Tag Archives: internet

Save yourself a Mint: budgeting made easy

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For anyone interested in getting their financial $#!% together, I could not possibly recommend any higher my new discovery of Mint (www.mint.com) and the corresponding smartphone app (available free on the app store).

I make the goal every year of creating a budget, but to be completely honest, until now, I have never gotten around to even taking the FIRST STEP – opening up Excel and punching in expenses and incomes. Somehow, the image of sitting there in a haphazard pile of crumpled reciepts, struggling to fill in mystery blanks, cursing my computer monitor, and forgetting about it the next week anyways, was just too depressing to even attempt. Not now though! Oh no!

I stumbled upon Mint first on my iPhone. It was the top rated personal finance app, so I thought it was worth checking out. At first, it made me a bit sweaty since you literally give them all your banking information – but after doing my homework and feeling pretty comfortable with their security and everything, I went for it. Thank god I did! It is a masterpiece of web architecture. It brings together all your accounts, cards, loans, debts, and investments in one place. It automatically uploads and categorizes every expense, and gives you the ability to upload cash expenses in, oh, about two nanoseconds. You can create custom reports out of all this information, broken down by category, store, month, multiple months, trends, etc. You can get it in graphs, pie charts, or good old fashioned spreadsheets. It’s freaking awesome, and REALLY enlightening (“Did I seriously spend that much at the liquor store…. holy $#!%”).

It makes a default budget for you, based on your past few months of expenses, which you can then take and tweak any which way you want, and add or subtract categories. I rigged mine up so that, WHEN I follow it (notice, I did not say “if” there) I will end up putting a minimum of two G-Notes a month into savings or investments.

The best part is though, it prompts you to keep on track. This is really embarassing, because just yesterday, I wrote that rather self-congratulatory post about striving to get fit for free. But whatevs, sometimes you slip. Anyways, I discovered the ‘wagging finger feature’ after blowing a bundle at Lululemon’s clearance sale here in St. John’s. Almost immediately, my phone jingled and politely informed me that I had exceeded my clothing budget for January. Not to be defeated, I split the purchase into three categories (which is amazingly easy to do): a) Clothing, b) Health and Fitness, and c) Miscellaneous. Hey, that’s legit! Of course, there is only so much of the ole category shuffle you can do, before you literally just run out of TOTAL money in the budget. (I can see it now… self-justifications firing on all cylinders: ‘well, these spectacular shoes are made of leather. Leather is made of cows. We eat cows, ergo: these shoes could be Groceries, no?’)

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Ohhhhh…. $#!% !!

All silliness aside, it at least made me think about the purchase (although maybe not enough -!). And there is no way I am going to tolerate any more wagging fingers. Not happening! I feel like it is challenging me – something no run-of-the-mill Excel spreadsheet could ever accomplish.

Seriously worthwhile – check it out! Even better – it’s completely free.

 

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A haitus ends… and I’ve surfaced somewhere strange

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Well, I’m back, from a lengthy hiatus from my blog-writing. I actually kind of forgot all about it, for numerous reasons, most pertinently the fact that the internet here on ship is so bad that I’m going to have to invent a new word to describe it: “Horrishiterrible.” Basically, someone (someone old, who doesn’t appreciate the tantamount essential-ness of internet in a twentysomething’s life) decided that it would be a great idea to have internet on a schedule, whereupon only a few hours a day are alotted to internet, and the rest for satellite TV, so all the geriatrics can sit around in the lounge and commisserate on the local Newfoundland news, which typically revolves around the debate on whether the Trans-Canada highway should be fenced in its entirety to prevent moose accidents. (I laughed until I learned that the statistics are actually pretty horrific — and even a Ford F-350 stands little chance against a surefooted one-tonne brick of moosemeat). If you’re detecting a little bitterness here, you are not mistaken!! I’m going nuts!! Joni had it figured out when she yodeled, you “don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone,” because all you people out there, who have limitless, never-interrupted internet, cannot possibly understand the frustration, the apoplexy-inducing rage, that comes from having your one umbilical cord to shore and the sane world, to have this one tenuous fibre severed on a regular basis, often before I am able to log into facebook. I try to restrain myself, because I complain about this ALOT, and all the aforementioned geriatrics on here kind of roll their eyes and wonder what is wrong with the wierd “mainlander” girl now.  A mainlander, to a Newfie, is kind of the ultimate insult, but not in a mean way, per se, just kind of like the way we would say “Oh, but don’t you know she has Down’s Syndrome,” or, “yes but she was dropped on her head when she was a baby,” as if it’s a handicap that nobody can really help. Newfoundland is a really different place, like I shake my head frequently, wondering if I am still in Canada, or whether I am stuck in a part of Ireland that drifted apart from Europe while it was still Pangaea and has had no contact with the rest of the world since? It’s quite bizarre.  I had a bit of a paradigm shifter the other day when I was spewing my tribulations about booking a plane ticket out of here for August, and figuring out a schedule that would work, and whether to buy cancellation insurance, this all taking place over a meal of Turkey Necks (I kid you not — Newfie food would be a whooooooole other chapter), and the engineer that I was talking to just kind of looked at me and said, “I wouldn’t know I ain’t never been off The Island.” And it kinda stopped me in my tracks and made me feel like a huge snob. Who am I to fly in here with my highfalutin’, West Coast ideas about food quality and technology and all that? After all, I am the stranger here… the “mainlander,” in this wierd, colourful, barren, salty, lichen-encrusted province.

Boys and other minefields

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So, I haven’t written for a couple of days, I have to admit even though it’s lame, that I am a bit discouraged that nobody seems to be reading the stuff that I am writing, and I am perfectly aware that it is utter crap, and probably not worthy of being read by the large You, and I DID write even, in my initial post, that I didn’t care whether or not people read it, but I guess I lied. I was so psyched there when people actually commented on something! It was a minor high! I guess I need to learn something about the laws of shameless self-promotion here on the interwebs. I just had a strange memory, hahaha, to put this into perspective in a roundabout sort of way: Me, about nine or ten, and my friend Leanna, and we are putting time capsule messages into a newly built rock wall. Basically we are writing things on mini pieces of paper, rolling them up, and shoving them into the cracks and imperfections – we thought – for eternity to find. Of course by now they have disintegrated into their individual molecules and somehow made their way to the sea, like everything else, but anyways, I distinctly remember writing something about the Information Superhighway, as I had just read in a Reader’s Digest (I know, how lame is that! But I would always find them at my grandma’s place, and loved the Disaster in Real Life stories, kind of  a sick fascination I suppose, stories of people getting run over by tractors and such. Anyways, back on track here, I had just read an article on how the Information Superhighway was going to revolutionize our lives. (I wish I could read it now, because I’m sure it would be a good laugh!) And I had this image of myself, magic carpet like, floating through this magical land. So I wrote it on one of my little scrolls, “the Beginning of the Information Superhighway is now.” Comical! Anyways, this brings me to another article I read recently, in Psychology Today, one of my favourite reads and one of the few magazines I feel compelled to read cover to cover, because it is totally fascinating! So yeah, this article was all about early experiences and how they shape you in the long run. One of the examples they used was Michael Jordan, and how he scored a major clutch win early on, as a nobody, and how that set him up to perceive himself as the kind of person who does that type of thing, etc etc etc. So that got me to thinking about men in general (Michael Jordan…..men — see my train of thought is not always as illogical as it may seem) and I was thinking specifically about boyfriends. Ladies, have you ever wondered what it would be like to gather together all the men that you’ve been with, into one room, and just spy on them? Or maybe make it like a cryptic clue, like, “You all have one thing in common — figure out what it is,” And then wait and see how long it would take them to all figure out that it is me? Like I wonder if they would get along with one another? None of them have ever met, which would just make it all the more interesting. Ok, Ok, so just in case you are picturing like, an arena here, I am talking about maybe ten guys, c’mon, give me some credit here!) Anyways, this all got me to thinking about what these wierdos all have in common.  Other than me, somewhere in their past. And I realized I have been a major SPCA for Men. I have dated losers! Why, you ask? As did I? I think it is inherently tied into your – mine – everybody’s self-perception, and the people that fit into that, just naturally come to you. Me, having rather low self-esteem, especially in high school, never felt like I deserved to date the guys that I really wanted, or was attracted to, and ended up instead with the mediocre ones. Of course, my current boyfriend, who is more than amazing, does not at all fit into the generalization, and has helped me advance leaps and bounds in my own self-worth, but the rest of them, to put in a totally reality-TV way, “Not so much!” And I would like to hereby blame it all on Calen, my first “boyfriend” in grade eight (I think we may have held hands, and kissed, and that was it). Anyways, Calen was quite popular, athletic, listened to Tupac, etc, and I was shocked and awed that he was interested in me, ME! Well, it turned out, after a few months of this charade, that he actually only ever dated me to get closer to my beautiful friend Lauren. Heartbreaking! But it’s funny how these particular archetypal scenarios replay themselves like bad movies on late night TV. Fast forward ten years, and I am 23, head over heels for my Alaskan fisherman/mountaineer boyfriend who was impossibly captivating and good looking and adventurous and all those good things. We are on a rock-climbing road trip in California and Nevada, and things have been going fairly well, although I am far from being a good climber and overly conscious the entire time that I am holding him back from doing the “hardcore” climbs that I know he would rather be doing. Anyways, we are in Yosemite, the last stop on our adventure, I am, to be honest, pretty sick of the whole living out of a truck thing, not to mention it is January and seriously sub-zero. Things have been going downhill, we’re fighting a bit, scrapping about money and stupid things. I decide I’m going to go on a solo hike, up as high as I can, and spend the night up there, so I do it, all the way to the top of the falls in Yosemite, it is incredibly beautiful, and I feel like a legend, sleeping under a rock as the wind howls around me. It takes me almost all day hike back down, and by the time I get there, He-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed is loading his climbing gear into a van. This van belongs to a girl named Lisha whom we met the previous day in one of the lame Yosemite tourist stores. Lisha is a super climber. She’s also ridiculously thin, with a perfect complexion, and gorgeous, ass-long black hair. Shithead (as he will henceforth be known) is like, hey, wanna come along? We’re going climbing. What could I do?? I didn’t really want to go climbing, I was fucking sick of it, but was I going to let this vixen disappear with my boyfriend for the day? I think not, ladies. So anyways, the day is exactly as disastrous as you can imagine. I feel totally incompetent, as Lisha spiders up walls in her petite Lulu Lemon perfection. (You might be picturing her as being a bitch, and that’s the worst part — she was super nice). So nice in fact, that she invites us over for dinner. Predictably, that night, Shithead spontaneously is feeling like he “doesn’t really want to commit to a relationship right now, etc etc etc,” So when the sun rises, I throw all his shit out of my truck, and drive home, 3000 miles of bawling.

Sorry people, I really didn’t mean to bore you with this depressing rant, I just thought it was interesting, that I have attracted several similar situations. And my question to you is: do we create this situations for ourselves, somehow? Just by having the expectation that things are going to go that way? I often express this fear to my wonderful, awesome Now Boyfriend and he reassures me that he loves me, etc, and I believe him. But there is still this fear in the back of my mind that some beautiful, competent, nymph is going to come along and steal him from me. Hmmmmm…. I think this could have something to do with – might be one of the keys to – the puzzle of me, one of the reasons I struggle so much with body image and feeling inferior to every woman who is prettier than me. Not a nice place to be! Don’t really know the way out! I’m sure I will get there, somehow, someway, and in the meantime, I’m terribly sorry for having spewed all this on You, but I have to admit it was cathartic.

Regards,

M