Tag Archives: budget

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?

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.

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!

Here we go…

2 Aug

In October 2010, I moved back with my parents. Partially to help them out as they got their house ready to sell, and partially to save money. You see, I had a plan of how to reach some financial goals in terms of debt and retirement. So I had to spend as little as possible. But I needed to keep dancing. Yes, needed. I can’t imagine my life without it. So for four years, I lived on a cash-only basis, I didn’t go out much, I didn’t buy a lot of clothes, I ate out less, I put my stuff in storage and stayed with friends paying cheap rent. My target date, if all went according to plan, was July 1, 2014.

And you know what? I MADE IT. I’m now debt-free, I’ve looked at my retirement and savings and am track, and I have a habit of operating with cash only, no credit.

When I moved four years ago, I knew where I wanted to live when I was out on my own again. And I found an apartment in that complex. The rent is a little higher than I was planning on. But I readjusted my budget and just know that things will be a bit tighter for a short while. It’s worth, though, to live in a grown-up place in a neighborhood I love.

July was crazy. I moved. And after moving so many times (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, and now 2014 – yikes), I know that moving is the most stressful thing I can do to myself. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice over the last few years in how to cope with it. Rule number one: Have professionals do the actual moving. Rule number two: Unpack as quickly as possible. I moved on a Wednesday morning and had the last things done on Saturday. BOOM.

And while money is tighter, it’s not horribly tight. I can still go out with friends, I can buy some clothes, and most importantly, I can still afford all my dancing. And I’m excited to live my life again! I’m in my own apartment, which hasn’t happened since 2010. I just feel like it’s all starting over, I get to be a grown-up again and not crash with friends. I really can’t describe how excited I am. I’ve been inspired to cook and bake again, and I’ve started going to the gym every day before work. (OK, it’s literally a two-minute walk door-to-door, so how can I not? But still…I’m there every morning!)

And I love my apartment! It’s got enough space but not so much that cleaning’s a pain. All my stuff fits in nicely, and there’s great storage too. The kitchen is fantastic, although I haven’t cooked with an electric stove and oven in years. But I’m adjusting to that.

I owe my parents and my friends a lot for letting me live with them and pay cheap rent. I can never describe to any of them what that support and help means to me. Without them, I would have had to stop dancing. And can you imagine me without dancing? That’d be one sad Cathy. Let’s not go back there, shall we?

I wish I was a better writer so I could convey just how energized I am now to do THINGS. I’m knitting again, I’m baking, I’m reading, I’m RUNNING again (right? yeah it’s been a while)…I am HAPPY. So very happy.


Time to refocus

1 Jan

Happy new year!

Here we are again. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of resolutions. But I know I’m not perfect, by any means, unlike Calvin:


(I love that cartoon.)

So looking back at what I wanted to focus on in 2013 and setting the focus for 2014…

Physical health
I did get back to the gym on a regular basis. I certainly ran more. But then I broke my foot. I was in such great shape prior to that, and it’s been hard to get back into a regular routine with any sort of endurance. But this week has been good. So for 2014 I’ll keep working on going to the gym regularly, building endurance, and running more.

My eating didn’t change much this year, although I somehow got a little sugar addiction lately. Boo on holiday food. So let’s refocus on that for 2014: more veggies!

My writing was definitely done in waves. I had stretches of lots of blog posts, and then nothing. (See: lack of posts in December.) So there’s the focus for 2014: more consistent blogging.

Breaking my foot really made me appreciate dancing. Prior to that, I was going to more groups and practicing on my own. After I broke my foot, I practiced a lot because I was working on checking out. But since then, I’ve struggled to get into a routine. So after the holidays, it’s more group classes, more practicing on my own, and still appreciating it.

Creative hobbies
I stopped baking for a while in the last few months for various reason. I packed my grandma’s recipes, so I can’t go through those until after July. But I’ve baked more this week and will continue to do so. I did learn to crochet but didn’t practice, so now I need a refresher. I certainly knitted more this year and will continue to do so for 2014!

No movement there. Meaning no action taken on my part to have anything happen. Stupid Mr Big still in my brain. But steps have been taken this week…more on that soon.

I’ve made some progress towards my financial goals, although Christmas was not planned for as well as it should have been. Oops. So I’m going to take the first six months of 2014 and refocus on money.

Mental health
This year, I realized that my issues are like a chronic condition. I will always have them; I can only cope with the flare-ups. And I’ve done a better job of that lately. This will always be a focus for me though.

At the end of the day, I still strive for this:


And hope to remember this:

light of your being

I hope 2014 is everything you want it to be. Happy new year!

Time to refocus

1 Jan

I like New Year’s because it’s a chance to refocus. I don’t like resolutions…they sound like work and negative consequences and failure. I prefer to think of it more positively: let’s refocus our efforts as we start a new year.


Unlike Calvin, I’m very aware I’m not perfect. But here are the main things I’d like to refocus on in 2013.

Physical health
I was doing very well for most of 2012, but December was kind of a bust. So, time to get back to the gym three times a week (like I was before). I’ll keep running and do more strength training. I want to continue and increase my morning yoga. It’s such a great way to start the day.

It’s also time to get back to eating healthier, especially now that the holidays are over. (I don’t even want to think about the food I ate in December!) And expand the types of food I cook. Chicken and rice can only be made so many different ways.

Writing has become very important to me as has this blog. I’d like to write more often and build a consistent schedule of posts. (I’ve been doing well this week, haven’t I?)

You know, this has become such an integral part of my life, and I sometimes take it for granted. I want to make it a more deliberate part of my life again, and I want to become a better dancer. I want to dance more – go to more group classes and more parties at the studio. I don’t always make a priority of the group classes, and they are really good and fun to go to. I also want to work on things on my own that I can do on my own, like Cuban motion exercises.

Creative hobbies
I’d like to bake more and try new recipes. Keep going with my grandma’s recipes and try those. I’d like to do more knitting – maybe try mittens – and maybe learn to crochet too.

I think I need to take a more active part in dating too. Meaning actually trying to meet people.

I think I have one final hurdle to overcome in terms of managing my money as well as I’d like too. So my goal this year is to tackle that hurdle. If I can do it, I’ll reward myself with some of the money I’ve saved.

Mental health
It’s going to be important to continue to work on avoiding the thinky place. I’ve made great progress, but I still have some work to do on it. I have a feeling this will always be something to work on for me.

I guess my ultimate goal is this:


Thanks, Michelle, for the image! It sums up perfectly what I ultimately aim for. That, and to make the day better for people I meet each day.

Here’s hoping 2013 is all that we all want it to be. Cheers!

Is being busy worth it?

3 Mar

I’ve talked before about wanting a simple life. I’m still not sure how to achieve that. I’ve tried to weed out my clothes and books to declutter. And that’s my focus right now in terms of simplifying.

Mainly because I can’t figure out how to eliminate things out of my schedule and still do all I want to do! I work Monday through Friday 7:30 to 4 at my job. Then after work…
…On Mondays, I go to the gym and then to my part-time job, getting home around 8.
…On Tuesday and Wednesdays, I go to my part-time job until 8 and then go to the dance studio, getting home around 9.
…On Thursday, I go to the gym, I meet friends for dinner, then go to the dance studio, getting home around 10.
…On Fridays, I go to my part-time job, getting home around 8.
…On Saturdays, I go to the gym, then to my part-time job, then to the dance studio, leaving home around 10 and getting home around 6.
And none of that (other than dinner on Thursdays) includes socializing with anyone – or doing any hobbies. And on the weekends, I need to clean, do laundry, pay bills, go to the grocery store, get gas in my car, and make all the food for the following week.

Sometimes I feel really busy. Does having this schedule mean I can’t try to simplify my life? Am I crazy to try to do all this each week? Is it worth it?

I think it may be worth it. I’m working so much at my part-time job partially because the work is there (in terms of helping the owner) but also because I’m trying to save money for Dance-O-Rama. And dancing is so important to me and brings me joy and happiness. So yes, I’m super busy, judging by how little I’m actually home. And I do get super tired by Friday night. But I try to keep in mind that this is all bringing good to my life, it’s busyness for a reason, it’s better than going home at 4:30 and sitting my ass on the couch to watch TV all night, it won’t be forever, and it’s all working towards goals and a better life.


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?

Beginning to simplify my life

16 Jan

I was really confused on what simplifying life meant.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I asked my friend Brittany at the Gentle Home to write a guest post on it, because she’s been doing this for a long time. Her posts (she actually did two for me, part I and part II) really helped me define it, at least for my life.

To start, I need to focus on my space. Decluttering it. Going through stuff, especially clothes, and purging what I don’t use and don’t need. I started this today by sorting through all the clutter in my room, throwing some stuff and finding a place for the rest. Because most of my stuff is in storage, I don’t have a lot of stuff to go through. But the stuff that I do have here needs some attention. My books are in random piles in the basement. My craft stuff is in bags and different bins in the basement. Because I’ve lost some weight recently, I need to either alter some clothes or donate them.

I need to focus on me again in terms of my physical health. I need to get my cholesterol checked. (I’ve been meaning to do that since August.) I need to – SIGH – get my first mammogram now that I’ve turned 40. I need to work out. And I need to refocus on my eating again.

I mentioned before about my money struggles and how I want to learn to stay totally within budget every month. Doing that will also simplify my life.

I’d like to focus on my spiritual life too. While I haven’t found a church to join yet, I can still pray and read the Bible and try to connect with God that way.

I also realized that part of simplifying life should be really using every moment wisely. To that end, I need to not use the TV for background noise. I do it less than I used to – a lot less – but I would like to not use it unless I had something I really wanted to watch like “Masterpiece” or “The Big Bang Theory”. (Have you been watching “Downton Abbey”? You should. This season is another great one.)

I think I’m coming to the conclusion that a simple life for me means one free of clutter – physical, mental, financial, spiritual. So I will try to work towards that. Do you think I’m on the right track?

Weekly roundup

9 Jan

Last week…

*Finally pulled myself out of the funk.

*Great dance lesson WITH NO THINKY PLACE!

*Admitted to the blogiverse that my funk was really a depression episode and pondered how great it is to know others go through the same thing.

*Fought my cold, unsuccessfully. Stupid bug.

*Watched the premiere of Masterpiece – this week it was “Downton Abbey”. If you haven’t seen, watch it.

*Was nominated for the Versatile Blogger award.

*Met with a trainer to get some strength training ideas.

*Made great cocoa cookies again (glad the peeps at my part-time job liked round one) and good turkey-gorgonzola burgers.

*Decided to focus on money (or lack thereof) and how to save it.

*Did not work out as I would have liked due to stupid cold.

*Starting planning a guest post for my blog…you are going to LOVE IT!

*Finished “Team of Rivals” – finally.

*Watched discs one and two of a great TV show “Rome”. I’m totally hooked.

*Saw friends AM and AW for a passing moment. I miss them.

*Read “Girls’ Poker Night” and “Bossypants”. Both excellent books.

*Seven new followers – welcome! And thanks for following me.

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.

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