The Real World is Expensive: Advice for Recent Grads

Last weekend one of my best friends graduated from the University of New Hampshire. This made me feel both incredibly proud and incredibly old. Over the past four years she has been my connection to my alma mater. I am occasionally able to pretend to be a college student thanks to her, which I think makes my obsession with boy bands somewhat more acceptable. But she graduated and so I am now forced to accept my life as an aging fangirl. **Sigh**

Since I am officially old now, I thought I should pass on some wisdom about life post-graduation. Just call me Dumbledore. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you too are a recent grad and are entering the real world for the first time:

1. Keep your post-grad plans financially realistic. Graduation can be a confusingly competitive time. On the one hand you’re all, “WOOHOO! I graduated! I’m so smart!” But on the other it’s super intimidating to have to compete with everyone else’s answer to, “What’s next?” When I was graduating I remember thinking that everyone’s plans sounded much cooler than mine. People were moving to NYC or backpacking around Europe or going to grad school. And I was moving back to my parent’s house in Maine. Whoomp, whoomp. Glamorous post-grad plans sound great to all the inquiring adults, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best plans. The majority of recent graduates are attempting financial independence for the first time after college. The real world is an expensive place and the older you get, the less acceptable it is to ask your parents for money. So make plans that fit your budget. Live within your paycheck. You should look forward to life after college, but just remember that it’s probably going to be more Girls than Sex and the City.  

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

2. It’s Okay If It’s Not Your Forever Job. I was an English Literature Major in college. There was a lot of Jane Austen and feminist rants (which I loved), but not a lot of career planning. When people asked me what my plans after college were I would say, “I’ll read! They pay you for that, right?” and then laugh awkwardly until the other person felt uncomfortable enough to change the subject. I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. And in the first few years post-graduation I bumped around from job-to-job a little bit. But ultimately I think I might be the better for it. I’ve had experience in a lot of different fields, doing a lot of different tasks. I’ve learned a ton. Did I ever think during college that I would get a job as a Marketing Coordinator? No way. Will I stay at my current job until I retire? My boss says yes, but realistically I probably won’t. I might move on in a few years, but for right now I’m having fun with the job I have and I know I am acquiring skills that will help me do a different job in the future. Most people don’t do the same job their entire lives. So if you don’t land your dream position right after graduation, don’t sweat it. You have your whole life ahead of you to find it.

3. Brace Yourself – Student Loan Payments Are Coming. In sixth months, to be exact, when the grace period ends and you have to start paying them back. You could try going off the grid to avoid them, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have Netflix or take-out there. All kidding aside, I was a little overwhelmed when I realized for the first time exactly how much my monthly student loan payment would be. If I remember correctly I actually cried. At the time I was working as a bank teller. One month’s payment exactly equaled my two-week paycheck. I literally had to work for 80 hours to make one payment. That’s insane. But if you’re smart and you plan ahead, that payment won’t take you by surprise. Maybe you’ll even save some money in that 6 month grace period to help make your payments. Have a plan for how you’re going to handle that payment so it doesn’t throw you for a loop.

4. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. But seriously, you’re doing great. Don’t sweat it. I remember stressing a lot the summer after graduation. I didn’t have the job I wanted. I missed being with my friends 24/7. I was living in the boonies sharing a car with my mom. It was a weird time. And I remember not feeling like my normal, confident, sarcastic, quirky self. Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you. You’re smart, you graduated from college, and you’ll figure out where you want to go from here. Things are going to change, but doesn’t mean they’re going to get worse. It’s just going to be different. Know that whatever happens, you’ve got this!

If all this sage advice fails you, it’s totally okay to put on your PJs, listen to T Swift, and cry. Even adults with real people jobs need to let it out some times. Congratulations to all of the recent grads out there! You guys are going to kill it in the real world! Good luck!

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Food Pantry Donation Tips

Ending Hunger

All year round, my credit union collects donations for our local food pantry. Employees have to bring in a donation in order to wear jeans on Friday, members often drop things off to add to our collection, and we frequently do fundraisers like bake sales or 50/50 raffles to help raise money. Because we work so closely with our food pantry, we get a lot of questions about what things they need, what stuff is okay to donate, and what stuff is not. So here are a few simple guidelines to follow when you are making a donation to your local food pantry:

Keep it simple. Consider donating things that are easy to open and easy to prepare. The living situation of some food pantry clients can be unstable, which means they might not always have access to stuff like an oven, a microwave, or even a can opener. Foods that require little to no preparation are therefore super valuable to these clients; consider donating things you’d pack in a school lunch like granola or protein bars, goldfish, peanut butter, etc. Similarly avoid food that requires a lot of extra ingredients to be cooked properly. For example a cake mix that you just need to add water to is better than a cake mix that calls for milk, eggs, and butter, because the recipient might not have access to those extra food items. If the recipient can’t open the packaging or can’t cook it, your donation is thoughtful but not very practical.

Keep portions small and items in their original packaging. Our credit union buys a lot of our supplies in bulk at BJ’s so we often pick up items for the food pantry while we’re there. It’s great because you can get a lot of food for a good price, but what’s not always so great is the portion sizes. A gallon jar of peanut butter for $11.99 is an awesome deal, but it only feeds one food pantry client because it can’t be portioned out to multiple people. Four 12 oz. jars of peanut butter would be better because they can feed four people instead of one. However, let’s say you’re donating a 12 pack of granola bars. Keep all 12 bars in the box they come in when you donate it. Don’t open the box and separate them out. Depending on the need, the food pantry can decide whether to give the whole box to one client or give the bars individually to multiple clients.

Ask what’s needed. The volunteers at the food pantry know exactly what things their clients need most. If you’re not sure what to donate, just ask them! They’ll have plenty of ideas. They might also request non-food items that can’t be purchased with food stamps like paper towels, toilet paper, tampons/pads, soap, or deodorant. I also never would have guessed that the food pantry wanted all of my old plastic shopping bags, but when I asked one of our food pantry friends what she needed they were on the top of her list! Clients use them for shopping, so instead of being annoyed by the 300 plastic bags I gave them, they were grateful.

Don’t donate anything that has expired. A lot of food pantry donations come from people cleaning out their own pantries, which is awesome. Instead of throwing stuff out, why not give it to someone who would eat it? But it’s important to check the expiration date before you donate these items. I know I don’t want to eat crackers that went bad in 2007, so chances are food pantry clients don’t either. Plus you don’t want anyone to get sick from eating food that has gone bad.

Consider donating cash. Often times non-profit organizations can get better deals on food than you can shopping as an individual, so making a cash donation to your food pantry can be very valuable to them. If you’d like to help out your food pantry but aren’t sure what to give, inquire about how you can make a cash donation. It’s less work for you and potentially more food for them.

I hope these tips help make your donation decisions a little easier. Food pantries are so crucial to making sure no one in our community goes hungry. Our local food pantry serves over 100 households every month – that’s a lot of food! However you can help, big or small, $1 or $100, your food pantry will appreciate your contribution.

Life Hack: Say Bye-Bye to Deodorant Stains

You know when you put on deodorant and then put a shirt on right afterwards and you get those big white marks all over your shirt? Isn’t that THE WORST?! This probably happens to me at least once a week. You would think I would learn to put my deodorant on after my clothes or something, but no. I just keep getting all over everything I put on. Then I have to change my outfit and weirdly struggle to get into another shirt without my armpits touching the fabric. It’s as awkward as it sounds.

But the other day when we were in Las Vegas, I got deodorant all over the dress I was going to wear out, I was freaking out thinking that I didn’t have anything else to wear, and my sister just goes “Get another piece of fabric and rub it off.” All calm, like it was no big deal. So I grabbed a towel from the bathroom, rubbed a little at the deodorant spot, and . . . drum roll please . . . IT DISAPPEARED! It was amazing. Since then I have gotten 3 or 4 deodorant stains on stuff, and this trick works every time. No more changing tops!

Finally, having a sister with a degree in Fiber Science and Apparel Design pays off!

Update: New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2014! I hope your first day and a half of the New Year have been great.

So like I said in the last post, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to read 26 books this year (which will be about 2 a week depending on how slow/ fast I read). After a lot of great suggestions, I have compiled my official 2014 Reading List! I have already started “Divergent” by Veronica Roth and it’s super good. I will update you every now and then and let you know if I’ve made any progress. Here’s my list:

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  3. Alligent by Veronica Roth
  4. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff
  6. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  7. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  9. The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
  10. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  11. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
  12. Ulysses by James Joyce
  13. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  14. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  15. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  16. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  17. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  18. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  19. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
  20. I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda
  21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  22. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  23. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  24. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  25. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  26. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

My other New Year’s Resolution is to walk on the tread mill in the basement at work for 10 minutes every lunch break. I figure at the very least, even if I don’t fit in any other exercise, this means I’ll have 10 minutes a day done!

Do you have any good/fun/interesting resolutions for the New Year? I’d love to hear what they are!

New Year’s Resolution: Read More!

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution is to read more. To be specific, I want to try to read 1 book every 2 weeks. That’s 26 books in a year.

I obviously read a lot in college, because I was an English major and I had to. I think I was lucky because instead of textbooks I got to read novels for my classes, but I still always had a long list of books I would read if I had more free time. But now that I’m a real adult, there’s not as much time for reading as I thought there’d be. Maybe because I mostly use my free time for working out, crafting, or watching Netflix but that is not the point! There’s a whole world full of books out there and I am determined to read them.

Everyone tells me I need to read this before the movie comes out!

Everyone tells me I need to read this before the movie comes out!

Before I start on my reading journey, I think it will help if I have a schedule of what book I will read and when. Here’s a start to my to-read list; its a few books that have been recommended to me, a few I saw online in a “101 Books to Read Before You Die” thing (AH! No pressure or anything), and a few that I only read part of/pretended to read in college and now want to actually read. They are:

– Ulysses by James Joyce

– Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

– Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

– Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

– Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

– Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

– Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

– The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer

– Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

– I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda

– The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

– B***h: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel (Note: I censored the first word in this title.)

– The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

– The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

– Divergent by Veronica Roth

But that’s only 17 books. So I need 9 more. If you have any recommendations, please let me know! Leave a title or two in the comment area.

Before January 1st, 2014 I will give you a final list and then I will periodically update you throughout the year on how I’m doing. Maybe do a little book review here and there. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Mark-A-Thon

WCYY DJ Mark Curdo, me, and co-worker extraordinaire Mel in the studio.

WCYY DJ Mark Curdo, me, and co-worker extraordinaire Mel in the studio.

Yesterday, I became famous. At least my voice did when got my 15 minutes of radio fame. I’ve always known I had a face for radio . . . 🙂

It all started when my co-worker Mel and I were lucky enough to be invited to visit the 94.3FM WCYY studio in Portland to be a part of the 6th Annual Mark-A-Thon. Local DJ Mark Curdo stays on the air for 102 hours straight every year to raise money for the Center for Grieving Children. How does he stay awake for that long? I have no idea! If I was him I would have been curled up in a corner asleep by the time we got there at the end of Day2. But I think working for such a great cause was keeping him peppy and awake. Or maybe it was Red Bull.

Anyways, the Center for Grieving Children is a great organization working in Southern Maine to offer counseling services to children and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. They have 2 locations, one in Portland and one in Sanford, and over the last 25 years have been able to serve over 66,000 Maine children, teens, and families. The best part? The services offered by the center are 100% FREE. They describe their mission as “to provide loving support that encourages the safe expression of grief and loss and fosters each individuals resilience and emotional well-being” (from their website http://www.cgcmaine.org). It is a truly invaluable service to the kids and families who go there.

The deal with the Mark-A-Thon is that all week long while Mark is on the air you can call in, make a donation to the Center for Grieving Children, and he’ll play any song you want. CYY is normally an alternative rock station, but during this event he will literally play any song from any genre by any artist. We requested Jimmy Buffett which we discovered is on Mark’s all-time never ever play list and he even played that for us. Not without making fun of us a little, but he played it. This year during the Mark-A-Thon he played everything from Taylor Swift to Frank Sinatra to Jay Z to N SYNC. It’s such a cool event which pulls people from all different backgrounds and musical tastes together for a worthy cause.

This morning on the Mark-A-Thon, I heard a clip of a little boy who called in to donate all of his Christmas money to the Center for Grieving Children. Instead of getting presents this year, he asked his parents to donate the money they would have spent on him to this cause.  He said he is lucky to have his loved ones around to give him gifts and that he wanted to do something for other kids who might have lost the loved one who gave them presents. I tried not to cry when I heard this adorable child because I was driving, but that is too precious! With all of the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Shop Til You Drop commercialized buzz this time of year, it’s so easy to forget that this is what the holiday season is really about – giving and sharing with the people we care about. There’s nothing that gives you that warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling like donating to a good cause or helping out a neighbor.

Mark 6 Web Flyer

Although we are more than half-way through the 102 hours of this year’s Mark-A-Thon, there’s still time to donate! The Mark-A-Thon will run until 5pm tomorrow, Friday December 6th. Visit https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=1226&AID=3018 and if you pledge a donation to the center, Mark will play any song you want to hear. Any artist. Any genre. Even a song for you Parrotheads:)