I haven’t kept up with the things I’ve been meaning to keep up with here. For example:

  • The new recipes we tried in May and June through the haze and hubbub of downsizing, moving, unpacking, and conference travel.
  • The races I ran back in April
  • The toddler’s latest obsessions
  • The books I’ve been reading (because I’ve actually been reading!)

I don’t have time or head/heart-space to do most of this justice right now, but I can do a quick mid-year check in on my 2017 resolutions:

  1. Eliminate credit card debt.
    Done. We hit our savings back in February to make this happen, and have been paying off balances each month. We’re still using our cards more than I would like, and are repaying our savings more slowly as a result, but we’re making it happen (and earning some travel points along the way).
  2. Take action every week.
    No, and I feel terribly guilty about that. At some point the many-times-daily asks for money overwhelmed me, and lacking an immediate way to prioritize, I shut down. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
    This has been so much fun so far! I don’t expect that we’ll read all 16 books, but that’s just fine with me.
  4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
    I’ve gone to conferences, but that’s about it.
  5. Finish weaning.
    We’re in the final throes of night weaning right now. We had planned to do this months ago, but it didn’t happen, and then we were moving and didn’t push it, and then it sort of organically happened around my work trip. Progress!
  6. PR at any distance.
    destroyed my 5K PR back in April, then ran a painful half marathon the next morning. A PR at both distances was within reach, but I have no regrets about letting the second one go because the first one was so huge for me!
  7. More regular visits with family.
    This one is happening! We’ve seen my family about once/month, including a trip to Iowa for my grandma’s 99th birthday in May.
  8. At least two blog posts/month.
    I managed to keep up with this until last month. Not bad!
  9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
    We’re still doing relatively well at this one. My parents gifted us with a Blue Apron gift certificate to help take some hassle out of moving meals, so that’s been a nice infusion of ideas. (We have free meal codes if anyone wants to try the service.)
  10. Make time for monthly dates.
    Thanks to the extreme generosity of our friends and my mom, we’ve been able to go out a few times, though definitely not every month. It’s progress!

2016 Resolution Reckoning

I only managed one quarterly check-in this year. Let’s see how I did with the rest:

1. More letters. I’m aiming for a letter each week.

I finished the year averaging just over one/week. Many of those were thank you notes, but they were hand written and went out on nice stationery with a stamp, so there.

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number.

Not so much. I finished 5.

3. More miles. Barring injury, I’m aiming for 750 running and 2000 biking. I also really want this to be my marathon year, but I’ve said that before…

I didn’t come close to my biking goal, but I blew my running goal out of the water: 1000 miles for the year and my first marathon.

4. More movies. We saw a grand total of 6 last year. 12 seems possible.

Hilarious. I finished 3, maybe 4 movies the entire year.

5. Less meat. I’m not ready (or interested, really) in going back to being vegetarian, but I am interested in expanding my repertoire of meat-free meals, particularly since Nicolas has been pescatarian for nearly a year.

This definitely happened. Nicolas still eats fish but generally avoids all other animal products these days, so our diet is dramatically different than it used to be. In November, I fell in love with the My New Roots cookbook, which has been a game changer. I’m looking forward to more vegan-mostly cooking adventures in the new year.

6. Less debt. We’re on track to pay off all of my debt by the end of the year. I really want to make that happen.

Oh ho ho. Instead of eliminating debt, we bought a new car! My student loans are gone, so that’s something.

7. Less complaining.

8. Less guilt and regret.

A work in progress. For the rest of my life.

2016 Resolutions

1. More letters. I’m aiming for a letter each week.

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number. I’m on track to finish my first this weekend.

3. More miles. Barring injury, I’m aiming for 750 running and 2000 biking. I also really want this to be my marathon year, but I’ve said that before…

4. More movies. We saw a grand total of 6 last year. 12 seems possible.

5. Less meat. I’m not ready (or interested, really) in going back to being vegetarian, but I am interested in expanding my repertoire of meat-free meals, particularly since Nicolas has been pescatarian for nearly a year.

6. Less debt. We’re on track to pay off all of my debt by the end of the year. I really want to make that happen.

7. Less complaining. This might be the hardest resolution on this list.

8. Less guilt and regret. This one is hardest to quantify, but I’m pretty over beating myself up about things I can’t control, or things that aren’t mine to begin with.

2015 Q2 Report

It’s July 3, which means it’s time to revisit my specific and measurable resolutions for 2015. And good god, I haven’t posted in 3 months.

As we enter the second half of the year, I want to renew my focus on taking care of my body. Between family responsibilities, work, vacation, and other scheduling things, it’s been very hard to get workouts in, and very easy to stick to comfort foods. This is less specific and measurable than I’d like, but it’s a start.

Read 12 non-parenting books: Around mid-May, I realized I could read on my phone while nursing or holding the baby. Amazing! Since then, I’ve finished three books: After Birth (Elisa Albert), So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson), and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo). I liked the first, loved the second, and was somewhat transformed by the third.

Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. A couple of months ago, I piled in a car with a couple of friends and their colleagues and trekked down to Calumet Fisheries for lunch. On the way back to the office, the car reeking of fried things, I remembered it was on my bucket list!

Keep a journal. Still going strong. I’m behind, but I’m keeping on it.

Reduce debt. We’re just back from vacation, so it’s not the best time to talk about debt. Slow but steady downward motion.

Take better care of my skin. Moisturizing has more or less gone out the window with the arrival of summer. I can’t bear the thought (or feeling) of anything on my skin when it’s so hot and sweaty. I had been doing pretty well at moisturizing at night. I should get back to that. And let’s not talk about the sunburn I got in San Francisco over the weekend.

Start flossing. Success! The dental assistant said that flossing is making a HUGE difference, that it’s really noticeable. Hooray for adulting!

2015 Q1 Report

It’s March 31, which means it’s time to revisit my specific and measurable resolutions for 2015.

Run a marathonTabled for 2015. I really had my heart set on this goal, but after a lot of conversations, the decision not to train for a marathon came down to logistics and lack of sleep. Next year. Next year!

Read 12 non-parenting books: 0 completed. Also 0 started.

Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. No progress, but it’s been a loooooong winter with a tiny baby.

Keep a journal. Success! I have written in my journal at least every few days since the beginning of the year, making notes about each day even if I didn’t manage to write ON that day. There’s a lot of complaining about lack of sleep.

Reduce debt. After some serious consideration, I decided to reprioritize my financial resolutions in favor of paying down debt before building savings. Credit card debt ticked up nearly $4K in January with the last month of a halved paycheck plus needing to prepay for vacation and work travel. My tax return plus reimbursements from work took care of that; in total, credit card debt is down about $1K since the beginning of the year. Additionally, I increased my payments to my student loan by 50%, putting it on track to be paid off in the next two years.

Rebuild my savings. Tabled. It makes me anxious to not be putting money in savings each month, but eliminating debt is a higher priority.

Take better care of my skin. Success! I have moisturized every day since the beginning of the year. Now to see if I can do sunscreen…

Start flossing. Success! I have flossed every day since the beginning of the year. I don’t see my dentist until mid-May, but hopefully he will be impressed.

Preparing for Lent

For the past few years, I’ve made a practice of giving up something for Lent.

I’m working towards a couple of financial goals this year, so when I started to think about what to give up for Lent, I strongly considered giving up spending money online. My rationale is this: there are few (anticipated) online purchases that are truly so essential that they can’t wait until we run errands the next weekend. I have already done my special occasion shopping for the next two months. We newly have to pay taxes on (some) Amazon purchases. And frankly, it’s just too easy to decide that we need something and then order it without stopping to justify why we need it.

However when I put this idea forth to the internet, a number of people wisely suggested that life with a new baby is hard enough without taking away conveniences, and that if I’m actually after a reduction in spending, I should look to those luxuries where I could reasonably cut back. Point taken.

So what I’ve decided to do is this:

  1. We’re going to give up ordering delivery/take-out. We order in about once/week, almost exclusively on days when I’m just too tired to think about food. This means we’ll both have to put more effort into cooking because if we’re too tired to think about food, the baby is almost certainly too tired to be dragged out for a meal.
  2. I’m going to give up buying coffee and sweets (or second breakfast) at work. I make coffee at home most mornings, but I often want a second cup. And I’m often hungry enough (or feel like it, anyway) to want something between breakfast and lunch. And so I spend $3 at Ex Libris for coffee and a donut, which is $3 I don’t need to be spending. So I’ll be making my second cup in the office suite kitchen, and bringing treats from home if I need them.
  3. If online purchases are really necessary, I’m going to document why. I was encouraged to think about this with regards to the hidden costs of NOT shopping online: gas, price differences, taxes, and my time. I’ll report back!

2015 Resolutions

Part of my day job involves making sure that goals are specific and measurable. Here are my attempts at specific and measurable resolutions for 2015:

The fun:

  1. Run a marathon. I really wanted to do this last year, but pregnancy got in the way. I’m planning to run Chicago, with Detroit as my back-up choice.
  2. Read 12 non-parenting books. I read (most of) 17 books last year, but really only finished 12 in their entirety, and the great majority of those were parenting books. I’d like to read more for pleasure this year, but am setting my sights low.
  3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. I knocked out 17 items last year, and added a few to the original list.
  4. Keep a journal. My grandpa kept a daily journal for years. It often wasn’t much more than the weather (including on the day of my mom’s wedding!), but that’s more than I’ve managed. I’d like to remember more about my baby’s first year than the milestones. I hope this will help.

The practical:

  1. Rebuild my savings. I took 4 weeks unpaid during my maternity leave, and that took a good chunk out of my savings. I’m far short of the recommended 3 months’ of living expenses, and don’t think I’ll get there this year while also reducing debt, but 2 months’ worth of living expenses in savings seems reasonable.
  2. Reduce debt. I wanted to eliminate my credit card debt last year. That didn’t happen; in fact, I’m right about where I was last year, though I’ve paid off two cards. I’d like to cut both my student loan and credit card debt in half this year.
  3. Take better care of my skin. For many, many years, I have done nothing on this front. Moisturizing daily will be a start.
  4. Start flossing. The dentist yells at me about this every time I go, so I need to either start flossing or stop going to the dentist.

Why I Will Be Paying the Bank of America Debit Card Fee

A lot of people are up at arms at the news that Bank of America may be implementing a $5 monthly maintenance fee for debit card use.  They’re talking about changing banks.  On Marketplace yesterday morning, they read a letter from a listener who declared that she would be using her credit card and paying it off every month rather than paying the $5 fee.

On the one hand, I agree with the sentiments.  $60 isn’t a negligible amount.  Debit cards are less expensive for merchants to accept.  If you have bad credit – as I did for many years – the Visa logo on your debit card may be the only way for you to shop any way other than in person.

On the other hand, and for a variety of reasons, I’m a little irritated by these sentiments.  We’ve all gotten so used to “free” checking that we’ve forgotten that monthly maintenance fees used to be standard.  I worked in banking from 2001-2004, and spent much of that time explaining the suite of fees charged for services ranging from using a foreign ATM to getting your checks back in your statement to transferring money by phone.  Cut off times governed by geographic distance restricted when transactions could take place.  Need to make a deposit at a branch at 6pm on a Friday to beat a check to the bank? Sorry.  We accepted these fees as the cost of convenience and of doing business.

Now, I’m not going to defend the actions of Bank of America or any of the other big banks in this era of rampant financial speculation.  They’ve screwed up, and taken our economy down with them.  What I am saying, however, is that we’ve been able to take for granted that banking services are free.  Opening an account? Free, and in some cases, they’ll GIVE you money as long as you keep the account open. Depositing cash into an ATM without using an envelope? Free. Transferring money using a (free) mobile app from your phone? Free. Talking to someone on the phone? Difficult, but free. Writing checks? Free, though you have to buy the checks. Receiving, viewing, and paying bills online? Free. Withdrawing money from ATMs in any state plus a few foreign countries? Free, as long as you use the right ATM.  In the grand scheme of all of the things I’m able to do with my money through my bank, $5 per month in the months that I choose to use my debit card seems pretty minor.

I also understand wanting to keep your money in your community, rather than putting it in a national bank.  I did that for a number of years, banking with AMCORE until I moved to a Champaign, more than an hour away from the closest branch or ATM.  I loved AMCORE, and would have kept my money there if it had been remotely convenient.  I loved it for all the reasons one loves a local business – with the added layer of affection from two and a half years of working there.  In 2010, AMCORE was failed by the Fed, and is now part of Harris Bank.  I worked for Busey Bank for the first year I was in Champaign, and immediately felt the limitations of having my money at a small town – not even regional – bank.  I paid ATM fees at least 50% of the time I needed cash because Busey ATMs weren’t conveniently located in town, much less available out of town.  I switched to National City, then we moved to DC, where there were no National City banks.  We started using ING, but still couldn’t find ATMs.  So, in 2007, we opened a joint account with Bank of America – first to give us an option for depositing cash and checks, then for all of our banking.

So here’s why I’ll be paying the Bank of America debit card fee: the convenience is worth it.  It doesn’t make sense to me to change banks over $60 per year.  We would pay far more than that in foreign ATM fees if we were to change to the local credit union, for example, considering that we’ve been out of town 12 of the last 20 weekends, and taken day trips 4 of the remaining 8.  I don’t have a problem with paying for services I use, and the convenience of using a debit card is FAR GREATER than the cost.

2011 Resolutions

I usually like to give myself until my birthday to make resolutions and to report in on those from the previous year. This year, however, I’m pretty set on my list, and if I post it today, that gives me almost 13 months to complete the following:

  1. Expand my bread repertoire by baking 2 new types per month.  I can make a solid sandwich loaf, but there are many more loaves to try!
  2. Knit socks.  I’m there.  I can do this.
  3. Run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  If my knee, winter training, or finances prevent this, run at least one 10K.
  4. Continue saving aggressively for a down-payment on a house.  We’re hoping to buy this summer, but it might be advantageous to wait another year, which is why this resolution is ‘save’ not ‘buy’.
  5. Complete the 25 Recipes challenge, in which we attempt to master 25 recipes that we’ve been intending to try.
  6. Learn to accessorize.  I love the look of scarves, jewelry, and all of that, but haven’t spent much time figuring out how to work those things into my wardrobe.
  7. Make a decision about grad school.  Do I need/want more of it? In what field? This decision will largely be influenced on my job situation.
  8. Sock away 3 months’ worth of my half of the household budget (approx $4500).  I worked on this in 2009, was un/underemployed for a few months, and then got a job that pays $15,000 less than I was making when we established our budgets. I’ll be posting about this and other financial goals on How I Am Not Spending Money.  Hopefully extra income from teaching will help with this.
  9. Survive my first semester of teaching.  Can I tell you how intimidated I am about this?  It’s a little paralyzing.
  10. Take a solo trip and a vacation with SB.  We’re thinking Portland or San Francisco, and I’m thinking that my reward for #9 should be a trip to NYC.

What do you want to do in the new year?


That’s how much I had left in my checking account before payday.  Usually it’s much lower than that – and I had cash in my wallet and extra funds in my Paypal account besides!

It’s probably – OK, definitely – not a desirable thing to have such a low balance in my checking account.  In this era of online and mobile banking, however, I could transfer money from another account in literally seconds from anywhere.  My accounts at two different banks are linked, and I have a Paypal debit card that can draw on either of them.  It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it, especially as I recall all too clearly the era of calling the bank and paying $3 to transfer funds between accounts.  In fact, I wrote up thousands of such transfers and fees in my days in customer service.

Back to my $15.11.  I get paid every other week, and generally when I have extra money left over, it goes straight into savings.  This being the month before Christmas, however, it’s going to go towards holiday gifts.