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Out and About in the New Decade

Ali Bar

I literally haven't gone out to dinner since I arrived in New York. Well, I was treated to dinner a couple times but dining out – other than an occasional take-out sandwich or soup – doesn’t happen if I’m paying for myself. It doesn’t fit in my budget, and let’s face it, buying groceries and preparing a meal is much cheaper. But I deviated from my normal eat-in habit the other night and went out to dinner in Chinatown with friends. I guess I can chalk it up to a once a month entertainment cost.  Plus it would be pathetic to live in New York and not take advantage – at least on a limited scale – of the culinary scene.

My friends and I went to Teariffic Cafe. (51 Mott St.) I got vegetarian dumpling soup, passion fruit bubble tea and appetizers – all for the low cost of $10. And it was too much to eat. I couldn't even finish my soup. If I were to return again and could curb mycraving for bubble tea, I would only get the soup, which cost just under $5. Appetizers run from $3 to $6. Drinks are in the same price range. If I get the urge to go out again, I'll definitely stop here.  

L

Extra tip: If you like bubble tea, go to Ten Ren -- absolutely the best bubble tea in New York.

As far as economical, healthy and plentiful food in South Florida, I would recommend Harvest Moon Bistro at 102 Curtiss Pkwy. (on the circle) in Miami Springs. The portions on the wraps, salads, sandwiches and melts are generous, and the most expensive item on the menu is only $8.25. If you order the Mediterranean salad, for example, you’ll get a mountain of greens topped with couscous, feta cheese, garbanzos, tomatoes and black olives and accompanied by hummus, grape leaves and pita bread. I guarantee you’ll have plenty to take home. It’s pretty much a lunch-only place and it’s closed on Sundays.

Also note, they only take cash. The same goes for Teariffic Café and Ten Ren in New York. There is an ATM by the cash register at Harvest Moon and ATMs near the two New York restaurants, but chances are you’ll have to pay those pesky ATM fees if the nearest ATM isn’t one for the financial institution where you bank. So come with cash in your wallet and avoid the ATM fees that will just eat up your savings at these restaurants.

Posted by Account Deleted at 02:45 PM on October 31, 2010 in College finances , Food , Nightlife , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

All Hallows Eve

Ali Bar

Once again it’s the night before Halloween – and if you’re like me, you’ve probably waited to the very last second to come up with a costume for tomorrow’s parties. I’ve cut it very close. But if you’re in need of a quick – and cheap solution – I can help you out. 

CostumesHere are a few costumes I’ve tried in the past that can be whipped up in no time. Want to be lightning? So glad you ask, because that is what I was last Halloween. To start things off, I happened to find a steal at Target – a black, floor-length sleeveless cotton dress on clearance for $5. (Why spend major money on something that you’re probably only going to wear once?) I also bought some white sparkly felt that I cut into a lightning strike pattern and glued to the dress, which I hacked off to hit mid-thigh. I wore black
tights and black shoes. And then my very lovely friend painted a silver lightning bolt across my face a la David Bowie with rhinestones. Oh, and I painted my nails silver. For practically no money at all it was a pretty good costume. My friend, who had waited even longer than I, bought a purple shirt at A.C. Moore's, which was quite inexpensive, and also purchased various lengths of silver, purple and white string. He punctured holes in the shirt, pulled the cords through and knotted them on the reverse side. On the front, the cords cascaded down to his feet. He said he was Purple Rain. It went quite nicely
with my lightning costume.

This next idea may only be applicable to people who have access to plotters (large scale printers) but it also produces outstanding costumes. My friend and I found a high resolution image of a USB key, which we then plotted and printed. With spray adhesives, we attached the front and back images of the oversized USB keys to large pieces of cardboard. We added straps to hold the panels over our shoulders and side panels to keep the costumes rigid. It was difficult to walk, but everyone pretty much loved our people-sized take on a USB. We even made hats – the plug portion of the USB. I am thinking of being a lamp this year. Oh please, you may be saying. But I think being a very ordinary object is funny. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do this, but,hey, I’ve got until tomorrow to figure it out.

Hope this gives you a few ideas on how to whip up cheap costumes quickly. Feel free to borrow. On a side note, while my friend and I were shopping in Whole Foods on Union Square, we were bombarded by a slew of zombies. It was quite funny and helped us get into the Halloween spirit. Many of them asked me for my brain. I politely declined. 

Posted by Account Deleted at 03:04 PM on October 30, 2010 in Clothing , College finances , Entertainment , Nightlife , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saving Money With Cash

Amanda Bar

My annual Disney trip was this past weekend, and I normally spend a lot of money between food and souvenirs each time I go.  This year, however, I tried to do something different - the room and Mickey's Not-So-Scary tickets had been reserved and purchased under my name, so when my friends coughed up their portion of the bill I had them pay me in cash as opposed to check.  While in the park I didn't pull out my debit/credit card at all, and instead used the $100+ in bills that I had.

By the end of the trip I had money to spare, and I hadn't put anything on my card.  I even managed to refrain from buying unnecessary knick-knacks to adhere to my cash budget!  History tells me that if I had asked for checks I would have ended up spending much more than I did by using cash alone, so I definitely plan on sticking to this option for future visits.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:52 PM on October 28, 2010 in Entertainment , Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping , Vacations | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Tip for Free Food

Ali Bar

Who doesn’t like free food? I’m about to share a technique that has provided me with plenty of carbs -- gratis. When I worked as a receptionist at the Cornell Store, which also has a small convenience store, I’d hit the jackpot on certain Fridays. If the store planned to be closed over the weekend, it meant the food would not be fresh enough to sell on Mondays and I could take home the remaining bagels, croissants, and pre-made sandwiches. It was a pretty good deal.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is that I've found another such gem. There's a small cafe next to my studio in New York, and on Fridays if I go in to buy something right before closing time, I end up with a ton of free bagels and rolls. Super nice guy at this cafe. He even provides tips: cut the bagels in half, freeze them, and then when you want one, pop it in the toaster. Let's just say I won’t need to buy bread products for quite a long time.

A friend of mine used to work at a bakery here in the city and although her pay was, well, not the best, she often got at least two free meals a day and plenty to take home when her shift ended. She spent almost nothing on groceries, making the job much more worthwhile. Right now I need a job where I can also squeeze in a bit of school work while I’m on the clock. But if that’s not your situation, I’d recommend looking for a job where pay isn’ t the only perk. Food doesn’t necessarily have to be the fringe benefit, but make sure to look for other perks that might stretch your wallet a little further.

Posted by Account Deleted at 08:24 PM on October 25, 2010 in College finances , Food , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brooklyn Flea

Ali Bar

A couple weekends ago I went to the Brooklyn Flea Market, which I highly recommend. I wasn't all that thrifty, dropping $20 for a pair of earrings and $4 for a milkshake, but all in all, it was worth it. I met up with friends, and we just wandered around, looking, touching, picking up all the little antiques and handmade goods. I liked so many things. Some of them were pricey but I found lots of reasonably priced stuff too.  We went around lunch time and hopping to save a few bucks, I grabbed some food from home. But my friends didn’t bring such provisions. They had a choice of food stands selling everything from gourmet pizzas to grilled cheese sandwiches. I couldn’t resist a chocolate milkshake that turned out to be so rich it was an effort to finish it. On a side-note: Nate from "The Nate Berkus Show" was at the flea market filming a segment. He does a good job of showing off the place’ s charms and gives some good design advice too. Watch the segment here.

Brooklyn Flea Address:
Saturday
Fort Greene
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont + Vanderbilt Avenue)

Sunday
The Flea at One Hanson (aka Williamsburg Savings Bank)
1 Hanson Place (at Flatbush Avenue)

Posted by Account Deleted at 06:49 PM on October 24, 2010 in Entertainment , Food , Home decor , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

Food for thought

I am not above slashing a hole in the top of the orange juice or soy milk carton to drain the last few drops of liquid. I pull the plastic bag out of the cereal box to make sure stray O's, flakes or squares haven't gone astray. I will cut away the overripe or slightly rotted portions of a tomato/banana/avocado/you-name-it and eat the rest.

In other words, I'm pretty unlikely to throw away food unless I think it will guarantee me a visit to a hospital.

My mother thinks one day this habit is going to kill me. But if something is truly rotten, mold-covered or no longer it's natural color, out it goes. And with dairy products, I'm super strict. If it is remotely questionable, I won't take a chance.

(Granted, there is some spinach rotting in my fridge right now, a relic of my significant other's, who is out of town. I took it out of his fridge, where it would have certainly spoiled, but only managed to use about half of it before it began to smell. I generally try to avoid buying that prewashed stuff. It's expensive and seems to spoil at light speed.)

Apparently, my food-saving ways are a little too rare. Researchers say we throw away as much as 50 percent of our food purchases. Maybe we are a little too worried we are going to poison ourselves (and bad at managing our refrigerators). Are you a compulsive food trasher? Or are you a hoarder like me?

I found a guide that explains sell-by dates, best-by dates and that food companies don't actually have to put a date on their products at all. I hope it will save me some money in the long run, since now I'm skeptical of those dates altogether.

But I am don't think I'll ever be as bold as a Dumpster-diving friend Kris, who doesn't hesitate to reclaim meat and milk products that have been sitting in metal trash bins. In the sun. For hours. On my single excursion with him, I admit I ate a doughnut out of the trash. It was in a bag filled with nothing but doughnuts, perhaps too stale to be served. Kris's rationale is that one's tongue will keep the rest of the body safe from something truly past its prime.

Um, yeah.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 09:30 AM on October 22, 2010 in Food | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planning Ahead With Return Purchases

Amanda Bar

This weekend I'm going on my annual Disney Halloween trip and I really haven't been saving my money like I should for this vacation.  I try to keep a couple hundred dollars put aside for various spending purposes (not to mention the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is going on, and I can always spend a lot of money sampling the cuisine), but I've come in a bit under-budget this year.  The fault is entirely my own, but when it comes to Halloween time I can easily lose my head with various costume and decoration projects.

I'm not one to regularly return items to stores, but this month I've scrounged through my stack of recently bought merchandise and returned the "unnecessary" items to the store - mostly arts & craft items and Halloween accessories - just so that I can have that extra $20 or so dollars in cash at hand.  Returning merchandise can be a somewhat humbling process, especially when the sales clerk ask you that obligatory question of "What's wrong with it?", but it also serves as a learning experience.  I should really train myself so that I don't purchase extranneous items to begin with!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:27 AM on October 21, 2010 in Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping , Vacations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hasty Life & Shopping Lessons

Amanda Bar

I (and this blog) am quite familiar with the occassional impulsive shopping splurge, but the story that follows goes beyond even that - I would call this a moment of shopping insanity. 

The seeds of this little tale were sown about two months ago, when a co-worker asked if I'd be interested in adopting a baby rat.  I told her no at the time, but having had pet rats in the past I started to think that perhaps the idea of expanding my animal family (I already own a cat) might be a desirable idea.  However, I was smart enough to keep myself away from pet stores until I was firmly set on bringing in another living being into my home.

Rats (2)  Smart enough, that is, until I decided to go rat browsing with my sister.  Browsing being the key word here, as I made it quite clear that I did not intend to buy.  Once that cute little fuzzy creature was placed in my hands, however, and the store clerk advised me that I'd be saving it from a "short life as imminent snake food" I went into an insane frenzy of pet supply shopping.  I spent $99 on two rats, one aquarium & topper, and various rat food & toys.  What can I say?  I was emotionally blackmailed into the purchase.

Obviously I was not in my right mind, because the minute I walked into my house with this gigantic rat terrarium I realized that I had made a horrible and expensive mistake.  I had no place to put these rats without seriously rearranging my furniture, and more importantly I wasn't in an emotional state to deal with familiarizing myself with two new family members.  I had a serious case of buyers remorse that I have never experienced before - most likely because these were living creatures I had involved in my mess.  A half hour later I went back to the pet store, tail between my legs, and handed the rats back without so much as asking for a refund (the rats themselves were only $3 a piece, anyways).

I plan on taking back all of the supplies and toys in a few days when the shame of my irresponsibility dies down, but as for the aquarium (the most expensive purchase at $39.99) there is a no-refund policy and I simply have to suck up that expense as a pricey life lesson.  It's easy to get sucked into hasty decisions when something small and adorable is squirming in your hands, but take it from me: don't do it!  Think on it and make sure you're ready, because unlike a piece of furniture a pet deserves an owner who can devote their time to welcoming them into a home.

I feel bad for my wallet, but worse for my rat friends.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 12:30 AM on October 17, 2010 in Impulsive spending , Pets , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bike Riding

Ali Bar

Since the weather has been cooling off and a day outside has become quite enjoyable --unless standing in direct sunlight for an excess amount of time -- I thought it would be nice to take a bike ride. I borrowed a roommate's bike and set off from my apartment in Spanish Harlem. I found a trail that runs nearly the entire length of the island of Manhattan along the water’s edge. It was filled with bikers, joggers and people out for a stroll, but somehow it felt completely separate from the city itself. Even though the sun was beating directly on my head, the breezes off the water kept me cool. No vitamin D deficiency here. But as winter sets in here in New York, I’ll probably be begging for my skin to see the light of day.

Biking II: A couple Fridays ago, my class went on a bike tour of Governor's Island. I assumed I was going to need to pay the $15 fee for a bike rental, but it turns out that on Fridays the first hour of bike rentals is free. Our tour concentrated on the future plans for Governor’s Island, including having free wooden – yes, wooden – bikes to offer to everyone who wants to get in a little exercise on the island. If you want to catch a few rays and get in some exercise on a bike in South Florida, I’d suggest Key Biscayne or South Beach.Viewing the world from a bike, you get a completely different perspective than from your car window. Mangrove Cycles in Key Biscayne has a starting day rate of $20, or two hours for $15.

Posted by Account Deleted at 02:12 PM on October 15, 2010 in College finances , Entertainment , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Walk Filled with Art

Ali Bar

Nothing beats autumn in New York. A little bit ago, on a day with a deep blue sky, a couple friends and I wandered from gallery to gallery in the Tribeca/Chelsea area.  First we made our way over to see the Gerhard Richter show at the Drawing Center on Wooster Street (Still up and I recommend it -- if you like Richter). We also stopped by a Rob Pruitt exhibition. All that art reminded me sadly that, once again, I will miss Art Basel in Miami Beach. But at least there is a plethora of things to do in New York City vs. my college town, Ithaca, N.Y. So I guess I shouldn't complain. The great thing about galleries in and around the Tribeca/Chelsea area is that most are open to the public for free, or they ask for a small donation, which depending on your financial situation, you can choose to give or not. On this lovely day we ended up along the water’s edge where we chatted on an old pier that had been converted into a park. We made our way up the island and hit the Frying Pan, a bar on three boats linked together. I didn't spend any money at the bar, but it was really nice in the late evening sitting on a boat in the Hudson River. Oh so nice.

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A piece from the Richter show.

If anyone knows any good galleries -- beyond the usual suspects -- in and around Miami, feel free to share. I’ll take recommendations for New York too for that matter.  Here’s just a list of a few of the New York museums where you can avoid paying the full admission price:

Frick: Pay what you wish Sundays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Whitney: Pay what you wish Fridays 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jewish Museum: Saturday Free!
MOMA: Friday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free!
Guggenheim: Pay what you wish Saturdays 5:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
New Museum: Thursdays Free!

Here’s another tip: Lots of people already know about Target free + reduced price events, but just in case you don't, Target teamed up with various arts and cultural centers to provide cultural events one day of the week that are either free or reduced in price. In Miami, for example, you can go to the Miami Children's Museum for free on the third Friday of the month. That'll save you the $12-$15 admission price. In Fort Lauderdale, you can go to the Young at Art Children's Museum for free on the first Friday of the month.

Posted by Account Deleted at 08:37 PM on October 12, 2010 in College finances , Coupons , Entertainment , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

 
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