Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lucky Free Find

Things have been very heavy with schoolwork, but I knew I should not miss this story.

B was taking a long walk to get in shape, and as he was on the edge of the town he saw an orange ball on the side of the road (not in anyone's yard for this was out in the county). It looked like a perfect pumpkin from what he could see, but he figured the other side must be smashed. He checked it; there was a scuff on one side, but not even breaking the skin. We figure it must have fell off a truck and had a soft enough landing. I was thrilled for we had not yet bought a pumpkin, but I really wanted to carve one this season. As college kids, we haven't had pumpkins at this time of year since high school.

The frugal tip is not to expect to find free pumpkins this season. The important point is when you are out for a walk you might find something you did not expect. You notice certain things when you walk that you may miss when you're driving. You may find a nice hole-in-the-wall cafe, street fair, or park (we have found all of these unintentionally). So make sure to take some nice fall walks before this weather turn too bitter.

For next year, those of you that keep gardens a small pumpkin plant might be a good idea. I hear they're very easy to maintain. There would be plenty for holiday decorating without spending any money. Pumpkins are also a great holiday decoration because they do not take up room in your house the other 350 days a year you aren't using it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

College Tip #1: Really Use Your Library

With the cost of books for college, there's one source for books that many college students do not think about utilizing. I admit I did not figure out this tip till I looked over at my neighbor in one of my History classes and saw a library label on the binding.

Get your books from the library. You'd be surprised how many assigned books are available through the library. You need to plan and be proactive to take advantage of this.
1. The week before school starts, go to the bookstore to get your list of books. Some bookstores have the assigned books available online, so check their website first.
2. Compare the list of your assigned books to your school's online library catalog. You may find at least a couple of books available through your library.
3. If not, look through the inter-library loan catalog. If you can send in an order online for an inter-library loan, do so. You can also do an interlibrary loan in person at the library with help from the Reference desk.
4. Go to the library as soon as you can to get your books.
5. Once you have access to it, check your syllabus. If your text required for class is for reading alone, you may be able to get by with an older version. If your homework schedule indicates questions specifically from the book (e.g. page 145 questions 2-5), you will need to have the specific edition indicated.
6. Renew regularly throughout the semester. Many university libraries have a system where you can renew through their website. At my university, they would eventually limit the number of times you could renew online, but I could still keep the book if I just went in to renew in person.

By the first or second week of school you may have a harder time getting the books from the library if someone else in your class is trying to do the same thing. This is a good strategy especially for general education courses; books for classes that are a part of your major you are more likely to keep for reference than books required for only one class.

This may work best with Humanities and Social Sciences classes that use books that have been in print for years or books that are read both in academic and popular literature circles. I thought it would not work for people who have classes heavily based in textbook, but some Indian friends of ours insisted they were able to regularly find the textbooks they needed for their Computer Science classes at the library.

Since your student fees pay for your library, make sure to get the most out of your tuition.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seven Tips for Dressing for a Career on a College Student's Budget

It may be your first job, internship in college, or (in our case) student teaching, but chances are eventually you'll have to "join the professional world" and look like you belong there. Here are seven items and strategies for making a easier transition into the white collar world.

1. Iron. I bought my first iron junior year of college. My husband thought it was ridiculous that he would doing any ironing of his shirts and tried to prove the point by asking our (male) roommate if he had ever ironed before in his life; he said no. Later that day, I found our roommate using it and he admitted that since he had a photography gig later that day he should probably look nice for it. Also, an ironing board is a good idea, but not necessary. Put a blanket or folded sheet down on a wooden table or on the floor and iron your clothes on top of that. If you do get an ironing board, look for a tabletop board (with short legs) or one that hangs on a door and folds ups for storage.

2. Febreeze. On those days when you're running late, or it's Monday and you didn't get to doing any laundry this weekend. Just go over your clothes with a couple of sprays. Yeah, it's cheap and a little gross, but it won't be as noticeable as trying to mask your smell with cologne or perfume.

3. Lint brush. There are two types, a traditional lint brush, and the masking tape kind (or lint roller). Cut corners by just using a piece of actual masking tape and patting down your shirt and pants. This is a duck tape version. This is essential if you have pets, but a good idea for anyone.

4. Tide to-go pen. I know many people who rely on these. There have been dozens of times my husband and I have ruined a shirt because of stains. If you're not used to being careful with your clothes, it's not an instantaneous change when you need to be. They're not too cheap though. Around $3 for one, and just under $2 apiece for the five-pack. Maybe I'll try to find a way to make my own.

5. Wash your clothes in the sink. This saves money on coin laundry machines if that's what you typically use. More importantly, machines also wear out your clothes; if you spent $30 on a shirt, why let the machine shorten its lifespan? Use cold water to prevent shrinking. For white shirts, use spot remover on the cuffs and collars, which get dirty easily. For drying, lay your garment on a towel, roll up the towel with the garment still in it, and step on the rolled up towel to squeeze out water. This a a gentler way of "wringing" your clothes, than simply hand wringing. Finally, put the shirt on the hanger over the bathtub or better yet, lay flat on a drying rack if you have one.

6. Undershirts. It may go without saying, but you'll have to wash your nice shirts less often and you're white shirts will stay whiter. T-shirts for men, camisoles for women. No excuses.

7. Basic Pieces. According to Forbes there are nine different suits you should have, all wool, and all contemporary designer labels like Ralph Laren (I like Ralph Laren, but I buy him at TJ Maxx.) If you need a suit, charcol or grey is the best color, though Forbes thinks navy. Be careful how much focus and money you put into suits. For IT, engineering, teaching, journalism, and many offices, people NEVER wear suits and you'll feel quite awkard if you do. These are the wardrobe basics for the casual office:
- Light pants (tan) - Any color shirts will work with the tan pants.
- Dark pants (grey or black with a pattern) - The dark pants will work with most things (avoid pairing with browns).
- Two white shirts.
- Five other color shirts.
- One or two sweaters/vests.
- For some more variety, consider a blazer for the man and a skirt for the woman.

I hope this helps. These are the cheap tricks we use at least a couple of times a week to make up for the fact, we have no money to throw around at clothes, dry cleaning, or even laundering.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Other Side of Student Teaching

We chaperoned a dance last night. It was the first dance of the year for the middle school so there were a lot of kids who it was their first time.

I had worked at an after school program before that included some "rec" time, but my husband was shocked at the sheer amount of energy that could radiate from these students. Half the gym was full of students standing around, goofing off, (very few dancing), and the other half there are basket balls, and dozens of kids just running. They run to get their basketballs, they run to meet their friends, they run to chase each other, they run from one side of the gym to the other just to see what's going on. There were little sixth grade girls running suicides for fun, and this evolved into some sort of racing game with twenty or thirty kids involved. Since my husband's normally used to seeing these kids with their head down, silent, or looked dazed in class, it was quite an experience for him.

I've been to middle schools where you do have to break up PDA or search the bathrooms for drugs, etc... But this middle school "dance" was one of those where it seemed more like everyone was trying to revert back to when they were ten years old. Other than one parent who was DUI, the night was pretty clean.

Even as a student teacher, it's a good idea to get involved in extra curricular activities. My husband is not the only student teacher at his school at the moment. When the other teachers exclaimed, "wow, I should have had my student teacher do this" and "were you asked to do this?" He proudly said, "no, I volunteered." and earned some valuable face-time with the principal. And in case you were wondering... no, we weren't paid for any of it because this state has strict laws about being paid for anything while you student teach.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gone to Look for America

We got married in June.

He is student teaching this semester. That means no income until maybe January or so when he can get a job. The state of Illinois has strict laws against paying student teachers for anything. I will be student teaching in the spring. My Methods courses and observations monopolize most of my time; I work about 11 hours a week at a job I am growing to hate, but since it pays $9.85 I cannot simply quit and replace it with a minimum wage job for $7.50. He was screwed out of financial aid because of an office oversight and mine has still not come through the mail.

I hope our savings last us through the semester. I hope he is able to find work next spring that can support us.

We are young, married, in college, underpaid, overworked, over educated, in debt, and without health care. One year from now I hope we both have full-time, salaried, teaching positions, with health care.