Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Read: 9/24/10

I have an upcoming post on the continuing education after college (with or without classes) but this week's been slamming. But I wanted to share something this week:

1) Sara Gallagher's guest post on your first annual review sure is handy for recent grads. I'm keeping this one in my back pocket so I don't get stumped

2) Best Cities for College Grads courtesy of Business Week. Note...Los Angeles didn't even make it on here.

3) A cautionary tale about losing your job before it even starts

4) Fabulous and Frugal Goes Green For Halloween

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Read: First Edition

Borrowing a term from the entertainment industry, it's time for Weekend Read! One of my favorite hobbies is finding new blogs only to be both jealous and motivated by their talent. Here are my shares this week (in addition to LearnVest of course).

Domestik Goddess If you are feeling crafty or have an urge to start a herb garden, look here for inspiration. Not only is DG funny but her advice is user-friendly for the domestically challenged like myself.

BlissTree Okay google, you have me stumped on how this showed up as a "Frugal Living" blog but I do enjoy it. I'm loving the news about smoke free parks in New York (yes please). I don't however like the slideshow about Overweight Celebrities by Caroline. It's not very becoming.

Finally, this article on FitCeleb about Trainer Bob's Walk for Farm Animal rights. You can read more about Farm Sanctuary here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The (post-grad) Fifteen: Staying Healthy and Fit in Your New Life

You think after you pass the freshman 15 that you're transitional weight gains are over. Whoever planted that idea in my head was a liar. If anything, staying healthy gets even harder after college.

Sure, the all-you-can-eat dining halls have vanished. But so has the three hour gap between Econ 101 and Writing the Essay that you used to hit the elliptical. Finding time to go to the gym when you're working full-time can be difficult for a recent graduate. Since most of us are not early risers, we're stuck at the gym waiting in lines for treadmills. It's such a miserable experience, we just stop going.

On top of that, the rush to and from includes a stop for an Egg McMuffin and a Big Mac. Then your clothes don't fit right because you've gained wait, which makes you stress out because you can't afford a whole new wardrobe and you just want to crawl into a whole somewhere.


Take a deep breath. No use giving yourself an ulcer.

Let's discuss a few ways to keep the extra pounds off while you adjust to a new lifestyle:

1) Make It Social. As I said in my earlier post about Fitting in Fitness sometimes the best things to make things priority is to make it fun. This rule not only applies to fitness but also healthy eating. I have been motivated to eat healthier because my friends and I get to together and make dinner for each other. Is it always amazingly healthy? No but I'm sure the homemade casserole is better for me than a trip to the county fair. For the Record, I'm breaking this rule this weekend.

2) Crack the Books and learn something new. Whether you are learning how to cook vegetarian or how to do yoga. Sometimes the most invigorating experience is succeeding at something you have always been afraid of. For example, I've always been terrified of using an oven or running a 5k ( I wish I was a good runner but I'm not). I'm running a 5k for charity this fall (with friends of course! Rule #1).

3) The Price is Right. Don't let the financial labels associated with healthy scare you. We can't all afford a membership to Sports Club LA but that doesn't make you a lesser person. It's funny because I have a friend who was talking about joining a gym and he refused to join a YMCA because they had a "stigma."

I love that I joined a YMCA. The people are friendly and low-key and the Healthy Lifestyles director is always looking to improve the facilities and classes for members. Additionally, I'm not shelling out every month, being pressured to find a personal trainer or locked into a contract.

You also don't have to shop exclusively at Whole Foods or Trader Joes. There are Farmer's Markets and many chain supermarkets now have special sections for Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Kosher eating. Plus, the supermarkets have buyer rewards programs. Overall it's just about finding the price point that works for your budget. If that answer is zero, find a hike instead of joining a gym. Use to find a running club. Healthy living should be for everyone not just those who can afford super trainers.

How about you readers? How do yourself thin but your wallet fat?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bookmark this: LearnVest

I stumbled across LearnVest in a super strange way---it was someone's facebook status. After a quick google search, I discovered Alexa Von Tobel, founder of LearnVest and Inc 30 Under 30 Entrepreneur, knew what the problem was with personal finance books and websites. They speak to middle aged men (and sometime women) with tons of money who are saving for retirement. The advice is not helpful when you are a recent grad making $500 for 50 hours of work a week.

Thankfully, LearnVest is here to spell out personal finance for Gen Y women everywhere! LearnVest has many great tools including budgeting bootcamps, helpful articles, and a resource toolkit.

Some of my favorite parts of the site include:

  • Cool calculators that help you find out how much you save buying a used vs new car or by brownbagging your lunch

  • When I was looking for a grown-up credit card with a tangible rewards program, I used their Credit Card Finder tool to select my new Discover (testing now!)

  • A checklist for 2010 Graduates starting their new financial adventure

  • The new LV Expert bloggers! I love Dining & Entertainment and the Money Etiquette expert.

I hope you check out LearnVest. I've found it helpful so far but what do you think? What other features does this personal finance web source need to grow?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Negotiation: When Being Pushy Can Save You Money

Recent graduates have a lot of new problems on their plates. They are trying to find jobs so they can pay rent, have a social life outside dorm living, or trying to cook something other than ramen. When problems arise, you just want to throw your hands in the air and say f*** it!

Before you run crying to your parents because your internet broke, stop and think about how you can handle this for yourself. And yes you have to call customer service.

How To Negotiate and Fix Things with Customer Service Representatives

1) Say Hello and Get The Operator's Name. It's more relaxing if you introduce yourself and they introduce themselves. Plus, if things go awry, you have their name --written on a pad of paper.

2) Kill them with kindness (and Play Dumb). Anyone in a customer service jobs appreciates when someone is nice to them. It can also overwhelm the customer service if you give them too much information. When you get on the phone don't launch into what you researched online. Sometimes it's best to let them walk you through their prompt.

3) Playing Tough There are other times where you have to be tough. Not getting what you want? Ask for a manager or shift supervisor. If things go even farther south, ask for an area supervisor. Often times when an associate can't help you, it's just because they are not in the position of power.

4a) When You Are Pissed Off (Because Service is Not Up To Par). If your cable is out, your plumbing isn't fixed, etc. kindly tell the hiring measure that you were recently comparing their service to that of their competitor and that you have no problem switching over. Your parents can pull the 'I've been a customer from 25 years,' speech but recent graduates can't. So you have to threaten to take your business elsewhere. And make sure you ask your account to be credited.

4b) When You are Pissed Off (Because you are being billed for...) services you don't receive or overcharged. Let's say you did switch to another cable company but the first company is still billing you despite your service cancellation.

Three words: Better Business Bureau or Attorney General's Office. One of those sets of three.

Those words send customer services representatives scrambling and have yet to fail me. A sereis of complaints with the better business bureau can lead to an investigation and who knows, that vendor might be committing fraud and end up with a lawsuit.

I applaud Taylor Lautner for this move. Trust me, it works for normal people too.

5) Take the Survey I know you don't waste anymore time, but take the customer service survey or document your complaint. First of all, it will help weed out incompitent employees if their name keeps showing up with bad surveys. Secondly, you might score some free stuff. I got a free oil change and never have problems with my car dealership's service department and I'm convinced it's because I gave the Sales Reps bad ratings in the initial and follow up survey.

On that note, one try is not enough. If at first you don't succeed try two more times before dropping the F-bomb on the phone.

Final Note: Thank the People Who Go Above And Beyond

Last summer, my three year warranty on my Mac was about to expire and my computer was overheating. I took it into the Genius bar, got a ton of lip, left being very angry and was told there was nothing wrong with my computer.

Unconvinced, I took it back the next day--literally the last day of my warranty. This Mac Genius opened it, ran the disk utility and immediately found the problem. Hard drive was fried, computer was basically on its dying breath. He fixed it up in a day (plus I got a hard drive upgrade for free because they no longer make 40 gb harddrives for that model).

As a thank you, I got his card and wrote and email to his manager about his excellent employee.