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positive penny pinching: an e-book for saving



I'm so thrilled to be sharing my latest e-book offering with you: Positive Penny Pinching: How to Save Money without Sacrificing Your Happiness! You might be wondering why I — creator of Positively Present, a site dedicated to helping others live more positive and present lives — am writing an e-book about saving money. I’m not a financial guru and I’m certainly not a girl who’s good with numbers. (In fact, math was my least favorite subject in school!) I might not be an official expert on financial well-being, but in order to do what I love for a living (writing books, illustrating, and maintaining this site!), I had to curb my spending big time and learn how to save money. In doing so, I learned how powerful saving can be when it comes to living a more positive, more present life and now I want to share what I've learned with you! 

Whether you're hoping to make a big career change a leave behind a steady paycheck (as I did a few years ago), you have debts that need to be paid, or you're just looking to have a little more cash in your savings account, this e-book is for you. Why take advice from me, a self-admitted non-numbers girl? While there are tons of books and websites out there with advice on how to save money, this one is different.

This e-book isn’t about creating a budget (which, yes, you really should do, even if you hate spreadsheets like I do). This e-book isn’t about how to manage debt or comprehend your retirement plan. This is about little things you can do every day to build up your savings. This is a book not written by experts who're probably really great with money; this is a book written by someone who was a notorious spender, who never wanted to save, but who managed to transform her whole attitude toward spending and saving — without sacrificing her happiness. 




This e-book will open your eyes to the basic do’s and don’ts of saving money on a day-to-day basis. It will help you discover new ways to save so you don’t feel like you’re missing out or losing the things you love. And, most importantly, it will provide you with real-life examples of what I’ve done to save enough to leave my full-time job and pursue my passion — actionable insights from someone who (still!) loves to spend.

If you’ve never been good at saving, don’t worry. I wasn’t either. In fact, before a few years ago, I’d hardly given a thought to saving. I’d shop on an almost daily basis. I’d come home laden with shopping bags, casually draining my bank account like it was an infinite pool of pennies. I occasionally put money in my savings, but I had no problem taking it back out again when I saw something I just had to have. But with a little effort and some tweaks to my habits, I found myself saving thousands and thousands of dollars — money I was able to use to starting working on my website, Positively Present, full time, which was truly worth every single penny I ever saved. 



(click photo to enlarge)


Saving money sounds like a basic thing, but if you’re used to spending, it can be a really challenging concept to master. This e-book is designed to help you save without having to sacrifice everything. It's designed to show you that, yes, even saving money can be a positive experience if you know how to make the most of it. Building up your savings account might require a little work (all good things do!), but saving doesn’t have to be a drag. And with extra money in the bank, you open yourself up to all sorts of positive things — pursuing a dream career, purchasing a home, going back to school, giving back to your community or favorite charity, or just feeling comforted by the knowledge of having extra funds if you need them. 

In this inspiring e-book, you’ll find tons of content (more than any other e-book I've created!) featuring insights, advice, and ideas for making the most of penny pinching. You'll not only discover the unique ways I've learned to save, but you'll also find a few worksheets tucked in to help you keep on track with your own saving. In the e-book, you'll learn:


  • How to master the essential do’s and don’ts of saving
  • How to take unique saving ideas and make them work for you
  • How to use browsing (and your browser!) in your favor
  • How to embrace DIY (even if you're not a creative type)
  • How to have tons and tons of fun for little or no money
  • How to put an end to shopping 'til you’re dropping
  • How to use less and make use of what you have
  • How to focus on gratitude in order to spend less
  • And much, much more! 


If you've ever said to yourself, "But I'm just not good at saving," this e-book is for you. If you've ever wanted to pursue a dream but felt limited by your bank account, this e-book is for you. If you've always wanted to save some extra money, this e-book is for you. And if you're curious about how I, a once shopaholic spender, actually managed to save enough money to launch a business and keep doing what I love, this e-book is definitely for you. So go on, grab your copy below, and get to positively pinching those pennies! 



seeking similarities: the value of sameness



Not long ago, I signed up for emails from Caroline over at Made Vibrant and her latest newsletter really spoke to me. In it, she discusses how much choosing to make a change in her life has impacted the way those around her react. Anyone who has ever tried to make a big life change — giving up drinking, going vegan, launching a solo career, etc. — probably knows what she's going through. People have a lot of questions, and most of those questions aren't very positive. Caroline makes some very astute observations as to why this is, writing: 


We, as a culture, are primed for polarity. When you make a decision to live differently than the majority of society, people react as if it's an attack on their own lifestyle...In this world of social-media ranting, media sensationalizing, and an explosion of content creators for every niche cause under the sun, it's easy to feel like we have to be primed and ready to defend our choices and our beliefs at any moment...We've been conditioned to focus on how we're all different rather than how we're all similar.


Noticing our differences isn't necessarily a bad thing — after all, that's one of the wonderful things about people, how different we all are. But Caroline is right: now that people from all over the world have the ability (through social media, blogs, sites, etc.) to connect with one another based on how they differ from others, our collective attention is often on our unique values, beliefs, likes, and dislikes. As Caroline wrote in her newsletter, "we are deeply protective of our own values and beliefs, which leads us to immediate focus on difference rather than sameness."

It would be easy to say, "Focus on the ways we're all the same!" and leave it at that, but it's a bit more complicated than that. We don't just look for differences in others to critique or challenge them. Sometimes we look for differences in others in order to connect and bond with them — which can be both a positive and a negative thing. 

Most of us love identifying with things that separate us from one another, even in the smallest of ways. (Religion and politics aside, consider the on-going debate between dog people and cat people.) We divide ourselves by identifying differences in order to connect with those who share similarities. Most of us want to stand out from the crowd — to be different a way that makes others take notice — and yet we also want a tribe of people who understand us, who share similar beliefs and preferences. This complex dynamic is what causes us to look for the differences in others. When we encounter differences that don't mesh with our own beliefs, we might question these differences. When we encounter differences that do mesh with our own beliefs, we tend to highlight those differences in order to create bonds based on them. 

This isn't always a bad thing. For example, I love to bond with people who share the same "differences" I do — being vegetarian, not drinking, being a dog person, being obsessed with various animals and trends and holidays (see Pinterest), etc. It feels good to connect with like-minded people who share some of the same quirky interests I do. It's fun to bond with people who are different in the same way. But, after pondering the same/different dichotomy, I'm starting to wonder if maybe focusing on people who are "different like me" might have some negative repercussions. 

Even if the connections created from similar differences are positive, focusing on the way others are different or, as I more frequently do, the way I'm different, takes away from open-mindedness. And, without an open mind, we might miss out on people who are completely different from us but who have an awesomeness we could use in our lives.

Having the knowledge that seeking similarities can have positive benefits is one thing, but actually being aware of them is a bit more challenging. As Linda Ellerbee said, "People are pretty much alike. It's only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities." 

Perhaps this is why we love differences so much: we can define them. It's pretty easy to take note of the way others are different and either like or dislike those differences. But to notice the ways we are the same... well, that takes some more effort. It's sometimes easier to connect based on smaller differences (i.e., women who have kids vs. women who don't) instead of connecting based on broader similarities (all women, all human). But, even if it's harder to do sometimes, I believe taking note of similarities is important when it comes to creating positive connections with people around you. 

Pay attention to the people around you -- both those you're familiar with and those you don't know well — and, instead of looking for differences between you and them or between you and them and the rest of the world, try to focus on the ways you are similar. Taking note of commonalities will not only help you have stronger bonds with those around you, but it will also help you create a stronger relationship with yourself by showcasing to you the ways you're wonderfully similar to (and connected with!) the world around you. 


positive choices: lessons from 4 years of sobriety


“The most liberating and empowering day of my life was the day I freed myself from my own self-destructive nonsense," wrote Dr. Steve Maraboli, and I couldn't agree more. Last Friday I celebrated four years of sobriety and, difficult as it has been and sometimes continues to be, every day I am sober is both liberating and empowering.

When I think back to the person I was before sobriety, it's kind of hard to believe it's actually been years since I've had a drink. But here I am, four years in, and pretty darn excited about it—especially because research has shown that if someone can stay sober for four years, the risk of relapse drops significantly. While there's never a guarantee, it feels good to know I've hit some sort of milestone in my recovery.

Not everyone needs sobriety in order to live a positive, present life, but for me, it is absolutely essential. When I wasn't sober, I struggled to stay in the moment, often ruminating excessively about the past. (Or in some cases, I stayed too much in the moment—not considering the consequences of my actions and landing myself in some pretty big messes.) When I wasn't sober, I also struggled to stay positive, the depressive chemicals leading me down increasingly negative paths of thinking. 

For me, staying sober is a huge part of living a positive and present life. Whether or not you, too, choose to live a sober life, you may benefit from taking a look at the lessons I've learned about getting (and staying) sober over the last four years. While they're written specifically about my experiences with living a sober life, a lot of them apply to life in general so check 'em out! 





Getting sober took me a long, long time because, for most of my young adult life, there wasn't anything I wanted more than going out and having a good time. I didn't care if I hurt people or myself. I didn't care if I messed with my job or with my relationships. Nothing else matter more to me than doing what I'd always done—until one day something clicked. After years of placing blame on everything and everyone else, I finally realized that what I really truly wanted was to change myself, to become positive and present. I couldn't do that with a bottle in my hand and so I made a choice: I chose to want something (a more positive, present life) than I wanted to drink. 



It's one thing to make the right choice once (like asking for water at the bar instead of a beer), but to do it over and over and over again is really hard work. I'm four years into this, and I still struggle when a waiter approaches me to take my drink order. Even just doing every day things can be a challenge. For example, walking past a liquor store can send my mind racing, a little devil on my shoulder saying, "Just go in, get a six pack and drink it. No one will know." Making the right choice happens on a moment-to-moment basis and it's rarely easy. But, as frustrating as it is to have to make the right (often hard!) choice all the time, it's so incredibly satisfying to make the choice that I know will make me more positive and present. 



I'll be honest: sometimes not drinking sucks. I miss the connections I had (or at least felt I had) with those I would go drinking with. I miss the invitations to bar crawls and happy hours. Even when I'm invited, I sometimes have to decline because I know certain events (like, say, an all-day tour of a vineyard) won't be good for me. It's hard choosing to be left out of the fun. And it can sometimes be the most lonely when I actually do go to social events. There's nothing quite like holding up your water glass during a champagne toast to make you feel alone in a room full of people. Luckily I have a partner who is supportive (and sober) so that really helps, but I won't lie: sobriety can be really lonely. 



For me, drinking was always an escape. It was a journey I'd take to a familiar-yet-altered world where almost anything could happen. In that world, I was brave (can I drive home? sure!). I was social (talk to people I've never met? no problem!). I was free (leave the bar alone and wander the streets? sounds like fun!). All of my real-life problems could be avoided by downing a drink, and I could evade my many faults (particularly my inherent introvertedness) by simply cracking open a beer. Of course, sobriety doesn't lend itself will to this type of avoidance. One of the scariest things about sobriety is how real everything is. When I make a mistake, it can no longer blame it on a substance coursing through my veins. When I have trouble being social, I can no longer self-medicate to get through an evening out. Which brings me to my next point... 



When I was drinking, it often felt as though my feelings were magnified—every heartache was the worst one ever and every fight was a dramatic battle. But I didn't know what really having to feel was until I got sober. With no escape from the way I feel, I've been forced to actually, you know, feel. Even when escaping into a night of drunken rumination actually made things worst, emotionally, drinking away any pain somehow allowed me to feel as if I was getting away from painful feelings, if only for a night. Now, there's no escaping how I feel. I found this especially challenging last year when I put my beloved dog Bella to sleep. I wanted nothing more to escape from the loss and pain, to ease myself into some sort of oblivion where the loss of her didn't hurt so much, but I couldn't. I had to feel and it hurt like hell, but you know what? As cliche as it is, learning to feel without any escape has made me stronger and that strength (unlike the temporary escape that comes with numbed feelings) is something that can never be taken from me. 



Someone who'd been sober for a few months once said to me, "It's really not bad. I haven't really missed drinking that much." My mind instantly clouded with a green fog of jealousy. Not bad? Haven't missed it? I wanted whatever sort of calm state of mind would allow me, too, to find sobriety so effortless. For me, it's never been easy, and though it gets easier—I've learned how to better avoid triggers, how to handle my emotions, and how to make things less difficult for myself—it is never something I don't really miss. Drinking was a like a dear friend I'd had for over a decade, and even though I know she was a terrible friend, I still miss her and the fun we used to have together. I keep waiting for a day when I won't miss her and maybe that will happen someday, but for now, I've chosen to accept the fact that sobriety gets easier but never easy



Ah, yes, the good ol' "one day at a time" slogan, courtesy of AA (which, by the way, I tried, but just couldn't seem to get into). It sounds incredibly cliche, but it has been incredibly crucial for me in my recovery. When I think about never, ever drinking again, I feel a wave of panic wash over me. Never? Never ever? Telling me I can't do something is the best way to make me want it more than anything so the thought of never being allowed to do something makes me feel increasingly rebellious. And so I don't think about the never-ever part of sobriety. Instead, I tell myself, "I'm not drinking today." When I think about it that way, it gets so much easier to manage. Not drink for a day? I can do that! And so I do it for one day and then another and another... and suddenly it's been four years. Whether it's drinking or something else you're trying to quit, if you focus on each day (the present!), the idea of change can become the reality of progress. 



A lot of people don't understand sobriety. Either they don't have the aching need for alcohol so they don't see why you'd need to give it up completely or they're so attached to it themselves that thinking about you being sober makes them have to question their own habits (which most people don't really want to do). It's hard when people don't understand or don't think sobriety is necessary, but after four years of this, I've realized that it just doesn't matter what people think or say. What matters is making choices for myself that help me to live a more positive, more present life. If those same choices work for other people too, awesome. If they don't, that's fine too. Luckily, I haven't had people who try to pressure me into drinking, but sometimes the lack of understanding or support can be just as tough. The trick, I've learned, is to focus my attention on the people who do get it and allow their love and support to drown out the questions or disapproval of others. 



I could spend my days wallowing in regret, wishing I could go back and change some of the mistakes I'd made while drinking, but that doesn't do me much good in the present does it? Nope. However, I've also discovered it's important not to completely forget the past—especially the negative parts of it. When I find myself reminiscing about the glory days of drinking, recalling how lovely it was to sit outside on a hot day with a cold beer or how great it felt to be amped up on RedBull and vodka and dancing without a care in the world, I have to remind myself how the past wasn't all dancing and laughter. There were a lot of very unpleasant things that happened while I was drinking and sometimes (negative as this sounds!) it helps to recall those bad times to remind myself why I no longer drinking. Romanticizing the past can be a dangerous thing when it comes to sobriety so it helps to recall what the past was really like. 



Everyone has something that sets them off, and it's no different when it comes to staying sober. I have some annoying triggers (summer, Saturday nights, weddings) that make me want to drink, but learning to recognize these has helped me. Just knowing that something is a trigger can help me make it through the tough times. For example, when I hear neighbors having parties and getting wild on Saturday nights and I feel that awful pang of loneliness in my chest, I remind myself that tomorrow it will be gone and it'll be much easier. Just knowing that the feeling will go away helps a lot. Also, knowing what types of events to avoid makes it easier for me to avoid situations what will be really difficult for me to handle. I can't always avoid triggers (Saturday nights aren't going away any time soon...), but I've learned to be aware of them, which allows me to feel more in control of how I react to them. 



It's taken me awhile to realize this, but I now know that if you want to really commit yourself to getting and staying sober, it has to be your number one priority. It has to be more important than the party of the year. It has to be more important than the once-in-a-lifetime celebration. It has to be more important that escaping loss or unhappiness. It has to be more important than what other people think (or what you think they think!). It has to come before everything, because if it doesn't, there will always be a reason to let it go. Sobriety is a squirming, moody thing, and there are moments when letting it go seems easier than hanging on. But those are just moments and moments end. So do parties. And weddings. And Saturday nights. Sometimes it's really hard not to hang on in the moments when I feel like I'm missing out. But I've realized that, for me, letting go of sobriety would mean missing out on so much more—on the positively present life I'm striving so hard to live—and that knowledge reminds me to always, always put my sobriety first. 


It wasn't particularly easy for me to write this post. I don't talk much about my sobriety here on Positively Present, but it's important to me and it's important to the blog because, without it, there's no way I would have been able to commit myself to these words—and to my readers—the way I have all of these years. So, hard as this was to write, it was important for me to share what I've learned. If you're sober or trying to get sober, I hope these words help you. And if you aren't sober or don't want to be, I hope you've gained a nugget or two of knowledge from what I've learned over the last four years of sobriety.