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Money doesn’t buy happiness….but it sure helps

Okay, so remember when you were younger and your parents or any adult for that matter said “money doesn’t grow on trees”?  Well, once you enter into adulthood, that expression makes a whole lot of sense.

In today’s day and time, it can be hard to make ends meet.  With stagnant salaries and ever increasing costs of living, especially in big cities such as New York and San Francisco, along with school loans, kids, etc., your pockets might take a hit each paycheck.  Sometimes, we don’t even notice when we get paid because it is all accounted for already.

I asked my friends what they do to save a little extra and thought I might share them with you.  A couple of them are also my own and have made a difference in how much I spend each paycheck.  Please feel free to comment with any suggestions you have found to be helpful as well.

  1. Pack your lunch

This one is something that I started doing within the past six months and let me tell you, it makes a big difference.  Sometimes, when we take on a new expense, we have to make sacrifices in other areas.  Once I took on a car note, which came along with a slightly higher insurance quote, I took this suggestion seriously.  Buying lunch can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, however, working within NYC, it will probably be on the higher end.  When my office orders, which was several times per week, I was spending $10 to $12 on Thai, Panera, Chipotle, etc.  Multiply that by 3-4 times a week times two weeks and you are looking at 80 bucks a check.  Between the meal, tax and tip, it can be steep.  I haven’t ordered out in a long time at work and it actually feels pretty good.  I bring leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or I make a sandwich.  I go grocery shopping every Sunday at the supermarket, so I make sure to buy enough cold cuts for both me and my son.  I also stock up each week on some easy, microwaveable foods for the days when I perhaps didn’t have enough for leftovers or am not in the mood for a sandwich.  I bought pre-packaged sweet potatoes that can be microwaved in the container it’s sold in.  They come four in a pack.  I brought that along with some butter from home and voila, a very filling plate.  They sell rice packets that you just squeeze when you are ready to make and then microwave for several minutes. They come in a variety of choices, including quinoa.  Skipping on ordering out does not have mean Cup of Noodles.  I buy vegetables and make a big bowl consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon, salt and pepper and divide it into several containers.  Then treat yourself to take out on the weekend!

2.  Make coffee at home

This is another personal suggestion.  I make my coffee every morning.  Two cups.  If I don’t have time to drink both, I take one in a travel mug.  There is no need to spend $5 every day or twice a day at Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks when you can make it at home yourself.  In the summer, have fun with it and make iced coffee.  You can make your regularly brewed coffee, then put in a cup with ice.  Add sugar and even spice it up with a Hazelnut or French Vanilla creamer.  Then put some whipped cream on top and you’ve got your very own iced coffee.  Trust me, you can do it!

3.  Use Groupon/Amazon

I have to be honest.  I have not used Groupon more than once, although, many people have told me that I should jump on the bandwagon.  I think sometimes it just slips my mind to check Groupon before buying something or going somewhere.  I did use it once, to buy a Barnes and Nobles gift card. They happened to e mail me with the offer right before I was about to buy one at the bookstore (the internet does have a creepy way of knowing your next move 😉  Anyhoo, I bought a $20 gift card for $10!  Who can say no to an offer like that.  I know people that have went for massages and facials off of Groupon deals.  It is definitely worth exploring. Amazon is also a great place to shop for a good price online. They offer many items that you would purchase in store but for much cheaper.

4.  Shop at the dollar store.

You would be amazed at what you could get at the dollar store.  I have bought Tylenol at the dollar store. The catch with buying medicine there is that it expires sooner than a drug you would buy at a CVS.  Hence, why it is cheaper.  But if you need Tylenol and you are okay with it expiring within the next year as opposed to two years, then why not?  The dollar store also has many holiday and birthday decorations.  The dollar store has helium balloons.  They have gift bags, gift wrap and tissue paper.  I can’t even remember the last time I bought a gift bag at a regularly priced store. Why spend $4.00 on a gift bag when you can get the same size at the dollar store or a discount store?  There are discount stores such as Five Below where everything is…..you guessed it, under $5.00.  I bought half of my son’s school supply list there.  I had originally went to Staples and then realized that each binder was 10 bucks, and he needed like four binders.  Not to mention the other 19 items on the list.  I actually ended up leaving and going to Five Below, where I got binders, looseleaf paper, pens, pencils, etc for half the price.  When I lived upstate, I used to go to National Wholesale Liquidators for school supplies.

4.  Look at and re-evaluate your bills

My co-worker told me that every year, she calls her credit cards and asks them to lower her balance or interest rate and they do this.  Sometimes you have to be patient and speak to multiple agents to get this done.  Some agents will tell you no without discussion.  You can then hang up and call back and have better luck with the next agent.  Switching companies on car insurance and cable can get you new customer offers and prices.  Cable companies offer different packages depending on what you like to watch.  Do you really need 2000 channels?  Have you looked at your package to see if you could downgrade to less channels?  Let’s be honest, we don’t watch half of the channels on cable, right?  Many people nowadays have cut cable completely. With so many streaming options available, cable isn’t really a need anymore. Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix are ways of viewing tv shows and movies. Sometimes you can’t view the episode until a few hours later or the next day, however, Hulu has teamed with multiple networks to provide real time viewing. As far as car insurance, make sure to take the five hour defensive driving course.  This will save you an automatic 10% on your bill.  Once they mail you the certificate of completion, you send to your car insurance company and get the discount! Call different insurance companies to ask for a quote to ensure you are getting the best rate.

5.  Try using only cash/debit.

If you didn’t have your credit card on you, would you buy that mocha choco-latte with the unicorn glitter and that blueberry muffin to go with it?  Do you have the money to buy it but you just figure it would be better to charge it so that you have an extra five bucks in your account?  If so, don’t buy it or use your debit card to pay for it.  Obviously, there are bigger items like vacations and electronics that you would need credit for, but I am talking about small, everyday, non necessity purchases.

6.  Save a little each time.

I am the first person to tell someone that suggests saving money each paycheck, “how can I save money when I have hardly any money left after paying bills!”  But honestly, most of us probably have $5 that we can toss in the empty coffee can.  If we have an extra $5 for gum or coffees or Slurpeers, then certainly we have that $5 to put to the side.  If you have 10 to spare, then go ahead witcho’ bad self!

7.  Give up something or decrease the amount of times you pay for something that regularly costs you money.

I gave up getting my nails done.  I was getting my gel tips filled in every two weeks.  This is $31-33 after tip.  Combine that with the times I had to take my son with me and then he asks for a pedicure because he likes the foot massager and mini bubble bath.  That’s now $50.  I just stopped cold turkey, took off my tips and now polish my own nails.  I do buy Essie nail polish which is a little pricey compared to other polishes ($10). however, that $10 lasts for months.  Buy several different colors and you can change it up every week.  Essie is very good quality.  I actually like polishing my natural nails better now as the tips break, get caught and one time my pinky nail tip got struck by something that feel in my house and the tip bent off, taking my ENTIRE natural nail with it.  ( I can’t even explain how bad it hurt to have my whole, real nail ripped off and it took forever to grow back).  Anyway, I am getting off topic.  Point is, there is probably an expense (otherwise known as a luxury to others), that you can do without or at least decrease the frequency in which you do it.

8.  Use coupons and smart phone apps

I have to be honest when I say that I do not clip coupons each week for grocery shopping.  I do, however, use coupons to fast food restaurants that come in the Marketeer every week.  I used to throw away the Marketeer.  That annoying plastic bag filled with papers that gets thrown on your lawn every week or stuffed in your fence.  Then one day my co-worker gave me Dunkin Donuts coupons.  At this time, I was going to Dunkin Donuts regularly and she knew I would use them.  She told me she got them in the Marketeer.  I didn’t even know that the Marketeer contained coupons, I though it was just supermarket and pharmacy circulars.  Needless, to say, I now take in the Marketeer every week.  It isn’t always a hit, sometimes they have coupons to places I don’t go, such as Tim Hortons.  Many times, however, they have coupons to Subways which my son is slightly addicted to.  You can get a 6 inch for $3.49 or sometimes they have coupons in which you buy a footlong and get one free.  Why wouldn’t you take up an offer to get one of your sandwiches free?

Then there are apps.  Almost every store has an app.  McDonalds app gives you deals every day, including buy one get one McCafe free (even if you are just getting for yourself, get the other one free and heat it up the next morning).  They offer $3 off $10 purchases.  Sometimes they offer free fries or soda.  Regal Cinemas has an app that allows you to upgrade to the next size soda or popcorn.  Make sure to let them scan your Regal app every time you purchase a ticket or concession.  7-11 has their own app in which you scan the phone barcode every time you buy a coffee, tea or slushie.  Every 7th cup is free and at random times it is free coffee day (any size) for anyone with the app.  T-Mobile has an app in which you can claim rewards every Tuesday.  I got a free Redbox movie twice in the last two weeks which is great because I always rent from Redbox.  They offer free pretzels from Auntie Ann’s and then there are some offers to places that do not exist in my area but might exist in yours!

Do you wear your wedding band?

The other day I was watching my son during  karate class and I noticed one of the fathers standing next to me wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. Then I looked at another father and he didn’t have on his wedding ring, either. I’ve known many married men that do not wear their wedding ring. Most married women I know do wear their wedding ring, however.

I posted on Facebook and asked my friends if they wear their wedding ring. The majority answered that they do not and neither does their partner. One of my female friends said that she is busy with her three kids and simply does not remember to put it on. She said that her husband does wear his band but she wouldn’t mind if he didn’t. They have been married for about 11 years. Another woman that has been married for 20 years said that neither her nor her husband wear their bands.She also said that they have been married for so long neither one of them cares.

One Facebook friend who is newly married said she would be very upset if her husband didn’t wear his band. I agreed and said I would be upset too, but then again I’m not married and maybe after 10-20 years it wouldn’t be a deal breaker to me either.

So is it that longer married couples don’t wear their wedding bands as frequently as newly married couples? Does your wedding band become another fancy piece of jewelry that only gets worn on special occasions, or maybe never at all? I always looked at the wedding band as a symbol of your vows and commitment to one another and I personally feel there is a level of disrespect when you do not wear it. 

What do you think? Do you or your partner always wear your wedding ring, and why?

Spike’s a survivor 

The other night, my son and I fed crickets to our baby bearded dragon, Spike. The following day, Spike was not himself. 
He hadn’t eaten all of the crickets that I put in his tank the night before and I made the mistake of leaving the remaining crickets in there overnight, thinking he would eat them the next day. The next morning, the crickets had taken over his tank and were hanging out on his vine and Spike looked distraught. He was laying flat and his little hands were trembling. We killed the crickets and took Spike out. He started shaking in a seizure like manner. My mom wrapped him in a little hand towel and we called vets in our area and finally found one that deals with exotic animals. 

We brought him to the clinic immediately and found out that he was having a calcium deficiency seizure. The vet asked if we had a light in the tank. I told him that we had a heat lamp. I didn’t know that you needed a UVB lamp in addition to the heat lamp. The UVB lamp is what helps the reptiles to produce Vitamin D which in turn breaks down the calcium. 

The vet gave Spike a calcium injection and dewormed him in case he had any parasites. He gave us a calcium medication to give two times a day. He also gave him an enema becauae there was a chance that he was impacted due to not being able to break down the food. The vet was great and gave us a lot of helpful tips that the person who sold him to me didn’t tell me. 

Spike came home that night and did not want to be put down. He wanted to be warm in the towel and held. Two days later, Spike is now much better. He’s still a bit tired and wants to be held, but he is moving around and getting his calcium medication. We bought a cricket holder and put dry dog food in there and a sliced grape. Usually I buy him single serving of crickets and feed him that. The vet said to put the crickets in a case with food so that they load up with nutrients, this way when spike eats them he will get more nutrients. I also purchased the UVB lamp and calcium powder. I did not know that you have to put the powder ok the crickets before feeding. I bought some kale and put that in his tank as well sprinkled with some vitamins as he doesn’t take to the collars greens. 

Thank you to the vet who squeezed us in at the end of the night even though he was booked and thank you to the veterinarian receptionist who called the next day to check on Spike. My son is ecstatic that his pet is better and I’m so proud of him as well for how concerned he was about Spike. He constantly checks on him and let’s me know it’s time to give his medicine. 


This is a bearded dragon that we held in the pet store when we went to buy Spike the additional items he needed. He’s really cute and friendly and I can’t wait to see Spike when he is this big.

Dating a single mother


Dating as a single mom is not easy. The biggest problem that I have faced is finding the time to actually go out on dates. When you don’t have a child, you can up and go as you please. You don’t have to worry about finding childcare. For me personally, my son goes to his father every other weekend. So I do have those weekends free, but most people don’t want to hear that you can only see them every other weekend. It’s very difficult to really get to know someone and form that bond when you are not spending time together in between. I am not able to get together after work because I have to pick up my son, do homework and everything else that is part of the daily after work routine. Most days, it’s hard to even find time to devote to a live phone conversation. Between cooking dinner, running errands, homework and bed prep there really is no time to talk. By the time my son is asleep I barely have any energy left. Text messaging is a god sent for these reasons but it’s nice to have that real conversation sometimes, to hear the other person’s laugh and tone of voice. Many people are not understanding when you say that you can’t call until 10 pm when everything is calm and settled. I’ve had people that caught an attitude if I took long to respond to text because I was in the middle of dinner or helping with homework. 
When I say that I can’t go out every weekend, that is also an issue. Someone once told me that they are worried about getting involved because what will happen when they miss me and want to see me during the week? It’s a struggle because I don’t want to introduce my son to anyone too early on so I can’t even offer the option of stopping by to see me and then even after some time does pass, many men seem to be wary of doing anything that involves incorporating my son into. I’ve only found one person that actually invited my son to come along. Otherwise, I have not had that luck. 

One man told me that a lot of men are hesitant when it comes to dating someone with a child because they think that means they will be obligated to take care of the child or to step in line as a second father. I am not looking for a replacement father as he already has one. I am not looking for someone to chip in financially for my sons needs. 

Dating a single mom takes someone who is patient and understanding. Someone who understands that while you are not expected to play step daddy, that child is part of the package and will at some point have to be incorporated into things. 

I’ve found that men with a child are a little bit more understanding of things, however, unless they have custody, they still don’t grasp the whole lack of time dilemma as they do not have their child for most of the week. 

Men with a child do seem to be a bit more interested as well when it comes to you talking about your child. Men that I’ve dated without a child seem to be lost when I talk about my son or something he did that I thought was cute or made me proud. Men with children appreciate and can relate to those feelings and experiences that you are referring to more. 

I’ve seen women with a child, sometimes more than one, that have found happiness and love with a man who is not the father. Some of them have remarried or moved on together and it makes me wonder how they got to that point as I struggle with even maintaining a consistent dating routine with one person. 

So to anyone facing the same situation, I say this. One day, the right man will come along. He will understand that a little patience, effort and consistency will all be worth it in the end. He will appreciate the sacrifices made by a single mother.

Click the link above to watch Alicia Keys “Superwoman” music video

Meet Spike

So we bought a bearded dragon last week. While in Ocean City my son saw another child buying a lizard and wanted one. I said that I wasn’t buying a lizard and keeping him in the car for six hours as I figured he would probably die from anxiety before we made it home. This led to me taking a trip to the pet store the next day with my son. We ended up ordering a baby bearded dragon.  


Meet Spike everyone! Spike is just two weeks old. I was surprised at how small he is considering how big they get when they reach maturity.  Spike should grow to be about two feet long. From what I hear, bearded dragons are great pets and very friendly. The pet store owner compared them to lap dogs as they love to be held. I think this is true because when we put him back in his cage he starts scratching the glass. 


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So the whole feeding crickets thing isn’t really my thing but I decided to just buy enough for each feeding because there’s no way I’m storing bugs in my house. The rest of his feedings are just fresh fruits and veggies. 


Spike likes to skinny dip from time to time. 

What’s on the menu?


Tonight I made lasagna and spaghetti with veggies sautéed in oil and and butter. 

I pre heated a pan with about a tbsp of oil and about 3-4 tbsp of butter. I kept it on medium heat. Once hot, I added mushrooms, sliced green peppers, sliced onions and carrots. Stir occasionally and sauté until soft and pour entire mix into your pasta. 

For the lasagna, you can put ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, diced green peppers and cooked chopped meat in between each layer of lasagna. Cover baking pan with foil and cook at 375 for 20 minutes. 

Mangia!

Homemade mac and cheese


This is a simple and easy recipe for homemade Mac and cheese. I have been a long time lover of this dish and my son can easily eat three servings of this.

Ingredients:

1 box elbow or shells macaroni

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup milk

2 eggs

2 packages shredded cheese (cheddar, white or both)

Bread crumb

Paprika

Directions:

Cook pasta as directed

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees

Place cooked pasta in a baking dish and mix in eggs, milk and butter

Put half of each cheese on pasta and sprinkle bread crumbs then mix

Put remaining half of cheese on top of pasta and sprinkle breadcrumb and paprika

Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes


I used as a side with fried chicken, mixed frozen veggies and platanos (sweet plantains). You can check out previous post for how to make platanos. 

Enjoy!