Category Archives: Money

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Aside from the general fixing and clearing out and decluttering of my apartment – more on that soon – one of the major things I’m trying to work on at the moment is my relationship with money. I’ve written and talked and whined about my financial irresponsibility a lot so I’m not going to go into the whole thing. The basic summary is, I make money, I spend that money on Crap I Don’t Need, I end up with debt and this is bad, because going into debt over crap you don’t need is a stupid thing to do.

I would like a goddamn money tree now please, k thanks!

I would like a goddamn money tree now please, k thanks!

So over the past six months, I’ve been trying to be better. And I have been! I’m not perfect, but I am better. Here are some of the things I’ve done differently:

I opened a savings account. I got my first savings account ever about six months ago. Savings were not really a thing I considered before, because all my money was going toward the aforementioned Crap I Don’t Need (dresses, accessories, nail polish, lunch, dresses). In my defence, I was an intern/freelancer until two years ago, but I do wish I had started saving earlier. Now I feel like at least if I have some kind of financial emergency, it won’t destroy me, and I won’t have to turn to my parents to bail me out. I feel like I’m creating at least a small safety net, and that’s definitely a good thing for me.

I started a budget. Mint.com has basically changed my life. I’m kind of an all or nothing person, and if I don’t check my finances every day and see exactly where my money is going, I’m liable to spend it on that Crap I Don’t Need. With a budget, I can still allow for fun stuff like shopping and restaurants, I just can’t indulge quite as often as I might ideally like to if I had unlimited funds. I like Mint because every transaction on my debit or credit card shows up there, and I can’t deny the cold, hard numbers. So far, budgeting is kind of like a challenging game – I have to stay within certain limits, and it can feel restrictive sometimes, but it also feels satisfying when I manage to do it.

I stopped buying Crap I Don’t Need. This is probably the hardest thing for me, but I’m doing surprisingly well! Just this week Modcloth, my favourite clothing store ever in the whole world, had a 70 per cent off sale. Usually I would jump on instantly and buy half a dozen dresses and feel that weird rush of adrenaline I get from shopping. That’s a normal reaction, right??? But this time, I scrolled through the items, reminded myself there is nothing I need because I have like a billion dresses or so, and that was all. This might sound minor, but this is a big deal for me! I’m pretty sure I’ve bought something during every major Modcloth sale for the last four years. Which is…a lot. Glancing at my order history for that site is almost enough to give me a panic attack. Anyway, I’m doing this new thing where I don’t buy things impulsively, I only purchase things that I’ve thought about, that I can afford, and that I actually need.

I’m trying to be more financially independent. This is going to sound like a stupid thing to complain about, but my parents have always given me way too much financial support, and this needs to change. They can afford to help me – that’s not the point. Having them pay for my stuff makes me feel like I’m not a fully formed individual, and it’s not a nice feeling. I recently convinced them to let me pay my own car insurance (I know I sound like a brat when I talk about these things, but I DID have to convince them). For some reason, my mom is adamant about paying my cell phone bill, and it’s really hard to argue with someone who is trying to help you, so I’m letting that one go for now. Instead, I’m taking advantage of her generosity, and I’ve doubled my student loan payment, so now I’ll have it paid off in three years. I don’t have any other debt right now, so that’s something I can definitely handle.

These are all small changes, and basically I’ve just made it up to the level of a regular, mostly functioning adult as far as money’s concerned, but I’m still proud of myself. I just hope I can manage to keep it up.

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Reading for free

I’m pretty much constantly annoyed with myself for not reading enough. Generally my excuse (to myself, because no one else particularly cares if I read or not) is related to my job. I’m an editor, so I essentially read and write all day at work, and sometimes when I come home I just want to turn off my brain a bit and process entertainment passively in the form of TV or a movie.

The thing is, when I DO get around to cracking open a book/iPad I quickly remember how much I enjoy devouring fiction. I was the kind of child who was in a summer reading club at the library every year, and I always won a medal for reading 100 books. One hundred books! In like, two months! Now I’m lucky if I read 10 books in a whole year.

slp

I talk about how I need to read more alllll the time, but then I never do it instead. So this time, I’m taking action. First of all, after watching and becoming obsessed with Silver Linings Playbook and then watching it again and still loving it, I bought the book by Matthew Quick. I’m about three-quarters of the way through and I like it, but damn, it’s way darker than the movie! Anyway, I’m reading every night and this is good, but buying books every couple of weeks doesn’t really fit into my whole budgeting thing, so I had to come up with a way to get books for free.

Books for free……….free books……..books….that don’t…..cost…..money…..

YEP I GOT A LIBRARY CARD, DUH.

Well, technically I’m GETTING a library card. I completely forgot to go to the library on Saturday (it’s literally across the street from me, so this is pathetic) and when I realized it wasn’t open on Sundays, I ordered my card online, and I should have it in about a week. The library has come a long way since I last had a card approximately a decade ago – now you can sign out ebooks! How crazy is that? Yes, I know, everyone already knows this is a thing, but I still think it’s pretty cool.

The other thing I’m going to do to try to encourage myself to read more is to maintain a list of books I want to check out, because not being able to think of a specific title I want to read off the top of my head is a really stupid thing that prevents me from reading. Here’s what I have so far:

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • Everything is Perfect When You’re  a Liar by Kelly Oxford (this doesn’t come out until April)
  • How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman (and probably everything else by him too)
  • The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

If anyone has any suggestions about things I should read, I would love to hear them! I mostly like modern fiction, and my favourite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood and Tom Robbins. What else should I read??? I need help to make this happen.

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Resolution

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions this year, because I am really bad about thinking ahead or planning for things that I should be doing or changing or whatever. Although, actually, I didn’t do TOO terribly with last year’s resolutions. In 2012 I resolved to drink more water and less coffee, floss and stop buying lunch every goddamn weekday.

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I have not been flossing. Maybe it’s left over from my childhood dentist trauma (can’t get into that now, too traumatic), but I absolutely hate flossing. I did recently get an electric toothbrush…as a Christmas gift…from my mom…so maybe that will be good for my teeth? I don’t know. I’ve only had probably five cavities in my life, so I think my teeth are fine, probably.

On the bright side, I did completely stopped drinking coffee. I had managed to get mildly addicted to it by 2011, and I really have no idea why, because it makes me feel absolutely terrible – all jittery and anxiety-ridden and prone to panic attacks where I’m convinced I’m having a stroke and have to email my friend who’s a nurse for reassurance that I’m not about to drop dead. So yes, I gave that up, and I have probably been drinking a little bit more water, but still not enough. Drinking water is so hard! Maybe I’ll start doing like Maria Bamford does in that routine I can’t find a clip of right now and just open my mouth in the shower for hydration purposes.

maria

I did do a great job with that last one. I used to buy my lunch literally every goddamn day. This was a problem because it turns out that is a lot of money! When I moved at the end of June, I gave it up almost completely, and now I buy my lunch once a week at the most, sometimes not at all. Honestly, this is probably 90 per cent because my new apartment has a dishwasher so now I can bring Tupperware to work and not be filled with rage about needing to washing containers by hand later, but I’m still impressed with myself.

As I said, I don’t have any really specific resolutions I’m working toward this year, I just want to keep doing small productive things that make me feel happy and healthy. For example, I stopped eating wheat/gluten/whatever in September. I really hate talking about it because it sounds sooo obnoxious and EVERYONE has stopped eating gluten and no, I don’t have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease or anything that I know of, I admit it. That being said, it’s made me feel better than how I felt before, so I’m going to keep doing it and just try not to talk about it if I can avoid it. Basically my thoughts are: yes, it’s dumb, but it works for me.

gluten

I’ve also become really interested in improving my budgeting skills. This is because I am obsessed with Gail Vaz-Oxlade, and every single time the shows ‘Til Debt Do Us Part or Princess are on, I’m compelled to watch them. If you’re Canadian and have cable, you totally know what I’m talking about. Mostly they make me feel great about my own finances, but they also inspire me to get my shit together. Plus, I read The Billfold every day, which is a super excellent and educational website filled with genuinely interesting articles and thoughts about money.

I actually ended up creating a budget back in November…but then it was Christmas and I totally blew it off and went way over. That’s OK, though, I’ve paid off my credit card and I’m starting over. I have historically been kind of a disaster with money, so I feel like budgeting is a necessity for me, and I think I’ve made a realistic enough plan. Basically I just want to pay off more of my student loan than I had been, and also put more money into savings every month.

OK, these are good but really boring things, and obviously I want to do fun things that are fun too! So, I would also like to challenge myself a bit more. That’s why, as I previously mentioned, I’m going on a short ski trip with my dad at the end of the month. This is pretty scary for me, since it’s been almost exactly 10 years since I last hit the slopes. Gross, I just wrote “hit the slopes,” who am I? Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to be fun, and I’d also like to start doing other things I used to enjoy and haven’t done in a million years. Like skating! And swimming! And maybe I’ll do new things, too, like get a pedicure or learn how to cook one thing. Just one. Let’s not get crazy.

So what’s the theme here? I’m going to do good things that make me feel good! It’s vague enough that it should be hard to fail, and if I end up achieving even a couple positive things, I’ll be filled with feelings of success. Win-win.

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