Money Management

Hi friends in the blogosphere. I’ve had a bit of a long absence from posting, but I’m back with what I hope will be an interesting and somewhat humorous post, about my lack of money management skills. I’m thinking many of you out there can relate (or hoping that you can?).

This year I started using Mint.com, a money management website, to keep better track of my spending and saving, etc. The best part is that it is free, because, really, why would I want to spend money to learn how to manage what little money I have?

So the website lets you do all these cool, adult things, like manage your retirement account, keep track of your student loans, and set spending budgets.  The best part is that it is all in one place, under one login.  (Am I the only person that has to try several different username and password combos every time I log in to my student loan account?)  They also send you these really useful reminder emails when you have bills coming up. See Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Geez, I sound like a commercial for Mint.com. Suffice to say I really like the site and how it helps me organize my finances. I’ve only hit one snag so far.

Remember those spending budgets I mentioned? Ideally, you set a spending budget and you stick to it. Those little red bar graphs telling me that I’ve exceeded my budget for clothing for this month should convince me to stop shopping and start saving, right?

No need to see the amounts on here, just the sad red line under Clothing.

No need to see the amounts on here, just the sad red line under Clothing.

Not quite. Every time I go over my shopping budget, I just increase the monthly amount, so that pesky little red graph turns back to green. It is the perfectionist in me. I can’t handle seeing the red on there, like I am some kind of money management failure. So instead I just up my budget.

I’m quite certain that is not what the people who created Mint.com had in mind.

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Shameless Bragging

This weekend I am heading up to Ithaca College, where my sister goes to school, for Family Weekend. The highlight of the weekend will be the Sunday morning performance of the “First-Year Cabaret ” a play that she wrote and directed! Yes, this is a shameless bragging post. Sue me for being a proud sibling.*

The cabaret  is a musical parody of the ups and downs of freshman year of college, featuring some of your favorite Disney and Broadway songs. Personally, I’m looking forward to a trip down memory lane…back “inside the bubble,” if you will. And I’m also looking forward to seeing the musical in it’s entirety, after watching my sister sing and dance her way around the living room all summer as she wrote it.

Check out this sneak preview from rehearsals:

Not sure if I have any Ithaca readers on this little blog, but if I do, you should come see “First-Year Cabaret” at 11 am on Sunday in Emerson Suites!

*Please don’t sue me. My credit card bill is due this week.

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Think Pink: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

This morning, I walked in the Boston Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, along with over 200 students from the school where I work. Despite some rainy weather, it was a great morning for a great cause. Though my family hasn’t personally been touched by breast cancer, I know so many wonderful people who have been affected by this terrible disease, so I wanted to walk in support of the courageous survivors and fighters battling breast cancer every day.

Think Pink: Making Strides Walk Boston, October 14, 2012

One of the morning’s speakers was a woman named Tara, a 32-year-old mother of two who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She gave a beautiful, moving speech that brought me nearly to tears as she thanked the people at the walk for saving her life simply by their presence at the event. In talking with some other walkers, I discovered that she is blogging about her cancer battle. When I got home, I immediately looked up the blog and spent the entire afternoon reading it. I was completely riveted and read her story from beginning to end, and highly recommend that you do, too. It is a poignant, honest, brave and inspiring account of her battle with cancer. I don’t think I can use enough adjectives in that sentence to describe Tara’s writing. She doesn’t pretend that every day is easy, but throughout the ups and downs that she chronicles in the blog, a resilient, unstoppable spirit emerges. I was so touched by her words that I had to share them. If Tara can face cancer with such a courageous spirit, we all can face anything our Monday morning might bring, and realize that whatever life might throw at us actually isn’t so bad.

Read Tara’s blog at: http://www.tarabeatscancer.com/

The t-shirts our school community wore for the Making Strides Walk said “Think Pink” and that is something that I am going to try to do each day: to think pink, keeping all of these people, and especially Tara, in my thoughts and prayers.

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Learning to Be – By Sarah Ruszkowski

A fabulous blog post by my equally fabulous college roommate about her life “outside the bubble,” living and working in a home for adults with disabilities. It’s part of a Notre Dame blog called Full of Grace, published by current and former mentors in Notre Dame Vision, an ND Campus Ministry mentoring program for high school students.

I can’t deny my bias, but it’s an inspirational read about one girl’s post-grad journey as she learns how to “Be God’s love” in our hectic, stressful, and constantly changing world. Check it out!

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October 3, 2012 · 6:32 pm

Revealing My Age

You know how some people tend to worry about “dating themselves?” They worry that by revealing certain facts or events in their life, they’ll make themselves seem much older than the people around them. So they’ll qualify a statement with, “I might be dating myself by saying this, but…

'80s perm

Jennifer Grey, from the movie “Dirty Dancing”
Source: Worst Hair Trends, from TotalBeauty.com

  • …I had a rotary phone in my house.”
  • …I went to Woodstock in the ’60s.”
  • …I had an awful perm in the 80’s.”

I’m sure you catch my drift. Basically any distinguishing fact that might reveal their (often times more advanced) age to the others in the conversation.

Sometimes, I swear I date myself in the other direction. Backwards dating, if you will.

I’m one of the younger people in my office, which isn’t that surprising, since I just graduated from college a little over a year ago, and I also still live at home (which I love, by the way. Can’t beat the home-cooked meals!). But these two factors often lead to me accidentally dating myself and unintentionally calling attention to how much younger I am.

Exhibit A

Co-worker: “That pasta salad you brought for lunch looks delicious, Maura.”

Me: “Thanks! My mom made it for me.”

Exhibit B

Co-worker: “How was your weekend?”

Me: “Pretty good, watched a Law & Order: SVU marathon with my parents.”

Mostly, it’s pretty humorous. And I’d like to think that I don’t “backwards date” myself enough that they don’t take me seriously in the workplace. But I think the best evidence of this situation occurred this summer:

Foot Injury

Ignore the fact that my sister is in a neck brace. Another story for another post. Let’s just say it involved a concussion, and we thought it would be humorous to document our simultaneous injuries. Which makes this the only photo of me on crutches.

I had to have some surgery on my right foot in July, which meant that I wasn’t able to drive for a few weeks. Luckily, my mom is a teacher and off for the summers, so she was able to drive me back and forth (And let me tell you, my hour-long commute four times a day is no picnic…thanks for the rides, Mom!). Since I work at a school, she was once again “driving me to school.” Backwards dating, step 1.

Once we arrived at work, my Mom would walk me in, helping me with my bags. I was on crutches, but also had a very stylish walking boot and surgical shoe, so I was always carrying all of that stuff with me. I’m not the most coordinated person, sans crutches, so it really was for the best that my mom carried my stuff in, while I handled the walking scenario. That was really enough for me to handle, at that point. Backwards dating, step 2.

So every day for about a month my mom drove me to work, and walked me in, carrying my belongings. Which, let the record show, I sincerely appreciated. Until the day she decided to water my office plant.

Office Plant Photo

My cute round table and barely-alive office plant.

My coworkers sent me a “Get Well” plant when I had the surgery, and I happen to have a cute, round, plant-sized table in my office. So I brought the plant in, because it fit perfectly on said cute little round table. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my attention to the plant stopped. My office is also pretty warm in the summer, so unless this plant was something normally at home in the Amazon, it wasn’t going to fare well without me watering it. Which I never really got around to. So one day, my mom takes it upon herself to tidy up my office a bit (she’s the most organized person I know, so I’m thinking she couldn’t resist), and that included watering my plant.

Too bad the plant was in a basket, and all the water and a good amount of dirt spilled right through the spaces in the weave of the basket, onto my beige office carpet.

So there’s my Mom, mopping up the floor of my office with paper towels from the bathroom, as I beg her, “Please, please just leave and let me do this. Please. They already think I am 12 years old. This is NOT GOING TO HELP.”

Backwards dating, complete.

To avoid this situation in the future, I’ve started watering the plant myself. How do you think it’s looking?

Full disclosure: I pruned off all the dead leaves and flowers before I took that picture.

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Any Given Day – University of Notre Dame

42 seconds into this video from the Notre Dame Admissions Office, and I was crying…at my desk at work. Whoops.

Psycho alumna alert.

But seriously, watch this. And then understand why Domers everywhere “Love thee Notre Dame!”

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September 6, 2012 · 11:02 pm

Cool read from Buzzfeed30 Indispensable Writing Tips from Famous Authors

It’s deadline week at work! I’m the main writer/editor for the alumnae magazine and all the articles are due to the graphic designer on Friday, and I’m also working on my next post for this little blog, so my fingers have been at the keyboard a lot lately. Planning and writing the magazine has been so much fun, and such a cool opportunity! Deadline week is when it turns a little stressful (I’m taking a break from putting finishing touches on one of those articles to write this post…).

So what better time to read “30 Indispensable Tips from Famous Authors,” I ask you? Seems like this is the perfect time for writing inspiration to strike…wish me luck, and hope these tips help any fellow writers out there!

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August 28, 2012 · 7:16 pm

Summer Reading Update

At the end of June, I blogged about three books I was planning to read this summer, along with a cool graphic of “101 Books to Read This Summer.” Since it’s that time of year when most students are frantically trying to finish up all their summer reading before school, I figured I’d check in on my progress. (Although, to be honest, I was always the kid who had her summer reading finished in July. I can’t help it. I love books.)

Anyway, in the aforementioned post, I said that I wanted to read:

  • Les Miserables, the arm-breaking novel.
    Source: MommyLife.net

    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; Unfortunately, this one is sitting on my nightstand, with a bookmark only three pages into the Introduction. It’s not that I don’t want to read it; I actually really want to find out whether it will live up to the brilliantly fabulous stage musical it inspired. It’s more that the book is JUST SO HUGE. It’s an arm workout just to hold the thing. I like to read in bed before I go to sleep, because it helps me wind down from the day. But every time I pick up Les Mis, I just end up tiring out my arm. 😉 Stay tuned for my progress on this one.

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; This one was an interesting read about a boy dealing with his father’s death on 9/11. It was at times heartbreaking, other times funny, and at the end, quite bittersweet. I’d recommend it, but it’s not quite a beach read. For when you’re in the mood for something thought-provoking.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; I’ve wanted to read this one since I watched the movie Capote in my Media Ethics journalism class during my junior year at Notre Dame. Let’s refrain from addressing how sad it is that it took me this long to get around to it. I absolutely loved this book; Capote’s storytelling ability is phenomenal. The story is based on actual events (a murder in Kansas) and could have been presented in a more mundane, news story fashion, but Capote wrote in novel form. A PBS bio of Capote credits him with creating the genre of the non-fiction novel. Capote’s ability to create suspense, even though the audience already knows the identity of the murderers, is outstanding. It’s more riveting than any of the crime shows on TV right now, easily.

Lest you think my former bookworm self has only gotten around to reading two books this summer, here are some others I’ve enjoyed:

What’s currently in my nightstand? The Everything Bridesmaid Book. I’m going to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding next summer and since it’s my first go-round, I figured I could use some tips. Anyone have any reading suggestions for the rest of the summer?

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London 2012 Olympics

Source: The Daily Mail UK

Now that the Olympics are over, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to watch on TV anymore (although the sheer number of times they showed the preview for that new show “Revolution” has almost convinced me to tune in when it premieres).  For the past two weeks, I’ve been glued to the TV watching soccer, gymnastics, swimming, beach volleyball, diving and basically whatever else NBC decided to broadcast in prime time.  I’ve always loved the Olympics.  I’m not ashamed to admit that NBC’s promo music makes me tear up (however embarrassing that might be), and I’ve had several Olympic dreams of my own through the years:

  • When I was in 3rd grade, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, though that dream died quickly when I was the only one in gymnastics class who had to be spotted for a back handspring.  I never was able to master that trick on my own;
  • When I was in 7th grade, Mia Hamm and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Champion US Soccer Team made me want to play soccer at UNC and then at the Olympics and World Cup;
  • And at various points throughout my skating career, I wanted to go to the Olympics in singles skating, pairs and ice dancing.

The Magnificent Seven celebrates the first Olympic Gold for a US Gymnastics team at a non-boycotted Olympics.
Source: The Mrs of Media

Perhaps my lack of ability to focus and choose one sport contributed to none of those Olympics dreams panning out. 😉  But I am still an obsessive fan of the Olympics, of the athletic feats and the triumphs of the human spirit that the Games bring us every two years.  I love to watch it all: the games and events, the post-game interviews, the back story pieces that detail an athlete’s journey to the Games, even the P&G commercials with athletes thanking their moms (those are tear-jerkers!).

My love for the Olympic Games was born in 1996, when I was a 7-year-old astounded by the tricks and moves of the Magnificent Seven USA Gymnastics team, and most especially Kerri Strug’s courageous vault that helped earn the Olympic Gold for the team.

I’m pretty sure that team is what inspired me to sign up for that gymnastics class where I needed a spotter for those back handsprings.  Cheering on the ’96 gymnasts is one of my most vivid memories from watching the Olympics.  So when Bob Costas interviewed the Fab Five of the 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team after their gold medal-winning performance, I was shocked to hear him say that some members of

The Fab Five of the 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics Team celebrate their gold medal, the first for a US gymnastics team at an overseas games.
Source: People.com

the Fab Five weren’t even born in ’96, and the ones that were alive were too young to even have memories of that team.

And then I felt old.

Super old.

Or maybe the adorable Fab Five is just young, which is probably the more logical conclusion…especially considering that being in your 20s is old for gymnastics!

But maybe it’s not too late to take up shooting, or one of those other seemingly random sports where age is less of a factor…Rio 2016, anybody?  At the very least, I’ll be parked in front of my TV, cheering on the USA and all the athletes in Rio, and in Sochi, Russia in 2014 (Go US Figure Skating!).  Just call me an Olympics junkie.

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Entering the Land of Smartphones

An LG Cosmos, my formerly faithful cell phone.
Source: verizon-cellphones.org.

So I finally bit the bullet and got a Smartphone. I’d been surviving with my “Free after mail-in rebate” Verizon phone for several years now, and it was showing its age.  Keys were sticking, so texts looked like I had typed them after having about six beers. Whenever I used speakerphone (which I often do when I call people while I am stuck in traffic on the drive home from work…gotta keep two hands on the wheel!), my own voice would echo back at me before the response of whomever I was talking to, so lots of phone calls involved a complicated exchange of, “Wait, repeat that first part again?” until I grasped the entire sentence.

In addition to the wear and tear on my phone, most of my coworkers had Smartphones, so I was often the last one to see an email or unable to access email while I was out of the office for meetings or conferences.  It was time for a phone upgrade.

After plenty of research, I went with an iPhone, because the pictures and video would be easily compatible with the Apple Mac that I use for photo and video editing at work.  (People who feel strongly about the iPhone-Android debate can duke it out in the Comments section, haha).  I’ve had the phone for just under two weeks, and have to say

Apple iPhone
Source: Macworld.com

that I am loving it. It’s great to have everything I need in one place: texts/phone, email, calendar, music, social media, reminders, etc.  The Maps app is also pretty awesome, as someone who lacks an internal compass and often finds myself lost en route to new places.

So as a newly converted believer in the Smartphone phenomenon, I want to share this great blog post from the Notre Dame Career Center about “Being Present” in today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world.  It mentions turning off your phone or computer and taking time away to be with people or just be outside.  Definitely something I kept in my mind as I was setting up all the Notifications settings on my new phone.  As nice as it is to have easy access to email and other communication, I don’t need it buzzing with emails every five minutes on a Sunday.  You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and that blog post is a great reminder of that.

So I’m about to tweet about this blog post on my iPhone, but then I think I’ll put it away for a while and enjoy this sunny Sunday!

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