2016 Goals

chrystina noel 2016 goals

Yesterday a good friend of mine asked me what my 2016 goals are. I had thought about it a little bit, but I didn’t actually know what they were until I said them out loud. The past few years I have come up with a series of goals I wanted to accomplish during the year. The first year that worked, the second year it didn’t, and the third year it didn’t. So this year I am going to refrain from making a specific list of goals for the year, because I just don’t think that’s where I am right now.

Second of all, there are definitely some general goals that are in the back of my brain right now. Try intuitive eating, be a little more easy going, save a little bit more money, etc, but they’re not going to be the focus of the year. This year I am going to be focusing on three things.

Get Rid of the Extra

What does this mean? There are a lot of things I do because I feel like I should do. A lot of things that people wouldn’t necessarily notice or care if it didn’t happen. This includes things like – sending out 120 handmade holiday cards (30 hours + $100 later…), not cutting myself a break if I’ve just had a really long week and I really just need to stay home, and dedicating time at work to extra activities for resume-building purposes that provide negative joy with minimal recognition. That said, there are plenty of ‘above and beyonds’ I do that I find to be totally worth it. These include – planning RLO alumni events every few months, sending out birthday cards to everyone during the year (most of those same 120 people), and hosting parties for people I love. I want 2016 to include more of the latter, and less of the former. Speaking of which…

Continue to Build the PHLBloggers Community

My pride & joy of blogging this year was the PHLBloggers community. We successfully hosted 20+ events last year including book club meetups, coffee work sessions, educational events, and social events – and I want to spend time this year to make the group even better. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my card business & the e-books I’ve written, and none of them bring me quite as much joy as planning a successful PHLBloggers event. Step one? Finish planning a conference. Goodness I’m excited.

Make More Time for “Me Projects”

Haha, this could mean anything, right? Well, in this instance “me projects” means creative efforts. If I want to print a bunch of cards for myself to use I will design & print them – and don’t worry about whether or not they will sell. I want to send more care packages and “just because” handmade greeting cards. I want to make personalized birthday cards again this year instead of sending a black and white (literally) postcard. I want to host more parties and have more get-togethers with themes. My day-to-day is already filled with so much left brain that I really need to get back to more about this blog started as for me – a place to let my right brain have a little fun.

That said. I still plan on having one little word for the year. And that word will be love. Love better. Love harder. Love bigger. In my romantic relationship, in my friendships, and most of all, for myself. I will spend more time doing what I love and less time doing the things I don’t love.

And that’s it. Only three things – all of them pointing to love. Now I need to spend some time writing these down somewhere I will remember them.

How about you, what are your goals in 2016?

2015 in Review

Holy wow, 2015 has been quite the year. I wasn’t super excited about it when it started because I tend to not be quite as huge of a fan of the even years – and while 2015 might seem like an odd year, it was my 26th year of living, which is an even year. It turned out better than expected though. I was able to spend time with so many friends, have some awesome travels, ingest some pretty wonderful media, and hit a few milestones along the way.

I always like to look at the year in review to see everything I’ve accomplished, see if there are any unexpected patterns, see if things went according to plan, and try to figure out if there’s an obvious (or not-so-obvious path going forward). So for now I’m going to focus on 2015, which I am hoping will lead to a good plan for 2016.

I went into 2015 with sporadic goals, of which I completed almost none. I didn’t create one digital scrapbook page per week (although I did start), I completely forgot it was a goal to attend First Friday masses, I didn’t read Harry Potter, I didn’t finish the book I started writing (although I did write two others), I didn’t go to a drive-in movie (still haven’t been), bake a pie, or make a sauce. From the list I did manage to send birthday cards to everyone I love (+200 postcards were sent this year), traveled, cleaned my front closet, sent packages to friends in February, hosted a beer and cheese party, and recorded another Christmas song. I would call that a 50/50 win? Unclear. This year I probably won’t be making nearly as specific goals.

This year’s word was experience. I tried to keep this in mind and to be open to new things. I definitely took a few steps back to look at things from the bigger picture, which is good. All in all, I would call that a win. I’ve got an idea in mind for this year, but I need to think it through a little better. I would also like to write it down somewhere I will see it every day.

But in terms of 2015. Here’s a little bit about how it went –

2015-12-25 one down, one up


I’ve officially been dating the same boy (officially and/or unofficially) for over two years. That’s an all-time record for me. I even still like him. Not only that, but I’ve even stopped calling him the boy and started calling him Ben. I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way though. A lot about myself, a lot about him, and a lot about what it means to be in a relationship. We spent Easter and Fourth of July together, and who knows, maybe next year it will be more. As I mentioned in my Blog Posts I Haven’t Written post, there’s probably a post coming about relationships soon. I just need to sort out my thoughts.

There have been a few group gatherings this year that have kept me sane. My sister and the neighbors I grew up next to have been getting together during major holidays to catch up on life. Two different sets of RA ladies and I have been hanging out every few months. I started planning RA Alumni Meet-ups. And a few engineering friends and I get together every few weeks to have dinner together (hashtag wepretendtobecooks). Without these people I’m pretty sure I would have gone crazy by this point. Now I just need to figure out how to factor in more time with my best friends from middle school and high school because man, do I miss them.

2015-08-14 one down, one up


My Philadelphia go-tos this year were Tea-Do, Pamcakes, and Good Karma. I’ve learned that I really love breweries and at the end of a long day a good beer and a pretzel with cheese is all I need to relax. I also discovered that quadruple Belgian beers are the answer to everything in life thanks to Dock Street Brewery and Avery Brewing Company. Now I just need to learn what quadruple Belgian means.

2015-03-19 One Down, One Up

Media & Music

I managed to watch all of Gilmore Girls, How I Met Your Mother, and Saved By the Bell this year. I started watching Parenthood and Switched at Birth. And I’ve never actually stopped watching Girl Meets World, Melissa & Joey, Jessie, Good Luck Charlie, or Phineas and Ferb. My favorite podcasts this year have been Being Boss, Breakfast for Dinner, Elise Gets Crafty, Happier, The Fizzle Show, The Lively Show, and Smart Passive Income. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The 4 Hour Work Week, Essentialism, and The Pursuit of Happiness. I was able to see Carrie Manolakos, The Wind and the Wave, and Saints of Valory in concert. I also saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Memphis. Next year I think I’d like to add more fiction reading back into my repertoire, young adult section here I come. I’d also really love to attend a few more concerts, hopefully I can make that happen.

Chrystina Noel Europe Travel Tips in Paris 02


I spent time for work in Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Colorado – I even got to make a trip to Houston. I went to Austin, TX for TXSC15; Ocean City, MD for a birthday party; Vermont for a wedding; Portland to visit a friend from college; Nashville to visit my best friend from high school; Atlanta for a first birthday party; and Louisiana for a wedding. Ben and I even made it to Europe for two weeks to visit Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris, and Barcelona. What a trip.

Event Photography - 1st Birthday 01


I learned how to use my new lens, a 16-35mm, but am missing my 50mm just a little bit. I did another summer challenge this year and tried my hand at event photography. While it’s not my favorite, I definitely got better at it. I even completed two couples’ photoshoots and started a Facebook Photography Page. Who knows, maybe photography will make its way into my 2016 plan.

First Time Golfing 03

Trying New Things

I went golfing for the first time. I got my first blow out. I started watching Firefly and the Star Wars series – not only that, but I liked them both a lot. I’m hoping to incorporate more science fiction into my life in the future (in addition to Disney sitcoms). I spent the first part of the year doing belly dancing and cardio pop dance classes, but all of that was shot when I went to Europe. I found that I really liked having a friend to go with. I’m wondering if that’s something I can work out for 2016, only I never know which state I’m going to be in. I also went to my first Renaissance fair.

2015-07-24 one down, one up

Blogging & Social Media World

I got the chance to meet and hang out with so many bloggers this year. Part of that is from starting PHLBloggers and part of that is from attending TXSC15. If you’ve ever considered starting a blog the community alone makes it worth it. PHLBloggers successfully had one event per month all year. I stepped up my Instagram Game on my trip to Europe, which was awesome. I wrote 52 one down, one up posts which have been a great chance for me to reflect on the week. I went to Wordcamp, a WordPress conference, and was completely overwhelmed. My blog was featured on CBS Philly. I wrote two e-books, one for sale on How to Stay in Touch and one free one about themed parties. I sold some greeting cards, I sold some calendars, but neither one really took off. I’m excited to see what idea I come up with next. And last, but definitely not least, I hosted my first in-real-life blogging event, which went pretty gosh darn well if I do say so myself.

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 02

Milestones & Big Deals

I survived living with a cat that I eventually grew to love. Tory and I made Disney Channel Original Movie Valentines that were featured on Buzz Feed and our HSM ones got over +10k views. The Philadelphia Freedom Chorus won 4th Place in Region 19 and best small chorus. I gave up going to church for Lent and was able to learn a lot during that timeframe. Pi Day was the biggest deal ever this year because it was 3-14-15 9:26:53, twice. I went to 7 weddings, from potlucks to backyard bashes to resort rent-outs, and I had a blast at every one. I built a computer, although that was the bane of my existence for far too long. I went to Vetri for dinner (which counts as a milestone because the cost is $150 a head, without alcohol). Pop turned 90 this year. I even passed my Project Management Professional last week just in time for the New Year.

And that’s it. There’s definitely some hints up there about what I think 2016 is going to bring – more science fiction, more young adult novels, a few more concerts, and a whole heck of a lot of love.

I turn 27 tomorrow, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty pumped. 27 sounds way better than 26 if you ask me. Let’s see what this odd year brings. I’m sure it’ll be something great.

This Year’s Summer Photo Project

2015-04-14 2015 Summer Photo Project

You may or may not know that last year I did a summer photo project. I decided I wanted to get better at using my 50mm lens and took on a portrait challenge. I photographed a different friend every week all summer and ended up with some incredible pictures – and I learned a lot too.

Last week I figured out what I want this year’s summer project to be. Actually, I should take a step back first.

My one little world for 2015 is experience. There are two components of this: (1) I want to make sure not to miss out on living in the moment , and (2) I want to learn how to capture experiences in my photography as opposed to just people. You can check out my January newsletter to learn more about what that means. (Spoiler: it involves some cool pictures of India.)

I knew I wanted this year’s project to be about capturing experiences and yet again, I’ve decided to turn to my friends. I want to attend an event every week that wouldn’t usually have a photographer whether that is a playdate at the park, a family dinner, a bridal shower, a day at the beach, or a weekend roadtrip and be the official photographer. That way, there is no pressure to get good pictures, and it will be a chance to get better at capturing experiences (and learning to put the camera in people’s faces, which I’m super crummy at).

My summer photo project will start on Memorial Day and continue until Labor Day. So if you happen to be in Philadelphia (or willing to pay for me to go somewhere else), let me know if you have an event that you would like pictures of (that doesn’t happen to occur while I’m at a wedding).

I’m excited.

Learning to Budget

2015-02-18 Learning To Budget

Well, now that it’s February 18 I figured it would be a good time to talk about what I learned from my goal to spend only $500 in January. At the end of January it is safe to say that I spent at least $850. That’s called failing. I definitely learned some life lessons along the way though.

Not spending money can be so awkward. I didn’t see that coming. Here were my three top awkward moments:

  • That moment when you’re out at a big fancy dinner with a large group of people and you didn’t order a drink and most other people did and at the end of the meal someone says, “so, let’s split the bill?” and you need to say no.
  • That moment when you need to look at the guy you’re dating and explain that you really can’t keep going out to eat as much as you are. I was just glad he offered to start paying for some groceries in my life without me bringing that up as well.
  • That moment when you need to go back to the grocery store and explain to the guy that you’re returning the olive oil, bag of m&ms, and asiago cheese because you got over-excited when you were grocery shopping the night before.

How does everybody else handle these moments? It wasn’t too bad when I was able to say, “no, I have this crazy goal that I only want to spend $500 in January” – the key is going to be keeping that up throughout the year.

Also, not only did I keep a list of the things that I did buy, I kept a list of the things that I didn’t buy. Here’s what I saw:

  • I love buying things for people.  This might sound contradictory from my I hate buying gifts mentality, but it’s completely different.  I love buying people things on a whim or for occasions they don’t expect.  I was going to buy two housewarming gifts (for people that didn’t have parties), a just because gift (which I will probably end up buying at a later time this year anyway), and I was going to fill someone’s gas tank (all the way for only driving 20 miles).
  • I love food. I almost booked reservations at Vedge and went to lunch at V Street. I almost bought cheese at DiBruno Brothers. I almost bought cupcakes at lunch, bubble tea, and chai.
  • I also like impulse purchases. I almost bought tickets to see Vanessa Hudgens as Gigi at the Kennedy Center, a new rug for the living room, Elise’s Do Something Everyday Chart, a camera bag, Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin, birthday party thank you cards, a scale for weighing mail, a phone app, and tickets  to a networking event.
  • There are some things you just can’t change. There are also things I didn’t buy that I was just prolonging the wait time on. Already this February I have bought a journaling bible and Matt Doyle’s album on iTunes.

And now the part I’m sure you’ve been waiting for.  What did I actually learn from January that I’m going to try to take forward with me for the rest of the year.

7 Budgeting Tips

  1. Cook lunch instead of going out to eat.
  2. Plan out food so I don’t end up stopping at the high-priced convenience store on my way home from the office
  3. Consider taking the bus instead of the Amtrak train.
  4. Have the awkward conversations, you’ll feel better in the end.
  5. Drink in instead of out.
  6. You don’t need to go above and beyond to be thoughtful.
  7. Put some money directly into savings from your paycheck so you won’t be tempted to spend it

Now, there’s no way this is going to cut down all of my spending. I really like spending money and shopping impulsively, but I’m going to try to be better about the things that aren’t going to make me as happy as I think they are.

What are some of your budgeting tips?  Clearly it helps that it’s not the holidays anymore, but do you have any day-to-day tips that you’ve found useful for saving you a bit of cash?