Archive | December, 2013

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

May this holiday season bring you all laughter, love and happiness!

Free College Stuff You’d NEVER Buy Today

18 Dec

Leaving the old stomping grounds behind for a shot at the real world meant letting go of all the beautiful things our college years provided: friends, education, memories…and tons of free stuff.

These things, these precious gifts from departments desperately seeking attention, we took for granted. Career fairs, awareness events, involvement fairs and the like made available useless novelties that we now yearn for. Now that our checking accounts are down and our penny-pinching skills have been put to the test, we would never be caught dead spending money on these 7 things.

Streetside Cupcakes

The signature fundraiser – a bake sale! When I was rushing off to class I’d pass a beat up old folding table topped with colorful homemade cupcakes and other goodies. Delta Nu is raising funds so they don’t have to switch from Charmin to generic! Donate and receive a cupcake. Today, however, while rushing into the building after sitting in 8:00 a.m. traffic, I’d never stop for a free cupcake from some rando sitting on the side of the street. For all I know, they could be the town’s serial cat-skinner. No thank you. I’ll stick to my trusted friend Little Debbie.

Printing Services

It was awesome having a certain amount of tuition allotted for printing services. Sure I was paying for it, technically (and still will be for upwards of ten years) but I used every damn cent. 20-page paper? No problem. Design an advertisement and print in color? Cake. Student org. needs flyers? I got you, dog. Walking into a Kinkos is completely out of the question now. Not only is it totally barbaric to have to drive somewhere to print something, but if I need something I can print it at work. It’s called being resourceful. Joking, guys! Relax..

Yoga/Pilates Classes

Wasn’t it cute how the recreation centers always tried to get students to come “relax” during finals at their free yoga sesh? And if I bought the semester pass it was what, maybe $30 for four months? Well done, rec center, the only cost appropriate expense around here. Needless to say, I haven’t done yoga since graduating. Yoga classes are insanely expensive to just be standing around in loungewear breathing slowly. I do that every morning for free.

T-shirts

College was a years-long free t-shirt bonanza. I could make a quilt for Paul Bunyan’s bed with all the t-shirts I got from school. I even struggled to find storage space for all of these bad boys. The thought of spending $10+ on a t-shirt today provides utter disgust. Not to mention, I still have nowhere to put a new t-shirt  in my cramped downtown apartment with a sorry excuse for a closet. Instead, I’ll hang on to every last bit of those memory-filled pieces of cheap cotton and wear them proudly, pit stains and all. 

Movie Screenings

In an effort to gain a followership and member base, student orgs all over campus would find ways to host free movie screenings complete with cheese pizza (cheapskates) and soda. I almost never went, but now I realize that I’d have to sell my grandmother’s watch to be able to afford a Carmike Cinemas feature presentation. Now I’ll NEVER see Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. Netflix it is.

Women’s Basketball Tickets

Occasionally, probably only once, I reluctantly got up off my ass to go to a women’s basketball game…to get a free t-shirt. Sometimes the arena gave students free pizza. Why is it always pizza? Sometimes, on Greek Night, it was THE place to be because heaven forbid you miss a social opportunity to “network” with the other Greeks. After the season ended, though, and especially upon walking across that stage, women’s basketball has been nothing but a mere portion of a grain of sand in my cerebral cortex. The WNBA isn’t a real thing, right? It’s probably a no-tickets-necessary kind of thing because otherwise, I’d rather listen to Nickelback Radio.

SWAG

Little did I know when I first left for school I wouldn’t need those two bags of Bic pens and that 40-pack of Ticonderogas (obviously the best pencils ever). SWAG – Stuff We All Get – was everywhere: cups, pens, buttons, ID holders, pencils, magnets – I was a ninja in the fruit aisle. Although the endless amount of shit never seems to go away like that “Dorsey Hall 2009” keychain that always turns up somewhere, I’ll never walk into Office Depot with a significant need for desktop necessities.

The bright side is you get free stuff at work too! It isn’t all so bad. Who wouldn’t want contributions from their employer to a 401(k), annual holiday parties with dry sugar cookies, and unlimited amounts of room temperature fountain water?

A Toast to the Best Boss Ever

12 Dec

Nearly two years since I was his employee, I still look forward to going home and visiting the old stomping grounds to say hello to the staff and chat with my former boss. The place is like a time warp instantly bringing me back to those careless summer days and crazy summer nights when all that mattered was good friends, good money, and cheap booze.

So my heart broke a little when he informed me that he’s a different man now and so is the business. “Things are just different now,” he said to me this past November. “I’m getting older and I’m not as close with the staff,” he said reluctantly. This is the man who could out-party all of his 20-something staff and still get up and open up shop the next morning. Frozen with disbelief, I let him go on.

“I don’t go out and party like I used to and business is insane so I stay busy.” I understood, of course. A married man with two growing children, two-time business owner, and revered community member who recently lost his beloved mother is bound to take a different perspective on life.

My friend, your eventful past is not to be forgotten and your successful future is to be anticipated. Here’s to you, bossman, because you were the best boss I’ve ever had.

Most people look back on their younger days and shudder at the thought of waiting on tables filled with hungry and sometimes cranky patrons. Not this gal. I dream of those days when my coworkers were my best friends and when my boss was someone I could talk to about anything. Now I find myself desperately censoring my answer to “Did you do anything fun this weekend?”

This boss is a restaurant owner; a leave-home-early-come-home-late restaurant owner who pours his heart and soul into this place and easily made it the best job I’ve ever had. And here’s why:

Recognition

It was no secret to him that recognizing employees for a job well done could make a significant impact on the morale of the team. After a successful, busy night of serving, he’d surprise us with chicken wings or come through the kitchen like he was in a high five tunnel with his contagious grin and tell us all what an excellent night we had. Those small things were incredibly rewarding and kept us excited for the next shift to do it all over again. We knew he was proud and appreciative of our time and effort and that made it worth every second. Free t-shirts when we sold a certain amount? Hell yeah!

Accountability

On the other hand, he was well aware of our mistakes and was quick to hold people accountable. To me, this was essential because there’s nothing worse than watching someone get by on doing the bare minimum. He wanted everyone’s participation and had rules in place that helped to ensure full team participation in all areas. When someone failed to do their part, oh it was going down. So you better check off your name by the “Bathrooms” box in the clean-up chart.

Support

The restaurant business requires pristine customer service in order to build a brand, develop a customer base, and make a profit. He knew this. But he also knew that the customer was not always right (cue the shocked look on all business professionals’ faces). It’s true! Customers can be awful like the time that lady stabbed me in the back with her plate because her shrimp wasn’t fried. I’m sorry, honey, this isn’t Long John Silver’s. Anyway, when it came down to making some tough decisions, he always had our backs. Get it? He trusted his team and had faith in us and that always meant a lot.

Fun

Okay, this isn’t a necessity in a boss. Consider it a perk of working for him. He was a blast to work with and for. He played music the staff wanted to listen to, he threw us company get-togethers, and did what he could to make the work day an eventful one. And when I got a little too drunk at the summer party and acquired a ride home, he greeted me the next day with a snicker and a simple, “how ya feelin’ kid?”

So while you feel like times are changing, and maybe you aren’t as wild as you once were, I want you to know that your unconventional leadership style, one that I will try to mimic someday, is one that I will forever appreciate, that and your endless amount of visor hats.

Cheers to you!

36 Signs Christmas Is Coming – Pressed

12 Dec

I recently started following Natalie-Kay-es-el (check her out!) when a friend of mine shared her 20 Signs You Really, Really Hate People post on Facebook. After an hour, I was hooked by her hilarious, clever posts. Here’s a seasonal one I think you’ll enjoy.

36 Signs Christmas Is Coming.

Thanks Natalie!

The Countdown to Student Loan Repayment

11 Dec

Let’s be honest, for most college grads, student loan repayment is the first big payment obligation. Some of us have purchased cars since graduating (me!), and some maybe even a home or a motorcycle. However, a certain stigma exists around the topic of student loans and the process of repayment. It is an agonizing phrase that when uttered brings sharp pains to many. I should have known what to expect when choosing that big out-of-state university, right? Trust me, it was worth every penny. And every painful penny I shall spend…

15 days until first payment

Confirm that mom and/or dad will be contributing and to what extent. Despite the country’s slow economic recovery and a proven decrease in parent contributions, some lucky students have the luxury of wealthy parents who plan to completely cover their child’s higher education investment. According to Sallie Mae’s annual “How America Pays for College” study, 27 percent of college costs were paid by parent income and savings this year, although this number has significantly decreased since its peak in 2010 when 37 percent of parents paid out of pocket. Others, like me, have parents who choose to contribute a portion either because that’s what they can afford or because they want to reinforce the importance of money, bills, and investments. And many students across the nation, about three in 10 students in 2012-2013, have no choice but to take on student loan debt in order to make an attempt at The American Dream. Keyword being “attempt.”

13 days until first payment

Awkwardly bring up how I’ll receive funds from mom and/or dad – set up a reminder in my phone. I use the word “awkwardly” because in this financial climate, the topic of spending money brings stress and discomfort to most. Marist College released a poll which said 59% of United States residents feel that talking about money problems with their children adds to family stress. Contributing parents are doing what they can to provide for their children because it is American culture to do so. Our parents bought us toys, video games, cell phones, and our first cars. No parent wants to be the bearer of bad news to a struggling new grad. Most new grads, unfortunately not all, understand that it is asking a lot to request help with student loans so they tread lightly when discussing the painful subject.

12 days until first payment

Completely rethink my loose monthly budget. Since I graduated, I’ve moved to another state and purchased a brand new car so a budget was absolutely necessary. Fidelity Investments, an online financial services company, says only about half of recent grads have a plan in place to meet their financial goals and 63 percent of that group have created a budget. To me, the control freak, this is not good news for the financial future of our country. The possibility of ruining my credit is not one I want to gamble with so determining a strict budget and monthly, quarterly and yearly goals is incredibly important and should be to all recent grads.

10 days until first payment

Confirm total amounts for each separate loan and decide against buying a new sweater for the ugly sweater Christmas party. I’ll whip out last year’s classic. Its all about making justifiable purchases, right? The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Craze has reached an all-time and embarrassing high according to ABC News and the cost of these sweaters has followed suit. Justin Bieber sported a $1,650 monstrosity this year. Instead, I need coffee-mate and baby carrots this weekend so a one-time gig complete with dancing reindeer and jingle bells just didn’t make the cut. Having a handful of student loans is no secret to most borrowers. According to Sallie Mae, student borrowing has slightly decreased over recent years but the amount has greatly increased. Students now owe private and federal loans so keeping track of all these debts has put a great pressure on recent grads.

9 days until first payment

Pregame at home with that dusty bottle of Burnett’s and buy one (okay, three) domestic draft beers at the bar knowing I’m about to drop a couple hundo. I’m so responsible. While my younger student friends spend carelessly at the bar and my older, successful friends feel confident in their purchasing decisions, I have to be strategic about getting drunk. What a buzz kill. Like a true college student would, I scrounged up my last bit of alcohol to save a few bucks and decided my bar tab was my Christmas present to myself.

7 days until first payment

Consider grad school for the sake of loan deferment and nothing else. As if the pressure of entering the real world wasn’t already enough, banks are now encouraging recent undergrads to attend graduate school, although their reasoning only has one ultimate goal in mind: money. They make it sound so tempting, “Sometimes it may seem impossible to make your student loan payment,” they say. “You are so right,” I respond as I think, “wow they really know my personal life.” But the cost of graduate school is a hefty one beginning with the $150 GRE test, not to mention books (again), housing (again), and more! In an effort to postpone payments, recent undergrads actually might struggle more later! A graduate degree should only be sought for all the right reasons, not driven by financial insecurity.

6 days until first payment

Google “how to make money while working full-time” and when the results come up short, Google “cute puppies” to feel better. The sad truth is that it is common practice for most young graduates to work multiple jobs, according to Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. While I let go of the dreams I had of a yearly salary, I work my hourly job because it’s what pays the bills and hope my Etsy shop takes off.

3 days until first payment

Finish the Burnett’s from last week and sit on the couch watching ABC Family’s 25 days of Christmas because it’s all the fun I can afford. Just me and my friend Cheap Vodka chilling on a Saturday night. With my upcoming payment, another night out was not in the cards so like a true 90’s baby, I choose Home Alone and The Santa Clause.

1 day until first payment

Make the payment early because I’m a boss. Also, because I can no longer prolong the agony of anticipation. The control freak in me pays early because at any second my bank could crash and I could become totally poor and then my interest rate would skyrocket even more and that would literally be the end of the world. Instead, I choose punctuality because making debt payments on time is the largest factor to building good credit.

Debt, credit, deadlines…they’re no walk in the park. If this is what it takes to achieve financial success and happiness, I’m willing to walk the walk. Now that I’ve released nearly $1k into thin air, it is time to write my Christmas List filled with all the joyful essentials: hand soap, toilet paper, dryer sheets, ramen, and more Christmasy fun!

(a 2nd version of this post can be found under my columns with PostGradProblems.com)
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