Happy Valentine’s Day… to my wallet!

Without a sweetheart to spoil on this fine Hallmark’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I might spoil myself with a trip to Seattle or Chicago to visit some college friends. I may eventually do that sometime this year, but after some thinking, I decided to forgo that for now and instead spoil… my wallet!

Thanks to the quick turnaround of filing my taxes with TurboTax (I filed it just last week!), I now have a little more disposable income this month. My last 2 returns were spent on travel and a spankin’ new iPhone 4S. I certainly don’t regret spending time with my dear friends in SF, DC, or NYC, or buying the best phone ever, but I do know that I could be enjoying those 2 returns, even today, if I used it to pay down at least some of my debt.

So with advice from the likes of Five Cent Nickel, I’m finally putting it to wise use. I paid off the rest of my balance on one credit card and reached my first milestone in saving for an emergency fund. Now, I can use my credit card like it’s supposed to be used and take full advantage of the rewards program. And while I still plan to save money toward my EF, reaching my goal was well worth it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Wallet. I’m happy this relationship is going really well, and it only goes up from here.

Reblogging an article I posted exactly one year ago to remind us all of the smart things to do with your 2012 tax refund!

I’ll be doing 1, 2, & 3… How about you?

CHEERS to financial literacy!

alice, je t'aime

With Tax Day officially behind us, I thought I’d put together a list of things to do with your tax refund. Remember… Your tax refund isn’t some sort of magical windfall — it’s your money, and you worked hard for it. Do something smart with it.

1. Start an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, consider opening a high-yield savings account and depositing your windfall for a rainy day. While it might not be enough to create a full-fledged emergency fund, it’ll be a good start. And if you already have an emergency fund, consider adding to it.

2. Pay down your debt. Whether it’s credit cards, an auto loan, or a student loan, you need to get that monkey of your back. So add your windfall to your debt snowball and keep on digging.

3. Invest in yourself. Use the money to cover tuition for…

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Review: The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen

According to Chad Kultgen, a USC graduate, the “average” American male is twenty degrees beyond oversexed and utterly disingenuous. The majority of the book is composed of the narrator’s vulgar and obscene fantasies of every female he encounters; even a girl with a hair-lip whom he and his buddy Todd call Scarface, and even while he stands in line with his girlfriend for Gwen Stefani’s autograph. The rest of it is the narrator’s incredible inability to commit to either of his girlfriends, Casey or Alyna – the former with the “fat” ass. Even with Alyna, the one with the “perfect” ass, the narrator finds himself torn between wanting to be single all his life or to “bite the marriage bullet.”

Objectively, the narrator is just a real scum bag. Every other sentence is a fantasy about a different woman, either an ex-girlfriend or a random woman he encounters on the street. He is dishonest with both Casey and Alyna, and in turn with himself – dishonest about how he feels, or what he wants to do, or whether he’s happy or not. He hardly speaks more than 10 words in the entire book, usually keeping his impure thoughts to himself.

In my opinion, perhaps naive or premature, I don’t think Kultgen truly captures the average American male. The average guy I encounter or that I am friends with is not as stupid or as disrespectful to women as the story’s narrator. But even through all his b.s., Kultgen writes an entertaining, funny, albeit inappropriate story about a dude interpreting and navigating through intimate relationships with women he’ll never truly understand.

Picks for the Omnivorous Reader, November 27

I may be on the really late train but I just discovered Nancy Pearl’s recurring Morning Edition piece on NPR, “Picks for the Omnivorous Reader” after downloading NPR’s amazeballs news app. (I’ve long gotten tired of the BBC News app – can I get at least one piece of good news each day??) I’m weary of lists telling me what to read, as I’ve relied on bestseller lists before and they’re just not my kind of list. I mean, 50 Shades of Grey? Come on, I already read some great romance via Rachel Gibson and Jennifer Crusie – they’re even better writers; they’re hilarious too which is such a bonus.

I also tried reading a book from Pullitzer Prize winning author, Junot Diaz – This Is How You Lose Her – but I was not nearly as impressed as the jury that awarded him for a past book. I hate his writing style, sorry to say… It’s very cliche. And that comes from a girl who reads cliche and euphamism-ridden romance novels. I’ll take another jab at it in hopes that I’ll at least read through but we’ll see…

Come on Pullitzer Prize jury and bestselling lists, you have yet to help me widen my reading lists beyond romance and finance books…

Anyway, my point in all this is, I’m going to give librarian Nancy Pearl’s awesome-looking November 27 list a chance with America Aflame by David Goldfield. It has to be good – first because Nancy Pearl recommended it for Goldfield’s graceful prose and holistic history of the Civil War, and second because I’m #4 on a hold queue for 1 copy at the local public library.

I’ll be waiting a bit for my first novel on your list, but in the meantime, keep ’em coming, Nancy. I hope your list proves to be a Joanne kind of list…

At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History – Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Exhibition

My favorite part of the Smithsonian was Nature’s Best Photography, a photography contest now in its second decade as a memorial to Windland Smith Rice. All the large-print photos were breathtaking, full of color, contrast, humor, and of amazing subject matter. I really recommend taking a look if you’re in DC before the exhibit closes in January – there’s still plenty of time! Here are some of my personal favorites…

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Eagle Rock Yacht Club’s Dodgeball League


Me and my girls from work trying not to look too terrified before our first game.

I joined a dodgeball league.

The best part for me is that it’s not just any dodgeball league – it’s a league coordinated by the Eagle Rock Yacht Club, which seeks to close the gap of government funding for youth programs around LA.

My $50 dues go to helping restore and maintain rec centers across the city – how cool is that?! Not only do I get to throw balls at people every Thursday night for the next 10 weeks, but I’m simultaneously contributing to the youth in the community! My kind of sport.

I’m reppin’ the Andy WarBalls – whatchu got?! (I don’t got much of a throw, but I’m working on it…)