Commuting From Home

After going through a life-long search to find the perfect house for my family, I knew that there was no way in hell I would be able to live in apartment that I could pay for myself until I was a functioning adult. Most of this sentiment comes in part by the reality of getting zero assistance from my parents to pay for an apartment and the other fees that come with this responsibility. And since the cheapest apartment I have ever come across that is close by to campus costs $900 a month, I have decided to live at home for my junior year of college. I know, I know, I think I might have lost my mind but at the same time, I have no problem being a scammer.

For the most part, I am a home-body. I like the comfort of having a home or at least little pieces of comfort that remind me of home. And I have made myself quite the home here at Emerson but I am looking forward to having real food, free laundry, and a couch that I can lay on without disrupting someone else’s personal space. If it was up to me, I would gladly live on campus next year but that’s not possible as the junior lottery is a fake scam in itself and there’s not enough space for everyone.

What I noticed the most about making the decision to live at home is that I get a plethora of reactions from those I mention it to or those who ask about my living situation for next year. Overall, people tend to respect my decision but I have gotten a lot of confused facial expressions, some form of amusement, and a lot of questions. And for the purpose of this post, I have decided to share these quirky questions and give you my equally quirky but honest answers.

Continue reading “Commuting From Home”

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Working ‘Till College Do Us Part

When May is coming, all college students can think of is the potential for adventure, fun and sleep during their summer months. No more homework or projects or whatnots.

Well, at least until your internship starts, you get hired at your summer job, and finding the time to split between your friends at home, from school, and all that family you missed out on during the school year. Suddenly, you’re sick of your own summer. When’s the right time to quit?

For each person this question differs. Obviously the money aspect plays a big role and everyone’s fiscal responsibilities vary according to need, want and current stature. So this question is very personal for many. If you need to keep working or work hours on end during the week, quitting your job early may not be the write solution for you. However, as long as friends and family, a good book or show to binge online surrounds you, you’ll get a little break until the academic calendar offers a little solace.

However, if you do not fall under that category, there are many variables you need to take into account.

Are you happy at your job?

This is a question that has many parts. Are your coworkers nice; are your bosses understanding; are you paid well enough for your task? If your answers to these questions are astounding yeses, then you may be happy to keep working. Considering how rare that is, enjoy it while it lasts. But if you’re counting down every hour from the moment you get in, your bosses haven’t listened or respected your requests, the pay isn’t worth the treatment and work you’ve completed, then maybe you shouldn’t stay there all summer. How many times have you been able to see the friends and family from home since starting work? Have you actually taken time to relax before the academic grind begins? Did you go on an adventure of sorts? Don’t loose your summer to a job.

Leave time to relax, to craft, to see friends, to explore, to do anything your young collegiate heart desires. You’ll be working when you’re back in school. If you can afford it and need it, take some time for yourself.

How much time you need is up to you. If you hate your job, need some more money, but don’t want to loose your time at home to this paid task, why not quit a little before. A week, depending on how many things you want to do. Two weeks if you’re traveling or visiting friends and family. If you need that much time for the amount of events you want to complete this summer, do it. Take a month if at all possible.

Just remember to try and follow protocol. It’s never a bad thing to have another work reference or experience on your resume for the future. So try to at least give two weeks notice, more so if possible. Bring it up when you have their full attention. Tell them how grateful you were for this opportunity, even if you hated every second of it and are imagining the fanfare when you walk out. Explain that you need to start focusing on getting back to school, means it had nothing to do with them or your feelings towards them. And give an exact date of when your last day will be. Then, there will be no confusion of when to start the trumpeters.

Tips for Saving Money

Budgeting is hard and saving money is even harder. Staying home while your friends go out isn’t any fun, but unfortunately, many college students are already in debt and adding more debt can follow you for a long time. You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but making just a few changes can save you hundreds per month.
Use cash. If you don’t need to build credit or if you think using a credit card will be too much temptation, don’t get one. Even if you do need to build some credit, going into debt right away won’t help. Using only cash will help you budget better, because you can only use as much cash as you have. Don’t even carry your debit card with you. Take out as much per week as you feel you can spend and then don’t take any more out until the week is over.
Write it all down. Even though we have bank and credit card apps that tell us when we spend money, it’s not in front of us all the time, so it’s easy not to think about. Hang up a whiteboard and write down everything you spend (even your $2.00 cup of coffee) so you can see where your money is going.
Limit how many times you go out. No one likes to say no to friends, but if you can’t afford to go out, it will be better for you in the long run. Encourage friends to hang out in one another’s apartments to cut the costs of restaurants and bars. Alcohol is expensive and you may not be able to afford it every time you go out.
Look for free things to do. Especially in cities, there’s always something going on. For example, Boston has tons of free outdoor movie nights all summer. You could get passes to movie screenings or many museums have a free night every week. Pack a picnic and head to the beach for the day. Think outside the box to find something fun to do.
Keep a grocery list and watch sales. A grocery list will help you buy only what you need and not everything you see. When you’re planning meals, look at your supermarket’s sale flyer and see what’s cheap that week.
Keep a savings account. I would suggest going so far as to get a savings account in a different bank. With all the technology and apps, transferring money is easy between a checking and savings. Putting it in a different bank all together makes it much less convenient.
Loose change. Do not throw away your loose change! Keep a jar, a piggy bank or anything. It adds up in the end.
Set aside a little each week. Even if you can’t make large payments, put $20 or $30 per week in a savings account or take it out and put it in a piggy bank so it’s completely out of mind.
Make coffee and lunch at home. Buying lunch and coffee every day really adds up. That’s almost $4,000 per year you could cut in half if you made your coffee at home and brought a lunch to work.
Thrift shop. Thrift shops are great for finding lots of cool clothes for pretty cheap. The internet is also helping out with lots of websites for people to sell their clothes, bags and jewelry with as well. If you’re feeling really creative, you could also learn how to fix your own clothes, so you can sew them up instead of throwing them out.
Netflix/Hulu. Even subscribing to both of them is substantially lower than the cost of cable. You won’t get to watch everything in season, but between the two of them, they have a pretty good selection.
Use a library. Libraries are a free option to read almost any book you’re looking for. If you don’t find it at your public library, most have networks of libraries in the area you can request it from.
It may not sound fun, but saving a little money now will help out a lot in the long run.
(Photo credit to 401(K) 2012)

Surprise, You Have Anemia

I’ve been lucky for most of my college career to not be the stereotypical “broke college student,” because I worked a lot more than I wished I had, looking back. However, after I spent all my money in Europe last spring, I was met with more bills, my sometimes impulsive spending habits, and no savings. Thankfully, I lived at home, but I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for school without any help.

My organizational skills are awful, and that includes budgeting. I decided the best way to save money was on food. Done right, this would have been a great idea, except I didn’t limit the food I bought at restaurants going out, I limited what I ate for my daily meals. I rarely packed a lunch, and between work and school, I’d be out of the house more than 12 hours most days. I think I lived an entire semester on yogurt and bananas from my office and muffins or bagels from Dunkin Donuts.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

I felt fine at first. I finally lost weight, so I was really happy about that. But then, I started feeling worse. The first thing that hit me was the exhaustion. I was so tired all the time, and sometimes I even found it hard to stand. I was dizzy and lightheaded often, especially when I stood up. My heart would suddenly start beating fast and sometimes I had unexplained chest pain. I was rarely hungry, and when I was, the thought of eating made me nauseous. I was short of breath for no reason at all, and was beginning to be horrified at just how out of shape I thought I was. (I’m sitting on my couch writing this now and I still can’t seem to get enough downloadoxygen breathing regularly.) It took a long time for me to make a doctor’s appointment, because I never thought to put all those symptoms together. I didn’t think I was sick enough to go to the doctor’s and I thought I’d be wasting everyone’s time.

My mom finally forced me to go and even the doctor was puzzled. She told me she couldn’t see anything wrong, but there must be something. After a bunch of blood tests, we finally figured out that I have iron deficiency anemia. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It’s not serious, and I’m so glad for that, but even after taking iron pills for a month, I don’t feel much better. Apparently, it takes a long time for your body to recover from such a severe lack of iron.

Eating Well in College is Important

Now that my senior year is coming and I need to get an internship, I will be even shorter on cash and anemia is the last thing I have the time or attention to worry about.  We’ve all seen those news stories on Facebook telling us that we can’t eat right on a minimum wage budget. Even though this is sort of true, health problems down the road can cost even more than you could imagine. Eating right is so important, especially in college, when we are pushing our bodies to the max with work, schoolwork, partying, extra curriculars and all-nighters.

There are other ways aside from expensive take out to eat well and be a responsible adult.. My sister (somehow) wakes up early every morning to give herself enough time to pack a lunch and eat breakfast. I’m lucky If I can wake up early enough to put on makeup before rushing out to catch my bus. However, I can’t just take my health for granted even in college, because it could affect me for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful that my anemia is nothing serious and it won’t be so long-term, but I realize now the freshman fifteen isn’t the only unhealthy side effect I need to worry about when eating in college.

How to Make Cash Fast This Summer

                   Money During the school year, students are faced with homework, extracurricular activities, everyday jobs and parties. So once that is all over and summer comes along, what happens? Going home is always beneficial, as it allows you to escape the grueling dining hall food, but what about making money? Often times, summer jobs fail to pay as much as we need in order to survive the upcoming year.

The amount in our bank accounts would only rise if we saved every cent of our paycheck; however, it is the season of fun and relaxation, of no worries. So in order to save the money from our summer jobs, we have to have a way of making extra pocket cash for times during the summer that we will spend money frivolously. There are numerous ways in which one can creatively and effectively make money when working another job, or even without one.

1. MindSumo

MindSumo is a website that pays people for writing ideas and concepts for different companies. When you first sign up, they automatically give you $25. After this, there are various ways including inviting friends, sending an idea in to your first company, and signing up with a referral number that will automatically give you some more cash! The first cash out, which is to PayPal, has to be $100. After this, however, you can cash out every $25.

The website presents different challenges every day. These can vary from sending an idea into a food company for a new product to a new marketing strategy for a major company. After submitting your first challenge, you will receive $15. Once you finish your first challenge, however, you can only get money from the challenges by winning them. At the bottom of each challenge it tells how much money can be earned and how many days are left in it. Overall, this is a cool and fun way to make cash over the summer and keep your critical thinking going after school is over.

My referral code (which will give you extra cash) is AN141D2C.

2. Care.com

Care.comCare.com has come a long way from when they first debuted their first commercials a couple of years ago. Their community has grown tremendously, which benefits you as the employee. Signing up for Care.com is pretty easy, no credit cards are necessary, and you have the option of a free account. The free account is still just as beneficial as the paid account, the only main difference that would effect you being hired is that the employees cannot send you a message first. In other words, you have to reach out to them through the job posts and listings on the website. This is still very easy, as most of the employers ask for applications.

There are multiple jobs that one can be experienced in to be a part of Care.com. Under childcare, there are tutoring, nannying, special needs and babysitting jobs. Some of these are part time positions and the others are full time. There are also jobs in senior, pet, home and military family categories.

3. Etsy

Etsy is a go-to online retail store for many of us. It is filled with fun, new, vintage and creative products that come from small businesses. Personally, I have bought many things from Etsy just because of the quality. There are, of course, frauds just like there are on any website, but looking at the product reviews given by other customers can give you a pretty good idea of who you are dealing with. So how could you make money through Etsy? Be creative, make a good product that you think will sell. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or intricate. You can make hair ribbons, headbands, and jewelry. You could even set up a retail store that sells all of the clothes that you no longer wear. I don’t have an Etsy account myself, but mostly because I haven’t gotten around to it; however, its a simple way to make some fast money, especially if your crafty or have a lot of things to get rid of in your house that are still in relatively good shape.

4. SwagBucks

SwagBucks (SB) is similar to MindSumo, in that it rewards you with money for doing certain challenges. In this case, it requires a lot less brain energy. Much like with MindSumo, you can earn a lot of startup cash just by signing up. For example, you already have six swagbucks when you create your username and password.  In order to gain swagbucks, there are games, surveys, and even a search engine that can be used.

Of course, making basically free money online is not always easy. This will take time, and you have to earn a cSwagBucks onsiderable amount of swagbucks in order to cash out for rewards. For example, a $5 Walmart giftcard reward costs 420 SB. While this does seem like a lot to earn, the good news is that there is no wait or timeline for you to gain your SB. You can complete as many surveys and games as you like. The only downfall is the amount of time you might have to complete them. Another con about this website is that a lot of the largely rewarding games and surveys that you can complete request a sign up for their website. This can be okay for an organized person, but if it is only a free trial for a week and then makes you pay afterwards, and you forget to cancel the membership, your losing a lot of money.

Overall, SwagBucks is a very time consuming website. However, if your dedicated enough and participate in it for about an hour a day, you could come out with a couple of pretty nice awards.

Help me make money by using my referral code during sign up!

5. Plato’s Closet

Plato’s Closet has been around for awhile. They always have commercials on radios bragging about how great their thrift stores are. If you haven’t heard of it, the store is a huge thrift shop that bases itself around teenage and adolescent gently used clothing. It’s almost like a teenage version of T.J Maxx. There are multiple locations of the store, but they do tend to be a little out of the way for daily life. For example, I live in Philadelphia. You would think that there would be a Plato’s Closet in the city, but the closest one is 30 to 45 minutes away. In other words, don’t expect this to be a short trip.

Not only can you buy clothes at a cheaper cost, but you can also sell them. So when cleaning out your closet, take a second to realize the brand names on your clothes and how much you wore them. Whichever ones look relatively new and are well known brand names can be taken to the store. Unfortunately, I have heard that store clerks tend to be picky about what they accept and decline in the clothes pile that you bring, but if you have a lot of good looking pieces, you could be welcoming some well-desired cash in your wallet. The “buyers,” as themselves call them on their website, also look at the style and current stock levels in the store. So if you are trying to give them an skirt from Abercrombie that you bought three years ago, it might not make the cut.

Do you know of other ways to make cash fast this summer? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Real World Education in Retail

It was a typical day at work when my manager yelled at me from the fitting room to go get her a pair of scissors. Naively, I assumed I was fetching them in order to cut off tags. Instead, I found a woman stuck in a dress that was about 4 sizes too small, with the only options being to either leave her in the dress or cut it off.

You never expect your shift to include running to get your boss a pair of scissors to cut a women out of a dress, or that someone will emerge from a fitting room and hand you a live tick that they picked off of their daughter. I have worked in both children’s retail and in a high-end women’s chain boutique, and both have presented a lot of challenges. But I wouldn’t change either experience, because I feel they have given me a unique set of skills that only fellow retail workers understand.

While most college students see their retail job as temporary gig to earn money for school and spending, it can actually be a great skill-building job. I’m not just talking about the basic skills you’ll acquire such as working the register, conducting inventory, or stocking; it is also given that you’ll gain some valuable life skills that can be carried over to any job.

Here are some valuable skills that come from working retail:

Multitasking:

Retail is always a fast-paced environment. Particularly in higher-end retail, I often find myself juggling three to four clients at once, each of them expecting the same individual level of undivided attention from me. In addition to building sales and working the register, I’m expected to be watching for potential theft and making sure the store is presentable. Basically, retail workers always have to be attentive and alert. 

Self -control:

Depending on the store you work at, you may be tempted to buy its products. After hours of hearing the same sales pitch over and over, you may find that it is slowly getting inside your head and you have the sudden desire for that $250 blue leather jacket. However, when you receive your first paycheck, reality sets in and you learn to exercise self-control. And if you work in a mall and manage to not by a jumbo pretzel every shift, you have truly mastered the art of self-control and should write a self-help book. 

Organization:

With inventory constantly changing and customers messing up the floor set, you’re constantly reorganizing the store. Also, if taking of bunch of poorly-packed shipment boxes and turning them into a polished floor set isn’t organization, I don’t what is.

Interpersonal Communication:

A.K.A. talking to people without sounding awkward, interpersonal communication is a skill that I find most people lack today. Working in retail, you end up talking to people for the majority of the day. The mall that I work at has a diverse clientele, including many non-English speakers. As someone who is only fluent in English with a very elementary understanding of Spanish, often I find that my communication skills are tested when I assist clients and we both speak a different language. But it is possible to work around language barriers using context clues, physical cues, and other communication basics.

Deductive Reasoning:

I think a lot of people assume that working retail is mindless, but I have found that each shift involves a lot of problem solving. I have to anticipate what the customer needs and wants before they even ask. Additionally, finding the perfect fitting pair of jeans for a client involves a process of deductive reasoning that I have never seen inside of a college classroom.

Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations:

Shopping can be a very emotional outlet for a lot of people. On more than one occasion, a customer in the fitting room broke down crying or unleashed a fit of rage. Unlike in your personal life when you can simply remove yourself from a situation where someone is making you uncomfortable, you don’t have the option to leave while working — you just have to deal with it. There are definitely days when I feel more like a therapist or life coach than a sales associate, but it helps keep my shift from being mundane.

Thick Skin:

People will always be rude, and working with customers teaches you how to handle that. I have had a customer throw a hanger at me, and I didn’t even flinch; I just caught it and hung it back on the rack. Some would say that it’s because I’m jaded, but I would say it’s a typical day of work, exercising the ability to stay calm cool and collected.

Confidence:

I have learned that despite that saying we all know, the customer is not always right, and often I have to turn down customer requests. For example, people try to use expired coupons or RetailMeNot codes and try other sneaky ways to get a discount. But no matter how tenacious they are, I still have to draw the line and tell them I cannot take their expired coupons or their overdue returns. Working in retail has given me more confidence in saying “no” and upholding the companies’ policies.

Eventually you’ll learn to say “I work retail” with pride. The fact is, you should be proud. You deal with people all day, and most of them are either angry or frustrated about something and take it out on you because the store happens to be out of a size medium.

I have worked in retail for about three years now, and whenever I go into a job interview, it’s the first point I mention when talking about previous experience. Most of the time interviewers are interested to hear about what you learned working retail, and I never have a shortage of what to tell them. It has provided me with answers for questions like, “Describe a work situation where you stayed calm under pressure,” or “Tell as about a time you had to work with co-workers as a team.”

As an added bonus, you’ll have a dozen or so ridiculous work stories to share with friends or acquaintances. But if there is one thing I have learned working in customer service, it is taking absurd situations as they come at me.