goals round up with Writes Like A Girl! I've fallen behind again, but I don't feel too terribly about missing a month. It's really easy to put aside small goals in favor of a big goal. In January I had several things I needed to do and they included the following:

Finish up my professional website. That's right, folks, I officially have two websites about me. While this site is and will continue to be more of a lifestyle / personal blog, I'm really excited to unveil a website that is specifically about me as a professional. is where you can learn all about me and see my portfolio and testimonials about my work. I designed the whole thing myself on squarespace-- and it's really making me consider moving this site over from blogger as well.

Got a hair cut. I hadn't cut my hair since the summer, and I was very overdue. My hair grows incredibly fast and they ended up lopping off at least 5 inches. I think it looks great!

Get out more with friends and blow off steam. My new gig has me working mostly from home, and while I love my space, it can make me a little stir crazy. I went out at least once a week last month for a social something and was really proud of myself for getting out of the house. I've been grabbing coffees, dinners, lunches, and even going to a few parties at bars (very rare for me!) so I am really patting myself on the back for this one. I spent so many months having no energy or spirit with which to socialize and I forgot how rewarding it is to spend time with friends.

I did a lot last month! I'm really excited for February because I think this is the month I finally finish recuperating from 2017 and move into the blessings of 2018. The 16th also marks the Lunar New Year, which will signal the end of my bad luck year! And boy oh boy, this girl cannot wait for her bad luck year to end. Here are my small goals for this month.

Clean out my stationery collection and bookshelves. I'm moving in May/June and I don't want to have to evaluate all my things as I pack. I have so much stationery that I love but a lot of it I have kept for years without using, and I should probably give those things away. I also have a ton of books, and at a certain point, I should probably resell or gift them. (If anyone is interested in at least $35 worth of stationery at the price of $10 + $5 shipping, let me know and I will send it to you!)

Send some nice letters to friends. It's Valentine's Day season! I have a lot of wonderful people in my life that I am super thankful for, and I want to be sure to send them some love.

Drink more water. I've really been slacking on drinking water and my skin is absolutely throwing a fit over it. I have to make a better effort!

Keep my work space tidy. I'm stealing this one from Nicole because honestly, same. I dump things onto my desk regularly and slowly but surely it becomes a mess. I'm going to do better about this. Clearing out my bookshelves should help!

I'm linking up at Writes Like A Girl-- be sure to check it out and join yourself it you're so inclined!

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