Today, I have a few good things to share with you all!
We have fantastic news on T’s job front! Having so much uncertainty about our future has been a major factor in why I haven’t been writing (aside from generally being busy). I hope to share some more information soon (although not details). He has two offers we’re considering, and they are both in California… and one is right here in town, no moving required! We should know for sure what we are doing SOON. This is the best possible outcome. It makes every day we spent apart these past months so worth it (and to be honest, we’ve spent a lot less time apart than you would guess).
I honestly can’t believe how ridiculously lucky we are. This past weekend, we threw a little party to celebrate with lots of champagne, food, friends and fun!
I finished my 3rd marathon! Both my training and thus my finish time were not as good as last year – but I did it. My goal got progressively easier from “maybe i can beat last year’s time!” to “ok, let’s just not get my worst time ever and let’s finish without crying!” I did achieve those two goals, but it wasn’t a great race My friend came in from North Carolina and finished her first half marathon. It was a great weekend, aside from the 2nd half of my marathon.
We celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a trip north of the SF bay area to see the redwoods and the coast. Check out the trees! (Also, I cut my hair short in January!)
Finally, my job is going great! I’m going on an international business trip to a customer site in June, and am super excited about it. There has been some uncertainty in other areas, and I still don’t quite have a long-term direction figured out… but I’m really happy where I’m at for now, which counts for a lot.
Money is coming in, money is going out. Here’s what is new in the Stacking Pennies household.
I got a raise. Not a bad raise, but not the ~7% raises I’ve gotten in the past. This wasn’t totally unexpected. Last year was a bit of a transition year for me at work and while I got good ratings, I didn’t have any big accomplishment to point to.
If 2013 goes as planned I will have a good justification for a promotion (maybe – these are usually in late summer, so that’s a bit early) or a really good raise (more likely). There are some specific internal political reasons that make a promotion less attractive than a raise right now, though it is hard to get a good raise without increasing your level… so we’ll see. But, 2012 didn’t go as planned (not due to my actions), so I am not banking on anything yet.
I got a small bonus in February. Yay! (Everyone got a bonus.)
We owe taxes, and per usual, it is T’s fault. I over withheld, but not enough to make up for his 2012 stipend income (which is taxable but has no taxes withheld). We still haven’t done them, but the estimate is a few thousand. (Good bye bonus!)
I did buy a few admittedly boring things with the bonus:
- New laptop bag: One of my roles at work involved me taking my laptop to/from work every day, so I needed something easier to deal with than the bulky leather bag case my dad gave me when I was in college. I checked Corporette for suggestions and decided this. It just barely fits my (not small) work laptop and accessories, and is lightweight and has pockets for organization. This will be handy for traveling too. My other role involves several trips to the east coast over the summer.
- New comforter: light weight due to T’s complaints of overheating, silk filled due to my allergies
That’s it. I also got some new running shoes and used my REI dividend/coupon for a new yoga mat.
That’s the money stuff, which has basically been on autopilot. I’m still only hoping we’ve been flying in the right directing. We checked our net worth, and it looks good, but it is partially due to the decent stock market performance this year. I should have more time to dig into my finances next month.
On a final note, work has been amazing in the past 6 months or so, and should continue to be pretty awesome. It is by no means certain, but I might get to go with some really great people to an international customer meeting in the early summer, even though I’m transitioning away from that group. Even if the trip doesn’t materialize (my hopes are already WAY up), it is nice to know that they WANTED to take me. But so much more awesome if it actually does happen. I’m going to be full time in my other role again, and they have some cool professional opportunities for me there as well (but no international trips).
We still have no news on T’s front, but all questions should be answered within about a month! Hopefully, good news soon!
I didn’t mean to quit blogging. However, I’ve always blogged for fun, and I have had other priorities that prevented me from writing about my money. It’s the usual suspects keeping me busy: work and marathon training. I expect to have a little more free time starting very very soon!
I’m also much less money-focused than I once was, for better or worse. Actually, this is certainly for the worse. I don’t even want to admit how much we spent on eating out and groceries (and other things we buy at the store, like alcohol and cleaning supplies) in 2012. It was surprising, but ignoring the numbers doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
Finally, I blame my iPad. I can read blogs all day and my bluetooth keyboard allows me to easily comment (except when they fail and i eventually give up…) However, the interface doesn’t work for writing blog posts, at least not very well. My laptop stays closed up for days and days. Writing a blog post isn’t as convenient as it was in my pre-iPad days (when I was on my laptop anyway).
Oh, and I know that you are supposed to blog on a schedule to keep your audience, but I only blog when I have something to say. My audience will remain small-ish, but very very high quality!
OK, you made it this far. Here’s those embarrassing numbers that I wasn’t even going to tell you about.
- 2012 Restaurant Spending: $3332
- 2012 Grocery + misc spending: $4844
- 2012 Alcohol spending (sometimes I delineate this, but not always): $983 (to be fair, over 1/3 of this was wine we bought in nappa and haven’t yet touched)
That is $404/month on groceries, $277 on all kinds of going out to eat, and $90/mo on alcohol. For two people, of course, but… still.
I’m mortified. With so much being up in the air regarding savings, jobs, and incomes, my top 2013 finance goal is to spend less than 2012 in ALL of these categories. Actually, I would like to spend less in most every category except perhaps travel!
Last month I was cutting it very close on two of my yearly goals. I wanted to run 1000 miles and I wanted to read 25 books. This last minute close call caused me to spend time reflecting on why I set these goals and why I still felt it was important to meet them.
Running 1000 miles was a good way to keep on track with running. Would I have been less fit had I ran 979 miles? Why not just run as much as I could in a year without counting? Running 1000 miles was a reason not to skip a run that I had no good reason to skip, but it gave me the flexibility to do other things when I wanted to.
The reading goals was especially perplexing as reading is a hobby that I do for fun (and also to learn). Why attach a goal to that? Statistically, I’m already going to miss almost every great book there is in the world. If I read 25 a year, I might have 1000 books left to read in my life. If I only read 10, I only get to read 400. That’s a huge difference! Again, it reminded me to spend more time with my nose in a book and less time reading random bits on the internet.
Leslie challenges the point of goals, because some of us feel guilty when we don’t achieve them. On the other hand, Bridgette says that goals shouldn’t be things you can easily achieve. “Because if you choose something that is already within your grasp, it’s not a goal, it’s just a to-do item.” Personally, I disagree with them both!
I don’t feel guilty if I don’t meet a goal. I reflect on why, then I move on. I’m a great at rationalization! And I usually still did better than I would have with no goal at all.
I typically set my goals that within my grasp. How far can one push? If I want to run more miles, I have to give up the time it takes to run those. This will impact another goal! Some goals are more in the maintenance stage, and that is OK. Sometimes I push myself to do new things, but I also push myself to keep on the path I’m on.
When thinking of ideas for my 2013 goals, a lot of ideas ran through my head. I could….
- earn extra income, outside my day job
- do more yoga and master a handstand! Or, uh, a headstand.
- volunteer more time and donate more money
- run MORE miles than 2012
- read MORE books than 2012
- cook more meals
- spend more time with friends or making new friends
- see more movies
- read the news every day
- learn a new language or take an art class.
- take a photo every single day and learn how to do real photo editing
- write more in my blog, or try to do something new with my writing
- learn how to tango!
I can do any of those things, but I can’t do all of those things. In fact, I find that I can’t do very many of them, at least not well! I have tons I want to do, but I’m having trouble figuring out to focus on in 2013. I like to have something new to work, but can’t pinpoint would make me happier rather than just busier. So… maybe my 2013 goals will be a little more boring than usual. Is this because I am getting OLD?!?!
For me, goals are how I translate my priorities into day-to-day actions. It’s how I track if I’m spending my energy on things that are important to me. I think about which goals will make me happier, and what things would be nice, but can’t be priorities right now. I think about how much I’ve been able to do in the past, and I try to avoid putting too much on my plate. Goals work really well for me.
Do goals work for you? Do you like to set goals that are within your reach?
Finalize 2013 yearly goals. I’m still mulling over what I want to focus on this year. I don’t want to rush just to get them out there, so I’m giving myself this month to continue to think about it.
Resolve 2102 spending / income and post 2012 wrap-up post. I’m almost done with resolving it. I’m not sure what I’m going to share as far as posting goes, because I don’t really think I’m frugal anymore. We spend well below our means – but boy, could we save more! I knew we’ve been much more lax on the budgeting, and 2013 is a year to pull back on a few categories to leave more room in others.
Start a Coursera course and keep up on assignments / lectures. There is a decent chance I’ll fail horribly at this… but if I don’t, I could learn something pretty neat.
Complete 3 trail runs with group and start abbreviated marathon training plan. I’ve been doing some long runs, but my calf strain and the holidays derailed my 18 week plan. I’m switching to a 12 week plan, which starts next week.
I think that’s it for January. Coming up with my yearly goals will be a big enough struggle, and I’m already overwhelmed by life/work/running. I am going home to visit my family late this month and I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things at work. I also just sent T back up to NorCal, which was really really hard after spending so much time together the past 2 months.
After spending Christmas in the Midwest with T’s family, we made it back to L.A. just in time to sleep through the ringing in of the new year! We were up at 9 a.m. eastern time and didn’t even try to make it until 12 p.m. Pacific Time!
2013 has been treating me well. T has been in town where he belongs (yay!), I got in a nice long run on New Years Day then caught a gorgeous sunrise from mountains on my first trail run last week. I’m still getting into the swing of things at work, but I think it is going to be an exciting year.
However, I’m really struggling with setting my personal goals this year. I want to keep pushing and growing, but I also want to focus on the things that matter. My life is pretty full of things I love. I don’t want to cut out anything I’m currently doing in order to make room for the new things I want to pursue. Yet, I don’t have room for a lot of new things without sacrificing sleep or downtime.
Outside of work, I’m not currently pursuing anything big and challenging and new. For a long time, my big challenges were school related. I got my B.S., then a job, then an M.S. while working
After that, I focused on incorporating regular running into my life and trained for my first marathon. I still love running, but it is now just a part of my happy routine rather than something I can push really far. I can get a little faster, but I don’t think that would help me enjoy it more.
Last year was a year of pushing at work & steering my career into a direction I wanted to it to go. Work is indeed still a challenge, but I’m already in a great and challenging role, and I just need to execute and continue stretching and growing in my current role. So, I’m really happy at work and I’m not looking for a big change there, because I still have so much to learn where I’m at.
In fact, I’m happy with nearly all aspects of my life right now. As long as T gets a job and we can resume living in the same city soon, I don’t want to make any big changes. (Him getting a job is something I have no control over, but will have the most impact on our 2013.)
It is great that happy with things, but it feels odd not to be pushing for some specific new achievements. I worry that if I’m not pushing for something big and exciting, then I’m stagnating. Or just getting old!
Did you ever have a year where you couldn’t come up with any big goals? Do you have any this year? How do you manage balance being content with continuing to grow?
Despite being behind almost all year, I completed my goal to read 25 books in 2012. Of these, 7 were read (or finished) in December alone! I always read a bit extra during my holiday break, but this was way more than usual.
Books I loved (5/5 stars):
My favorite types of books to read are memoirs, books set in foreign places, historical fiction, modern fiction, and classics. I have a mixture of these on my favorites list for 2012. I think the most interesting book I read all year was 1Q84, and the one I couldn’t put down while reading was Wild.
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung. City of Thieves, David Benioff. 1Q94, Haruki Murakami. Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT, Cheryl Strayed.
Books I liked (4/5 stars):
Ayn Rand and Tolstoy probably deserve 5 stars, but anything so long is hard for me really really love. Again, classics and novels set in other countries make up much of this list.
Bel Canto, Ann Pachett. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami. Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron. Digging to America, Anne Tyler. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain.
In my head, I always called the last book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Shut Up. You can see I may have a bias towards introverts!
Books that were just OK (3/5 stars):
I enjoyed reading these books, but didn’t put them down thinking they were great.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson. Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, Gregory Berns. My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk. How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. The Tigers’s Wife, Téa Obreht. Into The Wild, John Krakauer.
Books I didn’t like (2/5 stars):
I read the first one as part of a work group thing, and I hated how cheesy it was. The last two were my own choices, but they were just too light and too odd, respectively.
The Traveler’s Gift, Andy Andrews. French Lessons, Ellen Sussman. The Vanishers, Heidi Julavits.
I mostly listen to these while running, as I get really bored listening to music on my long runs. For some reason, non-fiction or memoirs work best for me for audiobooks and I rarely listen to anything else. My favorite of these is probably the Steve Jobs biography. I still have about 30 minutes left (out of about 24 hours!). It has been a really fascinating read, especially the early history of Apple.
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, Robert K. Massie. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
Apparently I do not give out 1 star only. If it was that bad, I probably didn’t get through it.
In 2013, I’m going to try to read a little bit more non-fiction, especially business related books. I didn’t do much of that this year. I’m also planning to read both fiction set in Turkey as well as non-fiction about the region in anticipation of a possible trip there this summer. Another book by Haruki Murakami is on my list as well as some Hemmingway, and I’m always looking for new modern fiction to add.
What were your favorite books of 2012? Any suggestions for must-reads to add to my list?