Monday, July 30, 2012


Okay, I'll admit I've said I'm changing a lot on this blog and really haven't followed through.  I'm still pretty lazy and have a Diet Coke addiction that I can't kick for the life of me.  It's my crutch!*

Regardless, I have made some changes for the better.  For one, I have cut my food budget in half!  I make smarter decisions at the store, only buy what I know I'm going to want and not what I think I'll want, and the results are definitely welcome to my wallet.  I've also begun working around my morning terribleness.  Lunch made it to work with me!  And I didn't eat it all at 10AM only to starve for the rest of the day.

Instead of the sandwich and one snack that I had been bringing (or forgetting as was usually the case) I brought snacks that I knew I'd want to eat, that would give me the protein and carbs to power through my day, and enough of them so that I didn't feel like I was starving.  I replenished my snack drawer at work with oatmeal and granola bars so if I do get hungry, I'm not out of luck.  Interestingly,  having that much food around actually made me eat less!  It wasn't a question of survival, but of what I actually wanted.

I also stopped yelling at myself.  You would be surprised at how low my fat intake has been lately.  I've been totally depriving myself of yummy things because they have ::gasp:: fat!  That mentality only makes me want more and only makes me binge more on them when I do give in (which was more frequent than is probably acceptable).  If they're around me, I don't need them.  I took away the taboo and now I'm just happy with my choices.

Also an important lesson learned this week was multitasking.  For instance, I'm writing this post as dinner is cooking in the oven.  My job (and mentality) force me to focus so hard on one thing at a time that I honestly forget I can do two.  No wonder there was no time in the day for me.  If you have four tasks to complete in one hour that each take thirty minutes to finish, you won't succeed unless you find a way to do at least two tasks at a time.   Right now I'm writing and cooking.  When I finish eating and reading, I'll go for a run and plan out my next story or lesson.  If you bury your head in one thing, you miss everything going on around you, silly ostrich.

Enough of the preaching.  In upcoming news, next week I'll explore bagels!  I realized I live in New York and haven't talked about bagels at all.  And they're probably the best thing that ever happened to carbs after the chocolate chip cookie.

Spoiler alert: there will be a pizza bagel day.

*I have significantly cut down my intake of the soda.  Just not cut it out entirely yet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tissue? I Don't Even Know You!

Since I moved into my apartment, I've been buying Puffs plus lotion cubes.  They're great tissues and the boxes are adorable.  The sale price is usually 98 cents and one box will last me a while (unless it's the winter). Today while wandering through Rite Aid, I saw Kleenex tissues (with lotion) on sale for 5/$5.  More than I'd spend on the Puffs, but then I looked at the contents.  70 3-ply tissues for $1.  I looked at the Puffs that I usually buy.  56 2-ply tissues for 98 cents.  The Kleenex offers 20% more tissues with a thicker ply for 2 cents more.  That means the Kleenex are about 1.4 cents a tissue and Puffs are 1.8 cents per tissue.

On an aesthetic note, the Puffs box is much cuter than the Kleenex, but it's just not worth the added expense.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Two Cents

When I first thought about starting this blog, my intention was for it to be a supplement to a book I wanted to write.  "My 'Growing Up' book," I called it.  See, I had entered into the adult world (not the porn industry, in case you're wondering) a bit too naive.  I went from working a full-time job, living with my parents, and not having many bills to contend with to living on my own. 

I wouldn't change 99% of the decisions I made.  There were just some things that I wish I had known prior to my grand exodus from the island (which I still technically live on).  I thought that my tough lessons would benefit other people, so they wouldn't have to make the same mistakes, but I've sort of given up on the concept of a "growing up" book.  Too many people met me with too many confused stares.  I still want the message out there though.  So for any of you poor schlubs who actually read what I write, here are my two cents on my two cents.

1. Budgeting is the devil. 
Before I moved out, I worked out the math.  I made a list of every bill I would have: rent, food, phone, cable & internet, gas, electric, and student loan.  I made sure that this list, subtracted from my monthly earnings, still produced a positive number.  Savings, I thought naively. 

Before I begin on what was wrong with this list, I'd like to just note that insurance and transportation are automatically deducted from my paycheck so that never had to be taken into consideration.  Also, water and heat are provided by my landlord.

Now, problem #1 with this budget, as I quickly learned, was that I didn't budget for cleaning supplies.  And I clean my apartment a lot.  Fueled by nightmares about cockroaches, I keep my apartment pretty darn spotless.  (Organization is a totally different beast.)  Dish soap, Brillo pads, Tilex, Pledge, Windex -- I didn't plan for any of that.  I bought a vacuum, but that was pretty much it.  Obviously, you don't have to buy Windex every month, but a minimal allocation to a miscellaneous budget would have been better.  Maybe $5 to replenish cleaning supplies.  Not a huge mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

Problem #2: I didn't budget for fun.  Here's a little tidbit for you: if you are single, you're going to spend more money than if you are dating someone.  Just a fun little fact for you.  When I moved out, I was dating someone.  We rarely went out, so I thought things would pretty much stay the way they were.  Shortly after moving out, I was single and was now going out and doing things and, unfortunately, spending money I didn't have.  Not a lot, mind you, but still money that I shouldn't have spent.  When making a budget, it is so absolutely important to be honest with yourself.  If you drink 2 beers every night, budget for that.  Don't move out thinking you're suddenly going to be healthy and cut back on drinking.  That's not what we do, so put a little bit away for the rainy, drunken nights to follow.

Problem #3: Things wear out.  Before I moved out, I made sure I had everything: plenty of clothes for work, clothes for hanging around, shoes, things I needed to be a person.  A year later, my entire wardrobe has been worn down to mostly rags.  I've walked holes into my shoes (and pants) and worn a hole into pretty much everything I own.  While this speaks volumes about the quality of products produced in our modern society, I'm still left with the dilemma of what to replace first?  Around the house I don't really care what I wear, but my work wardrobe is unprofessional at best.  But is it more important to wear nicer clothes to work or shoes that don't have holes?  Quelle énigme.  Still trying to figure that one out, but add about $100 to your miscellaneous budget just to be safe.

Problem #4: Sadness.  With such a tight budget, I've gotten very good at saying no to myself.  No, you can't have new shoes.  No, you can't go out tonight.  It's tiring to hear no so much.  When you constantly walk past stores and remind yourself that you can't possibly buy anything or get anything new, it's pretty depressing.  You do need a treat every once in a while.  Not every day or every week -- maybe not even every month-- but once in a while you need to say yes.  Tight budgets don't let you say yes though.  So add $30 to your antidepressant miscellaneous budget.

Problem #5: I need a freaking haircut.  Ugh!

2. Your credit card is not your friend.
Before I got my credit card, I saved money with every paycheck.  Why?  Because I had to have money in the bank to pay for whatever I wanted to buy.  Anything equal to or greater than my weekly check wasn't doable.  With a credit card in my pocket, I suddenly had the freedom to lay out money as I saw fit.  Want new shoes?  Buy them!  Want that new dress?  Buy it!  Want to go to Brazil?  BOOK IT!  My credit card made me a consumer whore.   I loved him and he loved me, but our love was not to be.  (::cringe::)

It seems innocent enough.  You put your groceries on your credit card.  Then your bills all go through (because you thought it was a good idea to put all your utilities on there).  Next, I promise you, something will break.  Either your deadbolt, or your tv, or your leg.  Something always breaks when there's a balance on your credit card.  Next thing you know, you can't pay it off and you're stuck with a balance for months. 

Sometimes you just forget you bought something with your credit card and since it's not directly taking money out of your bank account, you spend the same amount twice.  I've definitely fallen into this trap more times than I care to admit.

My two cents: pay with cash as much as possible.  Hook your bills up to your checking account.  It will force you to be more careful about how much you spend since getting spanked with overdraft charges is worse than late fees nowadays.  Use your credit card only in dire straits or when you already have the money in your other accounts to pay it off immediately. (Y'know, for the points.)

3. Pay your student loans back, then move out.
Smooth move, Ferguson. 

I'll try to mock up a little table to make budgeting easier in a little bit.  Hope this helps someone.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exercising and I Didn't Even Know It

Well, that's not entirely true.  My muscles were very aware of what I was doing all weekend, but the fun outweighed the pain.

I spent this past weekend in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.  Every Fourth of July my family heads over for some rest and adventure.  Saturday we went hiking at Bushkill Falls: one of my favorite places in the country!  The trails are great, the views are beautiful, and you don't have to be in tip top shape to do it all, so it's great for a family of mixed adventurers.  Two hours hiking in the 100 degree weather, was pretty difficult, but totally worth it.  I'll have to post up my pictures once they're loaded on  my computer.

On Sunday, my dad, brother, and I went kayaking down the Delaware River.  My dad and I (while riding tandem) actually got stuck about half-way through our ride due to insufficient water levels, but we made it out and back on our way with minimal effort.  We rowed 6 miles in about 2 hours.

Livestrong says: "According to the American Council on Exercise, a 125-lb. person burns 283 calories per hour of kayaking..."  Burning 566 calories doing something I love is okay by me!  That's my big exercise secret.  I don't go to the gym.  I play.  I have fun.  I roller blade with friends, go swimming with my dad, go for walks.  It's not something I have to do.  It's something I want to do and that makes all the difference.

I'm a dancer, a yogi, a swimmer, a kayaker, a hiker, a half-marathon hopeful, and, happily, healthy.  What are you?

Read more:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tips from the Gastro Gnome: Red, White, and Blueberry Cake

On my trip home to celebrate Independence Day with my family, I had an idea for a patriotic dessert: Red, White, and Blueberry Cake. The idea was to make a layer cake of angel food with a strawberry layer in between, icing on top, and blueberries lining the top like little pearls. Unfortunately, the recipe didn't quite pan out.

There was nothing wrong with the flavors, but the presentation. See, angel food cake is extremely bubbly and rises much more than other cake batters. I thought I had been skimpy enough in filling the tins, but it was still too much. The tins overfilled and the bottom of the top layer was bigger than the top of the bottom layer. Usually an easy problem to fix if you just cut away the excess cake, but I was without my usual tools and my mother's steak knife just wasn't cutting it in the cake-shaping department.

My cake was a (tasty) wash, but would have been fine if I just made a white or vanilla cake. This is what I get for trying to for e my family to make better dessert decisions!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First Couponing Adventure

This past Sunday I started clipping coupons!  I'm clearly not ready for TLC's Extreme Couponing, but for all my NYC people, I thought I'd share a pretty sweet deal.

In the P&G brand saver, they have a coupon for $1 off two Charmin products.  At Rite Aid, they have a sale going on where one 18 pack of  Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper is $10.  If you buy 2 at $10, you get a $5 +Up coupon back.  So I grabbed two for $20 and used my $1 off coupon (down to $19), giving me a $5 +Up reward.  I used that +Up reward to buy a bottle of Herbal Essences Shampoo & Conditioner (on sale for 2/$6 - $1 off coupon from P&G brand saver as well) for just a few cents.  Woot Woot!

Retail price on the Charmin packs is about $10.97/pack.  Retail price for the Herbal essences is $3.99/bottle.  Total retail for my purchase was $29.92.  I paid $20.84.  The $9 savings went into my food fund and now I have enough toilet paper to last me a year. 

I wish I had taken a picture of me fumbling down the block with those giant packages in arm.  Such is the single life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Warm Weather and Cold Treats

These hot temperatures mean enjoying cold treats to cool off, but how many times have you been hit by the dreaded "brain freeze"?  Scientific American explains:
There you have it!  Enjoy (with caution)!

Video found via: Dropping the Science