book reviews, crafts, cheap things…

Posts tagged “money

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy rich Asians

Again, I totally chose this book by its cover.

You can’t really tell from the picture here, but it’s a shiny glittery gold that really jumps out at you from the library shelf. And then there’s the hot pink font, which is obvious from the computer screen. They’ve been telling us all our lives to avoid judging books by their covers. But I can’t really think of a time that bee-lining to an attractive book cover has lead to reading that has inflicted any lasting damage on my life.

You will enjoy this book. It’s gossipy, fun, funny, fast-paced, and totally educational (for readers who are not in the know of Chinese idioms and Asian pop culture). The character development kind of lacks and the story isn’t 100% believable– but look at the cover. This book is obviously not trying to be the next fine work of classical literature- it’s here to be glitzy, fun, and entertaining.

The premise is that Rachel and Nick are Asian American NY college professors in their early thirties, in love and happy. With Rachel knowing nothing about his family back in Singapore, Nick invites her to go back with him for the summer and she says yes.

They arrive, and SURPRISE! His family is super rich. Like, tycoon rich. And they’re jealous and skeptical of Rachel, who they see as an underclass gold digger. The plot feels a little familiar, but all the details in the story actually keep it really fresh and entertaining. You’ll find yourself making excuses to read, even when there are other fun things available to do.


Book Review: Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman -Burt

Obsessive consumption : what did you buy today?

I liked this little book. You should take a look at it. Kate drew (draws?) something she bought every single day, and the results have been put into a chunky little 200-page book with multiple items on each page. She includes normal purchases like burritos, cringe-y things like ant killer, a continuous stream of replacements for lost sunglasses, crappy things like credit card payments, and more. She’s onto something because it’s really amusing to read. You feel like you’re getting to know her even though you’re really not. Also, while the drawings have a casual look, they still have a ton of really good detail (and often a solid amount of whimsy and humor to them!)

There was a chunk of time when I was a teenager that I recorded every cent that I spent. It was a pretty neurotic thing to do then, and I think that it would be even more so now. A part of me that has been re-kindled by this book is tempted…

Find your nearest library copy HERE

Buy stuff from her Etsy page HERE

Financial Literacy February- Dessert$

For as long as I can remember, I have coveted sweets.

I grew up in a household where the sweetest thing in the pantry was a pretzel. When I would ask for dessert, on of my  parents would hand me a carrot and the carrot peeler. I remember literally salivating one when I heard my dad use the phrase “piece of cake” when talking to the landlord. I even remember the specific cake that I was salivating for: yellow with chocolate frosting. I heard him say it through the window,  and taking it literally, ran outdoors in pursuit of a sweet treat. Well over 20 years later, I am still disappointed with the linguistic lesson that stepped in the way of my desired (and nonexistent) dessert.

And well over 20 years later, I have the strongest sweet tooth of any of my peers. Up until fairly recently, I would have a dessert every day. Somewhere between waking up and brushing and flossing before bed, I would without doubt have a delightful and indulgent few moments with a cookie, a cone of soy ice cream, something from the vending machine at work, a vegan doughnut from whole foods, an elderly candy cane or coat pocket starlight mint if I was desperate. I blame it on my parents.

This is not to say that I don’t like real foods. I love them, especially the ridiculously healthy ones. I’m a strict vegan  and I otherwise eat mostly unprocessed foods and produce from the farmers market. I don’t own a microwave, and I’m too cheap to buy most prepared meals. Desserts have always been an exception for me. While I’ll balk at paying $6 for a sack of rice that will last two weeks, I’ve tended to think nothing of throwing down $2.50 for a delicious cookie that will last 15 minutes or less. Not to say that the cookie isn’t delicious (it is! The picture below has made me really, really want one)– but there have certainly been eras where I’ve one of them every single day. That’s a lot of money for someone who has mostly lived on the financial fringe.

alternative baking company

Alternative Baking Company is a brand that I can feel non-evil about supporting– but I’ve certainly had a number of rendez vous with Red Vines, the accidentally vegan animal cookies in the vending machine at one of my jobs, soda (ewwww) when I worked restaurant jobs and it was free, accidentally-vegan cheap store brand cookies…

But getting to the point of this post. This is not a post about getting healthier. This is not a post about making ethical dessert choices. As it is “Financial Literacy February,” this is a post about saving money. Let’s say I was spending $2/day on desserts. Not bad (and certainly not as bad as those poor souls who spend $6 every morning on coffee have it), until I consider that’s around $60 per month. $60 is a pair of shoes, a week and a half of local produce for a household of 2 people, one tenth of a pretty great bicycle (so great that it would get stolen in 2 seconds), a museum membership, half of a dremel, or about a bajillion of the things that I covet on Etsy. $60 is a lot of money!

But I love sweets, and I think that abandoning my sweet tooth cold turkey would take a sizable chunk of joy out of my life. February’s deal is that if I want a dessert, I have to make it myself. This will save money, both because ingredients are cheaper than finished products, and because I’m pretty busy these days– I don’t have a lot of time to bake. This fate is far from unpleasant– I’m quite a proficient baker, and I can throw together  batch of cookies in less than 10 minutes.

I’m doing ok so far– I made chocolate chip cookies last week that were pretty decadent. They were chewy and crispy, all at once! I did buy a quart of vanilla soy ice cream from trader joes– though its original intention was as an element of Monday mornings homemade strawberry shortcake. I think it still counts as purchasing a ready made dessert. But no one’s tracking points here.

Financial Literacy February!

Welcome to Financial Literacy February!

If you have read any of the previous month’s posts (where I bought one lottery ticket per day and reported on my winnings and losses), you will notice that this month’s theme seems to be quite the shift from the last!

You may also notice that “Financial Literacy February” really doesn’t seem to fall too well into step with this blog’s professed theme of  “art/cheap/free/crafty stuff in my life and in this city (SAN FRANCISCO) that enraptures me.” HOWEVER, I want to suggest that it actually does! As I have been working my way though my late twenties, I’ve begun to notice that money kind of matters (Granted, I knew money mattered when I was twenty years old and working and going to school full-time and paying San Francisco rent– and still only having $20/month left for food– but something about it feels more final– or important– now). Presently at age 28, I have recently finished graduate school. Which means student loan payback is coming. For the first time my body is showing some signs of age (stray grey hairs, popping knees), and I don’t have health insurance. I am working two part-time jobs (in my desired field, luckily!), and I have non benefits and a lower income than any of my co-workers because of the recession’s hiring freezes and cutbacks. However, working an additional job means that I have some extra money. I’m not talking a ton– I still made under $20thousand last year. But I’m making more than I need to survive. This is new to me. If I see shoes that I want online, I know that I have the money in my bank account to buy them (within reason). If my bicycle (my mode of transportation to most places) were to get stolen tomorrow, It would not be too difficult for me to procure the cash to buy another (again, within reason). I can buy anything that I want at the grocery store, and my day isn’t ruined when I forget to bring my lunch to work– because I can afford to buy one. From either the fancy health food store– or a restaurant.

This has been going on for about 6 months, since I started my second job. Since my income moved above the survival notch, I have bought clothes without holes, subscribed to magazines and journals, bought some art, purchased glasses with an up-to-date prescription, and more. It’s been pretty amazing.

But here’s the thing. I want to try something new for every month of 2012. And I feel like it’s time for me to become more financially literate. I’ve bought the things that I want and need– it feels like it’s time to go further. Sure I know the basics about paying my credit card bill on time and not over-drafting my checking account. I even have a CD and I order pre-tax commuter checks through one of my jobs. But I want to learn what the tax forms are talking about when they ask about Roth IRA’s. I want to understand how I can make my money grow more interest in the bank, and I also want to figure out how to get more “value” out of my everyday life.

But I want to do all of this without falling into the trap of believing that money is everything. I want to do this without the risk of becoming a living, breathing, crappy photocopy of a page of Fortune magazine. Because that would be awful. I wouldn’t want to read that. It would feel antithetical to my values of DIY, creativity, craftiness, cheapness, and, essentially, to the drive of making glitter out of dirt, or dessert out of scraps.

Instead, my goal for February is to learn and write about the above-mentioned financial things, but to also discuss additional stuff that can impact one’s financial circumstance. After all, all of this financial stuff exists, so I may as well know about it!  There will be personal reflections, video reviews, projects, and more. More specifically, some of the planned features are:

  • ‘old stuff in the kitchen cabinet’ iron chef
  • financial guru reviews
  • the financial wonders of the public library
  • definitions of financial stuff in plain language
  • personal anecdotes of my bank to credit union transition (and others)
  • cheap recipes and projects where you can make something awesome out of hardly anything
  • resources for free amusement
  • and much, much more.

See y’all soon.