2013: What I Read

As 2012 came to a close, I ran through my Kindle history and shared what I’d read that year. I knew I wanted to do so again this year. It’s a good exercise for me to recap and remember the words I’ve consumed, the influence they had in the moment, and how I can carry the positive forward into a new year.

2013 started with some titles I knew I was going to read, and veered from there, based on what looked appealing from Fargo’s online library. Here’s the rundown:

“Gone Girl: A Novel,” by Gillian Flynn
“Have a Little Faith,” by Mitch Albom
“Cemetery Girl,” by David Bell
“Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” by Anna Quindlen
“Torch,” by Cheryl Strayed
“The Pact,” by Jodi Picoult
“Edward Adrift,” by Craig Lancaster
“January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her,” by Michael Schofield
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot
“Kiss Me If You Can,” by Carly Phillips (I’d like to pretend this was not on my list. I didn’t realize it was a Harlequin romance when I started it. That said, I can’t justify finishing it.)
“The Hunger Games,” “Playing with Fire,” and “Mockingjay,” by Suzanne Collins
“Bad Monkey,” by Carl Hiaasen
“Revenge Wears Prada,” by Lauren Weisberger
“Star Island,” by Carl Hiaasen
“Sharp Objects: A Novel,” by Gillian Flynn
“The Time Keeper,” by Mitch Albom
“Sh*t My Dad Says,” by Justin Halpern
“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” by Sheryl Sandberg
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” by Mindy Kaling
“The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green

My reading habits declined sharply in November, between increased hours at work and holiday busyness.  I downloaded “Life of Pi” last month, but never got a chance to crack click it before my loan expired. So I’m seeking recommendations for the New Year to relight my reading lamp.

What did you read this year? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2014?

Money-savin’ Mama: Make sure your financial resolutions are SMART

As I think about the New Year, I picture bright blue water, white sand beaches and the green it will take to get there. This year will mark a decade of marriage to my accountant husband, and we’re planning a tropical getaway for the end of 2014.
Saving for the trip is among our financial goals for the year, along with continuing to max out retirement contributions, pay down the mortgage, and add to the kids’ college funds.
I was glad to read we’re not alone in making money-based resolutions. Fifty-four percent of Americans will consider financial resolutions for 2014, an all-time high, according to the fifth annual Fidelity New Year Financial Resolutions Study.
While long-term savings goals lead the way, more Americans are leaning toward short-term goals, the study found. And these short-term goals have become more practical (like stashing an emergency fund or paying down credit card debt) versus luxurious. (Sorry, boat salesmen.)
For the third year, the top three resolutions are to save more money, pay off debt and spend less money. While those are all worthy resolutions, stated as is they’re not “SMART.”
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
It’s not enough to resolve to “save more money” or “pay down debt.” You need to get down to the nitty-gritty of how, how much and when. That’s where the SMART acronym comes into play. It can help you make your financial resolutions a reality, regardless if they’re set Jan. 1 or mid-July.
Let’s apply SMART goal-setting to our second honeymoon:
 • Specific: The goal needs to be concrete. “We’re saving up for a vacation” is too vague. We need to say where we’re going, when and for how long.
 • Measurable: We need to have a target, in this case an actual dollar amount, so we know when we’ve reached the goal. Being specific will allow us to research travel packages and get an accurate figure, but let’s say $2,000 for now.
• Achievable: Is this goal within reach? If not, we could plan a less expensive vacation or wait another year.
• Relevant: Is this trip important to us? Should other financial goals take precedence?
• Time-based: In this case, our travel dates provide us with a timeframe. We’re looking to go in mid- November, which gives us 11 months to save up the $2,000. That’s $182 a month, or $42 a week, or $6 a day.
To accomplish this, we could set up regular automatic transfers into a savings account. When we took a trip to Jamaica in 2008, I set up a spreadsheet to track extra cash from bonuses, gifts, coin jars and even recycled cans.
Some take SMART another step, adding evaluate and re-evaluate for SMARTER goal-setting.
Either way, it’s a tool that can firm up your resolve, whether you want to make changes to your work life, waistline or wallet.
Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and reporter for The Forum. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com 

New Year, New Word

I’ve noticed a trend lately, that instead of (or in addition to) New Year’s resolutions, people are choosing words to guide the New Year.

My friend Roxane, at Peace Garden Mama, has done this. Crystal at Money Saving Mom chose two words: margin and discipline.

As a wordsmith (self-proclaimed and employed as such), I’m attracted to this idea, but have struggled to come up with a precise word for 2013.

The word that keeps coming to mind is “transition,” as this will be a year of transition for my family. Eve will go to Kindergarten. Owen will likely start attending daycare of some sort. My work schedule/arrangement will likely change.

But “transition” is a noun. It’s a thing, a fact. What I need is a verb, adjective or adverb, to describe how I want this year to go. To guide my actions in a time of transition.

I did a visual thesaurus search for the word “transition.” It led me to “change,” which eventually led me to “sprout” and “burgeon.” I like this idea, that our family is sprouting, burgeoning forth. Growing. Changing. Evolving.

So I ask you for advice … what verb/adjective/adverb am I searching for? What’s your word for 2013?

Happy New Day!

When you’re 2, the concept of time is grasped pretty basically. Either things already happened, or they’re going to happen. So whenever Eve refers to something that already happened, she says “last night.” And if it has yet to happen, she says “today” or “tomorrow.”

“I went to Papa’s farm last night!” she tells me. “No, that was last week,” I explain. “But yes, I remember when you went to Papa’s farm and went sledding.”

“It’s my birthday today!” she informs me. “No, your birthday is in March,” I say, realizing that provides her no context. “But yes, it will be your birthday, after Baby Cousin’s (at the end of January).”

So imagine my conundrum in trying to explain New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the changing of 2010 to 2011. As we left her daycare on Thursday, I told Eve the next time she’d be at Trisha’s house, it would be a new year.  Then today, when I told her it was a new year, she said, “I go to Trisha’s now!” Ummm, sort of …

I decided to just focus on the greeting. I told her whenever she saw someone today, to say “Happy New Year!” She practiced in perfectly. But after a couple hours, it had turned into “Happy New Day!” I didn’t correct her.

What a wonderful way to greet one another, and how reflective of the perpetual optimism that exists within toddlers. Every day is new and wonderful, filled with opportunities to learn, play and grow.

I think I found my New Year’s resolution, from the mouth of babes. To live every day of 2011 as a “happy new day.”