Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Our Honeymoon to Ireland: Day 1: Dublin March 16, 2015

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 7:40 pm
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I suppose I should actually start this trip with Day 0:  leaving Boston.  Our flight left Boston at 9pm Monday night (June 30th), and we tried to get a little bit of sleep on the flight.

We arrived in Dublin July 1 at 8am Dublin time, which is equivalent to 3am Boston time…so we were a little bit sleepy still.

Picked up our rental car, making the executive decision that I would be the sole driver experiencing driving on the other side of the street.

We drove to our hotel, and attempted to check in, but we were too early.  We got advice and a map from the hotel concierge so we could explore Dublin for a bit before our room was ready.  Got our first Irish Breakfast of the trip at Candy Cafe per the recommendation of the concierge.  It would be the first of many Irish Breakfasts.

We continued on our walk, stopping by the Garden of Remembrance, and heading down Parnell Square East–>Cavendish –> O’Connell Street Upper.

Made our way to the Trinity College campus, and hung out in a lovely courtyard.   Saw a very cool sculpture commemorating the Nobel Prize won by Ernest T.S. Walton.

Apples and Atoms

At this point, we sat down in the courtyard to review our next steps.  It was at that moment that we realized just how insanely exhausted we were.  While I tried to read through my guide books, my husband fell asleep on me.  Then I started nodding off.  So we made our way back to the hotel to take a nap.  We weren’t really going to make much progress without some sleep.

After a nice long nap, we headed back downtown the same way, and briefly popped into the National Gallery of Ireland, but they were just about to close, so we got only about 15 minutes worth of art.  We then explored the fun sculptures and lovely greenery of Merrion Square Park.  Then we made our way to the Temple Bar area to meet up with some of our friends!  They had actually been at our wedding, then flew out to start their Ireland vacation as well!  We had dinner at at The Port House.  It was a traditional tapas bar.  Not the most Irish option, but it was really delicious.  We laughed when we saw that one of our “vegetable” options on the menu was deep fried cheese with honey.  Of course we ordered that as one of our options!  (and that wasn’t the only time we had fried cheese that week.  Because why not?)

We grabbed some gelato nearby for dessert, then explored more of Trinity College, including watching some of the World Cup game at The Pav, the campus bar.  We started feeling sleepy again during the game, so we made our way back to our hotel.

Great way to kick off our honeymoon!

Here are a few photos from our first day in Ireland!

 

Reviewing 2014: Looking ahead to 2015 January 4, 2015

Filed under: General Blogging,Personal Finance,Travel — Stephanie @ 1:56 pm
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Happy New Year!

As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent on the blog since September. Partially because after my post about our honeymoon, I realized I felt weird talking about all the places we went in Ireland on our honeymoon. If I ever feel un-weird about it in the future, I’ll try to post more about it. Sorry for that.

The other reason you haven’t seen a lot of me is because I felt like I’d run out of things to talk about. This blog started out as a way for me to research, share, and get help on all the big personal finance choices that happen early on in our adult lives. Well, I got through most of that, and had started talking more about fitness. But I feel like I know what I like doing for fitness, so I ran out of things to talk about there.

So, where does that leave things?

I still did some pretty great things this year. I even blogged about a few of them!
The big one, of course, was getting married! It was such a blast, and I’m so happy how everything went (and, you know, the whole “being married” part is pretty excellent).

Other side thoughts:
First trip to Europe under my belt
Finally got my (now) husband to sign up for a Roth IRA (and got advice from all of you on the best place to open a Roth)
Walked all 20 miles of the Walk for Hunger and raised over $3000 ($3,318.87 to be exact!)

Other things I did this year? A lot of them are related to the “married finances” thing.
-We opened up a joint checking account. Most of our accounts are still separate, but it’s a first step to figuring out shared finances
-We moved my husband onto my car insurance to lower our rates, and reviewed our coverage levels to make sure we had the right amount.
-We also moved my husband onto my health insurance plan, which also helps save money and make the whole insurance things just a tiny bit easier to manage
-We started checking out (term) life insurance to try to figure out how much we needed and how much it would cost us.
-We signed up for a legal plan through my work (for ~$100) that gives us free use of some local lawyers so we can draw up legal documents like Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Proxies (more stuff you don’t want to have to think about, but you have to think about).  It seemed like a more economical choice to use my company’s legal plan than paying a local lawyer for these documents.

Looking ahead to 2015, I hope to get back into blogging.  There are some more things on my to do list when it comes to money and health/fitness.  And so hopefully I will remain a part of this blogging community.  I’m much more active on twitter, so feel free to join me in discussions over there.  And let me know what you’d like to hear about from me.

How do you get over the slump of “I have nothing left to write about”?  How was your 2014?  What do you hope to hear from me in 2015?

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

 

Our Honeymoon to Ireland: Intro September 13, 2014

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 10:00 am
Tags: , ,

Ireland Double Rainbow

Well, after our awesome wedding, we had to follow it up with an awesome honeymoon, right?

My (now) husband and I haven’t really been on many vacations in awhile.  We’ll take long weekend trips to visit family or up to Vermont or other nearby places.  But we tend not to jet off for a week on vacation.  We’ve gone on plenty of mini-vacations in the forms of traveling to friends’ weddings.  In fact, the last wedding we went to was in Florida, so we added a few days on to the end of the trip and went to Disney World (his first time!).  It was actually going to be cheaper to get a Disney hotel room and park tickets than trying to fly home the Sunday after the wedding, so I combined the “we’re going to be in Florida anyway” idea with the “I swear it’s cheaper just to go to Disney World instead of flying straight home” idea.  I think it worked out 🙂

Anyway, as I was saying, we haven’t gone on any really long vacations in years.  In fact, our last international trip was to Nicaragua, back in 2007!  Most flying we’ve done was for friends weddings or for work.

Here was one problem we had.  Neither of us had ever been to Ireland.  I’d never actually been to Europe!  So, we were a bit lost as to how exactly to plan a trip to a completely new place.  The honeymoon planning ended up being an additional stressor for me on top of the wedding, since even though I knew what country we were going to, I didn’t know how to pick where to go or what to do.

Here’s the two things that worked for us.

-We bought a vacation package.  There’s tons of them out there, and sometimes you can find really amazing deals.  I saw a few posted on Groupon, and I started getting mailers from lots of different companies with their different travel packages.  Granted, trying to decide on these was again a bit confusing.  We finally settled on going with an Aer Lingus vacation package after hearing good things about Aer Lingus from a friend’s sister living in Ireland. (Two notes:  I don’t know if they’re actually really great, we only had this one experience with them, but it was pretty good.  Another note, as usual, I would tell you if I’m promoting a product or brand on behalf of that product or brand.  Don’t worry, I’m not promoting Aer Lingus.  I just wanted to let you know what we did!)  Anyway, we ended up going with the Emerald B&B Package (Dublin).  This included airfare, a car rental (which we upgraded to automatic, neither of us drive manual and weren’t planning on learning AND driving on the left side of the road!), a hotel room for the first night, and vouchers for B&Bs for the rest of the nights.  We picked this package for a few reasons:  1.  It was still available for the time we were planning on traveling (we procrastinated on booking our vacation by a bit) 2. We liked the idea of being on our own schedule (driving ourselves) rather than on being on a tour group’s schedule 3.  We liked the idea of staying at B&Bs rather than at hotels.  It seemed like we’d get a more authentic experience (which maybe sounds corny or naive or ignorant, but hey, that was our thought process).

-We checked out some guide books.  Having been dreaming of going to Ireland for at least a decade, I’ve gotten a few guide books over the years.  But some of those were a bit outdated.  So, I asked friends for newer book recommendations.  The one we liked using on our trip was Frommer’s EasyGuide to Ireland 2014.  For the purpose of planning our trip, we liked “The Best of Ireland in 1 Week” section that we found in Frommer’s Ireland 2011 (starting on page 92).  It gave a nice layout of what to try to hit while you’re in Ireland so you can see the main things and still make it to what you want.

Besides going on what the guidebooks said, we asked friends who a had been to Ireland for advice and suggestions.  We also considered the fact that we’d like to get a mix of historical things (castles/museums/cathedrals) and nature (natural parks and hikes).  We booked our B&Bs based on where we approximately thought we wanted to go.

I plan on blogging about each day of our trip in more detail.  Stay tuned, but check out our schedule below:

Day 1:  Dublin
Day 2:  Dublin to Kilkenny
Day 3:  Kilkenny to Kinsale
Day 4:  Kinsale to Killarney
Day 5: Kilarney with a brief trip to Kenmare
Day 6:  Kilarney to Doolin
Day 7:  Doolin to Galway by way of The Burren
Day 8:  Galway to Dublin to Boston

Check back soon!

 

Updates and Link Love (powered by snacks, naps, and tired legs) July 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food,Travel — Stephanie @ 10:11 am
Tags: , , ,

Inspired by many of you (especially NZ Muse, with her link loves powered by assorted things)

These past few weekends were awesome.  So I’m going to share about them.  And stay tuned to the end for some links to blog posts by other bloggers that I really enjoyed this week.

2 weekends ago, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit.  They haven’t visited in ages, so we packed the weekend with lots of food and fun!

Food:  Instead of taking them to the tourist traps (we considered them, but too pricey/overrated!), we took them to some of our favorite local restaurants.  I’ll share the list with you, but don’t all go there, or there will never be any room for me! 🙂

Tenoch Mexican, Delicious Mexican food (especially, in my opinion, their tortas and horchata)
Boston Burger Company (epic burgers with all sorts of awesome)
Trident Booksellers and Cafe (both times I’ve been there, I’ve gotten their Lemon Ricotta French Toast.  Also, they have Poutine!)
Flatbreads (you can’t go wrong with their salads, pizza, and beer (though we forgot to leave room for their desserts!))

Fun:  Friday was museum day:  Isabella Stewart Gardner museum AND the Museum of Fine Arts Boston!  We managed to get discounted prices by getting passes from the local library.  Quite a few of the libraries around here offer passes for free or discounted tickets to the area’s top tourist locations.  Definitely a deal.  Other discounts to try:  Your employer, AAA, or other memberships (especially teacher’s unions).  Walking throughout both museums definitely tired us out!

Saturday, we amped up our walking by touring Boston on foot.  Parked in Kenmore square, then walked down Commonwealth, Newbury, and Boylston all the way to Boston Public Garden, then through to Boston Common, where we started walking on the Freedom Trail.  We didn’t take an official tour, but followed the red brick/painted line all the way to Faneuil Hall and the Union Oyster House.  At that point, we decided it was time to head home.  But instead of taking the T back to Kenmore, we walked ALL THE WAY BACK!  This time crossing past City Hall, then going back through the Common and Garden, then taking the tree-lined (i.e. shaded) walkway on Commonwealth all the way back.

Yes, we tired ourselves out.

The following week included the 4th of July in Boston(we watched the awesome fireworks from Storrow Drive), then a drive up to Vermont for some relaxing.  Well, not JUST relaxing.  We also went for an early morning hike up (and down) Mt. Abraham (total time: 3hrs 36 minutes, which included a few stops along the way to enjoy the view), and then headed to the Farmer’s Market to walk around and enjoy some tasty food.  The rest of that weekend was really just lots of reading books and napping.  YES.

Speaking of books, I just finished reading Helaine Olen‘s book, Pound Foolish, about the dark side of the personal finance industry.  I’ll try to write up a review of that soon.  And I’m most of the way through Paddy Hirsch‘s Man vs. Markets.  I’ll review that as well once I’m done.

Oh, and if all that walking and hiking wasn’t enough, I’ve ramped back up my running.  So that might also cause some tired legs.  Though I have started wearing the ProCompression socks I got recently.  I’d heard good stuff about them, and compression gear in general, so I figured I’d buy a pair to try them out.  I tend to wear them after runs/to bed.  (and I wore them on the 4th of July, because the pair I got was so darn patriotic!) A few friends on twitter had asked what I thought of them, so here’s my short review:  it feels good to wear them after a run.  I don’t know if they’re actually helping with faster recovery as most compression gear is supposed to do.  But they do make my legs feel better.  (p.s. I bought them on sale, and apparently all their stuff is on sale for 40% off+ free shipping until August 4th using the coupon code JULY)

And now for the link love I promised.  Just two today, but I did read a lot of good stuff this week:

Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks wrote about the latest idea discussed this week regarding paying for college.  The proposal:  Instead of taking out loans, you pay a percentage of your salary for the next 20-25 years after college.  Krystal touched on quite a few of the points I was thinking of, and the commenters have also made some really excellent points as well.  Check out her post!

I happened across a post from someone I hadn’t been following before, but I really liked it (and will now follow her :P) She wrote about how she’s gotten sick of the health and fitness “ambassador” programs.  If you’re unfamiliar with these programs, they’re basically blogging/social media networks that, at their core, are just groups of people interested in health and fitness.  But many of these programs connect with brands, and then the bloggers are given free stuff in exchange for tweeting/facebooking/blogging about the brands or products.  And so Carly wrote about how she wont be involved in any of this branded speech from now on.  I agree with her on many points.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love free stuff as much as the next person, and will review things that I like (and even some stuff that I’ve even gotten for free!), but I want to be open and honest and not have to conform to a brand’s marketing plan.  I tweet about brands I genuinely love, and review books I’ve read and products I’ve tried.  I have reviewed things in the past that I’ve experienced for free, but have always disclosed it, and I hope you never would think I’m trying to market anything to you.  I like sharing my opinions on things, so hopefully you enjoy reading them and know that they’re completely honest!  Please let me know if you ever think I’m not keeping up with this standard!

Well, that’s over 1000 words in one not-so-short update.  I guess I had a lot to say.  Maybe I should try to update more often, eh?

So, have you recently been a tourist in your own town?  Do you only check out the sites when tourists are visiting?  Have you tried any of the restaurants I mentioned?  Do you have another favorite restaurant to add to the list?

Read any good books lately?  Found any awesome links you’d like to share?

What do you think of Krystal and Carly’s posts?  Agree or disagree with their stance?

Don’t worry, more blog posts coming soon, including more of the Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup series, some book reviews, and plenty more.  I’m still blogging!

 

A weekend trip to Knight Island July 22, 2012

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 8:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes it’s good to get away.  Last weekend, my boyfriend and I took a weekend trip away from home to relax.

We went to a place without internet, without TV…

And without indoor plumbing

IMG_1929 No one said anything about outhouses…

We drove up to Vermont, about halfway up Lake Champlain to stay at Knight Island.  My boyfriend’s brother is the Ranger for the island this summer, and we were invited to stay with him on his island.

IMG_1881

Welcome to a relaxing weekend on Knight Island!

Knight Island is small.  I mean, REALLY small.  Check out the map!  So we were able to hike all around the island fairly easily, visit all the campgrounds, and see some pretty great views!

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I also met my new best friend:

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Mica, the best dog EVER

Mica is the awesomest dog I’ve ever met.  Wes (the Ranger) has been a foster parent to dogs at the local humane society, taking care of dogs for a few weeks until someone adopts them.  Mica had just arrived earlier on the day we came up.  She was so friendly and loving!  It made me wish we had our own house with a big yard so that we could adopt her.

We actually went canoeing with Mica in the boat.  It was a little tricky, since she liked being in laps, and she first tried to be in my boyfriend, Aaron’s lap, which meant that my end of the boat was out of the water!  To balance it out better, we had her sitting near me.  It only made the paddling a little trickier, trying to row without elbowing her!

For more pictures from our trip, you can check them out here.

We had a great time.  It really was nice just to get away and not think about anything.  We caught up on some reading, some sleeping, and just enjoying nature.

I really like weekend trips like this.  They don’t require a lot of planning or money, which seem to be the two things that have been stopping me from going on a big trip:  I don’t like planning/making decisions, and you know I’m not a big fan of spending money!  I also like these trips because they’re so low key and relaxing.

When’s the last time you took a quick weekend trip away?  Where did you go?

 

June Wrap-up: I spent a lot edition July 3, 2009

Filed under: Personal Finance,Travel — Stephanie @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

June really was a busy month for me.  Work was pretty hectic, and I managed to spend quite a bit of money!

One big ticket item (or collection of items) was reserving flights and hotel rooms for Pi Reunion.  For you non-MIT people, it’s yet another example of our true geekiness:  we’re getting together ~3.14 years after graduation.  Yep, we’re nerds.  And as with years past, it’ll be held in Las Vegas (which my coworkers find funny, that the casinos are going to let a bunch of MIT people in…haven’t they seen “21“?)

Well, so there was a registration fee, which covered getting a group rate on the hotel room, and a few other events, including a show.  Then there was the hotel room itself.  And lastly, the flights…oh the flights.  My boyfriend and I were both hoping the other would take care of finding flights…which meant that I only got our tickets a week or so ago.  So, there were fewer options, and the flights were pricier.  Lesson learned.  I also discovered that, even if those travel websites are useful, it’s still quite the headache searching the different sites (like Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline), as well as the airline sites themselves to look for the best deal.  Finally found something I could live with through Priceline (thanks William Shatner!), and bought tickets.  Bought both our tickets at the same time to make things easier.  And already got Aaron to pay me his half of the flight costs!

Hopefully I wont spend too much more money gambling!

I also hit 10k miles on my odometer.  Last time I went for the recommended tuneup (5k miles), I was able to convince the salesman that it was worth it to give me that for free, after all the trouble I had getting my car to begin with.  No luck this time around.  So that was ~$100 gone.  Going to try to look for deals/coupons in the future to see if I can get the tuneups cheaper in the future.  The salesman did try to sell me a Prius.  Apparently 10k miles is just too much to put on one car!  I laughed at him…I’m assuming he was joking?

I got quite a few emails from Mint alerting me to the fact that I went over my spending limit in my budget for 4 different categories.  And my credit card sent me email alerts for expenses over $100 (I had set up this alert a while back).  So I knew I was getting pretty spendy.

I do know that there were really only a few big purchases, and I’m not planning on continuing to spend like this in the future.  The good news is that, somehow, I managed to squeak by this month and actually get into positive net worth territory.  Next month it will be even better, I’m sure.  I also realized that I’ve actually been tracking my networth (at NetworthIQ) for two whole years already!  And in that time, my networth has gone up ~$48k.  I’m pretty proud of that.  I’m not going to stop now.  It’s actually made me even more excited to eliminate my student loans and car loan.

Next goal:  eliminate a loan from my list (car, or one of the many student loans).  Thinking I should get rid of the car loan first, since it’s at a higher interest rate (if I can figure out how to do prepayment with the credit union my car loan is with).  In the meantime, also paying extra on those student loans!

How are you doing at staying within your budget, and meeting your goals?

 

Whitewater rafting and camping over the weekend July 23, 2008

Filed under: Boston,Travel — Stephanie @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

This past weekend, I went camping and whitewater rafting in Millinocket, Maine.  And it was AWESOME.  One of my friends has been setting up rafting trips for a few years now, coordinating a bunch of his friends to drive up to Big Moose Inn and Campgrounds and go rafting on the Penobscot River with North Country Rivers.  Every year, the group grows.  This year, we had 32 people in our group!  Basically, people have fun, then the next year, they invite all their friends to come along.  There are different people in charge of different tasks, which really helps.  Hopefully he doesn’t mind me copying his list for your benefit.

Quartermaster – Before trip needs to make sure we have miscellaneous stuff like buckets to clean dishes, rope and garbage bags.  On trip is in charge of all this stuff and makes sure it gets back to correct owner.
Mess Captain – Head of kitchen.  Will go grocery shopping with me the Thursday before the trip.  Manages food and makes sure cleanup happens after each meal.  They also decide who gets to cook.  (This may need to be multiple people)
BoozeCom – Needs to have a hat to pass around.  Will take requests from the group and should get us enough beverages to not get thirsty on Saturday night.  We might have two this year, one to stop at a liquor store and the other to get beer at a supermarket (yeah Maine).
FireCom – Responsible for burners and our main fire.
Concierge – This person only needs to help me before the trip.  They need to help me make sure we have enough tents for the trip.  (Or enough volunteers to sleep under the stars…)
The “Concierge” also ended up taking everyone’s preferences on who they do or don’t want to be in a tent with (best friends, snorers, bedwetters, etc.) and figuring out where everyone is going to sleep.  The Mess Captain made a great choice in chopping up all the fixings for our food prior to the trip (we put chicken or beef in tin foil with seasonings and vegetables for our main meal).  He didn’t have to worry about lunch the day we went rafting…the rafting company provided it.
We sorted ourselves by how hard-core we wanted to be about rafting…whether we were hoping to get by without getting wet (which is IMPOSSIBLE!) or wanted to pay the rafting guides to upturn your boat.
I went last year, and it was just as exciting then as it was this last time.  I’m pretty much not a very adventurous person, but whitewater rafting is just so exhilarating and exciting!  One girl in my raft noted that she was so excited that she was scared!  And really, I think a little fear makes it that much more fun.
I highly recommend going rafting.  It’s pretty awesome.  And camping with a bunch of friend, and meeting new people in the process is pretty great too.