How To Get Through College Without Eating Ramen

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a college student’s best friend

It’s the end of August…. which means the start of a new semester! I graduated college over 4 years ago but honestly, I still do miss those days. Dorming, staying up late, weekend outings….it was my first taste of freedom away from home and it was certainly a growing experience.

It’s funny how when you first start college, everyone tells you to be careful of the Freshmen 15 – no, not to study hard or network….but they tell you to watch out for your weight. It’s true though, eating healthy in college can be tough, especially when you’re a broke student. Microwavable meals, dining hall food, and of course, instant ramen tend to be the norm.

So if you’re a poor college student, can you still eat healthy and well on a budget…without a kitchen? Yes, you can! Sure, it’s a lot more different when all you have is a microwave and a fridge that can only hold a few cans of “soda”…but yes, it’s possible.

  • Your microwave will be your best friend. Believe it or not, you can cook a lot more in a microwave, aside from gross, packaged frozen meals. I’m talking rice, eggs, oatmeal…even protein. It took me awhile but I definitely perfected the art of microwaved steamed eggs in college. Here is a great list of 40 delicious (and unexpected things) you can cook in a microwave.
  • If you have a dining hall plan, consider yourself lucky. You don’t have to cook for yourself. Dining hall food can get a bad rep but it’s really not that bad since there are so many options. You can still eat healthy, as long as you make good choices. For instance, stay away from the grill – hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza- or any fried food, including those chicken fingers you love. Stick to the salad bar and sandwiches and wraps. Also, be sure to drink water, not all that sugary stuff. Just because there is an endless supply of soda doesn’t mean you should drink with every meal.
  • Learn to shop better. College may be the first time you’re grocery shopping on your own and you’ll probably be tempted to stock up on nothing but chips and cookies….but control yourself. For a snack, stick to veggies and fruits you can easily grab and go with, such as carrots, apples and bananas. For lunch or dinner, get canned or frozen veggies and meats, such as tuna, broccoli, and peas. They’re not as healthy as the fresh kind but it’s better than nothing!
  • If you’re living on campus, your dorm probably has a communal kitchen somewhere, equipped with pots, pan and everything you need. You probably don’t have time to be cooking every night but do it once in awhile. Make it into a fun social gathering with you friends – it can be your first dinner party…right in your dorm room!
  • College is college…and having a drink is almost like a right of passage. At the same time, limit your alcohol consumption. After all, it doesn’t do any good to your body. Ever heard the term ‘beer belly’?
  • However, if you still want to eat ramen (and I don’t blame you because it’s damn tasty), here are some idea on how to get creative. I’m talking ramen-pizza-type-of-creative.

If your college days are a thing of the past, how did you eat healthy on a budget?

Dating Etiquette: Who Pays For What?

5336352580_8180627d48_zTo be quite honest, I haven’t been on a first date in a very, very long time. My boyfriend and I have been together since college, so my last first date was over 7 years ago. Plus, first dates back then were very different (and cheaper) – something like dinner at TGI Friday’s and maybe a movie. So no, I’m probably not the best person to be talking about dating etiquette but what the heck, here I go.

I’m 25 and many of my friends are dating. I’m always hearing about how expensive it is to go on a date, especially for a guy in New York City. See, a date can easily cost over a 100 bucks – dinner and drinks for 2 ($100) + 2 movie tickets ($30) + popcorn & soda ($30). I don’t envy the male population at all since some ladies expect to paid for. So if you’re a guy and you really like a girl, going on a few dates can easily cost you your entire paycheck in NYC.

So is there any real dating etiquette to follow? Who pays for what? I’m of two minds when it comes to this but here is my ‘rulebook’ when it comes to dating and money:

  • For a first date, the guy will probably take the check. If this happens, I think the girl should suggest going dutch and splitting the bill. You’re still getting to know each other. So I think this is the fairest thing to do.
  • If no one reaches for the bill and things get slightly awkward, someone should pipe up and suggest to split it. Obviously in this situation, no one wants to pay for the whole thing.
  • From what I’ve experienced as a girl, I think most guys feel obligated to pay for the first date, at least. If the other person offers to pay the entire bill, say no at least twice. If he/she is insisting that they cover the bill, let them. You don’t want to make a big scene out of it. Thank them. I’m always appreciative when someones pays for me. It’s definitely a nice gesture but not something a girl should automatically expect.
  • I would also consider who asked out who – if the guy asked the girl out and he’s insisting that he pays for the bill, let him. The next one can be on you.
  • Similarly, if you are doing multiple things that night such as dinner and a movie, suggest splitting the cost by activity. For instance, he pays for dinner and she pays for the movie. While it’s not an even split, no one gets stuck paying for the whole date.
  • If things are going well and you go on more dates, take turns paying. Again, it’s not an even split but still fair and will probably even out in the end.
  • Lastly, avoid getting into the ‘extreme cheapskate’ mindset when it comes to dating. You’re going to have to spend some money – it’s about meeting people, not saving money. And once you’re in a steady relationship, ‘etiquette’ will go out the door and splitting will become second nature.

I think in the past, men were always expected to pay for dates – it was a sign that they have a job, are stable, and can provide for the woman. But in this day and age, women are primary breadwinners too so that notion is slowing dying. At the same time, it’s a very gentlemanly thing to do – so men, yes ladies do appreciate it. But at the same time, men shouldn’t get stuck paying all the time. It’s a two way relationship so treat it like one!

How do you feel about splitting the bill when it comes to date? Who pays for what?

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

compare-theif-joy-polymanI’m a millennial and I hear a lot of varying opinions about us. But you know what’s one thing I never really hear?

We worry too much.

Most people seem to generalize millennials as risk takers that are hard to please. We jump from job to job looking for happiness and fulfillment, not really thinking about the financial implications. While that’s true to a degree, I think you can look at it from another angle. We’re always looking for the next thing because we’re also worriers. Want to know why? Here’s a few reasons:

  • The economy went to sh*t around 2008 ish. Those of us who were unfortunate enough to graduate at that time were faced with the harsh reality that was the job market.
  • For those of us who had jobs, we were always worried about our job security. People around us were getting laid off left and right.
  • Social security? Will that even exist when we’re retired? Probably but we’re not counting on it.
  • Our parents worked decades at a single company. While we want job security, we also want to be explore and travel…can we accomplish that?

As a result of all of the above, I find that my friends and generally people my age always tend to feel like we’re running behind. And as a result, we compare ourselves to others: I’m not where my parents were at this age, I’m making X amount less than so-and-so, my boss is younger than me, etc., etc.

Instead of throwing yourself a pity party because of your financial state, try this: stop comparing yourself to others.

I will admit that I worry about money and my career probably to much. I look at how others are doing my age or what people I know have done at my age and I can’t help but wonder if I’m behind. I don’t love my job. I live in a really expensive city. I’m not married. I don’t own any property. But on the same note, I’m also a lot better off that some other people I know. So am I behind, on track, or ahead of the game?

The answer is none of the above. There is no game – just one that you made up. I hate that we always have to compare ourselves to others in order to determine our worth or define our success (that leads to the bigger debate of how to define success but we shall get to that another time). Is there a rule of thumb of how much you should be making at any given age? Or how much you should be worth? Of course not. So stop trying to hold yourself up to that standard.

Whenever you’re down and thinking about how much more successful someone else seems to be, remember that it’s all relative. Everyone’s goals, hopes and dreams are different and you might be much closer to your than they are to there’s.

How I’m Saving Money On Coffee

2471138966_44fe5cb7f4_zCoffee might not seem like a big expense to some people but to me it is. Honestly, it’s one of my biggest vices. I must have at least one cup a day or else it feels like my day never really started. I would love to wean myself off and I have tried multiple times but with no success. It is what it is. I must have coffee.

To be honest, I go to Starbucks much more than I should. I’m a Gold level member, which I’m secretly proud of (guess it’s no secret anymore!). Not so long ago, I use to enjoy a cup of Starbucks coffee everyday. I would usually stick to a Tall Pike but on the days I was feeling spendy, I would go for a latte. That’s at least $100 a month just on coffee.

While I still enjoy Starbucks every now and then, I’ve actually been a lot better about spending less on coffee. My best advice would be to cut the addiction all together. But if you’re like me and can’t live without coffee, here are my tips:

Get A Coffee Machine

Not to state the obvious or anything but if you want to save money on coffee, you have to make your own or somehow get it for free. Unfortunately for me, my office has terrible coffee so my only option is to bring my own. I went a little overboard and invested in two machines but you only need one. First, if you’re the only one in your home that drinks coffee, I would recommend a French press. It’s cheap,  super easy to use and doesn’t require any electricity. Just press, wait, and drink. The downside side is that you have to clean it everyday and French presses can be a little difficult to clean. If you’re need something a little bigger, I would recommend a Keurig machine. With those little pods, it makes coffee in what seems like the speed of lighting. You can also buy refillable pods and fill it with any coffee of your choice.

Buy A Good Tumbler

Now that you have a good coffee machine, you need to get a good travel tumbler too. This might sound a little ridiculous but putting my coffee is a nice cup makes it a little more fun to drink. A good tumbler will also keep your coffee warm for much longer so you can enjoy it that much more. I have this one from Contigo and I love it!

It’s All About The Cold Brew!

I LOVE iced coffee and a reason why I like to buy a cup of it from the store is because I have a hard time making iced coffee. In the past, I would pour a cup of steaming hot coffee over a cup of ice, which means I end up with diluted, coffee flavored water. I recently learned how to make a cold brew and it’s freaking awesome. Cold brew is another way to make coffee that makes it more concentrated. It’s perfect served cold with ice. If you’re looking for directions, here is a great guide.

Be Savvier At Starbucks

If you must go to Starbucks, there are still a bunch of ways you can save a buck or two. I know a few tricks but here are my favorite:

  • Sign up for the Starbucks rewards program. Use your card to pay. For every 12 drinks you purchase, you get one for free. You also get a free drink on your birthday.
  • If you’re a fan of lattes, try a misto instead. A misto is coffee and steamed milk. It’s not on the menu but yes, it does exist. While it’s not as strong as a latte, it tastes almost the same.
  • Similarly, you can also get a Americano (espresso with water) instead of a latte. It’s a bit cheaper and you can add your own milk and sugar.
  • Lastly, I haven’t tried this but I know others who have. You can ask for shots of espresso in a larger cup. For instance, you can ask for a triple shot in a venti cup and then pour in your own milk. You might feel a little cheap but hey, it’s do-able.

These tips keep my coffee craving satisfied without having to spend a lot. What are you favorite money saving coffee hacks?

Happy Birthday! – My Favorite Birthday Deals & Freebies

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get this…FOR FREE

So my birthday isn’t until October. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. I don’t really don’t do birthday presents anymore. However, the BF will usually get me something, even though we’re not big on presents. For the most part, after the age of 21, my birthdays have been pretty chill, consisting of a lovely dinner and drinks with family and friends.

I’m turning 26 this year and while it’s a little embarrassing to say this, I’ll still say it – I love getting those little birthday freebies from stores and restaurants. While I haven’t tried it, I’m sure you can practically eat for free on your birthday just from using up birthday offers restaurants provide. My friend recently asked me if I wanted to walk with her to Baskin Robins to redeem her birthday freebie and my initial though was “Wait, Baskin Robbins offers birthday freebies!?”, followed by “free ice cream!?!”.

I’ve been compiling a list of what I think are the best birthday deals and freebies. Enjoy and happy birthday to you (some time within the next year!):

  1. Starbucks - I frequent Starbucks way too much, it’s no secret. If you sign up for an account and enter your birthday, you’ll get a free drink on your birthday, any drink (yep, think venti caramel frappucino big!)
  2. Sephora - I don’t shop at Sephora too much since it can get expensive pretty quick. But when I do shop, I try to do it around my birthday. If you sign up for a Beauty Insider account, you’ll get a nice collection of deluxe samples.
  3. Baskin Robbins – Just recently learned about this but it’s awesome. Sign up for their emails and get a free ice cream on your birthday.
  4. Cold Stone Creamery – One free ice cream is never enough. Sign up for their eClub and get a free ice cream on your birthday.
  5. IHOP – The first time I had IHOP was in college and I was so excited they opened on in NYC. Sign up for emails and you’ll get a free Rooty Tooty Fresh N Fruity on your birthday (or in other words, a really awesome breakfast).
  6. Jamba Juice – I love Jamba Juice and while you can’t get anything free on your birthday, you can get a sixteen oz. smoothie for $2.
  7. CVS – Sign up for their extracare beauty rewards program and you’ll get $3 off any purchase on your birthday.
  8. Applebee’s – I use to be obsessed with Applebee’s, who knows why… But if you still frequent the chain, you can get a free desert shooter on your birthday.
  9. Moe’s Southwest Grill – I think this is one of the best freebies because you can get an entire entree for free, including chips and salsa.
  10. Medieval Times – I’ve been here twice. Once when I was 10 and another time just 2 months ago – still a great time no matter how old you are. On your birthday, you can get free admission.

There are a lot more awesome freebies and deals to be had on your birthday but unfortunately, those chains aren’t in NYC so I can’t test them out. If you know of any others, let me know in the comments!