Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good With Money

One of the books I read while I was away this summer was Banker to the Poor. It's a great adventure story of how this one guy noticed something he thought would make a difference - lending small amounts of money to people without collateral; and the challenges he faced - community resistance, families' lack of support, big banks not wanting to be involved; and how he overcame all of this to help an under-served group of people create sustainable businesses. It was really inspiring and if you're looking for a good read, I'd recommend it.

The book makes a couple of points that really stood out in my mind and one is, if you want to help a community, give money to poor women. This is of course a generalization, however, what this guy found out was that if he lent the money to women, they took care of their family's health, living situation, education, etc., and when he lent money to men that didn't necessarily happen.

The other point that stood out for me was that the bank they formed doesn't give money to individuals who aren't enrolled in a program with them - the program is a group of 5 people who all have loans and they work together to review their business plans and help each other through tough times caused by natural disasters or family tragedies. The program has been really effective obviously, as he won the Nobel Peace Prize. When the person is involved in a group of like-minded people, the loans work.

Anyways, it got me to thinking about a lot of things including why doing yoga in a group is good and how group support for many things is useful, weight loss, weight gain, any goal we've set for ourselves really. And it also got me to thinking about my next door neighbour and how great she is with money and how she can go so far on so little. I was telling her last night that I bought a new car and she got right to the numbers. "Returning a leased car costs at least $1000." "Operating a car costs $500 a month." "Vrtucar is expensive - you need to deposit $300." "Did you renew your mortgage yet? I got 5.10%" And for her, having a car isn't a good use of money. She has a shop in the Market so she walks to work. One of her kids is on the same bus as mine and her other one goes to the daycare up the road, so it's all walkable. And what's not, she'll rent a car for. Very smart. (First day of school I'm taking her with me in my car though!) Her family is from China and this year her father passed away so she already went once, and according to her culture, his ashes need to be buried on a certain date and that turns out to be late November, so she's going again in the fall.

I think she's good with money. I think I'm good with money, too.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Over

The Rabbit won. Which one? The slightly used one. One of the things that makes a car most fun to drive is if it also came at a good price. I think I got a good price. I think I got a good deal, and that makes a difference to me!

The first person I called was Catherine - to let her know I wouldn't be taking over her Mazda, which was very lovely. If you're looking for a short-term lease of a great car, get in touch with her!

I get the car next week. I want to be more excited and perhaps by then I will be. I really like this car. I'll see if I can find a picture that approximates its beauty. It looks a lot like this. It feels like my car. I think it suits me.

I got it all done just in time. Starting next week things are going back to a fast pace. Old classes are starting, new clients are phoning, and my job as a taxi mom will resume. No time for researching cars. The Hatha Yoga Teacher Training is starting in a couple of months - there's loads of prep to do.

I Feel Better

I just got off the phone with Alain, who helped me work out something that had been in my way about buying a car. And that was, I wasn't sure what I could afford because I wasn't in touch with my financial plan. That has been something I've been avoiding. I have lived in survival mode for so long that it didn't matter what my plan was - I needed what I needed and got it at the lowest price I could and that was the end of it. Now that I'm on my "thriving" path, I couldn't see ahead far enough to know if I would be getting in trouble or not. Alain helped me take a look at my financial situation and now I feel confident that any choice I make will be well-informed.

I'm off to see the dealer. I'll let you know what comes of it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stressed Out

My street is unbelievable and it's getting worse. It's non-stop crack on the doorsteps and it's really tough. People smoke openly, gangs of people group up together to receive their deliveries, and since the construction started on King Edward and the gallery on Cumberland moved, things have gotten noticeably worse. It's hard to go out and walk the dog without encountering people. It's not a like a normal walk down the street around here. It's always something. And right now, I'm feeling a bit stressed out by it. What if it didn't get to me? What if I wasn't bothered? This week it's bothering me.

So I want a new car. That'll fix it.

I met Catherine's car today and drove it. What a nice car. I could say lots more but I've spent so much time on this - it's how I spent my summer holiday really. Car shopping. And it's been fun! But it's crunch time. School starts on Tuesday and this will all be over by then too.

It turns out for the same monthly payment price, I could have a new Rabbit, the car I've isolated as a leader. After talking to Mike though, he suggested I look for a used car as the price drops 20 per cent when you drive it off the lot. Sure enough, at the VW place they have a used Rabbit that's considerably less than the last '08 on the lot and it's an '08 too. However, there's a financing incentive with the "new-new" one that is not available with the "used-new" one. The new one also has a sunroof and can be leased, whereas the used new one must be purchased.

Oh, what to do. Tamsin thinks I've spent enough time already on it and she may be right. I'm *almost* done.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For

So it looks like I've "sold" my car. Wow. That was so not hard. I checked out a Honda Fit this morning but didn't take it for a drive even though that's what I told the guy I wanted to do when I booked the appointment duh, and I also stopped by the VW dealership to see the Rabbit that's in the lot - the last 08 Rabbit in town. All nice cars. And then there's Catherine's leased Mazda 3 that she's trying to offload. I'm going to drive that one tomorrow and see what I think. It's got leather seats and a sunroof. Oooh. Speaking of sunroofs, I got in a car that had the most amazing sunroof ever at the VW place. I think it's called a Tiguan. Holy smokes. That was something else. Makes me totally want that car.

Anyways. So here I am. I asked and I got. Now what?

I'm a frugal person as I've mentioned. That's part necessity and part how I operate. But I love cars. I love to drive, I'd rather be the driver than a passenger, and here's a chance to shake it up and create a whole other world for myself out in that parking spot. Or I could do the "smart" thing and be frugal and go safe. Safe is good, I'm all over safe. However, beyond safe is this wild space of great big sunroofs and wipe-able upholstery. There's power everything and heated seats.

If I take Catherine's lease for a year I could hold out and buy a car next year when the prices come down and an iPod plug are standard fare.

Remi liked every car we tried. She sat in the Honda Fit and said, "I think you should get this car." She got in the Rabbit and said the same thing. She's not much help. But her comfort and safety are really important to me and that's why I'm not going with the Yaris, for instance. If I couldn't afford to keep her safe that would be one thing, but I think I'm in a position to get a car that has safety features for rear passengers.

Anyways, enough of this for today. More yoga to teach. I think I'll ride my bike to CHEO!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Almost Back to Normal

I'm still catching up from being away and this is the last week of summer holidays for Remi, so I'm thinking that by NEXT week, things should be getting back to normal. I'll have my days free to myself again and old classes will start up and I'll be back into a routine. For now, things are still a bit scattered.

Yesterday I found myself still thinking about the car thing and I called my mom because I had basically talked myself into taking my car back to the dealer with a penalty and just getting a basic Yaris hatchback. My mom wasn't that cooperative. "C'mon Mom. Can you see a flaw in my logic? I'll just let them handle my old car and I'll just get a shorter lease this time and well, would that be the right thing?" She is concerned that I'm taking so long to make what she considers to be a basic decision about something that doesn't matter very much. I told her I thought maybe I needed to talk to a guy about this. John overheard me and said I could talk to him about it, but we both know that doesn't go the way I want it to because he really doesn't care that much about cars and is all excited about his new job as the Director of Marketing and Communications of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

I knew it was time to sign up for Consumer Reports. I had been leaving that piece out of my research because I'd have to pay for it. After reading through the reviews of the cars I have been considering it made me think that the Yaris was not the best idea but that the Rabbit was, which would mean selling my car or finding someone to take over the lease. That's the part I really didn't want to do myself. But then I was thinking about how it can't be that bad and what is it I'm really avoiding about it and then we went out to eat. While I was out I got a call from someone who'd heard about my car and is totally interested in having a short lease on a car that can be driven a lot. Bingo. How bad was that? It wasn't! It's not a done deal by any means, but I keep learning that oftentimes the things I think are scary from afar, when looked at up close, aren't that big a deal. And that's the part my mom was pointing to. Sometimes things are uncomfortable but they're there anyways and they may be on the path to things we want that will be more comfortable. I learn not to totally avoid the uncomfortable. I can try, but it doesn't work out for long.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wii Fit

I'm back from our now annual trip to Omega to do Family Week and then visit the east coast. We had a lot of fun and a lot happened and I may get to tell you more about it soon but this morning I want to tell you about the Wii Fit.

Before we left on our trip, I made the rather large purchase of a Wii. Since seeing it at Tamsin and Rob's almost a year ago, Remi has been asking for one, even saving up a bunch of money to contribute towards it. While we're at the store, I see the video advertising the Wii Fit but as it turns out, they don't have it in stock and hardly ever do. The Wii Fit is a board a lot like a scale, and you stand on it and can do balancing exercises on it. It has a yoga segment. I want to try it! So while I was in the States, I stopped in at a Best Buy, and sure enough, they've got one, so I get it. Remi's so excited when I get back to the Omega campus. She wants to open it. "Nope. We have to wait until we get home and can plug it into the Wii."

We aren't even out of the car after our 11-hour drive and she announces she wants to set up the Wii Fit. I tell her she's got to at least bring all of her stuff in and put it in her bedroom before getting it out of the box. So she shoves her stuff in her room and before I've even had a cold drink after that hot drive (no a/c in the car, remember), she's got this thing set up. It does your weight and BMI and Wii Fit "age" and a bunch of other things. The coolest thing it does, in my opinion, is it has you do yoga postures. And I'm thinking, "how can this thing have you do yoga and have it be right?" Well, check it out. It has a circle where you're supposed to keep your centre of gravity and in order to get your red dot in the yellow circle, you have to lengthen your spine in Half Moon, for instance. In Tree, you have to stay steady. It shows you when to breathe. I could be out of a job!

But here's the kicker, after you've completed your pose, you get a rating. It tells you how well you did in the pose and then ranks you against everybody else who's set up on your Wii. Not surprisingly, I managed to do "better at yoga" than my kid. (Phew!)

So I'd heard that the Wii Fit was going to be fun and I texted Tamsin that we'd bought it and she asked if I wouldn't mind picking up one for her. I went back to the store in Kingston, NY, the next day and it was sold out. Whaa? I was in New York City a few days later at the Nintendo store, helllo, and there were Wii Fit accessories but no Wii Fits. This thing is hot.

It is such a cool yoga tool. I haven't done all of the poses yet - plus you have to cross-train with other training segments to get all of the postures unlocked - but I'm already looking forward to the challenge of keeping my balance steady and getting a good score.

Monday, August 18, 2008

No Yoga Today

We're in New Haven and there was no formal yoga today. We played and ate and napped and visited. I did do a full Thai yoga massage, so I did stretch and connect, but it wasn't at all like leading a yoga class. Mindi liked the massage and said it was like getting a good stretch plus a massage and she didn't have to do anything! Whoohoo!

Tomorrow we are going to the mecca for girls, the American Girl Place. This is on par with Disneyland. We're taking the train into New York City and then making our way to the store. We will shop and look around and hang out and come back for Tea at 4, when we have reservations. It's wild. Girls for blocks around look like they are dressed for church and are holding their dolls. Once inside, it's 3 levels of all dolls, all clothes, all things for girls and dolls and the people who love them.

This is a big deal.

On another note, Mindi drives a Saab. It's pretty used, but it has a sunroof, heated seats and it feels good. But it's expensive to fix. That's what Jim had warned me about - he said his mechanic said stay away from Mercedes and Saab and go towards Japanese cars. And I saw one other Echo on the highway today. Around Ottawa, there are tons of Echos, but here on the East Coast, there are few. There are loads of Toyota Priuses here though, and very few of those in Ottawa.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leaving Omega

So the week has gone by and we're getting ready to leave Omega within the hour. Whew! It was a great time for both me and Remi. I taught lots of yoga and she did a Kids Camp (Mask Making) for 5 days and then hung out with her friend, Amber, for the weekend.

I talked to other people about cars, and even walked around the parking lot with an old friend, Jim, and discussed the various pros and cons. He's got an Acura and is very happy with it. I'll have to test-drive one of those when I get home. Lots of Toyota Priuses on the road and Amina got a new (to her) Honda hybrid while I was here.

Leaving is bitter/sweet. We've had a good time and we're ready to go home. However, we're not going home yet. We're heading to New Haven to visit an old friend from Kripalu and then another friend I met through Sam Dworkis' work in Rhode Island. So we'll be awhile.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Road Trip

Remi and I are getting ready to go on our road trip tomorrow morning. I'm blogging and she's playing on the Wii, that's how we're getting ready :)

So I may have found the car that would work. Remi loved the Rabbit and the Golf, as I took her to see them after the Navan Fair yesterday. When I got to Rama Lotus, Catherine mentioned that she's trying to get rid of her car because it's too small for her and her new baby, who needs a rear-facing car seat. Her car has all, and I mean, all of the trimmings I'd want in a car, plus it meets the criteria of being a standard with a sun roof. Now I just need Martina to take over my car payment, which is significantly less than Catherine's Mazda 3, and then we'll be in business. It's not in time to spare Remi a hot trip in the back seat of the car, but it will be there as an option when I return in a couple of weeks.

I think part of my car obsession is to distract me from some of the other things going on around me. And it works. There is so much happening outside of my door, all the time, everyday, and I notice it and I don't want to shut down, but I can't be facing it all the time.

One of my old students was even interviewed on the news last night as a girl living on the street, about that recently uncovered abduction situation. When we walk our very cute dog, invariably we are in "conversation" with all kinds. It's an adventure everyday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Now That's More Like It

I just came back from the Volkswagen dealership and I must say, that was fun. I drove 2 cars that felt more comfortable and more like me than the others I've driven. What got me into action was talking to Saturn about their new "euro-style" Astra. So I made an appointment and took it for a drive. Nice car. Great sunroof. I've come to the conclusion that a sunroof is a requirement, and the Astra has an awesome sunroof - it even has a bit of extra for the person in the back seat.

And then I got to the VW place. I took out the City Golf, and that seemed more like it. The City Golf comes with the option of a sunroof. But it had a bit of a "boy" feel to it, like I'd be able to sell it in a few years to a young guy buying his first car. Andrew, my new dealer buddy, suggested I take a look at the Rabbit. I drove an automatic Rabbit, which apparently is even more fuel efficient than the manual because it has 6 gears instead of 5 in stick shift variety. The one I drove around did not have a sunroof, however. As it turns out, there is a Rabbit somewhere on their lot that's automatic with a sunroof at the 2008 interest rates. The one I was test driving was used and I would totally have considered it, but there's no sun roof.

A Rabbit doesn't look as fun as some of the cars out there, but it feels really fun inside. I thought I'd like the Saturn Astra a lot, with the OnStar and stuff and it wasn't that hot. Plus resale-wise it's going to suck.

Anyways, I'm getting closer. Now I've got to deal with this Echo I have on my hands. Anyone interested in a cheap lease? Just over a year left? Lots of kilometers left to drive?

And I still have a cold, which has gotten worse. Not so bad that I couldn't drive around, and it is my day off after all, but it's still a drag. And maybe it's just allergies. It's not always easy to say.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Cold

I've got it. The dreaded summer cold. It started with Remi having a cold a few days ago and yesterday it was official. I've got it too. So I made my way over to my local health food store to invest in some ColdFX. Guess what? No gots. "Whaaa? Whaddya mean there's no ColdFX in the store? What am I supposed to do?" Kathy suggested vitamin C, oregano and greens. So that's what I'm doing. Plus a bit of complaining and feeling sorry for myself thrown in for good measure.

I just hope this gets out of my system soon or next Sunday's drive down to Omega will be torture. I expect it will be fine, it's just fun to be dramatic sometimes.

I'm still car-obsessed in case you're wondering. I almost wound up back at the Toyota dealership on Friday after a call from Dave, my leasing guy, to tell me I'm actually registered as driving a 2008 Yaris instead of a 2005 Echo in case I'm pulled over. I asked him if he wouldn't mind straightening that out and he said he'd "do what he could." Hmm. I didn't go to the Toyota dealership after all as I ran out of time on my way to teach my 5:15 class, but I did drop by the Lincoln dealership on the way back from my mom's. I know. But I'd seen a smallish Lincoln on the highway the other day and I just wanted to see what that was about.

What that was, was an MK-Z, the smaller version of the MK-S. Remi got in the back seat of the MK-S and did not want to get out. Big fat leather seats, sun roof, full on passenger comfort. It wouldn't matter how much money I had at my disposal, that would not be my car of choice. Neither would the lighter version of it, the MK-Z. It was nice, but not my style. It conjures up images of cigar smoking big daddies for some reason. And the smaller one screams real estate agent. I don't know why.