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How to not be terrible at money in your 20s

If you went to a liberal arts college and didn’t take a financial class, or just sucked at accounting or economics, this article is for you.

If you worked a full-time job for two weeks and impulse bought a pair of Yeezys with your first paycheck, this article is for you.

If you are a recent college graduate with a job and a lot of debt, this article is for you.

Welcome to another article that I like to call “I Have No Idea What I’m Talking About, But I Don’t Care.” I graduated college with a double major in English writing and business communication. I got through economics and accounting with tears in my eyes and frequent tutoring sessions, but I learned a few things about managing money when you’re a young adult. Specifically, I got a financial advisor.

Some disclaimers so I don’t get angry comments:

  1. This is subjective and based on my very limited experience.
  2. The financial skills in this article do not include consideration for familial situations. I have no children or significant other, so this is particular to single individuals.
  3. These skills may work for some, but are not going to be applicable to all. This is just a fun way to get a general idea about how to manage finances overall.

Make a budget

Remember how you would use Microsoft Word for everything in high school? Well great news, Word has a friend. Her name is Excel. You can make a budget by copying the following format.

  1. Go to your online accessible bank account, and write down your monthly income after taxes.
  2. Go through all the bills you owe. Student loans, internet, phone bill, etc.
  3. Put them in columns that look like this:
    1. Note: This is just an example of a budget. This is a loosely-based average on the money that millennials in their early twenties are apt to make. Please also note that this example budget does not involve eating out or gas costs.

That’s how you start making a budget. Take the difference of your income and expenses, and consider that some roaming money. You can do a few things with that extra pocket change, especially because you’re young a dumb. You’re going to want that pocket change to do dumb things with your friends, like go out.

Cut out unnecessary spending

For a lot of people, unnecessary spending can look a lot of different ways. For me, I had to cut back on my wardrobe and clothing expenses. I love buying clothes, but I realize that it might not be the most healthy thing for my pocketbook.

Examples of things you may consider cutting back on:

  • Starbucks
  • Fast Food
  • Impulse buys
    • Ranging anywhere from electronics to candles to shoes to clearance Chapstick at Target, impulse buys are a bad habit to curb right now. It can definitely save you money if you cut back on impulsive spending habits.
  • Impulse trips
  • Airpods
    • You look dumb

Start investing

The next step is to invest little by little. There are a few ways that you can do this. The first is to utilize the benefits of your job if your workplace offers them. Enroll in your 401k plan. The 401k, in short, is way to save for your retirement. You can save and invest, and the money is deposited into your 401k from your paycheck.

For further investing initiatives, one of my favorite platforms is called Betterment. It’s a website that lets you choose your desired monthly deposit into your Betterment account. You don’t have to particularly choose which stocks or bonds to invest in if you don’t want to fret with all that jazz. You can simply balance your portfolio between conservative (which is more bonds than stocks) to moderate (which is half and half) to risky/aggressive (which is more stocks than bonds).

Another app that I use on my phone is called Acorns. It’s a cute little app (it’s adorable) that takes all of your purchases and rounds them up to the nearest dollar and invests literal cents for you every so often. You can balance your stocks and bonds as you like the same way that you do on Betterment. I highly recommend Acorns as the easiest way to start investing in your future.

Get a credit card, or don’t

Credit card companies oftentimes target individuals who have just graduated colleges for marketing a credit card to them. The idea, in and of itself, sounds enticing. It allows you to have an item that you want now without having to pay for it for a little while. However, that can be a bit of a deadly trap for some people, especially if you aren’t making regular payments on a credit card. Credit cards are a great idea if you have the income to support them and the diligence to pay them off before they start accruing insane amounts of interest and ruining your credit scores. Getting one or not getting one is up to your discretion, but try to apply for ones that have a “same as cash” initiative or very low interest.

Start paying off bills

I’m going to just make an assumption and say that you have student loans. It’s a tough world out there for just about any college graduate to not have loans. Make a conscious and continual effort to pay off your student loans. Not only will paying them off better your credit score, but it will also help unshackle you from the cold, dead hands of a university education. Pay off your damn bills, whether its student debt or a credit card, pay them off.

Hire a financial advisor!

Yeah, this was the best option for me! I have a great time balancing and learning about my finances with a financial advisor. I still have a lot to learn.

 

 

If you liked this article and find it endearing, and want to see more articles like this, consider donating to my paypal link. But only if you want to. https://paypal.me/katherinemblanner

Questions to ask yourself while dating

Let’s talk about our feelings.

Welcome to yet another blog article I wrote about dating while being eternally single.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I have messed up a lot. I make mistakes so you don’t have to. I’ve had three sizeable relationships in my young adulthood, all of which were incredibly different from the last. So I have learned a lot and grown up here and there. One of the things I remember my friends telling me about was this list of 36 Questions That Lead to Love from the New York Times. It’s a great list. It helps each person learn about the other in an intimate way. But my friends never gave me a list of questions to ask about myself.

So here we are. I have a list of questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about entangling your life with another human in the near future. These are in no particular order, nor are they meant to be an objective list of the questions you should ask yourself before dating someone. They’re kind of just a fun thought exercise of things that I learned.

1. Am I over my ex?

This is a crucial question. If you have to bite your tongue when you want to talk about your ex, or harbor harsh feelings about them, you’re not over them. I personally think that two things contribute to getting over your ex: time and forgiveness. Time will help you make sense of the past, and forgiveness acknowledges that, although the actions in the relationship that led to its demise were not justified, they nevertheless happened, and that’s okay.

Are you still making or listening to playlists that you made with or about your ex? If the answer is yes, you are not over them. Take some time to heal a little bit more.

2. Is this attraction or affection?

I have done my fair share of reasoning, again and again, and fully have devoted myself to the fact that attraction and affection are not interchangeable words or sentiments. Feeling affectionately for someone is a lot different than just being attracted to them. Affection says: Oh, hey this person is neat. I want to know more about them. Attraction can pretty much be boiled down to: Nice face bro. Discerning as to whether or not you are affectionate towards the person you’re pursuing or who may be pursuing you is a pretty good thing to do.

3. Am I an attention whore?

If you’re on Tinder for the confidence boost, chances are, you’re an attention whore. If you feel like you’ll die if less than 150 people “like” your Instagram post, you’re an attention whore. These aren’t actual measures of attention whore-levels, but really look introspectively at yourself and evaluate your need for attention. Where does it stem from?

4. Are they actually a nice person, or are they just charming?

This is one of the worst disguises in history. I’ve fallen for it SO many times. A nice person goes out of their way for other people, volunteers, seeks to understand different viewpoints. A charming person claims to be open-minded and then constantly tells you that your differing viewpoint is objectively wrong because it contradicts their own.

5. Do I love this person, or am I in love with them?

This is kind of personal, but I was in a relationship for a while there with a great guy. He was charming, kind, sensitive, and was really attractive. I had been waiting to fall in love with him, I felt like. The darker parts of me really wanted the attention, affection, and care that a significant other gives you. The other half of me envied so many of my peers who were seemingly in loving relationships, and I really wanted that, too. I know from experience that I had loved that ex, even though I never fell in love with him. I broke it off when I realized that truth. Some people told me “Katherine, that’s not really a good reason to break up with someone.” I just responded with “It’s not a very good reason to stay in a relationship with someone, either.” I didn’t want to do a disservice to him in his pursuit of finding someone who was in love with him.

6. What in my childhood makes me perceive love the way that I do?

The way that your parents treated you growing up has an exponential impact on the rest of your life. When it comes to relationships, take a moment to think about all the ways that you understand love based upon what you’ve been taught. And then get into therapy.

7. What is my conflict-management style?

Better yet, how do I communicate in relationships?

Please, please, please, I implore you… find this out before you get into a relationship. Knowing how you respond to conflict is a great thing to have in your back pocket, especially because fighting is a natural part of a healthy relationship. Don’t fear to fight. Fighting means that you and your significant other are communicating about your differing viewpoints in a healthy way. I drew you this cute graphic of what I remember from my intercultural communication class in college. Shout out to Dr. LaKresha Graham for this one. 

When it comes to addressing and managing conflict, I personally know that I fall into quadrant IV. indirect & unemotional. I know, I know. It’s kind of a bad place to be, especially because it mandates that my emotions and feelings about a problem tend to fester and explode. The ideal place to be is quadrant III. unemotional & direct, because it allows you to tackle problems head-on without getting your feelings involved. However, this graph is pretty fluid. Humans aren’t bound to one thing or the other based on how they’ve handled situations before. Everyone has situations that require them to direct conflict in any of the four quadrants.

Sorry for the math. I know, it sucks.

The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse

Finally, you should probably learn about Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (again, I learned this in college in my interpersonal communication class, taught by Dr. Laura Janusik. Thanks, Dr. J. You were great.)

They are as follows:

  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Contempt
  • Stonewalling

These were originally created to be predictors of divorce, but they can shed a lot of light into the negative ways that couples can fight or communicate. Knowing each of these ways that you might be responding to a conflict can help you get better about it. The antidotes to each of these can be found in this cute infographic that The Gottman Institute made:

Knowing and understanding the ways that you can curb your initial reactions to a conflict can really help you and your significant other, and really just about anyone, later down the road.

8. Am I toxic?

Before you ask yourself if you are toxic, ask yourself if the relationship is toxic. For a full questionnaire as to whether or not you are in a toxic relationship, click here. If you are in a toxic relationship, get out of it immediately. It can be a really tough thing to recover from, so seek support from family, friends, and professionals.

One of the things that really permeates relationships is a sense of victimization or learned helplessness. However, it is statistically impossible that you are always the victim. There are a lot of situations where you can be toxic, even if you intentionally or unintentionally mean to do so. A lack of self-awareness can prove to be a bad thing, especially because you are not able to see your objective self from the perspective of another. Admitting your faults and resolving to fix your problems is a pretty good indicator that you are not toxic.

Toxic tendencies in relationships can take a lot of forms: cheating, deception, blatant lies, emotional and/or physical abuse, unfulfilled promises, guilting, and etc.

Do you hinder the person’s emotional and social development because you are demanding of their time and energy?

Are you constantly comparing yourself, or your significant to other people to bring about change in their personality or in their relationship?

Are you anxiety-ridden when your significant other does not reply to a text message or let you know of their whereabouts?

If you are toxic, seek therapy. Everyone can benefit from therapy. 

 

A final note

Remember, relationships require two people who are emotionally committed, organized, and good at communication, to work the best. These questions might work best as an exercise for both individuals in a relationship, not just one of them. Getting better together and growing emotionally is a catalyst to a great relationship. Although I don’t know everything, these are the questions that I have learned to ask because of how many times I’ve failed. Admitting failure and resolving to do better is the first step to growth. I know that I’m trying to get better, and I hope that you may seek areas of improvement and get help accordingly.

How to Manage, Market, and Maintain a Creative Photography Business (and not lose your mind)

I have failed so many times with my business. I am by no means an expert. But, I have owned my own little photography side hustle since the age of seventeen and with many clients, failures, trial and a lot of error, and degrees in business communication and English writing from Rockhurst University, I think I finally got it (mostly) right. This is going to be a lonnnng article, so buckle up and get ready for a wild ride with me.

 

Why is learning about business so important?

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received was from my old boss, Michael Wilson, who was the founder of a luxury watch company, NIALL Luxury. He told me “Most creatives fail at taking direction.” While this phrase is indeed not applicable to all, it is an incredibly important thing to take into consideration.

 

Skills in photography and art, in general, are much different from skills in business. In a lot of ways, your skills in photography can take you very far. However, skills in business can propel you even farther than you ever thought you could go.

 

The difference between art and business is pretty easy to see. For starters, creativity relies almost entirely on whims and moments. Business, on the other hand, can be a lot more structured, demanding, and not as fun. But a healthy business has a proper dosage of both, which is what inspired me to write this.

 

Let’s be honest, I am not the best photographer. I try hard to capture good moments and edit them beautifully, but I’m not top dog. I don’t think I ever will be, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

 

A lot of the success I have had from photography has not been because my work speaks for itself, but rather because I speak for my work. Communicating my thoughts, ideas, and worth as a businesswoman has proven to take me much much further than anything else has. In the past year of my life, I have photographed three seasons of Kansas City Fashion Week, one season of New York Fashion Week, collaborated with numerous brands, and photographed a lotttt of weddings. I don’t think I would have done any of those things if I had just let my work speak for itself. That’s not to toot my own horn, though. I still have so much to learn, and a lot farther to go on this journey.

 

Had I had any resources for starting a business when I got into this thing, I might not have made all the mistakes I did along the way. I made these mistakes so you don’t have to! I just want to spread the knowledge and love. I hope that everyone, me included, can learn a thing or two from opening the discussion on best practices in business when it comes to creative fields.

 

Relationship Advice

If you’re a photographer, chances are that you’re going to have to capture someone’s defining life moments. Whether it’s the birth of a child, a marriage, senior pictures, or product photography, you’re going to be there for something monumental. Having a relationship with the people that you photograph is not only crucial to getting better shots, but it’s also a great way to build or destroy your business.

Work your way up. If you want to do fashion, contact local fashion magazines. If you are interested in shooting weddings, put a call out to some of your friends who might be getting married and build up your portfolio. When I first started my business, I would just ask my friends or family if I could bring my camera to their wedding to shoot a few things.

 

Get Out There

Your photography shouldn’t just live on Instagram or a Facebook page. It needs to be real and tangible in a way for other people to see and experience. As I said, the reason that I have gotten as far as I did with photography is not that I let my work speak for itself, but because I spoke for my work. You have to network locally before you can take yourself and your work far.

 

Milk those Facebook groups of local photographers. Find friends that are photographers, models, artists, and other visual content creators and network with them over coffee.

 

The Four P’s of Marketing

If there’s one thing that they drill into you in business school, it’s the four P’s of marketing. They’re pretty simple to remember, they go as follows:

  • Product
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • Price

 

So it’s pretty easy to knock out Product and Price. Just know what you like shooting, and that’s your product. The price is entirely up to you, just set it as you see fit. If you want a good idea of how I set my prices, click here. I set them according to my expenses that I have and how much time I spend on each photograph. Everyone is different. My prices work for me, but they don’t have to be the ones that you set for yourself. That’s up to your discretion.

 

Promotion is an entirely different beast. I don’t personally spend any money marketing or promoting my posts on social media. I have a Facebook page and an Instagram. To gain an audience, I just tag the people I have in my shoots and ask them for photo credits on both Facebook and Instagram. I use hashtags on Instagram.

 

That being said, it is still a dandy idea to promote yourself with paid ads on social media. It can reach a lot more people than you would otherwise and can help a business grow exponentially. You have to spend a little to earn a little. I know you can set a budget, time limit, and audience for your ads that are tailored to what you are looking for.

 

Make sure that your visuals are curated to your audience and a good representation of your brand. Invest in a good, creative logo. You won’t regret it. I doodled mine on an iPad. You can go to the website Fiverr to find and hire a graphic designer to make you an excellent little logo with a quick turnaround time! Or you can make one yourself easily with the website Canva.

 

Get your money right

Keep an Excel Spreadsheet of everything you earn from your business. Sounds simple enough, right? This will come in SO handy if you want to register your business as LLC and be accountable before the government, come tax time in April. If you just want to keep your freelancing under the radar and do not choose to register an LLC, it might still be a great idea to keep track of your income and expenses so you can set your prices according to what you spend and what you can earn.

 

Remember that if a client wants work done for free, to do that work at your discretion. Everyone needs to pay their bills at the end of the day, and it’s a good idea to keep that in mind if someone wants to work with you because “it’ll be great exposure.” I tend to shy away from these kinds of shoots, mostly because I have yet to find them mutually beneficial. However, doing work without getting paid is a decision that everyone needs to personally make.

 

Please write a contract. I beg of you.

If you’re shooting a big wedding, photographing for an event, or doing work with a company, please please remember to write a contract with them. Contracts are an easy way to communicate with clients the expectations for compensation and services. It keeps both parties accountable for their own set of expectations, as well as ensures that you get paid.

 

If you want an example of the contracts I make for weddings that I have shot, click here.

 

Don’t lose your mind

The one thing that I wish I knew before owning my own business is this: It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to say yes to every project that comes across the table. Maybe you don’t have the problem with saying yes that I do, but for my fellow people who can’t say no, please know that it’s okay to be selective. I have found that being selective is the best way to create visuals and content that I am passionate about, and that keeps me from going a little bit crazy. Quantity and quality are not the same things.

 

To Conclude

While all of my tips are tricks are curated explicitly towards photographers, it is nevertheless essential for anyone who is in a creative field doing contract or freelance work to remember that there is a vital side of the understanding business. Ultimately, it benefits both you and the client, encourages future relationships, and helps bring home the bacon. That being said, these are the things that I have personally found to work for me, and not all of them are going to be universally applicable or helpful. I want to encourage the conversation to keep going. If you would like to chat more about ways that you have noticed your photography or creative business grow, please feel free to comment them below and we can chat! If I got something incorrect, please constructively let me know.

 

Chicago 2017

I had a day off of work. My sister had a day off of work. We decided, one morning as we woke up in St. Louis, MO, that we would go to sleep in Chicago, IL that night. The only thing that stood between us was a five hour drive. Sure, part of my car’s exhaust pipe fell off on the way there, and sure we barely slept, and yes we got lost about 2,405 times, but we had a great day in Chicago. Below are some photographs from the trip’s adventures. [Nikon D7000 with a 50mm lens is my go-to set up for travel photography, as it is light and discreet.]

What Is/What Once Was

I created the concept behind this photographic endeavor to convey an idea that I have frequently thought of as obscure- the manner that humans treat what is alive and what is dead. To convey the strange sentiments of the aforementioned notion, I placed humans in fur coats against a relatively minimalist background with live animals, ranging from cats, to dogs, to hedgehogs, with a single softbox as a light source. The overall meaning of the shoot is, of course, up to the interpretation of the viewer, and therefore relatively interesting. I believe this to be the most interesting and bizzare shoot I have ever done. I would like to give a massive shout out to my art teacher and mentor, Anne Austin Pearce, http://www.anneaustinpearce.com/ for providing fur coats and studio space to make this shoot possible.

 

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