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I am 23 years old, make $61,000, live in Philadelphia, PA and work as an IT Analyst.

Section One: Assets and Debt
Retirement Balance: $2789,91, I put in 5% of every paycheck and have no employer match until I hit my 1 year anniversary in a month.
Savings account balance: $11,905 across three accounts.
Checking account balance: As of today, it’s $2,291, typically it’s between $1,000 and $1,500 but rent is due soon.
Credit card debt: None, I pay off my bill in full every month. I currently have two credit cards, one that is solely mine and one that I share with my partner, B. More on that below.
Student loan debt: ~$85,000 (yikes) for a business degree from a state-affiliated school. About $58,000 are private loans and the rest are federal.
Net worth: According to Mint, around -$64,000. Oy.
Section Two: Income
Main Job Monthly Take Home: $3,076
Section Three: Expenses
Rent: $750/month for my half
Renters / home insurance: Comes out to ~$8/month, I split this with B and pay in full once a year
Emergency savings contribution: $200/paycheck, my goal is $10,000
“Fun” savings: $100/paycheck, I use this mainly for vacations and holiday/birthday gifts
Insurance: $69.15/paycheck for health, dental, vision, and life insurance
FSA Contribution: $21.74/paycheck
Federal student loan payment: $189.65/month (currently in deferment, but I’m setting this money aside to pay at once when the deferment period is over if I don’t end up needing it)
Private student loan payment: $759.93/month to one servicer and $120 every 3 months to another
Utilities: Varies month to month, but I budget $40/month for my half
Wifi: $20/month for my half
Cellphone: $30/month to my mom
Spotify student: $5.29/month (until my student account expires in December)
Disney+: $35/year for my half
Other subscriptions: B and I let our families use our Disney+ for use of his parents’ Netflix account and my mom’s Amazon prime account
Gym membership: I paid $399 for a year in October (and haven’t been since March :/)
A note: I live with my partner, B, and we split all housing expenses down the middle. We also have a shared credit card where I am the primary account holder and he is an authorized user. This is used for shared expenses (groceries, household items, joint holiday gifts for family) and larger expenses we are making together (mainly trip expenses as we like to travel together). When I use this card throughout the diary, I note my half for a more accurate picture of my spending.
Monday
8:30 - Pry my eyes open, roll out of bed, and log on to check my work email. After about a half hour, I finally get up and get ready for the day.
12:00(ish) - Take a break for a few minutes to give my pup his medicine (he got neutered on Friday) and prepare lunch for B and I. I decide to make “fancy” grilled cheeses with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, and pesto, and we have them with some watermelon.
3:00 - Get snacky and want something sweet. I have an absolutely insatiable sweet tooth and try not to keep too much junk food in the house because of it, but I eventually scrounge up some chocolate peppermint Ghirardelli squares that I’m pretty sure are from Christmas and have one of those.
6:45 - Start making dinner while B takes the pup out for a walk. Tonight, we have sausage sandwiches with roasted pepper and fried onions, tomato salad, and grilled zucchini. After dinner I have a chocolate cookie and some ice cream. I try to stop eating sugar at night by 8:30 because I don’t sleep very well otherwise, but dessert is non-negotiable in my mind (see above note about insatiable sweet tooth).
9:30 - Order a custom doormat for B whose birthday is next month. Admittedly, this seems like a weird gift, but we’ve been joking about getting a specific doormat since we moved in together a year ago and, after my searches have been coming up totally empty, I’ve finally decided to take matters into my own hands. Eventually, I stop scrolling long enough to get ready for bed and fall asleep around 1 am. $40.54
Total - $40.54
Tuesday
8:30 - Wake up and check my email to see that my custom doormat order has been cancelled due to copyrighted images (it had a screenshot from a movie so I’m not shocked, but disappointed nonetheless). After about 15 minutes of scrolling through Reddit, I roll out of bed, log into work, and check my work email. Nothing too pressing this morning, so I take a few minutes to get ready for the day and make some tea. +$40.54
11:15 - I jinxed myself by saying there wasn’t anything too pressing this morning and now I’m putting out about 5 fires at once. After my first meeting, I stress eat peanut butter from the jar and look for a new doormat option to take my mind off work for a few minutes.
12:30 - Give the pup his medicine and make a pb&j for lunch before hopping on to another meeting.
4:45 -Trying to power through the last thing I need to get done today but finding myself getting very distracted and snacky. I make myself a weird version of a grilled cheese using a leftover hot dog bun and shredded Mexican cheese. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
6:35 - Finally log off of work for the evening and immediately start making dinner. Tonight we’re having pasta with fried chickpeas and broccoli, and eat while watching a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
9:00 - I take the pup for a walk before I give him his night time treat of a (very VERY tiny) spoonful of vanilla ice cream and pain medicine. He proceeds to demand bark for more ice cream, and I fear I’ve created a monster. Thankfully, he only has a few days left with this medicine and we can go back to our usual midnight snack of peanut butter and a CBD treat. Afterwards, I shower and get ready for bed before watching YouTube videos for a bit and falling asleep around midnight.
Total - +$40.54
Wednesday
12:15 - I’ve been in meetings/training pretty much since I woke up this morning, so when I finally come up for air around lunchtime, I make a pb&j and give the pup his medicine. I dive back into work at about 12:30.
3:00 - I have a half hour between two meetings this afternoon and decide to make tea. I usually make a cup every morning when I start work, but this morning was a bit hectic and I’m really feeling the 3pm slump. I also place an order on Amazon for a birthday gift for B, a baby shower gift for my cousin, and some cleaning supplies. I try not to order from Amazon often, but I haven’t been able to find most of this stuff elsewhere in recent weeks. $116.27
5:15 - Take the pup out for a long walk before he, B, and I head to Home Depot (pup has SERIOUS separation anxiety, as we got him right before the q and he’s pretty much never known life without both of us at his beck and call every second of the day). We have some things to return from pre-q and need to get some more potting materials for some plants B bought me for my birthday. We get store credit ($60.85) for the items we returned, so our total out of pocket for four pots, a large bag of soil, and two more plants (I have no self control), our total is only $12.96. We also stop at the grocery store on the way home so I can get a can of beans to use for our dinner tonight, rolled oats to use for dessert, and potato sticks for snack time. Total there came to $7.97. My half for everything is $10.47.
7:15 - I make stuffed peppers and Mexican street corn for dinner, as well as a strawberry crumble for dessert. Work this week has been pretty hectic, and when I’m stressed, I bake. While I do that, B repots the plants we just bought and pup happily chews on a stick he found on the ground.
10:30 - Take pup out for one last potty break of the evening. When we get back, I shower and try to coax the beast to sleep. He eventually settles, so I put him in his crate and fall asleep around 1 am.
Total - $126.74
Thursday
8:15 - Wake up, check my email, and get dressed. I call into my first meeting for the day while brushing my teeth and making a cup of tea.
12:15 - While in training, B brings me lunch consisting of a pb&j, potato sticks, and some watermelon. What a gem.
2:00 - Get out of my class for the day and I have about an hour until my next meeting. I catch up on some emails and things I’ve been putting off.
5:00 - Get done my last meeting of the day to find an email in my inbox with updates on an issue I’ve been working on for about a week now. It looks like it’ll be a (relatively) simple fix in the end and I’m THRILLED about it. I have some more potato sticks as a celebratory treat before sending notes off to the team that will have to make the fix.
6:30 - After logging off work, I decide to go grocery shopping tonight because we are totally out of TP and I don’t want to go all the way to the store for one thing. I quickly make a list and head out. While there, I get bacon, pasta, frozen veg, fresh fruit, eggs, bread, cheese, and heavy whipping cream. I also grab TP from Target on my way back. My half comes to $32.37.
7:15 - When I get back, I see B has made perogies for dinner. We eat and watch a few episodes of Avatar.
9:30 - I take the pup out for a walk while B showers. After our walk, I talk to our neighbors for a few minutes before heading inside to shower and get ready for bed. I fall asleep around midnight.
Total - $32.37
Friday
8:30 - No meetings this morning until my class starts at 9, so I sleep in a bit. I’m very lucky that my work hours are pretty flexible, I don’t have a super strict time that I have to be online in the morning, unless I have an early meeting. I finally crawl out of bed at 8:45 to brush my teeth and get dressed before class starts.
12:30 - B brings me lunch again just in time for a break in training. B’s dad invited us over for a cookout tomorrow so we figure out what our game plan will be. I’m a bit disappointed because I wanted to go to a protest tomorrow, but we haven’t seen his dad since January and Father’s Day is this weekend so I understand. I make a donation to Black Lives Matter to make up for it. $11
2:00 - Class is over and I reward myself for making it through with a little break. I watch YouTube videos for about a half hour before getting back to work on what I missed while in class.
5:00 - I log off work and head to a nearby park to meet B, pup, and a few friends for a socially distant hang out at a park nearby. We chat for about 45 mins until our friends’ dog decides it’s time to go and we all go our separate ways.
6:30 - I make leftover stuffed peppers and Mexican street corn for dinner and B and I eat while watching more Avatar. After dinner, I decide to make a kind of mousse for dessert with a pudding mix we have and the heavy whipping cream I got at the store yesterday. It turns out surprisingly well, and we have it with some cut up strawberries.
9:15 - I FaceTime with some of my friends. They were my roommates in college and I miss seeing them all the time. Weirdly, I think the q has brought us closer; we now FaceTime about once a week, whereas post-college but pre-q we only hung out once a month or so. That said, I’m VERY excited to see them in person for 4th of July in a few weeks. We hang up at about 1:30, which is pretty early for us, and I do my skincare and crawl into bed.
Total - $11
Saturday
9:30 - Begrudgingly get out of bed and shower. I was super restless last night and didn’t end up falling asleep until well after 3.
10:30 - We head to B’s dad’s house, about two hours away. On the way, we stop at a grocery store to pick up ice cream and a card ($12) and a liquor store for a gift/more vodka for us ($37.08). $24.54 for my half.
9:45 - Pack up and head home after spending the day at B’s dad’s. The pup was very happy to have a huge yard to run around in and is now exhausted. B and I decide to start bringing him to the dog park more often, he loves running around and other dogs and we don’t have to worry about him mounting another dog anymore.
11:30 - We arrive home, get ready for bed, and the three of us are out by 12:30.
Total - $24.54
Sunday
10:30 - Wake up and lay in bed for an hour or so. I call my mom to chat and she invites us over for dinner next weekend. I tell her maybe, we’ve been out a lot more than usual this week and she’s immunocompromised so I’m very cautious.
12:30 - Make brunch for B and I and proceed to almost chop my finger off pitting an avocado in the process. Oy.
2:00 - I pack up and head to the grocery store. Pre-q, B or I went to the grocery store almost every day on our way home from work. It’s been quite an adjustment trying to cut down to once (maybe twice) a week. Now that things are opening back up, I feel better about going multiple times a week, though still not every day and obviously being very cautious and wearing a mask and thoroughly sanitizing when I get home. The grocery store is also weirdly empty for a Sunday afternoon, which is fine by me. I get chicken, fruit, frozen veg, ricotta, bread, peanut butter, and perogies. $20.89 for my half.
4:30 - I decide to do some prep work for dinner this week and make gnocchi. Since the q, I’ve gotten very into homemade pasta, and gnocchi is my latest venture into this world. I think it turned out well, but we’ll see when I actually make it.
6:30 - I make chicken cutlets, peas, and corn for dinner. Afterwards, B washes up and I play with the pup.
8:00 - We watch a few episodes of Avatar until I get up to shower and get ready for bed and B takes the pup out. We try to get him to settle and go to sleep, but he has so much energy right now. We eventually get him in his crate, which he is not thrilled about, and fall asleep around 12:30.
Total - $20.89
Totals:
Food + Drink - $81.79
Fun / Entertainment - $0
Home + Health - $25.31
Clothes + Beauty - $0
Transport - $0
Other - $108.44 (gifts/donations)
Weekly total - $215.54
Reflection: Other than the ~$100 spent on gifts, I feel like this is a pretty typical spend week for me. I would like to incorporate more no-spend days into my life, though. We also went out a lot this week, which, looking back, I don’t feel great about. Luckily, it wasn’t to crowded places for the most part, but still feels really irresponsible going out 5/7 days of the week during a pandemic (not counting taking the pup out, of course). I also realize I forgot to mention that B is unemployed at the moment, so he takes care of the dog a lot during the day. When we were both working from home, we split the responsibility.
submitted by kyeruhh to MoneyDiariesACTIVE [link] [comments]

OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…12

Continuing…
“I do not know, Rock”, he slightly slurred, as he was working on Yorshch number 3, “I have never before traveled out this far beyond the city.”
“Wait one.”, I demand, “You’re a 5th-year geology student and never been out of the city? Don’t you go on field trips?”
“They are forbidden.”, he smiled back, “That’s one reason I decided to go with you on your bus.”
I looked at Dax, Ivan, and Morse.
“Un-be-fucking-believable.” I uttered.
Even more un-be-fucking-believable was the “Rancho Bright Star” Motor Hotel. Right here, in the wilds of Best Korea.
We pull into the parking lot of the motel, and the bus parks down about 300 meters along the side of a small lake.
Yes, a small lake. Complete with piers, those goofy swan-boats you peddle along in, and paddle boats like these.
OK, let me try and set this surreal scene. We’re out in the wilds of Best Korea, somewhere northeast of Pyongyang, between Kaechon and Tokchan as best as we can figure it.
We have just pulled into a roadside motel that is a displaced molecule of the 1950s western US.
There is a central unpaved elliptical trackway, around 350-450 meters to a side.
The east side borders on a suspiciously man-made looking lake complete with paddle boats, piers, and benches for sitting while gazing out over the wonders of this diminutive out-of-place body of water. The motel boasts rental fishing gear, bait for sale, and swim toys such as lie-lows, rafts, rings, and the like for guests intent on lake frolicking.
In the center of the ellipse are wooden beach-style chairs, lounges, seats, and benches. There is a large pile of firewood and a central fire pit.
On the western side of the ellipse are a zig-zag series of single-and-double occupancy cabanas. There are exactly 19 of them. All identical, all with wide bay-windows to overlook the glories of the parking lot and the faux-lake beyond.
Also on the western side, but set back slightly, just after the entrance; is the front office building, central store, and restaurant.
We all walk off the bus, just scrutinizing and gawping where we’ve arrived.
As an American, I think I was the most confounded by all this. I’ve stayed at places in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico that looked identical to this place. However, that was almost 50 years ago.
The Canadians, Europeans, Russians, and other assorted geographical sundry might have seen pictures like this in Like® and LOOK® magazines, but they’ve never before really experienced them. They were just befuddled and amused.
I was genuinely and abnormally speechless. But I recovered quickly.
We were told by Jak, Mac, Tak, and Pak to go and stake out a cabana for ourselves. They would retrieve the keys for each and have them distributed them as necessary. Our luggage would be taken off the bus and brought to our cabanas by motel employees once we were all set and sorted.
“Ones who can read English, Russian, Portuguese, Canuckian?” I mused. “More of the shiny-suit squad, undercover division.”
We all took our respective cabanas and luggage was quickly distributed. I was somewhat abstemiously impressed at the efficiency.
The cabanas were new. Not just ‘slightly used’, or ‘sort of new’; I mean brand-spanking, brushed aluminum, and Molly-be-damned new. We couldn’t have been the second or third guests in here. The only blemish that betrayed any previous occupant was a minor cigarette burn on the side of the washbasin in the small bathroom.
The cabanas all had a nice, firm bed, a table, a few chairs, a fully stocked mini-bar, no phone, but a television and nausea-inducing-color shag-pile carpeting.
It was a real throwback to the 1950s.
My reverie was interrupted by a knock on my cabana door.
“Dinner in 30 minutes. Main restaurant. Front of complex.” barked an orderly.
“WOOF!” I barked back.
Not knowing if this was a dry county of Korea, I decided to grab a bottle of vodka and a couple of beers out of my private stash to accompany me to dinner. I decided to finish the cigar I already had lit rather than light another for the long slog to the restaurant.
About 15 minutes later, I’m swinging a liter bottle of real 100-octane Russian vodka like a dinner bell. I have two tall cans of Taedonggang Special Dark in the pockets of my field shorts. I have on my best, new, and most hopelessly garish Hawaiian shirt, “Laika was the First Party Animal” T-shirt, freshly whisked field boots, and my obligatory Stetson. Of course, I was chomping a cigar; but it was new and as of yet, unlit.
I arrived at the hotel front office and was steered to the back where the restaurant lived. There were placards at each seat with our names and affiliations, albeit in Korean. Luckily, a quasi-sober young Mr. Myung was there and helped us find our proper seats.
I was at one end of the table and it was Dr. Academician Ivan at the other end. Evidently, in Korea, it’s a big, fat, hairy deal where one is seated at the table during these assembly dinners. I was at one end by dint of being the team leader and Ivan the other as he was the oldest old fart on the team.
“Nonsense!”, I said, as I dragged young Mr. Myung from his seat and plopped him down at the head of the table where I was bid to sit.
“The man of the hour!” I said. No one, except for young Myung, complained in the least.
I poured him a very stiff drink.
“Cool out.” I exhorted, “You need to learn to observe, to learn...” I smiled.
Evidently our guides, No, Kong, and that crowd, were eating elsewhere that evening.
However, Pak, Mac, Jak, and Tak of the shiny suit squad were joining us on that eventide for victuals.
I held up my unlit cigar and asked the crowd: “Objections?”
There were none as most were smoking cigarettes or pipes by this point.
I pulled out the brace of beers I brought along and set the liter of vodka to the right-hand side of my plate.
A most Russian maneuver.
I looked down the table. Not a single one of us failed to bring along something high-powered to drink. It was unanimous. Not a single geologist there, save for young Myung, failed to bring along a Safety Blitz.
It proved unnecessary, as the shiny suit squad shuffled in, sat down, and barked orders to the rarified air.
Bottles of local beer, nicely chilled, appeared for everyone. Bottles of local hooch also appeared and were distributed around the table at strategic intervals. Our unopened personal drinks were set aside for later. We wouldn’t want to seem ungallant now, would we?
It was all very proper, that first set of table toasts.
The shiny suit squad was wound pretty tightly that night. What with a bunch of self-thinking and operating western geoscientists doing whatever the hell they saw fit, the young Hero of Best Korea, a stowaway, but finder of new dinosaurs. I think we just overloaded them with new, unmanageable, voluminous, and contradictory information.
They were used to servile, subservient sheep; not crotchety old knurled rams like us.
Of course, we had two Russians in attendance, plus an American who spent many years in Russia and thus considered a naturalized, though still rough-around-the-edges, Russian.
OK, Siberian.
It’s didn’t take long, but after the first wan and halfhearted toast to the east and the west and various other sundry semi-pleasantries, one or more Russians would take over the chore of Tamandar, or toastmaster.
Professor Dr. Academician Ivan leads off between the first round of drinks and the limp, grisly-looking semi-green salad course.
Dr. Ivan: “Давайте выпьем за успех нашего дела!”[Let us drink to the success of our project!]
There were the appropriate responses and “Here, here's!”
Then, Dr. Ivan noticed our hosts in the shiny suits were solely social sippers.
Toasting is a seriously big deal. Once a toast has been voiced in someone’s honor, drinkers who participated in the toast are expected to drink their glass dry as a show of respect to the toastee.
Only a sip? This will not do…
“Пусть мы будем страдать так же печально, как капли водки, которые мы собираемся оставить в наших очках! [May we suffer as much sorrow as drops of vodka we are about to leave in our glasses!] Dr. Morse commands.
In other words: “Bottoms Up!”
However, the glasses are always topped up after every toast – this is called “osvezhit” [refresh] in Russia.
And so, not with a whimper, but with a bang, the evening began…
There were bottles of Korean Soju, of course, in many different flavors and strengths. We left the lighter stuff for the guys in the shiny suits. We were soon inadvertently and unknowingly publicly shaming them by only opting for refills with the highest octane of the brands available.
They took that as sort of an affront; perhaps not intentional, but damned if they’d let a mob of western geologists get the better of them.
You can see where this is headed, can’t you?
Along with the Soju, there was Hongju, a red-colored and oddly-tasting liquor of local origin. There was Okroju, a millet, rice or sorghum-sourced distillate of around 90 proof. Also present was Munbae-ju, a pear-flavored drink with a mild, 80 proof kick.
Aside from distilled spirits, several types of wine, such as maesil-ju (plum wine), and bokbunja-ju made their appearance, as well as the ubiquitous beer. Apart from the offerings of the Taedonggang Brewing Company, there were Chinese beers like Tsingtao and Harbin, along with some, surprisingly, European beers like Erdinger, Tiger, Bavarian Pils, and Heineken.
The non-Korean beers were not included in the cost of the meal, so I slid the head waiter some 75,000 won, or about USD$60.00.
“Is that going to be enough to cover the drinks tonight?” I asked Myung to translate.
“Tonight. Tomorrow. Next week. Yes!” He laughed. He was finally getting into the spirit and spirits of the evening.
OK, drinks were handled. We also had our own supplies with us and larger larders back in our cabanas; just in case.
The fuse was well and properly lit.
After the salad; a soup course of thin, some sort of edible, we hoped, animal broth was served. We scrupulously knew to say nothing but high praise about the food we were being offered, even though it was others (the UN Discretionary Forces) that were paying for this ‘feast’.
The toasts ran from the light: “Good to be in good country with good friends”. Thanks, Dax.
To the ridiculous: “May the fate of our countries aspire as high as the esteem we have for this banquet.”
OK, I laid it on a bit thick with that one. Every Westerner snickered; they saw right through my verbal façade. The shiny suit squad was definitely getting slightly swozzled, as I saw one surreptitiously swipe away a tear in appreciation of such high homage.
Over the meat course, which bets are still out pending results of the DNA tests Erle will run once back in Calgary as to species; we had time to sit, reflect, have a smoke, and relax a while.
Of course, Dr. Morse chose this time to take his Tamandar duties out for a little exercise.
More toasts. More bottoms up! incitements. More beer! More wine! Don’t let your glass go dry. Try this! Try that! What the fuck is this other thing?
“Up your bottoms!” one of the shiny suits said in a fit of shaky oriental reverie.
The empties pile grew at a prodigious rate. One box was for liquor bottles, deader than Julius Caesar. Another for wine bottles. Yet another for cans, bottles, and bags of beer; which we thought most amusing.
The dinner wore on, all 7 courses of gustatory delight. In between each, a round of toasts which, by now, had orbited the table once and was attempting re-entry.
The geoscientists by this point were just getting started. After the mystery meat, sweet puddings, cakes, and pie for afters, and a cheese board with wine course; our hosts thought we’d all be either so exhausted or shitfaced that we’d have to be dragged to our cabanas via forklift. Or ox-cart, whichever was most convenient.
Sorry, nae chingu [my friend], not this crowd. There was a fire pit outside, a lake that needed investigating, swan boats that needed to be tested for seaworthiness, and loads and loads of beer, wine, and booze that required drinking.
Besides, we needed to curate our hand samples. We still had some real work to do.
After the final toast; Pak, the head of the shiny suits stood, wobbly, and bade us good night.
We all replied ‘good night’ to him, and as a man, stood up, grabbed all the liquor we could carry, and headed to the firepit and chairs outside by the lake.
The absolute, abject appearance of alcohol-tainted alarm on their faces was one I wish I could have captured on film.
Dax was there first and began building a council fire in the firepit. Have to hand it to the crazy Canuck, he knew his campfires. He had a roaring blaze going within the space of 10 minutes.
We all re-adjusted our chairs around the campfire and attended to our samples. The larger portion of the hand sample would go into the bigger bag for testing and identification. A small piece representative of the whole would go into the smaller bag. All field tags would be filled out with proper identification numbers. The smaller bags were tossed into a common pile for future laboratory investigation; the larger bags, by dint of their mass, would go into the cargo hold of the bus. No matter how you sliced it, there would always be samples for analysis; one size or the other.
That took about a half an hour and during that magical time, little was said, although vast amounts of beer and liquor, as well as cigars and cigarettes, disappeared. This was a solemn field-time tradition. It was the traditional cap to the day in the field.
After that, the really serious drinking and relaxation set in.
We all sat around the fire, and in the spirit of the Four Yorkshiremen, spontaneous field stories broke out.
Pak, Tak, Jak, and Mak joined us; but at a bit of a refined distance. They really, really wanted to go to bed, or call their superiors and report what they were being forced to go through, or be just about anywhere else on the planet rather than here.
Now the drinking began to get serious.
“Rock”, Dax said, “You old duffer. Regale us with the tale of your finely fuckered fingers.”
There were a few audible gasps around the fire at that time. Everyone knew of my physical deformity but scrupulously avoided mentioning it out of fear of breaching propriety.
“Why, Dax!”, I said loudly, superficially fighting back real pain, “God damn. You know how sensitive I am about my hand! Fuck! How can you ask? Such unmitigated gall! Such hubris! I am appalled and aghast!” I whiled down to a sullen silence…
Even the guys in the shiny suit squad looked horror-struck. How could one callout an obvious bodily deformity much less make light of it?
“Oh, sorry, Rock”, Dax quietly replied, “Is there anything I can do to recompense?”
The entire crew went silent while they waited for my reply.
“Um….yeah…well,” I said quietly.
Then I said very loudly: “Get off yer dead ass and make me a stiff fucking drink while I tell everyone here of my Siberian close-shave, ya’ hoser!”
I was able to dodge most of the empties thrown my way, but I did catch a couple right in my gaudy new Hawaiian shirt.
No respect.
I spent the better part of a half an hour regaling all present with my tale of finger-fuckery. The lost circulation, the spraying mud, fire on the rig, the worm, and the power tongs, all in most-detailed Technicolor and ethanol-fueled anecdotalism.
They laughed, they gasped, they got white at some junctures. I didn’t leave out anything. It was a full 10-gauge recitation. I mentioned the current tantalum implants I’m testing and told them of earlier titanium rejections and all the pain and suffering.
Oh, the pain. Yes, Dax, I do need another. Make it a double.
“Vodka does not ease pain. But it does get your mind off it.” I was heard to utter.
Not to be outdone, Dr. Academician Ivan delighted us with his tales of being buried in an avalanche up above the Arctic Circle, high in the big-latitudes near Franz Joseph Land.
Right. Now everyone was getting in on the revelry.
We heard harrowing tales of auto accidents out in the field; errant drainage ditches and an ancient field vehicle going way too fast. Falling off outcrops or being beaned by errant gravity-induced rocks. Talus slides, rock falls, landslides, flood, storms, earthquakes, volcanos, rhyolite ash-fall tuffs…the litany went on and on.
Each got more lurid as the empties pile began to grow. Pak, Mac, Tak, and Jak were sipping their drinks but I think their growing green hue was due to our stories of near and not so near misses.
Joon, the tall Finn, stood up and in front of the whole fraternity, dropped trou and exposed the back of his right leg for all to see. A four-fold gash of scar-tissue alongside his cute little tighty-whities.
“Bear attack. In the woods searching for this lost outcrop. Taking samples for geochemical analysis for my Master’s, bear mauled me from behind!” Joon explained.
We were at that point in the revelry that someone just had to ask “Are you sure that’s all the bear had in mind?”
Even Joon thought that to be riotously funny.
The shiny suit squad, somewhere during the narrative, went from “Trying to keep up and not appear loaded” to “I don’t give a fuck. I’m going to show these guys!” drunk.
I’m sitting there, in near proximity to the roaring fire, smoking a huge cigar, three cans of beer of various fullness to my left, and a ¾ bottle of real high potency Russian vodka to my right. I’m exchanging quips, insults, and stories along with the rest of the crowd; just as time-honored traditions demand.
We’re all drinking like, well, a whole group of seasoned field geologists camping out in the field after a successful day in the field.
Mr. Myung is laughing uproariously. He was even loosening up enough to make some not terribly pleasant observations about his home country and dear AWOL leader. He figured that as long as he was in the clan of geologists, we’d protect him.
Mr. Pak of the shiny suit squad wanders up and has a listen. After a few minutes, he wobbles over to me and tells me, nay, orders me, to stand up.
The crowd goes silent. Propriety has been breached. Not North Korean decorum, but the sanctity of the geological field campfire.
“No one gets vexed and ratty around the fire. Stow it for another time, Chuckles.”
“You. Large American. Stand up and face me.” He orders.
“Which one?” I laughed back at him.
“What?” he asked, slurring slightly.
“Well if stand up, I certainly can’t face you unless you hop up here in this chair,” I said.
“Stand Up, American!” he officiously orders.
Silence from the crowd. All that is heard is the snap and crackle of the council fire.
So, I stand up. Cigar firmly in jaw, one hand on the arm of the chair, the other tending to my can of Heineken and Russkaya yorshch.
“Yes?” I ask.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t swear. Oh shit! I do smoke and drink!” he laughs, nearly falling over at his jest, punching me lightly on the arm.
“May I please have one of your cigars?” he drunkenly asks and falls forward so that I need to react quickly and catch him before he face-plants.
“Of course!” I say. “Would any of your friends wish one as well?”
I look over and there are three heads bobbing like those little bobbly doggy statues idiot people put on the dashboards of their cars.
“Well then!”, I order, “Get your happy camper asses over here and join us!”
Everyone around the fire hoots and yells in agreement.
They slowly, sloppily, and shakily wander their chairs over and seat themselves around the fire ring.
I clip the ends of four of my ‘give away’ cigars, as I’m sure a Triple-Maduro Camacho would probably kill them in their current state. Still, they are stout Cuban seconds, and by that, still highly-potent cigars.
“No, you knothead. Wait for the tip to glow. Then puff, you goof!” I exhort them.
I ask Dax to rustle up four of the plastic cups that have been circulating around the campfire. He finds a double brace of them, briefly washes them out, and hands them to me.
I distribute one each to Tak, Pak, Mac, and Jak.
“The only way to really enjoy a fine cigar is to enjoy it with a fine drink. Here. Hold out your cups.” I ordered.
I pour them each about 100 milliliters of Russian 100-proof vodka, and I take the time to re-freshen my Yorshch.
“Geongang-e” [To your health!], I say, as the Korean toast is easy to remember if you break it down as Geo-n-gang-E!
They smile. They laugh. The go white as I polish off my Yorshch and turn the can upside down. Not a drop spilled out, just as it should be.
Have to give them credit, they each choked down that ration of booze. However, I think they forget about the lit cigars they had in their other hands.
“YEEOUCH!” Pak cried after he jabbed the charcoal of his cigar into the back of his hand.
“That’s how it starts, Mr. Pak. Keep that up and you’ll end up like this!” I shout and wave my keloidified and scarred hand under his nose.
He almost passes out, but his chair caught him this time.
The roars of laughter around the campfire at this time is one of my best memories of the whole trip as other inveigles them to try their particular favorite booze.
The reverie’s going along at a fine clip. Small sub-groups clump together to discuss one thing or another, mostly geological minutaea about the day's happenings.
Suddenly, Grako stands up.
“What’s the story on this lake? Good fishing?” he asks the collective.
Mak looks up; really, really, drunk off his pins. “It is fake lake. Some fish have been planted. It is more for show and swim.”
Jak lolls his head around to agree with Mak.
Tak looks like he’s going to add to the conversation, but just slurps another draft of his multiple-origin drink.
Pak, on the other hand, leaps up and is running. First goes the shirt and tie. Then the shoes. Then pants. He’s down to drawers and runs at full tilt to the pier that extends some 50 meters out over the lake. He hit that pier like Evel Knievel hitting the Snake River Canyon Jump. We watch him accelerate over the wooden pier, and we’re all laughing like loons shouting “GO! GO! GO!”
He flew a good distance and hit the water with an enormous splash. He swims over to one of the untethered swan boats and hangs on for dear life.
To a man, we all stood up and applauded.
It was warm out, so I decided that a dip might just be the thing. I lose my shorts and Hawaiian shirt, but keep my lit cigar, vodka bottle, and Stetson. I slowly get up and walk toward the lake. To the edge of the water and right into the point where neutral buoyancy takes over. Dax follows, and walking out on the dock, laughs and tosses me a swim ring.
“Here, now you won’t sink and douse your cigar.” He laughs.
He strips down to skivvies and dives in as well.
I’m bobbing around just keeping my head and cigar out of the water. My cigar is lit and my vodka bottle is nestled in the crease of my Stetson. The water’s warm, suspiciously so. I don’t give it another thought as it’s actually quite pleasant and quite possibly radioactive.
Then the rest of the crowd decides that a midnight dip would be just the thing.
Mr. Pak was eventually found alive, still clinging to the swan boat. Dax and Joon dragged him over to the pier and tossed him up there so he wouldn’t drown.
He was, as we say back home, “Fully Krausened.”
The rest of the shiny suit squad were sound-out in their chairs. They were sonorously snoring along, adding an interesting one-note counterpart to the harmony of the crackling campfire.
We all out in the lake, bobbing and paddling along. Viv grabbed a cooler full of beer and we develop a fine game of keeping the cooler afloat as we withdraw full beers and invested our empties.
I toss in my vodka bottle so anyone who wants to augment his beer is free and clear to do so.
Some folks are not one with the water, so after ten or fifteen minutes, some of them ease back to the campfire. They re-stoke it to its former glory and are dry within minutes.
Old water dogs like Dax, Ivan, myself, Viv, and Erlen are floating along, smoking our cigars, drinking our drinks of choice, and scanning the skies of satellites, meteorites, and anything else that might crop up on this clear, cloudless night. Gad, it was pitch black, save for the glow of the fire, starlit, cloudless, and starlit. Beauty of a sight, the stellar backbone of the night.
After an hour or so, we decide it’s time to get back to shore. Back we go and around the campfire, the shiny suit squad are snoring soundly and one or more of our team decides it’s time for some kip.
The old-timers, Ivan, my own self, Dax, and Viv all hang around the fire for a while longer.
“It’s so nice out here tonight”, I comment, “Who would have thought this is the way things would work out when we were contacted for this project?”
Several comments of agreement are heard. Then we hear a wan, squeaky voice from behind us.
“Ah! Yes, Mr. Pak”, I ask. “Grab you a beer?”
“Oh, no…I now remember…must tell you, gentlemen…tomorrow morning…local school children will be coming. Perform Korean dance and songs for your pleasure. 1000 hours. Good night.”, as he drags himself soggily and overwhelmed to his cabana.
“1000? Holy Wow. Pass me a beer. It’s still early then.” I laugh, as I retrieve the vodka from Ivan and Morse.
We all cratered abound an hour or hour and a half later. The room was most comfortable and seemingly secure. Since our handlers, er…guides were nowhere to be seen that evening, and the shiny suit squad got a little lubricated, well, we were certainly on our own.
One sleep later, and after a brisk morning shower with a brace of breakfast beers, I was over at the restaurant scanning the breakfast menu. Damn, I was downright peckish.
Most everyone was there. Young Myung, although looking a bit frazzled around the edges. Most all the Westerners, except Dax. He was down at the lake, trying his luck at fishing.
After eggs, toast, sausage, and coffee; we wandered with a CARE package for Dax. He had landed some very nice trout-looking sort of fish and was planning on presenting them to Pak and his crowd.
“Dax”, I said, “After last night’s festivities, that’s just pure evil”, and smiled.
“Just trying to b neighborly”, he explains.
It’s about 0930 and Pak and his crew are in the restaurant. They are looking very, very haggard. Very rough around the edges, right through to the core. We thought it would be too nasty to send them a round of breakfast drinks, but Viv had to talk me out of a round of Bloody Marys.
Dax took care of that and presented them three of the fish he had just caught.
Olive-green isn’t a usual Oriental color, now is it? Pak, Mac, Tak, and Jak all corroborated that conclusion.
They accepted the fish gratefully and had the head waiter whisk them away as quickly as possible.
We all sit down for coffee and pastries while we wait for the kids to show up.
I fire up a cigar. Others are smoking cigarettes or pipes, and talking excitedly about getting back into the field.
“How? How? How is it possible?” Pak asks.
“Who what, Mr. Pak?” I ask.
“How can you be so…undamaged by last night?” he asks.
“What? That little campfire meeting? Genetics, I guess. Wait. I’ll ask around.” I stand up and ask for attention.
“Gentlemen, Mr. Pak here wants to know how we feel after last night,” I say.
“How should we feel? It was a field night. I feel fine.” Gracko says.
Dax agrees, “Fine fettle. Never felt fettler.”
Dr. Academician Ivan replies, “Must be superiority of Russian upbringing and culture. You should see real Russian party!”
One after the other relate how they feel just fine and are looking forward to another full field day.
The waiter arrives with dry toast and tea for the shiny suit squad. We order beers to go with our smokes.
“You people are inhuman.” Mr. Pak moans.
“Nah. Just geologists. The only ethanol-fueled organisms in existence!” We laugh. “Vodka is just kind of a hobby.”
The local elementary school arrives at 1000 hours and for the next hour, regales us with Korean dance and song about how wonderful it is to be Korean, live in such a wonderful country, and other fundamental tales of twaddle and balderdash.
We applaud nicely as they did a good job and we’re not entirely heartless.
After this, I hunt down Mr. Pak.
“Well, that’s over. When are we headed back to the field? Soon?” I ask.
“Yes. Very soon”, Mr. Pak growls. “Tell your team to pack everything. We are leaving in 30 minutes.”
“Far out”, I reply and head off to tell the others of the good news.
The large sample bags are in the cargo hold of the bus. The smaller samples are all curated within my luggage.
Back on the bus, all our gear stowed in the cargo holds below, we’re smoking our smokeables and drinking our drinkables.
“A toast to another field day in Best Korea”, Dax offers the bus.
Mr. Pak appears unperturbed. He announces that we will be seeing some local sights today as well.
We drive on, and all is progressing as usual.
We come up to a couple of villages. We have no idea where we are. Our maps had stopped a few miles back. In fact, we didn’t even know that we had been headed south for most of the remaining morning.
“Here is Kijŏng-dong”, Mr. Tak announces.
Kijŏng-dong is one of two villages permitted to remain in the four-kilometer-wide (2.5 mi) DMZ set up under the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War; the other is the South Korean village of Daeseong-dong, 2.22 kilometers (1.38 mi) away.
Mr. Jak points out the reason for all the military appurtenances is that we are close to the DMZ, the border between North and South Korea.
We travel down a well-worn road. The sign points out that the village of Panmunjeom is only a few kilometers distant.
The road at Panmunjeom, which was known historically as Highway One in the South, was originally the only access point between the two countries on the Korean Peninsula. Both North and South Korea's roads end in the JSA joint security area; the highways do not quite join as there is a 20 cm (8 in) concrete line that divides the entire site.
The bus grinds to a halt. We are all invited to exit the bus and have a look around.
As we are doing so, our luggage is being taken out of the cargo area of the bus and rather unceremoniously stacked close to the border.
“Mr. Pak”, I ask, “What’s going on. What’s all this about?”
He replies, “People given the rare permission to cross this border must do so on foot before continuing their journey by road.”
We all swivel and see a flotilla of light-blue UN Humvees waiting on the other side of the border.
Mr. Pak shakes my hand, Dax’s, Ivan’s, and all one by one until we are properly thanked and asked to please get the flying fuck out of North Korea.
“The DPRK thanks you Western Scientists for your efforts over the last few weeks. We hope this project will continue to bear fruit. But now, with all that’s transpiring (assuming he was referring to the absent Supreme Leader and the ‘absent in Best Korea’ COVID-19 virus) your project is at an end. Thank you for your hard work and contributions to international science; and the progression of science from west to east. Now, we ask you to please depart.”
He bows to us slightly and says: “감사합니다.[Gamsahabnida.] Thank you and goodbye.”
“Well”, I muse, “That was rather abrupt.”
With that, we grab our gear and troop unceremoniously across the border to the waiting UN officials. It was like the end scenes of Close Encounters. There was a tote board with each of our pictures attached. One by one as we came across the border, a checkmark was made with a grease pencil over our photo.
“I guess that’s that”, I say as we are hustled aboard a waiting Humvee.
They made me put out my cigar.
“Yeah, we’re back in civilization”, I grouse.
We endure the ride for an hour and a half or so as we’re headed to Seoul, South Korea. We all have reservations at the Four Seasons Hotel there. Since our project was cut off early, and we have travel restrictions to deal with, we all have reservations for suites.
After checking in, calling Esme, and letting her know of the wicked turn of events, I call Rack and Ruin. I get to listen to their howling laughter as to how we were kicked out of the worst country in history.
Fuck. We’ll never live this down.
Later, down in the Market Kitchen restaurant, we are all assembled, probably for the last time. Certainly the last time on this project.
“Rock”, Dax asked, “What the fuck did we do to deserve this?”
“I don’t know”, I said as I lifted my huge beer mug and looked around at the splendor of this 5-star hotel in which we’ve been incarcerated, “But I plan on doing it more often.”
“Nahhh….why’d they kick us out?” Viv asks.
“They had to”, Ivan interjected. “What we did, in good fun and conviviality to those poor Korean agents. They couldn’t let that pass without a response.”
“Yeah. We damn near amused them to death,” I smiled.
It became apparent that North Korean officials were set to put with a certain amount of carryings-on and shenanigans, but never expected the level of impudence and incaution that a group of international geologists could provide.
We all smoked, we drank, we swore. We didn’t listen, we thought for ourselves and we eschewed prohibition. We did what we thought was necessary to accomplish the tasks set before us. They had no experience with audacity and impertinence on this level; they simply had no experience with this degree of effrontery, they did not know how to react.
So, we got the collective boot.
They thought they kept all the rock samples, but we didn’t let on that we had a duplicate set. They thought they kept all the maps, but we didn’t let on that we had a duplicate set. They thought they kept all the seismic data, but we didn’t let on that we had a duplicate set.
They didn’t even want to see our notes, phones, or cameras. They just wanted us gone.
So, fuck it, we left.
After several of our European counterparts had departed for Scandinavia, Great Britain, and the Iberian Peninsula; Dax, Ivan, Morse, and I were left to discuss the situation.
“It’s really too bad they tossed us out”, I said, “All that work, and we never even got to the point where we could present conclusions.”
Dax agreed, “All that work, down the tubes. They don’t know what to do with the data much less interpret it. All they have to do is ask, but I guarantee that will never happen. They’re too damned ‘proud’.”
Dr. Academician Ivan replies, “Is true. However, I doubt they would like our conclusions, even with additional fieldwork. All indications are that there is virtually no recoverable hydrocarbons in either northern basin. Tectonics all wrong, structural setting the same.”
Dr. Morse adds, “Yes, it is not a good place to hunt for oil and gas. We all felt that going in, and with the work we’ve done, we were finding more negative indications. Perhaps is good thing we leave. We tell them there’s no use to bother looking for oil and gas in their country, they might be sore wrought.”
I continue with, “However, Comrades, there is great potential there for alternative energy sources. They have the perfect set-up geologically to exploit ‘hot, dry rock’. Drill a few deep water injector wells in those Late Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic massifs. Then inject water into fissures and produce live steam at 25,000 psi through producer wells. A project-site power plant at the surface uses the produced steam heat energy to drive turbines through a generator; boom, instant rural electrification It’d be a bird's nest on the ground for them. But, they didn’t want to listen, and well…”
The waiter arrives and we all order another round. Drs. Ivan and Morse tell us they must be off after this drink. They are leaving very early in the morning for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, then catch a connecting flight to Moscow. We finish the round, shake hands, exchange business cards and it just me and the goofy Canuck left in the restaurant.
“Dax, let us relocate. It’s too airish here”, I say.
Dax agrees and we retire to the Charles H. Baker bar in the hotel’s lower level.
“Ah”, I note, “This is more like it. Just like Pyongyang.” I say and fire up a newly-purchased cigar.
Dax has finally had enough and bums one off of me.
“Why, Dr. Dax, I never…” I joked.
“I gots to know”, he smiled back, “What is so fucking fascinating with these things.”
I offer him a clip and a light. After his color returns, it tell him “Puff. Don’t inhale.”
Dax will be leaving for Calgary the next night. I’m stuck until I hear from rack and Ruin, though I don’t tell Dax that. The Middle East is still under lockdown. They will try in the next couple of days to get me as far as Dubai. After that, they suggest I walk or rent a camel.
Agents Rack and Ruin are just loving this.
“So, Rock. When you headed back?” Dax asks.
“Couple-three days, I fear. I’ll be stuck here, on someone else’s nickel, in this tawdry 5-star dump until then”, I snicker.
“Then what? Dax asks, “I hear you’re between contracts.”
“Well…Doctor CanaDax. There’s going to be some changes in the Rocknocker abode and address.” I say.
“How so?” he asks.
“Well, after long deliberation and multiple conferences with my prime marital unit, we’ve decided to leave the Middle East once and for all.”
“Hell. You’ve been there…damn, forever. What is it? 15-16 years?” Dax asks.
“More like the shy side of 20,” I reply.
“Damn, that’s a near forever. Then what?” he continues.
“Sell up. Get rid of a lot of accumulated shit. We’re going to sell our place in New Mexico; in fact, that’s a done deal. Then, I’m going back to school.”
“What? For what? You’re already Dr. Rock.” Dax protests.
“Going to be Dr. of Science Rock. Going back for a DSC. Then, academia. A full tenured professorship with research at a top-notch northern university. That’s it, and a few other odds and bobs, but that’s the skinny. We’re going back to the states, I go back to school for a year or so, then it’s Professor Dr. Rocknocker BSc, MSc, Ph.D., D.Sc. Impressed?”
“Yes, I am.” He replied.
“Fuckin-A, Bubba. You should be…” I smile back between sips of some fine Russian vodka. “You should be…”
END
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6 Ways Your Employer Can Contribute to Your Financial Wellness - SoFi Blog

Latest from the SoFi Blog
by SoFi
July 17, 2020 at 12:36PM
To help employees gain better control over their finances, more and more employers are offering financial wellness benefits as part of their compensation packages. The number of employers that offer financial wellness programs through the workplace is expected to nearly double within the next few years, according to research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company .
So, while employers continue to implement financial wellness programs, what does this mean for you? In this post, we’ll define financial wellness and the important role it plays in the workplace as well as breakdown some of the benefits you can expect to see from employers and how to use them to your advantage.
We’ve also added some suggestions submitted by our Twitter followers participating in SoFi’s #MoneyMonday sweepstakes prompt “What additional benefit would you like your employer to offer?”

What is Financial Wellness?

Financial wellness is balancing your current financial well-being and tackling daily tasks while preparing for a secure financial future. This includes addressing behaviors that promote positive financial decision-making as well as identifying those that might negatively impact an employee’s financial situation.
Since financial goals and priorities will change throughout an employee’s life, it’s important to grasp the concept of money management and to adapt when goals and objectives change.

Employers Have a Big Impact on Financial Wellness

Finances touch every aspect of employees’ financial lives. Employees who are more in control of their finances may be more productive and focused in the workplace.
Employers who understand the importance of financial wellness can provide personal workplace benefits, tips for improving your financial health, and offer access to guidance that will help improve employees’ financial lives at large.

Financial Wellness Benefits Offerings

Employers offer a variety of benefits that help employees’ financial lives in a myriad of ways. Here are some of the benefits offerings you may encounter as part of a financial wellness program in the workplace.

A 401(k) Match

The most popular benefit our Twitter followers said they’d like to see offered by their employer was some sort of 401k benefit.
“DEFINITELY a 401k match program !!!” – Cliff P.
“I would love employer matches on 401K contributions!” – Carey C.
According to the IRS , “A 401k is a feature of a qualified defined contribution plan that allows employees to contribute a portion of their wages to individual accounts.”
Essentially, employees and employers can contribute to a retirement savings account sponsored by the employer.
Although 401(k) plans make it simple for employees to start saving for retirement, some companies will match contributions up to a certain amount to give employees an extra retirement-savings boost.
A 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan can be a powerful resource for building a secure retirement—and an employer match can add a substantial amount to an employee’s nest egg.”
For example, if your employer matches your contributions dollar-for-dollar up to three percent of your salary, your savings may double if you take full advantage. Assuming the investment in the account doesn’t increase, if you set aside $42,000 by the time you retire, you will have set aside $84,000. The extra $42,000 is essentially free money.

Financial Planning Education

Financial planning education is one of the top financial well-being initiatives that many companies offer. From helping employees select the right investments for their 401(k)s to providing a platform to help employees manage their day-to-day expenses, companies may offer a wide range of tools, resources, and services to help employees manage their money.
While receiving a 401(k) match or additional financial support is great, it may not be as useful as gaining the knowledge of how to manage your money. Taking advantage of a financial planning education benefit may help you navigate your finances for years to come.
Here’s what some of our Twitter followers suggested they’d like to see added to their benefits package:
“Financial wellness classes for all employees.” – Patrice
“Seminars on retirement plans.” – Karen B.

Funds for Emergencies

For employees who need to pay for emergency expenses such as damages due to a car accident or home repair, employers may offer employee relief or compassion funds. Some employers are matching contributions to an employee’s personal account, offering payroll advances, and short-term loans that can be repaid through payroll deduction.
Offering these programs may make it less likely for employees to tap into their retirement savings if they have cash reserves or assistance accessible. Therefore, employees can shift their focus to long-term savings and retirement planning.
Here’s one idea from a follower on Twitter:
“Right now a good benefit would be unemployment insurance through the workplace so we could fund our own emergencies…” – Billy

Healthcare Savings Accounts

Overall healthcare costs — including all private and public spending — are anticipated to rise by an average of 5.5 percent per year over the next decade — growing from $3.5 trillion in 2017 to $6 trillion by 2027 .
As healthcare costs continue to rise, many employees may feel the financial weight of affording medical expenses. While many employees may not consider healthcare a financial wellness benefit, employers who offer support can ease the financial burden of healthcare costs now and in the future.
Some employers offer a Health Savings Account (HSA) in conjunction with high-deductible health insurance plans. An HSA is a tax-advantaged account that helps employees prepare to pay for healthcare costs such as doctors’ visits or prescriptions. HSAs have several other benefits including:
• Pre-tax contributions, potential gains, and withdrawals can be used for qualified medical expenses and are exempt from taxation.
• The unused balance car carries over into the next year.
• Fund in HSA accounts can be invested which may provide long-term growth potential to afford future healthcare costs.
• The funds in the account never expire and will pass to a beneficiary upon the account holder’s passing.
While employers are not required to offer a high-deductible health insurance plan in conjunction with an HSA, many employers do offer this benefit. If your employer does, it’s wise to explore how an HSA may be beneficial to your financial wellness.

Caregiving Assistance

Nearly half of employees perform some type of caregiving activities.
That’s why Twitter follower Maddy claims she’d love to see a “daycare/preschool assistant” added to her employer’s benefit package.
Caregiving tasks such as taking someone to a medical appointment, buying groceries, preparing meals, or paying bills can take a financial toll on many employees. Caregiving can also impact productivity and workplace performance.
Therefore, employers who offer caregiving benefits may lessen the financial and time demands that caregiving requires. Some benefits may include:
• Sick days or paid leave to care for a loved one
• Flexible schedule to accommodate caregiving needs
• Work from home flexibility
So, whether you’re caring for a child or an aging parent, ask your employer about the benefits they offer to help with your caregiving needs.

Student Loan Repayment

The latest student loan debt statistics for 2020 show how serious the student loan debt crisis has become for borrowers across all demographics and age groups. There are 45 million borrowers who collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.
With so many Americans paying off student debt, some employers are offering an employer student loan repayment program to help with repayment. From increasing compensation to account for current debt payments or matching payments up to a certain amount, employers are implementing strategies that are helping their employees eliminate their debt.
Here’s what one of our followers on Twitter had to say:
“One benefit my employer could offer is a percentage each month towards my student loans. Fingers crossed it happens in the near future!” – Betty
If you’re repaying your student loans and your employer offers a student loan repayment benefit, it can really help with the most burdensome student loan payments.

Other Offerings

If your company doesn’t offer some sort of financial wellness benefit, they may provide other incentives such as annual raise opportunities, referral bonuses, or professional development training.
If your options are limited, you may want to speak with your employer to determine if they are willing to offer any of these benefits to improve your financial well-being.

Taking Advantage of Financial Wellness Benefit at Work

Whether you’re looking for a new job or you have worked in your position for years, it’s important to understand all benefits an employer offers. Sometimes even if you have worked at an organization for years, you might not be aware of all of the financial wellness benefits available.
Taking full advantage of all benefits offered may help improve your financial well-being and future financial security.
But, keep in mind, your employer’s financial wellness benefits may not be the only solution available. In the instance your employer doesn’t offer help repaying your student loans, you may want to consider student loan refinancing as a way to deal with student loan debt.
Student loan refinancing is when you consolidate your student loans with a private lender and receive new rates and terms. While the exact process can vary by lender, the general idea is that a borrower consolidates their existing student loan debt with a new loan, and qualifying borrowers might be able to secure a lower interest rate. It is important to note that if you do choose to refinance your federal student loans, you forfeit your ability to qualify for federal benefits.
Borrowers interested in refinancing their student loans may want to consider SoFi. You can check your rates in just two minutes.
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The Annapurna Circuit: Trip report and guide (Intro and Part I)

Based on my July 2018 experience
This was not technically an ultralight backpacking trip. However, my experience on this trip was a catalyst to me switching over. I remember the clear difference between two fellow trekkers I met. One carrying 25kg of gear, the other only 7. The former I passed one day struggling up the trail despite him having several hours head start. He looked miserable. The latter never seemed as tired as I was and rarely stopped for breaks. My load was between the two but I wished it was much lighter.
This is also not a backpacking trip in the traditional sense. No tents or sleeping pads. Beds every night. You don’t cook your own food either. However, you could do those things on this trip as several other backpackers that I met attested. Regardless, it is an adventure that I think the ultralight community will appreciate as we all long to be back in the wilderness. Also worth noting: I am not sponsored by anyone. Any recommendation is simply based on my experience. No free gear was received in exchange for mentioning it. All of the links are for general information and are not affiliates of mine.
This is just part one of a two part series since I can't only post so much in one Reddit post. Look for part two to come out soon.
I've included several links to spreadsheets and photos:
1). Gear List. Includes gear I brought and its weight as well as what I’d bring now for comparison.
2). Cost breakdown. This is an itemized report of prices on the trek for housing, water, food, beer, transportation, and sunscreen.
3). Elevation and Distance. The third spreadsheet shares the rough distances between villages and communities along the trek along with elevation change.
4). Photos. Finally I’ve included a link to my website which has some of my favorite photos from the trip.
Please ask any questions you have. I’ll do my best to answer them. Hopefully by this fall some of you will be headed to Nepal for your own adventure!

INTRO
This is a complete guide to trekking the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. I did this with my partner in July of 2018 during one of two off-seasons. Summer (May-September) is the rainy season and the trek doesn’t see much traffic during this time. Winter (December-February) is the other off-season for obvious reasons.
I’ve divided this trip report into two main sections (it's two long to post in one post on Reddit). The first part talks about the general logistics such as how to get to the circuit and what you should bring. I will try to include as much exact information about what I actually brought as I can and then provide some commentary on what I’d change when I go back.
The second part will focus on a timeline of the trek. What towns did we stay in and what were they like? What were some of the things we saw along the way and what were the trail conditions? This part will basically be a long blog post about our trek divided by the villages we stayed at or passed through along the way.

BACKGROUND
Why the Annapurna Circuit and why July (arguably the worst time of year to go). I am not a mountaineer, rock climber, athlete, or otherwise elite outdoorsman. In fact, the Annapurna Circuit was really my first backpacking trip and still my longest one to date. I did, however, grow up camping and loving the outdoors and am an experienced day hiker. Travel is also something I have some experience in, having been through much of North America and over 30 other countries.
Over the past few years I’ve grown a love for photography and a desire to capture natural landscapes as I see and feel them. Combined with my passion for the outdoors and a mild case of wanderlust, I began creating an unofficial list of places I definitely want to visit in my lifetime. This list includes Patagonia, New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the Andes Mountains in Northern Peru, and the Himalayas.
In May of 2018, my partner and I quit our jobs and bought one way tickets to Singapore to start our first visit to the continent of Asia. I had researched the Himalayas enough to know that Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Base Camp, and Everest Base Camp were probably the best options for first time trekkers with epic mountain scenery. However, we made no specific plans on when we would arrive in Nepal if at all on this trip.
Fast forward through our first month in the hot and humid SouthEast part of Asia, and I soon realized that the climate differences for a resident of dry temperate Northern California were more than I anticipated. Added to that were the vast cultural differences between western countries where most of my previous travel had been and that of many SouthEast Asian countries. I found myself longing for the cool familiarity of the mountains and Nepal seemed the right choice.
So one day we bought a ticket from Malaysia to Kathmandu, knowing we would arrive during the rainy season but figuring we should give it a shot. We landed on a hot July day in the rain and were soon greeted by the chaos of Kathmandu. Here we opted to spend five days exploring the city, eating good food, researching all the ins and outs of the treks, buying supplies, and determining the best trek for this time of year. We talked to local guides and foreign adventurers alike trying to gage whether we should attempt trekking at all this time of year.
Eventually, after receiving some mixed accounts, we decided to risk it and head out the next morning for the Annapurna Circuit. We heard from both ends of the spectrum including some vehement statements that we shouldn’t trek this time of year and other trekkers who had just finished and had a wonderful time. We knew that we could always turn around and come back if it felt too dangerous.

MORE ON MONSOON SEASON
July is the middle of the monsoon season in Nepal. It’s also summer which means the lowlands are a steaming jungle and the mountains are often hidden in clouds. Due to the steep terrain, the land is prone to mudslides which can block roads and send vehicles down ravines. Leeches are also a problem at lower elevation which we soon found to be especially true when walking through dense foliage.
However, there are several benefits to trekking this time of year. Being the off -season there are far fewer tourists both in Kathmandu and on the trails. This means lower prices, easier to obtain rooms, and less crowding on the streets and trails. Along with the rain comes greenery. The flowers are in bloom and the trees are their greenest. The alpine hillsides are green as well, turning brown later in the year when trekking peaks. The nights don’t get as cold even at high altitude where guest houses are without heat, so fewer warm layers are required.
Of course, the dangers are real. Nepali people die every year in monsoon related road accidents and it's not uncommon for a few tourists to die as well. Delays are inevitable due to poor road conditions made worse by the rain. On the trail, many of the guest houses are not operating during the off season or may be more hesitant to welcome guests or have many food options. While crowds can create hassle, some comradery on the trail is welcome but much harder to find during the off-season.
NEXT TIME: Based on our experience, I wouldn’t change what we did. However, I would probably not go during this season again or necessarily recommend others to go during July. Instead I would opt for the end of the rainy season right before peak season (late September) or the end of the second trekking season right before the rainy season (late May).

PART I: LOGISTICS OF THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
Almost everything you need for your trek can be bought in Kathmandu. Prices are cheaper than in the west but the quality is lower and most stores sell knock-offs of the brands they claim to sell. The neighborhood of Thamel is the primary trekkers hub in Nepal’s capital city. Here you will find more shops than you can count offering new and used gear, from real name-brand stuff to cheap knock offs. If you are coming to Nepal as part of a longer trip that includes travel to much warmer countries (as we did), you might consider buying some of your gear in Kathmandu.
We bought two synthetic sleeping bags (rated -10C but probably only good down to freezing) for $25/each. We were offered supposedly 100% down rated -20C “waterproof” sleeping bags for $50/each but were glad we didn’t get them. I purchased a decent quality “North Face” jacket with synthetic down filling for $15 and “waterproof” shell for $15. Diamox (a medication for altitude sickness) and many other meds (Decadron, a steroid, and various antibiotics) can be purchased for about $1 for a week's supply and without a prescription. The quality and purity of these drugs is unknown. I would definitely bring my own backpack as you will want something better quality than what I saw available. Same with shoes (or boots, it doesn’t matter really but trail runners are more comfortable and do the job perfectly) as you want them broken in. Everything else could be bought in Kathmandu but you won’t find anything ultralight or top quality.
NEXT TIME: Since trekking I’ve learned a lot about the value of a light backpack and minimal (but sufficient) gear. If trekking in Nepal was the only aspect of my trip from the US, I would bring nearly all my own gear. Everything would be quality and as light as possible for the task. An ultralight down quilt, wool underclothes, a down puffy, a waterproof rain shell, and a quality lightweight backpack 50 liters or less. I think a sub 10 pound base weight is reasonable even with a heavy camera.

PASSES AND PERMITS
You are required to have a TIMS card and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit to trek. There are plenty of good blogs online describing these so I won’t go into great detail. They can both be purchased at the Nepal Tourism Board about a 20 minute walk from Thamel. Each costs about 2000 rupee ($17) and during the off season there was very little wait. I was told that you can get them in Pokhara and Besi Sahar as well but can't confirm. Bring passport photos (they wanted 4 each from us) and your passport as well as travel insurance information (required, we used World Nomads). Keep your permits handy as there are frequent checkpoints on the trek.

MONEY MATTERS
Everything is cash in Nepal. Many places that have MasterCard and Visa plastered all over their storefront window or list online that they take credit cards. This is almost always inaccurate. I’m not sure why. Mobile data and wifi are generally available and it would be helpful for tourists even if it meant slightly higher prices. Also there is a feeling of dishonesty when a business clearly advertises one thing but practices another.
For the trek you should bring all the cash you need with you. There are no ATM’s from Besisahar to Jomsom. The ATM’s in Thamel, Kathmandu usually only allow 15-30k rupees per transaction (many banks have limitations as well). You will also likely pay a fee every time you withdraw money and probably not always get the best exchange rates. I estimate that I lost about 10% on every withdrawal between fees and bad exchange rates.
How much money you need on the trek depends a lot on how much time you plan to take and what “luxuries” you want. I read blogs before my own experience suggesting $25-35/day per person. By watching our budget and going in the off-season we spent closer to $15/person and could have been quite comfortable on $20. Beer ($2-5), hot showers ($2 when available), and western food (always more expensive than Nepali food) can quickly double that. Most snacks are cheaper in Kathmandu (with the exception of Manang) but then you have to carry them all that way. If you purify your own water you save a lot.
NEXT TIME: I would probably plan to spend a little bit more to make the journey more enjoyable. An occasional beer or more variety in food choices can really improve your day. Hot showers are definitely worth it if they are gas powered but probably not if solar (they don’t actually get hot). I would also take more time on the trek, thus increasing the amount of cash I needed. That being said: the 50,000 rupee I brought on this trek would still probably suffice. If you are going without a guide or a porter the trek is automatically going to be significantly cheaper than those with planned tours.

GUIDES AND PORTERS
There are numerous options to do a guided trek including booking months in advance through large North American companies like G-Adventures or REI. For a more hassle free experience, this could be a good option. However, you definitely do not need a guide for the Annapurna Circuit. And I’ve read many stories of the guides being more trouble than they are worth.
The trek is super easy to follow with a map. Often because of the rain, we just followed the rough gravel and dirt road that nearly makes the entire circuit. During peak seasons, the trail looks very well marked and easy to follow. There are quite a few side trails, but these are easily avoided by referring to your map.
Porters are also unnecessary for nearly all trekkers, even those with guides. You need such minimal gear compared to backpacking in the wilderness or mountaineering, that your pack shouldn’t be an issue. I couldn’t believe how much stuff some people brought with them. My pack weight was over 30 pounds and 55 liters and I definitely saw a large number of much bulkier packs on the trail. Some people had a porter carrying a huge load for them on top of the oversized day pack on their own back.
Cost-wise hiring guides and porters would at least double your cost. Sure it helps provide jobs, but also may keep you from staying in that little unique guest house on the edge of town or spending an extra day somewhere that intrigues you. Guides will often direct you to stay at a specific guest house for which they get a commission even though there may be better options available. Some friends did Everest Base camp with a tour company later in 2018 and spend nearly 7 times what we did on our trek (there are no luxury hotel options on the trek and flights are not included in most tours). Having the independence to travel at your own pace and stay where you want, when you want is all something that money can’t buy.
NEXT TIME: I would definitely do this trek (also Annapurna and Everest Base Camps) on my own again. While there are some incredible guides with much knowledge and enjoyable personalities, the Annapurna Circuit is just too straight forward for me to justify needing one.

FOLLOWING THE TRAIL
There are several options for trails maps. Maps are easily available in Kathmandu for about 400 rupee. These are fairly accurate and up to date. Look for one made the same year (or at least previous) as your trek date. If you buy a map in the US before traveling, it may be slightly less up to date. For example, we ended up with the September 2017 edition of Nepa Maps NA504 Around Annapurna. Now, over a year later, the latest edition I can find online is the 2014 edition.
A road that parallels the Circuit is rapidly being constructed and the trail is constantly being rerouted when its path is more desirable for the course of the road.
Free offline apps such as Maps.Me offer downloadable trail routes for the Annapurna Circuit. Other options such as Gaia can assist with terrain but I never used it. Another invaluable source that I used for information about stops along the way, distances between villages, and what to expect, was the Wikitravel Document on the Annapurna Circuit.
The main trail is marked with red and white trail markers that are fairly visible. Some of the trail simply follows the road which isn’t a bad walk during the off season. However, in high season the dust and frequent jeep traffic would make this option uninviting. Luckily, most of the way up the path there are alternative trail options which are often on the opposite side of the valley as the road. Since leeches love foliage, we opted for the foliage free road most of the way up but outside of the rainy season this shouldn’t be a problem.

ELECTRONICS
CHARGERS: I would recommend bringing one universal adapter, preferably with multiple usb outlets in it. Outlets are hard to find and while some are universal, not all are. Some places charge you to use an outlet so being able to plug multiple devices into a single outlet saves you money. With my adapter I could charge my back up battery, phone, and camera all at once from one outlet.
PHOTO AND VIDEO: If you are a casual photographer just looking for some nice photos to show friends and family, I would recommend investing in a flagship smartphone or a Gopro rather than carrying the weight of even a small interchangeable lens camera. You just don't need all that extra weight unless you want significant zoom or professional quality large prints. The Go-pro is super light, takes decent 4k video, has image stabilization built in (much better video quality), is waterproof, and is tiny. Bring multiple batteries if you plan on a lot of videos. Also bring one SD card per day to reduce the risk of losing data.
I consider myself an advanced hobbyist when it comes to photography. Currently I use a Sony a7r II. I only brought one lens, the versatile Sony 24-240mm FE f3.5-6.5. If you are really serious I'd recommend a wide angle as well (16-35mm f2.8). This would especially be nice during drier weather when you can actually see the night sky for stargazing. The mountains are so vast and towering that a wide angle is really the only way to properly capture them without doing a panorama. I chose not to bring a tripod. If you are carrying your own gear it's a lot of extra weight to carry.
NEXT TIME: I’d bring the same camera set up and add a wide angle lens and an ultralight fold-up tripod. I would bring four batteries and probably an SD card for every other day. It’s a lot of weight but the photos are so worth it.
BACKUP POWER: I used a generic large backup battery charger with two usb ports. It was rated for 20k mAh but I don’t think that was accurate. My 10k mAh Anker is lighter and holds a similar charge . Whenever there wasn't charging available, I'd plug into this and when there was charging available I'd make sure it stayed charged. Even so I bought 4 batteries for my camera. One alternative, if going when the sun's out, is to rely on solar energy for charging.
MEMORY CARDS: I brought 8 memory cards including 4 micro SD and 4 regular. If I had to do it over I’d bring more. I had one scare where the camera said it wasn't writing the files correctly and when I went to flip back through them, I got error messages. I switched cards at that time and more frequently afterward. Turns out nothing was wrong but if you are a serious photographer you want to minimize risk of loss.
DRONES: This is a subject that has not been addressed in any other blogs I've read at all. Before going I watched numerous videos of people flying drones in the Himalayas. YouTube has several vloggers who have droned their treks and filmmakers who have made beautiful drone documentaries of these great mountains.
Unfortunately none of them address one serious problem, the Annapurna Conservatory at least (and possibly all of Nepal) has banned the use of drones without a permit (some say it's easy to get one, some say it's not). In some instances police have simply confiscated people's drones on the spot. In a country where one can hardly breathe in major cities due to dust and pollution, you'd think there would be greater issues than a couple of drones flying around. After consulting with some locals who saw my drone, I concluded that there is a significant risk that the police will take your device if they catch you. Many will find this a risk well worth taking and in some places there is limited police presence. The Annapurna Circuit has a surprisingly strong police presence in several towns (Chame for example) but not everywhere.
A drone is a lot of weight to carry if you don't feel comfortable using it for risk of having it taken. If you do plan to use it, either get a permit or exercise extreme caution and don't use it around villages or locals who might feel led to alert authorities. If you are a professional, just get the permit since your gear is likely worth a lot. If you are an amateur and want to risk it, bring a small, light drone that you can hide well if need be. I don't have specific information about getting permits, but it seems like the process isn't easy or quick.
OTHER: I brought a headlamp but never used it. For outhouse runs and power outages my phone served just fine though the headlamp would be much more convenient for longer periods of darkness. I would still recommend one.

CELL SERVICE
If you want to pack super light, aren't serious about photography or filming, but want some nice shots to bring home, I'd bring a high-end Samsung Galaxy, iPhone or similar. Since I had camera gear, I ended up using a cheap Samsung J2 pro (picked up brand new in Malaysia for $125). It takes relatively bad photos and video but was really just used to post updates to my Instagram story during those rare WiFi moments.
It is easy to get a SIM card for your global compatible phone in Kathmandu and even at some locations on the trek. There are two main providers Nepal Telecom and NCELL. We went with the private company Ncell because we heard that they were faster. Unfortunately, we soon found they didn’t currently offer much coverage on the circuit. However, judging by the number of locals using their cell-phones I’m guessing Nepal Telecom offers better service up there. Data is inexpensive and definitely worth it for navigating Kathmandu.
NEXT TIME: I would go with Telecom as having some coverage is better than none at all. I would also bring a better phone with a better battery life. One less thing to worry about charging all the time if the battery lasts longer.

WATER
Drinking water can be purchased at quite regular intervals along the trail in 1 liter bottles of filtered safe water for 30-150 rupee/liter. However, this adds up quickly (2-4 liters/day) and is quite bad for the environment. Safe water filling stations are available in many towns during trekking season for 30-60 rupee/liter. These were all closed except Thorung Phedi when I trekked this July. Bringing a 1 liter bottle to refill should be plenty when the clean filling stations are all open.
Another method is to fill up from the numerous running water stations in towns and villages along the way. Some of these are running constantly and are quite clean (coming from the mountains upstream from the village). However a village further up the mountain, animal waste, or other contaminants could still get you sick. I met trekkers who drank this water without problems but I would not risk it. While it usually didn’t appear to need filtering, I would absolutely purify it first.
I brought chlorine tablets (over iodine because chlorine also kills a virus that is a common cause of water related stomach illnesses) and a Steripen. The Steripen uses ultraviolet rays to kill pathogens. It required a wide mouthed water bottle to use (won’t work with a Smart water bottle). Also any curves or hidden areas where the light might not reach the water can leave it unclean. Mine required two ca123 batteries (not common) and can only do about 50 liters/two batteries. I carried several extra batteries.
Some sort of water purification tablets were available in many stores along the way. With a method to purify water, you save money and plastic and can even get your water from a stream if needed. We found the chlorine tablets did make the water taste somewhat undesirable so you may want to bring some sort of water flavoring. Another option is the two step water treatment drops that take more time but are arguably the most effective against the most possible illnesses with the least negative effect on the flavor.
NEXT TIME: I would bring my Sawyer Mini and add chlorine tabs if the water seemed exceptionally sketchy which is rarely if ever did. The Sawyer Mini works with any lightweight water bottle or 1 liter filter bags which are light and easy to store.

FOOD
You don’t need to bring any food from your home country (and probably shouldn’t). Snacks are available at steadily increasing prices and regular intervals as you head up the trail. Snickers, potato chips, sodas, cookies, nuts and granola bars were easy to find even in the off season. If you are on a strict budget you may want to find an inexpensive supply of snacks in Kathmandu before heading up. If you want fresh produce, you will likely have to purchase from Kathmandu or along the way as there is very little on the trek.
A helpful tip: snack prices in Manang oddly aren't much more than Kathmandu (Snickers only increased from 85 to 100 rupee despite bringing more than 150 rupees in earlier towns).
Healthy options are harder to come by. Certain times of the year you can get apples but not during the summer. Most meals included cooked vegetables grown fresh in the village. Every open lodge had food available. We generally avoided the meat due to limited safe storage options. We only had minor trouble with the food. Dal Bat is the traditional meal on the trek. Garlic soup is another popular one. We really enjoyed the Tibetan Bread with Honey for breakfast. If you are trying to eat low carb, good luck. Every meal is very high in carbs. Eating vegetarian is fairly easy to do.
NEXT TIME: We tried to eat a lot of Dal Bat as it was the least expensive way to get a lot of food. Often when you are very hungry, it just makes sense as they keep refilling your plate. However, I think it's worth spending a little more to eat more variety and change things up. With so many long days of trekking, it's a good way to keep up your morale.

LODGING
We did not book a single place on the trek in advance. I had heard that during peak season places fill up and guest houses end up packing extra people in the common areas. This was not a problem during such a slow time of year. We had more of a problem finding that places were closed due to the lack of traffic. I would not recommend booking anything in advance. If you go during peak season just try to arrive early enough to find a good spot before they are all taken.
As numerous other blogs describe, the lodges are typically referred to as tea houses although to me this implies more of a small home stay. A few of the locations we stayed in were someone’s home with extra rooms for guests. Others were more like mini hotels in which a room or two was saved for the employees. They all had kitchens and dining rooms which appeared like great places to gather if we had had other guests to gather with. Most had wood burning stoves in the middle which would have been wonderful as we increased in altitude. However, it was not cold enough for them to justify burning precious wood for just a couple of trekkers.
In every village, we first walked through the entire village (most take 10 minutes to walk through) to see where we felt the most welcome. In some places like Chame, it was easy. A kind lady called out to us upon passing by and after seeing her rooms we realized they would be perfect. Other places, like Manang were larger and had more options to choose from. Here we actually looked at a couple of rooms that we just didn’t love before settling on one. A few villages had vastly differing prices (ranging from free to 700 rupees) so if you are on a budget it pays to shop around. During peak season you may not have this luxury and may just have to take what's available.
NEXT TIME: I would still not book anything ahead. I would look for places that were clean and comfortable. A shower isn’t necessary every night. And sometimes the best places are away from the main lodges. I would also try to stay in a few of the smaller villages that aren’t necessarily on the main trek. Most likely I would do this trek slower (and in better weather) so as to experience more of the culture and hopefully meet more trekkers to swap stories with along the way.

GETTING THERE FROM KATHMANDU
We went to BG Mall (400 rupee taxi ride north of Thamel) to get our bus directly to Besisahar where the trek begins. The taxi actually dropped us off at the Gongabu New Bus Station. However, upon asking around we were directed to the BG Mall around the corner.
There are mini buses (think minivans with way too many seats packed in them) going to Besisahar directly. While popular with tourists, these appeared cramped and uncomfortable to me. They also tie all the luggage outside on the top of the van so it ends up covered in exhaust and dust. One benefit is that these minibuses go direct and don't stop to pick up more passengers along the way. I've heard they run about 700 rupee.
We chose what we were told was a tourist bus. In reality it ran more like a local bus to Besisahar from BG Mall. We didn't buy tickets ahead but simply paid the driver 450 rupees each. We had our backpacks stored underneath, had our own seats, and the bus was never full. However, I think during peak season it would have been much more crowded. Even though we stopped to pick up passengers whenever we saw them, most of the delays were the terrible traffic jam coming out of Kathmandu (3-4 hour traffic jam. Even so, we made it to Besisahar by about 3pm (9 hours) without switching buses. There are supposedly non-stop “luxury” tourist buses available for a bit more. However, you won’t find anything that approaches the quality of buses available in South America or Europe.
As with all transportation in Nepal, be prepared for longer than expected journeys and over packed vehicles that wouldn’t be up to safety standards in the US. There probably won’t be air conditioning in the summer either. And the passengers tend to be quite loud the entire trip.
NEXT TIME: I would probably still risk buying a last minute ticket. That way I can assess the condition of the bus before purchasing. The mini-buses, while perhaps slightly faster, look way less enjoyable unless perhaps you have a large enough group to book the entire bus.

SOME MORE ON GEAR
You don’t need as much gear as a normal backpacking trip. While some people do choose to wild camp, most stay at the tea houses. Even if you do camp, food is so readily available, there is no need to carry large amounts with you. Bringing a tent would allow you to wake up in some truly wild, remote locations without any other humans around. It would also require you bring a sleeping pad and a warmer sleeping bag.
All the tea houses had blankets. Extras were available if we were cold though this is not the case during peak season. I would at least bring a liner if not your own bag for cleanliness and extra warmth. I think a light 30 degree quilt would be fine unless you went in the winter. There’s no heat in the rooms, but I imagine they keep more warmth in than a tent would. The coldest mornings during the summer were below freezing, but not by much in our experience. Peak season is in the fall so it will be colder for sure.
I’d probably go with my SWD long haul 50 out of my current gear. Although it would be bigger than needed, it carries really well and rolls down when not filled. You probably don’t need a backpack with a frame. Honestly, a Zimmerbuilt style QuickStep or similar would probably do just fine if you are not camping or bringing a lot of camera gear.
Any cooking supplies are superfluous unless you really want to eat freeze-dried meals or have a cup of hot tea on a random remote hilltop. There are actually small huts which serve hot tea at some of the more popular day hikes along the trek. These are only open during peak season.
I primarily hiked in shorts but if it had been much colder leggings or pants would have been nice. There’s a lot of exposure and sun during peak season (even in the summer the clouds cleared enough to get us burnt), so long sleeve shirts and maybe a hat would be nice.
Camp shoes and night clothes aren’t necessary but sure were nice to have. A change or two of underwear and socks would suffice. I brought some running shorts that double as swim trunks. There are several hot springs on the trek which are near town and close to the river. These were mostly flooded over with river water due to the monsoon.
We brought way too many toiletries and a large first aid kit. If I recall correctly some places had toilet paper in their bathrooms and it was also available at some of the shops.

BRIEF GUIDE TO KATHMANDU
We arrived in Kathmandu near the end of June to pouring rain. The airport is a mess of chaos. One had to take a bus from the plane to get to the terminal. Visas are available on arrival for US citizens and those of many other countries. We chose a 30 day visa for about $50 but there are longer options available. We took a taxi from the airport to Thamel for about $5 and settled into a hostel for the night.
Our first few nights in the hostel were nice (community atmosphere and cheap price) but we soon realized we wanted to be in a hotel and moved locations for our next three nights before the trek. You can walk Thamel in a day or less. There are plenty of decent restaurants and lots of trekkers and tourists. A few of the streets don’t allow cars which is refreshing as the dirt, dust, and exhaust they produce is overwhelming. The shops in Thamel offer everything you could imagine related to trekking but not all of it is quality. You are under constant pressure to buy something or some service you don’t want nearly everywhere you go in Thamel.
Five days in Kathmandu was too long. I’d recommend three to get accustomed to the place, buy any last minutes good for the trek, and get some cash. We left everything we had with us at the hotel including extra camera gear and a laptop. We locked it in a bag and they put it in a second floor storage room. The agreement is that you will stay with them when you return but since they didn’t have rooms we weren’t held to that. Nothing was lost, stolen, or damaged in our experience.
Lodging:
Alobar 1000 Hostel. We stayed two nights here. It was a friendly enough place with cheap water refills available and an inexpensive rooftop bar. There were all sorts of friendly travelers here from yogis and hippies to trekkers and climbers. Our private room was ok but the bathroom was shared and not always so clean. Price was approximately $10-15 per night.
Hotel Family Home. We stayed three nights here and stored our luggage here during our trek. Cost was approximately $20 per night. The rooms were ok. Not quite up to western standards. There was a free breakfast you could pick from (pancakes, smoothies, toast and eggs). The bathroom had an open window instead of a fan and was filled with bugs.
Trekkers Home: We stayed one night here after returning from our trek. It was a great price and the owners were friendly but the air conditioning didn’t work. With the pollution and the summer heat and humidity, having air conditioning is nearly essential in July. Cost was only $12 per night but didn’t include breakfast.
OYO 120 Hotel Tayoma. We stayed here three nights after the trek. It has a Pho restaurant with good food below it. The rooms are large and clean with cold air conditioning. This was probably our favorite spot in Thamel. Price included breakfast for about $20 per night.
Dining:
Himalayan Java Coffee - Thamel Chowk. This is a popular spot with trekkers and expats alike. Great coffee for the area and many baked goods as well as specialty drinks.
Western Tandoori & Naan House. We probably ate here half a dozen times. Excellent prices and amazing authentic Indian food better than anywhere I’ve had in North America and rivaling London. Local spot with nothing fancy that can get quite hot during the day. Looks a little dirty but we never got sick and enjoyed every meal here.
Northfield Cafe. Nice outdoor cafe with baked goods and a decent breakfast.
Weizen Bakery. Probably our favorite bakery in Thamel. Great chocolate cake and pastries. Half off after 8 pm!
The Cafe With No Name. Great little bar serving local micro-brewed beer and donating proceeds to charity. We went here several times and always loved the food. Definitely geared toward tourists.
Medical:
Pharmacies. There are numerous pharmacies in Thamel which don’t require a prescription to get things like Diamox, antibiotics, pain relief, or decadron. Quality is unknown of course so use with care.
CIWEC Hospital Pvt. Ltd. This is a private hospital especially for tourists that’s right outside Thamel. Due to an accident which required suturing we actually used this location and got excellent professional service. Our doctor spoke perfect English. She and her nurses all used sterile technique, practiced hand washing, and were very skilled and thorough in their care. I don’t think we would have received better care anywhere in the US. Cost was $330 USD which is a lot for Nepal but was completely covered by our travel insurance.
Transport:
Walking. This is the best way to get about Thamel and really much of Kathmandu. It's fun just to wander. There are hidden shops, alleyways, and restaurants everywhere. End to end, Thamel is only about a 15 minute walk one way.
Taxis. I don’t think we paid more than $5 for a taxi anywhere including going to the famous stupa or the airport. We paid about $4 for our taxi to the bus station which would have been a 45 minute walk. We usually negotiated the price down a dollar or two from their initial offer.
Buses. We did not ride any city buses. The main bus station for travel around the country is the Gongabu New Bus Station. The bus to Besi Sahar actually picked up about a five minute walk from here at the BG Mall which we found out on the fly the morning of our trip after our taxi dropped us off at the bus station.

This was PART I of a two part series on the Annapurna Circuit. Stay tune for the second part where I go into detail on the day-by-day journey itself.
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Building a Playable Fae Character

I love the Fey in literary and thematic terms, and would love to be able to play one in a game. But this poses some challenges, both in terms of how intrinsically over-powered the Fey are magically and in roleplaying something as alien as a Fey.
I think I have something of a work-around: roleplaying an Eladrin Warlock, Archfey Pact, as an under-powered baby Fey (rather than as a fully-grown, Fey-affiliated elven subrace).
The Eladrin are, of course, designed to be Fey adjacent. They receive a thematically appropriate charisma boost and an additional spell, misty step, automatically. They also receive a built-in mechanic, their seasonality, to integrate a far sense of whimsy.
Although sorcerers might seem like they would represent the Fey's intrinsic magical abilities, I think the warlock's spell list, ability to regenerate spell slots after short rests, and ability to cast many spells at-will through invocations better reflect the casualness with which the Fey are depicted as using magic.
So, why would a baby Fey be loose in the mortal lands? Maybe a young Fey was exiled as punishment for a transgression, and receives additional magical upgrades from mom and dad as it learns important lessons. Maybe it fled--an unwanted arranged marriage?--and is using its parents magic like a stolen credit card. Maybe it was purposefully planted in the mortal realms like a cuckoo's egg, along the lines of the traditional fairy changeling stories, and grows into its magic as it matures (basically reskinning the Eladrin as larval Fey). These are just a few potential explanations for why a) your Fey character is as under-powered as anyone else at low levels and b) why the Fey is growing more powerful over levels.
I'd give my Fey PC eldritch blast, naturally, and attendant spells and invocations (like Hex and Agonizing Blast) but then focus everything else as thematically as possible on illusions, face spells, and terrain manipulation. Sleep, Prestidigitation, Calm Emotions, Phatasmal Force, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Darkness, etc, are all great low level spells for this. I'd go Pact of the Tome to emphasize the Fey's magical nature by adding some additional utility cantrips and some Fey-friendly rituals, like Find Familiar, Alarm, and Detect Magic.
RP would be a fun challenge: how to play a character that is fundamentally alien, from a different real and an entirely different perspective from the other races? Maybe an emphasis on wonder and whimsy, but with a sharp deficiency in moral sensibility. (This is, of course, a creature that manipulates perceptions like we breath.) Lots of potential character growth as it comes to understand and maybe even appreciate the mortal realms and their inhabitants.
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I am 24 years old make $57,000, live in Los Angeles, CA and work as an Ad Ops Specialist

Section One: Assets and Debt
Section Two: Income
Section Three: Expenses

Day 1 (Friday)
6:00 - Alarm goes off. Rollover to turn it off and start to scroll through Instagram until I’m ready to get up. My full bladder is screaming at me for relief but I decide a few more minutes in bed is worth it...
6:20 - I’m at my boyfriend’s house so I laid out my outfit and all my morning routine necessities in the bathroom the night before to make things a bit easier. Go through my glamorous morning routine: sitting on the toilet for far too long while scrolling Instagram, wash face with Cetaphil gentle cleanser, brush teeth, The Ordinary Squalane serum, Neutrogena clear face sunscreen. No contacts for me today as one of mine ripped last night. While it was IN MY EYE. How fucking rude is that??? Glasses it is. Put on my thrifted, mid-waisted, black jeans with buttons exposed/knee rips and an old Smoky the bear shirt from Target. Tuck the shirt in to make it feel like I have my shit together.
6:47 - I usually leave around 7 so I have some time to get back into bed and cuddle C before I have to head out.
6:49 - I LOVE THIS MAN :(
7:05 - rip myself away from C, throw on my trusty Ralph Lauren jean jacket, and my fave open toed, cork sandals I got from Rome a few years back. Throw my shit in the car, queue up the NPR podcast Ask Me Another, and I’m on my waaaayyyyyyyy! This is such a funny podcast! I love laughing on my way to work. It tricks me into having a great start to my day!
7:25 - SHIT. A car is flipped onto its side right off my exit. I think I’m smart and switch to another lane to turn right instead of left and as expected the lane I just switched from moves and the lane I switched to doesn’t. Why does this happen all the time??!?! Another lesson in patience
7:30 - a nice lady let’s me over and I’m back on mmyyyy waaaayyyyyy! Also, hope the person is okay...
7:35 - make it into the office, get some coffee and add my non dairy creamer, fill up my reusable water bottle, and get started for the day
8:13 - hair is frizzy as shit...go to bathroom and try to fix it by tying it into a half pony. I’ll be self conscious about this all day and probs redo it a few different times throughout the day. This is what I get for not applying hair serum after my shower last night!!!!!!
8:30 work wife is in! She’s working from a different office today but it’s still nice to chat with her in the am to catch up. This girl knows everything about me and we barely (never) hangout outside of work!
9:50 - data needed to do work came in super late today. So spent my time between articles, money diaries, and texting C until it gets in.
10:13 - my stomach hurts from the ramen we had last night. I’m sensitive to a lot of things and it sucks but I eat them anyways because I love food and eating :’) get 2 tea bags from the kitchen (1 mint and 1 lemon) to make some tea. add some honey I have in my snack drawer. This combo usually helps my stomach pain
11:00 - C is going on a work trip to Japan next and invites me along. The trip is the weekend after we get back from our 7-day trip to Spain next month, and it’s literally just 24 hours there, but I’m down with the spontaneity! I give him a tentative yes. Forgot my usual banana so I snack on some dates I have at my desk.
12:00 - stomach is feeling a lot better so I’m happy. Have a few things to wrap up before I want to go on lunch. Our team has a 1pm meeting every m,w,f so those days either mean a super short lunch or working through lunch. I think I might be able to take an actual lunch today!
12:30 yay! I have time for a 20ish minute break. Heat up some soup I left here yesterday. The soup is actually very delicious but not enough to keep me full :( it had tomato, yam, lentils, and roasted corn all cooked down in some chicken stock with some various curry spices I had in my pantry. I cook about 95% of my meals and this week I essentially went through all my groceries I bought last week (such a cathartic feeling). Gonna treat myself to a farmers market trip this weekend!!
During lunch I spend some time with the newest girl on our team. She’s a recent graduate and so sweet it fucking hurts. She’s really excited about this role and I’ve recently just been hanging in there and going through the day to day motions. My team is filled with great people, but management micromanages us like no other. It’s so exhausting pulling receipts to justify your actions. But this is a really good, stable job, with great benefits so, you pick your battles, i guess. I smile really wide and nod my head a lot while she talks so she doesn’t notice my dead eyes. :)
1:30 - review my 401k benefits during the latter half of our team meeting. Our company was recently bought out and all of our accounts are being transferred around. I know we’re being auto-enrolled at the end of this month but I’m trying to enroll manually so I don’t miss another contribution. Previously I was contributing about 6% with a 5% match. Ugh, adulting is hard!!
2:15 - walk to the kitchen to make some more of that mint lemon tea and see that our office has put out some ice cream as an end of summer treat. Ask my coworker if there are any non-dairy options and he points me to the ice maker, hardy har har! Head back to my desk thinking about how it’s already mid August...where is the time going? Snack on some trail mix I have in my snack drawer (I keep so many things in my snack drawer…emergency meals, trail mix, dried fruit, tea, hot sauce…)
3:50 - my manager pings me about my current responsibilities and how she wants to increase my project load. In addition to our teams general day to day, I’ve taken initiative to create some automated reporting to help visualize all the data we get which helped remove a lot of manually processes. I started on this initiative essentially when I started with the team a year ago. My director has told me she wouldn’t generally give a new hire such a big project but I was able to prove myself to her. It feels really good to be trusted with such an important thing!! I’m open to the opportunity of increasing my work load and definitely feel guilty for hating on this job..I mean if you don’t like somethings it’s not your fault, right?
4:32 - FREEEEDDOOOOMMMM!!! We made it y’all. Pack up my work shit, essentially fly to my car, queue up the NPR Podcast, Planet Money, and put in directions to an amazing korean market near my place. My roomies will be out tonight so I planned out a cute lil meal for myself!
5:25 - ugh, the traffic was just horrible. Made it to the market...don’t forget the reusable bag!
6:00 - picked up some packaged microwavable sticky rice, small portions of radish kimchi and Napa cabbage kimchi, green onions, a jalepeno, 3 cucumbers, a mango, an 18 pack of lil roasted seaweed packs, marinated bulgogi, and a small container of gochujang $14.51
6:30 - lugged, like, 10 bags into the house (okay, it’s really 3, but you get it) put on my house clothes and try to decompress a bit. I don’t want to start cooking until my housemates head out for their dinner plans. Chat with one of my roomies, G, while her husband, M, gets ready for dinner plans. I met G on craigslist a couple years ago and have lived with her ever since. We’ve become really close and she’s like my older sister (she’s about 10 years older than me), which is such a nice feeling since I’m A) an only child and B) about 2ish hours from my parents, so its nice to feel like i live with family. I was her Maid of Honor at her wedding last month :’). M moved in earlier this year after they got engaged and its been a really smooth transition!
6:50 - They finally leave and I am ready to cook up a storm. Slice up all the veg I got and add to a plate along with some kimchi, cook the bulgogi, make my favorite Korean instant ramen (Samyang Fire noodle, original chicken flavor), microwave the rice bowl, and rip open a few packets of the roasted seaweed to make some cute lil mini tacos (aka, help shovel this food into my face hole faster)
OKAY that wasn’t really “”””cooking””””” per say….but I was having a craving and needed to feed my ~soul~, which I think is just as important as having a balanced meal!
7:45 - hooooollleeeeeyyyyy shit. I inhaled that. the only thing I didn’t finish was the rice. I ate all the meat I bought…I’m really impressed or should I be worried? I love having the house to myself when I eat meals that I’m craving because it’s quiet and I don’t have to worry about people talking to me!
8:25 - finish all the clean up, fill my water bottle, and retreat to my room to finish the rest of Bad Moms (I was watching while I ate, this is such a bad movie but an easy watch)…gonna need a minute to digest all that…
9:50 - still in bed but now just under the covers. Started watching PEN15 after hearing so many people tall about it. I can’t be the only one that feels weirded out about this show/dynamic?
10:39 - watched 2 episodes and still not too sure how I feel. I think its the way the two main actors talk about/to the actual middle school actors that doesn’t sit well with me. maybe I’m just overreacting!? Roll out of bed to do my night time routine. Floss, brush, Cerave face wash, Pixi glow tonic, The Ordinary alpha albutrin serum mixed with The Ordinary Squalane serum. Let that dry and put some Neutrogena’s On The Spot acne treatment on a few pimples that flared up last week. Braid my hair (ps. i never took it out of the half pony from earlier, i know you were so invested) and put some lotion on my legs. Get a text from G to let the dog out. He gets so emo when G and M leave for the evening, it’s so sweet.
11:00 - put on The Boss with Melissa McCarthy and settle into bed. I’m usually asleep by 10 but sleeping home alone has always been a bit hard for me so I always wait until someone is around… unless, of course, I’m extremely tired then it’s lights out ASAP
11:40 - I love anything Melissa McCarthy is in! And I love that her husband makes a cameo in her movies. I feel my eyes growing heavy so I plan to finish the movie sometime tomorrow and it’s lights out
Daily Total: $14.51
Day 2 (Saturday)
6:40 - alarm goes off and I go to the bathroom. I get back in bed and try to sleep for a few more hours
7:25 - mouth is so dry from all the sodium in my dinner last night...chug some water I have by my bed
8:45 - wake up a bit more naturally. It feels so nice to sleep in and feel like I’m on my own time. Scroll around on Instagram and think about the errands I need to run today. Eyebrow appointment at 10:30 with someone who prefers to have cash and a possible thrifting trip later today so I decide to get enough cash for that as well. I hear G rustling around as she gets ready for the class she teaches every Saturday morning near our house.
9:00 - I never have “real breakfast” things at home mostly because I opt for the easy option of some fruit and coffee/tea so I make some Persian tea and have a banana with it. I also catch up with G while she gets ready for work. I tell her about the meal I had last night because we love talking about food. She asks me how my stomach is doing because she knows how sensitive i am to most of the things I ate (red meat and instant ramen noodles). I tell her it feels fine...for now. She reminds me of this thrift store that resells clothes that were worn once in movies. I decide to go there instead since there might be a larger chance I find what I want (a new pair of jeans, a mid length skirt or a denim skirt, a few easy summery dresses, and maybe a small shoulder bag).
9:25 - throw in my laundry. G tells me that M had a few drinks last night at dinner and went in on their ice cream stash haha so I hope my rustling around isn’t affecting his (possible) hangover. Pour some more hot water over my teabag for a second cup. I feel like black tea doesn’t caffeinate me as much as coffee but I’m too lazy to go through the motions..hoping this second cup will get me through the morning
9:46 - narrator : “her stomach was not fine”
10:06 - brush my teeth, wash my face with cerave, and use some pixi tonic to make sure my skin is squeaky clean before going to get threaded. No other creams or serums. Take the some vitamins that my mom bought for me the last time I visited (probiotic, vitamin d3, and calcium)…really hoping I stick to to taking them! Fill up my water bottle and head out to get some cash. I drive a bit further to go through the drive through atm...I know, so lazy. I get $80.
10:15 - G texts me that it’s national thrifting day?!?!? Wow, this was all meant to be. May my bounty be fruitful, Amen
10:30 - meet up with my brow lady, her studio is right by my house! She’s a bit pricier than the usual $11 ($15) but she gets it right every time so it’s worth it. It's ideal to come every 2-3 weeks but i really end coming being every 4-5 weeks and she tells me its like starting on virgin eyebrows when I wait too long…lol. Catch up with her afterwards and show her pictures from G’s wedding. She’s so sweet! We also talk about her daughter who’s around my age and having some issues with job searching/finding a stable career. She’s a worried mom so I just nod and listen and tell her that her daughter will be ok! $18
11:00 - back home and wash my face again, then Pixi tonic, The Ordinary Squalane, and Neutrogena clear face sunscreen. Put my laundry in the dryer and throw my sheets in the wash and then I’m out the door to start thrifting
11:45 - get to the spot G told me about and its so cool, they’ve separated the clothes by show! I recognize a few of the shows and decide to just dive in.
12:20 - omg, i have got to go. Ask on of the associates for the keys to the bathroom and run for the hills only to realize there is NO TOILET PAPER. I am dying. Use some toilet seat cover as a wipe instead, this feels so wrong but definitely better than nothing. Later, I try on some clothes but nothing really seems to fit well/is what I’m looking for, not to mention it was pretty pricey. I return my stuff to the rack and walk towards the Goodwill across the street (which is SO MUCH BETTER)
1:30 - Jackpot!! bought 2 dresses (one short and summery and one longer, fitted, and perfect for fall), 4 tops that’ll be great for work, a flowy off the shoulder blouse that is so cute, and the piece de la resitance: a pastel blue, faux crocodile shoulder bag that is sooOoOo on trend right now that i barely look at it before stuffing it in my cart. After checking out i walk back to my car…I am so hungry and thirsty right now…start thinking about what i want to do for lunch…$46
2:15 - Make it to Sprouts to pick up a few things to make a meal that should last me through the weekend. Grab a HUGE watermelon (my favorite fruit of all time), Have a Chip corn chips, salsa, one big heirloom tomato, and 2 cartons of chicken broth $22.50
3:30 - made a bomb ass southwestern inspired soup!! the soup had the last of the wild rice, yams, and lentils I made last week, some black beans and roasted corn I had in the freezer, the tomato I just bought, onion, garlic, and good amount of paprika, cumin, black pepper, and salt. While the soup is cooking I cut the huge watermelon and fill 3 large tupperwares! M comes out of his office and we catch up on our days. I share some watermelon with him and he brings out some salty, sour, spicy mango salt he bought in Mexico to sprinkle on the melon. Wow, its fucking BOMB!!! It tastes like a margarita in your mouth— yum. clean the kitchen, wipe down the counters, and put all my things away. leave the soup out to cool down a bit. I filled up on watermelon so I’m not too hungry anymore. Retreat to my room to finish up The Boss
5:00 - Back to the kitchen for a bowl of the soup and top with some fresh jalapeño, also have a side of chips and salsa. I am a chips and salsa fiend…I could be full to the brim but will always have room for chips and salsa! Muster the energy to put sheets back on the bed (putting on a duvet cover should count as a workout) and tidy my room up a bit. Change into my house clothes, get settled in bed, and throw on The Real Housewives of Orange County. Nothing better than a clean bed with the AC running on a hot day…
8:00 - I cannot emphasize enough how nice it has been to just laze around in my bed. I haven’t had a whole weekend to myself in a really longtime— so i’m trying to relish every moment! hop between random youtube videos on my laptop, instagram, and texting C. M’s birthday is at the end of this month and he’s a major taco bell lover. I decide to buy him something from the Taco Shop that’s affiliated with the Taco Bell hotel in Palm Springs. I pick out a shirt that says “if you don’t like taco bell you’re wrong” and a fun dad cap. I can’t wait for M to open the gift. He doesn’t want to have a party this year so C and I were thinking of also getting him a cheesecake from The Cheesecake factory on the day of his bday as a small surprise. We love M, he’s such a sweet, fun, and genuine guy!! We want to make him feel loved for the big 3-6. The shirt and hat will be a gift from me and C so I send him a request for half but tell him its no rush to pay me back. $43.80
8:30 - Show G my thrifting loot and she agrees that the haul was a success! Thrifting gods were on my side today. She asks if I want to start watching the show The Magicians with her (answer is duuuuuh). Fill up my water bottle and join her on the couch
9:45 - M joins us to watch and shortly after we get the weird case of the sober munchies. We all raid the kitchen to see what we can snack on. G finds a bag of Limon lays! Scooorrrreee. She also brings out some sour cream and some tjoes chipotle bean dip. So bomb! I contribute my fave hot sauce to pour on the chips, Valentina. I also find some peanut m&ms in my pantry. I guess we were hungry...
11:15 - we part ways after 2 episodes. Go through the usual night time routine but add the ordinary vitamin C serum
11:55 - talk to C about possible trips we could take for our 2 year anniversary in October. So far the ideas are: Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago, Canada, and NYC…have to do some more research into it but I’d love to go to New Orleans for some really delicious food but would love to see NYC in the fall!
Daily Total: $130.30
Day 3 (Sunday)
6:40 - alarm goes off and I get up to go to the bathroom. Lay back in bed and scroll through my phone a bit. C is in a totally different time zone and I won’t get to speak to him until later today :( shortly fall back asleep
8:30 - wake up a bit groggy and gross. It’s gloomy outside so that’s probs not helping. Check to see what time the farmers market opens and slowly get out bed to do my morning routine. G and M are still asleep so I don’t want to make too much noise in the kitchen, bypass the morning tea. Throw on my favorite thrifted Star Wars tee, a pair of mom jeans, and some cute slides. Grab my reuseable bag and I’m out by 9!
9:15 - omg, this is such a great farmers market!! It goes on forever. I have some cash left from yesterday but hope some of the stands have a Square… I knew I should I have stopped by the bank!
9:45 - finish up at the market. I got a head of lettuce, one red onion, 5 pluots, 3 (HUGE) nectarines, 4 cute, plump and lumpy heirloom tomatoes, and 3 passion fruits (!!!) $14.50
10:20 - get some Costco gas ($36.60) and then head to the korean market to pick up a few additional things (4 persian cucumbers, 1 carrot, some radish, 3 raw beets) $5.56
11:00 - get home and put all my stuff away. Cut open a passion fruit and it’s pretty okay! More on the tart side but I’m down. Heat up a bowl of soup and top with some avocado, radish, green onion, jalepeno. Eat with a side of chips and salsa. G is doing some work at the dining room table and is dreading grocery shopping. She’s trying to convince me to go with her. Most of my pressing errands are out of the way so I’m thoroughly convinced!
12:00 - we’re back home and since M is doing some work, today turns into an impromptu girls day! G asks if I’m down to watch a movie off my movie education list (G is on a mission to watch all the classics with me and calls it “my film education”) I tell her I have a few things to do but will join her after!
12:30 - I wax my face. Lol, sounds so funny when I type it out. But!! I used to get it threaded and not only would it hurt but I’d breakout SO BADLY. I’d get these horrendous whiteheads that looked like lil eggs all over my cheeks!!! It’d take weeeeeeeeks to recover and by the time the reaction had subsided, it would be time to get threaded again. AND! It would cost me $40!!! Not fair. So I decided to buy the Sally Hansen self wax strips and do it myself! I’ve done it a few times and I’m super happy with the results! After I’m done with the lil beauty sesh, I clean up and wash my face. I go to my room to fold all the laundry from yesterday and spruce up my room a bit.
1:00 - I’m ready to be educated. We watch Spaceballs!! So fucking funny, oh my god. I’ve watched a few Mel Brooks movies with G and I am a total fan (am I late to the party?). Midway through I make a lil mezze plate with hummus, cucumbers, radish, avocado, chips, and salsa. G is inspired and makes herself a snack as well. She comes back with a huge bowl of nachos!!!! This is a girl who has been religiously watching what she eats for the last 5 months before her wedding so my eyes popped out of my head! They look bomb and she offers to share so I have a few bites. Shortly after I cut up some mango to eat with some watermelon, top with lime and tajin...refreshing
3:00 - start Dirty Rotten Scoundrels! We’re on a roll. I love days like this where most of my to do checklist is done, the weather is beautiful, and I’m in good company!
5:25 - G is hungry and wants to make something to eat. I have a headache and think it’s because I’m hungry. She wants to make the korean instant ramen (i totally turned her on to this addiction), I’m always down but immediately feel guilty for eating it twice this weekend. I have a fridge full of delicious things but opt for noodles instead? :( …. We share 4 types of kimchi (G had some in her fridge), seaweed, and cucumbers. I made too much food and can’t finish it. Oyyyy, I feel like trash and can’t really concentrate on the convo because I’m hating on myself for eating these noods!! It would be a sin to throw these out in front of G so I save them to throw out at a later date??? Is that wrong? maybe i’ll eat them later…
6:30 - after cleaning up we throw on My Fish Wanda. I love John Cleese! It’s a bit of a slow movie but we make it to the end. Text C for a quick minute about his trip.
10:15 - pack my lunch for tomorrow and put it in the fridge: some soup and toppings on the side, one peach, one pluot, some watermelon, and a banana for the morning. I make some turmeric tea (literally just half a teaspoon of turmeric, cinnamon, and freshly grated ginger) place it on my bed side table and go through my nighttime routine. Also pack up my work bag and put it by the door
10:42 - lay in bed and go through the things I did today and need to do tomorrow after work. I have a 7 day pass to a Pilates studio nearby and I’m in the market to replace my currently paused boxing membership, I make a reminder for tomorrow morning to sign up for a class after work. I miss working out during the week and hope I like the class! Sip on some of my tea and then it’s lights out
Daily Total: $42.16
Day 4 (Monday)
6:00 - alarm goes off and I go to the bathroom. Back in bed and I will myself not to go back to sleep. Scroll through Instagram for a bit and get a text from C who’s finally back in our time zone, hurrah!
6:23 - I rarely take showers in the morning but since I didn’t take one yesterday I have to this morning (my hair is past saving with dry shampoo). Brush my hair before stepping in and go through the motions. I use Acure shampoo, Trader Joe’s shea butter hair mask, Trader Joe’s body wash, and Cetaphil face wash. I also do the stealth ankle shave since I don’t feel like shaving both my entire legs right now
6:45 - once I’m out of the shower I use my Shea butter body lotion all over except my face, brush my teeth, The Ordinary squalane serum, Neutrogena sunscreen, brush my hair and use my Giovanni hair serum. Take my vitamins…fuck the calcium ones are HUGE and I have to take 3 of them…really takes some concentration to get them down. Glasses again today since there’s a cut high on my cheek that’s scabbed over from the waxing I did yesterday-oops! Hoping the glasses will mostly cover it. Put my outfit on for the day. One of the shirts I bought from the thrift store (G threw it in with her laundry yesterday) and the same ripped jeans I wore on Friday. Go to the kitchen to put my lunch in a bag and put it with my work stuff by the entrance door.
7:00 - back to my room to pick out a jacket and shoes. It’s a bit gloomy this morning so I opt for my long cozy cardigan, it’s a deep red and has pockets! pick my Steve Madden loafer slides to match. Attempt a cool French tuck that looks semi decent so I just go with it. I feel like an art director at a mid size print magazine company...real ~hip~ and with it. I remember I want to take a Pilates class so I grab some workout clothes, too. Fill up my water bottle, queue up the podcast Reply All, and I’m out the door
7:30 - make it to work and go through my morning routine: put lunch in communal fridge, office coffee with my better half non dairy creamer, fill up the water bottle, and get to work.
12:00 - a relatively chill morning so I’m able to take a nice long lunch before my 1pm meeting! Catch up with some girls that work on another team about their weekends. I tell them I went thrifting and showed them a picture of the bag I got and they both agree it was a steal. One of the girls says she’s down to go shopping with me soon. Ah, yes, the elusive “soon”. I also see that G added a lot movies to my movie education list. I love how she’s so excited to watch them with me. Take a second to really appreciate how lucky I got with this roommate thing. :’)
3:00 - it is all downhill from here. I am so distracted and hungry!!! K said that she got Mediterranean food for lunch. As much as I also wanted to get some, I had the grown up talk with myself and ate the lunch I brought. Totally regretting it now. Hummus, falafel, and some fluffy pita sound so delicious right now 😭 snack on some watermelon and the peach I brought but it just doesn’t cut it :( (although they were both insanely delicious) I also try to sign up for a Pilates class tonight through my free trial but I have to put in my cc info. Don’t really want to whip that out and look like a toottaaal slacker so I add to my to do list to do later tonight
5:15 - finally home!! I left around 4:40 and called C on my drive. He slept all day due to the time zone change. I miss him so much and sometimes get so envious of couples that live together and see each other often but I really love C. We have a great thing going and the scheduling woes are 10000% worth it! Tell him I wish I had something better for dinner and really want to get some pho with egg rolls. He says I should treat myself with that meal on Friday. Maybe I will! I have enough produce to make enough nourishing meals for the week so I try and get over my hanger
6:00 - after changing into house clothes (I really mean pjs but house clothes sound like I have my shit together) I get started on some dinner. Whip together a large salad with lettuce, onion, carrot, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, and some black beans. Top with a simple vinegrette: red wine vinegar, olive oil, s&p, and some fresh garlic. Eat with what’s left of my chips and some hummus.
6:30 - G is home and I hang out with her while she makes dinner for herself and M. I eat some watermelon with lime. We chat about our days and the girls night we’re having at the house this weekend! It’ll be a potluck situation with all the bridesmaids from Gs wedding. We’ll eat and look at all the pics the professional photographer sent in. I think about what food to share. Hmm, maybe some quesadillas with a diy topping bar? That sounds interesting...I also decide to boil the beets I bought on Sunday. I usually buy these packaged from Trader Joe’s so it’ll be interesting to see how these turn out.
7:30 - reviewing hysa accounts (I know, I’m so late to the party but I’m so weirdly reluctant to get on the train! Opening one of these accounts has been on almost every single to do list I’ve made for the past two years!!) until I get a text from C about the hotels I sent him earlier. We want to go to NYC for our two year anniversary in October so we’re browsing accommodations. although the Mondrian is beautiful, I cannot stomach $1.1k for 3 nights (!!!!!). C finds a really sweet Airbnb apartment close to his favorite spots (he lived there for a bit and visits when he can) but i tell him i feel a bit rushed into reserving a place so we decide to put a pin in it.
8:30 - check on my beets and they’re done!! cut them up and add some to the salad i made earlier for my lunch tomorrow (same as dinner earlier!) store the rest for another time. wipe down the countertops and allow the water i boiled them in to cool. once it room temp-ish i pour some in a cup and add some lemon and ginger i had in the fridge along with some honey. its not that bad! the beet flavor is mild but still good. i drink this concoction instead of making tea.
9:00 - never went to the workout class..no ragrets. go through my evening routine and get in bed by 9:30!!
Daily Total: $0
Day 5 (Tuesday)
6:00 - go through the motions of the regular morning routine and out the door by 7
7:30 - fuck, I forgot my coffee creamer!!!!!!! Persian tea it is.
11:30 - a rather slow morning. Ate my pluot earlier and some dates but I’m still hungry..have a spoon full of peanut butter from my snack drawer..don’t judge me!!!
12:00 - take lunch and fantasize about different career paths I could possibly embark on that would bring me more joy than ensuring ads don’t fall on porn sites...event coordinator, influencer relations associate, mulch maker, sewage cleaner...the list goes on!!!!! All morning I’ve been thinking about a spicy fried chicken sandwich so eating my salad for lunch is incredibly disappointing but it could be worse.
1:00 - finish up my lunch and it’s actually quite refreshing! Watched some YouTube videos to pass the time. Oyyyy, I do not want to go back to my desk, but alas..
2:30 - smells like someone made popcorn in the office popcorn maker..head to the kitchen to grab a bowl. It’s kinda stale and salty but $free.99 is the best flavor
3:05 - literally someone called an hour meeting that was over within 5 minutes. What the heck, dude. Use the rest of the day to work on a project and eat some watermelon!
5:25 - make it home and chill for a bit before heading to the Pilates class I signed up for this morning. I’m excited to try it out and hope it can help me clear my mind a bit. Snack on 2 mind bogglingly delicious pluots
7:30 - the class was a lot slower than I’m used to but I remind myself that it’s a beginners class and will keep taking classes until my trial is up. C is coming over tonight so I take a body shower and use the noodles from Sunday night to make a quick stirfry! After I clean up I move $2,500 to my savings account through my bank app, new
9 - C’s bday just passed so G and M present him with a gift. It’s a heat sensitive mug that reveals pictures of me and C when a hot liquid is poured in!!! That is so thoughtful. They also gave him keys to the house. Wow, I love my roomies. The 4 of us are like a little family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Later I put a fashion show on for C to show him all my thrifted loot (are you tired of hearing about this yet?) So he puts on some music, we laugh and have a good time
10:30 - Get ready for bed and look at some really cringey things on Instagram. C is laughing so hard so it makes me laugh too! Fall asleep by 11
Daily total: $0
Day 6 (Wednesday)
6:00 - wake up and snooze the alarm (for a whopping 8 minutes). Scroll through insta and gently wake up C as he has an early work training to get to
7:30 - settle into work and try to call our old 401k provider to help with my rollover process. I forgot the pin I used to set up my account so I can’t get ahold of a representative or reset it online! Ah! I hope there’s a way to fix this without having to withdraw my funds prematurely
9:00 - company wide meeting so our office phones in from the kitchen to hear our ceo speak about Q2 goals. See a group of gals that work on our affiliate marketing side and really wish I had applied for a role on that team. Quickly go through the pros and cons of switching over to that side of the business and decide to revisit this in the new year. Message one of the girls on the team to see if she’s down to talk about her role and how she’s settling. She’s down and excited that I’m considering a transition!)
1:00 - worked straight through my normal lunchtime to prep for our weekly meeting. I’m starving but glad I took the extra time to review everything
2:30 - take a quick lunch in the kitchen with K and inhale the last of the soup I made this weekend. It’s so good, but glad it’s finally finished!
3:30 - make sure all my coworkers are wearing headphones before I eat some watermelon at my desk...
5:30 - make it home and chill for a sec before I head out to the Pilates class
7:30 - back home and woooooowwww, what a difference between last nights class. The teacher tonight was super up beat and whopped our butts! I really like the mix of trx/circuit training and traditional exercises on the reformer
9:30 - after having a huge salad for dinner (black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, radish, and cucumber) I make the same thing for my lunch tomorrow! Pack some hummus to eat with crackers I have at my desk in case I get hungry. Also some watermelon and a peach! I go to my room and start a new show on Hulu called This Way Up. I love it!
11:00 - go through the usual night time routine and crawl into bed
Daily total: $0
Day 7 (Thursday)
6:00 - I wake up thinking it’s Friday. How cruel! Go to the bathroom and then just lay in my bed scrolling through insta
6:40 - still here!!!
7:20 - make it to work in record time after going through a quick morning routine. As I’m walking to my desk I suddenly remember my pin to access my 401k account!!! Rush to my desk to sort it all out
8:00 - I feel like an adult. Enrolled for my company’s newest 401k plan (7% with a 5% match) and initiated the rollover from my old account!! I oddly have an adrenaline rush, and paired with my morning coffee, that propels me into the most productive morning I’ve had all week!
12:00 - get a lot accomplished before I head out to meet a friend for lunch. They’re an ex-coworker turned close friend. Pick up a bag of blue corn tortilla chips from the small kiosk we have at work before heading out to eat with my hummus. I end up going to the wrong location for a good 15 min until they call me asking where I am!! I feel like an idiot but laugh it off. Luckily the place I went to is across the street from the right spot $1.39
2:00 - I hate how the first 2 days of the week are absolute trash for me and then I get into the groove of things in the latter half...what a shitty cycle? But I’ll take it! Get a bunch of shit done, have a good meeting with my manager, and eat all the fruit I brought.
4:00 - C is coming over later and asks if I want to go to Malibu for an impromptu date night!! Look through the options he sent me but like the idea of getting some fried chicken sandwiches from Popeyes and then just eating them on the beach...he’s down for whatever but we’ll decide when he comes over
5:30 - make it home and chill a bit before heading out to class.
8:30 - showered and ready to go out with C. We realize we won’t make it in time to the restaurant we initially chose so we opt for a Mexican restaurant by my place. It’s loud and poppin! I order the carne asada plate with corn tortillas on the side and a classic margarita. C orders the carnitas plate with flour tortillas. We also ask for a side of guac and pico. The food here is so good!! My lovely boyfriend pays and we take the leftovers home.
10:30 - go through my night routine. get in bed and cuddle with C I fall asleep with my head on his chest as he plays with my hair. He’s been working a lot this month so moments like these are sOoOoO important and special.
11:30 - I chug some water and it’s lights out!
Daily total: $1.39
_______________________
Weekly Total: $146.20
Food + Drink: $58.46
Fun + Entertainment: $0
Home + Health: $0
Clothes + Beauty: $64
Transport: $36.60
Other: $43.80 (M’s gift)
Reflection: holy shit, this is so long! ah, hope you still enjoy!! This is a pretty typical week for me. I don’t thrift shop often, maybe a once every few months, so that was a special treat. As was the meal on Friday evening since I always try to buy foods that will last me a few days. It was fun to see that my $0 days were still just as eventful as my spend days (well, to me at least!). I can usually go through the whole work week without spending money if I meal prepped/grocery shopped over the weekend. I was really self-conscious about submitting since I don’t have much going on the investment side of things, but trust! This sub has really helped me make some important decisions-- setting up a Roth IRA is next!
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