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Takin’ the A train

9 Aug

The twin cities do not have a mass transit culture like Chicago or NYC have. We have a bus system, but most people who use it either don’t have a car or work downtown and don’t want to pay for parking. We used to have streetcars, but the cities took them out in the 60s. My parents talk about taking the streetcars when they were kids and through high school But they also talk about the ice wagons, so…

Anyway, a few years ago (maybe 5? 7? I don’t remember), they opened a light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and the airport/Mall of America. I’ve never used it. But this summer, they opened a new line between the two downtowns. green lineIt goes right through campus, and there’s a station about a 10 minute walk from my new place. But I still haven’t used it.

Until yesterday.

Why yesterday? Well, the MN Vikings are without a stadium right now while they rebuild theirs. And so they’re playing on campus for two years. No biggie, as I’m not usually at work on a Sunday. But they had a pre-season game last night at 7, and I knew traffic would be hell trying to get off campus after work. So I thought I’d take the train.

My friend SP doesn’t have a car and works downtown, so she is a mass transit expert. I made her kinda walk me through where to buy the tickets, etc. Which she was more than willing to do. So I felt like I knew what I was doing, even though it’s really not that complicated and I probably could have figured it out.

So I walked to the station – took about 10 minutes. I just missed one train, so I had to wait 10 minutes for the next. Poor timing on my part. Well, not poor timing – I just left later than I had planned on. When I got on the train, it was pretty empty. But it quickly filled, and by the time we got to campus, it was about 2/3 full. The ride took about 20 minutes. (Actually 23 minutes, if you’re curious.) I then had about a 10 minute (not even) walk to get to my office.

Here’s my big debate now: do I give up my parking contract and just take the train to/from work?

Pros:
Cheaper. About $35 less per paycheck.
Use way less gas each month.
Less wear and tear on my car which means less maintenance.
No traffic issues ever.
Pretty relaxing ride – very air-conditioned! And the stations have heat (in the winter).
More green – doing my part to help the environment.

Cons:
Less flexibility – can’t just leave and run somewhere after work.
Having to walk probably 15 minutes each way in whatever kind of weather we’re having. (Right now, my parking contract is in a garage that’s connected to my building by tunnels.)

Yep, can’t decide. I’ll probably try it a few more times, maybe in some icky weather, just to see how it feels. But if you have any opinions on it, let me know!

Weekly roundup

27 Feb

Last week, I…

*Took a trip to Mexico via food.

*Made my goal of working out three times! First time in a LONG TIME I’ve made the goal.

*Made great progress getting out of the thinky place.

*Had a long conversation with my dance teacher about the thinky place.

*Had a fantastic dance lesson where I just danced and thought about the feeling of each dance and treated it like a performance. That showed me how much I’ve been forgetting to just let the joy I get with dance in when I dance.

*Rediscovered some inspirational quotes that have helped with the journey out of the thinky place.

*Met the fabulous MM for happy hour and laughed for three hours.

*Went to the Dancing with the Twin Cities Celebrities fundraiser and had a blast. And had a cocktail.

*Wondered if Quicken or mint.com would be better for my personal finances.

*Did my taxes. And found out my refund is going to be bigger than I had estimated.

*Tried running. And succeeded.

Mint.com vs Quicken

26 Feb

I’m still trying to save money and stay strictly within budget each month. Tracking how I spend my money is key in doing this. So I’ve been looking for tools to help with us.

I’ve been using Quicken for about 10 years. And I really like it. I never use the download feature, because I’ve always thought it’s important to enter my receipts. That way, if I see a transaction on my statement (yes I balance my checkbook each month) that’s not already entered, I know I missed one and can review it. But I’m not sure how important that is to me anymore. Maybe just reviewing a list of downloaded transactions would suffice?

Lately, I’ve been hearing people talk about mint.com and how superlatively wonderful it is. So I checked it out.

Mint.com seems like a really good option. But what I can’t figure out is the one thing that I love about Quicken. In Quicken, I can set a list of monthly transactions, like my car insurance which is auto-deducted from my checking account, and have Quicken automatically enter them however many days ahead of time. So I have all these transactions entered about 10 days prior to the date they happen. So when I look at my register in Quicken, I see a true balance for 10 days out. I cannot figure out how I can get mint.com to do that. It seems to be able to download transactions that have already happened, and it can remind me of upcoming ones. But it doesn’t enter upcoming ones for me.

Does anyone use mint.com? Am I just missing this feature? If it can do it, I’d love to switch, because mint.com seems to be better at goal-setting and budgets. Or is there an option that’s better than either of these?

Money, money, money…or lack thereof

8 Jan

Confession: I have never been good about staying on a budget in my personal life.

That’s kinda huge, considering 1) I work with numbers and 2) my father is the most anal person ever. But budgeting is not a skill we were taught as kids, so I never really learned how to do it. When I was married, we earned a pretty good household income and didn’t worry about it as much as we should have. We did have some credit card debt but not a ton.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a few years, I’m realizing that staying on a budget is going to be vital for me. I’ve spent the last year really trying to work on that skill. By staying with my parents, I’m able to save money, which gives me a pool of money that I can tap into in the months I don’t do as well. But I’m trying very hard to not touch that money, and I haven’t used a credit card in almost a year. I’ve been totally on a cash flow basis.

My parents are going to sell their house this year, probably list it in June, and so it will be time for me to be on my own again. My work here will be done. And I started to think about staying on a budget. I really need to have this skill down before I move, because I won’t have the savings each month and therefore won’t have any room for errors.

I make a decent salary. In fact, it’s probably better than some of my friends. But I have a very expensive hobby in dance. VERY EXPENSIVE. But in some ways, I can’t put a price on the happiness it gives me, the sanity it gives me, the confidence it gives me, or the social life it gives me. It just means I have to make choices. Dance instead of travel. Dance instead of eating dinner out more. Dance instead of a subscription to the Economist (which is a magazine I love and really miss reading).

And I’m fine with these choices. Dance is that important to me. It’s forced me to learn how to be on a budget and stay on it. Well, I’m learning. Some months are better than others.

I’ve tried to find ways to do things cheaper. (I’m taking ideas, by the way.) The biggest challenge in that is when I get together with friends. So often it’s been over drinks or dinner, both of which are expensive. When I have my own place, I can have friends over for those things. But here at my parents, I can’t do that. So I have to go out. Like next Saturday, I’m getting together with friend NA. She asked what I wanted to do, and I really didn’t have any ideas for cheap outings except the cheap movie theaters. I think we’re going to just hang out and watch movies at her place, but it’d be nice for future outings to have some ideas. Any thoughts?

Wish me luck in my learning to stay on a budget! I really hope I can get this skill down so that when I move out this summer, it’ll be second nature to me. Then I won’t have to constantly think about it like I do now.

Free lunch!

6 Nov

OK, it wasn’t free but pretty damn close!

On Wednesday, I forgot my lunch. I am usually very good about bringing my lunch to work every day. On Sundays, I make enough food for lunches for the week, so each morning I just need to grab a container. On Wednesday, though, I completely spaced on it. Oops.

Since I’m trying to be frugal and spend less money, I wasn’t sure where to go for lunch around word. Most places are really good, but it’s hard to get out of there for less than $10. Then I remembered one of my favorite places: Mesa Pizza.

They have at least 40 kinds of pizza available each day, available whole or by the slice. Get this: a slice of cheese pizza is $2.25. A slice of pepperoni pizza is $2.25. Slices of all other kinds is $3.25. And the slices are HUGE – about 1/6th of the pizza. Can of pop is $1. Plus their sign by the tip jar said “help fund beer outings for the workers”. Gotta like that kind of humor. So for $4.25 plus tax, I got a great slice of barbeque chicken pizza with pineapple and a Diet Coke.

Nom nom nom.

Although in terms of my eating plan, this wasn’t the best choice. But it was good and cheap. So overall, I’ll take it!

Next time though, I’ll get the veggie.

A girly weekend!

4 Oct

I had a girly weekend this past weekend. So very unlike me.

As you know, I am not a girly-girl. Thanks to my friends RM and AL, I can kinda be girly when I need to be (which is usually for a dance performance).

But this weekend, I had 3 girly things happen. First, I took a class at the Bead Monkey. It was a bead weaving class to learn more techniques on making earrings and bracelets. It was great! It was hard at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was fun. And I think I can make some great jewelry with it.

Then Sunday, I had brunch with KC. We always have such a good time. Afterwards, we went to Macy’s. I wanted to go to Clinique. I’ve been feeling the need to have a lip gloss for nights out (who the heck knows where that came from???). When I buy new makeup like that, I usually buy first at Clinique to get their expertise on color etc. Then I find something comparable in Cover Girl or Maybelline and buy that from then on. So after talking to the sales chick and trying on a few colors, the group consensus was on their Vitamin C Lip Smoothie in the color of Running Latte:

I really like it. But the only time in the past I’ve worn any sort of lipstick or anything is (shocking!) for a dance performance. I have no idea why, but I really like wearing lip gloss now. Hmmm.

While at Macy’s, KC wanted to look at hats and scarves. So we had some fun trying on different hats. I found one that I loved but I really didn’t have the money for it.

Flower is at the temple

 

Isn’t it cute? It’s a newsboy style but with a flower. Sadly, I left the store without buying it. Trying to be the responsible, frugal adult, right?

But yesterday, I thought about it so much, I stopped on my way home and bought it. I can forgo a few lunches out to pay for it, can’t I?

View of the awesome front

Totally worth it! I can’t wait to wear it this winter.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that makeup and hats are not areas I naturally gravitate towards. And while I’m make jewelry, I’ve never sought out more instruction on it. So could this be growth in me? Change in who I am and change more towards who I want to be?

Could this crazy journey I’m on be working???

Where’d the weekend go?

25 Sep

It was a busy weekend.

Yesterday started with a relaxing morning. I had slept 10 hours Friday night and woke up around 8:30. I had a lazy morning with coffee and my book to start the day. Then a quick trip to Target – this time without any impulse buys! (I’m trying hard to spend less and save money. Dance-O-Rama is calling my name!) Then a group class at the dance studio in my nemesis triple swing, which actually went well. Quick lunch at the awesome Cheeky Monkey then a dance lesson.

A very TOUGH dance lesson. Working on the open freestyles in waltz and Viennese waltz. Spent half an hour on one turn in waltz – a very difficult turn. Again, I got frustrated with myself. Then I got frustrated because I was frustrated. End result: thinky place! Arrggghh. I ended up having a nice conversation with my teacher afterwards. His point is that I think I shouldn’t be frustrated, but really it’s OK to be frustrated. I also need to realize that I’m at the point in dance where there aren’t many easy fixes anymore. He thinks that I need to learn that it’s OK for me to say “I’m frustrated, this isn’t going well, let’s take a break”. Then we either just dance something else for a minute or we come back to this on another lesson. That’s hard for me though. One, my past experiences have taught me that showing emotions is not an OK thing to do. So I think I shouldn’t be frustrated and that if I am, I shouldn’t let anyone see. But it obviously comes through and affects my lessons. Two, I feel like if I stop working on it, even for a moment, I’m somehow failing. Not sure where that comes from, but this gives me a lot to think about and work on.

I found out before my lesson that my friend SH has to drop out of the Lindy Hop formation and wanted me to take her place, and since she’s already paid, she is just going to have the studio apply her payment for my spot. Sweet! I wanted to be in the formation but couldn’t afford it. So this worked out great for me. I love Lindy Hop! She’s also giving me a lesson with Jay to catch up on the choreography. Since they’re doing double practices on Friday nights now, I bought a pair of practice shoes that have a lower heel – I think wearing my regular heeled dance shoes would hurt my feet after doing Lindy for 90 minutes.

When I got home, I cleaned and went through some of my closet. Organized a bunch of stuff. Paid some bills and did some budgeting. (Spending a little too much this month – thank goodness it’s almost October.) Read some more of my book.

This morning I had breakfast, did laundry, and made my food for the week. While watching the Vikings game, I did a bunch of knitting. And reading during the Packers game. Then I had dinner with my parents.

Now it’s Sunday evening, and I’m dreading going to work tomorrow. But I feel like I had a great weekend. It was kinda low-key, but I’ve had a few busy weekends lately so it was nice to just sit home and get stuff done. This week is going to be super busy and next Saturday looks booked all day.

This weekend was relaxing and productive, both of which are very important to me. Let’s hope this week is a good one!

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

Leaving town is always a good thing

21 Aug

I don’t own a cabin. In Minnesota, everyone either goes to their cabin on the weekends or goes to a friend’s cabin. I don’t own one and neither do my friends. However, friends of mine at the dance studio have a condo in Lake City they use as a weekend getaway. Earlier this summer, they had said I could use the condo some weekends if they weren’t using it. The idea of getting out of town, even only an hour away, was very appealing. But the question would be who would I go with?

This goes back to my comment about not having a core group of girlfriends. So I had to think about what girlfriends would I be comfortable inviting and who would maybe want to go? I decided that I really enjoy spending time with my friends SR and NA, so I asked them. They both said they wanted to go and were looking forward to it. So we found that this weekend was open for all of us, and my friends the H’s weren’t using their condo, so we booked it.

Of course, I was anxious a bit. I haven’t traveled with many people especially recently. What would we do all weekend? Would they be bored? I didn’t want them to regret going. What would we do about food – make it, go out? So many questions. But I decided to just try to go with the flow a bit. We met for coffee on Thursday to finalize times we were leaving and coming back. We talked about food and decided to just make lunch but go out for breakfast and dinner. Friend SH who owns the condo had sent me a list of what restaurants were nearby and which were good. Friend NA has recently moved, so she needed to spend most of Sunday cleaning her old apartment, so we decided to come back after dinner on Saturday.

We left late on Friday night because SR had to work until 9:45. I had Googled directions to get us down to Lake City. I had a dance lesson before I left, which went really well. Some big accomplishments – got through the cha cha open and the swing open multiple times with music. Woo hoo! After my lesson, I went to NA’s apartment and hung out there until it was time to get pick up SR. Then we were off!

The Google directions were a bit odd but they worked. At one point, the directions had us cross into Wisconsin and follow WI35 along the river and then cross back into Minnesota. Weird. And ps – very dark and Children-of-the-Corn-ish and we saw 3 deer. Luckily we never hit one – whew!

We finally got to the condo around 11:30. We had to figure out where to park because I had forgotten to ask SH about that. We finally get inside and were stunned – gorgeous condo! We sat and talked for about half an hour, and then SR and I were both exhausted and went to bed. The condo has two bedrooms each with a queen sized bed. How do we do sleeping arrangements? SR volunteered to take the couch, because apparently she’s a sprawler when she sleeps. NA and I decided that we were fine sharing a bed, so we took the master bedroom and SR took the other bedroom. Ahhh, sleep!

I woke up around 6:30. Stupid body clock that gets me up at that time regardless of when I go to bed. Grrr. I got up around 7:30 and took a shower. After getting ready (including realizing I forgot my saline solution and therefore couldn’t wear my contacts), I went into the living room to read. SR got up shortly after that. We were debating ditching NA for coffee and food (we knew NA wouldn’t get up until at least 9). Then NA woke up, so we went out after that.

We went to a cute little bakery for breakfast. It had great pastries, good coffee, and good pancakes. We sat and ate and talked and drank our coffee for a bit. We also watched this adorable old couple – they must have been in their 80s, but they sat together on the same side of the booth and held hands. When they left, he held the door for her. So cute!

The rest of the day we watched movies, played games, played Wii games, took short naps (well, I did) and laughed. We made hot dogs for lunch which we ate with corn SR’s boyfriend had picked on Thursday. For dinner, we went to the Chinese restaurant in town. We ate it on the rooftop deck. The food was OK, the rooftop deck was awesome.

I was worried all day about making sure the others were having a good time. But I tried not to let that show and I tried not to obsess on it. I just tried to go with the flow and let the others decide what we should do next. Well, let them voice an opinion – they are both not willing to decide things, haha. I also tried to not be overly concerned that the food I was eating, including the snacks, was not what I was used to eating recently. But I figure one day wouldn’t kill me and I could just relax it for a day. So I did. I feel a bit gross today, because I ate a lot of processed food and my body isn’t used to that anymore, but it also felt good to eat a hot dog and potato chips.

I had a great time all weekend. It was fun to just hang out, play games, and talk to them. The day went by slowly which was nice; weekends and vacations usually go so quickly. It was nice to connect with them some more, and I think they had fun too. I worked on just letting things go and not worrying too much. And again I made a small step in my journey to go outside my comfort zone and not let my anxieties win.

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”

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