Hello London!

Yes, I know, I haven't had a post in months (terrifying!).  Why have I gone MIA? well, you see one day in December I received a phone call that I would be working in London for a year. 

Little did I know that I would be packing up that uptown apartment (and moving it back home!?), buying a huge winter coat and some rain boots and leaving the "big city" I thought I knew for a "bigger city" across the pond. And that cellphone? Sure miss being able to pick up the phone and call the friends and family that I talk to daily. Goodbye Corolla, hello London Tube.

I'm not living life in the "real world" anymore and I sure as heck am not walking in heels (I tried, trust me, but those slick cobble stones? NO THANK YOU) So I decided to temporarily, for a year, write in a new blog.

If you want financial/work/life advice? I'll be back in a year. But if you want some fun travel stories? Follow me here: Little Miss Londoner



Find Your Sports Mole

I'm not talking about a mole on your body that looks like a football. (Thats just weird). Everyone who is not a diehard sports fan should find their "mole" to give them the inside scoop what what is going on in the sports world. Sure, you can read some headlines (really good alternative if you are a loner) but sometimes getting a personal heads up allows you to have (1) knowledge on only things relevant to your needs - like a google alert (2) less falling asleep reading each sports article (3) the necessary bias.

Let me explain.

My friend Trey gives me the heads up on A&M sports news and knowledge. He alerts me if there is an article actually worth the read. (How can anyone keep UP with that stuff: Aggies, Cowboys, Rangers, Stars... and on and on - has anyone noticed that baseball games go on several time a week? That is a commitment!) Trey advises me not because I am a die hard sports fan (clearly), but precisely because I am not. I need JUST ENOUGH information to carry on a decent conversation at work/a wedding shower/my friend's boyfriend/ etc.

Last week, while working in New York, I was asked "So what do you think about A&M moving to the SEC?". (I secretly want to respond with: "What!? A&M moved to the SEC? Where have I been?" -- and then follow up with "I thought they were still in college station?") I was prepared, gave my cookie cutter answer that I have given 100 times. The thoughts have just enough of the correct bias (trey's bias) and I was able to maneuver through the conversation without standing there dumb founded.

You might think this is lazy. I think it is proper time management. Do the things you want to do and interest you, but without living fully under a rock.

Everyone should find their mole.

Remind me to buy Trey a shot.


Blockbuster Blues

The neighborhood Blockbuster by my house closed down. I am sure many of you have experienced the same thing. This Blockbuster closed down almost a year ago - but I am still mourning the lost. (For the record, I hate when people use their blogs as a place to whine, but it IS my blog right? and you have free will to stop reading it and watch the latest Gangum Style remake video on youtube at free will). I simply miss the days of driving up to blockbuster and picking out a movie just for me. I had a method. I would walk the entire back wall and collect any titles I thought I would want to see... then decide. If it was a bad month I would wander aimlessly through the countless old (but cheap) movies.

Someday we will tell our kids "There was once a store that had movies from floor to ceiling and you could borrow any movie you wanted, read the back cover. You know, back cover, movies back then were physical DVDs and came in boxes. Too bad they went out of business because people were too damn lazy to go return the slightly overprice, but worth it for a better selection, movies." Man, I feel old. Is this what getting old feels like?

I have an issue committing to Netflix. You mean, I might not have instant gratification of my movie? And I have no idea how to do all the set up stuff. PLUS who wants to commit to HAVING to watch a movie or 2-3 each month to feel as though I got my money's worth. Watching a movie should NOT be a chore. (I know everyone and their mom has jumped on this bandwagon, but I'm still reminiscing about the glory days)

And redbox? who ever finds anything you really want to see in the super limited selection. And I get anxious when there are people in front of me that they are going to take the very last movie. Odds are, I will get stuck behind the world's slowest movie-picker-outer ever. AND you still have to return it the next day. Sometimes, I think "eh, its only a dollar" if it isn't convenient to return.... but then, after a week, I might as well have gone to Blockbuster.

Please, please tell me that someone out there also misses the golden years.

Oh Blockbuster, you will always remain in my heart and childhood.


Email Etiquette

The guide to writing emails to your boss/important people:

(1) Try to put everything he or she needs to know in the subject line. Odds are they have no intention to open the email anyways. If you put key words of phrases in the subject, they get your thesis without having to click "open" on their cellphones. (Make sure it is not a "wordy" subject or it will cut off if opened on a cellphone)  Let's be honest. Odds are he or she wont even read the subject - they might just disregard it - the subject should then be searchable so that a few weeks or months from now when he (we are just going to use the pronoun "he" from now on to cut down on unnecessary typing) asks you if you sent that email, you can say "oh yes, check the email sent on 10/4 titled *insert your title here*".

(2) Use bullet points. Or numbers. You odds are greatly increased of getting a read if you have bullet points. No "unnecessary" words in this either.  Just a quick, super short, to the point summary. (don't take this post to be the perfect example of course). Don't get me wrong, when I have been told to "write a detailed email describing the situation", I have written a detailed email that would make your eyes roll to the back of your head half way through reading it, That can't be good for anyone's yearly optometrist visit,

(3) Bold. If you are lucky enough for him to open the email, you want the bolded words to smack him in the face. He should be able to understand the entire email by simply skimming the bold words. That way, if he "skims your email" you are helping him to skim the part you really want for him to read.

(4) Don't use long words. Write as though you are writing to a small child (with all due respect). He isn't going to use a dictionary to look up presumptuous words. (such as presumptuous). You don't come off as "more intelligent" if you used your thesaurus to write a quick work email.

(5) If there is additional information, put it in the attachment. Then you can say "attached, for additional information, is the *insert name of document*" Highlight the document (you can do that in pdf or excel or word) with the important key figures mentioned in your email. IF for some unknown reason he wants to actually read your email to put him to sleep at night AND opens the attachment, you are good to go.

(6) Make sure your document is client ready. Okay, we are not perfect. Today, I forgot to spell check an excel document and there was a small, hidden, completely irrelevant misspelled word. After a couple years of constant spell check and getting irritated with others for not using the little "check mark" function on all microsoft product, I forgot. AND got called out in an email about it - making my boss look bad. Easy to do - sucks when you don't.

(7) Make sure all attachments are print ready, and the little box in the excel document is at A1. Don't make it any more confusing than necessary or he might close it with all of the confusion of starting out on cell F45. You might have one of those old-school bosses that print everything - welcome to 2012 bossman,

(8) The email should be "client ready". If you can adequately write a professional and quick email, your boss can simply forward on the message to the appropriate party, (also eliminating the need for him to read it all together, ideal)

(9) Never BCC your boss. He wont feel special and your odds of him reading it are slim to none, Plus, who BCCs anyways? You shady bastard.(That being said, I do appreciate being BCCed on the "I'm quitting the firm" emails. That way I don't have to scroll through all the people you've ever passed in the hall after your 2-5 years with the firm.)

(10) Don't over use the "!" Urgent. You are going to be the "boy who called wolf". What is REALLY IMPORTANT to you, might be not such a big deal compared to the rest of his day.
Don't use Urgent unless one of the following has occurred:

  • Someone is bleeding (actually, then you should call the doctor, or give them a bandaid depending on how serious the cut)
  • There is an extreme emergency (but maybe you should be calling him at that point?)
  • Something requires immediate action (but then you could just write "Immediate Action Required" In the subject line so he knows there is an action item associated with the whole mess)

Good Luck and Happy Writing.


Bridesmaids: The User Manual

I have not been able to blog recently. Because, well, it is wedding season. Which got me thinking…..

There are so many bride’s blogs and magazines out there, but there really are not nearly enough “bridesmaid” guides. And let’s be honest, when you are a bride you can do whatever you want because “It is YOUR wedding” but when you are a bridesmaid? Well, you do what you are supposed to do because it is NOT your wedding.  But what is it that you are supposed to do exactly? And really, you are going to be a bridesmaid way more times than you are going to be a bride in your 20s and 30s (or at least let’s hope so). 

I am not going to pretend that I know everything about being a bridesmaid, but I am going to put together a list of useful tips that I have learned in my 20s that just might help others out there.

1. Never, ever, ever wear white. Or off white. Or really light pink for that matter. Don’t you have a bold color in your wardrobe? This goes for showers, rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, etc. Actually, just forget that those light pastel colors don’t even exist. You never want to compete with the bride or have the other bridesmaid talking about you behind your back.

2. This is not your day. Do not cause drama. Do not make any part of this about you. Infact, I even prefer the maid of honor (etc) speeches where they don’t drone on about how they are besties with the bride. This isn’t about you either maid of honor.

3. Always thank the parents. They paid anyways.

4.  Wear something that is “adult friendly”. I am going to quote a grandmother at a recent shower I went to (not to me, thankfully). “Honey, is does that skirt have wheels, because it sure keeps riding up”.

5.   Do not ever out dress the bride. Keep your glitter and sequence at home.

6. If the bride says dance (even if it is in a choreographed dance) do it. And do it well. Even if you suck at dancing (likes yours truly)

7.  Stay calm. The bride will be stressed out enough. If you have a tendency to be a drama queen (most of us do) pretend that you don’t. Never scream or use loud voices on the wedding day until there is a fire or someone is bleeding (and I am not talking about a paper cut).

8. Buy them something off the registry. That is what they wanted anyways. OR (my personal favorite) buy them a gift card for the place the registered. That way they can get whatever is left on the registry that they REALLY wanted. And you know they like the store. Who wants that 5th napkin ring when they could use your money towards the crock pot they wanted. Sure, it is not “personal”, but do you really want your friends to remember you every time they use that napkin ring? Or do you want them to think of you as that awesome/fun friend that you are.

9. If you run out of shower ideas (since you cant get them a gift card for that) personalize something. Everyone likes something with their name on it.

10. Always RSVP to stuff. People our parents age really appreciate when people RSVP. People our age always seem to forget. (especially if it is a phone number to call – who talks on the phone these days anyways?)

11. Dance at the party. The bride wants people to have a good time. And you will get other people on the floor if you dance. You don’t even have to be good – just white girl wedding dance.

12. Only bring a date if you are seriously dating someone or if you would not know many people otherwise. No guy wants to go on an early-on date to a wedding anyways. Why make your friends pay for an extra plate if they don’t need to? If you are in the wedding it means that the guy would spend all day by himself anyways.

13. There is always going to be “that bridesmaid”. Suck it up – they don’t have to be your friend at the end of the wedding. I am not referring to anyone specifically because there is literally one at every wedding. (If you don’t think there is one in the group of bridesmaids… well, it is probably you then, and you should tone it down… or take a zanex)

14. If the bride’s hair is messed up? Fix it. Don’t just say “oh you look great”. She is going to have to look at those pictures the rest of her life and if there is a hair in her face – it is your job as a true friend to fix it.

15. Bring tide-to-go. Worst case scenario, look for bleach in a bathroom cleaner at the church/reception/etc.

16. Buy those comfy pads for your shoes. Worth the investment. And don’t lock your knees. Eat something the day of the wedding. (you wont look that much “thinner” if you skip the meal anyways). Make sure your spanx are not too tight – you want to breathe to prevent passing out.

17. Don’t stuff your bra with tissues. Did you really think you would reach down your dress while standing on stage if you start to cry? If you feel like you are going to cry – open your eyes really wide. Or simply wipe with your hands. Or think of things that don’t make you cry.

18. Just because the alcohol is free doesn’t mean you should drink until you vomit. Never be that girl.

19. Remember all the stuff like “don’t cut the bows” and “save them for a rehearsal bouquet” and the “something borrowered something blue”. At the end of the day, the bride will be thankful since she has enough on her plate to remember.

Brides and Bridesmaids - I would LOVE to hear any additions you have to this list (especially since I stopped awkwardly at #19) - Or comments, because... not every thing on this list will apply to bride/situation.


The Lies of Sales

Sales lie to us. And thus - we lie to ourselves.

Let's take a normal girl conversation:
Girl #1: Cute Shoes, Girl #2!
Girl #2: Thank you, I got them at NordstromRack
Girl #1: I heard they are having a sale!?
Girl #2: Yes! It's great! I saved $50 on these shoes - they were only $250!
Girl #1: Wow, that is a great deal, you saved a ton!

Does no one know what "Save" means anymore!?

From a dictionary.com:
save 1
v. savedsav·ingsaves
a. To rescue from harm, danger, or loss.
b. To set free from the consequences of sin; redeem.
2. To keep in a safe condition; safeguard.
3. To prevent the waste or loss of; conserve.
4. To avoid spending (money) so as to keep or accumulate it.
5. To set aside for future use; store

1. To avoid waste or expense; economize.
2. To accumulate money:

Where does this say "Spend $250 at Nordstrom Rack"? Granted, I am just as guilty of this. Any girl is proud of themselves when they save money. But let's not kid ourselves - we aren't saving for a rainy day when we spend "less than the tag price" on a pair of shoes. Odds are we took that money that we "saved" and spent it on a pair of flats anyways. Either that, or we wouldn't have spent the full amount. Therefore we just got NICER shoes for the same that we would have spent....

Maybe everytime we make a "save" by spending less at a store than expected, we should take that money and put it in the bank. Then at least we are lowering our shopping addiction and increasing our bank account - the way we SHOULD be saving. Anyone game to try?


Damn You, MTV

Dear MTV,

I have a grievance that I would like to discuss with you. No wonder my generation is so disappointed in their jobs and are feeling so entitled, it is all your fault (we also don't take responsibility well - but that is another topic). I spent my entire teen years intoxicated by the imagery that you portrayed as "The Real World".

Flash forward several years and I finally realize that you LIED to us! I graduated college to enter the real world and contrary to "The Real World", I do not live with 6 other people in a fabulously awesome house. I don't have an easy-breezy job where they don't really get upset if I show up late/hungover/or hardly work. I don't make out with my roommates or have a hottub fit for 7. I don't have free alcohol and free food. My entire apartment is approximately the size of one of the Real World kitchens. I have YET to get a letter in the mail telling me that I have an all-expense-paid trip to some exotic country (or Europe). I don't get to nap midday - and I actually have to go to the office every day of the week. While they go to fashionable nightclubs, I go to sleep.

You completely forgot to mention things like pantie-hose and auto insurance. Those people never have to get their oil changed or run to the post office - where is THAT episode?

There was absolutely no disclaimer on the television show. "Things start getting real?" There is very little ON that show that is real. Sigh. Maybe you should rethink the name to something less misleading like "The Non-Real World: Only the fantasy life for many teens". 

Next thing you know, they are going to tell us that getting married and having kids isn't like the Real Housewives of Orange Country. Sigh.

Peace, Love, and Lies,


MacNCheese & Retirement

There was an article today in USA Today "Working until 70 could ease retirement finances". (what a concept!? Thank you for that cutting edge story USA Today). I immediately felt sick to my stomach - and not because I had a great 4th of July (which I did). I felt sick because of the implications of "Working until 70" - and even then the article states that many BabyBoomers would need to work more than that to be "OK" for retirement.

Social Security kicks in at 62. The age of retirement is getting later and later. And thanks to those babyboomers, our generation can kiss social security goodbye. (Yes, all that money that is taken out of your paycheck will mostlikely never return) Either way, the lesson stands that our fresh-out-of-college generation needs to prepare to be old and grey.

And the start age of 70? Well, we are living longer and not saving as much. If we think this average number will be lower by the time we reach the golden years (or grey years?) I bet we are quite wrong. But 70 is NOT okay with me. At the age of 70 I would like to be on a beach somewhere, hanging out with my grandchildren, going to midday bridge dates with my girlfriends, and walking the mall for cardio. I do NOT want to be going to drycleaners and wearing heels and reporting to work at 8am. No Thank You.

Who cares about 45 years from now!? YOU SHOULD! Saving is not going to get any easier with kids, mortgages, and more adult responsibility. Now is the easiest time to save - before my taste for cheap mac and cheese is diminished. Invest now.

Okay, Okay, but where should I start?
(1) Set up and IRA or Roth IRA - Decide if you want a Roth or traditional IRA, pick your investor, fill out the simple form online, mail it in with a check - DONE.
(2) Talk to your company about a 401(k) Plan - If they have one, decide if you want to take advantage. If they have a matching program, that would be FREE money that you are throwing down the drain. Free money that lowers that "70 years of working" age.
(3) Know you retirement needs - The easiest way to do this is to talk to a financial planner (it is normally free) and have them run the snazzy number in their computer for you. This way you have a goal in mind, instead of just "be rich".
(4) Check out your company's pension plan - If they have one. Be able to keep track of this money and know just how long you need to work for benefits to kick in. (Wouldn't it stink to quit a month before you would earn a pension?)
(5) Don't touch your retirement savings - Many programs have a time when you can pull out money (for a house, or a college education, or after a certain age, or with a penalty). DON'T BE TEMPTED. The power of your retirement fund is time. The more time you let that money sit, the more you earn.
(6) Eat more Easy-Mac-n-Cheese


Lessons Learned in a Decade of Dating and Driving

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is abnormal. It will not help you save money, or learn to invest, or manage your time/life. It is simply for fun.... but hey, we need to have fun sometimes too right!?

So here I am, driving my car after picking it up from the shop.. and it dawned on me. I have been driving for nearly ten years. TEN. Coincidentally, I have also been dating for nearly ten years. (I am pretty sure the correlation between the two is similar for most people- making it not such a coincidence) But let's be honest, have I learned anything in a decade of dating and driving? (I am not so sure, but here is my attempt)

Lessons Learned in a Decade of Dating and Driving

(1) The name of the game is figuring out the warning signs - and as early as possible. The quicker you learn to realize potentially negative situations (whether its a reckless driver on the road or a boy in a "band" the better)
(2) Sometimes, it really actually IS better to take things slow. (like speed bumps...)
(3) If you are really angry or in a bad mood, you probably shouldn't date OR drive.
(4) There are going to be times when it really isn't your fault. (Why don't they make insurance for dating?)
(5) When it is your fault? It might just be better to admit it.
(6) Half the battle if finding the time & effort to do the maintenance. (Sometimes relationships need more maintenance than an oil change every 3 months.. but that's besides the point)
(7) It is important to know when it is worth trying to fix it, or when you just need to upgrade to a better version.
(8) Both are expensive. Better save up. (ahh, there is alittle finance hidden in this post)
(9) If there is a stop sign? you probably should stop
(10) There is going to be "Shit that happens". (Your A/C deciding to stop on a July afternoon) And yet? We keep driving and dating. The good must outweigh the "shit".
(11) Sometimes its fun to take the scenic route. It might be worth the chance. (Why don't they make a GPS for dating?)

I am 100% sure that I came up with over 15 in the car. If you have any more to add please tell me and I'll add them (and cite my source of course!)

Good luck dating and driving out there - its a rough road. (But does it get easier with time?!)


The 30 minute rule

I am pretty sure I can do just about anything for 30 minutes.

But let’s be honest. If it doesn’t involve shoe shopping or lunch with friends and isn’t something that I WANT to be doing, I am going to put it off. Instead of working, I can drift into the world of online shopping. Instead of folding laundry, I can drift into the latest episode of Real Housewives (or maybe even a repeat.) I would find it hard to imagine that this is just me.

But I can do anything for 30 minutes. So go with that theory. It is a Sunday afternoon. I want to meet up with friends/shop/nap/fill in with lazy Sunday activities. I also have that laundry on my bed that I need to fold. 30 minutes. “I am going to just spend 30 minutes FOCUSING on this one task”. I saw whatever isn’t done in 30 minutes can wait. 80% of the time (rough estimate) the laundry is done). If I get into the trend of working out for an hour or more I can find it hard to drag myself to the gym (What a commitment!) But thinking about getting on a machine for 30 minutes? Easy. I can find 30 minutes in my day.

Same thing goes with work. The internet simultaneously increased and decreased productivity in the work place. (I am not sure how it netted out – but probably negative overall) It increased by opening communication throughout cities and states and the world. Transfer information. And obtain information. Easy to search. Easy to access information. Oh, but the time wasted by employees talking to one another. Or online shopping for shoes (wow, maybe I need to seek help?) Here is my challenge. Turn off the internet. Or gmail. Or chat session. And focus of work for 30 minutes straight. There is something to be said about not multi-tasking 100% of your day. This might sound old-school, but it is amazing what you can accomplish with 100% of your attention. Those 30 minutes can equal hours of multi-tasked work.

A modern girl simply needs more time. But maybe we just simply need to use our time more efficiently. 


Porches get hit too

I think most 20-somethings know the feeling. The "I would look really great driving that car" feeling. The "I work hard and deserve a nice car" feeling. Why is there such an association with nice cars = success? (besides to obvious fact that you can't buy a nice car until you have plenty of money to throw into it?)

I would look great driving a Porsche Cayenne. That cute little cross-over. Probably a white exterior. Or perhaps a pearl? (Not that either colors are practical since I would have to also budget in a weekly car wash). I would ride in style and arrive in style. I mean, first impressions are everything right? It is amazing how we can justify material possessions. I'll give you a few of my own justifications:
  • I work hard everyday, I can afford to treat myself to a luxury item
  • I drive to work everyday. If I have to drive that much, I should enjoy the ride
  • I mean, someday I'll have kids and have to have a "Mommy" car. I deserve this.
  • A car doesn't go out of style as fast as a pair of shoes would
  • But, (Insert Name Here) drives a Porche/Lexus/Beemer/Audi. I should too!
  • It's an investment. (It's really not....)
  • I can finance it....
  • I live in Dallas - isn't a luxury car more of a need than a want here?
  • If I had a nice car, I would take better care of it.
Pretty good, huh? (Tempted to stop writing this post and go get myself one instead). But I don't drive a Porsche Cayenne. I drive a 2004 Toyota Corolla. It a couple strips of ducktape on the front bumper from an "instance" a year ago. It has a post-factory radio system that the previous owner installed which is nearly impossible to use. It has shiny "rims" which lends itself to the name my coworkers have lovingly given the car, "Ghetto Whip". (Or just GW for short). So what keeps me in my little Toyota Corolla?

Porches get hit too. I just picked up GW from the shop today. This time it wasn't my fault (impressive, if you know my driving record). A tornado put soft-ball sized holes in my back windshield. When you think about it, the tornado doesn't care if I was driving a GW or driving a Porche. Weather doesn't discriminate. That 16-year-old texting? They don't avoid a Porche just because it cost more. Infact, someone might hit me just BECAUSE I drove a nice car. If I get side swiped in the parkinglot? That sucks. But it would suck way more if I drove a Cayenne. 

DON'T IMPULSE BUY anything that costs close to your salary.  Be happy with what you drive. Be happy that it gets you from point A to point B and even has working A/C. (If you do drive a nice car, be happy and don't take it for granted.) If you want to drive a nice car, then do it... but take into consideration what your budget will no longer allow as a result of an expensive car purchase.

Need more help with those justifications? Try these:
  • Work hard everyday? Treat yourself to a $3 frozen yogurt instead.
  • Need to improve your drive to work?  Download some music off iTunes
  • Did you even remember the maintenance costs on that type of car?
  • Oh yea, and you can't buy the "cheap" gas anymore.
  • Want to invest? Buy a house. Or some mutual funds.
  • What if I move to New York/Boston/Chicago and no longer even need a car?
  • I would be terrified to leave my car in the garage... or park close to a store
  • Easy target for criminals (No one messes with the Ghetto Whip)
  • (Feel free to fill in your own)
  • Most importantly? Porches get hit too.
Moral of the story? Love the one you're with. Car that is.


Love Your "Now"

Okay, I'll admit it. I have had a self-diagnosed bad case of the post-vacay-blues this entire week. If you don't know what I am talking about, then you haven't been on a really good vacation (and by all means, stop reading this post and go book yourself an incredible trip). You know, that sitting at the desk at work dreaming of laying on that St. Croix beach.... bragging about your scuba diving abilities..... purposely picking outfits that will highlight that newly found tan (the one your coworkers have probably never seen, because, well.. you have a desk job) feeling. That was me this week. (if you add in "talking at nausea about the gorgeous island and the flavored rum to anyone who will listen")

I find myself at frozen yogurt (anyone who knows me is probably not surprised at this typical statement) with Ashlyn talking, once again, about our desire to do something adventurously fabulous. We want to be "those people" who pick up and follow our hearts. This isn't our first time to talk about it... seeing as we are both accountants.

And then it hits me.

I am not that person NOW. Sure, I always have the option to become a FatTireBike Tour Guide in Italy at any moment (not-so-secret dream), but that is not my life Now. And if I spend my days/nights thinking about what I might do in the future, I am going to wake up one day and  have completely missed the Now.

Let me elaborate. If I woke up tomorrow and went to Italy, I would miss out on those weekly girl dates with Ashlyn. (I would also blow my budget on a flight to Italy the day of, but lets not even go there). I would miss not going to my brother's graduation in a few weeks. I would miss the beautiful weddings that I am attending/participating in this fall for my closest friends. I wouldn't get to fly to Houston next weekend to have a girls weekend. If you spend all your time with your head somewhere else you will miss out on the great things in your life today.

One step farther? I think somewhere, deep, deep down I am glad I have a sell-out-to-the-man job (for 3-5 years max) so that I can prove to myself that I can do it. I'm not ready to win the lotto or take off to Italy tomorrow.... I want to live in my Now and know I can make it on my own. (However, if any of you just won the lotto and want to send me a couple million, then disregard the above post). A savvy twenty-something knows that great feeling of putting on her favorite stilettos and sassy work skirt and knowing that today you can tackle that corporate ladder (with the upmost style of course).

In Conclusion: If you aren't going to go to Italy tomorrow? Enjoy your Today. Because someday you might just end up in Italy missing what you have Now.


Two Girls, No Gas

It always happens on one of those nights. You know, the kind where you are ACTUALLY dead set on going to bed by 10? No. Matter. What. So I am laying on my couch at 10:15 (clearly not sleeping yet) and I get a phone call from an old friend, Erika, who is here on her internship.

She is stuck. Side of the interstate. No Gas.

I have never actually ran out of gas myself - but let's be honest, there have been a few close calls. So what do you do when you run out of gas?

(1) Call a friend - It doesn't help to call dad first if he is in another city. By then you could have some creeper pulled over on the side of the road just you and mr. creeper. This is one case where 2 is DEFINITELY better than 1.

(2) Evaluate the situation - Is there a gas station close by? Are you just going to call AAA? Does your insurance plan cover roadside assistance? (Ahhh this is what you should do to PREPARE for this situation. E) Are you in a safe place to fill up the gas yourself?  Erika and I decide that we are close to a gas station and capable of filling up her tank enough to get her to the gas station.

(3) Follow directions - Take a minute to figure out what you NEED to do. For example. to get the gas container to work there are several steps to setting up the funnel. It is probably just better to let the guy at the gas station screw the top on (you dont have to be THAT independent)

(4) Be wary of assistance - Help is good. and needed (especially after you fill up the tank and then find out that the battery is now dead since the lights were on while waiting for a friend to arrive). But make sure you judge their approach, have 911 handy. Look for their hand in their pocket. (not a good sign)

(5) Opposites don't always attract - this isn't about running out of gas, but handy advice. Turns out you cant jump an SUV with a small car. Keep that in mind. Find a car that matches in size.

(6) Follow through & Don't be a quitter- As a friend always always follow them to the gas station and make sure they make it home okay.

Additional Notes:
-Thank you dad for the heavy duty jumper cables. I came in clutch!
-Learn for Erika, don't run out of gas (my lesson is learned, dont find out the hard way!)
-Never say "I am going to bed by 10 no matter what". You end up posting in your blog at 12:30
-Why don't we all look like Megan Fox when we are fixing a car?
-Did you know that gas is clear!?
-How do you feel about giving money to the guys that help you? How much would you give? Is that appropriate?

Thus concluding another "Independent Girl" Story. Happy Driving to you all - go fill up your tank tomorrow.


Buying Blues: Tips for Buying Your First Home

I'm excited to introduce Amy Griffin as the guest blogger of this post. Amy is the creator of a site that helps readers learn how and where to hear a master's degree. She is also a guest author who enjoys writing about small business tips, finance, and educational options

So you’ve decided to buy your first home. That’s great! Congratulations! But now what? Are you really prepared to make this huge leap? The thought of a yard to yourself or a white picket fence may be making this decision sound like a good one, but you also need to consider a few other factors if you don’t want to find yourself in a financial mess. Buying a house isn’t just another impulse buy like that new shirt or a pack of gum at a store. It is a decision that will affect the rest of your life, so you need to cautious. These are a few tips you should take into consideration when you are buying your first house. If you follow them, you may be able to avoid making a huge mistake.
  •          Check your credit report – When you need to get a mortgage for your home, any lender you go to will look at your credit score to determine your mortgage qualifications. If your credit report is less than satisfactory, you should take a few months to improve it before you decide to look into buying a home.
  •          Figure out what you can afford – You don’t want to get your heart set on a beautiful home that you can’t afford. Before you even look at a house, you need to sit down and crunch the numbers. Figure out a monthly budget and find out exactly where your money is going. When you know that, you will be able to figure out how much you will be able to put towards your mortgage and other home expenses each month. If you can’t find a way to make it work, you may have to change your spending habits or find a new source of income before you start your house search.
  •          Determine what you need and what you want – Your first home isn’t necessarily the home you will be living in for the rest of your life, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. There are a lot of things you may want in a dream home (like five bedrooms or a backyard pool), but you don’t necessarily need those things now. Your first home isn’t necessarily going to be your dream home, but it should still have all of the things you need.
  •          Find a good real estate agent – This person is going to be there for you through this whole process, so you need to find someone who you can trust. Interview a lot of agents and ask lots of questions to find out their past experience and the types of homes they specialize in.
  •          Look into your mortgage options and get preapproved for a loan – Unless you are able to pay for your first home in full, you will need to know your mortgage options. A mortgage is basically a loan that is backed up with some form of collateral. With the mortgage on your home, the bank will have the right to take your home if you aren’t able to make your payments. If you plan on keeping this home for 30 years or more, you may want to consider a 30-year , fixed-rate mortgage, but if you are just getting a starter home, then you may want a mortgage with an adjustable rate. From there, you need to choose a bank and find the best loan agreement for you.
  •          Understand the offer process – Once you find your home, you will need to know how to make an offer. Your real estate agent can help you learn this process, but you should also do some research of your own.
  •         Get a home inspection – This may be the most important step of them all. You don’t want to buy a house and move in only to find out that it is infested with termites. A home inspection will not only let you know of any potential pests, but it will also bring to light other possible problems with any home before you sign on the dotted line.
  •          Read before you sign – As with any contract, it is essential that you read through and understand every word before you sign anything. You may even want to consider hiring a lawyer to read through your contract to make sure you don’t get trapped in an agreement you don’t approve of.

Check out Amy's site at 


The Curse of Instant Gratification

Welcome to the generation of the Ys. We are from the generation where MTV told us that if there wasn’t change and excitement in every 2 minute clip to change the channel. We grew up watching TRL which was only 60 second clips of the best and most exciting part of a 3 minute music video (really? We coudn’t watch the whole thing?) We love bullet points (Quick and to the point right?) Don’t grab my attention in the first 30 seconds? Good luck keeping my focus. We read headlines only. If that. Don’t like your job? Quit. Fighting with boyfriend? Dump him. If we invest, we want money instantly. We want to lose weight, we want it now. We want fast and exciting or we are bored. Instant gratification. Attention span of a 5 year old.

I’ve probably already lost your attention.

When it comes to investments we have such a short focus – which is exactly opposite of the approach we need to take. If we put money in stock or a mutual fund, we expect to make money that year (You might say: “THAT YEAR!?!? It better be that week/month!”) but that is not the point. Long term focus. If you look at charts of the market, every fund fluctuates.  Leave it in there for 20 years and you will have plenty of money from it. It is that need of instant gratification that hurts our generation’s investing habits.

Another approach. If you put $150 into an IRA each month for the rest of your life you will be set for retirement.  Whoa. OR you can use that money to buy a new pair of heels. Did you hear me ONE new pair of heels. That may give you blisters or potentially go out of style (since you are so cutting edge) or you may simply step in the crack of a cobblestone sidewalk and break the heel. Someone is bound to spill something on it if you wear it out. 15 years from now you wont have those shoes. But 15 years from now you will have made interest on that IRA and have a more secure future.

Don’t quit on your investments if the market goes down (unless you are playing the stock market). Don’t refresh your mutual fund screen every day hoping to earn more money. PATIENCE. It is a virtue and one that is completely missing from our generation. Be savvier than that. Kick that curse of instant gratification in the face and set yourself up to be a rich girl down the road.


Watch Yourself

Time. Such a sensitive subject when you really think about it. “Time is limited” and “Time is money” and “Time flies”. Such a source of stress, anxiety, frustration, and arguments. How many times do I look back at when I was growing up and remember my Dad screaming at us to leave? Oh wait, that was over the holiday break too – some things really don’t change. (In our defense, my Dad thinks that 10 minutes early is on time…. Which means if he says to be ready to leave for dinner at 6, he really means 5:50. And if you are a teenage girl, those precious 10 minutes make all the difference in appearance… which is more valuable than time… but back on track). I think of the frustration my Dad faced and the aggravation it caused my mother and me. What wasted energy.

Basically, people view time differently.

It is interesting that people from different cultures view time differently. My experience is that Europeans view time as a relative term. 6:00 could mean 5:45 or it could mean 6:45. Why rush? What is the big rush?

Why are Americans so stressed and pressed for time? Are the Eurpoeans or eastern cultures less stressed and more content? Could our time pressure be what makes our culture so productive? (And also die of heart attacks and high blood pressure?)

You might be asking: What should a Savvy 20-something care about the large differences in time perspectives? Good question. (Maybe because technically I asked it of myself). When it boils down the importance of time, it is important to remember that there are people like my Dad out there. Infact, the real world seems to be full of them. What message does it send to a friend if I am 10 minutes late to dinner? It says “I don’t value your time, I think it is okay to make you waste your precious time waiting on me”. Same thing when you are meeting your boss – and in that situation? That could cost you your job.

I had to meet a manager for a meeting at 8am. This meeting was 30ish minutes from my house (and in the heart of rush hour). I also hate morning (mornings being before noon). But what did I do? I got myself out of bed extra early, so despite traffic, and despite hating mornings, I could be at work at 7:45 to prepare for the meeting. What message does it send to a superior (or a coworker) when you roll in at  8:15 instead? I don’t get “points” for coming early, but I am sure she was more willing to help me than if I came in late.

On the flip side, if you are meeting someone – and being the prompt person that you now will be – beat them to work/dinner/etc, have some patience. Know that sometimes life happens, and that their schedule might just not have let them get there on time. Their clock culture could be different.

To end: Just remember, always “Watch” yourself and be on time. (hey, good excuse to go shopping for a cute new watch right?)


Always Look Up

This was one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given. My friend Bailey told me when we were studying abroad to “Always Look Up”. She couldn’t have been more right. Literally the ceilings in Rome were the most detailed and beautiful thing I had ever seen. The colors, the paintings, the carvings. How many people go to a new place and spend more time watching their feet walk or staring at a map? Little did I know that this piece of advice can stretch much further than a “vacation”.

Running outside. We have all been there (okay, we haven’t ALL been there – but then really, you should try it sometime.) It is hot and you are dripping sweat, or it is cold and your throat is burning. Your side hurts. You can’t seem to have enough oxygen ever. Your left knee is feeling inflamed, or maybe it is the other one? Your legs hurt in general. So do your arms now that you think about it. How long have you been running? For three days? Oh no wait…. Only about 20 minutes. ---- Maybe that was dramatic, but not really. People tend to look down. Stare at their feet or the side walk (Okay, I am going to take only one step per sidewalk square until I’m home). STOP. Look up. Appreciate nature. Look at that neat architecturally awesome house. Or that puppy down the street. Looking up to appreciate the world is much better than staring at the ground (and well worth tripping on a random tree branch).

Career. As a fresh out of school 20-something it is pretty easy to be working in a job that isn’t exactly your dream job. Look up. Look at the position 5,10,15 years down the road. Is that a position you want? Could you see yourself there? (by the way, this is the difference between a job and a career I think). Is what you are doing now going to make a difference when you “look up”. Maybe this is the motivation you need to just work alittle harder. (Or the motivation you need to have a job change?)


Just the three of us: Me, my Honey, and my Money.

Yes, I know I am single. (No need to comment on the bottom of the post. I get it. And if I didn’t get it? Valentine’s Day always makes sure to remind us single people out there.)

In honor of the holiday I want to shed some light on a topic that has become near and dear to my heart. The psychology of couples and their money. Here is why: I have a ton of friends getting married (and many that are not accountants). The divorce rate is over 50% and rising. The majority of marriage end due to money related reasons. How many friends could I help if I simply encouraged them to talk the money talk before the wedding/baby talk? People simply have different views on money. (I honestly think that this may be finally what I decided I may want to do with my life – so feedback is much appreciated)

Happy Valentines Day – Feel free to take my mini-test with your honey. Ideally I would be curious to have each person take the quiz separately and then compare answers and discuss (although, maybe you should take it on the 15th?)
  1. How do you feel about joint checking accounts vs. separate checking accounts?
  2. Do you share credit cards?
  3.  If your honey spends $100 for a new pair of shoes, do you get the spend $100 for a new pair of shoes?
  4.  If your honey spends $1000 in car repairs, do you get the spend $1000?
  5. At what dollar value do you need to run your purchase through your spouse? $10? $100? $1000? $10,000?
  6.  How do you plan to save for retirement? Kids? A house?
  7. Do you think its important to pay for your kid’s college? Do you want them to go to private school?
  8.  Do you believe in investing conservatively with lower pay out? Or would you rather take a risk and invest with a chance of a higher payout?
  9. If you can’t have everything: Would you rather have an expensive house, clothes, car, or vacation?
  10. How do you manage and maintain a “fun fund” – is it fair for one person to go on vacation without the other? Do you keep track? How do you make sure the other person doesn’t hold a grudge?
Food for thought. And really? This food for thought has way less calories than that chocolate you intend to eat tonight.

(Oh yea, and please feel free to email me with comments/questions/ideas – or to let me know how the conversation went with the test. malloryspigel@gmail.com. I can also put out a fire if this post caused one- OR LEAVE A COMMENT - If you are brave)


The Path to Growing Up

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a savvy life tip.

I wrote this for an Esquire Magazine competition. We had to use 76 words to write some sort of poem-creative-like-entry. I never actually submitted my "poem".  Savvy life tip (that is completely overused and totally cliche): Sometimes the joy is in the journey. Here is the poem. Wonder what you guys think. Hello real world.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: I don't actually think I am grown up yet.

The Path to Growing Up

Realizing your parents’ don’t know everything. Finding your own path.

Trying to fit in. Finding the friends where you don’t need to try.

Dancing with others. Finding your own beat.

Seeking acceptance.  Seeking independence. Finding contentment.

The first kiss, first love, first heart break. Finding you have to love yourself first.

Making mistakes.  Disappointing others. Disappointing yourself. Finding how to pick  yourself back up.

Realizing your parents’ were right all along. Finding appreciation.

Searching for your passion. Finding your passion – and never giving up.

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Stop looking at the neighbor's yard and water your own damn grass

I know, not a typical title for me. Not girly (but still sassy), here is the point: Sure, the grass might be greener on the otherside... but wouldn't we be happy with our own yard if we stopped comparing? Maybe if we spent more time watering our yard and less time peering over the fence (I picture Wilson from Home Improvement), then the grass would be greener on our side. And if we stopped comparing, we might be happy with our green just the way it is.

I wonder if any of you follow.

A study at Warton Business school stated that people would rather make $50,000 when their friends are making $25,000 than make $100,000 when their friends are making $250,000. Are we really that concerned about comparing ourselves to others? (Yes) And is it really necessary to wish for success compared to the people (our friends) who are supposed to accept us for who we are? Perhaps, if we changed our mindset we would be happier by comparing less. I'm not saying this is easy, but shouldn't we at least try? I think being aware of it is the first step.

My friend Ashlyn has the cutest wardrobe. I am talking designer, matching, put together, fashionable items. There are days that her hair is perfectly curled while mine is airdrying with the windows down on the way to work (don't pretend you haven't tried that move - and if you haven't? You so should!). Her shoes match her her clothes perfectly, while I am sometimes hoping that I am not wearing one black and one navy. (Okay, I'm not that bad, but just go with me). I will never be completely satisfied with my wardrobe if I compare myself to Ashlyn. Yes, I could try waking up 15 minutes earlier.. but lets be honest. But really, she doesn't care what I am wearing, and neither does my predominately male team. If I don't compare, my happiness goes up. (Or better yet, take myself on a shopping spree!)

Same thing goes for non-material situations. There was a day in HighSchool that I told my mom I was worried I wouldn't get into college. This wasn't because I was "dumb". I was in all honors classes. My problem was that I was comparing myself to students who were also overachievers and found myself mediocre in comparison. Compare less, study harder, and I would be just fine.

How many other times do I compare my work to the work of coworkers? Or compare my apartment to the apartment of my friend's? How can I turn all of this external focus inward and actually improve the one that matters?
1. Awareness. Okay, I am done taking notes from Wilson. Do we even know what that guy looks like anyways?
2. Water your own grass. Focus on my "yard" or wardrobe or work and stop caring about others. When noticing that focus changes, change it back
3. Focus on your strengths. My body type couldn't pull off half the stuff Ashlyn wears anyways!
4. Don't knock other's down. Why wish your friends made less than you? Shouldn't you be secure enough to want others to succeed as well?
5. I really want a 5th - any suggestions?

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Do one thing just for you

Tell me if this sounds like you:
You wake up late for work. Hurry to work. Stay late because, well, we are young and have to put our time in. Come home. Pay the credit card. Run to the store for a birthday card/or more mascara/or "team snacks"/or milk or basically anything. Pretend that you are going to work out that night, but decide against it (typical). Call your mom. Turn on the TV. Pass out on the couch. Repeat.

Welcome to my life during a busy week. And aren't many weeks busy?

Once we grow up and get married and have kids I can only imagine (and as I have heard) that you have less "me" time. Less time to do what we really want to do. Or something that just makes us happy. I think it would be good to get in the habit now of finding something that I do JUST for me, and not for my parents or my friends or my coworkers.

I spend alot of time doing things for other people (that makes me happy) and I am sure most of us do. But shouldn't we make an effort to make time in our super busy lives for just ONE thing for "me"? The importance of having a "me" thing is not just for selfish reasons but mental sanity.

For me? It is writing this blog. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if no one really reads this post. It gives me a chance to get my thoughts out there and on paper and have a moment to do what I love to do (write). For you? It could be that step class that you love going to. Or getting your nails done. Or taking a bath. Figure out what it is and do it. (That's my challenge - accept it if you please).


For the Love of Airports

There are things in life that just suck. Like paying car insurance (even though they make that look fun on the commercials). In the adult world, I have come to terms with the fact that some things in life are just not as much fun as others. Like paying car insurance - unless you are one of the lucky people who live in a city with public transportation and do not realize what I am talking about. (In which case insert "paying taxes" - unless you are one of the people who get a tax refund... but you get the point).

There are two options in life when it comes to things you "have" to do. Complain about it, or make the most of it.

For me? Airports is the perfect example. Some people hate Airports (and waiting). I realize that it is an essential part of my life - for work, see friends, and my constant desire to travel. (turns out I don't even have enough vacation days from work to take a boat across the Pacific to Hong Kong - but that's another blog post). If you have to do it? Might as well find the positive.

My love for Airports: (This is purely an example, because, well... it was easier to come up with positive about flying than positives about

(1) I am either going somewhere or going home. Both are fun
(2) I have a chance to read all the back of the books that I wish I had time to read.
(3) I have fully convinced myself that calories do not count in the airport
(4) I can finally catch up on that magazine detailing the Kardashian wedding - even though they are already divorced
(5) If I listen carefully I will hear interesting conversations
(6) If I pay attention I will see some interesting people - seriously, prime place to people watch
(7) I can make that phone call to that person that I have been meaning to get in touch with
(8) It is almost nap time.
(9) Always, Always, Always, get frozen yogurt in the airport.
(10) Moving sidewalks are fun, there just aren't enough of them in the world.

Next time you find yourself doing something you "have to do" find a way to make it fun. Make a top ten list. You might as well enjoy the wait.

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Ode to Online Shopping

Ah, let's get back to the basics. Shoes. (and shopping)

It's been awhile since one of these posts. Here is the thing, with the holiday season just now over, it is hard to rebuild our savings (if we had to dip into for holiday presents/parties/trips) and treat yourself. Oh, but in steps the solution.

My Ode to Online Shopping:

(1) Affordability- That's right, you can price shop all you want at the tip of your fingers! Have your heart set on some new boots? Check out the same style at 6 online stores in less than 5 minutes (thank you google shopping). See where you can get free shipping, and suddenly you have saved more money than if you spend $10 on gas and 3 hours of your life driving to different stores. It's a blessing to be part of this online-generation, take advantage of it!

(2) Convenience - Seriously? I can shop in my sweatpants from the comfort of my living room while watching TV? Almost too convenient if you ask me...

(3) Variety - So I can visit 12 stores in an hour? That's physically not possible. PLUS many places carry clothes that they don't carry in stores (this is even more relevant if you live in a small town without a mega mall or outlet stores)

(4) Sale Items - Many stores carry more sale items that they don't carry in the stores. For an added benefit, you get to find sale items without digging through the huge bins for 30 minutes before discovering they don't have your size anyways.

(5) Shipping - You have your package in a few days show up at your door step. A little present to yourself.

(6) Crowd-less - If you don't like people (or even just crowds?) no worries. No one can push you out of the way or cut in the check out line. Sounds good for stress levels if you ask me!

(7) Easy Gifts - Need to send a gift to a friend out of town? Easy! They do the shipping for you. That is one less hassle!

Thank you internet for providing me with the wonderful world of online shopping. And with that? I am signing off to visit a few good friends (Amazon.com & Overstock.com)

Happy (Online) Shopping!

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Learn Something New

A savvy girl in the real world has to be "well rounded". Sigh, but what does this really mean? And why is it so important?

I'm not saying that you need to be an expert in everything, or really anything for that matter, but you have to be able to briefly talk politics with your parent's friends, business issues with the manager at work, sports with the guys at lunch, and marriage (or babies) with your friends that are married (or have babies). I am not saying you need to be the expert on politics - but with the elections around the corner, it wouldn't hurt to know a thing or two about some debates so that you aren't the only one standing there in silent at a dinner party.

But what if I don't like politics (or sports or business news or world news or basically anything besides online shoe shopping and watching bravo?) It seems to me that people tend to only read or watch shows that are like them. If I don't like shorts, you won't catch me reading the ESPN magazine (or whatever they read....). If I only care about pop culture (which I don't, I care about shoes too...) then you will see me reading an US weekly and watching E! News. But what do I learn from that? I am completely guilty of this - How many times have I found myself reading a book that I could have written myself?

Last week I decided to download these "Laughing Historically" pod casts. They are short 5-10 minute videos that teach you something about history (in a funny way). I am about as much of a history buff as I am one of those girls who screams at the TV during a baseball game. But I like hearing little snipbits of funny history (or watching a baseball game at a stadium with friends). Turns out that I had something to contribute to conversation everyday at work that week. My coworkers actually ASKED me what I had learned in my podcast that morning. I will never be a history buff, or an avid die-hard baseball fan, but I have to admit that learning something new and branching out sure felt good.

Try it. Learn something new. Worth a shot right?

Disclaimer: I understand how you might not think there is any relevance for the goat, but I know nothing about goats. And if you have any interest on learning things about goats? well, you never know when you'll want to bust out goat facts. Plus, I thought the picture might be interesting enough for people to want to read this post. We will see if it works..
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Resolutions (Part 3): A picture is worth a thousand words

Sometimes I wonder where those "sayings" come from. Thankfully, I live in the age of Google - where knowledge is sitting at our finger tips (literally).

In this case "A picture is worth a thousand words" is attributed in modern times to Fred Bernard who (while trying to promote image ads instead of the words in 1921) stated that "A look is worth a thousand words". According to the Yale book of quotations "A look is worth a thousand words" is first seen in a New York Times Real Estate advertisement in 1914. Either way, A saying that is almost 100 years old must have some truth to it.

But I digress.

How does this relate to New Year's Resolutions? (Good question!) Instead of purely using the motivation technique of "writing down resolutions" (which, per "Part 2" is better than not writing them down at all) It is surely more beneficial to have a visual image of resolutions. Why is this? (1) How many times are we told to visualize our goals? It never fails that famous athletes talk about  visualizing their success - If you don't believe me, check out this article from College Sports Scholarships (2) It is a constant reminder of the goal.

I was talking to my good friend Kelli. This break we are going to make a "Dream Board" where you cut out pictures of your dreams and goals. This can work for resolutions to. Think about it. If I was going to reach into the freezer for some ice cream, and there is a picture of a Victoria Secret fashion model's abs staring back at me... would I really have that craving for chocolate still? (Okay, slightly bad example... chocolate almost always trumps all... but you get the picture - pun intended)

Find your motivation. Find a picture. Make it happen.