Sunday, January 18, 2015

The "Bill" Jar

Last year, my New Year's Resolution was to save more money.  I don't know about you, but for me money has always been an elusive concept to truly master.  I've always just tried to live by the edict, "Don't spend more than you have coming in." This is a good rule of thumb, but it's not as highly effective as I'd like it to be.  If there's one thing I can tell you that I've learned for sure about money, it's that it's all about adjusting.  Adjustments I've had to make in the past include but are not limited to: being a full time graduate student and living on $5000 for a year, being single and learning to live on my first "professional" salary, living with my husband and managing two incomes, not working for 12 weeks after the birth of my daughter, stepping up to a bigger mortgage and two children.  Alterations had to be made along the way. It's a constant balancing act.  And although I've never found myself in serious debt or trouble, I've always found consistently saving for extras a little tricky. 

Enter this 52 week savings plan found on Pinterest.  I liked this idea because it was so concrete.  Increase the amount you save by $1 every week.  Have $1378 saved by the end of the year.
I did it!  Yay me!

I'm happy to report, I kept my resolution.  It started out very painlessly.  Then it got a little tricky until I had enough in there to make change because there were weeks when I didn't have exactly $13 or $37 on hand in cash.  There were some weeks I got behind, but I liked the way the paper kept me on track.  I could cross off the weeks.  If I got behind on weeks 23 and 24, I knew I owed the jar $47.  I could catch up by checking the paper. 

And yes, I did save it as CASH.  This probably wasn't the safest thing to do since it was just stored in a jar in my house, but it did go into the bank at the end of the year. There were times I considered putting it in our existing savings account, but I didn't because I really wanted to keep track of it as a separate amount. I didn't want it to be part of the regular savings.  I wanted to have it for something special.  It would be too easy for me not to be accountable for it if it were lumped in with the other, regular savings. There were also times when I considered opening a separate account for it.  I don't really have a good reason for why I didn't do that, other than I just never got around to it.  It definitely would have been easier to transfer the odd $17 online and safer than having the actual cash in my house.  But I do think using actual money was a constant reminder to me to keep up with the plan.

Here's the other thing I didn't do.  I didn't earmark this money for a particular purpose.  But guess what?  I had the perfect thing come up just as I finished the plan.  Several weeks before Christmas, I tried to get tickets to a concert in Nashville for my husband and I as a Christmas gift to him.  The website the tickets were selling on crashed due to an overwhelming response, and I wasn't able to get them using my phone.  But then an e-mail came the week before Christmas saying there were tickets still available. I had gone on the waitlist and could still get them if I wanted to!  I secretively did so and surprised him with a two day getaway between Christmas and New Year's.  I knew we could afford it (especially important right around the holidays when money is going out right and left) because I had twice the amount of money saved in the jar for the travel, tickets, and accommodations!  Half of it is saved for some other purpose that has yet to present itself.

On our way to a little vacay!

So this year, I'm trying something different. No more jar or trying to make change - just $50 a week into a separate account.  I made up a similar sheet to keep myself on track. If that works, I should have $2600 by 2016.  And I'm not sure what I'm saving for, but I know it will have to wait until 2017 to figure it out.  That is a lovely feeling.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

15 Books in 2015

Last year as everyone was making New Year's Resolutions, I decided to do something that was loosely along the lines of a resolution.  I set up a book group on Facebook called "14 Books in 2014".  The idea was to try to read at least 14 books during the year and to keep track of each one while sharing the books I read with members and getting suggestions from them.  You can read the original post for this here.
A birthday gift from my sister-in-law!

This was an excellent challenge for me.  There were times when I actually said to myself, "Turn the t.v. off/put the iPad down and pick up your book."  So I did.  And I think I'm better for it.

This group ended up with more members than I imagined.  Some of you I know very well, and some of you I've never met.  I'm glad I got to spend some of 2014 with you!  I enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you and hearing your suggestions and thoughts on the books you read.

I'm proud to say I read 27 books this year.  I was hoping to get to 28 (double the number 14), but things were busy around the holidays and it just didn't happen.

Here's my list:

#1 Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
#2 What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
#3 Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
#4 This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
#5 Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
#6 A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
#7 The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
#8 Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
#9 Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
#10 Wonder by R.J. Palacio
#11 You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
#12 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
#13 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
#14 Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
#15 Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
#16 Happier At Home Gretchen Rubin
#17 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
#18 Horns by Joe Hill
#19 The Switch by Elmore Leonard
#20 Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
#21 Kinsey & Me by Sue Grafton
#22 Frindle by Andrew Clements
#23 I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales by Todd Snider
#24 I Can't Complain: All Too Personal Essays by Elinor Lipman
#25 The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
#26 What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
#27 The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

 I'm proud of the number 27.  One way to look at that number is that it averages out to one book every two weeks for the year.  Of course, it didn't actually work out that way.  I'm sure I read more over the summer when I wasn't working.

Here are some other ways to look at that number:

8 Non-Fiction Books
19 Fiction Books

2 Children's Literature Books : Wonder and Frindle (I actually could have included two others I read aloud to my class this year, but neither of them was worth mention.)

Six Books that Were Made Into Movies: This is Where I Leave You, A Long Way Down, The Monuments Men, The Fault in Our Stars, Horns, The Switch (Life of Crime was the name of the movie).  I 've only seen one of them, The Fault in Our Stars.

6 Authors That I Read Multiple Books Of: Malcolm Gladwell, Gillian Flynn, Gretchen Rubin, Joe Hill, Elinor Lipman, and Liane Moriarty

13 Never-Before-Read-Authors: Jonathan Tropper, Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter (counting them as one since they collaborated on the same book), Gretchen Rubin, John Green, Nickolas Butler, Margaret Atwood, Donna Tartt, Joe Hill, Andrew Clements, Todd Snider, Jean Hanff Korelitz, R.J. Palacio, and Liane Moriarty

And then because I can't pick a favorite, I made up a few special awards...

Most Inspirational To Read More Historical Non-Fiction goes to... The Monuments Men

The "Stayed With Me For The Longest in an Unsettling but Fascinating Way" Award goes to... Oryx and Crake

Most Overrated and Beat-A-Dead-Horse Award goes to... The Goldfinch (I'm sorry.  She's obviously a very gifted writer.  But the painting! My gosh, the painting!  Enough!  This did have one of my favorite characters of the year, though, in the form of Boris.)

Mentioned the Most in Anecdotal Way Award... Blink

Best Love Story Award... Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

Made Me Cry Award... Wonder

Fastest Read Award...The Switch by the incomparable Elmore Leonard.  RIP, my friend.

The Never Before Read Author I'm Most Glad to Have Checked Out Award... A tie between Joe Hill and Liane Moriarty

So, are you ready?  15 Books in 2015 is just beginning.  I hope you'll all stay on board and invite some new friends.  First up for me is Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty.  Enjoy and please share what you're reading and your thoughts!