Friday, February 27, 2009

Does $25 Really Make A Difference

I was discussing with my lovely housemate the other day about getting rid of cable for the summer. He works a lot because its his busy time and I plan on being too busy for my own good. After talking about how much cable actually costs, it would only save about $25 for each of us. So then we started asking ourselves if that was even worth the savings. In the end we decided it wasn't.

Please, keep in mind that we have not been hugely effected by the recession. We both have our jobs and the hours and pay have remained the same as it was pre-recession. The things we have noticed that are effecting us is how expensive groceries are and the prices at our favorites restaurants have gone up a little. Even most of our friends still have their jobs and aren't largely effected by the recession. To us, convenience is still worth the extra $25 a month.

Don't get me wrong, even though we haven't really been effected, my budget is still be squeezed for every last penny I can find. The reason; financial goals and student loan debt. My housemate is also trying to cut back in order to try and save more.
I have to pose the questions:
"How do you manage your budget in a recession?"
"What amount is too much?"
"How do I control my habit to shop?"
Let's start with the second question just for humor. When it comes to cable TV, the extra $25 a month for it is worth it. When it comes to pants, $25 more is a ton of extra money. No way will I buy those! But if they cost a total of $25, that's a steal. $25 to fill my gas tank is a little on the spendy side but $25 for a week worth of healthy groceries is amazing. It all depends on what you are buying and how long it will be around.

The third question is difficult. In fact, right now I don't have an answer because this is something I am struggling with tremendously. Great example: Online shopping, if I look at clothes online, I have more desire to go to the store and buy it. Temptation is ridiculous. When I was younger, I was never able to go shopping unless school was starting soon. Could this be what fuels my weakness?? Who knows. But I do know that I have a few keys things to save when I do shop; Although I look online, I don't buy online (very often), I go to the clearance racks first and try things on, then browse the store (most of the time). This way I can see what will be on sale in the future. If I really don't want to spend money, I try to bring my housemate with me(rarely does he want to go). He always keeps me from spending money-because he never buys anything at the mall. EVER.

The first question; the whopper question. Honestly, the only way to effectively manage your budget is to track it, establish your limits on spending, auto-deduct part of your paycheck to your savings and stick to it! Its hard to follow a budget if you don't have one. So get one. Every month check your figures and make sure they are accurate. Excel is amazing, learn to love it.

In all honesty, you should pay me $25 for this advise. After all, it will make a difference in your life long-term. *wink wink*

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Student Loan Debt:: Not as Scary as You Might Think

Dmitri Martin is hilarious. If you have yet to see him on Comedy Central on Wednesdays, please, do it as soon as possible.

Ok, back to the subject at hand; What would you do if you had so many student loans, you didn't know where they were all taken out and what the amounts were? Last night while talking at the bar with a few friends, one of my dear friends found out she wasn't paying a student loan and it went to collection, she didn't even knew she had it. She also began to explain that she had about twelve different loans and she doesn't even know where to send money to pay them all. Something about a lack of organization and structure in her life..

This posed a very interesting question; Would it be easier for her to ask her parents to take out a personal loan for the full amount of her student loans and she would pay them back? Or should she suck it up, get organized and pay them individually?

While those options are a possibility, here are a few of the solutions we came up with:

1. First and foremost, figure out where all your loans are from, minimum payments, balances and interest rates.
2. Check your credit ASAP (she had a collection agency call her-there could be more in the future).
3. Once you have all of the information, figure out the interest rate you need to have in order to break even or save money. This is essential when it comes to consolidating. *shown below
4. If her parents agree to her idea, go ahead with it. But be sure to keep one or two loans in her name to help her build credit.
5. If parents say no, look into other options. Like...
a. Consolidate loans that are private, consolidate government loans, consolidate personal loans (keeping in mind the interest you need to reach). This will downsize the number of loans she has.
6. If nothing else works, hire an assistant to track your expenses and pay your bills. :)

Point blank; if you have loans out that you don't have organized, get organized. Find a friend that is great at it and have him/her help you out. Information is power, and knowing everything about your loans and what loans would work best for you are essential to saving money in your future.

Although my friend isn't organized and admittedly says she can't keep track of multiple payments each month, its something she has to do better at.

If you aren't sure how to figure out what interest rate you need to save money when consolidating here is how in shorthand:

Principal Amount X % = $$ (Do this for each loan)
Add up $$ for each loan
Now, add up the principal for all of your loans.
$$/Principal= % needed to break even/save money.

Here is an example:
3 Loans;
8,000 @ 5.5%
5,000 @ 6.0%
10,000 @ 6.0 %

$8,000 X 5.5 = $440
$5,000 X 6.0 = $300
$10,000 X 6.0 = $600

600 + 300 + 440= 1340

8000+5000+10000 =23000

1340/23000 = 5.82 %

This is not that difficult. Especially if you have a calculator.

Now block off some time to sit down, look at all of your loans and your credit and figure out if you can save more money on your giant pile of debt obtained through getting a degree.

Once you have that figured out, open Excel and start to track it. Track your payments, how much principal you pay and how much your interest rate fluctuates (if it does). Tracking your loan can help you see how much you really do pay each month (and year) and give you a motivational boost to pay more than the minimum amount (as long as there isn't a penalty).

As for my friend, well, I'll get working on her sooner or later. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Evil Culprit of Technologies: Overuse Syndrome

Over-Use Syndrome, Tendinitis, Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel.

All of these things entail one thing; Your tendons are swollen and typing or mousing is the most painful experience in the world! Have you experienced this? It usually starts with your fingers or wrists becoming fatigued and sore, your hands get cold and possibly even numb sometimes.

Being diagnosed with any of these can be catastrophic for anyone who spends a significant amount of time on the computer, lifting boxes or heavy objects, cooking or anything that requires strength and force from your lower arms.

As a musician, it can ruin a career. In fact, it did (yours truly), it has to many and it will to many more. For office workers, it creates a challenge just to get through that one email that needs to be sent out.

When I first was told I had tendinitis, I figured it only applied to painting walls. I was so wrong. Once my senior year of college started, it came back ten times worse. My busy schedule of writing papers, taking notes and most important; preparing my Senior Recital came to a stop. I struggled not only with this terrible condition but I also suffered the worst cold in my life; it came back 4 times. I was left in bed for days and my work piled up. 'Catching Up' required coaxing my friends into typing my papers as I told them what to type, I struggled with my Clarinet Professor to convince him that practicing at rehearsal and for my recital was impossible. I tried and tried and tried for 5 weeks to manage my life. I began to think that I wouldn't be able to graduate.

I had to sacrifice so much; blogging, carrying my books to school (even on the shoulder; everything made it worse), lifting weights, I even had to drop out of the several performance groups I was in. I felt betrayed by my professors and peers. No one believed I actually had this much pain in so much of my daily activities. I kept pushing myself, I didn't want to stay in college another year and I certainly didn't want to let anyone down, especially myself.

I did go to the Doctor several times. Each time they told me to rest my arms and take advil to keep the swelling down. So I tried as much as possible. It didn't work.

In the end (which isn't the end), I did graduate but not before I ruined my reputation for being a hard working, talented musician.

Since leaving College in May 2007, I've seen a physical therapist for 10 months, A specialist for 4 months, I've had EMG's and MRI's done, I've seen an Orthopedic Dr., had cortisone shots and have spend countless hours in pain and hopelessness on overcoming this. Although I have made significant progress; at work I no longer need breaks from the computer, I can do minimal weight lifting and can practice my clarinet an hour a week (in College I would play an average of 6 hours a day!), I still can't beat this condition.

Managing the pain and swelling finally became possible last summer when I started seeing a Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist. Since then I have built strength and I fully believe I can overcome this.
It's been 2.5 years since this started. I have sacrificed a career in music, my confidence has faltered and simple things like opening a jar of pickles was impossible at one point in my adult life.

No one should have to go through this, yet so few people are aware of the symptoms and warning signs to the onset of this condition. And they certainly don't know how to avoid developing any one of the conditions listed above either. So here is some advice for those willing to take it;

Take breaks from your computer; for every 45 minutes take at least 5 minutes away.
Lift Weights on a regular basis. Keep your shoulders, upper and lower arms strong.
Use a stress ball to strengthen your fingers and hands.
Keep great posture; pull your shoulders back, keep your neck straight (not hunched) and keep your wrists straight when your at the computer; if they are bent it causes stress on the tendons.
Stretch your arms, shoulders and wrists. Its ok if it feels stiff, just do it everyday.
If you start to feel tired or sore, take a few moments and do something else, like a short walk. Don't work through the pain, even if you take advil.

I can't guarantee that following these recommendations will completely take the risk out for developing a condition, but it will certainly help. Our bodies weren't made to sit at a computer all day and we certainly weren't made for typing the way we do. Keep yourself healthy and your work will continue to get done without the added stress of pain in your hands, wrist or arms.

Like I said, it completely changed my life. At one point I thought my life would be miserable forever. But I have persevered, and will continue to do so until its gone.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Live As An Admin is Not Always About Work

I have to admit, when I decided to do this blog, I didn't put a lot of thought into the specifics of the purpose of the blog. I knew I wanted to help other beginning Admins to adjust and advance their career. But what I didn't realize was that an Admin lives and breaths what his/her job is all about.

I love doing my job because I take care of the details, as well as the big projects (like a Christmas Party). I enjoy doing all of this at home as well. So even if I'm not organizing my office paperwork at home, I am organizing my personal bills, recipes, and to-do lists at home. I don't stop organizing and planning and doing things once I go home because I love doing those sorts of things.

The life of an admin is about their entire life, not just at work.
So where does this leave my newly found and mostly ignored blog?

I'm tweaking it a little bit, instead of focusing on just admin at work, I will also incorporate admin at home and tips and tricks of an organized admin.

I'm hoping this will not only make this blog more accessible to more people, but also get me into writing more often and about more interesting things. So please, if you read this blog and like what you see, let me know! Comments are excellent and then I know I will be going in the right direction; helping you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sometimes all you need is to cook

Why do people cook? Why do people buy unprepared food and prepare them to eat?

This is simple. Food is awesome! And if you eat the right kind of food, its even better! Food is necessary for us to function properly, just like sleep. Not eating properly will not only show in your physical appearance but will also show with your attitude, energy and ability to work for long periods of time.

Here is a day's worth of food, it is all easy to prepare and enjoyable to eat!

Breakfast: (5 minutes)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 Cup fresh strawberries, washed trimmed and sliced
1 cup yogurt
Place in bowl and eat. (if you want to buy frozen fruit, heat it in the microwave for 25 seconds then put yogurt on top of it, the warmth of the fruit will mix excellent with the yogurt.

Take on the go: Put in plastic container and take to work to eat there. Either way, eat it.

Lunch: (w/cooked chix; 5 min, w/o cooked chix, 35 min)
1 1/2 cups green lettuce (I recommend dark green lettuce, it has more nutrients)
1/2 cup baby tomatoes
6 slices of cucumber, with skin
4-5 ounces chicken (this will need to be prepared before hand)
1/4 cup croutons (or more if you like a good crunch in every bite)
2 Tablespoons of your favorite dressing

If the chicken is also pre-cut in bite-sized chunks even better. Throw it together, drizzle with your dressing right before you eat it. This always leaves me very satisfied and it is healthy as long as you keep the salad dressing to a minimum. (also, you can add or sub any of these ingredients to make a filling healthy salad)

Popcorn mini bags!

Dinner: (20 min)
4-8 Ounces of linguine pasta (if you want leftovers, you can use any kind of pasta you have)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 lb. Asparagus, cut in 1-inch length pieces
1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
3 ounces Feta cheese

Your favorite garlic or cheesy bread.

Cook pasta according to packaging. Drain and place back in pot. In the meantime heat oil over medium heat. Once heated, add garlic clove and cook for 2-3 minutes (do not burn). Add Asparagus and cook 3-5 min; until soft but a little crunchy. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Add pasta and heat together. Crumble feta cheese on top of dish. Serve.

Dessert: (15 min, plus 2 hours to chill in fridge) (to eat, 5 minutes)
1 box of no-bake cheesecake
fresh blueberries and blackberries (or your favorite)
Hershey's dark chocolate syrup (the kind used for ice cream)

Prepare cheesecake according to packaging. Place muffin wrappers in a muffin tin. Press the cheesecake crumble into the bottom of each muffin wrapper, then fill with cheesecake mix. Refigerate for 2 hours. Before you eat; ddd a few of each kind of fruit on top and drizzle chocolate syrup over the top. Eat. Makes 18-24 cheesecake muffins-so share with friends.

The best part about a day's worth of food is that it can all be bought in the grocery store for under $40. The salad ingredients will last you 3-5 days, the breakfast (depending how much you buy) will last 5 days. Dinner depends on how much you make, I wouldn't make more than 3 days worth.

This is an excellent way to save money and still eat healthy. The next time you are in the grocery and reach for the frozen meals, not sure what its really going to taste like, just remember that it only takes one google search to find the perfect food for your body, brain and wallet!