Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Perfect Christmas Gift For All The Other People.

Like most people, half my Christmas list is for relatives that I'm not extremely close to, but see often enough that I can't exclude. Especially since I know they will get me at least a little something for Christmas. This year, I have already bought books (on clearance) for the little tykes. My mother explicitly stated she didn't want a gift. What to get for her and all the aunts/uncles/cousins/coworkers/bosses that are left over?

While browsing through Craftster, I came across the most amazing idea. I'm going to make coffee mugs filled with home made treats. These include chocolate dipped pretzel sticks with different sprinkles/colored sugar, chocolate dipped spoons (I made these one year actually), and single-serve hot cocoa with marshmellow bags. These will be tossed in cheapie dollar store coffee mugs. I'm hoping to buy as many of these items as possible at the dollar store to really cut down on expenses. If you look at the bottom of the thread, the woman who came up with the idea had even gave an itemized list of her costs. What works out even better is that I can wait to make these until after the quarter ends (early December), when I have plenty of free time.

This has to be one of the most perfect gift ideas for someone with twenty people on their list that they need inexpensive gifts for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Status of My Realm.

My laptop is still on the fritz and hence I'm typing this from school. It looks like the medical stuff is going to run me around five hundred dollars. I have to go tomorrow for an appointment and I had to take off tomorrow night and Saturday from work. I'm planning on devoting all that time to school stuff. As for meal planning, I've hardly been eating. For the last few days, I've roughly ate five hundred calories a day and most of those were in liquid form. I don't expect to do much eating for the next few days and any attempt at food planning will be fruitless. At least I had a good start.

I don't know how I managed to drag myself to school today. Oy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Evil Virus and Review of Carnival of Personal Finance.

I started typing this three hours ago and was viciously attacked by a virus from hell. While innocently meandering through the Carnival of Personal Finance posts, I was brutally assaulted with pop-ups when I hopped on to a certain blogger's site. I don't know how it happened, but a file was downloaded to my Windows file as System32. It's actually a horrid virus that is causing never-ending pop-ups to appear on my laptop... even when I'm not on the internet! I couldn't even finish the post because the pop-ups regenerate at a few per minute. Furthermore, I can't delete the file!!! I tried Spyware and Ad-Ware to no avail. Anyone have any suggestions on how to conquer this demon?

On to my review of the Carnival of Personal Finance...

I'm a total and complete Scrabble-freak. No surprise then that I enjoyed Scrabble & Personal Finance: 8 Lessons From Tiles by Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

Speed Interviewing as presented by The Baglady is an interesting technique that I have never heard of before. I'd imagine it to be quite the adrenaline rush. I wonder how often this gets put into use?

I'm a big proponent of Fair Trade (although there are some faults, but I'll save that for another post). If you don't understand what the concept is, or why it is so important, head over to Money and Values and read the post Go Bananas for Fair Trade. I happen to love my Fair Trade jewelry and coffee.

Outside the Carnival realm...

I utterly adored Cheap Healthy Good's post on reasons Rachael Ray is not the devil incarnate (okay, not completely) despite her annoyingly cheerful demeanor.

GildedButterfly scored big with the find she made... on the street! I was blown away by her Street Shopping post. Not really acceptable out here in the Los Angeles region.

I am utterly horrible with organizing receipts. They end up in a pile in my backpack, on my dresser and crumpled in pockets. Queercents featured an awesome article Financially Organized: Receipts that had some useful tips.

For those of you not skilled in the art of saving, The Digerati Life has a list of 15 Painless Ways To Pay Yourself First.

Last but not least, for those dreamers out there (me included!), Clever Dude's post on what he would do if he won the lottery. I love how he breaks down into what he would do with certain cash values.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Editor's Pick at this Week's Carnival of PF

I went to check my stats out for the site and had a "OH MY GOD!" moment. My numbers are through the roof. That's always a pleasant surprise in the face of medical issues.

Thanks Million Dollar Journey for featuring Tale of Two Friends as an editor's pick for this week's Carnival of Personal Finance! For my lovely readers, I'll pick my own favorites and post them tomorrow morning.

Furthermore, MSN's MoneyBlog Smart Spending featured The Friend Who Is Always Broke which is a recap of the previously mentioned Tale of Two Friends.

Thanks also to Wooly Woman for featuring me in her Round-Up of the last week for us meal planner participants.

Time for me to catch up on my reading.

Medical Woes.

Unexpected medical problems are always a lovely surprise, especially when you don't have health insurance. I have to get a series of tests done which are going to cost me a pretty penny. Also, I have to take off work a couple days. I'm a bit nervous about the financial impact of all this. Fortunately, I think I can cover it all out of pocket. We'll see. I'm REALLY avoiding putting it on a credit card. And, as a last resort, if I do, I'll pay it off by the end of this month. Fingers crossed that everything turns out okay.

Food planning is still going jiffy. Although, I'm slacking in the department of inputting my expenses into my accounting software.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Good Morning, Sunshine.

This happens to be one of my favorite phrases. Of course, the fact that it is still dark out happens to disturb me. Ugh. I hate waking up impossibly early in the morning. That said, here's a set of my favorite articles this morning.

Over at
My Open Wallet there's a lovely discussion going on regarding the difference between being frugal and plain out cheap. Make sure to check out the comments sections. People's stories cracked me up.

The Simple Dollar has an amazing guide to writing a killer resume. I particularly thought Step 4 was helpful.

Chief Family Officer shares with us her personal ways on saving money. One, three and seven are the most important in my opinion.

While I already have half my Christmas gifts bought, those of you who don't might want to look into
Kicking Off A Stress-Free Holiday over at Grad Money Matters. It's a great guide for getting started with the season. I might write up my own Christmas guide seeing as I actually implemented a plan this year. Oh, and check out the links included in the article. They are really helpful for getting great deals.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Meal Planning- Week Two!

Whittle your waist while fattening your wallet! Tomorrow starts the second week of meal planning. I learned a bit from last week's plan: be more flexible! With hindsight being 20/20, I'm forgoing mapping out daily breakfasts. Even when it comes to lunches, I've found that it's easiest for me to go with salads.
Interchangeable breakfasts: Decaf, grapenuts with nonfat milk, whole wheat toast with cottage cheese, fruit, smoothies
*Work supplied meals
#Packed to go for school
Food Planning- Second Week (11/8-11/14)

11/8- Thursday
B: Interchangeable
L: Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms #
D: Leftovers, Salad w/ Tuna#
S: 2 pc. Sugar Free Candy

11/9- Friday
B: Interchangeable
L: Italian Basil Salad w/ Genoa Salame
D: Bunless Pepper Jack Burger with Pico De Gallo, Cabo Salad*
S: Vegetable Soup*

11/10- Saturday
B: Bacon Lettuce Wraps *
L: Portabello Chicken with Steamed Veggies*
D: Grilled Rosemary Steaks and Salad
S: Chocolate Mousse

11/11- Sunday
B: Interchangeable
L: Salad, Chocolate Mousse
D: Lemon Chicken with Steamed Veggies*
S: Vegetable Soup*

B: Interchangeable
L: Salad w/ Turkey
D: Bunless French Dip with Melted Cheese and Grilled Onions, Green Salad*
S: Turk Creole Soup*

11/13- Tuesday
B: Interchangeable
L: Salad w/Turkey, Chocolate Mousse#
D: Green Leaf Salad w/Tuna#
S: Turkey Lettuce Wraps, 2pc Sugar Free Candy

11/14- Wednesday
B: Interchangeable
L: Salad w/Turkey
D: Dine Out
S: Decaf Breve Latte w/ Sugarfree Hazelnut (@ Starbuck’s w/little sister), Mousse

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pursuit of Fulfillment

After reading Dream Job... over at Windy City Blues, it got me reflecting about my own focus in life. Where am I headed? What do I want to do? Will I end up settling for something less? Am I comfortable with settling for something in a similar field? These are all important questions that everyone needs to ask themselves. Why pursue a career that makes you miserable when you can do something that makes your life feel complete?

For me, my dream occupation would be working down in Central and South America as a cultural anthropologist. All I want to do in my life is to help people and make the world a better place (so very cliche). I chose Latin America because I have background history with people of various ethnicities in those regions. Furthermore, I've been passionate about the area for years now. With starting my upper division courses this quarter, I've realized everything is just as fascinating as I've always found it. I don't see this zeal dwindling in the future. I don't know specifically what entity I'll work for in my humanitarian endeavors, but I can venture to assume it'd be something along the lines of a non-profit organization or educational institute. Money isn't a focus for me. The cost of living is so phenomenally low in those countries that I'm sure that even with a meager salary for a doctor, I'll be able to put money away into savings for the future.

I've put quite a bit of time and thought into this over the years. In the case of an accidental pregnancy (while still in college), I could always change my post-grad work from cultural anthropology to ethnic relations/studies. I feel comfortable with that alternative. I don't feel that I'd be sacrificing my life because I'd still get involved with working with helping people, but in a much safer environment here in Los Angeles. I'd never endanger my progeny.

Where I'm not willing to settle is that I could never work for a big corporation. Many applied anthropologists end up in either academia (which is an option for when I retire) or working for the capitalist cause. There's a fundamental disgust inside me for that choice of work. I could never work under the disguise of trying to help people when I'm actually trying to introduce a new product or drug to a country. Nor would I be willing to take kickbacks from corporations in exchange for giving them information about possible markets opening up.

When contemplating over a 'dream occupation', don't just let it be a dream. Research, come up with a plan of action and put your heart into it. We have one life to live; make the most of it.

Where have I been?

This little vixen has been devoting her time to school and work. I made a total of 440 dollars over the weekend, while only spending twenty three. Erm. All of that was in alcohol. Escuse me while I hang my head in shame.

On the plus side, I've stuck to my meal planning and am already plotting next week's. I'm sucking big time at my goal for exercising this month. Like I mentioned, that's by far my biggest weakness. Perhaps I'll do a couple extra flights of stairs at school today, or take a walk around the campus before I study.

People in my classes have been wanting to know my secret for 'success'. I wish there was a way I could make money off of it. I don't think posting ads for a tutor for "Latin American Studies" will fly. And, I feel guilty for charging people for a study session. Although, I could make a pretty penny off it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Tale of Two Friends.

I have a wonderful friend that will be referred to as S. in this post. S. and I met through working at the same restaurant together (which we both still work at). I've known her for two and a half years. S. and I are completely different in our perspectives on money and it has a lot to do with how we were raised.

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in her bedroom having a conversation about finances. S. is always talking about moving out, how broke she is, and her feelings of being utterly lost when it comes to finances. She shared with me that she didn't understand how both her and I worked at the same place, yet I can afford to live on my own, a car payment and go to school full time. Meanwhile, it is difficult for her to give her dad a couple hundred a month to help out with household expenses. Furthermore, she has no debt, doesn't go to school and no car payment. Her bills consist of auto insurance and a cell phone. S. didn't understand why she was always broke.

The fundamental difference between the two of us is that we have completely different backgrounds and subsequent mentalities when it comes to money. I never ask my parents for money, nor do I expect them to pay for items in my life. Furthermore, both of them have always stressed the importance of education and being able to provide for themself. I always kid around that I'm independent to a fault. When it comes to money, it is an advantage. My independence and willing to work hard enough to get through hard times is why I've managed to live on my own for the past year and a half on a waitress' income. On the opposite side of the spectrum, S. lives at home (nothing wrong there) and knows that she can fall back on her parents at any point in time. Her parents have allowed her older brother AND his fiance to live in their home for years now, and they contribute less than S. does to the household. Her older brother just barely got a job and I hope he can hold it down for more than a month. Despite their frustration, her parents still make escuses for him. I've been taught that you have to be self-sufficient; S. has been taught completely the opposite.

Due to this, S. doesn't feel any motivation to save her money. Where the majority of my money goes towards bills and paying off my credit cards, S. spends the majority of her money on going out and clothes. She is constantly buying new items when she has a full closet. I pointed these differences out to her in our conversation. I rarely spend money on clothes. Now that I'm in school, I don't go out either. I've gone out twice in the past month and a half. Meanwhile, S. goes out with friends to restaurants and movies at least three times a week. S. acknowledged that this is where her money goes.

Besides spending habits and upbringing, S. and I work differently. Because she doesn't have the motivation to make end's meet, she is more likely to give tables up at work or pay less attention to her customers. S. isn't a bad waitress; she is very friendly. That friendliness also translates into her socializing too much at work. I pride myself on giving the best possible service at work. There are times when we are slow and I can leisurely talk with other servers, and there are the times when I can't afford to. S. has worked at our restaurant a good year or two longer than I have, yet I am higher on the totem pole than she is. Management is more likely to come to me for advice about a particular employee or listen to my thoughts than her. I've brought in doctor's notes to work for every time I've been sick (three times?). S. routinely ditches work at least once a month and uses fake doctor's notes. Furthermore, she shows up a few minutes late all the time. The difference in our work ethic reflects in how much we earn. On average, I earn a little over a hundred a shift; I know she earns significantly less.

Knowing all these differences, I've attempted to guide her into managing her finances. I laid out guidelines and told her to make goals for herself. S. also needs to track her spending and see how much she really spends on consumer purchases, dining out and entertainment.

We are different people because of the way our parent's have raised us. I suppose this is me telling all those PF bloggers who are parents to raise their children not to be codependent and to take a pride in their work. My friend S. is a good person; she just doesn't understand how to manage money because her parents never taught her how to. Teach your children the value of the dollar.

The day after our big "money talk", S. came in to work all excited. She proudly showed off to me a new purse and jacket that she bought for fifty five dollars when it would have cost her normally over a hundred. All I could do is shake my head and say, "That's great you got a good deal, but you don't need those things. You have plenty of purses and jackets." It's going to be a long road for her.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cheap Night In.

Rented movie (Departed) and Chicken Enchiladas! My man has a NF subscription so it didn't cost me a dime. Although, I did have to run by the store to pick up a few things (6.88). I'm excited that we'll have leftovers for tomorrow. No worries of any cooking. Last night was productive at work. I walked with 13o dollars. Today I made 90. Sad face on that one. I usually walk with 120 on Saturdays.

Obviously, this post is far more abbreviated than normal. I'm thoroughly exhausted between closing last night and opening this morning. Back to back shifts KILL me. My feet are throbbing.

On a positive note, I've been sticking to the meal plan... and my work pants feel looser!!!! Tomorrow's goal is to get some exercise in. Ugh.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Unproductive Morning (and curse Starbursts!)

I've been working so hard this week with everything from school (like eight hours on a take home midterm yesterday, for a combined total of ten hours spent on it), that this morning has been QUITE unproductive. I woke up at eight am, had my bowl of cereal... and promptly fell asleep by nine am. I just barely woke up now. Grawr. I have the greatest desire NOT to go to work today. But, erm, of course, this little Vixen needs money.

I have a good idea for my next carnival submission. Just need to actually write it.

Oh, yesterday I spent twenty dollars on gas. And, I have completely stuck to my food plan. I have to admit that a pack of Starbursts were calling my name. :-(