the time i should have read my email more closely

My trip to Thailand and Cambodia was amazing…and possibly the least planned out trip I’ve ever been on that involved anyone other than myself. When I’m alone, I don’t care a bit about plans. When there’s someone else around and I feel like I’m in charge, then I care a lot. That said, the first part of my trip was pretty well set because I knew I wanted to go diving and I got there the very last weekend the Similan Islands (a national park) would be open for divers. Or at least I thought it was well planned out.

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Welcome to Thailand…at the Bangkok airport

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My ghetto fabulous room at the dive by the Bangkok airport. Totally worth the $20 it cost which included free airport transfer.

I left Tokyo Thursday evening and spent Thursday night at this crazy/random/cheap h–otel (motel?) near the airport in Bangkok so I could get on my 8am flight to Phuket the following morning. With no ideal flight schedules, this was the best option, and it meant that Friday was spent lying on the beach and getting a massage at the lovely resort where I’d booked myself. This was the most expensive portion of my trip, by far, but it was totally worth it.

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Well, I woke up Saturday morning, checked my big bag with the bellhop (I was going to be staying at the same hotel when I returned from my night at sea…this was good planning on my part). So, 5:50 passes, then 6:00, then 6:10. At this point, I’m starting to get a little panicked. I got to my email to find the guys number from the dive operator and, as I read the email, I saw that his confirmation email was, in fact, confirming the wrong date. I had say the 27th and 28th, he had confirmed for pickup on the 28th. This was not good. So, I call the 24 hour number (bless this diver operator and their 24-hour service) and I’m informed, very nicely, that it’s too late for me to get picked up, but if I can get a ride to Khao Lak, he would call to see if there was room on the boat for me that night.

So, I’m waiting for him to make a couple of phone calls and asking the front desk about a taxi to Khoa Lak. I am told it will be $120. I realize that sounds crazy, but considering how much I’ve already invested and that I have to be on a flight Monday evening to meet my friend in Bangkok and you can’t fly within 24-hours of diving, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t do it. The kicker, though, was that I needed to be there in 90 minutes and the drive, if traffic and all of the elements combined cooperated, would be at least 90 minutes.

Here’s where I do well in a crisis (realizing that this is hardly a crisis in the grand scheme of things, but felt that way at the time). I am a pragmatist. I think through the situation, find the best possible solution, and move forward with it. I may have a moment of emotion, but then my rational brain kicks in and reminds me that emotions are pointless in such situations as they cannot do anything to help.

At this point, the desk clerk is calling the dive shop guy to confirm that I can get on the boat (I could) and where I need to be dropped off so he could explain it to the taxi driver. I confirm that I will pay cash for the ride. The taxi driver shows up and we’re off.

Where I don’t do well in a crisis is when there is driving involved and I’m not the one doing it. But, amazingly, in a world where you can never count on a taxi driver, I got one that drove just as I would drive. And I could see the determination in his eyes to get me there in time. Not because he really cared about me getting there, but because he wanted to prove he could do it. And that was just the determination I was looking for. And 90 LONG minutes later, I made it. I was on the speed boat, awaiting the arrival of the others who were to come as well. Seriously, I wish I had caught the name of the desk clerk and taxi driver (I asked for them, but me and foreign names don’t always understand one another so well…) because they were both champs.

And that covers my first 36 hours of a 10 day trip. More to come…

a restaurant resolution – week two

Before I jump into this post, the update on the PhD is that I will be seeing him tomorrow. And then there will be a real update.

Back to the resolution.

I am learning a lot about myself. A. Lot. About how I spend money. About how much I don’t pay attention to how much things cost. About how I am not really good with delayed gratification. I’m also learning that if I challenge myself to do something, it’s way better than just “trying to do better” which tends to be my M.O. when it comes to money.

Here’s the thing. I make pretty good money. I should not have to live paycheck to paycheck. And yet I have been (and will continue to do so) because I am trying to recover from years of not delaying any gratification. So, it has been really fun (yeah, I know, weird) to actually feel like I have some control. Like I can do this. Like there might be a light at the end of this tunnel that includes short term savings. (I’m not completely financially inept. I do have long term savings.)

I know, you thought this was just about eating out. But it’s not, apparently. I’m as surprised as anyone. I have started reading price tags and make choices based on cost. Tonight, in fact, I was at the Whole Foods (before you start judging, just know that in NYC, Whole Foods is not really more expensive than almost any other grocery store…at least not the things I purchase) and I really wanted strawberries, but they were really expensive and I only had a certain amount of money to spend to stay under budget and so I had to make some choices. And thus, I went for the cheaper apples. I know that might sound lame, but it was a big deal for me.

I guess what I’m learning is that I can’t have everything I want all the time.

That said, I did get takeout one night because I didn’t have food or time to go to the grocery store. But I was very careful about what I ordered. I got a roasted chicken for $10 that served as three meals. I actually feel fine about that choice. What I don’t feel fine about was my Saturday night pop into the grocery store where I made some impulse grocery purchases; ready to eat items that cost way more than they were worth.

So, this week I stayed under budget, but only by a couple of dollars which included a $20 train ticket to the beach and a $13 movie. Yes…I know…the movies need to go at some point. Baby steps. I also need to start buying gum at Costco (if only I had a Costco card). I have a gum habit that’s seriously as expensive as a smoking habit. It’s like a pack a day. Serious issue.

Next week. No movie. No beach. One meal out because I got invited to a dinner with people I don’t normally hang out with and I can’t completely end my social life. But I am giving myself a budget for that meal out and it’s an authentic Thai place in Queens, so it’s not expensive. (Yes, justifying.)

a restaurant resolution – week one

So, week one without restaurants ended yesterday and it was pretty dang successful.

I have to confess that I did go out to lunch once…because I had to for work. Not the kind of “had to” like all of my coworkers were going out and I didn’t want to be left out, but “had to” like my manager asked me to take my new coworker to lunch on her first day because my manager was out of town and it was on my manager. Which, I think, means I can still call it a perfect week. I didn’t lose money and I got a very healthy salad and nothing else totally keeping the “spirit” of the resolution.

I can’t tell you the number of times, though, that I thought, “Oh, I’ll just grab something at…” before remembering that, oh, no I wouldn’t. And once I got past the first two days sans Diet Coke, I wasn’t moody or grumpy or anything like it. In fact, I’ve felt pretty amazing all week!

And the dollar verdict: $20 under budget. And my budget is tight. And I’ve never not gone over my budget…by a lot (was there even a point in having a budget?). I would count this a success. I feel very good about myself.

This coming week, there are no “eating out” obligations but I am volunteering at the Mets game on Friday and I get to go for free and who goes to baseball games with out eating at the ballpark??? I’m just going to have to deal with it because there is no excuse…meaning I have to pack my lunch and dinner to work. I will have to buy a water bottle because I won’t be allowed in with my own. But a $4 bottle of water (are you throwing up a little in your mouth right now) is a lot better than a $4 bottle of water, $5 for a hot dog (if I’m lucky) and whatever treat I would normally get.

I don’t think this is going to be my new MO, but I do think that it is going to help me be much more cognizant of how I spend money and the things I think are worth the spend and the things I think aren’t. This might make me a little less popular with my friends, but…I think they’ll understand. They’re all being very supportive right now. Hopefully it continues.

a resolution

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I have been a little obsessed with food trucks lately…because they are amazing! Just around the corner from my new office is a food truck lot and every day there are three different trucks, usually two food and one treat. And I have been taking full advantage of the trucks. Just one more reason to love living in a big city. Here’s a little look at the delicious treats:

Kimchi Taco
VanLeeuwen
Desi
Je and Jo

Rickshaw

And then, the other day, I realized that I was eating out breakfast (okay, it doesn’t really count because I just buy a banana from the fruit guy by my building for $0.25, but I’m still eating out), lunch, and dinner. Almost every day. Almost every meal. Not only is this not the best idea for my waistline…it’s also not the best idea for my bank account. I have a weekly budget and I was blowing it. Every. Week. And then this whole hurricane thing happened and I thought about food storage, and how I need to keep on top of it and rotating through the food…which would require me eating that food.

So, an idea was born and a resolution was made. For the month of September (well, really from yesterday until I fly to Utah the first week of October) I am not going to eat out. At all. (Although the fruit in the morning after my run I’m not counting because it’s as cheap as the grocery store.)

I went grocery shopping Monday night, and even with shopping at Whole Foods and purchasing organic whenever possible…I was well under my weekly budget. I know I’m only on day two, but already I feel better and I’m less stressed about money. It might put a little bit of a wrench in my social life this month, but it also means I’ll be a little more creative when it comes to time with friends.

I realize that this would not be a big deal for some of you…but until you’ve lived in New York as a singleton, I don’t know that you can understand just how dependent you can become on restaurants for your survival (okay…maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get it is kind of dramatic). So, don’t judge me or think that this will be easy. Just wish me luck. It’s going to be…interesting. And at the end of the month, maybe I’ll have a new plan. One that’s a little less extreme, but that helps me stay on track, both physically and financially. Maybe?

Oh, and I’ve also cut out Diet Coke. Now do you feel concerned for my survival?

shoes

I love them. And today, I went to purchase a pair I’ve been wanting for a couple of months. My new favorite brand of shoes is Miz Mooz. They are comfortable and made for city living; heels that stand up to the stairs and cobblestone, as well as the miles of walking we do here in New York. I actually discovered them a while ago, but they are now my go-to brand.

Anyway, I decided that I would go to my favorite place to buy them (other than Nordstrom), Infinity Shoes on Broadway just south of 4th Street. I walked in and found the boots I wanted. I looked at the price; $50 less than I thought they were. So, what does a mathematically inclined girl do. Realize that she has an additional $50 to spend. And of course, because it was “extra” money (my dad loves this logic), I decided I could splurge on a pair that I didn’t need. (Yes, I needed the black boots.)

No buyer’s remorse here. Just excited to wear the new oxfords to church tomorrow!