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Posts Tagged ‘money’

book stacks to be read

The current to-read stacks

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry, a retiree living in Devon (on the south coast of England), receives a letter from a former colleague who is dying of cancer. He decides, impulsively, to walk 600 miles to see her, hoping she will wait for him. Harold’s odyssey takes him through fields, villages and several cities; he meets all sorts of people, including several who stick with him for a while. Meanwhile, his wife Maureen waits uneasily at home, missing him much more than she expected to. Harold is a thoughtful, kind man and I so enjoyed walking the length of England with him, and sharing his memories and musings. Wonderful.

The Family Vault, Charlotte MacLeod
As Sarah Kelling’s family prepares to bury her great-uncle Frederick, they reopen their vault in a historic Boston cemetery, only to find the body of a long-dead burlesque dancer. How did she get there? Who killed her? And what do Sarah’s eccentric family members know about it? I enjoyed this first book about Sarah and her large, wacky family (there are 12); it was a good introduction to the characters and the mystery was compelling. Great fun.

The Withdrawing Room, Charlotte MacLeod
Recently widowed, Sarah Kelling (see above) turns her Beacon Hill mansion into a boardinghouse, only to lose one of her boarders to murder. She works wit private detective Max Bittersohn to solve the case while keeping the house running, grieving her husband’s death and dealing with various members of her upper-crust family. Hilarious and even better fun than the first one.

The Palace Guard, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) take on a case involving the death of several guards at a Boston art museum, and the possible forgery and smuggling of multiple paintings. The action dragged a bit at times, but the case was still entertaining (though many of the minor characters were stereotypical artist or hippie types). Good fun.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
A fun boarding-school story with a sharp, witty, irrepressible heroine. Frustrated by the aura of WASP privilege at her school, Frankie (tired of being called “adorable”) decides to infiltrate an all-male secret society on campus. Her pranks are brilliant, but nobody quite understands them, least of all her boyfriend (who is a member of the society). Lots of action, and insightful musings on teenage love, being accepted, and the choice between solitude and being with someone who doesn’t really see you.

Writing from the Center, Scott Russell Sanders
I heard Sanders speak at the Glen Workshop and enjoyed his memoir, Staying Put. He addresses similar themes in these essays: how do we treat the earth? How can we live grounded, thoughtful lives in a world beset by fear and war and busyness? How do the places we live in (and the ways we inhabit them) shape our lives and writing? Sanders is thoughtful and wise, a reliable guide to the forests and fields of the Midwest and the interior landscape of the writer’s life. Highly recommended.

The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) move up to Sarah’s country house on Boston’s North Shore for the summer, only to encounter robbery, murder, arson and (of course) irritating family members. Sarah is also considering Max’s proposal of marriage. A fast-paced plot, a web of family secrets and a few comic moments, as always. Great fun.

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending, Laura Vanderkam
I found Vanderkam’s first book, 168 Hours, fascinating and also enjoyed her musings on money and happiness. This is not a get-out-of-debt book, but a thoughtful consideration of how we can make, spend, save and give money in ways that boost our happiness. Vanderkam’s perspective is decidedly upper-middle-class, but I appreciated her ideas on how to make more money and how to truly enjoy what you earn (while still saving for retirement). Well-researched and thought-provoking.

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What are you reading lately?

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I am married to a marriage and family therapist.

And up until about a month ago, we rarely talked about money.

I know. My sweet husband spends his days helping couples, teenagers and families talk through their biggest issues, and we usually don’t have a problem talking about ours. But since our financial situation has fluctuated rather wildly during our three years of marriage (due to graduate school, a cross-country move and shifting employment situations for both of us), and since we’re both frugal, make-it-work people, we’d adopted a make-it-work policy of budgeting, paying bills and treating ourselves once in a while. This policy was working pretty well – but we didn’t have an overall plan. We’d never actually sat down to have any sort of financial “meeting.”

Enter Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class, which we’re taking this fall (along with about a dozen others at our church). I admit, Dave Ramsey’s style kinda drives me nuts (either the man drinks too much coffee or he’s just naturally caffeinated) – but his principles so far seem mostly practical and sound to me. And the course is forcing us to do what we’d never done: take a good hard look at our finances, and talk at length about our attitudes toward money, our spending/saving/giving habits, and our plans for the future. (And give us a big push toward knocking out some of our substantial student loan debt.)

I’ve picked up some useful tidbits from Dave’s video lessons, and from our post-lesson discussions with the group. (It doesn’t hurt that our course leader is a financial planner and CPA.) But by far the most formative, challenging part of the course has happened when I’ve sat down at the kitchen table with J, pencil and bank statements at hand, to discuss where our money’s going, and how we can save more, give more and manage it better. (Side note: I love Mint.com’s handy budgeting tools and pie charts, where you can see all your accounts in one place.)

We are not rich, nor are we accountants (and talking about money for too long stresses J out, so we’ve learned to take breaks and focus on the most important things during each session, rather than hashing out every single detail). But it feels good to be formulating a purposeful plan for our money, rather than flying by a slapdash strategy. It’s helping me think more deliberately about purchases large and small – and coming to terms with my own attitude, and fears, about money. Most importantly, it’s drawing me closer to the man with whom I share my life and bank accounts – and that, to quote our friends at MasterCard, is priceless.

Have you taken a financial management course? If so, what have you learned? (I’m always eager for more tips.)

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1. The perfect chai latte.
2. Inner peace and calm. (Constantly.)
3. The perfect journal – lined, medium-weight pages, a pretty-but-not-twee cover, the right heft in my hand.
4. Delicious, healthy, easy recipes for weeknight dinners.
5. A vintage edition of The Hobbit, to match my Lord of the Rings set.
6. High heels that don’t hurt.
7. Skirts that make me feel as chic as Mary Tyler Moore.
8. Energy boosts during the workday.
9. That snapshot from my grandparents’ wedding – in a drawer somewhere, I’m sure of it.
10. The motivation to organize the filing cabinet.
11. Extra money. (Anyone else?)
12. Ideas for blog posts. (Always!)
13. Uncluttered time to write.

What do you try to find?

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