The Basil Plant Blues

So, after a bout of illness that had me doing nothing but partaking in the most passive form of entertainment available (TV), I am once again fit to write.

I love fresh basil. Like bacon, it tends to make most things better. The best way to have it on hand, of course, is to have a plant. It smells great, and you get to feel all garden-y and fresh when you pluck a few leaves for your pasta. Not only that, but it’s a great idea if you’re trying to live frugally. You don’t have to buy whole plastic containers of it, which often results in spoilage. Unless you’re making pesto, you usually only need a few leaves at a time, making a plant a perfect solution.

I do not have a green thumb by any stretch of the imagination, although it is something I aspire to. Despite this, I have had a series of basil plants, all of which eventually succumbed to the neglect they received at my hands. Basil plants are quite hardy, so I feel it is quite an accomplishment to have neglected them so well.

My latest plant was not really my fault. Bertha got aphids (they were gross) and I was forced to place her outside, forgotten. Sigh.

Saying goodbye to future garnish

I know that such plants are not meant to last terribly long, but my goal is to have one last at least more than a few months. Then maybe I’d have the confidence to try growing more of my own food. Maybe one day. Until then, rest in peace, Bertha.

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The Absurdly Frugal Gambler

I tend to enjoy oxymorons, but the phrase “Frugal gambler” is less of an oxymoron than you’d think (I’ll get to that in a minute).

So, if anyone remembers my post about my talking brick (AKA cell phone, historical artifact etc.), I replaced my cell phone last Sunday (Father’s Day). Yay! I now have an LG Optimus V, and it’s been pretty awesome thus far.

Anyway, my dad and I have a somewhat loose tradition of going to Emerald Downs, the not-so-local horse race track, every year. It’s a bit of a drive, but they give out free baseball hats on Father’s Day (my dad wears them all the time) and we like to try to go at least once a year anyway. We’ve been doing this as far back as I can remember, but since the track only opened in 1996, I can’t have been less than five when we started going.

As a five-year-old, I knew the basics of horse racing:

1) Pretty horses

2) Pretty horses

3) Pretty horses

4) Dad sometimes bets on horses for you

Today, however, I must do my own gambling. Being a frugal-minded individual, I never really risk much. It just seems silly and pointless. Usually I just do one two dollar bet each time, increasing my enjoyment of a race. This past Father’s Day though, I took it to the extreme, and proved that one can indeed be a frugal gambler.

We stayed for six races, and I bet on four or five of them, only spending six dollars. That money, though gone, provided me with entertainment for the afternoon, which is how my dad always talked about gambling at the racetrack. If you expect to get the money back, you may fall into a dangerous trap.

Horse racing is fun to me because you don’t have to put out much money, you get to see gorgeous animals run, and the underdog winning is a common occurrence.

After buying my expensive new phone, I was not in the mood to put out my usual ten to twenty bucks, so I bet on “exotic” wagers: pick 3 (pick the winners of the next three races), exacta (first and second place winner in one race), etc. These only require a minimum one dollar bet since they’re crazy longshots. They’re just fun, and I keep more money in my pocket.

But I still have a faint dream that one day, my pick 3 will come to fruition and I will get fifty bucks out of my one dollar bet.

Post Parade

The Inevitable Graduation Post

Sigh. How do I not make this a cliche graduation post?

I don’t think it’s possible.

So I graduated on Saturday, and it was what you might expect: excitement followed by the reality of an hour and a half ceremony, half of which was the Dean of each department reading the names. As graduations go, an hour and a half is mercifully short.

Did I mention that my department, despite supposedly being creative, got the incredibly blah white tassels? Everybody else got gold/bronze or red or pink or some other cool color. Not us. Whitebread white.

The tassel on my honors cord fell off a couple of times, and I was worried it was going to scurry off during the actual walking portion, but it decided to stay put. I also managed not to fall on my face and I shook the appropriate person’s hand (the President of the school I think).

Three is a lucky number?

At the end of the ceremony, we were supposed to put something like our student ID into a box to be cemented under a “memory walk” on campus. Originally I was going to sacrifice my ID card like everyone else, but I found myself terribly attached to the mediocre picture (right). I decided that as a tribute to my time at WWU and to shoddy craftsmanship everywhere, I would donate my errant tassel to the cause.

Speaking of shoddy craftsmanship, my frugal mind continues to be appalled at the poor quality and high prices of graduation packets. 45 bucks every time I graduate? On top of the degree application fees? Plus, they won’t let you reuse a gown from another ceremony even if both ceremonies call for black gowns.

I now have 2 useless black graduation gowns that have been emitting an unsettling odor ever since I took them out of the package, 2 mortarboards which are only useful for making one look ridiculous, and 3 tassels, which are a trio of gently swinging cliches as they hang from my car’s mirror. I only escaped having 3 full sets of regalia because my high school/homeschool center has an iota of common sense when it comes to graduation wear.

The Gang of Cliches

The stray tassel is a good reminder of frugal vs. cheap. Being frugal is being mindful of value: the cost and quality ratio. Cheap is just, well, cheap.

Now that I’m graduated and am really only doing volunteer work until I find a job, I’ll have a lot more time to repurpose things, cook and craft! That will be exciting, if I actually end up doing any of it!

Also trying to get a better planner/organizer set up so I can keep track of my job search, schedule, and expenses. My friend Christal over at Adventures of a Tedious Fool helped me out with this by providing me with a nice planner and some page templates! Thank you Christal! I’ll be adding more variations on it to suit me. We’re both adjusting to post-graduate life, which can feel awfully weird at times.

There! At long last, my inevitable graduation post is over. Yay!

Wait. I lie. I forgot. As a bonus, I won this mildly creepy bobblehead at “Senior Celebration”! I call him Sherman.

Sherman!

Ode to a Brick

Most people who know me are respectful of the fact that I use a brick to talk to people. This is my brick:

As a brick, it has several advantages:

1) It has an insane battery life. I’m talking a week with no charge, on all the time/used regularly.

2) It is a nostalgic reminder of better days. Not.

3) It. Will. Not. Break. Believe me, I have tried.

4) You can spend just about as much or little money using it as you want.

5) It’s a perfect debt-management phone in college because it doesn’t have a contract.

6) It gets great service everywhere except in places like caves and subways, which is pretty logical. I guess that’s a downside for spelunkers and commuters though.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where I use it so much that I need to consider replacing it. You can imagine my distress.

Yesterday, I realized just how much I need to make the change when I found out I had burned through $30 worth of minutes in about 2 weeks(and 10 cents per text? Ew). I am ashamed of this; it is unacceptable for someone trying to save money. If I’m going to be spending $60 a month on service, I may as well get a smartphone, right?

That’s the whole issue. I’ve been thinking of switching over to Virgin Mobile because they’ve got some pretty great deals. Thus, I’ve been buying less minutes at a time for my phone, which costs more per minute. I’ve been hesitating because you have to buy your smartphone outright: about $200, which I’m not in the position to spend. The upside is that I would have an awesome phone and be spending $10 less a month than I have been for the past year.

The point is, I’ve got to get moving on this. Soon.

Goodbye brick. You have given me four years of faithful, archaic service. I have cursed you and been thankful for you, laughed at your tinny ringtone and been embarrassed by it. You were my first phone at 16. But now you have to leave. You’re not economically worthwhile anymore. Plus, I’ve secretly wished you would break for years.

I’ve been wanting a new phone for a while, and I know most people are pretty much velcro-d to their phones.

So now I’m wondering: what is a nice phone worth to everyone else?

Food Fight

Red Square at Western Washington University is pretty much a free speech forum. Some extremely bizarre forms of expression take place there, and sometimes it’s an adventure just to walk through.

Sometimes the things my fellow college students do there boggle my mind. The other day I was walking through the square, and there was a lot of commotion and revelry (spring fever I assume). Suddenly, a plethora of french fries flew into the air and a hamburger (complete with bun) went whizzing across the bricks and hit me in the shoe. Luckily, it was unadorned so I don’t have mustard shoe, but…

Weird.

And now that I think about it, so wasteful. I mean, I know you’re having fun. But isn’t reinforcing the ideas that young people are wasteful a bad idea?

We’re all going to waste things throughout our lives, but does it have to be so public, so celebratory?

Can’t we do what we can as young people to save money and resources?

And that’s what the focus of this blog is going to be: being young and living well on a budget–quality without excess.

I think I’ll go eat my food instead of throwing it. Cheers.

The Debt Counter

According to the Wall Street Journal, the average student debt for 2011 grads is, well, a lot. $22,900 to be approximately precise.

Whoa. That’s a depressing number when it’s in the negatives and you’ve got to start paying it back with few job prospects.

Now I know that people keep talking about the crazy amount of debt students are getting into lately. They cite the facts: the economy is in the hole (though supposedly getting better), tuition is rising, parents are less able to contribute, etc. They question whether higher education is worth it, if all you’re going to be doing is paying off loans for the first 20 years post-graduation.

The importance of higher education is obvious.

The question is: is it worth going into heaps of debt to go to the school of your dreams?