Tag Archives: holidays

Happy Holidays from your Favorite Agnostic Jew!

It’s that time of the year again. Wasn’t it just Chanukah / Christmas 2010? I swear I was just writing my “2010 wrap-up” post yesterday. In any case, it’s somehow almost 2012. I’ve made it through another year. So has the world. Huzzah! 

The past year has been one of incredible growth professionally and personally, a few (ok… one) major mistakes, and new doors opening to great opportunities. I really feel like I’m getting older, not just in terms of how long my feet can handle mini stilettos, but also in how I’m relating to the world.

I went to my 10 year reunion in November — I can’t remember if I wrote about that here or not — and saw a bunch of old classmates who hadn’t changed. They were still living in the same town, for better or worse, and I had been away — for 10 years. It was just a little over 10 years ago when I left home and went to the midwest for college, and then packed my bags to move to San Francisco with a barely-paid internship and absolute terror over what the future might hold, and every possible morsel self doubt one could swallow.  Continue reading

Hanukah and the Consumer Holidays

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends out in cyberspace. This time of year always reminds me of why I’m an ardent capitalist wishing I was less of a consumer. If religion wasn’t bad enough, we need to give ourselves one time of year when we have to give gifts to everyone we love. Well, we don’t have to, but for many close relatives and friends, if they give you a gift you kind of have to return the favor.

I remember that one year in middle school when I was determined that buying people gifts would make them like me (oh, have I mentioned I was the odd kid out always?) I had a few close friends, but mostly all my friends and acquaintances blurred and I found it extremely difficult to determine who would get a pair of earrings from me and who wouldn’t. So I had a long list of all the people who A) I was friends with, B) Who were nice to me and C) who I wanted to be friends with and who weren’t total assholes to me. And all of them got gifts. I can’t believe my mom let me do that. Each gift was on the cheap side, but regardless I didn’t need to get gifts for half of the school chorus. It didn’t change what they thought of me.

Nowadays, I am a lot more realistic on the giving end. My family doesn’t really exchange gifts except one cousins gift exchange which I’ve opted out of this year. My parents don’t get me gifts ever (even for my birthday) unless I buy myself something and request to be reimbursed. And I don’t buy my parents anything either usually… for their birthday, Hanukkah, or any holiday — mostly because they have so much and I have no idea what to buy them. My mom always says she wants jewelery but anything you get her she’ll have something negative to say about it. I have no idea what to get for my dad. What do you get a man who’s dying of cancer? Well, I’d like to get him a trip to Italy, but even for me that’s an expensive gift to buy someone who may not be able to go… he has to be around for his doctors appointments.

I usually buy my boyfriend something in the $100 range. Last year I didn’t get him a Christmas gift but then I got him a $550 birthday gift (guitar) so that was more or less his Christmas and birthday gift. Unlike buying gifts for my family, I like to buy gifts for my boyfriend because he’s always appreciative. I usually get him something he’s hinted at that he wants, but this year I got him something that he hasn’t asked for… even so, I know he’ll be thankful for whatever I give him regardless of the cost or what it is. He’s a good guy like that.

When I have kids, I want to make sure they understand that gifts should always be appreciated. Also, I don’t know how much gift giving we’ll do in the family. Gifting is a waste of money to some degree, unless you buy something useful. But how many kids love to get socks for Hanukkah or Christmas every year? Toys are the biggest waste of all. If anything I’d gift my kids something that would spark their creativity, or books, or an extracurricular activity. I guess there are some toys that are worth while, but the last time I walked into a Toys ‘r Us I felt incredibly dirty looking at the prices of toys these days. Who pays that much for junk? Lots of people.

I don’t even remember what I got for the holidays growing up except a few items… a beautiful amethyst and marquisette bracelet from my grandmother, money towards a keyboard from my aunt, and, well, that’s about all I remember.

What makes a good gift to a friend or family member for the holidays? How about for a child? And what was your favorite gift that you received growing up?

New Years Eve

Half the world is out partying tonight, but I’m staying in. Tonight is the night when restaurants, hotels and nightclubs charge an exorbitant amount to partake in what they do what they do every other night. I just can’t justify spending $100+ for one evening just to get into a club, let alone $300 or more.

Then again, part of me wishes I lived the lifestyle where that was my life. Where I could spend $300 for a night out just because it’s an arbitrary day of the year that’s a big holiday. To get dressed up and look hot and go dancing and get drunk and count down to New Years with a bunch of other drunk people who also spent too much on their evening.

What I really want to do is start a movement to celebrate all holidays the day after. Yea, I’ll call it the DAY AFTER movement. You celebrate all holidays one day after so your holidays don’t cost you an arm and a leg. Just think of how much you’d save doing Christmas the day after w/ all those sales. And you could enjoy a nice New Years out without being charged a small fortune for it.

Do/did any of you go out to celebrate New Years? How much did you spend?

Last Minute (Frugal) Gift Ideas

It’s that time of the year again. Men are dressed up as Santa and sitting in malls. Kids are spinning dreidels and being schooled in gambling (for chocolate coins). And bank accounts everywhere are being drained on gifts for friends and family.

This year, with the economy in the South Pole, it’s more important than ever to be cost-efficient with your holiday gift purchases. Thanks to the Internet and the awesome PF Blog community, gift ideas that won’t break your bank account are aplenty.

My Dollar Plan offers 16 last-minute frugal gift ideas under $20. From lottery tickets to gas, if you want to splurge a bit you can pick up both en route to a holiday party, all while rejoicing that it doesn’t cost an arm, leg and foot to fill up your tank anymore. For 50 more frugal gift ideas, head over to Bible Money Finance. BeingFrugal breaks affordable gift-giving down into what to give particular types of people (your girlfriend and grandma really shouldn’t get the same gift, even if you are being frugal.)

When you’re going cheap, the best thing you can do is be creative and unique. That’s why I love this post on Squawkfox filled with 10 frugal handmade gift ideas (and pictures of what they should look like, so you know you’re doing it right). The Frugal Family Fun Blog also has a few homemade gift ideas, though some require an education curve that you might not have time for (ie: knitting). They also led me to a post on Good Housekeeping offering cheap and easy food gifts (that look really nice. Check out their curried lental soup, yum!)

Whatever you make, don’t waste money on wrapping paper! Head on over to Frugal Zeitgeist for a lesson in gift wrapping on the cheap. Sqauwkfox also has some frugal gift wrapping insight.

Q & you A:

What frugal/affordable/not-ridiculously expensive gifts are you giving this holiday season?

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received that hasn’t cost the giver a small fortune?

Just Threw a $300 Dinner Party

When I exclaimed to my roommates “let’s have a dinner party!”… I certainly wasn’t thinking about cost. Last night, we had about 15 people over (including us) who we fed and entertained for the evening. It was a really lovely gathering, a holiday event dubbed the J-Food Dinner party were we served a mix of Jewish food and Japanese food (don’t ask.)

But the bill came out to be way more than I expected. Not that I thought that through when I decided to have a dinner party, or when my roommate and I invited enough people to have to feed a small country.

Problem with throwing dinner parties is that you’re never sure how many people are really going to make it. You need to invite a few extras just to make sure you’re not sitting alone with all the food you make.

So between all the dishes we made, it cost about $300. I ended up buying $50 worth of frozen blintz at the last minute because I ran out of time to cook, and sadly bought the ingredients to actually cook them fresh as well – but that was only a few extra eggs and a lot of creme cheese, like $10 worth.

My boyfriend also decided to cook up this mushroom tart that we learned how to cook at my work’s holiday party the day before. It was a Whole Foods cooking party, which was awesome, but of course they used expensive ingredients and in order to recreate our delicious tart he had to buy all these things… pastry shells, wild mushrooms, Camembert cheese, sherry… all of that added up.

And then there was the hummus and baba ganosh for an appetizer and bread, and the two bottles of wine (not to mention the other two bottles we already had) that got served. And a few bottles of martenelli’s cider for the non alcohol drinkers. And all the latke ingredients, which my roommate bought, that I owe her for… about $60 worth (that’s included in the $300 total).

Ultimately $300 for a party of 15 people isn’t that bad, I guess. But it’s still… $300. The same $300 I’m not making this month because my uncle’s marketing firm had to cut back on its freelance budget. Yea, exactly $300.

Well, at least I’ve made $75 thus far in my posts for that tech blog I’m writing for about twice a week. I’m going to have to really turn up the posting on that so I can make up for lost costs. My next paycheck is going to rent, paying my boyfriend back (I owe him about $900 now including the cost of food for this party, he charged it since my credit card is missing), bills, taxes, and that’s about it. I hope people don’t mind that this Christmas I’m going to be a bit short on gifts. At least I bought my one really good friend a dishwasher for her birthday earlier this year (split with my boyfriend as a gift for her new kitchen) but still – she can’t complain that i’m not getting her a gift. I should get my roommates something but… that might have to come with the next paycheck.

My “stable” job is still on the rocks. It’s looking ok… but I’m not sure. They’re letting go all the contractors besides me, which is really sad for those contractors and rather uncomfortable for me. My contract isn’t up until the end of Jan, so at that point they’ll have to decide how valuable I am to the team. I think I’ve proven my dedication – I’ve been there for over a year now, but in this economic climate anything is possible. And I’m a little worried. I’m hoping for a full time job with health benefits (!!!) but expecting the worst. And the worst case scenerio is that I can write up to 5 posts for this tech blog a week, making about $500 a month, which covers a large chunk of rent. Then I seek out other freelance positions… since the full time job market seems non-existent in my field at this point.

Probably not the best time to throw a $300 dinner party, huh?

Hello 2008!

2008, here we all come. I’m actually excited about the coming year. I feel like things are actually falling into place. I love my job (here’s to hoping I can keep it past the date my contract expires) and I’m finally directing a show on my own. I’m equally excited about both of these opportunities.

My health is getting better by the day. My new obsession are vitamin supplements. I spent most of New Years Eve at Longs Drugs as I studied the vitamin aisle. I spent too much on vitamins and other things. But to be honest all of these random pills of vitamin bliss make me feel better. And hopefully in the long run they will help my health, which will make my medical bills cheaper.

And… I worked out at home yesterday on my new stability ball and my arms and belly are in pain. Yeay! I love how being in pain is a good thing when you’re trying to get fit. My arms are just killing me. So much for “free” workouts, but stability balls cost about $20 and they basically provide you with all you’d need for a workout. I ended up buying some weights, resistance bands and the ball, so I’ll have no excuse to avoid working out in the coming year.

I hope, by 2009, I will have a flat stomach and a lot less fat on my thighs. I guess that’s a New Years resolution. But I’m seriously going to keep it.

I vow to start focusing on actually saving my money, and not spending it on needless things. I’m going to be on time (10 minutes early) to everything, unless its like a party that I should be late to. I will be a good girlfriend… no more mood swings and being afraid of a long term relationship and trying to push my bf away. No more alcohol (besides the occasional glass of red wine with dinner). No more giant desserts. Focusing on the now, not tomorrow, or the next day. Making friends and keeping friends. Not hitting on my friends. ;P

It’s going to be a good year. A great year. And I’m ready for it.