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Student Loans: How I Ended Up in Debt With a Full Ride

Student loans are a hot topic. Everyone seems to have an opinion on them, whether they believe students earned the crippling debt and should pay ’til the day they die or that students should have their debt forgiven and frolic in a mountain stream. This is my story. I’m not looking for forgiveness or criticism. This is just how it happened for me. I had a full scholarship for 100% of my tuition all four years of college, a part-time job, and I graduated from my undergraduate program with just over $12,000 in debt. How?

I lived in the dorms my first year, which kept living expenses stable. I had a small amount of money saved from high school part time jobs that got me through most of my freshman year. I didn’t spend a lot of money – I didn’t drink yet, didn’t party, and spent most of my time listening to illegally downloaded music, eating pizza, and watching movies on VHS. Then, at the end of the year, while most of my classmates went home to whichever southern town they came from, I had to move out of the dorms and out on my own.

While I’d started college, my parents had begun the long process of their divorce. They’d each moved out of the house we’d lived in and into their own one bedroom apartments. There was no ‘home’ for me to return to that summer. Both barely scraping by, my best friend and I moved into one bedroom of a two bedroom, un-airconditioned apartment that we shared with an acquaintance. I slept in the bed and he on a mattress on the floor.

When fall came around, I moved into the house I’d signed a lease on with friends the previous spring. My expenses suddenly took a huge leap. My rent was cheap (around $350 per month), but air-conditioning, heat, and utilities for an old house were expensive and making it all work on $5.25 per hour (part-time) wasn’t working. I started paying for expenses out of my student loans. This is what student loans are for, right?

So let’s do some math, shall we?

Expenses

$350 in rent each month, plus around $150 in utilities.  I lived in that house for 2 years, so that’s $12,000. My senior year I lived in a less expensive situation, so add another $3,500 to that.  $15,500 just in basic living and breathing. Let’s say I give myself an allowance for 3 years worth of groceries, gas, shopping, clothing, restaurants, bars, and blah blah blah of $40 per week. That’s another $6,240.

Now, let’s add in the irresponsibility of being in your late teens and early 20s. In my sophomore year, I started traveling to Chicago to visit friends and eventually started a long-distance relationship. I never paid for a hotel, but plane tickets, shopping, expenses for eating and drinking while there – it all added up. Though I wasn’t jet-setting around the world, it still wasn’t the best idea.  If I did this 3 times per year for 3 years with an estimated cost of $350 per trip, that’s $3,150.  Sigh.

Total: $24,890. Approximately.

Income

Remember that part-time job? I kept that for nearly two years and maxed out at $5.40 per hour. I worked 3-4 days per week and brought home about $140 every two weeks depending on my schedule, plus maybe $30 in jar tips. That’s $340 per month. I’ll give myself 4 weeks every year that I likely didn’t work at all (holidays, vacations, just not feelin’ it). That’s $7,480 in my whole career.

In my last year of college, I got a huge raise at a new job: $6.25. I was living! Now I was bringing home nearly $400 per month, but I was also doing a whole lot more drinking and partying with friends. There goes that income. Good job, college me. $4,400 minus about 50% in booze and late night pizza. I also worked as a transcriptionist for a few months. I didn’t work a lot of hours but the hours I did work were well paid. I made about $100 per week for a total of maybe $1,200.

Total income: $13,440. This number is optimistic.

Balance Due: $11,450

I didn’t plan at all for this to come out so evenly, but there you have it. I graduated with almost nothing in my bank account. My graduation gift from my father was enough money to pay my rent in Chicago for the first couple of months while I found a job.

Just for fun, let’s consider how much higher my expenses would have been if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have a scholarship.  Tuition has more than doubled since I attended my large state university, but at the time it was around $3,000 per year plus books, if you didn’t attend a summer session. So I would have been staring down $12,000 in tuition costs plus around $4,000 for books, adding an extra $16,000. It would have been a steal as far as college costs go. That’s a total cost of just over $40,000, y’all.

a toast to my debt

Sure, I could have worked more hours in college and spent less time socializing, drinking, and making poor life decisions. But I also needed time to go to my actual classes, time to study, to see my family, and time to relax. Plus: I was a kid! We make mistakes. I didn’t understand my student loans. I thought I’d have some awesome job right out of college and never worry about my loans. Now, of course, I wish I’d been more responsible, but at least I wasn’t reckless. I had zero credit card debt upon graduating college. It’s just how my cookie crumbled and I’m paying the piper now.

The average student debt when I graduated was around $20,000. My first job out of college in 2006 paid $25,000 per year. In 2014, the average had risen to over $30,000. That’s a truly crippling amount of debt and a tough start to a young professional life, especially in an economy that requires an education more every day. This is 2015, not 1915, and college shouldn’t just be for wealthy folk.  But hey, that’s just my personal opinion.

If you went to college, how did you fare?

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Cook Stuff: Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna

One of the reasons that you don’t see a lot of dairy products in my recipes is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a tad lactose intolerant. It’s not a full-blown issue where I can’t have any trace of milk, but it can be a crap shoot when it comes to things like cheese or ice cream. There are some products I know will set it off (ahem, cottage cheese) but since I often don’t know and even more often don’t have the same reaction twice, I usually feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.

That said, I love lasagna. Oh, good lasagna that’s gooey and rich and saucy. I really do and it’s such a bummer that it’s filled with so many delicious cheeses that may or may not cause me gastrointestinal distress. In a perfect world, I’d be able to gulp down the whole pan, Garfield-style.

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I also love pasta. I love it in all of its various shapes and textures. I love it in pasta salads, I love it piping hot in an Italian restaurant, and I especially love picking at leftovers from the fridge the next morning without heating it up. Yeah, I’m one of those people. What I don’t love is the fact that pasta doesn’t have much nutritional value on its own beyond a little bit of fiber (especially if it’s whole grain), a small amount of vitamins, and whatever its been enriched with by the manufacturer. I’m for sure not a carb hater, but I try to stay light on the spaghetti dinners.

Luckily, today we’re making a delicious alternative that cuts down on the dairy as well as those pesky noodles without sacrificing the hearty, gooey, yummy texture I’m looking for. And this one’s not even a crock pot recipe! It’s about time, right? (Also, as a side note, this can easily be made vegan if you sub out the cheese and omit the egg.)

You’ll need:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • A bag of shredded cheese ( I use Kraft because some of their shredded cheeses have 0g of lactose per serving)
  • 1 pound of ground beef (cooked) or tofu crumbles (like Boca or Morningstar)
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce of your choice
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • About a half cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package soft or silken tofu
  • 1 can of sliced black olives (if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Italian spices of your choice (I like McCormicks Perfect Pinch but feel free to make your own blend)
  • Some salt and pepper (just keep it available)

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice your eggplants length-wise into about 1/4 inch strips. Spray a baking sheet with a bit of cooking spray or use a smidge of olive oil just to keep those guys from sticking, then layer your eggplant onto the sheets. Try not to overlap – you want them to roast and lose a bit of their moisture. I like to add a bit of salt and pepper to them at this point, but don’t go overboard. Throw them into the over for about 7 minutes. Then, flip them over and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on them toward the end to make sure they aren’t burning.

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While you’re waiting on that, spray your glass baking dish with some cooking spray and pour about a quarter of your sauce into the bottom. Spread it around with a spoon or spatula for a nice even coating on the bottom.

Typically, I like the microwave my spinach because I don’t plan far enough in advance to let it thaw in the fridge. I just dump the whole package in a bowl and heat it up. Here’s the important part and it’s going to sound kind of weird and gross: after your spinach is thawed, you’ll need to get it as dry as you can. Spinach is super watery and will water down the whole shebang if you skip this step. I usually throw it in a colander and squeeze it with my hands, while also pressing down to remove some water. I’ve used paper towels but it’s kind of wasteful and basically just as effective. After you’ve squeezed the life from your spinach, toss it into a medium bowl.

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Grab your package of tofu and cut it out of its watery casing. Try to pat off as much excess water as you can, then add it to the bowl with your spinach. Crack your egg in there, too. Some people don’t use the egg but I think it helps keep the lasagna together a bit better. If you don’t use eggs, you can leave it out. Add some salt and pepper and your trusty Italian seasoning and mix well.

In all the time that took you, your eggplant should surely be done. Add a layer of eggplant on top of your sauce in the bottom of the pan. Try to cover as many gaps as you can but try to keep it a single layer and use about half. On top of that, add about half of your tofu/spinach mixture.  Then a bit more than a third of your meat (or fake meat), a third of your shredded cheese and half of your sliced olives (if you’re including them). Voila! Layer One done! Do another layer of the same thing. You’re so good at this.

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When you’ve completed your second layer, you’re ready for the final touch. Add the last of your sauce over the whole lasagna, then the last of your meat, whatever olives you might still have, and half of your remaining cheese. Add your diced tomatoes now. Beautiful. Now sprinkle on your last bit of cheese. Isn’t it lovely? Let’s cook this thing.

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Cover your lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. When that’s up, take off the foil and sprinkle on your Parmesan cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Now comes the hardest part: let stand for as long as you can bear. The longer, the better. Try to let it stand for 20-30 minutes. This will help to ensure you get a nice slice of lasagna instead of a goopy mess. Your goopy mess will surely be delicious, but maybe not as aesthetically pleasing.

damn, that looks good.
damn, that looks good.

Eat! You’ve earned it. You waited forever for that thing. Slice it up and enjoy! Makes about 6-8 servings, depending how giant you cut it.

 

 

 

Big Questions: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I’ve been going through something of a professional crisis.

Man, saying it like that really minimizes the agony that I’ve been feeling the last couple of weeks. That kinda makes me feel like I’m a giant wimp. #firstworldproblems

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. This is probably due to the fact that teachers were the only people I knew with jobs (other than my parents). Being a teacher seemed like a pretty sweet gig: summers and vacations off, playing with awesome kids like me all day, sitting at a desk quietly while I took my spelling test. Damn, that sure seemed like the life.  I also wanted to be an astronaut, a paleontologist, and to drive a submarine down to the Titanic wreckage. I also used to interview myself in the bathroom while taking thoughtful pauses to pretend I was smoking a cigarette. I was a well-rounded child of the 80s and early 90s.

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By high school, I realized that I wasn’t good at teaching. I didn’t have the patience to explain a concept over and over. I was easily frustrated by people when they didn’t understand what I was talking about. Clearly,  Teacher of the Year was not in my future.  So what next?

By the time I arrived at college I was completely undecided on a major. The overly-friendly woman running my orientation group stared at me blankly as I explained that I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Looking back, it’s odd that we had so much pressure to choose a major even before I actually attended my first class. Couldn’t I just have cruised for a little bit, until I figured out what got my motor running? Looking back, I wish I’d had better guidance on this massive decision because I definitely would have done things differently.  By the end of my first semester, I was a Sociology major. Phew! Good thing I got that out of the way!

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my major. I took interesting classes with interesting people and learned interesting things. But those things did not teach me how to get a well-paying job. I didn’t come out of school with much else other than the desire to do something, and I already knew that. I mean, I’d interviewed myself like a zillion times in the bathroom. I didn’t think I’d ever work in an office. I didn’t think I’d have a cubicle. And I sure as shit didn’t think I’d spend hours filing, filing, filing. Then I got a job as a legal secretary. Bingo!

lower your expectations

The soul-sucking boredom of that job led me to grad school back at my alma mater, which I attended faithfully, full-time for one full semester and part-time for a second. Although I did (and still do) feel that my program wasn’t all I’d been led to believe, I also feel that I dropped out when things got hard instead of sticking it out.  In truth, I spent too much time drinking and partying and not enough time thinking about my future. I got my certificate of study, which was better than walking away with a bag of nothing, and went back to the city – to a job at a coffee shop, where asshats in business casual sneered at me every morning if I wasn’t getting their Americano fast enough. Don’t I know they need to be at work?

poisoning every body

Through an incredibly lucky coincidence, I ended up at a nonprofit, then another, then another. I was in an office. I had a cubicle. There were long hallways that resulted in incredibly long and awkward fake smiles. And yes, I was filing and filing and filing. But I was doing it for a greater good and that was OK with me.  I was in my mid-20s and hadn’t a care in the world. Other people were climbing corporate ladders, building careers, getting MBAs and making money. Me? Pshhh, I was saving the world, bro! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

I moved to the suburbs and took my job in Corporate America. My current job has zero growth potential and we are all supposed to be OK with that. And I am… for now. It’s beginning to dawn on me that I need something more. But what? Did everyone else figure it out and I’m the only one still clueless? I’ve been examining my options and they seem to be the following:

1) Be happy in your work and keep on trucking. This one is the easiest.  It also feels impossible to to accept. Yes, I could just keep going in the job I’m in as long as I want to. It’s close to home, easy enough, and has regular hours. Kid-friendly for our future family, especially with my husband working an hour-plus away.  But again, zero growth potential. I feel like I’m giving something up. Conversely, I could get another job in the same field that might pay more but would be further away and possibly have irregular hours.

2) Go back to school. This option is daunting and expensive. The older I’ve gotten, the more interested I’ve become in getting a business or finance degree, or even becoming a CPA. I’ve already taken a tentative step in this direction: I enrolled at my local community college and registered for a Financial Accounting class that starts just after Valentine’s Day. My ultimate concern with this option is that another college degree may not have the best ROI unless it allows me to get a totally baller job that I love.  I still have student debt from my first degree.

3) Quit and go effing rogue. Try to make a go of the farm and wedding venue full-time. Pick up freelance writing work and make more money with my small crafting business. This one is the scariest because it has the largest awesome gain and the largest gigantic fail possible. This is the one that my husband and I fight about. He thinks it will work. The part of me that took a job as a legal secretary for $12 an hour without benefits says “Need the paycheck forever!”

For now, staying in my current job offers stable hours that ensure I’ll make an evening class on time. It also gives me time to pursue writing and crafting in the evenings.  See also: a steady income and health insurance. I’ll keep working on my side business to build the income potential there and I’m always open to freelancing opportunities. None of this gives me the kind of quick BIG CHANGE satisfaction I’m looking for, but I need to look at the long game.  Where do I want to be in 5 years? In 10?

At 30, I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Do you?

i cant wait to see how this turns out

 

 

Money: Growing My Side Business Income

I’m not entirely sure what sparked my interest in making soap. I think I just wanted to make something with my hands and I can’t fix cars. I started with “melt and pour”, melting down purchased soap base and adding fragrances and colors from the craft store. A month later I switched to making soap from scratch, which was way more time-consuming but more fun (and kinda dangerous… sexy). Being the entrepreneur I am, I began selling my soap at our weekly farm stand. While I didn’t make a whole lot of money, it put a little bit of cash in my pocket to diversify and by the end of the summer I was making sugar scrubs, lip balms, body butters and mason jar soap dispensers. It was some serious growth. My husband even made some simple business cards for me so I’d have something to give out with product.

But… the end of the summer was the end of the business. I didn’t have a continuing demand for product. I did a holiday craft fair that brought in about $35 and gave some soap as gifts, but other than that I was dead in the water.

This summer, I wanted to take it to the next level. I did some sprucing up on the image and overall feel of my brand. My previous logo was a stamp I’d purchased at Michaels and I knew I couldn’t legally keep using it forever, so I paid about $30 for a good-enough “professionally-designed” logo and started printing custom labels on kraft paper. I bought some shabby-chic display boxes. Every weekend this summer, I sold a bit at our farm stand – not a lot, but maybe $20-$30 per week. By the holiday season, I’d starting printing nicer sticker labels and ordered real business cards.  Between two holiday craft fairs and orders from family and friends, I made nearly $300 just during this holiday season. People are asking me when and where they can buy more soap and other handmade goods. I’m growing! Pretty awesome, right?

Now that my business is finally getting some traction, I don’t want to fall by the wayside again. Due to professional circumstances for my husband,the odds of running a farm stand this summer are pretty long. This means I won’t have that regular, weekly venue for sales and that’s a huge bummer. My plan is to focus on a few other possibilities.

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Do more craft shows. This is the best way to connect with new customers and get my business out there. There are a few negatives: they aren’t always easy to book or easy to prepare for. They also come with the added expense, usually in a straight-up fee, but also in the preparation. I need to have as much product as possible on hand while also being realistic about sales. I don’t want to spend too much money completely over-making for the show, but I also don’t want to sell out halfway through the day.

Diversify. I’m working on some additional items. My new sewing machine opens up all kinds of handmade options, both in soap accessories like pouches and toiletry bags but also eventually in larger projects.

Talk to local businesses about selling my products. There are a couple of local shops that carry, or have carried, my product. Now that I’ve learned my lesson on ‘consignment’ (more on that later), I’ll be requiring paying upfront. I do offer a discount on bulk product and shops can sell at whatever price the market will bear.

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Spend more time advertising the business. In the past, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time advertising my business outside of craft shows and our market stand. I’ve been making a more conscious effort to give out my business card when I meet someone, even if we haven’t talked about my side business at all. It almost always piques their interest, sparking a little conversation about the items in my shop.

Make sure I have inventory all the time. This is a big one! I’ve been out of stock on soap since just after New Years. We are renovating our basement, which was also my soap crafting shop. It’s a mess of sawdust and (shortly) drywall crumbs – neither of which people want in making their way into soap! Plus, all of my supplies are currently stowed away in the back of our storage space during construction. But seriously, I need to stop making excuses. As soon as I can, I’ll need to clean up a portion of the space for soap or move the whole operation upstairs. I’ve learned that telling someone I don’t have any product “right now” is a surefire way to make certain they won’t ask me again.

This summer will be tough without our farm stand to help, but hopefully keeping business strong throughout the spring will help soften the blow and keep things moving forward. I don’t think I’ll ever live on soap alone but I do enjoy my little business and it’s an awesome value-added product for our farm.

If you have a side business, how have you grown your income and visibility?

 

 

Cook Stuff: Slow Cooked Apple Cinnamon Quinoa

If you overindulged on cheese dip and jalapeno poppers this Super Bowl Sunday (or Puppy Bowl – that kitten halftime gets me every time!), this hearty breakfast will put you back on track on this week.  It’s warm, sweet, and the protein-packed quinoa won’t send you back to the kitchen in an hour like a bowl of Special K. Apples + quinoa + cinnamon? Yes, please!

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You’ll need:

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced (I used a Fuji)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Step 1: Throw everything in the crock pot. Mix it up well.  My tiny crock pot is 1.5 quarts and fit this recipe perfectly. If your pot is a little bit bigger, you could double the recipe.

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Step 2: Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours. Enjoy the wonderful autumn apple scent. Better than a candle, y’all! And you get to eat it. Don’t eat candles.

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Step 3: Eat! Wasn’t that easy? This apple quinoa is as perfect for starting your day with a full belly as it is for snuggling up on the couch on a cold winter night to watch Back to the Future with your cat.  Just as an example, of course. Your experience may vary.

Makes 4-6 servings. Happy eating!

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Tired of slow cooker recipes yet? Don’t worry! My next recipe will have the tiny percentage of your Italian heritage saying “Il pranzo era delizioso. Grazie davvero!” (I googled that.)

Big Questions: Have I Become More Materialistic?

This wasn’t the easiest post to write. In fact, I thought about it all day yesterday and the furthest I got was “This wasn’t the easiest post to write” and then some random ramblings about fancy things people have. Right now I have a total of 16 saved revisions.

I was the third (and last) child of parents who became less involved as time went on. A lot of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older sisters. Most of my toys were the same. When I needed new clothes, my mother often took me to a thrift store or a flea market. I wasn’t neglected – I had the things I needed. What I didn’t have were the wants. And when you’re a kid, you have the wants. That’s what Saturday morning commercials are made for.

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After college, I moved to Chicago and started working for a law office full time making $12 per hour with no benefits. I could hardly pay my bills, let alone engage in any kind of ‘lifestyle creep’. After almost a year of that and another year of a failed attempt at grad school, I finally landed at a nonprofit. I had student debt but no credit card debt. I was making enough money to support myself (with 2 roommates) while still being able to put gas in my car and get a drink, so I was l-i-v-i-n-g. All of my friends were in the same boat. We were all artists or musicians or writers or nonprofit workers. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t. My friend and I would go to Forever 21 during our lunch break at work to shop for clothes for going out on the weekend. Urban Outfitters was next door, but $60 for a dress wasn’t in my budget. And this was normal. Every day on my lunch break, on my way home, on the train, on the street, I saw people who were less fortunate. I knew I was lucky to be where I was.

cant afford

When we moved to the suburbs, I started working a corporate job, making about 15% more than I had in the city while living in a lower cost area. I’d never been in a world before where so many people were married with dual incomes. I’d never been in a world of so many blingy rings and wedding bands, or seen so many people driving nice cars. Lots of my coworkers had nice Coach or Michael Kors bags, 2 carat engagement rings and Pandora charm bracelets.  My friends had beautiful houses or apartments that were perfectly decorated. When we went out, we only saw the same kind of people: middle or upper middle class, enjoying life with their well-dressed children who probably did things like go to soccer practice. And when my husband got a new job that paid much more than his old one, something in my brain switched - wait, we can afford that! I want the things. I want all the things!

all the thingsI’d never had Jonses like this before. I’d never known people personally who lived a different life than I did. I’d wanted, but I’d never felt like I should have these things. I’d never felt that I should spend over $200 on a purse I’d enjoy carrying for 6 months until I got bored and wanted a new look (girl, you know it’s true). I’d never felt that I should go out on a Saturday and furnish my entire living room I’d never thought I should shop at designer stores and shrug at $100  price tags. I’d managed to save money when I wasn’t making much by feeling exactly opposite of this. What happened to me?

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And many of the things I feel so strongly about now aren’t “things.” They’re possibilities and freedoms.  I’m 30 now. I want the ability to figure out what career path is right for me without going into (more) debt. Since we’ve been talking about having kids, I want things for them. I want to be able to stay home with them more than my parents did. I want things for them that I didn’t have: piano lessons and sports and camp. New clothes! It all costs money.

i want it now

The other night, during an argument about the future and money and the whole shebang, my husband said that we don’t need to keep making the amount of money we are making to be happy. We could make much less. I was completely taken aback. How could we take a step backward? How could we make less and still have the things? Maybe he could be happy, but I only saw fear and anxiety. I couldn’t help but replaying the scene from Look Who’s Talking where Molly envisions a life with James to be dented canned goods and semi-rotten lettuce.  My children can’t eat from dented cans! Botulism! I saw the life I wanted for my family slipping away and that made me impossibly angry.

In truth, I feel a lot of ways about how I reacted. A little embarrassed, a little confused, and even a little right.  It’s true: I’ve become more materialistic. As I’ve felt more financially secure, I’ve felt more secure in spending money as well as saving it. It’s not just things I want to buy,  I want experiences. I want possibilities. I want stability in the form of money in the bank. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a terrible thing. I think there’s a balance between Paris Hilton and Francis of Assisi. It’s okay to have the wants and to indulge the wants every once in a while as long as you know that’s what they are. Just make sure it’s the real you who wants the things, not the ideal you (that’s the you who goes to the gym every day, btw). I’m still lucky to have all that I have – and most of it wasn’t purchased.

Do you feel you’ve become more or less materialistic over time? Do you think your financial status contributes to it, whatever that status may be? Do you feel pressured by your own Jonses?

 

Cook Stuff: Super Easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Curry

Man,  I am all about my crock pot lately. And for good reason! It’s effing cold outside and everything that comes out of my crock pot is warm and delicious.  This pumpkin curry recipe is really friggin’ easy, has only a few ingredients, and is really, really, ridiculously good. My version was vegan, but you can sub in chicken very easily.

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You’ll need: Continue reading

Goodbye, Side Hustle: Why I’m No Longer a Tupperware Consultant

In February of 2013, I was working from home and found myself with more spare time than I’d had when I spent all day at the office. I decided that a side hustle might be just what the doctor ordered.  Who couldn’t use a bit of spare cash? I jumped whole-heartedly into the world of direct sales.

I frequented the blog of a woman who began selling Tupperware online. Paging through the catalog, I thought “This stuff is so cute and useful. I could totally use this and explain to others how to use this. I could do this.” I didn’t want to sell make up. I didn’t want to sell candles. I didn’t want to sell sex toys or crappy jewelry. Oh no, I wanted to sell high-quality plasticware.

life of the Tupperware party

After paying $30 for my starter kit, I received a giant white box in the mail. Excitedly, I ripped into the packaging and began taking photos of my awesome new toys to text to friends. I called my mother and told her I’d decided to become a Tupperware lady. She laughed. My uncle had a Tupperware business in the 70s and she was still using things she bought from him. I had some favorites right off the bat – mostly the breakfast maker (a microwave omelette maker… still love that). I had catalogs. I had order sheets. I had the drive and will. I could totally do this! Continue reading

Money: When Should I Throw Cash at My Student Loan?

For years, I’ve been saving money in a  savings account through my local credit union.  I wasn’t sure, when I started or even now, what I’m saving for – a house, a move across the country, an eventual wedding, or… I don’t know, like a badass sports car. Well, we bought a house and we got married and I don’t have any more room in my garage. I guess I could spend it on paying down my student loan.

Look, I know I need to pay them eventually. I know I racked them up and they’re my responsibility and blah blah blah. For several years, I worked at a 501(c)3 organization and was hoping I’d qualify for loan forgiveness if I kept it up. My move to the corporate world after our move to the suburbs put an end to that hope and since then I’ve been slowly chipping away at my debt with the minimum payments.  Is it time to change the game? Continue reading

Cook Stuff: Vegan Crock Pot Ratatouille

Let me paint a scene for you: I walk in the door after a long day of work. I take off my coat and scarf, flip my phone off silent, grab the TV remote, and flop down on the couch. I know I need to get up and make dinner, but I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less.  My husband  gets home and asks what we should have for dinner. “Something quick,” we both agree, “I can’t wait for an hour-plus to cook something or I’m definitely going to die.” Cue the Pastaroni, Mac & Cheese, or Boca Burgers.

My husband and I have said many times that we need to stop relying so much on prepared foods, especially Boca burgers and other soy products.  One of our prime objectives this year is to expand our horizons, cook more meals from scratch and begin meal planning to save money and reduce our after-work stress. The slow cooker is the perfect solution and this Ratatouille recipe is easy and makes enough for several servings. Yay!

(This recipe originally appeared in The Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

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