savin' and smilin'

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Honesty is the Best Policy

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Let me be frank. I haven’t updated this blog in, oh, five zillion years. And for that, I want to apologize to my followers, though I am 99 percent sure there aren’t any at this point. But I do want to let any lone readers out there know that I will be updating this blog much more frequently. I stopped because I reached a very difficult point in my life, and everything just got busier and harder (as growing up tends to make life). However, I am starting to get back into a groove again, and I feel inspired to write about, what else, money! I have no money at this point. Zero. Zilch. Nada. But that’s OK, because I am finding ways to survive! I would like to share those ways with you all, but I’ve got to go cook up some cheap-o spaghetti noodles with cheap-o sauce and cheap-o cheese so I have the energy to fuel my brain with better ideas for posts. I tend to ramble, so I don’t want to waste anyone’s time while they are perusing my site. I promise, I really do have some good ideas. So stick around!

But be prepared, the sob story will come before the fantastic ideas. And by sob story I mean: Wah, I have no money. But trust me, it is not the end of the world! However, if you have no income, period, you may want to look into getting a job. Unfortunately, this society we live in thrives on the green stuff.

Sigh, I’m rambling again. Ta ta for now!

Planning a Chicago Trip … on a Budget!

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm
Danny and I smiling at the Baltimore Inner Harbor last year.

Danny and I smiling at the Baltimore Inner Harbor last year.

So my boyfriend, Danny, and I are working on organizing a Chicago trip for the beginning of August. I am certainly excited, but a little worried that the cost will add up to be a little more expensive then I’m comfortable with. Therefore, I am searching for savings and watching my spending like there’s no tomorrow.

I am not quite used to buying nice things for myself. It is not that I do not have nice things because, to be completely honest, I do. I am spending four years in college without any loans, I am living in an apartment off-campus with cable and high-speed Internet — the main difference here is that my parents, lucky me (I know), pay for these things. As my boyfriend explained to me yesterday, my parents look at me as an investment for the future. They don’t expect me to pay them back or buy them lavish things (though I’m sure they would enjoy that); they simply expect me to do well in life. And I am certainly trying my very best to make them proud.

Even though my parents have been very helpful in terms of funding my education and rent, they have instilled in me the importance of saving and spending wisely.

As for Chicago, I shall be drafting a budget with Danny, no matter how much he squirms, in order to save us from throwing our savings into a one weekend trip and coming back broke as jokes. This Chicago trip is important, since we both are considering moving there after graduation, so we are planning to spoil ourselves a little, but as in everything in life, there is always a self-imposed limit. At least, there is with me.

For anyone who is interested in booking trips for less, try Orbitz or Expedia; I had luck with the latter. For now, Danny and I have already paid for a room at Sutton Place on Magnificent Mile the Gold Coast (pictured below) — a bit more expensive than I wanted, but hey, you’ve got to splurge every once in awhile.

A boat skids across the Gold Coast, Chicago. © Parker_Lewis/Flicker

A boat skids across the Gold Coast, Chicago. © Parker_Lewis/Flicker

Expedia was great because they had a 24-hour sale going on for Sutton Place, at a rate of 45% off the original price. Danny had originally booked our room at Sutton Place through another Web site, but he quickly cancelled and booked with Expedia, saving us almost $100 total.

Another tip: when booking online, make sure you can cancel. This is very important as online sales happen all the time with different sites.

Also, check out Twitter for savings on travel and tips for your trips. I know, I know — Twitter. Have you heard enough about Twitter yet? But honestly, many hotels and travel businesses have Twitter accounts, and their PR people are usually more than willing to help out with planning; you may even score a few coupons out of the deal.

Well, I shall update on this Chicago trip more later, but feel free to comment! Thanks for reading.

Q & A: living in the Depression

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Grandmother Jennie Maceyka of Granville, Mass. (born in 1928)

Grandma's throwing the peace sign.

Grandma's throwing the peace sign.

Q: What do you remember about life when you were younger?
A: My father, the mail carrier, had a “stage” [truck] and he gave rides to people to get into the city. There was also no formal kindergarten back then.

Q: What about money is different now?
A: Well, we didn’t have much — no allowance. We didn’t have the money.

Q: How did you learn to manage money?
A: It was automatic because I watched my mother. And Grandpa and I were careful, because we wanted to buy a home.

Q: What kinds of jobs were available back then?
A: When I was a teenager, the best job around was working in tobacco. We sewed leaves together and hung them up to dry. That was the best paying job in the summer, so that’s what a lot of kids did. I babysat next door, too. I’d be walking down the road, no flashlight, keeping an eye on the branches against the sky. You could feel the sand on your feet and realize you were off the road a little bit.

Q:
What was the transportation like?
A: We were lucky back then that we did have a bus that picked us up and brought us home. One city had a bus but a lot of students had to walk a ways to catch it. We’d also play baseball back then. First base was the telephone pole.

Q:
What resources were used in your school?
A: They were just basic: reading, writing and arithmetic. Later on there was art and music, as we got in the higher grades. I could remember there were these bells. A piece of wood with bells on the end, and we all fought over it. Later we had a gym. We had baseball, softball and basketball. We even had a horseshoe pit one time. One of the horseshoes hit me in the leg; I think I still have a dent! I don’t remember us having what you would call a library. But our school has grown; it’s been enlarged.

Q:
What kinds of colleges were around then?
A: Grandma went to a school for teaching. I wonder if they had Westfield State [a local college] back then. My mother was boarding in Springfield, and then went to “normal” school to become a teacher. They did a lot of traveling back in those days to get kids to those schools. We had basic to 8th grade. There was no high school in Granville. Later on, they had vocational high and their curriculum was enlarged. They have automotive and word working there; they also have science classes, bookkeeping and English. We had a gym teacher and a sewing teacher, for those that took sewing.

Q: What did you do after schooling?
A: I graduated in ’46. We [Grandpa and I] got married in ’48. After high school I worked in the office at Noble and Cooley Drum Co. They made toy drums, etc. It seemed the easiest thing to do because of transportation, since we lived right in Granville. People would be laid off, and then brought back. I don’t know if it was a demand for the merchandise or what, but for part of the year they were laid off for a few weeks. It was just certain people; some they kept on. Noble and Cooley do very little now. They don’t have many people there. They have opened a museum with some of the things they used to make, like tambourines and drum sets.

Q:
What other kinds of jobs were available?
A: There was a box shop in town, where people built boxes, and there was the orchard, with people picking apples and other fruit. A lot of people went to work in Westfield and Connecticut. There wasn’t much in Granville.

Q: Has the current economic recession affected you at all?
A: I’m pretty good about staying the same. I really haven’t had any problem. Because I don’t go out for a job, it’s what I have coming in. I’m OK. I don’t have any large problems. I get some from Grandpa’s retirement and Social Security. Thank my hubby; he did well. He had a good job and he worked hard. His boss really respected him. They respected each other’s views on things.

easy, breezy meals — for less (2)

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I’ve discovered the delicious wonder of the turkey bacon sandwich, but every once in awhile, that gets pretty old. For a simple, cheap spin on this yummy classic, wrap it!

TURKEY BACON WRAP

I didn't make this one, but it looks great! © Fransmart / Flickr

I didn't make this, but it looks great! © Fransmart / Flickr

What You Need:

  • Tortilla Wraps — $2 – $3 (whole grain and whole wheat are the most healthy; Flatout is a great brand)
  • Turkey — $3 (lean meats are the healthiest, and go best with bacon!)
  • Bacon — $3 (I like MorningStar veggie bacon, but for a cheaper variety, try Oscar Mayer‘s turkey bacon)
  • Hummus — $2 (Athenos Roasted Red Pepper Hummus is my favorite)
  • Lettuce/Spinach — $2 – $3 (got to get your veggies!)

What You Do: The instructions for making this wrap are pretty simple, but I’ll just give you the basics. The only thing you’ll need to heat is the bacon, which can be cooked in the microwave for the cooking-challenged. Make sure to place the bacon on a paper towel on the plate to absorb any water/grease. I usually only use two pieces of bacon for a wrap, which takes about two minutes to cook in the microwave on high heat. Once the bacon is done, just add it to your wrap, along with the turkey, lettuce/spinach, and any other toppings you wish. You only need to spread hummus on one outer side of the wrap, as it will be distributed once you roll it up. Check out this diagram for wrapping:

Once you’ve folded up all your sides, roll the wrap and eat up! Make sure not to overstuff your wrap though, as this can make it harder to roll and nearly impossible to eat. Thanks for reading and enjoy.

easy, breezy meals — for less (series)

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2009 at 10:47 pm

*I will be releasing more “easy, breezy meals — for less”  in subsequent blogs.

So let me start out by saying I’m an awful cook. But, I am pretty great at saving money, finding bargains and controlling my spending. These two skills (or lack thereof) have pushed me to search for cheap foods that are healthy and, most importantly, easy to make. Here is one super easy meal that I’ve adopted as staple of my diet; it’s never failed me:

NOODLES (SPAGHETTI, MAC N’ CHEESE, ETC.)

I didn't make this, but doesn't it look delish? © disneymike / flickr

I didn't make this, but it looks delish! © disneymike / Flickr

What You Need:

  • Noodles — $2 (I prefer whole grain or whole wheat, since these varieties are healthier)
  • Sauce — $3 (I like Ragu’s Sun-dried Tomato and Sweet Basil Sauce; usually red sauces are healthier than cream-based ones)
  • Salt — can’t be more than $1, right?
  • Cheese — $2 – $3 (I’m addicted to Kraft’s Parmesan, Romano and Asiago blend; it’s low in cholesterol, too)
  • Seasonings — $2 – $3 (I like garlic powder, and a few red pepper flakes for spice)

What You Do: If you can boil water, you can make a noodle dish. Simply fill a medium-large pot with water and place it on the burner. Top the pot and turn the burner to high heat. Gas burners heat differently than electric ones, but in about 6-8 minutes, your water should be boiling. You’ll be able to tell because large bubbles will be rising to the water’s surface. Once your water is boiling, add a pinch or two of salt (for taste) and add your pasta. When using long noodles, like spaghetti, I usually take a handful and break them in half over the pot; this makes the noodles shorter and easier to eat when cooked. Leave the pasta in the pot (with the top off) for about 5-7 minutes before checking on it. Once this time has passed, you may taste test the pasta, or try this little trick: Carefully lift a noodle out of the pot with a utensil and throw it against the wall; if it sticks, it’s done! The last things to do is strain the water from the noodles, using a metal strainer. Once that is completed, you can heat up your sauce of choice in a small sauce pan over a burner on medium heat. Add your sauce and seasonings to the pasta, and enjoy!

find cheap restaurants and thrifty shops (in the college town of Athens, Ohio)

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Check out these locations for inexpensive eats and shopping! Don’t spend more when you can spend less, for the best around. Try an award-winning hot dog at O’Betty’s or pick up a vintage piece at ReUsed, all for much less than you would expect. If you fancy lovely things at low prices, make sure to check out at least one of these restaurants/shops.

(You may need to zoom in to view all 10 locations: Reuse Thrift Store, Goodwill, Killer Tomato, Peking Express, Dollar General, Athens Underground, Court Street Costumes, O’Betty’s Red Hot, Good Fellas Pizza and Pita Pit).

2 professors sound off on saving

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

The stock market is crashing. The economy is tanking. People are losing their jobs. Money is tighter than ever. We have entered the recession, but what do we do now?

“The first thing to start with is a budget,” said David Payne, a professor in Ohio University’s finance department. Payne currently teaches personal financial planning courses, but he lived and breathed business for 30 years, working as a senior officer and senior vice president at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, Pa.

He suggests a concept called “pay yourself first,” which entails the setting aside of funds for future financial goals before setting aside funds for everyday living expenses.

“What most students do when they come out of college is say, ‘I’m going to get the nice apartment in Dublin and I’m finally going to have a car that I like,’” Payne said.  “And then they decide, ‘Whatever I’m going to have left over, I’ll save part of it.’” But Payne suggests that his “pay yourself first” approach, though less popular with the general public, is much more effective. “Not many people do this,” he said. “But it’s a way to actually be successful and reach your financial goals.”

Yes, even you can save up stacks of money. © Shirley Two Feathers / Flickr

Yes, even you can save up stacks of money. © Shirley Two Feathers / Flickr

An associate professor at OU, Andrew Prevost, agrees that saving is crucial to financial success. And the earlier you start, the better. He currently teaches investments to graduate students and market institutions to undergraduates, but his extensive knowledge of finance once brought him overseas to New Zealand, where he worked as a senior lecturer.

“When you leave school and you get your first job, that’s probably the easiest it is to actually save up a lot of money, because you don’t have any dependents or major responsibilities,” Prevost said. “Take advantage of not having a lot of financial responsibility to actually build something up in saving.”

According to Payne, savings should also be directed to a 401 K retirement plan, even when retirement may be 40 years down the road.

“Don’t tell yourself, ‘Oh gee, I hardly have enough money. I’ll start that next year, the year after that.’ That is not the way to do it,” Payne said. Although 401 K funds are not immediately available, the money grows exponentially and can be extremely beneficial in the long run. “It really adds up,” Payne said. “That’s just the power of compound interest.”

Early saving and 401 K investing are certainly important, but what about the stock market? Is the potential payback worth the risk? According to Prevost, it is.

“History shows that you can only really have good investment returns if you expose your money to the markets,” Prevost said. “If you’re 22 years old, you have 40 years out to retirement, so in that case it’s okay to start exposing your money to markets because you have such a long time to ride on fluctuations [due to the recession].”

Because of the recession, however, many people have turned to credit cards — instant money. Use them now; pay them back later. Although plastic serves a purpose in building credit, it can be an addicting little rectangle of debt.

Use these colorful cards wisely. © pfreviews / Flickr

Use these colorful cards wisely. © pfreviews / Flickr

“People use credit cards like cash,” Prevost said. “You should only buy things that you can actually afford, with money you actually have. Then you are never affected by interest rates; it’s irrelevant to you.”

Payne agrees that credit cards can be dangerous, especially if they end up in the wrong hands, such as those of an out-of-work teenager with a shopping addiction.

“People shouldn’t have credit cards who don’t have incomes,” Payne said. “All the credit card is doing is postponing the payment … if you don’t have an income, then it’s not going to be any easier to pay the cash later as it is now.”

In support of this idea, the U.S. government just recently passed the Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, stating that any individual under the age of 18 may not be issued a credit card, under any circumstances. A similar bill in the Senate suggests the idea that individuals under 21 may not receive credit cards, unless they complete a financial literacy course and have a co-signer. The latter bill is still in debate.

Payne definitely realizes that credit cards can cause problems, but he said that he is not anti-credit card, by any means.

“If you use credit cards as a convenience, in other words, you pay them off every month, that’s fine,” Payne said. “But to use them as a way to borrow is not-so-fine.”

Money management is key, especially during an economic downturn, but will we ever see the light at the end of the recessionary tunnel?

Prevost assumes that it will take about 9-12 months to see economic improvement, while Payne remains a little more optimistic, estimating noticeable improvement in a shorter period of time than most people think.

“My crystal ball is no better than anybody else’s,” Payne said. “But one thing that we know is happening is that the American consumer (who represents about 70% of the American economy) is busy reducing debt right now in what is called ‘deleveraging.’ As both consumers and businesses get more comfortable with lower debt levels, then I think we will have some base for incremental spending and that will help lead us out of the recessionary times.

“I definitely feel that later this year we will see the economy begin to improve.”

simple pleasures at simple prices

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Want to spoil yourself, but don’t have much cash? Check out these sweet products at affordable prices:

monkey-bay2Monkey Bay Wine (for those of-age folks): This divine beverage originated on the coast of New Zealand and continues to be produced there today. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s quite tasty but, more importantly, it’s super cheap — $10 a pop. This brand also makes other wine varieties including Sauvignon Blanc (white, with hints of grapefruit, kiwi and pineapple), Chardonnay (white, with hints of citrus and tropical fruit) and Rose (blush, with a hint of strawberry). For a couple fives, I’d say this one’s definitely worth it.

041756090068Dolci Frutta Hard Chocolate Shell: Love fondue, but don’t want to buy your own chocolate fountain? This stuff is the best alternative I’ve seen, for a great price — around $3 in any grocery store. You just microwave the chocolate bits right inside the container, and dip your fruits. Once the treats are placed in the refrigerator, the dip hardens like a shell. It makes for decadent chocolate-covered strawberries much cheaper than it would cost to buy them pre-made, and they taste just as delicious. For those of you that prefer white chocolate, Dolci Frutta offers a creamy white chocolate shell.

41jrdYRvHvL._SS400_Homemedics Hand-held Mini Massager: Relax those muscles with this cute, colorful massaging device for only $8.99 at Amazon.com! It may be small, but it packs some power. This particular version comes in 3 colors — green, blue and pink — and is equipped with gel-like pads for comfortable handling. The only problem with this massager is that you may need a partner to help reach trouble spots, but it works great for the price and offers a little on-the-go relief.

Smarty Pig: free, easy saving

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I am aware that I have been posting about pigs a lot lately, but this site deserves some recognition.

2368926366_ee82229e77 Smarty Pig acts as an online savings account, but is more goal-oriented. Say you want to save up for a really cool gadget, like an iPhone or a Wii, but there is no way that you can afford such a purchase right now. Or, say that you really want to save up some cash as a safety net, but you just can’t seem to stop spending it on fast food and pointless purchases.

Fear not, for Smarty Pig is here!

This site is original in that it allows users the option of making their accounts public or private. Public accounts are encouraged, because they allow your friends and family to donate to your online “piggy bank” to help you reach your goal.

In order for Smarty Pig to work, it suggests a monthly payment which is then deducted from your bank’s checking account. If you don’t agree with their suggested amount for the monthly payment, you can choose your own amount. But either way, you are not responsible for making the payments. It is an automated system that helps you reach your goal.

If this system makes you feel a little uneasy, take a breather. The site is protected by McAfee and is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. So if anything goes wrong, you’re safe. Plus, I’ve heard through the grapevine that Smarty Pig’s customer service is phenomenal, so I’m sure they could answer any inquiries relating to their service.

Along with being absolutely free and super easy to set up, Smarty Pig has an annual percentage yield of 3.09%. This is a pretty high savings rate — several times the national average from the majority of sources I’ve looked at. So, Smarty Pig saves your money and gives you money … I’d say it doesn’t get much better than that.

3 ways to save green going green

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

So I’m sure most of you have heard about “going green.” Maybe some of you want to; maybe some of you don’t. But there is one thing you should keep in mind: going green can save you money (as long as it’s not buying organic).

1. Bicycle — For the most part, gas prices have dwindled down past the $4 mark, but gas is still an expense that will never be free. People need cars and also need to fuel them. But, for those of you that drive your vehicle a little too much, a bike can be a fantastic investment. It will only set you back $100 – $200 and will save money in the long run. Plus, biking is a form of exercise! So, while you pedal to your destination you can tighten those glutes and firm up those gams.

This 26" Schwinn is only $119 at Walmart!

This 26" Schwinn is only $119 at Walmart!

2. Take baths — Showers may be quick and easy (I myself am a fan of them) but if you are a fan of the half-hour to hour long shower, you’re washing money down the drain. Baths are just as relaxing as showers, maybe even more so, and you can sit in there for as long as your little heart desires! So, go ahead — treat yourself to some scented candles and a bubble bath. It will lower your water bill and ease your nerves.

3. Turn off the light, turn off the light — Aside from being a sweet oldie from Nelly Furtado, turning off the lights saves money! Much of the savings depends upon the type of lighting being used, however. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, incandescent lights should be turned off as often as possible; only about 10-15 % of the energy used results in light and the rest is turned into heat. Flourescent lights should only be turned off if no one will be in the room for 15 minutes or more. The logic is this: floursecent light bulbs are fairly expensive, and turning the light on and off during short periods of time can cause the bulb to wear out faster, costing more money to replace the bulb in the long run.