Category Archives: Personal Finance

Pay With Isis Launches in Austin and Salt Lake City

A few weeks ago, AT&T and Isis contacted me with a fun opportunity to be one of the first people to try out Isis, a wallet app. Isis is currently only available in Austin and Salt Lake City with select vendors. Isis holds virtual versions of your credit cards and debit cards. I love the concept because I keep my cards in a cigarette holder that often pops open in my bag, spilling my cards loose in my purse. I also sometimes grab the wrong card or get a little performance anxiety when I hold up the line at checkout because I’m fishing for the right card.

Currently, 60+ vendors are Isis enabled in Austin. When you download the app, it comes with a directory of nearby vendors. You can also see Isis coupons from vendors.

The video above shows how you can pay by holding up your phone on an Isis enabled credit card machine. So far the only criticisms I have is that vendors need more training on how to use Isis. I’ve held up the line at Wholefoods as I tried to pay for some groceries. I eventually got it to work with customer service. What I was doing wrong was that once I open the app, I had to touch a button to “enable” payment. It was a cinch after we figured that out. The only other problem I had was the lady at Jamba Juice today and I couldn’t figure out how to use the Isis buy one Jamba Juice get one free offer. We both agreed that once it catches on, this could be an innovative and faster way to check out at your favorite businesses. The people at Isis customer service hotline are extremely helpful too!

If you’re in Salt Lake City or Austin, I encourage you to check it out! It’s fun to be ahead of the curve.

Full Disclosure:  Isis and AT&T provided me a phone and a preloaded Isis app to test out.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 18)


1.


I relate to this:

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”-Sylvia Plath


2.

Lily, Jamie, and I try to see each other at least once a month for dinner. A while back, I bought a Groupon for a restaurant none of us have been to, which allowed me to join them for dinner without shelling out additional bucks! I say I have about a month more before I’m comfortable financially again without dipping into savings. What’s a little significant for us and this blog is that I think Lily gets to finally make a debut on one of my blogs. I often food blog our dinners but Lily is always the missing face. For the first time in 4 years, she’s allowed me to take ONE picture of her. I thought I’d get more mileage from this photo if I double blog it. Here and whenever I get to writing up the restaurant review.


Lily, Jamie, Me


Jamie is never camera shy with me.


3.

I try to start every day with 3 stream of consciousness pages written in my journal as per The Artist Way. I’m on my 5th week and I did very poorly this week. I kept going to bed too late and last night I stayed up to canoodle with the boyfriend and watch Jersey Shore. Alan’s in the middle of a move into a house with four new roommates so I’ve been giving him some space to take care of stuff and get to know his roomies. I’ve missed him! So spending time with him trumped going to bed early which trumped writing my pages.


4.

This week’s writing prompt was “punishment.” Kind of timely because before we drew it, I had just have a conversation with coworkers about the kinds of punishments we endured as children from our parents. My parents spanked my younger brother and me. Younger brother got spanked pretty often whereas I rarely got the wooden spoon from mom. The only memorable spanking I had was on my open palms with a metal ruler and it was 20 licks. I missed every single word on my first spelling test. I almost spelled “delayed” right but I spelled it like so, “de-layed.” The next year, I won the spelling bee.

Aside from spankings, Asian parents can be pretty brutally creative with their punishments. Alan said his parents made him stand with his arms raised. This reminded me that on occasion I had to do the same thing! Another popular one is kneeling. Not lazy kneeling where you have your legs tucked comfortably underneath your butt, but as if you’re praying on a kneeler in a Catholic church. They’ve also had us stand with our noses pressed against the wall.


5.

Next time I’m in Houston I want to borrow (or steal?) my mom’s sewing machine and jump into sewing and thrifting. This blog is my inspiration. Momma has stopped sewing anyway unless I bring her home clothes to alter or straps to reattach.


6.

I’m always engaged in some kind of self improvement project or dabbling in a new skill. On my horizon right now is to educate myself and gain experience in investing. I’ve already saved up my year’s worth of expenses in an emergency fund, I have no consumer debt. So my new goal is to pay off my $24,000 student loan in 5 years and instead of padding up my emergency fund, I will start an investing fund. I realize this has been one of Neville’s advice to me for a while but I was overwhelmed with my lack of knowledge and kept putting it off. I will dedicate 5 hours a week to read and learn. I got my 5 hours out of the way this week when I read and finished Rich Dad’s Cash Flow Quadrant.


7.


Let me share a helpful link: How to disable Places on Facebook.

See, my phone is pretty simple. I get a lot of compliments on it because it’s skinny and tiny and sleek looking. I picked it out as my first birthday gift from Alan because it was purple and because it was simple. I just wanted a telephone number pad. Dinky camera is nice. It also has a radio and mp3 player I never use. It is not a smart phone and it does not do geotagging. So when Facebook released Places where you can geotag your locations, I almost didn’t bother disabling it. I disabled it on the off chance that a friend would tag my location and an apartment burglar would know I’m not home. Unlikely, but that’s why I took the time to disable Places.

Last week, it actually ended up being unexpected blessing. I lost a coin flip with a group mostly guy friends and I found myself in a strip club. Not really a big deal but unbeknownst to me, a friend attempted to tag me. My facebook friends and work friends would have had a chance to see on their newsfeed that on a work night at 2am, I was at strip club. Not very kosher, yes? I recommend disabling.


Questions: How were you disciplined as a child?

What? Being Married = money?

I told you I’m broke for another month or so right? Well, here’s a conversation I had with the just turned 7 year old kid I’ve babysat since he was born. (I don’t think I’ll ever leave this family. I have unofficially adopted them.)

New 7 Year Old:
You should buy me that toy on TV. Since you didn’t buy me anything for my birthday.

Me:
Dude, I owe you one but right now I have no money.

New 7 Year Old:
Oh that’s right, you’re not married yet.

P.S. As pointed out in a comment from my BFF, this is a single mom household and his mom is totally a superhero of a mother. Kind of weird for him to think marriage is a source of money.

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 16)


1.

This week was riddled with hints and signs about lottery tickets. We pulled this week’s writing prompt and it was “lottery ticket,” Lottery Ticket, the movie, is coming out tonight, there was a lottery joke in Eat, Pray, Love, and a lottery ticket being brought up in the movie Other Guys. Triggered, Alan and I bought 20 lottery tickets yesterday. Neither of us are regular ticket buyers.

So uh, wish us luck!


2.

I had the best low key casual date night with Alan last night. We watched The Other Guys, picked up lottery tickets, ordered take out, and ate while we watched Jersey Shore. I had a rough few days and he’s been making me laugh til my cheeks hurt.


3.

I like dates. Everyone should schedule monthly or bimonthly dates with their peoples. We should do so urgently, before we all get families and less time to laugh over a cup of coffee. Wednesday I had a movie date with Brittany, last night it was Alan, and today for lunch I have a date with Deesh. We’re grabbing noodles on campus. Tomorrow I have a cupcake date with Selina and Lil. Life is especially good when you sprinkle it with lots of dates.


4.

I started a Vietnam fund for my parents and me. They don’t know yet and I don’t plan on telling them. I have a whopping 30 dollars saved. Am contemplating starting a general travel account. Hmm, at which point do you have too many allocated bank accounts?


5.

This week has made me realize just how important family is.


6.


Here’s my VEDA for 8/18/2010. Topic is books. It is a tiny bit over 5 minutes and this with major cutting. I can go on forever on books! Click here if you wish to read more book reviews book thoughts.

Youtube link


7.


This is today’s VEDA video; topic: Blogging. I walk you through my history with blogging. It looks a little spooky because of Alan’s lighting.



Youtube link

My 3 Money Mantras

I have a few friends, all girlfriends actually who struggle with credit card debt and budgeting. As I’m reflecting on these close friends, I’ve noticed they have a three things in common.

  1. They love to shop and suffer from occasional bouts of impulse buying. (me too!)
  2. They do not have an emergency fund.
  3. They live paycheck to paycheck.

I’m really not a financial expert but I think I’m pretty aware. I took the Charles Schwab Money Fitness Quiz and scored an 86 which is rated as “Good.” I know exactly my money weaknesses and strengths.


Weaknesses

  • Forgetting to pay obscure bills (as I’m typing this I still need to pay an overdue tollway bill).
  • I don’t max out my Roth IRA (hopefully this year, I can bring myself to save that 5K and max out for the first time ever.)
  • I don’t really know how or what to invest my money in or the best way I should diversify.
  • I have over 23K in student loans.


Strengths

  • I automatically save at least $100 every paycheck.
  • I do not withdraw from my savings save for trips and the very occasional lending money to loved ones.
  • I have an emergency fund.
  • I pay off my credit cards in full every month.

I’m always trying to motivate my struggling friends to adopt the good habits I live by. I hate that they live paycheck to paycheck and if anything were to happen they will be scrounging around for aid or going into deeper debt. I’m by no means perfect and sometimes I flounder. (This month, I spent more than I made.) So I’m going to write this blog entry in dedication to a few girl friends and impart what mentalities have worked for me.


My 3 Money Mantras

1. I used to do a lot of weight loss counseling at my previous job and one thing that I noticed when people relapsed on their weight loss program is that they don’t forgive themselves and get back on the saddle. They are so ridden with guilt that they start letting it win by staying down for the count. They tell themselves, “I’ve done so badly and eaten at McDonalds this morning, might as well go all out and treat myself to a whole pint of ice cream tonight. I’ll start my program again next week.” This mentality is counterproductive and doesn’t make sense! You can always and should start again right away. The same goes for money. If you exceeded your budget this week and it’s only Wednesday, don’t go for broke the rest of the week. Start anew right away.

2. We’re all going to continuously fail. Failing is part of life. There’s no avoiding it. However, don’t set yourself up for failure. If you have never saved in your life, choose an automatic minimum to put into savings that is attainable. If you think you can realistically save 200 dollars a month, do it. If after a month you weren’t even close, adjust accordingly! Go all the way down to 20 dollars a month if need be and inch your way up. As inevitable in life as failure is, it’s important to not set yourself up for it.

3. Create a price to opportunity ratio. Let me illustrate this mentality with real thought processes I go through. This one I went through yesterday: I overspent in June. I moved (movers were 260). I bought renter’s insurance (120). I bought books and event tickets ($60). I lost count of how many meals I ate out (moving made it difficult to cook.) I indulged in a lot of treats (clothes, outings, etc). I’m finally moved in and had lunches planned to bring to work. Yesterday, my coworker was walking to Chipotle and I needed to buy a greeting card next door. I love me some Chipotle and really wanted to just scrap my lunch in exchange for a burrito bowl. Follows is how I walk away from many of my small mundane impulses is to evaluate the opportunity.

Q. Is Chipotle fairly attainable?
A. It TOTALLY is. It’s on campus, walking distance, and under ten dollars. Hell, I have two Chipotles less than a mile away from where I live.

Q. Will this be my last opportunity to eat Chipotle?
A. Far from it!

Q. Can I resist this week and be satisified with coming back later?
A. Absolutely.

Impulse resisted!

That’s three big mentalities I’ve found financially useful and effective but I’m always seeking to learn more, so please share your tips.


What are some of your financial philosophies or personal policies?

This post is written as part of 20SB Blog Carnival on friends and money. For more entries about friends and money, click the link.

I hustle.

I work a night job 2.5 weeks a month. Originally, it was a part time job to hold me over til my next full time position. After I found a new position in December, I realized I enjoyed my night time gig so much that I’m going to keep it and see what happens. It’s pretty draining. I started up the night time job for the month of January (it usually starts midway through a month and ends before the first week of the following month is over) this week. I started my new day time job beginning of December so really this is just my 2nd month of doing two jobs back to back. I wake up between 6 and 7am on these days and leave my day time job between 4 and 5pm. Get to my night time job between 5 and 6 and then get home at around 11pm. If I’m good, I’m in bed by 1am. December was brutal for me adjusting but this week wasn’t so bad. I unwind by listening to an audio book on my commute or call long distance friends to catch up. (I watched an Oprah episode yesterday about cell phone usage and how it affects your driving so I’m seriously going to cut down the car conversations.) If it’s a night I make it over to Alan’s, we usually catch up on a show (this week it’s been American Idol) and then I shower, crash, and start over.

This of course isn’t a permanent lifestyle but this is me hustling for now. Upon reflection, I do not regret resigning as a clinical research coordinator in May in the midst of a full throttle recession. I may not sleep much, but I sleep more than I did and more peacefully. I’m almost half way through rebuilding the emergency fund, and this night time gig makes me savour the weekday nights I have remaining.

Maybe I’ll live vicariously through ya’ll.

How do you spend your week day nights?

10 More Things I’m Currently Thankful for

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Before I head home to Houston, I’m going to squeeze in a third Gratitude list.

If you missed the first two here they are:

10 Things I’m Currently Thankful for
10 More Things I’m Currently Thankful for


Another 10 More Things I’m Currently Thankful for

  1. A full time job! As I mentioned once or twice before, I landed a job and will be working at my Alma Mater. I start next Tuesday.

    I went to the lab to talk about the job offer last week and as I was hanging out I saw one of my old professors. It’s kind of a funny thing to see professors after you graduate and be inundated with academic memories. Some not so good ones! I had to suppress an urge to shrink away. Anyway, I digress. I gots a full time gig after not having a full time gig since June.

  2. Reunions over Thanksgiving! I have a handful of friends I haven’t seen in months and I get to see some of them in Houston this weekend for Thanksgiving. Although, it’s going to be challenging to time budget between friends and family in just 3 days, I think it’s not too shabby of a problem to have.
  3. My car.


    My first baby.


    My baby Civic

    I bought my car summer of 2007 after getting in a car accident. Ever try to imagine your life without your car? I wouldn’t be able to get to work (my current part time position is 45 minutes away by car.) I wouldn’t be able to drive to Houston to visit. No fun trips to restaurants, etc. Austin isn’t a pedestrian city. My car makes it possible for me to play, work, and explore. Yay car!

    I’m also grateful I didn’t play around and paid off my 5 year car loan in 1.5 years. This made the last 5 months of unemployment easier without having an extra 200 dollars a month to expense for a car payment.

  4. My Washer/Dryer. I remember the days of hauling my laundry to the laundromat and setting aside hours at a time to get laundry done. I’ve filled up COUNTLESS journal pages people watching as I think it’s extra interesting to see what people wash. Heehee. I haven’t had to use a laundromat for years now. I had a roommate 2007 with a washer/dryer. In 2008, Miss Jamie let Alan and I borrow her washer and dryer and we helped her “store” it. When I moved to my own place last year, I thought I’d forgo fun purchases and spend almost a thousand on a set. It was money well spent. There’s freedom in owning your own washer dryer.
  5. Trip to San Fran and Boston! I’m incredibly lucky to be able to travel a little bit this year considering my stint with unemployment.

    I took a trip to San Fran with Alan right before putting in my notice at my previous full time position. It was kind of a celebration of a new beginning for me and was also the first trip Alan and I took together. San Fran is one of my favorite cities now. I was also extremely blessed to have such a loving BFF/FFB who gifted me her flight miles to go see her in Boston. I hadn’t seen her in Boston for a few years and it was good timing for us. I can’t wait to go back to see her new house! :)

    I’m always thankful for any kind of travel I’m able to swing.

  6. Those who read what I write. I’m thankful for my regular readers (mostly friends and boyfriend). I’m thankful for the comments you take the time to write and just over all taking the time to read my humble little blog. I’m thankful for the mentions you make when we chat, for the followers, and the subscribers. I’m thankful for you!
  7. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’m thankful for great memories and hard lessons from my past. I’m thankful for the photos and the journals that help me not to forget.

    I’m thankful for today and being alive. I’m thankful for the possibilities that lie in the future and my capacity to dream and plan.

  8. Friends.

    It would take me all day to name them all by name but I’m thankful for them all. I come from a small isolated family. We hardly have any extended family. My friends are my extended family. They want the best for me and are my cheerleaders in life. I’m forever thankful.

  9. Living in Austin. Did you know this year we hold the accolade of least stressful city in the US? I love living in Austin. I love how pretty it is with the lakes and hills. I love the events hosted by us. I love our downtown area. It’s a wonderful, fun, smart, and young city.
  10. Books

    I cannot wait to own my own place and have my library set up! Books and bookstores are foolproof sources of comfort for me. I grew up around a lot of books so they conjure up a feeling of youthful awe. I also grew up seeing my dad with a book EVERY NIGHT, and every moment he had free and anything that reminds me of my dad also releases a lot of dopamine in my noggin. All the positive memory associations aside, books nourish me. They’ve molded my philosophies in life, provided understanding, clarity, education, inspiration… the list goes on. I love books. I’m thankful I’m in a country that limits censorship and that my parents raise me to value and appreciate the written word.

10 Things I’m Currently Thankful For

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, my second favorite holiday, here are ten things I’m at this very moment thankful for.

  1. Online conversations. I’ve been having more lately as I’m on the computer more often this week so I’m catching more people online. Kim kept me company a few times as I watched girly movies or shows on TV. Deesh and I chatted about college memories and we tried to piece together the tapestry of our shared college courses for a while late last night. I cannot remember the last time we had a conversation online. Apparently I dropped McCord’s chemistry twice (two different courses). Kym and I are bumping into each other more often too. I know I used to be a letter writing kind of girl but I’m thankful for the ease of Gchat.
  2. Chocolate . I got a box of truffles from my old coworkers for my birthday. I finally remembered where I hid them and broke into them. Nom. Truffles.
  3. Random dinner invites last two nights. Deesh grilled up some chicken 2 nights ago and last night Jesse made us burgers with spinach and Alfredo sauce. Thanks for feeding my scavenger self!
  4. Lunch date with Alan. I enjoy dates with that boy. Who doesn’t like dates? There’s a different light that shines on us when we’re outside our respective apartments. I’m a mush. Alan treated me to North yesterday. Ever since I tried Young’s order of Strozzapreti the first time we went there, I don’t get anything else. Though, we have only been to North three times. Did you know they have happy hour?

  5. I finally got a call for a job interview. Wish me luck tomorrow. I absolutely hate living off of my savings.
  6. Brittany! I don’t know if she’ll read this. Brittany is Deesh’s girlfriend. She has been doing some great looking out for me and it has humbled me with gratitude. I find her pretty enchanting too! I have a creepy-girl-platonic-straight-crush on her. Haha. Now I hope she doesn’t read this.
  7. Roomie bonding. I have a part time evening job that kept me from seeing Brandi for a bit. This week since I’m not working, we’ve managed some time together. Cooking, baking, eating. Today we plan on finally checking out the Cathedral of Junk!
  8. Checking out a new eatery. Yesterday after dinner, a group of us tried a new yogurt place. I haven’t checked out a new eatery in a while so it was nice! I’ll tell you about the yogurt venue next time.
  9. The thought of Houston. I miss my parents dearly. Mom reminded me that I hadn’t seen her since July. I cannot wait to go home for Thanksgiving. I get to see them, eat momma food, see Thomas, see Kim! Maybe eat at a few new places too (I haven’t forgotten about you, Jess). Such anticipation!
  10. My bed and delicious sleep. I have had friends tell me they never want to leave my bed when they lie in it. Trust me, it’s awesome. I’m about to go have some sleep. It’s currently 3:30 AM on Nov 11. This is due to post at 10am. I’ll be setting my alarm for 8:30am. I have some business to take care of!
  11. Your turn! What are you thankful for these days?

Chicken Piccata and Banana Nutella Crepes

I usually send Jen T. something for her birthday but this year I was forgetful so now that she’s in town I decided to make her a belated birthday dinner. I was driving into Austin today from Houston so I wanted to pick something that’s easy. I found a Giada recipe for Chicken Piccata. I’ve never tried making Chicken Piccata before so it’s also expanding my horizons. It’s pretty easy. The only change I made to the recipe was not put in capers. I bought pickled capers inadvertently. Oops. For sides, I just sauteed squash and zucchini. I liked it. Jennifer and Brandi didn’t complain and Jen wanted the recipe. I consider that successful. It’s always kind of unnerving to make something for the first time for people.

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Directions
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Banana Nutella Crepes

Then for desserts I made Banana Nutella crepes. I’ve made these a few times back when I was living with Alan. The batter makes approximately 18 crepes. Every time I make these crepes I call a bunch of people to come over to help eat. Nisreen and Nino and Jessica joined us for desserts. It’s an incredibly easy recipe. The only change I made was I sprinkled cocoa powder on top of the whip cream. It was delicious. Nutella is where it’s at.

Ingredients
Crepe Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Topping:
1 jar hazelnut chocolate spread
5 bananas, sliced
1 can whipping cream
Directions
Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg and egg yolk. Pour in the milk, slowly, stirring constantly and, when half is added, stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Beat well until smooth. Add the remaining milk, cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before using. The batter should be the consistency of light cream. Heat a well greased 6-inch skillet,. Add 1/4 cup batter. Tip skillet from side to side until batter covers bottom. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, turn and remove to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Spread a thin layer of chocolate hazelnut spread onto crepe and place banana slices down the center. Roll or fold crepe. Just before serving top with whipped cream.

All in all I spent 26 dollars and fed 3 people (4 if you include the leftover box I made for Alan) dinner and 5 people dessert.

I used to cook pretty often over a year ago when living with Alan because we had a lot of counter space. I loved it. But then I took a year off of cooking (I think I cooked maybe 15 times the whole time I was at my previous apartment) because I had a single sink and hardly any counter space. Now, Brandi and I have a full kitchen again, I plan on cooking more. Can’t wait.

2009 Resolutions

Financial:
– Have a full year’s worth of expenses (rent, bills, food) saved up in my emergency fund. I think I just need 6K more since my CD will mature in June. Reevaluate this goal if I move/rent goes up when my lease ends in July.
– If I have leftovers, (which I doubt) max out my Roth IRA.
– If I have leftovers after that, (which I HIGHLY doubt) attack my student loans in the same manner I attacked my car loan last year.

Leisure/Cultural/Fun
– Read 20 books (double from last year’s total of 10)
– Take an art class. (Fused Glass perhaps?)
– Write in my paper main journal once a week.
– Write in my 5 year journal every day. (I started on New Year’s Day!) I think I can spare 6 lines a day.
– Finish 3 short stories for Ink Spots.
– Add on one new state to my list.
– Continue doing my new things of the week (going on year 4 now!)

Community
– Do three volunteer projects with my little from Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. Maybe at the food bank?
– Run another 5k.
– Honor my relationship with my little by seeing her regularly, 2-3 times a month.

Personal
– To not let my ego get in the way of my relationships and communication in my relationships.
– Keep my apartment pristine.
– Work out 3 hours a week.
– Keep my sleep amount average at 7 hours. (It’s currently at 6! I’ve moved it from my previous average of 3 hours.)