3.18.2014

How Much for Man's Best Friend?

So it's time to break the silence. I haven't blogged since November 2013 and it's now March 2014. Whoaaaaa, where did time go?! Let's see, Christmas came and went, the semester ended, and I ran away to San Diego for winter break only to return to a busy busy semester that I am currently drowning in. That was a long sentence. More on school later.

Anyway, yes today's post is about my precious dog, Booboo. He just turned 8 years old this year and he's the sweetest and most loyal dog you'll ever meet. He's had back problems in the past, but today I finally took him in for a check-up since he woke up with a seizure.

He ended up getting blood work and x-rays done, and needed shots for vomiting, an IV for dehydration, and muscle relaxers for his back. The x-rays showed 4 herniated discs on his spine. He has to go back to get another x-ray tomorrow to see if the foreign object is still in there. I suspect that it may be a pluot seed that he ate last October. He never passed it last year and we thought the seed was digested. He's been vomiting on and off for the past 3-4 months but we thought it was just from not eating during the day. I'm pretty nervous if it is a seed, since he'll need surgery to remove it from his stomach.

I can't stop tearing up as I type or think about this. It's been on my mind since I found out and I'm just so worried for him because I love him so much. He's been with me since I was in college, and we've traveled California together. We've moved houses 6 times in the past 8 years together and he's the best little roommate and friend I could ask for. Naturally, the bill came out to the tune of $744 and the BF and I didn't hesitate to pay.

I'm glad I followed my instincts and took him to the vet today. He never showed signs that his back was hurting since he injured it 2 years ago, and I thought he was fine. Getting the x-ray was worth it and if he indeed needs surgery, I think we'll have to look into some type of pet insurance to help us cover it.

I saw a poster at the vet where a dog owner signed up for pet insurance since her dog needed foreign body removal surgery and the insurance company paid 90% of the surgery. It said total paid: ~$3,500, but I'm not sure if that meant the dog owner or the insurance company paid that much. We'll need to take money out of our savings, but at this point I would do anything to save my dog. He is a member of the family and there's no price I can put on his life.

Have any pet owners had to deal with a similar situation? Do you recommend any type of pet insurance?

11.29.2013

Save, Share, Spend - Christmas Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Happy black Friday :) Are you all out shopping, or are you waiting for cyber Monday so you can shop online, or are you passing altogether on shopping? Fear not...today's post offers up FIVE chances to win gift cards for your holiday shopping needs.


Christmas Shopping Giveaway!

First Prize Two $50.00 Visa Gift Cards

Second Prize One $50.00 Home Depot Gift Card and One $25.00 Home Depot Gift Card

Third Prize One $50.00 Target Gift Card and one $25.00 Target Gift Card

Fourth Prize One $50.00 Walmart Gift Card and one $25.00 Target Gift Card

Fifth Prize One $50.00 Starbucks Gift Card and one $25.00 Starbucks Gift Card

You can save these gift cards for something special. You can share them with someone else. You can spend them on anything you like. The choice is up to you, but you have five chances to win!


Contest Details:
  • Contest runs from November 29th to December 13th!
  • This is a blogger sponsored giveaway (meaning that a bunch of bloggers got together to pay for your prizes, this is not sponsored by any companies :))
  • Winners will be notified by email, therefore a valid email is required. 
  • All entries in the RaffleCopter are optional but each entry = 1 entry!
  • Terms and conditions are in the RaffleCopter widget.
  • Open to North America Only (Gift cards cannot be shipped to PO Boxes). 
  • All entries will be verified.
What I'd Spend the Gift Cards On

If I won a Target gift card I'd try to spend it on gifts but me and you both know that I would have to either spend it in the shoe section (cute boots/heels), clothing section (cute sweaters!), make-up section, and if all else fails...there's also the cute home decor, and you can always use it on toiletries or food! If I had some Home Depot gift cards to spare, I'm pretty sure I'd win best girlfriend award. My bf loves to create things and fix things so we used to spend a lot of time at Home Depot when we lived together in San Diego. I used to hate going there but now it's fun exploring the store and seeing how he creatively fixes things from parts of Home Depot lol. If I won the Visa gift cards I have a few things on my wishlist that I'd like to get. I want a slimmer peacoat in camel, a chunky cardigan, and I need a skirt suit. Also, Walmart and Starbucks giftcards are always essential in my book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Which gift card would you most like to win and what would you buy with them? (or who would you give them to?)

11.28.2013

Thanksgiving and Family Group Texts

Happy Thanksgiving! I've been in an incredibly positive mood lately. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not completely inundated with work or if I'm finally getting enough sleep or if it's because I love the holiday season! I'm enjoying the time before having to study for finals this weekend by spending time with family.

My sister and I went grocery shopping to make some side dishes for our family Thanksgiving party today. I'm making a green bean side dish (made with bacon, a homemade cheddar cream sauce, and panko breadcrumbs), artichoke spinach dip in a crock pot, red velvet cake with cheesecake pudding filling and topped with icing and crushed oreos. (Got all of my recipes from Pinterest!) My mom is bringing the ham, eggrolls, chow mein, fried rice, dutch crunch apple pie and drinks. My aunt is bringing the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and my other aunts are making stuffing, mac and cheese, and other side dishes. Our family parties always include raw tuna with sesame oil/seaweed and BBQ, and various other goodies!

My family consists of a lot of females, so we were group texting yesterday and planning to match outfits for today's party. We started discussing it in the morning and finally decided around 7pm haha. We are just so ridiculous, we couldn't make up our minds. At first I suggested everyone dressing in "fall" colors like cream, burnt orange, tan, beige, brown, etc. My cousin then countered with purple, to which I responded..."We'll all be wearing purple and eating turkey?!" hahah sooo after bouncing different ideas around from leggings to denim to coordinating colors, we finally agreed on a somewhat neutral palette of navy blue, cream, brown. Basically, everyone just thought about what they were going to wear and planned all of our outfits together. We also plan to go Black Friday shopping at 12am since we've never done that and we thought it would be fun to do it with family! I'm pretty excited to spend time with family this year since I've been really busy and I also won't be spending Christmas with them this year (I'll be spending it with my dad and stepmom in LA).

Every night I say a little prayer of what I'm thankful for that day, but usually it's that I had a good day and I just give my thanks for being alive and whatnot. During Thanksgiving I really appreciate the things in my life that I sometimes take for granted.

I'm thankful for so many things...
  • Lots of supportive people in my life - I am not sure what I would do if I had to hold all of my emotions in. So many people listen to me complain and whine, and in addition, provide supportive words and advice to get me through. I am so thankful for family, friends, my boyfriend, mentors, and also blog friends.
  • Lifestyle - I feel blessed to live a lifestyle that allows me to not go to bed starving or hungry, to have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in every night, a closet full of clothes, a choice of what to eat each day, and freedom to do what I want each day whether it's go to school, go to the gym, or avoid those things altogether :)
  • Never being bored! I'm not sure what I did before technology..thanks to YouTube, Blogger, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Hulu, Pinterest, Bloglovin, etc I am NEVER bored. I'm also now a huge procrastinator but it's so much fun!
I think that sums up what I'm the most thankful for, but of course I am excited to partake in all the eating festivities that Thanksgiving brings! I hope you all have a safe holiday and if you go shopping tonight - be careful! :)

11.24.2013

A Little Bit of This and That

Hi everyone, how is it almost December already? I swear we were just celebrating the holidays. Sorry about falling off the face of the blog world again, I've been really busy with school as usual.

Shopping Update

My last post I mentioned that I was shopping again, and yes it's still hard to resist shopping especially since it provides an almost therapeutic escape from all the stress that I've been enduring this semester. I returned a lot of things that I decided I didn't need, things that I bought impulsively.

I've been able to control my shopping urges because the 2 hardest and most time-sucking things ended in the beginning of November...my advocacy class along with my negotiation competition, and all the research, brief-writing, oral arguing, negotiating practices, meetings, and stuff ended. We got 1st place in contract drafting and 5th in negotiation. Right now I still have 3 finals to study for but I'm happy that my workload lightened up a bit.

Thanks for all of your suggestions in my last post about resisting the urge to shop. I agreed with a lot of things to help such as meditating, putting my energy towards something else, and making sure you have a limit for shopping money. I have turned to studying a lot, watching youtube videos, catching up with friends, watching tv shows, and going to the gym when I have free time instead of getting sucked into going to the mall or shopping online. I do have to admit, with all of the holiday sales and winter wear in stores, it's very hard to resist. I allow myself to browse online once in awhile because I just can't go cold turkey, and it sounds weird but it is calming for me to "online shop." Does this happen to anyone else?

I think it's hard to find a middle ground in something that you were very extreme in, almost like any other addiction such as smoking. My boyfriend was a smoker for 6 years and then in order to quit, he just had to go cold turkey. That was almost 7 years ago so I'm proud of him! I just think for shopping, there's a difficult line to draw as to what exactly "cold turkey" is. I don't think I could stop shopping such as online shopping, completely avoiding the mall (and uhh does Target count?), etc...that's just not gonna happen. But I think it's also good to abstain from spending money on anything unnecessary; btw I liked your guys' suggestions on having a set amount to spend each month/every few months for shopping. It's also difficult to find a middle ground because shopping is more broad and can include shopping for groceries, toiletries, and food.

Fall and the Holidays

Anyway, how is it almost the end of Fall?! I love this season...the weather, nature, food, decor, and fashion of this season is just the best.

photo - brunchatsaks.blogspot.com
After Thanksgiving, it will be Christmas! Last year I made the mistake of skipping Thanksgiving with my family to study for finals, but I ended up getting sick and having the most terrible time ever and missing all the fun around the holiday season. This year I'm definitely going to soak up the holidays and remember that law is not supposed to take over my entire life. I should take a break every once in awhile to keep from burning out. I also went Christmas shopping with my mom to help her find gifts for a lot of our family members. It was so fun because I love shopping (obvs), I wasn't the one spending money, and it was cool trying to get quality items for a good price. We ended up getting almost 20 GREAT gifts for $300.

Btw I'm liking anything and everything oxblood aka maroon this season. Maybe liking isn't the right word, more like obsessed.

This color:
source
And I know this is pretty counter-intuitive especially on my shopping update post but I got these Target wedge booties recently and they are absolutely adorable.

source
What are your favorite parts of Fall and the holiday season? Anyone start listening to some Christmas music already? I might have :)

10.29.2013

Wedding Talk and Dress Budget - Soulmates Dresses Giveaway!


Hey everyone! Today I'm able to offer this awesome giveaway, thanks to my buddy Jess at Mo' Money Mo' Houses. Special thanks to Jess for allowing me to be part of this giveaway! Also, special thanks to Soulmates Dresses for hosting a fabulous giveaway :)

So let's talk about weddings today. This has been something that's been on my mind quite often lately. I'm turning 26 this Sunday and I guess it's just that *time* where marriage, babies, growing up and all that jazz are often in the near future. A lot of my friends have gotten married, are planning to get married, or are pregnant. I'm not even engaged yet, but being in a long-term relationship yields lots of marriage and wedding discussion between us so I've definitely thought about it!

Anyway, as I discussed in a previous post, I'm not up for a huge wedding. I'm mindful of our debt (thanks law school) and I want to focus on living frugally to pay off that debt and live within our means. In addition, a huge wedding is just something that I don't really care for. My boyfriend and I agreed that we are more into investing money into an engagement ring and our wedding bands. It's not about having a diamond, but it's more the symbolic meaning behind this as well as it being something we can wear and look at everyday to remind us of our love. They can also be passed down.

We've discussed having some sort of a wedding that is a cross between an elopement and a destination wedding, where immediate family members can come if they like and we would just get married without a reception, just a little ceremony. Right now we were thinking in the ballpark of $5,000 or less. Even at the $5,000 mark I sort of cringe knowing where we are with our financial state right now, but knowing that a wedding ceremony wouldn't take place for another few years (after I pass the bar/get a job) I realize it's an arbitrary number at this point and I can't predict what will happen in the future. We might think it's way too expensive and skip (postpone?) it or it might just be in our price range.

During this ceremony I've often thought of what kind of dress I'd want to wear. One thing I would want is not to spend an exorbitant amount on a dress. I'd want it to be white or beige-ish, but nothing extravagant. My cousin had a small court wedding just last month, and what was hilarious was selecting a dress for the mother of the groom. It took several days and they ended up finding a dress at Forever 21 (not ideal, but it worked). If you are looking for an appropriate dress for the mother of a bride/groom, definitely check out Soulmates Dresses and enter the giveaway by following the prompts in the Rafflecopter widget below! Good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

10.09.2013

Falling Back into the Black Hole

I need to come clean. I have fallen into the black hole that is shopping, and I mean shopping. Having no income and living solely off of student loans is not good for my shopping habits, not good AT ALL. The reason why I first fell into the black hole of shopping often is because I was bored. I was bored in college and I had nothing else to do. It later became a hobby, and I started buying and selling often, going on treasure hunts and thrift shopping to find cool vintage things to sell. Later it turned into an unhealthy obsession with finding unlimited designer bags and shoes.

Well now....now, I've been turning to it because I am completely stressed out. I spoke to my counselor about how stressed I am with school and she mentioned something about avoidance behavior. It's completely normal for people to avoid doing work because they are stressed out. These past few weeks have been absolute hell for me. I procrastinated on my appellate brief for as long as I could until it hit me that I only had a week to tighten up my research and write the dang thing. I just submitted my brief last Thursday and finished the first draft of our contract for our moot court competition. I had a quiz last week and I have another midterm this Thursday, followed by a quiz next week, an oral argument the week after that, and a bunch of sparring sessions for our negotiating competition in November. It is only getting worse and worse on the school front.

My avoidance technique of choice has been SHOPPING. I cannot help turning to shopping online at night when I am stressed the F out. Why? It's easier than crying and it's easier to focus my attention on something that makes me happy rather than something that just depresses me. I also try to turn to exercising but I end up tiring myself out because I end up working out too much. Shopping can take only a few minutes and you don't have to go anywhere.

So let's talk about the damage shall we? I'm almost afraid to think about it. I've purchased a blush from MAC ~$25, a few drugstore make-up products from Ulta (mascara, foundation, concealer) ~$50, some Fall clothes from Old Navy ~$90, ankle boots from Charlotte Russe ~$50, and 2 massages ~$150. This is all within the past 2 months and I am probably missing a few little things that I can't even remember. I know, it's completely excessive, but I just can't find the strength to resist. Why do things seem more enticing when I'm stressed? Why does shopping help ease the pain of law school so much?! It's funny, I talk to my law school friends and they are the same way. Retail therapy is really that....retail therapy.

So this is it guys. I need to stop, and I need your help. What should I do? Btw, I am not using student loans to pay for all this stuff. My dad gives me money each month but instead of saving it like I usually do, I've somehow convinced myself otherwise. I need to get back on the saving bandwagon. I am not making any income right now!! Also, this will bite me in the butt when I get a job and realize I could have saved all this money. It's just been so easy to keep spending when I've already opened the door, and this semester has been the most stressful time of my entire life...I'm not exaggerating. I can't wait for this semester to just end.

10.08.2013

Trick or Treat Halloween CASH Giveaway!

Happy October everyone! I've been incredibly busy but I thought I'd pop in here for a sec to mention a really awesome giveaway that a bunch of bloggers put together.

The giveaway is open to everyone, world-wide and there will be 3 winners, announced on November 1st. Terms and conditions are in the Rafflecopter widget and all entries in the Rafflecoper widget are optional (the more you do, the more entries you get!).


This month's giveaway is all about Halloween! I'm incredibly excited for Halloween although I don't trick or treat, or even go all out and dress up anymore. It's always been a favorite holiday of mine a child...because who DOESN'T love free candy?! I also love scary movies, fall weather, Halloween decor, pumpkin patches, and all the scary amusement parks/mazes/things to do around this time of year. I just watched Insidious 2 and I thought it was really scary! I just love being scared, and I'm also going to this event called Halloween Haunt at Great America. It's an amusement park where everything is Halloween-themed for the month of October, people jump out and scare you, and you can still ride all of the rollercoasters.

I still need ideas for a costume this year though. Last year some friends were highlighters, Magic Mike, dinosaurs, and a bunch of half-naked unidentifiable characters (hahah you know what I mean). What is your favorite part of Halloween? Also do you have any appropriate costume ideas to share? I'd love to hear them!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

9.15.2013

I Don't Know How to Relax

Sooo I need some major help guys. I honestly do not know how to relax. Today's post is not financial related, but definitely life-related. I need to vent.

The stress is looming and totally real right now. October is rapidly approaching and I seem to have stuff going on each week. I have my appellate brief, moot court deadlines, and oral argument in October, following closely by my negotiation competition in November and then finals.

Right now, I don't even have time to eat lunch in between classes and activities. I've been juggling a heavy class load with running from Law & Business board meetings to planning and coordinating a mentor/mentee program, attending moot court meetings, drafting a contract for our negotiation competition, interviewing for fall (I'm crazy) and summer jobs, spending hours on flowcharting and outlining evidence, scheduling/coordinating meetings for advocacy, researching for my appellate brief, and on top of that finding the time to maintain relationships and be somewhat social, and exercise and walk my dog everyday.

This happens 7 days a week and it's funny how I am supposed to be adding more to this list: negotiation practices (sparring sessions), appellate brief writing, oral argument prep, trial observing, conference calls for moot court, and outlining for my other class.

Okay wow, I've never seen it all written out like that. The pressure is real. I'm insane. My counselor has told me to stop adding more to my plate, but it's like I'm having some weird competition with myself and trying to see how much I can really handle.

I think I just realized that I can't take on working part-time at this point. I'm in the interviewing process with a company that I really wanted to work for but I will have to tell them that I just can't handle it right now, but I'd like to see if I can work there next semester. I am so glad I decided not to write on for any journals this year (can't imagine fixing citations and writing a 25-page paper this sem).

.......is it really???? via
I am constantly using lists and updating all of my calendars, managing emails, and setting alarms. They're actually really helpful. I've been a list person but this is a whole new level of organization and planning for me. Everything is scheduled in my Outlook calendar and color-coded. So I guess I have one redeeming factor that's keeping me put together and that's my organization and time-management skills.

When I try to stop thinking and relax though, I get more stressed out not doing anything. I don't want to waste time napping but it just feels like I'm in overdrive, all the time. I don't think it's healthy to continue on this streak. Last year I was burnt out right before finals, and got incredibly sick. I would like to avoid that unfortunate luck again this year.

I try to take breaks and watch my favorite TV shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, but I find myself still doing work while I watch, otherwise I feel unproductive. When I run everyday it is an awesome stress reliever, but there are times during my days that I just want to pause for a few minutes and learn how to calm down. I'm naturally a high-strung person and I fear that I've become more type A. There's nothing wrong with that, but for someone who has never been extremely type A, it's a bit all shocking to me how extreme I've become.

Anyways, do you have any tips on learning how to relax? Would love to hear your suggestions.

9.13.2013

Lessons Learned: Going From Full-Time Executive to Full-TIme Freelancer Part 2

This is Part 2 of the Going From Full-Time Executive to Full-Time Freelancer post! Enjoy!

---------

Freelance writing offers wonderful opportunities; you can work from anywhere, schedule your own hours, pick your own clients and choose your topics. But I often wonder how many give up before they find real success?

I started freelancing in the fall of 2012 after spending 15 years working in television news. It’s common in the news business to work long hours, holidays and weekends - especially when big stories happen, but 12 hour days working until midnight started to add up. When my father’s health began to fail, I knew it was time to reassess my life.

As a person who loves to write, freelancing seemed like the perfect fit. But I have since learned it takes more than talent and hard work to succeed. Here are a few things I have learned so far in my journey.

Pick a Niche
In television news, most people are generalists. They can research and write about any topic, but they don’t necessarily have an expertise. That was my dilemma.

After years of writing about everything from crime and politics to business and weather, I was finally able to write about the things I loved; outdoor activity, health and personal finance. While I had hoped to focus on health, I was often passed up for higher paying jobs because I didn’t have academic credentials.

I started getting regular offers for personal finance articles, as well as pieces about office dynamics and leadership. Since I had training in these areas, I was able to write about what I understood on a deeper level with less time doing research.

Lesson learned: The less time you spend researching, the faster you write and the more money you make an hour. Save passions for your blog until you can get paid for them.

Find Clients
Many bloggers tell you to only take jobs that you really want and that pay well. It’s a great idea - if you have a lot of offers. I didn’t start out with a portfolio of articles, just a handful of blogs that proved I could write complete sentences.

I spent an enormous amount of time searching job postings, researching potential clients and applying for jobs. I still do. It’s a major time suck, but well worth it when the client is pleased and gives you steady work.

Many job boards, like Elance, post extensive client information including reviews, job descriptions and payment terms. They can also post feedback on your work - which helps build up your credentials! Sure you have to bid for jobs, and you are competing with writers around the world, but it is a great way to pick up clients.

Lesson learned: Create several templates for cover letters that can be customized, focus on long-term clients, limit time on job boards.

Be Smart
Not every client is who they claim to be. Some are simply trying to get whatever they can, as cheap as they can and they have little respect for the writer.

I got suckered in - twice. The clients made big promises, then disappeared off the face of the earth along with my paychecks. One was even a preacher! In both cases, I failed to ensure the clients had funded the escrow. My mistake. 

Lesson learned: Keep in constant communication with clients, get payment benchmarks for longer projects and make sure they fund escrows.

Set Your Hours
When I worked in TV, I always worked evenings - so happy hour was just a pipe dream. I quickly discovered going for cocktails at 4pm ended any chance I had at working that day. It’s so hard to go back to a lonely computer when all your friends are out!

Some people write better at night, others early in the morning. I do my best work in the afternoons; after I have checked all my email, Twitter and news sites. I use natural breaks, like phone calls and texts, to update social media and limit my time so it doesn’t slip away.

Lesson learned: Find your best time to write and prioritize other activities around that so you don’t waste time staring at your computer and wishing you were somewhere else.

Stay Focused
As a freelancer you have to handle writing, marketing, clients, accounting, social media, education, training and more!  No matter how many hours I work, I never have enough time. So, I prioritize based on a paycheck. That’s why my blog has been ignored and my social media skills lack consistency. I know, I know - they are key branding tools.

But it’s not easy doing it all. Especially in the beginning when you are spending a lot of time trying to find clients. Staying focused, staying organized and staying motivated is a challenge that every freelancer faces. Add to that all the distractions online and time can easily slip away. I have learned to use lists to keep organized, but it is a work in progress.

Lesson learned: Create lists, goals or other motivating tools to help you stay on track, don’t get too down on yourself, reward yourself when you succeed. 

The Government’s Bite
This is the first year I will be completely self-employed, so I am not entirely sure what to expect. I do know I will be paying the government for the first time. My tax preparer crunched the numbers for things like taxes and social security. It’s more than I thought!

I recommend contacting a tax professional ahead of time so you can prepare better than I did. They can also advise you on keeping records for tax write-offs; like subscription fees and home office expenses.

Lesson learned: Stay organized by keeping folders for online and paper receipts, stash at least 30% of income for taxes and get professional help.

Freelancer’s Friends
In the beginning I was skeptical about freelancers who offered advice to newbies. I kept bumping into writers who bragged they “made millions as a blogger”.  I didn’t want to trick people into click on banners or fill my copy with misleading ads, so I dismissed many advice columns.

Now I realize, I just needed to find the right people. It is a lot of trial and error, but I am glad I took the time. LinkedIn helped me find groups I identified with and MediaBistro aggregates a good range of topics daily.

Lesson learned: There is a lot of advise out there, absorb as much as you can and use what works for you. No one is controlling your path but you, so make sure it’s the right one.

Laura Slawny is a freelancer writer for ConsumerFu.com where she researches and experiences life’s hidden shortcuts to help others save time and money.
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