Archive for the ‘Managing Money’ Category

After Quicken?

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Web-forward people, particularly iPhone users, what’s the next thing after Quicken? Mint? Wesabe? Quicken online? I’ve tried all of these, and I have some complaints about each. Quicken no longer affords me the convenience it used to before I had an iPhone, when I used Pocket Quicken on my Treo to record expenses as I transacted them and could sync them up back at my laptop whenever. Now I have a stack of receipts piling up and no motivation to do anything with them, but I miss the granular visibility I used to have into my finances when that system was working well for me.

So what now?

Gifts that really do keep on giving

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Over at Music City Bloggers, Malia asks:

will all your holiday dreams come true if there’s a little velvet box waiting for you under the tree?

My holiday dreams? Do not involve jewelry boxes. At all. As I said in the comments at MCB, diamonds suck. That whole industry is evil and I don’t get why they’re so damned expensive. Sure they sparkle and sparkly things are appealing, but I can get a heck of a lot of pleasure out of looking at and wearing much less expensive sparkly things.

As for my jewelry preferences in general, I’d much rather have an unusual piece with semiprecious stones — something that reflects my personality. One year I asked Karsten to have my favorite ring — one that I made when I was in high school, and I wear every day — polished as a Christmas gift, and that was a wonderful treat. (It could use it again, now that I think of it.)

For that matter, why limit it to jewelry? I prefer unusual gifts that reflect my personality. Besides the aforementioned ring polishing, one of the lovelier gifts Karsten has given me was, at my request, to have one of his original art pieces framed so it could hang in our bedroom. I love that piece, and it meant a lot to me to be able to look at it every day.

Was the gift any less wonderful because it wasn’t a surprise? Not at all. I love surprise gifts, but meaningful gifts trump surprises, in my book.

And hey, it’s hard work to think up a meaningful, surprising gift just in time for the holidays. And that’s the thing: I really prefer not to play into the pressure of holiday gift-giving too much. I LOVE the idea of giving gifts; I just don’t like the idea of being socially obligated to give gifts.

After all, I buy myself indulgent little things all the time; if I’m going to be given a gift, I prefer it to be something meaningful and representative of my relationship with the gift-giver; the cost and timing of the gift truly have nothing to do with its value to me.

The editor’s note in the latest issue of Domino magazine talked about great gifts: how they’re special and surprising, but most importantly, they reflect the best interpretation of the relationship between giver and recipient. That’s one of the biggest things that bother me about the consumer-driven holiday culture we’ve (d)evolved into: it feels so much like checking an item off your “to do” list.

Which is why, as a side note, I hate the trend of giving gift cards as presents with a burning, boiling passion. In the past ten years, it seems to have become so common that I feel like all people do is end up getting the same amount in gift cards that they give. If they’re lucky.

We all might as well write each other $1,000,000 checks and tear them up — at least that’d be more memorable. In fact, why not? Let’s all get together, drink some Silk Nog, write checks to each other in ridiculous sums, talk about what we’ll do with our gift money, and then laugh and tear them to pieces. Who’s in?

Environmentalism vs. economics as personal responsibility

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Reading over the thread at Music City Bloggers about mortgage foreclosures and such, I’m struck by a disparity I notice in the voices of the regulars there and in other online fora.

Why does it seem that so many of the people who get most passionate when it comes to matters of personal financial responsibility and conservation of fiscal resources are not equally passionate when it comes to environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources?

If these people can applaud and embrace the concept of budgeting dollars and curbing consumption when it is out of scale with the economic resources available, why can’t they applaud and embrace the same principle when it comes to things like water, oil, clean air, trees, etc?

Is it because they don’t think of it as a personal responsibility? Is it because no one has told them convincingly enough that it’s the right thing to do?

You know what I think we need in the U.S.? We need a pro-environment activist who speaks from a conservative / Christian basis. Sort of like — no, scratch that, exactly like the Dave Ramsey of environmentalism.

Although come to think of it, Paris might not get my mind off of rats…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

OK, right off the bat, here’s the sucky thought du jour: I can’t decide if we should go through with the trip we were planning to Europe. Though I’m in luck if I need to travel, because I’ve got bags under my eyes that could hold my entire wardrobe. Why? Because we spent the night in a hotel room with all six cats while we fogged the house for fleas.

I cannot properly do justice to the level of annoying this whole flea thing is. And it’s not just fleas annoying me. Allow me to whine for a moment.

  • I’m pretty sure I saw somewhere that it’s the hottest August ever on record in Nashville. Even if it’s not, it should be. So let’s just get that out of the way right now, ’cause the extreme heat sure isn’t making anything (or anyone) easier to deal with.
  • Remember the rats? Well, they’ve apparently nested underneath and in the walls in the back of our house. (One of my coworkers suspects that this is where the fleas are coming from, but I don’t know if there’s any way to be sure.)OK, and side note — this is a bad story. Feel free to skip to the next bullet — Karsten went out weeks ago and got rid of the junk pile, busted up the old deck, and started digging out the weeds around the house. He hit a nest with tiny wriggling ratlings (it’s easier to call them ratlings than “kittens” when your aim is to get rid of them). It was an awful scene and he was devastated at having hurt them but the aim is, after all, to eliminate the population from our property. So as a compromise, whichever babies weren’t already killed from the impact of the shovel got carried off to an empty lot a few hundred yards away.But anyway, even after all that there are still rats in the walls, and we’re not sure how we’re going to win this one.
  • Baby Clyde is doing better, we think. He apparently had a blockage in his digestive tract so when they x-rayed him, his stomach looked totally full even after a day of intense vomiting. Not sure how or why, but the next day’s x-rays showed his stomach clear and his lower digestive tract filling up, so the vet was satisfied that things looked to be on the right track. But I’m still nervous because we don’t know why he was having trouble in the first place. Which in my mind means it could happen again anytime. But considering I thought he might be dying on Sunday night, I’ll be relieved if all we’re dealing with is a bad case of indigestion.
  • And the fleas! The fleas are driving me nuts. I mean, it’s just exactly the kind of thing that really gets to me. I can’t take any kind of insect in large quantities. I won’t even release ladybugs in the garden ’cause they freak me out en masse, but individually I’ll let them crawl all over my hands and arms. A whole mess of bugs I don’t like under any circumstances invading my living space? Definitely gonna mess with my mind.
  • One of the other cats, Blackberry, has had a long-standing problem with urinating where he shouldn’t. We’ve fought it for a while, but it had been getting worse recently. Took him to the vet and found out he has a pretty serious bladder infection. Uh, OK. Now I feel like a terrible cat person. So we’ve been giving him pills twice a day for weeks, and if you’ve never had to give a pill to a skittish cat, well, you just haven’t experienced life.
  • Between the overages in the house renovation and the flea/rat/vet/hotel expenses, we’ve depleted our checking account to levels we haven’t seen in years. It really sucks and it makes me feel anxious. I think having had the experience of losing nearly everything we owned and getting as close as you can get to bankruptcy without actually filing, I’m having traumatic flashbacks to my anxiety level at that time. Our situation right now in no way resembles our situation then, but it’s hard to shake an experience like that.
  • Oh, and I’m trying to accomplish about a million things simultaneously in the next few months at work. So there’s that, too.

I’m really trying to keep everything in perspective by remembering that we have a house, we have our health, and we’re not broke (yet). But the amount of stuff we’re having to deal with is enough to make me whimper.

So yeah, I can’t decide if we’ve now spent enough unbudgeted money on all these various problems to mean that we should hold off on our long-awaited vacation. The vacation that coincides with our 10 year anniversary. The vacation we’ve been trying to take since 1999. The vacation we could really freakin’ use right about now.

You see what I’m saying? We’ve been really looking forward to this. So to put it off, while it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, would hurt and would suck and and and. Yes, we’d get over it. But it would be a big disappointment.

Anyway, it’s not time to decide yet. For one thing, I don’t think we’re out of the woods with the whole pest control issue, so there may actually be even more money to spend. But also because we still have a little time before we have to make the decision, and I may yet come up with some genius plan to make everything work. Hey, it could happen.

Mais il y a peu de chances. Le sigh.

And no paper cuts yet, either!

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

I’m tackling my big paper pile o’ doom. This paper pile actually started accumulating while my dad was sick, and has slowly grown its own gravity field ever since. I’ve paid bills and taken care of enough odds and ends that it hasn’t actually made itself into an emergency, but enough little things went hidden and unnoticed that it has evolved into a problem. I could actually write kind of a serious post about how horrible and helpless it has made me feel for this past year and a half, but instead I’ll just say that I’ve been making an effort to tackle it every weekend morning for many, many weeks, but it rarely looks like I made much progress.

This morning I had a new strategy: to go through every single piece of paper and separate it into smaller piles according to as many categories as necessary, but I had to name the categories, put a post-it note on a file folder with the name of the category, and put each piece of paper into its respective file folder. Once that was done, I took the financial file and immediately went through everything, entering bills in Quicken, writing checks, and what-have-you. That’s done so now I’m taking a little break to check feeds and write this here post.

Next I’ll tackle the stuff to file, which will probably take me until breakfast and then I’ll end up going outside to garden. But at least I have a really scalable system to begin again on it next weekend. Whew.

Changing the front of our house and the ever-changing housing front

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Good news – we got our loan to do our front porch / entryway work! Yay! What’s especially cool about this is that when we went into the banks to start the application process, we told them what we thought the value of our house was but we aimed pretty high, knowing that the appraiser would most likely be coming in to say “yep, it’s worth that much” or not. Somehow the numbers got mixed up, though, and the mortgage guy gave an even higher figure to the appraiser, who came back saying it wasn’t worth quite that much, but placed it almost exactly at the figure we originally gave. So in just about two years’ time, our house has increased in value by over 60% of what we bought it for. Not too shabby! Some of that is directly attributable to the appreciation of home values in our neighborhood overall, of course, but the new windows and some of the other work we’ve done were factors in the increased value, as well, so that feels good.

Anyway, this means that our front porch and entryway work can begin in the next few weeks, and the bulk of it should be done by late spring. The only part that will probably have to wait is painting, which will likely happen in the fall. And for the next little while, we’ll have to use our back door only, which will be weird. But I think it’s going to look great. I can’t wait.

(more…)

2005 Year-End-y thingy

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

1. What did you do in 2005 that you’d never done before?

Started taking anti-depressants. Got my first single-song contract. Somehow that combination seems very rock’n'roll, so I’ll leave it at that.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My 2005 priorities were to improve my nutrition, improve my fitness, improve my finances, and improve and advance my songwriting. I stuck with those, for the most part. I think I let the nutrition and fitness slip a bit now and then when I was too depressed to pay attention, but I did pretty well on the finances and the songwriting.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one close to me, no.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Lordy, yes. My mother-in-law in March, and my father in November.

5. What countries did you visit?

I travelled frequently between the southern and the midwestern United States. Seems to me you should need a passport or something to cross the Illinois-Kentucky line.

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?

A pay raise.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 5th, 2005. Something tells me the loss of my father will remain a pretty significant event for me for a long time.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting the single-song contract, I guess.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being unable to keep working while spending time in the Chicago area. It has cost me professionally, I fear.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

If depression counts, yes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

It’s a tossup between my Treo 650 and my 17″ Powerbook. They’re both rockin’.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Karsten’s. He was a total trooper.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Some of my relatives.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Into the new old house! Lots and lots and lots of money went into fixing up the house.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The house! The single-song contract!

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?

Live Like You Were Dying” written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, and recorded by Tim McGraw. It really is a great country-pop song, but its significance this year has partly to do with how ubiquitous it was (#1 on the charts, for, like, EVER and winner of who-knows-how-many “song of the year” awards), but also, of course, in my life, how timely it was. I just wish my dad had had an opportunity to do the kinds of things the song suggests — living an uninhibited life knowing that your death is imminent — because he was too weak to do that in any kind of physical way. But he “loved deeper” and he “spoke sweeter” (sometimes), for example, so at least some of it was true for him.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

Heh. My answers to these questions prove that the world is so not a binary place.

i. happier or sadder? More of each.

ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner but, in some ways, less fit.

iii. richer or poorer? Lower income, greater net worth.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I don’t know. Maybe cooking.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Crying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

My mom is coming here the week prior to Christmas and leaving Christmas morning, so I’ll be seeing her off and then Karsten and I will probably spend the day lounging around the house with the kitties.

21. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

Apparently the neighborhood has a big party, so we’re going to check that out.

22. Did you fall in love in 2005?

It may be corny but I found myself falling in love with Karsten again and again.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Arrested Development. (”Come on!”)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I’m too tired to hate. I have some pretty annoyed dislike for some people, but it’s a pretty passive dislike. Hate seems so much more active and energetic than I have the capacity for.

26. What was the best book you read?

To be honest, I did very little reading, and what I did read tended to be pretty fluffy, like “The Lucky Guide to Shopping” or “What Not To Wear.” They were both pretty good, though. ;-)

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Was “Garden State” this year? I can’t remember. If so, like many people, I discovered The Shins because of that movie, and I love them. Also, I think Anna Nalick debuted with “Breathe (2 AM)” in the beginning of the year, and that has become one of my favorite songs ever (although most of the rest of Wreck Of The Day doesn’t impress me much). I think Keane got most of their visibility this year, too, and I just love them.

28. What did you want and get?

A single-song contract. :-)

29.What did you want and not get?

A promotion at work. Not just for the position of manager of our group, but for the next level of seniority within my own position (from Senior Business Analyst to Consulting Business Analyst). I think the perception is that I’m just not ready since I wasn’t around much of this year to prove my value, or whatever. It annoys me because I already deserved it for the work I’d done before this year so it’s like I’m being passed over for the second time.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Tossup between “Garden State” and “Sideways.”

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ll be 32 and I’m having a pizza party with, like, two attendees. (Everyone else is going to be out of town.)

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Oh, how could I narrow it down? I don’t know. It’s really kind of depressing to try to pinpoint.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?

I was shooting for urban professional sophistication with a twist of unexpected hip, but I probably missed entirely. ;-)

34. What kept you sane?

Now THIS I can get specific about. Karsten, for a start. Every day in some way, Karsten kept me sane. Then there were the long walks; the gardening; the cats; putting the kitchen together; Absolut Raspberri vodka & tonics; pedicures; girly-scented body washes; dying my hair burgundy.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don’t think there was one, really.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

I guess it was the lack of response immediately following hurricane Katrina.

37. Who did you miss?

Too easy. I missed my dad as he was before the strokes made him less communicative.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I think that honor goes to nothinganything. Congratulations! I don’t think you win any prizes, but, really, isn’t my fawning admiration enough?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005:

We don’t live in years; we live in moments.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I think, more than anything, it’s this from “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush:

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things we should’ve said,
That were never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.

The year in review

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Borrowed from and many others; edited for stuff I care about answering. I linked to a lot of stuff throughout; my apologies if any links lead to where you, dear reader, cannot follow.

Review of 2004

What did you do in 2004 that you’d never done before?

Ran a road race. It was the Park Forest Scenic 10, and it was quite the learning experience.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did, for the most part.

I wanted to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) but I only ran a 10-mile race. Still, it’s close.
I’m doing OK with the three goals around my nutrition.
I haven’t really made much progress on my guitar playing.
I have sort of made more time for songwriting.
The debt is effectively gone.
And I’ve done better with organizing my wardrobe, but I’m planning to address this in the new house in a major way.

What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?

More time with friends, more time for songwriting, more money to spend on fun things. I’m starting to get closer to attaining all of these, and I want that trend to continue.

What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Work dates come to mind first: March 29th, when we launched our product to the corporate campus; November 15th, when we shut down the legacy product.

And, of course, November 2nd.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I dunno, maybe writing 15 songs in 30 days, even if that fell far short of my 30-song goal.

What was your biggest failure?

I can’t think of anything significant. I feel good about that.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I injured my knee doing a 10-mile run on May 31st. I probably already had an injury, but the long run flared it up. That turned into iliotibial band troubles, which led to hip troubles, which led to possible bursitis and a prolonged break from running. I stopped running for the month of June, but spent July and August training for the Scenic 10, and I wasn’t fully recovered. I laid off for the rest of September, October, and ran a few miles in late November before realizing I still wasn’t recovered. I probably won’t be running again for a few more months, much to my frustration and dismay.

What was the best thing you bought?

My Clie.

Where did most of your money go?

This year was all about finishing up the debt repayment. And since I’m such a Quicken addict, I can give you percentages. Aren’t you excited?

The vast majority of it went toward paying off a single credit card. (23.94%)
Another large sum went to taxes. (13.53%)
Then rent. (9.27%)
Then another credit card. (7.99%)
Then savings for future house renovations, 401(k), and downpayment, respectively. (7.67%, 6.20%, 5.79%)
Household expenses. (4.58%)
Another two credit cards. (3.06% and 2.59%)
Groceries. (2.11%)
Car stuff. (1.66%)

Ain’t we got fun?

WAY down the list, you start to see things like:
Vacation (0.99%) - but this includes the trips to Chicago for my dad’s chemo treatments. Whee.
Songwriting (0.66%) - we’ll spend more on this in 2005 when we record some more demos.
Dining (0.65%) - we don’t eat out much.
Entertainment (0.50%) - and most of that has probably been spent in the past month.
Recreation (0.12%) - this includes my race fees and running shoes. Whoop de doo!

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our new kitten, Bopper.

What song will always remind you of 2004?

“Live Like You Were Dying” written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols and recorded by Tim McGraw.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Take vacation time. I worked a hell of a lot of hours. All that overtime certainly helped pay off the debt, but I have serious knots in my shoulders to show for it. Our in-town vacation, while fun, wasn’t nearly enough.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish there’d been no reason for all those trips to Chicago for my dad’s treatments. But I’m glad I was able to be there and help out, and I’m certainly grateful to for generously volunteering to watch our kitties during one of those trips. And when I say I want less of it in 2005, I mean that I want my dad to be healthy again.

What was the best book you read?

“About A Boy” by Nick Hornby. Much better than the film, although I love Hugh Grant (or “Huge Grunt,” as Karsten and his sister refer to him) in just about anything.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don’t know, really! Maybe it was the discovery that I can, in fact, write lyrics to existing melody. Not that I haven’t done it before this year, but I usually choke when faced with a melody I have a lot of respect for.

What did you want and get?

Pre-qualification for the mortgage I wanted. I’d say “a house,” but we haven’t quite signed the paperwork yet.

What was your favorite film of this year?

It may be 10 years old, but I just saw “Before Sunrise” a few months ago, and I loved it so much. “Before Sunset” was very good, too, but it felt a little contrived whereas “Sunrise” just felt spontaneous and beautiful. Wow.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

My birthday hasn’t come around yet in 2004. I’ll be 31 on 12/23.

What is at least one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having to deal with my sister’s ridiculous crap on top of everything else.

Who did you miss the most this year?

My good friend and former co-worker, Tom Johnson. He’s a nut, and I love ‘im, and I miss hanging out with him.

Who was the best new person you met?

No one but Karsten has ever made more of an impression on me in a shorter span of time than has. I was hoping to find good friends this year, and he’s a great find and a definite keeper.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, keep a brave face, and enjoy yourself every minute you can. Life is short and precious.

(Actually, I’m sure I learned that long before 2004, but it’s a lesson I keep learning again and again.)

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need

What's on your PDA?

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

soaring_phoenix wrote about PIMs. I replied:

I love love love my Clie NZ-90. I’ve previously owned a Palm VIIx and a PalmPilot Pro. I’m a diehard Palm OS user. It would take a lot to convince me to go with anything else.

I’ll admit I’ve had a major challenge to overcome with PIM software because up until a few months ago, I was living and dying by ACT! at home and Outlook at work, wanting to keep my songwriting biz and my day job separate, not to mention take advantage of the great functionality ACT! offers for tracking leads and opportunities. The synchronization between two very different desktop PIMs was daunting at best. I tried the Palm ACT! client, but I found it too limiting (and didn’t really like having ACT! data live in a separate database from the original Address and Date Book app). Since then, I’ve basically abandoned ACT! and now use Outlook for everything at work and just use Palm Desktop at home more or less as a backup. I’m still not thrilled with the arrangement, but it’s getting easier to live with.

Anyway, here are the productivity apps I use most on my Clie:

Date Book and To Do List. Both original, sync’ed through Intellisync with Outlook at work and Palm Desktop at home.
CLIE Memo. Came with the Clie. Not as good, in my opinion, as BugMe! but the latter costs $20 and I’m getting by with the free one for now.
PocketQuicken. Absolutely indispensable. I love Quicken. See previous post. :-)
TealDoc. Handy for editing text files directly on the Memory Stick, but I’ve found occasional file corruption as a result. Very disappointing.
Address. The original. Not thrilled with it compared to what I used to be able to store in ACT!, but it is what it is, and it’s fine for a lightweight address book.
AvantGo. Such a cool app. I’ve been using it for years, and I’m still impressed with it.

Perfect timing (and thrift store mojo)

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Last week I was complaining to Karsten about being bored with my work wardrobe. Not only bored, but I can’t help noticing that there are interns at my company that are wearing more stylish and interesting work clothes than what I’m making do with. I lamented that it may be time to make the switch from my entirely-thrift-store-bought wardrobe to one where I start buying one good piece at a time and build a real professional wardrobe.

So, with a heavy heart, on Friday I started doing a little research. I checked some of the big retailers online, like bananarepublic.com, nordstrom.com, macys.com, and so on. Mind you, I’ve only paid retail prices for, oh, about two garments ever in my life. So I was getting pretty depressed at the prices and what it would mean for my budget if I were to start having to pay a lot of money for each piece. We’re talking pants — on clearance, mind you — for between $40 and $80.

I also took a lunchtime run by a few of the more trendy independent stores in town. I liked some of what they had, but I was very unimpressed with the prices. Even on the clearance rack, we’re still talking about $30 to $50 for a pair of pants.

Then on my way home Friday evening, I stopped in at Goodwill. I don’t know what made me think it would be worthwhile on a Friday at 7:00 PM to bother with a thrift store (my usual approach is not to bother with thrift stores past mid-morning because most of the stylish stuff has usually been cleared out by resellers and other savvy shoppers), but the car just sort of steered itself.

I found five pairs of stylish, professional pants and a perfect blue-gray knee-length Banana Republic skirt that’s destined to become one of my favorite pieces, as well as a very cute knee-length denim skirt (with that sandblast wash with the sort of thin stripey look that’s been so hot for the past year or two) for evenings and weekends which is already one of my favorite pieces and I haven’t even worn it out yet — all for under $30 total.

But far more importantly, I found out that they were having a 50% off of everything sale the next day, and opening at 7:00 AM for the occasion.

So Karsten and I got there yesterday morning right at 7, and we were there until after 10, hunting, trying on clothes, hunting, trying on clothes. And I got 62 articles of name-brand (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Benetton, Express, Gap, Limited, etc), stylish clothing, most of them appropriate for work, plus a hip Hawaiian-style shirt for Karsten, plus some children’s books (he uses them for art projects), plus a new Ralph Lauren 100% cotton sheet for our non-bed, for just under $150.

Let’s do the math real quick, shall we? A work wardrobe of five pairs of work-appropriate pants, a skirt, and, let’s just call it 40 shirts and sweaters and such. (Not all of the 62 items were work-appropriate, but definitely more than half were.) Even if I were buying these on deep, deep clearance, and the pants and skirt were, let’s say $15 each and the tops were, let’s say $10 each, that still adds up to $490. And my grand total of $180 for both shopping trips was well under half of that. Whee!

Anyway, I spent the next few hours at home trying things on again, looking for outfits in what I bought and what I already own (there were lots!), and then clearing out the less interesting pieces from my closet.

Now I just have to get to the laundromat and dry cleaner (only three of my new pieces are dry-clean only — I made an effort to avoid those except where it seemed really worth it) and then reorganize my closet.

Oh, and Goodwill is having another one of these big sales next month. :-)

Oh man, I’m -pissed- now.

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

eBay took down one of my auctions — the Kate Spade bag — for some kind of infringement. Possibly trademark infringement, but I don’t know yet because I haven’t heard back from the katespade.com email address they gave me to contact about the whole thing.

Excuse me? This is just a little absurd. I’m obviously a totally small-time seller on eBay and it’s not like I’m passing off a fake as the real thing or anything like that. I absolutely need the money, and they freakin’ canceled my auction.

This is doing nothing to improve my mood, let me tell you. Grrr.

By the way, there’s less than one day left on the other auctions:
http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewSellersOtherItems&userid=kateoneill&include=0&since=-1&sort=3&rows=50

I don’t do resolutions…

Friday, January 2nd, 2004

but here are some things I’d like to accomplish this year.

Run a half-marathon, at least. I had hopes of running the Country Music Marathon in April, but between the weather and my wicked work schedule, I lost a lot of valuable training time in November and December. With only three months left to train (and at least two months of bad weather left, and still a fairly wicked work schedule), I won’t make the marathon. I’m still hopeful about the half-marathon, though. And even if I don’t manage that one, I’m intent on being able to do it by the end of the summer.

Increase the amount and diversity of raw veggies I eat. I already do fairly well at this, but I’d like to be better about it.

Increase my nutrient:calorie ratio. Same as above, and will certainly be aided by implementation of above.

Decrease the amount of useless fat I eat. Again, I’m pretty good about this, but I still munch a little too much chocolate a little too often, and french fries never did anything good for anyone, even when they’re only eaten once in a great while.

Improve my guitar skills. I let this slip because of my wicked work schedule, but I really need to work on my guitar playing. It could be such a valuable songwriting tool, and I just haven’t taken the time to practice and improve.

Make more time for songwriting. My day job has been top priority for a few months, and that’s fine because it pays the bills. But once the big push is over (and it should return to normal by the end of March), I need to get back to spending serious amounts of time on writing songs.

Accelerate debt reduction plan. As of yesterday’s session with Quicken, my… our… THE debt will be paid off in May 2005, which is thrilling (only a few months ago I was excited to think it would be paid off by September 2007!) — but I’m a never-settle-for-less-than-everything kind of person, and I want to see if I can make it go away even faster.

Organize my clothes. This seems so minor in comparison to the others, but it’s really such an annoyance. I have a fairly generous closet space, but I have a lot of clothes because I basically have four wardrobes: my smart-and-professional work clothes, my sexy-and-stylish out-and-about clothes, my ever-growing collection of workout wear for all seasons, and my comfy-and-hip stay-at-home clothes. I need to find a way to make it all tidy and easy to access.

Random countdown & countup

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

Milestones upcoming and past. This helps me stay aware of what a given period of time feels like.

  • Just under a month until I see my dad, maybe for the last time.
  • One month exactly until I turn 30.
  • Two months (when the music executives are all back in their offices after the holidays) until we can really get back to trying to pitch our songs.
  • Three months, maybe four, until I can pay off the heaviest credit card I now carry.
  • Four months until the system I work on is widely released.
  • Five months until the Country Music Marathon.
  • Two years until I pay off my credit cards under the new, more aggressive payment plan.
  • Two years and four months until we can buy a house.
  • Two years and eight months since we left California.
  • Almost two years since I stopped dating other people.
  • A year and ten months since we left Portland.
  • Nine months since we came to Nashville.

Paid for by hard work

Friday, November 21st, 2003

My coworker K is having major remodeling done to his house. I’m trying to pay down my debts. We’re both contractors working on a project with unrealistic deadlines, and we have been given the freedom to bill as many hours as we need to in order to “get it done.”

We’re a little punchy from being overworked, but we’re also making frequent jokes about how he should put signs up throughout his house that say things like “this high-end showerhead brought to you by the Human Resources portion of the intranet content migration.”

I don’t want to jinx it, but…

Tuesday, November 18th, 2003

My relationship with money seems to be moving into a growth phase. :-)

I billed 66.75 hours last week, and it looks like this week will be in excess of 60 hours as well. That’ll make a nice, plump overtime paycheck next month.

And the sale of kathleen.net went through this morning, so that’s some extra dough in my checking account. Actually, it’ll go right toward paying off the heaviest credit card.

Which, speaking of, I now believe will easily be paid off by the end of March ‘04.

And there’s little things, too, like a $25 credit on the phone bill just for renewing our contract. And $80 to housesit and dog-sit for my boss’ boss over Thanksgiving.

It’s all adding up, and I’m really starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel. I feel like I’m starting to be able to breathe more deeply. Is it possible I’ve been living with low-level anxiety for the past few years and have just gotten used to it? That’s what it feels like. Because even though things are still pretty rough in some ways (work is hard and I’m worried about my dad, for example), the money issue has been pretty overwhelming for a long time. And it’s really starting to look a whole lot better.

We’ve got to stick with the extremely frugal lifestyle, of course, and that’s not always easy, but knowing that we’re getting somewhere because of it certainly helps.

So, can I just? Well, here: *long, deep inhale* *hold it* *slow, satisfying exhale*

There. That feels much better.

Oh! And I think I’m actually selling kathleen.net!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

The prospective buyer got back to me and accepted my counteroffer so I think we’re on. :-)

Anyone know anything about transferring a domain name? Anything I should be careful about?

Selling a domain name?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2003

I got an offer to buy kathleen.net, and even though I hadn’t been thinking of selling it, I don’t mind the idea of making some money. Her offer was only $300, which is certainly more than I’ve paid for it, and more than covers the rest of the registration term, but doesn’t seem like quite enough to motivate me to go through the hassle.

Would it be unrealistic, do you think, to hold out for more?

Ready to run!

Thursday, November 6th, 2003

I finally got over to the running store on the other side of the park from my office. It was worth holding out for: the guy took my foot measurements, asked how many miles I’m running per week, whether I’m training for anything specific, and a few other questions, and produced a pair of Saucony shoes that felt like heaven. He took me outside to watch me run a bit in them, made a few other suggestions — another Saucony model and a New Balance — and they were good, too, but nowhere near as comfortable as the first pair.

It’s just staggering how many different running shoe models are out there, how much information there is to know about them (overpronator, underpronator, or neutral? which models are built for which foot shape? extra cushioned or extra lightweight? and on and on). I’ve been doing tons of research, and feeling completely overwhelmed. This guy was able to assess my foot physiology, my training needs, and my comfort preferences in one shot and find me just the right shoe. Wow.

I’m $90 lighter, but I have a kickass pair of Sauconys that I can’t wait to break in tomorrow morning. And much less chance of injuring my knees than if I’d continued to run in my ten-year-old, beat-up Nikes. And I hereby resolve to replace my running shoes every few hundred miles from now on, just like the experts recommend. I’m sure spending just shy of $100 every six months or so will turn out to be cheaper than paying the medical deductibles on knee surgery or something similar. Running is awfully inexpensive in every other way, after all.

Yay for new shoes!