Monday, January 26, 2015

What's Missing?

The State of the Union speech by the President was wonderful. Complete with the type of hope and togetherness and liberal politics we expect from President Obama and even a few quips. #iWonBOFAThem

Unfortunately, he was missing a few topics that I think are significantly important to the union.

Gun Violence - It's like Sandy Hook never happened and/or he realized he was powerless over the NRA. It's sad that people fight for the right to take others lives. (Likely the same folks that are vehemently against abortion, but let me not go there today).

Social Security - Now I don't too much care about this. I've determined that there's no way that I'm going to get social security and am lining up my retirement funds accordingly. Some people don't have that privilege and will just be assed out when they retire. Surely, the government hasn't forgot about this and they don't think a bunch of child care credits (#iAintGotNoKids) is going to make up for this deficiency.

Infrastructure - Now maybe he mentioned this OR maybe some of the past credits that the government has given is already taking care of this, but I just saw THIS story about an Ohio overpass being closed due to scheduled maintenance. The picture scared me to death (originally I thought it collapsed, which is why reading is fundamental). I'm pretty sure nothing in the world matters if we can't get from place to place to work, eat, go home or pick up kids from child care because we died on an structurally unsound overpass.

What about you? Did you love the #SOTU? Were there any topics you missed? Do I have any 100% Republican readers? (I'm 49% Republican myself). Do you all have harsher criticism of my President?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Shrinking Net Worth

If you've been here for a while, you know that I'm extremely proud of my high credit score. To the point, that some of y'all were like are you using Experian, Equifax, TransUnion or something else because who even knew credit scores went that high.

I was super into it while I was paying my credit card debt down. Now I don't even check it regularly. I don't care.

With student loans up next at bat, I'm on this journey to becoming debt free. At the end of 2015, I won't own anything and I won't owe anything. It'll be just me and the clothes on my back. LOL!

Well, I kind started following a few radical, debt-free folks on Twitter. I haven't fully committed to their lifestyle of not being in debt ever again or not buying things that require payments in installments. I am, however, open to new and different ways of thinking about money and wealth and my newest obsession is understanding net worth. 

Put simply, net worth is what is owned minus what is owed. Your assets minus your liabilities and man, as Americans, we are doing it wrong.

According to the Russell Sage Foundation, the median network for Americans is about $56,000, which is down a third from 10 years ago.


Other reports says it's as low as $45,000. What's worse is that the AVERAGE for the U.S. is $300,000. So what that's saying is a few families: the Trumps, the Hiltons, The Gates and the Obamas got it... and the rest of us don't.

New goal is to get my net worth above the median in the short term. Get above the average in my 5-year plan and figure out how to get my family in top 1% before I die. I think this is a solid plan. Who's with me? 

P.S. I realized I'm more interested in personal finance than most when I got all excited about a Suze Orman money calculator at work and no one shared my enthusiasm. I sucked at econ, but money is so fascinating to me. Can't wait to learn more!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thank You Dove!

Dove gets it right so much. Here's another one:


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SMILE!

So smile.amazon.com, let's you give to your favorite organization just by purchasing things you already purchase. How amazing is that?

Check it out and let me know who you're donating to? Mine are going to the Chicago Women's AIDS Project. ;-)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tired of Arguing with eHarmony

I've reported eHarmony to the Better Business Bureau and am currently arguing back and forth with them about whether I deserve a refund or not. Let me explain.

I paid for a year starting on October 28, 2013. I did not opt to autorenew. On October 28, 2014, they autoenrolled me into another year and charged my card. I called them on October 31, 2014 to get a refund. *insert details and minutia that doesn't really matter* They said no and enjoy your year of eHarmony. 

I reported them to the BBB of San Jose, CA where their are headquartered.

Here's my thing. If your service is so amazing, why do you have to trick people into signing up for it? (They claim I signed up for autorenew. I'm claiming otherwise.) AND why can't I get a refund over the phone? Why all these emails and horrible correspondences? It's like they think I'm going to forget that their service doesn't work and become enamored with it. No. 

Trying to cancel them is worst than canceling Comcast or LA Fitness. I just want my money back, so I can use it to join Christian Mingle.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

This Here Lifestyle

I successfully took the bus to the movies yesterday. #YouCare

Anywho, what I have not been successful at is securing groceries without a car. Let me tell you about all of my attempts.

Grocery Delivery - In Pittsburgh, I have two options (according to Google)

BestGroceryDelivery.net - This overpriced site almost made me curse out loud. $8.19 for a gallon of milk. $2.34 for Chobani. If you pay attention to grocery prices like I do, you know that these are almost 100% markups. Whatever, I put all my groceries in the cart and got to about $100 and for delivered food, that's fine. I go to checkout and they don't deliver on the weekends and their weekday times start at 9 a.m. and end with a 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. I have a 9-5 job. This is why I need groceries delivered. That ain't gonna work.

DeliveredtoU.com, which turns into cart2.urbangrocery.com - This site's user experience is TRASH. You can't search. You have to go through the aisles, looking for what you want and none of the pics were loading. If I had time for that, I would have time to go to the actual grocery store.

Car Rental - Most weekends, this would work, but I didn't realize I wasn't getting groceries delivered until 1:30 p.m. today. Car rental places downtown Pittsburgh close at noon. I also REALLY need to watch my bottom line (can't be spending $100 a weekend on rental cars), so I looked into the Enterprise $9.99 weekend rental. You get a compact car Friday night, return it Sunday, $9.99 a day. I'm only going to Target. Works for me. They were closed though.

Zipcar - I closed my Zipcar account when I got a car about two years ago. I went to reopen it and remembered my company has a discount for that service. I emailed HR, but it's the weekend. They'll holla back on Monday, which again, will be fine in weeks to come, but when it comes to tomorrow's dinner, the struggle ceases to be fake.

Target Subscriptions - Have you all heard of this? I think it's genius. You know you're going to need toilet paper and tampons every month. Why not just have them delivered to your door instead having to run out for them? This is dope except for the fact that everything in the store isn't a subscription item. So while I want certain brands of dishwashing liquid, bleach and odor-wicking beads, those things can't exactly be shipped in the mail. So I got SOME things using this, but the real grocery shopping search continues. 

Friends - HOW MANY OF US HAVE THEM! So I hit up my girl who said I could use her car whenever. We text and determine I'm going to get her whip about 5:30/6. She needs it back around 9:30/10. KEWL! She hits me at about 5 p.m. to say she forgot to pay for renewal for the parking lot she has the car in and she can't get it out and she's sorry. No big. I'm sitting in the house watching football and I have enough food to get me through another week. A weak week, but you know, I could make it work.

Finally, I remembered a website I encountered called Anothermother.net. They do laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and care baskets. Man, listen. The site was easy to navigate. They go to the same grocery stores I go to in East Liberty (Target, Giant Eagle, Trader Joe's) and you just put in your list open-ended and they pick up the stuff. It's an $11 delivery fee. Fair. Then it's $3 for each additional store. If you make your order by 1 p.m., they deliver it by 7 p.m. that day. After 1 p.m., by 7 p.m. the next day. This might be my new lick.

Now, you have to put a deposit of $20 down in order for them to place your order. I may or may not have just tricked off $20 since I've never heard of anyone using this service before. But, I pretty much have Better Business Bureau of speed dial, so I'm pretty sure it'll be fine.

I'll keep you posted about this here [commuter] lifestyle... in a city that is not set up for commuters. I swear I'm going to *Tim Gunn voice* MAKE IT WORK!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bus Game Weak

So on January 4, the first day I got back to Pittsburgh from holiday vacation, I needed to volunteer at Family House. I know, I know. Doing too much. But it really was a relaxing vacation the volunteer coordinator called me in desperation to see if I could do it and I broke. I decided to do 2 hours instead of 4. I think that was a nice compromise.

Anywho, I'm carless. So I check the bus schedule and there's a bus that comes RIGHT by my house that goes RIGHT by Family House, so I made my way to get it. It actually takes about mm... 9 strong minutes to get out of a high rise. So needless to say, I missed that bus. No big deal, I took an Uber.

So on the way home, I walk to Wendy's to get dinner. I clearly wasn't cooking that night. Then I go get on the bus stop to catch the bus to my home. Let me also say that taking a bus in a city that you're not from is totally weird. I kinda know where I'm going, but I know those place via car, not via public trans.

Anywho, I get on the bus. My buscard doesn't work. The bus driver looks at me like I'm pure trash and says ma'am, it's Sunday, did your weekly pass expire. Um, FIRST OF ALL, I don't have a weekly pass. I have something close to $50 on the card. (Actually, it wa s$16, but enough for one ride and he didn't have to play me like that).

So I get off the bus and call another Uber. So for a 2-hour volunteer project, I spend $22 on Uber cars. NOT exactly the way I wanted to start my "saving money on transportation" year. It's still nowhere near the $500 a month I spent on my car in December, but I'm trying to get on the good foot.

In other encouraging news, my first lady texted to see if I needed a ride to church and one of my new friends said she doesn't drive her car during the week and I can use it whenever I want. Wait, what? God has me SO covered.

I can't wait to report when I pay off Sallie Mae/Navient (look for that note at the end of April). (Yeah, the loan part of Sallie Mae is now called Navient. Probably rebranding because people hate Sallie Mae so much). And I can't wait to say I'm completely done with student loans during my 2015 wrap-up.

My bus game is weak, but this year is still about to be amazing on the personal finance front.

How's your January coming along?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thoughts In A Meeting

Disclaimer: I love my job, my clients and everyone I work with. As a human being, I'm allowed to think distasteful thoughts, which some of these are. I'm posting because they're funny, not because I believe these statements. Please don't fire me, HR. :-)  

Have you ever been in the meeting from hell? I had one of those meetings a few months ago and it was so bad, I just started recording my raw thoughts.  
  • What do these women have against manicures?
  • My coworker keeps telling me to jump in, then cuts me off. 
  • Do other people really come to meetings this unprepared? 
  • I'm overpaid.
  • Oh shit. I don't know the answer. I'm dumb as hell.
  • Wait, these people really believe what I'm saying.
  • Shout out to the designers in the room, who have never pitched a story, but swear something has PR-legs. Use your legs to sitcho ass down.
  • I want a beer. 
  • Did this fool walk in 30 minutes late & just start talking. 
  • Ooh, LinkedIn sent me jobs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Don't Be Mad...


Fox is being all Fox-like and people are making a big deal about it. I actually don't care that an elected official met with a "former crack dealer."

1. Unlike most things that run on Fox, this is factual. Jay-Z is in fact, a former crack dealer. Your past is your past. You can hide from it or make a fortune from it. Jay-Z chose the fortune. He's actually a very good decision maker, if you ask me, which is another reason why Cuomo wanted to meet with him.

I digress.

2. You didn't see Jesus kickin' it with the town criers (i.e. Fox News). He was eating dinner with the tax collectors (crooks) and sinners. The Bible actually just says "sinners" in every version I have, so we'ont even know what these people are getting into.

If Jesus can kick it with sinners (or former sinners), why can't Cuomo?

Don't let this stuff upset you, people. We have better things to worry about, like why Scandal isn't coming back until January 29th.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Year in Review

January: Brought in the new year in Chicago at Fellowship and a Pajama Jam at DV's (1 Day). Had the cold from hell for about 2 weeks, followed by the sinus infection from hell for another week, but I survived. Have a staycation followed by Super Bowl weekend in NYC (2 days). 

February: I think I stayed in Pittsburgh the entire month of February. Did I win or lose this month? I don't know.

March: Went to Chicago (2 days) for Kellie's baby shower.

April: Went to Ohio for work (1 day). D.C. for Work (1 day). Ohio again for work (1 day). Threw a birthday party in Pittsburgh. Whoda thunk it?!?!?!

May: Went to Chicago/Champaign (3 days) and gave the alumni convocation speech at the University of Illinois Department of Communication graduation. WOW! Went to Oklahoma City for Dorian's Baby Shower. (3 days)

June: Went to Chicago (5 days) for work, stayed for play.

July: Went to Barcelona and Ibiza via New York (8 days) for Ashlie's 30th. There are no photos. :-) Went to Chicago for a baby shower to party (2 days). Went to Chicago for my grandma's 75th Surprise Birthday Party. Went to the 8th Annual #EthnicQ (2 days) 

August: Went to Ohio for work (1 day.) Went to Chicago for the Broadview Baptist Church Young Adult Choir Reunion (4 days) Stayed in Pittsburgh for Labor Day (my first time being here an entire holiday weekend. It was really fun!)

September: I worked and volunteered so much this month. I didn't travel anywhere. It was exhausting and unnecessary. This month was a major turning point in learning to say no. 2015 will be full of no.

October: Ohio for work (1 day). Allentown, PA for work (1 day), Upstate New York (1 day) for work, Chicago (3 days) for work. 

November: Vegas for work (3 days), stayed to play (2 days). Chicago for work (1 day). Ohio for work (1 day) Chicago for Thanksgiving (4 days) 

December: Ohio for work (1 day) Ohio for work (2 days) Chicago for Christmas (9 days) Memphis for NYE (1 day)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making a Lasting Impact

Here are things I have to remind myself when I get sad about leaving the girls that I no longer will be with. And I'll start with a little story.

When I told the girls that I was leaving, they started to open up to me in ways that they hadn't before. And girls who hadn't really said two words to me before I left told me they would miss me or let me know how they felt about my presence. One particularly memorable 18 year old with two children said:

"Ms. Tiasha, did you ever notice you make our birthdays special? Our parents ain't shit."

When I first started at Gwen's Girls, I thought I was going to have deep conversations about sex, and college and grades and respect and love and God, but the girls weren't going. I quickly figured that I needed a gimmick to get through to them. I brought my favorite game, Taboo, and BOOM! They opened up like car doors.

So then it occurred to me. Every respectable adult in their lives is trying to talk to them about the very thing I thought I would try to talk to them about. But VERY FEW adults are talking to them about having, good, clean fun. Just letting them be kids.

My game bag grew out of control: Jenga, Old Maid, Playing Cards, Checkers, Connect Four, Phase 10 and whatever else they asked me to bring. You need them games! I got them games!

Having fun in life is important to me, so I was able to share a little bit of myself just by being playful with the girls.

The second thing I did was create memorable experiences. I took four girls to their first, Pirates, Steelers, Penguins and University of Pitt basketball games, respectively. I gave them all pictures from the games, so they wouldn't forget. The gratitude they had for those experiences was truly overwhelming. Again, just sharing things that I like to do with them exposed them to new things and made an impact.

The third thing I did was celebrate their birthdays. I'm probably going to cry typing this because I cry every time I talk about this. I bought each one of the girls a cake and gift for her birthday. That cake and the gift I brought in EVERY INSTANCE, was the ONLY thing they received for their birthday. It makes me SO ANGRY because if I wasn't there, there is no adult in their life that took the time to make their birthday special. It's just like any other day.

Knowing this also takes me to this very unhealthy place of feeling like it's my responsibility to make their birthdays special. That's not true. I don't have any kids. I'm not obligated or required to do any of this stuff. But what one of MY mentors helped me realized is that by bringing my traditions to them (cake and gifts and celebrating what's clearly the most important day of the year), I modeled excellent behavior. And even though I won't be around on their next birthday, they can make a decision to celebrate themselves with their allowance or they can make a decision when they have a family of their own to make birthdays special. I did exactly what I was supposed to do, which was give of myself fully while I was mentoring.

And finally, what I'm most proud of, is my ability to model unconditional love. Teenagers are usually rewarded for doing something: getting good grades, making the team, winning a game in sports, getting scholarships by having good grades, getting accepted to college, etc. When the odds are against you (poor, teen mom, not good in school, not athletic, etc.), the rewards aren't exactly piling in.

I know as a teenager (and even as an adult, but I'm working on it), I would try to prove my worth by being excellent. And I feel if I make a mistake or don't hit the bar that someone's love or money or care or concern will leave me because I didn't do enough to deserve it. In college, I thought my crush, and later boyfriend wouldn't talk to me if my hair wasn't combed right (I was right. He was a jerk. I digress.)

The point is, I went to the group home, week in and week out, not because these girls are model citizens. A good half of them are clearly juvenile delinquents, even in my presence. I didn't play games with them because they had high IQs or becaus they came from a "good" home or family. I simply loved them because they existed.

That is the kind of love I hope they will seek in relationships from family, friends and lovers and for the time I was with them that's the kind of love I doled out.

So all of that to convince myself say, making an impact is not about how long you do something, but how you show up while doing it. I hope that in my nine months at the Group Home with all the girls coming in and out that something I said or did or modeled will have a lasting impact on their life and I am comfortable putting an end date on it to focus on other things.

As soon as I get my one-on-one mentee, I'll report back with how things are going with her. Fingers crossed that we can work together in 2015. 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Last Wednesday, December 10th, was my last day at Gwen's Girls. Leaving the group home was one of the healthiest emotional decisions I've ever made and at the same time it was like ripping my heart out.

Let me explain.

Remember this post, when I was crying in the car about the two girls I'm closest with leaving. Well, I'm made inroads to formally mentor them one-on-one and while that process is slower than I like, it's moving and I'm not willing to do both.

So why am I skipping the group home experience:

1. I don't have time. You've seen my schedule. I post to this blog like once a week... if that, when it used to be five to seven times a week. Being anywhere once a week religiously, is not feasible and it's just stressful as hell.

2. It's not like it used to be. I don't get through to the girls that are still in the house the same way I get through to a lot of the girls who have left. I think them seeing me so regularly, has nullified my effectiveness.

3. Things need a start and end date. When I did mentorship training, they talked about mentorship (unlike parenting) needing to have an end. I think about it like being a 5th grade teacher. At the end of the year, you don't hold onto the kids you like the most, you let them go and they go to 6th grade.

4. Practicality. I'm turning in my car to the dealership tomorrow. I will officially be on the bus and I can't make it anywhere after work at 6 p.m. on the bus. It's just not feasible. 

5. I'm STILL going to be a mentor. I have been talking about wanting to be a mentor for years on this blog and this year I finally did it. I am so proud of myself and so touched by how the girls allowed me to be a part of their lives. I'm sure that I've made a lasting impact on them, which is what I set out to do.

More on making a lasting impact tomorrow.


Monday, December 15, 2014

#ByeFelicia

That's what I'm trying to say to Sallie Mae, which is now called Navient and ACS in 2015. I've never defaulted on a payment and even though, they aren't exactly breathing down my neck to pay them faster, something about the idea of paying off my debt is SO liberating and I want to do it and I want to do it NOW!

So in 2015, I'm turning in my leased vehicle. I'm saving money on a car note, insurance, gas, a yearly sticker for the city of Pittsburgh, a yearly sticker for the state of Pennsylvania, parking fees at work, parking fees at my apartment, COSTS FOR REPAIRS FOR ALL THE IDIOTS WHO HIT MY CAR, etc.  

I'll probably spend a bit of money on Zip Car or a once-a-month car rental or throwing friends a bit of gas money for coming to pick me up from the airport (or I can just hop on the bus that lets off two blocks from my house. It costs $2.50).

To accelerate my payments, I'll be adding all the money I save to my disposable income and dropping it like it's hot on my student loan payments EVERY. MONTH. next year.

This year I did that, but got a bit off budget/schedule in the summer. Lots of trips and shopping sprees and good living.

Here's what I think the difference will be. Every time I'm standing on a bus stop angry that I'm not in my warm car, I'm going to remember WHY I'm doing this. And hopefully, every time I'm in a mall or shopping online, I will remember freezing my tail off at the bus stop and remember my motto for 2015:

I don't need clothes. I need closure. It's been 10, almost 11 years since I graduated and they have gotten all the interest they're going to get out of me.

Bout to hit 'em with that NSYNC BYE! BYE! BYE!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

About Gaining Weight...

I think some of what I'm about to say may be insensitive to people who really struggle with obesity. If that's your and you're sensitive, please stop reading and just come back tomorrow.

I've been gaining weight. Living in this small town with its big portion sizes and pepperoni rolls and subpar public transportation. My love of red meat, sugar and french fries has not helped either.

For the first time in a while, I'm gaining weight and NOT really trying to lose it. I care no further. I look good! My clothes are hanging onto my body for dear life, but that's what they made malls for. So every day there's something funny [to me] that happens as it relates to gaining weight I'm usually by myself and I just laugh and laugh. Today, I'll share with you.

10. My pants rip. Bend over, squat down, drop my mail because I'm carrying groceries, my laptop and my big sack purse and SPLIT, another hole in the thigh of my jeans. Womp.

9. Speaking of jeans, I swear jump around every time I get dressed for work. I'm sitting there thinking, didn't there used to be stretch in these?

8. I get asthma. Not real asthma, but I swear my bras are trying to kill me. I've never worn so many pajamas before the sun went down in my life.

7. I take my bras off in public. Bras are stupid anyway. I was at the airport like *snap, crackle, pop*. Then I exhaled. Aaaahhh!

6. I run into stuff. Add being clumsy ALREADY to taking up more space, no picture frame is safe. (and yes, I know I went from a 6 to an 8 and not a 22 to a 24, but it's still more space and it feels different and I don't care if you call me skinny, I know I'm 8x bigger than women like Kerry Washington who wear a 0... or is that really true since 0 times anything is 0)

5. I bought stock in tank tops so I can keep wearing all my button down shirts.

4. I finish entire Chipotle burritos. I remember a time, when I was more disciplined. I would cut it in half and eat the rest later. No. 

3. I get winded walking up a flight of stairs. I still exercise, but I'm at the end of every flight of stairs expecting a butler to be there to greet me with a Coke. I know it's not just me.

2. I turned into a complete hippie because being naked is better than wearing too tight clothes. I'm militant in my head until my logic doesn't make sense anymore: "Clothes are a social construct created by God... wait."

1. My closet looks like a mix between a department store and a graveyard. Come find your size. I have ALL the sizes. So much potential. My maxi skirt collection keeps getting bigger too. Lowkey summer is the best time to gain weight. In the winter, these cozy sweaters are like cable knit jail cells.  

And no, I'm not pregnant.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do You Exercise AND Travel?

Two short stories.

On Exercise
When I'm on top of my game, I exercise on Sunday mornings before church. When I exercise on Sunday mornings before church, I get sleepy RIGHT around the time my pastor starts preaching. You've heard how close I am to my pastor, so he's liable to call my name in service if I'm sleep and/or talk about me at dinner, which is not ok.

So I pack trail mix. It's perfect. It's crunchy, chewy, healthy and the perfect amount of blood sugar to keep me going after working out, after breakfast, but before post-church dinner.

The End.

On Travel 
I travel a lot. I have a lot of zip-top 3-quart bags and I rarely pack them before I leave the house. They're just all over my purse. On my last trip... maybe second to last trip, but who's counting, I had so much lotion and hand sanitizer. Fortunately for me, I had ample zip-top plastic bags. I plopped my liquids, gels and aerosols into one of said bags and let it creep into the bowels of my purse. I did not get stopped by security. I passed go. I collected $200.

The End.

But not really...

This Sunday, I reach in my bag to get some trail mix. I'm like almonds, sunflower seeds, cranberries and pistachios SHALL BE MINE. Until I realized I dropped the hand sanitizer and lotion into the same bag with my trail mix. I laughed so hard in church at a time where it was inappropriate to laugh at church.

I crack myself up.