It’s all about the Benjamins: Budgeting (Part I)

Or Lincolns… or Washingtons. Let’s be honest, I’ll take what I can get.

Make it Rain

Brunch, cabs, happy hours, shoes, cabs, cabs, cabs, food… Living in NYC isn’t cheap — especially if you want to have a certain kind of lifestyle. Despite making a decent amount of money for someone my age, financing my life isn’t as simple as you may think.

For the past couple of years, there has been a big hoopla in the media about the rising costs of higher education. I distinctively remember walking by the Occupy Wall Street protesters one day (end of 2011/beginning of 2012) when a specific complaint caught my attention. A small group of people were complaining about student loans. One guy in particular had over $50k in debt. He had a job and was slowly paying off his debt but was complaining about the fact that he now owes more than what he borrowed. At the time he was living with his parents and they were also helping him pay down his balance.

I’m going to go on a little rant here, so please, bear with me. I come from a very modest family. My parents are small business owners (they are the only employees). Any time my parents aren’t at work means they they aren’t making money. For my parents, bank holidays weren’t fun three day weekends but days they get to rest or prep for their business. Such is plight of a small business owner–you’re never really “off” from work because there are always things to do or worry about.

When it was time to go to college, I knew that I would have to finance my own education. I applied to a number of schools and got accepted and received varying degrees of financial aid from each of them.
– Public universities gave me full rides plus more
– Private colleges offered me from 75% to as little as 25% in financial aid

The difference would have to be made up by student loans. When choosing a university, I considered many different factors, including the expected amount of debt I would graduate with and the likelihood of finding a job. I was rather pragmatic in my approach and chose to double major in a “hard skill” major (math, science, finance, etc.) with a more interesting “soft skills” major (communications, journalism, anthropology, etc.). The reason for this was to ensure that I could maximize my marketability in the job market post graduation.

I worked my ass off in college. I worked roughly 20 hours a week at various (paid) internships while attending school full time in order to gain work experience and stand out from my peers. It was a long and difficult journey but my diligence paid off and I was able to secure a full time job in finance by November of my senior year. By the time I graduated, I amassed enough debt to buy roughly 8 cars or a nice house in the suburbs. The aggregate sum was and still is a bit intimidating–but I knew what I was getting into when I chose to attend the school that gave me the least financial aid.

Even at the young age of 18, I knew that the concept simple and compound interest. This is a concept we all learn (or should have learned) in middle school. Logically, why would a financial institution loan you thousands of dollars without expecting anything in return? Let’s be honest, nothing in life is free. I do believe that the cost of higher education in the United States has become ridiculous. It is incredibly inflated and definitely needs some sort of reform.

HOWEVER, I do not believe that the banks, the government, or “the 1%” is responsible for your student loan debt. I chose to to incur debt for my education and I take responsibility for it. I knew that if I didn’t find a job, I would still be on the hook for my loans. I knew that I was taking a huge gamble. For this reason, I made sure that I did everything I could to ensure that I would be employed post graduation. I had two majors, a minor, worked 20 hours a week and still managed to hang out with my friends and do well enough in school to find a job. I knowingly did not major in something with low practicality, scarcity of jobs or a very low starting salary because I was choosing to go to an expensive school, so the stakes would be higher. Now had I chosen to go to a state school (with a full ride), I could have been more risky about choosing my major since I wouldn’t have the financial burden once I graduate. I literally could have afforded to take that risk–but I didn’t.

When I saw the Occupy Wall Streeters, I was so irritated. The guy was complaining, not only about the cost of education, but the fact that he would have to pay for his student loans for the next 20 years. He and the other protesters were demanding debt forgiveness. For me, this made absolutely no sense. While I commiserate with the general suckiness of having debt, the protesters complaints were mainly unfounded in my opinion. Now I don’t know any of their specific stories, but I can tell you this. No one forced them to go to an expensive college and no one forced them to pick a specific (or less marketable) major. The difference between the protesters and me was that I chose to work while going to school. I chose my specific majors for specific purposes and I chose to incur student loan debt. I had more student loan debt than the people protesting and had absolutely no monetary help from my parents. I think if anyone should be complaining, it should be me–but I’m not.

After graduating, I’ve been very responsible about my loans and have already paid back half of what I owed. I’ve done this by paying more than the minimum amount per month and by paying off the higher interest rate loans first. Every single tax return I’ve gotten has gone straight to my loans. Despite this, I still go on nice vacations, take cabs, and have fun on the weekends. This is all attributable to good budgeting and intentional decision making.

Look out for Budgeting (Part II) for specific ways I manage my finances.

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Bring on the Sweats (Part II)

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This is Part II of the Bring on the Sweats series: How House Clothes Almost Killed Me — For Part I, click here.

So house clothes almost killed me. Well, more like I almost died* while wearing/lack of wearing my house clothes…

It’s Friday night and I’m starving. I have to eat before meeting up with friends or the night will end badly. I consider cooking but don’t want to wait for chicken to defrost so I opt to get food delivered instead. Delivery in NY is pretty quick and painless. Everything is done online; all you have to do is browse, click, and open the door. I play on the internet until my doorman calls to let me know that the delivery man is headed towards my apartment. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! I’m not wearing any pants!”

I quickly get off the couch and put on pants (my grey sweats… you know the pair). I walk towards the front door then, BAM. I pass out out of nowhere. I wake up on the floor of my foyer, fully dressed but disheveled. I’m not sure how long I had been lying there but shortly after I come to my senses, the delivery man rings the doorbell. It turns out that I only blacked out for a couple of seconds. My blood sugar was low and I got up too quickly to put on pants and get to the door.

After the shock of falling on my face wore off, I ate dinner and lounged around until it was time to get ready to go out (I may or may not have started bawling in between). Now most of you don’t know me but in the not-so-distant past, I was the queen of going out. I’ve done boozy brunch (with bottle service) til 5 pm, only to go out again for dinner and drinks at 8 pm and come home after eating breakfast around 5 am. But that single girl is long gone.

Nowadays, if I have tentative plans, by the time 9:30 pm rolls around, a very strong wave of laziness washes over me. On the night I almost died*, the laziness was also met with a lot of pain, ugly scratches and bruising. I obviously didn’t make it out that night, but even on any other night, it’s become a nearly impossible task to take the single girl out of her house clothes. The most common excuse for not getting dressed is, “Ugh, but I’m so comfortable right now!” For the same reason why I put on the house clothes after work, why would I want to take them off?

My girls and I have spoken about this phenomenon ad nauseum and after much scientific testing, we’ve concluded that house clothes are to be blamed for about 70.3% of the time we don’t go out on the weekends. I look at it like this; once you pull a new umbrella out of it’s casing, it’s nearly impossible to stuff it back in. The same goes for me and nice (i.e. tight, fitted) clothing–once I shimmy out of a pencil skirt, why would I want to stuff myself back into a bandage dress? It’s just that much harder…

Or am I just too lazy for my own good?

*May be exaggerating a tiny bit.

Girls you club with.

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The girls on SGA were probably quite the illustrious clubbers back in the day; most of us opting for sweatpants and early nights (or is it just me?). But I thought it might be fun to compile a list of the girls we encounter during our clubbing glory days.

The Joanna – This is the girl who calls you every 5 mins when you’re getting ready. “What are you wearing?” “Are you gonna wear fake lashes?”  “What colour is your dress?” “Are you bringing a jacket to get coat check?” “Are you leaving your hair up or down?” She’ll always be late.

The Jane – This is the girl who the guys will just flock to even when she’s dressed down because she’s just so damn stunning. Girls love her because she’s so laid back and cool and guys love her because she’s nice to everyone. Highly needed to boost up the cheerleader effect of the group.

The Caroline – This is the girl who always ditches the crowd for a guy. Of course she is the first one to say ‘we have to stick together alright? It’s girl’s night out so we have to stay together so don’t just disappear!’ but she’s the first one who will go into some dark corner and start grinding with the cute boy in the baseball cap. Next thing you know, she’s gone…

The Nicole – This is the girl who flirts with anyone with a penis, from the bouncer to the bartender to the bankers who ply her with drinks hoping she’ll come home with them. She’s a good friend to have because she gets you into the clubs without having to stand in line and gets you all those free shots.

The Leona – This is the girl who cries every time you go out because of her ex. She bumps into her ex’s friends or she sees her ex dancing with another girl so she goes to the bar and starts drinking up a storm and you have to try to get her to come out of the bathroom stall because she’s bawling her eyes out and ruining her eye make up.

The Crystal – This is the girl with the annoying boyfriend – the one who won’t let her have fun. They are constantly fighting because she wants to have a lychee martini and dance with the girls but he wants to go home and have sex.

The Lexi – This is the girl who lives far away so she has to get all her partying done before the trains stop because she doesn’t want to shell out money for a cab. She says we should all meet up early for dinner and hit the clubs asap so she can get her drink on and head home before the public transportation comes to a halt.

The Bonnie – This is the girl who mixes her booze with her drugs and is high as a kite the whole night. She has the munchies so she disappears for two hours while you’re frantically searching for her and when you find her she’s eating a wrap (burrito/kebab etc) and when you get close enough she promptly throws up on your new suede booties (true story.)

The Daisy – This is the girl who can’t hold her liquor but insists on drinking and promptly passes the hell out. When she wakes up, she finds herself sitting in the bathroom hugging the toilet bowl but won’t let you call her mother because she doesn’t want to get into trouble. Your boyfriend has to piggyback her all the way back home. (Something he’s never had to do for you)

The Annie – This is the girl who refuses to drink because she wants people to think that she’s the good girl. This is despite the fact that she can pounds those shots back like no other and you have seen her do the Beyonce booty shake on the bar several times before.

The Michelle – This is the girl who makes out with other girls when she’s drunk mostly to get the attention but also because she thinks that she’s liberal enough to declare herself bisexual. She says things like ‘women are so beautiful and they have softer lips anyway’ but when push comes to shove, she’ll choose the man’s underjunk.

The Louisa – This is the girl who is way too classy for any of the dive bars you go to as a group. She gingerly places her Chanel 2.55 bag on top of some tissues and orders white wine and champagne even at the grungiest places. She gets upset when the bottoms of her Louboutins get sticky.

The Jennifer – This is the girl that drinks but the alcohol hits her late so you know never to put her into a cab until she’s gotten something to eat. She’s the one who looks fine until she stops moving and loses her phone, her purse and her dignity so you have to stay with her and make sure she’s alright (or else you’ll get a call from her mother)

The Monica– This is the girl whose sole purpose that night is to get you completely obviously ridiculously hammered on long island iced teas. She keeps saying crap like ‘shoot it’ and gets all pissy when you can’t. Lady, I’m not like your crazy lush self.

The Katherine – This is the girl who will at the end of the night have flashed her boobs to the crowd. She is the reason why there are pictures of you floating on Facebook on random stranger’s pages – because you’re up there trying to block her half naked ass from the flash photography.

The Erica – This is the girl who insists she’s been dragged out. She hates big groups but comes out anyway because she doesn’t want to be left out. She’ll sit in the corner tapping away on her iPhone, pouting but she’ll stay till the end of the night just in case something juicy happens.

The Olivia – This is the social butterfly. She is flitting from place to place saying hi to all the people she knows so you see her at least 8 times while she circles the club making her rounds and drinking those shots from all the different banker boys (Goldman check, JP Morgan check, Morgan Stanley check, UBS check).

The Valerie – This is the girl who thinks Asian boys are wack and she’d like a black boy to grind up on because black guys can dance. She’s the one who taught you the 45 degree rule (Never grind beyond 45 degrees or else you’re a skank.)

The Claudia – This is the girl that has your back. The dirty banker just grabbed your ass? Facepalm. That skank spilled her drink on your accidentally on purpose? Bitch slap. Claudia is the girl you want on your team when you get into a club fight. She will take off her hoop earrings, kick off her shoes and just throw down.

The Celine – She’s the laid back girl who will drinks scotch and soda with you and dance to all your favourite songs and then help you haul all the stupid drunk girls into cabs and send them home at the end of the night. 

Just in case you were wondering, I didn’t add the girl that most guys refer to as the Gatekeeper or the Beast because that’s mean and all girls are beautiful. Homegirls gotta stick together.

Which one are you?

Tips for the Clueless

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Unlike my best friend who is perpetually surrounded by men who want to date her, I’ve never been the type of girl you notice straight off the bat. Apparently, I grow on people and my world experiences and lifestyle make me more interesting (than I actually am?). What can I say, I guess my sparkling personality doesn’t come through immediately and that’s where low-cut tops come in handy. But herein lies the problem… All girls want to be wanted and we do a lot of stupid things to get the attention of boys that aren’t worth it, myself included.

Considering the type of guy friends I have, I should know better and I should definitely be better at this whole dating thing than I am. But no, I don’t have a clue. I will be the girl whose head is constantly buzzing with the whys and the what ifs. I will settle and make excuses and disregard all the advice in ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ because I’m holding out the hope that he actually is.

In a nutshell, I have been seeing a guy who proclaims that he is an introvert but will always hang out with his friends and use work as an excuse to not spend time with me. We communicate on a regular basis but when I start pulling away, he jumps on it and becomes extremely attentive. He always has a way with words and regularly turns the tables on me and makes me feel bad for not being nicer to him.

To which M, my go to guy when I need a slap of reality, he of the “I like that you go for the natural look but it wouldn’t kill you to get dolled up once in a while PT” piece of advice said, “Shut the fuck up. Stop it, just stop, you’re just embarrassing yourself?” and proceeded to give me these little gems.

–  You’ve already fucked it up by sleeping with him, don’t do it again. If you want to salvage that start from square one, this means no kissing either.

He doesn’t get the benefits that a boyfriend has without treating you like a girlfriend. This means, dinner, drinks, coffee whatever. Stop all communication until he asks you out like a real man and don’t ask him out first either!

Make him chase you. You don’t need to play head games or anything but you have to treat yourself like a valuable commodity. He needs to show that he really likes you and that you’re worth spending time, effort, and money chasing. Basically, he needs to put an investment towards the relationship – that’s like the most important part of it.

 If a guy likes a girl, he’ll move heaven and hell to see her. He’s never “too busy” and you’re not “rushing it”.  Hanging out, going for coffee and doing dinner is not rushing anything, that’s just the normal route to sex.

If he doesn’t treat you with respect don’t bother.

So to conclude: I am writing this one off as an epic fail and will attempt to avoid all men who consider me an afterthought.

Thank goodness for boys like M. It may not be nice but at least it’s real.

To date or not to date…

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Boys.
Tall boys, short boys, skinny boys, fat boys, athletic boys, nerdy boys, shy boys, frat boys. I’ve dated my share of all different types of them. And I can strongly confirm that I’ve loved them all in different ways. But there are some types of boys that I’ve learned to know if I see them to RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION! That’s why I will share with you a few types of guys to strongly avoid at all (okay, mostly all) costs.

1. Boys who still live with their mother after 25
This type of boy is a straight up mama’s boy, and won’t go out with you unless his mom doesn’t need her dry cleaning picked up, her bank called, her prescriptions refilled and picked up, and they’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together already. Oh and make sure to bring him back home before midnight, or he’ll have hell to pay. There’s a fine line between mama’s boys and men who love their mothers. A mama’s boy does exactly what his mom tells him to do when she wants him to do it. And it’s not a coincidence that the mothers who bore these boys are usually control freaks who think their needs are one and the same as the needs of their sons. That’s how you end up by yourself on a Saturday night, eating a microwave dinner and cursing yourself for wasting your freshly shaved legs for nothing because your bf had to cancel on you in order to take his mother grocery shopping at the particular place she “needed” to go to that day. Four years later, I’m STILL cursing that night!

2. Boys who leave their phone on silent 24/7.
I hate this type of boy. This boy is usually, if not always, a player. I can see you looking down at your phone every few minutes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you are texting someone else. These boys can be oh so sneaky though, because they will shower you with affection when you are together, but if you try to look at their phone no one is quicker to keep it away from you than them. Boys who leave their phone on silent all the time are usually smooth talkers, making it difficult to distinguish between a lie and a legitimate reason. It makes sense since they get so much more practice with whoever it  is on the other end of that phone. But as tempting as it is to try and justify their actions, simply put, NEXT.

3. Boys who constantly tell you how much money they make…
And how many material possessions they have.
I get it, you make a lot of money and can afford nice things. But I can afford my own nice things, or at least the things I want/need. I don’t care that you drive a BMW 7 series if you’re a terrible driver. If you can’t have a conversation with me without mentioning how much so and so cost or what exclusive restaurant you ate at last week, I won’t be able to keep my food down without gagging at your douchebag tendencies. Life is more than dollars and cents, and if you can’t see past that, you won’t get a second date. I say second and not first because hey, these guys are more than glad to show you what they can afford, and a single girl could use a divine meal once in a while.

4. Boys who tell white lies.
It’d be obvious to say boys who tell lies, especially big ones. But what’s not so obvious are the white lies that mean more than you would think at first glance. A guy who lies to you about sharing common interests is a guy who has no confidence to be himself and try to prove to you that he’s worth your time. Which pretty much means he isn’t worth it. You’re not there to be his life coach, you just met! Another thing that is a pet peeve of mine: when a guy tells me I look good in something, or that I don’t look fatter when I really am. You’re not doing me any favors, especially after we break up and I look at myself in the mirror and realize I need to work out to look and feel better again. Yeah I’m look at you, ex, and I’m looking at the photos of me in 2009 where my friend laughed out loud when he saw how much heavier I was during that time. Vehemently moving on…

5. And finally boys who are “nice”.
There’s a reason nice guys finish last. And just like men who love their moms and mama’s boys, there’s a distinctive difference between “nice” and genuinely nice guys. Most “nice” guys are just jerks who aren’t smart enough or aggressive enough to manipulate girls the way that their “opposites” can. “Oh I’m so good to her as her friend, but she keeps dating these assholes who do nothing but hurt her.” Wait, you said friend right? Right. That tired old sob story doesn’t fly with me. And how nice are you if you’re doing all these things for me under the guise of friendship when what you really ultimately want is to get in my pants? Real nice guys are upfront about their motives. They think the bad boys are the only ones playing a game with the girl, when in reality they’re playing a game as well. The second you think of a girl “friend” as more than that without telling her, and then get upset when she dates someone else, you’re putting her in a lose-lose situation. I won’t date you if I don’t know what you want , so either nut up or shut up.

As always, take this with a grain of salt, because there are always exceptions to the rules. But seriously, don’t date the mama’s boys.

Bonus D.N.D (do not date): the guy who is more into his body and image than yours.
When a guy checks himself out in the mirror more than you do, takes longer to get ready for dinner, and takes even more selfies, you can bet it’s a big red flag that he’s just not that into you, or at least not as much as he’s into himself. It’s narcissistic and just a plain lady-boner killer. DNW (do not want).

Handsome narcissistic young man looking in a mirror(Although I might make an exception for him..what? Yum!)

Single Girl Meals: Cooking for 1

Foreword: Separately “kitchen” and “domestication” seem to have no correlation but place them within a few words of each other and it somehow has a negative undertone, almost demeaning. Perhaps it is culture or seeing our moms slaving away in the kitchen to feed her family; she gave up her youth, her dream and her beauty to care for her sometimes ungrateful children. I never wanted to be like her in that sense.   The man I marry will simply have to cook for me I decided. And then one day I walked into the kitchen “I’m going to make soup for Christopher!”I announced and I set off to learn how to make a pot of soup for five. After that it was “I’m going to make steak for Wilson and I made a meal out of three steaks. Finally, one day I made Thanksgiving dinner for John’s family and extended family.

And so that is how I started learning to cook – I cooked for two, for three, for five, for ten and for twenty…

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I wasn’t very hungry after John and I broke up. In fact, I don’t remember being hungry for a month. My girlfriend prescribed me wine and chocolate and another sent Georgetown Cupcakes.

You will want to eat again one day they promised. Surely, one day, I woke up with a mission. $75 dollars worth of groceries and 2 hours later I had produced a three course meal. Only to double over in pain 30 minutes later… I had eaten too much.

I was faced with a new problem… an appetizer, entree, side and dessert was suddenly too much where it wasn’t enough before. A pot of chili suddenly became tedious to finish.

Like many things – sleeping, dressing, laundry – I suddenly needed to learn how to for one.

So now I’m starting from scratch, starting from the beginning, perhaps where I should have started years ago. As Matthew McConaughey puts it, “I needed to  re-calibrate!”

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