Jan 14, 2017

Tips for Feeling Better Instantly While You're Recovering from the Flu

This year's flu is a beast. I was stricken with it earlier this week. The following tips will help you feel better during your active battle with the flu, while you're recovering, and immediately after.

During the worst of the fever and body aches, I found the following helpful:
  1. Drink tons of water. Fill a large bottle and take it to bed with you. Sip often; refill often.
  2. Rest and/or sleep. Due to the chills, you probably won't want to be anywhere other than snuggled down under your down comforter, anyway.
  3. Take an anti-viral. I am high-risk (asthma) so this was a no-brainer. I am taking this for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to find that I recovered extremely quickly from the flu. Call your doctor as soon as think you might have the flu and ask if taking an anti-viral is right for you.

As soon as I was able to muster the energy, the following helped me feel so much better instantly:
  1. Give yourself an abbreviated manicure. It's nearly impossible to smudge your polish when you're nearly motionless, anyway. All you need to do here for a quick manicure is to quickly file away jagged edges then apply a base coat, 1 color coat, and a longwearing top coat. Choose a color that makes you happy.
  2. Take a long, hot shower. Scrub your scalp with shampoo, condition your hair, exfoliate your face with an exfoliating scrub, and, if you're a woman, shave your legs, underarms, and bikini area. Trust me. You'll feel fabulous.
  3. Apply a self-tanning lotion. You're probably looking a little sallow. The self-tanner will give you a nice healthy glow, hiding the fact that you were recently on your deathbed. When you go back to work, you'll look so vibrant your coworkers will wonder if you were on a tropical mini-vacation rather than home taking sick days.
  4. Get dressed in comfy, cute clothes. They'll need to be comfy so that you can crawl back into bed at moment's notice but they also need to be cute. When you know you look good, you feel good.
  5. Light some candles. For no other reason other than they're pretty and relaxing. Bonus if they're scented.

When you have more energy, the following will help you move on, at least psychologically:
  1. Change the sheets on your bed (then burn them - just kidding!). Peel off those crusty sweaty sheets and replace them with fresh clean sheets. Prepare to sleep on cloud 9 that night.
  2. Disinfect your bathroom and kitchen. Wipe down light switches and door knobs with a disposable antibacterial wipe if you're feeling extra vigilant.
  3. Do some housekeeping. Pick up all the bits of wrappers, take the dirty glasses to the kitchen, wash the dishes, water the plants, vacuum, take out the trash, recycling, & composting, and start a load of laundry.
  4. Buy a new toothbrush. Better safe than sorry and when was the last time you changed your toothbrush, anyway?

Best wishes for a speedy recovery. To help prevent future illnesses, try Kick Ass Immunity. My doctor highly recommended it. (I'm placing an order now.)

Mar 11, 2016

How Divorce Changed My Spending Habits

As far as separation and impeding divorce goes, I have had an easier time than most. My divorce is amicable; Mars is still one of my closest friends. I also have a fantastic career making a good living and a flexible employer. Mars makes a great living, too. Financially, we should be sitting pretty.

But we live in San Francisco.

San Francisco has the most expensive housing in the United States. I rent a 1,200 SF 2-bedroom home that costs a whopping 70% of my take-home income... and even that's a fabulous deal because I snagged it when everyone else was out of town for the holidays. I was out hitting the pavement hard looking at rentals and networking with landlords when everyone else was sitting by the fire and laughing it up with friends & family while drinking eggnog.

I have lived on my own for a year now (with spousal support and child custody, of course). It has been extremely difficult financially. Living here comfortably as a single parent with children requires a large amount of money.

I have had to track every outgoing penny. I use an awesome free mobile app called Expense Manager. I record every single purchase I make, down to the coins I add to a parking meter. My budget is extremely tight. There is no room for error.

Financial distress causes huge behavioral shifts.

In addition to carefully tracking my expenditures, these are a few other things I have had to do differently:
  • I no longer get salon pedicures. Even $25 every other month was too much for my budget to handle. I now do my own pedicures. It took a little practice (my first couple pedicures were hideous!) but now they look almost professional. I cut, file, apply cuticle remover, soak my feet, push back the cuticles, and buff before applying a base coat and 2 coats of colored polish.
  • I canceled my wine club memberships. I know what you're thinking: "Well, no duh!" And you're right. No more $40 bottles of wine for me; Mama now splurges on the occasional $6 bottle.
  • I switched hair salons. My hair grows super fast, which is detrimental for those of us who color our hair. My hair is about 30-40% gray now. Roots show fast. I had to find a less expensive salon and had to extend the amount of time between appointments. My current stylist is not as talented as my last but that's okay, I'll live and adjust. I used to get a cut & color every 7 weeks; now I go every 9 or 10. I also have to touch up my own roots with a home coloring kit twice between visits. I have been considering just letting myself go gray to prevent all this fuss and expense. If you have done this and love it, please tell me so in the comments. Convince me!
  • I now use public transit on the days I don't have custody of the kids. Parking near my office costs $15/day and bridge toll is $6/day. That adds up fast! I do have to drive to work on the days I have kid custody (I have 2 kids at 2 different schools) but when I don't, I rock the public transit. It's a pain in the neck (I have to walk 1 mile each way and transfer trains twice; commute time is naturally a lot longer) but my employer partly subsides my transit fees. It's worth it.
  • I don't buy coffee on the go anymore. My beverage of choice is a plain cup of decaf coffee, which costs $1.50 to $2.25 a pop in a counter-service coffee stand like Starbucks. Now I make my own coffee every morning at home.
  • I grocery shop at the bargain markets. I can no longer afford the luxury of the organic grocery delivery service I used to enjoy when I was married. I have to carefully watch what I buy even at the discount stores.
  • I dramatically reduced my contribution to the kids' mutual funds. I used to allocate $250/month to each child's account. Now it's $150 total... and that's only because a $75 minimum contribution per account is the required minimum. (I originally planned to allocate just $50/month per account.)
  • I dramatically reduced the frequency of restaurant meals. When married, we ate out often. It was a sad and hard habit to break but it had to be done... especially so because I strongly dislike cooking. It sucks but there is no alternative. I have to prepare a meal or we don't eat.
  • I dramatically reduced my entertainment allowance. This was another thing we didn't really think about when married. If we wanted to spend a day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, we did. Now that's out of the question. I have budgeted enough for the 3 of us to go to a movie theater once a month, maybe out for frozen yogurt a couple times as well.
  • I changed my health insurance. I used to be on Mars' sucky PPO policy, which was ludicrously expensive. It made sense for everyone else in the family because they don't have chronic health issues like I do (I have severe allergies and asthma). And every time I went to the doctor or went for a check-up, it would cost me anywhere from $200-700 out-of-pocket. Last fall during my company's open enrollment, I switched myself only over to an HMO plan. It has made a huge difference. I can now get medical care when I need it without worrying how I'm going to pay the bill.
  • I increased my hours at work. With my 2+ hours commuting and the kids' schools' after-care hours, I am not able to work 40 hours/week. I increased my hours as much as I could and now work 6 hours more per week than I used to, which made a big difference in my income. I also take on freelance writing work when possible.

Vacations are a thing of the past, at least for now.

Most recently, my car needed extensive repairs (new transmission). It was a huge unexpected expense. I cried.

My laptop is on its last legs (i.e. buttons are missing) and I am terrified it's going to self-destruct soon.

I feel like I am on the verge of financial ruin. I know this is temporary and my finances will only improve over time. They already have. Last summer was my lowest financial point and I lived in a constant state of panic. My budget is still super tight but, fortunately, it's not nearly as bleak as it used to be.

What financial changes have you had to make after separating from and/or divorcing your spouse?

Jan 5, 2016

Stitch Fix #6 Review

Being that I was on a very tight budget, it had been several months since I'd scheduled a Stitch Fix delivery. However, early last month the good people at Stitch Fix sent me a complimentary style plus $20 off code as incentive to schedule another Fix. There was nothing to lose! It would be a Christmas gift to myself... and it would hopefully get me out of my current fashion rut.

I scheduled my Fix to arrive on December 18th and waited impatiently. I had asked my stylist for some unusual pieces to inject some fun into my wardrobe, long-sleeved tops, and either a pencil skirt or a pair of slacks.

My stylist, Kim, delivered.

She sent a dress, a pencil skirt, a sweater, and 2 long-sleeved tops. I loved everything and agonized over what to keep. My budget said I could only keep one item but if I could have, I would have purchased 4 of the 5 items.

Kathy striped fit & flare dress

I initially didn't like the navy blue & white stripes. Horizontal stripes make busty me appear even more busty. Not good. But, in a surprising turn of events, I tried it on and loved it. The cut was flattering, the stretchy material was comfy, and the stripes were fun, just as I'd requested. The brilliant 'nipping & tucking' at the bust fortunately made me appear less busty. It had a v-back. I took photos of myself in each item and this was the piece that my boyfriend and my friends liked the most, by far.
Verdict: Keep

Brixon Ivy
Cyndi lace pencil skirt

Oh, how I loved this skirt! It was absolutely stunning. It had a dark brown leather waistband, gorgeous red lace, and fit like it was made for me. However, the color made it nearly impossible for me to think I could wear it year-round, especially to the office. Navy blue would have been perfect. I really, really wanted to keep it but passed for practical reasons. This was my 2nd favorite piece.
Verdict: Return

Presley colorblock button-back sweater

I had been wanting a button-back sweater and this was fun, asymmetrical, and bold. Love! The fit was perfect, too. I loved the olive green color but wasn't crazy about the ivory. Plus, some friends said the buttons down the back were odd, like I had put on a cardigan backwards. Still, they didn't deter me from wanting it. This sweater was my 3rd favorite piece.
Verdict: Return


Market & Spruce
Chaimbers cowl neck knit top

This top was so soft and comfortable and had a flattering fit. However, it seemed a tad short and I wasn't crazy about the gray color. I was hoping for something a little more vivid for winter. This was my 4th favorite piece.
Verdict: Return

Rietta suede trim top

Although this top fit perfectly, I was not happy that the black suede trim, located under the front button placket and under the collar, was practically invisible. I'd essentially be paying for suede I couldn't see.  I would have considered this piece had the top and the suede been different colors and, therefore, actually noticeable. Paying $58 for a plain black top was simply out of the question for me. This was the only item I didn't care to purchase.
Verdict: Return

A forced 1/5 isn't so bad. With my $20 discount, I only paid $53 for the dress. Merry Christmas to me! I have worn the dress to the office already with navy tights, brown knee boots, and a brown cardigan. I will continue to wear it with tights and boots for the remainder of the winter and then will wear with silver or yellow ballet flats and fun colorful jewelry in the spring. It's versatile and fun!

To read more of my Stitch Fix reviews, just click on the "fashion" link on the right.
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