Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I'm going on vacation this weekend. Taking 5 days and heading south to New Orleans where I've never been to meet up with good friends from college and their friends. I'm using a free flight that had to be used before February 2nd, and staying at someone's house, so I'm hoping the budget part of the trip is relatively manageable.

I remember thinking when I booked the trip, "I will have just taken time off from work for Christmas - it seems kind of silly to take more time so soon."

As it turns out, this trip could not be planned for a better time.

Work has been tough these past few weeks. A family I became very close with had to make difficult end-of-life decisions for a family member they loved so dearly. I attended the funeral for that person yesterday, and then returned to work to have a very difficult conversation about DNR status with another family. I went home exhausted and hoping for better today.

Alas, that was not to be. I had thought I was mentally prepared for what today would bring, but I forgot about the x-factor. The fact that one never knows what patients will be admitted overnight, how very sick they can be, and how complicated their family dynamics can be.

As the social worker, fixing and/or managing the sickness never falls to me. But managing and putting band-aids on broken, messy, and/or complicated family dynamics is most definitely in my job description.

Throw in my more typical (but still required, even on crazy days) tasks of introducing myself to new families and orienting them to the unit and the hospital, and my day went from predictably bad to unpredictably miserable. I didn't leave until 8:30pm.

I feel like this always happens when I'm working a short week and gearing up for a vacation. All the chaos that might have been spread over 5 days somehow knows to squeeze itself into 3. On one hand, I'm glad I'm dealing with it all, as I always hate to leave a mess for my coworker who covers for me when I'm out. On the other hand, I'm exhausted, and unsure how I'll rally to make it to work tomorrow... especially given that I'll be walking to work in a snow storm.

It's as though every ounce of my energy must be drained before being able to go on vacation to replenish it.

I don't even have the energy to pack.

And yet...

I still wouldn't trade this job for any other in the world.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Week 2: Start-up Baking Costs A Lot

I will be traveling for a long weekend starting later this week, so I had a shorter week to cook for. I decided to make my friend MK's "Thai-ish salad" that involves chicken, lots of veggies, and egg noodles. I made enough for an army and have been happily eating it this week.

I also had the inspiration from one of my Cooking Light magazines to try a new banana bread recipe. Usually banana bread is one the easiest (and probably cheapest) things you can make. HOWEVER, if you have none of the baking staples (sugar, flour, spices, etc.) it can get a lot more expensive.

Because I had very few baking ingredients in my stash, I had to purchase them, which meant over-spending what I would have liked my food allotment to be for the week. So as it turns out, I spent nearly $20 on the baking supplies needed for banana bread - a rather expensive loaf, I'll admit, but now I've got all the supplies to make it again and again and again... and those loaves will not set me back nearly so much in my budgeting.

So my total (food and toilet paper) spending for this week was $71.32, but if you take out the baking supplies and tp (since that's a cost split among roommates), it's back down closer to last week's food budget at about $44.61.

I've set a budget for my trip, but my plan is to try to spend less than I've budgeted. I'll report back on the flip side...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Week 1 Tracking - Final

$37 for groceries to feed me for the week*
$4 for a lightbulb because my room was too dark with just a bedside lamp.
$7 for lunch at work on Friday
$10 to grab my traditional Dorado Taco dinner on my way home from work on Friday
$5 to rent a movie on-demand last night (studying up for my 2nd Annual Oscar Party)

$63 total for the week

*It should be said that $25 of my grocery bill came from a gift card. So really I only spent $38 of my weekly funds in cash.

I also purchased a few items from the drug store (drugs, namely, to help clear my sinuses). I used my 2010 flexible spending account debit card, which still had some funds left and which apparently has not been updated with the 2011 limitations regarding what I can purchase through an FSA account. Huzzah!

Next week, I imagine things will be a little tricky, as I'm traveling on vacation to New Orleans (!!!) for 5 days next weekend. The flight was free, and the accommodations are free, so it should still be a relatively budget-friendly trip. My plan is still to give myself a budget and see how I do, but not beat myself up too much if I end up having to be a little bit flexible. This budgeting stuff is a work in progress, and much easier when I'm in my home routine than when I'm traveling. No doubt I'll have some reflections on everything when I've returned from vacation.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Week 1: Fund Tracking

Today I grocery shopped for the week (and then some).

Total grocery bill was about $37

I used a Trader Joe's gift card worth $25, but still think I should probably pretend I paid cash, and leave myself with $63 remaining for the week. I'm hoping all the cooking I did today two recipes from Real Simple:

Chicken and Broccoli Rabe with Apricots


Turkey and Bean Chili
(and Trader Joe's corn bread)

and then a recipe I found online and doctored a bit that uses sweet potatoes and apples (almost dessert-like it's so yummy!)

Apple Sweet Potato Bake Recipe

The only thing I grabbed at the grocery store that was not on my list was gelato. It was on sale for a whole dollar off, and a few spoonfuls of it are all I require to feel like I met my requirement for dessert. I most highly recommend the Key Lime Graham which is OMG so good.

All for now. I'll likely just update this post with more spending if I have it so as not to over-post.

2011: The Year Ahead

Last year, I reflected on the previous year before posting my goals for the new year. This year, I'm just jumping right in:

- The biggest goal for 2011 is savings and money management. I had a more vague goal last year, but feel the need to make it more concrete this year. I am now 32 years old, and think that it's probably time to either own a car that isn't nearly half my age, or live in a place that I can call my own. I'm not quite clear yet whether the second goal means I would live alone again, or whether I'd try to purchase a home, but either way, I've got some saving and planning to do.

Because I'm a stickler for rules, I've started the new year with a tight budget. $100 per week is what I get to spend on myself - that includes food, entertainment, and gas. I will get $100 in cash at the beginning of the week, and work hard to have some left over at the end of the week. If I have funds left over, I can either roll them into the next week, or put them aside to save towards something fun.

- A byproduct goal from above is cooking/preparing foods more and eating out less. I got off to a roaring start today when I made turkey chili, chicken and broccoli rabe, and a sweet potato/apple dish. Some is in the fridge, some is in the freezer. I can bring one to work for lunch and have the other waiting for me when I get home. (note to self for next time: broccoli rabe is a little pricey) I'm hoping to explore some of the recipes from last year's Cooking Light subscription.

- Organization is another goal for 2011. Sure, cleaning the study would still be great, but I'd also like to stay on top of having a clean room, and not have months-expired yogurt sitting on my shelf in the fridge. Organization at work would be good too. I'd love to not scare my new office mate who will begin in February with the endless piles of papers and post-its that cover my desk.

- I think I'm still working on my last goal of 2010 - specifically the piece about giving more to the people in my life who bring me joy. I used to be the kind of person who sent out Christmas cards to everyone I knew. Not just a card, but a card with a real message inside - more than one sentence, written in my own handwriting. I'm not sure why that's fallen off over the past few years, but I would certainly like to become that person again. Holiday cards, birthday cards... I believe in the power of snail mail, and want to do my part to give people something other than a bill to open at the end of the day.

Other goals include getting my LICSW, taking lindy-hop lessons, and getting over the sickness that I've had for the past month (seriously - couldn't that have been left behind in 2010!?).

Updates on all goals will be posted as they come...