Archive | July 2011

Tomorrow I'll Miss You

This post is dedicated to a dear friend of mine who married a wonderful man yesterday, and is about to experience on even more changes.  First, she has just received her Master’s in Geology from an esteemed university.  Second, she is embarking on a promising new job in her field.  Third, she is leaving the east coast and most of her friends and family to pursue her career and new life.

Her wedding weekend started for me at the bachelorette party on Friday night.  Living near the water, we all met up at a wharf to take a short pedestrian ferry to our destination restaurant.  This place was the first Spanish-style tapas restaurant that I have encountered outside of Barcelona, though admittedly I haven’t traveled any major metropolitan areas in the States since my trip to Spain in March.  The desserts and cocktails were delightful, as was the company.  We played a few games, and then proceeded to rate the bride’s blushing as we gave her each scandalous gift.  Comparisons ranges from “tomato red” to “boiled lobster red” and were greatly amusing to all.  Two friends and I joined in on one geology-related gift – PJs that read “You can check my cleavage, if I can test your hardness.”  Even if you don’t get the geology-humor, you’ll realize that it’s funny and pick up on the innuendo, I imagine!

I didn’t see her again, of course, until we got to the church.  However, I did not have to wait for her grand entrance!  Thanks to my careful planning (we left 2 hours in advance for an hour long journey, in case of traffic) and Lydia’s observant sign-reading (she saved us from a 4-mile back-up and directed us along an alternate route), we arrived about 30 minutes early. As we were using the powder room, the beautiful bride popped in to use the mirror for a last-minute lipstick check!  It totally caught me off guard, because she looked so stunning in her dress.  It was like going backstage at a really famous event, because the bride is definitely a celebrity on her wedding day!

The ceremony was absolutely lovely, with hymns, readings, and even a “sermonette” by their pastor.  And the decorations were a highlight, because the bride and her co-conspirators were able to pull-off something I’ve been pondering for years – the most gorgeous and realistic-looking artificial flowers I’ve ever seen!  Plus, getting there early earned us some great seats, to which we were ushered by handsome men in top-hats.

After the bride and groom walked back down the aisle, we all had plenty of time to get to the next venue – a reception at a stunning art museum.  The main hall looked like it was taken straight out of an Italian square.  And there were two beautiful staircases where the wedding party made their grand entrance.  The wedding had all the traditional pieces – first dances with the groom and father of the bride, hilarious toasts, and the cutting of the cake.  However, it also had some non-traditional elements, namely the fact that the museum was open to all guests!  So, in the down time when people would normally be embarrassing themselves on the dance floor, we wandered around to view great works of art.

After an evening of good food, better company, and celebrating the new couple, we took part in a unique send-off.  First, the car said “Geo makes the bed rock” which is hilarious.  Second, instead of rice or bubbles, we all had glow-sticks and formed a tunnel for them to get to the car.  It was a magical evening, only fit for such a wonderful person as my friend, JoBeth.

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But nothing comes close to the golden coast

LATE Wednesday night… Alyssa and Coli pick me up from the airport.  Get in and immediately rally to go to Harvey’s and socialize (but not drink).  My arrival is met by a whole bunch of people blowing up and getting excited, which was a really nice feeling.  Stayed there til about 2am and then Coli and Dusty walked me back to my room at the LG.

EARLY Thursday morning, I got up and went to graduation.  It was fun, silly, and I saw pretty much everyone by that point.  Then a reception afterwards where there was food and more socializing.  Good times.  Lazy afternoon watching TV and table tennis games.  This continued to the LG poolside where about half the TLs came over (those who weren’t napping).  Hung out with Chris D, Coli, Jeff, Jack, Michelle and Chika last…

THEN after a short break back in the room, rallied again to hang out with ChrisNic, Laura, Mikey, Kristina, Javelle, (new friend) Amanda etc.  Started out in 947 kitchen, went to play Wii in TL lounge, then ended up with Chris D, Warith, and Amanda singing and playing guitar.  Lauren joined us once her crew made it back from their dinner.

The next day I slept in just long enough to feel rested.  Shortly after I woke up, I got a call confirming that most of the TLs were heading out to Santa Cruz, and that I had a spot in Dusty’s car leaving at 1pm.  Elizabeth and I met up for lunch at a nearby Mexican place to get take-out.  The burritos at this place put Chipotle to shame in both price and authenticity!  I was quite happy and ready for a ride in Dusty’s convertible with Amanda and ChrisNic.  It felt so legit to be heading to the California coast in a convertible.  I applied sunscreen 3 times in order to avoid a burn, and fortunately I was successful!

We arrived at the hotel, dropped off stuff, and headed to the boardwalk.  It’s so cheesy and retro, but I loved it.  When the other cars arrived, we met up with them for an outdoor dinner at Boardwalk Bowling where I had some amazing Hawaiian-style pizza.  Then, we headed back to the room for a night of fun.  Most people went out, I stayed in and relaxed with a few others.  The next morning, we had an amazing brunch at Walnut Cafe.  Then we wandered around some thrift stores before meandering down to the beach.  The weather was absolutely perfect – breezy and only hot on the beach (in the direct sun).  I’m a little too restless to lay on the beach for long, so I went for a walk with Elizabeth and Chika around the shops and along the pier.  Then, after meeting everyone back the beach, Amanda and I headed back downtown to join Paula and Kristina for dinner.  We decided on Indian cuisine that was quite delicious.  Then once the next night’s hotel situation got worked out, Dusty, ChrisNic, Kristina and I headed back to Sac.  We just weren’t up for another night of excitement.  We had a great life chat on the way back while trying to stay awake (it was late).  I was luckily able to crash in a spare bed, which officially makes it my last night on campus.

Then, I met up with Josh, Abby, and Alyssa for lunch at Chili’s.  Alyssa and I spent some quality time looking over her AmeriScrapbook, which I loved.  I chilled in the TL lounge with Warith, Laura, Mikey, and ChrisNic playing Wii.  Then Vaya took me out for dinner (tried my first California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ and had the sassiest/TMI waitress on the planet) and fro yo to use up my Big Spoon gift card.  I only had a little time from there to finish packing up all my stuff and get some hugs goodbye before my red eye back east.

Seeing everyone was so awesome!  I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It’s been sun, fun, and lots of hugs.  I hope this end is only the beginning for these friendships, because the TLs of Class 17 were amazing.

Value

I was thinking the other day about how some items have completely different prices based on the context in which they are sold.  Soda is one of the most poignant examples of this in every day life.

Let’s just start with the grocery store.  Depending on the packaging (small bottles, cans, or 2-liter bottles), soda has a completely different price per ounce.  Of course, when making a purchase, you often ask yourself if you want to pay for the convenience of the small bottles vs. the price savings of the 2-liter.  Oh the prices we pay for being caffeinated/sugared…

But that dilemma should be tiny compared to the other ways we buy soda!  For instance, when buying Cola on netgrocer, you pay $0.04/fl oz for a 2-liter, $0.05/fl oz for a 6-pack of bottles, or $0.07/fl oz for a 12-pack of cans.  You’re either buying 2-liters for $2.49 each, bottles for $4.99 each, or cans for $9.99 each.  Now this may not be the best example, because prices are generally cheaper than this in the grocery store.  But let’s just go with this for now.

Let’s say you get a craving for a Diet Cola while you’re out running errands?  You stop in at your local gas station and head over to the fridge for a nice cold one.  The prices there are shockingly different.  A 20-oz Cola will likely cost you $1.69, if not more!  That’s $0.085/fl oz – more expensive than any of the previous methods!  Well, you go ahead and justify that to yourself for the convenience and the refrigeration factors.  I’ll buy it.  Sort of.

Now let’s fast forward to your next feature film at the local cinema.  You decide to dig deep into your wallet and stop at the concession stand.  Whatever else you buy, a soda there is going to cost you at least $4, if not $6.  Just to get an idea, I’ll say that a $5 soda will be about 40 oz (they’re pretty big, after all).  That may be a little high on the price and low on the actual soda quantity (given the ice), but I think it’ll be a pretty good estimation.  Now, you’re paying $0.12/fl oz – FOUR TIMES the price you pay for a 2-liter in my example (with a larger discrepancy given grocery store prices).

So I ask myself, how does the value of soda change so drastically given the situation?  It consists of exactly the same acidic, caffeinated, sugary chemicals no matter how you serve it.

There are so many examples of buying where the value of an item depends on the situation… Clothing: full-price vs sale-price vs thrift store.  Furniture: designer price vs outlet price vs used price (practically a give-away on craigslist sometimes).  Of course, the value of something is controlled by what you are willing to pay for it.  If everyone boycotted sodas at movies until they lowered prices, the value would decrease.

I’m not sure why I spent so much of this entry talking about soda.  I’m sort of cutting soda out of my life, in that I don’t drink it regularly anymore or stock it in my fridge.  Maybe that’s why soda has my wrath, because I’m trying to convince myself it’s a bad deal, both health and price-wise?

I’ve also been thinking about the value of a dollar a lot recently.  Money is so funny, because you can turn it into things (collectible or consumable), travel, experiences, or you can reinvest it.  Eventually, the point of money is to turn it into something else.  And yet, unless you reinvest some of it, you won’t have it for the future.  But is there a point at which you should look at your life and just spend for fun?

You need money to live, pay for services, and just generally survive.  However, how much time is too much time spent worrying about money?  How much time should you spend cutting coupons, comparing prices, and chasing refunds?  How much time should you spend working vs playing?  What is the value of a human life; is it just the money you bring home, or is it the sum of all your experiences?  But there are just some experiences you can’t have without having a certain amount of disposable income.  After all, bills and expenses are the reality.  But what’s the REAL cost?

Interesting titles for blogs

I’m starting to find that one of the coolest ways to get visitors to the site is to have interesting titles that contain phrases people search in Google.  One of my very most visited entries is “Why I Don’t Wear Makeup” because people are regularly searching for the phrase “don’t wear makeup” or some variation thereof.  And apparently my blog title brings it right to the top of the search engine.  I think it’s so neat that blogs these days are written about almost everything I think I’m going to make it my goal to continue to write about things that more random people will stumble across, as long as they also interest me!

Today was INSANITY.  I’m surprised that I survived today, but I did have fun.  At 5am on this beautiful Saturday morning, I got up out of bed, depriving myself of beauty sleep, and got ready for the flea market.  For those of you not in the know, I have been massively cleaning out my house, and there were just many things I figured I should try to sell rather than throw away or give away.

So, to get to the market with plenty of time to set up, I picked up my friend Brian and we took two vehicles to the market just up the road.  We were there in time to get a decent spot, and in 20 minutes we had 4 tables (plus a fair amount of overflow) piled high and ready to sell!  It was a fairly busy day, all things considering.  It was my first time there, and Brian, who has been several times, said it has often been busier.  However, I had a pretty steady stream at my tables, I think partly because I was new.  Many people come regularly, but it’s a pretty casual affair.

So, the weather was nice and sunny, but much cooler than it has been, which were ideal conditions for the market.  All things considered, I came away with more money than I expected and with most of my largest items sold.  I have about 1 box I’m keeping after all, and 2 boxes to go to consignment, but the rest will be given away to local thrift stores.  I feel pretty good about it…  And let’s see, my hourly rate for this project was about … $18 per hour, so it wasn’t a terrible investment of my time!

But all the time spent at the flea market did result in a very tired and sunburned me with plans to head to an amusement part with friends in the evening.  I had a short break in which I rallied an rehydrated before the evening festivities with Courtney and Regan.

At the park, the weather remained perfect, we rode my two favorite rides, at at my favorite place, and saw my favorite show.  And at each step of the way, it was something we all wanted to do.  Well, with the possible exception of the incredibly long line for a funnel cake at the end, but they allowed me 🙂

So at the end of this day I am physically exhausted, with sore feet, a stiff back, and sunburn.  But what do I do?  I get online to write this blog, and end up talking to Teddy and Jenna online, when I should really have gone straight to bed when I got home.  I’m going to be TIRED for church tomorrow, but my only plan when I get out is to sleep in the afternoon.  If I have the energy, I might try and fool with my scanner.  My ultimate goal in my office is to go PAPERLESS, and my first step towards this is to scan all of my important documents and ditch my remaining files.

Can I have that?

Guys, I have some of the weirdest neighbors ever.

Last week, I arranged for a Salvation Army pick-up for two filing cabinets and a metal storage cabinet (with adjustable shelves, used for office supplies).  They have a fair amount of value, but I just wanted them out of my house.  I figure I can at least write it off for tax purposes.

So I put the items outside on the sidewalk in anticipation of the 11am-1pm pickup window.  They had probably been outside 3 hours when the Salvation Army truck arrived to collect them.  I was anxiously awaiting their arrival, because I wanted to go out and meet them.  However, when the truck pulled up and I went out, I saw my neighbor there, eyeing my cabinets.

She actually had the cahones to ask me if she could take one of the cabinets.  “I just want the middle one” she said as the men who were there to pick up the cabinets stared at me.  Now, they were incredibly gracious, and told me they didn’t mind.  However, I cannot believe the nerve of her to try and steal from the charity.

This same neighbor “recovered” my wooden pallet to use for art purposes.  She also once asked me if I was living here alone, because she wanted to rent my spare room “just to sleep in” because she “couldn’t stand the smell of her place.”  I’m sorry, but there is no way on earth that I would ever give her a key to my house.

Really, many of my neighbors are quite normal.  But there are some crazies in the mix that really spice things up.  And that’s why I lock my door…whenever I leave the house.

Why I have a Credit Card

Having good credit is one of your most important financial assets.  Your credit score determines if banks or car dealerships will loan you money, it determines if you can get reduced fees for some insurance policies and utilities (cell phone, cable, etc), and it can even determine whether you get hired for certain jobs.  For most young people, the most pressing issue is not that they don’t have GOOD credit, they just don’t have ANY credit history at all.

To all companies that have money to lend, young people with are wild cards, and loaning money to them is often a risk they are unwilling to take.  And most young people do not have the cash to buy a car or a house without a loan.  Something as small as a required deposit on your cable service may break the bank for someone who is living paycheck to paycheck.  I have a friend who can’t even rent his apartment without his parent’s co-signature.  His parents have credit, he does not, and that makes all the difference.

I don’t know what more to say to convince you that having credit is important, so now I’m going to move on to the important part: how to start building credit for yourself.

Credit card companies are some of the most willing entities out there to trust you.  You might think that it’s a foolish move on their part, but it seems to be working for them!*  Many credit card companies will give you a card with a small limit no matter how little credit history you have.  And with this seed, you can grow your credit tree.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t have credit cards.  Here are some of the most common.

1) “I have seen people get into so much debt, and I don’t want to risk it.”
2) “I would rather use a debit card so I always know how much is in my account.”
3) “I know I need to, it’s just simpler to use debit or cash when I can.”
4) “I don’t mind using my debit card online.”

For each of these, I have a different response.

1) If you don’t overspend, you won’t get into debt.  Having a credit card doesn’t have to change ANYTHING about your spending habits.  Just because you have the ability to access an extra $1,000 dollars doesn’t mean you should.  And if you’re someone who worries about debt, you know this already.  So, having a credit card will just be a different way for you to spend like you already do.  If you track your money and never spend more than you have, you’ll be set.

2) A credit card can be just like a debit card, if you treat it that way.  Balance your checkbook every week (or even every day, if it gives you comfort) with your current balances and your recent transactions.  If your current credit-card-free lifestyle is sustainable, and you don’t change any habit when you get a credit card, you will be fine.  Also, I personally think my bank statement looks cleaner when it only has one big monthly withdrawal for my credit card.

As a side note, you can still get into “bank” trouble with your debit card, because transactions may not clear the account immediately.  So, if you ovespend with a debit, you risk overdrawing your account, which can have negative financial consequences.  However, if you overspend with a credit card, you have at least 30 interest-free days after your statement closes to come up with the extra money.  More on this later (E).

3) It may be simpler for you to use debit or cash right now, but there are ways using a credit card can be simple, too.  For instance, if you do all of your purchases on credit card (which is more feasible than ever before), you have them all in one place in a nice, neat monthly statement (that you can still check online 24/7).  Plus, there are so many POSITIVE things about having a credit card that they certainly outweigh the complications of changing your spending routine.

4) If you continue to use your debit card online after you have a credit card, I will judge your sanity.  Using a debit card online is one of the most dangerous things you can do, because you give online merchants access to your bank account and all of the money in it, with no security on that money.  You can dispute any credit card charges, and there are security measures in place to save you from any fraudulent charges.  However, if someone makes unauthorized purchases on your debit card, the money is just gone.  They can wipe you out. And if you fight with your bank to get it back, it will usually be an uphill battle.  Don’t use your debit card online.  I don’t even use MY credit card online.  But I’ll get to that later (D).

So, let’s recap what we’ve learned so far.  Having good credit is important.  As a young person, you do not have credit at all.  A credit card, used responsibly, can help you build good credit.  Having good credit is the foundation of your financial future, especially as it applies to borrowing money for a house or a car.

Here are even more good reasons to have a credit card.

A) A credit card protects your assets and your purchases.  You can dispute fraudulent charges, as I’ve mentioned before.  You might even get “purchase insurance” to protect against faulty products, or renters’ insurance, depending on your card.  I will say that every credit card is different, so it is important to read the fine print to learn about all the benefits and limitations.

B) Credit cards can give you rewards!  Mine gives me one point per dollar spent, and those points translate into merchandise, travel, gift cards, and even cash!  Some rewards that my family has gotten over the years include airline tickets, gas cards, restaurant gift cards, iTunes cards, a TV, a Wii, and a Kindle.

C) Credit cards can come with numerous other benefits, including but not limited to concierge, insurance, special rates on purchases, and customer service to talk you through any questions or concerns you may have.  I just called my credit card company to get an explanation of a few new benefits and policies, and they couldn’t have been nicer to me.

D) Credit cards give you security.  I have two main examples of this to bring up.

My credit card offers an online safe shopping program where I can pre-authorize an amount for a purchase and generate a new credit card number.  For instance, I was buying a necklace online at a non-corporate website with which I wasn’t familiar, so I gave them a credit card number authorized with the exact amount of my purchase.  Companies don’t know the difference just looking at the number, and this protects against anyone having my ACTUAL credit card number.  If my non-corporate jewelry website tried to use the number I gave them anywhere else, it would be declined, and I would be safe.

In addition, I have the security against overspending.  If I spent $500 this month on my credit card this month when the statement closes, and I only have $400 in my bank, I have until the due date to come up with the necessary amount.  I have time to tighten my budget and make up the difference.  However, if I overdrew my bank account by $100, or even $1, I would be in trouble.

E) Having a credit card is almost like having an interest free loan.  If I spend $200 on the first day of my statement cycle, I effectively have 60 days before I have to pay for that purchase: 30 days of the cycle, and 30 days before the due date.  The credit card company paid for my purchase, I have all the time before I have to pay them back.  It’s brilliant!

F) In an emergency, you can spend up to the limit of your available credit.  Let’s say your car needed new tires and those weren’t in your budget.  As long as you paid the credit card minimum on time, your credit is still as good as ever.  Now, I wouldn’t recommend carrying a balance for longer than absolutely necessary, but it is good to have that option in case you needed to utilize it.

Of course, I don’t usually use my credit card that way.  I pay off my balance every month within a few days of the close of the statement.  This is because I carefully monitor my spending, and ensure that I always have plenty of money in my bank account to cover it.  I use my credit card whenever I can because I like accruing the points and getting the rewards.  My card is even having a summer special on GAS where I get 5% cash back.  Gas is cheaper for me, and it’s only because I have a credit card.

For me, having a credit card is completely stress free.  I can check my purchases any time online.  I only have to pay for it once a month, and I get an email reminder.  It’s easy to use, easy to monitor, and I get great benefits.  In my opinion, there are no downsides to having a credit card.

And, most importantly, as a young person, I am proving to all of the money-lending institutions that I can pay bills on time, I can be responsible, and I deserve to be entrusted with their money to help me buy a future home.

I hope this makes you think twice before declining to have a credit card.  If you can learn to use it responsibly, the financial benefits are innumerable.

*Credit card companies don’t ONLY make money when you are late on a payment and racking up interest.  They will still like you even if you are a perfect client who always pays on time, like me.  This is because they make money from every credit card terminal and every swipe of their card.  So, all they really want you to do is use their card to spend money, and they are starting to offer you more and more benefits just to spend with them.