Monthly Archives: January 2012

Weekly Money Check-Up 1/28/12

Another money check-up from My Pretty Pennies.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on buying more gas. Definitely lots of driving this month: glad I’m busing to work these days, otherwise my gas bill would be astronomical.

2. Today I am thankful for my dog. Rubbing his belly is better than Prozac.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was borrowing “Catching Fire” on my Kindle and reading it all in one day. All I can say? Wow. Can’t wait for the third one.

4. I will consider this week a success if I don’t blow up my work computer. I’m seriously pushing its limits, and the hard drive etc have already been expanded my my computer guru.

5. The craft I am currently interested in right now is sewing. I made a few throw pillows and now I feel like I can tackle a dress.

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Friday Favorites 1/27/12

Savvy Sugar has a great list for how to save a dollar every day. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m finding in my bank account, it’s the little things that often add up and eat away at my balance.

Free from Broke has their own suggestions for how to get the most out of your gift card, fantastic for after the holiday season when I’ve got a few cards tucked in my wallet.

More on gifts and their intentions from Girl with the Red Balloon. There’s months where I might get a gift from my parents or grandparents with a note to spend it on something fun, when at that moment, what I find “fun” is eating something besides pb&j.

Fabulously Broke in the City has a post on the costs of make-up. I consider myself to be relatively low maintenance make-up wise, but I’m definitely in the category of 12 eyeshadows, 2 blushes, 3 mascaras and 5 lipsticks.

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Pumpkin Beer Chili and Yacon

For all that it usually reaches 60 around here during the day, this warm weather girl finds it to be terribly cold outside. (Feel free to call me a wimp, but hey,  I deliberately choose to live in places without “real” winter.) Nothing warms me up in the evening quite like a bowl of chili. This recipe is one I adapted from the Ordinary Vegetarian (who sadly doesn’t post anymore) also conveniently uses up pumpkin or hard squash, which I happen to have a lot of. But be forewarned, if you don’t like beer, or are trying to use up a beer you don’t like, you won’t care for this chili.

On the side, I’m having a yacon salad. Yacon is one of those weird boy vegetables from Nevermore Farm. The flavor is somewhat similar to jicama, and it’s naturally high in inulin, which is good for diabetics. Inulin is a type of starch that our bodies can’t digest, so it translates to a high fiber vegetable. As a result, I’d start with a small serving the first time, just in case. Don’t do what I did and say “Mmm” then eat a pound or two. Though, that advice probably works well for most vegetables. Anyways, I simply peeled the yacon, shredded it, and tossed it with lemon juice, garlic powder and salt.

Pumpkin Beer Chili

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion or 1 medium, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin or squash or 1 can
  • 2 cups cooked black or pinto beans, or 1 can, drained & rinsed
  • 1 12 oz beer (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, ~5 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder, cook for another 2-3 minutes, until nicely fragrant. Add pumpkin and beans, stirring occasionally for ~3 minutes. Add beer, tomatoes, and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

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Textbooks

My grad program is rather course heavy. I’ve had to take a number of statistic and science courses in the past year or so. However, paying for textbooks can get pretty expensive. Every professor seems to require at least 1 $100 book and my university has a policy to insist on the latest edition, which often translates to no used books. I’ve developed a few work-arounds for dealing with text books.

Before the class starts, I often email a professor, explain I’m a graduate student,  and ask if the textbook is required or recommended. A surprising amount of time, they’ll say it’s just recommended, and that between lectures,handouts and a little research on my own, I should be fine. In other classes, I’ve found the content between editions doesn’t change very much, so I can get away with buying an older edition online for a tenth of the price.

However, sometimes the current (or only) edition is just plain necessary. If it’s just for readings, typically a copy is available on reserve in the library. I make a weekly date with myself to go read it for an hour or two. The only time I have competition to read the book is around finals, so that just makes me stay ahead in my readings. Typically in my stats classes, the homework comes from the text and they always seem to change the homework questions between editions. In those situations, I email friends who have already taken the class and ask to borrow their book for the term. Or, if the new edition has come out, my study group and I take turns buying the book, and sharing it. It’s a great way to guarantee that the study group will revolve around your schedule, by being the one in possession of the homework problems.

And sometimes, you just have to suck it up and buy the overpriced book that one day you will want to stab. For my current stats class, I took my turn to buy the current edition of the book. I actually like this one (weird, I know) and it’s required for another course I have to take, so I figured I might as well buy it. I’m sharing it with a few of my classmates, who borrow it to copy down problems and it gets passed around a lot at homework sessions. Plus, I hope it will be a good reference for the future. Fortunately, a lab mate already took my other class and is loaning me his copy of the textbook. Unfortunately, I really like this one too, and may have to buy it some month for my own reference.

You know you’re a nerd when you enjoy math and science texts.

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On Chickpeas & Gnocchi

Like I said last week, I usually make a big batch of beans and some kind of grain to pack for lunches all week, but this week I’m departing a little.  This week, I have a gorgeous hunk of Marina di Chioggia squash from my c.s.a., Nevermore Farm. Let me wax rhapsodic about this squash for a moment: it’s sweet, creamy and low in moisture: no pumpkin juice to worry about! Deborah, who I think of as my personal farmer, directed me towards this recipe from Boldo’s Thoughts on Food. All I can say is yum! Mine aren’t particularly pretty, but they are delicious, especially slathered in butter & parmesan. Don’t worry, I’m also having a salad on the side, but sometimes, this girl just needs a big ole pile of carbs. I’m excited about eating this all week, with some crispy chickpeas on the side. What are crispy chickpeas? They’re one of my favorite ways to add a little protein on the side of vegetarian Italian meals.

Crispy Chickpeas

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 can, drained & rinsed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or garlic salt
  • *if using garlic powder, add salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Toss all ingredients in a bowl, until chickpeas are thoroughly coated. Spread on cookie sheet. Bake for ~15 minutes, shaking every 5 minutes, until chickpeas are lightly browned. Enjoy!

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Groupons

This post won’t come as much of surprise but I love Groupons. Not just Groupons, but also Living Social, Amazon local, etc. Who doesn’t love getting an amazing discount on a local business? However, I have a tendency to want to save them for something special, then before I know it, the deal is almost over. This weekend, a friend and I found ourselves rearranging our schedules to go use our facials certificates before they expired next week. It was my first facial, and the experience was awesome! My skin looks and feels amazing, I loved the head massage, and the knots in my shoulders and neck are all gone.

Now this friend knows about my new budget cutting goals and we talked about Groupons and their ilk on our long drive home. You see, we were so excited about cheap facials, that we failed to notice that the spa was an hour away from where we lived. By the time you factor in gas and the full tip on a normally expensive facial, we could’ve had two facials, or a facial and a pedicure at one of the cheap places in our neighborhood. My friend then brought up her own tendency to buy deals for cupcakes stores, cookie bakeries and hamburger joints. Except now she’s trying to eat healthier, and those things don’t fit in her diet. Sure, one cookie wouldn’t hurt her, but the deal is for a dozen, and neither of us have the willpower to be around that type of temptation. In the end, we came up with a list of Groupon (and Living Social and Amazon local) rules. We’d love to add more, if anybody has any good ones.

Groupon Rules

  • limit monthly deal purchases to $25 or less
  • no purchases outside a 20 mile radius
  • estimate the extra costs in tip, etc before buying
  • no multiples of deal-types until we use the old ones: if I already have one facial deal, I can’t buy another until the old one is used up

 

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Weeky Money Check-Up 7/21/12

I just discovered My Pretty Pennies, who lives in my hometown and had the genius idea of posting a weekly money check-up and I thought I’d join in.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on gas. Not exciting, but necessary.

2. Today I am thankful for using forgotten Groupons and getting my first facial!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was having a friend come over and catching up spaghetti & popcorn.

4. I will consider this week a success if my experiment works this weekend.

5. My purse contains my wallet, cell phone, keys, kindle, a pen, and a pouch with: hand sanitizer, lotion, tissues, Altoids, packable tote bag, facial powder, lipstick, chapstick, nail clippers, and a small first aid kit. Did I ever mention I was both a Girl and Boy Scout?

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