Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today I'm thankful for...

Give Thanks1. My drive to work. Living downtown with a three-minute commute, I'd forgotten how nice it can sometimes be to be by yourself, in the car, listening to RAD or belting out a tune along with the radio. It's peaceful in my car by myself. I know that eventually I'm going to have to start taking the bus or the lightrail, so I'm trying to enjoy my solo commute right now.

2. Brown-bag lunches. I don't like making lunches, but it sure is nice to have your lunch all ready to go at work. I like not having to decide what to have, or stand in line for the microwave, or waste half my lunch hour going to get something. I have also discovered eating in my car; it's not sad and pathetic like I used to believe it was. It's peaceful, and wonderful, and relaxing. I can read my book, eat my sandwich, and no one disturbs me for one entire hour. Heaven!

3. Weekends. I'm patiently witing for the next one. Okay, you got me - I'm not patiently waiting, Im tapping my foot and wasting time at work not working but in fact blogging because I'm avoiding work because I just want it to be the weekend! Whew!

4. Iced caramel macchiatos. Okay, so it's been a LONG time since I've had one of those. Usually they're too sweet for me now, but for some reason, it just sounded good. And boy, is it good.

On a side note, someone in the office just burned popcorn. Now I'm just sitting here, hoping the fire alarm will go off so there'll be some excitement in my day. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top Five

Today is Wednesday, which means on RAD this morning, Rob and Arnie were doing their Top Five lists. I've decided to start my own Top Five list of sorts - it may be a top five list, it may just be five random things, but what the heck. You all want to know more about me, right?

This inaugural top five list is actually a post I created awhile ago but never finished. I was having a particularly bad day at work, and I was making myself feel better by making a list of things I'd remember to do (or not do) when I'm a manager.

So here goes - Top Five Things I Wish Management Would Remember (From an Employee's Point of View).

1. As an employee, I am not your friend. I am your employee. Please remember that and don't tell me about your family, or your divorce, or even what you did this weekend (five minutes, okay, but not an hour). Do not expect me to share my personal life with you, because I don't want to.

2. In order to secure everyone's buy-in, you have to ask for input from your staff. And simply asking for input is not enough; you must implement staffs' suggestions (or at least explain why they are not feasible). Don't just shut staff down. Instead of "No I don't want to do that," a manager could say "Let me tell you my concerns with that."

3. The fastest way to kill an employee's motivation is to demonstrate that you are not open to their suggestions or assistance.

4. PLEASE prove to me that you are a professional who is worthy of being a manager. When you call a meeting, have an agenda, and stick to it. Before you ask me for help, say on how to open an Outlook Calendar, try to do it yourself. You may figure it out.

5. BE FAIR! I don't care what kind of boss you are, if you are fair and consistent, you will be respected. I've had bosses that I just did not like, who I had to respect, because they treated each and every person the same. They treated everyone the same, and they were consistent across the board.

Are you a coupon clipper??

Today I had a momentary creative lull at work, so I logged into Hotmail to check my email. When I logged out, it took me to the MSN homepage, and as I started to close the browser window, my eyes caught sight of something.

MP Dunleavey, who is a financial writer on MSN.com, mentioned Confessions of a Shopaholic, one of my all-time favorite books. She discussed the movie in her article, and talked about how sad it is that, especially considering the downward spiral of our economy, Hollywood produced yet another movie about a young woman being rescued at every twist and turn and never being held responsible (in this case, financially responsible). (On a side note - I hated the movie. I was upset when I first heard Isla whats-her-name was playing Becky, because I don't like her. She turned out to be okay, what wasn't okay was that they combined the first two books, cut out a TON of stuff, changed a ton of stuff, and made it a very fluffy, silly, over-the-top movie, where nothing was real and you couldn't identify with anything (whereas in the book, I identified with a lot).)

Anyway, I read through the article and at the bottom, MP mentions a group that she leads called "Women in Red." Apparently this is a support group of sorts for women who want to save more, spend less, and pay down their debt.

I'm always interested in financial advice (I should add financial advice that is not boring and doesn't put me to sleep) so I read a little more about the group and then went to their message boards. I found a message board called "The Grocery Challenge" and I was hooked. I spent far more work time than I should have reading through this board (shh, don't tell anyone).

Why was I so interested, you ask? Well...I used to be a spending Nazi. I would track every last cent that I spent, and would analyze how much of my income was going to groceries, rent, fun stuff, etc. I've become quite lax lately, and it's bothering me. I miss all the time I used to spend balancing my checkbook. Really. I do. I've been collecting receipts again, went to the bank to get a fresh checkbook register, and have been researching financial software online. (I know, I'm a big geek - you can say it.)

When I was single and lived on my own, I used to spend MAYBE $50 a month on groceries. That's right, a MONTH. I bought a lot of Pasta Roni, but it's what I liked. That and I ate most of my lunches out, didn't eat breakfast (and/or bought coffee at La Bou), and I didn't cook a lot. If I felt like having cheerios for dinner, that's what I had; no prep work and easy clean-up (I was also going to school full time, so often I went straight from work to school and had a power bar or something, if that).

When I started the dreaded Atkins oh-so-many years ago (which ruined my body forever, thank you very much), my grocery bill jumped to a whopping $85 a month! Astronomical in my mind. (These were also the days when I had maybe $100 left to spend after I paid my bills each month, so extra money on groceries, or anything, was huge.)

Now that I'm married, I pine for those single days when my grocery bills were dirt cheap. Sure, I cook a lot more, and we make lunches, etc. But still. We are a two person and one dog household, and we spend $400 - $500 a month on groceries. One month, we spent almost $800!!! (Okay, that was the month that, thanks to our wonderful landlord, we didn't have a fridge, and we went to the grocery store every other day so that we could keep fresh stuff in our ice chest. But still.)

Again, I've been lax. We just moved, but when we lived downtown, there were two Safeways within six blocks of me; it was too convenient not to go there, so I did, and I paid the price (literally). I didn't go to Winco, or Walmart, or shop at the farmers' markets in the summer. Now that we own a house, though, and really, just because I'm tired of throwing away money (and food), I've had a real desire to slash my grocery bills by shopping smart, using coupons, planning weekly menus, and shopping ONLY for the things on my menu. I've also been working hard at making lunches every night so we don't buy lunch.

Back to the Women in Red. So I'm reading this message board today that is filled with posts about women challenging each other to slash their grocery spending. I'm picking up all kinds of tips, seeing sample shopping lists, and getting really motivated, all at the same time. I signed up at Coupon Mom, made a mental note to buy a newspaper this Sunday, and started pulling receipts out of the dark recesses of my purse so I could, gulp, see how much I've been spending.

I'm totally excited to start slashing my grocery budget, making menus, and sticking to my list when shopping. I know it'll take some work, but this is exactly the type of project I'm good at. I get to make lists, organize things, plan...what else could a girl want!?!

So - how many of you out there are coupon shoppers? Do you clip them from the paper and/or get them online? Do you plan your menus one or two weeks in advance, then shop weekly according to the menu? Has that helped reduce the number of trips you take to the store for "just one thing" (that ends up costing you $95..wait is that just me?)?

Tell me, please! I need info, I need help...my analytical mind needs data to gather, organize, and dissect!

(Can anyone tell that I just finished my latest book and I have extra time on my hands at night? Yes, I should be unpacking, but really, that's boring.)