End of first quarter of 2012!
I had a whole bunch of goals/resolutions for this year. Here’s how I did in March:
Concerts: Tickets have been bought for Sarah Slean with Symphony Nova Scotia in April. I could not resist despite having just seen her in December. No, I did not go to the late night club show by Dragonette. Sigh. Two possibilities for the end of May: PS I Love You (indie) and The Black Dahlia Murder (metal), both in tiny venues.
Fine Dining: Didn’t go to any new spots, but had a meal at Athens with a Groupon. Their Greek food can’t be beat and we got a baklava to go!
Magic the Gathering: Yes! I actually played a game. Rom asked me and I said OK. He was surprised I agreed. We each built a deck from new cards and then played a game, totalling two hours. It hurts my brain a bit 🙂 In other toy/game news, I was out at Toys R Us today with Rom who was shopping for MTG cards, and I saw a great construction toy called Laser Pegs. I am going to have to seriously put that on my birthday/Christmas list. They rock!
Movies: Not a good month number-wise. I saw a grand total of one movie: The Queen, with Helen Mirren (2006). What a good film! For whatever illogical reasons, I am a respecter of the monarchy (my spouse from the UK is not!) If you haven’t seen it, the movie is a snapshot of the Queen’s life for one week following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. It convincingly portrays the Queen’s apprehension and annoyance with the public grieving for Diana, whilst still being quite sympathetic to all sides. It was cool to have seen this within a year of both The King’s Speech and Iron Lady. I figure I should watch those Winston Churchill movies next!
Books: Much better! I somehow read 6 books this month (!?) I read 3 personal finance books (all quick reads): The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half by Steve and Annette Economides, and Your Money or Your Life by Robin/Dominguez/Tilford.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette is based on newsletters that came out in the early 90s, and it was known for popularizing frugal ideas like washing and reusing zip-loc bags, and keeping a grocery price book. The ideas in the book range from super-miserly (re-purposing meat trays?) to common-sense (making rather than buying kids’ Hallowe’en costumes). Some tips are dated (like saving on postage) while some haven’t dated (like how to fix a broken zipper). The original newsletters were mailed out in a zine format and all the feedback came through the post. It must have been really fun to do that stuff pre-Internet!
Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half would be perfect for someone who has just downsized (or upsized their family). Although you could use any tips from the book, it would work best if you made a total commitment to use their system of doing things: grocery shopping infrequently (once a month), keeping a price book, meal planning, batch cooking, increasing your storage space so you can stock up during sales, buying a freezer, and having the whole family eat together at the same time. Although most of the advice wasn’t new to me, it was motivating!
Your Money or Your Life struck a wrong chord with me. The first half of the book discussed how you trade your life energy for money. There was a strong assumption that every reader was in a life-sucking job and couldn’t wait to quit their job or reduce their hours. Later the tone eases up, but for those of us who enjoy our jobs, derive satisfaction from them, and feel our jobs are in line with their values – pass on this book! Instead I would recommend Jeff Yeager’s The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches.
I also read 3 other books: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (literary historical fantasy), Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (pop culture science fiction) and Just My Type: a Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield.
The Night Circus was a gracefully wordsmithed novel set at the turn of the 20th century, about a duel between two young magicians who are forced to live out their lives in competition with each other in a magical circus. The book creates a believable world full of illusionists, contortionists, acrobats, fortune tellers, and inescapable fate. Because of the tone and the era, it would appeal to steampunk fans and anyone who liked The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart.
Ready Player One was the most fun book I read in light years! It was written by the filmmaker behind Fanboys. A mega-rich tech guru dies and he leaves behind an online competition which will give the winner his entire fortune. Wade (aka Parzival) dedicates his life to learning the video game playing skills and knowledge of 1980s pop culture that will net him the win, but he is challenged by an evil-dealing multinational corporation – and his other rivals are his 4 best friends. The whole thing is set on what’s left of the destroyed Earth in 2044. I love apocalyptic fiction and this ranks with other good reads like Super Sad True Love Story, Oryx and Crake, and Feed.
Car license plates in my province just got a new font. It’s unsettling! Who doesn’t have an opinion about fonts? Just My Type is an entertaining read about the history and use of type and fonts, from the reviled Comic Sans to the esteemed Frutiger. It reads like celebrity gossip, with entertaining features about designers, popular opinion,and backlashes. If you haven’t heard terms like kerning and serifs, it explains them all. Also, if you haven’t seen the Helvetica documentary, it’s a must-see!
Finances: I spent a couple of days creating a new “cashflow” budget. Although I have a regular salary, there are a few irregular bills and savings goals. So, I need to know how much to save per month for annual bills, and when my savings will be high enough for my next trip, and so on. I also have some psychological perks built in: I save for my property tax bills for 8 months of the year, and have 4 months with no savings, instead of dividing the amount by 12. I also have home heating bills for about 8 months of the year with 4 off, but not the same 4 as the property tax! It’s a bit of a game, really. My savings for Link’s college fund are on track, and University Year 1 will be complete next month!
Driving: We’ve taken Rom’s car more often lately, so we’ve both been able to see the other’s point of view a little better. Maybe we’re both control junkies. It seems both of us are much more comfortable driving than being in the passenger seat! No incidents or accidents, anyway.
Organizing and De-Cluttering: No progress at home, but have actually done half of my massive filing job at work!
Clothes: I have continued to get rid of things that are ill-fitting and shapeless after last year’s weight loss. This month I bought a more stylish grey jacket for layering at work – replacing a jacket with cargo pockets that was really too casual for the office. We had some crazy atypical hot weather in March, but it’s back to winter again, and I am ever so tired of wearing sweaters. I have been looking for a spring sweater in the orange range though, to wear with browns. I was very tempted by an orange dress from Esprit but I never wear dresses and I wouldn’t want to cause a commotion 🙂 – no photo available, but it was all one colour, sleeveless, heavyweight jersey with button-down hip pockets and a sort of 60s “mod” look. Still thinking about it! Until better weather comes, I will only be buying “replacement” clothes items. On a weird note, I have a cat that is always chewing on fabric, and she ate big holes out of two of my best winter scarves, so I will have to stock up again next year!
Real Food and Meal Plans: I have got into a routine of making bread, muffins, granola and yogurt. It is saving us lots! I wrote the saga of the next two months’ meal plans here.
So that’s the recap on my personal goals for March!