Apr 09

Is Your Debt, Your Fault?

debtThe other day I overheard two women talking about debt on the train. Because I’m ridiculously nosy acutely attuned to conversations about money and debt, I couldn’t help but listen in on their conversation. The women appeared to be in their mid to late-twenties and were talking about student loan debt (something I knew all too well until recently). The basic complaint of both women was how, “crazy” it is that lenders, “give” so much money to students.

One woman confided to the other (and anyone who happened to be listening-ahem) that she owed over $100k in student loan debt and was paying the minimum payment each month. She said she couldn’t afford to pay more than the minimum payment and as a result the total amount owed was going up each month.

She also stated that she refuses to cut her lifestyle, because she already lives like a “pauper” and went on to say that, she would continue paying the minimum payments because “they” (lenders) chose to lend her money knowing that she’d be working in a non-lucrative field, which wasn’t her “fault”. Lastly, she stated that she’s frustrated because she doesn’t have the things that her peers have, because “after so many years of school” she “deserves” to live a “decent” lifestyle.

Interesting right?…

My First Reaction
Hmm I wonder if she realizes that the lenders don’t give a crap if she pays the minimum payment? It’s not like she’s “giving it to the man” by paying the minimum payments. In fact, I’m sure the lender prefers she pays the minimum payment because that will keep her in debt longer and result in more interest paid.

My Second Reaction
What does a “decent” standard of living mean? and is anyone really “entitled’ to a certain standard of living? I did observe that the “debtor” in question had an iphone and a luxury handbag. I’m not saying that she’s living beyond her means (I have idea what her “means” are) or overindulging instead of paying down her loans (for all I know the iphone and purse might have been gifts). But I would say that iphones and luxury handbags aren’t necessities and if she IS buying those because she thinks that she “deserves” them, that might be part of her debt problem. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of “luxury” goods and I like them quite a bit. But I don’t think that I’m “entitled” to them, nor would I continue buying them while I was paying the minimum payments on my student loans.

My Third Reaction
I agree that tuition costs in this country are completely out of control, but you knew what you were “signing up” for. If you chose to attend a university with an extremely high cost of attendance, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. Nobody had a gun to your head and told you you had to attend an expensive private school. There are plenty of great public universities and community colleges that are affordable. Furthermore, lenders aren’t “giving” away money, you are borrowing it. If you decided to “take” the money, then you’re responsible for paying it back.

My Fourth Reaction
Yes I had four separate reactions to a 3-minute conversation between two women I don’t know. What can I say? I get worked up about student debt! Wouldn’t it be nice if salary was directly proportionate to the number of years in school you completed? Attend high school  make $30k, attend two years of college make $40k, attend graduate school make $100k. I don’t know what that woman does for work, but she did admit that she chose a field that isn’t “lucrative” (whatever that means). Personally, I went $30k in debt to obtain a social work degree. Did I obtain a graduate degree thinking I’d make millions? No! Do I think I should make more money? Yes! Do I think I should make more money solely based on the fact I went to grad school? No.

**Disclaimer, I don’t personally know either of the women I was ease-dropping on. My reactions are based on my own personal experiences and assumptions that I’m making based on my own opinions and biases.

Weigh in please. If “you” have debt is the debt “your” fault?

Apr 07

Food Storage: Why I’m Paying More

I’ve been considering this set. Do you use glass storage? Is this a good set to buy?

I have to admit that until recently I was pretty cheap frugal when it came to purchasing food storage. I have a ton of Ziploc and Glad plastic storage containers and I use them for just about everything. From storage of leftovers in the fridge and freezing sauces, to impromptu soap holders in the tub.

Plastic storage is cheap, readily available and really convenient. But is is safe?

There’s been a bunch of news coverage lately about plastic food storage containers leaking chemicals into food. I’m not a scientist and I’m not even going to attempt to understand how plastics are made, but even before all the talk about plastics and chemicals, I’d been considering switching to all glass storage containers.

Glass vs. Plastic food Storage, which is better?

Why chose glass food storage containers?

1. Glass storage containers are safer than plastic
Many plastics (even those labeled BPA-free) can leach chemicals into your food, especially when they are heated up. I’ll be honest, I use the microwave a lot. Far more than I probably should, but that’s a post for another time. So if I continue to microwave, I’d like to do so safely in glass.

2. Glass storage containers don’t stink.
Have you ever had an onion flavored strawberry? I have and it was disgusting. Plastic containers retain odors and can alter the taste of the food you store in them. I don’t know about you, but I like my strawberries to taste like strawberries. Random trivia, as I was typing that last sentence, I thought of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when “Willy” says, “The snozberries taste like snozberries”. Thanks to Urban Dictionary I now know that a “snozberry” is not what I thought…

3. Glass storage containers are more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Glass can be recycled indefinitely and each time it’s just as good as structurally sound. Plastic breaks down each time it’s recycled and eventually isn’t useable anymore.

4. Glass storage containers are sturdy and stain-proof.
Glass doesn’t warp out of shape when you fill it with hot foods or liquids. It also doesn’t stain when you store pasta sauce in it (my plastic containers stain horribly).

What about plastic storage containers?

1. Plastic storage containers don’t break.
If you’re clumsy like me, you don’t have to worry about breaking your foot when you drop a plastic storage container on it (you do have to worry about the hot food that was in it!). There’s also no risk of plastic storage shattering, the way that glass can if you poor cold liquid into a hot dish.

2. Plastic storage is inexpensive.
You can buy plastic food storage containers at most of the “big box” stores very inexpensively. You can buy a package of 2-4 containers for less than $5.00 at my local target.

3. You can toss plastic storage if it gets gross.
you’re lazy or forgetful and only clean the fridge once a month (guilty!) this is key. I know I can’t be the only one who finds leftovers in the back of the fridge, moldy and unidentifiable.

4. Your friends won’t “steal” it.
Seriously! There’s no incentive to keep a cheap piece of plastic food storage. Feel free to bake a casserole and stick it in a plastic container. If your friends are cool they’ll wash and return it. If not, you’re out $5.00 and there are no hurt feelings or weirdness, the same way there would be if they “lost” your, “fancy” RE: expensive glass storage container.

Why I’m I choosing glass…

Glass storage containers will last forever, which I think, makes up for the added upfront cost. I also like knowing that there won’t be any weird chemicals leaching into our food. With all the chemicals we come in contact with in our day-to-day lives, I don’t think that glass containers will make or break us, but I am trying to control the things I can control; like avoiding processed food, eating natural/organic when possible and cleaning our house with eco-friendly cleaners. Maybe those things make a difference and maybe they don’t, but if we can afford glass containers and natural foods, without breaking the budget, I’ll gladly pay a little more to have that control and peace of mind.

What do you think? Am I a crazy Hippie? Do you use glass or plastic storage?

**Links in this post are affiliate links, if you click and buy something I get a small commission, thank you!

Apr 04

Good things come to people who work hard

i-cant-keep-calm-i-passed-my-examsEveryone has heard that old saying, “good things come to those who wait.” I’d like to add my own twist to the saying. My saying would be “good things come to those who work hard?”

Sometimes waiting makes sense, and there’s certainly value in, “putting in your dues” and waiting for the right opportunity to come along, but there’s also a time and place for being stubborn, digging in your heels and working hard.

Basically, for the last 6 years I’ve been busting my butt to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). To become an LCSW in New York state you have to complete a masters in social work program (2 years), take the LMSW exam (and pass), then be supervised in diagnosis, psychotherapy and treatment planning by a licensed clinical social worker for 3 years.

I’ve written a few posts about my first (hairy!) years working in the social services arena. My first post-masters job was working the 3-11pm shift at a homeless shelter for women diagnosed with mental illnesses. I hated the hours, but I worked hard and got promoted into a supervisory role. After 3 years working the night shift, I transferred to a 9-5 job at a supportive housing residence so I could take some of the clinical coursework I was missing.

Because I didn’t have the required 12 credits to fulfill the clinical component of the LCSW application I had to go back to school last Spring/Fall. It was a huge pain in the butt because I was working full-time, training a new employee and managing a new team.

Every night when I dragged myself to and from class I was exhausted. Most of the students in my classes were full-time students and had never worked a full-time job before. They were intrigued by my stories and experiences (which was fun) but also frustrating when they forgot that I couldn’t just leave work mid-day to work on a group project.

Poor Eric was booted from the bedroom on the weekends because I needed a quiet place to study. I wasn’t home evenings to cook or exercise (which I hated). It wasn’t always easy, but I knew I had to get good grades, pass my classes and take my test. The same way I became super focused on paying off my debt, I became laser focused on obtaining my LCSW.

So last month I finally submitted all of my application materials and was approved to sit for the exam.

This Tuesday, I took the LCSW exam. I was so nervous when I clicked the “submit” button on the computerized test I closed my eyes and shook for a minute. For 6 years I’ve been waiting to take that exam and add LCSW to my name. So when the screen said “pass” and all my hard work finally paid off I was so excited I thought I was going to cry. Not only does this new credential mean a significant pay increase, it also means I’ll have many more career options if and when I decide to leave my current position.

So maybe it’s a little cliche, but I truly believe that good things come to people who work hard and believe that they can make their own dreams come true!

Tell me about your goals, wishes, plans for the future! What are you working on, or towards?

Image: The Keep Calm O-matic

Apr 02

STOP doing these 5 things to save money & your health

healthI’ve always thought of health and wealth as sort of going hand-in-hand. It takes discipline and self-control to eat right and exercise. Just like It takes discipline to make a budget and save for retirement. Here are 5 ways you can save money (and maybe improve your health in the process).

1. Stop smoking.

Camel Joe called me. He told me you’re wasting your money on cigarettes! Seriously, though, everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, but it’s also bad for your wealth. A pack of Marlboros will set you back $14.50 in New York. If you’re a “pack a day” smoker that’s approximately $435 a month and $5,292.50 a year! You may as well roll up $20 bills and smoke them (pun intended).

2. Stop drinking.

Yeah I’m pointing the finger right back at me. I’m not a big drinker by any means, but alcohol is definitely a “luxury” in my book. Those $5.99 Chevy’s happy hour margaritas might be a steal of a deal, but not if you can’t afford them. We all know that one quick drink after work can easily turn into 3 or 4, and $23.96 worth of sugar and Tequila isn’t a great deal when I’m trying to save money.

3. Stop eating out.

We all know that eating out is much more expensive then staying in, but we I keep dining out anyway. If found if I plan my meals in advance and purchase all the ingredients I need, I’m much less likely to order takeout. Even when you get a decent deal, eating out is expensive. And if you happen to find a cheap deal, it’s probably not healthy. A whole chicken ($6-7) can feed me the whole week. $7 doesn’t even buy me lunch in Manhattan for one day.

4. Stop paying for convenience foods.

Convenience food is costly and loaded in chemicals. A big bag of carrots is less than $2.00 at my local grocery store. A big bag of chips is $4.00 or more. Cut calories and cost by reaching for healthier convenience foods. My latest obsession is kale chips. I coat kale in olive oil then sprinkle with salt and spices and bake in the oven. It’s super delicious, nutritious and cheap to make. I buy kale at TJ’s (Trader Joe’s) for $2.99 a bag. By comparison, the local health food store sells kale chips for $7.99 per container (and it’s small).

5. Stop paying for a gym membership.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying you shouldn’t exercise. Gym memberships are highly overrated in my opinion. Buy a good pair of running shoes and some workout pants and you’re ready to go. Unless you’re a body builder or training for a special event, basic fitness can happen at home for a fraction of the cost of the gym. Find a friend/motivation partner to keep you motivated or borrow some fitness DVDs from the library. I use the nike app when I jog to keep track of my miles run and calories burnt (it’s free to download!).

Mar 28

Sometimes You’re the Windshield, Sometimes You’re the Bug

windshieldWhether you’ve heard the song or not you’re probably familiar with the reference. Last Wednesday was my “bug” day if you know what I mean. I swear almost nothing went right. Here’s what the day looked like so you can feel my misery a little bit, if you’d rather not just skip to the end of the post:

  • I wake up in the morning and I have a horrible head cold. I’m so congested I can barely breathe and my lips are stuck together (gross)
  • I get on the bus and there are almost no seats. I have to sit at the front in the seats that face other passengers. They watch me blow my nose and sneeze (double gross).
  • There appears to be some sort of accident that delays the bus before the tunnel for over 40 minutes.
  • I roll into work an hour late.
  • My social worker texts me that he has to talk to me about something “important”.
  • Said social worker then comes by my office to let me know that he’s resigning. I just hired him 6 months ago and he’s finally trained and “up to speed” (FML).
  • I inform my supervisor that I’m going to need to take off some time to attend my uncle Steve’s celebration of life service and “Oh yeah my social worker resigned”.
  • I have a meeting with a client who screams (at no one in particular) for about 40 minutes.
  • Bus ride home is uneventful (except for the fact the passenger who decided to sit with me and basically sat on my lap-really? WTH! scoot over jerk).
  • I arrive home and rush to the bathroom. After I go, I realize that I took the TP roll into the bedroom because we were out of tissues and I needed to blow my nose.

There’s no real point to this post except for me to vent a little bit. I guess sometimes I read blogs and it feels like everyone’s life is cheerful and happy all the time. I just want my readers to know that even though my life is wonderful 95% of the time, 5% of the time it totally stinks. I try to keep things positive (nobody wants to read “my life is stinks” posts all the time because that’s a downer), but sometimes I have a bear of a day and it’s almost so terrible I have to laugh at myself.  Bottom line, life sucks sometimes. But that’s life and things do get better. In light of the recent unexpected passing of my uncle, I realize that everyday is precious, even if it’s a bad day. So I’m thankful for what’s dropped on my plate, even if today I happen to be the “bug”.

Are you the windshield or the bug today? Have any fun weekend plans?


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