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Posts Tagged ‘finances’

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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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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Finances Stuff

One of the things I’ve been going through lately is some stress over finances. It’s a regular thing for me, and I will admit that part of going back to school was to put myself into a better financial position when I’m done (no, it’s not the ONLY reason or even the biggest reason I’m in Nursing School).  But, at the moment a point of stress is that I’m living on debt.  Knowing that I’ll have loans when I’m done that I’ll have to pay back.  It scares me a bit about how long it will take to pay it back, even if I am paying it back as quickly as possible.

To take control I’m thinking about how I manage my bills and finances.  I’ve used  a spreadsheet for the last few years but it takes much too long for me to input the receipts and transactions so for the last 6 months I haven’t really had a picture of where my finances are at. That has been stressful, but not having time to manage them hasn’t helped.  So I’m testing out some software for my Mac to make that easier.  It will mean spending some money to buy the software, so I’m taking time to really compare the programs to make sure I’ll use the programs.  It’s nice knowing where things go.  But, the software testing will be a post that I’ll publish later, once I’m done testing and have made my decision.

Unfortunately, it means I HAVE to keep working, and have to figure out how to trim some discretionary spending.  But that will come in a later post, particularly once I’ve been able to better track my finances.

Today I did have one success, I called the cable company to talk about my cable bill, and was ready to cancel. They couldn’t give me the student deal that was available last fall, but they did tell me they’d cut my cable bill for 6 months by close to 50%.  Plus they’re giving me faster internet for 6 months for free. I’ve put it in my calendar to cancel the faster internet after the 6 months and hopefully by then there will be a student deal available. But at least it means I have better prices. If over the next 3 months I don’t watch TV I’ll cancel cable entirely simply due to the lack of use.

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EI Frustrations

Ahem. Please excuse me while I have a brief rant.  I’ve had a distraction this weekend. Unfortunately it’s not a pleasant one — not ‘the distraction’ I’ve mentioned in passing on this blog (unfortunately).  Last week I mentioned that I was being audited. From 2004-2006 I was working for a Clinical Diagnostics company — this is a company that provided diagnostic products to clinical labs.  It closed it’s office in my city in late 2006 and laid us all off.  For the better part of 2007 I was on EI (employment insurance) as a result of this lay off.

I didn’t feel right about just sitting at home and job hunting.  I’ve always had an independent spirit and a strong work ethic (when I’m dating a guy it even feels weird to have him pay for me all the time — I like it, but it’s still a weird feeling). Also, I was concerned about gaps in my resume. The other thing that bothered me was self-identifying with being ‘unemployed’ — to me that’s a significant statement to make and a VERY difficult one (as an aside, it also played a role in choosing to attend nursing school — it’s not the primary reason but it was certainly one factor).  So, when I had the chance to start teaching ESL I jumped on it. This particular position was not one that paid enough for me to even stop being on EI (though many weeks I received very little), nor was it one that met my career objectives, though it did mean that I could state that I was an ESL Teacher (rather than an unemployed scientist). So, I worked for the ESL School part time and continued to look for a career-related position (and found one eventually — the one I’m now working at a few hours each week while I go to Nursing School).

So what’s going on now? The method of reporting is so confusing that there is a huge complication between my records, my pay statements and what the EI people have on record, so I’m being audited and I’ve already spent about 6 hours on this audit this weekend alone, trying to figure out what was going on back then!!!

So why is this a rant and why am I frustrated:

  • I don’t have time to be dealing with this mess right now, I’m in a very intense program and my schedule is completely BONKERS. Even without this, my stress is high, and will remain high until the Christmas Break.
  • For the next 20 months I’m in school, hardly making anything, and if I can’t explain records from almost 3 years ago I’ll have to pay the EI people back. BUT I have no money so I will be paying the EI people with my Student Loans or a Bursary — if I win one. I suspect they wont defer the payments that long, nor would I want them to, this whole thing is VERY annoying.
  • As I mentioned, I have a strong work ethic an an independent spirit. What this means is I find handouts VERY difficult to accept.  So it bothered me that I was on EI, so I chose to work. Yet, had I not chosen to work, I would have received roughly the same amount of money per week (~$90 less per week since we could work a tiny bit without losing money that EI gave), but I would not be dealing with this stress now. So had I not chosen to work, the EI people would have paid me more than they actually did, as I would have used the maximum benefit available to me.

Why are they auditing me NOW after so long?? Why not while the EI benefit is being paid out? Why not as soon as the benefits are exhausted so that the records are fresh and so that the company still exists so that their records are more complete?!?! (It’s a very good thing I’ve kept in touch with my old boss — though she doesn’t have much information, it’s better than nothing)

So this begs the question and the rant: I understand wanting to make sure that people don’t defraud the system, but REALLY??? Could there be some published evidence that the EI people are auditing those that don’t work at all so that they can be sure that they were actually job hunting as they were supposed to be, rather than enjoying some time off?  That I’d like to see.

Grumble.  Okay, the rant is done and now it’s time for me to get ready for school and work tomorrow, so that at least I get a little bit of sleep.

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How does one do it? Keep on top of everything? How does one learn (and memorize) efficiently when there is little time in which to do so, and the exam is only 2 weeks away??? And for those who think I’ve procrastinated, I haven’t. The course itself is only 4 weeks long.

Seriously, tips are welcome.

Every time I turn around, another thing gets added onto my to do list. Today’s been especially bad and I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.   I’m definitely stressed, but fortunately I’m not stressing over everything like I was last week, now it’s specific to what’s really stressing me out. Yet I haven’t wondered why I’m putting myself through this. I know why. Being in my clinical placement again today confirms that. It’s what I need to do, and where I need to go in my career.  And where it will lead is limitless.

Yet for now, I have: a debate to be ready for, a nursing medication math exam to pass with 100%, a reflective portfolio to post (I’m keeping blogs that I’ll summarize for that project — but I can’t post the actual project, but I’ll post the blogs once this course is finished), a pain management seminar to prepare for, and an exam to write.  This doesn’t include the EI Audit stupidity that I just learned about (dating back to 3 years ago when I was on EI after I was laid off), getting my passport renewed, sorting out finances and determining if I will have enough money to get through the next 12 months, let alone the program, and all the life things I should do.

The one thing I’ve promised myself is I’ll keep running so that my stress doesn’t go through the roof.

Any nurses reading this blog who can give tips on getting through an accelerated program such as mine?

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Stress is going to be a theme for the next 20 months as I go through my Nursing School Program.  I realize that, and am prepared for that.  Some tools I have for managing my stress are:

  • This blog — blogging for me is a place to reflect on my life, my experiences and to process what’s going on in my world.  It’s a tool I’ve been using, it’s a place that I hope provides my readers with stories and insights into my world. A place that I hope provides others food for thought as they too seek to live their lives well.

  • Exercise — exercise is a key stress management tool for me.  It’s helpful that I know that when I’m working out regularly I’m generally healthier, better able to function in my stress.  But, the challenge I have is balancing everything. In past degrees I’ve fallen victim to the panic that if I’m not studying every second I’m going to do poorly.  This degree I’m NOT going to let that happen because I do not want to gain the ‘Freshman 15’.  So what tool am I using to make sure that I don’t fall off the running wagon (at the very least)? Train for races. I’ve been training for a marathon with the specific intent to keep running goals as a priority.

  • Friends — I have some friends on campus — close long time friends — so getting together with them for lunch occasionally really helps. Also another friend is a nurse and is also in school again so she’s a great resource and it is great to have her ‘in the trenches’ with me.

So what are some stresses that are coming up for me now? There’s nothing particularly that is causing me acute stress right now, but there are many little things that I’m sorting out and such.  So there are things that causing me the beginnings of stress and I’m working through them right now and I don’t yet have all the solutions to the concerns

  • Financial — I have a bit of a student loan but got no where near sufficient money to cover costs of living etc. I’m still working at my job, and am trying to stay, BUT, it wont cover living costs even remotely.  So I’m going to work on this a bit more this weekend so that I can at least have a plan in place.  I am trying not to stress about generating debt because I know that the current canadian pay rates for nurses — even if I’m at the lowest level and don’t work any overtime — means I will be okay once I’m done (assuming the fraser health authority restructuring doesn’t spread).  But, given my ‘hate debt’ sensibilities, it’s tough. Given my life dreams. It’s tough.  It’s also easy for me to fall into the pressure of not having a life to save money, but I don’t want to regret this time, I don’t want to hate my time in nursing school — I want happiness and amazing memories. Both in school and out.  So I will travel, visit those I want to visit (like going back to New Mexico), and enjoy my life to the best of my ability.

  • School — I haven’t yet figured out the tools I need to keep up with the work and to really learn the work.  I have to learn them quickly because my first final is on October 9th.  Yes, OCTOBER 9th.  So this means that keeping my job is stressful (yet not keeping my job is also stressful) because it’s a lot of hours that I could read (that being said, I took tonight off — was wiped out) and study.  How to balance everything is a learning process in itself, and it will come. The one benefit is that at least the material isn’t difficult, there’s just a lot of material to learn.

  • Personal life — the stresses in my personal life relating to family — that led to much reflection, counseling and processing last year are still on going. They’re under control because I have boundaries in place to protect myself.  One thing we’ve been talking about in school is connection and support networks.  This is an area of stress because I sometimes wonder if I have a good support network.  The challenges I’ve faced this past year or so have meant that I’m careful about who I lean on very much for support.  And as time goes on I really will need the support so I need to work on trusting those who could give me support, and not putting on a mask of ‘everything’s okay’ just because other people have betrayed my trust in the past.

  • Relationships — this both amuses me (as I watch the young girls in the program flirt with the few young single guys in the program) and makes me sad.  I guess this is somewhat connection with my personal life comments above — a lot of students in the program who are my age are married, often with kids. I’m comfortable in my situation because they all have to balance much more complex lives than I do.  But, the type of support that they have available is something I miss.  But, I need to relax on this and not start stressing because, really, I’ve been accepting that there are few men in this city who capture my interest (now if we talk about outside this city, that’s different — but that’s a different topic). Also, if there were someone here with me I would need to split my time more.  So I’m okay with where I’m at, on the whole, but due to ‘distractions’ in my life there are certain things that have the potential of stressing me out.

BUT all these things (except financial — that is more of a present concern) are things that have the potential to stress me out if I’m not careful.  So I’m trying not to let myself focus on them and instead I’m trying to do what I need to on any given day — such as this week I’m tired at the end of it, so I took the evening off last night and did nothing productive.

The rest of this weekend will be cleaning, planning (to reduce some of the stress I’m facing), and studying.  I’ll try the ‘timer method’ to attempt to get everything done. And now, since I’ve done little this weekend so far (except call a couple of banks, cell phone company etc — all important too) it’s time to start reading for next week.

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My manager’s back in town, so that means that we’ll be having conversations this week. I am now really hoping that I can keep my position — in a part time capacity, because without any income I’m not sure what I’m going to do for money in the fall. I guess I’ll find out. I’m pretty certain that the ‘right’ path will happen. I know that going back to school is the path for me so it will all work out in the end.But in the mean time I’m kind of stressed about it.

All I can do is take it one day at a time.  I’ve realized too, that buying laundry is not going to happen — I need the ready cash to pay for rent etc. But it will all work out, I’m sure of that.

It also modifies my choices — one very kind friend gave me a coupon for dinner tonight so I managed to enjoy a night out with my running friends, at a very nice restaurant but where it didn’t cost me much money. That will be it, though, for eating out this week. I’ll be doing enough of that this weekend.

For now, I just need to finish my to do list, prepare to appeal my student loan results, clean and make sure I’m getting exercise every day. Right now, I’m going to sleep and be ready for another day at work. A brief update, random thoughts, but there you go. The school countdown is on!

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