Most financial experts recommend having two to three credit cards – one or two primary card and another card in case something happens to the primary credit card (lost, stolen, etc.).

For my post-graduate life, however, I’ve only had one credit card. Although I’ve been thinking that one card isn’t quite prudent, I never actually applied for a second card.

Here’s why I love having only 1 card:
1. Ease of tracking: One card = 1 website, 1 deadline, 1 credit limit, 1 username, and 1 password to remember.

2. Concentration of reward points: I put all credit card purchases on 1 card, so I accumulate points relatively quickly. Eveyr 10,000 points = $100 Sephora card!

Here’s why I think I might need another card:
1. Emergencies happen: if I lose my credit card now, I’ll have to wait for the company to cancel and mail me a replacement card. In the meantime, I’d have to rely on my debit card (which I don’t like to use for purchases).

2. Better credit score (?): If I get another credit card, my total available credit will be much higher, but my total credit use will still be the same. So, my percentage of credit used will decrease, and that should have a favorable impact on my credit score.

What do you think? How many credit cards do you have?


One of the greatest joys of making money, I’ve decided, is that it enables me to outsource those pesky chores that I’ve never gotten around doing (and frankly don’t do a great job of).

1. I don’t like doing laundry. When I lived in my previous apartment, I either took laundry home or used a fluff ‘n fold service at $1.50 a pound. Now that laundry is included in my rent and the machines are steps away from my apartment, I don’t mind this chore so much.

So, as my dislike for doing laundry has decreased, so has my willingness to pay someone else to do it for me. I don’t use that service anymore.

2. When I moved out of my previous apartment, my roommate and I hired a cleaning company to give the place a good scrub-down. It cost $200 between the two of us, but if we did it ourselves, we’d be lucky if we could’ve gotten it half as clean in twice the time.

The funny thing is that when I was younger, Mom went over the apartment with a toothbrush (seriously – I still remember trying to clean the bathroom sinks!). But now, whenever she needs to get her rental place ready for a tenant, she hires a service.

3. Car wash. Because I’ve only lived in apartments in my post-college life, I don’t have a good place to wash my car. And apartment-living might be a convenient scapegoat, because even if I had a house I don’t think I’d wash my car that much more frequently. So today I dropped it off at a hand-car-wash place near my work.

And for $20 (including $5 tip), my car was returned to me at 5PM squeaky clean. I can see my reflection off the hood. The interior was vacuumed. The windows were spotless.

What hated chores do you love to outsource?

One of my cousins is heading to a Seven Sisters college this fall. I am unbelievably excited for her. When we were little, I’d braid her hair and play dress-up. One summer, we made tents in the family room with chairs and sheets, and “camped” at night. How the years have flown.

In college, I didn’t have a good idea of details of personal finance and investing – all I knew was to spend less than I made. I had an emergency credit card that Mom cosigned. Senior year, I got my own credit card to begin establishing credit. I worked part-time as a research assistant, and I was fortunate enough that the money I made can be used for discretionary purchases.

There weren’t that many things I would’ve changed in college, but if I can go back in time and counsel my 18-year-old self, this is what I would’ve done a little differently:

1. Opened a Roth IRA earlier. It would be nice to have another thousand or two in Roth right now. Although I can’t feel too badly about this one. I opened, and maxed out a Roth the first year I was able to. Frankly, despite PF tributes to the amazing wonders of compound interest, there’s usually not a huge difference if you started saving at 20 vs. 25, especially if most kids have only savings in the hundreds or low thousands. Earlier is better, sure, but it’s definitely not an insurmountable amount.

2. Valued money less. Let me explain: in college I won a fellowship to study in Europe for a summer. While I was there, I had the chance to visit a friend in London. I didn’t take that trip because I thought it would’ve cost too much. If I can go back, I’d hop on a plane in a heartbeat. That’s not a mistake I lose any sleep over, exactly, but I knew it would’ve been a great, great experience with a good friend that now I’m no longer close to.

3. Taken even more time to get to know professors as people – as really successful, top-of-their-field professionals who have found their calling and who somehow manage to be good and genuine at the same time. One of my professors still give me alumni contacts when I have questions, and wrote me a thank-you card for a measly $10 donation that I made. Another one of my professor is a phenomenal woman who speaks 5 languages, has 3 kids, and is by far one of the most eloquent and thoughtful speakers I’ve ever known.

4. Stop stressing out so much. I once called Mom in tears because I was certain that I failed an economics exam (luckily, I didn’t). But in the grand schemes of things, feeling stupid because I didn’t understand a lesson or feeling bad because I got a B+ on a presentation when I expected at least an A- or feeling worried because I had the worst registration time in my class didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had amazing classroom experiences, did to the best of my abilities, and made some really good friends.

5. Taken more time to ponder. Think about not just how do I make a living, but also, how do I live a life. In between the classes and internships, I wish I would’ve spent just a bit more time thinking about the “bigger questions”: What kind of person do I want to be? How do I define success? And how can I achieve it? What do I need to do to build the best life that I can?

College has taught me a lot. But as I’m discovering, many of the lessons it is still teaching require perspective to appreciate and understand. As I move farther away from my college experience, I imagine I’ll be learning that much more.

(or, here’s how I did it):
1. It’s such a gorgeous color.
2. It’s on sale to $28 from full-price of $98.
3. Oh, a nice fellow shopper just handed me a 30% off Friends & Family coupon = even more on sale!
4. The style and the cut reminds me of the ladies on Mad Men. 
5. I will wear this dress frequently. I can wear it to brunch, and lunch, and dinner! So cost per wear will be low. Pennies. No, fractions of pennies.
I often buy products for a feeling, for a little piece of a mood that I’d like to slip on.
A pink shift dress isn’t just a piece of clothing – it’s what I’ll wear on a visit to an afternoon tea parlor, where I’ll sip tea and munch on finger sandwiches with a girlfriend.
A pair of black ruffled heels isn’t just a pair of shoes – it’s what will carrry me through a salsa party, when I want to feel lithe and graceful. 
A set of fancy white plates isn’t just for holding food – it’s for presenting meals I’ve carefully crafted for a dinner party filled with good friends and good conversation.
A hardcover book isn’t just for reading (I can, and do, visit the library for that), instead, it’s an addition to a well-edited collection that will one day grace the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of my home.
It’s easy to reject a purchase on utilitarian grounds, but the pleasure of imaging a more stylish, more put-together and more idealized version of oneself is what ultimately makes me complete the transaction.

Hey, at least I realize it. 😉

I caught the first episode of the new FOX reality dating show More To Love last night. It appears that thanks to Hulu, I can find ways to unproductively use my time even without a TV in my home (see Exhibit A: Momma’s Boys).
After watching the premiere (full episode here), here are my thoughts.
1. It’s unnecessary to list each woman’s height and weight below her name. I doubt that many women (whether they are a 6 or a 16) would want their personal information to be put on TV for the world to see.

2. Luke seems like a nice-enough guy, but 20 cute ladies + 1 single man basking in their attention = the balance of power is dangerously off.

3. The first girl out of the limo, Malissa, looked gorgeous in a deep cut blue sheath. And she’s studied abroad in Paris. Forget Luke, I’m a little smitten myself.

4. The rings. Oh my. The rings that signify “Luke’s promise to get to know each of the woman for who they really are”. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought there were engagement rings (i.e. you are engaged to be married), and maybe promise rings (i.e. you are making a promise to get engaged in the future). What do these rings represent then? Although… this can be a new marketing opportunity for jewelers: “A Promise To Get to Know You” ring, anyone?

5. The script about the rings. Luke: “Will you wear this ring?” Lady: “I will!” Luke said, “the future Mrs. Conley might be in this room.” I get it .There’s no need to knock us over the head with the obvious SYMBOLISM of the ring ceremony.

6. The giving back of the rings and the regiving of the rings. It’s mean for the ladies to have to give back their rings, then wait for it to be re-given. I prefer Bachelorette’s rose ceremony. At least the Bachelor ladies aren’t handed out a rose only to have to give them back.

7. The rocket scientist who kept apologizing to Luke about her rocket scientist job. I was bummed she was sent home (I hope it’s not because Luke was intimidated by her). But I hope she knows that she should never apologize for her intelligence. A man who “loves you for who you truly are” will be proud and supportive of your accomplishments.

8. It makes me sad to hear a girl say that this show is her ONE chance at love, or something along those lines. That’s a lot of stock to put in a guy you’ve met once (and has 19 other girls competing for him). 

9. Reality dating shows remind me of group interviews, except a thousand times worse.

In a group interview, an applicant wears a suit and heels and tries to both play nice with fellow candidates and stand out from the crowd to attract the attention of the hiring manager.

In a reality dating show, a participant wears a party dress and tries to both play nice with fellow contestants and stand out from the crowd to attract the attention of the hiring manager man of the moment.

In a group interview, your prize will be the job you wanted. In a reality dating show, your prize is a relationship that past experience has shown will last a month after the show wraps up filiming (to be fair, except for Trista and Ryan).

10. I’d really like to see reality dating shows discuss the issues of money in relationships. But I guess that’s too boring of a topic for TV. But putting a bunch of people in a fancy mansion with no worries about money doesn’t quite seem like a “realistic” way to begin a relationship.

Have anyone seen More To Love? What are your thoughts?

Random musings

– Finally got my deposit from previous apartment after much stress. $730 into the Freedom Fund.

– Working on a side project (I’ll call it PGP) that I am really hopeful will work out. If it goes well you’ll all hear about it. 🙂 Just don’t want to jinx it right now.

– Had a bunch of informational interviews this month as I try to explore and refine various career (and life) paths open to me. Was very pleasantly surprised at people’s willingness to help and generosity with their time.

– Still dancing up a storm in salsa. Thinking of paying $50 for professional dance shoes.

– Still loving my landlord and landlady (who feed me homemade meals). If you follow me on twitter you know this already. Because I cannot stop talking about it. Ooops!

– Planning a big blog overhaul. A friend who is a SEO genuis will be helping me with blog migration, on-page and off-page optimization issues. My friends are so smart.

If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, and need some foodspiration, here are my favorite treats for under $5.

1. Flore de Moscato ($4.99) – delicious blend of Orange Muscat and Muscat Canneli. Great dessert wine to drink on its own or pair with some flourless chocolate cake. I’m not a big drinker, but I have a terrible sweet tooth. So… dessert wines are totally up my alley.

2. Chocolate croissant ($3.99) – Flaky, buttery pastry rolls with a chocolate log in the middle. Every package has 4 croissants. I’ve already waxed rhapsodic about this particular treat from TJ’s. In a nutshell, if loving these is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

3. Lemongrass chicken eggrolls ($2.99) – a package of 10 mini eggrolls that will bake up crispy and golden in your oven. Juicy chicken filling, with lemongrass and pepper. These treats would be perfect for finger foods. 

4. Vermont apple chicken sausages ($3.49) – 5 pre-cooked sausages with the most delightful sweetness. I like to chop these sausages into thin slices, pan-fry them (no oil necessary) until browned, then just eat them by themselves or fold them into omelets with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions.

5. Mango sorbet ($3.99) – Honestly? Honestly?? This taste just like frozen, pureed mangos. This sorbet captures the essence of mango down to the fruit’s last pulpy drop. It’s the perfect indulgence on a Summer night.

6. Pizza Parlano ($4.69) – Best. Frozen. Pizza. Ever. Sausage, pepperonis, onions, bell peppers (i.e. my favorite ingredients on one pizza!). The meats are all nitrate-free, so I can indulge (relatively) guiltlessly. I just make one of these pizza and toss together a salad for a quick and yummy meal for two.

(Can you tell that I love adjectives related to food?)

Share your favorite under-$5 treats in the comments!