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Brown Bagging It: The Struggle Continues

27 Jan

Doesn’t it look so boring?  When I see one, I immediately think of some smashed mediocre sandwich cut down the middle, a Washington Red, and a bag of baby carrots.

While so many people plan to diet and lose weight every year, I unsuccessfully go on a spending diet.  But I’m never discouraged to take a stab it every year.  Without a doubt, my plan is thwarted by food, wine and spirit infused fun times and escapades.  So here I am, once again, making plans to brown bag it in 2012.  Here is what my lunch week looks like most times:

Monday

Tuesday[1]

Wednesday

Thursday[2]

Friday

Total

10.00

4.00

10.00

5.00

15.00

$44.00

10.00

4.00

10.00

5.00

15.00

$44.00

Grand Total

$88.00

[1]

Taco Tuesday at Café Rio

[2]

Costco food (Cheap!)

How much I spend on lunch every week fluctuates.  This is lighter than what I used to spend weekly, minimum $50.

Let’s say you make $40,000 a year.  This means you make $19.23 an hour [(40,000/52(weeks)=$769.23, $769.23/40(hours/week)] before taxes, benefits, and retirement.   I am going to go ahead and take 25% for those miscellaneous items.  So every hour you’re making about $14.42, which is $576.80 per week.  At this rate, you’re spending 8% (44/576.80) of your weekly earnings in one hour; you’ve almost spent what you make in an hour after taxes on lunch.  I know this is extreme with the numbers, but it is what I do.

On a higher level, think about what you make every week, two weeks or a month and know that you’ve spent $50 in a week, $100 in two weeks, or $200 in a month alone on lunch.  Now, I am not going to lie.  It’s so difficult for me to bring my lunch to work.  Really difficult, so this is what I have done this week.

Monday [1]

Tuesday[2]

Wednesday [3]

Thursday

Friday

Total

5.99

7.83

2.16

4.99

4.99

$25.96

Grand Total

$25.96

[1]

Fresh & Easy lunch

[2]

In & Out

[3]

Costco food (Cheap!)

Although cutting the expense completely would be most beneficial, I have found a way to reduce how much I spend.  I spent $18.04 (44-25.96) less than what I normally spend a week.  Woohooooo!!!

By purchasing my lunch from the grocery store daily, I get to enjoy the great outdoors and choose my lunch.  I have commitment issues and hate the lunch room and eating at my desk; my lunch needs to be different EVERYday.

Grocery stores are the best places to buy lunches; they don’t charge tax on food!  Fresh & Easy sell little meals you can just pop in the microwave and they are BAMB.  Monday, I had the Butternut Squash Risotto (s/o @sooelite), Tuesday, In & Out, Wednesday, Pepperoni pizza, Thursday, Southwest Salad and lentil soup, and tomorrow, I will have a Baby Spinach Salad with lentil soup (I didn’t say I am a healthy eater). Never buy a drink for lunch, unless it’s Veggie Grill’s Strawberry Lemonade and iced tea.  You don’t need the sugar and sodium anyhow.  Next time you’re out, look at how much a drink costs, it’s practically half the cost of your meal.  No gracias.  Water, please.

I hope those calculations above help you figure out how much you are being paid per hour.  It’s helpful in negotiating and changing jobs.  When going from hourly to salary, people get confused because a job will throw a seemingly large figure at you, but when you reduce it to the hour, it’s not much.  Don’t get bamboozled.  Know how to calculate your salary to the hour and PTO.

You’d be surprised how often companies cheat their employees on their PTO because people do not don’t take the time to monitor it.  First, you need to speak with your HR department to figure out the accrual rate for PTO.  My job accrues PTO at a rate of 4.62 hours per pay period, so every pay period I should see my PTO account increase 4.62 hours, unless I’ve used some off it.  Then, I have to net what I’ve used with what I earned.  Don’t you hate looking at it?  For every 80 hours I work, I only get 4.62 hours of PTO.  Such is life!

I hope something in this post can be of use to you.

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Tablescapes and Table Setting

17 Nov

It’s been a long time, guys.  I hope you have been well.  I KNOW you are blessed because you are reading this entry.  Pow!

I only have interest in tablescapes and table setting during the holidays.  Otherwise, I don’t really care.  Just hand me my plate.  But it doesn’t hurt to know how to set a table and make people feel invited and special when the time comes. 

A few things…

Don’t overwhelm your guests with a cluttered table.  Keep it simple, thoughtful, nice and neat. If you can, set a table with real dishes (glass and white ceramics).  Choose three materials you love (clear glass, ceramic, metal, and colored glass/painted ceramic) to build upon.  I think Chinet has plastic decorative plates one can use in lieu of ceramic plates.  Right now, all fall items are on clearance because the season is coming to a close.  Check out Michaels and Home Goods; these two stores truly cater to the seasons.

One of the best things one can do is personalize their table setting.  I love personalized anything as a guest.  Here are some random ideas and things I love when visiting for dinner:

    ∙ Folded napkins placed in my plate (Do away with those 80s napkin rings)
    ∙ Menu cards, so guests know what’s available
    ∙ Name tag placed in my folded napkin
    ∙ White Plates (they make food look awesome)
    ∙ Candles (nutmeg, fresh baked cookies, brown sugar, pumpkin pie, cranberry)
    ∙ Appetizers near the area I enter the home or where I will seat prior to dinner being ready (check out Meg’s post for appetizers)
    ∙ Fresh Flowers/Fresh flower tucked in a napkin
    ∙ Clean home
    ∙ If you have a special dessert, make gift box sized portions to give away to your guests.  Yes, put a name tag.  They will have it as their midnight snack guaranteed.
    ∙ For smaller parties, make dishes they love
    ∙ Low music playing the back ground
    ∙ A place to put my jacket and purse
    • Games
    • To-go containers and bags
    • Specialty holiday drink (non-alcoholic or alcholic). Cider with cinnamon sticks sounds awesome.

Fall is awesome because you have that fresh crisp air, clear skies, and warm cozy colors (golden yellows, rusts, browns, and beiges, sultry wine reds). I’m thinking of cable knit and cashmere right now. That’s literally how fall makes me feel. Here are some tablescapes I liked and they speak to my favs above. I did this from my phone as I always do, so I apologize for the crazy formatting.

Wedding Planning Season Begins…Now

9 Sep

Friends and family lure me into planning things I do not want to plan.  I can tell how I interact with my friends because of their reaction to my “no.” smh.  No.More.Weddings. However, if you can pay me several, not a couple thousand to do it and you have a large budget, I am in.  Otherwise, I can’t.  People don’t understand what an effort it is and how meticulous I am, until they work with me.  If you’re a friend, you can call me to discuss it over lunch.  I’ll outline everything and answer any questions you may have in a maximum of two meetings. That is all.

I don’t care how long you give yourself to plan a wedding.  Although the further out the better, everything is about planning. 

Rule #1

Don’t have the wedding of your dreams or think you can have the wedding of your dreams, if you can’t afford it. 

Scale back!  Sacrifice!  Your wedding should be funded via CASH. Cash makes you think thrice times before spending.   If you can’t pay in cash, wait.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting married legally and later having a wedding.  Is credit card debt/loan really the way you want to start your married life? Fastest way to cut cost is cutting people. *karate chop*

Rule #2

Don’t ask family members to provide their services

Unless they will be an usher or help setup, I would not advise they cater, do decorations, anything an outside party can do.  If you’re strapped for cash, go ahead, but they are trying to enjoy the ceremony as well, so they’ll be distracted.  Plus, I hate the feeling of anyone believing I owe them for doing me a favor.  When you give, you give.  End of it.

Rule #3

Keep everyone that is of any importance to your wedding in your phone with detail as to what they do.

There will be many many many names.  Store people with what they do, who they are, and their company name.  Google Sync twice a day.

Rule #4

You need a binder. 

How else will you organize everything?  Take it everywhere you go.  Mine is either in my car or in the house with me.  I never leave it.  Use dividers for easy flipping.   Even if you do not use a vendor, keep their information just in case you need them later.

Rule #5

Make a custom day-by-day calendar

You need to be focused and always know what you are supposed to be doing.  Stretch a task over 3 days.  There may be stumbling blocks, so allot time to handle them.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but schedule days off.  Use checklists available on the internet to create your personalized calendar.   Use more than one source.  There are always differences between each.  Combine them.  Eliminate what you will not use or need.  Personalize your checklist!

Rule #6

Budget for a Rehearsal Dinner. 

Reward your wedding party for coming out.  Really show that you appreciate their time.  Send a real invitation, please.

Rule #7

Buy the wedding party a gift, a thank you for their time. 

They really go unappreciated for the time and money spent to participate.  They are doing YOU a favor.

Rule #8

Communicate

Stay in regular communication with everyone involved.  Make sure everyone has had a chance to get to know you.  No surprises.  I am a stickler about how things are done and how long it is taking.  I will fight for you and against you, depending on what’s going on, but we’ll work it out.  The photographer told his friend before I called, “She’s nice, but she’s no joke.  She’s extremely professional”

Rule #9

Be confident and honest about what you do and do not like

This is your wedding.  Balls to the wall.

Rule #10

Budget

When budgeting use your budget efficiently by weighing what’s most important to you.  No.  It can’t be everything.  Reception (food) is where you will spend the bulk of your money.  Do this first.  Then, do everything else.  You will know where you stand after this.

Tips:

    Use Voicemail Depot and a gmail account for people to call in or email to make reservations.   You do not want this being forwarded to a personal phone.  Headache! Neither do you want to spend all the money on stamps for a rsvp card.

    Create a wedding website. 

    Wedding Wire – fun youthful site that wll track your checklist, if u update it.

    The Knot – an old timer with tons of info.

    Checkout a wedding show/convention before planning

    Know whether you want a formal or informal wedding.

Here are two sites I love for FREE (don’t pay for this stuff):

Pash Weddings  – Free Printable Wedding Planner

Perfect Wedding Day – Reception Timeline, Ceremony Timeline/Processional, MC Script for ceremony. This site is soooo good.

Last, but definitely not least, pray, attend pre-marital counseling, and still do couple things. Don’t have everyone asking why you’re getting married. People should see why.

Signing off,
Misch
“Know how to flip that money three ways” 

Refinancing: Run The Numbers

8 Jun

You have an asset you purchased with a loan and would like to change the terms of your loan with your current lender or change to a new lender because they have a better deal, which typically means a better interest rate, refinance.  You move the principal (amount you owe before interest) to another lender.  Loans consist of principal and interest.  Interest is the money you pay the lender for borrowing their money to purchase whatever you needed/wanted.

My job is offering a great auto loan rate right now.  It’s 3.5%.  Of course, this is for people with good credit (very important to maintain a great credit score).  I get .5% less than the public because I am an employee, so I can get 2.99%.  My first thought was that is 2.5% less than the interest rate I have now.  Time to refinance!  But wait…let me go to an online financial calculator and calculate my savings over the life of the loan.

First, you have to define why you are refinancing.  Are you refinancing to lower your payment because you can’t afford the payment, really need the cash in your pocket, or to increase the amount you pay to principal, thus, paying less interest?  Mine was to pay less interest, which means I am paying more principal.  My thinking—-> I’ll pay my current monthly payment on a new loan with a low monthly payment and interest; I’ll save on interest without feeling a change monthly.  But after my calculations using my handy dandy financial calculator, I have some thinking to do.  This is more than a face value monthly payment.  This has to do with time as well.  These are my thoughts…

How much time do I have left on my loan and the remaining principal?  My car will be paid off in 28 periods and there is not much left to pay off.  Since car loans are typically 36 or 60 periods, their terms push me out 8 more months (28+8=36 months), unless I pay it off.  If I am going to pay my car off, I might as well ante up on the loan I already have, but I am not going to do that.  I have an anxiety attack whenever I spend large amounts of money in one sitting.  Remember when you paid for your courses and that trip.  Saving is a great effort that takes time.  Spending only takes seconds.

If I wanted to lower my payment, this deal sounds great.  I would have $200 more per month in my pocket by refinancing, but I have extended my loan periods prolonging the expense. But hey! I am not going to knock it.  Depending on your situation and circumstances (about to default or barely making it), you might need that $200 for necessities.  If you can save the $200 per month and just pay to principal at the end of the year after starting and maintaining a rainy day fund, do so.  If you will not use the money to pay down the principal, I would advise you don’t refinance.

I don’t need the extra money and my goal is to get rid of this car payment.  So now, I am back at square one, keep the current loan and pay more on it to get rid of it.  When I ran the numbers, I only saved $300 over the life of the loan by refinancing for 36 periods and paying the additional $200 on principal every month with the new loan. So in the end, I’m not going to refinance.

Be careful.  What looks good may not be all that good.

The best calculators of all time and they include amortization tables

Bank Rate

Time Is Money

11 May

I have a weird amusement with the Geico Money. It makes me laugh so much.

As several of my friends and I follow different avenues to success, we learned some hard hitting lessons along the way.  I thought I’d share a few lessons learned with pointers, much of it is specific to Interior Design and Event Planning because that’s where my experience lies (and a trillion other things).

∙ You must have a consultation. 

    This is not the time to document a plan and pick a centerpiece or decide a wall color.  This is the time to assess on a high level what the client wants, their time and availability, and budget.  THIS IS THE TIME TO ADJUST YOUR AND THEIR EXPECTATIONS, BUT PROVIDE HOPE.

∙ NEVER begin working on a project without a budget

    I don’t care what they say and how much money they have.  Never ever begin your work without a budget.  Ask them what they are comfortable spending.  Then, ask if they have cushion.  Never operate on the top of the budget.  Things happen and you may need to cushion to get things done.  If a client will not let you know the budget, RUN.  It will prove to be a waste of time.  Imagine doing the pricing and product and they now confess they don’t have the means.  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

∙ Include your fee in the budget

    Once you actually have the budget, make sure you deduct your fee from the budget before working any numbers.

∙ Study your trade

    Get estimates.  Find people.  Read.  Buy books and magazines.  I have Accounting books, a $70 teaching Mathematics book I begrudgingly purchased, and a host of Interior Design books.  I truly believe one has to hone their talent with skill.

∙ Always. Always. Always be professional

    Have a plan.  Know what you are talking about giving room for their input.  Be professional yet charming.  I had to learn how to be personable and genuine in business.  When I first started the journey, it was painfully forced.  I discussed this in an earlier GWC post.  When performing a service for someone, especially as personal as an event or design project, they want the transition and process to feel organic.  They don’t want to be sold, per se.

∙ Don’t allow a good deal to ruin relationships

    People will try to use you and the people you know #fact.  Don’t let them.  I always say that my contractor is more important than my client.  I trust my contractor.  He does great work and is flexible.   I can trust him.  Big thing here, I can trust him.  I can get another client tomorrow, but I cannot find a great contractor tomorrow.

∙ Be honest about what you can do

    If someone has some extraordinary task that I have no experience with, I will tell them “I have never done that,” not I can’t do that.  A client wanted to cover a brick fireplace with cement, which I had no experience with.  I told her I’d speak with my contractor, do some research, and get back to her.

 

∙ Know when to pull the plug

    Respectfully decline projects when you know it is not going to work out.  Merely state that you are currently booked and cannot work the project at this time.  Don’t just flat out say, “no.”  Although they will not be your client, give them alternatives and advice.  If you know they’d work out best with someone else, suggest them.  Give the other person a heads up, though.  Never know where your blessing is going to come from.  The people who can’t make decisions and have not given me the freedom to do so get the “let me know when you’re ready.  I’m waiting on you.”

∙ Know when to stop doing portfolio work/paying your dues

    This is the grayest area.  I want my name out there.  I want to be established, but when do I stop doing work free of charge? I have work in my portfolio. This is decided by you. Can’t stutter when you quote. I decided when a former client said I saw your work at ______ and _______ with _____ and _______. She knew my work from beginning to end, so it was time.

∙ Find your niche

    Which basically means know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can market correctly.

∙ Control your time and outline what you will be doing

    People will run you ragged.  Set parameters.  Be polite and outline what your services include.  Be very detailed with the timeline.  I even include that the contractors will dispose of all waste related to the project given the homeowner provide a receptacle.  Yea…it gets that specific.

∙ Have a Non-Disclosure Agreement

    When you’re doing free work, get a non-disclosure agreement prepared for your work, depending on the job.   My commercial work has one.  Why?  They’ll take my ideas and not give me credit.  All I ask for is credit on this one.  Only do so much mapping, sharing and caring without a Non-Disclosure.  Put your logo and/or name on everything.  Email.  It’s a legally binding document, to my knowledge.  I am 99.9% sure it is.

Our talents are God given. Giving advice concerning our craft will not interrupt our blessings.

It’s how we put it together that sets us apart, not what we’re given. People pay where they see value. So for those that want hours of my time, ante up!

Lentils. What are they? and How do i cook them?

17 Feb

No one talks about Lentils and rarely do I see them on a menu.  CPK, if they still do, has a soup, but I guarantee it is not as good as this one.

Lentils are used throughout South Asian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisine.  It is a legume, a flowering plant.  I know that sounds so unappetizing, but I figured I’d let you know.  If it makes you feel better a bean is a type of legume.  This is one of the tastiest, affordable, and most beneficial soups I have ever had; it’s high in fiber and protein.  Although it’s a soup, I have had it for dinner.

What you will need

    ½ lb Lentil
    6 cups Vegetable Broth
    2 Celery stalks
    1 medium Onion
    1 Carrot
    ½ Bellpepper
    2 Garlic cloves
    2 – 3 Red Potatoes
    1 Smoked Turkey Neck
    1 tbspn Oregano
    Pepper to taste
    Salt to taste
    2 bay leaves
    2 tbspns of Oil to sauté vegetables

Instructions

Rinse and Drain Lentils.  Make sure to remove all hard pieces and/or rocks. Roughly chop vegetables and potatoes.  You do not want them too fine.  It’s a soup, so you want defined texture in all the liquid.  Mince the garlic.  Once done chopping vegetables and mincing garlic, heat oil in pot over medium heat.  Sauté onion, bellpepper, carrot, celery, and garlic about 5 minutes.  The vegetables should be a little tender by now.  Now, pour the vegetable sock into the pot, put the turkey neck, potatoes, oregano, and bay leaves in.  Season with black pepper and salt.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour.  After soup has cooked and lentils are tender, not falling apart, remove the turkey neck to separate the meat from the bones.  Discard the bones and return meat to the pot.  You can also cook this soup in a slow cooker.  Throw everything in in the morning before leaving for work.   After work, it should be done.

Good Eats!

Cheapie Molten Lava Cupcakes

14 Feb

Meg is the better cook. Those nubs are blessed and sprinkled with sugar and spice and something nice. I’m an experimenter, which makes us a dynamic duo in the kitchen. I will explore shortcuts and different types of food. For example, Pear Sorbet and S’mores for Thanksgiving, Falafel, Lemon Dill Sauce, and Nectarine Salsa are things I’ve done. If anyone needs ice cream salt, I have plenty.

But on to this quick recipe…

You will need:

  1. 1 box of Devils Food cake
    All the ingredients the box calls for, BUT
  2. substitute water for 1 pint of heavy whipping cream, instead of milk, although I have to use about a 1/3 cup of milk to make up the difference.
  3. 1 can of milk chocolate icing
  4. Cupcake baking cups

Directions:

    Mix the batter as directed on box and fill baking cups halfway with batter. Drop a tspn of chocolate icing into the middle of the batter. Cook as directed. When done, remove wrapper from those u are definitely going to eat. You can melt some more icing if you would like and drizzle over top. After it’s cooled a bit, plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Vanilla Ice Cream with crushed Pistachio or Pistachio Ice Cream works well with the lava cakes. See! There it is! I’m taking a shortcut, Pistachio Ice Cream.

Pop a Bottle Buy Cooks or Andre for $4.99. Extra Dry and Spumante are best. I get so excited when a bottle pops. This means it’s only the beginning.