A lot of people say you shouldn’t borrow money from family, or that you should draw up complicated documents or have really in-depth conversations about it. I realized that in my family, this isn’t really the way things go. Siblings lend/borrow from each other to take advantage of real estate opportunities or help out the kids (my generation)’s education. My aunts have borrowed from my mom and my mom has borrowed from my aunts, and my grandmother had lent money to all her children. So far, everyone is still talking to each other.
So with that as the background, I approached my mom about potentially borrowing $10,000 to cover CB’s fall quarter tuition/expenses. I plan to cash flow the rest of his grad school tuition once I start work in August, but as the fall tuition is due in August, there’s a wee bit of a cash timing issue. Fortunately, my mom understood, took a look at her checkbooks, and agreed to lend us the $10,000. In fact, mom has a similar arrangement with my aunt, and she views it as a win-win situation – the lender is helping out family and getting a higher interest than he/she would in the open market, while the borrower is enjoying a lower interest rate than the market demands.
This means a lot, because taking out this family loan will save us money and time. A $10,000 family loan only costs 4% interest with 0% origination fee (and no application required). In August 2015 I’ll repay my mom $10,400. On the other hand, if CB were to borrow the same amount from Stafford loans, we’d have to pay 1.072% origination fee and 6.21% interest. So, I’m very grateful that Mom is helping out our cash crunch. The hope is that CB can also graduate debt-free and then we’ll both greet 2016 without any graduate school loans. At that point, we’ll probably still have ~$10,000 extremely low-interest college loans, but I plan to take our sweet time in repaying those.
My month-long no shampoo experiment started by accident. I finished using my bottle of shampoo a few days before graduation, and I didn’t want to buy another bottle before I had to move. I have also read a little bit about this “no-poo” movement online, and thought it couldn’t hurt to go without shampoo for a week or so.
Then I went on vacation with my parents and forgot to bring any hair products. I don’t like the brand my mom uses, so I just skipped shampoo for that whole trip as well. Then I just kept going, and now here I am, one month after putting nothing in my hair except water.
Here are some things after my one month:
- The first week, my scalp was so oily I almost gave up. I have thick, coarse, wavy hair that is prone to oily roots, and that’s probably the only thing that will cause me to go back to shampoo.
- I almost never blow dry my hair (once a year, if that) and I do not color or highlight my hair either – if I did either of those things, I think it’d be harder for me to do no-poo.
- I never have that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling I’d get after shampooing. I miss that feeling. When I run my fingers through my hair, the strands feel oilier. My hair looks, however, better than it feels.
- My hair doesn’t smell bad. It just smells like hair.
- Many folks swear by the baking soda / apple cider vinegar mix to rinse their scalp and an oil treatment for the ends of their hair. I haven’t tried any of those methods (mostly due to laziness), but I probably will if I keep up with no-poo.
- Based on my completely unscientific powers of observation, I think my hair grew faster than normal during the month of no-poo.
- I want to buy a boar bristle brush as I think that will help distribute the oils in my hair more evenly (i.e. away from my scalp and closer to the ends).
- There were a few days when I thought my hair looked really great, and there were days when I hated the way my hair felt and fell. To be honest, I think my hair looks best the 2nd day after shampoo. I’ve read a lot of posts where people raved that their hair has NEVER LOOKED BETTER and they are never going back to shampoo again. That hasn’t been my experience, but it hasn’t been so bad that I’ve gone back to shampoo.
- I wash my hair once every 2-3 days. I’m hoping to be able to end up in a place where I can wash my hair twice a week.
- During this month I put my hair up in French braids a lot – there’s nothing like a good French braid to keep greasy hair looking presentable.
I’m satisfied enough with Month One that I’m willing to continue no-poo for a while longer, maybe incorporating the vinegar rinse and boar bristle brush. I’m not so satisfied with no-poo that I’ll swear to forsake shampoo forever.
Sometimes, a conversation is better with structure.
CB and I usually talk late at night, when we are both pretty tired from the day, and our conservation isn’t the most scintillating. Then I remembered an idea I read about – the “highlight, lowlight, surprise” structure, where we’ll go over the highlight of our day, the lowlight of our day, and something that surprised us or was unexpected. This has to be an improvement over our typical – “how was your day.” “It’s OK. I’m (insert one: tired, busy, stressed, hungry) or fine”) .
When I brought this idea up with CB, I was afraid it’d sound a little cheesy. But I’m really happy with the results so far. I like the structure that this gives our conversation – it’s much easier for both of us to share something unique/interesting/meaningful with this framework, and it only takes 4-5 minutes. We can go into the details or talk about something else if we have time or we feel like talking. Often times, the highlight/lowlight/surprise will lead to tangents about other topics or food for thought, but even if our call is just for 5 minutes, I still feel great.
This is mine for yesterday:
- Highlight: leaving my barre class (the first in a while) feeling relaxed and optimistic. Exercise endorphins… they are real!
- (Second higlight, just because): finding some 10-year+ photos of my mom and I, looking really happy
- Lowlight: stupid tiff with my dad over drinking glasses
- Surprise: there’s apparently drama among a texting group of Mom’s friends. These people are 60!! I guess drama in texting knows no age limits.
I’m curious to hear yours. (Also, does anyone else use this framework with their friends/significant others?)
I spent the weekend in the iconic City by the Bay, and guys, I think I have a problem. I am falling more and more in love with San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. This is worrisome because I am not, oh, a multi-millionaire AND I’d like to not spend 50% of my income on housing AND I’d like to eventually buy a house someday (and retire).
There are many stories out there about how crazy San Francisco real estate / rental market is. I’m here to tell you – it’s ALL TRUE.
Case in point #1: a friend said she got her apartment in the Lower Haight neighborhood by overbidding on rent. As in, the landlord asked for $x,xxx and she said, please, let me pay you $x,xxx + however much more so you will give me this apartment.
Case in point #2: another friend said she went to every appointment showing with copies of her pay stubs, credit report, previous landlord references, friend references, bank statements, and a checkbook. So she can move quickly before the next guy can even think about whether he wants the place or not.
Case in point #3: a friend who was looking to sublet a room in his apartment had prospective tenants bring him wine, beer, ice cream, and snacks in an attempt to secure the room.
Case in point #4: a friend is paying $1,200 for a small dining room-converted-into-a-bedroom in the Mission district. The room that can never heats up right and she shares 1 bathroom with two other roommates, but she considers it a bargain because it’s rent-controlled. Market rate is at least $1,700, she says.
Case in point #5: CB and I wandered into a couple of open houses in Noe Valley, an especially sunny and pricey part of San Francisco. The asking price for single family homes (3-bedrooms, ~2,000 sq. ft) is $2 million in that area. And, during one open house I overhead another person who looks to be in his 20s or early 30s say “the down is $400K, I have that but I’d have to dig into my savings.” Cue MASSIVE jealousy and despondency, which we then attempted to cure with a jaunt to a chocolate shop.
Do you have crazy real estate stories to share about San Francisco / Bay area? Let’s hear ‘em!
Since my last post I have packed and shipped all my stuff, finished grad school, and went on an AWESOME and not-at-all-frugal vacation with my parents to New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Quebec City. It was their first time to the East Coast and to Canada. I’ve been to Boston and New York City before, but what struck me the most was the picturesqueness of Vieux Quebec, the walled old city. That place is probably as close to a real-life Disney set as there ever is. My parents both loved Quebec City, and seeing my mom’s face light up is my most treasured memory of this trip.
The other thing I realized is that I LOVE being a tourist. I’ve read some bloggers who make a distinction between “travelers” and “tourists” (usually with the implication that travelers are more authentic), but well, being a tourist is pretty great. Apparently, I love doing unabashedly touristy things such as going to see the most significant sights, taking tons of photos, and doing walking tours with people who dress in costumes. My whole family does!
We ate out every night at places and got desserts almost every meal. Speaking of food, we had many great meals, especially in Boston at my favorite place, the Courtyard Cafe at the Boston Public Library, and Montreal. We strolled and walked and took the subway when convenient but also splurged on taxis when we got tired. We sat in the Orchestra section of a Broadway show, and did not stand in line for day-of tickets at the TKTS discount booth in Times Square. We went up to The Top of the Rock observation deck. I hired a private guide to lead us around Lower Manhattan. We took trains when flights would have been cheaper (but less comfortable). My parents bought souvenirs, a few landscape drawings by a street artist from Quebec City and a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
It was a great trip – a bit hurried as we covered 4 cities in 12 days, but I’m glad we went to the cities that we did. I’m glad we didn’t cut out Montreal as I was considering at the beginning. I was impressed with Montreal – it seems very affordable (our 1-bedroom AirBnB in the center of Le Plateau was less than $100 a night), extremely clean, and the boulevards are beautifully lined with trees, restaurants, and boutiques. Unfortunately I will never live in Montreal because 1. The winters. The winters!, and 2. je ne parle pas français. If only the whole year has May weather – I would be motivated to learn French in that case.
All in all, I calculated that this trip cost a total of ~$7,500-$8,000 for this family of tourists, or an average of $220 per person per day. On the one hand, the trip wasn’t extravagant, or at least, it didn’t feel extravagant in the way that a 5-star hotel suite or limos or first-class flights would feel extravagant. On the other hand, I – and my parents – almost NEVER spend money without calculating fairly detailed budget, and on this trip, while I kept an eye on menu prices and we had breakfast inside our apartments many times for convenience as well as cost, we didn’t count the pennies. Or even the dollars. So that was extravagant for my parents, as this type of spending is probably 4 standard deviations away from how they normally spend. My parents paid while I offered to cover our accommodations ($2,400-$2,500). My dad has always liked to see places, but now I think my mom has caught the bug as well. She has already said she wants to do a family vacation to Europe in 2015.
This is the night view from our balcony in the Condado district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was somewhat of a spur of the moment trip – a good girlfriend wanted to go somewhere to celebrate the impending end of our graduate school journey, but she had visa issues that precluded traveling outside of the U.S. So Puerto Rico was the perfect solution. It didn’t hurt that we found roundtrip tickets for $250 and that our lagoon-side accommodation, with a balcony, was only $120/night. Neither of us have been to Puerto Rico before, so this is a chance to just relax, recharge, and lounge!
Isn’t it beautiful?
In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be on my way to Boston where I’m meeting up with Mom & Dad for our first ever family vacation to the East Coast. It will be great because I will be done with finals!! and I will get to go on vacation with Mom and Dad.
When I was growing up, our family never took big family vacations. My mom was too frugal for that, and my parents would use all their vacation days to visit my grandparents in Asia. So no money + no vacation days = no big family vacations for us. The only trips I remember were a trip with my aunt and cousins to Canada, to Stanley Park, and a combined family trip to Yosemite National Park in California in the late 1990s.
So, as I mentioned, this week-and-a-half family vacation is our first big family vacation ever, and I am so so so excited. This will be my parents’ first time to Canada, and my first time to Eastern Canada. I want to make sure they have a good time so I researched the heck out of AirBnB locations, emailed many friends and fellow bloggers for their tips on location and sights, and dug deep into bank account to the tune of $2,700 to pay for all of our lodging for this trip. I love to give “vacations’ / “experiences” as gifts, and I’m glad that we’ll have the money, the time, and the health to all go together.
I really hope my parents have a good time, and that I’ll be able to take them to other destinations before too long. My dream is to do an European river cruise with them in the next couple of years, and make sure we hit some big travel highlights (London, Paris, etc.) while they are still healthy enough to travel.
The other thing I realized is that as I get older, my desire to be closer to my parents – physically – has gotten much stronger. So funny. When I was growing up, it’s all I can do just to leave the nest and FLY AWAY. And now I realize that there’s something really great about hanging out with family. I hope that family vacations will become regularly scheduled programming and I’ll get to experience many new places with my parents.
The above picture probably makes it quite clear how moving makes me feel about furniture, clothes, decorative items, necessary items, i.e. all of the stuff that I own. My room is looking extremely empty right now, thanks to a frenzied bout of Craigslisting in preparation for my move after graduation. This situation is akin to a trial run for minimalist living – will I miss all the stuff I’ve sold / donated / consigned? Will I realize that I will never be as minimalist to go without a bed? (I just sold my bed, and so I’ll be spending the next few weeks sleeping on a makeshift futon. I hope I don’t live to regret this decision.)
This will be my fifth move in 7 years. I’ve schlepped my stuff and packed up my suitcases in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and now, 2014… and every time I move I swear to myself that I will never have so much stuff again. I’ve mostly kept that promise in that I have progressively whittled down my number of possessions, but I know I’ve purchased more things than I needed, or things that I wanted in the moment but when the moving time comes I wonder why the heck!? The hardest thing for me will be to step back from the pretty/useful/quirky home decor items (a la a cheeseboard from the Oakland Museum of California, these soapstone horse bookends from Novica, and anything from Uncommon Goods). But with at least one more move – likely more – in the next couple of years, I need to remind myself that fewer stuff = fewer stuff to MOVE.
How do you feel about stuff when you are moving? Has moving around frequently encouraged you to scale down on the type of possessions?
So says a new Time Magazine article that concludes “Millennials are scary smart with their money”. After I read the article, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “scary smart”, but it seems that more Millennials understand the importance of saving than other generations. In fact, financial security may be one of THE most important priorities for some Millennials, over having kids, exercise, and fun (?!?! Is this smart or sad?)
A survey by the Principal Financial Group Knowledge Center found that…
84% of Millennials describe themselves as passionate about creating financial security—more than are passionate about raising well-rounded kids (60%), having fun (66%), making a difference (49%) and exercise (44%).
As an almost 30-something, I’m definitely closer to 34 than to 18. And as an older Millennial I’ve lived through the 2008 financial crisis / economic implosion. I’ve lived through a bout of unemployment. I’ve seen relatives get laid off. I’ve seen friends get laid off. Through all this I think I’ve grown to appreciate, even more, the importance of building a financially secure future. I wouldn’t say I’m fantastic with money, but I do think I have the basics down pretty well – I know I should save money, I make a consistent effort to save money, and I invest said money in funds appropriate for my risk tolerance and future needs. (And I don’t even need to photo-age my picture to get the motivation to save!)
Are you a Millennial (loosely defined as people between the ages of 18 to 34), and are you good with money?
One of the benefits of having blogged as long as I have is the the clearly noted purchases of years past. Going through my archives, I found many, many things that I’ve purchased and in retrospect, really shouldn’t, or I could’ve gone without. As I’m evaluating future purchases, I try to keep those shopping mishaps in mind.
Shopping Mishap #1 $300 Lela Rose dress
I wavered quite a bit on whether or not to snap up this beauty on sale, and ultimately did make the purchase. I still really like the dress and think it’s lovely, however, I would not have paid $300 for it again. I just don’t have that many occasions to wear it, and I believe in the past 3.5 years I’ve only worn it twice.
Shopping Mishap #2 $140 Kate Spade Tote
This Kate Spade Quinn tote is still one of my favorite purses in terms of style and color, but it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I am too afraid of spoiling the light-colored leather, and the open top makes it easy for things to fall out. So the result is I’ve carried this bag out the door at most 7 or 8 times in the past two years that I’ve owned it. If you think it’ll fit your life better, I’m selling it for $90 + shipping.
Shopping Mishap #3 $50 Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette
I bought the famous UD palette to do my makeup for my wedding. While I love the palette and the colors, it’s been almost two years and I’ve barely made a dent. I just don’t wear eyeshadow very much – at most once a week. So again, this was a case of being lured by the “pretties” and not realized what would actually work for my lifestyle. In hindsight, I should have just purchased an individual eyeshadow.
I think I need to reread #5 of Why We Are So Bad At Buying Happiness, and be more careful of getting things that will truly improve my quality of life.
Let me introduce you to the 3rd dress I’ve purchased in 2014: this 3/4 sleeve maxi dress from Old Navy, currently on sale for $25 + 30% off sale. I got it for just $15, and it’s one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever worn. I love it because it’s easier than putting on sweatpants and 10x more stylish. More impact, less effort. Sounds like my kind of dressing.
It comes in charcoal, deep red, black, and heather grey. I can probably live in a dress like this, so the challenge is stopping at one and not stocking up on all the colors.
Speaking of comfortable dresses, where do you get yours?
When CB and I were sharing our travel destination dreams, he mentioned that Japan is the one country that he really wants to visit. So… we are visiting the Land of the Rising Sun at the end of June. The whole reason we can afford this trip is because we redeemed our United miles for round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo. $2,600 worth of flights for only $78.80. Now THAT is a win in my book!
We will be spending 10 days and 10 nights in the country – 5 in Tokyo and 5 in Kyoto. Our accommodations are made via AirBnB, looks to be tiny by non-Japan standards, and averages out to $81 per night. I haven’t been back to Japan since 2005, and I’ve never seen Kyoto before, so that’s the part of the trip I’m looking forward to the most. Other than that, I’m excited about ramen, donburi, curry, and tempura! A luxe sushi dinner isn’t in the cards, nor is a stay at a Kyoto ryokan, nor do June/July have the best weather, but whatever… we are going to Japan!
Our budget for Japan:
- Round-trip flights: $78.80 (paid already)
- Hotels for 10 nights: $811 (paid already)
- Food, budgeted at $45/person/day: $900
- Attractions: Free is the way to go. Fortunately, many of the sights and temples do not charge an admissions fee. I may splurge on the 3,000 Yen fee to visit Koke-dera, or Moss Temple in Kyoto (~$60 for the both of us).
- Transportation: $360. This includes round-trip bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto for the both of us, plus local transportation.
The whole trip should come down to $2,300 or $115/person/day.
Do you have tips and recommendations for Japan, particularly Kyoto and Tokyo? I’m all ears!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love tax refunds. This love is exponentially increased when we are experiencing somewhat of a cash crunch and are trying desperately to bridge that gap between my full-time employment in August and the dwindling amounts in our saving accounts.
Last weekend, we stayed up until 2AM crunching the numbers, and it turns out that our Federal + State refunds netted out to $6,000. SIX THOUSAND. That sounds like a small fortune to us. Thank you Lifetime Learning Credit!
Did you get a tax refund? And what are you doing with it?
An almost $300 nylon bag (albeit one that gets RAVE reviews?) - I need you to Tell Me I Should Not.
Here it is, the Lo and Sons’ O.M.G. bag at $275. I’m eyeing the Army Green or the Navy option.
The O.M.G (Overnight & Medium Gym) bag was on sale a few days ago for select colors. I didn’t pounce and now that sale is done. But even on sale a bag was $220-$250, so it’s still a big purchase.
Anyhow, the O.M.G. bag looks like it’d be perfect as a carry-on bag that can double as a work tote, but the price! I got a Briggs & Riley suitcase that normally cost $450+ for $230, and it’s just really hard to swallow that a nylon bag – even a classy, well-designed one such as the O.M.G. - is worth almost $300. On the other hand, I will eventually need something that can hold my laptop, wallet, e-reader, toiletries, and even a change of shoes, and the O.M.G. fits the bill. On the imaginary third hand, again, the price. Plus, again, my not-working-no-income-grad-student status.
Tell me I should not, or at least I should wait. Or, alternatively, if you do have the O.M.G., share your thoughts on the quality and utility.
I’m going to live with a roommate after graduation, and it’s going to be great.
Up until a few weeks ago, I was sure I would live alone once I graduated. After all, my city has extremely reasonable rents once you venture outside the fanciest part of town. I’ve gotten past the adventurous stage of my life where I wanted to look for roommates on Craigslist. But… I’m going to end up with a roommate, and far from being disappointed, I am very excited at this turn of events.
We are hoping to find a little bungalow… like this one. But preferably more structurally sound.
My future roommate is a friend who is also moving out to the same city, who will be working in the same high-travel industry, and with whom I get along quite well. I’ve had pretty good luck with roommates (even with the folks I’ve found on Craigslist), and I don’t see any reason why my friend wouldn’t be just as great – or even better – than previous roommates.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to folks with frequent travel jobs. One is: “if I’m going to be on the road all the time, I want to come home to a place that’s nice and comfortable.” The other is: “if I’m going to be on the road all the time, I don’t want to pay for a nice apartment that I won’t get to enjoy 70% of the week.” My friend and I definitely lean more towards the second school of thought.
Therefore, we have decided to combine forces -and rent budgets- and live together so that we’ll have someone to come home to and save more money. Instead of each paying $650 or $700 for a 1-bedroom, we can easily get a 2-bedroom apartment for $950 and then only pay $475 a person. We’ll also share utilities / DSL. Then other added bonus for me is the one of reduced expectations. When I was looking at a one-bedroom, I felt the need to decorate and feather my nest to something Apartment Therapy-worthy. Now that I’m going to be living with a roommate, it’s almost a reality check. As long as things are functional and looks neat, that’s all I’m going to ask for. And functional + neat is a whole lot less expensive than chic and stylish.
I do wonder whether almost 30 is almost too old to share an apartment, but then I quickly banished the thought. It just makes sense – financially, personally, socially – to live with a friend/roommate in a city that is still quite new to both of us.
Also, the money saved! $200 a month is enough to pay my car note.
In the spirit of this post, share your BEST roommate stories.
Washington D.C is America’s capital city and home to some of its most historical monuments and buildings. The capital attracts almost 19 million visitors per year who arrive not only for the history but also to enjoy the city’s natural attractions.
No first time sightseeing trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without a visit to the National Mall to view the famous monuments and memorials. However, if you want to escape the hordes of tourists and get back to nature then you’re sure to find a few secret treasures in this city. Washington stretches for nearly 177 square kilometers and has plenty of parks and wildlife centers that visitors often overlook (and consequently, miss out!). Most of these attractions are free to visit, so your stay in the city won’t be more expensive, and most good Washington hotels will be able to provide brochures or details.
The National Arboretum
The U.S. National Arboretum is located around four kilometers from the Capitol building and stretches for some 450 acres. The Arboretum is home to the Grove of State Trees, which features trees from 50 U.S. states. You can relax and wander amidst fauna and flora, sit by the koi pond or spend some time walking through the woods. Admission is free and there’s a 35 minute open-air tram service if you’d like a guided tour through the gardens.
Great Falls Park
You don’t have to travel far from the capital to explore one of the U.S’s famous parks. Great Falls Park lies just 15 minutes from Washington D.C. and comprises more than 800 acres of beauty. Take a hike along the Potomac River and spot chipmunks, coyotes, deer and turtles. The more adventurous traveler can kayak at the Potomac River Gorge, but you should only do so if you’re very experienced. Great Falls is part of the 7,374 acre George Washington Memorial Parkway and makes a great place for picnics while taking in the stunning natural scenery.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
This is another city beauty spot and features paths that wind among numerous, giant lily-pad covered ponds. Wildlife is plentiful here and includes turtles, herons, and geese as well as a wealth of aquatic plant life. The park is open all year round and the snow- covered landscape instils the spot with extra beauty in winter. Here you can relax at no extra cost and take in nature while in one of the world’s major cities.
Washington D.C… it’s huge, it’s got lots going on it, but some tourists want to get away from all that and see a bit of greenery. They can, as the city provides lots of natural areas from them to relax and soak up some of the tranquility there’s also to be found in this majestic city.
This is a guest post on behalf of Hotel One. Images by bobistraveling and Ron Cogswell, used under Creative Commons license.
Save Spend Splurge alerted us to this gem on Twitter: a 4-figure (you read that right) headband, albeit with hand-painted silk flowers, that has already sold out on a luxury retail site.
Screen shot of Net-a-Porter. Click on picture for link to add it to your wish list.
I don’t know WHAT I find more surprising: the fact that this headband by Dolce & Gabbana really do cost over $1,280 or that it has already sold out. Everything is relative, and when I see the cost of this headband, I almost think those $300 Hermes flip-flops were a steal! And the $240 Etsy headband that readers talked me out of (thank goodness) looks likes a veritable bargain next to this baby.
I’m usually rankled when people judge other people’s purchases, because one person’s luxury purse is another person’s Greek cruise is another person’s Michelin dinner. But in this case…. I’ll put my judge hat on, at least for a little bit. I suppose shopping, as with all things, really is about different strokes for different folks. But still, $1,280 for a fabric headband.
If you have an hour free, I highly recommend this HBO documentary of Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old single mom of three who is raising her children and working full time as a Certified Nurse Assistant.
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