My Financial Life: April

Ok, I’m gonna be real with you. April was a hot mess. Is it weird that I always have a month where things go smoothly and then a month where my finances are an absolute wreck?

One of the biggest lessons I learned this month is to ALWAYS have a few extra hundred dollars in my savings on TOP of whatever financial goal I have for myself. I learned this the hard way when I bought my new Canon 6D kit.

The month was going smoothly until I was preparing to buy the camera kit and as soon as I bought the kit and drained my savings, I got sick. Look, the chances of this happening is slim to none. The last time I got sick was way back in college and I’ve been in really good health since so it came as a total shock when I came down with a horrible cold a few days after buying the camera.

It was a struggle to stay afloat because I couldn’t do any work for a few days. I managed to make it out ok but it definitely brought me back to the times when I wasn’t saving money and would go into panic attacks when shit hit the fan financially. So for future reference, never drain your savings to pay for stuff you’re saving up for. Always have a little bit extra in case something happens.

April was also just an incredibly expensive month for me. I had to pay off a parking ticket as well as a traffic ticket I got so I went WAY over budget compared to previous months.

But you know what, its ok. May is the start of a new month and with it, a fresh start with my finances. Especially since I got a head start on my buying my camera, I have the freedom now to figure out what to do next with my savings in terms of paying off my debt. Last year, I was told about the snowball method of debt repayment and I’ve been applying it here and there when I have extra money.

How it works is you line up all of your debt from smallest amount to biggest and you focus all of your attention on paying it off in that order while making minimum payments on the larger bills, thus minimizing the sheer amount of individual debts you owe. It also helps you psychologically because you’re constantly crossing debts off your list which is not only motivating, but also pretty exciting.

I think my next financial goal is to pay off the remaining personal debts I owe to my friends and then focus on getting my credit utilization down to 75%, then 50% before the end of the summer. My goal is to get my credit card debt down to 30% by the fall and then completely paid off by the end of the year!

I’ll also be saving up for my trip to Southeast Asia next year so it’ll be concurrent with my debt repayment. I’ll keep you guys updated on this through my financial life series this year so stay tuned!

Jo Choi

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As soon as I picked up my new Canon 6D from the seller a few weeks ago, I hit up my friend Jo Choi from ACN to shoot some content around Downtown LA. That morning I borrowed Chenni’s Canon 50mm 1.4 lens just in case I decided to buy the camera so I have a lens to work with and my GOD it was such a gem to work with. Up until now I’ve only shot with lens that went down to 1.8 and I wasn’t sure how much different a 1.4 would be but it was massive. The bokeh I got from working with this lens was a dream come true.

We started shooting at this building off of Olive and Second which had hella Hong Kong vibes. It was really reminiscent of that one building EVERYONE and their mothers gets a photo at when they visit HK. Eventually we got hungry and decided to stop by the Grand Central Market. Its been a staple food spot in DTLA since it opened in 1917 and in recent years has seen a revitalization with a few new trendy food spots like Eggslut. Because the line was long AF as usual, we decided to hit up my favorite stall in the market which sells pupusas. If you haven’t had a chance to try pupusas you HAVE to make a stop at your local shop. They’re found in a few South American cuisines but I’ve always known them to be from El Salvador. They’re these delicious disks of dough that are filled with cheese or meat and fried up on a griddle and served hot with some slaw on the side for freshness. Jo and I said that they’re really similar to the korean dessert hoddeok but instead of filled with something sweet, its savory.

I ended up buying her 50mm 1.8 to start off with for now but now my biggest dilemma is whether I want to upgrade to a 1.4 or get a more versatile 24-70 lens. I’m not much of a gear head but I do believe that every photographer should have a solid kit of lenses they use for different purposes. As I’ve been shooting a lot of portraits, a 1.4 lens would be an ideal upgrade but as someone that values versatility, the 24-70 is incredibly tempting as well.

Whichever one I end up choosing, I’ll still have a few more months to decide because I have some other financial priorities that are a little more important to focus on right now.

I’ll be posting up the set of photos I shot with her and our friend Danielle later on this week as well as my April Finances recap. See you all in a few days <3 If you like the backpack I shot on Jo, head on over to American Shield and use my code CYTHERIALBLOG for 20% off your purchase!

Also, if you haven’t already, Jo is an incredibly talented photographer and videographer and you can find his work over on his Instagram.

xoxo,

Vincent

Delayed Gratification

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This past few weeks have brought with it some new stuff into my life. Namely my new Canon 6D! I’ve been saving up for a hot minute for this camera and while I thought it would be another month or so before I would be able to get it because the kit was about $900 total on KEH.com, I happened to scroll through Facebook Marketplace one night and found a seller who listed her’s for $550. I jumped on the deal and literally went out to buy it from her the next day.

It feels oddly satisfying to be able to spend the money you’ve saved up for so long to get a piece of equipment you’ve been needing for a long time. I’ve shot with my Nikon d3200 kit for a few years now and I’ve felt like I outgrew it sometime last year. With all of the savings goals I had this year, and my debt free journey I’ve been on since January, I had enough to FINALLY upgrade even with all of the setbacks I’ve encountered these past few months.

To be able to own something I’ve been saving up for is a special type of feeling I’ve never really experienced before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve saved up for smaller purchases but this is my first “big” savings purchase. The delayed sense of gratification is so much more powerful than the instant gratification I’ve been experiencing my whole life and is really motivating me to reach bigger and bigger goals moving forward.

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I decided to take the new kit out with me to a few shoots with my friends Chenni and Jo from ACN:LA with my new backpack that American Shield sent me. With a camera bag insert I migrated from the bag I got on Amazon, this huge sucker was retrofitted to take me from shoot to edits in no time at all.

All of my gear fit perfectly in the bag from my laptop to the camera insert, hard drive case, and even my notebooks. At first I was worried that the amount of stuff I shoved in the bag would be a little too heavy for me to carry around all day but I soon realized that the comfortable straps kept everything in balance as soon as I put it on. It honestly felt lighter than when I was only using my cheapie carry all bag. On both days I had the bag on with me all day to shoot my friends and it never really bothered me at all.

If you’re interested in owning your own, check them out at AmeShield.com and use my coupon code CYTHERIALBLOG for 20% off your order!

Photo Credits:

Jo Choi

Chenni Wen

1 Year Anniversary

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One year, my God how quickly time has passed by. On this day in 2018 my friend Linh convinced me to go full time with my photography business and make a name for myself in the industry. 

From October of 2017 to February 15th, 2018 I was unemployed. I was let go from my position as a social media manager at a small T-shirt company and was fruitlessly hunting for work for literal months. I knew the office life wasn’t meant for me but being the asian I am, I thought that the only way I could survive was if I had a steady office job. Freelance seemed out of the question for me. I was too scared.

It took me being at the end of my rope to finally take the leap and commit to being a photographer. We figured; if I’m at rock bottom, the  only way I can go is up. 

The photo above is one of my first favorites from this turbulent new time. After a week or so of rusty practice, this was probably one my first "successful” images I took of my friends Serena and Jenn. Looking back, there were so many things I would have done differently with the shoot, from the composition, to the overblown highlights, to the colors I used. But hey, you live and learn right?

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The night I decided to give this a shot, Serena called me out of the blue and asked me to go to Paris with her at the end of March to be her photographer. Was it the universe telling me this is my sign to chase this dream? Probably. 

I had a month to not only become a strong enough photographer to accompany her on her trip, but I also needed to go on a marathon saving spree to even afford the trip LOL. I shot every second I could find outside of doing deliveries. I even managed to score a few interning sessions with Karen Rosalie to learn from her. 

As I boarded the plane on my first ever international trip, I realized that this was what I was meant to do. Any doubt I had that I had found my calling was left behind me in LA as I flew across the Atlantic ocean. Paris was a wild trip and had so many bumps in the road but somehow we survived with amazing pictures to tell the tale. I learned SO much from that trip and I’m counting down the days I can go back to this magical city.

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After my trip to Paris, I came back to LA hitting the road with shoots. I experimented with a lot of new styles and content including my new love of flatlay photography. I got to go to Revolve Carnival with Linh in May where I met a ton of new friends and reconnected with some old ones that I ended up working with on projects down the road. I was voraciously consuming as much content as I could to discover my “style” of photography and it was a lot of trial and error. Everything from Instagram influencers, to Tumblr, to Kpop, I found inspiration everywhere I went.

Hell, I even got to meet Paris Hilton when Linh took me out to a Coachella event! Probably one of the highlights of my Spring. Hello, childhood dreams come true!

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Over the course of the summer, I got to start collaborating with a few brands I really liked including GANT, Godiva, and ZeroUV for projects I wanted to experiment with. I started getting my first consistent clients during this time period and I built some solid relationships with organizations that began supporting my work. Hella grinding happened and with the few expected bumps in the road, I managed to get back on my feet and continue shooting and improving my craft. The McCord List was a HUGE part of my life during the last half of 2018. Rachel McCord is such an inspiring woman and working with her team really pushed me to produce some really awesome work with the dinky little camera kit I work with.

I told myself in February that I would give myself until September to decide if I had what it takes to do photography full time. I either had to start making some money off of my work or improve enough to justify risking a steady career. I found my answer within 6 months by feeling like I’ve improved enough AND making a decent amount of money through my amazing clients.

My roommates and I parted ways at the end of summer because of a complication with our lease and while it was really sad to say goodbye, we all got fresh starts in our new respective homes and I felt like moving really did breathe new life into my work.

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Fall produced some of my favorite images from the year. Maybe it as the combination of unrequited love and heartbreak with the cooling weather that influenced how I shot and edited. I was definitely much more melancholic during these months and I don’t feel like its a bad thing. I love injecting emotion in my work and I feel like some of my best work comes from times of sadness.

I even got to shoot my first editorial with my friend Lauren Munoz who I met at the McCord List! I was able to come up with a dope concept and was able to execute it out in Malibu with my friend Makito. I’ve always wanted to do a fashion editorial and while this was a small project that I didn’t submit for any publications, I learned SO much from the experience.

These months were also incredibly busy and I felt like I had very little time to just breathe. I was able to land so many new clients and my workload was heavy but I loved how productive it made me feel. It at least helped me get over the guy I was in love with so that’s a bonus. Money > Men

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Rounding out the end of 2018, I was still going strong, I feel like I’ve got a good system in place and I was MUCH more comfortable shooting than I was at the beginning of the year. Honestly, the whole of 2018 flew by so quickly I didn’t even notice that 2019 was already around the corner. I had a good routine down by this point with balancing my side job of food delivery and my photography business.

In December, I started kicking it with a bunch of dope creatives known collectively as the Asian Creative Network. The LA chapter is like the little creative community of Asians I desperately needed in my life. Its freeing to know there are other Asians out there who are also on the same creative path as you. So many people stereotype us as being doctors, lawyers, and accountants where there is a HUGE community of us that are in the arts as well.

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And here we are, 2019, February 16, 2019. Today marks one year from the day I made one of the most liberating decisions of my life after coming out! Honestly, I didn’t think I could be living in such a dream. Throughout college, I always fantasized about what it would be like to live the freelancer life, working out of cafes, being my own boss, working with amazingly likeminded creatives and being PAID to do what I love most.

I understand what a privilege it is for me to live this kind of life and my God I wake up every day feeling so grateful. Who knew a tragedy like losing your job can lead to me living the life I’ve always wanted? They really do mean it when they say that when life closes a door, it opens another.

I’ll be posting more photos from the Tet festival over the course of next week! I know I’ve been really silent on my Instagram but trust me, I’m working on some awesome stuff. Can’t wait to show you all <3

xoxo

Vincent

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My Financial Life: January

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Everyone says that January moves at a slower pace than most other months, but this month absolutely flew by for me. From doing deliveries every single night, to my 13 photoshoot marathon, to doing my best to squeeze in time to socialize with my friends, this month zoomed by faster than the BMW i8 I’m gonna buy someday.

As promised, this is my January recap of my finances to keep me accountable on my journey to financial freedom.

There were a LOT of growing pains this month as I was trying to add a ton of new rules and stick to them throughout the month. So how did I do with the rules? Lets check in.

1 Withdraw $20 a day to go towards rent. This one was tricky as I found that some nights I’d only be able to make enough during deliveries to cover gas with a little left over. If I took out the $20 I might not have enough to cover other necessities so I would withdraw when I can and then catch up when I get larger payouts like my Friday-Sunday shifts or after paid photoshoots. While its been a bit rocky, I’ve been fortunate to be able to keep up with this goal at the end of the month.

2 Maintain a ground zero amount in my checking account at all times. This one was a tough one. While I did pretty well at the beginning of the month, I kind of fell off as some unexpected bills hit my account and I had to keep up with bills. Having the ground zero mentality really did save my ass though. I was saved multiple times throughout the month as unexpected bills hit my account and I at least had this cushion to keep me from overdrafting. There were times when I dipped pretty low in the well but overall I’m really glad I implemented this rule for myself. I’m going to maintain my ground zero at $100 throughout the month of February as I focus on paying off more debt and bills.

3. Break down my bills into manageable chunks. This was a major breakthrough for me this month as I was able to tackle my bills with my finite funds in manageable chunks rather than being overwhelmed with a $100 bill, I could just look at it as 10 $10 bills I can pay over time. I did this with my T-Mobile bill and it didn’t feel as worrisome as previous months.

4. Deposit 1/6 of all of my income into my savings. Ok, this one I’m particularly proud of. My best friend recommended I start setting aside a portion of my income without thinking about it. At first, I wanted to focus on laying down my foundations for the month so I didn’t do the savings challenge until 2 weeks into the month. I should have about 515 in my savings but I’m still short so I’ll owe myself that extra money over the next month or so.

Rather than just putting in 1/6, about a week into the challenge I was felt like I didn’t like seeing random numbers in my savings account and felt more comfortable with intervals of 5 so instead of just saving 1/6th, I round up (never round down) to the next $5 increment. The extra few dollars didnt really matter much to me but over time it really helped me catch up on the money I missed in the first 2 weeks of January. Rather than owing $190 like I originally thought, I actually only owed myself $140.

In terms of spending, I still have a lot I still need to cut out. Even though I felt like I didn’t go out to eat as much as I did before, I still managed to spend more on eating out than on rent, which I think is still really bad. I had a lot of events and birthdays to go to this month so a small handful of those dinners actually contributed to the high number this month. Over the course of January, I spent a total of $778 on food, that’s a combination of eating out, groceries, and boba/coffee. That’s money that could have gone to other bills and debt.

I also had a massive stationery addiction this month too, I bought a few notebooks for life coaching, my finances notebook, and a new sketchbook. I also impulsively spent on washi tape and stickers for my bullet journal as well….February should also see a dramatic decrease in my stationery spending since I bought all of the notebooks I’ll need to keep track of my life. Washi tape is still an addiction though.

Speaking of addiction, I’d hate to admit this, but I also spent about $100 on cigarettes this month. I’ve been trying to quit for the longest time but long hours delivering and stress got me back into the habit again :( not proud of this one but it is what it is. I’ll need to figure out healthier ways of managing my stress and addiction.

Overall, January was not only an incredibly profitable month but also a really eye opening month for me. I never thought I’d be able to put aside as much money as I did this month. Every bit of money I put aside every night compounded into a growing savings account I’m planning on using to pay my taxes and start saving for my major purchases this year.

I think tracking every dollar that comes in and out of my bank account and actively learning how and where to delegate my income every single day has really helped me stay on top of my finances. Every night, I sit down with my bullet journal to record and review my spending for the day, and plan how I plan to use my money for the rest of the week. Its a lot of work, but the benefit is that I now know exactly where my money is going instead of just winging it every day and hoping I’ll have enough left over to survive until tomorrow.

My Financial Life: The Rules and Regulations

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In my 2019 Goals post I wrote a few days ago, I said that I wanted to get a grip on my finances in 2019. After watching Youtuber Aja Dang tackle her mountain of debt in 2018, I was really inspired to tackle my own debt. Since entering college in 2010, I haven’t really had much discipline in handling my money. In all honesty, growing up in poverty does really screw up your relationship with money and for the longest time, my goals and priorities when it came with my money was just to survive from day to day, not even paycheck to paycheck! I’ve racked up quite a handful of debts and I really wanted to take the time this year to really dig myself out.

In my reckless and perhaps stupid manner, I withdrew what little was left of my checking and savings and dumped it into one of my debts to bring it down and started off 2019 with not a penny to my name. Did it scare the living hell out of me? Absolutely, but like everything else that I did to prepare myself for 2019, I purged.

Oddly enough, doing so lit a fire under my butt to start working and building my finances back up and I came in with a few new rules for myself in the new year.

1. Break down all of my bills into smaller, manageable chunks. One of my biggest fears towards paying bills in the past few years is waiting until the last minute to make payments. I remember working to pay off every bill in a scramble, after one bill was paid, I had to scramble to pay the next. I had an epiphany while I was breaking down one of my projects into smaller to dos, WHY DON’T I JUST DO THAT WITH MY BILLS!?

Instead of freaking out over a $100 phone bill that’s due tomorrow, why don’t I break it down into 10 $10 payments I can throw money at throughout the course of the month? I can easily toss aside $10 without thinking every few days and have the whole bill paid off before the end of the month, and even if I didn’t, I’d only have to worry about maybe a leftover $20. Easy peasy.

Even with my credit card bills, which I’m only doing minimum payments for right now (I’ll get to why in a little bit) I split into tiny $5 payments I knock out every day.

2. Withdraw $20 a day to go directly into rent. Like the rule I have above, I’m breaking my rent down into smaller chunks rather than looking at the huge picture. My current rent is $500 (I landed a steal) so I really only need to do this 25 times a month which leaves me 5-6 days where I can miss a payment OR I can use the leftover money to put into debts or savings!

3. Have a GROUND ZERO amount in my checking account at all times. Look, this may come as a no brainer to many people, but like I said, I’m absolutely horrible with my money and have been for a very long time so I’m trying to learn more healthy habits ok? What a ground zero amount is basically the minimum amount I must have in my checking account at all times. If my ground zero is $100 and I have $101, then guess what? I have $1 to spend.

My goal is to have my ground zero be $500 by June.

4. Deposit 1/6 of my earnings into my savings account. My best friend actually recommended this to me. As a freelancer, I don’t have the luxury of having my company deduct money for taxes/401K for me. That responsibility falls squarely on my shoulders. Also, doing so is just a good habit to have. Out of sight, out of mind!

I’ve been really into bullet journaling for the past 3 years and this year I really decided to use my BUJO as a way to help me keep track of my finances. I have a weekly expenses log as well as a debt tracker to log my journey throughout the year.

My goal in January is to get my goals to become habits. ESPECIALLY 1-4 listed here. I started off with $0 in all of my accounts and I’m slowly rebuilding my life from the ground up. Yes, it is very embarrassing for me to admit to everyone just how bad my financial life has become but it’ll only serve to keep me accountable on this journey. It’s not going to be easy, its scary as hell, but I know that if I don’t put my foot down I will never dig myself out of this rut.

Here’s to 2019, the year I officially un-fuck my finances. LETS GO

xoxo

Vincent

Serina Tran

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Serina Tran

I haven’t seen my buddy Serina since I graduated from college nearly 2.5 years ago. Fast forward a few years and we happened to live in the same area so I hit her up to shoot around LA. I’ve recently gotten into urban fashion photography and wanted to get some practice in shooting my models in an urban environment.

This shoot was such a great learning experience for me because I got to practice shooting in a lot of different lighting situations and backdrops. I drive in downtown a lot due to my delivery side job so I picture a lot of potential shots all over the city when I’m at work. This shoot got me to bring some ideas I’ve had into fruition and for the most part it was pretty successful!

One of my favorite shots of the day is this one at the Flower Mall. The owner of this shop was kind enough to let us take a few photos in the middle of his tropical plants. I love lush greens and this photo makes it feel like Serina and I got to go deep into the Amazon Forest. The lighting and the colors came together so perfectly

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I definitely need more practice with color and learning how to get a "cleaner” edit for certain lighting situations. Sometimes the colors came out really flat and monotoned in frame so it was really difficult to draw out other colors besides the primary one. The one I had the most trouble with was the one with Serina smiling with the sunflowers at the bottom of the frame. Although it might not be my best edit, I think I’m really proud with out it came out given the circumstances. I can’t wait to keep learning about post processing and getting better at my craft.

See you all in another post on Friday ;)

xoxo,

Vincent

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