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Archive for March, 2010

One Year

It’s been one year. One year since my grandma died. I sill miss her, will always have those moments of thinking of her remembering her.  Recently, I’ve been reminded of what I went through as I watch a friend go through something similar.

Today, though I’m dealing with a diagnosis of Mononucleosis (this past Wednesday), and am in a lot of discomfort, I am also taking time to remember.

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I’m trying to manage my finances better. When I was unemployed I had the time to take care of all my transactions in my spreadsheet and I had a handle on how I was spending my money.  Even if I wasn’t always being as frugal as I would have liked, I was consistent and knew exactly where my money was going.   But it’s time consuming and meant that I was adding in everything manually, or importing from my online banking and then reformatting everything.  I’d started doing this because I couldn’t get the old version of Quicken to really do things the way I wanted to and at the time the idea of looking at anything historically was a bit overwhelming.   Anyhow, I started to use a spreadsheet, and it served me well at the time.   But, now that I’m in nursing school, I don’t have the time to spend doing my finances the way I did before. BUT I feel even more pressed to make sure I know how I’m doing, because all my spending is currently on credit.  I do have a part time job, but it doesn’t really help with paying the bills, it just gives a bit of a cushion, so that my interest is paid and so that I don’t feel as guilty every time I go out and spend money for a social event.

So over the next little while I’m going to work on a bit of a review of some software so that I can see if it’s worth spending the money to get financial management software for myself

Spreadsheet

I already have the software so it’s free. BUT it’s time consuming to use and it’s tedious to get it set up the way I want it. How it’s set up now, doesn’t really fit my needs anymore so it’s taking hours (I’m not an Excel/Numbers expert) to get it to work well, and it doesn’t give me a quick glance at where my money is. Though it is handy for managing transactions and I don’t have to worry about format — CSV works well for importing, even if I have to rearrange and modify the file once it’s imported.  Overall it’s very time consuming and the past 6 months have shown that I wont maintain it.

Quicken

It’s what I used to use, before I switched to the spreadsheet. I would like to test the current version, but as I’m a student I can’t fork out the money to buy the software just to test.  The idea of buying and returning software is inconvenient, as I’d get busy and likely run out of the 60 day time frame and lose the money I’d spent — if I’d decided not to keep it.  Fortunately MacWorld will do an in depth review of the software so I’ll just read what they have to say. BUT, I must say that the inability to test the software myself puts this software in the highly unlikely to buy category (particularly as I’m in Canada and I want to make sure that the Canadian specific things — RRSPs, TFSAs etc work correctly).

iBank

The first thing I did for both programs was look through their video tutorials to lessen my learning curve. The makers of iBank have few tutorials to help me get started — beyond importing from Quicken (which doesn’t help as all my old quicken files are 6+ years old).  I managed to get my account information downloaded and imported into the software, but it feels very cluttered and not easy to use at first glance.  Plus when I looked at the categories it was all very ‘american’ in terms of how their tax management and registered investment stuff was set up.  I’m in school so I’m not using a tonne of that right now, but I do still have some RRSP stuff coming off my paycheque and have an RRSP account. I’d rather just have a location button to select that says I’m in Canada so that the software would remove anything that’s related to US Taxes or their investments etc.  Maybe if I move to the USA after school’s done it’ll be useful, but my first impression is that it’s not as simple to use as Moneywell.

While iBank is more complex than Moneywell, one thing I do like is the ability to have sub-categories.  Maybe this is left over from my quicken days or from how I had my spreadsheet organized, I liked knowing how much money I spent on things like coffee and dining out specifically rather than having them lumped together into ‘dining’  I know I could set Moneywell up like that too, with separate ‘buckets’ but iBank had it automatically done and has them set up so they’re subcategories.  One drawback of this is it makes things more complicated. With the spreadsheet, the time it takes to organize and categorize things is where the barrier comes in for me and if I had to spend a lot of time figuring out where to place a transaction I wouldn’t maintain my finances (such as did I buy LUNCH at the starbucks or just a cup of tea??).

Reporting for iBank seems more comprehensive than MoneyWell, so if you’re the type that likes to see where your money’s going in a pie chart, it will do this for you fairly simply.

One note about iBank, MacWorld has several articles that may provide more insight than I am providing here.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to keep trying to figure out this software since I need something easy.  But the link for a review of an old version of iBank is here.  Also for more information about iBank and it’s associated iBiz software MacWorld has an article too.

Hopefully those links will be useful. I think this is a good piece of software, and though it’s very American in feel it seems to work well. But, as I said I am looking for easy and it has been taking too long for me to feel comfortable with this software. Using Moneywell in parallel made it clear, Moneywell was much simpler. So iBank has features that I would want once I’m investing again and may likely be the software I use once school is done, but for now I’m going to uninstall it.

Moneywell

When I first installed MoneyWell, like iBank I reviewed their tutorials.  MoneyWell has extensive Tech Support online discussions and video tutorials.  This program was very simple, like iBank, to import my accounts into the system and having the ‘buckets’ on the left hand column is nice. I haven’t figured out how to fill each bucket yet, because I’m living off of debt and my money comes from a debt account rather than from my income account. I’m still playing with settings. BUT it’s simple to use, and already I’ve started clicking on it to see balances.  It feels ‘easy’ and streamlined.  It feels like I’m already using it rather than intentionally playing with it.

I haven’t played with this software’s investment, or RRSP stuff yet. But at least the tax information is hidden from me so that I don’t need to worry about figuring out the US system and how to convert it to Canadian.  As I mentioned, another thing I like about Moneywell is they have several tutorials available to help me figure out how to carry out some functions, like reconciling transactions etc. A drawback, so far, is that they don’t have Moneywell for the iPhone and as I’ll probably be buying an iPhone soon that makes iBank’s iPhone app a strong bonus.

Regarding investments, in Moneywell there is the possibility of having an investment, so that movement of money is possible, but detailed tracking is not really possible — that I have been able to find.  Right now as a student, I have a few small accounts of investments, but not much.  I can make transactions into an investment account I’ve designated as ‘RRSP’, and really I wont be putting much in there until I’m done school, but when I get my RRSP statements I can make a transaction to update the value of the investment.  I haven’t played with the iBank investment but it is more extensive.   In 14 months school will be done and I will be putting money into investments, so if I go with Moneywell, as it is it may not have enough power to manage investments.  The good news is the developers are working on the investment side of things.  The annoyance would be if it’s not ready by the time I need it.

Another cool feature of money well is the ability to add receipts to a transaction. SO, for example, every time I make a tuition payment I make a PDF of the receipt and save it. NOW I can just click on the box in the display and add the receipt. It uploads a copy to the software so that I can access it. Very useful.

Reports are quite simple in MoneyWell, it tells you how much over or under your budgeted amount you are, or you can have reports by transactions, a cash flow summary etc.  To be honest, for a home finance software, at least right now in my life, I don’t need more.  I am the slightly geeky type that would like to generate graphs occasionally, but realistically, I don’t need it and never used it when I had software that did that for me.

So all in all, I have decided to purchase MoneyWell, it’s making it much simpler to input receipts and track my spending. Hopefully it will help me to cut down in certain spots.  I may switch to iBank after I’m done school but for now I need the simplicity that’s offered by MoneyWell. The handy thing: I’m often attached to my computer so I don’t have to worry about MoneyWell not having a mobile option at the moment.  I hope that is developed soon — ideally once I get a new phone.

For those reading, I hope this review has helped. I was doing this review for myself to help me think through this purchase, but if it benefits someone that’s great. I’m not affiliated with any of the products mentioned and this blog post was my initiative. No compensation came my way. Oh, and no offence intended to any company if someone’s offended… just sayin’. 🙂

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So for those who read this blog, particularly those who know me in real life, you realize I have a background in science and have returned to school to get a degree in Nursing.  I’ve done this perhaps the ‘less traditional’ way around in that I did a BSc, an MSc worked for several years and then changed my mind and realized I wanted to do something that mattered. So now I’m getting my BSN (so that I’ll be able to go for my RN).   Needless to say once I’m done school and need to use credentials professionally I’ll use “My Name, MSc, RN”.  Professionally, right now, I use “My Name, MSc”.  But, I’ve been thinking about school and whether or not I should use my credentials when I submit assignments.

Sometimes I find that as soon as my professors find out what my background is I get 100x more respect as soon as they do find out I’ve got a graduate degree, yet I’ve been concerned about other more negative opinions on this (I’m sick and don’t think I can be more articulate than that at the moment).  But, here’s the thing: I worked incredibly hard to get my MSc and I’m proud of it, and I have a career’s experience to go along with it — I didn’t just walk out of school yesterday with the degree.  Having this background says something and as one of my clinical instructors pointed out, in the future it will open doors for me that other students in my class wont have.  So, I also sort of feel as though I have the right to use my credentials on my assignments, afterall if I’m submitting my assignment to “Instructor’s name, MSN, RN” or “Instructor’s name, PhD, RN” why can’t it be from “My Name, MSc”?? Or should I continue just to avoid using it?  It is unusual to have someone with a graduate degree go through the program — there  are 2 of us in the program.

In a professional context, I wouldn’t hesitate: I use them.   Thoughts? To use? Or not?

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I’ve been feeling sick this week, don’t really know what’s wrong, aches, pains and fever.  Nothing respiratory.  As a result I’ve had no energy and don’t really want to be studying.  What I really want is support, partnership and help.  I can’t really get help from my family as their health isn’t great and I don’t want them near me if I’m sick.

I’m happy with being in school (overall at least — it’s leading me in the right direction, that is…), but I just wish I had support and help.  I realize that there’s nothing wrong with being single at this stage of my life, and with the average life expectancy getting close to 81 years old I’ve got lots of time.

But I’m still feeling lonely.  I’m reminded of things I’m missing this weekend, and of all the reasons I’m missing things.  I’m reminded of it as I really would love classmates to sit with and review for this assignment, but I don’t really have that option.  I have a number of friends in the program, and one in particular who I’d get together and study with, but she’s had her own stuff happen and isn’t available for assignment reviews or anything really.  Other friends in the program? They weren’t interested in doing a group review.

So I feel lonely, unsupported.  And really, at the moment, there’s little I can do about it beyond getting through this assignment, and eventually figuring out how and where to meet some new people.  Sigh.

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I’ve been stressed this term because things haven’t gone academically as well as I normally expect of myself. It’s not going terribly, but I’m not meeting my own self-imposed standards. This has made me stress out, hide, and worry a great deal.  I think it doesn’t help the course I’m in is fairly dragged out. Everyone else has courses that last 6 weeks, and so are already on their second course. Me? I’m in the course that lasts 12 and have had little feedback so far.  So I’m stressed. I’m spending time reminding myself that I’m working on Degree #3 (am I a sucker for punishment? Perhaps…) and really, I sincerely HOPE to all that’s true and good that I’ll NEVER have to go to school again (except for work-related courses, such as for a specialty).  So I need to get through school but don’t need to stress as much as I have been.

But, other plans I have are shaping up. Plans to get myself more experience in this field.  Plans for my summer. I don’t have a long break but I will be using the break productively — IE making money, so at least I’m not living on debt during those weeks.  The wheels that have been set in motion are good ones. I may not have a life during my break but at least I will be continuing to progress in my career development. In all aspects of it.

For the moment, I need to get an assignment done and try not to be too disappointed that I’m going to miss an epic event in Seattle. Ah well, there are good reasons to miss it beyond school (distraction) even if there are many more reasons to go…

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Some days I just need to stop and take a deep breath. The last few days have been like that for me.  Monday I received information related to some paperwork that was important to me to complete.  The thing was, prior to Monday, the deadline wasn’t publically known because the information was not relayed on time for us (excuse the vagueness, but it’s necessary).  And the deadline was Monday.

I ended up spending the entire evening on Monday working (and stressing out) to get the paperwork done and had to send it in late and apologize for a delay that wasn’t my fault.  In the end I had a door nudge open this week as a result. I’m not going to go into detail now but what stress and lack of sleep!  Three hours of sleep before clinical is not enough! But, I think in the long run it will be worth it and I’ll end up where I want to be, partly due to this week.

But later this week it’s been more difficult as I’ve had to watch a close friend grieve her mother’s passing.  It reminds me of what I went through this time last year when my grandma passed away, also of a heart attack.  What I felt is only a fraction of the intensity she’s feeling, I know that, but it’s heart wrenching and I know there’s nothing I can do but listen, keep in touch and step forward and support her as much as I can. All I can do is walk with her through the pain and try to support her.  It just reminds me of how fleeting life really is.  My advice to anyone reading this is go call your mom. Give her a hug. Let her know how much she is loved. Heck, do that with your whole family.

Then, to add icing to the cake on this very weird week. The distraction called. Just to say hi. It shocked me, because I don’t expect a call anymore and it was both strange and normal at the same time.  He’s still stressed, with a heaviness in his voice that isn’t usually there and it sounds like things aren’t much better in his world.  I hope that, for his sake, things get better. I still stand on the opinion that ‘he’s just not that into me’ and I realize I need to meet new people. It’s hard to meet potential men when you’re in a program that’s 90% female and it consumes most of your life.  I’ve said it before (not on this blog I don’t think): I need a personal marketing manager. Heh.

What a week.  I’m very thankful it’s the weekend and I’m THRILLED that Sunday’s coming so I can have a “no alarm at home in the PJs” morning. It may make the 4am wake up on Monday more difficult but catching up on the lost sleep from this week will be needed. Wow! It’s been intense.

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Wow. I have always known that I’m a perfectionist, but I am amazed. I had a moment this evening when I had to pause and laugh at myself that I really am a perfectionist.  When most people would have looked at what happened and been THRILLED at what I was examining, I looked at those minor things that weren’t ‘perfect’. It’s like getting 98% on an exam, and being upset at the loss of the 2%. Silly.

This comes into play in most areas of my life: school, personal, running, finances, home.

With school I get really upset and overwhelmed when I’m not ‘perfect’ but I need to get over that. I KNOW that I don’t need to be perfect in this program. But the reality is I always try to be perfect.  Finances, too and so I stress out if things aren’t perfect (according to my thoughts/dreams).  And my home? I’m usually embarrassed to have people over without days and days of planning so that it’s ‘perfect’.  But, by having people over more I can make my budget cheaper if I host potluck dinners and we hang out at my house. So I’m trying to plan for this, but not too much!

One drawback of perfectionism is that it can paralyze me if I don’t have tools in place. Some things I’m doing to manage things better so that I’m not paralyzed is changing my financial management tools (blog post to come) so that I’m less stressed and can calmly manage things. School-wise I’m trying to plan ahead better. Personal I need to focus on what I can control but will make changes to meet new people and branch out.

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