Sunday, February 27, 2011

So Many Money Decisions


It's the end of another break neck week of work and fun.  I've been working overtime on my friend and family outreach efforts and on not buying anything new.  In fact, just yesterday I finally unpacked my many, many new sock's from January's shopping blow out.  If you take long enough to unpack, it feels like a whole nother free, fresh treat - kind of like finding money in your winter coat when you haul it out of storage.

This week also held lots of lovely gatherings and groupings including but not limited to: a work debrief over pitchers of brew; an all-female stand-up comedy recital by some amazing students of my gifted wife ("Special Ops"); My book club ("Room: a Novel", read it!); meeting up with a long lost newly engaged pal for a toast; learning to 'cable' at knitting night with young lesbians in a sports bar...Pictures pending...(thank you in advance, Sera!); yummy mac & cheese and multiple, nostalgic, vintage gifts from my great aunt who is moving in 3 weeks to a condo and frantically downsizing (like wine glasses and decanter from my late Nanny's 1st year of marriage 63 years ago); volunteering; and today a date to see Sandra Shamas' latest show at Winter Garden theatre.All this on top of two jobs. Phew.

Besides this good stuff, I find out today that I might get a chance to go to Boston on March 9th to accompany my wife. She is performing in a female comedy festival there.  If I can get it off work, I can see Boston for the first time, and serendipitously arrive on the day that my youngest cousin submits her thesis to Harvard.  I've been meaning to get down there to see her and tour the city and the university and all that for almost 4 years. The countdown is on before she graduates and it's too late for me to get the real insider scoop.  So, please cross your fingers that work-one and work-two can spare me for three days at super short notice.

Last year around this time I suddenly decided to go to the Olympics - my first trip to Vancouver.  As I think about it, I ended up doing 5 trips to Newfoundland and a trip out to British Columbia last year, on top of doing all that saving and not buying stuff.  This year, I've got these hard core debt repayment goals, but now possible trips are cropping up.  Boston.  Maybe Washington.  (We have an aunt, who amazingly has moved to D.C. right on the main drag in a sweet diplomatic home with rooms to spare for visiting nieces.) Newfoundland  for family and probably my grandmother's 90th birthday. Scotland in the summer. 

All the travel possibilities have me excited, but then a bit of anxiety starts rising as I think of the cost etc.  I do think it's important to take care of business (TCB), but I also want to live and have experiences; acting as our pal Mae Martin would say, more or less, 'young and free'. I want to pay off that albatross debt AND have lots of fun travel memories to look back on when this year is at its end.  I am feeling a little bit more that I should not say 'no' to too many spontaneous opportunities. I don't want to be cheaping out on cool experiences.  Friends who suddenly became ill and now can't enjoy the retirement they saved up and sacrificed for, makes me not want to be erring too far in that direction. So, I'm making my way, two steps forward, one step back, towards both financial freedom, and a life more than half lived.

Okay, enough about me. I've got to go and get organized for the rigors of tomorrow.

xo Tara

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Family Day Eve

Twas the night before family day, and all through the house (aka condo), I could be seen and heard jumping for joy that I have the day off tomorrow.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my work, but a long weekend is not unwelcome.

I've been more of a weekly blogger of late, I'm noticing.  Since the new year and my big plans to follow through on goals from my Annual Review (thanks Chris Guillebeau), I have noticed that simple sounding things like 'getting to bed on time', 'packing a lunch' and 'walking an hour a day' really eat into my discretionary units of internet time.

In the first 5 days of January I was in Ottawa hanging with my mother.  I spent quite a bit of that time, and all of the 5 hour bus ride home to Toronto working on my Annual Review goals for 2011.  I decreed that 2011 was going to be a year of 'Release' and that I was going to focus on my 'Big 9' areas (I've made links to some sources of inspiration for these):

  • Financial (Savings, Debt repayment, Edinburgh, Nothing New after January)
  • Creative (Writing, Crafting, Blogging, Music, Stand-up, Documentary)
  • Travel (Newfoundland, England, Edinburgh, Bard writing retreat)
  • Marriage (Common Goals, Fun, Domestic, Plus some privacy protected goals here!)
  • Family (Twin, Mom, Dad, Steps, In-laws, Siblings, Nanny, Cuz'ins, Other extended family)
  • Friends (Friday night friend outreach, Friday friend lunches, Stitch & Bitch, Book Club, 'Show Up')
  • Health (Weight Watchers, Walking, Multi-task working out, Yoga)
  • Organization (Home decluttering, Bills, Closet renos, Work systems to get more efficient)
  • Personal (Self-confidence, Appearance, Mindfulness)
It's a lot of stuff to think about.  And, as usual, I am a work in progress.  I've recently picked up my gorgeous special Knock Knock organization books from my friend Christine Bougie.  But, as yet, I've gotten started on my work one, but not my 'fun' one (aka the non-work-rest-of-life one).  

I did make some cute icons that I need to figure out how to make electronically so I can share them.  But, in my grubby notebook, just drawing them works fine.

I'll catch you up on where I'm at, progress wise:

  1. Financially: I've decided to place massive laser beam focus on paying off my non-student loan debt before cutting down to one job.  If all goes well and I don't get fired or laid off, and save like a maniac between now and the end of November 2011, I've calculated that I can pay off the $1969 on my CIBC Visa, as well as the $15466 on a personal loan.  I'm using some of the concepts like 'snowball' payments where when you finish paying off one debt (i.e.: I just finished my RRSP loan, so I am applying the $430 biweekly I paid on that to expediting the payment of this blasted personal loan.)  I'm putting on hold radical saving for cottage until debt is paid off, and am saving a modest amount for trips this year.
  2. Creative: I have been blogging, albeit less frequently.  I've been writing a few jokes.  (I'm more theoretically interested in joke writing as I do not feel the need to have two stand-ups in our household, but do like having different modes of creative writing outlets.).  I've been keeping up the crafting with monthly things with my stitch  & bitchers, I've bought myself a ukulele (It is on loan right now to a very funny actress, Linda, in my wife's class.  Perhaps if times get too tough down the road on one job only, I can rent it out!). I've also been mucking about with a cheap, fun, doc idea about twins.  Still needs lots of thought.
  3. Travel: I definitely plan to travel home to Newfoundland, to see my wife perform in the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and possibly to a writing retreat in New York State at Bard College.
  4. Marriage: We've been enjoying working on common goals and finding time for fun things together this year. Travelling to Scotland will be a highlight.
  5. Family: Focused time spent with my twin, visiting my family in Toronto and in Ottawa and Newfoundland are in the works, and in some cases already happening regularly.  I've also got 3 engaged relations (cousins and siblings) which makes for some upcoming fun clan gatherings. And, I read a book about women's family relationships which I think is going to help me strengthen all of mine.
  6. Friends: I'm trying very hard to make sure I do lunch with one (or more) friend on Fridays and get together in the evening with someone/some people I like to hang out with.  My 'friend outreach' has been quite successful this year, with me doing something all but one Friday since the beginning of January.  
  7. Health: I rejoined weight watchers the second week of January, since if I'm not really structured and focused on it, I'm basically gaining.  It's actually been a fun way to start my Sundays.  I have coffee and hang with my sister after and then plan and shop for groceries.  After 6 weeks I've lost 10.8 lbs which is plenty fast, since I'd just as soon keep it off.  I've been walking a lot, packing my ridiculously healthy lunches, swapping stories with my like-minded coworkers, and bringing clients from work to the YMCA (my idea to multitask being healthy for me with getting clients healthier, as well as other coworkers). I've even used our condo gym 3 times in the past two weeks almost shocking my wife into stupefaction. AND, I have an unlimited pass for Mokshatres flexible these days.
  8. Organization: I've purchased notebooks that, ah hem, I've yet to put into action.  I have some unpacked socks from my January shopping spree.  I still do not have sufficient drawer space to unpack them from the shopping bag they came home with me from the mall in.  I do have a small bag of donations waiting by the door to leave our home.  I have done some small organizing baby steps at the office.  MUCH to be done.
  9. Personal: I think that mindfulness meditation has been very helpful for feeling confident I can handle things and feeling peaceful.  Also, I put as a part of this goal, keeping up with the grooming stuff.  I know I'm not the best at this.  I never wear make up.  My wife needs to beg me to brush my hair.  But my 'deliverables' in this category are: keep up with threading eyebrows; keep up with dying grey hair; keep up with pedicure; and wear skirts occasionally.  I'm happy to relate that I am up to date on all of the above.  I even took advantage of Friend Outreach Friday to multitask and met my friend Natalie for a pedicure instead of for drinks.  We got in a good catch up chat, and walked away with less empty calories in us, and delicious burgundy toes.  
That's about all the news for me.  I did want to relay a funny story about work before I hit the Tudors on Netflicks:  I was telling my sister about how at my part time job there are cutbacks, and a fear of jobs being cut, and a general message to do more, spend less money, get more clients out to things, etc.  As Dawn's eloquent Dad would say, to 'eat it and say yummy'.  I was relaying my woeful tale of how tough things are to my twin.  As in, I need to keep this job until the end of November when I've paid off my debt, then I had this meeting with our manager who sort of let us know it's all a house of cards that could come tumbling down so 'do more, better, with less, damn it!'  And my twin hauled out a Toronto Life magazine from her bag, and said, you mean like this? The article was called 'Work Sucks', and begins, "It's not just you. We're all working more, making less and going berserk. Tales from the post-recession office."  And with that we were able to howl with recognition and laughter.

Happy Family Day Eve.  My wife just got home so I'm off for some mutual admiration society stuff.

xo Tara

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Unmaterial Valentine

Not to be mistaken with immaterial.  This year, since my wife had to work from 8pm-10pm on Valentine's Day (Otherwise known as Black Monday - supposedly coined by an old roommate of mine), and I worked until 8pm, we had our celebration yesterday.

Did we go out for a romantic, candlelit dinner and shower each other with expensive trinkets?  I'm guessing you already know the answer to this one.  Instead, we lived out a long held fantasy to eat Chippy's while watching British mini-series at home.  Chippy's, in case you are not in the know, is Toronto's best fish and chips place.  It was voted best the last few years by both of Toronto's hip weeklies.  They offer you your choice of several types of fish, and the fries are home cut nirvana.  They are slightly overcooked to a gorgeous brown and each serving contains way too many fries for health or comfort.  It has been about 2 years since we got Chippy's.  It's not that close to home, and it's not that much fun to eat it hovering over their counter on one of their few stools.  But yesterday, we made a delicious exception to the rule.  I ordered and raced for the subway as soon as it was ready, carefully keeping the top of the paper bag open to keep the steam from making it soggy.  It took 23 interminable minutes to get home, but finally I arrived and we grabbed our portions and hit the computer + newly arranged dining zone for the cued up British cop show my wife had found us.  We enjoyed the show and our eater's remorse thoroughly all afternoon.

We also took some time to appreciate each other and I'm even treating my wife to a hairdo as an adjunct to Valentine's Chippy's.  No new stuff, but a new hairdo will make her feel spiffy and loved.

Today, on actual Valentine's day, my wife sent me off by tattooing me with a red marker. I've got heart. Now, I'm home earlier than her, so I intend to use my solo Valen-time to watch shows she's already seen as I munch on dark chocolate and sip a locovore whisky beverage.  We'll regroup for some mutual appreciation society when she gets back.

Take home message: You don't need to buy stuff to feel the love on Black Monday.

xo Tara

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vintage Cloak

I gave up buying new again as of Feb. 1st and already the universe is providing in terms of me not needing to buy new stuff.  My mother-in-law showed up with a gorgeous long, black, winter cloak made of cashmere and blended wool.  It was made in a Toronto shop, and has genuine vintage cred.  It's original owner is my wife's grandfather's girlfriend.  She has recently moved to a nursing home and was one meticulously attired and groomed lady.  My wife deemed it way too girly for her and perfect for me.  It fits so great. It would seem that my cup runneth over with an embarrassment of riches.  I now have not one but two cloaks/capes (since I bought one during my January shopping frenzy - see yesterday's post for long list of shopping escapades).  This one is solid black, longer, and luxuriant, well made vintage cashmere.  The other one is fuller, shorter, tweed mixed black and white.  Nice enough, but not nearly as awesome.

In other news, it is seriously my bedtime.  I've stayed up too late catching up on email, which goes against my new world order of bedtime by 11:00pm.  But I have kept up with my rigid packing-my-lunch-before-going-to-bed rule.  Honestly, if you are trying to be healthy, you spend most of your life standing in the kitchen packing your lunch.  So you might as well learn to like it, right?  I'm practicing mindfulness as I prepare my lunch.  A handy way to kill two birds with one joyful stone.

xo Tara

Monday, February 7, 2011

Great Expectations

Hi there,

I'm rather tardy on posting.  I've had this problem before.  When I give myself something really specific that I want to do on the blog, I end up postponing writing until everything is right with the universe and I can focus on writing about just that one thing properly.  I've done it with the creativity stuff and the Reverb10 writing too.  It's probably better for flow if I don't be so specific in my head, since my inner blogger often flakes out if I can't do what I set out to do.

What I've been postponing writing about is January.  The first month of 2011, when I was free to shop for the month and have been working on various other projects.  I've been setting lofty goals of doing tidy posts on: 1. my Annual Review of goals, and 2. the stuff I bought and money I spent in January after a year of not shopping, 3. what's next etc.

To be honest, January's end was quite full of, well, shopping.  I spent some time last night tallying up the damage, and it's more than I realized.  All told, I spent......$855.93 on 'stuff' during my sanctioned month of buying new things.  A bit of it was stuff for my wife and I, but mostly for me.  (FYI: in case you don't know this, I'm not buying anything new for the rest of the year again). Some highlights from my list:
  • an orange ukulele with case and song book (turns out I liked it better than the pink one)
  • my favourite, fancy, expensive fine tipped markers (20 colour pack)
  • a bunch of moleskin notebooks in various sizes and colours
  • a couple of bins and tins for craft supply organization
  • a swimsuit
  • a toilet brush, potato peeler, tea towels, paring knives
  • a winter cape, cute boots, gloves, and scarf
  • underwear and sock blowout (got over $100 worth of each)
  • full length mirror
  • earrings from Ten Thousand Villages
  • Winner's shopping spree - 2 dresses, 1 skirt, 2 cardigans ($154.35)
  • Joe Fresh shopping spree - included 28 items (massively reduced, bill was only $131.70-conscience on red alert re: why so cheap?)
I did not end up getting a Tilly Hat, or a kitchen rack for my pots and pans.  Time ran out.  It became easier to shop as the month went on, but I am kind of relieved to be done for the year now.  It is hard to stop once you get on a roll. 

Again, I'll have to work to cull my old crap, to make the new fit in, and not feel over-cluttered and like the walls are closing in on our wee condo.

I also have been going full tilt on some of my other goals around being healthier and doing more 'non-passive leisure' and 'friend outreach'.  Being healthier feels like a bit of a strange thing to talk about.  It's one of those things where you can feel boring or self-righteous if you get it wrong.  Let's just say, I've been working hard to try and take really good care of myself for just over a month now.  I've been walking more, packing my lunch, eating like a normal person would instead of like a sumo wrestler, that kind of thing.  I've also been sleeping better and I definitely feel more calm and less stressed out on a day to day basis.

Seeing lots of friends.  I've been booking lunch dates on Fridays, so that I get to see people I like, and actually leave the building for lunch.  So often these days we end up skipping our break and working hunched over desks with our lunches. By making plans with others outside I am shifting this in a nice way.  Also, I've resumed Stitch & Bitch (Friday we had a great one at my twin's), and I've finished my first 'freestyle hat'.  It is 1000 times better than the giant one I made for my wife.  I will revisit knitting a hat for her now that my improvisation has galvanized me.  Also, our book club met last week and will be meeting again in 2 weeks.  I am doing games night with a friend couple this weekend and bowling with another friend couple on Saturday.  If you don't book times with friends, you don't see them.  Or at least I don't.  I don't seem to just bump into my buddies without some leg work.

Had a sweet visit with my 89 year old grandmother yesterday too.  She can barely see out of the one eye she has left, but is still happy to let you and everyone know if you've gained or lost any weight recently.  Fortunately I fell in the former category this visit. Whew.  It was nice to Laing out with my cousins, aunts, in-laws and other extended family. 

Okay, I'd better get back to work.  I'm using my lunch break to blog today, so pat me on the back for not working through it.

I'll be blogging more about my 'laser sharp focus' on the goal of paying off a loan that is now at $16,151.  I want that beast gone by the time I leave my second job.  Argh.  It's a big task.

Talk soon for reals.

xo Tara