Leveled up

Another justified hiatus, spurned by necessity. The necessity to learn more than I thought I could.

An Unexpected Triumph:

I survived university level Calculus. This is the kind of math that will make you cry or quit. 8 weeks of classes combined with 8 hours of daily, frustrating homework, tests, tutoring, etc. The only skills I was able to leave with was the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus and how to take the area of my cat.

The Costs of Leveling Up

So this is how much the nightmare cost:

Summer School Ouch

I think I overpaid for a class that was HELL to take. It was taught by a nearly senile old man who 1) stank like dirty diapers 2) would constantly forget what he was writing on the board and 3) did not correct anything on time. Visiting him during office hours was HELL because the stench would make you forget all of your questions. I was SO thankful that I did not had to re-take that class.

Learning How to Make My Own Kitch

Cutie introduced me to this program called Blender. This program will enable you to do 3D animation, 3D modeling and 3D printing. I am using it to learn how to make my own 3D models, then print them into game pieces for my board games or how to make my own kitch. There aren’t enough cat themed kitchen items so I’ve decided to start by making my own PLA wine charms:

NappingKittyWineGlassCharm1

Best part about this program: It’s FREE!!

The Worst Part: Not easy to use. You can’t directly 3d print from Blender. But you can use a slicing program that is also FREE called Slic3r (which requires a lot of tweaking!).

I have no clue if this type of skill set will be useful in the Computer Science field. But I am going to add it as part of my skill set because it is satisfying to design and print out your own prototypes.

Grinding Teeth

In order to become a better person, I’ve been going to therapy and following the advice from my therapist. It has been a mixed bag. Not impressed. I am still trying to control my anxiety. My depression has improved since I finished that god-awful class. The fact that I am in school is giving me hope for the future.  I also did not quit coffee because it is my elixir used to reboot my brain in the mornings. I do not feel ashamed about admitting this. My mood would be sour ALL DAY LONG and I would be sapped of energy if I do not drink coffee in the morning.

 

 

 

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Hindsight and Numbers

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This is what most people in the U.S. know about handling money.

 

I think there is a DIRE, no HUGE NEED to include a basic Financial Literacy Class in every high school in the U.S. It is unfortunate that within the current educational system you’d have to be a business major while attending university in order to have access to a Financial Literary class (or classes).  Hell, the university I am currently attending should get rid of that stupid “Welcome to College” 1-credit class and replace it with that.

Head Explode

My friend made the huge mistake of trusting her then-fiance enough to sell her car in order to help him buy a new car and share ownership of such vehicle. After the engagement ended, both her and her ex-fiance are trying to see who will buy the other out from the car. NOTE: The car is not-fully paid, so they are both still on the hook for the monthly payments.

Why is this making my head explode? Because:

1- I advised her NOT to sell her car in order to help her ex-fiance out. This is taking into account her current financial situation, mobility issues and the fact that access to public transportation is a pain-in-the-ass.

2- The ex-fiance has a 30 minute commute and works full time. My friend is a full-time student with no part time job. Guess who will need a car the most?

3-They both had cars that STILL WORKED. His car was fully-functional (but a few years old). His car was the same model as my current 10-year-old car that has NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER. Her car was able to take her from point A to B but not able to endure longer drives. Her car was able to take her to school and back because she lives 10 minutes away from campus. I use the past-tense because they both sold their cars to buy a new Hybrid car they are forced to share (for now) with shitty car payments because they both have shitty credit.

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Pictured above: A an upcoming custody battle

 

Helping pick up the pieces

So far, I am helping her the best way I can:

-Helped her apply for food stamps (she won’t hear anything about it until JULY 😦 ).

-In case she can’t go to where she needs to go, I can give her a lift (within reason). I can’t skip any Calculus classes for her sake. Because it’s UNIVERSITY LEVEL CALCULUS!

-Helping her find part time work. The irony is too bitter and not worth repeating.

-She has access to the university’s food pantry offered to students. As least she won’t starve ( I hope).

What I CAN’T DO:

-Lend money. It’s more like GIVING MONEY in her case. Yes this is harsh but there is a reason why she has shitty credit. Not to mention Cutie would crucify me for it.

-She can ask her parents for money. Whether they will help her out (again) is up to them.

Love is trusting someone, but be aware of your own footing

This sounds harsh, but as I have stated before, we women have the HUGE luck of outliving the men in our lives and our current situations. I am conflicted about my friend’s situation because I also know women who completely trusted the men in their lives and such trust has paid off for them. But even so, having a backup plan (or even playing Devil’s Advocate) may label someone as  paranoid and selfish but it is part of human nature to try to look before jumping into ANYTHING. I know for a fact that someday, the unexpected can happen to me and to all of those women and we would find ourselves trying to swim to some nearby shore. The unexpected has happened to my friend and I am bitter about it.

 

 

Curved Enthusiasm

It has been a long two months, since I last posted.

The focus on academics has paid off: I managed to get a good GPA this semester.

Now for the damage:

Spring Semester Expenses

I managed to save money by doing the following:

1)Choosing a cheaper meal plan

2)Renting my text books through Amazon.com

3)Signing up for 13 credits instead of 14. It made some difference by not having to pay extra fees per credit.

I’ve managed to save some money (wee?), and spent some of it on purchasing a PC netbook/tablet for school:

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ASUS X205TA 11.6 Inch Laptop (Mine has Windows 10)

Apple products are EXPENSIVE and if by some weird circumstance I am forced to use an Apple computer, I can go to the computer lab on campus and use one. With this model, it is light enough to help me carry in my backpack, whether I am cycling to campus or driving to campus. I hope it will not crash once I start programing with it in the fall. Speaking of which, this is how much Summer School is going to cost:

Summer Semester Expenses

(Sob…).

I’ve submitted all of my paperwork for financial aid, so now it is a waiting game. Once it is approved it is going to be less than a semester’s worth of aid. These are the expenses for ONE CLASS, mind you. So I won’t qualify to take out a loan because I’d have to sign up for TWO CLASSES to qualify for one. And all of us students got the unpleasant news of tuition raises this year (BOO!).  The student loan restriction was definitely conjured up by insomniac maniacs who continue to fail poor students in this country. Once again, I am glad I don’t have to borrow to go to school (for now).

SELF-HELP AND NUISANCES

I finally caved in and sought therapy. I thought my depression was well under control (no crying fits or sadness), but the lingering mood of MEH did not change.

I have NO enthusiasm. I am in the constant state of MEHNESS. The best was to describe it is floating in a lake, with little to no waves to surround you. You are not sinking, but you aren’t actively swimming either. You are lethargically floating on the water, not wanting to swim to shore. This state of mind does affect people, especially Cutie.  I couldn’t come up with stuff to do during the short break I had between classes, other than much-delayed errands and house chores.

I tried to push back the idea that this state of MEHNESS is a problem but I couldn’t. Cutie is a WONDERFUL HUSBAND and he deserves the best of me instead of my worst. So I began to bravely muddle through the inadequate mental health system and hope that I won’t fall through the cracks. Or get medicated. I won’t get a definite diagnosis or treatment plan until next month. But at least I can say that I am TRYING. I am TRYING to get better/improve as a person.

Preparing for the long life

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Above: Two Women on a Boat. Artist Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

More than once, I have gotten a few head bumps with Cutie about why I care so much about money. It is not about greed, I countered. But it doesn’t help that I did study Business for 5 years and used that knowledge professionally and to manage our personal finances (so far, so good!). I consider the gain of knowledge successful because it has helped aid in our survival in a industrialized society. However, such successes are short lived because like farming crops, there will be times of harvest and times of drought. This is why I care about money: to survive the droughts.

Some of my single friends have told me how lucky I am to be married because I have someone who will financially have my back in case I lost my job or some catastrophic economic event that would occur. Their views are in hindsight: they don’t realize that all married women at some point or another, will end up living without their husbands because they mostly outlive them or divorce them. They think about the times of harvest but not the times of drought, when you’ve only planned for 20 years of retirement but end up outliving that by more than 20 years because well because nature hates us.

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Above: A monthly reminder

I have seen first hand the family history: all of the women of my family outlived their husbands and once they have became widows, they have scrambled for low paying work because they didn’t qualify (experience or education wise) for decent paying ones. Or found themselves penalized for being out of the job market for too long because of their child-raising and family obligations so they try to seek support from their grown children or from the government in the form of welfare or Social Security payments.  Some got lucky when their children were able to help, some weren’t and were forced to sell their houses and move into public housing.  I don’t want to share such fates. That is why I go to school and switched to a hard field (Computer Science).

In honor of International Women’s Day, we should all celebrate and acknowledge that as women we have many gifts but we also have a major drawback: the longer we live, the more we have to prepare for that long life. We women have to acknowledge that if there are gains in science that will allow us to live longer (men and women alike), we women will more likely out live men even more and with that brings the necessity to plan ahead.  And planning ahead includes financial literacy, continuous education and continuous participation in the workforce.  Because the awful truth is that we are all in the same boat in life and we women will be the ones left sailing after the crew has passed on.

 

 

Breaking Even

That is what I did academically and financially. Did not get a high GPA but did not fail the semester either (and avoided academic probation).  I was feeling pretty down until I was given this book by my in-laws:

mind for numbers

This is the book to read in case you suck in math (including me).  It shows different techniques on how to learn math and why traditional methods used by math teachers are counter intuitive. SPOILER: There is an anecdote of a highly-rated math professor who got a 0.4 GPA during his first year of college.

Redefining Success

The fact that I was able to keep my financial aid in spite of the god-awful semester was a success itself.  Rounding up the numbers I turned out to break even (sort-of):

Educational Break Even

I didn’t include a $25 gift card I got as compensation for taking notes for one of my classes. I am considering signing up as a note taker for more of my classes next semester since I don’t qualify for federal work study.  While others felt guilty about how well off financially they were in the year, I am just glad I didn’t had to borrow money for school.  I was a slave to that debt once and I won’t become a slave again.

Still a Grasshopper

I have been searching for internships, but have determined that I did not qualify for them (yet). This year has been a bust for Computer Science majors: a lot of the companies that wanted to hire students wanted Engineers of all types. Maybe next year there will be more internships.

Holidays

Spent the holidays with Cutie’s in-laws, where there is plenty of snow.  I participated in traditional Scandinavian Christmas Activities such as eating lefse, lutefisk, oyster stew, and a smorgasbord of meats, cheeses and veggies.  Cutie convinced me to build our first snow lantern in front of my inlaws’ house:

First Scandinavian Snow Lantern

 

2016 Plans:

I need to improve my math skills and get my GPA high. And I keep my fingers crossed to see if the classes I need will be offered for the summer and fall. I also want to make time to go to the gym or to ride my bike.  I miss doing those activities.

Frugal OCD and the student life

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It has happened again: after years of not-so-lean living (from working full-time), my frugality has plunged into OCD territory. It could be that becoming a college student again has awakened memories of survival mode from going to college the first time:

– Living on $20 a week. All of that would be spent on ramen, chicken, rice and non-perishables (lots of canned goods!).

-Waiting impatiently for student loans to kick in so that I can afford books and healthier food

-Riding the bus and bumming rides as much as possible during the evening and walking during the day.

-Paranoia due to living among kleptomaniacs in the women’s dorms (have lost a few things in spite of being extra-careful with my stuff).

Except this time, my mind knows I am not living in those same circumstances anymore, yet whenever I walk into the library, I gasp at my ability to estimate how much money is in one room by counting the amount of Macbooks, iPads and iPhones students have on them ($32,000-$40,000 worth).  What boggles my mind is that NO ONE is afraid of anyone stealing their stuff. I thought the campus was a low-crime zone until I checked the crime report the university posts yearly: 390 on-campus thefts per year. In a place where university attendance reaches 26,000, it would look like a drop in the bucket for some. When I bought my first laptop, I waited until I was required to take an accounting class that required the use of their bookkeeping program. Since the university labs that housed that program closed at 6PM, I had to bite the bullet and buy one (and bought a lock with it!).

Once I leave the campus and returned home, my eyes try to adjust my mind to my current reality: Married. Not living with 3 other girls in a 400 ft space with locked possessions. Healthy food in the fridge. Have easy access to transportation. Not panicking on how to make my last $5 last until Sunday.  But my mind can’t completely adjust away from my impulse to take frugality a step further.

Example: Making my own fragrance free, dye free laundry detergent

Made with Castille soap!

Made with Castille soap!

Or growing my own herbs:

Organic Basil to the left, Organic Mustard to the right

Organic Basil to the left, Organic Mustard to the right

-Popping corn and taking a bagful to campus so that I can avoid the temptation of spending $8 or so for lunch on campus.

I am not sure if this is due to a huge generation shift, the fact that I am living in the US (or both) but there are a few truths that need to be published out there:

-Economic prosperity has increased and has somehow trickled down to those who are preparing to enter the workforce full-time or changing careers. So many students own cars that parking is a huge problem (even with THREE parking decks)!

-Luxuries are cheap, whereas necessities are expensive (electronics are more attainable than health care and healthy food). It used to be the other way around when I was 18.

-There are over 100 study abroad programs being offered to google-eyed students that want to live abroad and study at the same time! I suspect there has to be A LOT of students who have well-to-parents who can afford the $14,000-per-semester price tag on sending their kids to a school that will give credits without proof of increasing the job prospects after graduation. Seriously, $14,000 is a year’s worth of tuition without leaving the damn state! I blame the university for this carrot-dangling crap (the professors are the willing accomplices of this. If enough students sign up for these, the professors do get to go on these trips on the cheap!).

-Students have an advantage of finding part-time work over non-students. This did not occur while I was in in school: it was completely backwards in my case. The only way I could have gotten fast-food work was if I were on food-stamps and were a single mother. The rest of the job listings required 5 years experience for $8 an hour. That was 10 years ago. Now with the increase in service jobs, with some creative juggling a student can work and study (or donate plasma for $250 a month!).

Has anyone else noticed these things? What do you think?

I still hate you FAFSA

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(WARNING: RANT) I should not have filled out that damn form last night (and lost sleep due to making calculations in my head over how to afford college for my second degree). But since it is a requirement from the university I am applying to (and hopefully get a scholarship for books), I did it anyway. Why would I go for a second degree? Because, as I have told my academic adviser bluntly: “No one will take me seriously as a programmer unless I have a degree to back it up”. Case in point: a friend of mine who is an excellent coder/programmer with over 10+ years of experience can not find work in her field because employers kept passing her over for programmers with actual degrees. So she is also going back to school.

For those not familiar with the FAFSA acronym, it is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid available for graduating high school students, graduate college students, current college students, etc. attending or going to attend a U.S. university or college.  For those familiar with it, the FAFSA is a double-edge sword that was made to troll and hold applicants in suspense before the start of the school year.

My first experience with the FAFSA was confusing and bittersweet: it was the first piece of paper that made me felt so happy that I was an unemployed and broke college student. Since my parents couldn’t help me financially (based on their tax returns and constant unemployment), I managed to secure the maximum Pell Grant (financial need-based aid) every year. But it wasn’t enough for all of my college expenses (food, books, student housing). So I had to borrow money to make ends meet. I have considered every year during my undergrad years the option of living at home and saving some money. The turbulent and unstable situation at my parents’ house would made it impossible for me to live with my mother (and would have forced me to drop out).  I have even tried to find employment during my college years, only to find that I was TOO broke to afford transportation to drive to work (public transportation was non-existent).  Every year that passed and I borrowed, I prayed that my Expected Family Contribution (or EFC) would turn to $0. Every year I hoped that by the time I finished college I would find the kind of job that would help me pay those loans back and hoped never to borrow again. 

Except that didn’t happen for 2 years after graduation. Due to economic hard ship, I deferred my loans as long as possible. When I finally did found work, although I paid large amounts every month, NONE of my payments were going towards the principal, rather towards the projected interest of my loans. This BS was happening in spite of consolidating my loans. This would mean that in 20 years I would have ended up paying over $50,000 for a $38,000 loan. Because the lending company championed by my alma mater felt it can extend my loan as long as it wants, regardless of my large payments. So, fed-up with their BS, I paid off the entire amount and basically told Sallie Mae to go fuck themselves. After this whole crap was over, I swore never to touch that FAFSA again for anything as long as I lived.

Except that I did after nearly 10 years of not going to school.

I am no longer a broke college student limited to that damn FAFSA application.  I was lucky enough to get financial aid that did not involve using that damn FAFSA that can help cover most of my expenses.  But even though that application has changed since I last filled it out, it STILL trolls students and prospective students with the following:

a) It’s good to be flat broke. If you are unable to qualify for merit based aid, unable to serve in the military or not have rich parents (or a trust fund), then the FAFSA is your only recourse.

b) Short change people who have paid taxes for years from using some of the federal aid to go to school in order to advance into becoming a more skilled work force. A skilled work force means higher paying jobs and more taxes paid to the government. Do you have a job? Sorry, no aid other than a loan. Do you have savings? Sorry, but you should spend all of them, regardless of your other needs (medical bills, transportation, etc.)

c) Borrow irresponsibly. Apparently you can’t even accept the information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to help calculate how much you can earn in your field or how the job market will be after you graduate. From personal experience, it is best to expect 20% less than average, assuming you don’t feel like hustling for a raise in pay or you are unable to.  Unless you’ve graduated from an Ivy League school.

Which leads to:

d) Unless you get all of your expenses paid with scholarships and grants, borrowing means you will be broke after graduation. No matter how hard you try. Even if you are lucky to find work before graduating, the first few months are going to be slim: purchasing your own health and car insurance, rent, groceries and other work related expenses do add up. If you chose the wrong kind of loan (a private one) you are royally screwed: the loan companies don’t have to cut your slack on your payments and charge you more interest than the federal ones.  And then there is the job market you are forced to look in. It is much like borrowing money to escape from poverty only to continue or fall into greater poverty after school is over. The FAFSA needs some SERIOUS reform. Universities and colleges need to stop relying on these damn applications to see if a student needs financial help. EVERYONE who has worked and paid their taxes should be able to receive unchained help from the government and not rely on loans.