September 9th, 2009
For those of you who know the real me, the non-virtual Deanna, you know that I’m a worrier. I fret a lot. I spend a lot of sleepless nights pondering things as random as why I’m so obsessed with True Blood this season and how on earth I’m ever going to finish the book I’ve been writing the last few years. A recurring theme in my sleepless nights is listmaking. I find that if I get up and write down a list of all the things I can actually do to assuage whatever is bothering me at that moment, I can actually get some sleep. One of the main things I consistently write down has to do with money: paying bills, managing accounts, moving things around, and debt.
Debt and I have quite a history together. For years I thought of debt as free money. I thought of credit cards as a means of filling in the gaps. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t really taught proper money management as a kid (and that’s not the fault of my parents; it just wasn’t something we discussed and then there was a lot of tragedy that sort of took over…). I was in my early 20s when I truly started to understand how money works. And with that understanding came a glimpse of a day when I wouldn’t have to worry about it all the time. I learned that it’s not just important to be in control of your financial situation but it’s also necessary to understand the true cost of things.
So, over the years I’ve read a number of money-related books: Suze Orman, David Bach, and many, many more. These books all pretty much say the same thing: buy a house, keep up with extra mortgage payments, invest wisely, blah de freaking blah. It’s the same advice packaged in fancier ways: Women and money. Going green and your money. Getting married and your money. Yawn.
I didn’t need any more “whys.” What I needed were “hows.” Enter Kerry K. Taylor‘s excellent 397 Ways to Save Money. When I read this book in manuscript form before we published it, I honestly sat at my desk, skipped lunch, and then wrote an exuberant note to her editor about how smart and savvy I thought it was. It’s a little bit of the “whys” but it’s mainly pages upon pages of good tips about how to save money. How and when to reduce, reuse and recycle. How to shop smarter. How to make your resources stretch further and longer so that you aren’t looking down the barrel of double and triple-digit credit card debt month after month.
Then I learned we were publishing a book called Debt-Free Forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I’d never heard of her nor had I watched ‘Til Debt Do Us Part (both situations I have now rectified). I read it, too, in manuscript form and am only going to say that it’s changed my outlook entirely on budgeting (always thought it was more trouble than it’s worth) and living within your means (what’s the difference if all the bills get paid anyway).
I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about money in general and what it means to my life. Truly, it’s a means to an end; it’s a way for us to finish the house but, it, inherently, doesn’t have any value. What do I mean? Well, it’s not worth fighting over. It’s not worth worrying over, and it’s certainly not worth killing yourself (or others) for. Over the course of my reading, I’m going to share some of the “revolutions” I’m trying to make over the next little while. Again, if I share the list, I’m going to stick to it, right?
1. Use what I buy. Like so many people who work above a Shopper’s Drug Mart and down the street from Sephora and Holt Renfrew, I’ve got cupboards full of make up, creams, gift baskets, foot massagers, shampoos, etc. I keep buying more and more — it’s on sale, I’m there, I like the smell, and I used them, but our shower’s all clogged up with half-empty plastic (natch) bottles. I’ve vowed to use up every single last bit of something before buying something new. That includes all the samples I’ve been saving for goodness knows what and the umpteen travel kits I’ve bought from Dermologica over the years. Good for the environment and good for the wallet. Although if you see me wandering around with fuzzy, dried out hair and clumpy mascara, you know why.
2. Use up my gift certificates. I don’t know why I hoard these things but I do. I think that it’s not a good idea to spend them so I’ve got them tucked away into all corners of things. Redeem all my points for more certificates and use up those too? The best thing I’ve done? Cash in HBC rewards points for MAC makeup and Levi’s jeans. Oh, and a new coffee maker for the cottage. All FREE. Well, sort of free because we have so many points from renovation costs that we’ve cashed in on HBC gift certificates. Um, also, did you know you can use your AirMiles points for a TTC pass? Yeah, that’s what I’m doing in October…
3. Wear what I buy. See #1 above. This one’s harder because I’ve lost a pile of weight due to the almost-dying appendicitis nightmare and none of my clothes fit. Like, none of them. It’s a good thing I own some belts.
4. Use cash. I’ve put my RRHB and I on a budget that we’re going to try to stick to over the next few months while we try to make a pile of payments on the renovation debt. It’s not easy. And it’s not something we’ve EVER done before.
5. Engage in some serious staycation activities. We did some of this at the cottage the other weekend when we went to Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Even though gas isn’t cheap, I put a little extra in our transportation budget so we can take advantage of fun things we can do within driving distance. Also, we’re lucky because we have a cottage. That doesn’t mean we won’t take a vacation, it just means that we’ll be finding some new and interesting things to do that don’t involve spending $100.00 at the movies. This will be hard. I love to go to the movies.
6. Garden more. Both indoors and out. It’s hard to do during the winter, I know, but I’m already planning our garden for next spring/summer because we ate so much of our own homegrown food this year that makes the effort worth it. What I won’t do? Spend obsessive amounts of money on more and more seeds.
7. Pay all our bills on time, including our taxes. I’m usually pretty good at this but tend to let the taxes drift and drift and drift…
8. Take care of the important but really boring things like RRSPs, wills and other financial planning. I always put these off as “oh, I’ll get around to it one day.”
9. Try to find ways to write more for me. This isn’t necessarily money-related but it does go to the whole idea of the true cost of the things in your life. The more I write the more potential I have for becoming a “real” writer one day. The more I write the less it becomes a hobby and more the job that I’ve always wanted it to be.
10. Become more crafty. And not how the Beastie Boys meant it. But more like discovering the girl that grew up making pinecone decorations and sewing. This will also be hard. I feel as though I am terribly untalented in the crafty areas. It’s not a skill I inherited from my truly crafty and wonderfully creative mother.
December 31st, 2008
Last year I had 5 New Year’s Revolutions (thus named because it’s so easy to break a “resolution”, natch) and a few of them I actually managed to integrate into my life.
Revisiting 2008 and 2007
I did finish an entire draft of my first novel, much to my surprise. I have lost weight, about 14 pounds so far, and know that it was the methotrexate contributing to my being unable to lose it. Now that I’m back on prednisone, I’ll have to work even harder to try and keep it off. And while I’m not sure if I’m less judgmental, I have learned from my mistakes, am more positive, and my life is certainly is better for it. Again this year I failed to watch less TV, and I did cut down on my celebrity gossip (with a few slacker “internet coma” days where I relapsed), but the budgeting has gone haywire over the past few months. I am still saving, though.
New Years Revolutions for 2009
I think I’ll do a top 10 list this year just for fun:
1. Try to Live with Less Clutter
I’ve spent the past few days gutting my house of clutter. Our ENTIRE giant recycling bin is full of stuff I have purged — from old credit card statements to useless office accoutrements (why did I hang on to those strange mesh-like inboxes from Shift magazine when the office closed, oh, 10 YEARS AGO?). My bedroom closet is clean and organized. My drawers have all been vacuumed and neatly organized. I know where things are and plan to keep it that way. As my RRHB says, “the problem starts when you bring all that stuff INTO the house.” I am a packrat with a sentimental streak; it’s in my nature, but I simply can’t live with all the junk anymore. Something has to give. There’s a great article here on Style at Home that’s already helped me in terms of decluttering.
2. Be Zen About Work
One of the greatest lessons I’ve had in my life came in the form of being let go from a job that I hated in the first place. I spent a lot of time being angry about it. I spent a lot of energy despising the woman who was once my boss. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I’d do differently. In the end, all it did was make me sick, all the stress from that situation kicked off fighting the disease for another five years, and I vowed I’d not make that mistake again. But here we are, all these years later and the week that my job imploded happily corresponded with the death of my mother and my father-in-law’s heart attack. It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.
I’ve decided that my job might not be perfect, it might not be everything I’d hoped it would be, but I’m going to give it a chance and not make all the same mistakes I did when I worked for the television empire. So far, it’s working: I’m calmer, I don’t react with my temper, I do my best, I do what’s asked of me, and I’ve started asking for things in return. By “zen” I don’t mean to debase anyone’s religion, it’s more the approach I want to take about work: I can’t change the fact that I have to work, I can only change my response to it. Taking more deep breaths, not getting worked up, thinking before I act and then acting responsibly — all in order to achieve a sense of balance, that’s my goal.
3. Watch Less TV
TV is the ultimate time waster, as much as I do adore it. I’ve only watched a little bit in the evenings this past week and have accomplished so much. I’m going to try and watch less TV on the weekends and try to limit weeknights to just a couple of hours.
4. Bring My Lunch
This one’s simple: we’re sitting on the edge of broke right now. We need to save more, spend less and one easy way of doing this is bringing my lunch more than once a month. I also want to eat more wholesome food, more soups, less bagels, more vegetables, less candy, and this is one way of eating better. That doesn’t mean I won’t go out once or twice a week, it just means I’ll stop running to the food court when I feel desperate.
5. Buy Less, Use What I Have, Create More
As above, we’re trying to finish the house so every penny is allocated and I need to break the bad online shopping habit. I know I won’t be able to NOT shop at all, but I can cut down on the amount I spend, buy things on sale, wait until I have more than just one item to purchase so that there are more bits and pieces in each packages (better for the environment). I’m also going to try to use things I already have: wear all the clothes in my closet; buy and then eat the groceries we have in the fridge and in the cupboard; fix things before throwing them out, etc. I also want to knit more — but that’s a separate entry. I’m also thinking of pulling out my sewing machine, getting it tuned up, and taking a course or two in dressmaking. I love skirts and wish that I could make some of my own. Maybe this is the year to try. I’m also including gardening in this revolution: it’ll be bigger, better and yummier this year, I’m already feeling positive — the photo for this entry is one of my bean plants from last year, and it just reminds me how much I enjoy eating, cooking, and growing my own vegetables (even if I hate gardening).
6. Stop The Internet Coma
I remember the heady days of my first internet usage where I surfed for literary magazines and sent off all kinds of submissions. I remember doing research for grad school and discovering great information. Fast forward 10 years and I can spend entire days reading celebrity gossip, hounding the IMDB for who knows what and chasing down obscure pop culture references. I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing; it’s who I am, a pop culture junkie, but when it takes over AN ENTIRE DAY of my life, it’s more of a symptom of boredom than anything else. It’s time that could be put to better use.
7. Get More Regular Exercise
I know, this is on everyone’s list. Over the past few years I’ve managed yoga, dance classes, biking, walking, swimming — but all sporadically. There’s a community centre around the corner from our house. My to-do list for this week includes stopping by and finding out the swim times, the gym times and membership-type stuff. My RRHB also had a wonderful suggestion to combat my winter blues: “get outside for winter activities.” He says that if we just did more winter-type stuff, ice skating, skiing, walking, we’d find it less depressing. He’s right.
8. No Fear
So much of my anxiety comes from being afraid of things, of what might happen, of the disease, of getting fired, of people thinking poorly of me, of my own self-imposed criticism — and it all contributes to a knot that sits in the middle of my chest on an almost daily basis. I don’t know what makes me so afraid and I don’t know how to change this part of my personality. But I do know that it’s a great part of where my stress comes from and I’m going to need to figure a way through it. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I’m too young and too old to be dealing with such a basic nothing in terms of what really matters.
9. Finish What I Start
Another self-explanatory item, but it’s so true, I have half-done knitting projects, unfinished manuscripts, outstanding to do lists, and it’s never ending. 2009 is The Year of Finishing Dangerously. I need to complete projects before moving on to the next one.
10. Read Even More
Books are glorious things. There are so many I want to read so again I’m setting the goal at 100 books that I can blog. I think I probably hit about 90 this year with Harlequin and books I read for work and didn’t blog. I guess we’ll see if I hit the goal this year!
So that’s about it — 2009 New Year’s Revolutions. Any suggestions for how I can get there?
October 1st, 2008
1. Friday Night Lights only available in the US UNTIL FEBRUARY. If this isn’t a call for, ahem, a little ill-eagle downloading I don’t know what is, I just hope they don’t arrest me before catching (SPOILER) a little Lyla / Riggins romp.
2. Other things I’ve noticed about television: the Walkers fight way too much, everyone on SVU is a ham bone, and the woman from Fringe is seriously annoying (but PACEY. Sigh). And many of the new shows this year are lacking in direction, like True Blood (which I’m only watching now so I can see Brad “The Iceman” Colbert).
3. Doesn’t the word GOOP just inspire to you to want to “do better” and “be better” or does it just say WTF is Gwyneth Paltrow on? And who extensively designs a web site all in flash and then doesn’t proceed to upload ANY content. So it’s a lifestyle-type magazine site with one paragraph repeated over and over again in every channel. Content is so king. Whatevs GP, oohhh, maybe it stands for Gwyneth on on Paltrow? Or Go Poop? Because all of that makes sense. Not. (props to Zesty for the link).
4. I hate the new EW redesign. If I wanted to subscribe to Us Weekly, I would have subscribed to US Weekly. I’ve given it a few months and I might not renew my subscription purely out of the fact that it’ll make it that much easier to skip Diablo Cody’s “column.” Meow. I know.
5. Curtis Sittenfeld is one hell of a farking good writer. More on this tk once I finish American Wife, which is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time.
6. I am going to be a band widow for a month minus about 5 days. That’s a long time.
7. The Fall makes me want to drink tea.
8. I’ve listened to The Raconteurs concert on NPR about sixteen thousand times. It’s getting so that I know the live versions of the songs better than the recorded ones and get confused in my sing-a-longs. I know one thing for sure: there will be a lot of Racon-racket this month as I can play it as much as I want with my RRHB on the road with the band.
9. My latest abridged classic might honestly be the death of me. I’m 5k words over, two weeks passed the deadline (there were extenuating circumstances), and my fingers have never hurt so much in my entire life.
10. Today my RRHB had our new backdoor and transom installed. He also built a new garage roof. The house is definitely coming together. At least that’s what Astrology Zone keeps telling me will happen this month. I need some good news from the stars. September just about cracked me in half like a nut at Christmas.